4/08/10 chapter 127, the final chapter... but go back to the splash page to read the sequels!


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Manips by NeoX. Found in chapters:

Title: The Family G-Man

Authors: Neoxphile and FelineFemme

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

Written: November 18, 2003 to December 25, 2009 (yes, it's all posted now)

Archive: Link only please, using the url www.mulderscreek.com/familygman.html

Rating: R, and in spots we're shooting for NC-17, ya'll better take cover

Spoilers: Seasons 1-9

Category: Alternate Reality; Snark, plus a dollop Angst for the beginning; Babyfic

Disclaimer: So yeah, we're going to be borrowing CC's characters, and the idea behind "The Family Man," which put a twist on "It's a Wonderful Life" which blatantly copied "A Christmas Carol." We hope the print doesn't get blurry from being a copy of a copy of...

Summary: A double tragedy strikes Mulder the week before Christmas in 2003. What if he could go back and change things, save the son one lost and give the other the family she wanted? Could it keep them safe?

Visit the Title page for latest progress updates about this story's sequels and an episode list by chapter.

Plain text through chapter 127 here

Authors' Notes: The sections that look like this were written by Felinefemme and the ones that look like this were written by Neoxphile. We think it's neat to be able to see who wrote what...but you might not.




Chapter One Hundred and Four



May 16th, 2001
Early

"Congratulations," Reyes whispers to Mulder as she admires the baby he's holding in his arms.

"Thanks. I'll let Scully know that you stopped by," he says, before bringing his newest son back into the hospital room where Scully is sleeping.

"Guess we'd better be going," Doggett tells her. It had been her plan to stop by before work, making him promise to arrive at the same time. "It's almost eight."

There's a lot of traffic around the hospital at even that hour, so he's anxious to get going. Somehow he doesn't think Skinner would be amused if they're late because Reyes really wanted to see Scully's new baby.

"Oh God, he's so cute," Reyes says for the third time as they reach the parking lot. "I wish I'd seen the older kids when they were that small."

"He looks like the picture Mulder sent me of Sammy when he was brand new," Doggett offers.

"I keep forgetting that your families kept in touch all that time."

"Yup. Luke was rather enamored of the Feds, so it was inevitable." Doggett grins. "The baby looks like his big brother, but I keep thinking about when Hannah was a baby."

"It makes sense, she and Sammy are just a few months apart. Naturally you'd think of back then," she says, but kicks herself for reminding him of his ex-wife.

"It seems so long ago," Doggett says with a sigh. "Barbara and I were happy then."

"Yeah..." she half-heartedly agrees.

"But that was definitely a million years ago," Doggett says softly. He then leans over and kisses her.

Surprised that the hunter has suddenly become the prey, it takes her a moment before she kisses him back.

"I thought I was going to have to make the first move," Reyes says when she finally pulls away.

A small smile plays across his lips. "I like to keep you guessing."

She nods slightly. "Well, mission accomplished."

He hums to himself as he walks to his car.


The Next Morning

May seventeenth dawns rosily and Mulder is awake to greet it. Scully sleeps in her hospital bed, and William is in Mulder's arms. The baby hadn't woken up crying, but Mulder just wants to hold him. Just in case.

By the time William was thirty-six hours old the last go around, Mulder had already been warned by Kersh that staying would put Scully and the baby's lives in danger.

::But things are different:: Mulder thinks as he looks out the window. ::This time there are no aliens hunting my little boy. Billy Miles is settling into his new career rather than tearing off heads or spying on women in labor. Scully didn't have an audience - hell, the baby came so fast I didn't make it into the room on time after updating the family! Nothing is going to take me away from them this time::

William stirs in his arms and lets out a mewling cry.

::I hope::

"Is he hungry?" Scully asks sleepily.

"I think so." She holds out her arms and he obligingly fills them. "Here you go. Are you going to be to be ready to go home today?"

She yawns. "If you can keep the restless natives quiet, I'll be fine."

"I'll do my best," Mulder promises.

::What if problems are tied to the date, not his birth?:: Mulder wonders nervously. May 22nd is still days away.


Mulder-Scully Home
Later

The fact that the three older kids are at school makes it easier for Mulder to fulfill his promise. The little boys aren't even up for the day yet when he pulls into their driveway and helps Scully out of the car.

"I'll take him," Mulder tells her when she makes a move to open the back door. She nods and he gently removes the newborn from his car seat. Scully leans on the arm that isn't cradling their new son.

::We're home.:: Mulder telegraphs to William. ::It's nicer digs than your mom's old apartment.::

Scully yawns beside him, and he remembers she's there with a little startled jolt. Even with part of her weight on his arm, she's so quiet that he almost felt alone with the baby. "Better get you to bed," he suggests. "Get in a nap while you can, since Sammy and April will be home in about four hours."

"That sounds like a good idea," she agrees and yawns again. He kisses her on the forehead.

No sooner has Mulder watched her close the bedroom door than he hears small feet behind him. He's not surprised to see David and Jared standing behind him in their PJs. The two small boys are staring at the baby in his arms with slightly puzzled looks.

"Hey guys, this is your new brother, remember? Mommy and he just got home from the hospital. She's sleeping," he adds, hoping they won't demand to see her immediately.

David looks at Jared before saying. "He's one baby."

"That's right," Mulder agrees.

"How come?" Jared asks.

"I'm not sure what you mean," Mulder tells him, wondering if they're confused as to why their new cousin isn't there too.

"He's one, Christopher is one, and Page is one, and Sammy's one, and April's one," David rambles before pointing to Jared and himself. "We're two."

"Oh! That's because you're twins. Most of the time mommies only have one baby at once, but sometimes they have two like you guys," Mulder tries to explain.

He looks down at his small sons and wonders how long ago it occurred to them that they're slightly different from their siblings. He has the sudden sense that they've given the idea a lot of thought. Mulder has overheard them speak to each other far more often than anyone else, but has never really wondered what they'd been talking about.

"Just sometimes?" Jared looks disappointed. "We wanted him to be two. We waited and waited."

"Sorry, Buddy, we don't get to pick how many babies we get at once. That's something God decides." Mulder tries not to laugh out loud. Scully might eventually find the idea that her sons had been hoping she'd have a second set of twins amusing, but he knew that two days after giving birth wasn't the time to share that thought. "You know what, though?"

"What?" they both ask.

"Sammy and April's friends Tilly and Billy have twin brothers who are going to be in your preschool class in the fall. So you won't be the only twins there!" He tries to sound as cheerful as possible because neither twin has expressed much interest in beginning school after the summer is over.

"Yeah?" David asks. "What their names?"

He has to think about it for a moment, because at first all he remembers is that he hates their too similar names. "Taylor and Tyler."

"Oh." David surprises Mulder by pulling his arm down so he can get a better look at William. "It's not your fault you're one," he tells his new brother, his face inches from the baby's.

"Nope," Jared agrees. "Maybe the next-time baby can be two."

As Mulder watches them race off, he thinks ::Don't let Mommy hear you say that!:: Then he whispers down to his sleeping newborn. "I'm glad it's just you. You're perfect the way you are."

No sooner has he put William in his crib than the phone rings. It's Kersh, demanding an audience on the twenty-second. Mulder's heart skips a beat when he hears the date.


Hoover Building
May 22nd, 2001

Kersh doesn't seem at all nervous when he has Mulder and Skinner sitting in front of him, not like he had when he'd announced the threat on Mulder's life in another when, so Mulder's anxiety melts away into impatience. There's obviously something else on the man's mind, but he can't imagine what it could be. He nearly has to sit on his hands to stop his fidgeting.

"I've asked you here today because I've been notified that you've requested to return to work."

Mulder sits up straighter. "That's right, I have. I feel that I'm ready to return to work as soon as possible."

"I understand that you feel that way." Kersh gives him a bland look that hides gleeful malice. "We'll revisit this issue again in October."

"Why October?" Mulder demands to know, ignoring at warning look from Skinner. He's too annoyed to take good advice. "I feel fit to return to duty now."

Kersh slowly shakes his head. "What you've been through is a unique and highly stressful situation. I've consulted with one of the bureau's head psychologists, and he's recommended that you be put on administrative leave for six months. Beginning retroactively in April," Kersh adds.

It's a carefully calculated gesture that's supposed to appear generous, and Mulder swears silently. He'11 appear completely ungrateful if he protests. "All right."

Kersh raises his eyebrows, and Mulder doesn't reward his expectation of having a temper tantrum. Things are different this time around, as evidenced by his presence in his home several days after William's birth. No dire warnings have surfaced putting his safety in doubt, so he supposes that he ought to try to act appreciative - if only to fate, and not his odious employer.

"There's another matter I'd like to discuss while I have you here," Kersh chillingly announces while gesturing to someone Mulder can't see. "Something that has been put off while you've recovered - physically - from your ordeal."

When Mulder turns his head, he sees Gibson Praise and an unfamiliar woman entering the room. Mulder wonders what is so important that Kersh has the boy in at midday instead of waiting until after school lets out. He'd been expecting the worst, but can't figure out what the boy has to do with being told to leave.

From the corner of his eye he sees that Doggett is hanging back in the hallway, and Mulder is struck by a sudden certainty that his friend has been forbidden from coming in. That can't be a good sign.

Kersh waves a hand at the boy, indicating an empty chair. Gibson sits reluctantly. "Gibson, I've been told by John Doggett that you don't believe that agent Mulder is the man who abducted you last summer. I asked you here today so you can either confirm or refute that. I want you to be honest either way." Kersh's expression says otherwise, and Mulder would not be surprised if his thoughts did as well.

Gibson frowns at him. "It wasn't agent Mulder who took me or broke my ankle. It was some...one else. He looked like agent Mulder, but it wasn't."

"You're sure of that?" Kersh asks, leaning forward in his chair.

"Positive." Gibson's voice is firm.

Kersh's expression is a strange mixture of disappointment and relief. "Very well. Thank you for clearing that up. She-" He gestures to the woman Mulder already forgot is in the room. "- will take your statement in writing, and then you're free to go. As are you, Agent Mulder."

"Thank you, sir," a somewhat dazed Mulder says politely enough that it'd make Scully proud. "If there isn't anything else, I'll see you in October."

"That's everything. See you then."


As Mulder walks out of the room, he keeps looking back, half expecting that Kersh will call him back and tell him that he has something else to talk to him about after all. "Mulder, we need to talk about one last thing," he'd call. Then he'd explain the death threats that he'd been given for Mulder. It would all culminate in Mulder packing up and leaving before he endangered Scully and the kids.

But Kersh never calls out.

By the time Mulder reaches the elevator, he feels a sort of hopeful wonder. Has he really changed the past so much that there's really no reason for him to worry about being separated from his family for no good reason? He lets himself hope that it's true, and refuses to worry that it might not be.

Apparently unaware of his new elation, Skinner and Doggett give him sympathetic looks. "Sorry it turned out this way," Doggett offers. "I know you've been anxious to get back into the swing of things."

"Yeah," Mulder agrees, realizing that he's really annoyed as well as being grateful.

"I don't understand why I'm here." Gibson looks puzzled. "I couldn't tell why he wanted to talk about what happened last summer. I know it had to do with Mulder wanting to come back to work, but I don't know how."

Before Mulder can say anything, Skinner addresses the boy. "He was hoping that you'd say that Mulder was your kidnapper so he could immediately bar him from returning to the FBI."

"Why does he hate you?" Gibson asks Mulder.

"I think I cause him to think too much. Some people resent that sort of thing," Mulder says with a what-can-you-do expression.

"Maybe," the boy agrees.

Mulder glances down at his watch. It's one o'clock. "Gibson, how about you and I go to lunch? It's too late to go back to school. I can drop you off at John's afterwards."

"If it's okay with John," Gibson says, but he looks eager.

"Yeah, sure," Doggett tells him. "I've got to get back to work."


"So how's school?" Mulder asks as he and Gibson set their plastic trays on a table. Gibson insisted he wanted to go to Arby's, which is fine by Mulder though he'd been hoping to go some place a little fancier. Teenage boys, unfortunately, aren't the arbiters of taste.

"Good. I'm getting As and Bs in everything. So's Luke."

"You guys have the same classes?"

"Some of them," Gibson says.

Their conversation drifts off to silence until they're nearly done eating. "This will sound strange, but I have a question for you," Mulder says abruptly.

"Okay."

Trying very hard not to think of aliens or cults himself, he asks, "Did Kersh want to tell me anything else, but didn't?"

To Mulder's surprise, Gibson blushes. "He um...John would get mad if I repeated the names he calls you in his head."

"I can imagine," Mulder says with a grimace. He has a few pet names for Kersh too.

"He was mostly thinking that he wishes that there was a way to keep you from coming back, but he thinks you'll be back like a bad penny no matter what."

Nodding, Mulder thanks him. If that's the most revealing things Gibson can think of, it seems like Kersh hasn't gotten any death threats on Mulder's behalf. This time.


Mulder-Scully Home

"Mulder, we need to talk," Scully tells him after he vents to her about how unfair it is that Kersh won't let him go back to work for another four months. He crosses his legs, somehow sure that she's going to bring up his long ago promised vasectomy. He does mean to get one when she hits forty but that's still nearly three years away. So much for a next time baby. "About?"

"About Michelle," she says, surprising him.

"What about her?" he asks, uncrossing his legs.

"We're going to keep her on, aren't we?" Scully asks.

"Why wouldn't we?" Mulder asks blankly.

"I'll go back to work sometime this summer but you're going to be out of work until October," she reminds him.

"And? I can manage to stay out of her way until then. It's not fair to lay her off for a few months and expect she'll still be around when we need a nanny again in the fall." Assuming that he actually is reinstated without a fuss then. He doesn't imagine Kersh will welcome him back with open arms, despite the thoughts Gibson relayed to him.

"I was hoping you'd see it that way." Scully looks relieved.

"Good nannies are hard to find. We've been lucky so far, but who's to say it would hold? The last thing this house needs is a hand that rocks the cradle," he tells her, unable to stop himself from grinning.

"Mulder..." She rolls her eyes, but she doesn't seem annoyed. "It would be wasted on you anyway. No nanny would want to cat around with a man with seven kids. She'd be too afraid of getting knocked up."

He gives her a solemn look. "I'm nothing if not virile. But I save all my love for yoooou."

"You damn well better," she says in a playfully fierce tone.


Doggett Home
That Afternoon

When Doggett gets home, Luke and Hannah are playing cards. He waits until Luke stops groaning at her declaration of war before asking, "Where's Gibson?" Mulder should have brought him home a couple hours ago.

Luke shrugs his shoulders. "He's upstairs. We asked him to play, but he wouldn't."

"Okay, I'll go see him." Doggett finds himself wondering what might be wrong with the boy. Usually he and Luke are inseparable, so it's unlike him to hide in their room. He worries that the interview has upset him, and kicks himself for not being more insistent that he be allowed in.

He knocks gently, and waits for a voice to invite him in. "Hey, Luke said you didn't feel like playing with them."

Gibson nods and hands Doggett a piece of paper. "You got a call about an hour ago."

"They leave a message?"

"Nope, just wanted you to call back when you got home." Gibson's voice is dull, which worries Doggett.

"Thanks, I'll give them a call right now. You up for going to the video store later? I'll let you guys each pick a movie."

"Okay." The boy looks slightly more cheerful, but not much.

"You sure they didn't say who they were when they called?"

"I'm sure."

Studying the boy's face, Doggett is sure that he knows even if the caller didn't identify him or herself.

"We'll probably head out in an hour or so," Doggett tells him, but there's still little reaction.


Sighing to himself, he heads to his room and picks up the phone by his bed. "Hi, this is John Doggett. I was told that you asked for me to call you?"

A smoothly profession voice speaks to him. "Hello Agent Doggett, my name is Geraldine Lowman from the department of social services. I've been in contact with assistant director Kersh, and he asked me to talk to you directly."

"About?" Doggett asks uneasily.

"Your ward, Gibson Praise," Ms. Lowman replies. "I asked the director if the child needs to be in protective custody any longer, and he told me to speak to you."

"I think he does," Doggett replies, too quickly. Something twists low in his belly. He should have thought about having to give Gibson up, but it has never occurred to him before now. If it had, he would have corrected Hannah weeks ago when she'd spoken of her "two brothers."

There's a pause, then her voice returns, a little less professional-sounding. "I understand that you're fond of the boy, but I think you ought to know that being under the FBI's protective custody isn't the only way that you can keep him."

"It isn't?" Doggett asks. He immediately is filled with an urge to bang his head against the wall. His eagerness all but confesses that he doesn't really think Gibson is in any immediate danger.

"No. The boy has no family of his own, and he's been living with your family for nearly a year. You'd be in a good position to adopt him if you wanted to."

"But I'm single," Doggett protests. "Wouldn't that be held against me?"

"Single individuals and married couples are both freely able to adopt in Virginia," Ms. Lowman tells him, sounding slightly defensive herself. "I assure you that it wouldn't pose a problem."

"I'll confer with my boss about Gibson's need to be under protective custody," Doggett promises. "And if it isn't necessary any longer, I believe I'd be interested in investigating the possibility of adopting Gibson."

"Excellent. I hope to hear from you later this week, then."

"Right. Bye."

When Doggett hangs up he's not surprised to see Gibson standing at the door. The boy looks anxious, so Doggett gives him a smile. "You ever wanted a brother and sister, Gibson?"

Gibson doesn't say anything. He just grins.


That Night

"Mulder, do you have to carry him everywhere?" Scully asks, looking a bit frazzled.

Mulder glances down at the baby in his arms. He's still not one hundred percent sure that there's no looming threat, so it's spending as much time as he can with William while he's awake. ::If I get through tomorrow without hearing from Kersh, then I'll believe:: he thinks, fairly certain that he's not lying to himself.

Scully, however, is staring at him with her hands on her hips. Waiting for an answer.

"He's a week old, it's not as if he can walk on his own yet," Mulder says glibly. He makes no move to put William down.

"When he's six months old and still wants to be held all the time, it'll be on your head."

"Okay."

"You'll be the one carrying him around all the time," she warns.

"That's fine."

"By that point he'll be getting teeth and drooling all over you."

"I'll wear shirts made of terry cloth and keep my fingers out of his mouth."

She gives up.

The doorbell rings a moment later and Mulder puts finally William down to answer it only to have Ryan put into his arms a moment later.

"Thanks, Fox," Melissa tells him before turning to help Emily take off her raincoat. When did it begin to rain, he wonders. The skies outside are leaden, he just failed to notice.

The baby in his arms smacks his lips and Mulder finds himself studying his nephew. He and William are of similar age and coloring, but they're easy to tell apart.

His eyes drift to his sister-in-law and niece, and he finds himself slightly awed by his nephew. Ryan's whole family is supposed to be six feet under, but here he is. Mulder finds it extraordinary that his tampering has not only saved lives but allowed for the creation of a brand new one that wasn't made from personal effort. Not that he minded any of the work that went into creating his own offspring.

"Come to mommy, sweetheart," Missy croons as she takes Ryan back and heads for the kitchen. He then notices that Scully has taken William back upstairs while her sister distracted him. ::I wonder if they planned that. Nah.::

The doorbell rings a second time, and Mulder again answers it. "Dad! Come in. How are you feeling?" he asks, though he knows his father will say he's okay. It's what he's said every day since being released from the hospital.

"You know I'm fine, Fox." Bill Mulder gives him a small smile and hands him a wrapped box. "Your mom been by to see the new baby yet?"

"Yesterday. She didn't stay long. William's upstairs. Scully just took him up so he's probably still awake," Mulder says as he leads the way to the baby's room. Bill follows quietly.

"Here he is," Mulder proudly announces as he flips on the light.

His father's walks forward and peers into the crib. Mulder is surprised to hear Bill gasp softly.

"Dad?" Mulder asks uncertainly.

Bill shakes his head. "I didn't expect another redhead after the twins and Christopher."

"Surprise. Ryan's a redhead too."

"Ryan?"

"Melissa's new baby," Mulder reminds him. "He's almost two weeks old. And in our kitchen as we speak."

"Oh," Bill says faintly.

"There's a pretty strong thread of redheads in Scully's family," Mulder tells him, wondering why his father looks concerned.

"So it seems." Bill gives him an inscrutable look. "You have a couple of other nephews by marriage, are they redheads too?"

"Nope. Mattie and Brandon have dark hair," Mulder says as he picks the baby up carefully. "Do you want to hold him?"

The older man seems on the verge of saying no, but he holds out his arms. William waves his fists erratically before setting into his grandfather's hold.

Bill looks up from the baby. "I wanted more kids when you were little, but your mother refused. She said I wasn't a good enough a father to the two we already had."

"Dad-"

"She was right," Bill says with a deep sigh. "Long before Samantha disappeared, I knew I wasn't a good Dad. What happened to your sister only drove the point home."

Mulder doesn't know the right thing to say, so he keeps quiet. Listens.

"But in spite of me, you're turned out to be a better man than I ever could have hoped. A better man than I am. And a better father." Bill looks down at his newborn grandson again. "As much as you believe in your work, you'd never put it above any of your children."

Mulder's first impulse is to say 'of course not!' but his brain clamps down on his tongue. "You did the best you could, Dad."

"And that's the worst of it."

"Bumpa?" a stage whisper behind them asks. They turn to see the twins and April in the doorway.

"Come play with us, Bumpa!" April invites, and the twins nod vigorously.

"Sure," Bill says cheerfully before giving William back to his son. "I'll meet you guys down in the playroom."

Giggling, the kids scramble down the stairs. Bill moves to join them, but Mulder stops him. "Dad? You're a good grandfather."

Bill smiles. "Thanks, Fox."


Hoover Building
Two Weeks Later

When Reyes comes in to the office one morning, she looks flustered.

"Rough morning?" Doggett asks casually.

"Yeah. My stupid car broke down. The tow-truck guy gave me a ride here, but I'm going to have to get a cab home because all the rental places are out of cars. I guess there's a huge convention going on around here."

"Don't get a cab."

"I'm not up to walking home, John."

He grins at her. "I was going to offer to give you a ride home, but you interrupted."

"Whoops. I'd love a ride if the offer still stands."

"Yeah, sure," Doggett agrees. "Why don't we look through the mail and see if there's a making for a case somewhere out there?"

"Right. It kind of makes me wish Mulder was around. He's good a sniffing out interesting things to investigate."

"We'll have to practice at it while he's gone," Doggett says. "I think we better ditch the post-it notes before our self-restrain wears thin."

"I trust us," Reyes replies with her eyes wide and innocent. "Don't you?"

"Only as far as I could throw us," he says as he gathers post-it pads to toss in the trash.

"You're no fun." She pouts.

"Is that a challenge?" Doggett asks, thinking of a few things they could do to fill their time. Some of them might not even get them fired.

Over the course of the day they discover two things: it's apparently the off-season for weirdness so they'll have to settle for writing up case files, and what's wrong with Reyes' car will take several days to fix.


Mid-June 2001

Even after Reyes' car is fixed Doggett continues to bring her to and from work. If asked about it they'd probably tell people they thought carpooling was good for the environment. The truth, however, is that they enjoy the excuse to be alone that it provides.

Like right now, when they're parked in front of her building.

Doggett kisses her, but he pulls away with a frown. "I'm getting tired of this cloak and dagger crap, Monica. Aren't you?"

"I don't know..." she hedges. "Having a secret is sort of exciting."

"We're going to have to tell my kids sooner or later," Doggett warns her. For him, sneaking around like hormonal teenagers is beginning to wear thin.

"I know, but..." Though he's never fancied himself any sort of mind-reader, he's filled with a sudden certainty that he knows what she's about to say. She's hesitant to involve the kids if it's only a casual affair.

He just wishes that he was ready to make up his mind about how serious he wants to get. Every time he starts to feel optimistic about their chances, memories of Barbara packing up and leaving them without a backwards glance return to haunt him.

He decides to kiss her again to keep her from bringing up anything uncomfortable. But to Doggett's disappointment just as he leans in to do so, Reyes jumps away from him. "What?" he asks, trying not to sound petulant.

She motions towards the window with her chin. "The boys are right there."

"Where?" Doggett squints into the twilight. Eventually he catches sight of two boys approaching the car. "I guess they saw the car," he says even as he wonders why they would be hanging around her apartment. "Maybe they assumed I'd be here," he suggests doubtfully.

But as the pair draws nearer, he realizes that it isn't Gibson and Luke. These boys are younger, perhaps twelve. Both are wearing baseball caps and t-shirts with logos on them. The dark-haired boy's is the Yankee's, the fair-haired sports the Mets.

"Oops, false alarm," Reyes says next to him.

"Yeah, I guess-" He trails off when the kids walk directly to the car.

One of the boys taps on the window. And Doggett rolls it down a couple of inches. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, please," the boy wearing the Yankee gear says. "My brother and I are on our way to the baseball game, but we've forgot our tickets."

"Sorry to hear that," Doggett tells him. His eyes flick towards Reyes when he notices that she's shivering. "I'm not sure what we could do to help, though."

"We'd like a ride," the other boy says. "We don't have time to walk home and back before the game starts."

"I don't think so," Doggett starts to say, but he's surprised to realize that his hand is going for the door handle. He's even more surprised when Reyes reaches over and grabs his wrist.

"John. Don't," she hisses between clenched teeth.

"Please, Mister?" the boy whines. "It won't take that long, I promise."

Reyes' fingers are still wrapped around his wrist. If anything, her grip has tightened. She whispers urgently into his ear. "Dammit, look at their eyes."

When he finally sees, he can't believe he didn't notice earlier. Where their eyes should be colored all he can see is pupil-black darkness. A sense of terrible wrongness fills him and he pulls his wrist out of Reyes' fingers. Quicker than thought, he throws the car into drive and takes off.

The boys shrink into the distance, but he thinks he can see a hateful look on the face of the boy who did most of the talking.

"Where are we going?" Reyes asks, sounding a bit shaken herself.

"Back to my place," Doggett says, realizing just then where he plans to go. "There's something wrong with those kids. I don't think you should go home tonight."

"What are Luke and Gibson going to think?" Reyes asks.

"Like I said. We were going to have to tell them sooner or later."


Doggett Home

Reyes follows Doggett into the house, feeling uncharacteristically shy. They'd stopped off for food on the way there, and the bags are in Doggett's arms.

Two hungry teenagers soon appear in the room, apparently drawn by the smell. "Hi Monica," Luke greets her offhand. "Dad, is that Chinese?"

"Yeah. Grab some plates, would you?"

"Hi," Gibson says to Reyes. "Are you having dinner with us?"

"Sure am."

The next few minutes pass in a blur as the boys help to get the food dished out and Hannah demands her father's attention. They've just settled around the table - and the boys have finished negotiating over the chicken fingers and fried rice - when Doggett clears his throat.

"I have something to tell you guys," he announces, and the kids actually look up from their food. "Monica and I are seeing each other."

To his surprise, this doesn't elicit much of a response from the boys. They nod agreeably and go back to eating. Hannah, on the other hand, looks confused.

She turns to Reyes. "Were you blind?"

"What?" Reyes asks blankly.

"I know Daddy isn't blind, but if he's saying you're seeing each other, was you blind before?"

Luke snorts. "Hannah, he meant they're dating."

"Oh..." Hannah gives Reyes a studious look. "So you're Daddy's girlfriend, then."

"Well... Yes."

"Okay," Hannah says before reaching for the duck sauce.

"What do you guys think?" Doggett asks a bit anxiously.

"Took you long enough," Gibson tells him.

"Yeah," Luke agrees. "We thought you'd hook up ages ago."

"It's different with adults," Doggett mutters before going back to eating.

Once they're finished eating, the kids go outside to play with the basketball hoop, and Reyes helps Doggett put away the leftovers. "I think that went well," she offers.

"Sure. I expected it would."

"About earlier, what made you drive off like that?" she asks, making him think of their strange encounter for the first time since they got home.

"There was something wrong with those kids," he says after a moment.

"Like they were evil?" she suggests.

"Something like that," he reluctantly agrees.

"I think we might have found a case."

"Great, that's what I always wanted. My name in another X-File case write-up," Doggett says sourly.

"It was bound to happen sooner or later," she tells him.


The Next Day

Since they've told the kids and no longer need to sneak around, Reyes takes her own car to work the next morning. He's not very surprised when she is still on the subject of their encounter when he arrives.

"I found something on the internet," Reyes announces.

Doggett gives the back of her computer a skeptical look as he walks towards her. "The internet? There's stuff on there that isn't porn?"

She gives him a slow smile. "That may be all you've ever discovered but there's a lot of other stuff on there."

"Um..." Doggett stammers. "That's not funny. What did you find?"

Still smirking, Reyes hands him a sheaf of paper. He looks up at her with a smirk of his own. "Black Eyed Kids?"

"That's what the website calls them," Reyes acknowledges. "Read it."

It takes Doggett a few minutes to read through the print-out. "You don't think they're demons or vampires like this guy does, do you?"

"Probably not. But you've got to admit that there are similarities between what we saw and what all those other people did."

"How do you plan to go about investigating this? It's not like they'll come back."

"I thought we could get an expert opinion on whether this is something we should waste our time on or not," Reyes tells him.

"So you want to go bother Mulder with this," Doggett guesses.

"He said it's not a bother and we should stop by around ten," Reyes tells him, trying to look innocent and failing.


Mulder-Scully Home

It doesn't take very long to explain the situation to Mulder, and he listens very carefully.

"... so the guy who wrote the article said he thought they might be vampires," Reyes concludes.

"I think you're overlooking an obvious explanation for this," Mulder tells them, barely glancing up from the baby on his lap. This doesn't surprise Doggett because Scully's mentioned a couple of times that Mulder has spent a lot of time lately with both William and Christopher.

"Which is what?" Doggett asks.

"You said that their eyes are completely black, didn't you?" Mulder waits for them to nod. "Clearly they've been infected by the black oil."

"Moldah, that's sort of a stretch-" Doggett begins, but the other man cuts him off.

"It's only a stretch if you insist on not believing your own eyes about the presence of alien life on this planet."

"Not believing my own eyes?" Doggett snorts. "When did I do that?"

"When the shape shifter you killed took on Skinner's form," Reyes says before Mulder can. This doesn't please Doggett, because he apparently expected her to take his side.

"I still don't think-" Doggett starts to say, but the others look at him so he trails off in mid-sentence. "If this is that black oil stuff, what do you suggest we do about it?"

"If those kids come back, don't get close to them. It can jump from one person to another. You don't want that," Mulder tells him with a slight shudder.

"You say that like you know that from personal experience," Doggett says nervously.

Mulder gives him a hard stare. "I went into a bathroom in Hong Kong, saw a woman with the black oil swarming in her eyes, blacked out and found myself waking up in the hospital here in the US. Being used as a mode of transportation wasn't my idea of fun."

"But it didn't kill you, though," Reyes is quick to point out.

"No, not me." Mulder won't elaborate on what he meant by that, which makes both of the agents even more nervous.

"So what if it is this stuff, what do you suggest we do if they come back?" Doggett asks.

"Stay away from them and call in a CDC team. It fits the definition of an infectious disease and hazmat suits keep people more or less safe."

They wait for him to expound upon what he meant by "more or less" but he doesn't.

~*~

Mulder closes the door firmly behind them a few minutes later and leans against the wall with a sigh. It doesn't really have much of anything to do with the case his friends are investigating, but he'd thought of something mid-conversation. It had happened when he'd looked up to stare at Doggett.

Before he looked away his eyes had caught sight of a framed picture of his niece hanging behind the other man. It 's a picture he's seen hundreds of times, but he'd seen it in a new light just then. What had the syndication been planning, not only for Emily, but for Gibson Praise? They've been thwarted in both realities, but what if they hadn't been? Would they have used the kids up, perhaps as vectors to move the black oil?

Or worse?

It had been all he could do not to show his reaction to the cold finger he felt being dragged across his spine. As much as he likes both agents, it wasn't as though he could tell them that horrible things had been done to both children in an all together different once upon a time.

They are both safe now, but the thoughts serve as a grim reminder that though he has succeeded this time around, once he had failed.

And that means it's possible that he could fail again.


Mulder-Scully Home
A Few Days Later

Since his conversation with his father right after William's birth, Mulder has made more of an effort to keep in touch with Bill Mulder. Despite all his faults, Bill is a wonderful grandfather, and Mulder has observed that being around the kids means his father isn't drinking. After talking it over with Scully, he resolved to invite his dad over for dinner a couple of time a month.

Which is why they're sitting in the living room watching a baseball game after the kids have gone to bed. It's the bottom of the ninth when Bill tears his gaze away from the TV and asks, "When is Dana going back to work?"

"The first week of August," Mulder tells his father, idly wondering why he cares. Teena hadn't been working when he and Samantha were born, so it's not as though he has a lot of first hand experience with maternity leave. "All things considered this year, she decided to extend her leave this time."

"It's been a rough year," Bill agrees. "Which is why I asked."

"Oh?"

"Fox, have you ever wanted to go on a vacation?"

"I've gone on vacation." Mulder begins to feel a little defensive. "We went to New Orleans a few years ago."

"I mean a real vacation," his father insists. "To get off the continental US and go somewhere tropical."

"Well, I suppose. It seems like a frivolous expense, though, considering we'd want to take the kids with us."

"For you, maybe. But I want to go to Hawaii."

"That sounds nice, Dad. You really should."

"I'm going to. And I'm taking you and the kids with me," Bill declares with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Dad, that's a lot of money-"

"What else am I going to spend my money on? I can't think of anything better than seeing my little grandkids having fun some place exotic. You're not going to disappoint an old man, are you, Fox?"

"I think we should discuss it with Scully-"

"Discuss what?" When Mulder looks over his shoulder, he sees Scully coming into the room with William.

"I'm taking the family on vacation," Bill tells her, and quickly outlines his plans. Scully looks dubious, but agrees to go.

They schedule the trip for the last week of July.


Reyes' Apartment
June 20th, 2001

Though they have yet to take their relationship to what an embarrassed Doggett overheard Luke refer to as "the next level," things between him and Reyes are very comfortable. They try to include the kids in their plans when they can, which is why one night finds them having dinner at Reyes' place before going to see a comedy called Evolution, which they all think might be amusing.

"The guy in the trailer looks like Mulder," Doggett mutters when the kids are out of earshot.

Reyes glances over from the stove. "I guess. A little. But it's easy to imagine that actors look like people we know."

"Yeah..." He's cut off by a knock on her front door. "I'll go see who that is."

"Thanks."

Remembering for once that her door has one, Doggett looks out the peephole, then steps back abruptly. "Shit!"

"What?" Reyes asks sounding a little alarmed.

"It's those creepy kids. I knew you weren't safe here that night."

"What's going on, Dad? Why do you sound so upset?" Luke asks from the couch.

He looks at his son's nervous face, and realizes that he's too old to lie to in order to protect. "Those kids are from one of our cases. They're bad news."

"Do you think they're dangerous?" Gibson asks quietly.

"They might-"

He dives backwards when the door shakes with the force of pounding. It hardly seems possible that the door can shake that way without splintering.

"Are they using a battering ram?" Luke asks, his voice shaking.

"No."

"Then how could they-"

The pounding abruptly stops.

"Please let us in," a polite voice says from the other side of the door.

"Like hell," Doggett mutters.

Hannah looks panicky, and when the pounding starts again flies into Reyes' arms. She's startled by the child's action but has the presence of mind to lean down and speak to her. "Shhh, it's okay."

"No, it's not! They're going to get us!"

"Hannah-" Doggett begins, but the continuing onslaught upon the door distracts him.

"John," Reyes says sharply, making him look at her. "Is there black swimming in their eyes like Mulder was talking about?"

Edging as close as he can to the door, he tries to look out. "No. It looks like they're supposed to be black, nothing's in them."

Reyes stands up abruptly, and deposits Hannah on Luke's lap. "Where are you going?" the little girl whines, but she's gone to the bookcase and doesn't reply. In a moment or two she's found a book and pulled it out of the bookcase. She flips through it quickly and begins to read the page.

"What are you doing?" Luke wants to know, wondering what she's doing with her hands.

To Doggett's surprise, it's Gibson who answers. "Be quiet."

Stepping back from the door, Doggett turns to see what she's doing. Unlike the children, he recognizes sign language when he sees it because he'd seen Scully use it with the twins when they were tiny, but has no idea what it is that Reyes thinks she's doing. The pounding continues unabated, and he begins to wonder if the door will withstand much more.

The pounding stops all at once, and there's a inhuman wail from the hallway. Hannah covers her ears, but the boys stare at the door in wary trepidation, as if they believe they'll be able to see what's happening on the other side if only they look hard enough. The noise rises in a crescendo, then stops all together.

Reyes snaps the book closed. "There." She goes to the door, and Doggett nearly tackles her when she moves to open it. But when she does the hallway is deserted. Curiously, the scent of sulfur hangs in the air.

"Monica, what the hell just happened?" Doggett asks, ignoring the surprised looks he gets from the kids.

She shakes her head before pulling him into the adjacent bathroom and closing the door. There's a portable CD player on the vanity, and she puts it on the floor against the door before turning it on.

"Sorry to be melodramatic, but I'm not sure you'd want them to overhear," she says after motioning him away from the music.

"Okay..." Doggett gives her a confused look. "I know you did something to get rid of 'em, but I don't know what you did."

"An exorcism," she says calmly.

"A what?! Don't you have to chant in Latin or something to do that?" Doggett asks nervously.

Reyes shakes her head. "When I lived in New Orleans I met a lot of interesting people. One of them was a deaf man who preformed exorcisms. He claimed it gave him the edge, since the demons couldn't hear what he was doing."

"So this guy taught you how to do them?"

"Sure. He said that it might come in handy if I ever met any real demons. Guess he was right," she replies.

"You really think those kids were demons?" Doggett's voice is shaken.

"Well, they're not here, so what else could they be?" she asks, sounding entirely too reasonable to suit him.

"I...Moldah's going to be disappointed when he hears that his black oil theory was a dud."

"Ha."

She reaches down to turn off the music, only to hear Luke's voice coming from the next room. "Whatever you're doing in there, remember that there are impressionable minors out here."

"Ones who are easily grossed out," Gibson adds.

"It's disturbing that they jumped to that conclusion rather than that we're having a clandestine conversation." Reyes whispers.

Smirking at her, Doggett reaches for her to give her a passionate kiss, only to be rewarded by an exclamation from Gibson followed by a collective "eww!" from the peanut gallery.

"I think we've tormented them enough," Reyes whispers into his ear.

Nodding, he pulls open the bathroom door. "So we better eat quickly if we're going to make it to the movie on time."

"Are the bad guys really gone?" Hannah asks, her eyes wide.

"They're really gone," Doggett tells her. "We checked, remember? They must have decided to go home before they got into trouble." And a few seconds later he realizes that he actually believes that his girlfriend has managed to banish the things that were plaguing them.

He gives Reyes an admiring look that she can't interpret. There are perks to dating a resourceful woman like this one.


Chapter One Hundred and Five



Mulder-Scully Home
Last week of July 2001

"Bumpa, are we gonna go surfin' in Hawaii?" Sammy asks, crowding his grandfather's knee.

"That's so boring," Page sniffs, grabbing her grandfather's other leg. "We're gonna go exploring, right, Bumpa?"

"I wanna see all the colorful fishies," April comments, taking out another crayon to use on her coloring book.

"Fishies! Fishies!" David and Jared are racing around the room, their lips pooched out to resemble what they think fish look like.

"Hungry now!" Christopher whines to his mother.

Their Bumpa chuckles as he ruffles Sammy's hair. "I think surfing is a younger man's game," and he smiles at his son, "but exploring sounds like a good idea. Maybe I could find me a pretty hula girl to take home."

"Da-ad," Mulder groans as he steers Jared, then David, away from the table edge. "I'd like to be able to return here without a sexual harassment case."

"He's just kidding." Scully rolls her eyes before finding something yummy for Christopher and herself. "Right?"

Bill Mulder's about to launch into a snarky remark, but, like his son so many years before him, chooses discretion to be the better part of valor when dealing with a Scully woman. "Of course, my dear," he says placatingly, "I've a feeling your children will tire me out before I could get into any sort of dalliances with the locals."

"I certainly hope so," Scully remarks, then sits Christopher in his high chair before picking William up. "I'd like to say I'm looking forward to sunny weather," she sighs. "But it's so hot here, I'm not sure I want to go somewhere with even more sun." Then she looks down at her pale arms. "Besides, I burn easily."

"And that's why God created sunscreen," Mulder rejoins, sidling up next to his wife. "Besides," he says in a lower voice, "if you want, I could rub it all over you while you sip cool drinks, sitting on the beach under the shade without a care in the world."

"Mm, that sounds nice." Scully smiles, closing her eyes. Then she opens them to give Mulder a look. "Are you up to something? Is there some casefile you're hiding?"

He blinks. "Hiding? Hey, I'm just surprised you're not rushing to pack suitcases like any normal American would if they were going on an all-expense paid vacation to Hawaii," he ends by sounding like a game show host.

She rolls her eyes. "It's not that. It's just that... I don't know. I guess it's been a while since we've had anything like a vacation longer than three days, and to someplace that isn't work-related, I just hope that the kids won't go too crazy."

"They're kids," Bill Mulder interjects, "they're supposed to go wild every once in a while. Besides," and now he sends a rare smile at his son, "I'd love to see the look on Fox's face when he tries to go surfing."

Mulder tries to look indignant, but laughs. "Thanks, Dad, I'll make sure none of you guys will have any recording devices if that ever happens."

The next hour or so goes by as the kids bounce around the room as if riding waves, and Scully and Bill Mulder tease Mulder for not having "sea legs" and then having to explain what that is to the kids.


Honolulu International Airport

Holding a large poster board with the words "MULDER AND SCULLY F a.m.ILY" in big bold letters, Mrs. Kahaiali`i starts shaking it when she sees the multi-generational brood come down the escalator. "Oh my goodness!" she shouts, and jogs over to throw her arms open. "E komo mai, Dana! Welcome, welcome!"

"Oof!" Scully is practically enveloped by the large, smiling elder woman. "Mrs. K.!"

Mrs. K. lets go, then looks at them with a smile is so full of joy even the younger kids smile back. "How you've all grown," the Hawaiian woman beams, then opens the plastic bags on her arms. "Page, this is for you," and she drapes a rich red lehua lei over the girl's head, "this is for you, Sammy," and he's crowned with a ti leaf-and-kukui nut lei, "April," and she is adorned with an orange pikake lei, "Christopher," crown flower lei, "David, Jared," and they both get candy lei, although she somehow identified each twin correctly, "and little William," who gets a soft yarn lei.

Then she grins at the grownups. "And these are for you guys," Mrs. K. chortles, then drapes a lovely plumeria lei over Scully's shoulders, along with a kiss, "Dana honey," and for Mulder, a lei similar to Sammy's, but with Job's tears entwined, "Fox boy," and for Bill Mulder, a lei of ti leaf and puakenikeni flowers, "I know it's old-fashioned, but I thought you would appreciate," and to Mulder's surprise, his father smiles at the dark woman, hugging her right back.

"Okay, let's go get your suitcases!" she says, and leads them to the luggage carousel. A tall, elderly, heavyset man waves at her, and Mrs. K. says, "This is my husband Abe. Abe, dis da family I used to watch for," she says, easily falling into her natural pidgin accent. And like a conductor, she waves her hand at each person mentioned, "Dana, Fox, Page, Sammy, April, Jared, David, Christopher, William, and Bill Mulder. Well, back den, Page and Sammy them was just little, and the rest I neva met 'til today." Then she turns to Mulder and Scully. "If you want, we can bring you to our place after we drop you off at the hotel, or if you're tired, we could pick you folks up for supper."

Scully, with a bemused smile, answers, "We'd love to see your place. I think the main thing is making sure we get all of your luggage." She thinks it's cute how Mrs. K. switches from regular English for them and, what she assumes to be, pidgin English for her husband.

It doesn't take long before everyone is reunited with their luggage, and Mr. K. indicated the exit by jutting his jaw, reminding Scully of Albert Hosteen in some way she can't quite put a finger on. Soon, they're walking towards the old couple's van, and while the strong humidity, like that of D.C.'s, hits them, it's alleviated by the cool tradewinds. "Mm, I could get used to this." Scully smiles.

"Wow, if all it took was a little breeze to make you happy, I'd have the A/C on all summer," Mulder quips before closing the van door.

"Shut up, Mulder," Scully murmurs as Mr. K. gets the van into gear.


Once they've deposited their luggage in the assigned rooms, Scully folds her arms and faces everyone. "Remember, no ghosts, mutants, monsters, aliens, or anything to wreck this vacation, all right? And anyone who starts a fight will have to finish with me, got it?"

"Scully, why are you looking at me when you're saying this?" Mulder asks plaintively.

"Because you're the one who usually gets us in a mess," Scully retorts, "and our children are usually more well-behaved than you are."

"Hey, I resent that!" Mulder starts, but his dad puts a hand on his shoulder. "What?"

"Fox, just do what she says." Bill Mulder smiles a little, "this is Hawaii, remember? Vacation? I'm sure your brilliant and beautiful wife has a few plans that don't involve chasing monsters here."

"Oh," Mulder comments when he sees Scully blushing. Inside, he's thinking, Aw yeah, baby! On the outside, however, he plays the aggrieved husband-slash-X-Files-nut and sighs dramatically. "Fine, have it your way," he says in his usual deadpan voice, shrugging, but his eyes are dancing.

"Yay!" David and Jared glomp onto his legs.

"That's better," Scully says, and leads them out of the room to where Mr. and Mrs. K. are waiting. "If only you were this cooperative at work."

"But you're not the boss of me there," Mulder murmurs in her ear, then grins as she glares up at him.

"'kay den, we go windward side." Mr. K. smiles, as the Mulder family heads down the hallway towards the elevator. "Eh, you guys no get pork, ya?"

"Huh? Uh, no." Mulder blinks.

"Eh, that's only for the Pali," Mrs. K. scolds her husband, "we stay taking da H-3."

"Oh yeah," Mr. K. smiles, and while the mainlanders stare in confusion, the elevator bell dings. "Okay, we go."


"Um, what was that thing with the pork all about?" Mulder asks when they're driving through Waikiki.

"Oh," Mrs. K. laughs, and switches back to standardized English, "it's kind of a, what you would say, superstition. Yeah."

"Oh really? What about?"

"It's fo' real," Mr. K. counters, "just las' week, dat idiot Puka Chang wen drive down da Pali wi' da kine imu pork, his car wen broke down nearby da lookout."

"Das because he get one junk car," Mrs. K. retorts, "ai you!"

"No, as soon as he wen eat 'um, the car stay okay again," Mr. K. responds. "See?"

"What, see what?" Mrs. K. rolls her eyes. "Jus' 'cause you no like get food to your auntie's place don't mean you can't take adda roads, but." Then she smiles sweetly at the backseat passengers. "Sorry, he's kinda old-fashioned."

"That's okay, it's just like Mommy and Daddy," Page responds, "Daddy believes in all kinds of stuff and Mommy argues with him."

"Oh yeah, that's right." Mrs. K. nods. "So, have you seen anything interesting lately?"

"Well," Mulder starts, but Scully puts a restraining hand on his shoulder. "We're just here for a vacation," he says sheepishly.

Mr. K., without looking at the rear view mirror, chuckles.

Mrs. K., for her part, nods complacently. "I was surprised when you actually decided to come after all these years, but I'm so glad you did," she says.

"Look, Mommy, isn't it pretty?" Page points at the lush mountainside.

Mrs. K. nods. "Waikiki may be well-known to mainlanders, but here, we know this is the best part of the island." Then she winks at Page. "Just don't tell my son that, 'cause he lives townside, poor thing."

"Okay." The blonde girl nods.

"You know," Mr. K. says conversationally, "this freeway get planny problems, too, not just da Pali."

"What do you mean?" Scully wonders, thinking maybe potholes or something similar.

