Wishes Begin With Popcorn
by Theresa

Rating: PG-13 (one four-letter word, some swearing)
Category: MSR
Spoilers: You should have seen everything up through Requiem.
Summary: The little Scully in me said, "Tell my side of the story!" The little Chris Carter in me said, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" This story basically tries to make sense of the Mulder/Scully relationship, concerning only what we HAVE seen, and going a little further with it to explain what might be going on post-ep.
Disclaimer: The X-files and all characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox. I'm just using them for fun and creativity. No profit is made.
Note: Most, but not all, of the dialogue that occurs during the episodes I've used are directly from the scripts, mostly to prove my points as in a research report, quoting the text, so to speak.
Thanks: To Mori for her awesome beta job and advice! Thank you so much for putting up with me! Also, credit must be given for the episode scripts I used for refernce dialogue at http://www.inimation.com/xfilesgame/season7.htm.
Feedback: theresacarol1013@yahoo.com
Archiving permission: Yes. Let me know so I can visit! :-)


Part 1


It's how it happened, finally, that scared me the most. Listening to my heart rather than my mind was like throwing myself into a pitch-black labyrinth, with no plan of action to light my way.

I had hoped someone so dear to me, the man I had loved, wouldn't bring such pain into my life. I thought opening myself up to Mulder would give me a freedom, a first step toward more intimate paths.

Revisiting that agonizing snippet of my past, my failed relationship with Daniel, was not easy. It scared me -- scared me into a hole I thought I'd escaped long ago. With even less ease I entrusted my soul to my partner, whom I have loved forever, and now -- I still feel pain.

The tears I shed will never end. They will not end until he is returned to me. The life I should have had was not a life at all, nor is the existence I have now. He gave me life long ago when I had thought it was lost. And now, like an orphan, wandering the cold, damp streets, my reason for going on has been torn from my raw hands.

Wishes can bring back memories, but artificial memories mean nothing. I don't know what I should believe anymore. I was so alive with him.

The life I carry inside me is a part of me -- but it does not enliven me.

My one wish in the world has become artificial.


It was all so glorious when I realized what I had to do. Bongo drums in my chest encouraged me; the small silver card in my dress purse was the ticket to my newfound destination.

I picked up the pace toward the studios; the scratching and crackling of my heels on the pavement becoming louder with a more determined gait. Mulder was waiting.

After a slightly difficult time convincing the security guard that I truly was an FBI agent -- dresses and gun holsters don't exactly match -- and that my partner was inside, I made my way toward stage 1013. The empty lot felt like a ghost town in an old western. I half expected to see tumbleweeds bounce across the alleyways. I slid in the side door of the sound stage and saw Mulder sitting alone in the infamous cemetery.

He looked so dejected, weighing the flimsy bowl of popcorn in his palms, eating the airy puffs without interest. I didn't want to startle him; he obviously thought he was alone. No matter how much he wanted to sulk sometimes, he never allowed himself to do so completely around me. Showing his vulnerability to me was never a problem for Mulder, but he always seemed to disappear when he was in a full-on depression. I felt my heart begin its slow disintegration as I realized I wasn't the only one who wanted to cry out, but I was too ashamed to let myself do it when it was most needed.

The hum of white noise from an oversized studio fan crept into my awareness as I reluctantly looked away from Mulder and took notice of the surroundings. The sweet, pungent smell of stage makeup and special effects smoke permeated the atmosphere of the place. It made me think of grammar school plays. Hot and stuffy classrooms were converted temporarily to dressing rooms, swarming with children who wore too much lipstick on their mouths and blue eye shadow on their eyelids to make them look like the grownup characters they played.

The magic of the stage made me feel like a child all over again, nervous to the core about asking a certain dark-haired boy out on a date. Mulder was no boy. His forehead glistened with tiny beads of perspiration, and his collar hung loosely open. I briefly imagined myself pursing my lips, blowing cool air onto his brow and gently caressing the sweat-dampened bangs away from his face.

Instead, I reached up to the metal caging of the fan and turned it toward the hillside. The breeze caught his attention, and he looked up toward me. He regarded me with a passive acknowledgment, as if an unusual piece of evidence lay at his feet, and he was contemplating saving it as a specimen.

I took a deep breath for confidence and slowly, almost shyly walked over to the astro-turf covered hills. He didn't look at me again until I sat on the hill next to him.

"Been looking all over for you," I lied. I knew exactly where he'd be.

"They got it so wrong, Scully," he said, eyes glazing over with defeat and sorrow.

I lightly picked out a piece of stale popcorn and melted it over my tongue. He wasn't as far gone as I had thought. Yes, he was depressed but... Perhaps getting him to think about the "real" case would pull him back to reality.

"I got a page from the Washington Bureau. Micah Hoffman was murdered tonight. Murdered in his own home by Cardinal O'Fallon who then hanged himself. A murder-suicide."

"It's Jesus and Judas, Scully."

"Well," I said uncertainly. I couldn't quite buy that theory. The cardinal had been betrayed by Hoffman, or so he thought. I knew the scrolls Hoffman created weren't real, but a little tickle in my brain still wondered if the scrolls ever existed. And if Hoffman were some form of Christ figure, he wouldn't have led the cardinal into a position which left him no choice but to kill him on -- on purpose...

Damn. In a way, that *was* what Jesus did, wasn't it? Maybe Mulder was right. My faith was shaken once again. I quickly blinked the thought away and concluded, "It's all over now."

"No, no, it's just the beginning." The fervor to defend his beliefs was returning in his determined words. I quirked a tiny grin. That's the Mulder I wanted to see. "Hoffman and O'Fallon were these complicated, flawed, beautiful people, and now they'll just be remembered as jokes because of this movie. The character based on O'Fallon is listed as 'Cigarette Smoking Pontiff.' How silly is that?"

