The Family G-Man: One Fine Summer
Vacation: Minus One Day Vacation: Minus One Day part 2 Vacation: Day Two Vacation: Day Five Vacation: Day Seven
Vacation: Day Seven part 2 Vacation: Day Nine Vacation: Day Ten Vacation: Day Eleven Vacation: Days Twelve and Thirteen
Vacation: Days Fourteen and Fifteen Vacation: Day Sixteen Vacation: Day Seventeen Vacation: Day Twenty Vacation: Day Twenty-One

Title: The Family G-Man: One Fine Summer
Authors: Neoxphile and FelineFemme


Summary: Three weeks in the lives of Mulder, Scully, and their extended families during the summer of 2004. (The Family G-Man sequel)

Authors' Note: If you're wondering if this story can be read as a stand-alone, the answer is that it probably won't make a lot of sense to you that way. You'll have missed a lot of births, deaths, and adverted disasters/deaths (plus a major career change) that are vital to understanding what the heck is going on here. We won't stop you if you want to try to read this without reading The Family G-Man first, though =)

So...once upon a time we told you we thought about shorter sequels. Show some love and maybe this sequel won't be an only child.

click here to be reminded how old the kids are in August of 2004

Vacation: Minus One Day

Vacation: Minus One Day
JCTTIOT Film Studio

When the lights in the studio shut down it feels like an eclipse and Mulder blinks, trying to get his bearings. It's also immediately cooler, so he's not surprised to notice that both Scully and Dr. Green are shivering despite it being August. Aldus Reed is practically made of ice so it doesn't bother him in the slightest.

"Well, that's a wrap!" Wayne Federman, Jose Chung's The Truth Is Out There's host/producer declares just in case the lack of blazing light on them wasn't clear enough. "Enjoy your summer!"

"You too," Mulder and his female costars reply. Aldous Reed doesn't deign to be that nice.

Instead Reed looks down his long nose, sneering at Mulder and Scully both. "Three weeks of kiddie pools, I imagine?"

Once Mulder might've bristled over Reed's condescension, but he's used to the author's snideness. "I'm sure there will be some of that," he replies blandly.

"How many are still in diapers?" Reed inquires, almost sounding interested in someone other than himself.

Mulder is taken by surprise so he answers, "Just the youngest two." Zoe and Brianna won't be two until Halloween, so no one is pressuring them to brave the potty just yet.

"At least you stopped making more of them," Reed says before walking off.

Dr. Mary Green apparently overheard given she shoots him a sympathetic look. "Aren't you glad there aren't any little Aldus Reeds out there running around?" Green, a mother of two teenagers herself, never sides with Reed's comments about who should or shouldn't breed or how much.

"Thank God he's obnoxious enough to scare off women despite his money and slightly above-average looks," Scully blurts out.

Mulder smirks at his wife. "The Tweed professor look does it for you? I had no idea. Maybe he can tell me where I can get those fetching sweaters with suede patches on the elbows-" he shuts up, ducking out of her reach when she glares at him.

When Scully and Green begin to discuss summer plans, Mulder finds himself thinking about a conversation he and Scully had had years before: they joked that it was their civic duty to produce intelligent children, but Reed makes him wonder if kids who are smarter than the average bear but also prickly as Reed would be a net gain to the world. He supposes not.

Three weeks without Reed will be nice, Mulder thinks, wondering how long it will be before the ladies finish their conversation and they can leave.

On the drive home Mulder begins to spin a fantasy about how he will spend the first night of their vacation. However, his daydream about spending a relaxing evening sitting in a lounge chair, watching the kids play, dissolves when they pull into their driveway and Scully says, "I guess we better start packing before dinner."

He has to stifle a sigh; the daydream was so real he could practically taste the lemonade and feel the sleepy weight of one of their toddlers dozing on his lap.

"I guess we better," he says, resigned.

His wife shoots him a concerned look. "Are you having second thoughts? I know Bill is far from your favorite person-"

Mulder summons up a smile for her. "I'd far rather spend a week with your brother that with Reed."

"That's not saying much," she complains.

Mulder leans over and gives her what he hopes is a mollifying kiss. "You want to finally see your brother's babies in person. The kids can't wait to play with Mattie. Packing isn't my favorite thing, but you're right, we need to do tonight so we can make our flight tomorrow afternoon."

Before they can continue their conversation the front door opens and several children pour out, followed at a distance by the hardest working nanny in DC. Michelle waves when she catches their eyes.

When Michelle reaches them, Mulder takes a sniffling William from her. "The babies are down for their nap," Michelle reports. "But this guy refused and is overtired as a result. And Page and Sammy decided to get a jump on packing, not that they know where their suitcases are."

Mulder rubs his youngest son's back, then hands him to Scully when he swarmed by three children all saying "Dad! Dad! Dad!"

Scully turns to Christopher, who has been quietly waiting to be noticed. Speaking to the almost five-year-old boy she asks, "Christopher, how about you, William, and I go pick out some toys to take on the plane?"

His small face lights up. "Okay, Mommy."

Mulder watches them go, momentarily ignoring the waist-high Greek chorus. Once the door to the house closes, he looks down and asks, "What? What? What?"

David gives him a reproachful look. "We wanted to talk to about baseball." Jared and April nod in vigorously in agreement.

"What about baseball?" Mulder asks warily. Somehow he's sure they don't want to talk to him about how the Yankees or Mets are doing.

As he predicts, the "baseball" in question is T-ball and Little League. "We're going to miss games! Daddy, our teams need us!" Jared declares earnestly.

Their parents hadn't been the slightest bit surprised when David and Jared had begged to be on the local T-ball team because the twin boys had enough energy for sextuplets, but they had been startled when April had asserted her wish to play Little League too. They'd been even more surprised that she still wanted to even after they explained that being older would mean that she wouldn't be on the same team as her brothers.

"When we signed you up, we talked about missing games when our vacation came up. Do you remember that?" Three heads nodded reluctantly. "So…"

"We're afraid they're going to be mad at us," April explains. Her normally shoulder long red hair has been cut to a chin length bob because she got sick of threading a ponytail through her baseball cap and Scully reluctantly decided it was her decision.

"Who would be mad? The other kids?" Mulder asks.

"And the coaches."

"The coaches will not be mad," he promises them, but they look unconvinced.

"How do you know?" David asks suspiciously.

"Because they've known your vacation schedule for a while, and most kids miss some games. Remember that Jaden missed a game because his big sister graduated from middle school? And Conner had to spend a week at his grandma's?"


"Good-" he starts to say, pleased that he seems to have reasoned with them. At least until April interrupts.

"But this is two whole weeks," April protests worriedly.

"Did the coaches get mad when Jack and Ava missed two weeks to go to Disney World?" Mulder asks, thinking he knows entirely too much about the lives of his children's teammates.

"No…" April says slowly.

"So why would they be mad at you?"

"Because I'm better than Jack or Ava," his daughter blurts out. The boys shrug and nod. They play their games before hers, so they've watched her play plenty of times.

"I'm sure the team will muddle along without you," he says, fighting the urge to smirk over her undisguised arrogance. It reminds him of his own young feelings about his basketball abilities. "Right?" he prompts.

They sigh in resignation. "Right."

"Good. Let's go find your suitcases."

The kids troop inside and he follows a few paces behind, just in case one of them tries to make a break for it rather than buckle down to an admittedly boring task. He passes Scully, noting that William is in her arms, his eyes shut, thumb in mouth. "No luck getting him to pick up toys?" he asks quietly.

"Actually, he did pick a few before finally giving in to sleep."

"Do you want me to take him?"

"No, I'm afraid he'll wake up," she explains, hitching William a little higher on her hip.

"You're the boss," he says, watching her head for the stairs.

It goes by so quickly, he finds himself thinking wistfully as he remembers when Sammy had been the little red-haired boy sleeping in their arms after finally wearing himself out. Sammy and Page both already show promise of being taller than their mother and nearly come up to her shoulder already. Sammy also anxiously waits to reach and exceed the one inch of height his older sister still has on him.

"Dad?" April appears at the top of the stairs. "We found our suitcases in the hall closet, but they're hard to reach. David wants to use his desk chair to-"

Mulder doesn't even let her finish the sentence before hurrying up the stairs. Just in time too, because his son is already wheeling a chair that's great for sitting at but horrible to stand on into the hallway.

"Un uh, no," he says sternly, pointing back at the twin boys' room. "Do we need a new rule? I think we do. Fine. New rule: we do not stand on chairs with wheels. Put it back."

As soon as he's sure his son has returned the chair to the bedroom, he opens the closet door. Their suitcases are stacked neatly on a high shelf, and as he reaches for the first one, he wonders when the last time they were all used was. Not since before he and Scully left the FBI, he's sure. Even before then they brought the older kids with them less because of school.

"Dad!" Jared complains, apparently tired of waiting for his.

Mulder pushes his and Scully's aside for the moment and pulls down Jared's and the rest of the kids' first, and his and Scully's last. Then he brings theirs to their bedroom, leaving the other kids' suitcases in the hall where they can reach them. Trying not to sigh, he props his own suitcase open on the bed and listlessly begins to try to figure out how many pairs of socks he'll need. Eventually he decides that he can hit up Wal-Mart if necessary, and begins just dropping a random number of them into the suitcase.

"Dad, what are you doing?" a voice asks from the doorway.

He looks up to see his oldest child, nearly ten-year-old Page. She's already beginning to become gangly, her limbs at least eager to get on with the process of growing up. "Doing my best to be a good role model and not a hypocrite," he says. His daughter gives him a look that clearly conveys her opinion about how weird grown-ups are. "Did you find your suitcase in the hallway?"

"Yeah. But Uncle John is here to see you."

"Oh, okay." Doggett and his family have been regular visitors since moving into the neighborhood the fall before, so he isn't surprised.

"He said something about the van?" she adds.

"Oh, right!" John had asked him about it weeks earlier, but he's forgotten all about it.

Mulder finds John Doggett waiting for him in the driveway, though he's not sure why he didn't just come in like he usually does. Before he can ask about that, he notices a tape measure sticking out of Doggett's pocket and figures he knows why he's outside then.

"Hey Moldah," Doggett greets him.

"What's up?" Mulder looks around but doesn't see anyone else with Doggett, so he suspects it'll be a short visit.

Doggett looks slightly uncomfortable, like he'll be bringing up a topic he'd rather not. "Are you sure it's okay that I borrow your van to bring the boys to school?"

"I'm sure. After two weeks spent traveling, I think that'll be as much family togetherness that anyone can stand, so a few days of not being able to haul all the kids around somewhere at once will be fine. I can't imagine needing to take more of them than will fit in Scully's car anywhere since I'm tired of making grocery shopping an all hands on deck project," he adds, thinking that he ought to ask Scully about only bringing a couple of kids with him at times given it's taken longer the gather everyone back up lately than shopping alone would have.

Doggett looks relieved. "Thanks. I really appreciate this."

"Hey, it's not like you're asking me to drive Luke and Gibson to Boston," Mulder tells him with a smirk. "What made you decide to do that anyway?"

"I want to spent a couple more days with my sons before they're gone until Thanksgiving," Doggett explains simply.

"Are you sure you want them to come to Lake Tahoe with us, then?" Mulder asks.

Before their baby daughter was born, Doggett and Reyes had intended to join them too, but plans changed after that. Now the plan is that the boys and Hannah will fly to Lake Tahoe themselves.

"Yeah. They've been looking forward to this all summer. It's only a few days," Doggett says, but the look on his face says that he's not thrilled about the idea all the same.

"It must be rough, having two of them go off to college at the same time," Mulder comments. Luke and Gibson are only a few months apart, so they'd both graduated from high school in June.

To Mulder's surprise, Doggett stares at him like he has two heads. "Come on, you can't tell me that you haven't thought about what it will be like."


"And you're going to have it happen twice, even. First David and Jared will go off to college, then four years later Zoe and Brianna will too."

"Five years later," Mulder corrects him anxiously. "They won't be allowed to start first grade until they're nearly seven because of the age deadline."

"Okay, five years later. But you really haven't thought about this?" Doggett still sounds surprised.

"Allow a guy to keep his head in the sand as long as he can, would you?" Mulder asks weakly.

"Yeah, all right." Doggett looks at the van again in a way that makes Mulder sure he's trying to size it up to make sure it'll fit two dorm rooms' worth of stuff. It'll fit a dozen people, so he himself doubts that they need to worry about that. "So," Doggett says, "You're really flying nine kids to California tomorrow?"

"I really am."


"Scully has put up with a lot from me over the years. If she wants to see her brother's new babies, it's the least I can do," he says stoutly. Scully has had to put up with him for two lifetimes worth of him being a pain in the butt, so he really does owe her a lot.

"Good point," Doggett replies.

For once he doesn't feel happy to be being agreed with. "Thanks," he says, not entirely able to keep a sour note from his voice.

"I totally understand you wanting to support Dana's desire to see the new babies, but wouldn't it be easier if Bill's family came here?"

It's Mulder's turn to stare at his former partner like he's completely clueless. "Seriously?"


"Isn't the biggest reason you're not joining us because how Monica feels about packing Rebecca up and flying somewhere with her?" Mulder asks. Rebecca Doggett, John and Monica's infant daughter, is a month older than Bill Scully's new babies.

"I don't think-"

"I know. You just suggested Bill pack up younger, medically fragile babies and do what you don't want to with a perfectly healthy baby. In what way would them coming here be easier?"

"Oh." Doggett looks slightly abashed before brightening. "Have a safe flight!"

Mulder shakes his head, but he's still smiling. "Thanks. See you when we get back."

"Are you going to be able to relax tonight at least before you go?" Doggett asks, obviously about to leave.

"Actually no. We have plans for the evening."

"That's rough," Doggett says sympathetically.

"It'll be fine."

As Mulder watches Doggett leave, he repeats that to himself in an unconvincing fashion.

Even as they gather the kids up to leave, Mulder realizes that it's going to be a long night. Since neither his mother nor Missy's family are planning to go with them to California, he's agreed to spend their first night off with them both. The venue? A play Emily has a role in at the community theater.

In what he considers an interesting turn of events, Missy has invited her sister's mother-in-law to Emily's play, and Teena eagerly agreed to come. This surprised him at first, but then thinking back to family gatherings in the past, he realizes that his mother is fond of the little blonde who no longer reminds anyone so much of Page.

"Daddy," David asks from the middle row of the van when they're about a third of the way to his mother's house. "How come Grandma Teena is gonna see Emily's play? She's not Emily's grandma too, right?"

Like their older siblings before them, David and Jared have recently realized that their Scully cousins only share one grandmother with them, and that Emily and her siblings in fact only has one living grandparent at all. Alex tried to explain to them that his parents died long ago, before any of the kids were even born, but this still doesn't seem to have quite sunk in for the boys yet even though they understand that they didn't have a maternal grandfather at birth, either. Mulder thinks it's the fact that neither of Krycek's parents are still living that's confusing them.

"She's not, but Grandma Teena likes plays," April suggests. "Right?"

"She does like plays," Scully agrees. "And she likes Emily too. When you like an actor or actress, it's important to support them by seeing them in their plays whenever you can."

"If your show was a play, we'd come every day!" Jared exclaims, making both of his parents grin.

"But we've got to go to school," Sammy objects. "So we couldn't go every day. There are laws and stuff about how much school you can miss."

"Oh. Every day we didn't have school, then."

"Would we have to take a bus?" April asks then. "Or would Michelle drive us?"

"Guys, our show isn't a play, so you don't..." Mulder trails off when his wife shakes her head. He shrugs. They don't need to work out the logistics of a hypothetical, but he's sure that Scully's point is that it's good for their cognitive development to do that sort of thinking, so he lets them continue to explore the idea without further comment.

The door to Teena's house opens the second that Mulder pulls the van into her doorway, and he's not surprised to see her come out wearing a big smile. It's the fact that it's not a surprise that she instantly crouches with open arms to welcome the kids running to her that makes him feel happier about his mother's extended life than he could ever have imagined. Teena is clearly making the most of life after her brush with death, not that he has ever told her that in another when she didn't think she had enough to live for to mount a battle for her life. Sometimes, in the moments when he's especially kind to himself, he allows himself to wonder if somehow he was worth more to her this time around, for himself, not just for giving her most of her beloved grandchildren.

That happens in moments like this one, when she looks up from cuddling Christopher and Jared and says "Fox, I'm so glad to see you before you go off on your vacation."

"I'm glad to see you too," he tells her, meaning it.

"Before we leave for the play, I want to show you something I found."

"Sure, Mom." With that he follows Scully and the kids into the house.

Just seconds after they walk into the living room, Scully begins to speak to Teena. "Any change that you've reconsidered coming to Lake Tahoe?"

"No, dear," Teena says placidly. It still startles Mulder a little that his mother has grown to like Scully a great deal. In the past she didn't give Scully much thought, and in the early years of their marriage she wasn't much warmer. Many things changed for the better once Samantha rejoined the family.

"Are you sure? You're more than welcome to-" Scully starts to say, but she stops when her mother-in-law shakes her head. Then Scully's shoulders slump. Mulder has never gotten her to explain why it's so important to her that his mother be included, but he suspects that she feels some guilt that the kids have spent so much more time with Maggie.

"Bill enjoyed the vacation to Hawaii that you all took, but I'm afraid that I've never been much of a traveler. I've always slept poorly in a bed that isn't my own," Teena explains.

As his mother says this, Mulder's brain summons up the image of her in a hospital bed after she collapsed in her yard. Then she'd been quiet and still but he supposes that being unconscious and having a restful night's sleep aren't really the same thing at all. God knows how many times he got released from the hospital in a state of sleep deprivation himself. Giving his mom a covert glance, he wonders for the first time if he got his insomnia from her. There were plenty of nights after Samantha disappeared that he woke up and found her pacing...

"Oh, okay," Scully replies, her tone one of unhappy defeat. She brightens a little when he puts a hand on her shoulder, so he knows that she's aware that he appreciates the effort she's made to make his mother feel wanted.

"Now that that's settled," Teena says, looking around at the kids who don't seem to be paying much attention to the adults' conversation. "I have a proposition for the two of you."

"What's that?" Mulder asks as expected.

"I was wondering if it would be acceptable to eat in a non-traditional timetable," she says, and it's clear from the looks on even Sammy and Page's faces that none of the kids understands what she's getting at. "Inverse," she concludes.

He and Scully trade a look. It doesn't bother him if they have dessert before they go to dinner, so he shrugs. Scully nods slightly. "That's acceptable."

"Oh, good. In that case, who wants cake?"

"Me, me!" Sammy and Christopher cry excitedly. To Scully's disappointment, none of the kids obsessed with cake have wavered in their devotion to it.

"Come on, then," Teena invites, pointing at the kitchen. None of the kids have to be coaxed, even those who probably wouldn't kill for cake.

"Why are we having cake, grandma?" Page asks, trailing behind her siblings to talk to Teena.

"There are a lot of birthdays coming up, aren't there?"

Page thinks this over. She and four of her brothers have birthdays over the next few weeks. "Yup. And you're not going to come with us, so you'll miss some of them?"

"That's right."

"Not mine, though," Page says, looking pleased to be the one whose birthday won't fall until the following month. "But does this mean you're going to have presents now for Sammy and..."

Mulder notices that his oldest trails off when she notices a pile of wrapped boxes on the sideboard.

"Yes. You won't feel left out, will you?" Teena looks concerned, perhaps interpreting Page's truncated question as jealousy.

"Oh no. We'll see grandma when it's my birthday, won't we, Dad?" she asks him over her shoulder.

"That's the plan, kiddo."

"Nope. I'd rather get a present on my birthday."

Teena smiles at her. "I thought you were grown up enough to have that opinion."

Mulder and his mother exchange a smile when Page puffs up with pride. Sammy hasn't begun to become concerned with appearing mature yet, but Page certainly has. At the back of his mind Mulder wonders if this is because she's the oldest or if it's because girls really do mature faster than boys.

In the kitchen Scully stands holding the cake protectively, making Mulder imagine a swarm of sharks for a moment despite the fact that none of the kids are circling her. There has to be a reason she hasn't simply left it sitting on the table.

"Can I cut that?" he asks, taking it from her. She casts him a grateful look. Eyeing his over-excited children he asks, "What's the rule about cake?"

Christopher scrambles onto the nearest chair before saying "Only people sitting nicely get cake."

"Uh huh," Mulder replies, watching the rest take their seats like a poorly planned game of musical chairs. "Okay, then."

"Can I have a flower?" April asks, eyeing the confection made of frosting.

"I think we'll have to ask the birthday boys," Mulder says gently, and she looks slightly disappointed. He suspects her desire to have one of the flowers is born more of an interest in flowers than frosting.

But she perks up when Jared wrinkles his nose and says, "She can have mine, Daddy. I don't like flowers."

"Thank you, Jared."

Sammy, however looks slightly alarmed. "I like flowers, though," he asserts.

"Duly noted."

"So that means I get one?"

"Yes, it does."

"Page can have mine," David declares in solidarity with his twin. "Flowers are for girls. And Sammy."

For a second Sammy glares at his younger brother, then shrugs. Extra frosting is extra frosting he's apparently decided. Looking up at him, Sammy asks, "Dad, I know there are man eating plants, but are there man eating flowers? That'd be a pretty tough flower."

"Sammy," Scully interrupts. "There aren't really man eating plants."

"But what about in Journey to the Center of the Earth?" Sammy asks earnestly.

"Do we need to talk about the difference between movies and real life again?" his mother asks sharply.

"No..." Sammy mumbles. He looks unconvinced though, as if his mother is just trying to protect him from something by not admitting it's real until he's older.

"There are man eating fungi, though-" Mulder starts to say.


Chastised, he busies himself cutting the cake. That story will have to wait for a time when Scully's not around.

Vacation: Minus One Day, part II

He hates to abandon Scully while she's trying to use a washcloth to remove frosting from the faces as of their youngest daughters as both whine and squirm in protest, but he thinks if he doesn't remind his mother of what she told him earlier, he'll forget by the time they drop her off and she'll be kicking herself over it in the morning. That in mind, he gives his wife a weak smile when she turns to rinse the washcloth out in the sink before scrubbing the second twin, and heads off to locate his mother.

It doesn't take long to find her: she's in her bedroom touching up her makeup. Forcing himself not to look amused that she's treating the evening like a night out at a real theater rather than seeing a bunch of locals doing their best to get through a long script without stumbling over their lines too much, he lightly knocks on her open door, making her glance over at him.

"You said you wanted to show me something, Mom?" he prompts.

"Oh!" she says with a rueful look. "I got so distracted by the cake festivities I almost forgot."

"That many kids full of sugar could distract anyone," he reassures her. Privately he's convinced that is why Scully seldom agrees to desert when it's not a special occasion rather than any overwhelming child health concerns.

"Well, anyway..." Teena turns and picks something up off the larger of her bedroom dressers. "I found this when I cleaned out my closet. I thought you might like to see it too."

As he takes it from her, Mulder wonders if she said too because she's already shown Samantha. It's a photo of the Mulder family, taken the last summer before his sister was torn away from the family for the better part of three decades. His parents are off in the distance, and he thinks he remembers an uncle snapping the photo. The focus is more on him than anyone else. Mulder has just had a growth spurt so in the picture he has that stretched fragile look that seems to only happen when adolescent boys need to put on weight to compensate for their suddenly expanded frames. It embarrasses him a little now that you can count his ribs in the photo, but the boy in it doesn't seem to notice as he mugs for an unseen camera man at the edge of the ocean. Behind him small curls of waves are caught in mid-lap, frozen and never to complete their race to the shore.

Samantha is in the picture too, but unlike the photo that Mulder kept for years, she's not right next to him smiling at the camera. Instead she's crouched down, just barely in the frame, looking down at a sand castle with an intent expression. Once he gets past being uncomfortably being reminded of a dream he'd had in another life, he decides he can almost imagine what the girl in the picture is thinking. She's waiting for the waves to grow bigger, to greedily claim more of the shoreline, and wash her work away. He thinks he dimly remembers that day and a brief argument with her when he'd suggested that she build her castle father away. If the photo is from the day he's thinking of, it's clear that the girl hadn't heeded brotherly advice.

Still, even knowing that this was just a frozen moment before the waves won, and that maybe her castle wouldn't have fallen if she'd taken his advice, he's still left with a warm feeling as he thinks about that last trip. Later on he'd consoled her when the waves bit holes into her creation and ultimately wiped it smooth, and Bill had taken him aside and told him how proud he was that he'd been mature enough not to torment her with I told you so's. He'd felt like a good big brother that day.

"Do you remember this trip, Fox?" Teena asks, sounding a bit worried that he doesn't. It seems clear to him that her own memories of it means a lot to her. And why wouldn't they? It was the last time that the four of them went to the Cape.

"Yeah, Mom, I remember."

Teena makes no move to take it back from him, but she does run one finger over the surface of the glass. "I never really thought about it until now, but when I looked at this picture, it made me realize that Sammy looks a little like your sister." When he gives her a confused smile, she goes on. "Oh, I known he has Dana's coloring, but I still see a resemblance though I can't quite figure out why."

Studying the little girl in the photo, he thinks he understands what she means. That look on Samantha's face is familiar, and after a moment he realizes it's very like how Sammy looks when he hunkers down to do his math homework. Sammy's dislike of math nearly spills over into hatred, and he approaches the subject with the same wariness that Samantha is gazing at the waves with.

"It's the expression on her face," Mulder tells her. "He gets that look sometimes too."

"Ah. I knew there was more to it than him just being her namesake, and that you'd be able to figure it out."

She looks pleased by this display of his powers of deduction, but he's not. As much as he loves his sister, and as infinitely grateful he is to know her again, he doesn't like thinking that one of his children is in anyway like her. Because although she'd been an excellent sibling when not going out of her way to be a pest, she lived in his imagination for so long as a tragic figure. And while he understands that the odds of a child going missing during a vacation like the one his family's about to take are vanishingly small - less than 200 children a year are abducted by strangers in the US - he's still a parent and can't quite stand aloof from the media's constant fostering a culture of parental fear. Besides, he knows better than anyone that it did happen to those 200 families and how they felt about the void left behind.

Thanks, Mom, he thinks ruefully. She doesn't seem to notice. "Ready to gather the troops, Fox?"

"As I'll ever be." If she does notice his expression, he hopes she thinks he's dismayed about getting everyone out to the van and buckled into car and booster seats. God knows he's tired of Sammy protesting about his, so it'd probably even seem plausible to his mother that it's the source of his sudden bout of angst.

The lights in the small black box theater come up suddenly at the end of the play, making the entire audience blink when their eyes try to adjust. People all over the room begin to make ready to leave, at least those not there to see specific members of the company's cast. Those who are there for their loved ones will be there a while longer.

"Addy, don't," Missy says tiredly. She's sitting on one side of Scully, and trying to convince her middle child to sit back down while the actors try to exit the stage while being mobbed. It's the third time Missy has corrected her daughter since the beginning of the play, and Addy just gives her a defiant look until Missy starts to get out of her seat.

"I don't know what's gotten into her lately," Missy complains to Teena.

"Samantha went through a stage like that too," Scully's mother-in-law confides. "Don't worry, it'll pass."

"God, I hope so."

Scully lets the two women talk without interrupting. Her thoughts are focused on her nieces and nephew instead.

Emily basks in the attention and praise she gets for her role as a one of the street urchins in Oliver Twist. Missy has confided that she herself was more upset that Emily didn't get a more plum part than Emily herself was. Emily truly doesn't seem to care that she's not one of the plays "stars" this time, and throws herself into the role with the same dedication she has when she's been the one called out to bow at the end. It's this quality that makes the older actors in the cast adore her.

Ryan has spent most of the play quietly playing with his cousin William, and he's beginning to show a good sense of humor that is at odds with the grumpy toddler he used to be. When Addy was added to Missy and Alex's family, they were naturally concerned with Addy's ability to cope, and with Emily's feelings considering that she was old enough to express them. Scully has never voiced her concern that his crankiness was a reaction to his sudden loss of some of his parents' attention, and now that he's past it, she's glad that he adapted without her having to.

Addy has recently begun to test Missy and especially Alex's patience, and neither of her parents seems to want to hear Scully's explanations that this is actually a good sign. A child who acts up is a sign of one who feels secure enough to test them. Addy doesn't worry that they won't love her anymore if she misbehaves, so she feels free to do the typical defiant things that kids her age do - it's just come as a shock to her parents that she's got a naughty streak.

At least none of her own brood are being naughty, Scully thinks as they leave a short while later. The babies are asleep in their arms and the rest are chattering to each other as they walk out to the parking lot.

Suddenly a small hand tugs on her shirt, and she looks down at Sammy. "What's up?" she asks, shifting her hold on Zoe.

"Mom, Emily is a really good actress. Do you think she'll be famous someday like you and Dad?" he asks.

Her automatic instinct is to protest that she and Mulder are not famous, but that would be to defy the reality of them both getting fan mail and how people sometimes stop them on the street to talk to them or ask for their autographs. It's still hard to remember sometimes that she and Mulder are no longer anonymous the FBI agents they were for so long.

"I don't know," she finally admits. "Maybe. She certainly seems to like acting."

"Maybe she'll be on Nickelodeon someday," he suggests with an awed tone to his voice that says he can't think of anything that'd be more impressive than that.

The thought of her sister coping with being a stage mother instantly has her biting the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing aloud. Maybe it'd fall to Alex, she muses. "That would be something."

"Yeah," Sammy says happily.

Glancing over her shoulder, Scully sees Emily holding the roses her father bought her. Does Emily have that sort of aspiration?, she wonders.

Vacation: Day One

There are approximately forty-seven pieces of luggage waiting by the front door when Scully yawns her way down stairs the next morning. It's foggy outside, and the house is relatively quiet considering that only she, Mulder, and Michelle have woken up yet.

She and the nanny meet in the kitchen, both grateful that the auto-timer on the coffee maker has been granted to them by some benevolent being. Two sugars and cream later, Scully looks over her mug at the other woman. Michelle's expression makes her sleepily wonder if there's something on her mind, and she's not too surprised when Michelle hesitantly says, "Can we talk about something serious?"

"Sure," Scully replies, trying to will herself into a more wakeful state.

"I love your kids, truly I do, but..." Michelle looks like whatever she needs to say pains her. "You'd be okay without me after this coming school year is over, wouldn't you?"

Inside Scully tries not to sigh. This conversation is actually something she's worried about for the past year or so, so it's not a huge shock though it does make her sad. Michelle is nearly thirty and probably doesn't want to be a nanny for the rest of her life. Probably she wants children of her own, not that Scully has ever asked her that outright.

"Of course," Scully replies. "Zoe and Brianna will be in preschool next year-" Unlike the inflexible school system, the preschool that all of their children have attended doesn't mind if kids start just shy of their third birthdays. "-so maybe it'll be time to consider a part-time nanny anyway."

"Good," Michelle says with forced cheer. It's plain to see she still feels guilty.

"I hope you'll still visit now and then," Scully says gently. "You're a part of the family as far as we're concerned."

