Edge of Field
By lisby@earthlink.net
Category: Story, Angst, Post-Colonization, MulderTorture
Rating: PG with an edge (no graphic sex); Threesome (Sk/Sc/M.)
Spoilers: Season eight AU. Spins off after Within/Without, but before TINH.
Per Manum happened, just slightly differently.
Summary: "I was...curious about my Secret Admirer. Someone was taking fine
care of me and I needed to know who and why."
Archive: Permission granted.
Feedback: Pretty please, to lisby@earthlink.net.
Disclaimer: Scully, Skinner, Doggett, etc., belong to 1013 productions and
Fox. No offense intended; no money made.

Author's note: Tina Hill is an original character from my WIP, 'Lessons'.
It just felt right to include her in this story, so I suppose it's a
progression of the same universe. All you really need to know is that she
was Scully's roommate at the FBI Academy and a close friend. You can read
'Lessons' and all my X- Files fiction, at Lisby's Limited Oeuvre,
http://home.earthlink.net/~iwonder/lisby.htm.

If you'd like to read 'Edge of Field' online and see a picture of the
obelisk, please go to http://home.earthlink.net/~iwonder/eof.htm.

Thank you to my volunteer betas: Ann Vanderlaan, Kelly Keil, Vyper,
MaybeAmanda, and Jessabelle.

For Marlene and Xanthe. Better friends there cannot be.



Edge of Field
by Lisby
-----------------


My name is Dana Katherine Scully. I was born thirty-six years before the
Da'an came, so you do the math. I never adopted the new-style calendar, and
I really don't care what year it is. I've stopped quantifying time in ways
other than days and nights, and warm and cold seasons.

I'm writing this because Becky Spangler from Mobyville drove out here today
through autumn rain and wind. As she warmed her hands around a mug of tea,
Becky explained that she's heading up the Canton's History Project. I'm the
original human resident; my daughter, conceived in the Old World, was the
first child born in this new human freeplace. Becky said no history would
be complete without my input. I'm flattered, but my memories won't lend the
citizens any great insight. I wasn't a city founder, or a hero, or a
politico. I've stayed in the Outlands, on my farm, growing fruit, wheat,
and corn. I can count the number of times that I've been away from Ollie
Hill on my fingers and toes.

Before the Da'an invasion, I was an agent with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, a resident of the city of Washington, and a barren woman
who'd endured four rounds of hormone therapy and embryo transplantation. My
closest female friend, Tina Hill, had donated her eggs. My FBI partner, Fox
Mulder, had provided his sperm. We'd run through the whole batch of Tina's
surgically harvested eggs, So that was that, I thought. But Tina offered
more.

She, Mulder, and I were sitting on the couch in my apartment. "Take many as
you need to make this work, Dana. I mean, they're just going to go to waste
if you don't use them. And I don't mind the extraction procedure," Tina
assured me earnestly.

I was tearing up with gratitude when I felt my partner's hand on my
shoulder. "Scully," Mulder said deadpan, "Don't worry, I don't really mind
the extraction procedure, either."


I finally caught on the sixth attempt, finally became an Irish-American
redhead gestating a Native-American Jew. And, after years of resolute
verticality, the father of my child and I were enjoying a sweet, gentle
romance. We were talking about moving in together, about him leaving the
Bureau so that he could focus on being a real parent, not just a workaholic
progenitor.

It was then that the Da'an took Mulder-- he was theirs to begin with, but
that's another story. For several months I mourned, blind to indications
that the invasion was at hand. When the Da'an arrived, I stopped grieving
and got pissed. They'd taken Mulder and now they were stealing my unborn
baby's planet. I became a rebel and was captured, shortly thereafter,
during an attack on our hideaway.

Coughing and choking, I'd escaped the burning building, staggered outside
into smoke-dimmed daylight as a small killer saucer drew up overhead. I'd
seen them dispatch their victims in one quick and probably almost painless
shot. I remember wanting to laugh in relief because now it was my turn to
die, and my child's. The saucer's hum trembled the ground beneath me, made
my ears and eyeballs ache. I saw a bright white flash and....


I returned to awareness slowly, lying under a cotton-ball clouded sky in
the tall grass at the edge of a field. The long fronds were mature green
and the stalks heavy with seed. Their rustle was the only sound I heard.
Drugged, I thought. I'm drugged. I was also nude and sticky with congealed
bioplasm. Dead blades of grass and dirt stuck to my shoulders, bottom, and
calves when I finally got to my feet. Inside my womb, "Number Six" kicked.
Wherever we were, thank God we were both alive.

Downhill, I spied a narrow gray-blue river with scrub along its bank. I
stumbled there to wash then sat awhile, staring at the water until my head
fully cleared. I turned from the river, shielded my eyes from the sun to
look back up the hill. Atop it stood a weathered clapboard house set in a
landscape like a Wyeth painting. When I reached it, I found the house
empty. I also found a chicken shed with no flock, a barn with no cows or
horses, trees without wild birds, and rich brown soil lacking bugs, grubs,
or worms.

When darkness came, I took refuge in the vacant house and slept huddled on
the wooden parlor floor. I awoke to pale sun, the sound of songbirds, and a
cheerful blaze in the hearth. Fire, domestic and wild animals, fish and
insects-- all of these had arrived during the night.

The growling of my stomach was ridiculously loud and probably insured that
spear fishing gained me nada. I threw my sharp-ended stick down and combed
the area for wild berries and nuts instead. I felt like a Homo Erectus,
naked and ranging. Back at the farm, I found my new hens had laid three
eggs. I swallowed the innards raw while dreaming of a frying pan. I even
managed to shoot milk straight from the udder into my mouth. "A bucket or a
cup would have been nice," I told the air.

The frying pan, a milk pail, cups, and a whole range of household goods
appeared while I slept. In the kitchen I found a cast-iron stove, a sink
with a hand pump, and a pantry full of food. The coal shed was stocked and
cords of wood were stacked outside the back door. Apparel of a warm but
old-fashioned design filled a wardrobe in a bedroom where a four-poster bed
was piled with pillows and quilts. Stylistically, nothing looked newer than
1920. It seemed my unseen benefactor had a thing for the "good old days."

Warmly dressed and my stomach full, I went to milk my two cows while a
black and white cat followed me through the dewy grass, stropping my shins.
I named her Milk Puss. She's sitting on my lap as I write.


****
NEW: Edge of Field (2/7)

The days cooled and the leaves began to turn. I worked to put up winter
supplies, fished every day and dried what I caught, made simple soft cheese
the way I'd learned in Girl Scouts, and collected hickory nuts and
chestnuts. I picked apples and berries and dried them on trays over the dim
embers of my fireplace. In the evenings, I kept the fire stoked and talked
to the cat and unborn Number Six, reassuring them that we'd be fine. I
slept by the hearth, wrapped in blankets and seated in a rocker, rather
than sleep alone in the cold bedroom.

One morning, when I hurried out to milk, then fish, I found several boxes
of supplies waiting in the side yard. A few more crates arrived every day
thereafter, yielding me quite a reserve. No longer afraid of starving, I
stopped waddling around in a rush and watched the land instead, getting to
know the subtleties of this place, now mine.

I named the farm Ollie Hill. See, I sewed a little doll for the baby that
came out looking something like that old TV show puppet. Ollie had been a
safe sweet thing. My new home seemed that way, too. Eventually, areas of
the farm earned their own names: Tree Stump Meadow, Marigold Patch, Muddy
Wash, Old Oak Field, Half-a-Field, Edge-of-Field....