"Pretty silly," I agreed.

"Yeah, what about us? How are we going to be remembered now 'cause of this movie?"

A sickening shock ran straight down to my nether regions. Shit. "Well, hopefully, the movie will tank." I really did hope that. I loathed even showing my face in the Hoover building after this fiasco. Not only did the movie play on the many rumors of our personal relationship, but it discredited our work. Mulder disregarded the snide remark.

"What about all the dead people who are forever silent and can't tell their stories anymore? They're all going to have to rely on Hollywood to show the future how we lived and it'll all become -- oversimplified and trivialized and Cigarette Smoking Pontificized and become as plastic and meaningless as this Lazarus Bowl." He had made himself so exasperated, I expected him to launch the flimsy bowl, popcorn and all, across the stage.

"I think the dead are beyond caring what people think about them. Hopefully, we can adopt the same attitude." I couldn't believe Mulder was taking this so seriously. It was almost comical to watch him in this wrathful state. Next he'll be telling me that Hollywood misrepresents his little gray men. I couldn't help but to play on him a little.

"You do know that there aren't real dead people out there, right? That this is a movie set?"

"The dead are everywhere, Scully."

"Well -- we're alive. And we're relatively young, and Skinner was so tickled by the movie --"

"I bet he was," Mulder interjected in a flattened tone.

"-- that he has given us a Bureau credit card to use for the evening." I felt like an agitated champagne bottle trying to hold back the bubbling laughter behind an ever-weakening cork.

I waved the card back and forth playfully in front of him, watching the reflected light from the shiny surface skim across his face. His stunned expression finally popped the cork, and I let out a well held back chuckle. His astonishment melted into an admirable smile, joining me in my glee. It was time to get this date under way.

"Come on," I said, pulling at his forearm. Oh, I really could have kissed Skinner right about now for this opportunity. He just may be a genius in disguise.

"Mulder, I have something to confess," I said, as he took my hand to help me down the slope.

"What's that?"

"I'm in love with Associate Producer Walter Skinner."

His bright eyes twinkled and he finally huffed out a good chuckle. He looked so wonderful when he laughed, and it was not often that he did so. I felt myself staring at him just a little too long, and fluttered my lashes to break my gaze subtly. His eyes were still on me, seemingly thinking about our friend, but I imagine he must have realized what this could mean for us.

"Ah -- me too," he said.

We playfully jogged out toward the exit. Mulder automatically loosened his grip on my hand as we left the grass covered set, but when I held fast, he eagerly squeezed back. I noticed his posture straighten a little, and then he glanced down at me, a smile spreading widely over his face; it almost didn't look like Mulder.

We decided to try out a big-band style dinner club a couple of blocks away from the hotel, on the advice of our cab driver. It was a beautiful place; everything done in Art Deco styling. A large, round dance floor was the central focus of the main dining room, and at the head was a full, big-band ensemble, complete with a sultry blonde vocalist.

We ordered our entrees, along with a shrimp cocktail appetizer and some white wine. I allowed the lapping sounds of the vocalist to float around me as I observed other couples at small, two-seater tables like ours. There were a few booths with larger parties, but the bulk were couples -- on dates. A refreshed reminder of my situation tightened my stomach, and I wondered if food right now was such a good idea.

Across the table, Mulder sat with the underside of his chin illuminated by the single votive candle between us. His eyes mirrored the sparkle of the surrounding glitz. I watched him soak in what I thought was a very 30's type of Hollywood scene, until his attention rested back on our private little halo of light. It was comforting to know that we could sit like this, outside of the DC area, without having to fear big eyes and whispers.

"Our first date, Mulder. How does it feel?"

His eyes widened; he quickly glanced over his shoulder as if he were afraid someone might have just heard what he thought he just heard come out of his partner's mouth. His jaw hung slightly as he fought to think of the right words. For a moment, I thought maybe I was reading into things a little too deeply for my own good. I suddenly felt bad that I had put him on the spot, but a certain primitive reaction of mine was not going to let me be so considerate -- Mulder's face was the trigger.

It started out as a tiny snort in the back of my throat, my miserable attempt to halt fate. Then it bubbled up to be a full, blown-out laughing fit that I'm sure turned a couple of heads in our direction. Instead of making Mulder completely and utterly embarrassed in what was quickly feeling like an excruciatingly stiff and formal dining room -- with a hysterical woman just over there in the corner, pay no attention -- he instantly loosened up at my hilarity, and began to laugh with me.

Perhaps it was the surprise of my statement that had caught him off-guard. He had shown me so many times that he wanted to take our friendship to the next level, but I had always blown him off with a flick of my hand, blaming the mind-altering effects of hospital painkillers, or stress or my own silly delusions.

"Agent Scully, I thought you'd never come around."

Bam! Mulder's comeback left me speechless. He was shockingly serious after such a showcase of absurdity. I cleared my throat and perked my eyebrows in a quick punctuation, as if to say, "Well, yes, I have."

Our waiter came sailing over with a large round tray, displaying our two glasses of wine and a silver bowl filled with ice and about ten shrimp dangling over the edge. He placed the dish in the center of the table like a big pink, floral centerpiece.

"Oh, thank God, it's food! I was considering going back for the cast party just to get something to eat before you showed up. I can't believe how jet lag can affect your stomach," Mulder interjected hungrily.

"Well, it's almost nine, Mulder. In DC we'd be looking at midnight."

He took a shrimp and bit off the end cleanly, leaving the hard tail portion in his bread plate. Glancing at his wristwatch, he said, "Nope, ten more minutes. I hope Cinderella will have at least one dance with me before she turns into that boring old FBI agent again."

