Title: Under Autumn Falls
Author:  Jaime Lyn
Email:  UCFGuardgirl@aol.com OR Leiaj21@hotmail.com
Category: MSR, Post-finale, mytharc
Summary:  There is something brooding beneath, something they never expected...
Archive: Nowhere yet.  
Disclaimer:  If I kidnap David and Gillian and hold them hostage, does it mean I then own them?  No?  What do you mean, no?

Thanks, Sybs, for keeping the beta fresh.  :-)

Hey folks!  Remember that sequel I promised?  Weeelllllll...... *ahem*  Anyhow, this is just a preview.  It is not a WIP, it will not be on Ephemeral, and it is not going to be up for very long.  On January 1st, I will be removing this from the net until such time as the entire story can be posted.  So consider this a holiday gift to all of you who supported 'Light Moves' and 'Shadows of Winter,' and made me smile, and asked me to continue the universe.  At the very least, you'll know how they get out of Canada.  As for the rest... ah, well.  They say patience is a virtue.  They also say don't shoot the author.  Or so I hear.  ;-)

Under Autumn Falls
By Jaime Lyn

There’s nothing so sweet in the having
that forgets its preceding longing.

Having is anticlimactic,
a longing that’s spent, a detumescence.

The state of the thing that’s wanted or had
is fixed on a stripped screw, dependent

on its slipping place in the process
of its seizure, because the wanted

is still to be had and unwanted.
Kiss your love’s closed eyelids and weep

at never having met, then reclaim
her waking. Having her, now want her,

and long for what you have, realizing
all things are becoming something else,

and no human can own or belong.

--- "There's Nothing So..."
by Tom Gilmore


We've changed.  We're strangers.  I'm meeting you in the woods.
Who minds what dangers?  I know we'll get past the woods...
It takes trust.  It takes just a bit more and we're done.
---- "The Baker and his Wife," ' Into the Woods '


Part 1:

By Daylight, Creeping


Snow fell heavily outside the window of the 747, fast and furious; determined, crystallized parachuters slanted to Earth, with not a drunken care in the world.  It would have been like something out of Babes in Toyland, or maybe Miracle on 34th Street, had Fox Mulder not been so tired, and so endlessly sick of all the snow. He watched, entranced, hypnotized despite himself, but wished he could slam the window shudder closed, just pretend that cold and snow were far away concepts happening elsewhere, in gingerbread fantasies on Christmas Eve.

As it went, Thanksgiving was tomorrow, and Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were homeless, shipwrecked. They had reached the shore of the end of the world, built themselves a hut - like a regular old Swiss Family Robinson - and lived, and grew, and then, when the truth was finally unearthed and conquered by them, they'd had that little house of vines and straw destroyed by the welcoming arms of civilization; The FBI wanted its former mavericks back, but did Mulder and Scully want The FBI?  

Yes and no, thought Mulder.  Yes and no.

Mulder wondered, for a minute, if Scully felt inexplicably betrayed by their newfound freedom.  They had lost six months of normality to a lie, and the second that lie had receded into normality - or into something resembling a newly birthed normality - the old life of warm lattes and badges and guns and field offices had called them back inside.

A bull-horn's cry for Special Agents Mulder and Scully had rung out, like a siren, but after months of having been exiled into total obscurity as Paul Selden, husband of Lily Selden - Mulder found himself slightly suspicious. Then again, Fox Mulder found suspicion in everything.  

The sun had nearly set, and the sky was a shattered prism of color behind snow flurries, as fog tinged the edges of the window.  The outside glass was colder, much colder than the inside glass.

Mulder touched his wife's shoulder with two fingers, asking silently what he wanted, but refused, to say aloud: are you all right?

Dana Scully forced a smile through barely parted lips. The slight twitch of her mouth failed to reach her cheeks, or her eyes, which were dark blue, flecked with traces of mood-stone-green, lovely, but hazy, far-off, unreachable.   She had her palm pressed to the glass, as if offering a kiss to the late November sky through her skin.  Scully had been sitting, gazing, silent, down at the luggage platform where heavily bundled workers scurried with bags and boxes, loading all onto the conveyor belt, for the past twenty minutes. Mulder wondered what she could possibly be thinking.  She'd been quiet ever since trying to phone her mother, over an hour ago.  

On Scully's lap sat William Mulder, their one and a half year old son, snoozing lightly with his fists bunched around the folds of Scully's opened overcoat.  If the baby noticed the change of scenery, or wondered why bags and people and departing planes suddenly surrounded him, he wasn't about to say.  Toddlers were funny that way; they lived in their own little world of simple thoughts and fears and unspoken emotions.  They had one or two words for the important ideas, and no words for the lesser concepts which, spilled over.

For Fox Mulder, babies were like a separate species.

Mulder glanced at Scully's flat abdomen, almost entirely obscured by heavy sweaters, an opened overcoat, and his sleeping son.  Somehow, new life was growing inside of Scully - a small, miniature Mulder-Scully with arms and legs and feelings.  Even more amazing, (or so Mulder continually thought) was that Dana Scully herself, over the course of nearly ten years, had braved near-total destruction and anarchy to be his friend, his partner, and his wife.  

His Wife.  Jesus.  

There was just no getting used to that word Wife. In the back of Mulder's mind, he wondered why society forced titles upon everything and everyone.  Married.  Single.  Divorced.  Couldn't he and Scully just be he and Scully?  No wife.  No husband.  Just Mulder and Scully?  

And now, children, thought Mulder.  My God.  And a wife.  What would come next?  Two dogs and a cat?   It was preposterous.

