Scully was starting to show. She'd known it would happen
eventually--you couldn't hide a pregnancy forever, after all. But
the reality of it had her riding a wave of confused feelings. She
was deeply content about her impending motherhood, especially since her
new doctor had put to rest so many of her concerns. But now that
the growing bulge under her skirt had become unmistakable, she'd have to
face the looming specter of What Other People Thought.
It had been easier to ignore the rumors and snide comments when Mulder was still with her. He'd just done the job, occasionally fostering his own bizarre reputation with a sort of masochistic glee. What was it he'd said? "Sometimes the need to mess with their heads outweighs the millstone of humiliation." In that spirit, she'd seriously thought about having a T-shirt made that said "ALIEN BABY" on it in big green letters, with an arrow pointing down. Or maybe one that said, "YES, I BOINKED MY PARTNER." But she didn't have Mulder's brass balls. Plus T-shirts didn't comply with the Bureau's dress code, and that last one definitely would have earned her a reprimand.
So yesterday, after spending the whole day with her skirt unzipped in the back, constantly adjusting her jacket to keep it from showing, she'd finally broken down and bought some maternity clothes.
She wore one of her new outfits today, a sleekly designed suit that didn't look matronly at all, except for the extra room in the front. She wasn't quite big enough to fill it out yet, but for the first time in a week she was comfortable.
Doggett looked up as she came in. It was impossible, apparently, to beat him to the office. She'd tried a few times, without success.
"New suit?" he asked.
She nodded. "I decided to give up pretending things still fit."
"It's nice." His gaze strayed to her stomach, where the cut of the blouse draped around the place where she would eventually expand to fill it.
"They actually make maternity clothes now that don't make you look like a flower shop exploded on you." She set her cup of coffee--decaf these days--on the desk. "So what do you think? Do the rumors start flying now?"
His mouth moved a little, not quite smiling, while his brows drew together. "The rumors have been flying, I'm afraid."
She sat across from him. "Not much I can do about it, then."
"No, not really."
She studied his face, wondering what he'd heard. "Is there something I need to know, Agent Doggett?"
"No." She'd been around him long enough now to know that was a bald-faced lie. "Nothing you need to know, Agent Scully."
He offered to take her to lunch, and she saw no reason to refuse. As they walked down the more occupied upstairs corridors, she felt people looking at her, heard whispers, a few giggles.
Now, that's not necessarily about you, she told herself. Maybe they're just discussing last night's CSI. That didn't usually involve giggles, though. Friends, maybe. But she found herself moving just a little away from Doggett, putting some space between them. She'd never even thought about that kind of thing with Mulder. More often than not they'd walked these corridors nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, so deep in discussion she hadn't been aware of anything but him and whatever cockamamie theory he was trying to justify to her. No wonder they'd started calling her Mrs. Spooky. The Widow Spooky now, she supposed, with Baby Spooky to keep her company.
Buckling her seatbelt in Doggett's car, she said suddenly, "Let's go to Casey's." She hadn't been there in months. She and Mulder had spent a great deal of time there, and just thinking about the place made her heart ache. But right now Baby Spooky wanted a burger.
Doggett just nodded and started the car.
As usual, the place was crawling with FBI. Scully took a deep breath as they went in the door, the smells of grease and charred meat reminding her of far too many things. A conversation, held nearly nose-to-nose, at that table. A birthday gift, given to her at that table over there. There'd been another conversation at the booth she and Doggett approached now. She remembered reaching for Mulder's hand across the table, squeezing it in reassurance while he beat himself up over the outcome of a case.
"You okay?" Doggett ventured, picking up his menu.
"I'm fine. Just hungry." She looked across the table at Doggett and for a moment saw Mulder, his darker hair and longer face. She missed his voice.
Doggett's expression told her he didn't believe her, but he didn't pursue the question. He did, however, cock an eyebrow at her when she ordered a half-pound burger with everything.
"Don't you usually have salad?"
"Baby wants a burger." She paused, fighting the instincts that told her to shut off, to tell him as little as possible. They were stupid instincts. "Mulder loved these burgers."
Doggett nodded. Mulder's name had come up between them maybe twice in the weeks since his funeral. As usual, Scully had been nursing her pain silently, putting up walls around it, not letting it show. Losing herself in the work, where she had to look at his name in various files and reports a hundred times a day. Her heart still couldn't encompass the reality of his death.
"I'll get one, too, then," Doggett said. He handed his menu to the waitress. "One more Fox Mulder memorial burger."
The waitress scribbled on her pad. "Whoever he was, I hope the burgers didn't kill him."
Doggett looked very much not amused. Scully smiled, though. "They would have eventually."
The basic problem with Mulder's burgers--not counting the high fat and cholesterol content--was that they took forever to cook. So she was left to sip her glass of water and wonder what she and Doggett would find to talk about. They usually came up with something, after five or ten minutes of awkward silence.
"So how's the baby?" Doggett said.
"Fine. Everything seems to be progressing normally."
"I'm glad to hear that. It's about time you had some normality in your life."
His frankness surprised her. "Yes. I have to say normality is a good thing."
Two suited men passed, sitting down in the booth behind them. She spared them a passing glance, registered the vague familiarity of their faces. More Bureau folk.