I gingerly dipped my own shrimp into the thick red sauce centered in the icy bowl, and nipped off the end to savor the tangy-sweet morsel. "You'll get your dance," I crooned out between bites.

A silence fell over the dining room as the band prepared for their next song. Slowly, the stage began to rotate so that the piano at the back was now center stage. One spotlight pooled around a tall, old-fashioned, metal caged microphone. The vocalist stepped into the beam, showered with applause from the darkened room surrounding her. Tiny points of light from the individual candles on each table appeared as stars in a universe centered around her. A hush blanketed the audience. Her arms limply hung at her sides and remained that way except for a subtle lift of her fingers, which signaled the pianist to begin the introduction.

Tiny quiet tinkles from the keyboard revealed the melody of the first verse and faded. After a moment of tension-filled, silent air, the vocalist inhaled and began to sing.

"At last...
My love has come along.
My lonely days are over,
and life is like a song..."

I love this song, I always have, and tonight it was appropriate, because I had finally realized that this is where I wanted to be. This is who I wanted to be with.

And then I felt warm hands cover my shoulders. I turned and looked up to find that Mulder had left his seat and was now standing behind me, smiling down at me with the soft glow of the candlelight casting shadows over his beautiful face.

A treasured memory of our first case tugged at the corners of my mind: Mulder holding a candle up to my back, assuring me I only had a couple of bug bites. He was a comfort to me straight off, his warm hands relieving me of my fears. Now those same hands encouraged me again.

He held one out to me, palm up, and I took it, never looking away from his eyes, and followed him to the dance floor.

Other couples had begun to dance as well, but I paid no heed to them. Mulder placed one hand on the small of my back, a familiar place to be sure, and clasped my hand with the other, pulling me so close there was hardly any space between us.

I could feel Mulder's breath dropping onto my forehead like feathers on a spring breeze. I leaned in closer to him and rested my cheek upon his chest. He gathered me in, pulling my hand close to his heart, touching his chin to my hairline. It was like I was in a cocoon made up of Mulder, possessing me altogether. I loved it.

"We've got a lot to talk about," he rumbled out in his soft, gravely voice. I could feel his chin move with each syllable. His thumb caressed the heel of my palm.

"Yes, we do," I said simply. I took a chance and nuzzled my face closer to his chest. He inhaled deeply in response. I didn't want to shatter this moment's fantasy with conversation. But it was the one conversation I knew we had to have.


Things I should have said. Things I should have done. All these things would have given me more time to spend with him. Our two souls, encapsulated in our own insecurities, were meant to share every precious moment together.

Things I had been searching for in the darkness, like a blind woman, were there for me to grasp; so close my fingertips nearly brushed against them, unseen, dangling before me.

Words are strong -- strong enough to hold me up through the most challenging of situations. They give me credibility. Three words could have been strong enough to erect a bridge for me to cross the gap between us.

But I never used them.


We didn't speak about it that night in Hollywood, but the evening certainly brought us closer together. I had broken down so many barriers just allowing myself to be with Mulder that way.

Exhaustion had been threatening to take hold of me the whole cab ride back to the hotel. Now, in front of my room's door, it was not just a small gray cloud on the horizon, but a heavy blanket of stratus covering the sky of my consciousness.

Along with the sleepiness creeping up to weigh down my eyelids, I felt the anticipation of our date's end. Would Mulder kiss me again? My memory of that first time on New Year's Eve flashed before me, and I inhaled sharply from the thought of his lips pressed so gently and tentatively upon mine. The strap of my dress purse twisted in my hands, marking them with pink constriction lines where I had pulled too tightly.

"I had fun tonight," Mulder said suddenly, breaking the silence which I had not realized was becoming awkward.

"Me too," I smiled. The amount of pheromones emitting from my body must have hit a record high for a woman. I imagined one of those heat sensitive images with colors representing the amount of warmth in an object. My whole person would have been a bright blob of red and orange, with the reddest part appearing somewhere in between my thighs.

Mulder reached down and relieved my hands of the veritable cat's cradle I was forming with the strap of my purse. I let out a nervous hissing laugh, unaware until now how obvious my actions were.

It surprises me how Mulder, with all his training in psychology and human behavior, never realized that for years I had been, well, pining for him so badly. I know I'm the queen of denial, but I'm sure he could have picked up on things much earlier than this. I had been getting better with it, allowing myself little by little to reveal my love for him. Why had I held back so long?

I lifted my chin to look up into his soft, sleepy face. Why *had* I waited so long? I moved closer to him, my inhibitions fading. I wanted to be close to him in more ways than one. His solid embrace of my hands calmed my fidgeting fingers. I moved closer still, until our stomachs sandwiched our fists, and his lips were inches from my fluttering lashes.

The soft, moist skin of his mouth seemed to send out warning signals to my own; tiny, precious love letters promising what was to come.

And then we met halfway. It wasn't a cataclysmic, fireworks blasting experience. It was more of a comfort long lost and found, a place that we both sought for so long. My heart ached at the thought that it would have to end in a few seconds. I pleaded for more even when we hadn't finished yet.

My bag fell to the floor, a forgotten object at this point, and landed between our feet. Again, I wondered, "Why did I wait so long?" I felt myself subconsciously humming the words into his mouth.

Strong fingers combed through my less than perfect hairdo. After a long night of celebration the hair spray was long gone, and rebel strands flew out from the sides of my face. I pushed forward with my torso, yearning for more contact, pressing the length of my body against his tall form. Reaching behind him, I sought blindly for the doorknob to my hotel room.

The cool absence of his fingers from my tousled locks was realized only when the heat of his palm replaced itself over my busy fingers again. But what I thought was an acknowledgment of my invitation had turned out to be a subtle turning in the opposite direction, away from my door.

