By Jenrose, Ellen R, and Sarah Kiley
March 4, 1998
Mulder stood on the front porch and looked out over the lush green lawn. The shadows under the shrubbery between the yard and the road were deepening with the setting of the sun, the flowers losing their vibrant color, becoming studies in contrast and texture. He could smell night approaching on the cooling breeze.
It had been a long and unsettling day. Following Sarah around on campus while trying to look as if he knew exactly where they were going was merely challenging. But meeting Dena, receiving a flash debriefing on Martin’s career and teaching load, and getting to know enough about his classrooms and office to answer the casual question had required an intensity of focus which, after the previous days’ travel, was draining.
He was tired but at the same time oddly energized. A student had stopped him in the hall... how the boy had known that this was Dr. Harrod in the flesh was still a puzzler. Perhaps because he was walking with Dena, both of their heads bowed in conversation. Mulder hadn’t even stopped when the young man called his name. Or rather, Martin Harrod’s name. Thank goodness Dena had been there, quickly touching his arm and pulling him back into his charade.
They’d stopped and faced the boy, both listening intently to what began as an interruption and quickly turned into a conversation. Mulder was surprised to find himself engaged so completely in Harrod’s research.
He shifted on his feet, and once again scanned the edges of the lawn. It was almost dark now and quite a bit colder. The entire yard and gardens were a deep dark green, details lost in the deepening shadows. It was quiet. Too early in the spring for night insects or birds. Too far away from the main road to hear traffic and the noises of civilization.
*Sometimes shadows are just shadows.*
Mulder took a deep breath of the cool night air. Yellow light poured through the windows into squares on the porch flooring. If he strained he could just hear sounds coming from inside cooking sounds, he hoped.
A shadow moved past one of the windows and he turned. He could see into Gwynne’s small living area from here. The shadow had been Scully’s he watched as she picked up a small box and sat down on the futon couch, deep in thought.
He smiled. Scully deep in thought. Where had he seen that before? Two thousand miles from home, with different hair, different eyes, different clothing and—when he remembered—a different name, but always Scully.
Inside, Scully could hear Gwynne and her daughters moving about in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal as they shared the events of their day. Closing her eyes, she remembered similar times—with her sister and her mother.
Right now Jessie was filling Gwynne in on their visit to the lab. There had been a steady stream of people coming in for various testing; the clinic seemed filled with children and babies, huge ripe bellies wherever Scully looked. She’d smiled and made small talk, resisting the urge to reach out and touch tiny downy heads, to squat down and examine the intricacies of a toy truck with a small boy.
Would the world always be so damn full of what she could never have?
Scully opened her eyes and looked down at the object she’d picked up from a side table. It was a small box, covered in tiny shells. It wasn’t terribly pretty: shells were glued onto the box rather haphazardly. She turned it over and noticed something scratched into the bottom.
“For Mommy. I love you.”
For a numb moment she felt no reaction to the words.
*I will never have this.* The thought was like a physical blow to the solar plexus, and the air rushed out of her in a raw sigh. She closed her eyes, trying to keep the hideous gaping hole in her chest from consuming her.
There was no name on the box, but Gwynne would know which hands, Jess or Sarah’s, had painstakingly glued the small shells in place.
*Someone stole this from me.* Someone had stolen it, and hidden it away in vials of ova beyond her reach.
Or in children who might, even now, be dying.
And that was why they were here. In a strange place, wearing strange clothing and answering to a strange name. She would find as many as she could. They would.
Sitting up straight once again, she gently lowered the box to her lap and sat looking at it once more. It was no longer drab and artless. Tiny pink and purple shells shone back at her. She ran her fingers over them, feeling the smooth humps, the occasional tiny ridge.
Scully looked up as she felt Mulder enter. She blinked back an unwelcome tear and nodded hello as he sat down next to her.
Mulder leaned close, looking at the box in her hands, and read the inscription. He leaned closer and put his arm up on the back of the sofa behind her, his other hand reaching to touch the box in her hands. Her eyes followed the movement of his fingers over the shells.
“Sam and I used to pick up shells like this and bring them home in our pails. Mom always made us throw them out; she said they were smelly and dirty and just made more mess.” He stopped stroking the shells and picked up her hand, lacing his fingers into hers. “I was watching you through the window.”
“Oh.” Scully stared at their hands.
“Scully, I wish I could make this easier.”
She watched as he rubbed his thumb in her palm, felt his other arm just behind her, waiting for the moment when it would be okay to move. To touch. A sign that she wouldn’t break or run or freeze.
She looked into his face, her gaze dancing quickly up to meet his. “I know.” His arm slid down around her, his hand resting on her far shoulder. “Mulder, you have to know that I couldn’t do this at all without you.”
