The Family G-Man: FHtP

Chapter one Chapter two Chapter three Chapter four Chapter five
Chapter six Chapter seven Chapter eight Chapter nine Chapter ten
Chapter eleven Chapter twelve Chapter thirteen Chapter fourteen


Title: The Family G-Man: From Here to Paternity

Authors: Neoxphile and FelineFemme

Feedback: neoxphile@aol.com be8opcat1013@yahoo.com

Series: The Family G-Man

Spoilers: X-Files seasons 1-9, X-Files: I Want To Believe, The Family G-Man, The Family G-Man: One Fine Summer, The Family G-Man: Confessions and Connections & The Family G-Man: I Want To Believe
Category: somewhat alternate reality, snarky humor, a little angst, baby/kid/teenfic, MSR-married & DRR-"living in sin" as my grandma would say, Mulder/Doggett friendship & Scully/Reyes friendship

Rating: PG-13

Status: active posting (not a WIP). posting begun - September 2015

Summary: During the summer and fall of 2008 in Mulder and Scully's family a new baby brings joy, but for Luke and Adrianna a new baby means stress, anxiety, and the sense that everything is falling apart. Meanwhile, Gibson's suspicions about young Alice finally come to a head.

Authors' Notes: If you're wondering if this story can be read as a stand-alone, the answer is that a lot of it probably won't make a lot of sense to you that way. We won't stop you if you want to try to read this without reading The Family G-Man first, though. See how far you get before you scratch your head thinking "They have how many kids besides William?!" =)

click here to be reminded how old the kids are during the summer of 2008



Chapter One

Mulder Home
June 15, 2008

"Didn't we just go to Page's graduation?" Sammy grumbles. It seems that this year is worse than the others, because his older sister continually pulls the "I'm the oldest" card, even though he's the oldest boy. And it doesn't seem like it will get any better, especially since they have yet to go to high school and she's acting like a big bossypants already. "Why do we have to go to another one?"

"Are they gonna have a party at Uncle Scott and Auntie Samantha's?" Christopher asks as he peers over the back of the couch, not really bothered this summer by any over-assertion of elder siblings, since he has a few, Sammy included. "Have you seen Wallace?"

Scully cranes her neck around, but doesn't leave her seat. She finds it's harder to leave any sort of comfortable seat these days, even couches half-filled with squirmy boys. "Have you checked upstairs in Zoe and Brianna's toy box?" she asks, knowing it's the last place he'll want to look. "He seems to like cuddling with stuffed animals."

"But that's so," her almost nine-year-old son's face scrunches up as he complains, "babyish!"

Scully laughs, she can't help it. "Christopher, he's a kitten, he doesn't care," she giggles.

Her younger middle son's face wrinkles further, then he sighs loudly. "Fine," he says, "guess I'll have to rescue him again." And he scrambles off the couch to run upstairs and crash his baby sisters' tea party to "rescue" his young cat.

His mother doesn't bother to correct him again, as it seems he's fallen into the years of "not wanting baby stuff" now. But she'd rather have that than vicious sibling rivalry, which, thankfully, none of them have exhibited to any alarming degree.

"So, are we gonna have a party at Aunt Samantha's?" Sammy asks, looking slightly hopeful.

"Um, no." Scully looks down. Before she can go into details, her oldest child comes in with April and William just behind her. "How did it go?" she asks them.

Page makes a face, while April and William grin. "Lucky for you, you get the least messiest root beer float," her oldest daughter says. Then William burps. "Ugh."

Spared from having to explain why there isn't going to be a party to celebrate their cousin's high school graduation like there just had been for Page's eighth grade graduation, Scully smiles and takes the "least messiest root beer float" from her daughter, sipping the frothy and fizzy drink gratefully. She can't wait until her baby is born, to be honest. Maybe it's because she's much older now, but it seems like her youngest is taking his dear, sweet time to be born, even though her obstetrician has told her time and again that the actual due date is a couple of weeks down the line. The only good thing is that the children outside of her womb have occasional bouts of thoughtfulness, one of which is doing their best to help her with her cravings when Mulder isn't available to do so, like now.

Currently, Mulder's taping the on-location segment of a show about Sasquatch up in Canada. Originally, he'd insisted on just a cameraman to drive with him, but Reed kicked up a fuss about "seeing is believing" and all that, so it ended up being a nearly-full cast and crew being flown up. Nearly, because Scully's too far along in her pregnancy to fly, or want to. She isn't hopeful that they'd get any sightings, however, as the overgrown hairy creatures are even more skittish about publicity than, say, ghosts.

And how would I know that? she muses inwardly. When she realizes she's finishes the last of her root beer, she looks up. "What?" she asks, seeing her children's quizzical expressions.

"What are you smiling at, Mom?" Page asks.

Scully blinks. "Missing Sasquatch," she answers honestly.

April rolls her eyes. "Mo-om," she sighs, "you're so weird."

William giggles and clambers up next to his mother. "You want another one?" he asks.

"Only if you help make it." Scully smiles at her currently youngest little boy. April rolls her eyes again, but she smiles, and so does Page. "Okay, help Mommy up, and we'll see what else we can put in the root beer float."

"What do you mean?" William asks, his older sisters looking similarly confused, while Sammy smirks knowingly. He alone thinks he knows what their mother means.

"She puts other stuff in there," Sammy says, jumping off the couch and holds his arms out to her. "I can taste it."

Scully smirks back when it takes more than one child to pull her off the couch. "You're so good to Mommy." She smiles.

"You did that on purpose." Page narrows her eyes.

Scully shrugs. She gets her entertainment where she can. "Where are Jared and David?" she asks, looking out the front window. No one's in sight.

Sammy shrugs as they go to the kitchen. "I think they're trying to do what we saw in the video the other day," he says.

Scully frowns. "Which video?" They'd taken to watching action movies lately, although she makes sure they are child-friendly. Mulder tries hard, but he's not always on the same page about what is appropriate for the kids.

Her eldest son shrugs again. "I dunno. I think they wanna make a movie, too."

Boy, would Wayne be happy to hear that, Scully sighs inwardly. "Let me guess, they've got cameras and they're looking for subjects."

"Actually…"

Scully stares at Sammy, and so do his siblings. "Well, yeah, they got the cameras from Uncle Frohike's folks–" And Scully smiles at the appellation, "-but they're gonna make an action movie with Emily and Addy."

Scully blinks. "Really?"

He nods. "Yeah, they're into acting and stuff, so Jared said that it should be easy to make a movie with them." Sammy puffs up a bit. "I'm going to be the writer of the script. Director too."

Scully shakes her head. Her children will never fail to surprise her, but she puts on her mother hat and says, "I hope that your cousins will stay friends with you all after this. Even if they're family, it's hard making a movie."

April snorts. "Emily and Addy show off all the time. How hard can it be?"

Their mother sighs. "You take out the ice cream and root beer, I'm going to call your Aunt Missy."


June 16, 2008

Adrianna's graduation is louder than Page's, but that's probably because there are more people who show up to a high school graduation than a middle school one. At the same time, it's the most subdued and uncomfortable graduation Mulder and Scully have gone to, and that's saying a lot. Family and friends, which have a tendency to overlap at times like these, congratulate Scully on her impending birth. She wishes they'd rephrase it, since "impending" sounds a bit too doomsday for her taste, although she knows they mean well. Even her children can pick up on the tension, even if the younger ones don't quite understand why, and they start chattering with Adrianna's siblings to the side.

When people talk to Adrianna, on the other hand, they almost literally paste a smile on their face as they offer a perfunctory "congratulations." It's not quite clear whether they mean her graduation or her own pregnancy, but they probably mean the former and hope she takes it for the latter as well. Scully sighs inwardly. The girl may be young and pregnant, but she's not as stupid as they think. Scully's fairly sure she's one of the few who actually congratulate Adrianna on both graduation and pregnancy, surprising both herself and the girl by hugging her when she does, judging by the girl's pleased (if a little shocked) reaction.

The older woman also wishes that she looks as ridiculously glowing as the eighteen-year-old does, although at present that might be asking for a bit much since Scully's at the point where she'd almost happily go for a caesarean tomorrow if her OB/GYN offered. And yet, she doesn't envy Adrianna's timing or situation. Pregnancy is a trying time in general, and still being a teenager and unwed makes the trial even more stringent.

It was odd, hearing the news from Samantha during their Easter get-together but not seeing the girl herself then, her mother saying she was "with friends" at the time. She was also surprised to hear that Luke Doggett was the father, having heard, well, absolutely nothing on that front. When she pressed Monica about it, she said something vague about "not being her call about how and when to share the news but Luke's", and isn't surprised to find that Luke isn't at the graduation today because he wasn't invited.

"Gee, wonder why," Mulder drawls in her ear, startling her.

"Oh my God, don't do that," she hisses, even though she ought to know he can't resist a snarky comment after an uncomfortable conversation, whether it's immediately or days after the fact. "Do you want to shock me into giving birth right now?"

Her husband grins unrepentantly at her. "It might make you a little happier and shake things up a bit," he says. "I've been to livelier funerals."

Scully rolls her blue eyes. "The Alligator Man's funeral doesn't count."

His mischievous smile deepens into a real one. "One in five million," he says, not for the first time. "Well, it seems this is the second most interesting event we've gone to recently."

"What's the other?" Scully asks, having a good idea, but says it anyways.

"When Frohike got married-"

"It was a lovely service," she says warningly.

"I wasn't finished." He pouts, and she snorts. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted–" She rolls her eyes at him. "I think his bachelor party was the most surreal thing I've been to."

"Why, because he asked me and Monica to go, too?" She smiles.

"No." He smiles back, thankful that neither woman had taken up the offer. He didn't really think Scully would have, but with Monica you never knew.

"Was it because the stripper was supposed to be dressed in a sci-fi theme?"

"No. Actually, the boys were kinda mad that she wasn't, since they'd paid extra for the Farscape costume."

He's rewarded by another eye roll. "Then what?" Scully says, starting to get exasperated.

"You know that the wedding was on March 17, right?" She nods. "Well, when Langley got drunk, he accused Frohike of getting married on St. Patrick's to, as he put it, 'horn in on the luck of the Irish', and went on to say that 'of course, you're gonna need luck if you're gonna make a marriage work'." Mulder makes a face. "And then there followed the most pathetic fist fight I've seen outside of elementary school. No, wait, those second-graders were rougher than those two."

Now she chuckles. "I'm not surprised that he had ruffled feathers when Frohike finally moved out, leaving him and Byers behind in their old place. Well, at least they're getting along again. Come on, let's get the kids before they make this exciting and start a riot."

"You mean, before I start a riot, right?" Mulder shoots a sideways glance at his wife.

"Whatever do you mean?" Scully lifts her chin with a suspiciously dignified tilt. Yeah, she may be pregnant, but that doesn't mean she's not up for a little troublemaking, if there's cause for it.

Mulder only smiles and shakes his head before getting their goodbyes said and wrangling the kids into the van.


July 4, 2008

Mulder wakes from a dream about a persistent woodpecker trying to drill a hole in his shoulder, realizing blearily that Scully has been poking him in that shoulder with a finger for who knows how long. A glance at the clock reveals that it's nine-thirty, and for half a second he's panicky about being that late for work before he remembers that he has the day off. Still it's surprising that none of the kids have made enough noise to wake him earlier. Enjoy it while it lasts, he reminds himself and has to suppress a moan when he thinks about the interrupted sleep they have months and months of ahead of them.

"What?" he asks, feeling both sleepy and irritated when he notices that she still hasn't explained why she woke him up.

"Today's the day," she says significantly.

At first he almost asks if she's referring to the holiday or the cookout everyone somehow decided it'd be best if they hosted – he himself thought that the idea that it would be easier on Scully if it was here instead of making her travel to someone else's house is one of dubious merit even if Maggie and Krycek are going to do all of the cooking – but then the significance of her tone finally sinks in.

"You're sure?" he asks, trying to sit up enough to look for his pants. It might be more than five and a half years since they've last done this but he still remembers that it's as important to be dressed from the waist down as the waist up when driving your wife to the hospital. "When did the contractions start?" he asks, knowing that she wouldn't wake him otherwise.

"About forty-five minutes ago," she says and he finally is awake enough to notice her uncomfortable expression. It's always disappointed him that labor doesn't seem to be something that gets much easier with practice – Scully once told him that labor had been the worst with David and Jared due to the drug Diana had given her to start her contractions, and Page the worst for their children who had been allowed to come on their own schedule, but he knew it was unfairly painful even under the best circumstances.

"How bad?" Mulder asks, knowing she'll realize he wants to know if they need to bolt to the hospital right that second. He really doesn't think so given she doesn't seem to be in all that much pain yet. Of course that will come, he thinks guiltily.

"Not too bad yet," she confirms.

It's at that moment he realizes that the bed and floor around it are distinctly dry, nor does he notice a tell-tale smell so he's pretty sure her water hasn't broken yet. Unless it was in another room...but she's too calm for that, he thinks. "So...what do you want to do?"

She holds out a hand and he helps her sit on the bed beside him. "I'm going to call Mom and Missy and let them know what's happening. If they still want to come over, I guess that they can."

This actually makes a strange sort of sense to him: one of them would need to come over and stay with the kids anyway, so they might as well get to enjoy lunch still. The kids would certainly be easier to handle if they're not hungry on top of being nervous and excited. "Okay."


An hour and a half later Mulder is beginning to doubt the wisdom of going through with the cookout. There are approximately two hundred and eleven children running around, mostly to avoid being asked to do anything by their grandmother and respective mothers, and fifteen minutes ago he had to fish both William and Ryan out of the grill. He's still not sure what possessed them to stick their arms in between the grates so deeply that neither boy could get their hands back out. And of course his explanations that they'd done something dangerous were met with protests by both seven-year-olds that the grill wasn't on yet.

"How are you doing?" Mulder asks his wife for the fifth time in the past hour when he finds her bringing a bowl of potato salad to the table with such slow deliberation you would think it was made of C4. The fact that Daisy is dancing around her feet isn't making it any easier, so he snags the half-grown puppy by her collar and encourages her to leave the room.

"All right," Scully answers through gritted teeth. He can't tell if it's because of a contraction or because she's annoyed at him. He thinks it could go either way. Giving him a long look, she says "I'll let you know when that changes."

"Unh huh."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she snaps.

Mulder tries to shrug innocently but he doesn't manage to pull it off. This doesn't stop her glare so he decides that he might as well say what he's thinking. "I'm just wondering if you decided you want to have the baby at home and just haven't told me." It's not like we're strangers to babies arriving outside of a hospital, he thinks unhappily. Four of the older kids didn't see the inside of a hospital until after their cords were cut.

"My water hasn't even broken yet," she hisses.

He just stares at her until she swears under her breath and makes her ungainly way away from him.

Mulder is still trying to figure out if he should apologize or get Maggie to help him gang up on her when a voice calls, "Mulder, bring out the buns, would you?"

He grabs the bags of hamburger buns by their open ends and wanders back out to the grill. Fortunately Krycek is the only one there now, not any curious little boys. "Here," Mulder says, letting the bags dangled limply from his fist.

Krycek gives Mulder a look and says "Your wife is they damn lucky I don't have the heart to give a woman who is nine months pregnant a piece of my mind" and then rolls his eyes.

Mulder is simply puzzled. "What did she do to piss you off?" he wants to know.

"I got a phone call from two idiots writers who wanted to know if they could interview me for a book that they're writing." Krycek looks offended.

"Who?" Mulder's first thoughts are that the writers want dirt on Alex's time as a double agent, but he's not sure why friends of the gunmen would earn Scully his ire rather than his own.

"Devon and Janelle Letourmaine."

"Uh oh." He gives his brother-in-law a sidelong look. "What are they writing about now?"

"A male nanny," Krycek says sourly. "And his attempt to balance providing childcare and romancing the little girl's single mother. I think they said they're calling it The Manny Diaries."

"Wow."

"I know that your wife reads them and that the pair of fools were involved in an FBI case." Krycek's expression leaves little to the imagination when it comes to how he must feel about the romance novel writers. "And I really don't appreciate the fact that your wife apparently told them that I looked after your kids while your stupid ass was off playing with the aliens."

Mulder immediately feels indignant, mostly because there was nothing playful about his time with the grays. Eventually he realizes that his wife might not actually be the guilty party, and even though he's annoyed with her for wanting to wait longer before going to the hospital, he does feel that he has to defend her. "Wait, John and Monica were the ones who were looking after the writers. For all we know, it was Monica who told them about… The services you rendered."

Krycek does not look mollified. "That would still be Dana's fault."

"How so?" Mulder asks, cocking his head to one side.

"Who told them I was staying with her and the kids?" he asks.

"Do you think that anyone necessarily told them? I mean, if they were over here… They would have noticed that you hung around and seem to be sleeping in the guest room." Krycek just scowls at him. "I–" Mulder pauses for a moment and gives his brother-in-law a confused look. "Wonder why they contacted you instead of Alan. I mean, he's the actual, lists-it-as-his-occupation-on-his-tax-paperwork nanny, not you."

"I'm guessing because Alan looks like a boxer and more likely to kick their ass than I do," Krycek grumbles.

Mulder smirks at him. "Look at it this way, being a pretty boy must've made it easier on you when you were double agent, so this is the flip side of that fortuitous coin. And I guess it's not your fault you're so darn cute."

"If you didn't have nine and three-quarter kids I might worry about a comment like that," Krycek tells him with another eye roll. He's been teased a lot about his boyish looks, by a lot of different people, over the years so it's hard to work up any real venom about it anymore.

Mulder smirks and begins to correct his comment. "Technically at this point it's more than nine and eight ninths-"

"Fox!" Missy's voice rings out over their argument.

When Mulder finds them, Scully is bent double, and clutching her sister's arm. A puddle of liquid spreads between their feet.

Mulder eyes his wife sadly. "Dammit. You didn't even get to have a hamburger first."

"I'm not really all that focused on food at this very moment," Scully says impatiently.

Mulder nods, but he sure that she'll wish she had gotten a chance to eat later.

"Go on," a voice says behind him, and Mulder is surprised that he hadn't heard Krycek's approach. "You take her, and will make sure that everything stays shipshape here while you're gone."

"Thanks," Mulder says sincerely, digging through his pockets for his keys.

To his surprise, Krycek gives him a friendly cuff on the shoulder. "Try not to punch any of the medical staff," his brother-in-law says with a grin.

"Why would I…" He thinks for a moment, and remembers hearing stories about Alex's bad behavior in the delivery room back when Ryan had been born. "I'll do my best."

Considering how quickly their youngest daughters were born, Mulder does not feel too guilty about not taking the time to say goodbye to Maggie or the kids before they leave. Instead, he just hustles Scully out to the car.

They pass Maggie and April on their way, and he hopes that he's the only one who hears April ask her grandmother "is mom going to be okay? I keep reading how dangerous it is to have a baby when you're older…"

Mulder sneaks a look at his wife's face, and is glad to see that she hasn't reacted to the question. Maybe he really is the only one who heard it. But if April is worried enough to ask, he wonders if that explains her attitude about the impending arrival.

It's only as he is putting the car into drive that he wonders if April has had any bad dreams lately. The thought makes him shiver, even though it is 90° out.


Later

To Mulder's credit, he doesn't say I told you so. Even so, Scully thinks that she notices him give her a look when they are immediately rushed into the delivery room as soon as they arrived at the hospital.

This baby doesn't arrive quite as quickly as his elder sisters did, but she thinks that her youngest daughter aside, who had been extremely eager to follow the sister who had been born in the ambulance itself, they're in though delivery room for the least amount of time of any of their babies, only about three and a half hours from the time they enter the room. There is some pushing, many words of encouragement, and then all of a sudden Dr. Hart is catching their newborn son.

A couple of moments later the cord is cut, and the new baby is placed in Scully's waiting arms. "He's beautiful," Mulder tells her, leaning over her shoulder to get a good look.

The doctor in her says that new parents are so overwhelmed by the experience of bringing a new life into the world that they somehow miss seeing how funny looking the average newborn is immediately after birth. Wrinkled, smeared with bodily fluids, skin a pale whitish purple in this particular case, and eyes tightly scrunch shut, but parents will swear that their baby is the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. Reality tends to catch up quickly for most babies, and a few hours of rest gives them a much cuter appearance so she supposes it's okay that her hormones and overwrought emotions are telling her that this baby is already adorable.

After a couple of minutes Scully becomes aware that her OB has not rushed off to another patient. He has often told her that he really likes the couple, and his actions tend to make that statement seemed truthful, so maybe that's why he is lingering. Smiling at him, she asks, "Would you like to hold him?"

"You know," Hart says, "I really would. I never ask because that feels too intrusive, but I do enjoy holding the babies once they're here."

Scully places her new son in the doctor's arms, wondering if they should have offered with the older kids too. Maybe it's enough that they are offering now.

"Picture?" Mulder asks, the camera he has already been taking pictures with still in his hands.

The doctor nods, and smiles for the camera. Scully makes a mental note to send him a print.

Doctor Hart looks down at the baby in his arms, then glances at his radiant parents. "So, what are we calling lucky number ten?"

Scully glances at Mulder who promptly replies "Isaac."

Hart has never stuck Scully as a religious man, but he raises an eyebrow. "He laughs?"

Mulder takes a measured step away from his wife before grinning. "It did seem fitting."

The OB nods thoughtfully, but then asks, "But what if you have another one later on?" It's his turn to smile openly when both new parents give him a look of naked horror.



Chapter Two

It always seems to take forever, but eventually Scully is moved from the delivery room to the private room she will be spending the rest of her hospital stay in. A nurse offers to bring the baby to the nursery, for Mulder shakes his head. He's going to have to go home soon, and he would like to spend as much time with his new son as he can before then.

"So," Scully says with a yawn. "Can you give me a couple of hours before you bring the troops to meet the newest recruit?"

Mulder smiles to himself, thinking that her father probably would have liked the metaphor. Not being in the military himself, he's not entirely sure how many people are in a troop, but he feels that they probably could contribute greatly to one.

"Absolutely." He glances outside, thinking about how light it is still in mid-afternoon. If it was winter, it would be getting dark in a couple of hours, but since it's summer it won't get dark until around nine. "I've been thinking…We'll skip the fireworks this year–" Mulder starts to say, but his wife shakes her head. "No?"

"No. They've been looking forward to it all week. You have to bring them."

"But-"

Scully looks at Isaac, securely nestled in his father's arms. "Seeing the fireworks means a lot to them, and to April particularly."

It's then he understands. "Okay," he tells her, saying too that he agrees that they don't want to add to April's resentment of the baby. He really thought she would have come around by now...maybe when he brings the kids to meet Isaac and she can see that Scully is fine. He really hopes so.

The discussion comes to a swift end when a nurse who is tasked with checking on Scully's vitals declares her to be overly dehydrated, and although Scully argues that she could drink more to make up for it, the woman begins to insert an IV into the back of her hand.

Watching this makes Mulder feel a little bit ill, which is ridiculous considering the birth he has just witnessed was much more brutal, and he has had much worse things done to himself too. Still, he leans over and kisses Scully, carefully looking away from the IV that is still being taped into place, and promises to let her get a little bit of rest before he brings the kiddos to see her.


Later

It was a fairly easy delivery all things considered, although three hours in active labor's still no picnic. Much as she loves her newborn, she's thankful he's the last, because if anyone's getting pregnant next time, it's going to be Mulder. Finally, Scully thinks, as the nurse finishes making her notes and checking the IV, leaving her alone with her newborn son. She knows she's got less than a few minutes' peace once the woman leaves the room, so she takes a deep breath, smiles down at her son. Even though we named you Isaac, I'm glad I'm not as old as Sarah was when she had her Isaac, she grins sleepily, humming tunelessly under her breath as she strokes the fine dark blond hairs on her son's head.

As soon as she closes her eyes, that's when the door opens and her children pour through. Scully frowns, and gives the clock an accusing look. How did time jump ahead two hours when she shut her eyes for just a second?

"It's a boy?" Page scowls after coming to a sudden stop, and so does April. "Why?"

After blinking in shock, Scully frowns back. "Hi, to you, too," she says.

"Sorry, Mom." Page swiftly kisses her mother's cheek. "But another boy? There's only four of us girls."

Mulder, that jerk, doesn't bother hiding his amusement. "We can't pick and choose the baby's gender," he says primly as the boys grin at each other. While Scully may be happy that so far there's no massive sibling rivalry, it does mean that there's some "boys against girls" mentality here. Jeez. After all these years, and to her family. Oh well, gender rivalry is nothing new to the Scully family, but at least her children are growing up in a more equitable time. "Sorry." And he ducks his head at her when he notices her annoyance.

Scully shakes her head. "Be nice." She ignores her husband's "innocent" look and looks at their children. "Kids, this Isaac. Isaac, these are your brothers and sisters. And you've already met your silly daddy."

"Oh, come on!" Mulder whines as his traitorous children laugh with their mother. He can almost swear the baby is amused, too. He pouts at them all. "Thanks for the support, guys."

They all take turns holding Isaac, even Zoe and Brianna, although they have to be reminded it is a real live baby and not a doll. Needless to say, it isn't just the parents who are holding their breaths as the youngest Mulders are holding the baby. And there is a collective sigh of relief when Scully finally gets Isaac back in her arms.

Scully's relieved when they leave, the nurse taking her newborn to another wing of the maternity ward. Much as she loves her family, she's been through a lot, and all she wants to do is sleep.

She's slightly less relieved when she overhears Page tell her youngest sisters "we used to get to come see new babies all the time" and then one of the twin girls reply something that sounds a lot like "maybe we'll get to again!"

Like hell, Scully thinks as she smothers a yawn. Mulder has already gone back to his doctor, so if they get any more surprises down the road they'll sue. For cruel and unusual treatment of a middle-aged woman, she thinks before drifting off to sleep.


Several hours later, Scully wakes up to see someone unexpected. "Hi, Luke," she says to the nervous young man standing in the doorway. He looks like he was on the verge of bolting, but speaking to him seems to have changed his mind.

"Hi," he says, looking somewhat sheepish. "How are you?"

She smiles briefly, then looks around for the water. She sees an empty cup, and starts to grumble as she finds she'll have to pour it one-handed, as the IV's still in her arm. "Oh, thanks," she says in a rough voice, as Luke comes over and pours it for her, handing it over when he's done.

"I, um, wanted to see how you and the baby were," he says. "I saw Isaac in the nursery…he's really cute."

Scully doesn't say anything as she drinks, but when she's done, she sighs. "Thanks. And I'm good. How are you?" she finally asks.

At the back of her mind she finds herself idly thinking that her husband's new niece or nephew will probably be blond too, because both parents are. When Luke was little Scully had been sure he'd out-grow his blondness, or at least darken as much as his father, but he hasn't yet even as an adult.

He shrugs, now a little uncomfortable. "It's weird," Luke admits. "I mean, Dad and Monica are okay now, but…" His face twitches a little, and she sees Doggett's lemon-face on his son in a milder version. "It's kinda hard. I mean, me and Adrianna still talk to each other, but it's on speakerphone now." Neither of them say why it's obvious that that's happening – although she thinks Samantha is being ridiculous there given that short of taking up drugs or bank robbery it's not as though Luke is going to be any more of a bad influence on Adrianna than he's already been – and he blushes. "We found out we're expecting a boy, too."

Scully smiles a tired smile. "That's great," she says warmly.

"Yeah, it is." Luke smiles back. "Gosh, I can't wait to be a dad." Scully hides a smile as she wonders how Doggett has managed to raise a boy who prefers gosh to god in this day and age. "I mean, I know it's gonna be hard and everything," Luke continues, "but I think we can handle it. I mean, we're not really together now," he says and his expression clouds briefly as he paces around the bed. "But both her parents and mine agreed that they'd help us take care of the baby. I think it'll work out. I mean, I'm a hard worker, and I've got a great dad, and I'd like to think I've picked up some stuff from him on how to be a dad myself." He stops pacing and sits down. "Sorry to be blabbing when you're supposed to be resting."

She shakes her head. "I'll rest when I need to. And right now, I need to be awake because I've been asleep for over five hours, and I've got a feeling that Isaac's been awake longer than I have." This makes her feel a little guilty, but she remembers pumping before she went to sleep, so it's not like he's been hungry or fed formula while she's been out cold. Then a thought comes to her. "You should probably cherish this time, too, because when it's your turn to take care of the baby, you'll have little time to sleep. That's not counting school and work, which I'm assuming you're continuing?"

He nods, and she remembers that Doggett mentioned that both he and Gibson had gotten their graduate school acceptance letters a while back. It only surprises her a little that he intends to go through with his plans despite what's gone on since he applied. "I wasn't sure I was going to, but Dad and Monica think it's really important, so I'll have to work it out."

"Yes, well, babies need a lot of care, which means someone needs to be awake to care for them, day or night. And you've mentioned picking up tips from your father, well, just remember how tired he'd be after a full day's work with just you and Hannah, then add his sleeplessness right after Rebecca and Jon-Jon were born, and you have a rough idea of what you're heading into." And yet, she knows that's not enough to prepare him, nothing's enough to prepare a first-time parent, no matter how loving their support. There are some things they'll have to find out for themselves.

But she doesn't want to discourage him entirely, especially since he seems willing enough to care for the child. That in itself says something about his character. Well, enough ruminations, Scully thinks, as sleep threatens to take over again, I'll need to kick him out soon. "I hope you and your parents have more conversations," she says diplomatically, "and I wish you and Adrianna the best. In the meantime, I need to sleep," and she yawns so hard they can hear her jaw crack. "And thank you for visiting," she adds when he stands, smiling tiredly.

"Yeah, um, congrats, Mrs., I mean, Ms. Scully," he says, waving apologetically before he leaves.

Her smile deepens as the door closes behind him, and she closes her eyes. There's going to be interesting times ahead for a number of people, and not just Luke and Adrianna's families. But she's got plenty of time to think about that later. Right now, all she wants to be unconscious, and in a few seconds, she is.


Meanwhile

The sky is still in the process of darkening when they park the van and get out, but Mulder can already see the stars beginning to come out. It promises to be a very starry night indeed, and it occurs to him that he can't recall seeing fireworks on a night like this before.

It feels rather strange to him to be walking down to the fairgrounds with his children but not Scully. Or, he silently amends to himself, all but one of his children. Even as Brianna and Zoe grip his hands as they make their way down the path and the older kids range ahead, it's hard to quite wrap his mind around the fact that his little girls are no longer the youngest Mulders in the family.

"Dad," William says, slowing down until he is walking at the same pace as the trio. "Is Isaac a Yankee doodle dandy?"

"What?" Mulder asks blankly.

In response, his suddenly second-youngest son grins. "You know, like that song. 'I'm a Yankee doodle dandy, born on 4th of July...'"

"You know, kiddo, I have no idea what that song means. I've heard it since I was younger than you, but it makes no sense to me whatsoever," he admits.

"I don't think we should call him doodle," Zoe remarks.

"Me either," Brianna agrees. "I think we should call him Isaac. That's his name."

"But that's not a nickname," William protests, as if they've been discussing potential nicknames all along.

"You know what, he is so brand-new. Let's think of a nickname later." Mulder yawns. Much, much later. After the good week or two of sleep. That should happen around Mother's Day next year.

Page and Sammy spread the old queen-sized quilt they've brought with them on the ground after rescuing it from David and Jared who swear that if they're given a few more attempts they can get it to simply fall the right way after tossing it in the air, and Mulder takes a moment to admire the teamwork of his two eldest children, if not his twin boys. Sammy and Page have clashed a lot more often than usual this summer, and he hopes this is a sign that things will begin to smooth over between them. Someday he'll have to ask Scully what Bill was like the summer before he started high school, because he himself was an only child by ninth grade and has no basis of comparison himself for sibling rivalry once the siblings hit their teens.

When they all sit down after rummaging through the small coolers April and Christopher have been in charge of, some of the kids remind Mulder that only two of his children are yet teens – his twin daughters climb onto his lap and William crowds close to his left side. These three seem big in comparison to their newborn brother, but in the grand scheme of things they're all quite young still. The thought crosses his mind to wonder how Doggett copes with having sons who are twenty-two and twenty-one and not even a year old, with the two girls in between.

But then he thinks that Doggett will be a grandfather soon and pushes the thought away before he can glance in Page or April's directions. It seems impossible to him that he himself could have a grandchild any time soon, but he supposes it must have seemed the same to Samantha when her oldest was fourteen just four and a half short years ago, and look at how it's turned out now. My girls wouldn't – is all he has time to think before the first of the fireworks lights up the sky with brilliant green sparkles.


July 6, 2008

Mulder is trying to get ready to pick up Scully and Isaac from the hospital when he's waylaid by two of his older children. "Hey, guys," he says when he notices Sammy and April coming towards him. "I know that you're probably not thrilled that Page is going to be in charge while I go get Mom and the baby but if you could try to cut her some slack I'd really appreciate it."

"Okay, but that's not what we want to talk to you about," April tells him.

He puts down the baby seat they had to go out and buy because they'd given all their old ones away years ago down and tries not to sigh; Scully hates being in the hospital even more than he does and will become anxious and irritable if the kids make him late. "Then what?"

April looks down and shuffles from foot to foot. "They're safe now, right?"

At first Mulder almost asks who, but then he thinks he understands what she means. "Your mom and Isaac?"

"Uh huh."

The thought crosses his mind that there are no guarantees in life, but he thinks that they understand this – after all, they are two of his three children who were old enough to remember his funeral. He wishes that it was just a forgotten scene for them like it was David, Jared, and Christopher, but there's no way to change that.

Hoping that his smile looks natural, he looks down at them (but not as far down to Sammy as he used to, and he wonders not for the first time how tall his boys will end up) and says "They're both fine."

Sammy looks relieved. "Then we don't have to worry about them anymore?"

Instead of letting this slide Mulder asks, "Why didn't you tell me that you were worried?" he almost adds 'too' but April has never actually explained her irritability either. Thinking this he pierces her with a look as well.

