Title: Journey 1/WIP
Category: MSR, angst, mytharc
Spoilers: The story happens early in season 7
Date: March 2000
Archive: Yes, but keep my name and let me know where it is, please.
Disclaimer: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and the X-Files are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox. But look, they've gotten themselves into a fix and I'm trying to be helpful.
Thanks to Lone Gunwoman and Littljoe for their helpful beta comments, with special awe to Littljoe for her amazing knowledge of botany.
Backstory note: Journey begins about 3 months after the end of Clinical Detachment, my Mulder and Scully get together story. It's not necessary to read *CD first, but it's here if you want to (and if you're old enough, gals).
This is a WIP.
Journey (part 1)
Fox Mulder sat in his basement office, chair tipped back, pencil tapping out "Sunshine of Your Love" on the edge of his desk. As the guitar faded in his mind, he checked his watch again. Nine-fifteen. It was odd for his partner to be so late. Correction, it was odd until two or three weeks ago, when the Dana Scully he had been discovering with such pleasure was replaced by a distracted twin. His mind idled through the possibilities: drugs in the water, hybrid replacement, genetic mutation, some residual memory from a prior life, she's angry at me. Only the last seemed plausible, but she hadn't actually snapped at him or whined about his obsessions or turned her back on one of his grainy alien videos. Moody, maybe; tired, often; preoccupied, absolutely. He'd nosed around the topic of the flu but she had assured him in that nothing-to-discuss tone of voice that she was fine and had returned to her computer, capital F all but burned into his forehead. Okay, he got flamed on that one, no surprise there. What was the opposite of a hypochondriac anyway?
Gloomy weather out there, he thought. When the light of day didn't make it down the airshaft, it was damn hard to ignore the insult of being tucked out of sight behind the office supplies and the janitor's mops. It didn't used to bother him back in the days when the cellar proclaimed principled defiance. Days like today made him wonder what the difference was between firebrand, gadfly, and pawn. He flipped on the desk lamp and worked through the mail and paranormal journals; his favorite tabloids were tucked at the bottom of the pile. How was he supposed to walk past a headline like "Martian Babies Start School"? He spun around to admire his UFO poster, some photos from the Hubble ripped out of the latest National Geographic, authenticated pictures of child ghosts in a New England fishing village, the box score for a Rockies game he'd lured her to in Denver, and other curiosities. If he put the Martian babies up there, Scully might just notice and they could have a little dust-up about alien DNA and maybe she'd treat him to a tolerant smile at the end. She'd never admit it, he thought, but maybe proving him wrong wasn't so all-fired important any more.
Why was it so hard for her to 'fess up? They'd had a breakthrough in their friendship -- as she continued to call their nights together -- two or three months earlier on that trip to the Colorado outback when she banged up her arm. She'd asked him through clenched, perfect teeth to scrub her back and he'd tried his best to ignore the feel of her body under his soap-slicked hands. He'd hazarded an innocent little kiss just to taste her lips and she kissed back with breath that filled his lungs and his hand wandered out of bounds and next thing he knew he was square back in his room, his partner unlikely to speak to him again in this life. Then the gods must have intervened because she knocked on the door with eyes downcast and a bottle of shampoo and an hour later she was his. He still wasn't sure he should exhale. At one point he'd told her that if he'd known a little fall was all it would take to get her into bed, he would have tripped her years ago. She laughed at that, but there hadn't been much laughter in the last week or two. Not only that, he had a hard time even getting her to the autopsy bay. She'd come in, late and pale, set up her laptop on a table at the far end of the room and start in with the equations. All these years, she'd talked a mean streak of biology and chemistry whenever he ventured one of his little theories, so he hadn't realized what a math geek she really was. That Einstein thing wasn't a fluke. She was typing other stuff as well, stuff that she shut down if he wandered near the table. During one of her hurried absences he happened to look at the screen. An obit of Dr. Stephen Stewart, gynecologist, dated June 1999. Heart attack. Didn't fit with anything they were working on.
