"You gotta push, Dana!"
She stared into Monica Reyes' strained face, appalled that the other woman could issue such an urgent order. How could she push, how could she force this small life into the world, knowing these people--these creatures--gathered around her would just take it away from her?
"It's mine!" Her voice came ragged with fear and tears, so raw she barely recognized it as her own. "Don't let them take it!"
She had no choice. Her body had taken over, working in fevered concert to bring forth the life inside her. She wanted to curl around it, hold it inside her forever where she knew it would be safe, but she wasn't in control anymore. Another contraction fisted around her and the entire lower half of her body gathered in a deep, primal push. She howled with it. A fiery circle of pain rose between her legs--It's crowning, her doctor voice said inside her head.
"Stop pushing," said Monica, her voice calm now. Her eyes met Dana's across Dana's still-bulging belly and Dana saw the fear in them. Monica made a few quick movements. The contraction ended. In the pain-free moment, Dana pushed herself up and saw the curve of her child's head bulging between her thighs. "Okay, the umbilical cord's out of the way, and I've got the shoulders situated, so you can push with the next contraction. I think you might have torn, but I can't quite see it now."
She had forgotten the circle of faces around her in the intensity of the moment. "That's normal--" she started, then her body contracted again. With a hot, wet, slithering sensation, the rest of the baby slid out of her.
Monica stared down in wonder at what she held in her hands, then held the baby up and toward Dana. Dana reached out and took the small, squalling bundle. Monica grabbed the knife and a piece of yarn and took care of the cord while Dana stared at her miracle. He was beautiful, healthy pink, the tips of his toes and fingers purplish. A boy. Tears welled as she looked down into his face, at the possibly strawberry tint to his wet hair, the prominent nose. So beautiful . . .
Then Billy Miles was next to her elbow, his emotionless face staring down at her perfect miracle.
"No," she said, the primal beast of motherhood rising in her chest. "You won't take him." But she knew there was nothing she could do to stop him, if he decided to take the child. Her heart twisted inside her at the realization. To have carried this miracle under her heart for nine long months, only to have it snatched from her hands, still sticky with her own blood. It was too much to be borne.
Billy Miles looked at her, then again at the child. He lifted his hand and touched the baby's forehead. Dana stiffened. She would rip this man's heart out with her bare hands if she had to. She would die, protecting this tiny life with her last breath, if she had to.
But he looked back towards the crowd gathered around her shabby bed and nodded once. As one, they turned and began to file out of the room.
Dana stared at Monica, whose face held no answers, only relief. The baby was still crying, rooting against Dana's chest. Automatically, she filled the squalling mouth with her breast, where yellow colostrum had already gathered on her nipple. "What just happened?"
"I don't know." She rubbed sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. "What else do I need to do?"
"Rub my stomach," Dana said. She was past embarrassment now. "I have to deliver the placenta."
"Will that be safe? With the abruption?"
"I hope so."
She was still contracting, though not as strongly, the spasms triggered partly by the need to force out the placenta and partly by the tug of the baby's mouth on her nipple. Monica's hands pressed gently against her abdomen, kneading, and with another, uncontrollable rush the bloody mass of the placenta slid out. Monica caught it in a towel and looked at it, her face pinched in distaste.
"Does it look normal?" Dana asked.
Monica gave a strained laugh. "How the hell should I know?"
"Is there a lot of bleeding?"
"I'm not sure. I don't know what constitutes a lot."
Dana tried to peer between her own legs, but couldn't see much. "I should get to a hospital. Just in case."
Monica nodded. "I'll see if I can find someone."
She half-ran from the shack and Dana let herself fall back against the pillow. The baby, her little boy, rooted into her breast in animalistic pleasure, his eyes closed and his fist clenched next to his face. He was smeared with blood and white vernix, and the top of his head was ridged and pointy from his journey down her birth canal. Reaching to the table next to her, she gathered a towel and wrapped it around him.
He was beautiful.
There were cars everywhere. Mulder ran from window to window, looking for the single face that would still the fear crawling up his throat. Window after window yielded nothing but blank, staring faces.
"Scully!" He banged on the car closest to him as it pulled away from him. "Where is she?"
This made no sense. He and Doggett had shipped Scully off to the middle of nowhere and they'd still found her. The strange blue light still stood in the sky above him. One of the alien spacecraft, he was certain, marking the way for all these people gathered here now. Except they weren't people. But which side of the struggle were these particular aliens on? He'd thought he knew, a day or two ago. Now he wasn't sure.
And they were all leaving. That was the most puzzling thing. Did they have Scully with them? Or had they just taken the baby? Either thought made him physically sick. What was he going to say to Scully if she was here somewhere, waiting, in pain, the baby she'd just birthed torn from her arms?
