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She comes home from the hospital to her empty apartment where there is nothing she wants to see, then to his empty apartment where she feeds his fish and draws circles with her left hand on her abdomen. We made you here, she thinks. On his couch, she watches the blank screen of his TV, dazed. His computer disappears. Her computer disappears. She vomits. She calls her mother. She meets the man that’s taken on the impossible task—so earnest, so by-the-book—so unequipped to find her partner.

A week after he’s taken, she stands among scrub grass and cacti, screaming his name into the dark. Beside her the boy Gibson touches her elbow. “It’s there,” he says and points.

“Where? Can you hear him?”

“Yes.”

But they are ripped away from the ship—by FBI helicopters and trucks, shot in the foot by their own people—before she can even think how to possibly reach him.

She comes, slowly, to trust this other man John, though he won’t believe her about Mulder’s abduction. She takes her prenatal vitamins with decaf coffee in the morning, grimacing at the taste. Her mother doesn’t understand, but brings her soup, crackers, ginger ale. She sits on the couch and watches her daughter cry, pats her knee with the empathy of a woman who has been pregnant and alone for long stretches, though never quite like this.

There is a sense of pressure in her belly, of fullness always, like she’s eaten too much, like there’s no more room. On a fuzzy monochrome screen she finds the shape of a peanut, hears the whoosh whooshof a tiny heart and thinks Oh Mulder, it’s real. The doctor tells her that January 9 is her due date and she thanks her, takes the plasticky printout of the ultrasound paper to hang on her fridge. She touches the peanut shape in the mornings while she drinks her bad coffee alone.

A month goes by. Then two.

The air crackles hot in August and she burns with it—she has too much blood for this heat. Her suits are too tight, her skin is too tight. Her organs complain until one day she doubles over in pain as her strained abdominals split to make room for all her internal shifting. She thinks of those gestating monsters screeching to life in jelly-like bodies, of explosions of blood and claws in the Arizona heat.

“Agent Scully, you alright?” Doggett grips her arm and tries to straighten her, but the tearing sensation grows. She pulls the trashcan to her and vomits. He brings her water in a paper cup.

“You have some bad sushi or somethin’?” he asks.

She smiles at him sadly as she gets hold of herself. “Not quite.” She needs to tell him. The concerned look on his face pushes her over the edge. “I’m pregnant,” she says, and his concern turns to utter shock. When she tells him how far along, a new kind of understanding comes onto his face, but he doesn’t ask questions, for which she is very grateful. Eventually, he forgives her for not telling him sooner.

Two days after her confession, a crackling, distant voice comes through her phone. “Agent Scully,” it says: Gibson’s far-away voice. “Agent Scully, it’s coming back.”

She packs two bags and flies west.

_+_

 

Helena Montana, a drab motel room: Gibson, Scully, Doggett, Skinner.

“They’re bringing them back,” Gibson said, blunt as ever: “They’ve changed their brains.”

Doggett, pacing the small room, pinched his lips in frustration. “What are you talkin’ about?”

Behind his wire-framed glasses, the teenager narrowed his eyes. “They changed their brains so they can’t fight back. Mulder and the others. So they can’t fight back like I can.”

On the room’s small desk, a police radio squawked, and they all listened to hear if it were news. When it became clear that it wasn’t, Scully turned to Gibson.

“What you can do, that’s something that can be turned on, right? In some people or in everyone?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. But it’s why they wanted me so badly before. It’s why they’re still after me now.”

Skinner heaved a sigh and stood from the desk chair, but with John’s pacing, there was nowhere to go. “Alright, so now what? They’re just turning off this god module or whatever it is and dropping everyone back off? That’s it? We just wait to collect their trash?” Scully bit her lip to keep from objecting to this. Realizing what he’d said, Skinner winced, then softened his features.

“I think what’s important here,” Scully said, “is that we find the people who were taken and make sure they’re okay, and that we protect Gibson and any others who might help us win whatever might lie ahead. That means Gibson should stay here when we go out, and someone needs to stay with him.”

Skinner and Doggett looked at each other for a moment, battling it out in steely gazes. “I’ll stay with him,” Doggett said eventually.