More to lose, Mulder realized. Perhaps this was why he'd kept to himself for so many years, why he'd kept Scully at arms-length, never fully allowing himself to realize the breadth and depth of his attraction to her.  With the danger of his work on the X-files, and with the siren's song of the paranormal, he'd been unwilling to share the burden, to spread the misery.  A relationship - an openly romantic one - especially with his partner, of all crazy things, would be an easily targeted weakness.  An actual family would be the planet-sized Achilles heel.

Too late now.  

Seven months, and Mulder would be a father again.  

To think, he'd barely gotten used to their first child.  An undergraduate degree from Princeton, A Ph.D from Oxford, and then on to Quantico - sixty hours of FBI combat training - and approximately fifteen years of field experience, and somehow, Mulder felt like he'd gotten on the short bus at 'Daddy Central' with nothing in his head but air.  

"Sir?"  One of the stewardesses.  Long dark hair, crisp uniform, and a nametag that read, "Bonnie."


Bonnie the Stewardess smiled as if someone were holding a gun to her temple and yelling, "Smile, bitch, or I'll blow your head off!"

"The captain has informed me that we'll be taking off soon.  If you wanted some hot cups for your son's ears - "

"Hot cups?"  Mulder frowned, puzzled.  

"To assuage the unbalancing of inner ear fluid," interrupted Scully, distracted, still watching snow fall  outside the window.  "I had inquired earlier.  His ears are going to pop from the altitude, and he won't like it."

Scully was a doctor, and Mulder often mused her professional status somehow gave her the right to know everything.  Always a practical answer, always a solution, even when there wasn't one; that was Dana Scully. (And what she didn't know, she pretended she did.)

Mulder sighed. William screaming for six hours; wouldn't that be fun?  Where had he hidden the Advil, anyway?  Scully's bag?

"Okay then," said Mulder.  "Hot cups would be nice."

The stewardess nodded, glanced at William and Scully sitting together in one seat, frowned, and pivoted on her heels. She sauntered away with an air of "hmph" about her, an attitude Mulder had been on the receiving end of many times during a federal case.  

The flight crew, apparently, was still distressed about William not sitting in his own seat, which Mulder actually found amusing, because they'd also been distressed about William's screaming irritating the other passengers.

Not that you could ever win.

Both Mulder and Scully had tried, unsuccessfully, to load William into the seat between them, but William had been obstinate, screeching, sobbing, flailing arms and wriggling fingers for Scully to pick him up and clutch him tight.  The flight was full, as most holiday flights often are, and passengers began groaning.  One woman popped open a packet of Tylenol.  Finally, Mulder made his apologies to the stewardess, even flashed his reactivated FBI badge, (which seemed to quiet the grumbling sea of voices) but he still got lectured on the finer points of flight safety.  In the end, William sat with his mother, and this quieted him, and both he and Scully overheard muttering as the girl walked off, irritated: Spoiled, self indulged child and the goddamned feds. We should all be born into such indulgence.  

And so it began.

Perhaps it was ludicrous, or childish, and Mulder didn't much care either way, but flashing his credentials, his license, so to speak, to walk around this plane with a gun and a lifted chin, felt good, almost like a return to the mothership, for lack of a better analogy.  Despite Mulder's reluctance to return to the Bureau itself, he felt a tug towards the work.  He felt as if he was going home, which he supposed he was.  And so he mused, in the back of his head, that whoever said you can't go home again had never saved the world from alien colonization.  

Feeling impulsive, and somewhat amorous, Mulder leaned for a second into Scully's hair, ran his nose along the sleek, red strands above her ear.  She smelled somehow like winter.  He closed his eyes, pressed a kiss to her earlobe.  Scully hummed, and tilted her head to accommodate, but otherwise said nothing.  "Look out for monsters on the wing," whispered Mulder, his mouth brushing the cartilage of her ear.  

"You'll be the first to know - "  

"Second," corrected Mulder, in a whisper.  


"Second," Mulder repeated.  "Technically, if you noticed the monster, you'd be the first to know.  And then you'd tell me, and I'd be the second."

"You know, Mulder, it's been a long time since target practice," answered Scully, her tone flippant, "But I hear I'm still a pretty good shot."

One last kiss to her ear, and Mulder murmured, "Kill joy."

Behind Mulder and Scully, in his always harsh, black-charcoal suit, sat Assistant Director Walter Skinner of the FBI.  Skinner had been silent for a while now, much longer than Scully. As a matter of fact, Skinner's silence could be traced back to Verona, Canada,  when he'd been forced to cut a check to the landlord of a small, two story house for damages amounted to the floor, walls, windows, and carpet.  Blood - green and red, had dug stains into the berber threading, and interlaced with mud and slush.  The walls were dented, cracked; windows were broken, and glass was everywhere.  It's obvious, Skinner had said, stepping through a pile of debris, that the two of you have been here.

Chaos and Mayhem go to Canada, Scully had muttered under her breath.  Mulder grinned at the quiet joke, and the two of them exchanged a secret, adoring glance, their shoulders kissing in the cramped space.  Great name for a P.I firm, don't you think? Mulder whispered back. Scully smiled up at him, and was glorious before him, her eyes big and blue and watery with I love you.  

Skinner surveyed the damage and paid the fee, and the landlord refrained from asking questions.

Nobody called the police about the blood.  Or about the body left behind.  

Jeffrey Spender, Mulder's only brother, was dead.  He had been erased from public record months before he tried to erase Mulder and Scully from civilization entirely; the end, for him, was a lonely one. As a means of disposal, all three adults had taken Spender quietly away, in a black tarp tied with cable and lined with bricks.  They drove and drove, blanketed by night and blizzard. Skinner asked, once secure on Highway 401, whether they could find a suitable place to make the dump, or whether they should just try to burn the body in a clearing instead.  Mulder said he knew the perfect place.  

