There moved the multitudinous stars,
and coloured birds and fishes moved.
There swam the sliding continents.
All time lay rolled in me, and sense,
and love that knew not its beloved.
O node and focus of the world;
I hold you deep within that well
you shall escape and not escape-
that mirrors still your sleeping shape;
that nurtures still your crescent cell.
I wither and you break from me,
yet though you dance in living light
I am the earth, I am the root,
I am the stem that fed the fruit,
the link that joins you to the night.
Judith Wright, Woman to Child
The phones were still out of order, and the snow was still falling. Scully tried the hospital on her cellular, and got nothing but dead air. When she dialed 911, she an operator in Utica, more than 90 miles away, who told her rudely that she'd do better to try calling local EMS. Scully hung up.
"Anna, how long have you been having contractions?" Scully asked, sitting on the side of the bed.
"Since last night..." she frowned, thinking. "Probably 14 or 15 hours now."
Alex looked sharply at his wife. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because the doctor told me I might have intermittent contraction for up to 2 days before going into..." She gasped and broke off, squeezing Alex's hand.
"Hard labour," Scully finished for her. She glanced at the clock. "That's a little under six minutes apart. This stage could take a while, and I... I just don't know if I can really deliver this baby."
Alex looked pale. "Maybe we could try the state troopers again? They could help."
Scully nodded. "Here, you call. I'll go update Mulder."
"Don't worry, Anya," he murmured, kissing her quickly while he dialed.
She grinned weakly, a thin sheen of sweat glistening on her forehead. "I'm not the one who's worried."
He had the grace to blush.
"New York State Police, Troop C. This is Sergeant Garcia, how may I help you?"
Alex quickly examined the possible opening explanations, and settled for bluntness. "My name is Alex Krycek. I like at 782 Bridgewater Road in Lansing, and my wife is labour. We're snowed in, and we can't get through to the hospital 'cos the phones are out, I'm calling on a cell phone, and frankly, I have no idea what to do."
There was silence on the other end, then the sound of a deep breath being taken. "If you had someone to talk you through it, could you deliver the baby yourself?" Sgt. Garcia suggested hopefully.
"Um,no, not... No. I can't."
"Mr Krycek, I had to do it once, it's really not that hard..."
"Probably not, Sergeant, but I've only got one arm."
Silence again. "Okay," he said finally. "That is a problem."
"Look, can't someone get through? From Adelphis? Or Walton? We're about halfway in between..."
"Last I knew, Bridgewater Road had bunch of trees across it..."
"Send a helicopter."
"Can't fly in this storm, and where would they land? I'm sorry, Mr Krycek, I really am not sure how to..."
"Wait." Damn it, it was the only way! "Sergeant, can you hold on?"
Alex ran down the stairs. "Scully!"
"Yeah?" She was busy checking Mulder's dressing, while he grimaced and chewed his lower lip.
"Can you... I mean, if you had someone to talk you through it, could you deliver the baby?"
"I already told you, I don't kn..."
"Great." He raised the phone to his ear. "Sergeant Garcia?"
"I've got a guest who's a doctor. She's in forensics, but I'm sure with a little help...?"
Sgt. Garcia sounded extremely relieved. "Sound great! Let me talk to her."
Alex passed the phone to Scully, who gave him a withering look.
"Hi, this is Sgt. Garcia..."
"Oh, hello, we spoke earlier! This is Agent Scully."
"Snowed-in-on-business Agent Scully? You're having one hell of a Christmas."
"Tell me about it. Look, I haven't even assisted in a birth since med school. I know the mechanics of it, but..."
"Honestly, Agent, the mechanics is all you need. Unless something, God forbid, goes wrong. Let me give you the number of our staff physician -- he can guide you over the phone if you want, but I'm sure you can handle it."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she muttered.
The Sergeant laughed. "Here -- Dr Stalter. (607) 432-4680. Most of the phones up here are back in service, so you shouldn't have trouble reaching him."
"Thanks," Scully said again, meaning it.
"How's the mother?"