I was quiescent about winter's arrival, but increasingly curious about my
benefactor. Someone was taking fine care of me and I wanted to know who and
why. I couldn't believe it was the Da'an.

One morning, as I carried the bedpan to the outhouse, I saw my secret
admirer hovering about ten feet off the ground near an old oak, standing in
dark contrast to the orange leaves and aqua sky. It was a huge, sleek,
ebony diamond--about the size of an automobile-- long on one end and
stunted on the other. Of course, it was a guardian obelisk, but I had never
seen one before and fear made me drop the bedpan, stumble backwards, and
reach for a gun that I no longer owned. The black thing drew away from me,
too, bobbling when it halted like a boat on water. I watched it, and felt
as if it watched me, too. Then I took a few steps toward it, but it zipped
across the field and into the woods.

It came back the next day. When I walked out onto my porch, I found it
hovering in the front yard above a stack of boxes. The point of its diamond
nose dipped to me as if bowing. Once again, when I tried to draw closer, it
flew off into the forest.

The boxes held my photo albums, my books, my jewelry-- even my makeup and a
sea-shell southern belle that Mulder'd bought me in Ocean City just a few
weeks before his abduction. I stared at the tacky pink tchotchke, awed. I'd
believed everything of mine was gone, burned or blown to bits. But here
were many of my possessions, returned to me by this strange black thing.
How the hell had it done it?


I named my benefactor Zippy. It visited me daily. One afternoon, it
followed me down to the river. After I'd settled myself on a flat rock and
cast my fishing line, Zippy came up behind me and-- whoosh-- shot out over
the river. The obelisk hung low to the surface, it and its reflected image
looking like a huge Rorschach blot. "Hey! You're scaring the fish," I
hollered. "But thanks for the pole and for everything else." It skittered
and took off.

Zippy returned that night. I could see it above the big tree, partially
blocking the moon. "I'm going to need help," I called to it. "You seem to
give a shit...whatever you are. I'm about to have a baby. I'm feeling
Braxton-Hicks contractions. That means I'm not too far from delivering--
maybe a few weeks or even less. I don't want to do this alone. I'm afraid
I'll die and so will the baby, and I don't think you brought us here for
that. So, if you care, do something."

Afterward, I didn't see my guardian for a few days. I watched for its black
shape amid the golds and reds of the trees and in the windswept gray and
blue of the autumn sky. I carved a pumpkin and put the seeds away for
springtime. Gave it a ghoulish grin and triangle eyes. When the dark came,
it guarded my front porch and acted as a beacon for Zippy.


I found him lying in the place I call Edge-of-Field, where I'd first awoken
to my new life. His skin was slippery with green goop and he was shivering
violently. I took off my coat and wrapped it around him, then guided him up
the hill to my home.

After I'd bathed him, I examined his body for marks of abuse. He was
heavily doped, but otherwise the same as when we'd parted: big-muscled with
ropy tendons, brown-eyed, broad-shouldered, and nearly bald. I dragged the
mattress down from the bedroom and yanked it close to the parlor fireplace,
put him to bed, then lay down beside him. My belly kept me from getting as
close as I wanted.

Zippy had brought me Walter Skinner. In the old world, he'd been my boss,
then my friend, then, in the months after Mulder was taken, something more.
It was a "something" we'd been trying to define when the Da'an sacked the
base and snared me. His own capture had followed by just a few weeks, he
later told me, during another Da'an strike on the rebels.


Zippy brought warm clothes, a shaving kit, an old-fashioned nightshirt,
boots, Walter's glasses, and a few of his favorite possessions. It looked
like the obelisk intended for Walter to stay. I led him by the hand around
the picturesque farm and showed him everything about our home. We had no
idea where Ollie Hill was or what had happened to everyone else on Earth,
and honestly, we didn't give a fuck. We'd known so much grief in so short a
time that Walt and I wanted to drink down our joy and slam our mugs on the
bar, demanding more.

Walter squinted and frowned when I told him about Zippy. He did so again
when our guardian returned and hung in the twilight sky, whirring. Before
that night, I'd never heard the obelisk produce a sound.


Appropriately, on the day that my water broke it poured down rain. Walter
kept a kettle boiling on the stove, and laid out a knife, cloths, and a
basin. He'd helped to deliver a few babies in Viet Nam, he told me as we
walked the long hall to the kitchen then turned around to come back. I
wasn't comforted by his ancient experience (I was about five when he was in
'Nam) and almost said so, then I realized the obelisk had brought me just
who I'd asked for: a companion who could help me. I hadn't specified a Mayo
Clinic obstetrician, had I?

Labor hurts. It progresses to a level of pain that's literally
indescribable. This lack of vocabulary must result from a primitive
superstition: to name the pain makes it real.

Walt and I paced the length of the hall back and forth, again and again and
again while I supported my belly and felt it harden with every contraction.
Finally, I couldn't walk any more, had to lie on the mattress by the
fireplace and pray. My distress frightened Walter. I can still hear him
calling my name above the din of the rain and my agony, above the sound of
my cries for Mulder.

Finally, I pushed out a baby girl into Walter's hands. She was bloody,
blue, and limp, but in a moment her eyes snapped open, she threw her arms
out and squealed, then her body turned pink with the in-rush of oxygen. My
baby had a shock of black hair and Tina's long, narrow, humped nose. Her
mouth was Mulder's, as was the shape of her eyes. But her pupils were
infant blue, so for a while I could pretend to see my own genetic influence.

Once the afterbirth was delivered and the baby and I were cleaned up and
beneath warm blankets, Walt went out on the porch to bring in more wood.
"That goddamned thing is outside," he told me as he tossed a log onto the
fire. "It's right at the foot of the steps."

I looked at my sleeping child and kissed the top of her dark head. "Maybe
it wants to know we're all right."

"If Da'an are so smart, it should know that already."

Walter stripped down to his long underwear and slipped into bed. We drifted
off, listening to rain and thunder and my new daughter's steady little
breaths.


A loud banging woke us, made the baby howl. Something was ramming up
against the door trying to get in. Walter grabbed the fire poker as he
scrambled to his feet. He flung the door open, admitting a gust of rain and
wind and the obelisk's pointed proboscis. I saw Walt lift the poker to
strike its hull, but I screamed for him to stop. "No! I told you it wants
to see the baby!"

He backed away, lowered the poker, then let it drop. I threw off the
covers, scooped up my child, and staggered across the room. The deep red
blood that had pooled in my uterus ran down my legs. "Dana, god, get back
in bed!" Walter cried.

I held my daughter out to the obelisk like an offering. "See...see? She's
okay. I'm okay. Everything is fine." Zippy made a whir and a few clicks
then withdrew into the night.


****
NEW: Edge of Field (3/7)


I called the baby Calla Lilly. It seemed like a name both Tina and Mulder
would like-- Tina because it sounded somewhat Native American and New
Age-y, and Mulder because it carried no baggage. He was in that mental
space just before he disappeared, ready to let go of his frequently tragic
past.... As I said earlier, Mulder's is another story entirely.

Lilly wasn't an easy infant. During her early life, our world narrowed to
the parlor, the kitchen, the coal shed, the outhouse, and the woodpile.
Lilly, and the heavy snows that fell just after her birth, left us no
chance to move beyond. Walt wanted to ride out in search of others and of
clues as to our whereabouts. Instead, he stayed with me and a shrieking
infant who seemed dismayed to be alive. When her big trembling lower lip
stuck out and her eyes squinted into abutting scalene triangles, she looked
amazingly like Mulder.