"Oh, Abe!" Mrs. K. sighs. "Dat wasn't problems, da state cannot help if get heiau all ova da place!"

"Hey-ow?" Mulder tries.

"Heh heh," Mr. K. chuckles. "Yeah, heiau. Old Hawaiian temples. Had 'em all ova whea dis freeway stay, so wen dey wen build 'um, had to stop, pray, bless 'um wi' da kahuna, start again, find one graveyard, stop, do some moa blessings wi' da kahuna, argue wi' da sovereignty people an' da lawyahz, stop again- ho, was good fun."

"I take it kahuna are the Hawaiian priests," Mulder says, "or something like that. But why would this area have so many hey - um, temples, and graveyards? And what are sovereignty people?"

Mrs. K. sighs again, this time more deeply. As if regretting having her husband drive, she launches into a more detailed explanation. "This is a small island, and sooner or later, you'll run across sacred sites," she says, shooting a look at her husband, who stays quiet. "There are procedures you do when you come across sacred sites and artifacts, and they deal with both the state and Hawaiian groups.

"As for the sovereignty folks, well, that's more complicated than I can give on a drive. Let's just say that there are various Native Hawaiian groups who want various measures of recognition, restitution, and/or independence from the United States, since historically, the Hawaiian Islands were stolen from the reigning queen at the time, Queen Liliuokalani, in 1894 by the American military and the pro-US groups, who were a minority of missionary descendants. Being Hawaiian, I understand the righteous anger, but after being a part of the US for so long, and so many of our people so dependent on the current government, I don't think some of their ideas, like for complete withdrawal and independence, are very realistic."

The elder woman looks out the window as the windward side unfolds after going through the tunnel. "There are ugly parts of history, especially when it deals with native peoples, but I figure we should learn from the past so we don't repeat their mistakes, right?" She shakes her head. "Anyways, we're heading towards Kailua side, but try look back."

The children, whose heads the brief history and social studies lecture went over, obediently look back through their large windows. "Wow, it looks like God took a fork to the mountain, Mommy," Page exclaims.

"Or something like that," Scully agrees, but there's no mistaking how the sharp edges of the mountain and the unbelievable greenness against the blue sky makes for a striking picture.

"I can't say I blame you for wanting to move back as quickly as you did after winning the lottery," Mulder remarks, smiling as his father takes pictures and his other children strain against their child seats for a better view. "It's not hard to see why they call this place paradise."

"Heh heh," Mr. K. chuckles. "Lucky we live Hawaii, yeah?"

"Yeah." Mrs. K. smiles, and they drive through a large intersection. "Welcome to Kailua."


It takes them going from a paved road to a sharp turn down a hill and then ending on to a grassy area. "Nice place you got here," Bill Mulder comments when they pile out of the van. The grassy parking lot has a small house on one side, a boat dock on the other, and the hill on the side.

"It's no Waikiki, dat's fo' damn sure," Mr. K. agrees, until his wife socks him in the arm.

"Abe! Watch yo' mout'!" Mrs. K. scolds him.

"Ah, sorry," the old Hawaiian man ducks his head, remembering there are children there. "Well, dat's my son's house." He points at the smaller house near the van, "dat's me an' Millie's house." He points at the house at the top of the hill.

"The one with the swimming pool? Nice," Mulder comments. "But you've got a boat down here, plus access to what looks like the shore. Isn't that a bit of an overkill?"

Mr. K. laughs. "Ah, das not da beach," he points out, and they all look. "Ova dea, get coral reef, good fo' fishing but not fo' swimming." He looks at the small children. "Eh, make shua da keeds stay away from dea, da wata's kinda shallow at firs', but get strong tides, eh? Even strong swimmaz get ha'd time come back, an' dose reefs cut 'um up bad."

"Gotcha." Mulder nods. "Okay, gang, no heading over there, okay? It's dangerous."

"Okay," the small multitude chorus.

Scully raises a finger. "Pinky promise?"

"Aw, Mom," Sammy groans, but obediently raises his pinkie with the rest of his siblings who are able. "Pinky promise."

"Pinky promise," his brothers and sisters chime in.

"I wish all promises could be made that easily." Mrs. K. smiles, then jerks her head towards her house. "Come on, I got some goodies for the kids." As the kids race each other up the hill, she laughs. "And some for the grownups, too, if we can get there before the little ones don't eat them all first."

"Race you, Scully." Mulder grins, picking up Christopher and hauling ass.

"Mulderrrrrr!" she wails, likewise picking up William and running after him in, thankfully, sensible sneakers rather than her usual arch-defying business heels.

"My son is usually more mature than that," Bill Mulder apologizes to the elderly couple. Mr. K. raises his white eyebrows, while Mrs. K. gives him a skeptical look worthy of Scully, and the old man sighs. "Okay, he's got his moments, but this isn't one of them." Then they all share a look and start laughing.

"They never do grow up, do they?" Mrs. K. smiles.

"I wish," Mr. K. snorts.

Bill Mulder shakes his head. "I can't believe we're leaving the future of the world to them," he mutters, then grins weakly as the old couple, misinterpreting his meaning, chuckle some more before they all make their slow way up the hill.


It doesn't take long for the Kahaiali`is to share with the Mulders the other thing Hawaii is famous for, their aloha spirit. Which, in this case, means plenty of good food and lots of catching up. "Um, what is that?" Bill Mulder points at a bowl full of what looks to be lavender-colored pudding.

"Oh, that's poi." Mrs. K. smiles, dipping her poke fish inside before putting it into her mouth. "It's ground-up taro and it's so ono, I mean, delicious. Try some."

Gingerly, the elder Mulder imitates what she's done, but a peculiar expression comes over his face. "I think I'll try something else," he says after taking a while to swallow.

Mulder laughs. "Try the laulau, Dad. The mix of meats and ti leaves is awesome." Then he turns his puppy dog eyes on to his kids' former nanny. "Would you mind sharing the recipe with my wife?"

"Mulder," Scully groans, "I can't even think of cooking, I'm so full." Then she smiles at Mrs. K. "This was wonderful. Your idea of rice is different from ours," and Mr. K. chuckles, "but oh my goodness, that chicken katsu was heavenly." She sighs contentedly, "If they ever serve food like this in D.C., I would be as round as a ball."

"That just means more of you to love, Scully." Mulder grins and wraps his arms around her, and she socks him. "Hey! Isn't this the land of aloha? Show your husband some love." He pouts.

The Kahaiali`is laugh as Scully snorts, shakes her head, and goes over to feed Christopher, who has taken poi to be a new paint medium for his surrounding area. "I'm surprised you have as many children as you do," Mrs. K. notes, "if you keep teasing her like that."

"Surprises me, too," Bill Mulder chuckles, and his son scowls. "Hey, I know I'm not the only who thinks it's a miracle she doesn't strangle you half the time."

"Hey." Mulder puts his hands up. "I kid, because I love." When he sees his elders aren't buying it, he sighs. "I dunno, it's a habit." He smiles fondly at the kids gazing upwards at the various handcrafted wooden objects hanging from the ceiling, and then at the mother of his progeny. "She's definitely my one in five billion."

"Ooh, you're so cute!" Mrs. K. exclaims, hugging him as if he were as old as his kids.

"Urk." Mulder feels as embarrassed as if he were Sammy hugged by a distant relation. "Thanks?"

"Okay, okay, Hope, da boy no can breed!" Mr. K. chides his wife, who makes a face but pats Mulder's arm as she lets go. "He's not one of yo' babysitting keeds!"

"I know, I know." Mrs. K. smiles. "But he stay so cute!"

"I'm, um, gonna play with the kids now," Mulder says before he can get any more embarrassed.

"Wow," Bill Mulder comments, watching his lanky son hustle over and get knocked in the head by a dangling wooden turtle, "I should bring him here more often. A little embarrassment does the boy good."

"Man, you stay one mean buggah, eh?" Mr. K. grins, and the men chuckle while Mrs. K. clucks her tongue. "Eh, you like go fish?"

The elder Mulder interprets that as an invitation to go fishing rather than play the card game, and nods. The two old men soon head out to the dock with bait and rods, as well as canned soda provided by Mrs. K. and the blessings of the younger Mulders and Scully.


Kailua Beach Park

The Kahaiali`is had invited the Mulder-Scully family over to their side of the island for a trip to the beach. "Trust me, Waikiki's gonna be crowded," Mrs. K. warned when Mulder told her of their plans. "Especially this time of year."

"Eh, jus' tell 'um you get chicken katsu!" Mulder heard Mr. K. holler, and he chuckled.

"But if you don't want to, you don't have to," Mrs. K. tried to be gracious about it, but the excellent cell phone reception also picked up her hissed, "Gunfunnit, Abe!"

Usually, Mulder would've classified this as a passive-aggressive type of request, but he knew Scully would kill him if she knew he'd turned down the chicken katsu. So, being the wise husband that he was, he'd accepted their invitation. "Not because I fear for my life," he'd said, "but because I don't think the kids would have a good time at a crowded beach." And after they'd hammered out time and directions, Mulder hung up, figuring that even if Scully put up a fuss, she wouldn't be too mad.

And right now, as they sat on the beach with their friends, food at hand and kids frolicking around them, with the beautiful waters beckoning and the aptly-nicknamed Chinaman's Hat in view, Mulder figures this is pretty much why they call it paradise. Next to him, the love of his life yawns and stretches, then props her head on her hands. "Maybe we can stay here on a permanent vacation." Scully smiles, closing her eyes behind her dark sunglasses.

"I wish." Mulder grins, reaching for more of hurricane popcorn, or popcorn mixed with furikake and arare.

"Ooh, I'm stuffed," Bill Mulder sighs contentedly, rubbing his stomach, and Mr. K. chuckles, raising his can of guava Hawaiian Sun juice.

"I'm gonna tell Mommy on you!" a high-pitched voice shouts.

"Here we go," Scully groans, opening her eyes. It isn't long before Page runs up, her face red from exertion and righteous indignation. "Yes?"

"Mommy, Sammy's making Mr. K.'s boat into a coffin for Christopher and when I told him to stop, he wouldn't!" her eldest daughter declares.

The petite redhead gets to her feet, shielding her eyes as she assesses the situation from afar, and smothers a giggle when she sees her little boy solemnly making the sign of the cross just like their local priest. "I'll take care of it," Scully says severely to her husband, whose mouth is already turning up.

"I'll go, too," Page announces, trotting after her mother like a Mini-Scully.

The older people chuckle as they watch Scully trying her best to scold her little boy without cracking up herself. "I remember my mom scolding me for using her wedding veil as a nun's wimple when I was little." Mrs. K. smiles fondly. "It didn't help that I used her lipstick, too."

Mr. K. cackles, "Yeah, well, my braddahs and me wen use up all da juice an' cookies tryin' fo' make 'um like holy communion."

"Are you both Catholic?" Bill Mulder wonders.

"Nah." Mr. K. shakes his head, "I stay goin' my wife's New Hope church sometimes. But everybody's Catholic at least once in deah life, eh?"

Bill Mulder chuckles, squinting against the sun. "I guess so, yeah."

Mulder looks at his father, curious. "When were you ever Catholic, Dad?"

The elder Mulder looks at his son, and a sheepish smile takes over. "Back before I met your mother, there was a blonde in college who wouldn't go out with me unless I went to Mass with her. So I went."

Mulder shakes his head, looking at his lovely wife, who is now trying to separate Sammy from Page while carrying Christopher. "That kinda sounds familiar," he deadpans.


It takes a little time, but things are finally smoothed over between the two eldest siblings, and now Mr. K. and Bill Mulder are having a burping contest with Sammy and Mrs. K. is teaching Scully about the Hawaiian language, in between chortling over Christopher's efforts to be a big brother to William.

Mulder, for his part, has a happier version of deja vu with Page and the twins as they build sand castles. Well, David and Jared are, while Page is constructing her version of a cat. Much as he is proud of his children, Mulder doesn't have the heart to tell her that the "cat" looks more like a mutant cow-wolf.

Suddenly, there is a cry for help, and everyone looks towards the sound. It is distant, and as the lifeguard on duty rushes and dives into the waters, people start congregating at the shoreline. Then Scully cries out, "Mulder, where's April?"

Mulder looks around, but their little girl is nowhere to be found. And now he, like Scully, feels the dread at the pit of his stomach, and all the food he's eaten is threatening to come up. "Mr. K., could I borrow your boat?" he asks, running to the vessel.

"Sure." Mr. K. waves. "But I think your wife get 'um first."

"I'm driving," Scully says, hauling the damn thing with inhuman strength born of a mother's desperation.

"Fine," Mulder says, helping to push it, "who's gonna look after the kids?"

"We can," Mr. K. says, as he and Bill Mulder pick up the sides, "get your girl."

The couple nod briefly, then Scully jumps in while the men push it off, and Mulder awkwardly clambers in after her. She yanks the engine's cord, grabs the steering and heads out towards the small orange dot of the lifeguard's vest. He squints at the dot, hoping and praying that April is okay, that both she and the lifeguard are above water.

It seems like forever, but they can finally see the lifeguard clearly. To their dismay, however, the man is unconscious as they draw near, but he's holding on to what looks like a redheaded rag doll. Scully gasps and pulls her little girl into the boat, while Mulder hauls the limp man in. They perform CPR on their respective "partners" with a ferocity that might be misinterpreted as an assault, but it gets the job done while they're out there on the water. "April, baby," Scully cries when her daughter coughs up water, "oh, baby, it's okay, it's okay..."

Mulder waits a bit while the lifeguard coughs up water, gives the guy's back a whack for good measure, then asks, "What the hell happened out there?"

Scully's eyes are on the man, even as she sits up April up and pats her back. The lifeguard coughs again and shakes his head. "Got a damn leg cramp on the way back," he rasps, wiping his mouth as he sits up slowly. "Your girl was unconscious when I got there, halfway to Chinaman's Hat - thanks."

"Where's the turtle?" April asks when there's more color to her cheeks.

"What turtle?" Scully asks gently, now that they're back at the beach, surrounded by family and friends.

"When I got caughted by the water, I was so scared," the little redhead says, "and then there was this big turtle." She smiles. "It was big like an island!"

"Cool!" Sammy bounces up to her. "Was it old and crusty, or green like that?" And he points to Chinaman's Hat.

"It was kinda old-looking, but kinda green," April says. "Well, kinda yellowy, too. But it was nice."

"Turtles aren't nice." Page makes a face. "They're smelly and icky."

"Well, you're stupid," Sammy says.

"No, you are," Page retorts.

"No, you are," Sammy replies wittily.

They keep going until Scully pulls their ears. "Enough," she scolds them. "If April said it was nice, then it was."

"What she said," Mulder says, half-smiling. He's still amazed at the events that happened earlier, but he's relieved that everyone's all right, even if the lifeguard was embarrassed to have needed rescuing himself.


Parking hell - um, the tourist gem that is Waikiki :D

A couple of days later, everyone is in Waikiki, taking care of the usual tourist things, that is, shopping, taking pictures and gawking. The Kahaiali`is, feeling bad about April's near- drowning, promised to foot the bill for whatever tacky madness they decided to buy. "You sure about that?" Scully asks, as Mulder pulls one brightly-colored aloha shirt out after another at one ABC store. "Mulder's got pretty bad taste."

"Hey, I heard that," Mulder says behind a neon orange shirt with big red and blue flowers.

"Good," Bill Mulder chuckles, "because you do. That shirt could make a blind man have seizures."

"It's not that bad." Mulder pouts at his dad. "Oh look, it's just your size."

"God forbid." The elder Mulder puts a hand to his heart. "You'd have to kill me first to put that on me."

Scully shakes her head. "Between you and his mother, where on earth did Mulder get his fondness for ridiculously cheesy things?"

Bill Mulder shrugs. "I chalked it up to rebellion against his mother making him wear those junior senator-type clothes in his teens. Frankly, I was surprised when he joined the FBI, since he'd have to wear suits as part of the job."

Mrs. K. shakes her head. "Nothing bad about looking your best. But I guess on the mainland, they have to wear suits, while over here, men can just go in aloha shirts and slacks."

"Scully, do you think it's too late to request for a transfer here?" Mulder looks at his wife hopefully.

She gives him a look. "Mulder, our house is paid in full, our children are happy in their school, and I will never let you within fifty feet of an aloha shirt if you continue to pick those disgusting color combinations."

He squints at her, then at the shirt. "Page, is there anything wrong with this shirt?"

The little blonde girl puts down the shaking wooden pineapple tchotchke to look at her father, then shrieks. "Daddy, put that away! My eyes are hurting!"

Hurt, Mulder holds the shirt behind his back. "You didn't have to scream like that." He pouts.

His little girl looks up at him with concern. "Are you going blind, Daddy? My classmate Jory's mom is going blind, and she wears bright colors so she can see her clothes."

As the grownups do a bad job of hiding their laughs, Mulder sighs as he puts the shirt back. "No, I'm not going blind," he replies, glaring at his wife, father and hosts, but can't quell their smothered mirth. "I just like interesting stuff."

"Oh," Page says, then goes back to her perusal of various objects that dance on the shelf.

Her siblings, likewise, are playing with various doodads that make no sense whatsoever, even within a tourist context. "Daddy, look at me," Sammy bowls into his father's legs. "I'm a lion. Roar!"

Chuckling, Mulder plucks the green cellophane hula skirt off his son's head. "Um, I think lion's have a different color," he says, then squats down to his son's level. "Why is that on your face?" he asks about the coconut bra currently residing on Sammy's face.

"Lion cheeks," Sammy says, "cool, huh?"

"Sammy, take that off!" Scully rushes over to divest her son of the inappropriate item, glaring at Mulder as if he was the one dressing Sammy up like this.

"Mo-om," Sammy wails, unaware of what the costume was really for, then catches sight of the shirt Mulder had put back on the rack. "Cool."

"See?" Mulder gestures at his son.

Scully rolls her eyes. "No more shopping for you two," she says, then sighs when she sees the twins and April piling fake leis on each other. "Oh, brother."

"Ho, looks like graduation," Mr. K. chuckles.

"Graduation?" Mulder asks, curious.

Mrs. K. nods. "Over here, when students graduate, they put lei on the graduate, and those with lots of family and friends get lei piled so high, you can't see their face."

"Aw man, wish we'd known that when John graduated from the FBI academy," Mulder sighs while watching his beloved wife try unsuccessfully to de-lei her children. "That would've been funny to see John buried under a bunch of flowers."

Mrs. K. shakes her head. "Lei is given out of love," she gently chides him.

"Yes, ma'am," he replies, contrite.

"Heh heh heh." Mr. K. grins. "I t'ink yo' wife needs help."

In the end, even Mulder couldn't get the cloth-flower leis off his children's necks, and the Kahaiali`is end up paying for about ten fake leis, a conch shell horn, a perfume pack of various Hawaiian floral scents, a couple bags of Kona coffee, some fruit, keychains with plastic surfers and slippers, and a bright red t-shirt reading "I went to Hawaii and you didn't!"


As they walk down the sidewalks of Waikiki, not only because of the sights, but also because affordable parking was pretty far from the shopping district, the grownups are having themselves quite the task of keeping an eye on all the kids. The littler ones, including William, have already gotten the point that the grownups want to relax, so they try to make life as stressful as possible by crying at every opportunity, or, as in the case of the older kids, running into every store and hotel they come across.

"Are they trying to make me want to kill them?" Scully asks, exasperated after what seems like the fiftieth time they're running after the kids with baby in arms. "Because if that's their goal, it's working."

"They're just excited," Mrs. K. huffs after her.

"Gotcha!" Mulder crows, holding the twins in his arms as the women hustle over. "Scully, the girls are in the bathroom, Dad, the other boys are up the escalator," he says, wondering why he let Sammy take Christopher with him.

Mr. K. takes the twins from their father. "You go get yo' boys," he tells the younger man, "me an' yo' dad gone take care dese guys."

Mulder nods, then takes off at a run towards the escalator. His father watches, bemused, then stiffly crouches down to look at the twins, a half-smile on his face. "What are you guys up to?" he asks.

David and Jared look at each other for a brief moment, but it seems they've spoken a good deal before looking at their grandfather. "Nothing," they chorus.

Bill Mulder gives one boy a look, then the other. "Yeah, right," he says, his tone and mannerism exactly the same as his son when he's not buying it.

His grandsons give him the same puppy dog look Mulder gives Scully. "Really," they say, the picture of innocence and cuteness.

Bill Mulder sighs, and Mr. K. cracks up. "You got some kolohe kids, eh?" he chortles.

"Coe what?" Bill Mulder's expression is blank.

"Kolohe," Mr. K. says more slowly, "rascal, yeah?" He bends over and tousles Jared's dark hair, then David's. As he's doing so, a man in a dark jacket and faded jeans bumps into him, then runs off. "Eh!" Mr. K. shouts, mad at the young man's rudeness, then gets suspicious and checks his pocket. His wallet is gone. "Son of a-!"

Before he can finish the epithet, a large dark man in a tightly-fitting green t-shirt, blue board shorts and slippers barrels after the thief. The fact that he can move so fast despite his size bowls over not only the old men, but also the thief, who ends up smooshed on the sidewalk outside. "Eh, uncle, dis yours?" the big Samoan asks, holding up the wallet when the old men and little boys catch up outside.

Mr. K. nods, nodding again when he checks the contents. "Wow, t'anks," he says, clearly touched. "Eh, I can buy you suppah or what?"

"Nah, das okay." The big guy grins, patting his expansive stomach. "I gotta wait fo' da cops."

"Oh yeah, yeah." Mr. K. nods again. "Guess I gotta wait witchu, den."

So the old men and the twins wait outside on the sidewalk, the thief still pinned underneath the Samoan with the faded green TMNT t-shirt, while Mulder and Scully continue to round up their children.


Haunama Bay

"Wow, I can't believe the time has gone by so fast," Scully sighs, her cheeks pinkish with a touch of sunburn. "This place is amazing."

"This beach, or this island in general?" Mulder asks lazily. Now that the kids are all pooped out, sprawled under the makeshift tent, he's not too worried about them wandering off or getting into trouble.

"Yes," Scully replies, smiling. "I'm almost tempted to stay here, but I know we can't be on vacation forever." Already her mind is filled with recent memories of the places they've shopped at, hiked up, snorkeled in, surfed at, and, just last night, attempted the hula in. Not to mention all that good food she's going to have to work off...

"Why not?" Mulder pouts. "We could have a second honeymoon here, then a third, maybe even a fourth." He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.

She snorts, then giggles. "Any more honeymoons would only result in more kids, and if we have any more vacations like this with more kids, we'd have to hire boot camp sergeants to keep them in line."

"That's a scary thought." Mulder shudders. Then he puts his puppy dog eyes on her. "Maybe one more honeymoon, without the kids?"

Scully looks at him, then at their sleeping children, then laughs loudly, causing April to mutter and William to roll over, but none of them wake up. She breathes a sigh of relief, then glares at her husband. "Dork."

"I'm not a -," Mulder starts to protest when his father and the Kahaiali`is come into view. His father is wearing an ear-to-ear grin as well as flippers, a snorkel, goggles, and the dorkiest old man-type of board shorts out there, holding up his waterproof camera in triumph. Mulder grins back and waves, "I'm guessing there's gonna be a lot of fish on film," he comments.

"There are a lot of colorful fish in these waters," Scully notes. "I'm glad he's taking pictures, rather than taking home ungodly-colored aloha shirts."

"Hey." Mulder pouts, and his pout gets deeper when his father tousles his hair with his wet hand, looking not unlike Sammy. "Da-ad."

Bill Mulder chuckles, unrepentant. "I got some pretty good shots out there." He smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "I think I even got one of a turtle, although that swam by pretty fast."

"A turtle?" Mrs. K. asks, turning to look out at the ocean. "There?"

Bill Mulder nods. "Yep. It was pretty big, so I guessed him to be pretty old, but he moved faster than David and Jared," he chuckles. "Amazing, a guy that old could move that fast."

Mulder smiles in spite of himself. "You're not too shabby yourself, Dad."

"I t'ink our aumakua was lookin' after you guys, too," Mr. K. notes.

"What do you mean?" Mulder asks. Not that he was unfamiliar with the word, but wasn't quite sure what the old man was referring to specifically.

"Honu, das da turtle, das our aumakua, our ancestor dat watches ovah us," Mr. K. explains. "Sometimes he come fo' protect us, to warn us, to bless us, and sometimes, to scold us." He, like his wife, looks back towards the ocean. "I t'ink he was helping yo' daughtah da oddah day, and he like say goodbye to yo' dad today."

Mulder's father shakes his head. "I don't believe the same stuff my son does," he starts off.

"Das awright." The old Hawaiian man shrugs. "You guys had fun mostly, yeah?" When the Mulders and Scully nod, he laughs. "See? Our honu like take care you guys, too. And soon you guys going home, so he like say bye, das all."

"If you say so," Bill Mulder says, trying to be diplomatic.

"That sounds nice," Scully says, surprising both her husband and father-in-law. "I'm glad I came here."

"Me, too," Mulder says, his voice betraying the wonder he still feels after his wife's statement.

"Good." Mrs. K. turns around, then gives them each a nearly bone-crushing hug. "Oh, I'm so happy you guys came, too. And I'm happy I got to see all your kids, and your father, too."

"Next time, we'll bring leashes so they won't go running off in all directions," Mulder half-jokes.

"Mulder!" Scully shoots him a look.

He shrugs. "Just kidding."


Chapter One Hundred and Six



Mulder-Scully Home
August 2nd, 2001
9 p.m.

Despite the fact that their flight got in quite late, all the kids except for William and Christopher are still wide awake when Mulder pulls the van into their driveway.

"Oh wow, look!" Sammy says excitedly, pointing out the passenger side window.

At first Mulder can't figure out what his oldest son is looking at, but then he notices a green spark flying past the windshield of the van.

"Fireflies!" David exclaims, which surprises Mulder. Maybe Scully or Michelle has read the twins a book that features them, because he's pretty sure there haven't been fireflies around the house in their lifetime.

"Oh, there's lots of them," April says softly. "They're so pretty."

"You know," Scully tells them. "When I was a little girl we used to catch them and keep them in jars. Just over night for a sleepover."

"Can we, Mommy?" Jared asks excitedly. "We catch 'em?"

"Wouldn't it hurt them?" Page asks, looking concerned.

"Nope. They do fine overnight, as long as we let them go in the morning," Mulder promises. "Scully, I think there were some empty mason jars up in the attic, with Saul's stuff. Do mind if we use them?" Even as he asks, Mulder wonders what his great-uncle used the jars for. He couldn't picture the old man canning preserves.

"I didn't have any plans for them. Why not?"

Mulder feels a sense of wonder when he and the kids spend the next hour out in the yard, trying to catch the glowing insects. Like Scully and her siblings, he and Samantha spent many summer nights catching fireflies too. But it was a different sort of special than it is to do the same with his own children.

When the kids are finally convinced to come inside, they try to interest William in the jars they're clutching, but the infant can't be coaxed awake long enough to care. Christopher, on the other hand, claps when he sees the bugs glow.

That night, each of the kids' nightstands holds a living nightlight, and a soft green glow puts green spotlights on their faces as they sleep. Mulder is tempted to pull out his camera, but he knows that the flash would wake them, so instead he contents himself with committing the sight to memory.


Hoover Building
August 6th, 2001

"Hey, welcome back," Doggett greets Scully as soon she steps foot through the door.

"Thanks."

"You look like your vacation agreed with you," Reyes remarks. "You're still a little pink."

"I put sunscreen on everyone religiously but there's a lot of sun in Hawaii. It was a great vacation, though, thanks to old friends of the family who showed us around. Mulder and his dad had a wonderful time. The kids had fun too. Except for William - he slept through most of it."

"I'll bet." Doggett smirks. "I took Luke camping at that age, and he kept his eyes shut ninety percent of the time."

"So... Have I missed anything interesting while I was gone?" Unlike Mulder, she doesn't feel the need to keep close tabs on the office while out on leaves, so she hasn't spoken to them about cases in weeks.

"Here? Nothing important," Doggett tells her. "But I have some news of my own."

"What?" Scully asks curiously.

"I've just officially started adoption proceedings." He grins broadly.

"You're adopting Gibson? That's great!" She cocks her head. "What made you decide to legally add him to the family?"

"After all this time he's all but ours anyway - Hannah tells people that she has two brothers, for cryin' out loud - and it'll make things easier legally if we do the paperwork. This was prompted by social services wanting to know if he still needed to be in protective custody. They showed me how easy it'd be to keep him, so I had to jump at the chance," Doggett explains.

"Wow," Scully says before digging through Mulder's top drawer. She hands Doggett a cylinder. "Maybe you can ask Mulder where he gets these."

Doggett reads the It's A Boy label on the cigar and starts laughing. "It's too bad no one throws you a shower when your new addition is a teenager."

"Hey-" Reyes starts to say, but Doggett cuts her off.

"Don't even think about it."

"You're no fun." Reyes pouts.

"Oh, I'm plenty fun, but I don't want Gibson dying of embarrassment before he's rightfully mine."

"That's reasonable," Scully tells them. "There's plenty of time to mortify your newest child later."

"My newest child. I like that," Doggett remarks.

Before they can get any farther a field, Skinner calls them up to discuss a case.


Mulder-Scully Home
Late August 2001
11 p.m.

"No! Don't!"

The frightened voice rings loudly in the quiet house and Scully jumps to feet, forgetting to pause the movie she's been watching since Mulder went to bed. She takes the stairs two at a time, hoping to reach her daughter before she shouts again and wakes everyone.

The door to April's room is open a few inches, just as it always is because April refuses to sleep with it shut. Through the crack Scully can see April flailing at an imaginary foe, with her eyes screwed shut.

Scully avoids the kicking feet as she gathers her small daughter in her arms. "Shhh. It's okay. You're okay now."

Waking up, April slowly stops struggling. But when she opens her eyes she bursts into tears.

"What's the matter?" Scully asks in confusion. Usually the kids are comforted after a nightmare when they discover it's Mom or Dad holding them instead of a monster.

"Oh Mommy, he was hurting the girl!" April wails.

For a second Scully worries that discussing a case in front of the kids has given her nightmares, but she can't think of any recent cases that involved children.

"What girl, April?"

April makes a helpless gesture with her hands. "The little girl!"

A more sinister possibly occurs to Scully. "Has one of the girls at school told you that someone is hurting her?"

April shakes her head vehemently. "She's too little to go to school."

"You were dreaming about someone who isn't real, then?" Scully feels some measure of relief that there's no child abuse to worry about.

"She is real! I just don't know her," April insists.

"It's okay. Sometimes we all dream of made believe people, like characters in a book. It's scary when bad things happen to them, but it's okay because they don't really get hurt."

Instead of being soothed like Scully expects, April looks at her with a hurt expression. One that suggests she feels lied to or betrayed. "He doesn't hit her, but he's so mean. He won't even talk to her."

Trying to erase the look on her daughter's face, Scully decides to humor her. "Which man, April?"

"I don't know," April says sulkily as she pushes herself off her mother's lap. "I don't know him either."

"Okay." As soon as Scully tucks her back in, April rolls onto her side, effectively turning her back on Scully.

She decides to send Mulder next time if the nightmare reoccurs.


"What happened?" Mulder asks sleepily when she crawls into bed a few minutes later.

"April had a nightmare."

"Oh. Me too just now."

"What was yours about?" she asks uneasily. For a moment she's sure he'll also describe a small girl being neglected.

"Rachel and Pendrell came by to visit," he says with a yawn.

"What was so scary about that?" she asks, wondering what danger their former nanny and former co-worker could present. "Did they bring monsters with them?"

"The jury was still out on that. Rachel was pregnant. With septuplets."

"Septuplets?! She quit because she didn't want to deal with our twins."

"I know. She'd die of the horror, she even said so. It was a nightmare because she and Sean did want to die, and leave the babies to us. Seven babies at once is a hell of a lot harder than seven spread out over seven years," he says, shivering.

"So you're saying you don't want septuplets next time?" she asks with a wicked smile.

"No! Two at once was hard enough. I can't imagine another five!" Mulder half shouts, reining himself in only when Scully elbows him in the side to remind him of their sleeping children.

"I was kidding, Mulder."

He gives her a suspicious look. "We're not having another baby any time soon, are we?"

"To quote the magic 8 ball 'signs point to no.'"

"Ah. I thought it just said that signs point to yes."

"Whatever, Mulder. Not all of us have photographic memories."

He yawns. "Have you heard from Rachel lately, anyway?"

"Not since Christmas."

"Maybe I'll e-mail them. Just to see how they are."

"Good idea," she mumbles, but she's already rolled over to go back to sleep.

::Seven kids for Rachel:: he thinks. ::If God is merciful, he'll never let that happen. There couldn't be therapy enough for that family.::


September 4th, 2001
7 a.m.

Before they head out the door, Scully makes sure that Sammy and Page have their backpacks. Sammy's has a large open-mouthed dinosaur on it, and Page's has kittens on it, ones that look really different from Telico and Piper she keeps telling her mother, as if Scully isn't supposed to realize this is part of her campaign to add a new kitten to the household. She's thoroughly unconvinced that seven kids need another pet.

"Mommy, your car or the van?" Sammy asks, clutching his backpack like he's afraid it will get away.

"My car," she tells him. They don't take her car out very often, since there's usually too many people going on an outing to make it practical, but this morning it's just the three of them.

The two kids climb onto the backseat, and it throws her for a second when they both work the buckles to their seatbelts without needing help. She's too used to it taking several minutes before being able to drive off.

"Sammy, are you nervous?" she asks quietly as she reverses out of the driveway.

"Nope," he says, but Scully wonders if he's being entirely truthful. Her two oldest kids are the most out-going, but she figures they must feel shy or anxious sometimes. Mustn't they?

She seems not to be the only one with that in mind, because she hears Page say, "It's okay, Sammy, all the first grade teachers are real nice. And first and second grade kids have recess together, so you can play with Emily and me and our friends if you don't make friends right away."

"Okay," he says, sounding relieved.

The corner of Scully's mouth quirks up, but she tries not to smile openly. Once upon a time, she can remember having a similar conversation with Charlie when he started school. If Sammy is anything like her brother, he'll probably have new friends by the end of the day, and will be just waving to Page and his cousin at recess tomorrow.

"Daddy will pick you both up when school is over," Scully tells them.

"We'll wait for him out front," Page says with a short nod of her head.

As Scully drives, she glances back at the kids at stoplights. Mulder will be leaving the house soon to bring April, David, and Jared to preschool. Today is what she wanted a year ago, not to have Mulder be missing and possibly dead. Not to have sent Page to off her first full day of school with Missy.

"Mommy, what are you thinking about?" Sammy asks, and in the rear view mirror she sees that his bright eyes are staring at her. "You're smiling."

"I was just thinking about how life has a way of working out sometimes."

"That's good, right?" Page asks with an uncertain smile.

"It's great," Scully reassures her.


Thirty Minutes Later
Preschool

For once, April is the one who fearlessly forges ahead. Small girls call her name, and she races toward them with a broad smile. David, on the other hand, shrinks against Mulder's leg and has a death grip on his pants. And Jared took one fearful look at the preschool building before begging to be picked up.

Mulder glances down at the boys with a bit of trepidation. They'll spend the next three school years here, but he and Scully already know that the school their older siblings now attend has a policy of splitting up twins into different classrooms. ::I don't think they'd understand if I told them to enjoy it while it lasts.:: he muses to himself.

"Mister Mulder!" A familiar voice calls. He's not surprised to see one of the teachers walking towards him. "They've gotten so big, haven't they? I remember you bringing them with you Sammy's first day of school, and they were just tiny newborns."

"We've got a new brother," David offers shyly. "He's little."

"I bet his is," the teacher agrees. "Does he look like your mommy or daddy more?"

"Like Mommy," Jared says immediately from his perch in Mulder's arms. "He got red hair."

"I see. You two look just like Daddy, though, don't you?"

"Yup," they both agree. It's a remark they've heard often in their short lives.

"Identical?" the teacher mouths to Mulder and he nods slightly.

"David's favorite color is red and Jared's is blue. They insisted on getting sneakers in those colors," Mulder tells her, knowing that she'll read between the lines. He and Scully aren't willing to restrict the clothing colors the boys can choose from, but color-coded footwear should help the teachers tell them apart at a glance.

"Got you," the teacher says before taking David by the hand. Mulder puts Jared down and she takes his hand too. "We're going to have a lot of fun today. And there are two boys who have been waiting to meet you."

"There is?" David looks surprised.

"Yup, their names are Taylor and Tyler, and they're twins just like you."

Perhaps recalling that Mulder had once brought those particular classmates up, the boys look intrigued. He heads out while they're distracted, hoping that there won't be any tears when they realize he's gone.


Hoover Building
8:10 a.m.

The phone on Scully's desk rings. "Scully."

"Hey. David and Jared were nervous, but there weren't any tears by the time I left. How did the first day of school go on your end?"

"Good. When Sammy comes home some time soon and complains that the girls won't leave him alone, pretend to be surprised," Scully says with a slight chuckle. "From the looks he got when we walked in, I think he's going to end up leaving a trail of broken six-year-old hearts behind him this year."

"No doubt. I seem to recall your mother telling me once that Charlie was quite the heartbreaker too."

"He was. Bill might have been if he hadn't been such a stick in the mud, even as a little boy. So much for the theory that girls don't like redhead boys."

It's on the tip of his tongue to mention Rupert Grint as a counterpoint to that tired old idea, but the first Harry Potter movie is still a couple of months away from theaters and it'll be a handful of years yet before the young actor is a teen heartthrob.

"I guess I better let you go," Mulder says and she can hear Christopher babbling in the background. "Love you."

"Love you too, Mulder." When Scully hangs up she notices that both Doggett and Reyes are looking at her. "What?"

"I just got a call," Doggett tells her. "They want us at a crime scene."

"What kind of crime scene?" Scully asks when she notices that he's trying not to roll his eyes.

"Oh, they seem to think it has something to do with demons."

"Right," Scully says, reaching for her purse.


Mulder-Scully Home
September 11th, 2001
9:02 a.m.

"Will, come on, put your legs down for Daddy," Mulder coaxes his youngest son. Not terribly interested in having his diaper changed, William kicks, making it as difficult as possible for Mulder to put on the fresh diaper.

"He don't wanna," Christopher says, looking up from playing with a truck on the floor.

"Sure, but he can't like to be wet either," Mulder finds himself pointing out. "You don't like to be wet do you, Christopher?"

"Big boys use potty," Christopher says proudly, even though his success rate is only about one time in three yet, he's gotten the idea that being potty trained is a big deal.

"Yes they do."

"Oh God. No!" Mulder hears the nanny shout. Then she screams his name. "Mister Mulder!"

Wide-eyed, Mulder grabs both of his sons, and runs down the hall. Having never heard the younger woman scream like that, he's terrified that she's managed to badly injure herself.

"What is it?" he asks as soon as he enters her room and doesn't see her missing a limb.

Tears streaming down her face, Michelle just points at the TV on her dresser. It only takes Mulder a few seconds to understand that there's been some sort of terrorist attack in New York, and that a plane has just been flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. ::What's the date?:: He finds himself wondering quickly. ::Must be the 11th. I guess this still happens.::

They both watch in stunned horror as a second plane smashes into the side of the building. The reporter on screen expresses fear that something might happen in the capital too, which snaps them from their daze. Mulder shakes his head, rubs tears out of his own eyes, and springs into action with a plan. "Michelle, are you okay?"

"This is just so terrible..." she says miserably, but she looks more together. "I'm okay."

"Okay. I need you to call Dana's sister. Have her call the elementary school and tell the office that I'm picking Emily up as well as Sammy and Page, okay? She needs to give them permission."

"You're going to pick them up?"

"Yeah. I'll bring Emily to her after I get the younger kids from preschool. There's no sense in her making the trip if I'm already going there."

"I'll let her know," Michelle says before reaching for a tissue to blow her nose. "Do you think this is the beginning of a war?"

"I don't know," Mulder admits. "You'll be okay here with William and Christopher?"

"Of course."

Mulder hugs the little ones before he rushes out the door.


A lot of parents must have the same worries that he does, because the elementary school parking lot is full by the time he pulls in. There are staff members with clipboards at the doorways, and he explains that he's there to pick up two of his children and his niece. The woman nods and sends a teacher's aide to their classrooms.

"We don't want people wandering the halls. I'm sure you understand," she says apologetically.

"Better safe than sorry," Mulder tells her, knowing that it's probably not been an easy morning for her.

Like other children being led to waiting parents, all three of the kids are in tears when they're handed over to Mulder. He gives the woman with a clipboard a surprised look. "They already know?"

"The 4th graders were watching an educational show when the news interrupted," she explains. "News spread quickly."

"Right." Mulder picks up Sammy because he's crying the hardest, and has the girls hold hands as they walk through the parking lot. They crowd his legs. He's marginally thankful that the parking lot is small, so they don't have far to go.

Once the three of them are settled into booster seats in the back of the van, he gives them a sad smile. "Today's kind of scary, huh?"

They all nod.

"Uncle Mulder, what happened?" Emily asks, her voice barely above a whisper.

::How do you explain terrorism to first and second graders?:: "Do you guys understand what war is?"

"Two countries fighting," Sammy answers wetly.

"That's right. Sometimes when one country wants to start a war, they do bad things to innocent people. This is called terrorism. That's what happened today. Two planes with people on them got smashed into a building in New York, which is pretty far away," he adds before he scares them.

"The people on those planes, they died. Didn't they, Daddy?" Page asks.

It breaks his heart to tell her the truth, but he has to. "Yes, sweetie, they did."

"Were there kids on the planes?" Emily wants to know. "And Mommies and Daddies?"

::Oh God.:: "There were mothers and fathers, Emily. I don't know yet if there were any kids." ::But there probably were. They were passenger planes, after all.::

"What about the people in the building? Did they get hurt too?" Sammy asks.

"I don't know yet, kiddo. I hope they all get out okay." Impulsively, Mulder leans over and kisses all three of them on their foreheads. "We need to go get April and the twins now. We'll just have to hope that no one else gets hurt, okay?"

"Okay," they agree.

*

Of course, it doesn't turn out that way, and the news soon reports that a plane has been flown into the pentagon and another crashes into a field as well. Mommies, Daddies, and even eight cute little kids are listed among the dead before everything is all over.

Later that night Mulder finds himself sobbing when the lists of victims scroll through and he sees that some of the victims are only two, three, and four years old; the very same ages as April, David, Jared and Christopher. With all of the flights they've taken their children on, it's only by the grace of God that it isn't him and Scully burying their children like those poor families will soon be doing.

Nobody ever thought that something like this could happen. The world becomes a more dangerous place in just one day.


Mulder-Scully Home
October 5th, 2001

The weeks that follow the terrorist attack on September 11th find Mulder more distraught than he ever anticipated. When the event happened in his old life, it wasn't something he felt a part of. He and Gibson had been in hiding, and it had taken until the ten o'clock news for them to even hear of what had transpired in New York and the capital. That night he'd put Gibson in the pickup truck they'd managed to find somewhere, and they then had rushed to an all night internet cafe fifty miles away just so Mulder could check his e-mail. As he'd hoped, Scully had e-mailed him earlier in the day to reassure them both that no one they knew had come to any harm.

After that he'd stopped thinking about the event that happened far far away to people he hadn't known. It had been on his to-do list to read more about the particulars, but he'd spent several more months in hiding with Gibson, and resurfaced only to find himself in the same situation with Scully later on, and there had been no time to think of the dead then, just of keeping themselves from joining their ranks. Somehow, even past the second anniversary of the tragedy, it had still escaped his attention that there had been several children among the victims. The fresh knowledge wounds him.

This time, he feels the tragedy as keenly as everyone else, and it makes him hold onto his own children tighter, perhaps too tightly. At least until he has something else to occupy his immediate attention...

All at once, or so he feels, it's finally the mythical six months he's been waiting for; it has been six months since the day Fox Mulder was dug up and rejoined the land of the living. And six months of waiting to see if he'll be reinstated to the X-Files. But today is the day they're supposed to make a decision and he's relieved, even if Kersh did decide to yank his chain by making him wait until Friday to meet.

He's been on tenterhooks since he woke up, which is why he practically dives on the phone when it rings. "Hello?"

"Is this Fox Mulder?" an unfamiliar male voice asks hesitatingly, making him wonder if Kersh got a male temp to cover for his sectary.

"Yes."

"Mister Mulder, this is your father's landlord...I think you had better come over here."

"What's wrong?"

When the landlord hesitates to reply, Mulder instantly begins to fear the worst. "I'm not sure. The door to his apartment was open, so I went in to check on him. I found some blood. Not a lot, but enough to be alarming. He's not here. And there was a note, to you."

"What does it say?"

"I didn't read it. It didn't feel right."

"I'll be right there."

Mulder glances at the clock. It'll be another half an hour before Michelle returns from picking the kids up from preschool. Sighing, he writes a note of his own before grabbing a diaper bag.


The landlord is pacing nervously in front of Bill Mulder's door when Mulder arrives with Christopher and William in tow. Mulder offers him an apologetic smile. "The blood you found, which room did you find it in?"

"The kitchen."

"Right."

Mulder sets William's baby seat on the living room floor before sitting Christopher on the couch. "Christopher, I want you to stay here, on the couch. Understand?"

The blond toddler nods seriously. "Stay on the couch."

"Good boy."

"Will he stay there?" the landlord asks dubiously.

"Probably not for long." Mulder walks to the door and locks it. "But he'll remember to for a little while."

"Okay." The man leads him into the kitchen and points to the floor. "I don't think your father got cut that badly from dropping a glass."

The blood is in fact mixed with broken glass. But it looks to him as though the glass was there before it was bled on, as though something other than a shattered glass had wounded his father.


There's a shrill burst of sound from the phone in Mulder's pocket, making both Mulder and the landlord jump.

"Phone, Daddy," a small voice from the living room helpfully informs them.

Mulder looks around the corner and is somewhat surprised to see his son is still on the couch. "Thanks, sport."

Eventually he manages to fish the phone out of his pocket. "Hello?"

"Mulder, where are you? You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago!" Scully's slightly tinny voice scolds.

"I'm at my dad's. His landlord called me."

"Is your dad okay?" she asks quickly.

Mulder represses a sigh. "I don't know. We found blood, but Dad is missing."

"Oh God. How much blood?"

He understands what she's getting at. "Not enough to automatically assume that he's dead."

"I'll tell people that you're going to need the meeting rescheduled and come home myself."

"Thanks." Mulder snaps the phone shut, then glances over at the landlord. "You said there was a note?"

"Oh yeah," he says quickly. Then he pulls a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and gives it to Mulder.

Mulder pales as he reads it. Before he leaves his father's home, he calls Scully back and asks her to have two more people meet him at the house.


Later

Fox, I'm running out of time. The syndicate isn't wiped out like we were led to believe, but madder men are now at the helm, sure that they can negotiate directly with the visitors. They said I've got to work with them or they'll hurt my loved ones. You said I'm a good grandfather and I'm trying to be. The kids are in danger, Fox, yours and your wife's sister's. I wish... Shit, I heard something There's part of the first letter of another word, but it stops after that. Mulder puts it down, and realizes a shocked silence has followed his reading aloud of the note. Of the three of them, he's not sure who looks the most upset.

"What is he talking about, Fox?" Missy asks, voice trembling.

"I don't know," Mulder admits, frustrated.

"Does this have to do with the pictures someone was taking last year?" Scully asks.

"I don't know," Mulder repeats.

"We need to find him," Krycek declares. "Immediately."

"I'm touched by your concern for my father," Mulder says dryly.

Krycek shoots him a sour look. "Screw you. We need to find him so we can find out what the hell he's talking about."

"In case you haven't noticed, we've got a pair of infants and several kids between us," Scully snaps. "We have other responsibilities. We can't just run off and look for Bill at the drop of a hat."

"I didn't mean the four of us," Krycek retorts. "Obviously we can't take the kids with us, it might be dangerous. I meant just Mulder and me."

