Shadows of Winter
Part IV
By Jaime Lyn

All disclaimers listed in Part I.  Welcome to Part IV.  Rated 'PG-13' once again.


While Scully had set up a makeshift office downstairs, fully equipped with a desk, a computer, a printer, and a set of resource volumes that could put the surgeon general to shame, Mulder had never been able to make the neat little space "his." For one thing, Scully seemed to have a secret affinity for girly office supplies, like pastel-colored post-it notes and purple gel pens - these items littered the drawers - and for another, her files and paperwork and medical journals often took up so much room that Mulder felt claustrophobic even sitting in her swivel-chair.

So Mulder had commandeered the spare room upstairs and set up camp, justifying to Scully that separating their work space would be beneficial for both of them.  First off, Mulder was often miserly and comfortably set in his odd ways; he was piggish with his work area and protective of his files.  And Scully, organized, color-coded, alphabetized file cabinet that she was, would go and sweep up his post-it-note numbering system with the Dust-buster whenever she sat down to check her email.  And as a matter of fact, she'd vacuumed up his notes so frequently that, after two weeks of sharing an office space with her, Mulder had been forced to hide the dust-buster someplace covert that he was sure Scully wouldn't ever look: the broiler.  

Besides that, Scully was his partner and she deserved her own space.  After eight years of never owning her own desk in the basement office, Scully now not only claimed ownership to an antique wooden-work desk, but an entire corner of the room that fairly dripped with her presence.  A desk, a bookshelf, a corkboard, a game of miniature battleship - she even had the better stapler.  

Mulder's office, however, was not so well-equipped.  His desk was a long white shelf stacked on a set of milk-crates, and his desk chair was a feeble metal folding chair from the garage.  The computer was brand new, and the printer lay on the floor amidst a puddle of wires.  A box of office supplies sat in one corner, (made a rather nice table, actually) and there was a hot-chocolate stain on the rug from where Scully had come up behind him and made breakfast of his neck while he was trying to figure out how to work his new modem.  Needless to say, the burn on his foot was healing quite nicely.

"So, Tater-Tot." Mulder set William down on the carpet and extended his arms in a grand sweep of the room.  "What do you think of Daddy's private practice so far?  I know it's not much to look at right now, but you have to imagine actual furniture, and some pictures of weird crap and - and less boxes.  Oh, and some resolve stain remover to clean up the chocolate."  

William, still clutching the framed photo of his mother to his chest, gazed at Mulder with a cross between confusion and dismissal.  Certainly, his son and he had made a bit of headway in the bonding department, but that didn't mean by default that William bought every word spewing forth from Mulder's mouth.  Truth be told, Mulder didn't even buy every word coming out of his own mouth.  

Realistically, Mulder had to wonder whether he and Scully would even be living here long enough for him to acquire new office furniture. And whether, in a struggle to do what was right, William would once again be sacrificed to adoptive care.  They couldn't, after all, run towards the setting sun forever, live out of motels and backwater towns, at the same time raising a child off a diet of stale pizza and gunpowder residue.  

Mulder powered up his new computer and leaned back in his desk chair.  Wobbly metal legs protested his audacity to exert pressure.  William crawled closer to Mulder's feet, dragging the picture frame across the ground.  Grabbing Mulder's calf, William pulled himself to half-crouch on unsteady legs and bobbed up and down as if trying to jump.  

Mulder grinned and wondered whether his jaw might crack from stretching too far. An unfamiliar wash of pride flitted over him, and he had the strange urge to reach for a camera and document this moment even though he hadn't owned a camera in years.  

"Hey Tater-Tot," he said in awe, brushing the light skin of William's cheek.  "You can stand up, can you?  I had no idea. Why didn't you say something sooner?  We could have gone for a spin around the living room."  

Mulder's brush turned into a light tweak of the baby's nose, and William gurgled something unintelligible and smacked Mulder's knees. "What's that?" asked Mulder, unable to keep the idiotic grin off his face.  "What is it? What do you need?  Cheeseburger with fries?  I'm afraid we might have to wait for Mommy."

William oustretched his arms and wriggled his fingers, giving Mulder that big-blue-eyed 'pick-me-up' look he had earlier given Scully.  Mulder's eyes widened.  "You - you want up?  You want me to pick you up?"  

William waved his hands impatiently, seemingly annoyed Mulder was so slow in understanding this.   

All the air escaped from Mulder's lungs, and he could do nothing but nod his agreement.  Pick the baby up - yes, he could do that. He could pick the baby up. Because... because William wanted Mulder to pick him up.  William actually wanted Mulder to pick him up.  William wanted his daddy.  He - Jesus - he wanted his daddy.  Mulder was William's daddy.  Mulder was somebody's daddy.  Good God, someone had let Mulder become someone's daddy?

