Rock the Cradle Chapter Two

by Medusa


Title : Rock the Cradle - Chapter Two
By : Medusa
medusafox@bigpond.com

Category : AU, Slash, Mpreg, Angst, MulderTorture. Pairing : M/Sk
Rating : NC17 for m/m relationship and descriptive sexual content. If you are under-age or this type of content squicks you in any way, do not read further.

This chapter is going to get a little angsty.

Archive : Slashing Mulder, Mpreg, DiTB, Mulder in Jeopardy. Others please ask.

Warning : This is a WIP. I don't usually post WIP's but my dear friends on the slashingmulder list talked me into it. My apologies for taking so long to get Chapter Two done. My thanks to all those who haven't given up hope of seeing this little egg hatch.

Disclaimers and other miscellany are to be found in Chapter One.

Thanks to my beta's for Chapter Two - Avirnova and Jo


FBI Headquarters
Conference Room 4
Tuesday, 31 July, 2001

Mulder fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. Scully threw him a sympathetic glance and stopped speaking. John Cleary, agent in charge of the investigation, glared pointedly at Mulder.

"Is there a problem, Agent?"

"Uh, no. Not really. I need to be excused for a minute. Sorry." Mulder started to rise from his seat, but Cleary's sardonic voice halted him.

"If you could just be patient for five more minutes, Agent Mulder, we can all be excused. Please continue, Agent Scully."

Scully threw Mulder an apologetic look as her partner sank miserably back down onto his seat, and hurriedly finished up her report. By the time questions were asked and answered it was actually ten minutes before the meeting came to a close. Mulder all but bolted out the door to the nearest men's room.

Scully was waiting for him when he came out.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"Just peachy, Scully, except I can't sit through a one hour meeting without having to go to the bathroom half a dozen times." He was exaggerating, but not by much. He'd excused himself once earlier in the meeting and had suffered from the need to pee for the last half hour of a briefing that had lasted an hour and twenty minutes. And he'd been sure to 'go' beforehand. "Is this bladder thing going to be a problem all the way through... this." He dropped his voice to a whisper, eyeing the two admin employees who were staring at them from the nearby water cooler.

When they had passed their audience, Scully answered, "I don't know what to say, Mulder. Thousands of women cope with it every day. And it's probably not the only thing you're going to have to deal with."

"Yeah, well I'm not one of those 'thousands of women' in case it slipped your attention. I'm seeing Rebecca tonight, I'll ask her about it."

Scully smiled at Mulder's scowl. It was probably a good thing that men weren't the natural child-bearers or the human race would have died out eons ago, she mused.


Redmond Clinic
Later that evening.

Dr. Whiting had a combination of good and bad news for Mulder. The good news on his bladder was that there was no extraneous cause, but the bad news was it would probably continue throughout the duration of the pregnancy due to the fact that there was no defined uterus to keep the weight off his bladder. The other bad news was that his blood sugar was a little on the high side. This, she explained, could be the result of poor diet and stress.

Mulder looked a little guilty at the veiled accusation. "I try to eat right all the time. Walter and Scully make sure I have 'wholesome' meals when I'm with them." He pulled a face. "And the stress, well, I'm profiling a pretty tough case at the moment."

At Rebecca's alarmed look, he clarified. "Consulting only. I'm working up the profile from my office. No field work. I promise."

"Well, Mulder, you promised me you'd look after yourself. You need lots of rest. Try not to get too caught up in the work. I know that's hard, but you've made the commitment to go through with this pregnancy. Stress isn't good for you or the baby. And I know that your two watchdogs look after you, but what are you eating when you're not with them? Are you eating at regular times? Or are you snacking on all the bad stuff?"

Mulder sighed. He knew when he was beaten. "Okay, I don't always eat properly. With the hours I've been putting in over this case you can't always sit down at regular meal times. Sometimes it's just pizza or a burger with the team."

"And lots of soda?" Rebecca asked.

"I guess. I can't stand coffee right now, and I need something to keep me going." He pouted, sure that his last remaining source of caffeine was about to be denied him.

Rebecca laughed. "I'm sorry, Mulder, but you're going to have to cut down on all that. I want you to eat three or four regular meals a day. Plenty of water, but no soda. No candy, no high sodium take-out foods like pizza or burgers either."

Mulder groaned. He'd only just secretly rediscovered the blissful joy of a decent hamburger and fries, or pizza with the works. After the many months of his abduction, his stomach had only just started to fully accept 'normal' food again without rebelling. Now he was going to have to give it up.

Rebecca continued. "I'm serious, Mulder. We need to keep your blood sugar down. I don't want you developing gestational diabetes."

That got his attention. "You think I might?"

"It's certainly possible, and you have all the early signs. But if you control it with a good diet, we may be able to avoid having to give you insulin injections."

He huffed a resigned sigh. "Okay, okay. You win. Anything to avoid that. Do you have any more 'good' news for me today?"

"No. That about does it. I'll see you again next week." Rebecca smiled at him.

Mulder's Apartment,
Hegal Place
8:20pm

Mulder grabbed the remote control and muted the sound on the TV as he answered the phone. "Mulder."

"Hey. I thought I'd call and see how you went at Rebecca's." It was Skinner.

"Fine. I was gonna call you soon. I wasn't sure what time you'd be home." Skinner had been called to a late meeting and hadn't been able to go with him to his appointment.

"What did she say?"

Mulder didn't really want to tell him. He thought he was being molly-coddled enough as it was and didn't want to give Skinner any more reason to fuss over him. "I probably should watch what I eat a little better and I have to drink a lot more water. I have to cut down on sugar and salt. Otherwise everything's okay." The truth, albeit somewhat watered down.

It seemed to satisfy his lover. "Great. So, how's the case going?"

Mulder picked idly at a piece of lettuce in the now limp take-out salad he'd bought on the way home. "It's going. Based on my profile and the forensic evidence, they've narrowed the suspects down to four. The Jackson field office is doing some more digging and are setting up surveillance. I think they should have it wrapped up soon."

"That's good. Fox..." Mulder heard the hesitation in Skinner's voice. "Have you... thought any more about what I asked you?"

"Walt, I..." he sighed. "I don't know if I'm ready for that yet. I need my freedom, for as long as I can have it."

"I'm not trying to make you a prisoner. I just want you to move in with me. So I can be there for you."

"I know. I know." Mulder felt traitorous tears building and was glad they were having this conversation over the phone and not face to face, or he knew he'd wind up caving in. Damned hormones. He loved Walter with all his heart, but something held him back. "You have to try to understand. I've... been through... so much. I just need some time."

"And I just want to help you."

"You are helping, believe me. I don't think I'd have made it through these last months without you, and God knows I don't know how I could have even considered getting through the next few without either you or Scully. But right now, I just need a little space. Please understand."

Skinner paused, then sighed, "I do. I know this is hard on you. I just wish I could make it easier."

"You do, Walt. You do." The tears were starting to fall in earnest now. He had to get off the phone. "Um, look... I have to go. I'm kinda tired. I'll see you at work tomorrow."

"Are you sure you're all right?" Skinner sounded concerned.

Mulder answered quickly, swiping at his eyes roughly. "Yeah, really, I'm fine. Just tired. I need a good night's sleep so I'm gonna turn in early."

He hung up quickly, angry at himself for getting all teary again. He'd found himself in tears over nothing a lot lately, and this wasn't just nothing. If he'd heard Mulder start to cry, Skinner would be over in a flash and Mulder would let him come. And right now, Mulder felt he had to preserve the illusion he'd built that he was fine on his own. The easy relationship they'd built was important to Mulder and he didn't want to risk it by rushing things just because he was pregnant. He knew that Skinner only wanted to protect him, but he needed to feel in control of his own destiny for as long as he could.

So much had been taken away from him in the recent past, he'd come to feel like his life wasn't his own, and that he needed to reclaim a part of himself. He was lucky that Skinner understood and wasn't too pushy. Most of the time. The time would come all too soon when he was going to have to rely on Walter for everything, at least for a while, when he was closer to having the baby. He was going to hate doing that, so until then, he'd made up his mind to stay as independent as possible for as long as possible.


Skinner's Apartment
Crystal City
Sunday, 5 August, 2001

Mulder had been awake for over an hour, just watching his lover sleep. One hand idly ran over his swelling stomach, now quite noticeable even when he was laying on his back. He sighed loudly.

"Doesn't your brain ever shut down?" A sleepy voice rumbled from next to Mulder.

He leaned over and kissed the bald head laying on the pillow.

"Timizzit?"

Mulder rolled sideways to look at the clock. "Nearly seven."

"God, Fox. I thought we were going to sleep in today."

"Can't help it, I woke up horny."

Mulder snuggled up to Skinner, pressing his erection against the other man's thigh. Dark eyes opened and closed languidly, Skinner's own cock beginning to respond.

"Make love to me, Walter," Mulder whispered, pressing light kisses along Skinner's cheek and down his neck, then lower to one nipple, licking and sucking until it stood up proud. "I'm all ready for you." He delved even lower until Skinner started to moan.

"You're insatiable. Wasn't last night enough for you? I'm still feeling it."

"Not the same thing, champ. I want you to make love to me this morning. I did all the hard work last night, it's your turn now."

Mulder rolled onto his back, pulling at Skinner as he went. Skinner followed, holding his weight up on his hands and knees over Mulder. Mulder's legs opened invitingly, ankles snaking up behind Skinner's ass, pulling him down, his own ass lifting, seeking Skinner's fully erect cock.

There was just no resisting Mulder when he was this pushy. Skinner pressed the head of his penis against the cleft of Mulder's ass. Mulder hadn't been exaggerating when he said he was ready, he'd even applied lube. Skinner eased forward gently.

