Author - Donna
Email address - firstname.lastname@example.org URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Rating - R
Category - MSR, angst, X-file
Spoilers - None
Keywords - MSR, angst, X-File
Summary - They're undercover and growing closer Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know so that I can visit
Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended
He hurried off the elevator, straightening his tie. Of all mornings to be late . . . He nodded at Kim, who smirked at him as she shook her head. He tapped on the door and opened it.
Scully was already moving toward the door with a file in her hand.
"Sir, I'm sorry, I was running - "
"Scully has the information, Mulder. She'll bring you up to date." Skinner looked down at the papers on his desk in clear dismissal.
"Uh, yes sir." He turned to look at Scully, who did not look happy. Mulder held the door for her and followed her out.
They entered the elevator and as usual, it emptied out on first floor, so they had it to themselves on the way to the basement. "Hey, Scully, I'm sorry, the alarm didn't go off and - "
"I hate being called in there and having to go alone. I'm running out of excuses for you."
"Oh, not you, Scully. You'd never let me down."
She glared at him then.
"Uh, what's the assignment? Is it that bad?"
"I am not going to be Laura Petrie."
His whole face lit up, "We're married?"
The elevator doors opened. She slapped the folder into his chest and exited the car. He had to scramble to keep from dropping anything, then he followed her to the office.
She had picked up her cup of coffee and was tasting it. She grimaced at the coolness, then turned toward the door to get a fresh cup.
"Come on Scully, can it be that bad? Where are we going?" He tossed the file on the desk. "What, is it a nudist colony?"
Her eyebrow rose, but she didn't respond.
"Ah, come on Scully, don't tease me."
"No, it is not a nudist colony. Why don't you read the file?"
"Because this is more fun."
"Humph. You never got stuck with this kind of assignment when you were partnered with Reggie."
"True, but did you ever see Reggie in a negligee?" He gave a mock shudder.
She rolled her eyes. "It's not an X-File." She tossed out and watched his face fall. She couldn't quite stifle her chuckle at that. "So being married to me isn't enough of an attraction?"
"Depends, am I going to be stuck in the guestroom again?"
She ignored that and moved on out to get her coffee. He sank down into his chair and picked up the file.
She lifted her suitcase out of the trunk as he took his and the box. The woman working in the flowerbed at the house next door rose and waved. "Hi! You the new neighbors?" She brushed off her hands and moved toward them.
Scully shook the extended hand. "Hi, I'm Julie Becker. This is my husband, Justin." Scully motioned to Mulder. She noted that the woman checked Mulder out quite thoroughly and felt some emotion around that. It wasn't jealousy, that would be nonsense, but this woman certainly hadn't missed anything.
"I'm Dee Moore. And that," she indicated the baby on the blanket in the yard, "is Brandon." She smiled as the little boy successfully grabbed his foot. "Do you have any kids?"
Mulder watched Scully's eyes become shuttered, "Uh no, no children." She responded. Only he could hear the strain suddenly in her voice. Children weren't an approved topic since the in-vitro had failed and as usual he had missed his chance to get closer. Maybe that was one of the incentives to being here in his mind. He'd hoped that getting out of town, away from their 'normal' life would help. Now the first conversation was about children.
"Well, hang around here for a while, it'll happen. This is the most fertile neighborhood I've ever seen."
Scully's eyes were downcast now, so Mulder answered. "We'll be careful." He looked toward the house. "It was nice meeting you."
Dee smiled, "You too. Let me know if you need anything." She waved again and moved back to her yard.
"You okay, Scully?"
"Of course. Let's get these things inside."
They made several trips from the car, bringing in their equipment in the guise of household goods. Fortunately the furniture had been delivered the day before. Finally, Mulder waved one more time to the neighbor and shut the front door.
"She seemed nice." Scully rolled her eyes and moved away from him toward the kitchen. "What? You didn't like her?"
"Mulder, if you're going to be like this - "
"Like what? What did I say?"
"I'm gonna get Skinner for this." She said this under her breath and he moved closer to hear her. She didn't realize how close he was until she turned and stepped into him. His arms went around her to steady her, but she pulled back as though burnt.
"Let's just get this equipment settled, okay?"
"Uh, sure." He backed off; she was upset. He'd try to give her a little time.
The Bureau had stocked the refrigerator when they had moved in the furniture, so she made them omelets for dinner. They ate together, but she was still quiet and finally he mentioned it.
"Did Dee upset you that much, mentioning kids?" He was watching for her reaction and he got it.
"No. That has nothing to do with . . ." She shut her mouth for a moment, then, "Mulder, did you even read the file?"
"Yes. A couple of men have gone missing from the neighborhood. The wives don't seem that upset and apparently neither are their employers, but the parents have reported it. I don't think it's another garbage monster."
She started to rise, but his hand shot out and took her wrist. "So what is bothering you?"
With a sigh she resumed her seat. "Do you know why we got this assignment?"
"You, Mulder. We're here because of you."
"Me? What, I'm in trouble with the PTB again and you had to come along?" He was honestly mystified.
"Did you read the file?"
"I did. Scully, it didn't even seem like a case, much less - like you said - an X-File."
"Did you notice the photographs of the men that are missing?"
"Anything different about the pictures?"
He could tell she was trying to lead him, but he shrugged.
"You're not taking this case seriously." Her eyes were flashing with anger now.
"Okay, maybe I'm not. If the wives aren't concerned - "
"Maybe the wives are the suspects. Mulder, look at the pictures, tell me what you see."
"To be honest, vain, arrogant men. Hell, these look like head shots."
She leaned back finally, "They are head shots Mulder. All of the men that are missing do at least part time modeling. They're all exceptionally good-looking men. That's why we've been assigned."
He shook his head, clueless.
"If I hit you with the frying pan, will you pay attention? We're here because you're so damn attractive and Dee didn't miss it for an instant."
His mouth dropped open slightly then and just looked at her. Finally a grin started playing around his lips and she knew she was lost. "So you think I'm damn attractive."
She snorted, "No, Skinner does. Happy?" She did rise then, but he was laughing by this time.
"I've got it Scully." He followed her from the kitchen. "It's the Stepford Husbands. The men are good looking, virile, sexy and the women want to keep them that way. The way you always want me." He had to duck as she threw the couch cushion at him.
