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, choked suddenly 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.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.