"Scully!" He grabbed the windowframe of a passing pickup. "Tell me where she is!"
A familiar voice, but not hers. Mulder stopped, looking for the face that went with it. Monica Reyes stood just outside the door of one of the buildings. He ran to her. "How is she?"
"She's inside." Reyes' face was etched with concern and fear. She caught his arm as he started to push past her. "She needs to get to the hospital."
Mulder nodded, then headed into the house. The room held a strange smell, musty and metallic. Was this what aliens smelled like?
Then he saw her. She looked tiny in the white bed, the bloodstained sheets twisted around her lower body. But there was a baby in her arms, wrapped in a towel. Relief made him dizzy for a moment and he stopped, just looking at her. Reyes came up behind him.
"There's a lot of blood," she said in a low voice. "I don't know how much is normal, but I think this is too much. Probably something to do with the placenta detaching from the uterus."
Doctor talk. All it meant to Mulder was that they had to get her out of here. "We have to get her on the chopper."
Reyes nodded and began to gather things from the room. Mulder went to Scully's side, knelt next to the bed. She rolled her head toward him. She looked tired, but for the first time since his return, he saw peace on her face.
"It's a boy," she said.
Hesitant, he touched the small cheek. He was thoroughly absorbed in his nursing and didn't even acknowledge the touch. "Got milk?" Mulder said.
Scully smiled at the feeble joke. "Not yet. Just colostrum for now. The milk comes in a couple of days."
"I've got a helicopter here. We're going to get you both to a hospital."
"They didn't take him, Mulder. They didn't take him." Tears rolled down her face and she reached for his hand.
"Yeah." There wasn't much else to say. He didn't understand it, hadn't really understood it from the beginning. There wasn't much in this entire situation he could wrap his brain around. Except this--her baby was here, and she was all right.
Reyes had gathered blankets and towels and now called to him from the doorway. "I'll go get your chopper pilot and we'll get going."
He nodded acknowledgement. Scully's eyes had drifted shut, but her hand still clung to his. He bent and kissed her fingers.
The bleeding seemed horrendous to Mulder, but he didn't know nothing about birthing no babies. Reyes said she thought it was too much, but probably didn't constitute a threat to Scully's life. So he deferred to her judgment as he and the chopper pilot bundled Scully and the baby up and carried her out to the chopper. Reyes followed, carrying something wrapped in a collection of bloody towels.
"What's that?" he asked her as they climbed into the helicopter.
"The placenta. They might need to look at it."
Mulder made a face. He hadn't realized childbirth was so--well, gross. "You okay, Scully?"
Kneeling next to her, he kept his hand on her as they took off, touching her shoulder, her hair, reassuring himself she was still there, still okay. She seemed to be doing the same thing with the baby, plucking his tiny hands out of the towel and counting his fingers. It occurred to Mulder he'd never seen a newborn before. How could any human being possibly be so small?
A few minutes into the flight she started shaking uncontrollably, her legs trembling, teeth chattering. Mulder leaned close to her, afraid. "Scully, what is it?"
"I don't know." Her teeth were rattling so hard she could barely talk. "It doesn't feel wrong, though." She laughed a little and he sat holding her hand, listening to her teeth rattle together.
The shaking had subsided by the time they landed on the roof of the hospital. Doctors were waiting with a gurney and Mulder found himself suddenly superfluous. Reyes spoke to one of the doctors and handed over the placenta. As they rolled Scully away, Mulder followed.
"Who are you?" one of the doctors demanded.
"He's with me," Scully answered, one hand reaching for him from under the blankets. Mulder took it and jogged along next to the gurney, leaving Reyes with the chopper pilot. He waved his thanks back to her and she acknowledged it with a smile. He'd have to catch up with her later, give her some more sincere indication of his gratitude. Right now he needed to be with Scully.
The doctors made their first mistake before they even got to the room, when one of the nurses tried to take the baby.
"No," said Scully firmly. "Absolutely not."
"Ma'am, we're just going to get him cleaned up. We'll have him back to you in less than half an hour."
"No. He's not going anywhere."
"Can you do it in the room with her?" Mulder asked.
"We can do that," said the nurse, though she didn't seem to understand what all the fuss was about. "I'll go get what we need."
So a few minutes later they were all packed into a room in the maternity ward, Scully with her legs akimbo while a doctor stitched up a tear, Mulder bent over the warming table watching the nurses clean up the baby and trying not to think about what the doctor was doing to Scully.
"He looks very healthy," the nurse said. She'd cleaned the blood and the white waxy junk off the baby's skin, put a diaper on him, wrapped him in a blanket and put a small pink-and-blue knit cap over his pointy head. She hefted the small, mostly sleeping bundle and deposited it in Mulder's arms. "Congratulations, Daddy."
