Sent: Monday, August 07, 2000

Title: Introspection: Return
Author: Jen and Lauren
Emails: JenR13@aol.com & JRDG1013@aol.com
Spoilers: Requiem, Brand X, a little Blessing Way
Rating: PG.
Category: XRA, MT, mythology
Archive: MTA, Gossamer, and anywhere else that would like to archive it.
Summary: Four months after Requiem, Mulder is returned, and everybody has a
lot of figuring out to do.

Disclaimer: Anyone you recognize, and that should be everyone, belongs to
Chris Carter and his baby, Ten Thirteen Productions. You know the drill.

Comments & Notes: Okay, I hope somebody is reading this because it's VERY
IMPORTANT TO KNOW! (that get anyone's attention?) This story is the
beginning of a long series of stories. This is our own virtual eighth
season, and it is different from the other virtual eighth season in many
ways. For one, it acknowledges Requiem, and is based mostly on the events
that took place during it. Secondly, we will continue to write this series
during the actual eighth season, and it will be loosely based on the actual
eighth season (if at all possible, we're not quite sure what they're planning
on doing with Mulder.) For example, we might make mentions to cases that
they work on in the real eighth season, or we might do post-eps and
fill-in-the-blanks. Anyway, stay tuned!

"Introspection: Return"
Completed July 2000

The phone was ringing.
The repeated ring was beginning to invade her dreams again. It seemed
she always had an interruption to her dreams lately.
Not that they didn't need interrupting.
The phone continued to ring.
Dana Scully stared up the ceiling and contemplated the ringing telephone.
She was flat on her back, comfortable for what seemed like the first time in
months and not wanting to move from that position.
The phone was still ringing.
She blinked and stared at her shadow, and it loomed above her and her
hand subconsciously went to the bump in her stomach.
<I've swallowed a basketball> she thought to herself, though there was no
humor in her thoughts.
The phone seemed as if it had been ringing forever. Truth was give it
another couple of rings and the machine would pick up.
She didn't care to answer her phone. Especially not at . . . she
realized she had not idea what time it was.
Time didn't seem to matter, anyway.
For four months, time should have stood still.
Her stomach told a different story.
"Hi, you've reached Dana Scully . . ." She vaguely heard her machine
message, a message over 6 months old. She didn't get that much cheer in her
voice now. Damn it, that voice was a cheerleader, compared to the depressing
slump that pregnancy hormones seemed to have brought her into. She didn't
need another late call from Frohike, checking to see if she was still awake,
which she often was.
She appreciated his concern. The Gunmen were actually quite
compassionate she learned. She had enough comfort between them, her mother,
and surprisingly (or perhaps not) Walter Skinner.
" . . . he's at Georgetown Memorial, Scully."
Scully suddenly shoved the comforter out of her path and shot up as fast
as a six month pregnant woman could do. She heard the double beep that ended
the message and raced to hit the 'play back' button on her answering machine.
"Scully, there's a John Doe at Georgetown, unconscious. We picked it up
on the scanner. They found him by the Capitol. Matches Mulder with bullet
scars on the left leg and left shoulder complete with age, height, all that.
And a scar on the back of the neck."
Her hands turned to ice at that moment as she greedily drank in the
message.
"He's at Georgetown Memorial, Scully, I feel it. We sent Byers to check
it out. Hope you're awake to hear this."
Scully was already getting dressed, for once not minding the maternity
attire. The message was still playing, yet she wasn't listening. She was
looking for her car keys.
And she was praying, something she'd been doing for months.
She glanced at her clock before darting for the door.
It was 3:15 a.m. September 29.
Four months to the day.

