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Paternity

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It wasn’t something they’d talked about. The elephant in the room.

Not that they talked about much.

Not anymore, anyway. Nothing important.

For example, he hadn’t asked her why his sheets smelt so strongly of her, why his pillows now left a waft of lavender every time he thumped his head down onto them or why he had lost half of his t-shirts.

But most of his questions he could figure an answer out to. Not this one though.

He asked Skinner first. Still groggy in the hospital, disorientated by Scully’s longer hair and the presence of an extra life inside her, one he had been certain wasn’t possible. Tried to be as casual as possible with the question, but there was really no easy way to ask.

Skinner had scoffed, rolled his eyes and shook his head. When asked what that reaction was supposed to mean, he was told, in no uncertain terms, that if Scully hadn’t divulged that information freely, it either meant that she was waiting for him to ask or didn’t want him to know. Either way, it wasn’t his place to interfere, even if he did know the answer, which he didn’t.

He’d wanted to ask Scully directly. He really had. But not in the entire drive home from the hospital or the walk up to his apartment or the awkward conversation inside it had the question circling his mind once come out.

Langley hadn’t elaborated on his ‘involvement in a certain blessed event’ comment, and nor had either of the other Gunmen when he interrogated the trio later that night when they had left Scully’s. After they had ascertained that he knew nothing about the conception of the child they were all sure they were going to be godfather of, they remained shtum, ignoring all of his questions. By the end of the night, all he was certain of was that it was definitely not Frohike’s baby, not that he’d even considered that as a possibility, and Langley was probably out of the running. He was still not 100% certain Byers hadn’t had a hand in it – the man seemed far too knowledgeable about pregnancy, and particularly Scully’s pregnancy, for comfort, but then he always had had a broad and eclectic knowledge base. Still, if he’d had to pick one of the three stooges to father a child, he guessed Byers was the best bet for clean genes.

Doggett, when he met him and asked if he knew, merely shook his head. Not a scoff or an eye-roll like Skinner. He just walked away, stony-faced.

 


 

‘Fox, Dear, so lovely to have you back,’ Mrs Scully had smiled, polite yet hesitant, as he stood in the entranceway of Scully’s apartment. He’d turned up out of the blue on a Saturday expecting her to be alone, expecting to be able to ask his pressing question. But then Maggie had opened the door, confused for a moment, the face of someone who had just seen a ghost before she clicked her ever-polite mask back into place. ‘Dana’s just taking a bath. She’s had terrible back pain the last few days – what with the baby and all the stress of, well, you know, I’m not overly surprised. Do come in, I’m sure she won’t be long.’

‘Thank you,’ he ducked his head, toed his shoes off like he knew Scully preferred and shuffled over to the couch. This was the first time he’d ever felt uncomfortable around Mrs Scully. She seemed wary of him, and he didn’t blame her. Pre-zombification Mulder was something to be cautious of, post-Walking-Dead Mulder was definitely something to be sceptical over. And scepticism ran in the family. They sat in silence, opposite one another, for what felt like an eternity, before he cleared his throat, tried formulating his question in the most sensitive way possible. ‘About the baby, Mrs Scully. I was wondering, Scu-Dana, she, uh she hasn’t told- you don’t know if the father’s in the picture, do you? Only, she hasn’t mentioned him, and I, uh, I worry about her.’

Maggie sighed, shook her head, ‘hasn’t said a word. I thought she was seeing someone last year, but she never said, and, well, I don’t like to pry of course. But nothing seemed to come of it. I mean, I never even met the man, and then it seemed to be over. Though, I couldn’t tell you when that ended, I mean, she didn’t even tell me about your…disappearance until a couple of months after the fact. I didn’t hear from her. The last time I heard from her before she called me about the baby and about your disappearance was when that film came out, the one about you two. Called me from a hotel room in LA, sounded happy as anything, despite the film being a bore.’

