Title: Truly Madly Deeply IV: Heaven and Earth
Warning: Post-series, alternative universe
Summary: The old world. A new family.
Notes: Superhuge thanks to zara hemla, bugs, and SLS, who dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s; and Marasmus, who told me how they do things on the other side of the pond. Ladies, you are my sun, my moon, my starlit sky, and I salute you.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 1~
Scully couldn’t sleep—she was too excited. Mulder, about three cities ago, had adopted the attitude of a jaded world-traveller, but Scully couldn’t stop drinking in the sights and sounds and smells and faces and voices of each new country. This was their first night in London, so while Mulder slept Scully wrapped herself in his bathrobe, knelt in the windowseat and opened the latch, to watch the lights of the city and listen to the movement in the streets below.
London smelled like history. Mulder said it was just the dampness and cigarette smoke, but to Scully the air was heady with all the despairs and joys of the many millions of lives that had passed here.
She had never travelled much outside of the States: aside from a few years in Japan when she was a baby, her father’s assignments had been stateside. There had been the odd journey to Norway or Antartica with Mulder, but that had been strictly business.
This was different. This was a honeymoon. Mulder called it their Grand Tour, as if they were nineteenth-century gentlemen of leisure.
Their getaway had been simple. The day after Christmas Frohike picked them up at Skinner’s apartment and drove them to a train station. From there they took a train to New York City, where they boarded a cruise ship bound for Norway. They kept to themselves on the voyage, eating in their stateroom and avoiding the shipboard activies, emerging only for the occasional walk on the top deck. So no one noticed for a few days that when Mr. and Mrs. Mulder got off the ship in Calais, they did not get back on.
For the last six weeks they had wandered over Europe. They rang in the New Year with champagne and caviar in Paris, ate gourmet sorbet in Nice, saw Michelanglo’s David in Florence and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Vienna.
“This city is ours now,” Mulder had whispered to her in Rome, her breasts cupped in his hands and his cock buried deep inside her. In front of her, the lights of the Eternal City had twinkled through their hotel room window. “All of these cities—they belong to us now.”
The only thing they had not done, it seemed, was to indulge Mulder’s wish to stay in a hotel in Finland he’d read about, that was built entirely out of ice and operated only in the winter. The waiting list was too long for them to go this year, but Mulder had put down their names anyway. “We’ll bring Daisy,” he said.
That, Scully thought, was the issue. In every new city they had found a doctor to examine her, and the results were always the same: she was having a perfectly normal pregnancy. Daisy was thriving and often made her presence known with little bumps and nudges. But Scully tired easily, she couldn’t walk for long distances, she had trouble keeping down unfamiliar food, and there is only so long a body could sanely live out of a suitcase.
It was time to stop wandering. It was time to find a place to call home.
In the bed Mulder shifted restlessly, then lifted his head, looking for her. He propped himself up on his elbows. “Scully, what are you doing? It’s twenty degrees out. Come back to bed.”
She took one more look at the city and shut the window and curtains. She got up from the window seat and came to the bed, slowly stripping off her robe and draping it over a chair. She climbed into bed and gave Mulder a sound kiss.
“Your hands are cold,” he reproached gently, and took her hands in his to rub them warm. “What were you doing?”
“Looking at the city. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”
“Uh-huh.” He blew on her fingers, and she caressed his cheek.
“What’s your plan for us while we’re here?”
“Whatever you like.” Mulder wrapped her in his arms, holding her as close as he could, and kissed the top of her head. Their legs entangled comfortably and Scully rested her head on his chest.
“Can we tour the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace?”
“Can we watch the debates in the House of Commons?”
“I’m not sure if they’re in session right now, but if they are, sure.” He yawned, his sleepy hand stroking her bare back.
Scully gave his chest a kiss and said quietly, “Can we find a place to settle down?”
Mulder smiled without opening his eyes. “I’ve had an estate agent compiling a list of places since we got to Europe. We can start looking them over as soon as you’re ready.”
She smiled too. “You’ve been planning ahead.”
“Fatherhood is giving me a new inner balance and maturity,” he said in perfect seriousness, and smiled again when she laughed. He added, “I told her to focus on but not limit to the Oxford area. I’m not sure how set you still are on your small-town theory. Oxford isn’t a small town. If you want remote we can try further north, in the Orkney islands, maybe.”
“I’m willing to look at other places. Remote may not be the best idea, really.”
“What do you think of staying here?”
“In the hotel? It’s so expensive.”
“Not the hotel, just in London. Would you like to live in Notting Hill or Chelsea? Still in London but with its own vibe?”
Scully traced his chest with her fingertips. “Would we be safe here?”
“As safe as we’ll be anywhere.”
“That is not reassuring.” She sighed and arranged her pillows so she could lie down. Mulder rolled onto his side and spread his hand over her tummy.
“Hey. Don’t think like that.” He rubbed her tummy in a comforting circle.
“I can’t help it.” She caressed his hair and said, “I know you’re doing everything you can think of—don’t think I haven’t noticed all of our hotels have been close to police stations.”
“We could still go underground,” Mulder said seriously. “Change our names and our looks and start over entirely. It might be easier to do over here—no one knows us anyway.”
Slowly Scully shook her head. “That’s a last resort, Mulder.”
“You’ve done it before.”
“And it worked so well that time.”
Mulder ran his hand over her hip and said, “Okay, no name changes. But what do you think about staying in London?”
“If we find a good place to live . . . a nice neighborhood, a good school . . .” She sighed and turned over, fitting her back against his body, and pulled his arm over her like a blanket. He kissed the back of her neck and pulled the covers over them. “Good night, love.”
“Good night, Scully.”
After a moment or two, she felt his hand creep lower on her belly to give the baby a good-night rub. “Good night, baby girl,” he whispered.
Mulder disdained tourist-oriented restaurants, and would prefer to find someplace small and tucked away—the more loved by locals it was, the more Mulder wanted to eat there.
Normally this worked well for them, but something—maybe a bad bit of chicken or a too-strong pepper—disagreed with Scully on their fourth day in London. She spent a miserable morning in their hotel bathroom, then when her stomach seemed settled enough she crawled back into bed.
Mulder, when he was sure she wasn’t dying of food poisoning, went out for half an hour or so and came back with a small paper bag. “I popped ’round to the chemist’s.” He put the bag on the nightstand and knelt down to look into her eyes.
“That’s the worst British accent I’ve ever heard,” Scully mumbled.
“I know. I’ve got your vitamins and a bottle of water. Yogurt and ginger ale for when you think you can handle it. They didn’t have any Saltines, though.”
“Thank you.” She sat up and took the water and bottle of vitamins from the bag. Mulder watched her, frowning a little.
“Are you sure this is okay? It won’t hurt the baby?”
“It’s what’s recommended.” She broke the small pill in half and unscrewed the bottle of water, taking a drink first before trying to wash down the pill. “This is the not-so fun part,” she said with a sigh.
“I guess your morning sickness isn’t quite over yet.”
“It can last until the end of the pregnancy.” She scooted back down against the pillows and pulled the blanket up to her chi
n. Mulder joined her and gestured for her to turn over so he could rub her back.
“Poor honey,” he cooed gently. “But why the Saltines?”
“They help with the nausea. No other cracker will do. I don’t know why . . .”
“I’ll keep looking for them for you.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, resting her head back against his shoulder.
He rubbed her back for a few moments longer, then said, “I was going to meet with the estate agent today, but if you’re too sick it can wait. We were planning to just narrow down the list, look at the pictures and decide what’s not worth seeing.”
“Go ahead and go.” She took his hand, weaving her fingers through his. “I’ll just eat my yogurt and sleep.”
“Good girl.” He said after another pause, “We need to get cell phones soon. I miss being able to talk to you anytime I want to.”
“I’ve been right with you.”
“And now you’re not going to be. And what if you need me?”
“To get me crackers?” She smiled and kissed the back of his hand.
“Oh, the joys of being the sperm donor.” He turned her face up for a kiss and got up from the bed. “All right. I shouldn’t be more than a couple hours. I’ll take a cab, I’ll call you when I get there, I’ll call you when I leave, and . . . I don’t know what else. You know where the cash is?”
“You’re only going for a few hours, Mulder. I’ll be fine.”
“Anything could happen, Scully.”
“Do you think something is going to happen?” She sat up, suddenly feeling cold and tight in her chest. She hadn’t noticed anyone following them, and they had examined every hotel room for listening devices. But, she thought, it was entirely possible that she’d been so absorbed in honeymoon happiness that she could have missed the detonation of a nuclear bomb. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
He kissed her tenderly, holding her face in his hands. “No, honey, no. I don’t want you to be penniless in a foreign country in case something does. I’m still Mr. Paranoia, 1961.”
“All right, Mr. Paranoia.” She pulled him back for another kiss and let him go. “Find our home. Hurry back.”
“I love you,” he said.
“Love you,” she replied, and locked the door behind him.
She’d just lain down and closed her eyes when there was knocking at the door. She shook her head, but still got up, smiling despite her exasperation. “Did you forget your keys?” she said, standing up on her toes to look through the peephole—but Mulder wasn’t there. She shrugged and decided she must have heard someone knocking on a neighbor’s door. She got back into bed, and ignored the knocking when she heard it again for all of thirty seconds.
Scully got out of bed, quietly cursed the room for having nothing she could use as a weapon, and said, standing by the door, “Who is it?”
There was no answer, not even a “Housekeeping.” Scully took a deep breath, quietly drew back the bolt, and opened the door.
There was no one in the hall. All the other doors were closed. On the floor was a blue crystal bud vase, holding a dark red rose.
Scully scanned the hall again, confused. This was not Mulder’s style, as much as he loved surprises. Still, she picked up the vase—there was no card or tag. Someone could have left it here by mistake, but given that determined knocking she didn’t think that was so.
Well, maybe Mulder was changing style now that they were a stodgy married couple. She sniffed the rose and smiled at its fragrance, and went back into the room to lie down.
Mulder called when he arrived at the estate agent’s office, as he’d promised. “Hey, sweetheart. I’m here. Nothing happened on the way over.”
“Good.” She rolled over in bed, onto her more comfortable left side. “It’s quiet here, too.”
“Good. I was thinking on the way over, why the insistence that we get out of the country? Krycek didn’t say anything about us needing to go deep underground or change our names—maybe he knew just getting out of the States was enough. I wonder if the Consortium’s infrastructure has been destroyed over here. Maybe they didn’t rebuild after the burn—after the fires.”
“Maybe.” She yawned.
“I woke you up, didn’t I?” he said with a smile in his voice.
“Mm-mm. Thank you for the rose, by the way.”
That got Scully to open her eyes. “The rose you left in front of the door.”
“I didn’t leave a rose in front of the door—and besides, you don’t like roses, you like those big bright daises, what are they called. Gerbana daisies.”
“I like roses,” Scully murmured, then said, “If it wasn’t you, who gave it to me?” She got out of bed to pick up the vase, but unless someone had invented a bug to resemble a thorn or be invisible under water, it looked harmless.
“Maybe one of the hotel staff is sweet on you,” Mulder said, but the warmth was gone from his voice.
“Or maybe we’re not as safe as we thought.”
He sighed heavily and was silent a moment. “Do you want me to come back?”
“No. The door’s bolted and locked, no one’s getting in here unless they can crash through a window.” Their hotel was U-shaped, and Scully doubted anyone could get across the courtyard from the other side without the ability to fly. “I’ll be all right until you get here.”
Again he sighed. “Scully. If there’s a fire alarm or anything unusual, I want you to go across the street to Scotland Yard and ask for Phoebe Green.”
“I am not going to ask for help from that woman.”
“She’s law enforcement, Scully, she’s on our side even if she doesn’t want to be.”
“I am not going to ask her for help. Period.”
“Scully. Scully. Are you crying?”
“No,” she said and wiped her face with the back of her hand.
“Listen to me. We’re not entirely without friends, okay, sweetheart? Trust me. Please. Hang up the phone and get dressed. I’m going to call somebody to come get you, and we’ll leave London tonight.”
“No,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere without you. And nothing has actually happened, Mulder—someone left me a flower. It’s no reason to panic.”
“Will you at least go down into the restaurant where people can see you? Or into the coffeeshop where we had breakfast yesterday?”
“I’ll wait for you in the restaurant,” Scully said quietly.
“Okay. Okay. I’ll be back as quick as I can. I love you.”
“I love you,” she answered and hung up the phone. She took the innocent rose from its vase and crushed its head in her fist.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 2~
Mulder paid the cabby and hurried through the courtyard towards the entrance. Preoccupied, he automatically stopped and turned when a woman’s voice called from across the street, “Mulder? Mulder!”
She hadn’t changed much in the seven years since he’d last seen her—same short, light brown hair; same wide green eyes, same angular face and chic clothing. Phoebe Green looked the same at forty that she had at thirty-three—a look, Mulder thought wearily, maintained by a personal trainer, Botox and her hair stylist.
That’s not nice, his inner Scully said, but he thought on this occaision she’d let not-niceness pass.
“Phoebe,” he said, buttoning his overcoat. “Long time.”
“God, *ages*, Mulder.” She had crossed the street briskly, confident the cars would stop for her, and with the same assurance she caught his arm and kissed his cheek. “What are you doing here? I haven’t heard of any UFO sightings lately—is it crop circles? The wrong time of the year, darling.”
Mulder winced at her casual “darling”—Scully rarely used endearments and that made them all the more precious. “We’re looking for a house.”
Her smile faltered for a moment. “We?”
“My wife and I. You met her when you came to the States. Scully.”
“Oh. Yes. Your little partner.”
“It’s our honeymoon—and we’re having a baby,” he added.
Phoebe’s smile got a malicious edge to it at his words. “I see—what’s the term? A shotgun marriage?”
call it that,” Mulder said. “She wouldn’t marry me until I knocked her up. Good to see you, Phoebe.” He turned to go.
“Mulder, wait.” Her smile was gone but she didn’t look angry. “It can’t just be coincidence that I saw you today.”
Acceptable risk, he thought. “I’ve always wanted to stay in this hotel—the Yard being right there is a bonus.”
“It’s our good fortune, then. I’ve been wanting to get in touch with you again—I have a proposition for you.”
“I bet you do.”
She inhaled and said, “Since you’re eager to rejoin your bride, I’ll be brief. My superiors have been following your career since you helped us in Boston . If you ever want to leave the FBI, we’ll be pleased to have you here.”
Mulder glanced at the gray, square building and sighed. “Scully and I weren’t planning to back into law enforcement.”
“Do think about it. Talent like yours shouldn’t be wasted on being a country gentleman—or whatever you’re planning to do here.”
“I’m planning to take care of my family. Thanks but no thanks. Good to see you, Phoebe.”
“I’m not giving up, Mulder!” she called after him as he walked away. He waved his hand back towards her and entered the hotel.
In the hotel lobbey, Mulder paused at the restaurant doors, and went back to the concierge desk. He gave the young clerk his warmest smile and a quick glance at her nametag. “Hello, Katrina.”
“Good afternoon, sir, how can I help you?”
“I would like to buy some flowers for my wife. Is there a place close by that delivers?”
Her pretty face scrunched up for a moment as she thought about it, then she said brightly, “I don’t know if they deliver, but there is a flower shop up the street, past the green-grocer’s. Would you like me to call them for you?”
“No, thank you, I’ll just stop by. Thanks.” He smiled again, and went to the hotel restaurant to find Scully. “I’ll just be joining my wife,” he told the maitre d’.
He could see her at the opposite end of the room, sitting at a small round table by one of the tall, heavily-curtained windows. There was an open book and a half-eaten bowl of soup in front of her—he would have teased her about bringing books on her honeymoon if he hadn’t brought a few himself—but she was neither eating nor reading. She was instead staring out the window, her hand absently playing in her hair and a thoughtful expression on her face. She looked pensive and calm and very beautiful.
Mulder wished someone would ask him, “Who’s that gorgeous woman?” so he could say, “That’s my wife.” He wished he could hole up in the room with her until their worries had passed. He wished he could put a protective barrier around her—a forcefield that would throw anyone who tried to harm her fifty feet into the air. He wished she felt well enough to make love—not just out of lust but because he wanted her to feel good, safe, loved.
Scully only noticed him when he slid into the chair opposite, but her happiness to see him plain was in her eyes. “Hi.”
“Hey. How are you feeling?”
She smiled and took his hand, holding it loosely on top of the table. “Better now,” she said softly.
“Nothing else strange has happened?” He stroked her knuckles with his thumb.
“It’s been quiet. Maybe we panicked over nothing—maybe it was delivered to us by mistake. And it was only a flower.”