“No,” Gibson’s eyes were wide. “Agent Scully has to stay.”

“What? No, I’m not staying. If Mulder is out there, I need to get to him.”

For the first time, Gibson looked frightened. He reached out his hand and touched Scully’s arm. “I couldn’t tell before, which is good. That means they don’t know either.” Wide eyes peering up at her, an unusual nervousness to his speech. “Agent Scully, your baby is like me.”

There were tears, some arguing, but in the end, they trusted Gibson. Skinner and Doggett patrolled as much land as they could until the reports started coming through the staticky radio: strange lights, electrical disturbances, car crashes from distracted drivers. And then—people in a field. Dazed. Lost. Uncertain how they’d gotten there.

Scully had taken up the path of Doggett’s pacing, hand on her belly, ear to the radio always. People in a field. People, not bodies. She felt little flutters of movement from inside her, sparked by her agitation, her restlessness. She thought: Be calm. I’m sorry. It’s okay.

The movements slowed.

She looked at Gibson, who was reading on one of the double beds. She saw him now as he must have been: an infant, someone’s child, a toddler stacking blocks: loved. And what he’d become: quarry, fodder, a weapon in someone else’s war: hunted. How few times she’d bothered to see him as the former, she thought, ashamed.

“Gibson, where are your parents?” She asked.

He looked up at her suddenly, as if in surprise. A little smile turned up the corner of his mouth. “You know, no one has asked me that in a long time.” He thought for a moment. “I don’t think they’re dead, but I haven’t seen them since I first met you. I think those men who wanted me took them.”

“And you haven’t tried to find them?”

He shook his head. “Not safe.”

Scully looked at his socked feet stretched out and stacked on the bed, his too-big tshirt, his khakis with holes in the knee. “Do you miss them?” she asked.

The smile was gone now. “Yeah.”

She walked over and sat beside him, put her arm around the boy, who stiffened at first before relaxing. She wondered how long it had been since someone hugged him. “I’m sorry,” she said. “If… when we figure all this out, we’ll find your parents. We’ll make sure you have a family to stay with. Even if it’s us.”

Before the silence could stretch into awkwardness, her cell phone rang: it was Skinner.

“We got him,” he said. “I’m bringing him to you.”

They’d thought the location random—chosen for its sparse population, its vast expanses of open land, perhaps. But they were wrong. A UFO cult, a cluster of abductees in the outskirts of Helena had been kept off the map. This trip was a dropoff and a pickup, another round of collecting and neutralizing potential human weapons. Scully found this out later. After.

Skinner brought him back whole, as he’d promised, only three months late. Scully was out the door and on the sidewalk before the engine of Skinner’s rental car cut off, and they were flying to each other across a motel parking lot, crashing into each other with arms and lips and legs while Skinner stood awkwardly and rubbed his bald head.

“You’re back, you’re back,” she was saying into his mouth and his hand was buried in her hair as he fell back against the car with the weight of her, his muscles weak from disuse. “Are you okay?” Genuine concern in her voice, but she was also nearly laughing with relief, with the unbelievable solid weight of him here in her arms. He was wearing the same clothes he’d disappeared in, as if no time at all had passed.

Mulder kissed her again, buried his face in her neck. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just a little weak. A little confused.”

She touched his chin to lift his head, to look at him, touched his hairline, searched for new scars: two small ones at either temple and her bottom lip was trembling. “Oh Mulder, your poor head.”

He was shaking it, though, his soft hair tickling against her palms. “Nah, it’s okay. I don’t think there’s much more they can knock loose. Maybe even straightened things up a bit in there.” He smiled sheepishly. The look on her face was everything at once: love and relief and gratitude and sorrow and lust and hope.

“I missed you,” she whispered.

He kissed her again. “If I could remember, I’d know I missed you too.”

She took his hands and pulled him toward the motel. “Come on. There’s a lot to talk about, and then you need to rest.”

When all five of them were in the room, they talked about everything but one—the one thing she was saving to tell him in private. They tossed around ideas about how to save the world, Mulder and Scully thigh-to-thigh on one of the beds, inseparable. Doggett kept glancing at them, glancing away, fascinated by the magnetic pull of their presence together in a room. Skinner was used to it and untroubled. Gibson, overhearing things the others could not, blushed occasionally and looked perhaps the most uncomfortable of all. But it grew late and they could not know all the answers in one night.