Mulder was dying with anticipation, and if Skinner didn't get on with it soon he was gonna scream. He hadn't been kidding about waking up horny, and it had taken all kinds of self control to wait a whole hour before waking his lover. He felt the head of Skinner's cock seek his opening and applied more force to Skinner's back with his ankles, trying to speed things up. He felt pressure against his anus, then the pop of entry and a gradual feeling of being filled. He positively hummed with pleasure.

Skinner decided that he was going to take control of this morning's lovemaking session, he wasn't going to let Mulder dictate the pace. He was going to go slowly and drive Mulder mad before letting him come. Despite Mulder's pleas that he go faster, harder, Skinner kept up the slow rhythmic pace, hitting Mulder's prostate at each inward stroke. Mulder sweated and panted under him.

"Oh God, Walter, I'm going to come."

"Not yet. Not until I say you can," Skinner commanded.

He pulled out half way and tucked his knees up until he was kneeling. He pinched Mulder's cock hard at the root, applying enough pressure to forestall the coming orgasm. Mulder groaned, mumbling something about him being cruel. When they were both safely back from the edge, Skinner reached in under Mulder's shoulders and pulled him up into his lap. Mulder gasped at the new angle and penetration. He clung to Skinner, hugging him close and buried his face into the muscled shoulder, then began rocking his hips.

Skinner sighed. Oh God, this felt good and right. He slid one hand down between their bodies, keeping the other tightly around Mulder's waist, seeking the erect penis nestled between them. He brushed against the swell of Mulder's lower abdomen and fondled gently. There was life in there, under his hand. Miraculous life. He felt one of Mulder's hands join his, and together they followed the bump from navel to the base of Mulder's cock. Up and down.

"It turns me on when you rub my belly like that," Mulder growled.

"Oh God, Fox, I love you so much." Walter gasped out.

Skinner grabbed Mulder's hips and lifted him slightly so his own legs could straighten out in front of him and he could lay back. Mulder was sitting on him now, raising up and down, riding his cock. He began thrusting harder, pushing his hips up as Mulder pushed down. Mulder was the picture of pure pleasure, his head thrown back, sweat running down his chest, raising himself up slightly and pressing down hard, squeezing his buttocks around Skinner's shaft. He moaned as his orgasm overtook him, a mere second before Skinner joined him. Mulder stopped moving and let the feel of Skinner's pulsing cock course through him as he milked it with his ass. He sat still for a few moments more with his eyes closed before toppling forward slowly, lowering himself to the bed beside his lover. Coherent thought and words were still miles away.

"Mmmmm, that was... that was... oh God." Mulder ground out.

"Yeah." His lover agreed before sleep reclaimed them both.

When Mulder woke again, Skinner was already up and rattling around in the kitchen downstairs. The smell of food made Mulder's stomach growl, and the need to pee made him drag himself out of bed. He took care of business, threw on some sweat pants and a t-shirt, then went downstairs.

"Hi," he said from the kitchen doorway.

Skinner smiled and stepped closer to kiss him deeply. "How'd you sleep?"

"Fine. Like the dead." Mulder grinned. "You wore me out."

Skinner went back to the pan on the stove. "Hungry? I made pancakes. There's juice on the table and tea in the pot."

"Tea? Since when do you drink tea?" Mulder laughed.

"Since coffee upsets your stomach. It's green tea. Scully said you should be able to drink it, there's no caffeine."

Mulder sat at the kitchen table and poured juice for himself. He lifted the lid of the teapot and sniffed. "If there's no caffeine, what's the point?" he asked.

"It's supposed to be good for you. Scully also recommended raspberry leaf tea."

Mulder pulled a face as Skinner sat down, a huge stack of pancakes on the plate in his hand.

"Dig in, you need to keep your strength up." A wicked grin split his features and lit up his dark brown eyes. "So, what do you want to do with the rest of the day?" It was already nearly 11. "You want to go to the basin for a walk?"

"Sure. Let's get out while we still can, and the weather's still nice."


Violent Crimes Office
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Tuesday, 7 August

"Great work, Mulder." The SAC slapped him on the back as the meeting broke up. "We're all going for a beer to celebrate after work. You coming?"

Mulder caught Scully's disapproving glare before turning back to Cleary. "Sure, why not. The guys in Jackson caught our perp. I've earned it." This last was for Scully's benefit. He was not going to let her mother-hen him out of a chance to blow off some steam. "But just one, I gotta watch my waistline."

Cleary gave him a once over. "You know, you have been putting on weight lately. It's good to see you've gotten over... you know... Gee, how long has it been?" He was clumsily referring to how thin and ill Mulder had looked when he'd first returned to work after his abduction a year ago. A year to this very day.

Mulder went quiet, the good mood of having been part of a successful investigation suddenly tarnished by the memory of his abduction. If Cleary noticed he didn't say anything, he merely went on to the next member of the team, backslapping some more and shaking the hands of the others. Only Scully saw how pale Mulder had gone as he left the room. She caught up with him in the hallway.

"Are you okay?"

Mulder stopped and leaned back against the wall, eyes closed. "Just when I think I'm all right with everything, something reminds me and I start to fall apart again. Cleary just reminded me what day it is today."

Scully frantically revisited everything the SAC had said and couldn't recall him mentioning anything about today. Then it dawned on her. It was exactly twelve months since Mulder's abduction.

"Oh, Mulder. I'd forgotten. I'm sorry. Are you sure you're okay?"

He took a deep breath. "Yeah, I'll be fine. I have to learn to live with it, Scully. Things are going to remind me all the time and I just have to deal with them. I'll be fine, honest."

At the end of the day Skinner caught up with Mulder as he about to leave to join the others from VCU at the tavern down the road.

"Agent Mulder."

"Sir? Checking up on me?" Mulder had the sneaky feeling that Scully had ratted on him.

"Er, no, I just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done."

"Thank you, sir. I was just going to join the others for a drink. I'll pass on your thoughts."

"Have you got a minute, agent? There's something I'd like to talk to you about."

The concern in Skinner's voice betrayed him. Mulder sighed and watched as the last person filed out of the office.

"I'm fine. Really. I'm going for one beer, and I'll even make it a light, then I'm going home. Alone. I can handle this." Mulder put all his effort into sounding sincere.

Skinner didn't appear convinced, but he let it ride. "You'll call me if you need to talk? Or want some company?"

"You know I will. Look, I have to go, they're waiting for me."


McGinty's Tavern
Tuesday, 7 August, 9:35pm

Mulder's promise of one beer, light, had well and truly been broken. He'd had three, full strength, plus two shots of Bourbon. He knew he shouldn't have, but the temptation to have a 'normal' night with some 'normal' colleagues was intoxicating. Mulder laughed at the irony of his own thoughts. He wasn't drunk, but he was certainly buzzed. He shouldn't have drunk that much on an empty stomach, shouldn't have drunk that much, period. Oops. Been a bad boy again, he mused, but he'd needed this and he promised himself this was the last time he'd disobey the 'rules'.

It was time to go home. He said his farewells and went outside in search of a cab. It was dark, and a light drizzle was falling. He walked to the corner, his attention drawn up at the streetlight. The combination of the rain and the light mesmerized him. It was like being caught in the light beam of the spaceship all over again. Mulder felt a panic attack looming. His breath came in short gasps and he wanted to run, but his legs refused to move. No... no, not again.

The sound of other patrons noisily leaving the bar broke into his consciousness just as a cab pulled up in front of him, breaking the spell. He dragged in a huge gulp of air and practically wrenched the car door off its hinges as he scrambled into the back seat, and collapsed trembling.

".... HEY! I asked where to, buddy? I don't mind sittin' here, it's your dime."

"What? Oh. Um..." Mulder briefly considered where to go, home? To Scully's? or Walter's? He gave his own address. He scrubbed his hand over his eyes as he fought to regain control of his emotions.

Mulder barely made it up in the elevator and into his apartment. He rushed to the bathroom and vomited up all he'd had to drink. When he'd finished, he sat on the cold tiled floor for what seemed like hours. Finally he pulled himself up, rinsed his mouth out and shook himself mentally. A sudden bout of paranoia sent him racing to the front door, making sure it was securely bolted. He went to all the windows and drew the drapes tightly shut before wrapping himself in a blanket in an effort to stop his shivering and curling into a corner of his couch - with his weapon drawn beside him, at the ready.

They weren't going to take him again, they weren't. He'd kill himself before he let them do that. He couldn't go through it all again. He just couldn't. Quiet gasping sobs heaved in his chest, and fat tears ran down his face. So much for being fine. He should call someone, but to move would draw attention to himself. If he just sat very still....

The shrill sound of the phone ringing jerked Mulder from the light doze he'd fallen into. The room was still dark, but a stubborn shaft of sunlight had pushed itself through the tiny gap in the drapes, marking a single stripe across the coffee table.

It took a minute for Mulder to orient himself to the sound. The ringing stopped and his answering machine picked up. It was Scully.

"Mulder, I thought you were going to meet me for breakfast. Your cell phone is off, and you're not at your desk either. I've left a message on your voice mail. It's nine thirty. If I don't hear from you in the next half hour, I'm going to Skinner." She sounded worried, and pissed off.

The machine clicked off and Mulder snapped out of his apparent trance. He blinked, looked around the room and couldn't remember why he was still in his suit and overcoat, wrapped in a blanket on the couch with his weapon beside him. He couldn't remember anything after leaving the tavern the night before. He felt like crap. He stretched his long legs out from under himself before trying to stand, then unsteadily lurched into the bathroom, shedding clothes along the way. He desperately needed a hot shower. But first he needed to clean the bathroom, the smell of recycled alcohol nearly made him puke again.