He nodded, but still said, “Do you want to change hotels?”
“No,” Scully said softly. “I don’t want to leave until we find a place to live—or unless we absolutely must.”
Again Mulder nodded, and said to the waitress who had silently approached their table, “I’ll have what she’s having.” She poured him a glass of lemon-flavored water and just as silently slipped away. He said to Scully, “I didn’t take the time to look at any houses, but we can go back tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it.”
“All right,” she said softly. “Who were you going to call?”
“Hm?” He sipped his water.
“You said on the phone you were going to call somebody to get me, and I was just wondering who. You did say there were people over here you wanted me to meet, but we haven’t really sought anyone out. And Phoebe Green doesn’t count.”
“An old classmate. He teaches law at City University. We haven’t really kept in touch, but I think he’d be happy to hear from me. I haven’t really kept in touch with anybody,” he added after a moment. “I mean, there’s no one here who’d want to tar and feather me, but I’m not really close with anyone.”
“Particularly anyone you’d want to call on to pick up your pregnant wife because you’re afraid she’s begin stalked.”
Mulder waited until the waitress had placed the bowl of tomato soup in front of him and grated on some fresh parmesan cheese, and then said quietly, “There are some people here that I would trust with you. But I don’t want to just spring it on them, if I can help it. You should meet them first. At the very least I should say hello. I can’t ask anyone into this insanity without them knowing what’s in store. Speaking of Phoebe Green, guess who I ran into just now.”
Scully made a noncommital sound. “How is she?”
“Fine. Just fine. She asked if we’d be interested in joining Scotland Yard.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I told her no.”
“Good.” Scully ate a spoonful of soup, and said, “I love this city. It’s beautiful and exciting and I want to explore it more, but I don’t want to live here. I want someplace less . . . urban. Someplace with more trees than people.”
“But if you are being stalked, Scully—”
“I don’t think I am. I think it was an honest mistake. We’re both on edge—we’ve both been looking over our shoulders and starting at every noise. But that’s over. I can,” she smiled wryly, “feel it.”
Mulder smiled too. “I am not going to argue with your instincts, honey. More trees than people. Okay. So meantime, for tonight, what would you like to do? Something undemanding like a movie?”
“I’d like to go back to the room for a while.”
“Ah,” Mulder said in understanding. “Time for an afternoon nap.”
“Well, an afternoon *something*.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I thought you weren’t feeling well.”
“Maybe I feel better.” She smiled at him innocently, and Mulder was suddenly very glad he’d only ordered soup.
The bathtub was narrow but deep—room enough for two if they didn’t get too vigorous. Scully rested against Mulder’s chest, her head tucked under his chin, and Mulder drew up scoops of raspberry-scented bubbles to watch them slide off her belly.
“I’m glad you found a new plaything,” Scully murmured.
“It’s fascinating. Our little Daisy . . . Hey, do you think she notices when we’re having sex?”
“Yes, but she doesn’t know what it means and she won’t remember it anyway. She doesn’t have cognitive thought yet—she’s all instinct right now.”
He cupped her belly in his hands beneath the water. “Should we stop? Is it really okay to do—especially so much?”
“Mulder,” Scully said gently, “exposure to the father’s semen helps the mother’s body accept the baby instead of rejecting it as as unfamiliar organism, and sex works the muscles that will be used in labor. It’s okay.”
“Oh.” He kissed her hair and leaned his cheek against her head. “Okay, then.” He rubbed her tummy and kissed her a few more times, then said, “Should we think about boys’ names?”
“We could get it confirmed by an ultrasound. Unless you want to be surprised. Do you?” She turned back her head to look at him.
“I think I do. It would be fun to find out the old-fashioned way. I mean, do you want to know everything beforehand?”
“We don’t know everything,” Scully murmured sleepily. “We don’t know the color of her eyes . . . or how tall she’ll be . . . I hope she looks like you.”
Mulder snorted, shifting his legs. “I don’t. I hope she looks like you—especially in the nasal region.”
“I love your nose,” Scully said, more sleepily still. “I love your pretty eyes a
nd your big hands . . .” She picked up his hands and held them under her own, pressed beneath her breasts. She gave a long, satisfied sigh.
Mulder sighed too, closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the tiled wall. Maybe it’s selfish, he thought, to put happiness over safety, but hell. I’ll be selfish. I’ll be gloriously and completely selfish. I want her. I want her here, wherever ‘here’ is. Anywhere that ‘here’ is.
He moved his hand so that it rested over her heartbeat, and the other on the uppermost curve of her tummy. “Move for Daddy,” he whispered, and Scully chuckled. “I want to feel her move.”
“You will. I promise.” She cracked open her eye a moment. “Boys’ names. Adam.”
She laughed. “Christopher.”
She nudged him with her shoulder. “Mulder, be serious.”
“So Dudley’s a no go?”
“No Dudley. And for that matter, nothing ugly or bizarre or jokey. It’s a child, not a walking testament to your sense of humor.”
“So . . . Elvis is out, too, then.”
“Yes. Family names are fine—and I know you don’t have an uncle Elvis—and I like classic or Biblical names, too.”
He said, just to hear her reaction, really, “Jehosephat, then.”
“Mulder . . .” she said in her be-glad-you’re-cute voice, then said, “Noah. David. James. Benjamin. Joseph. Names like that.”
“James is my grandfather’s name. My paternal grandfather.”
“So, is that a yes or a definately not?”
Mulder rubbed his chin on her hair. “It’s a maybe,” he said softly. “He died when I was about six. He used to hold me on his lap and let me play with the things in his pockets, his pens and his money clip and his watch . . . I never saw him in anything but a suit, and he wore a hat whenever he went outside. He wasn’t a stuffy, strict Granpda, though. He would sing to Samantha when she was tiny, and dance with her standing on his feet when she could walk. We’d play Railroad with his books.”
“We’d lay his books on the floor to make the track, and use . . . well, various things to be the train. Toy cars or Samantha’s dolls or things made out of blocks . . .”
“It sounds like you miss him.” She stroked the back of his hand with her fingertips.
“I do.” He pressed his lips to her hair again.
“We could call him Jimmy.”
“I don’t like Jimmy . . . I do like Jamie.”
“For a boy? Jamie,” she repeated, and smiled. “I like it too. Okay. If it’s a girl she’s Margaret Bettina, probably Daisy; and if it’s a boy he’s James William, probably Jamie.”
“It covers so many male relatives—my father, your father, my grandfather, you.”
“Okay. James William.” Mulder squeezed her tummy gently. “We should get out—we’re pruning.”
“Just a few mintues more,” Scully said. She ran her toes up his leg. “Just a few minutes . . .”
“A few more minutes,” Mulder agreed, and closed his eyes again.
In the movie theater Scully fed Mulder some popcorn and said, “We have so much we need to do for the baby still. A crib and clothes and bottles and I need to decide on a doctor or a midwife—and I miss that little Beatrix Potter print I bought. I liked it.”
“Toss me some, I’ll catch it.”
“I’m not going to toss you popcorn. All right, maybe one.” She tossed a piece of popcorn towards his mouth and he missed it completely. She said, picking the piece off his shoulder, “Do you think my mother could send us the crib I bought? It’s still in your apartment, isn’t it?”
“It would probably be cheaper just to buy a new one. Toss me another.” She tossed, he missed, and he said, brushing the popcorn from his chest, “I couldn’t leave the Eeyore behind but we can replace everything else. But if you really, really want it, we can figure out a way to get it here. Though there is Harrod’s and it has everything. Seriously everything, Scully.” She fed him another handful of popcorn and he licked her salty palm as the house lights went down. “Do you want to go shopping, baby?” he whispered.
“Soon. As soon as we have a house.” She laid her head on his shoulder and slipped her hand into his.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 3~
January became February. Scully received no more mysterious gifts—or if she did, Mulder’s gleeful reactions gave him away. It made Scully wonder how he’d ever managed to keep anything from her, particularly as long as he’d held onto some of his secrets. He hid nothing now.
They passed the weeks by looking at houses for lease and meeting up with friends of Mulder’s from Oxford. None of the houses were right: they were too cramped or too plain or too unloved. None of them, for reasons she couldn’t quite articulate, felt like home.
“Am I being too choosey?” she asked Mulder. “Am I nitpicking the wrong things? Do I expect too much?”
“I don’t think so,” Mulder said. It was Sunday afternoon, cool and windy, and they walked slowly through Hyde Park—not holding hands, but close enough so that their elbows touched. “It’s a big decision—and God knows we’ve got reasons to be cautious. There’s no rush.”
“I don’t want to be moving in at my ninth month. There is a rush—or at least a deadline.”
“Scully, you make decisions slowly. That’s okay. After all,” he nudged her gently, “it only took you seven years to decide to spend the rest of your life with me.”
Scully continued walking, then said, “Five.”
She gave him her most enigmatic smile. “It only took me five.”
As for Mulder’s friends, Scully liked them better than the houses. She loved hearing stories about Mulder’s college years—the professors, the trips, the parties, the pranks—and to see picture of him at twenty, with bleached hair and an earring. It didn’t surprise her at all to learn that Mulder had been awkward as a student, a little shy, that he hadn’t made friends easily but that the friends he’d made had been a close and tight-knit bunch.
“Until Phoebe came along,” Liam said, making Ned and Mulder both groan.
“Phoebe?” said Liam’s girlfriend Maxine, who was quite a bit younger than the rest of the group. “Who was Phoebe?”
“Oh, God, not the Phoebe story,” said Fiona, hauling herself from the floor to go into the kitchen for another round of lagers. “I saw her at the market the other day and practically ran the other direction. I don’t want even to pretend we ever knew each other. She was terrible to Mulder, terrible to her friends and terrible to us. And I’m glad she’s out of your life, Mulder. Good riddance to bad rubbish.”
Mulder sighed and shifted uncomfortably. “I appreciate your support,” he said dryly and Scully, lounging on the sofa behind him, reached down to ruffle his hair. “Now, why you didn’t tell me this twenty years ago—”
The rest of his words were lost in the shouted protests of his friends, and he turned back his head to grin at Scully. She smiled too, still stroking his hair.
“Oh, tell me what happened,” said Maxine. “Obviously it turned out all right in the end.”
“Okay,” Mulder said. “Here’s the quick version. Phoebe and I dated while I was getting my post-grad. I, being young and stubborn, didn’t listen to the advice of my friends that she was bad news—until the proof was staring me in the face. I thought my life was over, heart was broken, all the cliches—but I got a happy ending.” He took Scully’s hand and kissed her palm.
“Oh,” Maxine said in understanding. “Have you met her, Dana?”
“Years ago, when she came to the U.S. She didn’t like me much.” She left her hand cupping his face so she could stroke his cheek.
“Phoebe doesn’t like other women in general,” Fiona said decidedly.
“Poor girl,” muttered Ned as he shuffled the cards. “I feel sorry for her.” He ducked the popcorn Fiona and Liam threw at him, and said, “No, really! You can be sure that wherever she is tonight, she’s not laughing it up and drinking with friends. I realize
it’s her own damn fault, but one can’t help feeling sorry for her. Well, let’s play. Are you sure you don’t want to be dealt in, Dana?”
“I’m sure, thank you. I’m no good at poker.”
“All the more reason to play,” Liam said with a grin, and Maxine giggled.
“You’ll be my good-luck charm,” Mulder said, and Scully tickled his ear in response.
“How is the house-hunting going, by the way?” Fiona asked as Ned dealt the cards. “Any luck yet?”
“No,” Scully said. “We can’t find anything that’s right.”
“I thought you liked the place in Chelsea.”
“It didn’t please m’lady and I have to go with what she says,” Mulder said. “She decides how to spend the money—I just write the checks.”
That got a laugh from the other men, but Scully couldn’t bring herself to smile. She just said, “We’ll know when we find the right one. Fiona, is there a place where I can lie down for a while?”
“Of course, Dana, are you tired? It *is* getting late.”
“I just want to rest my head a little.”
“Come on—you can have Simon’s room. He won’t be home until the weekend.” Fiona got to her feet to lead Scully to her son’s room. Muler got up too and stopped Scully at the foot of the stairs.
“Are you okay?” he whispered, slipping his hand into her hair. “Do we need to go back to the hotel?”
“I’m fine,” she said, and his eyes narrowed a little bit. She sighed. “I’m six months pregnant. I’m hungry all the time, I’m tired all the time, I just want to lie down for a little bit. Go back to your game. Don’t lose the house.”
Mulder’s eyes searched hers for a moment then he leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Love you,” he whispered, his breath warm against her cheek.
“Love you,” she replied, then followed Fiona upstairs.
“The sheets are clean,” Fiona said when she opened the door to the bedroom, “and the room’s not bad. Going to University has made Simon neat, which is a wonderful side effect.”
“Thank you,” Scully said. It was a boy’s room much like her brothers’ room when they were older teens: posters and banners for Manchester United on the wall, comic books on the shelves, worn-out sneakers in the clost. Scully sat down in the desk chair to take off her shoes, thinking with a sigh that it was time to give up high heels.
“Dana,” Fiona said, sitting on the bed. “Do you and Mulder want to stay in London, or are you willing to go outside the city?”
“I’m willing to go wherever we find the right place,” Scully said.
“I think I might have something for you. It’s a good distance from London, though. Ned’s parents live near a little village named Carterhaugh, in Northumbria. They have a manor house there on a bit of land, and they’ve been looking for someone to rent the gatehouse. They haven’t had much luck because it’s so remote, but it might be just what you’re looking for.”
“Remote?” Scully said. “I am actually interested in remote. Will you mention it to Mulder?”
“Of course. Have a good rest.” She smiled at Scully and left the bedroom.
Scully took off her sweater, folded it an placed it on the chair. She pulled down the sheets and turned off the light, lay down in the bed and closed her eyes. Daisy shifted around too, making herself comfortable.
Daisy-or-Jamie, Scully thought with a smile. She rubbed her belly with her palm. “There, there, Baby,” she whispered. “We’ll find a place to rest soon.” The baby settled under her touch, and soon Scully was dozing, her face nestled against the thick pillow.
Some time later—she wasn’t sure how long—she heard voices in the hall. “Of course I worry,” Mulder was saying. “But whenever we go to the obstetrician we’re told the same thing: she’s fine, the baby’s fine, take your vitamins and we’ll see you in a few weeks. So maybe there’s really nothing to worry about. She seems to be having a normal pregnancy.”
“Well, a little melanchology probably is normal,” said Ned soothingly. “When Fee was expecting Simon there were times when she would just cry for hours. There was nothing to do but feed her chocolate and say I loved her.”
“Did that help?”
“It didn’t hurt. Good night, Mulder.”
“G’night.” Mulder opened the door and came into the bedroom. Without turning on the light he took off his shoes and stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt. Scully watched him through half-open eyes, her vision adjusted to the darkness enough to see his shape as he undressed.
It was good, she supposed, that it still gave her physical thrill to look at him; that she still appreciated his body after all these years of denial and the last few weeks of indulgence. His body was long and lean, gaining back some of the musculature he’d lost under the stress of losing her. Walking and good food emphasized his broad shoulders, deep chest and heavy, endless legs.
She was proud of him, she could admit that. He was beauty and brilliance in one complex, infuriatingly desirable package. Even moments like now, when she didn’t feel as fond of him as she normally did, she felt the deep pull to him that had only grown stronger over the last seven years.
It was just a joke, she thought, but still had to press her lips together and turn her face away.
He slid into bed beside her, laid his arm over her body and kissed the back of her neck.
“They’re nice to let us stay,” she murmured.
“Oh, you are awake,” Mulder said with amusement in his voice. “Should we go back to the hotel after all?”
“No, this is fine.”
“Mm,” he agreed. “Very friendly.” They lay in silence a moment, then he said, “We’re invited to Ned’s parents’ next weekend. Simon will be there too.”
“Okay. Did Fiona tell you about the house?”
“She did. It sounds great. I’m hopeful.” His hand moved from her hip to her belly. “Are you sure you’re okay, though? “
“Yes,” she said, then, “No. Mulder.” She sat up and turned over to face him. “Am I a kept woman?”
“A what?” He looked like he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be offended.
“Do I just spend your money in exchange for sex?”
“I—I don’t even understand what you’re asking. You’re my wife. You’re my—my Scully. We don’t have an arrangment, we have a marriage. We have a partnership. Don’t we?” He sat up too, kissed her gently and pushed her hair back from her face. “What’s bothering you?”
“You don’t think you just write the checks, do you?”
“Scully . . . That was a joke. Not even one of my better ones.”
