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“So what are you going to do now?”

It was a good question. After years of dedicated and overlooked work on the X-files, he had finally pissed off his superiors enough to be thrown out of the FBI. He was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner, to be honest; he was regularly pushing against regulations, stepping over the line, but there was no one else who had his passion, his instincts and his openness to believe in order to solve the cases that ended up in his purview. Well, him and Scully. She played a vital role in understanding the science behind the phenomena they investigated, which he had realised was essential for their work and for often getting him out of some scrapes.

“I don’t know, Scully, I was thinking maybe sticking around here a bit...”

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow, her hands on her hips with that exasperated but adoring face she did. “And what exactly are you going to do around here?”

“Well, you know, help out, build a cot...”

“Mulder...”

“Take you to birthing classes...”

“You don’t have to do that,” she smiled. “you know my mom has offered to.”

“...Cook you dinner”

“You can’t cook!” she exclaimed.

He moved towards her with a swagger and a cheeky smile. “No, but I order a great takeout.”

She rolled her eyes, beaming at him. He put his hands on her shoulders, his eyes twinkled with mischief and he rested his forehead against hers. She couldn’t help but smile. He kissed her forehead and she leant into him, her head against his chest as they wrapped their arms around one another.

“I need to get me some longer arms,” he joked.

“Shut up Mulder!”

 

She loved that he was there, of course. She loved that he wanted to play dad, even though they still both worried about the child and its origins. He had struggled so much coming back to this new reality, with her 7 months pregnant, being shunted off his X-files to be replaced by a man he had little respect for. He had initially been cold, angry, suspicious, and it had broken her heart, but gradually his defences had crumbled as his love for her seemed to win the internal battle.

It had taken him longer to accept the child, but it was a combination of little things that she saw him doing or saying that told her that he was coming around. He had decided to give her the doll, probably one of the few things he had chosen to hold on to from his family. She never asked him why he’d kept that; they were already lovers when his mother died and they knew she wasn’t able to have children, but he had kept it anyway. She wondered if he had instinctively known to keep it, that there would be a child to pass it on to; he so often went with gut feelings that turned out to be right. She envied him that.

The real moment of realisation had been when he finally placed his hand on her belly and felt their child kicking for the first time. It came with such a sense of peace, of warmth, of love. She smiled as she thought about it, as he held her in their embrace and, somehow sensing it, he pulled away a little to see her face.

“What?” he asked, grinning at her.

“Oh, I was just thinking about you,” she deliberately played it down whilst her eyes shone at him.

“Oh?”

They stood studying one another for a moment before he pulled her back into him, kissing her hair as he did.

 

Without the distraction of work, he found himself lost in thought over her and their child. It was as though she’d taken over his mind and was holding him hostage, and not for the first time. He thought about how her body had changed, how carrying a child had made her radiant, and how he just wanted to memorize every inch of her. He loved the way she now waddled about; there was something so adorable about it. He wanted her to be sure about his feelings for her and their child. He knew he’d really hurt her when he first came back into this world, but he wanted her to know that he wouldn’t do that again.

He would go home to his apartment each night, and when he sensed she needed a break from him, but he would happily stay if she would let him. He still found her incredibly sexy and longed for her to invite him back into her bed, but could see that she wasn’t ready for that step yet. He loved how she would call him in the middle of the night, though, when their baby was busily kicking away; he could see her waddling around her apartment hoping the movement would send him off to sleep.

“Does it worry you that the little guy seems to like being awake in the middle of the night?” he had asked her one night.

“It terrifies me,” she’d laughed. “Oh God, Mulder, we’ll never get any sleep!”

He’d beamed at that.

“Y'know Mulder?”

“What?”

“It occurs to me that this baby reminds me a lot of you!”

“Oh?” he smiled, pleased to think that his child already shared traits with him.

“Yes,” she chuckled. “Baby is always awake in the middle of the night like you and, when awake, can’t stop moving; not satisfied with staying still!”

“That’s not me!” he jokily argued.

“It is so you, Mulder; absolutely you.”