It was nearly eleven when he finally made it into the office. There were several comments thrown his way from other agents saying that he hadn't looked that wasted last night and was he okay, because he looked like hell. He passed them all off with an "I'm fine," and put it down to just not having had a good night, which was essentially true.

Scully found him at his desk around noon.

"Why didn't you call me? I've been worried about you. I was going to come over to your apartment, but Skinner said to give you a little time." She paused for breath, assessing his apparent condition. "You look like hell, are you all right?"

Mulder was grateful for the fact that Skinner was giving him the space, even though it must have just about killed him to do so, but Scully wasn't going to be so easily put off. He debated on whether to tell her the truth, but didn't feel like having to deal with it or her on a tear so he told her that he'd had a bit too much to drink and wasn't feeling too good. He could see she wanted to give him a lecture on drinking while pregnant so he cut her off at the pass.

"If it's any consolation to you, Scully, I threw up everything except my toenails when I got home so I don't think there was much alcohol left in my system to hurt anything. Besides, I didn't really drink that much, you know it doesn't take much to make me sick these days, it really was only a couple of beers. So please, no lecture on the dangers of drinking in my condition. I already called Rebecca and she said it was a stupid thing to do, but didn't think that a one-off would cause any damage, as long as I didn't make a habit of doing it. And I'm suffering for it enough already."

Scully's intended lecture turned to sympathy. "How are you feeling now? Have you eaten anything this morning?"

The very thought of food made his stomach lurch, but before he knew it Scully was dragging him off to the cafeteria for tea and toast. Chamomile tea from her own reserve of teabags no less. He let her mother him in exchange for a promise that she wouldn't tell Skinner the whole truth, and that he'd go home and rest for the remainder of the day, and call Rebecca if he didn't feel better soon. Mulder knew he'd have to deal with an angry or upset Walter later that night for sure, but hopefully by then he'd be feeling a little more human and would be able to deal with it.


Hoover Building parking garage
Friday, 17 August, 2001, 7:29pm

Skinner was going to be worried, he was running late. Mulder had meant to leave the office over an hour ago, but got tangled up reading a new case file and writing a few preliminary notes for the profile. When he'd realized the time, he'd bundled up the file and his notes, shoving them roughly into his briefcase and made a beeline for the parking garage.

Various thoughts tumbled through Mulder's mind as he drove towards Crystal City. He'd called Skinner, explained that he was on his way and that traffic was heavy so he'd be a while. Stuck in traffic, Mulder's mind was freewheeling. He thought back to the last couple of weeks. Things had been okay since the night that was the anniversary of his abduction. He still hadn't talked to anyone about it and had successfully bricked it up in a corner of his mind. His profiles had brought another two cases to conclusion and he was... thoroughly bored.

Rebecca was pressuring him into deciding how much longer he intended to work. He was nearly half way through his pregnancy and if he didn't quit soon he'd need to go upsize all his suit pants again. But he didn't want to stop working. It was all he had, boring though it was lately. He longed for a nice juicy X-File.

<What was wrong with this traffic? Was there an accident ahead?>

Getting back to his train of thought... No, he didn't really want that either. He didn't know what he wanted, but whatever it was, it wasn't what he currently had. Maybe it was time to quit. Or at least go on extended leave as Walter had suggested. He could consult from home. He could write some articles for the guys, hell, he could write a book. The Adventures of Spooky Mulder. Of course he'd have to market it as fiction because no one would ever believe any of it was true.

<Damn. He'd forgotten to go to the bathroom on his way out of the office. And now he needed to go. And he was stuck in traffic. Perfect.>

Saved! There was a gas station just ahead on the right. He pulled in to a parking space near the door and went inside. He got the key and walked around the back, unlocked the door and made a beeline for the urinal.

He was so relieved that his bladder wasn't going to burst that he failed to notice the two men who got out of the dark sedan in the parking space beside his, and he hadn't seen them following him since he'd left the Hoover.

As Mulder left the restroom he was jumped from behind. Something wet and smelly was pushed over his nose and mouth, making it impossible to yell for help, or to breathe clean air. He fought to get loose and go for his gun, all the while trying not to breathe in the fumes from the cloth. But he was held too tightly and finally he just had to take a breath. His head swam and he felt dizzy. Another breath and his eyes rolled back into his head, he was out cold.

The two men bundled him into the rear seat of the dark sedan and one of them returned the restroom key to the attendant, saying that his friend wasn't feeling well so they'd drive him home. The first kidnapper drove off with Mulder and the second one followed in Mulder's car, leaving a slightly bewildered attendant staring after them.


Time and place unknown

Mulder woke with a pounding headache, and the feeling that he was going to be sick. He tried to get up and found that he was firmly held in five point restraints. As awareness became more solid, he recognized that he was in what looked like a hospital room. There was an IV in his arm, an oxygen cannula under his nose and various monitor leads attached to him - on his chest and on his abdomen.

At first he wondered if he'd had an accident, but memory kicked in and he recalled the two men who'd jumped him. Drugged him. Oh God, the baby. Please don't let them have hurt the baby, he silently pleaded. He struggled to sit up and get free of his restraints.

"Relax, Fox. You're quite unharmed, and so is the little one," said a voice just out of visual range.

Sweet Jesus, they knew. He struggled harder, panic overtaking him along with another wave of nausea.

"Please. Let me go. I'm gonna be..."

Strong hands held his head sideways over an emesis bowl and he heaved, bringing up bitter bile. When he was done, he lay back down and his face was wiped with a cool damp washcloth.

"I'm sorry about the chloroform. It does leave one a little nauseous, but it was chosen as being the least harmful method to subdue you, given your current condition."

Mulder tried to deny knowing what the man, a doctor by the look of him, was talking about, but it was clear that he knew it all.

"Try not to worry. We don't want to harm you or the child. We were made aware of your condition quite by accident, you know. Our work with the colonists indicated that they were expecting a great breakthrough with their own experiments on human subjects. Given the interest they've shown in you previously, and closely following your movements the last few months, led us to the conclusion that this breakthrough had something to do with you.

"You and your friends have been very clever in covering your tracks with the medical tests. Not quite clever enough, though, because we were able to access them. There were still those in our organization that doubted it was possible, but now they see the truth of it."

"What do you want from me?" Mulder was terrified, for himself and the baby.

"Want from you? Nothing. We are simply running a few additional tests that the dear Dr. Whiting has neglected to run and we want to ensure that you have a safe and uneventful pregnancy. You haven't been taking care of yourself as well as you should, so we decided that we should take care of you. And then when you have delivered a healthy child, you'll be free to go."

So they did want the baby. But they wanted it after it was born. And they were going to keep him here until then.

"No, please. Let me go. It's an innocent ordinary child." Mulder thought of what might possibly be in store for the baby, in the hands of these monsters.

The doctor laughed. "Do you know the true irony? No one that bears the Mulder name is innocent or ordinary. You, certainly, have never been ordinary. I have all the records from my predecessors, going right back to before you were even conceived. Have you ever wondered about why you were so different from all the other children?"

"I... I wasn't different." Mulder didn't want to hear this.

"So much smarter than all the other kids. An eidetic memory. So good at sports, at anything you did."

"No. I wasn't good at everything." His head was swimming, he was feeling vaguely nauseous again.

"You excelled at everything that was important. Did you ever consider just why you found it so easy to profile? To get inside the minds of psychopaths? Why you empathized with the victims so completely? Did you think it was an accident that you were exposed to the black oil in Russia? The vaccine wasn't really necessary, you know, you seem to have a natural immunity.

"The ability to read minds, yes it was triggered by the rubbing from the alien craft, but the latent ability was always there. Even now, after that smoking bastard tried to take it from you. It's still there. Regenerated by the aliens during your visit with them. Waiting to be turned back on when it's needed by them."

Mulder shook his head, no, at every insinuation. Insinuations that sounded like accusations.

"You weren't just born, Fox, you were engineered. Years of work went into creating you, the perfect hybrid. Not quite perfect enough until the aliens finished our work for us. And now you are carrying the future inside you. If they were still alive, my predecessors would be so proud that the aliens chose you to lead the vanguard of the new generation."

"NO!" Mulder yelled, desperately trying to break free. The heart monitor beside him was throwing wild spikes as he struggled. "It's not true. I don't know why they did this to me! You're lying." Mulder desperately needed him to be lying, saying things to confuse him. It couldn't be true that his life had been controlled since even before he was born. It just couldn't.

"Calm down now. You're going to hurt yourself." The doctor filled a hypodermic from a bottle on the worktop beside him. "I'm going to give you a mild sedative. It won't hurt the baby, but it will calm you down. It has to be given quite precisely, which is why I couldn't let your captors use it, but used in skillful hands we can keep using it without harm."

He swiftly injected it into the IV port as Mulder continued to struggle and curse.

"Fuck you! You lying bastard. Nothing you say is true. It's not... true." Mulder felt the fast acting sedative flood through him, leaving him without the will to keep fighting.

"I know it's a lot to process, but you'll have time, here with us over the next months, to understand and accept your role in the future of mankind. The ones involved with what they called the Syndicate are all dead now. Their policy was to keep you in the dark about everything. We, the new consortium, feel it best to tell you everything. Then you'll see that there is absolutely no point in continuing to fight against us. We have all the records. You can read them all."

Mulder listened to the voice drone on as lethargy overtook him. He turned his face away, not wanting that bastard to see the tears in his eyes. Had it all gone as deep as that? Really? Is that what his parents had subjected him to? Or had they been trying to protect him from it? Did they know about it all? Is this what his mother had tried to tell him at the end? He fell into sleep uneasily as more and more questions formed in his head.