Just as he had done before, Mulder reached under William's armpits and scooped him up.  He deposited the baby onto his lap and settled him on one knee.   William squirmed onto the other knee to get better leverage, fisting the folds of Mulder's t-shirt, and then he cuddled into Mulder's chest and yawned with his nose in Mulder's ribcage. Five-thirty obviously meant nap-time in baby speak, and who was Mulder to argue with this?  William had actually decided to use his father as a bed and Mulder, being said-father, was so stunned beyond intelligible language by this that he could only sit and hope his breathing wasn't too loud or discomfiting.  Mulder was positive that any sudden movements would somehow break the moment in half and shatter in desperate shrieks for Scully.  

But William remained curled into Mulder's chest, tiny and soft like a kitten, and Scully remained gone, and Mulder was still breathing.  Somehow, he hadn't stopped breathing.  The room hadn't exploded and nobody's head had popped off, and this had to be a good sign.  

The computer dinged that Mulder had mail, and Mulder shook his head, freeing himself of the strange ticklings of fatherhood and the feeling that at any moment, sleeping bag made of cement would drop on his head.  
The first few emails in his inbox were junk, and he quickly deleted all of them.  The next email was from runawayfridge@yahoo.com, and the subject header read "Information Regarding Inquiry."  Swallowing, Mulder clicked on the link, knowing full well who the email was from.  While Special Agent John Doggett frequently changed the contacting address Mulder could reach him at, as did Mulder - for his safety and Mulder's as well - Doggett usually chose something easily recognizable from past cases.  The disappearing fridge from Doggett's last X-File had become a frequent source of amusement for both of them.  

There was no flowery introduction in this email, and it started with a simple statement: "I pulled some strings and got the information you asked for."  

Mulder took a breath and read on.  

"The gunmen had a friend I'm not sure you knew of - Jimmy - who's something of a fellow traveler.  Jimmy didn't tell me how he did it, but he managed to get into the sealed records database for the Georgetown clerk of court.  According to these records, the baby was given to a couple by the last name of Van De Kamp on May 19th, 2002.  There was a phone number and an out of state address.  All would seem to check out with this, except that when I called the couple and questioned them, they told me that social services returned the day after the adoption papers were signed to take the child back.  The social workers apologized for the inconvenience and explained to Mr. and Mrs. Van De Kamp that they had been given the wrong baby - that the baby had an incurable condition and would therefore require extensive care.  The Van De Kamps protested, but were unable to deter social services.  They were then given another child - a girl by the name of Moira - and the first baby was taken away. As of this morning, baby Moira is still living with the Van De Kamps, but their first adopted child has apparently disappeared from state record."  And at the bottom was another note, this one much more emotionally fervent:  "Monica and I have discussed this, and we promise you we'll find him.  Just send us the word, and we'll do whatever it takes.  J.D."  

Frowning, Mulder sat back in his chair, trying to consider this.  So the couple who had crashed into the tree in front of his house weren't William's adoptive parents, after all.  The real adoptive parents were still alive, still none the wiser about William's whereabouts, and the state of Maryland was definitely not the culprit.  

And things got stranger and stranger.    

This couldn't have been the work of supersoldiers; The Van De Kamps were still alive.  It wasn't supersoldier style to let everyone standing in the way of what they wanted live.  It also wasn't their style to enlist the help of unnecessary humans to cart a baby across the country. And the couple who had gotten their heads bashed in by the windshield were most definitely human.  

Turning over the files in his mental cabinet, Mulder recalled Scully telling him of the alien-worship cults that had surfaced around the time of William's birth.  These cults zeroed in on the impending colonization of the planet, and the myth of "a special child being born to save humanity."   As a result, these cults had centered their sights on Mulder's and Scully's only son, and had even tried to kidnap him once, convinced as they were that William would be the savior of the human race.  

But while most of them had died not long after William's abduction, in a bonfire of burnt flesh and unidentifiable rubble - according to Scully, Mulder had no doubt some cult-members still lived somewhere. It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility for the cult to resurrect itself.  Perhaps the surviving members had disguised themselves as social workers to take William for their own bizarre agendas.  

But if that was true, then who was baby Moira and where had she come from?  Was she another baby born under questionable circumstances? And just how the couple in the car managed to find their way out to Canada, right to Mulder's very doorstep, was a mystery. If this was all part of some sort of master plan, Mulder was at a loss to understand its purpose.  

