Part 1

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"Mulder, you're old enough to be her father."
"I am her father."

SPOILERS: Season 5 (takes place sometime after Emily but before Diana, in 1998)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.

Notes: The snippet of dialogue in the summary came to me one day, and I thought, "under what circumstances would Scully and Mulder say those lines?" And thus, this story was born.

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Through the window to the hallway, Scully caught a glimpse of her partner striding toward the open door. He waved a hand in acknowledgement that he had seen her, but she turned away. She realized she shouldn't be surprised that he came looking for her, but she hadn't meant the note she left in his office to be an invitation. She just wanted to inform him that she was spending the morning in the lab. Not that the tests she was running were so urgent she couldn't have left them to someone else; she merely wanted to buy herself some time away from Mulder.

She removed her safety glasses and turned to discard her gloves as he approached. The lab was fairly empty at the moment, but she didn't want to have this conversation in front of an audience, even a limited one.

"Hey, I thought you were going to stop by last night." His voice was low and discreet as he leaned in close.

Scully fought to suppress the memory of what she had seen the night before, but it replayed anyway. She had just stepped off the elevator on Mulder's floor when his door opened down the hall. A young woman exited, no older than twenty, and turned back to face the apartment. Mulder came into view as he moved toward her and took her into his embrace. Scully froze on the spot, watching first in uncertainty, then in horror. The hug was brief, but when the pair pulled apart, Mulder reached up to brush a hand over the girl's cheek. Scully was sickened as she recognized the gesture--it was one he had used on herself before, and she knew the expression that accompanied it. Tenderness. Love. When she saw his face lean toward the girl's, Scully couldn't stand it anymore. She had bolted for the stairwell.

Scully now scooped up her files and headed out of the lab, knowing that Mulder would follow but not caring if he did. "You already had company."

He easily kept up with her as she made her escape down the hallway toward the elevator. "I did, for a while. But how would you know that?"

She heard the challenge in his question and couldn't help but level one of her own. Just short of the elevator doors, she stopped cold and pivoted to meet him. "I saw you." The look in his eyes wasn't guilt or remorse, and she didn't want to watch any longer to read what it was. She turned and jammed at the call button. "My God, Mulder, you're old enough to be her father."

The elevator dinged and opened just as she heard his reply. "I am her father."

Scully turned, staring at him in disbelief. "What?" Her lips moved silently, struggling to form her next words. "You have a daughter?"

He gave her a rueful half-smile. "Imagine how shocked *I* was."

Scully realized that the doors had closed behind her and turned to push the button again. She used the brief interlude to collect herself. So many questions were running through her mind; which to ask first? "How long have you known?"

"About a week. She cold-called me, told me this story about who her mother was, how she had tracked me down. The dates all matched up, but I insisted on a paternity test. I said I wouldn't believe her, not without proof."

Scully couldn't help but smile at that comment. It was a comfort to know that she had rubbed off on Mulder in at least some small way.

The elevator dinged again, and Mulder held the door open while they entered the car. "The test results came back yesterday," he continued. "That's why I wanted you to stop by. I didn't want to say anything sooner, not until I was sure. But I was hoping you could run a DNA test yourself, just to be certain."

She asked hesitantly, "So, it was positive?"

Mulder looked toward the floor and nodded. "But I wasn't surprised. She looks like me, Scully--actually, she looks like Sam. The first time I saw her, I thought maybe it was Sam. But I can see her mother in her, too."

"Does her mother know she came to find you?" That wasn't exactly the question Scully wanted the answer to, but it seemed the safer one to ask.

Mulder shook his head but didn't answer. The elevator rang their stop, and Scully accepted the silence while they made their way down the hall to the office door. She sensed there was more he was ready to say, but she would let him speak it in his own timing.

Once inside, Mulder shut the door behind them and removed his suit jacket to hang it on the coat rack. "Her mother passed away recently, from cancer. That's why Ginny came to find me." Mulder proceeded over to his desk and took a seat. Scully followed a step behind and sat in her chair across from him, still allowing him to take the lead.

He picked up a pencil and played with it, gazing at it distantly. "Her mother's name was Deb--Deborah Maloney. We dated for a while in high school. After we graduated, she went off to an Ivy League college, and I stayed on the Vineyard to work. The last time I saw her was the summer after her freshman year. I tried to keep in touch with her after she went back to school, but I never heard from her again. I figured she'd met some other guy and moved on, so I let it go. Her parents moved away shortly after that, and that's the last time I'd heard from any of them--until last week."

"And you never even suspected?"

"I had no reason to. But I guess we weren't as careful as I thought." He looked up to give her a self-deprecating smile, but it quickly faded. His eyes returned to his hands, still holding the pencil but now preoccupied with picking at a cuticle. "Her parents never cared for me. They thought I wasn't good enough for their daughter. I imagine that has something to do with why she never told me--I would've married her if she had. May not have been the smartest thing I've ever done, but I would've done it. Maybe that's what they were afraid of."

Scully started to do the math. "So, you were, what--nineteen, twenty? And Ginny's..."

"Seventeen. You know, it's not exactly gentle on the ego to realize I'm old enough to have a daughter that age."

Scully gave him a sympathetic look. He mimicked the expression in self-pity, but his gaze soon returned to his hands. When she realized he was lost in thought, she prodded, "So, she lives in Washington?"

"No, Baltimore, with her grandparents. Apparently Deb never married or had any other kids, so Ginny's kind of on her own. That's probably why she wanted to find me."

"Do her grandparents know she contacted you?"

"They didn't, not at first. But they do now. I don't imagine they were very happy about it, but she says they haven't tried to stop her. Seems they were impressed when they heard I was an FBI agent--if only they knew." This time his half-hearted joke was accompanied by more of a grimace than a grin.

Scully scooted closer and rested an elbow against the desk. "I know this isn't the type of comment you'd usually hear from a woman, but I understand what it feels like to find out you have a child you never knew about."

He looked up at her; she knew he was trying to read her face. This was sensitive territory and he was being cautious where to tread, but she had made the overture and was willing to follow wherever he needed to go. His eyes lowered to the desk between them. "At least this one I participated in." He raised his eyes to hers and gave a slight shrug.

She nodded in acceptance but let the comment pass. "So, what happens now?"

Mulder finally cast the pencil aside and leaned forward on folded arms. He tossed a hand up, grasping at words that didn't come. But the answer was written all over his face. He simply didn't know.

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Notes: What a place to end, right? Sounds like the beginning of a series... Really, I had no intention to write anything but this one little scene, but then the muse decided to run rampant and hold me hostage, under duress, until I agreed to outline more to the story. Even though I explained that I have no right to play in a new universe because there are too many other things I'm supposed to be writing right now. But, that's usually when the muse shows up and does her thing. *Sigh.*

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Part 2