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莱古拉斯


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看到第九章结尾我想起来以前看过结局这段
当时看的时候也是泪流满面
看到长大了的木头,有点心酸啊
S就那么去了……


睡觉很重要!!!!!非常之重要!!!!

[100 楼] | Posted: 2008-09-16 23:42 顶端
sonia




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to tell the truth,
i hate this article!!!i hate it!!!!!

[101 楼] | Posted: 2009-02-03 17:22 顶端
梁山掌门


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这篇太虐了!我好像又刚失恋了一次!

而且虐得完全没有焦点,要是癌症什么的还能让读者痛苦得痛快点!

写得很好,但是明确地说我不喜欢这个universe!

不过最后还是要感激楼主年前用心翻译!





[102 楼] | Posted: 2013-11-03 07:50 顶端
扇子


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好想重温一下原文呀,Link居然Unavailable了,LZ有原文么???

Welcome to the real world! It sucks, you gonna to love it

[103 楼] | Posted: 2013-12-10 19:11 顶端
千言万语


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The Wasteland Series                                    
by prufrock's love

A Moment's Surrender
An Age of Prudence
Each in his Prison
Against My Ruins
Epilogue

Summary: Told alternately from Mulder's, Scully's, and Skinner's
perspective over the course of a decade, The Wasteland chronicles the
repercussions of a single choice - a moment's surrender with another
woman - that will test the bounds of Mulder and Scully's commitment to
each other. What happens when a man gets almost exactly what he
thought he always wanted? He has to learn to live with it forever.

Classification: Story, Angst, MSR, UST, RST, Mulder/Other,
Mulder/Scully, Scully/Skinner UST, Character Death
Rating: Strong R
Spoilers: Through season 7
Feedback: No. Really. Just enjoy.
Distribution: However you like.
Disclaimer: Not mine; don't sue.
Author's notes: Follow part 5

Begin: A Moment's Surrender


Friday

On so many levels, Mulder was not a happy man. Maybe he too was a
direct male-line descendant of Genghis Khan, though he had no stoutness
of the tum. He did like little fur hats, although he seldom had an
opportunity to wear one. One more idiotic question, one more jerk-off
excuse about protocol, or one more glassy-eyed traveler stupidly
blocking his trajectory, though, and Mulder was going to dig out his
little furry hat, locate his battle ax, and open a big can of whoop-ass
on Delta Airlines at large.

He didn't like Texas. He didn't like the heat, the humidity, or the
accent. He didn't like abandoning his partner. He didn't like flying
coach. He didn't like missing children. He didn't like looking like
an idiot. At least he was an idiot with a badge, but those weren't
exactly rare.

<Don't fucking glare at me! If you worked for the FBI, you'd make them
hold the plane, too.>

Flopping down in the seat number corresponding to his sweaty ticket
stub, he sprawled his legs into the aisle, daring the plasticized
flight attendant to say anything. Futilely running his fingers through
his hair, he tried to compose himself.

Ten minutes to make it through the Dallas airport, running like he was
about to rip open his shirt and reveal a big red "S." Running like he
actually wanted to go to San Antonio. The alternative was spending the
night in a Dallas no-tell motel, so he flashed his badge at everyone in
sight and ran like a man possessed. Fortunately, or rather
unfortunately, he made the 2:20 flight at 2:23 and collected dirty
looks from the men he had delayed three whole minutes.

He didn't like the Dallas airport. He didn't like Dallas, but he'd
listed that he despised Texas in general, and there were so many other
things to add to his mental diatribe that he didn't want to count
anything twice.

He didn't like the stupid plane safety movie he had seen several
thousand times and could lip sync along with. He didn't like whoever
decided they should pass out Bridge Mix instead of peanuts. And he
didn't like people who automatically thought they should recline their
seats all the way back so he got to sit with his knees under his chin.

Mulder was up to not liking astroturf and the itchy tag in his dress
shirt when he lost his staring contest with the flight attendant and
put his feet back where they were supposed to be.

<I don't like fake tits, either, bitch,> he thought, throwing her a
kiss-my-ass grin.  

Why did he work so hard to create a private Hell for himself when the
FBI would do it for him?

Skinner had cornered him with the file first thing this morning:
children had been disappearing outside of San Antonio and local law
enforcement had requested an FBI profiler immediately. Immediately
Agent Mulder. No, it can't wait until Monday, why - you didn't have
plans did you, Agent Mulder? No-sir-I-live-for-your-jerk-off-
assignments-sir. No bodies had been recovered, no ransom demanded.
And the kicker: there were reports of mysterious lights in the sky.
Send in the cavalry! Mulder's telephone call to the County Sheriff
that morning was rewarded with "You come on down - I be waitin' out
front."

Yee-fuckin'-ha.

Skinner had said he felt Mulder's profiling skills and paranormal
experience would be "beneficial to the investigation."

Mulder thought it was just an excuse for Skinner to make him miserable
for the weekend.

He turned his head to say this to his partner - the words almost
tumbled out of his mouth before he remembered she wasn't in her usual
place at his side. Hopefully, she was still curled up under an afghan
on the couch at her mother's house where he had left her. Once she'd
finally succumbed to the flu - she wouldn't admit it until he had to
make an emergency stop so she could puke into the weeds on the side of
the interstate - he'd descended on her apartment and "helped" her until
Scully called her mother in self-defense. Mulder didn't exactly relish
hearing her vomit; he just wanted to reassure himself that it was
only the flu.

<Just the stomach flu. Not cancer. Not an alien virus. Just the flu.>
A vivid imagination combined with a vast repertoire of horrors and an
excellent memory is not always a good thing. Chanting helped.

Even with his mantra, Mulder was still uneasy leaving her. His Scully,
his touchstone, was hurting and he couldn't help her. Same song,
different verse.  

<She's at her mother's house. Not abducted by aliens. Not locked in a
car trunk. Not dying in a hospital bed. You called her this morning.
You can call her tonight. She'll be there for you when you get back,>
his inner voice lectured him.

There for him? Needy son-of-a-bitch, wasn't he?

Ignoring his right knee, which was reminding him that dress shoes,
airport floors, and sprinting don't necessarily mix, Mulder leaned back
against the scratchy upholstery, closed his eyes, and mentally reviewed
the status of his favorite X-file - the one involving a small redheaded
pathologist. In that moment, he floated away from his cramped plane
seat and into serene rightness. To one candle shining brightly in a
demon-haunted world.

He'd realized he needed her as he stood alone in her apartment after
Duane Barry took her and had felt an icy wind blowing through his chest
because he was not whole anymore. Alone, he was only half a person,
and he needed Dana Scully in this world to complete him. From that
moment, it was just a slow progression toward the inevitable.

Or was it?

Contrary to what Scully seemed to think, he actually could survive more
than an arm's length away from her. As long as she was within cellular
range, Mulder was content. She was his center, his anchor. Without
her steady hand, even for the weekend, he felt dangerously adrift. His
life was divided by a clear boundary - Before Scully and After Scully.
An agnostic's version of B.C. and A.D. He liked the After Scully-
Mulder much better. He ate better, dressed better, and was less lonely
and more stable. Of course, he got laid a lot less.

<Speaking of getting laid - what is the rub, bub?>

<That is NOT an appropriate thought!>

<Yeah, right!>

The businessman occupying the seat beside him looked offended by the
snorting noise he had made.

<Don't piss me off, prick, or I'll have my 105-pound partner kick your
ass!>

His happy place always started out so benign - a friendly montage of
interesting cases, cute quips and good fights. All the times Scully
had saved his ass, tended his wounds. Then his id remembered the
warmth of her fingers playing over his skin as she changed a bandage,
and over his superegos' protests, his happy place became an adults-only
source of entertainment.

Despite his first reaction to her, which was "cute, not my type,"
saying that Mulder found Scully attractive these days would be like
saying he found blow jobs pleasant or breasts interesting. He walked
into things he was so busy staring at her. Scully usually felt his
forehead for fever and mumbled something about residual neurological
impairment. Wonder if Uncle Sam knew how many CT scans he'd payed for
because Agent Fox Mulder wouldn't admit to having a hard-on?

<Boy, that itch is acting up today.>

It tended to get worse when he was miserable. Remember the vampire
chick, Mulder?  

Scully was completely unaware of the effect she had on men or she was
really good at not showing it. Considering she couldn't lie for shit,
she probably had no idea how many eyes followed her down the hall -
including those of a certain Assistant Director that had better keep
his hands to himself. No matter how many bad guys she collared, how
many lives she saved, the other agents still pitied him for having a
female partner. It didn't stop them from making lewd jokes about her
in the locker-room.

Pretty little redhead starts dating her instructor and ends up teaching
at Quantico. She must be awful good at something to merit that - wink,
wink. Then they break up and she gets sent to the basement with Spooky
Mulder. Too bad fucking him couldn't or didn't help her career.

He flinched every time he heard it. The entire FBI could make fun of
him over the building intercom for all he cared - he'd earned those
remarks. Anyone who insulted his partner only did it once in front of
Mulder, which probably didn't help the rumors about the two of them.

He was a man that searched for the truth. The truth was that Scully
was brilliant and beautiful and dedicated and trustworthy and he loved
her with all his heart.

No, that wasn't a recent revelation. No, not platonic, friendly love,
either. Forever, let's-adopt-babies-after-extensive-efforts-to-make-
our-own, love.

Of course, he had no idea how to go about convincing her of that. She
tended to assume he was delusional and order more blood work. Getting
stuck with a needle every time he kissed her or told her he loved her
tended to dampen a fellow's Amor. Maybe if "Marry Me Scully" showed
up on his next x-ray, she'd get a clue. He'd have to get it to show up
twice, since Scully would immediately order a second series of films.
And they called him obtuse.

When other women asked him if he was with anyone, he would say "yes."
Between working and goofing off, he WAS with Scully almost every waking
hour, unless she ran him off. Of course he knew how she liked her
coffee and what size clothing she wore - that was easy. His cherished
tidbits of information were about her most private self. He knew when
she got her period - spend enough time in close proximity to a woman
with PMS and a scalpel and you'll keep track, too. He knew where they
kept changes of clothes and toothbrushes in each other's apartments.
He knew her neck hurt after doing several autopsies in a row, and that
even though she wouldn't admit to it, she'd let him massage it if
he didn't say anything. He knew where the spare toilet paper was in
her bathroom and that she'd been saving Betty Crocker points for years.
Considering that Scully couldn't really cook, soon she'd have enough
points for a spoon.  

Sex was the final frontier.

Not that she would refuse him sex, if he asked her the right way. Like
all good mommies, Scully couldn't deny her favorite wayward child much
of anything. Show up at her house late one night, look needy, cry a
bit, and she would probably offer. He knew how that game went - you
got laid, but you usually lost a friend afterwards. So what if he
scratched this little itch that was a full-blown rash some days? He
stood to lose his partner, his savior, his confidante, and his best
friend. Given that choice - Christ, it was just an itch, after
all.

Mulder wanted the passion, but he would settle for the safe way.

It wasn't that itch to bury himself in his partner that bothered him so
much - impulses like that had been constant background noise since he
was twelve. It was that the two if them had stretched the elastic
boundaries of friendship and partnership until they were beginning to
fray like an old rubber band. There was no room left inside those
confines to grow, and there was a lifetime of space outside the border.
It was convincing and enticing, dragging Dana Scully out of the sacred
"friend" circle that was presenting the problem. A series of losers
seemed to have no difficulty separating his partner from her panties,
but Mulder had never gotten one glimmer of interest. She tolerated,
but she did not reciprocate. Maybe she never would.

<How long do I wait, Scully? If it was any other woman, I'd just ask
you about her. How can a woman trust me with her life and not trust me
with her heart?>

He shifted in his cramped seat trying to find a comfortable position
now that his seat was safely "full and upright." Looking around, he
saw row after row of similarly dressed businessmen.

<We look like clones in Italian suits.>

There was one difference, though, and it made him feel very lonely.
There would be wives and girlfriends in soft silk blouses, sons and
daughters draped with backpacks and band-aids waiting for the other men
at the gate.

The only thing waiting for Mulder in Texas was a headache.

The plane bounced twice on the runway indicating Mulder had arrived in
San Antonio. True to his word, the deputy sheriff was waiting in his
patrol car "out front" of the airport. The deputy greeted him by
squinting across the car from the driver's seat and asking "You
Mulder?"

As much as Mulder wanted to lie some days, he nodded his head
affirmatively. The car's trunk popped open. Mulder sighed, tossed his
bag in the trunk and got in the car. It was going to be a long weekend.
Scully had promised to fly down if he was still there when she felt
better, but with no bodies to perform autopsies on, he was probably
stuck by himself.

<Do some questioning. Find a connection between the kids. Write a
profile. Get back on a plane. Go home and sit in an empty apartment and
wait to turn forty years old, miserable and alone.>

**********

<Where's the connection? Same birthday? Same hair color? Same baseball
team?>

Mulder flipped through the file as the sullen deputy drove him out of
San Antonio and into the vast hill country. The deputy <Edwards?> had
driven into the city to meet him and had said it was "about an hour"
back to Blanco. "About an hour" was quickly turning into three, thanks
to rush hour traffic. Three hours, about five hundred cows, and twelve
words from the deputy later Mulder had started to chafe. He'd tried to
discuss the case and had only received polite, one-word responses that
committed to nothing. The Deputy wasn't being evasive, he just wasn't
chatty.

<It's like talking to Hank Hill.>

He was at least avoiding hearing that awful twangy Texas accent, so he
put on his best serious FBI face and reviewed the file. Four children
- three boys and a girl - ages four to ten, missing from their
backyards and playgrounds in the middle of the day. It wasn't likely
that these kids were on the same baseball team; all the children's
histories noted serious developmental problems. Some he recognized -
autism, Down's syndrome, retardation. Some were more mysterious -
Fragile X, Prader-Willi. He'd have to ask Scully about those when he
called her tonight, but the fact that all the kids had problems was a
place to start. What would kids with disabilities all have in common?

He checked for the same pediatrician - no. Neurologists, geneticists,
speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists,
special education teachers, nutritionists, cardiologists, psychiatrists
. . .

And then he found a common name. Well, that was easy. Maybe if they
turned around right now, he could catch the same plane back to DC and
be home in time to tuck Scully in.

"Did you notice that all the children have the same psychologist?"

"Yep.."

<Well, that was earth shattering. We're up to thirteen words.> Mulder
tried again, "Has anyone questioned him?"

"Her," the deputy replied, never taking his eyes off the tractor-
trailer full of cattle in front of them.

<Shit - steers and queers.> "What?"

"She's a her." Such a definitive answer must have taxed the deputy.
Apparently there are only a finite number of words available for usage
each day and the deputy was sharing his ration with a New York City
gossip columnist and a DC politician. "A developmental
NEUROpsychologist."

<Excuse the hell out of me.> He rechecked the file - yep - Dr.
"Elizabeth" Matthews. He tried again. "OK, has anyone questioned
her?" he said with the proper emphasis and awe on "her"

"She didn't do it."

<AND THANK YOU FOR SUCH EFFECTIVE POLICE WORK, DEPUTY
WHATEVER-THE-FUCK-YOUR-NAME-IS. Citizens can rest easy knowing
you're on the beat. You requested I come down here, you uncooperative
asshole.> Mulder felt that headache coming on. He located his most
nonthreatening tone. "Has she been questioned?"

"She didn't take no kids," the deputy replied.

Mulder's whining temples were beginning to scream. His preliminary
profile was a little hazy, but he saw a lonely and bitter, middle-aged
woman no one suspected of kidnapping and killing her clients. She'd
drive a Subaru Legacy and wear baggy jumpers and vests. She wouldn't
have children of her own and would see this as a way of creating a
family for herself. Or of curing the children. Either way, Mulder was
smelling the first real female serial killer. Plain woman except for
the requisite big blonde Texas hair. She had a leather fetish and gave
good head. Well, it was his private profile and he was bored and he
was staring at a cow's ass and his head hurt. He could make it up any
way he wanted.

"I would like to interview her as soon as possible," Mulder said. <And
get the hell out of here.>

"She'd be at the school. I'll take you over," the deputy replied
indulgently. His solicitousness annoyed Mulder even more.

<And how do you know she's at the school? THE school? Boy, this is
Bumfuck.> Wide-eyed questioning looks at the deputy got him no
answers. "How do you know she's at the school?" Mulder finally asked,
rubbing his temples.  

<Probably lonely and desperate for something to fill her empty days. A
workaholic when she isn't kidnapping children and hiding them in her
basement. Ooh, that thought was a little close to home.>

The deputy (Eden?) waited a few seconds before answering. Mulder tried
to take in every nuance- he hoped the man might finally say something
helpful.  

Finally the deputy answered, "My boy's coming home soon. She's helping
us get ready. Besides, dinner isn't until eight."

**********

The patrol car pulled into a dusty parking lot surrounded by a
horseshoe-shaped building. Apparently the Elementary, Junior High and
Senior High School. Mulder saw miniature playground equipment beside a
building on the hill which he assumed was a kindergarten or preschool.

<Bumfuck.>

"She'd be over there," the deputy said, gesturing to the yellowed
building on their left. Probably the High School. "You go on in."

Besides the patrol car, there were only three vehicles in the parking
lot. A gold Lincoln, a red Suburban, and a battered green Legacy.
<Guess I was right about the Subaru. FBI investigative techniques at
their best. No, no, please don't blow me in gratitude, ma'am - I'm
just doing my job.>

Mulder crunched across the gravel parking lot and up the ancient High
School steps, working an afternoon's worth of kinks out of his legs and
back as he went. The old building smelled of decades of teenagers'
hormones and pep rallies. Only the office and one room at the end of
the hall had lights on, giving it a Stephen King-prom kind of
atmosphere.

Walking past rows of dented gray metal lockers, he switched his senses
into heightened-observer mode. He was about to meet the woman most
likely responsible for or connected to the disappearance of four
children, whether the deputy thought so or not. He was close. Kind of
turned him on, actually.

<You're a sick fuck, Mulder.>

Light and voices were spilling out of a room at the end of the dark
main hallway. It was man's insistent voice followed by a young woman's
voice, low and throaty. Mulder slowed his pace so he could gather
information - often known as eavesdropping in layman's terms.

"We feel this classroom will best meet John's educational needs for the
time being. When we're more certain of his social skills, we can
consider another placement."

"He's not going to spend his days locked in the mop closet!" The
woman's voice was neutral, but Mulder got the feeling she meant what
she said.

"I promise you, John will receive the best quality education available
here, Liz. We're not trying to slight him, but there just isn't any
other space." The man's deep voice was polite but patronizing; using
the same tone police detectives used with Scully.

The woman's response was soft, but it snapped like a whip. "First, YOU
don't get to call me 'Liz' and second, we can put John in your office
and move your desk in here if you're so fond of this room. Would you
want to spend your days in here, Todd?"

The man switched tactics - his words were calm and measured. "We hold
your recommendations in very high regard, and we want the best
education for all our students."

"What's this 'we' stuff, Todd? You are the superintendent and my
client's current classroom has a drain in the middle of the floor and a
sink in the corner. Either 'we' can find another room or 'we' can go
to Court. Again. Remember how well it went for the school system last
time?"

<I'd find another classroom, Todd. Just a suggestion,> Mulder thought.
He'd been on the receiving end of speeches like that one enough to know
that resistance was futile. You had to stand your ground a little,
though, until she got flushed and started gesturing wildly and you got
a glimpse down her blouse.

And he wondered why Scully's brother thought he was such a sorry son-
of-a-bitch?  

There was a pause before the man's voice replied. "Fine, DOCTOR
Elizabeth, you win. The football team loses their equipment room. Is
that acceptable?" The words were tinged with humor, as though the man
had been forced to try to sell her on a bad deal and was attempting to
make amends.

"Acceptable and appropriate. That boy has grown about a foot since you
last saw him. If we can teach him to knock only certain people down,
Blanco High will have a star football player. Can the room be ready
for Anne to get settled in by Tuesday?" The woman's voice also
relaxed.

"We'll have it ready, Elizabeth, honey."

< 'Elizabeth, honey?'> Mulder thought. Pretty friendly all of a
sudden. The woman's voice continued, purring like a contented cat -
she'd gotten exactly what she wanted. Intelligent, well-educated, and
very warm. And the accent wasn't what he'd expected - distinctly
Southern without being harsh. <She's not a native. I'd pay forty-nine
cents a minute to hear that voice.>

His mental computer was whirring away storing these bits of information
as he walked towards the glorified mop closet.

A second female voice spoke - older, less certain, "If everything is
settled, I'd like to be gettin' home." Mulder added to himself, <To Pa
and the young 'uns.>

Mulder was only about ten feet from the room when a woman emerged. She
was dead-on what he had been picturing - dumpy, plain, worn. Huge
blonde hair. Animals could nest unnoticed in that hair. He was
mentally patting himself on the back when a big voice called out from
behind him.

"Is everything ready, Miss Anne?"

Mulder realized it must be the deputy. Maybe he'd stopped to take a
wiz in the parking lot. He turned to locate the voice and saw one of
the biggest men he'd ever encountered outside the NFL standing by the
front doors, humbly holding his hat in his hand. He hadn't seen the
deputy standing before; he'd just gotten in the car at the airport.
Unfolded, the man must be at least six and a half feet tall. Two-
fifty, two-hundred seventy-five pounds, Mulder guessed. He was amused
at whatever Texas tradition dictated this man address people as "Miss
Anne."

Miss Anne didn't seem worried about being face-to-face with a stranger
wearing an Armani suit in a high school hallway at 6:15 at night.

<Hell, if Hulk Hogan was policing me, I wouldn't be scared either,>
Mulder thought. He was quickly sorting out names, faces, and plot
points. <Todd is the county superintendent. Dr. Matthews is Elizabeth,
honey, but not Liz, and this isn't her. This is Anne, the teacher,
probably. Deputy Edson (?) has a son named John who is a client of Dr.
Matthews. Now if the good doctor would make an appearance...>

A small woman stepped into the shadows, silhouetted by the light from
the room behind her. She was still dictating directions to the teacher
and superintendent and didn't immediately react to Mulder, giving him
precious time to collect his thoughts. His mind worked on several
levels, and all of them jolted into high gear.

<Fuckable.> Well, everyone has an id. Eat it, kill it, or fuck it.

<She looks like Scully.> Ego had kicked in.

<I can see why the deputy is so sure she's innocent.> The superego was
still present, but heavily influenced by his groin area.

He processed rapid fire: She was attractive, young, polished, but so
were millions of other woman. His first impression of her was only
<she's a hell of a lot like Scully. Before.>

His eyes flitted over her trying to decide exactly what reminded him so
much of his partner. Maybe the height - the two women were both small.
Scully was positively tiny these days, though. Dr. Matthews probably
has about ten or so pounds on Dr. Scully, concentrated, thankfully, in
breasts and hips. Her hair was blonder, but still reddish and cut in a
similar style. Eye were dark blue. Fair skin. The resemblance was
enough that Mulder could have picked her up in a bar for a one-night
stand and easily pretended she was Scully.

That last thought made Mulder cringe at himself, but his headache had
vanished.

"Folks, this here is Agent Mulder, from the FBI. Agent Mulder, this
here is Mr. Todd, our county superintendent, Miss Anne, my boy's new
teacher, and Dr. Elizabeth Matthews." The deputy's proud pronunciation
of FBI definitely required capital letters. Maybe he wasn't such an
asshole. Lips politely smiled and hands were shaken all around.
Mulder got to flash his badge. He lived for that.

"Deputy Edmonson, we were just getting the final details worked out for
John. You still expecting him Wednesday?" Todd asked, as though he
wasn't standing in the presence of profiling greatness.

<HELLO- FBI? MISSING CHILDREN. AGENT IN EXPENSIVE SUIT. Does this
register with anyone?> Mulder was not used to being overlooked. The
men continued to discuss the deputy's son, leaving him to stand there
looking at either his shoes or Dr. Matthews.   He preferred Dr.
Matthews. He saw a brief wave of shock, or maybe recognition, pass
over her face before her poised expression returned. He filed that
look for further rumination.

"Agent Mulder, would you like to join us for dinner?" a voice asked. A
quick reality check revealed the voice belonged Dr. Matthews.

"Dinner? Um, I'd, um, like to ask you some questions about the, ah, the
children..." he said, tripping over his tongue.

For Christ's sake, Mulder - there's appreciating a lovely woman and
then there's making an ass of yourself because you're alone and
frustrated.

"You're welcome to ask them on the drive over."

The deputy retreated to his patrol car for reasons of his own and
Teacher Anne also slipped away, leaving Mulder, Todd and Dr. Matthews
standing on the cracked school steps. Mulder noticed the Subaru
belonged to Anne. He also saw that Dr. Matthews positioned herself on
the step above him and Todd so she didn't have to tip her head so far
back as they spoke.

<Scully knows that trick too.> A way to equalize herself when others
thought she was inferior.

"Todd, just for not being an ass again, maybe you and Carol can each
merit your own piece of shortcake tonight," Dr. Matthews teased. Her
teasing was friendly, without sexual undertones. Todd's wasn't, but
she didn't seem to be picking up on that. Or else she was ignoring it.

"You making the kind with your strawberries and real whipped cream?"
Todd inquired.

<Like it matters, Todd. You'd eat cardboard with chocolate sauce if
you got to spend the evening with this woman.> Todd's kind wasn't
subtle.    

Mulder hadn't realized this was an invitation to dinner at her home.
Although his warning lights flashed, his train of thought was chugging
into a wet tunnel far away in the distance. If she was the kidnapper,
she'd just invited him to comb through her home for clues, however
inadmissable. Although he currently doubted this woman had any
children hidden in her basement, one excuse to check her drawers was as
good as another. How could Skinner object - well, never mind.
Skinner could always find something to object about. It was like a
mission for the man.

Mulder was aware that no one was speaking. The silence probably meant
a question had been directed at him. "I'm sorry..." he started.

"Do you have any luggage?" Dr. Matthews was asking, smiling an
enigmatic Scully- smile.

God help him.

His things were transferred from the patrol car to the trunk of the new
Lincoln and Mulder was buckled into the passenger seat before he could
object. It was like a strong tide was sweeping him along - he seemed
to be alone in a car with the woman that, ten minutes ago, he had
pegged as a psycho kidnapper. Keb Mo was playing his steel guitar on
the fancy stereo and the sun was dying in a thousand shades of
burgundy. Dr. Matthews was smiling a Mona Lisa smile and apparently
going to feed him dinner. If this tide involved his pants down
around his ankles at any time this evening, he'd decided just to go
with it. Can't turn down Southern hospitality. It hadn't dawned on
him that he was 60 miles away from civilization without a vehicle or a
place to spend the night sharing a car with a strange woman, that,
enchanting or not, was somehow connected to four missing children.
He'd exchanged exactly 33 words with the local law enforcement before
jaunting off. Amazing how selective the male mind could be. His
thoughts were simple:

<Hey, she can drive a stick-shift!>

<OK, idiot, get it together.> He took a deep breath and discovered she
was wearing perfume. Didn't help.

"Dr. Matthews..." Then he forgot what he was going to ask.

"Elizabeth, please."

"Okay- Elizabeth. I'd like to ask you some questions about the missing
children. You seem to be a possible link between all of them, so you
might be considered a suspect. Do you understand what that means?" His
efforts to seem calm went a little overboard. He sounded like he was
explaining this to a child. Maybe she wouldn't notice. Maybe she'd
think all FBI agents spoke like that.

"Maybe if you talk real slow and explain it using small words..." Yep,
she'd noticed. Sounded like she might be teasing, but he couldn't tell
for sure - reading women socially wasn't Mulder's strong suit. Time to
back peddle.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be insulting." He was ready to apologize
from the bottom of his heart. Mulder knew he did apologies very well.
He had to - he screwed up a lot. She spoke quickly before he could
launch into his usual penance:

"I want you to find the children. I will do anything I can to help
you." Elizabeth's voice was pressed, emotional. It was like that
switch had been flicked again, briefly, just like when he'd met her.
The poised woman was replaced by a frightened girl for an instant. She
was more upset than he'd realized. He had two thoughts:

<She didn't bother to say that she didn't do it.> That was a good
indicator that she didn't view herself as a suspect.

His other thought was more base. <Wonder if I can get her to say 'I
will do anything' or 'I want you' in that breathy voice again?> He'd
better stop before she got annoyed. It was a long walk back to town.

<You are an FBI agent. You are not a caveman. You are an FBI agent.>

<Ooh baby, down-shift again!>

<ENOUGH!>

"Tell me what you know about the children and the disappearances."
<Good Mulder, nice even speech patterns. Professional. No drooling.
Now pay attention to HER FACE when she speaks.>

Sadly, she did not mention alien abductions.

Mulder listened as she spoke. He was impressed - she'd given this a
lot of thought. Her presentation was concrete and neutral - she'd make
a good FBI agent. Hell, she'd make a good partner for him. His tongue
moved before he thought: "Tell me about you."

Elizabeth looked over at him - her expression was a combination of
stunned and politely annoyed. He realized too late that his request
sounded like a bad pick-up line.

"I was sent down to create a profile of the kidnapper. To create a
profile, I need a connection between the children and you could be the
connection. I need to know what about you would make you a target.
Why the kidnaper is taking your clients. Who is he to you? What does
he want?"

<That, and I think you and your double back in DC are really cute.>

"What would you like to know?" she asked as she turned the car onto a
narrower road. It was fully dark now and there were no lights except
the car's headlights. Any clouds had vanished and the late-winter
stars were out in full force. It made Mulder feel very alone in the
universe. Alone and horny - not a good combination.

"What might be important?" He was hedging. He knew it and she knew
it. He wondered how long she'd play. Probably a little longer; the
kids were very important to her. There was a wedding band on her right
hand. A widow?  

<Don't say you're married. Don't say you're married. Say you've always
wanted to move to Washington and live in a messy apartment and sleep on
a leather couch and make lots of babies. Mind if I call you Scully? >
He was probably hoping for too much.

"I moved here last year after I finished school. My father left me the
house. I thought it would be a good place to exorcize some demons and
make a fresh start." The car turned into a long driveway and Mulder
saw said house.

<Mom would have felt right at home,> he thought. He made another
mental Post-It note to ask about those "demons" later. The timber frame
house was large, estate-like. Even in the dark, it was impressive.
<Wonder if her daddy made his money the same way mine did?>

"I've decided to put it on the market when the weather gets warmer.
It's too big for just me."

Elizabeth was either very trusting or very naive - Scully would have
known better than to admit she lived alone to a strange man. Either
that, or it was an invitation. The looks he was getting from the
corner of her eye were curious, but not exactly "come hither." He had
no real intention of "coming hither" anyway. She was cute, but she
wasn't his Scully.

<She's damn close, though.>

<STOP THINKING THAT!>

They left the car in the vast garage and walked toward the back door.
A chorus of barking and horse sounds greeted them. "Wait just a second,
please," she asked and opened the heavy wooden door just enough to slip
her body through, shutting it behind her and leaving him standing on
the back porch.

<Please don't be hiding bodies. Please don't be hiding bodies.> His
worrying ceased as he saw her leading a very excited German Shepard
past him toward a run behind the garage. Another dog, an old Border
Collie walked up beside him stiffly and sniffed suspiciously.

"Sam Dog. Sit!" Elizabeth ordered from the yard. Sam Dog sat. She
returned and held open the back door for him. "I inherited Sam Dog -
he's pretty calm these days. Lucille is still young and bouncy.
Sorry."

He had to smile. "Lucille? As in 'fine time to leave me Lucille?'
There has to be a story behind that." He followed her through a
sparkling clean laundry room and stationed himself on the kitchen stool
she indicated to, tangling his long legs in the rungs. The old dog
rested his head on Mulder's knee - a kindred spirit.

His smile was returned. "Lucille as in B.B. King's guitar. My husband
was a huge blues fan."

He waited. Most people won't wait more that a few seconds before they
are compelled to say something. Unfortunately, she probably knew that.

"You could just ask if you need to know."

"What if I just want to know?" <Did that voice just come from me? Down
boy.>

Elizabeth missed the voice and answered earnestly, "He died a few years
ago. Of cancer - he was diagnosed while I was in the Ph.D. program.
We had been together since I was in high school. I finished grad
school and wanted to run. My father died and left me this house, so I
ran here. I thought two wrongs might add up to a right."

She'd just laid her soul barer to him after an hour than Scully had in
seven years.  

Although there was nothing flirtatious in her manner, she radiated
warmth and ease. He watched her as she hung her suit coat over a
dining room chair and stepped out of her high heels. Standing at the
stereo, she wiggled her toes in the carpet, glad to be free of her
shoes. Soon Jimi Hendrix was softly playing the blues while she washed
her hands in the kitchen sink. She turned around, drying off her hands
on a towel, ready to answer any questions he asked. It was as though
she were laying herself naked before him, welcoming him into her most
private self. He wanted Scully to bare her soul to him as easily one
day, so maybe he should be taking notes.

So this is how normal people live. A small voice whispered in his
brain:

<"Don't you ever just want to get out of the damn car Mulder?">

<Yea, Scully. Yea, I do.>

**********

"Elizabeth, I don't know what information I'll need from you. We'll
need to talk tomorrow after I interview the families."

Elizabeth opened a bottle of Guinness and set it in front of him. She
hadn't asked if he'd wanted a beer <I did,> she'd just delivered.
Mulder took a sip, surprised at her choice of beverages, and
remembering another pint with another woman in another country. He
hoped this evening turned out better. If it didn't end with him drunk,
alone, and sitting on a curb crying over Phoebe, it would end better.

"Thank you. I'm not supposed to drink on the clock..."

"Oh, I'm sorry." She looked like a guilty child. Elizabeth grabbed
the beer off the counter and had the refrigerator open reaching for a
pitcher before he could finish his sentence.

"...so I'll take myself off the FBI's time. There isn't anything
specific I can accomplish until morning anyway. Can I have that beer
back?"

He was reshuffling his Scully-forever fantasy to include getting a cold
drink when he walked in the door. She'd shoot him again for that
chauvinistic thought. Of course, she'd shoot him for his bent-over-
the-desk-in-a-black-garter-belt fantasy, but that hadn't dampened that
one.

Elizabeth smiled a polite smile and returned the pitcher of tea to the
refrigerator. She handed the bottle back to him and turned on the
oven, then looked anxiously out the kitchen window, scanning the black
horizon. It took Mulder about a minute before he realized he was
making her uneasy.

"I'm sorry- I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. What can I do?"
He stood up and tried to appear more helpful and less predatory.
Elizabeth stopped her bustling around the kitchen and looked at him
with big, frightened eyes - a little too frightened for the situation.
He had on overwhelming urge to wrap his arms around her and assure her
it would be okay - whatever "it" was.

"You didn't plan this out very well, did you?" He was stating the
obvious with a sympathetic grin. What the hell was this lovely woman
doing alone, out in the middle of nowhere?   Just waiting for him to
walk into her life? Ten, even five years ago, Mulder would have taken
it as a sign. Now, it only made him uneasy.

"Don't doubt that you are welcome - this is just unreal to me." Her
poised masked had slipped again. Mulder had no idea what she meant,
but he caught a glimpse of her soul before her placid smile reappeared.

"Could you light a fire in the fireplace? I've already laid it, just
light it with the long matches. It still gets cold at night in March."

<Fire, it had to be fire.>

The fireplace was on the living room wall behind him. Hell, it WAS the
wall. The hearth was ten feet wide and the brick climbed up through
the exposed cedar beams to the ceiling, which had to be thirty feet
high. Hendrix sounded like he was playing his guitar from every corner
of the huge room.

"That is some sound system," Mulder said, for lack of a more original
thought.

"After I bought the car a few months ago, my old Wal-mart tape deck
started to sound wimpy. I actually have no idea what all those little
knobs and buttons do. I just put in the CD and push 'Play'. Works the
same as my old Fisher-Price cassette player I found in the attic." She
seemed to be searching for a topic of conversation as well. That was a
longer answer than was required.  

He lit the wood and stood back. "How old were you when you left?"

"About ten. My mother left and took me with her. That's how I know
Todd and Carol, and Edmonson and Jeanette - I went to Elementary School
with them. It's odd that they're so grown up now."

She didn't seem bothered by his questions, but she didn't make anymore
small talk either. Elizabeth seemed to either say something important
or be very silent - there was almost no middle ground.

As the fire caught, he glanced at the pale oak bookshelves that lined
the wall beside the fireplace. Provided these were her books, she was
well read. He recognized old favorites: Jung, Skinner, Freud. Text
books indicating undergraduate and graduated studies in psychology and
liberal arts. Other shelves held classics - he'd never actually known
anyone who'd read "War and Peace"; might be there just for show. There
was what looked to be a first edition copy of "Gone With the Wind."
Several T.S. Eliot and Rainer Maria Rilke. Carl Sagan and Thomas
Harris. If she was a setup, someone had done a damn good job to make
her look legitimate. And to create a woman he would like, but only of
they knew he liked Scully.

<Little paranoid, Mulder?>

Tucked in one corner, he noticed another section. Spec manuals for
military vehicles and weapons, well-used. Several fantasy and spy
novels. "Intro to Organic Chemistry." He'd bet money those books
weren't hers. Elizabeth followed his gaze.

"Those were Scott's. It's silly to keep them, I know." Her voice was
soft.

<Scott? Dead husband. Cancer.>

"Was he in the military? A mechanic?" Mulder was guessing from the
repair manuals.

<That has NOTHING to do with the case! Close your mouth before your
brain falls out.>

"He was a Marine with the Special Projects Consortium. Did you know
him?" She sounded hopeful.

Mulder shook his head "no" but he jumped at the word "consortium." Her
tranquil expression hadn't changed. There were probably lots of
consortiums, most of them not conspiring against him personally.

"Do you still miss him?" he asked, matching her soft tone. He thought
of what his life would have been like without his Scully. If the
darkness had swallowed her...

<Of course she still misses him, idiot. Am I TRYING to make her cry?>

"I can feel the wind blowing through my soul, I miss him so much
sometimes. When he was alive, I couldn't imagine my life without him.
I thought it would be just an empty expanse of time. I didn't die with
him, although I thought I would. It's only bad now when I notice I've
put beer for him in my grocery cart or scooted over to my side of the
bed in case he comes home in the middle of the night. I'll hear a good
joke or the car will make a funny noise and I'll think 'I'll have to
tell Scott.' When I realize that I can't, that cold wind starts
again."  

<Wow.> Mulder couldn't even begin to process how close to home that
hit. "I didn't mean to pry."

"Yes, you did. It's okay , I needed to tell someone." She was
amazingly calm. Just standing there, watching him, unreadable as the
Tolstoy book on her shelf. She was stronger than he thought. He
sipped his beer and decided to be quiet and digest for a while.

"Do you want to come chop veggies? You might think better if you're
busy."

<Is this woman psychic?>

He obediently washed his hands and started on the carrots she put in
front of him. She handed him a bunch big enough to feed an army - an
army that really liked carrots.

"How many people are coming to dinner?"

"Whole damn town. It's Friday, after all."

He couldn't tell of she was joking or not, so he just sliced and diced.
Time to change the subject, lighten the mood. "I should warn you, my
partner doesn't let me have sharp objects. She gets tired of me
leaking all over her suits."

<Good, Mulder. Mention Scully.>

Elizabeth must be experienced with reluctant kitchen helpers. That got
him a smile, but it didn't get him out of kitchen duty. "Please don't
bleed in the salad. I'm a vegetarian."

**********

Superintendent Todd - Mulder didn't know if that was his first or last
name - finally arrived - alone. He brought something called 'Lonestar'
beer and said tightly that his wife wouldn't be joining them.   He was
followed by, as Elizabeth termed them, the whole damn town. All of
them also seemed to have only one name.

