He rushed into the office, removing his coat and talking to her the whole time. "Sorry I'm late. The alarm didn't go off, then I ran out of hot water, and you know how bad the traffic is if you don't make that certain window. I didn't miss anything crucial did I?"
He finally turned to look at her. She hadn't moved since he entered the room. She was sitting in her chair, both hands flat on top of an unopened file on top of the desk, staring into space.
"Scully? Is everything okay?" He approached her now, his travails of the morning forgotten instantly.
She still didn't look at him, but finally spoke. "Skinner has a new assignment for us, undercover again."
"Yeah? And you didn't enjoy being Laura Petrie?" Well, levity wasn't working. He reached for the file she was shielding and when she didn't protest, slid it out from beneath her hands.
Still standing he flipped open the file. The first couple of sentences told him what he needed. "We don't have to take this case Scully."
"They need someone with a medical background."
"You aren't the only expert they've got, just the best. I'm going to see Skinner." Before she could comment he was out the door.
Angie wasn't at her desk, so he tapped on Skinner's door and opened it at the response. "You got a minute?"
Skinner sighed, "Just that, what?"
"This case. You can't ask Scully to go undercover for this one. A fertility clinic? Come on, you know . . . "
"I know that Scully has some personal issues in that area, but she's a professional and she's the best we have. Women have disappeared, this is the only connection we've found. She didn't have any comments when I gave her the file."
"You'll be there with her. If it gets to be too much, then pull the plug. We need her on this one. Besides, you two never drag your heels, you'll be in and out of there with some bizarre theory that will no doubt be correct and cause me all kinds of embarrassment within a day."
"He's right, Mulder." Both turned at the sound of Scully's voice. "Let's just go and get this over with." She turned on her heel and was out the door. Mulder had to hurry to catch up with her before she reached the elevators.
They entered the empty car when it arrived and rode back downstairs in silence. He didn't have a clue what to say, he just knew that this would hurt her and he didn't want it to happen. They emerged, still in silence and he trailed her to the office.
"Scully . . . "
"Skinner's right, this is my job. Let's find out what's happening to these women and stop it. Then forget it ever happened. Please."
"Whatever you say." She handed him a copy of the arrangements that had been made for them. This clinic was top-notch, they were only getting in due to a cancellation from another couple, and probably some string pulling behind the scenes. They were to arrive prior to lunch tomorrow for the tour and to settle in.
Well, at least he'd be there for her, if she'd loosen up enough to let him in.
She was still quiet on the flight out the next morning, but more herself. Maybe she was just steeling herself for the ordeal, but she was able to smile at a couple of his lame jokes and clue him in on some of the fertility procedures that he should be familiar with from their cover story.
They were met by limo at the airport in Los Angeles, so their act began immediately upon arrival. Bags were carried, famous sites pointed out, and they were given the royal treatment for the ride to the clinic. Mulder fell into his personae immediately and Scully had to smile at some of his comments. He really was fun to be with when he was like this, especially so since she was the only one that knew how barbed his comments were most of the time. She must have a deep mean streak to enjoy that kind of humor from him.
The clinic itself was beautiful, about what you'd expect in Southern California for several thousand dollars a day. Nice face to put on for over-wealthy people who wanted to have children of their own when money was no object.
Mulder glanced over at her after checking out the structure. She nodded and he took her arm, holding her close. If this really worked he'd be willing to come up with the money for her to try it. She couldn't hide that longing in her face from him, even if she could from everyone else, including herself. Maybe if they had let her adopt Emily, but after being rejected even from that bond with her own child, she'd shut this part of herself down - even from him. It wasn't right of Skinner to rip the wound open so suddenly.
A beautiful woman in what could have been a nurse's uniform in a drawing room comedy met them at the door. She gave the driver a room number and he left with their bags. She introduced herself as Maxine and escorted them to the director's office, a Dr. Mark Asher.
Dr. Asher rose and met them at the door. "Mrs. Petrie, Mr. Petrie. So glad to have you here. It's very rare that we have a cancellation and you were highly recommended. I'm sure we'll be able to help you." He had finally released her hand and motioned them to the seats in front of his desk. Mulder felt his hackles rise at the way this doctor scoped out Scully. Was he a pervert in addition to his gynecological duties? He seated himself behind the massive desk and leaned forward.
"We never schedule any tests for the first day. We want you to relax, get familiar with the grounds, and meet our other guests. You'll find you have a lot in common with these other couples." He reached for the one file that marred the perfect emptiness of the desk.
"Starting tomorrow we'll go over the procedures we're going to schedule based on the information we received from Dr. Caldwell. I will tell you, we're going to concentrate on you Laura. Rob, you're sperm count is quite high and the motility is excellent."
Mulder decided immediately that Scully's reluctance to take this case had been the correct decision. He didn't look anywhere near Scully.
