Title: Promise with Your Heart
Author: Kathy Williams
ARCHIVISTS: Please replace any version you have with this one. There've been some problems with this. Thanks.
Spoilers: Fifth season, "Emily". Pretty substantial spoiler, too, so if you haven't seen it, you might want to save this till later.
Classification: MSR (definitely MSR) and an X-Files. (Guess that's MSR and X, for all you archivists). All non-shippers, you might just find you like this, too.
Disclaimer: Aren't you all tired of reading this? Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, and Margaret Scully belong to the wonderful mind of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. I'm just taking them out for a little run. Thanks are in order to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for lending us their appearances and mannerisms, (of which we are so fond of watching). For when we read Mulder and Scully's names here, it is David and Gillian's images we see. Thanks, guys!

Rating: PG-13.

Summary: Mulder pursues Transgen Pharmaceuticals' genetic testing after Emily's death and his discovery takes his and Scully's relationship down a new path.

The grains of sand sifted between her fingers, drifting away like the seconds and minutes of life, reminding her of the shortness of existence. Her immortality had been snatched away in a laboratory, her secret hopes and dreams dashed. Now, in the roaring silence of the chapel, all she heard was the beating of her own heart... and Mulder's.

He stood inches away, his vigilance comforting, yet terrifying in its intensity. Thoughts tumbled over themselves as she struggled to put her feelings in order, to somehow make logic of the illogic that had characterized the last few weeks.

"You knew, didn't you? You knew she wouldn't be here." Scully stared down at the pile of sand where Emily's body should be, her thoughts numb.

Mulder was silent, his back turned, seeming to study the glorious stained glass windows of the chapel. Then, his back arched slightly, a motion she'd learned meant he was gathering strength to defend an argument, a theory, or an opinion.

"They'd never leave evidence, something we could study." His voice poured over her like warm velvet, but the sensation never reached her heart. "You know that, Scully. They built into the process an auto-destruct mechanism."

Scully dipped another handful of the sand, letting the grains slip away, melding into one another, a great oneness, just as her daughter had disappeared into the realm of obscurity and darkness. She heard him turn, heard his steps approach her. He lifted the necklace from her fingers and placed it gently in his pocket. Then his hand covered hers and guided it to the smooth coffin lid. His fingers entwined briefly with hers and gentle pressure closed the casket lid with a soft snap.

"Let her go," he whispered, his breath stirring her hair. With all her heart, she wanted to lean back against him, to allow some of the hurt and anger to drain into him. He seemed to have an endless reserve for such emotions, a place they were stored and controlled, then brought out to fuel an seemingly impossible endeavor.

Instead, Scully turned and raised her eyes to his, nearly as grief stricken and tired as her own. "I can't. She's all I'll ever have."

His expression softened and he tilted his head slightly to the side. The compassion in his eyes spread over her like a blanket warmed by a fire. But, nothing could melt the knot of ice at the bottom of her soul. There would be no more children, only a cold impossibility that would never be resolved.

"I'll take you home." He caught her elbow and gently urged her away from the altar and down the long aisle of the chapel. Her body responded to his words, but her thoughts lingered behind with Emily, or what had been Emily.

The outside cold slapped her in the face, startling to life all the hurt and pain she'd safely tucked down inside her. Suddenly the world seemed overwhelming. Just as the thought threaten to overwash her, Mulder's grip on her arm tightened and his arm went around her waist, snugging her against his side. Again, he'd been there at precisely the right second in time. But there were times he was so distant, so removed from her she felt the void deep within her.

Almost as one body, they took the steps together. One, two, three, Scully counted. Something mundane to keep her mind working instead of feeling.

"Almost at the bottom," he whispered.

Her mother glanced up at her as she ducked into the passenger's side of Bill's car. Margaret Scully paused only an instant, her gaze flitting over her daughter, then up to Mulder. With a last glance, she stepped into the car and shut her door, gratefully accepting Scully's choice to ride home with Mulder and not her family.

Loose gravel crunched under their feet, then Mulder's key clicked in the lock. He handed her into the car and shut the door. Again, stifling silence. His steps moved quickly around the car and then he was beside her, filling the car with his presence and comfortable familiarity. Scully relaxed in the seat and closed her eyes. His aftershave swirled lightly around them and she could easily imagine they were traveling down some unused, dark road searching for some shadowy impossibility.

The motor roared to life and the heater fan began to hum its lulling white noise. Scully glanced at Mulder from the corner of her eye. A dark shadow of beard clung to his cheeks and his usually impeccable suit looked a bit rumpled. A small muscle in his cheek tightened and then released. Scully sighed, concentrating only in the grateful numbness that insulated her from any feeling, good or bad.

"Do you want to go to your brother's?" Mulder asked, deftly guiding the car into traffic.

Did she want to go to her brother's happy house, try to be happy for Bill and Joan and their new baby? Could she wring one more smile out of her broken heart?

"No," she said quickly. "No, I'll just get a room wherever you're staying."

"You sure?" He glanced at her quickly, then back at a car that had slammed on brakes right in front of them.

The unasked portion of his question begged an answer. They'd often spent the night together in hotel rooms, mostly when they were so worn down by the horrors they saw that they were reticent to release the comfort of the other's company at the end of the day.

"You could just stay with me. I have a couch and an additional bed. Besides, there's a great Knicks game on tonight." He shot her one of his cocked-eyebrow glances.

Did she want to sleep alone in a hotel room where every empty corner mocked her? Or did she want to take Mulder up on his unasked question and join him in his midnight perusing of ESPN? There were times when her finely ordered life took a swirl into the abyss of uncertainty and Mulder was usually the cause of such indecision. Deep in the night, when life is a blanket of black velvet and stars, she could imagine his warmth next to her, could dream of his arms around her, his heart beating beneath her cheek. But such thoughts were quickly banished to the depths of her mind labeled "improprieties." He was her partner, her best friend. She'd never cross that line and risk what had come to matter most to her. And tonight she might be tempted to do just that, to sell her soul, or what was left of it, for a moment of passion and forgetfulness.

"I'll probably snore right through the game."

"Even your snoring can't ruin a good Knick's game, Scully."

Scully braced as they swerved and moved into another lane. "The memorial service is at ten tomorrow."

He shot her a glance. "Are you sure you want to do this? I mean knowing ... ."

"She will always be my daughter, even knowing what I know. I can cling to this tiny bit of her I have, these memories." Tears threatened again, but Scully had sworn to herself she'd cry no more in public, not even in front of Mulder. She couldn't stand to look at his face, a study in helplessness. "Besides, Dad and Melissa are watching over her." They pulled into the parking lot of the motel and Mulder hushed the engine with a turn of the key. He leaned back and hooked one arm across the back of the seat, his fingers absently grazing the shoulder pad of her jacket. "I'm sure they are watching her, Scully." Then, he reached over and unfastened her seat belt. "Let's get you inside."

The inside of the room was strangely neat. Two double beds dominated the floor and a stylish couch hugged one wall.

Mulder tossed the keys onto the dresser and shucked out of his suit coat which he tossed across the bed. He went straight to the television and checked the onscreen schedule.

"Game's at ten. You want some pizza or something?"

Scully watched him watch her. Despite his cavalier act, she could see determination rapidly taking the place of anger. He wouldn't let this rest. Not until he'd uncovered every single tidbit there was about Emily, her conception, her life. And that was what frightened her the most. Who was Emily's father? Had he been only a drop of sperm in a petri dish? Was he human, or alien? Real or genetically engineered?

"No, I don't have much of an appetite." She said. "I do think I'd like to take a shower, though." She thought she'd cried every tear in her hours ago, but here they were, a fresh fount just behind her eyes. She wouldn't let him see her cry again.

Mulder smiled slyly and produced her overnight bag from behind the bed. "Your mother brought it to the church. I guess she realized you weren't up to a family evening."

You're my family. The thought was unexpected, but so true. It was he she'd thought of when she began to suspect Emily's heritage. She had longed to bounce the idea off Mulder, to just hear his voice as her heart was torn apart. But, as the DNA testing came back and Emily's genetic make up began to unravel like a frayed rope, something made her hesitate, some silent warning that rang loudly in her ears. The possibility that began to congeal in her mind was too bizarre, too horrific, yet so beautifully logical.

"Scully?" He had moved a step closer, his hair mussed over one eye, his face soft and concerned. Suddenly all reason fled and all she wanted was to melt into him, to share his incredible resilience, to become part of him never to be separated, never to feel this alone again.

"See you in a few minutes." She took the bag and retreated to the bathroom. As the door closed behind her, a fresh fall of tears began. She turned on the shower full and, gripping the edge of the sink, leaned her forehead against the mirror and sobbed.

Mulder put down the phone and grabbed his coat. The pizza place was only a block away and he needed the air. He closed the door behind him and leaned against the outside wall for a moment, his eyes closed. His heart pounded as though it would jump out of his chest and his breath came in uneven gasps. He strode out into the lightly pelting rain, summoning all the fear and sorrow that swam in his blood and turning it into hard anger.

Dusk had fallen and every street light was haloed by the finely misting rain. He stopped and stared up at the illusion. He'd never thought much about heaven, about whether it existed or was just a selling point for a dozen religions. But now, he truly hoped there was a heaven and a halo for every child taken too early.

He walked down the sidewalk, concentrating on the sound his shoe soles made against the concrete. His suspicions had begun as a dream, a vivid erotic dream born of repressed desires. Then, Scully's voice on the phone, explaining in her even, FBI-woman voice, that she had a daughter had supplied the missing piece of the puzzle. In the light of reason he'd put together the pieces of his dream, sorted out what was fantasy and what was repressed memories. The meaning had been so simple, so perfectly logical that he was shocked he hadn't thought of it before. He'd caught the next plane to San Diego.

Scully stared down at the water as it rolled off her flat abdomen. She ran a hand over her stomach, stopping on the tiny scar beside her navel. She heard Mulder's words again, coldly describing the horrors done to her body when she was abducted. At that moment, she'd hated him for betraying her, for discussing her most intimate secret openly, without feeling. Then, as she listened , she came to realize that in his way, he was protecting her, as he'd said. Had he told her before hand, she might not have recoiled with horror as she'd done. The judge needed to see that reaction, to know the nature of the horror done to both she and Emily, to see that Emily's last days needed to be spent with her. Had Mulder appeared anything more than a detached associated, had he allowed any emotions to show, the implications could have severely damaged her case for adoption. But that was a mote point now.

She turned off the shower and let the water sluice off her body, reveling in the chill that surrounded her as she opened the curtain. At least she could feel something, anything but this awful, gnawing sense of loss.

Grabbing a towel, she began to dry-off, then caught the image of herself in the mirror. What would she have looked like pregnant? She dropped the towel and tried to imagine herself as large and clumsy as Joan, toddling around the house in large, white, lace-edged shirts. Skimming her hand over her stomach, she again found the tiny scar and wondered what had happened to her during those months she was missing. Was Emily conceived within her? Had she carried the tiny life for a few days or a few seconds before it was ripped from her? Scully closed her eyes and reached her mind for some tiny memory of a life inside her.

Suddenly, the bathroom seemed small and confining. She hurried to finish dressing and stepped out of the room.

Mulder was stretched out on his bed, pillows piled behind his neck. He'd changed into sweat pants and a tee shirt and a laptop computer sat open at his side. Scully noted it briefly. Mulder never carried his laptop.

"Did I miss the kickoff?" she asked.

"Yep. I saved you some dinner." He offered a soggy pizza box with three pieces of pizza in it.

"No, thanks. I think I'll go onto bed."

"You're missing a great game."

Scully sat down on the edge of her bed. "Maybe I'll watch from here for awhile."

Mulder rolled over to sit on the edge of his bed, leaned forward and captured her hands. "Do you want to talk about this?" His hands were warm and gentle as he squeezed her fingers.

Surprising thoughts tumbled to the forefront of her mind, intimate thoughts she longed to tell him. "I can't. She shook her head, feeling tears close again. "I just can't think anymore today."

"We will find out the truth of this. I promise you that." He gripped her hands tighter.

She stared into his hazel eyes, now large and full of compassion and longed to unburden herself to him, to explain how it felt to know she would never have a child, never know immortality, never know that she had left a small piece of herself behind. But she was afraid that once she began to confess, she wouldn't be able to stop. And, she wouldn't risk losing him. He was so much a part of her, always lingering there in her consciousness.

