----------- 7 ------------
Back to the present,
He tells the story,
He stares off at the wall as if it’s speaking to him, and I have a feeling that he’s remembering something he’d rather not disclose to me. His eyes are clouded, foggy looking, and it’s almost eerie the way he can stare at something without looking at it once. He does it a lot. He’ll just start staring off at some inanimate object–At the office, in the field, in meetings that don’t particularly hold his attention… Like he’s living in two moments at once.
He is staring at the wall behind me, surely, but he is not seeing the wall or anything around it.
Like always, he is seeing her.
“Ah, Fox?” I ask again, waving a hand in front of his face. This time he apparently hears me, because he shakes his head as if warding off a particularly evil spell. His eyes blink a few times, his throat automatically clearing, and he leans backward into the couch as if trying to regain his bearings.
“Sorry,” he aplogizes, wistfully. “Where was I?”
I crack my neck warily and shift my hands in my lap, answering, “Weeks travelling? Heading out west?”
He frowns for a moment, as if the memory has somehow escaped him, and then he nods slowly, continuing, “Right…. West…” he clears his throat again and leans forward. “So anyway, the gunmen led us out west till we hit Ohio, and here we went above ground for the first time during the day since… well, since two weeks before. We stumbled onto the Laughton field office—almost by accident----and we requested our old jobs back----Scully and I, that is---since neither of us wanted to spend the rest of our lives running and hiding. The gunmen took up residence nearby, and then we finally contacted Scully’s mother. She was relieved to hear from us, to say the least, and she decided on a whim to move here in order to be near Scully.”
I nod and crack my knuckles, understanding that this is probably the simple part of the story. This is the part where he tells me how they started rebuilding their lives---how everything started to fall back into place for them in a new state with new lives.
Of course, though, I also understand that his story is not going to have a happy ending. It’s not going to be like the fairy tale---with the picket fence and the dog, the roses and sunshine poking through the rain clouds. This story is going to end the way my partnership with him began, and it is incredibly sad to sit here and listen to him tell it when I know how it’s going to end. Where is happily ever after when you need it?
So I manage the only thing my brain can come up with. “But it wasn’t ever after, was it Fox?”
His eyes close at that and he leans his head back, as if asking her for forgivness of some sort----asking for advice on how he should tell me this part---and then he looks at me. His hazel eyes shine soft and unwavering. His gaze is clear and sure.
“No,” he says. “It wasn’t.” He swallows, licking his lips, then tells me, “At first, we had to move into a two bedroom place---Scully and I, because we couldn’t afford anything else. We had just gotten our jobs back, and we thought it would be best. But then, since things had changed so drastically between us since the day we fled DC, it didn’t seem to bother either one of us to be sharing the same living space. For us, it was just a normal routine. We got used to each other. We went to work, we came home, we stayed out of the other’s way when it was needed, ate dinner together when we felt like it. We lobbied to try and get the X Files back, knowing that what had happened wouldn’t be the last we saw of the colonists, and for a few months, life was almost akin to normal. But then Scully started getting headaches and morning sickness, and we couldn’t just pretend that we didn’t know what it was. We wanted to, but we couldn’t.” His eyes start to cloud over, then he finishes, “Upon mutual agreement, Scully went to see an Obgyn. She had tests upon tests done, pregnancy tests, which, obviously came back positive, then amniocentesis’ or whatever those are, and the one both of us had dreaded— the paternity test. We didn’t know what to expect with that one, to be honest, but when we got the results back, it ended up shedding a little more light on what had been done… and why…”
Five and a half years earlier
Mulder and Scully’s apartment
Just outside Laughton, Ohio
Mulder cracked his neck and leaned back into the soft gray couch---the fuzzy one that they had purchased only a month earlier. It was nice and it was comfortable, but it was more Scully’s than it was his, and the place he usually sat was situated across from it----the worn leather chair----the one with the footrest he liked so much. But since Scully had thought it was ugly, she had condemned it to the corner of the room---burdening it to an odd angle from the television set. And that was ok for reading and what not, but it was awfully hard to act lazy when he had to lounge with his head at a funky angle. So instead, this afternoon, he occupied the couch, kicking his feet up on the wooden coffee table even though he knew Scully would kill him if she saw him. Whereas he was a mess in every sense of the word, she was neat and tidy and organized. Thank god they had separate rooms, he thought, or they’d kill each other for sure… Well… Not that he wouldn’t mind sharing a room with Scully, no, quite the opposite but…
His thoughts were interrupted when a key turned in the lock, the door creaking open to signal her arrival. His head half turned from his lazy position on the couch and he gave her a slight wave.
