Chapter 21: Everyday
March 16, 1998
Monday morning came with a fog and an uncharacteristic drizzle of rain. Scully woke to find she’d drooled Mulder’s shoulder slick, and sat up. He stirred, then opened his eyes. She smiled at him, and asked, “Going to work today?”
He nodded. “You?”
“Back to the lab. I’ve got a half-shift tonight, from 3 to 7.”
He sat up a little, put an arm around her, and pulled her back down, pulling the covers up over both of them. She giggled and slid down under the covers until she was at his waist. He lifted the covers to look down at her. She was studying his boxers intently. He raised an eyebrow, and she slipped her hand inside to pull his cock out the fly. His eyes widened, and then he arched his head back into the pillow as she wrapped her mouth around him. He suppressed a moan, and looked back under the covers again. *Oh dear god in heaven... Camera. Krycek, one of these days I’m going to have to kill you.*
He batted feebly at her head, not quite meaning it, and she shifted, to shoot him a look. *I am a dead man.*
He pulled a pillow over his face and bit into it to suppress a yell as he came. A moment later, she crawled back up him, and gave him a smug smile. He shook his head, and chuckled. “You keep surprising me,” he said to her, under his breath.
She smiled, and shrugged, and rolled off him.
He went into the bathroom a few minutes later. When he heard the shower running, he smiled, and joined her. He took the soap from the shelf, slicked his hands, and then ran them down her sides. When she turned her head to look back at him, he ran his hands back up to her breasts, fingering her nipples until she leaned against his chest, eyes closed as the water rushed down her body. He shifted, brought his left arm across her body, playing with her right nipple with his left hand, then slid his right hand down to find her clitoris. Her mouth was open, her breath coming ragged, and he put a leg forward to brace them as he felt her knees start to wobble. She shot a hand out to brace against the wall, and reached back with the other to find his hip, nails digging in as he moved faster.
He whispered, “Two can play this game...” and she arched against his hands.
A few minutes later, she stood, leaning heavily and relaxed against the tile wall, as he finished his own shower, smiling.
10:00 a.m. Chemistry Lab
Joe was waiting for her when Scully walked through the door. He turned from the computer, pushed his glasses up, and said, “Decided to show up?”
She smiled apologetically, and said, “I got absorbed in another facet of the problem, and lost track of time.”
He pointed at the computer screen. “I think I might have something for you.”
She looked. “That’s interesting, what is it?”
He smiled. “It’s a molecule that fits neatly over this section over here,” he said, pointing at a second monitor. “It reacts with the paraffins when it touches here, and the other side fits the exposed surface like a glove.”
She cocked her head. “Were you here all weekend?”
He shrugged. “It’s interesting. And I don’t sleep much.”
She looked at him, then said, “Come for a walk with me.”
He grinned hugely, and knocked the chair over standing up.
They walked the short distance from the Chemistry Research Building over to the Geisel library.
“What’s the best place in there to have a private conversation?” she asked.
He led her down to the basement, to a screening room.
When the thick door closed, he sat down, and said, “Okay, I’m listening.”
She opened the manila envelope she’d been carrying, and pulled out the chemical analysis sheet. Then she set a vial of amber liquid on the small table next to him.
Next, she pulled her MessagePad out of her lab coat pocket, and tapped until she found what she was looking for. She set that down too, and then sat down in the other chair.
He frowned, then looked at the amber liquid. “This is an antidote. To what?”
She laughed dryly. “How far are you willing to go to help?”
He blinked. “Help with what?”
“How open to extreme possibilities are you?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I know that the things you’re showing me here, the protein we’ve been working on, those things shouldn’t exist. Your hypothetical doesn’t sound very hypothetical, not the way you frown over it. Call me open-minded.”
She looked at the vial in his hands. “If you knew that your family was in danger, how far would you go to protect them?”
He stared at her. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
She looked down, then met his gaze. “Because I’m afraid that it will put you in danger. Because it would mean putting a huge amount of trust in someone I don’t know well. But I need help with this... it’s so far beyond anything I ‘ve seen before... I have ideas, but it will take me weeks, months of study to get up to speed on the newer technologies.”
His eyes shifted a little, and suddenly looked very, very old in his smooth, unlined face. She blinked, and the effect was gone.
He leaned forward and said, “Let’s say I’m willing to do whatever it takes. How far are you willing to go?”
She bit her lip. “Everything I care about... everything anyone cares about, really, depends on me finding the answers I need to solve this problem. I’ve already given up so much for it.... We’ve lost so much.”
He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, something was different about his face. She couldn’t pinpoint it. Then he said, “Why don’t you tell me the whole story.”
She hesitated. “It’s pretty unbelievable. If I hadn’t seen what I’ve seen... I don’t know. But I know that right now, the impossible is more probable than any other explanation that has been put forward. Do you believe in aliens?”
Joe threw his head back, and laughed from his belly. She looked at him and frowned. “See, now you’re laughing at me.”