Mulder and Scully rented a third room for themselves where, in the dim illumination of a bedside lamp, she held out her hand to him and gestured for him to sit. When he did, she lowered herself beside him, not touching. She was suddenly terrified in the small room, which smelled like very old cigarettes and cheap air freshener. He was watching her with increasing concern; she was gnawing her lower lip, afraid he wouldn’t be as happy about this news as she, afraid he would see it somehow as a betrayal, a weakness, a call to give up—all the things she knew he’d feared at one time.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” she said finally, eyes locked firmly on their feet, on his boots, still scuffed with Oregon mud.

“What?” he asked.

“I… I’m not sure how,” she began, careful with each word, “but it seems that sometime last year, something changed for me. Physically.” She chanced a quick look at him, found only concern and question. He pulled her hand into both of his and squeezed her fingers, offering encouragement. “Whatever infertility I experienced after my abduction… Mulder, it’s gone. I am most certainly not infertile anymore.”

His eyes narrowed at her words, considering them carefully, and then widened as he realized their import—she could almost see his heart beating, could almost hear it over the rattling of the air conditioner. “Scully,” he said. He swallowed. “How do you know?”

She almost pulled her hand away, sure he would let go anyway when she spoke her next words. “Because I’m pregnant,” she said, and then watched him carefully: “With your baby.” And goddamnit, she couldn’t help it, there was a smile tugging at her lips, even through her fear, because she’d hoped for and imagined this moment so many times in the last months, and here he was, alive and whole. They hadn’t talked about children again, not since they’d been together, not since that terrible time between Emily and Antarctica, and she had no idea what he might be thinking now.

“With my…” he said, trailing off, his face utterly inscrutable.

“I’m sorry to tell you like this. Before you were taken, I didn’t know.” She watched his face, anxious for any sign. She began to pull her hand away, but he held it tight. He lifted his eyes to hers: hooded, lost, vulnerable, but also… hopeful.

“My baby, Scully?”

Another twitch of a smile, her own hope irrupting. “Yeah.”

He did let go of her hand then, but only to touch her further, to pull her arms away so he could gaze at her middle, to pluck at the buttons of her black blazer. “How… how far along?”

She helped him with the buttons, revealed the gentle slope of her abdomen, a softness he’d not seen in her since before she was abducted. “About eighteen weeks,” she said. His fingers spread out, itching to feel, and then, so so gingerly, he touched her middle. Scully’s eyes closed at the sheer enormity of it, the feel of his hands, the knowledge of his understanding, finally finally. One of his hands moved to her cheek and she opened her eyes to his: wet and hopeful, sure and steady in his love. She cupped his face as well, and they looked at each other with thumbs to cheeks and lips as they had in his doorway a year ago.

“Are you okay?” she asked, tentative.

“Okay?” His eyebrows lifted. “Scully, this…” he was shaking his head and then grinning, remembering the warmth of his vision of a boy on the beach, the enormous flood of love he’d felt for her then, that he felt for her now, that he felt for some hypothetical child he hadn’t even known was possible. “I am so very okay, Scully.” And he kissed her again, one hand still on her belly, whispering into her mouth how much he loved her and how fucking happy he was going to make her, and she reveled in it for as long as she could, for a moment longer, drunk on this brief moment of pure hope and possibility, before she pulled back and held his eyes again.

“There’s more,” she said, because it was them, and of course there was more, and there was always something to haunt their happiness, always some cloud holding a future storm. Two parents, each exposed to different strains of a virus, both exposed to a vaccine, both exposed to the markings of a miraculous ship: epigenetic conjury working itself along their every double helix, activating, switching on in the tiny cells that would later become their child (and yes, though they could not know it then, in time their children). It was science and mysticism and love-magic, combining like a perfect syzygy. It was the history of them, their lives, their suffering, their work, their love, emerging of some dark alchemy into a perfect future person, housed now beneath his palm. “The baby will be like Gibson,” she said: a weapon and a target and a key.