His tongue, lingering upon my bottom lip was a farewell spoken too soon. I had almost completely lost myself in his kiss before I heard Mulder calling to me from a far away place; first a whisper, then closer, low, rumbling into my consciousness.

"Scully... Scully..."


"Scully, you're more than a little drunk, honey."

I started for a moment and looked at him, shocked. Since when did he get off calling me "honey?" Well, if we were going to have a relationship, I guess pet names were allowed.

"Honey..." I whispered, testing it on my own lips.

"Sorry," he interjected, quick to apologize for such an informality. "Scully..."

"Mmm hmm..." I buzzed through a tiny grin, playfully fingering his loosened bow-tie.

He cleared his throat gently as a couple walked by and entered their room two doors down. "Scully, I want you to go into this room, slip into something comfortable--"

"Mmm... sounds good to me..."

" -- and I'll see you in the morning."


My heart dropped to my feet, suddenly deciding to keep my purse company. The way things were going, I thought Mulder and I sharing a room tonight was a sure thing.

"Mulder, you don't have to be chivalrous just because I'm a little tipsy. We've danced this dance long enough."

He stared longingly at the doorknob to my room and let out a long, white wine scented breath.

"No -- I don't want it to be... I mean, I *want* it to be..."

I brushed the back of his knuckles gently with my nails, and his head snapped back toward me in reaction. His face was tortured with a pained, helpless look, like his heart and mind were battling it out behind his dampened hazel eyes. *Stop trying to protect me, Mulder,* I tried to influence silently.

He said, finally, "It's the right thing to do."

He bent to kiss me one last time before he turned determinedly and walked away down the hall.


Without me.

My lips were not yet cold from his recent departure.

Like a stunned robot on automatic pilot, I slid the electronic key card through the lock and entered the dark of my room. I shed my clothing without turning the light on, without rummaging through the dresser drawer to find a nightgown, without setting the alarm on my travel clock.

Although I knew it would be difficult to sleep, I decided to close my eyes while I waited for morning.


Part 2

Restless dreams haunt me. Useless lines I could have said to you repeat themselves over and over in my head. I've had you in my grasp, loved you with all my being. I try to reach out to you now, as I lie in this sterile bed, in a gown that is not my own.

Our bodies have never melded but how I wish, more now than ever, that they had. This life growing inside me is precious. I know not where or how it came to be. Perhaps our enemy, although managing to place mistrust between us once again, had tried to make amends and given me what I have wanted the most.

It's funny how what they say is true -- you never know what you have until it's gone.

My wish for a child was strong once I knew I couldn't have one. Now that I do...

It should be from you and me. It should be from you and me. It should ...

Please come back to me.


The weeks after Hollywood were tedious. I tried to prove to myself again that I could work fine with Mulder without thinking of us possibly being together as a couple.

Cases would come in and I quickly remembered how I loved solving problems. It is a passion I have -- why I wanted the FBI and not a private medical practice. Something inside me burns to find out the answer, the truth. Even before I met Mulder, before I was subject to his relentless curiosity, I had this trait.

Hell, Mulder was the ultimate challenge for me, straight out of the academy. It was as if my greatest case had been dropped into my lap. And I still haven't figured it out.

My relationship with Mulder was another thing I had to solve. No-- I wanted to achieve. Our cases, although intriguing, could only keep me interested so long. I needed something that could show him I was still the same hard-core investigator, the one he loved and hated to work with, the one he wanted to be with -- even if I could only have him at work.

I walked into the basement office that morning ready to solve the case of Bigfoot if need be. I halted in my tracks at the sight of Mulder, holding the automatic switch for the slide projector. He greeted me with a devious, anticipatory grin, jerking his head sideways, motioning me to come and sit by him.

He had a new case, one he seemed very proud of, and was acting very smug, knowing he had a challenge up his sleeve. His mouth quirked up like a wolf, hungrily waiting for the kill, as I made my way across the room. It was the most exciting, heart-pounding, God, Mulder, why won't you let me have you look, I'd seen in a while.

I sat beside his shoulder, shifting my weight on the filing cabinet just a little too much. When I had settled, he began flipping through the slides.

"This is an FBI fleet sedan from our Kansas City field office, requisitioned by two seasoned agents there, driven into a tree at forty-five miles an hour by the female agent in a novel effort to kill her male counterpart."

While his speech was cool, casual, and confident, it had begun to slip into the background as the visual evidence presented a shocking display. Like a deer in headlights, I stared, motionless, at my worst nightmare come true. Two agents, who looked very much like Mulder and me, were laid up with full body casts in side-by-side hospital beds.

His words again bled into my awareness, "Now, you might think I'm going to suggest psychokinesis -- P.K. -- someone or something controlling the agents with remote mind-bending power."

"But it's not?" I said dryly, wondering just what his theory was on this one.

"Both agents sustained critical injuries. Their stories eerily similar --"

He flipped to the next slide depicting what could have been my twin in her white casted limbs.

" -- as if they had temporarily lost control of their minds, unable to alter their behavior." With some more cavalier switching of slides, he continued as if he were a game show host teasing his contestant. "You may think that I'm going to say it's past lives unresolved or fate, stalking the agents like an animal..."

"But you're not," I said again, in an arid tone.

"The interesting thing about these agents is that they had worked together for seven years previously without any incident."

"Seven years?" Well, here was the meat of it now, wasn't it? How many more similarities could these two have to our own partnership? And what was he getting at with this? There were obviously multiple attractions to this case for Mulder.

"Yeah, but they're not --" he glanced up at me sheepishly, "romantically involved if that's what you're thinking."

"Not even I would be so farfetched." It would have been the only proof to me that these agents were not our exact duplicates. Had they been involved, I would have been more comfortable with the development of this case. Now we just had too much in common, and it was scaring me a little.