He shook his head, still laughing. “It’s not...” He took a deep breath, and composed himself. “Please continue. The short answer is yes, I do.”
She blinked. “You’ll have to tell me the long answer sometime.”
He nodded and waved for her to continue.
“In the past six years, I’ve seen a tremendous number of things I couldn’t explain. Recently, I was informed that alien entities have been in contact with the government for just over 50 years, and that in about 14 years, an invasion is planned. I’m working to prevent that, and the things you are looking at, that information has the best chance anyone has seen to help fight what is coming.”
He picked up the MessagePad, and started reading.
When he’d finished, he picked up the chemical analysis of the antidote again.
Finally he closed his eyes, and said, “What are you thinking?”
She said, “Much of what we’ve seen in the various extraterrestrial physiologies we’ve encountered leads me to believe that one of the primary components of that biology is that protein. If we can somehow program the nanoids to attach to the protein, cut it, and buffer it for excretion, we may not only be able to reverse the attempts at hybridization, but it may be a very potent weapon against aliens whose biologies are based on the components of that protein and the superstructures it creates.”
He smiled, and said, “Dana, I think you’re on to something.”
She stood up in a panic, knocking the chair open and backing against the wall. She fumbled for the door, and he put his hand on her wrist. Then he said, “I am not the enemy.”
She stared at him. “Who are you? How do you know my name?”
She was reaching with her other hand into her pocket, and he shook his head. “There is nothing you have in there that will hurt me, and I really do want to help you. Please sit down.”
She sat down,
shaking. He took off his glasses, and put them in his pocket.
When she looked back at his face, now changed completely, face lined and worn, hair white, skin weathered, she felt her body relax.
She said, “We were worried about you. How did you find me, Jeremiah?”
Jeremiah Smith smiled, and said, “Well, it’s a funny coincidence, actually. I’ve been... following your work. And since I could not be who I was, I decided to follow some of the leads that got... dropped. There’s a lot going on here at the university. When I saw you walking to the library the other day, I was curious. The rest, you know. But if you had still been skeptical... it would have been too dangerous to reveal myself as anything but an earnest young grad student. Which I will be again when you walk out the door.”
She closed her eyes and sighed. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you.”
“Good. Now, shall we get to work?”
She gathered up her materials, and nodded.
1:00 p.m. Chula Vista
Mulder found himself smiling the entire drive to Tif Jamison’s house. Flo had given him one more family to interview, plus a list for the rest of the week, and the morning interview had been smooth, but sad. A little boy, about Tyler’s age, pale and listless, dying, his foster parents thought because the support group families had seen his symptoms before. Mulder conducted his interview as a formality. He already knew the problem, of course. And he suspected that dropping Krycek a line would get him the Child Welfare mole faster than any interviews. But he wanted the families to know his face. If they did manage a cure...
Trent was bouncing around the front yard when he arrived, Jacob climbing a little play structure. Tif sat on the front step, little Oscar on her chest. She smiled when she saw him. “He’s asleep, but if you’ll watch the hooligans for a bit, I can get some cleaning done.”
He nodded, and stepped into the fenced area. Jacob ignored him, but Trent jumped off the little trampoline and came over to look at him. Mulder smiled, and squatted down. Trent grinned and ran back to the trampoline, and Mulder noticed Jacob looking teetery at the top of the slide. He shifted over and aimed the boy down the middle, on his bottom.
He found himself simply reacting to the boys, and by the time Tif came back out, the thought had occurred to him that he was actually pretty good at this. She smiled down from the step, and said, “Tyler will be waking up soon, if you want to go to him.”
He nodded. “Thank you.”
In Tyler’s room, he pulled a rocking chair over next to the crib, and sat down to study the baby’s sleeping face. Then he looked around the room. Camera up in the corner, tiny, really, almost hidden by a shelf stacked with diapers. He didn’t stare at it, just let his eyes slide past.
Tyler stretched, scrunched, and then sat up. His face lit up when he saw Mulder sitting there. Mulder smiled, and thought, *That’s right, Daddy’s here.*
Tyler cocked his head like he was listening, and reached up. Mulder stood up, and picked the boy up, saying, “I’m here. You need a diaper, kid?”
Tyler reached up and grabbed Mulder’s glasses again. This time Mulder put them in his pants pocket immediately, and lay Tyler down for a change. It wasn’t perfect... Tyler did mange to flip once, but at the end, the boy had a diaper covering the important bits, not too crooked, and he even managed to get a snap snapped to hold the shirt in place.
Tyler looked at him and started blowing a raspberry. Mulder laughed, and blew a raspberry back. A little hand shot up and tried to grab his tongue. Next thing he knew, he had a chubby fist in his mouth, poking at his teeth. He pulled his head back, and asked, “Do you talk, little boy?”
He was surprised when Tyler shook his head wildly back and forth. “Oh? Why not?”
Tyler lunged backward, and he found himself scrambling to keep the boy from hitting his head on the wall. “Whoa, kiddo.”