And what could he say to that? That she wouldn’t have to do this if it were not for him? No, they’d been down that road before, one too many times at that. So he just smiled down at her, then sat back, arm around her shoulder, silence spinning comfortably between them until Sarah called them for dinner.
“So anyway, I show up at the University to collect ‘Martin’ and there he is, holding court in the hallway, Dena and some student nodding like crazy while he goes on at very great length about his research.” Sarah stopped talking long enough to gesture toward Mulder with her fork. “For someone who professes to search for the truth, you sure can sling that bull with the best of ‘em!”
Scully choked back a laugh. She’d been caught with her mouth full and had to struggle to get herself back in hand long enough to swallow.
“His expense reports could win awards for short fiction,” she said dryly once she’d regained her composure. She scooped up another forkful of chicken casserole.
“Hey, I was dead serious. This is a fascinating field I’m studying. You do realize, don’t you, that most of us just assume that other cultures have the same perception of mental illness? We don’t even realize that the very sense of self does not exist equally in all cultures. Some don’t even recognize self as a concept.” Mulder jabbed at the air with his fork to punctuate.
Scully snorted softly and laid a gentle hand on his arm. “Mu... Martin, you’re preaching to the choir here.”
Mulder looked around at four amused faces. Gwynne cleared her throat. “I think we all deserve a pat on the back for our little charade today. You know, John was the one that suggested your field of study, Martin.”
“Byers? Really? I’ll have to send him a thank you note.”
“That brings up an important point. They boys had to break up their office and hit the road. It seems that despite their best efforts—and yours—someone was closing in on them.”
Mulder’s fork stopped halfway to his mouth. He blanched and returned it to his plate. “What? How did they know? Did they get out safely?”
Scully lowered her glass to the table. “So what does this mean? Do we continue?”
Gwynne pushed her plate forward and leaned closer with her upper arms on the table. “It means that once you leave this house, you must be Sally and Martin Harrod twenty-four hours a day. Tonight is your last chance to get your new ‘selves’ internalized, at least enough to fool folks who’ve never met the Harrods. We have to make sure the folks who will be looking for Mulder and Scully simply do not notice Sally and Martin.”
She paused for emphasis, giving Scully, then Mulder a long, frank examination. “When you get into your car tomorrow morning, you are the Harrods. A married couple. I think that you two already ‘read’ as married to most observers. But there are a few rather intimate details that you must come to terms with.”
“You absolutely must assume that you are being watched at all times. You did very well in the shower this morning, despite some small hesitations. You’ll need to continue that level of intimacy in the bedroom—and in bed—if you are to avoid arousing suspicion.”
Scully’s eyes widened. “How do you know what went on in the shower?” She glanced toward Mulder; he seemed equally appalled.
“I was watching. And taping. You need to watch the tape before you leave. Treat it as a game film you need to finalize your plays and make notes on the weak spots.” Gwynne reached over and picked up Scully’s plate, handing it to Sarah as she began clearing the table.
“You watched?” Mulder looked absolutely aghast. Scully realized that he was actually blushing. Her own discomfort aside, she found it oddly amusing that Mulder, of all people, would be uncomfortable with the idea of someone watching him on video.
“Infrared only. Although I’ve got recordings in both natural light and infrared for you two.”
Jessica and Sarah had finished removing the dinner plates. Moving quietly while their mother broached the delicate subject, they started coffee and prepared five servings of a dark chocolate cake.
“I’m not going to tell you how to handle the bedroom situation, but please remember that you are a close, loving couple. You’ve been married for five years. You’ve conceived and lost a child together. You are actively trying to conceive another child, if not right away, soon. You must at least appear to have an active sex life.”
Now neither agent could meet the other’s eyes, or even Gwynne’s. Sarah put a serving of cake in front of each of them. Scully began to rotate hers slowly, her fingers on the rim of the china plate.
For a few minutes there was no sound save fork on china, mugs on wood.
As soon as she’d finished her piece, Gwynne jumped up to clear her plate. “I’ll run another tape tonight, when you retire. You can review it before you leave in the morning. See for yourselves whether or not you make a believable couple.”
Scully and Mulder’s eyes met, briefly, then they, too, stood to clear their plates.
Mulder stopped so suddenly in the middle of the kitchen floor that Scully bumped into him. Slowly he reached out and set his dish on the counter as he turned to face her. He spoke slowly, not wanting to give voice to the fear that had just washed over him. “Scully? What about the chip?”
All four women stared at him, and he could see the same realization that had just hit him dawn on each face.