She was downstairs the next morning when the doorbell rang. Scully headed toward it, glancing up the stairs. She didn't see him.
Three women were at the door, Dee from next door and two other women. The tallest of the three, with a casual brunette ponytail, smiled at her. "Hi, I'm Alison Masters, Al for short, and this is Lea. I think you've already met Dee."
"Yes, hi. I'm Julie, nice to meet you. Come in, please."
Lea held up a casserole. "We come bearing gifts."
Scully smiled, "Thanks." She glanced over at the steps, "My husband's upstairs, I'd like you to meet him."
The three women exchanged glances and Al spoke. "That'd be great."
"Justin? We've got company." Scully called up the stairs.
"You want me to take the food to the kitchen?" Scully asked, but realized she didn't have their attention. She turned to see Mulder coming down toward them. Four pairs of eyes were raking his body. Scully's mouth fell slightly open.
He was wearing dark green running shorts and an old gray sweatshirt with the sleeves torn off. He had to have planned this. The son of a bitch couldn't have looked sexier if he was wearing a thong and had oiled his muscles.
"Wow, something smells really good." He grinned at them.
"Something sure does." Scully heard one of them whisper. She realized her first reaction was to wheel around and smack the woman, but didn't know which one had made the comment.
"We thought we'd bring some dinner over, moving is such a bitch." Al smiled at him.
"Great, huh Jules?"
"It sure is." She managed to retain her smile, though Mulder could see the steel in her eyes.
He trailed the women into the kitchen and got the mugs out as Scully offered coffee.
"I hope you don't mind sitting in the kitchen, the rest of the house is still pretty much . . . "
"No problem. It's where we'd end up anyway." Al took the mug Mulder offered her. Her eyes raked him again, and Scully's eyes narrowed.
"So, Justin, what do you do?"
"I write, so I get to hang around the house."
"Write, huh? Anything I would have read?"
"Probably not, I write technical manuals, for NASA."
"NASA? So you know how to make a rocket go up and stay up?" Al asked.
Mulder coughed, and Scully's eyebrow rose sharply.
"Uh, sorry, swallowed a crumb."
"It must be fascinating work." Lea smiled seductively. "How about you Julie, do you work outside the home?"
"Yes, but I'm on a research sabbatical from the university until the fall semester."
"Research? What field?"
"Really? That must mean long hours away from home."
Mulder looked away to keep from smiling. She managed not to snarl at him.
"So, Al, what does your husband do?"
"Dennis is working on a project in Chicago. We're having to do the commute thing." Mulder nodded and looked over at Dee.
"Guy's in sales, he travels a lot."
"That must be rough with a little one." Scully offered.
"Oh, I have a lot of support. The women around here are great."
"I guess that's a big help."
"Oh it's a god-send." Dee smiled over at Al.
"Uh, how about you Lea?"
"I get to sit around and collect alimony. That was a joke, but I had a nice settlement."
Scully caught Mulder's eye but said nothing. They visited a few more minutes, then the women excused themselves with promises to show 'Julie' around and to call if they needed anything.
Scully let them out and returned to the kitchen, to find Mulder loading the dishwasher.
"Know how to keep a rocket up?" Scully looked at him disgustedly.
He put up his hands in surrender. "I was just following the script. I swear I - "
"Can you believe them?"
"This is the part where I don't admit that that was kind of cool for me, right?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously and he took a step back. "Yeah, okay. Notice how all the husbands are gone?"
She took a deep breath and tried to center herself. "Yeah, I got that. And the fact that they can't wait for me to go off to work and leave you here to 'write'."
"Okay, what do you think they're doing with their husbands?"
"I don't know. It makes no sense. I'm pretty sure we haven't stumbled into a lesbian colony."
"I agree with that. I thought for a minute there you were going to have to defend my virtue."
Scully snorted and left the room. He followed her immediately. "What are you going to do?"
"I want to see if Dennis Masters or Guy Moore have been showing up at work recently."
Mulder nodded and watched her boot up her laptop. A few minutes later she leaned back and looked at Mulder. "We've got more missing men. Dennis hasn't been reported yet by anyone, but he hasn't been at work. I guess traveling like he does everyone assumed he was somewhere else."
"Got a picture?"
"Not yet. We'll have to get Skinner on that."
"I'll give him a call." Mulder pulled out his cell phone.
It was a couple of hours before the fax came through with Guy Moore's picture. "Oh my god." Scully looked down, "I bet he has no trouble selling anything."
Mulder looked over her shoulder. "He's not that good looking."
"In what universe, Mulder? He is gorgeous."
Mulder's eyes narrowed at that, watching her. She really did seem to find him attractive. Her eyes were dilated and . . . shit. He turned away and she looked up and grinned. Hell, payback could be fun.
"Okay, Mulder." She resumed a bland expression and called after him, "other than the obvious, what are they doing with these men?"
He grunted and kept moving away from her. "Mulder?"
She turned away so he wouldn't see her expression, and returned to the computer. "You know Mulder, Dee and Lea have children, little ones, and yet they didn't bring them over. Where were they?"
"They said they had a good support system. Mother's morning out?"
"Maybe, or play group, but they didn't look like they'd just given birth. Dee's baby looked about six months old."
"I think she's still nursing."
Scully cut her eyes at him but kept quiet. They continued to search for information about anyone they had met so far.
Later that evening, as Scully headed for the kitchen to heat up some of the food the ladies had brought over, she heard a knock at the door.
It was Dee, "I need a favor."
Scully blinked at that, "Come in." She stepped back. "Is there a problem?"
"Yes. I made way too much lasagna and I need you to come over and help me eat it." She grinned.
Scully returned her smile, "You already brought over all that food earlier."
"That sounds great." Mulder had come up behind her and put his hands on Scully's shoulders.
"Wonderful. Come on any time. I'll put the bread in the oven." Dee smiled and headed back next door.
Scully shut the door and turned to Mulder. "You sure this is a good idea?"
"Her husband is one of the missing. We might as well get all the information we can." He grabbed his keys and threw his arm around her shoulders. "Come on wife." He grinned down at her when she rolled her eyes.
Dee gave them a quick tour of her house and Scully stopped at the portraits on the wall. "Your son has your husband's eyes."
Dee smiled, "Yes, he looks just like his father."
"I bet Guy misses being around the baby." Scully offered.