Mulder carried Tyler back out into the den, and set the boy down, standing, in the middle of the room. Tyler balanced for a moment, and then crumpled gracefully down to a sit before crawling into the middle of the scattering of toys on the floor. Then he looked back up at Mulder, and said, “Da.”
Mulder blinked. “Did you just say, ‘Da’?”
But Tyler ignored the question, and pushed forward until the top of his head was on the ground, his rear in the air, legs straight, in a funny baby triangle. Mulder bent over, and peaked through the little boy’s legs, which got him another giggle. Then Tyler tipped over, rolling onto his back, and stared up at Mulder.
“Are you profiling me, kid?” he asked, amused.
Tyler said, “Da!” and flipped over again, flinging himself into a small beanbag.
Mulder laughed, and said, “Is that what you want? Flying?”
Tyler turned, and waved his hand through the air. “Da!”
Mulder sat down, picked the boy up, and airplaned him up into the air.
The front door opened, and Tif shooed the little boys into the living room, then came to sit down. “How’s it going?” she asked.
“He wanted to fly,” Mulder explained, lying on his back.
“Diaper go okay?” she asked.
“I think so. Nothing sticking out, all points covered, and I got a snap snapped.” He let Tyler stand on his belly.
“Not bad,” she said. “Most of the guys I’ve seen get the diaper on backwards and inside out.”
He shrugged. “I pay attention. Hey, does he ever talk?”
She shrugged. “I haven’t heard him talk. But at 11 months, I don’t expect much.”
Tyler looked up, waved in Mulder’s direction, and said solemnly, “Da.”
Tif laughed. “Oh really? I guess that settles it then.”
*It was already settled.*
Krycek watched Mulder come out of the house, smiling. Stakeouts were always dull, but stakeouts where the guy knows he’s being followed, and where all the answers were there for the asking were even duller. *Tonight we’ll let Langly babysit the love bunnies.*
He followed Mulder back to family services. While Mulder was inside, he called Jerry.
Jerry picked up, and Krycek asked, “Who’s your guy on the inside, at SDCSS?”
Jerry told him, and Krycek smiled. “I’m tailing Martin Harrod, since he’s the one you wanted. But I assume you saw most of his activities today?”
Jerry answered, “Did. You got any info on why he’s spending so much time at that one kid’s house?”
Krycek said, “They took a foster parent how-to class on Saturday. Think they want to adopt?”
There was silence on the other end for a long moment. “You got any more where you came from, or should I set a tail on the wife?”
*Shit.* Krycek frowned, then said, “Actually, how about I take the wife, and you set your guy on Mr. Harrod. You’re already seeing what he’s doing.”
“Take her... she hot or something?”
Krycek laughed. “You’ve no idea. But that’s not why. It’ll have to be subtle, that. Too many people at the university where she’s working. I think I’d rather just handle that myself.”
“Yeah, whatever. Just let me know when you need someone on his tail.”
“He’s been leaving after 8, so how bout your guy shows up on the corner in his car at 8, and I won’t worry about the husband. The wife has odder hours. Oh, and let my man Ralph know that I’m going to come trade around 6 tonight, and I’ll swap again tomorrow morning.” Krycek saw Mulder come out.
“Will do. See anything interesting last night?” Jerry asked.
Krycek said, annoyed, “Just the wife’s lily-white ass. It’s not a fucking porno.”
“Hey, there have to be some benefits to this job, man.” Jerry responded.
“Later.” Krycek hung up, and pulled out to follow Mulder home.
6:45 p.m. Urgent Care
Scully’s second shift was almost fun. Watching an asthma case resolve before her eyes was nice. Being able to reassure a mother that her baby was merely hurt, not injured was another. No complex problems to solve, but the case load wasn’t heavy, and she felt like the nurses were getting the hang of her now.
As her shift drew to a close, the receptionist poked her head back and said, “Your delivery boy’s here.”
Scully smiled, and finished up her last case. Emma stopped her and handed her a list of dates and times. “Those work for you? I’ve got you on an odd partial on Wednesday because Rick can’t get in until five.”
She pointed at Thursday afternoon. “I can’t get here until a little later, I need to brush up my infant CPR and social services is offering a class. And Saturday, I have a full day class, but I’d be happy to take a full shift on another day.”
Emma cocked her head, “Class?”
Scully smiled, looking down at the floor. “We’re thinking about adopting. There’s a mandatory class that day.”
Emma nodded. “Okay. You up to doing a twelve on Friday? 11 to 11?”
“Sure.” Scully took the piece of paper, crossed two things out, wrote another in. “Will that work?”
“Got it.” Emma was already moving on to the next thing, hurrying back out into curtains.
Scully finished changing, and walked out to find her delivery boy.
Mulder smiled when he saw her, and tugged her in the opposite direction when she started out to the parking lot.
She frowned, and he explained, “I walked. Thought it would give us a chance to talk.”
She nodded, and didn’t say another word until they’d cleared the building and crossed over to the sidewalk of the main road.
