SPOILERS: Per Manum
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc. Nor do I own the MPAA rating system.
Notes: Thanks again to my wonderful beta X-PhileChick#35 (a.k.a. UnderMySkinner) for the quick turn around. This series is being written jointly with Emily Sim.
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Foregoing her slippers, Scully pulled her robe tight around her while she shuffled toward the door. The persistent knocks sounded again before she could cover the distance of her living room.
"I'm coming!" She followed this with a few colorful phrases mumbled under her breath. If this was Mulder trying to drag her off on another wild goose chase on a Saturday morning, she just wasn't up for it.
Out of habit, she stood on her toes to look through the peephole as she unlatched the chain. Recognizing the convex image through the distorted lens, she dropped back to her heels with a sigh. She realized then that she should have expected this.
With a turn of her wrist, she opened the door to admit her guest.
"How are you feeling, Dana? Has the nausea subsided yet?"
Scully shut the door behind her mother and then turned to face her scrutinizing gaze. Less than an hour before, Scully had called to cancel their scheduled brunch, saying that she just didn't feel up to it this morning. Perceptive as always, Maggie had interpreted this to mean that her daughter was battling morning sickness again. Scully knew she should be grateful for her mother's tender loving care, but she wasn't really in the mood to entertain company right now.
"Well, I haven't thrown up for the last half hour, so I guess that's something."
"Have a seat, dear. Let me make you some tea. Do you think you could handle that?"
It was hard to tell what her stomach could handle these days, but she knew it would be easier to give her mother something to do, so Scully just nodded and took a seat at the kitchen table as instructed.
Maggie moved around the kitchen with practiced ease, filling the kettle with water as she spoke over her shoulder. "How did your last appointment go? Does the doctor think the morning sickness will let up soon?"
Scully hesitated before replying. She hadn't told her mother the big news yet, hoping to tell her in person rather than over the phone. Last night, she had studiously rehearsed how she would bring it up over brunch and field (or deflect) all of her mother's difficult questions that were sure to follow. But with her nausea and the cancellation of their plans, all of her well-articulated statements had fled her mind.
"Uh, everything's going fine, but the sickness might stick around for a while longer."
Maggie pulled two mugs out of the cupboard and set them on the counter before turning to take a seat next to her daughter while they waited for the water to boil.
"Oh, Dana, is this the ultrasound?"
Until that moment, it had entirely escaped Scully's notice that "Exhibit A" was sitting right in front of her on the table. She didn't know where her mind was these days. Before she could respond, her mother had already unsheathed the image and was perusing it with an eagle eye.
"Is this what I think it is?"
Scully offered her a crooked smile and said with a hint of irony, "Surprise!"
"I knew something was up, just from the way you were carrying."
"Mom, how could you know? I'm less than four months along."
"And you're already starting to show. Even with Bill Jr., my biggest baby, I didn't show as soon as you did. No wonder you're so sick. Do you remember my friend Barbara? When she was pregnant with her twins, she was sick the entire time."
"Thanks for the comfort," Scully replied with sarcasm.
"I'm just saying, dear, that this changes things. It will make it twice as difficult for you to get the proper nutrition. Have you thought about nutritional supplements, or those breakfast shakes?"
"Mom, I'm a doctor. I know how to take care of myself."
The kettle whistled its readiness, and Scully was hoping the interruption would bring a reprieve. She should have known better.
Maggie didn't miss a beat as she stood to retrieve the kettle and pour the water. "Yes, but this is your first pregnancy. You can read all you want to in books, but until you've gone through it yourself, you can't truly understand it. Every pregnancy is different. And I'm particularly concerned about yours. I know that women are having healthy babies much later in life than in my day, but you really shouldn't have waited this long. It only increases your chance of complications."
"I'm not going to get into this conversation with you again. I know as well as you do--if not better--what the risks are, and I know that having twins only complicates things. This isn't what I planned for my life, but I'm not going to turn down this gift. If you'd asked me a year ago, I never would've thought I could have one child, let alone two. If anything, it makes it easier that I only have to go through this once."
The water was now poured and the tea bags dispensed, so Maggie returned to the table and set down a mug in front of each of them. "And what does Fox think of all of this? He's certainly not going to let you handle this alone, is he?"
"Mom..." she said in that impatient tone that all children have mastered.
"Don't 'Mom' me, Dana. I've heard all your excuses. But things are different now. You can't possibly handle two babies on your own. Don't you think it's time you two started to talk about settling down?"