"Like an aunt?" Michelle asks with a crooked smile.

I wonder if that would make her my little sister or Mulder's, Scully wonders. "Yes. But more a more responsible de facto relative than their 'uncles'."

The nanny shakes her head. "Who isn't?" she asks wryly, having gotten to know the Gunmen fairly well over the years.

"That's a pretty good question…"

The two continue to gossip and chat, and Scully feels a sense of relief when they are able to do so without any awkwardness. It makes her sad to know that they'll lose her in June, but that's still far away.


Given the fact that most of the children are old hands at flying, Mulder is blind-sided when one of the kids has a complete melt down before they board the plane to California.

Things begin okay, but as they wait to board William begins to cry and stamp his feet, leaving his entire family bewildered because it comes out of nowhere as far as they're concerned. William is suddenly so overwrought that he is incoherent and Mulder hands Zoe to Page in order to try and figure out what is wrong with his youngest son. He tries not to feel guilty about pressing his daughter into service, but he remembers resenting having to look after Samantha so it's hard to. But it's necessary because his wife has her hands full with Brianna already.

Kneeling down, he puts his arms around his furious three-year-old and tries to soothe him. "Hey, hey, William. Calm down and tell Daddy what's wrong."

At first William only responds by pointing down at the floor, but eventually Mulder thinks he hears the word "shoes." This puzzles him. "Is there something in your shoe?" he guesses. "Is it hurting your foot?"

William shakes his head violently. "My shoes," he finally gets out. "They're my shoes."

"Wha-" All of a sudden a light bulb goes off overhead when he notices what's going on in the big open space around them: several people have removed their shoes at the behest of the TSA workers who have made the demand. "Oh."

"What?" Scully asks distractedly. Brianna is fussing in her arms, perhaps agitated by her brother's outburst or maybe for toddler reasons of her own, so she's trying to jolly the baby out of her mood before they have two kids in full blown tantrum mode.

"William, are you worried that they're going to take your shoes away?" Mulder asks slowly, making sure that William understands the question.

William gasps and nods. "Yeah."

"Oh," he murmurs, gathering the little boy into a reassuring hug. William doesn't resist, and puts his head on his father's shoulder. Clearly having such a big outburst has tired him out. He gently pulls him away. "Will, they're not going to keep your shoes. Watch." He points his son in the direction of someone who is having their shoes returned to her. "They're just checking to make sure there's nothing in them."

William watches intently before asking, "Like rocks?" which is a perfectly reasonable guess for someone with his life experience to date.

"Actually-" Sammy starts to say, but Mulder silences him with a sharp look. The last thing he wants is for William to be scared even more than he already is, and Sammy explaining terrorism would push him in that direction. A three-year-old wouldn't understand what a terrorist is, but Sammy would likely explain that it's a 'bad man' and William would grasp that fairly readily.

"Something like that," Mulder agrees, thinking that C4 is somewhat like rocks anyway. Turning towards Sammy he mouths 'thanks' and his oldest son nods, clearly guessing why he didn't want him to elaborate.

"Then they give 'em back?" William asks.

Mulder points at people ahead of them. "See?"


"Okay?" Mulder prompts.

"Okay," William says with a tired sigh.

Turning to Scully, Mulder says "I love the TSA" quite savagely.

She shrugs, which is a little difficult to do while holding a baby. "I don't like it either, but they're trying to keep us safe."

"Or trying to look like they're keeping us safe," he corrects. "How many potential threats have they actually found, one? Three? And all of this for that. It's a dog and pony show to distract us from how inept they are."

One flight and a car rental later, they find themselves only a short forty-five minutes from their ultimate destination. Of course traffic is completely unaware of the timeframe they were promised, so it ends up taking nearly twice as long.

By the time they finally get to Bill and Tara's new house - purchased while the babies were in the hospital so every child can have their own room someday - all four kids under the age of five are sound asleep in their car seats. Everyone who is awake piles out, and Sammy volunteers to take Zoe while Scully heads to the house with Brianna.

Mulder is standing with William in his arms, contemplating how cranky Christopher will be if he's woken up and made to walk, when a voice behind him says, "I'll take him."

He gives his brother-in-law smile that he doesn't have to fake. "Thanks, Bill." It still makes him slightly uneasy whenever Bill Junior is kind to him, because in another when it would have probably been a setup, but Bill Junior doesn't have any reason to hate him. Not when Scully was never abducted, and with Melissa still among the living. Still… He just watches Bill reach into the car for his second youngest son.

Bill Junior straightens, Christopher's blond head lolling against his shoulder. "I could use the practice, working out the logistics of what we'll do when the babies get bigger and less portable."

"Well, by the time they're William and Christopher's ages, Mattie will be a lot bigger too. Hopefully he'll be as eager to help as Sammy," Mulder offers, though he suspects Sammy is mostly impressed with himself for having finally gotten stronger than Page.

"Oh, he will be," Bill Junior says, his tone suggesting his mental definition of 'eager' doesn't match the one in the dictionary. "We're already trying to get him to help out as much as he can. Gophering, mostly. There's a lot of grumbling about it, but he minds. Mostly."

Before his brother-in-law can see his dismay, Mulder slams a neutral expression into place. The thought of even Christopher complaining about being sent to fetch diapers or wipes beggars belief, never mind a kid as old is Matthew. "He was an only child so long, being a big brother will take getting used to," he says, even as he thinks of Luke and Hannah Doggett's extended stay with his family back when John had been going to Quantico. Luke had been considerably older when he gained his first sibling, and he has always looked after his sister without complaint.

Bill shifts his sleeping nephew, trying to get the little boy into a more comfortable - for himself - position. "I hope that's all it is. But if he doesn't get with the program pretty soon, he and I will be having words."

Mulder can't help but wince: Scully and Missy have both complained to him about how much the Captain had expected from his sons when they were growing up, and the phrase "have words" was something they both said in disgusted tones. Dana and Missy had been doted on by their father in comparison to hear them tell it. It makes him sad to think of Bill Junior following in their father's authoritarian footsteps, but there isn't much he can do about it.

"Come on, let's see if the babies are awake yet," Bill Junior says, leading the way up the path.

Mulder figures that they must be, unless their older cousins are being uncharacteristically quiet. Still, he takes care to close the house's front door gently behind them.

When he looks around Bill and Tara's living room, he's surprised to find his children, the awake ones anyway, playing with Matthew. "Where's Mom?" he asks, settling William down on the couch next to Christopher. Neither boy stirs.

"With Auntie Tara," Page explains. "She said mom should meet the babies first."


Mattie looks up at Mulder with a big smile. "I'm supposed to show you around the house now."


Turning to his cousins, he asks "Do you like inflatable beds? 'Cause you get to sleep on them while you're here, in what's gonna be the babies' rooms someday. I wanted to sleep on one, but Mom said no. Dad said maybe later on, after all our guests leave, but when Uncle Charlie's family is here, there's only three of them so maybe…"

Mulder shakes his head behind his nephew. Mattie sounds like he's been deprived a chance to talk to people and is getting rid of all his excess words now. It has to be hard on a kid that age to have no one to talk to because his new siblings take up so much time.


What had once been a guestroom is now a nursery painted a pale green. Scully can tell that her brother had done it himself, because the baseboards are spotted with paint here and there, and a few drips have been made a permanent part of the paint job. Glancing at Tara, it's not too hard to imagine her being far too big to wield a paint roller - even now she's at least 30 pounds heavier than last time Dana saw her. Not to mention that her dark roots are showing more than Dana had ever seen the entire time she has known her. Having that many babies depending on you can't leave much time to take care of yourself.

At first none of the occupants of the four identical cribs makes a sound, but soon there's a grumbling complaint and Tara quickly scoops up the infant before it begins to cry in earnest. The baby is wearing pink, so it's one of the girls. That doesn't narrow it down much.

Tara motions her closer. "This is Melody," she explains, swaying and she speaks. Her motions are rewarded when Melody calms.

"Precious," Scully says. The babies will probably grow cuter and easier to tell apart when they're a little bigger, but at the moment they're all undersized, wrinkly, and as dark-haired as Matthew was as a newborn. Despite being several weeks older than that, Scully thinks they're still smaller than their brother was at birth.

Still swaying, Tara travels from crib to crib, pointing with her free hand as she does. "This is Moria, this is Marissa, and of course this is Mark."

Scully is considers it fortunate that she's known the names since they were born, which helps keep her from reacting honestly when it comes to them all having names with the same first letter. She's glad that hormones didn't inspire her to do the same with her own children's names.

Eerily, almost as if reading her mind, Tara says, "when Mattie came home from that camping trip with you and told me the names of Samantha's children, I loved the idea." Scully almost points out the Samantha's son's name doesn't start with the same letter as her girls before remembering that Drew's legal name is Andrew. "Later, when we found out we were having multiples, I remembered how enchanted I'd know him been by that." Tara laughs softly. "Your brother didn't take much convincing."

Scully isn't surprised; Bill was so impressed by the lengths that his wife went to, including two months of bed rest, to keep all four babies healthy that he'd probably have tried to give her the moon if she'd asked for.

Melody is dozing in Tara's arms when another baby begins to whimper. Scully squints in the dim light and notices that the baby is wearing blue. Mark. Tara looks from the baby she's holding to the one fussing in the crib. Glancing at Scully she says "take her, would you? That's his hungry cry" before handing Melody to her.

Scully is at a loss for a second, trying to figure out how to best hold her tiny niece. None of her babies were ever so small, not even the set of twins induced a month early by Mulder's ex. Angel had been smaller, she remembers with pain, but Angel had been too early to survive, and hadn't even tried to fight a hopeless battle. The baby she currently holds is frail but full of life.

Tara has settled into a rocking chair to feed her son, a blanket discreetly tossed over one shoulder despite it hardly being necessary given how little light there is. And despite the low lights, Scully can see her expression: Tara looks radiant. "This still feels like a dream sometimes," Tara confesses. "Bill and I tried for another baby for three years after Matthew was born before giving up. I still don't know what possessed Bill to beg me to try fertility treatments. Oh, you wouldn't know what it's like to try as long as we did." Tara breaks off with a shake of her head.

Although none of her children are more than a year and a half apart, Scully does feel a pang of sympathy for the other woman. In a life she can't remember but has occasionally felt inklings of like the pain of a phantom limb, she'd longed for a baby more than anything. "No," she agrees at last. "But I'm so happy for you. Both."

"Thank you. I just never expected four. Four! You were smart, never having more than two at a time."

Scully isn't sure how to react to this because she can hardly take credit for how many eggs she ovulated at a time.

Tara is apparently content with not being answered. "The doctor thought she heard more than four heartbeats, a couple of weeks before my first ultrasound. But the ultrasound only showed four babies. Only four, ha. She said it must've been in echo earlier. That can happen, right?"

It's hard not to wince because she understands what Tara is getting at. And while she believes it's possible that an equipment malfunction could cause an extra heartbeat to be heard, Tara's doctor wouldn't be the first if she resorted to telling a soothing lie to an already terrified mother. "I think I've heard of that happening before."

Tara looks relieved, leaving Scully feeling like she said the right thing. Tara stands up, apparently done feeding her son, and puts him in his crib. Then she takes her sleeping daughter from Scully, and puts her down too. "Come on, let's get something to eat while it's quiet."


Vacation: Day Two

To Scully's surprise, her brother pulls her aside after dinner the next night. She gives him an expectant look, feeling a lecture come on like he'd given her so many other times over the years when she's done something that he doesn't approve of. For the life of her, though, she can't think of anything she's done to concern him.

He looks down, which is unusual, and begins with "I hate to ask this because you're a guest and I'm supposed to be a good host, but do you think it's remotely possible you and Fox could bring Mattie and the kids to Aubuchon Park tomorrow? Tickets on me, obviously."

"Um..." she stammers, stunned that he hasn't taken her aside to express fraternal disapproval.

"And you could leave Zoe and Brianna with us," he says quickly, as if he suspects that her hesitation is center around not wanting to bring the not quite two-year-old twins to a busy place. "We'll be having a mother's helper over then anyway, so another two is no big deal, and if they stay home everyone would be able to go on rides without having to sit with them." When she doesn't say anything, his shoulders sag and he looks even more guilty. "I worry about Mattie getting lost in the shuffle these days. At first Tara and I were spending most of our time at the hospital with the babies, and now that they're home... He's been begging to go all summer, and I just don't see it happening."

"I'll ask Mulder, but I don't think he'll object," Scully tells him. And even if he does for some reason, she's pretty sure that it wouldn't take much talk about the lonely little boy to change his mind. "My kids would love it too."

Her brother leans down and kisses her cheek. "Thank you!"

As she watches him walk away, she finds herself grateful that caring for some of their children has never left her and Mulder worried that they're neglecting the others. If Angel had survived and needed to spend months in the NICU...she pushes the thought away with a weary sigh. Even after four years it's still hard not to dwell on what might have been.

"What are you sighing about?" a voice asks behind her.

She tries her best to smile before looking at her husband. "Guess what we're doing tomorrow."

"Sleeping in?" he asks, a hopeful note to his voice.

"Bill's buying us tickets to Aubuchon Park."

Mulder looks mildly confused. "So we can have a picnic and play frisbee?"

"Not that kind of park. It's an amusement park."

He looks a lot more excited about this than she anticipated. "Roller coasters!"

"Sure, why not."

Vacation: Day Three

There's a timid knock on the guestroom door the next morning when they're supposed be getting ready to leave for the park, and Scully calls "come in" fully expecting to find her nephew on the other side of the door - her kids are entirely too excited to think about niceties like knocking. Matthew doesn't disappoint her. He's gotten taller since the last time she'd seen him, and there are dark circles under his Scully blue eyes. Considering how many times she's found herself waking up over baby noises in the house the night before, she's not surprised that he's finding it difficult to get a good night's rest with four infants in the house.

"Hey, Mattie. Are you excited to be going to an amusement park today?" she asks, her hair brush still in her hand. When she realizes that she's been holding it for over a minute without running it through her hair, she puts it down.

"Yeah!" he says a little too desperately. It reminds her uncomfortably of TV shows where a someone's gotten out of solitary confinement. Glancing at the boy, and thinking of how difficult it would be to even go grocery shopping with four babies in tow, she strongly suspects that he hasn't been getting out any more than Bill jr. or Tara have.

"It'll be fun. Your cousins are looking forward to it too."

"But not your babies, right?" Mattie asks, his tone hard to read.

"No, the girls are still a little too small to really enjoy a place like Aubuchon Park," Scully agrees. "So they're staying here with your parents and the quads."

"Aunt Dana, can I tell you something?" he asks, voice small.

"Of course you can, sweetheart."

When he looks up, Matthew has an ashamed look on his face, and she can't imagine why. "Don't tell Mom and Dad, but I think I wished too hard for a little brother or sister."

Shaking her head, Scully sits on the bed. At first he looks even more guilty and steps away, at least until she holds out her arms. When he finally comes to her, she pulls him onto her lap. "You didn't wish too hard."

"But I think I did!" he moans. Mattie leans back against her. "If I didn't wish so hard-"

"-there would be so many babies?" Scully interrupts him to ask.

"Yeah, exactly," he says glumly. "Mom and Dad never get to do anything fun now because of me."

"No," Scully says firmly, making him look up at her in surprise. "That's not what happened at all."

"Then what?"

For a moment she hesitates, but finally decides that her brother would be more upset to learn how angst-ridden Mattie is than if she oversteps her bounds by telling him the medical truth. She knows that Bill Jr. will be completely devastated if he and Mattie ever have the same conversation, so maybe explaining things to Mattie will keep that from happening.

"Aunt Dana?" Mattie asks worriedly.

"I'm going to tell you something, but I don't want you to talk about it to your dad or mom unless they bring it up. Deal?"

"And if they tell me I don't say you told me already?"

After a second's hesitation she says, "Yes."

"Okay, deal."

"There aren't a lot of babies because anyone wished anything. And if wishing could make babies, a lot more people would have them."

"I don't understand," Mattie confesses.

"I know. When you're a kid it seems like all you need to do to have all the babies you want is to grow up, marry the right person, and that's it. And for a lot of people it is. But it's not always easy."

"It was for you and Uncle Fox."

Only the second time around, she thinks."Yes, it was. But it wasn't for your mom and dad. They wanted you a long long time before you arrived. You know that your dad is older than me and Uncle Charlie, but you're younger than Page, Sammy, April, and Brandon, right?" She doesn't add Emily to the list considering that how the girl was brought into the world had nothing to do with Missy and Alex's relationship at the time.


"What you don't know about yet is something called 'fertility'. That's what makes it really easy for some men and women to make babies, and harder for others. Both men and women can have problems with their fertility, and sometimes they can't have any babies at all."

"So they adopt?" Mattie asks, proving that he's thinking hard about what he's telling her. "My friend Michael's mom and dad don't have other kids 'cept his little sister Ashley, and she's adopted too. I think they had the same first mom and dad, though, 'cause they look alike." From the look on his face she knows that this is the first time he's ever considered why his friend's parents adopted him and his sister.

"Well, sometimes. Some people decide not to have kids at all, and some people who could have kids easily adopt anyway for other reasons like wanting to give a kid who already has been born a good home. But yes, a lot of people who can't make babies do adopt babies and children."

Mattie thinks about this. "My mom and dad didn't adopt anyone."

"Nope, they kept trying and had you," Scully agrees. "But once you were born, they didn't have any luck giving you a brother or sister."

"So how come I got four now?"

"There are things doctors can do to help people increase their fertility and make it more likely that they can have a baby. Some of the things they do make it more likely for a mom to have more that one baby at a time. And that's why you have four baby siblings now."

"So it's not my fault?" Mattie asks with a look of near disbelief.

"It's no one's fault," Scully says instantly, least he blame her brother and Tara next. "It's just how things worked out."

"Oh. Yeah."

Patting him on the shoulder, she says, "It's going to get easier, you know. They won't always be this little and needing so much attention. Your mom and dad will figure out how to get out of the house more."

"Promise?" he demands.

The thought of four two-year-olds flits through her mind, but she knows that even that stage is fleeting. Surely the quads will be manageable by the time they're three or four. "I can't promise how long it'll be, but I do promise that it'll get better."

"Okay," he replies, obviously trying to believe her. "If your babies stay here too, does that mean we'll get to go on all the rides?"

"All the rides everyone is tall enough for," Scully says firmly. There's no sense arguing against being allowed on rides, the ride workers take almost as hard a line on the rules as the TSA does.

"Good enough." Mattie climbs off her lap. "Gotta go get ready."

"Right," she says faintly, watching him scurry out of the room.

He might be struggling a little with being a big brother now, but she thinks he'll get the hang of it and be glad for the siblings he's overwhelmed by now. She didn't ask him if he'd rather of had no siblings still than four, but now wonders what his answer might have been.

Aubuchon Park

It seems like there are a million people on the midway as Mulder helps his wife shepherd their children and their nephew through the park's gates. He has William firmly held on his hip, and from the wide-eyed slightly apprehensive look the child is giving the crowd, keeping him in his arms isn't going to be a problem. Christopher is clinging tightly to Scully's hand, and their other kids look like they're excited rather than as nervous as their youngest brothers.

Mattie, on the other hand, looks like Mulder imagines a man might look the moment he walks out of a prison, glorying in the freedom of being out on parole. His eyes are merry as he sticks close to Jared and David, and occasionally snatches of their conversation float back to Mulder over the general dull roar of conversation surrounding them. "Then he said he was dropping his kids off at the pool, and he doesn't even have kids," Mattie says, suddenly loud and clear when there's a momentary lull in conversation from other park-goers.

"Matthew," Scully says in a warning tone, and the confused look on the boy's face suggests that he has no idea what is wrong with what he just said. Mulder shrugs internally, deciding that he'll leave it to Bill junior to sort out. There's just no way Scully won't kill him if he gives the scatological explanation about what the person Mattie was talking about meant. Scully seems to agree because she doesn't define the term either.

The three small boys go back to talking, and even though he can't hear what Page and Sammy are saying to each other, he can tell they're talking about the rides from the way they keep pointing at things. Eventually April drifts back to him, and begins to match her stride to his the best she can despite her shorter legs.

This doesn't surprise him, not with the way Mattie is monopolizing the attention of her twin brothers. He's not quite sure when April decided that she has more in common with Jared and David than her two eldest siblings, but she's been playing with her younger brothers far more often for quite a while. When he first noticed this he kept an eye out, trying to make sure he spoke to Sammy and Page if he noticed them excluding her, but they never seemed to do that. April just seems to have decided she's not one of "the big kids" and doesn't try to act like it.

"So," Mulder asks, glancing down at April. "Which ride do you think we should go on first?"

April points off into the distance. "I think we should go on the Ferris wheel first," she tells him.

"How come?" He knows that there's a reason behind her choice, and he's curious about what it is.

His daughter shrugs but eventually explains, "It goes up really high, but not too fast. We can't see all the rides now 'cause there are too many people and buildings in the way, but up there..."

This seems like a clever idea to him, so he whistles to get the rest of their attention. When all eyes are on him, he announces, "April thinks we'll be able to see the whole park from the Ferris wheel, so I think we should ride that first."

"Oh yeah, we will be able to," Sammy agrees.

Page wanders over and cuffs her younger sister on the shoulder. "Good idea. What do they call that, Dad? Like when cowboys ride ahead to look out for danger then report back?"


"Yeah that. That's what April's plan is like."

"But without any danger," Scully immediately protests.

"Obviously, Mom," Page says in a long suffering tone.

Oh no, not again, Mulder thinks, but he tamps down his annoyance at his oldest's attitude. "Come on," he tells them all. "Last one on the ride is a rotten egg."

"Eww," Sammy cries. "We did an egg drop at school and then someone found an egg a month later-"

"Did someone break it?" Mattie asks, interested.

"Well, yeah, of course. Man, did that smell!"

Shaking his head, Mulder takes April's hand even though she's too old to worry about running off. She doesn't seem to mind, still pleased that her idea was well-received by everyone. As they reach the line David and Jared are at the end of it, and immediately declare the other the rotten egg even though they arrived at the same time.

Thankfully, this is nothing like Disneyland, Scully thinks later that afternoon, as April and Page keep her company with William, who is too little for one particular ride. There are no super-long lines, no strangely efficient people with wires in their ears (not all of them wore security uniforms, either), and no over-priced treats. On the other hand… Scully sighs aloud, seeing her husband sitting in the front of a line of roller coaster cars filled with most of their male progeny and nephew. Somehow, she has a feeling that even if he were ninety-five, he'd still sit in the front of the roller coaster, raising his arms and yelling happily, and a small smile graces her lips without realizing it.

"He is *so* embarrassing," Page sighs, rolling her eyes as if she's already in her teens rather than being ten. "Why can't Daddy be more like a grown up?"

Scully snorts, thinking maybe her oldest little girl should spend less time watching TV with popularity-preoccupied teens girls as role models and more time playing with girls her own age. "Then I'd have to make sure he wasn't possessed by an alien, a ghost, replaced by a clone, or ingesting psychosis-inducing chemicals…" she says, unable to resist teasing Page while talking over William's head, figuratively and literally.

As the three-year-old tries to repeat "psychosis-inducing" without tripping over his tongue, his oldest sister sighs loudly. "Mommy, you're so weird," the blonde girl rolls her eyes again.

"No, she's not," her younger sister corrects her, pausing in her game of counting how many times she can catch her baseball. "She's normal."

Scully's smile deepens, and then briefly hugs her children to herself. "It's okay," she says, "I love your Daddy anyway."

Then she notices Christopher looking a little nauseous among the passengers stepping shakily off the roller coaster, and she hoists William onto her hip and hauls ass. Her daughters are startled but follow after her. "Mulder, I'm gonna kill you!" Scully hollers, effectively killing the sentiment she'd shared moments earlier with her older girls.

Mulder, who'd been corralling the other boys together, spins around just in time to catch his second-youngest son puking over the railing. He grimaces, patting Christopher's back while everyone else scatters or makes the appropriate "ewww" noises. "Sammy, Mattie, can you grab the other boys and take them to your-" he's about to say 'sisters' but that would only be true for one of them, "-um, to Page and April, please?"

They look only too happy to be away from the little boy heaving his guts out, and before Mulder knows it, Scully is in his face, with a glare that would be deadly enough for mere mortals, but fortunately for him, he's immune to it. That, and she has to pay attention to Christopher now rather than tearing him a new one. "Are you okay enough to move?" she asks gently, her expression now that of a mother concerned about her little boy. After a few seconds, Christopher nods, and she herds the blond boy to the bathroom, before tossing a parting glare over her shoulder. Yikes.

"You're in such big trouble," Page proclaims.

Thanks for telling me something I didn't already know, he grumbles inwardly. Aloud, he says, "Yeah. So, what can I do that would make Mom happy? Um, happier."

Mattie looks surprised, as if he'd never heard an adult ask kids for help. The way Bill Jr. rolls, probably he hasn't. Sammy, however, just shrugs. April merely sighs, while David and Jared share a quick smile, but that isn't helpful, either.

Page rolls her eyes with an impatient, "Just be nice to her."

That actually sounds good. "Okay, I'll do my best," Mulder says.

"Omigod, you are *so* embarrassing," the blonde girl groans, and Mulder thinks she really should ease off the TV - she's starting to sound just like those smart-aleck (but not really smart) teens. Maybe Scully had been right when she insisted they rarely watch TV when they were smaller. "I hope she managed to clean Christopher off okay."

"Yeah, me, too," he says guiltily. Hoo boy.

There's a jerk on the hem of his t-shirt. "Uncle Fox?"

Mulder looks down at Mattie. "Yeah?"

"I had a good time, even though Cousin Chris threw up," the little boy says, his bright blue eyes even more vivid a contrast to his startlingly pale skin.

And now Mulder feels even guiltier. Mattie's supposed to be the one being consoled by this outing, not him. Argh. Well, technically, he *is* the adult here, and he should act like it once in a while. "Thanks." He smiles, then ruffles his nephew's hair. Mattie makes a face, but it is a comfortable grimace, as opposed to the mostly-polite face he'd put on most their visit. "Mostly," since the brunette kid actually has cracked a smile more than a couple of times today.

Of course, after Christopher's pukefest, they either take more sedate rides or none at all. None of the kids grumble, however, since they'd already gotten to go on most of the rides they wanted to beforehand. Even Christopher has recovered well enough to be just embarrassed, rather than nauseous, and he insists on riding the carousel with the rest of the younger kids.

Mulder takes the opportunity to herd everyone in the family on, effectively filling up the carousel with them and one other family. Jared and David share one horse, while Page insists on her own, and Sammy is urged not to encourage his younger brother to "puke, puke, puke!" like he'd been doing in line, so Mulder makes sure Sammy is on his own lion while Christopher is on a seahorse in front of the twins. April and William share a tiger behind Christopher, and Mattie is on a dragon in front of Page. Even though it is a tight fit, Mulder and Scully share a lion at the rear of all their children and nephew, just to keep an eye on them.

"Hey, Scully," Mulder murmurs into his wife's ear.


"Imagine, if I got the vasectomy reversed, in a few years we could fill this whole ride up," he murmurs.

Scully turns to give her husband the Infamous Eyebrow Raise, but he leans over and kisses her. Some of the younger kids who happen to look back go "ewwww," and when Page looks back, she'd only murmurs, "So embarrassing." Mattie says nothing, but his blue eyes are wide. "Mulder!" Scully blushes.

"Yeah?" Mulder smiles a little. Even after all these years, I can still make her do that, he thinks, nice.

She pouts. "You could've waited until we got to our room."

His smile gets lazier, "No, I've got something more intimate there. Kissing, on the other hand, is something we can do in public."

"Mulder!" Scully's cheeks flame a deeper red.


Now her bright eyes narrow. "You just wait until we get to our room."

He waggles his eyebrows, then winks at Mattie, who is gaping at them. "He looks like he's never seen a mommy and daddy kiss each other."

A corner of Scully's mouth twitches upwards. "Are you teasing him, then?"

"No, that's just icing on the cake," he admits, then grunts when she elbows him. "I just want to make my wife happy."

She leans back against her husband. "I *am* happy," she says. "We're spending time together as a family." Then she looks reflective as the music and the ride slow down.

"You know what would make me even happier?"


"If you'd help put all the kids to bed while I'm catching up with Tara after dinner," she answers.

Argh, he groans inwardly. But he smiles and nods. "Only if I get to 'catch up' with you afterwards," he tells her and proceeds to waggle his eyebrows again.

"Mulder," she tries to scold him, but blushes again. I'll have to get a complete physical checkup when we get back home, she thinks, I hope I'm not having hot flashes so early.

The dinner table is noisier than usual, and it isn't just because there are now two very large families. It's because there are so many more children under the age of five under Bill and Tara's roof than before, and Mulder sympathizes with his brother-in-law. Tara seems to take a lot of things in stride, but after she finishes eating, she turns a tired smile to her husband before she goes to take care of her multiple babies.

"So, how was the park?" Bill Jr. asks Mattie.

"I wish you could've been there," the blue-eyed boy answers honestly.

Mulder, having been distracted by children and food for the past half hour or so, is tempted to thump his head against the table. He knew he forgot something: prepping his nephew on the inevitable interrogation. Oh well, that was more a matter of sparing his brother-in-law's feelings, if nothing else. Scully, who notices his slightly pale face, merely smirks a little before returning her attention to Zoe and Brianna's twin babbling.

"Me, too, sport," Mattie's dad says. "What did you do?"

The seven-year-old launches into a breathless account of the day, as seen through his eyes: going on endless rides, eating tons of junk food (Mulder could almost swear Bill Jr.'s eye twitches here), enthusiastically describing his cousin's upchuck (Christopher blushes and Scully sighs), and his uncle and aunt kissing (Mulder and Scully both blush here). "And then we took turns at the games, so it'd be fair," Mattie goes on, oblivious to his father's reaction to his uncle and aunt's red faces, "none of us got the prizes, which was funny, 'cause you always got something at the summer fair. No, wait, April got a keychain from the hit-the-milk-bottle game, 'cause she throws better than a girl."

April glares at him. "I *am* a girl," she snaps. "And of course I throw good - I'm the best pitcher my team's had in ages!"

Now Mulder and Scully look at their second eldest daughter. Wow, the coach must be good, is Mulder's thought, and I really should pay more attention to her games is Scully's.

Bill Jr., however, chokes on his potato wedges. "What?"

Mattie, however, only shrugs. "Oh, okay," he says, promptly forgetting about his unintentional insult. "I didn't know. When did you start playing?"

And as their conversation evolves into Little League baseball talk, it's joined by David and Jared, and, against their better judgment, Bill Jr. and Mulder. Scully plays occasional conversational referee in between watching over the littler ones, making sure that Christopher and William are watching age-appropriate TV shows, and assuring that Page and Sammy are doing their part to clean up after the meal before they get to take control of the remote control.