Dee had already turned away and didn't really respond. Scully looked over at Mulder who shrugged.
Dinner conversation was light and they really didn't learn that much about her husband, though Dee asked questions too. "So how long have you two been married?"
Mulder spoke before Scully could, "Seven years."
"Wow, seven. That's a long time." Dee remarked.
"What about you and Guy?"
"Three and a half." She changed the subject then, back to the neighborhood. She extolled the amenities of the development, the exercise club, tennis courts and pool.
Scully wondered again where the children would be during all this free time, but didn't ask.
Dee was getting dessert when Mulder's cell phone rang. He glanced down at the caller ID, then caught Scully's eye. "This is that call I was expecting. Dee, I'm sorry."
"Hey, I'm used to it. Take your call." She handed Scully a plate. "If you need some privacy . . . "
"Yeah, thanks. I'll be right back." Mulder moved to the living room to speak to Byers.
"Julie, it's none of my business, but seven years seems like a long time not to have kids. I mean, having a little boy with Justin's eyes . . . Is it your career?"
The question caught Scully off guard and without warning, her eyes filled with tears. Dee saw that and touched her arm. "Julie, I'm sorry."
"Uh, no. It's okay." She dashed the tears away, "I . . . I can't conceive." Now why the hell had she told her that? It wasn't part of the script and it certainly wasn't something she ever talked about.
Dee blinked at that information, her expression unreadable, then it was gone. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have . . . "
"You didn't know." She took a bite of the pie, "This is delicious."
Dee took the hint and picked up her own fork. "Thanks. It's Cameron's recipe. You haven't met her yet, but I'm sure you will in the next day or two."
Mulder hadn't returned by the time they finished their pie. Scully helped load the dishwasher as Dee wrapped up a piece of pie for 'Justin'. The baby monitor came to life before Scully was through with the dishes. "Go check on him, I'll finish up here."
"Thanks. I'll be right back." Brandon had fallen back asleep before she got to his room. She headed back downstairs and met Mulder at the foot the stairs.
He glanced upstairs. "He okay?"
"Yeah. He didn't really wake up." She glanced over toward the kitchen. "Listen, Justin, I think I upset Julie. I'm really sorry." Mulder looked puzzled at her, "I mean, I didn't know she couldn't have children. I didn't mean to make her cry."
Mulder stiffened and took an immediate step toward the kitchen. "She was . . . she told you she couldn't have children?"
"I'm really sorry Justin."
"Yeah, I'm, uh, I'm gonna take her on home now."
Dee nodded, "I understand." Brandon squalled and Dee glanced back that way. "I need to - " She pointed upstairs.
"We'll see you later."
She nodded, "I am sorry, Justin."
"Don't worry about it." He headed for the kitchen. She was closing the dishwasher as he came in the door. "Sc - , sorry." He glanced around, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He looked away.
"Let's go. Dee's with the . . . " he glanced toward the front of the house. She nodded and picked up the pie.
They were silent on the short trip home. Once inside she placed the plate on the table and headed toward the stairs. He caught her arm. "Scully?" She stopped but didn't turn to face him. "What happened?"
"Nothing. I - "
"Dee said you were crying. What made you tell her . . . "
"I . . . I don't know. She caught me off guard. Mulder, I want to go up. I'm tired."
He watched her for a moment, then nodded. "I'll see you later."
"In the morning, Mulder." She was moving away from him and he watched her go. Damn, this case wasn't supposed to be about children. It was grown men that they were here about. That look on her face, damn it!
The door was shut when he went upstairs. He wanted to check on her, but she'd gone into retreat mode. His shoulders slumped at the thought.
He let himself into the room next door and got ready for bed, but the last thing on his mind was sleeping. He crawled into the bed and stared up at the ceiling.
It took him a little while to realize there was a sound coming from Scully's room. He looked over, then rose from the bed and moved closer to the wall. Scully? Was she . . . she was crying.
He was out in the hall just outside her door before he gave it any thought. She was crying. He tapped on the door, but opened it without waiting.
She sat up, swiping at her face. "What are you doing?"
"I'm . . . I wanted to check on you."
"I told you I was fine Mulder."
Instead of leaving, he approached the bed and after a tiny hesitation, sat beside her. "Scully, why is it okay for me to cry in your arms and not for you to cry in mine?"
Her mouth opened slightly, caught off guard by the question.
"I know Dee upset you. I don't know why you told her - "
"I don't know either. I can't believe . . . "
He nodded, "Do you have any idea what I would give to get that back for you? I know how much you want a baby."
She flinched then, "Mulder - "
"I'd do anything, I hope you know that."
After a moment she nodded. "You, you already have."
"Don't push me away. You're hurting. You know it; I know it. Please."
She looked away and felt him sigh. He started to rise from the bed, but her hand came out and touched his arm. He stopped and finally she looked up at him.
"I don't want to talk about it, but you don't have to go right now."
She moved over and he sat closer to her. After a minute she leaned against him. That surprised him a little but he was pleased about it. He draped his arm around her shoulders and they just sat there.
Neither was quite sure who had fallen asleep first when they awoke the next morning, but the awkwardness was less than he would have thought.
Dee came by late the next morning, with Cameron and Al. "We've come to kidnap you, Julie."
"Oh?" Scully glanced over at Mulder.
"Yes. We want to show you around. Justin can look after himself for a little while. Come on."
"Go on Jules. I'll finish what we started last night. Enjoy." He kissed her forehead and she surprised him with a quick kiss on the lips. He struggled not to show his shock, or to pull her back against him.
When she grabbed her jacket and was gone, he let himself fall back against the door. What the hell?
She returned over three hours later. He met her at the door when he heard the car drive up. "Well, the lady of Leisure returns."
"Leisure? You obviously haven't gone shopping with three women lately. My god, you need to train for it."
He grinned. "So what did you learn?"
"That they use the spa around here on a daily basis, which is why they don't look like they just gave birth. The 'support' regarding the kids is phenomenal. And none of these women are hurting for money."
"Well, their husbands make good money and they probably make extra with the modeling. Do any of the women work outside the home?"
"Nope." She cocked an eyebrow at him.
"Kept women. Nice set up."
"What did you find out?"
"Nothing remarkable. But I haven't gotten information back on all of them."
"Who's missing?" She slipped off her shoes and picked them up, following him to the computer.
