Shadows of Winter
Part VI
By Jaime Lyn

* Language warning - so I'm giving this one a rating of PG-13.  


The house was dim and cool, and dusted with the scent of early evening.  


Mulder flipped on the hall light and dropped his keys on the entryway table.  The living room lamp cast a soft glow that painted the floor at his feet, tickling the edges of the carpet.  Scully had gotten at least six car lengths ahead of him on the freeway, and he'd lost sight of her car just as the first flakes dripped from the sky.  He'd thought for sure she had made it home first, but the fireplace wasn't lit, and lighting the fireplace was generally the first thing Scully did whenever she walked into the house.  If there was no fire going, something had to be bothering her.

"I'm in here," came her voice.

 Or maybe he was just overreacting to nothing.  It had been known to happen.  

Mulder stuffed his hands into his pockets and headed into the living room.  His arms were freezing, goose-bumps raising the flesh beneath his shirt and overcoat.  He'd thought that perhaps he turned up the heat high before he left, but in hindsight he should have just stuffed a space-heater down his pants.

William sat on the floor beside the couch, pounding a small, under stuffed, blue bunny into the carpet.  The bunny had fur missing from one ear and its stomach was clumpy, lopsided; this was the same bunny Mulder had accidentally pulled from Scully's bag in the middle of the southwest.  She must have been fishing through the closets, rooting through their old clothes and worn shoes and unused bath products - re-surfacing memories they'd long ago stuffed under a shelf and locked behind a heavy wooden door.  

Scully was silent, perched on the couch with her hands folded in her lap.  The blue surgical cap had been removed, and her red hair spilled onto her shoulders in waves.  She gazed with hypnotic silence into the empty fireplace, her face expressionless, her head tilted to one side.  She looked like the model for a still-life, a study of beauty trapped by the weight of the universe.  

Mulder sat on the floor beside the baby, flicking at little-blue-bunny's ears with his thumb and forefinger.  Seemingly pleased to have a new playmate, even if it wasn't Scully, William held up the bunny for Mulder to see and gurgled a few words of gobbledygook.  He pounded the bunny into Mulder's kneecaps and flapped his free arm, bouncing up and down on his padded bottom.

Venturing, Mulder touched Scully's knee with his fingertips.  She didn't move.  

"Hey," he whispered, nudging her.  "What are you thinking?"  

She'd been quiet for awhile now - ever since leaving the hospital, actually.   

After Marita had slipped from the cafeteria, neither he nor Scully knew what to say. Scully rose from her chair and retrieved William from Dr. Carmichael, politely thanked the other woman for her trouble.  Then she turned to Mulder and suggested that they head home, the whites of her eyes a shade of light plum. Mulder suggested Scully have some juice or a piece of fruit or a sandwich first - if she was malnourished, she needed to eat before she got behind the wheel of a car.  

Either too tired or too stricken to argue, Scully dutifully got herself an apple, ate it with the baby on her lap, tossed the core into the garbage, and headed for the door, trancelike.  "I just need to pick up some baby supplies out of my locker," she mumbled, "and stuff them in the trunk.  Leave the car seat by the rear exit and I'll meet you at home."  She didn't offer any insight into her thoughts, nor did she let him take the baby off her hands.  She clutched William to her chest like a blanket.  She barely even afforded Mulder a second glance before she took off down the hallway with the baby on her hip, and left him standing outside the doorway to the cafeteria.  Alone.   

"Scully?"  He scratched the center of her knee.

"Hm?"  Scully blinked, but her eyes didn't waver from their focus on the darkened fireplace.  

"You with me?"

Scully nodded, worrying her fingers in her lap.  "Did I ever tell you...What Agent Doggett said to me when we first met?"

Brows furrowed, Mulder leaned into the couch.  "No," he said, flicking again at blue-bunny's ears.  "You never told me."  

Finally, Scully met his gaze. "It was a week after you had gone missing -" She stammered, picked at her cuticles.  "And Agent Doggett was sitting next to me on the couch outside the Deputy Director's office.  He didn't know me and I didn't know him. I didn't want to know anyone.  He said that he'd heard these rumors -about you, about people you had spoken to and things you had done - none of which I believed.  He said you didn't trust me.  That you never trusted me. Looking back, I think he was just trying to gauge my reaction at being provoked. I was live wire at the time; I wasn't someone you wanted to know."  