Place unknown
Day unknown

The nearest Mulder could figure, he'd been there at least a day but probably no more than two. They kept him hydrated with the IV and had brought him food a couple of times, which he refused to eat. He wasn't really hungry under the circumstances. He felt languid, so he surmised that they were probably still giving him the sedative. He needed to gain their trust so they would remove the restraints at least, then he could work on getting out of there.

The man who had eventually introduced himself as Doctor Beckman made regular visits and was continually writing things down on a chart. He came in again now.

"My aids tell me you're refusing to eat. You need to eat, for yourself and for the baby. If you don't eat voluntarily, I'll have to force feed you."

"I'm not hungry."

"You need to try. Look, Fox, I want you to feel safe here. You are probably a whole lot safer here than out there with your Dr. Scully and Assistant Director Skinner."

Mulder flinched at the mention of his friend and his lover.

"Granted, you don't have all the comforts of home, but if you cooperate, your time here will pass quite pleasantly."

Mulder decided to go for broke. "It's a little hard to trust you when you have me tied down like this. If you untie me and stop drugging me, I promise to cooperate. I can't eat if I'm not using up energy, and if I'm stoned all the time."

Beckman appeared to think things over for a minute. "I had hoped you'd come round eventually, I just didn't think it would be this soon. But forgive me if I don't trust you entirely. We have more comfortable accommodations ready for you and I'll make you a deal. If you are cooperative, eating and doing as you are told, I'll agree to move you there now. The sedation will stay for the time being at least, until I can trust you."

It was less of a win than he'd wanted but more than he'd anticipated, so Mulder agreed.

Within an hour an orderly arrived with a wheelchair, disconnected his IV and undid his restraints. Mulder struggled into the set of scrubs he was given, refusing the offer of help, until he nearly fell flat on his ass when he tried to stand up. He sat heavily in the wheelchair, his head spinning, but balked when he felt his right wrist being restrained.

"What are you doing?" he demanded. "I thought there were going to be no more restraints."

"This is only until you get to your new room. Dr. Beckman's orders." The orderly informed him as his other wrist was strapped down. Next his ankles were encased in lambskin lined cuffs as well.

Mulder tried to get his bearings as he was wheeled down several identical-looking corridors. There were no signs or distinguishing features to differentiate any of them and he felt disoriented. Finally they stopped in front of a set of glass airlock doors. The orderly punched a sequence of seven numbers - none of which Mulder could disseminate - onto a keypad and then pressed his palm onto a reader. A palm print and another set of numbers were required once in the airlock, and then they were in another corridor. Mulder's hopes for escape were sinking faster than the Titanic.

They stopped at the third door along the corridor and this time the orderly only punched four numbers onto the keypad. The door slid obediently open to reveal a room not unlike a motel room. There was a king-sized bed, a nightstand and bureau, a couple of comfortable chairs, a TV and VCR. A bathroom led off to one side, and a small dining table and two chairs stood beside a sliding glass door that led out into a large solarium filled with potted plants, a couple of deck chairs and a water fountain. All that was missing was actual sunlight, which was artificially provided by way of ultraviolet lights set high above.

Mulder would have been impressed by this home away from home if it weren't just a gilded cage. He was let loose from the wheelchair and immediately headed for the bed.

"Uh, uh." His companion said and led him by the arm to the table, which was set with covered plates, plastic cutlery and plastic bottles of juice and water. It seemed trust only went so far. "Dr. Beckman said you had to eat first, or you go back to the other room."

Mulder sat with a sigh and lifted the lid from one of the plates. Vegetable soup. It smelled okay, and his stomach actually grumbled in anticipation. He began to eat, his jailer watching over him as he did.

"Could you at least sit down," Mulder grumbled. "It's not polite to just stand and watch people eat."

The other man cautiously sat in the other dining chair as Mulder lifted the lids off the other plates. The table was clearly set for one. One of the plates contained fresh bread rolls and the other a salad. He put the lid back on the salad before breaking off a chunk from one of the rolls. He'd eaten half a roll and most of the soup before sitting back in the chair with a sigh.

"You're not finished."

"I'm not really hungry. Beckman said I had to try to eat something and I did. Maybe later I'll be able to eat more. I'm tired." He got up, grabbed the water bottle and headed for the bed to take a nap.

"Later you'll be shown where to exercise. There's a pool as well." His erstwhile companion prattled on. Mulder idly wondered whether the guy had ever been a concierge in a hotel.

"Sure. Whatever," Mulder mumbled as he heard the other man pack away the meal dishes and push the wheelchair now laden with them out the door.

The door slid closed with a metallic swish and a loud and final click. There was no way to open the door from the inside, there wasn't even a keypad. Mulder lazily looked around the room and sleepily waved up at one of the many strategically placed surveillance cameras. It was nice to be able to curl up on a proper bed again, even if he was being watched. Soon he was asleep.


AD Skinner's office
Monday, 20 August, 11:25am

"I don't give a damn how many hours of overtime need to go into this!" Walter Skinner yelled down the phone. "I want some results! One of my agents is missing and I want him found! NOW!!"

He slammed the phone down so hard that the whole desk shook, then sank into his chair, threw his glasses onto the desktop and scrubbed at his stinging eyes.

Scully had been sitting quietly in one of the visitor's chairs while the tirade had gone on. Now she stood and went to stand behind the distraught man. She lay a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"We'll find him."

Skinner turned to look at her with liquid eyes. "What if we don't this time? What if we're too late? I... I don't think I could stand to lose him all over again." Three nights with barely any sleep had frayed his nerves to the point where he was beside himself.

"Why don't you go home and get some rest?" Scully suggested. When the AD started to protest, she continued, "I'll be here if anything turns up, and you'll be at home in case anyone tries to call there."

Reluctantly Skinner agreed. He wasn't doing any good sitting here and yelling at people, and there'd been no further leads since the service station attendant had been personally interviewed by Skinner late on Sunday. An APB had been put out on Saturday morning and Skinner'd had agents canvassing the route between the Hoover and Crystal City. Surprisingly, no one wondered at why Mulder would be on his was to see the AD on a Friday night - but then, this was Mulder who did weird things at odd times. They'd left pictures of Mulder at strategic locations all along the route he would have taken, including the service station where unbeknown to the FBI, he'd stopped. The attendant that had been on Friday night recognized the photo when he came back on duty on Sunday afternoon and had called.

It had been their only break, but it was enough for Skinner to intensify the investigation. At least this time they knew that Mulder had been taken by earthly forces, but whether that increased the chance of getting him back unharmed or not was yet to be seen.

Skinner would have sworn that old smokey was behind Mulder's disappearance had he not known the old man and nearly all of his cronies were dead, but without any means to establish whether the syndicate was still in operation or not he couldn't be sure. In desperation, Skinner had contacted Marita Covarrubius, or had tried to. She hadn't returned his calls but he'd left a half dozen messages begging her to tell him if she had any information.

The Lone Gunmen had been onto things since Friday night, when Mulder had failed to show up at Skinner's apartment. They were drawing a huge blank, but were working their collective butts off trying to find any information. They'd called in so many favors and hacked into so many sites that their hard drives were practically at meltdown.

Skinner didn't want to even think what this was doing to Mulder, being taken again. He feared not only for Mulder's physical safety but for his emotional wellbeing. How would Mulder cope, especially if They harmed the baby? He couldn't bring himself to even contemplate it.

Scully was being a rock, even when Skinner knew she was scared, angry and upset too. She'd shed tears of worry and frustration a few times over the weekend, but never when anyone except Skinner was around to see them. She hadn't slept a lot herself, except when he'd insisted she take a break and she'd fallen asleep on the sofa in his office. But at least she'd had more rest than Skinner himself had.

Skinner decided he needed a stop at the boxing gym on the way home to let out some of his frustration, then he could get a few hours rest, and make some more unofficial enquiries before he came back to harass his agents some more.


Location unknown
Time unknown

The next few days, (or was it weeks? Mulder couldn't keep track) passed with a routine monotony and in a semi haze as his brain was fogged by repeat doses of the sedative. He was brought food four times a day, his keeper supervised him while he shaved and then took the safety razor away with him, he was allowed use of the small gym and walking track, and he swam in the pool. TV and the range of videos available didn't interest him and gave him no clue as to whether he was even still in the DC area. He'd tried to scope out any potential avenues of escape, but it looked impossible. All he could do was play along and keep watching, just in case.

But he had plenty of reading material. Beckman made sure of that. File after file of his life history, of the experiments done on fetuses before he himself was conceived, on the numerous tests carried out on him throughout his own childhood - tests he couldn't remember. Tests that continued on during his adult life, apparently without his knowledge also. The documents looked authentic, but he wouldn't let himself believe them. His fogged brain tried to make sense of things, without much luck.

The latest files were copies of reports from Bethesda, where he'd recuperated after his return from the aliens. Reports that tried to explain his rapid healing abilities. Blood work results that had the doctors baffled. They had attributed some things to natural ability and others to exposure to toxic chemicals. Everything explained away without real explanation. They'd completely ignored the test results that showed he'd been exposed to a long period of weightlessness and CGR. New notes had been made on the copies. Scientific terms that he didn't understand were quoted and some had double exclamation marks after them. It seemed that someone found the results exciting. Probably Beckman.

He wanted to be angry, to scream and throw things, but being constantly sedated took that ability away from him. And that just made him even more frustrated. He'd been used his entire life. None of it had been his own. Had any of the decisions he'd made come from independent thought? Or had they been manipulated too? Who was he? Or rather, what was he? And just what kind of monster was in his belly? It was human all right, but was it 'superhuman'? Was he? Did he have the right to subject a child to more of what he had been through all his life? What did they intend to use the child for? And the biggest question of all, why had the aliens done this to him? Even Beckman wasn't sure of the answer to that.