Both children squirm under that parental gaze. Eventually Sammy looks up at him. "Well... I wasn't too worried until April looked up stuff up on the Internet..."

"And you decided to worry your brother too instead of coming to me or Mom?" Mulder asks her. She mumbles something that he doesn't quite catch. "What?" he asks a little more sharply than he usually would.

Speaking a little louder, April says "He's older than me."

"Why do you think that matters?" Mulder demands to know. When his daughter says nothing he goes on, "It's not okay to make other people miserable too just because they are older than you are."

April's lower lip quivers but she turns to her brother and dutifully says, "I'm sorry."

Sammy's expression all but says that this is the first time that he's considered the fact that his sister has done him a wrong. It seems like he's not sure how he feels about it, either. "Well," he eventually says, "At least it all turned out okay."

There's more that he wants to say but Page comes into the room and gives him a look. "Dad, aren't you going to be late?"

"Right," he replies and reaches for the baby seat. His fingers grip the blue plaid that pads it. "I'll leave my cell phone on, okay?"

"Dad!" Page protests with an exasperated sigh. "We'll be fine. You don't have to worry about us."

He smiles a little and nods but he wonders if that's really true – the secrets his children keep now are small but will they get bigger and more serious when they get older? He doesn't want to have his sister and brother-in-law's experience replay itself in his home in a few years.


Hospital

Scully's bag is packed and Isaac is dressed in an adorable outfit her mother insisted on buying for him to wear home from the hospital despite the reminder that he'll probably spit up on it before they can take any pictures at the house.

At the back of her mind she's vaguely aware that she's a little nervous about taking her new son home...and she's trying not to dwell on it because she's embarrassed about it. Isaac isn't the first baby she's brought home, he's the tenth (though the eleventh baby she's carried a tiny voice in her subconscious, one ever vigilant against the possibility that Angel might be forgotten, reminds her) so there's no reason for her to be a bundle of nerves like a first-time mother.

But what if she and Mulder have forgotten important things about caring for a fragile newborn? Tiny little Isaac is completely helpless and totally dependent on two people who haven't taken care of a creature like him in nearly six years. And worse, considering they've done it often enough to think that they're experts would they even realize it if they found themselves screwing things up?

These things are still on her mind when Mulder appears at the door. "Hey," he says softly. "Ready to go?"

"As we'll ever be," she replies bravely. We're not going to screw up, she tells herself firmly. If they could get through their first year of parenthood without damaging Page and then a newborn Sammy despite a desperate lack of sleep exacerbated by back to back pregnancies, their final baby should be a piece of cake.

Mulder bends over the bassinet and carefully picks Isaac up. Grinning at her he says, "Who would have thought?"

Not her, that's for sure.


Meanwhile
Virginia

Not for the first time Adrianna is glad that her sisters and brother are away for summer camp. She can't bear to have these speakerphone conversations with them around. It is hard enough with her parents in the room, but the thought of her little sisters hearing this? Yikes. That, and she hates how far she's fallen in their eyes, even if they don't say anything. It is hard enough getting it from teachers and classmates, the snide remarks and the looks, but to get the silent treatment from her own sisters is harsh, while Drew is just old enough to understand that his big sis made a big mistake, even if he can't quite figure out why a baby is a problem for their family but not their uncle's. She knows she's not a strong person, but still, it hurts when even your own family looks down on you.

This particular Sunday, however, the Doggetts and the Hills have been mellowed by their separate Fourth of July's celebrations earlier in the week, and the discussion is fairly low-key. Finally, Adrianna looks at her parents, and they nod. "Luke?" she says.

"Yeah?"

"There's something I need to say." And before he can interject, "So say it," she does. "I, I want to give the baby up for adoption," she says, trying to sound firm, but her voice wobbles a bit.

There's a pause. "What? I thought you said adoption," Luke says with a forced chuckle, not sounding at all pleased.

She isn't surprised. Luke seems so happy to be a dad, more excited than she is to be a mom. Then again, it's not like he's carrying the kid, and she sighs, trying to get her resentful feelings under control. She's had a lot of resentment lately, and not just because of the pregnancy, no matter what her friends and doctor said. "I'm sorry," she says, and most of her is sorry, "but I'm not ready to be a mom." She talks quickly, because she knows if she doesn't, he'll just take over the conversation. "I know we've talked about it, about how we'll share the chores and everything, but I don't think I can handle it. I just want to go to school, have a chance to get a job for myself, and I can't do that and watch a baby at the same time."

"Marry me!" Luke's voice almost jumps out through the speakers, and she stares at her parents.

They can hear his parents, too. "Luke! What are you saying?" John Doggett's surprised yelp comes through with a slight echo.

But Luke plows through. "Please! We can work this out! I'll watch the kid full-time while you go to school. I'll put off grad school and get a job so we can get a nanny! Please! Just, just marry me and we can work this out!" His voice cracks with emotion, and they can hear him breathing hard, trying to get under control.

"Oh my God, Luke," they can hear Monica Reyes faintly, but it's hard to tell whether she's impressed, horrified, or supportive.

To her horror, Adrianna starts to cry. God, she promised herself that she'd be a grownup about this. Just this one thing, this one conversation. Her mom reaches over and squeezes her hand, and she sniffles and clears her throat. "Luke, no, I'm sorry," she says, "but no. I've thought about this. A lot. With adoption, the baby gets to go into a good home with people who not just love him, but can totally take care of him. Even if our moms and dads help out, we'd still be worrying about money, losing sleep, even losing friends – and that's just the first year! And that's not even taking into account trying to get good grades, or getting a job! It's gonna be so hard for all of us, Luke, and I don't think I can handle it."

"Where did you get this idea from, huh?" Luke says harshly. "Who's been talking to you about giving up our son? Your parents?"

"Shut up," Adrianna snaps back, "it wasn't their idea. I don't know about you, but I've been doing my homework, actually talking to teen moms, those with and without family support, and they all say it's gonna be hard." She looks down, squeezing her mom's hand harder. "In my wildest dreams, I've even thought about what you proposed, almost literally," she says, then bit her lip, staving another round of tears off. "I thought about us getting married, and for a little while, I thought that would be perfect, like a fairy tale. Except, for once, I looked at the practical side of things, and it's not gonna be a happily ever after. I just… I'm too young to be a wife, and definitely too young to be a mom!" The tears start falling down her cheeks, and she squeezes her eyes shut, but they still keep coming. "I'm sorry, Luke, but we've got give the baby up for adoption. Nobody has to lose out on anything, and the baby wins everything…" She starts sobbing, and buries her face in her mother's shoulder, her father patting her arm reassuringly.

There's a long silence at the other end. "You're wrong," Luke says. "I'd be losing him. And you just lost me."

The connection is severed with a slam, and now Adrianna cries whole-heartedly onto her parents. They're both somewhat relieved that she turned down the sudden marriage proposal, as she is barely mature enough to be a bride, much less a mother. And while Adrianna had been talking with teen mothers about their lives, she'd only talked with her mother in the last couple of weeks about adoption as an option. And she'd also heard from teen moms who'd broken up with boyfriends over pregnancy, rather than having the baby cement their relationship, so she had some idea of what is coming.

Still, their firstborn is sobbing as if her heart is breaking, probably because it is. "I'm sorry, baby," Samantha continues to hold her daughter, speaking soothingly, "I'm so sorry."

Scott's jaw works for a while, until he finally exhales. "It's going to be okay," he says, and hands over the tissue box.

The blonde girl doesn't say anything, just cries until she can't cry anymore, and then she blows into her last tissue. "I'm tired," she says in a rough voice, "wake me up when it's time for dinner."

Her parents nod, and her mother hands her a glass of water. "Sleep well," Samantha says.

When Adrianna's door closes firmly, Samantha's eyes fill with tears. "We did the right thing, didn't we?" she asks her husband. "Encouraging her to think about giving him up?"

Scott's eyes are suspiciously shiny, but tears don't fall. Instead, he hugs his wife fiercely in answer.

"Oh, God," the brunette sobs, and they hold each other until their breathing evens out and it hurts too much clench their hands into fists. "I think we should have takeout tonight, I'm liable to burn something by accident," Samantha says.

Scott smiles briefly. "You do that. I'm going to make some calls."

And they both return to doing what they've done for the past eighteen years, taking care of their daughter.



Chapter Three

Two Hours Later
Mulder Home

For once the house is quiet. Probably mostly due to the fact that Mulder has given Page and Sammy enough money to buy themselves and their younger siblings ice cream cones and instructions to hang out at the park until they are really sick of it. They both promised to be gone a while, probably because Mulder mentioned that they could come home early if they wanted to get a jump on organizing the laundry room and/or tidying up the potting shed out in the backyard. Both tasks need to be done, but their kids aren't eager to pitch in and help him do them.

"This is nice," Mulder remarks to his wife as she rocks Isaac in the rocking chair that has seen them both through years of baby-tending.

"Yup," Scully agrees. Then she runs a finger along the arm of the rocking chair. "I'm going to write a letter to this chair's manufacturer," she announces.

He offers her an uncertain smile. "You are? What are you going to tell them?"

"That this chair is wonderfully durable." She smiles down at the baby as he opens his mouth to yawn. "And it has really quiet runners."

"And I suppose you'll throw in something about seeing you through the babyhoods of nine kids and counting?" he asks.

"Definitely. And I'll even add that there were two sets of twins in the mix."

"And a baby demon."

She raises an eyebrow. "Mulder-"

Before she can say anything he raises a finger. "Okay, okay, technically Louie is only a half-demon. But he liked the chair too."

"I bet he did. You know," she reflects, "I was actually surprised you did anything much with him while he was in our care. When you first saw him in that baby carrier, I thought for sure you were going to make the sign of the cross."

"Ha." He snorts, then winces when Isaac startles. Fortunately the baby settles back down immediately. "Your mother would have liked it if that much religion had worn off on me, but no. I still don't think that making the sign of the cross would do anything, and I certainly didn't all the way back then."

"I guess some things never change," Scully says philosophically.

And as if to prove her right, someone knocks on the door downstairs. Scully looks up at him and groans. "I jinxed us, right? I thought too hard about it being nice and quiet."

Mulder shakes his head, and pats her gently on the shoulder. "I'll go see who it is." He knows that it can't be the kids, because the odds of all of them leaving their keys behind are astronomical.

"And then you'll send them away?" she asks hopefully.

"Probably not," he says with a sigh. "Alienating our friends and family wasn't on my to-do list for today. Even if they did show up at an inopportune moment."

"But if it's a salesman or someone trying to recommend a new religious service provider," she says eagerly, "you'll be extra mean to them for me, right?"

"Absolutely," he says, obviously struggling to maintain a straight face.

When he opens the door Mulder finds himself looking at Frohike and a trio of raven haired semi-acquaintances. He has no idea what Oliver and Cordelia's father looked like, but it's clear that both of Steph's children take after her at least in coloring.

Frohike and Steph look happy to see him, but it's obvious that the ten and twelve-year-old children have been dragged along unwillingly. "Good to see you, Mulder," Frohike says. "We thought we would stop by and welcome the new arrival."

Steph has been nodding along to this, but she's also looking around. "Where are the other kids?"

"At the park," Mulder explains, but he has to bite his tongue to keep from saying that he had sent them there to get them out of their hair.

Frohike's new wife looks disappointed. She turns to her kids and says "I'm sorry. I know that you didn't want to come with us, but I really did think that the other kids would be around to talk to."

Cordelia rolls her eyes as one would expect a twelve-year-old to, but Oliver looks more understanding. "The park is down the street, right?" he asks Mulder.

"Sure is."

The boy pushes his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose, which is slick with sweat. It's only then that Mulder realizes how hot it is outside, and makes a mental note to call and reminds Page and Sammy to get everyone to drink regularly from the water fountain at the park. "Did you drive them there, or did they walk there?"

Even as sleep deprived as he already is, Mulder finally begins to understand the boy's line of questioning. Where he thinks Oliver is going with the questions is an outcome he would like to encourage, actually. "They walked there. It's not too far, even for Zoe and Brianna." He doesn't want to oversell it, so he doesn't add the fact that the girls are half of Oliver's age and therefore it would be a far easier trek for the two of them.

Predictably, Oliver turns to his mother and stepfather. "Can we walk there too? You could pick us up when you're ready to go home."

Steph apparently thinks this over for a second, and when she looks at Frohike he just shrugs. It makes Mulder tiredly wonder if Frohike feels awkward making parenting decisions for kids who are already that old. In his place he probably wouldn't want to rock the boat by disagreeing either, even if he did. "Okay." But then she turns to her daughter. "You can go with him, or stay with us. Up to you."

Cordelia thinks about this for a second, and Mulder imagines that he can see her wondering if she should throw a fit and declare that neither option is ideal. If this is what is on her mind, apparently she thinks better of it. "Well, I did want to talk to April."

Steph looks relieved. "Okay, Melvin and I will stop by the park to get you on our way home."

Oliver grins. "Good, cause it's too far to walk home from there."

"Scram," Frohike says good-naturedly, making shooing motions with both hands.

Both kids turn and leave, and Mulder pushes his friend's shoulder. "Damn, man, you sounded like an actual dad for a minute there," he says as soon as the kids are out of ear shot.

"I am an actual dad," Frohike declares, but there is a bit of uncertainty in his eyes nonetheless. It makes Mulder think that he is correct to suspect that Frohike still feels awkward in his new role. It has only been a few months, after all.

At least until Steph kisses his friend on the cheek. "He's not doing too badly for a rookie."

For half a second Mulder is surprised to hear her use the word rookie, because he eventually learned that Steph was widowed five years earlier when her husband was fatally injured by an inattentive driver at the scene of a car accident. But her late first husband had been on the police force for several years at that point, so maybe that was why the word holds no sting for her, Mulder speculates.

"Do the two of you mind waiting here for a minute while I go and let Scully know that we have visitors?"

To Mulder surprise, and slight confusion, Frohike's face turns beet red as soon as he says this. "Oh, um, that's probably a good idea."

"Unh huh."

It's only when he is more than halfway up the stairs that it finally occurs to him that Frohike is worried that they might walk in on Scully nursing Isaac if they bounded upstairs after him without warning. That actually would be a first, because somehow none of the gunmen has ever managed to do that despite the fact that only two of their babies were ever bottle-fed.

"That has to be something they've been deliberately mindful of," he mutters to himself as he reaches the top of the landing.

"What?" he hears Scully ask inside Isaac's room.

"Oh, I said that out loud?" he asks, wondering what other things he might have said out loud that he believed were thoughts. With a newborn in the house tiredness has already made his thoughts a little loose, and it's only bound to get worse before it gets better. "I was just thinking that none of the gunmen has ever burst in on you while you were nursing a baby."

Her response to this is to smile at him. "Mostly because they have always made damn sure to make a lot of noise when they thought it was possible I might be nursing one of the kids. I always got enough warning to throw a blanket over myself or adjust a shirt before they entered the room."

"Wow, I didn't know they had such a sense of decorum," Mulder says to her.

"I actually think it is more of a healthy sense of self-preservation. You know, fear that they may literally die of embarrassment if they actually saw a nursing woman's semi-exposed breast."

"Well, until it happens, they can't be sure that that isn't what would happen to them to them."

She laughs for a second. "Who is downstairs, anyway?"

Mulder blinks, realizing that he hasn't told her this yet. "Oh, it's Frohike and Steph. They want to see Isaac."

Scully rolls her eyes, looking remarkably like Frohike stepdaughter when she does so. "Of course they do."

"What?" Mulder asks, deliberately trying to sound innocent. "This guy is awesome, who wouldn't want to see him?"

Scully hands him the baby, and gets up. Leaning towards him, apparently to make sure that there's no way that she can be overheard, she whispers, "I think I have a new private nickname for Frohike."

"What?" Mulder whispers back, dying to know what she's going to say.

"Jump-the-Gunman."

Mulder smirks at the moniker. "I don't think we can really blame him for not realizing it's too soon. He's never had a baby himself," Mulder tells her, thinking that it's unlikely that he ever will, too. Apparently Frohike and Steph discussed additional children at length before they got married and decided that they probably didn't want to have any, which probably would've been a difficult, expensive, and possibly futile proposition considering Steph's age. "But I feel like Steph should know better than to show up the very day the baby came home."

Scully shrugs. "Some women just can't help themselves. At least they didn't show up while we were still in the hospital."

"Did having Luke–" he starts to say, but she shakes her head.

"Luke is a special case considering his own circumstances, so no, I didn't mind having him come see me. I'm just glad that the whole world didn't come trooping through my hospital room. So, I guess this is better."

Mulder pulls her against him with the arm that isn't cradling Isaac. "Hopefully it'll be a short visit."

"And then a nap," she declares.

"Absolutely," he says, and then he realizes she just means her. But still, he feels like he owes her given that although she and Frohike are friends too by now he still feels that most gunmen-related issues are primarily his fault because they were his friends first. "I'll keep watch while you nap."

"I know you will," she says with affection, and the three of them go downstairs to see the couple who is waiting to make introductions to their new son.


Later that night Mulder grabs Scully's wrist and pulls her back to the mattress when she shifts in bed in response to a cry by Isaac. She makes a sleepy noise of protest, but he kisses her cheek. "My turn."

Scully makes a noise that could be "okay" but she immediately rolls over and falls back to sleep. Grinning at her still form, Mulder climbs out of bed and heads down the hallway. They must have the baby monitor turned up loud because he can barely hear the newborn while standing right outside his bedroom.

Isaac "Hey," Mulder coos, and expertly picks the baby up. Isaac isn't wet, so he cradles him against his chest and heads for the kitchen. "Sorry, little guy, it's going to be a few minutes until I can heat up a bottle."

The baby roots against Mulder's night shirt, and he grins, remembering the first time Page did that and shocked the hell out of him. "Yeah...sorry, that's not going to help you, buddy."

Fortunately, the bottle of breastmilk is fully heated before the baby's grumbling can become full out wailing.

It fascinates Mulder a little that this little person isn't even three days old yet, but he's already mastered both a bottle and latching onto mommy. "Some people don't believe newborns are even conscious," Mulder remarks, and Isaac continues to gulp down his milk. "Shows what they know, huh?"

As soon as Mulder burps him, Isaac falls asleep. Therefore he doesn't notice that his father is studying him. The baby has Scully's ears, and Mulder is a bit worried that it looks like he's got his nose, though it doesn't look too bad on David and Jared yet.

I never really imagined this, Mulder thinks as he shifts the baby a little in his arms. We thought your sisters were the end of the line, but here you are. We're glad, you know. So happy you're here, even if we never thought there'd be another baby in this house that wasn't your niece or nephew. Sometimes you don't know how badly you wanted something until you get it.

And that really is the truth: until he and Scully found out that his vasectomy had failed, neither of them acknowledged that they still wanted another baby. Sure, they'd told themselves that they were resigned to having no more after their twin girls, but accepting something wasn't exactly the same thing as not wanting it anymore.

"Such a nice surprise," Mulder mutters, and starts the trek back to the nursery with his sleeping son in his protective arms. "We're so glad you're here, Isaac."


JCTTIOT Studio
Monday

The very first word out of anyone's mouth the second Mulder steps into the studio is "pictures?" and the surprising part is that the request is made by Wayne, not Mary Green. She has plenty of nice things to say about the newest Mulder, too, of course, but it strikes Mulder a bit odd that his boss is the most eager to see what the newest member of the family looks like... at least until Wayne opens his mouth.

"Man, he's cute. Do you think there's any chance Dana would be willing to show him off on camera?" He can practically see the ratings dancing in Wayne's head as he speaks.

"I think there's almost no chance at all," Mulder tells him.

"Oh well," Wayne sighs, but then he gives Mulder a sidelong look. "Can I at least ask her?"

Mulder makes a go-ahead gesture and the producer beams. Wayne's not above bribery, and she's not 100% above taking it, so he suppose there's slightly greater than a snowball's chance in hell that it could work out the way he wants.

Instead of railing against the couple's contributions towards overpopulation, Reed glances at the picture and says "cute" before returning his attention to his own smart phone. That feels like real progress, so Mulder's cautiously optimistic that their co-star won't give Scully a hard time when she comes back. Without her there it's going to be a long three months, even if Reed is on his best behavior. But he doesn't realize quite how long until his own phone rings during their break for lunch.


At first Mulder is pleased to get a call from his little sister, but that evaporates as soon as he realizes that Adrianna has borrowed her mother's phone and begins talking. "Hi Uncle Fox," Adrianna begins and she doesn't respond when he says hi in return, instead she just rushes on. "Mom said that I need to be the one to tell you-"

"Tell me what?" he asks, wondering if he should have any idea what she's talking about. She doesn't sound very happy about whatever it is, and he begins to wonder if Samantha gave her a hard time for not visiting Scully while she was in the hospital. It didn't bother Scully, so it didn't bother him either.

There's an uncomfortable pause on the other end of the line, and if not for hearing her do something in the background, he'd worry that the call dropped. "I, um, I decided to give my baby up for adoption," she says at last.

"Oh," he says stupidly. Then he casts about for something else to say. "What does Luke think about that?" Surely the boy must know if they're calling the aunts and uncles about it.

Adrianna sighs. "Luke...he's upset. He wants us to keep the baby, but I can't." Another sigh. "We broke up after I told him."

"Okay," Mulder mumbles. "Thanks for, um, letting me know."

"Yeah..."

Mulder hangs up before she can say anything else and then takes a few deep breaths. They don't help and he soon finds himself in tears.

"What happened?" Reed demands to know because he's the first one to notice, and the last person Mulder wishes would. "Did something happen to-"

Mulder shakes his head before Reed can finish the thought. "I just heard from my pregnant niece. She's decided to give my grand-nephew up for adoption."

He waits for Reed to tell him that that's a stupid reason for a grown adult to cry at work, but he doesn't. "I take it this is a surprise."

"That's an understatement," Mulder says, grinding a fist into his eyes. "I imagined Isaac and her little boy playing at family gatherings..." He sniffs hard, feeling ridiculous even though he recently read an article that says that many fathers of new babies are more emotional than usual too. Possibly due to sleep deprivation. "The last thing I heard was about how excited the father is about their baby. That was just last week."

Reed looks slightly puzzled. "Do you know him too?"

Mulder blinks. Of course Reed doesn't know. "I've known Luke since he was eight. Much, much longer than I've known my niece." It feels odd to admit that, but he's only known about Samantha's children for five and a half years.

"And you like him?"

"Sure. He's a good kid. Well, not exactly a kid since he's twenty-two now, but..." he trails off when he notices that he's babbling.

His co-star winces. "That makes it a lot harder to take sides, doesn't it."

Even though he's tried, Mulder suddenly finds the energy to wonder when Reed started to become a reasonable person. Sure, they still argue on screen, but Reed is a lot easier to deal with on a personal basis than he used to be. The years seem to be mellowing him.


Although it's been a long day shooting "Jose Chung," Mulder goes straight from the studio to his sister's house. He rings the doorbell, but it only dings twice before she answers the door. "Can I come in?" he asks.

Samantha nods tiredly. "Scott took Adrianna to her doctor's appointment," she says, and with that, Mulder relaxes just a tiny fraction. This conversation is going to be difficult enough, but it needed to be done face to face rather than on the phone, and honesty would be hard enough with his niece and brother-in-law present. He follows his sister to the living room, where he doesn't sit down, but starts pacing instead. "Fox, please," she says, "sit down."

He opens his mouth to protest, but sees their mother's expression of stoic suffering on her face, and sits down. He'll be protesting enough about something more important, anyways. "It hasn't been easy, has it?" he asks.

Samantha chuckles mirthlessly, looking away. "Seeing my daughter having to suffer through most of her senior year being harassed by so-called friends and family? Dealing with her morning sickness and mood swings? Or watching her heart get ripped out by the boy who helped get her into this mess? Short answer, no, it hasn't been easy."

Mulder frowns. "I thought you'd want her to keep the baby," he says.

"She is," Samantha's eyes are flat as she says this.

A shiver runs through him. The thought of abortion never even occurred to him, although he knows it's another alternative for young mothers-to-be. The fact that they were even contemplating it shows how desperate Adrianna must have felt. Oh God, he never thought any of his family would feel that edge of desperation outside of being roped into the Consortium, and the knot in his stomach grows exponentially. "That's not what I meant," he says.

His sister shakes her head, still looking away. "I know," she says, "imagine being the one who had to talk her out of it." Even looking away, her eyes are suspiciously bright with tears.

"I just don't understand," Mulder says, leaning forward. "How could you support separating a baby from his biological family when you yourself were apart from us for so long?"

Now she turns to look at him full on, with a look of pity he doesn't understand. "I can, because I was loved," she says. "I was loved by the Mulders, and then I was loved by Foresters." She inhales, then exhales slowly. "And our situations are completely different. I was lied to and kidnapped, then given away. The fact that I even had great adoptive parents is a miracle, considering my situation. But Adrianna…" Her small hands interlock, and her lips purse in another unconscious imitation of their mother. "She's still so very much a child herself. She's no more ready to be a mother than Isaac is to be a CEO."

"Don't tell Scully that," Mulder says, in an attempt to lighten the mood, but she only sighs. He wants to protest that at eighteen Adrianna is an adult, abet a young one, so it's not as though she's as helpless as the child Samantha seems to be making her out to be. But he doesn't, not after seeing Samantha's expression. "Okay. I'm sorry. It's just, the change of heart seems so sudden, you know? And I thought everyone was willing to pitch in and help–"

"Fox," she says, and he blinks, "I know everyone says things with the best intentions, but we've also heard things said with the worst intentions. My oldest is a sweet girl, but I have no illusions that she's a strong girl, or that she has any maternal leanings. And with Luke out of the picture, there's no reason why she should keep the child."

And whose fault is Luke being out of the picture? he wonders bitterly. He'd already heard that the breakup only happened after his niece had told Luke she is giving their son up. "But the baby... he's your grandson," Mulder tries again.

"I know," Samantha says, standing up. "But Adrianna doesn't want to be a mother. And before you tell me that this was an easy choice, let me tell you that no choice is easy. Everything comes with a price, especially when it comes to your children."

And Mulder is hit with a sense of déjà vu, remembering a conversation he'd had with their own mother and her own choice versus their father's, years and years ago, and to ones with a man he wished he never shared genes with. He also stands, but pulls his sister into a hug, surprising her. "I'm sorry," he says, "it's hard, being a parent even when the children get older, isn't it?"

He doesn't see, but instead feels her tears soaking his dress shirt. "I'm sorry, too," Samantha says, sniffling before straightening up, briskly wiping the dampness from her face. His sister is so, so strong, unlike her eldest daughter, but even the strong have breaking points. And it seems from this conversation, and stilted ones previous, that Adrianna's happened a while ago, and forcing her to become a mother at this point would only be construed as cruel and unusual punishment, rather than the joy it's been for most of the mothers in his family. "You should go," she says, "they'll be coming home soon."

He nods. He wants to say more, he thinks he needs to say more, but nothing he could say would make any of this any easier or more pleasant to deal with. He's laid out his objections, and she's rebutted with arguments that led to unexpected corollaries from his end.

And so, wanting to keep his sister rather than fighting bitterly for an outcome that would only put a chasm between them, he takes his leave. As he fastens his seatbelt, he thinks, At least I got to hug her. I hope there are other people around Adrianna who are willing to do the same and more.

And he drives off with a heavy heart, wondering if the prenatal photo he saw at Easter will be the only way he'll see his grand-nephew in this lifetime.



Chapter Four

When Mulder gets home he finds everybody out in the backyard. David and Jared are talking animatedly, and one of the twins is clutching a video camera. Since the boys' backs are to him and their heads are bent over whatever they're looking at he's not exactly sure which boy has the camera in his hands, but he would never admit that. The rest of the kids are in their bathing suits, and playing with their water wiggle, a piece of summer entertainment equipment that has always creeped Mulder out a little bit. He understands that it's just a toy, but its vapid smile and the way it moves are sort of freaky.

And Scully, she's sitting on the deck in a rocking chair, with Isaac in her arms and a smile on her face as she watches the other kids. Sighing, Mulder plops down in the matching rocking chair beside her, and regrets it a little when her happy look fades away upon seeing his face. It doesn't surprise him at all when her first words are, "What's wrong?"

Mulder shakes his head slightly. "I talked to Adrianna and my sister today. Actually, I went to see Samantha after I spoke to Adrianna."

Her brow furrows slightly. "What's up?" Scully's tone is wary.

Sighing again, he plucks at the fabric on the knees of his pants. "Adrianna's giving the baby away."

"No!" His wife's mouth hangs open in disbelief after that one word. After a second or two she regains her composure. "Oh Mulder… Does Luke know?"

"Yeah. According to Adrianna he broke up with her once she told him. Honestly, I really can't blame him. I'm not happy about this, and it's not my baby."

Scully leans her head back against the wood frame of the rocking chair. And she makes no move to stop Mulder when he leans over and picks up their own baby. "He must be devastated. When he came to see me pretty much the only thing we talked about, other than how cute Isaac is, is how much he is looking forward to being a father."

"I know. And I guess we shouldn't be surprised that it's turning out this way, not after Samantha told me that she had to really talk Adrianna into keeping the baby."

"But she's not keeping the baby–" Scully starts to say, but then she shivers. "Oh."

Mulder pauses with a slight startle when he feels Isaac wrap his tiny fist around one of his fingers. Funny how much you forget about babies when you're not living with one on daily basis for a few years. "I'm not sure if he didn't know that, or if he's just been trying to fool himself about her coming around. If I had known that, I wouldn't have been surprised by all of this."

"But we didn't know. So it feels a lot like being blindsided, doesn't it?"

"It does. I tried to talk to Samantha, ask her how she could let Adrianna given baby away after what happened to her, but…" Isaac still holds onto his finger, and he wonders if the baby's hair being such dark blonde means that he's more likely to turn brunette than either of his older siblings – even at nearly fourteen Page's hair still shows no sign of darkening. "I was afraid to push it," he admits. "I don't want to lose her, too."

Instead of saying anything, Scully gets to her feet, and wraps her arms around him and Isaac both. For a moment he just lets himself enjoy the solace, but then he looks up at her. "We have to tell them," he says, eyes cutting to the kids who shriek as they either dart towards or away from their water toy.

He feels Scully's breath hot on his neck as she sighs and says "I know. I know we do."


Spaghetti, salad, and Italian bread are already on everyone everyone's plates when Mulder takes a deep breath and says "Mom and I have something we need to talk to you all about" loudly enough to be heard over the kids' various conversations. Nine pairs of eyes immediately look his way.

He winces, wishing that they didn't all look so wary already.

"What?" Page asks cautiously.

Looking down, Mulder says, "I talked to Adrianna and your aunt today..." There's no good way to tell them, he realizes. Get it over with, he tells himself. It's like ripping off a Band-Aid, doing it slowly only ends up hurting more. "Your cousin is going to give her baby up for adoption."

Most of the kids gasp in surprise, and David immediately begins to cry, which startles him a little because he'd expected the strongest reaction to be from Page. Scully acts quicker than he does, and gathers the boy in her arms and lets him cry on her shoulder.

"It isn't fair," David says when his tears slow down a little. "Isaac was supposed to have her baby to play with, and now there won't be anyone else his age in the family."

"Hey, it's okay," Mulder attempts to sooth him. "I'm sure that Isaac and Jon-Jon are going to be great friends."

"I know, but it's not the same," David sniffs, but he does stop crying.

As soon as her brother calms down, Page asks "Why?" in the same controlled tone Mulder recognizes from times when his wife and her sister have struggled to reign in their anger, though Scully has succeeded more often than Missy.

Mulder shrugs, not up to defending his niece. "Your aunt says that she's not ready to be a Mom yet. She wants to go to college and get a good job before she commits to a baby."

"She's selfish," April says hotly, not bothering to make the effort to stay in control of herself that her sister is.

"What do you care?" Jared surprises everyone by snapping at her. "You don't even like babies."

"That's not-!" April sputters.

Before they have to break up a fight, Brianna looks at her parents, small face confused. "Adopted means that you get a different Mommy and Daddy?"

"Yes," Mulder says, bracing himself for more tears.

"Gibson's adopted," Zoe says confidently. "And he lived with his real mommy and daddy until he was twelve." Mulder blinks, not realizing that even his youngest daughters are aware of that fact about their friends' middle son. And then he cringes when her very next words are, "Does that mean that Adrianna's baby is gonna live with her and Luke until he is twelve?"

"No, it doesn't," Scully speaks up softly. "He'll go to live with his new parents as soon as he's born."

"Will we even get to see him?" Christopher asks. His expression says that he's afraid that he already knows the answer.

"Maybe in pictures. But probably not."

"Oh."

"Can we eat now?" Sammy asks unhappily.

"Yes, we should do that," Mulder agrees but he shoots his wife a quick look. "But after dinner I'd like to talk to Page and April. And Sammy," he adds after a moment's thought.

Dinner is largely a silent affair after that.


Although they don't make any verbal protests, it's more than obvious that none of the three oldest kids are happy that their parents intend to continue the earlier conversation. They look more than a little sullen as they take seats in the den.

Eventually Page speaks up. "I don't see why we should get a lecture just because Adrianna is a screw up. You don't have to remind us about safe sex. We know. And we're smarter than her anyway."

Scully exchanges a look with her husband – this is the first time either of them has heard one of their children express the realization that they are more intelligent than Samantha's kids. While it's true that Samantha is no shrug in the brains department, Scott is more nice than smart and their girls take after him.

"We're not going to tell you to have safe sex–" she starts to say but Sammy cuts her off.

"I know, don't have sex at all until we're married like the priests say."

Her mind pulls up an image of the late Father Joe, and she immediately pushes it away. "Dad and I aren't going to talk to you about sex tonight," she tells them. They'd discussed what they want to say when they'd loaded the dishwasher.

"Then what?" April asks grumpily.