With an exhausted sigh, Mulder rubbed with his free hand over William's powder-scented back.  It seemed to him that the danger would never be over, and that William would never be safe.  If anybody could get to him anywhere, as Scully seemed to claim they could, then where could he and Scully possibly take William to keep him safe?  
The little white arrow on the computer screen hovered over the reply button, and Mulder clicked on it, utterly confused as to how he should respond to this.  He'd promised Scully he wouldn't reveal to anyone - not even Agent Doggett, Agent Reyes, or A.D Skinner - or perhaps especially not to those people, that William had been returned to them.  But how else could Mulder answer Doggett's fervent reply without leading them off on a wild-goose-chase?  Lies were unfair but the truth was even more so.  Mulder squinted his eyes and gazed at the keyboard.  

His mind drifted, and he recalled, in a haze of dark exhaustion, the time that he and Scully had put down a suspect named Donnie Pfaster, a fetishist with an inclination towards hair and fingernails.  Donnie Pfaster was a sweater-vest devil, a study of ordinary evil, and he had come after Scully with a vengeance.  Angry with having lost her one time over, Pfaster tried a second time to kill Scully in her own home.  Scully, in Pfaster's mind, was the 'one who got away.'  She was the one who'd sent him to jail, who'd kept him from his severed, rotted remains, from his skulking and murdering and bathtub-drowning in the fogged cold of night.  

Mulder recalled how Scully agonized over shooting Pfaster in the end - Mulder claimed self-defense, and Scully insisted that they both knew the truth.  She shot him because she wanted to, because she needed to, because some unfocused rage within her had ordered her to do it, and not because her actions had been justified by some carefully written code of FBI protocol.  They debated it that night on his couch, her with a throw blanket tucked under her knees and he with a steaming mug of tea in his hands; Was Scully's pull of the trigger divine intervention, or was the silent tickling of revenge, however justified, a calling card left by subtle demons?  Or perhaps Scully had just snapped, and any other symbolism they fished for was merely justification for temporary insanity.  

Neither of them would ever know.  

Scully believed that God existed, and that all things in the Universe somehow fell within this rubric of an endless, divinely created tapestry. Mulder, however, wasn't so sure.  At the very least, he wanted to believe in something, in some higher power watching over him, leading him somewhere, leading him to do the right thing, but he didn't feel he had the strength to believe anything else as blindly as he'd believed in The X-Files.  And look what that had gotten him after years of childlike faith.  

Finally coming to a decision, Mulder typed out the simple phrase, "Don't look any further," and hit the 'send' button. It wasn't necessarily the truth, but it wasn't a lie either.  

The next email was postmarked from LSelden@Universitymedical.com, and Mulder's heart calmed just at the sight of it.  LSelden - Lily Selden. His wife.  She had that slow, molasses-like comforting effect on him, sort of like coming home -

Mulder frowned as he realized that he hadn't called or thought of her as his wife since William was returned to them, as if William's return marked an invisible line of demarcation separating this life from the one previous.

Life now versus life before.  Which would emerge victorious?

For four months Dana Scully had been Lily Selden, wife of Paul Selden, and now in the span of one day she had gone back to being Dana Scully again, partner of Fox Mulder.  And he was again Fox Mulder, not Paul Selden, and he had absolutely no idea what any of that meant.  They shared a bed, ate dinner together when possible, argued over the remote, left dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom. They'd gone from close friends to married in under sixty seconds, and neither of them had any idea how to live in the gray areas.  

Mulder clicked on the email, whose subject line read 'Results are in,' and shook his head.  Too much thinking about his relationship with Scully was bound to give him a migraine.  

"I just performed the analysis work-up on your evidence," read the first line.  Then: "The substance is, for the most part, not composed of any known organic material.  Not a surprise.  The only recognizable compound I was able to extract was an excess amount of iron magnetite, but from my understanding, this is the same material that, in large quantities, is lethal to the type of being we're dealing with.  The presence of iron, in this case, would seem to indicate either inadvertent poisoning or some sort of mutation.  In short, this is not the same type of material we've previously come into contact with.  Could it have degenerated into a more primal form?  Perhaps that explains the displacement of oil.  Don't email back.  I'd prefer we talk about this in person."  

Mulder scrolled down to the second paragraph, and read on, "I accidentally got lost on the way to exam room two and found myself in the morgue. Cause of death on the deceased couple in the car has been listed as reckless driving.  Toxicology report indicates inebriation high above the legal limit.  What do you make of this? - Me.  P.S - I hope both of you are getting along alright.  I'll be home soon, but I'll call first.  Don't burn the house down."

Mulder paused over the keyboard, considering this newest batch of unexpected unpleasantness.  