“Hey Scully,” he grinned, softly. “I put up some spaghetti, if you want some. I mean, I figured you wouldn’t be up to cooking or---“
“Thanks,” she mumbled, distractedly, then she nodded as if she were thinking of something else entirely. Something that had absolutely nothing to do with anything he had just said. She dropped her keys aimlessly to the nearby counter, and they clicked and rattled, then fell off the edge with a jingle. Mulder’s eyes followed them to the floor, but Scully walked right over them as if she hadn’t even noticed. Her fingers unevenly slid past the formica counter top, and her black heels trampled the Apollo 11 keychain he’d replaced for her only recently. Then she turned the corner, barely missing the end table, and her hands dropped her jacket over the side of the couch as she foggily wandered past. Sloppily, the cotton overcoat fell to the floor to join her forgotten keys, and she didn’t even acknowledge the mishap as she stumbled over it towards the direction of her bedroom.
Mulder’s eyes grew concerned, and he rose up off the couch, moving to follow her before she could lock herself in the privacy of her room---where she’d certainly ignore him for the rest of the night.
“Hey,” he called, pulling up behind her. “If it’s the spaghetti that offends you, I can get pizza.”
But this time she didn’t even bother to respond, not even to shake her head, and Mulder frowned, coming to stand in front of her to catch her attention.
“Scully,” he said softly, lifting a finger under her chin to raise her eyes to his, “Talk to me.”
She said nothing, but thankfully, she made no move away or towards him—and he took that as a good sign. He straightened his neck and watched her closely, continuing, “Something’s wrong. Is it the bloodtests? Did you get them back?”
Scully merely stared back at him, her sparkling azure eyes filled with a haze of confusion and something else he couldn’t understand. Her mouth gave nothing away, and all he could see was that the look on her face was strikingly similar to the one he’d seen on her years before---when their basement office had burned to the ground. It was that look which told of having been shellshocked to the point of numbness.
And for a moment, all was silent, still. Like the eye of a hurricane or the calm before the storm.
He forced a tiny smile and let his finger run up along her jaw, tracing the soft line of her cheek. ‘Tell me’ his eyes whispered to hers, pleading. ‘tell me, Scully.’
She sighed, and a shaky, slender arm came up to wrap around his hand. She lowered his fingers with gentle reverence, letting her palm curl around his in a show of faith, and she tried to smile back. It wasn’t a real smile, though---it never quite reached her eyes—and Mulder saw right through it.
“Scully,” he started, nervously. “What----“
“I got them back.”
She said no more and no less than that, and Mulder nodded, squeezing her hand tighter, taking a deep breath that seemed more confident than it felt. She had requested so many tests, he remembered, so many countless, nameless tests, and to try and even name all of them would take more knowledge of obstetrics than he would ever have. If one thing was certain between them, it was idea that he wouldn’t know medical knowledge if it hit him on the head and waved at him. Scully was the doctor and the scientist in this partnership, after all, and if there was something seriously wrong, she would know right away—and she would tell him. Or, at least, he hoped she would. If something had happened or something had come up in one of those tests that was anything less than what it needed to be…. Well, suffice to say, he shuddered to even think it.
Mulder looked down and nodded at her, then asked, “which one?”