Mulder reaches for Scully's hand. "We want to talk to you about talking to us." He smiles at them. "We want you to always understand that you can, even if you think that we're not going to be happy about what you've done or something you feel or think."

The kids give him puzzled looks, and Scully adds, "We know that you understand that we are also very upset about the choice your cousin has made but we don't want you to get the idea that you can't tell us something like that because you're afraid that we wouldn't forgive you if you did. You can always come to us, even if you have to tell us something upsetting."

"What if we kill a man in Vegas?" Sammy asks. "Just to watch him die?"

"Okay," Mulder says, trying and failing to keep from smiling at the obvious joke. "You can tell us anything except that."

"What if we fall in love with an alien?" Page asks, trying to help Sammy lighten the mood.

"Depends on the type of alien," Scully tells her with a straight face. "An alien like those kids on Roswell, okay. But the Predator is right out."

"Very droll," Mulder tells them. "Bad jokes aside, have you listened to what we've said tonight?"

Page gets up and kisses his cheek. "Yes, Dad. You'll always hear what we have to say even if we screw up big time."

"Well, good." Anything else he might have in mind to say is lost when Isaac begins to cry over the baby monitor.


July is bleeding into August one warm day when Scully finds herself with the free time to do some laundry. She's made sure that she pocketed the baby monitor and has headed down stairs. It feels like a minor luxury to have Isaac sleep long enough to get some chores done before her guest arrives, especially since he's recently finished up a three-week growth spurt that most of his siblings went through at that age too. It seems a bit silly to her that it's called a growth spurt considering how little growing takes place, but when you're only twenty inches long to begin with even half of an inch is quite the gain.

At least there isn't a mountain of dirty clothes next to the machine, she reflects as she loads the washer. Mulder has been good about getting the kids to help him keep up with the massive amount of clothes that a family that size needs to launder, but Scully hasn't let them wash her clothes. She's let them think that she doesn't want to put them out, but really, she's seen how they do laundry and doesn't want her own clothes subjected to their somewhat indifferent treatment. She hasn't had them wash the baby's clothes either because both Sammy and April balked at touching anything 'with poop on it,' so Isaac's clothes need to be washed too, but at least his are small and nearly everything he's worn his entire life so far almost fits in just one load.

The clothes are already in the dyer and she's on her way up the basement stairs when she hears a gentle knock on the front door. Rather than loudly calling and risking waking her son, she just makes her way to the door a bit faster than she normally would.

As soon as she opens the door, she sees her nanny smiling at her. "Hope I didn't wake him."

"No, he's still asleep," Scully reassures Alan. She finally looks down and sees that there's a plastic handle held in one of his large hands. "And speaking of sleeping," she says with a fond smile.

"Sophie is actually already a pretty good sleeper," Alan remarks as he and Scully walk into the living room with his new daughter.

"Really?" Scully raises an eyebrow. Sophie Carruthers is only ten days old. This is only the second time Scully has seen her, though of course she'll see her a lot more often when Alan begins to bring her with him when he nannies for Isaac once she goes back to work. Not that she wants to think about that too hard.

He gives her a sheepish look and taps a fist on the wooden coffee table that will go back into storage for a while once Isaac and Sophie begin to crawl. "So, do you mind if I go up to your attic and take a look at what you still have up there from when Zoe and Brianna were babies?"

"No, go ahead," Scully invites. "I'll keep an eye on this little doll while you do."

He grins at her. "That's a first – one of the kids I've watched's parents looking after my kid."

"Funny. There should be a double stroller up there, and the extra baby swing," she notes. She knows that he's assessing the baby accoutrements left over by the girls in particular because they're twins. Isaac and Sophie aren't remotely related, but given they're only a couple of weeks apart in age they'll be pretty much the same size and at the same developmental stages for a long time to come.

"Great." Alan stops for a second to give his sleeping baby a soft pat, and then he wanders towards the stairs.

Alone with the baby girl, Scully takes the opportunity to get a good look at her. Alan's wife has honey brown hair, and it certainly looks like the baby might have inherited this from Gwen. "You know you're awfully lucky," Scully whispers to her. Sophie only purses her lips, and makes no other attempt to wake and listen. "Most firstborn's parents are totally clueless, but your daddy and mommy both have a lot of experience with kids." Alan's wife is the director at a private kindergarten, and they'd met when Alan was nannying for his last family before the Mulders.

In the distance the dryer buzzes to let her know that the clothes are dry, but Scully ignores it. It's nice that the house has been quite long enough to wash and dry clothes, and she doesn't want to move and break the spell even though at the back of her mind she knows that she'll eventually need to wake up Isaac and feed him if he doesn't wake on his own. That's not something she's had to do very often with any of her babies, but it happened more than once with every one of his big brothers and sisters, so she's not too worried that he's sleeping soundly for one afternoon.

Glancing down at Sophie, she smiles. "Before too long you're going to teach your daddy not to make absolute statements, aren't you? Be nice when you do it, huh?"

"What are you whispering to my girl?" a mild voice asks behind her.

She turns and thinks, not for the first time, Alan has a fairly soft tread for a man of his size. It's not from nannying babies, either, because Isaac will be the first child under the age of two that he's worked with. Not that she worries that it will challenge him. Smiling innocently, she just shrugs and says, "I was asking her not to give you too hard a time."

"Aww," he coos as his baby daughter begins to wake up, "She would never."

This time she can't contain herself and begins to laugh. "Oh, Alan, you keep telling yourself that." He scowls, but in a good-natured way. "What did you learn during your scouting trip to the dark confines of the attic?"

"We're in good shape for the dynamic duo."

"Great."

Alan picks up the carrier again, and the baby begins to stir in a way that makes Scully wonder if she's planning to cry all the way home. "Well, I think we'll be off."

"Take care," Scully tells him.

He laughs. "I always do."


August 2, 2008

Doggett sighs when he sees his eldest son sitting on the back steps. Normally he's been happy to have the boys home for the summer, but this year… Gibson has taken Hannah and Rebecca out to a waterpark for the day, giving Monica and Jon-Jon a breather (and by default, the other two Doggett men as well). He's glad that Luke hadn't taken up any vices like drinking or smoking, but it's at times like these that it looks like he could use a vice or two. Especially considering the situation he'd gotten himself and Mulder's niece in.

Good God, Doggett thought, sitting wearily next to Luke, of course it'd have to be someone in our friends' families. Never shoulda let the kids out of sight for the summer a few years ago, even if was for a brief bit of sanity. Then again, hindsight is always twenty-twenty. He couldn't have predicted Luke and Adrianna's relationship would result in an unplanned pregnancy any more than he could have some fairy godmother or guardian angel giving Mulder a second chance at life (and by extension, his, Monica's, Luke's and Gibson's lives a do-over too).

"Dad," Luke breaks the silence. "Do you think I'm crazy?"

"Compared to what I've seen out there? Not really," Doggett dodges the question uncomfortably.

Luke sighs loudly, sounding as young as he looks. "I thought she was happy," he says, not for the first time. "I thought we were gonna do this together. I thought we could work it out."

Now Doggett sighs. "Son, you know not everything works out the way you think it should."

"Yeah, but I thought," and now a slight blush touches his sunburnt face, "I thought I knew better," he mumbles it fast, as if it would lessen the impact, make it sound less stupid. It doesn't, but neither of them comment on that.

John Doggett looks away, the unseen side of his mouth turning up a bit. "Did you mean it?" he asks. "The proposal, I mean." It's been an awkward few weeks since that last painful phone call, and neither the Doggett parents nor Luke have brought it up. The fact that John is doing so now suggests either sheer optimism or a weary what-the-hell. John's going for the latter, but suspects the former might have a bit to do with it as well.

Luke runs a hand through his short hair, reminiscent of his father. "I was," he says, "I was also desperate. I thought, if I proposed, she'd say yes, and that would fix everything." He makes a face at his father's surprised look. "I mean, I was meaning to ask her, but later, maybe, when things got settled down a bit. I kinda panicked."

"Yeah, you did." Doggett shakes his head. "I know I pretty much stink in the proposal department myself, but that was–" He shrugs.

"Yeah," Luke groans. "God. Everything's a mess. I thought I could handle it, but it's driving me nuts. Everybody seems to think it's okay for Adrianna to give up our baby. I mean, yeah, she's the mom, but aren't I the dad? Don't I have a say in this, too?" He stares at the fence, but doesn't really see it. "I was really looking forward to being a dad. Isn't that weird? I know most guys my age don't, but I don't care. Even if me and her weren't together, I'd still want to be a dad."

Doggett leans back against the railing. "Why's that?" Yeah, it's not the usual dream of most early twenty-something guys, or even men who were a bit older, so he's honestly curious.

Luke smiles uncomfortably. "I had a great role model," he says. "And even though it was earlier than I expected, the thought of being a dad, well, it was kinda, I dunno. Wow." He chuckles and makes a face. "That sounded kinda dumb. But, I dunno, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it was like getting a Christmas present early. Like getting something you'd always wanted, but never thought you'd get so soon. You know what I mean?"

Doggett's heart aches for his son, not for the first time, as he gives a small nod. Good Lord. Yeah, it was kinda cheesy, but his son's like that. It was nice to know something hadn't changed after all these years, although he wished his son had a bit more common sense when it came to contraceptives. Then again, it's not like he and his sons talked all that much about sex or… anything like that all that much, either. He thought he got lucky foisting most of that onto Monica and their health teachers, but he supposes asking horny teens (and apparently young twenty-somethings) to check the expiration date on condom boxes or double-check condom quality might be a bit much. He could already feel a migraine coming on, although he'd like to blame it on sleepless nights between work and a baby of his own under the same roof.

Well, that's one worry Luke won't have when the adoption proceedings go through. To be honest, he was more than a little worried when he first heard the news, and even more so when he heard their plans for their baby's future. Even with relying on a bunch of people, like friends and family, to help care for their child, there would still be a lot of sleepless days and nights, a lot of frayed tempers, arguments about money, chores, school, anything, really, and extra hormones from the mom's side ensuring that no day is a boring day. While he's thankful that he and Monica got their respective paternity and maternity leaves, along with FBI-grade childcare, he knew it would be a lot harder for his son. He doubts there's anything like paternity leave for college students, and if his son did have a job, it would be part-time to supplement his education, and that would barely be enough to cover childcare, much less support a girlfriend or wife. And, should he have the harebrained notion to ditch the scholarship and go into full-time, the pay would barely be above minimum wage, and yeah, supporting a girl and a kid would pretty much be a moot point. There was no question of them getting their own place, renting was too prohibitive for young parents with one part-time job between them, even if her parents would have supported the idea of their daughter moving to Boston to be with Luke.

Plus, if he is being totally honest, both kids are kinda flakes. Outside of the whole teen and unwed pregnancy, yeah, Luke can be a space case about practical matters even if he does have book smarts, and Adrianna is a little less shallow than the kids' end of a pool. Since Adrianna moving north hadn't really come up their kid would probably spend most of his time with Mulder's sister, being the only stay-at-home mom in their immediate circle, and the new family would probably stay with the Hills whenever Luke could come home, rather than the Doggetts because both grandparents (oh God, I'm old enough to be a grandparent and still have a baby of my own at home!) on Luke's side would be out working on something dangerous. If Luke decided to not continue his education, it would likely still be a long-distance relationship, and that puts added stress on an already stressful situation. Much as their secret relationship lasted this long, having a baby wouldn't have done them any favors.

Perhaps it is for the best that they broke up, Doggett muses, and that his grandson's going to be put up for adoption. There's a pang in his heart at that word, but at the same time, he's fairly sure that even if his son or Adrianna suddenly rose to the occasion, their life together would be unbearably hard, and naivety can be worn down to nubs when a child keeps you up all night.

He looks up at the clouds scuttling across the sky. Is he overthinking all this? Probably not. The Hills probably did a bit of soul-searching as well before coming to their decision, especially when Adrianna said she'd talked to other teen moms. Well, good for her, doing her homework. He was as surprised as Luke when he heard Adrianna's sudden change of plans, but not too surprised when Luke took it badly. His son had been nothing but positive about their unexpected child, and hearing that he would be taken away, well, that Christmas gift metaphor makes a whole lot of sense.

Luke exhales heavily, the first noise John's heard in a while, startling him out of his thoughts. "I know, it makes sense to on paper, but I don't want to give him up," he says, standing up and brushing off his worn-out shorts. "I remember what it was like holding Jon-Jon for the first time," he says, "and Rebecca before that, and Hannah before that. It was amazing, knowing I got to be their big brother. I think it'll be even more amazing to get the chance to hold my own son, knowing I get to be his father. The thought of knowing I'll never get that chance…" He swallows hard, and goes back into the house.

John Doggett closes his eyes when he hears the door close, his lips pursing as if in pain. Having a baby is more than getting a gift, although it is, he thinks, it's about responsibility. And I don't know if you are up for that much, no matter how much I'd like to believe you are.



Chapter Five

August 5, 2008

Melissa Krycek smiles at the ruckus her children and Dana's children are making. Yeah, smiles, because those over-sugared boys will be going back to their mother's in less than an hour. A pair of strong arms wrap around her waist, and she presses back against a familiar body.

"You're thinking evil thoughts, aren't you?" her husband's voice rasps in her ear. "Because of the noise, or something else?"

She chuckles. "I'm thinking once the would-be Coen Brothers finish their masterpiece for the time being, their parents will have the joy of trying to calm them down for a good few hours." Then she twists to look up at her dark-haired husband. "And how could you tell I was thinking evil thoughts?"

Alex Krycek smirks. "One, you weren't yelling at the kids. Two, you've got that smug look on your face that doesn't go with the chaos. And three, I've been thinking the same thing."

Now the redhead laughs, leaning against him again. "I knew I married the right man."

"After all these years, I hope so." He smiles as the Mulder boys do their level best to catch up with the Krycek girls, who are flitting around in what they must think are fight scenes. It makes him think that maybe, perhaps in a few years, he'll teach the girls how to actually fight to win, rather than fight for the camera. Fortunately for him and Missy, Ryan is sleeping over at a friend's house that night, so there's one less kid in the house yelling. Not that Ryan's the yelling type, but they thought the same about the Mulder boys, and look at them now.

"Shut up." Missy makes a face, but doesn't protest as he snuggles against her. Rather, she puts her arms over his, and they watch the madness, er, genius of their two little girls pretending to be superheroes being filmed by two little boys and their would-be director, who also happens to be their oldest brother. The fun part is watching how the twin boys are also directing the action via their cameras, versus Sammy, who has something of a plot in his head. The key words being "in his head", which makes the whole venture less like a well-oiled Hong Kong movie machine and more like, well, chaos.

And then there are Emily and Addy, who, while they are willing to put up with a lot, especially when it comes to their "art," are also adamant about certain things which they say they know better than the newcomers, that is, the Mulder boys. Things like acting AND directing, so their input gets thrown into the madness.

Jared and David argue back that they know more about camera shots and filming than the girls do, so could they just focus on acting, puh-LEEZE? And Sammy butts in and says that they have to start over from a different scene, which at this point, nobody (except maybe Sammy, and maybe not even him) knows where they are in the plot, period, so the whole directing-versus-acting-versus-filming argument begins again, with random demonstrations, lots of yelling and hand waving, and some running around and jumping.

"Maybe we should just film this to use as blackmail for posterity," Krycek muses.

"Or scare off would-be boyfriends," Missy adds.

He pulls away from her a bit. "That's my job," he grumbles.

"Of course it is," she soothes him, smiling a little when the pouting eases up a bit. Men. She'll have to teach her daughters how to work with them, but maybe when the boys are gone. It's much easier to be friends when they're not there, she supposes, thinking of her older brother. "Just make sure you have a current license for your gun when you're pointing it at future suitors."

He growls, and she laughs. The couple notices a brief pause in the noise and look up.

All the kids are looking at them, the boys with wrinkled noses and the girls giggling. "Ewwwww," the twin boys chorus, their cameras down and off, for the time being.

Sammy rolls his eyes. "Aw man, I thought we got away from that mushy stuff at home."

Krycek smirks at him, rubbing his hands possessively on his wife's arms. "Can't help it, little man. You see, when a handsome Russian specialist and a smokin' hot mama love each other–"

"La la la, I can't hear you!" Sammy frowns but their twin nephews stick their fingers in their ears, their eyes scrunching up tightly.

"Alex, no traumatizing your nephews. That's Dana and Fox's job," Missy scolds Krycek.

"Sad, but true." Sammy makes a face. Then he looks at his younger brothers. "Don't tell Mom and Dad. They're gonna do more kissy stuff."

Alex and Missy don't bother to stifle their snorts at the twin boys shaking their heads as fast as they can.

Their daughters, on the other hand, groan. "You mean they're worse than this?" Addy sighs, overly-long suffering for a little girl. She ignores her parents' cutting their eyes at her.

"Yeah," Sammy answers. There's a knock at the door. He looks at his younger brothers. "Remember!" he hisses at them, and they nod quickly.

For some reason, the girls scramble to the sofa and pose themselves angelically, as if they haven't been jumping around, yelling and knocking things down for the last few hours. The boys follow their lead, Sammy sitting on a chair, while David and Jared hold their video cameras like altar boys holding sacred implements. Or, that's where Missy's imagination takes her when Mulder opens the door.

"Hey, how's the movie coming along?" he asks, then looks around at the strange tableau. He pauses. "Seriously, what's going on?"

The Kryceks, still holding each other, look at each other and laugh. "Should we tell him?"

"NO!" the Mulder boys yell.

The Krycek girls only laugh.

Mulder, for his part, guesses the touchy-feely couple has had something to do with the kids looking awkward. Brother. Now he and Scully will have to step up their game so his bro-in-law doesn't show him up. He glares at Krycek, who glares back, while Missy rolls her eyes between them.

"Come on, guys," he says, in as fake a cheerful voice as the kids are angelic, "let's go home."

The boys leave the Krycek house with an alacrity that makes Mulder and the Kryceks laugh. "Thanks, I might have to totally make out with my wife to beat that." Mulder shakes his head.

Krycek snorts. "Like that's gonna be a hardship. Go home, traumatize your kids."

Mulder grins. "I'll tell Scully you gave us the go-ahead! Score!"

The Krycek girls look at their parents with a parental look that puts their own to shame. "What?" Krycek shrugs. "It's all good."


Two Days Later

Doggett has taken Gibson, Hannah, and Rebecca out to do back to school shopping. Luke has his own to do, but he doesn't go with them because it just doesn't feel up to it. This leaves Luke home alone with Monica and Jon-Jon. The three of them are in the living room, and Luke watches with interest as his brother clings to furniture and uses it to lean on in order to get from one place to another. The dark-haired baby is much quicker on all fours at this point, but the little guy is still determined to be up on his feet anyway.

Monica notices where he's looking, and gives him a small smile. "I actually sort of love this cruising stage, but it won't be long before he gets brave enough to let go and takes a few steps on his own."

"Dad said that I was almost exactly a year old when I took my first step," Luke offers. Jon-Jon is eleven months old.

"It's nice to know that sort of thing about your own history," Monica says, her tone musing. "Not everyone has people around to tell them."

Jon-Jon

"Yeah…" Luke takes a deep breath, and finally asks something that's been on his mind for weeks since her comment actually provides a segue into a topic that's been on his mind for days. "Monica… How do you feel about being adopted?"

It's something he would be more comfortable talking to Gibson about, but he knows from past conversations that Gibson strongly believes that there's a world of difference between being adopted as a baby, and being adopted after spending the first several years of your life living with your birth parents. This is something that Luke has grudgingly come to accept given that Adrianna's mother was more or less adopted the same way Gibson was, and obviously doesn't have any sort of residual angst related to her birth parents that would sway her to the side of thinking the adoption is a bad idea. He thinks that's too bad, actually. As it is, Gibson can't offer him any insights about what's worrying him, but Monica might.

If his almost-stepmother is surprised by the question, she doesn't let on. "As opposed to languishing in some children's home on one side of the border or the other?"

With a small start he remembers that despite her youthfulness compared to his father she is actually old enough that being put in an orphanage instead of a foster home was a real possibility. He thinks he's read that orphanages still exist, but they haven't been common in his entire life, so most of his familiarity with them comes from movies and books that Hannah liked when she was little, like Annie and Madeleine.

Eventually he shakes his head. "As opposed to… I don't know. Do you resent the fact that your parents gave you away?" He'd like to ask her if she has any idea how she ended up being adopted in Mexico when she was an American citizen, but that is a digression that'll have to wait for another day.

Because she is a live and let live type, he expects her to immediately say no. But she doesn't. "On some level," she allows. "I'm sure that they did the best by me that they could, but still–" She doesn't finish the thought.

Luke sighs, and looks out the window. It's still sunny and bright out. Soon enough though, the days will be getting shorter, and he and Gibson will be packing up to start grad school. "I don't want him to feel that way."

For second he hopes that she will say that his little boy won't, but instead she says, "I'm sorry."

Cocking his head, he asks, "Did you ever look for them?"

"My parents?" Monica's expression suggests that she's not sure she should give him a straight answer. "I did find them."

His eyes widen in surprise. "You did?"

One of her hands flutters up as she tries to explain. "My mother, anyway."

"So, did you meet her?"

Monica shakes her head, and he feels an uncomfortable jolt of disappointment, mostly for her but not only. "No. The first time I ever dealt with a private detective was when I looked for her. I was a little bit younger than you, still in college myself. At the time it seemed important to me to find out who my parents were, where I came from. You understand. It just seemed important then, since I figured that I would eventually grow up enough to get married and have a few kids, and knowing things about medical history and such would be important at that point."

Luke tries not to smirk. She might have 'a few' kids now if you count him, Hannah, and Gibson too in addition to the two she gave birth to, but she still has never been married. His father has mostly come to accept that, but Luke remembers worrying that her refusal to accept a ring would mean that they would break up. Fortunately they didn't, or otherwise Rebecca and Jon-Jon wouldn't exist.

"What happened?" he asks when she doesn't seem inclined to go on without prompting.

"I wrote her a letter, telling her who I was and that I wanted to meet her. I got a letter back from her lawyer, informing me that she did not wish to open communications between us. And that was that."

Luke thinks about this for a minute. "Do you think you would feel differently about your adoption if she had been receptive to meeting you?"

She doesn't answer immediately, and that's answer enough for him.


One afternoon in August Luke is moping in his room, ostensibly looking for things he will need to pack to take with him in a few weeks, but really, he just wants to be alone. Although he is diligently looking under his bed for a couple of textbooks it would be better to find than by new copies of, his mind isn't really on going back to school. Because when he goes back to school…

A small cold hand reaches out and touches Luke on the back where his shirt has ridden up, making him jump. "Argh!" he yelps.

When he looks down, Rebecca is staring at him with very wide eyes. "Wow, you jumped big," she praises him.

"You have super cold hands, kiddo," he complains, and his sister just smiles unrepentantly. "What have you been up to?"

"Lookin' for a ghost," she says, startling him.

Luke gives his youngest sister a long look. He and Gibson have each seen the ghosts at the Mulders' house, but he doesn't think that even Hannah has. And as far as he knows, this house isn't haunted. Well, there was that incident when they first moved in, but Monica insists that the things that Hannah occasionally feeds aren't ghosts but something else. So there should be no ghosts in their house to look for. He hopes. "Why?" he finally asks.

The raven-haired preschooler just shrugs. "I just want to find one."

"Okay, but why?" Luke asks. He picks her up and sets her on his bed, which makes her giggle. "Why would you want to find a ghost?"

"Well... Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let me have a real pirate live in the house, but if I found a pirate ghost I think they'd let me keep it," Rebecca explains earnestly. "Do you think they would?"

"Uh..." Luke thinks about his almost-stepmother's hunt for a house like the Mulders'. "Maybe."

"I think that mommy would like the ghost," Rebecca tells him. "But I don't think that daddy would."

"Oh? Why not?" Luke asks, trying not to grin. He knows for a fact that his sister is right. Their father would like less than anything for there to be a ghost in their house.

The little girl tilts her head. "Daddy said that there are no monsters under our beds. But I heard one! So I think he just doesn't like monsters and ghosts," she decides.

"Well, dad always has had less of an open mind about spooky stuff than Monica."

"It's silly that you call her Monica," Rebecca says, and he remembers that she has been using the word silly quite often lately. Hannah loved that word at about the same age. "I know that you have a different mommy 'fore, but she's still your mommy too."

"I guess so, yeah."

"If I find a ghost, I think he has to live under the bed."

"Because dad doesn't believe that anything is under there already?" Luke guesses. The thought of being able to hide a ghost underneath one's bed almost makes him laugh out loud. To be four, and have that sort of imagination is something else.

"Yup," Rebecca says, looking at him like he's a genius.

As much fun as talking to his baby sister is, all of a sudden Luke finds himself getting sad. He knows that Rebecca speaks this way to both Monica and his father, and then when he was little, he had similar conversations with his father and his mother. But somebody else will have those conversations with his baby boy.

He's never going to have his son look at him like he's so smart when he figures out his childish logic. He's not going to sit with them and talk about silly things like ghosts and pirates and stepparents.

To his surprise, his little sister reaches out and pats him on the arm. "Why are you sad?"

"I look sad?" he asks, genuinely surprised that she notices.

Her big brown eyes are sympathetic. "Unh huh."

It's only as he looks at her and thinks about how much she looks like her mother, that he realizes she doesn't know. Somehow, he's fairly certain she doesn't even know that she's going to become an aunt in a few weeks, because the tense discussions about the baby – even before Adrianna made her disastrous decision – weren't in front of her; they never did seem to speak calmly about the baby at all. She definitely doesn't know that she will never see her nephew.

When he notices that Rebecca is still giving him concerned looks, he sits down on the bed beside her. "You know how when you do something wrong it makes you sad because you disappoint dad and your mom?"

Rebecca nods her hair vigorously, making the pigtails that she begged for that morning bounce. "Yeah."

"Well, when you get to be more grown up, you get disappointed that you did bad things too. Not just because they make mom or dad upset. But you feel bad for them because you did the wrong thing."

"Oh…" she says, although it's obvious she has no idea what he's talking about.

"I did something wrong, and I'm pretty sad about it."

"Are you going to be sad about it forever?" Rebecca asks.

Luke is pretty sure that his heart skips a beat. It's such an innocent question, but…. "I don't know of, I really don't."

Rebecca scrambles off the bed, and gives him an expectant look. "We should asked mommy to make cookies. Cookies make things better."

He really does wish he himself was still that young and innocent, he reflects. But he does get off the bed. "Yeah, cookies do make things better, don't they?"


Two Days Later

The building that Luke pulls up in front in of in a borrowed car seems very bureaucratic. Despite this, he pulls out a scrap of paper and checks the address. The last thing he wants to do is to end up in the wrong place and make a fool of himself. Which wouldn't be difficult, because he is already feeling foolish.

Still, his conversation earlier in the week with Rebecca has been the final push he needs to wade out of self-pity and into action. Someday, once she is old enough to understand, maybe he'll explain it all to her. Right now, the explanation would be meaningless to a four-year-old. Even if it was important to him.

Feeling more than a little anxious, Luke gets out of the car and walks up to the door. Nobody in his family knows where he is. He told them that he was going back to school shopping, but this trip he is taking has nothing to do with school.

He feels a little better when he is greeted by a smiling face at the reception desk. The woman smile doesn't falter as he hesitantly explains why he's there, and asks if he is in the right place. In fact, she seems quite eager and willing to help him, and notes that it's always nice to see someone come in on the errand that brought him to the building.

Luke tries to smile back when she hands him the stack of paperwork to fill out. He sure hopes that his family will understand, and find his choice more noble than idiotic. These thoughts meander through his mind as he provides the information the form requires.


About Week Later

Since they are still at home, Gibson and Luke had been tasked with going to get groceries for the family. They sort of enjoy borrowing the car and it's a lot easier for the two of them to do it than it would be for Monica to pack up two small children and try to do it herself.

Gibson is driving because it's his turn to, and he's finding that trying to get Luke to talk this morning is like pulling teeth. He doesn't want to contend with silence or Luke's choice of radio stations so he keeps trying to engage him.

"I talked to Katie this morning," Gibson tells Luke. "She reminded me that we're going to have to make a decision about whether or not we all get an apartment together soon."

Luke looks out the window. "You know, I think that you and Katie should get one together."

"Without you?" His brother sounds uncertain, as if he's not sure he understands what he's saying.

"Yes."

"I thought you and Katie got along pretty well," Gibson objects, but he can understand his brother not actually wanting to feel like a third wheel. It's just too bad that a lot of things didn't work out differently, so that there isn't any possibility now of them sharing an apartment with four of them instead of three. Back before she got pregnant, Luke had been encouraging Adrianna to consider going to college in Boston too…

"We do get along," Luke quickly reassures him. "I just think it would be better. You know that dad's not going to like it if the two of you are living together without even being engaged, but what can he say? You're almost twenty-two." And it's not like you're going to immediately get her pregnant, not with me as a glaring example of why that's not a good idea, Luke thinks too loudly for Gibson to ignore. Katie's a lot older than Adrianna, though, so even if they did manage to make the same mistake...

"So… You'd live by yourself?" Gibson asks slowly, trying to puzzle out what Luke intends to do instead of share an apartment with them.

Despite overhearing that last thought the last thing that Gibson expects is to next see a clear image of what Luke thinks in response to this: Luke imagines a studio apartment with the crib in it. Then Luke thinks of what he had gone out to do on his own a few days earlier. It hadn't been back to school shopping like said.

When Gibson overhears Luke's thought he jams his foot on the brake too hard as they approach a red light. His brother gives him a dirty look, at least until he says, "Oh my God. Luke, do dad and Monica have any idea what you've done?"

Luke looks uncomfortable. "I thought you weren't going to read my-"

Gibson just glares at him, and then glances back at the cars stopped ahead of them. "We've talked about loud thoughts before. And seriously, do they know?"

"Not yet," Luke admits. "But obviously they're going to."

"And soon," Gibson says sharply. Luke hasn't mentioned Adrianna's due date in quite a while, but he hasn't forgotten that the girl is going to have the baby in about a month. "Are you just planning to spring it on them? You know, show up at the house with him?"

Luke squirms. "I'm going to tell them. I'm just going to..." Luke sighs in defeat. "Once I have an apartment, and a crib-"

"It's going to take a lot more than a crib in an apartment to make them think you're ready for this." Gibson wants to punch him, not because he intends to go through with his plans – those he can actually sympathize with – but because carrying things out in secret just not the right way to do it. Luke is going to need a lot of support now, and this is exactly the opposite of how he should behave to acknowledge that.

Slumping back against the passenger seat, Luke just says "I know."

Sneaking a look at his face, Gibson supposes he does. He wants to ask him if he sure, but even though Luke looks tired, he looks resolved too. Somehow, he can't quite find it in himself to blame him. If it had been him and Katie… But it wouldn't be, he tells himself firmly. Still.


Several Days Before the School Year Starts

When Mulder next speaks to his sister, she is furious; it takes him a few minutes to even understand what the issue is. It's just clear to him that she's in a lather when he opens the door and leads her into the kitchen after she knocks.

"He won't sign the papers," Samantha says, confusing him by jumping right into a subject that she has clearly been thinking about and he hasn't.

"Who won't? What papers?" Mulder asks blankly. He barely has time to worry that his sister has abruptly asked Scott for a divorce when to his surprise, Samantha's response to the question is to slam her fist on the table. Two drinking glasses jump up and he holds his breath until they both land safely back on that surface of the table. "You know damn well who I mean. Luke f'n Doggett," his sister snarls.

Mulder blinks. "He won't sign the adoption papers?" he asks, figuring that must be what she's talking about. It's good that she's not getting a divorce, he thinks, given that his parents' own made him miserable and he wouldn't wish that on his nieces and nephew.

Samantha snaps out a one-word answer. "Yes."

"I didn't know that you were talking to him, or that Adrianna was."

"We're not," his sister says flatly.

"Then…" Somehow, Luke doesn't strike him as the letter writing type, but maybe a lawyer is involved.

"When we went to file papers with the adoption agency, they discovered that he has registered with the punitive paternity register in Virginia."

"Oh," Mulder says, privately impressed that Luke had the wherewithal to understand that he might have to register in the state that Adrianna and her family live in if he wants to protest the adoption of his son.

"Yes, oh."

"What does–" Mulder waves a hand helplessly, wishing he could better articulate his question. "- that mean?" He's pretty sure that filing with the registry doesn't make anything official, but it certainly suggests that Luke is not going to let the adoption proceed. He can't imagine that Luke would have registered if he intends to sign away his legal rights to his son.

"If he refuses to sign the adoption papers, the baby can't be adopted," Samantha says impatiently.

Mulder tries to puzzle this out. It can't mean that Adrianna will be forced to keep the baby, so… "Then he would get custody?"

"Yes," Samantha says through gritted teeth. "That's the law."

"Wow," he comments, wondering if he supposed to say something different. When he heard from Adrianna that she was giving up the baby, he hadn't really considered the fact that most states require the father to agree to an adoption as well, although he should have. In his previous life it was actually the fact that he hadn't consented to William's adoption that had allowed them to pursue regaining custody after the adoption in the first place. Not that they had gotten custody back.

"Is that all you have to say?" Samantha snaps.

Mulder gives his sister a mild look. He doesn't think she'll appreciate it if he expresses his admiration of Luke's actions. "What do you want me to say?"

"That you'll try to talk some sense into him!"

"No."

Samantha blinks. "No?" There's a dangerous edge to her voice as she repeats the word.

"Correct. This is something Adrianna and Luke have to work out themselves," he answers evenly.

"They're not going to work it out, Fox!" his sister shouts.

Mulder folds his arms across his chest. "If somebody's going to be speaking to the Doggetts about this, it's going to have to be Adrianna. Or you."