Evenings hadn't been much better. They still went over to her apartment some days after work - the two-car sneak for appearance's sake, in case there was anyone who hadn't simply assumed their intimacy years ago. She didn't seem to know what people said about them, but he got an earful in the john. Never let on about the truth, though, not when there was nothing to tell and not now. Still, when he and she got through her front door there was no more tugging at each other's buttons. Now she cuddled up to him on the couch after a simple dinner and fell asleep by eight, her face warm against his chest. He was getting tired of washing up the dishes and tucking her in, her mumbling apologies but in no shape for "friendship." Hell, he even had to do the cooking one night. He never thought Scully would get that desperate.
A clack-clack-clack of heel on tile spun him around to his desk. Slipping on his reading glasses, he spread out a stack of aerial photos and feigned a twitch of his shoulders as she pushed through the door.
"Hey. Morning, Scully."
"Morning, Mulder." She was wearing standard-issue black with his favorite U-neck blue top that matched her eyes and those killer heels that put her forehead right against his lips. As she walked toward him, the light caught the morning mist that had settled into her hair. She balanced her bag on the edge of his desk and pinned him with a smile. Five seconds of sunbeams and she disappeared down the hall. When she came back, letting out a sigh as she leaned the door shut, her skin pallid against deep red lips, it was all he could do to stop from shaking the truth out of her. She pulled a folded sheet of paper from her bag and handed it to him, hitching herself up on the edge of his desk. He pulled his eyes away from her bare knees to check her face, then reached to stroke a damp spot at the corner of her mouth, but she tipped her head toward the smoke detector on the ceiling.
His eyes turned to the sheet of yellow paper in his hands. "Mulder," her handwriting began, "What about a picnic in the country tomorrow? Weather's supposed to be nice, I know a spot… fresh air, sunshine. We can talk."
Talk? he thought. Scully? Was this the big brush-off? The we'll-still-be-partners-Mulder? Rules-are-rules-after-all? Weren't they way past that? Or maybe it's the old I-feel-great-admiration-for-you? No, not admiration, respect is what women used to say. You-are-so-unique. What the hell was that supposed to mean? You-are-so-strange, only they were too panicked to say so. Scully's head tilted slightly, eyes querying his. No, not possible, not Scully. That couldn't be it. He picked up his pencil and scribbled, "Sounds great. I'll pick you up. What time?"
She bit her lip and shook her head, taking pen and paper from him. She wrote, "Let's meet there. I'll give you a map. It's a little way out. 11?"
"Yeah," he spoke, voice throttled by her words, "eleven's fine." Separate cars? Obviously not sleeping over tonight. Bad sign. That was the hardest thing about being a guy. You didn't get to find out what you'd done wrong until it was too late. Until it had been dissected and analyzed and resolved, so there was no chance of sliding home with a simple explanation, apology, and a submissive kiss on the hand. And right in front of him was Miss Slice-and-Dice, the sharpest dissector and analyzer he knew. He kept his eyes fixed on the desk.
"You see this?" He pulled the tabloid from the bottom of his stack and held it out for her amused scorn.
"Martian first-graders, Mulder? The quality of tabloid news is definitely going downhill. What next? Elvis caught in Medicare scam?"
He returned her smile. "How about some aerial shots of a UFO crash site in the Sahara?" pointing to the photos. "These are the real thing."
"Maybe later, Mulder. I've still got a couple of equations to pin down."
He slowed on the narrow park road and consulted the hand-drawn map propped against the steering wheel. Looked like another quarter mile through the arching green tunnel. In two weeks, the reds and oranges would flame out from under their formal summer wear - gorgeous like Scully emerging from that black armor -- and vans full of jabbering families would bumper-crawl along the forest tracks. But right now the greens were just starting their fade to yellow and the tourists were at the mall, saving up their outdoor moments for one big weekend. Scully had chosen her Saturday carefully.
A blue rental Taurus was the only car in the lot when he crunched over the gravel fifteen minutes early. She was sitting on the hood, watching him as he pulled up next to her and cut the engine. She wore jeans and an old blue business shirt of his she'd borrowed once and never returned, sleeves rolled up to show her thin wrists. As the leaves overhead tossed in the breeze, a shaft of sunlight bounced over her hair turning it golden bronze, a color he wanted to forbid any other woman ever from wearing.