Mulder was silent, unsure of where she was going with this.  While Mulder had known Scully for the better part of nine and a half years, he still often puzzled over the way her mind worked.  Her cogs and wheels didn't turn the way his did, and that had always made her something of an enigma.  Sometimes, what came out of her mouth was so far removed from what he thought she might actually be thinking, that he himself had to wonder whether he knew her at all.  

She sighed.  "I was angry - at myself, at circumstances, at everyone.  Because as far as I was concerned, everyone was a liar.  Everyone but you.  I knew you, and I knew the work, and I knew that despite my not knowing where you were, you would come back to me.  Because... because it was me.  And because you always came back.  And then Agent Doggett said, 'Maybe you don't know Agent Mulder as well as you think you do,' and it made me terrified to think - "  There were no tears in her eyes, and when she spoke, her voice was thready, dark.  "Maybe I don't."  

"Scully - " Worried that she might be having some sort of anxiety attack, Mulder rose to his feet and sunk down on the couch beside her.  "Scully, I don't see where you're going with this, but I always thought you knew - or you need to know - I trust you.  I've never trusted anyone but you."

"I do know that."  She shook her head at some invisible evil.  "But there are other things I don't know about you. There were months we spent apart, and I can't say that I knew you then because I didn't know you then.  You were gone.  I don't know where you went or what you did. "She touched a palm to his cheek.  "I can't ever know what it was like for you.  You cry out in your sleep and I don't know how to help you.  You look at William and I think you want to connect with him, but something's holding you back. There's something you need that I can't give you."

Mulder took a breath, felt a sudden, inexplicable paranoia Scully was about to say she wanted to leave him.  He searched her eyes and took her hand in his, held it up to his lips.  Her mouth twitched, dimpled her cheeks; a struggle against letting go of whatever it was that haunted her.  

"What I need is you," he insisted.  

She shook her head. "I'm part of it, but I'm not all of it.  You need the hunt, the chase, The X-Files.  I can't give those things back to you.  I can't even be your wife without first being your partner, and at this point, I don't know which identity is mine.  I don't know who we are."

Mulder frowned. "We are who we are, Scully."

That was a stupid answer and they both knew it.

Acceptance of almost-domestication had crept up on them slowly, like trickling honey through a strainer.  But Mr. and Mrs. Blissfully Ignorant weren't really who they were, and both of them knew it. Beneath a thick skin of love so intense the edges blinded reality, there were silences and unspoken nightmares.  There were desperate whispers in the dark and scathing orgasms with their eyes closed.  The truth was difficult and unforgiving, and neither of them cared to dip their toes into the pool of post-traumatic stress.  The months they'd spent apart were forbidden, shadowed memories.

"But what does that mean?" she asked.  "What does any of this mean?  We haven't moved forward at all.  We've only avoided... everything."

Mulder clasped her palm to his chest and pressed her fingers between both of his hands; whatever she wanted to hear, whatever she needed to hear, he wanted to say it.  He just didn't know how, or even if he could. Perhaps that made him more selfish than he cared to admit.   

"I still, I don't - " He sighed, frustrated, and gazed at her trapped hand above his ribcage.  "I don't understand what you're trying to say to me."  

"I think you do know," she said.  "If we're going to get through this, I need to know the truth."

"About what?"

"About everything." Scully broke eye contact with him and took a breath as if she'd been kicked in the stomach.  "About all the things you think but never say.  I need to know what happened during those months we spent apart."  She blew out a slow, long breath, and their eyes met again.  "Marita Covarrubias is in love with you, Mulder."

All the color drained from Mulder's cheeks.  His stomach dropped into his feet.  "Scully, that's not - "

"She's in love with you," Scully insisted.  "It wasn't the trial she was repaying you for, because the dates don't match up.  She brought William back to you - not to me, to you.  And I think you know why she would do that.  I think you know.  And I need to know, too.  I need the truth.  All of it."  