“Well so long as baby gets your good looks, I’ll be happy.”

But that wasn’t quite the truth for either of them. So long as baby comes out human was really their primary concern.

“You know most people just hope for a healthy baby,” she sighed, “and here are we just hoping for a human baby. It’s so ridiculous I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

He felt her pain and he wished she never had to worry about such an ordinarily absurd thing. There was always a part of him which blamed himself; if she hadn’t ended up working with him, she would never have been exposed to any of this.

“I think,” he started, “all we can do is have hope. Hope that, despite all the things that have happened to us, that perhaps the simplest explanation is the right one.”

She remained quiet down the phone. Had she been there with him, this would be the point he’d gather her up in his arms and kiss her.

“And, frankly,” he lightened his tone, “we were doing a lot of that thing that most people do to get pregnant!”

He heard a little huff of a laugh down the phone and he could see her eyes rolling.

“Yeah, well, we won’t be doing that again anytime soon,” she joked.

“Really? Because, y'know... yeah” he stumbled over his words.

She scoffed at him, “Seriously, Mulder?! I’m enormous!”

“I dunno Scully, I think you’ve still got it,” he was growing in confidence now, as his mischief levels grew. “I can’t say I haven’t thought about it.”

“Mulder!”

“What? You’re a beautiful woman, Scully!”

“Mulder, I think it’s time to go to sleep now; you’re becoming delirious,” she gently hit the brakes.

“Spoilsport.”

“Goodnight Mulder.”

He set the phone down and stared at it. He was tired, exhausted even, but he struggled to sleep. He thought about how he focused so much of his now work-free mind upon her and the baby because he couldn’t cope with the devastating memories that crept in when he wasn’t looking.

If he lay down on his bed, he would get harrowing flashbacks to his abduction, unable to move, gripped with fear. It got to the point that he preferred to sleep upright on the couch than flat on his back on the bed. He spent hours trying to work out how he would escape if they came again for him. He felt like there was no place he was safe and regularly had his gun next to him on the coffee table. Sometimes he would shake uncontrollably with fear for hours on end; fear of them coming for him again, fear of being constrained, fear of the agonising tests. He jumped at strange sounds from outside or neighbours, and the smallest triggers would set off a major panic attack; his chest tightening like he was being trapped in a vice, gasping for breath, searing pain across his chest, his heart beating at a hundred miles per hour. One of his neighbours must have been building or putting something up one Saturday morning, and the sound of their drill terrified him so much he could hardly breathe. It took him hours to regather himself and he was glad no one could see what a quivering wreck he was.

He hid all this from her. He didn’t want to burden her with any more than he had to, especially since her mini-abruption. He also didn’t want her to feel guilty for not being able to save him, or for her to be worrying about him. Besides, he had to be strong, like a man, even though sometimes he felt like a frightened little boy.

He felt his body tensing and his rib cage started to feel like it was being crushed. Just that brief contemplation of his flashbacks and nightmares had set him off. He looked about him, scared that someone, something had got in and was about to take him and put him through hell again. He felt the terror rising and he felt himself crumbling apart, like he was shrinking and, with that, he felt himself curling up into a little ball, making himself as small as possible on the floor by his desk, his adrenaline racing as the flashback took hold. He wished she was there to hold him, to protect him, to keep him safe. Instead he started to hyperventilate and rocking in his ball, too terrified to blink, let alone cry.

What would she think if she could see him now? How weak and pathetic he is? No, she would be upset to see him like this and he couldn’t be another thing that she had to worry about. Agent Doggett didn’t get panic attacks. He was a much more normal, boring, safe man. She’d be better off with him. How could anyone have time to deal with all the crap in his head?

He tried to focus on her, think about her, much as he had whilst he had been away; focusing on the safety and love she gave him. He’d distract himself from the ordeal by trying to remember her face, her hair, her stunning blue eyes, remember her expressions, the smell of her, the feel of his hand in hers, her kiss on his forehead. She was what grounded him and helped him turn away from the horror that left him so weak, so broken.