Elizabeth hadn't exaggerated, but the town wasn't that big. They were
joined by the sole Blanco police officer, who was the brother-in-law of
the mayor, who was sitting beside Deputy Edmonson. Edmonson's round
wife Jeanette was sitting across from her brother, the local doctor,
and his cousin, the Baptist minister/ volunteer fire chief. Over his
blood-free salad, Mulder asked Edmonson what would happen if there was
an emergency, since all the law enforcement and emergency personnel
were at dinner. The deputy looked at him like he'd grown an extra
head:

"They know better than that." There was probably a schedule posted
somewhere.

Small town gossip ensued and dinner passed pleasantly. Edmonson's wife
was the talker of the relationship. She'd told Mulder intimate details
about people he didn't even know by dessert, so he felt free to pose a
few questions. When he asked what Elizabeth's father had been like,
her answer was both priceless and illuminating:

"The General? He was the kind of man who went bear-hunting with a
stick."

<That would explain some things.> Elizabeth seemed to be feminine times
two, the kind of woman accustom to a very masculine man. He made a
mental note to wear flannel and let Elizabeth see him shoot something.
Just for fun. Give him some interesting ideas for his Scully-file.
During dinner, Mulder caught several curious glances from her in his
direction.

Soon her guests were leaving, juggling heavy foil-wrapped plates and
doing the kiss-kiss thing. Mulder had to go to the bathroom and wash
the lipstick off of his face by the time the four women finished
telling him goodbye as they left. If he was still nine years old, he
would have made yuck-faces when middle-aged woman he didn't know
insisted on planting wet kisses on him, but these days it was
considered a date. The deputy's wife had pinched his cheek and called
him "cutie." Federal Agents carrying concealed weapons frowned on
being addressed as "cutie."

Except for Todd, who had staked out a corner on the couch and was on
his second six-pack, the house was quiet the way only a huge empty
house can be. Mulder hadn't realized how late it was or how tired he
was. Maybe he'd get the kiss-kiss from Elizabeth as he left. He was
ready to stretch out and go to sleep.

<Shit! Sleep.>

They just looked at him when asked where the nearest motel was. Todd's
square features looked puzzled, Elizabeth's looked amused. Mulder
suspected she'd consumed about two too many beers. She finally
answered, "There's no motel for an hour's drive."

<Oh no. "That's what you get for not planning,"> he could hear Scully
scolding in his ear.

<Shit! Scully.> He hadn't called her since he'd left DC.

"Take the first bedroom upstairs. You can call Edmonson in the morning
and decide what you want to do tomorrow." She said it like it was the
most logical thing in the world.

Mulder stared at her open-mouthed.

"It's no trouble. Please stay - it will make me feel safer."

Todd crossed his arms and glared at Mulder like a sentry guarding a
gate.

<Didn't like that, did you, you snug son-of-a-bitch?>

From the balcony at the top of the stairs, he looked down on Elizabeth
and Todd, still telling stories on the couch in front of the dying
fire. They looked comfortable together, right. It reminded him again
that he should call Scully.

The first bedroom was directly across the hall from a balcony with a
telescope pointed south. Curious, he looked out at the sky and saw
lights flickering over the hills.  

<HOLY SHIT! Remain calm, remain calm.>

"Elizabeth - have you ever noticed lights in the sky at night?" he
called downstairs. <Are you missing any time? Have any implants?
Missing any ova? Probably not polite to ask just yet.>

"They've been there for years. We're in the flight path. You can watch
them land and take off through the telescope." She was coming up the
stairs to show him, a little unsteady on her feet. Obviously she was
unaware he was about to jump out of his skin. How could she be so
calm?  

"What do you think the lights are?" Always useful to ask the obvious.

"Whatever they're training on at the Air Force base. It's really loud
when they fly over during the day, but they can't get that low at
night. The lights look pretty cool, though. People sometimes think
they're UFOs"

<Well, son-of-a-bitch!>

He flashed her his best heart-melting grin and she leaned on the wooden
railing, returning his smile. She was definitely feeling her alcohol.
This trip to Texas might turn out okay, after all. A tipsy Scully-
twin. This could be interesting. There was still that itch he hadn't
been scratching recently...

No; he'd never do that to Scully - make love to another woman and
pretend it was her.

"I'm sorry it isn't one of your X -files, Agent Mulder."

The majority of his brain functions were occupied with the smooth white
skin of her neck, and it took a few seconds for her words to register.
He assumed he was just famous. Or infamous.

"How did you know my division is called the X-Files? I never told
you." He wouldn't have reacted if her expression hadn't screamed
"caught." He repeated himself, his words more clipped this time, "How
did you know?"

No answer, but her eyes were the size of saucers. <Shit - she is a set-
up.>

Grabbing her wrist, he pulled her into the house and deeper into the
hall, away from Todd downstairs. "Who are you? Who set this up? What
do you want? Tell me, goddamn it!" With each whispered question,
Mulder got angrier and angrier. He'd been fucked with enough for one
lifetime and one of THEM in a pretty package was still one of THEM.
She wasn't giving any answers, but she clearly had them. He wrapped
his hand around her slender throat to stress the importance of her
cooperation.   With her pinned against the wall, his hand starting to
choke her, he wondered if he could actually bring himself to kill a
woman with his bare hands. He thought he probably could.

She must have sensed that, because she finally whispered, "I am who I
say I am. I didn't lie to you."

"How did you know about the X-Files?"

"My husband knew about you."

Now Mulder felt like a fool. Maybe everyone was right - maybe he was
nuts. He'd just assaulted this woman because her dead husband had
heard of the X-Files. Her husband that was part of the Consortium...
No, he wasn't that crazy and he wasn't letting go of her just yet. She
could already end his career - another three minutes wouldn't change
that.  

"How did he know me? Why don't you tell me about this consortium,
Elizabeth?"

"It doesn't have anything to do with the children, I swear. If I told,
he would just kill me."

"If you told what?"

She had tears running down her cheeks now. "Scott told me what he did,
once he got really sick. That they gave him that brain tumor. The
Smoking Man warned not to repeat anything Scott said. He was...very
persuasive."

Mulder took his hand off her throat, stunned, but he didn't let her go.
"What did your husband do?"

"Anything they told him to. 'Wet works,' whatever project that is."

He was a killer. That was what 'wet works' meant. That means her
darling hubby was one of the men that killed his father or Melissa or,
Christ, how long was the list now? What this woman must know just from
listening to hubby talk in his sleep could solve half his X-files.

"Why did they give him cancer?"

"He said he wouldn't shoot the little boy. He wanted out, so they let
him out. He was dead within three months."

"Gibson? Gibson Praise?"

She shook her head in the dark. "I won't tell you, Agent Mulder. Not
ever. Whatever I know, it's not worth anyone else dying for."

"I can make you tell me." He meant it.

She raised her head to look him dead in the eye. "He got nosebleeds
and headaches, Agent Mulder. Nothing to worry about, right Agent
Mulder? Except the nosebleeds got worse and worse. Then, some days,
he couldn't remember where he was or who I was.   Then he started to
get mean. He'd never hurt me, Agent Mulder. Never, not even when..."
She stopped to sniff. "It is very difficult to convince an ER doctor
not to report domestic violence or rape to the Police more than once.
The second time, they took Scott away from me and put him in the
hospital."

Was that what would have happened to Scully? Would she have descended
into a hellish nightmare of confusion and paranoia? As much as it had
hurt him to see her beautiful body suffer, he was grateful her mind had
been spared. He was grateful she was spared.

"Do you know how red eight pints is, Agent Mulder? It's a gallon. A
gallon of blood pouring out of his nose and mouth while he lay there
choking. It soaked through my blouse and the bed sheets and finally
made a big pool in the floor like someone had spilled red paint,
because that much blood couldn't possibly have come from one person.
The government doctor just stood there and listened to me scream while
my husband died." She paused to take a shaky breath. "Can you think
of something worse than that to do to me, Agent Mulder? Because if
you can't, that smoking bastard has taken all he's going to take from
me."

Mulder was overwhelmed by the imagery in his mind. Love, lust, terror,
rage, guilt, loneliness, and regret all painted with a blood-red roller
brush were reflected back in her wet eyes. His instincts told him to
hold her, so he did. He wrapped his arms around her and rocked her
back and forth, back and forth. To his surprise, she didn't resist.
Elizabeth rested her head against his chest and sobbed silently, as
though she was embarrassed to disturb the night with her grief. He
stroked her head and murmured, "I'm sorry. So sorry, Elizabeth.
Your smoking man has also taken...too much from me. I'm so sorry." He
didn't know if he was apologizing for frightening her or for the sins
of men like his father. Eventually, he just held her in the heavy
darkness, feeling its weight pressing down on their shoulders, pushing
them together in order to stay upright like the joists supporting the
roof above them.

Downstairs, he heard Todd getting up to come search for Elizabeth. She
pulled away from him at the sound, taking several more deep breaths.
"My husband wasn't a bad man, Agent Mulder. He did what he did to
protect the future for everyone who couldn't protect themselves, just
like you do. He said you are a good man. Sometimes it's hard to tell
who those are, but he thought you were one. So do I." Then she wiped
her eyes and went downstairs to meet Todd, leaving Mulder standing
alone in the dim hallway.

He stood there for a long time, trying to process what he was feeling.
He listened to Todd yap at Elizabeth in front of the fireplace, totally
unaware of what had just happened upstairs. Mulder's brain was full
for the day - could he be excused?

Pulling on his sweat pants and stretching out across the comfortable
bed, he reached for his cell phone. Scully's "Hello, Mulder," was
sleepy.

"Guess what Scully? I solved the mystery of the lights in the sky."

"Does that mean no more midnight flights and cheap motels in Podunk?"

"It's good that you already associate midnight and cheap motels with
me, Scully." He leaned his head back off the side of the bed to help
the pervasive images of her drenched in blood drain out.

Wishing his partner a benign, friendly goodnight instead of the words
that were heavy on his tongue, Mulder closed his eyes and heard his own
teenage voice inside his mind, reciting a poem learned two decades ago:

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly- . An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

How odd the things a man remembers when his higher brain is too tired
to police the careful boundary and the primal mind roams free.

His last conscious sensation before sleep came was hearing Todd's
slurred voice loudly asking, "So when do I get to call you Liz?"

**********
Saturday

Mulder lingered in the arms of Morpheus. He stretched and scratched
without opening his eyes. One of the greatest indulgences in a man's
life was that first good scratch in the morning. One scratches what
one can. Opening his eyes a millimeter, he determined it was the quiet
time of morning right before dawn.

Returning to consciousness, he did as any man does when he awakens in a
strange bed: he played possum until he could determine where he was.
In a bed. Soft, clean sheets. Seemed to be alone. No stickiness in
tell-tale morning-after areas. Scully's apartment? Was he shot, sick,
or drunk? No, the furniture wasn't right. And the sheets didn't smell
like Scully. The fog in his brain cleared and he remembered.

He'd found a bathroom down the hall last night and he headed that way,
carrying his shaving kit and clean t-shirt and boxers. He doubted
anyone else was awake at this time of morning, but he pulled a shirt
over his head before he opened the door of his bedroom anyway. Mulder
felt good; rested and relaxed. Staying last night had been a good
idea. Now for a quick shower and then breakfast with the lovely Dr.
Elizabeth. The woman with the answers.

His little fantasy of breakfast for two collapsed when he rounded the
corner of the long hall.

At the end of the hallway was an open door. Her bedroom. And inside
that doorway was a rumpled bed. Her bed. And in that bed was a soundly
sleeping and very undressed Todd.

Mulder stripped away his clothing as though it burned and stepped under
the scalding shower, his mind racing. The protectiveness <jealousy?>
he felt for Scully had inexplicably begun to include Elizabeth. Well,
not inexplicably, but right now he didn't feel like thinking about
that. Right now, he felt embarrassed, ashamed, betrayed.

<She never said she they weren't a couple. Why do you think he was
hanging around? You're such a fuck-up, Mulder.>

His usual method of self-flagellation involved standing under the
burning shower until the hot water ran out. The house must have the
hot water tank from Hell, because the hot water outlasted his pain
threshold. Mulder finally stepped out and toweled off. He finished
his usual routine and headed back to his bedroom in just his boxers -
no sense in covering up for Elizabeth. Not like he had anything she
hadn't seen before. Recently.

<He's married! Slut!>

Even as he thought it, he knew it wasn't true. Mulder's assessment of
Elizabeth last night was that she wasn't a barfly or a flirt. Either
she and Todd had an established affair or...

<Or what? She had an awful lot to drink...> Todd was too sure of
himself for Mulder's taste.

He shook his head as he dressed. No one owed him an explanation unless
they wanted to press charges. Since it was Saturday and he was stuck
in Bumfuck, he decided on jeans and a soft dress shirt. Timberland
boots for tramping across cow fields - an investment after his first
case with Scully. Mulder stepped out of his bedroom and hesitated. It
was barely dawn. Normal people who had sex with other normal people
were still asleep. What was he going to do - go drag Elizabeth out of
her lover's bed and start questioning her about missing children and
conspiracies? The thought appealed to him at the moment.

Fate saved him from making an even bigger fool of himself. He looked
out the window across from his bedroom and saw Elizabeth astride a
light-colored horse in a large meadow below the house.

<He couldn't be that good - she's still able to sit on a horse the next
morning.>

<I am a total pig.>

He toyed with the idea of watching her through the telescope, but it
looked complicated and expensive. He contented himself with leaning on
the railing and engaging in a little long-distance voyeurism.

At the violet hour, she was a ghost racing against the shadow of the
trees. Elizabeth rode well and she was pushing the big animal hard.
As the horizon grew bright crimson, he imagined he could see the
muscles of her thighs flex as she raised her hips off the little
saddle, preparing to take flight. Her gold hair peaked out from under
her hat and shimmered, with several strands sweaty against her flushed
cheeks. The hyperactive German Shepard chased after the horse, while
the older collie waited at the edge of the field - taking in her every
move. So did Mulder - waiting at the edges and watching her every
move. He and the dog had the same old man's gaze. Eyes that have seen
too much. They were privy to a woman making peace with her world
before the rest of the planet came to life.

<And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the
fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse
and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him.>

What an odd thought to occur to him while watching such a beautiful
woman. Coffee. Mulder needed coffee.

**********

When he saw her leading the big horse toward the red barn, Mulder went
to the kitchen and made coffee.   Actually, he flipped a switch, but
that counted. He carried his cup and a steaming mug out to her,
meeting her in the dewy back yard.

<A peace offering, whether she knows it or not,> he thought.

She accepted the cup, but didn't speak, her expression calm. Mulder
examined her out of the corner of his eye. She hadn't showered yet.
Her face was a little shiny and her helmet had flattened the top of her
hair. He smelled the perfume he'd noticed last night, the sweat from
the horse, and ...

<And nothing. She doesn't smell like sex.>

<Forget it Mulder! Just let it lie.>

She sat on the back steps outside of the kitchen. He sat down a few
steps below her, examining his frosty breath in the morning air. She
finally spoke: "The more upset I get, the more of a workout Skinner
gets," she said, gesturing to the red barn. She obviously meant the
horse. Behavioral psychologist - horse named after B.F. Skinner - not
a big stretch. Still, Mulder's overactive imagination quickly replaced
the animal with his Assistant Director. He preferred that mental image
to the one of Todd being the one getting the workout.

<Sad that I DO have a preference,> he thought.

"My boss has the same problem." he replied, forcing a grin. He sipped
his coffee and waited. Thank God for coffee; it gave him something to
do with his hands. He stared into his mug as though it were an oracle
for defining the mysteries of the universe.

"Walter Skinner is your boss?" Her eyes were wide again. When her
guard was down, she didn't hide her reactions very well.

He nodded. "You going to tell me what you know about him?"

She shook her head at him, mimicking his puppy-dog expression. Well,
it couldn't hurt to try. If threatening to kill her and boyish good
looks failed, Mulder was probably out of luck.

Resigned, he would have happily spent his day right there with her,
sipping good coffee and stealing glances at her dirty little face.
There was no falseness, no pressure as they watched the sun burn away
the last of the night to their left.

<Licking its tongue into the corners of the evening.>

He should say that - she liked T.S. Eliot. Mulder was making his own
peace with the world, provided he blocked out the thought of the naked
man in her bed upstairs and the image of her husband pointing a gun at
a child's head.

He heard her soft voice reciting, almost dream-like: "Be not too
curious of Good and Evil; Seek not to count the future waves of Time;
But be ye satisfied that you have light."

"Enough to take your step and find your foothold." Mulder finished for
her. Eliot. She was looking into him - deep into him as though she
could scan his soul with her intense gaze.

"Don't ever let them take your light, Agent Mulder." Then the fire in
her eyes was gone, replaced by the practiced, placid expression of
expensive schools and old Southern blood. The moment had passed into
ethereal rumors in his mind, and he wasn't certain it ever existed.

"If you'll wait while I shower, I'll take you to meet the Sheriff in
town for breakfast," she said.

"How do you know where he is?"

"Same place he always is." Her face indicated this was an obvious
answer. Just like Friday meant dinner at her house and no emergencies
were allowed to happen during dinner. Must be comforting to be so
certain of how life would flow. How short the time of tension between
birth and dying - we who were living are now dying with a little
patience.

<It's now or never, man. Just say it...>

"What about Todd?" Mulder asked. He didn't breathe while he waited
for her response.

"I think he'd rather I be gone when he wakes up." Elizabeth didn't seem
embarrassed. She could have been discussing her dry cleaning for all
the emotion her voice belayed. The mask was up again.

Mulder didn't understand exactly what she meant except that things
weren't perfect between her and Todd. Any man who wouldn't want to
wake up next to her was a fool. He exhaled. After a few minutes of
silence, curiosity got the better of him. "Is anything wrong?" he
asked.

She shrugged. "When he got home last night his wife wasn't sick; she
had left him. That happens a lot out here. Often people don't see
anyone but their families for weeks. It puts a strain on a marriage.
Anyway, he was upset and he had too much to drink..." She hesitated,
blushing, and Mulder stopped breathing again. "...he was the first boy
I ever kissed. Did you know that? No, you wouldn't know that. I like
him; he's my friend, but... I just couldn't - it wasn't right. I
don't want him to have to face me when he wakes up. He's going to feel
like a big fool." She stopped speaking and Mulder nodded dumbly.
Elizabeth stood and went into the house, leaving him to muse.

**********
The day passed uneventfully. Mulder and Deputy Edmonson reviewed the
case file over breakfast then spent the day looking productive. He had
a suspicion that the deputy was more cooperative because Elizabeth had
stayed. She accompanied them while they interviewed the families and
visited the crime scenes. Mulder wasn't wild about someone who wasn't
law enforcement being involved in an investigation, but Edmonson didn't
seem bothered. She smoothed the way for him to question the families,
and didn't get under foot. Mostly, she stayed in the back seat of the
patrol car, staring out the window when she wasn't needed. It struck
Mulder again how very alone she was.

By late afternoon, Mulder was revisiting his theories. The children
were only linked by the fact they were her clients. Even their
disabilities weren't a connection - some of the children had multiple
and severe disabilities while others, according to their parents'
description, had much milder problems. Children were disappearing
simply because they knew her.  

The deputy took Mulder and Elizabeth back to the diner where they'd had
breakfast. Mulder didn't say a word as they got back into her car -
unless she told him specifically that he couldn't spend another night
with her, he wasn't leaving. He'd tell Skinner he'd slept in a tree if
anyone questioned him about his lack of a hotel bill.

Mulder's best conversations tended to take place in cars and hospital
rooms. And since he hadn't been hospitalized in over three months...

"Elizabeth, I'm pretty sure you're the link." He tried to sound as
professional as possible.

"I know that," she said. Her mask was slipping.

"Do you have any idea why that would be?"

"No. I'm sorry." It was a very small voice.

"Since there's no evidence that the children wandered off, we can
assume that they were kidnapped. Even though no bodies have been
found, we can't be certain they're still alive. Most children kidnapped
by strangers aren't found alive."

Elizabeth paled visibly. Mulder did not pursue that part of his
developing profile.

"Whoever has taken the children wants to have something that's
important to you and probably to control you with it. I need to know
who that person is and why these children were chosen." She turned off
the car and stared at her garage wall, tools hanging in perfect
organization. "If you can help me figure those two things out, I can
find them. I promise."

She looked at him like a child that wanted so hard to believe. He'd
seen that look in his own mirror.  

<You're not the only one that wants to believe, Elizabeth.>

**********
She sat on the couch in her office while Mulder paced, peppering her
with questions. Any odd or threatening letters or phone calls? Any
relationships that were abusive or ended badly? Anyone trying to be
too friendly, too soon? Any men that are too possessive about you?
Daily routine? Age-range of your clients? Missing any personal items?
What were you seeing the kids for? Anybody new in town? She answered
each question dutifully.

He was getting nowhere so he tried less obvious areas. What was her
birthday? <29.> Natural blonde? <Yes.> Any surgery or medical problems?
<Breasts are real.> Hobbies? Vacations? College? <Really- Duke?>
Boyfriends? <Me neither.> Lovers?

Elizabeth turned scarlet and stared at her lap, so he let it drop. He
wished he would have gotten a chance to ask about her underwear.
Mulder was not a nice man, sometimes.

"How about the children's relationships with you - the deal with
calling you 'Liz.' All the parents call you 'Dr. Elizabeth,' but some
of them referred to their children calling you 'Liz.' Could there be a
link in which kids used your nickname?"  

<That, and I'm dying to know.> Todd had been gone when they returned to
her house. An envelope with "So sorry. Call me when you're ready"
written on it was stuck to the front of the refrigerator.

"Any of my clients can call me Liz. It keeps me from hearing 'whiz-
butt' and 'little-bit' all day. Matthew and Sarah called me Liz, Cody
could say Elizabeth, and Tony didn't... doesn't speak."

It wasn't the link he was looking for, but Mulder sensed it wasn't the
whole answer either.

"Anyone else get to call you 'Liz'?" he asked

"Not these days." She sounded sad.

<Curiosity killed the Fox.> "Who called you Liz?"

"I really don't think it has any bearing on your case...it's just an
old joke"

Now Mulder was hooked. "When you get to be the FBI agent, you can
decide what is and is not important to a case." He towered over her,
hands on his hips, enjoying himself immensely.

She looked him dead in the eye. "I hate being called 'Liz.' Scott said
that the only people who got to call me Liz were the ones not capable
of intelligent speech because of brain damage or blow job. So I never
let anyone else call me that."

She stood up and walked quickly out the door and down the stairs, her
arms hugging her body. <Oh,> he thought. Wonder why Scully was
hesitant to commit to him for the rest of her life? He was such a
kind, unselfish man.

Mulder was standing in her office alone, hands still on his hips,
feeling like a total ass, when his cell phone's shrill ring startled
him.

"Mulder," he answered.

"I haven't heard from you all day. Is anything wrong, Mulder?" Scully
asked.

"No - it's just been a busy day." <And I forgot about you. I was busy
staring at a blonde's little round ass and fantasizing about playing
house with her and I forgot all about my partner.>

"How's the case?"

"Disappointing - no alien abductions," he answered, trying to keep it
light. <Change the subject.>

"How are you feeling, Scully?"

<Because I'm having these butterflies in my stomach right now.>

**********
He closed his cell phone and went back to pacing, his mind replaying
the interviews of earlier today. All the families had been comfortable
with Elizabeth, intimate even. She seemed to be an important part of
their lives. Two were married couples, one was a single mother, and
one was a single father that probably gave Elizabeth a hard time when
he got her alone.   She's said she preferred to see that child at
school rather than in her home office, if possible.

Then he knew.

Mulder jogged down the stairs and into the house, looking for
Elizabeth. She was curled up in a ball on the couch in front of the
vast empty fireplace. He regretted his conclusion already. Sometimes
being brilliant has its downside.

"Elizabeth, did you see all those kids here?" He got a blank look.
"I'm sorry, I know you're upset, but did you see them all here - even
once?"

She nodded "Yes."

He spoke slowly. "Someone has been watching your house and those were
the children he saw. Any kids you have seen here could be in danger -
their parents need to be notified. And you need to cancel any
appointments here until I figure out who the kidnapper is."

She didn't argue. Elizabeth nodded, stood, and moved robotic-like
toward the back door. She stopped in the kitchen and turned back
toward him, bracing herself against the granite counter.

"What if you don't ever find him?" she asked.

He didn't have an answer he was willing to share with her. After a few
seconds, she turned and continued out to her office.

She didn't emerge until late in the evening. Mulder suspected she'd
canceled all her appointments, not just the ones at her home. When she
came out, she went upstairs and returned wearing riding boots and
carrying sheets, which she stuffed in the washer without comment. Then
she walked purposely across the field to the barn and hid for a while
from the new demons he had just loosed on her life.

Mulder didn't pursue her. What could he say to help her? "Sorry I'm
ruining your life and your career." He may not know her but he knew
Scully. And Scully would come back when she was ready. He wondered if
Scully would ever be ready.

He built a fire in her fireplace, got a beer from her kitchen and
waited. At about ten she came back inside. Bathroom first, then she
sat down on the other end of the couch, her hair still damp from her
shower and her skin scrubbed squeaky clean. She seemed calmer. She'd
stopped shaking, anyway. It was an intoxicating mix of strength and
fragility - Mulder felt it affecting him more than his beer did.

"Mr. Mulder?"

"Just Mulder, please."

"What -is- your first name?"

"Fox." He even flinched when he said it himself. The look on her face
was priceless.

"Mulder, am I wrong? Is the Smoking Man doing this?"

"No, I don't think so. It's not his style."

"Will you tell me what you know? I have bits and pieces, but I don't
know how they all fit together."

Neither of them had mentioned their hallway conversation since this
morning. He understood what it was like to lose someone and feel like
you were owed some answers.  

As the fire crackled, Mulder remembered another night years ago with a
frightened little redhead in a hotel room in the very plausible State
of Oregon. The same calm trust in him, in his genius and his madness.
Trust he would betray, causing her to suffer again and again. Elizabeth
listened without judging, asking only a few questions to help her
understand. It reminded him so much of Scully, except that this woman
believed him. Encouraged him. No "You're crazy, Mulder!"

Somewhere in the night he pulled off his boots and sprawled his big
feet on her coffee table. She tucked her cold bare toes under his
thigh, oblivious to what a turn-on that was. He concluded she was
pretty naive- about men, anyway. Elizabeth seemed fairly unaware of
the effect she had on men, just as Sully was. Mulder felt a similar
relationship developing between them, although he'd prefer this frosty-
toed woman not file him as "platonic friend" just yet.

"What about Scully? Is she more than your partner?"

<I swear, she is psychic.>

"Scully is my best friend, but it's not a, um, physical relationship."
He unconsciously licked his lips.

"Do you want it to be?"

"Sometimes. But I also don't want to screw up our partnership in
exchange for one night." An honest answer. Thinking of her telescope
upstairs, he continued, "Scully is my Polaris. My pole star. The rest
of the universe crashes through space while she stays still. Calm.
Distant and beautiful and bright. She is always in the future for me,
always living in a time that I have to catch up with. She is so far
from me that I can't see her flaws, only her pure brilliance. And I
can always trust her to guide me, where ever I am."  

Elizabeth leaned back to listen to him, clasping her hands behind her
neck, her face thoughtful. When she turned to look at him, he saw an
angry brownish-pink mark high on her neck - his thumbprint from the
previous night. Without thinking, Mulder reached out and touched the
bruise - shocked. He'd never purposely and needlessly hurt a woman
before and it made him uneasy that he had done it so readily. The
bruise could easily be mistaken for a hickey - her fair skin must mark
easily - but he remembered how the flesh of her neck felt under his
hand the night before.

At his touch, she closed her eyes and leaned her head back further,
offering herself to his hand. He allowed his fingers to brush over her
warm velvet skin twice in silent apology before he pulled away. Mulder
was suddenly very aware that he could see the outline of her nipples
under her men's v-neck t-shirt. She opened her eyes to look at him:

"Must be lonely trying to hold distant brilliance in your arms," she
said.

"It is."

   **********
Sunday

It was almost two in the morning. Mulder stared hypnotized into the
dying fire. Elizabeth had taken his hand in hers and they sat
silently, fused by the loneliness intrinsic to souls with truths the
world isn't ready to accept. He rubbed his thumb against the
smoothness of her wedding band, wishing some other woman felt so
certain in her commitment to him. He liked the dark. He liked her. He
liked this. He'd searched for truth and safety for so long that now
that he'd found it, even temporarily, he was unwilling to do anything
to pollute it, so he just sat and basked in the warmth.

Finally, Elizabeth stood up, still holding his hand. He looked at her
and started to say "good night."

"Do you want to stay?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Do you want to make love to me?" It sounded like an invitation, not
mere curiosity.  

Now that wasn't an offer he was expecting. He was stunned for a
second.

Mulder stood up and faced her, one hand still in hers.   She dropped
her gaze when he looked at her. Maybe she was shy, maybe she was
reluctant. Either way, he waited.

"I don't want to feel alone or afraid anymore. I want to forget."

"But do you want to make love to me?" He wasn't going to take
advantage of her vulnerability, and he wanted to be wanted for himself.
Desperately.

Her smile was almost embarrassed as she nodded yes.

He stroked her cheek with his hand and she leaned her face into his
palm. "Are you sure?"

"Yes." She meant it. Mulder wanted to save that word and have it
bronzed.

"There's no reason you have to do this." Something in the back of his
mind, far from the part that controlled his groin, wanted her to know
that. Sleeping with him wouldn't bring back those kids or absolve her
husband's sins.

"I know that."

Mulder waited for the demand - what did she want? She waited with him.  

"We haven't even kissed." His mind was still spinning.

"Can you fix that?"

<YES YES YES. Oh God, yes. Oh please, yes.> He leaned down and kissed
her softly on the lips. Electricity sparked through his body and he
pulled back.

She looked up at him with big blue eyes and spoke softly, "No, I meant
a real kiss." She leaned in to him and he knew her.

Mulder had always heard that phrase - 'knowing a woman'- but he'd never
experienced it. Sex and women always involved tension: rules, games,
power, and control. Embarrassed fumbling as a teenager. Phoebe's hot
and cold running psychosis in grad school. Diana's power plays.
Desperate faceless women in bars looking for healing he couldn't give.
Making love had always been more like negotiating a surrender with the
enemy.

But he knew this woman. She accepted him and, for tonight, she wanted
whatever he could give. Her surrender to him was unconditional.
Forgetting that morning would ever come, he led her up the stairs and
into his bedroom.

**********

He wasn't sorry yet, but he'd only just woken up. She was laying
beside him in bed, lost in her dreams. She sensed him stirring and
laid a small hand across his bare chest, silently asking that he stay.
He rolled over on his side to look at her, letting her hand slip down
his side to his waist. The room had cooled and he pulled the white
sheet up over her body. He watched her. That was another of life's
pleasures - watching a beautiful woman sleep.

<Why me? She turned down her friend and then asked me.> Mulder hoped
the answer wasn't because he was there. He could see himself falling
hard for this quiet, contained, woman.

<You've already fallen flat on your ass, Mulder.> True. But he loved
Scully, so whatever this was, it wasn't love. It was filling a void
inside him, though. He'd had no trouble not calling her Scully, of
gasping the wrong name. That was not what his fiery partner would be
like in bed. Elizabeth reminded him of cheesecake, of all things. No
harshness, no resistance - just soft, sweet, creamy, accepting wetness.
He couldn't imagine ever getting tired of being enveloped in that
sensation.    

<It's just a one-night stand. It's just a one-night stand.> Just keep
telling yourself that, big guy. Everyone knows you're famous for not
getting emotionally involved.

It had been a slow and sweet; two people discovering each other. Not
what he would have predicted given his recent celibacy and usual
impulsive tendencies, but he hadn't wanted to hurry. If it was the
only time he would get to be with her, he had wanted it to last.
Feeling her hips rise up to meet him was one of the sweetest sensations
he's ever experienced. It wasn't the act - it was the acceptance.

The Earth hadn't moved, but the tides had definitely rippled.

<Some of the night's activities must qualify me to call you 'Liz.'> The
thought made him chuckle and he rolled over on his stomach. He heard a
soft, playful voice in the dark:

"What are you laughing at?" She stretched lazily like a cat, scooted
over, and straddled his back, her hands beginning to knead the muscles
of his bare shoulders. "If you're going to make fun of me while I
sleep, you'd better be more subtle. If I catch you, you pay." The
soft hair between her legs rested against the small of his back and her
lips had found the fleshy part of his ear.

<Oh - there is a bossy-lover side to you, woman. Me like.>

"So what do you want in restitution?" he asked, already calculating the
possibilities.

"What can you give? I drive a pretty hard bargain." Her low voice was
like chocolate melting onto fingers on a hot day.

Mulder shivered. "So do I, but you'll have to let me roll over first."

No, he certainly wasn't sorry yet.

**********

She was still there when Mulder awoke the second time. She was sitting
in bed beside him in a t-shirt and panties, drinking coffee and reading
a paper. Elizabeth pointed to a cup on his nightstand when she saw
that he was awake. He stretched and resisted scratching anywhere below
his chest. He propped his head up on his fist and watched her.  

She looked over to meet his gaze. "Are you sorry?" she asked. The
woman wasn't subtle.

"Are you crazy?"   Looking at her, Mulder was as far from sorry as
humanly possible.

She fished out the sports section of the paper, laid it on the bed,
then returned to whatever she'd been reading. He continued to watch
her. He could read the sports page any day; sharing a bed with a woman
was an event.

Later:

"Are you going riding this morning?" He just wondered. No reason,
really.

"No, not this morning, Mulder. I don't feel like it."

<Good boy, Fox.>

< PIG Mulder. You are a PIG.>

He had been a little worried about her the first time, but the second
was better. He'd managed to teach her a few words to increase her
bedroom vocabulary he was pretty sure had never passed her lips before
this morning. A grin made its way to his lips before he could stop it,
and to his surprise, he saw her grinning back. Maybe she wasn't as shy
as he had thought. Or as inexperienced.    

Just very, very different from what he was accustom to.

<You're accustom to jerking off and falling asleep on the couch alone.>

<Well then, this is better.>            

Finally he succumbed to caffeine addiction and nature. He swung his
legs over the side of the bed and sipped his coffee. Then he stood,
stretched, and walked bare-assed towards the bathroom. He looked back
to see her watching appreciatively.

Even later:

"Hurry please, we have to beat the Methodists."

Several hours and two showers later - one together, one apart -
Elizabeth was getting dressed. Mulder preferred the way she looked
nude, but he thought it might offend the Methodists, so he didn't
object.

"Is there a contest 'Lizabeth?" he asked, buttoning a cuff. Mulder
felt that after three mutually satisfying times, he should get to use
"Liz" in some context. She didn't object.

"Everyone meets for Sunday dinner at 12:30; as the resident backslider,
I'm in charge of getting the table. The Methodists get out at noon and
if we're late, they get all the good ones."

"Everyone?" he asked.

"Whole damn town. If you're ready in five minutes, you can drive the
car," she promised.

He was ready in two. She was standing at the back door, holding the
keys out to him. "Good boy," she said.

"Lizabeth, you spend way too much time with children."

"Wait until I get you conditioned to drool uncontrollably," she
flirted. He liked her flirting.

"You already have."

Mulder was enjoying driving her car. Her directions were to make a
left each time he ran out of road and then pull in where everybody else
was. Good Southerner directions.

He had been wearing pants now for longer then he had in almost twelve
hours, and his higher brain functions began to work again. Elizabeth
was looking out the car window. He wondered what she was thinking.
Apparently, it was the same thing he was.

"I don't want you to get in trouble because of last night," she said.

"I won't. The FBI doesn't encourage getting involved, but it isn't
forbidden. I don't make a habit of it either." He'd been wanting to
tell her that last part.

"Really? It doesn't show," she replied.

<Grin.>

**********

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death is no nearer to God.
Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in the knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in the information?
The cycle of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bringing us farther from God and nearer to the dust.

<Oh God, what have I done? Oh God, what have I done?>

Sunday lunch with "the whole damn town" had been interrupted by the
news that one of the children had been found. Apparently, someone
didn't get the memo about not committing crimes while the sheriff was
eating catfish.

Three hours later, Mulder felt like he was leading a goddamned parade
to Hell. The deputy pulled into Elizabeth's driveway, followed by the
local volunteer fire department, two FBI agents on loan from the San
Antonio office, all the National Guardsmen that could be rounded up,
and a posse of male neighbors either riding or bringing horses and
ATVs. Once her driveway was full, the vehicles spilled over onto her
lawn and finally into the pastures.

Elizabeth was standing on her front porch with her mouth open.

<Hi honey! I brought some friends home for dinner.>

The fire fighters carried ladders into her living room and the guard
members and other men headed out into the hills around her property.
The last of the men had vanished into the scrub brush and the FBI
agents were climbing up toward her roof when Mulder was alone again,
free of being important to the case for a moment. He couldn't bring
himself to go into the house. He stood in the backyard scanning the
landscape. After a few minutes, Elizabeth came out to him. <Bless her
heart, she has iced tea.> He could envision her in a hoop skirt,
locking the front door before the Yankee's overran Atlanta. "Come walk
with me," Mulder said.

They walked down through the field where he had seen her riding and sat
beside a small creek. Once they were out of sight, Mulder thought
about taking her hand. He decided against it.

"Tony's safe. He's a little beat up and dehydrated, but there is no
evidence he's been sexually assaulted. He's going to spend the night
in the hospital for observation, but he should be fine."

Mulder gave her a few minutes to organize her thoughts.

"Why are the men here?" she asked.

<That's the bad news.>

"Tony had something pinned to the back of his shirt." Mulder took an
evidence bag out of his file and handed to her. It contained a black
and white photo of Todd and her from Friday night. Todd was reaching
across the couch, his body partially covering Elizabeth. His hand was
on her breast and his face buried in her neck. Her hand was on his
shoulder, pressing him away and her head was turned, her mouth open,
lips saying "no." On the back of the picture was scratched "Be
Warned."

Elizabeth sat for a long time wrapped in her cocoon of silence. Mulder
let her think. He was hoping she wouldn't realize what the future held
for her. He wasn't planning on telling her yet. He had also seen John
Douglas books on her bookshelf. He knew she was bright - how bright
was she?

"He's already done it - you're looking for the body," she said
quietly.

<So much for shielding her> Mulder thought sadly.

"Since Tony wasn't severely beaten, I'm hoping the kidnapper won't have
the nerve to kill the next child outright. Tony was found wandering,
so maybe the next child is out there too. We just have to find him."
That wasn't the whole truth, but it was probably enough to hold her.

"How did he get the picture?"

"It's a printout from a video feed. From the angle, the camera is
probably mounted on one of those ceiling beams. It's sending a signal
to a remote receiver somewhere. The agents will come get us when all
the cameras are disabled."

"All?" she asked.

"To watch someone's private life, why put just one camera in the living
room?"

"Oh, God." The full implications of those words hit her. She looked
stunned.

<She thought the next pictures would be of us in front of the couch.
No, if they don't find a live child out there tonight, they'll find a
body with a picture of us naked in bed pinned to it. And Scully is
going to see it.>

<... and Hell followed with him.>

"Agent Mulder - we're ready." The FBI rent-a-goon was walking towards
them.

"How many were there?" Mulder asked.

"Two in the living room, one on the office, one in each bedroom and
bathroom. Top of the line spy stuff, but video only. Fancy set-up."

<It just gets better and better.>

He had to lead Elizabeth back to her house.

**********

"The kidnapper will be between 25 and 35. He'll be a white male, above
average intelligence. He's a loner, very emotionally contained. He
will be socially immature, sexually inexperienced. He either lives
with his mother or lives close by. He holds a professional job, maybe
in the technology or computer field. He does not have a wife or a
girlfriend. He has an active fantasy life and imagines he was
extensive relationships with women he barely knows. He's frightened
women by stalking them in the past. He has a history of paranoia..."
Mulder trailed off, tired. His profile wasn't complete yet - he was
having trouble thinking straight. He was just organizing his thoughts
out loud.

