"Scully!" He jerked awake and was on his feet before he was aware of his surroundings. Scully looked over at him and smiled. He saw that she was in the bed, her head slightly inclined. The IVs were gone. How long had he slept? Their son was in her arms and Skinner was beside her looking at the baby.
"Are you okay? Should you be up?"
"I'm fine, Mulder." Her smile widened at his grimace. "Really, I am. Tired but okay." She looked up at Walter. "He's beautiful, isn't he?"
Skinner nodded. "Sure is. Well, now that Mulder's awake, I'll give you guys some privacy. I won't be far if you need me."
"Thank you, Walter." Her eyes said more and Mulder looked away.
"Well," he cleared his throat. "I'll see you later." He met Mulder's eye and nodded shortly. Scully missed the exchange, looking down at the baby.
As soon as the door closed behind Skinner, Mulder moved to the bed. "How are you really?"
She smiled. "Honestly, Mulder. I'm good." Her smiled dimmed at his shudder. "Walter told me what happened."
She nodded, looking down at the baby again. "He's been a godsend to me." Her attention on the tiny boy, she missed his reaction to that statement. The baby began to snuffle then, searching for her breast.
"What do you think?" She looked up at him.
"I still can't believe it," Mulder said.
"I've felt that way for months." She looked up and her expression literally took his breath away. Then she shyly unfastened the top of her gown.
"Wait, Scully wait. Maybe you should . . . maybe a bottle - "
"Don't even start," she interrupted, letting the boy latch onto her nipple. "I've already had this argument with Walter. I'm nursing my son, end of discussion."
His face was carefully blank; she had discussed breastfeeding their son with Skinner? He glanced toward the door where the man had disappeared and felt a tightness in his chest that he couldn't shake.
"Could you get me a large glass of water and a washcloth?"
He nodded and moved to get the things she requested. When he returned to her side, he paused. With the baby at her breast she looked like a sexy Madonna. His eyes moistened yet again at the look on her face. He tentatively sat beside her on the bed. Her hand came out to hold his and he relaxed slightly.
"Mulder, are you okay?"
"Still trying to come down to earth, I guess." He managed to grin at her chuckle, but he was reeling.
Her hand tightened around his. "I don't think I can ever make you understand what it means to me that you were here."
"You nearly - "
"I'm fine, Mulder. And
that's because of you. If, Mulder, if you hadn't been here . . . "
"What?" He moved closer, "Scully, what?"
"I know I was in danger. But you were here, I had to stay. I want to be with you, with you and our son."
His eyes locked on her and his lips parted, but he didn't speak. His throat completely closed with emotion. Her eyes filled with tears again, in recognition. "It's okay, Mulder. Welcome home." She let him take their son into his arms, knowing he needed it more than anything else right now.
"I never . . . " He shook his head and just looked down at the baby. "When they told me how long I'd been gone I didn't believe it. Chris, do you know Chris?"
Scully smiled. "Yes. He's done some great retrieval work for us. He's very good with the returnees. Most of them aren't as . . . cool about things as you might be."
"Cool? Not when I realized how long I'd been without you. You're right about Chris, though. He has a good bedside manner."
They visited then, not talking of anything of consequence. Each other's presence was all that was really necessary. When she yawned, he rose and had her recline. She was asleep in no time, so he carefully placed their son back in his bassinet and moved toward the door.
Skinner looked up as the door opened. Mulder stopped when he saw him waiting just outside. His face hardened.
"Is she okay?" Skinner asked quietly.
"She's asleep. So's the baby."
Skinner nodded. "I brought you some dinner. I didn't think you'd had a meal since you got here."
Mulder hesitated, but hunger won out. "Thanks." He took a seat across from his former boss. Instead of looking at Skinner, he focused on the bowl of stew and began to eat.
"How are you doing?" Skinner asked the younger man.
"How long have you been here?" Mulder responded with his own question.
Skinner nodded. "Okay, you want to do this now?"
"You want to ask me to step outside? Go ahead. Yes, I've been here with her, for her."
Mulder flinched visibly from that statement.
"All I ask is that if you do ask me outside, we keep it away from Scully. Go ahead, black my eye, break my jaw, but keep her out of it."