----------------------

An hour and a half later, after finding a cab -- no easy feat at three
thirty in the morning -- and getting past all the questioning and general
security at the hospital, Scully stood just outside the door to Mulder's
hospital room. She'd been standing there for a good two minute; from her
viewpoint, he didn't even look too bad, but something was keeping her from
going in.
She felt a strong hand on her shoulder and spun around quickly. Skinner
stood just behind her, wearing navy blue sweats and a blank expression. She
wondered how he could be so cool.
"I just ran into Byers in the hall," he said softly. "He's trying to
find someone who knows how Mulder got here." He stepped back and studied
Scully's face, expecting her to look relieved, even happy, but instead she
seemed nervous. "What's the matter, Scully? He's back, he's fine."
"We don't know he's fine," she said in a shaky voice. "He hasn't woken
up yet. And they found a chip," her voice cracked on the last word and she
swallowed hard. "in his..."
"Shh, don't worry about that right now. We got him back, that's all that
matters right now." Skinner said, and gently pushed her into the room. "Go
sit with your partner, Scully. I'm going to go help Byers." He watched her
advance slowly into the room and take a seat in the chair beside the bed,
wondering what was going through her mind at that moment; what she thought
would happen when Mulder woke up. Skinner himself didn't _want_ to think
about that; instead he cleared his mind and decided to put his investigative
skills to good use.

----------------------------

When Mulder finally woke up, Scully had managed to think through every
possible complication that could result from this -- nosebleeds, and cancer
and more. So when he opened his eyes two hours later, looking disoriented
and still tired, the best she could do to say was, "I'll go get the doctor."
The doctor was a young man, obviously several hours into his shift, who
was looking like he'd like to be home at that moment. He checked Mulder out
and declared that there was nothing seriously wrong with him; he was
basically just run down with a low-grade fever, some fluid in his lungs and
various scrapes and bruises. Then the doctor signed his chart and left,
muttering something about being home with his wife and children.
As soon as he left, Scully went into full-speed cheerful mode. It was
fake, of course, she was tired as hell, but she felt the need to show Mulder
that everything was okay. He must have realized, she knew, that she was
B.S.ing, and that nothing was okay with him missing, but he lay quietly, and
listened to her describe the support that everyone had given her, and the few
lame cases that she'd been on. Come to think of it, he'd been _very_ quiet;
he'd asked for water when he first woke up, but hadn't spoken since.
"Mulder, what's the matter?" she asked, when the silence became
unbearable. "Does something hurt? Do you know something?"
"No, it's just...." He swallowed and scrunched his forehead up, thinking
hard. "What happened?"

----------------------------

It was a simple question, yet Scully hadn't been able to answer it. He
was confused, obviously, as he should be, but to him it was as if only a
minute had gone by. He remembered nothing of the evening he disappeared, and
nothing up until then.
"Isn't it May?" he had asked, question written all over his face.
She wished it was indeed May.
He had fallen asleep again when Scully calculated what she knew.
Then realized it was nothing. She folded her coat back over her lap.
Thankfully, Mulder was so worried about the fact that four months of his life
were missing, that he had missed the bulge she was so desperately hiding.
She hadn't stood up in his presence yet, either.
Now she understood what he had gone through, only a few years ago.
She fingered her own neck.
"Scully?"
She looked up to see Byers in the doorway with Langly and Frohike behind
him. Skinner had inched into the room.
"What did you find out?"
Byers spoke first. "Nothing more then we already now. The EMS said that
their dispatch got an anonymous call that lead them toward the Capitol. The
call couldn't be traced."
"The area he was found in has been wiped clean," Langly added.
"It looks like someone just dropped him off," Frohike continued.
"He was wrapped in a blanket and nothing else, but the EMS that I talked
to said it looked as if someone had almost 'tucked him in for the night'."
"We'll get someone on this."
Scully turned to Skinner and nodded. "Yeah, we should do that." Skinner
walked up to her and drew her gaze to Mulder.
"Not you, though. Not now. You have other things to worry about." He
placed her hand on her stomach and she rubbed it unconsciously.
"I have to."
"You found him, Scully."
She suddenly stood up and her jacket fell to the floor. "I _didn't_ find
him! That's just it!" She then realized she'd been shouting when a nurse
peered into the room with a finger to her lips. An uncomfortable silence was
exchanged between the four as the nurses footsteps faded away.
"So, ah, how's Mulder?" Frohike asked, changing the subject. Scully
sighed heavily.
"He's running a slight temperature. Has a little crackle in both lungs.
Bumps, scrapes, bruises. Nothing that a few antibiotics, bandages, and a lot
of rest won't take care of." She sat back down. "Why would he just be left?"
"You were," Langly said, then received a jab in the ribs from both Byers
and Frohike.
Scully looked up thoughtfully. "He was in danger. Whatever I was needed
for, it seemed like I was finished. Mulder, a past abductee, what would they
want with him?" She realized her last sentence didn't make much sense. She
had no idea what she'd said. Mulder, a past abductee? She strained to reach
her fallen jacket. Skinner beat her to it and handed it to her.
"I can do it," she insisted. "I can still see my feet." She threw the
jacket over her lap again. To the four men settled around her in the room it
looked as she were hiding her pregnancy.
"Scully?"
It was Frohike who spoke up.
"So did he, ah, notice?"