They started to say something at the same time, and he said, “You first.”
“Joe’s not Joe,” she said.
He looked alarmed, but she smiled reassurance at him. “He’s better.”
He laughed. “Should I be jealous?”
She rolled her eyes. “Wrong species.”
That sent his eyebrows upward. “Do tell.”
She described the encounter, and he shook his head. “You do know how to find ‘em.”
She smiled. “We got so much done today. Really amazing. He knows... his understanding of chemistry is years beyond anyone at the college. And when he looks like a college student, it’s almost always impossible to tell he’s anything but. I am starting to think we might have a chance.”
“Did you ask him to remove your chip?” he asked.
She blinked. “I never... it didn’t occur to me.” Then she shook herself a little. “Your turn.”
He smiled. “Want the good news or the weird news?”
She shrugged. “Weird, then good.”
“Weird. Oh, Krycek will be tailing you tomorrow. Langly’s the one behind the cameras tonight,” he said.
She giggled. He looked at her, eyebrow raised. “You aren’t thinking...”
She shook her head. “That poor boy. Maybe I’ll keep my panties on.”
He looked alarmed. “Maybe? Are you possibly more exhibitionist than I am?”
She laughed outright. “Mulder, you are so shy, it’s downright cute.”
“Who are you, and what have you done with...” He stopped.
“Give me the good,” she said.
“Tyler called me Da. I didn’t ask him to, he just stared at me, and said, ‘Da’, several times.” He grinned at her.
She swallowed, and said, “That’s really, really great. It sounds really special.”
He looked at her, and said, “I bet Tif wouldn’t mind if you came over with me at some point.”
She frowned. “That would seem weird...”
He shook his head. “Tif already thinks I’m going to adopt him, it would be weird if you didn’t come.”
Scully sighed. “When?”
He pondered. “Friday?”
She shook her head. “I just signed up for a 12-hour shift, to get out of Thursday and Saturday.”
“Wednesday?” he asked.
“Working until five, and we’re going to that class in the evening.”
He frowned. “Maybe after the class on Thursday. Starts at one, done by three...”
She nodded, throat dry.
As they walked up the street, Mulder gestured with his head at one of the condos across from their house. She suppressed a laugh, Langly was waving in the window of the upstairs room.
When they got inside, she looked around. “It’s really clean.”
He shrugged. “I got home at five, and you weren’t off until 7, and I was bored.”
“No pencils in the ceiling?” she asked.
“Silly. I was being good, cleaning up so you’d come home and not feel compelled to run around like a crazed woodpecker.” He gave her a cheesy grin.
She went over to the fridge. “Want me to cook?”
“What do you have in mind?” he asked.
“Actually...” She closed the fridge. “I have in mind that we go out and let someone else do it.”
He smiled, and opened the front door, gesturing grandly. “After you.”
March 17, 1998
Tuesday morning, he pinched her in the shower. She yelped and glared at him. “What was that for?”
He grinned. “St. Patrick’s day. You’re not wearing green.”
She looked indignant. “I’m not wearing anything. And neither are you...” and she pinched him back.
It turned out that the counter between the two sinks in the bathroom was just about the right height, and they left the shower on to fog the camera.
She headed back to the school to work with Joe, who in her head was becoming “Joe-remiah.”
Mulder headed out to the next family on his list, and noticed about halfway through his day that the grim-faced man following him looked like a badass, but wasn’t very good at not being seen. He ignored the tail, and went about his business.
It was amazing, he thought, how easy it was to get used to seeing Tyler. The diaper he changed actually looked like it was supposed to go on that way, and he managed to get all three snaps done before Tyler started cracking him up by sticking his nose up into Mulder’s face and wiggling his head from side to side.
Scully ended up staying in the lab until Mulder came to find her at 6:30. “Introducing” Joe to Mulder was amusingly awkward, in a way that looked reasonably plausible, but was totally staged. Mulder played the jealous husband, and Joe played the cowed youngster, and they managed to none of them let on anything different.
She pinched Mulder’s ass on the way out, and he insisted on going to a bar for green beer and a greasy dinner.
Langly was almost getting used to the Teen Mothers’ Home, which disturbed him. He’d managed to pull out more data from the system, all of it potentially useful later, none of it particularly earth-shattering. In the evening, the guys in the monitor room invited him in to drink beer and play a free-form role-playing game, no dice, all while watching the dull minutiae of everyday life in the homes of several dozen people. It felt, almost normal, except for the part where Frohike wasn’t making lewd comments, and Byers wasn’t pontificating, and the fried chicken actually made him miss Krycek’s cooking for real.
Frohike’s hands were sore. Blistered in spots, even. And he felt useless. Gardening was fine, until you burned despite the sunblock, and had not one bit of useful information to pass to anyone. He and Byers had graduated to Go Fish, and didn’t talk.