"Criminal -" He felt sick, and tried to push the dark images from the New Mexico desert from his mind. "I don't see what this has to do with anything - "

"It has to do with everything."  This time her voice hardened, and she looked him square in the eyes: no secrets, not this time.  "Did you sleep with her, Mulder?"

 "What?"   Tendrils of dread closed around his lungs.

"Did you sleep with her?"  

He didn't quite know what to make of such an accusation; not that it was technically an accusation.  Technically, it was just a question, but it was a question laced with accusation like a warm broth laced with arsenic.

 It occurred to Mulder suddenly that he had become that guy - that guy from the sitcom whose wife asked him whether or not he thought she was fat, and he had to figure out the best way to answer her without getting his head bashed in.  Any abrupt movement to the right or left would mean certain catastrophe, and at the same time, he couldn't stand still.  If he was a TV character, the credits would roll and he would see his name in lights: Fox Mulder starring as the clumsy-mouthed husband.

The ludicrousness built, and Mulder began to laugh - softly at first, and then harder, nervous, like a manic-schizophrenic at a funeral.  

"Mulder?"  Scully's tone was high-pitched, annoyed.  "Oh Jesus, Mulder, hysteria isn't exactly what I was asking you for.  Please tell me you didn't - "

"Of course I didn't," he choked, and at this point he was laughing so hard he almost couldn't breathe.  Scully regarded him as if trying to see him through a stinging cloud of smoke.  She pulled her hand back into her lap.

"How is this funny, Mulder?"  She sounded genuinely distressed.  "How is it even remotely funny?  Do you think I'm crazy? That I was imagining the way that woman - "

"Being on the receiving end doesn't make the act reciprocated, Scully."  

"Excuse me?"

Mulder's laughter faded to a soft chuckle and he brushed moisture from his cheek, amazed at his ability to laugh at himself.   "I would never have slept with her, or with anyone, because she wasn't you.  Jesus, Scully, I spent years not sleeping with women because they weren't you."  

At that, Scully's lips parted even though she seemed not to know what to say.  Mulder shook his head.  

"Yes, I was... lonely," he explained.  "And when you're lonely and you talk to yourself in the middle of the desert, you get a lot of fucked up, crazy-ass answers.  And when another person finally answers back, it's like an ice-cream man in the middle of August.  But I wasn't that lonely."  

Scully's cheeks reddened, and she nodded, looking down at her hands; "I'm sorry."

And Mulder realized that the truth was much uglier when coated in a lie.      

He sighed.  "Well, no, that's not entirely true."  

Her gaze snapped to his.  

"Which - what - what - which part?"  She stammered, pushing a thin strand of hair back behind her ear, fingers shaking.  "What are you - are you -did you lie - is - what -"

"The truth.  The unabridged version, 2.0.  Is that what you want?"

She fell silent.  

"It was right after I tried to return home. I had no way of contacting you and I'd been..."  He paused, and at her blank expression, started over.  "The gunmen had been wiring money to an anonymous account for weeks, but the money never lasted long.  I was essentially lost.  After I jumped off the train and hid out in that quarry, I had to hitch part of the way out west, and to be honest, I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I didn't know where to even start looking for clues, for information, for anything useful that might save me - might bring me back to you.  I think I passed out near a rest stop - right outside a phone booth.  I was toying with the idea of calling you and begging you... I wanted to hear your voice.  But it was goddamned hot and I dropped before I even dialed.  That's where Gibson found me.  I don't know how.  It was either ESP or a goddamned lucky miracle.  I stayed with him after that, in a trailer in southern New Mexico.  And like I said, it was lonely.  And hot.  Fucking unbearable."  

"But you weren't alone."  Scully's face was virtually expressionless.  

"No.  Gibson was out there with me."

"That's not what I meant."  Scully swallowed.  "She went out there, to New Mexico, didn't she?"  

Mulder nodded. "I was outside, building this campfire that I really didn't need to build - lack of better things to do out in the desert, what can I say?  And I saw this woman approaching with a baby.  And - " He closed his eyes, recalling the spill of scarlet sunset, the dark outline of a woman's figure walking towards him, backlit by a blinding, setting sun.  