-----------------------

Around eight, Skinner persuaded Scully to go home. She had gotten very
little sleep the night before, and had herself admitted that if she wanted to
be of any help, she'd have to be fresh.
But she couldn't sleep. Part of the problem was the sun streaming in
through her closed curtains (she never could sleep when it was light out),
but mostly her mind wouldn't let her rest. There were two thoughts that were
plaguing her, that she just couldn't figure out: why they would take Mulder
again, and why they would return him. She felt guilty contemplating the
latter; she knew that she should just be thankful to have him back, and in
one piece. But as for why they would take him again, she had no idea, but
she had a feeling that when she figured it out, it would be the answer to all
the questions. Once she knew why they took him, she would know what they did
and how it effected him.
Scully rolled over and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, trying to block
out the sun and her thoughts. Part of her wanted desperately to know what
had happened to Mulder, so she could fix it, and bring the..... creatures,
who did it to justice. The other part of her just wanted to know nothing,
and to forget the possible future side effects, and be able to tell him,
honestly, that everything was all right.
With that thought, she slipped into sleep.

---------------------

Mulder didn't wake again until seven p.m. when the cart with the dinner
trays came clanging into his room, and deposited a tray on his neighbor's
lap. He heard the nurse stage whisper that she didn't want to wake Mr.
Mulder, so she would just leave his tray right here.
<If you didn't want to wake Mr. Mulder, you should have been quieter,>
Mulder thought blandly, and opened his eyes to see Langly, the only one left
in the room, peering in disgust at the contents of his dinner. Langly
noticed the movement in the bed immediately and turned to Mulder.
"Hey man, how're you feeling?"
Mulder grunted as he tried to sit up in bed. "Not too bad," he said. It
was true. He was a bit sore, and still tired and confused, but this was
nothing compared to what he usually felt like when he woke up in the
hospital. In fact, he was wondering why he was still here. "When are you
guys gonna spring me?"
"I don't know..." Langly started.
"Now?" Mulder asked hopefully.
Langly laughed. "I don't think so. For one, Scully's not here, and I
don't think she'd appreciate us signing you out before she gets a chance to
look at you."
Mulder chewed on his lip. "Not a good enough reason for me," he said.
"Well, you've been missing for four months, big guy. That's enough of a
reason for me--"
He was cut off as Byers and Frohike raced through the door at the same
time, and became comically jammed in the doorway together. They pushed and
finally Byers stepped back to let his friend through, then followed.
"Hey, you'll all get a chance to speak with me," Mulder said, mildly
amused.
The new arrivals were panting.
"Skinner found something," Byers said. "He wants us to meet him at
Scully's place ASAP. Let's go, Langly."
Langly hopped up from his chair and grabbed his coat. "See ya, Mulder."
"Hey, what about me?" Mulder demanded.
The Lone Gunmen were almost out the door by that point, and all three
turned around. They looked at each other.
"Well," said Byers. "Since you sort of involved with this already..."

---------------------

When the four arrived at Scully's apartment, Skinner's car with the FBI
plates was already parked outside. They had to wait for the elevator, then
for someone to open the door, so by the time Skinner let them in, they were
very impatient. When Mulder walked through the door and noticed Scully's
extended midsection for the first time, he did such a double take that they
all had to laugh.
"Um congratulations, Scully," he said, suddenly shy. On the taxi ride
over, the Lone Gunmen had been buzzing about what Skinner could have found
out. Mulder had joined in, but at the same time, he was uneasy. He knew
that they were just being good friends by investigating his disappearance,
but he wasn't quite as sure that he wanted to know what had happened to him.
This wasn't an X-file, this was his life.