Scully leaned her head against his shoulder with a frustrated sigh—directed more at herself than at him. Of course they were partners—their relationship was on equal footing, their love was rooted in friendship and trust. She knew all this. She’d known this for years.
And he meant nothing but love in all his worry. She knew that, too. He was still kissing her and stroking her hair, calm, gentle, her beloved, her love. She kissed his neck. “Don’t mind me,” she whispered. “Hormones.”
“Would chocolate help?”
Scully smiled at him helplessly. He really was sweet. He really was trying. And as soon as she felt like herself again, she’d reward him for his patience and his tenderness and for being her Mulder.
She kissed him and said, “No. But tell me you love me. It couldn’t hurt.”
He chuckled and helped her lie down again, spooned together. After a few minutes he began to rub her back, pressing his fingertips into the knobs of her spine. Scully exhaled and let her eyes close. This was Mulder’s way of love: he protected, he cherished, he took care. He gave and gave—and if you gave back, joy radiated from him like warmth from the sun.
She remembered her words to him on their wedding day: Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t doubt us.
No doubts, she thought. None.
She was almost asleep again, lulled by his massaging fingers, when she heard his voice in a near-whisper by her ear. It took a moment to realize he was singing—but when she recognized the words, she smiled and relaxed against him even further.
t of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you,” he sang. “‘And these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new. I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before. I know I’ll often stop and think about them. In my life, I love you more.'”
<em>~”In My Life” is by the Beatles.~</em>
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 4~
A few days before they were to leave for Northumbria, Fiona decided it was silly for them to stay in a hotel any longer and installed Mulder and Scully in their guest bedroom. This pleased Scully enormously: as nice as a hotel could be, there comes a point when a body needs to be in a house, even as a guest. She loved the Lynns, liked their quiet neighborhood and cozy house, and particularly loved the slow pace of life they adopted now that the novelty of touring had worn off.
And if Scully was happy, Mulder was happy, and she seemed very happy. He’d never thought about it while they were partners, but it became clear to him that she’d missed having people to interact with every day. He knew she loved talking to him, but she loved talking to other people too, who were as intelligent, informed and original as she was. Not that she’d say that about herself, he thought with a smile: she just said, “I like Fiona and Ned a lot,” and he said, “I knew you would.”
The night before they were to leave, Simon Lynn arrived home from school. He was seventeen; tall like Ned, with big brown eyes like Fiona; and like neither of them, his hair was blue and both ears were ringed with silver hoops.
When he arrived he had little to say to the visitors, but when Mulder came downstairs to make breakfast in the morning, Simon was hanging around Fiona’s shoulders like an overgrown feather boa while she started some toast and tea.
“Little Mummy,” he said, “sweet little Mum, please don’t make me spend the whole week at Gram’s. Please please please please. I will love you forever and ever. Don’t make me go.”
“You already love me forever, and you’re going,” Fiona said comfortably, despite six feet of teenage boy hanging onto her. “Your grandparents see you four times a year at most, less as you get older, and they love you. It’s a week. I said you could invite a friend or two of you wanted, didn’t you ask anyone?”
“I couldn’t convince anyone to join me for a week in glamorous Northumbria. I even offed to pay.” He let go of his mother, grabbed all the toast off the plate and ambled upstairs, mumbling, “Rotten Northumbria.”
Fiona looked at Mulder and said, “You’re in for that. Excited?”
“It’ll be different. We’re having a girl.”
“Oh—then it’ll be worse.” She smiled at him and poured him a cup of tea. “I’ll make some more toast.”
“Sit, I’ll do it.”
“Gladly.” She sat at the table and put her feet up on a chair, while he put four slices of bread into the toaster. “How is Dana this morning? She’s not ill, is she?”
“She’s sleeping. She’s not a morning person.” He took a pan from the rack and started one of the gas burners. “Thank you for finding the house for us. Scully needs a place of her own—she hates wandering.”
“I hope she likes it.”
He hesitated. “Fiona . . . I have a—a difficult question for you.”
“That sounds serious.”
“It is serious. I wanted to talk to you about this with Ned here but also when Scully’s not around—”
Fiona smiled at him indulgently. “Just tell me.”
“If anything ever happens to me, I want to arrange it so Scully disappears. And the baby, of course. I have some friends in the States who can help with the papers but—”
“Mulder!” Fiona took her feet off the chair, holding up her hands to block his words. “What could happen to you that she would need to disappear? And how would that help? I don’t understand.”
He sighed, and started when the toast popped up from the toaster. “We—I, really, I have’t been entirely honest with you about why we left the States. ” He took out the toast and stacked them on the plate.
“What did you do, Mulder?” she whispered.
“Nothing illegal,” he said seriously. “I asked the wrong questions. I noticed things people would rather have stayed hidden. And I fell in love with Scully.”
“Oh, God, don’t tell me she’s not what she appears to be. “
“No—no—asolutely not. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He drank a swallow of tea, put some butter in the now-hot pan , and while he cooked some eggs and cheese began to talk. Everything important from the past seven years, a few not-so important things, skimming over a moonlit night in a New Mexico schoolyard, everything that led to Scully asleep upstairs.
When he was done, Fiona didn’t say anything for a long time. She ate a few bites of the scrambled eggs he put before her, washed it down with some tea, and said, “I always knew you believed some strange things.”
“Not just believe, Fee. Know.”
“They want the baby because they think it’s alien?”
“An alien-human hybrid, naturally conceived due to the experiments that were performed on Scully during her abduction—and on me, at various points in my life. Yeah.”
“But it’s just a baby.”
“Well, *we* know that.”
Fiona shook her head slowly, but said, “All right. You were saying about her needing to disappear?”
He could have kissed her, but only said, “If you don’t want to I’ll understand, but here’s what I’m planning.”
Before the morning got much older, they all boarded a northbound train. It would be three hours to Newcastle, and another half hour to Carterhaugh village itself. “It’s not far to Linford Hall,” Ned said. “You can walk it in twenty minutes. The gatehouse is about ten minutes from the house in the other direction, but it seems a lot further than it is because of all the trees. The family has always been very proud of the grounds—there’s a maze and gardens, and the trees that line the drive are over three hundred years old.”
“It sounds wonderful,” Scully said, squeezing Mulder’s hand. She was trembling a little, and Mulder hoped it was only nerves. He put his arms around her shouldes and she leaned her head against his chest.
“We don’t have to say yes,” Mulder whispered to her. “If you don’t like it, we don’t have to take it.”
“I’m not going to hate it.”
He smiled down at her. “You know that already?”
“I have a feeling . . . And even if I don’t love it, it’ll be great to not be in a hotel.”
“That is true.”
Scully stroked his hand lightly, watching the city pass by through the window. She said, “I hope it has ivy. And leaded windows.” She settled herself more comfortably against his side, and Mulder closed his eyes, happy just to listen to her voice. “And wood floors . . . and exposed beams in the ceiling . . .”
I hope it’s your dream house, Scully, Mulder thought. I hope you’re happy there.
Ned’s parents met them at the Carterhaugh train station, where even Simon couldn’t help smiling at their kisses and hugs. “You remember we mentioned bringing some friends?” Ned said before introducing Mulder and Scully to them. Mulder had expected Mrs. Lynn to be like his mother, patrician, beautiful and cold; but she had kind brown eyes and a pixie-like face, and shook his hand with both of hers.
“Welcome, welcome,” she said. “Welcome to Carterhaugh. Welcome to Linford Hall.”
His father was quiet—often asking people to repeat themselves after speaking, but mostly letting Mrs. Lynn handle everything from telling about the house to driving.
After Scully had rested a bit and they all had lunch, the Lynns took them on a walk through the grounds. Mr. Lynn offered Scully his arm since they walked at the same pace. He was a laconic tour guide: “That tree will bear peaches in summer. That tree house was built in 1897. Don’t go into the maze without a guide, you’ll get lost.”
“There’s so much hi
story here,” Scully said. “There must be a ghost or two.”
Mr. and Mrs. Lynn exchanged glances, but Ned said, “The woods are haunted.”
“Oh, Ned, that’s not true at all,” said Mrs. Lynn.
“Oh, no? I remember the lights in the woods at night, and the hoofbeats we’d hear with no prints in the morning, and the tales the old men tell at the pub. The woods are haunted and have been for hundreds of years.”
“You never told me that, Dad,” Simon said.
“I didn’t want to scare you when you were a child.”
Mulder couldn’t help himself: his pulse quickened at the thought of mysterious lights and noises. “So who’s supposed to be haunting the woods?” he said eagerly.
Fiona said with an indulgent laugh, “The little people—the fairy folk. The pub in town is named the May Queen for them. But it’s nonsense, Mulder, like will o’ the wisps and leprechauns. Folktales, nothing more.”
“Oh.” He couldn’t hide his disappointment, either.
“But if you want the house, there’s the blue lady,” said Ned.
“Who no one’s seen for thirty years,” said Simon. “She’s supposed to have died for love of an unfaithful knight, but *I* think she’s just one of Gram’s tales for the American tourists who want quaint, haunted Britain. No offense.”
“None taken,” Scully murmured.
“The Blue Lady’s true,” Ned said, “I’ve seen her. And I have seen lights in the woods. Call it tales all you like, but I know what I saw.”
“You were very young,” said Mrs. Lynn. “Mr. Lynn’s father loved the old tales, and the children used to listen to him every night for hours while they were growing up. Mr. Lynn wrote them down a few years ago, as best as we could remember. But they are just tales, Ned dear. There’s no such thing as fairies.”
Behind her, Ned caught Mulder’s eye and shook his head, mouthing, “Ghosts.” Mulder grinned back.
“”Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe,'” Mr. Lynn quoted, then stopped with a puzzled expression. “That’s not the right poem. What’s the poem I’m thinking of, Janet?”
“Mr. Lynn loves Lewis Carroll,” Mrs. Lynn told Scully. “‘”You are old, Father William, the young man said, “and your hair has become very white; and yet you incessantly stand on your head—do you think at your age it is right?”‘”
Simon started laughing, and Mr. Lynn continued the poem with a puckish grin, “‘”In my youth,” Father William replied to his son, “I feared it might injure the brain—but now that I’m perfectly sure I have none, why, I do it again and again!”‘”
They all laughed at the bit of nonsense verse, but Mr. Lynn said, “That’s not the right one either, Janet.”
“Well, I’m sure I don’t know, Tom. You’ve got more poems in your head than I can keep up with. The gatehouse is just a bit further, shall we continue? Can you bear the walk, Mrs. Mulder?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Sculy said, and reached for Mulder’s hand.
They had passed the gatehouse on the way in but Mulder had only caught a glimpse of it through the trees. “The original manor burned down in 1684,” Mrs. Lynn said as she unlatched the garden gate. “This house is actually older than the Hall. It was last renovated in the fifties, but we’ve had a contractor look it over since we wanted to lease it. It’s got good plumbing and a solid foundation, and the roof is in fine condition.”
“And it has ivy,” Scully whispered. She squeezed Mulder’s hand and he squeezed back.
“And leaded glass.”
“Yes, yes, it’s from the Tudor era,” Mrs. Lynn said. “Come along, Mrs. Mulder. Let’s get inside before it starts raining—those clouds look ominous.”
“Mum, can I go back to the Hall?” Simon said, and Fiona nodded to him.
“Would you bring the car round in about an hour, so we don’t have to walk back in the rain?”
“Sure,” he said, and took off at a lope back to the main house.
Scully was biting her lip, her hand tight and warm around Mulder’s. It was three floors with a wood shingled roof, and brick and white plaster between dark wood beams. The narrow windows had diamond-shaped panes set in lead, with empty window boxes in front of every window. One door led to the bottom floor, and a staircase led to the second.
Mrs. Lynn led them up the stairs and opened the door with a flourish. “This is the main room of the house,” she said. The room ran the entire length of the house, with a heavy fireplace at one end and another narrow staircase to the first and third floors. The floors were solid timber beneath their feet. A modern kitchen had been put in by the fireplace: a gas range, a heavy granite sink, counters and an island with a pot rack above it.
They climbed the stairs to the third floor, where there were three bedrooms, one opening into the next. The central room had another inglenook fireplace and a narrow bathroom, with a deep claw-foot tub that made Scully clutch at Mulder’s hand again. One of the bedrooms had been used as a nursery in the past: it had been painted cream with narrow blue stripes, and a cartoonish cow jumped over a jolly moon, while a dish and spoon ran away hand-in-hand on a hill painted below.
“What do you think?” she said, but Scully was too busy looking to answer.
“I think she loves it,” Mulder said, and Scully nodded, still looking around. “It’s beautiful, Mrs. Lynn.”
“It is unfurnished,” Mrs. Lynn said. “All it has is the stove and counters. The last tenants used the downstairs for storage, but they cleared it—and what they left we’ve taken out—so you can use it for whatever you like. I’m sure you can find something. So. It is small and there’s no central heat or air, but as I said it’s in good condition. Would you like to see the garden?”
“Yes, please,” Scully said quietly, then hung back while the Lynns led the way downstairs again. “Mulder,” she whispered. “I love this house.”
He grinned at her. “Then we’ll take it.”
“Can we honestly afford this, though? They’ve got to be expecting a huge rent—can we afford a thousand pounds a month? Or more?”
“Yes. We can afford it.” He took her chin in his hand. “Hey. Don’t look so worried. If you want this place, we have get it. The only thing that concerns me is the stairs.”
“They make gates to block off stairs when toddlers start walking.”
“I mean for you, in about three months. They’re very steep. We’ll be sleeping up here and doing most of our living downstairs, do you think you can handle it when you’re at your ninth month?”
Scully nodded, her eyes wide. “I’m sure I can.”
“Okay.” She grabbed both his hands, laughing. “Mulder, we found our house. We have a house!”
He laughed too and spun her around. “Come on, let’s look at the garden before we say yes.”
<em>~”Jabberwocky” and “Father William” are by Lewis Carroll.~</em>
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven&Earth 5~
Mulder climbed up the stairs for what he hoped was the last time that day, and paused at the top of the landing. They had spent the day moving in, with help from Fiona, Ned and Simon—just the basics of furniture, chairs around the island, dishes, a bookcase Scully hoped to fill soon, a wardrobe and a bed.
But they had said goodbye and thank-you to their friends, and it was finally just the two of them in the little house.
Scully was standing on her tiptoes at the island, hanging pots on the rack. She had complained to Mulder before how she loathed maternity clothes because of the cute factor, but he loved how cute she looked in her overalls, with her hair pulled back and her arms bare. He had to stop and watch.
Finally she noticed him staring and said, blowing back a lock of errant hair, “What?”
“You’re a pretty girl,” he said in a low voice.
Scully laughed. “Come here and help me.”
He crossed the room and took the pans from her to finish hanging them up. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Do you hear that?” she said.
Mulder and listened to the quiet house. “Hear what?”
“There’s nobody here bu
t us. No staff, no other guests, no hosts. It’s just us. Our house.”
“Yeah,” Mulder said. “So we can be as noisy as we want to be.”
“Or as quiet.” She added at his look, “Or as noisy. Bu there’s so much still to do, Mulder.”
“I know. Not tonight, though. ” He pulled the band from her hair and ran his fingers through it so it fell in curls around her face.
“I want to put a rug under the dining room table, when we have one. And I want to plant bulbs in the fall. I think I’ll be too busy with the baby for any spring planting. And we need to decide what to do with this room. It’s a great room, I love it, but I’m not sure how to get the best use out of it.”
Mulder sighed and rested his chin on he top of her head. “Here’s my vision. ” He turned her towards the fireplace. “Sofa in front of that. Maybe an armchair or two. TV to the side. Computer under the windows. “
“I’ve missed my computer,” Scully murmured. “Can we get the internet out here?”
“I think so, Tom and Janet have it.” He turned her to the other end of the room. “Dining room table and chairs, and a play space for the baby.”
“I like your vision. ” She wrapped her hands around his fingers.
“Tomorrow,” he said. “We have plenty of time.”
“Our house,” she said again, then turned back her head to look at him. “This is what you want, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is.”
She nodded and leaned her head back against his chest. “It’s just . . . Sometimes I think you’re not sure about all this. Like you’re indulging me.”
“Scully.” He turned her around and held her face in his hands. “Honestly, honey? I am a little scared.”
“Mulder,” she began.
“Listen. You could have anyone you wanted. Anyone. You could have a guy who’d give you the moon.”
“What would I do with the moon?” she said gently.
“You know what I mean. And you have to admit, not a lot of people get us.”
“You were so upset on our wedding day. Did someone say something to you?”
He sighed and leaned her forehead against hers. “Your brother said something I overheard—and your mother wasn’t happy—and Charlie probably would have objected if we’d talked long enough.”
