In a Heartbeat
She's sitting cross-legged on his bed, watching him put clothes and toiletries into an overnight bag. There's another bag on the floor, filled with the equipment the Gunmen have dropped off late last night. It's not yet dawn and they've hardly gotten any sleep the night before. He tries to tell her to go back to sleep as he slips out of bed, but she refuses to hear it, following suit. She needs to see him off. She can't explain it. Something about this case in Oregon makes her skin crawl.
She sips the coffee he's made for her, flinching slightly at its bitterness. She always takes it the exact same way, and yet today something about it tastes off. She feels nauseated. Just nerves, she tells herself, dismissing it, refusing to be sidetracked by it. The grey dress shirt he's worn to work the other day lays forgotten on the bed. She grabs it and presses the wrinkly fabric to her nose when he isn't looking. She yearns it to be just one of those mornings when they snuggle into the covers together, talking about everything and nothing at all, uncovering unimportant facts about each other's lives, reluctant to get up and get to work.
The sound of a zipper shakes her out of her reverie. She puts the shirt aside as he hoists the bag onto his shoulder, then reaches for the second bag on the floor. "Have you got everything?" she asks, her voice cracking ever so slightly. Inside she's already weeping.
"If worse comes to worse, I'll share Skinman's underwear," he deadpans, and she chuckles because she doesn't want him to notice her distress. She climbs off his bed on wobbly feet and gets dressed in a hurry, then follows him around the apartment as he's closing windows, feeding his fish, making sure everything is in order.
"What time is your flight?"
"Half passed eight," he replies, then reaches for the phone to call a cab.
When it's time to go, they go downstairs together. She will get to work straight from his place. Usually she won't allow it; she's wearing the same clothes she's worn the other day and someone is bound to notice. For once she couldn't care less if she looks unkempt. Her mind is completely elsewhere, already half-attuned to Pacific Time. He walks her to her car and she lingers by the door, reluctant to say goodbye.
"Will you call me when you get there?" She's ashamed to sound so anxious, like a needy girlfriend, but as preposterous as the notion is to her, she cannot help it. Her eyes never leave his, as if she's trying to memorize his face.
"Sure. Of course." He's subdued, but she can tell it's difficult for him as well, still remembers their conversation outside Skinner's office the other day. He reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "You're still so pale," he murmurs, as if to himself.
"I'll be fine," she promises him, but isn't sure if she herself believes it. "Just hurry back, okay?"
He kisses her in reply, and she clings to him just as she hears the cab pulling to a stop close by. He pulls away reluctantly, then offers a faint smile. "Hey, I've been thinking. You know how we've both got this annual leave coming in a few weeks?"
"Maybe we could go someplace? Just you and me?"
She feels like rolling her eyes at him, but holds back, not wishing to offend him. "A romantic getaway, Mulder? Seriously?"
"Why not? I'd say we earned it fair and square. How about it? A cabin in the mountains? A hot tub for you and hiking for me?" He wiggles his eyebrows at her, and a giggle escapes her almost despite herself. He reaches for her hand and squeezes it gently, then gives her his best imploring look, and she feels her heart melt a little as the glimmer in his eyes. She nods, smiling as a smile curls on his lips as well. "Awesome. Well, I gotta..." He half turns, glances at the waiting cab. "Take care of yourself, okay? I don't want you to worry. Leave the worrying to me."
"Be safe," she manages, then buries her face in his coat so he doesn't see her tears. The sense of foreboding still lingers as she watches the cab disappear, but she shakes it off, determined to do as he's asked. She gets in her car and drives in the opposite direction. This will be over soon, she comforts herself. There's nothing to worry about. Mulder will be home soon.
She comes to moments or weeks or ages later to find Frohike watching her with something like panic in his eyes. She's lying on a sofa – the one in Skinner's office, she thinks. She's dizzy, breathless, unsure how she got there, or what happened right before she blacked out. She tries to sit up, but he gently pushes her back into a reclining position.
"Settle down, Agent Scully, the paramedics are on their way."
She hears the door open and looks up. Langly and Byers enter, followed by two paramedics. They wear similar expressions to Frohike's.
"Over here," says Frohike, then steps back as the two paramedics fuss around her, one checking her pulse and blood pressure, the other asking her questions. They seem to be everywhere at once; she's having a hard time keeping up with them. She's trying to tell the Gunmen it's unnecessary, that she'll be okay in a moment, but they're not having it. "We're not taking any chances," Frohike tells her in a no-nonsense tone.
"Mulder will kick our asses if anything happens to you," adds Langly. Byers says nothing, but he has this knowing look. In her hazy state of mind she wonders if the Gunmen know about her and Mulder, if he's told them anything, but the room revolves around her once more, and she closes her eyes without really meaning to.