In the end, it was a somewhat cathartic funeral; to the bottom of Cameron Bog Jeffrey Spender went, amidst a euology of silence, down below, far underneath the reeds and sludge and crusty ice. As he'd sunk, hard as a stone, at four am on a cold, autumn night, the phrase, go swim with the fishes occurred to Mulder in a not-so-funny kind of way.  Afterwards, Skinner turned back to the car, where William was asleep in his car seat. Scully crossed herself with her index finger and stood rigidly, transfixed, her gaze on the icy Bog.  Scully was a catholic, and Mulder couldn't help but feel guilty that in her mind, she'd committed some sort of sin.   Instead of asking her, Mulder merely shook his head, grasped her hand, and noted, If the bog didn't have a serpent before, it sure as hell has one now.  

The journey back to the house was silent.    

Looking back, Mulder pondered over the mental state of his former boss, who was something of an enigma to him. Skinner must have had questions for them, concerns churning around in that staunch, by-the-book head of his, but he asked surprisingly little.  Skinner merely came for them, soggy from  snow, tight-lipped and pensive, and announced their flight would leave for Washington the following day.  He took care of the expenses, took care of the travel arrangements, even took care of the body, and he did it discreetly.  

For Mulder and Scully, there was no time to enjoy the quiet, or to celebrate Scully's pregnancy, and certainly no time for Scully to say farewell to her colleagues at the hospital. Suddenly, Canada had come into their lives, and just as suddenly, Canada had gone, and somehow, this seemed unfair.

He wondered if Scully missed her fireplace.  

"How's he doing?" asked Mulder, pressing his palm to the baby's warm head.  

Scully took a long breath, twined her fingers with Mulder's. "Well as can be expected," she said, in a breathy sort of tone.  "The unfamiliarity, the noise, all these people - from his end, I don't know.  Maybe he thinks we're playing a game.  It sounds so melodramatic, and maybe it is, but I feel responsible for... everything."

"Everything?  Should I ordain you?"

"You know what I mean, Mulder.  This instability - "

"It's just a plane ride, Scully."

"- The uprooting again and again, and the traveling, and who the hell knows how Marita's people treated him?  I just want to keep him from nightmares, from all the worrying we do, and I don't think..."  She shook her head.  "Have you noticed how underdeveloped he is?"

Mulder frowned. "Underdeveloped?  My kid?"  He grinned, cocked his head to one side.  Scully rubbed her fingers across her forehead, unconvinced.  She had a way of shouldering the burden for every invisible heartache she felt was ever suffered by those she loved - and some heartaches suffered by those she had never even known.  What was it with doctors, Mulder wondered, thinking they needed to save everyone from horrors that couldn't possibly have been prevented?

Pot, Kettle, Scully would have responded, pointing from him to her, if he'd asked.

"He's so quiet," said Scully, near quiet herself.  "He should be more animate, more verbose.  Developmentally - "

"He's still adjusting, Criminal.  He's only known us for a few days, but he seems to have taken to us already, which is psychologically promising.  I can't put my finger on how I know this, but I think he really does remember us, Scully. He knows who we are, at least enough to call us Mom and Dad..." That last part still sounded strange, and he took Scully's hand and enfolded it in his, pressed her knuckles to his lips.  Scully's eyelids fluttered closed.  "Just give him time. On the up side, this is probably the most stability the Tater's had since the adoption.  Hell, it's probably the most stability you and I have had since the adoption.  And, honestly, the fact that you and I represent stability is enough to rattle anyone."


"Perhaps?  Come on, Scully. How many times have I been wrong?"  

This earned him a skeptical-like raised eyebrow from Scully's vast collection of raised eyebrows. All had different connotations.  This particular one implied that Mulder had the brain of a chickpea.  

Choosing to ignore her lack of confidence, Mulder finished, "Almost never."

Scully smiled. "All self-satisfied proclamations aside..."   Her eyes were unreadable.  "I think I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Mulder shook his head, kept her hand pressed to his cheek, an anchor of familiarity in a strange world.  He wanted to reassure her, to promise her nothing could ever hurt them again, but promises were weak, and for that reason, could never be made.   The future was uncertain for all things and all people, but was especially uncertain for them.  The future was a vacuum of sorts, empty and black and waiting, like that place right before REM sleep.  

Mulder leaned into her, and was suddenly aware of her specific scent, familiar, sweet, and yet changed from week to week; Citrus Dream, this time, it smelled like.  "So.  When did this first shoe actually drop?" he asked.  "Don't tell me you've been walking around with only one shoe all these years and I never noticed."

Scully wore a placid look, lips twitching slightly.  "I think it was at some point after I asked you to not point a flash directly at me while performing an autopsy.  But definitely before the mosquito bites...  Which would leave the block of time when you painted an 'X' in the middle of the road, and I thought to myself, now there's one perfectly nice ass wasted on a crazy son of a bitch."  

Mulder grinned.  "You were checking out my ass?"

Seemingly disinterested, Scully picked at a piece of lint on his shoulder.  "I was young."

He swatted her hand away.  "Perhaps then.  But what's your excuse now?"

"My excuse?"

"I caught you, Agent Scully - when I was stowing our bags in the overhead bin.  Very gratuitous ass-gazing, there."

"Ass-gazing," said Scully, flatly.  She pursed her lips.  "Well, I'm arguably less sane than I was."

There was a pause.  


"And - " She was fighting a smile.  "I own that ass, Mulder, and I can ass-gaze as I see fit.  Satisfied?"

"For the moment, sufficiently placated."  Mulder nodded to himself, enjoying this.  "And the other shoe?  What about that?"

