DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc. Nor do I own the MPAA rating system.
* * * * *
Letting the catalog slip from her hand to the coffee table below, Scully raised her arms to stretch, inadvertently releasing a yawn. It was only early evening, but her energy was quickly waning. The larger her mid-section grew, the more uncomfortable she became, making it more and more difficult to sleep through the night. But she seldom had the liberty to compensate with catnaps, so it didn't take long for the exhaustion to catch up with her. She figured that it was nature's cruel way of preparing her for the months of sleepless nights to come.
No sooner had she leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes than a knock reverberated on the front door. Scully sighed and then struggled awkwardly to her feet, slowly making her way across the room. She figured that her visitor was one of two people, but her mother tended to call first.
Without bothering to check the peephole, she pulled open the door. "Mulder."
His mouth opened to greet her, but he got sidetracked when he noticed what she was wearing. "Is that my shirt?"
"Oh, uh, yeah." She looked down self-consciously and then stepped back to give him room to enter. "All of my t-shirts are too small now. You don't mind, do you?"
He hung up his jacket on the coat rack while he answered her. "No, but I was wondering where it went to."
She decided to change the subject before he asked about any other items of clothing that had recently gone missing. "So, what's up?"
"I just came by to see if you wanted to go to a movie or something."
She gaped at him as if he had just sprouted a second head. "What, no case files or fifty-year-old news clippings about UFO sightings to dig through?"
He smirked at her. "All work and no play makes Fox a dull boy."
She smiled at his joke. "Well, I truly appreciate the offer, but I'll have to take a rain check. I don't really feel like going out tonight."
As he moved further into her living room, Mulder caught his first glimpse of the magazines and paint samples spread out over the coffee table. "What's all this?"
She followed him over to the table where he stopped to peruse the display. "Oh, I was looking over some designs for the nursery."
Picking up a catalog that lay open to a zoo animal theme, Mulder held her place while he flipped through the glossy pages to check out the other options.
Scully reached down for a couple of the paint samples. "Most of the designs are in pastels, but I'm not quite sure that's what I want. Some of the animal patterns seem to have a little more color."
"Oh, Scully, this is it!"
She was immediately wary of his enthusiasm. He turned the book so she could see the page he held open: Marvin the Martian.
"No, Mulder. I can't even believe they have that in there."
"Do you think they have Elvis? We could decorate the room like Graceland."
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response."
He grinned at her and set down the catalog to reach for the paint swatches in her hand.
"I've got some more in here." She pointed toward the spare room and started walking that way, with Mulder distractedly following a few steps behind while he sifted through the colored cards.
When they entered the room, Scully toed aside a stuffed animal that had escaped from the pile of baby paraphernalia along the wall. Most of it was Mulder's booty from his shopping spree, but the pile mysteriously seemed to grow larger every time she checked on it. Whenever she interrogated her partner about it, however, he played innocent, so eventually she had stopped trying.
Picking up a couple of paint samples from a shelf, Scully walked back over and showed them to him. "I really like this one, but this one," she pointed to another, "goes better with the trim on the door and the baseboards, so I wouldn't have to repaint them."
His puzzled look wasn't what she expected. "You're planning to paint in here?"
Confused by his reaction, she was slow in responding. "Well, yeah. I thought I should do it now while I can still stand on a stepladder. Why, what's wrong with that?"
"I don't know, it just seems so...permanent."
She paused a beat and then echoed, "Permanent?"
"Well, you know, this place isn't really big enough for the four of us. I kind of thought we should look for something bigger."
"The four of us?"
"Yeah. The last time I counted, two plus two made four."
"You want us to live together?"
He was a little frustrated by her surprise at what seemed to him the next logical step. "Well, it would be kind of hard for me to help out with two a.m. feedings from the other side of town."
She just stared at him for a moment, her brow furrowed and her mouth moving noiselessly until she finally found her voice. "Mulder, that just seems so...sudden."
"Sudden?" He tossed aside the paint samples, freeing his hands to settle on his hips. "How exactly did you think we were going to raise these children together?"
A shrill ring echoed through the apartment, and they both jumped a little at the unexpected sound. Scully, for one, was grateful for the phone's interruption and swiftly fled the room to answer it.
"Ah, my favorite G-woman. And how are you this evening?"
She sighed. "Hi, Frohike. I'm fine. Are you looking for Mulder?"
"Actually, I was looking for both of you. We were hoping you two could swing by our place tonight."
"I'm not really in the mood to look at UFO data."
"No aliens involved, I promise--well, unless you count Langly."
She shook her head at his joke and then glanced back at her partner. Before his arrival, she had really been hoping to spend the evening at home, maybe in a nice, warm bath, and then head for bed early. But she could tell by the look on his face as he stood in the doorway watching her that he wasn't ready to let their conversation drop. It appeared that her best alternative was to take up the Gunmen on their offer.
