TITLE: Neither Moon Nor Earth
AUTHOR: Sabine
CATEGORY: A, UST, post-"Requiem"
RATING: R for protection.
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Xemplary, Spookys okay. Everyone else okay too.
Tell, don't ask.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to YV for Machete!Beta, August and everything
after. This is for L.B., M.S., S.E.P. and J/A.

"We've inherited hope—
the gift of forgetting.
You'll see how we give
birth among the ruins.

Yeti, we've got Shakespeare there.
Yeti, we play solitaire
and violin. At nightfall
we turn lights on, Yeti.

Up here it's neither moon nor earth.
Tears freeze.
Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,
turn back, think again!"
-- Wislawa Szymborska
from "Notes from a Nonexistent Himalayan Expedition"

+ + + + + + +

"Will she know?"

"She won't know."

"She'll blame herself. It will kill her."

"It's up to you, Mr. Mulder."

Mulder rubbed his eyes and tried to ignore the voices in his head,
clicks and beats and distraction. He took a deep breath.

"Okay," he said, pressing his fingers to his brow. "I don't guess I
have much choice."

"Very well," the voice said, with words.

He hadn't known there'd be so much blood.

+ + + + + + +

Maggie sat at the kitchen table, tracing patterns in spilled salt on
its surface and watching her daughter do the dishes.

"You'll do fine, Dana," Maggie said for what must have been the
thousandth time that evening. "You'll make a great mother."

Scully turned around, her hands soapy and her fingers pruned from the
warm water. She looked at her mother and let out a breath through her
nose. "Clock's ticking and I'm already tired, mom."

"I told you to let me take care of the dishes."

"And I told you I wanted to do it myself." Scully twisted her mouth
into a smile. "If I can't be eight months pregnant and do dishes at the
same time, I can't be a mother and an FBI agent at the same time."

Maggie chuckled. "Yeah, but if you can't be pregnant and *I* can't do
the dishes at the same time, how do you expect me to be a mother and a
GRANDMOTHER at the same time?"

"You do fine with Tara and Matthew," Scully said blandly, wondering
when she'd stopped thinking of her nephew as Bill's son and started
thinking of him as the child of Bill's Teutonic wife. Probably when her
back started hurting and she'd seen the last sonograms of her own baby
daughter and had clapped shut the fourth book describing, in great
detail, the agony of labor pains. Three weeks away. She'd agreed to an
epidural and an episiotomy and her OB-GYN, Sparkle Yoshi, had booked
the good room.

Scully leaned forward, slid out one of the chairs and lowered herself
into it, palms splayed on the table like steadying suction-cups.

For the first six months she'd thought of herself as an abandoned wife.
For the last two she'd thought of herself as a single mother.

She hardly ever thought of Mulder anymore.

+ + + + + + +

It had taken him almost five years to learn The Game, and another two
to climb his way up in the ranks until he was champion of his wing.
They were in the semifinals now, and nightly he was pit against the
other wings' best players, challenging each other for food and chits
and hours spent under the glo-bulb.

Amazing how much of a luxury light can be when there isn't much of it,
and up here there was light in exactly two rooms per wing, for exactly
two hours every day. Each of the prisoners was given fifteen minutes
weekly, and Mulder had accrued over an hour in the last several games
he'd won.

He'd planned to use it all at once. One of the guys – he wasn't human,
but he wasn't Calfang or Z'rok or any of the other races Mulder was
familiar with either – had brought a book, and even though he couldn't
read the words Mulder liked to look at the illustrations, strange alien
etchings cut in brown and black on thick parchment that felt like dried
flesh. He'd let Mulder borrow it in exchange for a couple boxes of
water, and Mulder was looking forward to his hour alone in the light
with the pictures, the only shapes he'd seen in weeks or months or
maybe years.

The glo-bulb was switched on by one of the Faceless Voices, and Mulder
settled into the chair and spread the book on his knees.

His hands were pale. He remembered color, remembered how back home he'd
used to tan and freckle, but his skin was white now, and clammy like
the flesh on his calf had been when they'd taken off the cast after
he'd broken his leg in high school. "Color" was something he remembered
vaguely as a word if not a concept, something lost and left behind like
"love" or "speeding ticket" or "top-40 countdown."