The more he read, the deeper the despair pervaded him. If he could find a way to end it all here and now he would. But his captors had made sure there were no tools or weapons he could use against either them or himself. If any of this was real, he truly was a son of The Project and his life had never been his own. Perhaps he could change that now. Perhaps if he ended it all right here, right now, it would be an end to The Project. He didn't want to die, but how could he continue to live now that he knew?

In a desperate moment he tried to tear the bed sheet into strips, but before he'd torn a second strip they had come to stop him. He was given another dose of the sedative and restrained on the bed. Beckman told him that this was his only warning. If he tried to hurt himself or the baby again, it was back to restraints full time in the other room.

Mulder didn't care any more. Let them do their worst.


Location unknown
Time unknown

It was dark. Not an all-encompassing dark, they never left him in total darkness, there was always a subtle light emanating from the "sky" of the solarium. Several hours had passed since his aborted suicide attempt.

Mulder was still restrained as punishment. They'd brought him his dinner and tried to feed him, but he'd refused to eat and wound up being force fed then pumped full of more sedative. He lay awake now, staring absently at the shadowy camera in the corner. Something was different about it, but he couldn't quite work out what. Wasn't the light supposed to glow red?

A noise at the door didn't even draw his attention. It was a soft, scrabbling noise, like a rat gnawing. It stopped after a minute or two -- or was it longer? It didn't matter.

A stealthy figure in black crept into the room. Mulder watched it idly, his attention lazily drawn from the shadowed corner he'd been staring at. The figure was speaking to him, but he couldn't quite be bothered to make out the words. He felt a slight tug at his ankles, then his wrists, as the restraints were undone. He just lay there, totally uninterested.

"Jesus Christ, Mulder. Snap out of it!" The voice demanded, as its owner gave him a shake.

"Lemme alone," Mulder mumbled as he tried to curl up in a ball. A stinging slap to the face brought more of a reaction. "Hey!"

"That's more like it. Come on, you sorry bastard, give me some help here. Get up."

Drunkenly Mulder forced himself up to sit on the edge of the bed. He felt dizzy and light-headed. He wasn't sure if he could make his body follow the commands of the voice. He tried to focus on the face in the semi-darkness. He knew that face.

"Krycek?"

"Yeah, asshole. It's me. I'm rescuing you, so get a move on." Krycek wrapped his one good arm around Mulder's waist and hoisted him to his feet. "Can you walk?"

Mulder seemed to think for a moment, then slowly nodded. "I think so. Where are we going?"

Krycek grunted as he bore more of Mulder's weight than he wanted to.

"I'm getting you out of here." He pulled Mulder along with him, out into the deserted corridors. "I'm taking you back where you belong."

A snicker escaped from Mulder's chest. "I don't belong anywhere."

Krycek ignored Mulder's mumbling and just kept him walking doggedly along until they eventually got to an outside door. Krycek propped Mulder up beside it.

"I need you to stay put for a minute."

Mulder's attention seemed to be wandering again. Another smack to the face brought him back.

"Are you with me, here? I said, stay put. I'll be back in just a minute."

Mulder nodded again, and as soon as Krycek vanished, he slid down the wall to sit. Staying put was easy, he didn't have anywhere else to go.

Then Krycek was shaking him awake, pulling him to his feet. "Come on, we have to hurry."

Outside it was a mild night, but still Mulder shivered in the light breeze. He stumbled over some rough ground, hissing at the sharpness of the stones under his bare feet. Krycek didn't slow the pace, but was secretly relieved that Mulder seemed to be feeling something at last. Mulder was bundled into the passenger seat of a waiting sedan, buckled in, then the door was closed. A moment later Krycek was in the driver's seat, gunning the engine and they took off like a bat out of hell into the night.

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked after they'd driven for a few minutes.

"Back to DC, to Scully and Skinner." Nothing gave away any emotion in Krycek's voice.

"No," Mulder said simply.

Krycek gave him a sideways glance, a muscle twitching in his jaw, before concentrating on the road again. "Then where?"

"I... don't have... I can't go back there." Mulder turned his head to stare out the passenger window into the darkness, not wanting Krycek to see the gathering moisture in his eyes. He tried again, "I don't have anywhere... no... wait. The Vineyard. Take me to the Vineyard. I want to go home." His voice was soft and breathy as he finished speaking.


The sun was coming up when Mulder was woken by the sensation that they'd stopped moving. He stared blearily out the window for a moment before recognizing that they were at the wharf in New Bedford, waiting for the first ferry of the day across to Martha's Vineyard. Krycek must have driven through the night. Mulder shifted in his seat, his bladder telling him he had urgent business to take care of. He started to open the car door when a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"You might want to grab that bag off the back seat. There's some sweats and a pair of sneakers in there."

At Mulder's confused expression, Krycek continued, "You probably don't want to go out there looking like an escapee from the hospital." He gestured at the white scrubs Mulder still wore. "Here." He handed Mulder a long jacket.

Mulder decided he could quiz Krycek later on why he was being so helpful, but right now he just had to go to the bathroom. He shrugged into the jacket, grabbed the indicated bag from the back seat and ran the short distance across to the block of public toilets that Krycek had thoughtfully parked beside.

When he emerged five minutes later, Mulder had half expected to see Krycek gone. But he was still there, leaning casually against the hood of the car.

"First ferry isn't until six thirty. We've got nearly an hour to wait. The diner over there is open if you want to come get some breakfast." He headed leisurely across the road, not waiting to see if Mulder followed.

Krycek was examining the menu when Mulder slid into the booth opposite him.

"Why?"

"I'm hungry. I've been driving all night while you slept," he answered not even looking up.

"No, I mean why did you help me escape?"

Krycek shrugged. "It wasn't a safe place for you to be."

The waitress appeared and poured coffee into the two cups on the table. "What can I get you?"

Mulder pushed the coffee away. "Just some orange juice, please."

Krycek wasn't so reticent. "I'll have bacon, two eggs over-easy, hash browns, some plain toast and biscuits. Thanks."

The waitress left and Mulder pursued the conversation. "How did you know I was there?"

That earned Mulder a 'puh-leeze' look.

"They'll come after me again. They want the b..." Mulder stopped short, realizing what he'd almost blurted out.

Krycek smiled, knowingly. "I know what they want. Your little secret is safe with me. They won't be coming after you again. Beckman led a splinter group of the new consortium, they were the only ones interested in keeping the Project going, seeing it through to the end. The rest of us are only interested in saving our own asses when it comes time for the invasion."

"How can you know they won't..." Understanding dawned on Mulder. "You killed Beckman, and the others where I was being held." It wasn't a question. Now he understood where Krycek had gone when he left him at the door. There was probably nothing but rubble left, but what of the files that Beckman had on him?

As if reading his mind, Krycek said, "Look, I'd forget everything that Beckman told you. You can't change the past. Just let it go. There's nothing left for anyone else to continue their work. I destroyed it all."

The secrets of his past. He'd seen them, they would forever burn in his memory, but no one else would ever know. Or would they? "Did you kill them all?"

If Krycek was surprised at the lack of emotion in Mulder's tone, he didn't show it. "Not quite. I've still got a little bit of cleaning up to do. But you and..." he pointed his chin towards Mulder's stomach, "are safe. I won't let anyone near you."

Their breakfast arrived and Krycek pushed the plate of toast over to Mulder.

"I'm not hungry."

"You have to eat something," Krycek admonished as he tucked heartily into his own greasy bacon and eggs.

By the time they left the diner forty-five minutes later to get the ferry, Mulder had finished two glasses of juice and eaten the toast.


West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard
Friday, 31 August

The house was surprisingly dust free and fresh smelling. Mulder explained that someone came in every now and then to keep it clean. Krycek hadn't been back here since the day he'd killed Bill Mulder. That was a day he wished he could live over again, only he wanted to kill the bastard a lot slower this time. What that man had allowed to happen to his children -- it just wasn't right.

Mulder stripped the dust cover off the sofa and crawled onto it, curling on his side.

"So, what now, Mulder?"

Mulder shrugged. "You go do whatever you have to do, Krycek."

"What about you?"

"You said I was safe."

"From Them, yes." But what about from yourself? He was worried about Mulder. He'd never seen him so despondent, so ready to give up.

"I need some time alone, to think."

Krycek thought that the last thing Mulder needed right now was to be left alone to think. "I have some time before I need to be somewhere else. I think I'll lay low here for a day or two."

Mulder closed his eyes. "Suit yourself."

Krycek sat and watched Mulder until he was satisfied that the other man had fallen asleep, then he checked the house out thoroughly. It was secure, clean throughout but the only thing it lacked was anything to eat other than some out-of-date canned goods. He figured that Mulder would be out for a while, needing to sleep off the residual effects of the sedative in his system, so he went out to find a market and stock up on a few essentials.

When Krycek returned Mulder was still sleeping, so he took the groceries he'd bought into the kitchen, unpacked them and made coffee.

The sound of someone moaning took him back out to the living room. Mulder was twitching and mewling in his sleep, sweat coating his forehead and neck. Shit. Krycek wasn't sure what to do, whether to let Mulder ride out the nightmare or to wake him. Mulder appeared to be trapped inside the dream, and after watching for an agonizing minute or two, Krycek swore again and knelt beside the sofa. He shook Mulder gently.

"Mulder. Wake up." No response, except more pitiful moaning. Tears were leaking from Mulder's tightly shut eyes.

He shook Mulder harder, said his name louder, and suddenly Mulder woke violently, sitting bolt upright with a half-strangled scream, nearly knocking Krycek off balance and onto his ass. Mulder blinked owlishly in the midday light, confusion evident on his face, then he began to tremble and gasp for air. Krycek still wasn't sure that Mulder was 'with it'. He sat beside him and gently touched the shivering shoulder.