He grinned at her loss of height, but wisely decided not to mention it. He handed her the printouts.
"Interesting." She flipped through the information.
"Well, I'd say Al is the leader of the women we've met so far, and you have the least information on her."
"Okay, I'll concentrate on her next. You hungry?"
"Starved. These women were too busy to eat."
"Well then, let's get some sustenance in you. Tell me all about what women do on an outing like this."
"Get blisters." She reached into the refrigerator. She stopped then, "Mulder, I just thought of something."
"Yeah?" He looked over at her.
"It probably doesn't matter, but all of the babies of the women we've met are boys."
"Statistically it's a little strange."
He shrugged and turned back to the cabinet. After they had the food on the table, they settled down. "I've got a theory." He grinned at her. "Scully, what . . . what if the men are having the babies?"
She looked at him for a long moment. "Mulder, that's not spooky, that's . . . icky."
"Is that a medical term?"
"Mulder - "
"Imagine how I feel. But isn't it possible?"
"Mulder, you've seen too many Arnold movies. It's not . . . men don't have a uterus. There's no place."
Mulder winced slightly, "Yeah, but . . . but my body could conceivably support another person, if there was an external womb or . . . " He trailed off as he saw her face.
"So you could have kids and I can't?"
"Come on Scully."
She rose from the table and he took her hand again. "Think about it."
"There's no need to think about it, it can't happen Mulder." She tugged her hand free and headed for the door. He was on his feet, following her.
"Scully - "
"These women gave birth to the children. Some of them are nursing - as you noticed."
"Yeah," he agreed. "So where are the men?"
Al called a short time later. "Do you have plans tonight?" She asked after she identified herself to Mulder.
"Uh, not that I know of."
"Good, grab your swim suits. We're all invited over to Shari's house tonight for a cookout."
"Just another friend in the neighborhood. Don't worry about bringing anything tonight; it's a free ride because you're new. Shari and Tom have a pool, so we'll do some swimming before we eat. Tell Julie 6 p.m."
"Okay, thanks." He hung up and went upstairs to find Scully.
Al dropped by to pick them up. It wasn't far from their place, but on a street they hadn't visited yet. The house was larger than the one the Bureau had chosen for them. Mulder's look at her showed her that he noticed. She managed not to grin. It was an opulent house, two story brick, three car garage. There was a curved driveway leading to the front, with cars already lining the drive.
"Wow." Mulder looked over at Al. "Room for lots of kids here."
Al gave him a long look then. "They don't have any children. Tom's child enough."
Mulder absorbed that without comment as he looked up at the two story foyer and the large chandelier through the palladium window. A man answered the door and gave Al a quick kiss on the cheek.
He was at least 6'2", thick blond hair and startling blue eyes. He was wearing surfer trunks and an Hawaiian shirt, opened to expose his bronze chest with a light dusting of blond hair. He turned to look at the new couple, giving Scully a dazzling smile. Mulder watched her reaction with what he hoped was an impassive face.
"I'm Tom Brandis, please come in." He stepped back and gestured for them to enter.
"Justin Becker." Mulder held out his hand, "This is my wife, Julie."
"Welcome to the neighborhood. We're all in the backyard around the pool." He led them in that direction. "What can I get you to drink?"
"I'll have a beer." Mulder said, taking Scully's arm.
Tom looked down at Scully and smiled again. Mulder knew a lot of money had been spent on that perfect smile. He was more than willing to cause him to spend more if he kept that up.
"A white wine, please."
Tom winked at her and nodded. "I'll be right out."
They could see the others out on the patio, and moved in that direction. It was quickly obvious that Mulder and Tom were the only men at the party. The others were the women that Scully had already met. The children were there as well, with a couple of teenage girls to keep an eye on them while the adults played. Scully visited with Dee and Lea.
Al looked around, "Where's Li?"
"She said she was tired and gonna pass tonight." Lea said.
Al nodded, "I'll check on her tomorrow." She turned to Scully, "Li's due this week."
Scully nodded and felt Mulder's hand lightly caress her lower back. She understood that he wanted to support her. She'd never doubted it, but it felt good.
Tom joined them then with a Rochefort for Mulder and a glass of wine for Scully. "Rochefort, I haven't had one of these in years." Mulder looked at the bottle.
"I have them imported every month." He turned to Scully, "Julie, if you'd like to change, the guest room is just inside to the left."
"Thanks." She nodded to Mulder, giving him her glass and took their bag from his hand. Once she was gone, Lea approached Mulder and introduced Shari to him.
The next time he looked up, Tom wasn't in sight. "Uh, where's our host?"
Shari glanced over at the back door. "He went in to get some ice."
Mulder's eyes immediately returned to the house. He was in there while Scully was changing clothes? Mulder took an involuntary step in that direction.
Scully came out of the guest room and was startled to find Tom waiting for her. She started to pull her robe closed, but stopped herself. She was wearing a one piece, unlike most of the other women she'd seen. It was black, high cut to make her legs look longer. The bodice was cut straight across but showed plenty of cleavage.
"Julie." He looked her up and down and smiled. "It's nice to have some new faces in the neighborhood."
Scully forced a bright smile; he wasn't looking at her 'face'. "There aren't many men around. Do you travel too?"
He nodded, moving closer to her. "At least two, three days a week. That's why I like to throw these parties. Stay 'in touch' with the neighbors." Damn, did his cheeks never get tired?
"Do you and Shari have any children?" She smiled, knowing the answer, just wanting a reaction. "I saw a lot of them out there."
He lost his smile for just an instant. "No." He said dryly. "Shari wants one, but we've got a good thing now. We have plenty of time." He found his smile again and let his hand rest lightly on her shoulder. "Julie, I'd really like to get to know you."
"Justin and I will have you and Shari over some night you're free."
"I'd like that." Tom's hand rubbed her shoulder lightly.
"Julie?" Mulder stepped into the kitchen. Tom's hand dropped immediately to his side.
"Justin, ready for another Rochefort?" He offered.
Mulder waggled his bottle at him, "I'm good." He handed Scully her wine glass.
"Okay, then I need to get out to the grill." Tom gave that smile again and turned away from them.
Once he was outside, Mulder turned to her. "You okay?"
"Mulder, I can handle guys like Tom. I don't need your protection for something like this." She glared up at him.
"I was afraid you'd swoon."