I always could block out someone else's screaming child, but my own baby's
cries pierced the center of my brain. Day and night of her miserable wails,
of her frantic nursing that left my nipples cracked and bleeding, of her
scorning my love and comfort...it finally snapped me. "What the hell is
wrong with you?" I shouted, shook her, then I dumped her in her cradle. I
marched out onto the porch, slammed the door against her squalling, pounded
down the steps, and kicked my way into the snow drift, heading I don't know
where.

There were hobnails in the soles of my leather lace-up boots, but it was
inevitable that I'd slip. Zippy was hovering out by the big bare oak. It
drew closer when I fell, then hesitated. "What's with this Gibson Girl crap
anyway?" I yelled at the obelisk as I tried to stand, but caught my heel in
the hem of my long woolen skirt and landed on my ass in the snow again.
"And what's the matter with gortex?"

Walt had been watching from the window. He walked out and offered his
assistance. "Dana, sweetheart--"

"Don't call me sweetheart," I hissed, knocked away his proffered hand, and
got back to my feet on my own. "I just tried to hurt my baby."

"She's fine. You didn't hurt her. It's okay."

"It's not okay," I shouted at him. A hot tear ran down my cheek. I wiped it
away angrily. "I read books while I was pregnant-- I thought I knew what to
do but I don't. God damn it, I can't do this alone!"

Walt looked off toward the obelisk. His jaw slid side to side before he
finally spoke. "You're not alone."

I shrugged, unable to say I was sorry without letting loose a flood of tears.

"Listen," Walt said quietly, "tomorrow, I'm going to take the horse and go
out on reconnaissance. The snow's not too deep since that last warm day. I
could go a few miles in each direction, at least.... Who knows? Maybe Dr.
Spock's living just over the ridge."

"Yeah," I muttered, finally in control. "In the town of Babyville. Wouldn't
that be the luck."


Walt prepared to leave at first light. I wiped my hands on my apron, stood
on tiptoe to kiss him goodbye, and made him promise to be back by dark. I
spent the day tending to Lilly and fighting with the stove, which wasn't
drafting properly, so that I could boil diapers, wash dishes, and cook
stew. "And once I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder," I told Lilly, who lay
bundled in a basket on the floor with a copper-skinned fist crammed into
her mouth.

In the late afternoon, I started watching for Walter. At dusk, I set
lanterns in the windows and paced back and forth before the crackling
fireplace with Lilly in my arms. She wept and flailed, struck me on the
chin with her head, then reared back to look at me with impassioned eyes so
like her father's.

I didn't hear Walt above Lilly's crying until he was right outside the
door, shouting for me. As I tucked the baby into her crib, Walt burst in,
his arms supporting a hunched figure who was wearing his coat. Long
salt-and-pepper hair hung over her face. He brought her to the fire and sat
her in my rocker. The bare skin of her legs, feet, and hands was slimy and
cold. Beneath her fallen hair, her teeth chattered.

"Where did you find her?" I asked, grabbing the blankets off our pallet to
drape around her.

"Edge-of-Field." Walt rubbed the woman brusquely through the blanket. "I
watched the obelisk drop her off."

"What?"

"Just help me get her warm.... Maggie? Maggie, do you hear me?"

Adrenaline made my heartbeat pound in my ears and clog up my throat. No. It
wasn't possible. But Walter brushed the hair from the woman's face and I
saw that it was indeed my mother. "G-god. M-mom." I choked, sinking to her
feet with a buzzing head. "Oh my god."

I looked up into her face. She seemed much older than when we'd parted a
year and a half ago on the first of July. I'd driven her to BWI to catch a
flight to San Diego so that she could visit my brother and his family.
While she was there, the Da'an one-upped the Independence Day fireworks.
After the massive electromagnetic pulse, there was no way for me to learn
if my family had survived. Stories told by the refugees who straggled into
our stronghold made me assume the worst. Now my mother's deep wrinkles and
heavily grayed hair spoke of a harsh survival.

We kept Mom warm by the fire. Eventually, when Walt offered her hot tea,
she took the cup and sipped from it while staring into the flames. Beside
her, I lay on our pallet, propped up on an elbow, teasing cranky Lilly with
a nipple. Mom suddenly looked at me and spoke for the first time, her voice
wondering. "You're so young, Dana." She reached out to stroke my cheek.
"You don't look a day over thirty-five." I leaned into her caress. "I
always said special prayers for your father and you children on your
birthdays-- prayers for your souls. I thought you were dead, too,
sweetheart."

"I'm fine, Mom." I reassured and winced. Lilly had latched on.

My mother sighed. "On his last birthday, your brother Bill would have been
fifty-six; Melissa would have been fifty-four; you would have been fifty;
and Charlie, forty-eight. And, can you believe it? I'm seventy-five.... The
tribe turned me out then. They have to do that with old people."

I opened my mouth and closed it. "Mom," I finally spoke evenly, "you're not
seventy-five. You're sixty, or maybe sixty-one if it's later in the year
than I think it is. And I'm thirty-eight, not fifty."

"Oh no, you've been dead for fifteen years," she replied, gazing at the
fire with pupils that reflected hot orange. "You, Bill, Charlie, my
daughters-in-law and my grandbabies-- all gone when the end came so long
ago."

"But it's 2001, Mom," I almost whimpered...whispered instead.

My mother looked at me again, grinning. I noticed that she'd lost two of
her lower front teeth. The rest looked worn and yellow. "Don't be silly,
Dana. It's 2015."


I bundled up and made my way down to Edge-of-Field. The sun was pale and
far away; the air was charged with cold. Walt said the obelisk's underside
had dilated and my mother was expelled in a flush of viscous liquid, then
Zippy settled on the ground, whirring like an asthmatic while Walt buttoned
Mom into his coat and carried her up the hill. The physical evidence
confirmed his statement and told me more. Zippy had lain in the snow,
leaking ooze, long after Walt had gone.

I stared at the huge green stain, seeing it for what it was: afterbirth. I
imagined myself inside the obelisk, and Walter, too. Both of us had made a
journey in that thing, with no more memory of it than our fetal
gestation.... Mulder once confided in me that he had prebirth memories. In
return, I'd given him a patronizing half-smile that conveyed he was nuts
and that I stayed with him only on sufferance. As my unblinking eyes burned
from the cold, I suddenly felt sure that Mulder really did remember the
womb, that every crazy thing he'd ever said was true, including his last
words to me: "Scully, I will see you again soon."


****


My mother's eyes sparkled when she looked at Lilly. It was wonderful to
watch her coo at and cuddle my cranky little freakazoid. Lilly was calmer,
too, her angst displaced into motion, especially rubbing her feet together
("cricket feet," Mom called it), and exploration-- grabbing anything in
range for a quick trip into her mouth. My hair and collars were perpetually
wet with slobber.

While she doted on her grandchild, Walt and I could more easily perform the
constant, necessary work of the farm. The tensions between us eased, and
our roots twisted together more tightly. Walter was such a good man. Each
morning, I awoke beside him happy.... No...almost happy. I wanted Mulder on
my opposite side. I needed, craved, all-but-tasted something that society
did not yet forebear. Then again, society no longer existed.


The obelisk had disappeared after it brought my mother. When we finally did
see Zippy, it dawdled near the tree line, across the snowy fields,
unwilling to come closer or to be approached.

The bitter cold lasted far, far longer than I'd expected. Just when I
wondered if we were living in a nuclear winter, spring and all its verdure
arrived in the course of forty-eight hours.