<Please don't let it be Byers.>

"That's Beck," Elizabeth mumbled from the corner of the couch. The
doctor had made a house call to sedate her and she was mumbling. He'd
told Mulder to "watch her." Mulder had no idea how he how he was
supposed to act as her designated protector and head an investigation
at the same time, so he'd stationed her on the couch to sleep while he
worked. The room was full of men returning from the search for various
reasons, and Elizabeth had been tucked in about fifty times. She
certainly brought out the protective instincts in men, Mulder included.

"What 'Lizabeth?"

"You're talking about Beck." Her soft accent was even more liquid.

"Who is Beck?"

"Scott's best friend. He's always nice to me. Used to get mad if
Scott hit me - once he got sick."

"Tell me about that," Mulder said.

"He'd get confused, mad. Sometimes he thought people were out to get
him. He started to hit me, to be more rough. I finally told him no
because it hurt too bad, and he didn't like that. He forced me. Beck
got mad. Told me to put him in the VA hospital, but I wouldn't. I
wanted to take care of him. I couldn't though."

That wasn't exactly the question he'd wanted her to answer, but it
solved some mysteries about last night. Mulder knew he'd have to be
specific; she was pretty loopy. "Tell me about Beck."

"He's a nice man. Works with computers. Single. They were in the
Marines together, but Beck got out real quick. All the things you
said. He used to call me and send e-mails, but I haven't heard from
him in a month or so. Not since he put my surround-home-sound- theater
thingy in"

"What's Beck's name, 'Lizabeth?"

"Murphy Becker. It's in my Rolodex. I want to sleep now, Mulder.
Will you stay with me?"

"Just close your eyes. I'll be right here."

She closed her eyes and relaxed under his hand like a small kitten.
She looked like a sleeping child. How was this the same woman who'd
been with him this morning? His watch said it was only a few hours
ago, but it seemed like a lifetime. There was such a contrast between
the poised professional he had met, the lover he had been with last
night, just beginning to discover her own passions, and the frightened
girl escaping her nightmares in the hazy fog of pills. In her drug-
induced dreams, there was no old friend stealing children, no dead
husband beating and raping her, no THEM in the shadows.

"How do you live with it, 'Lizabeth? How do you get through every day
knowing what you know?"

She didn't open her eyes as she spoke. Even as heavily sedated as she
was, she was careful to keep her voice low so the other men milling
around couldn't hear her. "I don't know anything you don't. Just
lists of names and projects. I live with it the same way you do. I
don't let them take my light."

Mulder smoothed her hair, wondering how he did live with it. <Your
light isn't real, 'Lizabeth. Your light is a dead man that lied to
you, that hurt you. Of course, my light is a life with Scully that she
doesn't want.>

How did he live with it? Not well.

The New Orleans police reported Murphy Becker's apartment was empty.
He had been fired from his job a month ago for "conflicts with co-
workers" and his family hadn't seen him since. They thought he'd gone
out of State to look for work. The officer Mulder spoke with said
Becker's bedroom was littered with pictures of a petite strawberry
blonde - yearbook and Christmas photos mostly, but some candid shots of
her and a man with his face blacked out.

The officer had faxed a picture of Becker to Elizabeth's fax.

Mulder sat at her expensive desk, looking at the picture. He wished he
knew what Scott Matthews looked like, but Elizabeth was out cold in the
house. Where would she keep a picture of a dead husband? On impulse
he opened a few meticulous desk drawers. Nothing. It wouldn't be in
her office. Bedroom.

She'd remade the bed - he noticed that. Sam Dog was asleep in the
center of it - he looked up when Mulder came in the room. Her clothes
hung neatly by color in the open closet. Scully had several identical
suits, except in a size 4 instead of a 6.

Scully. He hadn't been allowing many thoughts of Scully to float to
the top of the septic tank that was currently his conscience. What the
hell did he think he was doing? Just a little fling to get it out of
his system so Mulder could go back to idolizing his partner like some
schoolboy? This wasn't another bimbo whose phone number was going to
magically get lost in his otherwise-perfect memory after one night.
She was a little fragile right now, but this alpha-female that was
everything he had thought he ever wanted and then some, except that she
wasn't his Scully. But he'd been proposing to Scully on a weekly basis
lately and she always looked at him like he was a fool and walked away.

<Work now. Love life, such as it is, later.>

There was a bookcase in her bedroom - that's where it would be. He
opened an old photo album. There was a decade worth of pictures of
Elizabeth and Scott - embracing, dancing, laughing. He was a big man,
a little over six feet tall, with broad shoulders. Nice looking, dark
hair, rugged, G.I. looks. Scott was maybe ten years older than
'Lizabeth, which meant someone should have pressed charges when they
started dating. Together, they looked like the poster couple for the
eugenics movement. There were mementos carefully pasted into the album
- a wedding invitation, movie ticket stubs, post cards from all over
the world. Memories of a life that wasn't real.

He didn't recognize Scott as one of the men in black he had
encountered, but he had the right look. Mulder compared the fax to the
photos. Scott and Becker could have been brothers. Easy for one man
to imagine himself stepping onto the other's life. Into the other's
bed.

Mulder had his suspect. Now it was up to the locals to find him. He
had other worries.

He went downstairs to check on Elizabeth. She was sound asleep on the
couch where he'd left her, surrounded by a sea of empty coffee cups,
topographical maps and easel pads. If she didn't lay claim to her bed
soon, someone was going to commandeer it for the night. It seemed
easier to carry her than to wake her, so Mulder ignored the other men's
looks, scooped her up, and headed towards the stairs.

Mulder laid her on her bed, ordering the old dog to move over, and sat
down at the foot where he'd been previously. He desperately wanted to
do something to help her, but he didn't know what. He didn't need to
take off her shoes, they were downstairs beside the door. Her bare
toes were painted coral and they curled under as she slept. He pressed
one hand against the sole of her cold foot and realized his hand was
the same length as her foot from toe to heel. So delicate. He should
go back to his own room.

<What if she wakes up and I'm not here?>

<Good excuse as any.>

He laid back, his hands behind his head, and looked over at her. He
wondered which picture Becker would choose. Depended on his taste.
The first time had been tender, a delicacy. The second had been better
- she was more comfortable and playful. The shower had just been
incredible fucking. He watched Elizabeth's chest rise and fall -
Mulder would choose a picture from the second time, early on when she
was on top.   Or in the shower all soapy under the showerhead.
Regardless, he hoped Becker chose a photo where they both looked
decent. Skinner was going to see it. So was Scully. And in a few
days, it could be his only link to this sleeping woman.
**********
Monday

Mulder dreamt. In his dream, he was undressing a petite woman - her
head barely reached his chin. It might have been Scully, it might have
been Elizabeth. The woman stood passively watching him as he
unfastened and pulled off her clothes. Each time he thought he had
taken off the last layer of her clothes, he would notice she was
wearing a new layer. He was desperate to see her body, but he couldn't
get all her clothes off. He took off layers of suits, sweaters,
blouses, skirts, bras, panties, and stockings, but new ones appeared to
take their place. How could he not have noticed she had on another
pair of panties underneath the first pair? He grew impatient and
accidentally tore her blouse in his haste. She stepped back from him.

"Why can't I see you naked?" he asked the phantom woman.

"Because you still need to decide what you want to see," she replied.

**********

Mulder awoke alone. It was dawn and the majority of the search parties
had returned to the house, looking defeated. Men were sprawled half-
asleep on every available surface. <Jonestown - the morning after,>
his brain chimed. He found an empty bathroom, cleaned up, and went
downstairs. Elizabeth was where he expected her to be - in the kitchen
making breakfast and coffee for anyone interested.    

"They're not house guests - you don't have to feed them." he told her,
glaring at a Guardsman until he moved so Mulder could sit on his
designated stool at the counter.

"I don't know what else to do."

Without further comment, Mulder ate the plate of food she set in front
of him. She watched, satisfied, as he consumed every bite.

**********

At eight o'clock that morning, the group of men assembled in her living
room. Edmonson must have commandeered every officer in 200 miles, but
they were still outnumbered by guard members, fire fighters, and
volunteers holding rifles. Deputy Edmonson briefed them on what areas
had been searched, then introduced Mulder. He presented his profile,
telling the men where to search and what to look for. He passed around
the picture of Murphy Becker, telling them what he knew to date, then
sat back down The deputy and police chief took over, emphasizing that
this was a search for missing children, not a posse. The searchers
were to locate the children and radio for law enforcement. Then the
meeting was over and men on foot, 4-wheelers, horseback and in trucks
fanned out again into the hills.

It was over - Mulder had no real reason to stay. The FBI didn't pay
him to go roaming around fields when there were fifty or so men who
could do it just as well. He was called in to write a profile - now he
had and he could go. Edmonson sat down across the dinning room table
from him, eating Elizabeth's pancakes.

"She's a good woman," Edmonson said.

"Yes, she is." Mulder was intrigued. The deputy wasn't one to strike
up a conversation.

"She helped my boy a lot. Shame what's happening."

"Yes, it is," Mulder agreed.

Elizabeth was still in the kitchen. Mulder doubted she could hear
them.

"You'll be heading home?"

"I've done about all I can here unless the MO changes." Mulder was
careful not to say yes.

"I knew her Daddy. She's a good woman - needs a good man. Don't need
to be hurt any more," Edmonson said, looking Mulder dead in the eye.

"Yes," he agreed. There was a long, heavy silence. The deputy finally
spoke.

"You stay awhile. Never know how things might turn out."

Mulder knew he had just received the deputy's blessing. Somehow, that
wasn't the blessing he needed right now, but it was excuse enough.

**********
"Mulder"

"Mulder, it's me," Scully's voice said.

"How are you feeling?" He was sure she could hear the betrayal in his
voice, smell the scent of another woman on his skin.

"Better. Do you still want company?"

"The profile is done, Scully. I'm just hanging around. There's no
need for you to fly down unless a body turns up." <I told her the
truth,> Mulder thought, trying not to feel guilty.

"OK. Call me if you need me, Mulder, and I'll be right there."

"You always are, Scully," he said and ended the transmission.


It was afternoon when a guard member radioed in that he had found a
child's body.

**********

Tuesday

The connection was bad and Scully was half-yelling so he could hear
her. "He tried to kill her several different ways. She has
strangulation marks, cuts on her wrists, and the final cause of death
was suffocation - maybe a pillow. It's like he hadn't killed before
and didn't realize how much effort it took."

"What about the disabilities? Is there a pattern?" Mulder said back,
loudly.

"She had Prader-Willi Syndrome - it's a genetic syndrome that involves
mental retardation and compulsive over-eating. Tony had autism and
Fragile -X - another genetic syndrome. My guess is that they would
have been the two most troublesome children to take care of."

"Okay- thanks, Scully. Are you going to stay in the city?" It was
three in the morning. She must be exhausted.

"I don't see any point in coming out. I need the facilities in San
Antonio to run the tests I want. Besides, I hear good things about the
North Star and Wonderland Malls. Are you staying put?" she asked.

"Yea."

A long pause.

"I saw the picture, Mulder," Scully said, her voice calm.

What should he say?   <I'm sorry.> <Good for you.> <Go to Hell.> He
settled on the obvious:

"I didn't know how to tell you."

"It's okay, Mulder. I just wanted you to know," and she hung up.

He laid back down and pulled a warm, sleeping Elizabeth against his
chest, dropping his cell phone on the pile of their clothes on the
floor.

**********

The search parties were thorough. By noon Tuesday they'd found
Becker's lair - a hunting cabin high in the Twin Sister mountains
surrounding Elizabeth's house. Thankfully, the two children were
inside, alive. Becker was not there. The cabin was plastered with
nude pictures of Elizabeth, and the deputy had cold-cocked several men
for trying to carry off the photos.

People imagine that most crimes are complicated and well-thought out.
Most actually fall into the simple-to-stupid-plan range.

Handsome Friend and pretty Girl are in love. A lonely, insecure Man
gets jealous of Friend's girl. Friend develops brain cancer and
occasionally beats the hell out of Girl. Man views himself as Girl's
protector. Girl refuses to be protected. Friend dies. Girl does not
complete Man's fantasy by running to his arms. Man stalks Girl,
becoming increasingly obsessed. Man plants cameras in her house to
watch out for her. Man kidnaps children to get her attention. Man
sees her with another man. Man warns her with one child. Man sees her
with another man. Man kills child.

Nothing complicated or well-thought-out about it.

Mulder was finished packing. The search party had been abandoned - the
men had covered every square inch for twenty miles each direction and
hadn't found Becker. Several men also expressed a desire to get home
to their own children. Becker was the police department's problem now.

Mulder felt an inkling of respect for the man. He knew how he had felt
about Scully's little party with her tattoo buddy. On some level, he
understood. Becker had selected a photo of the two of them standing in
front of the couch, kissing. The second time, when Elizabeth had
requested "a real kiss." Mulder wondered if the couch was somehow
significant to Becker. Maybe he just doesn't want other people seeing
naked pictures of her.

No one except Scully had said a word about it to him. He'd spent
Monday night sleeping with Elizabeth in his arms. She was calmer, but
nowhere near stable enough for sex. One night with an unstable vampire
wanna-be had taught him the lesson of when to wait.

Now it was late Tuesday afternoon. Scully had canvassed the malls and
was making noises about going home. Elizabeth was putting her house
back together after having it used as HQ for the search party. She
requested Mulder instead of a police guard for as long as possible, so
the deputy had gone home to shower and change clothes. She often
reached out and took his hand, but she hadn't said anything about what
happened between them.  

<Probably isn't the most pressing thing on her agenda. More interested
in government conspiracies, the man stalking her, the dead child, and
the fact that she no longer has a career than in my dick.>

Elizabeth seemed engrossed in vacuuming in the living room, so Mulder
roamed toward the back of the house, giving himself some space to
analyze whatever the hell it was that he was feeling. Mulder couldn't
even figure out what to label the bins to start sorting out his
emotions. He was walking back toward the kitchen when he heard the
vacuum switch off and her calm voice:

"Where were you?"

A man answered flatly, "In the hay loft. I came to get you as soon as
I could."

Mulder stopped in the far side of the kitchen and took his weapon out
of his hostler. Becker also had a gun in his hand.  

"I will go with you. Let me get my things," she said, but she didn't
actually move.

"Is he here?" Becker asked.

"No, I was sorry and I sent him away." Mulder couldn't have coached
her to respond any better. She was saying exactly what Becker wanted
to hear - buying herself time and distance.

Becker was placated. "I want you now." His empty tone was terrifying.
Mulder wondered of Donnie the death-fetishist had used that same voice
with Scully.

Elizabeth didn't hesitate, although her face was luminously pale. She
unbuttoned her blouse, slid it off her shoulders, and stepped towards
Becker. Mulder flinched for her as Becker reached out to touch her
breast. No man would ever hurt her again if he had anything to do with
it. Shoot for the center of mass, his butt. Mulder was blowing the
crazy SOB's head off. He couldn't get a clear shot, her body was in
his way.

<Smart woman. This is his fantasy coming to life. He's off-balance.
And he's in-range.>

Elizabeth hesitated, looking flustered. "I'm scared, Beck. Aren't you
scared? Let me get you a drink?" She tried to move away to the
kitchen.

"No." He grabbed her wrist.

<Play on his paranoia,> Mulder willed. It was as though she had read
his thoughts.

"Let me lock the door so no one can come in," she pleaded.

This time Becker didn't stop her. Elizabeth turned and walked to the
front door. Mulder waited until she was out of sight and then moved:

"Freeze! FBI! Drop your weapon!"

Becker fired in his general direction and Mulder crouched low. He'd
forgotten the other man had been a Marine. Mulder was evaluating his
options when he heard a second monstrously loud shot. When he stood
back up, Becker's body was on the floor, with most of his chest
splattered garishly on the beige brick of the fireplace behind him.
Elizabeth stood in her sheer black bra and jeans, an old shotgun in one
hand pointing towards the floor, her other hand on her shoulder.

Nothing complex or planned about it.

Mulder was already dialing 911. After he hung up, he turned to
Elizabeth.

"Where did you get the gun?" he asked. He was impressed that his
little southern belle hadn't waited for him to save her. He was
impressed, not surprised.

"Another inheritance from Daddy. It came with the house and the dog."
Then she leaned into his arms, still holding the shotgun, and cried.

**********

The big house was finally empty. The last officer drove away and
Elizabeth and Mulder sat on the front porch, waiting for Todd and
Scully, respectively. A pox on red-eye flights - Scully had ensured
they would be back in DC to face Skinner by Wednesday morning. Mulder
couldn't argue - the case was over. Elizabeth had refused to go to the
hospital tonight, so the paramedics had left ice packs and a sling for
her shoulder. Mulder considered asking Scully to take a look at it
when she got there and decided that was a bad idea. Elizabeth had
called Todd and had a long talk. She was going to stay with him until
she felt better. In the guest room.

So they sat side by side and waited in the dark. Mulder could almost
see time slipping away from them. It was Elizabeth that spoke:

"Thank you for all you've done," she said. The night was quiet until
she spoke again. "I wish we had more time. I wish we'd met in a
different way," she said softly.

<I swear she's psychic.>

He looked at her. There was still blood spattered on her wall and she
smelled like gunpowder; this wasn't the time to declare his - uh,
something - for her. He doubted she was one for speeches anyway. Her
still waters ran deep and she expressed by doing, not saying.

"If you ever want help with your demons, just let me know. I've dealt
with a few of my own."

<Be a man, Mulder.>

"'Lizabeth, I never going to be sorry." He meant it with his whole
being.

She nodded.

Mulder pointed up into the northern sky and her eyes followed his hand.
"It looks so vast, like we're so alone in the universe. We're never
really alone, 'Lizabeth - you just have to know where to look for the
truth. In those heavens are spheres of pure energy, of souls passing
through time that we were fortunate enough to have touch our lives
briefly. You are one of the people that has touched mine. If you
ever want me, or if you need me, I'll always be right underneath that
north star."

He saw headlights about to turn into her driveway.   Mulder pulled her
to him, careful of her bruised shoulder, and kissed her soft lips,
cradling her head in his hands. Their time stopped as the world spun
around them. Scully's rental car was parked when they parted and
Scully was trying hard to look elsewhere.

Mulder stood and picked up his leather bag. "Bye 'Lizabeth. You find
me if you need or want me."

"Goodbye, Mulder."

He turned and walked to the car, putting his duffle bag in the back
seat and opening the passenger side door by rote. He stopped and
called to her: "'Lizabeth - watch out for the bees."

He grinned. Elizabeth smiled and raised her hand. Mulder got in the
rental car and closed the door. In the passenger-side mirror, he
watched her fade to a small point of light - his island of tranquility
disappearing into the valley of the past.

Neither he nor Scully said a word all the way back to the airport. He
couldn't read her mood, and he was afraid of what she would say. They
were walking out the gate when she stopped and spoke: "Mulder, are you
okay?"

She could convey a book of information in four words.

Mulder thought about it.

He was completely infatuated with a woman he knew and didn't know. A
woman who still had so many things to make her peace with, just as he
did. He would probably never see her again. Tomorrow morning he would
have to explain a picture of him kissing Elizabeth to Skinner,
furthering his already stellar record with the Bureau. And he had no
idea what to say to - or where he stood with - Scully. But she was
right beside him, just like she always was.

His words were weighty - "Yes. Yea Scully, I think I will be."

He put his hand in the small of her back and guided her onto the plane.

**********

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
and sawdust restaurants with oyster shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.
   ********

End: A Moment's Surrender (1/5)

[104 楼] | Posted: 2013-12-13 03:10 顶端
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Begin: An Age of Prudence (2/5)

March

<If he doesn't stop staring at that damn picture, I'm going to shoot
him again.>

Mulder was sitting at his computer under the pretense of working, but
he was staring at it again. He did that, ever since they got back from
Texas. She'd told him he was a sick man.

<Mulder, that was pinned to a dead child!>

She could eat fried chicken while looking at a crispy corpse, but
putting that picture on his bulletin board seemed a little grizzly.
Well, it was a copy of the picture - the actual one was in a file
somewhere. He had others, ones she wasn't supposed to know about.
Mulder must have called in a favor from the San Antonio FBI office and
gotten copies of the pictures from the kidnapper's surveillance of HER.
Dr. Matthews. Official FBI business, of course. That's why they were
hidden in the bottom left drawer of his desk under the phone book
Scully had been hunting for while he was at lunch yesterday.

They'd flown home last week in silence. The meeting with Skinner had
gone as well as could be expected. Mulder couldn't really be censured
for getting caught kissing a grown woman. It was a little embarrassing
that a photo of it turned up pinned to a dead body, but kissing wasn't
a crime. Besides, Skinner had woken up in bed next to a prostitute's
body with her head twisted on backwards - there wasn't a lot he could
say.

Mulder's profile had gotten two children back alive. The kidnapper was
dead. Local PD was pleased. Job well done. Life had gone back to
normal, such as it was.

It wasn't until Scully was trying to sort out their Texas expense
reports that she realized it really hadn't. Gone back to normal, that
is.

Just doing the paperwork for both of them both by herself was easier
than listening to Skinner's lectures when Mulder didn't get his done.
Skinner seemed to think she was personally responsible for making
Mulder behave himself - like she was his damn chaperone.
Unfortunately, Mulder had figured this out about three weeks into their
partnership and had automatically surrendered all receipts to her for
the last seven years. Lucky her.

This trip, Mulder had receipts for his flight down and back, a
breakfast on Saturday (omelet) and a lunch on Sunday (catfish). She
had her flight each way, two nights in a hotel, (one of which she
should get a discount for since she checked in at four in the morning)
the standard number of meals, and a rental Ford. She also had lots of
receipts from obscenely expensive mall boutiques that she wasn't
planning on turning in or telling Mulder about.  

<My underwear are my business.>

Mulder must have misplaced some of his receipts again - not an uncommon
occurrence. She'd have to hound him or listen to him plead poverty
until payday. Not that he was lacking for money - the man was pretty
well feathered. He just enjoyed whining.

He had turned three shades of red when she asked him where his hotel
bill was. "I slept in a tree, Scully," he'd told her, retreating. And
then she knew things had changed. She'd figured there was a seedy
motel somewhere in or around Podunk, Texas and that he'd been mooching
meals off of the local PD.

<No, you were screwing a suspect, Mulder!>

<And you had me pick you up at her front porch so I couldn't miss it.>

For that instant, she hated him. Hated him for betraying her. Hated
the other woman for having something with him she never had. Scully
mentally called HER every name she could think of. She called Mulder
every name she could think of. She sat and fumed in their empty
office.

There used to be other women. Lots and lots of other women. Long-
legged brunettes with questionable morals, mostly. Mulder must have
been legendary, because the other agents still spoke of the "before
Mrs. Spooky" years with awe. Over the years, the steady stream of
babes had slowed to a trickle, then to an occasional drip that she
wasn't supposed to know about. As far as she knew, there hadn't been
anyone else except maybe Diana in several years.   Yes, Mulder was a
fully-functional male - she could speak either as a medical doctor or
as the woman that usually spent sixteen hours a day with him - and he
had every right to screw around with whomever he wanted. But why this
woman? Why now?

As much as she tried to stoke her anger, its first hot flames died. In
seven years, she'd gotten really, REALLY good at forgiving Fox Mulder.
It helped that this tramp was several states away.

Mulder wasn't the only one who had covert connections. Scully went
over the case file again, and as well she ran a more-than-through
background check on Ms. Doctor Matthews. She tried really hard to hate
what she found. Doctor Elizabeth Katherine Matthews, 29, widowed.
Caucasian, blonde, blue. Five-feet three inches tall, one-hundred
fifteen pounds...

<At least I'm skinnier than she is! >

<That was a real adult thought, Dana.>

...Bachelor's in child psych from Duke, Doctorate in neuropsych from
Georgia State. Published in several professional journals.
Groundbreaking research in grad school on neurotransmitters in
developmental disabilities. Had her undergraduate thesis published,
for God's sake...

<I rewrote Einstein and didn't get published. I hate HER.>

...Unremarkable medical history. HIV negative - maybe she should share
that with Mulder. No record of a prescription method of birth control,
though...

<Maybe I should share THAT with Mulder.> She didn't bother. He wasn't
that stupid.

...No police record, no FBI file. Married at eighteen, widowed at
twenty-six. Parents deceased, no sibs. And - here was a good one -
worth a cool three million. Inheritance from her daddy.

<I hate HER. Bitch.>

Scully tried to hate Mulder. She told herself he had been
unprofessional; he could have compromised an investigation. In her
heart, she knew that wasn't really it.

Other than posting that picture beside Flukeman in his office, Mulder
gave no indication anything had happened.

When she'd found the other pictures hidden in his desk drawer, she
tried to rekindle her anger. She really couldn't blame Mulder - the
woman looked the way Scully had always wanted to look. Like a petite
Marilyn Monroe. Round in all the right places and firm and tiny in all
the others. Those breasts are real, damn it! She'd seen the results
from the woman's last breast exam and pap smear. Don't ask how.

<Sure you're not obsessing just a little bit, Dana?>

<No. Why do you ask?>

Staring at the photos of HER dressing and bathing, unaware of the man
watching her through hidden cameras, the dimmer switch in Scully's
repressed romantic self slowly twisted to brilliance.

<She's me.>

<Oh, God. She is me.>

That was why Mulder did it. The woman looked enough like Scully to be
a sister. Similar build and coloring, obviously well-educated and
intelligent. Close enough that he could close his eyes and pretend.
Oh, God.

<He's not just teasing with all those remarks about me being hot.
Mulder actually wants me.>

That took a few minutes to sink in.

The question was, of course, did she want Mulder?

Scully wasn't blind - her partner radiated sex like the summer sun
radiated warmth. He had to be one hell of a lay. But she'd been with
enough of those to know where their value ended - and it hadn't taken
many for her to learn that lesson. She'd never had a friend as
precious to her as Mulder, and that took precedence over any
inappropriate thoughts that tap-danced across her brain when she got
too tired. If they weren't partners, she would have sampled Fox Mulder
long ago. Taken one taste and then walked away smiling, never looking
back.

If Scully wanted him, she should have spoken up; she'd had long enough.
Problem was, Scully wasn't a stupid woman. She didn't want to spend
her life cleaning up after Mulder's impulsive screw-ups at home as well
as at work. She wanted one glorious weekend, and then to go back to
her best friend as though nothing had happened.

That was why she was jealous.
**********

April

April is the cruelest month...mixing memory with desire.

They had been back about three weeks when Scully knew Mulder had heard
from HER. That woman. He was checking his e-mail and he gasped. She
didn't hear him gasp very often - it was sexy, provided he wasn't
bleeding.

"What is it, Mulder? Is something wrong?"

"Nothing. I'm fine, Scully." He didn't look over at her.

"That's my line, Mulder." She didn't think he even heard her.

Mulder prints out his e-mail. He saves it to his zip drive as well,
but the printouts are easier to accidentally read.

The woman had written, "I want you to know I am coping and hope you are
doing the same.   I am selling the house, dog, and gun. Other than
that, I have no answers yet, no truth. Will let you know when I do."

<At least she doesn't use those little smiley and frowny faces>

Mulder walked in while she was standing at his desk reading the
printout he had left laying there. There was no way he wouldn't
notice.

<To hell with it. Don't leave it out if you don't want it read.>

<Maybe he did want it read.> Smart girl, Scully.

"Mulder, why would she sell a dog and a gun with the house?" she asked,
her face puzzled.

He didn't look shocked or surprised to her. "She inherited them as a
set. It's a joke, Scully."

She moved away from his desk so he could sit down. He tipped his chair
back and gnawed a pencil, staring off into nowhere. It was several
minutes before he spoke: "Scully, how are you with this? Really?
Don't you dare say 'I'm fine, Mulder,' because I won't believe you."

Scully had to think. There weren't many secrets between them and she
liked it that way. "You're my best friend, Mulder. It makes me happy
that you're happy. Beyond that, I'm still adjusting."

"I didn't do it to hurt you, Scully. I would never have even told you
about it," he said.

"We're not a mutually exclusive couple, Mulder. You are free to see
and do whatever you want." Her voice was harsher than she had intended.

"I don't feel that way sometimes. I didn't like it when you did it."
His expression was unreadable.

"If it makes you feel better, I didn't either," Scully said blandly.
Ed was a nasty memory.

"I'll never see her again. I just like knowing she's out there. The
same way I like knowing you're out there - safe and happy. Not sucked
into my screwy life." Mulder was still wearing his blank expression.

<That's enough Mulder! I've had it.> Scully felt a surge of anger.
For once on her life, she spoke before she thought:

"You found a woman that looks so much like me you could close you eyes
and pretend she was me. You spent a weekend playing house with HER and
now you're back with me to fight windmills. It doesn't WORK LIKE THAT,
MULDER!" Scully was shouting now. "You don't just take what you want
from everyone and walk away! 'Lover-boy Mulder' and 'Friend Mulder'
are not two separate people! I hate that you did that to HER and I
hate that you did that to ME! It's all or nothing! Grow-the-hell-up,
damn it. You will half-kill yourself chasing after UFOs but you can't
commit yourself - all of yourself- to a woman! You coward! Either do
it or don't Mulder, but don't expect me to support you while you
straddle the fence!"

It didn't exactly make sense, but Scully felt cleansed. Mulder's face
was still unreadable, but she could see the wheels turning behind his
dark eyes. Scully was suddenly very tired.

"You probably feel better now that I've yelled at you. I'm going home,
Mulder. Goodnight."

She gathered her things and was closing the door when she heard him
speak, "I'm sorry, Scully."

"So am I, Mulder." She kept walking.
**********

In the end, she thought she made her peace with it. It helped that
Mulder was happy. Embarrassed, but happy. If the look on his face was
any indication, he adored the woman. But then again, he adored people
named Bambi - his positive regard wasn't a rare commodity.

It was better after that. They were better after that. Mulder
continued his Internet relationship with Dr. Matthews, but at least he
did it openly. He read Scully all the e-mails and they sounded
friendly. No more snooping. She learned more about the woman Mulder
called 'Lizabeth' than she ever wanted to know. It worried her when
Mulder said Elizabeth's late husband was one of the MIBs that showed up
occasionally, but Mulder didn't seem concerned, so Scully let it lie.
Trust Mulder to discover conspiracies, even on a one-night-stand.

<'Lizabeth has a horse. Isn't that sweet? She probably bought it with
her dead Daddy's money.> Scully had grown out of her own horse stage
roughly twenty-five years ago.

<And 'Lizabeth had to move her horse since she was selling her dead
Daddy's house (for a million and change - Scully had checked.) And the
horse had developed a nervous condition. Probably from putting up with
her.> Scully was having a good time mentally making fun of what Mulder
was reading to her.

Suddenly Mulder almost tipped his chair over backwards laughing.
"Skinner's developed bald spots. She says the vet had to give her a
prescription cream for it. Wonder if we can get some as a Christmas
present for the big guy?"

"What about Skinner?" She'd missed something.

"Skinner is also her horse. You know - B.F. Skinner, Scully?"

"Yea, I know B.F. Skinner, Mulder." Her tone was sarcastic, but it was
pretty funny. "Print that one out, Mulder. Take off your name and
I'll accidentally leave it taped up on the mirror in the ladies' room."
She was feeling devilish all of a sudden.

His eyes twinkled back at her. She adored him some days. His printer
was humming.

"Does she say if the cream worked? I've always kind of liked Skinner.
He'd be cute with hair," Scully said. She knew Mulder couldn't tell if
she was joking or not.

"Scully, I always thought he was pretty cute without hair." Mulder's
face was blank again.

<I love you, Mulder,> she thought.
   **********

The first time Mulder had kissed her was in a hospital hallway on New
Year's Eve. The second was in April after she helped him do his last-
minute tax returns. Hers had been done since February, of course, but
he'd asked her with that puppy-dog face and... They'd half-walked,
half-run to the Post Office together, beating the midnight deadline by
four minutes. After their mad dash, they stood outside in the cold,
grinning at each other like guilty teenagers that had snuck in after
curfew. It seemed natural when Mulder leaned down and kissed her. A
friendly embrace - fine, she could go with that. When she didn't
pull away, his kiss became more intense, more demanding, until she
finally stepped back, flustered.

"Mulder, stop."

He looked guilty, like he had trespassed on sacred ground. "Sorry. I'm
sorry, Scully."

"This is a big deal, Mulder. We need to think about it."

"I've thought about it, Scully."

<No, Mulder - with the big head.> "We can't ever take it back. If we
don't...what if..." <How do I make you understand?> "It's more
important to me that you are my best friend than..."

"Than your lover." Mulder finished for her. "Scully, do you not want
this?"

"I just think we should consider all the consequences before we do
anything rash."

<Or maybe I should go talk to a wall. Telling you not to do something
rash is about as useful.>

"Scully, I want to try."

<You keep looking at me like that and you won't have to try very hard.>

Mulder knew her too well. She was excited and she was eager and she
was scared to death. Mostly she was scared to death.

"Why don't we take this real slow, Scully? Lots of time to turn around
if either of us think we're making a mistake."

"Real slow?" She took a deep breath and watched Mulder's eyes follow
the rise and fall of her chest. "Goodnight, Mulder." And she turned
around and walked away, leaving him leaning against the brick wall of
the Post Office.
   **********

June

Some couples slip into intimacy as smoothly as a freshly shaved leg
slides into a silk stocking. Others discover passion about as
gracefully as a hippopotamus sambas. Nothing in the last seven years
had ever come easy for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, so it was
predestined that their slow dance from vertical to horizontal involved
lots of missed cues, stepped-on toes, and bumped noses.

Mulder had more patience than she would have given him credit for. He
promised real slow and that was exactly what he got. Two steps forward
and one step back. In some cases, two steps forward and many steps of
staccato high heels running the other way. Scully set the unspoken
rules and Mulder followed them, as much as he ever followed anybody's
rules. Some days she was ready to close her eyes and let the ocean of
Mulderness overtake her, and some days it was like she was back in high
school again, fending off her boyfriend's advances, making up excuses
not to "go all the way."

The best part of dating - or whatever it was they had been doing for
three months - was sleeping with Mulder. Well, Mulder never got as far
as sleeping. No, wait, start over.

The best part was Mulder laying down with her while she fell asleep in
strange hotel beds. Her nightmares had died down for a while until
Pfaster had tried to give her a home wash and set, and now they
returned with a vengeance. Being abducted, Melissa being shot, Emily,
viral bees, being shot, nose bleeds - pick one. She couldn't tell
Mulder about all the nights she woke up afraid and alone, but she did
find a way for him to help her. He was more or less obeying the one-
kiss-goodnight-with-all-your-hands-above-my-shoulders rule when the
words fell out of her mouth, "Stay with me until I go to sleep."

Mulder laid beside her on the too-soft motel pillow with his arm around
her waist for an hour before she had finally relaxed into sleep. When
she awoke before dawn, he was gone, as she had asked. It became a
pattern for them - chaste kisses, holding hands, dinners, and laying
together in the dark. For Scully, that was enough. Well, not really,
but the alternative was terrifying. Mulder didn't seem to comprehend
that.

One night, Mulder's hand found its way down over her hip and pulled her
back against him, closer than usual.

"Mulder."

"What, Scully?" He was playing innocent.

"Mulder, if you want to stay, don't do that." She meant it.

"Do you want me to leave, Scully? Is that it?" He sounded angry. He
had never gotten upset about her hesitance before, although he teased
her about it. Mulder always stopped when she asked him to stop.

"If you don't want to do this, just tell me and we can stop the games.
We aren't teenagers, Scully. If you aren't interested, you need to say
that and stop making excuses."

The air she was trying to breath was about twice as thick as normal.

"Scully, I will do whatever you want, but you have to tell me what that
is. If you want to be friends, we'll be friends. If you want to be
lovers, and you need more time, you get more time. Help me out, G-
woman, just once - tell me what you're thinking."

"You are more dear to me than anything else in this world, Mulder, and
I just don't want to do anything to jeopardize that."

Without another word, Mulder's hand slid back up to its accustom place
on her waist and he moved his hips back from hers. He was gone when
she awoke the next morning.

Scully was torn. She'd acknowledged that she loved him - to herself,
anyway. He undoubtedly loved her in his own dangerously combustible
way; she'd known that for ages. Now Mulder wanted more, and what
Mulder wanted, he generally got, especially from her. Not that sex
with Mulder wasn't a very damp, tempting offer. "A mind like Aristotle
and a form like mortal sin." If it ever happened, she was sure the
angels would sing. And then what?

Scully had sex with Mulder, Mulder had sex with Scully, the heavens
rejoiced, and then... what, they went back to being best friends? Not
likely. They got married and lived happily ever after? Also, not
likely. Mulder might be the man her heart wanted, but he wasn't the
one her head dictated. He couldn't even take care of himself, and
while she enjoyed mothering him, she didn't want to do it for the rest
of her life on a 24 hour basis. And Mulder wasn't the two kids,
minivan, and house in the suburbs man she'd always pictured herself
with.

Most likely, they would scorch each other with their flames and never
recover. Her brilliant, sweet, self-centered, tormented, needy Mulder
- he thought he wanted Scully. He didn't realize it was a package
deal. He might know Scully inside and out, but he didn't know Dana.
She was afraid to let him know her, afraid he could consume her with
his intensity and there would be nothing left. Once he devoured her,
what would there be left for him to love? Mulder was so much more
alive than she was, how could she help but lose herself to him? She
guarded her seventh veil, afraid of risking what was most important to
her. Him.

It was several days before they were alone outside of work again.
Something was bothering Mulder, but he didn't seem inclined to share,
so she didn't ask. They held hands as he walked her into her building,
his large hand encasing her small one - the first time he had touched
her since their heated discussion in bed three nights ago. Mulder hung
around, watching her and doing nothing in particular, so she changed
into casual clothes in her bedroom and then found him channel-surfing
on the couch. She sat down beside him and commandeered the remote
control before she was subjected to yet another evening of cheesy sci-
fi movies.

He was resting his head in his hands, elbows on his knees - the picture
of misery. Whatever it was, it was bad. She asserted her newfound
freedom to touch him by running her hand over the starchy smoothness of
his white shirt. When she asked him what was wrong, he wouldn't look
at her. He started talking like they were already in the middle of a
conversation:

"I don't think sometimes, Scully. I see the brass ring and I just
reach out and take it and I don't think about the consequences of my
actions. How what I do will affect other people. I would never, ever
do anything to hurt you. To make you hate me."

Oh, so that was the problem. God, he was the master of masochism.
Only Mulder would feel the need to play the whipping boy because a
grown woman told him to take his hand off her ass.  

She scrubbed his hair, like she rumpled her nephew's red hair when he
was devilish. "Mulder, I couldn't imagine you any other way." There,
apology accepted. Now snap out of it.

Mulder still looked upset. The mommy in her wanted to make it better,
so she pulled his head against her shoulder and rubbed her fingers
through his hair again, telling him it was all right. Like lightning,
his arms went around her waist and ran over her body. His lips came up
and found hers as he pivoted so he was above her on the couch, pushing
her back into the corner. His hands moved over her breasts and his
mouth continued to devour hers like a hungry animal. A hand pulled her
leg up over his hip and she felt him pressing hard against her,
blocking out rational thoughts. Another demanding hand was unbuttoning
her blouse. How many hands did this man have, anyway? This wasn't
sweet or loving - it was desperate and angry and frighteningly intense.
It was too much, too fast, and Scully panicked.

"Mulder, stop! What are you doing?" She was breathless. Mulder
stopped as though she had hit his 'off' switch, his face unreadable.
He stood up, got his suit coat, said "goodnight," and walked out.
Bizarre.