“Jesus.” Scully’s hand reached back to touch the small scar on her neck. “They can track us—”
“We don’t know that.” Mulder’s voice was tight. “Those chips could be generic, one size fits all. They’re scattered all over the US. There’s no proof that they could track us.”
“No proof that they couldn’t.” Scully’s hand dropped away from the base of her neck. She looked into the faces of her three hosts. “They could know that we’re here. We could be placing all of you in danger. Jess, you could remove it—”
They looked at Mulder shaking his head slowly. “I won’t do this, can’t do this if it means risking... I can’t see you that way again, Scully, I won’t.”
She met his gaze face on. “It’s not just me you have to think about here. The risks—”
Jess spoke for the first time since Gwynne had begun this discussion. “Sally, Martin Mom, Sarah and I knew going into this that there were risks. We know, and we still want to do this. And so do the Boys. We’ve known this moment was coming for years.” She reached over to touch Scully’s hand where it lay on the table. She looked up, into Jess’s clear calm eyes. “Please believe me. This is every bit as much our quest as yours.”
Jessie turned her attention to Mulder. “I want to find my brother as badly as you want to find your sister. If he’s alive. The way I look at it, by helping you find out what happened to her, to Scully, I’m working to find out what happened to him. And this mission, this new quest you are on, may yield clues we can both use.”
Mulder turned away from them, took a breath. “Sam’s alive. I’ve seen her.” He spoke the words quietly, aiming them at his feet as though that would make them softer.
An icy quiet moved in waves across the room, rapidly filling the whole house with its energy. A particularly strong force gathered just to his left. Scully.
“Mulder, what are you talking about?” Cool. Quiet. Calm.
And razor sharp.
“I saw her. Cigarette Smoking Man brought her to me the night before I named Blevins. The night I thought I was losing you.” His words were barely audible.
“You’ve seen your sister?” Jess’s voice was whisper soft, full of wonder. “She’s alive and healthy and...did she remember you?”
His voice went flat and brittle as he recited the words in dull monotone. “He’d told her that I was dead, our mother was dead, that he was her father. And that he’d only recently found me. We met at a diner. She told me to let her go. She never told me how to contact her.” He paused. “And now he’s dead.”
“You haven’t told anyone this?!” Disbelief colored Gwynne’s voice.
Suddenly Scully turned and walked quickly toward the back of the house and their bedroom. “Excuse me,” she said as she disappeared. It was a politeness intended solely for their hosts.
Mulder watched her disappear down the hall. Turning back, he found three faces frowning at him. Unable to think of any response to their disapproval, he retreated to the front porch.
By the time he ventured back to their bedroom Scully had changed into sleeping attire. The hem of the t-shirt she’d borrowed fell halfway down her thighs and the sleeves came almost to her elbows. She stood in front of two open suitcases and was busy packing for both of them. She placed a stack of underwear into one of the cases as Mulder entered, then stopped long enough to look up at him with icy eyes. She held his gaze for the space of two breaths, then stood up into her full height.
“Is there anything special you want me to pack?”
She just stood there, asking what was possibly the one question he least expected.
Mulder started, his eyes bugging just a bit, his mouth working soundlessly.
“I know you haven’t had much chance to go through ‘Martin’s’ things, so I’m just putting in an assortment. We can always shop for more in San Diego.” She turned back to the closet and began to remove shirts and slacks from their hangers.
“Um, Scully?” Mulder shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again.
“Yes?” She began to fold the shirts.
“Well, uh, about Samantha...” He cleared his throat.
He cringed as she flung the shirts down into the suitcase hard enough to make it quiver.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me IMMEDIATELY!”
He winced. “I’m sorry I hadn’t told you. Yet.”
“Yet? It’s been six months, Mulder. Six fucking months.”
Mulder plunged forward. “I know I should have told you, if not right away, then as soon as you were better. I just never figured out how to tell you.”
She looked up at him. Her eyes, her face, her posture, everything about her said that he hadn’t even begun to dig himself out of this hole. “So you just didn’t say anything. Kind of explains your sudden disaffection with aliens though, doesn’t it?”
“Well, I guess that is part of it. Everything Kritchgau told us, then seeing Samantha...” He shrugged and looked down, feeling an almost physical sense of relief when he no longer had to meet her eyes. “I was pretty confused then, I guess I still am. Everything I’d ever believed, everything I’d fought for, was suddenly insubstantial. Like smoke and mirrors.”
“What the hell do you think I’ve been doing the past five years, Mulder?”
“The X-Files. What do you think I am? A secretary? A convenient prop? Dial-a-doctor? Your pet pathologist?”
His voice was quiet, his head shaking back and forth. “No.”
“What then? How the hell are we supposed to do this if you can’t even trust me with your precious truth?”