She rolled her eyes and moved around him. He grabbed her hand, "Scully."
She relented then. "We're playing roles here, Justin. Come on, we need to get back out there. I'd say you need to follow Tom's lead, maybe try to get friendly with Lea."
Mulder closed his eyes, but nodded. He would definitely get Skinner for this. It was hard enough watching Scully parade around in that suit. Knowing Tom was doing the same was maddening. Was there any way to arrange to sleep in her bed again tonight?
Al was back the next day as well, alone this time and Scully began to think she had them under surveillance. Mulder had obviously had the same thought. It was like she was casing the joint, or more specifically, him.
She hadn't been there but a couple of minutes when her cell phone rang. "Sorry." She glanced at the caller ID and put it to her ear. "Li, calm down. No, I'm only a couple of streets over. Just relax. Do your breathing. I'm on my way." She disconnected the phone and looked at Scully.
"Julie, I don't have my car with me. Can you give Li and me a lift to the hospital? She's gone into labor."
"Uh, sure." She glanced over at Mulder. His face was a mask, but she saw the concern in his eyes. She grabbed her keys and followed Al out.
"Do you want, should I come?" He trailed them to the car.
"No, no need." Al said, "I won't keep Julie long. It's not that far to the hospital."
"Yeah, okay." He looked back over at Scully.
"It's okay." Scully reassured him again and started the car. He stood in the driveway and watched them until they turned the corner. Damn, he was gonna get Skinner for putting her in this position.
Al opened the front door, and called out. "Li? I'm here. You ready?"
"Al, oh god, help me!" The voice was breathless. Scully and Al exchanged glances, then moved in that direction.
"We're here Honey. Try to relax. I've got Julie with me. We'll do the introductions later. Come on, we'll - "
Scully looked down at the young oriental woman, writhing on the bed.
"Al, wait." Scully had moved closer. "I don't think . . . you better call 911."
"Julie, we can be at the hospital in fifteen minutes."
Scully wasn't listening, tossing her purse aside. "You better tell them to hurry, then get me some towels."
"Are you serious?" Al finally caught the expression on her companion's face.
"You better find her husband too."
"He's out of town."
Something about her tone caused Scully to look up, but she didn't comment. "Go, call." She was helping Li to lie back now, all business. When Al returned with towels after a quick call for aid, she looked at Scully curiously.
"Have you ever delivered a baby?"
"Once, in the middle of a hurricane. Help me here. The baby's crowning."
Mulder stiffened as he heard the siren approaching. Something had gone wrong; he just knew it and had learned not to question it. He grabbed his jacket, patted his jeans for his keys and was out the front door, running in the direction Scully had driven.
He and the ambulance arrived nearly simultaneously and he followed the paramedics into the house as though he belonged. He was greeted by the sight of Scully holding a newborn wrapped in a bath towel, gazing down with wonder at the tiny face.
"Scu - Julie?"
She looked up then and gave him a tremulous smile. He moved immediately to her side. "It's a boy." They moved farther away from the EMTs examining Li. Al was speaking with the men.
Mulder leaned down. "Are you okay?"
She nodded, but he saw her throat contract as she handed the tiny boy over to one of the EMTs.
He wanted to take her in his arms, hell they were supposed to be married. He did and she leaned against him. "MuJustin, the baby doesn't look at all like Li."
"She's oriental, even if her husband is the 'Aryan ideal', the baby should look - " She stopped as she saw Al watching them.
The tall woman joined them, "She's doing okay, thanks to Julie. They're going to transport them. Could you take me by my house? I'll get my car and meet them."
"Do you want me to try to reach her husband?"
"No, I'll do that later."
"I'm sure he would want to know right away."
"Don't worry about Jerry. Besides, he's already done his part." Al turned back toward Li as Mulder looked over at Scully. Her face was expressionless, and neither spoke.
They moved toward the door, following the stretcher. Once outside, Al assured Li again that she would meet her at the hospital. Li reached for Scully.
"Thank you. Julie, thank you." She squeezed Scully's hand.
"I'm glad I was here. He's a beautiful baby."
Li looked down at the baby in her arms. "He has his father's eyes." She looked at Al and something passed between them, then the EMTs lifted her into the ambulance.
"Come on, we'll take you to get your car." Mulder put his arm back around Scully. "I'll drive."
Scully nodded and Al watched the two together, but kept quiet.
Scully was at the desk when she heard the doorbell. Mulder answered and she heard Dee's voice. "I won't keep her long." Mulder led her to the office, with Brandon in her arms. "Julie, I know you're working, but I had to come."
Scully was surprised as Dee handed the baby to Mulder, then threw her arms around Scully. "Thank God Al was with you when Li called. I heard you were wonderful!"
Scully shook her head, "Li did all the work. I'm glad I could help."
Dee shuddered slightly, "At home and alone like that. I would've been scared to death." She realized Julie wasn't listening, instead watching Justin hold the baby. She took a breath and nodded to herself. "Well, Justin said you were working, but I had to thank you."
"I'm just happy it all worked out."
"I'm going over to see Li this evening. Want to come?"
"Uh, sure. I'd like that." Scully glanced at Mulder. "What time?"
They made their arrangements and Dee took Brandon back home.
"I'll bet large money that 'Jerry' hasn't made it to the hospital yet." Mulder mused. Scully nodded and returned to her screen.
Li was sitting up holding her infant son when Dee and Julie arrived. "Oh Li, he's gorgeous." Dee leaned over to get a closer look. Scully steeled her spine to do the same.
"He is, isn't he?" Li looked adoringly at the boy. "Julie, I'm so glad you came. I can never thank you enough - "
"Li, you already have. He is beautiful. Has his father gotten to see him yet?" Scully didn't imagine the pause.
"No, I haven't been able to reach him."
"I'm sure he'll be thrilled." The baby grasped Scully's finger as she touched his hand.
"Here, why don't you hold him?"
"Oh, I - "
"You already have once. He's less slippery now." Li insisted, settling the baby in Scully's arms.
Scully's eyes locked on his tiny face, and thoughts she had kept buried for months rose unbiddened. She didn't see the look that passed between Dee and Li. When the baby's eyes closed and he sank into sleep, Dee spoke softly.
"You have a mother's touch, Julie."