Samantha looks slightly taken aback. "I don't know if it's my place to speak to them–" she break off when he gives her a skeptical look. Apparently she doesn't have to be a mind reader like Gibson to understand that he's thinking how absurd it is for her to say that after influencing her daughter's choice. Narrowing her eyes she says, "Fine. I'll talk to them myself."

"You do that," he says.

It doesn't really come as a surprise when she leaves soon after that.

The echo of a door being shut too roughly is still hanging in the air when Scully wanders into the kitchen with Isaac held against her shoulder. "Did I understand the gist of that conversation?"

Mulder looks up at her from where he sitting at the kitchen table. He wonders vaguely where she's been if she could hear them talking, but it's not important enough to ask about. "Sure sounds like Luke's going to keep the baby." To his mild surprise she sits down at the table and sighs. "What?" he asks, reaching out for her.

She shakes her head gently. "I'm glad that he's going to get to keep the baby since he seems to truly want that. I just wish that he wasn't going to be so far away from his family. I'm sure that Gibson will help as much as he can, but you can't expect a 22-year-old grad student who has priorities of his own to be able to provide all of the support that a young man taking on sole custody of a baby will need."

"I know," Mulder tells her. "I've been sitting here thinking the same things, wondering if we would have been able to help more if he was going to stay here in the area. But I'm not sure that would be the best thing even if it was possible."

Scully tilts her head, clearly confused by this line of thinking. "You don't think being able to get more help would be a good thing for him?"

"I'm not sure that us giving them more help would have been a good thing," Mulder admits. "My sister is pretty pissed at me for not immediately taking her side. And if we were to, say have him and the baby over here all of the time, or even just a few times a month, I can't help but think that she would see that as rubbing it in her face."

"Oh," Scully breathes. She gets up, and comes over to wrap an arm around him. "I'm sorry. You missed so much time with her already, and the fact that this is causing strain between you isn't fair."

He nods slightly. "It's hard not to feel like I'm somewhat responsible for what happened. I mean, I did arrange for the vacation that led to Luke and Adrianna meeting, and that of course led to everything else. But I feel like I can't justify to myself wishing that I had never done it. I mean, wishing away a baby seems immoral somehow."

Scully stares at him. He knows that she's thinking about how he had once changed the past, in huge and significant ways. He wouldn't change this past, though. Not even if Elsbeth came by and told him he could. His wife reaches for his hand and pats it. "I know exactly what you mean."

The smile he gives her is slightly bemused. Honestly, he's not entirely sure what he means, so it's surprising to him that it makes sense to her.



Chapter Six

Meanwhile

Luke's not sure if they feel bad for him, or if Gibson and Katie are just exceptionally nice people. But either way, his brother and his girlfriend have told him that he can stay with them for a few days if he needs to, while he looks for an apartment.

Although he finds their offer to be extremely generous, he really hopes that he doesn't have to take them up on it. It's tempting to just leave things until they get back to Boston, but it doesn't seem like a very responsible idea. He would have to find a place to put all of his stuff, which sounds like a nightmare, not to mention that leaving things until the last minute would just give his father more ammunition if he decided to go on a tear about Luke's not being ready for important independent responsibilities, of which having a child on your own is a huge one.

It is not easy to apartment hunt over the phone, though. He wishes that it was easy as signing up for a student apartment through campus housing was for Gibson and Katie. Unfortunately, there is no way that he could afford the type of apartment on campus that allows children. It kind of ticks him off that Bucky claims to have great support in place for young parents, but then charge them an arm and a leg for family housing. As it is, he's been searching for days, with no end in sight. His father is already grumbling about the fact that he wants his own apartment to begin with, so he has to be relatively stealthy when it comes to calling about apartments that are available for rent. Fortunately Doggett is occupied at work for hours of the day, so this really just means making sure that Monica doesn't overhear his phone conversations.

And, he doesn't dare complain about the difficulty to anyone. His parents would just demand to know more details than he is comfortable divulging. And, Gibson would simply give him a hard time, which he would of course sort of deserve.

At least he doesn't have to simply rely on newspapers, although they do get the Boston Globe delivered at home over the summer. These days he is able to look at ads online, and occasionally some of them even have pictures. But the pictures don't make things easier. Somehow, seeing the pictures makes him also see potential dangers everywhere for when the baby begins to walk. Jon-Jon is already becoming braver, and Monica is sure that he will take his first steps by the end of the month. Luke figures that his own little boy will take after him, at least athletically, and he'll only have a year before he has a mobile infant himself.

He's about to sigh and give up for the day when he notices that he still has the phone number for one person not crossed off on his list. Shrugging, he reaches for the phone, and firmly shut his bedroom door. He dials, and then as soon as the ring cuts off nervously asks, "Could I speak to Mister Sanchez, please?"

"Are you calling about the apartment for lease?" a mildly accented voice on the other end answers.

"Yes sir, I am." He remembers his manners after a moment. "My name is Luke Doggett, by the way."

"Okay, Luke. Are you a student?" Sanchez asks, and Luke wonders if he sounds young, or if every single person who is called about the apartment has been a student. He figures it could go either way.

"I'm going to be starting grad school," Luke tells him. "At the Buck Minister Fuller School of Design. I got my undergrad there too," he adds, wondering if he qualifies his babbling yet.

"Grad school, huh? I like you already," Mister Sanchez says kindly. "It would be nice to rent to a responsible young man."

This makes Luke cringe. "Um…"

"You don't feel that you are responsible?" Sanchez asks, sounding equal parts amused and suspicious.

"Look, I should probably be up front with you. I'm looking to rent an apartment for both myself, and the son that I will be having at the end of September. He's going to be coming home from the hospital with me, probably right around the end of September, as long as he's not overdue, or early, or anything."

Sanchez lets a pause stretch out between them for a moment before asking, "Just you and the baby?"

"Yeah. His mother isn't going to be in the picture. She's, um, going to be going to college in another state next semester. January." Luke feels that this explanation is completely inadequate, but he doesn't really feel like spilling his guts to a person that might or might not be willing to rent him an apartment.

"That sounds like a difficult situation," the potential landlord remarks.

"It has been so far, and I suppose it's only going to stay that way for a while," Luke says honestly, and then cringes when a sigh finally escapes him.

"Well, let me tell you about your new apartment," Sanchez surprises him by saying.

"You've decided to rent to me?" Luke asks incredulously.

"Pending a background check, and you actually wanting to rent for me, yes."

"Wow, that's awesome," Luke enthuses.

"I find that it's important to help people who are trying to do the right thing," Sanchez says. "And Luke, you strike me as the type of person who tries to do the right thing. I'm pretty sure you won't prove me wrong."

"I'll do my best," Luke promises, and then they begin to discuss the particulars of the rental situation.


It's after midnight and Scully hears the central air-conditioning click off. Despite being August it's not a particularly warm night. In the nursery, she is lowering her baby boy back into his crib now that he has an empty diaper and a full belly. Isaac's eyes are closed, and his lips still make a sucking motion in his sleep, which makes her smile fondly. He had fallen asleep nursing, and she thinks he is now dreaming about it.

"Momma?" a soft voice asks from the doorway.

Zoe's light brown hair is somewhat disheveled, and the sleepy look in her eyes suggests that something has woken her up. Somehow this makes Scully less nervous than if the child was having a sleepless night. This probably isn't surprising given that both Sammy and April had nightmares. At least Sammy eventually readjusted to Mulder being back in their lives rather than dead and buried, and April stopped having nightmares once Addy was found...

"What's up?" Scully asks when she notices Zoe's quizzical look. Given the dark places her thoughts just went, Zoe not reading minds is a pretty good thing too, she thinks.

To her faint surprise Zoe points at the rocking chair in Isaac's room. "Can we sit there?"

"Of course," Scully tells her.

Despite being on the small side for her age, Zoe is big enough that getting onto Scully's lap in the rocking chair is quite awkward. Her knees are pressed against the chair's right arm but she doesn't complain about it being uncomfortable.

Shrugging her own discomfort off, Scully looks down at her and asks, "Do you want to talk about something?" She must. It has been a long time since the little girl has last sought out the comfort of being rocked. Still, the last time that Brianna wanted to was even longer ago.

"Uh-huh," Zoe sighs and nods. "Mommy, is kindergarten going to be real different?"

"Well, I think it will be somewhat different than preschool," Scully allows. "You'll be learning new things, but you will have a lot of the same kids in your class."

"And no nap," Zoe says. It's hard to tell from her sleepy tone if she finds this a good or bad feature of kindergarten.

"That's true. And there will be a little less time to play."

"'cause we're learning."

"And because there isn't much playtime at all once you get to be in first grade next year." Scully looks down, waiting for a negative reaction. But it doesn't come. She can't decide if Zoe's too sleepy to care, or if her older siblings have already warned her about this. "They want you to get used to the change a little at a time."

"But are we going to be bored?" Zoe asks. She reaches over and runs her fingers along the arm rest.

"I don't know. What do you think could be boring?" Scully asks, tucking Zoe's arm back when her daughter reaching over her becomes too uncomfortable.

Zoe frowns thoughtfully. "The alphabet is boring now. Brianna and I know all of the letters. Daddy taught us a long time ago. So we have to listen to kids trying to figure it out. And Page says that a lot of kids start to learn how to read in kindergarten and first grade…"

Scully suddenly understands what her daughter is getting at. One of the drawbacks of the fact that the girls will be nearly six when they start kindergarten next month is that they already know how to read, so they won't be as actively engaged in trying to learn that as their classmates. Mulder has taught all of their children how to read between the ages of four and five, which hasn't been a problem so far considering how many of the kids have summer birthdays, and even April and William were still among the youngest kids in their grade so they weren't too far ahead of the others. She wouldn't actively seek out testing, but it wouldn't surprise her if her twin girls already read at a second or even third grade level.

"You know, I think that part might be boring," Scully admits, and Zoe looks surprised. "As you get older you're going to notice that people are good at different things. You and Brianna are already good at reading, but some of the kids in your class will probably be better at math than you are, or will learn spelling quicker, and maybe some of them will be better at art, or using scissors all by themselves. So, those kids will be bored when everybody else is learning how to do those things. We all have to learn to tolerate that other people learn at a different pace than we do. It's probably good for us to learn patience," she adds, thinking that patience is a big part of the Sunday school curriculum for kids ages four through eight at their church.

"Does it get different when you grow up?" Zoe asks earnestly.

"That depends a lot on what sort of job you get. There are some jobs where everybody has the same sort of skills as you do. Like when your daddy and I were in the FBI," she says, trying not to think too hard about various agents and law enforcement who had struck her as morons over the years. Theoretically they had had the same skill set as she did, minus her medical training of course. "But in other jobs there are so many different things to do that some of your coworkers know entirely different stuff than you do."

"Oh. I think I want a job where other people know the same stuff as me."

Scully pats her on the shoulder. "You have a long time to think about that sort of thing, but maybe you're right. Maybe that is the type of job that will make you the happiest."

The little brunette nods, and Scully pulls her head back quickly to avoid having her chin bumped into. "Do you think that people who make weddings all have the same sort of stuff they know?"

"You know, I have no idea," she says, trying not to smile. Apparently Zoe has realized already that there is no such thing as a professional tea party host, and has decided that weddings are similar enough.

"I'll ask somebody," Zoe says, yawning as she does.

Scully wonders who she thinks she can ask. "You look tired. I'm tired too. How about we go back to bed?"

"Yup, okay."

It Scully's first instinct to carry her back to her room, but Zoe hops off her lap, and heads for the door. She glances back at her sleeping baby son, and tries not to sigh. Having your child need you less as they get bigger is an adjustment too, but it's not something you really can talk to the kids about.

Zoe pauses at the threshold. "Good night, Mommy."

"Good night," Scully repeats, watching fondly as little girl scampers back to her room. Hopefully Zoe will get some sleep, and hopefully it's contagious.


Late August
The Doggett Home

As Doggett stares that the van that Gibson and Luke have rented to bring all of their possessions back to school, he's glad that they aren't flying home. There's barely enough room to see out the back window of the van, so he can't him even imagine how much the baggage fees would be if they tried to bring it all home with them on the plane.

Home. How has them going back to school morphed into going home, he wonders. This makes him think about Barbara and her parents again, something that he hasn't really thought much about since he brought the boys up to college for the first time.

Standing beside him, Reyes sighs. He glances at her and asks "what?"

She shrugs. "I was just thinking, do you think they're going to end up coming home once they're done grad school?" She frowns. "Or is Boston really their home?" she concludes, eerily echoing his recent thought.

Doggett snakes an arm around her waist. "Honestly, I don't know. On one hand it feels like you could start a videogame company anywhere in the country, but on the other I know that there are certain places that new videogame companies tend to flock to. Boston does seem to be one of the markets that's heating up in that direction."

Reyes wrinkles her nose. "I guess it's selfish to wish that they would decide to come home and make their lives here."

He raises an eyebrow. "Why would you think that's selfish?"

"I'm not even really their mother," she starts to say. "So it seems more than a little presumptuous to think that they should take my feelings into account when they make their plans for their whole lives."

"That's where you're wrong. You are their mother." His tone leaves no room for argument.

She tilts her head and kisses him on the cheek. "You're sweet."

As if to validate his statement, Hannah runs out saying, "Mom!"

Reyes catches the girl in a hug, marveling at how tiny she still is. Hannah is going into the seventh grade very shortly, but she's going to be one of the smallest girls in her class. "What?"

"Do you think we could go back to school shopping this afternoon?" Hannah asks. "For clothes, I mean."

Reyes gives Doggett a look, as if to ask him if he put her up to it. He shrugs. Maybe Hannah has decided that her stepmother needs a distraction after the boys leave, but he certainly didn't suggested himself.

Looking down at the girl, Reyes says, "Sure. We can hit up the mall."

"Great!"

Luke and Gibson come out, followed by Rebecca, who is chatting their ears off about something in some sort of cartoon. Doggett thinks he has seen that particular cartoon, but he's not entirely sure.

The boys come to an awkward stop before him. Gibson gives him a halfhearted smile before saying, "Well, I think we better hit the road."

"All right," Doggett says, although it doesn't exactly feel all right to him. Maybe Monica doesn't feel like she has the right to hope that they will come back when they start their official adult lives, but he does. And he's going to make sure he does his best to keep himself or her from feeling guilty for wanting them to come back to the DC area. "You've got your directions for both apartments?"

"Dad." Gibson rolls his eyes. "Even if you thought you couldn't trust Luke to think of that sort of detail, how could you think I wouldn't?"

Luke just mutters "nice," in a disgusted tone.

"You're right. You're right." Doggett does his best to smile at both of his sons. He really wishes that the two of them were sharing an apartment, but Luke had muttered something about needing space, and he interpreted that as wanting to be alone while he got over what he was going through, so he didn't push it. Deciding to be alone while depressed might not be the wisest of choices, but it was one he could relate to. When Barbara left, he had pretty much cut himself off from all of their friends, and even friends that he and she didn't have in common.

"Call us when you get there, okay?" Reyes asks. She then freezes when a noise came over the baby monitor, but Jon-Jon doesn't begin to cry, so maybe he just rolled over in his crib during his nap.

"Of course," Luke promises too quickly.

Doggett gives his older boy a sidelong look, wondering what's up with him. He's probably not going to get any answers, so he settles for hugging both boys and patting them on the back.

Hannah and Rebecca hug them too, although Doggett is pretty sure that Rebecca doesn't quite understand what's going on. Her brothers have spent almost all of her life living somewhere else, so the fact that it bothers the rest of them to see them leave doesn't really compute with her yet.

On the other hand, Hannah looks like she's close to tears, which is not unusual when it comes time for them to depart. Trying to look brave she says, "You're really going to Skype with me, right?" They had spent the better part of the afternoon before setting up Skype on both their own computers and hers.

"You bet," Luke promises, and his own voice is a little more ragged than it typically is when he's leaving for school.

"I will too, and if he slacks off on it, let me know, and I'll go bully him into remembering that he should," Gibson tells her.

Hannah smirks. "You couldn't bully anybody."

"I bet I could," Gibson says, straight-faced.

"He doesn't bully anyone?" Luke asks. "How do you think we got all of our projects done on time?" Luke pantomimes a whip being cracked.

"Nah. That's just being responsible," Hannah says dismissively.

"You tell yourself that," Luke says. "But if you ever have to work with him on a big project, I'm going to ask you what you think then."

"Drive carefully," Reyes says as they moved to get in the van.

Gibson waves cheerfully. "I can't drive the entire way, you know."

Doggett thinks he hears Luke call his brother a jerk, and it makes him smile in spite of himself. He doesn't like watching them leave, but he's always known that they have to. He just doesn't know why that doesn't make it easier to cope with.


Later That Evening

Dinner is over and David and Jared have just finished loading the dishwasher. Scully is enjoying a mug of iced tea, and she thinks that Mulder is drinking lemonade. For some reason, Page is sitting at the kitchen table too, though she no longer has her plate or a glass in front of her.

Since it's a warm dozy evening it takes her a moment to realize that Mulder has given her a pointed look and flicked his eyes towards their daughter. Stifling a yawn, Scully turns to her oldest and asks, "Something on your mind?"

It's not very surprising when Page heaves a sigh. "Oh, you know. School starts next week."

"It can be rough to go back," Scully says sympathetically, thinking about when her maternity leave will be over. Somehow, the thought of leaving Isaac with a nanny feels more difficult than it had with the older kids. Maybe it's because she's out of practice.

Page flips her hand in a halfhearted gesture. "Summer was long enough. I'm not too sad about it ending."

Mulder reaches over and puts his hand on Page's wrist, and the girl gives him a weak smile. "High school, huh?"

The teenager looks relieved that one of her parents is finally figuring out her problem. "It's just…"

He nods, looking like he knows what she's talking about. Scully wishes that she did. "I didn't know if I was ready, either. That's it, right? Big transition to high school and how it's going to be different."

"All I can keep thinking about is driver's ed," Page says. "I watch you and mom drive sometimes, and it just seems so hard. There's so much you have to do and pay attention to."

"That's not for a couple of years, though," Scully begins.

"I know, but it's like… Everything. Changing classes on different floors, my science class is going to have a lab, there are dances, you actually have to be good to get on the yearbook in high school, there are lockers." Page shrugs helplessly.

"Hey," Mulder says, pulling the girl into a hug. "All of that stuff is true, but it's not like you're going to have to deal with every one of those things on your first day of school. Right?"

The nod that Page gives in return is tiny, and her smile is doubtful. "Okay, not all on the first day, but pretty soon."

"You just have to take each of those things as they come," Mulder remarks. "Worrying about how they're going to go isn't going to make you happier. And it's not going to make you more prepared, either. All it's going to do is make you more worried and anxious."

Page frowns that her father. "You make it sound easier than it's going to be," she accuses faintly.

"No, your dad is right. It's going to be easier than you think it is. Well, most of it. I found driver's ed pretty hard myself, but maybe you won't. All you need to do on your first day is worry about your locker and finding the right classrooms. Then you can take each one of those other things as they come."

The girl looks a little less glum, but only a little. "What if boy doesn't ask me to the Halloween dance? Ariel is going to be a junior and she's been dating boys since about the first week of high school."

At the same time that Mulder says, "If a boy doesn't ask you to this one, someone probably will the next," Scully finds herself snapping, "Then maybe you won't end up like your oldest cousin."

Scully feels bad immediately, the second that she sees the shocked look on Mulder's face. She doesn't even dare to look at her daughter. "I'm sorry. That was totally out of line," she mumbles.

Page stands up. "And on that note, I think I'm going to go join the other kids in the living room and watch that movie."

Scully vaguely remember Sammy saying that he wanted to watch "Harry and the Hendersons," which is a favorite with the kids even though it annoys her. She watches her oldest girl walk away and is tempted to call her back, but doesn't.

Across from her, Mulder sighs. "Honestly, I don't think you're wrong. As glad as I am to have my sister back in my life, I'm also sort of glad that her kids haven't been a bigger influence on ours. Drew is a great little guy, but I have to say there are a lot of things my sister has done with her girls that I can never imagine allowing." He looks off, and eventually she realizes that he's looking out the window at a bird that is come to the feeder. "Is it wrong to look to a sibling's parenting as an object lesson about how not to raise teenage girls?"

"No," she says, but then pauses. For a moment she thinks about Missy, Emily and Addy, and how many questions Missy had had when she'd first brought Emily home. "But being a role model is hard work. Sometimes I worry that I'm being unfair to your sister, and that I should give her more credit than I do."

"Well, I guess we'll see in four years."

Puzzled she asks, "Why in four years?"

"If Ariel and Alyssa make it all the way through high school without getting pregnant too, I guess we can chalk it up to a one-off and Adrianna being her own not terribly responsible person." He does not look amused.

"And I guess we should look at Gibson and Jon-Jon too?" Scully asks, surprising herself that she feels somewhat defensive after his statement. "After all, if we're going to hold Samantha to that standard, I guess we should John and Monica as well."

"You're right," he agrees. "Hopefully it will turn out to be that Luke and Adrianna just are not the most responsible people, and not the product of questionable parenting. Too bad we can't tell until they're all adults."

Scully walks over and kisses him on the cheek. "And that, my dear, is something people have been realizing for thousands of years." He smirks broadly, and she is prompted to ask, "What?"

Shaking his head he says, "You don't want to know."

"No, you don't, Mister. Spit it out."

Still smiling in a naughty sort of way, he says, "You're more of a biblical scholar than I am. How old was Mary when the angel of the Lord visited her, again? I mean, that had to cause some tongues to wag back in the day."

She groans, and he laughs. "You're right, I didn't want to know."



Chapter Seven

August 28, 2008

Mulder is staring out the window when Scully comes up behind him. When he glances at her he's a bit surprised to see that her arms are empty – Isaac has been fussy all day and has just wanted to be held. "In a way we're lucky–" she starts to say.

"We're lucky in a lot of ways," he interrupts with a smile. "But in what way exactly?"

"Summer birthday parties are much easier to plan than ones during the school year, and we lucked out with half of the kids."

"Well, that's true," he says grudgingly. Having a big party for the twins tenth birthday was her idea, and one she's remained committed to even after having Isaac. Fortunately, Christopher didn't want a big party and Sammy was happier to have Mulder bring him, his siblings, and a few friends to laser tag rather than have a gathering at home. Page's birthday isn't for nearly another month, and everyone hopes that the household will have settled back into what passes for normalcy by then.

"I don't think that anyone will get here quite yet–" A car pulls into the driveway and two little boys jump out, making her eat her words. "Well, at least we we're ready."

"David! Jared!" Mulder calls, and then bites his tongue, tensely waiting for his youngest to begin howling.

Scully bumps him with her shoulder. "Isaac isn't sleeping."

Glancing at her empty arms, he says, "He's not?"

"Nope. Page is playing with him. She said she has an idea for a project she can do for her health class."

"What kind of project?"

"She wants to see if she can convince her teacher to let her do a report on infant development rather than having to carry around a mechanical baby," Scully explains. "I have no idea if the teacher will go for it, but if she wants to spend more time with him…" She shrugs.

"What, Dad?" David asks, finally appearing.

"Your guests are beginning to arrive," he says. The two little boys have run back to their car for something, which is the only reason they haven't already knocked on the door. "It's time to host."

"How do we do that?"

Mulder opens his mouth and then shuts it. It wasn't a question he anticipated.

"Since you've managed to get here quicker," she says, looking back at Jared who is on the stairs with only one shoe on yet. "You be door greeter. Jared can entertain the kids in the playroom until everyone is here."

"Mooommmm," Jared protests. "Do you have to call it the playroom? We're ten now, you know!"

"Yes, I know. I remember the day you were born quite vividly," she tells him dryly.

"Well, yeah, we're pretty special," Jared says cheekily.

"Not to mention getting kidnapped after dad got shot has got to be memorable," David adds. "Dad, did you really steal Uncle Byers' clothes?"

"Yup."

"Ha."

Mulder opens the door when it's knocked on, and the kids begin to come at a steady pace after that. Teena and Missy arrive too, but Samantha's family doesn't.


After most of the guests arrive, Mulder volunteers to wait for the stragglers, which is something he's lavishly thanked for by both twin sons. He doesn't blame them, at their age he would have been eager to play with friends and cousins by that point too.

"No Samantha yet?" Scully comes to ask him at one point.

"No," he says with a sigh. "I was hoping to get the chance to talk to her…"

"I know," Scully says sympathetically.

"Dad!" a voice upstairs shouts. "We need you!"

He glances out the window and shrugs before going to see what William is yelling about.

It takes Mulder five minutes to help William and Christopher extract Wallace from Christopher's dresser, and both boys swear that they have no idea how the half-grown animal got in behind the drawers. Since there are a lot of people, and lots of noise, in the house, he figures that the kitten has just gotten scared. This in mind, he shuts him in the room after they make sure all the dresser drawers are closed.

By the time he's halfway back down the stairs, there's someone knocking. When Mulder answers the door, he's a bit surprised to only see Alyssa and Drew on the stoop. He quickly looks behind the kids to see if he can catch sight of Samantha, but when he doesn't, he offers a somewhat forced smile to his niece and nephew. "Is your mom here?"

"Nope, just us," Drew tells him. "Are the other kids inside?"

"Yeah, go ahead," Mulder says, waving vaguely into the house. Fortunately, they can all hear the kids, so the little boy doesn't need more directions.

Though Drew might not fully grasp that the grownups aren't getting along, Alyssa is fourteen and more than old enough to get that. "Um… Mom dropped us off, Uncle Mulder. She asked me to give her a call when the party's over."

"And I suppose you're supposed to go out to the car when she gets here," he says irritably. His niece just shrugs helplessly. "I think Page is up in her room, probably April too. Oh, and Emily got here about fifteen minutes ago." It's not fair to put Samantha's children in the middle of their fight any more than it would be to put his own there, so he sternly tells himself to be nice. "They'll probably make themselves scarce until it's time to have cake, and I'm sure you're welcome to join them."

"They don't have to help you and Aunt Dana with the party?" Alyssa asks, making him sure that she had to help with Drew's last party. It had been back in January, which is probably a good thing considering how must stress his family has been under since around February.

"Oh, April and Page both did a lot to help set up. We're sparing them having to actually wrangle the legions of ten-year-old boys around here, though." This time his smile is a little more genuine.

"How many little boys are in a legion?" she asks, looking slightly less tense herself.

"I don't know. You've only got one brother, but doesn't he seem like a crowd all by himself, sometimes?"

At first she doesn't seem to realize he's joking, but then she smiles. "I think I know what you mean."

"Um, how was camp?" Mulder asks. He knows that Samantha's three younger kids got home over the weekend, which must make it interesting around their house. After nearly three months away, their older sister must look very different to them considering she's now eight months pregnant.

"Better than being at home would have been," Alyssa mumbles. Speaking up a little she says, "Not too bad. I only got one sunburn and this year I was old enough to be a junior counselor so I got to boss kids around more than the older kids bossed me around."

"That sounds like a plus," he comments. "I never went to camp, but I always wanted to."

"Both my parents liked it when they were young, so we had to go," she says with a shrug.

It stings a little to be reminded that there's still a lot about his sister's past he knows nothing about…and may never if they don't start getting along better. But none of that is the girl he's talking to's fault. Gesturing towards the stairs, he says, "Go on up. There's no way you won't hear when it's time for cake."

"Thanks."

He can't tell if she's thanking him for the invitation or for ending their awkward conversation.

"Your sister isn't here?" a voice asks behind him.

"Sorry, Mom." He's not surprised to see that she looks unhappy about this. "Maybe next time."

"Maybe," Teena says, but she doesn't smile. "I remember her holding grudges as a little girl. But maybe she's outgrown that tendency."

Fat chance, he thinks but doesn't say out loud. From his mother's skeptical expression, there's no need to say it.


September 3, 2008

"Any questions?" Doggett asks after what seems like a two-hour long debriefing. At least neither Reyes nor Harrison has glazed-over eyes, which he supposes is more a testament to their ability to endure boring conversation than an endorsement of his own public speaking skills.

"Well," Leyla begins brightly, "I think the case sounds fascinating."

"You think that skinned bodies sound fascinating?" he asks dryly.

"Sure! Maybe it involves wendigoes. Or selkies."

"As murder victims?" Reyes asks. Unlike her significant other, she's genuinely curious rather than sarcastic. "I mean, I don't think the bodies would be so bloody if they were naturally slipping out of their skins themselves. So you're thinking that someone got the drop on them?"

Leyla squirms. "Well…"

"Maybe we should table this until tomorrow," Doggett suggests.

"Okay." He can tell by the look on the blonde agent's face that she's going to be up late coming up with vaguely plausible explanations for why the two dead people that were found down by the docks might have been supernatural beings.

"Then I think we're done here."

As they start to get up, Reyes grabs his hand to get his attention. "Since we both have our cars today, would you mind stopping for groceries on your way home? I'll pick Jon-Jon and Rebecca up if you do."

"Sure. Got a list?" he asks. She gives him a sheepish look and hands him a small sheet of paper. "You know me too well."

"Aww," she glances around to look for Leyla, but the other agent has already vacated the office. Then she kisses him on the cheek. "I'd say just well enough."

"Love you too," he says, and pockets the list. "I'll see you at home."


An Hour Later

Samantha allows herself to stew for a few days, hoping that her brother will come around, but he doesn't budge, even after she misses her nephews' party. It irritates her that her brother is not inclined to spare her from having to talk to those people when it would be so much easier for him to talk to them than for her to.

Scott and Adrianna are less onboard with the idea of talking some sense into those people, so it is only with great reluctance that she has gotten Adrianna to provide an address for Luke's parents. As Adrianna handed it over her eyes were sad, and Samantha sensed that she was being silently asked not to make things worse. Unfortunately, she is not sure that she won't.

Somehow it feels surprising that she has never been to the home that Luke lived in before starting college and still comes back to during the summers. Half-remembered stories told to her by Adrianna suggest that he lived elsewhere in childhood, first in New York and then an apartment in Falls Church, Virginia with his father and sister and adopted brother until they all moved into a house with the mother of Luke's two youngest siblings just a few months before the boys started college.

As she drives through the neighborhood and tries to spot the house based on Adrianna's description, she wonders how much blame she can lay at Luke's father's feet for being a bad influence. Sure, he married Luke and Hannah's mother, but Samantha knows for certain that he is not married currently.

"With the role model like that," she mutters darkly to herself as she circles the block for a second time.

She and Scott should have discouraged Adrianna from remaining friends with Luke after that vacation a few years earlier. It had all seemed rather innocent at the time, especially when their friendship had to be mostly internet-based considering that he was away for school beginning just a few weeks after the two met.

Eventually she spots a house that matches the address Adrianna provided. It's nicer than she expects, so perhaps that's why she overlooked it at first. It looks rather respectable, she grudgingly admits to herself, and not at all the low class picture she had in mind considering the man is living in sin with a woman who had given him not one, but two more children.

Determined not to be a pushover, she marches up to the door, and knocks firmly. If Mister Doggett is home, she plans to give the man a piece of her mind.

Samantha is somewhat startled when the door is opened by a small dark-haired girl rather than an adult. The wide-eyed child takes one look at her face before calling "Mommy?" in a quavering voice.

Samantha immediately feels bad that she's doing so poor a job of hiding her emotions that she's scared a little kid, but somehow the guilt doesn't make her feel less fierce. At the back of her mind, however, she is vaguely aware that this is one of the two children whose parentage she is using to justify such an ill opinion of the Doggetts.

"Can I help you?" Monica Reyes asks as she reaches for her little girl with one hand. The other hand is wrapped around the waist of the baby boy perched on her hip. Monica studies her face for a moment before asking uncertainly, "Mrs. Hill?" The little girl hides behind her mother's legs.

"Yes," Samantha says, and even she is surprised by how frostily it comes out.

"What can I do for you?" Reyes turns and puts her son in a playpen and hands him a toy before murmuring to the little girl about going to play in her room. Rebecca looks back uneasily, and then scampers off in the direction of what is probably her bedroom.

Samantha glances down at the baby boy, wondering how much of their conversation he can understand. Probably not much, she decides. "I want to speak to you and Luke's father about what Luke has done now."

The dark-haired woman just looks confused. "I'm sorry, John's grocery shopping. What has Luke done?" she asks carefully.

All at once it dawns on her that the woman isn't screwing with her. She genuinely doesn't have a clue what Luke has done. Either Luke has gone behind everyone's back, or he's sworn his father to secrecy. Either one would be stupid. "When we demanded an answer to why Luke filed with the Virginia paternity registry, he informed us that he is not going to sign the baby's adoption papers."

"He's not going to sign…" Ms. Reyes repeats, confusion evident. "He plans to keep the baby himself?"

"Obviously," Samantha snaps. "I take it that you didn't know that?"

"We didn't know what?" a gruff voice asks.

Samantha is slightly startled that he's entered the house without her noticing. Maybe he came in through the kitchen considering that he was supposed to be bringing home groceries. "That Luke is keeping the baby," Samantha tells him.

"You've got to be kidding," he mumbles.

"I take it you didn't put him up to it, then," Samantha says, her tone a bit less icy now.

"No, of course not," he shoots back.

"No, I hoped he would, but we haven't ever discussed it," Ms. Reyes says, and this earns her a dark look from her significant other. She shrugs unapologetically.

"I'll call him tonight," Mr. Doggett says sourly.

She feels a brief spark of hope. "You'll get him to change his mind?"

"I'm going to get him to explain what the hell he's thinking," he says. "But he's a grown man, so it's not like I can order him to do anything."

"He's twenty-two," Samantha objects.

"Yeah, and that's an adult," he replies evenly. "You daughter is an adult too, even though you don't treat her like one."

She's about to open her mouth to ask him how he dares to say that, but it's true. It's not something that she likes to think about, but neither she nor Scott have really been treating her any differently than they did before she turned eighteen.

"We'll talk to him," Reyes promises with a weak smile.

Not that there's any benefit from her speaking to him, Samantha thinks, since she's probably happy that he wants to keep the baby from what she said. "Right." She hesitates. "If you can't talk sense into him–" And it takes her a lot of restraint to keep from speculating out loud what amount of effort they'll make to. "-I'll let you know when the baby is born."