"For a minute, I thought it was you.  I had this wild fantasy that lasted all of five seconds, where you had quit the FBI and taken the baby and come after me. You know something?  I'd searched for truths before - for my sister, for my parents.  And I'd wanted those truths so badly that I could taste them, and I didn't think anything could be more painful than not finding them."  He opened his eyes and gazed at her, touched her knuckles.  "But I was wrong.  The most painful truth was when Marita walked up to me and I realized she wasn't you. I felt like I'd been shot.  But worse than that.  I felt like - "

"You'd been shot over and over," she finished.  

She smiled and turned her hand palm-up, squeezed his fingers.  "When I watched your train sail through the platform, I had just been witness to a shoot-out.  One of the supersoldiers was involved; he killed a man who had promised to help me find you.   I - I stood over his body - this man who had died trying to uncover the truth, and I knew he wasn't you, but at the same time I knew he could have been.  So easily.  And if something ever happened to you, I would never know about it, and I could never protect you.  And then my son would never know his father."  She swallowed, shrugged as if brushing the memory from her shoulders.   "It was like being shot.  Repeatedly shot.  Except I couldn't lie down and die and there wasn't anything I could do to get away from that kind of pain."  

Mulder leaned back against the couch.  This was more than Scully had ever before revealed to him about her time spent alone, and he reveled in listening to her speak.  Her voice was an anchor, a safety net.  For a moment he wondered how much he could reveal to her without breaking down, and how far he could push before she finally gave up what she was asking of him; the whole truth.  No secrets.  

"Then you know," he said.  "You know what I'm talking about."

Scully nodded, silent.  

"Well, that was the feeling, at seeing this woman, knowing who she wasn't .  It was like being shot.  And then Marita, she... She looked desperate.  She was dirty and emaciated.  She was carrying a baby but she had no clothing for it, no diapers.  She said she needed a place to sleep and she needed food for the baby, and I saw something in her that mirrored something in me... and so I helped her, because I knew that's what you would have done.  And she ate with me, and she slept in the trailer, and she told me all sorts of things about the men in power, and the experiments.  She didn't tell me the baby was hers, but I had my theories."  He sighed, and considered ending it there.  

But ending a story with a half-truth wasn't fair to anyone.  

"She mentioned a place called Mount Weather. She said experiments had been performed there, but she refused to elaborate.  I didn't press the issue and it took me another month to figure out how to find the place, but the important thing was her trust in me - she gave me a jumping off point.  And besides that, she was someone else to talk to - someone who couldn't read minds, and who wasn't sixteen.  The second night of her... her stay...she fell asleep on the cot next to mine.  The baby was on the floor."  

Mulder paused, and Scully remained silent.  Her thumb worked over the top of his hand, kneading him on with soft but persistent pressure.  He took a deep breath.  "I watched her sleep and I listened to her cry out - she sounded so angry.  I wanted to help her but I couldn't.  I didn't know how. And then I imagined she was you - I spent a long time imagining she was you.  I thought that if I helped her, I would somehow be helping you."  

His voice cut off, and he realized he was dangerously close to tears.  "You want the truth, Scully?"

Scully nodded, but the nod was slight, like a twitch of her neck.

"For the first time since being with you, I felt a kinship in someone. Marita was looking for answers, and when we sat around the campfire exchanging information, I realized she was looking for the same truth I was.  She talked about William, and the project, and something about a summer she spent in California when she was eight - her father was gunned down.  She fell asleep when the fire died and I...I wanted to sleep with her.  I thought if I closed my eyes and imagined she was you, and that the baby at the foot of the bed was really William..."  He swallowed, but Scully's grip remained firm, steady on his hand.  "I didn't sleep with her, Scully. I promise you, I didn't.  But I wanted to."

Scully's gaze darted away, and Mulder reached forward with his free hand and tilted her chin to his.  He was afraid that if she didn't look him in the eyes right away, she would never be able to again.   "In the end, she wasn't Dana Scully.  She was Marita Covarrubias.  It didn't make a goddamn bit of difference who she was, because the important thing is that she could never have been you."

