Shadows of Winter
Part X
by Jaime Lyn

* Rated PG again.  Aw, Nuts.  


The brain was a funny and yet hideous thing.  Neurological synapses flowed and connected one lobe to another.  Human psychology was a direct result of these synapses, of a complex biology of chemicals reacting with one another.  To this day, scientists couldn't pinpoint why the mind flashed certain emotional responses to certain stimuli.  Why some abused children became axe murderers while others became lawyers.  Why a man fell in love with one woman, while research insisted he was more emotionally and physically compatible with about a hundred others.  Why a certain series of images or memories were triggered by a series of events, and other memories were discarded under the same set of circumstances.  The mind had many mental defenses and bizarre strategies meant to battle complete and utter shut-down.   

As Mulder held his wife in his blood-coated arms, rocking her back and forth, he drifted back to a cold night seven years ago.  A hard-backed plastic chair, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows.  Melissa Scully sat on one side, Margaret Scully on the other.  Dana Scully was in a coma.  Her body was weak, on the verge.  She was dying.  

"She doesn't want to live like this," the doctor said, his clipboard raised as a shield.  "She stated her terms clearly in her living will."

Mulder had signed Scully's living will the year before.  As her partner, she had asked him because statistics proved that chances were high she could die in the line of duty.  It was Mulder's professional job to know her, her habits and nuances, inside and out, so in the eventuality of danger, he could pull her out. So he could save her or know when to gracefully let her go.  Mulder understood what they were up against; Scully insisted he was as good a friend as anyone, and he'd know when she was ready to die.  A strange compliment, to say the least.  But Mulder had signed, making a joke about her willing him her Eagles Greatest Hits collection.  The pen skirted across paper, his signature appeared, and then he was done.  Onto another mutant, another vampire, another slideshow.

Mulder never imagined she might actually die.  Immortality was easy to believe when one consistently emerged from the clutches of danger.  Death was an impossibility, and signing her living will was merely a formality, like signing the check at the end of a long, satisfying dinner.  Scully was invincible.  She was Batman or Superman, swooping down to save him from all the dark places.  She was his superhero. She wasn't supposed to die.  

Margaret Scully and Melissa Scully were there, supported by two doctors and a nurse. Dana Scully lay on the bed, face pale, red hair draped about her shoulders in tattered strings.  She had freckles - Mulder had never noticed those before.   The freckles matched her hair.  

Mulder opted not to enter the room, a silent protest from an outsider, but he watched for a moment by the doorway. He discovered that 'pulling the plug' was more a figure of speech than a literal interpretation.  Pulling the plug meant flicking switches, turning monitors off, and releasing a patient from a breathing tube.  In reality, there was no wire, and no outlet for such a wire to fit.  Pulling the plug meant counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until death.  Pulling the plug wasn't instantaneous; if the patient still breathed, pulling the plug was like offering a glimmer of hope in the form of a brutal slap.  

Mulder had never before felt so drawn to another human being, and when the doctors released Scully from her electronic binds, Mulder felt mortality as if someone had kicked him in the ribs with it. Margaret Scully buried her face in the shoulder of her eldest daughter and sobbed. And Mulder's life shrank down to a harsh, black and white sketch of causation, of before and after: Before Scully and After Scully.  'After Scully' wasn't ever supposed to happen, not that suddenly.  'After Scully' was unthinkable.  

When Mulder opened his eyes, cold air rushed him like a linebacker.  

Billy Miles would kill him, now.  Mulder was positive of it.  There was no longer a good reason for Mulder to live, and he was much too numb to move or care.  Funny how he could misjudge himself so completely, when life came down to brutal, primate instinctive ness.  He'd always imagined revenge for injustice as a part of his psychological makeup. That if someone murdered Scully, he would get right back up and fight for her.  Just as he'd fought for Samantha, for his father, for his mother.  He would drive a bullet through the bastard's skull, or else he would die trying.  But silent musings and the occasional nightmare did nothing to prepare a person for the actual choking hold of grief.  And Scully was not his sister, or his father, or his mother; Scully was so much more.  And now she was gone.   Phantom eventuality was not reality.  The harsh light of death was paralyzing, and Mulder was trapped within its grip.

He held her, pressed his face into her hair; she still smelled like Scully.  Coconut creme and baby powder.  She was smooth and warm. Beautiful. Death was supposed to be cold.  But she was soft, and radiating heat, filling him.  She would always fill him.

"Scully," he whispered, his lips on her ear.  "Remember what I said to you?  In the jail cell?  When the guard told Skinner that everyone had to leave and I pulled you back?  Do you remember what I said?"  

