"My lover's gone. No earthly ships will ever bring him home again."--Dido
It's the little things that kill you.
Scully had been sick to her stomach all day, craving something, but nothing seemed to placate the growing life inside her. In the grocery store, she'd wandered the aisles until suddenly she found herself standing right in front of the only thing in the entire building that looked good to her, but she couldn't bring herself to pick it up.
As she looked at the brightly colored packages, her hands clenched at her sides and a huge wad of grief welled up from her solar plexus into her throat. If she didn't hold completely still, it would explode out of her face and somebody would call security.
After a moment it faded, retreating back into the ever-present sorrow that lurked just under her heart. She grabbed three bags of seeds and ran.
Right into whoever had been standing behind her.
The woman lurched backward, oranges rolling out of her handheld grocery basket as Scully grabbed at her arm. Between the two of them, they restored balance and retrieved the oranges.
"I'm so sorry," Scully chanted, feeling tears well again. "I'm so sorry."
"It's all right." The woman settled the last orange back in the basket and laid her hand against Scully's arm. "It really is." She paused, studying Scully's face. "Are you all right?"
Scully sniffed and blinked, trying to hide the evidence. "I'm fine."
Scully stared. The woman was scrutinizing her with complete sincerity. She was a few inches taller than Scully-who wasn't?-with thick, black hair and green eyes. Her direct gaze held Scully's captive.
"What did you say?"
"You're grieving for someone. He's still alive."
The woman was obviously a nutcase. But Scully had lost a good deal of her skepticism the day the doctor had showed her a positive pregnancy test and a blurry ultrasound, not quite eight weeks ago. "How do you know?"
The woman looked away, at the other shoppers. A few were staring at them. "This isn't the place. Here." She drew a business card from an outside pocket of her purse. "Call me. I can see you tonight."
Scully looked at the card. Abigail Mackenzie, it said. Psychic readings. Beneath was a phone number.
"Call me," said Abigail again.
Scully's hand shook on the card. "I will."
The house seemed ordinary enough, but Scully still couldn't believe she was standing here, knocking on the door, about to visit a psychic. Seven years ago she would have called it ridiculous. It was as if some part of Mulder had leached into her and made her a different person.
Maybe it had. Maybe even literally, she thought as she sheltered her belly with one hand, waiting for an answer to her knock. But that would be too much to hope for.
Abigail answered the door. She seemed calm and dignified in jeans and a light sweater, her dark hair swirling around her face. Scully felt instantly, strangely, at ease.
"I'm so glad you could come," Abigail said. "Please come in."
It was a normal house, with few of the trappings one might expect from a professional psychic. No crystal ball, no starry wall hangings. Only a faint odor of incense, a distinctly Asian slant to the decorating. Indian Asian, Scully noted, with a Buddha or two thrown in for good measure. She was a bigot, she allowed herself to admit, ruled by outdated stereotypes. Abigail led her to the kitchen table. Scully sat down.
"Would you like tea?" Abigail asked.
"Please." Before she'd called Abigail, she'd gone home, devoured an entire bag of sunflower seeds, and had a good, long cry. Now tea sounded wonderful.
Abigail poured hot water from a teapot on the stove and set a steaming cup in front of Scully. Scully dipped the tea bag up and down a few times, absorbing the green-brown odor.
"You know," she said slowly, "I don't normally believe in this kind of thing."
"Neither do I." Abigail sat down across the table from her. "Most psychics out there are just after your money."
"Which reminds me. How much is this going to cost me?"
Abigail looked startled. "Nothing."
Scully was skeptical, as usual. "Nothing at all?"
The other woman's face lengthened, her black brows drawing delicately together. "You're in so much pain. I wouldn't feel right asking you to pay me."
Tears came far too easily these days. Scully swallowed a throatful with a sip of her tea. "I'm sorry."
"No." Abigail reached out a hand. "May I?"
Scully laid her hand in Abigail's, palm up. "I didn't ask your name," Abigail said.
"May I call you Dana?"
"Yes." He didn't. Doesn't.
Abigail's fingers drifted lightly over Scully's palm. She wasn't reading the lines, Scully noted, but her attention was deeply focused.
"How long has he been gone?" she asked finally, her voice soft.
"Eight weeks." Scully wasn't sure how loudly she should speak, afraid an inappropriate volume might break Abigail's concentration.
