There were two, in that kitchen, no matter how many more crowded in. Maggie was often there and beside herself with joy; there were neighbors, and there were old friends that Scully felt guiltly for having forgotten. Frohike, Langly, and Byers stopped once, and Skinner twice, but there were still only two in that kitchen who understood everything.
Scully understood because she had seen -- she had witnessed and she had lived -- and because her lover believed with all the fire that she saw now in his daughter. And their Gretchen was born believing. The baby's huge blue eyes fixed on her mother's with a reflection of something brilliant and hazel inside them.
"Once upon a time there was a baby," Scully sang softly. The child cooed a gentle sound in his voice and waved her tiny hand. She had his nose and Scully touched it now with one fingertip. "Come on, my darling one, It's time for sleep."
Scully lifted Gretchen and balanced her while she dimmed the kitchen lights. Gretchen shoved her face into her mother's neck and sucked on a piece of red hair. Both of them hated to leave the comfort of his kitchen. Twelve months after he had walked into the light, this kitchen still smelled of generic aftershave and the cologne she had told him she liked.
"You like that smell, don't you, Gretchen?" Scully asked. "You like how Daddy smells? Well, when I find him, we'll smell him in all these rooms, Pumpkin, I promise." Gretchen gurgled and spat; Scully wiped her chin with the edge of the Nicks shirt the child was wrapped in.
At last Scully carried her daughter into the bedroom, where a neatly-made bed had not been slept in for at least a year. The crib was beside it. Scully put the child down and tucked the soft blanket around her. "Good night, little girl," she said. "All the love in the world." Gretchen blinked and sucked at the blanket, and Scully left her.
The soft grey shirt she wore fell to the middle of her thigh, and she knew the sofa's leather would stick to her legs. Somehow this was enough to keep her sitting up instead of lying down to sleep. It didn't take much anymore. Only from pure exhaustion had she slept in the past twelve months. The last night of peaceful sleep she'd had wsa in his arms in a motel bed in Oregon.
It was the coffee -- too much of it she drank, too constantly. It kept her on edge, and ready to wake on the slightest sound from Gretchen.
There. A soft whimper, enough to justify the move she made toward the bedroom. Halfway there she stopped, frozen by an irrational fear that there was a second child in the bedroom, or none at all.
Crazy. She was going mad now, mad as a hatter from the constance of being alone. Gretchen was all things but one to her now. She was not his gentle eyes and arms to get her through the awful nights.
Gretchen whimpered again and Scully shook her head once and moved on. She gathered the baby in her arms and began to pace with her, humming softly under her breath.
"Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the --"
Tears, as sudden as the baby's mood swings, poured down Scully's face. Gretchen was lifesblood and the essence of miracle. She was a child who could not but who had every right to be. Most nights, holding her eased Scully's longing, but tonight she needed him. He was not there when his daughter was born. He was missing things that he would never get back, and she was missing him with everything inside her. Both of them were.
Scully walked into the kitchen again; it was a kitchen she had scarcely seen when he was here. The sofa had been what she knew, until the night he had led her from its warmth into his room.
Gretchen was beginning to sleep. Scully rocked her daughter and whispered random bits of things. She told the child of Napier's Constant and of monsters in the water and of rain on windshields blurring roads to everywhere. Gretchen listened, and then fell asleep with the arrogance of her father.
"Come on, my darling one," her mother whispered, and carried the child once again to her crib. "It's time for sleep."
Outside, the mist sat heavy over darkness and city streets. A dog yipped mournfully downstairs somewhere, and a television rattled its voice away. This really was a crummy apartment, not nearly so nice as the one that Dana Scully and Gretchen Mulder should have lived in. But Scully could not bring herself to leave his presence or his spirit or the hope of him behind.
Someone was behind her as she stood beside the baby's crib. She knew it without knowing and hoped it was only with this lately craziness that she knew. And then the smell reached her: cheap aftershave of a slightly different brand, and something close to the cologne she had told him she liked. Gretchen gurgled happily in her sleep. Scully gathered her nerve and turned to face him.
He was as tall as she remembered and his broad shoulders were mostly bare. From beneath his furrowed brow burned eyes so passionate and hazel she could scarcely focus on them. She took in his arms, and his soft grey shirt that matched the one of his she wore, and the nervous way he reached for her and then drew back. His voice. She needed to hear his voice before she knew.
The silence stretched while he sought the proper words. She stared at him, and became aware of the baby spit on her shoulder and the tangle of her hair. He had obviously tried to clean up, but he was only partly shaven, and his hair, like hers, was tangled. He was beautiful and she wondered if he were real.
"I would have chosen red curtains instead of blue," he finally stated, and she lost all hesitation as she walked into his arms.
"Mulder," she asked.
"Scully," he reassured her.
After a silence in which they could only stare at one another, Scully asked, "Are you all right?" She said it quietly, so as not to wake the baby.
"Yeah," he said, matching her tone. "Are you all right?"
"Mulder --" She turned half-way and looked at the crib, and Mulder's eyes followed her own.
"What --" he said, and she put a finger to his lips. He stepped forward with her and they gazed down upon Gretchen.
"She's mine," Scully said. "Mulder, she's ours."
"How?" he breathed. His face was fascination and delight. The red-haired baby sighed in gentle sleep. Mulder took his eyes from her and fixed them on her mother.
"I don't know," Scully said. "I don't know how I would begin to explain. I -- am still barren. I cannot conceive a child, except that this child -- she was born to me eight months after you left. Her name is Gretchen Emily Mulder, and she was born because she wanted to be."
Mulder grinned at Scully for a moment and then realization dawned. "Scully," he said. "There's kind of something I've been meaning to ask you." She laughed, because this statement didn't track, and he smiled, too, before going on. From his jeans pocket he produced a small diamond ring. "I bought it in Oregon," he said. "I was going to wait until the right time, but if I do, it might appear as though I'm asking for another reason."
Scully's heart fluttered as Mulder awkwardly handed her the ring. "I - I'm sorry it's not in a box. They actually cost extra in a box ... believe it ... or not. And I was a little short of cash after all this --"
"It's fine," she murmured in awe.
"Scully," he said. "Will you --" Their eyes went on from there, the way they used to. His implored and hers consented. "Mm hmm," she murmured at last.
Mulder's grin would not be contained, and he was too thrilled to begin to be sleepy even after his journey back from nowhere, but he could see his Scully falling asleep on her feet. Gently, and with all the love in the world, he tucked her into his bed.
"Come on, my darling one, it's time for sleep," he whispered in her ear, and she smiled as his arm across her eased her into a year's-worth of needed rest. All things were whole, and outside the mist was settling soft as a blanket over a child.
21 May 2000