There was, of course, no answer.  Streaks of snow and blasts of wind knocked out all sound, and Mulder couldn't even hear himself breathe - a tear landed on Scully's nose, but he couldn't remember if he'd actually begun to sob. No, this wasn't right.  This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.  Scully didn't die - she couldn't die.  Death was a common, mortal concept, meant for ordinary people.  Scully was so much more than ordinary.  She was... was...

Human. Scully was only human, and her living will stated that she didn't want to live like this.   

Where was he?  Was this the hospital?  

Scully had been abducted, ripped from him.  He'd searched for her and now she'd been found.  Her eyes were closed - she had freckles.  Since when did Scully have freckles?  She was so lovely, just in a coma, not dead yet. The doctors had brought her in and Margaret Scully was offering coffee, Melissa, she was saying how you could feel Scully's spirit in the place between life and death and drifting.  They took her off life support but Scully was going to live.  She had to live.

There were tears but no sound.  Sound had disappeared.  And Mulder registered that he was shivering.  

Where was he?

The hallway was a tundra, a meteorological condition.  Somewhere, in the back of his mind, it occurred to Mulder that he hadn't been killed yet.  Or perhaps he had.  Scully was right; there was a hell, and Mulder's hell was to exist in this moment, with Scully's blood painting his hands, in a circular loop of science fiction splendor.  This was the tunnel at the end of the light, a well that stretched until night bottomed out and nothing was left.  

In the corner of perception, Mulder heard wails, loud, unending shrieks.  At first he thought it was his imagination, but the wails got louder, more pronounced.  Vaguely, he remembered a child. Seven years of backtracking and second guessing and investigating, and then a warm night on his couch when Scully came back in search of her wallet.  Drills, metal tables, terrible pain - his return, like falling into a hot-water bottle.  Scully's swollen stomach.  "What are you going to call him?" he'd asked, gazing into a tiny, pale face.  "William," she'd answered.  "After your father."

Mulder's head shot up.  The baby.  Determination flooded into him, Scully's strength and her fortitude.  Oh God, the baby was in danger.  Billy Miles was going to -

Billy Miles was shaking.  But not just shaking - seizing.  His black eyes bugged wide, baffled - he gazed at his hands, at the blood that soaked him down to his forearms.  Scully's blood.  Bubbling.  Oozing.  Scully's blood was burning his skin right down to the bone.  

Mulder gasped, pulled Scully's body tighter to him.  "What the hell - "   

Faster and faster Billy's body shook, so fast Mulder thought the man would explode.  Tugging Scully with him, as if she could still see or feel, Mulder pulled them back towards the wall, back until there was nowhere else to go.  The snow was loud and thick; it was hard to make anything out clearly.  Mulder shielded his hands over his eyes.  Billy Miles' face went gray, and then black, and beyond the laughter of winter wind, Mulder could hear crackling, bones imploding in on one another, fracturing, degenerating.  

Billy Miles was biodegrading.  

First his arms shrunk, twisted in gnarled facsimiles of hands, and then further down, into black knobs.  Then his shoulders sunk into his chest, and his head went the color of night.  His eyes were gone, mouth gone.  Down he went, melting - actually melting, and Mulder had a bizarre flashback to the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy had thrown water at the witch.   Scully - Scully was Dorothy.  And Verona's frigid November snowstorm was over the rainbow.  

Jesus, Mulder was cracking up.  Losing it. This wasn't happening.  No way this was happening.  

Mulder pressed his face to Scully's pale cheek, his shoulders and neck soaked in her blood. The twang of salt and iron danced in his nose, made his head swim with promises left broken. The baby still cried, called out for his Mama.  How could Mulder tell his son that Mama wasn't coming to pick him up?  Not ever.  How could he tell himself?  

"Tell me this isn't happening," he whispered into her ear.  "Wake up, Criminal.  Tell me this isn't happening."  

A hand touched his shoulder, and Mulder nearly leapt out of his own skin.  He turned his head and clutched Scully closer, held her like a blanket, his teeth gritted, head cloudy with instinct. Someone had come to take his wife from him. Someone wanted his child. Christ, she was already dead.  They'd already hurt her once.  No.  Never again.    

"Get away from us," Mulder growled.  He rubbed his thumb over Scully's cheek until the blood disappeared from her skin.  He would do that; he would wipe the blood away, and then she would be alive.  She would wake up and tell him -

"Let me help her, Agent Mulder."  

Mulder froze - a male voice, and an unfamiliar one.  Not his.  Someone else was there, standing behind him.  It wasn't Spender. Someone else was in the house.  