She said, cupping his cheek in her hand, “The fact that I love you has nothing to do with it, of course.”
“And that’s the thing, isn’t it? That’s why we make sense. Despite everything that says it shouldn’t be, there’s love.”
“Yes, there is,” Scully murmured. “Let’s go to bed, Mulder.”
“Are you tired, honey?”
She smiled. “No. Not at all.”
Life, Mulder thought, could be highly satisfying. It could be unexpectedly delightful. It could be strangely beautiful, full of wonder and sweetness.
Scully had chosen a heavy sleigh bed with a wide, firm mattress, and Mulder leaned back on his elbows while he watched Scully undress, letting the comfort of the bed surround him. She was a little shy to let him see her nude at this point of her pregnancy, but he didn’t know why. He loved her heavier breasts and taut, creamy belly. He couldn’t get enough of her. He hoped he never would.
“Look at you,” he said softly, taking her hands. “Look at how sweet you are. “
“I just feel big,” she said.
“You’re round,” he said. “I want to just sink into you.” Scully chuckled, blushing a little, and he said, “Okay, that’s not quite what I meant.”
“I think I know what you mean, and the sentiment is greatly appreciated, my love.” She let go of his hand to hold his face and kiss him. He tilted back his head, smiling as her lips moved tenderly around his face.
“It’s going to be a while, isn’t it, before we’re fucking frantically against the wall again,” he murmured.
“Do you miss it?”
“Not really—it’s probably better for my back.”
She laughed and kissed him, pushing her tongue into his mouth. He liked her gentle just fine—but he loved when she was fierce.
“Hello, second-trimester libido,” he said when they came up for air.
“Enjoy it while you can,” she said, and kissed him again. “I can’t promise how good my mood will stay for the next three months.”
“I will bring you offerings of chocolate and Saltines.” He pulled her onto the bed and helped her lie beside him, stretched out on the soft cotton sheets. “I will bow down and worship at the altar of your tummy.” He kissed the belly in question and Scully touched his hair.
“You will lay me good and proper,” she said with a fallen angel’s smile.
“That too.” He loved the way her hands moved through his hair as he kissed her body. He loved every one of her freckles, loved to trace a path from one to the next with his tongue.
Scully scooted herself further onto the bed and grabbed a pillow to put under her hips. “This really is the best way to break in a bed,” she said breathlessly, and Mulder hummed in agreement, his lips closing around her tight pink nipple.
He loved the little noises she made—and it occurred to him that she’d always made *little* noises. They’d always made love in places where they had to worry about people hearing them, from the park to their own apartments to various hotels—but now, they didn’t.
As they kissed and touched he waited to see if Scully would notice this too, but even when he was deep inside her, her teeth were clamped onto her lip, muffling her cries.
“Hey,” he whispered and ran his fingertips over her mouth. “Our nearest neighbor is a mile away. Let me hear you. I want to hear you. Let me hear you, Scully.”
Her teeth released her lip and she breathed deeply, tilting back her head. She moaned, “Oh,” and he whispered, “Yes, that’s it, give me more, baby,” and she almost shouted, “Oh, yes,” her body arching.
Mulder held himself high above her so he could watch her face. He could never get enough of this, either, of her sweet body, of the sheer pleasure of making love to someone he adored. He felt her trembling and the clumsy counterthrusts of her hips, her nails digging into his neck. She shouted his name as tremors coursed through her body, and he groaned as oblivion ran through his.
At the last moment Mulder remembered to roll them onto their sides so he wouldn’t crush her. Scully put a sleepy hand on his cheek and kissed him without opening her eyes. “Welcome home,” she whispered.
Mulder chuckled. “It’s nice to be home.” He stroked his hand down her side, stopping at her belly. “I missed so much,” he murmured.
“You’ll get it on the next one.”
Next one? “What do you mean, next one?”
“I mean,” she said innocently, “the next one, if there one, which I hope there is. But we need to get through the first one. I know.”
“Next one?” he said again.
Scully said, “Possibly. In a year or two. Because I’m not getting any younger. Do you realize the statistics of birth defects that are possible just because a woman turns thirty-eight?”
“Next one,” Mulder said again, turning onto his back, pulling up the blankets and putting his arm around her.
For a few minutes they lay quietly, her hand on his chest, and then she said, “Would you like another child, Mulder?
He stroked her shoulder. “Yes. I think I would. But let’s get you through this one first, because I’m already scared about how much labor is going hurt—”
“Don’t say that. I know that already.”
“Does it scare you, honey?”
“A little. I’ve been reading about alternative birth methods—maybe we should try something untraditional. I don’t want to be screaming and crying and ripping—”
Mulder shuddered and held her closer. “Just one.”
She chuckled and kissed his chest. “Birth is pain, Mulder. That’s the way it always has been. At least we’re not living a thousand years ago, when most women were dead at twenty-five from infections from childbirth.”
“God. How has the human race survived.”
“Biological imperitives.” She smiled at him.
He smiled back and kissed her. “You want me there?”
“Then I will be th
She yawned, settling herself more comfortably against him, and said, “I fully expect you to see this through, boyo.”
“I will,” he promised, certain he could keep it.
“I’ve done something,” Fiona said a few days later over the phone. “I hope you’ll forgive me, Mulder, but I’m not sure you will.”
“What’d you do?” He looked out the window at Scully, who was outside with a notepad and a book on plants, planning to restore the neglected garden. In her yellow sweater she looked like an early-blooming flower among the hibernating plants. Tulip, he thought and smiled.
“—and so I gave her your phone number. I knew she’d find you eventually. She’s persistent like that when she wants something. Forgive me?”
“Wait a second—what do you do?”
She said slowly, “I gave Phoebe Green your phone number. She wants you to work for the Yard.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”
“It’s okay, Fee—I told her no already, but I guess it’s going to take a few reiteration before she gets the hint.” He sighed and looked out the window again. Scully had shut her book and turned her face up to the mild sunshine, her eyes closed. What am I doing in here? he thought. “Thanks for the warning. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“You’re not mad?”
“I’m not mad. See you, Fiona.”
He barely heard Fiona say goodbye as he hung up the phone. He hurried down the stairs and out to the garden, and placed her coat over her shoulders as he joined Scully on the wrought iron bench. “Hey.”
“Hey. Who was that on the phone?”
“You know, as soon as we have a guest bed I want her and Ned to visit us.”
“I’m sure they’d love it. She had some news for us.”
“Is she all right?”
“Yes, she’s fine. She called to say we may be hearing from Phoebe soon. I just want you to be prepared.”
Scully pursed her lips and doodled a figure eight on the notepad. “What does she want?”
“She wants to convince us to work for Scotland Yard. I’m going to tell her no, Scully.”
The eight became a pair of eyes, looking to the left through thick, black lashes. Mulder pushed his hand through her hair, watching her face. “I hate feeling this way,” Scully said abruptly.
“Feeling what way?” He resisted the urge to take the pen from her nervous fingers.
“Threatened.” She scowled at herself.
“Dana Scully,” he said. “Look at me.” She raised her eyes, her cheeks bright pink. “You know I love you.”
“Yes. I know.”
“So why feel threatened?”
“I remember the way you looked at her. I was jealous—I don’t even know why, I hardly knew you then—but I could see it. You wanted her back and she wanted you.”
“She wanted me because I was there to reclaim.”
“Exactly. She was your first love—your *first.* Imagine how you’d feel if you’d ever met Daniel. I loved him.”
“And you don’t anymore.”
“And I don’t love Phoebe anymore. She has nothing that I want—and you have everything.”
Scully looked at him a moment, and then leaned over and hugged him close, letting her books fall to the grass. “I love you,” she murmured into his neck.
“Love you too, honey. I’m going to tell her no.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to have a paycheck coming in.”
“Scully, we’re fine.”
“I’d feel better if we had an income.”
“As soon as I get Quicken installed on the computer you can see exactly how it all breaks down. You’d probably better handle the money anyway, you’re better at it. I bet you never forgot to deposit a paycheck, ever.”
“No, I haven’t,” she admitted, leaning her head against his shoulder.
“Do you want to go inside? It’s getting chilly.”
“Just a few minutes more. I love it here.”
“Okay. Are you warm enough?”
“Yes, dear,” she teased gently. She laid her head against his shoulder to watch the sun go down behind the trees.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 6~
“. . . And this was his *first* hit, a remake of an old blues tune. A lot of early rock’n’roll is based on the blues, if not outright stolen from it. But the reason that Elvis is important isn’t just cleaning up the blues for white teenagers to dance to at the sock hop—”
“Mulder,” Scully said, lowering her book. “That’s enough history.”
“Okay, okay,” Mulder said, mostly to the belly. “Plenty of time for history later.” He gave the belly a kiss and turned on the stereo.
His birthday gift to Scully had been a stereo and a decent collection of classical and jazz CDs. Music more to his taste started turning up at once, of course, but Scully thought it was just as important to have the Rolling Stones and Tom Waits in a home as to have Debussey and John Coltrane.
And she loved to see Mulder imitating Elvis’s hip swivel while he sang along, though she kept that to herself. She’d hate for him to feel self-conscious and stop.
When the song was over Mulder choose other CD and flopped down on the floor between Scully and the stereo again. “Elvis,” he told the baby. “Elvis is important, so remember that.”
“Bach next,” Scully said.
“Beatles next,” Mulder replied. “‘Sgt. Pepper.’ More on how music borrows and builds on itself.”
“I need some Bach,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him, and he grinned and got back up to choose another CD.
“The lady wants Bach, the lady gets Bach.” He started the new CD and Scully smiled her thanks. He lay down again, rubbing her tummy, and said, “This is Bach. Supposedly it’ll make you smarter, but honestly, Baby Girl, from a purely genetic standpoint, I think you’ve got that covered.”
“If she turns out to be a he, do you think he’ll be traumatized by you calling him ‘baby girl’ all the time?” She grinned at him.
“I wouldn’t call her that if you weren’t so sure she is a girl,” Mulder said mildly, still rubbing her stomach. “If you said, ‘Mulder, we’re having a boy,’ I woudl call him Baby Boy. Or if you said you have no idea I’d call her something else, like—I don’t know—Guppy.”
“Guppy,” Scully repeated and turned a page of her book. “And I was starting to think Daisy was an indulgent nickname.”
Mulder laughed, laid his head on his arm and continued stroking her belly.
Two weeks more and the waiting was over. They had prepared the house and themselves the best that they could: the nursery was cleaned and furnished, they had clothes and diapers and toys and burp rags, and what Mulder insisted on calling a pram even though Scully could only think of it as a stroller. They had a midwife at the local birthing center, and Scully had practiced breathing slow and deep to the point that she was doing it every night to help herself fall asleep.
She’d known all along that she would get very large at the end of her pregancy, but she still found herself awed and a little troubled by the size of her belly. Mulder said she was beautiful and she knew he meant it, but it was hard to believe sometimes—particularly when Phoebe Green kept popping up.
Phoebe. Scully scowled and turned another page of her book, even though between Mulder’s hand and her own thoughts she hadn’t absorbed a word. Mulder had accepted the job at Scotland Yard and Scully didn’t regret it, but somehow Phoebe interpreted Mulder’s position as a consultant to mean she had free access to their lives. Phone calls and emails on a daily basis, and Scully thought the only thing that was keeping Phoebe from popping in was the three-hour drive from London. Scully couldn’t imagine it would get better once the paperwork had cleared and Mulder was an actual member of Her Majesty’s police force.
Scully shut the book and started stroking Mulder’s hair. He hummed—no, it was more like a purr. She smiled, feeling a little soothed.
It wasn’t just Phoebe, though. It was the smug smile on her superior’s face when he said, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Mulder, we have very
talented pathologists on staff already—and we can’t hire a foreign national when our own countrymen do the job perfectly well. Besides,” smiling like he had to use smaller words for her to understand, “you’ll be occupied with your little one, you won’t want to work.”
Not want to work? She couldn’t think of a time that she hadn’t wanted to work. Even when she and Mulder were pulled from the X-Files and were doing manure checks in the heartland, she’d wanted to do a job—her job, her contribution to the world.
She’d give it a year, maybe two. By then the baby would be old enough for a nanny, and maybe once they had their residency established it would be easier to convince someone to hire her, like the Carterhaugh morgue.
“You want to get back to slicin’ and dicin’?” Mulder had said after they left the meeting with the Yard. “I thought you were preoccupied with daffodils and didies right now.”
“I’m not,” she had said, but he’d laughed and kissed her and said, “That’ll change.”
Assumptions irked her. They always had.
On the other hand, maybe he was right, maybe once the baby was here she would feel differently. Maybe once she as devoting her energy to her child she wouldn’t have anything left for an outside job.
Scully sighed. She would deal with this later—much later. Next year later. “Have you ever considered the Goldberg Variations to be makeout music?” she said, tugging on Mulder’s hair.
“No, but I’m willing to give it a whirl.” He moved up to kiss her, and she eagerly opened her mouth to his tongue. This made everything better. Everything.
Scully picked up their mail—it usually came when she was out for her morning walk. Lately most of their mail was official documents for Mulder, but she got a few letters a month from friends they’d made during their honeymoon.
She also got, about once a month, a typed letter postmarked from various cities around Europe and with no return address.
She did not tell Mulder about these.
One rainy morning in late April Mulder got the mail and the paper, telling Scully to stay warm by the fire. He came back, thumbing through the envelopes and putting hers aside from his. “Something from the birthing center, probably about your appointment next week . . . ” His voice trailed off. He held up one plain letter between his thumb and forefinger “Scully? Who is this letter from?”
“Who does it say?”
“There’s no return address. It’s postmarked Prauge. Do we know somebody in Prague?”
“I think the Howards are in Prague.”
Mulder held up another envelope. “Callie Howard. Postmarked Venice.” He gave her the letters and sat down at the island, looking at her expectantly. “Who is it from? Do you think it’s your stalker?”
“I don’t have a stalker, Mulder.”
“No, you just have guys who send you roses anonymously.”
“One rose, one time.”
“Please just tell me if we need to take that to the police, to have it traced.”
She slipped her finger under the flap and tore the envelope open. Inside there was just one sheet of paper, typed. “Dear Dana,” it read, “I followed him here and took care of things. Don’t be afraid. You’re never alone. A.”
“It’s fine,” she said to Mulder. “It’s nothing.”
Mulder studied her for a moment, then opened the paper and started to read. “Okay. Nothing.”
He was angry, she could see it in the twitching muscle in his neck. But telling him the truth would only upset him more. She knew what his reaction would be—they’d be out of their perfect house and wandering again before the sun went down.
And she couldn’t wander anymore. It took most of her energy to walk the drive to Linford Hall. More than that, the thought of leaving this little house, of running again, wrenched at her heart. This was home. This was where they belonged. She was not going to cower in fear.
And it really was nothing. Krycek was looking out for them.
Minutes passed. She read the letter from Callie Howard, which was frothy and and silly like all of her letters. She looked up when Mulder tossed the newspaper aside and stalked around the island to stand in front of her. He took a deep breath. She waited for him to speak, but she almost wished he’d yell—yelling had to be better than all this repression.
Mulder grabbed her face and kissed her, hard as if he wanted to suck her teeth into his mouth. She inhaled, startled at his ferocity, and thrust her hands into his hair. His tongue was hot in her mouth. “Oh, God,” she breathed against his lips, and he let up a little. “Mulder . . .”
With one sweep of the arm he cleared the breakfast dishes from the island, and then lifted her from the chair and onto the top of the butcherblock. He kissed her again, just as hard, the muscles of his shoulders tight as rocks beneath her fingers. The kiss went on and on, so hungry and demanding Scully whimpered.
Mulder pulled away and leaned his head against her neck, panting. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry . . .”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, stroking his head with a shaking hand. “It’s okay. You’re angry. Talk to me.”
“Don’t keep secrets from me.” He kissed her neck. “I can’t stand it.”
“You’ll just get upset.” He chuckled drily, and she said, “Okay, more upset. And I can’t take any more changes, Mulder.” She lifted his head and held his chin so she could look into his eyes. “This is our home and I’m staying here.”
“Okay. Whatever you say, we’ll stay here. Just tell me.”
“All right.” She swallowed and said, “The letter is from Krycek. He’s been writing to me, to tell me about people who’ve been looking for us—and what he’s done to them. Not in detail, but enough that I’m not worried.”
“Krycek,” Mulder repeated. “Wonderful.”
“He’s helped us before. He’s helping us now, I believe that.”
“He killed your sister!”