Scully straightened up, "Dee, here you have more experience." Scully transferred the baby to her and forced her eyes back to Li. "Is there anything I can do? I'd be happy to make some calls, help you track down Jerry."
"That's okay. I'm sure I'll get hold of him tonight." As Scully watched, she saw tears form in Li's eyes. Dee obviously spotted them too.
"Here," she returned the infant to his mother. "We don't want to tire you out. Are you coming home tomorrow?" Li nodded. "Okay, we'll have the 'frig stocked and people around to make sure you get some sleep. Just rest now; it's been a long day." Dee squeezed the young woman's shoulder. "We'll get out of your way."
"I . . . thank you." Li said quietly, struggling against her tears. Dee nodded and moved toward the door. Scully had no choice but to follow.
"She'll be okay." Dee whispered to Julie once they were in the hall. "Hormones. Don't worry." Dee looked up and saw Al and Cameron walking toward them from the elevators.
"Julie," Al called to her, "checking out your work?"
Scully managed to smile, "It's not a field I plan to explore."
Al chuckled then and looked over at Dee.
"Li's doing okay, she's a little emotional right now." Scully had the impression that Dee was reporting to Al.
"I'm sure she'll feel better when Jerry arrives." Scully offered.
Al glanced at Dee, then faced Julie. "I doubt it. He wasn't all that excited about being a Dad, but we'll see." She nodded goodbye, then she and Cameron entered Li's room.
Scully didn't press any further on the way home, but she hoped Mulder had been able to find out if Jerry should be added to their list. Another baby boy with no father. Really strange.
"We have another one. Jerry left his last known job nearly a year ago. His parents are dead, so no one's reported anything, least of all his pregnant wife."
"Well she definitely gave birth to that baby." Scully said dryly. "I can testify to that."
"Everybody okay?" He was watching her again.
She nodded. "Al and Cameron came by before we left. No one's been able to 'reach' Jerry. Mulder, what's going on?"
He shook his head, closing the laptop. "Let's go to bed. I'm available for pillow duty again tonight." He gave her a sideways grin.
"Thanks, but I'm not sure that's a good idea." She didn't meet his eyes.
"I know. Just thought I'd give it a shot." Mulder backpedaled quickly. He squeezed her hand to let her know it was okay and she finally looked up. He saw the gratitude on her face and hid his sigh. "Come on, it's been a long day."
"Where you headed?" Mulder stepped into the kitchen the next morning. He was back from his morning run. She admired his body for a moment and wondered for just an instant why she had rejected his offer last night.
"I'm going to take Dee's dishes back. She's been the most open, and her husband is one of the missing, even if she hasn't mentioned it."
Mulder nodded, "Okay, but be careful."
She nodded, "I will be." She picked up the dishes from the counter and left out the back door. Scully tapped on Dee's back door and entered when the woman called out for her to come in.
"Julie? I'm in here." Dee stuck her head out the laundry door.
"I just brought your dishes back." Scully stepped to the door and peered in.
"Hi. Let me take these things up to Brandon's room, then have a cup of coffee with me."
"Okay, can I get cups out?"
"That'd be great. I'll be right back." She took an arm load of towels and baby clothes up the stairs.
"Julie!!" Scully jumped as Dee's scream reached her. She raced up the stairs to find Dee holding her son. He obviously wasn't breathing, his lips already blue.
"Give him here." Scully grabbed Brandon. She put the baby face down on her forearm so that his head was down. She had his head in her palm and supported him against her thigh. Then she used the heel of her hand and struck him between the shoulder blades. She did it again and an object flew out of his mouth and he began to scream.
Scully cuddled him to her. "Dee? Are you okay?" The woman was white and shaking. The words brought her back to herself and Dee reached for her son. Scully surrendered the boy to her and helped her into the rocking chair beside the crib. "He's okay, Dee. Listen to him, he's fine."
Dee managed to look up at her and nodded. Scully watched her for a moment then turned to look at what she had dislodged from his throat. She spotted the small button on the floor near the door and picked it up.
"Dee? This was the problem." Scully showed her the button. Dee looked down at the short sleeve sweater she was wearing and saw where the button was missing.
"Oh, god! I didn't even know it was loose."
"It's not your fault, Dee. It was an accident and he's fine. Look at him. Come on, try to relax." Scully rubbed the woman's back and murmured to her as she finally began to calm down, her breath coming in hiccups now.
The baby began to squirm in her arms now as she held him tightly. "Dee, give him here. Go splash some water on your face." It took another minute, but she finally relinquished the baby back to Scully and rose on shaky legs.
When Dee returned, Scully was in the rocking chair, holding and talking to the now calm baby. "You'd make a great mother, Julie."
Scully looked up startled, then shrugged. "I guess it wasn't meant to be."
"It could be."
Scully looked back down at Brandon, then changed the subject. "Are you okay now? I don't want to leave you if - "
"No, we're both fine, thanks to you."
"I'm glad I was here." Scully cuddled the boy again, then rose from the rocker. "You should probably take him to see his pediatrician, to see if his throat was scratched, but he's fine." She returned the baby to Dee.
Dee's arm went around her in a hug that encompassed them both. Then Scully let herself out.
She came in the back door and Mulder met her in the kitchen, freshly showered, his hair slicked back. "Hey, you okay?" He moved swiftly toward her and took her arm.
"I'm fine." She looked up and gave him a slight smile. "Really. But there was just a near tragedy next door."
"Brandon got a button stuck in his throat. He was choking."
"Is he okay?"
She nodded, "I did the Heimlich. He's fine, maybe a scratchy throat."
"She's very lucky you were there." To his surprise, she leaned against him for a moment. He couldn't help it; his arms encircled her, holding her safe. He found himself thinking about waking in her arms again. How could he manage it? He'd missed that this morning.
Mulder had gone for his run the next morning when Dee tapped on the back door. Yesterday hadn't turned up anything new and he was restless. They were still searching for information on Al. Scully opened it and smiled. "Come in." She looked at the baby in her arms. "How's he doing?"
"He's wonderful, thanks to you." She let Scully take the boy and he immediately reached for her cross.
"On no you don't." Scully tucked it inside her shirt as she smiled at him.
"Julie, I . . . I need to talk to you. I owe you. Al said to wait, but I can see how much you want a baby."
"Al wanted you to wait?" Scully asked carefully.
