"Hey, Mulder? It's Frohike. Remember that video game you got for Christmas two years ago? I have a possible solution to your problem with it."
His voice was toneless, totally lacking in expression. A chill swept through me as I recalled the code name for anything to do with Emily Sim, Scully's daughter.
Frohike gave me a beat or two to catch my breath, then continued, "Why don't you stop by our place this evening, Mulder? Plenty of nachos for all."
"I'll do that, say about eight?"
"Will the lovely Agent Scully be coming along, too?" he said hopefully. Frohike asked out of politeness, already knowing what my answer would be.
"No, sorry. Can't let her in on the game secret yet, Frohike," I said, my voice shaking with emotion for a fraction of a second.
"Well, give her my regards, Mulder. We'd all like to see her soon."
"I'll do that. And I'll be over tonight. See ya."
"Affirmative," he said, ending our conversation.
"What game secret?"
Scully stood at the door, patiently waiting for my response. Damn! How long had she been standing there? Long enough, apparently. She's supposed to be in her office, doing research on the Net. She can't know about this. Not yet. Maybe never. I had no idea how much information Frohike had on any other possible children, if any. It had taken him two years to get anything and I didn't want to share this with Scully until I absolutely had to. I would protect her from heartbreak for the rest of my life, if need be.
I cleared my throat and said as calmly as possible, "It's just a video game, Scully. Sort of a Lara Croft clone we were playing the other day. He wants me to come over tonight and help him with it."
"Yeah, sure, Mulder. I bet. I can tell you're lying through your teeth, but I'll forgive you for the moment. I've got to leave for the day, run a bunch of errands. Just wanted to let you know the Morgan autopsies are all done. In fact, here's the folders and the reports."
She walked over to my desk, heels clicking softly, trenchcoat swaying around her petite form. She placed them on the corner of the desk and leaned against the filing cabinet nearby.
"Call you tonight, O.K.?"
"Alright. I won't be in till ten, though," I said, as conciliatory as I could. I wasn't going to admit to anything, even when she caught me in a deliberate lie. My primary responsibility was to keep sorrow out of her life, to shield her from whatever would hurt her most. She hated that, but she couldn't taunt me into an argument today.
It wasn't concealment. She had no idea I had asked the boys to practice their best 'kung fu,' get any leads they could about possible siblings of Emily. What she didn't know couldn't hurt her and that extended to anything, anything I didn't want to tell her of them. The agony she'd gone through almost two years ago was enough. I'd promised her shortly afterward that I'd never hide any truths about her own body, her own physiology again. I didn't promise that I'd reveal the whereabouts of her other children. I felt like shit about it, but there was no better solution at the moment. Eventually, someday, there would be. But not now.
"Okay, I've really got to run, Mulder. Bye, now." She patted me on the back once, grabbed her briefcase where she'd placed it earlier, and left the office.
God dammit. She'll pursue this like a hound out of hell. She knows something's amiss. Not from the innocent words 'game secret.' It was the strained quality of my voice that probably tipped her off. She can discern the tiniest fraction of fear or anger crackling through my words. She's been able to do that for a very long time now, and she's called me on it more times than I can remember. I'll just have to stand fast on this issue. As long as I possibly can.
Lone Gunmen Headquarters, 8:10 p.m.
"So, what you're telling me, Frohike, is that your friend was on the inside of Transgen Pharmaceuticals for the last year?"
"Yeah, Mulder. It took her a helluva a long time to get this info. These guys, they don't mess around. She risked her life for this. She's pretty damn good at covering her tracks, though. As far as we know, everything went off without a hitch. It took months before they assigned her the clearances she needed. And then she waited many more months before delving into their records. It's the real stuff, though. She's absolutely trustworthy. I went to college with her and I know she's a good woman."
"You compared the RFLP test to Scully's DNA, and it's a match, pure and simple?"
Byers chimed in now, "Completely, Mulder. And we ran it three times, to be sure."
"Are they still experimenting on her?" I asked, barely concealing the tremor of fear racing down my spine, affecting the timbre of my voice.
"She is receiving treatments. But she's five years old, Mulder. And very healthy. Her medical records indicate a slight case of anemia, but no other problems. The adoptive parents have had her since she was a newborn, and there's no indication of any surgeries or any unusual medical conditions," Langly said.