“And he killed your father, and he’s probably killed a lot of other people, and some of them have been for us. I’m not going to tell him to stop—and I couldn’t anyway. He’s never given me an address. I only know where he is from the postmarks.”
Emotions battled across Mulder’s face, and he said, “So why is he writing just to you?”
“Maybe he knows I’ll actually listen to him instead of throw him around and call him names.”
“I don’t call him names . . .” Scully smiled, stroking his cheek, and he slowly nodded. “Okay. I’m not nice to him—but I can’t be, Scully. I just can’t.”
“You don’t have to be, but being grateful sometimes wouldn’t hurt. God only knows what would have happened to us if he hadn’t interferred, Mulder.”
“So am I forgiven?”
“Of course you are. But no more secrets, Scully. We’re beyond that.”
“Agreed. No secrets.” He looked rather miserably at the mess on the floor. “And I guess I ought to clean this up.”
“Help me down and I’ll help you.”
“Deal.” He lifted her off the island and kissed her when her feet were firmly on the floor. “This fighting thing, it’s not so bad.”
“We’ll get better at it.”
He added in a hopeful tone, “Makeup sex later?”
“Oh,” Scully said. “Definately.”
“All right,” Mulder said into the phone. “I’ll need to get back to you on that. I understand, Jacob, I really do, but I have to talk to my wife first. Talk to you soon.” He hung up the phone, frowning.
This look worried Scully. “Sit,” she said, putting down the eggplant she was slicing for dinner. He sat in one of the kitchen chairs with a sigh. She stared rubbing his shoulders. “Who was that?”
“The family lawyer back in Boston. It’s good news and it’s bad news.”
“Someone’s made an offer on the house in Quonacatogue.”
“Yeah—but I have to sign some papers, make some other arrangements, before the sale can be final.”
Her hands stopped kneading his shoulders a moment. “So . . . You’re saying you have to go back to the States?”
“The buyer isn’t willing to wait long, so I’d have to leave
right away.” He looked at her over his shoulder. “I can take care of some other things while I’m there, pick up a few more of our personal items, and make sure if the other houses get offers they can sell without my presence. Three days, tops. Selling the house will bring in a healthy chunk of change, Scully.”
“I know. I understand.” She resumed rubbing his shoulders, though she was starting to feel a little tense herself. “Three days?”
“Two to travel, one to take care of business. And you’re not due for another week, and first babies are often late—and if you don’t want to be alone, maybe you could ask Fiona to stay with you while I’m gone, or you could ask Mrs. Lynn for one of their guest rooms for a while.” He looked back at her again. “I won’t miss it, Scully. I won’t miss a thing.”
Scully nodded again, biting her lip. She said, “I think I’ll be all right. The Lynns are so close, I can call them if I need any help.”
“Okay.” He tilted back his head and requested, “Kiss me.”
She kissed him, chuckling at the odd angle. “Do you want help packing?”
“I can do it. Is there anything you want me to bring you? Saltines?” he added with a grin.
She bopped his nose but said, “You’d better.”
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 7~
The first night without Mulder wasn’t so bad. She saw him off to the train station in Carterhaugh’s lone taxi, ate a little dinner, and read, both aloud and to herself, before going to bed. Mulder called from the airport and they talked a little, saying I love you and I’ll miss you, and she held the phone to her belly so Mulder could sing a lullaby. It was hard to say goodbye when his flight was called.
She slept cuddling his pillow. It smelled like him.
In the morning Fiona called. “Mulder asked me to check up on you. How are you doing?”
“All right,” Scully said with a sigh. “Managing. I think I’ve started having false labor. My midwife said to just wait them out, but it’s a little scary.”
“Do you want me to come up? I can be there by noon.”
It was tempting, but still Scully said, “Thank you, but I’ll be okay. It’s just false alarms, and Mulder will be home soon.”
“All right,” Fiona said, still sounding worried. “Call me you need anything.”
Mulder called soon afterwards. “I’m here. I’m with the guys right now. They miss you.” There was murmuring in the background, and Mulder added, “Frohike says if you ever need a bodyguard he’s up for the job.”
Scully smiled into the phone. “Tell him thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“She says thanks,” Mulder told Frohike. She heard rustling as he moved away from the sound of voices, and he said in a more intimate tone, “I really miss you.”
“I miss you too. How was the flight?”
“Fine. Nothing happened. I slept most of the way. How are you doing?”
“Just fine. I think I’m having Braxton-Hicks contractions, but that’s nothing to worry about.”
“Are you sure, honey?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. When do you see your lawyer?”
“In the morning. I’ve got a commuter flight to Boston at seven. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”
“I’ll sleep a little more tonight. Don’t worry, honey. I can go for days, you know.”
“No, you can’t, Mulder. You need to be rested to handle important things properly.”
“Like real estate and wills,” Mulder said. “I know.”
“I’m a father now. It’s time.”
“You’re becoming such a grownup.”
“I told you I was.”
“Fiona called, by the way. Thank you for asking her to look in on me.”
“She’s good people. That reminds me: will you have her call Simon about ghost-hunting this weekend? I forgot about it when we talked.”
“Ghost-hunting,” Scully said with a chuckle. “You two.”
“Live long and propser, Scully. I love you.”
“I love you too. Get some sleep. Call me soon.”
“I will. Love you.” He hung up.
Scully stayed where she was on the couch for a few minutes, holding the phone. She could feel Mulder’s voice on her skin as if she were immersed in it.
The baby gave her a prod, and Scully rubbed her tummy in response. “It’s okay, baby,” she said. “I miss Daddy too.”
She hauled herself to her feet and decided to work in the garden for a while, to keep herself occupied.
Even though Scully relayed the message to Fiona to remind Simon that Mulder was away, Simon still showed up that night, eager to track down the Carterhaugh ghosts. It had been his and Mulder’s project all spring, and Fiona encouraged it because it meant his grandparents saw him more.
Simon pouted a moment when Scully told him Mulder was in the States, then said, “D’you mind if I hang with you a while?”
“I’m not doing anything interesting—I’m just going through the list of things we need for the baby one more time.”
“I can help,” he said. “I can—lift things, move things around.”
“All right,” Scully said, grinning despite herself. For a blue-haired, multi-pierced boy in a “Sid Vicious is dead” t-shirt, he could be very sweet.
They talked for a while about Simon’s favorite subjects—girls, ghosts, and England’s chances in the World Cup—and Scully told him a little about the X-Files. His eyes grew very wide when she said she’d met an actual werewolf and real vampies.
“There’s a girl at school who says she’s a vampire,” he said. “I think she just spends too much time inside. She is really spooky, though. Hey! Have you down much with the bottom floor yet?”
“No, not yet. We haven’t decided what to do with it.”
“Have you noticed that tapestry against the back wall? Have you seen what’s beneath it?”
“I haven’t looked behind it.” She was folding onsies, her mind elsewhere than their bottom floor.
“Come on, I want to show you. Can you do the stairs? It’s my favorite part of this house.”
“All right,” she said, and he helped her to her feet so they could go downstairs.
They turned on the overhead light and Simon pushed his way behind the empty boxes from the pram and crib. He moved the heavy tapestry aside, grunting a little—it was a heavy piece of fabric, woven several inches thick. “There,” he said proudly.
In the wall was a door. It was made of heavy oak beams with sturdy iron hinges and an ornate handle. A horseshoe had been nailed over the top, and more nails had been hammered in all around the doorframe to seal it shut.
“It’s a door,” Scully said.
“It’s a door that doesn’t open. It’s been plastered over on the other side—there’s ivy growing over it now. Spooky, isn’t it?”
“How do you mean?”
“Why would somebody plaster over one door and cut another in the same room? This room has always been one big room—look at the beams, they’ve never been cut. And that door—” he pointed to the functioning door across the room, “is a lot newer than this door.”
“You’re right. That is spooky.”
“It’s like there was something that could only get inside by this door. It faces north—I don’t know if that means anything.”
“I don’t know either.”
“And then this horseshoe—good luck, right?”
“And protection against evil,” Scully murmured.
“And then this stuff.” He pulled down some dry leaves and twigs from the top of the jamb, which crumbled in his fingers. “Some kind of plant at the top.”
“Mistletoe,” Scully said.
“Mistletoe was thought to be a medicinal herb,” Scully said, stooping to examine the heavy lock. The keyhole had been filled in. She scraped at the substance with her fingernail and sniffed it. Beeswax.
“This is why I believe Dad when he says there are ghosts here. People don’t do things like this unless they’re afraid. Are you all right?” Simon said, looking worried. “Should I not have shown you this?”
“No—I’m glad to know it’s here.”
He pulled the tapestry back in front of the door and smoothed it out. “Of course, I’m probably
wrong—probably someone decided just to have the door on the second floor at some point, for safety’s sake.”
“I’ve upset you. I’m sorry. Mum is always telling me not to upset you because of the baby.”
“I’m not upset,” Scully said, though the door unsettled her. She suspected Simon was right, at least in the motivation of the people who had closed this door. They weren’t trying to keep something in—they were trying to keep something out.
She shook her head and said, “What do you say we ask your grandparents down here for dinner?”
The evening brought mild rain and company. Simon and Mr. Lynn built up a fire for Scully before dinner, so after they’d left Scully read on the sofa, listening to the raindrops hiss on the flames. She’d never noticed how much this old house creaked before.
Scully shut her book with an annoyed snap. She was listening for that door to open, which was patently absurd. “It’s ridiculous,” she told the baby. “That door is locked, nailed and plastered shut. No one is getting in here who’s not invited.” She felt another warning contraction, and leaned back he head, cupping her belly and breathing deeply as her midwife had taught her. Considering all the madness that had surrounded her pregnancy, her stress level and blood pressure had been normal, but still her midwife had told her she must rest more on their last visit. “Stress can bring on early labor,” she’d warned.
I don’t feel stressed, she thought. Mulder will be home tomorrow. I’m going have a healthy, normal baby. I have a beautiful house and good neighbors, and a husband who loves me—loves me so much—
The contraction passed and Scully opened her eyes, exhaling slowly. “I don’t suppose you want to try an alternative method, do you, Daisy?” she muttered as she pushed herself her feet. She’d always known intellectually how a baby leaves its mother’s body—she’d even helped a woman give birth once—but it was not academic anymore.
She poured herself a glass of water and drank. She closed her eyes and rolled the cold glass over her face. She wished Mulder was here, to rub her belly and tell her things would be fine, she was strong enough to do this.
Speak of the devil, she thought when the phone rang. “Scully,” she said when she picked up the receiver.
“I never want to do this again,” Mulder said. “Sleeping without you sucks.”
“As soon as you come home you never have to,” Scully said, getting herself comfortable on the couch again. She pulled a knit throw over her legs.
“Never, ever, ever, Scully. I keep expecting you to come out of the bathroom and tell me I’ve squeezed the toothpaste wrong. But the house is sold, and that’s good news, at least.” He named a figure so high Scully thought he had to be joking, and then said, “We’re buying a car when I get back. There’s no reason for you to be walking around with the baby when you don’t need to. We can look into getting our licenses when I get home.”
“All right,” Scully said, still a little dazed. “Mulder—how? It’s a tiny house—”
“It’s a beach house. That view is worth a lot. “
“Are you all right with selling it, really?”
“Really. I’m glad to be rid of it. Nothing but bad memories there.” They both were silent a moment, remembering. He sighed and said, “And how are my girls? You haven’t said.”
“We’re fine. The Braxton-Hicks contractions are still coming, but that’s to be expected. She’s kicking a lot. I can see one of her feet under my ribs.”
“Oh, my baby girl,” Mulder murmured. “So you’re okay?”
“We’re fine, love. We’re just fine. Everyone has been checking in on me all day. Simon kept me company for a while tonight. What did you tell him about the door on the bottom floor?”
“What would I tell him? Anybody can see the door, Scully, it’s right there in the garden.”
“I mean the door behind the tapestry—the one that’s been sealed shut.”
“We have a sealed door?”
She smiled at the familiar note his voice—the excitement of a little boy who has found a treasure map. “We have a sealed door. It’s been nailed shut and beeswax was melted into the keyhole, and it’s been plastered over on the outside. There’s even a horseshoe over the top.”
“Down on the bottom floor? I’ll have a look at it as soon as I get home. Have you asked Ned or Tom about the history of the house? They might know if there were some unexplained deaths or a haunting. Will you ask, the next time you see them?”
“We talked about it a little at dinner tonight, but Mr. Lynn didn’t know anything specific. Mrs. Lynn said she’d look through the family annals for me.”
Mulder laughed suddenly and said, “I’ve missed this too, Scully.”
“So have I.”
“Why haven’t they called my flight already? I want to come home. I miss you so damn much, Scully.”
“I miss you too, sweetheart.”
“Is it about your bedtime?”
“Just about. It’s getting late.”
“My body clock is thoroughly messed up. I only know what time it is by what’s on TV.” He heaved a sigh. “There they go, finally. Time to go. Love you, baby.”
“Love you too. See you soon.” Scully hung up the phone and leaned her head against the sofa back with a sigh.
She bit her lip, then got to her feet, determined to do—something. She made her way downstairs , one hand under her belly and the other tight around the banister. She flipped on the overhead light and studied the tapestry from across the room.
The house, she knew, had been built about five hundred years ago—a time when common people were still ruled by superstiton and folk magic. It had not been lost on her earlier that the nails, hinges, and doorknob were made of iron.
And Simon had mentioned it faced north. Towards the mountains—towards the dense Carterhaugh forest.
In the months they’d lived here, Scully had already heard plenty of stories about what went on in the forest—Ned Lynn was not the only one who’d hear hoofbeats on quiet nights, or seen lights flickering between the trees.
At some point, Scully thought, after the house was built but long enough ago that it had been forgotten, something had come from the woods to this house.
Or so its owners had perceived.
A thunderclap sounded so loudly the glass in the windows rattled, and and with a flash of lightning the overhead light went out. Scully grabbed for the banister, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dark. Her breath sounded harsh and quick to her ears.
Another contraction gripped her pelvis and Scully gasped, whimpering aloud. This was terribly soon for warning labor. She sank down onto the bottom step, holding her belly and breathing through her teeth. Slow and low, she thought, slow and low—but it was hard keep steady when the pain was so intense.
Finally it passed, and Scully leaned her head against the wall of the stairwell, trying to slow her breathing. She yelped when someone pounded on the door—not the hidden one, thank God, the functioning door in the garden. Scully crossed the room carefully, and wrapped her hand around the knob. “Who’s there?” she shouted though the thick wood.
“It’s Mrs. Lynn, Mrs. Mulder.”
Scully yanked open the door, to let in Mrs. Lynn, who was wearing wellingtons, and a yellow rain slicker and hat against the weather. “Mrs. Lynn, you startled me.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Mulder, I didn’t mean to worry you.” She removed the hat and shook out her damp hair.
“You didn’t walk down, did you? In this weather?”
“Oh, nonsense, Mrs. Mulder,” she said briskly and started digging around in her pockets. “There’s nothing in those woods that can hurt me. Besides, Tom and I have always been night people. The lights have been flickering at the Hall, and I didn’t think you had candles. It appears my instinct was correct.”
“Thank you,” Scully said, taking the tapers that Mrs. Lynn gave her from the deep raincoat pockets. She smiled
a little at the honey scent of beeswax.
“And candlesticks—here we are—and matches. I know how one can forget the little things when you’re still getting your household together. Are you all right, Mrs. Mulder? Is the baby giving you trouble?”
“Can you stay a few minutes? I’d like to ask you something.”
“Of course, dear.” She hung her raincoat and hat over the doorknob and took back the candles. “Let’s get these lit. Is the fire still going upstairs?”
“Yes,” Scully said, and followed Mrs. Lynn to the second floor, not even glancing over her shoulder at the sealed door.
The main room seemed much cozier and more homey when lit by candles and firelight. Mrs. Lynn told Scully to rest her feet and refilled her glass of water.
“There, have a drink. Have you heard from Mr. Mulder tonight?”
“He called a little bit ago. He’s on his way home.” Finally, she added mentally. “Mrs. Lynn, if you don’t mind my asking, how many children do you have?”
“Five—Barbara, Harry, Peter, Anna, and Ned is the baby. Are you in need of some mother’s wisdom, Mrs. Mulder?”
“I could use a little wisdom,” Scully said gratefully. “I feel silly, having so many questions—”
“It’s no easy thing, having your first child, especially so far from home. Ask me anything you like—I’ll do my best to remember.”
“I keep having warning contractions—I know it’s normal at this point, but they seem to be awfully close together.”
“How many have you had today?”
“Five. The last two were about an hour apart.”