"Probably the calmest of us all." She couldn't help but smile, watching Alex pace.
"Good luck to everyone, then. And Merry Christmas."
Scully took a steadying breath, and a swallow of coffee. "I guess it's all me. I'll only call the doctor if I need to... Um, let me finish fixing Mulder's bandage, and then I'll check on Anna."
Alex nodded fervently. "I'll go sit with her."
She plopped down beside Mulder with a weary sigh, and began re-wrapping his arm in gauze. The bleeding had, thankfully, stopped. He might need stitches, but this was good for now.
"I'll see if Alex has something you can take for the pain," she said, taping the end in place.
"It doesn't hurt," Mulder lied.
She leveled him with her patented look of extreme exasperation. "Don't bullshit me. Not today. Take some Tylenol. And eat." With that, she left.
What a day from hell, Mulder mused, shifting his arm and wincing. The truth was that things had happened rather quickly, but when he thought back over the past two hours, it seemed to play in slow motion. Finding the house, the cold triumph he'd felt. Meeting the dog, meeting Mrs. Krycek, who had inconveniently fulfilled his first impression of her, when he'd thought, "My god, she looks like she could give birth at any second." Krycek's cheery voice, calling to his wife; the look of shock at seeing Mulder. Being bitten by the goddam dog. Argument, silence, more arguing. Now this.
And what exactly was "this"? It felt almost like maybe he was leaning toward acceptance of Alex Krycek's peaceful existence. Maybe he could believe that the man had changed for the better. Certainly what Mulder saw in Krycek's eyes when he looked at his wife was something very real -- something that Krycek, had he truly been the subhuman that Mulder often thought of him as, should not have been capable of. But Mulder recognised the love between them. And truth be told, he envied it. He recognised the evidence of a "normal" life all around him, and envied it too: the bird feeder outside the bay window. The little pile of mail on the table, a copy of the New York Times folded to the crossword. The smiling wedding photo that seemed to accuse him: "You. You have destroyed our happy home."
Mulder rocked uneasily in his seat, hearing the thump of footsteps coming down the stairs. "How is she?" he asked as soon as Alex stepped into the room.
He smiled wryly. "She threw a book at me. And she's chewing a pillow, 'cos she's too proud to have anyone hear her scream." He turned his back on Mulder, busying himself at the stove. "Grilled cheese and soup for lunch? Scully said to feed you."
"Alex, I'm sorry."
He stopped, hunching his shoulders. When he finally spoke, Mulder barely heard. "I'll accept your apology when you'll accept mine." And then he waited.
When it came down to it, it wasn't that difficult a decision to make.
Alex heard the sound of paper ripping behind him, and turned, startled. Mulder held up the arrest warrant, now in two pieces.
"It's a deal."
"I give up," Anna gasped. "Fuck you all, I'm just not doing this now...ow...OW!" In direct dispute with her statement, her abdomen heaved with the force of the contraction.
Scully had changed into an old shirt of Alex's, and now knelt between her patient's legs, waiting. Anna was 8 centimetres dilated and growing, the contractions coming almost without pause now. Alex was calmly allowing his wife to crush his hand on one side, while Mulder sat on the other, cheerleading.
"Come on, Anna," he encouraged. "Not much longer now, you're doing great!"
"And how the fuck would you know?" she blazed.
"Breathe, Anya," Alex coaxed.
"I don't want to bre...eee...aieee!"
"Ahh! I can see the head!" Scully grinned maniacally. "Come on, Anna, push!"
"Push!" Mulder rejoined gaily.
Anna pushed Mulder off the bed.
She gritted her teeth together, absently making a mental note to go to the dentist, breathing hard through her nose. A quote from a favourite novel drifted through her head: "Now I know why it's called labour -- giving birth is bloody hard work."
"Just a little more," Scully encouraged. The head was in her hands, the shoulders would be the hard part, get past the shoulders and Bob's your uncle... Anna screamed and pushed, and Peter Alexei Krycek made his triumphant entrance into the world, squalling fit to raise the dead.