Mulder watched the emotions race across her face. She looked so small and lost in the large bed, he almost invited her over to his, but thought better of it. She was vulnerable and so was he. Her pain was his pain and his resolve wasn't as strong as it had once been where Scully was concerned. Perhaps soon he would have answers that would free them both.

Scully crawled under the cover and in moments she was asleep. Mulder watched the figures race back and forth across the television screen and heard the crowds alternately cheer and boo. Finally, he flicked the set off and sat in the dark, waiting for the familiar ping of the laptop beside him that told him he had
E-mail. He closed his eyes, seeing again the lab specimen bottles of fetuses, tiny bits of matter coerced into life at the hands of laboratory technicians. Dana Scully, the tag had said. Scully's children, cold and alone in a glass jar instead of safe and warm in her womb.

He turned onto his side and stared at the dancing alien screen saver that undulated back and forth across his screen. But the tubes of semen, kept in another section of the lab, had completed the macabre picture.

"Fox Mulder", the tag had read. Collected at Tunguska after his inoculation against the black oil, the accompanying literature had explained. Genetic material from immune individuals joined with that of the non-immune. Would the union produce hybrid children who carried resistance to the oil? Could such resistance be bred into the population? Was that their plan? Were those fetuses his children, too? Had Emily been his?

The computer "pinged" and the dancing aliens faded to a no-nonsense dialog box with a waving mail box that said, "You have mail." Mulder touched the mouse and a single message occupied the mail box. Encrypted text scrolled down the screen, ending with the single sentence, 'It takes a whole village to raise a child.'

"Very cute, Frohike." Hands shaking, Mulder applied the encryption code designated by the sentence and paragraphs in English appeared. He scrolled down the screen, then sat back on his bed and ran his hands through his hair. His cell phone jangled and he picked it up. "Mulder."

"Mulder," Frohike's voice came through hesitant and unusually sedate.

"Is this for real?"

"As real as it gets. I had a hell of a time hacking into the system. They changed the access codes three times. They know you're onto them now. We'll have a harder time getting in next time."

Mulder stared at the screen in disbelief. "You're sure this hasn't been altered?"

"Looked like original coding to me, man. Hey, should I be congratulating you or what?"

Mulder leaned closer, almost touching the quivering screen.

'Cross number 1349. Dana Scully (non-immune) x Fox Mulder (immune-vaccine 457).' In-vitro fetus container number 75 - "Emily". Three more viable embryos-container 76.'

A gentle breeze rode sun rays across the bay's rippling surface picking up Scully's hair, lifting it as would a playful hand. Mulder stared at the auburn highlights and felt a deep stir in his soul, something that had awakened since last night.

Scully glanced around at the small knot of people that surrounded her. Her mother and family, the nurses and doctors from the hospital, the social worker were all who came to mourn the short life they were honoring. Mulder stepped closer behind Scully, feeling her sorrow across the space between them, longing to touch her, but not daring here in public. Not so long ago she had stood in this very spot and mourned her father, committed his ashes to the winds and the tides.

Scully stepped forward and opened the urn. Mulder moved to her side, wanting to cover her hands with his, help her scatter the ashes. But caution prevailed and he peered down into the vessel of sand, glinting in the morning sun. Perhaps they would never know what really happened to Emily's body. Perhaps they didn't want to know. Scully paused, then tipped the urn and let golden grains of sand fall from the container to make gentle dimples on the water. The last grain tumbled out and she stepped back from the water.

Mulder put a hand on her shoulder and she turned to look up at him, deep sorrow in her eyes. As she turned to accept condolences from the others, Mulder slid his arm around her waist and felt her lean into him slightly. Her brother Bill glared at him across the small group, but Mulder met his gaze steadily.

Margaret Scully murmured something to her daughter and glanced at Mulder over Scully's head, unasked questions in her eyes. Did she, with a mother's intuition, sense the deep attachment beginning to form?

"I'm taking you to the car," he whispered into Scully's hair. She let him lead her up the slight incline to the car waiting in the street above. She slid into the passenger's seat and Mulder hurried around to the driver's side.

"Do you want to go to your mom's?" he asked sweeping his coat aside and climbing into the car.

She didn't answer for a moment, staring out the window at nothing in particular. "Do you mind if we just drive around for awhile. I told her we'd be there later, that I had some things to tie up."

"Drive around?"

"If you have something else to do ..."

"No. Nothing more important than this. Where to?" he started the car and pulled away from the curb.

"How about along the coast?"

"Sure." He guided the car into traffic, heading for the narrow highway that skirted the rocky Maryland coastline. But, as he drove away from the waterfront, he noticed a black sedan pull into traffic two cars back.

Waves crashed against the shore, spaying fine, glistening mist into the sun-filled air. Mulder pulled the rented car over and turned off the ignition. The dark car had tailed them all the way from town, then disappeared once they were on the coastal highway.

Scully opened her door and stepped out. Mulder watched her walk to the thin rocky wall that separated them from the sea. She gripped the wall and lowered her head. Her shoulders shook with her sobs and it was all he could do not to go to her. She needed this time alone, so he sat, gripping the steering wheel with both hands until his knuckles turned white.

She released her grip on the wall and walked a short distance away, looking out over the ocean. Mulder could stand it no longer. He got out of the car and walked to her side.

'I'm sorry, Mulder. I swore I wouldn't cry anymore, especially in front of you. Every time time I think I have no more tears in me, more come." She wiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand and he offered her his handkerchief.

"Never, in any crisis, my dear, have I known you to have a handkerchief," he said, quoting Gone with The Wind.

Scully smiled and twisted the bit of white cotton in her fingers. "I have to let this go. I know that. I just can't seem to get her off my mind."

"I know." He moved a step closer, a confession on his lips. She was mine, too.

"The worst thing is, I don't know if I'm crying for her or for me. I never considered having children until ..." she paused, considering her words, "the last year or so. I always put my career first, wanted to prove myself. I thought I couldn't do that with a family, with distractions." Her words were bitter, self-deprecating, tear-filled.

Mulder stepped into her space and took her into his arms. She came willingly, the top of her head fitting nearly under his chin. The urge to tell her about the fetuses, their children, nearly choked him. The thought was rivaled only by the urge to tell her he loved her and wanted to give her more children, all she wanted.

Gunfire erased all thoughts from his mind. Bullets popped the ground around them spraying sand in stinging sheet. She whirled out of her embrace and drew her gun, taking aim on a black car scattering gravel as it speeded past them. Mulder dove for their rented Crown Vic, yanking Scully behind him, his own gun trained on the receding car's back tires.

Two pops and the car careened across the road for a moment, then righted itself and sped out of sight around a curve.

Scully dove into the passenger's seat and they sped off in pursuit. But as they rounded the same corner, the car was nowhere in sight. Only the vast landscape of the coastline welcomed them, serene and undisturbed.

"Try 'sex'."

Frohike cast Mulder an incredulous look.

"I know it's obvious, but try it anyway."

Frohike typed in the word and 'Access denied' flashed across the computer screen.

"I'm telling you man, theses guys are getting wise and they're going to pull up stakes and disappear." Frohike said with a disgusted sigh.

Mulder leaned back in the chair and stared at the screen, willing the password to come to him. He and Frohike had been trying to hack back into the Transgen Pharmaceuticals database since late last night. The password had been changed again, for the fourth time. Frohike was right. If they didn't get in and download the information this time, there might not be another chance.

"How is Scully?" Frohike asked, taking a sip of his coffee.

"She says she's fine, insisting on coming back to work."

"You haven't told her any of this?" Frohike indicated the database screen.

Mulder shook his head. "Not yet. Not until I have all the facts."

Frohike leaned forward suddenly and sat his cup down, splashing coffee over the already spotted papers strewn there.

"Can't believe I didn't think of this before." He yanked a CD out of a drawer and shoved it into the drive. "Langley wrote this sub-routine last week based on some information we scrounged off some CIA surplus cell phones. Seems the army's hackers have come up with a way to break into these new systems.

The CD spun silently for a moment, then put up a black screen with scattered blue text. Frohike typed in a few words, then paused before a single dialog box on the screen. He studied the text underneath for a moment, then struck on key on the keyboard. "X."

The screen burst to life, displaying the Transgen Pharmaceuticals logo and welcome screen.

Mulder leaned forward and stared at the information that rolled up, coaxed out of the system by Frohike's frantic typing. He shoved a re-writable CD into another drive and began to download the information that appeared.

Scully's name yielded a page that looked more like a web page than research information. Pictures of her scrolled past, some taken just days after she joined the X-Files. Others of her just before her abduction and some after. Vital information was typed neatly in underneath the photographs. Blood type, blood pressure, menstrual cycle. "Where would they get this kind of information?" Mulder asked watching more intimate details roll past, information on Scully's past relationships, yearly gynecological examinations, other privileged information. He felt a prick of conscience. He shouldn't know all these things and neither should anyone else.

Frohike shrugged. "Anybody can hire a good hacker, Mulder. Most medical records are kept in a computer file. It would be a piece of cake to tap into most doctor's office files, especially if you worked for the government and had access to taxpayer ID numbers, social security numbers and such."

The scrolling screen paused, then more pictures appeared, this time of Mulder. As with Scully, some were from long ago, some recent. There was a picture of he and Phoebe at Oxford, locked in a passionate embrace.

"Not bad," Frohike said, leaning closer to the screen.

Then, there were pictures of he and Scully together accompanied by text outlining their working relationship. The
Author of the text speculated there was more between the two partners than business. A picture of their first case appeared, Mulder in his tee shirt standing in a motel room doorway, Scully, her hair in ponytail, wearing his coat, smiling up at him.

"That was our first case, in Oregon," Mulder murmured, watching another appear: them standing in front of the blazing hotel where they'd lost everything they owned except what they wore.

There were close-ups of gestures obscure to all except those that sought to see through the facade they wore everyday. Times their hands touched for an instant. A hand on a shoulder, an arm around a waist, all accompanied by text discussing and building their relationship together, more logically assembled than Mulder could have done himself.

"How long do you suppose it took these geniuses to figure this out," Frohike said over the rim of his cup. "You guys were so obvious, it's a wonder Skinner didn't figure it out years ago."

Mulder shot him a quizzical look.

"We were taking bets how long it would take the two of you to realize it," Frohike said with a shrug and a smile.

The pictures ended and Mulder leaned closer to the screen. "Stop it right there." He pointed to the monitor.

'Ten ova from subject 'Dana Scully' were implanted with cloned DNA on 1/15/94. Ova appear normal in cryogenic state.'

He read on.

'Semen from subject 497 was introduced into dish with two ova on 2/13/94. As a control, semen from same subject was introduced into dish with two normal ova. Complete fertilization occurred normally in all ova.'

The act of life reduced to laboratory terms. A tiny miracle that should have been accompanied by love, affection, at the very least lust. Some human emotion to applaud it's conception. He studied the information, trying to convince his numb senses that these were his children, his and Scully's.

And absolute proof of human-alien hybridization.

'F1 hybrid from altered DNA implanted in surrogate mother Fugazzi on 3/15/94. Incubation normal. Normal delivery on 11/5/95. F1 hybrid control from normal ova implanted in surrogate mother Ransom also on 3/15/94. Incubation was miscarried in second trimester in Ransom experiment. Other embryos stored to await final assessment of altered F1 hybrid.

Hope and sorrow collided within Mulder. Despite physical detachment, despite the fact he'd never participated in this child's conception, a small part of him had died with the miscarriage of this fetus. But, there were other embryos, other children somewhere in the tangled government web of subterfuge.

"Download everything you can," he said, bolting out of the chair. Who were these people that they could play God with his body, with Scully's? That they could treat the most intimate of human functions with such coldness and detachment.

"This file is huge. Could take all night."

Suddenly, the room was too small, the whole world was too small... and too large. When Transgen cleared the lab, obliterating all proof of their bizarre experiment, what had been the final fate of the fetuses? Did they still live in their watery medium, stored in some warehouse? Or had they been destroyed? And if they were still alive, how would he ever find them?

"I'm going home. Call me if you find anything."

The phone jangled and Mulder lunged off the couch for the receiver. "Mulder."

"I've found something you want. You better come down here before they find out I'm in. This might be our last chance." Frohike's voice answered.

Mulder yanked on his jeans and a jacket. As he swept his keys off the table, he paused, his hands inches above the phone receiver. Scully would be asleep, perhaps happily dreaming.

He grasped the keys tighter and hurried out of his apartment.

Frohike, Byers and Langley were bending over Frohike's computer when Mulder opened the door.