::Crap. So much for returning to the X-Files in the near future.:: Mulder thinks, but then he realizes that he knew that he wasn't going to be going back any time soon from the moment he stared down at the bloody glass on his father's kitchen floor.

"But-" Scully starts to object, but trails off. Mulder can barely stand to look in her eyes, because they say just one thing: I don't want you to leave.

"Do you even know where to begin looking?" Missy demands to know.

This gives Mulder a pause. He's been mentally preparing to go look for his father, however reluctantly, but the thought of where they'd go hadn't really occurred to him yet.

"While we were on vacation, didn't your dad say something about there being a few break-ins in his building's parking lot?"

Mulder thinks for a few seconds, and recalls the conversation Scully meant. While they were on the plane home, Bill had said the only drawback to the apartment he'd been living in since selling his house was a rash of petty thefts in the lot. "Yeah, why?"

"He said they stopped when management installed cameras in the lot, right?" Scully asks. "Maybe the cameras caught something."


An Hour Later

When they drive back to Bill's apartment, Scully waits in the car. Missy and Krycek are waiting at home with the kids. Krycek had wanted to come, but he was so mad that Missy wouldn't let him, telling him that scaring the crap out of the landlord was no way to begin a search Bill.

It doesn't take long for the landlord to agree to get Mulder the footage from the cameras in the parking lot.

Mulder shakes his father's landlord's hand. "Thank you so much for this." He nods to indicate the VHS tape he's holding in the other hand.

"Not a problem. I just hope that it helps you find your father. He's a good tenant. Everyone likes him."

"That sounds like Dad," Mulder says with a ghost of a smile.

"Good luck, Mister Mulder." The landlord says, not quite meeting his eyes. All at once Mulder realizes that the landlord doesn't ever expect to see Bill again. He pretends not to notice.


A Short Time Later

The four of them watch the video five times, but there's nothing but frustration to be found in it.

"No one noticed the ski masks?" Missy asks, her voice incredulous. "In broad daylight?"

"I think most of Dad's neighbors are working people," Mulder says. "There probably was no one home to notice how conspicuous they looked."

"At least he's alive," Krycek points out.

The video shows Bill Mulder being pulled out of his home by two masked men and forced into the back of a non-descript black car. Bill is stumbling, but moving under his own power, which makes them all think that he wasn't badly hurt despite the blood in his kitchen.

"This wasn't a spur of the moment thing," Scully remarks irritably. "They planned this. That's why there's no license plate on the back of the car. They must have known that there was a possibility they were going to be on tape, with that and the masks."

"We'll figure this out," Missy says encouragingly. "We'll bring him home soon, and he can explain to us what it is he meant in his letter. You can tell that he wants us to know. He'll hang on if he can just so he can tell us."

Mulder finds himself nodding. His father is a good grandfather. Missy is right, he'll endure until he can be found for the kids' sake. It just worries Mulder about how much he'll have to endure while they spin their wheels.


Kersh's Home
3 a.m.

The sound of breaking glass should wake the Deputy Director, but he sleeps through it, only snorting once before his breathing falls back to its normal pattern. It's not until there's a pressure on his mattress that he leaves REM and opens his eyes sleepily.

Only to find himself staring up at a strange man holding a gun.

"Who are you?" he growls, but both men can tell that it's false bravo. Kersh's weapon is not within reach, and he senses that the gunmen knows that too.

"It doesn't matter," the other man says, his voice angry but quiet. "I just need you to answer a question."

"Why should I?" Kersh asks, letting his indignation take control of his tongue.

As an answer, the other man cocks the gun.

Sweat breaks out on Kersh's forehead, but he's too scared to lift a hand to wipe it away. Obviously his intruder is some sort of crazy, and sudden movement might set him off. "What do you want to know?" he asks, his voice half-strangled.

"Where's Bill Mulder?"

Surprised by the question, Kersh blinks. He had figured that the man was a thief, and that the question would be about his safe or his valuables. "Who?" he asks, bluffing.

"Fox Mulder's father," the stranger says, leveling the gun at his forehead. "Don't try to tell me you don't know what I'm talking about. The old bastard claimed to have an in at the FBI, and I know you're it." After a pause, he adds, "As the only black man in the syndicate you should have worn gloves when you took Bill."

Kersh finds himself mentally cursing the Smoking Man. He didn't know the elderly man very well, but enough to dislike him. Enough to have been pleased by the rumors of his death the year before. "Did agent Mulder send you here?" Kersh demands to know.

"Of course not. If he'd thought you'd be of any help, he'd be the one holding the gun."

It occurs to Kersh that he might know who this man is. One of the sectaries mentioned once that agent Scully's sister had married an agent who had briefly worked in the Hoover building before he arrived. The agent's name wouldn't come to him, much to his frustration. He hisses in pain when the man hits him in the ribs with the barrel of the gun. "Don't."

"Tell us where to look for Bill Mulder."

"There's a cabin."

"Where?" The stranger threatens to hit him with the gun again.

"Somewhere in Pennsylvania. I've never been there," Kersh says, his voice more of a pathetic whine than he intends.

To his surprise, the next blow fails to come. Instead the man nods. "If you warn anyone that we're coming, you'll be dead within hours."

"You'd come back and kill me?" Kersh asks grimly.

"Not me. I have an associate who'll be watching you," the gunman warns. "But you should be happy, you're getting what you want."

"What's that?"

"To keep Fox Mulder out of the FBI."

The man lets himself out of the house a moment later, and Kersh can't help but agree with him. Taking Mulder's father hadn't been his idea, but it was having an unexpected benefit. And because he believes the man with the gun, he won't bother to tell anyone that Mulder is going to be looking for his father. They probably already realize that, and if they don't...let them be the ones staring down the barrel of that gun. He's got enough to worry about with his day job.


Mulder-Scully Home
6 a.m.

Since he's just stumbled out of bed, Mulder is dressed only in a pair of flannel boxers when he opens the door for his brother-in-law. "What's so important that you're pounding on my door this early on a Saturday?"

"Relax, Mulder, it's not like you've got to worry about the kids getting enough sleep before school today," Krycek says as he follows Mulder into the kitchen. "I have something for you."

"What's that?" Mulder asks warily. He knows that he's fully on board with the idea of tracking down his father, but he worries about his methods. Hopefully it won't be a hostage or a body part.

"A destination. Sources say your father's being held in a cabin in Pennsylvania."

"What source?"

"One that's scared shitless that my associate is going to blow a hole in the back of his head if he dares tell anyone we're on our way."

"Your associate?" Mulder cocks his head. "Is this a real or imaginary ally?"

"Real. We're not the only ones that the syndicate has burned. I've called in a favor from an old friend. I don't think we'll need her to act, though, not if we leave quickly."

Leaving quickly is the problem, Mulder thinks. He doesn't want to leave at all, but he soon finds himself going up stairs to wake his wife and let her know that he needs to pack.


Chapter One Hundred and Seven



Mulder-Scully Home
October 6th, 2001

As Mulder throws clothes into a duffel bag, he can't help but feel a keen difference between now and all the times he's packed for a case. With cases there's a clear goal and a reasonable expectation that one will come home before long. And most of those times Scully was packing along side of him, not staring holes into his back.

Turning, he gives her the saddest of smiles. There's so much he wants to say to her, but the words stick in his throat.

"You'll find him, Mulder," she says, putting her hand on his hip to comfort him.

Looking up at her, words finally spill free. "What if I don't? What if we don't find him and never figure out what he was trying to warn us about?"

Until he hears himself saying it, he hadn't fully realized his own fear. Nothing in his old life has prepared him for his father being forcefully dragged back into the conspiracy, one now apparently involving his children as well.

There have been so many times in both of Mulder's lives that he's imagined what his sister would have done with her life if it hadn't ended so young. But it had never occurred to him to wonder back then what might have become of his father if he hadn't been murdered. Even as his father has now gone beyond his previously allotted time, Mulder has primarily thought of his father's continued life in relation to what it has meant to him: his father at Page's first birthday party; at the baby's funeral; playing with the kids at the beach... Just the tiny fragments that he's witnessed with his own eyes.

The fact that his father has lived mostly outside of witness the past six years is something he's never had cause to be conscious of. How often does anyone think of the lives others live in private? These years of Bill's have been filled with a multitude of things Mulder has never been privy to, nor even thought to ask about.

Now Mulder desperately wishes he knew what they had been.

"There are always dangers," Scully says, forcing him back to the present. "No one's children go through life charmed and wrapped in cotton wool, least of all ours. If you don't find your dad, we'll be vigilant to protect them the best we can. The same as if you find him."

From what, his heart desperately wants to know, but he doesn't ask because she can't answer him that.


Seconds after he slings the duffel bag's strap over his shoulder, Sammy and Page run into the room. Looking at their eager faces makes his heart sink even further. He thinks he can feel it in the vicinity of his knees.

"Where are we going, Daddy?" Sammy wants to know.

Mulder drops his bag and picks his son up. "Sorry, buddy, this trip is for just me and your uncle Alex. We'll go some place together during another vacation, okay?"

"Oh." Sammy's face falls. "Okay."

Page tugs on the hem of his still untucked shirt. "Where are you and Uncle Alex going?"

"Well, we're going to look for someone," Mulder says, hoping that they won't press the issue. He and Scully haven't told them yet that their grandfather is missing, and he hopes that they'll return with him before that necessity becomes a reality.

"We could help you!" Sammy offers. "We're real good at helping."

"Aren't we?" Page asks uncertainly after a moment when Mulder doesn't answer.

It's another thing he and Scully haven't told them yet, but this time he decides to tell them a less than pleasant truth. "You guys are great helpers, but I'm afraid that you're getting too big to miss a lot of school. Mom and I love your help on the case, but you need to learn a lot, right?"

"How come?" Sammy demands to know.

"Most of the fun things you can be when you grow up mean that you need a good education. You wouldn't want to miss a lot of school because of our jobs, then not get to be what you want when you grow up, right?"

"Right," they both agree, but neither of them looks happy about it.

"You can still help us during the summer, though. That's a quarter of the year, so you won't miss too much."

"Yeah... but you're not taking the little kids with you, though, right?" Page asks with a hint of jealousy in her voice.

"Nope, I'm not even taking Mom. Just your uncle," Mulder reassures her. He doesn't add that he's less than thrilled about who is going with him.

"Okay." The fact that they're not being singled out seems to make them feel better.

::Wish I felt better:: Mulder thinks to himself as he picks up his bag again.


By the time Mulder walks out the door after saying goodbye to the rest of his children, Krycek is already behind the wheel of a car that Mulder has seldom seen. Usually, Missy is the one to come over, and she has her own car. This car is new, sleek, and black, and would never be rented to two FBI agents pursuing an official case. As he walks towards the car trunk opens, and Mulder takes it as his cue to throw in his bag with Krycek's.

When he makes no move towards the passenger seat after that Krycek rolls the window down six inches. "Get in."

He does so slowly. Something in Mulder makes him want to protest the fact that Krycek automatically assumes that he is the one who will drive, but he doesn't have the heart to. Instead he quietly envies the fact that his brother-in-law is not forced to drive a minivan. Craning his neck, he looks at the back seat and sees that it's just big enough for a booster seat and a single car seat, not that they're there at present.

Krycek follows his gaze. "What are you looking at?"

Mulder shakes his head. "Nothing." Instead of trying to offer an explanation, he just snaps on his seatbelt instead.

"So, Scully. She's mad at you," Krycek says as he turns onto the next road.

"How do you know that?" Mulder asks, wondering if there something about his expression that says that clearly. She didn't come out and say she's mad, but he got that vibe from the set of her shoulders when he hugged her goodbye. He can't tell if it's equally at him for leaving her behind and with the situation, but she's definitely unhappy in a more than she'll miss him sort of way.

"Missy's mad at me, and I'm only leaving her behind with two kids. I figure that Scully must be exponentially angrier at you then."

Mulder snorts. And imagines how Missy might have expressed her unhappiness. Something must have been broken. Maybe something Krycek really liked. "The geometric growth of pissiness. It sounds like you've got the basis for self help book."

"Only if I can get ghostwriter," Krycek says, giving Mulder the faintest of chills. In another lifetime the only way he'd be sitting next to this man today was if he were an actual ghost.

Conversation fades out after that. If the trip had been shared by other men, ones who could stand each other, perhaps they could have filled the empty miles with inconsequential chit chat. But they're not other men. The only thing they have in common is the women they love, and a fear for their children.

Too loud, the CD player attempts to fill the void.

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn.
The taxi's waiting, he's blowing his horn,
Already I'm so lonesome I could cry.

So kiss me and smile for me,
Tell me that you'll wait for me,
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again -
Oh Babe, I hate to go.

"This better work," Krycek growls over the melancholy lyrics. "It'll be hard enough if we get the answers we want. But if it's all for nothing..."

Mulder doesn't say anything, but he studies the other man's face out of the corner of his eye. What he sees there surprises him a little bit. Instead of being carefully planned and highly anticipated, fatherhood had initially been unexpectedly dropped in Krycek's lap. Yet the set of his jaw and the fierce determination in Krycek's eyes mirror his own. If Mulder has ever had any doubts about what sort of father Krycek is, they're erased by Krycek's white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

"The kids will miss us. But maybe it's better if they don't know," Mulder tells him.

"Know what?"

"How far we are willing to go to keep them safe."

Krycek's eyes harden. "I think I could go farther than you."

Mulder has few illusions about this. "Perhaps," he says noncommittally.

"Boy scouts don't kill people. Mercenaries do." When Mulder lets that go without protest, Krycek changes the subject. "I hate this song."

"So turn it off."

"I can't. Missy made this CD for us and I promised we'd listen to it." Noticing Mulder's smirk, he growls, "If you even think the word 'whipped' too loudly, I'll leave your sorry ass on the side of the road."

Mulder holds his hands up in surrender. "I have seven kids. That's irrefutable evidence that I do a lot to stay in my wife's good graces. And bed."

"There's just so much I can't tell her. I'm not going to add to it by lying about the little things too," Krycek grumbles.

Since there's a lot he's keeping from his wife as well, Mulder can't chide him for wanting to be honest with his. ::It's easier for him. He's not hiding as much. He can't be.::

* "Leaving On A Jet Plane" written by John Denver, covered by multitudes


"Where did your reluctant source say to go?" Mulder asks after he bores of watching the scenery pass him by. It should be more entertaining since he's so seldom had the chance to enjoy the experience as an adult, but he just finds that having nothing to do on the drive makes him more anxious.

"Pennsylvania."

"Just the state? That's a pretty big place to be driving around aimlessly in hopes of chancing upon where they've stashed my father." Mulder grouses.

"I know exactly where we're going," Krycek tells him, much to his surprise.

"How?"

"I've been there before. After I was... returned. The smoking man got me released from the hospital and I spent the next couple of weeks there at that cabin."

"Oh." Mulder feels a familiar twinge of guilt, the same one he gets every time something related to Krycek's abduction and subsequent illness is brought up, and it's been worse than ever since Krycek helped look after his kids while he was missing. ::But I still think he's better off:: Mulder admits to himself. ::He's got a wife and two great kids instead of being six feet under and haunting me. That has to be a reasonable trade-off.::

Apparently misinterpreting the reason for his quietness, Krycek adds, "As places you're being kept against your will go, it's not such a bad place. Your father is probably comfortable."

"Thanks," Mulder replies, feigning reluctance to acknowledge the other man's unexpected kindness. Krycek just nods his head.


Later

To Mulder's surprise, he finds himself waking up at a stoplight. Never in his wildest imagination could he picture falling asleep in the same space as Krycek, but now he has. The one-armed man doesn't seem to mind that he's been virtually alone with his thoughts and the maudlin easy-rock tunes that Missy has inflicted on them. She must really be angry at him, he decides, based on the songs he didn't sleep through.

"What did I miss?" Mulder asks with a yawn. A quick glance at his watch reveals that he's been out for more than an hour, which means that the other man had to endure his light snoring for a third of the trip.

"Not much," Krycek replies, not sounding too put out. "We're almost there. Just a few more streets."

As they near the cabin, Mulder begins to become aware that he has formed an expectation of where his father is being held. There would be high walls, perhaps strung with barbed wire. Closed and windowless, the small building will feel like a prison to his father, who is probably locked into an even smaller cell. Severe hulking men will guard him, bringing him bread and water, and a bucket for baser requirements.

What he doesn't expect is the innocuous log building that they see in the distance.

"That's the cabin," Krycek says, pointing with his good hand.

"And two guards." Though they're still some distance from the cabin, Mulder can clearly see them through the binoculars Krycek insisted they bring. In a way the seeing the guards is a comfort. At least he hasn't completely blown up the danger to his father to mythical proportions.

"Two that we can see," Krycek corrects him. "When we get out of the car, go around the back of the cabin to see if there's anyone there. And try to avoid being seen."

"Obviously. I'm no more eager to be shot than you are," Mulder says sourly. "Or maybe even less so, considering I've already had the pleasure."

The gravel driveway is crowded with trees and along its sides thick with bushes. Mulder ducks into them, hoping that the ticks are already gone until spring. He can't help but cringe every time he steps on a stick and it snaps. The men chatting in front of the cabin don't react, though, making him believe that they can't hear him over the cries of birds and the distant roar of trucks. Once in a while he notices Krycek making his way up the other side of the driveway, but he's doing a remarkable job not being seen by someone actually looking for him. This makes Mulder believe that there's very little chance his brother-in-law will be spotted by the guards, either.

The back door of the cabin doesn't have a guard posted there. Mulder watches for a minute, making sure that someone hasn't just stepped away to take a leak in the woods. Just as he's satisfied himself that no one's around, he hears a short burst of gunfire.

Fighting his instinct to run around the building to see what's happened, he forces himself back into the bushes and keeps his head down. The thought of having to face his wife's sister is barely forming in his mind when Krycek walks into view. Besides a rent in his leather jacket, he looks unscathed.

Keeping his head down, Mulder trots over to him, the binoculars he's forgotten about bouncing against his chest. "What the hell happened just now?"

Krycek's shoulders rise and fall in an inelegant shrug. "They decided not to be reasonable."

"So you shot at them?"

"Not at them..." Krycek mutters.

When he raises the binoculars to his eyes, Mulder sees the men lying sprawled on the ground. Even at that distance he can see a splotch of red near one of the bodies that can't be explained away by the dead leaves that litter the property.

"Did you see my father?"

"No."

The two men exchange a grim look. The fact that gunfire didn't rouse Bill is not a good sign. Mulder can't decide which would be worse - to find him dead in the cabin, or to never find him at all. Drawing their guns, he and Krycek cautiously approach the cabin and the corpses.

Mulder pauses to look down at the dead men. "Do you know them?"

Krycek shakes his head. "Never seen them before."

Looking at the corpses, Mulder wonders if they were thugs for hire, or actually part of the conspiracy. "Me neither," he says before turning his full attention to the cabin. It's not a large building but there are places for adversaries to hide. He hopes they're not walking into an ambush.

He starts to walk towards the door, but Krycek grabs his arm. "We can't just leave them here. This place doesn't look like it gets much traffic, but what if the mailman shows up?"

Mulder grunts in agreement, and grabs ones of the dead men under the arms. Then he swears when his knees nearly buckle in the attempt to hoist him up. The last adult he's had to carry was Fowley, and it's been long enough to forget how heavy adults are compared to his small and highly portable children. The only thing that seems comparably close is how heavy the cats get when he's tried to carry them into the vet's office.

Looking over his shoulder, he sees that Krycek is struggling even more than he is. He might be older, but at least he's got two functional arms. Taking pity on the other man, he shifts his corpse long enough to point at an SUV parked a couple hundred yards away. It's an excruciatingly slow journey.

"Keys?" Krycek pants when they finally reach the vehicle. Mulder feels in the dead guy's coat pockets and comes up with a set of them. Still, it's hard not to dump the corpse on the ground while trying to get the back open. Finally it swings open and he dumps his burden without ceremony before taking the other corpse from Krycek.

"Do you see a-" Mulder spots a tarp still in plastic. "That'll do." They cover the corpses up, and head back to the cabin.

"Suppose he's in there?" Krycek whispers as they get close to the building.

All Mulder can do is shrug.


Neither of their guns are safetied when they push open the door. To Mulder's relief they're not immediately beset upon by men eager to avenge their fellows' deaths.

Because it's an actual cabin even though it's huge, most of the interior is taken up by one large room that serves as a kitchen and living area both. A few dirty dishes and an abandoned deck of cards show that someone had comfortably settled into the place.

At the same time the place seems unnaturally quiet and half-filled with shadows. All the signs of life seem to have been bleed away when the men outside were shot. Mulder's stomach twists uncomfortably when he doesn't hear anyone in the place.

There aren't many doors to look behind, but he and Krycek cautiously begin opening them, starting at opposite ends. The first room reveals rumpled twin beds, and Mulder has the idea that the dead bad guys were sharing the room.

The next room has no lights on. He's still groping for a switch when he hears it. "Fox?"

Mulder starts, then picks a figure out of the gloom. His father is leaning against door frame to what seems to be an adjoining bathroom.

"Dad?" he whispers. His fingers finally find a switch, and the room floods with light.

When Bill Mulder is visible, he's holding a tissue to his nose. "I wasn't sure I'd see you before I died."

"You're safe now," he replies nervously. His father's expression is too grim, still, for comfort.

Bill worries him further by shaking his head. "I don't think I have much time left. I wouldn't have taken it if I knew you'd come today. It's too late to worry about it now, I guess."

"Wouldn't have taken what? What did you take?" Krycek appears in the doorway, but father and son ignore him.

"Cruortin. It's a blood thinner I've been taking since I got that clot in my leg. When I was in the hospital a nurse brought the kind to flush IVs, not the regular blood thinner amount. There was a code blue while she went to fetch the right one. I pocketed it. Just in case something like this happened. She forgot all about." Bill grimaces. "The idiots paid to babysit me had no idea what it was. But I guess from the gunfire we don't have to worry about them any more. I would have waited if I thought you were coming, but it's too late now."

"You poisoned yourself with this drug? We need to call 911," Mulder insists. "And have your stomach pumped."

"No. It wouldn't work, it's in my blood, not my stomach. And I have to die," Bill insists. "I'll never be free as long as I live. It's better this way. I planned to leave you a letter, but now I can answer questions instead, while I have some time left."

"Oh Dad..." Mulder says miserably.

Unencumbered by sentiment, Krycek demands to know, "What does any of this have to do with my kids?"

"Just the boy. There's a prophecy about Dana's family-"

"A prophecy?" Krycek doesn't bother hiding his incredulity.

"A self-fulfilling one, more than one made by a supposed mystic. Dana and Missy probably don't remember, but their father had a brush with the syndicate when they were very young."

"He was a military man, not part of the conspiracy," Mulder protests.

"Captain Scully didn't work with us, Son. His family just happened to be stationed at the wrong place at the wrong time. Military bases were often the best place to conduct 'harmless' experiments on people, including children, because the families often hurt for money. We preyed on their desire to make some quick cash for what we made seem like no risk at all. Two hundred dollars for an hour of their time must have been irresistible.

"Someone decided to use that base to test ESP in a general population for an experiment that didn't end up going anywhere. The only real consequence to the aborted project was that William Scully's little girls impressed the wrong people with there psychic abilities."

"Dana's not psychic," Mulder protests.

"But Missy is," Krycek says quietly. "And so is their mother."

Remembering the dream Maggie had once relayed to him after Scully's abduction, Mulder couldn't help but agree that his mother-in-law at the very least was sensitive to something.

Undeterred by his son's outburst, Bill goes on. "Maybe she doesn't have any gifts now, but that was a long time ago. She wasn't any older than David and Jared when I saw them testing her," Bill explains. "Gifts like that can atrophy if denied and never used. Or so I've read."

"You saw them test her?" Mulder asks in disbelief.

"Yes. They were so small...their father had Dana on his lap while they did the testing," Bill tells them. "It was summer then and they were wearing these little white sundresses. Dana must have just been out of diapers."

Unbidden the image of a piece of paper floats to the forefront of Mulder's mind, startling him so much that he shudders. "Dad?" he asks urgently. "Do you think it could have been 1967?"

"That sounds about right, Fox," Bill tells him with the tiniest of nods. He looks very pale.

All Mulder can do is stare at him. Once upon a time, when he'd broken into the house where the surrogates who'd carried Emily and other babies lived, he'd found a refrigerated box containing an embryo with Scully's name on it. But he'd also found a piece of paper with her name on it as well. And at the bottom there'd been a date: August 2nd, 1967. Now that Emily was Missy's, he hadn't bothered to look for the embryo or the ova, because they should no longer exist, and even if they did exist, Missy hadn't had all her ova extracted like the women the government had experimented on had had. The paper might have had Missy's name on it if he'd looked at it this time. It never occurred to him to wonder what the date signified.

"It was deemed that they were both psychic, so the powers that be decided then and there to keep an eye on them," Bill continues.

"Why?" Mulder asks, still dazed by the idea of his skeptical wife being in possession of psychic abilities. "What did this prophecy say?"

"Once upon a time there was a prophecy that a child born to a psychic would grow up to be a leader who'd throw a monkey wrench into the plans the organization had. Once they met Bill Mulder's daughters and saw that they scored the highest on the test, they focused on them, sure one of those two girls would be the mother of the child."

"So they did testing on them, and what, decided they might be useful if the syndicate ever started its own eugenics program breeding psychics?" Krycek asks, looking incredulous. "If we're talking about 1967 Missy was only five. And Dana was even younger-"

"She was three," Mulder offers weakly.

"Okay, they were all of three and five," Krycek grumbles. "They decided when they were that young they'd be great for a breeding program to bring this child about-"

"They didn't want the child, Alex. They feared it," Bill corrects him. "The reason they kept an eye on the girls was so they would know when the child was born. At first they thought that was enough."

"Dad, what do you mean by 'keep an eye on'?"

"Fox, has Dana ever told you a story about a little girl, a little younger than her that she was good friends with? One who died young?" Bill leans over to cough after getting his question out.

"Yes," Mulder answers slowly, remembering the Easter when his wife had told him about her friend Patience. A horrifying suspicion begins to form in his mind.

"Her father worked for us, just peripheral stuff, but deep enough that his child caught their attention. She was the first sacrifice," Bill explains. "They gave that child her illness. All to encourage Dana to enter medicine."

"That's not possible," Mulder objects. "Scully told me the disease the girl had, it was genetic. How do you induce a genetic disease in a kid? It was before they even had the first successful test tube baby."

"The child's parents were told what the syndicate doctors wanted them to believe. They never got a second opinion about the so-called disease. People didn't question doctors like they do now. Being a doctor was almost like being a God. No one would have suspected that the doctor was making that girl a little sicker every time they brought her in to be seen."

"Even if they could do it, why would they?" Krycek asks. "Why would they want Dana to enter medicine?"

A ghost of a smile crosses Bill's face as he turns his head to address Krycek. "Having met your wife I find it hard to believe, but they once thought she would be easier to control than my daughter-in-law. Doctors are often rooted to the hospitals they work in, so they planned to make sure she was hired by a DC hospital and not allowed to transfer elsewhere. And by the time they killed that little girl in 1975, you-" Bill points at his son. "-were already being heavily encouraged by so-called guidance councilors to consider law enforcement when you grew up."

"Mister Campbell was a plant?" Mulder can't figure out why this surprises him, but it does.

"He was. They thought they had your destiny all sewn up before you charmed your way into opening the X-Files." Bill coughs. "And I'm sure you realize now that you and Dana ending up together was definitely not part of the plan."

"I guess," Mulder says, feeling terribly confused. When his father mentioned their molding of their career paths, he automatically began to wonder if they'd been pushed together as well.

"It burned them up with anger when your marriage was announced. You were supposed to be too busy for families, after all. But you, Alex, I think in a way you ought to be grateful that they married when they did."

"Why is that?" Alex asks suspiciously.

"Your abduction - yes, I know all about that - and Missy's being recruited for a supposed study to freeze ova were quickly arranged once they learned Dana was pregnant with a girl."

"What? We didn't even know she was having a girl until Page was born," Mulder protests.

"True, but the lab tech they bribed to show the ultrasound knew. Since your daughter wouldn't be the prophesied child, they nurtured a hope that they could beat you to the punch, and create a child of Missy's that could be controlled, first. Before Dana could have a son of her own," Bill explains.

"Emily." Krycek looks stricken.

"When their one and only attempt turned out to be female, blonde, and sickly, they gave up on Melissa."

"What does being blonde have to do with anything? Or a girl?" Krycek wants to know.

"Their so call prophet was rather specific. The child in question was to be a red-haired boy."

Even though he has been expecting to be told something like this, Mulder goes pale. Sammy had wanted to come along. What if he'd indulged his son and brought him into the jaws of danger?

"They thought it was Sammy, didn't they?" Krycek asks. "So why did they continue to watch my family?"

"By the time you claimed your daughter, Dana had produced a second red-haired child. When they realized that you and Missy had begun a relationship, their interest in her was renewed. Sammy is a wonderful, bright little boy, but they didn't think he was the psychic they were looking for. If he wasn't, another child in the family would be."

"Dad...Did they take you because of William and Ryan?" Mulder asks with a sinking feeling.

"Yes. I just wanted to be closer to you and the kids, Fox. I swear it." Bill's eyes teared up. "I didn't know that they were watching my every move. I wouldn't do it, absolutely refused, and they took me, planning to hold me prisoner until I changed my mind."

"What wouldn't you do?" Krycek demands to know.

A pair of silvery tears roll down Bill's cheeks. "They... They wanted to abuse your trust in me. Some day when Missy was over too, they wanted me to take William and Ryan and bring them to a facility they have."

"What sort of facility, Dad?"

"I'm not entirely sure, or even where it is," Bill admits. "All I do know is that they have some other children there, I think they might be like Alex's daughter, though created to what end I don't know since they thought the child would come from the Scullys' bloodline. And apparently still do. They want me to give them the babies because they don't have well-formed personalities yet like Sammy does. It is seen as a mistake that they didn't steal Sammy as a baby, so they don't want to repeat it."

::So that's what happened to some of those other babies created with Emily.:: Mulder thinks to himself before asking, "Have they decided against this prophesied boy being Sammy?"

"No, they're not ruling him out entirely. But they think it's not worth their while to try to take him now, even if he turns out to be the one they want," Bill says weakly. "My guess is they'll try to influence him when he's another decade older, like they did you."

"Then we need only to keep a fierce eye on the little ones, then," Krycek states.

To their surprise Bill grabs their wrists. "No. You must find out where they're keeping those children and rid the world of such a place. There's more than your sons at stake!"

"I know," Mulder says and finds that he does. As long as the syndicate remains, his family will always be in danger.

"Like what?" Krycek wants to know.

"Continuity," Bill says weakly. "Destruction of the elders in that fire was like cutting off the Hydra's head. Finding where they're keeping those kids might be your only opportunity to figure out where they all are now."

Mulder notices how ashen his father's face is, and how labored his breathing is. It makes him wish he could ask his wife what dying of internal bleeding is like.

"Fox?"

"We will, Dad," Mulder promises, ignoring the look annoyed look Krycek gives him.

Bill lets Krycek go, but clings to Mulder's wrist. "I'm sorry, Son."

"You don't need to be."

"Yes I do," Bill insists.

"Then I forgive you," Mulder says, beginning to tear up. And finds that he does. "We love you, Dad. I'll make sure the kids know how much you loved them too."


When Bill's eyes close and his grip on his son's wrist slackens, Krycek turns to look at Mulder. "I think you better call 911 now."

"No. Not yet."

"Mulder, he's unconscious. He's not going to fight you over it."

"We have to wait," Mulder insists.

"For what?" Krycek is beginning to look exasperated.

"He's right," Mulder says calmly. "If he lives, they'll only find other ways to drag him back into things."

"So you're just going to let him die?"

"Have you ever been made to feel like you've destroyed someone you love deeply?"

"No," Krycek admits.

"Neither have I. But he has. I've watched the guilt over his part in what happened to my sister eat him up for decades. What if we get the EMTs here in time, and they save him, only to have that lead to them making him hurt one of the kids? We might as well demand the devil show up right now and take him to hell, because that's how every day there after is going to feel to him. No. We... we have to let him go."

In the end it doesn't take long. Bill's labored breathing finally trails off, and for second Mulder thinks he's just forgotten to breathe, but he doesn't start again. Krycek looks at him, apparently wondering if he's going to change his mind. But Mulder can't. It really would be condemning his father to hell to make him live everyday wondering if that day would be the one where he was dragged back into the conspiracy yet again.

A few minutes later Mulder looks up and speak sharply. "You have to go."

Krycek stares at him. "Why?"

"I'm going to have to call the police. And when I do, those two bodies can't be here. And neither can you. I don't suppose you care to be arrested today."

"No. That hadn't been in my plans for the day," Krycek agrees with a smirk.

"I didn't think so. I can pretend your car is mine, since I'll have needed a way to get here. Use their truck to get rid of the bodies." Mulder tries not to think about how the one-armed man will manage that on his own. Krycek is nothing if not resourceful, and there are plenty of bodies of water around, so competency with a shovel probably isn't an issue.

"And then?"

"Right before we got here I saw a diner. Walk there. I'll pick you up once the police have gone."

Krycek doesn't look pleased by this idea, but he says, "all right."

It only takes a few minutes for Mulder and Krycek to erase most traces of the dead men. Fortunately they found a bottle of bleach in the bathroom, so they were able to wash away most of the blood, and destroy the integrity of the traces if they were noticed. Since Mulder intends to tell police that his father was staying at the cabin alone, he has to get rid of all of the other men's belongings. So he shoves them in the back of the truck along with the bodies.

A few minutes later, a sour looking Krycek drives off, leaving him and Bill Mulder alone.

He decides to take a pulse, just in case. It would be awful if he was wrong, and the medics came and revived his father. There isn't one. And for the second time in his life, he's touched the body of a loved one that's still warm. Just like Angel's had been. Unlike the baby, though, he half expects Bill to sit up and talk to him. Of course, he doesn't.

In the end, he waits another half hour before he calls the police.


Sighing, he pulls out his cell phone and dials 911. The dispatcher is calm and professional when Mulder explains that he's just arrived at his father's cabin and found out that the older man has committed suicide. She takes his location and tells them that someone will be there very soon.

When the ambulance arrives, so does the town sheriff. This makes Mulder slightly nervous, but it seems clear that the sheriff does not believe there has been any crime. Unless of course the state of Pennsylvania is one that still considers suicide a crime, which is something he hasn't had time to look up. That has always bothered him. How can killing yourself be a crime? It's not as though they could ever prosecute anyone for it.

"Sir?"

Mulder snaps to attention. Apparently the sheriff believes that he is distracted by the paramedics attempting to work over his father. He's not, not beyond a faint horror that they might be able to revive him. "Yes?"

"I'm sorry that you found your father this way," the sheriff says, and sounds like he means it. "I wish no one ever had to be the one to find a loved one after they've passed away."

"I didn't think..." Mulder trails off. "I know he suffered from depression, but he was doing better lately. We went on a vacation a couple of months ago and had a great time, so how could I know something like this was coming? What am I going to tell my kids?" ::God. What am I going to tell them? I can't sit them down and say "Bumpa killed himself to protect your baby brother and cousin Ryan"!::

The sheriff gives him a sympathetic look. "So you're saying that this was unexpected. What prompted you to come up here today?"

"Um. I was going to surprise him by inviting him on a fishing trip. I thought I'd bring him to... to buy the rod he's been talking about getting..." To Mulder's surprise, his eyes fill with tears. The fishing trip is a fabrication, so why does he feel like he is really has been let down that benign way?

"It's okay, Sir," the sheriff tries to sound like he means it. What he actually means is that he and the paramedics will deal with the body. The body. How had his father become "the body"? "We'll bring him to the hospital, and they will pronounce him there."

Mulder wipes a fist across his eyes. "And after that?"

"Well, there will be an autopsy. It's just a formality. After that we'll release the body to whatever funeral home you and your family choose to use," he says slowly, as if he doesn't expect Mulder to be able to understand him. "This will probably take a day or two. It will give you time to make arrangements."

"Right. Arrangements," Mulder mutters to himself. "I've got to go home and make arrangements. Maybe my mother..." But he doesn't really want to bother his mother, given that he knows she's not in the best of health even though she won't talk to him about it. At least she apparently has decided to fight her illness this time. He'll have to arrange the funeral himself.

The other man looks slightly concerned. "Do you think you're okay to drive? I know this has been quite a shock."

At this, Mulder's nods slightly. "I'll be okay. I'm in law enforcement myself. We're meant to deal with this sort of thing."

"True. The usually not when it involves our own families."

"Usually," Mulder agrees.


Debbie's Good Eats

The fat on the plate underneath the hamburger has begun to congeal by the time Mulder reaches the diner and finds Krycek sitting at the counter. Only half the burger has been eaten anyway, so Mulder suspects that he only ordered it so he wouldn't look completely out of place. For a man that has just disposed of two bodies in an undisclosed location, Krycek looks more annoyed than paranoid.

"Took you long enough," Krycek grouses as he toys with the cold French fries.

Mulder ignores him. "Let's go."

There's still steam rising from Krycek's coffee mug, so Mulder suspects that he's drank at least a couple. When he drains the mug and plunks it down on the counter, Mulder resists the impulse to ask him if he needs to hit the head before they go. Missy probably asks him things like that. He doesn't need it from Mulder too.

Instead Mulder leads the way out of the diner.

When they get to the car Mulder has the urge to ask if he should drive, but he's been blindsided by a weariness of the soul, and decides against it. Krycek doesn't ask him to drive, so he gratefully slumps in the passenger seat.

He has half a mind to take another nap, but Krycek speaks. "I've been thinking about what your father said. Do you think there are any more children out there? Missy's and mine?" He sounds worried.

"My dad said the other kids aren't yours."

"Would he know?"

Mulder shrugs.

"Have you ever stopped to think about what they must have done to Emily before she was even born?"

"Thought about what, specifically?"

"I was taken in August. She was born November of that same year. When Missy told me that the girl was mine, I thought she was out of her mind. You don't get live babies at less than five months gestation-" Krycek doesn't notice when Mulder winces. "-much less three months. to humor her, we did a DNA test. Then we did it twice more with two other companies. She's mine without a doubt."

"Of course. She even looks like you."

Krycek shakes his head. "When the impossible became the truth, I was terrified the whole first year we had her. Every time Missy had your kids over, I'd find myself compulsively comparing Emily to Page. Did she look older? Was she getting taller?"

"Neither," Mulder awkwardly assures him.

"I know. My eyes told me that every time. I just didn't trust them. Eventually I forgot to worry about it any more. At least until Missy got pregnant. Then I worried that something in how they changed my DNA made Emily's accelerated gestation happen. And if it could happen again. I couldn't stop wondering how we'd explain a baby conceived during the summer being born before winter."

Mulder is fascinated by his brother-in-law's uncharacteristically sharing mood. "Did you tell Missy what you were afraid of?"

Krycek snorts. "Of course not. In my place you wouldn't have either. I just decided to wait and see."

"It worked out all right. I don't think you'll have to worry next time."

"There isn't going to be a next time. Your wife and our mother-in-law might have taken to pregnancy all right, but Missy hated it. She's not interested in doing it again."

Mulder doesn't ask if Krycek wanted more than two kids. Most people are happy with that few.

The brief conversation seems to suck up their allotted quota of words. Missy's CD is the only sound the next three hours home.


Mulder-Scully home
Late

Only the front light is still lit up by the time Krycek drops him off. It takes Mulder two attempts to stab the key into the lock and let himself into the house.

A light he doesn't turn on himself floods the room, and he finds himself looking at his wife. The day's events must be written on his face, because she looks at him and cries, "Mulder, what happened!"

He shakes his head softly. "We found him. He's dead, Scully. My dad is dead."

"Oh, Mulder..." Instantly her eyes fill with tears. "Did you..." She trails off for a moment, looking uncertain. "...find out what he was afraid of? For the kids?"

"Yeah. Someone made a prophecy, and they think that it's about you and Missy. About your children," Mulder says with a sigh.

Her face is a sudden mask of surprise. "Why would they believe my sister or I had anything to do with a prophecy?"

"When you were little, they were at your dad's base to conduct an experiment. They decided that you and Missy had psychic gifts and you were going to pass them along to a special child. A boy with red hair. Missy I can see being psychic, but you? You don't have a psychic bone in your body."

The smartass facet of his personality feels like making a joke, but he pushes the impulse aside. :: I could say that she had a psychic bone in her body when I could read minds, but she'd just point out that the penis doesn't have any bones in it unless it's a dog's::

He's surprised when her face crumples. And even more surprised that she puts her hand to her mouth.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

"Maybe it's true," she says behind her fingers.

This makes him feel uneasy. And he immediately thinks about the deal he made with Elsbeth. But she couldn't know anything about that, could she? She's never mentioned deja vu. "Why do you say that?" he asks cautiously.

Her breath comes in a hitching sigh. "When you were gone, Gibson had dreams. He dreamed about you being tortured."

"What does that have to do with you-" he starts to interrupt.

"Me too. I dreamed about you being tortured too," she says quietly.

"When?" he asks, startled.

"All the time. The dreams only stopped when you were in the ground."

"Jesus. Why didn't you tell me?"

She laughs mirthlessly. "I thought you had enough trouble adjusting when you came back. There was nothing to gain from telling you. So I didn't."

"So... if there's something to the theory that you and Missy have some degree of ESP maybe the prophecy isn't entirely unbelievable," Mulder says slowly.

"Of course it isn't," she replies sharply, startling him. "We already have significant evidence that April is in tune to something most people aren't. Sammy might not be, but who's to say how William or Ryan might turn out? They can't even talk yet, so it'd be foolish to assume anything yet."

"The prophecy says that this red-haired boy who will become a liaison to the aliens, so that rules out April. They also don't think it Sammy, probably for the reason you pointed out. But they wanted my dad to take William and Ryan. That's why they kidnapped him. He refused to be a party in his grandson's abduction." Mulder looks down at his feet. "That's why he killed himself too."

"I'm so sorry..."

"He was a good grandfather. I wasn't wrong about that," Mulder says insistently, even though she hasn't objected to the statement.

"I know he was. I know."

"So that's why I had to let him die when he asked me to. There was time to try and save him. But he didn't want me to, so I didn't."

"It's okay," Scully says wrapping her arms around him.

It doesn't feel okay. But he knows he'll have to live with it.


October 10th, 2001

It doesn't rain the day that they bury Mulder's father. Standing there with his wife and children, Mulder can't help but think that. There had been a steady downpour the last time the man had been laid to rest.

The last time Mulder had only had Scully at his side, occasionally offering awkward condolences for a man who was basically a stranger to her. Now she and their children share in his grief. Standing with Alex and Missy, even Emily looks stricken, and Bill wasn't her grandfather, just her cousins'. Sammy and Page are taking his death the hardest, crying throughout the funeral.

April is sad too, but the sorrowful glances she keeps giving her father leave him with the uneasy sense that she isn't just thinking about her grandfather. Mulder is half sure that she already knows that he's leaving.

In his arms William stirs fretfully. Scully mentioned that she thinks he might be cutting his first tooth early which is something Mulder thinks of with awe; once upon a time he'd only known the boy for two precious days. Now he'd had almost five months in which to get to know his small son. William is special to him now because of his developing personality, not just because he was Scully's longed for child.

It is going to be so hard to leave them all. But as much as he wants to stay, it's the only way he is going to keep Sammy, William and Ryan safe.

And that's more important than anything else.

He tears his thoughts away from leaving when he feels a tug on his suit jacket. Looking down, April's dark eyes meet his own. "Yes?"

"Daddy, I'm sorry," she says solemnly.

"For what?"

To his surprise, she heaves a tremendous sigh. "Bumpa is not sleeping. Not like you was."

"I know, sweetie."

"You're going to miss him. He was your daddy." April looks very sad for him. Knowing that she watched him put into the ground, he understands her empathy.

"Yes, he was." Though the man they're burying wasn't related to Mulder by blood, he's the only man Mulder can think of as his father. Even knowing the truth of the matter doesn't change how he feels. "We're all going to miss him."

April throws her arms around his waist and squeezes him. "Yeah, we will." When he looks up, Mulder sees his mother approach Bill's casket and feels an old stir of guilt. In his old life he wondered if asking her about Samantha had been the catalyst that made her kill herself, rather than the disease Scully had insisted had been her motivation. He hadn't needed information from her now, and she was still among them, so that was as definitive an answer as he could ever hope to get.

Tina's mouth moves, and Mulder can't hear what she's saying. Goodbye, probably. Would she be Bill's widow now, if Samantha hadn't been so brutally ripped from their lives so many years ago? Or would they have had to change things much earlier, before his conception sealed her husband's betrayal? As they begin to lower Bill Mulder into the ground, his son can't help but wonder what the man might have changed if he'd had an Elsbeth of his own.


October 15th, 2001

Though they know they ought to leave as soon as possible, things have a way of delaying people when the journey they need to take isn't one of their own choosing. Eventually Mulder finds that his bags are packed, and he and Krycek are about to leave. It seems like years since the funeral, but it's only been a handful of days.

The last few days he spent at home gave him an opportunity to have a fight with Scully. "Are you sure you want me to do this?" Mulder had asked two days before he and Krycek planned to leave.

"You know the answer is no. But what choice do we have? If you don't go and find them, and route them out, we'll be looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives. I don't want you to leave. But you can't stay."

He had nodded before blurting out. "We have to tell them."

Scully had looked puzzled. "Who?"

"The older kids," Mulder had said patiently. "They're too big to fob off lies on to."

"Mulder! They're practically babies."

"No, they're not. They're old enough to handle this."

"Mulder..." She had wrung her hands, making him feel like a heel.

"Didn't you tell me that we can't wrap them in cotton wool? It may seem like we're protecting them by not letting them know what's going on, but what if it makes things worse? What if we keep them in the dark, and something happens because they don't know to be wary?"

He has to force himself not to look away when his wife's eyes fill with tears. "Okay."

Krycek has won a similar argument with Missy, which is why they're walking into Dennys with Page, Sammy, and Emily. The kids think that the breakfast is an unexpected treat. Mulder is worried they'll feel betrayed by the end of it.


Though they get glares from other patrons, they opt for the smoking section. None of them intend to smoke, of course, but it's mostly empty. A waitress settles them into a booth before disappearing. Mulder wonders if he'll recognize her when she comes back.

"Daddy, can we get waffles?" Sammy asks eagerly. "With strawberries and whipped cream?"

"Sure. If that's what you want."

After a few moments of excited chattering, the three children decide what to have for breakfast. The adults wait for the waitress to come and take their orders before they begin to talk to the kids.

After a moment to chewing on his lower lip and trying to decide where to begin, Mulder begins speak. "We have something serious we need to talk to you about."

All three kids look up. "What?" Page asks.

"Before he died Bumpa was worried about you guys. Especially Sammy, and William, and Ryan."

Sammy puts down the fork he's been playing with. "Why? What did we do?"

Mulder pats him on the shoulder. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"Then why was he worried, uncle Fox?" Emily asks.

Mulder studies her for second. She's no longer Scully's daughter, but it's clear that Scully isn't the only one in her family to pass on intelligence. He also grudgingly admits that his brother-in-law isn't quite an idiot, either.

Krycek answers her. "We don't want you guys to worry, but we also think you're big enough to know the truth. Some of the bad men that we've punished before-" None of the three children realize that Krycek has a criminal past. They've been allowed to believe that he's simply a person who used to work with Mulder and Scully, much like John and Monica currently do. "-want to take William and Ryan away from home."

"Why??" all three children demand to know.

The adults shrug. "It's hard to understand why bad guys do anything," Scully tells them at last. "But we know for sure is that they want little boys with red hair."

"What about me?" Sammy asks. "And April. And Mommy."