"You're afraid he might be dead."
Scully said nothing. She couldn't admit to that. It might condemn him. Abigail didn't seem to notice.
"He's alive, though. But he's very far away." Her brow furrowed more deeply. "He's--"
She sat back suddenly, her eyes wide, jerking her hands away from Scully's. Scully's heart flopped over. "What?"
"I've-- I've never seen anything like this before." She composed herself, folding her hands together. "What do you believe happened to him?"
Scully pressed her lips together. "I don't--" She stopped.
"Please tell me the truth. Whatever it is. I need to know what I saw."
"I believe he was abducted," Scully said evenly. "I believe his abductors may have been--extraterrestrial."
Abigail shook her head in disbelief. Why was that so hard to believe? Scully wondered. Obviously this woman believed in her own psychic ability. How was an alien abduction such a stretch?
But Abigail smiled tautly and put her hands under the table. "You're crazier than I am."
Scully nodded. "Maybe I should go."
The other woman nodded. "I need time to think about this. I'll call you."
"Okay." She stood. "Thank you, Abigail." She scribbled her phone number on a scrap of paper and left.
She went to his apartment that night to feed the fish. One of the black-and-white ones--mollies, she thought they were called--hadn't been looking well. It didn't look any better today. She sprinkled food over the top of the water and watched the goldfish happily devour it.
It was crazy to pay his rent, but she'd been doing it. She couldn't bear the thought of him coming back and having no place to live. She would have taken him in, of course, but it didn't seem right to assume, to make that decision for him. Besides, it would have cost nearly as much to keep his things in storage.
That duty discharged, she wandered into the bedroom, sat down on the bed. The room still smelled like him; his skin, his soap, his shampoo, his occasional cologne. She stretched out and pressed her face into the pillow. Doggett had caught her here once, curled up in the bed with one of Mulder's shirts. He hadn't come back to feed the fish after that. He'd never asked Scully about her relationship with Mulder, either, had never implied they'd been anything more than partners. But she knew he knew.
She closed her eyes, breathed the phantom odors and let herself feel, just a little. The grief she couldn't handle, so she wedged it down, hard. The love, though--that she could revive gently, in small doses. When she let herself remember the pain receded, if only for a time. Time-release grief medication, she thought, and squeezed her eyes tightly against still more tears.
If, by some miracle, this child had been conceived in a normal fashion, it would have happened right here, in this bed. When she'd found out she was pregnant she counted back the days, estimating the date of conception, and found a day--a night, actually--that matched.
They'd just come back from L.A., after the screening of that awful movie. On the plane, on the way home, an odd thing had happened, odd enough for her to remember it. She'd been curled up in her seat, half-leaning against a snoring Mulder, when a sharp pain had lanced through her abdomen. She'd felt that kind of pain before. Mittelschmerz was the medical term. She'd experienced it often, a long time ago, the lancing pain some women experienced with ovulation.
But she hadn't been able to ovulate for a long time. You
couldn't ovulate when you had no ova.
That night, after they got home, she'd been uncharacteristically--well, randy was a polite term. Mulder hadn't minded. They'd trashed this bed completely, and she'd carefully re-made it in the morning.
Impossible, though. Ova couldn't just grow back.
Surviving that cancer was impossible, too.
Rubbing the small scar on the back of her neck, she remembered things, things the now-dead Cancer Man had shown her, and she wondered.
He was strapped to a chair. A strange chair, gray and metallic, that held him in a spread-eagled position, his arms and legs trapped beneath metal bands. He was naked and vulnerable, metal prongs gouging into his wrists, his face, to hold him still.
But he was alive. And conscious, as a spinning blade lowered, screaming, and broke open his chest . . .
Scully jolted awake, whimpering, her hands automatically moving to cover her abdomen. She'd had this dream before. Last time it had driven her out into the night, to Skinner's front door. The experience had embarrassed her. He'd been so kind to her, though, and he'd never spoken of it to her again.
This time she sat up and stared into the darkness, feeling the hot tears roll down her face. She who rarely cried. She who bit back emotion as efficiently as a soldier. Lately she couldn't stop crying.
How could she do this? She wondered, not for the first time. How could she do this alone? He should have been here with her, to comfort her when she woke from bad dreams, to buy her ice cream in the middle of the night. Instead she was alone in her bed. There was Skinner, and there was Doggett, and there was her mother, but it wasn't the same.