“But it’s ours,” he whispered—it was a question and a statement.

“Yes,” she said. “Only ours. Of that I’m sure.” And therefore so much more than merely weapon, target, key.

She hauled him onto the bed with her and they stripped each other bare. His mouth found all the newish parts of her changing body and poured its devotions onto each in turn. Her skin was on fire, her body aflame with reunion and relief and the hot glow of life in her every heartbeat. Her toes curled against the hair of his calves. Her back stretched in an arc, pressing ever toward him. She could feel her pulse between her legs. She begged him to cut his worship short and to just please fuck her now because she was dying without him and she’d been dying this whole time, even though her insides said otherwise, and she needed him everywhere but mostly inside her now. He did not need convincing. He gave and she took and she gave and he took and they came together in sweetness, then collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs, his fingers on her belly. He rubbed small circles, wishing he could feel the same little movements she could. They slept and slept until the sun was high and Skinner was banging on their door.

They answered, barely dressed and blinking against the too-bright August sunshine. There was more to do. Always more: paperwork and planes to catch and the news of more abductions. The syndicate may have been ash in the wind, but the war raged on, indefinite.

_+_

 

This is the truth that they learn: that there are no happy endings, no tragic endings, no endings at all really—only the infinite struggle, the work, the dark seeping in at the edges, and their love to push it back. There are moments, stringing out into the future. He fingers the monochrome peanut shape on the ultrasound tacked to her fridge, and a faraway smile blooms on his lips. She presses the tips of his fingers to her belly where she swears there’s a foot, but he shakes his head. She tells him soon. He drinks her bad coffee in the morning (“It’s decaf, sorry”) while they plot a new resistance against the end times, elbow to elbow at her kitchen table.

Without much fuss, they request transfers to Quantico for consulting work, where they can stay below the radar. They let his apartment lease run out, and his things crowd into her space for a time. Doggett suggests a new partner for the X-Files, a woman with the right kind of background, and then they are six against the world including Gibson, nine with the Gunmen.

“Do you want to know?” The doctor asks.

They look at each other. There’s such giddiness in his eyes: he is bouncing on his toes and she bites her lip to stop from laughing. The gel on her abdomen has warmed to match the temperature of her skin. She nods, unable to deny his excitement. “Okay.”

A new image joins the peanut: a bigger peanut but with vaguely humanoid features, a tiny hand in the air (“He’s waving!”).

He finds some land, a farmhouse: isolated, but not too far. He buys it. They will let her lease run out as well. They move, which takes too long because he won’t let her carry anything heavier than a lamp. She doesn’t mind. She feels overflowing and overfull: ready already, though she has a month to go yet. On the creaky floorboards of their new (old) porch, he tells her to close her eyes.

“Oh no,” she says. “What have you done?”

“Just close your eyes!”

She does, and he leads her through the door, aligns her body where he wants it, fiddles with something, and then says, “Okay, open.”

It’s a Christmas tree: a pathetic little thing, exactly what her Charlie Brown would pick, but he’s done the lights up and they shine so pretty. There’s only one ornament, a little white bassinette. She can’t help it: she cries.

The heater clanks and the water pressure isn’t perfect, but the place is. The house is so utterly them, with her heirloom bookshelves, her modest antiques, his ridiculous kitsch and clutter (an alien bobblehead on the mantle joins her carefully chosen candles). His Navajo blanket finally meets her plush couch and clashes terribly, wonderfully. Her boxes, marked in color-coded labels, come open beside the ones marked “Mulder stuff” in hasty sharpie. Their things forge a strange and heady intimacy of contradiction that parallels their own story.

On their first real night in the house, they grin stupidly at each other across the pillows in the light of a waxing moon. It feels impossible. They grasp the moment and hold it anyway. His arm breaches the space between them, hand cupping her belly. “What is that, a knee? Feels too big.”

She finds where his fingers are and laughs. “That’s his butt. Look, see, he’s still sort of sideways. But his head is moving down.”

“That’s good, right?”

Another goofy smile. “Yeah.”