"Do you boys never sleep?" he asked.

They made none of the usual responses, just observed him with a peculiar expression. Mulder moved to their side. Onscreen was a picture of a child, fresh cheeked and smiling. Auburn hair hung in ringlets around a face filled with huge hazel eyes.

"Her name is Katie," Frohike said softly, "and she's the control embryo." Mulder touched the screen with one finger, traced the outline of her face. Frohike hit a key and the picture zoomed smaller. Katie was held tenderly on a woman's lap. One chubby hand was tangled in the woman's dark hair. Behind them both stood a man, fair and with a kind face, his hand resting intimately on the woman's shoulder.

"She was born in 1994 to the Ransom's. Mrs. Ransom was impregnated with another control embryo soon after her miscarriage. According to the records, they had been trying for children for years, and finally resorted to in-vitro fertilization. Scanlin was their doctor."

"How did you find this?" Mulder asked, wonder overcoming his voice.

"Remember when we hacked into the fertility clinic's security system? Well, while I was in, I took the opportunity to find out all their access codes." Frohike shrugged. "Never know when that stuff will come in handy.

A thousand questions popped into Mulder's mind. Was Katie happy? She had little value to the project now. Her existence had merely proved that embryos could survive the cryogenic process and that had already been proven in legitimate research. At least, she was implanted and not disposed of.

Mulder reached over Frohike and hit the enlarge key again. Katie's face filled the wide screen. She had Scully's hair and the shape of her face. Her eyes were definitely his. A thousand questions popped into Mulder's mind. All destined to remain unanswered.

They could never prove parentage. Trying would endanger not only Katie and themselves, but any remaining embryos frozen in some lab. His chest tightened and breathing became difficult.

"Are you going to tell her?" Byers asked softly.

Mulder shook his head slowly. "I don't know. Can you find out where the rest of the embryos are?"

Frohike glance at his colleagues and then back at Mulder. "I've already tried. All record of their existence has been eliminated from the database."

"I saw them." Mulder sprang up and paced across the room. "I saw them, floating in some green amniotic fluid, incubating in a jar. It moved when I touched the container. There has to be information somewhere."

"You have to tell her, Mulder."

Mulder's head swam with the knowledge, a headache starting behind his eyes. The implications were enormous. These embryos were the only chance Scully would ever have to bear children, if indeed they could be found. Once found, they would have to be implanted within her and borne to term to survive. And, as she carried the embryos, she would also carry a small piece of him.

All the complications they had tap danced around for five years suddenly loomed large. If they pursued this, if they went deep into the search and found the embryos, their lives would be forever entangled. Not just by the children, if they lived, but by the emotions he was certain would spill over in a tidal wave. He knew with certainty that he could not watch Scully carry his child to term and not love her, not hold her, not join his life to hers.

That thought brought another question. Did she want him in her life this way? She'd never voiced her feelings for him, although he was as certain that she loved him as he was he loved her. And, if the embryos survived, how would she explain her pregnancy? What would be the implications to her career.? Above all, she would need her family's support. How would they react? Especially if they knew he was the father.

He rubbed a hand across his face. But the largest question of all was did Scully want these children? She'd surrounded herself with faultless logic to explain and cushion Emily's death. These children were never meant to be, she said. Would she want to take an embryo into her body, to grow and nurture it, all to find that it, too, had been altered genetically?

"You want some water? Coffee? Bourbon?" Langely asked, nervously stepping to Mulder's side.

"No. See what else you can find out, huh?"

The trio nodded and Mulder hurried out the door. Dawn was just chasing away the night as he stepped into the deserted parking lot. He inhaled deeply of the morning air, washed clean by the curtain of night. He slid into the driver's seat, then paused, his hand on the key. He had to be absolutely sure of his intentions before he told Scully. Was he willing to risk all to search for the embryos because they belonged to he and Scully or because they represented the truth he had spent his life searching for?

Scully turned over and snuggled deeper into her comforter. She was drifting between a dream and consciousness, caught in the web of fantasy before wakefulness brings the day's troubles and concern. She was holding a child, a baby, its tiny hands waving toward her face. Behind her was a man, she couldn't see his face, only feel his presence. But she felt safe with him, protected, cherished.

A pounding worked its way into the dream and quickly the feeling of security vanished. She opened her eyes and the sadness enveloped her and clung there.

"I'm coming," she called out, throwing back the covers.

"Scully, it's me."

Scully glanced at the bedside clock and hurried to the door.

His face was haggard and pale, his eyes full of vulnerability.

He stepped inside and swept her from head to foot with a strange look that made her instantly aware she wore only her silk pajamas. Shaken to the core, she scolded herself for being silly. This was Mulder and he'd certainly seen her in less than this.

"What's wrong?" she asked, closing the door behind him.

He didn't answer for a moment, fixing her with a look she felt rather than saw.


"I'm sorry it's so early," he faltered.

"Do you want some coffee?"


With a backward glance, she went into the kitchen and began filling the pot with water. Experience told her that he'd talk when he was ready and no amount of prying was going to get anything out of him before that. As she slid the carafe under the coffee maker, he stepped up close behind her. His breath ruffled her hair and every nerve ending in her body came to attention.

"Was your hair this color when you were a child?" He lifted a lock of her hair, sliding the strands through his fingers.

"Yes, it was," she said, obscuring a shiver that shimmied down her back. "I absolutely hated it when I was in high school. Nobody cool had red hair." She turned her back to the kitchen counter. He stood very close, peering down at her with a peculiar expression, something warm in his eyes. "Mulder, what's going on?"

He bent close to her, inches from her face, then he reached past her and flipped on the switch to the coffee maker. He took her hand and his was damp and trembling. Her defenses kicked into overdrive. He was the bearer of some horrible news. Had they been shut down again? Separated to the ends of the earth? If so, she didn't think she could bear it.

He lead her over to the couch. She sat down, dread making her heart thump. Or was it the curious way he was looking at her?

He sat down on the second pillow of the couch seat and moved closer, his thigh touching hers. Hands clasped, elbows on his knees, he looked into her eyes.

"I found out more than I told you when Emily was in the hospital."

Scully felt her face blanch. Trepidation crawled through her, a sixth sense already screaming that she didn't want to hear this. So strong was the voice, that she was tempted to put her hands over her ears.

He drew a deep breath. "There were more fertilized ova than just Emily."

"You've already told me that, Mulder. You told me about finding the women in the rest home and of their being used as incubators."

"Your ova, Scully."

Scully swallowed the lump in her throat, struggling to keep her wits about her as her hope soared. "And?"

He glanced down at his hands for a second, then back at her face. "In the rest home, the embryos were also being grown in some sort of mechanical incubator. They were suspended in a green fluid, probably like amniotic fluid. And they were alive."

"How do you know-?"

He picked up her hand and stared down at her fingers. "I saw your name, Scully, on one of the jars. I picked it up and the fetus moved."

Scully jumped up, touching the couch arm for support. The world spun and the room was a collage of colors.

"Are you all right, Scully?" Mulder's voice came through the fog spun by her thoughts.

"Yes, I'm fine." She gripped the door facing, praying for dignity. The world quickly righted itself and she turned to face Mulder, now standing in the middle of her floor.

For all the times she'd known what he was thinking, none was ever as strong as now. The answer to the question now forming in her mind was in his eyes as he took a step toward her. No! How could they be so manipulative? So cruel?

"How... ?" She searched for the words. "How were the eggs fertilized?"

He took another step , his gaze locked with hers. "With human sperm, obtained against the donor's will."

His breath brushed across her eyes as she closed them. "Do you know whose ... .?"

"Mine, Scully. I supplied the other half of the needed genetic material." His words were a whisper.

His arms slipped around her waist and pulled her slowly against him. They had been bound together more than five years ago by friendship, by necessity, by need. Now, they were bound in the most intimate way, as deeply linked as is possible between two humans. And they'd never touched, not in the ways preceding the conception of a child.

"How do you know this?" Her words were muffled against his chest.

"Frohike hacked in the fertility clinic's mainframe."

Scully raised her head. "Frohike knows?"

Mulder smiled softly. "Without him, I'd never have found out."

Hope swelled briefly. Somewhere out there was a second chance. In-vitro fertilization was a proven procedure and the success of the implantation rate was climbing every year. Thoughts tumbled over themselves, then ground to a stop. Emily was never meant to be. She's said those words to herself, to Mulder, clung to their beautifully simple logic. Emily had been an experiment, a horrid mockery of human creation. And these embryos were the same. Then realization stunned her. Emily was Mulder's child, too.

"Mulder... ." She stared up into his eyes and was instantly sorry. Every emotion he was feeling were written in those hazel eyes. "Emily--"

"Shhh. There's more." His said into her hair.

She stepped out of his and moved toward the kitchen, anxious for some mundane action to put her swirling emotions in some order. She lifted the carafe, now filled with hot coffee, but her hands shook so badly she sloshed the liquid all over her counter.

Mulder took the pot away from her and set it back on the warming plate. Then, he took her shoulders and forced her to look at him. "Emily was conceived from an ova whose DNA was altered before conception. That's why she died. But, there was another embryo, a control, produced from a normal egg and sperm." He smiled softly. "She has your hair and my eyes."

"You've seen her? She developed normally?" She stared up into Mulder's beautiful hazel eyes, imagining them in the face of a child. Hope bloomed again, pushing aside logic. "Where is she? Has she been adopted? What's her name?"

Scully tried to move away, her thoughts spinning again, but Mulder held her tightly as if anchoring her to reality. "She was adopted by a family when she was six months old. They love her very much."

Scully wrenched out of his grip. "We have to find her. We can prove parentage with blood tests. No court would overrule the DNA tests now used."

She backed up to the sink, and Mulder pursued her across the black and white tile.

"Think, Scully. What would we say? That our zygotes were stolen and united without our permission? That we now want to yank this little girl out of a happy home and take her home with us? Two parents obsessed with the unknown, people who pursue aliens for a living. We wouldn't stand a chance and you know it. I'm not sure we deserve that chance. Katie is happy and loved by a normal family. Isn't that the most any of us can ask? Unless her parents tell her, hopefully she'll never know the dark side of her creation and live out her life in blissful ignorance."

Scully's face was filled with the horror and loathing mirrored in his own heart. Even as he spouted logic and order, he wondered if he had the right to say these things to deny her this.

Scully covered her face with her hands and sobbed. Her future had been yanked away, then returned only to dangle a few inches in front of her. He enclosed her in his arms, whispering soft encouragements. The people behind this had invaded the most intimate part of their lives, produced a child from each of them without their ever having the pleasure of conceiving that child. Was this a secondary benefit to their plan? To either drive them apart or produce in them a devotion that would supersede all other commands except to protect the tiny fragile lives now growing somewhere?

She was soft against him and a powerful protectiveness swept through him. He had to tell her the rest, to risk her rejection. He steeled himself against the new pain ripping through him. "The other embryos were moved when Transgen moved the rest home operation. They're valuable to their research and would have been carefully guarded."

"What are you saying?" she asked looked up with tears glistening on her lids.

He swallowed as an age-old urge poured into him, triggering new thoughts and new sensations, all centering on the woman in his arms. "I think we should find our children."

There, pressed against him, she suddenly became aware of him. Of his heart thumping against her heart, his breathing, quick and shallow, his strength, his pressing her against the length of him. Intimate, possessive. All logic fled and all she could think of was that she wanted to be united with him, to claim a part of him for herself, one small moment in time that could never be taken away. In some bizarre way, making love to Mulder seemed an action already ordained.

"Love me, Mulder."

The shock in his face was rivaled only by that she felt at having said such a thing. But, beneath the surprise in his eyes, burned a tiny flame of want, as if he had thought and felt the same thing as she.

He cupped her face, his thumbs playing in the edge of her hair. His grip tightened convulsively and his eyes darkened. A bolt of electricity shot through her as she anticipated his kiss. A shiver passed through him, then his lips touched hers, lingering there only a second. As he pulled away, his eyes sent dangerous sparks through her.

"You're all I have left," she said.

He smiled and touched her lips again. "You are my best friend, my confidant, my protector... the mother of my children." He smiled softly. "We can't afford to lose anything else. Let's not lose each other."

Mulder rearranged his desk and stared down at the pile of files dominating one corner. Get a grip, Mulder, he told himself for the thousandth time. He opened a file, put on his glasses and tried to concentrate on the typed text and Scully's neat scribbling, but all he could think about was the hand that had written this.