She blinked and stared at him, biting her lip and trying to force back what looked like tears. His heart sank when he recognized the trembling lower lip.
Oh god, he thought. If Scully was crying, that meant this was big… Very big. It had to be. Mostly, because if Scully was anything, she was unemotional to the point of stubborness. She was calm, resolute…But then again, lately, her emotions had been wavering. Her hormones were starting to wreak havoc with her, and she was beginning to act a little less ‘Scully,’ and a little more ‘Sybil.’ It was almost frightening, the way her moods swung like a pendulum, but of course, he understood that underneath the craziness, she was still there. She was still Scully. And she still rarely cried.
So needless to say, this scared him.
He watched her with almost equaling trepidation and took long, slow breaths, trying to steady his heart. Her expression was teary but almost unreadable, and he couldn’t decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“The paternity test,” Scully finally answered, her voice barely above a whisper.
Mulder sucked in a breath. Oh god, he thought. The paternity one…
That was the test that had them both on edge---the one that they hadn’t wanted to see, if only because neither one of them really wanted to know just how far it had gone---how deeply Scully had been violated. They understood that if the paternity tests came back indeterminate as far as DNA went, chances were great that Scully was carrying another Emily within her. And the prospects of that terrified them both. But then, they also understood that if the paternity tests came back with an actual name—perhaps the name of some government higher up, the reppurcussions could be greater than either of them could fathom. Scully could be subject to more tests----she could be taken away. Scully’s child could even be taken away. The horrible possibilities were endless.
Mulder’s throat went dry and he took Scully’s hands in his, pulling them into a fist that rested between the two of them securely. He nodded to her in show of good faith. Their fingers twined together, like so many times before, and their eyes connected on that level that went above outward communication. He took a deep breath, then whispered, “whatever it is… we’ll handle it…” She nodded quietly, and he continued, “So what… what did it, um, say, Scully?”
A tear grazed down the ivory silk of her skin, almost unnoticed, and he reached a hand to her cheek to wipe it away. Her own hand followed his in suit, and she wrapped unsure fingers around the back of his knuckles, pressing his palm to her face as she closed her eyes. He watched her worriedly and did not speak as she swallowed and took long, deep breaths. Then her fingers ran up and down the back of his hand, sliding down to his wrist and then up again to his thumb and forefinger. When her eyes opened again, there was something in them he couldn’t place.
“It was indeterminate, wasn’t it?” he asked then, trying to get the words out without tripping and falling over them.
Scully bit her lip and sniffled slightly, shaking her head with that strange look on her face.
Mulder swallowed and nodded, trying to take that one in. His heart felt like a lead brick and his temples began to throb. “Ok…” he managed, hoarsely. “Then you have a name… It—we don’t have to tell anyone else, you know… Whoever it is, Scully, they don’t----“
“Don’t have to know?” she finished, gently.
Mulder’s lip quivered slightly and he nodded, gaze drilling into hers. She closed her eyes for a moment and shook her head at him, licking her lips to return the moisture.
“No,” she said, letting her hand slip from around his, “I mean yes, yes they do. I do, actually.”
Mulder frowned. “… do…. You do what?” he queried, confused.
“I do have to tell him,” she answered.
Mulder sighed and bit his lip so hard that he swore he could feel the coppery tang of his own blood. That Scully wanted to disclose the paternal results meant that the father was someone they knew, he thought, horror wracking his every pore. That Scully was willing to disclose such precarious information meant that she was carrying the child of some man they knew. Maybe someone they hated---the cigarette smoking bastard, Spender, by some act of God, or even, lord help them, Skinner… The idea of any of it was more than he could even begin to handle.
But somehow, he managed “why?” without breaking down completely.
Scully just breathed and watched him, silently.
“Why, Scully? He repeated, dread creeping up into his throat. “I don’t… I mean… why?”