He brushes her cheek with his knuckles, so in love with her he can’t stand it. “Three weeks,” he whispers, and she nods. But after a moment, the smile fades. The house settles and creaks around them. The bed sheets rustle as she rolls to her back.

“I’m worried,” she says.

“About the birth?”

A frown as she thinks. “In a way, but not how you think. I’ve been thinking of how embedded the syndicate was in the medical establishment, how vulnerable spaces like hospitals are when our enemies can look like anyone.”

He’s frowning now too. “Do you think someone will try to take him?”

A pause, a bit too long. “I don’t know.” She rolls to face him again, the weight on her back too much. “Probably not.”

“That’s not good enough. What can we do?” he asks.

“I may have an idea,” she says.

On New Year’s Day it snows, a fine white coating at dusk. They stand on the porch to watch, he wrapped in his well-worn blanket, she in his arms. The sound of the snow is like leaves rustling, but steady, persistent, soft. “They’ll be here,” he says; his voice rumbles against her back, chin moving against the top of her hair.

“Even in the snow?”

He kisses her head and wraps the blanket more tightly around them. “Yeah.”

The Lone Gunmen come bearing gadgets and Gibson, who has been staying with them. Frohike wears a red stocking cap and holds up a bottle of whiskey. “Happy Holidays!”

“We saw you for Christmas a week ago, Melvin.” Mulder is laughing as he lets them all in.

“The holiday is not over until the clock strikes midnight on January 2, and you can quote me on that.” He slaps the bottle of whiskey against Mulder’s chest on his way past.

Around the table, they eat and are merry, some faces growing redder from high spirits of all kinds, others from the fire. They have brought Gibson to be their guard, their alarm should the wrong person come near, but also as their friend. He will stay until the baby is born, and after if he likes. It’s been so long since he’s known family.

On the twelfth, she feels the first real contraction and by evening, she is breathing hard through them. Arms linked around his neck, she hangs and sways, moving her hips.

“Should I make the call?” He asks, and she nods. “I’ll make the call.”

The midwife arrives at nine, certified, but illegal in the state of Virginia. She is a spunky woman of sixty, well vetted by both the Gunmen and Gibson, who lets her in and smiles at whatever he hears in her mind. He stays by the door when the excitement moves upstairs.

Maggie appears next, and her daughter cries when she sees her. “Oh, mom,” she says, teary, sweating, gripping Mulder’s arms in only a tank-top and underwear. “How did you do this four times?” And then she is racked again by another contraction, burying her face in Mulder’s chest. He rubs her back and murmurs encouragement for a full two minutes of quiet groans.

By two a.m. she is on her knees on the stripped bed, gripping the footboard and leaning back, pushing hard as Mulder holds her gaze and whispers words of love. He is born at 2:36 a.m. on January 13: William Scully Mulder, red and roaring, caught by his father and lifted straight into his mother’s arms with tears all around, save the midwife, who smiles and checks and makes notes and says, “Oh Dana, you did so well.”

By the time the first light of dawn breaks through the bedroom windows, the midwife has gone home and the little family sits propped on pillows, in warm blankets and soft pajamas on the remade bed. William has been wiped clean and nursed, weighed and measured, swaddled and kissed. He sleeps the dreamless and hard-earned sleep of the newly born. His parents’ eyes move between each other and the child, not sure what else to do under the weight of what this night has brought.

Maggie tiptoes in with two mugs of tea, which she sets on the bedside table. “Do you want me to take him? You two should sleep. I don’t mind.”

Scully nods and gratefully passes William to his grandmother, who says goodnight and slips into the nursery.

In the quiet of their bedroom, they are alone again, dazed by the enormity of the wide, unimaginable future. Mulder cups her face, kisses her nose, her lips. “You’re incredible,” he says.

“I’m a mess,” she says, and laughs.

“Let’s do it again,” he says, and the look she gives him could shatter glass. But she is smiling, too.

“Things might be okay,” she reasons, posing it as both a question and a statement.

“Yeah. I think they might.” He bumps her shoulder, nips at her ear, pulls her down into the blankets and pillows to rest.

There are still worlds to save, still many battles in this endless war. But there are other kinds of moments waiting, too. Here is where they will hold their ground: in this house and in each other.