"Mulder?" He gently rubbed Mulder's back, trying to give some measure of comfort.

Mulder turned his head, finally registering a presence beside him, raw emotional pain painted plainly on his face. "Hold me?" he begged, his voice sounding like a very frightened child's. "Please, just hold me?"

"Fuck," Krycek sighed, then gave in.

He wrapped his arm around Mulder's shoulders and pulled him close. Mulder nuzzled his face in close to Krycek's neck, wrapped his arms around the solid body and clung on desperately, his breath hitching as he fought for control. They sat like that together for a long time, Mulder not wanting to let go, his body molded to the other man's, his swollen belly more obvious to Krycek now that he could feel it pressed up against him. Every time Krycek tried to loosen the other man's grip, Mulder would just hold on tighter, until Krycek gave up and just waited it out.

Finally Mulder's death grip loosened, his arms slid slowly down and up Krycek's back, gently caressing, seeking comfort. Mulder lifted his face out from the crook of Krycek's neck, but didn't pull away. He stared up into jade green eyes, then moved forward just a touch. Krycek didn't pull away so Mulder moved in again, until his lips barely brushed Krycek's. As Mulder tried to deepen the kiss, Krycek came to his senses and pulled away, standing up so suddenly that Mulder slid off the sofa and landed on the floor with a soft thump.

Shock froze both men in place for just a second, then Krycek realized that Mulder might have hurt himself falling like that.

"Oh God. Are you all right?"

He reached to help Mulder up to his feet. Mulder pulled sharply away out of reach with a venomous "I'm fine."

"Mulder, I'm sorry. I..."

"Can it, Krycek," Mulder snapped angrily as he got to his feet and practically bolted from the room out onto the verandah.

Shit. What the hell just happened, Krycek wondered.

Mulder had tried to kiss him. But it wasn't being kissed by another man that had caused him to pull away so sharply, it was the fact that the man was Mulder. Oh, he knew that Mulder and Skinner were an item, and that was the trouble. He couldn't afford to get in between the two of them, he couldn't let himself get too involved with Mulder. He'd planned on staying with Mulder for a few days, until Mulder was feeling more like his old self, and then he'd take him back to DC and Skinner. But now he wasn't sure he could trust himself to stay here, alone, with the man that had just come on to him.

Christ, when had he, Krycek, become such a goddamned martyr? He was getting too old to start developing morals.

Krycek stepped hesitantly out onto the verandah. Mulder was leaning on the railing near the corner overlooking the beach.

"Go away, Krycek."

"I think we should talk about this." He took another hesitant step.

"No need. I think you made things pretty clear." Mulder's voice was as cold as ice.

Krycek cleared his throat, swallowed, madly thinking what he could possibly say to put things back on an even keel -- well, as even as he and Mulder ever got. Before he had the chance, Mulder stalked off again, then paused at the top of the staircase that led down to the lawn. He spoke without looking back.

"I'm going for a walk. Don't be here when I get back."

Krycek watched him walk off towards the beach. At first he wondered if he should follow, just to make sure Mulder didn't do anything stupid, but then he decided not to. When Mulder was severely depressed he may be a danger to himself, but right now he just appeared to be really pissed off and that meant that others might be in danger if they crossed Mulder's path, but the man wouldn't hurt himself.

With a sigh, he went inside to find his cell phone. He had to make a phone call, then find somewhere out of sight to keep watch until Skinner arrived.


AD Skinner's office
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Friday, 31 August, 2001, 2:05pm

Two weeks.

It had been two weeks since Mulder had disappeared. Fourteen days since Skinner had felt like half of his soul had been ripped away again. Every day he scanned all the reports that came across his desk, hoping for some word. Every day that passed meant it was less likely that they'd find him. The one and only lead that the service station attendant had been able to give -- the number plate, make and model of the sedan that Mulder had been taken away in -- was a dead end. Stolen number plates on a car that could have been one in ten thousand. Mulder's bu-car hadn't shown up anywhere either.

He was gone. And Skinner had no idea how he was going to put his life back together without him.

Scully had become increasingly quiet as each day wore on. She'd taken it upon herself to let Rebecca know that Mulder had been abducted. She as much as accused Rebecca of being sloppy in maintaining Mulder's secret, of being the reason that Mulder had been taken. A day or two later, she'd called Rebecca back and apologized. Rebecca said she understood, wasn't upset with Scully, and asked to be kept informed.

Now Skinner sat at his desk, working on autopilot as he read through routine reports. He thought that perhaps he should take some time off, it wasn't like he was really accomplishing anything by being at work. But he didn't want to miss any scrap of evidence that might turn up.

His phone rang and he picked it up with an automatic "Skinner".

"It's Alex Krycek."

Skinner sat up straight in his seat. "Krycek. What the hell do you want?" he growled.

"I have something that you want." It was an old game between him and Skinner. He couldn't just come right out and tell him that he had Mulder.

"There's nothing you could possibly have that I wa..." Skinner stumbled into silence, hardly daring to breathe, hardly daring to hope.

"He needs you. But he's not hurt, he's fine physically... Every bit of him is perfectly fine."

The emphasis couldn't be mistaken by Skinner. Krycek also meant that the baby was fine, too. But, fuck, that meant that he knew.

"Where..." Skinner had to stop to swallow the lump in his throat. "Where is he? How did you find him? If you had anything to do with him being taken, Krycek, I swear to god I'll tear your other arm off."

"Trust me, Walter. I had nothing to do with him being taken. I got him out. He'll be safe now, I guarantee it. And don't worry, it's not a debt I'll hold over your head. He's at his father's house on the Vineyard. But Walter," Krycek pushed a warning tone into his voice, "Come alone. I don't think he's in the mood to be dealing with a lot of people right now. He doesn't need a doctor, or an AD, he just needs... a friend."

Something else that Krycek knew, if Skinner's gut feeling was right. Damn him.

"I'll watch him until you get here, but don't take too long. I can't hang around forever."

The phone went dead.

Shit. It was nearly two thirty on the eve of a holiday weekend. It was going to be next to impossible to get a flight out of DC.

Half an hour later and Skinner was ready to double Kimberly's salary. She was an absolute miracle worker. She'd managed to secure a seat on the five o'clock shuttle to Boston and a commuter flight to the Vineyard and a rental for when he landed. Skinner didn't know how she'd done it, but she had. Now all he had to do was tell Scully.

Kimberly tracked Scully down in the forensics lab and told her that the AD needed to see her right away, but didn't know what it was about.

Dread filled the pit of Scully's stomach as she entered Skinner's office. The AD was busy packing up his desk and didn't hear her enter.

"Sir? You wanted to see me?"

"Shut the door." Skinner took three strides to cross the room and practically pulled Scully into a bear hug. "He's been found. He's all right. I'm going to go get him."

It took several seconds for it to sink in, then, "What? Where is he? He's all right? I'm coming with you."

"No, Scully. You can't come. He's safe, he's all right, but I need to go see him alone. Krycek called, he rescued him, but he said that Mulder is a little upset and that I should go alone. Kimberly has booked me the only flight with a seat left so I have to go. I'll call you as soon as I've seen him and you can talk to him then."

"Krycek? What does he have to do with this? Flight? Where? Where is he?"

"I'm not quite sure where Krycek fits in, yet. I'll tell you as soon as I know. Mulder's at his father's house. You can't tell anyone about this yet. Wait until I've seen him and had a chance to find out what happened. It's a long weekend, so no one will need to know where I've gone." Skinner was on his way out the door.

"You'll call me if he needs anything?"

"I promise. I'll call as soon as I can. Thank God he's all right."

"Amen." Scully breathed.


West Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard
Friday, 8:05pm

Skinner's trip had been uneventful, though crowded with everyone trying to get away for the long weekend. He pulled up outside the Mulder house as the sun was starting its downward slide.

There was no answer to his knock on the door so he made his way around the porch, checking in all the first floor windows, but there was no sign of Mulder anywhere. He was startled by a soft voice behind him.

"He's down on the beach. Been there for hours."

The urge to strangle the man speaking to him was almost overwhelming, but Skinner fought it down.

"What the hell is going on, Krycek?"

Krycek shrugged. "I don't know all of it, but part of the new rgime decided that Mulder was the key to the future fight against or maybe with the aliens. They found out about his little secret and wanted the spoils for themselves."

"So where do you fit into all this." Skinner's patience was pretty thin.

"I'm just here to protect him. Some of us don't agree with the others, but that's not your concern. It wasn't in his, or our, best interests to leave him with those that took him. He needs looking after, Walter. He's pretty fragile right now. He needs someone he can rely on. I can protect him from outside interests, but he needs someone close, someone who cares."

Skinner could read the genuine concern in Krycek's tone and body language. What he couldn't figure out was why Krycek was being so protective.

"What aren't you telling me, Krycek? Is it something about the..." Skinner glanced around reflexively.

"The baby?" Krycek finished for him. "Let's just put it this way, the aliens wouldn't have done this without a very good reason. I've told him before, there's a war coming and we either resist or serve. I, for one, have no desire to serve, so we need all the tools we can muster. Even the ones that the aliens think they are building for themselves. Without them, we don't stand a chance and we won't have a choice."

If what Krycek had just told him made any sense whatsoever, Skinner couldn't work it out. He wanted more answers but Krycek disappeared around the corner of the house and by the time Skinner had taken the couple of steps to catch up, he was gone. Vanished into thin air. Skinner sighed. He wished that Krycek would talk straight just once, instead of in riddles all the time. One thing that was clear, however, was that Krycek thought Mulder's child was key to the survival of mankind. Why else go to all this trouble? But what did that mean as far as Mulder's future happiness was concerned? Was he destined to be a pawn of some never-ending game between alien and human factions? Was his child about to follow the same path?