She sat on the couch buttoning up her blouse as she evaluated whatever
the hell had just happened. What was she so afraid of, anyway? The
man had gone to the friggin' South Pole to get her. Traded what he
thought was his sister's life for hers. Respected her fears of
intimacy for years and loved her anyway. And like it or not, she loved
him. Prince Charming was not going to ride up and sweep her off her
feet; Prince Charming sat across from her every day spitting sunflower
seeds and making corny jokes. Prince Charming had no sense of
direction and tended to drop his gun. No one ever promised her
everlasting happiness in this life and she was a fool to deny what was
right in front of her. Whatever the consequences were, they would deal
with them together. Just like they always did. The next time he
wanted her, the answer was "yes."

He never asked.

He was sitting at his desk when she got to work on Monday morning. He
stood up and walked over to her. His words were rehearsed:

"'Lizabeth is going to be moving to DC in two weeks. She's taking a
teaching position at Georgetown. We decided yesterday."

Scully was stunned. <We? I didn't realize you and Elizabeth were a
'we'> "Why is she moving here, Mulder?"

"I asked her to. I'm going to make this work. I'm sorry, Scully. I
didn't mean to mislead you." Mulder slumped back against the edge of
his desk.

"You've known her less than four months. Are you sure, Mulder?" <Why
is this happening?>

"Yea - I'm sure. I've thought about it." Mulder's face had the same
fierce look he got whenever the deck was stacked against him. Like a
dog grimly holding on to its bone.

<What's he not telling me? Guess it doesn't really matter, does it?>
"Okay. Thank you for telling me." <Were you thinking of HER all along
when you were kissing me? Touching me?>

"Do you hate me, Scully?"

"No. I'll never hate you." <I need to get away from him right now
before I start crying.>

"How can you not hate me?" He looked shocked. This must not be part
of his plan, whatever that was. Fine, he could have another monkey
wrench.

"Because I love you." Now the tears had started.   She sniffed and
blinked, trying not to make a fool of herself. "How do you love me?"
He was standing over her, blazing at her. Scully could feel her
control slipping and she was afraid to speak.

<Sorry, Mulder, that's all the ammunition you're going to get to hurt
me with.>

"Scully, if you love me like that, you need to tell me now, while I can
still fix this. But if you have any doubts, if you aren't sure that you
want to be with me... then I know what I want."

She felt like she was drowning. Floundering. Frightened, she pulled
inside herself, looking for a safe place in this storm.

"Right now, Scully. Yes or no. I love you like I've never loved
anyone in my life. Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?
Will you marry me?"

<Oh God, this must be what it's like to burn in Hell.>

She couldn't meet his eyes. He put his hand under her chin and jerked
her head up so he could see her face. He probably hadn't meant to be
so rough, but it frightened her. He frightened her.

<Fire. Fox Mulder is fire.>

He must have found his answer and it wasn't what he wanted.

Mulder took the day off.

The next seven days were the loneliest of her life. There was a wall
between them, one that Mulder chose to build and Scully chose to
maintain. Scully didn't get another awful come-on line, kiss on the
forehead, or hand on her back while he waited for Elizabeth. She
didn't get the hungry wolf looks or him in her personal space. No
calls late at night. No cute e-mails. No explanations. Scully had to
fall asleep alone in motel beds while she listened to Mulder watch TV
next door.

Hungry for affection, Scully turned to Ben & Jerry's finest. After a
week of binging every night, her suits were getting tight. Her luck -
when she gained weight, her tits didn't get bigger, but her waist did.

She'd had enough of feeling sorry for herself. This would have to
stop. She confronted him the next Monday morning. "You are my best
friend. I still want you to be. No matter what," she said. No sense
in mincing words.

Mulder nodded. He apparently felt the same way. "I'm sorry I upset
you, Scully. I never meant to make you uncomfortable. It won't happen
again."

"I'm sorry, Mulder." <You have no idea how sorry.>

"You don't need to be sorry. You don't love me like... that's probably
a smart move on your part. I don't want to lose you because I made a
fool of myself."

"Hell, Mulder, you couldn't lose me if you tried." Scully managed a
smile.

So, you're okay with this?" he asked. He looked relieved.

<What? You dumping me out of the blue for Scarlet fucking O'Hara?> "I
will be. It's all kind of sudden, Mulder."

"I want you to be okay, Scully, but this is going to happen." For a
man who was deliriously happy, Mulder's eye's looked trapped.   The
wall was still standing.
   **********

July

He took a second day off the Friday Elizabeth was due to arrive. Two
requests for vacation days in two weeks - Skinner had probably had a
stroke. The movers arrived Wednesday night with HER furniture and
Mulder had gone to meet them at them at Elizabeth's new townhouse. He
invited, so Scully went along to be supportive and nosey.

<Wow. Nice digs.>

Mulder wasn't dazzled, but he seemed especially nostalgic about the
couch.

<Yes, I know what couch that is, Mulder. You're not the only one with
that picture burned into their brain.>

His cell phone rang. He sat down on the couch/shrine and answered it.
"Mulder." Pause

"Hi, honey - where are you?" Pause

<He's talking the HER. Honey? Gag.> Scully had never heard him actually
speak to HER before. <By the pricking of my thumbs...>

"Get out of there as quickly as possible. I mean it, I can fix the
tickets. Those people are all inbred. Drive away as fast as you can."
He grinned as he teased her. Pause.

"Well, everyone has to grow up somewhere. You're not related to anyone
there, right?"

Another smile while he listened. <He really likes HER.> Scully had been
concentrating on him -not wanting- to be with her instead of his -
wanting- to be with Elizabeth. It put a new spin on things.

"It got here just fine. Even the ugly-ass couch." Pause.

"Yea, I know you do. That's why I love you."

<Yes, I did hear right.> He didn't even seem to realize what he'd said.
She was going to throw up. Scully felt her throat tighten. Two weeks
ago he'd said those same words to her and she had run and hidden inside
her walls. What had she done? Darkness closed in around her and she
tuned out Mulder's voice. When she came back, they were on a different
subject:

"Well, why did you feed her before you put her in the car?" Pause.

"You aren't going to be able to go anywhere until that dog stops
throwing up." Pause. Laugh.

"Yes, that would definitely be considered animal cruelty. You won't
see many cars with animals strapped to the hood in downtown DC."
Pause.

"Okay, I'll see you when you get here." He hung up.

Scully officially declared an end to any pursuit of a romantic
relationship with Fox Mulder. Hearing him confess his love to another
woman will do that. She was still his best friend. She should be
happy for him.

Scully would have to work on that.

<Oh God. What have I done?>
   **********

On Friday, Scully sat in the basement office alone, trying not to
think. Mulder's phone rang and she answered it. It was Frohike; he
must be desperate to call through the FBI switchboard. He was looking
for Mulder, who wasn't answering his cell phone.

"Try his apartment. I think he's home getting rid of some videos and
magazines that aren't his."

Apparently that was what Frohike was afraid of. He said he would drive
over to his apartment since the phone didn't answer there either, but
if she heard from Mulder to give him the message, "We have the van."
Scully hung up, laughing for the first time that day.

As she was about to leave for the evening, the phone rang again. She
picked it up. "Scully."

"Oh - Dr. Scully, I was looking for Mulder." It was a soft-spoken
woman with a liquid southern accent. She sounded flustered.

"Is this Elizabeth?" Scully asked. <Because there are a few things I'd
like to discuss with you.>

"Yes. I'm so sorry to bother you. I'm a little lost." <Good - bitch.
Turn around and go home,> she thought, but her heart wasn't in it. The
woman sounded pitiful.

"Have you tried Mulder's apartment?" Scully asked.

"He doesn't answer and neither does his cell phone. I don't think I'm
in the right section of town at all."

Scully asked her where she was. Elizabeth was right, she was at a pay
phone in the worst possible part of town. Scully wasn't surprised;
Mulder couldn't give directions or follow a map worth a damn. "Go get
in your car and lock the doors. Stay in the parking lot of the gas
station and I'll come get you. You can follow me back." Scully hung
up and hurried. Whether she liked HER or not, Mulder did and Scully
was his friend. As she got in her car, she saw his cell phone wedged
in the passenger seat.  

Elizabeth was sitting in a gold Lincoln attracting lots of attention
exactly where Scully had told her to wait. She looked terrified. Even
the big dog in the passenger seat looked scared. Scully hadn't gotten
the best look at HER in Texas. It was dark, her arm was in a sling,
and she had just shot a man. And Mulder had been attempting to suck
her face off. She recognized HER though. Scully parked the Taurus and
got out, bringing Mulder's phone and unsnapping her holster just in
case. Elizabeth also opened her door and stood. The German Shepherd
objected to being left behind.

"Dr. Scully?" she asked hopefully.

"Just Scully. Elizabeth?" The other woman nodded enthusiastically.
"Welcome to DC. You've already survived the worst parts. Are you
supposed to be going to Mulder's or to your place?" Scully tried to
keep her voice friendly, but her thoughts were not kind.

"Mulder's first," Elizabeth said. She almost seemed shy about it.

"Just follow me. And give this to Mulder." She handed over his phone -
a changing of the guard. Scully turned and headed back to her car
before it was stripped for parts. Elizabeth called out from behind
her:

"Scully?" She was trying the odd name out on her tongue - "Thank you.
You didn't have to do this."  

Scully could have made a diplomatic speech about the greater good or
random acts of kindness or the strength of friendships, but she didn't.
She turned and smiled politely at Elizabeth, then got in her car,
relabeling the woman every foul name she knew.

Scully thought about Elizabeth in the car behind her on the way over.
Her reaction was the same as it had been when she'd found the nude
photos of HER in Mulder's drawer - she couldn't blame him. Scully saw
Elizabeth as everything that she herself had wanted to be. Strawberry
blonde instead of auburn. Elegant and gracious instead of efficient
and guarded. Elizabeth absolutely glowed warmth and caring. The kind
of vulnerability she'd had before she met Mulder. Scully felt very
inferior.

Elizabeth followed her to Mulder's neighborhood. Scully stopped at the
beginning of the block and pointed to the right building for Elizabeth.
She wouldn't ruin this for Mulder by interfering.   She watched while
Elizabeth parked and got out. Mulder was sitting on the front steps,
his cordless phone beside him, looking worried. He stood up when he
saw Elizabeth. The dog rushed back and forth between them, excited.
Mulder caught Elizabeth in his arms and swung HER around and around.
Scully felt the tears running down her hot cheeks.

She waited until they were inside before she pulled back on to the
street. Her cell phone rang before she reached the end of his block.
It was Mulder. "I wanted to tell you thanks. My cell must have been
in your car and I didn't know the portable went dead. I owe you."

"I'll add it to the bill." She tried to sound casual.

"See you Monday."

"See you Monday." She hung up and headed back to the office.

<It's not like I have that much of a choice of destinations. Home,
office, or mom's house.>

Later:

Scully was sitting in Mulder's office, still trying not to think. The
room was dark except for the single dim light on his desk. She was
listening to her partner make love. As awful as her day had been, it
had actually just gotten worse.

Car rental agencies weren't usually very friendly toward them since
Mulder tended to trash their cars. It must have been a new employee
that found the cassette tape in the car from their last case and mailed
it back to them. Scully had expected it was one of Mulder's many Pink
Floyd or Rolling Stones tapes or maybe the Three Dog Night she'd been
missing. She suspected Mulder had made that permanently disappear, but
she was hopeful. When she opened the package, she saw that the
cassette had no writing on it. Out of curiosity, she dropped it in the
cassette player and pushed the play button. The recording started
immediately.

"Lucille? As in 'fine time to leave me Lucille?' There must be a story
behind that." It was Mulder's voice, sounding amused.

"Lucille as in B.B. King's guitar. My husband was a huge blues fan."
That was Elizabeth; Scully recognized the fluid accent - it sounded the
way the Mississippi river flowed. Now she had a clear mental picture
of the woman to go with the voice.

There was a long pause, then Elizabeth spoke again, "You could just ask
if you need to know."

"What if I just want to know?" Mulder sounded more intense. That was
his turned-on tone. Scully had heard it once or twice herself.

There was another long pause on the tape. The next voice was Mulder's
starting out calm and quickly becoming frighteningly angry. "How did
you know my division was called the X-Files? I never told you. Who the
hell are you? Who set this up? What do they want? Tell me, goddamn
it."

"My husband knew about you." That was Elizabeth, frightened. "My
husband wasn't a bad man, Agent Mulder. He did what he did to protect
the future for everyone who can't protect themselves, just like you do.
He said you are a good man."  

Mulder's voice was calm again: "I'm sorry. Your smoking man also
took... too much from me."

Elizabeth, whispering: "He said you were one of the good guys.
Sometimes it's hard to tell who those are, but Scott thought you were
one. So do I."

There was another long empty silence on the tape. The conversations
were spliced together; they didn't quite flow smoothly. They'd been
edited for content, but they sounded realistic enough for Scully. It
must be a tape of him at Elizabeth's house in Texas. Mulder liked his
porn - did he like audio as well? Scully told herself she should stop
listening immediately. She would, too - just as soon as someone put a
gun to her head and pried it from her cold dead fingers.

"What about Scully? Is she more than your partner?"

"Scully is my best friend, but it's not a, um, physical relationship."

"Do you want it to be?" <Why do you ask, tramp?>

"Sometimes. But I also don't want to screw up our partnership in
exchange for one night." Mulder continued: "Scully is my Polaris. My
pole star. The rest of the universe crashes through space while she
stays still. Calm. Distant and beautiful and bright. She is always
in the future for me, always living in a time that I have to catch up
with. She is so far from me that I can't see her flaws, only her pure
brilliance. And I can always trust her to guide me, wherever I am."  

<God, Mulder. You really have no idea how much I want you, do you?>

Elizabeth: "Must be lonely trying to hold distant brilliance in your
arms."

Mulder: "It is."

Elizabeth: "Do you want to make love to me?"

Mulder: "Yes."

Except Mulder's "Yes" repeated over and over like an echo for several
seconds. There was another silence and the next portion of the tape
was hard to hear, but Scully knew what it was: Buttons unbuttoning,
zippers unzipping, flesh finding flesh. After a few minutes, Mulder's
voice again:

"Elizabeth." Then again, "Elizabeth, are you sure? Are you sure you
want to do this?"

"Yes."

Scully waited for the sounds to progress to what she knew would be
next, but they didn't.

"What's wrong, Elizabeth?" No response. "Are you afraid of
something?"

"Everything, " Elizabeth's soft voice finally spoke.

"So am I. Does that make it better?" Scully could feel herself
melting into his chair at the sound of his voice. She could see him,
his tortured mind battling his naked body in the dark night, embracing
a woman that could have been her. Should have been her. That he had
wanted to be her.

The kissing, breathing sounds stopped. Elizabeth sounded like she
thought he was teasing her. "What do you have to be scared of?"

"You."

There was silence again. Scully said a prayer that she would hear him
say goodnight to Elizabeth and go to his own bed. Alone.

Mulder: "Which part of you is most scared?" Elizabeth must have
indicated somewhere, because there were sounds of light kisses.
Mulder: "Where else?" More kisses. "Anywhere else?"

These kisses were more damp - a nipple, maybe? Elizabeth's voice was
soft, as always, "I was pointing towards my heart, Mulder."

"I have horrible aim. Don't ever ask me to shoot anything. I'll get
there, though. Just give me a minute." He was talking with his mouth
full.

Scully's own breath caught in her throat when she heard Elizabeth's
gasps. Then the woman's heavy breathing stopped. "Did I do something
wrong, Mulder?"

"Aren't you going to ask me where I'm scared? I don't like the way you
play this game, Elizabeth. You cheat." He was teasing her, in more
ways than one.

Even during sex, he talked too much. Scully should have known.

Elizabeth laughed: "Go to hell, Mulder."

He laughed with her: "Well, that's better! That was almost, kind of,
maybe assertive. Careful, or someone will think you like this."

If they hired twelve-year-old girls to answer phone sex lines, they
would sound like she did next. "I like you, Mulder."

"That's a good start. Come here, Doctor, and we'll find out what else
you like."  
 
It wasn't the way Scully wanted Mulder to make love to her, but hearing
him with Elizabeth was still beautiful. She had wondered what kind of
lover he was. Generous, playful, passionate - with a total stranger
who was a less-than-perfect bedmate. Her salty tears started as she
listened to his breathing quicken.

Scully waited for the tape and the sounds of sex to end. Suffice it to
say, a good time was had by all. Mulder must have figured out what she
liked.  

She was berating herself for listening to Mulder's dirty home videos-
audios-whatever- when she heard something else on the tape. The
Smoking Man's voice:

"We thought you might like a souvenir. We have what we want from you
and you have all you ever wanted. Congratulations, Agent Mulder. Let
us do our work and you keep them both. Interfere, and lose them both."

The tape ended.

Scully listened to it again, trying to make sense of it. She was
rewinding it for a third try when the door opened and Skinner turned
the light on. He was understandably shocked to see her sitting at
Mulder's desk. Scully quickly ejected the tape and slipped it into her
purse.

"Scully? I was dropping off a file for Mulder. What are you doing
down here? Why were the lights off? Is something wrong?"

She looked at Skinner, wiping the tears streaming down her face,
embarrassed.

"Scully, what's wrong?" His voice reminded her of her father's.

<Tell me what's wrong Starbuck. I'll fix it.>

She couldn't speak. Skinner squatted down in front of her, staring
intently at her face. "What happened?" he tried again.

Scully regained control enough to speak, "Mulder's girlfriend moved
here. The one from the picture," she said, pointing to the now-framed
much-hated photo on Mulder's desk. Skinner nodded and handed her his
handkerchief. Scully dried her eyes and smeared mascara all over the
white fabric in the process. She must be a pretty picture.

"You having a pity party?" Skinner asked. He wasn't one to coddle.

Scully had to smile a small smile and nod. She'd always liked this
man. He'd taken more than one beating for her, exchanged his honor for
her life. More than liking him, she respected him. Respected his
opinions.

"Do you like me?" she asked. <Where did that come from?>

Skinner was actually caught off guard. "Why do you ask?" A good, all-
purpose dodge.

"I'm conducting a survey. Which do you prefer: leggy, psychotic
brunettes, Tennessee Williams-style blondes, or boring redheads? I warn
you, public opinion is strongly trending towards strawberry blondes
these days."

"I would never describe you as boring," Skinner said, still eye to eye
with her. He was a little closer to her than was professional. Not
intimate, but not distant either.

"Really?" Her face brightened. She needed someone to say that besides
her mother.

"Never. You're too good a shot." His dark eyes twinkled behind his
glasses. She stood up and they walked out into the dark hallway
together.

"You never answered the question," Scully said.

"What question?" Skinner played innocent.

Scully stopped, looked up at him and crossed her arms in front of her.
She couldn't believe she was flirting with Skinner.

"I'm your supervisor."

"What if you weren't?" She really wanted to know now. Skinner
grinned:

"In a heartbeat, Scully. Goodnight." He turned and walked away, not
looking back. She heard his voice echo to her from the elevator: "He's
a fool, Scully."

She needed to hear that.

Scully was okay. Not great, but she would make it. She'd made the
right decision. She got in her car and drove home; the image of Mulder
making love to Elizabeth stopped playing in her head for the first time
all day.
   **********

August

Scully had no complaints about Mulder as her partner. His behavior
might have even been considered professional. She had no idea he could
be so considerate or polite.

It was awful.

She missed those stupid sexist remarks, the leers when he thought she
wasn't looking, the touches, the calls in the middle of the night.
Mulder stayed so far inside the bounds of propriety it was laughable.
The partnership didn't suffer, but everything else between them did.
Scully could see the end in sight.

Mulder kept his life outside of work very private. He didn't talk
about Elizabeth or call her if Scully was there, which in a way, she
appreciated. Of course, forbidden fruit is the most tempting.  

Her information was sketchy. He brought his lunch from home more
often. He was less likely to drag Scully off on half-baked chases to
the boonies - he seemed to like sleeping in the DC area. He didn't
call Scully after work or appear at her door unless it really was
important. He wasn't sitting in the office at the crack of dawn
anymore. Eight o'clock became an acceptable time for him to show up at
work - some mornings he was even late. Those mornings, he looked very
guilty.  

She never actually saw Elizabeth. Although there was obviously a
female spending time at Mulder's apartment, she was never there when
Scully was. If she hadn't seen her arrive in DC, there was nothing
overt in Mulder's behavior that would have given any clue to her
presence.

The few times Elizabeth called for Mulder and Scully answered,
Elizabeth was much too nice. Scully would have felt better if she was
a raging bitch, like Diana or Phoebe, but that didn't seem to be the
case. That made it even worse.

For possibly the only time in his life, Mulder agreed to socialize with
other agents. A group of them invited Scully, Mulder, Skinner, and
everyone else from the office or their homes they could round up to a
local restaurant one night. Scully was shocked to see Elizabeth
sitting with several women already waiting when they got there. For
the first time in a month, she felt Mulder's hand on her back.

Hand or no hand, her first impulse was to turn around and walk out.
She didn't want to be in the same room with Mulder's tramp. But she
wouldn't run, either. Instead, she squared her shoulders, forced a
smile, held her head high, and sat down. Skinner positioned himself
beside Scully, whether because he wanted to be close to her or to
support her, she didn't know or care. It was good not to feel alone.

Mulder sat next to his girlfriend, his face blank except for his eyes.
As long as she could see his eyes, she could read his soul. His soul
was very, very sorry. Those dark eyes pleaded "make nice, Scully. I'm
so sorry. Please make nice." The position of his shoulders, the tilt
of his head told Scully how tense he was - he hadn't planned for this
to hurt her. Mulder looked like a soldier about to go off to fight a
battle he knew he was going to lose. Her heart went out to him. If
Elizabeth had any idea the silent conversation that was being carried
on, she gave no sign. Her interaction with Mulder was easy, as though
they had spent a lifetime together. No overt need to touch him for
reassurance, no sign of possessiveness. Just the calm, comfortable
affection of a lovely woman with nothing to prove. Or nothing to lose.

If Mulder ever married, this was the type of woman he needed to be
with. Attentive, gracious, reserved, elegant- not unlike his early
memories of his mother, actually. This woman was his kind - not a navy
brat tomboy who was always the outsider. Not a woman trying to prove
something in a man's world and seldom succeeding. This was who was
right for him, as much as that made her cringe.

Scully learned three things about Elizabeth that evening. First, she
was elegantly, delicately pretty, not ravishingly gorgeous. Scully had
only actually seen her the two times, both of which she was not at her
best. Tonight, Elizabeth was wearing a long, soft, empire-waist dress
and her hair and makeup were perfect. Everything about Mulder's
girlfriend screamed femininity. It made Scully feel dowdy sitting
beside her in her new Jones New York navy blue suit.

Secondly and thirdly, Elizabeth was lonely and uncomfortable in social
situations. She was very quiet in the middle of the rowdy agents, but
she listened intently to every word Scully said. Scully wondered if
the other woman might be sizing her up as the competition, but she
didn't think so. Elizabeth shyly made girl talk with her. Her suit
was beautiful - was that the new collection? Elizabeth wanted her hair
cut more like Scully's- could she tell her who did good hair in DC?
Her compliments and questions rang true; Elizabeth just wanted to talk
to another intelligent, professional woman. Scully understood. She
got tired of the sound of all those brass balls clanking in the FBI.

It was hard for Scully to even be polite, at first. She'd conjured up
a version of Elizabeth that was a cross between Blanche from "Street
Car Named Desire" and Tammy from "Tammy and the Bachelor". It was
easier to hate a vague notion than a flesh-and-blood woman. Mulder's
eyes didn't ask her to ever forgive him, but they begged her to be kind
to Elizabeth, and so she was.

After Scully got a few drinks in her and Elizabeth, who apparently
didn't drink, got more comfortable, the giggling begin. She couldn't
believe she was gossiping with Mulder's girlfriend. That thought made
her giggle even harder, although she was laughing more at Elizabeth
than with her. Scully glanced up and realized several of the agents
were staring at them in wonder - Mulder had heard her be goofy a few
times, but Skinner looked, frankly, stunned. Yes, Ms. J. Edger Hoover,
G. I. FBI, was actually a woman - who knew? Elizabeth saw Skinner's
looks at Scully and whispered into her ear, "He likes you."

Scully's first thought was <So does your boyfriend,> but she would
never have said that. Instead, she wrinkled up her nose and whispered
back, louder than she intended, "No way. He's too tall and I'm too
short - armpit issues. Been there; not with him, though."
<No, I didn't really say that.>

Elizabeth turned crimson and stared at her lap. Scully was flustered.
She was ashamed of herself for being so indelicate, tipsy or not.
Elizabeth seemed to know exactly what she had meant, though. Scully
had, in no way, meant it as a veiled hint about Mulder. At least, she
didn't think she had. At about the same height Elizabeth was, every
man over five-foot eight could present "armpit issues" in the
missionary position. Scully wasn't sure how to explain that to
Elizabeth, who was refusing to meet her eyes. She had her mouth open
to continue making a fool of herself when Mulder saved her.

"You ready to go, honey?" His words were slurred.

Elizabeth nodded, still not looking at Scully, and they left, Mulder
leaning on Elizabeth with his arm around her shoulders. From across
the restaurant, Scully saw him whispering things in his girlfriend's
ear that made her blush again.

After an evening of watching Elizabeth glow and Mulder (and half the
men at the table) watch HER with visceral protectiveness, she breathed
easier when they left. The booze flowed and the fibbies were
approaching the stupid level. Scully considered matching her coworkers
drink for drink, and decided against it. She did stay, though. No
sense in wasting a good buzz on an empty apartment and her vibrator.
Or by listening to that tape of Mulder and his girlfriend again - for
analytical purposes only. It was late when she finally gathered up her
things to leave.

<Damn, Mulder left his files.> He'd specifically told her he wanted to
work on them over the weekend. <Drop them off,> her tipsy brain told
her. His apartment was within walking distance and the night was
beautiful. Skinner offered to walk with her, again, out of
protectiveness or affection she didn't know.

He waited downstairs while she went up. She knocked on apartment 42
and waited. She could hear Etta James inside on the stereo singing
softly that love had been rough on her.

<No way I'm using my key. Either he answers the door or he can get the
files Monday.>

It was Elizabeth that answered the door in a jogging bra and stretch
pants. Without her make-up, she looked maybe eighteen. She must have
been getting ready to go running. Elizabeth still had a lot to learn
about DC and if she went out in that, men were going to drive into
telephone poles. <She must work out like crazy to keep that body,>
Scully thought. Her eyes raked over Elizabeth with envy.

"Hi, Scully. Please come in - Mulder's in la la land." Elizabeth
whispered, smiling. Whatever she thought of Scully's comment earlier
in the evening, she was gracious now. Mulder was asleep under a
blanket on the couch behind her. "Come on in. Should I wake him up?"

Scully stood and stared. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together as
she looked at Elizabeth's slightly swollen belly. Mulder's sudden
commitment to Elizabeth and making their relationship work.
Elizabeth's willingness to move across the country to be with him. Her
loose dress at the bar tonight. Not drinking. The glow. The Smoking
Man on the tape saying Mulder had everything he wanted and could keep -
both- of them. Scully could add fertility to the list of things that
made her feel inferior to Elizabeth.

As far as Scully knew, the last time Mulder saw Elizabeth before she
moved to DC was in Texas in March. Scully was a good Catholic girl;
she quickly calculated the math: Elizabeth would be barely five months
pregnant. A little less than four months pregnant when Mulder
announced she was moving to DC. <She waited to tell him - either until
it was fairly late for an abortion or she was less likely to miscarry.
Or maybe until Mulder figured it out.> Scully didn't realize she was
still standing in the open doorway staring at Elizabeth's abdomen.

"Scully, please come in." Elizabeth almost pleaded. Scully didn't
move. She felt her face getting hot. She wondered what the jail time
was for beating a pregnant woman senseless.

"Scully, what's wrong?" Elizabeth's voice was louder and Mulder
stirred. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable earlier. I don't know
what to say sometimes and..." Elizabeth realized she was on the wrong
track and stopped.

<How dare you stand there pregnant and apologize to me for being
embarrassed when I hinted that I had been fucking Mulder? What kind of
goddamned saint are you?>

Scully still didn't move. Her anger was palatable. Elizabeth flinched
back. "Mulder - it's Scully." Elizabeth was shaking his shoulder.

"What is it 'Lizabeth?" his voice was sleepy and slurred. He'd been
shitfaced at the restaurant - Scully had been surprised to see him get
so drunk.  

"Something's wrong with Scully."

Mulder was awake and on his feet in his boxers, his hand reaching to
his hip where his gun usually was. His eyes were still unfocused, but
he was in motion. Mulder blinked and shook his head to clear it. He
pulled on a pair of old jeans that Elizabeth handed him and walked
toward the door barefooted. Elizabeth was holding out a shirt to him
and he ignored her.

<He is so beautiful,> Scully thought. She didn't notice it often, but
his bare chest, tousled hair and sleepy eyes made her mouth water.
Mulder could have been on a billboard selling those jeans, he looked so
good in them. When he got closer, he smelled like Scotch, sweat, and
musk-like sex. She could see the scar high on his chest where she had
shot him and she wondered what it must be like to taste that spot. She
would never know.

"I brought your files," Scully explained. That was pretty obvious -
she was holding them. She went back to staring in Elizabeth's
direction.

Mulder looked back to see what she was looking at. He seemed annoyed
with his girlfriend. "'Lizabeth, you can't go running alone at night."
His voice was thick and he spoke louder than he had to. Scully would
have kicked his ass if he'd used that tone with her. Elizabeth just
nodded and went in the bedroom. Once she was out of the room, he
leaned against the doorframe, defeated. "I didn't know how to tell
you." He looked like he was still seeing double.

Scully stood silent while her numbed mind raced. Mulder was old enough
and had the right background for illegitimacy to be a big deal. She'd
always suspected he'd wanted children - to make amends to his sister by
being a good father. And he really liked Elizabeth; she was surprised
to see him treat her so gruffly. She was also shocked to see Elizabeth
respond so meekly.   Maybe she just didn't want to fight with a drunk
Mulder. He could be a mean drunk; maybe Elizabeth had already learned
that by experience in the last month. That realization made Scully's
stomach churn.

Skinner was standing at the end of the hall waiting for her. She'd
been gone too long and he'd gotten worried. From his viewpoint, she
had been standing outside of Mulder's doorway staring at nothing for
the last few minutes.

Mulder stepped out toward her. "I'm not going to hurt her. She's
trying; and I don't really have a choice. That's all I ever asked her
for. We'll talk about this later, Scully." He was too drunk to make
sense.

He saw Skinner and recoiled. <What's wrong Mulder - don't like getting
a taste of your own medicine?>

Mulder looked at Skinner. "You take her home, sir. I can't fix this."
He took the files from her, stepped back and closed the door.

Skinner ended up driving her home. She was shaking. He was parked in
front of her building before she realized that Skinner hadn't asked why
she was upset. She hesitated before she told him, but it wasn't like
it would be a secret much longer:

"Elizabeth is pregnant."

"You didn't see that when she left the restaurant?"

"No. Did everyone else?" Scully was shocked. Was she the only one
that didn't know?

"That woman tends to get stared at, just like you do. Yes, probably
some people noticed." He'd said just the right thing.

"I could really like you if I wasn't so screwed up." Scully said,
getting out of his car.
   
   **********

September

Skinner gave her the vacation time she requested. For the first week,
she couldn't bring herself to answer the phone or the door or get out
of bed except to go to the bathroom.   All the darkness Scully had run
from for so long descended on her, draining her. She laid back,
surrendering to it. Letting anger and sadness wrap her like a shroud.

She had never been a quitter. As the second week of voluntary solitary
confinement began, Scully showered. She shaved her legs and ordered
pizza. She made her bed and put on something besides pajamas. She
stopped staring at the sky and asking "why?"

In accordance with their agreement, Scully called Skinner every day to
check in. That was the deal - Skinner would tell Mulder she was taking
some time off if she called in every day. He only asked enough
questions to make sure she was functional and gave no news about
Mulder. Scully could see her partner, pacing in their lonely office.
She picked up the phone to call and slammed it down without dialing.
She found her car keys and sat frozen in her car. Finally, she gave
up, hid out in her apartment, and wondered what to do when she ran out
of vacation time. The request for a transfer sat ready on her desk,
with Skinner's verbal approval. She could be gone without ever having
to see Mulder again. Did she really want that?

She just ignored the knocking. Whoever it was, they'd go away. When
she heard a key in the lock, she knew it was Mulder. He stood before
her like a dark angel, examining the toes of his boots as though the
answers were written there.

"Do you want me to tell her to leave?" His voice was hoarse.

Scully was speechless, her tea cup half-way to her mouth. <I'm sorry,
didn't you just dump me a month ago?>

"I will. If you'll just come back to work, I'll tell 'Lizabeth to
leave. She'll go - she's only here because I forced her. Because THEY
forced her, I think. She doesn't want my baby anyway and I'll tell her
to get rid of it and leave. Please, Scully." He closed his eyes and
exhaled. "I thought it would be enough, but it's not. Not if you're
not my friend. Please come back."

Oh, God. She couldn't ask him to do that. Besides being a mortal sin,
he would be losing the only child he was every likely to have. A river
of thoughts raged through her brain, and she said the first words she
thought:

"No."

For once, Scully understood what her sister had said about auras. She
could see the pain rolling off her partner. She inhaled a breath,
trying to glean some of the strength he'd exhaled.

"No, don't send her away." He met her eyes for the first time in two
weeks. "Go home, Mulder. I'll be at work on Monday. I just need some
time."

He turned, but stopped, facing the closed front door. "The offer
always stands, Scully. If it's a choice between you and anyone else on
this Earth, I choose you. Always."

"You can't live like that, Mulder," she yelled after him.

"I can try." He closed the door behind him, leaving her sitting on the
couch, still holding her cup in mid-air.  
.
   **********

She hated herself for being so insecure, but Scully was better after
that. If he'd hired a hooker and a housekeeper, Scully would have felt
about as threatened. She didn't like it, but nothing would ever come
between them - certainly not another woman. He still kept his hands to
himself and toned down the sexual remarks with Scully, but it probably
wouldn't have mattered. They were each other's one in five billion.

Once Scully understood what the play was about, she could perform her
part a little better. She was Mulder's friend, partner, and
confidante. The bond between them was strong, but it wasn't all-
encompassing.   Mulder wanted something she was afraid to give, so he
found it with another woman. That didn't diminish the other
connections between them. Over the next month, she made her peace.

Because of that, she allowed herself to like Mulder's quiet Elizabeth.
The young woman was smart, dryly funny, and embarrassingly nice to
Scully. It was hard to hate anyone who sent you baked goods while you
lusted after her boyfriend.

After that awful afternoon in Scully's apartment, she didn't see or
hear Mulder treat Elizabeth badly again. He was discrete about his
girlfriend, but he didn't try to hide his affection for her. In fact,
he seldom said a word against her in front of Scully. When they
talked, it was Mulder who thought he was at fault, who was critical of
his own relationship skills. As hard as he tried, he couldn't maintain
domestic bliss.

Some fights were minor.

They were on a case in Newark. Mulder said Elizabeth had asked him to
pick her up a photography book from the MOMA; she'd seen it when she
was in New York. He'd just laughed at her joke, told her sure, and
moved on. Mulder came home to a very disappointed girlfriend. He
finally got out a map to show her, explaining that the Museum of Modern
Art was in Manhattan, which was in New York where her conference had
been. Their case was in Newark, which was in New Jersey. He spelled
them for her. Newark. New York. Elizabeth's knowledge of and
interest in vital geography ended at the Virginia border. She wanted
to know what Yankee fool thought those names up. Mulder called the
MOMA and had the book charged to his credit card and sent. Fight over.
Scully had to pull the car over to the side of the road when he told
her, she laughed so hard.

Elizabeth was having difficulty adjusting to driving in DC -
specifically that everyone was expected to use blinkers, obey the speed
limit, and stop at red lights and stop signs whether any cars were
coming or not. Mulder said she had a fit the first time she got pulled
over with him in the car and he did the oops-my-badge-fell-open-why-
yes-I-do-work-for-the-FBI trick and got out of the ticket. Elizabeth
said that was fascist. After that, he drove whenever they rode
together. Mulder told Scully he offered to fix any ticket Elizabeth
got, but she never got any. Not that she didn't get stopped - she just
never left with a ticket. In fact, twice, she got stopped and drove
away with referrals for new clients. Again, Scully found that far more
funny than Mulder did.

Some fights were major.

Mulder wanted to be married; Elizabeth was not comfortable with that
level of commitment yet. Mulder could give a damn about his
professional reputation; Elizabeth took hers seriously. Elizabeth
socialized with the right people; Mulder hung out with The Lone Gunmen.
Elizabeth missed the slow pace of back home; Mulder went into shock if
separated from his palm-top organizer and cell phone. Elizabeth had
made her peace with THEM, Mulder still wanted to expose their
conspiracies, although the threats on the tape seemed to be keeping him
in check for now. And one that was a dominant theme: Mulder
desperately wanted this baby; Elizabeth was still getting used to the
idea.  

At least that was Mulder's version of things. He was unfailingly
positive about Elizabeth, even when it rang hollow. His only complaint
about her was that she was so quiet. Mulder had liked Scully's
reasoning on that. "She was probably taught not to interrupt men - her
father, her husband, her boyfriend, whoever. She'd love to speak up if
you'd ever shut up long enough to give her a chance."  

Privately, Scully thought he was doomed. From what he told her of
Elizabeth, the love of her life was dead and Mulder was just a good
substitute. Although she took excellent care of Mulder, Elizabeth
filled the void in her heart with her work, just as Scully herself did.
His quiet little girlfriend could stand toe-to-toe with the devil
professionally and Scully admired that. She also understood what it
was like to not want to open yourself to hurt again. She knew from
experience that if Elizabeth wanted Mulder for very long, she was
going to have let him know her secret fears. So far, she would not,
which made Elizabeth was just a lovely shell.  


The hardest part for Scully was watching Mulder dote on Elizabeth. As
much as he liked Elizabeth, he liked the idea of her more. He was a
man in love with the idea of love, and it showed. It hurt Scully to
see what she had denied herself, but she stood by her decision. Mulder
might be an adoring, generous boyfriend, but he was a child playing at
love. Damn, he played the game well, though.  

<She doesn't get any stupid football videos or dinky key chains.>

After the "New York/ Newark Incident" right after she moved to DC,
Mulder started to buy Elizabeth things when they were away on cases,
which was often. A way to show her he was thinking of her while he
chased monsters and serial killers. The ruby ring must have been
expensive. A collection of classic blues on CD. A velvet patchwork
quilt. Very nice.

After another episode with Elizabeth he referred to as "The Sherpa
Incident," Mulder consulted Scully before he bought any more textile
gifts for his girlfriend. <Yes, Mulder, if the jacket has wool still
attached to the skin, the sheep probably does mind.>    

It was because of this that Scully was standing in a Seattle boutique
wearing a cashmere cardigan she would never, ever buy. The kind that
was snug-fitting with three-quarter sleeves - way too much for
something that would be out of style in a year.   It was beautiful,
though - rich chestnut with darker embroidery on the edges. The color
only redheads wear well. But two hundred and fifty dollars, Mulder?

She could see him mentally weighing the possibilities. Elizabeth could
wear it unbuttoned now while she was pregnant and buttoned later. He
circled her, staring at the sweater.

"So, what is cashmere anyway?" he asked.

"Goat, I think." This morning had started at dawn for them and she
ached for a hot bath.

"Does the goat mind?"