“Well . . . It sounds to me like the beginning stages of labor. I expect you’ll be giving birth in the next few days.”
“But I’m not due for another week.”
“Babies come when they’re ready,” Mrs. Lynn said kindly.
Scully contemplated this for a moment, resting her hands on the uppermost curves of her belly, then said quietly, “I just don’t want her to come before Mulder gets back.”
“When is he due back? Tomorrow?”
“His plane lands around two. He should be here tomorrow night.”
“I’m sure he’ll get home in plenty of time.” Scully nodded slowly, a little more comforted. Mrs. Lynn said, “If you’re worried about being alone tonight you’re welcome to one of our guest rooms.”
“Thank you—you’ve done so much already. I think I’ll be all right, though. Can I call you if anything comes up?”
“Certainly. Well, I’ll leave you to rest, then. Enjoy sleep while you can, Mrs. Mulder.” She got to her feet and blew out all but the candles closest to Scully. “Don’t forget to blow these out before you fall asleep, though.”
“I’ll remember. Let me see you out.”
“No, no, sit, Mrs. Mulder. I’ll just get my things and go out through this door. No sense in you climbing those stairs again today,” Mrs. Lynn said as she descended the stairs.
Scully listened to the creaking stairs and closed her eyes, waiting for Mrs. Lynn to come back up again. She’s right, Scully thought sleepily. Soon, but not yet. “Are you ready to come out, my baby?” she whispered, rubbbing her hands over her belly.
More minutes passed, and Scully thought it was taking Mrs. Lynn a long time to get her slicker back on. “Mrs. Lynn?” she called. “Are you okay?”
There was no answer.
Scully paused a moment, then pushed herself off the couch. She picked up a candlestick and started carefully down the stairs. “Mrs. Lynn?”
At the bottom of the stairs Scully held the candle high above her head and had a good look around, particularly at the tapestry on the wall. Nothing seemed out of place, but Mrs. Lynn’s slicker and hat were gone.
Puzzled, Scully went to the door to lock up for the night. Strange that Mrs. Lynn would leave without saying goodbye, she thought, when again there was a knock at the door.
“Mrs. Lynn?” she said, opening it, and gasped at who was standing there, dark against the lashing rain.
“Hello, darlin’,” John Silver said, and blew her candle out.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 8~
Mulder wasn’t surprised that Scully didn’t answer the phone when he called from Gatwick. She could be in the garden or showering or at the Hall with the Lynns. He said to the answering machine, “I’m home, I miss you like crazy, and I’m treating myself to a commuter flight home. Don’t worry about meeting me at the train station. I love you. See you soon.”
His leg kept bouncing with nerves during the hop from London to Newcastle. Anticipation, he thought. Homesickness.
Before boarding the Carterhaugh train he called home again, and again got the machine. “It’s me. I—well, I kinda wanted to hear your voice, Scully. Okay. See you soon.”
*That*, he thought, is strange. Of course she could be spending the day with the Lynns—but—what if she’d gone into labor without him?
She would have changed the message on the answering machine, he realized, and breathed deeply again. She would say something to let him know he needed to be home—for she was Scully the Logical, Maker of Plans, She Who Is Always Prepared.
He found himself grinning as he watched the countryside roll past, changing from mild green hills to rocky coastline. He could hardly wait to tell her her new nickname.
All calm feeling vanished when Mulder stepped out of the cab in front of the Gatehouse. Police cars were parked along the road that led up to the Hall, and there were uniformed police officers in the garden, holding umbrellas against the misty rain.
He paid the cabbie and picked up his suitcase, and approached the nearest officer. “This is my house. What’s going on?”
“Are you Mr. Mulder?” he said, more kindly than Mulder expected.
“Yes. Did something happen? Where’s my wife?”
“Please come with me—you’ll want to speak with the deputy chief inspector.”
“The inspector?” Mulder repeated, but the constable was already headed towards the house.
The constable led him to the first floor and Phoebe Green, whose face was surprisingly tense when they approached her. “Mulder,” she began, closing her notebook, then she took his suitcase from his hand. “Thank you, Dale. I’ll take him from here.”
“What’s going on? Where’s Scully?”
Phoebe bit her lip, then said, “I tried calling this morning, and got worried when there wasn’t an answer. When I arrived the local police were already here—the inspector thinks, and he may be right, that this is some kind of retaliation—”
He stepped closer to her, his eyes boring into hers, and repeated in a low voice, “Where. Is My. Wife.”
“We don’t know, Mulder. She’s missing.”
He was going to puke—right on her Italian shoes. He bent over, wanting to scream, and breathed deeply, trying to regain control.
“Please come with me, Mulder. DCI Maddox will tell you everything we know.”
He felt her hand on the back of his neck and shook it off. “Don’t touch me.” He straightened up again and glared at Phoebe. “I bet you just love this.”
“Don’t be absurd. I don’t wish her ill, Mulder. I don’t. Come along. “
Mulder followed her upstairs, trying not to stare at the constables taking photographs of the scene. The crime scene, he thought. My house is a crime scene.
“Mr. Mulder,” the DCI said when they reached him, and stepped away from the other officers he’d been conferring with. “I’m Deputy Cheif Inspector Maddox, Northumbria police. There’s very little to go on—I’m afraid I haven’t much to offer you.”
“What’s happened to my wife?” Mulder said quietly.
“Janet Lynn was attacked here last night—chloroformed and left out in the rain. Her grandson discovered her: he’d gone looking for her when she didn’t come back to the Hall by midnight. She’s in hospital now and has told us everything she could. She didn’t see her attacker’s face, but did hear his voice. She said he’s American, not tall but very strong.”
“One arm or two?” Mulder murm
“I’m sorry?” the inspector said, but shrugged and went on when Mulder didn’t elaborate. “It’s safe to assume, I’d say, that the man who attacked Mrs. Lynn kidnapped your wife, but beyond that, we haven’t so much as a tire track. The rain has washed away any external evidence. We’re combing the inside of the house now. Is there anything you can tell us, Mr. Mulder? Do you have any ideas of who would want to kidnap your wife?”
“We left the States because of threats my wife’s safety,” Mulder said. He rubbed his eyes, trying to comprehend this. “We thought we’d be safe here.”
“We’ll be sending any fingerprints we find to Interpol, of course, but if you can narrow down our search—if there’s anyone who might have a vendetta against you, who’d follow you from the States and who’d want to take revenge on your wife—”
“I don’t know. The people who were threatening her, they don’t leave fingerprints. Sometimes they don’t even have names. I’d like to sit down.”
“Here, Mulder,” Phoebe said, and pulled out one of the kitchen chairs for him. Mulder all but fell into it. This was too much on top of the last few days—he couldn’t *think*.
“The only messages on the machine are from you,” Maddox said. “We’re in the process of setting it up for tracing, for when the ransom demand comes.”
“They don’t want money,” Mulder said, raising his head. “They want *her*—more than that, they want our baby. She’s due to give birth any day now—when I talked to her last night she thought she was having the beginning stages of labor.”
“Well,” Maddox said grimly. “Then we’ve got a deadline. Now, explain to me how you know who these people are and what they want but can’t give me any real information about them.”
“That’s the way these men operate,” Mulder said. “They live in shadows—they give up their names, their families, everything that makes them human, in exchange for power.”
“I see,” Maddox said with an air of skepticism.
“I know how that sounds.”
“I’m sure you do—particularly since you were out of the country at the time. You have a very good alibi.”
“Alibi?” Mulder repeated blankly.
“Inspector Green tells me your marriage was both sudden and recent. Would you care to tell me more about that?”
“DCI Maddox,” Phoebe protested. “I hardly think Mr. Mulder would arrange the kidnapping of his own wife—”
“I think a man would do anything if he were desperate enough,” Maddox said. “If, for example, he were coerced into a marriage with a child he didn’t want—”
It took all of Mulder’s self-control not to lunge at him—but when he got to his feet Maddox took a small step back. “My *wife*—” Mulder said, “my *child*—are out there somewhere. Are you going to help me find them or aren’t you?”
The two men glared at each other until Phoebe interjected, “DCI Maddox, Mr. Mulder has been travelling since last night. Perhaps he ought to rest a bit before you continue this.”
Maddox said tersely, “I’ll have more questions for you,” and hurried down the stairs.
Phoebe was apologetic: “Mulder, I never imagined—”
“‘Sudden and recent’?” Mulder snapped. “What the hell were you thinking? Do you want to frame me? Do you honestly think I arranged this?”
“No. Of course not. He asked how long you’d been married and I said since Christmas. I don’t know why he’d think that you’d hurt her.”
“Because husbands kill wives all the time,” Mulder said. “You know that. It’s an easy answer. It would make more sense if I’d married her for her money, though, or if my family disapproved or there was another woman—if there was a history of tension.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair, feeling every ounce of exhaustion brought on by the last three days.
“Why don’t you lie down for a while,” Phoebe said. “You’ve had such a long trip.”
“Yeah,” Mulder muttered. He picked up his suitcase and trudged up the stairs to their bedroom.
In the doorway he stopped, and took in the neatly-made bed, the framed photographs, the already-overflowing bookcase. Every inch of their bedroom bore Scully’s mark, her personality, her taste.
Mulder sat on the edge of the bed and buried his face in his hands.
A few minutes passed, and he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Phoebe knoocked lightly on the bedroom door. “Aren’t you going to rest?”
“Charming nursery,” she said, and joined him on the edge of the bed. “Very sweet. Was she excited to be a mother?”
“She is. Very,” Mulder said.
“She is,” Phoebe murmured. “Of course. We will find them, Mulder.”
“How? You heard Maddox. We’ve got nothing. The rain has washed any clues away—and Scully has been taken away from me before without a trace. These people could take her anywhere in the world and do anything to her. They’re above the law. Oh, God,” he moaned, turning onto his side. “Scully. My little girl.”
“Sh,” Phoebe soothed, stroking his hair. “Don’t despair, Mulder.” He couldn’t answer, instead burying his face in his pillow. The mattress shifted as Phoebe lay down behind him, and he glanced back at her, confused. “Oh, Mulder . . . The things I remember. The nightmares yoo used to have . . . How I used to comfort you . . . Would you like some comfort, Mulder?” she whispered. Her fingernails flicked along his chest. “Just a little?” She dropped a cautious kiss on his neck.
Infuriated by her audacity, he flipped over and grabbed her shoulders.”What do you think you’re doing?” He shook her roughly and she cried out. “What the hell, Phoebe! Do you think you could come in here and—and *fuck* me? In the bed I share with my wife? What the hell are you thinking!”
Her eyes were huge and startled. “Mulder—you’re hurting me.”
“Get out of here,” Mulder said, releasing her—all but shoving her off the bed. “Get away from me.”
Phoebe got to her feet and straightened her skirt. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are. Good God.”
“I thought I was your friend. I forgot the rules have changed.”
“Damn right they have. Get out of here.”
She started to leave, then stopped in the door. “I don’t wish her ill,” she said without turning around. “I don’t. I just wonder, whgn we find her . . . if she’ll want to come home.”
“You know nothing of our relationship,” Mulder growled.
“I won’t for long,” she answered, and shut the door.
Mulder closed his eyes and let himself fall back on the bed. He could remember things too—and his memories weren’t pleasant. Smiles and excuses and tear-stained apologies, promises to do better, whispered “I love you”s as her hands slid over his body and he tried not to think about who she’d been touching just hours before—no. Nothing he wanted to dwell on.
But there were better memories, more recent, more sweet. Waking up to Scully’s kisses, for example. Her hand over his heart as they slept. Her soft laugh as they played together. Knowing that Scully was as faithful as she was loving.
Of course she’d want to come home. Of course she would.
He didn’t think he’d sleep but he must have, because he awoke to someone pounding on the door. “Mr. Mulder! The phone! Quickly!”
Mulder jumped to his feet, grabbing the shirt he’d taken off, and yanked open the door to follow the officer to the main floor. The phone was ringing insistently, and all around inspectors and officers were waiting with their equipment, tense. DCI Maddox nodded curtly to Mulder, and Mulder picked up the phone, trying not to shake. “Mulder.”
“I am fucking busting my ass trying to keep the two of you safe and you run off to the States at the first kibble they throw you. You’re supposed to be so fucking brilliant—didn’t you see it was a trap?”
Mulder looked at Maddox, who was staring at him as if he couldn’t believe this. He said, even though he knew the answer, “Who is this?”
“What, are cops there? Fuck. Fucking fuck, Mulder.
They’ve got her, Mulder, do you understand that? They’ve got her.”
“I know,” Mulder said. “Please tell me you know where she is. Please.”
“Are cops there? Are they listening?”
He looked at Maddox again, wondering if Krycek would withold his information if he told the truth. Hell. “Yes.”
Krycek let out a long, frustrated sigh and said again, “Fuck you, Mulder. Be glad I’m the forgiving type. At least the locals will know how to get here. Follow the Tweed into the Cheviot Hills, to the Jolyon farm. Hurry.” There was a click and the dial tone.
“The Jolyon farm,” Mulder said to Maddox. “Do you know where that is?”
“It’s at least an hour by car—I can see about getting a helicopter. Inspector,” Maddox added. “I want your opinion. If you say go, we’ll go.”
“Do you trust him?” Phoebe said to Mulder.
“No,” he said. “But I believe him.”
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 9~
He was lost. That was the only thing that could explain it—the map, the swearing, the swerving and doubling-back. Scully doubted they were being followed—who would follow them? Who could have seen them?
The truck rattled and banged up the narrow, winding road. The surrounding country was stark and cold, rain-soaked and nearly uninhabited. The only light came from the headlights, and their beams seemed to be swallowed by the dark.
“Fucking country,” Silver burst out. “Out in the middle of fucking nowhere.”
Scully couldn’t have answered this even if she’d wanted to—he had slapped a piece of silver duct tape over her mouth as soon as he’d wrestled her into the truck—but not before taking a kiss that made Scully want to scrub her mouth with antibacterial soap—and bound her wrists together with another. She could glare at him through narrowed eyes, but he was squinting at the road and didn’t notice.
They had passed the last farmhouse miles ago, and she had no idea where they could be, except they were going upward and the truck’s engine was struggling to make the climb. The rain had not abated. Scully had to abandon every half-formed plan for escape—it was too dark, too remote, too cold.
Not to mention she’d had three more contractions while they were driving. She hoped wherever they were going had a doctor, or at least a place she could lie down.
Silver said in a mocking tone, “Oh, no, John, you’ll be able to find it just fine, just follow the river.” He snorted. “Didn’t mention nothing about it being midnight in the fucking rain. Oh, no—wait until she’s alone, John, wait until the right moment, we don’t want to give anything anyway.” He snorted again.
Scully twisted her hands together and looked out the window. If she made a break for it now, and just ran down the hill—if she found a light to go towards—
“Fucking Spender,” Silver muttered, shifting gears with a horrendous grind.
Scully stopped twisting her hands and stared at him a moment. Spender? The Smoking Man—he’d followed them here?
Without thinking Scully yanked the door handle and threw herself out onto the damp grass. She tried to tuck-and-roll, but still landed hard on her knees. She moaned behind the tape but didn’t let herself rest—she pushed herself up and took off at a run, her bare feet sliding on the slippery grass.
She heard the truck screech to a halt, gears screaming, and follow her off the road. The headlights captured her and the truck trailed her as she tried to dodge away. She stumbled on the uneven ground and fell onto her elbows and knees. The truck swerved to a stop in front of her. Scully crouched on the wet grass, panting, as Silver swung down from the truck. He grabbed her hair and hauled her up so that they were face to face.
“Don’t even think it!” he snarled. “You are worth too much, little girl.” He dragged her back to the truck and threw her inside. He slammed the door shut, went around the truck and climbed back into the driver’s side. “Don’t get any smart ideas, darlin’,” he said. “I have plans for you.”
I can hardly wait, Scully thought and closed her eyes.
When the truck came to a stop Scully didn’t move, sure Silver only wanted to check his map again. She caught sight, however, of a small light that was gradually growing bigger—until it became a lantern, held by a red-haired man who stood by her window and looked into the truck impassively. In a moment she realized where she’d seen him before—it was Kurt Crawford, or one of his many clones that Mulder claimed existed. She tried to catch his eye, but there was no recognition in his expression as he studied her.
Silver leaned towards him. “You Spender?”
“No,” Kurt said.
Silver waited a moment, and when Kurt didn’t continue he said, “I’m looking for Spender. There’s some farm—the Juliet farm?”
“Jolyon,” Kurt said. “You’re at the gate. Follow me.” One more long, thoughtful look, then he turned and led them up a narrow lane to a stone farmhouse.