So the green goo that they'd found in those cans had been some sort of alien fluid.


Mulder had automatically assumed the substance was alien blood, but that didn't make the idea gospel.  And the fact that there was a high amount of iron concentration in the substance pointed more towards self-destruction of the creature than towards escape.  Scully had once before insinuated these creatures knew what killed them, and they knew to stay away from it.  

Mulder narrowed his eyes, and the words on the screen swam across the white email background.   The most obvious assumption had, of course, been that these beings - these supersoldiers or hybrids or whatever they were - had come looking for he and Scully for the intent purpose of murdering them.  Then again, his experience investigating the paranormal had long ago taught Mulder things were rarely what they first seemed to be.  So what then? Was it possible that whatever had been poking around in Jake Walker's garage was not looking for revenge at all, but instead looking to save itself?  Could it have been dying? Something about the stolen oil seemed to indicate -

A sharp, loud ringing disrupted Mulder's thoughts, and his muscles spasmed in a quick, violent shudder.  The jump of his legs inadvertently startled the baby, who, jolted from sleep, raked his fingers unhappily across Mulder's chest, gurgled, coughed, tilted back his head, and let out a long, hard wail that could have doubled as an air-raid siren.  

 "Shit!" Mulder hissed, stomping his foot in frustration -

Which only incited louder wails from the baby, and flailing hands.  

Mulder gazed helplessly from his crying son to the phone and then back to his son, unsure of what the correct protocol in this situation was.  He had one of two options: It could be Scully trying to get through to the house, in which case he should definitely reach for the phone and put the baby down. But if it turned out to be a telemarketer and not Scully, then putting the baby down and getting the phone would only end up erasing a good amount of parent-child-bonding.

The phone rang a second time.  The baby shrieked louder.  Baby, phone, baby, phone...

Just as with driving cross-country on a case, chances were great that Mulder would choose the wrong path and end up sputtering out of gas in Son-Hates-Me-Againsville. He felt suddenly like a teenager babysitting for the first time, and he imagined himself in a ridiculous t-shirt with the words 'What Would Scully Do?' embroidered on the front.  

"Oh hell."  

In the end, he held the screaming baby to his chest with one hand and reached for the phone with the other...

Only to find it not there.  Of course.  

Where had the portable phone been last?  Mulder frowned, trying to think over the ringing and the screaming and the baby's fists smacking him in the ribs.  

"Bedroom," said Mulder, and he desperately tried righting the angry baby as he exited the office and headed off towards the bedroom.  William pounded Mulder's chest like an excited gorilla-cub and he wailed even harder than he pounded.  Advil number four, it seemed, was not that far off.  

To quell William's panic, Mulder could only wince and press a quick kiss to the top of his son's head, holding the baby to his chest as he rushed towards the bedroom like a linebacker making for the end-zone.  The last thing he needed was Scully thinking that he'd actually burned the house down.  

Mulder entered the bedroom on the fourth ring and paused in the doorway, catching his breath and rocking William  as the answering machine got to the ringing first: too late now, Mulder mused. He pressed his lips to William's temple - just as he'd seen Scully do it - and tried a calming technique of his own making.  

"Come on, Tater-Tot. Why don't we try and be friends again, okay?  I know I'm not real good at this yet, but I'm getting better, don't you think?"  

The answering machine beeped, and William's cries died down into unhappy sniffles.  Sniffles were at least better than shrieks of bloody murder, and Mulder took a deep breath, swearing off Advil.  "There," he said, and he craned back slightly to gaze into his son's wary, tired face.  "You know, you're a lot like your mother when she wakes up in the morning.  She's just as grumpy, but you're a much better screamer."  Mulder grinned, about to say something else, when a woman's voice floated to him from the answering machine.

"Paul Selden?  This is Dr. Kathy Carmichael from University Medical - I'm a colleague of your wife's.   I'm not sure if you have a cell phone, but this is the number on your wife's contact sheet so I hope you're just busy and not out for the afternoon. Ah, I just wanted to inform you that your wife had a bit of an episode this afternoon - "

Mulder's eyes went wide with fear and he rushed towards the dresser, William bouncing none-too-happily against his hip.  Swallowing back the taste of a late lunch, he reached for the cordless phone and jabbed the talk button.  "This is Paul," he said breathlessly, his voice pounding like a hammer in his ears.  "Lily's husband.  What happened?  Where is she?  Did you take her anywhere?"

"Mr. Selden," the doctor said, "Before you grow alarmed, let me say that Lily's just fine."