"No, Mulder, I'm sure the goat lives for it." <Come on, Mulder.>

Elizabeth had felt quite strongly about wearing dead animals.
Interesting that she didn't seem to dislike her late husband for
killing innocent people, but she wouldn't eat or wear anything that
caused death to animals. Everyone had their own set of priorities.

"Do you like it?" He was making his final decision.

"I love it."

Mulder made one more lap around Scully, staring pointedly at her chest.
He gave the sales girl his credit card and asked for the sweater in the
next size larger.

<Fuck you, Mulder.> Scully bought herself the sweater in an extra-
small. Screw saving for retirement.

She drew the line at Victoria's Secret in Chicago on their next case.
She stood outside smirking while Mulder went in and started pointing.
Female clerks all but peed on themselves. He came to the doorway
holding a pair of dark gold silk pajamas up for her. Scully actually
already owned a pair of them. He was setting off the store alarm
waving the bottoms at her.

"Come on, Scully. Look - a drawstring waist. They'd be perfect.
Please - I need a size."

"No way, Mulder. I'm not your personal fashion doll. I think they
boil the worms to get the silk, though." Mulder's face fell. <Ha!
Ha!>

He bought Elizabeth a freshwater pearl bracelet on that trip instead.
Scully didn't tell him how pearls were farmed and harvested. Mulder
really tried.
   **********

October

Little by little the veneer quickly started to chip away. It wasn't
working. Elizabeth and Mulder were too different and their
relationship was too forced. There were too many secrets. Maybe if
they'd had more time to learn about each other or the threat of THEM
hadn't been lurking in the background... Mulder would never admit it,
but Scully knew. He might still be infatuated with Elizabeth, but he
wasn't going to will himself into loving her.

He started accidentally telling Scully "Bye, honey - I love you" when
he ended phone conversations, the same way he said it to Elizabeth. He
didn't even seem to notice. Scully noticed, though. The first time he
did it, she had thought he realized what he had said and a warm glow of
rightness had settled over her, followed by pangs of guilt. Then she
saw Mulder say the same thing to Elizabeth on Monday morning when she
picked him up, rubbing her belly and smiling.

<He's probably so committed to believing he loves her, he can say it in
his sleep.> Scully didn't take it personally after that. He probably
said it to female telemarketers.

He overslept one morning and Scully had to go into his hotel room to
wake him when yelling and pounding didn't work. He must have been
drinking the night before - their car was moved and there was another
empty Scotch bottle on the night stand. There had been several in the
last few weeks, but she hadn't seen him really drunk since the night at
the restaurant. She sat down on the bed and put her hand on his back
to wake him, trying to be as gentle as possible in case he was hung
over. Mulder rolled on his side at her touch. "Morning, honey" He
pulled her down on the bed beside him and moved towards her. Scully
didn't know whether she wanted him to stop or not. His brain cleared
and he jumped back. "God, Scully, I'm sorry. I thought I was at
home." He never said anything about it again.

It was hard not to take that personally.

Mulder and Elizabeth picked up Scully at home for a mid-morning flight.
For only October, Mulder's Explorer was frigid. Mulder was apologizing
when Scully got in and he continued to apologize all the way from
Georgetown to the airport. He was sorry, he made a stupid mistake, he
wasn't thinking, it would never happen again, he'd make it up to her...
blah, blah, blah. On the passenger side, Elizabeth stared straight
ahead and said nothing. Whatever had happened, Mulder was in deep shit
with his girlfriend.

Elizabeth must have thought Scully was out of earshot when she spoke as
he helped her get into the driver's seat at the drop-off area. "It
wasn't just this morning in bed - you do it all the time and don't even
realize it."

Scully asked him as they were boarding the plane, "What in the world
did you do, Mulder? That woman is furious." She'd thought Elizabeth
almost didn't have a temper.  

Mulder's ears turned pink at her question. "I got my names mixed up."

Scully bet the name he said wasn't "Phoebe."

Now that was personal.  
   **********

"Do you want to have dinner, Scully?" Mulder had been roaming around
the office, looking busy but accomplishing nothing. Elizabeth was
pregnant enough now that driving was awkward, so Mulder was killing
time until he went to pick her up after her class was over. Scully had
also seen him parking Elizabeth's LS this morning in the garage. It
must be easier for her to get in and out of than his SUV.

"I don't know Mulder..." Scully didn't want to make waves.

"We used to have dinner all the time. I don't pick 'Lizabeth up until
seven - come on, I won't bite." He sounded like a little boy pleading
to stay up past his bedtime.

<Please Mom, can I? Can I?>

At the little bistro, Mulder also ordered a dinner salad and bread as a
go-order to be ready when they left. Scully questioned why he didn't
get something more substantial for Elizabeth. "Would she like some
fettuccini, or maybe a piece of pie? They have pecan; she needs the
calories, you know."

"She won't eat it. She thinks she's too fat now." Mulder was resigned.
It sounded like he'd already fought and lost this battle.

As a jealous woman, Scully thought Elizabeth looked perfect. At almost
eight months pregnant, she was all breasts and belly. She'd been
wearing those cute maternity blue jean overalls that cost too much.
Her hair was longer, like Scully's had been when she met Mulder. Her
skin glowed, and damn it, her ass was still great. As a doctor,
though, Scully would have said Elizabeth was a little too thin.

She watched Mulder order a second drink, straight up. Scully could see
him following in his father's footsteps so easily. She could only hope
things got better once the baby came.

"So, what do you think of her?" Mulder asked, his tongue loosened a
bit.

"She's wonderful, Mulder." <Except that she doesn't love you and I
do.>   Scully's three sips of wine were interfering with her careful
self-control. Or maybe that was her heart butting in. She'd made her
decision and she would live with it. Forever.

"Yea, I know that. I didn't ask what she's like, I asked what you
thought of her."

<No secrets, remember?> she thought. "I like her as much as I would
like any woman who is prettier than me, younger, has bigger breasts, a
better ass, more money, a better professional reputation, is pregnant,
and sleeping with you." <Yep, that about covers it.>

Mulder grinned. "She's not prettier than you, Scully."

He was well on the road to sloshed. She leaned back from the table to
put some distance between them. Mulder took her hint, but he continued
to speak. "You're right, she's wonderful. She's smart and sexy. And
quiet. Damn quiet. It's eery sometimes. And nice - she sets new
standards in nice. Did I tell you she got kicked yesterday? One of
her kids - a teenage boy hearing voices."

<That's what that fight was about.>

Scully had only heard Mulder's side yelled into his cell phone.
Elizabeth had sworn she wasn't going to see clients in DC, just teach.
That resolution lasted about a week before she started doing "favors"
for people. After several months, Elizabeth had a substantial number
of kids, families, and schools she was working with. All of them had -
really- bad problems. Apparently Mulder's girlfriend was regarded as a
guru. At first, Mulder seemed to like it. He often dropped in on her
classes and sat in the back while she lectured. He said that was the
most he ever heard her talk. It was cute, in a sickening, cloying
sort of way.

Then it had started to get annoying. Elizabeth's home phone was highly
unlisted, but Mulder's wasn't. Once they'd been seen publically
together, there had been messages on his home answering machine with
people looking for "Dr. Elizabeth." They got his cell phone number
that he was so fond of giving out from somewhere and called at all
hours. Mulder felt like his privacy was being invaded. Scully had
heard him yell into his cell phone one night in the autopsy bay while
they were on a case:

"No she cannot come to the phone! It's midnight! She's asleep!"
Pause. "Well, then call 911. I am not calling and getting her up."
Pause. "Fine." Mulder pushed the End button on his phone harder than
necessary. Then he pushed #1 on his speed dial. Scully noticed
because it meant her own number had been demoted to at least #2.

"Sorry, honey. The Millers want you to call them. Their kid is on the
roof again." Pause. "Okay. I miss you too. I'll be home in a few
days."

She had to admire Mulder - he was tolerant. Then yesterday, he was on
the phone yelling again. This time, he was seething. "Oh yes, you
will stop. What if he would have kicked you in the stomach instead of
the face? What then? Who do you care more about 'Lizabeth? Your
clients or your baby and me."

<Thank God I can't hear her answer,> Scully thought, trying not to
hear, period. Whatever the argument was about, it had ended quickly.
Mulder sat and pouted for an hour at his desk. Scully acted like
nothing had happened.

Scully's thoughts drifted back to present time and the man across the
table from her, now on his third double drink. He wasn't going to be
able to drive and they'd taken Elizabeth's car. Christ, she was going
to have to clean up his screw-ups again. Some nights she didn't envy
Elizabeth. Most nights she did.

"You can't speed date, Mulder. It takes time."

"She's you, from the Deep South, with no Duane Barry, and a big belly.
I can close my eyes and see it."

<He's drunk. It's not personal.> She took his old-fashioned glass away
from him. "She's good for you. She's been through a lot, so have you.
Give her some time and space. And stop drinking yourself into
oblivion."

Mulder's voice was slurred and his eyes were already a little unfocused
when he answered. "I just need to be a little numb, Scully. It's all
wonderful - 'Lizabeth, the baby, you being only my best friend for
forever and ever. I just need a little distance from it so I can enjoy
it."  

Scully knew exactly what he meant. He is expression was blank when he
spoke:

"I got almost exactly what I've always wanted, Scully, and I'm gonna
have to live with that for the rest of my life."

**********

Scully grudgingly drove Mulder over to the university to pick up
Elizabeth. She hoped she didn't do too much damage before she got back
into the swing of a stick-shift. Mulder was slumped in the passenger
seat, wrinkling his expensive suit, noticing nothing.

"Scully?"

"What, Mulder?" <Gas up, clutch in, shift, clutch up, gas.>

"I'm sorry, Scully."

"It's okay, Mulder. I'm not mad. You just had a little too much to
drink. We'll go get Elizabeth and everything will be fine."

"That's not what I meant."

Scully didn't say anything. She was NOT going to have this
conversation with Mulder. Whatever he was sorry for, it wasn't within
the realm of friendship or partnership. She stared at the road.

"I'm sorry I let anything come between us. If I had it to do over
again, I would make different choices. I would choose you, whether you
want me or not."

"Mulder? Mulder, listen to me! You chose me every time you saved my
life over the last eight years. You chose me every time you trusted me
in your search for the truth. You chose me every time you held me when
I cried and every time I held you."

Mulder was looking at her with those tortured eyes.

"Nothing will ever come between us, Mulder. You are a part of me and I
am a part of you now. Nothing will ever change that."

His face softened. Maybe he understood what she felt. His hand
reached over and covered hers on top of the gearshift. No, he didn't
understand at all. He never had.

"We would have devoured each other, Mulder, and there wouldn't have
been anything left. It's better this way. You don't need to be sorry
about loving Elizabeth."

His hand left hers and returned to his lap, and he turned to look out
the window.

The boxy ambulance was sitting in front of the building, lights
flashing, when they got there. Mulder dogged her heels into the
building out of habit. Scully found a fairly intelligent-looking young
man and asked what happened.

"Some pregnant professor collapsed. Guess they won't have homework
over the weekend."

Mulder was already sprinting past her. When she reached the lecture
hall, he was having a heated discussion with a paramedic who was
standing in his way.

"I'm sorry, sir, but if you are not her husband, I can't release any
information," the medic was saying, eyes wide with fear.

<He's drunk and armed,> Scully remembered. She flashed her FBI badge
and asked:

"Can I examine her? I'm a doctor."

The medic agreed and Scully bent over the body on the stretcher.
Elizabeth appeared fine, just groggy. There was a nasty bruise on her
cheek from the kick Mulder had told her about. Probably passed out
from exhaustion or dehydration. She was coming to, her lips forming a
man's name. It wasn't Mulder's.

Scully patted her hand, telling her to be quiet and rest. Mulder was
hurting enough for one day.

Mulder was pacing like a panther behind a line of campus security
officers. "She'll be fine, Mulder. Let them take her to the hospital
and check her out," Scully called to him. <Like you have any say in
it, Mulder.>

After she left Mulder at the hospital, a great deal more sober, Scully
took a cab back to the restaurant and then drove her own car home. She
was still asleep when Mulder pounded on her door Friday morning at
dawn. Scully answered the door wearing only her short t-shirt and
panties. Her conscious mind was embarrassed when she realized she was
half-naked, but her subconscious wasn't bothered enough to find a robe.
That probably made her a bad person. Mulder tried hard not to look.
He was holding medical charts.

"How is she?" Scully asked.

"Dehydrated. Exhausted. Needs more calories, protein. Doctor wants
her to rest," he answered.

"Does the hospital know you have those?" she said pointing to the
charts in his left hand.

"Well, they don't know that -I- have them. They are aware that someone
has them." Mulder was too tired to smile at his own joke.

"You want me to look at something?" Scully guessed. He wasn't the only
one not completely awake.

"Just make sure nothing is wrong. Nothing they missed." Scully
nodded. Mulder handed the charts over.

"It's a boy, Scully. We're going to have a boy." Mulder turned and
walked away.

Scully closed the door, wondering exactly who he included in his "we."
   **********

November

After several days of leave to take care of Elizabeth, Mulder appeared
back at work the next Wednesday wearing a wedding band. He saw Scully
looking at it and shrugged. "I wanted to have a say," he said casually.
He didn't meet her eyes.

<And you sound just delighted, Mulder.> His coldness made her flinch.
She wondered how he'd gotten Elizabeth to go through with it.
Regardless, it was final - Mulder was married. Like he said, they were
only best friends for forever and ever.  

Scully nodded. She didn't bother with congratulations; he didn't want
them.

"I've been through Elizabeth's charts pretty thoroughly in the last few
days. There's nothing that leads me to suspect anything out of the
ordinary. She looks like a healthy, pregnant young woman. You need to
get some more peanut butter or milk fats into her, and get her to slow
down, but she's fine. Medically, I would suggest World's Best Vanilla
and Julia Roberts movies, but it's a personal choice." Her smile was
not returned. "There are a few things you might want to see though."

"Has someone gotten to her?" Trust Mulder to be paranoid.

"No, nothing like that. But since you stole the charts, you might as
well know what's in them."

Mulder pulled a chair beside her, interested. "This is her paperwork
from her OB/GYN in San Antonio the month before you met her. The forms
you fill out in the waiting room. I've seen this before. Don't ask
why, it sounds stupid now." Mulder looked highly interested. He must
not know much about Elizabeth's past. He looked like a little boy who
had just found the cookie jar unguarded. "It's clean - no problems or
STDs. No birth control either, but you know that now. I thought this
might interest you..."

Scully pointed to a line on the form. Filled out in Elizabeth's neat
handwriting, after the question 'number of previous sexual partners'
was the number one. "...she's never been with anyone else besides you
and her husband, Mulder."

He looked perplexed, but not surprised. Scully continued, "There's
more. This is a discharge summary on her from a psychiatric hospital
after her husband died. Whoever wrote it was very kind, but she was a
mess. They tried to give her a bunch of meds that she wouldn't take,
so they talked her into staying for almost a month. She was released
into the care of one of her professors - she about to finish the
doctoral program at the time and they probably didn't commit her out of
professional courtesy. She certainly met the criteria of being a
danger to herself."

"Scully, it wasn't that long ago that I was running around a mental
hospital with my ass hanging out, screaming at the walls. I don't
understand what you're getting at."

"She adored him, Mulder. It's too soon. In the past few years, she
watched her husband die of brain cancer, becoming abusive in the
process. He beat her so badly she miscarried - I read her ER records.
She had to live with knowing what he did and why he died. Then her
father died mysteriously and she moved away to forget. Then her dead
husband's best friend started kidnapping and killing her clients. So
you save the day, although she shoots him, and now she's pregnant.
She moves again, changes jobs, and now she's married again. It's too
much, too fast," she finished.

Mulder was absorbing.              

"She's a normal person, Mulder. She doesn't live like we do. She
needs time to adjust - don't give up on the two of you yet." Scully
didn't know why she was giving this lecture to a man wearing a shiny
new wedding band.

<Guilt. That would explain it.> She waited for him to tell her to mind
her own business.

He did not. Mulder's humor might be failing him today, but his
brilliant mind and soft heart were not.

"I'm going to gather up some files and paperwork from Personnel and
head back home. 'Lizabeth is supposed to be on bed rest, so she's
going to stay at my apartment for right now. I've already talked to
Skinner. Would you be okay with working from my place?"

<Boy you ask a lot, Mulder.>

"That would be fine, Mulder." Scully answered.
   **********

Scully's phone rang early in the morning two weeks later. It was
Mulder, telling her not to come over - Elizabeth was having the baby a
little early. He sounded excited and promised to call as soon as he
had news. Scully took the day off. She was a doctor; she knew when
she wasn't well enough to work.

<I'm sure I can find something physically wrong with me if I just check
hard enough.>

She met her mother for lunch AND had ice cream for dessert. It was a
long empty night and she went back to work the next day. It beat
sitting around her apartment staring at her flaws in the mirror. Her
cell phone didn't ring until the next afternoon. It was Mulder.
Crying.

"You have to come, Scully. Please. Right now." His voice trailed off
and she couldn't get anything else out of him. Someone else picked up
the phone.

"Hello?"

"Hello - this is Dana Scully. I was speaking with Fox Mulder."

"This is Nurse Taylor in the Neuro ICU. Mr. Mulder wanted us to call
you. There's been a development with Dr. Mulder."

<Dr. Mulder? Who the hell was Dr. Mulder? No one calls him Dr.
Mulder. Oh.> "Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Scully, I can't give out that information..." Scully
was already picking up her keys.

Mulder was sitting in the hospital hallway when she got there. He was
on the floor, his head on his knees. The nurses were giving him plenty
of space. He must have scared them. <Mulder had a way of doing that.>
He'd gotten himself evicted from her own hospital room a few times.

Scully crouched down beside him. "What's wrong, Mulder?" she said,
using her softest voice.

He looked up at her with blind trust. "You have to help her, Scully."

Scully went into the room. Elizabeth was on the bed, tubes running in
and out of everywhere. Dr. Scully made a quick assessment as she
scanned the chart.   Total vent dependent. No response to stimuli.
She was only alive because of the machines - brain dead.

Mulder had silently come into the room. "The doctor said there isn't
any hope. They want to turn off the machines, but I told them to wait
for you. Scully, you can do something, right?"

<Oh God, Mulder.> Her heart was breaking. This must be the face he
wore in the hospital after she was returned after her abduction.
Scully shook her head from side to side. "There isn't anything I can
do, Mulder."

"No. I refuse to accept that. Someone did this to her. Women don't
die from having babies. There has to be another answer." Mulder's
voice was loud, angry.

Scully watched Elizabeth's chest rise and fall with the ventilator.
"It does happen, Mulder. She had a massive stoke and her brain isn't
functioning anymore. The machines are just keeping her body alive, but
everything that made her Elizabeth is already gone." That was Dr.
Scully talking. She vanished when Mulder's best friend Scully spoke:
"Where is the baby, Mulder?"

<Please, God, Mary, mother of God, please - don't take the both his son
and her from him. It's too much. Leave him his child or he'll go
crazy.> Her prayer was clumsy, but it must have been granted a direct
connection to the top.

"He's in the, the neo, the nick - the baby place. The nurse took him
there. They told me he was okay. I was holding him when she..."
Mulder trailed off, pointing at his wife's body in the hospital bed.    

"She won't come back, Mulder. I'm so sorry." Scully felt the tears
pooling in her eyes. She would have reached out to him if Elizabeth
hadn't been in the room. Odd how the mind and the heart can conflict -
Scully wasn't comfortable touching a married man in front of his brain
dead wife.

Mulder looked at his 'Lizabeth for a long time. Then he went to get
the nurse. His Scully tried to leave when they came back, but Mulder
wanted her to stay.

Mulder sat on the bed beside his wife and held her hand. With his
other hand he smoothed back her tangled gold hair. He leaned down and
kissed her forehead like she was made of glass. Then he nodded to the
doctor and the nurse. They turned off the ventilator.

The room was silent. It was peaceful. They'd turned off the machines
that beeped and alarmed - they were useless anyway. Elizabeth's chest
stopped rising as soon as the vent stopped. Mulder bent over and
rested his head on his wife's breasts, like he was listening as her
heart stopped beating. After a few minutes, he leaned back and spoke
quietly, "I want you to be the one that says it, Scully."

Scully knew what he wanted. She looked at the clock, "Time of death:
3:16 p.m."
   **********

End: An Age of Prudence (2/5)

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Begin: Each In His Prison (3/5)


<Mulder's wife makes a good-looking corpse.>

That thought was sick as hell and he knew it. But there wasn't much
else to look at in the room and his brain wasn't working right.

Her red gold hair fell back from her beautiful serene face. Her
breasts were swollen and her stomach was slightly distended. He could
see a few light pink stretch marks on the front of her hips and the
sides of her breasts - other than those and the brownish rose of her
nipples, her pale skin was luminous. The wedding ring on her left hand
was still shiny. She was a real blonde.

<Any minute now, she's going to open her eyes and be embarrassed that
I'm standing here looking at her while she's naked.>

Skinner took all this in while Scully made her visual observations of
the body in the autopsy bay. She had called him at the office this
afternoon to tell him Agent Mulder's wife had died. Skinner had said
all the proper things. Then Scully had called him at home tonight to
ask if he would go with her while she did the autopsy. She didn't
think she could do it alone. He hadn't hesitated when he said "yes."

That was how Assistant Director Walter Skinner ended up standing over a
woman he should have never, ever seen undressed. That was what was
bothering him most at the moment - that she was nude. Scully didn't
seem to notice.

<Maybe because she's a doctor. Or because she's a woman. Or because
she would look about the same laying there.>

Another highly inappropriate thought.

He wondered idly how long it would be before Scully did this to
Mulder's body. Or to his. He'd seen Mulder's wife only a week ago
when he had dropped off paperwork at Mulder's apartment. It wasn't his
job to do that - it should have gone through channels or by messenger
or mail - but he'd wanted to check on them. Elizabeth had been there,
asleep on the couch, while Mulder and Scully worked at the desk beyond
her. Except that now her belly wasn't as swollen and she was
undressed, she looked exactly the same.

Scully had told him the baby was a boy. She didn't know his name;
Mulder would have to choose one and he wasn't to that point yet.
Skinner guessed the baby was still in the nursery in the hospital
upstairs.

Scully's mother was with Mulder somewhere. He didn't know a lot about
Mulder and Scully's personal lives, but there probably weren't many
people she could call to babysit Mulder right now. So somewhere in the
hospital, Maggie Scully was sitting with a dazed Mulder.

Skinner had met her - Maggie Scully. She was quite a woman. So was
her daughter.

Scully had taken care of everything. She had called everyone that
needed calling, gotten her mother for Mulder, and now she was doing the
autopsy on his dead wife. She'd also done the autopsy on his mother;
he'd heard that. She'd probably take care of the baby too, if Mulder
wanted.

Skinner didn't understand why she stood by Mulder, but he respected her
for it. From what he could gather though, Mulder had gotten involved
with Elizabeth while profiling a case. He'd seen a picture of Mulder
kissing her in the report - the perpetrator had pinned it to a child's
dead body. After that case, Mulder and Scully had started dating.
They didn't call it that, but everyone knew. After a few months, their
romantic relationship suddenly stopped. He'd found Scully crying in
the basement office. Skinner's next piece of information was seeing
Elizabeth's pregnant belly at dinner one night after work. The pieces
fit. He'd driven Scully home that night. Mulder had asked to work at
home while Elizabeth was on bed rest. Skinner had just finished
approving that request when the notification from personnel came
changing Agent Mulder's marital status from single to married, adding
his new wife to his insurance policies. He'd stopped by Mulder's
apartment just last week, and then there was a message on his voice
mail early yesterday morning - Mulder saying Elizabeth was having the
baby and he would call when he had more news. The next call had
been from Scully.

Scully was quite a woman. He doubted Mulder had asked her to do this
autopsy. She was doing it because one day, Mulder would want answers
and she wanted him to have them. No matter what it cost her.

Scully had stopped dictating and picked up a scalpel. She poised her
hand over the woman's chest and stopped. Skinner waited a long minute,
then put his hand in the small of her back, the same place he'd seen
Mulder touch her. Scully exhaled and pressed her blade into the flesh.
A trickle of dark blood flowed down between the dead woman's breasts as
her skin parted.

**********

He signed a blank request for leave and slid it under Mulder's
apartment door. Scully had taken some time off as well, so Skinner had
no idea how Mulder was faring. He felt powerless to help them, so he
did what he could. Mulder could take up to six months off without it
effecting his job, and his duties and schedule could be rearranged
after that. Skinner couldn't imagine what it was like to have to raise
a baby born to a dead wife you didn't love, and then to have to return
to work with the partner that you did love.

For other reasons best left unsaid, Skinner was willing to allow Mulder
to stay away from the office as long as he wanted. He might have
several hundred agents under him, but he took a special interest in
what happened with these two.

He was meeting Scully at the airport this afternoon for a flight to San
Antonio. That was where this little affair began and where Elizabeth
had wanted to be buried. Scully had spoken to his secretary, saying
Mulder had flown down with the body yesterday. Kimberly told him that
the baby's name was William Mulder. Will. Considering the
circumstances, it seemed appropriate for many reasons.
**********

Skinner hadn't seen Mulder touch that baby yet. He wasn't so sure
less-than-a-week-old babies were supposed to be flying around the
country and going to their mother's funeral, but he didn't know for
sure. Maybe it was normal. He'd like to ask Scully, but they'd
arrived late and gone directly to the service at the cemetery. The
minister was speaking and he didn't want to interrupt.

The baby must be premature. It took nine months and Mulder's first
encounter with Elizabeth had been in early March. Thanksgiving was
this week - either the baby came early, or Mulder was a trusting man.
He wondered who else was standing around the grave counting months.

A round brunette was holding the baby currently, standing beside a huge
man in a deputy's uniform. Mulder was staring expressionlessly at the
freshly-dug grave. A man in an expensive suit stood beside him,
reeking of over-paid lawyer. Occasionally the man nudged Mulder, who
moved and spoke in the appropriate way.

After the service, the people moved inside the building next door for a
buffet. That was all Skinner could think to call it. There were rows
and rows of tables filled with food. There must be a term for this
besides let's-all-eat-after-the-burial, but he'd never heard one. It
happened every time an innocent person was buried before their time -
someone should think up a name and copyright it.

He stood at a window gnawing on a piece of fried chicken and watching
the groundskeeper shovel dirt into Elizabeth Mulder's grave. People
here didn't live very far from nature.

<Short, nasty, and brutish.>

Women kept filling his plate. Every time he even twitched, some female
with big breasts, a twangy accent and huge hair piled on another piece
of something deep-fried. He'd meet Sharon in Texas; it had taken years
for her hair to return to a normal altitude and shade after they moved
away. He thought of those university days with Sharon after the
discovery of the Pill but before his nightmares had started. Those
carefree days were long gone. A piece of pecan pie appeared on his
plate and Skinner sighed. He should have worn his old wedding band.

Mulder was standing in a corner looking stunned. People would come up
to talk to him and the attorney would nudge him for a response.
Occasionally someone would pass by him carrying his son and he would
look at the baby with surprise. Like it had just appeared unexpectedly
and he wasn't sure exactly what to make of it.

<Maybe if you leave it alone, the Mama bird will come back and get it.
But you can't touch it, because then she won't and it will die.>

Scully was trying to blend into the walls. A tall man with dark blonde
hair was pursuing her relentlessly. Skinner was too far away to hear
what the man was saying, but he looked a little drunk. He began to
move protectively in her direction. Scully had fled towards Mulder,
who was oblivious. As Scully reached him, the tall man came up behind
her and draped an arm over Scully's shoulders. His voice was slurred
when he spoke.

"She's cute too. I didn't know you had a set."

That got Mulder's attention. Skinner walked faster.

"So, is she as good as your wife was, cause I'll take her instead?"

Skinner seemed to spend an inordinate amount of his time stopping Fox
Mulder from killing people, but this time he thought he might allow it.
Mulder was interrupted by the deputy sheriff, who implemented some old-
fashioned Southern justice. The deputy apologized to Scully, who he
called "missy," saying that "Todd" was upset and drunk, then he took
him out behind the building and beat the hell out of "Todd" himself.  

Skinner packed Mulder into the rental car while the deputy's wife
strapped the baby in the back seat. He saw Mulder's weirdo friends
ushering Scully towards their van. They'd stood watching with
binoculars from the parking area during the burial and refused to come
inside for the food afterwards. Two of them were wearing Kevlar.

<Too bad, boys - you missed some good pecan pie and a decent fight.>

The short weirdo in the hat caught Skinner's eye and nodded, brushing
his finger on the side of his nose.

<This isn't a covert operation, asshole. Just drive her back to the
hotel.>

Skinner drove back to San Antonio as fast as possible. Not only did he
want the hell out of Texas, but he was afraid that little creature in
the back seat would start to make noises. He didn't know where Mulder
was staying and he got a blank look when he asked, so he took him back
to the hotel rooms he and Scully had reserved. Let Scully try to get
it out of him.

He actually had to pull Mulder out of the car. Skinner had taken out
the baby and the bags, but Mulder didn't move. Finally, he'd led him
through the lobby by his sleeve. Holding on to Mulder with one hand,
and the baby seat and the bag-o'-baby-crap in the other, Skinner was
sure people would mistake them for a gay couple. Mulder was too damn
pretty.

<At least that would make me the butch one.>

Skinner decided he really needed to see a shrink.

He deposited Mulder and the baby in the hotel room and went back to get
his and Scully's bags and close up the car. Scully and the weirdos
were just parking. They walked back to the rooms together to find the
baby squalling and Mulder staring at his son curiously, almost as
though he should do something.

**********

"He has Acute Stress Disorder. I can't believe the hospital let him
have the baby," Scully was saying. Mulder was staring at her numbly.
Occasionally he reached out and felt her hair. The bearded weirdo was
doing something to the baby that made it stop crying. Skinner hoped it
didn't involve opiates.

"What does that mean?" Skinner asked. He'd seen plenty of men with
expressions like Mulder's.

"It's like PTSD, just sooner," Scully answered. Skinner nodded - he
knew exactly what Posttraumatic Stress Disorder meant.

<Fucked in the head.>

"We should do the eye thing. I've read about people treating PTSD with
it on the Internet. Can you do the eye thing, Scully?" The weirdo
that needed a haircut was speaking. Make that the blonde weirdo that
needed a haircut.

"I don't think that's the best plan, Langly..."

"Come on, Scully, we could try it. I've read about it and..." Blonde
weirdo was whining.

"I'M NOT DOING THE DAMN EYE THING, LANGLY!" Scully screamed.
She seemed to be on the verge of tears. "Go watch the baby for a while
and let me help Mulder."

The weirdos retreated into the adjoining room and closed the door.
Skinner felt helpless again. He didn't like it, but personal
experience told him nothing could slay Mulder's demons except Mulder.

Scully had helped Skinner with a few of his own nightmares. He doubted
she knew it, but Scully had that effect on men. She was all that
should be right in a world where men killed children and monsters
lurked in the shadows. She was the cool hand on your forehead when you
had a fever, the electricity of a first kiss, and the smell of freshly
sharpened pencils. Clean sheets dried in the sun and Christmas
morning. Ensuring she stayed in this world was Skinner's greatest
blow against the demons he'd created for himself.  

Scully was half on, half off the love seat beside Mulder. She was
stroking his hair and murmuring to him. Mulder laid his head on her
shoulder and cradled his face in her neck. She twisted and her skirt
slipped until Skinner could see the lace at the top of her stockings.

<Thigh-highs. Thigh-highs have the elastic at the top. Stockings have
garters. Those are thigh-highs.>

<I really should leave.>

Skinner went next door when Mulder's shoulders started to shake as he
cried. Fox Mulder was a lucky man.

**********

Mulder came in at night. Skinner had seen the light on in the basement
office on long after midnight when Scully was gone. He always brought
the baby and a German Shepherd.

He was still on extended leave. Except for approving the continual
stream of paperwork, Skinner had not had contact with Mulder in months.
His gut instinct told him Scully hadn't either. When she was taking
care of the baby, he'd made sure all her cases were local- mostly
loaners on local autopsies. Once Mulder had the baby back, though,
he'd let her go on regular X-Files.

Maybe 'let' wasn't the correct word.

They had flown back to DC on the crowded plane thinking Mulder was
doing better. As good as a man gets having just buried his wife. He
aware of what was happening and making small talk. He even expressed
some interest in his son. Skinner had left him with Scully at the
airport.

He thought about Mulder often over the next few days, but being an
Assistant Director is a busy job. And certain people still frowned
when he paid too much attention to one pair of his agents. Especially
when one of those agents was Spooky Mulder.

He left Mulder to Scully and got back to his work. He'd bumped into
her on Saturday a week later. Literally, bumped. Apparently, when no
one else is in the building, Scully would just use the men's room in
the basement instead of going all the way upstairs to the lone ladies
room. He'd opened the door to go in when a small figure walked right
into his chest. He'd thought at first it was one of Mulder's little
gray men escaping. This alien had breasts and smelled like musky
vanilla.

Scully had turned scarlet with embarrassment.   She stammered out
something about it being closer and no one ever being down there and...

Scully's cell phone rang. She listened, said about five words, and
hung up.

"The Gunmen want me to go check on Mulder. He doesn't answer his
phone."

That was bad. Skinner thought Mulder would interrupt sex to answer his
phone. He'd heard some people did that.

"You want a ride?"

<Yes, that did seem to be my voice. I must have developed another death
wish.>

"Let me get my purse," she said.

"I'll meet you in the parking lot." Skinner still needed to pee.

Skinner loved the movie "American Beauty." He had a copy on DVD while
it was still in theaters - you could get things like that when you were
an Assistant Director. He'd had dreams of women wearing nothing but
rose petals - unfortunately Agent Scully and Agent Mulder's wife among
them. The drunk man at the post-burial buffet was right; they were a
nice set.

<I should not be in charge of protecting the public. I am a very, very
bad person>

Skinner had bought a big BMW instead of a 1970's Firebird. Assistant
Directors made more money than magazine writers.

Skinner drove his new toy, Scully worried.

She had gotten Mulder settled in his apartment and left, thinking he
was all right. He'd had a crib and various baby stuff - it had been
there, ready, before. When she'd called him later he had made small
talk. Everything was "fine." Mulder seemed to know what was
happening. The baby was "fine."

They stopped and picked up a bag of greasy burgers that Skinner could
already feel clogging his arteries. Scully wanted to make sure Mulder
was eating and this was what he liked. It was amazing that the man had
lived this long.

Mulder answered the door, glad to see them. A friendly German Shepherd
wagged its tail and bustled excitedly. It wasn't until Skinner walked
in that he got worried. Any place Mulder existed was usually
cluttered, but his apartment was filthy. There were piles of clothes
everywhere. Empty baby bottles and dishes were on the floor. Mulder
hadn't shaved.

<So he's a slob. He has a new baby to take care of.>

Scully just stepped over the piles and went in, so Skinner followed
her. The apartment smelled bad - or that might be Mulder.

"Sorry to drop by without calling. Your phone doesn't answer." Scully
was smooth.

"I unplugged it. It might wake her." Mulder looked calm.

<Her? Wasn't the baby a boy?>

"We brought you dinner," Scully said, dumping out the bag onto his
table.

"Scully, she won't eat that. The smell of it will probably make her
start throwing up again." Now Mulder sounded annoyed.

"Has the baby been sick, Mulder?" Scully was shooting Skinner worried
looks.

"No. He's just fine."

<So, he knows the baby is a boy. Who the hell is he talking about?>

Scully picked up a hamburger and handed it to Mulder. When he took it,
the dog began to bark, wanting a bite. Mulder's reaction was a blur.

"Shut up! You'll wake her!" Mulder screamed and hit the dog, knocking
it across the floor. The dog yelped and the baby woke up and began to
cry. "Shut up! You're going to wake her up! She needs to rest!" he
continued to yell.

Scully was too shocked to act. Skinner was careful to keep his voice
low:

"Who will wake up, Agent Mulder?" He had a feeling he already knew.

" 'Lizabeth."

**********

Scully took the baby and Skinner took the dog. Both went directly to
respective ERs. Amazingly, both were fine. Mulder had smiled and told
them good-bye as they left. He went back inside to wait for his dead
wife to wake up.

Scully made two calls in the car - one to recall her mother for more
Mulder-sitting duty and one to a pharmacy for a refill on a
prescription for anti-psychotics. Mulder seemed to have a standing
order. Skinner really hadn't required that kind of information.

Skinner liked the dog, who Scully said was named Lucille. Skinner was
glad she would also respond to Lucy. They went jogging together,
driving together. She was a chick magnet. He let her sleep on the bed
and lick off the dishes.   It was nice to have company; he just had to
remember not to leave his shoes out where Lucy could get them.

Mulder showed up at his apartment door a month later; thin, but neat
and clean.

"The doctor says I can have the dog back, sir."

Lucy was already excited - dogs must be very forgiving. Mulder bent
down and nuzzled her.

"Thanks for keeping her." Mulder looked like a sane man to Skinner.

"No problem, Agent Mulder. How are you doing?"

<Because if you hit her again I'll hit you. I owe you a few anyway.>

"I have a good day every now and then. 'Lizabeth is buried in Texas
and my apartment is clean. I've even been bathing and eating. I see
the psychiatrist twice a week." Mulder trying to be glib and failing.

<Yes, those were the answers I wanted, Mulder.>

Skinner got Lucy's leash, hooked her up, and handed the lead to Mulder.
"I'm glad you are feeling better - you owe me three pairs of loafers
and a pair of running shoes."

Mulder actually smiled before he walked away.

Skinner wondered what would happen when he came for the baby.

After a brief period of panic, Scully was a good foster-mother. Bureau
gossip had her sighted with a stroller in a mall and reading baby care
books during lunch. She had stopped even her rare dates with men.
Skinner needed to look into getting Kimberly a raise. His secretary
was better then the CIA when it came to knowing everyone's business.
Scully's mother watched the baby when she had to work, so she would
appreciate daylight work hours. Hint, hint, boss.

<Like I'm going to say no.>

Skinner just made it happen and said nothing.

**********

Mulder came to get the baby when it was four months old. Skinner knew
because he found Scully crying in the basement office again. Maybe she
always went there to cry. Maybe she did it every night and he only
knew about on the few nights he had found her. He'd have to check more
often.

This time a year ago, he'd sent Mulder off to Texas to profile while
Scully had been home sick with the flu. He was responsible for
beginning the chain of events that ended with her sobbing alone in her
partner's basement office.

It's easy to confuse protectiveness with lust. The two aren't that
different in the male mind - the animal part of the brain that growls
low and barks "mine!"

Skinner worked hard at not being sexist. He was all for equal pay for
equal work and the like. He just had a hard time seeing women get
hurt. Not that he wouldn't trust Agent Scully to cover his back, or
any female agent, for that matter - but he'd rather they didn't have
to.

Women were these wonderfully soft creatures that smelled so good. They
deserved to be cherished, not abused. Women weren't any less valuable
than men, but - thank God- they were different from them.

Even strong ones like Scully. He'd been relieved to know she was
safely in a morgue in the greater DC area doing autopsies during normal
working hours these last few months. That she went home to a baby and
a normal life. He would have preferred to keep it that way. She would
have kicked his ass if she had known.

Skinner closed the door and wrapped his arms around her without
thinking. She was shaking again. He knew immediately what had
happened to cause her to hide and cry like that. She's smiled, handed
the baby over to Mulder, wished them well, and came here to cry her
heart out.

He'd like to have a few words with Agent Mulder about the value of a
good woman.

It was a long, long time before she stopped crying and was limp against
him.

<She is so tiny.>

Skinner had always privately believed women this small must be missing
some parts - maybe a kidney or a lung. Pressed hard against him,
Scully didn't seem to be missing any parts.