Mulder just stood there, unable to think of anything to say that could compensate for his omissions. “I’m sorry, Scully.” It wasn’t enough, he knew, but it was all he had.
Scully moved over to stand facing him from one arm’s length away. “A simple, ‘Hey Scully, I had dinner with Samantha the other night,’ would have been helpful. Or, ‘Scully, I found out something about why you were abducted.’ I deserve that. I’ve earned that. Mulder, finding out what has happened to my ova, to my children, is every bit as important to me as finding Samantha was to you. I need you to be completely honest with me for this to work. If I am expecting more than you are capable of giving me, you have to tell me now. It isn’t fair to put our support people in this kind of risk if you can’t even trust me.”
He looked down at her. “All I can say is that I’ll try. And I hope that you can trust me, too.”
“Good.” She turned and went back to her packing. “Why don’t you get ready for bed while I finish packing. We’ve got a lot to do tomorrow morning before we leave.”
“Um, do you want to watch those tapes tonight?”
“No.” She continued packing, the suitcases almost full. “I just want to go to bed. We can watch them in the morning before our shower and go over any areas that don’t look good on the tape.” She tossed Mulder the clothes he’d slept in the night before.
“Okay.” Mulder took the safest route, and began to change.
Five minutes later the cases were full. Scully closed them and let Mulder move them onto the floor near the door. He flipped the light switch while he was there, and turned to find Scully crawling into her side of the bed. Or at least what was her side last night. He moved to his side, pulled back the covers, and sat down, stopping to remove his watch and place it on the nightstand. When he finally lay down, Scully was on her side facing him.
He hesitated, then asked, “What Gwynne said—about behaving like we’re really married—”
He could hear her shifting between the sheets, and rolled onto his side to face her. “Scully...”
Scully placed her hand flat on his chest. It wasn’t a tentative touch, nor was she pushing him away.
“Mulder, I don’t think I can talk about this tonight. We have three days on the road. We’ll work something out. Okay?”
He covered her hand with his own. “Okay. Good night, Scully.”
She pulled her hand out from under his and rolled over to face the other direction. “Good night, Mulder. Sleep tight.”
“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
The transition from asleep to awake was so gradual and surreal that it took Scully a few minutes to realize that the grinding against her hips had not been a hot dream. She startled as she realized what she was feeling was Mulder’s thinly clad pelvis pushing insistently at her backside.
She froze, stiffened, then slowly twisted in the bed. He was still sound asleep, but as she began to pull away from him, his arm snaked out and pulled her back up against his body.
Her first instinct, to push him away and call him by name, was forestalled by a sudden thought. *What if this happens when we’re under surveillance?*
She felt a flush of heat through her body as his hand moved on her belly, spreading flat and possessive across her midsection.
*Jesus. How many nights is this going to happen?*
“Martin?” she said softly, hoping that her voice still sounded natural and relaxed. He stirred a bit at the sound of her voice, then pulled her closer, his hand sliding under her shirt.
She lay there, perfectly still as his hand rubbed her skin, not seductively, but almost briskly. His fingers were straying dangerously close to her breasts.
“Martin.” She spoke a little louder. His hand stopped rubbing, and she stifled a laugh as he actually patted her belly.
Her amusement at the patting faltered when his right hand moved abruptly upward, settling firmly on the bare skin of her left breast.
“Hey!” Her voice came out quite a bit louder than she expected, and the hand on her breast froze for a moment, then abruptly disappeared. As did half the blankets as Mulder abruptly turned over in the bed.
It took quite some time for her to fall back asleep.
Mulder didn’t expect to fall back asleep at all.
It had been a nice dream, a warm dream. Hot, actually. The shocker was waking up with Dana Scully’s breast in his hand.
A stream of expletives flowed through his head, restrained only by the fact of the woman lying next to him in bed.
*How the hell do we deal with this?*
Somehow the whole idea of acting married seemed pretty damn easy during the day—even taking a shower hadn’t been as difficult as it could have been. But waking up finding he’d rutted his way to second base in his sleep was a whole ‘nother ball game.
*Does the word “consensual” mean anything to you? Does she have to bring Byers’ Curare spray to bed to keep your hands off her?*
He lay there listening to her slowing breathing. After a while, she shifted in the bed. He stayed perfectly still as he felt her move closer to him. A hand slid past his hip, grabbing a fistful of blankets and pulling them.
*Great. You grope her, then you steal the covers.*
The hand returned, and his breath caught in his throat as it tucked itself tidily around his waist. Her breath was soft, quiet, and warm in the middle of his back, and he felt her legs curl forward, her body spooning snug against his.
*And she rewards you like this. Jesus.*
He almost smiled as the warmth and her breathing lulled him back to sleep.