DISCLAIMER: The X-Files characters are the property of Fox, Chris Carter, 1013, etc. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2001 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG.
The doorbell woke Scully from a nap she hadn't intended to take. She struggled out of the couch and peeked through the spy hole. With a big smile, she opened the door.
"Dana." Skinner grinned back at her. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm fine." She opened the door wider. "Did you want to come in?"
He stepped in then saw the crumpled throw she had left on the sofa. "I didn't mean to disturb you...or Mulder." He looked around.
"He's not here. And you're not disturbing me." She moved the afghan so he could sit. She eased herself onto the opposite end and knew he was watching her as she did it. "I feel so clumsy," she said.
"You look beautiful."
There was an awkward silence.
Finally he broke it. "I've missed checking on you."
She smiled. "You don't have to stay away."
He shrugged. "You have Mulder now."
She made a face before she could stop herself.
He caught it. "So where is Mulder?"
"But he's around?"
"Well I'm pretty sure he's still on the planet." She was surprised at how bitter she sounded.
"I'm sorry. It's hormones or something."
"Sure." He looked around the apartment. "Did you get the crib put together?"
She shook her head. "Been meaning to. But things keep getting in the way."
"I could do it now. I mean unless Mulder is going to?"
She tried to picture that. The mental image was fuzzy at best. "I don't think it's something he's dying to do."
He popped up from the couch and rummaged around in her coat closet until he found a tool case. He went deeper into the closet, looking for something. "I thought I left my drill here?"
"It's in the bedroom." She laughed at the look he tried to hide. "I was hanging a new picture. The outside walls are really hard."
"Yeah, of course."
She couldn't help herself. "Did you think I was playing alien doctor?"
"You did." She rose from the couch and followed him into the bedroom, watching as he began to assemble the crib.
He'd started helping her with things after they'd buried Mulder, when she had no will to go on but also no choice. The life inside of her had been growing. Skinner showed up one day when she was trying to put some shelves in the closet. He gently moved her aside, drove home to get some tools and supplies, then finished the job. Later he found other things to help her with.
She didn't wanted to lean on him, but he made it so painless. The crib was his gift and he lugged the heavy box up to her place and then made room for it by taking some of the other furniture out. He'd been going to assemble it the next day. But that had never happened because the next day Skinner he'd gotten the call about Billy Miles.
"It's pretty." She said. noticing the details for the first time.
"Yeah, it is." He looked at her. "Can you hold this for me?"
She kept the pieces tight as he fastened them together. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me," he said gruffly. "You know that."
"Well then the baby thanks you."
There was another awkward silence and she imagined they were both thinking of the child growing within her. She knew that she projected a calm, almost disinterested aura when it came to the origins of her child. She had kept her fears from her mother, from Doggett, from Mulder even. But not from Skinner.
He'd come by one day to see how an appointment had gone with her doctor. She was depressed and scared. Didn't expect him. Her guard was down and she wasn't able to get it back up in time to hide her terror.
He took one look at her and asked, "What's wrong? Is it the baby?"
She tried to tell him she was fine, that it was nothing. He didn't buy it, and his gentle persistence was her undoing. Tears that she'd refused to give in to for months came pouring down. She told him everything. Her foreboding about the thing growing inside her, her fear that she was being used again, and her love for whatever it was she was carrying.
He held her, as he had at the gravesite. His arms a safe haven. "It's natural to be afraid. You would be even if this were a completely normal pregnancy. But this isn't completely normal, Dana. You don't know what the outcome will be. But until you do, just think of this as a baby, your baby. An innocent, beautiful life. Not something to fear."
His words had comforted her. But she was still afraid.
He reached for another piece of the crib assemblage, and she readjusted her grip to let him attach it to the larger piece.
"So you really don't know where Mulder is, do you?"
She decided not to lie. "No."
He didn't look at her. "I thought maybe that would change. That he'd stop doing that."
"He wouldn't be Mulder if he did."
She chuckled. "Besides, he'd make a mess of this. So it's a good thing you're here."
Skinner nodded. "But it's good between you? Since he got back?"
"Yeah. It's good."