"Hey, Mulder, you're early."
"Speak for yourself. You have car trouble or something?" He patted the roof of her loaner.
"I could have picked you up, no problem."
"It was kind of last minute, so…" Her voice trailed off and she picked a leaf out of her blazing hair.
It felt like someone had thrown a sack of cement across his stomach. His hand skimmed over the hood of the Taurus. It was cold. Last minute thing indeed.
"Well, what's the plan here?" He rubbed his hands together in a show of enthusiasm.
She slid to the ground and gestured to her picnic bag, sitting at the head of a path where the gravel gave way to dust and a tipsy wooden signpost pointed left for the Black Ridge nature trail. "About a half mile down here is a clearing overlooking a creek. It's a little off the path…" He waited for her to finish, but she just smiled and shrugged.
Her estimate of a half-mile was conservative, at least by the time they had circled through the undergrowth looking for the shortcut to her secret spot. A cool front had blown away Friday's overcast, leaving the sky a sharp blue more like water than air. Puddles from the previous day's rain had evaporated into a slimy red muck in the puddles, shiny and cracking at the edges. The sun warmed Mulder's back, and his left arm sweltered under the blanket she'd requested. The blanket was a plus, a good sign, he thought, like the kiss she'd planted on his mouth as they set out, forcing him to walk backwards rather than give up the soft press of her minted lips. He was definitely feeling warm watching her lead down the path, the black sweater tied around her waist swinging with her hips. When they cut in under the trees, the shade set up a chill where the sweat glistened on his neck. The smell of damp earth rose from under the accumulation of last year's leaves, decayed now into a mat dry on top and slick underneath. It was slow going where she took them off the path angling up to the top of the ridge, arms brushing back branches of needles or leaves, hiking boots stepping over fallen boughs and rocky outcroppings and delicate plants whose names he figured he would never know. Scully slipped and caught herself on the trunk of lightning-dead tree, her hand pulling away bits of bark as Mulder steadied her with an arm wrapped around her waist. Further on, a branch snagged the back of his t-shirt and she came around to loosen it so the fabric wouldn't tear. One soft hand ran up inside his shirt while she fiddled with the thorny tip, her hand cool with autumn on his warm skin. He shivered and twisted his head to watch her; she smiled and ran her nails slowly down his back. "All fixed, Mulder."
He grabbed her around the shoulder as she pushed by and pulled down the collar of her shirt. "Equal time, Scully," he said, pressing lips to the back of her neck, smelling clean hair and late summer heat, running his tongue around the knob at the top of her spine.
They followed the ridge as it dipped slightly, then stomped through a nest of withered ferns into a small clearing. Scully frowned. "Well, this is it, but I don't quite remember it this way. There used to be a view here and a path down to the brook," she gestured toward the sound of running water, "but look at how the sumac has sprung up! I can't believe it's been so long."
She waded through dry grass up to her knees out into the center of the clearing. "Over here someplace was a wall…" She walked in a circle, then bent and lifted a field stone. "Over here, Mulder. Imagine, someone chopped down the trees, shaped them into logs, and built a house here, a cabin, then cut through there for the view." He followed her glance to the spot where the towering line of trees dipped to a patch of bright red sumac leaves blazing. "Magnificent, I would think, and peaceful." She balanced the stone atop what was once the back of a fireplace.
"Nice and normal, Scully," he said, walking out through the grass to stand beside her, brushing away a dragonfly that spun around his ear.
"Normal? Actually, I think it'd be more like you were the only two people on earth."
"That kind of normal I might be able to deal with. No Smoky, no Krycek."
"No mutants. No flukemen."
"Sounding better every minute."
She smiled. "Spread the blanket over here," she pointed to the area behind the fallen stones. "If you catch some of the shade, we'll be more comfortable."
"So, how do you know about this place?" He walked back and forth across the grass, flattening it, pleased to see few signs of other visitors. He threw one fringed end of the cloth to her and they flapped it open on the ground.
