Rock the Cradle Chapter 3

by Medusa


Title : Rock the Cradle - Chapter Three 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.

If you thought that this was going to be a fun ride, think again.

Archive : Slashing Mulder, Mpreg, DiTB, Mulder in Jeopardy, Beacon In the Night. 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. Be warned, writing this is taking time and there is no set posting schedule. This wound up being a shorter chapter than originally planned, but that just means that it gets posted now rather than later. Chapter Four has been started.

Note: I realized that the timeline I've picked for this story encompasses one very significant event in US history - namely 9/11. Since it was an event that affected practically everyone on the planet I've dealt with it in this chapter but only superficially. I do not mean to make light of it but since the events of that day are not integral to the story they bear no more than passing reference. I have endeavored to research and be reasonably accurate with what I have mentioned, however. Please feel free to correct any errors I have made, and my apologies to anyone who may take offence at my making any reference to that day at all. What can I say? It happened, and I feel I would be remiss to ignore it entirely.

Disclaimers and other miscellany are to be found in Chapter One. Previous chapters can be found here: http://www.slashingmulder.com/Date/May02/RocktheCradle01_Medusa.html and http://www.slashingmulder.com/Date/Jun03/RocktheCradle02_Medusa.html. You would need to have read those for this chapter to make any sense whatsoever.

Thanks to my beta for Chapter Three - Bertina, my comma translator extraordinaire! and my very patient friend. Any errors found in this work are my own.


Redmond Clinic
Tuesday, 4 September, 7pm

Rebecca pulled Mulder into a huge hug as he, Walter and Scully arrived at the clinic.

"Mulder, I'm just so damned pleased to see you again. When Dana called and said you'd been found... well, Sue and I were just so happy!" Rebecca said, a grin splitting her face from ear to ear.

"It's good to be back, Bec," Mulder replied, his voice a little flat, not sounding anywhere near as pleased to be home as Rebecca had expected.

Rebecca gave Skinner a questioning look over Mulder's shoulder and Skinner gave a little shake of the head, he'd talk to her later, privately. He'd already told her a little of the depression Mulder seemed to be suffering.

"Let's get you inside, I want to examine you and make sure everything is all right." She led the way inside. Scully and Skinner had decided that Mulder should see Rebecca alone at first, hoping that without their presence he would talk to the woman he'd come to see as a friend.

"I'm fine, Bec, really. They didn't hurt me or the baby."

"Yeah, well humor me, okay?"

Dr. Whiting did indeed give Mulder a full examination. He was tense and jumpy during most of it, and only relaxed slightly during the ultrasound.

"She kicked me yesterday. And again this morning," Mulder said softly, watching the tiny shape on the screen.

"She? How do you know it's a she? I can tell you if you really want to know."

"No, it's okay. I can wait." Mulder was still unsure he was quite ready to get too intimate with his child yet. "I just call it a she because Walter referred to it as a 'he'."

"Right. So it's just to be obtuse. I should have known better, shouldn't I?" Rebecca laughed.

Mulder just shrugged sheepishly. "So, does it look okay?"

"Looks just perfect to me. The size and development, along with you feeling it move, tell me you're around twenty to twenty one weeks. Half way and right on schedule," she smiled.

Mulder gave a half smile back. Only half way? Shit. The ultrasound finished, Rebecca gave Mulder a towel to clean the gel off his stomach.

"What's this?" She asked, pointing to a small fresh scar at the top of Mulder's leg.

"An implant. Beckman, the doctor who took care of me, told me it's instead of the hormone patches. More effective, he said."

Rebecca could see that its presence made Mulder a little uneasy. "I can take it out if you want, and go back to the patches?"

Mulder thought for a second. "No. It's okay. Unless you think it should come out? I actually think it's working better. At least I'm not throwing up any more." Mulder's morning sickness had still been plaguing him right up until his kidnapping. Krycek had taken great pains to assure him that the implant was designed to do nothing more than maintain the correct physiological and hormonal balance that his body needed, and that it would be perfectly safe to leave it in until after the baby was born.

"Okay. Your decision. How about we see how your blood work comes back and then decide, huh? Get dressed and I'll see you in my office in a minute."

Scully and Skinner were already in with Rebecca by the time Mulder had dressed and entered the office.

"So, how's he doing?" Skinner asked, reaching for Mulder's hand as his lover sat beside him.

Mulder gave it a quick squeeze and then carefully placed his hands in his lap -- not so much a brush-off as a withdrawal. Scully didn't miss the gesture and a frown graced her forehead. She hoped Mulder was going to be able to get past this latest assault on his life.

"Far better than I would have expected under the circumstances. A little underweight, but nothing that can't be cured by a few good home-cooked meals. I'll have the blood work rushed, but initially it looks fine." She turned and addressed her next comments to Mulder. "I know you've been through an ordeal, Mulder, and even though you are physically fine I'd like you to stay off work for at least the rest of the week to rest up."

Mulder nodded. He wasn't sure he could face anyone at work yet so that suited him just fine.

"I'll organize the forms." Skinner said without thinking as they got up to leave the office, then hastily added, "That is, I can if you want me to, Mulder?"

"Sure. Thanks."

Mulder had to give Skinner his due, since they'd arrived home from the Vineyard the AD had bent over backwards to let Mulder make his own decisions, including about things like where he wanted to stay the night. Thankfully Mulder had elected to stay with him, although other than a quick kiss goodnight, Mulder hadn't let Skinner touch him. Mulder had decided for himself to stay home until after he'd seen Rebecca to see what she said about his health and the baby's. And Skinner had even let Mulder take the aisle seat on the commuter jet and sat cramped in the window seat all the way on the direct flight home from Martha's Vineyard to National Airport.