Mulder blinked in slow motion; time must have stopped without telling him.  He knew he should have pressed harder about Scully's dizziness.  He knew something wasn't okay.  Why was this idiot doctor saying everything was fine when everything was so obviously not fine?  

"Just tell me about Lily," he said, unsure of what else to say.  "Is she alright?  What happened?  Just tell me what happened."

The doctor took a breath.  She sounded so annoyingly calm Mulder wanted to strangle her.  

"Like I said, Lily's just fine," the doctor said.  "She had a bit of a fainting spell a little while ago, that's all, and a few of us suggested that she lie down and take it easy.  We wanted to run some blood workup on her just to make sure nothing was wrong, but she refused.  She asked for her husband.  Perhaps you could talk to her and convince her - "

"I'm on my way," Mulder said, only half-hearing, and he hung up the phone.  

His pulse thready, Mulder ran cool lips along William's forehead to try and calm himself. Skin like Scully's skin, eyes a color so similar to hers.  He couldn't look at this child and not think of Dana Scully.  His Scully.  His partner, his wife, the mother of his child -

Like a lightning bolt to his chest, Mulder realized what Scully saw every time she gazed at this baby, and why she so desperately wanted to cling to that truth.  

William was a living incarnation of the two of them: two wandering spirits fused by passion in a burst of light, driven by hope from opposite ends of the Universe.  William was their compass in the dead of night, the glow of a lighthouse guiding them to the passageway beneath rocky cliffs, urging them forward. Keep looking, keep fighting, keep searching - together.  William's existence proved they could do it.  Loving William wasn't just about love; loving him went so much deeper than anything love could define.  

William was truth's end; he was wherever the light moved.

"Guess we're taking a little trip," Mulder told William, his voice shaky.  "Mommy's not feeling well, but she's going to be alright."  He kissed the baby again, willing this to be true.  "Mommy's going to be just fine.  We'll go pay her a visit and kidnap her and bring her home.  Then we're all going to sit and have dinner.  Just the three of us.  I promise."  


The hospital waiting room was empty, and its white walls were awash with ribbons of purple and scarlet urging the evening's entrance through horizontal blinds. In the far corner, a TV perched on a high shelf, and flashes of blue interspersed with the sunset: the local meteorologist was predicting a doozy of a storm to roll through during the late hours of tonight and on into tomorrow.  Outside, swirls of freezing air smelled like rain, but rain wasn't the problem at this latitude.

Mulder held William suspended on one hip as he bypassed several couches and approached the nurses' station. William flitted with his hood until he finally shoved it off his head, and as a victory meal, he pushed both shoe-string hood-ties into his mouth.  

William had, ironically enough, enjoyed the car-ride to the hospital, despite Mulder's interspersed cursing at Canadian drivers and at the state of the highways when people thought it was going to snow; traffic slowed to an excruciating halt in order to anticipate the first flake falling.  And of course, roads were only blocked when he had to get to Scully.  That was the nature and inherent cruelty of Murphy's Law.  What should have been a fifteen minute drive had taken half an hour, even with Mulder's use of bureau tactical maneuvers to try and manhandle his way through a rush hour mess of automobiles.  

All he could think about was Scully.  

He needed to see for himself that she was alright.  If, for no other reason, than to blast her about keeping the status of her health to herself.  While honesty was something both of them had always valued, Mulder assumed that, at the very least, seeing her naked on a daily basis now meant he had a right to the really important details.

"Well, well, well," said the nurse at the front desk.  "If it isn't 'Guilty as Charged.' "  She pressed her chin into her palm and slid the triage clipboard down into her lap.  "And 'Guilty as Charged Junior.' " A lock of black, corkscrew-curled hair skipped over her arm.  Her glasses had sloped down the tip of her nose, the corners of her lips turned up, and one black eyebrow raised in question.  She still wasn't the most hospitable of nurses, but at least today she looked less likely to kill somebody than she had the day before.    

"Lily Selden," said Mulder, swallowing back what felt like several vital organs.  He juggled William closer to his chest; the nurse's stapler was way too shiny and appealing for its own good.  

The nurse winked at William, who curled like a rolly-bug into Mulder's neck.  How nice it was that his son trusted Mulder only marginally more than the scary nurse.  Real progress there.  Or else it would have been - might have been - if only the hospital hadn't called at the worst possible moment.  Mulder wondered briefly how much time had passed between Scully emailing him and Scully fainting.  How long had the hospital waited before calling him?  

And then he forced out a few shaky breaths of air, unable to think about it any further.  

"Three doors down on your right," said the nurse, and her voice had the hoarse pitch of a practiced smoker.   "Look for the staff lounge.  She's lying down in there."