"Okay," Mr. Doggett says. He sounds like he feels as uneasy about it all as she does.


That Night

After dinner Doggett thinks he's finally in the right mental space to call Luke without blowing up at him. Still, it takes him a little longer to dial than it normally would. As soon as the call connects, he says, "Luke, we need to talk."

"What about?" his oldest son asks, tone already sounding wary.

It's all Doggett can do not to sigh out loud. The boy obviously has an idea of why he's calling, and it makes him mad all over again that he didn't have the sense to tell them about his plans before he and Gibson left for school.

"Look, Monica got a visitor before I got home this afternoon. Adrianna's mother."

"Mrs. Hill came to see you?" Luke asks, sounding surprised.

"Yeah, she did. And she told Monica that you refuse to sign the paperwork so the baby can be adopted. You wanna to explain that to me?"

"I'm not going to sign," Luke replies. "I'm just not. I already submitted paperwork to the registry acknowledging that I'm going to be a father, and I'm not signing the adoption papers."

Doggett frowns at the wall, as if his glare could travel several thousands of miles away and be seen by the son on the other end of the line. "What do you mean, you won't sign?"

"Exactly what you said, Dad." Luke sighs, and Doggett can imagine that he's wearing the same frown as he is. From the noise in the background, it sounds like Luke is outside while his classmates going from one class to another. Doggett hopes that he can focus on the conversation at hand. "Look," Luke says, "I know Adrianna doesn't want him, but I do. I want to keep our kid, Dad." He pauses, then says firmly, "I'm going to, too."

"And how do you plan to take care of the baby and take grad classes at the same time?" Doggett sighs himself. "Do you have enough to pay for daycare or a babysitter? Or do they have some kind of service for Bucky students?"

"No, they don't, at least not one I can afford, but there's a handful of students who've put together a daycare collective that's much cheaper than the usual babysitters here. If I keep working at the restaurant, I think I can swing the daycare–"

"How are your classes so far?" Doggett interrupts.

"Fine, why?" his oldest son asks, obviously confused about why he'd as.

Doggett exhales. Give me strength, he thinks. "I mean, what's your course load like? How many hours do you have to spend on class and your class assignments in order to keep your grades up?"

Luke seems thrown by this segue, but that only silences him for a moment. "A little longer than undergrad, but it's not going to be a problem," he answers confidently.

"Have you started your part-time job yet?" Doggett goes on.

"Um, not yet," Luke answers honestly. "Not until Monday."

"From what I recall, with your part-time job and full course load in your first four years of college, you averaged about six hours of sleep a night when you kept on schedule, and three to four when you worked overtime and did your assignments last-minute. And even if Gibson didn't say anything, I know what you're like on less than six hours of sleep. Do you think you can handle sleeplessness for four years, first while finishing school and then working?" Doggett asks. "A kid's needs come before sleep, even at night, Luke."

"Four?" Luke's voice cracks like it did when he first hit puberty. "I thought babies were just, you know, babies for a year until they walk and talk. Then they sleep through the night like normal people."

"Son, ever hear of something called Google? Look up infant and early childhood development." Luke must be able to hear his dad's noisy sigh almost as if he were right there, rather than transmitted through microwave towers. "I know you weren't around much when Rebecca was between one and three, but how can you have forgotten how often Hannah got me up nights, especially after your mother left?"

Luke doesn't say anything, so he imagines his son is trying to remember back when Barbara left and it was just him getting up in the middle of the night when she'd been sick, had a nightmare, or just woke up missing her mom. Maybe Luke had slept through more of that than he imagined possible.

Doggett sighs again. "You've got a scholarship, and that means you're gonna have to keep your grades up. That's gonna take a lotta time. So will working, even if it is part-time. And you're gonna need, no, you're gonna want sleep, especially once you have a baby in the house. Raising a baby is a full-time job, son, even if you do have a little help."

"Dad, it sounds like you don't want me to raise my baby," Luke says quietly. "I thought that you, of all people, would know what I'm going through. I mean, like you said, Mom left us when Hannah was so little, and you still found a way to make it work."

I do what it's like to raise a small child on your own, which is why I don't know that I want you to go through it, Doggett thinks irritably. "Nobody doubts you love that kid, Luke, nobody. And you're right, I know what being a single parent is like. I also know that I'm damn glad that we had people like the Mulders helping us, even housing us while I was at Quantico, because I couldn't have done it by myself. I'm a proud man, Luke, but I'm not too proud to admit that after your mom left, I needed help bad."

"And I'm getting help," Luke breaks in. "Daycare collective, remember?"

"How reliable are they?" Doggett asks. "You said 'a handful of students'. Have they been in business long, have you worked with any of them, do any of them have kids of their own?"

There's a pause. "I don't, I don't know. I just saw a flyer in the student lounge. Oh God, I'm gonna be a terrible dad. I was gonna let a random bunch of people watch over my kid because it was cheap." From the thump it sounds like Luke has leaned against a wall, as if it could shoulder the added worries.

"At least you thought about childcare." Doggett shakes his head. "But you need to think deeper. You have to think like both parents, Luke, both a dad and mom. And you have to think about what's best for the kid, no matter what."

"You think I haven't?" Luke shouts, surprising them both a little. From the sound of scuffing shoes in the background, Doggett wouldn't be surprised if the outburst has caused a few students to stop and stare at Luke. It makes him wonder if his son actually notices them enough to be even a little embarrassed.

Luke takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I've thought about this, Dad. Maybe not as much as I should, but I will. I know I'm the one who can do what's best for my child. And that's why I'm not signing the papers."

Doggett closes his eyes. Dammit. "Okay," he says. "All right. I'll see you at the end of the month, then."

"Why's that?" Luke frowns.

His father huffs a laugh. "That's because I'll be bringing your baby up to you, you numbskull."

Luke might imagine himself in the delivery room or waiting outside it, but he's got to save his money for actually caring for his child, which is something Doggett begins to mentally prep a lecture about at the first sign of protest.

There's a pause, and if Luke has considered objecting to the plan, he uses those seconds to think better of it. "Dad," Luke attempts a whine, but he ended up laughing with tears in his eyes. After clearing his throat, he says, "Thanks, Dad."

"Tell me that a month after living with the kid." Doggett smiles in spite of himself.



Chapter Eight

September 8, 2008
Wellington Mall

Samantha Hill sighs and pulls out her cell phone.

She and Adrianna decided to go post-maternity shopping, in an effort to give her daughter something to look forward to other than not being pregnant anymore. She told Adrianna that she shouldn't look for clothes in her pre-pregnant size, but rather, clothes a size smaller than her current size and preferably ones with some stretch. "Mo-oom," her daughter had whined, "I've already got fat lady clothes."

At that moment, Samantha wanted to hit her head on the wall. Instead, as she's done so often, she'd put on a determined smile and nearly shoved her daughter out the door. And since her car is in the shop and her husband has already gone to work they took a taxi to the mall. She's determined to force her daughter to look on the bright side, dammit.

And part of this bright side, she thinks, includes a place where she'll have to speak civilly to the one she's calling while her daughter's in the dressing room.

"Mulder," he answers.

"Luke is keeping the baby and taking it to Boston," she says without preamble.

There's a pause. "Samantha? Are you okay?"

She starts to laugh, but it chokes off into a sob. "You're joking, right?" she says, and without further prompting, she goes on, "I've had to deal with my three younger children wanting to take the city transportation rather than the school bus last school year so they wouldn't have to deal with their classmates' jeers. I've had to juggle and re-juggle what after-school activities and friends are that are still positive and which will be cut out, and that's not including everything Adrianna has to go to. And I've had to bully my pregnant daughter into going post-natal shopping so she has something lovely to look forward to after all this, only so I can call my stupid brother and tell him that his stupid friend's son is continuing to torture my daughter by keeping their baby and taking it to Boston! And you think I'm okay?"

She sighs, then speaks again before he can. "You know what? I'm not okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this happened. I'm sorry that it's my daughter that has to go through this. I'm sorry that her ex-boyfriend chose to do what he did, and I'm sorry that everything's falling apart, again, because of him, but we're going to do the best we can. Goodbye, Fox."

She hangs up, trying to take deep breaths through her nose, because she's already seen the worried looks on the salesgirls' faces. She feels a tiny bit better, but only a tiny bit, getting that yelling off her chest, although she probably should have given her brother a chance to say something a little less stupid. Oh well.

She wanders around the store, hoping Scott will forgive the huge hit to his credit card as she's nearly hit the max on hers. Before she can rifle through some promising tops for Ariel, a panicked voice calls her from the dressing room.

"Mom? I think, I think I'm having my baby!"

She takes off at a dead sprint to the fourth stall down, then bangs on the door. "Adrianna? Honey? Can you open the door?"

"Okay," her daughter's voice sounds relieved, and she unlocks the door. Adrianna is sweating and panting heavily, and whimpers when her mother checks her forehead. There's a wet mess on the floor, but thankfully, none of the clothes are down there.

"Are you okay to walk?" Samantha asks her.

Her eldest bites her lower lip and shakes her head. Then what looks like another contraction hits her, and she doubles over, well, as much as the pregnant girl can. "Oh God, it hurts," she sobs.

"Come on, let's get out of here," Samantha says, grabbing both of their purses and hauling her shaking daughter to her feet. She glares at the salesgirl who gives them a narrow-eyed look. "Clean up in there, my daughter's having a baby," Samantha snaps, then practically manhandles her daughter through the mall and to the cab stand. From there, she just as forcefully handles the situation. "Wellington Women's and Children's Hospital," she says when asked their destination.


It's not long before she and Adrianna get to the hospital, and they are seen by a nurse, since Adrianna's doctor is seeing another patient. After a battery of questions, both verbal and written, Samantha snaps and asks when their doctor will be free.

"Don't worry, it's just false labor," the nurse tells them dismissively.

The girl in question had been lying down on the examination table, but at that statement, she props herself on her elbow. Adrianna is breathing heavily, sweating anew despite just wiping off her forehead with her mom's tissue. "False?" her voice and tone goes up. "But it hurts! It can't be false!"

Samantha Hill squeezes her daughter's hand reassuringly. "How do you know?" she asks, less a question and more of a demand.

"Your OB should have told you about Braxton Higgs contractions, right?" the nurse shoots back. "From what your daughter told me, she doesn't have any bloody show, what she thought was amniotic fluid was merely her bladder, and her contractions are erratic, and they mostly stopped when she lay on her right side. But it was good of you to have it checked out." The nurse looks at the sweating girl, demeanor softening slightly as she takes in Adrianna's unhappy expression. "Fair warning, I wouldn't be surprised if you have more contractions like this before the actual event."

Adrianna groans. "Really?"

Her mother, however, sighs, her own history of pregnancy coming to the fore of her memory. "Honey, I'm sorry, but I rushed your father over to the hospital a couple of times before I had you," she says, and squeezed her daughter's hand again.

By the time she was pregnant again, she'd known what real contractions felt like, so there had been no more false alarms with babies two through four. Samantha half closes her eyes, trying to predict whether Adrianna will ever change her mind about motherhood and eagerly go through the experience of pregnancy at another time. It’s hard to tell, but she honestly wouldn't be surprised if the baby Adrianna is carrying turns out to be an only child… or at least on his mother's side. If Luke is so happy to take on parenthood at twenty-two, it's not hard to imagine him with several more children in the future – just not with Adrianna.

The blonde, sweaty girl sighs, then lay down on her right side before closing her eyes. "I don't want to go through that again unless I'm actually having the baby," she says softly.

"I know, sweetheart, I know," her mother says soothingly, while her heart squeezes painfully in her chest. If she could, she would take on her daughter's pain for her, but that's not how it works. That's never how it works. "But maybe next time might be the real thing. You never know until it happens."

"Your mother's right," the nurse interjects. "Don't be put off by false labor, but do check for the signs. If everything checks out, do come to the hospital, no matter what, okay? We'd rather see you here again with false labor than have you wait over-long at home when the real thing begins."

Adrianna forces her eyes open, and both her mother and the nurse are concerned about her, they want the best for her. And it feels like forever since more people than her mom wanted the best for her. "Okay," she says in a small voice, then closes her eyes again.

"Your doctor will be with you as soon as he's finished with his other patient, all right?" the nurse says, and leaves the room.

"Mommy, I was so scared," Adrianna sighs. "I just wish I could get it over and done with."

Samantha wipes her daughter's forehead. Me, too, she thinks, but aloud, she says, "Just rest, baby, just rest."

She isn't sure if she has used up all her prayers, since she normally isn't the praying type, but she prays the next time they are here, her daughter will actually be giving birth, and that the baby will be healthy because as bad as this is she's acutely aware that none of this is his fault.


September 10, 2008
Copley Square Complex

It is one of those days where it's warm enough to play outside only if you are constantly active, and cold enough where the heaters have to be turned on even if you're sitting longer than ten minutes indoors. Melody and Katie are outside with the more active kids, and Gibson's inside with those who need help with their homework or who are playing board games. He wishes Shon and Thomas were still with the after school program, but they'd gotten hired by a couple of companies when they graduated, so he doesn't begrudge their luck. Much. Whenever envy rears he tries to tamp it back down by reminding himself that without the edge over the competition that grad school will afford him and Luke, the other boys needed that sort of luck more than he does.

So far it has seemed like it's a regular session, with the kids finally getting back into school mode, and they're either burning up their energy outside, or playing or studying mostly quietly inside, and Gibson hasn't been expecting a meltdown so soon in the school year.

Of course, that's exactly what he gets when he hears a crash and everyone looks to see what has happened. Two girls, Gina and Alice, are staring at the overturned desk, board game pieces scattered on the floor near the game mat itself. Then Gina, normally a quiet little brunette, bursts into loud tears and runs out the room, slamming the door behind her.

Alice looks at the closed door contemptuously as only a third-grader can. "That was stupid," she declares, then smirks at Gibson. "Aren't you going to go after her?"

The grad student only goes to the window, pulls it open, and yells, "Look out for Gina, she just ran out!" Katie nods, and a couple of the kids with her wave. He waves back, then shuts the window. The rest of the kids inside are watching him and Alice with not-so-hidden curiosity.

"Well, that was stupid," Gibson says dryly as he flicks his gaze at the fallen board game and desk. "You can't even play without being a sore loser."

"Am not!" The little girl bristles. "I won!"

He rolls his eyes, as if the items on the shelves aren't slightly shaking along with her. "Yeah, because winners knock down the game."

"She was cheating," Alice goes on, her eyes narrowed. "You're on her side because you're a cheater, too."

Now Gibson laughs, he can't help it. "What? I was helping Danny with his homework, I wasn't even near your game," he says and the little boy with the bad haircut nods in agreement. "Want to see what real cheating looks like?"

The little girl looks taken aback, as do the other kids. "Okay," she says carefully.

"Pick up that board game and right the desk, and I'll show you," he says. Then he looks at the rest of the room. "Good thing I'm not a real teacher, or I'd get in trouble, huh?" he winked, and a couple grin shyly back.

Alice pursed her lips, but after a few moments, she pulls the desk upright, and reset the board game and the pieces on top. "Okay, now what?"

"Now, you sit down, and I'll sit down, and we'll play," he says as he thinks, Hmm, I might be a little rusty.

She sits down with a smirk, then lifts her chin. "Okay."

He sits across from her, and they proceeded to play Battleship. Some of the kids came around, which is exactly what he hoped for, and while he fruitlessly tried to read her mind, he set up his board. They go through the usual gambits, going for the center (neither of them had set up in the middle), then the corners (same), and then Alice goes on the attack.

Or she would, if she could figure out what's going on. Gibson is telling a story about how someone at his school was trying to use a Super Mario game as the background for his own game, and while it was obvious that his classmate was cheating, his professor thought it was too stupid to believe that it was funny, and the other kids in the after school program think so, too. Some of the kids are thinking about the times when they were playing Super Mario or some other dumb video game, so they are useless. Others think that they can't see how Gibson is cheating, because the boy in his story was totally cheating and he isn't. And still others are wondering what they would eat when they got home, or when their mom would come home, or how long they could stay before it got too dark…

"Will you just shut up!" she yells.

Gibson frowns. "I haven't said anything for a while except B-9. It's your turn, Alice."

The other kids look at her, and it seems he is right. Blushing angrily, she snaps, "G-8!"

"You already said that," one of the boys says, "and his boat was sunk already."

Yes, okay, she can see that clearly, why can't she see anything else? She looks at the top graph. "Uh, I-2?"

"Nope," Gibson says, "I-2."

She stares down. If she put the pin in, it would sink her last boat. "How did you do that?" she glares, shoving the pin in with a loud thump.

Gibson looks at the other kids. "Anyone care to guess how I did it?"

Most of them look confused. "You weren't looking at your side," one of the boys says.

"Nice," he nods. "I was looking at my top graph and checking the empty spaces. We both have the same kind of boats with the same amount of holes inside, so I had experience and statistics on my side. I can show you the basics later. How else?"

"You were talking about Super Mario?" another offers.

Gibson grins. "Good catch. Yeah, I was distracting her, so she wouldn't be focused on the moves, but on what was around her. When I was your age, playing games like chess meant you had to be quiet like in a library, so you couldn't use stories as distractions. Nowadays, if you're playing with friends, it's not so strict, but it's one of the few games where officially, you're supposed to be quiet."

"That's boring," one of the girls remarks.

"Kinda." Gibson smiles a little, putting his pieces away. "The thing is, as long as you can concentrate on what you need to do, it doesn't matter what's happening around you." He nods at the second boy, who had a notoriously short attention span. "And yet enough of you paid attention to keep track of the game. If you can do that during class, when your classmates are whispering in the back, or if there's something in the window that looks more interesting, try and focus on what the teacher is saying and what he's writing. Because guaranteed that'll show up on a quiz later on, and when you remember what he said two days ago, you'll ace the test. It's like winning the game." He raises his eyebrows. "Got it?"

"Kinda," one of the boys scrunches his face as he speaks. "That's kinda hard."

"'Course it is," Gibson says cheerfully, leading them back to their desks. "You have to work at it. That's why it's called classwork and homework."

Some of them groan. "I thought you said you'd help us cheat," the first boy says.

Gibson snorts. "That was for Battlefield. You think I'd actually help you cheat in school?"

"Yeeeees," they chorus, and he snorts.

"Brats," he says, but smiles. As Alice continues to stare intensely at her open board, he walks back. "Come to the Light Side," he says, "we have cheaters."

He could almost swear the small twitch on her face is a smile. "The Dark Side has cookies," she answers.

He smiles sadly, but can't help remembering what he'd seen. "The cookies are a lie." Then he left her looking small and afraid, almost hating the accidental lesson on top of the deliberate one he'd given, and nearly apologizes. Nearly, but doesn't, because it is more honest than anything she's learned before about her abilities, and if he says anything, even an apology, it would be a lie. So he continues to tutor Danny and the others, leaving Alice to her thoughts.


It's not long before their day ends, but Alice continues to mope until Gibson hears a semi-familiar voice saying, "Come on, you know we've got to go get our shots."

"Shots for what?" Gibson asks curiously.

Charlotte turns and awkwardly says, "Ah, you know, for allergies" in a way that indicates that she hadn't expected to be overheard while she talked to her younger sister.

"Oh, that sucks," he offers. They just nod in a resigned sort of way that suggests that they're used to being stuck by needles. "How have you been, anyway?" he asks Charlotte. "I haven't seen you much since graduation."

Truth to be told he'd rarely seen her before then, either, but it's now even more unusual to catch a glance at Alice's older sister. She sure does seem involved in the little girl's life still, though, so he supposes she still must live in the area.

"Yeah." She sighs. "I've been working quite a bit." Gibson gives her an expectant look, but she just lowers her eyes. "As a secretary for Bean Pot Games. I know I shouldn't bitch given I was able to find a job at all in this economy, but I didn't exactly intend to only answer the phones and typing documents for a game company, you know?"

"At least you got your foot in the door at a gaming company," he offers, but this doesn't look like it comforts her much. "Maybe Luke and I won't even be that lucky when we finish grad school in a couple of years."

Or maybe longer, he thinks ruefully, when it comes to Luke. John and Monica hadn't told him he was insane to go forward with his plan to get a Masters, but they were already trying to encourage him to consider dropping back to part time so he can work more to support himself and the baby.

"Yeah. Maybe one day I'll impress the right person with my ability to correctly direct their phone calls and they'll promote me to working on a game," Charlotte says with more bitterness than he expects. "It'll be just like a movie."

"Charlotte, come on," Alice whines, tugging on her sister's hand until she gets her attention. As soon as the older girl looks down, Alice frowns. "I wanna get it over with. And we don't wanna get sick."

"That's true," Charlotte mutters, and then she looks back at Gibson. "Well, nice seeing you. Until next time."

Gibson just nods and watches them leave. Even though it's a relatively warm inside by now, he shivers. Until just then he's never realized that he can't read Charlotte's mind, either. But then, up until she mentioned getting shots and his curiosity about what they were for just got the better of him, he's never tried to.


It's not yet seven o'clock on Saturday morning, and Mulder is feeling quite proud of himself because Isaac woke up forty-five minutes ago and he has been able to look after the baby while Scully sleeps, even if he's years out of practice when it comes to solo baby care. Fortunately Scully left a bottle in the fridge so he hasn't had to wake her to nurse him, and he's regained his previously rusty diapering skills too.

So, while the rest of the house sleeps, Mulder spends some time with his dry and fed son while the baby is alert enough to pay attention to what's going on. Scully is already fretting about having to go back to work at the end of September and while he nods in agreement that three months bonding with the baby does seem short, he envies her a little that it's okay for her to spend the time home with Isaac at all. He would have liked to take three months off too, but Wayne and his costars would have lost it if production on the show had to grind to a complete halt for that long. As it is everyone is getting sick of the wacky guests that Wayne has dug up to fill in for her in her absence.

"But hey, at least we have mornings like this one, right little guy?" Mulder asks the baby who is lying in his lap.

Isaac's blue eyes flash and he kicks happily, obviously pleased that his father is talking to him.

"I knew we were on the same page," Mulder says, tickling his belly to make his little feet go wild. "Say, have you got a smile for Daddy in you?" he asks, thinking that Scully has reported seeing some already.

Since no one else is around, Mulder amuses himself by making silly faces at the baby. Suddenly, he thinks about the Mr. Potatohead face he once made for Emily, back in the path he didn't take this time. At the time he'd been pleased by her reaction, but now it hurts to think about back then still in a way that doesn't make sense to him given that his niece is alive and relatively healthy across town, rather than dead as a preschooler like before.

He must frown, because when he next pays attention to his surroundings, he notices that Isaac is mimicking him. A frown on a baby that small looks so odd that he laughs, and after a moment his little son seems amused and smiles up at him.

"Oh, well there's a smile!" he coos at the boy, hoping his tone doesn't trip over to the dreaded baby-talk Scully still insists not be used with their offspring.

Somewhere in the house the landline rings and he cringes when it stops immediately. Scully has probably gotten up to answer to answer it. "So much for mommy sleeping in, huh?" he says glumly.

But then a voice at the door says "Dad?" and he turns to see April in the doorway holding the cordless phone. "Gramma Teena wants to talk to you."

"Oh, thanks." He reaches for the phone, but doesn't know what to do with it given Isaac needs to be held too. "Could you take your brother, please?"

April's eyes widen, and her voice is a little shaky when she says "Okay." She actually reminds him a bit of his mother when she tentatively picks the baby up, like she's afraid he'll detonate. April of course has no idea how terrified Teena seemed to be of her two oldest grandchildren when they were the baby's age, but he remembers all too well.

"Thanks," he tells her gratefully. He expects her to immediately put her brother in his crib because she still hasn't really warmed to him much, so it's a bit surprising when she sits in the rocking chair and carefully arranges Isaac on her lap.

Mulder smiles and steps out into the hallway, not planning to go very far in case April really has a problem. Idly, he wonders if she's struggling more to adapt to having a baby in the house again more than the two older kids because she'd been too young to be expected to help much when even Zoe and Brianna were that small.

Remembering why he's left the room in the first place, he holds the phone up and asks "Mom?"

"Fox," she says calmly, which is reassuring considering she's not the sort to call at that time of the morning for no reason. "Do you and Sammy have some time today to come over and help me out?"

"Sure. What do you need help with?" Mulder asks, imagining yardwork that needs to be done.

"I bought new curtains and I'm afraid that I'm too short to take down the old ones and put these up. And if Sammy could find my Halloween decorations up in the attic that would be lovely."

"We'd be happy to," he says, hoping that Sammy won't mind that he's speaking for both of them. "We'll come over after we have breakfast, okay?"

"Thank you. I'll see you then," she says happily.

"Okay, see you soonish."

He has just ended the call when April calls "Dad!"

Mulder rushes back into the room, worried that something has gone wrong. But when he gets to her, April looks happy. "Dad, look! He's smiling at me!"

"Wow," Mulder tells her. Isaac is indeed smiling up at his older sister. Mulder squeezes her shoulder gently to make her look up. "Do you know I didn't even see him smile myself until this morning?"

"Really?" she demands to know, sounding a little suspicious.

"Really. I guess he really likes you."

"That's pretty cool."

"Isn't it?"



Chapter Nine

After the kids have breakfast and Scully wanders into the kitchen yawning, Mulder tells them all to behave while he's gone and earns several eye rolls. "Dad, we always behave," Page protests.

"Really?" he asks, raising his eyebrows.

Page squirms, and he wonders if she's also thinking about how she and Sammy got busted a couple of weeks earlier for dumping unfolded laundry all over their siblings' beds because they were eager to go hang out with friends. "Well, almost always," she mumbles.

"I'm always good, though," William solemnly insists, earning laughs from Christopher and both of his twin brothers.

"Yeah, right," David crows.

"Good compared to you!" is his younger brother's indigent retort. David just looks at his twin and shrugs.

"Come on," Mulder tells Sammy. "They'll probably argue about this for a while."

"Hey!" several youthful voices protest.

"Later," Sammy tells them with a cheerful wave.


"You don't mind that I said you're okay with gophering for your grandmother, right?" Mulder asks as they walk out to the car. Like Page, Sammy's getting old enough that he's more reluctant to volunteer him for things without letting him make an argument against it.

"Nah, I don't mind. Gramma Maggie asks Page to do stuff too, and we don't have to cook anything, right?" he asks, obviously thinking of Page being asked to help make food for the Labor Day lunch that had just passed.

"Correct. You're going to be bringing Halloween stuff down from the attic for her."

"Because I'm so strong," Sammy boasts, only half sarcastically.

"That's right. Just you wait, my boy, you'll be toting boxes and opening jars for evermore," Mulder teases him as they reach the car.

"That's okay, I'm getting a lot of moving stuff practice while we work on our movie set."

"Right." Mulder finds himself suddenly glad that the "movie sets" all live at his sister-in-law's house. Missy is being amazingly tolerant of the whole movie business especially considering that there's no end in sight. He'd of thought they'd be bored by now, but they're as eager to work on it as ever.

Sammy's knees knock against the dashboard as he climbs into the passenger seat. "Hey," Mulder says to get his attention. "You're taller than your mom now, so I guess you'd better adjust the seat so you have enough leg room."

"Won't she mind?" Sammy asks worriedly. "This is her seat, usually."

"I don't think so."

"Oh, okay."

Mulder watches his son reach down to adjust the seat, again wondering how tall he's going to be. Sammy might not think 5'4" is tall, but it's not short for a boy who has just turned 13.

They drive about a mile before Sammy gives him a sidelong look and he waits for Sammy to speak because he's obviously planning to. Eventually his boy asks, "Dad, Luke is really going to be able to keep his baby, without Adrianna?"

"He really is," Mulder replies, hoping to sound at ease. As glad as he is that he won't be left wondering what has happened to his grand-nephew, Luke is taking on a lot harder job than he realizes.

"So... the baby can't be adopted just because Luke won't agree to it?"

"That's how the law works, Buddy." Mulder shoots him a quick smile before looking back at the road. "Both parents have to agree to put their baby up for adoption or it can't happen legally." For a moment he finds himself thinking about William's adoption in his other-when, but of course he can't tell his older son about that sort of thing.

"I didn't know a guy could do anything to keep his baby from being given away if he wanted to keep it," Sammy remarks.

"It didn't used to be like that," Mulder offers. "Laws got changed, though. Well, in most states. Utah still makes it hard for a dad to keep his baby, but in most states what the dad wants counts as much as what the mom wants."

"If the baby's even born," Sammy says rather darkly. This reminds Mulder that Sammy's health teacher had sent home a letter this semester warning parents that birth control, abortion, and childbirth would all be part of the curriculum. It makes him wonder if adoption isn't considered part of that, or if they just haven't gotten that far yet.

"Well, yeah."

"Hmm. I'm glad that the laws got changed so either parent gets to keep the baby if they want it." Sammy turns to look out the window then.

"Me too."

Sammy looks back at him. "We're going to get to see the baby at Christmas now, right?"

"I think so, yeah."

"Then I'm really glad the laws got changed, Dad."

"Me too."

"You think Luke's gonna be a good dad?" Sammy wants to know.

"I hope so. I know he's going to do the best he can for his little boy, or he wouldn't have tried to keep him." They pull up to a stop sign. Mulder glances over at his son. "How about you, do you plan to be a dad?"

Sammy's look of surprise is almost comical. "Of course!"

"Yeah?"

"Sure." Sammy's blue eyes suddenly look slightly wary. "But is it wrong that I hope I have all boys?"

Mulder finds himself wondering what Sammy imagines he means by "all" but doesn't ask. "I don't think it's wrong. But if you have a little girl, you'll almost certainly find that you love her as much as you would a boy."

"Well... I'm going to wait until I marry someone really awesome before I have any kids, so hopefully she'll be better with girls than I am."

"What makes you think that you're bad with girls?" Mulder asks curiously.

Sammy wrinkles his nose. "I hate tea parties."

"That's it?"

"Tea parties are pretty important to little girls," Sammy says sagely.

"If you end up marrying a woman who doesn't like tea parties either, I'm sure your sisters would be happy to have tea parties with your daughters. Your mom's not a big tea party person either, but we've managed."

"Daughters?" There's a slight note of alarm to his boy's voice. Apparently the idea of multiple little girls is worrisome.

"Daughter?" he offers instead.

"Well, that's good." Sammy yawns. "I bet Zoe and Brianna would like to have tea parties, even when they're grown up. That's what I really worried about, but it sounds manageable."

Mulder looks down the road, but he takes the time that his head is turned to grin to himself. Sammy will probably grow up to be a great dad, but he's clearly not thinking about fatherhood in anything approaching a mature way if he thinks the biggest problem is that he might end up with a kid who love tea parties.

But his grin fades by the time he makes his turn. He really hopes that Luke has more sensible ideas about parenthood, but who can tell?


Teena is waiting for them at the door, so they don't even have to knock. Both of them hug her, and Mulder is suddenly glad that Sammy has no awareness that casual affection used to make his grandmother stiffen up. The different path that their lives have taken has obviously been good for her too.

"My goodness, you're growing like a weed!" Teena says fondly to her oldest grandson, unaware of her own son's scrutiny.

"Nah, I'm growing orderly," Sammy replies with a grin, making her smile. But then he runs a hand over his head. "Well, maybe my hair."

"I could make you an appointment with my hairdresser," Teena says dryly.

Mulder understands that his mother is joking, but Sammy doesn't notice the good humor in her eyes. "No, that's okay. We're going to the barber next week, right Dad?"

"Yep. All you boys have an appointment with a barber's chair after school on Wednesday."

"Oh, well, that's good then," Teena says as if she really meant her offer, obviously not wanting to embarrass him for missing the joke. "So, Sammy, the boxes I need are up in the attic, near the windows on the right. There are some Halloween stickers on the outside of the boxes because your baby sisters helped me put things away last year and couldn't spell Halloween yet."

"Probably still can't," Sammy remarks. "But they're not really babies anymore."

"They'll always be our babies," Teena tells him. "You'll see when you grow up."

"Okay but people are going to think I'm crazy if I call them babies when they're thirty."

"Hey, I still call Samantha my baby sister sometimes, and she's your mom's age," Mulder objects automatically. He then tries to ignore the painful squeeze in his heart that follows – how could he ever have thought that finally finding his sister would mean a complete stop to feeling pain when she entered her thoughts? Of course, now it was a different sort of pain… but hopefully one they could get past in time.

Unaware of Mulder's thoughts, Sammy tilts his head. "Yeah, you do, huh?"

"I do."

"Grandma, where do you want the boxes when I bring them down?" Sammy asks, apparently eager to get his task over with. No doubt Teena has baked cookies or brownies, and he's probably looking forward to them.

"If you could put them on the floor near the kitchen table, that'd be wonderful."

"I will!" he says, then trots off towards the stairs.

Mulder looks at his mother. "Which rooms are the curtains being changed in?"

"Living room and dining room. Maybe we should start in the dining room."

"Sounds good."

It only takes them half an hour to swap out the curtains in both rooms. They make a good team with him taking them down, handing her the current ones to fold and getting the new ones from her once she puts hooks on them.

Teena stands back once they're done the living room, and seems to be admiring the curtains. They're a rich orange color, obviously created with Halloween and Thanksgiving in mind. "There," she says with some satisfaction.

"They're how you want them?" Mulder asks, assuming that her answer will be yes.

"They are," she agrees with a slight nod, but her eyes cut to the doorway, making him wonder if Sammy has come back down with a new load of decorations. There's no one else there, though. This seems to relax her a little, and he's not sure why until she begins to speak again. "I'm going to be a great-grandmother after all, Fox."

"I know," he replies, thinking that she still would have been a great-grandmother even if his niece had been able to give the baby up like she wants to. He doesn't say this, though, because he thinks he understands what his mother is feeling – she'll be able to see this child growing, which is something that brings him a measure of relief too.