When Mulder released her chin, Scully turned away from him.  She seemed to be fascinated with her hands, with the exact texture of her fingernails.  Her lips opened and closed in a soft 'O' shape and she breathed deeply.  She had the delicate stature of lily, wilted from lack of sunlight but unwilling to die.    

Mulder shifted uncomfortably.  He didn't know what was left to say.   He wasn't exactly sure where the line of fidelity left him.  It had been over ten years since Mulder had been involved in a romantic relationship with another person, and despite any romantic inclinations towards Scully - feelings that had driven him for more years than he cared to admit - he had never before felt guilty about wanting to sleep with other women.  And he felt damned fucking guilty now.  

During the course of their partnership, Mulder had found a good amount of women sexually attractive.  He only slept with perhaps one or two of those women, but since he and Scully had done little more than dance around the big white boulder of their emotions, there was never a reason to feel guilty about being sexual with someone else.  He'd done it, and he was sure Scully had as well.  But as the years passed and the work took over, and as Mulder found that other women faded from view, the desire for passionate encounters diminished almost entirely.  Passion meant work, not love, and sexual desire was as good as porn, and porn seemed to coincide nicely with his left hand.

But now Mulder was married.  Real married, fake married, potay-toh - potah-toh.  He loved Dana Scully and official documentation seemed little more than window decoration.  This was his wife, his partner, his lover, his pain in the ass, for now or twenty years from now.  Scully, Lily, whoever she was, she was his wife.  Long ago he chose to bake this particular cake with her and no matter how he tried to slice it, the flavor was still chocolate.

"Lily," he said, his voice hoarse.  "It wasn't... I - "

Her face went completely white.  

Mulder paused.   "Are you all right?"

No answer.  Scully's eyes widened and she shoved a hand into his chest, pushing him down so hard he bounced back up like a punching bag.  Mulder sputtered for purchase while Scully climbed the armrest and vaulted the back of the couch like a gymnast, running from him, her palm cupped over her mouth.  

Mulder froze in horror.  At his feet, William giggled at his mother's silly behavior; blue-bunny pounded at Mulder's ankles.  Air left Mulder's lungs in a low whoosh; his mouth went dry.  He had finally gone and done it.  He had made Scully sick at the sight of him.    



Nervousness etched grooves in Mulder's forehead until a needle could have played 'Twist and Shout' in his skin.  Mulder bent from the couch and hoisted the Tater-Tot and the blue bunny up on one hip.  William pressed the bunny into Mulder's chest, seemingly unconcerned about having his playtime interrupted by an inconvenient marital spat - one that would not have been all that dissimilar to a professional spat, had Scully not gotten violently ill at the sound of Mulder's voice.  

Then again, his voice had probably made her ill more often than she let on.  

Mulder crept into the kitchen, baby suspended on his left side.  Against the sounds of silence floated a stifled gag, and then another gag, and then a strangled cough, and then yet another gag.  The carpet darkened in shadow at the foot of the kitchen; a star of illumination dripped in golden rays from a nightlight plugged into the outlet above the sink.  The crown of Scully's dark head silhouetted against faint, reddish-yellow ribbons, and her elbows jutted in slanted pieces of darkness out from either side of the basin; she looked as if she was trying to keep herself from getting sucked into the garbage disposal.  

One last cough and Scully heaved violently, pulling air into her lungs as if oxygen might somehow disappear into the emptiness, into the black hole left by a tilted universe.  Another second and she switched on the faucet, cupping her fingers and forcing water into her mouth.  Her back arched with each gulp.  

When Scully finally turned off the faucet, Mulder could've sworn a good hundred or so years had passed.  

The emotional mess was partly his rendering - a chalk outline of disaster with his initials emboldened in the lower right hand corner. While Scully had been alone and fighting for his return, while she'd been forced to make agonizing decisions over the future of their only child, he'd been standing over a cot in New Mexico, fantasizing in splendid, pornographic Technicolor.  Scully had merely asked him whether he'd physically slept with Marita. A simple yes or no would have sufficed.  

Scully turned to him slowly, her hand still hovering near her mouth, fingers trembling - poised for another attack. Her cheeks were flushed, her forehead beaded with perspiration.  Her lip quivered, and her eyes were hard to read in flickering darkness.  

