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“So.” He is sprawled out on his side of the bed, facing her. She is curled on her side, facing him. “What are we going to do, anyway?”

“Hm?”

“Well. I mean, it’s frowned upon when partners get together, but as long as you don’t flaunt it too much, the only real consequences are disapproving looks and gossip in the bullpen. But, you know, it’s a lot harder to deny things that have physical proof.” There is a double meaning in that quip, but the light caress to her abdomen and his soft eyes make it clear his primary focus is the proof in front of him.

“I think people thought we were flaunting it before we actually had anything to flaunt,” she muses.

“Don’t get me wrong, Scully; I’m in full support of any and all flaunting. But there’s gonna be more of you to flaunt soon in some very noticeable key areas, and I’m wondering how you want us to handle it.”

She wonders why, exactly, they’ve never had this conversation before. When they had been actively trying to get pregnant, talking about it seemed liable to jinx it, but now the fact that they’ve never talked about it strikes her as remarkably irresponsible.

“I suppose it won’t be too much longer before people start to notice,” she allows.

“We could both just coyly and adamantly declare that we have no idea how you ended up pregnant and see how much mileage we can get out of the difference between technically correct and actually correct. It might be enlightening to find out how far we can stretch it.” There’s a pause. “But, to tell you the truth, I was going to take paternity leave.”

She probably would have been able to guess that, if pressed, but hearing him say so aloud still fills her with a rush of warmth. She shifts to better see his face. He looks a bit shy, so she smiles at him, lets the warmth shine through her expression. He smiles back.

“So... given that, presumably, the FBI is eventually going to notice that you’re pregnant and come to the inescapably correct conclusion that I knocked you up, what are we going to do?”

“Well, Skinner might be able to help us navigate the official policies and discern which rules may or may not be bent. Help us figure out the best steps to take and when to take them to arrive at the desired outcome.”

He makes a face. “That sounds like a conversation to look forward to.”

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

“Not really. Although I’m still a little fuzzy on what we desire the outcome to be.”

She inspects him carefully, but his expression is open—he genuinely means it. She still treads warily, in part because she hasn’t really answered that question for herself yet. “What do we want for the X-Files?”

“We’re asking that question before we ask what we want for ourselves?” She studies him again. He’s legitimately asking.

“I mean... It’s our work, Mulder. It’s important work, and it’s certainly been important to me. And to you. I don’t want to just throw it all away.”

He sighs. “No—That’s not what I want, either. And that’s not what I mean. But... our work, our professional legacy? I don’t know if it relies so heavily on constant tending by you and me anymore. There will always be more unsolved and unsolvable cases, yes. But we’ve solved a considerable number, shone light into the darkness. Witnessed the destruction of a vast government conspiracy. Found my sister. Honestly, we’ve gotten more answers than I ever expected to get when I re-opened the department. And no one can take that away from us.”

“Do you think they’ll close the X-Files?”

“I hope not. But... I wonder if that would be preferable to having someone with ulterior motives take over. The X-Files department while we’ve run it has been an instrument for truth, but could just as easily become an instrument of obfuscation.” She knows that he’s thinking about Diana.

“You think we’ll be reassigned either way.”

“Eventually. And even without our intimate personal involvement becoming directly obvious. We already were in budgetary trouble, and, let’s face it, I doubt an unsanctioned trip to Oregon followed immediately by another, canceled unsanctioned trip to Oregon made the accounting department any happier with us.”

She frowns, starts to say something in their defense, but he waves her off.

“No, no I didn’t intend to fault us for that. Things... happen sometimes, and we can only handle them to the best of our ability. I mean, to some extent, it certainly wasn’t good, but they were already looking for a reason to take us off the X-Files. I doubt these past few months have made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.”

The grand scheme of things reminds her that they never actually finished their most recent field case; what happened in Bellefleur and what that all means remains an open question. Some questions are simply destined to remain open, of course—both of them know this well—but she worries that this one requires more probing before it can be safely consigned to that category.