"I came out here with a friend from college once, a botany major," she said, sinking to her knees and smoothing a corner of the blanket. " It was spring, and this little meadow was full of clover and chickory and daisies and bright pink milkweed and over there, I think, was a magnolia, just dropping its last flowers. We lay on an old quilt and listened to the sounds of the newly-hatched insects and he told me about how a hundred million years ago flowering plants -- angiosperms, Mulder -- suddenly evolved from unknown ancestors. Darwin called it an 'abominable mystery.' It was just magic that afternoon, like we were the first to discover flowers."
"Agent Scully returns to the scene of her previous conquest."
"If you like." She lay back and looked up at the clouds.
Scully spread the last bit of brie on a piece she'd torn from the baguette and waved it in front of his mouth. He parried it with a carrot stick and then grabbed her wrist to guide it to his mouth. Without releasing her hand, he slowly scraped the offering from her fingers. She rewarded him with a smile.
"I can't believe you forgot the beer and chips, Scully."
"I guess… I thought…" she looked down and brushed bits of crust from her lap. "…I guess I forgot what a guy needs on a picnic." She pulled open her bag and fished around at the bottom. "Worse news. The oatmeal cookies got crushed by the water." She pulled out a plastic bag of large brown and black crumbs and swung it in the air.
"Most guys don't come on a picnic for the oatmeal, Scully."
She had opened the zipper top and was nibbling at the crumbs, eyes intent on the contents of the small sack. He leaned over and rubbed her thigh, "It doesn't matter. This was a nice idea. We don't often get out into pollen country like this."
"C'mon Mulder, can't you admit that you like it out here? The sun, the smells, the quiet…"
"The right company…that's what a guy really needs on a picnic." He leaned across and pushed her back, the two of them lying face to face on the blanket lumped up with tufts of thick grass underneath. His lips found hers peppered with small, sharp crumbs; he ran his tongue to sweep them up. "Nice idea, as I said."
"I wanted to get away from the eyes and ears..." Her voice trailed off.
"That's why we're here."
He ran his hands through her sun-warmed hair, pushing it back, lips to neck, to ear, tracing the inward spiral and the small pearl on the lobe, the oyster prize. Her breath against his face, rapid, moist. Her hands sweeping up his neck into the low hair, tugging, kneading his scalp. Needing each other. A swift stroke along the outer edge of her breast where the softness rose. Gently along the edge of it, teasing her, teasing himself; fuller, rounder, better than he remembered and his memories were pretty damn good. Her hands down his back, his muscles twitching involuntarily, rippling at her teasing, skimming fingers, warmth spreading in their wake. His fingers at the buttons of his/her/their shirt, a hundred times unbuttoned, but not like this. Mulder pulled back to look down at his task.
"I recognize this shirt, Scully. Just when I'd gotten it softened up, it disappeared. Maybe I should take it back."
"It's all I brought to wear."
"You don't have to wear anything for me." The upper button slipped through the hole and then the second. "Tell me, have you appropriated other things of mine?"
She pushed up on one elbow and lifted his chin with her other hand. Her eyes turned serious and she was chewing her lower lip. "One big thing, actually."
"Really, what's that? I don't seem to be missing anything." He attempted to recapture a playful tone.
"Nothing you weren't well aware you were giving me."
His mind went dizzy for an instant. STD? God, no. She'd have crushed him with that news. Besides, he was clean. He hadn't always been careful when he was younger, but he'd been lucky. He traced the stitching along the pocket of her shirt. "So, Scully, tell me what else you've taken. Or do I have to guess?"
"It's hard, Mulder. I don't know how to make sense…"
So this is the Talk, he thought, dangerous, shifting ground, the compass of their relationship spinning wildly. She knew something he didn't. He took her hand and memorized the network of bones and veins running up to her wrist, the delicacy of her form concealing her strength. The FBI recruiter had probably laughed when she walked through the door. He waited.
She closed her hand over his. "I'm pregnant."
"Pregnant?" A foreign word like fluss or tobeeb. Not even Greek, something he might reason out.