Too many questions and not an answer to be had.

Just then he saw a tall figure making its way up the grass slope, towards the house. It paused when it saw him standing there, stiffening before finishing the walk up. Skinner waited until Mulder had climbed the stairs and was opening the door.

"Fox... Are you all right?" He wasn't at all sure how to approach Mulder all of a sudden. The man in front of him was pale and almost a stranger.

"What are you doing here, Walter?" Mulder asked, walking into the house.

Skinner didn't understand the question. Where else would he be but here? He followed Mulder into the living room. "God, Fox. I came as soon as I heard where you were. I've been worried sick about you."

He wanted nothing more than to take Mulder into his arms and never let him go, but something in Mulder's posture made him hold back.

"I guess a little rat told you I was here." Mulder sat on the sofa, letting his head flop back, closing his eyes. "I also guess I'm supposed to be grateful that he found me and got me out." Mulder didn't even presume to think that Skinner hadn't been given the grisly details of his abduction and rescue.

"Krycek called me this afternoon."

Before or after our little tiff, Mulder wondered.

"Mulder, are you okay? I mean... they didn't hurt you or anything? If we head back now, I can call Rebecca..."

"No." Mulder broke in angrily. "I don't need Rebecca. I'm fine. They didn't hurt me. I don't want to go back to DC. I need some time, alone to think, to put things into some sort of order in my head."

"Fox, I'm worried about you. I don't think you should be alone right now. I'm here now, how about I just stay around, out of your way, until you're ready to talk to me?"

He reached out to take Mulder's hand, but Mulder pulled away as if burned, standing up suddenly and backing away.

"I... I can't talk about... any of it. Not yet. I just need some time to think," he pleaded.

Skinner resisted the urge to just pull Mulder into his arms, hold him and try to reassure him that he was safe now. He knew that Mulder needed time to sort things out, but he also knew that he wasn't going to leave.

Mulder sensed this resolve and sighed. "Fine, whatever. You can take the master bedroom." Mulder stalked off down the hall and Skinner heard a door bang shut.

It was getting dark now, so Skinner turned on the lamp before taking a tour of the house to work out what was where. He brought his overnight bag in from the car and set it on the bed of the master bedroom. William Mulder's room. Further down the hall was a bathroom, the room where Bill Mulder had died. Beside the bathroom was the door that Mulder was behind. Opposite that was another double bedroom, with a somewhat feminine decor.

Skinner made his way back to the front of the house. Off to one side of the living room was a den, to the other a formal dining area, then through to the kitchen and breakfast room. A comfortable house, all in all. He checked the refrigerator and cupboards, noting that fresh groceries had been brought in. Krycek's work, he'd be willing to bet. There was no evidence that Mulder had eaten at all since getting here earlier in the day, so Skinner set about making some dinner for them both with what little he had to work with. A pasta bake would have to do for tonight. If they were staying longer than tomorrow, Skinner figured he'd better find the grocery store, Krycek's idea of a healthy diet didn't match his in the slightest.

Skinner juggled the tray containing the plate of steaming food, a glass of milk and one of water, as he knocked on the closed door. There was no reply, so he cracked it open. It was dark inside but he could make out the shape on the bed.

"Go away, Walter." Mulder's voice was devoid of emotion, tired, listless.

"I brought you some dinner. I don't know when you last ate..."

"I'm not hungry."

"Fox..." The body on the bed rolled to turn away from the door. "Alright, I'll just leave it here." He put the tray on the nightstand. "Just in case you change your mind."

He retreated quietly, closing the door after himself. He leaned on the door and sighed. Time. He just needs a little time, he thought to himself. Then he went back to the kitchen to force down his own meal, despite having no appetite. Then he had to call Scully.


Saturday, 1 September, 8:23am

Skinner woke with a start. It took a minute for his brain to coalesce the unfamiliar surroundings. It was quiet, except for the not-so-far off sound of the shore and the seagulls. He got up and stretched out the kinks gained from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, alone. Nature called, so he wandered down the hall to the bathroom. Mulder's bedroom door was open, and there was no sign of its occupant, although there was evidence that he'd been up and used the shower.

A quick search showed that Mulder wasn't in the house. The still-full plate from last night's dinner sat on the counter, although Skinner was pleased to see both glasses had been drained, and another glass, that had seemingly held orange juice, had been added to the pile of dishes. He cleaned up the kitchen as a pot of coffee brewed, then sat out on the verandah to drink the steaming liquid.

He was tired. He'd hardly slept the night before. After leaving Mulder's dinner tray, he'd called Scully to confirm that he'd arrived and that Mulder was alive and well. Not quite the truth, perhaps, but enough to stop her from running up here on the next available plane. He'd told her that Mulder was sleeping, again a not-quite truth, and that he'd call again the next day when she could talk to her partner. If Mulder was up to talking to anyone.

Skinner was usually a man of action. In any situation throughout his career where it called for patience and just sitting back and waiting, he had always found himself with an internal battle on his hands. Now was no different. He wanted to go out and kill those bastards responsible for Mulder's current situation, but Krycek had already taken care of that. He wanted to simultaneously shake Mulder and hug the man until he opened up and talked all this through with him. He wanted to do anything other than just sit here and wait. So he took a drive to find the grocery store and brought back the kinds of foods he thought might tempt Mulder's appetite but still pass muster as being considered healthy.

It was now past noon and still no sign of Mulder. Skinner decided to make some sandwiches and take a walk along the beach. Krycek had said that was where Mulder had been the previous evening, so it was probably a safe bet that he'd gone back down there again.

Skinner walked in the warm sand for nearly forty-five minutes before he spotted Mulder sitting high above the beach on a rock ledge. The younger man was lounging against the rocks, seemingly staring out over the ocean, although it was hard to tell as he had sunglasses on. Skinner spread the beach rug out on the sand, set down the picnic basket and sat to watch some children play nearby. With his baseball cap, shorts and sunglasses, he looked like any other late summer beachgoer. He resisted the strong desire to look up at Mulder, although he felt sure that his lover had noticed his arrival. He was prepared to sit and wait patiently for as long as it took - even if it killed him. He wanted Mulder to know he was there if, no, when he was ready to talk, that he wasn't going to go away but he wasn't going to push too hard either. He got out his book and settled down.

A cursory glance up every now and then reaffirmed that Mulder was still up there, as still as the rock ledge he sat on. Personally, Skinner didn't know how the younger man could bear to sit there like that for so long. The Mulder that he knew seemed to be always moving, using a never-ending energy. This still-as-a-statue Mulder scared him.

At around two in the afternoon the weather changed and a stiff, cool off-shore wind sprang up. Dark clouds began to form and it looked like there would be some rain very soon. The beach quickly emptied of holiday-makers and sun-seekers. Skinner suppressed a shiver and stood as the first raindrops began to fall. This was ridiculous, Mulder still hadn't made any attempt to move and must be getting pretty uncomfortable up there. Skinner pulled on his windbreaker, shook the blanket out, gathered the basket and his other belongings and went in search of a way up the rock face. His worry that Mulder had risked a nasty fall in getting up to his perch was unfounded when he discovered a narrow but easily accessible pathway that led to the ledge. It was raining in earnest by the time he eased himself to sit beside Mulder.

"It's raining and you're cold and getting wet." Skinner draped the blanket around Mulder's shoulders.

"So are you." Came the reply.

Skinner just shrugged. "I've toughed out worse weather than this. But I'd rather be where it's dry and warm."

No answer.

"How about we go back now?"

"I can't go back." It was said so softly that Skinner almost didn't hear it. "And I can't go on."

"Yes, you can." God, what he said or did now was of the utmost importance. "I told you I'd be there for you, and I meant it. No matter what. I've been so worried about you these last couple of weeks. I nearly went crazy, thinking that you... that I..."

"Don't. Please, Walter, just don't." Mulder pushed himself up against the rock and stood, letting the blanket drop to the ground, taking a moment to get his legs working.

Skinner stood also, picking up the basket and blanket. "Okay. But how about we head back to the house and get you warmed up?"

Mulder was shivering in earnest now, and Skinner felt pretty chilled himself, despite the windbreaker. He tried to wrap the blanket around Mulder again but it was pushed away. Mulder turned and walked back down the path and headed off in the direction of the house. Skinner sighed and followed.

They were both thoroughly drenched by the time they made it back. Skinner took a firm stance and made Mulder go have a hot shower while he heated up some soup and salvaged the sandwiches from the picnic basket.

Mulder wandered into the kitchen, his hair sticking up in spikes from where he'd toweled it dry, wearing sweat pants and sweatshirt. Skinner thought he looked good enough to eat.

"I've heated up some soup."

Mulder looked ready to protest about not being hungry when his stomach growled, betraying him. He gave in graciously and sat at the small table. "Thanks."

The meal passed in silence, however Mulder did manage to down two bowls of soup and a whole roast beef sandwich. Skinner was content to just watch as he ate his own lunch. Mulder would talk when he was good and ready, and not before. He wasn't really surprised when Mulder excused himself, dumped his dishes on the counter and retreated to his room. But it still hurt. He was startled by the sound of his cell phone ringing. He pulled it from his pocket and answered.

"Skinner."

"Hi, it's me."

Scully. He hadn't called back and now she was calling to check up. No more hedging or she'd know it.

"How are things going up there? Is Mulder all right?"

Skinner looked down the hall to the closed door then went and sat back down at the table.

"Things aren't too good, Scully. Mulder's fine, at least physically, but he won't talk to me. He won't talk to anyone. I'm not sure I'm doing any good up here, I don't know how to reach him." He rubbed his eyes with his free hand.

"Can you put him on the phone?" Scully asked.