She doesn't remember much of the ride to the hospital; she's pretty sure she's blacked out again halfway there. When she opens her eyes next she's alone in what seems like a private room. Her clothes are gone; she's wearing a hospital gown. She's horribly faint, yet still rational enough to hope that whoever has undressed her has also secured her weapon. It's chilly in the room; she pulls the thin covers all the way to her chin. She closes her eyes and moans softly, willing her thoughts into focus. She's feeling so out of her element it's disorienting. She wonders where the Gunmen are, wants to know if Mulder has contacted them with an update. She only spoke with him briefly earlier, when he called upon touching down in Oregon, as promised. He sounded good, hopeful, and until surveying the other abductees' medical records, she had been hopeful too. But now... Has there been a reason for her worrying?
She can't think that. She won't. Everything will be fine. In a day or two he'll be home, case closed, and they'll be able to get on with their lives. Maybe she really will take him at his word. A romantic getaway in the mountains doesn't sound half bad, to be honest. As far away from the darkness as they can. Yeah, that's something to look forward to.
She opens her eyes at the sound of an opening door, and meets the weary eyes of a young doctor. A redhead like her; the randomness of the observation surprises her. His careful stance by the door shifts when he notices she's awake and watching him.
"Agent Scully, back with us at last?" he asks as he's approaching her bed. He helps her sit up, then takes a seat beside her. "How are you feeling?"
"Disoriented," she replies. Her voice sounds hoarse. He pours her a glass of water as if he's noticed. She sips it and clears her throat.
"I sent your colleagues home. They were worried about you." She assumes he means the Gunmen, remembers the alarm in Frohike's eyes. "I'm Doctor Roseman." He glances at the documents in his hands. Her medical files, most likely. "I just want to verify a few things with you, if you're feeling able. Was today the first time you fainted like that?"
Usually she'll brush off the doctor's concern, downplay her condition and assure him she's fine. But she's exhausted and really just wants to get to the bottom of this. She needs to know why this is happening to her, why now. "I was feeling out of balance these past few days," she confesses.
"Any other symptoms that you recall? Anything out of the ordinary?"
"Not really, no." She attributes her weird feeling this morning to anxiety over Mulder's imminent departure, her worry for his wellbeing, and so she doesn't mention it. "Just this dizziness I can't seem to shake off."
Doctor Roseman listens attentively. "I'm at a bit of a loss here, Agent Scully. I went over your medical history... What we found on the blood work wasn't really consistent with the information in your files. We thought it was just a glitch, so we double checked. Triple checked."
"I... don't understand." Inevitably, her mind turns to the worst possibilities first. Her cancer, returned. The discovery of a new tumor, one which will kill her off for good this time. Some other mysterious, incurable ailment. At this point nothing will surprise her.
"It says here you've undergone fertility treatments several months ago, is that correct?"
"Yes. But the procedure failed. It was a long shot to begin with." What does that have to do with anything?
"I've gathered as much from your medical information. Which is why I was so baffled by your blood work."
She knows just what he's going to say a moment before he says it.
A wave of something washes over her; she isn't sure whether it's dread or extreme elation. The skeptic in her thinks impossible before anything else. But she has missed her last period, it now dawns on her. At the time she's attributed it to the irregularities which have been a result of her barrenness. It won't be the first time. Her heart begins to beat slightly faster as she lists every one of the mild symptoms, suddenly feeling foolish for not seeing it herself. She, a medical doctor. Her ailment has had nothing to do with the case after all. Of course. It seems so obvious now.
"But... how?" Well, she knows how, can think of countless opportunities when it might have happened. They haven't used protection. Having known his medical history as well as she's known her own has deemed it unnecessary. What she cannot for the life of her figure out is how. She was unable to conceive. That part has been quite conclusive.
Doctor Roseman seems just as stumped. "Beats me. It seemed so unlikely under the circumstances, but as I said, we triple checked. I'd like to conduct some more tests tomorrow, an ultrasound as soon as you're better. But I suppose congratulations are in order?"
She nods, distracted. Her heart is racing. Mulder's voice echoes in her head. All she can see in front of her are his eyes, gleaming at her in the semi-darkness. Never give up on a miracle. In a heartbeat, his words of consolation become a promise, one she feels she mustn't doubt.
"I... Do you know where my stuff is? My phone, I need to..."
"Your colleagues have your weapon; we thought it was best not to leave it unguarded. Your phone and your clothes are at the nurses' station. I can get it for you, if..."
"Please." Time differences be damned; she needs to tell Mulder, knows it won't fully sink in until she hears his voice. For all the times she has longed to hear these two words, they are so utterly unexpected now that she isn't sure what to do with herself. She's pregnant. It sounds so unreal.
Doctor Roseman returns with her phone, then bids her goodnight and says he'll see her in the morning. She's relieved by the Gunmen's absence. She knows they're notoriously good at deciphering medical charts, has seen them in action in more than one occasion, and so she's grateful to have them away from hers. She doesn't feel like sharing her news just yet. Not before Mulder knows. Her fingers shake as she finds his number and dials. She has no idea what she'll tell him, what she'll say. She can barely explain this to herself.
