Part One

NOTE: This is a WIP -- I reserve the right to mess with, abuse, fold, spindle and mutilate it as I go. And I will; you know I will.

We drove most of the way back in silence. When the passing scenery turned into passing landmarks, I finally shifted to look at her. "I'm sorry," I told her, and I was.

"It's okay," she said, without missing a beat. "I'm glad you called." We rolled past the playground on the corner, the best- in-district red brick grade school next to the ball field, and splashed our way through the pothole on Drury Lane that the town was supposed to have fixed by now. A jet of only slightly filthy water shot up and spread-eagled itself against the window beside me and I didn't flinch. Go me.

I looked down at my hands. The knuckles on my right hand were raw and bloody. I hadn't hit anyone, but Scully and I had been discussing renovations before I went out for my run, so in my own misguided way I might have tried to take out a wall. "I took my meds." My voice was small and scared and at that moment, suited me perfectly. I hated it.

"I know you did." She turned left onto Castle Court, her hands steady on the wheel, eyes steady on the road. "Joanna said you'd have to give it a good six weeks."

It had, in fact, given it a bad seven and a half weeks - a very bad seven and a half weeks. Most of the time everything was fine, if not great. But a couple of blackouts, some horrific nightmares and  a series of scatter-shot anxiety attacks had stretched me as tight and thin as a drumhead. Worst were the infrequent but entertaining seizures-with-bonus-hallucinations, like the one I'd just had. "I have."

"I know you have. I just think maybe we need something else." She switched lanes with the same ease she had switched pronouns and turned onto Drawbridge Drive. I had to wonder who in the hell named these streets. Were they actually shooting for nauseatingly cutesy, or had that been an unhappy accident? "What happened, Mulder?"

I didn't want to talk about it. "Same thing," I mumbled and hoped she'd drop it.

"The military stockade same thing?"

I still didn't want to talk about it, but somehow, I was. I nodded. "Only I was mostly naked this time."

"Mostly naked?"

Half shrug. "Naked."

Her brows rose. "Yeah?"


She pulled into the driveway."Your kinks just get kinkier, Mulder."

I made a noise like it might have been funny. It might have been, too, under other circumstances.

Mrs. Scully came out onto the porch, William in her arms, and my breath caught in my chest.

William. Half an hour in the fucking car and I didn't think to ask where he was. To even wonder where he was.

Shit shit shit.

Scully killed the engine and waved at the welcoming committee, then turned back to me. She took my undamaged hand, gave it a reassuring squeeze. "It's gonna be okay, Mulder."

She was wrong, but I didn't tell her.

Rain on the roof woke me the next morning. I laid under the cool sheets and stared at the smooth white ceiling and tried to think some smooth white thoughts. Instead, I kept getting the same Technicolor version of 'Fox Mulder, This Isn't Quite Your Life: The Sequel' that I'd been running and rerunning since Scully found me in that hospital in Tucumcari - my mother's suicide, Krycek's death, Samantha-as-starlight, ridge-necked super soldiers, the Gunmen dead in a puddle of regurgitated iridescent pink goo, cultists with a disturbing interest in my son, herds of white buffalos, and Scully in an endless (and delightful) parade of really tight, really hot sweaters. Oh, and the sick fuck in fatigues with the lead pipe who kept reminding me I was a guilty man. Like I'd forgotten, or was about to forget. The Paxil was good, but not that good.

Scratch that. After that last evening, it had become evident that the Paxil was *not* good. It took away my lows, which I was more than prepared to live without, but it took away my highs, too, which, few and far between as they had always been, I kind of missed. My libido was also AWOL, and even Scully missed that.

At least, I think she did. Maybe I was imagining that, too. My imagination seemed to be the only part of me that was still chugging along, doing what it was supposed to do. Only I was ready - more than ready - for it to stop.

A squeal and some thumping and a stern "William!" dragged me back to the there and then. Show time, I thought, and looked around for my boxers. I slipped them on and wondered vaguely when and why I had taken them off, but 'wondering vaguely' was so much a part of my everyday routine that I just let it go. More thumping and squealing and Scully's voice, hushed but serious. "William, your father is sleeping! Get down here!"

"Noooooooooo!" echoed through the hall.

"William Michael Mulder! Now!"

"No way!"

That's my boy, I thought, and hey, I didn't flinch. Go me again. Twice constitutes a pattern, right?

William slammed his way through the door and breathlessly told me something really important. It either involved 'pancakes' and 'grandma' or 'corn flakes' and 'drama,' but whichever way, the message was clear - I was in for dinner and a show, minus the dinner, very much plus the show. The mother-in-law myths aren't myths, even when the mother-in-law isn't technically your mother-in-law.

Then I got the arms. The *pick-me-up* arms. The *you're-my-dad- and-the-toes-of-my-tiny-little-Reeboks-belong-in-your-abs-pick-me-up* arms. I shouldn't hesitate - I shouldn't have to hesitate - but I always do. Anytime Scully noticed, she tried hard to look like she was trying hard not to look pained, but I saw it, anyway. It wasn't that I didn't want to hold William - hold my son. It was just that, every time I reached for him, for an instant I was sure my arms were going to pass right through him and I'd find myself passed out on the cold cement floor of my cell again, clutching my chest and aching for all I'd lost. If the price I had to pay to keep this dream up and running was never really holding it, I was prepared to accept that.