She turned away from Mulder's piercing gaze to give her answer. "Okay, we'll be over in a little bit."
"As always, I look forward to the pleasure of your company."
She rolled her eyes and then hung up the phone. Turning back to Mulder, she explained to him, "The guys want us to come over. I'll just go change." Without even waiting for his response, she made a beeline for the bedroom and shut the door firmly behind her.
As Scully stood at her closet, sifting through her limited maternity offerings, her mind was not on her task but back in the other room with Mulder. She wasn't sure how to answer his question, or even why she was so resistant to the idea of sharing a place with him. It just felt like everything in her life was changing so fast, and she needed something stable to hold on to. Bringing two new babies into her home was going to be enough of an adjustment, but trying to live with Mulder, too? She didn't know if she could handle it. Not to mention the difficulty of how undefined their relationship still was. They were partners and now co-parents, but did that necessarily make them anything more?
The mere thought of it all was too overwhelming, so Scully decided to push her thoughts aside and reached for a blue maternity blouse hanging in front of her. It was still a bit large for her and therefore made her look bigger than she really was, but the cat was already out of the bag with most people. She wasn't sure if Mulder had broken the news to the Gunmen yet, but if he hadn't, what better way to announce it than to walk in looking quite obviously pregnant? She couldn't wait to see the look on Frohike's face.
* * *
As it turned out, Scully was the one who was taken by surprise when they walked through the door of the Lone Gunmen's lair. The first thing she spotted upon entering was the banner of pastel baby-block letters that spelled out "Congratulations." The ends of the banner were accented with pink and blue balloons--and that was just the beginning.
She turned back to look up at Mulder, who was also agape at the decorations. "Did you put them up to this?"
His hands flew up in a gesture of self-defense. "Don't look at me. I swear I didn't know anything about it."
Finally finished locking the door behind them, Frohike returned and escorted the pair to a table along the side of the room. Pink and blue streamers were draped across the top and dangling from the sides, framing the two unrecognizable gadgets that sat in the middle of the table, each sporting a large bow.
"Sorry we didn't get around to wrapping them first, but we thought you wouldn't mind."
Scully wasn't quite sure how to respond. "Um, thank you?"
With barely contained enthusiasm, Frohike hastened over to the table and picked up one of the devices. "I like to call this the Lullaby 2000. It uses the latest in virtual reality technology to soothe a baby back to sleep. You see, you attach this to the side of the crib." He pointed out a clamp at the base of a metallic arm. "It's voice activated, so when the baby starts crying, this viewer descends"--he showed them a pair of VR goggles--"and the program initiates. Then, this arm inserts the pacifier. Or, if you prefer, a bottle."
Mulder reached for the goggles. "What exactly is this 'program'?" As he held them up to his eyes, Frohike pushed a button to activate the images. Mulder immediately started to laugh. "You pulled this from one of your videos, didn't you?"
Now Scully was suspicious. "What?"
He handed over the goggles, and she looked at him warily before holding them up to her eyes. Then he pushed the same button that Frohike had.
Scully gasped in shock at the image of a 3-D (which could also describe the cup size) bare breast coming straight at her. She quickly pulled the viewer away. "Frohike! What *is* this?"
He looked surprised by her reaction, and a little hurt. "It convinces the baby he's nursing, so you don't have to get up in the middle of the night."
Mulder reached for the goggles again, but Scully pulled them away and glared at him. Snickering at her reaction, he turned to Frohike to offer his consolation. "Well, it's a noble gesture."
During this demonstration, Langly had been waiting in the wings impatiently, but now he picked up the other gadget from the table and stepped forward. "If you want something you can *really* use, check this out." He handed Mulder what looked like a converted laptop. "It's an educational program with a touch screen, to give the kid a head start on learning numbers and words and stuff." Reaching across Mulder, he pushed a few keys and then touched various colored boxes that emerged on the screen. "It's even programmed in five different languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Klingon."
Before either of the agents could respond, Frohike jumped in. "Who the hell would teach a kid Klingon?"
"Well, I sure wasn't going to use Romulan. What do you know about kids, anyway? You're the one who used an adult-sized viewer for a baby."
"That's just a prototype. I can fix the size. At least *I* made something appropriate for an infant, not a five-year-old Trekkie."
As the two got in each other's faces and continued to bicker, Scully tuned out and stepped away. The last thing she needed right now was more stress. Leaning over to her, Mulder quietly joked, "Maybe I should tell Langly to program it with Reticulan."
She watched as he walked over to interrupt the quarrel, but a gentle touch on her shoulder drew her attention. She turned to find Byers handing her an envelope. Speaking softly, he seemed a little hesitant or embarrassed about what he was offering her. "I'm afraid my gift is a little impersonal, but I'm not quite as creative as my colleagues."