"This is bizarre," said Walt, as he stood outside in his shirtsleeves,
starring down at wild flowers and new green grass that had sprouted as the
snow rapidly withdrew. The warm air smelled of fertile earth. I could hear
the river, fat with run-off, rushing along its banks. "I swear I can see
these plants growing."

"I can, too. I think you'd better skip any more reconnaissances until we
get the crops and a garden planted." I leaned against the one of porch
roof's vertical supports and crossed my arms on my chest. The light, sweet
wind flapped my long skirt against my legs and rustled my hair.

Walter looked up at the sunny sky and hoisted a suspender that had slipped
off his shoulder. He frowned. "I grew up in the Midwest, but I really don't
know much about agriculture. I never meant to be a farmer and I had older
brothers to help, so nobody forced me into it."

"Well," I said cheerfully, "we've got a horse and a plow. We hook up the
horse behind the plow and make a furrow, then drop in some seeds, right?
Nothing to it."

He smiled at me and I looked down, suddenly embarrassed at my hopefulness.
"Those fields are steep and rocky. It's going to be backbreaking work for
just the two of us."

When I looked up again, Walt shrugged, resigned. "Well, we'll just do
whatever we have to do."

"Yeah."

"Parents always say that one day their kids'll regret not listening to
them-- I guess this is my day. Do you think Lilly will ever feel this way?"
He was really asking me if I thought Lilly would live to see that day, but
I wasn't going there.

"If she does, wild horses won't drag an admission from her."

"You're right. She's as stubborn as Mulder."

"Lilly looks even more like him now, since her eyes have turned black. I
know Mulder had hazel eyes, but I remember them as dark. His eyes were
always so dilated, so-- I don't know-- hungry." Impelled by the memory, I
expressed to Walt what had been a forbidden hope. "I want to see Mulder's
eyes when he holds Lilly for the first time."

There was a long pause as Walt's squint widened into the openness of
surprised understanding. "Dana, Mulder is dead."

"We don't know that."

He walked to the porch steps, but didn't climb to my level. "All right. _In
all probability_ Mulder is dead, and has been dead for a while."

I shook my head. "No. We never knew for sure."

"We found all the other abductees. You know that I think we would have
eventually found his body if the Da'an hadn't come." Walt stopped and
sighed. "So let me guess: you're going to ask the obelisk to bring him
here. Is that it?"

Until then I'd just played with the thought, but.... "Well...yeah, I'm
going to," I told Walt, lifting my chin, daring him to piss on my decision.

He gave me a long look then shrugged like he was twisting inside his skin.
"You know that I loved Mulder, too. I-- I just don't want trouble with--
with the powers that be, whatever the fuck they are. And I don't want you
hurt. Jesus, Dana, what if the obelisk dumps Mulder's body in
Edge-of-Field? Have you thought of that?"

My breath caught. God. I hadn't. Seeing Mulder dead was my Room 101. I'd
told Walt so through choking tears when we'd found the first male abductee
dumped in the lush northwestern woods. The man was partly decomposed, with
ivory bones showing through tears in his mummified flesh. I'd sobbed that I
couldn't take finding Mulder like that. He was so handsome. I loved his
body so. Just screw the natural order: it would be an abomination for
beauty like Mulder's to corrupt.

But if I did see Mulder dead-- either in decay or as a sleeping beauty--
I'd have to finally let him go. I could love Walter completely, without
longing for more. "If the obelisk brings Mulder's body," I finally
answered, "we can give him a loving burial. We can keep his spirit in our
hearts and move on."

Walt gave me another searching look and finally nodded. "All right. Just
ask Zippy for some field hands while you're at it."

I smiled and bent to kiss his smooth scalp. "Okay, Walt. I will."

NEW: Edge of Field (4/7)

Walter and I stuffed a hay tick to replace the feather bed that Mom now
slept on in the parlor and moved into the upstairs bedroom. Lilly sojourned
at night with whomever she felt fondest. At night, with fresh breezes
wafting through open windows, Walt and I kissed and snuggled our child.
When she preferred my mother's company, he and I made love to the sound of
frogs who lived along the river and the whistling mating calls of ground
hogs whose burrows pitted our fields.

It was during one of these delirious, delicious poundings-- Walt inside me,
hammering my sweet spot until everything turned blue and I saw flashes of
light-- when Zippy passed by our window, its form momentarily blocking the
light-giving moon.

Walter groaned as I scrambled off him and fumbled for my nightgown, then
pounded down the narrow, twisting staircase with his semen and my own
fluids slicking my inner thighs. I caught Zippy ovipositing in the side
yard under the big tree. The obelisk came down low and birthed a load of
odd-shaped objects. While they were gently thumping onto the ground, I
heard a marked increase in Zippy's respiration-- although I'm not entirely
sure that's what the "wheezing" really was. There was no accompanying
discharge. Apparently, only humans needed to be transported in a
fluid-filled ovisack.

When the obelisk was finished, it hung there, many shades darker than the
bright moonlit night, seeming to recoup its strength. "Thank you for what
you've brought," I told it softly. The obelisk jerked in apparent surprise
and rotated so that its long proboscis faced me. "Thank you for
everything," I continued. "For Walter, my mom, the farm. You've given us
all a new life. I don't understand why you've done it, but I do thank you."

Zippy made a little trill, like Milk Puss when she was sated with kneading
and ready to sleep. Don't get complacent yet, I mentally told it as I moved
closer, creeping beneath the branches of the oak. The damp moss that grew
there squished under my feet. I was so close that if I reached out I could
touch the obelisk. "I need you to help me again," I said. "We need more
help to run this farm. There's one person who could help a lot. You knew
about Walt and my mom, so you must know about him, too. His name is Fox
Mulder. If you bring him here, we'll be okay."

Zippy's wheeze transmuted into a rattle. "We need him. Fox Mulder," I
stressed the name as the obelisk backed out from under the tree.
Momentarily, it floated, the silver moonlight glinting off its hull like
two slanted-triangle eyes. When it rose straight up and sped away, I prayed
it had gone in search of the friend and lover I longed for.


It wasn't long afterward that Walt and I paused in our labor to watch a
flock of obelisks flying in V-formation like geese, high up, and heading
east. "I'll bet they're bringing more people," Walt said quietly.

"Yeah," I agreed.

"When we finish planting the corn, I'll ride out."

"Okay."

Would Mulder be one of the newcomers? Neither of us wondered it aloud, but
the hope was in our bellies. Mine tingled 'til I shook.


I burped Lilly and laid her on a folded blanket at my feet, then sat back
in the rocking chair. Walt had been gone two days. As I fumbled with the
small shell buttons on my shirt I told myself that it wasn't as if he was
searching by air or in a four-wheel drive. There were forests to wend
through and perhaps streams or a river to cross. Walt's socks were
doubtlessly wet; he was saddle sore, branch whipped, and only a few dozen
miles from home.

The cat rubbed against my shins and Lilly pushed herself up on her elbows,
cooing. Her eyes glittered with her father's intense curiosity and milky
saliva glistened on her chin as she reached out to capture Milk Puss's
tail. But the cat merely twitched it away and Lilly, unable to support
herself with one arm, sank forward on her face. I was laughing when my
mother called to me from the front porch. I picked up the baby and went
outside, found Mom sitting on the steps in the velvet balm of night below a
panorama of stars.

"Dana, where is the Big Dipper?"

I passed Lilly to her and then scanned the sky, feeling a coldness creep
through my veins. "I don't see it, but there's so many more stars out here
without any city lights." My eyes strained while my brain tried to find the
familiar shape in the cold, pinpricked blackness. "I-- I can't find it
right now."

"Have you seen it before?" my mother asked.