Vacation: Day Five

Vacation: Day Six

The travel from Bill junior's to Los Vegas is a lot shorter, so Mulder at the very least is looking forward to that. Scully seemed to have been as well...right up until she got a call from her younger brother that morning to tell her that his family wouldn't be joining them until Lake Tahoe after all. After that she became a lot more subdued, mostly going through the motions of packing everyone up and kissing Bill and Tara (and Mattie) goodbye until they meet up again in a few more days.

She doesn't say much during the entire, abet short, flight.

"Charlie admitted that Elaine hadn't wanted to go to Vegas, anyway, didn't he?" Mulder asks in an effort to console his wife as they arrive in Sin City. "So she, at least, might be having a better time at home."

"I know."

But she still looks unhappy. "But?" he prompts. Zoe is snoring on his lap as the plane begins to empty, and he worries that her stuffy nose is a harbinger of a coming cold.

"I hate to miss any time with him," Scully says with a shrug. "I see him so infrequently as it is."

"We'll have to invite them for a long weekend," Mulder finds himself suggesting. "Maybe Labor day."

"Or Veteran's day."


As they get their children off the plane, Mulder is grateful that the agency they used to employ all of the nannies - except for Kyrcek who volunteered and will literally punch anyone who refers to his time installed in the Mulder household as nannying - they've had over the years also gives childcare recommendations for visiting families. He and Scully don't intend to spend all four nights in Vegas gambling, but they do want to be able to do things with out the kids at least once or twice.

As they're walking towards the shuttle that will bring them to their hotel, Mulder notices that Sammy's shoulders are slumped. He stops his oldest son, who looks up at him expectantly. "What's wrong?" Mulder asks. Sammy shrugs. "Out with it."

Sammy isn't as into eye-rolling or world weary sighs as his older sister, but the look on his face clearly states that he wishes his father would just drop it. Eventually he realizes he isn't going to. Sammy waves at the nearby buildings. "The pictures I saw made this all look a lot cooler. This is kind of boring."

"So you're disappointed," Mulder says. As he speaks he pushes Zoe and Brianna's stroller back and forth, which makes the toddlers giggle quietly.


Mulder tries to see the immediate area through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy: at that very moment they're not near the more photogenic parts of Vegas, and in the harsh light of day, it's plain that a lot of the big signs are in need of a replacement for faded and peeling paint. Sammy isn't wrong to say it doesn't live up to promotional photographs.

"Wait until tonight to pass judgment," Mulder advises, patting his shoulder. "I bet most of the pictures you saw were taken at night."

Sammy thinks about this. "Yup."

"There's a reason for that, kiddo. The lights make everything look more magical."

"Like at Saint Ambrose?" Sammy asks, referring to the holiday light display put on by a monastery near Maggie Scully's home.

"Exactly like that," Mulder tells him, knowing that Sammy has seen the monastery during the day. "Or maybe more like Halloween, huh?"

"Okay," Sammy says, brightening. "I won't expect it to look good until tonight."

"That a boy," Mulder replies with a smile. But it quickly turns to a frown when he looks for Scully and notices that she looks upset when his eyes find her. Grabbing the stroller handles, he says, "Let's catch up, huh?"


When they finally catch up to everyone else, it's instantly clear that Scully's exasperation is at Page, Jared, and David, not at April or the two youngest boys who are quietly observing.

"Mom!" Page's tone borders on outrage. "Tell them to stop saying that!"

"Uh, uh," David says, jutting out his lower lip. "It's true."

"No it isn't!"

"Yeah huh," Jared insists. "You're nine and Sammy is nine. That's the same age."

"But that doesn't....'" Page sputters before noticing Mulder. "Daddy, please tell them they're being dumb."

He shakes his head. "I don't have any dumb kids."

"Dad!" She heaves an aggrieved sigh. "I didn't say they were dumb. I said they we're being dumb. There's a difference."

"Without distinction," Scully says sharply.

"I don't even know what that means," Page complains.

Mulder is trying to think of a way to defuse the situation, when Sammy, who has just been listening finally speaks up. "We're not the same age," he tells his little brothers.

They both looks shocked and somewhat upset that he's apparently taking Page's side. She just casts the younger boys a vindictive look and they scowl at her. "But you're nine too," David says sounding rather petulant.

"But I'm only nine," Sammy tells him. "Page isn't."

"She's not?" Jared gives him an uncertain look.

"Page is gonna be ten real soon," Sammy explains. "So she's like nine and eleven twelfths. That's way older than just nine."

"Sammy isn't even nine and fifty-one fifty-seconds yet," April comments. Sammy might hate math, but his sisters show an aptitude for it. At least the sisters who are big enough to know what numbers are.

"Oh." The older set of twins look disappointed to have been defeated by this unassailable logic.

Mulder decides to take advantage of the passing storm. "Come on, get on the shuttle. First person to finish a packing gets to help mom and me decide where to go for lunch."

Giving the kids a stern look, Scully corrects his statement. "First person to neatly unpack."

"Right. I meant what mom said."

It takes a few minutes to get everyone settled on the shuttle bus their family half fills, but eventually Mulder and Scully are sitting together with Zoe and Brianna. Leaning against him, Scully murmurs into his ear. "That was a nice bit of peace keeping Sammy did back there."

"Wasn't it? Maybe he has a future with the UN."

She shakes her head and smiles. Mulder looks behind them, at their now behaving sons and daughter, and then back at his wife. They've had a million conversations about their children over the past decade, but very few have been about their expectations for the kids' futures.

He's distracted for a moment when he needs to get Zoe to sit back down, and try not to give into the winning power of a baby pout, but then begins to wonder if other parents have trouble trying to imagine their kids all grown up. It's been a struggle all along, he realizes: when Page was still in diapers, he couldn't have fathomed her being as old as she is now. Even after watching her grow for almost ten years he still finds it hard to accept that things like a first bra, a first school dance, and the first time he or Scully are brave enough to let her behind the wheel so they can give a driving lesson are coming up whether he likes it or not.

And that's just Page, the oldest. The thought of their baby daughters ever needing the money they've set aside for college is almost literally unimaginable. Maybe that's how it is for all parents, he thinks. If the future is shroud in a mist, it's easier to enjoy the here and now.

Vacation: Day Seven

They don't do much the first day in Vegas, mostly because everyone was so sleep depraved after spending time at Bill's -and privately Mulder's esteem of his brother-in-law goes up a notch for not yet having been driven completely insane - that all of the kids ended up falling asleep shortly after an early dinner. Mulder and Scully try to pay attention to a movie on cable for a while before giving into sleep themselves.

The next morning, however, the kids are up and raring to go early. There's only so much Mulder can take without coffee, so he whistles until everyone shuts up and looks at him - even Zoe and Brianna stare at him.

"Right. Everyone who isn't dressed go back to their rooms and do that now-" They've arranged for a suite with three rooms. "And then we can go."

"Go where?" Sammy asks suspiciously.

"The sooner we get there, the sooner you'll know, huh?" Mulder asks, giving his son's pajamas a pointed look.

All of the bigger kids scatter, and Mulder brings William and Christopher to the room they share with Zoe and Brianna. Christopher is mostly able to dress himself, but Mulder will help with any snaps, buttons, and laces. William could probably dress himself too to some extent, but he refuses to even try and Scully doesn't want to make an issue of it just yet.

"So, you guys having fun yet?" Mulder asks as he pulls a tee shirt over William's head.

As soon as William's red hair and blue eyes are visible he laughs and says, "No."

"No?" Mulder asks and William shakes his head. Expecting a less silly answer from his slightly older boy, Mulder turns to Christopher. "How about you?"

Christopher hesitates for a moment before shaking his head too.

"Well, I guess we're going to have to do something about that..." He lunges for his smallest sons who scream with laughter when he tickles them.

They play tickle-monster for another minute but then noise from the other rooms alert him that everyone is dressed. "Move 'em out," he tells Christopher and picks William up.

Since most of the kids share Mulder's affinity for fish, they end up at a large aquarium. It's not the most famous one in Vegas, but Scully pushed for this one, thinking that it will be less crowded. And as the walk in, she's glad that the venue isn't any more crowded than it is.

Within seconds Scully finds herself reigning in her middle sons, both of whom have taken off for a jellyfish column in the center of the first room. Unrepentant, they look up at her with big smiles. "Mom, look how cool these guys are!" Jared crows, pointing at a small comb jellyfish that seems to have running lights in it. "Is that real?"

"Sure is," his mother tells him.

His eyes widen and it's clear that he expected her to tell him that the 'lights' are no more natural than the painted glass fish they'd seen in the pet store. "But how?!"

"I'm not sure," Scully admits. "But we can look it up."


David tugs her hand. "Do they have eyes? If they don't have eyes, how can they see?"

Before she can say anything Jared says, "Maybe they don't need to see. The tank has lights in it, but the ocean doesn't. Page says some things that live in caves don't got eyes and a cave can't be darker than the ocean."

"Yeah, 'specially the deep parts," David agrees.

Taking advantage of the lull in her sons' conversation, Scully takes them by the hands. When they give her identical questioning looks, she says "Let's figure out where everyone else went."

They look around, clearly surprised that no one else is in sight.

A few twists and turns later, Mulder's tall form comes into view. "Daddy!" both boys cry, letting go of her hands to run to him.

Scully watches for a moment, marveling at how small they look at their tall father's side. Given that they have four younger siblings it's easy to forget that they are still so young. Don't grow up too fast, she thinks, watching them tell Mulder about the jellyfish.

The man who sold them their tickets assured them that the coolest thing about the whole aquarium is the glass tunnel through a tank that holds an unfathomable amount of water; but probably not a "kajillion" gallons as Sammy insists. Mulder had wanted to progress though the exhibits in an orderly fashion, but after the fifth time he tries to interest the kids in something and they shrug him off with a "that's nice dad, but are we going to see the tunnel soon" he finally decides to figure out where it is with Scully's blessing.

Given the kids' general enthusiasm for "finally" (to quote Page) seeing the exalted tunnel, it surprises Scully when Christopher stops dead at the mouth of the tunnel instead of joining his siblings who have already run inside with Mulder hot on their heels. She stops too, bending the best that she can with William on her hip - he'd freaked out over the crowds ten minutes earlier than and demanded to be picked up - and looks at Christopher's face. He looked more worried than awed.

Eventually he looks up at her, blue eyes wide. "Mommy?"


His voice drops to a whisper. "Is it safe?"

Scully watches a shark glide by, wondering if he's somehow worried that the big predators could get them. Frowning at this, she begins to worry that she and Mulder need to have another conversation about what is and isn't appropriate movie-viewing for their kids. "What do you mean?" she finally asks, deciding that it's better to just ask than make assumptions.

"That's glass, right?" he asks, pointing at the walls of the tube.

This confuses her a little: she can't imagine how he'd fear the sharks getting them if he's aware that a barrier separates them from the sea life. "Right."

Christopher doesn't look any less worried. "Water's real heavy-" he says, reminding her of earlier in the month when she caught Sammy and the other boys using the bathroom scale to weigh various containers of liquid, like milk, water, and cooking oil. "-and that man says there's lots and lots of water. How come the glass don't break?"

The question makes her wish she knew an engineer. Giving an answer her best shot, she says, "The people who designed the tank know exactly how thick and strong the glass has to be to be safe, Christopher. They wouldn't let anyone use the tank without doing a lot of testing to make sure that it's safe."

Her son cants his head. "Tests like on Myth Busters?"

"Sort of. A lot more rigorous-" He gives her a blank look. "A lot more careful than that. More of them too."

"Oh." He stares into the tunnel for a moment longer. Then he slips his hand into hers, and they make their way inside.

Five minutes later he's with April, pointing out fish to each other and laughing, fear completely forgotten.

Vaction: Day Seven

The following evening, their plans hit a snag. It all begins when Mulder calls the kids over to show them photos on the show they're going to's website. At first the kids seem pleased.

"Aww, the white tiger is so pretty!" April enthuses. "Daddy, can you print me a picture of it?"

"Sorry, sweetie." He frowns, hating to disappoint her. "No printer."

He's already disappointed one daughter when it came to the circus - Page hadn't been happy when they'd explained that most of her siblings were too young to appreciate Cirque du Soleil, so that would have to wait for a future visit.

"Oh," April sighs.

"Dad, e-mail the link to yourself," Sammy helpfully suggests. "Then you can print it when we get home."

"Why didn't I think that?" Mulder groans theatrically. "Thanks, Sammy."

"Yeah, thanks Sammy," April echoes with a pleased look. Mulder is glad that she's not too disappointed about how long she'll need to wait before the tiger's photo is hers.

"Are there going to be acrobats?" Page wants to know. It's clear that she's still thinking about Cirque du Soleil, but he appreciates her not sulking over not getting her own way.

Mulder clicks another link. "Yup."

"Oh wow, their outfits are beautiful," Page exclaims. She glares at Sammy when he sniggers. "What's your problem?"

Sammy motions towards the screen of Mulder's laptop. "The girls' costumes are really nice. But the guys'?"

"What's wrong with them?" Page demands to know, hands on her hips.

"If they left the circus wearing 'em, they'd get beat up."

"Dad, tell him that they wouldn't."

Staring at the tight, pastel-colored spandex pants, Mulder finds it hard to disagree with his son. "Um-"

Taking advantage of the lull in conversation, Jared whines, "Move, please! We want to see too and you keep blocking the screen."

"It's not my fault you're short," Sammy grumbles. His little brothers shove him lightly.

"It's not our fault we're six," Jared retorts. "Of course we're shorter than you!"

"Five," Christopher adds, but no one but Mulder seems to notice.

Mulder stoops down and draws William and Christopher to him. Looking at his three oldest, he says, "Their turn."

Sammy scowls, but just for a second. "Yeah, okay. Their turn." He gestures that his sisters should move too. They both make way and the twins rush forward.

Mulder smiles at the older kids before turning to the little ones. He can hear the babies grumbling as Scully changes them in the next room. "So, what do you want to see pictures of first?"

"What are there pictures of?" Christopher asks when Mulder scoops him and his littlest brother up so they can see better.

"Lions, grrr!" William growls, bouncing on Mulder's lap.

"Do lions really say grrr?" Mulder asks. William shakes his head before making a credible attempt at a roar. "That's better."

"Lions, guys in silly clothes, tigers, and what else?" David asks.

"Lots of things," Mulder tells him.

"Clowns?" his son asks.

"Sure." Mulder is about to show him when he realizes that this is not the answer his little boy is hoping for - his skin has gone two shades lighter than his twin's.

"Oh no," David says, voice trembling.

Mulder sets William and Christopher on their feet the moment he suspects David is trying not to cry. "I'll be back, okay? I just need to talk to Mommy. Jared, you click the links so everyone can see the pictures, Okay?"


Scully looks up in surprise when Mulder comes in and shuts the door. Before saying anything, he takes Zoe and the clean diaper from her, leaving her to redress Brianna. "We have a problem."

"What?" Inside she braces for a vacation disaster. Things have been going entirely too well.

"You're not the only one afraid of clowns." Mulder sighs when Zoe kicks over the baby wipes. He sights them and says, "David seems terrified of them."

"That's new." She snaps Brianna's onesie closed, then puts shorts on the girl before turning her loose.

""I guess. But what do we do now? The other kids will be disappointed if we don't go, but I don't want to traumatize him."

"Would that my parents had that attitude," she says with a sigh. "You bring the other kids and I'll find something to do with David and the babies."

"Are you sure?" he asks anxiously.

This earns him a crooked grin. "Am I sure? Mulder, you're the one who'd be looking after six kids, not me."

"I have no problem with that," he declares and she has to hide a grin at his display of paternal confidence. "But were you looking forward to this yourself?"

"No." She shudders. "I'd put up with it for the kids, but my feelings about circuses haven't changed."

Thinking about the circus reminds her of the end of her relationship with Ethan and Mulder's charming and alarming declaration that he'd defend her from clowns after she complained about Ethan's terrible date plan.

"Great." Mulder leans over Zoe to kiss her. "I'll let them know there's been a slight change of plans."

"Try to do it in a way that won't make them tease him, Mulder." Their kids are pretty good to each other, but they are just kids.

"Gotcha." Mulder finishes putting Brianna's shorts on. "Go to mommy, huh?" He patiently waits for the girl to toddle to Scully before leaving the room.

Watching him go, Scully can't help but muse that picking the man who promised to defend her from any and all clowns was definitely the right choice.

The younger kids are still looking at pictures on his laptop. "Daddy!" Christopher calls, "They have a guy in a big funny hat!"

"That's the ringmaster," Sammy tells him, looking up from the travel board game he's been playing with April and Page.

"Okay, yeah," Christopher agrees. "Come see."

"In a minute, buddy," Mulder promises. "I need to talk to David first."

"Uh oh, trouble," Jared says.

"Nope, no one's in trouble. Yet," he adds pointedly.

"What?" David asks, going to him.

"Let's talk in here." Mulder leads him into the room the bigger kids are sharing. David sits on his bed and gives him an expectant look. Mulder adopts a grave expression. "Your mom and I have a problem."

David looks mildly surprised that his father is taking him into his confidence - Page and Sammy are the kids usually asked for help. "What kind of problem?"

"Well, we talked about it, and we're afraid that the circus is going to be too scary for the babies. It's going to be crowded, lots of loud unexpected noises, and I don't know if you remember, but when we went to the zoo earlier in the summer, the lions made them cry." When David nods, he goes on. "Mom is going to stay with them instead, but I'm worried that she'll be lonely and bored. Zoe and Brianna are great babies, but they are just babies."

David thinks about this. "They don't talk much."

"Yeah, exactly," Mulder agrees. The girls talk a lot, but not in recognizable English for the most part. Twins are like that, so they're not worried about it: David and Jared outgrew that and the girls will too. "So... I was kind of hoping you'd be willing to stay behind and keep Mom company."

"Me?" David looks surprised to be singled out.

"Yup. You're really good at getting your sisters to laugh when they get cranky." This is true. "So, do you mind?"

David gets a funny look on his face, and Mulder wonders if he really wants to go, clowns or no." Which do I say if it's okay, I do mind or I don't?"

"Oh. 'I don't mind.'"

"That. I don't mind helping Mom."

Mulder hugs him. "Good man. Thank you."

"No problem."

"Come on." Mulder leads him out of the room, and to where Scully is. Nodding to her he speaks loud enough to be sure the other kids hear. "David has volunteered to keep you company tonight."

"Mom's not coming?" Page asks. Sammy and Jared shrug.

"Thanks, David. We'll have to find something else to do tonight."

"That's not too scary for the babies," David agrees.

Scully shoots Mulder a look and he shrugs like his sons did.

"Let's go!" Mulder tells the kids, gesturing at the door with one hand while he capture's William's with the other.

"Have fun!" Scully calls to her departing children.

"They will," Mulder answers for them. Then he begins to hum the theme song to Rawhide, making his three oldest groan, but Jared and William try to sing along.

Not long after Mulder leaves, David looks at his mother and sighs.

This is so uncharacteristic of him she can't hide her surprise. "What's wrong?"

David sits in a chair and begins to kick his feet. "I know."

"Know what?" she asks warily.

"You and Daddy are just being nice. I Know Daddy knows I'm scared of clowns."

"Me too."

He scowls. "He told you too, then."

"No... I mean I'm afraid of clowns too. That's why I stayed behind instead of Daddy."

"You're not afraid of 'em. You're not afraid of anything!"

Oh yes I am, Scully thinks. Her mind flashes through times she was afraid for Mulder or the kids. Out loud, she says, "Everyone is afraid of something, David."

He looks like he's about to protest, but he just shakes his head.

"You know, part of the reason I broke up with the man I was dating when I began to work with Daddy had to do with clowns."

"Nuh uh!" he boy exclaimed. "How? And what's his name?"

"His name is Ethan, and he's a reporter now."

David looks puzzled. "Book reports? Like Page and Sammy do for school?"

"No!" Sally can't help but giggle at the mental image of Ethan reciting book reports professionally. "No, he writes newspaper stories."

"Oh." David pauses. "Did he write a clown story?"

"No, he didn't."

"Then what did he do wrong with clowns?"

"He decided we should do something special, a surprise, for Halloween, and he took me to the circus. I decided he didn't know me well at all then, because it wasn't a good surprise."

"Oh. He scared you trying to be nice."

Scared me, scared me off... "Pretty much."

David smiles suddenly. "I'm glad Daddy knew you better."

"Me too." she ruffles his hair. "So, what should we do that doesn't involve clowns?"

Things go relatively smoothly for Mulder as he and the kids arrive at the circus. He has a deathgrip on the hands of his two youngest sons, and to his relief Jared seems okay without his twin, chattering to April as they walk up to the entrance. Sammy and Page are fine with being minimally supervised as usual, if a bit bossy when their younger siblings get so caught up into their conversation that they almost walk into an old woman.

It's not the kids who cause a scene in the end...

At the entrance Mulder hands their tickets to a bored looking woman in her twenties at the entrance, and her eyes widen in surprise when she actually looks at them. "You're Fox Mulder!"

"Um, yup. That's me," Mulder admits uncomfortably. His children crowd against his legs. If he and Scully still aren't comfortable with their unexpected fame, neither are their children. Even the most out-going of their brood doesn't particularly like it when their parents get singled out for effusive attention from strangers.

"Oh, wow. I have to tell someone!" she exclaims.

To his dumbfoundment, instead of giving them their ticket stubs and programs, the young woman exits the booth with their tickets still in her hands, leaving them standing there in confusion.

Jared looks up at him. "Can we go in?"

"Not without the ticket stubs," Mulder says glumly. He hopes the erratic employee of the circus returns from gossiping very soon because it won't take long before the kids get antsy and he doesn't blame them.

"Where did she go?" Sammy asks, looking around. From his tone it's clear that even a nine-year-old can understand that the woman's behavior is less than professional.

He doesn't have much luck spotting her either when he turns to look. "I-"

"There," Page says, pointing in the opposite direction.

To Mulder's dismay, the errant circus employee has another person with her, this one a woman in her thirties. Great, he grumbles internally, they've been delayed so her coworker can meet him. Mulder begins to mentally compose a complaint e-mail in his head as the twosome approaches.

Instead of asking for his autograph, the older woman gives him a big smile. "Mister Mulder, could you and your children follow me?"

"What about the ticket stubs?" Christopher asks. "Daddy said we can't go in without them."

"Jenny?" The woman holds out her hands for the stubs then gives them to Christopher, who clutches them like a talisman. "Okay?"

"Um, no," Mulder tells her. "Where are we going?"

"Front row," the woman explains.

"That's not the row I bought tickets for-"

"I know."

"Look, I don't want special treatment..." He trails off when he notices the woman's exasperated look.

"Think of it as less special treatment than good publicity for the circus," she explains. "Having you seen here is good for our bottom line. Okay?"

"Uh...okay," he says quickly. If he can help the circus at the same time as getting plumb seats, he guesses it's not worth protesting that they should stick with the seats he bought. But that does give him pause. "Are we going to be kicking anyone out of their seats?"

The manager shakes her head. "We sell those tickets at the last minute if we don't find someone desirable to put there."

This makes him smirk: apparently he and his kids aren't the only people to have ever been pulled out of line.

He notices the kids looking towards him for a cue as to what to do. Pointing at the woman he says "Follow her."

Sammy shrugs and the other kids begin to follow the manager. William looks scared by the quick change of plans, so Mulder has Christopher take Sammy's hand instead so he can pick the youngest up.

"I'm Alice, by the way," the manager offers as she weaves through the milling crowd.

"Bytheway is kind of a strange last name," Mulder hears Sammy mutter to Page, who sighs.

It seems to take half an hour of dodging other people to finally reach the front row, but Mulder knows that it probably has taken less than five minutes.

"Here we go," Alice announces. The seats are red velvet and don't seem much different from the ones they've passed along the way, other than being right in front of the action. William wiggles in Mulder's arms, clearly ready to be put back down.

"Will, you sit on one side of me, and Christopher you sit on the other. The rest of you can pick your seats," Mulder tells his children, anticipating that one of the smaller boys might need to be brought to the restroom before intermission.

"Thanks," Jared chirps, and unsurprisingly sits next to April. Sammy and Page start to walk to the farthest seats, but something the manager says stops them in their tracks.

"You know, I thought they'd be this cute," Alice remarks to Mulder.

"What?" he asks blankly, looking around for a baby animal perhaps. Then he realizes that she means the kids, who are pretty cute in his own estimation.

The manager shrugs. "You and your wife are a good looking couple. I figured your kids would be pretty too."

"We're pretty?" Sammy asks, managing to sound both shocked and disgusted.

"Handsome?" she offers. "You boys, anyway."

"Yeah, okay."

Mulder just shakes his head. Then he notices that Alice is counting. "You have more though, don't you? The Enquirer said nine."

They were mentioned in the Enquirer? That's news to him. "Dana has three of the kids with her." He hopes she won't ask why because he just wants to get the kids settled before the show starts.

Alice looks at the kids. "The littlest ones...and an older boy, right?"

Mulder points at Jared. "His twin."

"Are both sets of twins really identical?"

"Yeah..." He can't keep his growing impatience out of his tone.

Alice gets the hint. "Well, if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."

"Thanks!" the kids exclaim, making him wonder if they'll take her at her word. She'll only have herself to blame if they do.

Vacation: Day Seven, part II

Scully and David order ice cream from room service, though Scully ends up sharing half of hers with Zoe and Brianna. Fortunately she thought of this and ordered a bigger size than she'd normally eat.

"Oops," she laughs, reaching over to wipe hot fudge off the tip of her son's nose when he declares himself done with his. "You missed a spot."

"Maybe I wanted it there," he retorts, grinning at her.



"So what else do you want-" She stops abruptly when her phone rings.

"Mama, phone," Zoe tells her, pointing at her purse.

"Thanks, baby girl." Scully kisses her daughter on the head before grabbing her purse and fishing through it for her phone. She assumes it's Mulder until she reads the display. "It's Aunt Missy," Scully tells them, though David is probably the only one of the three who cares.

"Okay," David tells her. His expression clearly says that he hopes that his aunt's call will be brief, leaving Scully to wonder how he would have answered her question.

Putting the phone to her ear, Scully manages to grab Brianna by the back of her shorts before she runs off. This makes the toddler laugh and sit down on the floor. "Missy?"

"Dana!" her sister exclaims, sounding happy. "How was seeing Bill?"

"Uh, it was good," Scully tells her.

Missy laughs. "I bet you're happy he's the one going insane with all those babies."

She gives the phone a rueful smile. How did her sister know? "He's not quite insane."

"It's only going to get worse when you get to Lake Tahoe," Missy predicts.

"Are you sure that you're not going to join us?" Scully asks. It bothers her even more that her sister isn't going to be joining them than the fact that Mrs. Mulder isn't inclined to.

"Oh, no," Missy declares. "I'm having a nice relaxing summer at home with my kids and Alex. We're happy where we are, thank you very much."

This isn't the first time Missy has declared that they're happy at home. Emily and Alex didn't express any misgivings the night before she and Mulder left for the airport, so she supposes that she really has to believe her. Addy and Ryan are so young that they're probably happy anywhere as long as they get their parents attention and affections.

"Well, maybe next summer," Scully says eventually.

Her sister snorts. "Oh, Day, first you have to survive the rest of the vacation you're on before you can plan another one."

"So far, so good," Scully tells her. "Mulder has most of the kids, but would you like to talk to David?"


David casts his mother a startled look, but takes the phone when she offers it to him. "Hi, Aunt Missy."

"Hey kiddo. How come you're with Mom tonight?"

Scully watches her son squirm. "Well, they went to a circus..."

"Ah. Clowns, huh? I don't like them either."

"You don't?" he asks, apparently shocked.

"Nope. And your uncle Bill hates them too. I bet no one ever told you that."


"Your grandpa Scully, he was into being brave, but even he said everyone is afraid of something, and it's okay that they are."

David looks like he's considering everything he's ever been told about the grandfather he never met. "What was he afraid of?"


"Oh, eww. I don't like 'em but I guess it'd be easy to be afraid of them."

"Your mom sounded a little like she wanted to get going, so tell everyone that I love them, okay?"

"Okay. Love you too. Bye."

As soon as he hangs up, Scully gives him an expectant look. "Well, are you going to tell me where we're going?"

"Um... could we go see a movie?" David asks.

"I think that could be arranged."


Scully looks through the complimentary paper and finds the kids movies that are playing. "How about Garfield? It's a movie about a fat orange cat."

"Kind of like Piper," David says, and his youngest sisters immediately look around in confusion, seeming to expect to see one half of the family's feline duo.

"Well, all orange, but kind of."


"Good. I'll leave Daddy a note, then we can go."

Without being asked, David goes into the room the smallest kids are sharing and returns with his little sisters' sandals. Scully smiles when she notices and wonders if he's trying to be helpful or just hoping to get going sooner.

Over the course of the evening lions have been tamed, jugglers have juggled, acrobats have flown through the air, and there have been an unseemly amount of clowns delighting and terrorizing the audience. The last makes Mulder happy that neither David nor Scully are there.

But the other kids haven't forgotten that their brother is home alone. Mulder has William in his arms and is trying to get Sammy to take the program they'd bought when Jared looks up from the display of souvenir stuffed animals the kids have already talked him into letting them pick out. "Daddy, can we get one for David too? I know he didn't come, but..."

"Sure!" Mulder tells him. "Which one?"

Jared is already clutching a stuffed giraffe - he'd picked it almost as quickly as April scooped up a tiger - and Mulder assumes that he'll pick up another giraffe. To his mild surprise, the boy reaches down and picks up an elephant before handing it to him. "He'd like this one, Daddy."

"Okay." Smiling at Jared and William, who are the only kids paying any attention to him, he asks, "How about we pick out ones for the babies, too?"

William nods solemnly before saying, "Kitties. The babies like kitties."

"Hmm." Mulder paws through the pile and finds two lions before holding the pair up by their tails. "Like these?"


"I think he's right, they love kitties," David tells him.

"One elephant and two lions it is." Mulder glances over at the other kids. "You guys make up your minds yet? I'd like to pay and get going."

Before he quite knows how it happens, he ends up with all nine stuffed animals that he immediately begins to lose his grip on. Fortunately April and Sammy catch every one he drops before they hit the none-too-clean floor.

The clerk packs the toys into a couple of bags so Mulder's able to hand them off to April and Jared to carry while he wrangles his youngest, sleepiest sons on the way to the car. In the end he's carrying William while holding Christopher's hand and keeping him from stumbling. It was easier when they were small enough to carry at the same time...

He's just about to tell the older kids to be careful when they cross the parking lot when a voice yells "Mr. Mulder!"

He whips his head around just in time to be blinded by a flashbulb. This makes him squint painfully since he doesn't have a free hand to shield his eyes. Eventually he's able to see again and realizes that there's a man with a rather large camera looking at him. "Hey!" Mulder protests.

The photographer looks down at the camera, which is apparently a digital one despite the fancy lens. "Crap. Hey, do you mind if your kids are in the picture? The magazine makes me ask."

"Yes, I mind," Mulder tells him through gritted teeth. He doesn't mind that being semi-famous puts him and Scully in the limelight now and then, but they've done their best to shield their children from unwanted attention.