“Mulder... about Oregon. We still haven’t figured out what happened there or the possible significance of it. I don’t think we should just assume that it was all a big fluke, a mistake, and pretend that nothing’s wrong in the world.”

He groans, squirms onto his back, and drapes his elbow dramatically over his eyes. “If you and our child didn’t have to live in the world, I would tell it to go screw itself.”

She gives him a bemused look. Scolds gently, “Mulder.” She has occasionally had this inclination herself, true, but still. Telling the world to go screw itself seems at least slightly irresponsible.

He moves his arm, turns his head on the pillow to look at her again. “I’m serious. I’ve been actively trying to save the world now for half my life, and all I ever got for it was a lot of personal pain, a reputation for crazy, and proof that evaporates as soon as anyone else gets close to it. You know what I mean; you’ve had that delightful experience, too. But we—you and I—have finally ground down the conspiracies, fought to a place where we might be able to rest for a bit. Take a breather. And just as we’re getting ready to start, here’s the world again. ‘Oh, Fox, were you and that inimitable partner of yours thinking that you might actually have the chance to be happy together? That’s nice, but I’m in real, serious danger now, and could you please come and save me again?’ Telling the world to go screw itself would be me being polite.”

There is a smile in her eyes, but it’s a little sad. She focuses on the less-consequential, teases, “So, the world gets to call you Fox, but I don’t?”

“The world loves me far less than you do.”

“Probably true,” she concedes.

“Undeniably true,” he corrects.

There is a reflective moment of silence. He eventually breaks it with a sigh. “Well, whatever was going on out there, I don’t think it’s still in Oregon, at least not anymore. I doubt there was truthfully anything more to find that you and I hadn’t already found. That whole disappearing evidence thing. I haven’t heard anything new via the usual channels, and no one else has bubbled up through the unusual ones to try to lure me to my doom.”

She frowns at his flippancy. His doom had been far too close a thing for her liking. “Mulder, you need to tell me if you learn something critical, so we can figure out the best thing to do—if anything—together.”

He touches her cheek, a brief caress, an acknowledgment. “I promise.” He means it. She believes him. “The most I’ve heard is that there’s some kind of unusual activity in the southwest. The boys are picking up occasional noise on the message boards and radio frequencies, and I know Skinner’s got intel to similar effect.”

His words elicit a tinge of recognition at the edge of her consciousness; she searches around until she finds the source. “You know, I heard that Kersh sent John Doggett down there not so long ago. The official explanation was they were searching for someone, but it struck me as odd. Especially because I don’t remember hearing about a resolution for that case, one way or the other.”

“Oh, right, Deputy Director Kersh. I think I liked it better when Kersh didn’t outrank Skinner.” A pause. “Doggett seems like an odd choice for that, doesn’t he?”

“You mean because he has such a no-nonsense reputation?”

“Right, we’re full of nonsense, Scully, along with our budgetary largesse. Maybe Doggett’s damage control—cleaning up after us. But still... I mean, I don’t know the guy personally, but he’s also got a reputation for integrity, right? If Kersh is in league with the Consortium—or whatever’s left of it, at any rate—I don’t think his purposes are gonna be best served by getting John Doggett involved.”

“Maybe it’s a coincidence. I just remembered hearing about it, and your mentioning the southwest reminded me. It could be completely unrelated.”

“Maybe... I should go down there myself. Do a little unofficial digging around; see what I can find out?”

“No, Mulder, that’s not what I meant. I don’t want you to put yourself at risk for this.”

He scoffs a little. “How is that risky?”

She glares at him. He’s trying, but this taking-his-personal-safety-seriously thing is relatively new. “Mulder, you saw the medical profiles. If you go down there, you’ll be a target. You might even endanger whoever they’re looking for—if it’s related at all. You and whoever else could end up forming a giant homing beacon, like all the abductees in Bellefleur.” Impending fatherhood and her sometimes-tricky pregnancy make him more careful than he used to be with himself. He doesn’t want to leave her in any permanent capacity, and he doesn’t like being too far away in case she has serious complications. But still, she knows him, knows that her most effective argument involves his presence risking others.