But William wasn't. "Up!" he insisted, so I accommodated.

He was solid. Real. I'm his dad. His toes do belong in my abs.

I kissed his forehead. Why isn't everything this simple?

Scully stopped in the threshold then, looking harried and gorgeous. "William," she scolded, "I told you. . .oh. You're awake?"

"I seem to be." That was as honest as I could be about that.

"Sorry about-"

"Don't be," I said. The last thing I wanted her to be sorry about was William.

"He was up the stairs so fast. I swear that child is part mountain goat."

I ruffled his hair. "That would explain the blond thing," I said, but decided not to think about it too much before I had coffee and a handful of numb.

Scully was still standing in the doorway, arms folded, not quite in and not quite out, watching us. My throat tightened and I squeezed William once. Still solid. Good.

I strolled us over to the window. William pointed to the wet tire swing in the maple (which Scully wouldn't let him use, of course) and reminisced at length about a big bird he'd seen out there at one time or another. I smiled and nodded at what seemed like the appropriate places, then looked over my shoulder at Scully. As casually as I could, I asked, "You waiting for an invitation?"

She blinked at me. "Oh. No. I, um-." She made that face she makes when she's about to abruptly change the subject, and walked into the room. Perching on the edge of the unmade bed, she smoothed her fingers over the quilt. "How's your hand?"

There was definitely a variation on the old 'How's your head?' joke in there somewhere, but I couldn't see it and it probably wasn't suitable for the younger members of the audience, anyway. "S'okay." I held it out to her, gritting my teeth against the pain and wriggling my fingers so she could see they were all still working. Good doctor that she is, she took the bait.

"Doesn't look infected," she commented upon examination, but with the number and variety of drugs they were still pumping into me, I didn't see how even the toughest bacteria could have set up camp. She probed my knuckles gently, but I sucked in a harsh breath through my teeth when she straightened the fingers one by one. "Sore?"

"I punched a cinder-block wall, Scully. So, yeah, it's a little sore." I grinned, hoping to take the edge off the honesty. "But hey, you should see the bruise I gave that wall."

She let go of my hand and ran her fingers through her hair. It was long. Really long. Long enough that she could pull it back into a pony tail and I could have any number of really interesting little daydreams involving her, a cheerleader's uniform, a couple of really perky pompoms, and-

"Did you get some sleep?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah." I nodded. "I slept the sleep of the medicinally fortified," I answered, but her expression told me she didn't like the answer. "I had a good night," I amended. "No bad dreams. No dreams, period. You?"

She seemed to think about how best to answer for a moment, then she looked me straight in the eye. "I was lonely," she stated in her most matter-of-fact tone.

I brushed my damaged knuckles across her cheek. It hurt. A lot. "Me, too."

She sighed. "Then why are you still sleeping in the guest room?"

I reached out and pulled her into a loose hug, squeezing my eyes shut in apprehension as I did so. Much to my relief, she was solid, too. I brushed my lips across her forehead. "I don't want to hurt you again."

"That was an accident, Mulder."

"That was nearly a broken nose, Scully." She'd had two black eyes for over a week and there was probably still blood on the comforter. I rested my chin on top of her head and she circled my chest with her arms. We stood like that for a minute, the three of us, just being and breathing, and I liked it a lot.

"It's not right," she said in a voice so small I wondered for a moment if I'd imagined it. "You're home, and I still miss you."

And then I realized it didn't sound like anything RealScully would say. Not to me, at least. All things being equal, I probably had imagined it.

"This is just until I get back to normal," I assured her, but without any real conviction that there was a normal for me to get back to.

William had had enough touching family moment by then. "Bekfist."

"Mom's making apple pancakes," Scully said. She rubbed the tip of William's nose. "Some little boy really likes apple pancakes, doesn't he?"

"Me," William explained as if I was the slow kid in the class.

"Sounds yummy," I said, and actually, it did. My appetite, like so much else, had been off, but I felt hungry. Really hungry. Mrs. Scully was probably making arsenic pancakes for me, but maybe I'd get a bite of one of William's before I fell over.

Scully pulled away and looked me up and down, then glanced at her wristwatch. "Get dressed, Mulder." She reached out and took William. "Mark'll be here in an hour. He called and said he's got the new blue prints."

Oh joy, I thought, my mouth suddenly dry. Mark. Yippee. I'd faced down mutants, monsters, madmen, and Skinner shortly after he'd been found in bed with a dead hooker; why the idea of home renovations made me cold-sweat I could not fathom. Did not want to fathom.

"Right," I said and rummaged through the pile of clothes I'd dropped on the arm chair. Somewhere there was a second sock. "Blueprints."

Scully gave me a questioning glance, then apparently thought better of whatever she was going to say. "See you downstairs?"

I just nodded and, with clammy hands, pulled on my jeans.