"Oh." The other guy sighs. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to let me take another picture, would you? Since I can't use this one?"

At first Mulder is about to refuse outright, but then he relents. Turning to where the other kids are, he says "Sammy, could you take your brothers please?"

"Um, okay," Sammy mumbles around a mouthful of the cotton candy that Alice made sure the kids all got. He darts forward and takes William from his father, then prods Christopher to weave his way towards their siblings.

"Thanks!" the photographer chirps. Somehow Mulder thinks that he's not very accustomed to the celebrities he stalks with his camera agreeing to picture. "Can you try to look surprised?"

Sighing, Mulder tries to imagine what his reaction would have been after his abduction if he'd borrowed one of Scully's pregnancy tests and found out that he was expecting an alien-human hybrid of his own.

"Okay, but not like you've just discovered that your life has turned to crap," the other man coaxes.

So instead Mulder imagines Alex picking up a tab for something.

The camera flashes and after a moment the photographer crows, "Got it, thanks!"

"Uh huh," Mulder tells him, and rejoins his children.

They manage to reach the rental car without further incident.


The kids are actually skipping down the hallway as they near their rooms, but Mulder whistles to get their attention. Six pairs of eyes immediately look at them. "Quieter. We have no idea if Mom has put the babies down."

"Oh yeah," Sammy mumbles. "She and David could have fallen asleep too."

"It's kind of early for that-" Mulder begins to protest, but Jared cuts him off.

"Yup, they could have been bored to sleep."

Shaking his head, Mulder hands Page the pass-card and grabs William before he manages to jam his hand into the ice machine he'd begun investigating as soon as they stopped.

"Hey, buddy, don't do that," Mulder scolds gently. "That thing is dangerous."

William gives him a woebegone look before hanging his head and saying, "Okay."

In the meantime Sammy and Page must have gone into the room because Sammy runs back to him. "Dad! There's no one here!"

"Maybe they went somewhere," Mulder suggests. William has his hand in the ice machine once more. Tired of trying to reason with William, he scoops the toddler up into his arms again.

"Down, please," William begs after a minute.

"Okay," Mulder agrees as they enter their suite. "Don't run off."

"Won't." As if to demonstrate this, William clambers up onto the sofa.

"I found a note," April announces.

Sammy stares at her. "Did someone kidnap them??"

"No, they went to the movies," his sister informs him.

"Sammy," Mulder groans. "Don't ever say anything like that in front of your mom."

"How come?"

Mulder stares at him, wondering if he should say what he's thinking. Before he can, though, April gives her older brother a quizzical look. "Because of Bumpa," she says softly.

This doesn't stop Sammy from looking like he's been slapped. "Oh." Looking up at Mulder he gives him weak smile. "I won't say anything about kidnapping in front of Mom."

"Good man." Mulder smiles at him before looking at the rest of the kids. "Pajamas, pronto."

"Yes, Dad!" the kids chorus before scattering. Even Christopher and William do, and for a moment he wonders if William is going to try to change on his own for once. Stranger things have happened, especially in their family.

He's relaxing on the couch a few minutes later, thinking about some of the decidedly strange things that have happened since he and Scully married, when the door knob turns.

David runs to him the second he comes in. "Hi, Daddy!"

"Hey. What did you guys do tonight?" Mulder asks, getting up so he can help Scully get the girls out of their stroller.

"We went to see a movie!" David goes on for a couple of minutes, explaining the plot. While he listens he and Scully strip the girls out of their clothes and put them into their jammies too.

"It sounds like everyone had a good time tonight."


"David! We got you something," Jared calls, obviously having heard the rest of the family coming in. At least he's dressed for bed. "Come see!"


A moment later Mulder and Scully are alone except for their twin daughters, who are rapidly falling asleep in their arms. "So," Mulder says quietly. "Good night?"

"Pretty good."

He leans over their babies to kiss her. "If we get them all to sleep soon, maybe we can upgrade that to great."

"What do you have in mind, Mulder?" she asks archly.

In a few long strides he's reached one of the cribs, and deposits one daughter in it, before taking the other from Scully. She takes a moment to tuck in the boys too, then they shut off the light and leave the room.

"Hmm...What did I have in mind?" Mulder finally muses. "Maybe we can play 20 Questions."

She looks around, then pokes her head in the other room, checking to see if the other kids are in bed too. Her expression is satisfied when she stalks back towards him, and he notices an enticing wiggle to her hips.

Climbing up on the bed, she asks "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?"

He gives her a slow grin. "Animal, definitely."

"Are you sure?" she asks, reaching for his zipper.

"Is that one of your questions?" He swallows hard when she unzips him.


"I'm going to stick with animal."

"Oh." He gives her a puzzled look when she affects disappointment. "I was sure something this hard would be mineral."

"Hey!" he squeaks. Her hands are colder than he would have expected during the summer. "Did you guys get ice cream or something?"

"Mulder, I'm the one who's supposed to be asking questions," she tells him. "Now where was I?"

He gestures and they both laugh. The kids stay blissfully asleep and Scully doesn't need to ask twenty questions before they both get what they're after.

Vacation: Day Nine

Vacation: Day Nine

They wait until the next to last night to hit any of the casinos. Scully is reluctant at first, but Mulder insists that they take at least one night for themselves, and she eventually agrees after they listen to the kids argue about what they want to watch on one of the suite's TVs. They're met by a babysitter just moments after dressing for a night out on the town.

Since he doesn't care where they go, he lets Scully choose which casino they should waste money in. She picks a flashy one he's pretty sure that they've seen in at least one movie, and they are barely in the door when waitresses descend upon them with the offer of free drinks. They both wave them away with a smile, promising to hit them up for a drink later in the night.

As he scans the casino floor, Mulder thinks he catches sight of a familiar figure, and begins to hurry in that direction. Scully nearly stumbles in her haste to keep up with him and hisses "Mulder, where are you going?" just as they sidestep a drunk man wearing a ten gallon hat.

"Isn't...?" he mutters to himself, stopping short when he loses sight of the man he's been tailing. Cupping his hands around his mouth, Mulder shouts "Melvin!"

People around them give the couple odd looks, making Scully flush in embarrassment.

She opens her mouth, clearly about to ask Mulder what's wrong with him, when people standing near them begins to react as someone shoves their way through the crowd. "Get out of the way, would ya?" a voice growls.

A few people step aside and a short man glares at those who remain in his way. Scully's eyes widen in surprise. "Frohike?"

"Fancy running into you here," Frohike says in a clear effort to be charming. "This your first time in Vegas, Dana?"

Mulder feels a weird feeling of disorientation, and has to bite his tongue from snapping that the gunman knows very well that it isn't: as far as Frohike and Scully are concerned, the past when the gunmen tricked her into going to Vegas never happened - it had been Mulder who'd been dragged trying to help them instead. He's sort of surprised to continue to occasionally feel that disorientation even now, months after the new timeline has caught up to and surpassed the original one.

"It's my first time here," Scully agrees.

Mulder, although still not exactly pleased that the Gunmen had gotten him drugged the last time he was there, is grateful that being forewarned allowed him to spare his then- pregnant wife the experience. The things we do for love, he thinks ruefully.

"So, are the other stooges with you?" he eventually asks Frohike.

"Yeah," Frohike admits with an indignant glare.

"What's the special occasion?'" he asks, wondering why the guys hadn't told him that they were going to be in Vegas too. It makes him worry a little that they might be strapped for cash again, though he knows Yves made some overtures towards paying them back for the money they were out looking for her. Langly had said something about her getting royalties for a legitimate program, but Mulder had been distracted at the time so he'd been left with only a hazy idea of what all that had been about.

"It was a spur of the moment thing," Frohike explains. There's a hint of defensiveness to his tone. "We wanted to show the ladies a good time and somehow that led us here."

"The ladies?" Scully asks with raised eyebrows, voicing exactly the question Mulder has. Trying to be discreet, Mulder looks for the other gunmen, hoping he won't see them in the company of women who are on the clock, so to speak.

To Mulder's utter shock, Frohike begins to blush. "We were going to tell you about them soon but we didn't want to jump the gun..."

"So, when and where did you meet them?" Mulder asks pleasantly, telling himself that this is good practice for when Sammy brings home a girl for the first time; somehow he thinks that will be less stressful then when Page begins dating.

As if channeling Sammy, Frohike squirms under Mulder's mild gaze. "There was this convention back in April... They were selling a pretty useful program-"

"You still go to those things?" Mulder blurts out, thinking of the way he met the trio himself.

"Yeah. They're a good way to meet people," Frohike grumbles.

Mulder puts up his hands. "No arguments here."

Scully smirks at them, and Mulder can't imagine why until she says. "Someday I'd like to hear 'the uncles" version of how you and Mulder met. It made quite an impression on the kids."

Frohike groans. "Do they still remember that?"

"Page does," she says, and Mulder blinks: he didn't know that. "Sammy was a bit too young to, though he told me about it at the time."

"Babysitting leaves scars," Frohike intones.

"Ha," Mulder retorts. "On you, you mean."

"Exactly." He sighs before brightening. "I guess you want to meet them," he says, sounding a bit shy.

"Of course," Scully answers for them both, so Mulder nods.

Frohike begins to thread his way through the crowd, and they struggle a little to keep up, mostly because so many of their fellow casino goers have taken thorough advantage of the free drinks and have no idea what they're doing as they stumble around.

Just when Mulder reaches the point of wishing he still had a gun and badge to see if that would make an impression on the half-stupor'd crowd, Byers and Langly come into view. They're alone, and for a moment Mulder pities Frohike for feeling the need to have told them a story about girls, but Langly notices them and asks Scully, "Why do chicks always go to the can in packs?"


"What?" Langly looks comically confused.

"Birds travel in flocks, not herds," she explains calmly.

"Actually," Byers says from his chair. "Chicks travel in broods. Or chatterings."

"Chatterings," Frohike repeats, looking disgusted.

"Nerd," Langly accuses the most dapper gunman, who just shrugs. "But yeah, a chattering does sound like chicks. Ha."

Mulder is tempted to ask "so these girls are real?" but he notices a trio of women clearly making their way over to the gunmen.

Looking them over, Mulder amuses himself by trying to figure out which of the women prefers each of his friends and finds himself with only a 33% success rate matching them up.

The blonde wearing a Darth Hello Kitty tee shirt darts to Byer's side, a polished raven-haired woman dressed in a blouse and skirt combo that a bank teller might favor joins Frohike, and a brunette who looked like she might have inherited Missy's pre-mommy wardrobe kisses Langly hello.

Glancing at his wife's face, Mulder is fairly certain she didn't score any better at the match game than he did. But she looks slightly more guilty for engaging in stereotyping than he does.

Langly's companion claps her hands when she notices them. "They told me that you were close friends." The woman doesn't seem to notice the confused look on Scully's face at the phrase 'close friends' and simply goes on. "But as much as I wanted to believe that, it was hard to, you know? Probably a thousand times as many people claim to be friends with TV stars than actually are."

Scully looks like she's going to protest, and he hopes it's that they're TV stars, not good friends, but he glances at her and she relaxes. Smiling, she simply says "Yes, we've known them quite a long time."

The blonde, who is clearly older than her perky tee-shirt suggests, gives them a curious look. "Were they really at your wedding?"

"They were," Mulder tells her. "I think that was the very first time Frohike hit on-"

"Hey!" Frohike squeaks and gives his date a worried look. She doesn't look scandalized so he gives her a wan smile.

"Just kidding," Mulder tells the woman. "Melvin was a perfect gentleman."

To his surprise, the dark haired woman rolls her eyes. "Now I know you're lying."

"Steph-" Frohike begins to say, but she cuts him off with a look.

Reaching out, she pats his arm. "Dating a perfect gentleman was never a big goal of mine. We're all adults here. We all have pasts."

"Except for Byers," Langly says wittily, suggesting he's been indulging in free drinks too.

Byers gives him a long suffering look, but is mollified when the blonde awws and kisses him.

"Melvin started to tell us how you met, but not your names," Scully tells the other women.

After a flurry of speech, Mulder thinks he's got it down: Byers' blonde companion is Tracy, the raven-haired woman by Frohike's side is Stephanie but refuses to answer to her Christian name, and the brunette perched on Langly's lap is Carrie. Still, he sort of wishes he could talk them in to wearing Hello My Name Is stickers, just to be sure he doesn't slip up. Glancing at his wife, he's sure she at least has committed the names to memory.

"Alright," Steph says. "So these guys really went to a celebrity wedding."

Mulder's laugh startles her quiet. "It was hardly a celebrity wedding. Ten and a half years ago we were still a couple of broke-ass FBI agents."

Tracy shakes her head. "You're celebrities, it was your wedding, it counts."


"Anyway," Steph says loudly, making herself blush when they all stare at her. "What I was going to ask is, are these guys really your kids' godparents?"

"I am a god father," Frohike declares.

"You wish you were the godfather," Langly retorts. "But he was taller. And fatter."

"I said 'a' not 'the', you dolt."

Mulder holds his hands in the international sporting gesture for a time out. "Yes, they're our children's godparents."

"God help them," Langly say owlishly. He winces when Byers elbows him.

Scully shrugs. "You don't give yourselves enough credit."

"We were young and dumb?" Mulder offers.

Scully rolls her eyes. "Our kids call them 'our uncles'," she offers.

"aww," Tracy coos again.

Mulder decides that she has to be smarter than she comes off as, or Byers' tastes have changed radically over time.

"Yeah, yeah," Langly grouses. "They call John and Monica aunt and uncle too."

"John and Monica?" Carrie asks.


"But they don't call Walter Skinner or Michelle that, do they?" Byers asks.

"No one dares calling that man 'uncle Walt'!" Mulder crows. "I bet his sisters' kids call him 'sir' too."

"And Michelle?" Byers asks. "Most of the kids have known her their whole lives."

"'Most of?" Carrie murmurs. Her eyes widen when Langly clumsily holds up nine fingers, and she quietly gasps when a much more sober Byers nods.

Byers' question makes Mulder think about how Scully had told him on the plane that Michelle intends to leave in June. It makes him more than a little sad because she's been such a reliable presence in their lives for so long, but he understands why a woman who might one day wish to have a family of her own would want to get out of nannying before her thirties.

"To be fair, they still don't call Amy or Rachel aunt," Mulder deflects.

"Michelle has stuck around a lot longer," Byers says, surprisingly persistent.

"Maybe they will when she leaves," Scully quietly suggests.

Mulder glances at her, wondering if she does make Scully feel like an older sister as he's always suspected. Scully outright admitted that Michelle helped her cope when he was six feet under, and she clearly holds Michelle in higher regard than she did previous nannies, though she liked them both too. When his mind next wanders to Kyrcek, he chokes on a laugh, making most of them look at him funny. "Sorry," he says, but doesn't elaborate.

"Is she leaving?" Frohike asks, looking mildly alarmed.

"In June," Scully admits before sighing. Waving a hand she says, "It's probably time for a day nanny instead of a live-in one anyway. Seven out of nine kids are in school at least part of the day, anyway, and it's not like we travel for work all of the time, either."

Byers casts her a sympathetic look. "But you'll really miss her."


"Do you know what she plans to do when she leaves?" Frohike asks intently.

Mulder gives him a long look. "Fro, why are you so interested?" If it wasn't for Steph's existence in the man's life he might have assumed that Frohike was interested in her, but it would have to be a latent interest given that he'd never hit on her... At least not in Mulder's hearing. Which is good for Frohike's well-being considering that Scully isn't the only one who cares a lot for their nanny.

Completely unaware of Mulder's concern, Frohike shrugs and says, "If she needs a job, send her to us. She's a smart cookie and anyone who can sanely look after nine little kids has the necessary temperament to get along with us."

Scully looks flustered, but Mulder hugs her while saying, "If she seems interested I'll have her send you her resume."


Langly suddenly looks grumpy. "Enough with the yapping. Some of us are here to gamble."

"You're that eager to have to eBay off your cartoon porn to make the rent?"

"It's anime!" Langly protests.

"It's demented," Byers tells him.


"Quiet, hippy," Frohike growls. Mulder leans down and whispers in Scully's ear. "Let's hit the roulette table."

"Feeling lucky?" she asks archly.

Mulder snakes an arm around her, patting her on the butt as he does so. "With you? Always. Always."

"Get a room," Langly groans.

"Quiet, Ringo," his girlfriend tells him. When he gives her a questioning look she says, "Critics don't get public displays of affection themselves."

Rolling his eyes, he addresses the other couple. "Then keep it PG-13. I'm not exactly an exhibitionist myself."

"Noted," Mulder says, smirking at him before trailing kisses up his wife's neck and jaw.

Steph laughs and suggests that they all hit the roulette table, leading Mulder to believe that his whispering wasn't quite as private as he thought.

In the end Langly doesn't need to sell anything and in fact comes ahead by a few grand, which he loudly rubs Frohike's nose in. As for Mulder and Scully, they come away from the table five hundred dollars richer.

Vacation: Day Ten

Vacation: Day Ten
7:15 a.m.

Both Mulder and Scully are more than a little bleary-eyed as they partake in the final free complimentary breakfast their hotel offers. The kids seem extra-loud to Mulder, and he vaguely wonders if that's because he eventually had three free drinks the night before. He hasn't gotten well and truly drunk since the week David and Jared were born, so he's definitely out of practice when it comes to drinking.

He's still swallowing a yawn when he goes to the front desk to hand in their room keys. The girl behind the desk is as much of a morning person as his kids, at least gauging by how awake she seems.

"I hope you enjoyed your stay with us."

"Oh yeah, it was great," Mulder says sleepily.

"Maybe we'll see you around here next year," she perkily adds.

Puzzled, he asks, "What makes you say that?"

"Well, you're on that show, right?"

"Uh huh."

"Then I'm sure you'll want to see the new museum." Mulder just gives her a blank look. "The science fiction museum they're going to name after Jose Chung?" her voice rises at the end, like she's asking him something rather than telling him. Maybe she is.

"Right." Mulder has no idea what she's talking about, but he supposes Wayne will tell him about it soon. Probably will want to do a live episode there and everything too. Maybe he should do a net search before their vacation is over, so he won't be quite as blind-sided as he normally is by Wayne's great ideas.

"See you next time!" the girl calls as he starts to walk away. He gives her a tired wave before rejoining his wife and children.

Hopefully everyone will fall asleep on the flight that's taking them to their next destination.

12:13 p.m.

The airport's arrival area is more crowded than it was a week ago now that late summer is in full swing, and the security is more short-tempered, the luggage arriving more slowly, and nobody's in a vacation frame of mind yet. Especially not a Caucasian-Asian teen who'd rather be hanging out with his friends at home shooting bad guys in a video game than here in California with his parents and grandmother.

"Dad, can we go on the paddle wheel boats first? I don't wanna hang around with the babies," the fifteen-year-old says without looking up from his handheld game console. From his tone it's clear that "the babies" are anyone younger than he is, or most of the other kids that will be there.

"What's the magic word?" Charlie Scully glances at his son before grabbing the last of their luggage from the luggage carousel. His mother has been uncharacteristically silent most of the trip, but she points out her suitcase before casting a worried look at her eldest grandchild.

"Huh?" Brandon looks up, and then the game makes a disappointing synthesized noise.

"Aw man, you made me lose this part, now I'm gonna have to re-do it!"

Elaine, now shorter than her son since his growth spurt late last year, glowers up at him. "The answer is no, you can't go on the paddle wheel boats first." She swiftly grabs the game console from her son, who tries to grab it back, but she smacks his hand smartly, not caring if she's demonstrating corporal punishment in public. "We're going to have lunch with the family, and then the adults are going to have a nice long chat while you *children*," she emphasizes that word specifically to make her son cringe, "get re-acquainted."

"I don't wanna get re-ah-whatever." Brandon scowls, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Re-acquainted," Elaine repeats. "Charlie, talk to your son, would you?"

I think you're doing enough of it for me, the redheaded man thinks but wisely refrains from saying. Before he can form any kind of decent retort or beg his own mother to intervene, however, his cell phone rings, and he answers, "Yep."

"Hello?" the voice on the other end asks.

Charlie rolls his eyes, wondering if his brother ever learned to program in caller ID, then says in a booming voice, "This is Charles Scully, declare yourself or end this conversation now!"

He ignores his wife's loud sigh, his mother's mild chuckle, and his son's whine of "Daaad!" smirking as his older brother on the other end sputters, then grumbles, "Why do you have to be such a wise guy?"

"Because it's much more fun," he replies. "Are you guys out in front?"

"Yes," Bill Jr. replies tersely, "come on out."

He lets go of the luggage handle to salute his currently-unseen brother. "Aye, aye, Captain!" His brother sighs before hanging up.

God, it is gonna be good to see them again, Charlie thinks with a smile, then picks up the two largest suitcases (both of them his wife's, of course) and shoves his son towards the rest of the luggage. "Come on, big guy, give your old man a hand and let's not keep my big bro waiting." He grins at his son.

"Yeah, yeah," Brandon grumbles, but he's not-so-secretly preening that he is big enough and strong enough to pull both his and his dad's suitcases.

Elaine, however, secretly smirks behind her son's back. While he isn't good at yelling, she is grateful that Charlie is very good at getting their son to do what he is told, even now that he is a recalcitrant teenager. She isn't often a praying woman, but ever since Brandon entered junior high she's been inwardly pleading to some unknown force or deity that Brandon will snap out of this phase soon and become a mature young man before she kills him.

It isn't long before the Scully women are bonding over sandwiches and sweet tea, while the other members of their respective families are cast adrift in the sea of semi-familiar family. "Oh my gosh, Charlie's going to say something silly again," Elaine giggles for the first time in ages, while her sisters-in-law mirror her.

"Not if Mulder beats him to it." Scully smirks.

"Neither of you seem to think Bill has a sense of humor, do you?" Tara gives both women an arch look, and they look abashed for a second before she bursts into a fresh peal of laughter. "What am I saying, he'd only say or do something silly by accident!"

"True, and he'd only make himself look sillier by trying to talk his way out of it." Scully grins. "He's probably glad they never had easily-accessible recording devices back in the day, or we'd have blackmail material to last a lifetime."

"Dana," her mother chides her gently, and Scully blushes a little. "It's true, Bill can be a little stubborn, but that seems to be the case for all my children." Scully stays quiet as her mother continues, "However, my eldest boy was rather shy growing up, but hid it well since we expected him to be the responsible one. He was never as comfortable as the rest of you in expressing his humor, although he seems to be improving as the years go by."

"Really?" Elaine looks curiously at the eldest Scully male before shaking her head. "I can't imagine it."

Tara smiles at Scully. "Your mother gave me plenty of ammunition for the first couple years of marriage, but he unwittingly gave me more for the rest of it."

Scully snorts. "It figures. One of these days, he'll figure out that he'd be better off just admitting he made a mistake, and then where would you be?"

"Oh, Dana." The Scully matron shakes her head, but she's still smiling. "Speaking of intractable Scully men, I noticed Brandon's getting into the worst part of his teenage years."

Elaine nods tiredly. "I was wondering when you'd bring that up," she says, looking into her now-empty cup. "I sometimes think, maybe it would be better if I just ship him off to boot camp some days!"

"Really?" Scully's eyes are wide. "I never would've imagined he's so, um, so-"

"Neither would I," her Asian sister-in-law sighs, "but he is. I don't know which is worse, Brandon turning into this sullen brat, or me turning into my strict mother. I swore I'd never be like her, and here I am, yelling the same things she yelled at me when I was his age. The other day, he called me 'Dragon Lady', and I was this close to hitting him!"

Scully and Tara look at each other. "Now I'm getting depressed," Tara quips. "I thought with having quadruplets it would be hardest while they're this small, but I don't want to imagine them being tough-to-deal with teens all at the same time." Then she casts an eye at the very husband she was poking fun at earlier. "If there's any consolation for me, though, Bill would never put up with that."

"Yeah, he *would* send them to boot camp, not just threaten it." Scully nods, a small smile showing in spite of herself, and the other women laugh.

"Dana!" Maggie Scully tries to glare, but it doesn't work that way. Then Maggie smiles at Elaine. "Feel free to use Bill to threaten Brandon, dear."

Elaine shakes her head. "I appreciate the offer, but Brandon actually listens to Charlie. Charlie seems fairly easy-going, but for some reason, he's got more authority in Brandon's life than I do."

Scully bites her lower lip. "I hate to say this," the redhead says, "but it's probably because of our father. Boys tend to seek approval from male authority figures, even if they rebel against authority in general. Goodness knows Charlie could be like that at times."

"I can see Charlie rebelling," Elaine says. "I just can't imagine him being as sullen as Brandon."

"Gee, I guess Charlie's got his own kind of reputation to maintain." Scully smirks. "He might be all sunshine and smiles now, but when he was Brandon's age and all the way through high school, he was practically a thundercloud of scowls. He almost put Bill's scowls to shame at times."

Tara blinks, then sputters into laughter. "Really? Oh my gosh, I almost wish I had a picture of that!" The blonde woman holds her stomach, trying to picture a scowling Charlie out-scowling her husband.

"Me, too," Elaine chortles. "It would make things a little more fair, I think."

"Well, we've got the rest of the summer vacation to take memorable family photos." Mrs. Scully smiles peaceably, belying her next words, "Who knows, you can cheerfully embarrass your son with these pictures when he starts dating."

"Maggie Scully, you are devious woman," the Asian woman declares and smiles back. "I like that."

Then Tara glances at Mattie and they follow her gaze. "I pray that mine stays the same sweet boy, no matter what age he is."

Scully feels that if that little boy can survive suddenly becoming the eldest of five, he can do anything. All she says is, however, "Amen to that." The other women nod since they can't add anything to that sentiment.

"The women are being quiet," Charlie says in a mock-serious tone. "I don't like that."

Mulder snorts. "It's not like they're planning to storm the White House or anything," he says, thinking of the first case he his stuck his nose into after rising from the dead. In both lives.

"I think I'd feel better if they did," Bill Jr. remarks dryly, and the other two men look startled. He shakes his head. "The way things are going, I'd rather have a table of sensible women in charge than a roomful of politicians."

The redheaded man looks at his older brother in awe. "Wow, my straight-arrow bro actually wants women running the country. Somebody, pinch me now!"

"Shut up," the military man grumbles, shoving his youngest sibling none-too-lightly on the arm. "I'm just glad Dad didn't hear me admit that."

"Who knows, your father might've agreed," Mulder notes. "After all, I'd rather take orders from your mom than Mueller any day."

Charlie nods. "Mom's got a way of making you listen, and when you don't, Bill pays the consequences." He chuckles at Mulder's surprised face and Bill's slightly sour one. "Oh, come on, Bill, you hardly got into trouble on your own - it only happened because one or more of us did something and you took the fall as the oldest. I did try my best to stay out of trouble when Dad was home, though, because he was even scarier than Mom."

"He was not," Bill argues.

"Maybe not." Charlie shrugs. "At least, looking back and having a kid of my own... But when we were growing up, and Dad hardly being home, man, it was hard to read him. It was easy to read Mom since she was home all the time, but sometimes, it's hard to tell what the man you respect thinks, right?"

He goes on, as if not paying attention to his brother's silence. "I don't think Missy and Dana got the same impression, since they could get away with more as girls, but I think we both had to walk a finer line with Dad." He turns to Mulder, explaining, "Like have better posture, act more responsibly, answering clearly and humorlessly… I knew I'd never be in the military if I had to act like that the rest of my life, it was hard enough putting up a front for my Dad. Not to say I didn't love him," he adds quickly, "it was just harder to get into that mindset. And I was determined that when I became a dad myself, I'd spend more time with my kid, get to know him and vice versa." Then he sighs. "Though I wonder if that plan didn't backfire a little."

Mulder's about to respond with some comforting words, when, to his surprise, Bill speaks first. "Don't beat yourself up about it," he says, a little gruffly, as if uncomfortable with the words he's saying. Perhaps he is. "Dad did the best he could under the circumstances, and as a military dad myself, I finally understand what he went through. And don't forget what you were like at his age. He'll grow out of it. You did."

Charlie blinks, then nods. "Yeah, I guess I did." He grins ruefully, then looks at his son. "I kinda forgot about that part of my life," he murmurs.

It's hard for Mulder to imagine the smiling, relaxed man as a gloomy teenager, looking like his mixed-race son hunching over his handheld game. Then again, he should know better than anyone how a clown's smile hides a multitude of scars, although he chalks Charlie's up to a mostly-absent father and regular adolescence angst rather than having a sister abducted by a global conspiracy (at least, that only happened to a sister of Charlie's in the last go-round and it was during adulthood) and surviving divorce with equally emotionally-unavailable parents.

"Don't we all," he says, then flings out his arms to catch David and Jared before they run into the table. "Hey, hey, guys, no running in the house, remember?"

His sons are now laughing and catching their breath. "Yeah, but Sammy-"

And then Sammy catches up to them both and roars. Well, as much as a nine-year-old pretending to be a giant mutant monster can be said to roar. "GROAWAARRRR!" he shouts, his hands held up like claws. "Sammy Monster got you now!"

"No way!" the twin boys laugh. "Daddy's got us! We're safe!"

Then Mulder grins an impish smile and scoops them up. "ROARRRR!" he yells, startling the women across the room and most of the kids playing in the middle of the living room.

"Daddy Monster's got you!"

"Nooooo!" David and Jared wail, but there are smiles on their faces, even as their dad and older brother grimace ferociously and continue to roar.

Bill sighs and shakes his head, but there's a small smile on his face, and Charlie snorts and rolls his eyes. "Speaking of monsters, Bill, is it true that there's a lake monster at Lake Tahoe?"

Mattie and Page look startled, while Sammy and Mulder wear the same "oh cool!" look on their faces. Their expressions change when Bill snorts. "No, Tahoe Tessie's just some tourist thing. It gives people something to talk about during the off-season."

"Bummer," Mulder says, and his eldest son nods. "That's okay, I'll pick up the slack as-" and he pauses, hefting his twin sons to a better position so his arms don't fall off, "Daddy Monster! ROAR!" And Sammy roars back, earning looks of long-suffering patience from Scully and Page.

The smaller kids either laugh or roar back... except for the Scully babies, who promptly cry as a quartet. Bill and Tara immediately rush over to the quads to handle the situation, each giving Mulder a dirty look.

"Oh no!" Mulder whispers, attempting to make a getaway with two sons in hand and one on foot before his lovely wife steps in front of him with crossed arms and a glare on her face. "Sorry?" he says in a normal voice.

Scully gets him to put David and Jared down rather than use them as human shields (they aren't that big, anyways), and motions towards her eldest brother's family. "Get over there, now."

"Yes, ma'am," Mulder says meekly, not bothering to salute before his rear end gets singed by the glare she's already turning on him.

At first Bill is annoyed that Mulder has joined them, but only until Mulder gets Mark to stop wailing almost the second he picks him up. Giving Mulder a suspicious look, he demands to know, "How did you do that?"

"Practice," Mulder says promptly.

It's not like Bill can argue with that. Instead he hands Mulder one of his baby daughters. "Do it again," he commands, sound for all the world like one of Mulder and Scully's two youngest sons.