"I'll call as soon as I get the blood test results, although I'm sure they'll be just fine. You take it easy now, okay?" Rebecca made Mulder promise that he would.

Back out in the car, Mulder announced that he wanted to go back to his own apartment. Skinner and Scully both tried to protest.

"I don't need either of you to baby-sit me." Mulder said forcefully. "I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself, and I'm going to be just fine on my own. You both need to go to work tomorrow and there are some things I need to take care of by myself. I'll be fine," he tried to reassure them.

Skinner gave in almost too easily and Scully kept trying to change Mulder's mind all the way back to Hegal Place. Skinner had to almost forcibly stop her from taking up residence on Mulder's couch for the night. After more assurances that he'd call if he needed anything, Mulder saw them to the door. Then was on his own.

He stared around the quiet, empty apartment for long minutes before even moving away from the door. Then with a deep sigh he turned on the television and lay down on the couch. He just wanted things to get back to whatever posed as normal in his life. The flutter in his belly reminded him that things were never really going to be the same again and he had to find a way to deal with it, just like he'd dealt with things all his life. Only this time it just seemed that it was taking far more effort than he was comfortable with.

Rebecca called on Thursday, confirming that Mulder's blood work was indeed fine.

"Thanks, Bec." Mulder sighed but made no attempt at conversation.

Before he had the chance to hang up, Rebecca spoke quickly. "Mulder, tell me to butt out if you want but, as your doctor, I'm concerned about you. I know you've been through some rough times, but if you don't talk about it to someone pretty soon; honey, you're going to just melt down."

Skinner had filled her in when they'd talked on the phone the day before, and Rebecca had said she'd do what she could to help.

"I... I can't. There's no one who would understand. This is something I just have to deal with on my own."

"Walter understands. Dana understands."

He knew that on some level they probably did, but he just couldn't talk to them about things. Mulder shook his head. "No. I can't talk to them. Not about... They're too close."

"I see. You need someone who isn't so close, but someone who would still listen without judging?"

Mulder felt a sudden flair of panic. "I can't... I won't talk to a shrink. God, Bec, I can't talk to anyone else about the baby."

"Okay," Rebecca soothed. "It's okay. You don't have to." She sighed. "So, how about an obstetrician whose double major included psychology? Someone who is already sworn to doctor-patient confidentiality? Someone who already knows what you're going through?"

Rebecca felt she was going to live to regret this offer, but Mulder needed someone he could trust. And he was right about a shrink. He'd be in the psych ward quicker than he could blink if he told the story of his abduction and pregnancy, not to mention being put under a microscope and on the front cover of the latest medical digests. Which was just what he'd been trying to avoid all this time.

There was a hesitation before Mulder answered. "Bec, I couldn't ask you to..."

"You're not asking, I'm offering. So, whaddaya say?" Her tone implied that she wasn't taking no for an answer.

"I don't know what to say. Thank you just doesn't seem enough."

"Fine. Tomorrow's my afternoon off. How about you come over to the house around 2, we'll have afternoon tea and just... talk."

She gave him the address and after hanging up, Mulder wasn't sure what he felt more - relieved or nervous.


Friday, 7 September, 2:10pm

Mulder wiped his sweaty palms on the ass of his chinos before pressing the doorbell. He'd sat in the car for the last twenty minutes debating whether to just drive back home or not. He thought it was kind of ironic that he was more terrified of facing what was in his own head than chasing down mutants and monsters.

The door opened and a casually dressed Rebecca Whiting invited him in before he could change his mind and high-tail it out of there. He was shown into a sunny den, decorated with chintz covered furniture and a myriad of potted plants, with a big bay window overlooking a well-kept garden. Mulder sank into one of the comfortable armchairs at Rebecca's invitation while she disappeared then returned with a tea tray laden with finger sandwiches, a large tea pot and chinaware.

"I haven't eaten lunch yet, so there's sandwiches. Help yourself." She indicated.

Mulder raised an eyebrow in a very Scully-esque manner, wondering if the food was really for her benefit or that she somehow knew he'd been too nervous to eat before coming over. Regardless, the sight of the delicate sandwiches made his mouth water and he gratefully took one. Rebecca poured the tea.

Several long minutes passed in idle conversation, Rebecca talked about her garden and love of gardening. Mulder told her it reminded him of some of the English gardens he remembered from his days at Oxford. Gradually Mulder felt more relaxed, like he was there to just have a friendly conversation and wasn't under a psychological microscope. But the truth was that he really should get to the point.

"I'm sorry," he began. "I guess we should really be talking about why I'm here."

"That's okay," Rebecca told him. "Take your time. I'm not going to force you to talk about anything you don't want to. I'm here to listen to anything you feel like you need to get off your chest. No judgments."

"And no men in white coats down the hall?" Mulder half-joked.

"Not unless they're here to redecorate the kitchen!"

Mulder chuffed a laugh and sighed deeply. "I guess it all began when I was twelve. Or so I used to think. My sister was abducted from our home..."

The sun was slipping under the horizon and Mulder was still talking easily. He'd told Rebecca of his family turmoil after Sam had been taken. His efforts to please his father, and how he'd buried himself in his studies and sports. His college days and his post-grad days at Oxford. How he'd gone against his father's wishes and switched to studying Psychology and then Abnormal Psychology before joining the FBI and eventually delving into the X Files.