Then the corners of Scully lips turned up slightly, hinting at the start of an almost rueful smile, and she answered, tearfully, “because…” her finger traced his jaw. “Because I work with him, I live with him, and I think he has the right to know.”
Mulder’s eyes went wide then, his body rigid, and he opened his mouth to speak---hoping that he would find the words to suit him, though none came out. His lungs sucked in another breath of oxygen, and then his lips turned up in a smile he couldn’t seem to help as he finally croaked, “you mean…me. Mine? It’s mine?”
Her lips pressed together in a wistful, matching smile, and she nodded through her tears, breathing, “yeah… Mulder…” Her left hand still caressed his jawline, and she raised her right one to rest over the beating of his heart. “I’m sorry,” she went on, tears continuing to cascade down her soft, smooth chin with an almost eerie silence. “If you don’t… want… I mean…I’d understand. I would, I mean… I do. I can leave, Mulder, if---“
“No… I mean… No, never.”
His fevered tone surprised even him, and when he reached a hand to clasp around hers, she swallowed, hard. “I mean… Scully…” He paused and searched for the right words.
She took the open opportunity and spoke.
“Mulder,” she sighed, wearily, heavily, “I’m not asking you for anything, here. I’m not your responsibility and… This wasn’t something you asked for, and it’s not something I am going to force upon you. This is something I---“
With each passing second he was feeling more confident, more exhilarated by the prospect of doing this with Scully, and he held steadfast to his beliefs.
“No,” he repeated, adamantly, “Don’t you tell me that you want to do this by yourself Scully, because I know that’s not what you want. I KNOW it’s not…” He sighed and listened to the rising and falling of her chest as if it could soothe his fears. “And trust me, I’m just as terrified as you are. I’m just as uncertain about everything, but I am not going anywhere. And as far as I’m concerned, you’re not either. So if I can’t…” he let his forehead fall to rest against hers, reverently, “If I can’t ever give you anything else, Scully, at least let me give you this.”
Scully’s breathing hitched, her chest rising and falling unevenly and she managed, “so what are you telling me, then?”
He closed his eyes and squeezed her fingers, lightly. “I’m saying… I mean…” he paused and tried again, “I mean… I think… for the first time in my life, Scully, I don’t want to risk everything looking for answers that aren’t there. I mean—I still want to find them—I still want the truth but… I ah, I don’t want to run away or… or shake my fist at the sky and chase shadows...” He breathed, then finished, “right now… in this moment… all I want is to stand in a doorway and watch you hold a baby in your arms… is that… is that ok to want?”
When she hiccuped, he could tell she was losing the battle to control her conflicting emotions. Her breath fell upon his lips like a gentle wind rustling across his face, and her hand gripped his even tighter. “Mulder…” she whispered, then, “yes…” as her mouth dipped closer. “Yes…” Her breathing shallowed and her lips pressed against the crease below his nose.
When she pulled her mouth away, slowly, her pulse thundering in her ears, their foreheads were still touching and their fingers were still intertwined. And when Mulder’s mouth opened to release the gentle, impassioned word “mine,” her heart was still beating so fast she couldn’t tell if he was referring to her, to the baby she carried inside her, or to both of them…
A few minutes later
Still in Mulder and Scully’s apartment
Five and a half years earlier
The tea he had made her was hot and sweet---doused with sugar, she could tell----and she gingerly brought it to her lips as her breath fell upon the mug to cool it. Mulder sat opposite her on the couch---arm draped over a corner, legs hanging leisurely off the side--- and he just watched her, intermittently, trying to focus himself on something tangible. Thus far, he was doing a lousy job.
Dinner had been a bust, neither of them having been able to work up much of an appetite since she had returned home, and the spaghetti had been scrapped as a result. Almost unconsciously, the TV had been shut off, the entire room falling into an uncomfortable silence, and Mulder had offered to make her tea out of a need to keep busy. She had agreed out of a need to find her personal space again.