Mulder shrugs and turns his attention to soothing the dark-haired infant in his arms, more than a little amused by the awed look on his brother-in-law's face when he hands her back quiet.

"You've got to show us how you're doing that," Tara practically begs.

"Okay, sure," Mulder agrees, surprised to be regarded as an expert on anything other than the paranormal. "It's actually all in the hips..."

If he'd looked up, he would see his wife smiling at him now instead of glaring.

Vacation: Day Eleven

Vacation: Day Eleven
Camp Richardson

"Wow, there's a lot of nothing here," Ariel grumbles when their family begins unpacking in the cabin.

Her mother, Samantha Hill, shakes her head, wondering how her daughter has come to that conclusion. Lake Tahoe is full of people and activity, especially since it is summertime.

She, her husband, and their four children have joined the Scully families that day, and they'd just arrived less than fifteen minutes ago. Her husband and son are tickled that the cabins are named after cars, while their daughters roll their eyes over it. She'd heard that there will be another family joining them, but they won't be in until later.

Samantha watches as her daughters quickly unload outfits, claim beds and various furniture as their own. On the other hand, Drew has forgotten something in the car and is already bounding back outside. "Drew, get back in here and take care of your things!" she yells.

Unfortunately, he's already found his cousins April, David and Jared, who are also not into unpacking but more into an impromptu baseball game, and he joins them, ignoring her. Before she can run out there and give him a good scolding, her husband puts his arms around her. "It's okay." He smiles. "It's a vacation, remember?"

She sighs and leans against him. "I remember," she says, and then remembers other things. She remembers how sick her little boy used to be until her long-lost brother (though he is always quick to say it's the other way around) donated his marrow for him, and now Drew is playing and running just like any other boy his age. Then her eyes narrow slightly, in a manner reminiscent of her biological father's, although she would never know that. "But he still has to put away his clothes."

Scott snorts. "Yeah, right. It was hard enough getting him to pack, even though he was excited to go. I think he just figures he can just magically pull out clean clothes from the dresser drawers like he does at home. At least, that's what I used to think the first time I went camping, and was sorely disappointed when I realized I could only wear what I packed, and that was mostly comic books and toy guns. I pretty much wore the same two shirts and pairs of shorts that whole summer."

Samantha blinks, then laughs at that boyhood image of her husband. "And it figures he would take after you," she grumbles good-naturedly.

Meanwhile, a tallish teen with dark hair and darker disposition stomps out of the farthest away cabin (at least, for this group; they've rented several together). His redheaded father comes out after him, but in a less heavy-footed fashion. He smiles and starts to talk to the boy in a low but soothing tone that the Hills can't hear, but then they hear the teenaged boy quite clearly. "Why do *we* have to share a cabin? Nobody else does!"

His father replies in the same low tone as before, but his face is starting to lose its congeniality. The teen just glares at him before slouching off down toward the lakeside. His father shakes his head walking back inside, obviously disappointed.

Samantha looks up at her husband. "Brandon and Ariel would be a good match, they have similar personalities," she deadpans.

"Over his dead body," Scott murmurs, wearing what Adrianna calls his 'Papa Bear' face.

She laughs, then groans when she heard the start of yet another girlfight starting to brew inside the cabin. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't have sisters, Samantha thinks, If Fox had been a girl too we would've killed each other a long time ago. It makes her wonder how her brother's wife and the wife's sister both survived to adulthood.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, Bill Scully's attempt at corralling everyone and making them follow a jam-packed, every-second-accounted-for schedule, they all decide to plan their own vacation schedule. Even Tara shakes her head, though she knows he'd been working on his plans ever since Dana and Fox thought of the idea of getting everyone together. Perhaps he just needs to be in charge of his troops, she thinks, but after all these family gatherings he should know things work differently. But she'd optimistically believed that he'd streamline The Schedule and not go overboard. Oh well, at least he was pretty good about the cabin reservations, which is important since her mind was too preoccupied with the quadruplets at the time they needed to be made.

Speaking of which, Moira is starting to fuss, and Mark, sensing she is getting attention, starts to do the same. Soon, Marisa and Melody join in, and she feels herself going into what she privately terms "firefighter mode" as she walks over to them: automatically putting out metaphorical fires without thinking or feeling anything but tired.

To her surprise, however, Mattie picks up Melody, and her husband does the same with Marisa, while a short teen handles Mark gently, leaving only Moira for her to cope with.

"Who..?" She looks up, trying to remember the vaguely familiar face after endless sleepless nights.

"Gibson Doggett," he says, politely but at a low volume, as if accustomed to speaking around fussy babies. "Our dad's an old friend of Mr. Mulder and Ms. Scully."

She nods blankly. She's probably seen him at a Christmas party or something, but never quite placed a name to the face, though she remembers his parents: they worked with Dana at the FBI and were even guests on the holiday episode of their show last year. "You're rooming with Charlie's family, then," her husband says, and the boy nods. "I hope you and your siblings don't mind."

"No, it's fine," Gibson continues. "We wanted to pass on our father's apology that he couldn't come too, but he wanted to stay home with Monica while she's still nursing Rebecca."

The corners of Tara's mouth go up. "That's quite all right. I'm sure as soon as our four youngest are weaned, we can unleash them on another get-together at Dana's place, and we'll be able to catch up with your parents then."

"Oh, boy." Gibson shakes his head, then looks at the dark-haired boy who looks almost as tired as his mother. "Hey, mind if me and Luke borrow Matt for a while once these guys settle down? Brandon doesn't want to go biking with us, but we wanna stretch our legs after all those flights."

"If he won't be slowing you down," Bill starts, but Tara smoothly interrupts him, "Of course he can go. Thanks for helping with Mark." Then she looks at her eldest son, who looks relieved to be going outside. "Don't forget to wear a helmet and ride safely," she says, planting a swift kiss on his head.

He makes a face, but doesn't argue. "Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad." And he scampers off with the short teen, who joins a taller teen talking with a small gaggle of blonde girls and one little brunette girl. The brunette smiles and waves to her brothers and Mattie before going off with the other girls, giggling and talking brightly.

Then Tara looks at her husband. "So, when is Crystal going to be here?" she asks, referring to their mother's helper.

"Why?" he asks blankly.

Then she smiles. "So we can start our vacation, just like Mattie."

Then comprehension dawns on Bill's face. "Oh! Um." He checks his watch briefly. "In approximately thirty-five minutes."

"Good," she continues to smile, watching her oldest son enjoy himself as long as she can while bottle-feeding Moira.

A good portion of Mulder's kids are playing baseball in the area between their cabins, which he finds an inordinate amount of pride in, while Scully casts an eye at the giggling girl group on the side, which comprises her eldest daughter, Doggett's elder daughter, and all of Samantha's girls. Both Zoe and Brianna are on her lap, while Mulder's got William on his shoulders.

"Scully?" Mulder asks.


"Don't you think our kids are awesome?" he muses aloud with a faraway look on his face.

She snorts. "Only now do you realize this?" she retorts.

Then he gave her a smug look, the kind she'd punch him for if she didn't have any babies on her lap, which is probably what he's counting on. "I always knew it," he says, "I was just wondering if you did."



"Shut up."

He grins, then turns back to watch the game. He doesn't bother telling his wife that sometimes he wonders about how he's going to deal with boys trying to date his daughters, or that he shudders trying to even imagine having The Talk with his sons, or how he and Scully will deal with the fact that their babies will have to grow up some day.

Let me have this time, he thinks as Adrianna leads her sisters and their friend and family into an impromptu cheer for the players. Let me never forget how my sons look as they face each other on the mound, or how one daughter is dirt-streaked while the other is fashionable. Let me remember how William feels on my shoulders, and how comfortable Scully is sitting beside me, always aware, always caring.

A sock in the arm brings him back from his ruminations. "Ow, what was that for?" He pouts, even though it didn't hurt all that much. "I didn't say anything and you still hit me."

Scully stops herself from rolling her eyes. "Oh, you're back," she says mildly, as if she hadn't caught him in one of his depressed poet moments. "Hi, Mulder."

Then he leers at her. "You know, Scully, if you wanted some attention, you could always ask nicely."

The next punch is solid enough to sting, but he isn't going to admit it in front of her or her older brother across the way.

Vacation: Days Twelve and Thirteen

Vacation: Day Twelve

Camp Richardson is set up like a small town. A very, very small town dedicated to having fun, no matter what time of year it is, and the staff do their best to make sure that everyone is having fun. For the most part, everyone in the Scully-Mulder-Hill-Doggett party is having fun, or at the very least, relaxing.

Everyone, that is, except Brandon Scully. He'd walked around the camp that first day, and wasn't impressed by it. He's decided to stay inside and do what he'd planned to do anyway at home: play on his handheld game, and when his fingers get tired, watch TV. His parents have tried to cajole, threaten, and bribe him, but he is determined stay indoors and "play" despite their efforts.

"Fine." Charlie finally shrugs. "It's your funeral."

Elaine starts to yell again, but her husband puts his hand on her shoulder and shakes his head. Her lips thin as she presses them together, but she allows her husband to lead her out of the cabin. At first, she looks depressed as they start on the hiking trail, but soon, she can't help but be distracted by the chatter of other hikers, the surprisingly lush beauty around them, and the sweat and sore feet that inevitably accompany hiking. She sighs, finally content as they stop for a break.

Charlie smiles a little, wrinkles crinkling at the corners of his eyes. "So far, so good?" he asks, passing her a water bottle.

She nods. "You think you've got it all figured out, haven't you?"

"Heck, no," he chuckles. "I was this close to strangling the kid myself. I thought it was best if we put some distance between us and him."

She laughs. "That wasn't fair, making me think I was the only one going crazy because of him."

He laughs, too. "Sorry," he says, holding her hand. "Do I lose brownie points for making you the bad guy?"

"Yes." She glares, but she is too tired to stay mad. "Ugh, it's too hot and sticky for a good long argument."

"According to the map," he says and pulls out the wrinkled paper from his backpack, "there's supposed to be a small lake about a mile away."

"What? I didn't bring a swimsuit!"

"I won't say no to skinny-dipping." He grins, and she glares again. He holds up his hands in surrender. "Just kidding, we can wait until dark for that."

She slugs him good, her face burning with embarrassment. That doesn't stop him from laughing until he's curled up, wheezing with amusement. He knows she thinks he's a goofball at times, but he can't help it, especially these days. It beats being depressed and helpless, which is what he feels around his son most of the time.

This time, Mattie's riding a bike with his parents. He knows it's not supposed to be weird, but it's been so long since it's been just him, and Mom and Dad, that it feels like it's something out of a TV show. His siblings are at the cabin with Crystal, who's kinda like a babysitter, except they call her a mommy's-something-else. Still, this is like before, with his Mom and Dad in front, and they're outside, doing what Dad would call "good, hearty exercise."

Mattie doesn't realize that he's been smiling so widely until he notices his cheeks hurt, and he rubs his left one, then right one.

His dad looks back, and sees him rubbing at his face. "Everything all right there?"

He nods as he continues to pedal after them. He knows his parents are pedaling slower than Gibson and Luke did yesterday, but only because they think he's so much smaller than he is. His dad is definitely taller than Luke, but his mom's taller than Gibson (not that he'll say anything to the boy with the glasses about that), but it's okay. Gibson told him that he'd probably be as tall as his dad someday, just like Luke's almost as tall as their dad. Mark probably won't be as lucky, since that's just how biology works. Luke scolded him about that, saying Mattie is too young to understand, but Gibson claims he's smart enough to get the basic idea. He likes Gibson and Aunt Dana since they figured out he is smart.

Dad sometimes takes that for granted, but Mom says that's probably because he is an oldest son, too, and oldests are expected to be the smartest and most responsible ones. He isn't sure if it's a good thing, especially since he has to help take care of the quads, but if it means he'll be the smartest, he doesn't mind.

Then his mom, who usually looks the tiredest out of them all, laughs and says, "Okay, I'll race you guys! Last one to the volleyball court gets to do diaper duty tonight!"

His dad starts to speed up, but then his mom cuts in front of him, and she slows down enough so that Mattie can help block his dad, too. She winks at him, and even though he isn't good at it, Mattie winks back. "Hey, that's not fair!" his dad hollers, but he's smiling at them.

"Guess you're changing the dirty diapers!" his mom laughs as they pulled up to the volleyball court.

Mattie laughs, too, since he can't believe they actually beat his dad, who's got the longest legs out of all of them. Then he makes a face as his dad ruffles his hair.

"Yeah, well, whoever's the last one on the way back has to help me change those diapers." His dad grins and locked up their bikes. "Is there a spot open on one of the teams?" he asks, referring to where some of the members of their vacationing families have begun playing volleyball with other people at the camp.

His mom shades her eyes with her hand, even though she is already wearing a hat. "Looks like that team to the left has a spot open. Ask them."

He nods, then jogged over. Mattie can't catch what they are saying, but soon, his dad is on the left side team, and he and his mom go sit on one of the picnic tables on the side to watch. Soon, he and his mom are cheering loudly for his dad's team, which is mostly made of short people, which is kinda funny. But they are all full of energy, like it is everybody's summer vacation, and they laugh whenever a strong breeze from over the lake make the ball go differently than planned.

"This is nice, isn't it?" his mom says when the other team is trying to keep the ball in play.

"Yeah." Mattie smiles. He hadn't seen his dad smile like this for a while.

Then his mom hugs him, which is nice, but when it feels like forever, he starts squirming. She chuckles and let go, "Sorry, honey. It seems like I haven't hugged you in ages."

He shakes his head. "It's okay, I'm a big boy," he says, embarrassed.

"Yes, but you're still my Mattie," she says, and squeezed him again, but briefly.

There's a small smile on his face, but he doesn't notice it. "Okay," he says again.

"Okay," she echoes, leaning back. Then she jumps to her feet, hooting, "Way to go, Bill!" His dad waves, a smile on his face too, and then exchanges high fives with his team.

Then he gives Mattie a thumbs up, and Mattie does the same.

"He's gonna play until the sun goes down," Mattie says.

His mother nods, pulling out a couple of water bottles and some snack packs for them.

"That's what I love about your father, he's able to keep going and get others moving, too."

"Just like when the babies keep us awake all night?"

She chuckles again. "Yes, just like that. He doesn't complain, well, doesn't complain much," she corrects herself, "but he expects more from himself than anyone else."

"What does that mean?" Mattie frowns.

She takes a sip of water, thinking. "It means that, even though it seems like he wants us to be able to do a lot of things, he wants to be able to do more than that himself. Sometimes, he forgets he's a regular human being, not Superman all the time."

Mattie giggles, picturing his dad wearing a cape and a costume. "Does that mean you're Lois Lane, Mom?"

She blinks, then laughs. "Oh no, I think I'd rather be your mom than Lois Lane."

He nods thoughtfully. "Yeah, she gets into too much trouble and Superman has to keep saving her. You get us out of trouble, so you're like… I dunno, is there a superhero with lots of kids?"

She shrugs, but smiles. "There should be. Actually, I think your Aunt Dana and Uncle Fox are like superheroes, they have lots of children, but manage to take care of them all and a lot of other stuff too."

He forgot about that, but then nods since his mouth is full of animal crackers. He forgets about it again, because his dad spiked the ball against another really tall guy, and he almost knocked over his water bottle as he raises his arms to cheer.

Vacation: Day Thirteen

That morning, Charlie Scully almost kicks his son in the head, which would've made him a hero to his wife and a criminal to the CPS. Brandon is whining about how boring everything is, and how boring everyone is, and why can't they go back home, when Charlie snaps.

"Come on," he growls, grabbing his son by the shirt collar, and marching him from the door of the cabin all the way to the beachside. His wife almost follows them, but decides not to, since a part of her seems to feel this is a father-son deal, especially since it is her normally-easygoing husband that snapped, and not her.

Brandon has started to whine again when they stepped out, but when his father continues to march him down the street, an already an embarrassing situation, he shuts up. So now here they are, on the beach at the water's edge, with only the morning joggers and sunbathers to keep them company. Brandon wants to ask what is going on, but the look in his father's eyes keeps him quiet.

Charlie looks at his son, then at the water. "Get in," he says, and then pushed his son into the lake before the boy has a chance to decide to listen to him.

His son flails and splashes around before finally standing. "What the heck?" he sputters, his clothes are not thoroughly soaked, but wet enough with his socks and shoes on.

His father gives him a quick once-over, then throw him further into the lake. A quick grin follows as he sees his son splashing around, and he jumps in after him. His son starts swimming away as fast as he can, but his couch potato-body is no match for his still-used-to-doing-physical-labor dad's, and Charlie quickly catches up to his son.

"Am I going to have to drown that bad attitude, or are we good?" he asks as they tread water with no particular destination.

"We're good," Brandon grumbles, but a grudging smile comes to his face. "You're nuts, you know that?"

Charlie shrugs. "It beats me kicking your head into the wall, which was my first instinct. Sensei would've wanted me to choose a less violent option, though, so I decided to throw you into the lake."

Brandon pales a little. "Thanks for picking the less violent one." They continue to swim, but back towards the shore, since swimming fully clothed takes a lot more energy than with just swim trunks. "Hey, Dad?"


"Is it too late to sign up at the dojo for fall classes?" his son asks.

Charlie feels like his smile's gonna split his face in half. "I should've thrown you in a lake months earlier," he says and grins.

"Da-aaad," Brandon groans.

"Just kidding." His dad smiles none-too-reassuringly. "Race you back to shore!"

They both swim as hard as they can, but surprisingly, it's practically a tie as to who reaches the shore with their feet first. And for the first time in a long time, they don't think of anything in particular except having as much fun as they possibly can at the beach, engaging in the sort of father-son rivalry that's survived since the Stone Age.

Luke and Gibson decide to tackle the hiking trails by themselves, while Adrianna and the girls go bicycling around the camp, and Sammy and the boys decide to hit the Mountain Sports Center under the supervision of Charlie and Brandon. The rest of the adults, for the most part, have resigned themselves to babysitting duty of the younger children, but mostly because they will be heading up to the north side of the lake later for some entertainment. In the meantime, they and the kids decide to hit the Ice Cream Parlor, followed by the Coffee & Confectionary spot, and then take a quick nap before their nighttime trip.

At least, that is the plan for the babysitting adults. "Why are the best laid plans of mice and men always screwed up by real life?" Mulder grumbles, as everyone seemed to be camped out in his cabin. Okay, it isn't really *their* cabin, per se, but they are sleeping in it, even if Brianna and Zoe don't want to sleep at the moment.

"I'm pretty sure that's not how the saying goes," Scully says archly, then sighs. "Probably because children under the age of four have their own agendas."

Tara yawns, then nods. Her husband tries to hold his yawn back, but fails then grimaces. She smiles briefly before absently patting Mark's back, currently resting on her shoulder. "Maybe we can take a nap while the kids watch over us."

"Now I know you're operating on less than three hours of sleep," Elaine notes, "that made even less sense than I do on ten publishing deadlines."

"Ten?" Scott looks at her in mild horror. "And I thought that I was pushing it."

"You are." His wife nudges him. "No talking about work while on vacation. I want to spend this time as carefree as possible," she says and looks at the room full of infants and toddlers, "well, something like that."

"Speaking of which, what exactly do you do?" Bill asks, pretty much ignoring his wife and Samantha's eye rolls.

Scott, however, does notice, but answers with a slight grin, "I'm just an executive assistant to a CEO."

"Okay," Bill says, satisfied with that reply, although now it seems that Tara's curiosity is piqued.

Then Marisa and Melody start wailing, joined by their other two siblings after a beat.

"Time to forget about work." Mulder grins wryly, as he joined his brother-in-law. "And get down to business, shall we?"

It doesn't take long for them to get various babies diapered and/or fed, but it takes the better part of the afternoon to take care of the toddlers, and the afternoon nap doesn't come soon enough.

Everyone is encouraged to come to the Shakespeare at the Lake performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" that night, although it isn't mandatory. Charlie drives his family to the northeast side of the lake, along with the Doggett siblings, and Scott comes too with his girls and wife since he and Samantha have wanted the older kids to see "something with culture." Scully plans to check out "As You Like It" on another day, but figures she might as well humor Mulder when he says that the main characters in "Much Ado" remind him of them. Page goes with them, since she declared herself "old enough to watch Shakespeare," though none of her siblings share her desire and stay behind with their aunt Tara.

So they get their tickets, their dinner at Shakespeare's Kitchen, fill a good portion of the side gallery's cheap seats, and proceed to catch up with each other on events of the day before the performance starts. The cool breeze from the lake picks up, and the temperature drops enough that more than a few are thankful to have brought a sweater or hoodie with them.

Mulder notices the way the stage is set against the backdrop of the grand lake, which will help carry the acoustics toward the crowd, as well as the towering trees making everything seem a little more like a playhouse, and the slope of the facing hill is providing a natural amphitheatre for the stage. And then he thinks, I've been spending way too much time with Federman to be taking all this into account when the play hasn't even started yet.

The Doggett boys and Charlie and Elaine compare hiking notes until the lights come up onstage and one man, dressed in his Shakespearean best, waves around a piece of paper before spouting his first lines. Adrianna and her sisters started whispering and giggling about the actor playing Claudio, while Page does her level best to keep up with that conversation as well as the dialogue onstage. Gibson decides to take a nap rather than deal with the inner monologues of everyone around him, while Luke started taking notes on the costumes and sets for a turn-based, D&D-type game he is planning on sketching out. Brandon tries not to notice his parents getting lovey-dovey with each other, while Hannah only smiles and promised herself to call her parents as soon as she gets back to the cabin. Scott and Samantha are watching the immediate audience almost as much as they're watching what's onstage, although Scott's trying not to groan every time one of his daughters starts swooning over some actor.

As for Mulder and Scully, they roll their eyes at Claudio and Hero, but find themselves rooting for the quick-witted (and at times, quick-tempered) banter between Beatrice and Benedick. Every so often, Mulder shoots a look at his wife, or Scully raises an eyebrow at her husband, and their nonverbal comments are almost as eloquent as the verbal darts and arrows the onstage "non"-couple aim at each other. Scully pauses every now and then to quickly explain to Page what's going on, although she knows that her bright daughter would rather understand her cousins' gossip rather than what the actors are saying.

And when Act 3 wraps up, Page feels what might be her first ever headache coming on, Adrianna wants to wring Claudio's neck, Gibson wakes up from his nap, and Luke finds himself trying to explain what just happened to Hannah, even though he barely understands it himself. Ariel and Alyssa, however, think that Don John is a jerk that should be run over so that Claudio and Hero can get together, and they interrupt Luke's explanations with their own opinions.

Thoroughly bored, Brandon and Gibson soon find themselves chatting about their favorite videogames, and the pros and cons of handheld versus consoles. Brandon offers a bit of grudging admiration when he figures out that Gibson and his brother are going to be studying videogame development when they start college later in the month.

Scully escorts the girls when they feel it's time for a bathroom break, while Mulder goes off for a refill of their drinks. Scott and Charlie start to debate the finer points of that last scene but then think better of it and start debating the finer points of their favorite football teams instead. Elaine rolls her eyes at Samantha, who laughs and they resume sharing motherhood war stories from before the afternoon nap, which are usually much more bloodier and gorier than anything Shakespeare could dream up, and which give their respective husbands the chills.

It probably doesn't help that when the play resumes, and the wedding is disrupted by Claudio's accusations, Adrianna is glaring daggers at Don John, while Page's lower lip jutted out, aware of the injustice, but also aware that it is only a play. Mulder hugs his little girl and murmurs, "It's not over yet." She nods, and, now that her cousins are silenced by everyone else's babbling and shrieking onstage, she frowns in concentration to match the words with the actions. Her frown is startled into surprise when her female cousins gave a cheer at Benedick's oath to challenge Claudio to a fight, and to confusion when the goofy guys (as she'd privately termed them) admit to what seems to be the police the truth about Don John – and how the police don't believe the goofy guys. "Just like people don't always believe the Lone Gunmen," Mulder says in a low voice as the lights dim for the next act.

Even as the truth comes out, consequences dealt with and another lie is thrown into the mix, but somehow, in all the mess, something like a happy ending comes out of it. "Trust Shakespeare to take the worst of human nature and make the best of it," Scott comments, his words almost lost as they all stand up and applaud the end of the show with the rest of the audience.

Mulder murmurs to his wife, "Maybe Bill should watch this instead of 'As You Like It'. I don't know if he'd do well with cross-dressers."

"Shut up, Mulder," Scully nudged her husband, then looks over at their eldest daughter, who is wiped out from the day. Hannah also looks like she could use about forty or fifty winks, since she's yawning up a storm. "Let's go back."

He nods, and they all slowly herded their families through the crowd of other families and friends who'd come to enjoy the view and food, even as they picked up one sleepy child or another. An older child's voice makes him turn around, though. "Uncle Fox?"

"Yeah?" he says, shifting Page on his shoulder.

It is Ariel, looking a little embarrassed as she held her sister Alyssa's hand. "Can you tell Page sorry when she wakes up?"

"Why's that?"

"'Cause we cheated and read the play before the trip, back when you and Aunt Dana first brought it up," Alyssa says. "Page didn't, and I think she got lost."

Mulder smiles, "Wish we'd thought of that ourselves. Maybe we'll check it out when we get back home. I think they made a movie of it, too."

Ariel nods. "Yeah, we saw that, too. The Don John there was kinda dumb, but Claudio was way cute for an old guy."

And now I feel ancient, Mulder thinks, but nods. "See you back at the cabins."

The girls smile, and run to catch up with the rest of their family. Huh, Mulder thinks, Samantha's girls are sneakier than we thought. I'd better make sure Page learns the right things from them.

Vacation: Days Fourteen and Fifteen

Vacation: Day Fourteen

By this point, it feels like they've finally gotten into the vacation spirit. Bill and Tara's mother's helper, a retired woman named Crystal, comes every afternoon to watch the quadruplets, so that frees them up to spend more time with Mattie outside the cabin. Their mornings are still hectic, however, as are their nights, since the quads have yet to fall into longer sleep patterns.

Mulder and Scully decide to bring them breakfast, and when the other families hear about that, they want to take turns doing the same. "Fine with me." Mulder smiles. "Less money out of my pocket." Scully playfully swats him, but she can't argue about the budget.

Brandon declares a truce with his mom, since he and she are more alike than they want to be, at least, that is his dad's explanation. So he spends the morning with his dad at the sports center, while Elaine stays back and read the latest novels by the Letourmaines, including one that Scully insisted she read, "Guarding Her Heart," finding it a little hard to believe that the parents of three of their fellow campers inspired the plot. In the afternoons, she goes bicycling with Charlie while Brandon plays his videogames, and at night, it is family time, when everyone is too wiped or has their mouths too full to yell at each other.

"Truces are awesome," Brandon mutters in between wolfing down slices of pizza. His parents can't agree more.

Adrianna and her sisters have taken Page and Hannah under their wing, which makes Luke despair that his little sister will turn into a girlie-girl. This causes Gibson to snort. "She already is, doofus." The girls spent their time together bicycling, sightseeing/gossiping about people they saw on their route, discussing beauty tips, and occasionally fishing...for compliments, that is.

Gibson has already dismissed them, although it is refreshing to see that their thoughts pretty much matched their actions. Luke, on the other hand, likes to see that his sister is getting along with the other kids, but also likes to see that some of those others happened to be rather cute teenage girls, even if they are kinda young.

Scott and Samantha are already used to their daughters being blonde beauty queens, but are more than happy to see Drew play and rough-house with his boy cousins. Occasionally, April joins them, too, but only when she isn't helping her parents watch over the little ones.

Speaking of the little ones, Brianna and Zoe are starting to be more rambunctious as time goes on. William isn't helping, either. In fact, Mulder has caught him being the instigator on this latest occasion. The three youngest of the Mulder kids have managed to uncushion every chair and strip several beds of their bedding as they build and demolish a fort made from the stolen goods.

"Gotcha," he grabs his baby boy as he's knocking off the last cushion, then sits on the floor and narrowed his eyes at his twin daughters, who looks up at him innocently from their semi-tent of cushions.

"Stop it," Mulder grumbles. "I was the one who started the innocent look." William, safe in his arms, laughs in a hiccuppy way, and his father pouts.

"Mulder, what are you up to?" Scully says,

"Why do you always blame me?" he asks. "You should know that it was his fault this time."

She gave him a look. "You are not pinning the blame on a little toddler, are you?"

He shrugs. "Well, it was a group collaboration. Your darling daughters," he says and shots a look at them, and they continue to look sweet, "followed their big brother's lead and knocked the cushions off the couches and tried to turn them into cushy building blocks."

She shakes her head, and he sighs. "It's nice to know your imagination hasn't rusted away," she notes, starting to put the cushions back where they belong. Mulder sighs and folds the nearest blanket he can reach.

"I'm not kidding, I saw them- Oh, never mind." Mulder continues to pout.

He doesn't see his wife smirking as her back is turned to him, nor does he see her wink at her baby girls. If they could, they'd probably wink back. Scully leaves the cushions around her daughters alone, remembering how she and her siblings long ago would make castles out of the fancy chairs and bunkers out of couches and cushions. "It's okay," she coos at her twin girls, "Daddy just needs some lunch and a quick jog."

He raises his eyebrows at her. "And what about you?"

She smiles briefly. "I'm not the one talking deliriously from an empty stomach, and I know you've been dying to run a few laps around the camp. It's okay, I want to spend time with my babies."

"Okay," he says, and goes to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich and gulp down some milk – from a cup, not the carton. Then he kisses William, Zoe, Brianna and his wife. "You sure you're gonna be okay?"

She rolls her eyes. "It's okay, Mulder." He smiles, then waved before heading out the door. She waves back, then grins at her children when the door closes. "So, who's going to be the big loud monster?"

Vacation: Day Fifteen

It's another beautiful morning at Lake Tahoe, so Mulder and Scully decide to split the children and the duties. Scully's out hiking with her mother, Page, Sammy, April, David and Jared, and finds herself torn between wanting to slather sunscreen all over them again and just enjoying herself with her family. In the end, she chooses the latter, although she finds herself still scolding Sammy for taking off his baseball cap.

"It's so hot," he complains.

"Yes, but at least your face won't get sunburnt like it did the last time we went camping," she retorts. "And we'll be going down to the lake later, so you can cool off then."

He blinks, and jams the cap back on his head, making a face. Maggie merely shakes her head, but smiles at her daughter. "Have you heard from Melissa lately?"

"Not really," Scully admits, fanning herself. "I think I got a text from her a couple days ago about some pottery class she's taking."

"Well, why don't we stop here for a bit and call her?" Maggie suggests. "It is hot, and the kids can explore this area."

Scully is about to raise her eyebrows, when she realizes that yes, her mother is also looking a little hot and tired herself, and it would be a good idea to take a break. "Okay, gang, we're going to stop here for a while. I'm going to call your Aunt Missy, but don't wander out of our sight, okay?"

"Okay!" her children choruses. Then David asks, "How far is that?"