"Before...since I've been here?... No, but I-- stargazing hasn't really
been a priority." In truth, I hadn't looked up since the spacecraft came. I
was afraid of the night sky.

Mom made a fretting cluck, kissed the top of Lilly's head. "Where's Orion's
Belt?"

I searched the wide expanse. "I don't see it."

"How about Cassiopeia?"

I couldn't find it, either. "Oh my god," I whispered as I suddenly understood.

"Dana, I'm frightened," My mother's voice cracked. "Where are we?"

I sank down beside her, close against her warmth. I couldn't answer. I
didn't know. The more I studied the heavens, the more anomalies I saw--
clusters and configurations not only foreign to Ohio or Illinois, where I'd
thought we might be, but to the southern hemisphere of Earth as well.


****


Walt returned to Ollie Hill in an old army jeep. It pulled up slowly,
circumnavigating ruts and sheds and vegetable gardens, with our horse
trotting along behind, tied to the bumper by a long lead.

Walter wasn't alone. A stranger was behind the wheel. The man was dressed
in worn fatigues, the brim of a slouch hat shielding his eyes. Both his
hair and his beard were long. The two of them climbed from the jeep and
came toward me, burbling, "...The damnedest thing. There's a road that
wasn't there before. It starts just over the hill--"

"It leads straight to Mobyville."

"There's hundreds of people there!"

"God, can't believe I'm seeing you again!"

"Can you believe it's him?"

"...Look good. Lucky you got picked up early. Hey, can I give you a hug,
Agent Scully?"

My eyes narrowed as I studied the ragged man with the warm smile and
outstretched arms. My heart pounded when I recognized him. "Agent Doggett."

"It's me all right," Doggett laughed. "But will you please just call me John?"

Doggett and I were made partners by the FBI after the Da'an took Mulder.
Bureau partnerships weren't supposed to be arranged marriages, but I was
"Agent Scully," a euphemism for "The Widow Mulder," and he was "Agent
Doggett," the suitor whom I'd locked out of my confidence and refused to
befriend to protect my battered heart. My lower lip trembled as I
acknowledged my sin.

Doggett clucked and hurried to embrace me, to try to connect with me on
this new world, just as he had done when we were partnered on the old.
"Agent Scully, don't cry.... I'm sorry I'm not Mulder. Walter said you were
hoping for him."

"Have you seen him?" I hated myself for asking, for sounding fucking
desperate.

Doggett said no, but added quickly, "The guardians-- those flying black
things-- they're bringing more people all the time."

I looked into Doggett's cold blue eyes that were nonetheless gentle and
tried to smile. I managed a thin stretch of my lips. "I'm glad you're here."

"Walter says you need some help on the farm."

"We do."

I felt Walt's big hand on my shoulder, his warmth against my back. "If
we're going to get any work out of him, John needs a few good meals."

"Yeah. I do," Doggett agreed. "Things got lean before I was captured....
Hey, where's this miracle who ought to be about two but was just born last
winter?"

"John says that he was captured in 2003," Walt explained.

"Oh." I nodded as if that made sense. None of it did. I'd given up trying
to understand it. "You want to see Calla Lilly?"

"God yes." Doggett chuckled. "Walt never shut up about her and your mom.
I'd like to meet her, too."


Within a few hours, and with the aid of hot water, soap, scissors, and a
razor, Doggett was transformed. As he sat on the porch steps dangling Lilly
from his knee, the afternoon sun revealed the deep lines at the corners of
his mouth and eyes and the gray at his temples. But Walt had given him a
clean muslin shirt, and if I squinted, pretending it was of starched and
pressed cotton, Doggett again appeared the G-man I'd known.

"Ya liketa bounce on Uncle Johnny's knee? Huh? Do ya?" He jiggled his leg.
Lilly hiccuped a laugh. My mother sat behind them, smiling at the glee of
her glittery-eyed, wild-haired, toothless granddaughter. Her rocker glided
back and forth, making comfortable-sounding squeaks. Walt and I watched our
newly expanded family from the emerald green yard. Exuding content, he
gathered me in tight. I rested my cheek against his broad, hard chest. He
smelled like sweat and leather and mildewed clothes and something else--
something quintessentially him. It seemed right-- was it all real?

"This shouldn't be happening."

"Hmmm...what?"

"You, me, mom, Doggett.... It was the end of humanity and we all happen to
survive and end up here? What are the odds?"

Walt caressed my cheek with a work-roughened palm. "If you're setting
yourself up for a big angstfest, don't. This is not too good to be true."
His tone was a familiar mix of sternness and love. "I'm real. John is real.
Your mom is real. Maybe we're in the Twilight Zone; maybe we're in Heaven,
but wherever we are, this is happening to all of us."

"Who do you think will turn up next-- Alex Krycek? Tina?"

'You're not going to say Mulder's name and neither am I,' I read in Walt's
eyes. "I'm waiting for Alvin Kersh," he said dryly. "I love him."

I sneered and pushed away, walked toward Doggett, who was holding Lilly out
with a bewildered expression. She had started to cry. "It's okay, John," I
reassured with a smile. "She's just yelling for the boob.... C'mere, poor
old Number Six."


Later, as Walt, Doggett, and I sat on the porch in the twilight, I learned
that the new "town" was a tent city, supplied with only the essentials. By
comparison, Ollie Hill was swank. "I don't get this old-fashioned bit,"
Doggett commented, then paused to sip beer from a thick old brown-glass
bottle. "Down at Mobyville it's all army surplus. This-- this is like some
wacked-out period piece. Good brew, though."

"We call it 'Zippyweiser.'" Walt admired his own bottle. "Sounds like we
may have a rogue obelisk," he opined.

"Yeah. One who's seen too many reruns of 'The Waltons' and 'Little House on
the Prairie,'" Doggett replied. "Mobyville's guardians must have been
watching 'MASH.'"

The men laughed, but John's comment made me wonder. "Do you think the
obelisks literally have seen the reruns, or do you think they're providing
what those people are used to? The rebels were paramilitary; the people in
the town are mostly captured rebels. Maybe the obelisks think a
paramilitary environment is what those humans want."

Walt took a hit off his beer, swallowed loudly. "You know, Dana," he said,
"that begs the question of whether Zippy thinks this is what you want."

"What _I_ want? I didn't ask for this." I looked toward the tree line-- an
unfurled dark purple ribbon in the growing night. Was the obelisk hiding in
those murky woods? Zippy'd done everything by stealth since I'd requested
Mulder. "I've told the obelisk exactly what I want."


****
Edge of Field (5/7)

I laid in wait for Zippy, finally, catching it during a predawn drop-off. I
spoke to the obelisk quietly, baiting it with a request for materials to
build an addition on the house and another fireplace stack so that we could
heat the upstairs. I sandwiched my demand for Mulder between requests for
antibiotics-- even though they weren't 'period'-- and more clothes for
Doggett. Zippy tossed its proboscis and departed.

The next morning, we awoke to find that all the rooms in the house had
fireplaces. There were also two more bedrooms, an attic, a cellar, and a
second parlor decked out in mahogany and crimson upholstered furniture,
antimacassars, and potted plants. Mom and I stood barefoot on the Turkish
carpet and gaped at the ornately framed charcoal portrait of my father
above the mantel. Drawings of my sister Melissa and of Tina Hill hung from
a picture rail on the opposing wall. In the portraits, these
twentieth-century sitters were dressed as though it was the 1860s.

The front yard was an altar to our possible needs. Walter, Doggett, Mom,
and I went outside in our nightclothes, sipping coffee, to inspect the
offerings.