The mysterious, floating voice crouched next to Mulder, and Mulder fought the animalistic urge to turn and sink his teeth into whoever had come to threaten his family.  Nobody would touch Scully again but him.  He just needed a minute. He needed to wipe the blood away. This wasn't real.  All the blood was a dream, a construct of his overactive imagination.  If Scully could speak, she'd tell him that this entire evening was the result of hallucinogenic drugs.  Perhaps everything since the onset of her first pregnancy was the result of hallucinogenic drugs.  He wasn't in his right mind and she would tell him that. Any minute now.  

"I can help her," the voice said again.  "I've helped her before.  Let me do what needs to be done."

Mulder turned.  

And speech escaped him.  

There, in Lizzy Gill's tattered brown coat and dark blue slacks, was Jeremiah Smith, his gray hair awash in swirls of drunken snowflakes.  He nodded at Mulder for approval, and Mulder had forgotten what it was he was supposed to say.  Fluid clogged his ears.  He felt drunk.  Scully was either dead or Scully wasn't dead.  William was in the next room. Something bizarre had happened here.  He just didn't know what.  He couldn't understand.  

Mulder's grip loosened on Scully's torso, and he fell back, confused, hypnotized.  He wanted to wake up.  He seriously wanted to wake up. It was cold in here, and dark, and strange, and he missed watching the tendrils of flames kiss the edges of his wife's fireplace.  He should be downstairs, arguing with Scully about the Bog serpent, reading a book to William, listening to Scully's stomach.  She was supposed to have a baby.  

"We could have co-existed," said Jeremiah Smith, and he lowered his hands to Scully's neck, pressing.  "But now is not the time.  Perhaps in another few thousand years, things will be different.  I don't believe in the sixth extinction, Agent Mulder.  I told your wife as much when we prayed together.  I don't think she remembers.  She thought I was someone else."

Mulder's head spun.  "Thought you were someone else?"

"The truth is whatever we believe it to be, Agent Mulder."  

Mulder gazed in fascination as the blood ebbed from Scully's skin, the gash that had severed cords in her neck closed, pinched, collapsed in on itself, and soon it was gone altogether.  Scully's chest bobbed with new breath, and Mulder jumped as if scorched. Scully was alive.  She was alive? Oh sweet Jesus, Scully was alive.  But, but -

Mulder turned to Jeremiah Smith, wishing to impart gratitude, but unable to find the words.  Gratitude was a small concept - trite and human, and better left in the silence between life and death. Gratitude was insufficient, just as love seemed to be.   Gratitude didn't encompass the roiling emotions crisscrossing Mulder's veins, the years of sights and smells, textures, and the sound of her voice, memories, but not the last memories of her he'd file away. She was still Mulder's superhero. She would forever be.  

Jeremiah's hands began to shake, and his face took on a gray pallor. His cheeks trembled, rippling as if to music.  Mulder pulled back, taking Scully with him, dragging her.  

Jeremiah was dying - just as Billy Miles had died. Somehow, Scully's blood was killing him.  Whatever was in that vial, it had been lethal - but not to humans. Which meant Scully was quite literally kryptonite. She was poison for all the inhuman supermen of the world.  Marita had been wrong. Even Scully had been wrong.  It wasn't about Mulder at all, and perhaps it was never meant to be.  He couldn't do it alone; he wasn't the savior of the world.  It was Scully and the child both of them had created together who would prevent extinction.   

"Congrat - grat- u- lations... on your... your new - new - child," said Jeremiah Smith, his hands gray, and then black, convulsing.  "I pre - pre- pre - dict great things.  Many more..."

And then he was gone, liquefied.  A black puddle left on the carpet in his place, coating the shards of glass and ovals of blood that soaked up into knots of Berber.  

Mulder blinked, tried to inject normality into himself.  The baby was still crying.  The last living alien life forms had just died before him.  Scully had also died, but now she was alive again.  There was a storm raging outside that had knocked out the heat, and, somehow, had shattered the pane of his office window.  And now with all the blood and glass and black oil all over the place, they'd never get their security deposit back.   

Scully shifted in Mulder's embrace. She pressed a palm to her forehead and stretched, kitten-like. Her lashes fluttered open and shut, and a moan trickled from her lips.  "Mulder?" she said.  

The sound of her voice was like oxygen in a vacuum, and Mulder gravitated towards his wife, drawn, pulled, as he had always been, to her side.  He pressed his lips to her temple, closed his eyes. She was soft, and warm, and alive, and his.

"Mulder?" she repeated.  


Her lashes fluttered, and aquamarine eyes darted about the hallway as if she'd never before seen it.  "It's snowing in the hallway," she stated.  

