Category: V, A
Summary: He holds the world in his arms, and tries not to count the hours until morning.
“He’s so small,” Mulder murmurs, his lips grazing the soft skin at the back of Scully’s neck. He draws his fingers over the sleeping boy’s chest, feels the tiny heart fluttering beneath.
“He’ll grow,” she sighs.
Mulder swallows the lump in his throat and thinks about time and distance, of the light from long-dead stars filling the empty miles.
“No rush, kid,” he whispers.
The baby frowns, an expression so like his mother’s, Mulder can’t help but smile. He nudges her shoulder, but Scully is already asleep.
The sound of their breathing fills the room. He holds the world in his arms, and tries not to count the hours until morning.
Scully drifts in a postpartum haze, nursing and dozing in one-hour shifts with William tucked against her side.
His cry startles her awake, to find him being swept up and out of her arms. She lurches forward in the dark, finding emptiness, instinctively dives for the shadow at her bedside.
A hand comes down on her shoulder, and she claws at it, pulling herself up, her aching body desperate with adrenaline. They can’t take him now, not now, not after everything.
“No! No, you can’t—“
“Scully, it’s me!”
The voice is warm, the hand familiar on her cheek.
“I…I’m sorry, I…he was done and I couldn’t sleep anyway and he needs a change. It’s just me.”
“Oh, oh God,” she exhales a hoarse, shaky breath, overcome with relief. The bed dips as Mulder sits beside her, cradling the baby, and she’s grateful for the cloak of darkness, where he can’t see the tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he says again, as if he’s done something wrong.
She opens her mouth to absolve him, but no words come out; only a sob, muffled by his shoulder, as the last of her courage crumbles around them.
The streetlights cast orange halos on the walls as Mulder paces the apartment, grateful for the scant weight of the child in his arms.
He can’t imagine William’s namesake preparing bottles or changing diapers, but tonight, in a rare moment of nostalgia, he wishes he could ask his father if this is what it felt like for him—fear and love so tightly entwined, he can no longer tell the difference.
William’s cries escalate; Mulder stops pacing and sways, thinking about fathers and sons and holy ghosts. The motion seems to work, and the baby quiets, studying him in the half light.
“What do you think?” he whispers, William’s bright blue eyes staring, rapt, into his, some ancient understanding sparkling beneath. “Should we go wake your mom?”
The baby burps, and Mulder chuckles to himself.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Scully wakes, blinking into the unfamiliar glare of late morning. Sunlight streams through the blinds, washing the room in white, cleansing the last lingering dreams from her consciousness.
The bassinet next to the bed is empty, and Mulder’s voice, low and gentle, drifts from the kitchen. She overhears bits of their one-sided conversation, a fractured fairy tale told by a fallen prince.
“…and there was this ship, a ghost ship, and they pulled me out of the water, half-drowned. Your mom was there, but she didn’t know who I was, and she didn’t like me very much…”
She hesitates at the bedroom door, watching from afar, her breasts heavy with neglect. William offers a soft, disgruntled growl to echo her discomfort, suckling his fist in protest.
“Yeah, I know you’re hungry, but your mom is sleeping and I’m trying to keep it that way. Besides, you didn’t let me finish.”
She closes her eyes, listening to her partner’s voice, to the sound of her heart retelling their story.
“You’ve had him most of the night, Mulder. You need to sleep, too.”
“I’ll sleep later,” Mulder yawns, stroking the boy’s back, eyes closing in a slow blink.
She bites her lip, sinks down onto the couch. “How much time do we have?”
He considers playing dumb, but his head is a fog of sleeplessness and the baby is warm on his chest.
“They’re pressing charges. Skinner said he could buy me two days, maybe three.”
Her voice is rough, lined with fatigue. “Where will you go?”
“The guys have a friend of a friend who has a place,” he murmurs, nuzzling the top of William’s head. “It’s better if you don’t know, in case they question you.”
“I don’t know.”
She doesn’t ask why he hasn’t told her, doesn’t press for more. There are no tears; she folds her hands in her newly diminished lap and watches as the baby shifts and sighs, sucking his fingers in his sleep.
“I’m sorry, Scully,” he says, wishing it were enough.
“I know,” she whispers to no one, to nothing. “I know.”
They sit at the table in solemn quiet, her fenugreek tea growing cold as he sips his coffee, the baby sleeping in the bassinet between them. Scully can’t meet his eyes, even as she reaches for his hand. She holds it as if he might dissolve and run like sand through her fingers.
When the phone rings, neither of them moves to answer.
“Maybe it’s Mom,” she says, the lie from her lips dry as bone.
The ringing continues, and eventually William stirs. Mulder leans over to pick him up, suddenly desperate to touch him, for the comfort of his solidity.
The phone stops, giving way to a moment of heavy silence before the ringing starts again.
“Let the machine get it,” Scully says.
“Just another minute,” she says thickly. “Please.”
“OK,” he sits back. “As long as you want.”
More promises he can’t keep.
When it rings a third time, she pushes back from the table, takes a deep breath before picking up the receiver.
“Hello? Yes. Yes…”
Her eyes are dark when she turns to him, holding the phone in her outstretched hand.
“It’s for you.”
The suitcases are packed and waiting by the door. He’s fresh from the shower, hair damp at the temples. Years from now, she’ll be able to conjure this morning from the scents of aftershave and black leather.
Her eyes water, her breasts begin to leak, there’s blood sticky between her thighs, and she thinks this must be what it’s like to come undone. It reminds her of birth, the pain coming in waves, the helplessness, an unstoppable force rushing headlong toward the light.
The baby sleeps soundly against her shoulder, oblivious to the difference between night and day, to the turmoil his existence has wrought. Mulder leans down to kiss his head one more time, and Scully watches, trying to burn the image of her son and his father into memory.
His arm comes around her, pulling them into an embrace, whispering a promise into her hair.
She looks up at him, wishing it were true.
“Be safe,” she says, sending up a prayer in lieu of goodbye.
She wishes her eyes wouldn’t shine, but she knows they do. They shine like the stars.