"We can't talk here. Justin might walk in. Can you come over? I'll explain."
"Okay, let me leave him a note." She scribbled a quick note to Mulder, saying that she was with Dee and she'd bring him up to speed when she returned. She left the note propped on the kitchen table, then followed Dee next door.
The door was barely closed when Dee spoke. "How much do you love Justin?"
"Justin, are you really in love or just together? It's important." She led Scully into the homey den at the back of the house.
"I . . . " Scully frantically searched her mind for a suitable answer. It wasn't a question she had anticipated.
"Has he been faithful to you? Even though women obviously want him? You can be honest. I've been there." Dee paused. "You want a child more." She answered for Scully, taking her confusion for something else. "Al can help you."
"Al again? She's not a doctor."
"Yes she is, well, not a medical doctor, she's a scientist. She helped all of us have our babies."
"Dee, I don't understand."
Dee shook her head, "I'm not sure how to explain it. Al usually handles this part, but you've been so wonderful and I owe you so much. I want you to have what I have."
"Dee, relax. Let's sit down and talk."
Dee nodded and put Brandon in his playpen, then sat on the loveseat. Scully took a seat beside her.
"Is Al some sort of fertility specialist?"
Dee shook her head. "No, but she has techniques that can keep you pregnant once she implants the baby."
"Implants? She does in-vitro?"
Dee shook her head a little uncertainly at the terminology.
"She took your eggs and fertilized them with your husband's sperm, then implanted them in your body." Scully explained.
"Oh, no. She didn't use our eggs. The babies . . . they, they are our husbands. They're clones."
Scully's eyes widened. "Clones? She's been able to - "
Dee nodded vigorously. "Her husband, Dr. Sawyer, found out which cells were best to use for cloning and she worked with him. I don't understand the science but . . . " Dee looked over at her baby and smiled.
"Her husband? I thought she was married to Dennis Masters. I haven't met him."
"Her first husband was Dr. Sawyer." Dee looked down, "He's not . . . he didn't want to move ahead with the work, so Al works without him now."
"Dee, where is your husband?"
For the first time Dee looked nervous, even scared. "You can't talk about this. It's very important. He uh, he's at the community center. Her laboratory is there, in the basement."
"Basement? Is he okay, Dee?"
The young woman wouldn't meet her eyes then, "He's alive. He didn't want children, not like I did. He didn't want the responsibility. He much preferred his freedom, especially with other women."
"Is he all right?"
Finally Dee shook her head. "He's . . . the procedure . . . "
"Dee, please." Scully leaned toward her, urging her to keep talking.
"The only cells that really work are brain cells."
"Brain cells?" Scully asked stunned.
"Al didn't kill them, she just took the cells she needed. They're still alive, more than alive, because Brandon and the other kids are here."
"They?" Scully repeated.
Reluctantly Dee nodded. "Li's husband, Lea's, Cameron's, and Shari's soon. All of us. But they're not dead, Julie. Justin won't be dead and he'll still be able to support his family. People are willing to pay an enormous amount to have a baby boy, and especially one as handsome as Justin. Al's been very successful and we're all financially secure. You can be too and being a mother . . . Julie, it's the most incredible thing."
Scully jerked as she heard a door in the front of the house shut. She was on her feet immediately and moved toward the front of the house. Why wasn't she carrying her gun? But no one was there.
"Dee, the front door is unlocked."
Dee had followed her. "It's always unlocked during the day. My friends come and go whenever."
Scully closed her eyes. Who had come in and what had they heard? She needed to get to Mulder.
"Dee, I need to think about this. Let me - "
"You can't talk about this, Julie. I wasn't supposed to say anything. Al said it was too soon."
"I understand. I just need a little time, you know?" She had to get out of here without alerting her. She had to get to Mulder. "I'll call you in an hour. I just need to, to think. Okay?"
Dee nodded and gave her a quick hug. "It will be so wonderful. We'll raise our little boys together. You'll have all kinds of support, I promise."
Scully returned the hug and managed to walk to her own back door without breaking into a run. Mulder should be back from his jog. She raced upstairs once the door was closed. He wasn't in the shower; his shoes weren't in the middle of the floor. Damn it!
She pulled her gun from its hiding place and clipped it to her waistband in the back, under her shirt.
Damn it! Mulder should be back by now. They needed to get over to the community center. It sounded as if the men could be rescued, if not saved. Did she dare go in alone? Had she really heard someone in Dee's house? Even if she had, their cover wasn't blown, but she knew more than she was supposed to.
Where was Mulder? She picked up the phone to call for back-up when she heard the door open downstairs. Finally!
Scully raced down the stairs to bring him up to date, but was brought up short when she saw Al come out of the kitchen.
Stay calm, Dana. "Al? Hi, you looking for me?"
"Yes. Justin hurt himself running. He's over at the community center. I told him I'd come get you."
The community center? Why had he jogged in that direction? Had he seen something? "How badly?"
"He tripped, skinned his knee, scraped his elbow and twisted his ankle."
"Did you call 911?"
"No, it's not that bad. They were giving him first aid, but I don't think he can walk home. I'd have brought him, but I didn't have my car with me."
"Okay, thanks. I'll run get him."
"I'll ride with you. I wasn't finished working out."
"Sure." What was she supposed to say? Had someone heard Dee talking to her? If Al had been working out, she couldn't have heard them. But everyone seemed to report to her.
They were just a couple of blocks from the center. Scully pulled into the space closest to the front door and hurried in after Al. She looked around, but didn't see Mulder.
"He's in the office. Come on."
Al led her back toward the office and opened the door. Scully stepped inside and Al followed her, shutting and locking the door behind them. Mulder wasn't there.
"It would never work with you, Julie." Al sounded regretful. "I'd decided not to bring you in. You love him." She shook her head. "And he actually seems to love you too."
"What wouldn't work? What are you talking about? Where's Justin?"
"He's downstairs. I heard what you were discussing with Dee."
Scully stiffened, her fear growing. "Is Justin okay? What have you - "
"See? You care about him. I don't imagine he's been faithful to you, he is male, but you don't seem to care."
"I need to see him. Al, what's going on?" Stay calm, Dana. The woman hadn't had time to do anything . . . had she?
"I wish you didn't know. I told Dee to wait. You'll have to be part of this now. At least Justin will." She amended. "If you'd like to participate, you can. If not . . . I can't let you talk about this."