Behind him, Scully fiddled with a slide projector, preparing a case presentation for Skinner. He heard the carousel rattle abruptly and a soft oath. Then the carousel clattered to the floor and she swore outright.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

She tossed the rest of the slides onto her desk in a haphazard pile. Then, she backed up to the desk and rested her hands on the top.

"I want to apologize for yesterday morning. I don't know why I said what I did." She shook her head, her cheeks nearly as flaming as they had been at that moment.

"You were upset, feeling betrayed, alone. I understand."

"Thanks for not taking me up on it." She smiled cautiously.

"Well, you don't have to go that far."

She walked back toward the projector. Of all the times he'd seen her wear that navy suit, today it might as well have been a flaming red teddy. With garters. And bikinis. And high heels. Red ones.

He pulled off his glasses and rubbed his hands over his face. Yesterday's confession has unleashed a box of demons in him. Once the words were said, once he acknowledged that he and Scully had a child, no matter it wasn't conceived in the usual way, he couldn't stop thinking about her. Every single movement he interpreted as seductive. Even the way she chewed her pencil and opened a file folder. He watched her now, her delicate fingers carefully fitting every slide into its appropriate place, her tongue, caught in her teeth as she slid the carousel into place and hoped the cantankerous projector accepted it.

"Do you want some coffee?" He stood suddenly. Anything to get out of her presence for a while.

"Yes, please. Are you going to the commissary for it?"

He glanced over at their pot, ready and waiting. "Yeah. Thought I would." She nodded and he made his escape.

Scully released a held breath once the door shut behind him. At first she had been appalled at her brashness, then she realized that her unexpected words were merely the desires of her heart. She loved him. Had for years. Now, every touch, every look took on a different meaning than it had a mere two days ago. Their lives were forever entwined. While disturbing, the knowledge was comforting, too.

Scully moved to his chair and traced a finger across the back. The leather still held his warmth and a whiff of his aftershave, a smell now indelible in her mind. She took her hand away. How many times had she breathed in the same fragrance. How many times had she splashed the fragrance on him? Times he was injured, times in the hospital, times he was just plain late for a meeting with Skinner. Why now did his every move, every look arouse her so?

Mulder came back through the door balancing two cups of coffee.

"Scully." He moved around the desk toward her. "We have to make some decisions."

He was going to ask her the question she feared most, the question that had kept her awake most of last night. She gone over and over the possibilities in her mind, but kept coming back to one simple truth. She could not live the rest of her life wondering what had happened to the embryos, now that she knew they existed.

And once found, there was only one way to hide and protect them.

"I know."

"Do you... do we want to pursue Transgen?"

Every emotion running through him was evident in his eyes. Scully almost laughed. She'd never imagined Mulder a father, never could see him playing catch on the front lawn. But as she stared into his hopeful expression, she suddenly very much wanted to give him just that.

"I don't think I can live with the decision not to try and find the others."

"And if we find them?"

She moved to the bulletin board studded with posters and newspaper clippings. "That will have to be a joint decision between us. You have as much at stake here as I do."

Mulder moved behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. "I'm asking you what you want, Dana."

"I want to take whatever steps are necessary to give them life."

His cell phone jangled and as Scully reached for it, Mulder picked up the phone. He listened for a moment, then disconnected. His face was solemn and his eyes searched hers. "Get us two tickets for Phoenix."

The airplane bucked and the overhead luggage compartment fell open. Mulder deflected an overnight case with one arm.

"We came all the way to the desert to find a thunderstorm," he said, smiling at the young woman who retrieved the case and replaced it in the overhead bin.

Scully's gripped the armrest, bracing for the next bout of turbulence associated with the thunderstorm they were supposed to be skirting. She glanced over at Mulder. His head was back against the seat and his eyes closed. She always marveled at the fact that flying, no matter how bumpy the ride, never bothered him. He took it with the same ease he took most things. Fix those that can be fixed, ignore the rest. Most of the time.

Outside, the night sky was obscured by heavy clouds that skimmed over the plane wing like thick cotton candy. As Scully looked outside, all she saw was her own reflection staring back at her. She remembered Mulder's words, that their little girl had her hair and his eyes. Frohike had saved the text hacked off the network, but none of the pictures had downloaded and he had terminated the connection as quickly as possible to avoid detection. She had missed her one chance to see her child.

Scully glanced over the head of her reflection and saw Mulder watching her. She turned her head and his eyes skimmed her face. "You all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Barring any more storms, we should be there in about forty five minutes." He glanced down at his watch. "Kurt said he'd meet us there."

Kurt, one of the clones who had manned Scanlin's lab, had contacted Mulder and said he knew where Transgen's lab had been moved. She remembered him, his reddish hair, and wondered.

The plane pitched again and a woman across the aisle gasped and held her protruding stomach.

"Are you all right?" Scully asked.

The pretty young woman smiled and took the hand of the man beside her. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you. It's just my last month and every sudden movement makes me feel like I'm going to explode." She glanced back over her shoulder at her husband. "I think he's losing patience with my complaining."

Envy filled Scully and she felt Mulder's glance slide over her. "How did you talk the airline into letting you fly?"

The woman smiled again. "We're moving back home just in time for me to have this baby. We've wanted to return for so long and Ben just got a job here. I was willing to take the chance. Besides, I asked them if there was possibly a doctor on board and they told me yes." She tossed back shiny black hair and glanced over the passenger cabin. "I wonder who it is? Do you believe you can guess what a person does just by looking at them?"

As the woman chattered, Scully glanced down at her stomach and imagined what it must feel like to be filled with life, to be utterly responsible for the breath and blood and nutrition of another human being. And to have planned and hoped for that creation with someone loved and cherished.

"Dr. Scully?"

Scully shook herself back to the present.

"You friend here tells me that you're a doctor. I guess I'm wrong about guessing what someone does. I would never have picked you out for a physician."

"That's all right." Scully wondered how long she had zoned out. The woman seemed to have learned quite a bit about her from Mulder during that time.

"I told Beth here that you hate to fly and aren't exactly at your best in the air." Mulder's smooth words slid over her, saving her again.

"Yes, I apologize. I tend to focus on every sound when in flight," Scully lied. She always tried to block out the sounds, sure she'd hear the wings rip off if she listened hard enough.

The "Fasten Seat Belts" light popped on and Beth and her husband struggled to get her back in the seatbelt, laughing over their private joke. Scully dared a glance at Mulder and found compassion in his eyes. There was nothing he could say. Nothing she could say. It just hung there between them.

The plane rolled to a bumpy landing and rain pelted the entryway that extended out to meet them. Mulder handed Scully her laptop case and snapped shut the overhead bin. They waited until everyone else had deplaned before leaving. As they entered the terminal, they searched the faces for Kurt. Seeing no one, they started toward the baggage carousel. Kurt stepped out of a crowd and motioned them to follow him. They walked three abreast to the baggage claim area, claimed their bags and followed him outside to a waiting car.

He slid into the driver's seat and Mulder slid in beside him. Scully took the backseat. They pulled out into the rain-drenched traffic, the wipers swishing back and forth.

"One of my brothers asked me to contact you," he said, neatly negotiating an minor accident. "He said you were interested in the same goal as we."

"Yes," Mulder replied. "We are."

Kurt glanced at Scully in the mirror. "Is she the mother of the next level?"

Mulder glanced back at her. "Yes, she is."

A few miles down the road Kurt pulled off into the parking lot of a seedy motel. "The Palomino" flashed red and green with a blue neon outline of a rearing horse. "You have reservations here as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I will contact you tomorrow."

They had opened the doors to get out when Kurt caught Mulder's arm. "It is better if anyone asking thinks you and she are together, Agent Mulder. Do not use your name."

Mulder nodded and they closed the doors. Kurt's car sped away.

"ESPN, HBO. Wonder if they have the playboy channel?" Mulder asked as they picked their way across the mud puddle-pitted parking lot.

The door to the office screeched open. Behind the counter, the manager slept soundly in a ragged recliner.

"Hey." Mulder said and the man stirred and opened his eyes. "We'd like a room."

The man glanced at the clock that registered four a.m. "Gettin' a late start, ain't ya?" He rose and shuffled to the counter. "Name."

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Mulder put an arm around Scully's shoulders.

"Sure ya are," he muttered as he filled out the form. "Sign here."

Mulder signed his name with a flourish and pushed the form back across the counter.

"That'll be twenty five dollars."

Mulder dug in his pocket and handed the man the cash. "When is your check out time?"


"Think I might get you to stretch that?"

The desk clerk looked from one to the other with a frown. "Think you need longer than that?"

Mulder nodded.

"Okay, three p. m. and not a minute longer. That way you'll be out of the way of the evening crowd. And don't break the rungs out of the headboard." He shoved the key across the counter and sank back down in his chair. "They always break the rungs out of the headboards," he muttered.

"Do you feel like a cheap woman, Dr. Scully?" Mulder asked, his arm still around her shoulder.

"You handled that very well, Mulder. Have you had much practice renting cheap motel rooms and getting them to extend the check out time?"

"Of course not. An FBI agent's always prepared."

"That's the Boy Scouts."

"How about adapt and improvise." They stopped in front of room number 12 and he put the key in the lock.

"That's the Marines, Mulder."


The door swung open to reveal a room so small it could only be meant for one thing. The double bed was crammed into the tiny room with barely walking space between the bed and the walls on the sides. The television was suspended from the ceiling with thick pipe and mounted on a metal platform. The remote control was screwed to the night stand.

"Hey, practical and functional."

Scully pushed open the door to the bathroom. A stall shower cowered in one corner and a toilet occupied the other. The sink was barely far enough away from the toilet for one to sit in comfort. "I'm not so sure about the functional part."

The flight, the late hour, the preceding last days all were contributing to a certain fuzziness of thought. Scully glanced back at Mulder. How was she going to get through what was left of the night this close to him?

"Well, there's no couch and no floor large enough, so I guess we'll have to share the bed," he said, staring down at the green paisley bedspread. Was he having the same thoughts, she wondered.? What's the matter with you, she asked herself. They'd shared a bed before. Slept side by side in the forest, or ones head in the others lap. They'd slept in each other's arms to stave off the fear of freezing. What was a few hours in a motel room?

Scully stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Every sound Mulder made came through the wall. There'd be no privacy even in here. Especially from her own thoughts that boiled with anticipation as if someone had turned up the heat .

When the sound of the television began to drone, Scully opened the door. Mulder was laying on the bed, both pillows piled beneath his head. One hand rested on the remote and the other was thrown across his forehead.

Scully retrieved her baggage and returned to the bathroom. She lifted out the same pajamas she'd worn that awful morning. She peered into the bag. Unless she wanted to wear tomorrow's suit, this was her only choice. Quickly she changed clothes and pulled her hair up with a rubber band. Flipping the light out, she emerged.

Mulder had cut out the light by the bed and watched television by the light of the screen.

"Done?" he asked.

Scully nodded, self-conscious as his gaze briefly scanned her.

He swung his legs off the bed and stood. Retrieving his one small bag, he pulled off his tie and closed the bathroom door behind him.

Scully stared down at the bed, the covers now rumpled, white sheets mixed with green print. Fatigue settled on her shoulders and she lifted one corner of the sheet and slid into the bed. The television was muted, light and dark playing across the dingy walls. Scully watched the figures on the screen and listened to the water run in the bathroom. Then, he opened the door and turned off the light.

The bed sagged beneath his weight as he yanked back the covers and lay down. Scully curled up facing him, and closed her eyes. Seconds passed and the room was filled with the faint 'click' of the remote. A shiver passed through her bringing with it a sense of the unfamiliar. Things would never be the same again.

"Come here." His hand caught the tips of her fingers and tugged gently. She opened her eyes and stared straight into his face. "Come here," he urged.

Scully slid toward him and he pulled her head onto his shoulder and cradled her with his arm. "Things don't have to change between us because of this. Not unless you want them to."

Scully breathed in his unique odor, permanently implanted in her brain. She could pick him out of the crowd on scent alone. She smiled into his tee shirt, wondering if, after all they'd been through, she'd one day be called on to perform that miracle.

His silence begged an answer and Scully had none. She'd gone over and over the possibilities in her mind, succeeding only in further confusing herself. What did she want? She thought she'd known last night, much to her embarrassment. Thank goodness Mulder had been thinking straight. Or was she reading him wrong? If she had the embryos implanted within her, took a chance on their survival outside the incubation process, what would Mulder's reaction be if she became pregnant? She smiled at the irony. Pregnant by Fox Mulder without the sex.