"If I can't see you, that's too far," Scully says, "and if you can't see me, that's definitely too far."

Page looks like she is going to argue that they are the same thing, but she just pulls out a bottle of water and starts to take pictures with her camera. April also grabs a water bottle, but she shouts, "Heads up!" at Sammy, and lobs the bottle at him. He catches it, and soon her younger twin brothers shout they want her to throw bottles at them, too. "If they don't watch out, they'll end up at the circus instead of Little League," Page says to April as Jared and David make a game of tossing and catching each other's bottles.

"Cool." The twins grin and then try to throw the bottles higher and faster, but David nearly beans Jared with a bottle and Jared's bottle slips out of his hands. "Never mind," they sigh as their mother gives them a look, and they wipe the dirty bottles on their shorts before daring to open said bottles.

Scully shakes her head, but she calls her sister, as promised. She decides to put it on speakerphone so her mother can be part of the conversation, too. The conversation starts with what they are doing at Tahoe and goes backwards to what happened in Vegas. "It's hard to believe, but Mulder's terrible at card games," she says, "it's a good thing we played roulette instead," she adds, as the subject of her laughter is with their four youngest children back at the cabin.

"One would think that a psychologist would be better at card games," Maggie murmurs, then smiles and waves at Sammy, who uses a rock to "write" on the ground, which only spurs his twin brothers to draw as well.

"He's not exactly a psychologist," Scully protests, "but yeah, I thought he'd be better, too. Fortunately for us both, he's pretty good at things which involve random chance, or at least, something which doesn't involve bluffing. It's a good thing he's better at bluffing and outguessing the bluffers when it comes to life-or-death situations, though." She becomes lost in thought about the times they'd had to rely on those same skills, whether it was facing those within the FBI or those who would try to take their lives.

"It's a good thing Alex wasn't there," Melissa teases, "or he would've dared Fox to play some kind of card game. He's terribly good at them, and just as bad winning as he is losing."

"Oh dear," Maggie sighs, "then let's hope card games never become part of the family gatherings."

"Or that Mulder never finds himself facing Alex in a game of poker," Scully shakes her head, but her smile is back. "Speaking of interesting situations, guess who we saw in Vegas?"

"Wayne Newton," Melissa says instantly.

"Nope. Mom?"

"Um, Celine Dion?" her mother offers.

"Nope." Scully smiles. "It was the Lone Gunmen."

"What? They're not famous," Melissa grumbles. "You made it seem like you were saw some celebrities."

"Sorry, but you'll never guess who they were with."

"Ugh, I don't know, Siegfried and Roy?" Melissa sighs.

Scully's smile is from ear to ear. "They were with girls."

"What?" Scully's mother and sister's shocked response comes in stereo. "You're kidding, right?" Melissa adds. "How much did they pay?"

Now Scully regrets putting Missy on speakerphone, especially since her children are within earshot. "Nothing," she answers quickly, "they were honest-to-goodness actual women who seemed pretty normal, surprisingly."

"Really?" her mother seems more surprised at this than at Missy question about the Gunmen's girls being hookers, which unfortunately, speaks volumes about how they're perceived. "Pretty normal?"

"Yeah, they seemed, I don't know, really nice," Scully finds herself standing up for her children's godparents and their current paramours, which she finds is a strange position to be in.

"Hm, that's nice," their mother hums, and it even seemed like Missy is stunned into a mild silence. "I'm so glad they found themselves nice girls."

"Uh, yeah," Melissa says, obviously still in shock. Then she snaps out of it. "Did you take pictures?"

Scully blinks. "No, I didn't think to."

"That proves they're real," Melissa sighs. "Just like Bigfoot and UFOs."

And that sets off an entirely different conversation altogether.

Later that afternoon, it's boys against girls, beach style. Ariel is feeling particularly feisty that last morning, probably because it's the last day that they'd all be together, and her restless energy spreads to her sisters, and by default, the rest of the girls by the time Page and April return from hiking with the rest of their family. The competitions ranged from softball (the boys won), to beach volleyball (the girls won), and now, as the sun is setting, it becomes a swim meet. The younger kids go first, mostly because their parents figure they'll be good and ready for bed once they get the last of their competition out of the way, then they can scoop them up and haul them back to the cabins. So pretty much everyone was there by the time beach volleyball happened, although Mulder was called in to umpire for the softball game earlier.

Because it's still a family gathering, everyone dutifully cheers for everyone, although the parents can't help cheering for their own children, whereas the kids are more partial towards their teammates. Bill and his family are the first to leave, followed by Mulder and his family, and then Charlie and his small clan, along with Hannah, who's had a long day, and Gibson. Scott and Samantha stay for a while with their children, but they soon leave as well.

So by the time Luke goes up against Adrianna, everyone else had gone back to their cabins to start packing. Adrianna had actually gone against Brandon previously, but declares herself strong enough to go against another boy, and Luke is looking forward to the challenge. While Ariel might've started the whole thing, Adrianna has quite a competitive streak herself, and she and Luke go shore-to-point several times, more so than the others, who only did one or two laps each.

It's just after the last turn that Adrianna feels her leg cramping up, and she wails inside. I did stretches, she argues with herself, as if that will make her leg more relaxed, okay, it was more like poses in my bikini, but still, didn't that count? Apparently not, because it fells like her stupid leg seizes up, and she pulls it to her chest reflexively – and that's when she starts going under.

She coughs as she flails, "Luke!" She hopes he heard her, because her leg hurts so much, and she's trying desperately to keep moving, to keep swimming, but she can't see anyone. It hurts! she cries silently, even as she's losing the fight to stay above water. Where am I, she thinks, where's Luke? Soon, she's seeing nothing but water, giving in to the pain and disorientation.

It seems like moments later that she's suffocating in the darkness, and she groans before coughing hard and spitting up water. "Oh, thank God!" a male voice says, pulling her up and hugging her, and that's when she finds it's not dark because of being underwater, but because the sun is already setting.

She hugs him back, thinking it's her father. But when her vision clears and she looks up, she sees it's someone else. "Luke?" she says in a weak voice, made hoarse by coughing and waterlogged lungs.

"Yeah." He smiles at her. "Hey, how're you feeling?"

Omigod, he's so cute, she thinks, and blushes, feeling weak in the knees and thankful she's already on the ground. And then her right leg twinges, and she whimpers, "Ow, ow, ow…" And she pulls her leg up to her chest, or tries to, but it hurts too much.

"Here, let me," he says, letting go to attend to her leg. Then he blushes, "Um, you're, um," and he waves at her, not looking her in the face.

"What?" She stares at him. Then she looks down at herself, and to her horror, the top of her bikini had come undone, and it's hanging underneath her breasts, which are on display. She screams and covers herself with her hands, but the damage is done. The fact that her boobs aren't that big only makes it worse, since she's embarrassed that they're not as big as her mom's, even though her mother has says it's better to grow up than out. Her face on fire, she twists away from him to tie the strings behind her neck, but that just made her right leg hurt even more. "Stop staring!" She glares at him, then bites her lower lip. "Oh, owwwww…"

"Okay, okay," he says, putting his hands up, "lemme just take care of your leg, okay?"

Ordinarily, she'd beat the crap out of any guy who'd even looked at her wrong, but since she's still in a lot of pain and he did save her and everything, she figures she'll cut him some slack. "Okay," she says, her face still red, and slowly stretched her leg out, "ow, ow, ow…"

"Here, drink this," he says, holding out a sports drink, careful to keep his eyes on her legs only. "You might've lost a lot of electrolytes."

"Thanks," she says in a small voice, and takes it from him. She opens it and starts drinking as he starts to massage her leg. Then she looks around. "Where is everyone?" And by "everybody" she doesn't just mean their families: the whole beach is deserted.

"I dunno," he answers honestly, "I guess it's everyone else's last day at Tahoe, too, because there wasn't much of anyone else out here. The lifeguard's out for the night, and the only other person says he'd call for help. Haven't seen anyone yet, though."

"Aw, man," she sighs, "they're probably up at the sports center, if anything. I know my family's supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning."

"Yeah, well, I'm supposed to be leaving tonight," Luke makes a small grimace, then pauses in his massage. "Um, just to warn you, I gotta flex your foot, but it's gonna be painful."

"So why do you have to flex it?" Adrianna frowns.

He looks at her, in spite of his earlier promise not to. "Because if I don't, your leg will stay cramped longer. You need to flex and stretch your foot out, even though it'll hurt for a while."

"No-" she argues, but he's already started to bend her foot. "OW! That hurt!" she yells, and kicks him with her other foot.

"Ow!" he yells back, and throws her bad leg down, making her wince again. He stands over her and glares. "Hey, I'm trying to help, okay? Jeez!"

"Fine!" she yells. "Just make it stop!" She hates the way she's already starting to cry, but it just hurt too much to hold the tears back.

He stares, and then nods. "Fine," he says quietly, and kneels beside her. He starts flexing her foot again, but he does it with his right hand, while massaging her calf with his left hand. "How does that feel?" he asks, his eyes focused back to her leg.

"It," she pauses, "it's not so bad." The pain is going away, but it's still there.

"That's good." He smiles a little, and she yelps when he bends her foot farther. "That means you're getting better," he says.

"Yeah, yeah," she grumbles ungraciously. "What are you, a sports doctor?"

"Nope, but I did play some sports in high school," he answers, reminding her that he's a college boy now, or just about to be, and she's just barely in high school. "And my parents get banged up a lot, so we help take care of them, too."

"Oh yeah, they're cops, right?"

The small smile is back, and she finds herself blushing again, thankful that it's gotten dark enough that the only lights on are fluorescent, and that from a distance. "They're in the FBI, same as your uncle and aunt used to be. I guess you could say they're like super-cops."

Now Adrianna's chin goes up. "You don't have to make fun of me just because I don't know everything."

"I'm not," he says quickly, "that's what I used to call them myself when I was a kid. Super-cops. I was so proud of my dad when he graduated from Quantico and became a federal agent, even if I wasn't quite sure what he did back then. But I knew it was important, and that he'd be able to protect even more people than he used to as a cop."

Wow. "You really love him, don't you," she notes.

"Yeah," he says, "but if you say that in front of him…"

"I know, I know." She rolls her eyes, even though he probably can't see it, "I won't say anything at the next big gathering, so you and your precious man ego can rest easy."

He snorts. "Me and my precious man ego thank you," he says, "do your parents talk like that, or is it just you?"

"My parents too, but only when Daddy gets Mom really irritated." She grins.

"Figures," he says, then stretches. "You feel up to walking back to the cabin, or should I carry you?"

"I'm fine," she declares, and gets to her feet. Or she would, except her leg twinges with remembered pain, and she gasps, doubling over. "Or you could carry me," she says softly.

"Fine," he says, "can you carry your bag, or should I?"

"I can," she says, and then gasps. "Omigosh, my parents must be worried out of their minds! Where's my cell phone?"

"Hopefully in your bag," Luke murmurs, slinging the beach towel around his shoulders. "I think I left mine in the cabin."

Adrianna is rummaging through her bag when she groans. "Oh no, mine is in my cabin, too, recharging," she sighs. "At least I have the cabin key," she says, relieved, and slings her bag over her shoulder.

"Oh shoot, I think I left that with Gibson," he mutters, then bends down. "Okay, hop on, we've got a ways to go."

Blushing, she wraps her arms around his neck, then squeaks as he lifts her up, his hands under her thighs. "All right, let's get to your place, and hopefully, I've got enough time to throw everything into a suitcase before my flight leaves."

"Sorry," she murmurs into his back.

"Hey, it's not your fault," he says lightly, "well, not just you. I can be pretty competitive sometimes. Ask Gibson."

She laughs. "Yeah, well, I don't think I'd do as well in videogames as he does. All I can hope for is a re-match in the swimming competition, because that's all my big feet are good for."

He chuckles. "You think your feet are big? Seriously, they are tiny. I'm surprised you can run and swim as fast as you do on those."

"Shut up, I know they're huge," she kicks at him with her good foot.

He laughs, "Okay, they're big for a girl. But then again, you'll probably grow into them. Heck, I'm still growing into mine, and if you're anything like your parents, you'll be tallish."

"Or I could go for the Olympics with my paddle feet," she mutters.

"You could," he agrees, and isn't surprised to get swatted. "Ow," he deadpans.

"Shut up," she repeats, then sighs. "Are you excited? To go away to college, I mean."

"Kinda," he says, "and kinda nervous. I mean, to Gibson it's not as big a deal, since he's been on his own before at boarding schools, but for me, I dunno. It's funny, 'cause Gibson's gonna be there, so it's not like I'm totally on my own, and it's something I've wanted to do for a while. But it's still kinda," he sighed, "I don't know. It's crazy. I'm scared and I'm excited. It's like a carnival ride, you're looking forward to how much it's gonna scare the crap out of you, but at the same time, you know it's gonna scare the crap out of you. Does that make sense?"

She smiles against his back. "You're such a guy, you know that?"

He huffs. "Like you know many guys."

She pouts. "I know enough," she says, but is too embarrassed to tell him she'd only had one boyfriend in junior high, and that was mostly because he'd bugged her so much, she finally gave in. It didn't hurt that he was kinda cute, but they broke up because they were going to different high schools. Wow, what a strong relationship, huh? So she keeps quiet about Zack. "So, how many girlfriends have you had?"

"About fourteen," he says, and Adrianna can feel the color drain from her face. Wow. That many? Omigosh. "I'm kidding, just one. But if you tell anyone…" he warns.

"I know, I know," she waves a hand. "Seriously, you're making me keep a lot of secrets."

"Yeah, that's not fair," he says, "you should tell me some, and we'd be even."

"Are you kidding? This makes us even," she retorts.

"How?" he asks.

"Well, you're older than me, for one, and taller, and stronger, and it's not fair," she says, "at least the secrets make us even."

He groans. "Great. You call that even, I call that blackmail."

"Whatever makes you happy," Adrianna rolls her eyes. Then she slaps his arm. "Hey, here's my cabin."

"Yes, your highness," he mutters. Then he bends his knees so she can open the door. "Got it?"

"Yup," she says, and unlocked the door. "Mommy!"

"Adrianna!" her mother rushes forward, and Luke almost falls over trying to gently let the girl off his back and let them hug, but ends up getting caught in the middle. "We were so worried!"

"It's okay." Adrianna smiles as Luke finally lets her down, and she limps into her mother's arms. "We were racing too long, and my leg cramped, and Luke saved me."

"Really?" she looks at her daughter, then at the young man. "Well, thank you," she says, putting a hand warmly on Luke's shoulder.

"It's no problem, ma'am," he says shyly. Then he asks, "Um, could I use your phone? I don't have my key or phone, and I don't want to break down the door to get in."

Adrianna's mother points to the cabin phone, and he dials the cabin number. It keeps ringing and ringing, and he sighs. "Great, they're not picking up," he says as he hung up. "Well, hopefully someone's up. Good night."

"Wait, didn't you say you had to leave tonight?" Adrianna asks.

"Yeah," he answers.

"What if they already left?" she says.

"They wouldn't leave without me," he says, then frowns. "Would they?"

"Call them again," Adrianna's mother says, and he does, with the same ringing but no connection. "Try your cell phone, Adrianna."

She limps over and picked up her cell phone, but then says, "What's your number?"

Luke rattles it off, and she dials it. A voice answers, "Luke's phone."

"Hello? This is Adrianna Hill, who's this?"

"Gibson Pr – hey, is that idiot with you?"

"Yes," she says, "where are you?"

"At the airport, where he should be," he grumbles, "we thought he was going with Mr. Mulder's family." Instead of Charles Scully's, Gibson meant.

"What?" She looks at Luke, who looked confused. "He said they thought you were with Uncle Fox's family, so they're at the airport."

"Why would I do that?" Luke snaps then sighs. "Great. Could I talk to him, please?" she nods and hands the cell phone over. "What made you think I was leaving with Mr. Mulder's family?"

"Didn't you say that you'd rather leave with Mulder's family than with us?" Gibson shoots back.

Luke sighs. "That was when Brandon was being a major," and he pauses, remembering that he's with women in the room, "pain in the butt. But I wasn't really serious. Wait, you thought I was serious? Jeez, Gib, I thought you knew me better than that."

Gibson sighs heavily on the other end. "Well, you seemed serious enough at the time. And your point seemed valid at the time, so I just took you at your word."

"Aw, man," Luke groans, then added "do you have my luggage, too, or do I have to pack it up at the cabin?"

Gibson answers, "It's still at the cabin, I guess. You know, you can change your flight, since you've got Dad's credit card."

"It's a good thing he let me borrow it for emergencies, since this looks like one," Luke sighs. "Thanks, Gib, I'll see you when I see you." He hangs up, then makes a face. "Looks like I'll be spending the night at my abandoned cabin, I guess. Take care, Adrianna, ma'am."

Luke walks out, only to find that a couple of the staff people are waiting for him by the cabin. Guess Gibson called them up, he thinks, and waves his hand. "Hi, I'm Luke Doggett," he says.

The maybe-blonde guy (hard to tell in the fluorescent-lit darkness) nods. "I'm Brad, this is Jim. We heard you left your key in the cabin?"

"Yeah," Luke answers, embarrassed, "I've got a bad habit of leaving my keys behind."

The two staff guys start walking towards his cabin, so Luke follows after them. "Yeah, Brad does that, but only after a bender or two." Jim, the darker-haired guy, grins. "Sorry you missed your flight."

"Yeah, me, too," Luke mutters, then exhales when Jim unlocked the door. "Thanks."

"Better make sure you have the cabin key," Brad says, when Luke wondered why they're sticking around.

Oh, yeah, good idea. Luke finds it on the kitchen counter, and when he holds it up, the staff guys cheer. "Thanks again," he says.

"No prob, see you in the morning," Jim says, waving as they left.

"Yeah, okay," Luke nods, then yawns. Aw, man, he's still gotta do some packing, as well as finding other things, like where the hell he put his socks. He doesn't mind the security checks at the airport, but walking around in his bare feet on tiled floor, even if it's for a short time, gives him the willies.

Vacation: Day Sixteen

Vacation: Day Sixteen

It's something of a minor miracle that Luke Doggett gets himself a flight for the next morning, even if his father's credit card had a great deal to do with it. It's also pretty weird to be by himself for more than a few hours, which only happens once in a great while. "I really should get used to this," he mutters to himself, "I'm going to college soon, I can't be acting like a little kid forever." He'd gotten everything packed up last night, most of his clothes and things in a large duffel bag, while his toothbrush and smaller stuff are in a backpack.

He doesn't have much of a breakfast, the only food he has on him still being a couple of energy bars from his backpack, figuring he can eat at the airport. Still, he's a little proud of himself for being able to handle everything, in spite of the miscommunication.

A honk sounds outside, and Luke hefts both duffel bag and backpack onto his shoulders. The Hills are leaving on the same flight as he is, and have offered to give him a ride to the airport. He'd never turn down free transportation, especially after hearing the credit charge on his dad's card that he'll have to pay back sometime (dang), so he waves as he joins them.

The minivan is pretty packed, mostly because of the girls' carry-ons that take up the extra space between the seats. Whatever energy Ariel had from yesterday is gone, she's still nodding off on her sister's shoulder, while Alyssa and Adrianna are discussing plans of attack for back-to-school shopping. Drew, for his part, is bored with his older sisters' conversation, and perks up when Luke sits next to him. "So, how's it going, my man?" Luke smiles at the boy as they drive out.

Drew grins. "Is it true that the girls lost?"

Huh? Oh yeah, the competition from yesterday. "What makes you say that?" he asks, keeping his voice friendly in case the girls are hearing with half an ear, as his dad would say.

"'Cause I heard you hadta rescue Adrianna, so that means that they lost, right?" The boy looks only a little too eager to have some agreement.

Man, it must be rough living with mostly girls in the house, Luke thinks, maybe that's why Hannah instantly bonded with Mr. Mulder's girls when we met them years ago, being from a house with all boys. Even if Drew's dad is around when he's not off on business trips, the ratio of girls to boys is overwhelming in this family.

But to make peace with the family that's giving him a ride, Luke puts his hands up. "I'd say last I checked, we were tied, and that last race disqualified us both. So, it's a tie." As the boy's face falls, Luke leans in with a conspiratorial whisper, "But between you and me, I'd say I got extra points for rescuing your big sister." As expected, the little boy's face splits in two with a wide grin, and Luke grins back.

"What are you two boys whispering about?" Mrs. Hill asks from the front passenger seat.

"Nothing, ma'am, just talking man-to-man," Luke says, and Drew nods, his chin lifted proudly.

Mr. Hill grins at them from the rear view mirror, then smiles at his wife. "See? Nothing to worry about."

Like Mrs. Mulder would, she shoots her husband a look. "Scott, when you say things like that, it only makes things sound more suspicious."

He chuckles, his eyes on the road. "It's too bad we don't have another son. Honey, do you think we could give Drew a brother?"

"Ew!" Alyssa makes a face, while Adrianna rolls her eyes. Apparently, the conversation isn't anything new to them, but Drew only smiles up at Luke, who shrugs and smiles back.

Hey, stranger things have happened, as Monica would say. Then again, Luke is kinda relieved that the youngest girl still acts like boys had cooties. That gives him hope that Hannah wouldn't be all flirty-flirty at a young age, especially since she still watches cartoons and kids' shows.

Still, as Mr. Hill is teasing his wife and daughters, Luke isn't sure whether it's safe or not to join in, especially since he is, for the first time, outnumbered when it comes to girls. Man, Drew must have it rough, he thinks, especially since Drew's dad has got about as much sense as Mr. Mulder when it comes to putting his foot in his mouth.

Then he grins, thinking of his own father still getting tongue-tied occasionally around Monica. It's funny that his dad, who's the father of four and has chased down bad guys all over the U.S., is crazy in love with his step-mom, or whatever she decides to label herself. Love's got a lot of different faces, he thinks, whether it's like his dad and Monica, or like the Hills, or like the Mulders, or other couples he knows of. None of them are exactly the same, but all of them are totally committed to each other, and, considering what he'd seen with his dad and his biological mom, that's amazing.

"So, Luke, I heard you had to carry Adrianna back to the cabin. Was she heavy?" Mr. Hill asks.

"Daddy!" The oldest girl glares at her father, but there's a dark blush on her cheeks. Cute. Then she turns her glare to Luke. "If you say I'm fat--"

Luke snorts. "Who in their right mind would call you fat? You're the skinniest little thing I've carried on my back other than Hannah." As she smiles, pleased, he can't help but add, "Except for those flipper feet of yours. But I'm sure you'll grow into those."

"Dad-dyyyyyy!" she wails as Drew laughs delightedly and Alyssa sticks her tongue at him, loyal to her sister for now.

The rest of the ride is spent with Mrs. Hill alternately consoling her daughter and scolding the boys, while Mr. Hill continues to tease the women of the family and giving Luke high fives, which neither Adrianna nor Mrs. Hill appreciate.

Meanwhile, back in D.C., Krycek sees his wife tilt her head at the clock. "Watching that isn't going to make your sister and her family come back any faster," he notes, looking up from building a fort of Lego blocks with Ryan.

Missy made a face at him, then glances at Addy and Emily playing dolls peaceably, only because Addy's not arguing with her sister about who gets what. For once during this whole vacation, her daughters are playing nicely, and she was only checking to see how long it's lasted so far. But she doesn't want to say so out loud, in fear of jinxing it, if it were possible to do so. "I know you miss your playmate," she says aloud.

"What?" Now he's tilting his head at her. "What are you talking about?"

"Fox," she says, straightforward.

He snorts. "He's not my – you make it sound like we're in kindergarten or something."

"The way you two act, sometimes, it seems like it." Then she smirks. "I guess that's why you're playing Ryan so much today."

He thought the pottery class was supposed to mellow her out, especially what with the way Addy had been acting all summer, and not acting in a good way, at that. So much for that idea, maybe if she'd been throwing in crystals or whatever New Age-y stuff she was into, that might've helped. "I think we're doing a lot better now." That only made one of her eyebrows quirk up. "No, really," he says, deliberately misunderstanding his wife. "Ryan's pretty good with putting things together. He might be an architect or an engineer someday." He grins down at their son, who is adding yet another layer of blocks to an already-overblown wing of the fort. "Right, kiddo?"

"Alex," she says sweetly, which made his eyebrows dart up.


She looks out the window, her dark grey eyes almost dreamy, but as Krycek has learned the hard way years ago, that's only camouflage for the surprise attack building up inside. "I'm going out to the garden," she says, and heads out.

He blinks, then shakes his head. Women, he thinks, stopping short of rolling his eyes, who knows what goes on in their heads. At least he was proposing something positive about their son this time, although he still remembers the unglazed dish she aimed at his head when he suggested that the girls in the family can take after her flighty side, while the boy could take after him in practicality.

Yeah, that was a pretty dumb thing to say to a woman with something heavy in her hand.

Flight 227
Somewhere between Chicago and New York

"How many more planes?" Alyssa whines. "It feels like we've been on planes forEVER."

"Just ten more," her father remarks, his eyes still covered by the black sleep mask.

"Scott," his wife sighs, but she doesn't look that much more enthusiastic. "Just one more," she tells her youngest daughter, who continues to fidget in her seat before the movie starts.

Ariel and Drew are sleeping across the aisle from them, Ariel's pillow against the window is just barely keeping her from drooling on it, while her younger brother sleeps on her arm. Of course, as soon as they wake up, Drew will deny resting against her like a baby, and she will tease him about it. That's an hour and a half away, however, and only noticed by Mrs. Hill, her eldest daughter, and the teenage boy sitting next to said eldest daughter.

As for Adrianna and Luke, they are sitting behind Drew and Ariel, and alternating between snickering at the younger kids or flirting with each other. Neither will admit that their conversation is flirting, especially Luke, since he's all grown-up and everything. Or so Adrianna gathers, from her side of the conversation. "Come on, are you telling me that you and Gibson would never fight over ANYthing?" she needles him. "Or are you just too mature for that kind of thing?"

Luke tries to just glance at her, but he can't help but grin at her teasing smile. "'Course we don't," he says, his tone confident, still grinning. "We were already past Alyssa's age when we met. No big deal. Gibson might be shorter than me, but he's got more maturity than most guys, and me, well, you know I'm all about the maturity."

"Psh, yeah, right." She rolls her eyes. "Says the guy who leaves his keys all over the place."

"Hey, that was an accident," he protests. "Besides, don't you forget things when something important's going on?"

"No," Adrianna says simply.

Luke sighs and stares at the ceiling of the plane. Sure, she wouldn't. "Hey, Adrianna?"


"Do you have a nickname, or is it four syllables all the time?"

The blonde girl glances up at him to check if he was serious or not. "Four syllables," she answers, unable to tell.

"Really? Even your siblings call you A-dri-an-na?" he says, emphasizing each syllable.

"Duh." She makes a face. "What else would they call me?" She's glad that her younger siblings are too busy either sleeping or irritating their parents across the other aisle to pay attention. She'd hate for him to know any of the embarrassing stuff they call her.

He shrugged. "I dunno. My name's too short to have any nicknames, although Gibson sometimes calls me idiot or goofball, Dad calls me kiddo, which I hate, by the way, Hannah calls me big brother, and Monica just calls me by my name. Nothing really interesting."

Yeah, those were pretty boring, especially considering her nicknames. "That's all?" she says, surprising herself by sounding disappointed.

Luke raises an eyebrow. "You really thought I'd have some terrible dark secret nickname like Booger or something?"

She embarrasses herself by snorting with more nostril than she expected. Blushing, she answers, "Well, yeah."

She can tell he's fighting a grin, but lost, and when the grin does come out it does something funny to her stomach. "Sorry, no." Then his grin widens. "But you can call me that, if you want."

Adrianna narrows her eyes. "So, what are you going to call me?"


Now she frowns. "What's bee-tee for?"

His blue eyes glance around, then he leans down, close to her face. Before she can turn to look at him, he whispers in her ear, "Bikini Top."

She rears back like a skittish colt, or as much as she can within the cramped space of the airline seat. "WHAT?" She stares at him, feeling both faint and angry.

He leans back, grinning, but there's a distinct blush on his face, too. "You heard me," he says in a normal voice.

She punches him in the bicep solidly. "Shut up," she hisses, her face on fire.

"You don't have any nicknames, I guess it's my job to give you one," he says, his eyes finally looking away, but neither his smile nor his blush have faded. "You want me to call you Flipper Feet instead?"

"No!" she glares, and punches him harder. Why did he have to pick the one thing her family called her? Why?

"Sweetie, is everything all right?" Mrs. Hill asks.

"No, he's a jerk." Adrianna crosses her arms and looks away from Luke.

"Sorry, ma'am." He puts his hands up, "I was trying to come up with a good nickname for her, but she didn't like any of my suggestions."

"Did you try Flipper Feet?" Alyssa calls from the middle of the row.

There's a wail interrupting the movie on Flight 227, and then a long burst of inappropriate laughter around the wail. This is the worst day of my life, Adrianna Hill thinks, I hate them all!

Melissa Scully sighs, then sits on her butt, giving in to the dull ache in her legs. If anyone saw her from the sidewalk, she'd look the perfect gardener: wide-brimmed hat, gloves, comfortable clothes, appropriately dirty, and the left side of the garden looking more respectable and free of weeds. She's not sure why she's been so irritable this summer. After all, she got to take the pottery class she wanted, Emily got to go to her week-long summer acting camp, no wait, it was called "summer stock", Alex limited his extracurricular work to just one assassination (God, she hopes he was joking), and Ryan's been an angel. Is it possible that Addy's bad attitude has transferred to her? Or, worse, she's going through early menopause?

"Aaaaaaaaaaigh!!!" she screams, if only to let the negative energy out.

There's a mild thunder approaching, but it's only her husband and children. "What happened? Are you okay?" Alex asks with obvious concern.

She looks at him from under her large hat, then smiles wearily. "I'm okay," she says, "I was just expelling dark energy."

He gives her a look, like she knew he would, then grins, picking their son up and swinging him onto his shoulders. "See, nothing to worry about," he says, although she knew Alex was worried himself. She supposes they and their children's histories might have something to do with the lingering worry, although Alex and Fox said everything is okay now. "Mommy probably had too much sun."

She raises an eyebrow, although he probably can't tell, what with the big hat and everything. "I'd have less sun if others helped out," she hints broadly.

He raises both his eyebrows at their son, then at their daughters. "Oh, so Mommy needs help here," he says with exaggerated effect, making Emily giggle. "Then let's help Mommy." He bends down, and his hand goes to a bunch of weeds.

Of course, it would be the pile of discard she'd put aside, and he tosses some at her. "There you go!"

"Alex," she warns him.

But he grins at her, like he doesn't know he's waving a red flag at a bull. "Look, even the girls are helping," he says and beams at her.

Emily and Addy are giggling and squealing as they grab from the discarded weed pile and start throwing it at each other. "Eek! Mommy, look what she did!" they say, but continue to throw the weeds she'd so determinedly pulled up by their roots an hour earlier.