"I need you to tell me what this is all about," he croaked, because he didn't know what else to say.  "Tell me right now."

She shook her head, eyes tightly closed.  "I... I can't."  

Mulder gripped William closer, nervous.  "Yes, you can.  I showed you mine, now you show me yours.  That's how this works."

"Is it?"

That was a dig, and Mulder winced.  He steeled his gaze, managed, "Lily."

"Paul - "

"Don't."  His eyes watered, stung.  "I want the truth from you.  I deserve that much."

Her knuckles grazed her nose, trembling.  "What is it you want me to say?" Her head shook.  "When this kind of thing happens to you, when you're told it can never medically happen but it does, it's supposed to be a joyous occasion, a miracle.  It's not supposed to be like this." She banged her fist on the counter.  "Damn it!"  

Mulder was stone silent.  

"I'm a strong person," she continued, opening her fist and pressing a palm to her cheek.  "But I can't do this again.  You'd send William away to save him, but what will you do to save me?  You want the truth? The truth is painful, Mulder.   If you thought... if you wanted to - You can't send all of us away to save us.  You can call for reinforcements, you can board us up in the basement and run in the other direction waving a big red flag, but the truth is going to eat us alive no matter what you do. "

Mulder was sure that he'd been struck on the side of the head - he even raised a hand to his temple to check for a concussion.  Suddenly, he felt dumber than he had ever before felt in his life.  He hadn’t considered the possibility because the idea was, at its core, impossible, ludicrous.  William was a miracle.  

He should have known better.

"You're pregnant," he said.  

It wasn't a question.   

"How long have you known?"  His head buzzed; he thought he might faint.  

Scully sucked in a breath, and her chin tucked in towards her neck.  She leaned back against the counter, not speaking, not moving.  Her silence was enough to finish him off.  Mulder was sure if he hadn’t been holding a small child he would have thrown something at her.  

"This whole time," he said, answering his own question.  "You knew this whole time and you didn't say anything to me.  That's why... When we found William, that's why you were so upset.  You knew."  He bent to a crouch and set William down on the tile at his feet.  Blood rushed to his face and he felt so hot he thought his head might spontaneously combust.  "You knew.  You knew, goddamn it.  How long have you known?  How long have you been lying to me?"

Scully breathed slowly.  "Don't make it into something it's not, P.I.  I wasn't lying - "

"No, not much."  He ran fingers through his hair, wishing he could pull every strand out by the root.  "I asked you, Scully.  I asked you repeatedly if you thought you were sick, and you lied to me.  I started thinking the worst – about the chip, about your cancer.  God, why would you keep this from me? Because you didn't trust me?  Because you thought I would cart you off to Washington with Skinner?  Do you really think so little of me?"  

"No!"  Her eyes widened.  "Good grief, that's not at all - "

Mulder flashed back to that morning, and then to the night before, and to the night before that.  Fuzzy details he'd previously ignored swirled into focus.  He replayed each nuance over in his head like a tape recorder.  "Jesus Christ, I must be dumber than paste. You've been avoiding coffee for almost a week now.  Is this why?  Is it?"

"Mulder - "

"Is it?" he demanded.  

Scully pressed a hand to her forehead.  "Yes."  

"Why?"  Anger bubbled in his chest until his stomach could no longer contain the heat.  His limbs hummed with the pressure.  In a minute he would have to put his head between his knees in order to breathe.  

"Because I didn't want to believe it," she said, her voice unsteady.  "We'd been careful about that sort of thing, and I didn't even think it was even possible. But then I remembered that first night here in the house and I, I didn't know how to explain it to you, or to myself, and I thought you would insist that I... that... I - "

"That you should abort it."  He shook his head and took up pacing, because pacing was preferable to smashing dishes.  "But now you're what?  Three?  Four months along?  Is that why you waited?  So you wouldn't be able to get an abortion?"