Byers didn’t complain about his job, which was probably a dangerous sign. He didn’t really talk much at all, to anyone. He’d upgraded the hospital’s network security, and found at least a dozen surveillance cams. Enough to tell Scully where not to do her research, but as she spent only a bare minimum of time in the medical center during her shift, it seemed fruitless to know that for some reason there was a high quality feed in the third floor storage closet on the cardiac wing.
He’d found the cryo lab, but it was absurdly well guarded. He wanted Frohike to come look at it, Langly to try to hack it, Krycek to bull his way in with lies and threats. He did not want Scully to walk past the stone-faced guard. Mostly he wanted to go home, to the basement, with their toys and their theories and the people most important to him, lively and talking his ear off until all hours.
Skinner was pretending that everything was normal. A spurt of good news had been a delight on Sunday, but now the work-week was dragging and the normal ebb and flow in the office felt infuriatingly banal. He toyed with booking flights for Friday, and changed his mind a dozen times before finally starting to tell Kimberly he was going out of town on Friday and might not be back for a week, but she just handed him a plane ticket to San Diego with an open return as soon as he started to say, “I’ve been thinking...”
He cocked his head at her, she shrugged, and said, “Easy call.”
He shook his head, and asked about the office pool. She started to say, “What office poo...” and he cocked his head with a look that said, “Don’t even try.”
She pulled a sheet of paper out of the drawer, looked at it, and handed it to him. He chuckled, and handed it back to her.
“Sir?” she asked.
“I was just curious,” he said.
She put the paper back, amused.
*Three days.* He contemplated not shaving, then dismissed the thought.
March 18, 1998
Wednesday was much the same. Langly took a shift tracking Scully, which often made her suppress a laugh. She explained the joke to Joe in the lab, while Langly sat outside the door trying to look like he was just hanging out.
Krycek, at the Teen Mothers’ Home for the day, made an excuse to take Maria into one of the few spaces on the property that wasn’t bugged, and talked to her about what was coming. He asked her if she could tell the other girls, and she said she’d try. Her English was surprisingly good, and when he commented on it, she just shrugged and said that she’d been ‘here’ all here life, but her mother had left her with a Spanish-speaking family when she had been deported back to Guatemala.
Mulder asked Tif to teach him to make a nice meal, which she was eager to do. When Tif went to change little Oscar after the afternoon snack, Mulder took Tyler into the living room with the older boys.
Watching Tyler cruise along the windowsill, blowing raspberries, he thought, *I wish his mama could see. Scully would love this.*
Tyler looked over, dropped to his bottom, and then crawled into Mulder’s lap. He then climbed up to a stand, and after pulling Mulder’s hair, the boy cocked his head, and said, “Ma?”
Mulder disentangled the chubby fist from his hair, cocked his head at the boy, and said, “You read my mind.” Tyler giggled and crawled off his lap, to climb up onto a soft vinyl chair and throw puzzle pieces off the low table.
Mulder had only a minute to try to figure the exchange out before Trent came barreling across the room and knocked him over.
Skinner said to Kimberly, randomly, “Why is it so much harder to get through the waiting times?”
She just looked at him, and said, “Two days, Sir.”
Frohike discovered, while tending other houses in the cul de sac, that he was, to all intents and purposes, invisible, the third time someone ignored his good morning. A mixed blessing, that. Fortunately, the sprinkler system broke, and gave him something to do. Why the complex had a full time gardener when most of the landscaping ran to tiny patches of lawn intermixed with gravel and cacti was beyond him. It all seemed pretty self sufficient.
When he came home later, he found Byers sitting, head in hands, and when he asked what was wrong, Byers just sighed, put his chin up, and showed a nasty shaving cut on the cheek.
“It is going to get more interesting, isn’t it?” Byers asked. “Eventually? Please?”
Frohike nodded. “Two more days until the girls are here.” He looked around the squalid space, and said, “Let’s clean this up.”
Mulder picked Scully up shortly after five, and they had just enough time to pick up sandwiches at Trader Joe’s before heading south to the class. Not all the couples were there, but the social worker talked about the effects of various kinds of drugs on developing fetuses--and their effects as children grew older--for the whole evening. Mulder found himself wondering what the long term effects of two stages worth of nanoid therapy might be, then shrugged it off. *He’s healthy. And very, very smart.*
March 19, 1998
7:00 a.m. The Condo
Scully woke with Mulder’s hands roving over her body, but she couldn’t tell if he was asleep or not. She let them wander, feeling lazy.
When he started grinding against her, she purred. When he deliberately reached down, and rubbed his cock against her, she pushed her hips back against him, and he smiled into her shoulder.
“You’re awake,” he said, quietly. “I didn’t want to...”
She closed her eyes, then murmured, “I wouldn’t have minded. Consider permission granted until revoked.”
“Mmmm,” he said. “Is that how you want to wake up?”
She chuckled. “If you haven’t figured that out yet...”
He gave a small happy sigh, and slid into her slowly. He wasn’t moving very much, but the small movements seemed to hover around one specific spot, and she found herself arching with the small movements, shifting her hips a little, working her kegels tight around him...