----------------------

It was his life, all right.
And it was frustrating as well.
Skinner's discovery had been big. Dropped simply in his mailbox was a
vial. It contained a chip, very similar to the one Scully had in place in
her neck, and the one that Mulder had now as well.
He shivered at the thought. Scully had immediately fingered her neck and
perhaps due to a gut feeling of some sort, wanted an x-ray.
It was impossible because of her pregnancy. She didn't want to hurt the
baby.
The baby. He and Scully hadn't had one moment alone together after he
noticed her 'addition', but he was certain if that child was normal and made
the old-fashioned way, it was his.
He swallowed at the thought. He'd deal with that one later. Especially
when he looked at the sight in front of him.
"Are you sure you want me to do this, Dana. I mean I'm hardly qualified
-"
"Do it, Walter, before I change my mind."
When the hell had she started calling him, Walter? And he was calling
her Dana? Mulder had a feeling he had a lot of catching up to do. He
stifled a cough.
"I heard that, Mulder. I want to check your temperature when I'm done
with this."
'This' was simply Scully's idea. She's gotten a scalpel and wanted
Skinner to cut the skin where her chip was and check to see if it was still
there.
Mulder, honestly, thought she was nuts. He had a feeling the Gunmen did,
too, as none of them jumped at the chance. Mulder didn't, either. Skinner
was the only brave one.
Or just as nuts as Scully was depending on the way it was looked at.
Skinner was nervous as hell, but Mulder had to admit he had steady hands.
One quick cut and . . .
He looked away. Scully grimaced a bit.
"Well?" she asked.
There was silence for a second, before Skinner's response came.
"It's gone."

------------------------

It could explain so many things. Her ability to get pregnant was one.
The fact that she hadn't had a major health problem for a while. Her
encounter with . . .
Spender, Sr. The cure for all human illnesses.
Cancer.
Even infertility.
Even eliminating the need for a chip that was preventing the return of
the disease that almost claimed her life.
It was a terrifying thought.
Ever since she had discovered her chip missing, she had this feeling that
invaded her.
She hadn't been in danger. She hadn't been wanted.
She had no chip.
Could that be it?
The Gunmen were eating pizza in the living debating possibilities.
Skinner was in the kitchen trying somehow to be useful. She was left to
escape to her bedroom.
She and Mulder.
"So maybe we can leave the crowd and head to my place?" Mulder said in a
teasing tone, then stifled another cough.
"Your 'place' doesn't exist anymore, I'm afraid. And open."
"What do you mean it doesn't exist?" Scully took his speaking as an
opportunity to stick a thermometer in his mouth.
"Your landlady kicked you out after she discovered you weren't living
there. She didn't care about the fact that I was still paying the rent."
"She was probably glad to get rid of me."
"Hey, put that back in." She shoved the thermometer back in his mouth.
There was a few minutes of silence between them. When the thermometer
beeped, Scully jumped.
"100.9. I'll get your antibiotics."
"Wait."
She turned back to him.
"So where's my stuff?"
They'd deal with it now, she realized. "Some scattered around here. The
rest is in storage. Mulder, we discussed living -"
"Together, I remember that part, Scully. Of course, I wasn't expecting .
. ." He gestured to her stomach.
"I wasn't either," she admitted and it fell silent again. "Mulder -" she
began, but was interrupted by Mulder's lips on her own.
For a minute she forgot about the missing chip.
But only for a minute.