Melissa has a good mind to scold her husband, but then Ryan clambers down from his father's shoulders and starts pulling flowers out. "Look, Mommy!" he says, holding a freshly-decapitated geranium.

She doesn't know whether to scream, laugh or cry, so she settles for groaning and putting her gloved hands over her eyes. She can hear, rather than see, her husband telling her son in hushed tones, "Ryan, don't pick the flowers," and her girls likewise scolding their little brother gently.

She loves her family, really, but wonders how on earth Dana and Fox managed to have so many children without killing a few of them along the way.

Later that night, John Doggett picks up the Mulder family and two of his three kids in their van, and he's been charged with one minor mission to complete before dropping them all off at their place. Mulder thought he should try driving the van at least once before taking it all the way to Boston.

"Dana!" Melissa runs out of the house to greet her younger sister, who hugs her.

"Thanks, John," Scully smiles at her friend, who waves back. "I'll see you all at home later!" She waves to her family, most of whom wave back (others are pre-occupied with sleeping or wrestling toys away from other siblings). When the van disappears, she's still smiling, but shakes her head. "Honestly, Missy, you could've come, too. I don't think Alex would've minded holding down the fort all that much."

Melissa wrinkles her nose, leading her sister inside. "Yeah, but then what would I have to hold over his head? Hey, did I tell you about the time when--"

"Auntie Dana!" Emily rushes at her aunt, followed by her younger sister. Her baby brother is having his meat cut up by their dad, who waves his free (and false) hand at her, his eyes on his son's food-pitching hand. "Wanna see pictures of me at summer camp? I got to dress up, build a set, and everything!"

"Yeah, and then she taughted me how to build a set, too!" Addy joins in. "Wanna see?"

Scully looks from one girl to the next, then at her older sister, who shrugs and smiles. "Sure," she says, "let's see those pictures."

"You're a good aunt," Missy whispers to her in an undertone while her daughters are running to the bedroom, "But feel free to use your own kids as a getaway."

Scully laughs. "Oh, compared to a small town of Mulders and Scullys, this is a break," she says, "you should've seen when-"

But her story is put on hold when Addy and Emily come running out in their mother's clothes, camera in hand, dragging the heels unmercifully through the carpet. "Take pictures!" Addy declares while her older sister strikes a pose. "Auntie Dana never got to see Emily at camp!"

Missy raises an eyebrow at Scully, who can't help but giggle. "All right," she says, "but she needs to see Emily's actual camp pictures, too." And she holds her hand out for the camera.

"Okay!" her daughters say, very agreeable. Emily hands over the camera, and her mother dutifully takes pictures of her daughters posing up a storm. When the little girls get tired of that, they go back to the bedroom to change, although they tried to keep the high heels on as long as possible.

Once they're out of sight, Scully and Melissa laugh heartily. "Remember when we used to do that?" Scully wheezes, getting her breath back. "I'm surprised Mom kept such a straight face."

"Especially when we used her makeup." Missy shakes her head. "I didn't realize how expensive her brand was."

"Ooh, yeah." Scully makes a face, chagrined. "I'm even more surprised she didn't tar us for that."

But Missy's face looks gentle rather than embarrassed. "I'm glad we can laugh," she says, "and know that for now, it's just dress up for them. I'm so not looking forward to their teens," she sighs.

Scully smiles and leans against her sister. "You'll do fine," she says, "besides, they've got their daddy to beat up on anyone who messes with them."

Alex raises his eyebrows as he joins them, carrying Ryan on his shoulders. "What are you talking about? Missy's right hook's never gone out of practice."

Missy blushes, but before he can explain further or she can deny it, the two girls come back out, both talking over each other, and it takes a while to untangle their stories and figure who is saying what about which picture. And from that, Dana Scully knows that her sister's family is doing all right.

Vacation: Day Seventeen

Vacation: Day Seventeen

Luke came back early in the morning, picked up by his dad at the airport. He was so tired, he just smiled, handed over the credit card, and fell asleep in the passenger seat while his father drove. Like a zombie, he dragged himself to his room, dumped his luggage at the foot of the bed, and fell asleep until noon. That's when the baby's cries really pick up volume, and he groans, pulling the pillow over his head, but it's too late. He's awake, and tired, but at least he's still on vacation.

Once he hauls himself into the kitchen, he sees most of his family there, grinning at him. "What?" he says eloquently.

"Just wondering when you'd grace us with your company," Monica says peaceably, feeding her daughter by bottle, as if Gibson and Hannah aren't exchanging money.

"How much?" he asks Hannah, who is smiling with her winning.

"Five if you slept past eleven," she says, and he grins back. "Gibson said you were talking with a gir-rul."

"Duh," he rolls his eyes, pretending not to notice Monica's dark eyes sharpening or Gibson not-too-subtly trying to read his mind. "I was with the Hills, it was mostly girls."

"How was Adrianna?" Gibson says, trying to smother a smirk but not succeeding.

"Fine," he answers, remembering to pour the orange juice into a glass just in time, rather than drinking straight from the carton. "And so was the rest of her family."

Monica smiles down at Rebecca. "I'm glad you had John's credit card, although he's been unreasonable and said you took after my side of the family. Did you talk with Charlie Scully about the change in travel plans?"

"Only afterwards," Luke admits. It was a crazy night, what with finding that everyone in the cabin had left already, and since Gibson had his cell phone, he'd had to make long-distance calls on his father's credit card (something his dad already said he'd have to start paying back). "It was kinda embarrassing." And then busies himself by digging a handful of breakfast burritos out of the freezer.

"I'll bet," she murmurs, then lifts the baby girl onto her shoulder to burp her. Looking at him, she says, "I'm guessing we're going to be triple-checking that you've got everything before you boys leave for college after this."

"Yeah." Luke blushes while Gibson's smirk grows deeper.

But Monica turns her gaze to the shorter boy. "Don't think you can get off easy," she says, "you were just as much at fault, since you actually thought he'd be changing his travel plans." When Gibson makes a face, she grows sterner. "Gibson."

He sighs. "Okay, yeah, I should've known better. So next time, triple-check." She nods, and he sighs again.

Then Monica looks at Hannah and smiles. "Okay, it's girl time. You boys eat up and," she casts a look at Luke, "maybe get some caffeine in your system. Me and Hannah and Rebecca need some time away from silly boys." She holds her hand out to the older girl.

Hannah grabs it with a grin and says, "Yeah!"

Gibson rolled his eyes. "Anytime you wanna stop playing princess, you know where to find us!" he calls after them, but they only laugh, disappearing down the hallway. Then he grins at his brother. "Monica's a trip. So, like I said, how was Adrianna?"

Luke tries to play it cool, but the huge goofy grin on his face pretty much gave it away. "I think she likes me," he says, tearing into the first of many burritos.

"Yeah?" Gibson raises an eyebrow. "Aside from doing your hero bit, what else did she like?"

He blinks. "Um, well, we talked a lot on the flights over."

"About what?" Gibson asks, but Luke's mental radio gave it away before he says anything. "Are you serious?"

"What?" Luke frowns.

The bespectacled boy gives him a pained look. "I know you're considered more socially adept than I am, but do you really think insulting a girl gives you brownie points? Even if her family joins in?" When the light dawns on Luke's face, Gibson groans. "Man, you better hope she's not sticking pins into a voodoo doll or something. And her dad must think you're closer to eight in maturity, not eighteen."

"Aw, shut up," Luke grumbles, burying his head in his arms on the kitchen counter. "So I was stupid."

"No, thinking you were changing your travel plans was stupid," his brother acknowledges, "teasing a girl you have a crush on is infantile."

"I do not have a crush on her!" Luke's head whips up. "She's way too young."

Gibson looked dubious. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." Luke tries to say it like he means it. She is too young. Now. But maybe in a few years, if he manages to get on her good side instead of making her hate him...

"What if I said you had about three calls from her in the last couple hours. Then what?" Gibson says, holding up Luke's cell phone.

Luke reaches for it, but his brother is too far out of reach. "Toss it here," he says.

Gibson gives him a look. "You couldn't even say something nice to her face to face," he says, "why should a phone call be different?"

Luke blinks. "Because," he starts, and then stops. "Um." He and his brother look at each other for a while, and then start laughing. "Oh man, this is bad." He smiles.

"Yeah, it is." Gibson smiles back. "I think you need at least four more burritos and a cup of coffee before I let you talk to that girl. And maybe you should practice what you're gonna say."

"Oh, you mean like, 'Oh darling, how I've missed you. Forgive me for the stupid things I said on the plane, dearest'?" Luke bats his eyes and pitches his voice higher.

Gibson snorts. "Something like that, yeah. Minus the stupid eye thing and weird voice thing."

Luke bites into another burrito. "Okay," he says around a mouthful, "darling and dearest, check."

"Shut up." Gibson grins. "She's gonna belt you the next time she sees you for sure." And he grabs a burrito from Luke's plate.

"Hey!" Luke grabs the plate away, holding it to his chest.

Gibson sticks his tongue out, gobbles the stolen burrito in one gulp, and heats up a cup of coffee for his idiot brother. "Maybe you should practice maturity, while you're at it," he adds.

"Says the guy who filched my burrito AND stuck his tongue out," Luke mutters.

But they do rehearse what the hell Luke is going to say to Adrianna so that she wouldn't stick pins into his voodoo doll. Or so Luke tells Monica that afternoon, after the phone call (which goes rather well).

Mulder walks into the kitchen just in time to hear Doggett's voice over the phone. Scully is in the middle of cooking, so she must have put him on speaker phone. "Hey Dana, can Moldah come over and play?"

She smirks, even though Doggett can't see her, and smiles at Mulder. "Well, John, he needs to eat dinner first and take out the trash, but yes, he can come over to play."

"Gee, thanks," Mulder tells his wife.

"No problem, sweetheart."

"What's up, John?" Mulder asks, addressing the phone on the wall.

"Just thought you'd want to come over for the race."

Mulder imagines spending a couple of hours watching NASCAR and eating snacks. It's not the Knicks but it doesn't sound too bad to him. "Sounds good."

"See ya after dinner, then," Doggett tells him before the call disconnects.

"How about I take the trash out now?" Mulder asks, kissing Scully on the cheek.

"Good idea."

He pulls the bag out and gives it a rueful look. "Hey... know how farmers back in the olden days had a bushel of kids to help around the farm?"

She gives him a curious look. "Yes..."

Shaking the bag he asks, "When do you think one of the boys will be big enough to take over this task?"

Scully smiles and shakes her head. Then she surprises him by yelling "Sammy!"

Sammy looks startled when he appears in the kitchen. "Mom?"

She points at the bag in his father's hand. "Now that you're getting older, you need a little more responsibility."

"How much more?" Sammy asks warily.

"Let's start with you taking out the trash. Baby steps."

"Okay," Sammy says, taking the bag from Mulder. "I like the idea of baby steps."

"I knew you would," his mother tells him.

"And I won't even fall down and skin my knee like Zoe just did," Sammy asks, looking back out of the room.

"Like Zoe-" Mulder starts to say, but he's interrupted by a distant shriek. "Oops." He runs over to the sink to wash his hands, then grabs a box of cartoon covered Band-Aids and tube of Neosporin off the fridge before going to comfort his daughter.

As he's rushing over to Zoe, she lifts her arms and cries harder, but not so hard that he can't hear the door slam behind Sammy. Baby steps indeed.

"Whoo hoo," Doggett roars a couple of hours later when the car he hoped would win rounds the final turn. Mulder's pick is far, far back on the track.

Doggett eyes him. "How'd you do in Vegas?"

"You think I bet?" Mulder scoffs. The $500 they'd left with had been his wife's win, not his.

"Nah. Dana probably knows that you're not the lucky type."

"That's where you’re wrong," Mulder tells him, gesturing with the only beer he'll have all night. Gone are the days of drinking even slightly too much before making his way home. "She knows how lucky I am. I tell her that I'm the luckiest man on earth to have married her."

"Okay, I'll admit that you-"

"No, this can't be right!" Luke's voice floats down to them and Mulder exchanges a look with Doggett.

"Hey Luke?" Doggett calls.

Luke stamps down the stairs a couple of minutes later. There's a dark look on his face, and it makes Mulder not look forward to his boys getting older all of the sudden. Gibson soon appears too, looking more sad than angry.

"What's wrong, guys?" Doggett asks.

There's a couple of sheets of paper in Luke's hand. "We didn't ask to be roommates because you didn't want us to be, but we did ask to be in the same dorm. Right?" Luke asks Gibson over his shoulder.

"Right," Gibson dutifully replies.

"These are our room assignments. We're not even in the same dorm!" Luke glowers at Doggett, as if it is all his fault. Mulder reflects that maybe in the boy's mind it is - if Doggett hadn't told them not to be roommates...

"Don't panic yet," Doggett tells his sons. "We'll call housing and-"

"I already did," Luke interrupts, shaking his head. This surprises Mulder; it seems more mature than he'd expect of an eighteen-year-old. Most he'd known would definitely expected parental intervention.

"What did they say?" Doggett asks.

Luke's shoulders slump. "All room assignments are final. No one can even petition for a room change until January."

"Oh." It's clear from his expression that Doggett had been sure that the problem was one that could be resolved. He seems at a loss for words now.

"It's not all bad," Mulder tells the teens. They stare at him the way he did the gray that the fungus trying to eat him and Scully had made him see. "Meeting new people is a big part of the college experience. Now you'll be more out of your comfort zone, so you'll meet more people, like it or not."

"Oh yay, a grand adventure," Gibson says, surprising him by being the one to sound sour and sarcastic.

"You didn't really expect to go off to college and only know the same people as each other like in high school, did you?"

"Kinda," Luke admits.

Feeling exasperated, Mulder wants to snap at them that if David and Jared had managed to figure out how to make their own friends at age three, he's sure they'll cope. But they're all upset already, so he doesn't. "It's going to work out," he promises instead. "I fully expect to see you over the holidays and hear about all the great people you've meet."

"Which holiday?" Luke asks petulantly, sounding like William when he misses a nap.

"Thanksgiving," Gibson says promptly before responding to Mulder's raised eyebrows with a sheepish "Oops, sorry."

"Thanksgiving," Luke mutters like he finds the idea insane. Gibson looks like he agrees.

Since they are already writing him off as a patronizing adult, he gives them a bland smile and says "It will all work out, you'll see" which of course makes them sigh.

Doggett doesn't look appreciative of his efforts to be reassuring, either. Looking at his sons, he says, "I understand that you're upset, and I don't disagree that you have the right to be. But you still need to pack so we can leave on time, so get to it."

They grumble a little but head to their rooms.

Mulder looks at Doggett. "It doesn't automatically go away when they get older, huh?"

Doggett looks blank. "What doesn't?"

"The urge to jump in and try to fix all their problems for them."

Doggett reaches for his beer. "Nope. But when they get big a little voice in your head reminds you that they need to learn how to handle problems and disappointment themselves. When you're lucky, it speaks up before you get a chance to open your mouth."

"At least there's that."

"Yep." But Doggett sighs. "Now I kinda wish I hadn't been so forceful when suggesting that they not share a dorm room."

"Come on." Mulder gives him a long look. "I'm glad that they get along as good as biological siblings, if not better than a bunch I've known, but they do need to learn how to be independent."

"I know... but does it need to be now? Eighteen is pretty young."

"If not now, when?" Mulder asks reasonably. "You don't want them still living together when they're as old as the gunmen, do you? It's taken until now for them to find women who'll put up with that kind of codependency."

Doggett makes a gesture of surrender. "Point made."

Mulder nods. Little does Doggett realize that he's learning from this too. Mainly that despite having nine kids to look after, he has a lot about parenting left to learn. It makes him wonder if Missy or Monica took mental notes while observing Scully interact with the kids over the years.

When Doggett sighs, he asks, "They've gotten over other big disappointments, haven't they?"

He thinks this over for a minute. "Yeah. Both of them got shot down by the first girls they asked to prom. They ended up taking girls they're only friends with instead."

"Ouch." Mulder winces. Privately, though, he wonders if having no luck with the girls they went to high school with might not be a blessing. At least neither boy is left angsting about going to a different college than his girlfriend, or leaving a younger one behind to finish high school without him... "They over that yet?"

"Oh, sure."

"There you go." Mulder smirks at Doggett's look of surprise. "I know they think I'm nuts, but they will be telling us all about their new friends when they come home."

"God willin'."

"Pretty sure he has nothing against your kids making friends." He smiles when Doggett scowls at him. Then he stands up. "Come outside so I can show you where to pop the door for the gas on the van. You don't want to be hunting for the button the first time you need to get gas. Especially if it's dark out."

"Good point." Doggett gets up too. "Which side is the gas tank on, anyway?"

"The right." With that they go out to discuss things that have nothing to do with disappointment.

Vacation: Day Twenty

Vacation: Day Twenty

Scully grins down at the baby in her arms. Four of her own brood have Mulder's hair color but their hair is positively light in comparison to John and Monica's daughter. "I still can't get over this hair," Scully comments. "I've never seen such a dark color on a baby. In person, I mean," she adds when she thinks of the National Geographies she'd read as a girl.

"I think John's still surprised, though I don't know why after seeing Hannah's baby pictures," Reyes tells her.

With an unexpected pang, Scully remembers that Hannah was three the first time she met the woman she now calls Mom. It leaves a bad taste in her mouth every time she thinks of Barbara and the way she'd abandoned her children when she left her husband. Shaking her head, she says, "It wasn't this dark in person."

"Ah," Reyes says, reaching for her daughter when she begins to fuss.

Giving Reyes a sidelong look, Scully asks, "So, have people been driving you crazy yet asking when you plan to have another one?"

Reyes snorts. "Damn straight. But I also get 'at your age you don't want to wait too long' as icing on the cake."

"How rude!"

"Tell me about it. When Page was a baby-" She shakes her head. "Maybe I mean Sammy."

Scully shakes her head too. "When you're visibly pregnant with number two before number one can walk, they don't usually ask about when you're planning for more."

"Ah. Too late for that, though, but I don't mind."

"How long were-" Scully stops with a rueful look. "Now I'm the nosey one."

"We haven't really talked about it yet," Reyes admits. "But we've discussed having two all along. It would be nice to have a boy too..."

Scully smiles to herself. Reyes might refuse to get married and claim she's not interested in a traditional life, but clearly she's drawn to the classic desire for a boy and a girl, and the hobgoblin infested home she and John bought the year before even has a white picket fence in front of it.

"What are you thinking about?" Reyes asks suspiciously.

"Just thinking about you having a little boy someday."

Rebecca chooses this moment to begin howling. Reyes smirks at Scully over her flailing baby. "But not too soon. I don't know how you and Mulder handled more than one in diapers at once."

"We still have two," Scully says automatically. "And you get used to it." When she notices her friends' inscrutable expression, she asks, "What?"

"Are you sad?" Rebecca has quieted, so she waves her free hand. "That you won't be doing this part again."

Scully's thoughts turn to her oldest brother, and the feelings she had around his babies: relief that it wasn't her. Shaking her head again, she says, "I thought it would be terrible, but it's okay. Sometimes I do miss having a tiny baby in my arms, but then I think about how much better I sleep myself now that Zoe and Brianna sleep through the night... With nine kids someone is bound to make me a grandmother, so I think I can content myself with waiting for the family to get added to until then."

"A grandmother!" Reyes exclaims, but she's looking at the baby she's holding rather than at Scully. "You're not going to make me a grandma until I'm old and gray, are you sweetheart?" The question makes the baby laugh. Glancing at Scully, Reyes asks, "But you have a ten-year head start, don't you?"

Scully nods, but it's on the tip of her tongue to suggest that Reyes is forgetting that Doggett's boys are far older than Page... but she doesn't say it because she's not sure how Reyes imagines her role in the lives of the boys' future offspring.

"Does Page ever pay attention to boys yet?" Reyes asks.

"She talks about singers and actors who are cute with Samantha's girls, but I think she just doesn't want them to think she's a baby, because it never comes up at any other time. Certainly there's no talk about any boys she really knows yet."

Reyes pats her arm. "It's going to be quite a while yet before you're Grandma Dana."

Scully shudders. "I'm in no rush, believe me."

"Oh, I do."

That Night

The idea of driving all the way to Boston without stopping had crossed Doggett's mind, but he'd realized that it was an insane idea before they even left the house, which is why he's sitting by the side of a pool watching his sons swim in it.

"Oh, help me!" Gibson calls to Luke in a falsetto. "I think I have a muscle cramp!"

Luke smirks at him. "A cramp where?"

"My butt!" Gibson grins at him. When Luke makes no move to 'rescue' him, he frowns. "What, is there like a prettiness quota to get your rescue services?"

"Ah, you're pretty enough, bro," Luke calls back. "Maybe one of the girls here will try to save you. Ladies?"

Whatever Luke might have said next is gone as he sputters after Gibson splashes him.

Doggett realizes that he ought to be amused, but he can't help but be a little sad. About an hour earlier he was sharply reminded of what he was on the road for: he'd told the boys that he'd check in for them, but they had insisted that they could do it themselves.

"Dad," Gibson had told him, "We're going to have to learn how to do things on our own, right?"

"Right," he'd agreed, as much as it pained him to. They really did have to, but he hadn't been expected to be reminded of that while they were still on the road.

"Besides," Luke had added, "I was able to my plane ticket switched on my own, so it's not like we can't handle this stuff."

He hadn't been able to hold his tongue then. "Do you really think you're going to convince me that the whole flight debacle is proof of maturity?"


That was an hour ago, though, and the boys both seem to have forgotten all about the minor disagreement as soon as Doggett had let them handle checking in. It had gone just fine, which he knew should please him, but somehow it didn't quite.

Sitting there, nursing a bottle of Coke, he supposes that he ought to have thought of how his role as a father is going to change, but even though he'd told Mulder that things get different when the kids get older, he hasn't really thought too hard about how much more things are going to change than they already had. High school had been okay, though he'd been scared to death the first couple of months that they'd had their licenses, but now he won't just be worrying about them getting home safely, because he won't even know when they go out. Now he'll have to worry if they can handle everything about their lives on their own. And even when they're home for the summer, they'll still be making their own choices. What if one of them brings a girl home and insists on having her spend the night in their room?

"Aww, do you need help?" Doggett hears a girl call, and when he looks over at the pool, he notices two girls swimming towards Gibson. Luke looks like he's just figured out that his harassment of his brother has backfired because Gibson is getting a lot of sympathetic attention.

He's tempted to call out to enjoy it while it lasts, but Gibson earnestly insists that he's fine and that he and Luke were just giving each other a hard time. "Idiot," he thinks he hears Luke say over the sounds of other people enjoying the pool. He hates to admit it, but he almost agrees. Maybe only one of them will be coming home from college with a girlfriend.

Sighing, Doggett looks down at his watch. Monica was supposed to have called him ten minutes ago, and he's beginning to wonder if he should give her a call instead because maybe she's forgotten, or if she's too busy to call on time, which would only make things worse if her phone rang.

Then, as if by magic, the phone rings, sounding like a NASCAR crowd roaring. "Hello."

"Daddy!" Hannah cries in delight. "I miss you."

"Hey sweetie," Doggett replies happily. "What's Monica doing?"

"Well, she's changing the baby. We hadda look everywhere for the diapers. How'd they end up in the linen closet?"

"Uh..." Doggett tries not to yawn. His guess is sleep deprivation. He's willing to bet money on it, actually. "I'm not sure."

"I found 'em though."

"That's good. I bet Monica was glad."

"Yeah, we didn't have to drive anywhere with a stinky baby," Hannah chirps.

"Why are you calling your little sister names?" Doggett wants to know. Hannah was the most enthusiastic when the baby arrived, though the boys have been good with Rebecca too.

"I'm not!" Hannah protests. "She was just really stinky."

"Ah, okay." He shakes his head.

"Hey, Mom wants the phone now. Daddy, could you call later and tell me a bedtime story?" his daughter wheedles.

"I think it might be nice if you gave Mom a shot at telling one," he replies.

"Oh, okay," Hannah concedes. "I won't tell her yours are better."

"Thank you."

There's some noise on the other end of the line as he faintly hears Reyes speaking to their daughter. "Hey, how's it going?" she asks.

Doggett glances at the boys who are now both trying to act casual as they speak to girls in the pool, then thinks about Hannah's request. Things will be different, but his little girls still need him a lot, so he guesses it's not like his entire world will be turned upside down after all. "I'm good, Mon."

Vacation: Day Twenty-One

Vacation: Day Twenty-One

The last thing that Scully wants to do on her last day of vacation is the kids' back to school shopping, but a nagging voice in the back of her head tells she'll live to regret it if she puts it off any longer because it won't be any easier to handle when she and Mulder go back to work. So that's how she finds herself loading Sammy, Page, and April into the car one afternoon and driving to the nearest office supply place. Mulder, who is staying behind with the rest of their offspring, has promised to bring Jared, David and Christopher shopping after their annual physicals, so at least she doesn't need to figure out how to cram more booster seats into her car.

As they walk into the store, Scully feels an immediate sense of being overwhelmed. They don't just sell pens, they sell 158 different types of pens, and offer them in more than a dozen color inks. She gives Page a sidelong look and wonders if she'll have to refuse a request for pens with hot pink ink again this year; the year before the frazzled elementary school teachers sent home a note begging parents to spare their eyes by sticking to blue or black ink. Then there's pencils. How many pencils should she buy each kid, three dozen?

A gross? Could she get a bulk discount if she fills the cart with as many as are still hanging from the ceiling of John and Monica's (and Layla's) office? It's a good thing they're graphite pencils, she finds herself musing, so no one will get lead poisoning when they eventually fall out. It's inevitable that they will, isn't it? Only cockroaches survive all disasters, and she's pretty sure that none of the dozens of brands before her actually incorporates roaches into the construction.

April tilts her head as Scully stares fixedly at a kajillion #2s. "Mom, what are you thinking about?"

Scully snaps out of it, no longer lost in the image of pencils raining down on the unsuspecting. "I never know how many pencils to buy, and you guys always seem to run out at the worst time."

"Buy them all," Sammy helpfully suggests from where he's been playing with the sharpies just down the row. Glancing over, Scully notices that he's been doodling what seems to be a ninja.

His mother scowls at him. "And what, rent a moving truck?"

Sammy's eyes light up. "That would be so cool. Mom, can you drive a big truck like that? I bet Dad couldn't."

Privately she bets that too, not that she'd ever tell Mulder that. "I guess I could if I had to." Before he opens his mouth again, she adds, "But not for the sake of buying school supplies."

"Awww," Sammy groans. "We're never going to use a moving truck, then."

"Good," Page snaps, making Scully stare at her. Why does she seem so affronted by that? "We like where we live. We don't need to move. Ever."

It's only after this that Scully thinks she understands. On the last day of school Page found out that one of the little girls that she'd been friends with since kindergarten was moving over the summer, and would be changing schools. Page hadn't said anything much about it, but her comment just now made it very clear that it's still on her mind. It sort of makes Scully wonder if some of her oldest's moodiness could be attributed to that. And maybe her being drawn to her older cousins too - family doesn't just pack up and leave. Usually.

"We don't need all of the pencils," Aprils says calmly. "We just need to buy Daddy a bunch too. We only run out because he steals our extras."

"If Dad pays for them, it's not exactly stealing," her brother objects. "It's mis, um, misappropriating them," Sammy concludes proudly. Clearly he's been reading the word-of-the-day calendar by the refrigerator.

April's accusation does explain a lot, Scully decides. Why Mulder doesn't just buy his own pencils she doesn't know, but when she thinks about it, she remembers seeing a couple of the Halloween pencils the twins begged for in the pencil cup on his desk.

Nodding to herself, she put two more boxes of pencils than she thinks the kids will need into her cart. What is it with that man and pencils? Sighing, she adds a box when she decides it would just figure if he forgot pencils all together when he brought the younger boys later.

April pulls a folded sheet of paper out of her back pocket. "My new teacher mailed me this," April tells Scully, and holds it out.

The sheet contains an exhaustive list of school supplies. "When did you get this?"

"Dunno." April shrugs. "It was with the mail when we got home."

"Oh!" Sammy exclaims. While Scully stares at him, he pulls a crumpled wad of paper out of his shorts pocket. "I got one too."

"You did?" Scully blinks, more than half amazed that he had the forethought to bring it with him, crumpling not withstanding.

"Uh huh. I only remembered 'cause Billy said his Dad said it's practically highway robbery. That's funny, right? How would you rob a highway? They don't even own anything but pavement."

"That's not what that means," Page tells him.

He just gives her an innocent look, making them all suspect that he's pulling his sister's leg by claiming not to get the saying himself. Sammy does read a lot, so Scully wouldn't be surprised if he actually does understand where the expression comes from.

When she tries to smooth the list out, she notes that it's almost identical to April's.

Looking at Page, she asks, "How about you?" Page quickly shakes her head. "Well, I think we can manage. When I was a kid teachers didn't make a list of demands like this."

"Mom!" Page complains. "You sound like Daddy."

It's all she can do not to sigh out loud. Where has Page picked this attitude up from lately? It almost makes her want to restrict how much time she spends with her older cousins, but she doesn't only because it would hurt Mulder. Still, it's getting pretty old.

"Daddy would say something about aliens," April retorts. Then she grins when this elicits an aggrieved sigh. Scully doesn't think she's supposed to notice Sammy giving April a thumbs up. Maybe the kids are sick of it too, she thinks irreverently.

Scully glances down at the pair of lists in her hand, and notes that both contain the word "folders." She glances up at the signs hanging above the aisles and locates the right ones. "Looks like we should grab folders next."

"Mom, do you think we can ever buy enough folders to keep Jared from losing his homework?" Sammy asks as they make their way over to the folders.

"He's never lost any homework yet," April objects.

"He's never had any homework yet," Sammy points out. "And he loses everything."


"You didn't see him under his bed looking for underwear this morning," Page tells her sister. "Who keeps their underwear under the bed?"

As Scully listens, she makes a mental note to get the twins to clean their room when they get home. For a while now she's wondered if part of the appeal of continuing to share a room is the fact that it has built in plausible deniability about who created the mess, because each boy can claim his brother is the messy one.

Eventually the twins, either set or both, might eventually want their own rooms like the rest of their siblings. If David and Jared do, they could convert the guestroom immediately. As for Zoe and Brianna, one will probably inherit Michelle's room eventually. The thought of Michelle's eventual exit leaves Scully feeling blue all over again. Maybe Michelle will stay in the city.

"Oh, I want this one!" Sammy declares, and Scully realizes that the kids have been looking through the folder selection while she's been wool-gathering. He's holding one with a superhero on it.

"Sure. You should probably pick about ten each."

"Nine more," Sammy says before beginning to hum to himself.

When she glances around, Scully is slightly dismayed to see semi-familiar faces on several of the folders - they're the same fresh-faced teenagers as on the covers of the CDs Samantha's middle girls insisted on listening to at Lake Tahoe. She looks over at Page, figuring that it's inevitable that her daughter will leave the store with a stack full of them. "Those are nice. For girls," Sammy tells April, who is picking out a set of folders with kittens on them.