Though he more than half expects Page to correct Sammy, and tell him that April and their mother are not boys, she says nothing. "Well, we think that they are mostly interested in very little boys. Ones too little to talk," Scully explains.

"However, we had the same worry. Which is why we're telling you this now. We wanted you to know that you should be careful of strangers. More careful than just every day stranger-danger careful. Don't talk to anyone you don't know. If you see anybody near the babies that you don't know, tell an adult right way."

They all look surprisingly calm, bolstering Mulder's conviction that they were old enough to know was going on.

"No strangers. Okay. We can do that," Page says, and Emily and Sammy agree.

"We knew we could count on you," Missy says, speaking for the first time. "We don't think there will be any danger, but just in case we're glad that you know what's going on too."

Next comes hardest part.

Krycek is frowning when he says, "We have something else we need to tell you too."

By the time the waitress appears with their breakfasts all three kids are in tears, which has too often been the case over the past five weeks. Mulder wishes that they could answer their questions about how long they'll be gone, but "we don't know" seems better than a lie. At least they won't be waiting for that date to come and go, without their fathers returned home.


The kids seem slightly less traumatized by the time that Missy and Krycek gather them to bring to the elementary school, but Mulder is not looking forward to an encore goodbye once he and Scully get home.

It turns out that the younger kids are less upset that he's leaving, but Mulder wonders how much of that is because they don't understand how long he might possibly be gone. There are fewer tears, and he allows himself to be grateful for that without analyzing too much why that might be.

"I want you to be good for Mommy, okay?" Mulder asks his younger children. April nods but David and Jared fidget indecisively. "Boys?" he prompts.

"Okay, Daddy," they finally agree.

Christopher merely looks confused, but he returns Mulder's hug. "I'll see you soon," he promises even though he knows the toddler has very little grasp of how time works.

Though he'll never admit it to anyone, William is the hardest to leave behind. The last time they were separated, Mulder didn't see him again for more than two years, and then only in a courtroom.


An Hour Later

The first leg of their journey comes to an abrupt halt when Krycek pulls into the parking lot of a coffee shop. "Hungry already?" Mulder asks dryly. "This is going to be a long trip."

"There is someone I want to talk to before we leave," Krycek explains.

In between breakfast and lunch the coffee shop is mostly empty. Whoever Krycek intends to meet has not arrived yet. Mulder gives him a questioning look. "Who are we here to talk to?"

"Marita Covarrubias."

Somehow, this makes some sense to Mulder. He's not sure why Krycek continues to associate with the woman, considering they have no romance going on in this lifetime. ::At least they better not:: Mulder thinks as he considers his sister-in-law's potential capacity for crime of passion. And if there's any truth to what Scully told him about her sister's reputation years ago over a bottle of wine, Alex ought to be too worn out to sniff around other women.

Krycek looks disappointed that his revelation has not gotten more of a reaction. "You don't look that surprised."

"I'm not. People like her play both sides," Mulder tells him. "I just can't figure out what you have over her to get her to help you."

The ghost of a smile creases the other man's face. "What makes you think it's anything to do with me?"

"So you're saying she's just motivated by revenge?"

"You say that like revenge isn't enough," Krycek admonishes him. "Revenge is an engine that powers many weapons."

"True enough," Mulder concedes. "But-"

Before Mulder can get his next question out the slim blonde woman has taken a seat on the bench across from him, but taking care not to press up against Krycek. She looks far better the last time Mulder saw her, so it makes him wonder what she's been doing since then. And with who.

"Do you have photos?" Marita's smoky voice holds a hint of mockery. "If I'm to play bodyguard, I'd like to see my charges." Her statement is something of a joke, because that is not actually what she's doing for Krycek. Instead, she's merely promised to keep a weathered eye out in their absence.

They pass her photos of the three little boys, and she glances at them briefly. Then she looks up at Krycek. "It will be easier if your wife spends a lot of time with her sister."

"I'm sure they will. They normally see a lot of each other anyway, and I'm sure there will be a lot of complaining about us to be done while we're gone."

"Cynic," Mulder accuses. Krycek shrugs.

"You're leaving today?" Marita asks.

"Yes," Krycek tells her.

She nods and tucks the photos into her purse. "I would say that you owe me one, but if you manage to get rid of that nest of vipers, then I guess we'll be even."

They leave without saying thank you, nor does she tell them good luck. It just doesn't work that way with her.


"Why California?" Krycek asks Mulder as they get into the car.

"I heard a rumor about other kids like Emily there. It's as good a place to start as anywhere."

Instead of disagreeing Krycek puts the car into drive.


Chapter One Hundred and Eight



November 2001

Reyes takes a long, comfortable drag off her cigarette, walking down the hallway. In her earpiece, she can hear Doggett and Follmer grouse about the nitty-gritty details on the operation, and has to force herself not to roll her eyes. Her longish hair is both a nice cover and muffler, but it's up to her and the various cameras placed all over the apartment to keep an eye on Erwin Lukesh. She stands in front of the wall of mailboxes, her dark brown eyes scan the rows and columns until she finds the number she's looking for, 3-C. It doesn't take long to get a hold of all the envelopes the FBI have carefully shoved into the box that morning, and she pretends not to notice that a lot of the agents have given her their junk mail. A sidelong glance reveals she's not alone, as Lukesh has joined her, opening his box, 4-D.

Ignoring the further grumblings between the former lover and current, she puts most of the envelopes into her jacket pocket, turning away from the chubby man to open something marked "Urgent." When she finds it's only more junk mail, she sighs, a plume of smoke escaping the side of her mouth. Turning back, she sees no sign of Lukesh, then spits the cigarette out, stubbing it out with the sole of her shoe. "Where is he?" she asks in a low voice, pulling her gun out.

The earpiece, covered by her longish hair, crackles as Follmer tells her, "Down the hallway, Agent Reyes. And keep your distance, or he may see you following." Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she keeps herself from retorting that it's Lukesh that's been doing a good job of keeping his distance, always out of sight but definitely the serial killer cutting out women's tongues. Hearing the creak of a door, she runs towards it, catching it with her gun and nudging it open again.

Meanwhile, sitting the back of an oh-so-nondescript white van with Follmer and a techie, Doggett squints at the various monitors filling up the rest of the space. "Monica, where are you?" he says, keeping his tone even, as it seems she, like their quarry, has disappeared from sight.

"In a stairwell," she replies, her voice low. "I don't see him. Do you guys-" And a sudden, immense pain fills her head, and the blackness begins to spread, along with nausea. As she loses consciousness, she fires off in the direction she's guessing her attacker is, but slumps over before she can confirm a hit or miss.

Hearing the gunshots over the receiver, both Doggett and Follmer practically explode from the back of the van, guns out and race towards the apartment. Running past the mailboxes, they head down the hallway and out towards the stairwell. They find her slumped on the stairs, looking like she's asleep except for her very bloody neck, and Follmer shouts, "Agent down, back stairwell, get EMS here now!" Then he kneels at her feet while Doggett runs out, hoping to get a glimpse of Lukesh. His blue eyes scanning the dimly lit scene, the blond AD shouts, "Doggett! He's got her gun!"

"Shit," Doggett mutters under his breath, then sees Reyes' attacker twenty feet away. "Erwin Lukesh! Federal Agent!" he shouts, wanting so badly to shoot first and shout later. "Turn around, you son of a bitch."

The chubby, balding man turns slowly, his face expressionless and hands covered with blood. The sight alone is enough to get Doggett's blood boiling, and he can feel a vein bulging in his forehead as he walks toward the bastard that got Monica. Police sirens alert both men that there are more lawmen to help Doggett, and the FBI agent turns his head, waving the cop cars over. "Over here!"

When he turns back, there's nobody there. The hell? Doggett thinks, knowing it's impossible to disappear in that open, enclosed space in that short a time. With no time for any practical reasons or explanations for the unexplainable, there is a psycho killer here, and he can't have gotten far. He finds himself scanning the area, his eyes and ears sharp, his whole body tense and alert. And then he notices something else that's weird - the street is empty. There are no cop cars blocking the exits, there are no FBI agents rushing the scene, it's just him. Oh, shit, he thinks, his eyes wide with a realization almost as fast as his reflexes, which has him spinning around, his gun pointed at Lukesh, who has a gun pointed at him.

Two shots are fired, and both men fall.


Doggett's House

Doggett yawns, and so does Reyes. "I don't wanna go to work," he grumbles, tiredly strapping on his thick stainless steel watch onto his right wrist.

"Then don't." She smiles, pulling down more of the covers to reveal, well, more of her.

He gives her a stern look as he sits up, but it soon matches the smile on her face. "Monica, boring as the X-Files have gotten without Fox Moldah digging up God-knows-what, we gotta clock in," he says, trying to convince himself as much as her, even though they're both naked as jaybirds and he'd really like to get back to doing what they did last night. "Besides, that AD is tryin' to be more of a pain in the ass than Kersh was, and that takes some doing." He stands and pulls his boxers on, figuring that more of a distance between him and the bed (and Monica) would mean less pull either would have on him.

She laughs, but doesn't argue. "Come here before you hit the shower," she says, and when he leans over, she gives him a long, lingering kiss. "Mm." She smiles, "I may have to join you."

"Then we'll never get to work," he retorts, and jumps away from the laughing temptress. "Be nice and give me a few minutes to get cleaned up, okay?"

"Okay," she says, the smile still on her face. Then the bathroom door closes, and it's not long before she hears the shower running. Still smiling, she closes her eyes, telling herself she'll give him a couple of minutes before she joins him.

Then the phone rings, and she sighs, crawling over to John's side of the bed to answer it.


"Agent Reyes?" Skinner says, his voice crackling a little through the landline.

"Yes," Reyes replies, automatically straightening her posture somewhat.

"It's Doggett. He's been found in an alley off Dillon Park. He's been shot."

"Wait, what did you say?" Even as she asks this, she gathers the bedcovers to cover herself, in case there were hidden cameras. Perhaps this is some new kind of reality show where they play sick jokes on people.

"They're taking him in the Washington Memorial," says the unrelenting solemn voice on the other end. "Agent?"

And now she notices that the shower has stopped, and she races to the bathroom. There's no one there, no sign of John in the bathroom, no moisture in the shower, no way he could've escaped through that tiny (and stuck) ventilator grill, no smell of a man with overnight musk lingering... Her hand hangs onto the phone, even as it falls limply to her side. "John?" she asks, her dark eyes wide with confusion, wondering what the hell just happened. "John?"

Meanwhile, Skinner thinks the connection may have dropped, or maybe somebody got to her, too. "Agent Reyes? Agent Reyes?" he asks.


At the hospital, Reyes leaves the elevator and walks down the hallway, sure that this is all some kind of strange joke. Or odd game - with the X-Files, she's never quite sure. If John managed to rope Skinner into this, I'm impressed, she thinks. When she stops at the counter to talk to the clerk, she pauses when she sees Follmer. "Brad?"

"Monica?" he says, and she could almost swear he's deliberately keeping his tone and expression neutral. Is he in on this, too? she wonders, her paranoia reaching new levels.

"Oh, so Skinner called you, too," Reyes observes aloud.

The AD nods briskly. "He's staying at the crime scene. I've been put in charge of this investigation." He pauses, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I promise you, it's my top priority. I will find a person who did this. I just need to find out why your partner was in that alley this morning."

She smiles ruefully, brushing off his hand. "There's no way he could've been," she disagrees, "he was at his home. In fact, that's where Skinner called me."

It doesn't take the AD long to put one and one together, but now he frowns. "That's not possible."

She's about to ask him if he's joking, but decides against it and walks off, only to bump into Scully. They both murmur apologies and compose themselves, and Scully is the first to speak a complete sentence. "I hate to tell you this, Monica, but Agent Doggett is just coming out of surgery and they're moving him to the ICU."

Follmer reacts to this seriously, "How's it look?"

Just as soberly, Scully answers, "If he pulls through, it's likely that he'll be paralyzed for life."

Reyes looks at the red-haired woman, then at the blond man, a somewhat bemused smile on her face. "Okay, joke's over, guys. I can't believe John would pull this kind of elaborate stunt, but it's good, I've got to admit."

Scully and Follmer look at each other, then at the tall brunette, shocked, then steer her towards the ICU.


"This... this can't be happening," Reyes says, her face still a mask of shock as she stares through the glass at Doggett's unconscious body lying in a hospital bed, his neck held in a cervical collar and looking quite unlike the man she saw heading for the shower this morning. "I was with him at his home, Dana." She turns to the shorter woman. "How is this possible?"

"I," Scully starts, then looks away, over to the man seemingly asleep in the room. "I saw something once," she continues. "It's only been the last couple of years that I've... fully come to terms with it. In '94 my father passed away... and that night... at the very moment that it happened he came to me. I like to believe that he came to say goodbye."

Reyes reaches over and puts her hand on the other woman's arm. "A visitation." She smiles warmly. "I think that's wonderful." The smile disappears when she, too, looks at the man in the bed. "But that's not what happened to me."

Scully's cell phone rings, stopping her from snapping at her friend who's obviously in shock and denial. "Scully," she says tersely.

What follows is a brief conversation that Reyes doesn't bother to pay attention to, instead, she's still trying to reconcile the sight of the prone man before her with the more than healthy and totally hot man who headed for the shower this morning. It's only when Scully says, "Monica," that she turns, and sees the same grim look that greeted her earlier at the hospital.


The day keeps getting stranger and stranger for Agent Monica Reyes. First, there's the call from Skinner telling her that Doggett had been shot, and right when she hears that, Doggett disappears from his shower. Next, she goes to the hospital, to find Doggett not only shot, but practically in a coma. Then came the indignity of the interrogation that all but accused her of shooting the man she loves in an alley at least fifteen miles away from where she and John were this morning.

And now she's back at the hospital, sitting beside the man she supposedly shot, holding Hannah on her lap as the tears continue to flow down the little girl's face, stroking the soft hair with one hand while holding her lover's hand with the other. Standing beside her like two pale sentries are Luke and Gibson, neither one wanting to cry aloud, but their silence and trembling lips betray their pent-up grief and rage.

"This can't be happening," Reyes murmurs to herself, which only makes Hannah cry harder, burying her face into the dark-haired woman's shoulder. "Shhh, shhh," Reyes absently continues to stroke the girl's hair, unaware that she, too, is crying.

When Scully and Skinner walk into the room, she lifts her head, tears still streaming down her face, her expression an unspoken accusation.

For once, it seems Skinner is at a loss for words, but then his eyes narrow behind his glasses. "Luke, Gibson, take Hannah outside. We need to talk to Agent Reyes."

"Hey, she's innocent!" Luke shouts. "Why don't you guys do your job and find the real asshole who shot my dad?!"

"They will," Gibson says quietly, putting a hand on his friend's arm.

"Oh yeah, they're doing a great job." Luke scowls, shaking off the shorter boy's hand angrily.

"Luke, Gibson," Reyes says, her cracked and broken voice surprising even her, "take Hannah outside." When Luke continues to protest, she shakes her head. "It's okay. Really. Wait for me outside, okay?" It's only when the door closes shut behind the children that the woman's demeanor changes, from grieving and supportive, to hard and weary. "All right. Talk."

Scully finds the parallel between Monica's situation and her own almost intolerable, especially in light of her history with similar things happening to Mulder because of their search for the truth and sense of justice, including death, and even now, he's on the hunt for those remaining conspirators who would hurt their families. Forcing that last thought to the back of her mind, she says evenly, knowing that the woman needs the truth, not coddling, "Follmer's case has a couple potential holes. For one, there's the fact that when Skinner called you, you were at Doggett's home, more than fifteen miles from the crime scene. Plus there's the condition of your gun."

"It hadn't been fired." Reyes nods.

Scully nods back, "However, the bullet does match your gun. Perfectly."

Now Reyes looks more intently at the other woman. "None of this makes any sense. What about the eyewitness? What can you tell me about him?"

Before Skinner or Scully can say anything, Doggett's fingers twitch, and Reyes nearly drops his hand. "John!" she gasps when Doggett's eyes fly open, then close.

"Is he conscious?" Skinner asks the only medical expert in the room.

"I don't know." Scully shakes her head a little. "It could just be a muscle spasm. It's not uncommon with this type of spinal injury."

Skinner's eyes narrow as he watches Doggett's fingers, "That's not a spasm. That's Morse code."

"What'd he say?" Reyes looks up at him.

But Skinner's not the only one who can read Morse code. "Lukesh," Scully answers instead, her face changing from detached doctor to a very alert FBI agent.

"What? What does that mean?" The dark-haired woman leans toward Scully now that Doggett's fingers have stilled, his message sent.


It feels weird to Reyes that she's back in her apartment, even though it's only been a couple of days over at Doggett's home. And now that she's here, it feels less like home- in fact, she wants to be with Luke, Gibson and Hannah, but Scully insisted on taking in the kids, at least for the time being. "As if she doesn't have enough problems of her own," Reyes mutters, as if speaking normally would cause an echo or something.

A knock at the door startles her, and she looks through the peephole. Sighing, she unbolts the door, then opens it. "Yes?" she says, as politely as she can under the circumstances.

"Doggett hasn't regained consciousness since his message," the bald man says, quickly stepping inside after surreptitiously glancing around.

Locking the door behind her, Reyes looks at her boss. Well, would-be boss, if Brad wasn't there. And how she wishes he wasn't, more and more each day... "What's with the cloak and dagger?" she asks, as Skinner opens his trenchcoat and takes out a brown file from it.

"Agent, you're still under investigation," Skinner replies, walking away as soon as she takes the file.

Opening the file, she glances at the name that practically leaps out. "Erwin Timothy Lukesh?"

"Have you even seen him before?" Skinner asks, not aggressively, but curious.

She looks back down at the photo, shaking her head. How does John know him? She wonders as she reads aloud from the file, "1995. Patient at the State Psychiatric Hospital at Gaitersburg. Diagnosed with a delusional disorder anger sub-type that presented itself shortly after the suicide death of his father."

Skinner nods. "After four months, he was deemed fit for release. He lives with his invalid mother in an apartment adjacent to the crime scene."

"This witness, what did he say?"

The bald man purses his lips as if he's got something distasteful, then says, "Lukesh claims he heard a bang, went downstairs to investigate, saw Doggett lying on the ground and that you shot at him when he was running away."

Reyes stares at him incredulously. "I shot at him?" Then her eyes narrow. "So he was wounded... this is the one person we know was in the vicinity at the time of shooting. And how does John know his name?"

Skinner's own eyes narrow when he sees where she's headed. "You think Lukesh shot Doggett?"

She exhales, suddenly dying for a cigarette. "What if," she muses aloud, "Doggett was investigating Lukesh. What if Doggett caught up with Lukesh, and they fired at each other- What if." She looks back down at the abnormally plain man in the black and white photo, "Lukesh is somehow behind all this?"

Skinner's phone rings, diverting his attention. Reyes' attention, however, is on the file. She goes through the contents more carefully now, trying to find some sign of her partner, of how or why he would be involved with this man, and still trying to tease out how her disappearing John and this disabled John is linked to this mad man, for he truly is, no matter what the psych hospital says.

Skinner closes the file folder, and her head snaps up. "Come with me," he says, "we're going back to the hospital."


Washington Memorial

Reyes and Skinner leave the elevator, only to meet with Scully and Follmer halfway down the hallway. "How is he?" Reyes asks Scully as they all head towards Doggett's room.

"Fully conscious," Scully says briskly, although that doesn't fully mask her optimism. "We set up a communication device designed for spinal injuries-"

Follmer interrupts, "Just so we're clear, we ask only the questions I want asked. You're not to try and shade his testimony in any way."

"If you're so concerned, why let Reyes talk to him in the first place?" Skinner asks, clearly irritated.

It galls him to admit it, but, "Because he says he won't talk to anyone but you," Follmer replies quickly. When they reach the door, Reyes walks through, but the blond man stops the redhead and the bald man. "He didn't mention you two," Follmer says smugly.


There's a monitor at the end of the bed, and his fingers are attached to a Morse button connected to a laptop, but all Reyes has eyes for is the man in the bed. "John." She smiles, stroking his face with her fingertips, "hey."

Doggett's own fingers twitch, and the monitor reads, "ALIVE."

"Of course you are." Reyes' smile deepens.

There's a pause, and then he blinks, as if surprised that not only can most of his body not move, but neither can his face. After a while, he types out, "NO YOU HOW OK."

Now Reyes frowns. "Why am I alive? Is that what you're asking? I'm fine, John. Why wouldn't I be?" she asks, confused.

Follmer quickly jumps in, "Have him say who shot him."

Doggett types out, "YOU," and Reyes looks at him, shocked, while Follmer grows smug. But the smug look is replaced with confusion when the bedridden man continues to type "YOUR THROAT CUT."

Reyes leans forward, pulling her long dark hair away from her neck to show him, "My throat wasn't cut, John. What do you mean?"

"LUKESH KILLED YOU. TRIED KILL ME."

And for the first time in a long time, both Reyes and Follmer were thinking the same thing: What the hell???


It was one of the most uncomfortable hospital visits Scully has ever been to, and that's saying something, especially in light of all the ones she's had where either she or Mulder was the patient. And it was probably because of that that her children have become accustomed to it, while Doggett's children have rarely seen him in a hospital gown, much less so incapacitated. Luke was monosyllabic, almost to the point of being mute, while Hannah was a too-bright chatterbox, and it seemed only Gibson held something like a normal conversation with the bedridden man. Scully just stopped herself from thinking that that was because he was a mind reader, she isn't about to go that far.

By the end of visiting hours, Luke seemed relieved, while Hannah started to cry, and Gibson had a familiar, weary look on his face (the same one he had while we were trying to protect him in after rescuing him from the thing pretending to be Mulder, Scully recalls), and the children leave only after reading their father's much-abbreviated wishes of love and paternal admonitions.

Scully had squeezed his hand, then took Hannah's hand, and everyone bundled into the minivan in silence. The only thing any of them said on the way back to her house was, "I hope he gets better soon," and that was Hannah. Scully hadn't the heart to tell the little girl that the fact that Doggett was lucid and intelligent enough to grasp Morse as his only means of communication was a miracle, and kept silent. The older boys went to bed as soon as they finished their homework, while Hannah played up with Page and April, and the rest of her children were either running around or fed by the nanny.

Scully sighs, rocking William to her chest, when her cell rings, startling her. "Scully," she answers.

"Hey, it's me," a familiar voice says on the other end.

"Oh, Mulder." She smiles for the first time in a long time that day. "Is everything okay?"

"I was gonna ask you that," he answers. "I can say that so far, we haven't killed each other. You?"

"John's kids are staying with us for the time being," she says, and fills him in on the details. "Mulder?" she asks after a pause.

"Yeah, I was just thinking," he replies. "You know, I think it would be okay if the kids stayed with Reyes over at Dog, er, John's place."

"What?" Scully blinks.

"From what you've told me, she's pretty much off the suspect list now, most of the kids are old enough to be at home by themselves, and really, what they need now is to support each other. I think it's great that you took the kids in," he says quickly, "but now that Reyes is in the clear and Doggett's awake and communicating, they should be there for each other, don't you think?"

She exhales, then smiles ruefully. "I guess I do tend to be a den mother, don't I?"

"It's what I love about you," he says.

"Mulder," she says before he can hang up, "what about you? Have you found what you're looking for?"

"No," he answers heavily, guiltily.

"Keep looking," Scully says, "if anyone can find them, it would be you two." When William yanks on her cross, she smiles a little. "I'm praying for you."

"Thanks," he says, and it sounds like he means it. "I love you."

"Love you, too," Scully says, and forces her voice not to catch.

"Yeah," he says, and hangs up, before unspoken words like "I miss you, I need you, I wish you were here," and other threaten to be said and overwhelm and undermine them both.

"Please," Scully whispers, taking the small gold cross from her son's chubby fingers to pinch it tightly in her own, "please, let them find what they're looking for, keep them safe, and let them come home soon." She smiles gently when William fusses and she hands the cross back to her child.

"Who was that?" Page asks, curious.

"Your daddy," Scully answers. "He's okay."

"Is he coming home soon?" she says hopefully.

"Not yet," her mother has to say truthfully, and her heart breaks again when she sees her little girl's crestfallen face.

"I miss him," the little blonde girl says, and hugs her mother tightly.

"Me, too," Scully frees a hand to hug her back, closing her eyes against tears that threaten to fall.


The kids are at school, and Reyes is at the hospital. It's almost disturbing how accustomed she's gotten to this new routine, dropping off the kids at school before heading to the basement office to prod and poke at the current case, then driving over to the hospital and spending time with Doggett. The hours fly by and then she picks up the kids from school, drop them off at various activities, do a little grocery shopping and cooking before picking the kids up and having dinner at home.

And she's found that it's better for Doggett and the kids if she brings them over individually rather than en masse, as the pressure for him to want to talk to everyone makes his typing sloppy and the children impatient. Yeah, it's almost disturbing to see how used to this life she has become, but then again, she's never been the type to get thrown by different things for too long.

And besides, she smiles as the doctor finishes up his checkup, she would do anything for this man, this man she loves even if his only form of movement is through his amazing eyes and nimble left-hand fingers. "Hey, you," she says, sitting beside him.

"HEY SEXY," Doggett types.

Reyes snorts. "You're such a bad flirt," she says, grinning anyways.

"HOWS CASE?"

She scrunches up her face. "I think 'fucked up' would just about describe it." When he continues to look at her, she sighs. "Nothing fits. You say I was on the stakeout with you, the kids say..." Then she looks at him. "Hey, what's the last thing you do before you leave the house?"

"LOCK DOOR," he replies.

"Before that," Reyes clarifies.

He looks at her, then types, "STICK PENCIL LEAD IN DOOR HINGE."

A cheap alarm system, to place a mechanical pencil lead in the door hinge, especially if someone was skillful at picking locks and would leave little evidence of a break-in. It was something she'd picked up from the kids, but hadn't seen Doggett do, since she'd always left before he did. And according to the kids, there was no lead, not even a broken piece, around the doors that morning.

"John, what if we were both right?" she leans forward, her eyes wide with excitement. "What if you were at home with me, and I was on a stakeout with you at the exact same time. What would it take for that to be true?"

"WE BOTH HAD TWINS WHICH WE DONT." He doesn't thin his lips in a skeptical line, but he doesn't have to.

"Except maybe we do," she rejoins. "Maybe all of us do. You've heard of the idea of a parallel universe? One that's identical, or nearly identical, to our own. One in which we all have a double. It's theoretical physics but... what if it's real?"

"TOO MUCH STAR TREK," is his answer, and she could almost swear he rolled his eyes.

She smiles briefly, but continues. "You said yourself Erwin Lukesh was known for his impossible escapes. You said that in the alley you looked away only for an instant and he was gone." She snaps her fingers. "And then, somehow, he was behind you. And he shot you. With my gun. My gun, that never left my possession that entire day. What if Lukesh can pass freely from one parallel world to the other? Like," her eyes go to the ceiling searching for the words, and then her gaze returns to him, "like he's opening a door. And what if somehow you followed him through that door without even knowing it." Reyes runs a hand through her hair. "Maybe when you followed Lukesh into this world, my - my John got forced out."

"FUKN WEIRD."

Reyes chuckles. "My John would have called that crazy, too..." Then her gaze holds his with a challenge, "But give me another theory that fits."


Skinner walks into the hospital room, his face grimmer than usual. "There's someone who wants to talk to you," he says, his jaw clenched and his lips barely moving. Doggett merely looks at him, not wanting to waste finger-tapping time on an obvious question. The bald man exhales noisily, then looks away. "Your ex-wife, Barbara."

As Reyes looks on in shock, Skinner taps a few buttons on the in-room phone, then says, "Go ahead."

a voice made tinny by long-distance connection and speakerphone says, "Hi, John."

There is no typed response from the man in the bed, and after a long, uncomfortable pause, the voice goes on. "I assume your boss told you I was calling. Well, I'm surprised I didn't hear the news earlier. I only found out because Hannah-"

A flurry of taps drowns out her words, and Skinner reads from the screen, "You talked to Hannah?"

"Yeah," she says, flustered. "Anyways, I was thinking that it would be best if the kids were with me at this time."

"John." Skinner frowns at the choice language Doggett has so thoughtfully typed. "Um, Ms., um, Barbara, I don't think he thinks that's a good idea."

"What he thinks isn't the issue," she replies. "Luke and Hannah need someone who's going to be there for them, who's able to care for them."

Now Reyes is pacing the room, dying to hit that woman who's thousands of miles away, dying for a cigarette, dying for a chance for that man in the bed to give his ex some lip. Then a thought strikes her.


Both she and Skinner say, "What about Gibson?" and they look at each other.

"Gibson? Oh, that boy John wanted to adopt," Barbara says, her tone dismissive. "Well, I doubt the courts would let someone in John's condition adopt a child, especially a special needs boy like that."

"He's not a special needs child," Skinner corrects her. "And Gibson's paperwork is already finished, I sent in some recommendations myself. All that's left is the processing, and once the last form is stamped, Gibson's legally theirs. Hell, he's practically a part of their family now."

"You keep saying 'they'," the voice on the other end says. "I assume you're talking about that Monica woman?"

Both Doggett and Reyes roll their eyes. "Yes," Skinner responds tersely.

"You do realize she has no legal say or rights regarding my children, right?"

"Stuff it, Babs," Skinner reads, then adds quickly, "That was John."

"I guessed as much," she says. "Listen, John, you may talk tough, but you and I know you can't do a damn thing from where you're at. And while I may be miles away, I'm still Hannah and Luke's mother, and I'm sure the courts would agree that I'd be more fit as a guardian than you are. You're in no shape to put up a fight, and that Monica woman is pretty much out of the picture when it comes to family matters. Just give it up, John."

"Like hell I will," Skinner reads.

"Suit yourself," Barbara sniffs. "You'll be hearing from my lawyers."

The dial tone is loud, and Skinner quickly hangs up. "John, are you sure this is a good idea?"

Onscreen, Doggett replies, "WAS GONNA GIV UP B4. SHE AIN'T TAKIN MY KIDS."

Reyes smiles, then holds his right hand. "I love it when you get all mad and Southern."


That Night

The phone rings, and Hannah, the only one not loaded down with ten hours worth of homework, answers. "Hello?"

"Hi, honey, this is Mommy," Barbara Patrick coos.

"Hi, Mommy," Hannah says.

When he hears that word, Luke's head whips up from his homework and his long legs take him over furniture to get to the phone. "I need to talk to her," he tells his sister urgently in a low voice.

Surprised, Hannah hands it over. "Okay."

"Hey," he says when he hears his mom squawking at Hannah.

"Oh, Luke," Barbara says. "Oh baby, I've missed you so."

"Sure you have," he drawls, deliberately sounding like his father. "This is a record, you calling for about the third time in a couple of weeks. I might have to call CNN."

"Luke, honey, don't be like that," she tries to sweet-talk him as if he were Hannah's age. "You know I've been busy-"

"Exactly," he interrupts her, "what makes you think, with all your busy-ness and being so far away, that you have any say in this family? Or that you think you can be the boss now that Dad's in the hospital?"

"Luke, you make it sound like he got a scratch, when you know it's more serious than that," she admonishes him.

"Please." He rolls his eyes. "We got the 411 on his condition, okay? We're his kids, not idiots. And in about a month, they'll bring him home, and we'll have it set up so that it's all wheelchair-friendly and everything. We've already got his bedroom set up downstairs, and we're getting lots of help with folks wanting to redo the bathroom and everything. So you see," he pauses for effect, "we. Don't. Need. You."

"That's cute." Her son can practically see her sneer down her nose at him. "But you see, you're still a minor in the eyes of the law. You can't take care of yourself and your sister, on top of having to take care of your father as well. There's no way you can do all that, much as you'd like to think you're the man of the house."

Luke narrows his eyes, and if his mother could see him, she'd see it's the same exact expression her ex-husband would have. "I don't have to be man of the house," he tells her, "because Dad is."

"Get serious," she snaps. "Your father is totally paralyzed, with no way of earning a living, no way of talking except tapping like some old lady, and no way of taking care of you! If you think you can call that a man-"

"Shut up!" Luke yells, surprising Hannah into making her cry. "Stop pretending like you care! You don't care about us, you don't care about Dad, and you don't give a damn about anyone except your selfish, stupid self!" He slams the phone down, breathing hard, and then sits down hard on the couch next to his little sister. "I'm sorry, Hannah."

"How come you were yelling at Mommy?" the dark-haired girl asked between hiccups.

"'Cause she's not acting like one," he says grumpily. "She hasn't been, not for a long time." He awkwardly pats her on the head, "C'mon, don't cry. It was her I was mad at, not you."

"Okay," Hannah sniffles. "I can't wait for Monica to get home."

"Yeah, me, too," Luke slumps his shoulders. "Then she can yell at Mom."

"I'd love to see that," Gibson says, and Luke turns toward the guy he's already thinking of as his brother as well as friend. But the smile on the smaller teen's face is strained, as if the situation is hitting him as hard as it does Luke and Hannah.

Luke smiles back at him, but it's a small smile. "Wanna make a bet on that?"

Gibson's strained smile eases up somewhat. "Sure. How about a can of Coke, and she yells on the second call?"

The other teen raises his eyebrows up. "You're on." As Hannah watches her brothers, Luke winks at her. "I say Monica yells on the first call."


It doesn't take long before their wager is called, literally. After a week of hearing a dial tone whenever he picks up the phone, Luke finally yells, "Wow, scared of your own son? What kind of mother are you?"

"I don't appreciate being talked to in that tone," Barbara Patrick says coldly.

"Oh, finally she speaks," Luke comments sarcastically. "Hey, guess what, 'Mom'? There's gonna be a woman helping Dad around the house, and it's not gonna be you."

"You mean that Monica tramp? Don't make me laugh," she retorts, not bothering to hide her venom from her son. As soon as she sees how much it's going take looking after a cripple, she'll be running off to who knows where with who knows what."

"Isn't that what you did to Dad?" Luke shoots back. "As I recall, it didn't take much to get you running, and Dad wasn't even paralyzed."

"How dare you!" she sputters. "There's a lot of things you don't know about me, young man, and a lot of things you don't know about adult issues!"

"Maybe," he says grudgingly, "but there's a lot I do know. I know that we can depend on Monica more than we can depend on you. She's great with Hannah, she's cool with Gibson and me, and she'll never disrespect Dad like you are!"

"Gib-? Oh, you mean that boy that John wanted to take in. Well, he can have him," Barbara says as if she's tossing out the trash. "All I want are you and Hannah. You're mine."

"What?!!?!" Luke's eyes are bulging, but he doesn't even notice that Reyes is making her way towards him. "You-, you-!" There are a thousand things he wants to say, but even he knows not to call his mother those things, no matter how much he wants to. When he feels a hand on his shoulder, he looks up to see the woman he's defending against his mother. "Hey," he says, his eyes pleading with her, "Mom doesn't want Gibson."

The news doesn't seem to surprise the FBI agent, and she nods, taking the phone from him. "This is Agent Monica Reyes," she says crisply.

"I see," Barbara sounds less than pleased. "Hand the phone back to Luke, I have family matters to discuss."

"I don't care what you think of me," Reyes ignores the request, "but you don't talk that way to your ex-husband, and you definitely will not talk that way to your ex-husband's children, which, by the way, includes Gibson Praise. His status in this family is about to be as legally binding as anything blood-related, and I suggest that if you want to further harass your children in this or any other matter, you should watch what you say before you get, at the very least, served with a restraining order."

"Now you listen here, you slut," Barbara hisses. "You've already gotten your hooks into John, I won't let you have my kids as well."

"Your kids?" Reyes echoes in disbelief. "You may have given birth to two of them, but you certainly haven't been acting like a mother. When you decide to take some actual responsibility and have some love for them, I will graciously step aside, but I have a feeling it'll be a cold day in hell before that happens. Goodbye." Then she slams the phone down. "How dare she?" she blazes. "That self-centered little-!" Then she remembers who she's with, and simmers down a little. "Sorry."

"Wow," Gibson says. "You can get scary, even though you're usually pretty mellow."

Reyes chuckles. "You think that was scary? Trust me, scary is if I ever see her in person, I don't know what I'd do..." she trails off when she sees Hannah's lower lip jut out. "Sorry, Hannah."

Hannah shakes her head. "If she doesn't want Gibson, she doesn't really want me or Luke, neither," the little girl says sadly. "I thought she still loved us, but she just wants to be mean to Daddy, huh?"

The brunette sighs, then squats down to hug her. "I'm sorry," she says again. "Grownups sometimes don't act like they should, even if they're your parents."

"She's not gonna take us away, right?" Hannah looks up at her, teary-eyed. "We're gonna stay with you an' Daddy, right?"

"Nobody's going anywhere," Reyes assures her, wiping Hannah's tears, feeling the most rage and bitterness against a woman not connected to a case she's ever felt.

"Damn straight," Luke agrees. When Reyes gives him a look, he sighs. "Sorry."

"Man, neither of us wins the bet," Gibson sighs.

"What?" Reyes blinks. After Luke grudgingly tells her, she laughs. "And how would you know this was my second conversation with her?" she asks.

"Dad told us about this morning's conference call," Luke explains, "and you didn't lose your cool then. And just now, you were tough, but you didn't yell. Well, not 'til after you hung up." He grins. "Are you like Gibson?"

"What do you mean?"

"Like a mind reader," he says, more matter-of-factly than his father ever would.

Reyes shakes her head. "I," she pauses for the right words, "have these feelings, but nothing even close to what Gibson does." She smiles ruefully. "Speaking of which, I have a feeling if we keep taking these calls, we could lose more than our tempers. Just screen the calls and let the answering machine take her messages, okay? There's something I don't trust about her calls."

"Gotcha," Luke nods, as does Gibson, and Hannah has to be reminded a couple times as the night goes on.


Try as they might, however, it looked like Barbara's lawyers were getting the upper hand, and Reyes was seriously thinking about letting loose some bad mojo on the woman. It's obvious to everyone involved that the former Mrs. Doggett was more invested in winning rather than wanting the best for her children, but that doesn't stop the literally and metaphorically distant woman from wreaking havoc with the children's hearts and minds, even at such a great distance.

It didn't take long for Scully to want Barbara's head on a platter after one conference call that left little Hannah in tears, Gibson grinding his teeth, and Luke swinging his baseball bat way too recklessly. Even Skinner was appalled at how lax the FBI-connected lawyers were, and was starting his own inquiries into getting a decent lawyer.

Still, in spite of all the long-distance legal wrangling with Barbara and the closer-to-home stalled investigation, Reyes finds peace simply spending time with Doggett. At the moment, they're listening to some pretty corny country music, her right hand resting lightly on his left. When his fingers start tapping, however, she removes her hand, looking at his face before looking at the monitor.

"BEEN THINKING," he says.

"About?"

It takes a while, but the end result sounds like something he'd say at the end of a crazy X- File. "SOUNDS CRAZY, BUT THINK YOURE RIGHT. 2 JOHNS CANT BE IN 1 WORLD. U CAN FIX"

She looks at him. "How?"

"PULL THE PLUG."

"John, that's not funny," Reyes says, pursing her lips.

"I GO YOUR JOHN COMES BACK. CMON YOUR THEORY SOUND"

She stares at him incredulously. "My theory is sound? You don't believe a word of it, John, not in a million years would you believe. It has nothing to do with my theory and more to do with the damn legal battle and stupid case."

He looks at her for a while, and neither backs down from the other's gaze. Without taking his eyes off her, he taps, "DO U BELIEVE?"

She tears her gaze away to read the monitor, then answers, "You know I do."

"PROVE IT"

"You know I would do anything for you," she says quietly. "But you also know I would do anything for Luke, Gibson and Hannah, and they wouldn't want me to do that. And neither would I."


They continue to stare at each other in silence until Reyes' cell rings. She glances over, then picks it up. "Reyes."

"It's Skinner, are you okay?" he says at the other end.

She blinks. "Yes, I'm fine."

"I can't say the same for Marion Lukesh."

Reyes frowns. "What happened?"

"She's dead," Skinner says succinctly. "It's the exact M.O. Doggett described. It looks like a straight razor was used."

Reyes tells Doggett in a low voice, "Lukesh killed his mother." Then she continues her phone conversation, "Do you have any idea where he is?"

"No," he replies. "But if everything I've heard is true, he's not going to be easy to find."

She shakes her head. "I think he'll find us." When she hangs up, she answers Doggett's questioning look, "Don't worry." Her look becomes determined, almost grim. "The kids will be fine, and so will I." Then Reyes leans over and kisses him on the cheek. "Remember you said you wouldn't give up, not to Barbara, not to anyone. Don't give up on yourself." Then she strokes his short hair and leaves, not looking back to see his eyes follow her.


67 Bennett Ave.
Washington, D.C.

It's early evening, but because of the autumn season, it's about as dark as it would be at midnight. Then again, it took a while to get everything covered, from Skinner guarding Doggett's room, as well as placing a watch for Doggett's kids, and now for Reyes herself around her apartment. She's already thinking of it as her "old" apartment, even though the longest she's spent at Doggett's place is only recently. Walking around in her dimly lit apartment, with more shadow than light as if to invite attackers, she moves about slowly, and scrapes her elbow stepping into the kitchen. "Shit," she swears under her breath, holding her arm as she gingerly moves it.

"You all right, Monica?" Scully asks, her voice crackling in Reyes' ear piece.

The dark-haired woman exhales. "I'm okay," she answers, flipping on a light switch. "I'm just gonna ice this. Anything happening outside?"

"It's dead out there," Follmer answers. "The cameras inside and out show you're the only one around."

"Great, my own reality show," she comments. After strapping a makeshift icepack to her elbow, Reyes declares, "I think I'll check around again."

Rounding the corner to the living room, she steps into the half-lit room, and the icepack slips off her arm, spilling into a slick mess on the floor. "Great," she mutters, bending down to clean the mess. Gathering the wet, icy mess in the saran wrap, she heads back to the kitchen when someone grabs her neck from behind, and the ice flies everywhere. Guided more by the feel of a cold sharp razor at her throat than by his strong hand around her neck, Reyes staggers backward, her eyes wide. When he pulls her close, he notices the ear piece and tears it out, then grins into her ear, "Bet you wanna scream, don't you?"

"Lukesh," she says, her voice flat. The razor presses deeper against her skin when she tries to pry his arms off, and she lowers her hands slowly while breathing shallowly, as if that would lessen the pressure.

"Parked in a van outside was the FBI," Lukesh hisses in her ear, so close that she can't help but shudder. "Try and scream out now. They can't hear you."

"Lukesh," she says calmly, even though she can feel the thin trickle of blood crawl coldly down her neck. The wound is light and barely stings, but she knows he's capable of doing much worse, and that only hardens her resolve.

"You ruined everything, you bitch," he raves. "You made me! You made me do it." The razor wavers around her throat, moving from the front to the side, closer to her jugular.

"Lukesh," she says again, bracing herself.

"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" he shrieks. "But you know what? This time, I get to bleed you slow."

He leans in, raising his elbow to draw a deeper cut, and that's when she raises her gun, shooting him from below his jaw. The FBI marksmen explode through the door, but lower their weapons when they see Lukesh slump behind Reyes, who is standing on wobbly legs. Follmer and Scully run in after to see Reyes drop her gun, and when Follmer starts to bark questions, Scully props up the taller woman, guiding her towards the bathroom, since it looks like she's going to be sick, "Monica, you all right? It's okay. It's over now."

Her hand over her mouth, Reyes manages a small nod, even as tears well in her eyes.


It's late, and the hospital room is empty of anyone save the man sleeping in the bed, his neck encased in a cervical collar, his life sustained by the various machines attached to him by various tubes and wires. Reyes walks into the lonely room, her body radiating a weary resolve as she locks the door behind her before standing next to the man in the bed. Her dark eyes fill with tears full of too many emotions, and she reaches out a hand to stroke his hair.

Doggett's eyes open, and when he sees her there, the blue eyes flicker with understanding. Taking his hand in hers, she leans over to kiss him, then turns off the monitor, followed by the respirator. It doesn't take long for the machine hums to silence themselves, and now the tears fall freely, even as his fingers squeeze hers reassuringly.

"Oh, John," she cries, hugging him fiercely. She doesn't care if anyone sees her, she doesn't care any more, she killed a man out of self-defense earlier, and now she's killed a man because she loves him... Reyes closes his eyes before closing her own, wishing she could end her life just as easily...


And opens them when bright light floods against her eyelids. Confused, Reyes blinks, seeing that it is daytime, perhaps even morning. Then she sees she's in Doggett's bedroom, and she's on his bed, wearing nothing but a bedsheet. What...?

Doggett comes out of the bathroom, clad in boxers and fairly dry. "Hey Monica, the hot water's taking a while, I'm gonna join you for a bit." She stares at him and he stops just short of the bed. "What's the matter?"

Reyes smiles, a blindingly bright smile, gets up off the bed and hugs him tight. He stiffens with surprise at first, then relaxes, returning the hug. "Monica, you okay?" he asks, his voice a low, reassuring growl.

She buries her head into his shoulder. "I'm good," she tells him, still smiling, although tears are running down her cheeks, holding this man, this John, alive, healthy, talking, standing. "Real good."


Chapter One Hundred and Nine



December 25th, 2001
Mid-morning

"Now you open a present, Daddy," Page insists, her young face looking adamant. "You saw us open all our presents, now you open one."

"Which one should I open?" Mulder asks, pointing at three in front of him.

Page looks over her shoulder. "I think April wants you to open hers."

"Is that right?" Mulder asks, and his younger daughter smiles shyly. "Okay, I'll open it."

The package is wrapped in a shiny blue paper, and Mulder knows that the little girl must have enlisted her mother's help, because the wrapping is far too perfect for tiny fingers. He opens it slowly, and smiles when he sees the contents. "Wow."

"You like it?" April asks nervously.

"I love it," Mulder tells her, running a finger down the box to the herb garden. "It has all my favorite herbs."

"Mommy says if'n they grow good, we can use them to cook!" April says enthusiastically. "Then we don't have to buy them at the store when we make skeddie."

"That'll be nice."

"Ours next, ours next!" the twins insist, and to Mulder's pride, neither Sammy or Page insist that they be next instead. They might be gaining a little maturity, he suspects.

The twins give him UFO and alien toys for his desk, Sammy gives him a wallet, and Page proudly presents him with a black wool scarf "so your neck won't get cold." Neither William or Christopher have any interest in picking out gifts yet, but he's rewarded with their enthusiasm over his gifts to them, so he considers that enough.

He and Scully have decided to wait to exchange their gifts to each other until they are alone. A reminder that they are not suddenly fills the screen of Mulder's laptop. "Merry Christmas, Mulder," Langly tells him brightly.

"Merry Christmas," Mulder replies. "Thank you for setting this all up."

"No problem. I think it's about time to wrap this up, though."

"Okay," Mulder says reluctantly. He wishes his wife and children good night, then closes the screen to his laptop which makes his home disappear from view. The hotel room instantly seems more lonely. Sighing, he kicks off his shoes and settles onto the bed. The web camera had been the gunmen's idea, and they're promised that it was the next best thing to being there. He decided that they were probably right.

It wasn't as though they'd decided that the search was more important than Christmas, but a fierce storm in the northeast cancelled all flights to DC... so he and Krycek were stuck in California, unable to get home. The gunmen had been kind enough to walk them through setting up web cameras hastily bought at Radio Shack when it became clear that they wouldn't be home for the holidays bodily.

At least Scully had thought to have him and Krycek take the kids' gifts to them when they left "just in case." At the time it had seemed silly, but now he was idly wondering if there was anything to the tests that had been done on her and Missy when they were small.

Still, gifts with them to open or not, Mulder was more than half afraid that he'd wake up yesterday morning and discover that Krycek had decided to drive back to DC, weather be damned. As bad as missing Christmas is for him, Krycek also just missed celebrating his first anniversary.