Silver threw the truck into the gear again. “I’m not going to tell you anything because I’m a fucking asshole,” he mocked under his breath. “Hi, I’m Spender’s toadie and I like walking around in the rain. “
Silver parked the truck in front of the farmhouse, and Kurt helped Scully down from the cab. “She’s muddy,” he said to Silver.
“She tried to get away. Bitch threw herself outta the truck—”
“Mr. Silver,” Kurt said mildly. “Show some respect.” With an arm around Scully’s shoulders, he led her across the muddy yard.
“Show some respect,” Silver muttered, trailing along behind them. “I’ll show *you* what respect is, ya flaming—” Kurt glanced back at him and Silver fell silent.
The first thing Scully saw inside the farmhouse was a roaring fire within a massive fireplace, and she stepped towards it longingly. Kurt tightened his fingers around her arm to stop her, and nodded to the other side of the dim room. “Mr. Spender. She’s arrived.”
She’d know that voice anywhere. “Dana. How good to see you again.” He approached her with a smile, a cigarette between his fingers. “Kurt, help make her comfortable. That’s a good boy.”
Kurt took a Swiss army knife from his pocket and cut the tape that bound her wrists. When that was done he grasped the corner of the tape over her mouth. “Ready?” She nodded, and he yanked the tape from her mouth. She managed not to whimper and rubbed her face to get rid of the sting.
“What is this about?” she said to Spender in a low voice. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to look after you,” the smoking man said. He turned a rocking chair towards her and set it close to the fire. “Here. Have a seat. You look terrible.”
Scully hesitated—but she was exhausted, dirty and soaked, and the fire looked so inviting. She crossed the room and eased herself into the chair. “I don’t know what you want,” she said quietly, putting her hands over her belly. “The X-Files are closed. Mulder has abandoned his quest for the Truth. We’re just an ordinary family now. You’ve won.”
“I know, Dana,” he said, his voice slick with something like compassion. “May I introduce you to Dr. Archer? He’ll be looking after you.” A nervous-looking man came out of the dark, and she shook his sweaty hand.
“My p-p-pleasure, Miss Scully.”
She wondered what the Smoking Man had on him to force his help, and said quietly, “It’s Mrs. Mulder, and I wish to be returned to my home. My husband will be wondering where I am.”
“That’s simply not possible,” the Smoking Man said gently. “This is too important, Dana. This is the future, here in your womb,” he said and put his hand on her belly.
Scully flinched at his too-personal touch. “I want to go home,” she said, turning her face to the fire.
Silver was still standing by the front door. “I brought you the girl, Spender. When do I get my money?”
“Mr. Silver. A pleasure to meet in person at last. I trust the journey went smoothly?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. T
hanks for getting me out of jail. You’ve got the girl, you’ve got the kid—when do I get paid?”
“The merchandise is not completely delivered,” the Smoking Man said, a look in his eye like paternal fondness as he gazed at Scully. “You’ll be paid in full once the child comes.”
“That could be days!”
“No,” Dr. Archer said, then cleared his throat and said more strongly, “It’s going to be hours. Look at her.” All four men stared at her, and Scully scowled. “I can see you’re in pain,” the doctor said. “How far apart are they?”
She would have preferred to keep a stony silence—but, she supposed, it was better that they knew. “About half an hour.”
“Splendid!” the Smoking Man cried. “This is so much better than I expected. The bedroom is prepared for you. Kurt, please look after Dana—Mr. Silver, I expect you to assist the doctor with whatever he requires. How wonderful. Tonight.”
“Wait,” Kurt said.
“Yeah, what’s all this about helping? I just want my money,” interjected Silver. “I don’t want to watch some kid be born.”
“Shut up, you,” Kurt said to him. “Mr. Spender. How are you sure this is the right woman? The right child?”
“She’s the last,” Spender said. “There’s no one else it could be. And a barren woman, giving birth? It’s the oldest miracle there is.”
“What are you talking about?” Scully said, tired of his doublespeak. She wanted her own bed, her midwife, her mother—and Mulder. Mulder would make everything all right.
“Dana.” The Smoking Man knelt so he could look into her face. “You remember the ship in Africa? You remember the words taken into the Bible, about the end of the world? ‘The lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them’?”
“This child is a blending of humanity and our new masters. The date was set eons ago, when they would come, and this child—your son—will be our liaison. Who knows—he may even be our king.”
Scully stared at him, wondering if that was firelight or madness in his eyes. “No. You’re wrong.”
“Dana, I know how much you wish this child was Mulder’s. And it was highly chivalrous of Mulder to give the child his name. But you know in your heart that I’m right. Haven’t you wondered how you were able to conceive? The chip in your neck activated the dormant child inside you, planted there years ago during our—experiments.”
Silver started laughing. “Y’all are fucking nuts. You most of all, Spender.”
“The chip is gone. This child is Mulder’s—we were in New Mexico—we had a—an experience at Pueblo Bonito—” She stopped, thinking that her explanation was even stranger than his. “And besides, I’m having a girl.”
It threw him, but just for a moment. “No matter. That the child exists is enough, boy or girl,” the Smoking Man said, standing. “Doctor, it’s time to see to your patient. Make her comfortable, please, Kurt.” He lit up another cigarette.
Kurt came to Scully’s side, to help her stand again. She wanted to appeal to him—he’d tried to help her before, hadn’t he? But another pain gripped her and all she could do was dig her fingers into his arm and lean on him for support.
“Mr. Spender,” Archer said behind them as Kurt led her to the next room. “We need to discuss this—I’m not sure—”
“There’s nothing to discuss,” the Smoking Man said. “You were sure enough when I gave you the cash.”
“You paid him in advance?” Silver exclaimed, but Kurt closed the door before she could hear more.
“This is for you,” he said, picking up a thick, purple, fluffy bathrobe. “Mr. Spender expected you to be with us for much longer.”
“I wouldn’t let him keep me here for longer.” He didn’t look up from the robe, and she said, “Have we met before? Are you the one I met with my partner four years ago, at Betsy Hagopian’s home?”
“No. The man you met is dead. But I knew of you before this.”
“Knew of me,” Scully repeated. “Because of the experiments—because of the project.”
“Because of those, and other things. Dana Scully,” he said with a sudden intensity, “my loyalties are with you, not with him. He trusts me more than he should. I won’t let him hurt you.”
It would have been a relief to believe him, but her nerves were already stretched thin and she couldn’t take more mystery. “Why should I trust you? God! All I wanted was to raise my child in peace!”
“I know,” he said gently. He was still holding the robe, and he laid it on the bed. “You can clean up in here.” He opened the door to a small bathroom and turned on the light. “Rest while you can—I’m sure tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”
“Right,” Scully muttered. She waited until he’d left the room to move—not to the bathroom, even though her aching body longed for hot water, but to the small square window. It was no use, however: the window had been nailed shut, years prior to this to judge from the rust on the nails. Frustrated, Scully slapped her palm on the thick, wavy glass.
Stuck, she thought. It was not the peaceful home birth she’d been hoping for, with Mulder by her side and her twinkly-eyed midwife to attend her—but she was in no position to make a fuss now. The baby was coming no matter where she was.
As for afterwards . . . She realized she was clenching her hands, her fingernails digging into her palms. Maybe Kurt—or whatever his name was—would be a man of his word. If he wasn’t—
She put a hand on her belly, willing herself to calm down. “Don’t be afraid,” she told the baby. “I won’t let them take you away.”
Lifting her head, Scully went into the bathroom to clean up and make her plans.
Rest, Kurt had said, which was good in theory but impossible in practice. Scully tried to sleep , wrapped in the fluffy robe—the wind was howling around the corners of the house and rattling the windows, and she could hear the men talking.
She could rarely hear the words, mostly just their voices. Silver was not happy to be stuck there, he made this clear. Archer was upset about something but didn’t raise his voice enough for Scully to hear what. Kurt slipped in and out of her room, bringing water and making sure she was comfortable and warm enough. He helped to clean her when her water broke, and when she needed to walk through the contractions Kurt offered himself as her support. He smelled odd to her—not bad, not like body odor or decay, but as if he had no scent at all.
Once an hour Archer came in to examine her. “You’re progressing very well,” he said when the window was beginning to turn golden from sunrise. “You’re at six centimeters already.”
“What’s your story?” she asked him.
“How did you get mixed up in this? Where are you from? Your accent says Wisconsin.”
“Minneapolis, actually,” he said quietly. He wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her upper arm and started to pump the bulb. After a moment, he said, “Five years ago, a man asked me I’d like to ensure no babies were ever born with defects ever again. I thought he worked for the human genome project.” There was a long pause, while he watched her blood pressure and then deflated the cuff. “He didn’t.”
Scully rubbed her arm and said nothing.
“And you?” he said. “How does your baby fit into this?”
“It’s a very long story.”
“And we haven’t exactly got time,” he observed.
“I could tell you later. Once all the shouting’s over.” Talking helped with the pain. Listening helped , a little.
However Archer didn’t smile, only quietly finished rolling up the blood pressure cuff and put it in his bag. “Dr. Archer?” she said.
“Later.” He started to rise, then sat down again and said, “Miss Scully, I have no illusions. There’s not going to be a later—not for me, and not for you. The only promise he intends to keep is to raise your child to be this leader he thinks it’s going to be.”
Scully put her hands on her stomach. Yes. It made sense, of course it did, this
was the way he operated. He’d take what he wanted and have Silver kill her, kill Archer, probably kill Kurt, and once Silver had done this killing for him he’d kill Silver, too.
“I’m sorry,” Archer said quietly. “I’ve been trying to think of something—anything—to get you out safely, but I don’t see a way. I’m in this country illegally. I have no money, I don’t know anybody in England—” He stopped and scrubbed his fingers over the top of his head. He was a small, bespectacled man with a fringe of red-grey hair, and he looked exhausted and overwhelmed. “I don’t see any way out of this,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
She wished she felt brave enough to swagger—to say she’d been closer to death than this and had survived—but she didn’t feel brave. Mostly what she felt was hopeless.
Labor was harder than she’d ever imagined. It hurt more than she’d thought, differently than cancer or a bullet wound. Focus on your baby, her midwife had told her, focus on the end result and that will help you through the pain.
If Mulder were here, Scully thought, he would hold my hand and sing to me; he’d rub my back and tell me I’m strong; he’d count the seconds and help me hold up my knees, he’d tell me stories to distract me—he would be perfect.
But instead she had Archer, who was trembling in fear for his own life too much to be of any comfort; Kurt, who was interested in the process and the outcome but detached from the participant; and the Smoking Man, whose eyes took on a discomfortingly fanatical gleam as her contractions grew longer and closer together.
“You’re witnessing history, gentlemen,” he said. “History, quite literally, being born.”
“Get him out of here,” Scully growled. “I can’t do this with him here. Make him go.”
Time dwindled down to seconds, ten seconds and a breath, ten seconds and a breath. She felt her body opening, the baby working its way out to the light. “Mulder,” she whispered sometimes, even when Archer told her it was okay to yell.
“Wow,” Kurt said softly as he leaned forward to watch. “It really works this way.”
“Your baby’s almost here—give me one more, Dana! You’re doing wonderfully—almost there—deep breath and one big big push—here she is! Here’s your daughter.” Archer laid the baby on Scully’s chest and started to scrub her roughly with a towel.
Scully laid her hands on the baby, feeling her heat, her lungs, her heartbeat, her wet mouth as she sucked in a breath and wailed. “Margaret,” she said to Kurt, who was watching in silent amazement. “Her name . . . it’s Margaret.”
“She’s real,” Kurt said in a stunned voice. “She’s complete.”
“Perfect,” Scully whispered, kissing one of the baby’s tiny hands with five miniature fingers. “She’s perfect.”
Archer had said nothing while he cleaned up the afterbirth, but after a few minutes he said to Kurt, “Will you tell Mr. Spender there’s an issue?”
Kurt left the room at once. Scully just breathed, exhausted and amazed and completely in love. She hardly noticed when Archer covered her with a sheet and went to talk in a hushed voice to the Smoking Man. But her eyes opened when she heard “hemorrhaging” and “hospital” and “transfusion.” Her head felt too heavy to lift. “Dr. Archer? Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing, nothing,” he assured her. “Just a little—issue—you’ll be fine—”
“There isn’t time,” the Smoking Man said. “There are cars coming up the mountain. “
“Mulder,” Scully whispered.
“Quite possibly.” He picked up the baby, still wrapped in a towel, and pushed Scully’s hands away when she clutched at him. “Mr. Silver, please see to the doctor. Kurt, come with me.” He left the bedroom and Silver stepped into his place. Kurt hesitated, gave her a long look, and followed after him.
“See to me?” Archer said, and Scully braced herself when Silver took out his gun. She didn’t flinch at the gunshot, or when she heard the body fall to the floor.
When she opened her eyes, Silver was staring at her, licking his lips. “So, darlin’,” he drawled. “What would you like to do now?”
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 10~
It was the longest hour of his life, that ride up the mountains.
It would take longer to authorize a helicopter than it would to drive out to the farm, so Maddox ordered his constables into their cars. Phoebe and Mulder were to ride with him, and he radioed in a request for medics and an armed response team as well.
“We don’t know what we’ll find,” he said simply. “I’m sure she’s fine,” he added after a moment, glancing at Mulder over his shoulder. “I’m sure your—acquaintance—is taking good care of her.”
“I hope so,” Mulder murmured. In a perfect world they would find only an annoyed Scully and smirking Krycek, but he’d learned long ago this was a far from perfect world.
Mulder rubbed his temples with his fingertips. Be okay, Scully, he thought, be safe, be healthy. Know that I love you.
Maddox was saying, “The farm has been abandoned about fifteen years. The local heritage society is trying to get it named a landmark—the house itself is almost four hundred years old—but there’s a question of ownership. There’s still some family around, they just don’t want to live there.” He shook his head. “An interesting place to hold a hostage.”
“Is it remote enough that they wouldn’t be noticed?” Phoebe asked.
“That, and time is on their side. It’s too cold still for hikers, and the house itself is far back from the main roads but high enough to have a wide view.”
Mulder continued running his hands through his hair. Scully had told him once she knew she’d feel it if he died—he wondered if he would have the same premonition. Would he feel pain, numbness, or just her sudden absence from the world?
Thinking this way made him want to scream.
There was no sign of life around the farmhouse—just an old stone house surrounded by crumbling stone fences, shutters closed over the windows, a stone barn behind it and a yard still muddy from the previous night’s rain. Maddox brought the car to a stop, followed by the second police car and the ambulance. Maddox got out of the car first, and one of his constables gave him a bullhorn from the trunk.
“If you had a name it would be very helpful right now,” he said to Mulder.
Maddox nodded and clicked on the bullhorn. “Occupants of the house, this is the Northumbria police department! Come out with your hands up!”
There wasn’t so much as a creak from the stone house. Maddox signaled to his men to circle the house and go down to the barn, and asked Mulder, “Your wife’s name is Dana?” At Mulder’s nod he clicked on the bullhorn again. “Mr. Spender! We know you have Dana, and we know you don’t want to harm her! We have a medical team to attend her. Come out before anyone else gets hurt!”
Still nothing. Mulder gripped the seat in front of him, forcing himself to stay in the car and not burst inside to find her. A sargeant signaled there were no other exits, and Maddox scowled.
“All right,” Maddox said. “Enter the house—with caution,” he ordered, and the black-clad response team began to carefully move forward. “I hope to God your friend didn’t send us on a wild goose chase.”
They could be on their way to Norway by now if he had, Mulder thought, but couldn’t bring himself to say it.
There was the sound of shattering glass and a gunshot zipped across the yard. “Everyone down!” Maddox ordered, though the response team had already dropped to the mud. “This day just gets better and better,” Maddox muttered, crouching behind the car. “If we get our hands on these people I’m going to break their necks myself.” He pointed at Mulder. “You are not to move. You’re still a civilian. Understand?”
Mulder nodded, his heart racing.
The front door opened. A man with a shaved head and a goatee stood in the doorway. His gun was pressed against Scully’s face, his me
aty hand wrapped around her throat.
And Scully—Mulder wanted to fall to his knees—her face was so pale she looked green, and the bathrobe she wore was dark with blood. She could barely stand—it seemed to Mulder she was upright only because her captor was holding her that way. It took all Mulder’s strength not to run to her and snatch her up in his arms.
“Do you know him?” Maddox muttered. “Do you know who he is?”
“His name is John Silver—he was arrested in December for attempted kidnaping and double murder—he was in jail in Alabama—”
“Isn’t this a party!” Silver gloated, his fingers digging into Scully’s neck. “You want the girl? Get me out of this fucking country. Then we’ll talk.”