Rebecca had asked him why the change of direction in College and he'd told her that at first it had been a rebellion against his father's wishes, finally coming to the conclusion it was time to stop trying to impress his father and time he did something he wanted for himself. He'd found a real interest in trying to understand the criminal mind. At that stage of his life, he'd still believed that some sick bastard who preyed on young girls had kidnapped Samantha. He had wanted to stop other families from being torn apart by the same thing that had destroyed his own family. Then he'd stumbled on the X Files and discovered through regression hypnotherapy that aliens had taken his sister -- or so he'd thought at the time. He laughed at the very notion now.

"I was played like a cheap fiddle. I now believe those memories were planted and nurtured along just like your garden. I don't know why exactly, but I was set up to be the perfect fool. Fed just enough truth to give credence to their lies. Someone once told me the best way to hide a lie was between two truths, well the opposite is also true."

"So, there were no aliens?" Rebecca asked.

"Oh, they're real enough. And so is the conspiracy to cover up the decades of collaboration by this so-called shadow government that was selling the future of our planet. I don't know if they expected me to find out as much of the real truth as I did. The one thing I hadn't bargained for was finding out the truth about myself."

"What truth is that?" Came the gentle prompt.

"I knew that my father was involved with these men. I found out that Samantha had been taken because of his involvement, and I also found out that it should have been me that was taken. I didn't know why at the time but I later came to believe that it was because Bill Mulder wasn't my real father.

"Now I know that for sure, but what I found out wasn't exactly what I'd expected..."

Mulder went on to describe what he'd read in the files during his latest captivity. "It would seem I'm the successful end product of some very extensive experiments in genetic manipulation. 'A true son of the project' was how it was described to me." He laughed bitterly. "I think I was taken by the aliens to make some 'adjustments', to modify some genetic imperfections. I think they made this baby to create another me."

"So any ideas on why they made you pregnant? Why not Agent Scully, or some other woman?"

"I don't know. I think our scientists were trying to replicate my genetics, but only succeeded in creating clones and they weren't perfect. It seems that perhaps the aliens succeeded where the human scientists failed."

"But why create another you?"

"Alex Krycek said that this baby was quite probably the key to saving the world."

"I don't understand." Rebecca frowned. "Why would the aliens create something that would ultimately foil their plans for colonization?"

"I don't think they did." Mulder seemed more at ease talking now, the investigator in him taking control. "I told you about the grays, and the rebels? I don't think that they are the biggest threat. Think about it. The black oil has been here on Earth since before man evolved. Why would they need to colonize when they are already a part of all our genetic make-up? They wouldn't. But I think that perhaps the genes have become too diluted for the human race to face an oncoming invasion from a different source."

"So, you think that you, and this baby, are the end result of attempts to... what? Strengthen the gene pool again?"

"Sounds crazy, doesn't it?" Mulder asked.

"Not really. We do it to plants all the time to get a better perfume, or a bigger bud, or whatever. Besides, I've seen your blood work and the results of the genetic tests we ran on the baby. You are both very human, yet different somehow."

"Too human?" As if realizing for the first time how late it had become, Mulder glanced out at the darkening sky. "God, we've been talking for hours. I should be going now. I promised Walt I'd have dinner with him."

"How are things between you two?" Rebecca asked as Mulder pushed himself out of the depths of the chair, none too smoothly.

Mulder was quiet for a moment. He sighed. "Not as good as they should be. He's trying really hard, but... I dunno. I'm having trouble letting him in. God, I've told you more about myself today than I've ever told him. I just can't..." He shrugged.

"That's okay, Mulder." She gave his arm an encouraging rub. "So, you feel like you wanna come back and talk some more next week?"

"I haven't scared you yet?"

"No." She gave him a soulful look. "I don't scare easily. But I think it helped for you to talk about things. Don't you?"

"Yeah. It did help. And I'd like to come back and talk more."

"Fine, then that's settled. Next Friday, same bat-time, same bat-channel."

Mulder nodded as he headed for the front door. "Thanks, Bec. For everything."

"You are very welcome, Fox Mulder, and I'll see you Monday at the clinic?"

"Sure."


There was a delicious aroma coming from the direction of the kitchen as Mulder let himself into Skinner's apartment.

"Something smells good," he called out.

"Hey." Skinner met him in the living room and gave him a hug. "How was your day?"

"Okay. How was yours?" Subject neatly diverted.

"Boring. Just paperwork and month end reports to look over. None of which are anywhere near as creative or interesting as the ones you used to turn in." Skinner turned back to the kitchen to stir something on the stove.

Mulder grunted. "So, what's for dinner?"

"Chicken with dumplings. Hope you like it."

"Sure, sounds great." Mulder eased himself down onto the sofa and stretched out his aching back with a sigh.

Skinner came back in and sat on the edge of the sofa, placing a glass of orange juice on the coffee table as he sat. "Dinner shouldn't be long. You okay?"

"Yeah. Just a little tired, I guess. I went and saw Rebecca today -- at home. She, um, offered a shoulder to go cry on." Mulder tried to make it sound light-hearted. He figured that Skinner probably already knew about the arrangement, even though they hadn't discussed it openly before.

"That's good. She's a good friend, she cares about you." Skinner looked away a little guiltily.

"It's okay, Walter. I know you two have talked, and that you suggested it." At the beginnings of Skinner's protest, Mulder continued. "It's okay. She didn't need to tell me, I guessed. I know that you're all worried about me, but I'll be fine. I just need some time to work it all out in my head. But thank you anyway. It did help to talk to her."