And then they sat together on the couch in silence, neither of them speaking, neither of them knowing exactly what to say to placate the other. There was really nothing either of them could do to make things any less complicated or any less strange. So Scully just sipped her tea quietly, and Mulder watched her in between staring contests with a nearby wall. Scully would take a breath and Mulder would look away. Scully would lean back and Mulder would focus on her still slender abdomen—as if it were going to explode any moment. Finally, when she brought her knees up and tucked them beneath her, setting her tea down, she cleared her throat and broke the silence, nearly startling them both.
“So why this?” she asked, playing with the outer rim of her cup. “Why do this? Why use us like this?”
Mulder leaned back and watched her, frowning as he considered that. “I wasn’t sure at first,” he said, honestly, “but now that I’ve thought about it---I mean, since you told me, I think I have a theory.”
Her head leaned back into the couch, facing him. “A theory?” she questioned, warily. “A theory, as in totally implausible or a theory, as in somewhat substantial?”
He licked his lips and folded his hands behind his head. He shot her a look and answered, “a theory, as in workable and possible considering the situation.”
She nodded slowly at that, then, “I take it you’ve thought about this?”
He chuckled. “You mean in the last fifteen minutes?”
She smiled and blushed, her head casting down as if to shade her embarrassment. “It is kind of sudden, isn’t it?”
He didn’t answer her, only managed a half smile, and the room was once again bathed in that silence that permeated every square inch. Scully lowered her arms to rest them upon her lap, and her legs shifted so that she could lean further back into the gray cushions. Mulder’s eyes almost unwittingly watched the rise and fall of her chest, then lowered to gaze at the flatness of her abdomen. He pretended not to stare and she pretended not to blush.
“So, um… this theory you were about to tell me…” Scully’s arm waved out errantly in front of her, then fell to rest upon her lap again.
Mulder blinked for a moment, shaking his head as if he had lost his train of thought, then nodded. “Oh.. right, my theory…right…”
She watched him with rapt interest until finally he collected his thoughts. He blinked again and cleared his throat.
“Scully,” he asked, “what do you and I have in common?”
To that, he received a raised copper eyebrow and an extremely odd look. Her lips pursed as if the wheels in her brain were guiding her, and finally she managed, “you mean besides the workaholic, paranoid, X files, Mr and Mrs Spooky thing?”
He grinned. “Besides that.”
Her eyes widened and she watched him, stumped. “Besides that…” she murmured, “besides that, then I’d have to say…. nothing…” Then her head nodded as if her train of thought were leaving him at the station and she finished, “Huh…whatdya think of that?… nothing…absolutely nothing…”
He sighed and stared at her. His mouth thinned into a tight line, and he replied, “gee, thanks,” with all the enthusiasm of a fish on a baited hook.
Her head snapped back up to look at him. “Oh..” she exclaimed, softly. “Oh… Mulder…that’s not what I… I mean… you know what I meant when I---“
“Yeah.” He waved her off with an indifferent swat of his arm. “I know. Forget it.”
She nodded, uncomfortably.
“But um,” he swallowed. “Anyway, that IS true—what you said--- that you and I don’t have much in common, but we do share something, Scully. We share a common medical factor.”
Scully frowned and propped her elbow up on the arm of the couch. “What do you mean?” she questioned, confused. “You mean like an ailment we’ve both contracted, a particular genetic attribute, or an actual shared portion of our medical history?”
Mulder shook his head. “No, actually, more like a shared immunity.”
Scully’s brow furrowed. “A Shared immunity? To what?” she asked. “Like those Small Pox records we found? But that… that still doesn’t make sense in retrospect----Mulder, everyone and their sister was vaccinated against----“
“No,” Mulder interrupted, putting a hand out to halt her furthered statement. “No, not Small Pox, Scully.”
“Oh…” She blinked, mind deep in thought. “Well… then what… Mulder? If not Small Pox, then what?”
He stared straight at her, his gaze crashing its way into her blue, clear eyes like a plane into a mountain. He had no idea how much of his theory were true, how much of it could be possible, but he had a sneaking feeling that most of it was pretty dead on accurate.