He missed the next little bit, but realized Dr. Asher was rising, dismissing them. Mulder immediately rose and took Scully's arm. "Maxine will show you to your room, then you're free to wander about. Luncheon is served at one; she'll point out the dining area as well. Just relax and we'll get started in the morning." He smiled at them, showing teeth on which no amount of money had been spared. Mulder had an almost overwhelming desire to knock some of them out. This must have been reflected in his body language, because Scully tightened her grip on his hand to draw his attention.
"Thank you Dr. Asher. We'll see you tomorrow."
That brought Mulder back to his senses. He too thanked Dr. Asher and put his arm around Scully. They followed Maxine to another wing of the building and the room that had been assigned them.
Mulder and Scully both froze as they entered the room. Maxine turned and smiled. "Dr. Asher's philosophy is that after trying so long, that sex loses the fun aspects. Our rooms are designed to restore that. You can see the bed is the focus of the room, there's mood lighting and music. Do you have any questions?"
Mulder couldn't force a sound. He heard Scully give a soft. "Thanks. No."
"Well, you're free to look around, get comfortable."
Scully walked her to the door and let her out, then leaned her head against the door. Mulder watched her shoulders begin to shake. Shit, she was crying. He hated it when she cried. He approached her and put a hand on her shoulder, turning her toward him to try to comfort her.
That's when he realized she was losing the battle to hysterical laughter. She was laughing? Was she okay?
"Oh Mulder," she managed to gasp, "I always thought those ads for honeymoon suites in the Poconos were a joke, but this . . . There has to be a heart-shaped tub in the bathroom." And she was off again. She sank onto the bed, wiping her eyes while Mulder watched.
"And you . . . I always knew you had virility coming out of your ears - congratulations on your motility." Now she was rocking back and forth. He was beginning to wonder if he should slap her. The problem was that he was beginning to see the humor himself and was beginning to chuckle.
"I don't know, I think the most embarrassing test is when the doctor has to examine you an hour after you do it, to see if your cervix is toxic to his sperm."
"Gee, Sweetheart, when is that one scheduled?" Mulder was watching her carefully blank face.
"Well, Honey, I haven't heard, but I'll let you know."
Sandra's husband Mike chuckled. "Come on, Rob, let's let them gossip."
Mulder leaned over as though to kiss her cheek. He whispered, "When we finally do this, it's not going to be in a place like this." Then he did kiss her cheek and turned, allowing Mike to lead him away. She stared open mouthed, watching him leave.
When? When they did it? Not if?
"Laura? Did you hear me?" Sandra touched her arm.
"It wasn't important. Come on, we'll show you the dining room." Scully allowed Sandra to lead her in the opposite direction from the men.
" . . .but this doctor seems to think I have a switch in my pants I can just flick on whenever her temperature spikes. God, have you seen that bed? I don't know if you guys have been trying as long as we have but shit, you know? Course now Laura . . . " He turned to watch the women walk away. "She seems the icy type. I've always heard they're the hottest - huh?"
"Back off Mike, any children she has are going to be mine." Mulder warned.
Mike grinned up at him. "Don't blame you." He clapped Mulder on the back.
It wasn't until Mike had moved on in front of him that he realized he hadn't been kidding. Good thing Scully hadn't been around to hear him.
They really hadn't looked that closely at the room earlier, they're focus had been on the bed pretty exclusively. Now it hit both of them, there was no couch in the room, only two small chairs.
"It's okay, Scully. I can. . .I can put the chairs together and. . . "
"Mulder, look at those chairs. There's no way. Besides, the bed is roughly the size of Montana. We'll just stay on our respective sides."
"You sure, Scully?"
"Yeah. I trust you, Mulder." He grinned and shrugged.
She woke realizing his chest hair was caressing her face. What the hell? They had been yards from each other. Now she was pressed against him, one of his arms over her, his leg hiked up and over her hip, while both of her legs were between his. His shorts were fairly useless in disguising his anatomy. Too much information there. She started to ease away and his arm tightened around her.
"Um, Scully." Was he sniffing her hair? He pulled her closer yet. Whoa, way too much information now. She'd seen him nude before, but never like this, never this healthy. God, was he healthy. Get a grip, Scully.
"Mulder, wake up."
"Wha? Scully? Oh shit!" And he was back on his side of the bed. "Scully, I'm sorry. I didn't. . . "
"We were both asleep. No harm, no foul." He nodded, noting for the first time that she was also in the center of the bed. "Why don't you go on and use the bathroom first."
"Uh, yeah. Thanks." He rose from the bed, his back to her.
"You, uh, you said my name. Were you, were you dreaming about me?"
"I always use your . . ." He looked up stricken at what he'd almost said, and saw her scarlet face. Never. He was never going to speak again until he was completely and fully awake. Rather than say anything, because that could only make it worse, he ducked in the bathroom. He'd decide later if he could ever come out.