----------------------------

"Scully?" Skinner was at the door. He didn't seem at all surprised to
see his two agents kissing.
Mulder pulled back, embarrassed, and Skinner came into the room. He was
carrying Scully's portable telephone. "The boys and I have decided that you
should see a doctor," he said. "Just to make sure that everything is okay.
With the cancer and all."
Scully nodded. "That might not be a bad idea. But I don't want to see
anyone who's been involved with me before, and knows about what I've had.
I'll go in and ask for some routine tissue and blood samples, then check them
myself."
Skinner frowned. "I don't think they'll let you, as a patient, see your
own results. Besides, don't you think it'll be a little suspicious. Not
many people decide out of the blue to check themselves for cancer."
"Fine, then I'll do it myself," Scully said. "I have access to the
medical facilities at Quantico..."
Mulder shuddered, remembering the last do-it-yourself experience, with
Skinner and the scalpel. He couldn't bear to see Scully get hurt again, even
if it was for a good cause...
Scully mistook his shudder for effects of the slight fever he was
running. "Mulder, why don't you lie down?" she said gently.
"I'm fine, Scully, it's just the thought of you--" he started coughing
and both Skinner and Scully froze, the same image of the deep suction machine
sucking bugs from Mulder's lungs in both their minds. Scully scowled, and
Mulder said defensively, "It's just a cold. I'm fine."
She sighed, "I know you are, but I can't help but worry. You're defenses
are down right now, and we have no idea what they did to you. I just want
you to be safe." She turned to Skinner. "It's too late to go to Quantico
tonight, and we can't really do much else, so why don't you and the Gunmen go
home. Mulder can stay here," she said, and looked at her boss, testing to
see how he'd react. He shrugged and made his way to the door.
Scully turned to her partner. "I know you're not going to like this,
G-man," she said, "but why don't you sleep in the guest room tonight. It's
the only way that either of us will get any sleep," she grinned, then said,
her voice quieter, "And, I don't want to push this. Our relationship." She
waited for his reaction.
"Sure," he said, and yawned. "Just point me towards it."

--------------------------------

The separate rooms didn't last long. Mulder's fever spiked a bit around
2 a.m. so after a dose of Tylenol (TM), Scully was sitting up against the
headboard of her bed with Mulder sleeping fitfully next to her, one hand
securely resting on her stomach. She looked down at him, and was once again
amazed at how innocent he looked asleep.
What had happened to both of them?
The thought came out of nowhere, and Scully wondered about what kind of
results she'd discover after testing her own blood. Her health, for the last
several months seemed fine, except for the depression she had fallen into.
Glancing around her room, she could see the remains of the last few months.
The prenatal vitamins on the dresser.
The pile of clothes that she could no longer fit into.
The half-assembled crib her mother had bought her.
A thought stuck her. Her mother. She hadn't spoken to her mother.
Trying not to wake Mulder, she moved slightly to grasp her portable
phone. It may have been four in the morning, but she never needed to talk to
her mother more.

------------------------------

After a few raised eyebrows at the hours she spent at Quantico, she had
an answer.
And even more questions.
"I'm fine," she said and for the first time that she ever uttered she
realized that they were finally true.
Mulder looked up at her, and just smiled. After hours of theories and
pondering the Gunmen and Skinner had left, leaving her alone with Mulder.
"So to quote a line from Evita, Mulder, 'what happens now'?"
Mulder picked his head up from the couch. "You saw Evita, Scully?"
She smiled for the first time in days. "Yeah, I saw Evita." She joined
Mulder on the couch, and he immediately placed his hand protectively on her
stomach.
"Ok, then next, I'll finish assembling that crib in your bedroom. Then
you and I can have a paint fight painting the guest room, and we can retrieve
my couch out of storage-"
"I like my couch!"
"-and we just go ahead."
She turned to look at him. "Go ahead with what?"
He looked determined. "Finding answers."
There was a moment of silence between them.
"And I'll have to please your mother and make you into an honest woman."
He let his hand find hers. "I know, Scully, it seems every corner just leads
to another dead end. I'm missing four months of my life. Four months of
this." His hand found her stomach again. "And four months of this." He
leaned closer to gently kiss her.
It was at that moment that she looked at what she truly had.
Mulder was home. They were going to have a baby.
"We'll get answers, Mulder," she muttered and he let go of her hand and
the gentle kiss began to turn in a major make-out session.
"Tomorrow," he muttered, in between kisses.
Tomorrow sounded good to her.

End of "Introspection: Return."
Series will be continued.

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