“Thought you didn’t believe in aliens, Scully.”

“It’s not necessarily aliens, but it is dangerous. We’ve established that whatever it is, it probably wants you. It doesn’t want me. So if you really think someone with experience should go down there, it should be me.”

He looks at her in horror. She was mildly afraid of this. “But, Scully, you’re...”

“I’m what?” The challenge in her voice stops him from saying something perhaps unwise.

“Well, you’re... there’s two of you,” he dodges.

“Only one of us has much of a brain right now, to speak of.”

“Yeah, but still... You said yourself that it was dangerous.”

She takes pity on him. A little. “Our jobs are dangerous, Mulder. At least they are right now. So that brings us right back around to your question. What are we going to do?”

“Well... We could both quit the Bureau altogether. That would certainly make Deputy Director Kersh happy, but it might leave Skinner in a bit of an unpleasant lurch. And I admit that I’m not sure what it would do to our work in the FBI. It might have to sit for quite awhile like it did after Arthur Dales left and before I discovered it. You could go be a doctor. I could... well, it’s not like I need the money.” He mumbles this last bit, and she realizes that they will eventually need discuss to just what extent he doesn’t need the money. But his occasional, glancing references to it have made clear that it’s a sensitive topic, possibly painful, and she wants to approach it gently.

“I think doing nothing would be bad for you, Mulder,” she says instead.

“It wouldn’t be nothing, necessarily. I could be a stay-at-home father,” he smiles warmly at her, and she feels absurdly shy when she smiles back. “Could be quite an adventure. And most of my extended family and their social circle would not understand it at all, and some of them would be scandalized, and I admit that thought is very appealing.”

“You rebel.”

“I mean, you’re still an MD and a pathologist. You could be a coroner, a hospital specialist, a researcher. It’s not like my field of study is particularly useful outside of law enforcement. I’m a profiler. I’ve never been a clinician.”

“You have an MSc from Oxford, Mulder, and more than ten years’ experience with the FBI. You’re not unemployable if you want to be employed.”

There’s another moment or two of reflection before he picks up the thread again. “I suppose one or both of us could always stay with the FBI. I’m sure a number of departments would be happy to have you. The higher-ups would probably be relieved that you decided to quit wasting your career with your ludicrous partner until you start showing and they realize you’re wasting your life with him instead. Behavioral Science would certainly take me if I asked for a transfer— it’s a support unit, so less field work than the X-Files, though potentially some. But honestly, I don’t know if I could do it. Not all the time.” She nods; she knows the toll that extended profiling takes on his mental well-being. Mulder isn’t Bill Patterson—studying monsters has never made him into one. But his focused intensity and empathy (which help to make him a very good profiler) also cause those cases to wear hard on his psyche.

He smirks, lightens the conversation. “Maybe they’ll find someone trustworthy to run the X-Files, and I’ll end up consulting for them and for Behavioral Science. And you’ll be called in to look at all the weirdest bodies.”

Scully snorts. “You’ll be a stay-at-home father who consults on all the most baffling and horrible cases that stump everyone else at the FBI? When our child starts comprehending the world, we’ll have to get you an office with very good locks.”

He laughs, and it makes her feel warm. She continues. “I don’t know, Mulder. You could be a writer. I’ve always found your stories enchanting, and you certainly have a way with words.”

He looks surprised at that, if bashfully pleased. “Yeah? I’m flattered, Scully, but I think personal fondness for the author might be affecting your opinion of his work.”

“He certainly thinks very highly of his personal charms.”

“Well, they work well enough on the only audience he’s cared about in a very long time.”

She’s charmed in spite of herself; she smiles at him, and she thinks she might be blushing. Pregnancy hormones have certainly made her easy prey to this type of sweetness.

She reroutes her brain and the conversation back to the topic at hand. “I have thought more than once about going back to Quantico and teaching again. Or I could do research and lab casework based there. More regular hours, fewer shootouts. You wouldn’t have to be based at Behavioral Science to work out of Quantico, you know. You could always teach. I’m sure they’d love to have you teach profiling, especially because they could still use you as a case consultant. Maybe you could sneak in a few classes on X-Files.”