*Ever the gentleman,* she thought, as he snaked one hand over her left shoulder, under her head, to find her nipple, and as the other hand found her clit. She tried not to move very much--underwear aside, she wasn’t really all that eager for Krycek to watch them.
Things built slower, fighting the motion, fighting the noises her body wanted to make, but there was an intensity to having him touch her that way and not be able to move. *Handcuffs?* But those would have to wait. One thing for Krycek to see her naked... given the positioning of the various cameras, she’d have to go through contortions out of character to avoid it, and there was a damn good chance, given that the tail was now on both of them, that someone not an ally might be behind that camera at some point. Another thing, although it would be necessary if the footage had to be forwarded, to make love for the cameras. But handcuffs? That would have to wait.
Tingling rushed to her toes, her fingertips, and she found her breath was coming ragged, so she turned her face into the pillow. The sensation of him, barely moving his body, but doing something with his cock that had it shifting inside, while she tightened... he craned his neck and bent a little to rake his teeth across her earlobe, and she felt her body tighten, then the release spread, but all muted, from the conscious effort of keeping quiet.
When he felt her go, felt her muscles start to contract rhythmically, he let himself move a little more, and then clung to her as release came.
He didn’t move even then, just felt her around him as she relaxed and he slipped out slowly.
A little while later, they showered together, soaping each other without really thinking about it, and going through the usual checks and balances.
She spent the morning in the lab, but this time Mulder came with, sitting on a stool with his elbows on a high counter, cracking wise until she snapped at him, “Don’t you have something better to do?”
He waggled his eyebrows, and she shook her head. “Never,” he said.
Joe pulled a vial out of his pocket, and Scully raised her eyebrows. “That is...”
He held the lurid green substance aloft, and said, “My equivalent of blood. It’s not blood, don’t ever think that our biologies are that analogous. But we’re going to see how this reacts to the amber stuff.”
She nodded. “And how do we do that, given how reactive it is?”
He smiled. “You two are going to go over there,” he said, pointing to the next room over, “and watch me through the glass while I create slides.”
They watched, and he used a syringe to draw fluid through a silicone topper on the vial. He repeated the procedure with a small amount of fluid from the amber vial sitting on the counter, with some plain tap water, and with normal saline. First, he picked up the green syringe, and put a drop on each of four slides. Then he put a cover slip over the first slide, and put a drop of amber liquid on the next sample. Water on the next and saline on the last, and when they were all covered, he waited ten minutes before waving Mulder and Scully in.
They took turns at the microscope. In the first sample, they saw interlocking chains of ciliated cells, in greenish fluid. “The fluid is reactive to air,” Joe said, “but it takes a few minutes for the reaction to get going. And unless there’s a wide swath opened to air, it’s really not harmful to us. Even then, we can usually recover.”
“What exactly is it?” asked Scully.
He smiled. “The shape you see me in has very little to do with my natural shape. We are not... differentiated the way you are. We have very few structures in our bodies which are ‘set’. This form is easy for us, there are things that correspond... it is easier to fake being human if we align a certain way. Those cells, we are less individual than you are... more of an association. Each association has its own flavor. Which is why I might be on your side, but others of my type are not.”
“What about the black oil?” Mulder asked. “How is that connected?”
Joe looked at him for a long moment. “We are... cousins might be the best word for it. They can co-mingle with us. You would call it an infection. Those you call bounty hunters are enmeshed, intertwined.”
“And you?” asked Scully.
“I... was. I am no longer. When I first came to your planet, I was much as the others of my kind. But the ‘oil’ saw an opportunity, and left me. When I consolidated as an independent entity, my opinions were different. They did not perceive this difference at first, which allowed me a chance to escape. I did not think of much more than that until I became... fond of your world. But open helping proved too dangerous. Hopefully now...” He turned to look at another slide, then smiled, and gestured for them to look too.
“The chains are broken,” said Scully, and she showed Mulder.
He looked up at Joe. “What does it mean?”
Joe said, “Well, that kind of breakage, I suspect it is temporary. And we have roughly equivalent amounts of material there...you’ll need something which can cause great effects with small changes. We should see what happens with a larger differential.”
The water did nothing to the linked cells.
Joe sent them out again, and added one drop of the amber fluid to the entire vial of green liquid. He swirled the vial for a moment, waited for a few minutes, and then extracted a small amount. He put that on the slide, and a few minutes after that, he gestured for them to come in.
Scully squinted at the sample. “I see a few isolated cells, but it’s mostly chains still.
He nodded. “I’m going to take this vial with me, and we can look at it tomorrow.” Then his demeanor changed, and he was all college student again. “That all right, teach?”
She rolled her eyes. “How old are you, really?”
He chuckled. “Our method of reproduction is analogous to what you would call mitosis. Some of my cells have been around for close to a million years. We gain our complexity through quantity of interactions.”
She cocked her head. “Why the back of the neck?”