He continued flipping through slides. I tried to think about the flashing images of body casts and injury close-ups from a neutral standpoint. As I watched, my logic helped me to become less nervous about the implications involved.

As I watched, a quiet anger was building up in my stomach, growing stronger.

*He's trying to test me. He wants to see how far I'll go to risk myself if we become involved. What, Scully loses her backbone once she reveals her feelings? He thinks I'm going to lose my edge.*

I had shown him too much, too many of my personal feelings for him. I let my soft side through, and now I'm getting burned for it. Forget "us" for now. Time for Scully to get back in the game.

"You have any ideas, Scully, any thoughts?"

*You bet I do.* It boiled my thermometer to see how he was playing me into this.

"What I'm thinking, Mulder, is how familiar this seems." *No, not the pictures, you dumb idiot. Wipe that stunned look off your face.* "Playing Watson to your Sherlock. You dangling clues out in front of me one by one. It's a game, and -- and as usual, you're holding something back from me. You're not telling me something about this case."

He mocked a pose of deep thought, holding a finger up to his mouth, and made a little "hmm..." noise. He was stringing me along on purpose, and he was doing an excellent job at it.

He was also dead!

I geared myself up, ready to hit him with some good old-fashioned Scully logic. "Okay, so these agents were investigating something."

A deep chuckle escaped his throat, and his eyes sparkled at my challenge.

"Something -- much like what they themselves were almost killed by. Uh, something they came in contact with. Uh..." Geez, this was like twenty questions. My mind swam with possible scenarios. *Contact with what, or... WHO?!* "A third party!"

He held up two fingers as a hint.

"Two third parties. Twins? Relatives? A doppleganger?"

He nodded and tapped the end of his nose. I became excited. I was on the right track and I wasn't going to let it go. My thoughts raced through the dusty filing cabinets of my brain for the definition.

"A corporeal likeness that appears unbidden from the spirit world the sight of which presages one's own death or -- a double conjured into the world by a technique called bilocation --"

I was getting him to notice now. He looked up at me with his jaw hanging open in wonder. *I'm on your turf now, Mulder, 'honey.' How much do you want me now?*

" -- which in psychological terms represents the person's secret desires and impulses, committing acts that the, uh, real person cannot himself --" I glanced over to him for approval, "-- or herself?"

Finally he smiled, revealing those pearly whites.

In triumph, I shouted, "Mulder, the slide, please!"

He clicked the switch, advancing the projector to display the driver's license of a woman with long, curly red hair.

"Yes!" I pulled my two fists down in a pump, reminiscent of Macauly Culkin.

In mock defeat, Mulder pouted, "Don't go thinking I'm going to start doing the autopsies."

Although I knew he was play-acting with me, it still felt good to throw it back in his face with my own smug grin.


I am a fool.

I made the mistake of trying to beat Mulder at his own game. My need to solve this case overtook me, blinding me to the obvious conclusion Mulder would have reached had I allowed him to work with me, instead of competing with him to promote my own ego.

In the end, even if I had impressed him enough with my showing off, it would have done no good at all. Instead of the promise of a reward, maybe another date, maybe another kiss that would have led to who knows what, I received somewhat of a facelift thanks to about twenty pummeling fists. Mulder's jaw had to be wired shut due to a nice uppercut from a professional wrestler.

It was sheer torture to spend the next few weeks looking like a bruised banana, and lusting over those swollen lips of Mulder's, only to be greeted by James Bond style braces every time he attempted a conversation.

My prize had been stolen from me, like the last drops of water in a desert oasis, dried up by the sun. I deserved more than this, damn it. Maybe the wait wasn't worth it. Maybe we weren't meant to be after all.

I clicked the button of my ballpoint pen on Mulder's green desk blotter in dejected frustration.

Suddenly, the sound of a short, decisive thump above my head distracted me from my bout of self-pity. Looking up, I noticed that one more yellow painted piece of wood and graphite had trapped itself in the ceiling tile to join its brothers.

Mulder stared at me, holding his smile back to cover the metal lumps beneath his lips.

"Oh, Mulder, " I whispered gratefully. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes. The simple, familiar action without words was proof enough to me that things were always going to be the same. I didn't need to try so hard to prove myself any more. We were long past that stage, and Mulder knew it. And now I knew it as well.

I dropped my pen onto the desk and reached across to caress his hand, carefully avoiding a splint and bandages. This wasn't over yet. I could never stop myself from being in love with him. I just had to wait a little longer.


Part 3

If I had three wishes at my disposal, I wouldn't have used them. Mulder and I spent the next few weeks actually hanging out together after work. Sometimes, a case would lead us out near one of our apartments, and we continued our paperwork or brainstorming sessions over dinner -- usually soup, due to our respective injuries. After his wires had been removed, we even had the luxury of going out again and eating solid foods.

One night, after changing into some jeans and a blouse I kept at Mulder's just for late-night research sessions, he suggested kicking back and watching a movie. I side-glanced at him, wondering just what kind of film he had in mind, verbally stating that I hoped it was appropriate to share with me.

He blushed miserably, denying yet again that he never watched *that* kind of stuff anymore, and proceeded to dig into the dark reaches of a tightly packed drawer of videos.

"Why don't you go pull out a couple of beers from the fridge and stick a package of popcorn in the microwave? I'll melt the butter after I find this movie."

"You don't have to do that. I don't like butter on my popcorn, Mulder," I replied, thinking about how a tablespoon of butter would travel undoubtedly straight to my hips.

"What?!" he muffled out from the drawer. By now, his head was deep into the hollow of the cabinet, on the search for his one perfect movie.

"Forget it, I'll tell you when you've emerged from the Temple of Doom."

"We're not watching that..." he sung out as I left the living room to start up some popcorn.