Even with Scully's pregnancy with Sammy making her sick and sleepy, their first anniversary had been much more pleasant than the other couple's must have been. Mulder hasn't talked to Missy to find out her thoughts on the matter, but Krycek spent most of the previous night drowning his sorrows at a bar within walking distance. It makes Mulder wonder if they regret having picked Christmas Eve as their wedding date. Ever since he woke up in the hospital and learned that they'd married in his absence, he's been suspicious that Missy must have insisted on a holiday because her little sister had been married on one.

::Please let me be home by Valentines.:: Mulder prays, but he has the sinking feeling that no one is listening this time.


January 7th, 2002

For what seems like the millionth time since his father's funeral, Mulder finds himself a stone's throw from their goal. At least he used to believe that, but these days that sort of hope is thin on the ground.

Their unpaid chauffeur, however, isn't as jaded as his two passengers. "I think it's next street," Kelly, a friend of the gunmen's says with a hint of excitement in his voice. "Yeah, it's right down here," he says as the GPS unit beeps anxiously. The car slows as they approach the address they were given.

"Right..." Kelly's nasal voice falls. "It's supposed to be right here. I don't understand it."

Mulder's eyes trace the scarred ground, where a few blackened timbers poke out of the earth like the fingers of a buried giant. Those few things are the only proof that there'd ever been anything there. Otherwise the growth of the trees and other greenery nearly hides any trace of past human inhabitance.

"Fuck!" Krycek's good fist pounds the headrest in front of him. Mulder doesn't blame him since he feels like throwing an all-out fit himself, just like the twins would when you refused them ice cream.

"Shit. I thought this would be it for sure," Kelly says nervously. "I mean, this is the right address. It has to be."

"Kelly. I'm sure it's right address," Mulder tells him impatiently. "But clearly they've moved. It's been ages since anyone's been here, given how overgrown it is."

"Now what?" Krycek growls.

::Now what? Now we're back at square one trying to do research to find out where the hell they moved this place to.::

"Crap," Kelly says glumly as he peers at the wreckage. "I still owe Melvin one, don't I."

Mulder shrugs. "I don't know. You'll have to take that up with him."

"Damn."

A few minutes later they drive away from the charred remains. It's the fifth dead end they've encountered in California. This month. All total, but probably up to a dozen places that syndicate members had at one point or another held the children the Bill Mulder told them about hostage.


"Why the hell can't they stay in one place for more than a few months at a time?" Krycek grumbles as they returned to the seedy hotel they've been staying in for the past week.

"You know as well as I do they have no intention of making anything easier for anybody. Not even themselves," Mulder reminds him.

Krycek wheels around to face him. "Are you sick of this game yet? We are doing anybody any fucking good, but were stuck here because this is the only solid lead we have. I want to go home to my wife and kids. Don't you?"

"Of course. How can you ask that?" Mulder snaps back.

"Don't say that like you aren't all about the game. You like puzzles."

"Regardless, I like my family considerably more," he says stiffly.

"Right." Krycek inserts the passkey into his door, and leaves Mulder standing in the hallway.

::At least,:: Mulder finds himself thinking. ::we aren't crazy enough to share rooms. One of us would end up dead for sure.::

After kicking off his shoes, Mulder picks up the phone and dials his home phone number. ::At least I can keep in touch this time around.:: He finds himself thinking as he listens to the dial tone. ::At least there's that.::

"Mulder?" Scully's voice asks, making him sure that she's got the caller id on. It took quite a while to convince her that it'd be useful, and he wasn't sure she'd bother with it when he was away.

"Hey."

"Did you have any luck today?"

"No. The place was burned out. Another one that we got to too late."

"Mulder, it's not as though they know you're on their trail and moving to keep a step ahead of you," his wife chides mildly.

"It certainly feels like it." Mulder sighs. "But you're right. This place was torched months ago. I wish that made me think we were getting closer, but we're obviously not finding the places they used in chronological order."

"You'll find it soon."

"I sure hope so. Whose turn is it to talk to me tonight?" Mulder asks then. To reduce hurt feelings, they designed a schedule so everyone got to talk to their father once a week.

"Jared's," she tells him.

A minute later there's a rustling on the other end of the line, and he can hear voices faintly in the background. "Hi Daddy."

"Hey, Buddy, what's up?"

"The cats were bad." Jared's voice holds a note of delight. "They knocked stuff all down. Flour got everywhere!"

"They did? Why?" Mulder has had enough conversations with three-year-olds to know that they talk about whatever they're thinking about. There's no sense in really trying to direct a conversation with one.

"Dunno. Michelle says maybe they knew we was going to have a storm."

Mulder wonders what Scully thinks of that. "Is it snowing again?"

"Yeah! Mommy says we can make snowmen in the morning. Too dark now."

For a second Mulder smiles. If his wife hadn't told them to wait until the next day, he could picture the little boy and his twin sneaking outside to play in the dark.

They talk for a few more minutes before Mulder coaxes Jared into giving his mother the phone. "Tell everyone I love them, Jared."

"I will, Daddy." Mulder stares at the phone once he hangs it up. ::When is this all going to be over so we can go home? Is this ever going to end?::

The longer he's away from them, the harder it is to continue. ::But if I don't, things could go much worse than this. What if they got a hold of William and Ryan? I have to keep reminding myself what's at stake.:: It's the one thing pushing him and Krycek on, despite the painful separation.


January 11th, 2002
New York City

The day after a judge grants him permanent, legal guardianship of Gibson, Doggett takes the family to their favorite restaurant in New York to celebrate. He hopes that Monica and Gibson will enjoy the food as well.

As they enter the restaurant, the hostess smiles up at them from the front desk. "Name?"

"John Doggett."

"Here we are, Doggett party of five," the hostess notes that the younger boy blushes when she says it, but she has no idea why.

"Wow, this is neat," Hannah says as they're lead to their table. "It hasn't changed at all since the last time we were here."

"I thought it would be a good place to celebrate," her father tells her. "It's not every day that a family officially gets a new member."

"Nope," Hannah agrees. "Just having babies, or adopting kids, or getting married, right?"

"That's right," Doggett says, eyeing her suspiciously. Distracted by the arrival of the bread basket, the little girl doesn't say any more on the topic.

A few minutes after their order is taken, Luke leans over and whispers to his father, "Do you remember where the bathroom is?"

Doggett reminds him, and the boy heads off. He's on his way back to their table when he hears a familiar voice. "Hey, Luke!"

When he turns around, he sees a girl he'd gone to middle school with. Katie. Not a classmate he had particularly liked. "Hi."

"What brings you back to New York?" she asks curiously. Luke highly suspects that he'll be gossiped about the following day, and decides to give her something to talk about. "You're not moving back, are you?"

"Nah, we're just here for the night. Come to our table, we're celebrating tonight. I want you to meet my new little brother. The adoption just was finalized yesterday," Luke says enthusiastically, the corner of his mouth twitching.

"Aww, you have a new brother?" Katie croons, apparently misinterpreting his mirth.

"Yeah, come meet him." Luke leads the way across the room, and Katie follows.

When they reach the table she looks confused. Luke smiles broadly. "Katie, this is my new brother, Gibson. Isn't he cute?" Luke asks, ruffling Gibson's hair.

Gibson swats his hand away. "Let me guess, he let you think that his dad adopted a baby, right?" he asks Katie.

"Our dad," Hannah corrects him primly.

"Well... He didn't say you were a baby," Katie says quickly.

"You know what they say about assuming," Luke says with a smirk.

"Luke!" Doggett glares at him. "Behave."

"Ah, nice to see you again, Mister Doggett," Katie says and makes her escape.

Luke looks at Gibson. "Sorry, bro. She totally deserved being made to feel like an idiot, though. I'll tell you why later."

"Whatever. Don't do it again," Gibson says good-naturedly.

"I'd like to make a toast," Reyes announces. "To Gibson, a boy who has found his place, and may he never want for one again."

Gibson flushes again, but his shy smile is pleased.


Late That Night

After dinner they spent a couple of hours at Madame Tussauds admiring the wax figures before driving back home. Since the kids have been up since getting ready for school that morning, they go to bed without any prompting, thus leaving the adults to have a beer and watch the sports channel.

"I was thinking about your toast," Doggett tells Reyes after a while.

"Oh?" she asks, giving him a curious look. "It wasn't very profound, so what's there to think about it?"

"It was plenty profound," Doggett defends it. "I wonder if you feel that way too, that you lack a place."

"Sometimes," she admits. "I think we've all felt that way before."

"What about this point in your life?" Doggett presses.

"All right, what is this really about?" She puts her hands on her hips. "I feel like I'm wading through subtext all of the sudden. What gives?"

Doggett colors slightly, reminding her of Gibson's reaction to the hostess' off-hand comment earlier in the night. After a moment of silence he says, "Things are going good between us. So good I'm beginning to wonder if I should put shopping for a ring on my to-do list."

"No," she quickly replies.

"No?" He gives her an astonished look.

"Oh, John, don't look at me like I just killed your puppy! I think things are going really well, too. And I love you. But we're not getting married."

"Why not?" he asks, trying to keep his voice from wobbling.

"I'm never going to get married," she explains. "It's an archaic ritual, and I don't think it really means anything much these days."

"So you have no plans to settle down, ever? You could have mentioned this soo-"

"I didn't say that." Reyes picks up one of his hands, and he fights the urge to pull away. "I didn't say that at all. If you want to settle down, we can do that. We're just not walking down an aisle."

"How do you see our relationship turning out, Monica? Buying a house together, maybe having a couple of babies, but they'd get your last name?"

"Something like that," she agrees, meeting his disbelieving eyes. "Does that sound so awful?"

"I don't know what to think."

"Do you want me to leave?" Her voice is suddenly small.

"I didn't say that," he echoes her earlier statement. It only reassures her as much as it did him.


January 14th, 2002

Along with permission slips to go to the zoo, David and Jared bring home a cold. They get over it in a day or two, but William catches it from them, and in him it lingers. At day three, a weekday at last, Scully makes an appointment to see his pediatrician. It's probably just a virus, but she wants to make sure it's not strep.

As miserable as he must feel, William makes eyes at the other baby in the doctor's waiting room. It's a little girl, at least judging from the bow held in place by an elastic headband. The sight of it makes Scully a little sad, because it's always struck her as more of a way to show off a parent's insecurity than something that benefited the little girl. As bald as Page had been as an infant, she never gave into the urge to do the same thing to her.

"How old is he?" the other mother leans over to ask once she's noticed that the two babies are staring at each other.

"Almost eight months," Scully says. This leaves her wondering how time has gone by so quickly. The days seem to drag with Mulder off trying to keep the family safe, but time has undeniably passed, no matter how slow the days have passed for her.

"My little girl is seven months," the other mother says with a proud smile. "Joy is my firstborn."

"Oh, William is my baby," Scully replies, hoping that the conversation won't turn to how many other children she has. Some people are less than rational about large families, assuming that all of them are overly religious, and headed by domineering men who want to keep their wives barefoot and pregnant. It's a tedious conversation, every time it turns that way.

"William's a lovely name," the woman says instead. "Is it a family name?"

"My father's name." Scully decides not to mention Mulder's father. His loss is still too fresh a wound, even for her.

"Oh-" She looks up when a name is called. "That's us, nice to meet you." The woman stands and gathers her daughter into her arms.

"You too," Scully tells her. Once the other woman is gone, she picks up a magazine and half reads it while cuddling William on her lap. He's become more fretful since the other baby left the waiting room. All Scully can do is sigh.


Meanwhile...

"Jesus, Mulder, haven't you killed the battery on that thing yet?" Krycek asks, pointing down at Mulder's laptop. "I thought they were only good for 300 recharges."

"I bought a new battery before we left." Mulder doesn't even bother to look up from what he's typing.

"Too bad you couldn't buy new eyes. Yours are bloodshot. Why don't you go get a cup of coffee or something?"

"Okay, yeah." He stretches when he stands, wincing a little when things pop in his back.

Krycek smirks. "That's what happens when you huddle over a keyboard too long. Could you get me a coffee too? Black."

"Just like your heart. All right." Mulder takes the money that Krycek offers him and leaves the room.

As soon as he's gone Krycek pulls out his cell phone. "Marita. I thought I'd never get rid of him."

"You're sure he's gone for a while?" Her voice sounds faintly amused.

"For a few minutes."

"Why couldn't you just of called from your room?"

"The walls are like paper. And he doesn't blare porn like most guys." Krycek shrugs, not that she can see him.

"What did you want?" Marita asks, reminding him that time is short.

"An update and an opinion."

"No one has gone near your families, if that's the sort of update you're looking for. I think they're laying low. Somehow they seem to realize your absence is connected to Mulder's late father."

Krycek swears under his breath. He never should have trusted Kersh to keep his mouth shut. "My fault. But you haven't seen anyone lurking about?"

"No. The tapes come back clean every day. I have hours of lovely footage of your daughter and some of your nieces and nephews playing pirates in the snow, though. Perhaps I can save it for you so you can embarrass them during high school graduation parties," she says dryly.

"Maybe," he mutters.

"What did you want my opinion on?"

"Do you think Mulder is capable of killing, if necessary?"

"He has before, hasn't he?"

"He's slayed monsters. Not slaughtered inconvenient human beings."

"Whether or not they're human is up for debate," she says coolly. "But I think he could kill if it was the only way to protect his hen and all his chicks."

"He doesn't keep poultry, Marita," Krycek says, his brow furrowing in confusion. "Just a couple of temperamental cats and some fish."

To his surprise, this evokes a laugh from the woman. "You're not Shakespeare scholar, Alex. That's how McDuff in McBeth referred to his wife and kids. You should have read it in high school."

"Missed it somehow," Krycek tells her. "I guess I was having enough trouble adjusting to living here back then."

"I keep forgetting that you're not a US citizen," Marita mummers.

"The hell I'm not. I became a citizen before my folks died."

"Sounds like I hit a nerve," she replies smoothly. "I didn't mean to offend you. But getting back to your question, I'm not really sure if he'd kill someone who isn't an immediate threat."

Krycek sighs. "That's what I'm afraid of."


January 17th, 2002
8:30 a.m.

"Come on, Christopher, you need to finish breakfast," Scully encourages impatiently. There's nothing pressing going on at work, so she came home after dropping kids off from school so she could spend a little time with the little ones, but Christopher's refusal to eat is frittering away the time she has before she has to leave.

Ignoring her, Christopher waves an oatmeal crusted spoon towards the window. "A lady!"

Following his gaze, she sees the woman she met at the pediatrician's office. Even from a distance she looks stressed out, and she doesn't seem to notice that the baby she's holding is wailing unhappily.

The hairs rise on the back of Scully's neck, but she can't explain why. "Go see Michelle," she tells Christopher as soon as she releases him from his high chair. The toddler obligingly toddles towards where Michelle is already playing with William.

Scully slowly opens the kitchen door. "Hello?" The other mother's head whips around. "We don't usually have people come to the back door."

In three steps the woman reaches her. "You have to help me!" She grabs at Scully's arm like a drowning victim would.

Scully pushes her hand away, taking care not to accidentally swat the baby. "What are you talking about? Help you how?" She leads her unexpected guest into the kitchen.

The woman looks stricken, and is still shaking when she takes a seat at the table. "My husband. He's looking for us. You can let him find us."

"Why? What's wrong with your husband?" Scully asks, confused. "What did he do?"

"It's not what he's done. It's what he wants to do," the woman says ominously.

Scully begins to feel exasperated. "Are we going to talk in riddles the whole day or are you actually going to tell me what's going on? I don't even know your name."

"Patti."

"Well, Patti-"

Suddenly the door shakes with a pounding knock. Scully backs away from the door. Pattie looks at Scully. "It's him," she whispers.

"What is your husband's name?" Scully whispers to her.

"George."

Reaching to her hip, Scully unsnaps the holster on her gun. In a loud voice she asks, "George?"

The voice on the other side of the door says, "Yeah?"

"George, think I should let you know that I'm armed."

"Jesus. I just want to talk to my wife," the man grumbles.

"I don't think she wants to talk to you."

"Whatever. I ain't leaving without her." There's this slight noise as a man sits down against the door.

"Stay here," Scully hisses at Patti. She nods. Before she leaves the room, she grabs two bottles of water out of the refrigerator, and Christopher's sippy cup off the counter.

Walking quickly, Scully finds Michelle. "I need you to take Christopher and William up to the attic. Don't come down until I call for you." Scully's voice is laced with urgency.

Michelle looks frightened, but she takes the water from Scully before picking both of the boys up. "All right."

"Wait." Scully stops her, and hands her Mulder's spare cell phone. "Just in case."

A minute later Michelle and the two boys disappear from view as she hurries them up the stairs.


"I told you not to come here!"

"What choice did I have?"

Hearing voices, Scully takes her gun out of the holster all together and cocks it. George is in the kitchen now, and she can't figure out why Patti would let him in. She was afraid of him, so why would she remove the barrier between them that the kitchen door provided?

"What are you doing in my house?" Scully asks angrily, and Pattie shrinks back against the counter like a dog might when it knows it's done something wrong.

"I came to get my idiot wife." George takes his baby from Patti, though she tries to keep him from doing so.

"It doesn't seem to me that she wants to go with you." Scully is reluctant to bring her gun up to train it on him, because he could try to use his daughter as a human shield.

"That doesn't matter. I told the dumb bitch you weren't going to help us, but she brought the kid here any way."

"Help you do what?"

"Figure out what's wrong with our daughter," Patti says.

"She's sick?" Scully asks, eyeing the baby. The little girl looks frightened, but not ill.

"No, nothing like that," George says dismissively. "She's got... powers."

Scully's eyebrows raise in disbelief. "Powers?"

"Yeah. She can move things with her mind," George says, then grimaces when he notices her expression. "See, Patti? I told you that she's not the one that can help us. Her husband is the one who believes this sort of thing, not her, and he's not here."

Shock makes Scully sit in a chair. "What do you know about me and my husband?"

"All sorts of things. It's my business to know about you."

"Why? Who do you work for?"

"The department of defense. They've been keeping an eye on you for a long long time."

"What interest does the DoD have in my family?" Scully's voice rises involuntarily.

"You can't do the sort of things you've done without attracting attention," George scoffs. "And your little stunt with Ms Hendershot only renewed the spotlight on you."

"Shit," Scully says under her breath. Then in a louder voice she says, "What did you think my husband could do for you?"

"I...I thought he could explain what they did to Joy," Patti says softly, reaching for her baby. George twists away, refusing to hand her over. Defeated, she lets her arms fall to her sides.

"They?" Scully asks, wondering if there will be aliens in this tale.

"We were part of an experiment," George explains. "They wanted to see if they could make people better soldiers by manipulating their genes after conception."

"So you're saying that Joy is the product of genetic manipulation?"

This makes George laugh, but without humor. "That is the least of it, but yes."

Excitement begins to bubble up inside Scully. "Were there children where you went for the, uh, procedure?"

"A few," Patti says. "They were kids that the program already produced."

It's all Scully can do to keep from whooping with joy. This is what Mulder and Krycek have been looking for. "Where? Where is this place?"

A sly look takes up residence on the man's face. Clearly he's realized it's a bargaining chip. "I'm willing to tell you in fair trade," George says.

"Fair trade for what?" Scully asks, raising an eyebrow. "What do you think I have of any value to you?"

"I want to disappear. Me, Patti, and Joy. If you can make that happen, I'll tell you what you want to know."

"So, you want to be put in the witness protection program? In order for that to happen, of course, you'd have to blow the whistle on-"

George shakes his head violently. "No! Not Witsec. I don't want to go through official channels. Going through official channels would just lead to three dead bodies at the end of the trail."

"Then what?"

"Don't play stupid." George sneers. "I know you know that type of person. The type who can create an entire history out of whole cloth. You have connections. Use them."

Scully hesitates. "If I can help you with us, you promise you'll talk with my husband and tell us what we need to know?"

"I swear on my baby's life," George says passionately.

"I-I don't think you need to go that far," Scully stammers. "I believe you."

"The sooner you get it set up, the sooner I'll meet with your husband."

She looks up, surprised. "Meet with him? Why can't you talk to him on the phone?"

"I don't like the idea of speaking on the phone. You never know who has put a bug on the line, and your line probably is bugged."

This gives her an idea of how to get him out of her house. All she needs to do is prey on his paranoia. "That's true, we've debugged the phones before. Why don't we go somewhere and discuss this? Somewhere less intrusive."

"Why?" George asks. "We're not talking over the phone. There's no one around to bother us, either."

Just before Scully can imply that there's the possibility they could be spied on with cameras or microphones, Patti blurts out, "Her nanny and two of her sons are here."

Scully fumes.

"Why don't you go upstairs and call your husband?" George suggests. "I know you're going to talk to him before you make a deal, so you might as well get it over with. Use your cell phone, that's probably more secure. But don't mention our names anyway."

"Fine," Scully says flatly. "I'm going to send my nanny out to do some errands." She leaves off the part where she asks if he has a problem with that, but he picks up on the unspoken anyway.

"Send her wherever you want. This isn't a hostage situation." As if to convince her, he hands the baby back to his wife. The way Patti clutches her daughter does nothing to make his statement more believable.

A few minutes later Scully watches Michelle put the babies into her car and head for a movie theater in the area that has matinees for people with babies and toddlers in tow. Until now Scully's only thoughts on the idea have fallen along the lines of it being a good idea, because it lets them watch movies without worrying about bothering other movie-goers.

She offers her "guests" refreshments, but George waves her off, repeating that she should get the conversation with Mulder over with. With one backwards glance, she heads upstairs, eager to do just that.


"Mulder pick up, pick up, pick up-" Scully doesn't realize that she's been saying this aloud until she hears a dry voice on the other end of the line.

"Your phone etiquette has gone to hell, Scully."

"Shut up and listen."

For the next five minutes he does while she fills him in on how she came to meet the carefully unnamed couple now hunkered down in their kitchen. "So, what do you think? Do you think they really know where to go?"

There's a lull while he considers what she's said. "I think it's worth meeting with him to see what he has to say," Mulder says at last.

"So you want me to send him to you?"

"No. I want you to bring him to me," Mulder corrects her.

She's surprised. "Are you sure? I miss you so much, but what if seeing each other briefly makes it harder to bear being apart?"

"I think it's a risk worth taking," he says gently.

"All right. I'll set up a meeting. It's going to take a couple of days to get the boys to create the identities they want."

"It won't be soon enough." Mulder's low voice makes her want to tell him to forget everything and come home to her. But she knows that's selfish, and instead promises to see him soon.


As she walks down the stairs, she realizes that George and Patti have come into the living room so they can watch her approach. As soon as George can see her face clearly, he breaks into a wide, ironic smile. "When do we do this?"

She shakes her head slightly. Mulder once told her that she has no poker face, and it seems as though he's right. "It's going to take me a little while to get the documentation you want."

"A couple of days?" George looks frustrated.

"I assume you want stuff that'll pass close inspection, or you wouldn't have come to me," Scully says coolly. "That sort of quality takes a little time and effort."

"I'll be back tomorrow to see how it's progressing." A vague threat.

Scully doesn't allow herself to be so easily cowed. "Make it the day after."

There's suspicion on the man's face. "How do I know you'll keep your word?"

"I want what you have to offer just as much as you want what I'll give you."

Her lack of poker face must let her sincerity shine through, because the man's shoulders relax. "All right. The day after tomorrow. Early."

"If you don't mind the possibility of waiting around a while, it's no skin off my nose. Don't knock on the door until I've come back from bringing my kids to school. They don't need to know I'm going to be seeing their father."

"You're coming with me?" George doesn't look as though he likes the idea.

"It's part and parcel of our arrangement. I'm not willing to negotiate on that point."

"Whatever." George gives her a look of disgust when he realizes that she's not about to back down. They stick around a few more minutes before Scully gratefully closes the door behind them.

Scully doesn't breathe easily until they're out of her house and Michelle has brought William and Christopher home.


Reagan National Airport
January 20th, 2002

Before Scully can head to the boarding area, Frohike grabs her hand. "Are you sure that you don't want one of us to go with you? So nothing funny can happen." He looks around, his expression suddenly becoming doubtful. "They'd still have tickets, maybe."

It takes her effort to keep from grinning. "While I appreciate the offer of some muscle as back up, I'm not even going to be on the same flight as him. He won't be able to try anything while he's on a different plane."

She hadn't liked the idea of flying separately, but there had been a shortage of tickets for the flight George had booked, so she had no choice but to fly on her own. While she took no pleasure in the idea of spending a couple of hours in the man's presence, it would have allowed her to keep an eye on him. The image of arriving at the airport and not seeing him, obviously having been the victim of an elaborate prank, came to her mind more times than she could count. This is why she insisted on keeping the family's new identities with her, rather than hand them over beforehand, which is what George initially lobbied for.

"What about once you land? Is Mulder meeting you, or are you going to drive there?"

Instantly, she's able to see where her friend's thoughts are headed. "Mulder is going to pick us up and drive us to a new hotel, where he and Alex plan to take rooms."

Frohike's shoulders relax. "All right then. Have a safe flight."

For a moment she's tempted to kiss him on the cheek like she might Sammy, but decides that he might find the gesture condescending, so she settles for waving to him from the gate. He's still there watching, just like she knew he would be.


California
Later

The flight is rather uneventful, other than listening to a baby screaming occasionally in coach. Somehow, even though he'd been quiet the entire way, this situation keenly reminds her of having flied internationally with Christopher. Now, with the sober light of hindsight shining on it, it seems bordering on insane to have dragged a newborn to another continent. But at the time it had been the best possible solution to a nearly insurmountable problem.

Being away from her children pained her then, as she's sure that being away from them pains Mulder now. Before the plane lands, she offers up a small prayer that they reunion will be both permanent and quickly forthcoming.

She doesn't allow herself to fantasize that Mulder will be flying home with her.

As she steps into the airport, she scans the crowd for both her husband and the man who is responsible for temporarily bringing them together. At last she spots George, nervously pacing in front of the newspaper stand.

For a fleeting moment she doesn't want to draw attention to herself, but realizes that she has to get things over with, even if it means spending time in his company. "George?"

He looks up at her, half irritated, half relieved. "There you are. I've been waiting for close to an hour!"

"I'll make sure I lodge a complaint about my pilot with the airline on your behalf," she retorts icily.

"Where are Patti and Joy?"

"I sent them ahead to a hotel. But never mind them. Where the hell is your husband?" George asks, casting her sour looks.

That was a good question.

"Scully!!"

Turning with a genuine smile, she points at the tall man striding towards them. "There."

To her surprise, Mulder picks her up by the waist and twirls her around. She doesn't even feel embarrassed. She's just thrilled to have a familiar pair of hands on her for the first time in what feels like forever.

The expression on George's face plainly says that he's not impressed, before he even opens his mouth. "I hate to break up this touching scene, but we've got things to do. Do you suppose we could get this show on the road?"

The couple reluctantly releases each other, and Mulder leads them to his waiting rental car.


After a largely silent car ride, made that way because George sullenly refuses to say anything without the faux documentation in his sights, they arrive at a nondescript motel. The three of them get out of the car and go up to a room where Krycek is already waiting.

This apparently pisses George off, because he points at him. "Who the hell is he? Get him out of here!"

"I have every ri-" Krycek begins to say belligerently, but Scully cuts him off with a look. Apparently realizing that a temper tantrum is the last thing that will move things along, he gives George a cold look. "Fine."

Then, with more dignity that Scully would have credited him with, he leaves the room. He doesn't even let the door slam behind him.

"Where's the stuff? Take it out." George's eagerness reminds Scully unpleasantly of a drug addict that she had the misfortune of being acquainted with while in college. He'd been prone to lurking in a dark alley, pouncing on passers-by with a sob story about just needing a few bucks to get him through a hard time. The first couple of times she'd given him small amounts of cash. But as the years passed, his time became no easier.

Scully reaches into her briefcase to take it out, but for the second time that morning, a man she cares for grabs at her hand. "Wait, Scully."

George looks about ready to howl with frustration. "What?"

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Mulder says flatly. He hands the man a legal pad and a pen.

They wait a moment while George laboriously copies out an address. "There, are you satisfied?"

Mulder nods and Scully takes this as her cue to take out the paperwork. She puts it on the table and looks George in the eye. "Your name is Craig Green. You're thirty-eight, born in New Jersey. Your wife Susan is also thirty-eight, and from Maryland. Your daughter Katie is six months old, born in Virginia. I'll leave it to you to memorize the particulars."

For a moment she is sure that he'll reach over and caress the packet, but George stays his hand. "You're sure these will pass close scrutiny?" His eyes narrow, full of suspicion.

"As you said, I know the right sort of people," Scully reminds him.

After he slips the documents into his pocket, he turns to Mulder with an expectant look. "All right, your turn. Ask me what you need to know."

"First things first," Mulder says after a pregnant pause. "What exactly are they trying to do with these kids?"

"It ain't just kids... The thing they're hoping for is to create people who both heal quickly, and are virtually impervious to pain. The theory being that people who don't feel damage and heal quickly as well can be pushed farther for longer. A lot longer."

"What do they need this sort of person for?" Scully asks. She wonders immediately if this is some sort of offshoot to their attempts to create hybrids to be the aliens' slaves. A race of people who didn't have to worry about injury would be more valuable to the co-conspirators as a bargaining chip - and it would never occur to them that people aren't supposed to be used that way.

George shrugs. "For whatever comes up. They were a little vague on that point. I'm sure that they have uses in mind, but they weren't exactly in a sharing mood when they forced us to participate."

"How did that happen?" From a glance at his face, Scully realizes that her husband has just let his curiosity get the best of him, because he seems to regret derailing the conversation for a tangent. She's not sure how long that George will indulge their questions, so she hopes this doesn't cost them any valuable information they might have gained in its place.

"Patti and I were marines-" George says, and Scully starts. It's hard to believe the woman she's interacted with had that in her. "And we were set on a mission a few months before the whole nine-eleven debacle. Somehow it was orchestrated so it seemed like failure was all our faults, and we faced court martial when the terrorists succeeded in attacking the US.

"Some non-government guy waltzes in making promises, and suddenly we might not be facing possible death after all. He tells us that getting married and having a baby for the project was a generous alternative. I can't prove it, but I always suspected that he was on the scene before we got into trouble... anyway, we were desperate, and agreed, and all possible charges dematerialized. Of course, we didn't know until Patti was pregnant, several months pregnant, that they'd altered Joy's DNA."

"Through IVF?" Scully asks, sure that this is the case.

To her shock, George shakes his head. "No. We conceived the old fashioned way. They exposed Joy to something while she was in the womb. I never learned what. Now she can move stuff by thinking about it. Who knows what it'll turn out they did to her."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Mulder's voice is appropriately grave. "What makes you sure that this is the address to the facility? My-" He almost says brother-in-law but thinks better of it. "- associate and I have visited several sites that were supposed to be it, but they've all been abandoned if not razed. Your daughter is several months old, what makes you think that they're still going to be at the facility that altered her before birth?"

George's chin thrusts down for a moment, and when he raises his head he looks sick to his stomach. "I know it's the right one because... this is the address I received two days before contacting your wife here. It's the address we're supposed to go to and give them our daughter. If you get there pretty soon, it's a guarantee that they won't have moved on yet."

Scully is horrified. "They want to take her from you?"

"Yeah. They said now that she's old enough to interact with people, it's time to move on to the next stage of the project. You seem like nice enough people, and I didn't really want to get you involved in this mess, but I can't let them take our little girl and keep her there with those other kids. Those kids...it's not right what they've been doing to them. It isn't right at all."

"So you're trading this information for your chance to disappear," Scully says gently.

"And to hope they get what's coming to them. Maybe you've got the sort of friends that can see to something like that, too, huh?"

Though they exchange a look, neither Mulder nor Scully agree or disagree.

"Anything else you want to know?" George asks.

"How hard will it be to get in?"

"Not very. There are people wandering around all the time, and there's not much in the way of security. I guess they think moving all the time keeps them safe from unfriendlies."

"Thanks, George." Mulder claps him on the shoulder. "I think you better get back to Susan and Katie now, huh? I'm sure you've got a drive or flight or whatever ahead of you before long."

"Right. Thanks." George shrugs on his coat the rest of the way, and is immediately out the door.


When they're alone at last, Mulder expects that he and Scully will have a lot to talk about, but words won't come to him. It's not the end of the line for his adventure, and they are both acutely aware of it.

So instead of meaningless small talk, he kisses her. She responds with a hunger that is both expected and surprising. He thought they'd want to make up for lost time, but he didn't expect her to be pulling at the zipper of his pants quite so soon, because George might not even have driven out of the parking lot yet.

"Do you want-"" Before he can finish his offer, her fingers are covering his mouth.

"All I want is you," she says breathlessly, and her eyes reassure him that it's true.

That's all the invitation he needs, and within a couple minutes their clothing is strewn across the floor. It's in the back of his mind that they should make their way to the bed, but before he quite realizes who decided, he's holding her against the wall, thrusting into her. The moan she gives before gripping his shoulders with her fingernails and tightening her leg around his waist makes him wonder if it might have been her idea all along.

He tries to make things last, but they're both so needy, that they've hurried through.

"How long?" he whispers while he's still inside her.

"My flight is in two hours," she whispers back, making him wonder for whose benefit they're being quiet now. For once Krycek's room is across the hall, and he doubts that the one-armed man is lurking outside the door.

Disentwined, they finally have the ability to have a conversation. "George better be right," Scully tells him tiredly. "I don't think we can do this much longer."

He grins at her. "I know. I never was the long distance relationship type."

"It's more than that. We need you home. You have no idea what it was like when we thought we lost you for good..." Scully trails off, and he notices a shimmer in her eyes that wasn't there before. "We just need you home."

"As fast as I can, love," he says, kissing away a tear that's suddenly on her cheek. "I need to return to my heart. It has never left you."

When they make love a second time before she needs to leave, he finds it's both slower and sadder. Promises aside, there's no real way of knowing how long it will be before they're back together for good.


Later

It's hard for Scully to make herself comfortable in the seat on the plane. She aches from their antics against the wall, but she doesn't regret it at all. Even if it means begging aspirin from a flight attendant.

The flight home is filled with whirling thoughts, but one her attention is able to fasten on is to wonder if George and Mulder are alike. She can easily admit to herself that she doesn't like the other man, but she respects the fact that he's willing to give up everything he knows and start over somewhere else to keep his family intact. Mulder hasn't gone so far as that, but in her heart she knows he's capable of it.

She just hopes if it ever comes to that, she is too.


Chapter One Hundred and Ten



The Basement Office
Late February 2002

Scully catches Doggett leaning back and throwing pencils up into the ceiling, and she smirks when he hurriedly sits up. "Wow, slow day, huh?" she asks.

He shrugs. "I figured someone had to be here, and it's better than being at home," Doggett sighs, and there are some serious furrows in his forehead.

Sitting at her desk, Scully asks, "So, what's the problem?"

He looks at her, then up at the ceiling. "Monica," he groans.

"That's specific." Scully crosses her arms. "So, the kids don't like her anymore? She hogs the bedcovers? She decided to cook for you?"

"Worse," Doggett says glumly. "She says she doesn't wanna get married."

She shrugs. "Give her time," she says reasonably.

"It's been over a month," Doggett says, now turning to her in earnest. "She's got it in her head that no matter what, she doesn't want to get married. Period."

"Does she still love you?" Scully asks, even as she wants to shriek, Over a month? Why didn't Monica tell me?

He shrugs again. "That's what she says. But if she loves me, why won't she marry me?"

Scully blinks, then looks at him. "John, you know what kind of person she is. Nontraditional in most senses of the word."

"Yeah, but so's Fox, and he married you," Doggett rebuts.

"And that still surprises me to this day," Scully retorts. "But listen. Even if we didn't go through the ceremony, I'd still be his partner at work and in his personal life. He knows it, and so do our kids." As Doggett looks at her like she's grown three extra heads, she goes on. "John, you love Monica, right?" He nods. "And she loves you and the kids, right?" He nods again. "Well, I really don't see a problem here."

"I do!" he exclaims. "She doesn't want to marry me!"

Scully wants to hit her head on the desk - no, scratch that, she wants to beat his head into the desk, if that would help. "But in all other respects, you're together, right? I mean, short of a license and two rings, you two love, respect and want each other, and that's more than a lot of people have. Honestly, whether we'd have pledged our faithfulness in front of a judge or behind a desk while fighting off mutants, it wouldn't have mattered because the result would be the same," she ends truthfully.

"Really?" he looks at her curiously.

She nods. "Really. Being with Mulder, I've learned that some things, like real love, is something you cherish and fight for, no matter what other people think. It may not be conventional or what's expected." She smiles a little, thinking about her husband. "But it's precious, and it's real." Then she looks at him soberly. "John, if Monica really means that much to you, you shouldn't let her go just because she doesn't want to wear a wedding ring."

It's obvious he never expected her to take the other woman's side, much less argue persuasively for it. "But-"

"'Wow, Dana'," Scully interrupts him, "'you're absolutely right. I'll stop acting like an idiot and make up with Monica. Why didn't I think of that earlier?' "

He knows he should be mad, but he laughs instead. "Damn," he chuckles, "you ain't pullin' punches, are you?"

"When it comes to important things, hell, no," she agrees.

"Wow, Dana," he says, knowing when he's licked, parroting her tone, "you're absolutely right. I'll stop acting like an idiot and make up with Monica. Why didn't I think of that earlier?"

"Because you needed a friend to help you think straight after all this time," Scully replies, smiling.

He snorts, but smiles back. "Hold down the fort, will ya?" Doggett says, getting out from behind his desk and heading out.

"Will do," she waves. When the door closes behind him, her expression becomes more serious. "I always do." Then she pulls out her cell, debating whether she should call Mulder or not.


Elsewhere...

It's been a long day, with another dead end thrown in their faces. After they had a decent dinner, Mulder could hear Krycek practically throwing himself onto the motel bed after slamming the door shut. "Night," he mutters to the closed door, before unlocking his own cheap-ass room.

Moments after he locks the door shut, his cell rings, and he almost jumps at the unexpected sound. "Yeah."

"Hey, guess what?" a garbled voice comes over his cell phone.

Mulder almost rolls his eyes. Gunmen. Figures. "What," he says, grabbing his laptop and sitting on the bed.

"You might be interested to know that a certain Deputy Director is heading to your neck of the woods. In fact, according to his sparse itinerary, it looks like the woods is exactly where he's going, and he's not bringing any camping gear."

"You serious?" Mulder's sitting up now. "Are you sure it's not a bluff?"

"Please," another voice goes through filtering process, "you know our kung foo is better than that."

"Give me all the details," Mulder says, his voice barely betraying his excitement.


Because sleep is far from her, Scully decides to read up on her first case with Mulder, in fact, her first case with the FBI as a field agent. A smile plays on her lips as she re-reads the old report, parts of it already committed to memory, but there's something about her writing style, her initial skepticism paired with her personal arrogance and unwavering faith in science that contrasts with Mulder's version, one that likewise gives the same details, but his pushing-the-envelope views, open-minded beliefs and personal experience with his sister color his report.

It was especially memorable because, after they'd filed their report, with tests being run on Billy Miles, their report had conveniently disappeared. Fortunately, between his photographic memory and her excruciating attention to detail, they'd rewritten and resubmitted their reports. It was one of those times that she was thankful for her medical training, and astonished at the laxity of the bureaucratic system. Never would she have thought that, due to the nature of the X-Files, missing reports would become a common occurrence, nor excessive red tape.

Neither can she forget how, even after coming home to a normal life, to a normal home, and normal sex with her old boyfriend, the case had lingered in her mind. Yes, there was the strangeness of it all, but that was part of what drew her to working with the FBI, putting her medical degree to work as a forensic instructor initially, and later, expanding her expertise on the X-Files. She shakes her head. She would never have dreamed she would stay with that, as she'd privately termed him, "clever but pompous nutcase," much less marry him and bear his children.

Then her bile rises, and she rushes to the bathroom. After dry heaving, she groans.


Several hours and a few minutes of sleep later, both men are near their destination. "These guys don't know the first thing about getting laid, but they know how to find Kersh's travel plans." Krycek shakes his head, checking his gun. "This world is totally fucked up."

"If those bastards stay in place, the world'll be a little less fucked up once we get our hands on them," Mulder mutters, as much a threat as a promise, his hands gripping the wheel.

"Mulder, you're my hero." Krycek bats his eyes at the driver.

Mulder doesn't bother looking at the other man, but shakes his head. "I'm debating whether we should worry about mechanical alarms or psychic ones."

Krycek flips on the radio. "We're gonna park too far away for any camera to notice," he says, "and listening to music should blank our minds sufficiently."

"And once we get into the facility?" Mulder asks. "The Gunmen can only guide us so far, but if we run into those psychic kids-"

"I'll take care of them," Krycek cuts in smoothly. "You can take the old dudes, Kersh, whoever."

"Sure you don't want to take down any head honchos?" Mulder drawls.

Krycek smirks at the passing scenery. "When it comes to kids, you'll be too soft," he says, "and they'll take advantage of that."

Mulder gives his passenger and current partner a sidelong glance. "You are one scary son of a bitch," he comments.

The other man shrugs, not taking offense. "If the Gunmen's intel is sound, all we have to do is take the new syndicate down. Easy."

And after all this time, after all the dead ends, false leads, and near misses, Mulder has to chuckle. "Easy. Sure."

Krycek grins. "That's it. Then we go home, get laid and get paid, and it's all good."

Now Mulder's guffawing. "I love your dreams of glory, Alex."

"Fuck glory," Krycek snorts. "I just wanna get the job done and go home." Then he shifts his eyes at Mulder. "Isn't that what you want, family man?"

Mulder doesn't have to answer, since, in the end, that's what both men want.


Thanks to the Gunmen, Mulder types in the correct numbers on the keypad and the door swings open silently, and they go from bright light to near-darkness. They check around for cameras, and when they see one perched above, they keep on their ski masks and shades until they're out of the camera's range.

Krycek leads, his gun aimed ahead like a pointer dog's snout, and they continue through the badly-lit complex with their weapons drawn until they come to the door marked "1013" . "Thirteen's my lucky number," Krycek grins, and Mulder shakes his head, but follows him through the door.

And what greets their eyes is something like out of sci-fi horror movie, infants and small children suspended in greenish liquid, each contained in coffin-sized tubes, on display like lab specimen on the walls.

Perhaps that's what they are, since they don't seem to be alive or moving at all. And then one infant boy opens his eyes, and then all of them do, and while Krycek points his gun at one, then another and another, Mulder's horrified fascination keeps him in place as the tubes, one by one, break, starting with the closest to them. To their surprise, the children remain floating in mid-air, but while they're covered in the greenish ooze, it's clear that each and every single one is red-haired, and they're all staring and pointing at the intruders.

"Holy shit!" Krycek screams, and starts shooting at the babies.

"NOOOOOOO!!!!" Mulder yells, throwing himself at the other man.

And wakes up in a cold sweat, his arms flailing about, breathing heavily. Running a hand through his short hair, Mulder catches his breath, even as he stares into the neon-filled darkness, his eyes acclimating quickly. Then he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. A dream. Just a freaky, stomach-churning dream. Thank God.

His cell phone rings, startling him. "Yeah?" he says, after squinting at the familiar number.


Mulder-Scully Home

"Ugh." Scully wipes her mouth, sitting beside the porcelain god. Turning her head, she closes her eyes, willing her stomach to stay strong, and takes a shuddering breath. Then she leans over to the side to flush the toilet, breathing shallowly so she won't have to smell that awful bile that might cause her to empty what's left of her stomach contents again.

When the room starts to spin, ever so slightly, that's when she forces herself to stand, wash her hands and mouth, and drink the water from the tap so she won't dehydrate. Once she drinks enough so that the world doesn't wash out in a white haze, she breathes more deeply, and is thankful that her queasy stomach has settled somewhat and braces herself against the sink.

"What the hell," she rasps, and her medical mind begins to run down a list of possibilities. One by one, she rules them out, until all that's left is food poisoning, stomach flu, and pregnancy. Then she puts a hand to her stomach, rubbing it in a circular motion. It doesn't seem to provoke any extreme bowel movement or further nausea, so that crosses stomach flu off the list. Wearily, she bends down and drinks more tap water, then wills her legs to carry her to her children's rooms, to make sure they don't have any food poisoning.

One by one, youngest to oldest, she finds each of her little ones asleep in their beds, soundly oblivious to their mother's travails. When she stops at Page's room, she breathes a sigh of relief, thankful her babies are healthy, then closes her eyes.

"Hoo boy," she breathes. Preliminary diagnosis: pregnant. It should have occurred to her sooner. She hasn't been this sick since she was pregnant with David and Jared. Not that it'll be twins again, she reassures herself and makes a mental note to buy a pregnancy test, then snorts, remembering Missy's comment about stocking up on those kits, and a wobbly smile finds its way to her lips for the first time that early morning.


Less than ten minutes later, both Mulder and Krycek are driving down the California highway, the traffic somewhat sparse because of the early hour.

"Are you sure about this?" Krycek asks. "Could be another false lead."

"Hey, if both Marita and the Gunmen come up with the same thing, it's gotta be good," Mulder replies, to bolster his own spirits as well as his companion's.

"Yeah, or it could be a trap." Krycek scowls.

"Don't go all Admiral Ackbar on me," Mulder quips.

Krycek looks at him. "Who?"

"Haven't you watched 'Return of the Jedi'? He's a rebel alien with some of the craziest lines ever, like pointing out the obvious, when he's supposed to be this high-ranking officer."

"I think you watched too much 'Star Wars'." The younger man shakes his head. "But the movie alien is right. This is so obviously a trap."

"Could be." Mulder shrugs. "But I'd rather spring a trap with some people to question rather than wind up at another deserted building." He glances at the passenger. "I don't know about you, but I'm dying to beat the answers out of somebody."

Krycek sports an unhealthy smile. "Now you're talking my language," he chuckles.

"Hoo boy," the driver comments, "that's a scary thought."


Missy's Home

Melissa yawns, having just fed Ryan, and putting him to sleep took longer than she'd hoped. She rotates her neck, then does another monster yawn. "Mm, thank goodness it's the weekend," she murmurs.

Out of habit, she checks on Emily, who is sleeping soundly, looking like a little blonde angel under her puffy white blanket. She smiles sleepily, then totters to her own bed. Once she hits the pillow, her eyes close. "Please," she prays to anyone that will hear, "let Alex and Fox find the bad guys and come home soon."

And as she easily slips into sleep, her arm automatically drifts to where her husband would be, her breathing deep and relaxed.


Meanwhile... They park the car as close as they dare, then waltz right up to the front door. Mulder punches in "tommalchow200" at the prompt reading "butterfly?"

"Weird name for a butterfly," Krycek mutters, but Mulder quickly shakes his head when the door swings open. They're dressed in business casual, in nice shirts and slacks but no tie, as opposed to what Mulder's termed "funky poaching wear", which is basically all black and ski masks. Krycek, for his part, is wearing a fleece pullover over his shirt, one that would effectively hide his false arm, and brown riding gloves. According to their intel, they would best blend in by looking like they worked there, but no suit and ties, for that was the uniform of the secretive and high-ranking types of this new syndicate.

Once inside, the desk clerk hands them a clipboard, and they sign in false names. The clerk doesn't even bother to check the names, hands them a couple of clip-on badges, then replaces the walkman on her head and continues playing computer solitaire. The two men exchange a brief look, but say nothing as they go down the hallway, clipping on the badges.

Fortunately, the building is relatively well-lit, as opposed to Mulder's nightmare, and they come across other people in business-casual attire, nodding briefly as they assess each other's badges with a perfunctory glance. Krycek's about to comment on the lack of security, but there's a strange, cautious side to him that doesn't want to jinx their luck. Along the way, Mulder takes a drink from the water fountain, shifting his gun in its holster for easier access as he does so. Krycek, impatient, glares, but Mulder merely says, "I'm okay," when he comes up for air.