He put a hand to the back of his neck. “There is a structure there... it by needs must stay above the majority of the body. It is necessary to our healing, but when it contacts a particular combination of our intercellular fluid, air, and metal, it sets up a rapid chain reaction that causes massive cellular breakdown, disjunction. It is impossible for us to reestablish bodily integrity once that sac is ruptured in that way.”
She frowned. “I wish there was a way to get a sample of that fluid without killing you.”
He smiled. “You really like me, don’t you!” He wagged a finger at Mulder. “You better treat her right, Mister.”
Mulder shrugged. “You’re too old for her. By many hundreds of thousands of years.”
Scully looked at Joe. “You recognized the protein the minute you saw it. What is it?”
He slipped the control slide back under the microscope, and she looked into it. “You see the cilia, and the cell membrane?”
She nodded. “They are all made from that protein,” he said. “If you can break that protein, and do it often enough... you will kill one of us.”
“What about the oil?” she asked.
“The oil is made up primarily of complex hydrocarbons similar to petroleum, but it gets its whizz-bang from slightly more evolved versions of that molecule. I wasn’t kidding when I said it makes a hell of a parallel processor. Get a million of them together, and you get a little sluglike thing moving with some intent, much as a dog will sniff out a rat. Get a billion of them together, and it is faster and more dangerous than anything you can imagine once it has a biological structure to control. And the things it can do... you haven’t even seen the beginning of it.” He set the vial of green ooze back in his pocket. “You are right to want to fight it...”
Mulder asked, “Can you take out her chip?”
Joe hesitated, and then nodded. “I am reluctant to do so, because they always know when one goes off line. They will come investigate. Once I do that, we will need to move, and quickly, and I suspect you will not want to come back again. You have other issues to address? You mentioned patients when you were first starting your research.”
Mulder looked at his watch. “In fact, we’ll need to leave shortly.”
Scully put her hand on Joe’s arm. “They’re trying to hybridize babies. At least one of the fetuses they’re working with now is mine. And I want to undo this. My daughter... they made her, and she died with green boils and tendrils through her body.”
Joe’s eyes shifted, and in his young face, she suddenly got a sense of exactly how old he was. “It will be difficult. But if you are willing to leave your materials with me, I will continue work. The good news is that you have something that has an effect, and I have not seen that before.”
She nodded. “Do you know what is in the sac you talked about? What the chemistry of it is?”
He cocked his head to one side, and smiled a half smile. “I do. It had not occurred to me to try to synthesize it... there is some risk.”
She said, “If you can just think about the how... maybe I can do the hard part.”
He smiled. “That sounds like a bargain.”
They left in time to pick up burritos at a cart on campus, then drove south to their CPR class. Mulder had done CPR before, even on children, but when he started practicing with the doll, he flashed to Tyler’s face and shivered. Scully had taken a full blown neonatal resuscitation course in med school, it was all review, but she sat through it as she sat through CPR training every year, a necessary evil. A refresher was always good, although the thought of having another child so limp in her arms... she pushed the thought down and slipped into clinical mode.
He was practically skipping as they walked out of the office, new cards in hand. “You’re going to flip.” he said. “He’s amazing.”
She chuckled, a little nervously. “I can’t wait,” she said.
He offered her the keys, but she shook her head.
“You know,” he said, “Yesterday he said, ‘Ma?’ like a question.” I suspect he wants to see you as much as you want to see him.
“He was probably just babbling,” she said. “He’s only what, 11 months? A year?”
He just shrugged. “I just know what I heard.”
They pulled up in front of the house. By the time they were out of the car, Tif had opened the front door. “This the missus?” she asked. “That boy was going bonkers today. A minute ago, he started rattling the gate until I let him through it, and then he was pulling on the doorknob, saying, “Da.”
Scully put out a hand. “Sally Harrod.” Then she looked down, to see a small, determined child crawl out the front door and straight into Mulder’s arms. She laughed. “I take it this is Tyler?”
Tyler swung his head up and down in an exaggerated nod, and she laughed. “He understands a lot, then?”
Tif laughed. “That one? He understands more than you’d think possible. Keeps his own counsel, usually, but he sure does listen.”
Then Tyler leaned over in Mulder’s arms, reached out for her, and said, “Mama.”
She swallowed, shot Mulder a look, took the boy from him, and then yelped as one fist landed in her hair and the other deftly removed her glasses.
Mulder started giggling. She raised her eyebrow at him, but he shook his head, and said, taking the glasses out of Tyler’s hands, “Kid knows what he wants.”
Tif held the door for them, and Scully carried Tyler, her head tipped in the direction he was pulling, up the steps and into the den. When she sat down, she managed to extricate his fingers from her hair, and he arched back until his head was in Mulder’s lap. Then he just lay there, stuck his fingers in his mouth, and looked up at them.
He reached his foot up, and tangled his toes in Scully’s hair, and she shook her head.
He shook his head back, but left his toes where they were. Tif disappeared for a minute, and then came back with a bottle. “Thought you might want to do the honors, Martin.”
He handed the bottle to Scully. “Let Sally try.”