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much else in Mulder's refrigerator besides a three week old six pack of beer. There was, however, a gallon of fresh milk, and when I opened the cabinet above his microwave, I found out why. He had about six boxes of cereal, a variety of types and flavors. The man must live on cereal and take-out.

At one end of the row of boxes was a much shorter one with Orville Redenbocker gleefully smiling back at me. I grabbed it, tore open one of the plastic packages inside and placed the grease spotted bag into the microwave for three minutes.

As I watched the bag grow with hot air and puffed corn, I began to wonder what Mulder *had* wished for earlier today. Everything seemed just as usual as ever. And in a very strange way, I was glad of that. I had been happy in these past weeks. I enjoyed, even looked forward to, going to work again. True, my ego had been shot down a little on that big case with the twins, but our recuperative period gave us a lot of down time. It was some time that we needed, I thought, to get re-acquainted with each other.

I had gone through a rough time, soul searching ever since I lied to Mulder about going off with C.G.B. Spender, thinking I could handle things alone. My whole experience seeing Daniel again forced me to re-think the choices I had made in my life; where I wanted to be, what kind of life I wanted to continue living.

Mulder was there for all of it, suffering with my indecisions, patiently soaking up all the intimate hopes and fears I always carried within me. It must have been hard for him to take.

So when I really thought about it, I couldn't have been more thankful for the friendship and respect he had given me; would always give me.

"You are attracted to powerful men..." I remembered Spender saying to me. Yes, I was, but not enough that I would let them control me. I could never love a man like that. The kind I could love would be...

"I found it!" Mulder triumphantly yelled from the living room.

I picked up the two brown glass bottles of beer and headed into the living room. Mulder had already popped the tape in the VCR and responded to the beeping of the microwave by the time I settled myself on his leather couch. There, lying face up in all its glory, was the cardboard cover of said tape.

Mulder returned grimacing at a brimming basketful of puffy white popcorn.

"I can't believe you don't want butter on your popcorn. It's un-American."

"Caddy Shack, Mulder?"

"It's a classic American movie," he said, in defense.

I had grown up with three men in my family, and "American" movies like this were played over and over again until we could all recite the lines at the dinner table.

"That's what every guy says. It's a 'guy movie.'"

"Okay, well, when you invite me over to your place we can watch Steel Magnolias."

I cocked an eyebrow at that. So, Mulder was expecting an invitation from me now, was he? Since we had started doing this, it had always been spur of the moment, or "we're already here so why don't you hang out for awhile." The trips were so long between our apartments that it did become a little inconvenient if we were to see each other without coming straight from the office or the field.

I glanced over to the hallway, noticing my blazer and skirt hanging neatly on the coat rack. Suddenly, I didn't know quite what to say.

I thumbed the pointy ridges of the bottle cap, and peered over toward the coffee table, avoiding Mulder's stare. To try and break the solid wall of ice I was slowly forming between us, I judged the distance of a glass candy dish and aimed the cap for it. It landed straight into the bowl with a clink. Ha! One point for me.

Recognizing the act as a game, Mulder tried his luck at making the shot, only to miss by a hair, his cap plunking onto the table.

"So," I began, "what's the occasion?"

"I don't know," he answered, appraising the mouth of his bottle, "just felt like the thing to do. Cheers."

"Cheers," I replied, and clinked with him. I had a strange feeling I'd heard him say that before, but couldn't quite place it. Yes, this did seem like it was the right thing to do, at the right time. I let the bitter, foamy liquid wash over my tongue and wondered if Mulder was ready to try again.

He took a hesitant breath. "I don't know if you noticed, but um, I never made the world a happier place," he referred to his theorized wishes. He had discussed them with me before meeting up with the genie.

"Well, I'm fairly happy. That's something." I smiled shyly at him like a pathetic school girl. Oh, God! Did he take that the right way? It's been a while since I've flirted and expected a result. "So what was your final wish, anyway?"

As if to say "you know exactly what I wished for," he gave me a big grin.

Our mutual silent agreement to allow our relationship to blossom started right there. No drama, just me and Mulder and some popcorn.

The sound of Kenny Loggins bipping his "I'm All Right" song pulled our locked eyes away from each other. I carefully held the cool beer bottle on my lap with both hands and laid my head comfortably, unashamedly on Mulder's shoulder.

As the movie went on, the popcorn was killed, our beers had soaked wet rings into our jeans and Mulder adjusted his arm around my shoulders to allow me to lie more at ease on his chest.

My only wish now was that I didn't succumb to my usual habit of falling asleep on Mulder's couch, in his warm, comforting, loving arms. I wanted to revel in every sweet moment of it.

But I wasn't the one who rolled out the carpet.


Damn our jobs! Damn my 9 p. m. bedtime! Damn it all that I didn't get to spend more time with you, Mulder! All the time we should have had...

Now I look around at this sterile white room, contrasting with my messy, tear blotted, hand written journal, missing you -- wishing I never knew or now, yes, believed that there were beings, extraterrestrial or not, that could abduct you and take you from me.

Fate has not played our cards fairly. God, please bring him back to me. I need him now. I'm afraid of what will happen to me. I fear that if he doesn't come back soon, it will be only a matter of time before I, too, will be taken, abducted, but not for the same reasons.

Spender's child, his hybrid, whatever it is that is inside me, is meant to continue his legacy -- one more way he can assure his work has lived on beyond the grave. I hate the man with every cell in my body. But I will never, couldn't ever think of doing something more horrible than taking a life for vengeance, especially since it is partially mine. Or could I just be a vessel? Someone 'They' can already track, research whenever 'They' want.

Or could it be from Mulder after all? We have both been subject to Spender's little science projects. Mulder's sperm cells could have been taken just as easily as my ova were during his "operation" last year. The gift he has could prove to be hereditary.