He nodded.  "Yes, it is."


"Because... it's raining in the living room?"

"Oh."  Scully yawned, seeming to accept this. She turned and snuggled closer, clutching him.  If she had any memory of dying on him, she didn't share.  "Mm...It's cold in here. You're going to freeze."

"Mm hmm." He breathed her in once more, reveling.  

"Go build a snowman with the baby, Mulder.  I'm going to take a nap for just...mm... just a minute.  Next time it snows in the house, wear a coat, okay?"  

Mulder chuckled against her forehead, breathing in the fresh, familiar scent of her.  And for the first time in ages, he felt that everything would finally be alright - or, at the very least, the kind of bizarre that actually passed for normal in his and Scully's zipcode.  


If the upstairs hallway was a twisted mess of glass and melted snow and pungent, black and maroon stains, Mulder's office rivaled the hallway on a sliding scale of disaster wreckage.  

The door to the office he'd been forced to close - the entire second story would need to be snow-plowed if he didn't  - and he bordered up the doorway with the computer box and what was left of the computer.  The monitor had somehow escaped dentless and intact, although the actual screen had not been so lucky, and the keyboard was plucked of its keys in a way that would have done a dentist proud. Two thousand dollars out the window - literally.  

Brown, leafless fingers had groped through what was left of the window, shattered the glass panes and wood dividers, and had beaten the crap out of anything within reach.  The crates and shelf that had once been pieces of Mulder's desk were tossed about the room like sheets of paper.  His metal folding chair dangled like an earring off one of the gnarled branches.  Dirt, slush, and street gravel coated the floor, embedded in parts of the wall.

Scully's favored Maple had been the cause of their indoor winter wonderland, a fact both ironic and poetic in a divine right of circumstance. The theme of the week seemed to be 'wouldn't it be wild if...' and now a tree had taken a roll at the dice. Already bent towards the house at a forty degree angle, roots pulled up from the earth, the trunk had finally succumbed to old age and disease and twenty-five-mile-an hour winds. If not for the maple's weathered bark and sickened branches, the right moment during the right storm, with winds blowing in the right direction, Mulder would likely have been shot to death. Scully would never have injected herself with the compound that killed Billy Miles, and William would be dead.  

Of course, on the other hand, had not the tree's complex root structure remained intact, none of the above would have mattered.  Their tiny cottage would have been pushed right off its foundation, cracked down the middle by a hundred-year-old tree trunk, and destroyed; they'd all be buried in cigar boxes.   

If God indeed played the crapshoot, he certainly enjoyed rolling odd combinations.

After tying an old shirt around his knees to quell the bleeding, Mulder went in to quiet his screaming son.  William could never have known the difference, nor would he have cared, but his confinement had actually saved his life. Not that being alive made fear any less fearful for the sleepy toddler, but at the very least, he was still screaming, which meant he was still breathing, and when all was said and done, Mulder couldn't have asked for more.   

His lips at the baby's temple, his arms secure around his back and bottom, Mulder kept repeating the same phrase, over and over, delirious with relief:

"Daddy's here," he whispered, rocking the child back and forth, as much for William's sake as for his own. "Daddy's here."    

To survey the damage, Mulder stood back with his hands on his hips like a man keeping watch over the side of a mountain.

Jeffrey Spender's pulse had been snuffed out.  The man was certifiably dead.  Mulder's only brother, and the last in a long line of men and women who had sought to destroy him, and other men and women who had sought similar truths.  Mulder's father, his mother and sister, Chief Blevins, the cigarette smoking man, Alex Krycek, Marita Covarrubias, Melissa Scully, the lone gunmen - it seemed as though everyone he'd ever known had drowned at the threshold of his quest.  Everyone, that is, except for he and Scully, their unborn child and their son.  

And Assistant Director Walter Skinner of the FBI.  

Deciding that maintaining his cover had all at once become a non-issue, Mulder finally contacted his former superior by cell-phone.  In a second bit of irony, Mulder discovered that his former colleague was already stranded in a Lake Ontario airport just outside of Kingston. One of Paul Selden's 'help wanted' fliers had apparently found its way to Skinner's desk by first-class delivery, and the words, Verona, Lake Ontario, had been scratched on the envelope. On the back of the flier was another message: "And baby makes three."  

Skinner didn't specify whether there had been a return address, and Mulder wouldn't have needed one to pinpoint the sender anyhow.

She was nothing more than a memory now, alive as long as someone remembered her.