"His other grandparents will be driving him to his father," she notes, surprising him that she already is aware of this too. "That will be a long trip."

"Fairly," he agrees, thinking back to when Doggett had first driven his then eighteen-year-old sons up to Boston. Maybe they won't lollygag with a newborn in tow, and he knows that Doggett had stretched that first trip out a bit to have a little longer with them.

"I know the two oldest boys are close in age but their other kids are fairly young aren't they?" Teena asks, and he notes an element of tension to her voice, as if it's not as casual a question as it seems on the surface.

"Yes. Their oldest daughter, Hannah, is a few months younger than Sammy, and then there are the two little ones: Rebecca is four and Jon-Jon is a year old."

"Hmm. Are they planning to bring the girls with them?"

"I don't think so," Mulder tells her. "I think they plan to ask Dana and me to look after them. Not their youngest, though, I know I heard John grumbling about having to put a second car seat in his backseat for the trip. I guess he thinks it's a wasted effort considering he won't have Luke's baby long." Mulder imagines he'll be giving the car seat to Luke at the end of the trip.

"I'll do it," Teena announces abruptly.

He blinks. "Do what?"

"Take care of the girls while they're gone."

"Really?" Mulder asks, trying not to choke on the word. All he can think about is how much his mother had hated babysitting for Sammy and Page while they shopped for their first nanny.

"Yes, really." His mother looks slightly annoyed. "They're driving a new baby all the way up to Boston for us, so looking after their daughters while they do it is the least I can do."

For us? I guess that explains exactly how she felt about the adoption... "Right. I think they'll really appreciate that." Well, he thinks, at least Hannah and Rebecca are both considerably older than Sammy and Page were when she kept them during the Kryder case. Even Page had had barely been a year old at that point. "And I'm sure Hannah will be a big help keeping her little sister in line."

"I'm sure she will," Teena agrees. She looks around the living room. "Hopefully me staying at their house instead of hosting them here will be acceptable, though. There's not a lot to keep a four-year-old occupied with her for more than a few hours."

"I don't know," Mulder teases, thinking of one of the decorations Sammy has already brought down, a scale model of the Black Pearl that the kids had given her a few Halloweens before. "Rebecca loves pirates and you have your own pirate ship."

"Oh Fox," she says, shaking her head. But she's smiling too.


That Night

Showers have been taken, teeth have been brushed, and seven of the eight kids able to get to their bedrooms on their own two feet are on their way there now. April lingers, though, and eventually approaches Mulder. "Dad, can we talk?" she asks.

Mulder nods, looking over at Scully who is headed to their room to nurse Isaac. "Sure, why don't we talk in your room? You should be headed there about now," he reminds her, but he doesn't have the heart to put any effort into sounding remotely stern. April isn't one to try to get out of going to bed, so she must have something significant on her mind.

As soon as they reach her room, April perches on the bed. She lazily moves the leg dangling over the end of the bed, and doesn't look up at him as she speaks. "I, um, want to apologize about not being too excited about the baby," she tells him.

"April, you feel what you feel. There's no reason to apologize for it. All anyone can do is to moderate their behavior regardless of how they feel."

"Okay, so I'm sorry for acting bratty, then," she replies. "I think maybe I should explain something."

"What's that?" Mulder asks curiously. He and Scully have had their theories about why April has reacted the way she has, but they've never discussed them with April.

"Remember back a couple of years ago when William had an imaginary friend?" she asks, and he nods. They haven't talked much about it as a family, but everyone was relieved when William made real friends with the kids in his grade rather than continuing to depend on a girl no one could see to comfort him. "He called her Angel. That's when I finally figured something out."

"What's that?" Mulder eyes her warily: if she's about to tell him that his stillborn daughter haunts the house, he's not sure he's going to take it very well.

Her foot traces a simple pattern in the air while she tries to gather her thoughts. Eventually she takes a deep breath and looks up at him. "I figured out that one of my first memories was of my sister's funeral."

"Oh." Mulder suddenly feels like he's been punched in the gut. April had only been two months past her third birthday when Angel was laid to rest, so he'd been sure that she was too young to remember.

Looking down, April goes on. "I've always had the memory of you and mommy looking sad, and Page and Sammy and even grandma Teena crying as we looked at a white box, but until William started talking about Angel this and Angel that, I never realized it was a funeral. I mean, I was a little older when we buried you and maybe I should've known that it was the same sort of thing but you had a regular sized coffin, not a tiny white box…." When she looks up at him again, there are unshed tears in her eyes.

He knows that they're in his eyes too. "I…" He wants to apologize for the memory, but it doesn't really make sense to. "I didn't know you remembered when Angel died."

April shrugs. "Maybe because I'd been so excited to finally have a little sister," she says, and he feels a fresh burst of heartache, both for her being robbed of the little sister she'd wanted so badly and for the child neither of them ever got to know. "But I'm glad I didn't understand that memory when William, and then Zoe and Brianna were born, Dad."

"Why's that?" he asks. But he's pretty sure he knows what she's going to say.

"I wasn't afraid that something bad would happen to them or Mom."

"But once you understood what the memory was…" Mulder prompts.

"Once I got what the memory was about, I began to realize that bad things happen to people all of the time. I mean, Mommy was just stopped at a red light like she should and then bam, no more baby sister. And that's just, like one bad thing that can happen. You got kidnapped, Uncle Alex lost his arm, Addy got abused, and Cousin Drew got cancer… bad things happen to people minding their own business all the time."

"Are you still worried about bad things happening like this?" Mulder asks gently. April has been able to hide her anxiety, but if it's on-going, it should be addressed. Possibly by a professional.

"Not too much," April says, and he studies her face, hoping not to see signs that she's trying to cover anything up. She's either telling the truth or needs less effort to lie than he thinks is possible, so he relaxes a little. "Most days nothing bad happens. Once Isaac was born, and nothing bad happened, I realized that I was being kind of silly."

"That's good."

April now squirms. "But…"

"But what?"

"Once I stopped worrying that something bad would happen when the baby was born because he got born and nothing did happen that was bad, I still couldn't be excited about him being here. I think I didn't practice enough or something," April says. She looks embarrassed and more than a little confused.

Mulder gives her a quick hug before going back to where he was standing. "A lot of adults have trouble being as happy as they want about a new baby too, so there's nothing abnormal about needing time to warm up to your baby brother."

She frowns. "I thought that was like a hormonal thing that made the new mom feel weird stuff."

Mulder shakes his head. "That's part of what causes some women to be depressed after their baby has been born, but there have been a bunch of studies that show new fathers can get depressed too – and that's not due to female hormones. People's feelings get out of whack over changes of all sorts, April, when they're hormonal or not. And a baby is a pretty damn big change, don't you think?"

"Well, sure, but it's not like I have to raise him," April objects mildly.

"No, but you do have to be his big sister for the rest of your life, and that's a pretty big responsibility too." He feels a bit bad making this point, especially when he knows that his own sister feels like he's letting her down lately. You don't need to be someone's parent to love them enough to want to solve all of their problems, he thinks, but he doesn't say this to April.

This doesn't stop her from sensing what he's feeling though, and it makes him wonder again about the things that make her and William a little different from the rest of the kids. "Dad…" April begins hesitantly. "I hope Aunt Samantha stops being angry about everything soon too."

"Me too, Kiddo. Me too."

"I am glad we have Isaac, though, now, Dad," April tells him.

He doesn't ask her if that's only been since he smiled at her that morning. "Good."

"Are you going to tell Mom what I told you?"

"Should I?"

April shrugs. "If she asks, it's okay if you tell her."

He tries not to smile – it's easy to see that she's okay with not having to have another long conversation on the topic if he's willing to have one in her stead. "Okay. Good night, April. Love you."

"Night, Dad. Love you too."

He leaves the light on as he exists the room, knowing that April can be trusted to put herself to bed in a few minutes.

If Scully does ask about April's improved demeanor surrounding their youngest, he'll bring the conversation up, but otherwise he won't. If April had truly wanted her mother to know everything she'd said, she'd of asked Scully to be part of the discussion.



Chapter Ten

September 27, 2008

Wellington Women's and Children's Hospital

Almost nineteen years earlier Samantha had dragged poor Scott to the hospital twice thinking she was in labor before Adrianna was finally born. Everything she had read since said that many first-time mothers didn't know what to expect and mistook Braxton Hicks contractions for the real thing. It's hard to know with your first, though.

That in mind, she had expected that she and Adrianna would soon be sent home again when the girl told her that they needed to go to the hospital. It came as quite a surprise when they were not turned away this time after Adrianna was examined.

Things were confusing and somewhat upsetting because of this, and it took a little bit of phone tag to sort everything out to make sure that Scott could come, and that Ariel would look after her two younger siblings for the night. Her middle daughter had reluctantly agreed to this, and tersely said that she would make sure that she and her siblings got to school the next morning too.

Thinking about her conversation with Ariel makes Samantha want to bite somebody's head off. Apparently this school year is not going much better for Ariel than the end of the last one did, and she lays the blame for this entirely at her sister's feet. Samantha hadn't understood what her issue with Adrianna was until Alyssa came to her and told her that Ariel was getting a lot of harassment at school for being the sister of a girl who had managed not to make it to graduation without getting pregnant. At first Samantha had thought that Ariel was just overreacting, but then Alyssa had said that boys had been asking them both if they were as easy as Adrianna.

It was hard not to be mad at Adrianna for putting the idea into people's heads, but she had to be as supportive as she possibly could be especially when the girl was so scared and not tolerating labor very well. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering of all four of her children Adrianna is the one that would cry the hardest over skin knees and other minor injuries throughout their childhoods.

As it is, after four hours it's getting more and more difficult to be sympathetic. You can't really tell somebody in labor that she should just buck up and walk it off, so Samantha is trying desperately to find a way to make Adrianna feel less scared, if not better. And at the back of her mind, she's relieved that Scott should be there shortly. Maybe he can give her a break and take over sympathy duties.

Adrianna's contractions are getting stronger, and she's getting even more whiner. Samantha hopes that she wasn't such a wimp the first time she gave birth. But of course, that's something she can never voice out loud.

"Mom, it's early, isn't it?" Adrianna asks suddenly, looking worried. "My due date's not for three more days!"

"Three days is nothing," Samantha tells her. "We learned all about this, remember? You know that a baby's considered full-term at 37 weeks, and that was almost 3 weeks ago."

Lamaze class had been an extremely uncomfortable experience as far as Samantha was concerned, and it had to have been even worse from Adrianna's point of view. Samantha had been reminded acutely of the last time she'd taken the class with Scott, and felt extremely badly for her daughter because she was one of only two women in the class without the baby's father there. She'd thought that the other pair of women there were sisters... until she'd seen them kissing in the parking lot and realized that the expectant mother in that couple had probably never even met the father-to-be.

"I know, but..." Adrianna still looks worried. "I thought I might've done something wrong wishing it'd been over with the last time we were here."

"Well, you didn't. No one can wish for labor to start. If they could, no one would have a baby two weeks late like my mom did with Fox."

"Then it's okay to wish this was over? Because I really wish it was over!" Adrianna cries.

"It's almost over," Samantha says in a way that she hopes comforts her oldest daughter. "I know it feels like it'll never stop right now, but it's almost over."

"No, it's not."

"Adrianna-"

"It's not going to be over because Luke is keeping him," Adrianna groans. Her fingers grasp the sheets, and Samantha wonders if she's even aware of that. "It'll never be over, not really."

"I know this isn't what you wanted, but it will be okay. You don't even have to hold the baby if you don't want to. We can give him to Luke's father without you ever having to look at the baby."

Samantha is aware that the hospital will insist that the baby be kept in the hospital for a couple of days before being released, just like Adrianna, but the staff knows very well that the baby is not going home with her so there should be no attempts to encourage her to see him. Samantha will make sure no one 'mistakenly' brings the baby to her room if she has to stand guard herself.

"But what if I see them?" Adrianna cries. "Later on. Accidentally."

"Luke will be in Boston," her mother soothes. "And you'll be away at college come January."

"But they won't always be in Boston," Adrianna insists. She grimaces as another contraction wracks her. "They'll come home for holidays. They could be at Uncle Mulder's house at the same time as we are."

"Then you'll deal with it," Samantha says quietly. "You'll be able to handle it."

"How do you know?!"

I should have told you all along that you're stronger than you think, Samantha says silently. Maybe this would all be ending differently if I had. "I just know."

"But-"

"Hey!" a voice says from the doorway and Samantha feels a wave of relief.

"Great," she says brightly, motioning for Scott to come over, which he immediately does. "I'll let you to talk for a minute, and go get us something to drink." And she slips out of the room before either of them can protest.

Glancing back over her shoulder, she sees a look of think panic on Scott's face, and it's all she can do not to narrow her eyes at him. You deal with this for a while, she thinks. It's only fair.

Of course she intends to return before her little girl actually gives birth, but she needs a few minutes to think. A few minutes of not staring at her oldest child and thinking about how disappointing everything is turning out.

A few minutes of staring at the wall in the cafeteria might give her enough of a break to have her presence actually be of some value in the delivery room, and not just be someone who resents the fact that they have to be there at all.


Two Hours Later

Once it's all over and nurses have whisked away the blue blanket-wrapped baby, Samantha steps out into the hallway with her cell phone. For a second she feels a fresh burst of resentment that the phone number she needs to call is programmed into her phone in the first place.

She dials the number and as soon as someone answers tersely says, "The baby is here. He's healthy and Adrianna is doing as well as can be expected," and then recites the hospital address and room number without giving the person on the other end a chance to respond. Due diligence done, she hangs up without another word.


An hour later, during which time Reyes has talked her partner down from wanting to strangle his not-really-in-law for being so cold on the phone, Doggett calls his oldest son. It rings through a few times, and in his stress and excitement, he's forgotten to factor in time zone differences. Okay, Luke is either still at work or in class, and after a quick recall of Luke's schedule, he figures it's work. "Luke?" he says when his son finally picks up.

"Yeah?" his son says, his voice somewhat soft against the noisy kitchen.

"You're officially the father to a healthy baby boy."

"Really?"

Doggett rolls his eyes. "No, it's a litter of puppies. Of course really!" His grammar's shot by this point, but he doesn't really care.

"Awesome!" There's a pause, and then he hears Luke say distantly, "Hey, guys, it's a boy!" There's cheers, claps, and a few boos here and there, which makes Doggett think there is a betting pool going on. Wow. Nice to know some things haven't changed, he thinks, and hopes that if his son bet on a boy, that he's collecting big time. "Sorry, they're really excited for me," he says.

"Uh-huh," Doggett rolls his eyes again. "How much did you get?"

"If everyone pays up, like Richard," his voice carries clear to the end of the room on that name, "I should have about $500."

Doggett whistles. "Boy, that was some bet." Then his eyes narrow. "You also picked a date and time to up the ante, didn't you?"

"Um, yeah," Luke admits, "this week, before I got off work."

"Oh my God," Doggett sighs, "please tell me you have a normal name for the kid."

"'Course I do," his son sounds briefly insulted, but goes on, "it's Nicholas."

Doggett is about to ask "Why?" but swallows it before it passes his lips. He knows why. "Your favorite uncle," he says.

"Yeah," Luke agrees, his tone more sober. "It's hard to believe he and Mom were related. He was such a great, funny guy."

"Yeah," Doggett echoes his son. Up to when Luke was seven, he wanted to be like his firefighter Uncle Nicky, who took care of him when neither of his parents were available. But it wasn't a fire that took Nicky's life, it was a drunk driver going 90 m.p.h. on the wrong side of the road. The accident also took the lives of the driver's wife and two kids, but in a sick irony, only the drunk driver survived. One of the few things he and Barb ever agreed on after the divorce was making sure that the man was never allowed near another vehicle again, since keeping the idiot away from alcohol was impossible. Doggett had enough friends on the force to keep tabs on the guy, even after all this time. "He really was."

"If I can raise Nicholas to be even half the man his namesake, I think I'll have done a good job," Luke says.

Here, here, Doggett thinks. Aloud, he says, "You just want him to grow up and be a firefighter, huh?"

"Shut up," Luke mumbles, and Doggett can almost feel the embarrassment through the phone.

Doggett smiles. "Kidding, kidding," he says, wishing he could ruffle his son's hair, even his hands twitched unconsciously. "Take care of yourself, and I'll see you soon." Then he cleared his throat and barks, "Now get back to work! You've got diaper money to earn, boy."

"Yes, sir!" his son shouts back after a brief pause. "Thanks, Dad. See ya."

"See ya," Doggett says, then hangs up. Nicholas Doggett. That sounds like a good, strong name for a baby who needs all the strength he can get to be raised by a single dad. He makes a note to himself to look up its meaning, but that can wait after he gets in touch with the hospital.


Luke, on the other hand, is awash in emotion. While on break he brings up Adrianna's number out of reflex, before remembering, well, everything. After having just given birth, she probably wouldn't want to hear from the guy she'd just had a baby for, and he sighs. That, and her parents would probably be listening in, too, and didn't that make his throat close up? Gosh.

So he chickens out and waits until he gets home to email the mother of their, no, his child. It's a short note, congratulating her on giving birth to their healthy baby boy, and telling her he's named their child Nicholas. He chewed on his lower lip, thinking that it's odd he actually has to think about what to write, while back when they were dating, words flowed so easily. "But we're strangers now," he reminds himself aloud, and there's something depressing that he's actually had to do that. Okay. He can do this. To his surprise, none of the questions, none of the recriminations of the past few months, come to mind. Instead, he finishes the brief email by thanking her for being so strong and patient, and apologizing that he wasn't there for her, but he'll do his best by raising Nicholas right.

He types his own name, then hits "Send". Whether or not she replies doesn't matter. He's just relieved that he got through what will probably be their last communication on a positive note, even if it is by email instead of by phone. He's not sure if he could be as positive live, anyways, at least not without having to think about it with plenty of pauses.


Gibson's Apartment

There's a pot of spaghetti sauce merrily bubbling on the stove under Gibson's watchful eye when the phone rings. He looks over his shoulder and sees no one, so he calls loudly, "Katie, could you get that?"

The fact that the call is coming in on the landline rather than his cell phone all but predicts that it's a relative calling. His and Katie's friends probably don't even know the number for the apartment.

Katie appears with the cordless phone in her hand thirty seconds later. "It's your dad."

"Thanks," he says, flashing her a grateful smile when she trades him the phone for the wooden spoon he's been using to stir the sauce.

"Hey, what's up?" Gibson asks, walking out of the kitchen as he speaks into the phone.

"Have you heard from Luke yet?" Doggett's voice asks.

He doesn't sound upset, so Gibson tamps down worry before it really has a chance to spring into being. "Nah. He doesn't get off work for another couple of hours."

"Your nephew has arrived," Doggett informs him. "Luke is naming him Nicholas."

"After his uncle?"

"I didn't know you knew about Nicky," Doggett says, sounding surprised.

"Oh, sure. Luke must have really loved him."

"He really did. When he told me the name I thought it was a good omen."

"You did?" Gibson asks mildly. The fact that their father thinks that the baby needs good omens in his life speaks volumes, and Gibson doesn't even need to be in the room with him to know what he's thinking.

"Yeah. Your brother is going to be hoeing a hard row, he just doesn't know it yet."

"I think he knows it," Gibson says, automatically defending Luke.

"Do you?" Doggett's tone is now sardonic. "Then maybe you don't know how hard it's going to be, either."

"What do you want from me, Dad?" Gibson asks with a sigh. It's obvious that Doggett is working himself up to making a request.

His father sighed. "I wanted to talk to you about this before Monica and I drive up there. Just… keep an eye on him, would you? And give me a call if you think something's up that I need to know about."

"Okay."

"Good. Who knows, maybe this kid will grow up to idolize you like Luke did Nicky."

The thought of being Uncle Gib brings a smile to the young man's face, but it immediately fades. Being a dad is a much bigger job, but being a favorite uncle sounds like a big responsibility too. On the other hand, it's not like he's got much completion for uncle-as-role model: Jon-Jon is tiny and Adrianna's little brother Drew is still a young kid too.

"See you in a few days," Doggett tells him.

"See you then."

By the time Gibson hangs up, Katie has turned off the burner on the stove under the pot of spaghetti sauce. She's in the middle of cutting French bread when she looks up at him. "Everything okay?"

"Congratulate me, I'm an uncle."

"So, did it turn out to be a boy?" Katie asks. The last time she'd been around Luke, Gibson's brother had been fretting out loud about not having been allowed to go to any of the ultrasound appointments after he and Adrianna broke up, and he'd been fixated on Adrianna having told him the tech said "I think it's a boy."

"Yes. Luke is naming him Nicholas."

"Aww, I like that," Katie comments, but then she gives him a concerned look. "What's wrong?"

He shrugs. "I don't like feeling like I'm the only one who thinks that Luke can handle this," he admits. Gibson looks over at her, hoping for a word of agreement, but his girlfriend just shrugs. "You too?" he groans.

"Don't get me wrong, I like Luke," Katie protests. Her glasses slide down her nose and she pushes them back without ever seeming aware of it. He remembers that they both talked about maybe trying contacts this year, but so far neither of them has. He's not entirely sure what her issue is, but he overheard Dana talking to Monica about an autopsy she once did that prominently involved eyes and has been a little weirded out by the thought of touching his own eye ever since. "And I think he'll be a good dad. It's just…"

"Just what?"

"I don't envy him," she admits with another shrug. "I want kids, but not now."

"Me too, and me either," he says, surprising himself a little to say it out loud. At least the me too part; the me neither isn't that odd at twenty-two.

"He's going to be giving up a lot, even if he hasn't been exactly living a glamorous life up until now here at stately Bucky, but still. I hope he finds it all worth it."

"I do too." Gibson looks away. "Not all parents find raising kids worthwhile."

"Oh, hey," Katie says sympathetically. "This is kind of about your parents for you too, huh?" she asks. "The biological ones, I mean."

"I guess. They didn't give me up for adoption, at least not officially, but they didn't fight it when the powers that be came and told them that I was better off playing chess." He sighs. "Sometimes I think they were even relieved."

"Wow."

He goes on. "When I was playing chess I used to fantasize about making them tell me why they just let me get taken away, but then they got murdered. After that I was sure I was just going to be shuffled from one boarding school to another until I graduated. So meeting someone like my dad came as a really welcomed surprise, you know?"

Katie doesn't take the question as a rhetorical one, which is what he'd meant for it to be. "Yeah, I think so. You think you lucked out big time, and you were worried that the baby wouldn't, so that's why you were happy when Luke decided to keep him."

"No. Wait." He stops in confusion. Is that why that out of all of them, except perhaps Monica and Hannah, he's been the most supportive of Luke's move? Once he got over the shock of it, that is. "I don't know," he finally mumbles.

"It will be okay," Katie assures him. "Probably."

Gibson just shakes his head in mild exasperation over it all.


September 29, 2008

Wellington Women's and Children's Hospital

After he approaches the nurses' station, the man standing there gives Doggett an expectant look. Perhaps because he's a bit out of place on that floor.

"Hi, I'm John Doggett, here to pick up my grandson, Nicholas," he says, almost reaching for his FBI badge. Seriously, how often has he ID himself with a badge? Way too many times, if his instinct is any indication.

"Do you have any identification with you?" the receptionist asks, and he is this close to actually pulling out his badge. Instead, he opens his wallet and retrieved his driver's license. The man behind the desk nods, and hands over a clipboard and pen. "We'll need you to fill this out this form, and return this when you're done," he says. Doggett nods and does so. "Please have a seat, and we'll be with you soon."

After he sits down, Doggett wonders absently if they train all receptionists with those phrases, because he's heard them from military installations in the Middle East to small offices in the Midwest. He also makes a note never to bring it up with Mulder, because the other man would definitely have some nutty theory about it, even if it would be funny.

As he waits, he notices he's one of the few men there, and the only one over thirty. Good God, he sighs to himself, this time I'm not here for myself, but it wasn't that long ago that I was. Damn. But he decided to take the optimist view of things, especially after the sports magazine he picks up is actually recent, and figures he's doing pretty good for a guy his age. Doing pretty good even if he had to pull out his reading glasses to read the damn article on Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

"Mr. Doggett?" a voice interrupts his reading, and he looks up. A heavyset nurse stands in front of him. "Come this way."

Thank God, he thinks, putting away his glasses and following after her. Even though he knows he was one of the later folks to enter the waiting room, a bit of paranoia that he is one of the last to be helped still niggles at him. When they come to a room full of babies, some of whom are wrapped in blue blankets, he grins. "Which one is my grandson?" he asks.

"That one," the nurse, her nametag read Daugherty, points to a baby farther to the left and back. Well, it's a good thing she pointed him out, the nametag on the bassinette is too small to read from the window. "Stay here, I'll get him."

He nods, and watches as she walks in, checking in on the other infants as she crosses the room, and finally picks up his tiny grandbaby. On her way out, she also picks up another clipboard. "Fill this out, please."

Seriously? He gapes at her, but she merely holds out the clipboard implacably. "Fine, okay," he says, grabbing it and trying to write as legibly as possible without tearing a hole through the paper in his haste. "Okay, now can I have my grandson, or do I have to give ten quarts of blood first?"

The nurse snorts. "Here you go," she says, as if she'd heard his complaint before, while holding the baby out to him. Maybe she has.

In his arms the baby is heavier than he looks, and his face is still wrinkled in that confused way most newborns have. He's always felt a little bad for them at that stage because life in full color and stereo has to be a big adjustment. At least Nicholas doesn't immediately burst into tears – Jon-Jon had the very first time Becca held him and she'd soon followed him down the same watery path.

"Good luck." The nurse's sympathetic look suggests that she thinks that his family has taken on a big job without the baby boy's mother in the picture. He agrees with her.

He nods, forcing himself to walk like a normal human being and not shove his beautiful grandbaby in everyone's faces and yell, "Look! Look at him, isn't he great? This is my grandson!" He'll have to save his bragging for his unfortunate family later.



Chapter Eleven

The next day, however, he gets his chance to brag to someone not related to him as he's out shopping for more diapers and formula. While they had enough supplies at for one baby, there wouldn't be enough for Nicholas, especially since he won't be joining Luke for a week. It was nice of the hospital to provide a filled baby bag, but that only held an extra blue blanket, two cans of premixed formula, and a box of newborn size diapers, and Doggett knows babies grow faster than expected – which is another reason what they have on hand at the house won't do, Jon-Jon is so much bigger than his new nephew, even though Doggett still thinks of his own youngest as still tiny. What the hospital provided is good for a day and a half maybe, but it wouldn't last the week they'll have Nicholas before bringing him to Luke's.

So Doggett has gone out shopping with Nicholas, while Reyes picks up the girls after she leaves the office and gets Jon-Jon from the FBI daycare. He thinks he surprised her by volunteering to babysit their grandson, but he has more personal days piled up than she does given she's most often been the one to take the PTO hit when Jon-Jon has gotten a cold from other babies in the daycare.

Doggett supposes he shouldn't be surprised to see Mulder at the supermarket considering the massive amount of groceries the Mulders must go through, but for some reason, he is. "Hey, Moldah," he says, putting his checklist into his back pocket before waving.

The slightly taller man wheels his own full shopping cart over. "Hey, yourself," the former-agent-now-TV-star says, then squints at the baby in the carrier. "Did Jon-Jon shrink?"

Doggett snorts. "Nah, this is Nicholas, my g–" He frowns, wondering where the sudden choke came from. He is proud to be a grandfather, right? Why can't he say it?

Mulder blinks. "Your, oh, your grandson," he says, then makes a face. "Man, that's weird, it's like seeing a mini-Jon-Jon, if that makes sense." Mulder grins at him and points at the baby's fair hair. "But in vanilla instead of chocolate."

The current agent nods. "Yeah, I know." Then he frowns. "It's weird. Mentally, I knew I'd be getting my grandson ready to take him to Luke, but otherwise? It's easier to process that I've got Jon-Jon and my two girls at home, than the fact that I've got a g-grandson."

"Better get used to it." Mulder grins. "And congratulations."

Doggett grins back. "Thanks." Then his grin gets wider. "Son of a gun. I got a grandson."

"Yeah, you did," Mulder chuckles. "Don't get so excited."

"Shut up," Doggett grumbles half-heartedly. He looks up at Mulder, thinking of something that he'd forgotten until then. "You should be excited too. This guy is your great-nephew."

"I don't know," Mulder confuses him by stating doubtfully. "It's hard to tell how great he is. I only just met him."

"Smart–" Doggett thinks better of his word choice. "Alec."

"Nope. That's my brother-in-law. You slurred a little just then, didn't you?"

Doggett snorts. "Leave it to you to have a Russian spy marry into your family."

"I had nothing to do with it," Mulder complains mildly, hands spread. "No one has ever stopped Missy from doing anything she's set her mind to, least of all me. Besides, I wasn't around to even make a token protest."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Hey, before you go," Mulder says, "can I take a picture?"

"Sure," Doggett waves at the still-out-of-it baby in the carrier. Nicholas doesn't seem any less bemused than he did the day before.

"No," Mulder motions him over to join his grandson, "I want the proud granddaddy in the photo, too."

"Shut up," Doggett repeats, but stands next to Nicholas.

One moment, Mulder is taking a picture of an almost bald, toothless baby with his not bald or toothless grandfather, and the next, family and friends are subjected to the photo with the attached message: "Congratulations, here's the newest Doggett!"

And before Doggett even gets to his car, his cell phone is besieged by well-wishes and jokes about his age. "Dammit, Moldah," he sighs after hanging up on Mulder's mom (Mulder's mother! And she is happy to be a great-grandmother!). He wants to hang up on the next caller, but when he saw the caller ID, a half-grin slid across his face. "Hey, there," he says.

"Mr. Mulder got to see Nicholas in person before I did???" Luke squawks over the phone.

Doggett rolls his eyes. "Hello to you, new dad," he deadpanned.

"Hi, Dad," his son says, after a beat, embarrassed. "He looks great. And, um, so do you."

Doggett exhaled noisily. He may not have as much practice as Mulder or Scully, but he'd gotten good at putting away a baby as well as the groceries in a car, although having answers the phone several times makes things a little more awkward. Still, he's glad he and Nicholas are in the car, now that it is getting chilly. "Excited to meet your kid in person?" he asks.

"Dad? Is it weird to say that he's the cutest baby I've seen?"

"No. Every dad thinks that."

"What about if I think he's cuter than my siblings were?"

"Then we're gonna have words, son."

Luke snorts. "Dad, we're talking about your grandson, you shouldn't say that."

"My, um, grandson. That feels weird to say," Doggett finds himself admitting.

"How about this? Why don't we call you his g-daddy and you can call Nicholas your g-baby?"

"Is that some kind of rapper nickname?" Doggett squinted at his phone.

"No, it's a regular nickname," Doggett could almost hear his son rolling his eyes through the phone. "And 'cause it's a little weird for me to call you a grandpa when you're my dad."

Doggett chuckles. Trust his son to come up with a solution for something he himself stumbled over. "Well, okay," he says, not as reluctantly as he tried to sound.

"Cool," Luke says, "I can't wait to hear what Gib calls you now."

"Oh, shut up!" Doggett growls. "I'm gonna hang up, start the car, and try not to run over any stupid-looking kid who has the misfortune of looking at all like my son who thinks he can get away with saying crap about his dad over four states away."

His son, however, continues laughing, even after he hangs up. Luke knows it'll be tough raising a kid by himself, he might as well get as many laughs out of it as he can.


Later

While the rest of her family are peppering Mulder with questions about the new baby, Scully is quiet. Her silence isn't noticed by anyone except her husband, who merely raises an eyebrow, but doesn't press her. She's relieved that her family is doing a good enough job of pressing him for details, as if they hadn't seen more than a couple of babies before.

Dinner goes by quickly, and the rest of the night as well, with the older children doing their homework, and the much younger ones watching taped episodes of "Dora the Explorer," the youngest being put to bed by his mother. Scully smiles down at her baby boy.

Sure, Isaac is her tenth child, but he's no less loved or cared for than his older siblings. Neither is the pull to be with her baby weaker, no matter how adept Alan is at caring for two infants (including his own Sophie) three months into his added duties.

It's a little sad that her niece isn't up to being a mother, missing out on the joys of the role as well as the pains. "You are worth it," she whispers to Isaac, "but don't tell your Dad, he's got enough of a big head as it is."

Her still-blue-eyed boy stares at her uncomprehendingly, then gurgles and twitches his hands. Oh God, I love you so much, Scully thinks suddenly as she holds his little hand between her thumb and forefingers, her metaphorical heart constricting and expanding with emotion, and Adrianna will never know this kind of love. At least, not for a good while, and not with Nicholas.

She hasn't told Mulder, but up until they got a call saying that the baby was here and "the ordeal finally over" (this from Ariel quoting her mother), Scully had held out a faint hope that Adrianna would have seen her baby boy and realized she was making a mistake. When that didn't happen, she realized that she'd severely underestimated their niece's resolve. In a weird sort of way, it increased her respect of the girl, even if she couldn't understand the ground she was holding.

It takes about fourteen minutes for Isaac to start to relax rather than fuss, and a few more for him to close his eyes and truly fall asleep. And amazingly, she doesn't need to sing or hum to him in her usual tuneless way, but simply by holding his hand and shaking it gently, as if rocking his hand is like rocking his whole body to sleep. She smiles as his breathing evened out, then leans over to sniff his head.

Old habits are hard to break, and once again, she is reminded that Adrianna wouldn't even have the memory of knowing what her son's head smelled like as a baby. It's her loss, she thinks, and then blinks. Yes, it really is, although whether or not the girl will see it that way in the future remained to be seen. She sighs, then reminded herself yet again that she should think of her niece as a single very-soon-to-be college student, not a brand new young mother, since that's what Adrianna wants her current role in life to be.