That would be the ultimate betrayal. Stealing from us the love we could have made together, and substituting a small, glass petri dish.

All we needed was time. Why did 'They' have to take him?

All I ever wanted was a family of my own. But half of it has been taken away, and the one not yet born is a gift wrapped in bile.

I'll make sure this child forgets where it came from. But I'll always carry the secret.

A powerful man indeed -- and God, damn it! I've let him control me.


Part 4

Ours was not a romance from the story books. Late nights and exhausting cases consumed all of our energy. All manner of paranoia kept us from becoming intimate in the office, and that night of "Steel Magnolias" never happened.

The next thing we knew, we were back in Bellefleur, Oregon; back to our first case. There was something sentimental in the whole trip. A visit back to our past, when I had first trusted him. It was also the place where I first pushed him away. A moment of weakness left me open to domination. And although I feared the opportunity he had, he never took it. After that case I had become the ice queen, fighting to quell the fire that was kindling in its infant stages for my partner.

I sat alone in my room, remembering the morning after our "Caddy Shack" night. He didn't leave me alone on the couch as he had done so many times. When I awoke, sunlight shone through the small crevice between his dark curtains, and Mulder was snoring lightly in a deep morning slumber.

His feet were crossed, resting on the coffee table and his arm still lay about my shoulders. Some time during the night I must have pulled my feet up onto the couch, and my head lay comfortably in his lap.

I shifted my weight carefully in the hopes of extracting myself to find the remote control and turn the blue screen off the T.V. It must have been that way all night. We must have both fallen asleep. I was about to lift my head from the pillow of Mulder's thighs when I felt a familiar hand stroke through my hair.

"I always wanted to wake up with you, Scully," he mumbled, in a sleepy morning speech. A blurry smile formed on his lips.

"Oh," I panted out. He did look sweet in the morning. And it happened that he gave me something to this day I will vow was the most romantic, alluring gaze I had ever seen, sealed with a kiss that was definitely a long time coming.

Slowly, he bent down to me, caressing stray wisps of hair away from my face, and pressed his lips to mine decisively.

I wasn't drunk this time and he didn't hold back. I answered his request with many interjections of my own, soft and wet to begin with, and then deep and hungry as our wordless conversation continued.

He searched lovingly for the curves of my waist, the round contours of my hip. I reached to feel his stubble, the tousled clumps of bed-head hair caused by the familiar cushion of his couch.

A welling of emotion and need clouded all my senses. Mulder's scent surrounded me, and the heat coming from my center blended a tinge of me into the mix as well. We were on our way to becoming closer, closer than ever, wanting to be more. Wanting to be together, to be one...

I didn't hear the phone when it first started ringing. I didn't want to acknowledge its call. Mulder reluctantly pulled away from me, watery eyes pleading the infernal ringing to cease. But it was his cell phone. We both knew he had to answer it.

He left me lying on the couch and answered, staring longingly at me. "Mulder."

The corners of his eyes and mouth must have dropped several centimeters as he spoke into the receiver. "All right, sir. I'll let Scully know."

Skinner. I could hear him barking angrily way over here.

He beeped off the phone and came to sit next to me, willing himself to keeps his hands and lips at bay.

"Skinner needs us in ASAP."

"What for?"

His eyes dropped to the floor. An internal struggle made his face wince horribly.

"We're in trouble. Skinner said he'd 'explain' more when we got in." He quickly looked up at my wondering face, and then snapped his focus back to the floor. "It's never easy, is it?"

I cupped his chin with my palm, and kissed his forehead. Backing away, I realized what I had just done and giggled uneasily at my habitual action. I redirected my mouth to touch his lips gently.

And here I was. Not because Skinner had called us in to punish us for an out-of-this-world expense report. That was the easy part. Now, through my own choice, I was sitting on a bed in Bellefleur, Oregon, in a rebuilt version of the motel we first stayed in seven years ago. The plane ride was long, we had begun questioning as soon as we got here, and now Mulder continued, still in his room, immersed in the cases and pictures we had been given by Billy.

He had closed himself up in there when I had feigned sleepiness. I was getting the oddest feeling, like I was coming down with a fever. Small wonder if I couldn't get my mind off our one near sexual encounter.

I got up to go splash some cool water over my face. Maybe that would do the trick. I stood above the porcelain sink and began running some water when a sudden icy chill ran through me from my spine down to my toes. I fumbled for the edges of the sink, something to support my weakening body. All of a sudden I felt like jello, and the cold water repulsed me. What was this? My greatest fear was that 'They' were calling me again.

A couple of deep breaths and I was standing, unsteadily, but standing again. I needed some distraction, something to keep me awake. Someone to take care of me if this thing happened again. I quickly forced the thought of the chip in my neck away and rationalized that I just needed some companionship.

I left the room immediately, lights left on, suitcase open, gun left in a drawer, and locked the door behind me. Crossing about twenty feet, carefully avoiding some loose gravel in the driveway, I reached Mulder's door and tapped my fist against it.

"Who is it?"

"It's me."

I heard his heavy step thump across the floor. He opened the door, light streaming out to consume me, shrinking my pupils to what felt like pinpoints. My breath was labored and I felt a headache coming on.

"What's wrong, Scully? You look sick."

"I don't know what's wrong," I answered more shakily than I'd intended.

"Come in," he said, and ushered me into the room. I headed for the nearest seating area, next to the scattered papers and photos on the bed. I began to shiver with the same cold feeling I had experienced in the bathroom. Mulder came over and knelt down before me, cupping my hands in his strong fists, and waited for my explanation.