"God damn," Doggett proclaimed, "I'm asking Zippy for a Porsche!"

Walt grinned and shook his head. "Don't bother. You'll just end up with a
Model T."


John, Walter, and I watched from an upstairs window as Zippy labored in the
moonlit yard. It was leaving us seeds or whiskey or cloth or a goat, maybe.
Whatever the gifts, they would be unrequested. I'd told it repeatedly that
we only needed Mulder.

Zippy's wheezing had changed during the past week into a loud arrhythmic
vibration punctuated by clinks and pings. "I'm waiting for its curly
springs to pop out," Doggett smirked.

Walt provided a deadpan "boing."

"I just don't get why it's stressing itself so bad."

 I crossed my arms on my chest and dropped my chin to my chest. Walt
slipped an arm around my shoulders. "Oh, there's a reason." he told Doggett.

John turned toward us, became backlit with a moonlight halo. I frowned and
bit on my lip, shrugged under the weight of Walter's arm and of his
unspoken accusation. "One of you mind letting me in on it?"

"It's personal," I scantly refrained from snapping. The same slim margin
allowed me not to finish with "Agent Doggett."

John heard me use the 'A word' anyway. His voice was stone covering hurt
when he said it was too fucking late to go back to the Bureau. "I thought
you said I was part of this family now."

Walt assured him, "You are."

"You are." I echoed quietly, looking down at the silver-touched floorboards.

"So?" Doggett demanded.

I confessed after a squirmish pause. "I asked Zippy to bring Mulder."

"And the obelisk can't do it," Walt appended with too much implied
I-told-you-so.

I shrugged out of his embrace. "We don't know that," I contradicted him. I
had to. "We don't know that at all. And there's evidence to the contrary."

Walter raised an eyebrow. "There is?"

"Yes. There's no portrait of Mulder in the new parlor, only of people we
know are dead, so I still have hope, even if you don't. I'm going to bed
now. Goodnight."

As I walked away, I heard Walt murmur, "She's denial in action."


****


Zippy hung low in Edge-of-Field. I cocked my head as I listened to the
strange aeolian tones drifting up the hill. My mother stood beside me on
the porch. "What's it doing, Dana?"

"I don't know." I shook my head.

Curiosity finally drove my legs beneath swishing skirts that sent crickets
leaping from the tall grass stalks. Birds chased after me then soared ahead
like the obelisk's kin. Their screams made me shiver as I gathered pace.

As I drew closer, I saw that the obelisk wasn't hovering. It lay on its
underside with its nose pointed toward the afternoon sun like a compass
seeking true west-- perhaps the west of my ancestors who identified the
direction with the land of the dead. "Oh god, oh god," I prayed aloud as
dread possessed me.

Despite the bright light, the top of the obelisk's obsidian hull was
clouded by condensation that trickled down its sides to drip upon the
ground. The odor was putrid. I covered my nose and mouth with my hand as
tears welled in my eyes. The obelisk's perspiration stung, but I was about
to weep for a sudden surprised recognition of attachment and impending
loss. My benefactor was dying.

For the first time, I wondered if we could survive without the obelisk. If
Zippy died, would Ollie Hill vanish, leaving us on a dust-bowl planet,
light years from Earth? Or what if Lilly and I were left alone in such a
place-- if Walt, John, and Mom were gifts also reclaimed by the obelisk's
demise?

"Don't die." The tears ran down my face. Zippy seemed to answer with an
ear-splitting A-minor that made me wince. When the note faded, I reached
out to touch Zippy's hull, saying, "I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I
should never have asked for Muld--uh!" I jumped back without making contact
as the obelisk's proboscis lifted a foot or so, then sharply dropped. I
felt the impact reverberate deep in my chest. "God!"

When Zippy had lain still for a moment, I hooked a tousled lock of my hair
behind one ear, took a trembling breath, and began my apology again. I owed
it to my caretaker and to my immortal soul to speak my sins and my sorrow
aloud. I told Zippy I didn't know why it had chosen to provide for me out
of all the humans once of the Earth, but no matter the reason, I'd always
been grateful, even if my exterior seemed cold. "You gave me so much and
I-- I've taken advantage of you and I don't know how to save you," I wept.
"Just know that it's okay that you couldn't bring me Mulder--"

It lifted its nose and brought it down again, further assaulting me with
another ear-splitting note that made my eyes roll up and my inner ears
pulse.

Mulder...twice...I said his name and it jumped, I thought through the
dizziness. "Mulder," I said aloud and was rewarded by another
ground-shaking thud.

"Mulder!" I shouted the name this time. I was shivering with adrenaline.
Zippy's proboscis rose up and slammed down, then it sang again, making me
clutch at my aching ears. "Wh-what are you trying to tell me?"

It lay still on ground that was saturated with its foul secretions. At
last, I placed an unsteady hand on the obelisk. I'd expected the feel of
steel, not the springy wetsuit texture of the dolphins I'd touched once at
Sea World. And not the heat of fever. My mouth gaped in astonishment.
Epidermis, not hull. I'd known the obelisk was biomechanical, but now I
discerned that it was actually more biological than mechanical. The subtle
implications mixed with heat of the obelisk's febrile skin. The full
conscious comprehension seemed to hang like haze in my brain's periphery,
then in an eternal moment congealed front and center.

I whipped around and ran uphill, screaming for Walter and John. My skirts
tripped me but I hauled them up above my knees and kept running.

"Walt! Doggett!"

When the men appeared from the direction of the barn, I shouted for them to
get knives and axes. They looked at other in confusion. My mother hurried
out on the porch and I yelled at her to get out the medicines-- everything
we had because I didn't know I'd need-- and blankets and bandages. "And
boil hot water!"

"Dana, what they hell is going on?" John tried to take my arm, but I
snatched it away.

"We don't have time! It's Mulder! Goddamn it-- Zippy is Mulder!"

NEW: Edge of Field (6/7)

It was gruesome work, like butchering a whale. We broke apart bioplastic
cartilage and metallic bones, carved through white, stinking meat, severed
rubbery tubing, and tore out strange hematite organs to reach the heart of
the carcass. There we discovered a thick-walled sack perhaps five feet tall
and four feet across. When we slashed it open, a flood of pale green slush
spilled out onto us. Stunned and shivering, Walt, John, and I watched as
the sack deflated, settling around an inner object. As the skin further
contracted, the tip of a nose and chin, sunken hollows of eyes, the curve
of shoulders, and the points of bent knees and knuckles became apparent.

We tore away the membrane to finally reach my partner. His bare skin was
cold blue. He sat in a chair that seemed hewn from dark gray stone, metal
spikes laterally piercing his ankles and wrists-- their purpose,
apparently, was to serve as restraints. Tubes perforated his side, chest,
and stomach, and what looked like an alien chastity belt imprisoned his
hips. Mulder's head was locked in a metal clamp from which six huge
syringes, three on each side, had punctured his cheeks then pulled back,
stretching his skin out like sails. He was a fish caught on a party line, a
crucified Christ, Dr. Frankenstein's weirdest experiment.

Horrified though I was, I had to smile at my partner's expression. It was
pure Mulder. His lips were compressed into a flat line that signaled ornery
acceptance. "All right, you've got me," I imaged him telling his captors,
"but you just fucking wait 'til I get off this lounge chair." I wanted to
kiss that chilled, petulant mouth, but instead I reached down and ripped
out his stomach tube, leaving behind a purple hole that slowly dribbled
deep red.

"Dana, do you know what you're doing?" Doggett asked. I could feel him
behind me, shivering.