"I just didn't know who else to turn to." Skinner's eyes were a little misty, his voice soft with unspoken emotion. "I didn't know what else to do. I don't want to lose you, but sometimes it feels like the closer I try to get to you, the more you pull away."

"I know. I'm sorry. I don't mean to, but it's just so much to deal with right now. I hadn't even had enough time to fully come to terms with being abducted before finding out I was pregnant, and then the bombshells that Beckman dropped on me..."

Skinner reached down and pulled Mulder into a hug. "It's okay, it's okay. I understand. Just don't shut me out. I want to help you; I want to be here for you, and for the baby. I love you, Fox."

Mulder let himself be held. "I love you too, Walter."

After a minute, Skinner relaxed the hold he had on his lover, leaned back and pressed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Let's eat."

They ate in companionable silence for the most part, then went up to bed.

Mulder didn't object when Skinner pressed light kisses on his neck, under his ear, down over his shoulder. Skinner wanted to take things slowly, he didn't want Mulder to feel like he had to make love, he just wanted to show Mulder his feelings without the need to have anything given back. For the moment, that seemed to be confined to kisses, stroking and a sensual hand job. Mulder let out little sighs as he gave in to the sensations and let himself drift. When he'd tried to reciprocate, Skinner said that tonight was just for him. So despite feeling a little apprehensive, he'd let himself go with it and enjoyed having his body worshipped. It was the first time he'd let himself feel anything in the weeks since being kidnapped and he had to admit that it felt really good.


J. Edgar Hoover Building
Tuesday, September 11 - 9/11

Mulder had managed to relax enough over the weekend spent at Skinner's that it almost felt like old times. He'd gone back to work on Monday feeling ready to start dealing with the next steps in his life. Kersh had been out of the office most of the day, but Mulder finally caught up with him late in the day.

It was time to talk about resigning -- or at least taking a leave of absence as Walt had suggested instead of abandoning his FBI career completely. Although Mulder wasn't sure, at this point, that he ever saw himself returning. The X Files were a closed door to him now, and to be honest, with a child to care for Mulder wasn't sure he wanted to go back to them anyway. He was going to need something a little more 9 to 5 in the long term and the X Files certainly didn't fall in that category. And he just couldn't see himself returning to profiling full time -- that would kill him for sure. Mulder was still coping with the feeling of not really belonging, something that had plagued him ever since his 'return', and was having a hard time working out exactly what it was he wanted to do with his life from here on.

Walt had talked him into taking time to work it all out with a six month leave of absence. It wasn't too hard a stretch for anyone to accept that Mulder felt he needed some time to get himself back together, given the events over the last year or so Skinner had argued, but Mulder didn't want to use that as the excuse. Finally Mulder'd agreed to requesting the leave but on his own terms. Walt was right, it would give him time to think things through without any added pressure from work.

Mulder knocked on Kersh's door, feeling just a little nervous.

"What can I do for you, agent?"

No 'Welcome back, Mulder. Good to see you', or even the slightest hint of concern showed in the stern visage. Mulder came to stop in front of the big oak desk and stood, almost at attention. There had been no invitation to sit, either in real terms or even hinted at. If Kersh wanted to keep this brief and formal, Mulder could handle that.

"Thank you for seeing me, sir. I just wanted to give this to you in person." He slid the neatly typed form across Kersh's desk.

Kersh's stare didn't even waver from Mulder's face. Clearly he had no intention of reading the form, he was waiting for Mulder to actually tell him what it was. Mulder recognized the tactic and refused to squirm in front of the other man.

After a beat of only a second or two he smoothly continued, "It's a request for a leave of absence. Effective immediately. For six months."

"I see." Kersh almost casually picked up the form and skimmed through it. "You don't state a reason other than 'Personal'. Not medical leave?"

Mulder skipped a breath. Could it be that Kersh knew? "No, sir. Should it be?" His voice held firm, not betraying the nervousness he was now feeling.

Kersh sat back casually, dropping the form back on the desk. "Not unless you want to take sick leave, or stress leave. Given recent events."

Mulder squared himself even more as he realized the trap that was being set. He had warned Walt of this when they were filling in the form together. Walt had said he was more than entitled to stress leave after all he'd been through, but Mulder had said that would be giving Kersh too much power. If, if Mulder ever wanted to back to the Bureau, Kersh would find a way to use it against him.

"There's no reason to, sir. I'm fine. I just need some personal time. I believe that with 15 years service, I'm entitled to request a sabbatical."

Kersh gave nothing away as he tried to stare Mulder down.

Finally he spoke and broke eye contact. "Alright, agent." He leaned forward and picked up his expensive pen, then scribbled his signature on the 'approved' line. "You can clear everything with Employee Services tomorrow." Kersh didn't wait on a reply and clearly didn't expect one. "Just make sure you hand in your badge and weapon to security before you leave."

Without looking up, Kersh dropped the signed form into his "Out" tray and picked up a file from the "In" tray. Clearly Mulder had been dismissed.

"Hey." Scully greeted him when he got back to his desk. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Suddenly he smiled. "I'm really fine. I just gave Kersh my leave request, and he approved it."

Scully arched an eyebrow. "He did?"

"Yeah. After today, I'm officially on leave."


September 11, 2001
A little after 8.45am

Mulder had come into work to finalize his paperwork with Employee Services. That task completed, he was now cleaning out the rest of his personal effects from his desk.