“That virus,” he answered, lowly. “Remember, Scully? Remember Antarctica? Remember Russia?”
She watched him, strangely. “Russia?” she asked, befuddled. “What was---“ then her brain yanked up the memory of his disappearance a few years back---of her being thrown in jail and his run in with Kryceck. That business they had stumbled onto with the diplomatic pouch, and Mulder’s story upon his return---his claims of having been injected with something he hadn’t understood, then his being infected with some virus as a test of immunity. She blinked for a moment and then nodded, her eyes telling him all he needed to know. She remembered. She remembered all of it and understood what he meant when he said “virus.” Then her eyes went wide as if it were slowly dawning on her, and she asked, “Wait a second, Mulder… what are you saying? Are you suggesting that whatever it was we were vaccinated with----“
“Made us immune,” he finished for her, then waved an impatient hand in front of his face, continuing, “but not even so much that, Scully. I think it did more than that. I think it actually activated genes in us that were dormant---genes that had been nothing but junk before—like with that kid---Gibson Praise. I think that by so doing, it created a constant immunity that would arise in any individual carrying the awakened genes for the antibodies. Like a safeguard against ever becoming infected—a security gate of sorts.”
Scully nodded, thoughtfully. “Scientifically, I suppose it’s not unheard of…Like with a Polio or Small Pox vaccination… and now with the Chicken Pox vaccination,” she answered softly. “But even so, what would that have to do with this situation? Where does that fit in?”
Mulder grinned one of his sheepish grins. “I’m getting to it,” he told her, enigmatically.
She rolled her eyes, affectionately.
“So anyway,” he continued, “like I was saying, theoretically speaking, if these antibodies could be engineered to activate dormant genes, then once this was successfully done, recessive genes would probably be the result, right? ---- since the body would not create an abundance of them---seeing as how they were previously dormant. They’d be active, present in an individual’s genotype, but not dominant.”
Scully nodded, mutely. “I suppose,” she breathed, softly. “If you were talking in theoretic and hypothetical terms…”
“Right,” Mulder nodded back, then went on, “so let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that you and I now carry a recessive trait for this viral immunity. It is impossible for us to contract the disease or be affected by it, BUT… recessive genes only manufacture themselves when they’re paired together. Otherwise, the dominant trait masks the recessive trait. You and I have only one recessive trait each, but we’re immune because we’ve been vaccinated. However, we are only two people among two hundred billion, and if the vaccine ran out or was decimated by chance, then there would be no way to protect the public against the virus unless an immunity could be manufactured… in some other way…”
Scully’s eyes widened and she took in a breath, leaning forward, managing, “Ok, I think… I think I get what you’re saying, Mulder…. You’re saying that if it were possible to create such an immunity, if the antibodies for a viral infection could be produced in the form of recessive genes… like… like the ways in which certain genetic diseases are passed down, sickle cell anemia, for example, then thoeretically…”
“Theoretically speaking, two recessive genes, passed down from two immune parents, would create an immune child,” he finished, decisively.
Scully’s face paled and she nodded, slowly. “A carefully disguised, naturally orchestrated, instant cure,” she whispered, softly. Mulder nodded.
Her hands protectively came down across her abdomen, caressing the soft flatness of a stomach that carried life within her… a life which could now mean a new beginning for all medical science as they knew it…. Or, in the same breath, be taken from her in the span of a heartbeat. A life that could be abused and expoited as means for an end. A life she had unwittingly created with Mulder, and a life she was NEVER going to see taken from her—not as long as she lived and breathed.
Scully stared at Mulder and swallowed, hard, her lungs sucking in ragged breaths of oxygen. “My god… if it were possible, it would be their holy grail,” she whispered, horrified, tightening her arms over her stomach. “And we’d never be safe. Our baby would never be safe…. Oh, Mulder, it can’t be true…”