"Pregnant. A baby. Yours and mine." Her hand dropped to her stomach, his eyes followed, tugged by a string, helpless.
"That's why you've been…"
"Yeah. Tired. And the nausea… I can't begin to tell you." A tentative smile broke on her lips and faded.
"But the experiments?"
"I know. I thought so, too."
They were both sitting now, his eyes riveted to her stomach, his face unresponsive, blocking emotion, no emotion to block, just a sudden knowledge that they could never go back, there could never be any other reality than what she'd just mapped and nothing ever the same again, better or worse, but never the same.
"Look at you. You're wishing we'd used some protection." She swept a hand down the leg of her jeans and concentrated on picking prickly burrs off the faded denim, eyes moist.
"No, not at all. I'm thrilled. Just a little unclear on how, with the removal of your ova…"
"They must not have taken them all. With the potential for cancer and everything…"
"They probably didn't see the need."
"Actually, the explanation is less important to me than the simple fact that our child is growing inside me."
"Can I touch?" His voice a husky whisper, not trusting itself.
"Of course." She reclined against the blanket, fixing her eyes on his face. He finished unbuttoning the shirt and ran his hand inside the waistband of her jeans. Gently, he slid the copper rivet through the hole and ran the zipper down the track.
"Right there?" His hand spanned the soft, white skin of her belly, fingers slipping inside her panties, pressing gently against the swell of her breathing. A scar showed along the bottom edge of her navel. Tiny, precise, overwhelming. As though the entrance to the City of Woe was not a gate, but an incision. The first time he had noticed it, realized what it was, he kissed it and wept against her. Here it was again, the void now filled. He stroked it with his thumb. "It's incredible to imagine that inside… You remember a couple of years back, we were investigating that weird family with the birth defects?"
"The Peacocks? God, Mulder, what made you think of them?"
He flushed. "It's just that we had a conversation about our gene pools, remember, and I was thinking that I'd never pictured you as a mother before that conversation."
"You said that aloud."
"Did I? I hope you didn't take it the wrong way… I've pictured you as a mother a lot since then, when I found your ova, and you with Emily and every time you stoop to talk to a child… and I think of everything you've lost because of me."
He kissed her stomach, then rested his ear against it. She ran her fingers through his hair.
"Mulder, since it seemed impossible… I mean, I didn't know how you'd feel about it. We've never talked. Never planned."
"There's no one I'd rather have fathering your little uberScullies."
"God, how is the poor kid going to manage with your belief genes and my science?" She snorted softly at some private vision.
"Easy. The best of each of us."
"Or the worst."
Mulder rolled over to squint into her face. "Always looking for the dark side, eh? We'll have to conquer those blues… how about the patented Mulder worry-banishment technique right now."
"You have a technique to banish worries? This surprises me."
"I have the best technique of anyone I've ever heard of." He ran his hand over her bra, pushing from below and watching her breasts mound above the lacy edge. "And complaints are few and far between."
"Well, I understand the far between…"
"As if that's *my fault? Come on. Let's celebrate. I've never made love to a pregnant woman before."
"Yes you have." Her eyes teased him. "I'm ten or twelve weeks."
"I didn't know. It didn't count. When did you find out?"
"About three weeks ago."
"Three weeks? All that time?" All that time. He sat up and wiped his hand across the back of his neck.
"I couldn't, Mulder. Not until I was sure. I traveled all over the city picking up those home pregnancy kits. I must have tested six or eight times. It just didn't make sense. There were decisions…"
"Whether you wanted it?" No, that couldn't be it, he realized as soon as the words left his lips.
"I want the baby more than anything." She looked away, plucked a long stem of dry grass and began stripping the seeds. "It makes me afraid…"
"Do you think we could be a family? I know I'm not the kind of guy you ever thought…"
"Not yet, Mulder…"
"But I will make an honest woman of you if you let me."
"… not yet. It would tip them off."
"I love you, Scully. It could work."
"Did you hear what I said?"
He pulled back and studied her frown. "Tip who off?"
"Smoky. Krycek. The others."