The phones in the bullpen suddenly all rang at once and after a few seconds of excited chatter, the horror of what people were hearing slowly registered and the room fell into stunned silence.

A plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

TV monitors around the J. Edgar Hoover building were tuned as one into CNN. Agents watched, conjecture was thrown around that it couldn't have been an accident. Minutes later came the confirmation that this was a deliberate act. A second plane hit the other tower.

Within a half hour teams were being assigned by Domestic Terrorism and were quickly engrossed in trying to make sense of what had just happened. Automatically Mulder and Scully stepped up to receive their assignments. Scully would, of course, join a team that would be required to examine all the forensic evidence, including autopsies of any victims. Some of the forensic teams would fly up to New York as soon as air traffic was allowed to resume. The rest of them would work shifts at Quantico to process the overflow that would undoubtedly be sent to Washington. As the last of the names were called out, Mulder realized his hadn't been included. He went up to ASAC Bryden.

"Excuse me, Sir. My name wasn't on any of the teams you've just assigned."

"Agent..." Bryden glanced down at Mulder's ID, "Mulder. Let me check." The senior agent ran his finger down the computer lists again. "Nope. You're not on here. Maybe there was a mistake, I'll check."

Deputy Director Kersh chose that moment to make an appearance and Bryden almost ran into him as he turned.

"There's no mistake, Agent Bryden. Agent Mulder is on leave. He's only here to pick up his personal effects. If it becomes necessary to start calling agents back from leave, we'll let you know, Agent Mulder."

Bryden looked at Mulder apologetically, not sure what to do in the circumstances.

Kersh's cool tone didn't change as he raised his voice slightly so all in the room could hear. "All visitors are requested to leave the building immediately. That includes you, Agent Mulder."

Mulder was about to say something to Kersh's now retreating back, but Scully's hand on his arm stopped him. "It's probably better that you are on leave, Mulder. You don't need to be caught up in any of this. I reckon half the Bureau would like to trade places with you right now."

"Yeah, but Scully... I hate to stand by when I could be of some use."

"Well, if there's anything I think of...."

The rest of Scully's words were lost in the thunderous boom that shook the building. Lights flickered for a minute before steadying, and it was silent for the second time that morning as several hundred brains processed what might have just happened. Then a lone voice spoke up, a telephone dangling from the agent's nerveless fingers.

"Oh my God, a plane just hit the Pentagon!"

Motion returned and everyone rushed to do... something, anything. All except for two people. In the midst of the mle, Scully stood rock still and went as pale as a ghost.

"Scully?" No one seemed to notice except Mulder. "What's wrong?"

His partner looked up at him, sheet white. "Charlie," she whispered. "My brother is on temporary assignment at the Pentagon."

Mulder pulled her into his arms, heedless of who might be watching and caring less. "Don't jump to conclusions, Scully. He'll be fine I'm sure. Look, since I have nothing else to do, I'll try to find out what I can for you. Okay?"

He felt it as Scully physically pulled herself together and nodded. "Maybe he wasn't even there?" She ventured. "I have to call Mom."

The rest of the morning was a blur of action. The Whitehouse had been evacuated within minutes of the first hit; the twin towers collapsed; another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, brave souls forcing it down rather than let terrorists take out another target; strategic federal and state buildings were evacuated; and a state of emergency was called in Washington. The whole country was put on high alert and the navy mobilized to protect the northeastern shoreline.

When the Hoover building was evacuated, anyone not deemed essential personnel was sent home, which at this point included Scully. The forensic work would begin as soon as evidence started to pour in. The teams that needed to work were sent to Quantico where there were underground facilities designed for just this sort of emergency. There was chaos on the roads so it took Mulder and Scully twice as long as normal rush-hour to reach Scully's apartment. Mulder wasn't even going to try to make it out to Alexandria past the emergency at the Pentagon.

It had taken several hours, but finally Scully received a call from her mother telling her that her brother was safe. In the ensuing chaos, it took some time for all personnel to be located and accounted for, but he was fine and was being recalled back to his ship as soon as transport was available.

Mulder managed to get a hold of Skinner before they were evacuated and told him that he was going to Scully's. For his own part, Skinner said it was unlikely he'd get home any time soon himself since he'd been put in charge of several of the teams. Scully made the offer of somewhere to stay if he felt he could get away and wanted a few hours of peace and quiet. Getting anywhere near Crystal City was out of the question until the mess and security around the Pentagon was cleared up.

CNN blared out the latest reports all afternoon and evening in Scully's living room until finally Mulder fell asleep in front of the TV and Scully felt it was safe to change the channel. Her partner didn't look at all comfortable on her couch and she was considering waking him to get him to move into the bedroom when there was a tentative knock on her door. It was late, nearly midnight, and there was only one possible person who would come calling at that hour.

Scully opened the door to a very tired looking Walter Skinner.

He grinned sheepishly. "I was going to just crash in my office, but one of the teams was using my conference table as their command centre."

"Come on in, Walter. Have you eaten?"

"Uh, yeah. We managed to get some food brought in. How is he?" He indicated the sleeping lump on the couch.

"Okay. I was just going to try to get him to use my bed. I mentioned it earlier and he refused. But now that you're here, he might listen."

Skinner shrugged out of his coat and hung it on the coat stand. "What about you, Scully?"

"I'm fine, Sir. My brother is on his way back to his ship, and as soon as I can shift Mulder off my couch, I'm going to turn in." Scully caught the protesting look that Skinner gave her and held up a hand. "Please, you and Mulder take my room. I'm a lot smaller and can fit on the sofabed a hell of a lot easier than you two." Her tone brooked no argument.