It wasn't fair.
She lay back down, curling her body around the precious burden it carried. It was a long time before she fell back to sleep.
In the morning she was herself again, sitting calm and composed next to Doggett while they justified the expenses of their last case to Kersh. Or tried to. Kersh, as usual, refused to hear anything either of them said. At his final, curt dismissal, Scully stood, straightened her skirt, and walked out of the door as crisp as she'd been when she walked in.
Doggett looked tired. "Has it always been like this?"
She managed a smile. "Skinner was a bit more sympathetic."
They made their way back down to the basement office. It smelled like Mulder down here, too, in soft shaded undertones barely masked by Doggett's more recent presence. She could smell wafts of her own perfume now and then, as well, as little of it as she wore.
Doggett sank into the chair. Mulder's chair, Scully thought, as she thought nearly a hundred times every day. "In a way, I can't blame him," he said, rubbing at his forehead, as if trying to iron out the lines. "I mean, some of these cases . . ." He trailed off, looking at Scully in mute apology for his implied criticism.
But Scully was in a magnanimous mood. Maybe it was because she'd finally started to like Doggett, after their unfortunately shaky start. "I know. Believe me. I've written reports about liver-eating mutants, giant fluke-men, alien viruses, teenagers who channel lightning . . . Have you ever tried to justify autopsying an elephant to your boss?"
Doggett chuckled. "I can't say I have."
"It's worse than actually standing inside the elephant."
Silence fell for a moment while Doggett straightened the pile of paperwork they'd just hauled back from Kersh's office. Then, tentatively, he said, "Agent Scully, I know you don't like to bring up personal things, but I've been wondering--"
He broke off as her gaze shot up to his. All her shields clicked into place almost audibly. "Yes?"
He cleared his throat. "I was just wondering how you're doing."
Her posture had become ramrod straight. "I'm fine, Agent Doggett."
His mouth moved, as if he wanted to say something else, then he nodded and looked away. She stared at his half-profile, the hard lines of his face. She felt a sudden need to give him more. Just a little. "I suppose I'm as fine as can be expected, given the circumstances."
He looked back up at her, surprise in his blue eyes. It was the first time she hadn't completely shut him out when he'd ever so gently fished for information regarding her state of mind. She wasn't sure why she closed him off so hard. He was her partner now, after all. He had some right to know if her psychological state might interfere with her performance. He cleared his throat again, and she braced herself for the next question. "You and Mulder . . . you were . . . close, weren't you?"
Her back teeth clenched. She could picture Mulder doing the same thing, the little bulge in his temple when he did it. She really didn't want to answer this question. What might Doggett think of her, if she answered him honestly?
But she owed him that. He'd saved her life already in their short tenure together, and would probably do it again. The least she could do was give him some honesty.
"Yes. We were close."
Doggett nodded. "I can see how working together in these circumstances could create a certain . . . bond. And after seven years . . ." He trailed off. "I'm sorry. It's not my business."
"You're right. It's not." Her voice was gentle. "But it's okay that you asked."
His face softened as he nodded. Another step, she thought, though a small one. But she couldn't help thinking it was a step further away from Mulder.
She was absorbed in the Internet when her cell phone rang in her jacket pocket. Startled, her finger jerked on the mouse, closing the window where she was reading baby names and leaving only the one on blood toxicology reports. Then, sheepishly, she retrieved the phone.
Her heart galloped a bit, half-expecting to hear Mulder's voice on the other end of the line. "Scully, I'm in Wyoming. I'm sending out a body for you to take a look at." But a woman responded to her careful hello.
"Ms. Scully? Dana Scully?"
"This is she."
"This is Abigail Mackenzie. Could I meet you for lunch?"
The door opened and Doggett came back in. "Yes," Scully said. She looked at her watch. "It's getting close to noon now."
"Fifteen minutes," said Abigail. She named a diner not far from the FBI office.
"I'll see you there," said Scully.
She put her phone away and looked at Doggett. "That was a . . . a friend. I'm going to meet her for lunch."
Doggett smiled. "Great. Have fun."
"I'll be back in a bit."
Abigail arrived a few minutes after Scully. She spoke to the hostess and they were seated in an isolated booth in the back of the restaurant.
"I'm sorry about yesterday," Abigail said as they sat down. "It was all a little too intense for me, I'm afraid."