But more amazing than any mysterious delivery or alien entity was life's ability to bounce back after a kick to the head. That same afternoon, Agents Doggett and Reyes of the X-Files division relayed staggering news to Walter Skinner that had come to their office via telephone: the charges against Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were officially being dropped.  The men who had originally perpetuated such charges had disappeared off the face of the Earth, and in the space between yesterday and this afternoon, all searches for the missing agents and operatives had been called off.  No reason was given. The military tribunal Mulder had faced became little more than an un-event in the relative passage of time.  The federal government, of course, had no record of any such tribunal taking place within the justice department.  Knowle Rhorer, the man Mulder had been accused of murdering, was not dead, because he did not exist.  Nor would such a record of his existence ever surface.  

Just as quickly as one regime fell, another regime rose from the ashes.  Alvin Kersh, former Deputy Director of the Violent Crimes division, had been promoted to director of the bureau's main branch office in Washington, D.C.   No warning, no preamble. In an interoffice memo to Assistant Director Walter Skinner, he had ordered that the X Files division be mainstreamed as a quiet offshoot of the Violent Crimes division.  He'd requested Mulder personally, although Skinner insinuated that the man's exact words were, "If the jackass is still alive, find him."

Mulder's cell-phone died just as William called out to him from the bedroom.  The baby's exact words were, "Dadda," and "shit."  

At the end of the day, there was no way Mulder could win them all.

After deciding to leave the mess upstairs for Skinner to handle, Mulder dragged his wife down to the living room amidst groans and protests.  To say she was disoriented was to vastly underscore the situation; she'd twice begged Mulder to please turn off the slide-projector so she could finish her expense reports for the Jersey Devil case.  Near death was not a pretty color on her, and the after-effects were similar to detoxification.  Had the circumstances been any different, Mulder probably would have been amused by Scully's unending mumblings about a pigeon that kept laughing at her from a bench by the Hoover Building's reflecting pond.  

The problem was that Mulder had been sliced in a dozen places, and his ankle had been twisted. Hauling William down the stairs was a necessary act; one years olds weighed very little, and they simply didn't climb stairs by themselves. Hauling his barely conscious wife, however, while she shooed away invisible birds, was another aggravation entirely.

Caught in the liquid confusion between consciousness and sleep, Scully slowly clawed her way back to herself while Mulder entertained the Tater-Tot.  

She muttered about a headache and asked for something to drink.  It seemed that being murdered and brought back from the dead had left her with a scratchy, dry throat.   Mulder offered her the mildest asprin he could find and a mug of hot tea. Blinking awake, Scully accepted the pills and the tea, and dumped half the sugar bowl into her cup. Mulder had never known Scully to be big on the sugar, at least - not in her tea, but she'd shoveled in piles of the stuff until Mulder was positive his own teeth would crack just from watching her.    

"Hard-head junior has a sweet tooth," she muttered, and drank wide-eyed, like a teenager unused to the taste of whiskey.  

Half a mug later, and Mulder sat back against the base of the couch, legs spread, lips buried in the crook between Scully's neck and shoulder.  Scully sat in the gap between his legs, leaning into his chest, quiet, solemn. William curled against her, plucking fur off of blue-blunny, gurgling a fascinating story in his native, one-and-a-half year old tongue.  Scully's fingers played in the baby's fuzzy hair and down his back, and she massaged him until his eyelids fluttered in protest of sleep.

The fire glowed bright in the fireplace, rocking, dancing, smiling at them and hooking up into the black soot of the chimney.  If the power never returned, thought Mulder, this would be enough for him.  He didn't need light or heat or sound.  He needed this moment, with his wife, his son, and his unborn child.


"I think I'll take Tater-Tot out to see the Kelpie," Mulder said, thoughtful.  "But first I want to get one of those cameras with the zoom lens - "

Scully groaned, as she always did, at the mention of Cameron Bog's infamous sea monster.  "Again with this bog monster fantasy?  You really will believe anything, won't you?"

Mulder grinned.  "Only the good stuff," he said, brushing his palm over the crown of his son's head, the sides of his arms resting against Scully's.

Silence, and the fire crackled its approval into wisps of smoke.  Scully's fingers brushed over his, and their hands merged against William's flushed cheek.  


Eyes half closed, Mulder managed a drowsy, "Hm?"

"What happens now?"  

Scully's red hair curled around Mulder's cheeks, untamed and wild from melted snow.  She still smelled like coconut creme and warm, feminine skin.  
"Well."  Mulder blinked his way back.  "We're going to have to explain the mess to Wright Realty, and to State Farm, and I don't think 'eliminated threat of alien colonization' is going to fly on an insurance claim, so we'll have to come up with something more plausible.  Good thing I keep you around, Criminal.  You see what happens when you try and save the world?  God throws a tree through your window."  

