Fourteen days, twelve hours, and 19 minutes.
She feels each tick of the clock in the marrow of her bones,
As a child she measured time by sunshine and streetlights--
hopscotch, swimming, and bicycles inexorably giving way to
warm baths, cotton nightgowns, and bedtime stories.
As Mulder's partner she tracked days by casefiles--flights and hotel
rooms, 302s and expense reports. Receipts, vouchers, rental cars
and greasy spoon diners. Frustration and elation.
For the past year and a half, her world moved to the beat of the life
grown inside her. Morning sickness and tender breasts, swollen
ankles and the ever-increasing arc of her belly melted into hungry
nuzzles and drooling smiles, chubby fists clutching her hair and
gurgling chuckles in her ear.
Now she measures time by a silent infant monitor. The emptiness
of her arms and the fading scents of talcum powder and warm baby
Fourteen days, twelve hours, and twenty-four minutes.
The William-shaped wound in her heart will never heal.
Each day it seems she finds new ways to punish herself. Last
Tuesday she parked across from the neighborhood daycare facility,
watching apple-cheeked toddlers engaged in a boisterous game of
Duck, Duck, Goose until she could no longer see past the veil of
her own tears.
Yesterday she drifted, wraith-like, through the infant section at
Saks, fingering tiny overalls and baseball caps, shirts patterned
with trucks and miniature running shoes.
Today, Mother's Day, she's saved the best for last.
Attempts to speak with her own mother have been rebuffed by an
answering machine and a wall of bitter anger and recrimination.
She will never forget the expression on Maggie's face as she
haltingly, brokenly confessed to giving up her child. It is not the
bewildered horror that haunts her--she expected no less. But the
flash of disgust, fleeting and quickly tucked away, invades her
She pauses in the doorway, a large cardboard box propped on one
hip, and grants herself a moment's indulgence. Remembering how
the crown of his little pumpkin head would pop up, peeking over
the crib bumper when she walked into the room. The almost
gleeful excitement, waving arms and kicking legs, she could
provoke by simply leaning over the rail and smiling into his wide
blue eyes. The soft cooing babyspeak as he talked himself to sleep
or greeted a new day.
The pain is a part of her now, as much a defining characteristic as
the color of her hair or eyes. She accepts it; embraces it.
Two attempts at motherhood, both failed. One dead child and
A slow, deep breath, squared shoulders, and she sets to work. One
by one, drawers are emptied, their contents transferred to the box.
Small cotton tee shirts and footed sleepers. Soft pastel blankets and
terrycloth bibs. A yellow duckie, its orange beak dented from
enthusiastic baby gums. Tiny nail clippers and plastic teething
rings. Her swift, efficient packing gradually slows and she begins
to linger, each item more difficult to part from loving fingers.
By the time she reaches the crib her nose has turned pink and
stuffy, her throat raw from containing the sobs that even now she
won't permit release. The sheets, stripped and washed, have
already found their way into the box. She carefully lifts out the
mattress and sets it aside, tugging a screwdriver from the back
pocket of her jeans.
The object, now visible through the springs, catches her eye, and
she stills. She crouches and pulls it from beneath the crib with
trembling fingers while another piece of her heart cracks and falls
away. Cradling the sphere to her chest, she remembers...
"A basketball, Mulder?"
"The game of champions, Scully. Chamberlain. Jordan. Shaq. A
manly contest of athletic prowess and skill. Every red-blooded
American boy needs to learn the game."
"He's barely 24 hours old."
"I'll bring him along slowly. Besides, haven't you heard? All babies
are natural dribblers."
She drops to her knees and rocks, cradling the ball in her arms as
she once cradled their son. "What have I done? Oh, God, Mulder--
what have I done?"
Her life is fragmented, broken pieces cobbled together in a
desperate effort to make a whole. A once-bright career that brought
disillusionment, sorrow, and death. A man she loves more than her
own life, though they cannot be together. A child--the answer to
prayer, a precious gift she could not keep.
