"Oh Liz, thatís terrible. Iím so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
Mulder stopped looking through the files and was openly listening now. He didnít know who Liz was, but she had obviously given Scully bad news. Scully was making hanging up noises, so he closed the drawer and headed for her side of the office.
She had hung up and was staring at the receiver, oblivious to him. "Scully? You okay?"
She looked up startled, he was practically in her face. "What?"
"I heard your part of the conversation. Whatís wrong?"
"Oh, that was a friend from school. One of our roommates just had a baby. It was anencephalic." At his confused look, "He had a brain stem, but no frontal lobes. He could live a little while, but heíll have no self-awareness, deaf, blind. . . itís just so sad."
"I thought they could tell about that kind of thing ahead of time."
"I would have thought so. Maybe she didnít let them do any tests. In any case it was obviously missed this time." She took a deep breath. "I need to go see her. You donít need me here now, do you?"
"Are you okay with that?"
She looked away. Sometimes his knowledge of her was too deep. No, she wasnít okay with that, but she couldnít hide every time someone she knew had a child.
"Iíll be fine, Mulder."
"I know, but well, would you like some company?"
He saw the relief in her eyes before she managed to hide it. "No, Mulder. You donít have to do that."
"I know I donít have to. But you donít always mind me tagging along, and then we could get a bite to eat."
"Are you sure?" He was already putting on his coat.
She was extremely quiet on the way to the hospital, so Mulder held his own comments in, giving her the space she needed to get ready for this ordeal. He had his hand on her back in its customary position. It could have been his imagination, but he felt that she was leaning back on it a little more than usual. Her steps seemed to drag as well.
Scully tapped lightly on the door and at the faint "Come in" pushed the door ajar. "Dana, Iím so glad you came." Fresh tears were already flowing from the woman in the bed as Scully approached and took her in her arms. After a few moments, the woman in the bed released Scully and reached for a tissue. "Sorry, I canít. . . "
"Itís okay, Jane." Scullyís eyes were wet as well. She took a breath and said, "Jane, this is my friend, Fox Mulder."
Janeís eyes widened and a hint of a smile appeared on her lips. "Really? Well, Mulder, itís nice to finally meet you. Iíve heard a lot about you." He glanced over at Scullyís red face Ė tears or embarrassment? Then stepped forward to take Janeís hand.
At his expression, Jane added, "It wasnít all bad, Mulder."
"Gee, Iíve never known Scully to lie before." He glanced over at her, and she smiled gently. Jane took all of this in and withheld comment.
Scully rounded the bed to the bassinet and gazed down at the infant. "Heís beautiful, Jane."
"I know. He looks perfect, doesnít he?" Such a wistful expression came over Janeís face that Mulder had to look away. He joined Scully and looked down at the infant, wearing the knit cap the hospital provided. He did indeed look fine. He was sleeping peacefully. Mulder felt Scullyís hand reach for his, he squeezed hers in return.
They all turned as the door opened and a man entered. He looked like he needed a good nightís sleep or a stiff drink, or both.
"Dana, itís been a long time."
"Hi, Jeff." Scully let go of Mulderís hand and hugged the haggard looking man. "Jeff, this is Fox Mulder."
Jeff too looked at him surprised. "You really do exist. Youíre working our Dana too hard though. We havenít seen her in months."
Mulder smiled and shook Jeffís hand. They had had a very quiet several months, getting the new office set up and recreating the files. They hadnít been out of town for weeks. He glanced over at her, but she wouldnít meet his eyes.
"Well, you know, sometimes you have to crack that whip." She did meet his eyes then, in a silent thank you. The four of them visited a little until the nurse came in to take the baby back to the nursery.
"When are you going home, Jane?" Scully asked as the nurse headed for the door.
"Well, Iím fine, but they want to monitor the baby for a couple of days, so I havenít decided yet."
Mulder held the door for the nurse and heard her mutter, "should put the thing out of their misery, is what they should do." Mulder glanced up quickly to see if anyone else in the room had heard her, but they were all discussing Janeís homecoming and had missed it. Mulder wasnít sure she was wrong, but this was certainly no place to make such an unsolicited opinion known. He had a momentary desire to wave the air sheíd breathed away from everyone, it seemed so bitter to him.
They finally took their leave, after hugs and a few more tears, and promises to come by the house next week. They walked to the elevator in silence and as the car was empty when it arrived, she sagged against the wall and he stepped closer to her. She turned to lean against him and he put his arms around her.
"Youíre not really hungry, are you?" She shook her head. "Come on, weíll think of something."
They were silent, but it wasnít uncomfortable in the car. He pulled in to one of her favorite eateries. "Mulder. . . "
"You should eat. Come on."