Mulder nodded his thanks and took off down the hallway, so zealous he nearly tripped over his own shoelaces and slammed headfirst into a 'caution, wet floor' sign.  He groaned and righted himself, and William giggled at the unexpected ride; that would certainly be something, wouldn't it?  All three of them laid up in the hospital.  

Heading further down the hallway, Mulder coughed. That disinfectant hospital stench always did him in.  The odor of bleach reminded him of formaldehyde, like the kind of liquid his science teachers had used to preserve frog carcasses for dissection in the ninth grade. He'd only tried dissection once, and unfortunately was the only kid in the classroom without a partner to help him out.  He opened the lid of the jar, coughed, turned to his immediate left, and puked all over his shoes.  That was the first and last dissection he'd ever performed.  In hindsight, it was a wonder he could even stand in Scully's exam rooms when she had a body on the table.  Thank God his partner's delicate features and soft voice were a good enough distraction.  

The nameplate above the third door read "Staff only" and Mulder turned the knob, pushing it open.  He breathed a stomach-gurgling sigh of relief at the odor of freshly brewed coffee. Coffee was better than formaldehyde.  Heck, burnt hair was better than formaldehyde.

In the middle of the room stood a wooden table, and a set of wood-and-metal chairs that had the ambiance of dorm-room furniture.  Along the wall perpendicular to the door was a set of scratched, blue lockers. Along the other was a set of candy machines and a half counter set into the stucco.  A sink hollowed out the counter, and next to the sink, a coffee maker bubbled new coffee and a dirty microwave waited for food.  

The wall parallel to the door supported a light blue couch, and on that couch sat Dana Scully, her ivory hands folded in her lap.   Mulder's breath caught at the sight of her, as his breath often did.  Her shoulder length red waves had been pushed out of her face with a blue surgical cap, and her eyes focused on the TV, on the same meteorologist from the waiting room who predicted severe precipitation.  She gazed at her hands every few seconds, picking at some invisible skin around her cuticles.  Realization that she was, indeed, just fine, flitted through Mulder's veins, and he allowed himself to begin breathing normally again.

William caught sight of Scully almost immediately, and he squirmed in Mulder's arms to get to her.  He made several impatient "uh-uh" noises and wriggled his fingers towards the woman who had, just this morning, fed him spoonfuls of oatmeal while trying to make him laugh by crossing her eyes.  Mulder had to agree with his son on this one; that Scully was a nice, nice lady.  

Upon William's gurgling, Scully turned towards the door.  Her eyes met Mulder's face and then William's, and her lips broke out into a warm, dazzling smile - and then, almost as soon as the smile appeared, it dissolved into a thin line of alarm.  She gazed about the lounge as if expecting fellow doctors to pop out from under the table with machetes and black claws.  

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her gaze squared on William.

Mulder dragged a chair from the center of the room and set it beside the couch.  

"Deep regression hypnosis," said Mulder.  "What does it look like?"  He passed the squirming child along to Scully, who captured him in a loose embrace and pressed a kiss to his forehead.  "I'm imagining back to a past life as a bullfrog.  If I start hopping around the room, it's not my fault."  

Scully’s eyebrow rose.  William turned sideways in her grip and began rubbing the hairs on her arms, thoroughly enraptured.  

"You know," said Mulder.  "That kid's going to give you rug burn."

"He shouldn't be here," Scully whispered, as if the baby could somehow turn invisible.  "You shouldn't be here with him.  If somebody sees - "

"I know." Mulder rubbed an itch at the corner of his eye.  "But it’s fine. Trust me.  Nobody saw me bring the kid in but old man winter and one angry looking nurse at the front desk."  He tried to keep the impatience and hurt out of his tone; the situation with William kept coming back to a matter of trust, and the lack of it on Scully's part was alarming.  

"Even still."  She shifted to accommodate the baby, and William's head tilted back as he waved hello to the ceiling.

"What would you prefer I do, then?  Lock him in a closet?"

"Why?  You could have just stayed home this afternoon."  The skin at the bridge of her nose pinched.  "Why are you here, anyway?"

Mulder rubbed the back of his neck and felt as if his muscles had frozen solid.  "Are you kidding me?"

"No, I'm not.  Why are you here?"

"You mean you don't remember?"  Mulder's eyebrows rose.  "The doctor didn't mention any lapses of disorientation. Maybe we should just get you home, discuss this later."

"No, we'll discuss this now.  Why are you here?"

Mulder gestured an open palm towards her.  "You fainted," he said.  

The frown turned into a look of intense disbelief. Scully's cheeks flushed the color of plum.  "Well... yes... I know that, but how do you know that?"