His voice over the answering machine, not the ringing phone,
breaks through her anguish. She scrambles to her feet and seizes
the receiver before he can hang up.
"Hey. I thought maybe I'd missed you, that you'd gone to your
She fumbles a soggy and barely functional tissue from her pocket
and clears her throat. "You shouldn't be calling me here; you know
it's not safe. No one's swept for bugs since..."
A moment of silence, and she can practically see his jaw clench.
"I'm tired, Scully, and frankly, I don't give a rat's ass who's
listening." The ice vanishes, leaving a warmth she longs to wrap
tightly around her like a blanket. "How are you?"
More silence while he analyzes her words. "What were you doing
Her fingers grip the ball until the knuckles turn white. "Just
How does he do it? He's become too adept at peering past her
barriers. "You were packing his things. Weren't you?"
Her throat closes; she can't speak.
"Damn it, Scully. Self-flagellation isn't going to solve anything.
Why today? "
Her chin comes up and she draws on the steel core instilled by her
father. "Why not? It has to be done. Today is no different from any
"It's Mother's Day."
She squeezes her eyes tightly shut. "Not for me."
Ragged breathing. When he finally manages to speak his voice is
wispy and broken. "You are a mother. What you did, what you felt
forced to do, can't change that."
"I gave away our baby! What kind of mother does that make me,
"The kind willing to sacrifice everything--everything, Scully--for
the good of her son. To protect him. To keep him safe."
A spark of anger kindles among the sorrow and she latches onto it
with fierce determination. "Words, Mulder. Those are just words,
and you know it. Tell me you weren't furious when you found out
what I'd done. Tell me you didn't resent me, that I did what I did
without consulting you."
His voice takes on the first hard edge. "I can't. You know how I
felt. I couldn't accept that you would make such a choice, do
something so...so irrevocable without talking to me first. I had the
right..." He stops, takes a deep breath. "But I've come to terms with
that anger now. I understand how scared and alone you were: no
way to contact me, the boys gone." He trails off and she can feel
him struggling before he chokes out. "I know how much it hurts,
Scully. He's my son. I love him, too."
She cannot withstand him. Her armor is battle-worn, full of
breaches and chinks. "You know what kind of mother I am,
Mulder? I don't care that he's safe. I want him back." A sob breaks
through, followed quickly by another. "God help me, I want him
She struggles against the wave of grief, grateful for Mulder's
silence. The last thing she wants or needs are empty words of
sympathy. She deserves his anger, not his comfort.
When he finally speaks, she realizes he is not angry with her, but
with himself. "I'm coming home."
Shock helps her regain control, sobs tapering to sporadic hiccups.
"Wh...what? Are you cra...crazy? You can't..."
"I'm tired of hiding--what good has it done? I haven't been there
when the people I love needed me most. The past six months are
what's crazy, Scully. They've tried to break us apart for years and
we've handed it to them on a platter. I'm coming home."
Hope surges in spite of her fear, dulling bright pain to a persistent
ache. "But when? How?"
"Not now. You said it yourself, the line's not secure. Give me time
to think this through. I'll be in touch." His voice turns abruptly
tender. "Do something for me, Scully. Shut the door."
Just like old times. His dizzying lack of segue has her scrambling
to keep up. "Shut the door?"
"Stop punishing yourself. No more packing. I... We'll get through
it when I come back. Together."
She blinks back a fresh rush of tears. "Okay."
They hang up, endearments and declarations of love unspoken yet
She wanders slowly back to the bedroom, pausing with fingers on
knob to consider the orange basketball clutched against her body.
Imagines a tall, dark-haired man patiently coaching a little boy
who shares his smile. A gift of love and promises, never to be
Fourteen days, thirteen hours, and 52 minutes.
She tosses it into the cardboard box and tugs the door firmly shut.