There were only men in Mulder's wing. At least, he assumed so, not
being able to see them and only able to discern from what their voices
sounded like rattling telepathically in his brain. But they'd talked
about their wives and their mates; they'd shared their names and their
stories and they painted each other mental portraits of their homes.
They'd all arrived here at the same time, with no information, no
goals, no hope. They'd fought at first and men had died. Then someone
had introduced The Game and they seemed to forget why they'd wanted to
kill one another. Or why they'd ever thought they could try to leave.
They were here for some ambiguous "forever," and, as people tend to do,
they adjusted. And resigned.

Two of Mulder's roommates weren't human; the other was from southern
Turkey, Tarsus, where he'd worked on a boat transporting tobacco. He
spoke often – thought often – of his wife and his daughters and Mulder
found himself missing the man's family as much as he missed anyone he'd
left back home.

It was all so long ago, anyway. Seven years now, or so they told him.

He'd gotten used to his thoughts not being his own and after the first
few months of headaches from the telepathic traffic he'd found he liked
the company.

None of the men knew what they were doing here, how long they'd be
there or what was expected of them, and after a while, they stopped
caring. They were fed on schedule, exercised on schedule, talked to on
schedule by the Faceless Voices who told them it was time to go to bed.

Aside from that, they were left alone, and it wasn't so bad.

Seven years in the dark.

Emil stopped asking why Mulder never thought about Scully anymore.

At first it had been because he didn't want to share her; he wanted to
hold onto those memories for himself. But soon they started peeling
apart, flaking away in layers in his brain, their partnership, her rare
laugh, the click of her heels on linoleum, the way she said his name.
"Mulder, it's me." Her face disappeared before her voice did. The
heartache went last.

Mulder, with shock, realized he'd been in the light room for several
minutes and hadn't even opened his eyes.

+ + + + + + +

She was trying so damned hard not to scream, so instead she was
sweating.

Sparkle giggled behind her paper mask and took Scully's hand. "It's
okay, Dana. You're doing great. You are almost there. Just another
centimeter, maybe two, okay? Even with the episiotomy you are still
pretty tiny, you know." Sparkle giggled again.

The good room had mock bookshelves with mock books on them, and mock
vases, or possibly real vases, with mock flowers. The wallpaper was
mock Devonshire and the bedspread was mock-seersucker, covered with a
layer of paperplastic with a hole cut out. A male nurse slipped ice
chips on Scully's tongue and they melted and evaporated before she
could swallow them.

She grunted.

"Have you decided on a name yet, Dana?" Sparkle asked in her Japanese
stacatto.

Dana nodded, trying to remember her breathing.

"Mom..." Breath. "Wanted..." Breath. "Melissa..." Breath. "I think."

"That was your sister?"

Scully nodded. Hee hee hee hee hoo hoo hoo. Hee hee hee hee. Hoo. Hoo.
Hoo.

"Don't worry," Sparkle said, peering down over her mint-green mask.
"Your mom is on her way. She will be here in plenty of time. Now, did
you and the father ever discuss names for the baby?"

Scully knew the doctor was just trying to distract her, and it was
working, and she appreciated it. She breathed, digging her nails into
the sheet to keep from clawing at her face, trying to scrape off the
prickly sweat.

"No," she said. "He..." Breath. "Didn't..." Breath. "Know..." Breath.
"Remember?"

Sparkle nodded. Then she picked up the paperplastic sheet and peered at
Scully's cervix. When she looked up, her eyes shone. "Really close
now," she said. "Your mom had better hurry."

"I want to name her Elizabeth," Scully said rapidly, gesturing for the
nurse to feed her some more ice. He obliged. "Beth. It's a good name.
And it doesn't..." Breath. "Mean..." Breath. "Anything."

Hee hee hee hee. Hoo. Hoo. Hoo.

"Elizabeth Scully," Sparkle repeated. "Is a good name. Yes."

Where the hell was mom?

+ + + + + + +

Bets were being placed.

Someone thought-sent him a series of clicks and he used them to
navigate across the room, forward three, left two, down a little and he
found the stool and the cool sphere and the little lightweight
pyramids.

::Ten minutes on East Wing, waterbox and two times dinner.::

Someone threw their bet into the collective consciousness. East Wing:
that was Mulder.

::Doubled:: came an unfamiliar thought-voice from the North Wing,
betting on his champion. Mulder smirked in the dark.