Dr. Asher opened her file. "I've gone over the tests that have already been run, Laura. I see no reason to do another hysterosalpingogram, and according to the file the Colmid was ineffective. Rather than use a stronger drug, which can cause multiples, I'd rather go ahead with the in vitro in your case. I'd like to go ahead and inject you with menotropin and hCG to stimulate ovulation. According to your cycle you should be ovulating tomorrow or the next day, so I want to go ahead with the medication this morning."
When she remained silent, Mulder spoke. "What, uh, what are the side effects?" He was watching her face, but he couldn't read it. He knew she had to know what was being said, but since Laura wasn't a doctor . . . He on the other hand was completely out to sea.
"There will be some discomfort, especially during the harvesting of the ova, but if we could get four or five viable eggs, we can implant two or three and hold the others in case the first try doesn't take. I see nothing that would keep you from carrying to term. I think achieving conception is the main barrier here. Your results from the previous tests you've gone through lead me to believe this is the best option at this time. Why don't you take a walk, talk about this, and meet me back here at 10:30. I'll be through with my next appointment by then."
Scully nodded and Mulder took her arm as she stood. They headed outside.
"What's a hystero . . .?"
"Hysterosalpingogram. It's a test where they inject dye into the cervix to ensure there are no blockages in the fallopian tubes."
"Have you ever had one?"
"No. Mulder, I've not been trying to get pregnant either."
"Yeah. What about that injection?"
"The injection shouldn't be a problem, though I'm a little surprised he jumped to that option so quickly. We'll just have to be out of here before they want to harvest any ova. We both know there won't be any."
"Scully . . . "
"It's okay. We better head back. You need to talk to the others and see if anyone remembers the Seagram's."
"I'll take you back to Asher's office."
"You don't . . . " The look on his face stopped her.
"Would I let you go alone if we were married?" She shook her head. He took her hand and they headed back to the building.
Following the injection and the admonition to keep an eye on her temperature they wandered over to the dining room. They were a little early for lunch, so they sat to wait, sipping juice and going over what little they had learned.
Sandra and Mike joined them as lunch was being served. Mulder noticed how quiet Scully had gotten and took her hand. "You okay?"
"Sure." She tried to smile at him.
He shook his head, "What?"
"Okay, I'm not feeling my best." His eyes were full of concern.
"What have they got you on today, Laura?" Sandra asked quietly.
"They've decided to go in vitro. Dr. Asher gave me an injection earlier." Sandra's face showed her sympathy.
Sandra turned to Mike. "That's what they gave Gloria before she disappeared."
"What?" Mulder was at attention now. "Gloria?"
"Yes, Gloria and Bruce Graham. They were here when we arrived. Seemed to be a very nice couple, but you never know what's really between two people. She just ran off in the night, took all of her things, even their car. Bruce left the next day - apparently she'd left him a note. I hope they worked everything out.
Mulder's mind was racing. Graham? Seagram? They could have used a false name with the other guests. "I used to know a Bruce Graham, 6'1", light brown hair, looked like he played football."
Mike spoke up. "That could be the guy. He did love his football, I remember that."
Mulder glanced over at Scully. Her eyes were dull; her body reacting to whatever chemicals had been injected into her. Immediate guilt engulfed him, he'd been thinking about the case and ignoring her suffering.
"Sc. . . Laura, let's get you back to the room."
"I can - " His look silenced her. He helped her up from her chair as Sandra and Mike exchanged glances. His hand wasn't just on her back this time. His arm was around her supporting her. The case and everything around it gone from his mind.
He settled her on the bed and removed her shoes. "Mulder, you don't - "
"Shh." He went to get a cool cloth for her; she looked flushed to him. He bathed her face and he watched a grimace of pain flit across her face. "Scoot over."
She did without thinking and he stretched out beside her and pulled her against him, his hand settled on her abdomen. "Mulder, you . . . "
"Relax, just for a little while." To his mild amazement she did. She must feel worse than he'd thought. He should take better case of her; she was the most precious thing he owned. Owned? Where the hell had that word come from? But he did, just like she owned him, body and soul whether she knew it or not. She snuggled in closer to him and he realized she'd fallen asleep.
Any children she has are going to be mine? Had he really said that out loud? He'd never wanted children, never even thought about it until he'd held that vial of ova in his hand at the Lombard Research Institute. That had caused such a stab of grief through him he'd been held motionless.
She whimpered in his arms, which tightened automatically around her. "Muld. . . where are . . . Mul. . ." She seemed warmer. "I'm right here. Scully I've got you. Relax Sweetheart." Sweetheart? He really was losing it. Good thing she hadn't woken. But she had relaxed.
He should have stopped her from taking the injection, screw their covers. She must have known what she'd go through. Skinner should be eating teeth over this one.