Skinner sighed and realized that she'd made her mind up. He went over and crouched down next to the sofa.

"Hey," he called softly, ruffling Mulder's soft hair.

Mulder blinked owlishly at him as he roused. "Hmmm? Walter?"

"Yeah, it's me. Time to go to bed." He tugged Mulder up into a sitting position.

"Thought I was," Mulder muttered sullenly, but allowed himself to be guided up and in the direction of the bedroom.

A muffled curse indicated that a detour to the bathroom was in order, and then a few short minutes later Scully sighed as the bedroom door closed. She crawled into the nest of blankets she'd made on the sofa and was asleep in minutes, but not before saying a quick prayer for the souls of everyone affected by the day's events.


Rebecca Whiting's Residence
Friday, 14 September

The next few days were chaotic for Scully and Skinner. They both worked long hours and Mulder was feeling kinda left out. And that made him feel a little guilty, knowing that he wasn't being purposely shut out, but also knowing there was nothing he could do to help either. Even the Lone Gunmen didn't have time for him.

On Friday, Mulder made his second trip to Rebecca's house. She'd insisted that they carry on as normal and Mulder had no excuse not to go.

There wasn't so much small talk this time as Mulder felt more comfortable opening up about his feelings and fears.

"Since I was returned by the aliens, I've just felt so... I dunno, like I don't belong anywhere. Even before I found out I was pregnant. I was gone for eight months and life just carried on for everyone else. I still feel like I'm playing catch up. I've missed so much and no one seems to remember that. Even Walt and Scully. We'll be talking and they'll say something and I have no idea what they are talking about. When they realize what they've done, they get all self-conscious and conversation pretty much just stops. I get upset because they feel upset about it, and they're upset because they've upset me. And around and around it goes."

"It'll get easier," Rebecca soothed.

"Oh, I know. It already is. But there is still so much missing from my life that I'll never be able to get back."

"From theirs, too. They had to get through those months worrying about you, wondering if they'd ever see you again."

Mulder just nodded, unable to answer as his eyes blurred with unshed tears. He took a sip of his tea before continuing on.

"When I was returned, I was pretty badly hurt. I have no memory of what they did to me, although I get flashes sometimes. Of pain. I think I'm screaming. Sometimes I have nightmares and wake up screaming, but I don't know what the dream was about. I've thought about regression hypnotherapy, but I'm not so sure I want to know what they did. It's enough that it took weeks in the hospital to recover. Weeks of poking and prodding, tests after tests. No one could explain why I healed so fast from injuries that should have left me permanently disfigured. I think it was part of what the aliens did. Gave me the ability to heal faster than normal."

"That could be a good thing. It's probably what has given you the ability to carry this child without too many problems."

"That's the other thing. I still can't understand why I'm pregnant. I mean the theories I've heard all make sense -- that my enhanced genetic make up will allow a successful pregnancy where other surrogates have failed. I guess it was just inconvenient that I happened to be a guy, huh?" He laughed and absently rubbed his belly.

Then he turned serious again. "But what scares me most is the thought that they might come back to take me again. Or worse, that they might come and take the baby. I don't think I could go through that again. I lost my sister; I can't lose my child that way. I just can't." Silent tears slipped down Mulder's cheeks now, and he sniffed as Rebecca handed him a box of Kleenex. "I'm sorry."

She shifted to sit next to him and pulled him into a hug, "It's okay. You're allowed to be scared. You're allowed to cry. There aren't any guarantees in this world, Mulder. No one can guarantee that these aliens won't come back, but you can't let that fear control your life or it will paralyze you. Can I tell you something about myself?"

Mulder nodded as Rebecca sat back, a sad look in her eye.

"When I was in college my sister drove up to see me one weekend. I was exhausted from cramming for finals but she insisted we go to one of the Frat parties. I didn't want to go but let her talk me into it. She had too much to drink and I had to drive us home. I was over-tired and had no business being behind the wheel. We crashed and my sister was killed."

"Oh god, Bec, I'm so sorry."

"Turns out the accident wasn't my fault, but I was so tired I didn't even remember driving. It could have been my fault. For a long time I refused to get into a car again, for fear that what happened that night could happen again, could happen to me. For three years I let that fear rule my life. I did a lot of walking, but then one day something happened to make me realize that it didn't matter where you are, there's no guarantee you'll be safe. I nearly got hit by a bus crossing the street. So, it was either stay at home for the rest of my life, or put my fear into perspective. I found that I could go back to driving and live my life normally, but I've never forgotten those fears. And that's okay as long as I put everything into perspective."

"I guess. I know what you're saying is right. Christ, I'm a psychologist, I should know these things," Mulder conceded.

"But when it's happening to you, you can't always be objective. I'm not saying that you should forget your fears, just don't let them take over." She sat for a moment and let that sink in. "So, now what are you planning to do with yourself over the next few months?"

Mulder took a deep cleansing breath. "Well. There are some research papers I want to write. And I guess I'm gonna need a bigger apartment."

"Ooh, house-hunting. Do you know what you're looking for? I can put you in touch with my realtor. She was just wonderful with helping us buy this house."

"I hadn't thought of buying a house. I just thought I'd rent a bigger apartment."

"And raise your kid in a high-rise hell? Where were you raised, Mulder?"