"Do you think she's a hybrid? Do you think she's some small percentage hybrid?" I asked, hating this game of twenty questions more and more.
"Yes. But, we wouldn't know how much without an actual blood sample. These records and tests she smuggled out only tell so much. You need biological material for these 'other' tests we'd need to run," Byers answered.
"Where do they live, again?" I asked rhetorically, sorting through the papers before me, looking for the address. It was in San Diego, a different suburb, but close enough to Transgen for regular visits there.
"Has your friend seen the child?" I ask, softly.
"Yes. She's... she's one of her doctors, Mulder. This is another reason why we're quite certain that Alexa is healthy. Our friend has firsthand knowledge. She also says that the parents are very devoted to her. Very well educated, very successful in their careers. They're good parents as far as she can tell," Frohike said.
"I know you were just being courteous, Frohike. When you asked me if Scully would be coming tonight... you all know this has to be kept from her, don't you? She can't know. Maybe someday. When we can expose these bastards, but not now. I don't know what Scully would do if she found out..."
I was losing my composure rapidly. Even among the best male friends I'd ever had, I felt the need to hide under a tough masculinity that was failing fast. I thanked everyone, promised them all a great night out on the town, gathered the precious information into my briefcase, and got the hell out of there. Before they could notice any more telltale physiological signs of the misery I held inside.
I'd never be able to hide this from Scully. She'd know, she'd interrogate me until I cracked, like one of our murder suspects. I'd thought I knew how to evade anyone's close inquiry until I met Scully. She could be more belligerent than many male officers; she was undoubtedly better at questioning than me. She rarely lost her temper; I did more often than I'd like to admit.
Her body size was deceiving. Once her intellect was in gear, once she had intimidated the largest of men with a steady stream of carefully chosen queries, they were down for the count in the vast majority of cases. She must have had to stand up to big brother Bill an awful lot as a kid. She stood up to her Dad when she decided to go into the FBI instead of medicine. And she's repeatedly stood up to me, squeezing my balls down to size.
The only strategy I could take was avoidance. I could find some other volatile topic of discussion whenever she tries to wheedle out of me what's wrong. There must be hundreds of available ones; maybe I should memorize twenty or thirty to be sure of a suitable diversion. Just about every case we've taken has some debatable point I can bring up, just to deflect her interest.
Better keep my briefcase locked at all times from now on, I thought, as I pulled into my parking space. I walked idly to my apartment door, opened it, threw on the foyer light and tossed most of my outerwear and office gear on the table. I double locked my door and killed the light.
I slipped off my shoes, removed my gun and holster, then stripped most of my clothes off, leaving them in a pile near the bedroom door. I opened the door and walked over to bed, sliding beneath the sheets.
"Hey," she said sleepily.
"Hey, you." I reached over and pulled her into my arms, wrapping my hands around one of my favorite spots, her stomach. She fluttered at the feel of my cold hands and used her own to rub some warmth into them.
"What time is it, Mulder?"
"Right on time, huh?"
"Yep." I kissed her neck, then nuzzled her hair tenderly. My hands were still on her stomach, caressing her in an almost non-sexual way. I knew she wouldn't allow any lovemaking till she'd gone through her itemized list of questions. I'd tried to avoid this ritual more than once in the past six months we'd been together. Every time, she would interrupt our passion for one more thing on her mind. Two or three times it had caused full-blown arguments between us, not always accompanied by makeup sex. I had learned my lesson fairly quickly. Endure the interrogation, enjoy the aftermath.
She drew closer to me, pushing her back into my chest. Our legs entwined naturally; she seemed relaxed tonight, happy even. She could be deceptive. I waited to find out.
"So how's the Lara Croft clone?" she asked quietly.
"The what?" I didn't realize till those words escaped my mouth how stupidly I'd blown my cover.
"Video game, Mulder?"
"Oh, yeah. We played video games and ate nachos, Scully," I said, in one last ditch effort to save myself.
"No you didn't," she said adamantly.
"No, I didn't," I conceded. Why did I ever imagine I could withhold anything from her? She probably could intuit from my general demeanor that something was on my mind. Certainly not a fucking video game.