Scully hummed.  "Do you really think it was God, Mulder?"  

"What, the tree?"

"Yes."  She paused.  "Well, no.  Yes and no.  Not just the tree.  Everything."  

"I don't know what to think," Mulder answered honestly.  "I just know that, for the first time in a long time, it's quiet.  Do you feel it, Scully? The quiet?"

The room flickered in shadow, wind swirling, protective, blanketing.  Only their breathing cut the darkness, pressing in with the evened sounds of survival.  They made it this far; they'd broken free.  Any adventure from this point forward would be something new, unfamiliar, a journey down an untrodden path.  

"Do you really think they're gone, Mulder?"

Mulder took a breath, his hands running her biceps.  "I don't know.  I really don't.  Skinner told me that a lot of CIA officials, defense department personnel, and FBI agents just disappeared last week- some right from their offices - and that the searches for them were called off yesterday.  Nobody knows why.  Before he died, Billy Miles insinuated that he was the last of his kind.  Maybe he is or maybe he isn't.  Or maybe I'm just sick of running, or maybe I'd rather turn into the wind and fight, but I really want to believe that it's true."

She sighed.  "But is that naive of us?  Wanting to believe that this is the end?"

Mulder paused a moment, thoughtful.  "We both know it's not," he said.  "There are still uncertainties and risks.  And now comes the work antacid pills are made of. Lab runs, tests, analysis, research.  All that fascinating shit."

Scully shifted.  Her legs stretched the outline of his calf. "Breaking down the science of the unknown," she murmured.  "That'll take some time."

"It will."

"And our cover's essentially blown."

"Essentially," Mulder agreed.  He craned his neck until the back of his head hit the couch.  The ceiling flashed above him in flickers of gray and white popcorn paint.

"But does it ever end?" She asked.  "Is that even possible?"

The room smelled of pine, real wood and the stuff that came in a can.  Over the course of four months, he'd grown accustomed to the odor.  

"Logically, dear Watson, I'd have to say no."  He elbowed her, and she elbowed him back.  He couldn't tell whether or not she smiled.  He imagined she did.  

His mouth found her earlobe, and he tasted her.  "There's always going to be something out there, Scully.  And I don't want to stop searching. It's not in me to give up and it's not in you, either.  We've just beaten the tough round, you know?  Like when you beat the oompas and the turtle-ducks and the fire-breathing-flower-pots, and then you get the bonus mushroom that gives you an extra life, and you go on and kill Bowser?"

At Scully's silence, Mulder gave in, "After I got fired, I played a lot of Nintendo."  

"Ah, I see."  Scully exhaled loudly.  "Are you sure you didn't hit your head, Mulder?"  

Mulder chuckled, rubbed his hands down her goose-bumped arms.  "I think I'm just grateful.  All supersoldiers and trees through the house aside - " He kissed the corner of her neck, "That my son is here, and this new baby - it sounds so bizarre to say that it finally feels like my life, because it is my life, it's always been my life, but I don't know, Scully.  I keep thinking back to this dream I had a few years ago... I was living a different life.  I was given another choice, another fate.  I was given all the comforts any man could ever want and in the end, it wasn't... wasn't what it should have been.  It wasn't the right time and you - you weren't there.  And when you finally came, you kicked me in the ass.  You told me that it wasn't supposed to end this way. I had to fight, get up."

"I remember," Scully said.  "You were telling me that everything was upside down. That I was the only one who told you the truth."  

"You saved me," he emphasized.  

Scully curled closer.  "You keep saying that," she murmured.

"Well, you keep doing it," he answered.  He paused, and pressed his mouth over her ear, turned his head so that his nose poked through her thick red hair.  "You said I belonged to my quest, to my truth.  And maybe to an extent, you're right.  But you're wrong if you think you're not a part of that.  You're - "  He paused, cleared his throat.  "You're my wife.  I belong to you, Criminal."

Her head turned, and her lips pressed against his chin.  "I know," she said.  

"So what do you want to do next?" he asked.  "Skinner's stuck in an airport in Kingston because of the storm.  I spoke to him... He knows about William, Scully.  I'm guessing Marita tipped him off."  

"Why?" Scully's tone was neutral, soft.  "A last ditch effort at trying to protect you?"

"Maybe," Mulder agreed, shivering at the thought of Marita, of her sacrifice.  "At any rate, Skinner should be here tomorrow, whenever the roads clear. We'll have some explaining to do, but that’s the norm.  It was insinuated that Kersh wants us back in D.C.  Can you believe that?"  