He couldn't lose. Back home he'd had gifts for criminal profiling,
investigative law, a knack for the uncanny. Up here he could work magic
with some thought power, a metallic sphere and a handful of plastic-
esque pyramids. He was always outstanding in his field.

"I want to bet on myself," Mulder's opponent was thinking. It was a
deeper thought, louder somehow, more direct, and directed at Mulder.
Something was familiar about it...

The man was SPEAKING.

Mulder hadn't heard a human voice in years, and even when he'd first
arrived the din had been foreign, alien voices and Emil's Turkish all
slowly replaced by the universal language of thought.

But his opponent was speaking. In ENGLISH. And his voice sounded
FAMILIAR.

It couldn't be, though. It must just be the sound of another human
after all this time, but there were traces of an accent, foreign, not
American, but English, native...

::You know him?:: someone thought at Mulder. Emil.

::Do I?:: Mulder thought back at no one and everyone.

"Yes, Mr. Mulder," the voice said. "You can speak to me. No one else in
here speaks English. They won't be able to understand us if we speak."

Mulder remembered light, blinding light, yellow like his eyelids under
the glo-bulb, and a sound, an explosion, he was thrown to the ground,
he remembered the mossy smell of rain on macadam and Scully! He had to
save her, she was dying, she was somewhere, and there was a SYRINGE and
ALIENS! Scully.

::Syringe?:: Someone thought, trying to place the image.

::Car explosion?::

::Scully.:: That was Emil, kindly, and Mulder appreciated the gesture.

"Scully," Mulder said aloud. He marveled at how well his tongue
remembered the route it had to take around his mouth to make those
sounds.

"Very good," the man with the accent said. "Now do you remember me?"

This man had helped him. Something about doubt tugged at Mulder but he
didn't remember why. This man was human, familiar, Scully. Mulder
swallowed hard.

"Yes," he said, trying to remember how not to project his thoughts. It
had been so long, a lifetime. Forever. "I thought you were dead."

"That was the general idea," the man chuckled. "I heard you were here.
How are you faring?"

Pain thrummed in Mulder's temples and he tried to shush the thought-
voices so he could remember this man, remember why he didn't trust him,
remember why his first instinct was to lie. All around him people were
gossiping, cheering, placing bets on the game. Mulder's palm sweat
around the fistful of pyramids.

He couldn't think of a single reason to lie. "I'm holding up fine," he
spoke slowly. "Where are we? Do you know what this place is?"

"Yes," said the man. "And I'll tell you, too. There are many things I
have to tell you. I still have contact with the world back home, you
know. I can help you."

"Help me get home?" Mulder's voice was loud, tremulous, frightening
even to him.

The man chuckled again. "No," he said. "You can't leave. You think
you've been up here seven years, but it feels like a lifetime, doesn't
it?"

"Yes," Mulder said. "I can't really...remember what home looks like. Or
feels like."

"Or Agent Scully," the man murmured. "You've forgotten her too."

"I've never forgotten her," Mulder whispered.

"It's all right, Mulder," the man said. "This place does that. It's
your home now. It's your life now. And she's moved on too."

"Good," Mulder said, not sure if he meant it. Scully. Was she married
now? Was she still with the X-Files? With the FBI? Was she a doctor in
Maine living in a house on stilts with an adopted Korean daughter named
Hye-jung Moon and a Rottweiler named Nellie?

"You've only been gone nine months," the man said. "Up here time works
differently."

Nine months!

::What nine months?:: Emil asked. Mulder shushed him.

Nine months. Yet she'd moved on. Hell, she could have a BABY in nine
months.

"And she is," the man said. "Right now."

Mulder couldn't breathe. "She can't," he choked. "Those bastards left
her sterile."

"Sterile except for their own purposes," the man lilted. "They needed
her. Just like they needed you. For this child."

Just like they needed him for this child.

::Mulder?::

::I'll explain later, Emil. It's okay.::

::Okay.:: Emil sounded dubious.

"It's mine?" Mulder asked.

"Technically speaking, yes. It is. Your own baby daughter."

"Tell me," Mulder said.

"I'll tell you everything," the man said. Mulder could hear the clatter
of the pyramids being dropped and the sound of the steely sphere
rolling against the course playing board. "Only if you win."

"And if you win?"

"If I win, I'll tell you everything anyway. But you will agree to help
me. And the project."