He laughs deprecatingly, but there’s no bite to it. “I’m not sure if they want me around the bright-eyed recruits, Scully. I might teach them insubordination.”

“I wouldn’t advertise your insubordinate tendencies, but I actually think it could be good for them. You don’t have Bill Patterson’s temperament, and I think that would make you a better teacher. You wouldn’t demand obedience and idolization or any slavish adherence to one methodology.”

He smiles at her. It’s genuine. “I’ll consider it. Hey, if we’re both teaching, maybe you and I can run seminars on partnerly communication. I know we skillfully managed to escape attending, but I bet we could teach ’em.”

She laughs out loud. A joyful little burst. “Mulder!”

“Well, we do have a thriving professional partnership, Agent Scully. What? You think the fact that we ended up having a kid together might make us a bad example?”

“Maybe. I doubt we should advise young recruits to anticipate that their FBI partners will be the great loves of their lives. We put a lot of respect, work, and trust into our partnership and friendship before it developed into anything else.”

“Hmmm.” There’s warmth and love in his eyes, along with an unvarnished happiness she will never tire of seeing in him. “I’m the great love of your life, huh?”

She peers at him, a bit of earnest directness bleeding through the playfulness. “That surprises you?” She doesn’t want it to have surprised him.

“No... I-I suppose not. I’m just... not used to hearing things like that, I guess.” His voice takes on a slightly-dreamy air. “I could certainly get used to it... to hearing that from you.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Although my mother is hinting, rather blatantly at this point, that I should be calling you ‘husband’ instead.”

His lips twitch a bit. “Let me tell you, Scully, from bitter experience, getting married because you think it will make your parents happy really just makes everyone miserable.”

Sometimes it’s easy for her to forget this about him.

“So you wouldn’t want to get married?” There is honest curiosity in her question, not hurt disappointment. She has no doubt that he loves her with an uncommon devotion, and she doesn’t foresee marriage changing that. One way or the other.

“Mmmm, I didn’t mean that. Have you ever known making a catastrophic mistake to put me off doing something, Scully?” He shifts and sighs. “I just...would...I would want you to know the reasons for your answer, Scully, and I’d want you to be sure that they were yours.”

“Mulder?”

“Yeah?”

“No matter what you think about the tattoo on my back, or what my father thought about my job, or what my brother thinks about my life, or what fucking CGB Spender thought about my ability and willingness to love you, my reasons for doing things have always been my own.”

He rolls back onto his side, props his head on his elbow, and reaches over her to tap his finger on the circle of her tattoo in a brief caress. “Fair enough.”

She scoots closer to him so his arm folds over her in a loose hug and she can nuzzle at his t-shirt. It’s definitely approaching the end of its lifespan; the fabric is thin and there’s a hole at the collar and one at his shoulder. She plays with the hole at the collar: pokes at it with her finger and traces a pattern on the underlying skin of his neck. “You know, Mulder, you’re not actually all that domestic.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Your apartment is a mess; it’s a wonder you pay any of your bills on time because you stash your mail all over the place; your clothing is either dry-clean or incredibly simple, durable cotton because most laundry is beyond you; and I’ve never actually seen you cook beyond warming up takeout or soup from a can. You also may have inadvertently developed a new form of sentient life in your refrigerator.”

“Aww, Scully, I thought as a scientist you’d appreciate my new life forms. And just because I don’t tend to cook doesn’t mean I can’t. I’ve never really been one to cook for myself, and until relatively recently, it had been a very long time since I had anyone else to cook for.”

There is more sweetness there, but she continues in her practical teasing. “And you’re not exactly handy.”

He is mock-offended. Puffs out his chest a little. “What? Why, Scully, you wound my masculinity.”

Her rejoinder is very calm and evidence-based, as are most of her rejoinders. Unlike most of her rejoinders, she accompanies this one with a pat to his chest. “Your masculinity is not under consideration. But I’ve seen you trying to fix a sink, Mulder.”