"No."  She kissed his neck, and he shivered. Her lashes fluttered against his skin, hot and wet with moisture.  

"So what do you want to do?" he repeated, closing his eyes.  

"I think I just want to call my mother."  Scully swallowed, and a tear pressed between them.  "I really miss my mother."  

When she said nothing further, Mulder nudged her with a poke to her hip.  "What are you really thinking?"

"I don't know.  Nothing. Everything."  She shook her head. "It's funny, the things you come up with when it's so quiet.  I'd put so much of myself into this battle. All the fighting and running against the grain, and standing still was strange.  It is strange.  I was so tired, Mulder.  I needed something solid, a sign that I'd finally made the right decision, because it seemed as though there was this - this endless line of wrong.  And I stood there, looking back on it, wondering why."

He took a deep breath.  "Sick of feeling helpless?"

"In a way," she whispered.  

"Is that why you did it?" he asked.  

"Is that why I did what?"  

"Injected yourself with that vaccine."

Scully paused.  She seemed to consider him, and her body tensed.  "Maybe," she admitted.  "Or maybe it was something else.  Something speaking through me, making things right."  

Mulder nodded. "Do you think it was God?" he asked.

She was heavy against him, hot.  If life did indeed boil down to the smaller moments - Scully pressing a dinosaur sticker over his mouth to shut him up, William clapping at an old, rest-stop photo, the three of them gazing into a warm fire - then all the larger moments were simply preludes, stepping stones.  The bigger truths were unreachable, and saving Earth from extinction only held meaning when there was something precious to save; the smaller truths were the things worth rescuing.  

"I think it's plausible," she said, "That perhaps God works through science, and science is what gave us this miracle."

Mulder laughed.  "The baby, or the means to stop colonization?"

 "Both, I guess."  She shrugged.

Mulder frowned, somehow expecting more from her.  He wasn't sure what he was expecting, actually, but the truth had to be more than that.  The truth was the light they followed.  It was the cloud hanging over them, teasing them with its white tufts, cottony edges so close he could almost touch them.  But when he got too close, the creamy white billows evaporated into mist, evading him.  

Or maybe he'd just been shaking his fist at himself all these years, and not at the sky.  Jeremiah Smith had said the truth was whatever Mulder believed it to be.  Perhaps he'd been right. The truth wasn't the sun, blinding him into misdirection.  It was the flashlight that he'd kept by his side for all the years he searched.
 "Isn't that some sort of oxymoron cop-out?" Mulder finally asked.  

Scully tilted her chin to meet his eyes, and when he brushed her cheek, a dazzling smile stretched the corners of her lips.   The truth was beautiful when it smiled at him like that.  

"Maybe," said Scully, her nose grazing the underside of his chin.  "But I've dealt with much stranger."  


And we’ve reached the end.  Whew.  This was one of those stories that took me a good long while to write, and research (especially since I had to go back and re-watch the season 9 episodes I wasn’t a big fan of,)and then rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. . . and beta (just ask poor Mish and Sybs. They’re the best sports.  They really are.) But you’ve made it this far, and for that, I thank you. 

* Extra, EXTRA thanks to Sybil for the best literary interpretations known to fic: “The truth sure gets around.  I have decided that the truth is a whore.”  And extra thanks to Mish for some yummy pics of David Duchovny that inspired much smut.

I figured there would be some questions at the end(and I did get some of these questions by email) and so I wanted to let you guys crawl into my head for a bit (watch out for dust and things that bite.) 

Anything you ever wanted (or didn’t want to know) about SOW:

1 – Why in the world would Mulder want to give his child back, when Scully was the one who gave William up?  Just what is the deal with Mulder in this story?

I wanted to write a fic that remained true to the show (much as I may have disliked – and even hated - some of the directions the show had taken) because canon was what I was basing this story on.  And in the show, Mulder told Scully he felt she had made the right decision when she gave William away.  I thought it would be a cop-out (and much too easy) to write a piece where Mulder and Scully went back on their principals and ran to get their kid.  I’m sure there are lots of other stories like that out there, and as wonderful as they may be, this is not one of those stories.  I wanted William back, but I wanted to do it in a different way.  Road less traveled and all. I think it makes better drama, anyway.  I could be wrong. 

2 – Marita Covarrubias had a thing for Mulder, eh?  So who is Moira’s father?

That’s the stuff sequels (or prequels) are made of.  You can take your pick here of all the X-men, but rest assured that it’s not Mulder.  (The timeline within the show doesn’t fit, for one.) That doesn’t mean, of course, that she hadn’t wanted it to be Mulder... Right.  Prequel-land.