This all sounded too familiar, too many memories of souls sold and
lives bargained for the shady dealings of men who went without names.

But nine months had passed. And Scully was having a baby.

And Mulder was locked away in the dark with a brotherhood of blighted
and bereft men and no reason to doubt.

"Deal," Mulder said.

+ + + + + + +

"Time for your epidural!" Sparkle cooed, rolling Scully over to slip
the IV in. "You're doing SO well, Dana! You're a real trooper."

"I'm so proud of you," Maggie said, her fingers gathered like ropes in
Scully's clutched hand. Scully looked up at her mother through spiky
shocks of sweaty hair.

"Thanks, Mom," Scully whispered, her voice cracking.

"PUSH!" Sparkle cheered, and Scully's knees trembled and her thighs
slackened as the epidural anaesthetic leaked through her muscles.

This wasn't how she'd imagined this moment, back in her youth when
she'd had the luxury of imagining it. There had always been a husband,
some wavy-haired genius who didn't mind getting amniotic fluid on his
Dockers standing next to the bed with a shit-eating grin saying "I love
you, Dana; I love you."

Nine months ago when she'd heard she was pregnant a paternity test
assured her it was Mulder, but no one could assure her that Mulder
would come back.

He always had, come back from death, come back from the grocery store,
the motor pool, the brink of insanity. Always left again, but always
come back. She'd assumed he would this time too.

She'd talked to him, in her head at first, and then out loud when no
one was listening and she wanted to remember the sound of his name.
"Mulder, it's me," she'd say, praying that somewhere he was listening.

But months spelled months and Autumn made Winter and there was work to
be done and a life to maintain. And she'd forgotten about him, pushed
him aside the way she'd pushed aside Dad and Missy, cast in iron as
good memories and nothing more.

And now she would bring him into this world again, a part of him
anyway, and years from now when Elizabeth said, "tell me who my daddy
was?" Scully wasn't confident she'd know what to say.

"He was a good man..." she'd begin.

"PUSH!" Sparkle rallied on.

+ + + + + + +

Mulder was winning by a landslide and waterboxes were already changing
hands. He wondered if the other man had thrown the game.

The man thought a series of clicks but Mulder had anticipated that move
and he thought back with a common defense and two more pyramids
clattered to his lap. The steel ball rolled toward him and he caught
it.

"My game," he said.

"Well played," the man purred. "You're a worthy competitor."

"Seven years of practice with just about nothing else to do," Mulder
agreed, getting used to speaking out loud again. The thought-voices in
the background had faded and he was just about able to tune them out
entirely and his head felt hollow and lonely.

"A deal's a deal," Mulder said.

"Yes sir," the man said. "Come with me."

He thought-sent Mulder a series of clicks and Mulder traced them with
his mind and his feet, following the man down the corridor.

"They pretend to trust me, but they don't, really," the man said.
"That's why I had us play that ridiculous game."

"You let me win."

"Do you know why you're here, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder thought ::no:: instinctively, before saying the world aloud.

"You've only seen but a tiny fraction of this station you're on. The
wing you're in, there are thousands like it, labyrinthed, for miles and
miles and miles. Millions. Billions and billions of men."

Mulder shivered.

"All of you are here for the same reason, from six different worlds in
a corner of the galaxy. You are the breeding fathers of a generation of
aliens who will establish a foothold on those worlds for the race that
brought you here."

"What can I do about that now?"

The man laughed again, a sickening sound. "Nothing," he said. "The
project is too huge and too efficient to be stopped by one man. Which
is why they've looked the other way when I told them I wanted to make
this offer to you. I had to set up the game as an excuse – can't make
it look like we at the top are pushovers, you know."

"What offer?" Mulder tried to shout but he couldn't remember how to
control the volume of his voice, and it came out like crying.

The man opened the door to a light room and Mulder blinked, his pupils
dilating.

The man looked just as he remembered.

A monitor flicked on, displaying a ruddy landscape of skyscrapers and
pointy rocks that didn't look like Earth. Some thought-clicks and a
fade to white, static swam across the screen.

"Are you certain you're ready for this?"

::Yes:: Mulder thought. He breathed through his nose and let it out,
slowly.

+ + + + + + +

"Breathe!" Sparkle chirped, and from the side of the bed, Maggie
coached.

Hee hee hee hee HOO HOO HOO.

"Oh, you are so close!" Sparkle said. "Push, Dana!"