Fed up with her mother's intrusion, Scully pushed away from the table in exasperation and crossed to the sink. Her stomach was feeling unsettled again, possibly from the stress of the conversation, and she preferred to be near a drain if the nausea got the better of her. "It's not like that between us. This is my problem, not Mulder's. He only agreed to help me conceive. He didn't sign on for anything else. The work's too important to him for me to ask him to walk away from it so he can stay at home with me and play daddy."
"Have you even asked him what he wants? Dana, that man has been in love with you since the first day I met him." She read the impending protest on her daughter's face and held up a hand to preempt it. "You tell me the work is important to him, and I understand that because it's important to you, too. And yet here you've made the decision to take on a new challenge, an even greater adventure than either of you have ever faced. Don't you think that Fox might want the same thing?"
The fact was, Scully didn't want to let herself hope that her mother might be right. If she were truly honest, she was absolutely terrified at facing parenthood alone, especially now that she was going to be outnumbered. And just as there was no one else she could imagine as the biological father to her children, there was no one she would rather have by her side to face this greatest of challenges. She had seen Mulder's compassion and patience on enough occasions to know that he would make an excellent father. Over the years, he had become the yang to her yin, and she was sure that in this as in all else he would compensate for her weaknesses with his own strengths.
But she couldn't let herself think about it. Mulder had only agreed to the conception, not to fatherhood.
"I can't have this conversation right now, Mom. I need to lie down."
Maggie stood and stepped toward her, the concern written on her face. "Of course, sweetheart. Can I get you anything?"
Scully offered her a reassuring smile. "No, that's okay. I just need to rest. I'll feel better in a while."
Making a quick escape to her bedroom, Scully was sure to close the door behind her. She loved her mother dearly, but the woman just couldn't stay out of her children's lives. Would she herself be the same way someday?
After removing her robe and hanging it on the back of the door, Scully climbed between the sheets and tried to relax. She could hear her mother moving around the apartment, probably cleaning up after the tea that had gone untouched, and maybe taking it upon herself to find other domestic chores. Scully didn't have the energy right now to get up and fight with her over it, so she decided to let it be and tried to allow the muted noises to lull her to sleep.
But her doze was suddenly interrupted by the distinctive sound of a knock at the front door.
* * * * *
"Oh, hi, Mrs. Scully. I didn't realize you and Scu-, uh, Dana had plans this morning. I don't mean to interrupt." Mulder was obviously surprised to find his partner's mother answering her door, and his body language clearly expressed his uncertainty as to whether he should go or stay.
Maggie made the decision for him as she opened the door farther and stepped back, ushering him inside. "Nonsense, Fox, you're not interrupting anything. Dana's resting right now."
"Is she okay?" His grave expression and tone emphasized his concern.
"Just a little morning sickness. I hear she's been battling that a lot these days."
Mulder's features were more relaxed now, although his attention was focused on the closed bedroom door. "Yeah. I'm amazed she can even work some days. I feel so helpless watching her go through it, but there's really nothing I can do. And bringing up the subject only makes things worse. Somehow I'm not supposed to notice that she spends half the day turning green and running to the bathroom." He looked back at Maggie now with a sheepish grin, as though realizing that he was explaining his partner to the one person who knew her better than he did. "But you know Dana. She always insists on being invincible."
Maggie smiled back at him warmly. "Yes, she got that stubborn streak from her father."
Mulder wondered if maybe that trait wasn't inherited from both sides of the family, but he knew better than to express that thought aloud. At the natural pause in their conversation, he decided it might be a good time to excuse himself. "I should probably go now. I didn't come by for anything important, so I don't want to disturb her. Can you tell her I stopped by?"
"Actually, Fox, I'm glad you're here. There's something I'd like to talk to you about."
This situation suddenly made him very nervous. He had no idea what Mrs. Scully might want to discuss with him, but he was sure it would have something to do with his partner's pregnancy and his role in the matter. There were so many things that he and Scully hadn't ironed out yet, or even mentioned, and he certainly didn't want to discuss them with her mother when he hadn't even voiced them to Scully. But Maggie's hand was outstretched toward the couch in invitation, and he knew he couldn't refuse her. Whatever it was, he was obliged to hear her out.
* * *
Through the filter of the bedroom door, Scully couldn't make out every detail of the conversation on the other side, but she caught the gist of it--especially her mother's insistence on having a talk with Mulder. Scully felt compelled to put a stop to this before it got out of hand and her mother opened a can of worms that neither she nor Mulder was ready for. Unfortunately, her stomach had other ideas.