She allowed him to coax her inside. While they waited, she finally spoke. "Arenít you going to ask why I lied about our schedule?"
"I figure you couldnít handle being around her. Use me anytime you need, Scully. Iím useful for other things too." She looked up into that familiar Mulder leer.
"Be careful, Mulder. You keep acting as charming as you did today and I might have to take you up on it." Her smile was warm.
"Iíll ignore the fact that statement implies Iím not always totally charming." Their food interrupted the banter and she was able to eat a little.
The next morning Scully entered the office to find Mulder with his feet on the desk, reading a file. It had taken almost no time for their new office to reach the semi-controlled chaos of the old one.
"Um, hi." She realized he was chewing a bagel and he waved to hers sitting on her desk.
"Thanks. Say did you see the local news this morning?"
"No, what has our illustrious mayor done now?"
"Not him. There was a murder at the hospital yesterday. Apparently while we were there."
"No kidding? Who?"
"One of the nurses. They havenít released any information."
"Interesting. Let me know what you hear."
Scully nodded and picked up a form to begin on her paperwork. It was at least an hour before the phone rang.
"Scully." She answered, "Jane, are you okay?" She shot a glance at Mulder, who had turned to listen in. "Are you serious? Thatís terrible. Any suspects? Sorry. Thatís a normal question around here. No, I can see why youíd be anxious to leave. Yes, I can come by then. Mulder? Iíll ask. Do you need anything? Okay, take care."
She hung up and just stared at the phone.
"Is it the baby?"
"No. The nurse that was killed is the one that was in her room to take the baby yesterday. She was strangled just outside the nursery."
Mulder visualized the woman. She was the one that had made that totally insensitive remark. Maybe she had other strong opinions and someone else took even more exception than he had.
"That is bizarre. I was thinking parking garage or something. Just out in the hallway? Is Jane going on home?"
"Yes. Sheís kind of freaked that this happened just after the nurse dropped the baby off. And thereís no reason to stay, thereís a no code on the baby."
"Canít blame them there. What am I invited to?"
"To come with me when I go over. She wants me to monitor him, she knows he probably wonít live long, but. . . " She couldnít even finish the sentence.
"If you want me there, Iím there." No hesitation on his part, whatever support she needed, just like heíd promised himself.
"I canít ask. . . " She started.
"You didnít, Jane did, and I accepted." Oh Scully, do you really not know what Iíd do for you? Why couldnít she read him about this like she could every other aspect of him? Maybe she just didnít want to Ė but sometimes she acted like Ė drop it Mulder, youíll only drive yourself crazier.
They saw the commotion as they turned into Jane and Jeffís street. "Mulder, thatís Jeff. Pull over."
He already was. They jumped from the car. "Jeff?"
"Oh Dana, Mulder. Iím glad youíre here. This is Janeís cousin, Diane. Someone just attacked her as she left the house."
"Which way did he go? Maybe we can. . . " Mulder started.
"No, no! I never saw anyone. There was no one there, but something came up behind me and tried to choke me. I never Ė I ran and he just went away. I donít know where!"
Neither Mulder nor Scully knew what to make of that story. Scully leaned closer to better see her neck, then motioned for Mulder to do the same with her eyes. There were definite bruises forming on her throat.
"Has anyone called the police?"
"No, it just happened." Jeff answered.
"Forget it! I just want to go home. Donít call anyone."
"Diane, you could have been seriously injured, you should report it and press charges when heís found." Scully responded.
"No. Just leave me alone. I couldnít identify him, I didnít see anyone! Jeff, tell Jane Iíll call her."
"You might want to wait a while." Jeffís voice wasnít completely friendly with that comment. Scully and Mulder watched the interplay. Diane reddened and wouldnít meet Jeffís eyes, but nodded.
"Is Jane alone?" Scully suddenly asked.
"Yes, she went upstairs to the bedroom." They all three raced back across the street, Scully holding Jeff back so that she and Mulder could enter the house first, guns drawn. Jeff looked back to see Diane jump in her car, lock the doors and take off. Typical.
Mulder and Scully raced upstairs. Jane heard the commotion and came out of her bedroom.
"Go back inside, Jane."
"Scully, you stay with her. Iíll finish the house."
Scully nodded and moved Jane back into her bedroom and shut the door.
"Whatís going on, Dana?"
"Someone attacked your cousin as she was leaving the house. Sheís fine, but Mulder and I want to make sure everything is okay."
"Scully, donít you think itís a little too coincidental that the nurse was strangled, Janeís cousin was nearly strangled and in both cases theyíve just been with these people?" Mulder asked as they were pulling away from the house.
"Mulder, tell me you donít think Jeff. . . "
"No, of course not."