"Because you asked for me."

Scully frowned.  "I asked for you?"


"And they called you?"


"But I didn't - I never asked for you."

"Yes, you did."  Mulder tapped her knuckles with his index finger, concerned.  "You asked one of the doctors for your husband.  Maybe you mumbled it and don't remember, but someone heard you.  And if memory serves, 'your husband' would be me - unless you've got some other husbands stashed away in one of those lockers..."  Mulder frowned. "You don't, do you?"

"No, one is enough.  Believe me."  Scully's lips rested atop the baby's soft, downy head. "Look, I'm sorry you felt the need to rush down here.  I'm fine.  Really."  

"No, seriously." Mulder traced his fingers over hers, settling his hand into the warmth of her skin. "You going to tell me, lady, or do I have to beat it out of you?"

Scully opened her palm and allowed his fingers to trace her lines.  "Mysterious evening beatings," she mused, echoing an earlier exchange in what seemed an attempt at leavening.  "A man after my own heart."   

Mulder shook his head.  He gazed up at the television, where the meteorologist had transformed into the anchor. The screen flipped angles again, and a list of provisions appeared for those unaccustomed to handling blizzards.  Flashlights, bottled water, batteries, radios, space heaters - keep away from flammable objects, safety first - canned goods, matches, candles... Mulder ran a mental checklist of their own provisions in his mind, trying hard not to picture Scully sprawled on the floor of their bathroom, nose dripping with blood.  Hefty federal training and a good medical background had seen to it that Dana Scully never went down.  Never.  The only time Mulder could recall her ever blacking out was when -

"I'm not exactly sure what's wrong," said Scully.  Mulder turned to her, and her gaze skirted the floor.  "I wasn't feeling well the other day, but I, ah, I didn't think much of it.  I haven't been really hungry lately, so I guess I haven't eaten - not properly, at any rate, and I thought, maybe I just malnourished myself.  And then last night I didn't - I thought, maybe because of William and having skipped dinner and all the stress..." She took a breath.  "I had a muffin when I came in this morning, but I couldn't keep it down. Maybe it is stress, or maybe... I don't know. Maybe it's something else."

Mulder's face whitened. His heartbeat strained like a bowling ball stressing against his ribs.  "You don't think it's -"

"No."  Scully squeezed his fingertips.  "I know what you're thinking of, but that's not it.  I haven't had any problems or nosebleeds since the chip..."  She cleared her throat.  "Since the chip."

Mulder nodded slowly.  "You think it's the stomach flu?"  

"I -"  Scully paused, her cheeks that same pink.  There was a strange, nervous tugging at the corners of her lips that Mulder couldn't decipher.  "I think it might...might be something else."

"Well, whatever you think it might be - "  He gestured around the room.  "You've got all this medical equipment just lying around here at your disposal.  You might as well get things checked out."  

Scully ran her fingers in circles through William's baby-fine hair, seemingly fascinated with straightening each light brown strand.  She was avoiding direct eye-contact with him and he had no idea why.   "You know why I didn't want anyone checking things out," she whispered.

"I know," he agreed, releasing her free hand back into her lap.  "But you're a doctor, Criminal.  You understand why these things are important and you can probably do them yourself."  At Scully's non reply, Mulder continued, "Look.  At the very least, I need you to be of some use to me, right?  And if you're puking and passing out all over the place there's no way I can take care of both you and the Tater-Tot."

"The Tater-Tot?"   Scully's eyebrow shot up.  

"Yeah."  Mulder pressed a palm to William's back and brushed his fingers over the soft, downy coat.  "You wouldn't understand, Criminal.  See - me and the Tater had a thing going this afternoon. Real manly man, father-son stuff.  He's almost ready to kill his first wild animal."  


Mulder touched William's cheek and grinned.  "Yeah, well...I wouldn't want to bore you with the logistics of male-bonding, and neither does the Tater.  Right, Tater?"

William turned his head and smiled up at his father.  

"Exactly," said Mulder.

"Shit," answered William, clapping his hands together in delight.  

Scully's eyes widened.  Mulder blanched.

"Shit," William repeated, utterly amused with himself.

Mulder's face flushed red and when he opened his mouth to explain himself, nothing came out but a squeak.  He waited patiently for the trapdoor beneath the chair to open up and suck him through.  Of course, his son's first word couldn't be Mommy or Daddy, or even UFO.  It had to be shit.  'Shit' was right.

With an amused crinkle between her eyes, Scully shifted her son around in her lap so that he faced her, and she touched an index finger to the dimple in his tiny chin.  "Excuse me, young man?" she said, glancing at Mulder out of her peripheral vision.  "What did you just say?"