"Hold on, let me see." He went to Mulder's door and knocked, then opened the door. "Mulder? Scully's on the phone. She wants to talk to you."

Mulder was lying down, feigning sleep. When Skinner didn't go away and he could hear Scully's voice pleading with him over the phone he opened his eyes, sat up and took the phone.

"I'm fine, Scully. Now please, just leave me alone," he said, then handed the phone back without waiting for a reply. He lay back down, rolled over and closed his eyes again.

Skinner listened to the barrage sent down the phone line from Scully, mostly aimed at Mulder who was studiously ignoring both the phone and Skinner's presence. He sighed. "I'm sorry, Scully. I'll call you later, try not to worry too much." Like that was going to placate her. She announced that she was going to catch the next available flight up. "I don't know if that will do any good, but I'll see you when you get here."

He looked at the man on the bed, hoping for a reaction. He got one.

Mulder sat up and grabbed the phone from him. "Scully, I don't want you here. Please, just stay away. I can't deal with you right now." She said something Skinner couldn't hear, then Mulder answered, "I promise you I'm okay and that I won't do anything stupid without talking to you first, but please, don't come up here." She must have given the answer Mulder wanted because he nodded and handed the phone back announcing that he was going to take a nap, therefore excusing Skinner.

Scully's voice reminded Skinner that the phone connection was still open. "I'm sorry, Scully."

"Walter, I'm worried about him. Stay in touch, and for his sake I hope you can work things out."


Monday, 3 September, 10:30am

Skinner was at the end of his patience. Mulder hadn't even bothered to get out of bed on Sunday other than for trips to the bathroom. He'd picked at the meals that Skinner took into him, but didn't utter two words. It didn't take an expert to tell that Mulder was in danger of slipping into clinical depression. Skinner knew that if he couldn't get through to Mulder very soon, he'd have to seek some outside help. Professional help. It was time to take one last try. He marched into Mulder's room .

"All right. I've had enough of your sullen behavior, Fox. I know that you've been through an emotional wringer, but Christ, so have the rest of us -- Scully, me, your geek friends. I really thought that this time we wouldn't get you back and I just didn't know what I was going to do to cope if that happened." He sat on the bed to make sure that Mulder was listening, struggling to stay in control of his emotions yet desperate to reach his lover. "Talk to me, Fox. Please. Don't shut me out."

Mulder didn't look at him. "I can't."

"Yes, you can. I want to help you, but I don't know how. If you won't talk to me, then you're going to have to talk to a professional. I'm sure Rebecca can recommend someone."

"No."

"Please. I love you so much and I can't bear to see you suffering like this. If you keep holding it in, it's going to drive you crazy, God knows it's already driving me insane." Skinner pleaded with him.

"I... I just need some time."

"How much more time? I've been here more than two days. How much more time do you need? You're depressed, Fox. If you can't snap out of it, I'm going to have to call someone, because I just don't know how to deal with this any more. And I can't stand to see you in such pain."

Mulder did look him in the eye then, his eyes filling as he pleaded, "Please, Walter. I just need a little more time. Don't call anyone. I just can't... not yet."

"I just don't know what else to do. I thought that just by being here I could help, that it would make a difference."

"It has, it does."

"But not enough." Skinner couldn't stay in the room any longer or he would lose it with Mulder and that would achieve nothing. He retreated to the kitchen to make yet another pot of coffee.

Skinner was contemplating lunch when he became aware of the wraith hovering behind him. He was still unsure just how the hell to deal with Mulder, so he waited for the other man to make the first overture, and continued chopping salad.

"I'm sorry."

The voice was so small that Skinner almost imagined he'd heard it. He turned, prepared for another outburst but what he saw hurt more than everything he'd already been through. Mulder was the picture of abject defeat. He looked small inside overlarge sweats that pooled around his ankles, his head hung gave a very boyish impression. When he finally looked up to meet Skinner's eyes, it was obvious he'd been crying.

"What are you sorry about? You have no reason to be."

Mulder shuffled his feet and picked at the hem of the t-shirt he wore, his swollen belly overhanging the top of the sweats. With a sigh, Mulder sat at the breakfast table. Skinner tentatively moved to sit beside him.

"Fox, we'll get through this, together. But I can't help you if you won't let me in."

Mulder sighed again, more deeply, and scrubbed at his eyes. "I just don't know who I am anymore, or what I am. I'm a freak, and I don't know how you can bear to look at me, let alone touch me." He pulled away at Skinner's attempt to do just that. "I can barely even look at myself."

"You are not a freak, Mulder." Skinner's words came out a little more forcefully than he'd intended and he saw Mulder flinch. He continued more softly. "You are a beautiful human being, I've never known anyone who cared more about his work, the victims, and his friends than you."

"But my whole life has been a lie, Walter. I wasn't born, I was made. A fucking lab rat even before I was born. How do I know that any of the choices I've made in my life are my own? They've manipulated me from day one. I don't know if I can go on like this."

"But it's over, Krycek told me he's destroyed those who took you." Skinner tried to reason.

"Not all of them. He'll never be able to get rid of them all. I could be taken again, any time, any place..." Mulder unconsciously looked skyward. "And I can't, I won't be taken again, Walter."

There was silence for a few moments, but Skinner realized he had to let Mulder get it out in his own time.

Finally he continued. "I don't remember much about what they did when I was taken from Oregon, but I know it was horrible. I have nightmares, but I don't remember the substance, only that I'm terrified."

"We can get someone for you to talk to, someone who can help you deal with this." Skinner offered.

Mulder shook his head. "If I tried to talk about it, if I started to remember, they'd lock me up in the little rubber room and throw away the key. I don't think I want to remember, but I sure as hell can't just forget. Walter I'm so scared. I'm scared for myself, I'm scared for the baby. I couldn't..." Mulder swallowed hard and another tear fell, "I couldn't take it if They came and took the baby. I couldn't go through losing someone like that. Not again. I just..."

Skinner pulled Mulder into a bear hug and let his lover sob his pain out. After a few minutes, the shuddering stopped.

"I've made a decision, Walter." Mulder pulled out of Skinner's arms and stared at the table top. "I'm going to call Rebecca. I... I'm going to terminate the pregnancy."

Skinner's stomach felt like he just swallowed a lead weight. "Fox..."

"Please, Walter. Don't say anything. I've made up my mind. I think it's the first decision that has truly been my own in... in my whole life. I'm not just being selfish, I won't put a child of mine through what I went through. I just can't do it. I know I'm being selfish, but... I don't think it's fair to let this child be born. I'm sorry."

Mulder stood and walked out of the room.

Skinner was sure he heard, as well as felt, the crash that was two hearts breaking. This sudden decision had to be killing Mulder as much as it was him. He couldn't just leave it there. He got up and followed Mulder into the living room.

"Fox, you're upset and angry at what you've been through. That's understandable. But you have to think this through."

"God, Walter, I done nothing but think it through for the last two weeks! There's no other way. I can't protect myself, how the hell can I protect a child? Krycek destroyed all the files, but I've seen what they did to me, to my sister." Mulder sat heavily on the sofa.

"Krycek has destroyed more than the files, Fox. He's systematically destroyed the men who were involved in all this. He said he'd make sure you and the baby were protected and I believe him."

"He might be able to protect us from human threats, but he can't do anything about the aliens. No one can. Don't you understand that?"

"Yes, Fox. I understand. But is killing the baby the answer? What next? You kill yourself? Kill me? Scully? Just to stop any of us being taken? If they wanted to they could do it. Yes, I know that. But you can't live your life looking over your shoulder. You don't defeat them by giving up."

"I can't fight them any more. I'm just too tired."

Skinner sat next to Mulder. "You're not alone in this now, Fox. You don't have to do it alone. Let others take over for a while and you rest. Krycek said that the new consortium has different objectives. They are working to save their own asses, and by default will probably wind up saving everyone else on the planet as well. God only knows why I believe him, but I do. He says that this child you are carrying is the key to the freedom of all mankind."

Mulder shook his head, not wanting to believe any of it. Skinner took Mulder's hand and pressed it and his own against Mulder's belly.

"Having a child won't be easy. There are no guarantees, but don't you think that it deserves a chance? That you deserve a chance? You said it yourself, this is your chance at having a real family again. This little life, Mulder, could give you that, and could also save us all."

Skinner could see Mulder struggling with himself, indecision and confusion painted on his features. He hated using Mulder's own sense of guilt and empathy against him, but he had to make him reconsider doing something that he knew Mulder would regret for the rest of his life.

Then a miracle happened. The baby kicked for the first time. A good strong kick. Surprise registered on Mulder's face.

"Walter... The baby... It kicked me, Walter."

"See, Fox. It's a strong, healthy baby, and he's telling you that he's not ready to give up on you, so don't give up on him."

Mulder ran his hand over his belly again, seeking out the presence there and was rewarded by a second, smaller kick. Fresh tears ran down his cheeks now, but not ones of anger or sorrow. These were... happy? tears. It was as if the little life inside him knew the exact moment to stamp its presence firmly into Fox Mulder's life. This was another human being inside him, what right did he have to kill it? Damn, he couldn't just get rid of the little brat now.

"Him, Walter? How do you know it's a him? It could just as easily be a girl."

"I don't know for sure what it is. I do know that it's a fighter, just like its... Dad. I know that he or she deserves a chance to fight."

Mulder sighed. It seemed that he was right after all. His decisions weren't his own. He'd just let his child decide his future for him, and something deep down inside said that this was just the beginning. But this was one decision that he was almost glad to have been made for him. He sighed again as he wiped his hand over his face.

"I... I've changed my mind. You're right. I know I'll probably live to regret this, but... take us home, Walter."


End Chapter Two.
 

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