"I don't know what I want anymore," she finally said, her thoughts spinning.

"I do know, Scully." He raised his head to look into her face.

"What are you saying?" she asked.

"I'm saying that no matter what we find, no matter what decisions we have to make, I can't imagine my life without you in it." His dark eyes were soft shadows against his face.

Scully stared at him. How many times had she allowed herself to imagine this moment? How many times had she dreamed he would say the words, that they would step over the line and admit what really fueled their devotion. But then, before the imagining was over, she would consider the consequences, weigh what she would lose versus what she would gain.

"I don't know what to say to that."

He studied her face, then smiled. "Then, don't say anything." He leaned toward her and kissed the end of her nose. "Go to sleep." He flipped off the television and rolled over onto his left side. Scully lay where he had left her, soaking up the last of his warmth, wondering at the confusion increasing in her heart.

One sunbeam had sneaked in through the drawn drapes and shone hot on Scully's face. She opened her eyes and, for a moment, wondered where she was. There was a soft warmth next to her. Mulder. Then, she glanced at her watch. Ten o'clock.

She turned over. Mulder slept on his stomach, his face turned away from her, one hand stretched across her pillow. She propped her chin in her palm and watched him sleep, allowing herself the forbidden luxury of admiring him as a man, not as her partner.

His hair was tousled, soft brown against the white of the pillow. A tank-top tee shirt revealed strong arms and a narrow waist. The bed didn't accommodate his six-foot height well and his feet hung off the end of the bed.

The idea of spending every morning this way wormed its way into her thoughts. She couldn't deny she'd often thought what it would be like to be married to Mulder. So probably did every secretary in the building. But, that was a secret fantasy she kept tucked safely away, deep within her, locked behind carefully implemented controls. But now, she allowed her imagination to run free, to envision him awaking, drawing her into his arms, his skin warm and soft from sleep, their bed an oasis from the world.

She yanked her thoughts back in line, remembering why she never allowed such musings as life of their own. Reality was too painful.

"Nice thoughts, Agent Scully?" Mulder had turned his head and stared at her from his pillow.

"Uh huh," she murmured softly, her voice full of meaning. What are you doing, Dana?

He stared at her a moment longer, then rolled over and sat up. "What time is it?" he asked over his shoulder.


"First dibs on the bathroom." He padded to the bathroom, shut the door behind him and turned on the water.

Scully scooted over to his side and wedged both pillows behind her head. She touched the remote and turned up the television, partly to watch the news and partly to give him more privacy through the thin walls.

"Overton labs, a subsidiary of Transgen Pharmaceuticals, burned this morning,. Fire officials have no immediate cause of the early morning blaze, but state officials have been brought in to investigate the case."

Scully's heart beat faster.

"Transgen Pharmaceuticals is well known for their groundbreaking work into gene identification as pertains to human allergies. Their product, Zyranall, cleared by the FDA last year, has been declared by parents of your allergy sufferers as a "miracle drug." Fire officials are calling the four alarm fire a total loss, placing more than two thousand people out of work."

Scully hurried to the bathroom door and knocked. "Mulder, you better come see this."

The door opened and a cloud of steam boiled out. "What?" He had shaved one side of his face, the other was lathered with soap.

"A subsidiary of Transgen Pharmaceuticals burned here this morning."

Mulder hurried to the television set, a towel wrapped around his waist. He reached up and turned up the sound on the set. A news anchor was interviewing a sooty, sweaty man in fireman's pants and suspenders.

"All I can say at this point, Jay, is that it looks as if some sort of accelerant was used to start the fire. That's based on the burn pattern and point of origin."

The anchor turned to the camera and spouted his summation remarks, then the coverage returned to a game show. Mulder clicked off the set and turned around. His eyes mirrored her thoughts.

She felt so helpless, at the whim of unseen forces, her life and his caught in a plan larger than either of them. Had their search just ended? She closed her eyes, unable to shut out horrible images. The fragrance of motel soap surrounded her and warm damp skin brushed against her cheek. She opened her eyes and stared into his face. His finger tipped up her chin. "Don't give up, Scully. Not yet, not until we've exhausted every source. This could be their way of trying to throw us off the trail."

She closed her eyes and nodded, not trusting her voice or herself if he kept standing there. A confusion of fright and desire made her sway slightly. His absence was tangible as he returned to the bathroom. Scully sat back down on the foot of the bed and watched the rest of the local news, but no new information on the fire was presented.

Mulder emerged from the bathroom, fully dressed and toweling damp hair. "Next," he said with a smile and a sweep of his arm toward the door.

Scully grabbed her overnight bag and stepped into the bathroom. Mulder watched her close the door, then sat down on the bed, only now allowing himself to feel the impact of the news. He fear he'd seen in Scully's eyes now ran through him like an electric shock. A light knock on the door interrupted his thoughts and he rose to peer through the peep hole. Kurt's face appeared in the fisheye lens.

Mulder opened the door and Kurt hurried inside saying, "We have a change in plans."

The Arizona highway stretched before them, long and deserted. Tiny, dust devils swept up the red dirt and spun it around before disappearing into the blistering sun. Any other day, the monotonous hum of the car's air conditioner would have lulled her to sleep, but, now Scully leaned forward from the back seat. The road ahead was just as long as it had been five minutes before.

"Transgen moved the incubation process out here to an underground facility beneath an abandoned mine."

"Are they still using human incubators?" Mulder asked with a backward glance at Scully. Perhaps the project had been accelerated. Perhaps the embryos had already been implanted and they would never know where they went.

Kurt nodded. "Sun City is near with a ready population of aged women. As before, they have represented the project as a revitilization process."

Abruptly, Kurt veered into a little-used road. Mesquite and cacti snatched at the sides of the car as they passed. He stopped before a small, wooden scaffolding guarding an underground entrance.

"We have to walk from here," he said as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

They stepped out into the midday heat, so intense it almost took Scully breath. She reached back for her backpack, grateful for the light clothes she'd changed into.

"This is a ventilation shaft for the mine. It is also used as an emergency exit." He reached into a prickly bush and a black, iron gate over the entrance began to grind open. It stopped and they ducked inside. Once out of the glare of the sun, the temperature dropped ten degrees.

Kurt closed the gate with a button mounted on the inside wall. Despite the gouged out walls, the floor was covered in carpet. Modern lights were positioned at intervals down the corridor. They could have been inside any laboratory in Washington, DC.

Deeper and deeper into the earth they descended and the air around them cooled steadily. Kurt lead them around a corner to a set of double stainless steel doors, set smooth into the wall of rock. He flipped open a box and placed his palm over the green screen. In a moment, the doors slid open.

They stood in a huge laboratory, analysis benches positioned in rows. Soft lights illuminated large lit tanks at the back of the room.

"Operations have been suspended here for a couple of days. It seems they detected abnormally high radon readings." He smiled slyly. For an instant, Scully saw a resemblance to herself in his features. How many offspring had her ova produced? Ten? Thousands?

Kurt indicated toward the back of the room and they moved quietly down the longs rows of laboratory equipment and computers. At the back, the tanks looked like huge aquariums. Except that these tanks held humans.

Scully stepped backward as one specimen moved, stretching himself out of the fetal position. A slight nausea swept over her.

Mulder caught her elbow. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she countered, forcing herself to step closer to the tank.

"These are clones, all produced from the same fertilized proembryoes." Kurt pointed to the tanks. "The incubation process is meant to produce humans, F1 hybrids, resulting from crossing genetic material from individuals inoculated against the black oil with non-immune humans. Once the eggs are fertilized and development begins, the embryos are placed in cryopreservation until they are needed. Come, we must hurry."

Kurt led them through another set of double doors into an observation room. Through large glass panels were four operating rooms, each equipped with table and instruments. He opened a room off to the side and led them into a long room with incubation chambers lining the walls. He flipped on a switch and a soft light came one in each chamber. Tiny fetuses floated in their watery wombs.

Scully felt Mulder find her hand and clasp it tightly in his own. They walked the length of the room, through more doors and into a cold room. Cryogenic equipment hummed softly. He stopped before a unit placed a hand on it. "Your embryos are in here. These have been valued above all the other experiments." He turned a handle and a platform rose in a cloud of liquid nitrogen. Three tubes clustered in a metal basket.

Scully stepped forward. The tubes were marked, "F1 hybrids, Scully, Dana X Mulder, Fox."

"Do you know which of these are controls and which have been altered?" Mulder's voice was soft in the small room.

Kurt glanced at both of them and shook his head gravely. "No, I'm afraid not. In the shuffle to move quickly, several sources were mixed up, yours among them. The only way to determine absolutely if the embryos contain the altered DNA is to sample them and perform PCR tests." He paused, his face soft with compassion. "I'm afraid it is a post-mortem procedure."

The nausea returned and Scully swallowed, fighting to try and put the horror she felt into some box in her mind and lock it away. I

"They will not survive for long once they have been brought out of cryogenics," Kurt urged. He paused for a moment. "I have arranged for a doctor who will do the implant here, if you choose."

The implications of his words were staggering. Scully's thoughts spun and she whirled away to face the wall.

"Give us minute, will you?" Mulder asked.

Kurt nodded and left the small room.

"This is all so... horrible. So... unnatural."

Mulder's hands caught her shoulders and turned her to face him. "This is your decision, Scully."

She stared up into his eyes, his sweet, lyrical voice still ringing in her ears. Despite all they'd discussed about this, all the logical decisions they'd make, they'd never mentioned love. Suddenly, that was very important. Could she carry this child, or children, without him at her side? Could they go on working together, each a parent, yet detached. Could they be united in this effort to bring forth life and not be united in life itself?

But as she stared at him, she heard his voice in her mind. Calm, soft, soothing. A silent promise of support. It had preceded and punctuated every sentence they had ever said to each other. She was making the decision not only for herself, but for him, too. He was placing his immortality in her hands.

Her life would be turned upside down. Everything she knew and counted on would change. Except for Mulder. Now, staring into his calm eyes, she heard his promise with her heart. He would be there. Always at her side.

"We'd better hurry," Scully said with a smile.

The thrum of the operating room equipment sounded nearly as cold as the table felt. Scully stared over her head at the scaffolding and wires that snaked their way from one side of the room to the other.

Dr. Layton was nothing as she had imagined he would be. In fact, he looked like someone's family doctor. Graying and his face lined, he approached her with a gentle smile. "I'm giving you a shot to increase your levels of estrogen and HCG, Agent Scully. You will be awake during the procedure. You will feel me insert this small tube into your body and I will deposit the embryos directly into your womb. You will need to lie prone for approximately six hours after the procedure." Dr. Layton stood at her side, holding a long instrument. "After that, you should be tested for pregnancy in approximately four weeks."

Scully felt Mulder's grip on her hand tighten. Over the surgical mask, he winked at her and waggled his eyebrows. He had insisted on being at her side and in the breadth of less than an hour, their relationship had changed forever. Twenty-four hours ago, no one could have convinced her that today, this hour, they would be here together like this.

Dr. Layton administered the injection then rolled a laboratory cart to the foot of the table and disappeared from view as he sat down on a stool. Scully felt the slight invasion and flinched. Mulder kept his eyes focused on her face, and she lost herself in them, pushed away thoughts of what they were doing, imagining instead a more natural conception. .

"All done," Dr. Layton announced, rising above the tented sheet. "Please lay still. I've made arrangements to have you moved to a more comfortable location." He moved to the head of the table and stared down at Scully for a moment. "My wishes go with you for success."

"Why do you do this?" Mulder asked the doctor, his face suddenly solemn. "Why do you cooperate with them?"

Dr. Layton glanced back toward the incubation room, separated from them by the double doors. "Someone has to look after the fledgling souls, Mr. Mulder. Someone must know and remember that they existed, that they lived and moved and sucked their thumbs." He turned back to Mulder, a sad smile on his face. "Their existence should be cataloged, even if brief and remembered only by an old horse and buggy physician." He tucked the sheet around Scully, his touch light and gentle. "We must move you now."

He rolled the table down a corridor and into what resembled a normal bedroom. A floral bedspread covered a full size bed and soft curtains hung against the wall at make-believe windows.

Scully sat up and Mulder gathered her to him, supporting her as she walked the short distance to the bed and lay down.