"Still poised on the edge."

"Heel or sneaker?"

Her eyes sparkled; the hint of a smile. "Open-toed sandal."

"Ah.  Well, that changes everything."

The scent of her swirled in his nose, hypnotizing, yet gentle.  Yesterday was vanilla.  Today was citrus.  Tomorrow would be something new.  Dana Scully had a vast collection of bath products she'd carefully stockpiled for months, from their travels in and out of motel rooms across the U.S.  Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota - all were remembered, trapped, exiled, in some way, into tiny shampoo bottles.  Collecting asinine objects had given Scully something to do with her hands.  Rearrange them.  Number them.  Throw them about; hurl them into the abyss of a Southwest desert.  Frustration and running against the wind and nearly losing her only child had done a number on Dana Scully, quite a number, and she struck back in small ways.

"Look.  All I can tell you is the shoe's on the other foot now, Criminal," said Mulder, and found he couldn't resist another kiss, this time to the inside of her palm.  "If there's going to be any sandal dropping, or boot hurling, or throwing of footwear of any kind, it's not going to be at us."

Scully's eyebrow went up again.  "You have no idea what you just said, do you?"

"Not a clue.  But it sounded good?  Didn't it?"

Scully smiled a half-smile, and her eyes twinkled, gemstones of wild color against her pale skin.  "I can't believe you're someone's father."  She shook her head, as if saying, at the same time, I can't believe I actually slept with a guy who's right now wearing two different colored socks.  

"Seriously," said Mulder. "You'd think God would know better."


The radio twittered: static slam-dancing, frenzied, with twinkle-chimes and violin.  Bing Crosby's voice swirled about the cabin of the car, crooning in darkness tinged with streetlamp glow and brake lights: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas... Let your heart be light..."

Special Agent John Doggett turned in his seat, hands gripping the steering wheel, as he pulled to a halt on Washington Street.  He smiled a rueful sort of smile.  The red glare of a stoplight danced in the front windshield.   

"Not even Thanksgiving yet," said Doggett, shaking his head.  "Commercialism starting early this year, huh?"  

Scully gazed out the window, silent.

"Must be," murmured Mulder.

Special Agent John Doggett wasn't, as far as Mulder knew, a man for superficialities or small talk. He was an ex-cop, and a by the book, bare essentials, FBI Agent. Mulder had to wonder whether Doggett was trying to make the atmosphere more breathable, more stable -  and supposed he couldn't actually blame a guy for trying.  

While Fox Mulder and John Doggett had never been best of friends, they shared a common thread in the X-Files, and a dedicated ally in Dana Scully -

Doggett and Mulder worked well together under pressure, collaborating amicably during those winding stretches of near-death and catastrophe - one of which always seemed to pop up. They trusted one another, at least enough to work in tandem, to thwart the usual round of suspects: evil-doers, exploding oil rigs, and alien take-overs.  It had been a sort of forced alliance between two horses of a different color, mediated mostly by Scully.

Now that the Super-soldier threat had been obliterated, in a manner of speaking, and nobody in the car was dying, giving birth, running for their life, or fighting off colonization by an alien force, Mulder found he had very little to say to the man.

The windshield was fogging.  Doggett turned in his seat, and ran the wipers.  Washington D.C shone ahead of them in clear hues of blue and black, dark and light at the same time, buildings alit by the moon, and speckled with streetlamps and neon signs.  Familiar, everything was, and yet there were small changes here and there.  A new store.  An old one closed down.  Small changes.  Like an old sweater revisited after years of having been locked in a trunk.  

The sky was dotted with clouds, gray against a black canvas.  The pavement was free of snow; hasn't snowed yet, but maybe this weekend, Doggett had said, when he met them down by the baggage claim.  He smiled at William, and winked, and while waiting for the conveyor belt to start up, asked the toddler about Santa. Did you know that Santa lives up at the North Pole, where it always snows?  William just pressed his face into Scully's chest and whimpered.  Scully patted the baby's head. Doggett shrugged.  Tired, is he?  Scully forced a weak smile.  She had bags under her eyes.  He's taken a vow of silence, explained Mulder, weakly.  

The light turned green and the engine roared to life.  Beneath the sound of car vibration, and wind whooshing past, the radio kept on: "Here we are as in olden days.... happy golden days of yore... faithful friends who are near to us..."  Agent Doggett ran his finger along the radio dial and flipped the station, a crackle of angry static rupturing the strains of music until AM Radio covered over with the sports scores.  

Scully sighed, and held William close to her.  The baby's dark lashes fluttered with sleep, his pale face flushed with color, his tiny fists bunched. Scully absently rubbed his back.

Mulder remembered Scully's outburst on the stairs that first night with the baby, her cheeks red, angry, her chin angular with shadow: He's my child!  Her arms tight around William, clutching him like an anchor.  I can protect him - he's my child.  My child!

Mulder shuddered.

"Dolphins lost again," Mulder noted, following the scores on the radio.  He wasn't sure why, but he felt he needed to fill the silence.  

"Yeah," Agent Doggett said, turning onto an unfamiliar two-lane side street.  Doggett owned an actual house in Annapolis (left-over from his marriage, he said) and this made him the only ally of Scully's who had enough space for two adults and a child.  Skinner had made all the arrangements himself, and turned over a spare key to Mulder before departing the airport: In case your stay with Agent Doggett needs to be extended, he said.

The truth was Mulder and Scully now had less money than an eighteen-seventies peasant, and everyone knew it.  The inheritance from his mother's death?  Exhausted.  Bled into nothing from months and months of motel expenses and rent.  The house on the Vineyard?  Long ago given to charity, before Mulder could have possibly predicted... any of it.  Life savings?  Dry.  Used to pay for three different cars, for groceries, for a second pair of illegal passports - and for new graves for the gunmen.  And now both Mulder and Scully sported conflicting credit histories to boot. Conflicting social security IDs.  In the end, they justified that apartments were scarce this time of year anyway. 