"Well Jane is certainly in no shape. . . "
"I donít think either Jane or Jeff is involved."
"But you just said. . . "
"You left someone out." She just looked at him, then shrugged, "The baby, Scully."
"Oh come on, Mulder. The baby? A three day old infant that canít see, hear or think?"
"Survival instinct doesnít take a lot of thinking, Scully."
"Mulder, you have no basis for this, even extreme possibilities donít cover this."
"Okay, okay. But I am going to speak to the police, see what they have on the murder."
"I think thatís a good idea, Mulder. Iím sure they have a much more plausible explanation."
They didnít. Scully had to agree after reviewing the autopsy results. Yes, the cause of death was clear, asphyxiation, and there were marks around her neck. But the only skin under her fingernails was her own, where sheíd scratched her throat apparently trying to loosen the grip. There was absolutely no trace of anyone else touching her, and no one had been seen anywhere around her according to witnesses. The other nurse in the neonatal ICU had thought sheíd had a heart attack when she had seen her struggling and then falling to the floor in the hall. She swore no one was around. The police had decided the witness was in shock and had blocked the assailant from her mind. They had little or no hope of solving the case. Since she had no family to demand action, her case was already sifting toward the bottom of the pile. Mulder made a note of the witnessí name to interrogate her himself.
"Jeff," Mulder held out his hand, "Thanks for seeing me."
"No problem. I wasnít accomplishing much."
"Iím surprised youíre back at work." Mulder looked around the office.
"I know, itís just for a few hours. I probably shouldnít leave her alone, but sometimes I just need to get away. Do you have any children?"
Mulder shook his head.
"Itís so strange. I already loved him before he was born. And I still do, but I also want him. . . gone. This is causing Jane so much pain, the whole situation. Itís going to be so hard on her when he does die, but at least then she can grieve and start to move on. Both of us can. I donít know if you can understand it."
Mulder looked away, made his decision and looked back. "Yeah, I can understand. There was a little girl Ė sheís the closest Iíll ever come to having a daughter. It was. . . " He hesitated again, "bad when she died, but it was a relief too. She couldnít go on the way she was."
"Had she been sick long?"
"Yeah. Her whole life."
Jeff looked away. "Then you do understand." He walked back to his desk and sank into the chair. "Thatís not why you came here. Iím sorry, Mulder, there are just some things I canít say to Jane."
Mulder nodded, and took the seat across the desk.
"Well," Jeff cleared his throat. "What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to ask a couple of questions about Diane."
"Yeah, Iím concerned about what happened that afternoon at your house."
"I donít know what happened. I was inside, I was going to check on Jane when I heard Diane yell."
"Iíd like to talk to her again, now that some time has passed, see if she remembers any more. Would you mind giving me her name and number."
"No, I guess not. Her nameís Bogashitski, something like that. Sheís been married so many times I lose track."
"Could it be that one of her exís is stalking her?"
"I canít imagine one of them wanting to get that close." Jeff responded dryly.
"Not a really close relative?"
"Diane is. . . " Jeff paused to consider his words, "hard to put up with. She has the tact of a bulldozer and seems to think sheís still the head cheerleader or something. You know, everyone should be interested in her opinion."
"Did she express an opinion that upset you or Jane?"
"Listen, Iím on edge. Diane isnít pleasant, but she is family."
"It could be important."
Jeff frowned, trying to figure out where Mulder was going with this. He shrugged, it didnít really matter. "She came over and proceeded to tell Jane that she should, how did she put it, "put the poor thing to sleep." Just what Jane needed to hear. Jane ran upstairs and I made Diane leave. But I didnít hurt her." Jeff suddenly straightened up in his chair. "You donít think. . . "
"No! No, Jeff. Iím sure you had nothing to do with this."
"But what do you think?"
"Iím not sure. I guess Iím just intrigued that Diane and the nurse were both strangled."
"That was miles apart. Thereís no connection, is there?"
"Probably not, itís just the way my mind works. Could I have her number?"
"Sure." Jeff flipped through his wheeldex and copied Dianeís number down. He handed it to Mulder. "Be careful around her."
"Iím armed." They both grinned. "Guess I better go."
"Yeah. Listen, thanks for letting me vent."
Scully and Jeff stood and looked down at the baby after Scully finished her exam. ""Heís doing as well as could be expected, Jeff."
"I know. You donít have any idea. . .?" Scully shook her head. "It was good talking to your friend the other day. He understood what I was going through. It helped."
"Mulder?" She wasnít aware they had talked about the baby.
"Yeah, he told me about a little girl that died. Said she was the closest thing heíd ever have to a daughter. She was chronically ill also, so we were on the same wavelength."