"I don't know what you thought you heard - "
"I heard Dee tell you about the children." Al interrupted. "She wanted to offer you what she has." Al sighed. "Dee's a very sweet girl, but not the savviest of the bunch. If Guy didn't look like he does . . . but he's one our most popular selections. I'm sure Justin will do very well too. That dark, brooding type is a real turn on for some women."
Scully swallowed, "Al, where is he? What have you done with him?"
Al shook her head. "You two amaze me. He's not hurt. I've done nothing to him yet, except sedate him. I'm very careful with the procedure. The equipment is sterile, and I can keep him alive for years. Dee told me you couldn't conceive. I can take care of that. You'll still have Justin. Usually I start with the woman, getting her ready to accept the implant. We'll need to get started right away."
Scully ignored that, "You've sedated him? I need to see him."
Al shrugged. "Fine, but it won't change anything. We can't let you talk about this. I don't want to hurt you. I don't hurt women, but I guess you can see him." She turned toward the door and Scully followed her after making sure the gun was still in place.
They took the stairs and Al unlocked the metal door at the bottom marked "Maintenance".
Scully was unprepared for the size of the room. The half closest to them was full of equipment, expensive and state of the art. At the far end of the room were gurneys with men lying unconscious on them. They were hooked up to monitors, IVs in their arms. Two women dressed as nurses moved around them, checking lines, catheter bags and making notes.
Scully spotted Mulder on a gurney close to the wall. He didn't have the IV or other equipment around him yet. She hurried to his side, keeping an eye on Al, making sure she didn't turn her back on the woman.
She caressed his face and leaned in close. "Mulder?" She whispered it, even though Al hadn't attempted to move closer. "Can you hear me?"
"Scu - "
She covered his lips with her own. "Don't talk. Our cover isn't blown yet. I've got to get you out of here. Do you think you can walk?"
"Yeah." He tried to sit up and fell back.
"Just stay still for now. Don't talk. You've got to stay awake, hear me? You have to stay awake. I need you."
He focused on her eyes then. That sentence got through to him. He nodded.
"Al, he doesn't know what this is about." Scully tried to keep her composure. "You know I couldn't have told him what Dee said to me. There's no need to continue."
"You know, Julie. You've seen this place. The only way I can ensure your silence is through him, through your unnatural attachment to him. He won't be dead, and I've offered you the perfect way to keep him with you for years. I'm not giving you a choice, Julie."
Scully realized that at least that last part was true. Her choices of how to handle this had dwindled to one. She moved back to Mulder's side. He had managed to stay awake, but he was obviously struggling.
She reached behind her and drew her weapon. "You're under arrest, Al. I'm Special Agent Dana Scully. This is Special Agent Mulder, my partner. I don't want to hurt you, just move away from the door."
Scully looked at the other two women, the nurses, who were frozen in shock at the sight of the gun. "Move over to Al. Keep your hands in plain sight. That's right." The women raised their hands and came to stand behind Al.
The tall woman just watched Scully.
"Come on, Mulder," she had one hand on him; the other held the gun on Al. "We have to get you out of here. I can't carry you, Mulder. Come on."
Al watched them, her expression now more haughty than scared. "'Special Agents'." She spat. "Do you really think the government is going to do anything to me?" All trace of the woman that had been in their home gone. "I have the information to make human cloning work. It's all here and in my head. They can't afford to let anything happen to me. I hold all the cards."
Scully didn't bother to respond, and didn't lower her gun. Mulder forced himself to his feet. He had to stay awake. He might not be much help, but he couldn't hinder Scully. His head was swimming, but he was upright, kinda.
He felt her hand on his arm, to lead him, steady him. They had only taken a few steps when he lurched to the left and stumbled, slamming into a table. Both women moved toward him; Scully to catch him; Al to catch the beaker that rocked dangerously, then tipped over, splashing the table, and her, with fluid.
The Bunsen burner went next, igniting the fluid. Before Scully could move, Al's blouse was also burning. "Mulder! Come on! We have to get out of here." She tucked her gun back into the holster at her back and grabbed him with both hands.
He was moving now, fear and adrenaline countering the drugs in his system. The fire was growing behind them. The two nurses had broken into runs with the first flame and were right behind Scully when she hit the door, shoving it open and pulling Mulder behind her. "Move it, Mulder!"
He followed, his steps steadier. They were near the top of the stairs when an explosion shook the building. They grabbed at the wall to remain on their feet and exchanged glances, moving faster. The second explosion was louder. They were both running when they got to the parking lot.
"Get back!" Scully shouted to the people milling in the area, staring at the building. Her tone of voice got their attention and people began moving back. The third explosion shook the ground. Mulder staggered, but Scully's hand kept him upright.
"I got everyone out and called 911." A woman Scully recognized from the day care center called out to her. Scully nodded and watched the building.
"The explosion ruptured the swimming pool, which emptied into the underground lab. It put out the fire in the lab, which doesn't quite explain all the bodies." The fire marshal shook his head. "We've almost got the upper floor out. I'd like to see a copy of your report."
Mulder nodded. He wanted to see 'their' report as well. He was still too woozy to demand all of the answers from Scully himself. They'd given him a little oxygen to wake him, but mostly he had rested in the doorway of the ambulance and watched the building burn.
Mulder shook his head, she'd saved him again. He was still having trouble wrapping his mind around the information she'd given him about what Al and her ex-husband had accomplished. The bodies of both of her husbands had been found in the lab. Apparently she sold brains as well as beauty in her market. It was incredible. That information and Al had gone up in flames along with the destroyed men in the lab. "Scully, the procedure . . . you could have gotten pregnant."
She gave a shaky laugh, "Think the world is ready for another Fox Mulder."
"Probably not, but Guy Moore . . . "
"He was no Fox Mulder."
He gaped at her with those words. His mouth opened slightly and his lips moved, but no sound emerged. Then he realized that her eyes had moved from his and were focused on his lips. She looked back up and he moved toward her slowly. She didn't pull away, so he took the plunge. His lips lightly met hers.
He looked at her then. There was no censor in her look, she didn't even look surprised. To his utter astonishment, she moved to him and let her lips caress his.
Al had seen something between them. Maybe that something needed to be explored. "Do you think Skinner will be jealous?"
He growled and took her lips again.
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