He saw his hand stroking her cheek; moving of its own free will. He
should try to stop it, but his other hand was busy rubbing her back.
With both hands occupied, he'd just have to stay there and caress her.
His head grew heavy and he rested it on top of hers, his eyes closed.
Her form melted against his.

<You cannot do this! You cannot do this! You cannot do this!>

His hand slid from her face to the back of her head. His fingers
tangling in her vivid hair, he turned her face up to meet his. Her
mouth opened and yielded to him. That was what it would be like - her
body opening and yielding to his. Skinner wanted to see her - to see
what was in her eyes. He opened his eyes and looked into hers. And
stepped back.

Walter Skinner was an honorable man.

**********

She wanted to go back to regular duty. She wanted to get as far away
from DC as possible without transferring to another field office.

Skinner just made it happen and said nothing.

After awhile, Scully seemed to be coping better. She must have known
taking care of Mulder's son was a temp job. Maybe she was hoping a
full-time position would become available. Maybe she missed the baby's
daddy. Kimberly reported sightings of her at the gym and the new
exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. No dates, but sometimes lunch
with co-workers when she was in town. Skinner bought Kimberly a
vulgarly expensive gift for her birthday.

While Scully was off on cases, Skinner began to notice the lights in
the basement office. Kimberly hadn't had much gossip about Mulder. As
far as anyone at the FBI knew, he was taking extended family leave
following the birth of his son and the death of his wife. A few recent
sightings jogging with a stroller and dog and playing basketball while
a baby slept courtside. The secretarial pool seemed to be the best
source for Mulder-watching, particularly since it was warmer now and he
sometimes took off his shirt. Kimberly had actually said that. Skinner
would have died of embarrassment if she had said they had his own
jogging route mapped out. They didn't - did they?

As much as he dreaded it, Skinner needed to talk to Mulder. He was
running out of leave time. He could push it off on someone else
through channels, but it was better for him to do it. Less explaining
to do. Security called him when Mulder entered the building at ten at
night

Skinner stood outside the door feeling awkward. He'd come from home in
his jeans - he'd feel much more in command of Mulder if he were wearing
a suit. Not that it helped much, but you took whatever you could get
with Agent Mulder. Wearing jeans, he felt like they were going out for
a beer.

He couldn't lurk very long before the dog smelled him and begin to bark
happily.

<Who the Hell told security he could bring that dog in here anyway?
Must be a female guard on duty.>

Skinner knocked. It made him look less like a stalker.

Mulder answered the door and looked normal. Completely unlike a man
that had fucked around on his wonderful partner, dumped her when he got
another woman pregnant, expected her to play nice with his new wife,
dumped his baby on her while he was having a psychotic break, and then
demanded his child back without a word.

He wasn't certain it had happened like that, but that was Skinner's
version.

"I wanted to talk with you about your leave time, Agent Mulder. You
are about to run out of paid leave, but you can take more unpaid leave
if you want it."

<That was good. Authoritative. No mention of almost licking his
partner all over on his desk.>

"At eleven at night, sir?" The dog had woken the baby and Skinner was
surprised at how easily Mulder comforted him. He picked up the boy and
held him to his chest, murmuring to him. He looked too big to be the
same screaming bundle Scully had carried out of Mulder's nasty
apartment six months ago.

Mulder walked back to his desk and sat down. He gestured and Skinner
pulled up a chair across from him. The baby was nestled in Mulder's
left arm, happily drifting back to sleep.

"He looks like you." Skinner was feeling a yearning. Sharon hadn't
wanted children.

"He looks like his mommy, but he's got my dark hair. He's got her
temper too - he's quiet until you get him really good and mad and then
he has no mercy." Mulder sounded like a proud father. Skinner had to
make an effort not to smile at the bastard.

"What are you doing here, Agent Mulder?" Skinner waited for the smart
remark about this being his office.

"It smells like her." Mulder was quiet for a few seconds. "I feel
close to her when I'm here. I can feel her. Sometimes she leaves her
jacket behind and it smells..." He searched for the words.

"...Like musky vanilla." Skinner finished. He couldn't believe he'd
said that. That comment could put him out of a job. High Bureau
Officials did not have relationships with the agents they supervised.
Maybe he could convince Mulder he'd been smelling her from across the
room. He hadn't meant the smell of her perfume though - he'd meant the
smell of her.

Mulder was nodding. "Yep - just like musky vanilla. Will and I spent
a whole afternoon at perfume counters searching for that smell so I
could buy some. I thought it would remind both of us of her. No store
in DC has it - you must have to go to the source."

He seemed so at ease. That was not a phrase he would have associated
with Mulder. Brilliant, driven, tormented, impulsive, and arrogant
came to mind.

"How much medication are you on, Agent Mulder?"

<Well, I can make it my business.>

"Not a thing, actually. Since before Will came back. I just had to
get my head on straight." Mulder cocked his head to the side. "What
are you doing down here, sir? There are about a dozen people under you
who could have told me I was about to stop getting paychecks."

Mulder paused and looked at him pointedly. "I'm not interested in a
pissing contest."

Skinner didn't answer immediately. The dog had laid her head on his
knee and Skinner scratched behind her ears. She liked that. "I missed
the dog."

"You wanted to arrange conjugal visits? She's a very attractive dog."

"Women always stared at her when I took her jogging," Skinner replied.
He was dodging and he knew it. Direct was always best. "Have you
talked to her?"

Mulder shifted the child and leaned back. "What do I say? I don't
think 'I'm sorry' begins to cover it."

"Did you love her?" Skinner's words were clipped. He didn't know
which answer he wanted to hear. The one Scully needed or the one he
needed.

"Like nothing else." Mulder's response was immediate.

"No one can hurt a woman like the man she loves."

Mulder sat quiet for a long time, looking back and forth between
Skinner and his sleeping child. Skinner weighed his next words before
he spoke them.

"There is no contest, Mulder. But if I find her crying again, there
will be. I'll only see her get hurt by you so many times and I'm only
so strong." With that, Skinner stood up, opened the door and left.


He didn't know why he had even bothered to go home. Skinner was back
at his desk at five the next morning. Except for security and
custodial, he was alone in the building. He shuffled a lot of papers
and got nothing accomplished for about an hour. His mind was in other
places.

He finally walked down to the basement office. The light was off and
the door was locked. Good thing he had a key; seniority had its
privileges.   He had no idea what he was looking for, but he knew it
when he found it.

On a sheet of copy paper laying on Mulder's desk was a note written in
a barely legible scrawl.

I'm coping. I'm sorry. I love you. Mulder.

Skinner smiled. His respect for Mulder as a man had just ratcheted up
a notch. Skinner respected him professionally, but had always thought
he was an emotional coward. Looked like he was laying it all on the
line this time.

He relocked the door, went upstairs and waited. For about five months.

**********

Mulder was due back at work in November - one year after his wife had
died. Only a few more weeks. Agent Scully had solved a few high
profile cases on her own and the gossip was running wild that Spooky
Mulder the prima donna might refuse to work with her now. Not true, as
far as Skinner knew. He'd been able to assign Scully to better cases
once she didn't want to keep running off to Bumfuck. Mulder was due
back in two weeks assigned, as before, as an agent on the X-Files.
Scully hadn't put in a request for a transfer. Mulder continued
to make his late-night pilgrimages to the basement office.

Out of desperation, Skinner finally asked his secretary straight out.
Usually Kimberly just updated him, but she hadn't been forthcoming
lately. Maybe he'd missed Secretary's Day.

Scully had been seen the usual places. She'd turned down Agents
Westfall and Markham for dinner and a movie, and drinks, respectively.
She had gotten a new Coach purse on sale - quite a find - and her
favorite hairdresser had quit to back to college. Mulder was wearing
sweats when he jogged. He was reporting his weight to the bureau as
back to his normal one-seventy and change after fluctuating ten pounds
each way in the last eighteen months, which was a shame because he was
cuter at about one-eighty. He'd requested several phone traces a
few months ago, but Kim didn't know why. He did his grocery shopping
with the baby and he was adorable.  

Skinner couldn't tell if Kimberly meant the baby was adorable or Mulder
was adorable and he didn't want to ask. He couldn't pick and choose
the gossip he got when he had to beg. Rumors traveled at light speed
through the Bureau, and if Kimberly didn't know anything about Mulder
and Scully being a couple, that probably meant it hadn't happened.
They had always been a hot topic.

Skinner did as he usually did when there were personal problems with
Mulder and/or Scully - he meddled.

Security called him at home again when Agent Mulder came in, with the
baby and dog, of course. Skinner used his cell phone to call Scully to
come in to the office immediately. He met her in his office forty-five
minutes later. She looked uneasy. Considering he had ordered her to
meet him in an otherwise empty building at ten o'clock at night, he
wasn't surprised.

"I would like to see your files on the Anderson case." Business-like
and to-the-point.

"I'll have to go get them sir - I wasn't aware you wanted the report
until Monday. They're in Mulder's office."  

<I know where they are, Scully. I was down just down to see what I
could find to ask for.> Mulder, son, and dog had been playing fetch
with an Appalachian Voodoo doll. None of them had looked embarrassed.
Interesting that it was still "Mulder's office" after nine years.

"I'll walk down with you."

Scully seemed jumpy standing beside him in the elevator.  

"Agent Scully, I want to apologize if I have ever done anything that
made you uncomfortable or distrusting of me. I want you and Agent
Mulder both to be safe and free to pursue happiness, however you find
it." <And I'm working on that part right now.>

"You're a good man and you've been a good friend, sir. You've made my
life bearable for the last year and a half and I will always be
grateful for that." Although her words were polite, they were weighty
with meaning. By Scully standards, it was a soul-baring soliloquy.

Scully looked at him out of the corner of her eye for a second. Then
she turned, stood on the very tips of her toes, and kissed him on the
cheek. His greatest reward was a glowing Scully smile - those were
rare. Grown men have been known to grin like total idiots in their
presence.  

The dog heard them immediately and came bounding out to greet Skinner
again as soon as the elevator opened. The big German Shepherd had a
short memory - she was delighted all over again. Mulder had been
giving Lucy free run of the place when he came down earlier. There had
been no further discussion of their "pissing contest."

Scully hadn't run away - that was a good sign. She continued to walk
down the hall toward the office. Skinner hung back. A little boy with
dark hair stepped out the door and toddled a few steps on unsteady legs
toward them. Scully stopped, shocked, and then squatted down and
smiled again in unabashed happiness at Will.

Will seemed uncertain and stopped. He looked back at his father, who
was coming out the door behind him to investigate the barking.
Mulder's eyes lit up when he saw her.

Will pointed a chubby finger at Scully and asked slowly "Mama?"

<Mulder must be showing him pictures or videos of his mother. She and
Scully had looked enough alike. Out of the mouths of babes.>

The Assistant Director turned around and silently got back on the
elevator.

Mulder picked up his son and walked toward them. Will asked again,
"Dada. Mama?"

Mulder smiled and answered "I don't know Will - let's ask her."

The elevator doors closed. Skinner just made it happen and said
nothing.

**********

End: Each In His Prison (3/5)

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Most people aren't aware of the moments in their lives that shape their
destiny until after each moment has passed, so I should consider myself
a fortunate man.

God - whoever or whatever you are - bless my son. He called anyone
with long hair "Mama" these days; Langly and the check-out clerk on the
corner were also "Mama." Langly hadn't bought him any more tiny
Grateful Dead T-shirts after being addressed as such, although the
clerk, also having breasts and a beard, seemed to understand the
confusion. But this time he had pointed a sticky finger at Dana Scully
and asked, "Dada - Mama?" In that instant, I mentally granted Will a
Corvette for his sixteenth birthday and anything else he wanted between
now and then. Good thing he couldn't say "stock options" yet.

I was in the rare presence of a full-blown Scully smile aimed at my
son. Her face glowed. I picked up Will and moved toward her - it was
the longest twenty feet of my life. I had spent the last seven months
rehearsing several hundred perfect phrases I could say to her when I
saw her again and my brain chose this second to go blank on every one
of them. "I don't know, Will," I told him, "Let's ask her."

Behind Scully, Skinner disappeared into the elevator wearing his
blankest of blank expressions. I added Walter Skinner to the list of
people for my elusive God to bless.

She stood up when I reached her and raised her hands. I shifted Will
around and started to hand him to her. Scully hadn't seen him since I
took him back when he was four months old. She bypassed my son
completely and wrapped her arms around my waist, blending her body
against mine.

"I've missed you so much," her lips moved against my throat.

Standing outside our basement office with my son in one arm and my
partner in the other, I understood once more what Einstein's equation
really meant. My time slowed, the moment stretching out into infinity.
I've had three moments like this in the last two years. The first had
been when I kissed Will's mother goodbye when I left her home in Texas.
She was already a few day's pregnant then - my son a bundle of cells
frantically dividing inside her. The second time was when the doctor
turned off her ventilator after Will was born. I had watched her chest
for an eon, willing it to rise again without the machine. It never
did. It was happening again tonight. Twice for two of the best
moments in my life, once for one of the worst - not such a bad record
when you put it that way. "My life, when it is written, will read
better than it lived." Henry Plantagenet said that - or at least Peter
O'Toole playing Henry II said that - and it had been true of much of
mine.

Whatever I had done to deserve one of Scully's rare overt displays of
affection and however the moment ended, it was going to be a pivotal
point in the narrative of my life. I rested my jaw against Scully's
silky hair and absorbed every sensation, trying to memorize every
nuance. Destiny-shaping moments don't come along very often.
**********

Months ago, Skinner had asked me if I loved Scully. I told him I loved
Scully like nothing else and I still do. But I don't love her the same
way I used to. I started out life as an over-privileged brat and I
never quite grew out of that. I thought the world owed me things -
answers, exceptions, and Dana Scully. I thought I somehow deserved
her, and it ate at me that I couldn't have her.   Have her - like a
possession I would put on a shelf and take down only to play with the
way I want. I didn't see her as existing beyond what I wanted to
fit my fantasies. I didn't see her as a person.

Loving my rascal of a son has helped me learn how a man should love a
woman. I love Scully now as easily and as thoughtlessly as I breathe,
like she had always been an extension of me and always would be. I
didn't need to get anything out of loving her - not to see her, not to
touch her. That would be nice, though. I would go to the ends of the
Earth again to help her or I would stay away from her for the rest of
my life - whichever she needed. My life could go on, other
women could come and go. I could probably even love again, if I was
interested, but I would never feel the same sense of completeness that
I felt with Scully.

I wasn't selfish about my love anymore.

I guess I'm a grown-up now.

You know, becoming a grown-up is probably easier when you do it right
out of college. Once you hit thirty-five, it seems to take getting
married, having a baby and several months of visits to the
psychiatrist, not to mention a ton of pills. Actually, it didn't. It
took realizing that I was going to go home to an apartment without my
wife, my partner, my child and my dog for the rest of my life unless I
got my head on straight. Sometimes standing in an empty bedroom
works much better than any amount of psycho-babble about my mother.

I am not personally to blame for every bad thing that happens in this
world.

I have that written out about five hundred times somewhere, in case I
ever forget it again.

Scully and my wife were both incredible women - beautiful, smart,
successful. They were responsible for the choices they had made.
Their choices as well as mine had created my wonderful son and I
wouldn't change that for the world. I would do it all again. I'd
spent a year making my peace with that.  

Time had let me distance myself a little and I could see myself as
others must have seen me: impulsive, infatuated, self-centered,
cowardly. I didn't add stupid to the list describing my actions; there
was nothing stupid about wanting Will's mother. She was a wonderful
woman. I just didn't love her. And she didn't love me.

I loved Scully. I knew that before I met 'Lizabeth. There, I said it.
Thought it. Fuck - whatever. Elizabeth. Dr. Elizabeth Matthews
Mulder. Right after she died, my brain decided it was easier to think
she had never existed. No wife, no losing Scully, no new baby. It had
never happened; it was too awful to be real. Then my mind decided she
was still there, just asleep somewhere. I had a terrible time getting
her to eat and rest while she was pregnant; it was comforting to think
she was finally laying down. She would wake up soon and it would be
okay. The doctor gave me some really cool medication. All of a sudden
I didn't believe that any more - I knew I used to believe it, but now I
didn't. He was concerned that I still thought there were aliens
colonizing the planet, but that wasn't the delusion I was paying him to
get rid of, so he didn't sweat it.

Elizabeth was not going to wake up. I met her, I slept with her, I got
her pregnant, I married her, and she died giving birth to my son.   End
of the story of her life.

I loved Scully - that's what had made my actions so inexcusable to me.
I knew it. I didn't suspect it, I didn't debate it, I didn't question
it. I knew it as certain as I knew the sun would come up each morning.
I should have spent the rest of my life with Dana Scully.

So why did I do it?

I got greedy. And I was a coward.

**********

The first time I saw 'Lizabeth I thought of Scully. She was so like
her and yet she wasn't. A lot of the attraction was physical, but not
all. And a lot of the physical attraction was because she reminded me
of Scully. Okay, some of it was because men drove into pedestrians
when she walked down the street. I liked to hide behind the "she
reminded me of Scully" defense, but that's not completely true. She
reminded me of a blonder Scully with bigger breasts and this incredibly
firm round ass. I might have loved Scully, but I was still a
man.

Scully doesn't think she is soft anymore. Emotionally, I mean. I
would agree. The awful things she has seen have hardened her over the
years. But they've changed me as well and I respect Scully for being
true to herself - she has faced her demons and come back. The horrors
she knows have hardened her because she challenged them; 'Lizabeth
stayed soft because she ran. And speaking as someone who has been
there - damn she was soft.  

I still wonder exactly why she invited me into her home. In hindsight,
I think she saw me as her personal savior. The FBI profiler that was
going to save her kidnapped clients. Someone who had faced the same
things - the same THEM - that she had. Someone her husband had
approved of. Someone who might understand. Her version of Southern
hospitality had included an invitation to her bed.

That makes her sound like a slut. She certainly was not, contrary to
what Scully seemed to think. Yes, Scully, I know you hated her. Would
you rather I had dumped you for someone you really liked? See, I was
trying to be helpful. Okay, sorry, that wasn't funny.

I'm sure Scully imagined my first time with Elizabeth as incredible,
earth-shattering. It was nice, but the earth did not move. I even
stopped and asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this - she
seemed so reluctant. She was naked at the time - who says I have no
self-control? She looked at me puzzled and said "yes." I'd though she
was just shy, or inexperienced, but her technique wasn't inexperienced.
It was just accustom to pleasing another man.  

The second time we made love, she was a little more assertive, more
playful. By the third time, she had figured out what I liked - an
equal partner who was versatile. Rough and tender, funny and serious,
dominant and passive. Yea, I'm greedy. That woman was raised to
please and I was hooked. My brain was housed in my groin for about the
next seven months.

So why did I say yes? She was everything I thought I wanted, if I
didn't think too deep.

Of course, I didn't know what I wanted at the time. I'd told Scully
once that 'Lizabeth was her with a Southern childhood, a big belly, and
no abduction. Change that belly to breasts and make her a believer and
you've about got it. No huge mystery. I was frustrated with Scully
not panting after me like I panted after her or believing the things I
believed, and then this woman that was a weird combination of my
partner and a Playboy Bunny offered. It never occurred to me to say
no.    

What did I feel towards 'Lizabeth? That's a hard question. I felt
protective and I certainly felt attracted. I knew I was confusing her
with Scully, and when I touched her and she didn't pull away, I was
sunk. So we spent the night together. I've had one-night stands
before - no big deal. But I did this right. She was terrified and
somehow I managed to do and say all the right things, for once. I was
with a woman who was so like Scully and I made her come. When you are
as insecure as I was, that's a God-like feeling.   Later, when she
actually wanted to have sex again, my ego was flying. It wasn't hard
to convince myself that I loved her. Not like I loved Scully, but
Scully has never wrapped her naked legs around my hips while I fucked
her in the shower, either. It's a very different type of love, often
referred to as lust.

Other questions Scully will want answers to are easier. Why didn't I
think about birth control? 'Lizabeth was a responsible woman; if it
would have been an issue for her, I thought she would have said
something. I assumed it wasn't. It was stupid, I know. Maybe
unconsciously, I hoped she would get pregnant and give me an excuse to
stay with her. Careful what you wish for. I still can't explain why
she took the chance, but I'm eternally grateful that she did.

Why did I leave 'Lizabeth in Texas after the case? She didn't ask me
to stay. And she was really screwed up then. She needed some time to
absorb what had happened - not with me but with the case and her life.
I thought I'd never see her again.

So I flew back to DC and sorted things out for awhile. I was glad when
Scully found out everything that happened between 'Lizabeth and me; I
didn't like keeping secrets from her. I was floored at what Scully
said to me - that she wanted me to be both her friend and her lover.
Well, she didn't exactly say that, but that was the short version. She
actually said a lot more and she said it a lot louder. Whatever was
happening in her possessive little heart, I would take whatever I could
get when it came to Scully.

You want me, Scully? You got me - on a silver patter, with a rose
between my teeth, whatever you want. Except she really didn't. Every
time I crossed the line from buddies to maybe-lovers, she froze. We
could hold hands, friend-kiss, even cuddle up in bed together, but when
it came to sex or secrets, she always pulled away. I thought maybe she
was frigid. Fine, I can help with frigid. Finally I realized she just
didn't trust me. You trust me with your life, Scully, but not with
your heart or you body. I get that at work all day- I don't need it in
my bed, too. More of your passive-aggressive bullshit. Touch me, don't
touch me, Mulder. Tell me your secrets so I can not tell you mine,
Mulder. Christ, Scully - can't anything ever be easy for us? What the
hell do you want, woman?

All I wanted was for you to love me like I loved you and you didn't.

Elizabeth must have e-mailed me when she first discovered she was
pregnant. She didn't tell me then, but I don't think I would have ever
heard from her again if that wasn't the case. She was naive about many
things, but not about what we were to each other that weekend - under
different circumstances, we could have been wonderful together. But we
found each other when she was looking for her dead husband and I was
looking for Scully and that doesn't make for a foundation
for a healthy romantic relationship.

I liked 'Lizabeth, though. There was a lot to like. She was smart,
kind, thoughtful, funny. Didn't chatter my ear off. Had Scully not
been sitting across from my desk each day, I would have gone after
'Lizabeth in a big way. We became friends. She wrote or called and
told me about the news from Texas. I told her about my cases and all my
best jokes. How do you make five pounds of fat attractive? Add a
nipple. I told her about Scully. She told me about Todd, the man that
had dinner with us that first night. We laughed at each other's
incredibly bad relationship skills. A day didn't pass for several
months that I didn't communicate with 'Lizabeth. Then it stopped.

She was scheduled to present at a conference in New York - one of her
rare trips out of the South. I invited her to schedule a layover in DC
and meet Scully and me for dinner. Let them meet. Seemed like a
brilliant plan at the time. No romance, no pressure; just wanted two
of my best friends to meet. 'Lizabeth got very quiet on the phone.

"Is this going to work between you and Scully?" she finally asked.

"I'm trying. I want it to. Maybe I'm just a big coward," I told her
and laughed. It had been a running joke between us - me being
terrified of one-hundred pounds of Scully.

"I don't want you to call me anymore, Mulder. I want you to be happy
with Scully. You're a good man and I like you, so don't contact me or
try to see me again." Her voice was very soft.

I sat on the couch holding the phone, stunned. I was having no trouble
separating my struggling relationship with Scully from my friendship
with 'Lizabeth. The past was the past. "You're not going to interfere
with Scully and me, 'Lizabeth, if that's what you're afraid of." That
was all I could think that she might mean.

"Yes, I would. Goodbye, Mulder. Thank you for everything." And she
hung up.

'Lizabeth didn't know me as well as Scully did. She should have made
up a new jealous boyfriend (which she actually kind of had - Todd had
been hanging around, but she wasn't having anything to do with him
until his divorce was final), or a job offer in Europe. You can't just
leave me hanging like that and not expect me to track down clues like a
bloodhound. By the end of the week, I had the records for her credit
cards, her checking account, home and business phone, and her e-mail
password. Sorting through the reams of paper, I figured out what that
"P" meant on 'Lizabeth's and Scully's clothes- 4P, 6P. "P" for
"Pretty damn expensive." I found my answer in her e-mail exchanges
with her old friend from college; she was pregnant with my child and
she was scared - she didn't say of what - but I bet now that it was
THEM.

The tape was in a plain envelope wedged in my door when I came back
from running the day I found out she was pregnant. As soon as I heard
what was on it, I knew who had been listening - the FBI went over her
house with a fine-toothed comb and didn't find any microphones. If
they were there, whoever they belonged to had better technology than
the FBI. I knew who that was. THEM. The Smoking Man. The Consortium.
The same men that took my sister and Scully. Gave Scully cancer. Gave
'Lizabeth's husband cancer when he wouldn't kill for them anymore.
Killed my father and Scully's sister and God knows how many innocent
people. That THEM.

It was a tape of the first thing I said when I walked into her home -
THEY wanted me to know they heard every word we said. It ended with
the first time we had sex and a warning from the Smoking Man. C. G. B.
Spender. Stop searching for the truth or lose them both. I first
thought he meant Scully and 'Lizabeth. Then I realized one of "them
both" was the baby. The other could be either of them. It was like my
dream of Diana and the suburbs come-to-life. Give up and I got
everything THEY thought I wanted. Keep looking and lose it all.

Their threats didn't make my choice as THEY probably thought they
would, but they factored in. All I ever really wanted to know was what
happened to my sister, Samantha. I knew that now - I had my truth. No
one else needed to die because of my quest. If I had to choose, EBEs
could move in next door to me as long as they didn't hurt my child, my
'Lizabeth, or my Scully. I wonder what happened to that tape. I wish
I had a copy, preferably with a video to go with it. I miss 'Lizabeth
some nights. I miss Scully some nights and most days.

Why didn't I question that the baby was mine? I did see another man
naked in her bed that morning. Because I was there, Scully. I've been
with teenage girls that were more aggressive in bed. Don't panic, I
was also a teenager at the time. Anyway, she certainly hadn't been
boinking the masses. I was the only man - alive- that got to call her
"Liz." It was quite a feeling.  

I thought about Scully for a long time before I called. Scully did not
love me. Period. She might be possessive, she might be tolerant, she
might be curious, but she did not want what I wanted. I wanted
forever. Scully didn't. I needed to quit while I was ahead, while I
still had my best friend.

I thought about 'Lizabeth. She loved so easily and I thought I could
make her love me. I saw 'Lizabeth as a before version of Scully - a
chance to make up for my sins against my partner. I could go back to
the Scully I first met and right all my wrongs. I could keep her safe,
never have her be hurt or disillusioned because of me. I could have a
family. I wouldn't be alone anymore. In my greedy mind, it was a
tempting offer.

Elizabeth also had something I wanted badly. I always thought I was
Mr. Pro-Choice, women's lib, yadda, yadda, yadda. Not when it came to
my child, I wasn't. I was terrified that 'Lizabeth would just get an
abortion and I would have no say about it. If she did have the baby,
that didn't mean I would ever get to see it. Even if I could convince
a judge that Spooky Mulder was a fit father, I might get visitation, at
most, with my child living a thousand miles away, probably being raised
by Todd the Pompous. No court was going to give me and my mental
health history custody over Dr. Matthews the child NEUROpsychologist.

I thought of how good it felt to lay in the dark with Scully, listening
to her soft breathing. Was it worth it to never hear that again for
the rest of my life? Did I let my child and a chance at happiness go
so I could keep chasing a woman who didn't want to be chased? I had to
make my choice now and live with it forever. I wasn't in the minor
leagues any more - I was playing with the big boys now.

It took a long Saturday night and Sunday morning and a bottle of Scotch
to decide. I kissed Scully goodnight like I never had before. It was
selfish, I know, but I pulled her to me and melted my body into hers -
just once so I would know what it was like. Incredible, of course.
She didn't invite more. That made my final decision.

How did I get 'Lizabeth to move to DC? I told her to. I'd seen my
father do it to my mother and I hated it. I hated the kicked-dog look
on my mother's face when he barked orders at her. I thought he was a
monster. Like father, like son.

I had to talk fast before 'Lizabeth hung up on me. I told her I knew
she was pregnant. That bought me some time. I told her I wanted the
baby and I wanted her. She listened. I tried to persuade her - we
were both adults, we were both professional, we were already friends,
we were good lovers - we should at least give us a chance and see if
there was an us. I told her I could keep her safe from THEM. I told
her I loved her. I thought I meant it. 'Lizabeth didn't budge.   I
could hear the quiet stubbornness in her voice that I only liked when
it was directed at other people.  

After an hour of discussion and half the bottle of Scotch, I got mad.
My father's voice came out of my mouth and said she was moving to DC
and she was going to give our relationship a chance or I would come get
her. She owed it to our child and she owed it to me and she was being
selfish. My level of respect for her dropped a notch when she said
yes.

Once she agreed, she never looked back. I have no idea what she told
Todd, but I spent all of Sunday figuring out what to tell Scully. I
kept thinking of Emily and a vial of ova. I couldn't bring myself to
tell Scully about the pregnancy yet. I would wait until she hated me;
a baby would be a mere ping on her psyche compared to how she would
hate me.

But Scully said she didn't hate me. She said she loved me and I asked
her to marry me. What did I think she was going to say? "Of course,
Mulder. I've secretly always wanted to spend my life with you - my not
wanting you in my bed was just a ploy to make you crazy for me."

Scully, if you would have just said "maybe" or "sort of" or "I'll try."
If you had done anything besides looking at me with those terrified
eyes, my life would be very different today. But you didn't.

After I told Scully, things happened fast. The next thing I knew,
'Lizabeth was in my arms in front of my apartment building. She was so
beautiful and soft and she smelled so good. I had every reason to be
deliriously happy. For a while, I even was.

I thought I had it made. I got to work all day with my Scully -
chasing monsters and phantoms - and then to go home and make love to my
'Lizabeth. The best of both worlds. I was a happy man.

Scully was wonderful. She continued to be my partner and friend - she
was even nice to 'Lizabeth. What a woman. In the blur that surrounded
my first weeks with 'Lizabeth, Scully kind of got overlooked. Even
once the novelty wore off, I was blindly committed to 'Lizabeth and our
relationship. I can't imagine what that did to Scully. At the time, I
thought she was okay with it.

'Lizabeth was wonderful. I had wondered how she had been able to go to
college, let alone finish her doctorate, in an atmosphere where
education often wasn't highly valued in women. I got my answer quickly
once she started spending weekends with me. Her husband had been
accepting, even supportive of her going to school, provided she took
care of him first. 'Lizabeth expected me to share his beliefs. I
didn't. The complete male pig in me has to admit it was nice,
though. We finally achieved a compromise where she got to cook and
clean everything in sight and I got to dote on her shamelessly. Both
seemed to make her happy. Who would have thought Fox Mulder would end
up with Betty Crocker?

Only at home, though. My domestic little 'Lizabeth quickly became
either the terror or the darling of every school system and many
parents and graduate psych students in the greater DC area - depended
on whether they shared her opinions or not. I hadn't realized how
successful she was - I'd thought the car, clothes, gadgets, and horse
were bought with her father's money. Nope. I had a beautiful, giving,
successful girlfriend who was pregnant with my child at home
and a brilliant, dedicated partner and best friend at work. Even in
spite of 'Lizabeth's demon-possessed dog, it was one of the happiest
times of my life. I thought I'd found what I wanted.

I didn't think Scully would actually come to dinner with us, even when
I told her about it. I was only going because I wanted 'Lizabeth to
see I did normal things. She'd been giving me worried looks after
meeting the Gunmen. I must have been feeling suicidal the night I
decided it was a good idea to introduce her to them.

If I remember the conversation with Frohike when I told him about
'Lizabeth, the phrase "head completely up you ass" was involved. I
think Frohike believed if he ignored her long enough, she'd go away, so
he refused to speak to her. She was unfailingly nice to him, of
course, and he was eventually willing to glare at her from across the
room. Langly had run his version of a background check on her and her
late husband, so he and Frohike were wearing Kevlar. Langly said her
husband "was one bad-assed mother-fucker." He said it to her face. Oh
- and Byers was smitten. Nerd lust, to add to the party atmosphere.
So I had spent the evening sitting in their bunker listening to them
discuss their latest conspiracy theories, with Byers making puppy-dog
faces and Frohike staring daggers into her, while my girlfriend's eyes
got as big as saucers. I thought dinner with the FBI family would seem
normal in comparison.

It was also a chance to show her off. I am a pig - I have never denied
it.
 
'Lizabeth was already at the restaurant when Scully, Skinner, me, and
everyone else got there, so Scully didn't see her belly. She wasn't
showing very much yet, but I could tell. She didn't have that build-
like-a-brick-shithouse figure anymore, and it was bothering her.
Didn't bother me - I was excited. Of course, I wasn't the one getting
fat. Anyway, we got there and all the men start to drool over Scully
and 'Lizabeth. Yes, Skinner, I did notice. Don't worry, I had the
same fantasy about the two of them, too. I realized that, at some
point in the evening, 'Lizabeth was going to have to stand up and that
Scully was a doctor and a woman. She wasn't going to miss it. I
ordered a drink. Scully and 'Lizabeth had their heads together
whispering about something, hopefully not me. I ordered another, then
another.

The next thing I remember is Scully standing in my doorway staring at
'Lizabeth's belly, me screaming like a caveman at my girlfriend, and
telling Skinner to take Scully home. Not one of the prouder moments of
my life, and I say that as someone who has had holes drilled in his
head. I have no idea what else I said to Scully, but 'Lizabeth told me
she was crying on the street outside when she left the apartment
building.

Then my soul was ripped apart- my Scully left me. There was an e-mail
from Skinner saying she was taking some leave time. After a few days,
I realized she wasn't coming back. Ever. I knew this was going to
happen, and I tried to go on. 'Lizabeth and I had marathon sex.  
Dinner and dancing. I went with her to her ultrasound. I saw the baby
on the screen while I held 'Lizabeth's hand. I dropped her off at the
University, drove over to Scully's apartment, barged in and told her I
would tell 'Lizabeth to get an abortion and get out if Scully would
just come back to work. I meant it. To hell with 'Lizabeth, the baby,
the threats on the tape - it wasn't worth it if I had to spend my life
without Scully. If she'd said no, I probably would have swallowed a
bullet. She came back and I added another layer of guilt to the thick
lacquer on my soul every time I looked at my girlfriend's growing
belly.

I tried everything I knew to make 'Lizabeth happy and I think she was.
She wasn't looking for the same kind of happiness I was, but I think
she was content about most things. That was one of the few bad things
about her - and Scully is the same way - I had to guess at what she was
feeling. Her still waters ran very deep and I wasn't one of the people
privy to the secrets of her deep. I got to fuck her, yes, but not to
know what she felt towards me.  

She tried to make me happy, as well. She gave every appearance of
adoring me, and I don't know that she didn't. Whatever she really
felt, she'd made her decision and she stuck by it. So did I. We
should have been wonderful together - my needy, driven, outgoing man
and 'Lizabeth's giving, serene, shy woman. On paper, it looked great.
In real life, it felt hollow. Hollow isn't as bad as you'd think it
would be. Factor in good sex, common beliefs, and plenty of money to
play with, and two friends committed to each other can live with hollow
pretty happily.  

Somewhere along the line, I realized what it was that wasn't right
between 'Lizabeth and me - other than that she was in love with her
dead husband. I began to understand how much she didn't want this baby
and that stung. I was beside myself over the idea of being a father,
and I resented that she didn't feel that same excitement. She never
said a word, but I knew. If she had wanted children, she probably
would have had them with her husband that she loved and not with me
that she didn't love. I thought about the nightmares Scully still had
and the children that she never would. The more I thought about it,
the more I disliked 'Lizabeth for feeling that way.

I started to drink more. Not drunk, but a little numb to take the edge
off and let me relax. Enough to let me ignore little nagging details
like 'Lizabeth not really wanting to be with me or wanting to have our
child. Like the pretty redhead that spent hours each day with me
trying hard to look like I hadn't disappointed her. I tried to make
'Lizabeth more like Scully.   I wanted her to be tougher, more
resilient. More aggressive. That didn't work well. I even called her
"Scully" a few times - or so she said. I started wanting to have sex
with her from behind - that's never a good sign in a relationship. My
excuse was that her belly got in the way, but that wasn't the truth. I
wanted to close my eyes and pretend she was Scully.

Scully knocked on my hotel door one night to ask if I wanted anything
ironed- she was pressing her suit for the next day. It was just a
friendly offer, but something snapped inside of me. I thanked her,
told her no, and drove to the liquor store. No, Scully, I didn't need
anything pressed. My lovely girlfriend had ironed everything within an
inch of its life when she helped me pack this morning, reaching
awkwardly over her pregnant stomach to make sure my collars were
perfect. My apartment was spotless and my fridge was full. I got back
rubs when I was tired after work and she met me at the door with a
beer. Men looked at me enviously when I took 'Lizabeth anywhere.

No, Scully, I didn't need anything pressed. I needed you to come lay
down beside me and kiss this whole mess away. I needed my girlfriend
to tell me what went on behind her placid blue eyes. I needed her to
open those eyes when I made love to her. Actually, Scully, I wanted
you to be nothing like 'Lizabeth and I wanted 'Lizabeth to be
everything that you were. I wanted her to interrupt me, argue with me,
chase after bad guys in three-inch heels. I wanted a woman who
couldn't cook, told me to get my own damn beer, and occasionally
shot me. One who never arched her back and turned on the charm to get
out of traffic tickets, or answered to "honey." I wanted her to put
herself on the line for me, be ready to die beside me because I would
do the same for her. I hated 'Lizabeth for not being you. I realized
the scope of the mistake that I had made, but it was too late.  

I don't think 'Lizabeth was worldly enough to realize that. She got
caught up in her teaching and her clients and, except for taking care
of me, sex, and social events, I didn't play an important part in her
life. I had more dreams where it was Scully with the swollen belly
laying beside me in bed. For the first time since she moved to DC,
'Lizabeth actually spent a weekend at her townhouse.    

When she collapsed, I sobered up. This wasn't a game, it was my life,
and in a little over a month, I was going to have a son. How did I get
her to marry me? Same way I got her to DC - I ordered her to. Scully
told me to give her more time.   I wasn't sure there was enough time in
the world to fix what I had screwed up. My new wife did not love me.
I had no question that I did not love her, no matter how much I liked
her. Her heart belonged to a dead man and I was getting whatever was
left. My heart belonged to Scully, whether she wanted it or not. It's
tough to make a marriage work with problems like that, but I wanted
to try.

I was holding our son when she stopped breathing.

The doctor hadn't seemed concerned about her labor, even though it was
three weeks early, but it scared the hell out of me. She had become
tired and hadn't wanted to push. The nurse had tried to motivate her
by saying that she would have a beautiful son soon if she kept pushing.
I knew those weren't the magic words.

"Think of a flat stomach. Size six jeans. Bikinis. Little thong
panties. Push, honey." That got me a smile and pushing. She wasn't
that shallow, but she had hated maternity underwear with a passion.

Then Will was there and I was holding him. They checked him out,
cleaned him up, and handed him to me. In that moment, holding my son,
I understood and I believed. I understood why men would kill to
protect their children's future. Just show me what dirty deal to make
or who to shoot and I was there. I believed that there was something
greater than man that had facilitated the growth of two cells into this
tiny creature. Flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood.

'Lizabeth's tired voice asked me, "Is he okay?"

"He's perfect. Tiny, but perfect." I brought him over for her to see.
She looked at him like she was picking out fruit. "He's beautiful,
honey," I told her.

"He is kind of cute. He'll go good with all that baby stuff we
bought."

I breathed a thousand sighs of relief. "You did a good thing," I told
her.

'Lizabeth smiled back at me, "You're a good man, Mulder."  

The nurse interrupted our moment of bliss. "Time for one more push,
Mrs. Mulder."