Then they come upon an unmarked door that both Gunmen and Marita swear is where the children are being held. When they open the door, Mulder almost holds his breath, awaiting the inevitable horror scene. Instead, it looks and smells like a maternity ward, with babies of all colors of hair (and hairlessness) sleeping peacefully in their plastic beds, attached to IVs and monitors. The familiarity of machines with infants strike both men, and they look at each other, wondering for a brief moment if they've made a mistake. The sterile beds, along with the blue- and pink- clothed babies, looks way too normal for this to be part of some top-secret, conspiracy-inspired operation.

Krycek, taking a step back, accidentally jostles one of the babies, and the baby boy coughs, waking up. The brunette infant opens his green eyes, then starts to wail, while his blue blanket and a few other objects begin to levitate. Then other infants start to wake up and cry, and Mulder groans at the domino effect, but there's a part of him that's seriously relieved that, while they're floating things like William did the first time around, according to Scully, they're not covered in green goo nor breaking open from glass tubes. And only then do the men notice that the machines and beds are bolted to the floor, and the children are shackled to the bed rails.

"Yep, this is the right place," Krycek notes as an overhead siren starts to blare.


Mulder-Scully Home

"Mommy, what are you doing?" Page asks, then yawns, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

Her mother, by contrast, appears wide awake and is scrolling through her laptop. "Just reading," she says, and sips hot tea from her mug. Then she yawns, too, covering her mouth as she does so. "Now look what you made me do."

The little blonde girl giggles, then climbs onto a chair next to her mother. "What are you reading?" she tries to peer around to the screen, curious.

Scully smiles, turning the laptop away so the screen is out of sight. "Something that you shouldn't be reading, not until you're older," she says.

"But I *am* older," Page protests. "I'm older than Sammy, and April, and-"

"That's not what I mean and you know it," Scully retorts. She highlights the page with a bright color, saves it, then closes out the window and shuts the computer down. "Hey, wanna help me make pancakes?"

Page gives her a Scully look, making her mother feel both obscurely proud and guilty. "Mommy," she says, like her mother would to her father, "you're changing the subject."

"So I am," Scully agrees, "but I'm really hungry, and soon, so will everyone else be. Let's just say I want to get a head start before David and Jared start hogging the blueberry syrup."

Page pouts for a bit, but then helps her mother get out the mixing bowl and whisk, while Scully gets the pancake mix, milk and eggs from the fridge. Soon, they're mixing the pancake batter and teasing each other before the older, mobile children wander into the kitchen.

"Sammy, you want a Mickey Mouse pancake?" Page asks while Scully turns up a stove burner and places the frying pan on it.

"Don't act like you're Mommy." Sammy scowls at his older sister while the twins jostle for their place at the table and April and Christopher are poking each other.

"I'm not," Page huffs. "I'm helping."

Then Sammy crawls up on a neighboring chair and grabs a spoon. "So'm I," he says, shoving his spoon in and stirring it.

"Mommyyyyyyy!" Page wails.

Then Michelle walks in with William in her arms. "What's going on?"

Scully's about to say, I think I'm pregnant again, but there's a part of her that wants to wait until Mulder's back to share the news. "Pancakes," she says simply, wrestling both whisk and spoon from her two elder children.

"Uh-huh." The younger woman grins. "Just make sure I have at least one of those."

"But I get Mickey Mouse pancakes first!" Sammy pipes up.

And the kitchen is filled with the sound of children, loud and soft, small and taller.


Meanwhile...

The room is filled with the sound of sirens, but more importantly, the babies, all of whom are crying loudly. Mulder looks around wildly for something to pacify them with, while Krycek sticks his fingers in his ears, since it's too damn loud to think straight. Then Krycek's eyes widen. "Mulder," he shouts above the din to be heard, "we've got a problem."

"What - oh, shit," Mulder groans, as both he and Krycek are floating, along with other various objects. Desperately, he makes a grab for an IV rack, misses, then grabs a monitor and goes hand-over-hand down the screen and on downwards until he grabs the base, then goes between swinging from monitor to monitor, using his legs and hands like a flying monkey, finally wrapping his legs around the leg of a bed closest to the door. When he looks around, he realizes Krycek has fared less well than he has, as he's pretty much made it to the ceiling, floating like one of those laughing gas folks in that Mary Poppins movie, except Krycek is far from jovial.

Then the door opens, and Mulder's face to face with what looks like a small herd of toddlers - at least, ones who are looking at him like robots, their wide eyes glazed and their faces pale, and Mulder has to restrain a shudder from overtaking him. Then his agent's training takes over, and he notes that, yes, these children aren't solely red-haired, their glazed looks are probably the result of powerful hallucinogens or antipsychotic drugs, and those collars around their necks aren't for decoration.

"Don't," he breathes, holding his hands out as if that would stop the children.


The Krycek Residence

"Mommy, help!" Emily wails, flailing around in a blue dress and waving a wand madly. The dress is hanging on her, unzipped from the back, and her necklace is twisted up and tied around her waist.

"Whoa, whoa, hold still." Melissa smiles, then firmly holds onto the little girl's shoulders until she stands still. "Let me get your zipper first, okay?" Then she gathers her daughter's hair up into a makeshift ponytail and tells her, "Hold this, please." When Emily has a decent grasp of her hair, Melissa zips up the dress expertly. Then she kneels down, unties the apron, shakes it out and drapes it over the front of her little girl. "Emily, I know you're excited, but when you manage to turn a necklace into a belt, that's." She shakes her head. "That's too excited."

"But Mommy." Emily turns around, stopping her mother from removing the necklace. "I get to be the fairy godmother!"

"I know, honey." Melissa nods. "Turn around." Her daughter does so, but with the kinetic energy of the young and impatient, so that it takes a couple of times before Melissa is successful. "All done."

"Yay!" Her little blonde baby swirls around and hugs her mother. "Thank you!"

Melissa laughs. "If this is what gets you excited about school on a weekend, you should be in plays more often," she comments, then picks up the hairbrush that Emily had dropped. "Come on, your hair won't brush itself." Then she blinks as she realizes the mom-ism she's just uttered.

"It should." Emily pouts, then submits to her mother's ministrations, wincing a couple of times as the brush catches a snaggled lock of hair, but relieved when her hair is bound up in a long ponytail. "Go home at midnight, Cinderella, or I'll turn you into a pumpkin!" she crows, throwing her arms out.

Now Melissa guffaws. "I'm pretty sure that's not your lines, Emily," she wheezes after wiping her eyes.

Suddenly, her little whirlwind comes to a halt. "Mommy, do you think Daddy will come see my play?"

And the moment she's dreaded has come. So many times, she could've sworn Alex and Fox were thisclose to catching the bad guys, but it was either a false lead or they were just a day late. And what was supposed to be something like a quick operation, at least according to Alex, has stretched out into months. And now she knows, or has some idea, of what her own mother's gone through with her father being stationed elsewhere with no definite timetable.

"He will," Melissa nods, if not in person, then by videotape. She'll make sure of it.


Meanwhile...

Then the children closest to Mulder look at the babies in the beds, then up at the flying objects and Krycek. "Stop," they chorus as one, and whatever was in the air comes down.

In Krycek's case, comes down hard. "Owwww," he groans, but thankful he's not up in the air anymore. "What'd you do?"

"Nothing." Mulder shakes his head, his eyes still on the toddlers. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Krycek rubs his legs, which bore the brunt of his fall.

Mulder slowly gets up on all fours and crawls towards the toddlers. "I mean you guys," he says, ignoring the bruises that seem to cover his entire body from banging against machines. There's something about these kids that break his heart, and not just because he's a father. "Are you okay?"

The children stare at him blankly, then look at each other, their faces blank but intelligent, as if sharing a communication neither he nor Krycek are privy to. Then they look at him again. "Okay?"

"Uh." Mulder looks back at Krycek, who shrugs, then turns to face the toddlers again. "Fine, good, um, healthy, happy, all right, maybe not happy, but you know what I mean." More blank stares. "Maybe not."

"You're a regular thesaurus," Krycek quips in an undertone.

"You're not helping," Mulder mutters. Then he crawls a little towards them, stopping when their eyes start to focus more clearly on him. Raising his hands, he says, "I'm not here to hurt you. I want to help you." They continue to look at him blankly. Then he exhales heavily, and sits down, slowly and painfully, in a cross-legged fashion. Waving his hands at the kids, he says, "Come on. Come, come."

He seems to have hit a magic word, or at least one they understand, for the ones closest to him come forward, shuffling forward in their hospital pajamas. "That's it," he says and nods, "come closer. Yeah, like that." Then he gathers those closest to him and hugs them, as he would his own small herd of children. "Mmm, see? This is called a hug. Hugs are good." He smiles as one of them, a boy with short brown hair, reaches in for another hug. Closing his eyes, he hugs the boy back. "Atta boy." He swings his head towards his compatriot. "Alex, tell the other kids to join you."

"You are such a weirdo," Krycek grumbles, but he sees it's working, so he, too, sits down and motions the others towards him. "Come on, I give hugs, too." There's a girl that looks like his little Emily, and he smiles at her. "Come on, it's okay, sweetie."

The rest, led by the little blonde girl he smiled at, toddle toward his open arms. "Oof," he grunts, nearly bowled over by the impact of a bunch of small kids squishing him, "you guys learn fast."

"I guess this is what it means to conquer with kindness," Mulder quips, ruffling one boy's hair, and smiling at another little girl who looks like a mini-Reyes.

"First time I've seen it happen," Krycek replies, "hey, whoa!" He nearly topples over when one of the boys start climbing up his back and grabs his head. Planting his hands behind him, he waits until the little critter ends up on his shoulders, and he shakes his head against the boy's belly, making him laugh. "Hey, they can laugh," he says, some wonderment in his voice.

"They're human," Mulder says, teaching the kids around him to hug each other.

And then the grown up security charges in.


Chapter One Hundred and Eleven



Late February 2002

"Get back," Mulder says, instinctively pushing the toddlers behind him. What he's gonna do with just his pistol against these heavily armed guards, he's not sure, but all he knows is, he'll at least knock out some of the guards before they can even hurt the kids. Drawing his gun, he grins cockily, "Twelve against two, I don't think that's fair."

"We've beaten bigger odds." Krycek smirks behind him, his gun also drawn. His real arm, however, is shielding the toddlers, although he's not conscious of that fact right now.

And to Krycek's and Mulder's surprise, the guards who would give Schwarzenegger and Van Damme a run for their money are slammed against the walls, their weapons flying out of their hands. While the intruders are gaping, the toddlers surround them again, this time protectively.

"I think we just got saved by the ones we were supposed to save." Krycek looks at the children around him in shock. Then he grins. "You probably don't understand me, but you guys rock. Come here!" And he hugs the living heck out of the kids. "You guys did great!"

Mulder chuckles, even as he finds himself doing the same thing. "Of course," he says, "they're awesome." Some of the kids around him surprise him by smiling. "Cool," he murmurs, even though he'd just told Krycek they were human, but that still didn't stop him from being surprised.

"Mulder, I hate to break up the love fest, but there's a lot more people we gotta deal with," Krycek says, and mentally kicks himself for allowing regret to color his voice.

"I know," Mulder sighs, and slowly gets to his feet, feeling every bit of his first and second lives catching up with his beaten up body. And like his children, these kids are clinging to his long legs, not wanting to let go. "Um, moving is gonna be a bit of a problem."

"No problem." Krycek smirks, getting up, and is surprised to get the same reaction. "Okay, we can do this."

Mulder twists around to throw the other man a look. "Yeah? Like how?"

Krycek motions with his hands at the toddlers stuck to his legs. "We may not be able to move fast, but we've got protection. Think about it."

Mulder sighs. "Okay. But any sign of trouble, we cover them."

Krycek nods, but has a feeling it's probably gonna roll the other way. Then he leans down and tells his groupies, "Look, I need some of you guys to cover the babies here. Granted, they could probably take care of themselves," he makes a face, remembering how he and Mulder had been levitated with no problem, "but you know who the bad guys are better than they do. I need some of you to be their big brothers and sisters and protect them, okay?"

He's not sure if they even understand what he's said, but as he looks from one round face to another, he figures they do. It's not often that trusts anyone, but here he is, trusting children to take care of, well, other children. "Can I count on you?"

The blonde girl who resembles his daughter looks at some of the others, then nods. She takes the hands of a red-haired boy and a brown-haired girl, and they and a couple more walk over to where the infants are waving about in their beds. There's a strange feeling of pride he can't explain, but Krycek's got it.

Then he looks up at Mulder, who's giving him a damn "I approve" kind of expression, and he makes a face. "Come on, let's do this," he mutters, pretending like he didn't do something good and grown up just then.


Back at the New Syndicate's hideout, Mulder and Krycek, along with about fifteen toddlers under the age of two, are slowly making their way down the hallways. It doesn't matter that their movements are caught on camera, since the telekinetic toddlers take care of any security that's thrown at them. "It's nice having inside help, isn't it?" Krycek remarks to Mulder after another set of guards are sent flying.

Mulder shakes his head. "Telekinetic or not, we should be the ones protecting them, not the other way around," he says, knowing how narrow-minded that sounds, but deep down, he means it.

"I know that," Krycek says levelly, "but if we're given help, we shouldn't refuse it, right? Kids or not."

"Yeah," Mulder says, but inside, his feelings and conscience as a father war with his paranormal investigator's instincts to rejoice every time the kids use their abilities. He's not sure if Krycek has those same worries, but then again, the guy surprises him about as much as these kids do. Then they come to multiple branches, and the men look at each other. "Okay, I'm guessing Marita didn't tell you about this part."

"Your techno geeks forgot this, too?" Krycek nods. "Damn." Then he looks at the toddlers beside him. "Okay, guide dog time."

" Krycek," Mulder groans.

"Hey, we're lost, we've got native guides," the other man shrugs. "Lead on!" And, led by the small children, Krycek walks down the corridor second from the left.

Mulder sighs, then hunkers down. "I trust you," he says, looking into their innocent faces. "But if you're scared, let me know, okay?"

Then a little boy, his eyes dark blue and his hair a light blonde, slips his hand into Mulder's. "Come," he says, and tugs him towards the corridor on the far right.

Mulder nods, then allows himself to be led by the boy and the other toddlers, willing the lump in his throat to go down.


Krycek goes down the dark hallway, noticing that the farther they walk, the closer the toddlers cling to him, until he's practically shuffling because of their closeness. "What's wrong?" he asks in a whisper, but gets no answer, except for small fingers clutching tighter to his slacks.

Their tension and fear seeps into him, and he's not sure why they've led him here, until he spots a crack of light seeping from under one of the doors on the right. When he starts to walk towards it, they all but pull him away. Then he stops, putting his hands on the heads nearest him. "You guys stay here," he murmurs, "I'll check it out." There's no audible answer, but he notices that they're holding each other, almost instinctively, and he knows that whatever it is behind that door, they were never supposed to see it, even though they probably have.

Pulling out his gun, he walks over, puts a hand on the doorknob, and gives it a careful twist. It turns easily, which only emphasizes the wrongness of the situation, and he looks over at the toddlers. They'll be okay, he tells himself, even though right now they look like normal, scared children. Then he opens the door slowly, peering through the crack to get an idea, and sees nothing but sterile lab-type equipment. A lab. Okay, he can handle that.

He steps into the room, blinking a little to adjust to the brightness, seeing nothing but a lot of the same old equipment that the Syndicate is wont to use for genetic manipulation and testing. Looking around, there are specimens of failed experiments in glass jars, but nothing alive. He supposes that the successful ones are the ones that are helping him and Mulder, but his gun is still ready and his ears are listening for any sound that's not his own breathing. Then, under the hum of machinery, he hears human voices from around the wall of specimens.

"-Don't know why they don't increase security," a snappish voice says.

"Then we'd have to memorize a new code for each day, just like we did before," a deeper voice responds. "It's probably another squirrel that's tripped security again."

"It's too bad we can't experiment on those, too," a thin voice mutters.

"Yeah, it's too bad," Krycek agrees, "then you wouldn't have to mess around with human children." He points his gun at the eggheads, none of whom look capable to take him down, much less any of the toddlers.

"What?" the thin-voiced man drops his needle. His body, as opposed to his voice, is quite round, and he flaps his hands helplessly. "Do something!"

And Krycek is slammed from the back by what feels like a human wall. He groans when he rolls around to see who attacked him, and is kicked viciously for his trouble. Oh, another Schwarzenegger clone. Damn. Then he grins and shoots the bastard in the head, causing the scientists to scream.

"Shut up," he grunts, getting to his feet as quickly as he can without showing how winded or in pain he is. Training his gun on the eggheads, he snaps, "Any more guards I should worry about, or should I just take out your kneecaps for fun?"

"You can't, we're part of the plan," the deeper-voiced, tall scientist sputters.

"And that's supposed to make me scared?" He smirks, and shoots just inches away from the tall man.

"There are four more," says a scientist who hasn't spoken up yet, the shortest of the bunch, pointing at what looks to be another wall.

"Thanks." Krycek grins nastily. Then he pulls out a modified machine gun from under his sports jacket and sprays the wall with bullets, aiming about chest level and then aiming really low, in case they dropped to the floor. Then he motions at the short scientist with his machine gun to open the door, and the short man, shaking, does so.

When the hidden door creaks open, the scientists are sickened to see the guards riddled with bullets, their torsos a mess, as well as their heads and extremities. "Looks like some tried to get away," Krycek comments on the position of a couple bodies, and swings his gun back on the scientists who are also wanting to save their skins. "Personally, I could waste you as easily as those guards," he says, training the business end of his weapon on them, "but an associate of mine wants to see you suffer slowly and painfully, and I gotta say, that sounds just as appealing. Line up and march out, one by one."

As the last one marches out, he flips on the hallway light, and Krycek smirks as they go down the hall, his prisoners before him. The scientists see the toddlers standing in the hallway, and they are surprised, but then their faces revert to that of scientific coldness, even mild curiosity. The children automatically flatten themselves away from the men, even retreating, but Krycek shakes his head, pointing at the gun, then at the scientists. "They won't ever hurt you again," he tells the children.

"Let's see how long your government can keep us locked up," the snappish-voice scientist finally pipes up.

"Let's see how long your head stays intact once I shoot it," Krycek replies. This shuts the man up, and he jerks his head at the door. "Face front, assholes, and take us to the bigwigs." As the scientists shuffle forward, he nods at the toddlers. They may be young chronologically, but they knew who to pick to exact their vengeance, all right.


Meanwhile, Mulder charges into the office, yelling, "Everyone, stand up with your hands up, eyes front! If I see anyone reaching for anything, I won't hesitate to shoot!" There's a lot of screaming, and he shoots a few inches over their heads. "Sorry, I forgot to add 'Shut the hell up'," he says, and now the noise dies down to whimpers.

Mulder scans the room, memorizing each face and their location. "I know not all the head honchos are here," he comments, "I also know they're not gonna save your asses. What I want you to do is contact them one by one, get them to come here, and that way you're not the only one frying. If you try to warn any of them, well," and says as he checks his bullets before popping the cartridge back in, "let's just say you're closer to hit than they are. Got it?" They nod, and he points to the secretary furthest from himself, and walks toward her. "You first, the rest of you stay put, because there's no way you can leave this room."

His gun trained on the shaking woman, he taps her shoulder with the gun nuzzle. "Sit down and call your boss," he says, "and sound natural."

As she dials with shaky fingers, Mulder sighs. "Take some deep breaths, okay? It's not gonna work if you sound scared." She stares at him, then takes ragged breaths, making him roll his eyes. When the other line picks up, Mulder hits the "intercom" button so he can hear both sides.

"Hello, Mr. Shaw? Yes, I'm afraid we have a bit of a situation that requires your attention," she says, steadfastly looking away from the gun.

"What, nobody else is close enough to drive?" Mr. Shaw replies peevishly.

"Sorry, no, sir," she responds. "It's not a security situation, but one of the scientists says-"

"Very well," Mr. Shaw sighs. "I'll be there in about fifteen minutes. Damn eggheads, probably want more money again. How are the subjects doing?"

The secretary looks up at Mulder, who is stone-faced, and she bites her lip. "The same as usual."

"Well, at least they're not demanding raises," Mr. Shaw says, chuckling. "I'll see you."

"Very well, sir," she says, and hangs up.

"That was easy," Mulder comments, looking at the others. "See?"

"I can't!" one of them gasps, and starts to run towards the door. And is promptly thrown back at the desks, as if an invisible hand got a hold of her, and crumples where she lands.

While the secretarial pool gasps and cries, Mulder shakes his head. "I told you you couldn't leave," he says. "We can do this the hard way like your friend there," he points his gun at the sobbing woman, "or the easy way." He nods at the secretary sitting next to him. "You, next." He walks on to the woman on his left.

And they do it the easy way until Krycek joins him with the scientists.


"Wow, I can't believe we've got 'em all locked up as easily as all that," Krycek comments, as the police and FBI have their duties assigned to their satisfaction, leaving Mulder and Krycek free for the first time in a long time.

"Like you ever doubted it?" Mulder raises an eyebrow.

Krycek shrugs. "Well, it took an alien ship to flashfry the first bunch, and even then, there were stragglers."

Mulder grimaces, remembering the charred corpses. "Yeah, there's that. Hey, I think that social worker's calling you."

Krycek nods, then walks over to where the social worker is, surrounded by a bunch of what he's privately termed "his kids". "Yeah?" he asks.

"Alex, uh, Krycek, right?" the man asks, and Krycek nods. "Daniel Leung. It looks like some of the kids don't trust our folks, so they refuse to eat or sleep. It's understandable, considering what they've gone through," he says, having bought their cover story of a children's hospital gone wrong, "but they want you to take care of them."

Krycek sighs. "Let me talk to them." Leung nods, and walks off. When the man has gone out of earshot, Krycek squats down and looks each child in the face. "Look, guys. Me and Mulder are the good guys, but so are they," and he jerks a thumb at Leung and his colleagues. "They won't do anything to hurt you."

"You," one of the boys says, "save us."

He closes his eyes, then exhales, opening his eyes. "You saved yourselves," he corrects them. "And you know who are the bad guys, and who are the good guys, so trust yourselves." Then he hugs them, each and every one of them. "Take care," he says in a low voice, and walks away quickly, trying to regain his composure.

Mulder pretends he doesn't see his brother-in-law blinking away tears, turning away until he hears the other man's footsteps. "So, what'd the social worker say?"

Krycek shrugs. "Says the kids are distrustful of grownups, but I straightened things out." His smug tone belies his feelings, however, and he shoves his hands into his sports jacket pockets. When he realizes the pockets aren't big enough, he scowls. "I can't wait to get out of these dorky clothes," he mutters.

Mulder chuckles. "Hey, why don't you take a break," he suggests. "The action part's over now, all that's left is admin work." Then he smiles a little. "Unless you wanna stick around and push some papers for fun?"

"Hell, no." Krycek makes a face. "I'd rather go home and fuck Missy until her legs go numb."

"I think that was wayyyyy too much information." Mulder shakes his head. "Just go home before you get any more graphic."

Krycek grins and waves, walking off.


March 2002
The Krycek Residence

Melissa's done everything except drug the boy, and part of her thinks that introducing him to beer might not be such a bad idea. "Ryan." She shakes her head over his fretful crying. "I don't know what's gotten into you, but Mommy's almost as pooped out as you are." She hears the phone ring, and races out of the room, closing the door shut so he won't wake up, and grabs the nearest landline. "Hello?" she answers breathlessly.

"Hey, are you having fun without me?" Krycek pouts.

"Shut up," Melissa takes deeper breaths. "I just put Ryan to sleep and I didn't want him to wake up."

"Oh, okay," he says. "By the way, I've got some good news. I'll be coming home soon."

" Really? That's great!" She smiles. "So you got them?"

"Yep," he says, and she can hear his smirk over the phone. "So how is everyone doing?"

"Well," she says, "I'm okay, Emily's in a school play as a fairy godmother, and Ryan has been restless all day, just like his father." She's smiling as she says this, brushing a lock of long red hair out of her face. Then she rotates her neck, like her younger sister, and exhales.

"Something wrong?"

"No, long day," Melissa replies. "and I need to bring Emily her wings for her play tonight." Her energy comes back up as she adds, "She'll be so happy to hear you're coming home. I'm glad you'll be here in time to see your baby on stage." She rubs the small of her back, stretching as she does so.

"And I'm happy I'm here in time to help you out with your back," he says.

"What?" she says, surprised. "I didn't say anything about - Ohhh." She smiles as a pair of arms wrap themselves around her waist from behind. "You didn't say how soon you were coming home." She ends the phone call, because her husband in person is so much better.

"And spoil the surprise?" Krycek breathes in her ear, rubbing against her. "Where's the fun in that?"

"Mmm, miss me?" she leans against him, feeling his desire harden against her back side.

"Heck, no," he says, his careless tone belying his action, "too busy chasing dead ends and weirdoes to think of anyone back home."

His hands, roaming all over her, under her clothes, and the constant friction caused by his insistent crotch say otherwise, however, and she chuckles. "Of course," she says, rubbing her ass against him, making him groan. "Mm," she moans, as he kisses her neck, her shoulder, divesting her of her blouse, and then her skirt. "Oh, ohhhhh, Alex."

"Oh, baby," he breathes, shucking off his jeans and briefs in one go, "I need you."

His fingers play with her womanhood under her panties, even as she wraps her arms up and around his neck, his manhood rubbing her underneath. "Ah, right there, ooh!"

They soon realize that they can't continue without some support for balance, so they stagger towards the nearest wall, Melissa bracing against it, and Alex right behind her, his hands on her tits. Impatiently, she pulls down her panties, lifting her ass against his crotch. "Give it to me," she tells him, "I'm dripping!"

"Oh, God," he groans, and slides into her. "God, I've missed you," he grunts, feeling her clenching with each thrust.

"Mm, good," she gasps, "ah, unh, unh, oh," and their conversation pretty much devolves into monosyllabic grunts of pleasure for the rest of the afternoon.


The play is, as expected of an elementary school play, more entertaining than the actors onstage or the teachers in the wings planned. And Emily Krycek plays her part as the fair godmother with admirable aplomb, even though it's beyond either of her parent's imagination as to why she's waving her wand like a weapon.

"You sure she's not venting her frustration at not being picked for Cinderella?" Krycek whispers to his wife when their baby girl nearly beheads one of the mice.

Melissa shakes her head, patting Ryan on her shoulder. "She was pretty excited to be the fairy," she whispers back, "getting to wear jewelry and wings and twirling in a dress."

"Just like her mommy," he murmurs, and his wife can't help but giggle, while onstage, Cinderella is running in front of the carriage, faster than the badly-costumed mice-as-horses.

And when they do their closing bows to wildly clapping parents, Emily twirls onto the stage, then waves her wand at the audience like a conductor does for her orchestra. "I taught her that," Melissa beams proudly.

"So why didn't she do that during the play?" he wonders. "They're gonna think you put a hit on Cinderella."

Before Melissa can retort, he rushes towards the stage, snapping pictures madly like all the other proud parents doing likewise. None of them, however, have illegally modified technology, but that's something he's keeping to himself. Then he calls out, "Brava, Emily, brava!"

"Daddy!" Emily gives herself a running start before launching herself offstage into her father's arms. "You made it!"

"Of course," Krycek says when he gets his breath back, with more than a trace of smugness. "You thought I wouldn't?"

"I knew you would." She beams up at him with the same amount of smugness. "So, what did you think?"

"I think." He smiles, kissing her on each cheek, before saying "that you are an amazing actress. But why were you waving your wand so hard earlier?"

" Oh," Emily replies. "I thought if I waved it hard enough, it would be magic enough to bring you back home to see me. And you did!"

Krycek can't say anything to that, so he settles for hugging her tightly and smiling the biggest smile a proud parent ever could.


Mulder-Scully Home

"So, how are things going?" Scully asks, cradling the cell phone against her ear as she spoon-feeds William.

Mulder sighs. He knows he could've left this part to the social services, but he doubts whether they'd be adequately prepared to deal with small children who can move things with their minds, with or without drugs. Even as he tries to figure out how to place these special children into homes, not institutions, there's a part of him that wonders how William would've fared at his adoptive parents' home in that other life once he exhibited his powers. It's not like they have a page, or even a line, on the form related to telekinetic and/or telepathic children on foster and adoptive homes.

"Slowly," he admits to his wife. "It's as if they've guaranteed that these kids would never have a normal life," he tells her, "genetically shackling them to daily doses of drugs tailored to their specific yet incomplete DNA so that they can continue living. It's like what they did to kids like Emily, except they also added hallucinogens and sedatives to make them more pliable and addicted, like pimps would to underaged hookers. Makes me sick."

"Oh my God," Scully breathes, "just when I thought they couldn't sink any lower..." And now she's thankful that she and Mulder intervened in George, Patti and Joy's lives, so that their child wouldn't end up like that. Nor would their own children, she thinks, unconsciously squeezing William closer to her until he starts to fuss.

"Yeah," Mulder says, "at first I thought it was brainwashing, but when the drug tests came back, it was disturbing to see how thorough they were. Of course, with such specific details, it only serves as more evidence to nail these assholes into the ground. Even if they could swing through some loopholes, there's no way these guys will be able to squirm their way out of child endangerment, abuse, and manipulation. And should they try to use the kids as leverage-"

"With the laws as they are," Scully cuts in smoothly, "there's no way they can get the kids in court unless via electronic transmission, and with most of them unable to speak, the judge and jury would be looking at a bunch of helpless infants. Yeah, that wouldn't be in the Syndicate's favor."

"Life imprisonment, doesn't that have a nice ring?" Mulder says lightly. "Never thought I'd be able to jail these guys, but apparently the New Syndicate's strength doesn't come close to their predecessors. Neither did they figure they'd ever have to pay for their sins, since they were oh-so-careful," he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Hey, you mind writing the legal briefs? Taking down the bad guys was easy, but cleaning up their mess and properly looking after the kids is looking more and more like a nightmare."

"Oh, is that all? You can handle it." Scully smirks. "Or better yet, delegate. Whatever doesn't come under X-Files jurisdiction, you can farm out."

"The problem is, *everything* falls under X-Files jurisdiction," Mulder groans. "A lot of the parents are complicit in the crimes against their children, while other parents are as much victims as their children, so there's the fun of sifting out the truth there. Either way, the results will eventually be left to the legal system, so once that's done, it's out of my hands. And social services can only scratch the surface of helping these kids before they'd encounter a flying chair, and then they'd be sent off to some kind of institution or lab, which is effectively putting the kids back into the same situation they came from." He sighs. "Maybe we could sign them up for the circus, it's starting to feel like a three-ring madhouse anyways."

"Mulder," Scully warns.

"I know, I know," he surrenders agreeably, pinching the bridge of his nose. Closing his eyes against the bright computer monitor and mountains of paperwork threatening to blind him, he asks, "So, how's everyone doing over there?"

The friendly tone worries her more than his earlier whining. "We're good," she says, not wanting to tell him about her pregnancy until she sees him in person. "Page is doing well in class, Sammy's getting really active in his school's intramural sports, April's still got quite the green thumb, Christopher likes the words 'why' and 'no', David and Jared are both trying out for best imitator of TV commercials and driving Mommy up the wall, and William is a sweetheart."

"And what about you?"

"I, I want you home as soon as possible," she finds herself saying.

"I love you," Mulder says, feeling a burst of energy unaccountably surging through him. "Thanks."

"For what?" Scully's confused.


He smiles, for the first time in a while. "For reminding me of why I'm doing this," he replies. "That these kids deserve to have a good family to come home to, just like anyone else. In fact, they deserve it more than anyone else."

"You're a good man, Mulder," she says, wanting to hug him right then and there.

"No, I'm not," he says, as expected. "Just doing my job."

She chuckles. "You never 'just do your job'," Scully shakes her head. "It's what I love about you and what drives me nuts. You make everything personal."

"Well, duh," he says in an exaggerated drawl, making her laugh.

"I love you," Scully tells him, "now get back to work."

"Aye-aye, Captain," Mulder says, making a smart salute with the wrong arm.

"Other arm, Mulder," Scully says, making him look.

He narrows his eyes. "How'd you do that?"

"Mommy eyes," she says primly.

"You're a scary woman, Dana Scully," he mutters, and hears her laughing before she hangs up. He smiles again, this time saluting with his right arm, and gets back to work.


Later

"So, how's things?" Krycek asks in a far too chipper voice.

"I hate you," Mulder says with feeling.

"Love you, too, Dude," Krycek laughs. "Sucks being a goody-two-shoes, don't it?"

"Like I said before, I hate you," Mulder says. "So what's this phone call really about?"

"Oh, Scully was making some noises about joining you up in Nowheresville to help you finish things up, and me and Melissa had to talk her out of it," he says, far too blithely for the content of his words. "So I was thinking if you needed some strings pulled-"

"I'd be far too afraid of what or who'd they be attached to," Mulder cuts in. "Besides, I'm doing my fair share of string-pulling and favor-calling. But thanks for the offer."

"Really?" Krycek sounds surprised. "'Cause you're taking forever."

Mulder rolls his eyes. "Believe it or not, making sure these kids go to good homes with exceptional medical coverage takes longer than just shipping them off to some medical facility," he says. "As well as making sure their welfare and transportation takes place away from interested parties. So yeah, forever it is."

"You really are a good guy," the other man says, and if Mulder didn't know any better, he'd think there was a little more than a trace of envy in his voice. "If you're ever up for sainthood, me and the rest of the gang will put in a good word with the Pope."

"Being non-Catholic may put a damper on that," Mulder quips. "Besides, I think Scully should be the one up for sainthood, putting up with me and the kids, as well as being the longest- running Catholic in the household."

"Uh-huh," Krycek smirks. "So, Mr. I'm-Not-a-Saint, feel like grabbing a bite to eat?"

Mulder glances at the remains of his lunch. No, wait, that was his breakfast, when was the last time he ate? Aw, shit, that was from earlier this morning, two-something. "You gonna airmail me a care package?"

"No, I was thinking I'd take you to that cheapass restaurant a few miles down the road," Krycek says, walking into the room.

"You are one creepy bastard," Mulder chuckles, leaning back in his chair.

"I'm a creepy bastard who hates owing people things." The double agent shrugs. "Come on, I gotta feed you or Scully'll have my ass, and then Melissa won't make out with me tonight."

Mulder rolls his eyes. "Love your priorities."

"Hey, at least I know what's important." Krycek smiles. "Come on, I'm paying."

"Par-tay." Mulder grins back, saves his documents on the disk, then sticks said disk and its cover in his pocket. "Lead on, O Payer of Food."

"Cheapass Payer of Food," Krycek corrects him. "No lobster or anything stupid like that, 'cause this isn't a date."

"I doubt they'd have lobster at a cheap restaurant," Mulder mutters as he locks the door behind them, "and Krycek, if you ever mention us and a date in the same sentence again, I'll shoot you where you stand."

Krycek's unrepentant laughter echoes down the hallway.


Hoover Building

Scully hasn't been to work in a few days, mainly because her morning sickness isn't just nailing her at all times of the day, but also because she finds herself pining madly for her husband and that just wouldn't look good at work. "Stupid hormones," she grumbles, not for the first time, and opens the basement door.

Going through one of the upper files is Reyes, her back facing the doorway and humming. "Oh, Dana." She smiles as she turns around, "how is Mulder doing?"

Scully nods. "He's good," she says, a tired smile on her face. "And how are things with you and John?"

Now Reyes smiles, ear to ear. "Real good."

"I take it you and he patched things up?" Scully raises an eyebrow.

"If you mean great make-up sex, yeah," Reyes chuckles, laughing louder when Scully joins in. "I don't know what you told him, but thanks."

Scully shrugs. "Not much, only what anyone with half a brain could've told him."

Reyes shakes her head. "No, really, thank you." And she hugs her shorter friend tightly. "It was really hard working with someone who barely looked at you, much less respected you."

Scully nods, thankful she's able to breathe again. "I'm glad things worked out, and not just because the senior agents are out of the office," she says, a full smile on her face.

"Hey, I can be a professional," Reyes says, lifting her chin, "John was the big baby."

"I was a big baby about what?" Doggett asks, walking in.

"Love," Reyes says, pulling him in for a hug.

"Monica," he says in a low voice, "we're at work." However, he doesn't pull away.

"I know." She smiles, "but it's okay." And Doggett finds himself smiling with her.

Scully shakes her head. They'll be okay, she thinks, they might need a little help, but they'll be okay.


Meanwhile...

More than once, Mulder finds himself in the position that Scully found herself in years ago, wanting to adopt these kids like she wanted to adopt Kevin Kryder. It would make things so much easier, a part of his brain tells him, the part that wants to also take Krycek's shortcuts. But the small, stubborn part of him, the one he's dubbed the Scully part, grabs the tempting part in a headlock and tells him that he should stick to doing what he does best, which is the right thing. It's usually the hardest thing, but it's always the best thing to do. He smiles a little, thinking of Scully putting Krycek in a headlock, then gets out of the car.

"Hi, are you Mr. and Mrs. Sergio Goes?" he asks the couple, pronouncing the last name like "goze."

"It's 'go-ess'," Mr. Goes corrects him, shaking his hand. "You must be Mr. Mulder."

Mulder's about to correct him as well, but then realizes that since his dad is gone, then yeah, he probably is. He smiles. "Yes, I am. Meet Matthew." He opens the passenger door, then carefully unbuckles the infant from the car seat. Then he hands the bundled baby over to the couple, who are watching with open eyes and mouths. "Matthew," he says, placing the boy into his waiting mother's arms, "meet your parents."

"Oh my God, he's so beautiful," Mrs. Goes says, tears spilling from her eyes. "I mean, I knew it from the picture, but still..." She looks up at her husband, a watery smile on her face. "He's so beautiful."

Mr. Goes beams under his trimmed beard and moustache, hugging his wife. "Of course he is," he tells her, then smiles proudly at the infant. "He's our son."

Then Mulder opens a back seat door, taking out a large ice chest. "This is his medicine," he tells them, setting it on the ground carefully, then pulls out a sheet of paper from his jacket. "These are the instructions. When you need refills, don't hesitate to call or e-mail the company at the bottom."

Mrs. Goes nods. "We know all about how important constant medical care is, I suppose you know about my diabetes." She looks at her husband, but the answer is directed at Mulder.

"Yes," Mulder says, "that's part of why you two were chosen." When they look at him in surprise, he smiles. "Another part is that you both value family highly, even though you're unable to conceive and you can't adopt under normal conditions. However, Matthew isn't a normal child, and I hope you realize that."

"Of course our child wouldn't be normal," Mrs. Goes says lightly, "he'll be just like his father." Her husband laughs, and hugs her to him. Then she looks directly at Mulder. "No matter what, Matteo is ours." Her hold on the child isn't stronger, but the fierce determination and possessiveness on her face is, as if daring him to take the child back.

"Yes, he is." Mulder nods with understanding, and leaves the re-named infant with his parents.


Krycek calls him on the way back to the quote-unquote base. "Jeez, I knew you were a goody- two-shoes, but this is ridiculous," the double agent tells him.

Mulder switches hands before he makes a turn. "Yeah, yeah, I'm a regular saint, you said that already," he mutters, "how are you doing on your end?"

"Five deliveries so far, and I feel like a freakin' stork," Krycek replies. "I can't believe you were doing this all by yourself. You realize you can delegate this shit to social services, right?"

"I trust your instincts on certain types of people," Mulder responds drily, "and while I know that social services may have experience weeding out regular assholes, they probably wouldn't have occasion to run across anyone related to either the new or old syndicate on a regular basis. That, and you're pretty good at background checks."

"Background checks," Krycek repeats sourly. "Great. Now I wish I hadn't talked Scully out of joining you. This sucks."

"Suck it up." Mulder grins. "Or can't you handle actual work?"

"This is chick work," Krycek scoffs, "that's all I'm saying."

"Uh-huh." Mulder shakes his head. "Chick work. That you can't handle."

"Who says I can't handle this? It's boring as hell, stupid, and I can't believe I'm doing this shit," the other man retorts like a little kid.

"Alex," Mulder resorts to using the guy's first name, "I'm paying for dinner tonight. Happy?"

"It better not be some cheapass fast food crap like you're used to," Krycek grumbles.

Mulder laughs. "Lemme guess, your stomach's gone all delicate since the last time I saw you."

"No, I'm just afraid I'm gonna have to cut your burger into bite-sized pieces," Krycek responds snidely, "for the old man you are. Maybe even mash up your fries."

They keep this up until they reach the base, and even then, they argue over whose car to take (they end up driving their own), and what to get at the restaurant. Lighthearted as the banter is, they both know it's a lame attempt to distance themselves from the children whose lives are in their hands, some of whom already formed attachments to them, and that makes it just that much harder to let go.


Mulder-Scully Home

Scully leans over the bed, her heart swelling with love for her children. "Good night, David," she says, kissing his forehead. Then she turns to the other bed. "Good night, Jared," she kisses his forehead, and he scrunches his face, making her giggle. "Good night, sweetie." Then a tall shadow blocks out the light from the hallway, and she figures Michelle has something to ask before turning for the night.

"Hey," a familiar voice says from the doorway.

"Mulder!" Scully springs up and wraps her arms around him. "I could've picked you up from the airport," she whispers, so that the twins don't wake up again.

"Yeah, but this is cooler." He grins, hugging her back.

"I think Krycek's rubbing off on you in all the wrong ways." She pouts, pulling away a little, "Missy told me about how he surprised her at home."

He chuckles, kissing her forehead. "I hope that's the only idea I've picked up from him," he says, "God, it's good to be home."

She leans against him, closing her eyes. "I missed you."

He holds her, reveling in the feel of her body against his. "I missed you, too."

She raises an eyebrow at him, reaches over and closes the door behind them. "I missed you more."

"Uh-oh," Mulder raises his eyebrows at the challenge.

But before he could properly answer it with an equally infantile response, Sammy and Page are running towards him, then fasten themselves to his legs. "Daddy!" they both shout.

Soon, other doors are opening, and more children pour out, attaching themselves to their parents like limpets on rock. Mulder laughs, squeezing shoulders, ruffling or stroking hair, being very, very glad to be home. And he can only pray that the children he's assigned families will have lives this happy, this loving.


Chapter One Hundred and Twelve



March 13th, 2002

Mulder is pinned to an armchair by the wide-eyed stares of his two oldest children. Eventually Page asks the question that the anticipation of seems to make her practically levitate. "Daddy, are you home for good?"

"Yes," Mulder tells her, relieved that this is the truth. Though he's thrilled that the little ones he and Krycek rescued have all gone to good homes, he's so ready to take a long break from anything stressful.

"You're going to stay home, and not go away for long times again?" she persists.

"No longer than Mom and I usually go away for work," Mulder says, but even as he does, he wonders how receptive Kersh will be to rescheduling a meeting to discuss reinstating him to the FBI.

Sammy gives him a suspicious look. "Really?"

"Really."

"Really-really?"

"Yes, really."

"Okay," Sammy says. "What about Monsters, Inc.?"

"What?" Mulder gives his oldest son a blank look. This is not the sort of follow up question he's been expecting.

"You said we could go see that movie, Monsters, Inc. but then you went away with Uncle Alex. Can we see it tomorrow?" Sammy asks.

Mulder stares at him.

This doesn't faze his eldest son. "So, can we?"

Mulder doesn't want to disappoint them, but he's not sure it's a plan that can be followed through on. "I don't know if it's still playing anyw-"

"When the theater says the name on the sign outside, that means the movie is playing, right?" Page asks from the couch.

"Right."

"It says Monsters, Inc. at the theater near our school. The second fun theater."

"Second run," Mulder corrects absently. "I give them a call. If it's playing, I'll bring you tomorrow night."

"Good!" Sammy says excitedly. "I'm gonna tell April, n' David n' Jared."

"Wait, let me call the theater first," Mulder tells him.

A couple of minutes later Mulder is able to confirm that they're showing the movie, so Sammy is able to spread the good news. Page trails her brother, but doesn't seem to be trying to steal his thunder. Mulder supposes if he asks her, she'd tell him that it's fair he gets to tell their siblings since he's the one that asked about the movie.

Shaking his head, he goes to find his wife. "They act like nothing has changed. How can my being gone for four months not have changed anything for them?"

"They're adaptive. Like us," Scully tells him. "But don't go convincing yourself that they didn't miss you every minute you were gone. They did."

"I know, but-"

"You should be happy that they're treating you the same. It's much healthier than-"

"-when you dug me up? I know."

"Good." She gives him a sly smile. "But not everything is the same."

"No?" he asks, wondering what she's hinting at.

"Remember when I saw you in January?" she asks, letting her voice drop into a teasing whisper.

Mulder pulls her to him and nuzzles her neck. "How could I forget? I'm surprised your back isn't still bruised from the wall."

"Seven months from now we're going to have a permanent reminder of that visit."

"Oh," he says, catching her drift. "Once more into the breach, huh?"

"Something like that," she agrees. "But don't say breach. Let's not tempt fate."

"You're worried about bad luck now?" Mulder teases her. "I guess something has changed after all."


Missy and Krycek's Home
8 p.m.

Just when it seems like Ryan might finally nod off after his bath, he opens his eyes, then his mouth. A forlorn wail exposes the nubs of two shiny new teeth trying to come in. He flails when Missy tries to comfort him.

"Ryan, you're trying Mommy's patience, yes you are." Missy tries to keep her tone light, but her baby is exhausting her. "Why can't you be more like your cousins?"

As soon as the words are out of her mouth she regrets them, even though she knows that he's too young to understand. It does strike her as unfair that Ryan is more of a handful than William, or Christopher or...She once complained about that to her mother, and Maggie told her that Page had been a fussy baby too, but she hadn't been around then to see how her sister's oldest two were when they were as small as Ryan. None of the younger kids cried for hours at a time the way Ryan does.

But, as always, eventually he stops crying, and she doesn't even dare to breathe a sigh of relief.

As Missy walks by the den with a finally sleeping Ryan on her shoulder, she notices that her husband is peering intently at a sheet of paper. She doesn't want to wake the baby, but she promises herself that she'll swing back through the room once she's put Ryan down.

Three minutes later, Krycek is still staring at the same page.

"Did you discover the meaning of life?" she asks, making him look up at her. To her surprise, the comment doesn't elicit a smile.

"No. It's the result of a DNA test."

"A DNA test on who?" Missy asks sharply. A prick of guilt pokes her heart when she remembers asking her sister if she cheated on Mulder after his abduction. The thought that Krycek might have questions about their baby makes her as upset as her sister had been.

Krycek sighs. "There was this little girl there at the facility that looks just like Emily. I had to be sure that she wasn't..."

"That she wasn't ours?" Missy supplies, feeling vaguely relieved.

"Exactly. She isn't. She's not even distantly related to you or me."

Her brow furrows. "And finding this out makes you unhappy? Did you want her to be ours, Alex?" They'd discussed only having two kids at length, and she'd thought he'd been happy with the decision, even if Emily is still talking about wanting a little sister "some day."

"No, I didn't hope that she was ours. That's not the problem. I'm unhappy because I'm worried still."

"What about?"

"Mulder and I had nothing better to do but talk a lot of the time. One of the things we discussed was him discovering Emily's surrogate and finding paper work on her and the other women."

"And?"

"And there were other kids born the same way she was. More than half a dozen of them, some of them older than her. I thought we'd find them in that facility, but none of the kids there was much more than two years old. What happened to them?"

Missy sits on the couch next to him, and picks up his good hand. "Hopefully, they are in safe, loving homes. Emily wasn't being held in a home like those little ones you and Mulder rescued, either. She seems to have pretty much forgotten her adoptive parents by now, but when she was small I asked her about them. The Sims loved her, and I'm sure they still would if they hadn't died they way they had. Even at three years old, it was clear that she was convinced of that. I don't know why those other kids you didn't find wouldn't have been given good homes too."

"Maybe they're dead," Krycek suggests in a low voice.