And, not for the first time, Scully is grateful for this second chance at life, at having a family. It didn't exactly start the way she'd planned as a starry-eyed teen, but then, this life is so much better than what she had planned. Hell, it turned out better than even Mulder had planned, and the fact that they'd still ended up working together, as well as sharing a life and family together, seemed to catch him off guard at times as well. She only hopes that Adrianna makes the most of her "second chance", and that, should she ever decide to embrace motherhood in the future, that it will be with a willing and open heart, with as much love and support from family and friends that she never really had this time around. For now, however, she's heartbroken for her niece, in more ways than one.


October 1, 2008

John Doggett and Monica Reyes make the long trek to Bostonwith two babies in tow. Their own, Jon-Jon, had fallen asleep within the first two miles of the trip, while Nicholas has startled at every bump and stop, which has been more often than they ever wished. Nevertheless, they are thankful they had the option to travel by car rather than by plane, which, although it is faster, would undoubtedly be hell on Nicholas' sleep.

"You're going to miss this," Reyes' voice breaks into his reverie of near-homicidal thoughts about the driver in front of them who seems to brake abruptly at every curve of the road.

"I'm really not," he argues, and she smiles.

It's her turn to drive this leg of the trip, and while she is being as careful as she possibly can given her unfamiliarity with these roads, she still hits a rough patch or two. "Yeah, you will," she says. "Even with the return of sleepless nights, waking up to our son crying rather than your alarm, a full day's work on top of looking after Jon-Jon, you look… happy."

Doggett sighs. "Yeah, well, I see how fast Rebecca's grown, and, I dunno." He shrugs. "Is it me, or are they growing up faster these days?"

Reyes' laugh is deep. "I bet Luke will be wishing that very thing in a few days."

"Few days?" He raises an eyebrow. "You sayin' my son's infatuation with his newborn won't even last a week?"

"I'm saying," she says, swerving to avoid yet another pothole, "that reality will hit him sooner than he thinks. How long he can deal with that reality is up to him."

Doggett blinks, then shakes his head. Much as he likes to tease his partner about her flakiness, she is a lot more practical than most people, himself included, give her credit for. He is smiling out the window when he noticed that the scenery is looking familiar. They veer away from the college and towards the off-campus housing that Luke had given the address to. He pulls out his cell phone as they pull up to the curb. "Luke? We're here," he says, and grins at the sputtering of excitement on the other end before hanging up.

Luke Doggett bursts out the door, his face breaking out into a huge grin when he sees his father struggling to disengage the baby seat. "Dad!" Then he waves at Reyes, who had already gotten Jon-Jon out of his own seat, "Monica."

"Hi, Luke," she says. "Well, here we are."

The tall grad student nods. "Yeah," he says enthusiastically, his blue eyes softening when his father carries out his infant son out. "Wow," his voice cracks with emotion.

Doggett makes his gravelly voice as soothing as he can for the crying newborn. "Nicholas, this is your dad," he says, "Luke, meet Nicholas."

Luke is barely aware that tears are falling down his face as the baby is placed in his arms. "Hi, Nicholas," he says softly. "Hi. God, you're so beautiful. You probably don't wanna be called that when you're older, but man, you are beautiful."

As he gently bounces his little baby boy in his arms, his tears dry but the smile on his face doesn't fade. Reyes and Doggett glance at each other and smile, but it's a weary one. "Okay, now that we've met, we got some things for you," Doggett says, going to the car trunk. "Bottles, diapers…" His voice trails off when he sees both Reyes and Luke staring at him, babies in each of their arms. "I'll tell you inside."

The three adults and two babies go inside the small home, where, after a brief inspection, Doggett and Reyes cover the basics of caring for a newborn infant with the still-besotted Luke. Once Nicholas is settled in his new crib up in Luke's studio bedroom, Doggett takes Jon-Jon downstairs because the one-year-old is awake and needs to burn off some energy.

While Reyes continues to talk with Luke in low tones, Doggett pulls out his cell. "Hey, honey," he says, keeping a close eye on his youngest son while talking to his oldest daughter.

"Hi, Daddy," Hannah smiles. "How's Luke?"

"So far, so good," he says, "how's Becca?"

"Is that Daddy?" a little girl's voice yells in the background. "Hi, Daddy!"

"She's good," Hannah laughs, "very loud."

"Yeah, well, hopefully she settles down tonight for you and Mrs. Mulder. No soda, no TV after 10 p.m. for you or Becca after 8–"

"And no driving cars into trees," Hannah finishes, reminding him of why he no longer believes in letting teenagers of any age babysit overnight. "I know, Daddy. Trust me, I ain't giving Rebecca any soda. She's already bouncing all over the place without it."

"Good girl," Doggett smiles. "See you in three days."

"See you," she says, "I hope Luke takes care of Nicholas okay. He cries a lot."

Oh boy. "He'll be okay," Doggett says, wondering if by 'he cries a lot' she means Luke or Nicholas. "Good night, baby."

"Good night," Hannah says, and Rebecca yells a couple of seconds later, "Good night, Daddy! I love you!"

Doggett chuckles before hanging up. Yeah, his kids are growing up faster than he thought. Some for the better, and, he looks up at the ceiling, he can only hope for the best.

Then he sits down, checks Jon-Jon's diaper, and goes into the kitchen to warm up some milk. The landlord, according to Luke, should be joining them in a few hours after his full-time job working at the hardware store. Yeah, he had checked out the widower's credentials, but it's better to get a read on people in person.


Two nights later, Gibson and Katie have joined the rest of the Doggetts at Luke's place for dinner. The landlord, a tough Hispanic man named Eliot Sanchez, is actually a marshmallow under that gruff exterior. That explains the lowered price for the new father, Doggett thinks. "Eat up, eat up," the large man says. Reyes smiles, thankful that someone will be feeding her son on a mostly-regular basis.

"So, how are things at the after school center?" Doggett asks the young couple.

Katie tilts her head at Gibson. "The kids are good, at least, those who stick around. It's harder for those who are there once, maybe twice, before they're pulled out."

Doggett's forehead wrinkles. "Pulled out? What do you mean?"

Gibson glances at the adults at the table. "Sometimes, they have another after school option. And sometimes, their parents have to move, and take their kids with them. The economy's getting rough, so it's understandable that they'd try to find better options. Free after school care can only do so much."

Katie nods. "A couple of the student helpers have left, too. Shon and Thomas are working for Square Soft, which is great for them, but rough for us, because even though there are less kids to look after, it also means that having a positive male role model falls entirely on Gibson's shoulders." As her boyfriend raises an eyebrow at her, she smiles. "And what broad, manly shoulders he has, too."

As everyone burst into laughter, Gibson blushes. "Shut up," he mutters, staring hard at the table as if that would make him turn invisible.

"You two are so cute." Reyes grins.

"Yeah, yeah," the bespectacled grad student grumbles, "how's life with babies?"

"Loud," the rest chorus.

The young couple rolls their eyes. "Aside from the obvious," Gibson presses on.

"Hopefully a little less loud as time goes on," Doggett cast his eyes upstairs, where Nicholas is currently, miraculously resting.

"Yeah." Luke nods, but smiles.

The rest of the meal goes silently, save for the sound of chewing and swallowing. In a way, they all knew Luke's honeymoon with Nicholas will be over once Doggett and Reyes go back to Washington, D.C., because even with the occasional help from Sanchez and Gibson, Luke will pretty much be on his own.

When dinner is over, Reyes glances at Gibson, then at her partner, and clears her throat. "Gibson, can we talk outside?"

Luke raises his eyebrows at his brother, but makes no comment. Sanchez looks at his renter, but as he makes no move or helpful dialogue, he says nothing, either. Gibson smiles at his girlfriend and squeezed her hand briefly, knowing that she and Luke get along well enough that leaving her with him won't lead to awkward silences, then takes his and her plates to the kitchen, leaving her at the table. Reyes takes her plate and Doggett's to the kitchen, and they leave through the door opening to the backyard from there.

"What's so important that you couldn't discuss it in there?" Doggett asks his son and Reyes nervously. "Something to do with your girlfriend?"

Gibson shakes his head, hoping to cut off worries that a relationship problem of his is about to become another complicating factor in all of their lives. "Not what you're thinking, Dad. In fact," he looks uncomfortably at his parents, "I think this is going to be a long-term project for the X-Files, if not for me."

Reyes frowns. "Does Katie know?"

He shakes his head again. "I've been trying to protect her," he sighs at her understanding look, "Okay, I've been a big chicken. I don't want to tell her about either me or this situation until I have to. Partly because she might understandably freak out, and partly because she might be in danger if I do."

"If anyone knows she's your girlfriend, which most people do, then she's already in danger if there's danger to be had," Doggett says reasonably.

"Yeah, I know." His son winces. "It's just, she's the first person in a long time who liked me for me, you know? Not because I'm a mind reader or some hybrid, but for me. It was nice."

"I'm sorry." Reyes hugs him. "What's making you go back on this road again?"

He wishes he could hold onto her like he did when he was still a child being moved from one boarding school to another, and lets go reluctantly. "There are two girls, Alice and Charlotte. Charlotte, who's about me and Katie's age, is dormant, as far as I can tell, but Alice, who is in the third grade, has displayed both telepathy and telekinesis. The scary thing is, I can't read their minds."

"At all?" Reyes frowns.

Gibson shakes his head, frustrated. "Charlotte's been working as a secretary since she graduated from Bucky, so I haven't seen her except the odd times she comes in to pick up her sister. Alice is continuing to creep both kids and tutors out, but I'm doing my best to keep her from going completely over to the dark side."

"Oh hell," Doggett groans. "Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack," Gibson says. "You know how I was like as a kid? Imagine that, but wanting to hurt people and being able to do it." His parents shudder. "Yeah. Well, that's Alice. I think someone was trying to teach her to control what she does, her grandmother, I think, but ever since her grandmother died, she's been something of a loose cannon." He looks sharply at the two agents. It's obvious they're thinking of something when they exchange a look. "What kind of bell did that ring?"

"Two years ago, there was a case Agent Harrison's sister brought us," Doggett says in a low voice, feeling a sudden drop in his stomach, the same type he had when he found out Mulder and Krycek had dropped off the radar in search of some shadowy conspiracy. And yet, years after they had supposedly wiped out this conspiracy, the damn thing seems to have grown new arms and legs. "Convicts who'd confessed to their crimes woke up in prison, sayin' they'd seen an old woman and were 'innocent'. Weeks later, they all killed themselves before we got any new leads."

"Was this around spring break?" Gibson asks. They nod. "Crap. I hate to ask, but could you dig up what you can about Charlotte and Alice?"

"Sure," Reyes says.

"You sure about this?" Doggett asks his son. "It might be a while until you're able to get back to having a normal life again." He doesn't bother to bring up the possibility that the quest could potentially take Gibson from his school work, because all three of them are already aware of that.

Gibson's smile is lopsided. "Ever wonder what you'd do if you had the chance to turn Darth Vader back to the Light Side, minus the stupid prequels and massive plot holes?" he asks them. They both smile slow, weary smiles. "I get to have that chance, guys."

"You do remember what happened to Obi Wan, don't you?" Reyes asks.

Doggett smiles brightly at the reference, if not the context, and Gibson chuckles, feeling as old as his adopted father, if not more so. "Yeah, I do. There's also a possibility I get to be Yoda. I'm short enough."

"Shut up," Doggett shoves his son good-naturedly, and Reyes rolls her eyes at the male bonding. "Okay, but promise me you'll let us know if Alice's behavior escalates."

"I think he means 'take care of yourself'," Reyes jokes, and both men groan. "And promise me you'll talk to Katie, too. Even if she doesn't understand, she'll be heart-broken if you disappear during whatever looking into this means you'll be doing next."

He sighs. "Yeah, okay," he says resignedly.

His parents hug him, even Doggett, and they go back inside, knowing in more ways than one that a new chapter is beginning in their lives.



Chapter Twelve

JCTIOT Studio
October 5, 2008

Scully is feeling out of sorts when she and Mulder arrive at the studio. Since he's literally had two lifetimes to get to know her (or maybe it's technically one and a third) he doesn't need to ask her if going back to work bothers her. He knows it does. And he knows her well enough to let her be rather than to try to jolly her out of her mood, too. Yet another thing to love him for.

Instead he lets the songs on the radio fill the car and leaves her to her thoughts until they get there. And then he takes her arm and walks in with her.

As soon as they reach the sound stage, Mary Green pauses her walk towards her dressing room, detouring to come over and give her a hug. "Welcome back!"

"Thanks," Scully says, fighting the temptation to bite her lip.

"Finally," a voice says behind her. When she turns, Reed startles her by saying, "Now we have someone reasonable around here again."

"Um, thanks?" She wonders if Reed has undergone a personality transplant, or if Mulder has been extra unreasonable in her absence. Honestly, it could have gone either way with Reed.

"So, did you take pictures this morning?" Green asks eagerly.

"Oh, sure," Scully says, pulling out her phone. Wayne joins them and peers down at the screen too.

"You didn't have twins without telling us, did you?" Wayne asks, looking confused.

It takes her a second to realize that he's not joking. She supposes that seeing two babies side by side in their seats could be confusing. "No. This little one is Sophie. The nanny's daughter."

"Oh. That makes more sense," Wayne says. When they first told people that Alan would be nannying for them, Wayne had asked if they'd picked a guy because they have more boys than girls, and he still doesn't seem convinced that gender hadn't been part of the criteria for replacing Michelle.

"Sophie, that's a pretty name," Green offers. "She's about a week younger than Isaac, right?"

"Just about."

"Huh. I wonder if her mom has gone back to work too?" Reed asks. "If your nanny has brought her with him today."

Scully blinks. She hasn't really thought about Alan's wife until now, and obviously today is the first day she's not around her new baby either. Somehow, figuring this out makes her feel less alone. The first day back is never a favorite day, but this one is beginning to feel a little less bad.


Mulder Home
October 7, 2008

Page wakes up in the middle of the night when Daisy, the normally-sleeping-at-this-time springer spaniel, jumps on her bed. The sudden jolt has her hand automatically reaching out to slam her alarm, when she reads "1:42 AM" in large digital readout. "Dummy," she mutters, wishing the mostly grown puppy would just stay put. She wonders briefly if Wallace has trained Daisy to be as irritating in the middle of the night as he is, then thinks that's way too silly. Animals can't do that deliberately. Though she supposes that the puppy could have learned from observing him.

"Come on, girl," she finally says, giving in to puppy licks on her face. She might as well give the puppy a little exercise before putting her back in the living room. And this time she'll make sure her own door is securely shut and can't be head-butted open again.

The puppy makes a happy chirp rather than a bark, and Page smiles. As she and the black and white puppy walk down the hallway, she hears voices. Since it is only her parents, she is mildly relieved, but she is curious as to what they'd be talking about this late at night, especially with the door cracked open.

"…not like John and Monica can help him, so far away with their own baby. And Luke's all by himself…"

"So far, Luke is fine, and so is Nicholas. Doggett says his landlord's very understanding, and there's a daycare group–"

"Mom? Dad? Are you talking about how Luke's keeping the baby and not Adrianna?"

"Yes," Mulder answers slowly.

"Good," Page replies. "I'm glad one of them is doing the right thing. I just wish they could've worked it out the way you did, though."

For a moment Page thinks she sees something unfamiliar on her mother's face – fear – but it's gone in a moment and she recomposes herself before asking, "What, um, do you mean, Page?"

"You know what I mean," Page insists. Her parents look at each other, and she rolls her eyes. "I know you guys got married when Mom was pregnant with me, I can do the math."

Her parents share another look. It's obvious that this is the part of The Sex Talk that they hadn't planned on discussing with their kids until they were already married with their own kids, or maybe never. Whichever came first.


Mulder, for his part, is thinking desperately. There's no way I can really talk about the second chance with Elsbeth and time travel thing, he thinks, but how do I explain to her that getting her mom pregnant out of wedlock had a better reason behind it than Adrianna and Luke? And how do I NOT bring up Duane Barry? "Well," he starts off, hoping his mind will catch up to his mouth soon, "it's like this–"

"Page, we honestly did use protection," Scully interrupts him, her Mulder sense apparently telling her he is about to say something really stupid that would get them both in trouble, "but even protection doesn't work 100% of the time."

"Yeah, I know, you've told us and I heard that in sex ed class, too," their oldest daughter interrupts them both, startling them yet again. "It just ticks me off that Adrianna didn't handle getting pregnant as well as you guys. I mean, even Luke is handling it 100 times better, and he's a guy!"

Mulder asks, "What do you mean by 'handling it'?"

"I mean, Luke stepped up and is keeping the baby," Page explains. "He's taking care of his son, even when he's going to school. Adrianna's being all selfish, just wanting to get rid of her responsibility and give the baby up for adoption in the first place! Why couldn't they get married like you guys, too?"

Mulder blinks. He hadn't realized how hardcore his daughter is, but at least she's telling them and not, say, her aunt.

Scully, however, wants to repair familial relationships, even if it's currently strained under differing opinions. "Page, honey, it's harder for Luke and Adrianna. They're both much younger, for one thing, and trust me, getting pregnant doesn't automatically make it easier on relationships, especially premarital ones. Your cousin and Luke aren't the only ones who have broken up because of having a baby, and I'm afraid they're not the last."

Page scowls. "Well, that's dumb," she mutters, "but I hope Luke gets a lotta help watching over the baby, especially since it's just him."

"Me, too," Scully says, then pats her side of the bed. "Come here, sweetie."

Her oldest daughter sighs, but walks over, and allowed herself to be hugged. Even her dad leans over her mom to give her a hug, too.


"Okay, I get it," Page still grumbles, even if she felt much better.

Her parents smile at her. "Good night, Page," her mom says.

Daisy yips, and it's obvious that her parents have forgotten about the puppy in the middle of the conversation. "Good night, Page. And Daisy," her dad adds with a grin. "Please close the door behind you."

Page nods, making sure the puppy is following her out rather than staying with her parents.

After she closed the door behind her, she can hear her parents murmuring resume, and she flicks on the staircase light. Now, however, she doesn't mind the late night talk. She knows how they feel, and they know what she thinks about the whole Adrianna and Luke thing. She hopes that Luke and the baby will be okay, that someday her cousin will grow up, and that Aunt Samantha will start coming over and talking to her dad again. Even she knows it's kinda awkward, that whole thing, but she figures, someday, she'll do better.

She knows her parents have more than made the best of their own situation, especially judging by how many siblings she has, but she also knows that it's better to learn from other people's mistakes than your own. She just wishes that it wasn't her cousin and their family friend that made the mistake in the first place.

Of course, she hasn't always been aware that her mother was pregnant when she got married, but a few years ago she learned enough between learning the average length of a pregnancy and how to calculate the time between dates to realize that it's unlikely she'd been a several weeks' early baby and on the large size for a baby girl. Her parents obviously hadn't waited long to tie the knot, but still. Some parts of her wonder how many of her younger siblings have figured this bit of family history out on their own yet, but she gets the impression that it might matter to most of them less because they weren't the baby who prompted their parents' marriage.

On the other hand, she also remembers Aunt Missy saying, after a bit too much champagne a couple of New Year's Eve parties ago, that she'd known that her sister and her husband were going to get married from the first time she heard her talk about him, a few months after they'd begun working together (at the time Page had thought it was strange that her mom and aunt hadn't talked for months, but she remembered that Missy was reported to have a lot of wanderlust when she was young, and most people didn't have cell phones then). She thinks the phrase Missy had used was "so obviously besotted even then" one word of which she'd had to look up the definition of. When she did, she'd been both charmed and amused to imagine her mother speaking of her father that way, especially long before they started dating.

Apparently it hadn't been true love between Luke and Adrianna after all, she reflects, feeling a little bad for her cousin now, not just mad at her.

"Daisy, it's a good thing you're a dog and don't have to worry about all this stuff," she sighs, sitting on the floor and plumping up the pillows that make up the sides of the dog bed.

The puppy, oblivious to the girl's thoughts, or the previous conversation, runs around her bed, tail wagging at a furious rate. But it only takes a few minutes until she runs herself tired, and falls asleep in the middle of the kidney shaped bed.

It takes Page a while longer, but in the end, she, too, manages to fall asleep in her own bed, her mind finally clear.


October 16, 2008

Luke is having a horrible day. He thought everything would hit him on a Monday, but since it was Discoverer's Day (Bucky's name for Columbus day), they had the day off and he got to work a full day at the restaurant. Since he didn't have either classes or work, Gibson had offered to watch Nicholas, and Luke accepted gratefully. He and his brother finish off the night working on some homework. All in all, Monday was pretty good.

Today, Thursday, however, it seems that destiny has basically crapped on his head like an overhead pigeon. He woke up late because his alarm clock battery died overnight, and so he rushed getting himself and Nicholas ready. As a result, he almost forgot Nicholas' baby bag until he was about a hundred yards away from the bus stop and jogged back for it, trying his best not to jostle his baby too hard as he did so. He ended up missing the bus anyways, and caught the next bus half an hour later.

Nicholas has been in a fussy mood since the wee hours of the morning, and the day care worker that day didn't seem too enthusiastic about handling the wailing baby. "I'm sorry I woke up late," Luke apologized, "I think my bad mood rubbed off on Nicholas. He should be fine in a few minutes, right, little man?" he smiles hopefully at his son, bouncing him a little before handing him over to the skeptical girl.

"Don't forget to sign in," the girl says, taking Nicholas. Luke nods and did just that. He only felt safe leaving when the girl finally turns her full attention on his son, cooing as she brought him over to a crib.

When he got into class, his professor gave him a dirty look as he sneered, "So glad you could finally join us, Mr. Doggett. We were only covering how to survive the economic downturn in regards to our industry. Since you felt confident enough to come in at such a late hour, I was wondering if you'd like to share with the rest of the class how one might create a safety net for a business venture."

He and Gibson had covered that very thing Monday night, and while his brother shoots him a sympathetic look, Luke tried not to let the irritation build in his gut. Ordinarily, topics covered in study sessions would have stuck in his head, but that was three nights ago, and this week has been full of three-to-four-hour naps at best, and he can barely remember his own name. Crap. "Sorry, I don't," he says, and tried not to slink into his seat like a sullen teenager.

The professor grins viciously at him and proceeded to eviscerate Luke and anyone else who seemed to "act like a slacker" in his eyes. There are quite a few people who didn't appreciate the mass execution, and Luke really did sink into his seat. It takes what felt like forever for the professor to get back to his lecture notes, and everyone's hands are cramping by the time the class ended.

After class, Gibson chuckles, shaking out his hand. "Wow, not your lucky day, huh?"

Luke sighs. "Do you have two spare triple-A batteries? My alarm clock died on me."

"Sorry, no." Gibson shrugs, but then says, "You don't use your phone?"

Luke frowns. "What?"

"Your cell phone. You can program your alarm times in there, and if you're like me, you're more likely to check on and recharge your phone than your clock," Gibson explained.

"Huh, okay." Luke blinks. "Sounds like a Katie idea."

"It was." His brother quirked up a corner of his mouth. "Good luck with your next class."

"You, too," Luke says, and they go to the opposite sides of the campus.

But luck is nowhere to be had. His next professor decides to spring a test worth twenty percent of their grade on them, and it seems to cover nothing that they'd studied. A few students protested, claiming it is probably future chapters, but the tests are still handed out and the T.A. (who is probably a bar bouncer in real life) backed up the professor. At least I'm not the only one getting an "F" in this class, Luke thinks pessimistically.

His last class for the day is lab, which he thought would be a breeze. Normally, it would, except that all the computers had a virus that is frustrating the usually-brilliant IT team. It didn't help that the professor is taking up the IT techs' time arguing that his students could debug the computers themselves. They all look at the professor in disbelief, but the madman seemed to think that time is money, and seemed determined to frustrate the professionals in doing their job. Luke tried to sneak out of the room along with the rest of his classmates, but given his sucky luck, tripped over one of the rolling chairs and unplugged one of the stations. For his infraction, he is docked twenty points and forced to take notes on what the IT team is doing.

By the time he got to work, his eyes were dry, his hand cramped again, and he was seething at the unfairness of the world. He tried to leave his bad mood at the door, but it seemed he sucked at putting on a happy face, and his tips are in the single digits. To make matters worse, he can't even finish his shift because the daycare worker for that evening had a fever and everyone had to take their kids home.

Now finally at home, Nicholas sounds like he hadn't lost his fussiness from the morning, and while Luke would love to have blamed it on the diaper rash he found while changing his diaper earlier, his baby continues to flail and cry while he tries to get classwork done. Nicholas seems to time his outbursts at odd intervals, so that Luke has to start at the beginning of the first chapter several times, and he is supposed to read five chapters.

"Stupid dead batteries," Luke grumbles while heating Nicholas' milk for yet another unscheduled 'study break', "stupid bus, stupid professors, stupid tests, stupidwork, stupid sick people," and then when Nicholas breaks out into a loud wail, Luke yells "and STUPID BABIES! GOD!" He slams his fist on the counter and swears when this hurts his hand, shaking it out.

The worst thing is, it's not the first time he's overslept since Nicholas arrived, and it's not the first time his professors have asked him to go above and beyond what he expected to do, and it's definitely not the first time the daycare cooperative have flaked out on him. He sighs, then swears again as the stove timer's beep makes Nicholas cry. It's also not the first time Nicholas has been irritated by sudden noise. It's been hard enough trying to get him to sleep more than three hours at a time, and his baby's sensitivity's starting to make Luke jumpy, too. While Mr. Sanchez had joked about feeding him beer to make the baby sleep longer, it's starting to sound like a good idea to Luke.

"And that's why I need more sleep, if stupid jokes sound like good ideas," the tall grad student mutters as he waits for Nicholas to stop fighting the bottle's nipple and start to suck on it. He sits down on the couch, wanting to turn the TV on for some mindless entertainment, but that would only make the baby cry and postpone whatever little studying he can get. Luke sighs and leans back, staring up at the ceiling.

Nicholas, sensing that he is being ignored, stopped suckling at the plastic nipple and starts to kick and cry.

His father sighs and looks down. "Are you serious?" Luke snaps, close to shoving the damn bottle in his stubborn son's mouth. "Come ON!"

The baby only cries louder, putting his full lung capacity into it.

"Shut up!" Luke shouts, not caring that yelling at a baby makes no sense. "Just shut up!"

Nicholas doesn't care about sense or no sense, he only continues to cry whole-heartedly until his face turns red and his legs only stop kicking to fuel the energy needed for full-body crying. After what felt like forever, but is only a few minutes, the infant coughed a couple of times, and turns his face towards the bottle.

During the crying fit, Luke had to force himself not to think about smothering his child. He'd heard of parents doing just that in a fit of anger, and he'd always condemned them for being bad parents, but now that he is in their shoes, he sees how easy it is to fall into temptation. When Nicholas finally stops crying, Luke stops clenching his hands into fists, and finds he had been clenching his jaw as well.

God. It's only been a couple of weeks since he started taking care of Nicholas, and he is already on the verge of murder. Crap.

He kissed his son's still-bald head. "I'm sorry," he whispers, the words choked from a tight throat. "Daddy loves you."

Nicholas fusses when tears fall on his face, and Luke quickly wipes them off with the soft cloth. When the baby boy is assured that no further wetness would bother his milk time, he goes back to the bottle.

It takes a while for Nicholas to go to sleep, and even longer for Luke to forgive himself and go back to studying.


The next week, which seemed to be full of non-stop bad days, Luke wonders if he should ask the Mulders if they could take care of Nicholas, just for a little while. He'd ask his parents, but unlike Mulders, they not only have dangerous full-time jobs, but they've got Jon-Jon and his two sisters to raise without any help from a nanny as well. It wouldn't be the first time the Mulders would or could help out his family, and it would just be temporary... As he doodles aliens on the side of his notes, he wonders how long "temporary" would be. Maybe a couple of months? Or until the end of the school year? Hell, what about until he finishes grad school?

Blood drains from his face. Yeah, the Mulders are nice enough people who would actually watch over Nicholas for that length of time, probably even adopt him if they wanted to keep him in the family, but the thought of having to hear about his son's firsts from other people is starting to make his stomach cramp. Even if they are related now in a convoluted way and good people, Luke would rather lose sleep and hear his son say his first word in person than have to rely on the Mulders to do it for him.

Not for the first time, he can't believe that Adrianna would willingly break off any and all contact with Nicholas, willingly miss out on her baby's smile of recognition, miss out on his first steps, his first words… He starts to tear up at the thoughts, and exhales.

Yeah, just more proof that he and Adrianna are more different than he thought they were. Sometimes he hates when his dad's sayings are right: Forbidden fruit doesn't make the best pie. But they sure tasted good at the time, Luke adds mentally. And that's when Nicholas wakes up and starts to fuss.



Chapter Thirteen

Mr. Sanchez finds Luke sitting outside on the stoop that night, the tall young man rocking the baby carrier with one hand while Nicholas hiccups and cries inside it. It looks like an average picture of an average parent with a newborn, a fussing baby and tired father, but on closer inspection, Luke's eyes are as flat and dead as some of his former coworkers used to have. The older man puts off his original intent of asking about the rent check and instead, sits beside the younger man. "Long day?" he asks.

Luke chuckles, but it is as dry as the desert. "Long month. It feels like a year."

Mr. Sanchez nods. "It's been a while, longer than you've been alive, but I remember the sleepless nights, the short temper, and the crying. And it wasn't just my oldest girl." He grins at Luke, who manages to pull up a corner of his mouth in the grim mockery of a smile. "There were times I had to just put my baby girl down and walk away, because the two of us yelling incoherently at each other wasn't helping my wife when she was trying to take a nap." He shakes his head. "Those were rough times, being a new parent. It got a little easier with each kid that came after, but four kids doesn't make you a perfect parent. It just means you get faster at calling for a babysitter before you lose your mind."

The smile on Luke's face is wider, but it disappears just as quickly. "I don't know," he mumbles, "I feel like a monster whenever Nicholas just cries and cries and I just get so angry. What kind of parent does that?"

"A human one." The older man glances at the baby in question, who has managed to pass out from his exertions during the brief conversation. "Though I don't know, maybe fox and swan moms and dads feel that way too," he adds, hoping to amuse Luke with the idea of other pair-bonded animals having parental woes too. It doesn't seem to work. "Hey, if they took every baby away from parents who got angry, every baby would be raised by the state." The younger man's moroseness eases up, just a bit. Mr. Sanchez presses on. "Hey, I told you if it gets too rough, just call me, okay? There are perks to being the manager of a business, and one of them is the chance to harass customers with a cute kid."

Luke snorts. "You're gonna regret that offer. I'm gonna call you so much your car will need a tune up every weekend."

Mr. Sanchez shrugs. "I'm gonna hold you to that," he says, getting up and dusting himself off. The look he gave the pale kid is now serious. "Hey. I'm telling you. Call me if you need to take some time to walk it off." He sticks out his hand. Yeah, he knows the younger man is embarrassed, and, as a man, he is, too, but he knows the kid needs more help.

Luke, after a long moment of hesitation, finally stretches out his long arm and shakes the offered hand. Mr. Sanchez gives him a firm grip, which catches the younger man by surprise. "I mean it." Then they let go, and the landlord sighs. "And when you're ready, you can give me your rent check." Luke nods, and the older man goes inside, having had his say.


October 26, 2008

That Sunday morning, Luke calls Ms. Scully. After Mr. Sanchez had offered his help (and actually coming through the next couple of days), Luke hasn't changed his mind about asking the Mulders to take Nicholas, firmly resolved that he won't. However, he still had some questions for her. "Hi, Ms. Scully?" he asks when she picks up after three rings. "This is Luke."

"Hi, Luke," she answers, her voice sounding a bit echoey. "Hope you don't mind, I've got you on speakerphone because Isaac gets fussy without his binky and it desperately needs a wash." The sound of a crying baby in the background underlines her statement. "Yes, you do," she coos, washing it in the sink with one hand while bouncing her baby on her hip with the other. "Oh, oh, look, Isaac! Look! Clean binky!" There's a bit of a silence after the water's turned off, and Scully exhales. "Sorry about that. Is everything all right?"

"I was wondering," he says, his voice cracking a little with uncertainty, then cleared his throat. "Um, did you ever get mad at your kids when they were babies? I mean, when they cried all the time, stuff like that."

"Hm," she muses, "no, not really. I got tired, but what with working long hours as a doctor and FBI agent, I couldn't afford to lose my temper because of missed sleep. I guess those experiences helped when I had kids, along with having a husband and a nanny." And now he feels like a monster again, in spite of what Mr. Sanchez said. "But I'm sure a lot of people do, since OB offices are full of handouts about letting the baby cry while you cool off, and asking for help when you need it. And we've never been shy about asking for help, although I'm fairly sure I tore Mulder's head off when he sent Page and Sammy over to the Lone Gunmen once without telling me first."

Luke is acquainted with the three strange guys, and he doesn't blame her. Yeah, they've mellowed out a bit, and they were pretty funny when he was a kid, but as a parent, he'd think twice about handing Nicholas over to them. "Yeah, well, I wasn't really in a position to visit OB offices," he says and shrugs, "what with classes and Adrianna and her mom not wanting me to be there."

"Ah," she notes. "On the topic of getting help, there might be a support group nearby. I'm pretty sure you're not the only single parent out there, especially if there's a daycare collective at your college."

He hasn't thought about that, but that is a good point. "Okay, yeah. I'll look it up. Thanks, Mrs., I mean, Ms. Scully!"

She chuckles. "You're welcome," she says, "and good luck."

"Thanks," he says again, and hangs up.

As he opens his laptop, he really, really hopes there's a group nearby. He can't be the only one who's going nuts raising a kid by themselves, right?

When he sees that there is a support group for single parents just a bus ride away from the apartment, he feels something like a huge weight lift off his shoulders. "Oh, thank God," he murmurs before he realizes he said it out loud.

Then he calls the number, and is surprised to hear a live person answer and tell him her name. "Hi, um, Dorothy," he barely remembers the introduction, "my name's Luke Doggett, is it okay to come to your next meeting?"