She took it, and said, “But please braid my hair before he pulls me bald....”
Tyler sat up when he saw the bottle, and scooted over into her lap. She turned, and Mulder braided while she watched Tyler eat. The boy seemed to be studying her. Tif left to deal with the older boys.
When Mulder had gotten her hair into a braid, she fished an elastic out of her pocket and handed it back to him. Then he peeked over her shoulder, and Tyler smiled around the bottle nipple. So Mulder ducked down behind Scully, then popped back up. That got an outright giggle. He did it again, and Tyler pulled the nipple out of his mouth and said, “Da”.
Mulder said, “See? I told you. That is so not babble.”
She nodded. “When you’re right, you’re right. Except when you’re wrong, but I happen to agree on this one.”
She leaned back against Mulder, and scooted Tyler up a little, until his head was resting high on her chest. Tif came back in, and said, “Aww, that’s pretty as a picture.”
Mulder fished his camera out of his pocket, and tossed it to her. She grinned, and shifted around until she found her shot, then handed the camera back to Mulder. He looked, and then smiled. “Thank you, that’s a keeper.”
She nodded, and gestured at Scully and Tyler. “So’s that.”
Tyler fell asleep on Scully, bottle falling out of his mouth. She sighed and closed her eyes. “When do we have to leave?” she said, quietly.
Mulder looked at his watch. “I usually leave around 4:30, but I’ve usually been here three hours at that point. Why don’t we ask Tif when she comes back?”
Half an hour later, Tif just smiled and shrugged and asked Mulder to hold Oscar while she cooked the dinner.
They left at eight, after sharing dinner with Tif and the four boys and putting Tyler to bed. As they walked to the front door, Tif said, “You know, that boy picked you. I go to a lot of therapists, a lot of doctors for these kids, and he gets held by a lot of people. He hasn’t reacted to anyone the way he’s reacted to you.”
Mulder smiled. “We’ve done about half the coursework we need. I’m going to ask Flo to do a home visit a week from today. I wouldn’t mind taking him home.”
Scully nodded. “Thank you for letting me come by today... it was fun.”
Tif said, gently, “I understand you lost one not long ago. There’s nothing better for that pain than a snuggly baby. Not a cure, but it sure does help.”
The words, “Not a cure” rambled around inside Scully’s head until they got home. Mulder went into the kitchen, opened the two doors, and without a word, they went upstairs together.
When a red light glowed in the corner, she sat down on the bed, looking bemused. He studied her, then said, “Penny?”
She sighed. “I was so worried... that he wouldn’t like me, or that I wouldn’t know what to do with him. Mulder, when did you learn to change diapers like that, anyway?”
He chuckled. “I’ve had a few days to practice, and I’m told the penalties for getting it wrong are fairly high.”
She smiled. “Really, the way you stopped him from flipping? That’s like, diapering 503. Graduate level.”
“How many diapers have you changed, anyway, Scully?”
She rolled her eyes. “I was a Catholic teenage girl on military bases for a whole lot of my growing-up years. Babysitting was my first job, starting at age 11. By the time I was 14, I had one kid I sat where I’d have to put him on the floor and put my feet on his shoulders to keep him from flipping. So I have no idea. Less than your average mom, more than your average single guy.”
He sat down next to her. “When I first held him.. it was amazing, but it was also bittersweet. I don’t think I knew what was lost until then...”
She sighed. “I... I knew. Not entirely. I don’t think we’ll ever entirely grasp it. But Emily... Knowing he’s not sick, that we’re not likely to have to watch him die--it’s like a balm on a wound. It doesn’t make the wound go away, but it makes it feel less raw. And it feels... I know for a fact that he’s ours, that he will be ours, and that we will take him home. I don’t know why there’s no doubt in my mind, but there isn’t.”
He nodded. “Frohike said Skinner told him to tell us that there’s on-site daycare.”
She laughed. “It sounds good, except for the part where once he’s with us, I don’t think I’m going to want to let him out of my sight... And if we get the girls out?”
He lay back on the bed. “Scully, do you want to stay home?”
She frowned. “I’m not sure. I mean, I like working. It’s important to me. But I can’t get my mind around leaving him with anyone...”
Mulder laughed. “I could stay home. I mean, it would solve all sorts of problems, and you’d be able to have your career without being tainted by the kinds of case reports we keep having to file...”
“Mr. Mom, eh? I bet Mom would help.” She paused. “She’s going to flip. I keep trying to think of a way to tell her without creating problems... But I don’t want to raise suspicions, and I don’t want to put her in danger.”
She leaned back and snuggled up next to him. “I still can’t get my mind around going back. My apartment, your apartment, the FBI, the X-files.. Mulder, we’re jumping in to join part of the very conspiracy we’ve been fighting so hard against for so long. Can we even do that from there? Watched so closely? I mean, this hardly feels any different from home, except that there, they know for a fact who we are.”
He stroked her hair. “Let’s get through this, Scully. Then we’ll figure out what comes next.”
to Chapter 22