"You like kittens too," Aprils says with a small frown.

"Yeah, but only real ones," Sammy responds. His hands have an entire league of superheros in them.

April thinks about it. "That's true."

Sammy looks over at their mother. "Mom, can we get another kitt-"


"Harsh." He doesn't look too disappointed, though. The kids ask for new pets on a semi-regular basis, and they've grown to take denials in stride.

Scully and Mulder have privately discussed getting a puppy once the babies are in kindergarten, but they know better than saying a word about that to any of the kids. If they do get a puppy, having nine young masters and mistresses will make the creature the best walked dog in the city.

When she notices that Sammy and April have finished picking theirs out, she turns to Page asking, "How are you doing?"

To her surprise, Page isn't holding the stars of Tigerbeat or whatever the modern equivalent is. Instead Scully can see ducklings, wolf cubs, and Disney Princesses on the topmost folders. "Almost done."

"Okay," Scully replies.

Maybe her little girl isn't in such a hurry to grow up after all, Scully thinks happily.


Luke and Gibson cheerfully chatted all morning, but Doggett notices that conversation drops off sharply as they enter Boston. He begins to become concerned, fearing that one or both boys might panic and beg to be taken home. He still clearly remembers almost breaking down and wanting to get out of going for his Marine training himself. Looking back, he's still shocked that his parents had believed he was old enough to take on the responsibilities involved in serving the country. When he feels himself growing maudlin, he gives himself a mental shake. Get a grip, John, he tells himself sternly. This is college, not war. The only guns and ammo they'll see over the next four years will be made of pixels.

He's still trying to figure out the kindest way to tell his sons that they'll be able to handle college when Luke hisses, "Gibson, what's wrong with you? You look like you're going to throw up!"

Doggett cringes; Luke's question is much harsher than any of the ones he's been rehearsing in his head. A driver switching lanes distracts him before he can say anything to either of the boys. It only serves to remind him of how suicidally aggressive city drivers can be. The low sides of the Tobin should encourage driver caution but clearly often doesn't.

"I don't like bridges, okay?" Gibson snaps.

"Oh. I didn't realize that," Luke replies. "How did I not know that?"

Doggett sees Gibson shrug when he checks his rearview for other potential idiot drivers. "Not all bridges," his boy explains. "Just big ones like this."

"I don't blame you," Luke says sympathetically. "Bridges don't bother me much, but this one is pretty weird."

Doggett nods but doesn't join the conversation. Admitting that the bridge does strike him as feeling more dangerous than usual, or comment that he'd read once that the bridge is considered especially terrifying compared to other bridges of similar lengths or heights, would do nothing to make Gibson feel better.


"Well," Luke says. "At least we don't need to go over it when we fly home and back." They'd flown when he'd taken them to check out the campus, but flying with all of their stuff would have required him taking out a loan to afford the extra baggage fees.

"Thank God," Gibson mutters.

As he exits the bridge, Doggett tunes out of their more lively conversation. Instead he's thinking about what Luke said about flying home. Back when they'd been on the way to her parents' house for a holiday just after they'd gotten married, Barbara had told him about one of her visits home while in her first year of college.

"It was Easter. I think," Barbara had said. "The whole visit had gone really well. But then I opened my mouth and stuck my foot in it."

"What did you say?" he'd wanted to know. She hadn't demonstrated a flair for saying the wrong thing - at least not yet - so he'd been fascinated.

She'd shaken her head and sighed. "I'd given my parents big hugs, enthused about how great it had been to see them... Then said I had to be going so I could get home before the shuttles stopped for the night."

"Uh oh." He knew exactly where she'd slipped up.

"Exactly. Mom burst into tears and said that I was home... It was a big mess."

At that time he'd been young enough to share her feeling that her mom had completely overreacted. But now, on his way to drop off a pair of eighteen-year-olds he loved with all his heart, he's beginning to understand his former mother-in-law's point of view. It had to be devastating to be reminded that other places, ones where you weren't, would come to feel more like home than returning to the house your child had grown up in. You knew and expected, encouraged even, that it would happen, but that first sign... even if you knew it was coming, it had to sting.

May be it would be a little different for him - Luke hadn't lived in the same house for his whole life, and Gibson had only been his for a few years and he'll still have two little ones at home where Barbara had been the baby of her family - but he anticipates it's still going to hurt like hell.

He forces himself to focus his thoughts on navigating through the streets of Boston rather than on things that make him sad. It's like his grandmother used to tell him: there's time enough for feeling bad when the worst happens, so there's no use worrying about it ahead of time. Within minutes he begins to see signs for the Buckminster Fuller School of Design and Technology and makes his way through the maze of streets between him and the campus.

Before Luke is quite ready for it, his new dorm looms into view. Even though they'd talked about moving him in first, then Gibson, he still wants to tell his Dad they should go to Gibson's dorm first. But the look on his younger brother's face suggests that he probably wouldn't welcome a panicky suggestion that they change their plans.

His father parks, then gives him an encouraging smile when they all get out of the Mulders' van. "Ready?"

Luke figures that if he could see his own face just then, his expression would probably look a lot like Gibson's had back on the Tobin. "Um... yeah, ready."

"Good," his father rumbles. He leads the way to Luke's dorm.

Luke stumbles after him, stomach suddenly in knots. He gives Gibson a disbelieving look when he realizes he's calm. It's on the tip of his tongue to ask him what his secret is, but then he figures it out: this isn't the first time Gibson's been dropped off to live at a new school. It's the third. And even before that, Gibson had played chess without his parents going with him.

Of course he's calm, Luke thinks sulkily. He already knows it's going to be okay. As soon as those words cross his mind, he nearly begins to laugh at himself. He needs to remember that he knows that it's going to be okay too.

What's the worst thing that could happen? Even if he completely screws up and can't do the work, it's not like he'd end up homeless. Dad and Monica would be disappointed but they'd let him come home and get a job until he was ready to try again. And that probably wouldn't happen anyway: he'd done just as good in high school as Gibson had, and there was no reason to believe he was going to start doing poorly now.

It's going to be okay, Luke tells himself firmly. He strides ahead of Gibson and their dad, opening the door himself instead of hanging back like a timid little kid.

"Hi," a slightly older blond boy with a clipboard says friendlily as soon as they enter the lobby. "Who are you?" The older kid looks between Luke and Gibson, clearly wondering which one of them is the one moving in. Gibson is still on the short side, but he's not as baby-faced as he used to be, so people don't usually mistake him for much younger than he is anymore.

"Luke Doggett." He's proud of himself when his voice doesn't shake.

"I'm Jay," the other boy says before consulting his clipboard. He teases a sheet of paper out from under the clip and hands it to him. "Room 107. I'm the RA for the first floor, so I'll be seeing a lot of you."

"Nice," Luke comments, hoping Jay is a fun RA. "You'll probably see him around too," Luke says, hooking a thumb in Gibson's direction. "My brother's a freshman too, in another dorm."

Jay asks which one and says, "Oh, that's not too far," before leading the way to Luke's new room. Looking at Gibson, he asks, "Are you moved in yet?" Gibson shakes his head, so Jay tells Luke, "If you're going to help each other move in, just lock the door when you leave. I want your roommate to get to try the combination as soon as he gets here too."

"Okay," Luke says, now wondering what kind of guy Jake will be. They e-mailed each other a few times over the summer, even before they were told which dorm their room would be in. Luke has pretty high hopes that neither he nor Gibson will have a 'roommate from hell' experience.

When Monica was pregnant she complained about how many moms told her birth horror stories, and he'd just nodded. But now that half the adults they knew had told him and Gibson about their heinous roommates, he feels more sympathy about what she'd felt to hear those other stories. Birth or living with a randomly assigned stranger, no one really wants to hear about everyone else's bad experiences.

'Why are you thinking about babies?' Gibson catches his eye to mouth. 'Later' he mouths back. Gibson gives him a puzzled look but drops it.

Jay hasn't seemed to notice. "Well, you can move all your stuff in and then do whatever until after dinner." For a moment Luke is left uncomfortably wondering if the RA expects everyone on the floor to eat together, like his old first grade class had been made to. "And our first floor meeting will be at seven. Don't miss it."

"I won't," Luke promises quickly. He's relieved that dinner seems to be considered free time. He really should check the orientation schedule, but he doesn't recall much being on it for the first day. The following day, however...

Jay watches him unlock the door before smiling at Luke's father. "Oh, it was nice to meet you, Mister Doggett."

"You too, Jay."

The RA nods and leaves. As soon as he's out of sight Gibson lowers his voice and says, "That's Agent Doggett, young man."

"Funny," Doggett complains as all three of them step into the empty room. Putting his hand on Luke's shoulder, he asks, "So, what do you think?"

For a second Luke almost asks him about what considering how many things he's got on his mind, but realizes at fast that he means the room. "It's bigger than I expected," he offers. It is, too. Almost all the roomie horror stories were set in rooms the size of a cracker box, so it's nice to see he and Jake have a little more room than that.

"Yup, shouldn't be too crowded once you and your roommate unpack."

"I hope Tim and I got a room this big," Gibson says with a doubtful look.

Luke punches him in the shoulder. "Sooner we get my stuff in here, sooner we can go find out, huh?"

Gibson rubs his shoulder and sighs.

"Come on, guys," their father says, like they aren't already walking towards the door.

Must be making the most of the last time he's got to tell us what to do for a while, Luke thinks. He smirks when he hears Gibson trying to disguise a snort of laughter. Sometimes having a sibling who knows exactly what you're thinking isn't so bad. Talk about private jokes!

Fortunately the room Gibson has been assigned to is just as big as Luke's. They won't squabble over whose room is nicer. Roommates, however, is a big unknown because Tim hasn't shown up yet either. Gibson would lay money on Tim and Jake's dads not being ex-marines.

It doesn't take too long to empty the van of his stuff too. When all their stuff was crammed into the van it seemed like there was a ton of things, but the stack of boxes on the floor of his room seems kind of small. Maybe he should have brought more, he thinks distractedly.

Their father looks around the room when they put the last boxes down. "Well." He pauses. "Make sure you unpack your phones tonight. I'm going to call you from the hotel, and I'm sure Monica and Hannah will give you a call to see how you are too."

Gibson would like to joke about women and worry, but right then he's grateful to have a family who worries about him. After his biological parents were murdered he hardly imagined parents and siblings again until he landed in John Doggett's life. Things have turned out much better than the scared little boy he'd once been could have ever dreamed of.

"We will, Dad," Luke promises for the both of them. Gibson blinks, having almost forgotten that their father had told them something.

"Sure will."

"C'mere," Doggett tells them. As soon as they do, he gives them a bear hug. "If you need anything, even just to bitch about your roommates or classes, call me. I'm sure you're both going to do great, but you're still my kids and I don't want you to hesitate asking if you need something. I will always love you guys and care about what you're doing, even when we're all old and gray."

"Thanks, Dad," Gibson tells him. Suddenly his eyes feel strange. "We love you too."

"Yeah, I know." Doggett looks pleased. "What would you say to getting some ice cream before I leave?"

"Sounds good," Luke says with a bit of forced enthusiasm. Gibson doesn't need to read his mind to know he's not pleased that their father's leaving either.

The three of them will try to make the best of it, he's sure, and that's all they really can do. Why didn't anyone ever tell them that growing up was going to be so hard sometimes?


Neither Gibson nor Luke cry when their dad leaves, which is more than some of the kids being abandoned in the same parking lot can say. Not all of them are girls, either.

They don't say anything when they walk back to Gibson's dorm. His is closer, so that's how they picked it really. They stop just inside Gibson's room.

"I'll, um..." Luke looks awkward, and Gibson wonders if Luke's wishing as hard as he is that they'd rejected their father's advice about not rooming together. He supposes he could try defeating Luke's mental walls, but he doesn't. "We'll have dinner together, okay?"

"Yeah, of course." As if they'd want to eat dinner alone.

"Okay. I'm...I guess I'd better get to unpacking."

Gibson looks at the collection of boxes on his own floor. "Yup."

"Uh, bye." With that Luke shuffles off, and down the hallway.

Sighing, Gibson begins to pick half-heartedly at the tape on the first box.

Alone in his dorm room, Luke stares at the pile of boxes and instantly decides to set up his computer first. He'll leave the boring stuff for a little later. It only takes him ten minutes to get everything hooked up and to boot up. It still strikes him as ludicrous that some people pay someone else up to $100 to do it. But then, he's never been the sort of person who has been afraid of ruining a computer somehow, not even when he'd still been a little kid in NY.

Settling back in his chair, he pulls out the handout the school sent about how to set up their college e-mail accounts. The directions are a bit odd but easy, so he's gotten it done in a flash.

To his surprise, the e-mail system informs him that he already has e-mail. Then he quickly realizes it's got to be from the college. The first couple are just what he expects: a copy of the orientation schedule (in case they forgot to bring the ones snail mailed to them seems to be the implication) and one from Jay to everyone on the floor with a brief agenda of the upcoming floor meeting and a couple of welcome memos from his professors for the semester.

But one the most recent of the messages is from Adriana Hill.

For some reason it has him blushing, even though the message is just typical 'how are you, how do you like your room and roommate' stuff. She's too young, he reminds himself sternly as he tries to think of completely bland responses to her questions. Still... he's going to make a big effort not to think about her e-mailing him when he is around Gibson, or he'll never hear the end of it even though he hasn't done, and won't do, anything wrong.

Gibson is completely bored once he unpacks everything. Chet, his RA, has dropped by to say Tim's family has had minor car trouble, so he shouldn't expect him until after dinner. Fortunately it was just a tire or something so it's already being replaced.

He's giving a couple of books he's brought a speculative look when he hears a shout.

Lacking anything better to do, he wanders into the hallway, and quickly finds the source of the sound. A completely disgusted looking girl is giving something he can't see a look of dismay. The brown-haired girl is holding a few paper towels, and the rest of a roll is on her bed.

"Everything okay?" he asks, poking his head into the room. "I'm Gibson, by the way."

She looks up, startled. He guesses she didn't realize how far her voice carried out of the room. "Katie. And yeah, it's just..." she moves so he can see what she's been looking at. It takes him a couple of seconds to figure it out.

"Is that, uh, shaving cream?" Gibson asks, confused. It's a pink gel, and kind of reminds him of the goop Monica uses.

"It sure is, about half a can's worth." The girl frowns at the mess. She goes to touch her glasses, but apparently thinks better of it and doesn't. "Remind me to kill my brother when he comes for family weekend. Nick is fourteen and thinks things like this are the height of comedy."

Gibson just shrugs. Neither he nor Luke would have thought to squirt shaving cream on a girl's under things at that age. Or any age, really. Especially not Hannah's. Doesn't this Nick kid realize his sister's going to be in punching distance of him by the holidays at the latest? No wait, family weekend is a lot sooner than that. Nick's in hot water for sure and probably doesn't even know it yet.

"What about you?" she asks. "Any brothers or sisters?"

"Yup," Gibson tells her. "A brother and two sisters."

"How old?"

"Luke's six months older than me. He's a freshman here too, but in another dor-"

"Wait, what?" she interrupts. "How can you have a brother six months older than you?"

"I'm adopted," Gibson says patiently. He'd had to explain a million times before.

"Ah." Katie looks like she could kick herself for not having thought of that possibility. "Just you or all four of you?"

"Just me. Luke and Hannah are Dad's kids by his ex-wife, and Rebecca is Dad's and Monica's baby, she was born in February."

"You call them Dad and Monica? How does your step-mom feel about that?"

"She's not exactly our step-mom," Gibson mumbles. "She doesn't 'believe in marriage' to Dad's annoyance, or she would be."

'"Huh," she says like this doesn't seem too unusual to her. "But she doesn't mind you calling her by her first name?"

"Nah. We were too old to just decide she was 'Mom' when they got serious. Well, Hannah calls her 'Mom' but even she's almost nine. I think she just misses having a mom more than Luke does, because Hannah was only three when their mother left them."

"Their mom left them?" Katie looks shocked. "You don't hear about that kind of thing too often."

"Nope. Most women don't abandon their husbands and young children to run off to Europe," Gibson acknowledges. He barely knows the ex Mrs. Doggett personally, but Luke's negative opinion of her rubbed off on him after hearing a bunch of stories about her. Then there's that weird dream Monica started to tell them about once, where their dad got hurt and she wanted to take Luke and Hannah away but not him. Luke said that sounded like something she'd really do, so he's been wary of her ever since.

"How old were you when you were adopted?"

"Pretty old. I lived with Dad, Luke, and Hannah for a year and a half before the adoption was finalized when I was fifteen."

"Wow, that took a long time."

"Yeah." He doesn't feel like explaining that Doggett's worry about adopting as a single man had caused most of the delay. "So... What are you going to study?" Gibson asks to change the subject.

Katie looks up from scooping shaving cream off the violated item of clothing. "Well, I like fashion design, and video games like everyone else going to Bucky, so I have this idea about hopefully designing characters for games."

"Nice," he enthuses. There are a lot of characters in games who could use a makeover, so maybe having a fashion enthusiast on a development team would be an improvement.

"Game design, right?" Katie asks after giving him a measured look that almost has him blushing for some reason.

"Yeah. My brother too."

"Are you a lot alike?"

Gibson shrugs. "In some ways, I guess. But not in other ways not so much."

"Ah, gotcha. I'm very little like Nick and we're biological siblings." Katie looks chagrined. "My Dad has this big theory that Nick and I are going to get along better now that we won't be living in that house together. He thinks we'll miss each other or something like that."

"Maybe you will," Gibson tells her. "At least he's not going to be playing tricks like this on you."

'"I don't know... I'll probably go home every other weekend. Lots of time for Nick to be a jerk."

"Oh," Gibson says, surprised. Somehow he'd forgotten that a lot of kids were in-state students, and could go home pretty much any time that they wanted to. "Luke and I are from DC so we won't be going home too often."

"Wow, that's rough. I can't I imagine going very long without getting to see my parents. This is definitely going to be the longest I've gone without seeing them."

"Well..." Gibson says, handing her another piece of paper towel. "Dad and Monica are FBI agents, so we're kind of used to them having to travel for work."

"Both of them?" Katie squeaks. When he nods, she exclaims, "That's wild! I can't believe an FBI couple can do that kind of job and have a family both." When this has him cracking up, she puts her hand on her hips and says, "What?"

"Have you ever seen Jose Chung's The Truth Is out There?"

"Of course."

"Fox and Dana are my folks' friends. They used to work together until just a couple of years ago. They had seven of their kids by the time they left the FBI."

"Oh, wow. I knew they had kids, but I figured they waited until after they left."

"Nope only the younger set of twins was born after."

"That's unreal."

"Well, they've had nannies since Page and Sammy, that's the two oldest, were still babies." Katie opens her mouth and he quickly adds, "They're little less than a year apart. So they're had a lot of help with that. That's probably why Dana sometimes kept an eye on us when Dad was away."

"What's it like knowing TV stars?"

"Pretty normal," Gibson says with a shrug. "I've known them since shortly before my biological parents died when I was twelve, so they were Agents Mulder and Scully to me a long time before they were ever on TV. They hadn't even done that episode of Cops yet."

"I didn't know they'd been on Cops!"


Katie looks like she might have just figured something out. "Hey, that Halloween episode about Houdini's ghost, the agents on that episode...?"

"That was Dad and Monica," Gibson acknowledges.

"Awesome!" Katie looks impressed. "Mrs. Houdini's ghost was just CGI, right?"


Jake seems okay to Luke. He's a big guy and it finally comes out that there is something he hasn't mentioned in his e-mails: he's on the football team.

"It's not that big a deal," Jake insists. "I'm a freshman so it's not like I'll probably get to play much. And even if I do, it's not like this school is known for its football team."

Luke guesses that both of these things are true, and it's actually a little surprising that a college best known for their tech program puts any emphasis on sports at all.

"You going to eat dinner with the team?" Luke asks.

"Nah," Jake says. "Most of the guys are older and upperclassmen don't get here for two more days."

"I'm going to eat with my brother. You could eat with us, if you want."

"So, what was that like?" Jake interrupts to ask. "Having your dad suddenly decide to adopt a kid when you were starting high school? Or should I keep my nosey questions to myself..." Luke had told him a little about his family in one of his e-mails, so he's not too surprised by the question.

"It's not too nosey. And it's fine. Dad took Gibson in because he was concerned about his safety." Luke decides not to share any of the confusing details, since his father and Monica have completely different stories about what happened. "And we really liked him, all three of us. After about a year social services realized he was still with us and suggested that adoption would be easier than Dad thought it would be. So... now he's legally my brother."

"And you and your little sister were okay with that?"

"Completely. Gibson's pretty awesome. Uh...but don't tell him I said that."

"Glad I'll be meeting him, then," Jake says, apparently deciding to join then for dinner.

"Great," Luke says, just as his stomach growls. "Let's go grab him before my stomach tries to digest itself."

When Luke and Jake reach Gibson's floor, Luke spots his brother walking down the hall towards them with a brunette girl. "Hey Luke," he calls, speeding up. Turning to the girl, he says "This is my brother. And..."

"Jake, my roommate."

"This is Katie. She lives down the hall."

"Ah. Ready for dinner?" Luke asks.

"Yes," they both answer, then Gibson says, "Tim's going to be late, so we don't have to wait for him."

"Okay." Luke looks at all three of them. "Who knows where the dining hall is?"

"I do," Katie volunteers.

She leads the way, still talking to Gibson. Jakes leans down a little and says in a low tone, "Meeting a girl the first day? Pretty smooth. I bet she's pretty cute without the glasses on. Maybe he'll talk her into contacts."

"Uh..." Luke realizes that Gibson does seem to be really hitting it off with his hallmate. "Good for him."

Jake laughs. "I'm sure we'll meet girls soon too. Unless you already have a girlfriend?"

Luke takes a moment to answer. "Nope."

"That's okay. I'm sure we'll do all right."


Katie points at the dining hall when they come to it, and Gibson congratulates her navigational skills. She seems to like him too.

Somehow Luke hadn't pictured Gibson meeting a girl first, but the summer has been full of surprises. It makes him eager to see what will happen during the fall.


Doggett gets thirty miles before he has to stop for gas again on his way home. The idea of making yet another stop doesn't thrill him, but getting gas is a necessary evil, so he pulls into a station with an aggravated sigh.

Just as he puts the gas nozzle back on the pump, his phone rings. He remembers hearing stories about gas station fires being started by cell phones, so he lets it ring until he can pull the van into a parking space. No one would appreciate him sitting at the pump to take a call, he is sure so he intends to call the caller back if the situation warrants it. The phone continues to ring as he shifts the van into park.

"Hello?" he asks, a little surprised that the call hasn't gone to voice mail. Changing the number of rings allowed must've been what Monica had got the boys to do to it before they left.

"Hi, John," Scully says warmly. "How are you doing?"

"Okay. Did Muldah get his nutty friends to track my phone by GPS?" he asks suspiciously. He'd only left the campus not terribly long ago.

"I don't think so," she says, sounding confused.

"You have excellent timing, then," he comments. "I've only been on the road for an hour or so."

"Are you driving?" she sounds worried. "I should have thought of that. I can call-"

"I'm parked," he assures her, knowing she's never been comfortable with people driving while using a cell phone. "Did Mon put you up to checking up on me?"

"No." He thinks she sounds faintly insulted. Oops. "I'm just... I just realized it's got to be hard to drop them off."

He can tell that she's been trying to imagine Page being that old, even if her husband is trying hard not to himself. "Yeah. Kind of makes me wish I'd sent them to summer camps."

He could have, they'd expressed an interest in a gaming camp three summers earlier, but Hannah had insisted that she'd "die of loneliness" without them and they'd dropped the conversation. Maybe he should have pushed them to do it instead of been grateful he hadn't needed to find a summer daycare option for Hannah.

"Summer camp?"

"For practice with dropping them off for long separations," he explains.


"They seem okay," he tells her, thinking of the crying freshmen acting like abandoned kindergarteners. At least his boys were less upset than that. Of course, those other kids would be fine by the end of the week, most of them. "It's going to be a big adjustment but neither of them begged me to bring them home, so I think they're ready for this."

"Are you?" she blurts out.

Doggett sighs. "Is any parent, ever?"

"I hope it'll eventually get easy for Mulder and me."

"Oh sure, maybe by the time it's William going off to college." He smiles to himself. "Zoe and Brianna for sure."


"It's not like I didn't know this was coming. They're both smart so I've figured college was in their futures for a long time now."

"Still..." she says, managing to sound both sympathetic and doubtful.

"What was the alterative, hope they get jobs right out of high school that'd keep them too poor to move out? No. We're supposed to be happy to see our kids off to bigger and better things."

"Well... eventually," she offers, unwittingly summing up his feelings about the matter. "I think it's okay if you're not quite there yet."


"You're- Oops. Hold on a second please." He hears her talking to someone else. "Funny."

"What?" he can't help but ask.

"Mulder wants me to ask how his van is."

This has him genuinely amused. "Oh. Totally trashed. I'll pay for the damage of course."

"I should tell him that just to see the look on his face."

"Dana." He hates to deprive her an opportunity to tease her husband, but what if he thinks she's serious?

"Okay, okay."

"It's fine. Handled much better full of stuff then I dreamed it would."

"That's good to hear... What?" He can tell the last isn't directed to him. "I'll see... John, can April talk to you?"

He blinks, surprised. "Oh, sure." for a second he worries that April is under the mistaken impression Hannah's with him, but then he remembers Monica mentioning she'd brought the girls to their house. "Hi sweetheart, what's up?"

"Do you think you could come over this weekend?" she asks. "Daddy could use someone to play with and Hannah and I could have a tea party. Page says we're gonna be too old for them soon but I don't think we are yet. Do you?"

He's so charmed by the idea of Mulder needing a playmate that it takes a minute for her question to sink in. "No, not yet."

"But is Rebecca big enough?" April wants to know. "If we're real gentle? Our babies are big enough, but Rebecca is still really little, I know."

"Well, I think I'd have to talk to Monica about that," Doggett tells her, trying to imagine how they think an infant could participate in their game. Maybe if they put the baby's carrier by the table it'd feel like they're including her, but they'd need to be reminded she's not old enough for solid food yet.

"Oh, okay." She pauses. "But you'll come over?"

"I think so, yeah."

"Thanks!" He hears her hand the phone back to her mother.

"Did she run that by you first?" he asks once he knows Scully is back on the line.

"Nope. You are welcome, though."

"Thanks," he says. Mulder probably does need a playmate, he muses. And it's nice to know that not everyone is in an all fired hurry to grow up on him. And April and Hannah don't seem to be either, he thinks with a smirk. Lord help him, Fox Mulder is semi-responsible for helping him keep from feeling too old.

"Okay, we'll see you then," Scully says. "Drive carefully."

"Sure will," he promises. As much as he'd like to tease her, he's gotten into the habit of worrying about everyone while they're on the road too. Ever since that car was totaled after driving into a man made of metal...

Back on the road, he finds himself looking forward to the weekend.

As soon as Scully hangs up the phone, she holds her arms out to April. "Come here."

When the little girl does, Scully pulls her onto her lap. Curious hazel eyes look up at her, and she's hardly surprised when April asks, "What?"

Before she answers, Scully gives her daughter a big hug. "You know, April, there's really something to be said for having a real knack for saying just the right thing at just the right time."

"I don't know what you mean," April complains mildly.

Scully decides there isn't really a good way to explain it to her. April is smart, but she's still only seven. "That's okay. I know what I mean, and that's the important thing here."


Grinning at her, Scully says, "Okay, okay. You made John feel better, that's all."

"How'd I do that?" April asks, looking like she's surprised.

"I think you just reminded him that even when you're kind of sad when there are big changes-"

"Like Luke and Gibson going away to school?"

"Exactly. Even when there are big changes, there are still things that stay the same too. And it's kind of comforting to know that." Scully hugs her again, making her giggle. "You reminded him that Hannah hasn't changed how she needs him yet, even if the boys have."

"Oh." April is quiet for a moment, then her head swivels. When she looks back she asks, "What was that sound?"

"I'm not sure, but I bet it has something to do with your father," Scully tells her. Then she debates whether or not she should go and check it out.

Meanwhile, Mulder and Sammy are wearing identical "oops" expressions, while David and Jared are laughing so hard their tummies hurt. "You guys are so busted," Jared giggles as David nods.

"No, we’re not," Sammy argues. "We just gotta clean up this stuff and it’s okay, right?" he says, looking at their father.

Mulder, who was staring at the mutinous backpack that had become an exploding party favor, blinks, then nods. "Seriously, Sammy, I wonder about your teachers. How do they expect kids to be hauling backpacks with enough stuff to make basic training gear look light?" His sons frown slightly at his metaphor, obviously not getting it, and he shakes his head. "Let’s just say even grownups would have a hard time carrying all of this. I’m not really sure how they expect you to do it, even if you are getting bigger," he adds quickly for Sammy’s sake.

"You mean you didn’t have all this stuff a long, long, looooooong time ago when you were a kid?" Sammy asks, none-too-innocently.

Mulder gives in and sighs as expected. "Yes, back when dinosaurs walked the earth," he deadpans. "Come on, give your prehistoric dad a hand and help me get all this stuff back into your bag before your mom storms in."

"Maybe if we had Mary Poppins’ bag, it could fit all his stuff," David mutters as he stumbles over a pencil case trying to grab the box of crayons.

"There’s no such thing as Mary Poppins," Sammy makes a face, trying the sit-on-the-suitcase trick to make more room in his backpack. "So her bag’s not real either."

"Duh," Jared says, checking the pencil case before handing it over to his older brother. "But itda be cool to have it, huh?"

"It would be, yeah," Mulder agrees, picking up some of Sammy’s supplies which had been thrown clear across the room. Then he gave his eldest son’s backpack a look. "Maybe you should get a wheeled bag so you don’t strain your back. Kinda like the carry-on I packed for our summer vacation."

Sammy nods but makes a face. "Will it have those weird stickers on it?" he asks.

"They’re not weird, they’re," Mulder starts to argue, but grins, "never mind." He supposes little boys wouldn’t appreciate MUFON or other fringe-type stickers. "No, they won’t. And they come in different colors, not just black."

"Okay." His red-headed son smiles. "Can I pop wheelies with it?"

Mulder thinks about it for .000059 seconds before deciding Scully would kill him if he says yes. "No," he says promptly.

Sammy doesn’t seem too surprised. "Okay," he repeats, still looking pleased with himself that he gets to have a grown-up wheelie case like his dad.

As for Mulder, he groans inwardly, trying not to think of how big their school supply list will be when they got to high school. He’s fairly sure that neither Luke nor Gibson had this much stuff to deal with, but he could be mistaken. Wonder if we can opt out of getting school supplies next year, like opting out of school breakfast? he thinks. Well, he could dream. In the meantime, summer is over and he’ll have to explain to Scully why he isn’t done shopping for school supplies for David and Jared. Goody.

The End

Authors' Note:
Well? What did you think?,

Join us for the next (already fully written!) sequel, The Family G-Man: Confessions and Connections. Next stop: 2006!

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