"No!  Jesus, Mulder, it's not that I didn't trust you - "

Unable to control himself any longer, Mulder advanced on her until their noses were inches apart.  "I can't believe you, Scully.  I really can't.  After that lecture you just gave me on the couch about there being no secrets between us. You not trusting me is exactly what this is about."  He jabbed a finger into her sternum, his voice a hiss.  "You couldn't trust me to tell me you were worried about being pregnant.  You couldn't trust that I would honor your judgment.  And when William came back, you couldn't trust I would, that I would - "  When he could no longer bear to look her in the eyes, he turned, grunted an ungraceful, "fuck,"  and stopped only when a wall blocked his movement any further.  

"Don't do this," she said.  "I trust you.  I trust you with my life."  

He turned on her.  "But that's all you trust me with."  

"No."  She stifled a breath. "No, that's not it at all."

"But you didn't think anything of lying to me?"

"I didn't lie!"  She banged a palm on the counter.  "God damn it, Mulder.  You act like a melodramatic little girl sometimes, you know that?  I never lied to you.  I took a home pregnancy test a few days ago.  I suspected before that, but I wasn't sure.  Yes, I was afraid that you'd want me to give up the child, and if you did, you'd probably be right, but that's not why I didn't tell you."  

"Why then?"  When he ran out of pacing room he paused at the garage door, turned in a circle.  "Why?"

"It doesn't matter anymore."

"The hell it doesn't."

"Well, I don't think - "

"Tell me!"  

Scully rubbed the heels of her palms into her eyes as if trying to push her eyeballs back into her skull.  "You weren't there," was what she said, her fingers crooked like hooks into her eyebrows.

Mulder shut up.  He bunched his hands into fists, stuffed them into his pockets for lack of better places to stuff them.

She waved an arm, breathing hard and heavy.  "You weren't there when I was sick, or when I had uterine complications, or when I started bleeding, or when I had to go it alone.  You don't know what it's like, how terrifying it is. I wasn't allowed to be happy - there was no room for happiness.  You were gone, everyone else wanted a piece of my child, and it was the most alone I had ever felt in my life.  Goddamn it, you weren't there, Mulder.  You weren't fucking there!"

Mulder remained silent.  His fingers tensed.  She'd been wanting to say this for months, had been dying from holding it back, and he was going to have to listen.  Listening was all that was left. If it destroyed him to hear this, if it made him want to climb the walls, he was going to let her speak.  He had to.  

"There was an emptiness," she went on, the words too quick, without pause.  "I didn't want to feel it.  I had a baby to carry. I had work to do.  I had a life to live, do you understand that?  A life that had to keep going.   But suddenly your truth was my truth and your office was my office and you weren't there and I never wanted the truth that way.  I loved you so much that I hated you, I hated everything your absence made me feel, and I couldn't even... I couldn't even look at your nameplate.  I couldn't even think about it.  I didn't know what I was supposed to feel, but I knew what I wasn't supposed to feel, and I beat myself up for feeling it anyway.  And then you came back and you left again, and it was my fault as much as it was yours, and I had to - I had to - "

She paused, darted her gaze at the ceiling, and then at the floor, and then directly at him.  She spread her arms in a grand show of proclamation.  "Fox Mulder goes off again in search of his truth, and everyone pities poor Dana Scully.  She's not even directly involved with his quest - she's the unfortunate byproduct of an association with the savior of the world.  Not even my child was about me - it was all about you.  Everything about my pregnancy and my child was about you and you weren't even there with me.”

William sat on the floor between them now, his legs folded Indian-style, blue-bunny clutched to his chest.  His head darted back and forth, his big blue eyes wide, his brows bunched above his nose.  Scully sniffled but did not break down.  Shaking her head, she bent at the knees to pick up her child, cradling him to her chest, kissing the top of his head.  

"William is the only part of this quest that truly belongs to me," she said, rubbing her lips along the baby's forehead.  "Even you - you don't belong to me.  You belong to your truth.  Well this -" She bounced William gently.  "This is what's mine. He's not exactly aliens or tractor beams, but he's mine.  And giving him away was the most painful thing I've ever known.  I risked losing you, I risked losing myself, but I did it anyway.  I've had to live with that.  For months I had to live with it.  I have a second chance now, Mulder."

He shook his head.  They were going in circles.  "Scully, you did what you did. What does any of it have to do with your pregnancy?  With why you couldn't tell me?"