Doggett shifted in his chair, looked at the table, then at her. Working himself up to something, obviously. He went so far out of his way sometimes to keep from offending her, especially since he'd found out about the baby.
"Whatever it is, Agent Dogget, just say it."
He lifted his brows, apparently as surprised as Scully by the shift from the usual tenor of their conversation. "I know you've had some concerns about your pregnancy. I just wondered if, now you've got a new doctor and things seem to be fine, any of those concerns have been laid to rest?"
Tough question. She rubbed the back of her neck, feeling the small scar there, just below her hairline. "Some of them, I suppose. There are still questions, of course."
"And a lot of rumors."
She nodded. "Yes. Listen, Agent Doggett, I know there are bound to be rumors. You don't need to feel honor bound to protect me."
He started to say something else, then a piece of conversation floated over the back of the booth.
"Yeah, Dana Scully. You know, Mrs. Spooky. She's pregnant."
"No way! Are you sure?"
"She came in today in maternity clothes."
"Who's the father?"
"Duh. It has to be that weirdo partner of hers."
"Isn't he dead?"
"Yeah, but he disappeared about four-and-a-half, five months ago. Musta been his goodbye present…"
Scully felt vaguely ill. She looked automatically at Doggett, needing to see his reaction.
His face had gone hard and still. The sparking fire in his blue eyes fascinated her. Mulder had always gone very quiet and unreadable when he was about to go apeshit on somebody. This was a little different.
A third voice rose behind them. "I heard she was tight with AD Skinner."
Doggett came to his feet and turned to face the occupants of the booth behind them. "You guys want to shut the hell up?"
"Hey, look. It's Spooky the Second." Judging by the voice, this was the first agent who'd spoken, Agent Gossip Central. He looked young, and smug in his young-ness. He gave Doggett a bright grin and Scully grimaced. This guy must have just squeaked by the Bureau's intelligence requirement.
"Don't you guys have anything better to do?" Doggett said. "Maybe discuss a case or something?"
The set of Doggett's body alarmed her. She slid out of the booth and came up beside him, touching his elbow.
"Agent Doggett, it's not worth it."
Agent Gossip Central smirked. "Hey, Mrs. Spooky. Is the new partner getting some, too?"
Doggett tensed next to her. But before he could gather himself, Scully had planted her fist right in the other agent's face.
She took her hamburger back to the office in a Styrofoam box. Back at her desk, while Doggett watched in amazement, she managed to snarf down half before the phone rang. Doggett answered it.
"AD Skinner wants to see you right away," he said as he hung the phone back up.
"I can't say that's a surprise." She stuffed one more big bite of the burger into her mouth, wiped her hands neatly on a napkin, and headed out the door.
Skinner's assistant gave her a thumbs up as she opened Skinner's office door. "He deserved it," she whispered, then smiled demurely at the dark look her boss gave her.
Scully crossed the office to her usual chair and sat, folding her hands neatly in her slightly diminished lap.
"I'm sure you're aware why you're here, Agent Scully," said Skinner.
"Yes, sir, I am."
"You want to explain to me why you did it?"
"Agent Doggett was about to hit him, so I did it first. Strictly for the other agent's protection."
Skinner shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't quite follow that."
"I couldn't have stopped Agent Doggett, so I hit the man instead. I knew if I did it, he wouldn't be as badly hurt."
"Agent Scully, you broke the man's nose."
Scully was relatively sure giggling was inappropriate at this juncture, so she swallowed before she said, "I underestimated my own strength, sir."
Skinner's glare could have melted glass. It was almost too intense. "Agent Scully, this is a very serious matter."
"Then why, sir, are you trying so very hard not to crack up?"
Skinner stared at her. His face went through a grotesque spasm and Scully was certain he was fighting back laughter. "I just wish I'd been there," he finally managed. "I've been wanting to pop that kid in the face for about the last two weeks. Now at least I have a reason to issue a formal reprimand."
"What about me, sir?"
"I'm restricting you to desk duty until further notice. And I'd suggest you stay away from Casey's."
Scully nodded. Desk duty was no problem, and would probably be better for the baby, anyway. But the other-- "I just wanted one of Mulder's burgers."
Skinner's face softened. "You get a craving for one of them again, let me know and I'll pick one up for you."
"Thank you, sir." She stood and started toward the door.
"Agent Scully." Skinner's voice stopped her.
"I know this has been difficult for you. If you need time off, or--whatever. Please let me know."
"Thank you, sir."
"And if anybody ever says anything like that to you again, you let me know and I'll mop the floor with him myself."
Scully smiled. "Thank you, sir."
Doggett looked up in apprehension when she came back in. "What did Skinner say?"
"I'm restricted to desk duty for a while."
His tension eased and she realized he'd been ready to rush to her defense if Skinner had come down too hard on her. A little more of the ice she kept around her heart melted at the thought. She'd been wrong to close him out, she knew, but old habits died hard. It had taken Mulder years to get through her shell.
"Next time," Doggett said, "you let me do the hitting."
She smiled. "I think I will." She lifted her hand, flexing her fingers into a fist. "I think I hurt myself."
To her surprise, he allowed himself a small chuckle. "You're quite a woman, Agent Scully."
She grinned smugly, running a hand over the bulge in her belly, where the baby had decided to start kicking. "I know, Agent Doggett."