"It's possible. If they are, they're beyond worrying about now," Missy says, trying to sound reasonable rather than cold.

"Yeah."

"Oh, man!" They hear Emily's voice coming from the living room.

Missy moves to get up, but Krycek stops her. "I'll go."


"What's up?' Krycek asks Emily a moment later.

Emily points at the TV. "I was watching My Wife and Kids and the news came on. They keep talking about a fire."

"Why were you watching that? Did your mom say it was okay?" he asks before turning his gaze to the TV.

The screen is indeed filled with flames as a reporter talks about what happened in some distant location. He begins to pay attention to the reporter just soon enough to think he hears her say "the dead are a suspected cult who believed in aliens" which is enough to make him shiver. Reaching over, he pushes the power button.

"Hey!" Emily immediately pouts.

"Why don't you go get your coat?" Krycek suggests.

"How come?"

"I thought we might go look through that nice telescope your aunt Dana bought you for Christmas."

"Okay! I've been waiting to use it outside like real astronomers do. Mommy said it's too cold to bring Ryan outside, so I had to wait til you got home."

"Well, I'm home now," he tells her, smiling as she grabs her coat off the coat tree.

Krycek gives the blank TV screen a mistrustful look. The cult that has apparently just burned itself up believed in aliens. Were those people connected to the ones who thought there was a prophecy involving the family? He made a mental note to look into what exactly the cult believed. It was possible that they were harmless and deluded in an unrelated way like those poor people who though a comet was coming for them, but he didn't think it was possible to be too careful.

A few minutes later the worry slips from him as he helps his daughter look through the telescope and search for distant stars.


March 14th, 2002
Afternoon

::The more things change, the more they stay the same.:: Mulder thinks as they arrive at Scully's doctor's appointment. The nurse greets them with a familiar smile, and doesn't bother to explain anything after telling them what exam room to go to.

"Ah, if it isn't one of my favorite patients," Doctor Hart says as he enters the room. "Favorite dads, too."

"Favorite because we keep you in business?" Mulder asks, grinning at the obstetrician.

"Favorite because you're comfortable with the whole experience, which isn't something I get with first-time moms. But big families are making something of a comeback, so I'm in the right business at the right time," Hart agrees. "Dana, how far long do you think you are?"

"Just over seven weeks," Scully says firmly.

Hart smiles. "You sound pretty sure about that."

"Mulder was gone on an assignment for months," Scully explains. "We saw each other on January twentieth." She spreads her hands. "Other than that, we're looking at November or yesterday."

Inexplicably, Mulder finds heat rushing to his cheeks. The doctor knows that they have sex. If there was ever any doubt of that, they have seven children to prove it. It still it embarrasses him slightly to be talking about their sex life with Scully's obstetrician.

The doctor doesn't miss a beat, though Mulder thinks he hears a faint chuckle. "Well, that'll make predicting your due date much easier. We're looking at October 18th or so. Why don't you get up on the table and we'll take a look."

After Scully climbs onto the table, she lifts her gown before he needs to ask her to. Hart squirts her belly with the medium for the ultrasound. Eventually a small squirming alien comes into view as Mulder watches. Not that he would ever tell her that he thinks that their babies look like aliens this early in pregnancy. Somehow, he doesn't think would have the sense of humor for that.

"Here we are!" Hart says as he too eyes the wiggling mass. He changes the screen's view slightly. "Oh."

"Oh? Oh doesn't sound good," Mulder says fretfully.

"Dr. Hart?" Scully starts to sit up but Hart holds out his hand to restrain her.

"Nothing bad," Hart says quickly. "Just mildly unexpected."

"What?!" Mulder and Scully say as one.

"Did you ever find out if Jared and David are identical?" Hart asks, and Mulder wonders if he's lost his mind. How can you want to discuss such a trivial subject right then? Right before Mulder asks him to get back on the topic, please, Hart points a finger at the monitor. "Because these two are definitely identical."

All the blood drains from Scully's face. "Twins? Again?"

"Surprise?" Hart says, uncertain.

"Wow." Mulder squeezes Scully's hand reassuringly. "And yes, David and Jared are identical." He'd finally talked her into doing the zygosity test shortly before they left for their vacation over the summer. It came as no surprise that their sons were officially identical.

Hart looks mildly puzzled. "This is unusual. Fraternal twins tend to run in families. Identical twins don't. Which isn't to say that some women don't have more than one set of identicals, since it does happen."

"How do you know that they'll be identical?" Mulder asks, squinting at the monitor. All he sees is a couple of fluttery shapes on the screen.

Hurt uses his laser pointer to isolate a shape on the screen. "They share the same placenta. That only happens with identical twins." Before Scully can get alarmed the doctor quickly adds, "They have their own amniotic sacs though, so we won't have to worry about tangling cords or twin to twin transfusion."

"Good," Scully says faintly.

Hart looks uncomfortable about her lack of enthusiasm, and it's beginning to bother Mulder as well. "Well. Everybody looks healthy, so we'll have the front desk schedule your next appointment. I'll let you get dressed."

The doctor quickly makes his exit from the room. Mulder gives Scully a confused look. "Do you want me to leave the room while you get dressed too?"

"No."

"Okay... are you okay?"

She laughs briefly, and it's a brittle sound. "Carrying David and Jared wasn't easy, and that was almost four years ago."

Mulder tries a put his arm around her to comfort her. "It'll be okay. We'll make sure you take it easy."

She pulls away. "This is your fault!"

He blinks in confusion. "My fault? It's not my egg that split in two." ::And I seem to recall being in the middle of asking you if you wanted a condom before you threw a leg around my waist.::

"No, but it's your fault that it did."

"How?" he asks defensively.

"There's this study. Identical twins seem to run in some families even though they're not supposed to. It concluded that there is an enzyme in some men's sperm that causes ova to split. You. Must. Have. It," Scully says, poking him in the chest.

"Sorry?"

This at least gets her to smile. "No, I'm sorry. It's actually both our faults. But this is going to change a lot."

"Sure. We'll be back on double diaper duty," Mulder says, wrinkling his nose at the memory of David and Jared's early months. "Hopefully we can get Christopher potty trained completely soon."

She shakes her head. "That's not I mean. I meant at work. Twins at my age is considered a high risk pregnancy. I'm not going to be spending a lot of time out in the field, this time."

"Oh." He hadn't thought of that. Fieldwork had pretty much directly resulted in David and Jared being born a month early. It wasn't something that either of them wanted to repeat, even though the boys had been healthy. "I guess we'll have to lay it out on the table for Kersh, and hope that he'll allow you to just do desk duty."

"Great. Writing reports for several months is what I always wanted."

"But you're so darn good at it." Mulder smiles.

She rolls her eyes.

"We won't be able to find out for a while yet if they're boys or girls, right?"

"Right. Not for several weeks yet, Mulder," she says, looking up from buttoning her blouse.

"Just think, we'll be able to have our own little league team soon," he enthuses.

"You're not helping me feel better."

"Sorry," he says again.

"This is the last time, you know," she says as they reach the lobby.

"Time for what?" he asks blankly.

She gestures to her belly. "This."

"Okay." Mulder smiles at her. "We both knew the time would come when we were done having new babies."

"Good." I'm glad we agree," she says firmly.

He thinks he sees a little sadness mixed in with her resolve, though.

"With two more we'll finally have a full house," he says, going for levity. This time she cracks a smile.


Meanwhile...
Hoover Building

"Hello?"

Doggett looks up when he hears an uncertain voice addressing him from the doorway. A young blonde woman holding a folder stands there, giving him a curious look. "Yes?"

"Oh. I was hoping to find agent Mulder or agent Scully." Then as an afterthought the woman adds, "I'm Leyla Harrison."

"John Doggett," he replies out of politeness. "Unfortunately, agent Scully is gone for the afternoon. And agent Mulder's status is sort of undetermined at the moment. I don't know when he'll be back," Doggett explains. Mulder had called earlier in the day to complain that Kersh wouldn't give him a solid date to talk to him about reinstatement. "Agent Reyes and I are the only ones who are at the office for the rest of the day."

The woman looks disappointed. "Darn. There was something I was hoping they would look into."

"What's that?" Doggett asks, his curiosity aroused.

The woman looks hesitant. "I'm in the accounting department, but I've always followed Mulder and Scully's cases. I wanted to bring this to their attention because it was something I thought, uh, might be aligned with Mulder's... interests."

Doggett frowns. "What you're saying is you don't think that other agents would have the same sort of open mind that Mulder has a reputation for."

Harrison spreads her hands in defeat. "Basically."

"Agent Reyes and I've been investigating the paranormal alongside agent Scully for quite awhile," Doggett says, sounding slightly defensive. "Anything you could go to agent Mulder with, you could bring to us as well."

"Right." The woman's cheeks turn red. She hands him the folder. "I think I've stumbled onto an X-File."

"How?"

"It all started when I tracked down a mileage discrepancy in the bureau's vehicle fleet. It turns out a really nice secretary from our Baltimore field office had used a Ford Taurus without authorization."

"Unauthorized vehicle used is an X-File?" Doggett says, with a hint of a smile.

This only flusters the woman. "No, of course not. When I investigated her misconduct, I found out that she was desperate to go and check on her grandson. She's the one who told me about this case."

Though Doggett was becoming impatient, he tried not to let it show. Especially since his joke had gone over so poorly. "And the X-File is...?"

Harrison takes back the folder and removes a photo. It's a gruesome crime-scene photo of a dead woman. "This was her daughter." Harris removes another photo, this one blood-free. "Her son, Tommy, said that a monster killed her."

Doggett stares at her.

"I know. Why take the word of an eight-year-old? But the coroner concluded that she died of self-inflicted stab wounds."

"Why do you doubt his conclusion?"

"How could somebody stab themselves sixteen times?" Harrison asks with a bit of triumph in her voice.

"I think it's possible," Doggett says dismissively. "Some people have an unusually high tolerance for pain. Maybe that's what we're seeing here."

Harrison now looks frustrated. "I think there's more to it than that. Tommy's father has been acting strangely. He pulled him out of school, brought him to a remote mountain in Pennsylvania, and has cut off all contact with friends and family.

"His grandmother isn't even allowed to see him, which is why she stole a car try to go and to reason with to him. Then, he moved again after she tried to talk to him! If there's nothing wrong, why would he act like that?"

"There could be any number of reasons. The man's grieving for his lost wife. Maybe he and the mother-in-law have bad blood between them, and he doesn't want her influencing his son. So far, what you've shown me is a family issue following a suicide. I don't think there's anything here to investigate."

"Wait!" Harrison says desperately. "Tommy said that the same monster that killed his mother also killed the family cat, Spanky."

"Do you have the dead cat so that agent Scully could examine it?" Doggett says, wondering if agent Scully would even be willing to.

"No..."

"Then I don't think there's anything this office can do for you."

"But a little boy could be in danger!"

There are little boys in danger all the time, Doggett thinks but doesn't say. "I'm sorry, Ms Harrison."

She gives him a wounded look before gathering up the folder and stalking out of the room.


Mulder-Scully Home
7:30 p.m.

It's only been half an hour since Mulder took the kids to the theater, and just minutes since she put Christopher and William to bed, so the last thing Scully expects is to hear the front door being pounded on. Peering impatiently through the peep hole, she realizes it's no one she knows.

She opens the door a couple of inches. "Who are you? It better be an emergency if you're knocking on my door this late at night," she tells the stranger warningly. In the back of her mind she wonders if she might be scaring one of Michelle's friends since he's so young, but she doesn't really care. Michelle isn't home, anyway.

"It's not late," the young man sputters, confused.

"If you got up with a teething baby at four this morning, it's plenty late. Your name?"

"Uh, I'm Gabe Rotter. I have the thing you've been waiting for." He does have a box.

"Should I know you?" she asks impatiently. If he is one of Michelle's friends, he's dumber than the usual suspects. Most of the nanny's friends are bright, polite people in their twenties.

"Probably not. I'm a friend of Leyla Harrison. Agent Harrison," he adds when she gives him a blank look. "She knows agent Doggett?"

"Right. I haven't been waiting for anything from her, so-"

"Here." Gabe ignores her protests, and thrusts the box at her. It smells terrible.

"Jesus. What the hell is that?" she asks, pushing the box back into his hand.

"A dead cat."

"Why would an agent send me a dead cat?" Scully asks, taking a step backwards. "I don't want it!"

"You've got to take it. Leyla said your office is helping her out on a case and you needed it ASAP, so ... here, you're welcome."

"Get out. Get out now, before I go get my gun. And take that thing with you," Scully growls.

"I can't!" Gabe protests. "Do you have any idea what I went through to get this thing? I snuck onto the property where your perp used to live and I dug up the whole yard looking for it."

"Do I look like I care? Go away, now!"

"Uh-uh. Leyla said she'd go out with me only if I got you the cat, and damn it, I got it." He declares, flipping open the box.

The smell wafts up at them with an unmuffled vigor, and Scully turns and runs three steps before vomiting in the sink.

"Gee, didn't say anything about you having a weak stomach, sorry. You've done autopsies though, so how can this be enough to make you thr-"

She turns on tap to wash everything away and gropes for a glass so she can rinse out her mouth. Once she does, she fixes Gabe with a fiery gaze. "I don't have a weak stomach, you imbecile. I'm pregnant."

"Oh."

"I just found out I'm having twins again-"

Gabe's eyes widen. "Again?"

She ignores him and continues to speak. "-and they'll probably both be boys again. Thus bringing the grand total up to seven boys. The house barely survives the five I already have, and their two sisters, so what will I do with two more running around?"

"You've got seven kids?" His voice squeaks. "If a woman says she wants 'a lot' of kids, is that what she means? Because Leyla once said-"

"Four boys in a row already," she says, waving her water glass at him. "And you've brought me a dead cat." She glances down at the dead animal. "What happened to this thing?"

"Vet says he chewed a hole in himself."

Scully recoils slightly. "Why would he do that?"

Gabe shrugs. "Why did the kid's mother stab herself sixteen times in the stomach?"

"That's what this is about, an unusual suicide?" Scully asks sharply.

"I don't know, I guess. All I know is that some guy named agent Doggett said that they couldn't go forward with the case if you couldn't see the cat's body."

Wiping her mouth, Scully prepares herself to give the cat more than a cursory glance. After a moment she walks to the phone.

Gabe gives her a scared look. "You're not calling the cops on me, are you? All I was trying to do was do a favor for Leyla so she'd like me!"

Ignoring him, she dials a number. "John, I'd really like to thank you for sending me an idiot and a dead cat." She listens for a moment as Doggett apologizes, and explains how the dead cat has arrived in her kitchen. After a moment, she says, "Maybe you do want to investigate this."

After she hangs up, she turns to Gabe. "Guess what, you're going to assist me with an autopsy."

He freezes. "What?"

"Your little friend wants to know what 'really' killed this cat, so we're going to find out for her."

"But-"

Scully gives his a flat look. "You want her to like you, don't you? This will give you a lot of mileage."

Gabe swallows hard.

Turning from her "assistant" Scully pulls things she thinks she'll need out of the cabinets. Noticing him fidgeting, she tells him, "Go down stairs through that door. The washer and dryer are at the foot of the stairs. Get me a plastic tarp off the shelf to their right. Make sure you close the door tight when you come back up so my toddler doesn't get it open."

He nearly trips over himself in his hurry to comply. Scully uses his absence to go up and check on William and Christopher. Christopher is sleeping soundly, but William is wet, so it takes her a few minutes before she goes back to her guest and the cat carcass.

She takes the tarp from Gabe, and this snaps him out of his stunned silence. "You got to be freaking kidding me. I can't believe you're cutting up a dead cat on your kitchen table."

"This wasn't my idea, Gabe. My husband isn't home, and the nanny has the night off, so it's not as though I can do this anywhere else."

"It just seems...wrong. What's the big deal about the cat, anyway?"

"Because it would seem that poor Spanky here may have chewed a hole in his own stomach ... which you'll admit is unusual behavior."

"You mean he killed himself. Animals can commit suicide?" Gabe asks, wonder in his voice.

"Apparently. His owner Mrs. Conlon stabbed herself with a knife. The wounds are in the same place and if we figure out why ... well, then, you'll have something really good to share Ms. Harrison, won't you?

He nods, shuddering a little. "Tell me what to do."

"Hold the ribs open."

"She better go out with me after this," Gabe mutters. He turns his head away.


Meanwhile...
Doggett's Home

After a brief conversation with agent Harrison to arrange to pick her up, Doggett hangs up the phone and goes to look for the boys to let them know that he'd be leaving. And he finds them with their coats on, heading for the door.

"Where are you going?"

"The basket ball game, remember?" Luke answers warily. "You said we could go."

Doggett resists the urge to slap himself on the forehead - the boys had asked permission to go to their high school's game and he'd forgotten about it. Glancing at Hannah, he wonders if it's possible to get her a ticket to the game too. But he knows that she'll hate it and ruin their night.

"Oh yeah, I remember now. You'll be home by ten-thirty, right?" he asks, recalling the particulars of their agreement.

"Sure, Dad," Luke answers for both of them.

"Okay. I'm not sure if I'll be home then, but I'll give you a call if I'm not."

Gibson raises an eyebrow. "Checking up on us?"

"That's what dads do," he tells him blandly. "Have fun."

"Bye!"

Once they're gone, he looks over his shoulder at Hannah. She's sitting on the floor, coloring in her new coloring book. There is no monster, Doggett tells himself. From what Scully said, it might have been a parasite. Since the boy and his father seem to be okay from the grandmother's report, it's unlikely that there's any chance that they brought it with them when they moved, twice.

"Hey, Hannah, I've got some bad news for you."

"What, Daddy?"

"You're going to come with me while I talk to some people. It'll be boring, and you'll stay in the car."

"Do I have to?" Hannah complains.

"Sorry, kiddo, it's too late to get another babysitter." He wishes he could ship her over to Scully and Mulder's, but she's already put out with him over examining the cat's corpse.

"Aww."

"We'll do something fun this weekend to make up for it. I promise."

The girl grudgingly gets to her feet, and manages to give Reyes a smile when she arrives.


King's Acres
8:30 p.m.

"Sweetie, you need to stay in the car," Harrison tells Hannah as they pull into the driveway of a large cabin.

The man at the gate had obviously been told to talk up the virtues of the place with all comers, because they'd been offered a great deal on a similar rental before they'd been allowed to identify themselves. Driving up to the cabin, it seems unlikely because there are no buildings anywhere along the two-mile road.

"Dad already told me," Hannah replies. "I brought my book and a reading light." Hannah holds up a copy of Bunnicula, recently inherited from Luke.

"Oh good, you already told her about the monster," Harrison says, then shrinks against her seat when both Doggett and Reyes give her outraged looks.

"A monster?" Hannah sounds scared.

"There is no monster," Reyes says quickly. "A little boy thought there was, that's all. Nothing to worry about."

"Look," Doggett says to Harrison. "The only reason I agreed to come out here is because agent Scully said she was worried that this case might involve a parasite. It's not an X-File, but we owe it to them to inform them that they might need medical treatment. I could have done it over the phone if you weren't so hell bent on checking in on the boy. I don't need you filling my kid's head with crap about monsters."

"All right," Harrison says in a small voice.

"Keep the doors locked, Hannah." Doggett bends over and kisses the girl's forehead. "We'll be back real soon."

By the time they reach the front door, a man is standing on the porch. Doggett gives the man a grim smile. "Jeffrey Conlon?"

"Yes. You are?"

Reyes flashes her badge. "Hi. I'm Agent Monica Reyes. This is Agent John Doggett and Agent Harrison. We're with the FBI." The others fumble for their badges as well.

Conlon sighs. "Let me guess, my mother-in-law sent you up here, right? I've told her repeatedly that Tommy is fine, but she won't let it drop-"

"You're right, she did speak to agent Harrison, but that's not why we're here," Doggett explains.

"Then why?"

"Your dead cat was brought to one of our colleagues, and she's concerned that he, and perhaps your late wife, had a stomach parasite."

"You think that's why she did it?" Conlon looks horrified.

"Maybe," Doggett agrees. "If so, it's a pretty nasty one. I think you and your boy ought to be examined at a hospital immediately. We'll escort you there, if you like."

"It can't wait until tomorrow?" Conlon asks irritably.

"I'm not sure that-"

The door creaks behind them, and a young boy dressed in pajamas stares out at them. "Dad? I heard voices, what are you doing? I got scared."

"Go back inside, Tommy."

Before the boy does, Harrison pushes forward. "Tommy, your grandmother works we me and told me that she was worried about you. Are you okay?"

"What right does she have to ask him something like that?" Conlon demands to know. Doggett shrugs.

Tommy looks confused. "I'm okay."

"But you told her you were afraid of a monster, remember?" Harrison asks excitedly.

Tommy glances up at his father before saying, "There's no such thing."

His father glares angrily at Harrison. "Tell Dorothy this is exactly why she's not allowed to visit anymore. Now, good night." He picks the boy up and slams the door behind them.

"Well, that went well," Doggett says sourly. "Who is going to call tomorrow to make sure they actually go to the doctor's?"

"I will," Harrison says with a guilty look. "I'm sorry I wasted your time tonight. Obviously I just got caught up in Dorothy's imagination gone into overdrive."

The three get into the car, and put on their seatbelts. Hannah glances up at them. "Are they sick?"

"I don't know. They didn't look sick, though," Doggett tells her. "Thank you for staying in the car."

"Welcome."

When Doggett turns the key in the ignition, the engine gives a few half-hearted attempts to turn over, and then goes silent. He is about to ask his daughter if she left the radio on, but then remembers that he'd kept his keys. Shrugging, he makes another attempt.

"Ewww!!" Hannah and Harrison both scream when the entire interior of the car is coated in a thick wet liquid forced in through the vents. The worst of the mess gets on Doggett and Reyes. Calmer, Harrison picks up Doggett's roll of paper towels and hands it to him.

A moment later, they get out of the car and open the hood. The engine compartment is as splattered with what appears to be blood. Hannah starts to cry softly.

"I hope it was a possum." Reyes sounds sick to her stomach. "And not something nicer."

"Hannah, did you hear anything crawl into the engine?" Doggett asks.

"No. The only thing I heard was you talking to the man."

"What happened?" a voice asks over their shoulders.

"I'm not sure," Doggett admits. "Screwed up the engine, whatever it was."

Conlon sighs in frustration when he spots Hannah. "You should come inside while you wait for a tow-truck. It's too cold out here for a little kid."


Reyes and Harrison both try to call a tow-truck after borrowing a phone book, but neither woman can get any reception. They discuss it quietly with Doggett.

Hannah, huddling on the Conlon's couch, looks up when she hears Tommy whisper to his father, "The monster won't let them leave." She squeezes her eyes tightly, and reminds herself that her father said that the little boy thought there was a monster, but it wasn't real.

"The engine's shot. I don't know how long it will be before we can get a call out so someone can get the car and give us a ride home," Doggett says to Conlon. The other man nods briefly.

Harrison's eyes sparkle with too much enthusiasm for Doggett's taste. "Phones that won't work, cars that won't start. It reminds me of a case Mulder and Scully investigated. A teenager who was struck by lightning - his body affected the electrical workings of everything around him."

"I don't think that's what we're dealing with here, Leyla," Reyes objects.

"Agent Mulder wasted no time closing that case. I just try to think like him. What would Agents Mulder and Scully do if they were in this situation?"

"Agent Mulder is at the movie theater with five little kids, and agent Scully is at home with your dead cat. I don't think either of them is going to do anything that would help our situation," Doggett points out. "Not unless one of them can magically make cell phone reception happen. I know Mulder can't do crap with car repairs, so he wouldn't be much help there."

The declaration that Mulder isn't skilled at something seems to startle Harrison. "Well, maybe not, but-"

Her remark is cut short when Tommy begins to scream for his father. Doggett towards the boy's room, and is shocked to see that Conlon is holding the boy's door shut.

"Help, it's in here!" Tommy screams through the door. Conlon looks grim, but holds the door shut.

"What the hell are you doing?" Doggett demands to know.

He pushes Conlon out of the way, and the man protests that he shouldn't. "We can't let them get out!" he hisses.

Reyes joins them, and they both go into Tommy's bedroom. He's huddled on his bed, shying away from two giant insects. Reyes snags the boy off the bed, while Doggett heaves a heavy book at the closest one. It winks out of existence, but a moment later two more appear and scuttle under the bed.


After they bring Tommy out of his room, he and Hannah are sat at the small kitchen table and given crayons and paper. Watching them, Reyes finds herself a little surprised by the cool reception Hannah is giving the little boy. She adores Luke and Gibson, at least when she's not mad at Luke, and is good friends with Sammy too. But she is doing her level best to ignore Tommy. When she notices that her father's girlfriend is standing behind her, she smiles and holds up a picture of a mermaid.

Tommy's picture is set more in reality, and he diligently works on a portrait of two women.

"How are they?" a voice at her ear asks.

She looks up at Doggett. "Okay. He doesn't seem to be as traumatized as I feared that he'd be."

"His father and I looked everywhere, but we can't find hide nor hair of them."

Reyes shudders. "But that doesn't mean they're gone."

"I know," Doggett says grimly. "I was hoping to bring one of them to Dana-"

Her lips quirk into a grin. "Oh, she would have loved that."

"I know. I'm already on her list today."

"What sort of list?" She looks like she's about to laugh.

"You know very well what sort of list." Doggett glances down at the kids' drawings. "Nice mermaid, Hannah."

"Thanks. Can we watch The Little Mermaid this weekend?'

"I guess so." He tries not to let his dismay show - there are few movies he'd less like to watch, but he did drag her off into this. "Hey Tommy, who are you drawing?"

Tommy points a thumb at Leyla, who is across the room trying her phone again. "Her."

"Tommy, tell John what you told me about what we saw in your room tonight," Reyes encourages. The conversation had been brief, and like pulling teeth.

"Those are the monsters that hurt my mommy. But my dad says I'm not supposed to talk about it."


When he goes back to the boy's bedroom, his father is staring at another drawing the boy has done. Though he's young, Tommy has an eye for drawing, and it's easy to recognize things like his old home, his mother, his dead cat.

"I want to know what we're dealing with," Doggett says in his best no-arguments tone.

"What makes you think I know?" Conlon replies sullenly.

"Your kid said you told him not to talk about those things. And you trapped him in here with those things! What sort of parent does that sort of thing?"

Conlon sighs. "You have every right to think I'm a bastard, but I want to show you something. He rolls up his shirt sleeve and displays thick ropy scars. They're red, so they're recent. "Those things won't hurt him, but they got me. I thought they were going to kill me."

"What sort of animal is it?" Doggett asks, unable to pull his eyes away from the shiny scar tissue.

"I don't know what they are. All I know is that they keep following us, even after two moves. I think it's too late, now, though."

"Why is it too late?"

"They're going to kill us all." He glances at Doggett's face. "You've seen for yourself that they can't be killed. It just makes more of them."

"There's something you're not telling us," Doggett accuses. Conlon says nothing.

Doggett leaves him standing there, and runs into Harrison. "Did you find anything out?"

"I found out that there's something deeply wrong with that man," Doggett says shortly.

She shrugs, as if to say anyone could have told him that. "You know, one time Mulder and Scully discovered a sea creature that was living in a washing machine. Maybe these things are like that."

He'd like to correct her, but for all he knows, the two things could be related.


"Daddy!" Doggett runs towards the sound of his daughter's voice. When he gets there, she's standing on a chair and pointing at the floor. There are four more of the huge bugs. Doggett sweeps them aside with his shoe, and half a dozen scatter, headed under the stove. Tommy doesn't look up from his drawing as Hannah wraps her arms around Doggett's neck.

Apparently worried about the scream, Conlon appears a moment later.

"Get Tommy dressed and pack things you might need for the next few days."

"Why?" Conlon sounds listless.

"We're going to walk down to the guard's shed, and bum a phone."

Conlon moves as if to comply, but he says "Why bother? They're not going to let us get that far."

Before Doggett can tell him off, he's grabbed a backpack out of the closet, and gone to pack.

Glancing at the table, Doggett sees that Tommy has been busy drawing a cave, a woman with a stained shirt, and a couple of the ugly bugs. The boy hardly seems aware that there is anything going on.


Mulder-Scully Home
9 p.m.

"So, this is Johnny Fabulous, huh?" Gabe asks, playing with Mulder's badge while Scully makes a phone call. "He doesn't look like I expected. I thought he'd look more like Johnny Depp."

"Give me that," Scully hisses, holding the phone to her ear.

"I mean really... 'Mulder's so smart. Mulder's so dreamy. Scully is the best scientist ever, I wish I was just like her.' That's all Leyla ever talks about. Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder, blah, blah, blah. You'd think you two were Elvis or something."

Scully hangs up. "Damn. I can't reach Doggett or Reyes."

"So? You said you didn't find anything in the cat. What's the worry for?"

"That's the whole problem. There should have been something in the cat."

"Like what?"

"The thing it was trying to chew out. The bite marks make it seem like something in it was hurting it so much that chewing it out seemed like a good way of dealing with it."

"That sucks, but it was just a cat," Gabe objects.

"Which would be relevant if it didn't seem like the woman might have also been trying to cut something out of herself," Scully points out, and his face goes white.

"Could it be in my car? I drove the cat here." Gabe looks panicky.

Before she can reassure him that there's probably not something lurking in his car, the front door opens. "Mulder, don't let the kids come in here!" Scully calls.

To her relief, she hears a lot of small feet going up stairs. A moment later Mulder appears in the doorway saying, "God, that had better not be tomorrow's dinner." His smirk dissolves into shock when his eyes lit upon their guests, living and deceased.

"Don't take your coat off," Scully tells him. "You're going back out."


9:15 p.m.

A stiff wind is beginning to pick up as Doggett leads the way down the dark road the Conlons currently live upon. He holds Hannah's hand, but Tommy and his father walk apart somewhere behind Leyla and Reyes.

Bending his head towards Reyes, he asks quietly, "Do you think those things will stay back there at the house?"

She shivers. "I sure hope so."

Still fairly upbeat, Leyla looks almost cheerful as she starts to say, "You know, Mulder and Scully once investigated a case where - aaaaahhhhhh!!!!"

Leyla's comment cuts off as a huge lumbering shape rises up beside her. Before anyone else can react, Leyla is running at full speed, a dark blur of fur close on her heels.

"It's a bear!" Reyes shouts to her. "Climb a tree! Climb a tree!"

Leyla shrieks, then scrambles up a tree with more speed than Doggett expects. Angry, the bear stands at the bottom of the tree, roaring and trying to swat at the lower branches. Screaming again, she scales higher, worrying everyone when she reaches thinner limbs.

"Holy shit, we need to help her!" Reyes cries. Hannah gives her a wide-eyed stare, but Reyes doesn't apologize for her language.

She begins to look around for a possible weapon to scare off the bear, but stops when Tommy's piping voice says, "Don't help her."

"Tommy, don't be silly," Reyes says, giving the boy a confused smile. "Of course we need to help her."

"You'll be sorry," Tommy promises.

Ignoring him, Reyes apparently decides that shooting the bear is probably the best option, because she pulls her gun and runs three steps towards Leyla's cries of dismay. After three steps she screams herself, and drops to the ground.


"Monica?!" Doggett's voice is laced with panic as he pulls Hannah after him in his effort to reach the fallen agent's side. "What's wrong?"

"There's something in me!" she gasps, eyes tightly squeezed shut. Looking down at her, Hannah seems on the verge of tears.

"Hannah, hold her hand. It'll make her feel better," Doggett tells her. He doesn't think he's telling the truth, but it might offer Reyes some comfort as he unzips her jacket and pulls up her shirt.

Under the skin of her belly, something moves. The only other time he saw anything remotely like that was towards the middle of his ex's pregnancies with their two children. He knows for certain that Reyes isn't pregnant, and even if she were and hadn't told him yet, she wouldn't be far enough along to see anything moving. And no babies had limbs that pointed.

It's definitely something more sinister than a baby. Reyes howls in agony.

Turning to look behind him, Doggett sees the placid expression on Tommy's face, and the fright on his father's. "This has something to do with the boy. He's doing this somehow. His drawings," Doggett adds when he remembers the final trio the child had made before they left the house.

"You should have left before it was too late," Jeffery Conlon says flatly.

"You're his father, make him stop!"

Conlon's eyes are empty. "I can't. Do you think I'd be a widower now if I could make him stop? He doesn't mean to hurt anyone. Little boys don't hurt people on purpose."

Disgusted, Doggett tries to appeal to Tommy instead. "Tommy, this is wrong. Stop now!"

It's hard to hear Tommy's reply over Reyes' moans, and Leyla's yelps of fear as the bear finally gets a hold of a low branch and shakes the tree, but he says, "You can't stop me."

Grimly, Doggett takes a step towards the boy. A swarm of the bug creatures materialize out of thin air, and begin to crawl up his pants legs. Shouting in disgust, he swats at them, but they cling tenaciously, and a few begin to rip into his clothes.

Tommy is fascinated, and his eyes don't leave Doggett. Which is why he doesn't notice that Hannah has run up behind him with a rock in her hand until she shouts, "Leave them alone! You leave them alone!"

He turns, just in time to meet the down swing of her arm with his forehead. He doesn't even have time to throw up an arm in defense before her swing connects. His eyes roll back in their sockets before the blood from his cut forehead even has time to get in them.

As soon as he sways on his feet and passes out, everything stops. The bugs, both the ones clinging to Doggett and the one inside Reyes, disappear. The bear winks out of existence too.

And that's when Mulder pulls up in his mini-van. Sticking his head out the window, he looks over the scene for a moment. Agent Harrison is climbing down from a tree, and there's an unconscious child on the ground with three other adults staring at him.

Speaking to the only person paying attention to him, Mulder asks Hannah, "So... You up for some hot chocolate on the way home?"

The little girl nods. Then she bursts into tears.


Mulder-Scully Home
10:45 p.m.

To Mulder's relief, there is no longer a dead cat on the kitchen table when he gets home. Instead it's scrubbed clean, cleaner than he's seen it in at least a couple of years.

Scully yawns, and notices his gaze. "I made Gabe clean up. It was the least he could do. Is everyone okay?"

"I think Hannah's traumatized, and the little boy is still unconscious, but they seem okay otherwise."

Concerned, Scully asks "What happened?"

"The kid imagined bad things happening to people, and then they happened. He attacked everyone but Hannah and his dad with his monsters, and Hannah knocked him out to stop him."

"Hannah did?!" Scully exclaims, surprised. "One of our most popular tea-party guests knocked another kid out?"

"Yeah. With a rock. She's shaken that she managed to hurt someone, but if not for her..." He glances at the spot where he'd last seen the cat. "They said the boy will probably wake up soon."

"Thanks for rescuing them," Scully says, snaking an arm around his waist.

"My white horse and shining armor were itching to save someone," he says wryly.


The Following Monday
Hoover Building

Scully is looking up a report when she hears footsteps. Doggett grins at her, "Decided to get an early start, huh?"

"Yeah. William's teething, so I got woken up early again. I decided I might as well come in." She hasn't told Doggett that she'll soon be cutting back her hours, so explaining that she wanted to square a few things away wouldn't make sense. "Have you gotten an update on Tommy yet?"

"Monica and I went to see him last night. They don't know what to do with him at the pysch ward, but for now they've invented a stop-gap method of dealing with him. They've got dozens of TVs going, so he can't focus on anything long enough to think of hurting anyone..." Doggett trails off with a deep sigh.

"How's Hannah?" Scully asks quietly.

"Okay. She's less upset now that she knows that she didn't cause Tommy any lasting harm."

"That's good."

"But I keep wondering why. Why did we get good kids, and Jeffery Conlon didn't?" Doggett asks.

"I don't know," Scully admits. "I'm just glad that we did."

"Me too."

Chapter One Hundred and Thirteen



Mulder and Scully's Home
March 24, 2002

The Lone Gunmen are watching "Happy Days" reruns with Mulder and Scully's kids, since the happy couple is out on a "date" and it's the nanny's day off. Frohike is trying to teach the older boys how to snap their fingers like Fonzie (instant coolness and radios flipping on not guaranteed, however), while Langly and Page are laughing at the cheesiness of the show, while Byers finds himself in the unenviable position of having to care for the two much smaller children. Right now, they're watching the Hawaii special, and Page is, in the place of her mother, pointing out all sorts of inaccuracies, some of which can be explained away by the passage of time, others, well, the Gunmen's gotta chalk it up to Hollywood silliness, and the children accept this much easier.

And then the Fonz is dared to jump over a shark. "Frohike, is Fonzie gonna die?" Sammy asks the balding man, as if instinctively knowing that this uncle won't sugarcoat anything.

Frohike snorts. "Are you kidding? He's got a leather jacket, cool dudes never die."

Langly rolls his eyes. "Leather jackets don't automatically make short guys cool, Fro."

"Shut up, Blondie," the short man grumbles.

Of course, the stunt, completely silly and devoid of suspense, goes off without a hitch, and the kids cheer while the adults roll their eyes.

"Yaaaaay!!!" Sammy claps. "Hey, next time we go to Hawaii, I wanna do that!"

"I don't think so," Byers says, the voice of reason. "In real life, sharks are dangerous, and unlike TV shows, people have gotten killed just swimming near them."

The little redhead boy pouts, then says, "Then I'm gonna ask Santa to get me a leather jacket for Christmas."

"I want one, too," David chimes in.

"And me, too," Jared adds.

Langly groans. "Okay, we better change the channel before they get any more weird ideas about fashion."

"Speak for yourself, hippie," Frohike snaps, but changes the channel nonetheless. "Hey, look, you're wearing the same thing Shaggy is." He smirks.

"Shut up, MELVIN," the long-haired blond shoots back, even though his faded green Ozomatli shirt and dark loose slacks does give him an unfortunate resemblance.

The shorter man's head snaps up at the use of his first name. "Oh, now we're on," he growls, and for the rest of the afternoon, Mulder and Scully's children are more entertained by their uncles fighting (and one of them unsuccessfully trying to break it up) than the cartoons onscreen.


The Offices of The Lone Gunman
Takoma Park, Maryland

The Lone Gunmen are ready to hit the sack, after a long day of not only bickering with each other, but also having to explain to Scully why her elder sons want leather jackets and the woman being very displeased with the answers. Lucky to have escaped with their hides intact, Frohike's about ready to throw something at the buzzer when it keeps going off. Byers is making cocoa, while Langly changes his green shirt for a less Shaggy-looking one.

"Dammit, now what?" he grumbles, checking the monitor. He sees Reyes and Doggett, and while he would normally be happy to see the former, he's rather tired of the FBI right now. "What the hell do they want?" he mutters, as Doggett continues the audio assault by pounding on the door.

Tiredly, Frohike unlocks the four locks, then opens the door with a scowl. Ignoring the shorter man's expression, Doggett walks in, followed by Reyes. "Gentlemen," he says dryly.

Reyes, for her part, is shocked by the near-barrenness of the warehouse. "What happened here? Did you get robbed?"

"No," Langly says, offended.

Frohike stiffens. "We're upgrading everything," he waves at the barebones operation they've got going on.

"Yeah." Langly wrinkles his nose, "We gave away all our old crap to the Salvation Army. We're buying totally new stuff."

Byers blinks at them, then at the agents. "Well, what can we do for you, agents?"

"Well, we were hoping you could help us out," Doggett replies. "We were wondering if you know this woman."

Reyes hands them a photo. "Do you recognize her?"

"Well, yes," Byers says, and the other two glare at him. "What?"

Langly jumps in, "She's, uh... she's a fellow hacker. Damn fine one."

"She calls herself Yves Adele Harlow. Uh, it's not her real name," Byers adds.

Frohike sighs. "Well, we never learned her real name. She disappeared a year ago and nobody's seen her since. Why?"

"We have reason to believe that she's resurfaced," Doggett says gravely, "and that she's become a terrorist."

"What?" All three men look at him incredulously, then laugh. "Oh, man, that's a good one," Frohike wheezes. "Where the hell'd you get that stupid idea from?"

"You think these idiots would know?" a new voice says. "They can't even find their own asses."


"You son of a bitch," Frohike snarls at the newcomer, then grabs a golf putter, lunging at him. Doggett is surprised at the reaction, but grabs the putter.

"I'll hold him down!" Langly also races towards him, but Reyes blocks him.

"You've got some nerve coming here," Byers says between clenched teeth.

"Told you they wouldn't help." Morris Fletcher smirks, rubbing the bandaid on his cheek.

"All right, everybody just calm down," Doggett snaps. "What the hell is going on?"

"This man is a professional liar. Every word out of his mouth is a lie." Byers points at the smirking heavyset man.

"He's a scam artist," Langly joins in. "He used us to track Yves down a year ago."

"And then he abducted her." Frohike tightens his grip on the putter.

"Which is why I know what happened to her," Fletcher says, and everyone looks at him. Clearing his throat nervously, he goes on. "I facilitated a meeting, that's all. The man I was working for, I didn't know in advance what he was planning to do to her. Not my finest hour. I'll admit it."

"Every word out of his mouth," Byers repeats.

"Agents, I'm tellin' ya, you don't want these three involved. I mean, they don't even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos." Fletcher waves his hand at the mostly-empty place. "This place is like 'How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack'."

Doggett looks everyone, then says evenly, "All right, you three know this woman, I want your help. We need to track down this Yves Adele Harlow."


After much promises on both sides to play nice with each other, Doggett and Reyes leave Fletcher with the Lone Gunmen at their base, while they go back to do their own investigative work.

"Airline reservation database," Langly says in front of the computer while his compatriots flank him. "What name do we look under?"

"Try her old stand-by. Different anagrams of Lee Harvey Oswald," Byers suggests.

Fletcher, for his part, is bored, and picks up an old issue of "The Lone Gunman". "'Area 51 Exposé!' Ooo! Where's your new issue? This one's a year old," he complains.

"Shut up, asswipe," Frohike mutters.

"You'll never find her that way." Fletcher smirks.

Langly sighs, his face dour. "He's right," he mutters when the search software running on his computer fails to give any results. "No anagrams for Yves Adele Harlow."

"So, who's Joey?" Fletcher jabs a thumb at Langly's current t-shirt.

"You don't know Joey Ramone? Leader of the greatest punk rock band in human history." He rolls his eyes. "Now shut up!" He can't concentrate, because Fletcher is leaning in a little too close for comfort. "What?"

Fletcher sighs exaggeratedly. "What are you, 34, 35? Why don't you cut your hair and grow up, huh?"

"Reminder, dickwad, Doggett and Reyes aren't here to save you," Langly mutters.

The erstwhile-MIB snorts. "Jeez, get yourself a real hero, okay? Not some dead teeny bopper."

Langly slams the keyboard down and stands up, glaring at Fletcher. "You want to know why Joey Ramone's my hero? 'Cause people like you," he says and shoves a finger at Fletcher's tie, "never managed to grind him down. They never stole his spirit. He never gave in, never gave up, and never sold out. Right till his last breath. And he's not dead." He sits back down, but his glare is still on the other blond man. "Guys like that? They live forever." Unlike you, his unspoken words are quite clear to everyone within earshot.

Morris sighs again. "Fine. Look, if we have to work together, let's work together."

"Let's see." Frohike pretends to think hard. "The last time that happened, you sold Yves up the river, you asshole!"

The heavyset man drops his smirk and steps back a little, holding up his hands. "Watching you three play pin the tail on the donkey is not my idea of a fun time. Now, wouldn't it be easier tracking Yves if you knew her real name?"

"You know her real name?" Byers raises his eyebrows.

Fletcher nods. "Lois Runtz."

"Lois Runtz," Byers repeats, laughing. "Sure."

"Hey, I'm telling you the truth, boys." Fletcher raises his hands again.

Frohike snorts. "Wow, I think hell just froze over," he comments.

A knocking comes from a distant wall, and all four men turn, surprised.

"Nobody knows about that door," Byers says, half-whispering. "That's our secret door."

Fletcher raises an eyebrow. "Does Lois know about it? Yves?" he amends when the Gunmen glare at him.

Frohike picks up the golf putter again, and the other three men follow behind him, with Fletcher in the back. As Byers unlocks the secret door, they look at each other, then back at the door. The door opens with a groan, not from the hinges, but from the person staggering into the room. All four men step back apprehensively before the intruder collapses to the floor.


"Jimmy?" Langly asks the large man lying on the couch, seeing his eyes open slowly. "How you feelin', man?"

Fletcher suddenly puts two and two together with the name. "Oh, right. The old errand boy. The guy used to intern for you losers, right?" He grins at the other two Gunmen. "I wondered what happened to you."

Jimmy Bond stares at Fletcher, then looks at Langly, confused. "Why is he here?" he asks, sounding not just confused, but also betrayed.

Byers sighs. "FBI business," he says, resigned. "It's a long story."

Frohike looks relieved the newbie's alive and back to his usual semi-coherent self. "Where the hell ya been, big guy?"

"Zurich," he answers slowly. "Then I was in Malta. And Yemen. And just now, New Jersey. It's been a rough geology lesson," he says, heartfelt, without irony. "I ran out of money, so I hitchhiked here. I snuck in the back, 'cause I didn't know if the place was being watched." Then he sits up, wide-eyed, startling them. "I just had to see you guys. It's about Lois. Lois Runtz, that's Yves' real name," he explains.

"I told ya so." Fletcher smirks, then stares at the big guy. "Hey, wait a minute. You tracked her all over the world? You? Mr. Intelligence here is lucky to be alive. Why did you send him? Were you tryin' to get him killed?" he exclaims.

"He sent himself to find Yves." Langly shakes his head. "We tried to talk him out of it."

"Now I almost wish you had," Jimmy says, looking like someone shot his puppy.

"Jimmy, what is it? Are you all right?" Byers asks, concerned.

He looks at Fletcher, then sighs. "Last night," he replies reluctantly, "I traced her to a little college in New Jersey. It's the closest I've been... been in a year of searching. I saw her. I actually laid my eyes on her. I called to her!" he says, his voice picking up with excitement at the memory. "But she ran. Later on, I... I found out."

"Found out what?" Frohike asks, even though he knows he won't like the answer.

Jimmy looks at one Gunman to the next, as if he doesn't want to believe what he saw. "I, I think she murdered somebody," he says, pained.


Hartwell College
Kearny, New Jersey
March 25, 2002

Doggett and Reyes walk down a corridor, part of which contains a large fishtank with sharks swimming around. At the end of the corridor is the person they came to see, Professor Gillnitz, looking more than a little haggard as he sits on a bench against the wall.

"John Gillnitz?" Doggett asks to confirm, and the thin man nods. "I'm Agent Doggett and this is Agent Reyes. Is this the woman you saw last night?"

The professor looks at the photo the agent shows him, then looks up, frowning a little. "It was dark, uh... it could have been her. Do you have her in custody?" he asks, apprehensive.

Reyes raises her eyebrows. "Professor, what can you tell us about your friend? Do you have any reason why he may have been targeted?"

He looks shocked. "Absolutely none. Douglas was a wonderful teacher, and an even better researcher."

"What did he research?" she asks.

"Elasmo Bronchi. That is, sharks, rays and skates," he explains.

"He was a marine biologist?"

Gillnitz shakes his head, but it seems she's not the first to have that misconception. "An immunologist. Sharks have a remarkable immune system. Toxins that would kill nearly any other vertebrate pass right through them," he says, his face glowing with excitement as he shares this.

"So, he did medical research?" Doggett clarifies.

Gillnitz smiles at him as if the man got the answer to a question nearly right on a test. "Douglas wanted to save the world."


The Lone Gunmen HQ
Takoma, Maryland

The sparse warehouse is becoming a little more populated with the addition of another, that is, fellow hacker Kimmy. "This is a computer, noob," he says to Fletcher once the introductions are done. "Com-pu-ter. Step away before you embarrass yourself."

Fletcher rolls his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, whatever."

Kimmy flashes a smug grin at the other hackers. "So then, how do you wish to partake... of my hacking genius?" he asks, cracking his knuckles.