"On the Vineyard. I was born there, well not exactly. My mom was taken to Boston when I was born, but we lived there all my life until I went to college. Then my mom sold the Chilmark house and bought one in Connecticut so she could be closer to me while I was at Yale." Mulder chuckled. "You shoulda seen my dad's face when I told him I'd accepted Yale instead of Harvard. And then when I got the scholarship to do post-grad at Oxford, I thought he'd really flip. Mom wanted to move to England but I eventually managed to talk her out of it. She just didn't want me to be so far away. I think she was scared of losing me, too." Mulder groaned. "You think I'm going to wind up like my mom? Frightened to let this kid out of my sight?"

"That you recognize these things now bodes well for the future, don't you think. I'm not saying you won't be overprotective. A lot of parents are. But I think you'll be sensible and I suspect you'll have a lot of help."

"I miss my mom. I wish she was here now, that she could've been here to see her grandchild." Mulder almost whispered, feeling emotional.

"Family's important, I know, Mulder. And I know it's hard on you when you've lost so many that are close to you. You just need to make the most of those you do have near to you, whether they are blood family or just very close friends."

Mulder nodded. "I guess. It's just not the same, you know? But I'm going to do the best I can to raise this child."

"By raising it in a stuffy apartment? What do you have against living in a house with a nice backyard?"

"Nothing. I just never thought about it."

"Well, think. If you're going to move why not get something that's got a nice private yard so you can sit outside even when you don't feel like going out. If you're going to work from home, you might as well be comfortable and have lots of space."

The space part made sense. Mulder was already starting to feel claustrophobic in his small apartment, and he'd been driven to go out every day when he couldn't stand it anymore. He could imagine going nuts if he couldn't get out and thought ahead to when he probably wouldn't feel like going too far when his pregnancy was well advanced.

The session drew to a close and as he drove home, Mulder started to take notice of the suburban neighborhoods he was driving through.


Faced with the weekend on his own, Mulder decided to do some house-hunting. He called Rebecca's realtor on Saturday morning and was soon doing a grand tour of houses up for sale in areas north-west of DC. Finally, as he was about to give up on the day, they viewed a house in Glen Echo Heights, overlooking the Potomac. It was a new house; the current owners were selling without ever having moved in. Mulder couldn't get the realtor to explain exactly why, all she'd say was that the family had decided against moving from Upstate New York.

Mulder didn't much care about the whys; all he knew was that he loved the house. It had a large formal living room and dining room, separated by a wide entrance hall with stairs sweeping up one side. Walking straight through took you into the brightly sunlit family room, the kitchen to one side and a large den and recreation room on the other. Upstairs were five large bedrooms, the main one with a huge walk-in wardrobe, dressing room and opulent bathroom. Mulder loved the double-sized spa bath on first sight. The yard was very private and large, and there was a great patio with a built-in barbecue. Mulder could just imagine Walter and himself relaxing out here on weekends.

The house was probably larger than they really needed, but that just seemed even more perfect to Mulder, there would be plenty of space so neither man would feel hemmed in by the other. Mulder was already mentally picturing Walter's furniture in the formal living room, which he was thinking could be Walt's private den. The family room would be where they spent most of their time. Mulder could use the den as his office for working at home even after the baby came. It was perfect. And it was only fifteen minutes away from the clinic where he was going to have the baby.

Mulder made an offer on the spot. He didn't want to lose the house to anyone else.


On Sunday, Walter finally had a day off. He was so tired and only wanted to sack out in front of the game all afternoon. Mulder was glad in a way, because he wasn't sure how to bring up the subject of the house. He wasn't sure that he'd made the right decision, or even if he had consciously made a decision at all about asking Walter to live there with him.

They were comfortable, Walter sitting at one end of the sofa, Mulder lying down with his head on Walter's lap, facing the television. Walter's right hand grazed lazily up and down Mulder's right side from shoulder to ass and back again.

Walter noticed that Mulder's attention wasn't really on the game. "Are you okay?" He asked, looking down at Mulder and trying to gauge the other man's mood.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. Just thinking." He didn't look up, just continued to stare at the screen

"I noticed," Walter quipped. "The gears are turning so loudly you're drowning out the TV." Mulder didn't laugh at his attempted joke. "What are you thinking?"

Mulder sighed. There was so much he wanted to say, wanted Walter to understand about him, but he wasn't sure how to say it.

"You know that I love you, right?" Mulder started. "No matter what happens, I'll always love you."

Walter felt a sudden cold fear in his belly. "Of course I know. And I love you, Mulder."

"There are some things I need to say, and I just want you to listen until I'm finished."

"Okay." This could not be good, Walter was almost certain he didn't want to listen. He pressed the button on the remote to turn the TV off, giving Mulder his full attention.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking, lately, about my life. And about the things that I read in those reports that Beckman showed me. I know now that I have been the subject of an experiment my entire life and I can't be sure that it will ever end. My greatest fear is being taken again by the aliens, or that they will want the baby. I don't know if I could go through losing it like I did Samantha. I don't know if either of us could stand it. Krycek intimated that it's not over yet. That there is some greater plan in store for this baby's future." Mulder rubbed his belly absently, staring unseeing at the blank television screen.

"I don't remember what was done to me while I was missing, when I was taken from Oregon, and I don't want to know. The nightmares are enough but I suspect that the truth is even worse. When I was returned, I should have died or at the very least had permanent injuries, but I healed completely. My previous scars have healed completely. The doctors said even my tonsils have grown back. I don't know what that makes me. Have I become some sort of immortal or something? I just don't know. Oh, don't worry; it's one theory I don't plan on testing." Mulder sighed, giving Skinner's knee an encouraging squeeze.