I knew what that meant. Placenta. Ugh. I turned away with my son and
continued my own euphoria. 'Mrs. Mulder.' I still looked around for
my mother when people said that. 'Lizabeth was a good Mrs. Mulder,
though. She was steady and dedicated to me and hopefully, to our son.
It helped that she was beautiful, incredibly nice, and a good lay, too.
Scully had said that she was good for me, and that was true. I could
see the years ahead of us and, for the first time since I found out she
was pregnant, I wasn't afraid of them.   We may not be perfect
together, but I couldn't imagine a life without her or my son.
'Lizabeth had told me something similar the day I met her, but she had
been talking about another man.

Then there was a flurry of activity around 'Lizabeth. Monitors beeped
and nurses went running for carts and medical-looking things. I stood
in the middle of the chaos, not sure what was happening. One of the
nurses eventually ushered me, still holding the baby, out of the
delivery room. She took him from me and I could only stand and watch
the doctors work frantically through the observation window.

I don't really remember much about the next few weeks or so. I
remember the doctor telling me she'd had a stroke. He used a lot of
medical jargon before he finally said "brain dead." Brain dead I
understood.

I don't remember calling Scully, but I remember her voice pronouncing
'Lizabeth's time of death after they turned off the ventilator. 3:16
in the afternoon. Eight and a half months after I met her. Age
thirty. Five-foot three inches tall. Eyes blue, hair strawberry
blonde. Wears size six shoes. One hundred and twenty-eight pounds at
her last check-up before the baby came. The baby was six pounds even.
I chanted facts to myself. Facts made sense.

I don't remember anything about the funeral except being on the dusty
floor on top of Todd pounding the hell out of him. I don't even
remember what he said or did. I never really liked that arrogant
asshole, anyway.

I remember holding Scully while I cried.

I remember wandering around my apartment trying to figure out where
'Lizabeth had hidden my shoes this time. The dog kept finding them and
chewing them, so she kept coming up with new hiding places. If I
couldn't find them, I was going to have to wake her up and ask, and I
hated to do that. So I kept looking.

I remember giving the diaper bag to Scully so she could keep the baby.
It was okay, 'Lizabeth wouldn't mind. Scully was a doctor and she was
good with kids. I wasn't sure about Skinner and the dog, though.
There was something wrong with that dog. Skinner couldn't say that I
didn't warn him.

I remember being in the shower with Scully's mother. I thought at
first it was just an interesting dream. She was cute, but Jesus, that
was really sick. She was wearing clothes, I was not. She pronounced
me clean and dragged me out. She wrapped a towel around me, handed me
a toothbrush and ordered me to brush. Not like my usual sex dreams at
all. She was holding my razor, though, and that looked like it could
be interesting. It wasn't. Getting dressed wasn't any fun either. I
came back to reality when she put me in the car to go to the
psychiatrist.

When I went to get the dog back from Skinner, I wanted to ask him about
Scully. Not how Scully was; I knew that. I talked to her every day
for my regular Will update. I was still hesitant to see him, but I
wanted to keep up on how he was. I wanted to know if Skinner had been
fucking her yet. Not that I had any cause to object - hell, I even
told him to take Scully home, once. It was just idle curiosity. Sure
it was. I lost my nerve. Anyway, the dog had eaten four pairs of his
shoes and Scully had my gun. I wasn't going to piss off Skinner even
further.

I spent the next few months getting my act together. 'Lizabeth had a
damn good lawyer - I think he was at the funeral. He was an old
college buddy of hers and like every other man that knew 'Lizabeth, he
was half in love with her. Scully has the same problem, but she
doesn't know it. Anyway, he made whatever I told him to happen,
happen. I sold 'Lizabeth's townhouse and, although it broke my
heart, her car. I set up money to take care of Will in case anything
would happen to me. I cleaned her clothes out of my closets and gave
them to a battered women's shelter. I boxed up things I thought Will
might want some day - our wedding bands, the sweater I bought her, the
picture of our first real kiss, her music, and her journal, unread. I
tried to teach that dog some manners. I wrapped up in the velvet quilt
I got her and cried while I listened to Etta James sing the blues.
Except for Will, a trust fund, and a few boxes, it was amazing how fast
she vanished from my life without a trace.

When I was sure I could handle it, I asked Scully to show me how to
take care of Will. I actually had no idea; I had just assumed
'Lizabeth would show me. I can't fathom how he survived the first two
weeks of his life. Scully held classes each night on feeding,
changing, bathing, and dressing. Being my partner, she also had
insider tips like not to shake him up after you feed him. Formula good
in bottle; iced tea bad. No sunflower seeds. If I thought he had
a fever, I was supposed to put the thermometer in the most impolite
place, or else I could buy an expensive ear thermometer. Guess what I
bought on the way home? That and a blue backpack that was really a
diaper bag. I wasn't carrying anything with duckies or bunnies on it.

I spent more and more time with him every day until I was ready.
Scully offered to come spend a few days with me, but I told her no. I
knew what she was offering, although I didn't know why. Pity sex? I
was having a tough enough time keeping it together without having to
deal with what I knew would happen if she spent the night with me. I
told her that Skinner had taken care of the dog until I could come for
it, and that she had taken care of my son until I could come for him
and I was grateful to both of them. If she wanted to wait, I would
find for her when I knew I was ready and we would talk then. I told
her I would understand if she didn't want to wait, or if she wasn't
there when I came for her. Then I picked up Will and left. It was one
of the hardest things I've ever done.

I never thought I would love anyone as much as I love Scully, but I
think Will would be a close call. I love him and I love being a
father. We jog together, we buy groceries together. We shower and
sleep together. We watch the Sci-Fi channel and ESPN together. He's a
Nicks fan, too. He should have come along when I was single - or
rather, when I was interested in other women besides Scully - my son
attracts the ladies like a free gift at the Clinique counter.

I didn't realize how many things I needed to sort out until I started
unraveling the tangle. 'Lizabeth, obviously. Major guilt with Scully.
Her abduction, her cancer, every freak who every shot, touched, or hurt
her. My sister, of course. My father and his contribution to aliens
invading the planet. My mother hiding inside her emotional fortress.
The list went on and on. Every time I thought I had made my peace,
something else would float to the surface. If I was going to raise
Will alone, I needed to face my own demons. My son deserved it. And I
deserved it.

I used to sit and hold Will and just look at him for hours, thinking of
all the different paths my life could have taken. I'd offered to trade
his life if Scully would stay with me. 'Lizabeth had died so I could
have him. My sweet 'Lizabeth that never wanted to hurt anything in her
life had died having a baby I'd intimidated her into having. If not
for Will, I would never have stopped chasing Scully, and 'Lizabeth was
part of the deal that got me Will. Now 'Lizabeth was dead and I had my
son and I could go back to chasing Scully full-time instead of just
imagining her when I had sex with 'Lizabeth. It was a big, old-
chewing-gum ball of guilt in my stomach, and watching Will helped me
sort it out. He was so perfect - and loving him washed away years of
my sins.

Once I got accustom to having Will, I started to miss Scully. I talked
to her occasionally, at first, to tell her how Will and I were doing.
I didn't talk about any future between Scully and I because I didn't
know. I was taking it one day at a time. And I had a sneaking
suspicion she was already with Skinner. Once she was sure Will and I
were okay, she stopped calling. I took that as a sign. I still missed
her, though.

I don't remember when I started loving Scully the way I should have in
the first place. When the neon sign came on in my brain flashing "this
woman and no other." When Scully stopped being "My Scully" to me and
became just "Scully,", without my having to stake my territory with
every breath. That it dawned on me that love didn't equal ownership,
or sex, or attraction, or even unconditional like. That love was about
commitment and acceptance and letting go. That Scully loved me and I
had screwed up royally. Once I realized what it was to love
unselfishly, it came as natural to me as breathing and I missed Scully
the way I would miss clean air. I could live without her, but I was
not complete.

I started going into the office at night while Scully was away on
cases. What I told Skinner was the truth - it made me feel close to
her. Skinner gave himself away when he told me how she smelled, but he
also told me there was no contest between us. Told me she loved me and
that she was hurting. I'd suspected, but I never knew for sure until
then - about Skinner and her or about how much Scully must have
suffered. Wonderful - new guilt. But whatever had happened
between them was over. I couldn't blame Scully - in fact I was glad
Skinner had been there for her. He was a good man. Who was I to
judge? I got married to another woman. That usually limits a man's
availability to date.

So I left her the note.

I'm coping. I'm sorry. I love you.

I thought she would come to me, but she didn't. Again, I took that as
a sign. Either she wasn't ready or she wasn't going to. I hoped she
just wasn't ready. I went on with my life.

It took me awhile to figure out who started calling and hanging up on
my answering machine after that. Every day at one o'clock while I was
trying to get Will down for a nap. The caller ID was always blocked.
If I left Will and picked up, they hung up immediately. If I let the
machine answer, they listened to the entire message and then hung up.
At first, I freaked out and had the calls traced. No luck; they were
from pay phones all over the country, including one outside the FBI
building, made with phone cards you could buy at any convenience store.
Someone went to a good deal of trouble to make sure I couldn't call
them back just so they could hear my voice saying I couldn't come
to the phone.

Someone who usually finished her yogurt at one o'clock. Someone who
would be traveling around the US alone these days. Someone who missed
me and wanted me to know that. Someone who wasn't ready to talk to me
yet.

Will's nap got postponed so I could listen to her listen to me. Entire
days got planned around my being able to sit beside my home phone for
those thirty seconds with a cranky baby on my lap. As long as I didn't
pick up, she never missed a day. The few times I lost control and
grabbed the phone, she hung up and didn't call for a few days. So
every day, right before our nap, Will and I sat beside the phone and
listened to it ring. As long as it rang, I knew Scully was out there
somewhere thinking about me at the same time I was thinking about
her. After a few months, Will automatically started getting sleepy
every time someone called. His mother would have been proud.

After I thought about it for a while, I added two phrases to my message
so it ran: "This is Fox Mulder. I can't come to the phone right now,
so please leave me a message whenever you're ready. Take all the time
you need."

Eventually, I ran out of family leave, vacation leave, and sick leave
time. If I wanted to keep my job, I was going to have to go back to
work. I didn't have to work; between my father's and 'Lizabeth's
estate, I could have stayed home and taken care of Will for years. I
missed working, though. And I wanted my son to grow up in a world
where he wasn't a slave to some alien race. While I was less interested
in running off to the boonies chasing UFOs than I once was, I still
wanted to do my part to make sure the correct future happened. rovided
I could rid the planet of alien viruses and still make it to pick Will
up before the sitter charged me overtime.  

**********

Children have a way of interfering in your love life. I hadn't
encountered it until now, but I'd hoped I would have the opportunity to
experience it one day. Will didn't disappoint.

Daddy's having a destiny-shaping moment, son - do you need me right
this minute? Yes, of course you do. The love of Daddy's life is
squishing you and you'd like to be put down so you can go torment the
dog.

I had to let Scully go long enough to free Will, and then she came back
to me with an intensity that I'd never felt from her - like someone had
hit her sexual "on" switch. I'd always suspected she'd had an "on"
switch; I just wasn't the one that could flick it. Someone had found
it though, and I was enjoying the full intensity. Her hands ran up my
chest and across and down my shoulders, exploring, caressing, her face
resting against my neck again. I could feel her hot breath warming my
skin, as tempting as the Devil's tongue.

Don't do this, Scully. Don't do this if you don't mean it.

You don't mean it. You can't mean it.

Don't tempt me like this. Will is almost a year old, Scully - you're
the math geek; you know how long it's been.

Oh, God.

I was aroused on some cosmic level. This wasn't just any woman, this
was Scully. Scully doing what I'd always dreamed she would do -
wanting me. Loving me.

At least it looked like Scully.

Through some superhuman effort I pinned her hands against me before
they made it below my waist; that self-control no one ever thinks that
I possess. "Scully?" Not very eloquent, but not much blood was
getting to my brain. "Miss me, Scully?"

"I just want to make sure you're real, Mulder. That you're really
here."

"I'm really here, Scully." If you're just checking my vitals, I don't
think your tongue is the most effective way to find my carotid pulse,
woman.  

"You're really coming back?" Scully looked up at me, her eyes
pleading, desperate. Eyes promising me.

Promising soft lips and pale skin against white, tangled sheets.

Not an appropriate thought. I'd already screwed up her life enough -
hands off, Mulder.

She can't really want this. We've already established that almost two
years ago and things had only gotten worse since then - a wife, a baby.
Skinner.

"Of course I'm coming back." I smiled at her and permitted myself to
kiss the top of her smooth head. She was just worried about me. My
long-neglected libido was just overreacting...

...Hell no, I wasn't overreacting. This woman was coming on to me.
Dana Scully had never come on to me before, but a few others had - and
I remembered how it generally went.

I was busy analyzing what the rules of this new game might be - the
thought that she might love me and want me sprung up in the rear of my
brain again and I stamped it back down immediately and forcefully.
While I was debating and sending separate but equally urgent "down"
messages to my groin, I wasn't watching Will - I didn't have much
experience trying to pay attention to a beautiful woman and parenting
at the same time. I jumped when I heard a thud and then him crying; my
son was working on this walking thing, but he was still having lots of
issues with gravity. When I picked him up, his crying sounded tired -
that was my excuse, anyway. I needed to get away from Scully before I
reciprocated and pissed her off again.  

Been there before. Me ready, Scully not ready. I think I got a kid
that way.

"I'm gonna take Will home, Scully. He's tired. It's okay, Will, we're
leaving." I looked around for the dog's leash. It went without saying
that the dog did not heel.

"You can't."

"I can't what, Scully? He's tired and he's getting cranky." Come on,
Scully - just let me go.

"You can't leave me." She looked upset, her hand reaching out to touch
me; to keep the physical contact.

"I'll be back at work in two weeks. It's okay, I'm not going
anywhere." I was trying to sooth her while I soothed Will. What was
wrong with her?

"No, you can't ever leave me. We're a part of each other."

Epiphany.  

For someone who's supposed to be so brilliant, I learn some lessons the
hard way.

I was the one who hadn't been ready to commit to her - body, soul,
mind, put it all on the line, ask for nothing in return, committed.
That was why she wouldn't settle for anything less. Scully was waiting
until I loved her like a man instead of an adolescent kid and she'd
been getting damn lonely.          
   
This woman and no other. My one in five billion, who's "on" switch had
a childproof latch, keeping her heart safe from little boys. Even ones
masquerading as FBI agents.  

But grown-ups were welcome. Always had been.

I set Will down and handed him a bottle to forestall the inevitable for
a few minutes. Just hold off the sleepies for ten minutes, Will.
Daddy has something he's been meaning to do for almost a decade now.

In front of whatever God is out there, my son, that damn dog, and
probably a few covert surveillance cameras, I pushed her up against the
wall and kissed her. I mean, really I kissed her. None of this
pucker-up, peck-on-the-cheek, chaste shit. I'd spent nine years
waiting to be free to kiss her - free of my demons, free of her demons,
free of conspiracies, cancer, aliens, and commitments. My kiss started
with her calf draped over the back of my leg, moved upward to my
hand on her thigh pulling her leg up and over my hip, and included her
hand in the small of my back pulling my hips against her. It passed
through my other hand cupping her breast, our hungry lips, and ended
with her other hand in my hair. If she didn't like it, I think she
could have pressed sexual assault charges. Fortunately, she liked it.      

Will had never seen anything like this, and didn't know what to make of
it. He was tugging on the leg of my jeans as I ravaged Scully, asking
bewilderedly, "Dada? Dada?" Freud would have been horrified.

Fuck Freud.

Son, I love you, but tonight you may need to start learning to sleep in
your own bed.

Daddy's will be too full.

[107 楼] | Posted: 2013-12-13 03:17 顶端
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**********

End: Against My Ruins (4/5)

Quick Author's Note: For readers focused on the MSR, you might want to
stop here. The next section is Scully's POV two years into the future,
and, although it clarifies who Elizabeth was, it doesn't end happily.
The epilogue is Mulder eight years into the future and brings the
mytharc full circle.


Begin: Then Spoke the Thunder (5/5)

I'm about to read a dead woman's diary to get out of toilet training
our son.

Mulder and I thought we had the potty battle won three months ago, but
we discovered, on Will's first day of preschool, that he won't pee
anywhere but at home. He had refused to go all morning until he'd
finally wet his pants.

Since I lack the necessary equipment, the job of teaching Will that
real men can pee on anything they want to, has been designated to my
husband. They've been happily running around the neighborhood all
morning, pissing in every bathroom, and on every tree they can find.
Mulder's going to have to be more discrete or he's going to get
arrested. They are pretty cute, though, my husband and my adopted son
standing side-by-side in their winter coats, peeing into the bushes
in our backyard.

Adopted.

I forget that Will is not my biological child. A child of my heart,
not of my body. Except for seven months or so, I have raised him as his
mother since he was born. Born to another woman when Mulder's wife was
not me. A dead woman.

Mulder and I always told Will the truth about who his birth mother was,
but he was too young to understand. Besides, Elizabeth and I looked so
much alike, it confused Mulder - I couldn't expect Will to keep all the
mommies straight. Recently, he'd started asking questions about her
and I looked to Mulder for answers.

He hadn't had them.

I was shocked at how little he knew about Elizabeth. She floated in
and out of his life, remaining a gossamer mystery. He didn't know her
maiden name for a bank account we opened for Will - we had to use mine,
which is no great mystery, since it is the same as my married name.

My Mulder is a different man than he was four years ago. Before the
great divide. This Mulder is calmer, more steady. More at peace with
the world. He's still a believer, still driven, still brilliant, but
not rash. He's a grown-up now and I love him.

But some days I miss my old Mulder. I loved him, too.

The thoughtless, impulsive imp that charged off at a moment's notice to
do battle with the unknown. The self-centered ass that ditched me in
morgues all over the country. The myopic flirt that slept with a woman
he didn't know, and then dumped me because she was pregnant.

It doesn't sting like it used to. In fact, it barely smarts at all
now. I was always Mulder's best friend - the only one he trusted. I
was his partner in life, and a few times, in death. I was the one he
imagined when he made love to Elizabeth. I was the one who laid beside
him at night now and got the privilege of helping raise his son. His
son, our child.

I hate to think of Elizabeth as being just a means to produce the child
that I love, because I liked her. She was, by far, the nicest woman I
have ever met. It made me sad to see the impact of her short life
summarized into a few pages.

But now our child wants to know about his birth mother. I found the
boxes Mulder had packed after she died when Will was born - some of her
clothes, her books, her pictures, her music. I couldn't resist trying
on her wedding band in the solitude of the attic - just once to see how
it felt to be her. She's worn it for less than a month. Mulder's old
ring was there too, symbols of a union that never really formed.

Hollow. It felt very hollow to be her. I was content to be me these
days. Being Dana Scully was very full.

At the bottom of the box was her journal. I had brought it to Mulder
this morning, assuming he would read it. I really didn't think about
what that would entail.

He refused. Not because it was an invasion of her privacy, but because
it held answers that he didn't want to know. Who she was, why she
never loved him. What awful things THEY must have done to her. What
she knew. Why she didn't want Will.

Mulder had faced many of the demons that had stalked him for so long
and this was the last. The last mystery. How his son came to be. It
took me back to a time years ago, when I would always bear the cold
truth myself before sharing it with Mulder, because he couldn't face
its full force.

"Just read it and tell me about it, Scully," he had said, and led Will
off to begin marking the neighborhood like two stray dogs.

"Just read it." Half of me is salivating with curiosity and the other
half is sickened. Mulder and I had picked up the pieces of our lives
separately and then forged a stronger bond together. We didn't
apologize and we didn't look back.

I got a fresh cup of coffee, sat on the swing in our sun room with the
brown journal on my lap, watched Mulder and Will and remembered.

**********

I knew Fox Mulder had potential the first time I laid eyes on him.
That brilliant mind combined with those smoldering eyes behind his
glasses. I'd shrugged it off as a case of hormones, but any other man
I dated or slept with got compared to Mulder, unfavorably. I had no
intention of becoming a number to him - another faceless, fluffy woman.
I pressed those forbidden thoughts down to a dark place deep inside me.
Mulder was a great friend, but he was not relationship material. Too
arrogant, too self-centered. Too haunted, too self-destructive. I
wasn't about to let him destroy me as he destroyed himself. I built my
wall high, but occasionally I permitted myself to peek through a crack
in the mortar - just to check on his progress. Usually when he was
suffering, and Mulder suffered better than any man alive.

"A mind like Aristotle and a form like mortal sin." Katherine Hepburn
said that when she played Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter"
and it always reminded me of Mulder. Eleanor and her husband loved so
fiercely that they devoured each other with their intensity. I could
see Mulder and I following the same path into the inferno, so I
lingered in the safety of Purgatory. Better to smolder as friends than
perish as lovers. Mulder, you think Phoebe is fire? No, your flames
are far more dangerous.

I tasted his fire briefly before Elizabeth moved to DC. It was when I
found pictures of her in his desk drawer that I knew. Mulder wanted
me. Me, Dana Scully. Plain, ordinary, Agent Scully. Not only as a
friend, but as a lover. Wow. Even in the black and white photos,
Elizabeth's resemblance to me was obvious. Younger, blonder, better
built, but me. I knew he loved me - he told me every time he had a
head injury - but loving me and wanting me were two different things.
It made me breathless to know for sure. Mulder's hands on me made me
even more breathless, but not breathless enough to be stupid.

When I got to know Elizabeth, I understood Mulder better and I didn't
like what I understood. She wasn't intimidating, she wasn't
aggressive. Elizabeth was an empty vessel shaped like me that Mulder
could never feel threatened by. That was who he chose over me.
Coward. That knowledge added another layer of bricks to the walls I
often retreated into.

Mulder had a rough time after Elizabeth died, trying to raise his son
and cope with her death at the same time. He was busy rebuilding his
life, and I didn't know if I was part of that life or not, or what my
part was. He left me a note, telling me he was coping and he loved me.
Yea, I knew that. I was coping and I loved him, too. Now what? I
started calling his machine when he wasn't home just to hear his voice.
I missed him that much.

Skinner, of all people, set us up. Ordered me down to the basement
office late one night on some stupid, trumped-up reason. I was
expecting more of his, although I would never confess it to Mulder,
very welcome advances. I loved Mulder, but there was still a physical
void in that dark place deep inside me. If Mulder wasn't interested, I
thought I was fine with Skinner being the one to full that void.
Literally.

I stepped off the elevator and, for the first time in seven months, saw
Will. Walking! Oh my God - walking! Even better, behind Will was
Mulder glowing at me. Skinner disappeared and Mulder and I sank into
each other. I was terrified that he would walk away from me again and
I would do whatever it took to keep him this time. The only words I
can use to describe his holding me are "blissful rightness." In that
second, embracing my partner, I was finally complete. Whatever the
price, I wanted this man.

Will, as he would do many times over the next two years, eventually
required Mulder's attention and he got it. It was an important lesson
for me - Mulder's priorities - he did not slight me for his son, but he
did not slight his son for me, either. I liked that. We finally
parted, panting, and Mulder's eyes never left me while he saw to his
child. Will wanted to know if I was a "mama"- in a heartbeat, provided
Mulder came with the job.

Mulder picked up a backpack, rounded up Elizabeth's mentally challenged
dog, locked the office, and walked out of the building with Will on his
hip and me in his hand. We kissed again in the parking garage after
Will and the dog were secured in his SUV.

"My God, I can't imagine how I've lived so long without this," he told
me.

I just nodded and got in the passenger seat. Wherever Mulder was
going, I had no intention of being left behind again. Whither thou
goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.

My first surprise was that Mulder did not lodgest at Mulder's apartment
anymore. Mulder lodgest in a big house with porches and a fenced
backyard and a two-car garage. Mulder havest toys in his living room
floor and laundry sitting folded in a basket at the bottom of the
stairs. Mulder hangest up our coats in a closet instead of throwing
them on the couch.

Mulder had grown up.

I don't know where I thought he'd been keeping that baby; in his
apartment kitchen cabinet, I guess. It frightened me that the part of
Mulder I loved might have been swallowed up by fatherhood. I was
relieved when I found his home office, plastered with pictures of dead
cattle, fake UFO sightings, and various folk myth monsters. Mulder
came up behind me, handing me a glass of wine.

"Were you worried?" he asked me.

I smiled. Damn right I was worried. I don't know how I'd expected him
to change and still not change, but I had.

"I like it when you smile at me, Scully. I missed that. Come on, we
need to talk."

I asked him if he didn't want to put Will to bed first, and he
shrugged, asking how long I wanted to wait. I told him I didn't care;
how long can it take to put one little boy to bed? Provided Mulder
promised to rip my clothes off afterwards, I could wait another half-
hour.

Half-hour, my butt.

Mulder and his son shower together. For some reason, I thought it was
appropriate to stand in the bathroom doorway and watch them through the
glass shower door, playing in the water together. Beautiful. Mulder
didn't object, and I made notes on the places I wanted to taste on him
before the night was over.

Will required eight stories, four songs, and extensive snuggling in
order to go to sleep nested in Mulder's arms two hours later. He
finally dozed off during the final verse of "Puff the Magic Dragon" and
I waited for Mulder to put him down to sleep in his own bed, but he
didn't.

"I owe you some answers," he said, his fingers trailing through Will's
dark curls.

I told him that he didn't owe me anything, but I would listen if he
wanted to talk. Then I would like to lick him all over - I didn't tell
him that last part, though. That was a mistake. Mulder talked. He
friggin talked, and talked, and talked. How did they ever let him
become a psychologist when he never shuts the hell up long enough to
listen to anyone else? Like I care about why he married Elizabeth.
Close your mouth, put down that child, take off your pants, and let's
go, Mulder. We can discuss whatever you want later. Much later.

We finally polished off the wine and he wound down, unsure of what to
do next.

"So what now, Scully? Where do we go from here?"

I didn't hesitate, "We go to bed, Mulder."

He found me a t-shirt and boxers to sleep in, and when I came out,
Mulder was standing at the window in his pajama bottoms, still holding
his son.

"I was looking at the north star, Scully. Thinking about you."

"Your Polaris? Your distant brilliance?" I asked.

"How did you know about that?"

"I found the tape, Mulder."

"Hum. I wondered where that went to." He put his other arm around my
shoulders and kissed the top of my damp hair. "I missed you, Scully.
Glad to see you again."

He was moving entirely too slow for my taste. Screw being subtle and
lady-like.

"Mulder, can we go to bed?"

"Sure, Scully, where do you want to sleep?"

I tried to keep my mouth from hanging open. "With you, Mulder." Duh!
Like I haven't waited almost a decade.

"You're welcome, but you may be a little disappointed."

"I can't imagine being disappointed."

Mulder actually blushed. "That's not what I meant, Scully."

Mulder lets the dog sleep with him. No problem, I can work around a
dog. Will sleeps in Mulder's bed. Fine, he must have a guest room or
a couch somewhere, or the floor. Come on, Mulder!

Will can't sleep without his Daddy.

Jesus Christ!

Mulder tried to leave him. He'd cover him up in the middle of his big
bed and lead me into the next room, silent as mice. We'd get about to
second base before Will would wake up, crying for "Dada! Dada!"

Then the singing and rocking ritual would begin again while I sat on
the couch feeling stupid. After two tries, I was a desperate woman and
Mulder was going to have the worst case of blue balls in history.

"Mulder, this isn't going to work!"

"You can't say I didn't warn you."

"I can say, this isn't what I imagined," I told him. That came out
bitchier than I intended.

"This is my life, Scully." It sounded like a take-it-or-leave-it
statement. Then he grinned and pulled me down in the bed with Will
between us. "It's not the way I imagined it either, but given our
history, I'm not shocked."

Mulder leaned over to kiss me and Will woke up, wide awake again.
"Dada, Mama?"

"Not if you don't learn to sleep alone, Will. Mamas and dadas can't
become mamas and dadas as long as you insist on sleeping between them."

Will gave Mulder a sleepy, puzzled look and Mulder chuckled. Then he
threw back his head and laughed whole-heartedly. In spite of myself, I
joined him. Thwarted at every turn. So very "us."

Will decided we were both nuts and snuggled against Mulder for a long
winter's nap. I curled up on the other side of Will, shoving my feet
under the warm dog and holding Mulder's hand. I could see his eyes in
the dark and I felt at peace. Horny as hell, but at peace.

"Hey, Scully? Scully, are you awake?"

"Barely, Mulder. What did you have in mind?" A miracle?

"He takes a two-hour nap each afternoon. Alone, on the couch. Could I
interest you in taking a long lunch - love of my life, reason for my
being?"

"As my senior, are you propositioning me, Agent Mulder?"

"Damn right, Agent Scully."

"Don't ever leave me again, Mulder."

"Not for the rest of my life, " he said. It was a promise.

**********

I was stalling.

Mulder and Will must be empty, because they had zipped up and were
playing on the swing. Will was swinging, Mulder was pushing and making
rocket ship noises. I'd never seen a man that enjoyed being a father as
much as he did. Of course, he thought the Lone Gunmen made appropriate
babysitters and let Will carry around a green alien water bottle with a
straw in the top. He explained to Will that aliens were actually gray,
but the people that made the bottles didn't know that.

I was still stalling.

I opened Pandora's diary and read:

'I learned in school that it sometimes helps to keep a journal, but I
don't know what to write. He is going to die. I am so frightened.
The doctor says he has brain cancer and that Scott is going to die.
He's asleep in our bed now - he doesn't look like he's dying. He's
just had a couple of nose bleeds. The man that smokes told me I
couldn't tell anyone. Tell anyone what? Oh, God, please don't let him
leave me.'

'My husband says he killed people. He woke up crying last night and
told me all these awful things he says he has done.   He says someone
gave him this cancer. I don't know whether to believe him or not. I
can see him slipping away, becoming more and more confused. I would
sell my soul for one more day with him like he used to be.'

'I want to write down the names before I forget them. Spender, Rouch,
Cry Check, Mulder, Skinner. Purity Control. Gibson. Paper Clip.
Anasazi. Fowley. Ex-file. Grudge. Blue Book. Area 51. Crichcow.
Hybrids. Skull E. The other men he worked with are still here -
outside the house - watching me. I think Scott is telling me the
truth.'

'I can't believe he hurt me. He wanted the car keys and I wouldn't
give them to him because it's not safe for him to drive and he hurt me.
I saw in his eyes the coldness that - I don't know how many - must have
seen when he killed them. How can I have been with this man for ten
years and never really known him? I convinced the ER doctor not to
tell the police, but he advised me to "be more careful about johns."
How humiliating. At least he let me come home. Why didn't someone
tell me all the last times that would be coming - the last time we
danced, the last time we made love, the last time we laughed at a joke
together? I would have tried to remember them more clearly.'

'He is much worse. He doesn't know who I am, sometimes. Scott gets
nosebleeds all the time now and he can't see clearly. He says I have
to go to someone named Mulder and tell him everything. What would I
tell him? My dying husband thinks aliens are taking over the planet by
growing in people's chests just like in the movies? That a mysterious
group of men are developing a vaccine and trying to create an alien/
human hybrid? That these men kidnap women and take their eggs to
create babies? That the government recruits and trains men like Scott
to kill?'

'I am home from the hospital. I woke up in the middle of the night
with Scott hurting me. I screamed and the men outside came in and
pulled him off of me. The same doctor at the ER didn't believe me when
I told him I fell. I guess you can't get four broken ribs, a black
eye, a broken wrist, a split lip, and a concussion by slipping in the
shower. I started to bleed and I lost the baby. It's my fault - I
should have just been still and he wouldn't have hurt me very badly.
He's my husband, after all. They took Scott back to the VA hospital
and I can see him whenever I want. It's been two weeks since he
attacked me - I miss him so much.'

'He is unconscious. I hold his hand and I tell him I love him but I
don't know if he hears me.   I want him to know I love him, no matter
what he has done. The only man I've ever loved is leaving me - I don't
think I want to go on without him. I don't know if I can.'

'He is dead. There is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting
moon.'

I didn't realize I was crying until I saw the ink on the pages start to
run.   I feel the chip in the back of my neck, the dam holding back the
same cancer in my own brain. If not for Mulder, I would have been dead
for years now.

My pity party - as Skinner called them - is cut short by the return of
Mulder, carrying Will over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Will
starts to produce things from his pockets, telling me in great detail
about each item - rocks, feathers, something that used to be a worm.
Will and the dog finally wander into the house and Mulder sits beside
me in the swing.

"How's it going?"

"I'm up to her husband dying," I tell him.

"Scully, you know you don't have to do this. Put that book back in the
box and stick it back in the attic. We'll tell Will she was a
wonderful person and leave it at that." He must have seen me wiping
tears as they came up the steps.

"I want you to have your answers." And, in truth, I wanted some
answers of my own.

"I don't need answers that bad. I may not like them when I get them.
Stop crying over that book and let's go have lunch."

"No, I want to keep reading, Mulder. I want to know just as much as
you do."

Mulder nodded and went inside. He brought me a sandwich before he and
Will left to run errands. Abandoned, the dog lowered her standards and
slept at my feet as I read:

'I haven't written in so long. Scott is dead, my father is dead -
probably because I asked him about what Scott told me. Now, someone
has taken several of my clients. My God, when will it end? When will I
be safe?'

'I met Scott's Agent Mulder today. He's come to create a profile of
the kidnapper. I feel like I know him; I feel safe with him. Todd got
too drunk and made a pass at me and I told him no. Probably because
I'm terrified. Of what, exactly, I don't know. I've been afraid for
so long, I don't even remember for certain what I started out afraid
of.'

'Mulder says it's because of me. That someone is taking the kids
because of me - to get at me. Mulder doesn't seem real to me. He's
like someone who walked out of Scott's dark world. Maybe soon I will
wake up and this will all be a bad dream.'

'So much has happened, I don't know where to begin. I have killed a
man - Scott's best friend. I have slept with Agent Mulder. I am alone
again. I don't think any of it was really me. I watched it all from
above, detached. I couldn't possibly have gone to bed with a
mysterious stranger. I couldn't have pulled the trigger that ended
Beck's life. He killed a child because he saw me with Mulder. How do I
live with that?'


I spent about two hours getting dressed on the morning of the day
Mulder and I first made love. I had slipped out of his bed early that
morning while everyone else slept; took a cab back to my apartment and
realized it wasn't very far away. I wondered if Mulder moved close to
me on purpose.

I showered, shaved my legs carefully, used the expensive conditioner on
my hair, and then stood in front of the mirror, staring at myself
judgmentally. I wasn't Elizabeth, or Diana, or Phoebe. I wasn't
voluptuous, I wasn't seductive, I wasn't mysterious. I was plain old
Dana Scully, who trudged through cow pastures and cut into dead bodies
for her partner.   Dana Scully, whose body and mind bore so many scars
of pain and loss.

With the light of day, the madness of the previous night had passed and
I thought clearly. The fluid naturalness of passion was broken and
although I still wanted to be with Mulder, now I was nervous and I was
intimidated. What if he wasn't ready? What if I wasn't? What if he
was disappointed? What if I did something stupid? I had some idea of
how many beautiful women he'd been with compared to my - uh - five men.
Was that right? No, six - Ed counts. God, that's pitiful. There was
no way in the world Mulder wasn't going to be disappointed.

Just like Mulder talked too much, I thought too much sometimes.

It was just Mulder, for pity's sake. I knew Mulder. I knew Mulder
wanted me. Wanted to feel my body arching against his. Oh dear, there
was the fire again.

I toyed with the idea of digging out my raunchy lingerie, but that
wasn't really me. Besides, I wasn't sure where it was. I settled on a
gold bra and panties, my only concession to sexy were the thigh-highs
I'd taken to wearing instead of pantyhose after discovering what
sixteen hours a day in pantyhose can do to the female anatomy. I had
visions of Mulder pushing my skirt up around my hips even as I pulled
it on. It was going to be a long morning. Maybe I should pack a dry
pair of panties.

I actually packed an overnight bag, which I hid in the trunk of the car
once I got to work. If I showed up at Mulder's door with it, that
would seem forward. Of course, I was taking half a vacation day so I
could spend it in bed with him - no, that wasn't forward at all.

My watch must have been broken. I checked the computer - yep - only
ten forty-five. Now the hornies had passed again and I was just
nervous. My stomach knotted and if I kept sweating, I was going to
smell bad. I was a grown woman, for Pete's sake! It was Mulder - I've
gone to bed with complete strangers - okay –a- complete stranger - and
Mulder makes me a nervous wreck.

The clock finally said noon and I froze. Nervousness turned into
terror. I wanted to run.

Not knowing what else to do, I sat in my car and called Mulder's cell
phone. It rang for longer than usual before he answered it.

"Mulder." He sounded surprised; his phone must not ring much these
days.

"Mulder, it's me." Me and my amazing verbal skills.

"Where are you, Scully?"

"Pulling out of the parking garage now."

"Are you coming over?"

"I'm trying, Mulder."   I didn't know what else to say, and there was a
pause before he asked,

"Are you nervous too?"

"I've brushed my teeth three times between nine and noon." Really.

"I've gone through four different shirts, vacuumed under all the
furniture, and cleaned out the refrigerator. I'm not sure how I think
having a clean fridge will help, but you can look if you want." I
could hear him smiling over the phone and I breathed easier.

"How much time did you spend on your underwear choices, Mulder?"
Sometimes old friends make the best lovers.

"Minimal - clean and reasonably new. I did change the sheets on my bed
to ones without graham cracker crumbs. How long did your hair take
this morning?"

He knew me too well. "Forty minutes. I had to start over half-way
through. How far did you run this morning?" I knew him too.

"Seven miles. I woke up really frustrated for some reason."

My tension was melting away at the sound of his voice. Mulder's
melodic voice always meant safety to me.

"Hey, Scully? We are really sad, you know that?"

"Pitiful. Keep talking to me, Mulder."

"What do you want me to say? You get your choice between how much I
love you, how much I love Will, or what I think the government is doing
to the drinking water."

"You're always my Mulder. Just talk to me." Like some people with
brain damage, I only moved to the music of his baritone voice.

He did. He told me he loved me in a way that was independent of space
and time. That as he searched the face of this planet in the last
decade, there was only one city that he longed to return to. That in
that city was one building, and in that building, one room, and in that
room, one bed. And in that bed was one crimson-haired woman who was
his center. His constant. His equal. His familiar. That we were two
stars in orbit around each other - each complete in its self, but
together, somehow more rare and spectacular. That in science, there is
only life and death and the in-between, and I was one of the things
that was meant to complete his in-between. That I was beautiful. A
warrior's soul wrapped in the silky white skin of a woman. That he
could lose himself in my arms and my eyes for eternity. That he could
still taste my lips on his - like the last sweet drops of Muscato wine.
That he could still smell me on his skin - the warm, soft scent he
wanted to wake up with every morning for the rest of his life. That he
wanted his last conscious thought to be that I was happy. Seduction by
cell phone. By the time I pulled into his driveway, I was a limp
form blindly operating a Ford.

Mulder met me on the porch. He wrapped his arms around me and I waited
for him to pick me up and swing me in circles, as I had seen him do
with Elizabeth.   He just sheltered me in his strong arms and rocked me
back and forth.

This was where I belonged.

I felt a familiar hand on my back as he guided me into the house. If
it wasn't for the high chair in his kitchen, I would have believed the
last year and a half had never happened.

"Where's Will?" If he was farther than eight feet from his father, he
must already be asleep. I'd been kind of hoping to be part of the nap
time routine. I missed playing mommy.

"With the Gunmen. With orders not to let him play on the Internet
again."

I didn't ask. Will wouldn't turn one year old until next week.
Langly, I bet.

"Dog?"

"Also with the Gunmen. Frohike thinks she attracts women."