He berated himself for having gone from mischievous flirting to quivering wreck in the space of five minutes; how was that even possible? How pathetic must he be? How damaged? Then he berated himself for berating himself. He knew beating himself up was no way to get out of this panic attack. He knew that the fear was overpowering him; he knew that he should try to pick himself up, be calm, reach for the TV remote to distract his thoughts with mindless crap far removed from his situation, but he was too scared to even reach out his arm: what if they saw him moving and decide to torture him further? He could feel the cold metal restraints; the physical sensation seemingly etched on to his skin’s memory. He wanted to rip off his flesh in the hope that doing so would stop the sensation. He felt trapped in a body and mind that couldn’t forget, that couldn’t undo what had happened.

Scully. Dana Katherine Scully. She was born on February 23 1964 in Maryland to William and Margaret. She is Irish Catholic. She has two brothers and a sister; Bill (he doesn’t like me), Charlie and Melissa. No, not Melissa, I got her killed, I would have got Scully killed... She has red hair and such a delicate beauty, and yet is strong and capable and brave. She loves Moby Dick. Her dad called her Starbuck. She had a dog called Queequeg... Who got eaten because I put her in danger: veer away from that thought. She lives in Georgetown. Her FBI badge number is... I can’t remember. She studied physics at the University of Maryland, wrote her thesis on Einstein’s Twin Paradox, then studied medicine at Stanford, then recruited into the FBI... she got assigned to the X-files, and that ruined her life; I ruined... No don’t think that. On our first assignment she asked me to check the bites on her back; her skin was so soft and delicate and I lingered looking at her because she was beautiful, and then she spun around and hugged me and I was surprised and happy and scared and I didn’t know what I felt. She is beautiful. I love the sensation of her touch, her skin. I could stare at her for all eternity and still be enthralled.

His breathing had settled, he felt stronger, and slowly uncurled and felt able to get up. He kept her on his mind as he went to get a glass of water. He was still shaking, he could still see his torture, but it was further away, and she was directly in front of him telling him to focus on her, not on that, gradually pushing the fear away. He shuddered as he felt the emptiness. The fear was still all about him and what he desperately wanted was for her to be there so she could hold him, but she wasn’t.

He moved back to the couch, picking up the remote and mindlessly turning on the TV. He flicked through the channels and emptied his mind out, unthinking, hearing the inane talking of a shopping channel saleswoman, as he closed his eyes and his head fell backwards on the back of the settee.

 

She heard the familiar knocking on the door and went to let him in, still brushing her teeth as she went. She wordlessly welcomed him, heading back to the bathroom to spit and swill.

“You’re early,” she called out to him in the living room.

“Well, yeah, I woke up early and figured I’d just come over to make sure I didn’t, er, get stuck in traffic and miss the appointment,” he lied. “How did you two sleep?”

“Good once we settled down again,” she paused and decided to continue. “You didn’t help.”

“Me? What did I do?”

She noted an edge to him, almost unnoticeable, but there was something not quite right. She felt concern rising in her, worried about him. He appeared in the bathroom doorway, where he leant against the doorframe, watching her apply her make-up, and she looked over at him, studying him, trying to detect what was wrong. She couldn’t pin it down, but noticed how exhausted he looked. She sensed that something was bothering him, but he deflected her thoughts.

“What did I do?” he asked again.

“What?” her brain suddenly blank. “Oh, yes, you last night!”

She noticed he looked – what was that? – panicked? This was not the moment to talk about how his flirting had caused her to lose sleep, but she’d backed herself into a corner. “You were just in a mischievous mood is all.”

He smiled at her, but it seemed empty.

“Mulder?” she was concerned now. “Are you alright? You look awful.”

She swore she saw him put up a wall between them; this was not the flirtatious, twinkle-eyed Mulder she knew.

“I just couldn’t sleep,” he rebuffed her.

She looked at him worried.

“Wow, look at the time! We need to get a move on to get to your appointment!”

She accepted his diversion from whatever was bothering him but she would come back to this conversation when they had time to talk it through properly. Something was wrong with him and her instinct was to protect him.