"It's the same," she whispered. "Don't you see?  It's the same as it was."

Mulder cocked his head to one side, utterly baffled.  "What?"

"It's happening again."  

He shook his head.  "It's not.  I'm here."

"For how much longer?"  Her voice broke. "Until that cult comes to kill William, or to take you away?  Until Knowle Rhorer shows up at our doorstep?"  

He sighed.  "Scully."

"No.  Don't patronize me. I didn't want to believe it because knowing the truth would kill me.  And now I don't know what to do."

Mulder rubbed his forehead. He didn't know what to say or how to fix this, and it was hard to see the forest through the trees when the underbrush was littered with thorns of ill-conceived logic.  She didn't understand him and he didn't understand her.  It wasn’t the first time they’d crossed wires and he was fairly sure it wouldn’t be the last.

"Do you want me to say it in Mandarin?  In German?  I'm not going anywhere.  Goddamn it, Scully, this isn't the same as it was.  Is that why you didn't tell me?  Because you were afraid of the past?  That's a fucking weak excuse.  It really is."

A tear decorated the line of freckles below Scully's left eye, and Scully rubbed the inside crease of her palm against the drop so hard she pulled skin.  The baby bunched her shirt in his little fingers, clung to her.  

"I wanted to tell you, Mulder.  And you're right, I should have.  But then we found evidence of alien residue in that garage, and I thought we had been found, and I didn't know how to tell you.  How could I tell you?  I was so terrified that the second I told you, everything would come down on my head."  

Mulder crept closer, shook his disagreement at her.  He was going to scream.  He was going to lose his mind.  "That's not why, and you know it."

Scully's chin jutted.  "It is."  

"No."  Mulder glared at her.  "You were afraid that I would make you give it up. I wouldn't understand your desire to keep a baby, despite a world of reasons not to raise one.  Because I wasn't there the first time to really get it.  Isn't that right? You wanted to wait until I bonded with William.  You thought that maybe if I connected with my son, then I would understand. Because you think I don't understand now."  

Scully's watery eyes were pink, her lids puffed from the weight of her tears.  "You arrogant son of a bitch.  How dare you profile what you think my motives should be."  Her glare was dark, her eyes almost black.  "If you think you know everything then that's your business.  But what I told you is the truth.  If you don't trust me - "

Mulder pressed a hand to her forearm, squeezed."You don't trust me."  

When Scully didn't answer him or back down, his temper boiled over into his lungs, and then bubbled up out of his mouth.   "You think I wouldn't understand?  I understand. You think I don't know?  I know.  I wasn't the one who gave him up in the first place, was I?"  

With a look of disgust so intense it could have burned through the back of his head, Scully yanked her arm clear of him.  She yanked it back so hard her elbow banged the counter.  The only indication she gave of even feeling the sting was a slight wavering of her eyes.  Mulder held her gaze, and Scully held her ground.  William buried his face in her chest, whimpering.  Mulder was positive that if she weren’t holding the baby, she would have thrown the first punch.  And he would have hit her back.  They would have pummeled each other until the house came down around their ears.  

"You're the one who asked me to go," he hissed. "You're the one who made that choice."

Her nostrils flared, and he saw that he'd hit home.  "I may have asked you to leave but I didn't force you to go.  You left because you wanted to."  

"Why?"  His voice was low, his head pounding.  "Why in the hell would I want to go?"

"We both know why.  And it’s the same reason why you want to stay, now.”  

And thus, the gloves came off.  He took a painful, ragged breath.  "How dare you," he bit out.   "You have no idea what leaving you did to me.  I needed you, damn it. I still need you."  

Scully took a breath, her cheeks red, her brows raised in question. She looked as if someone had just bumped her in the head with the microwave door.  
"I’m taking the baby upstairs," she mumbled. “He needs to be put down for a nap.” Her face was the color of a fire extinguisher.  

"Good," Mulder mumbled back.  "That's good. Put him down, then."



And the end of the discussion was reached: no goodbyes, no concluding words, no apologies, no second chances.  Just like always.  And both turned and walked in opposite directions, he to his corner and she to hers, silence blanketing them in a smothering grip -

Just like always.  

Go on....