William giggled drooly bubbles from the side of his mouth, and repeated the word, "shit."  He flapped his arms against Scully's chest and kept going.  "Shit, shit, shit, shit."  

Scully blinked at her son and nodded.  "Male bonding indeed," she said, gazing back up at Mulder.

Mulder shrugged, smiling a lopsided grin.  

"Unbelievable, P.I."  There was a glint of mischief in her sea-blue eyes.  "I leave you alone with him for one afternoon.  One afternoon, dear husband.  You couldn't have held off with the moral corruption?"

"Oh, come on.  There's always room for moral corruption."  

The sound of a throat clearing interrupted the moment, and Mulder turned to see a light-haired nurse standing in the doorway to the lounge.  

"Dr. Selden?" the woman asked, clipboard in hand.  

Scully straightened at the sound of her pseudonym, jutted her chin, and tightened her grip on the baby.  She looked embarrassed at having been caught so off guard, so unprofessional. Suddenly, she was the epitome of Special Agent Dana Scully, not Mrs. Lily Seden, and she shielded the baby with her upper arms - as if she considered anything with legs a threat. It was Mulder-Paranoia run amok in Dana Scully, and Mulder could only be thankful that their guns were locked in a drawer by the bed.  

"Yes, Amy?"  

"There's someone outside to see you."  The nurse named Amy gestured towards the hallway.  

Scully and Mulder exchanged glances, both communicating with their eyes a degree of suspicion: They had no friends, no family, nobody who knew them out here besides Scully's coworkers.  The only person they'd actually met since moving to Canada was Jake Walker, and Mulder couldn't recall giving Jake access to Scully's work address.  

Scully's eyes narrowed, and she turned towards the nurse in the doorway.  "Did this person happen to mention a name?"  

The nurse named Amy nodded, and she glanced at her clipboard, tapping out a mindless rhythm with her fingers.  "She said her name was Marita.  She said specifically that you would know who she was."

Mulder's breath caught, and he turned to Scully, who seemed unable to speak.  Amy shifted her weight in the doorway, tap-tapping her fingernails away on the clipboard.  

"What did she look like?" asked Mulder.  He ground his knuckles into the wooden chair, tenuously clawing at the hope that his partner somehow had a patient whose mother's sister's aunt just so happened to be named Marita.  

Amy squinted and scratched the side of her neck.  "Ah... Not too tall, blonde, nice suit..."

Oxygen drained from the air, leaving emptiness in its wake; Mulder felt like a space-shuttle astronaut in the first six minutes of flight.

Scully's hands trembled around the baby's middle, but otherwise she gave no indication of faltering.  "Can you give us a minute, Amy?" she said, her voice a key higher than normal.  

Amy nodded and turned in the doorway, shutting the door behind her.  

A panicked, sick feeling came over Mulder, numbing all else but thoughts of his family.  His family - he needed to protect his wife and child.   Above all else, he needed to keep them safe.  

Recalling the missing oil, and the green inorganic ooze, and the letter from Agent Doggett, he reached over and grasped Scully's upper elbows. "Look at me," he said, forcing a steadiness in his voice that he didn't quite feel. Scully's gaze met his, but her pupils darted, searching, nervous.  "I want you to go get your car right now and take William home."  Scully's brows converged in the center above her nose, but before she could protest, Mulder continued, "If this is who we think it is, then we don't know what she wants.  If she wants William, then we have to get him out of here.  You fainted this afternoon and we don't know why, and if something were to happen I don't want to risk -"


Mulder gritted his teeth.  "Damn it, Criminal.  You need to listen - "

"No."  Scully touched his cheek.  "You need to listen. I told you once already, you're not leaving me behind.  I won't stand at the base of some mountain waiting for you."

"I'm not leaving you behind.   I'm trying to do the right thing.  This isn't a hypothetical situation anymore.  This is real. It's not - "

"It is exactly - " Mulder's gaze darted, unable to focus clearly on anything, and Scully tilted a finger beneath his chin to pull him back.  "Look at me, Mulder.  It is exactly what I was talking about.  We do this together or we don't do it.  I'm not going anywhere without you.  I made that mistake once and I'll be damned if I make it again.  If that woman out there is Marita Covarrubias then we will face her together.  This hospital is a public place - if she's going to pull something it won't be here.  I can tell Amy that we'll meet her in the cafeteria."

Mulder sighed, and Scully's finger fell back to her lap.  "Are you sure?" he asked.    

"Yes."  Her eyes glinted, her chin resting on William's head.  "We're facing this together. Whatever this is, I'm ready for it."