 

Her OB wanted to do a thorough check-up on her, following the abruption. She had another scan, still showing a healthy baby – much to their relief – however she had been advised to take it easy and that meant no more work, and she was surprised by how much that upset her. He had gone to excuse himself when it came to her physical examination but she had told him he could stay. For any other couple that wouldn’t have meant anything, but for them it was different.

“Thanks for letting me stay,” he said on their way back to hers.

“Well, it’s not like you haven’t seen it before,” she smiled. “And besides, you’re going to be at the birth so I think any embarrassment will be completely out the window then.”

She saw him grin, a hint of the mischief sparking in his eyes. Perhaps he had just been worried about the appointment?

“Do you really think I’m beautiful?” she found herself saying, as they were absent-mindedly watching a movie later that evening. They’d had a quiet but full day; she’d sent him out for groceries and busied herself with little jobs around her home, nothing too strenuous though.

He looked over at her, pulling a face as though she’d just asked if the pope was Catholic. “Of course you are!”

“I don’t feel it.”

“Well it’s not up to you, no one ever thinks they look great,” he countered. “But I think you have never been so beautiful as you are at the moment.”

She raised a dubious eyebrow.

“Of course, you have to understand that I am biased,” he tried to look serious, but his eyes were giving away the game. She humoured him with a suitably amused questioning look.

“You see, I have always thought you were beautiful to the extent that I fell in love with you so I’m an unreliable source.”

Her face broke out in a glorious smile. Since he’d been back, they had seemingly fallen back into their old habits of relying on small actions and looks to express their feelings, similar to before their New Year’s kiss, so she was grateful to be nudging back towards being lovers once more.

“You’re not too shabby looking yourself.”

 

He was trapped, restrained by cold metal. His head was held back, his mouth forced open as a drill approached him. He shouted in terror and felt his restraints tighten against his vain attempts to escape. It’s inside his mouth now inching closer to the roof of his mouth and then the searing agony, the taste of blood.

“Mulder! Mulder!”

There was something different. Someone’s hands on his upper arms, shaking him.

“Mulder! Wake up!”

He burst into consciousness, his eyes wide open looking about him in fear. He felt the cold beads of sweat on his forehead and back, and his body trembled. Then his eyes focused on the face before him, all concern and love.

“Scully?” he gasped out.

“Yes, Mulder, it’s me, I’m here.” Her hands moved to either side of his face gently positioning it so all he could see was her. “It’s ok, you’re safe, I’m here.”

His eyes were almost wild; terrified, trying to seek out his torturers but then forced to focus on her. Just her. She was placing herself right before him, protecting him from his nightmares, as he had so often had to mentally visualise, but this wasn’t a fevered imagination. This was real. She was kneeling before him on the floor and he was on his side on her sofa, a blanket draped over him.

“You fell asleep, and you were looking so tired I didn’t want to wake you and send you home,” she explained, her voice soothing him. “It was just a nightmare, a bad dream, you’re safe, and I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, do you hear me?”

He looked around him, his eyes adjusting to the dark, enabling him to see that he was, indeed, in her apartment, with her; it was warm and safe and she was there. She pulled him to her and he buried his head in her shoulder as his body wracked with sobs, his arms around her like she was his lifeline.

“You’re ok, you’re safe. I’m here,” she continued to reassure him.

After a while he had settled and felt able to pull away from her. She pulled herself up and, as she stood, she had stroked his forehead tenderly, her face filled with love and concern for him. He pulled himself up into a seated position, wrapping the blanket around him, still shaking. She briefly disappeared, and returned with a bowl of warm water and a cloth, and she washed the sweat and tears from his face. He was still struggling to focus, but he felt her gentle ministrations, and silently watched her blankly as she cared for him. She brought him a camomile tea, which he clung on to as he steadied himself, as she sat on the coffee table in front of him.

“What happened?” he eventually whispered; his voice hoarse.