"Dolphins' defense been all over the place this year," Doggett added.  "Consistency would be a breath of fresh air."

"You've got a better chance of growing antennae."  

"Ain't it a shame."  

Scully's soft, quiet voice nearly startled both of them.  "Agent Doggett, could you do me a favor? Could you put back that last song?"  There was a pause, and she added, "Please?"

A brief, stifling silence suspended all three of them.

"Sure thing, Agent Scully," Doggett finally answered.  A moment later, static wavered around them until Bing Crosby came to life again.  

"Here we are as in olden days.... happy golden days of yore..."

Frowning, Mulder turned to Scully and ran his index finger along the line of her jaw.  "You okay?" he whispered, brushing back a string of shoulder-length, red hair.  It wasn't like Scully to care about the radio whatsoever.  Mulder sometimes wondered whether she listened to music at all.  Only once had she given away a slight inclination, a long while ago, when they'd been driving on a northern road into Canada.  The border crossing was a mile up ahead, and she'd let him pick the song: The Piano Man. He turned it up.  They held hands.  They sang - sort of.  But they were both nervous back then, pulled taut with uncertainty, and any distraction had been a good one.   

"Fine," Scully said softly.  

Mulder nodded.  'Fine' was Scully's stock answer for everything.  

"Are you sure?"  With the tip of his finger, Mulder tilted her chin so they were eye-to-eye.  Scully had never been an opened book; she kept her secrets and longings tightly bundled behind staunch posturing and professionalism.  But Mulder knew her methods of secret-keeping better than he knew his own, and her eyes told truths her lips would not.  

"Later," she said, and her gaze communicated the promise. She pressed her mouth over his finger, met his eyes, but she was somehow still distracted.  

"You're not too cold back there, are you?" asked Doggett, and he fiddled with a few controls on the dash.  

Yes, thought Mulder.

"No," said Mulder.  He turned from Scully to watch the windshield, his gaze filled with the darkened landmarks of long-lost home.  "No, we're fine."  

Weren't they always?


Special Agent Doggett's living room smelled of lemon and pine, and his furniture had a slick, smudgy kind of sheen.  "I ah, I actually tried to straighten up," Doggett admitted, avoiding eye-contact, shuffling about the foyer, moving their bags into a small room off the hall.  "It tends to get disorganized in here - case files, notes, you know, and I remembered Agent Scully likes to keep her space neat and organized. And I didn't want you two worrying about germs with a baby running around."

"We're not worried," said Scully, her voice hitched on an almost-sigh.  "This is fine."

Mulder frowned.  Was it just him, or did her breathing seem off?  Shorter, somehow?  Concerned, Mulder hovered behind her, anxious.  Ever since discovering she was pregnant, he'd worried whether Scully was feeling okay, whether the baby was getting enough air, whether Scully was getting enough air, whether she had eaten enough, and whether or not she should be holding such a heavy child in her condition... Exhausted from all this thinking, and half-delirius with an image of running behind his wife with a net, Mulder wished Scully would just not walk or move for the rest of her pregnancy.  She was only about three months along, and already Mulder wished he could keep her in a glass bubble until she gave birth.

Scully gazed about the wide, darkened living room with a sleeping William in her arms, her shoulders back and straight - proud.  "I appreciate your hospitality, John.  Both Mulder and I are grateful.  But please don't go to any more trouble on our account.  I don't anticipate a lengthy intrusion as it is."

Doggett nodded, answered, "No intrusion at all," and nothing more was said about the living arrangements.  Scully had her habits, and both men had worked long enough with her to know them; she only called Agent Doggett by his first name when she meant business.  When she said one thing but meant something else entirely.  Mulder knew her only too well; her body language was screwed tight, eyes shiny with annoyance. Scully abhorred being made anybody's dependent, and this had to be killing her.

The subject swiftly changed, and for the second time in one night, Mulder found himself relieved, discussing the sports scores with John Doggett.  

Scully walked ahead of them, past the kitchen, and Doggett pointed towards the hallway.

The layout was spacious enough - the floor an adobe-mud brown: one long stretch of Mexican tile that picked up the echo of Scully's heels and shouted the sound. Sparsely placed, wooden funriture  stood proud, utilitarian, almost glum by lamplight.  The hallway Doggett had pointed to forked off from the main living area.  Down the hallway were two bedrooms and an office, and an extra bathroom.  

"Nobody's ever used this guest room," Doggett explained, flipping on the light switch.  To the right, a wooden dresser and a thirteen inch Zenith.  In the center, a full-sized bed with green flannel sheets and matching blankets.  A small nightstand.  A closet.  And off to the left, a cherry-wooden crib, blankets folded neatly inside, tiny pillows awaiting a tiny head, bars turned down.  It was an old, lonely looking thing, just like the rest of the room.  Held in suspended animation.  Waiting for something that would never come.  

"I had the crib in the garage," Doggett said.  "No other beds.  Thing hasn't been used in awhile, but it's still good.  Sturdy."  His face was unreadable, but his eyes shifted sadly.  He cleared his throat and nodded to himself.

The room turned suddenly uncomfortable, and all three adults said their goodnights.  

Doggett turned and left the room, and shut the door behind him.  

Scully stood in front of the bureau mirror, red hair pulled to the nape of her neck.  She cocked her head to one side, gazing, with a wistful sort of stare, at her reflection.  Mulder couldn't help but admire her profile, how beautiful she seemed, despite the frown reflecting back at him.  Scully was ethereal, like a thin film of gauze hanging by a frayed edge.  The bedside lamp cast a frame of light about her, erupting in starburst.