"She attracts lawsuits, Mulder. That dog is not normal. Did you ever
think she might have been one of Elizabeth's research projects?"

Shit, now I'd done it. I'd said HER name. I waited for psycho Mulder
to emerge, shattering the careful tranquility we were cultivating.

"The correct term is socially challenged. We put in a high fence, hide
our shoes, carry lots of homeowners insurance, and love her the way she
is. I have considered doggy Prozac, though, Scully."

The tranquil waters were intact, so I waded deeper.

"Skinner said she ate all his shoes, too." Might as well get it all
out in the open.

Yep, that name got a reaction, but he wasn't going to ask. I answered
his unspoken question.

"Not a thing, Mulder. He kissed me and then he walked away. I have no
idea why, because..."

How honest did I really want to be?

"Because you would have?" he asked.

"Yes, I would have. I felt lonely and abandoned and I wanted someone
to want me."

"You don't think I wanted you?"

"I don't know, Mulder. Everything was so upside down. You had just
taken Will back and I felt like someone was taking my children all over
again. You wanted your son but you didn't want me. I was confused."

Mulder didn't bother to defend himself. "And now?"

"And now I know I love you and I can't help that. Whatever happens
between us, I always will. I can go on living without you, but I'll
never feel the same way about anyone else. You're my one in five
billion."

"And you are mine."

I closed my eyes and I exhaled.


The dog was barking madly. Someone was walking on her sidewalk or
driving on her street again. I must have dozed off. I'd been doing
that occasionally these days. I'd missed my period and Mulder and I
held our breath for a miracle. Or for the news that my cancer had
returned. No news either way, so far. Test results will be back
Monday, Ms. Scully. Get more rest, Ms. Scully. Take better care of
yourself, Ms. Scully.

I didn't tell the pubescent doctor that I had been abducted as an
unwilling egg donor, infected with a bizarre virus, shipped to the
South Pole, tattooed with drugged ink, implanted and reimplanted with a
mysterious chip in my neck and all the other hazards that came with
spending eleven years with Fox Mulder. I don't think that vitamin C
and catnaps are going to help at this point.

The journal was open on my lap, so I started to read again:

'I am pregnant. There, it looks real now that I wrote it. Scott and I
tried for so long and now, with a man I barely know... I don't know
how to tell Mulder - he's so in love with his partner. I was just a
distraction. A substitute for her. Lucky woman. Maybe I shouldn't
even have this baby. A child died because of this baby, because of
me.'

'The smoking man came today. He looks sick - I hope the bastard's
lungs collapse. He says if I don't have the baby, I will die. I know
he just wants something he can control Mulder with. He says I don't
have to tell Mulder, so I won't. I'll let him live his life and be
happy for now. Someone deserves to be happy.'

'Mulder found out. He says he loves me. He says he wants me and the
baby. If Mulder ever loves me half as much as he loves her, it would
be enough. I will be safe again. I am moving to Washington, DC. I'll
have to get out a map and see where that is.'

'I think it will be okay. Mulder is wonderful and I like my new job.
I worry about Scully, though. I saw her last week when I got to DC and
she is so pretty. So poised and professional and sure of herself. How
do I ever compare to that? Just because I was careless enough to get
pregnant, I deserve Mulder?'

'I don't know what has happened. We had dinner with some of Mulder's
friends from work and I got to talk to Scully. I like her so much.
Then I got all embarrassed and made a fool of myself. Mulder wanted to
go home, so I didn't apologize to her like I should have. Sex is
different with Mulder when he's drunk - he's more rough, more like
Scott. I was getting dressed when Scully knocked on the door. She
just stood there and stared at me. I thought she was still mad, but
she was looking at my stomach. Probably sickened at how fat I am
getting. I woke up Mulder and they had a fight - he won't say about
what. I saw Scully outside with a man from the restaurant - the one
who likes her. She was crying. She must hate me.'


I slammed the journal shut. That was it, I had enough answers for
Mulder. I didn't have to read any further. I felt like a horrible
person as it was.

I remembered that night when I found out she was pregnant. When I
figured out why Mulder had stopped pursuing me and suddenly dedicated
himself to her. Skinner had driven me home because I couldn't stop
shaking. I almost walked out of Mulder's life without ever seeing him
again.

I knew, more or less, how she got pregnant. I knew why she kept the
baby, and I thought I understood why she moved to DC. I knew why she
was so nice to me and why she tolerated Mulder's drinking.    

I officially resigned from diary-reading duty.

Mulder and his progeny had returned, juggling a bag of groceries, the
dry cleaning, and ice cream cones. It's March, Mulder. It's forty-six
degrees, Mulder. Only you would take Will for ice cream.

I love him because he buys his son ice cream cones in March. Because
he insists on getting a shot himself every time he takes Will to get
vaccinated and he always comes home complaining far more than Will
does. Because he wakes me up in the morning with his tongue between my
legs. Because his hands span my waist perfectly. Because he smells
like sandalwood soap, libraries, and leather jackets. Because he has
banned milk with bovine growth hormone in it from the house because he
thinks it's some sort of government plot.

I wonder if he brought me any ice cream?

My own private pint of Ben & Jerry's. The man knows what I like.

I was roaming around the house, eating my ice cream out of the
container, when I heard blues music and Will's voice coming from
Mulder's office. I went to check, since we didn't allow Will in the
office - Mulder often brought home pictures from case files that Will
didn't need to be seeing. I never had the same problem with bringing
home dead bodies, but then again, I didn't get my own home office,
either.

Mulder was sitting cross-legged on the floor beside the stereo, holding
Will on his lap.

"This was her music, Will. Isn't it pretty? She was playing this in
her car the first night I met her," Mulder was saying.

"Whittle-bit?"

"Un huh. Elizabeth. You grew inside her tummy and then came to live
with Mommy and me."

"Whittle-bit die?"

"Yea, Will, she died. I know you don't understand what that means, but
she died when you were born. She was a teacher, Will, just like at
your school."

"Wika Miz Bwooks?"

"Yes, like Miss Brooks, except for big people." His preschool teacher
last Monday. Until he wet his pants. Hopefully, Operation Alien John
was a success.

I leaned against the door frame and watched them, hesitant to
interrupt. The man on the CD changer was singing that all his love was
in vain. How fitting.

"Ooh wuv whittle-bit?" Did you love Elizabeth? God, give us strength
to raise a genius child.

"She was wonderful. I think most people that knew her, loved her. She
gave me you, and that was the nicest thing she could have done."

"Ooh wuv mommy?"

"With all my heart, Will."

Will's three-year-old attention span was up, and he and the dog went to
the kitchen to share the remainder of his soggy ice cream cone. I
replaced Will on Mulder's lap, facing him with my legs draped on either
side of his hips. I fed him a spoon full of the world's best vanilla
before setting the carton down. When he kissed me, there was a
luscious contrast between the heat of his lips and the cold sweetness
of his tongue.

"How are you doing, Scully?"

"I'm fine, Mulder." He just looked at me. Yea, that probably won't
work after this long.

"I took a nap and I feel better now. Just tired all the time."

He clasped his hands around my back and I leaned against them, closing
my eyes and letting my head fall back. His lips found the soft spot at
the base of my neck and made their way leisurely up my throat in time
to the music. I breathed deeply and filled myself with the smell of
Mulder and Mulder's space. When I rolled my head up to face him, that
luscious mouth was inches from mine, waiting for me. I contemplated
some Saturday afternoon foreplay in preparation for Saturday night.
Will slept in his own bed these days and we'd finally given the dog her
own bedroom.

Mulder froze. There was a look on his face I hadn't seen in years.
Not when Elizabeth died, not when his mother died. Not since he used
to brush his own fulcrum lightly to tell me my nose was bleeding. The
face of loss. It was then that I noticed the salty copper taste of
blood on my upper lip. I must have given myself a nosebleed swinging
my head around. Well, that was going to kill the mood.

I pinched my nose to stop the bleeding and then let go when I started
to choke. Mulder was frantically trying to wipe my face clean, but
there was too much blood. He looked scared, but I felt very at peace.
Everything was starting to look a little brown. Hold me, Mulder, I'm
getting cold. I could still taste the ice cream and his kiss, even
though I could feel the blood gushing into my mouth. How odd. Mulder
pulled me against his shoulder and rocked me back and forth, back and
forth. I saw the blood soaking into his sweatshirt, but I was too
sleepy to move. That was going to stain; I ruined so many shirts when I
got nosebleeds before. Then I realized why my nose was bleeding, but I
didn't care as long as he held me.

My head got too heavy to support, so I leaned into his neck, closing my
eyes. He cradled my head in his hand, holding me to him. I was so
tired; I needed to rest. I could keenly hear the music on the stereo,
Mulder's rapid breathing, and Will jabbering at the dog in the kitchen.
You should go check on Will, Mulder - he and the dog are pouring
ketchup all over the kitchen floor. Odd that I could see Will through
the wall.

I wondered what Mulder was upset about - I was fine. I was where I had
always wanted to be. The room started to get very bright and Ahab was
there. I'm sorry, Mulder, but I have to go now. Please don't cry. My
last conscious memory before I left him was the wet softness of
Mulder's skin and his shaky voice telling me he loved me as he rocked
my body back and forth, back and forth.

Shantih             Shantih             Shantih
   **********

Author's notes:
A big thank you to my wonderful beta-reader for knowing the difference
between effect and affect, hell and Hell, and they're and their. May
the monsoons be brief, may the copier never run out of toner, and may
Mulder be safely returned to Scully's side - and hopefully not all
smooth in front when he gets back. May you never be marooned in
Cleveland, forced to read Dante, or have the Coke machine be out of
everything but Diet. Merci beaucoup.

End: Then Spoke the Thunder (5/5)

Begin: Epilogue

You're getting to be an old dog now, Lucille, I tell her, conveying my
words through fingers over her velvet ears and the sudden coarseness of
her whiskers. She surrenders her face to my hand, the way her owner
did a decade ago. Ten years ago tonight.

My wedding band gleams dull on my right hand. It's been there for six
years now and on my left hand for three before that. A symbol that I'm
not married anymore, but that I'm never really alone, either. I
remember noticing 'Lizabeth's ring when I met her - a pledge of her
eternal love for a person who left this world too soon. I understand
now. We who were living are now dying, with a little patience.

I remember the awful daring as I touched her for the first time as a
lover and how she closed her eyes in a moment's surrender - one small
stray step in her long wait for her one in five billion. In that
moment, we created life and set a course that an age of prudence can
never retract. Two cells joining, proving us immortal - proving that
we have existed.  

It's an odd anniversary to remember after this long. There are so many
others - births, deaths, weddings. Too many deaths. I relive the
deaths often enough. But tonight, banished to my home office for being
an uncool dad, I remember creating a life.

I can hear that life now in the silence from the living room. Silence
from a bunch of nine-year-old boys including my son always means
trouble was brewing.   By the pricking of my thumbs... I should
probably go check - see what they're doing inside that green tent
pitched in the middle of the floor; their backyard camp-out relocated
due to rain. No, let Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have their fun. I'll
get up if I hear screaming. Keep Will from giving Skinner's kid
another black eye.

Skinner's kid - um - David - is the reason for my exile to what Will
calls "my room" tonight. Yes, you have to invite David to your camp-
out, Will. Yes, I know he's an over-privileged brat - that's what
happens when a father has his first child after fifty. No, no playing
tricks on him; he's only six. Well, it's because of Dad's work, Will -
you have to be nice to people when you're an Assistant Director and
that includes not beating up the Director's son.

Invite him or no camp-out. That's final.

"But, Dad! That is SO uncool." I was called uncool by a nine-year-old
boy wearing some teen-sensation t-shirt with holes in it - holes in it
that he cut - and shaved lines into the back of his hair - which he
tried to dye blue last week. Right, I'm uncool, Will.

I cringed when I first found out I had a son named "William." William
Todd Mulder. I was seeing years of flashbacks to my father every time
I looked at him and he was still less than a month old. Apparently, I
was too out of it to tell the nurses at the hospital what his name was,
so they just asked me my name and wrote down "William." At least it's
not Fox - I guess the nurse couldn't bear to do that to an innocent
child, so she used Todd. Son, do you know you'd be named Matthew if
your father hadn't been having a psychotic break right after you were
born? That I'd agreed to the name 'Lizabeth wanted - Matthew - before
I realized "Matthews" was her married name. I can't envision my son
named Matt. Or calling him Todd, as cruel a joke as that would be. So
Will it was.

Will has turned out to be a perfectly appropriate name, though.

THERE'S the screaming, so I open my office door and yell the magic
phrase: "I'll take the computer!" Whatever they're doing, I'm sure my
son is the ringleader.

The sounds of pain die down and Will assures me everything is "fine,"
matching Scully's inflection perfectly. Through great effort, I do not
smile.

"David?" I am a trained investigator - I know which one will crack the
fastest.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Mulder, sir?" Skinner may be an over-indulgent father,
but he's also an ex-Marine. David appears in front of me, standing
almost at attention in his Ralph Lauren kid's wear collection,
innocence painted across his cafe au lait face.

"What are you all doing?" Please don't let it involve fire. No
campfires in the living room.

Big brown eyes twinkle at me. "We're searching for Bigfoot, sir."

Didn't realize Bigfoot was hiding under my coffee table.   I'll have to
vacuum more often - there's going to be massive hairballs.

"Will!" I'd stake my life my son isn't going to answer with "Yes, sir,
father, sir?" I'll be lucky if I get a "yea, Dad?" followed by a denial
of guilt, instead of a burp.

I get a burped "What?"

"Bigfoot has never been sighted in Georgetown, Will, but if you keep
looking, David is not to be Bigfoot anymore. You understand?" Of
course he understands - the boy is brilliant.

"Got it, Dad. Davie not Bigfoot. Pizza, Dad?"

Will has forgotten that time we spent at Grandma's dinner table two
hours ago. Those were called vegetables, son. Those belong to the
other food group - pizza, Chinese take-out, super-valu meals, and
vegetables.   Try them - you should be genetically predestined to
thrive on them since 'Lizabeth was vegetarian. Any mention of his
biological mother intrigued him, so he took a tentative taste of Mrs.
Scully's home cooked beans and then spit them out, a green pile of mush
on his plate. Nature verses nurture.  

I call for pizza. Yes, deliver it. I leave five elementary-age boys
alone long enough to come get it and I'll come back to more blue hair,
shaved heads, and the FBI Director's son penned in a makeshift cage
with my kid poking sticks at him. Again.

Returning to the couch, I turn my TV to "the Nazi channel." I've
assured Will that the History Channel shows topics besides WWII, but he
claims to never have seen them. I have no proof of that, he says. No
scientific evidence. One vote for nurture.

The dog hauls herself stiffly up on the couch again and nests between
my sprawled legs, warm against the denim. Her muzzle against my thigh
has a spot that's exactly the same caramel color as 'Lizabeth's hair.
Lucille sighs a contented dog-sigh and closes her eyes, at peace with
the world. I scratch behind her ears, enjoying the closeness. She's
the last thing I have of 'Lizabeth's.

My son, yes, is biologically hers. Half her genes and a little over
eight months of gestation and that's about it. When we say "mom" in
this house, it means Scully. When I speak of "my wife," I mean Scully.
Always will.

I found out as much as I could about 'Lizabeth for Will's sake.
There's no close family living, obviously no old boyfriends or lovers I
could ask. I got him a copy of her yearbook from a ritzy girl's
school, downloaded from the Internet the articles she'd published.
Will doesn't understand neuroanatomy completely, but he knows more
about it than other nine-year-olds. He has her thesis and her
dissertation, her old Texas driver's license, and a few pictures
of us together. I'm still holding out on her journal, although I've
read it and there's nothing he can't see in a few years.

His most prized possession of her is a videotape one of her professors
at Georgia State had kept of her giving her first husband a practice
neuropsych test. Will watches it, entranced by her shy stumbling over
the questions as she reads from the manual, knowing she's doing this
for a grade. Her husband, Scott, is teasing her, being boyishly
uncooperative, and mugging for the camera. The dog is in the video,
too, a half-grown puppy getting into everything. At one point, Lucille
drags in a pair of 'Lizabeth's panties and jumps up with her front paws
on the table, holding blue bikinis in her mouth. Scott falls out of
his chair laughing as his wife runs after the dog. 'Lizabeth is maybe
twenty-five years old and the picture of young happiness.   She doesn't
know her husband will be dead in a year and she'll join him in five.
I've only seen the tape once; I watched it before giving it to Will,
but he's watched it over and over, trying to remember another mother he
never knew.

I never really knew her either, Will. Just a beautiful creature that
floated in and out of my life and left me with you. A woman with all
her edges sanded down to smooth tranquility; carefully practiced poise
and subservience concealing a brilliant mind and a tortured soul.

I knew Scully, though. She still comes to me at night, smiling at me
with her blue eyes and laughing at my stupid jokes. The office in the
basement still smells like her, although I was relocated up to the
fourth floor about five years ago. Will, the dog, and I still go in at
night, sometimes. When you're an AD, no one questions you bringing a
dog into FBI headquarters.   I tell people she originally belonged to
one of the Men In Black, and was therefore privy to top secret
government materials. Will and a security guard made her an ID badge
one night and insisted they ran the prerequisite background check. I
let her wear it on her collar whenever we enter the building and the
guards just smile. An odd quirk of AD Mulder - likes to take his dog
and kid everywhere. Can't keep a secretary, either - another quirk.
Just like he likes to sit in his old basement office and stare at the
door at night.

I miss her so much I ache sometimes. I listen for her to come home
after work, wait for the garage door to go up as she turns into the
driveway. The office door opens and I look for her, listen for her
heels against the polished marble floor. I answer my cell phone and
expect to hear "It's me, Mulder." "I'm fine, Mulder." "You're crazy,
Mulder!" "Come to bed, Mulder." "I love you, Mulder." I only hear
those words at night - in the brief time before sleep takes me away,
I can hear Scully whispering to me.

I know she's not coming back - no psychosis this time - but I still
watch, like an old dog staring out the window, patiently waiting for
his owner to come. Wherever Scully is, waiting for me, I know she's
watching back. Mrs. Scully gave me a poem about a mother watching for
her children - anxious if they were late, in winter by the window, in
summer by the gate. I think Mrs. Scully understands; Ahab is
somewhere, standing beside Scully, and watching for his wife.

I'm sorry to be late, Scully. I have to take care of our son. He's a
little rough around the edges, but you'd be so proud of him - he wants
to be a scientist, just like you and 'Lizabeth. To study the brain -
the brains of serial killers, unfortunately, but I'm not surprised. He
plays on a little league baseball team - bats lefty. Got that toilet
training thing down a long time ago, although there were some setbacks
after you died.

Oh, God - why did you have to leave me, Scully? This world is so
lonely without you. The bulbs you planted came up the Spring after you
died - tulips and daffodils and the crow-kiss things bloom every year
in remembrance. The ME said you were right, Scully. You were
pregnant. I don't know how, but you were. I had them run some tests
on the fetus and it was a little girl. Would have been the same age
difference between Will and her as between Samantha and me. I think
she would have had red hair. Sudden hemorrhage resulting from a
malignant brain tumor behind your sinus cavity, Scully, just like
before. They said you wouldn't have felt any pain. I had to replace
the carpet, though.   I know, we had just put it in, but I couldn't get
the blood out. I scrubbed and I scrubbed, but the stain was too deep.
It happened right here beside the couch. You were sitting on my lap,
kissing me with those cold vanilla lips and suddenly the room was
painted with blood. You were gone by the time the ambulance got
here. Then I found Will in the kitchen, covered with more red. I
picked him up and held him and wouldn't let go until your mother got
here and convinced me it was just ketchup. The ketchup I was able to
get up from the kitchen floor - Lucille actually licked most of it
clean - but the pool of the blood we were sitting in when you died left
a stain for the rest of my life.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

My voice calls "Dad..." from the living room, except it's about forty
years younger. It's the same mouth, the same brown hair that I
originally hoped would lighten to dark red, but never did. He's tall -
looks like he's going to have my build - and we walk the same. The
school tested his IQ last year and it's impressive. All those books we
read him at bedtime paid off. Remember that first night, Scully? When
we kept trying to have sex and Will wouldn't go to sleep and then he
wouldn't sleep alone? It doesn't seem like eight years ago, but it
was.

I look for 'Lizabeth in him - I can see her if I search hard enough.
Fair skin. Features softer than mine - more gently bred. Likes
animals and the sky at night. Likes the Blues - he calls it my
"oldies" music, but he always listens. He's inherited her housekeeping
gene, too, which is good since I seen to be a genetic mutant in that
area. Will has his own method of methodically organizing things known
only to him and the housekeeper that comes three times a week. I
am completely out of the loop - just like with 'Lizabeth. I do know
that last week all my underwear got labeled to avoid confusion. Wonder
of the Attorney General suspects she's sharing a podium at press
conferences with a man with "Dad" written in his boxers?

I love our son.

I see you in him, too, Scully. When I hear him say "please" and "thank
you"- to strangers, of course, not to me - I remember you teaching him
that even before he could talk clearly. When he collected fall leaves
and caterpillars changing to butterflies last fall, I remembered him
emptying his pockets for you to identify every twig and bug he'd
collected. When he's sick, he still wants to hear "Jeremiah Was A
Bullfrog" sung off-key as he goes to sleep at night. Still loved Dr.
Seuss, although I'm not supposed to tell his friends that, and Shel
Silverstein poems.

Don't think your life didn't make a difference, Scully. It made a
great deal of difference to a great many people. You're immortal now,
just like I am. Immortal in one sweet, brilliant, willful, hot-headed,
little boy.

"Dad?" the voice calls again, almost sounding polite. The pizza must
be here - Will's more respectful when he realizes I'm the one with the
money. I grab a piece for me and a piece for the dog and retreat back
to my lair as Will glares at me. I'd make a joke about not being
allowed to eat with the white folks, but I'm not sure if that would be
considered racist or not and Skinner's kid is here. Better to err on
the side of caution - Will already knows enough ways to be obnoxious.      

I was surprised when Skinner told me he was getting married, although
not shocked. I knew he was lonely. Once the dust settled after I came
back from paternity leave and Scully and I figured out what we were
going to do with our lives, Skinner became a frequent visitor in our
home. He still swore he came to see the dog. Took her for walks to
attract women. I told him to take Will, too - that was a surefire
combination. Worked for me. Also gave Scully and I a chance to have
sex.   I teased Scully that she automatically got wet when Skinner
appeared at our front door. She glared at me for a while before she
finally laughed - Scully and I had a lot of things we needed to work
through together.

Anyway, apparently it worked, because one day Skinner came back with a
beautiful accountant with hair like black silk and smooth toffee skin.
He asked me what I thought, once, right before they got married - what
I thought about him marrying a woman who was biracial. I was stunned -
first that he wanted my opinion, and second, that my self-assured boss
has any hesitancy about public sentiment. Of course, when you're in
line to become Director of the FBI, public sentiment carries a bit more
pressure than a few crass comments from an occasional redneck peanut-
picker. I watched my gentile, Catholic, skeptical, infertile Scully
teaching Will the thumbkin song in the floor and told Skinner you had
to go with who you loved, no matter what the consequences were. A
moment of something wonderful is better than a lifetime of nothing
special - that's from a movie Scully loved that always put me to sleep.
If he loved her, public sentiment and peanut-pickers be damned.
They've been married for seven years now.

Christ, Lucille - that was MY piece of pizza. You'd think you'd have
learned some manners in all this time. Put it down for one second...

The Nazi channel is showing a blimp with a swastika crashing in flames.
I love to see that Nazi symbol burn. I think you're right, Will.   All
WWII, all the time. Smart boy.

Phone. Phone's ringing. Sorry, Will, my legs are still longer.
Sometimes people even call wanting to talk to someone besides you,
Will. Shocking, I know. My name isn't even mentioned on the voice
mail message. I hold the portable phone out of his reach as he scowls
at me, his forehead wrinkling like Scully's. My son inherited
'Lizabeth's tendency to make lots of acquaintances and his father's
tendency to treat them like crap. Point for nature.    

Cool. The phone actually is for me. Byers asking if I want company.
Come on and bring the rest of the Gunmen, I tell him. Give me some
leverage against the posse of lost boys organizing in the living room.
Better bring your own pizza, though - the three I just paid for have
been attacked by hungry wolves. I got four bites. Okay, here's Will -
he wants to ask his Uncle Frohike something.

Damn it, Frohike, you better not be telling my son what I think you're
telling him. Hacking isn't cute when your father is a High Bureau
Official. Last month, Will got suspended for intercepting and
reworking his gym teacher's e-mail so it looked like she was sending
bomb threats to the principal. I agree, Will, gym teacher is not a
nice lady. The correct term is neurotic, self-righteous bitch, and she
probably deserved it but I can't tell you that. I'm supposed to be a
responsible single father-figure now. I am proud of you, son - just
don't get caught. Can't tell you that, either.

That's right, suspend him for three days. Brilliant. Make him stay
home from the school he doesn't want to be at anyway to watch TV, play
with the dog, eat junk food, and annoy me because him being home also
means I have to work at home. Take him to work with me, my ass. Do
you want the entire Bureau - hell, the entire Federal Government to
grind to a halt? Are you forgetting why you want to suspend him?
Fine. Three days suspension. Idiot principal. Behavior modification
at its best. 'Lizabeth would have had that school in court before
they could blink.

I took his computer. And Play Station. For two weeks. THAT'S
punishment.

There's so many decisions, Scully, and I hope I'm making the right
ones. Do I send him to the private school his teachers keep
suggesting? I had a rough enough time being a gifted kid in a regular
school - do I want Will to have to go through that? Or do I send him
to the private school and teach him that he should only associate with
other rich, white, smart kids? I don't want to raise a bigot. Or a
chronic underachiever. What about his behavior? God. What do I chalk
up to just being all boy and what should I try to do something about?
Is blue hair okay? I'm fine with it - it'll grow out. I try to pick
my battles these days. What about the fighting? "Slugger" has his
father's temper and a low tolerance for teasing. Do I ground him, do I
take privileges (and trust me, our son has privileges - I should never
think of Skinner's kid as overindulged compared to ours), do I spank,
do I yell, what, Scully?  

Then there's the big question. There's never going to be another woman
sleeping in our bed, Scully - but I get so lonely. I can see fifty
now, but I'm not dead. Do I start dating - introduce yet another
mother figure into Will's life? Do I sneak around - cheap sex that
you're watching every minute of? I know I'll never love another woman
the way I loved you, but I think I could be content. I would have been
content with 'Lizabeth. Is that wrong? Is it betraying you?

Do I trade in the car? Switch dry cleaners? Grow a beard? Take
vitamins? Take Will to Europe for the summer? Get a flu shot? Get
another dog? Fire my newest incompetent secretary? Buy a new couch or
have the old one reupholstered?

I know I survived thirty years without you, and even made some fairly
good decisions in that time. I'm also in charge of several thousand
agents now, although none of them gives me as much trouble as you and I
must have given Skinner. I just like to talk it over with you in my
head, Scully - see what you think. Sometimes, I'm even sure you answer
me.

Ah - the reinforcements have arrived with pizza and beer. No, you
can't have a beer, Will. Go play in the tent and let Dad talk to some
grown-ups besides Grandma for once this weekend.   I get another
Scully-scowl. Maybe that's why they don't bother me; I've been scowled
at by the best and built up an immunity.

The Gunmen - actually, the Gunpeople, to be politically correct, are
not complete yet. Langly, according to Frohike, is in the middle of
unleashing some "kick-ass kung fu" on, um, um - someone, Mulder. No,
don't tell me; I don't want to know. Frohike wisely barricades my
office door against a raid by pizza-seeking lost boys and we dig in,
throwing crusts to Lucille so she never has to get up off the couch.

Susanne and Byers are in jeans tonight - possibly the first time I've
ever seen them out of their suits. She's sitting on the floor between
Byer's legs, trying to suck up the cheese before it falls off her
slice. I'm not telling her that's the spot where Scully died - she
doesn't know. Susanne didn't reappear until after Scully was gone,
although I think she met her in Vegas once.

Susanne was just there one day right after Scully died. Walked in to
the Gunmen's HQ with enough hard evidence to expose the entire
consortium. Never said a word about where she'd been - still hasn't -
but we went public. Real public. Went to Skinner and then to CNN.
Brought down half of Congress in this country and a load of dirty
officials in others. Research on the vaccine was successful and the
threat of colonization - recolonization, actually - vanished.
Overnight. It kind of made my head spin how fast everything changed.

No Scully - again. No consortium. No aliens. Will, dog, empty office
and house and bed. My life certainly went in cycles.

It's amazing how fast Skinner and I got promoted when they realized we
were right. Will and I actually accompanied Skinner and Michelle, his
wife, and Byers and Susanne to dinner at the White House. They said I
could bring whomever I wanted as my guest, so I brought my son and dog.
They're both small - together they add up to one guest. I let Lucille
squat in the rose garden. Just my way of showing my appreciation for
the integrity of our elected officials.

I want to ask Susanne if she knows anything about Scully, sometimes.
And then again, I don't. The timing of Scully's death and her
reappearance couldn't be coincidental.   Was it a trade - losing my
Scully to gain my proof? That sounded awfully self-centered, but we
never did find that black-lunged bastard that claimed to be my father.
Was my truth a final, twisted gift from him? For that matter, was my
son a gift from him? If so, I don't want to know. Susanne isn't
inclined to tell. She has the same look in her eyes that I saw in
'Lizabeth's when her guard was down - the look of a tender woman who
had seen too much.

My private line rings - Will doesn't bother to run for the phone this
time. It's Angie telling me an unknown hacker has gained unauthorized
access to Bell Atlantic mainframe.

LANGLY!

Angie says she's already in the office, waiting for me. I close my
eyes, take a deep breath, and give my head a little shake, trying to
figure out how to explain this to my newest secretary. Thank you for
telling me, Angie. No, you can go back home, Angie. No, I'm not
coming in, Angie. We have entire divisions that deal with computer
hackers - the personal attention of the AD isn't required on a Sunday
night. Unless I let my son use HIS kung fu on this hacker, I'm not
going to be of much use. All I have to do is sign paperwork in the
morning and listen to reports. It isn't even actually my division,
Angie. VIOLENT CRIMES, Angie - not computer hackers. No, you're not
going to get paid overtime for this, Angie - no one told you to come
into the office - although you can take Monday off and I'll answer my
own damn phone. You're only paid to be in the office after work hours
when I request you be in the office. Yes, Kimberly is always in the
office because Skinner is always in the office and he CALLS HER. SHE
DOESN'T CALL HIM AT HOME TO TELL HIM THINGS THAT CAN WAIT UNTIL
MONDAY MORNING!"

"Did she quit?" Frohike asks. I nod affirmatively, feeling deflated.
"How long did this one last?"

"Three weeks. And don't start on me - I was spoiled by the best." I
hide behind another beer. Skinner is going to kill me. They're
transferring personal assistants Kimberly recommends from other Bureau
offices for me at this point. It's a desperate, hopeless quest. I've
had the best.

Frohike has enough sense not to mention it's been years since I was
spoiled by the best. Not the best secretary - just the best person at
anticipating my needs. Intuitively knowing when she was needed.
Letting me run with my genius while she kept me safe; tied up the loose
ends. Someone who knew me, completed me, worked with me, fought with
me, and kicked my ass as necessary. Six years.

Skinner even loaned me Kimberly - for which I'm sure he paid quite a
price - after I went through five personal assistants in the first
seven months I was an AD. Kimberly is FABULOUS - there's no arguing
with that. Always there when I needed her, never underfoot when I
didn't. Except she's a small woman with red hair. She never blinked
when I called her "Scully," but I did. Scully had only been gone about
a year - it was a roller coaster year both personally and
professionally - and I could see myself getting in big trouble if I
spent too many evenings alone in an otherwise empty office with
Kimberly. So I sent her back to Skinner's office with "she has red
hair" as my explanation. He never asked any questions.  

Since then there has been a steady steam of women and a few men, each
lasting about a month before we got on each other's nerves. Skinner
said he hadn't seen this many women parade in and out of my office
since before Scully was assigned as my partner. Today, I laugh at
that. Four years ago I told him to go fuck himself and walked out.

I finally cooled off and went back to his office and apologized.
Skinner accepted my apology and said nothing else about it for the next
three years. Now he's back to hassling me. My five year grace period
on either being a grieving widower or on being a new AD must be up.

Langly has arrived and I ask him if his call waiting is working. He
looked sufficiently innocent and puzzled. Good - I hate arresting my
friends. Have a beer, Langly. Don't touch my laptop, Langly.

Oh, God - what was that?

Wow - how many beers have I had? Little shaky on my feet. Great, AD
Mulder, lit.

Nose bleed. Scully.

David is bleeding!

Oh my God! He's bleeding! Scully is bleeding! I can't make it stop!

She's going to bleed to death!

Close your eyes - maybe it will go away.

Breathe, Mulder.

A nosebleed. David's bleeding, not Scully. I pinch his nose closed,
stopping the flow, my breaths coming fast and hard. It's stopping.
It's stopping. It's okay. Just a nosebleed. Calm down. They're just
flashbacks. Just flashbacks. Breathe.

I think I'm more upset than David is. He has his father's stoicism. I
have my father's guilt.

"He fell," Will tells me. Sure he did, Will. Right into your fist.

"You have about two seconds to tell me the truth, Will."

I will not hit my son. I will not hit my son. I am upset and a little
drunk and I will not hit my son. Breathe.

"He really did fall, Dad." Will is close to tears. From experience, I
know that doesn't mean he's telling the truth. It just means he can
cry on command.

"I fell out of the club house, Mr. Mulder, sir," David adds, his voice
nasal with my fingers still clamped on his nose. Byers brings me a wet
towel to mop off David's face. I examine his wire-rimmed glasses and
they seem serviceable.   Will actually broke them last time.

Breathe, Mulder. There are blankets draped over the dining room table
and couch cushions on top of it. They're telling the truth. Breathe.

"Okay, Will. Sorry. I just got upset there for a second. Look, I
think it's time for bed." I'd like to escape this situation as quickly
as possible.

"No problem, Dad. You gonna buy me something now?"

I'm going to ignore that, but the answer was probably "yes."

"You know I'm going to have to tell Skinner I let his kid bust his nose
AND that my secretary quit again, don't you, Will?"

"Beverly? Or Jamie?"

"No, Angie. I don't think you've met her yet." You are trying to
distract me from David's nose and what you all were doing on the dining
room table, son.   Look around - do you see a turnip truck Dad could
have fallen off of recently?

"At least he can't write you a memo about David's nose."

That's a very good point, son.

"Did you and Grandma go to mass this morning, Will?" Will nods - I was
almost certain they did. Mrs. Scully never misses a chance to pass on
that Catholic guilt. "You take communion?" Will nods again and opens
his mouth, sticking out his tongue for me to see. No burns. It's an
old joke, and probably a highly inappropriate one, but it relieves the
tension.

"You should try it, Dad - you'll get burned for sure."

Oh son - you're about to find out that your old Dad's kung fu can still
beat your kung fu. Prepare to be tickled. No, I don't care if you're
too old for it. We need to let off some steam.

Eventually the children are nestled all snug in their beds - sleeping
bags - still wearing their regular clothes. No one wears pajamas on a
camp out, Dad. This is also a good point.

Lucille is trailing me through the quiet house as I make one final
check for the night. In the dim living room, Will is sitting on the
couch instead of asleep in the tent with the others. He looks at me
without a scowl - a rare invitation these days.

I am no longer Dad, the all knowing, all conquering, hero. I have
become Father - doler out of money, driver to sporting activities,
maker of rules and taker of privileges. I miss the long talks with my
bud. I miss being his best friend. He's been my Scully-substitute
whenever she's away, even though I know that's not fair to him. It's
much easier to be his friend than to be his father. Will's father is a
guy who bitches constantly about anything and everything - not like Fox
Mulder at all.

I am no longer Agent Mulder - rash, driven, a little crazy; cris-
crossing the country with his partner Mrs. Spooky in search of answers
to questions no one thinks he should even be asking. I am Assistant
Director Mulder - all powerful, all knowing. I make the rules, give
the orders. I am no one's friend and everyone's superior. I have
thousands of children called "agents" that see me exactly the same way
my son does.

I am no longer Scully's Mulder - her friend, her lover, her partner,
her husband. I am... well, I am lonely. Only at nightfall, ethereal
rumors revive for a moment...

I settle beside him on the old couch, the dog climbing up between us
with difficulty. I wait for him to speak. The best way to get a kid
to talk is to shut your mouth and listen.

"Is that how she died, Dad?" He had to mean Scully. We've been over
how 'Lizabeth died when he was born enough times.

I nod. "She had a tumor in her brain that we didn't know about and it
ruptured - it burst, and she bled to death. Do you remember seeing
her, Will?" I didn't think he did. He saw the paramedics come in the
house, but I locked Will out of the office once I was able to let her
go. Then I was busy holding him covered with ketchup in the kitchen
while they carried Scully's body out.

"No, but I heard Uncle Byers telling Susanne about it."

I wait. The dog is fast asleep, snoring softly between us. The hairs
around her nose are gray now, like mine at my temples.

"I hear people whispering. About Elizabeth and Mom and you. Things
I'm not supposed to hear. I want to know what the secret is. Is it
about me?"

"There's no big secret, Will. We've always told you the truth. I was
married to Elizabeth before you were born and then Mom and I got
married."

He's not buying it. Didn't think he would.

"It's a long story," I hedge.

He's going to wait me out. Having a brilliant child sucks sometimes.
Another point for nature - the passive waiting game was a 'Lizabeth
trick. Scully usually yelled.

I didn't get very many child development classes as an undergrad - one,
I think - and none at Oxford. In general, I have no professional
training in the psychology of children, so I usually just wing it when
necessary. I've been winging it for nine years now and it shows.

One thing stands out in my mind, though. An old professor who
cultivated a white beard and smoked a pipe of sweet cherry tobacco
telling me "you give children only as much as they can carry." He'd
asked me, in my twenty-four year old splendor, to pick up something
heavy- a tall stack of books - which I did easily. Then he asked me
how many I thought a four-year-old could carry and I told him maybe
two. A ten-year-old? Four or five. A fifteen-year-old? Almost
as much as an adult, but not quite.

"Ah," he said, sounding an awful lot like a fictional British detective
I was fond of at the time, "Ah - that is the key. You only give
children as much as they can carry - whether it's books or
responsibility or knowledge. Any more will only cause them hurt and
frustration."

Only what we can carry. I've gotten my share. No one ever waited,
checked to see if I could carry it, they just piled it on. I never
wanted to see that happen to my son. I think sometimes I would trade
the rest of my life for one more night with Scully, but this... This is
free for the taking. Tonight, I'm still in charge. I'm still his
friend. I'm still Dad, the all knowing and all powerful.

"Once upon a time..."

"Is this a fairy tale, Dad? 'Cause I'm too big for fairy tales."

"Not this one, you're not. Once upon a time, there was an FBI Agent
named Mulder. And he was very angry at things that had happened to him
and he was very lonely. And one day, he looked up and saw another
agent who was going to be his partner - Agent Dana Scully."

"That's Mom, right?"

"Will, do you want to hear the story or not?"

"Keep going, Dad. This is cool. Kind of like The Princess Bride."

Our nine-year old son has just labeled me "cool" Scully. Did you hear
that?

Yes, I'm sure you did. I can hear you smiling.

"Well, Agent Mulder wasn't too sure about Agent Scully, but she was so
smart and so pretty that he decided to try to be her friend. It was
hard, because Agent Mulder could be a great big butt sometimes. But
one day, Agents Mulder and Scully became best friends, and after that,
no matter what they did, neither one of them could ever really be alone
again..."
   **********

End: The Wasteland Series: Epilogue


[108 楼] | Posted: 2013-12-13 03:19 顶端
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