Dr. Layton squeezed Scully's shoulder. "I implanted all three embryos into you. As Kurt explained, we do not know which of them were altered and which were not. Perhaps I have given you three controls and perhaps they are all altered." His smile was kind and apologetic. "You should know that the pregnancy rate of a procedure such as this is only about 27%. Birth rates are even lower due to miscarriages." He glanced at Mulder. "You must guard her carefully. If these embryos attach themselves to the uterus and thrive, she will be even more valuable to them."

"Agent Mulder. We must go now."

Kurt's voice awoke Mulder from a dream. For a moment he was disoriented, then memory flowed back and he turned toward the bed. Scully slept peacefully on her side.

"The laboratory personnel are on their way back."

"She shouldn't be moved so soon." Mulder looked at his watch. They'd only been in the room three hours, half the advised time.

"We have no choice," Kurt replied. "They will kill all of us to protect this secret place. They have no place left to go."

"Scully." Mulder shook her leg and she stirred.

"What is it?" She asked, sitting up.

"They're coming back."

She hurriedly stood and Mulder lunged around the bed toward her.

"I'm fine." She pushed away his hand and started toward the door.

"Hurry," Kurt warned with a glance back over his shoulder.

As they stepped out of the operation suites, voices filtered back to them. Kurt led them down a convoluted pattern of halls and laboratories until they came to the same corridor that had lead them here.

"You must find your way out." Kurt pressed the keys into Mulder's hand. "I will try and delay anyone that will follow."

"You could go with us. Leave this behind. I could get you into the witness protection plan."

Kurt shook his head. "I belong here. Outside of this place, there is nothing for me. Besides, Dr. Layton and I may be the only hope these children have. Go. You must hurry."

With a last look back, Mulder placed a hand in the center of Scully's back and they hurried up the shaft and out into the chill of a desert night. With the vanishing of day, the desert had taken on an eerie persona. Cacti, gnarled and twisted, clawed at a full moon tangled in their fingers. Coyotes howled, raising the hair on Mulder's neck, secondary terror to the things they had just seen.

As they sped away, the highway back to Phoenix rolled away to the horizon, a silver ribbon beneath a pregnant moon. The sudden analogy sprang into Mulder's mind as he glanced sidelong at Scully. She stared out the side window, seeming to watch the bleak scenery pass.

"Are you all right?" he asked

She turned toward him. "I don't feel any different."

"Did you expect to?"

She shook her head and returned to the window. "I don't know. Women say they do. Judy said she knew immediately she had conceived."

Mulder gripped the steering wheel, allowing reality to sink in in tiny bits. They had been faced with the proof of what they'd sought and sacrificed to find. Now, ironically, the fate and safety of their children depended on their never revealing what they knew. They would have to hide in plain sight. If she conceived, they would have to explain her pregnancy and still maintain their partnership. Separated, she would be in grave danger. Everyone had to believe that the rumors of Mr. and Mrs. Spooky had been true all along.

Mulder stared down at his desk blotter calendar, counting the tiny pencil ticks he had made on the days since they left Arizona. Thirty-two days. The small box in his pants pocket pressed against his thigh. He'd make up his mind sometime last night between Letterman and Billy Bob's Horrorfest. Never mind that she'd never told him she loved him. He knew she did. Just as she knew he loved her. The ring he'd bought two years ago... in case he ever worked up the nerve.

The office door scraped open and he quickly covered the calendar with a file folder. Scully entered, pale and shaky.

He half-rose out of the chair. "Scully?"

She dropped her briefcase onto her desk and sank into her chair. "I threw up in a trash can on the parking deck." She ran a hand across her face. "The whole parking garage staff was watching." Then, she raised her head and beamed "Isn't it wonderful?"

Seconds passed as Mulder's mind ground into action. Had she just told him she was pregnant?

He hurried around the desk, snagging and tearing his pants pocket in his haste. One quick touch told him the ring case was still there.

Scully looked up at him, her blue eyes sparkling with her smile. "Aren't you going to say anything?"

He opened his mouth to quip, but sudden tears drowned his voice. Concerned passed over Scully's face and she stood. "Are you all right?"

He could think of nothing to say. No words ever written could convey what he was feeling. Instead he took her into his arms and pulled her against him. He closed his eyes and imagined he could feel the baby, tiny butterfly movements against his body.

"Mulder?" Scully gazed up at him, wide-eyed, sexy.

He kissed her bruisingly, wanting to devour her, to take her inside him, protect her.

"Mulder. I just threw up," she protested when he allowed her to get her breath.

"And I hope you throw up again tomorrow morning and the one after that." He kissed her again, but this time she melted against him, her cool demeanor disappearing as her body became pliable in his arms.

They jumped apart at a slight rap on the door. Skinner opened the door and looked quickly from one to the other.

"Ah, I wanted to check with you, Agent Mulder, on the Franklin case." He visibly struggled to keep a straight face and Scully's neck flushed bright red. "The Governor of Virginia wonders if these `damned hauntings', to use his words, are over in the capital building and specifically asked me to tell you that he'd like to use it again just as soon as you're done with your "tomfoolery", I believe is the way he put it." He glanced between them again, a smile playing on his lips. "But we can go over it later." They heard a soft chuckle as the door closed.

"We may have just blown our cover," Mulder said, stepping away, striving to preserve a shred of his self control. Never mind that every fantasy he'd ever had about Scully and this office were playing in his mind on fast forward.

"I imagine Skinner's known for years." Scully sauntered closer, now playing the part of seductress. "I have."

Her abrupt change in demeanor was unsettling, yet arousing. Mulder backed up a step and wondered if all pregnant women underwent such transformations. She lifted his tie and yanked it tighter, pulling his face down to hers. "I have a doctor's appointment at ten," she whispered, her lips grazing his ear.

"If you don't stop this, you'll never make it."

She smiled slyly, lobbing control of the situation from his court to hers. He'd been pursued before, by women much more worldly that Scully, but never by any more dangerous.

"Of course I will. You're going with me." She strained onto tiptoe and kissed him. Then, she turned back to her desk and began laying out the morning's work as if nothing had happened.

Is this how a bug feels when the windshield hits it? Mulder wondered, struggling to keep from vaulting across the desk and making love to his partner before he asked her to marry him.

"Could you drink some coffee?" he asked, sidling toward the door.

"Sure," she answered, appearing as cool as if she'd just come out of the autopsy room. "Make it black and strong."

Mulder slipped out the door and breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed behind him. Damn her, she would initiate a seduction here, during work hours, when he couldn't do a damn thing about it.

"I was waiting to see which of you would eject first." Skinner leaned against the wall, a file folder clamped against his chest.

"Sir?" Mulder wondered if he looked as "kissed" as he felt and hoped Skinner didn't examine him too closely.

Skinner pushed away from the wall and fell into step beside Mulder. "Heading for coffee?"

Mulder nodded, trying to think about everything except Scully.

At the elevator, Skinner stopped him from pushing the call button. "What you and Agent Scully do in your personal lives, I don't want to know. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"However, please try to be a little less obvious." Skinner accented the last word with a pointed glare over his glasses.

"Less obvious, sir?"

"At last week's briefing, Agent Scully pinched you as we left the room. Fortunately, I was the only one who noticed, else it would have been all over the building by now."

Mulder felt the color creep up his neck. Scully's action had puzzled him at the time, but she'd never made reference to it since then and he'd thought perhaps he'd been mistaken, that she'd simply brushed against him.

"Man to man, Agent Mulder." Skinner leaned closer. "You and Agent Scully have dragged this thing out long enough. The secretarial staff's imagination is working overtime. Why don't you make love to her and be done with it."


Skinner smiled slyly. "Worked with my wife." He spun on his heel and sauntered off down the hall with the gait of a man who knew he was right.

Mulder pulled the car into a parking space under the shade of a willow and turned off the engine. Waves of heat danced and shimmered on the parking lot's concrete surface. Scully glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes, but nothing in his face gave a hint to what he was thinking. She been over and over what she'd say to Mulder since her display in their office,. What on earth had gotten into her? she wondered. But, no plausible explanation presented itself. Maybe she'd been a little drunk with happiness. If not before, certainly after Mulder kissed her.

He rolled down his window, letting in the sharp scent of newly cut grass. Good, she thought, a touch of reality. He stretched one arm across the back of the seat and fiddled with her headrest. Pleasure prickled through her scalp in anticipation of his touch.

"I'm sorry for this morning, Mulder. I don't know what got into me. I embarrassed both of us in front of Skinner."

He continued to stare out of the windshield, one hand draped over the steering wheel. Fear crept into her, stealing away her happiness. This was all too much for him. He wasn't ready for commitment and family. She steeled herself against his next words.

"I'm in love with you, Scully." He turned that face on her. Boyish, open, tender. "Things are as simple as that."


He smiled and shook his head. "No buts. Not this time. No complicated explanations. I've loved you since the first day you walked into my life."

Scully slid across the bench seat and into his arms, remembering how many times she had imagined doing just this in a rented Crown Victoria. "I love you, too," she said against his lips.

"Wait." He held up a hand. "Before you spring anymore surprises on me, let me finish. He reached into his pocket and drew out the ring case. "This isn't exactly the time or place I had planned for this."

Scully's breath caught in her throat. A thousand excuses raced through her mind, a thousand rehearsed arguments. A moment of panic seized her. Did he feel responsible for her? "Mulder... ."

One long, slim hand pressed against her lips. "For once, don't argue with me, Scully. I've been up half the night rehearsing this." He drew in a breath. "I thought of a hundred ways to do this, but I guess here in a car , a moment stolen from work, just might be the most fitting after all. Things have happened a little backwards about all of this anyway."

"Before I open this box, I want you to know some things." He interlaced his fingers with hers and gripped her hand tightly. "I loved you a long time before Transgen Pharmaceuticals came into our lives. And before that love, you were and are my best friend."

He opened the box and a small, simple diamond solitaire caught the fire of the morning sun. He glanced down at the ring, then back at her face with a look she feared might melt the diamond. "I also want you to know that you are cherished and valued, not only because I love you, but because you are who you are."

He plucked the diamond from its nest, the gold band tiny on the tip of his large finger. "You are my light and my strength, Scully. You once said to me that you had the strength of my convictions. Well, I need the strength of yours." He slid the ring onto her finger. "Will you marry me?"

Tears blurred Scully's vision as she stared down at her hand, held fast in his. "How long did you rehearse that?" she said, her words halting and rough.

"I didn't." He leaned closer and kissed her. "I just now made it up. You're my inspiration."

Scully looked deep into his eyes for any trace of doubt and found none. He was offering her his life, his heart.


"Yes, I'll marry you, Mulder."

"The Governor of Virginia owes me a favor. And he's free tonight."

"You do move fast, Spooky."

Scully counted the little pink sheep on her gown for the third time, then she moved onto the clouds and cherubs on the wallpaper. Against the wall, Mulder lounged in a chair, his long legs stretched halfway across the examining room, seemingly engrossed in an issue of "Parenting."

"Boy, this is a whole other world, isn't it?" He waved the magazine at her, then returned to reading. "Did you know that there are fifty two types of car seats on the market and researchers believe that parents form an extrasensory bond with their unborn children?"

Scully smiled. He was so adorable. And he was hers. She allowed herself one fat-cat grin.

"Dana." Dr. Katie Norton entered the room carrying Scully's file. She and Katie had been students together in medical school. With dancing brown eyes and a wonderful sense of humor, Katie had become a very popular obstetrician.

Mulder swung his feet out of the way and stood up, coming to stand at Scully's side. She saw the fear in his eyes for an instant before he looked away, aware that she read him so well.

"It seems that you are indeed pregnant. Congratulations."

Scully let out the breath she had been holding. Mulder leaned down and kissed her. I could get used to this, she thought.

"But," the doctor continued. "When did you indicate as the date you believed you conceived?"

"Thirty-one days ago."

Dr. Norton looked over her reading glasses at both of them and smiled. "You're that certain about the date?"

"Oh, yes. We're certain." Mulder answered.

"I wish all my couples were so specific. Now, I have some news. I believe that this may be a multiple birth, probably twins, maybe triplets. We won't know until about a month when we do an ultrasound."

Mulder paled and Scully squeezed his hand.

"You seem in fine health, Dana, but there are some peculiarities about this pregnancy and I would like to keep a close check on you." She closed the file. "I've left a prescription for vitamins at the front counter for you. The girls up front will make your next appointment and I'll see you then. Congratulations." She patted Scully's shoulder and shook Mulder's hand.

"Dr. Norton, could I see you a moment." She raised her eyebrows at Mulder.