Silent, Scully touched fingers to her mouth, then to her jaw, and then ran them, feather-light, over her cheekbones.  Her engagement ring - nothing more than a simple, clear gem embedded in inexpensive, twelve-carat gold - sparkled on her middle finger; the reflection of the cut zirconium caught the lamplight and bounced.  The ring, of course, wasn't legal.  Neither was the wedding band she wore. There had never been a legal marriage, just as there had never been any real wedding bands. Still, Scully wore hers.  As did Mulder.  In the beginning, the wearing was necessary.  To pose as a married couple, they'd needed to look like one.  

But the cycle of forward-movement, of space and time and age, seemed to constantly evolve.  

Their fake wedding bands had lasted them through dizzying escapades over dirt roads, through blizzards blotting them out, plunging them into an inky rift of nothing - that terrifying two minutes before flashlights moved over them.  The rings left sweat-marks and tan-lines on their fingers from muggy, midwest sunsets.  The gold had stuck to their fingers, cold and damp, through snow-blistery Verona sunrises.  The rings ran slick and metallic over hot skin, during spontaneous bursts of passion in the shower.  The rings had been witnesses to life reborn, to life revisited; like Dorothy's ruby slippers, the rings could not be removed.  They were part of the journey, now - if not as battle scars, then as proof of the impossible, of life after death.  

Neither Mulder nor Scully spoke of the rings, or of the decision as to whether or not the rings would still be kept.  If they so desired, Special Agents Scully and Mulder - former partners in law enforcement - could simply return to the status quo.  Friends and colleagues and marginal lovers.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

But Mulder knew the ring would never leave his finger, and perhaps he had known since the very first minute he'd put it on - admittedly not thrilled with the band, and instead stunned by the weight, by the catch of light drawing attention to his hand.  It was the suffocation of his finger, the unfairness of a marriage forced, that got to him: what should have been a beautiful union was instead a cruel twist of fate.

But months had passed, and the finger lived, and this was where he belonged, where he fit.  



Mulder sat on the bed, flipping aimlessly through one of Agent Doggett's Automobile magazines.  The television sprinkled him with shadow.  He muted the sound.  "What are you thinking?"

A pause, and he repeated, "Scully?"

Scully turned to one side and examined her figure.  Her arm dropped to her hip, her lips turned down, dimpling her cheek.  "I feel..." She pressed her palm over the silk pajama top, running it in circles over her abdomen.  No stomach yet.  Scully's steady gaze seemed somehow upset by this, despite her knowing better.

"I feel wrung out," she admitted.

Silent, Mulder set the magazine aside.  He rose from the bed and went to her, shutting off the TV as an afterthought.  

"There's a lot to deal with, now." She flattened the silk over her stomach again, slouching, as if trying to round herself by sheer willpower.  "And it's a matter of responsibility, Mulder.  How can we bring another child into this?"

"Into what?"  

He came up behind her and bent his knees so that his chin rested atop the soft pillow of her shoulder.  Her eyes met his in the mirror, and she had that odd look about her again - that slight shifting of gaze which seemed to whisper how she loved him.  Mulder pressed his hand over Scully's, their fingers interlacing.  He kissed her jaw, and she hummed in encouragement.  They were threaded, he and Scully, fitted together in such a way that they could never be unstitched.  

"This insanity we've carved out for ourselves," clarified Scully.  

"Insanity?"  Mulder clucked his tongue.  "Is that what you think it is?"

"Why?  What do you think it is?"

"I don't know." He shrugged.  "An episode of Lost in Space, but with a better cast?"

Scully half-smiled.  "But with poorer writing."

"Nah. Only in the later seasons."  

A chuckle sprang from her throat, and Mulder kissed the place where her laughter had begun.  A long, strung out pause leveled the moment, sobered it.

"The truth is I've never had time to really think about the consequences of my actions," said Scully.  "Cause and effect upon those around me.  The work was all-consuming, and I... I'm glad for it, P.I.  Working as I did with you was more satisfying than anything else I've ever done. What you've done for the future is... immeasurable."

"You had a hand in it, if I recall."


Mulder nodded into her shoulder.  "But?"

"But... what now?  We've cemented our way, Mulder, set ourselves out on a certain path.  And I've been looking back over that path, thinking... it's all been kind of..." She paused, as if searching for the right words.   Finally, she simply finished, "Lonely."


"Yes."  Her expression in the mirror was inquisitive.  "Haven't you ever thought about it?"
Mulder frowned.  

He recalled his old refrigerator, loud and wheezing, and filled with nothing but stale orange juice.  His answering machine, which never had any messages on it. His couch, which never saw visitors.  

But lonliness in the widely understood definition of the term had never bothered Mulder; only ordinary people got lonely, Mulder thought, and he had never seen himself as anything approaching ordinary.  Perhaps he was being pretentious, or simply distorting reality, and Scully might have been first to point it out, but in over seven years, his solitude had yet to fail him.  Mulder had embraced his bachelor-skinny life with aplomb, and he embraced it by his own standards.  He had his work, which filled him, and the truth, which kept him busy, and he had his partner.  

But then again, no point of view was ever unbreakable.  

Three Christmases ago, Mulder had been sitting by the window, his desk a hurricane of unfinished paperwork.  He'd never celebrated Christmas before, his ancestry an unbalanced pot of religious hodge podge, his parents with no clear convictions one way or the other.  As a child, lack of celebration had been disappointing, but not devastating.  As an adult, there was a constant stream of more important things to do.  Witches, goblins, vampires; the paranormal didn't grind to a halt just because area businesses did.