How could she explain just how good it was to have Mulder back? To hear his voice and feel her heart lighten. To see his grin and have to fight to not grin madly back. To lose an argument to him and not care, because all that mattered was that he was there to disagree with. To feel his body next to hers in bed and know that everything was as it should be.
How could she explain any of that, when along with this joy was the constant worry about him? When he disappeared, she was terrified that he would be taken away from her again. She had to fight for control when he walked back through the door. She wanted to handcuff him and make him stay with her. But she couldn't. How could you restrain quicksilver? Mulder was Mulder. She loved him, but he just might drive her crazy. Or scare her to death with worry.
She looked at the man crouched next to her. He was so solid. So firmly planted. A part of her wished she could love him instead. Like he loved her. She had always known he cared. He'd never failed to look out for her. But the same evening she'd broken down about the baby, she found out the truth. Exhausted from crying, she fell asleep in his arms. Or nearly asleep. He quietly poured out his heart to her. She worked hard to keep her body relaxed, to appear to be oblivious. It was hard; his words had touched her so. She may have reacted because he'd suddenly stopped talking. She'd never known if he realized she had been listening to every word.
He looked up at her, caught her studying him. "Something wrong?"
She smiled. "Not a thing."
He frowned slightly but bent back to his task. "So you miss work?"
She appreciated his willingness to keep it light. "I do. More than I expected, I guess."
"Agent Doggett misses you."
Doggett. Her heart sank in the strange way it always did when she thought of him. She felt such guilt at leaving him alone. "He needs a partner."
"He's gone through several."
"Get Reyes reassigned." Scully thought of the dark-haired woman who had appeared to care so deeply for Doggett. "She could help him."
"He wants you."
"Well, I'm a bit out of shape."
"You know what I mean."
She didn't reply, just looked away.
"Dana. You know."
She met his eyes. "Yes. I know."
He looked away first as he moved around the crib to attach the last side. "Doggett's in love with you."
She shifted to help him. "Probably."
"No probably about it."
He was right. And she knew it, had known it, for some time. It wasn't something she'd seen coming. She and Doggett hadn't hit it off at first. She'd been hostile and he'd been arrogant. She would never have expected them to begin to work together so well, to forge a partnership out of what had been an arrangement destined to fail, if only Doggett had played by Kersh's rules.
Doggett. She felt the guilt again. He'd been good to her. Had protected her even when he didn't understand why she asked it. And he'd helped her find Mulder. It was like that old movie.
"Casablanca." Skinner said as if reading her mind.
"It's on tonight. I was going to watch it when I got home."
"I didn't know you were a fan?"
He grinned up at her. "Are you kidding? Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." It was a good imitation.
She laughed. "So when does it start?"
"Oh, in about ten minutes."
"You want to watch it here?"
He smiled, then his face fell a bit. "Unless you're tired, or umm Mulder comes home."
"Mulder doesn't live here."
He pointed to the pile of men's clothes on the dresser. "But he stays here a lot, doesn't he?"
She decided not to lie. "Yes."
There was an uncomfortable moment, then Skinner asked gently, "He's going to Lamaze class with you, right?"
She nodded. "I guess I never actually told you he was doing that."
"I could guess. I didn't expect you to need me for that once he was back." He looked sad for a moment, then his expression turned wicked. "Besides, I'd probably have to fight with Doggett for the honors. Just as well Mulder got back and saved us all a lot of violence."
She rolled her eyes.
"Quite the collection you've got, Dana." He stood and tested the crib. It seemed solid. "Me. Doggett. Mulder. Fro..."
"God, don't go there." She put her hands up in surrender.
"Okay, no Gunmen this time. It's getting crowded enough with just FBI."
She followed him into the main room and watched as he stowed the tools in her closet.
"You hungry?" he asked with a grin.
"I'm always hungry these days."
"Pizza then?" When she nodded, he picked up the phone and hit the speed dial she'd set for the delivery place around the corner. Without asking, he ordered her favorite.
As she went to turn on the TV, she smiled. Life was scary and unpredictable. She had no idea what the future would hold. Or even if she had a future. But she had a present. One that she could enjoy with the man she loved. All three of them.