"I'll wait up front." Mulder slid out the open door and closed it behind him.

Dr. Norton dropped the file onto the examining table and straddled a straight backed chair. Crossing her hands on the top, the propped her chin on them. "So that's Mulder. Wow."

"We planned to get married tonight and... well... Would sex at this point be a problem?" Scully asked.

"I can see why you're asking." Katie laughed and touched Scully's hand. "No, no problem at all. Just nothing really bizarre that inflicts pain, okay?"

Scully flushed and laughed. "Promise."

Katie grabbed Scully's arm as she started to get off the table. "Dana, are you sure about this?"

Scully glanced at the closed door. "Yes, more sure than I've ever been about anything in my life."

"This seems so out of character for you. A pregnancy, marriage to your partner, a man you vowed was the bane of your existence. Is there something you're not telling me?"

For a moment, Scully considered telling Katie everything, but this secret was too personal, too intimate to share with anyone but Mulder. Maybe the time would someday come when she would have to tell her babies' origins, but not now.

"I'm fine, Katie. He's wonderful and he loves me."

Scully dressed quickly and walked up the corridor to the front office. The floor was littered with toys and toddlers while bulging mothers grunted and wiggled in and out of too-little chairs to control them. Mulder was nowhere to be seen.

"Mr. Mulder said to tell you he would wait outside with the aliens." The young receptionist behind the desk shrugged her shoulders and shook her head as she took the paperwork. "I swear those are his exact words." Scully stifled a laugh and paid the bill.

When she stepped outside the office, Mulder had the car cranked and waiting.

"Coward," she accused as she slid into the cool interior.

He slanted her a searing glance. "Careful, Scully. Name calling can be expensive."

The afternoon dragged on interminably. Tension in the room was palatable. Scully wrestled with the projector, readying the presentation they had to give at ten o'clock the next morning. Tonight, they would drive down to Richmond, be married and return to Washington to spend their wedding night at Mulder's apartment. A secret fantasy, she had answered to his raised eyebrows.

They had agreed they wouldn't tell anyone, not ever her mother, at least for now. When the pregnancy became evident, they would admit that they had been secretly wed for some time. Her mother would be hurt, so would Mulder's, but her brother Bill would be furious.

She glanced at the clock again and pushed the thought away. Mulder sat with his back to her leaning over a file, so absorbed she was tempted to see if he was asleep.


He didn't respond and Scully moved to his side. When she laid a hand on his shoulder, he started and dropped the paper he had been so intent on. "The In-Vitro Fertilization-Embryo Transfer Procedure and The Sexual Activity of the Recipients" marched across the copied pages of a journal article.

"Light reading," she said, retrieving the paper and waving it at him.

He colored, then laughed. "I copied it out of the library yesterday."

Scully ran her fingers through his hair, marveling how soft it was. "I've already asked the doctor about that. He said no rough stuff."

Mulder rolled out his bottom lip in mock disappointment. "I'll be out of uniform if I leave my handcuffs home."

Scully slid into his lap, reveling at the surprise on his face. "You'll be out of uniform anyway. Handcuffs will be the least of your worries."

A loud scraping at the door sent Scully bolting for the projector. Skinner opened the door with much noise and throat-clearing.

"I just got off the phone with Governor Hodge. He's extremely angry. Another group of tourists have been frightened in the capitol dome and he's specifically asked for you and Scully to go to Richmond tonight. He wants this resolved once and for all. And I'd like this issue resolved, too, Agent Mulder. For everyone's good." Skinner's look was pointed and stern.

"Yes, sir. We can leave now." Mulder swept his suit coat off the back of his chair. Scully gathered her briefcase and left first to sign out a car.

As soon as she was out the door, Skinner pulled a document from his inside coat pocket and pressed it into Mulder's hand. "When I said make love to her, I didn't mean marry her, Agent Mulder." His words were stern, but his eyes smiled. "I had to pull some strings to get this license and there's a clerk in the license office that will never be the same. Good luck to both of you."

"Do you, Dana Katherine Scully, take this man to be your lawful wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do you part." Governor Hodge's soft southern drawl filled the capitol rotunda, bouncing against the high vaulted ceiling to return and swirl around them.

Some vague part of her mind heard and recorded the words, then produced the correct response. "I do." But the rest of her had fallen into Mulder's eyes. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. They'd already been there.

"And do you, Fox Mulder, take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do you part."

"I do." He watched her steadily, his gaze making deeper promises than the old words could express.

"What do you bring as a token of your commitment?"

Mulder reached into his pocket and removed a thin gold band. "I give you this ring as a sign of my devotion and faithfulness," he said as he slipped it onto her hand. "As the ring is never ending, neither is my love for you." He closed his hands around her hands. "Fate brought us together, Scully. You are part of me, part of my soul, part of all that I am. And I am part of you, tied by this tender bond between us."

Governor Hodge looked at Scully, but she couldn't speak. Tears welled in her eyes until Mulder's face disappeared. When had he had the time to write his own vows? She reached into her pocket and produced the large, gold ring she'd purchased. Tiny pieces if diamonds were set in indentations in the gold in the shape of stars.

"I give you this rings as a sign of my devotion and faithfulness." She slid the ring onto his finger. "As the ring is never ending, neither is my love." She stared up into his eyes, already devouring her with their intensity. "I loved you with my soul before I loved you with my heart." She glanced down at his hand. "With this ring, I thee wed."

"Then, by the power invested in me by the great state of Virginia, I now pronounce you man and wife." Governor Hodge slammed the Bible closed. "You may kiss your bride, Agent Mulder. Damn, it feels good to say that again. I haven't performed a wedding since the navy. I miss making these kind of binding agreements."

Mulder leaned over her, his very presence sending shivers down her spine. She drew in a breath as his lips lightly touched hers, promising more later.

"Well, ya'll are welcome to join me for a pig-pickin' at my house. The Democrats always put one on this time of year. And it ain't a pig-pickin' unless there's heat and flies."

Mulder smiled, a possessive arm around Scully's shoulders. "We have to get back to Washington."

"Well, old George and I thank you. I hope he's gone onto the next level of existence." Governor Hodge gazed up at the top of the capital and winked.

Late evening traffic was thin and they made the trip in record time. As they turned into the parking lot of Mulder's apartment, the clock in the car tripped eleven o'clock.

Mulder fumbled so with his keys, that Scully finally took them away from him and unlocked his door herself. The door swung open and his scent poured out into the hall. Scully breathed deeply, committing every second to memory.

Mulder brushed by her and kicked off his shoes. "Can I get you a Coke? Coffee?"


He feigned a look of terror. "You're scaring me again, Scully."

She moved toward him and he watched her, his eyes darkening. "I want to hear that `girly scream' you told me about."

She slid her arms around his waist, under his suit coat, feeling the silk lining slip over her hands. Beneath the thin cotton of his white shirt, she could feel the muscles of his back tense and relax in response to her kneading.

She slipped his coat off and let it glide to the floor. Then, she began to unknot his tie. "I always wanted to do this sometime when an arm cast wasn't involved." She slid the tie out of his collar and sending it to join the coat on the floor.

The buttons of his shirt slipped through the buttonholes easily under her nimble fingers. "And I always wanted to unbutton your shirt when blood was not involved." She took his hands and undid the buttons at his wrists. He never looked more vulnerable than he did now, standing in sockfeet and unbuttoned shirt, his hair mussed and passion in his eyes.

"The bed?" He asked.

Scully shook her head. "Couch."

He raised his eyebrows. "I always had this fantasy about you and my bed."

"And I always had this fantasy about you and that couch."

Mischief glinted in his eyes. "I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours."

Scully stood on tiptoe and whispered in his ear.

"You win." He scooped her into his arms and strode to the living room, then deposited her onto the couch.

"But you didn't tell me yours."

Mulder got to his knees on the floor by the couch and stripped off his shirt and undershirt. He leaned over her, brushing the base of her throat with his lips. "Believe me, yours is better."

Then, he began to peel away the layers of her clothes. "You know," he said as he removed her skirt. "I always wanted to do this when alien puncture marks and mosquito bites weren't involved."

The couch groaned in protest as he stretched out beside her. Wedging her firmly between himself and the couch back, he leaned over her, encasing her in their own world. He kissed her again, giving himself completely over to the task.

"I can't seem to get enough of you, Scully," he murmured.

"I hope you never do," she replied, struggling to string two thoughts together.

He nibbled her neck and her ears. Scully's heart pounded and her brain made notes of everywhere he touched her so she could do the same to him.

"Are you sure about the couch?" he asked, his voice shaky.

Scully scanned him from head to toe. She carried his children and he carried her heart. "Very sure."

Moonlight etched dappled patterns on the hardwood floor. Scully slept with one hand cupped beneath her cheek. Mulder lifted a strand of her hair and pushed it behind her ear. She was so tiny beside him. Petite. Fragile. Tenacious. Stubborn. He smiled and wiped at a tear that tickled down his cheek. Joy was a new emotion for him.

He rolled to his feet and pulled the afghan around his waist. The reality of Scully in his arms and his bed had been tenfold better than any fantasy he could have conjured up. And he was a pretty good conjurer.

A hunger pang broke into his musings reminding him he hadn't eaten since early this morning. Two pieces of Colonel Tom's chicken and a can of Coke were all that remained of his last week's grocery shopping, he found when he opened the refrigerator.

A soft footfall behind him made him whirl around. Scully stood behind him, his white shirt hanging to her knees. She'd rolled the sleeves up and the top button was undone.

"I've often imagined you just like this." He smiled and closed the refrigerator.

Scully moved closer. "I thought about it, too. I tried it on once."

Mulder frowned.

"Remember the case in Cedar Rapids? We shared a room in that ratty motel with the paper thin walls."

Mulder grinned. "Right. With the amorous couple next door."

Scully nodded. "You went to sleep, though I still wonder how you slept through the noise."

"If I hadn't gone to sleep, Agent Scully, your cover would have been compromised that night. Seriously. Sleep was the only escape."

"Well, while you were asleep, I tried on this shirt. I found that I liked the feeling of wearing your clothes." She moved closer, a sly smile on her lips.

"You won't mind if I don't say the same."

She moved up to lean against him. "You wouldn't look good in my suits."

"Actually, I did have a dream once about your navy blue suit."

She whipped the afghan aside and tossed it toward the couch.

"I'm out of practice, Scully." Mulder moved toward her and she giggled and backed away.

"Giggling?" he asked, catching her wrist and whirling her against him. "The enigmatic Dr. Scully?"

"Well, that certainly explains some things." Margaret Scully clasped her hands between her knees and leaned back in her chair.

Scully sought Mulder's fingers, tangled in the fluffy couch cushions. "We wanted to tell you sooner, but-"

"You didn't know how to tell me that you got pregnant out of wedlock and that my grandchild is some... some alien?"

Scully felt Mulder squeeze her hand between the couch cushions. She'd dreaded this confrontation with her mother for two months now and had wanted to face this alone, to allow her mother to rant and rave at her all she wanted. But Mulder had insisted they present a united front. After all, he pointed out, he was as much a part of this as she was and just as liable for the rage their situation was sure to produce.

"I'm a grown woman over thirty, Mom."

"Age has nothing to do with morals. I don't understand you, Dana." Margaret lunged out of her chair and moved to the mantle. She picked up a figurine and examined it. "I never did, you know. You father always understood your moods, your independence better than me."

"This has nothing to do with moods," Scully said.

Margaret carefully replaced the figurine and turned. "Fox, you are a fine man, by all that I can see. I certainly owe you for Dana's life time and again. But I hold you responsible for this." Her voice caught and she clamped her lips shut. She cleared her throat. "I believe that you love her. I knew you did years ago and I held out hope that, if you loved each other, one day you two come together. But I would have liked to have been there to see my one remaining daughter married." Her voice broke and a tear rolled down her cheek.

Scully glanced at Mulder. They had at first agreed not to mention the nature of her pregnancy, nor it's unorthodox beginning. Then, it had seemed necessary. "Can't you be happy for me? Only a few months ago, I thought I could never conceive a child. This is a miracle."

"Now you speak blasphemy?" Margaret clenched her fists. "Miracles are wrought only by God and you have done an ungodly thing. Children produced in dishes, their very souls tampered with, then frozen and carted around the world before they are finally returned to the womb? Is this anything God would ordain?"

"I want these children very much. They're Mulder's children and mine. In vitro fertilization is a process done in labs in this country every day. God has given us this technology to use."