Did I? No. I wasn't thinking; I was action, like a dervish or a drill, or
Kali Ma who strikes down obstacles with relentless forward thrusts. I
grabbed the tube that ran into Mulder's side and yanked. It didn't budge. I
dug in my heels and used my weight against it, staggering backward when it
gave, holding the blood-sticky pipe up like Excalibur. "John, tell Mom to
build a fire and make a pallet by the hearth and to prepare and sterilize
everything I'll need for suturing. Come back with blankets."

"Dana--"

"Go!" I screamed at him.

He went.

I wiped fallen hair back from my face and ordered Walt to pull out the
crucifying spikes while I extracted the chest tube. Walt struggled, unable
to dislodge the skewers from their anchor points. He looked to me
questioningly. "Whack them with the axe," I said.

Behind the flesh-and fluid-flecked lenses of his wire rims, Walter's eyes
grew big. "But I could miss. And even if I don't, I could break his limbs."

"You won't miss. We can set broken bones."

"But--"

"Just do it or he won't survive! He's not breathing!"

Walt picked up the axe John had left, hefted its weight as he gauged
distance and force, then brought it down where the spike joined the chair
on the outside of Mulder's right wrist. The impact snapped the metal and
bent the spike, twisting Mulder's arm down and rotating his palm outward.
"God, I'm so sorry, buddy," Walter's forehead was deeply furrowed as he
studied Mulder's unchanged expression.

"He didn't feel it. Now slide the spike out and do the rest."

Walter glared, no doubt wishing me my own moment of hell. It came when I
realized that the syringes piercing Mulder's cheeks ended in a large barb.
There was no way to quickly remove them without adding to the scars he'd
bear. I had no choice but to rip the needles out, to wince and want to weep
at the little pieces of flesh that adhered to the hooks.

When we unlocked the gray metal girdle, we found Mulder's genitals pale and
shriveled, and another hose running from the chair's seat pushed through
his anus into his rectum. Walt slipped his arms beneath Mulder's armpits
and lifted him. He must have expected that after a short length the end
would appear. When it didn't happen, Walt snarled, 'Dana, get that thing
out of him!' He viewed the tube as a rape object, not a waste removal
spout. I eased the pipe from Mulder's digestive tract and out of his rectum
as Walt looked away. "Is it done?" he demanded through clenched teeth.

"Yeah." I let the tube fall.

Walt took a deep breath and hoisted Mulder fully into his arms. When
Doggett sprinted down to us just seconds later we quickly spread out the
quilts he'd brought. Walter laid Mulder down upon them carefully, but I
wasn't gentle as I pried open my partner's stiff jaw, forced his head back,
pinched his nose, and placed my mouth on his.

Wake up, Sleeping Beauty, I thought as I tried to inflate his lungs with my
breath. His chest didn't rise. I retilted his head and tried again. I still
couldn't get air down his windpipe. "Blocked airway...blocked airway," I
muttered as I plunged my fingers past ice-cube teeth and an ice-block
tongue, down below his cold-lump tonsils. When I touched the obstruction, a
line of electricity shot straight up my arm. My muscles jerked. "God!"

"What is it?" Walt demanded.

"I don't know...I...." Now I had my fingers around the foreign thing's
edges, despite the current it emitted. I had it now; the thing keeping
Mulder from breathing was in my grasp.

The object I withdrew was shaped like a river pebble, absolutely black save
for little lights, glimmers.... An odor like a doused fire arose from
Mulder's open mouth. The tips of my fingers and my palm had turned red;
white blisters formed as I watched, but I felt no pain. My head cocked as
my eyes and mind were drawn by the twinkle of the silver dots in velvet
darkness.

The universe tilted when the thing was slapped from my hand. For a moment I
was flying, too, then I was back in my body, my gut twisting. I turned away
from Mulder to retch on the grass. Walt's hands gripped my shoulders, his
voice said something ... something....


When a person loses consciousness, hearing is the last sense to go, so it
should be the first to resurrect. But it's not. Pain returns before
anything else, along with the hazy rebirth of identity.

Finally, I could hear my moans and the footsteps they'd summoned. Walter's
scent reignited my sense of smell. His weight dipped the mattress, tipping
me against him. I opened my eyes and winced into a beam of sunshine falling
through the window. Walt cupped my chin, turned my gaze toward the shade
and his weary face.

I tried to swallow the dustball in my throat. "Mulder?" It didn't actually
sound like Mulder, but Walt understood me.

"He's downstairs."

"Heesokay?"

"Mulder's getting better. Here, drink some water." They'd almost lost me,
Walt explained as the liquid filled my mouth and my swallow threatened to
turn into a spasm. He lightly touched my arm, drawing my attention from
internal sensations to pale skin marred by red scabs, and to my mittened --
no-- my bandaged hand.

"Radiation burns." Walt frowned, looked down at the counterpane as he told
me they'd had to amputate the tip of my forefinger. "I- we're so sorry,
Dana. John and I--we...." he trailed off.

"S'okay," I whispered.

"Dana--"

"Nuh. S'okay." I stared at the white wrappings, feeling nothing at my loss.
I'd done what was needed to save Mulder. In my mind I saw his blue skin and
purple lips, his mouth gaping. Again, I smelled the odor of ashes. "The
burned-out vacuum of space," I murmured.

Walter raised his head. "What?"

"An astronaut...on the radio."

"An astronaut?"

"Yeah." I shivered on exhale. "Heard'im interviewed long time'go. He said
space smelled like that."

"Like a burned-out void?"

"Uh-huh."

Walter waited out a reasonable pause. When I added nothing, he lifted an
eyebrow to prompt me. Tears had risen in my eyes, were barely retained by
my lower lids. I could see light refractions shimmering like stars. "God
Walt, I held a whole universe in my hand."

NEW: Edge of Field (7/7)

When I was well enough be carried downstairs in the wiry arms of Doggett, I
found Mulder lying in my mother's bed with our daughter sitting on his
chest.

Mulder was wan; each cheek was marked with blood-black scabs, but he was
alert and focused on Lilly. His hands hovered, ready to catch her if she
toppled. To my relief, I saw the dressings on his crucified wrists were
stained with exudate, but no suppuration. I itched to examine the rest of
him.

Mulder paid no attention as John settled me on the bedside chair, then
without looking away from the baby said, "Scully, I'd like you to meet my
daughter. Her name is Calla Lilly. Nice name, but she can't fly."

"He's crazier than a Jay Bird," Doggett leaned down to whisper. When I
tensed, he quickly amended, "But don't worry, he's getting better. Skinner
says he's more like his old self every day."

"Oh. Okay." I managed a weak smile. "Good."

Doggett straightened and said in a loud bemused voice reminiscent of a
nursing home attendant, "I told you babies don't fly, Mulder. Only pigs do
that." Then he spoke softly to me again, "Your ma and I are in the kitchen
if you need us."

Mulder scowled as John retreated. "He's not part of your happy ending."

My eyebrows lifted. "My what...? Mulder...?" He stared resolutely at Lilly,
who'd jammed her fist in her mouth like a cork. "Mulder?"

"You said I'd go into hypovolemic shock if I lost my cellphone."

"What?"

His full lips unexpectedly pulled back into a toothy grin and he cooed to
Lilly, "And she lived happily ever after."

I leaned forward to stroke Mulder's cheek. The scabs felt nubbly and hard
but his undamaged skin was supple. "You did this for me? So that I'd have
the life you wanted for me?"

His pupils slid left to peer at me stealthily. "Yes. But I did not shift
that person."

"But I thought-- the farm work...."

