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Whilst he wouldn’t credit himself with having known, he wasn’t exactly surprised either. The signs had been there; he wasn’t blind. But she was going through a lot, and he hadn’t wanted to ask. Might have been a touch insensitive, given her current situation, to just bring it up one day, all ‘hey, Agent Scully, I notice you’ve put on a bit of weight, that why you’re so keen to find Mulder?’

Yeah. Maybe not.

But if it were left up to her, she would probably have sent the kid to college by the time she bucked up the courage to tell him.

He understood. Of course, he did. Well, sort of. He understood that she was missing her partner, a man she had worked with, and (if the rumours were to be believed) slept with, for nigh-on seven years. A man she had risked so much for, had given up and lost so much for. A man she had sacrificed a brilliant career for, to be secluded in a dingy basement office with his crackpot ideas and all sorts of cruel nicknames whispered behind their backs to boot. A man she was carrying the child of, or so the gossip mill would have you believe.

He'd read her file, of course. Read about the consequences of her abduction, her infertility. He’d found the books around the office. Stumbled across a calendar that had all sorts of doctors’ appointments and names of medications he didn’t recognise, scribed in both flowing cursive and spiky chicken scratch.

And, of course, there were the two photographs of them together. He didn’t know many partners who kept candid photos of themselves in their office.

So he understood that the start of one dream had coincided with the end of another. He understood her hesitance to tell him. After all, Mulder should have been the first to know, and now maybe he never would.

But it still hurt, the lack of trust she showed him. And it hurt that he had to watch her do it all alone. Her mother didn’t seem to be helping particularly much, though whether that was Dana’s choice was still up for questioning – he guessed it probably was though. From what he had seen, AD Skinner had been keeping an eye on her, but that always raised the question of propriety, something that an assistant director already in a rocky place was not ideally seeking out.

Other than that, she didn’t seem to have anyone.

Dana Scully was a very lonely being.

And so, dredging up memories of an ex-wife and a childhood cut too-short, he became her guard dog. He paid attention to what she gazed at on menus and what she actually ate, the dichotomy laughable. Presented her with real cream cheese bagels for lunch when all she had to eat was a sad-looking salad and yoghurt.

Herbal teas became an office staple, a selection kept in an upper cupboard, a box of every flavour he figured she might like, black marker Xs across the sides of the ones that had made her nauseous. He had claimed he had bought them for himself, that he was a big fan of herbal tea, even dropping the fact that, technically, herbal tea is not tea at all, but insisting that he was more than willing to share them with her. He found some of them were actually almost palatable.

He kept a sewing kit in his bag for the inevitable popped buttons on shirts because she seemed to be refusing to buy maternity clothes. Or, because buying maternity clothes was just one more of those things that meant she’d have to admit to herself and everyone else what was going on. Or it was just because buying maternity clothes was an intimidating thing to have to do. To have to be around all the happy expectant mothers. To have to figure out sizing for clothes that she would outgrow far sooner than they had justified the expense. When her wardrobe situation grew dire, he’d phoned Monika up, asked for her guess of Scully’s size, her opinion about what maternity clothes would suit her. Found a few numbers to tide her over from a charity shop, another couple from the department store near his place. All simple garments; soft, earth tones, blacks and greys. Clothes she could wear whilst mourning.

Comments of Mrs Spooky and the Alien Baby were shot down immediately, or as soon as Scully was out of earshot, depending upon her mood. The rate of broken noses increased in the hoover building, as did the number of bruises on his hands.

He took to keeping a lavender heat pack in his car at all times, a spare one in his carry-on case. When the twinges and grimaces of pain, the soft moans of discomfort she hid with half-hearted coughs and the twisting stretches as she sat at Mulder’s desk that seemed to do nothing to help grew more and more frequent, he found himself in an apothecary shop, feeling rather like Spooky Mulder as he reached for a jar of salve he knew would do her good. It was placed down on the desk after lunch with a quiet comment of ‘for your back. My wife swore by it.’

Overhearing one side of an argument on the phone, littered with many, ‘no, Mom, I can do it myself,’s and ‘no, I’m not paying for someone to paint the nursery,’s and one ‘Mom, I hate Bill, and Bill hates me, and he especially hates the fact that I am, and I quote, having a bastard child out of wedlock, so no, I will not be asking Bill to travel across the country to paint the nursery,’ he’d piped up with a declaration that he wasn’t doing anything that weekend (not entirely true) and had a lot of experience painting walls (not entirely untrue) and was more than willing to lend a hand to a colleague (definitely true). So he’d turned up that Saturday in jeans and a t-shirt, paintbrushes and dropcloths in hand, ready to paint the nursery.

They didn’t talk about it. Didn’t talk about the pregnancy book she’d caught him reading over lunch. Didn’t talk about the time she called him up sobbing in the middle of the night because she wanted spicy beef noodles from the little Korean place two blocks from Mulder’s but she couldn’t find her shoes and it was raining so she can’t go out in her slippers because then what will she wear in her house? Didn’t talk about the fact that he’d rushed to Alexandria, thanked every deity listening that the Korean place was open throughout the night, and raced to her apartment with a Styrofoam cup of spicy noodles, only to find her contently eating ice cream straight from the tub with a stick of celery. Didn’t talk about the admonishing call she’d received from her mother, phone cupped in bruised hand, issuing all of the reasons she should not have started the argument at the recent family get-together, insisting that whilst Bill Jr should not have said what he said, that she should not have reacted the way she did: nor did they acknowledge her comment of ‘you’re not the only one who can break noses, Agent Doggett.’

All in all, they didn’t talk about much relating to her pregnancy. It was just silently accepted that he would do anything for her and the kid, whatever they need. He knew he wasn’t her dream – no, her dream was a man in a grave and a boy in her womb - and that was okay because he was fairly certain she wasn’t his dream either. But he was there to fill the chasm. He was there to hold her hand if she wanted him to, or to be a warm body to hold when her thoughts were with a cold one. He was a placeholder.

Maybe she was his placeholder, too.