“...That doesn’t count. Henry Weems was distorting the luck all around everyone else. I was in a luck-vacuum. It’s not my fault that I fell through the floor.” He sounds just a touch sullen. She might let him off the hook, but she currently finds the pouting too adorable.

“You weren’t having much luck before that.”

“I hate to belabor the point, Agent Scully, but there is that word ‘luck’ again.”

“Uh huh. Luck had nothing to do with the part when you didn’t know which way to turn the wrench. If you had any practical experience whatsoever, you would have at least taken off the jacket, tie, and shirt.”

“That would’ve been very immodest of me. Don’t you have any regard for my virtue?”

“I enjoy besmirching your virtue.”

Scully.

“And my point stands.”

“...I’ll grant it. And call a plumber in such contingencies. But I’m still fully capable of tending and nurturing living things. If you need proof, you can walk out into the living room and admire the rich inner lives of my fish.”

“I don’t know, Mulder. One of your mollies looks kind of sick to me.”

He pulls away a bit to frown exaggeratedly down at her, but his eyes are a little sad. Perhaps she’s pushed the teasing too far. She levels a serious, but soft gaze at him and says, quite sincerely, “Mulder, I’ve never known anyone to love as earnestly or loyally as you. You are gentle and kind and deeply empathetic. I have no doubt that you will be fully-invested in our child’s welfare and nurturing, and they will be very lucky to have you for a father.” He seems reasonably buoyed by that, so her smile turns sly, and she allows the teasing back. Just a little. “I merely meant that if you end up responsible for more of our domestic chores, I’ll probably have to lower my standards on clutter. And you might want to learn how to dust.”

“You know, I read that there’s this theory that exposure to dust and allergens in early childhood is associated with a lower risk of developing allergies.”

“I need to start taking the childhood development reading away from you.”

“I thought you were a believer in being prepared.”

“There’s a limit to how much preparation can be practically gathered from books.” She scoots back a bit more to get a better look at his face. “Seriously, though, Mulder, how are you feeling about this?”

“Seriously? I’m scared absolutely shitless. Until recently, this isn’t a role I had imagined myself in. This may have escaped your notice, Scully, but I’m not very used to being wanted. Much less needed on such a fundamentally biological level. But I have faith in you and in the two of us together, and I’m also more excited than I’ve ever been about anything.”

“Me too,” she says, very quietly, almost as though it is a secret. She smiles at him, he smiles back, and they lapse into thoughtful silence for awhile. It’s not quite an easy silence for her, though. There’s still a swirling uneasiness beneath the surface. She’s tried to ignore it, tried to simply let herself (both of them) be happy, but she can’t, not honestly. She finally breaks the silence with a question she doesn’t want to ask, but hasn’t been able to put out of her mind.

“Mulder? When do you think it happened?”

“Hmm? When what happened?”

“You know...” she gestures downward at where the swelling in her abdomen is just starting to become visible.

“Oh. That. Well, I’m not a medical doctor, Scully, but I think I remember learning that usually happens in the midst of a woman’s menstrual cycle. And, uh, not that I’m tracking your periods or anything—because that is absolutely something a man should never confess to—but I seem to remember the last one for you being in the middle of July. So sometime after that. Between then and the middle of August, I would say. And—though remember, I’m not a medical doctor—I also recall, very vividly, a number of interludes during those weeks that, to the best of my understanding, could result in a baby.”

“Hmm.” And as much as she wishes she could accept that answer and leave this alone, take it at face value and not probe deeper, she can’t. Any more than she could simply leave Oregon alone and pretend that none of it had happened.

He pulls back to search her face. She isn’t sure what she wants him to see. She avoids his eyes.

“Scully?” he murmurs softly. “Scully, talk to me.”

She still can’t look at him. “What if... what if—Mulder, this wasn’t supposed to be able to happen. What if I’m still an experiment? If they’re using me, using both of us—what if we’re just experiments in their extended laboratory?” She feels a tear leaking out and hates both it and herself for insisting on dredging this up.