"He said what?" Scully was desperately trying to hold on to her composure. Daughter? Mulder felt that way about Emily?
"I guess you know all about it."
"We, uh we havenít talked much about it. I guess I didnít realize how he felt about her." She was reeling. Mulder had actually said that to Jeff? Closest thing to a daughter. Her hands were shaking.
Jeff mistook her tone, "Hey, donít beat the guy up because he canít talk about it. Some people just canít do that. I wouldnít have been able to before this, but it really helped me. I mean talking to him. If he can get through it, you know? Was she a relative, niece?"
"Uh, no." She couldnít form words, and was rescued when Jane joined them in the room.
"Howís he doing, Dana?" Jane stood beside Jeff and put her finger in the babyís fist, which immediately tightened.
Finally, a conversation she could handle. "His heart seems strong, Jane. Good, regular beat. Is he eating okay?"
"Oh yes, his sucking instinct is quite strong. I wish. . . "
"Jane, donít do this." Jeff pulled her away from the baby. "You shouldnít let yourself. . . "
"Donít say it Jeff. I donít need to hear it again. Okay?" She was angry instantly, like sheíd been waiting for the switch to be flipped. "Dana, you donít think he has to die, do you?"
Donít bring me into this Jane. You donít want to hear me either, Scully thought, but said, "Jane, Jeff is just being realistic. Unfortunately there are facts that canít be ignored in this case."
"Damn you both! Youíre no better than Diane. Heís my son and I want him to live! I know you think we should put him down like some animal, well I wonít! And I wonít let you either!" She jerked away from Jeffís outstretched hand and reached for her baby.
Scully realized that she was having difficulty breathing, sheíd thought she was just overcome with emotions, but now it. . . it felt like someone had their hands around her neck. She realized that Jeff was obviously having the same problem, his face was turning red and heíd reached for his throat.
Jane turned back to face them, the baby in her arms, and realized something was wrong. "Jeff! What is it? Dana! Dana!"
Mulder had let himself into the house when no one had responded to his repeated knocking. He glanced into the formal living room and then headed past the stairs toward the kitchen.
"Jeff! What is it? Dana! Dana!" That was Janeís voice! Upstairs, what was wrong? He took the stairs three at a time to get to her.
Jane was standing near the bassinet, holding the baby. Jeff and Scully were struggling to take a breath, clawing at their throats. Jeff was leaning against the wall, but as Mulder entered the room, Scully collapsed to the floor. It was happening again!
"Jane! Heís killing them. He thinks they want to kill him and heís trying to save himself!"
"What!? What are you talking about?"
Mulder had Scully in his arms. "The baby! Heís the one that killed that nurse and attacked Diane. He doesnít want anyone to kill him! Heís trying to kill them both!" He couldnít wait any longer, Scully was dying.
There had been a range, a distance past which the baby couldnít reach. Diane had run away from the house and the choking had stopped! He had to get her out of here. If he could, heíd be back for Jeff, but Scully was top priority. He raced down the stairs and out the front door, not stopping until he had reached the point where Scully and he had first seen Jeff and Diane.
She wasnít breathing. He laid her on the grass and yelled for anyone that could hear to call 911, then began CPR on her. Two quick breaths, then position the hands, five compressions, now another breath. Scully! Come back to me Scully! Donít you leave me, not like this. Five more compressions, another breath. Had anyone heard him? Had 911 been called? Did she cough? Yes!
"Scully! Can you hear me?" He helped her roll to her side, to cough easier.
He remembered Jeff and looked over at the house. Jane was supporting him as he staggered down the front steps. He was alive too.
"You were being strangled, Scully. Itís over, donít think about it now."
"Yes, I felt the hands. But there was no. . . Mulder?"
"Do not try to sit up, Scully!" He held her shoulders to prevent any such action on her part. "You just stay still until the ambulance gets here."
"Iím fine, Mulder. Jeff? Is he okay?" She glanced over at the house and saw Jeff, half supported by Jane, coming toward them.
"Dana, are you all right?" Jeff sank onto the lawn beside her. Jane wasnít looking at any of them, but held tightly to Jeffís hand.
Mulder rose to his feet and looked at Jane. "Whereís the baby? Is he okay?"
Jane turned her back on him, and Jeff looked up. "I think," he cleared his throat, "I think heís dead."
"Dead?" Scullyís eyes swung from Jane to Jeff and back again. "What happened?"
"I donít know." Jeff said, glancing at Jane and quickly away. Jane kept her back to everyone.
Scully started to say something else, but Mulder caught her eye and shook his head. Confused she remained silent. They could hear the ambulance in the distance.
Links to other sites on the Web
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13 and Fox Ė Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.