"I um... I was starting to get ready for bed and I started to feel really dizzy -- vertigo or something -- and then I just -- started to get the chills." I was visibly shivering now, and Mulder took immediate concern. He moved the papers and pulled down the covers on the bed for me, leading me to get under.

"You want me to call a doctor?" Concern laced his voice.

"No, I just -- I just want to get warm."

He removed my shoes as I climbed into his bed. The heavy blanket and comforter felt good, the warmth of them quelling my fitful shakes. Even I had to admit this was getting worse as time went on. Mulder climbed up onto the covers and held me from behind, a thick layer of cotton and stuffing separating us. The heat from his body seeped through the sheets, and his gentle breath soothed the chills around my neck.

"Thank you," I said gratefully.

After a short while, Mulder spoke in a low, almost inaudible voice. "It's not worth it, Scully."

My heart dropped, melted and disappeared inside my chest with those words. What? The job? The X-files are his life's work. Everything he has ever lived for, what kept him going, his passion. We had come full circle, back to the beginning, but we were different now, weren't we? Had the journey not been worth it? Or was he thinking about us? Either choice was bad from where I stood. A painful lump began growing and constricting my throat. He couldn't think "we" weren't worth it, could he?

"What?" I finally asked.

"I want you to go home."

"Oh, Mulder, I'm going to be fine." *I've worked under worse conditions.*

"No, I've been thinking about it. Looking at you tonight, holding that baby--"

Dear God, this was about us. I cried internally thinking about how Mulder always took responsibility for my losses. Holding Teresa's baby today must have brought it all back to him. Or perhaps, he was mourning his own loss, of us having a child together.

"--knowing everything that's been taken away from you. A chance for motherhood and your health and that baby. I think that... I don't know, maybe they're right."

"Who's right?" Damn it, Mulder! Since when do you let others tell you what's right or wrong? *This is wrong!* I was screaming inside, but I dared not interrupt such a baring of his soul. *Don't do this to me now, please.*

His voice deepened and thickened with sadness. "The FBI. Maybe what they say is true, though for all the wrong reasons. It's the personal costs that are too high."

I could nearly feel him slipping through my fingers like ethereal grains of sand. I couldn't accept that he was blaming himself for our failed relationship even before it had begun. He was, as Mulder always did, taking responsibility for my inability to have children, a family, and a so-called normal life. Why couldn't I just have my life with him? I loved him!

The tears of devastation, frustration, and overwhelming emotion trickled down my cheeks.

His whisper was soft, but the words cut like a razor blade."There has to be an end, Scully." He kissed my cheek and huddled his head into my shoulder.

Never, never would I believe that he was dragging me down. So many missed chances didn't mean that failure was eminent. I *wanted* to be with him, couldn't he see that? I had never said I loved him out loud, and now -- now was not the time to, either. Seems it never would be.

Refusing to let him go, I held tightly to his hand and let my tears speak silently for themselves.


I sit now, remembering all we had been through. All these things in my life leading up to this moment, staring out a stark, bright sunlit hospital window, not knowing what to do next. I don't have a plan. I don't have an ally in the world who will understand like you do. I know you're gone.

Skinner walks into my perfect white room and I know what he's going to say already.

You're gone, not because they were taking abductees, but because they were taking people with a gift -- your gift. What happened to you with that artifact, what Gibson was able to control, that's the thing they wanted. I was safe all along. But now... I may not be anymore.

"Scully -- hi. How you feelin'?" Skinner breaks in with some small talk. I'll oblige him.

"Feeling fine. They're just running some tests on me."

He begins to stutter, unable to find the right words. I have to save him.

"I heard."

"I lost him," he huffs out. He's trying very hard, like a good marine, not to cry. The news he has is painful. I don't want to hear it. He doesn't want to say it.

"Don't know what else I can say. I lost him." His voice is weakened, his demeanor is frail. I almost feel like I'm the stronger of the two of us. "What I saw I can't deny --" He nearly breaks down, but pulls himself together, looking toward the ceiling in the hopes of catching the rising tears before they fall. Then in a whisper so bleak, so helpless, he says again, "I lost him."

"We'll both find him." I try to make him believe, but Skinner is so far over the edge in grief, I don't think even I can reel him in. He jerks his head in affirmation, still holding back the sea of emotion.

"I have to," I conclude.

He must know how Mulder and I feel for each other. How deep and intimate that love goes; he may not be sure. He turns to leave the room, and I suddenly feel as if my last hope is about to disappear like a wisp of smoke.

I stop him.

"Sir, uh, there's something else I need to tell you."

He comes back around to face me, burying the outburst that would have certainly come had I allowed him to leave, and awaits my report. Mulder, if there is anyone else in the world I trust as much as you, Skinner comes next.

The reality of what I am about to tell him hits me hard and unexpectedly. I become frightfully nervous and feel a ludicrous need to laugh out loud to break the tension. The implications of my news is ludicrous enough. How will Skinner ever take this the right way?

"Something I need for you to keep to yourself. I'm having a hard time explaining it. Or believing it."

Subconsciously, I smile at the craziness of it all. It is like a reverse reaction emerging from the darkest reaches of my soul to mock me. The pain I am about to reveal is enormous. Something I have always wanted, but was given to me without my consent, is now more a punishment.

The confidence I am about to entrust with Skinner is to become a support beam I desperately need. My emotions are north and south; I can't control anything anymore. I contort my face in many positions, finally trying to put on the one most appropriate for just such an announcement. Maybe I could still fool him. Maybe I could still fool myself.

Skinner waits.

I speak.

"I'm pregnant."


It's dark now, Mulder, but I stay awake and write. It is my only sanity until you return. Your words echo through my head every night:

"I won't risk losing you."

"I won't let you go alone," I answer.

But you went alone. I should have been with you. Your quest is mine.

Come back to me, Mulder.

Please come back home.



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