He thought maybe he should contradict her, but it seemed like a waste of energy. Especially now when, looking down into the drowsy face, he saw unmistakable echoes of his own.
"Mulder?" Scully asked from the bed behind him. "How is he?"
"He's fine." He carried the baby to her and passed him into her waiting arms. "He's snoozing." He glanced toward the doctor, who appeared to be about done. "How are you?"
"Pretty good, considering."
"There," said the doctor. "You're all set." Scully eased her legs down stiffly as the doctor turned to Mulder. "She had a pair of relatively minor tears, and the bleeding was heavier than usual but not dangerous. It seems to have slacked off considerably. It's a good thing you got her here, though." He joined them at Scully's more communicative end and peeked at the baby. "He looks fine, too." He looked at Mulder, then back at the baby. "He looks like you."
Mulder exchanged a look with Scully, who smiled. "Yeah," he conceded. "Maybe a little."
"Well, we'll leave you guys alone. Visiting hours don't apply for new dads, so you can stay as long as you like. Congratulations."
Mulder took a seat in a chair by Scully's bed while the doctor and the nurse filed out. "What about the shaking?" he asked, suddenly remembering. "What was that?"
"Just the aftereffects of the adrenaline. I guess it happens to a lot of women."
He nodded. He hadn't realized how tired he was until he sat down. It had been a full day, to say the least, and he still hadn't absorbed the implications of everything that had happened. Particularly the implications of the nose on Scully's baby. He couldn't say he minded that, though.
"Scully," he started, but when he looked toward her she was asleep. Smiling, he stretched out in the chair and closed his eyes.
A nurse came in some time later with a bassinet and tried to put the baby in it. But Scully, even asleep, clenched her arms around the little bundle, making it impossible to extricate. Mulder, awakened by the small noises, joined the nurse at Scully's bedside.
"Let me," he said. He bent over her and whispered in her ear, "It's okay. I've got him." Scully's grip relaxed and he eased the baby away from her and into the bassinet.
"That was strange," said the nurse.
"You don't know the half of it."
It seemed like a shame to put the baby in the bassinet, really. He looked tiny and alone there, like he needed his mother. But Scully was dead asleep and he supposed it was, technically, safer not to have the baby in bed with her. So he rolled the bassinet next to the chair and laid his hand in it, on top of the baby's swaddling, where he could feel the movement of his breathing. The baby took a long, shuddery breath and moved his face a little toward Mulder, then settled back into sleep.
When he woke again, his neck ached and the baby was gone. He sat up straight, panicky, then saw Scully sitting up in the bed, the baby nestled in her arms, nursing again.
"Thanks for staying," Scully said.
"Where else would I go?" He stood and stretched, cracking his back. "You hungry?"
"Famished. I think they're going to bring me something in a little bit, though."
"I'm going to see if I can dig up something for myself. Will you be okay here for a while?"
"I'll be fine."
He found his way to the cafeteria, where he inhaled a plateful of watery scrambled eggs. Carrying a carton of milk and another of orange juice, he headed back to Scully's room.
She had finished eating, as well, and now was perusing a sheet of paper on her bed tray.
"Birth certificate. The nurse brought it by for me to fill out."
"So what's the delay?"
"I don't know what to call him."
Mulder smiled. "That's a very important decision and I think you should take your time with it. Because sometimes kids get stuck with names they really don't like."
She laughed. "Okay, I'll do that, Fox."
Finally she put the paper aside, still unfinished. When the baby was done nursing Mulder held him for a time, then settled him, asleep, into the bassinet while Scully watched.
"There are still so many questions--" she started, but Mulder shook his head.
"Let them go. He's here, he's alive, you're alive. Leave it at that for now."
She nodded. Mulder drank his carton of milk. When it was gone, she was asleep again.
The birth certificate still lay on her bed tray. He got up and grabbed it, looking at the blanks she'd filled in. She hadn't gotten far. Next to "Mother" it said "Scully, Dana Katherine." Then the weight and length were filled in, and that was it.
He picked up the pen. He filled in the name of the county in Georgia where she'd actually given birth, as well as the date and time. Then he paused, staring at the other blank spaces. He chewed the end of the pen, looking back over his shoulder at the sleeping bundle in the bassinet.
Then, in neat block capitals, he wrote next to "Father": "Mulder, Fox William."
Maybe she didn't believe it, maybe it seemed like too much of a miracle to her. But he didn't need a bunch of scientific tests or confirmation from some doctor. All he needed was the certainty in his gut. That particular feeling had served him admirably in the past--why not now?
Besides, where the hell else would the kid have gotten that nose?
He put the pen down and stretched back out in his chair. As far as he was concerned, for this moment, all was right with the world.