"They'll know soon enough."
She would not meet his eyes. "That's why I have to leave."
"Leave? What do you mean?" A chill chased the breath from his lungs and the sun dimmed and sputtered in the sky.
"This is your child, Mulder. Think of how they will use it."
"Will they assume it's mine? I'm sorry, that came out wrong. But, would they know that we…"
She sat forward, reached into her bag and pulled out a small white unmarked envelope. "I'd have to say yes. These came last week. Stuffed in my mailbox." She slapped it into his hand, then lay back and put her arm across her eyes.
Mulder pulled out three photos. The first: two bodies entwined on a bed. Another: her at his knees. A third: asleep in each other's arms in the dim light of dawn, sheets pulled halfway over naked bodies "They took these in your apartment?"
"I don't know when it started or why."
"Okay, how long do we have before people can tell? Skinner might be able to set up something. Witness protection. I have a contact, someone who I helped…"
"Mulder, stop. It's already arranged."
"What do you mean?"
"I've arranged a leave."
"You told Skinner before you told me?"
She sat up. "I just told him I needed some time off, not why. I thought it would be better than having your partner disappear after you take her out for an afternoon in the country."
"You're leaving now? Where?"
"I can't tell you. Not yet."
A smile played at her lips, then she shook her head. "If you knew, you wouldn't let me go. I'm sorry, that's not funny." She wiped a hand across her cheek and looked at it.
"You mean you have completely frozen me out of this? You planned this on that damn laptop of yours…Don't you think I have some obligation, some right to protect you? This too macho for you? I want more than sex, Scully. I want a life together. Like our partnership only a lot more. That was the idea. Now you're bolting as soon as we … we have something we never dared to imagine." He got up from the blanket and walked around the ruined fireplace to the inside of the ghost house, to a spot where plantain and chickweed and nettles poked through the hardened earth, but the tall grass had not reclaimed. Hands on hips, he stared at the spot where the view had once opened to the hills beyond.
"I guess you didn't see it that way."
"That's not why I have to go. It's the only safe place "
"For once, Scully, this is my life, too. My child, too. You can't just close me out. If you won't let me protect you, why in God's name wouldn't you let me help protect our child? Am I so incompetent?"
"No, no. Mulder, come back here. Listen to me. All I'm doing is buying some time so you can find a weak spot in them, some vulnerability, so we can come back safely. I can't see inside them like you can. If I'm here, you'll be distracted by the danger to us."
"Thank you for making that decision for me."
"Do you really think that I want to get up from this blanket and walk away?"
"If God gave you this miracle, won't he protect it?"
"Do you really believe that? Do you think I *want to cause you more pain? They've taken your family and mine." The sound of rustling grass was followed by her footsteps, soft against the packed ground. "Why wouldn't they take this baby? They took my other one." Her voice caught but he refused to turn around.
"Emily was different, they created her as an experiment. You were never meant to know she existed."
"You saw what they did to her. She was just a medical experiment to them. Test over, dispose of sample…"
A small casket filled with sand, containing only her cross. He'd wanted to stop Scully from opening it, wanted her to carry the memory of a real little girl, to forget what had run in Emily's veins, but he could never block her from the truth. "Who else knows?"
"Just you and me. I will write when…"
"No, I can't."
"If you leave, I will find you."
"Don't. You can't. If you reach me, so can they. If you find me, so will they. Please just trust me..."
"Why do you have to be so damned self-sufficient?"
"Mulder, listen. If your mother had taken Samantha and run with her, taken her someplace safe, even if you couldn't see her, wouldn't that have been better? Wouldn't it?" A tentative hand on his shoulder slid down his sleeve and the warm skin of his arm. Two people. In this spot they could be the only two in the world, if only time would stop.
"I don't know, Scully. I honestly don't know."
She wrapped her arms around him and rested her cheek against his back. "You promised a little while ago to demonstrate your special worry-banishing technique. To celebrate. I want to celebrate now, not fight." She ran her hands under his shirt. "I need to love you, Mulder."
End of Part 1
Continue to Journey, part 2.