3 – William is almost 2 years old, but he can’t walk or talk? Are you kidding me?   What is that all about?

William was given up for adoption when he was about 8 months old (pre-speech and bipedal walking,) but was taken by Marita’s operatives the day after the adoption.  He was on the road ever since then, driving cross-country with some admittedly questionable types.  Nobody played with him.  Nobody talked to him.  Nobody cared for him or loved him.  He might have even been abused – we have no way of knowing. All these things can affect a child, psychologically.  Remember, after he was discovered by Mulder and Scully, William did start picking things up rather quickly: he could stand up, and he could talk. My feelings on this were that William would be emotionally stunted because of his experiences (it’s not unheard of, psychologically) and I thought I would leave that door open in case I ever decided to write a sequel. 

4 – Scully’s senior thesis? Is there a website that actually contains the transcript or did you pull that out of your ass?

The physics part concerning Einstein’s Twin Paradox is all factual, to the best of my knowledge. I swear. (I went through some websites, and nearly got seasick trying to figure out how to interpret all the scientific gobbledygook.  God bless all you scientists.)  Scully’s metaphysical take on it, however, I did pull out of my ass, because I have no idea what her “new interpretation” actually was.  Creative license and all – Scully tells me she’s actually pleased with her uncharacteristic openness to the idea of parallel universes, but that, in the next fic I write, she wants to be drunk.

(As far as I know, there is no known site where you can access her senior thesis.) 

5 – So all the stuff with the iron and William? And meteorites?  Balderdash or fact?

All the stuff about DNA and the actual properties of iron, and how it assists in the oxidation process are true.  And the stuff about iron in meteorites?  Also true.  How these items relate to the X-files mythology, of course, are what I took a few liberties with to fit within the context of the story.  (Since there are no aliens in our Universe, I had to twist a few facts to explain why iron might kill an alien.  I mean, I probably could have just as easily dropped an alien vaporizer into Mulder’s hand, but my masochistic side said that would be way too easy.  Plus, Scully had problems with the vaporizer.) 

6 – Are Mulder and Scully heading home?  They can’t really believe there aren’t any more aliens out there, can they?

As far as Mulder and Scully know, the truth is still out there – aliens, no aliens, pizza with extra cheese, mutant pineapples - There’s no way for them to know for sure. As far as I’m concerned, the aliens are all dead because that would make the supersoldier plot dead and buried (which was partly the purpose of this story)and would much please this fanfic author.  But yes, I assume Mulder and Scully might want to head home.  After all, their cover has been blown.  They left the U.S. because the government was after them, and not because aliens were after them.  Remember, these aliens and unknown types have always been after Mulder and Scully, and that never stopped them from going about their lives in Washington D.C. before. I have always felt that, post finale, the reason Mulder and Scully were forced to run was because Mulder had been sentenced to death, and not because aliens wanted to kill them. But now the charges have been dropped. So Scully can just click her heels together, if she so desires.  (Or Mulder can – depending on who you think wears the ruby slippers in that family.) 

7 – What about those dropped charges?  That was fast.

Yes, it was.  I think the question should actually be, “who or what did Marita know, and how did she get the vaccine?” Think of it this way: it wouldn’t be The X-files if I told you everything, now would it?  (At this, Mulder groans in the background.  He says he wants to be drunk in the next fic, too.)

8 – Did Mulder ever tell Scully that her blood is what killed the aliens?  And what the hell was up with that, anyway?

Mulder might have told her, and he might not have.  He seems to enjoy keeping things from Scully whenever he feels the secret-keeping will benefit her.  Again, that’s the stuff sequels are made of.  <g>  

9 – Did Scully ever plan on telling Mulder she was pregnant?

Before William showed up, or before her water broke?  Heh.  Scully says she of course meant to tell Mulder.  Guess we’ll never know what she meant to say before the car crashed into the tree out front.  Darn those crazy hormones.

10 – So that sequel you were talking about? 

Maybe I’ll write a sequel, but not for a long, long time.  Mulder and Scully are already breaking out the tequila and the shot glasses.  They’re exhausted from the angst.  Mulder wants to know why I can’t write a fic where he sits around and watches the Redskins game.  Scully says not to worry about writing such a fic, because she thinks the Redskins suck.  If you’ll excuse me, I have to go break up a fight. 

Special thanks to the following resources:  

Usenet relativity FAQ - Micheal Weiss 
The University of South Wales Physics homepage
Usenet Periodic Elements FAQ - (Iron)
The Biology Project Homepage,
The University of Arizona

And lots and lots of love to Mishy and Sybs, who are brilliant betas.  Both of you get lots of cyber chocolates.