Scully beamed with accomplishment.
Anna sighed with relief.
Mulder cheered from the floor.
Alex held his son in the crook of his arm, staring down at him through the tears in his eyes. "Hello, little one," he said softly. "Hello."
Another half hour saw baby Peter fed, clothed, and sleeping peacefully at his mother's breast. Victory coffee was shared all around.
"He's got your hair, Anya," Alex observed, lightly touching the cap of red fuzz on the baby's head. He kissed his wife on top of her head, her own read curls still damp from exertion.
"But he has your eyes," Scully pointed out. She smiled tenderly at the child, then looked back up at Alex. "Green, and just tipped up at the corners."
"God, he's so small!" Alex breathed. "Like a doll."
"He's beautiful," Mulder said sincerely. He glanced at Scully, who met his eyes for a moment, then looked away.
"Would you like to hold him?" Anna offered.
Mulder paled. "No, that's okay, bad arm and all..."
Alex snorted. "Go on, like this." Carefully, Anna lay the sleeping baby in the cradle of Alex's arm; in turn, Alex transferred Peter to his erstwhile partner.
Again Mulder looked from the baby to Scully, but this time she was looking away. He felt a sudden pang for her, a feeling he could not name.
"See, you're a natural." Anna grinned. "Maybe make a good godfather?"
"I'm Jewish," Mulder said quietly, gently rocking the child.
"So? We're not that big on tradition," Anna said frankly. "I know it's kind of hokey, but really. I think I can speak for Alexei when I ask that the two of you be Peter's godparents." Alex nodded in assent.
"Would you?" she asked. "Please?"
"Anna, I'm deeply sensitive of the honour, but..."
"But what he's trying to say," Scully broke in, "is that we'd love to." The look she shot her partner made it clear that she'd brook no further protests.
Mulder nodded, aquiescing, and turned his attention back to the baby. Just then, his cell phone rang.
Peter began to cry, and was hastily handed off to his mother, while Mulder fumbled in his pocket for the phone. Finally,
"Mulder. Oh! Hello, Sir." He gave the assembled company a panicked look, and mouthed: "Skinner."
Instinctively, Alex moved closer to his wife and child.
"...bad lead," Mulder was saying. "Yes, that is a baby crying. The phone woke him... Well, we went to the address I was given. There's a young family here, but no Krycek... We're snowed in, sir. It is still snowing, and we'll be back in Washington when there is no longer snow up to our asses!"
Scully covered her face in dismay.
"I'm sorry, sir, it's been a tense day... I'm sure you do... Yeah.... No, no other leads that I know of... Mm-hmm. Merry Christmas to you too." Mulder rang off.
"Well?" Alex's eyes were troubled, his arm flexed protectively around Anna.
"Skinner's in a bad mood. Yippee for him." Mulder shrugged. "He said if we didn't turn you up, then we should head home as soon as possible. And that he understands my frustration."
"So he bought it." Scully shook her head. "I'll be damned."
"Since the warrant accidentally met with the fireplace, I really don't give a shit whether he bought it or not." Mulder stretches, yawning. "More coffee, anyone?"
At that Scully's stomach growled loudly. "Food first, I think. And we can let the dog out of the laundry room now."
"Oh, God, Shield!" Alex hopped to his feet. They'd shut up the dog when Anna started screaming, for he'd grown agitated and began growling at Scully. Now he trotted into the the bedroom and, after surveying the scene, posted himself at the foot of the bed. Alex came back in, beaming.
"Food, then? Anya, I'll bring you something."
"Don't let him cook!" she called after them. "Alexei can screw uo Kool-Aid!"
Laughing, they went downstairs, leaving mother alone with child.
Who really understands what it is between a mother and her baby, except that mother? Anna rocked Peter, smiling as he drifted off to sleep again. This day had been truly incredible, leaving her physically and emotionally exhausted, yet thoroughly fulfilled. The sky was darkening outside the window, the snow was slowing. She held her son in her arms, held her husband in her heart. What more could woman ask for?
continued in epilogue
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