"I've come to accept that I can't change the past and I can't let future possibilities paralyze me. You can thank Rebecca for showing me that. I still have a lot of stuff to work through in my head, but I know now that I don't have to go through it all alone. I have you beside me, and I have good friends who are more like family than my own family was sometimes. I love being with you, just like we are now. I don't want to go home to an empty apartment any more. I want to be with you, all the time."

There was silence for a minute or two, then Walter cleared his throat.

"There are some things I need to say, too.

"When I first realized that you cared about me the same way I cared about you, I was scared. Two men in the FBI, and me an assistant director at that, it was a dangerous situation for us both. I thought that any relationship was doomed to fail, that if anyone in the Bureau found out, your career, mine or both, would be over. But you know what, I didn't care. As long as we were together, it didn't matter to me.

"Then when I lost you..." Skinner's voice caught as he remembered the physical pain that he'd gone through then.

Mulder turned over and looked up into Walter's face, saw the tears spill over. He reached up and cupped his lover's cheek. Walter turned his face and pressed a kiss into the palm, then looked down into Mulder's eyes, caressed his hair with one hand and laid the other over their child.

Then he continued, "I knew then what you had gone through, losing your sister. But I never gave up hope. I think I drove your geeky friends insane following every possible lead. The Bureau was no help, not that they believed what I told them, but I knew what I saw. I prayed for a miracle, and then one day you were back. I don't ever want to lose you again. I know that sometimes I can be overprotective, that it might seem like I'm behaving like I'm still your boss..."

Mulder's knowing smile said it all.

"...Yeah, yeah, I know I can be a jerk sometimes. But I want you to promise me that you'll tell me when I'm being like that. Don't bottle it up. I want to share everything with you, and I hope you'll share everything with me."

"Walter, shut up and kiss me."

Mulder sat up and slid over to straddle his lover's lap, looking deeply into those twin pools of chocolate heaven. Their kiss was gentle, tender, full of love and promises. They broke apart when the baby fluttered.

"I guess someone's feeling left out." Mulder remarked.

"So, Mulder, does this mean you've changed your mind about moving in here?" Walter asked warily.

"No. I can't live here, Walter. This is your place."

"It can be ours." Mulder just shook his head. "Well, I sure as hell can't move into your apartment."

"I wouldn't expect you to."

Walter was feeling a little confused. "Wait a minute. I thought that you just said that you wanted to be with me all the time. I thought you meant that we'd move in together."

"Do you feel up for a little drive?" Mulder asked cryptically.


Skinner followed the directions that Mulder spoon-fed him, following the George Washington Memorial Parkway northwest, crossing the Potomac. Before they'd left Skinner's apartment, Mulder had made a call. Skinner had presumed it was to Scully. As they pulled into a quiet suburban street, he realized that he'd been wrong in that assumption.

Mulder made the introductions. "Eileen, this is my partner Walter Skinner. Walt, this is Eileen White. She's a realtor that Bec put me in touch with."

Together Eileen and Mulder gave Walter a tour of the house, Mulder describing what he thought should go where, how the formal living room could be converted into a den for Walter, where he could work in peace or go to have his own space, Mulder's den that would no doubt wind up looking just like the cluttered living room in his apartment, and the rest of the house that they could go out and furnish together.

"What do you think?" Mulder asked. "I know it's a fair way out of the city..."

"I won't mind the drive," Skinner answered, "But I don't know..."

Mulder's heart sank. He loved this house and he'd hoped Walter would too. "You don't like it. I know it's big, but since I'm going to be a virtual prisoner here for a while I want some space."

"No, I do like it. Big is fine. It's the perfect house. It's just," he pulled Mulder away out of earshot of Eileen. "Mulder, I can't even begin to imagine how much this house costs. There's no way we could afford it on my salary alone, with you not working, even after I sell the condo."

Mulder sighed. He'd been afraid of this. He hoped that Walter would accept the solution.

"You don't need to sell the condo. You can let it. We don't need to find the money, it'll be paid from out of my inheritance, as an investment for our future, our child's future. Please, Walter, I want this house."

"It's not right that I don't pay half."

"Why?" asked Mulder. "If you had the money to buy it for me, you'd do it, wouldn't you?"

"Of course I would. I want you to be happy."

"Then why should it matter where the money comes from, as long as it's legal? If it makes you feel any happier, I could charge you rent, or take payment out of your body," Mulder added with a smirk.

Skinner knew when he was beaten and Mulder was right, it didn't really matter where the money came from as long as Mulder was happy. And Lord only knew that if the money was coming from that left to Mulder by his dead father then it was the least the elder Mulder could do to make up for the past.

The smile that Mulder gave him put the last of his doubts about the house to rest. If Mulder wanted it, Mulder would have it and Walter Skinner was not going to stand in his way.

Mulder got the call from the realtor the following day; their offer had been accepted.

Since the place was empty and Mulder's family lawyer would be paying cash, Escrow could be completed in as little as two weeks. Mulder was anxious to move in, but decided that there was a little bit of work to be done on the house before then. He wanted the Gunmen to install a state-of-the-art security system, thought that a few modifications needed doing, and of course he and Walter had some serious furniture shopping to do.

So it was decided. They would move in the weekend after Mulder's birthday. Mulder protested that it didn't matter about his birthday but Walter was firm. It was going to be Mulder's 40th and he'd already decided to make plans for a special weekend away, not that he was about to tell Mulder anything, he wanted it to be a surprise - a nice surprise he hoped...

End Chapter Three
To be continued.
 

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