"The transmission was delayed."

When he offered me nothing further, I sighed. "How in the world did you do
this? I mean, could you actually prioritize my welfare? Didn't the Da'an
control you?"

"I already don't remember." Mulder's lips trembled. He pinched them
together and finally looked at me full on and with remorse. "I'm sorry,
Scully."

"Oh, Mulder." I petted his dark brown hair.

"I can't help like that anymore."

"It's okay, sweetie. We can help ourselves now. I think we'll be just fine."



As Mulder adjusted to the loss of his superpowers, I learned to live with
my handicap. I'd suffered second- and third-degree burns. The radiation not
only irrevocably charred one fingertip and left most of the others numb
from nerve damage, but also caused scars that greatly reduced my range of
motion. As the nobility of self-sacrifice faded, I bawled on Walt, on Mom,
even on Doggett, who treated the moment like a miracle, rubbing my back as
we stood, slowly swaying in the yard.

When I had cried myself out, John thanked me for privilege of snotting up
his shirt. "I always wanted to be your friend. I know-- I know I'm not
Mulder or Skinner, but--"

"You don't need to be. And you are my friend."

He gave me a wry grin. "Even though I cut your finger off?"

I shrugged. "Call it Karma for cutting you out of my confidence when we
were partners."

"Karma, huh? And I thought you were Catholic."

I smiled wistfully. "I am...or I was. Do you think people will resurrect
the Catholic Church here?"

"Wherever here is."

"Well, wherever we are, and old religion or new, it's home."


****

To catch up with the present, Walter, Mulder, and I became life partners.
In the past, during our Bureau days, Mulder often didn't tell me things--
important things like he was bisexual and had been in love with Walt for
years. In fact, back on Earth, he'd wanted what we now have, but was afraid
it would never work. On the old planet, before the invasion, it probably
couldn't have, but here we've bonded and thrived.

My two husbands and I have lived together at Ollie Hill for many years;
exactly how many I cannot say, because-- as I wrote earlier-- it no longer
matters.

Our new planet's drawn-out orbit, or exposure to proximate Venusian gamma
rays or whatever the voodoo is, extends the human lifetime perhaps
indefinitely. We adults did not age while Lilly grew into a
broad-shouldered, six-foot Amazon like her biological mother. With her
thigh-length sheet of black hair, from behind she looks so much like Tina
Hill that my heart often aches. But when Lilly turns, she's Mulder's child.
She has his eyes, lips, and smile. She has his wiles and reckless
determination, too. Her teenage years were the first circle of hell.

Lilly aged normally until her mid-twenties then suffered a near-fatal
fever. Afterward, she was in stasis like the rest of us. Just as Lilly was
the first child born here, she was also the first to experience Fixative
Fever, or Regenerative Fever, as John says it's called in other Cantons.

John frequently travels, visiting the major settlements of all the Cantons.
He's our liaison with the rest of transplanted humanity, and our broker,
trading Ollie Hill's crops for everything else we need and recruiting field
hands for the planting and harvest seasons.

Walt, Mulder, Mom, and Lilly usually accompany John to local market days.
When the bartering is done, the men and Lilly drink beer in a public house
or take in a football game. My mother shops and eats a meal with an older
lady she came across who used to be in her tribe.

Occasionally, Mulder and Doggett join the Mobyville Martians baseball team
for a season. When they do, the games take them all around the region.
They've even played in the New World Series where the Martians took home
the pennant. For her part, Lilly excels at basketball. She used to let her
father coach her, but now says she'd rather be strangled than let Mulder
sit anywhere closer than the top row of bleachers during a game. I hear
about all their victories and defeats when they return home, for as I said,
I seldom leave.

On one of his trips to the neighboring Canton's capital, Doggett met a
woman named Manjushri. After his third visit, she returned to Ollie Hill
with him. We built them a house of their own next to ours in which they
have thus far raised three children to adults and are now in the early
years of their second set of two.

Walter, once one of the United States' chief law enforcement officers,
later a farmer, began yet another career as a master carpenter. His
furniture is highly prized and commissions are nearly constant. During one
lull, Walt built us a big, comfortable swing and hung it from a strong limb
of the big oak. In good weather, when the day's labors are done, we lounge
against the smooth wood and each other to take in the sunset.

On one of the last temperate days of autumn, not long after I began these
reminiscences, Mulder and I sat in the swing under the nearly denuded oak,
discussing what I had planned to include and exclude. I'm a very private
person, and Mulder, with characteristic over-earnestness, was pushing me to
write about events and emotions I felt uncomfortable revealing. I told him
he should go write his own memoirs for public consumption.

"What exactly would I write about, Scully? The fat hairy nothing I
remember? I can't explain why these people were chosen over others, or how
they were brought here. I can't tell them if the Da'an are evil or good. I
don't even remember being abducted." Mulder smiled wistfully and twisted my
heart.

I stroked his cheek, let my fingers trail down over the white faded scars
to trace his full lips. He caught my hand and kissed my palm. I didn't feel
it. The scars there are too thick. Mulder laid my hand on his thigh and
contemplated the abrupt stub of my forefinger. "If I was still Zippy, I
might have been able to heal this."

"Mulder," I said gently, "Every time something goes wrong, you say you
could have made it all better if you were an obelisk. But that's not true."

"It's true that you don't have a guardian any longer because I'm not it."

"I'd rather have your help as a free human than magical help from the slave
they made you."

Mulder's brow furrowed. "I don't know that I was a slave, Scully. I wish I
knew for sure how I ended up an obelisk. Maybe I wasn't forced to become
one-- maybe I volunteered."

I wondered how long it would be until Mulder forgot about his missing time,
the way that immortal man I once investigated forgot his wife's name after
a hundred years...what was that man's name? Huh, I thought, I've forgotten.
If I hadn't found Mulder, would his name be lost to me now, too?

"Help! Help meeeeee!"

We both turned toward the cry. John's daughter Mishali ran toward us,
sobbing. Mulder met her three-quarters of the way, bending to catch the
little girl in his embrace. "Mishali, what's wrong?"

"A monster! Uncle Fox, a monster!"

I reached them and smirked, but Mulder frowned and asked her softly, "Where?"

"In Edge-of-Field. He's naked and yucky!"

He and I looked at each other for a long empty beat and then we took off.
When we were partners at the FBI, out on cases, it seemed like we were
always chasing something. Mulder: the tall lean man sprinting ahead, and
me: the small, short-legged woman determined to keep up.

Mulder was ahead of me now with his arms and legs pumping, while I held up
my skirts and barreled forward, trying to cut the distance. It felt good
race after him again. It was exhilarating. I shouted his name, not from
concern, but from the certainty that he would answer.

I saw that Mulder was already on his knees beside the prone form in the
field. "Scully!" he called over his shoulder, responding as expected,
making me smile. I was breathing hard when I reached them. Mulder had
stripped off his coat to cover the shivering, groggy man. When he turned to
me again, he was grinning. "Scully, I think this is your long-delayed field
hand."

My mouth fell open as I sank down into the dead grass, looking at
slime-smeared face of Melvin Frohicke, one of our oldest friends.

"Better late than never, huh?" Mulder asked in obvious delight. "I guess I
am still taking care of you, Scully." Frohike was trying to focus. Mulder
used his shirt cuff to wipe some of the goop away from his eyes.

"M-mulder?"

"Hey, Melvin. I'm here."

"Where are we?"

"The Happy Ending, man. You're in Scully's Happy Ending."


FINIS

Feedback welcome and appreciated. lisby@earthlink.net
--lisby@earthlink.net
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