She turned around in my arms and faced me, then drew closer and kissed me lightly before continuing, "You don't have to tell me, Mulder. But... I know you didn't go over there because of one of our cases. You would have brought me along for that. And I know you don't go over there to idly play asteroids with the Three Stooges. Not when I've already told you in secret squirrel language that I'll be waiting for you in your bed tonight. So what gives, monster boy?"
Despite my mental efforts to stay neutral in this situation, my body is aroused by the slight tinge of anger in her voice. If I were psychoanalyzing myself, I'm sure I'd have a lot to say about that. At that moment, it just made me dip my head to her neck and kiss the sweet, soft skin there. I pulled her hips closer to mine, grinding against her gently. Angry or not, I had to feel her against me, all around me, before I could confess to anything.
"Well?" She wasn't rejecting my advances. She wasn't exactly encouraging them, either. I could see her eyes in the light filtering through my blinds. They were totally serene, prepared for a long night of Scully's version of The Spanish Inquisition, if need be.
"I don't want to tell you."
"It'll just bring you more hurt, Scully. I don't want to be the messenger."
"It's about Emily, isn't it?"
Defeated, I tersely said "Yes."
Instead of screaming at me, she kissed me tenderly, then lay her head on my shoulder and tightened her arm around my waist.
"Please tell me, Mulder. It's no use trying to protect me. You tried before and it tore us apart for so many months, almost a year. Please... just tell me."
"There's another child."
She let out a troubled gasp and I could feel her whole body shudder against mine. I massaged her back as well as I could with one arm, then brought her whole body closer with the other. She clutched at my waist and pushed her face down into my chest for several minutes, struggling with emotions that I knew too well.
I was disturbed by this revelation as much as she was. It was excruciating to imagine Scully's child growing up without her. And the thought that there might be more somewhere was devastating to us both.
I hadn't asked the Gunmen if they'd compared the child's DNA with my own profile. I assumed they had. It was a valid assumption, based on years of contact with them. They wouldn't have left that stone unturned.
It didn't matter if the little girl wasn't my biological child. It *was* Scully's and Scully was the most important person in my life. She had been for quite a few years. Our sexual intimacy had only made our lives happier; she'd already been the center of my universe for a very long time.
"What's she like, Mulder?" Her voice quavered and my heart sank at the misery encasing her.
"She's five. She has loving parents. She's very healthy, with a slight case of anemia. No sign of green cysts."
Scully fought back tears, sniffling softly, as I tried to soothe her with gentle, shaky hands. "How did they find out all this?"
"They know someone. A doctor. She's on the inside; it's very dangerous for her to sneak information out."
"What's her name?"
I thought my vocal cords would freeze when she asked that. It was more like a lamentation than a question, a wail from the depths of her heart. I swallowed hard and said, my voice shattered with anguish, "Alexa."
"Yes," I responded, kissing her hair softly.
"She's okay, though?"
"So far, Scully. The doctor, their friend, treats her for her condition. She should know."
"What a risk she's taking."
"Her parents love her."
"I believe they do, Scully. Very much."
"I don't want to see her, Mulder."
Tears streamed down my face. I couldn't hold them back anymore. This child would never know her real mother, the woman who lay cradled in my inadequate arms. I loved Scully so much. I loved any child of hers with equal passion.
Though we'd only been sleeping together six months, I'd known for years that I only wanted a family with one woman, this woman beside me. However we found our own children was fine with me. If there was only adoption, we would do it. If there was some other miracle method of motherhood, we would try it. I only wanted what Scully wanted. She was all I ever wanted in this world.
Scully cried quietly in my arms, her body jerking ever so slightly at times as she fought for partial breaths. I rocked her gently, whispering nonsense in her ear. I scattered delicate kisses on her cheeks, then licked and nipped at her lips softly. She responded to my gentle overture, returning my kisses with a passion borne of sadness, but propelled by our abiding love.
We made love not to create a child, but to create a loving matrix for that child... when we finally found her. Or him. A future child of whatever sex, appearance, or personality we were lucky enough to receive.
I knew this would happen for us. I was certain of it. We would confront whatever obstacles blocked our way, including fucking aliens, smoking men, and assassins. We would save the world, save ourselves, save our children. I wasn't giving up on Scully's dreams. Because she'd never given up on mine.
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