"It's all right." Scully sipped her water. Her stomach was still uneasy today. She'd barely eaten breakfast, and wasn't sure what she could force down for lunch.
"I spoke to a friend of mine who knows something about the kind of event you described. The vision I had--it made sense after I spoke to him." She reached across the table to lay her hand on Scully's. "I believe you're right about your friend. He's been taken far away from you. I don't know how he could possibly come back but I sense that he will."
Scully swallowed, captivated by Abigail's voice, by the sincerity in her eyes. "I'm not sure I believe it." She gave an apologetic shrug. "I don't really believe in psychics. Or I didn't."
Abigail smiled a little. "Then why did you come last night? Why are you here now?"
"I'm looking for hope, I suppose." She looked at Abigail's hand, cupped over hers. "My partner . . . my friend . . . I think he would have believed in you."
"Your partner?" Abigail repeated. "As in life partner?"
"No. We were--are--professional partners." She paused, wondering if she should say any more. "I'm with the FBI."
Abigail's eyebrows shot up. "You're not investigating me, are you?"
"Oh, no. This is purely personal."
The psychic nodded and closed her other hand over Scully's. Her skin was warm, and suddenly Scully could almost feel the energy emanating from her. "I see that it is." She closed her eyes, the opened them again, her face startled. "He's the father of your child."
Scully sat back, as taken aback as Abigail. "No. It's not possible." But it was possible. She just couldn't dare let herself believe it.
"But you're with child."
"You were never . . . with him?"
"Then why is it not possible?"
It did seem like a ridiculous objection. But Abigail didn't know the whole story. "It's complicated. The truth is, I don't know exactly how this pregnancy came to be. I was supposed to be unable to conceive."
Abigail's hand tightened on hers. "This child is a child of love. He will be in danger, though. But his father will come back. I see you together."
"You're certain it's him?"
She closed her eyes. "He's tall . . . six feet, six feet one, maybe. He has brown hair and dark eyes. Not brown. Gray. A strong but gentle face. Sad in a way. He has a long nose and a mole on his right cheek. He's . . ." She paused. "He's very beautiful."
Scully blinked back more of the ubiquitous tears. "Yes."
"I see you together, with your son."
"Our son?" Her voice was barely a breath.
"But how . . . how do I find him?" She could barely make words.
"I don't know. I wish I did." She squeezed Scully's hand. "I can't give you any more. I wish I could."
"It's all right." She pushed her water glass away and scooted out of the booth. "Thank you for everything you've done for me."
"You're not going to stay to eat?"
"No. I'm not very hungry. The baby . . ."
"I understand." She watched with a soft frown as Scully stood and slung her purse over her shoulder. "Please call me if you need anything."
"Thank you. I will."
She'd hoped Doggett would be out of the office when she came back, but he was there, sitting in Mulder's chair and eating a bologna sandwich. Mulder despised bologna.
"That was quick," he said when she came in.
"I know. I--" And then the tears came, so fast she
couldn't stop them. She put her hands over her face, trying to force
them to stop with the strength of her own
will. Doggett shot out of his chair and went to her, put his arms around her. She started to push him away, then stopped, pushing toward him instead, burying her face in his wide chest. He held her hard and set his face against the top of her head, mumbling into her hair.
"It's all right. It's okay. We'll find him."
Finally she pushed back, the tears fading. "I'm sorry," she managed. "It's just-- It's too much today." She took the tissue he held out. "It hurts too much."
"I know," he said, and the sincerity broke her heart. "I know what it's like to lose someone you love. I know it too well. And I'm going to do everything in my power to be sure you don't have to live with that same pain."
She studied his face. There was a story there, but now wasn't the time to ask him to tell it. "I believe you," she said. "Thank you, Agent Doggett."
He smiled his small smile and laid a hand on her shoulder, then backed away, allowing her gracefully out of the moment. She sat down across from him.
"Do you have any more of that bologna? It smells really good."
She slept that night in Mulder's bed, listening to the shush of the wind in the trees and the gurgle of the aquarium. The molly had been dead when she'd come in and she'd fished it out and flushed it, sad for the loss of life, even life as seemingly insignificant as a fish.
Wrapped up in his familiar smell, in his familiar bed, she dreamed of him. He was free, and whole, and he put his arms around her and whispered into her hair. When she woke she smiled and put both hands against her belly.
If only she could believe it.