He remembered that night, remembered dozing to the sound of her phone call to her mother. Yes: she had been happy that night.

‘Now, I don’t know if she ever told you, but she spent a couple of years trying for a baby on her own, through IVF,’ her tone was hushed, gossip hissed behind closed doors. Of course, he did know. He’d been there. He’d tried with her. Held her hope in his hands as day by day it crumbled further and further beyond repair. ‘I didn’t exactly approve. I told her to wait until she met someone, wait until it felt right. She told me it did feel right, but I don’t know. Dana was always stubborn when she got it into her head that she wanted to do something. It didn’t take back then, a good couple of years she spent trying. But I suspect perhaps that she’d started trying again. Maybe around the time that film came out. And it took this time. I think that’s why she won’t mention a father. At least, I hope it is. I couldn’t stand the idea of there being a man out there somewhere who might very well be a perfectly good husband and father but doesn’t even know he has a child because she hasn’t had the courage to tell him.’

‘Or, perhaps she did tell him and he wanted nothing to do with it.’

‘Do you think that could be a possibility?’

He considered, shook his head. He couldn’t imagine anyone turning down a life with Scully. Who would willingly miss out on something as miraculous as that?

‘You know, she used to tell you everything. I’m sure she confided in you so much more than she ever confided in me. I’m sure if you ask, Fox, she’d tell you everything.’

He doubted that, very much, but vowed to try anyway. Even if she had found someone else after he’d disappeared, even if she had found a donor whose sperm worked better than his, she was still alone and, he hoped, his friend. He’d help her in any way he could.

 


 

They were making tea when he noticed it.

‘Hey, what happened to the back of your neck?’ his fingers traced the ragged scar just below the one from her chip. She shrugged away from him, moving from his grasp to put the kettle on the hob.

‘Oh, uh, it was nothing. Really. Just a…procedure, of sorts.’

‘A procedure? It doesn’t look surgical.’

‘Yeah, it was done in the field. I’m fine though. Nothing to worry about.’

‘If it’s nothing to worry about, why are you avoiding answering the question?’

She huffed, ‘because I know how you’ll react.’

‘Oh yeah? Try me.’

She focused on putting teabags in mugs whilst she figured out how to phrase what had happened. ‘A few months back I was helping out the local PD on a case in Utah. A cult that had been travelling around the country killing people. They’d insert this…axolotl looking parasite into the back of a host until it depleted the host of their strength. They trapped me there. Used me to try and save their latest host, and then, when I couldn’t, they, uh, they used me.’

‘Where was the local PD? Where was Doggett?’

‘I hadn’t met up with the PD yet. And…it was early in mine and Doggett’s partnership. I was supposed to just be looking at bodies and it was a case we had already got files on, files I still considered to be yours. I didn’t- it felt wrong inviting him along: it was the sort of thing you would have accompanied me on because you found it interesting, not because it was actual work. And I guess I wanted to try and bring back the old days, when it was just you and me driving across country, through deserts and along never-ending highways.’

‘So, you cut this parasite out yourself?’

She shook her head, turned to lean back against the counter. ‘No. Doggett found me. He cut it out and killed it. Got me out of there and to the hospital. He’s spent a lot of time hanging around hospitals for me since you were…gone.’

‘I’d have sat in the hospital for you.’

She gave him a warm smile, cupped his cheek in her hand, ‘I know you would have.’

‘Were you-‘ his gazed dropped down to her stomach and he nodded his head in that direction, watching as she raised her eyebrows at him with a smirk ‘-pregnant at the time?’

Her smile faded slightly, ‘yeah. Doggett didn’t know, though. Only Skinner did. And my mother. Nobody else. It didn’t feel right, not telling you first. I only told Skinner because you were gone and he wanted to know why I’d been in the hospital so long.’

‘But the parasite, it didn’t hurt the baby at all?’