"You are twisting religion to suit your own needs, Dana."

Scully stood and moved to stand in front of her mother. "Mulder and I found our way to each other by a convoluted path that cost each of us dearly. But we did find each other. We are each other's strength and hope. But, I want my family to be part of that strength, too. Please, Mom. Be happy for us."

Margaret put her arms around Scully and they both cried. Mulder stared down at the carpet. They'd told his mother yesterday and tears would have been preferable to her reaction. She'd looked from one to the other of them, but her gaze had settled on him, reading everything behind their happy announcement.

"Does this have anything to do with your father?" she had asked in the cold tone she'd taken since his father's murder.

Mulder knew the shock had shown on his face. "Mom-" he'd begun.

She'd turned and marched up the stairs without another word.


He shook himself out of his thoughts. Scully stared down at him. "We should be going."

As he rose to go, Margaret approached him and embraced him. "Please take care of her," she whispered as he bent down.

Scully awoke sweaty, her heart hammering against her ribs. She stirred to consciousness, reaching out to touch the bed beside her. Her fingers encountered Mulder's hair. Running her fingers across his cheek and shoulder, she determined that he slept soundly. She smiled into the dark. He'd so seldom slept well before their marriage. Now, it was almost as if he'd given himself over to her protection.

She threw back the covers and stood, wondering at the panic driving through her body. Had she dreamed? She frowned as she made her way to the bathroom. No, she couldn't remember a dream or even a nightmare.

She flipped on the light and stared at her rumpled reflection in the mirror. Dark circles shadowed her eyes. Lately, she'd felt more tired than usual. But, Elizabeth had warned her to expect this in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

A pain cut through her, taking her breath with it. She gripped the edge of the sink as nausea washed over her. She drew in a deep breath and tried to concentrate on defeating the pain. Something warm slid down her leg.

"Dear God, no," she whispered, not daring to look down. But when she did, she stood in a pool of her own blood.

The ambulance lights throbbed against the white walls. Paramedics bent over her, smothering her with an oxygen mask. She frantically searched the faces for Mulder. He appeared at her feet, his hair rumpled, his face white and drawn.


"We're taking you to the hospital now, Mrs. Mulder," someone said and she felt them lift her off the couch and place her on the gurney.

"The babies?" she muttered beneath the mask.

They ignored her. She turned her head and saw Mulder grab his coat and sling it on over his sweatpants and t-shirt. They were running down the hall now. The lights in the ceiling were going by so fast. Another pain cut through her and she tried to twist.

"We've given you something for the pain," another voice said. She felt weightless as they lifted the gurney and hurried down the steps toward the ambulance. They shoved her inside and Mulder leaped in with her. Gratefully, they shut the door, closing out the siren and the lights.

"She's lost a lot of blood," a paramedic said to Mulder as he pricked her arm for an IV.

"What about the baby?" Mulder asked.

She felt as if she were drifting off into a fog, going back to that place she'd been after her abduction. His voice guided her back to the present.

The paramedic looked down at her, compassion in his face. Then he looked up at Mulder and shook his head solemnly.

"No," she cried into the mask.

Mulder's slim fingers tangled with hers. She blinked and rolled her eyes, trying to bring his face into focus. He bent closer. "I love you," he whispered. "Hold on, Scully."

Scully rolled a tiny speck of ice around her mouth. Why on earth was she eating ice in the middle of the night? She turned her head against the scratchy pillowcase and wondered where her silk one was. Had Mulder stolen it again and replace it with his beaten, lumpy feather pillow?

She opened her eyes and stared up at the examination light and bits and pieces of memories flooded back along with the sounds of the emergency room.


"I'm here," he answered and hovered into view. "They keep chasing me away, though."

"The babies?"

His voice was choked, his eyes full of fear. "They don't know yet." He took her hand and linked her fingers with his. "Dr. Norton is here."

"Did you tell her?"

Mulder hesitated. "Not yet."

Scully turned her head to peer into his face. "We have to tell her."

Mulder shook his head slowly. "They've already done some tests. A sonogram and tested the amniotic fluid."

Scully fought the drugs that were beckoning her. "What did they find out?"

Mulder leaned down and kissed her.


His eyes misted and he blinked rapidly. "The fetuses are abnormal." His voice caught and he glanced away.

"How abnormal? Mulder. Tell me."

He grimaced against a wave of pain so intense Scully felt it through their joined hands.

"Very abnormal," he whispered.

"We have to take her into surgery now." A nurse stepped between them, breaking their bond.

"Mrs. Mulder?" a voice asked and a soft hand patted her cheek. "Mrs. Mulder?"

Scully's vision cleared and she stared into a nurse's blue eyes.

"You're in the recovery room and you're going to be fine."

Scully looked past the nurse and around the room. Mulder was asleep in a vinyl chair, his head lolled to one side. The dark shadow of his beard made him look haggard and tired.

"He's been asleep there for about four hours," the pretty nurse whispered. "I didn't have the heart to wake him."

"The babies?" Scully asked.

The blue eyes misted. "Dr. Norton will be by in a few minutes to talk with you."

A huge emptiness filled her as her mind struggled to grasp the truth that she knew in her heart. She'd lost them. She couldn't feel their presence anymore.

"But you'll be fine and back home in a day or two." The nurse finished raising her bed. "Would you like me to wake your husband?" she asked and started toward Mulder.

"No. Let him sleep." She turned her head to watch him, anchoring her thoughts on him. Even in sleep, his strength reached out to her.

The curtain's rings rattled softly as the nurse drew it close, shutting her and Mulder in together. His breaths came softly and evenly, his face peaceful, dark lashes resting on his cheeks. Yet, Scully knew that once his eyes opened, he would suffer the same pain as she. She sighed and stared over her head. At least she could save one of them the suffering for a while longer. Dry sobs welled up inside her, but no tears fell, as if all the moisture, all the feeling had been sucked out of her.

"Dana?" Elizabeth Norton slipped in between the curtains and laid a handful of files on the foot of the bed. She looked almost a tired as Mulder and Scully wondered what time it was. How many of the last hours with the babies had she lost to unconsciousness? Elizabeth laid a hand on Scully's hand and squeezed, her doctor's facade dropped in favor of friendship. "I'm so sorry."

"I lost them?"

Elizabeth nodded. "There were some congenital problems already evident. They wouldn't have survived to full term." She picked up the files, her doctor's persona in place. "Are there any genetic complications in your family, or Fox's?"

"No." Mulder stood at the bedside, his eyes hooded and sleepy.

Elizabeth glanced at him, then back at Scully. "How about yours?"

"No." Scully shook her head. The anesthesia was making her memory fuzzy. Had they told Elizabeth the history of the pregnancy?

"I'm very surprised you say that, because there were some problems evident that had to be genetically linked."

The absurdity of the situation, the impossibility that this was her laying here, mourning the loss of children conceived by men that smoked Morleys and wore long black coats was suddenly more than she could bear and in lieu of tears. As the drugs claimed her, she heard herself laugh bitterly.

She awoke to bright morning sun pouring in the window warming her face. She snuggled against the pillow, instantly aware of a familiar scent. Mulder sprawled on the narrow bed beside her, fully dressed.

"Good morning," he murmured, his eyes open.

Scully smiled. She could almost believe last night had never happened. But, it had and the sorrow returned.

He started to rise, but she stopped him with a hand on his back. "Don't. I used to imagine when I was in the hospital for cancer treatment that one morning I'd wake up and you'd be there beside me. I want to enjoy this a few minutes."

He smiled and winked. "You just never woke up soon enough." He kissed the tip of her nose, rolled over and swung his feet to the floor. "How are you feeling?"

"Empty. Did time really go by so quickly? Did I only have them such a short time?"

He looked at her over his shoulder, sorrow evident in his eyes, a pain she was sure he would send to live with the rest of his resident pain.

"I guess you were right before. Like Emily, they weren't meant to be."

He glanced down at the bedspread and picked at one of the tufts in the fabric. Then, his shoulders began to shake and he leaned forward and put his forehead against her abdomen. Sobs shook the bed. "I should never have pursued this," he sobbed. "I've only brought you more pain."

Scully rubbed his back, feeling her own strength grow in the presence of his need. "Think of all we would have missed had we not taken this path. Each other, our marriage. I've felt what it was like to carry life. None of this would have happened if not for you. I think I can better accept never having a child knowing what it would be like rather than never knowing."

He raised his head and turned away from her, wiping at his tears.

A sharp rap at the door sent him to the bathroom. Elizabeth entered wearing street clothes without her lab coat. "I was on my way home and wanted to check on you two once more." She sat down on the edge of the bed. "I just looked at your blood work and you'll be fine in a few days. I think that the abnormalities in these fetuses was just a fluke. We sometimes see these in multiples. You both have indicated no genetic problems. I know this is an almost meaningless comment right now, but there'll be other chances for children for you and Fox."

Scully shook her head. "No, I can't conceive again."

"Of course you can. Whatever gives you that idea? You're young and healthy." Elizabeth slanted a glance at Mulder, just coming out of the bathroom. "No problem here with desire, I bet," she whispered. "Just don't try for a few months."

Scully shook her head again. "Something happened to me before I came to you. It's impossible."

Elizabeth frowned. "What exactly happened?"

Scully glanced at Mulder and he stared out the window.

"It seems that all my eggs have been... reabsorbed."

Elizabeth laughed. "What did they give you last night?" She picked up Scully's file and glanced over the medication sheet. "That's the silliest thing I ever heard. You know that doesn't happen until advanced age, and sometimes not then. What journals have you been reading? Some from Mars?" Elizabeth rifled through the file. "Here, I'll prove it to you." She held out a laparoscopy picture filled with tiny pink and red balls. "Potential little Danas and little Foxes."

Scully stared at the picture, unable to believe what she was seeing. "Are you sure this is from my ovaries?"

"Very sure. I did a laparoscopic examination when I found out there were multiple genetic problems just to see what was going on. You had such fine eggs, that I took pictures." She grinned broadly. "To add to my portfolio, you know."

Mulder stepped slowly to the bed and took the picture out of Scully's hand. "You're fertile?"

"Very, according to my examination." Elizabeth winked at Scully. She patted Scully's knee and rose to leave. "Physician, stop trying to diagnose thyself."

Mulder shifted in the bed and gently moved Scully's head to his lap. She had fallen asleep as soon as he got her home. He'd spent enough nights separated from her while she was in the hospital. He was spending this evening right here in the bed, even if he had to use the damned laptop to finish a case report. He shifted the computer to his left side and typed with one finger. Suddenly, the "You Have Mail" waving mailbox popped up. He clicked on the OK button and waited.

`I am very sorry for your loss', the message read. 'I had hoped that we would be successful. As part of preparing Agent Scully to receive the embryos, I gave her a shot of a drug developed to enhance egg production and ovulation. We have done this to several sterilized abductees to return them to the egg production program when their offspring prove to be genetically dominate. In your case, I did this so that some nights I may sleep in peace.'

Children's voices filled the park. Mulder pretended to read the paper, shifting uncomfortably on the hard park bench, yet intently watching the children. He'd had to stop twice this morning and let Scully out of the car to throw up. The second time she'd stood in the street and laughed, then she called Elizabeth. She was pregnant.

A group of children played kick ball a short distance away. Mulder glanced toward them, feeling a twinge of guilt. He had followed her and her mother and knew she played here often. So now he sat, waiting for a glimpse of her. Suddenly, a bright blue ball flew out of the crowd, smacking him on the leg. A little girl broke away from her companions and ran toward him, bobbed auburn hair flying. She ran up and picked up the ball, then stared at him with dark hazel eyes.

"Apologize to the nice man," her mother said, hurrying up behind her.

"I'm sorry my ball hit you, mister," she said.

Mulder leaned forward, a lump in his throat nearly choking off his air. "That's all right."

"We have to go, Katie," her mother urged.

"You know you shouldn't talk to strangers," Mulder said, feeling traitorous tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

Katie tipped her head with a familiar mannerism that made his heart turn over. "But, you're not a stranger."

Mulder shook his head, wanting to draw her into his arms and hold her, to feel her tiny heart against his. Just once. "Yes, I am."

She regarded him a moment longer. "No, you aren't."

"Katie, you have to come inside now. You have a cold."

She turned toward her mother and set her head in a stubborn tilt. "I'm fine, Mommy."

"Good-bye, Katie," Mulder managed to force past the lump in his throat.

Then, she scampered away, out of his life.

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