The nurse offered ice chips and Scully slapped him away.

"MULDER..." she moaned.

+ + + + + + +

Crying was so unfamiliar to him that when the tears slid down his face
he thought he was broken or bleeding or dead.

He watched Scully on the monitor, tiny and hideous and purple and
sweating and hollering out for him. Her mother was beside her, tears in
her eyes; some doctors and nurses stood around her smiling and telling
her to PUSH and BREATHE and MAKE A CHILD.

And despite it all, Scully was smiling. She glittered like the fucking
sun.

Seven years or nine months or seven years and nine months, it didn't
matter. It was her, his last lost everything, the fleshy shell of
feminine magic mixing DNA to make the child that was his. His! And
hers, together, partnership living on and somehow it was okay, then,
that Mulder was left up here forever in the dark.

"Why are you showing me this?" Mulder demanded.

"I wanted you to make an informed decision."

"What decision?"

The man sighed. He keyed in a command sequence on one of the computer
panels and flipped a metal cover up to expose a switch.

"Each of the babies is coded with a sequence of alphanumerics through a
nano-implant in its spine. The device is so small that no doctor would
find it even if she were looking for it, but this code enables the
command staff up here to control the fleet of children, once they're
older, to whatever ends they see fit."

"An alien army," Mulder murmured.

"They will age at six times the rate of human children. By age four
they'll start to want to leave home, to seek out others like them.
They'll rebel, turn against and possibly kill their parents if
necessary. Once they've joined their local camps they will be trained
by remote, and within a year a tribe of five year old children will be
ambulatory half-breed killing machines."

"No," Mulder said. ::No. No. Scully.::

"Flip the switch," the man said. "You'll disable the child right now.
Agent Scully will never have to face the infant, or face her own part
in this armageddon."

"Disable. You mean kill."

"Yes," the man said, locking eyes with Mulder. "They will believe the
child was stillborn."

"What kind of choice is that?"

"What do you think will be better, in the long run? For Scully to bear
a daughter who will grow up to turn against not just her mother, but
all of humanity? Or for this child to be stopped before she is
started?"

Stop the child.

Mulder felt his chest tighten. "Will she know?"

"She won't know."

"She'll blame herself. It will kill her."

"It's up to you, Mr. Mulder."

Outside, the men were being rallied for their meal, chattering and
gossiping and picking fights. Mulder rubbed his eyes and tried to
ignore the voices in his head, clicks and beats and distraction. He
took a deep breath.

"Okay," he said, pressing his fingers to his brow. "I don't guess I
have much choice."

"Very well," said the man. "Flip the switch."

Mulder kept his eyes on the screen, watching Scully laugh and smile and
holler and push. The doctor cheered.

Without looking away from Scully's sweaty, tiny, perfect, human face,
Mulder flipped the switch.

+ + + + + + +

"I've got a head!" Sparkle shouted. "Keep pushing, Dana!"

Scully pushed, and even with the epidural she felt like her body was
being wrested apart.

A moment, and then, "Dr. Koontz, come here." The second doctor crossed
from the monitor to Dr. Yoshi's side.

Sparkle's face had gone white and she spoke with urgency now. "You must
push, Dana. There is something wrong. You must hurry, so we can save
the baby."

Save the baby. Scully pushed again, her stomach in knots, her bowels
churning, her nails tearing at her mother who was crying, she was
crying and Scully was crying and Mulder wasn't here, damn him, wasn't
here to help her through this and she pushed and the baby was out and
Scully covered her face with her hands.

She already knew what the doctor would say.

+ + + + + + +

Mulder couldn't take his eyes away from the screen, even when the man
who had brought him here turned to leave.

Scully cradled the body of her infant daughter in her arms, red-black
seeping through the towel and staining the mock-designer sheets.

They'd left her alone, the doctors, and even her mother had left, to
give her a moment with the child before they took it away from her for
the last time.

Mulder reached out a hand to touch the screen, tried to brush away a
spike of hair from Scully's forehead but there were years between them,
lightyears and miles.

::Scully:: he thought, like it was the only word that mattered.

She would survive, she would get past this, but she would not forget
it. And the last bits of him that remained with her died with the child
heavy and red-brown in her arms.

::Scully. Always.::

He hadn't known there'd be so much blood.

THE END

feedback welcomed at sabine101@juno.com