There's no answer. She isn't sure if she's disappointed or relieved. She's too embarrassed to try Skinner; how will she explain to her boss why she needs Mulder so urgently? How can they have that conversation with him so close by? And so she puts the phone aside and takes comfort in the silver lining. It will give her time to think what to say. She leans back against the pillows, trying to relax. She distracts herself by trying to picture Mulder's face when she tells him; his hazel eyes widen ever so slightly, his lips slowly curl in a smile, his face glows in that smug I told you so expression she's come to know so well over the years. It's as if their entire lives have prepared them for this very moment, each and every bizarre case they have ever encountered. Surely it can't get more bizarre than this.
Honestly, she doesn't care. For just a few precious hours she wants to bask in the pure happiness of the discovery. She doesn't want to look for reasoning as for how can a barren woman become pregnant just like that, doesn't want to ponder at the upcoming changes in her body and her life. She rests her hand against her abdomen and whispers a prayer of gratitude.
Her sleep that night is fitful, as her mind shifts from dream to dream, none of which she remembers. The next morning her symptoms appear in earnest and she makes it to the bathroom in the nick of time before she's violently sick. It's as if as soon as she has become aware of her condition, her body swiftly catches up.
As soon as she crawls back into bed, she reaches for her phone again, but before she even finds Mulder's number, the Gunmen walk into her room. It's not yet seven and so she's surprised to see them, standing awkwardly on the threshold.
"Hey, guys, come on in," she says as she lowers the phone to her lap.
The three of them look at each other hesitantly before Byers takes one tiny step towards her. "How are you feeling, Agent Scully?" he asks.
"Better. Thank you. About yesterday, as well. I really appreciate your concern."
None of them replies; they exchange wordless glances again. Her eyes slowly travel from one man to the next. She senses it right away; something is amiss. They're not as chipper as usual. They stand lined up against the wall in front of her, looking as if they don't want to be there, still glancing uncertainly at one another. An alarm bell goes off inside her head. A sudden chill runs down her spine. She can't shake the feeling that something is very wrong.
Langly starts, as if he hasn't expected her to pick up on the problem. He looks like a deer in headlights. He casts a frantic look in Frohike's direction. The older man sighs and approaches her bedside. His colleagues follow, all three of them hover around her bed like strange angels.
"Agent Scully... We have some news."
"What news?" There's a quiver in her voice; she's acutely aware of it.
"We've been keeping close track on Mulder and Skinner's activities all night when we picked up something strange on the radar," started Byers. "We weren't sure what it was we're seeing, but then shortly after, we got a call from Skinner."
The three of them exchange worried looks as she absorbs the little information they have given her. Her eyes fly between the three of them. She forgets how to breathe. And yet none of them continues.
"What are you guys saying? What was it you saw?" she asks, her distress increasing by the second. Then, the answer simply comes to her. "Is something wrong with Mulder?" It has to be that. They can barely look at her. "Is he hurt?" Still, none of them speaks. "Guys, tell me what's wrong," she half demands, half pleads. She's holding back with all her might, determined not to cry in front of them, although she can feel it with every fiber of her being. Something is not right.
"Mulder is gone, Agent Scully," says Byers. His voice is soft as if he hasn't just brought her life crushing down with just a few words.
"Abducted," adds Langly. His face is drained of color. His eyes glisten, as if with tears.
"Skinner saw it happen," says Frohike. She barely listens. Tears are streaming down her face. "There was nothing he could do."
"We're so sorry, Agent Scully." Byers' voice is soothing. One of them is squeezing her hand. The tears are blinding; she can't tell one of them from the other. She frees her hand and buries her face in her palms, all her hopes fade into dust as she sobs.
The rest of the morning is a complete blur. She's pretty sure she's slipped into a state of shock. She doesn't remember the Gunmen leaving, but she's alone in her room when the Doctor Roseman arrives to check up on her. The rest of the day is filled with tests, reminiscent of a darker time in her life. Only the promised ultrasound manages to pull her out of her stupor. The astonishment of the initial discovery has abated somewhat, but it is still jarring when the technician indeed picks up on a heartbeat. She struggles to keep her sobs at bay as she stares at the sign of life on the monitor, trying not to fall apart at the thought of its father, gone. Following the procedure she's falls back into that nearly catatonic state. She knows there are a million things she should probably do – calling her mother, first and foremost – but cannot find the strength within her. The facts echo in her brain like a mantra – Mulder's gone. Abducted.
This is how Skinner finds her when he walks into her room that afternoon, staring gloomily at the opposite wall. He looks impeccable in a new suit, but appears as shaken as she feels. In the back of her mind she's grateful the Gunmen have told her themselves, spared her the misery of waiting until such late hour to know the truth. The thought of undergoing the ultrasound with the hope Mulder may come through the door at any second is somehow more unbearable than knowing he never will.
She looks at her boss, white-faced and shaken. He's evidently distracted as he asks after her health. At the back of her mind she's hoped against hope that the Gunmen have been wrong or misinformed, that Skinner's version of the events will be different than the one she's already heard, but one look at him tells her it's what she's feared of and then some. She knows what he's about to tell her, but seems unable to.
In a heartbeat, the promise becomes her biggest nightmare.