“You were having a bad dream, you were shouting my name,” her brow was furrowed with concern.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s ok. I’m here. You’re ok,” she reassured him. She watched him as he took a few sips of tea, subconsciously stroking the side of his face with one hand, the other resting on his knee. “Was it the abduction?”

He could hardly get out a weak “Yes.”

He watched as a tear escaped from one of her eyes and he watched it tumble down her cheek before resting on her lip before she wiped it away. She pulled his head to hers, their foreheads leaning the one on the other, and they just rested like that as time seemed to stand still.

“How often do you have these nightmares and panic attacks?” Again, her tone was gentle, reassuring.

“Every night,” he struggled. “Sometimes I get them in the day too.”

He finished his drink and she took the mug from him, then stood, helping to pull him up too. Quietly she guided him to her bed and pulled back the duvet on his side, helping him to climb in, taking the blanket off him as he did. She went around to the other side and got in next to him, facing him so he could see her.

 

She had watched him until she felt him fall into a deep sleep, and then got up quietly for what felt like her 2-hourly toilet run. When she returned to bed, she turned away from him, wedging a pillow under her bump. When she woke up a few hours later, with sunlight breaking through the curtains, he was wrapped around her, spooning her. She had missed waking up with him these past months. She heaved herself around so she could see his face and his eyes fluttered open and he smiled. She studied his face as she reciprocated his warm, sleepy grin.

“Did you sleep well?” she asked.

“Yes, how long have I been asleep?”

She looked back to check the clock. “Well you fell asleep at about 2:20am, and it’s 7:30 now, so five hours.”

She saw him blink, a little surprised.

“I haven’t slept that long in months, since...” he trailed off.

She looked at him lovingly and her hand stroked his face. He snuggled into her, endeavouring to pull her closer to him and she watched his face with humour as he bemusedly realised that her pregnant belly was in the way and they couldn’t fall into the same embrace they used to. She giggled at him, her eyes shining, and he looked at her and laughed. He placed his hand on her tummy and turned his attention to their child’s movements. She found herself melting, falling more in love with him than she ever thought she could as he chatted to their unborn child. She helped him to identify the punches from the kicks as he became ever more fascinated.

“You need to get help, Mulder,” she eventually broke his reverie. “You need to work through this trauma otherwise it will consume you.”

She watched his face, still focused on their baby, strain with sadness, and she put out her hand to touch his arm. He turned to look at her and they shared the same sadness and concern.

“I know,” he sighed after a moment. “I just felt so ashamed.”

“Of what?” she looked confused. “You have been through the most horrific ordeal, Mulder; I saw you, I catalogued your injuries. Nobody should have to go through that.”

His face crumpled up once more. “I feel like I am living in fear, fear that they’ll return and take me again... and you, you’re the only reason I made it through that hell.”

She held him with her steady, calm, loving gaze, and let him continue.

“It’s you. To step out of myself, to remove myself from what they were doing to me,” his voice was strained as the emotion got the better of him. “You, Scully, you saved me. I just focused on remembering every little thing about you; you were, are my sanctuary.”

She smiled as he fixed her with his eyes.

“Well, this sanctuary has a baby sat on her bladder so do you think you can manage without me for a few minutes?” she shot him a mischievous grin which brought him back to the now, and he nodded his acceptance.

She then manoeuvred herself out of the bed, struggling a little due to her size as they laughed.

“Do you need a little help there?” he spluttered as he helped to push her up. “I’m beginning to see what you mean when you call yourself a beached whale!”

“Don’t make me laugh, Mulder,” she half-laughed, half-begged. “My bladder can’t take it!”

 

He watched her waddle to the bathroom and lay back on the bed, before turning his head to look at the space in the bed she had made vacant.

“You are coming back to bed, aren’t you?” he called out optimistically.

She laughed. “Mulder...”

 

Whilst the frequency gradually reduced, he still had the nightmares and flashbacks, but he knew he had her beside him; allowing him to sleep in her bed (albeit reminding him that her OB had ordered them both to behave given the abruption). She was there, ready to soothe his ragged mind, enfolding him in her love, protecting him. She was his constant, his touchstone.