After a few uncomfortable minutes, the wave of nausea subsided, thankfully without demanding any more of her stomach's meager contents. Once Scully felt it was safe to extend her perimeter beyond the confines of the bathroom, she swiftly donned her robe and slipped out into the hall. Her intention had been to march right into the living room and put a stop to her mother's inquisition, but the conversation she encountered brought her up short, and she lingered out of their line of vision, her presence apparently still unnoticed.
"It just never ceases to amaze me how strong she is," Mulder was saying. "I realized a long time ago that I never would've made it this far without her by my side, but she's just so self-sufficient and independent that I don't feel like she really needs me. Trust me, I want to be here for her and help out however I can, but I don't really think she'll accept it."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Fox. Dana isn't willingly going to accept our help, but she's going to need us more than she realizes--both of us. I'll try to give her a hand with the cooking and cleaning as much as I can, but she leans on you in ways that she would never turn to me. Even if she won't admit it, Dana depends on you. Yes, she's very strong, but so much of that strength is drawn from you. All I'm asking is for you to be her friend and her partner, just as you have always been. The only thing that's changed now is the challenges that you'll face together."
"I promise you I'll do whatever I can. She hasn't asked anything of me, but I never intended to let her face this alone. She's too much a part of my life for me to just pretend like this doesn't involve me, too. But what I worry about the most is her health, the one part that I can't do anything about. I hate watching her get sick all the time and feeling helpless to stop it. And especially now, knowing that she's supposed to be eating for three instead of two. But I can't talk her into eating much when she knows that it'll just come right back up again."
Scully decided it was time to intervene. "If you think you're frustrated, try being me." The two heads peeking over the back of the couch turned as one, revealing two slightly embarrassed faces.
Mulder stood when he saw her approach. "Scully. We didn't mean to wake you."
"I wasn't really sleeping. Must be the tension level in the apartment." Mulder squirmed a bit under her gaze. It was clear that he felt guilty for talking about her behind her back--or at least for being caught at it. Maggie looked slightly less guilty and didn't jump in to defend herself.
"You can both stop worrying about me. I'm fine." Now Mulder's guilty look turned into a glare, and Scully deflated a little. "I admit that being pregnant isn't easy, and I don't have any experience at it, but you two have to trust that I'm a doctor, and that I'll do everything I can to stay healthy. Now, it's a beautiful day outside, and I think it's about time that you both got out and enjoyed it."
To their credit, the two conspirators accepted their dismissal without protest. Maggie gathered up her purse and sweater and then came over to give her daughter a kiss and a few words of parting before making her exit. Mulder lingered, clearly wanting to speak to his partner alone.
Scully closed the door behind her mother and then turned to forestall his apology.
"Don't worry, Mulder, I'm not upset. I know you both have your hearts in the right place, if not your heads."
He smirked at her assumption before responding. "Actually, I was going to ask you if you felt up to going out for lunch. I checked the menu at that new deli down the street, and it turns out they serve both pickles and ice cream...among other things."
In spite of herself, Scully cracked a smile at his joke. "Sorry, not today. I already turned my mother down for brunch." She paused for a beat and dropped her gaze to her hands playing with the belt on her robe. "However, if you're concerned about my diet, you could make a trip to the store for me."
Her offer was a concession, and they both knew it. Mulder was surprised that she would trust him with her grocery list, let alone ask for help, so he wasn't about to refuse.
At his nod of acquiescence, Scully walked over to the fridge to retrieve her short list from its magnetic clip. Making a stop by her wallet to pull out a couple of bills, she returned to the front door where Mulder awaited her return. When she extended her hand, he withdrew the list but refused the money, and she decided it wasn't worth arguing with him about it.
"I'll be back before you know it." His face melted into a warm smile, and Scully felt herself melt in response. And then he surprised her with a quick kiss to the cheek before disappearing out the door.
Finally alone again in the sanctuary of her apartment, Scully leaned back against the closed door. A tear escaped her eye before she even knew where it came from, and she quickly sniffed back the others that threatened to follow. The only word she could apply to this whole situation was "overwhelming." There was so much to take in and so much that was changing, not least of all her own body. And now she was going to have two eager helpers. She suspected, however, that they might become more of a hindrance than a help.
It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Mulder's involvement, but she was having a hard enough time fighting off her fantasies about him playing the doting father. And now, if he would be coming around constantly, running her errands and dropping kisses on her cheek, it certainly wouldn't be any easier for her to think of him as merely a friend.
With a sigh, she pushed away from the door. "Heaven help me."
She would need it.
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