Mulder is silent for a moment. Probably reflecting.

There’s a deeper fear in her, one that she’s not speaking aloud. She’s afraid of what Spender did to her, that one time when she had taken a page out of Mulder’s irresponsibly impulsive book and agreed to go off with Spender alone, had thought the potential gain was worth the personal risk. Mulder had been terrified and then furious; she had been embarrassed at her foolishness and then furious at his hypocrisy. They had carried on being furious with each other for about a week before drifting together again in a gentle, tentative, chaste rapprochement that lasted another two weeks. Then she asked if he thought she was somehow tainted, and he stammered that he thought he was being considerate by giving her space, and the ensuing reconciliation was exceedingly thorough and exceedingly unchaste.

All this was back in March, however (although the reconciliation activities spilled into April). And, as indicated by Mulder’s inexpert, but essentially correct, discourse on reproductive biology, March was far too early for it to have had any horrifyingly direct impact on her pregnancy.

She knows this, intellectually. But, still, she’s faced once again with the unknown, in a terrifyingly personal capacity. And she hasn’t been able to reason her way out of it. Mulder is better with this kind of mystery, so she lays out to him what she can bear to say and hopes that he will be able to intuit what she can’t.

“I have thought about it, Scully,” he says, quietly. “And I do have a few theories, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Before we get to those... I want you to know that I’m willing to take whatever tests you’d like that might put your mind at ease. Within reason. I don’t want us to turn the kid into our own experiment trying to disprove his or her experimental status. But also—Scully, I love you. I love both of you, and that isn’t going to change, no matter which of my theories ends up proving correct.”

The combination of deep sincerity and flippant arrogance finally draws her eyes back to meet his. He smiles reassuringly at her and pushes her hair over her ear before turning to lie on his back and tugging her with him until her head is resting on his shoulder and his arm is encircling her back.

“Were you going to tell me of these theories, Mulder?” she prompts him. Listening to him spin out his thoughts is familiar; she feels steadier already. She settles her head into his shoulder, rests her hand on his chest, and allows the physical comfort to ground her further.

“Well, actually I was going to tell them to whoever is in there,” he taps in the general direction of her womb with his fingertips, “but I seem to remember you indicating a fondness for my stories earlier, so settle in. Once upon a time—” 

“Mulder—”

“Shhh, listen. Once upon a time there was a girl. She was brave and smart and good, and she fought injustice where she found it and tried to make her little pieces of the world just as good as she was. During her adventures, she happened upon an unfortunate prince. He was also brave and smart and good—”

“Was he?”

“He likes to think he is. Anyway, in addition to being those things, he was also cursed. That wasn’t his fault, really, but it was unfortunate, as I mentioned. The two of them, the girl and the prince, found that they had the same outlook and the same goals, and so they struggled on together. They had a lot of adventures and discovered a lot of dazzling, wondrous things. They also saw some terrible things—almost died a couple of times. The girl got captured by a band of sorcerers, and they cursed her, too. The doctors said that the curse meant she’d never have children. But she was brave and strong, and she came back, and she kept fighting so that no one else would get captured like she had been.

“So she and the prince kept fighting and adventuring and discovering. Until one day the prince got very sick. He couldn’t talk or move, and he was confused and in constant pain. He was going to die, and no one knew how to help him. Curses suck. The girl wasn’t ready to give up on him, though. Most of the people surrounding her expected her to simply sit by his bed and cry and watch him die, but she wouldn’t accept his fate. And so, even though it was lonely and no one else believed her, she searched for a cure for him, followed where the evidence took her, and traveled all the way to the other side of the world to save him.”

“Mulder?”

“Yeah?”

“I think there was also some sitting by his bed and crying.”

“You do?”