‘Not that the doctors could tell. They kept me in for observation for a week, but everything seems fine. Don’t worry. I’ve run every test I can think of. Baby has a perfectly normal spine. No sign of any parasite.’

‘Okay, okay, good,’ he nodded, picking her mug up from the side and carrying it with his into the living room. ‘Why did you want to tell me first?’

‘What?’

‘About being pregnant. You said it didn’t feel right not telling me first.’

‘Well, because-‘ she looked at him, stopped as he looked up from where he was placing the mugs on the coffee table. ‘Mulder, do you really not know?’

‘Know?’

‘Jesus Christ,’ she breathed out harshly, running the tip of her tongue along her bottom lip as she laughed out a disbelieving chuckle and shook her head. ‘Haven’t you sat down and done the maths, Mulder?’ he stared at her blankly, confused as he straightened his spine to look at her properly. ‘Jesus,’ she rolled her eyes, ‘Mulder, I was pregnant when we were in Bellefleur. It’s why I collapsed, why I felt sick, kept getting dizzy. We didn’t think it could happen, so we didn’t consider it as a possibility.’

‘But, but tha- that would mean that…what are you…are you saying what I think you’re saying?’ his breaths were coming in gasps, his face pale and clammy, his eyes losing focus, and she was just in time to guide him back to the couch.

‘Okay, you’ve just had a shock, Mulder, but I need you to focus on my voice. Just breath for me. In and out. Can you do that? In,’ she inhaled slowly, nodding and encouraging him, ‘and out. Good, and again? In…and out. Good. One more. In…and out. Just keep doing that, keep focusing on my voice. That’s good. I know this wasn’t exactly what was planned, and we weren’t together for that long, and we never really discussed the possibility of children, because we knew it couldn’t happen, so I don’t expect anything from you, okay? You can leave here today and never even think of me again if you want.’

His gaze darted up at her face, eyes finally focusing on something, ‘is that what you want?’

She paused, shook her head, ‘but I understand if that’s what you choose. This wasn’t planned, and it’s my fault, really; I should have been more careful.’

‘Hey, we should have been more careful. It takes two to tango,’ she cringed, snorting with laughter. ‘Seriously, though, I’m not leaving you. Back when you were actually trying, even though we hadn’t really talked about it, I was going to be there for you in whatever capacity you needed. If that meant being cool Uncle Mulder, I’d have taken that. To be in your life is a privilege I never want to lose.’

Scully sniffed, wiped her eyes with the backs of her thumbs, ‘does being raised from the dead make everyone more romantic, or is it just you?’

A look of offence passed his face as he settled back into the sofa, pulling her next to him, ‘I was always romantic.’

‘Mulder, our first date was you teaching me to hit a baseball. Something I already knew how to do.’

‘You call that a date?’ he scoffed.

‘You got lucky, didn’t you?’

He gasped in jest, ‘Scully, you put out on the first date? I’d never have thought you so easy.’

She sniggered, ‘it took you six years to get into my pants, Mulder. I’d hardly call that easy.’

‘Fair point,’ he nodded solemnly. ‘But that wasn’t our first date.’

‘It wasn’t? Go on then, what was?’

‘It was that time I took you on a plane across the country and we laughed in the rain in a graveyard. That, Agent Scully, was our first date.’

‘Wow. I never thought I’d be able to say a guy flew me to Oregon for a first date,’ she deadpanned.

‘And they only got better from there.’

‘Mulder, cases don’t count as dates.’

‘What about haunted houses on Christmas Eve? That wasn’t technically a case.’

‘But you didn’t have any romantic intentions, either.’

‘Oh, didn’t I? I took you to a favourite spot for lovers to commit murder-suicides in order to be together forever.’

A roll of her eyes as she settled her head down on his shoulder, ‘you’re right, Mulder. You have always been a romantic.’

‘Are we really doing this, Scully? Are we having a baby?’

‘Yeah, Mulder. I think we are.’