Scully opened the envelope and pulled out a savings bond, for no small amount. Letting out a small breath in relief, she gave Byers a warm smile. "Thank you, John. This is something we can actually *use.*"
A proud grin broke out at her reaction, but then he turned shy. "Um, we also have some refreshments. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll go get them out of the kitchen." She nodded her acquiescence, and he quickly disappeared through the doorway.
Glancing over the bond again before placing it back in the envelope, Scully then turned to take in the tableau before her. She could hardly process the disparity. The room that was usually the drab gray and black of an electronics warehouse was now peppered with splashes of pinks and blues from balloons and streamers haphazardly taped to walls, shelves, and monitors.
As her eyes completed their scan of the room, they came full circle to land on the table and the three men standing in front of it. Mulder was now at the center of the fray, with Frohike and Langly on either side, each holding his own invention and pointing out its superior features. Only, now, there was a new component that Scully hadn't seen before: Frohike was wearing a set of rubber nipples and illustrating to Mulder, with great determination, how they could work in correlation with his device.
A noise like a sob escaped her lips, and the three men froze in mid-motion as they looked over in surprise. They found Scully watching them with a hand over her mouth. Mulder looked particularly concerned, but his grave expression was somewhat mitigated by the sight of his hand having come to rest on Frohike's nipple.
Despite her efforts, Scully couldn't hold it in any more. A giggle escaped, followed by a cascade of laughter. They were all so serious, and she knew she shouldn't laugh at them, but she just couldn't help it.
At first, the men looked at each other in confusion, but Mulder started to chuckle as he realized just how ridiculous they looked, and then the laughter became contagious. There they stood, three bachelors discussing the virtues of baby contraptions, and two of them wrestling with a set of rubber nipples.
Finally getting herself under control, Scully managed to choke out, "I'm sorry. This really was incredibly sweet of you guys. Thank you for going to so much trouble."
Just then, Byers reappeared with a large sheet cake in his hands and a heavy plastic bag dangling from his arm. He glanced at each of them in confusion as the chuckles died down to snickers and sighs. While he set down the cake and pulled out a handful of napkins, Mulder left the other two to work out their differences and wandered back over to his partner's side.
As he stepped into place beside her, Scully reached out to take hold of his hand, and he looked down in surprise to see her smiling warmly at him. It was the best she could offer in reconciliation for their unfinished conversation earlier, and he squeezed her hand in acceptance.
Scully felt this was the least she could do to show him her appreciation. For as much trouble as their three friends had gone to, Mulder had gone to so much more over the past several months. He really had been very supportive of her throughout the in vitro and the pregnancy, and it meant more to her than she could ever express.
While they waited patiently for Byers to organize the table, Scully once again tried to process her thoughts. For so long, she had desperately wanted what had been taken from her, but only after the IVF worked did she realize just what she had gotten herself into. She was afraid that Mulder had yet to come to the same realization and that once the babies were born, it would finally dawn on him and his enthusiasm would fade. She knew that he would remain supportive of her, but she feared that his helpfulness would last only as long as it would take for another juicy lead to come along. Yet she also knew how hurt he would be if she voiced this concern to him. In the meantime, she felt that the best she could do was take each day as it came and gratefully accept whatever support he could offer for as long as it might last.
Byers stepped away from the table, bringing Scully's attention back to the moment, and she took in before her the neatly arranged setting of napkins, plates, forks, and glasses, with the cake at the center. The scene was framed by their three hosts, beaming in pride at their display.
The two agents, however, were frowning. Byers chuckled nervously at their reaction and jumped in to explain, "Don't worry, we didn't make it ourselves. We even had the store decorate it."
The decoration in question was bright green lettering that spelled out: "Welcome G-Baby."
Scully shook her head and said, "I thought you guys knew." She turned to her partner. "Didn't you tell them?"
He just shrugged at her. "Actually, I didn't tell them anything. They figured it out for themselves. Maybe they're just as bad at reading ultrasounds as I am."
Across the room, Langly snickered and said, "What? Are you going to tell us it's an alien?"
His laughter was abruptly interrupted by an elbow in his side. Frohike leaned over and whispered, "That's not funny."
But the exchange was clearly heard by all of them, and Scully just rolled her eyes. Before they could assert any more wild theories, she explained, "No, we're having twins."
It was a good thing that everything had been set down on the table or else it might have landed on the floor, where all three of their jaws were currently residing.
At their shocked silence, Mulder turned to his partner and stated the obvious. "Nope. I guess they didn't know."
It took a moment for the news to sink in, but then an exclamation broke the silence:
All heads turned toward Frohike in surprise, but he was too preoccupied to notice. He was reaching over to pick up the mechanical arm of his contraption.
"Now I'll have to make another one of these."
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