But that one year...

Mulder sighed, thinking of it.

The television had flared light over the walls, across his face.  He opened the blinds on a whim, and found a light snow had begun trickling, the sky blowing it forth, like a yawn.  Flurries sparkled, sugary glitter from a snow globe.  A black canvas backdrop.  Christmas lights twinkled in windows across the street.  Down on the sidewalk, a man and a woman exited their car, the man in a tux, the woman in a wine-colored dress.  From the back seat, a girl hopped out.  A ballerina's tutu peeked out from the edges of her thick coat.  She wore wings of sequins, and carried a bouquet of flowers bigger than she.  Her dark hair fell in braids from beneath her woolen cap.  Ordinary, so ordinary against the canvas of Christmas Eve, the girl was. And when she twirled in an encore pirouette, the man and woman laughed, and clapped, and pressed kisses to her forehead.  

For weeks afterwards, Mulder had been inexplicably obsessed with this image.  The man, the woman, and the little ballerina, encapsulated in snow, in their own little microcosm of Christmas.  It was a different sort of completion.  Family.  Christmas trees.  Recitals. Where had all of this nonsense come from? Bizarre thoughts bombarded Mulder about diapers and playpens, and he'd started popping aspirin like candy.  

It wasn't, of course, all coincidence.

That was the year Scully had begun the invitro process.  

It was the first Christmas Fox Mulder ever wished he could grant miracles.  

"Sometimes I saw the work for what it was," Mulder answered honestly.  "And occasionally I didn't like the aftertaste, but I can't say I was alone.  I had what I needed, or what I thought I needed, and I was fine with that.  But I suppose..."  He shrugged.  "I mean, sure.  Who doesn't wonder what the opposite side of the fence would be like?"

Scully nodded.  "And?"

Mulder sighed, leaned close to her ear.  "And... I think I'll keep you," he whispered.  

Scully's answering smile sparked mischievous.  "Tater, too?"

Mulder scrunched his nose, half-amused.  "Tater, too."

"Hmm."  Scully leaned back into him.  "Then I suppose I'd better click my heels together, Glinda."

"And end up where, Dorothy?"

Scully closed her eyes, shook her head.

"What is it?" asked Mulder.  

"What if the keeping isn't enough?"  Scully squinted, as if examining herself under an electron microscope.  "What if we aren't enough? I just have... I have these thoughts, P.I.  Can we function like this?  Can we put anything before the work?  Before the truth?  It sounds insensitive, but what if..." her voice skittered out on a whisper.  "What if we've forgotten how to live any other way?"

Mulder smiled a dark little smile, and he wasn't sure why.  

"I don't think we've forgotten, Scully.  For what it's worth, I hear self-depreciation and utter incompetence are par for the course."  He nodded over to the crib, where William slept soundly.  "Look.  I may know next to nothing about this baby crap, but I spent two hours the other night making a lunatic out of myself so that kid would fall asleep.  And he did. So maybe talking about it seems a little ludicrous - "  He took a deep breath.  "But then, love feels equally inadequate, and I hear that's the general descriptor nowadays."

Their hands circled together over Scully's stomach, back and forth, up and down, around in an endless loop, and Mulder suddenly felt a surge of protective warmth sweep through him.  He closed his eyes, and was nearly overcome.  This unborn child. This unborn child and William.  They were his.  They were his in a way nobody else in this world could ever be his.  Mulder had broken off a part of himself and given it to Scully.  He'd let that piece float inside of her, drift away towards home.

"Thank you," said Scully.  She turned, and pressed her nose against his cheek.  Her mouth opened over his skin, warm and moist.  


"For being honest."  She smiled up at him.  "For not feeding me a line of patronizing bullshit."  

Mulder smiled back, brushed his thumb over her chin.  "No," he said.  "I mean... why would you think yourself incapable?  I don't think you've ever imagined yourself incapable of anything."

Scully's brows pinched together.  "Is that how you see me, P.I?  Self-important?"

"Confident," Mulder clarified.  "And on occasion, marginally obnoxious."

"Oh?"   Scully's heel connected with his shin.  "Obnoxious, am I?"

 Mulder laughed into her neck.  

A pause, and Scully's head fully turned, her body twisted sideways.   Her lips ran along Mulder's jaw, and his chin, and back up to his cheek.  She smelled of powder and steam from the shower, and she was everywhere.  She was intoxicating.  Mulder closed his eyes, just enjoying her.  

"It's my mother," she finally said, sighing.

"I figured," said Mulder.  "She upset?"

"Among other things," said Scully.  "Hurt, indignant, uncomfortable...  And she's been talking to my brother on the interim."

"Bill?"  Mulder made a face at the mention of Scully's brother, who had a higher opinion of roadkill than he did of Mulder, or of Scully's decision-making process concerning Mulder.  "Seriously?"

"No."  Scully's eyes were incredibly sad, and far away.  "No.  Not Bill."  

 "I see."  Mulder frowned, thoughtful.  "I didn't even realize Charlie Scully still inhabited this planet."

"Mulder - "


Scully's neck bent, her body slumped, as if speaking of the estrangement from her family left Scully completely deflated. 

Despite her passion for the work, Dana Scully lived for her family.  She loved her mother, and her two brothers, and she'd idolized her sister, and worshipped the sea her father sailed on.  According to Dana Scully, all the Scully children had been raised with a sense of purpose, a sense of home and loyalty.  They were close-knit, and a tough bunch.  But a fair undercurrent of disappointment and disapproval had roughened the once placid waters Scully's family sailed on, and Dana Scully's failure to adhere to "boat rules" had left her alienated, floating alone, struggling to break the surface.  

