He’s putting the finishing touches on a field report when she slides the blurry black-and-white picture in front of him.
“Thought you might want a first look,” she says. “I had an ultrasound.”
He blinks, tilts his head left, then right, trying to make sense of the image. “It looks like a peanut.”
Scully laughs. “This is the head,” she says, pointing, then draws her finger downward. “That’s the spine, and those are the legs and arms.”
“If you say so, Scully. Everything’s normal?”
“Mmhm. I’ll have another sonogram in a couple months.”
He squints, tilts his head again. “What I don’t get is how you can look at twenty photos of genuine paranormal phenomena and dub them fakes, then present me with a picture that looks like it was taken by a drunk with a broken camera and claim it’s a baby.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Chronic morning sickness isn’t proof enough?”
“I’m just saying, how do we know this isn’t an elaborate hoax perpetuated by government officials who don’t want the public to know the truth?”
“The truth about what?” she asks, folding her arms over her chest in mock skepticism.
“The scam that is the medical ultrasound industry. Seriously, Scully,” he says, gesturing to the photo. “I saw something like this during a Rorschach test once.”
She shakes her head, reaching over, pocketing the picture. “As intriguing as this theory of yours is, Mulder, I have an autopsy to do. Should we continue this investigation over dinner? On me.”
He leans back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. “Are you asking me out, Agent Scully?”
“No,” she says, drawing out the word. “A friendly dinner. As friends. Preferably before I get too big to wear decent clothes.”
He grins. “I’ll warn you, I’m not a cheap date.”
“Good, because it’s not a date. Tomorrow at seven?”
“I wouldn’t want to miss a friendly dinner with a friend.”
She smirks, shouldering her bag. “You can regale me with your ultrasound industry conspiracies. Don’t be late.”
The restaurant is a step up from their usual fare; the red-and-white-checked tablecloths and distinct air of fry grease are familiar territory, but the more exotic aromas wafting from the kitchen promise better cuisine.
“Indian, huh? Baby likes it spicy.”
“It’s good food,” she says, making her way to a table in the back. “Authentic. They make it worth the heartburn.”
They order sodas and chicken curry with extra rice and tandoori vegetables, family style. Scully surprises him by taking a heaping portion, even more so when she clears her plate and reaches for seconds. She catches him staring.
“It’s good to see you eating again, that’s all.”
“Eating hasn’t been a problem; keeping it down is the challenge.”
He chuckles. “So, what’s the occasion, Scully?”
“No occasion,” she says. “I owed you a rain check, and I thought we could get away from work for a while…ultrasound conspiracies and all.”
He brightens. “Oh, I have a slide presentation at the office. We can swing by and take a look when we’re done.”
She looks up from her chicken mid-bite, all wide-eyed incredulity, and he grins.
“I’m kidding, Scully.”
Her shoulders heave and she reaches for her drink. “God, I wish this was wine.”
“Only, what, thirty-two more weeks to go?”
“Ahh. When do you think you’ll tell Kersh?”
“I don’t know yet,” she sighs, swirling her soda in her cup, growing serious. “People will talk.”
“They’ve been talking about us for years, Scully. It’s one of the perks of being partnered with ‘Spooky’. Complimentary intrigue.”
“Lucky me,” she says drily, but she’s running her fingers along the rim of her glass, distracted. “What would you say?”
“To the water cooler gossip crowd.”
“In the unlikely event anyone had the balls to ask, I’d say it’s none of their business,” he says. “I’ll deny my involvement if you think that would help.”
She snorts, because they both know it wouldn’t. “And what do we tell him, or her?”
It takes him a moment to realize what she’s asking. “You mean…the baby?”
“Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but kids ask questions.”
He bites his lip. “I want whatever you want, Scully. I want…” he trails off, feels his cheeks grow hot, deciding it’s a latent effect of the curry. “I want you to be happy.”
There’s a fleeting look of disappointment on her face, so subtle anyone else would miss it, but she recovers with a tiny smile.
“What I’m saying is, I’ll be here,” he murmurs, barely able to meet her eye. “Whatever that means.”
“I know,” she says, just as the waiter interrupts to take their plates and offer tea. Mulder breathes a sigh of relief when she turns her attention to the menu.
“Thinking about desert?”
She quirks an eyebrow, lips turned up in a smirk. “You say that like it’s a question.”