"No problem," Dorothy says. "Will you be needing childcare for the meeting?"

"Uh, yeah." Luke nods, as if she could see him. "That would be great."

"It is," Dorothy agrees. "See you next Thursday night."

"See you," he says, and hangs up. Normally, he'd shout in triumph, but it took so long to get Nicholas to sleep, he doesn't want to wake him up. So Luke throws a few fist pumps in the air, then texts his brother, "Going to a single parents support group meeting next Thu, wish me luck."

"Awesome!" Gibson texts back within seconds. "Did you finish your assignment for Prof Nitpicky?"

Luke's about to text a "Duh," but freezes. He's suddenly not sure, and opens up his homework folder on his laptop. "Shit, shit, shit," he hisses under his breath. He started it the day they got the assignment, but it seemed it fell through the cracks. "Thanks, Gib," he types instead, "the bags under the bags under my eyes say hi."

"Hi," his life-saving brother texts back, "you're welcome."

Luke groans, then pulls out the text book and proceeded to do his homework the way he always seemed to these days: by reading slowly and typing even slower, all last-minute, of course. This is his only economics course, and while it usually never bothered him, this year the material seemed ten times harder than it did last year.

He is halfway through both the chapter and his assignment when he gets up and stretches.

When he glances at the clock, he's startled. Wow, Nicholas managed to sleep two hours straight through! For a second he wonders if Mr. Sanchez has finally caved and fed the baby beer like he'd teased him about earlier, but it is probably the guy's years of experience which unfairly gave him the skills to put a fussy baby to sleep.

No, he isn't jealous, he is relieved. Okay, and jealous. He picks up his phone and saves the support group information on it, then writes it on a blank sheet of paper, taping it on his door. He makes sure to underline the THURSDAY written in capital letters, knowing that if he goes through another week half-dead like he did this past week, he'll need all the visual help he can get. Then he smiles. Yeah, he'll finally be talking with people in the same boat.

Then he looks at his desk, the open laptop and textbook almost taunting him, and grimaces. "Fine," he mutters, and gets back to working on his assignment.


That Afternoon

When Mulder picks up his boys from the Kryceks, they look like they'd gone through the wringer. Their aunt and uncle, on the other hand, look relieved, and there are no sign of the cousins. That's either a good or bad thing, but since Alex and Missy muster up small smiles and wave off the boys, it doesn't seem like they'd driven a lifelong wedge between the families. Yay, one less family crisis for the Mulders, Mulder thinks cynically to himself.

"So, how was it?" Mulder asks, since he'd been told this is the "last shooting day," according to not just Sammy, but Missy and Alex as well. "You did everything you needed to?" He checks that his boys are seat belted before pulling out of the driveway.

"Yup," Sammy says, staring out the window from the passenger seat.

Mulder waits, but there is no further elaboration. Ohhhkayyy… "So, how were your cousins? Did you drive your aunt and uncle nuts?"

"The girls were okay, but Ryan was the same – he kept getting mad that we didn't want him to 'help' us," David says, and Mulder wonders if he should lecture them for leaving Ryan out. Later, he decides, with Scully's help crafting the message. "Uncle Alex is funny. Aunt Missy is a really good sew-er."

"It's seamstress," Sammy corrects him.

"Whatever." His younger brother shrugs. "She made some really cool stuff."

"What kind of stuff?" Mulder asks.

"Trade secret," Sammy interrupts before Jared can answer. "You'll see it when the movie comes out."

Oh God, he's sounding like Wayne, Mulder thinks. "And when is the movie coming out?"

His eldest son frowns in thought. "Dunno," he says, "we gotta edit it, and I gotta check with Uncle Frohike when he's free. And there's no holiday until Thanksgiving but that's too short." This last is more like he is muttering to himself. Then, in a more normal tone, he goes on, "At least Jared and David can go back to Little League full-time when it starts up again."

Mulder is thinking that they'd better be able to considering baseball is still months away when his brunette twins high-five each other, then wince as their hands make contact.

Noticing their apparent achiness Mulder is seriously wondering what the hell the last day of the movie is about, and if he should be yelling at the grownups or the kids.

"And what about you?" Mulder asks. "Are you going to be able to go back to basketball full-time this year?" He'd only brought it up once last month, but he is concerned about the hobby that is eating into Sammy's practice and playing time, especially considering that basketball is just getting rolling for the year.

Sammy shakes his head. "I talked to Coach about it," he says, "He told me if I missed two more practice games, I can't play for the rest of the year. I'm going to miss 'em."

"Are you okay with that?" Mulder asks. Sammy has been playing on his middle school basketball team for the past couple of years and seems to like it almost as much as his younger siblings like baseball.

His redheaded son nods. "I knew when we were still filming when school was starting that it was gonna take longer than I thought. And I thought about the movie and about other stuff I'd wanna be doing and stuff I'd have to be doing. I made sure that David and Jared could switch off so neither of them missed too much practice, but I couldn't do that. I figured, basketball is gonna be there next year in high school, but I've got this one time to make a movie before school gets really serious and stuff. If I still like making movies when I'm done, I'll have to think about it some more, but right now, I wanna do it." Then he grins. "Besides, once the movie is done, I'll have more free time to drive you and Mom up the wall when Isaac's being too good."

"Oh my God, you have thought about it," Mulder groans. "Remind me never to turn you into a mad scientist that'll take over the world."

"Too late," Jared says, "he's already got an evil laugh."

"Seriously?" Mulder glances at his son out of the corner of his eye when the light turns green.

And then his oldest son, whose voice has barely started to crack, goes off with a perfect Bela Lugosi-style laugh. His younger sons start laughing, too when Sammy keeps it up longer than fifteen seconds, although their laughs are in their normal, semi-giggly way. Even Mulder cracks a smile at his kid's goofiness. Because while his son had shown some flashes of maturity (and frightening Kersh-like scheduling) in his decision-making, it is nice to know that he is still young enough and silly enough to enjoy a good, ridiculous laugh.


October 31, 2008

Brianna and Zoe's birthday party is, to no one's surprise, a tea party. And because it is so girly, their brothers are compelled to stay away and go trick-or-treating. Well, all except for Isaac, who is too young to care about tea parties or candy, anyway. Scully is just happy that her all children will be chaperoned in some respect or another, since either way it will be a night of sugar-indulgence, and wishes her husband luck as he tromps out the door with most of their sons and Ryan, with Krycek as backup adult chaperone.

The twins had invited a handful of classmates, but only two, Larissa Marley and Trish Achebe, show up. That is all right, Scully wasn't expected a large herd outside her own family, especially since it is Halloween and most kids, like her sons, are out harassing, er, asking neighbors for candy. And for a party for six-year-olds, it is still pretty crowded, or perhaps Scully only felt that way, being the only adult chaperone.

The other girls who attended are Rebecca and Hannah, Emily and Addy, as well as Ariel and Alyssa. Page was actually surprised that Ariel is staying, but when asked about it in the kitchen, her cousin shrugs. "It's better than the drama at home," her blonde cousin replied, and Page could only nod, since she wasn't sure what to say to that.

The birthday party itself is a low-key affair, only because having elementary-aged girls hopped up on sugar would be enough excitement. All the girls, the Hill girls included, are dressed up like princesses, although the birthday girls had fairy wings along with their princess outfits to distinguish them from the others. Even Page and April are dressed up as princesses, although Page is a blonde Princess Leia and April is Ariel from the Little Mermaid, although everyone still calls her April because having two Ariels is a little confusing.

They have the usual party games, as well as cake and ice cream, and the older Mulder girls stepped in as hosts when their mother is taking care of Isaac, so nobody feels left out. Besides, the girls are having too much fun being princesses, really, and the novelty of being a princess at a tea party is enough to keep them distracted.

It isn't until everyone goes home and the Mulder women retreated in the kitchen that Page felt free to sigh happily. "Thanks for helping me take care of everyone," she tells April. The birthday girls are by now bouncing around in their bedroom, still in their fairy princess costumes. "A lot more girls showed up than I expected."

"What do you mean?" Scully frowns.

The oldest Mulder girl smiles as she recalls the other girls. "There was Dorothy, dressed up like Tinkerbell, and Susie, who was Sleeping Beauty, Lydia, who was Snow White, and her sister Leticia, who was the other Cinderella. Oh, and Millie, who was Belle from Beauty and the Beast."

Scully is racking her brains, trying to place them. How could she miss five extra little girls, even if she was taking care of her baby? Granted, everyone looks alike when dressed up in tons of shiny, colorful dresses, but she doesn't want to admit that out loud. "Perhaps they came in later," she muses, then frowns. "I didn't see any extra adults coming in to pick them up. Are you sure--?" But that's silly, how could Page and April be mistaken about the number of guests?

April bites her lower lip, then sighs as she interrupts. "Mom, those were the ghosts," she says quickly, "I didn't want to spook the guests, but I think they just wanted to have fun too. Like you said, every little girl wants to be a princess at least once, right?" Page frowns at her, but her younger sister is looking at their mother.

Scully's eyes suddenly fill with tears. "Yes, yes, they do," she says, when she's sure that her throat isn't constricted with emotion. "I'm glad they had fun, too."

"Oh, Mom," Page looks embarrassed at the emotional display and shoots a look at her younger sister, but April only shakes her head. "Fine, okay," she sighs. "Well, for ghosts, they looked very real."

"'Cause they are." April rolls her eyes, then turns her head when they heard shouts from upstairs, followed by crying. "Brianna! Zoe! You guys are so busted for whatever you're doing!" she yells, running up the stairs.

Scully snorts. "I'd like to think she gets her mild cluelessness from Mulder," she confesses to her oldest.

"Not totally clueless, she guessed the extra girls were ghosts before I did," Page admits.

"Come on, I need to get Isaac fed before I have to give my other daughters a scolding," the red-haired woman says with a shake of her head.

**

Mulder hasn't come home with the boys yet by the time Page has gotten ready for the school dance. Scully heard April teasing her a little while ago, suggesting she go to the dance like she is, and Page had shrilly retorted that she couldn't go to the dance as a princess.

That had been twenty minutes ago, so Scully isn't surprised when Page appears with a hair brush and a handful of ribbons, holding them out to her. As Scully takes them from her, she tries not to feel chagrined that she now has to reach up to brush her oldest girl's hair – intellectually she'd realized that all of her kids would likely be taller than her when they grew up considering how tall Mulder is, but somehow it still came as a surprise when the first one surpassed her.

"Thanks, Mom," Page says happily when her mother is finished. "There's no way I could do my hair as good as you do."

"You're welcome. So… no one's dressing up for the dance?" she asks, knowing that even if it's a big deal to the ninth grader it's likely to be a tame enough affair, and slated to wrap up at 9:30.

"Nah. Emily and I asked some older kids that we trust, and they said it's definitely not a costume dance."

"And Emily will be ready by the time you and Uncle Alex get back to his house?"

"I just talked to her. She claims to be ready now," Page says, wrinkling her nose a little. Over the years Emily has made them both late to school functions more often than the other way around. "I kind of wish that Ariel and Alyssa go to our school."

"Why's that?"

Page shrugs. "This school year is going better for them than last year, but…" The teenager sighs. "If they could go to our dance, they'd forget for a while, you know? Like during the twin's party today."

"I see what you mean."

The front door opens noisily, and a bunch of young male voices talk amongst themselves, while a horn beeps outside. "Oops, Daddy and Uncle Alex must want me to come out to them," Page says, and then gives her mother a quick hug. "See ya."

"Have fun, sweetie," Scully advises. "You have to let me know how many boys you dance with, huh?"

"Mom!" Page exclaims in exaggerated exasperation, but when Scully looks at her, she's also blushing a little. She and Emily weren't asked to the dance by specific boys, but it turns out very few kids in their grade have "dates" to the dance so both girls are okay with it...but apparently still hoping to dance with some boys anyway.

"Bye!" Scully tells her cheerfully.

It'll probably be a few minutes before the boys come to find her, and Missy has called about taking the younger girls out "real quick" to hit up a few houses before Trick or Treat ends, so Scully takes a moment to indulge herself by thinking about Page.

Back when Page had been Isaac's age, Scully would have wanted nothing more than to keep her little and adorable forever. Fortunately, that passed as Page began to hit the typical baby milestones. All parents are occasionally charmed by the idea of keeping their kids tiny and safe if only they could, but Scully thinks about how much they'd all miss out on if a parent really could (and considering that Mulder knows people like Elsbeth, they probably had a better chance of achieving that than most parents). Babies are precious, it's true, but they're also helpless and dependent, two words that no longer apply to Scully's oldest, or most of the others in her brood either.

That's the way it should be, she reminds herself even though she feels a tiny bit wistful. A parent's job is not only to love and protect them, but give them a good foundation for being able to learn to stand on their own two feet and eventually make their own way in the world.

She thinks again about Page's disappointment that a rule at their school keeps her from inviting her cousins to the dance to make them happier. I don't think we're doing too bad a job of it, she muses.

Though when she walks into the living room and sees that her sons have spread out approximately 5000 mini candy bars on the floor as part of their candy trading negations, a bit of her smugness wans.

"This is going to be all picked up before bedtime, right?" she prompts them as she carefully tries to avoid stepping on peanut butter cups and milky ways.

"Of course!" the five boys all quickly say.

Somehow she's sure it won't be the only time she says that before the night is over.



Chapter Fourteen

Boston

November 13, 2008

Luke isn't surprised that he's one of the few men in the single parents support group, but is surprised that he doesn't seem to relate to them better. Still, the group is pretty welcoming for the most part, and the free childcare is pretty awesome, too.

After a while, he's become friendly with Beth, a single mom with two little girls, four and two years old. They share the same sense of humor, and her daughters remind him of Hannah and Rebecca with their dark hair and sweet natures. Okay, he's feeling more than friendly with her, he admits to himself he's got a small crush on an older woman. (She's older by only a year, but he's pretty sure if he said that out loud about her, he'd get his ass kicked so bad, and he'd deserve it.)

After one of the meetings, he asks her out, but she shakes her head. "I'm sorry," she says quietly, "I know it's been two years, but I don't think I'm over Ben's death. I'm not sure I'll ever be, not for a while." Her eyes look elsewhere at the end, although she'd started with her eyes on his.

Luke nods. Her husband had just reenlisted for another five years in the Army when they sent him back to Afghanistan, and he was killed in action. He supposes she is doing better than that last statement, only because she was one of the first people, other than Dorothy, the group leader, to greet him with a smile, but also crack jokes with. "I get it," Luke says, "see you next week?"

She nods back. "Thanks," she says, and goes to the toddler room to get her daughters.

Once Luke is back home and washing Nicholas, he allows himself to go over some things. One, Beth is a nice woman, but she definitely doesn't sound like she is ready to move on. On that note, he's not sure he is, either. Two, he's definitely not getting back together with Adrianna, because while he's not ready to move on to dating again in general, he's pretty much moved past wanting to date her again, period.

Three, he's pretty sure the only relationship he should be focused on is the one with his son. Having a crush on someone is one thing, but he's not sure he even wants more than having warm fuzzy feelings at this point. If he started an actual relationship it wouldn't be fair to the other person if he shortchanged her for putting Nicholas first, and it wouldn't be fair to Nicholas if his daddy was acting like a brainless douchebag. And his life is already unbalanced as it is, trying to date on top of it is a little crazy. Luke chalked his initial optimism in regards to Beth as something like "same boat" syndrome, or something like that. Or maybe it's because I know Beth would be putting her girls first too, and maybe not expect as much of me, he realizes as he takes his son out of his baby bathtub.

"You've got a silly daddy," Luke grins at his still wet baby boy, who is currently sucking on his entire right fist. "But you knew that already. Who's your daddy, Nicholas? Huh? Who's your daddy?" And he smiles goofily, sticking his nose in his child's face. "It's me!" And he jutted a thumb at himself. "I am your father," he says, in the worst Darth Vader impersonation ever, and cracked himself up.

And for the first time, Nicholas lowers his fist from his mouth and smiles at him. Really, truly looks at him, rather than the unfocused infant look he'd been getting all this time, and smiles. Well, he drools onto his chest and tummy, too, but dangit, that is a smile! "Oh my God," Luke smiles back, tears pricking at his eyes, "you're smiling at me. Wow." He sniffles, then wipes at his eyes with his t-shirt sleeve. "Don't tell anyone your daddy's a big old sap, okay? You just keep being awesome, big guy." Then he holds up his hand, and moved Nicholas' chubby hand to pat it in a version of high-five. "High five! Good job! Keep smiling, Nicholas."

And then Nicholas jams his fist back into his drooling mouth, apparently his job for the day done.

Luke chuckles, but it is still a little teary. Yeah, he'll call his dad and Monica, but only when Nicholas is sleeping. "Okay, bath time over. Let's get you dried off and ready for sleeeeepy tiiiiiime," he intones like Dracula. Or like a slightly Southern, tenor-pitched kid trying to sound like Dracula.

He holds his baby against one shoulder and empties the water into the real tub, and towel dries his baby boy. "Look at you," he says, already diapering up the kid before he got any ideas about doing the peepee fountain trick, as Rebecca calls it. "So clean, and so happy. And so ready to sleep, am I right?" he says softly.

Nicholas doesn't answer him, as usual, but allowed himself to be dressed in the duck-covered onesie. His eyes start to close more often, and Luke smiles. Guess the pediatrician and Mr. Sanchez are right, setting up small rituals before bed like bathing help get his son in the mood to sleep. Luke lays him in the crib and kisses him on the forehead. "Good night, big guy," he murmurs, and turns off the main bedroom light.

He decides to text his dad and Monica, since it is pretty late and he doesn't want to wake up Jon-Jon, either. "Guess what," he types, "Nicholas smiled at me for the first time today! Focused eyes, drooly mouth and everything!"

He smiles again, then opens his laptop and plugs the headset in to watch the latest gameplay review of last year's projects. One of his professors feels that learning from other people's mistakes is just as valuable as learning from the successes, and Luke is starting to see her point.

Partway through the review, his now-silent phone flickers with Monica's text, "Your father said you haven't changed much, either" and his dad's "Ignore what she said." He grins, and went back to watching the review, making notes on where the game went right as well as wrong.

**

A Few Days Later

Nicholas is blessedly sleeping while Luke futzes with his computer. Eventually the Skype call connects and after a moment of distortion, he sees Hannah's image. The girl is obviously happy to see him.

"Happy birthday!" Luke tells her.

"Thanks!" she says with a grin.

"So, how is being thirteen treating you?"

"Well, it's only been 2/3rds of a day so far, but good." She moves her hand to her ear, and he's not sure why until she says, "Dad finally gave in, so Mom brought me to the mall to get my ears pierced after school."

"Oh, wow. Sounds like dad's mellowing out." He knows from several discussions over the summer that their dad thought ear-piercing wasn't a great idea, but Hannah had her heart set on it. He doesn't like to butt in too much, but he did tell their dad that it was just earrings, not a nose ring or something, much to Doggett's disgust.

"Hey, maybe a little." She smirks. "But he didn't make me keep riding in a booster seat once I hit middle school, so maybe he's been mellowing for a while," Hannah adds.

At 4'8" she is still technically both short and light enough to use one, but one of the few times Luke had ever seen her throw a tantrum past toddlerhood was when their dad had made no immediate plans to remove her booster seat from the car by her first day of sixth grade last year.

"That's true."

"Mom said she took a long time to grow too," Hannah says hesitantly, and he finally realizes she's talking about Barbara, not Monica, which makes sense considering which woman she inherited genes from. "And she's not short now."

"I didn't know you were talking to her," Luke says carefully.

"Uh, just e-mail once in a while," she replies quickly. They both know he's not in touch with their biological mother. "She, um, said to tell you congrats on the baby."

For one second he's mad, and almost asks if Barbara has seen pictures of Nicholas, but he forces himself to calm down. Barbara is in Europe, and he can't picture her wanting to be any more actively involved in her grandson's life than in her kids'. Forcing himself to keep his voice light, he just says "Oh. Tell her I said thanks when you e-mail her next."

All of the sudden Hannah looks less worried, and he feels a little bad that she's obviously been concerned about how he'd react to that revelation. "I will."

"Thanks."

"Hey Luke, are you doing okay today?" Hannah asks.

"Sure, why wouldn't I be?" he asks blankly.

Hannah looks a little confused. "It's Adrianna's birthday too. I didn't know if that'd bother you."

"Um, nope." In all honesty, he's somehow forgotten that his ex and his little sister were born on the same day. It's not as though he ever got to spend Adrianna's birthday with her in person, so not having to juggle a family party vs. seeing his girlfriend didn't happen to cement the idea in his head. And he's been so busy lately...

"Oh, that's good. You know something weird I thought of?" Hannah asks, and he hopes she's changing gears.

"What?"

"Dad and Mr. Mulder have been friends since before I was even born, and now we're really related, kinda." Hannah grins. "Well, I mean he's Nicholas's great uncle, and...you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I do. It is funny how it all worked out," Luke muses.

"Why is it funny?" Hannah asks, his tone clearly having made her suspicious.

"Well, I figured, since way before I ever met Adrianna, if anyone was going to make the 'by marriage' thing happen between our families, it'd be you and Sammy," he teases.

"What?!" Hannah squawks on cue.

"Well, I mean, the oldest son and the oldest daughter of two venerable families...come on, Hannah, I know you've read books like that," Luke continues with a straight face.

"No, no, no. Ew!" she moans. "Luke, I still wore pull-ups at night when he and me met," she says, referencing when they'd stayed with the Mulders and apparently unaware that the two families had spent the 4th together when she was a few months old. "We couldn't...oh... yuck."

"I know, I'm kidding," Luke admits, earning a glare. "It'd be like dating a cousin."

"Yeah. And I'm not dating anyone," Hannah declares. "Not now, anyway."

"Good for you. Hey, did my present make it there okay?"

"Yup." Hannah looks like she already forgives him for teasing her. "And I really like it. I can't wait to read it." He'd sent her an illustrated version of Grimm's fairytales, and at the moment Luke wonders when she'd stopped thinking of herself as possibly having a fairytale ending of her own. Or maybe she hasn't, he wonders, and Sammy's just not prince Charming material. Poor guy.

"Well, I hope you like it. The person at the bookstore said it was the best version."

Hannah gives him a sly look. "Was she cute?"

"I guess if you're into late thirty-something hipster guys, he was probably very cute," Luke says in an exaggeratedly dignified tone. Of course she immediately cracks up.

"Luke–" Hannah pauses, then looks over her shoulder. "Okay" she calls to someone before looking back at him. "I'm sorry, I've gotta go. We're going out to dinner."

"Well, I hope the rest of your birthday goes really nice," Luke tells her. "Love ya."

"Love ya too," Hannah tells him and ends the call.

For a moment Luke sits there and is happy that things are going well back home, but then he frowns when he thinks about Hannah being in touch with their real mother. It's never occurred to him before, but he wonders now if part of the reason he's had so much trouble accepting Adrianna's unwillingness to be a part of their son's life is because he's been that son whose mother wants nothing to do with him.

Sure, it's a little different because Barbara had changed course in the middle, but he's never really forgiven her for giving him her love and then taking it away. Maybe that's worse, he thinks unhappily. Maybe it's better to know where you stand from the word go. It might even be possible that Adrianna is doing better by Nicholas by not trying when it's not all going to work out rather than giving up halfway through his childhood to pursue something she cares about more, Luke thinks, but begins to make his head ache to try to puzzle that out.

It had stung when Barbara had left him and Hannah in favor of her job, but at least he was pretty sure it wasn't...personal? She hadn't not wanted to be their mother specifically. Barbara and the boyfriend she'd left dad for and still was with had never had a child of their own, which would've proven it was Luke and Hannah she'd found lacking, and he supposes that he's glad that hadn't happened to complicate his feelings about her even further.

A snuffling noise alerts Luke that Nicholas is awake, so he pads over to the crib. His son looks up at him, and seems to be trying to make up his mind about whether or not he still needs to cry, but he doesn't when Luke picks him up.

"Dad did okay," he tells the baby. A quick check of his diaper proves him dry, so maybe he just wants to be held. "My mom checked out, but dad did good. I'm going to do good too, I promise."

And I will, he promises himself too.

**

November 22, 2008

Gibson is trying to work out a problem he's having on designing a level of his new game – an idiot NPC keeps getting caught down a dead-end corridor in the game, walking into the wall over and over again – when Katie hands him the phone. "Your mom."

"Thanks," Gibson tells her, taking time to kiss her on the cheek before saying "Hello?" into the receiver.

"Hey Gibson," Reyes replies. "I was able to get some information for you on that woman's granddaughters."

"Great," he says, but his stomach doesn't agree that it's wonderful. He's taken on the "case" out of necessity, not because he's actually eager to learn the awful truth about the sisters. And he really does suspect that the truth is going to be quite bad.

"Alice and Jessica-"

"Charlotte," Gibson reflexively corrects her.

There's a pause and he's pretty sure that she's reading a printout because paper rustles. "Jessica Charlotte," she says calmly. "I guess she goes by her middle name. They were adopted by an uncle a few years ago after their parents died in a car accident one wintery night."

Jessica? Gibson finds himself thinking. He remembers the odd moment at the Mulder's house a couple of years earlier, when Emily's dad looked at the photos on his screen from the website update they were doing for the afterschool program and thought "Jessie." Could Mr. Krycek have met her before? He's going to have to find a way to get in touch with him.

"I'm not sure what happened when the girls were little, but they'd apparently been in foster care before their parents regained custody of them."

"When was that?" Gibson asks.

Reyes pauses for a moment. "Actually, from what I'm reading here, it sounds like Alice never actually lived with her biological parents."

Gibson looks out the window for a second. "Are you saying she was taken away from them at birth?"

"Looks like."

"I wonder what they did wrong," he comments. Reyes doesn't enlighten him, so he suspects that she doesn't know. Not for the first time he wishes he could read people's minds over the phone… Not that he would. That would be something Alice would really do, he reminds himself darkly. "Did Charlotte get taken away at the same time?"

"You know, I think she was in foster care all that time too. Since she was a baby as well."

"They must've had wonderful parents," he says sarcastically. Somehow, this reminds him of his own parents, but he tries not to think too hard about that. Maybe he's being uncharitable, he decides. Maybe Alice and Charlotte's parents had done the best they could by them too.

"Or it's possible that their biological parents never knew them," Reyes responds.

From what he knew of the conspiracy, that is very possible, too. "Dammit," Gibson sighs. "This is gonna be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack, isn't it?"

"Not quite. How many needles do you know that can read minds or move objects without touching them?" she jokes.

Gibson groans. "Ha, ha." He rolls his eyes. "Hey, Monica?"

"Yes?"

"Could you give me Mr. Krycek's number? It's just a hunch, but I think he knows something about the girls."

There's a pause. "If that's the case, I could talk to him, you know."

This is one of those times Gibson is both glad and mildly irritated that Monica Reyes is a better parent than his actual parents were. "It's just a phone call," he says, "and I'm closer to the situation. I think he'd be more inclined to talk to me, is all. But thanks," he says.

She sighs, then paused to look up the former double agent's number. Once she rattles it off, she asks, "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Thanks, Monica."

Even though he can't read her mind from this distance, he's fairly sure she's making a face in lieu of grumbling like Doggett would. "Gibson?" she says, after a beat.

"Yeah?"

"How are Nicholas and Luke doing?"

He is about to retort something to the effect of "Hasn't he spammed you with enough baby pictures to make a film yet?" when he realizes she isn't asking after their physical health. "Luke's wiped, but he's hanging in there," he says. "I try to help out over the weekends, and I've been donating some funds for the occasional babysitter. Other than that, he's been both the stressing grad student and the over-the-moon dad. It's really weird to see him make the same faces Dad did to Jon-Jon without realizing it."

Reyes chuckles. "That's good to know," she says. "I'm glad he's getting better about asking for help, too. Sometimes I wish I was closer, to help out in some way."

"Same here," Gibson says, "and I live in the same city. Hey, did you know Mr. Sanchez invited him over for Thanksgiving?"

"Yes, I heard and I was extremely jealous for all that good food he'll be enjoying," Reyes says. "I wish he could make it here, but at least we'll see him for Christmas."

"Yeah, can't forget that." Gibson half-smiles. "Give Rebecca and Hannah big hugs for me, okay?"

"Will do," Reyes says, "good night, Gibson."

**

The next morning, Gibson calls Krycek up, deciding not to waste any time, especially if Reyes takes it into her head to call him first. "Hi, Mr. Krycek? This is Gibson Praise," he says when the other man picked up.

"Gibson Praise?" Krycek sounds surprised. Guess he beat Reyes to the punch, or the guy's a really, really good actor. And, for the second time in as many days, he wishes he could read the guy's mind over the phone. "What's going on?" he asks, in a more alert tone for an early morning call.

"I know this is totally out of the blue, but I need your help," Gibson says. "I've met someone like Emily who needs shots that aren't for 'allergies.' Someone you may have helped a long time ago."

**

"You – what?" Krycek frowns, then pulls the phone away from his ear. "How do you know about that?" He's thankful that Missy and the kids are with his mother-in-law at church for one of their sporadic visits, because this doesn't sound like the kind of conversation he wants to be having in front of his wife or kids.

"That was an X-File, and the paperwork went through my parents," the younger man answers. "But I'm hazy on some details, especially since this was a case regarding minors and juvenile records have been locked in regards to names, ages, et cetera. According to the reports, the younger children, the ones who were definitely marked as 'psychic' were listed as toddlers," he says, "and the older ones were in high school. I was wondering, exactly how old were those listed as toddlers, and about how old would they be now?"

There's a pause. "They ranged from infants to about two years old," Krycek answers. "This was about seven years ago, so they'd be about seven to nine now."

**

Alice's age, then, the younger man's eyes narrow behind his glasses. "And the older ones. How old were they?" Gibson presses on, feeling his heart rate pick up as Krycek confirms his uneasy suspicions.

"The oldest was sixteen. He'd be about twenty-three now."

He, Gibson noted the pronoun. Not Charlotte, then, but that age would be in her ballpark. Aloud, he asks, "Did you and Mr. Mulder ever think about the idea that the older and younger children might be related?"

"No," Krycek says, sounding chagrined. "Mulder and I had some genetic tests done to see if any of the kids were related to either of us, especially considering how Emily came into my and Missy's lives, and Mulder's dad had told us about the tests done on the Scully girls when they were younger. But honestly, I don't think it crossed either of our minds to wonder if the two groups of children were related to each other."

I wonder what tests were done on Ms. Scully and her sister, Gibson thinks, but he decides that it's not the time to ask. "The thing is, I think you know someone I know," Gibson says. "I know her as Charlotte, but according to her adoption records, she was called Jessica Charlotte and adopted by her uncle. You know her as Jessie, I think."

"The telepath?" Krycek says instantly. "You know her?"

What the hell? "I think so," Gibson says, trying not to sound shocked but failing. She's never given any indication that she can read minds like her younger sister, but then again, he can't read her mind, either.

"If this is the same girl we're talking about," Krycek says slowly, "Jessie was in high school. Officially, she was in foster care, but she and a few other kids her age were sent to 'summer camp' to be tested on. She was one of the few who had any psychic ability, and because of that, she got in deep enough to point out the ringleaders of the operation as well as the head of the conspiracy, the Smoking Man himself."

"Holy crap." Gibson frowns. Sure, she is a perceptive gamer, but it doesn't seem her abilities translated to a better-paying job. Then again, if she went through what Krycek had termed "tests," she sure as hell would want to lay low, especially if she had a sister even more powerful than herself. She would not want any attention drawn to a little girl who had even more talent than Gibson himself, and Gibson (and likely Charlotte) had had enough dealings with the consortium to not want that for anyone else with his abilities. "Mr. Krycek, did you help facilitate Charlotte, I mean, Jessie's, adoption?"

"Yeah, yeah," Krycek agrees. "Once everything went down with the consortium, we were able to find family who wanted to take her in, her grandmother and an uncle. He was

some kind of military man, seemed capable, and the type we thought could protect a teen girl if anything should happen. Sounds like maybe he later got custody of the younger kid too, huh? Or the grandmother did."

"I guess so."

"Mulder told me a few of the little ones were placed with foster families with experience with medically fragile kids, so maybe he or the grandmother tracked her down after that. But the uncle..." Krycek says slowly. "Something happen to him?"

"I don't know," Gibson says soberly. "I've only met him once, and as far as I could tell, he didn't have any psychic abilities. And as far as I can tell, Charlotte's been on her own ever since we graduated from college, and maybe looking after Alice too, so I'm not sure if he's still Alice's legal guardian or even cares enough to look after her. The problem is, if she's still a telepath, she's been very good about hiding her tracks. And from what you've told me, it sounds like she's had lots of good reasons to."

'Shit," Krycek mutters. Gibson doesn't need to read his mind over the phone to realize that their conversation is making him paranoid enough to want to check on the other kids now, and see how they're doing. "Is she okay?" he asks.

"From what I know, she's working as a secretary for some low-level gamer company, and she's still gainfully employed there," Gibson says. "I also know that the address she gave for her contact information is fake. Searching the white pages and Google turns up nothing. Do you know her uncle's address? Can you give it to me?"

Krycek hesitates. "She's had practice with hiding from the regular authorities, but not the illegal ones," he mutters. "Sure, I remember his address. If she's still there, tell her I'm sorry." And then he rattles it off from memory, one of the few skills from his former profession that he's apparently never shaken. "And Gibson?"

"Yeah?"

"Get yourself a pair of brass knuckles, so when you see that pathetic loser of an uncle, you punch him out for me."

Gibson hopes it won't come to that, but he nods. "Okay."

To Be Continued



Well? What do you think? neoxphile@aol.com, be8opcat1013@yahoo.com

Return to The Speakeasy
(FelineFemme's Fics)
Neoxphile's Series fics Neoxphile's Works-In-Progress Neoxphile's Stand Alone fics