Perhaps it had all started with Scully's abduction, when the family had first gotten a taste of her work, of how dangerous it could be.  There had been no resentment back then, but an apprehension, instead, had begun to grow.  A slow-crawling distrust concerning Scully, and her choice of company, and her choice of career.

Scully's sister's murder - at the hands of an assassin sent to kill Scully - had hit the entire family hard, and splintered it right down the center.  The chain reaction set off by Melissa's murder was swift, and blinding.  

Bill Scully, the eldest of Scully's siblings, thought Scully should have just quit the FBI altogether.  He hated the danger of her job, hated Mulder for being part of that job, and resented Scully's bull-headed tenacity to do what she pleased anyway, despite Bill's disapproval. Bill looked on at Scully as a child, as a young girl simply incapable of understanding exactly what pain her career ambitions had caused her family.  In Bill's eyes, Scully needed a good chastising.

I'm used to Bill's pseudo,  patriarchal posturings, Scully had said, waving off the concern, when Mulder asked.  He's all talk, no follow-through.  But Charlie... He's got bite. He's definitely got bite...

Scully's younger brother, Charlie, was too much like his sister for his own good: tenacious, stubborn, and dead serious.  Charlie Scully had been the family hothead, and he had left for the Navy long before Scully left med school for Quantico.  Charlie'd sought escape from his unsufferable older brother and overprotective father, but not from his sisters, who -according to Scully - he had cherished, and been quite close with.  He had reacted violently to the news of Melissa's death - even more violently than Bill had.  

While Scully herself had refused to elaborate on the subject, Mulder knew that an apparent argument had taken place between brother and sister.  A bad one.  Threats were slung.  Battle lines were drawn. Ultimately, Scully's refusal to adjust her lifestyle resulted in Charlie's refusal to speak to her.  And, later, his refusal to return home from assignment for her cancer, or for her son's birth.  The fissure between them was unbearably hard for her, and as a solution, Scully denied all talk of her younger brother with anyone.  Charles Robert Scully simply... stopped existing for Dana Katherine Scully.

On some visceral level.  

Only Margaret Scully, strong and fiercely protective, had stood on the fence, unsure of which way to fall amongst her remaining, feuding children.

"I've disappointed her," Scully whispered of Margaret, eyes glistening, ready to spill over. "The short of it is I made poor decisions, and I've hurt her terribly.  I let her think the worst. I never tried to make her understand the situation.  I just did what I did, and I refused to listen to her. First with the adoption, and then by leaving without a word - "

"Scully."  Mulder let out a breath onto her neck.  "Criminal.  You did what you had to do.  You were protecting your family."

"By lying to them? By keeping them in the dark?  By letting them think I had been killed?  Is that how I protected them?"

"Would death have been a better alternative?"

"I'm not saying that."

"Then what are you saying?"

"The truth as we understand it doesn't matter to her, Mulder.  It doesn't matter to Charlie, or to Bill. Maybe at one point, Mom would have listened, but not now, not after everything with William. They don't want the truth.  They don't even want answers.  Mom, she said... she said she couldn't bear seeing us.  She can't trust me.  And then she hung up, and that was that."

Mulder gazed down at Scully, searching her face.  "She still loves you, Scully. She just - "

"I know."  A tear crept over her cheek, and Mulder brushed it away with the pad of his thumb.  "I know, I know - what you're going to say.  That she's my mother, that she needs time, that it's just been so long - "  Scully's breath caught.  "I know.  But she doesn't want to see me, Mulder.  Bottomline.  My own mother - she doesn't want to see me."  

Mulder shook his head, unsure of what to say.  Perhaps there was nothing.  No words, no right way, just nothing.  A balance, once so precious and delicate, had already been broken here, shattered like glass at Scully's feet, and there Scully stood, neck deep in shards of what-life-should-have-been, gazing helplessly at her hands for not having been able to predict the future.  

"It's never been like this before," she whispered.  "Never.  Not even with my cancer..."  A breath. "God, Mulder, what have I done?"  

Slowly, Scully twisted until her head fell against Mulder's chest.  Her arms, first one, and then the other, encircled his waist.  She convulsed against him, shivering, softly at first, and then harder, spasming, her sobs eerie and quiet.  His shirt dampened with wild, angry tears.

"There has to be a - practical - way to...to fix this," she whispered, gasping.  "Maybe the new - new baby... Maybe.... "

Mulder just held her, chin resting securely at the crown of her head.  He whispered he would stay with her; everything would be all right, even though chances were good everything would not be all right.  Over and over again, his mouth by her ear, he whispered to her, hummed to her.  His thoughts soon drifted, a haze of sleepy-eyed images:  The two of them, unpacking a splattering of boxes in a new apartment.  Him chasing a suspect out in the field, Scully calling him via cell phone from the lab.  Scully seven months pregnant with William. And then, what she might look like with this new child.  Bigger? Smaller?  

He hadn't even realized what tune he'd been humming, until he heard Scully's sobs slowly subside, and her voice, crackling above hiccoughs: "Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea..."

Mulder smiled into her hair.  "Joy... to you and me."

A sliver of silence.

Scully's voice, shaky but playful, continued: "If I were.... the king of the world - "

"I'd tell you what I'd do."

"I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wall - "

"And make sweet love to you."  He sighed, and skimmed his mouth over her hairline, pressing kisses like bandages to every spot he imagined she might hurt.  

Breathing deeply, Scully whispered, "Chorus."  

Mulder's lips stilled at her forehead, and he nodded. "Joy... to the world.  All... the boys and girls."

Holding him tight, rocking them back and forth, Scully continued, "Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea - "

"Joy... to you and me."