“Silver!” Maddox said through the bullhorn. “You’re not in a position to make demands.”
“But I’ve got the girl, now, don’t I? And we’ve got the kid. You want either of them to survive? Give me a clear way out of here. Police escort to the Newcastle docks. You can have her back when I’m done.” He leered, his forearm rubbing the side of Scully’s breast. She looked like she was about to faint but she still had enough strength to glare.
“I’m going to kill him,” Mulder muttered.
Phoebe gestured for the bullhorn. “Mr. Silver, we can discuss this,” she said in her most soothing tone. “Dana needs a doctor. She’s gravely ill. You don’t want her to die, do you?”
Mulder could see his hand tighten around Scully’s neck. “How do I know you won’t stop me, without her as insurance?” He shook Scully and she moaned in pain. “She stays with me.”
“Mr. Silver,” Phoebe pleaded. “She’s just given birth. Show some mercy.”
“Turn yourself in, Silver,” Maddox called across the yard. “Kidnaping, murder, and assault? You won’t get far. You’ll be on Interpol before sundown, and you don’t have enough bullets for all of us.”
“Besides, I won’t let you take her.”
It only gave them a moment, but it was enough. Silver loosened his grip to turn on the newcomer behind him, and Scully thrust up her elbow into his face. There was a crunch and blood started gushing from his nose. He howled and grabbed his face. The gun went off again when he dropped it, making everyone duck. Scully seemed to fall in slow motion, and Mulder ignored the response team and Maddox’s shouts to run to her.
“Stupid bitch!” Silver howled, his hands cupped over his nose.
“What did I tell you about showing respect?” Kurt Crawford said to him mildly. There was blood on his shirt and a bundle in his arms.
Mulder scooped Scully into his arms, grimacing when she moaned. “Scully, Scully,” he whispered, kissing her. “Scully.”
“He took the baby,” Scully said, her fingers wrapping themselves into his shirt. “The Smoking Man—Spender—he took the baby—”
“No, no,” Kurt Crawford said. He knelt beside Scully and showed her the pink face of the baby. “I told you,” he whispered, as Scully reached weakly to touch her cheek. “Here she is, safe and sound.”
“How did you—?” Scully whispered.
“My powers of persuasion,” he said, and smiled a tiny bit.
“Mulder, look. She’s okay, she’s here.”
“I see her,” Mulder murmured. Beside them Maddox was handcuffing Silver and the medical team was hurrying over to see to Scully. But Mulder could only watch in amazement as the little pink being, that had only been a heartbeat and occasional prod in Scully’s belly when he left, blinked her sleepy eyes and opened and closed her rosebud lips.
“Here, hold her,” Kurt said, and Mulder took the baby into his arms. She was warm—hot, really, and surprisingly heavy. Her eyes were blue like Scully’s, framed by fine dark brows.
“Hey,” Mulder said, and had to wipe his eyes with the back of his hand. “Hey, baby girl. Remember me? I’m the old man. I’m sorry I wasn’t here for your big entrance, honey. I promise that’s the last important thing I’ll miss.”
“Dana Scully said her name is Margaret,” Kurt said.
“Yeah . . . Daisy. We were planning to call her Daisy.” He looked up to tell Scully of the wonder of this little girl, but there was an oxygen mask over her face and the medics were preparing to lift her out on a stretcher. “Scully?” Mulder said, getting to his feet, careful not to jostle the baby. “What’s happening? How is she?”
The medic closest to him said in a low voice, “She’s lost a great deal of blood and there’s been some tearing. She needs a transfusion as soon as possible.”
“Yes, of course,” Mulder said, and followed them as they rolled the stretcher to the ambulance. He looked back into the house to see another stretcher come out, this time with a body bag—followed by the Smoking Man, in handcuffs. He gasped and started towards him, not knowing what he’d say—but then the baby made a little mewl and Mulder stopped walking. “You’re right,” he said to her. “There are so many more important things—like Mommy. Let’s go be with her.”
He climbed into the back of the ambulance and the medic put the baby into a car seat, close enough so that Scully could brush her cheek with a fingertip if she wanted. Her eyes flickered open a moment, and Mulder kissed her forehead. “Rest now, love,” he whispered. “We’re all here.”
Her eyes blinked once in acceptance, and she turned her face towards the baby.
Just before the ambulance door swung shut, Mulder saw Kurt Crawford by the cars, watching them. Thank you for taking good care of your sister, Mulder thought, and raised one hand in gratitude.
Kurt smiled and turned away, and the door closed.
~Truly Madly Deeply Heaven & Earth 11~
summer solstice, 2001
Two sights made Mulder’s life perfect, and he was looking at them both right now. He had jogged upstairs from his morning run with the paper and their mail, to find Scully making breakfast and talking to the baby. He stopped below the top step, looking at his girls. Scully was at the sink, her back to him, and the baby was in her bouncy chair on the granite counter top.
“. . . then you put on a dollop of plain yogurt on top and sprinkle on some dill, and that’s it. It’s very tasty. I have yet to figure out the appeal of cucumber sandwiches, though your daddy says they’re pretty good. But cucumbers and butter? Doesn’t sound good to me at all.”
The baby punched her hands into the air and burbled.
“Exactly. Anyway, we will have fresh cucumbers from our very own garden in about three weeks. This breakfast, however, does not involve cucumbers, although the cherry tomatoes in the omelette are going to be pretty tasty. Your daddy needs to eat more veggies.”
“Hey now,” Mulder said, coming up the stairs, and Scully smiled at him over her shoulder. “I eat my veggies.” He put his hands on her waist and kissed her. “I provide a good example for our Daisy.”
“Yes, you do,” she said, still stirring eggs into a pre-omelette mess. “But I like to tease when I know you’re eavesdropping.”
Mulder laughed, gave her another gentle squeeze, and picked the baby out of her seat. He nuzzled her soft neck and she squeaked, wiggling. “Hey, you,” he said softly. “How’s my girl?”
“Mulder . . . I’ve been thinking about Daisy.”
“Mm-mm?” Scully had given her a bath while he was out—she smelled like soap and powder and diaper rash cream.
“I find that I have difficulty calling her Daisy. She doesn’t *look* like a Daisy.”
Mulder studied his daughter a moment. “Well, there is that distinct lack of petals.”
“Mulder,” Scully said in her exasperated tone.
“Do you want to rename her? You don’t like Margaret anymore?”
“Of course I like Margaret, I just . . .” She sighed and put down the bowl and spoon to take the baby. “I don’t want to call her Margaret. It feels too big for her right now. But Daisy doesn’t suit her either. I was so sure we had a name and now I’m not.”
“Well . . .” He stroked the baby’s head. At the hospital the nurses had said her dark hair would fall out, but so far it had only become da
rker and thicker, and her eyes were turning from baby-blue to hazel. He could see the stamp of his genes on her face, mostly in the eyes. “There’s Peggy, or Maggie, or Meg . . . I’m sure there are a lot of others I’m just not thinking of.”
“Mrs. Lynn suggested Madge when I mentioned this to her yesterday.”
“Madge?” He shook his head. “Nope. Don’t see it.”
“I like Meg . . . Megan? Meggie?”
“Meggie,” Mulder repeated, and smiled as the baby squeaked again. “It’s little and sweet, just like her.”
“I think I can live with Meggie,” Scully said, and rubbed her nose against the baby’s. “What do you think, sweet Meg?” The baby grabbed at her face and Scully laughed. “I think it’ll work.”
“Was this going to become omelettes?” Mulder said, picking up the bowl.
“With cheese and tomatoes, but I can’t find the mushrooms. Did we finish them?”
“I think so.” He tested the pan warming on the stove, and dropped in a slice of butter Scully had already cut. It sizzled and popped. “What spices?”
“I was thinking the red pepper.”
“Yum,” Mulder said, and unscrewed the jar of pepper flakes to shake in a teaspoon or two. “Do we have bacon? Bacon would go with this.”
“No bacon, we’re out.” She eased herself carefully into one of the kitchen chairs, and Mulder tried not to notice. “It feels like a market day.”
“Things are a bit busy in the village,” Mulder said as he poured eggs into the hot pan. “Some Wiccan group is banging drums in the town square for solstice, and they’re setting up for a bonfire tonight in the fields by the Hall.”
“You jump over a bonfire for luck in the coming year.”
“As long as they’re not planning to burn the Wiccans,” Scully murmured, patting the baby’s back. “Do you want to go? After the year we’ve had, we could use a little luck.”
Mulder hesitated, then sighed and spoke his mind. “You’re in no condition to be jumping over bonfires, Scully.”
“I’m getting better,” she said, which he knew was true—but he also knew she had a long way to go still before she was back to her normal, healthy self. She was still pale and bruised, tiring easily, often dozing off when she sat still long enough. It was only in the last week that she’d started getting dressed every day. She took vitamins and iron supplements, ate carbohydrates and dark green vegetables, but still her skin reminded Mulder of a glass of milk, tranquil and smooth but easily broken.
“Still,” he said. “If you want to watch, let’s go watch. But no bonfire-jumping. Please? For me?”
“I suppose,” she said, and nuzzled the baby again.
“Hey.” He left the stove to kneel in front of her. “Maybe next year—we can practice jumping beforehand.”
“It doesn’t matter—it’s okay.” She smiled and kissed him, and put the baby into his arms. “Do you want toast? I think I’d like toast.”
He watched her, chewing his lip. This was hard on both of them—he knew his protective streak annoyed her, but he couldn’t bear to be away from her for long. A run into the village was as far as he dared to go, for half an hour at most. He’d convinced Phoebe any consulting he needed to do for the Yard could be done over emails and faxes, so that he didn’t have to go to London whenever they required him.
Meantime Scully, who had always guarded her privacy like a precious jewel, had to deal with him constantly underfoot and a baby who hated to be out of her arms. He knew he should give her space and let her have some time alone, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it quite yet. She hated to be coddled or treated like she was weak—while he wanted to carry her up and down the stairs and put bars on the windows, and maybe even stand guard at his door with cannons and boiling oil.
Two things kept him sane. One, John Silver was awaiting extradition back to the States; and two, C.G.B Spender had yet to explain how he’d gotten into the country and so was not yet allowed out. As long as they were behind bars, Mulder reasoned, his family didn’t need to be.
He supposed Alex Krycek was still lurking in the shadows somewhere, watching over them for whatever his reasons, and the thought gave him a little peace. He’d never imagined trusting a man like Krycek with his family’s safety, but he was not going to argue with the fate Krycek had chosen.
And Kurt Crawford, their other guardian—he didn’t seem to exist at all. Somewhere between Jolyon farm and the police station, Kurt Crawford had vanished. Mulder wished him well, and hoped at some time he’d chose to show himself again.
In any fight, Mulder thought, even fights you’ve chosen to leave behind, someone will watch your back.
It was their time to rest, he reasoned, their time to raise Miss Daisy—oops, Miss Meggie—to grow together, to prepare for what the future held. He was as worried about what would come as he’d ever been over the last ten years—more so, now, with this little one to protect. But he could face it now. He had to.
Scully had told him the Smoking Man’s theories about their baby’s future, and he didn’t believe it for a second. It was too wacky, too fantastic, not the Smoking Man’s style at all. He couldn’t figure out what had driven him, though—except a desire for control.
The toaster popped and Mulder looked up, then got up to stack the toast and put it on the table. Scully closed the omelettes and slid them onto plates. “Honey?” she said.
“Poopyhead?” he answered, and she smirked at him.
“Honey for your toast, beloved,” she said, and put the jar on the table. He brought over the bouncy chair and set it on the table, and put the baby into it. She squeaked again and started working her fist into her mouth, as her parents sat down to eat.
“Tell me something,” Mulder said as he spread butter on the toast.
“What?” She was watching the baby, not really paying attention to him.
“You don’t really buy it, do you? The whole thing he said about her being some kind of global leader? You don’t believe that, do you?”
“Thank you,” she said as she took the toast and bit into it. “No, I don’t believe it at all. I don’t think he did either. I think it was a lie he spun to convince people to help him, because he couldn’t tell them all he really wanted was to see a child he thinks is his granddaughter.” She ate a few bites of her omelette. “I’m sure he’s always thinking about the future, but I think his scope has narrowed a bit. Fixated, even.”
Mulder sighed and reached over to palm the baby’s head. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“Blood means a lot.”
“Maybe . . . but even if I am his son, he’s not my father, not in a way that means anything.”
“I know,” she said gently. “But think about it. If I’d given birth in Alabama and you showed up twenty years from now, you would mean the same thing to Meggie, no matter how much you loved her. Fortunately,” she wiped some spittle from the baby’s mouth with her napkin, “that’s not an issue. She loves you and she knows you love her.”
“Yeah,” Mulder muttered and cleared his throat.
“Daddy never knows what to say when I get mushy,” Scully told the baby, who kicked her heels in response. “I think that means I need to do it more often.”
They could see the bonfire ten minutes before they arrived at the Hall. There were crowds and firecrackers and laughter, and Scully hung back a little, worried that the noise would upset the baby. She was relieved to see Mrs. Lynn when the family came over to say hello.
“I’m glad you came—have you ever seen a solstice bonfire before?” Mrs. Lynn waggled her fingers at the baby, who was watching with wide eyes, her fingers in her mouth.
“Never. What does it mean?”
“Well, it goes back centuries, to the Celts, I think. It has something to do with sun gods. I don’t really know. But there’s always been a bonfire and there always will be, even when we’ve completely forgotten why.” She looked at the fire, wrapping her arms around herself. “Some things we can’t
afford to forget.”
Scully looked at her a moment, puzzled, then nodded and kissed the top of Meggie’s head. She watched Mulder and Ned talking, and let Fiona speak nonsense to the baby. She saw Simon wandering past, his arm around the shoulders of a local girl, and kissed Meggie again, glad it would be another fourteen or fifteen years before things would reach that stage.
The bonfire was high and snapping when the first jumper took his chance. He was young and athletic, and cleared the top of the fire easily. His friends cheered loudly on his landing, pounding on him on the back.
“Jimmy McKenzie,” Mrs. Lynn murmured. “Local layabout. He could use a bit of luck.”
“I see,” Scully said.
A few more jumpers tried, some with more luck than others, and there was much cheering and laughter at singed toes and bad landings. Then, much to Scully’s surprise, the first jumper got in line to jump again, this time holding the hand of a girl.
“That’s another side to it,” Mrs. Lynn explained. “Jumping over the bonfire together is supposed to solidify your love.”
“Have you ever done this, Mrs. Lynn?”
“Oh, yes, years ago. When Tom and I first met. Can’t say it’s the reason why we’ve had forty-nine happy years together, but I think it may have helped, in a way.”
“Really,” Scully murmured, and looked at Mulder again. He had found a comfortable place to sit, and looked like he was ready to call it a night. She excused herself from Mrs. Lynn and went to sit beside him, and he smiled and put his arm around her.
“I’m not sure what the point of all this is,” he said, pitching his voice low to carry under the noise.
“Good fortune,” Scully said slowly. “You make a sacrifice and get a boon in return.”
Mulder just laid his head on her shoulder and yawned. “I’m surprised Meggie’s taking all of this so calmly.”
“She’s a mellow little bug.” Scully hesitated, then blurted out, “Let’s do it. Let’s jump the fire, Mulder.”
His head jerked up. “Scully—”
“Please. I don’t want to wait until next year. I know you’re worried but—I can’t explain it. Just . . . please. I need to do this. I need . . . to feel strong again.”
His face was serious. “Does it mean that much to you, Scully?” She nodded, and he sighed. “Okay. Let’s do it. Where’s Fiona? She’ll be willing to watch Meggie, I’m sure.”
“Thank you.” She leaned over and kissed him, then got up to find Fiona.
Fiona took the baby, but her expression said she wasn’t sure about the whole thing. “You ought to wait until the fire’s gone down a bit,” she said, swaying a little to soothe the baby.
“No, I’m ready now. We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Be careful!” Fiona called after them, as they went to get in the line to jump.
Her hand felt sweaty in Mulder’s, and his shook a little. Other couples had lined up too, many of them kissing each other while they waited. Scully found herself gauging the distance they should run, trying to factor in the length of Mulder’s stride against her own.
Then it was their turn. She looked up at Mulder and he looked down at her, and smiled the smile she knew so well—the one that double-dog-dared the universe to interfere. She kissed him, to hoots and cheers, and they began to run.
She closed her eyes, and jumped.
end part IV
end Truly Madly Deeply
Begun April 19, 2000. Completed July 5, 2003.