“I’m pretty sure, yes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t hold it against her. I’ve been in that situation myself, and I remember doing quite a lot of bedside sitting and crying. Anyway, when she got all the way to the other side of the world, she uncovered a mysterious artifact. She hoped it might be what she was looking for, might help her save the prince, and so she buckled in to study it. She was a very serious-minded individual and also very smart, as I said. And it was miraculous, what she found; the literal Word of God. Like most miracles, it was a little bit disguised and also a little bit unsettling to the people who encountered it. But there, fighting alone to save the boy that she loved, on the other side of the world, the girl touched the Word of God. And it healed her in its miraculous, invisible way—she didn’t even perceive that the curse had lifted until later, when she had a baby with the boy that she had managed to save after all.”

“I thought he was a prince.” Her nose is now nuzzled into the bottom of his chin.

“He was, but most fundamentally he was just a boy who loved a girl.”

“How did she save him? Wasn’t he sick?”

“Oh right. That part. Well, as it turns out, he had been taken away to a secret prison laboratory, and when she got back from the other side of the world, she had to confront one of the guards who captured him in order to ferret out an entrance. Then she broke into the prison and rescued him. And then the girl made him undergo a lot of very tedious medical tests before she was satisfied that he was as well as anyone could possibly determine.”

“That’s a lovely story, Mulder. Do you believe it?” She’s almost afraid to ask. The theory is beautiful in its way and almost plausible enough to believe, but she needs his conviction; she can’t do it alone.

“I do. But I’m not done yet; there are a couple twists to this story, too. Sorta like that ‘Clue’ movie from the ’80s—there are variations to it, and it can come out with slightly different endings, depending on the variation. In one of them, the curse in the girl and the curse in the boy interact in an unexpected, unprecedented way and let them have a child together. Another version has it that the sorcerers who initially captured the girl botched their technique when they tried to curse her—she was cursed, but not as completely as they intended her to be. There’s an account that includes an additional episode wherein the girl tries to outwit the chief evil sorcerer but instead falls into a trap he sets for her. The chief sorcerer tries to curse her even more fully, add to her pain and punishment, but, in his hubris, he accidentally reverses her curse instead. Or it’s always possible that she wasn’t healed by anything at all and the doctors were simply wrong when they told her that she would never bear children. MD’s have been known to be wrong, on occasion.”

“On rare occasion.”

“Whatever you say, Doc. I think one of my favorite twists on this tale is that the child is the simple result of the very human love of two people who never dared to imagine that they could have anything so remarkably, ordinarily wonderful.”

It’s plausible that there are tears leaking from under her eyelids into his neck. He doesn’t say anything about it directly, but he does tip his head down to kiss the part of her hair before continuing softly. “They’re all miracles, though, in their different ways. God works through mysterious means, so I’ve been told.”

“You don’t believe in God, Mulder.”

“Ah, but my heroine does. Which seems to be the most relevant belief to this story, doesn’t it?”

“Hmm.” She nuzzles into his neck, stays quiet for a moment, lets him rub gently up and down her back. She feels better, looser, more relaxed. “Which one do you think is the most likely to be true?”

“I really don’t know. Maybe they’re all true. Like quantumly true: parallel universes or something like that.”

“It’s not parallel universes, Mulder. There has to be a definitive answer, even if we never learn exactly which one it is.”

“Always so literal. Well, pick your favorite then, Scully. Personally, I haven’t decided which one I like best. It keeps changing, depending on my mood. But all those stories are beside the point, anyway.”

“They are?”

“They were necessary to illustrate it. But I think the deepest truth lies in the convergence; that regardless of exactly what happened, we still ended up right here together. Having this conversation.”

“You certainly have a tangential way of coming to a point, Mulder.” She lifts herself from his shoulder a bit to make sure he can see her raised eyebrow. Her voice has recovered its playful edge. He has soothed her, as he has always been able to, different layers of meaning  seeping into the cracks in her psyche and resetting the concrete.

He smooths her hair away from her face, then gently redirects her head back to his shoulder. “That’s really the only way to express some truths, Scully. They’re too big to grasp directly; we can only describe the evidence.” He runs a gentle hand down her arm, takes a detour around to her belly and lingers there. She covers his hand with both of hers.