After a minute, Mulder nodded. "Tell me what's been going on."
"We've been looking for you."
"Yes, together, all of us. There're over 40 in this group and there are other groups. We're growing."
Finally Skinner smiled. "Yeah, we. All of us UFO weirdo's."
Mulder blinked at that. "You?"
Skinner chuckled. "Yeah, me." He sobered then. "I lost you. I let them take you."
"You - "
"Scully asked me to go with you, to keep an eye on things and I let you slip away under my nose." He sighed. "By the time I got back to DC, she was gone."
Skinner nodded. "Before I could get to town to tell her what had happened. She knew. She went underground immediately to look for you. She didn't know about the baby, not then. I had to find her. I owed you that."
Mulder just watched him, not speaking.
"It took me nearly five months to find her."
"Five months? What about your job?"
"I took a leave." He shrugged.
"You're in love with her," Mulder's voice hardened.
"I care about her," Skinner agreed.
"You quit your job for her. It's been longer than five months."
"Yeah, I didn't go back. I work here now."
"Because of her."
Skinner shrugged. "I guess it started that way. How could I see her in that condition and just head back to DC? I couldn't leave her. Besides, my effectiveness at the Bureau has been questionable for a long time. I took early retirement and told them I was going fishing. I dropped off their radar and became her first lieutenant. We looked for you."
"You traveled together?"
"Until Jessie and I put a stop to her traveling, yes." He met Mulder's look head on. "If you honestly expected me to do less, you don't know me very well."
"You, you just walked in, while she was giving birth."
"I was her coach, until you showed up. I'm not sorry you did. I think you saved her life."
"She wouldn't leave you." Skinner watched that information seep into Mulder's soul and saw his stance soften.
"What about her mother?"
Skinner's face saddened at that question. "Scully's been in touch, discretely. She knows Scully is alive, but not where we are . . . not about the baby. Scully said it would be dangerous for her. I think she could have used her, especially today, but it was her call."
Mulder nodded. "The guys?"
"I've been in touch. They helped me find her, but we need them in place. They don't where we are either."
"So it's just been the two of you?"
"No, it's me, Gabe, Jessie, Phil, Lenny, Elizabeth . . . do you want me to go on?"
Mulder shook his head. "I need a little time . . . to, to absorb . . ."
"What, what have you found? I mean, besides me, the other returnees?"
"Scully's been working on trying to figure out the make up of the vaccine she was given - "
"That I gave her."
Skinner nodded. "We had to stop her from taking her own blood to experiment. She didn't have yours to investigate. Now she can concentrate on you and the baby's cord - "
"No, she won't be working for a while."
"Mulder, look I understand, but she's okay now. We need to find this vaccine and soon. Something's going on, and it's - "
"She needs time to heal."
"Yes, but this is something she won't let sit for any time. And with you here, she's already healing in ways she didn't know she needed. Can't you see that? Now that we have the baby, your baby's cord blood - "
"The baby? Does she suspect there's anything wrong - "
"No, not wrong. Mulder, your son is the only child we know where both parents have been vaccinated. We don't know what that means. It's one of the things she's wanted to check out."
"Can't someone else do it? Give her a break."
"I don't think she's going to want one. Mulder, you know Scully, you know her better than anyone. She's not going to let someone else handle this."
"The guys, they can - "
"The guys already check every thing she does. They get the same samples she uses. Don't worry." Skinner's hand came up when Mulder jerked forward. "We encrypt everything and within the encryption we code it. No two packages are sent from the same location. I've learned some good paranoia from them and the people here. Everyone here's first priority is to protect Scully, and now your son."
They were quiet then for several moments. "I need to shower and shave."
"You should do that now, while Scully's asleep."
Mulder glanced toward the door again. "Will you be here, in case she needs anything?"
"Yes. I'll keep an eye on her for you."
"Thank you," Mulder said finally.
"We can talk more - "
"Yes. Yes, we'll do that." Mulder nodded, mostly to himself, then headed for her place. He needed the shower, but more importantly he needed to get back here, back to his family, Scully and his son. They still had a lot to talk about, a lot to do.