"Well, thanks to Jimmy, we know Yves' real name," Frohike says.

"Hey, I told ya before he did!" Fletcher protests.

Ignoring him, Langly adds, "Jimmy also told us what kind of car she's driving. Silver X5 with New York plates."

Kimmy looks at the hulking blond man with surprise. "Really? Way to go, Special Ed," he gives the big guy props.

"The New Jersey Turnpike has video cameras at every toll booth," Byers jumps in. "Langly hacked the system and spotted her southbound at Newark."

"Somewhat creative," Kimmy admits.

Langly reaches over and brings up a series of still short showing a tunnel and a car passing through it. "We spotted her again going through the Fort McHenry Tunnel. She passed through not 20 minutes ago."

"We're betting she's headed for D.C. We're going to try to intercept her, with your help..." Byers trails off meaningfully.

"Think you might find a military satellite you could piggy back? Give us a bird's-eye view of the beltway?" Frohike cuts to the punch.

Kimmy looks at them, then at the monitor. "Intriguing. Stand aside, ladies." After readjusting his glasses, he starts typing.

"We'll be on the cell," Frohike tells him as they get ready to leave.

"I got shotgun," Fletcher says.

"Psh," Langly shuts him down. "You're staying here."

Byers turns to Jimmy. "We need somebody we can trust keeping an eye on Fletcher."

Jimmy smiles at Byers, happy to be trusted in a familiar role. "You got it."

When the Lone Gunmen leave, Morris looks at Jimmy, since he's already figured Kimmy would be too wrapped up in computer stuff. "So, how'd you like Malta?"


It isn't long before Doggett and Reyes join the others at the Lone Gunmen's HQ, and telling the others about the medical examiner's discovery of the surgically-grafted cartilage and bioluminescent blood in the dead professor's body.

Fletcher, for his part, is sitting down, giving them his most wide-eyed look. "Wow, I had no clue," he chuckles. "Seriously, this is the first time hearing of it. Weird organs? I don't know what to tell you."

"You've never heard of the man? Professor Douglas Houghton?" Reyes asks.

"You're looking at me weird," he notes after a beat.

"Perhaps because you've been known to lie on occasion," Doggett deadpans.

When Jimmy stands over him, a nasty smile on his face, Fletcher looks worried. "Well, I'm not lying now. I've said from the start she was a terrorist!"

Then Kimmy yelps in frustration, banging the keyboard, startling them. "Dammit! Crashed again! I cannot make magic with sub-standard equipment." He folds his arms and glares at the computer with the disdain of a prima donna.

"What's the problem?" Doggett asks, his attention diverted.

"The problem is," Kimmy says slowly, as if to a child, "it's a freakin' piece of junk! I knew those guys were broke, but this is pathetic!"

Reyes and Doggett glance at each other before she asks, "The guys are broke?"

"Are you kidding? Look around this dump," he says, motioning to the obviously-bare warehouse. "They had to hock all their stuff just to pay the rent."

"What about this?" Morris picks up the newsletter.

Kimmy scoffs. "Oh, their 'paper'?" he uses his skinny fingers as quotation marks. "Deader than disco. They haven't published in months."

Fletcher glances at the headline and tosses the paper on the table. "So saving the world doesn't pay the bills. There's a hot news flash for ya, huh?" he chuckles. "Idiots."

Now Jimmy is pissed off. "They were gettin' by all right, till you put 'em out of business!" He points at him.

"Oh?" Fletcher raises an eyebrow. "And how exactly did I do that?"

"When you took Yves," Jimmy says, his eyes narrow. "They spent every last dime trying to find her. They're loyal to their friends. Hilarious, huh?"

Reyes' cell phone rings, and she answers. "Reyes."

"You'd better get here quick," Byers says in a hushed, urgent voice.

"Where are you?" She frowns.

"The Hotel Farragut," he answers in the same hushed tone. "Hurry."


After the Lone Gunmen have dispatched their heroic duty at the Hotel Farragut, Jimmy join them in a room there to keep an eye on the woman known as Yves Adele Harlow. As the mystery woman wakes up, Jimmy asks her, "Lois? Should I call you that?"

She wrinkles her nose. "I prefer Yves."

"I can't believe you're a terrorist," Langly says, disappointed.

"What?" Yves looks at him, then at the others in the room.

"So, you weren't seriously gonna smoke that guy, were you?" Frohike asks.

She exhales. "I know you three mean well. But I can't begin to tell you how badly you've mucked things up," she says, serious.

Doggett and Reyes make their entrance. "So, this guy just up and bolted?" Doggett asks, locking the door behind him.

"He hit her, and then he took off," Langly says.

"Nobody's seen him. The room is registered to one Leonard Southhall of Darrian, Connecticut."

"It's an alias," Yves says sourly.

"It's a stolen ID. The real Leonard Southhall died in 1996. You want to tell me who that was?" Doggett faces her.

"His real name? I have no idea." She shrugs slightly.

"This is your bag, isn't it?" Doggett continues, picking up her bag and emptying it on the desk. "That was quite a party you got planned for him. Respirator. Surgical gloves. Scalpel." He holds up a dart gun. "Not to mention this little item here."

"You were planning to cut him open, Ms. Runtz, just like you did the professor. Why?" Reyes asks.

Jimmy looks at the agent in disbelief, then at the defiant woman on the bed. "It can't be true. Tell 'em it's not."

She looks at him evenly. "It is, Jimmy. Time is running short." Then she looks up at the FBI agents. "Unless you let me finish what I started, innocent people will die."

Doggett raises his eyebrows. "You want to elaborate on that?"

"First things first. Who was it that put you on to me?" she says sharply.


The Lone Gunmen HQ

Doggett shoves Fletcher's head onto the table, holding his arms in a painful holding position. "Okay, so she's not a terrorist. I made an honest mistake."

Yves pulls off Morris' bandaid, revealing a tiny piece of technology. She narrows her eyes at it, then the man, still firmly embedded in the table. "As I suspected. It's a tracking device. I'm sure he meant to activate it, once he knew you had me."

Doggett and Reyes look at each other, then releases Fletcher with a shove. "You've been wearin' that since Miami. You were runnin' a scam on us from the start." The other man's smirk returns, much to their disappointment. "That, and all the terrorist bull. All that was just to hook us."

"So that you two would, in turn, hook us," Byers says with disgust.

"And we'd track down Yves for this slimeball all over again." Frohike makes a face.

"Well, what can I tell you?" Fletcher says, grinning from ear to ear now. "You three always get the job done for me."

"Who do you work for, Fletcher?" Doggett snarls.

Morris nods to Yves, to their surprise. She answers flatly, "An international arms dealer. A billionaire. And scum of the earth."

"And he's also..." Fletcher prompts her.

"My father," she continues in the same flat tone. "My father is a murderer, and a supporter of terrorism. I hate everything he stands for."

"Yves? You're a murderer, too," Jimmy states quietly.

She looks at him. "The man I killed was a terrorist, Jimmy. A zealot whose research was funded by my father for its potential as a weapons system."

"Houghton was an immunologist, doing research on sharks," Reyes says.

"Yes. And he used his knowledge of their immune system to devise a vessel of sorts. One that kept him safe from an engineered virus that he carried within him," Yves states.

"He had shark cartilage." Reyes nods. "It contained something which you removed."

"That was this virus you're talkin' about?" Doggett adds.

"I destroyed it, but it was only one of two." Yves looks at them.

"Oh, man. The bald dude at the hotel. The one that got away," Langly groans.

She nods slightly. "Think of him as a human time bomb. He can pass by any sniff dog, any metal detector, and no one would ever suspect."

"What triggers this time bomb?" Byers asks, worried.

"Programmed cellular death," Yves answers precisely. "Genetically altered to a high degree of precision. The way the vessel is decaying inside of him is virtually clock-like. It will lose integrity and rupture at eight o'clock... tonight."

"Five hours from now?" Kimmy says, wide-eyed.

"This virus, once it's airborne, its kill radius is five or six miles, depending on the winds. Potentially, it could kill thousands. Tens of thousands."

"Fletcher, I knew you were a dirt bag, but still... how could you be a party to this?" Frohike looks at the other man with a measure of renewed loathing.

"Fletcher's a con-man, not a killer. He didn't know about it," Yves says, reluctantly clearing the MIB, who looks surprised at the gesture.

Doggett, however, is worried. "So how the hell do we track this man down?"


Mulder and Scully's Home "

So, that's the whole story," Doggett tells Mulder, who's holding a fussing William. "If we don't catch this Leonard Southhall, everything's gonna go to hell. Not that I don't have faith in your friends, but I just wanted to give you a heads up."

"Thanks," Mulder says, "but don't give up on them. In fact, if I were you, I'd keep a damn close eye on them. After all, they found Yves. They're gonna find this guy, and when they do, they're gonna need you and Reyes to take care of him. After all, they're hackers, not agents." He smiles wanly.

"Got that right," Doggett chuckles, then his phone rings. "Doggett." His face brightens. "They got the guy!" he tells Mulder, who nods encouragingly. "Wait, what?" He frowns. "No, tell 'em to check again," he says urgently. "I said, check again!" He hangs up with disgust.

"What's the matter?" Mulder asks, patting William's back as he starts into his hiccupping- before-crying thing.

"They got him," Doggett says glumly. "But Reyes says there's no sign of any virus or surgery on the guy."

"The fake Southhall, right?" Mulder raises his eyebrows.

Doggett nods. "Yeah. The Gunmen found him all right, guess he didn't get the notice that Houghton was dead, and went to the college."

"If the fake Southhall's part of the cell, that's not possible," Mulder murmurs.

"What do you mean?" Doggett frowns. "We got him."

"No, I mean, it's not possible that he doesn't know Houghton's dead," Mulder says. "You said Yves had intel on the guy, right? He's definitely in the know, then."

"Yeah," Doggett says glumly, but then his blue eyes sharpen. "Wait, you keep saying 'the fake Southhall'."

"You said the real one was dead," Mulder says reasonably, "and you don't know the guy's real name. What else should I call him?"

"The FAKE Southhall!" Doggett roars, and now William really starts crying, unappeased by Mulder's patting. "Sorry, Fox, I just realized we were chasing the wrong guy."

"Huh?" Mulder blinks, although he was glad the guy was finally picking up. "So you're not after the fake Southhall."

"No," Doggett says, running to his car and hitting speed dial on his cell. "See ya!"

"Where are you going?" Mulder shouts, bouncing William against his shoulder.

"Keepin' an eye on the Gunmen like you said!" he hollers before slamming his car door shut.

Once the other man's car disappears, Mulder smiles wanly. Much as he'd like be part of the chase, as opposed to the last time when he wasn't even in the picture, he knows he'd only be a red flag.

As he walks into his home with his wailing youngest son on his shoulder, he murmurs, "Shhhh, shhhh, don't worry, Uncle John will catch up with your other uncles and they'll get the bad guy in time, okay? And then they'll come home like the heroes they are, safe and sound, with more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at. Yeah."

He smiles at his son's confused look, happy that he's distracted his son long enough to keep from disturbing his sleeping wife, "yeah, and then Uncle Frohike can tell you guys more stories, and Uncle Langly will probably get your brothers and sisters more junk food than they should, and Uncle Byers will take real good care of you like the old lady he is."

He chuckles, and William stares at him like he thinks his dad is nuts. Mulder chuckles again, and strokes his son's fine hair on his round head. "Everything's gonna be all right," he says softly and reassuringly, "don't worry."


International Bioethics Forum
Evening Session
7:55 p.m.

Outside the conference room, the Lone Gunmen are trying their best to get in, waving their press credentials madly at the security guard who is looking unimpressed. "Never heard of it," he mutters when Byers tells them the name of their paper.

"We're legit, man," Langly whines, looking the very opposite of legit with his long hair, t- shirt and jeans.

"Yeah," Jimmy says, as if that would help matters.

The guard glances at the press passes. "These expired last December," he states flatly.

"We've got five minutes," Yves says in an urgent undertone.

"Listen to me," Byers says. "We believe there's a dangerous man in that room."

"Folks, I need all of you to step away, right now," the guard says, having had enough of this ragtag group.

A thin, plain man in the conference glances at the noisy group, noticing a long-haired woman with them, and smirks. His smirk gets deeper when he sees the security guard pushing them away. "John Gillnitz?" a rough voice asks.

"Yes?" he turns and looks to his left, finding the FBI agent sitting next to him. The FBI man surprises him by handcuffing him. "What are you...?"

"Playin' three-card monty," Doggett says, as he hustles him out of the room towards the Lone Gunmen. Flashing his badge at the security guard, he grins. "Excuse us, but we've got a little world-savin' to do."

The Lone Gunmen cheer, then walk down the hallway. "Well, took you long enough," Frohike grumbles, "but where's the CDC?"

"Right here," Reyes says at the other end of the hall, in front of a pack of men in containment suits.

"No!" Gillnitz shouts, struggling in Doggett's grip. "It's not supposed to end like this!"

"Keep struggling, and they'll give you no anesthetic," Yves hisses as they head outside towards the hazmat vehicle. "Please, keep struggling."

He gives her a wild-eyed look. "You!"

She gives him a cold, pitiless look. "Know that you have failed, Gillnitz," she says as Doggett shoves him into the thick-walled vehicle. "Know that you will end your cowardly life having failed miserably."

"NO!!!!" Gillnitz roars, and he starts banging his narrow chest against one of the shelves in the vehicle.

"Dammit!" Frohike shouts, and he and his two compatriots leap into the back to pin him down.

Doggett starts to join them, but one of the suited men push him back and with alarming alacrity, they slam the doors shut and peel out of there. "What the hell?"

"Are they gonna be okay?" Jimmy asks, worried.

"I think so," Reyes says, but she looks just as worried.


The Lone Gunmen HQ
March 27, 2002

A couple dressed in black is standing in front of the warehouse door, their arms full and their faces pale. "This is gonna be weird," Doggett mutters, dressed in his full FBI suit and tie.

"Don't worry, they'll understand," Reyes says reassuringly, clad in a black leather jacket, knit top and slacks. "They're our friends."

He raises his eyebrows at her, but realizes she's right. After all this time, they're not just Mulder's crazy friends, the Gunmen are his friends, too. "Okay," he says, shifting the uncomfortable box in his arms. "Guess they'll always be watching from above, huh?" he says, looking up.

"I hope so," Reyes says, also looking up.

Then the door opens, startling them. "I'm glad you're here," Scully says warmly, letting them inside. "Everyone else is here."

They look at the room, filled with familiar faces. "Wow, I didn't know it would be this big," Reyes murmurs, as Scully leads them to the food-laden table.

"Look at you two," Mulder notes, eyeing their outfits, "like it's a funeral or something."

"Mulder!" Scully scolds him. "They can't help it if they came straight from work."

"So did I, but I had time to change," Skinner says, wearing a dark blue long-sleeved knit shirt and black slacks.

"Thanks," Doggett sighs, long-suffering. "Anyone wanna jump in and make me feel better?"

"Nice suit," Byers remarks, taking the box from him.

"Never mind," Doggett groans. "I can't believe this is such a big deal."

"Hey, you FBI guys save people all the time, but we don't," Langly says, taking the flowers from Reyes. "I think that's a good enough reason to party."

"Hey, hey," Frohike says, clapping a hand on Doggett's shoulder, "welcome to the Saving the World Ball!"

Doggett shakes his head, chuckling. "Perhaps you shoulda told those guys, then." He jerks his head at Kimmy, who's arguing with Jimmy about something or other.

"Nah," he says, "they're okay. Jimmy just thinks it should've been called the Lone Gunmen Saves the World, while Kimmy wants his name up in lights." It's obvious which one the short man prefers, however.

"Cute," the agent mutters, excusing himself to join another crowd. "Hey, pretty lady."

"Daddy!" Hannah smiles and hugs him when he bends down. "Look!" Then she crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue. "Uncle Frohike says that's what the bad guy looked like."

"Looks like he got something right," Doggett says, amused. "Um, why's William tied up in all those balloons?"

"We're gonna make him fly," Sammy says proudly as he's adding more.

"I don't think so," Scully says, swooping in to untangle her youngest. "John, help yourself to the food, while I take care of the punch." She looks meaningfully at her eldest son.

"Uh-oh," Doggett says, picking his little girl up. "Come on, guys, let's get some food while your mommy talks to Sammy," he says to Scully's other offspring. "Oh, she's not just gonna talk," Page sets him straight, "she's gonna get him good."

Doggett raises his eyebrows, but decides to refrain from commenting. He meets up with his sons, who have already making inroads on the food since bringing their sister to the party. "Jeez, save some for the rest of us," he groans good-naturedly. "

Sorry, Dad," they both say. "Jinx! Aw, come on! Jinx!" While they're distracted, Doggett starts helping the kids help themselves to food.

"Cups?" Reyes says in a loud voice. "Everyone got their cups filled?" Those who don't do so, and she waits until everyone's got a cup full of punch. Then she grins and pulls out a champagne bottle. "Three cheers!" Reyes shouts, popping the cork. "Whoo!" she yelps as the bubbles flow down the bottle's side and she catches as much of the spillover as she can into a plastic cup. "Hip hip, hooray!" She raises her cup.

"Hip hip, hooray!" everyone else shouts. They drink, cheer more, and drink more. Some of the adults join Reyes and get some champagne, like Mulder, while others refrain, like Scully.

Jimmy grins and tosses down champagne with the rest of them, and then sees a woman standing by herself. "Hey, what's the matter?" Jimmy asks, noticing how, well, unenthusiastic the female hacker is.

"He will try again," Yves says quietly. "He knows who's responsible, and he will retaliate, and he will try again."

"Hey, don't worry," he says positively, "we're the good guys. And good guys always win."

She smiles wanly. "I wish I could believe that. Notice that Fletcher isn't here to share in the festivities? He knows enough to protect himself. I just wish the rest of them did."

Jimmy looks at their friends, and the children. "Yves, these people know more than anyone else what it's like to face danger," he says, and she looks up at him, surprised at his serious tone. "But they also know that they can't live scared all the time, because that's not living. That's why they're my heroes, not just because they do the right and the dangerous things, but because they don't give up when everyone else says otherwise." Then he looks down at her, a sad smile on his face. "I don't know what you're planning to do, but remember you've got friends here to back you up, okay?"

She smiles, then looks at the others in their festive mood. "I keep forgetting you're more perceptive than you let on," she muses aloud. As he blinks, confused, she tiptoes and kisses him, then walks out, letting herself out through the secret door.

Only one other man notes her exit, and he shakes his head slightly. Mulder knows what it's like to have to fight not just your personal demons but also blood relatives, and he hopes she remembers that, like him, she's not alone.

He smiles as his wife and partner yanks on his ear to bring him back to earth, and smiles wider at his three friends, who once gave their lives in another lifetime to make sure no one else would have to die. Take care, Yves Adele Harlow, he thinks, stepping between Frohike and Doggett when the shorter man makes an ill-timed move on Reyes.

Chapter One Hundred and Fourteen



April 2002

"NOOOOOOO!!!" April's scream wakes not only her siblings, but her parents down the hall.

"Baby, sweetie, what's the matter?" Scully is white-faced with worry, clasping her daughter in her arms, while her husband pulls out a gun in case the nightmare happened to be human.

"She's, she's," the little girl sobs, then buries her face in her mother's chest.

"Shhhh, shhh, it's okay," Scully murmurs, as Mulder lowers his weapon, then tucks it in the back of his sweatpants. "April, sweetie, tell Mommy what's wrong, okay?"

The redheaded girl hiccups, then nods, sniffling, but her tears keep rolling down her cheeks. The sight just about breaks Mulder's heart, and he gets on his knees to hold his little girl's clammy hands. "It's okay, April, just tell us," Mulder says softly.

"The," April chokes on the word, "the bad man's hurting her again."

"Bad man? What bad man?" Scully wonders.

April shakes her head, shivering even though she's soaked in sweat. "He's hurting the little girl, Mommy," she says distantly, as if the nightmare is more real than her parents. "He used to just slap her, but now he's throwing her at the wall and mashing his sugarettes on her."

"You mean 'cigarettes'?" Scully asks, feeling a chill go down her spine.

Their daughter nods, and her parents look at each other, worried. "He's mad cuz of what Daddy and Uncle Alex did, and he's hurting her." Now the tears come back in a rush, and Scully hugs her again, patting her back as she does so.

Mulder looks at April, worried. This 'bad man' that April's dreaming of, he must have something to do with the conspiracy, but how? They've pretty much captured everyone. Or have they? Much as he'd like to tie Kersh and Follmer to the thing, they've managed to sever any obvious ties to either new or old conspiracies, keeping their jobs and asses safe.

Now that he suspects that there's one more child out there to save, and one more person that needs to be taken down, he can almost feel his blood boiling. "I need to make a call," he says, and Scully watches him go, holding their still-sobbing daughter close.


The Basement Office
Two Days Later

"What's up?" Doggett asks, as Reyes is sorting tabloid articles across the desk. "Please don't tell me we're doing an Elvis sighting."

Reyes looks up with a grin. "Nope, Mulder says that that's his jurisdiction," she replies while Doggett groans. "Sorry, you walked into that one. No, there was something that caught my eye, a string of homes displaying paranormal phenomena."

He gives her a look. "Haunted houses? Ain't it too early for Halloween?"

She laughs. "Hauntings aren't the only type of paranormal activity to occur in homes, but I suppose that would be a common conclusion."

Doggett raises an eyebrow. "That's a rare talent, to sound like you make sense when you don't."

Reyes gives him a superior look. "It's what separates the believers from the regular crazies," she retorts, and he cracks up. "Here, John, tell me what you think is the common denominator among the articles." And she turns them so he can read the headlines.

He scans them, his lips thinning by the time he gets to the final, tiny one. "You aren't serious, are you?"

"What?" she says. "Isn't that the provenance of the X-Files? To investigate the unexplained, the mysterious, the paranormal?"

He gives the articles a final glance, then he groans. "I can't believe you wanna look up the equivalent of Jesus on a pancake."

She shakes her head. "No, that would be an iconic manifestation," she says, "what I'm looking at are miracles."

"Uh-huh," he gives her his patented skeptical look.

And she gives him her patented believing look. "Hey, it'll be fun," she says, "the worst that can happen is that we come across termites."

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head.


Doggett fights the urge to slouch in his chair, instead, he sits up straighter. God, he groans inwardly, this is ridiculous. Everything that the articles had claimed as irrefutable miracles could very easily be explained.

Like the family whose grandmother fell from the second floor balcony onto the cement patio and landed without a scratch. He's heard of people falling off higher heights, albeit not that old, and walk away with maybe a bruise or scratch, depending on how much drugs or alcohol were in their system.

Or the young son who was suffering from a debilitating disease who was able to not only move, but walk, even run, a few days after moving in. The tabloid writers obviously didn't take into account the new medical treatment the kid was getting at the nearby hospital.

Or the burglar who ran out of an empty house because he claimed to see what looked like an entire football team in the living room, and they were all glowing in the dark. That one, well, he pretty much chalked it up to the drugs in the guy's bloodstream, since crack never gave people clarity, the last time he checked.

Or the house that survived a hurricane, the only one to do so out of the entire neighborhood. Statistics shows that there are always a few homes that withstand natural disasters, due to their location, construction material and method, or a combination of the above.

Reyes is busy talking with the writers of the articles, while he's doing the responsible thing: fact-checking. Okay, he admits it, he's doing the boring thing. But it's better than what he's been doing lately, which is nothing. It still amazes him how Mulder managed to build cases out of complete crap, and Doggett allows his eyes to travel upwards, where the ceiling has been pierced with numerous pencils.

Okay, maybe he wasn't always out doing something constructive, Doggett snorts, then forces himself to look at the computer screen. The only other commonality he can pick up from all those different homes is that they were all built by Habitat of Humanity. Big whoop. So are a lot of other low-income homes. He sighs, takes a big gulp of now-cold coffee, and goes through the list of homes and facts.

"Mm-hm, okay." Reyes nods from her chair, tapping her pen with her free hand. "Okay, thanks." Then she looks over at her partner, who is staring intently at the computer screen, as if hitting the arrow-down key would make the answers appear faster. A ready smile forms on her face, and she walks over quietly behind him. Her smile turns evil as she jabs him in the back with her pointer fingers, and he jumps.

"What the hell?" he yells, spinning around.

She laughs unrepentantly. "Oh, God, John, you should see the look on your face," she chuckles.

He scowls at her. "Monica, tell me you've got something decent to go on."

The smile still on her face, she nods. "The tabloid writers are staunch atheists, but the people they were writing about are Christians, Catholic and Protestant. I guess miracles don't favor one branch or the other."

He rolls his eyes. "Please tell me there's more."

She sits on the desk, making herself comfortable. "According to a couple of the writers, it's always the same people who built the homes."

Doggett nods. "Habitat for Humanity."

She nods back. "And guess who's building a home for a pastor and his family in Charlottesville, Virginia?"

He gives her an incredulous look. "Please don't tell me you think Habitat for Humanity has turned into a bunch of miracle workers!"

Reyes shakes her head. "I don't think so," she says honestly. "But I do know that for some reason, combining Habitat with Christians in the house make for very interesting homes."


Charlottesville, Virginia

Doggett pulls up to the building site, which, like most building sites, looks like a disaster in the making. When he gets out, he squints against the sun while his partner scans the area behind her sunglasses. Smiling a little, he puts on his own pair of sunglasses, then walks towards what looks like the unofficial headquarters, with Reyes beside him. Then he spots a familiar face. Well, one he's seen in a casefile, that is. "Kevin Kryder?" he asks.

The teen looks startled. "Yeah?"

Doggett holds up his hands, then pulls off his shades. "I'm a friend of Agents Mulder and Scully," he says. "Me and Agent Reyes here work with them in the FBI."

"Oh," Kevin says, relaxing slightly. It's only when his father joins them that he allows himself to fully relax. "Hey, Dad, these are friends of those FBI agents from a few years back."

"Oh?" Mr. Kryder looks at them. "Well, we sure could use your help here."

"Oh?" Reyes echoes.

He nods. "Yeah, some of the guys had some bad pasta yesterday, so we're kinda short on hands. That is, if you don't mind doing some manual labor," he jerks his head at the unfinished building.

"We'd be happy to." Reyes smiles warmly. "John, why don't you catch up with Kevin while I sign us up, okay?"

Doggett nods, then looks at the boy who isn't much older than his own sons. "John Doggett," he says, holding out his hand. "Guess I'm going about introductions backwards."


Kevin grins, shaking it firmly. "Well, you know my name," the teen says. "Sorry, my dad likes roping anyone he can into this building thing. I don't mind, it's become kinda his hobby."

The agent nods, figuring it must be something like fishing or watching NASCAR. Then something strikes him. "So, your dad's training you to be a carpenter like Jesus, huh?" he asks with a grin.

Kevin grins back. "Actually, I tried volunteering at soup kitchens, but people don't like it when your hands spontaneously bleed into their meals." He shrugs, then cracks up at Doggett's expression. "Just kidding. No, I like helping out with my dad, now that he's on his medications. It's cool to just hang out with him, you know?"

Doggett nods. Recalling the contents of that casefile, he remembers the father being prescribed powerful anti-psychotics and anti-hallucinogens. That, and Scully eliminating the perceived threat posed by that Gates guy probably had a lot to do with Mr. Kryder's peace of mind, such as it was. Hell, he knows his own kids have saved his sanity in more ways than one.

Mr. Kryder comes back with Reyes and extra power tools. "Well, your friend here has offered to help us out on this." He nods at the woman, who nods back gamely. "And we could use an extra hand. How are you with a Makita?"

Doggett grins. "Better than I would with a pair of chopsticks," he quips, and the other man chuckles. "So, what are we working on?"

Mr. Kryder points to the lumber pile on the side. "We're gonna turn that," he says, then points at the frames stacked on the other side, "into that."

"Cool," Reyes remarks, walking over to the lumber pile.

"Yeah." Kevin nods, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Actually, I'm supposed to be doing paperwork or serving coffee, 'cause I'm not sixteen yet. But that's kinda boring." He makes a face and she smiles understandingly. "But my dad's been doing this for a while, so they made him a supervisor, and I'm just, um, observing."

"Uh-huh." Doggett shakes his head, but smiles. "So, Supervisor Kryder, mind telling us what goes where?"

Mr. Kryder goes over to the wood pile, then grabs five planks of the same length. "John, take these over there." He points to the workhorses. "Monica, you take these," he says and gives her four shorter planks, "and I'll be with you in a bit."

The agents agreeably shoulder their loads, and Mr. Kryder grabs planks of varying lengths. Then he tells them which lengths are for the outer frame, showing them how to join the planks together, and as they do that, he picks up more shorter lengths for windows and the inner frame.

After a few minutes of simply driving screws into the planks, the supervisor decides to break the relative silence. "So what brings you out here to Charlottesville?" Mr. Kryder asks.

"Well," Doggett hedges, not sure how to explain it, since he's not quite sure himself.

"Miracles," Reyes says simply.

And that's when Kevin falls from his workhorse.


"You're kidding, right?" Mr. Kryder looks from one agent to the other, before giving his son a concerned look. The teen, for his part, looks embarrassed about having fallen in the first place, and dusts himself off.

Doggett sighs, while Reyes nods, smiling. "I don't know if they told you," Doggett says, to break the uncomfortable silence, "but Agents Mulder and Scully, as well as Agent Reyes and I, work for a division called the X-Files. We specialize in cases dealing with the unexplained, paranormal, and stuff."

"That explains a lot," Kevin says. "At least, they weren't totally freaking out when crazy stuff happened."

Reyes nods. "Well, as FBI agents, we're not supposed to freak when crazy stuff happens." And God knows how much crazy stuff has happened since she joined the FBI.

"Well, people usually don't believe what's right in front of their face, sometimes," the teen says matter-of-factly.

"Tell me about it." Reyes shoots a look at her partner.

Doggett gives her a don't-start-with-me look right back, then says, "Don't worry, it's nothing serious. We just happened to run across some articles saying that some miracles happened in some homes Habitat for Humanity built, but I don't think it has anything to do with you."

Mr. Kryder looks at his son, who shrugs, then looks at the agents. "So this is just a coincidence, right?"

"Pretty much," Doggett says before his partner can say anything. "Anyways," he says, picking up the lumber the boy dropped, "last I checked, we were putting a frame together, right?"

The Kryders give each other another look that doesn't go unnoticed by either agent, but all Mr. Kryder says is, "Yeah," and they resume building the frame in silence.


After a couple of hours putting together frames and attaching them together in a skeletal house kind of way, they all take a break. The head of the building team, Joe Aikman, called in a favor from another restaurant to avoid more food poisoning, so there's quite a spread waiting for the hungry workers. "Pastor Carl, quick blessing," Joe says, and the workers, including Doggett and Reyes, pause in their plate-loading while the future owner of the house says a brief prayer. "Thanks."

"Next time, you're saying the prayer." The pastor claps a hand on Mr. Kryder's shoulder, grinning.

"I'm just a layman, Pastor." Mr. Kryder shakes his head ruefully, balancing his cup of soup next to his sandwich.

"Hey, in my book, all Christians can pray," Pastor Carl smiles, his teeth white against his tanned skin. "Next meal time, okay?"

"Fine." The other man shrugs. "But if I start throwing in Latin..."

"Nice try," the pastor chuckles, and nods at Doggett. "I don't think we've met, but thanks for helping out."

"No prob." The agent nods back, then sticks his hand out. "John Doggett. And my friend, Monica Reyes."

"Carl Moore, or as they call me, Pastor Carl." The younger man smiles, shaking both their hands. "Reyes? ¿De dónde es usted?"

"Mexico." She smiles back. "And you?"

He shakes his head. "Born in Hawaii, raised in California, but my mom's from Mexico. Cool meeting you, Senorita Reyes."

When the pastor leaves, Doggett shakes his head. "What's a surfer like him doing way out here?" he wonders before tucking into his turkey and mashed potatoes.

"God works in mysterious ways, apparently," Mr. Kryder comments after swallowing a fourth of his sandwich.

"Speaking of which, what kind of miracles?" Kevin asks before tearing into his sandwich.

Both Doggett and Mr. Kryder choke on their meals, while Reyes answers matter-of-factly, "Well, like John said, they all happened at homes Habitat for Humanity built, homes where Christian believers resided. My theory is that perhaps there's something about the combination of who's living in the homes and who's building those homes that make them, well, susceptible to this kind of positive paranormal experience. Miracles, if you will." She grins as the boy's eyes glaze over. "Sorry, I'm guessing you want specifics. Well, there was a grandmother who fell from a second story level onto concrete but walked away without even a scratch."

"A grandmother?" Kevin's eyes are wide. "Wow."

"Yeah." Reyes smiles. "And there was this one where a burglar broke into a home, but ran away because he saw a roomful of angels, or as he said, 'huge football players glowing in the dark'."

"Cool," Kevin says, his eyes shining. "Did the family living there ever see those angels?"

She shakes her head. "Not that I've heard, but they were thankful nothing was stolen. In fact, they were getting ready to sell a good deal of their valuables to pay for a missionary trip to Indonesia. Funny how things work out, huh?"

The teen nods, then resumes eating his sandwich. The men look at each other with raised eyebrows, but say nothing, while Reyes plows through her chicken wings.


Later that night, Reyes keeps Scully updated on things, more out of a desire to chat with a woman and a friend than a need to "report to superiors". "They said yesterday's pasta took out a lot of the workforce, but it was pretty weird being the only woman on the team. That's not including Jerry who screamed like a girl when he hammered his hand not once, but twice."

Scully chuckles, then turns serious. "Monica, I'm glad you're having fun, but I think you should come home."

"Why?" Reyes wonders.

"Remember the last time we were involved in Kevin's life? That Gates man found him because we led him to Kevin. And who knows what kind of weirdos might find him now that you've linked him to those miracles?"

"It's not definite that he's the cause," Reyes tries to argue. "After all, the families in the articles are believers. It could be that they brought the miracles on themselves."

"They brought it on themselves?" Scully repeats.

"Like a placebo effect," her friend says.

"Is he exhibiting stigmata again?" Scully asks.

"Huh? I don't think so," Reyes says, then pauses. "No, I saw his hands at lunch, and I didn't see any signs of injury."

"Well, good," Scully tells her. "But if you see it, then you know it's him. And then get the hell out, so nobody else hunts him down."

A thought occurs to her, and she decides to play devil's advocate. "What if Kevin gets into trouble and I'm not there?"

Scully sighs heavily. "Kevin's not alone. His father's there, and I'm sure those other volunteers would rather protect than harm a young boy."

Reyes sighs, then roots around her bag for her cigarettes. She finds her lighter first, then shrugs. "Okay," she sighs. "But if some seriously weird shit goes down, we're staying."

"Monica," Scully sighs, then laughs. "Why am I talking to you like you're my unruly teenager?"

Reyes laughs. "Practice, maybe?"

"Oh, please, don't jinx me like that!" Scully laughs. "But you know what I mean."

Reyes nods, smiling because she finally found her smokes. "Yeah, and you know what I mean."

Scully also nods. "Take care."

"You, too," Reyes replies before she hangs up. Then she walks out of the room, sitting on Doggett's car hood and lights up a cigarette. Breathing deeply, she closes her eyes, and says a silent prayer as smoke escapes her lips. Now she knows the kind of dilemma Mulder has, hoping for both the paranormal to make an appearance, and hoping that it won't for the sake of an innocent life. "Dammit."


"Hey, thought I'd find you out here," a voice says from behind her. Reyes turns and smiles, tapping the ash off the end her cigarette as she waves him over with the other hand. "You know that stuff's bad for you."

She nods. "So are a lot of things, but it doesn't stop me from living." She grins, taking another drag.

Doggett sighs, then joins her in leaning against the hood of his car. "What's on your mind?"

"Kevin," she says simply.

He looks at her face, half-lit by the neon streetlight. "What about?"

She takes another puff, then exhales. "I want the miracles to be from him, but at the same time, I don't want his life to get complicated again."

Doggett nods. "We all want easy answers to questions, supernatural or not, huh? But what if the kid isn't the answer?" He looks up. "I think when it comes to miracles, it's gotta be bigger than one person, otherwise anyone could do it."

"You really think so?" Reyes sounds surprised.

Folding his arms, he answers, "I may not have learned much from church as a kid, but I learned that once in a while, stuff happens that no one, not even Mulder, could explain. And that sometimes it's the hard answers, the ones that no one wants to hear, are the ones that count."


"Hey, John." Mr. Kryder nods at the other man early the next morning, both men heading to a different part of the house while Reyes and Kevin get their assignment from Aikman.

Doggett nods back. "Hey," he replies. "Gotta ask you something."

Now the supervisor looks wary. "What about?"

"Anything different happen around here? I don't mean like miracles, I mean anything," he adds in a lower voice. "I know my partner's got some crazy ideas, but you know, as soon as the rest of your team recovers, I got a feeling we'll probably be heading back to D.C. to work on regular cases."

"You don't believe anything special happened, either?" Mr. Kryder says, which surprises the agent. "Much as I'd like to think so, a lot of what your friend said sounds an awful lot like coincidence. I didn't want to say anything yesterday in front of Kevin, he's the one who still believes."

"And you don't?"

Mr. Kryder chuckles, but it's a mirthless laugh. "I take the medications not just because I'm supposed to, but because I want to. It's kinda scary living like there's demons behind every tree, like everyone's after your kid. Building these houses, it's something solid, something real, and it's something I can believe in that won't get me locked up."

Doggett can get behind that. "That doesn't negate the fact that there are regular predators who would be after your son, with or without the miracle-making. God knows, I tell my kids time and time again to be careful, especially these days."

Mr. Kryder nods, seeing a sympathetic figure. "So you know. But to answer your earlier question, no, nothing unusual. Aside from the bad pasta the other day, there's nothing strange around here, just the usual nicks and bruises that come with putting a house together."

"Gotcha," Doggett says. Then he waves at another member of their team. "Hey, Pastor Carl."

"Hey," the tan man flashes his white smile at the other two. "Don't tell me it's just gonna be just the three of us on this section."

"Nope, it's gonna be the four of us," a burly man joins in. "John, right?" He nods at Doggett.

Doggett nods back. "Jerry?" He smiles when the other man shakes his hand. "Guess we'll be done with this section in a snap, then."

"As long as we're all careful." Mr. Kryder gives Jerry a look. "Okay, let's get started."

The other men nod, and after Jerry makes a show of putting on his work gloves, they do, too. Mr. Kryder gives clear directions, is patient and competent in his dealings, and knows what the hell he's doing, in short, everything a professional could want in a supervisor, and not for the first time, Doggett is surprised the man isn't with a regular construction company, in spite of his mental history. Pastor Carl, who's obviously less familiar with power tools although athletic, is given simple drilling and hauling duties, while more experienced men like Jerry are assigned the more complex tasks.

Doggett, for his part, helps both men in their jobs, being familiar with fixing things around the house, but not quite up to building the house itself. And Mr. Kryder isn't letting the "underlings" do all the heavy lifting, either, he hauls frames, insulation sheets, and drills siding with the rest of them.

"Just want to say I appreciate it," Jerry tells them once they break for lunch.

"For what?" Doggett looks at him curiously.

"For not calling me Jerry the Jinx," the big man mumbles around his second chili burger.

"Hey, just 'cause you dropped your hammer doesn't mean you're a jinx." The agent shakes his head, taking a bite out of his first chili burger.

"Um, that's not it," Jerry says. "I'm the guy who poured concrete in the garden instead of the foundation area. And broke a handsaw. And hit McCrary's truck, but he was backing out, too, so that's kinda both our faults. And killed the third portapotty. I'm surprised they're keeping me here, but I guess these Christian guys got a lotta patience or something."

Doggett's eyebrows are all the way up to his hair, or at least, it feels like it. "Sounds like you're the accident-prone statistic they always quote for construction jobs," he says, trying to make light of the situation.

Jerry shrugs. "Well, when my brother's around, it's not so bad. He looks out for me, and things work out. But he had some of that weird spaghetti, and he's been feeling kinda crappy, you know?" He looks so miserable, and Doggett feels for the guy.

"Who's your brother?" Doggett asks, more out of politeness than anything else.

"Brad. Brad Turlington." Jerry grins. "People call him Big Brad, 'cause he's bigger than me."

Being that Jerry's easily the biggest man on the team he's seen so far, Doggett believes it. "Hope he feels better soon," he says, meaning it in more ways than one.

"Yeah." Jerry nods, tearing into what's left of his chili burger. Then he grins, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve before waving. "Hey, Pastor!"

The pastor waves back. "Hey, Jerry, how's Big Brad doing?"

Jerry makes a face. "He wasn't feeling too good. Maybe you can stop by the hotel later and check on him."

Pastor Carl nods. "Will do. Hey, John." He smiles and waves before moving on to the other workers.

Doggett's cell phone rings, and he says, "Sorry, gotta take this," to the big man, excusing himself. He's usually not this polite, but something tells him it's probably a good idea to be on the good side of this big guy, even if their acquaintance may only be for this one building project. "Doggett."

"Hey, John," a familiar voice says on the other end.


"Hey, Mon," Doggett says into his cell. "Don't tell me you're gonna sit this one out today?"

"Ha ha." Reyes makes a face. "No, Kevin was just telling me about the accidents that have been happening around here."

"Lemme guess," Doggett says, making sure he's out of earshot and eyesight of Jerry, "it's mostly Jerry's fault."

"Well, some," Reyes admits, "but there's some things happening around here that makes me suspect sabotage, or something like it going on."

"Sabotage? Really?" Doggett's forehead furrows. "Has there been any threats, or anyone claiming responsibility?"

"No," Reyes says, "mostly construction-related accidents, or missing supplies, which points a grudge more towards Habitat than to the pastor." Of course, she hasn't told him about the paranormal equipment she's been borrowing from the Lone Gunmen, now that they've got their operations back on board, nor about "poltergeist traps" she's laid out that's caught nothing but air so far. Then again, she hasn't given up hope that Kevin's a latent telekinetic with poltergeist potential, but she's not laying that out on her partner just yet.

"Have you talked to Aikman about it?"

"Yeah, but he shrugged it off, saying it went with the job, with some building projects more hazardous than others. I'm having Scully looking into Aikman's background, as well as everyone else on the crew," Reyes says, while Kevin's faxing papers.

"Um, how's she gonna do that when she's not here - oh, no," Doggett groans.

"Don't worry." Reyes smiles, "if this particular woman's intuition doesn't pan out, we don't have to write a report, right?"

Doggett sighs. "Just make sure you don't get into any trouble, okay?"

"Me?" she says, way too innocently.

"Ha ha," he mutters. "You and Kevin get your butts out here soon, lunch break's over in five."

"Will do, sir!" Reyes mock-salutes.

He sighs again and hangs up, then walks back to where Jerry's making inroads on a third chili burger. Speaking of job hazards, he mutters inwardly, maybe Monica and Kevin shouldn't join us just yet.


As the days pass, the house is looking more like, well, a house. This, in spite of the constant hassles that seem to hit this particular construction site. From what Scully could find, there was nothing shady or even semi-legal about this branch of Habitat, nothing about Joe Aikman except for about six speeding tickets, and nothing about the rest of the crew beyond the usual traffic violations and occasional bar brawl.

There was really nothing that could point to why exactly this place was having more problems than the usual. Mr. Kryder, at one point, even admits, "I don't know about the head boss, but I could almost swear this site's more accident-prone than the norm." This is only after the crane operator nearly drops a load of shingles onto Pastor Carl and Jerry putting in windows on that side of the building.

Doggett sends a warning look to his partner, who shoots back an innocent look. "You don't say," is all he replies, busy picking up shingles while Reyes and Kevin are sorting out the good from the damaged.

Kryder's eyes, however, are on the crane, since Aikman's busy reaming out the crane operator. "I figure it's because we've got a mostly-green crew, not used to working with certain equipment and each other," he finally comments when something about the machine catches his eye.

The agents look at each other again, but say nothing, watching Mr. Kryder. From what they can see, Kryder's pointing out that the fault wasn't just with the crane operator's inability to fasten the load properly, but also the bolts on the arm was loose enough to cause the same kind of accident, if not worse.

"What the fuck is going on here?" they can hear Aikman bellow from their position, and even some of the other crew members stop what they're doing. "If anyone's got a problem with me or someone here, have the fuckin' balls to say so to my face! Don't use my equipment to kill anyone, ya dumb shits!" Then he stomps into his makeshift office, presumably to cool down, but more likely to swear further and drink more coffee than was good for his blood pressure.

"Don't say anything," Doggett murmurs in a low voice.

"I think Aikman said it all," Reyes says, casting a worried look at Kevin.


The next day, the roof is finished, the windows installed, and people are working to install doors and paint walls. Doggett's on the door detail, while Reyes and Jerry are assigned to painting. She hadn't done this since college, while Jerry hadn't ever done it, but their general lack of experience is propped by fellow painters who have already covered windows, floors, and other things that shouldn't have paint on them. That, and everything is pretty much white, so the white paint isn't too much of a stretch.

"Thank God it's almost over," Reyes sighs behind her face mask, rotating her left shoulder. "It's starting to look like the real miracle is getting this house finished."

"Of course it'll get finished," Jerry chuckles behind his almost-inadequate face mask. "Houses like this get finished all the time."

"One would think so," she agrees, "except this has had more hang-ups than most. Let's hope all the accidents will stop once the Moores move in." She's tempted to do a little smudging around the doorposts, but she's got a feeling that the incoming family won't appreciate the sentiment or the dirty doorposts.

And as much as she'd like to pin the mishaps on the supernatural, nothing really stands out. From the equipment she's been able to sneak in past Doggett's and the rest of the crew's radar, there's no sign of poltergeist activity, nor any other spectral presence, nor any curse on either the grounds or the crew that she's been able to ascertain. But she knows that there's someone who wishes ill here, but she can't tell where it's coming from or to whom it's directed at, and that's what's frustrating her. Usually, her senses can give her a pretty good idea of at least a general suspect, but so far, there's nothing.

She doesn't realize she's stopped painting until Uncle Al, the old, tall guy with the moustache, taps her on the shoulder. "Hey, no daydreaming until this gets done," he says in his gruff voice, but he's smiling under his moustache and face mask.

Reyes smiles back. "Sorry. Um, okay," she says, remembering where she left off, and continues painting her section of the wall.

And then she hears a man yell, "Everyone, stop what you're doing!"


What the hell? is the thought that runs through Doggett's head as he's being held at gunpoint in the hallway. According to Scully, everyone here passed a criminal background check, and as far as he could tell, nobody'd issued threats, per se. And yet, here's this huge, wild-eyed guy waving a gun around, telling everyone to drop their power tools and step back.

He, Mr. Kryder, and Pastor Carl had obediently put their Makitas gently on the floor, then stepped back. Then the guy starts yelling into every open door to stop what they're doing.

"'Scuse me," Doggett says in as polite and nonthreatening a tone as possible, "but who are you?"

"It doesn't matter." The big guy glares at him. "This house won't get done!"

"Brad, you're okay!" a voice says from behind. Doggett whirls to see Jerry standing there, a huge grin on his face. Oh, boy. This is the Big Brad Jerry was talking about. This is not gonna end well.

"Jerry!" Brad yells at his brother as if Jerry's the one doing something dumb and crazy. "You idiot, get out of here!"

"Why do you have a gun?" Jerry asks, finally noticing it. "What's wrong?"

"Him!" Brad points with the muzzle of his gun. "HE'S what's wrong!"

"John?" Jerry follows the gun.

"No, stupid, the Mexican next to him!"

"Pastor Carl's not Mexican, he's 'Merican, like us." Jerry shakes his head.

"He's just saying that," Brad says, insanity clearly in his eyes and voice. "He's a freakin' wetback, just like the others."

"Brad, come on, he's okay," Jerry whines, getting closer to his brother.

"I said shut up!" Brad shouts, and pistol-whips his brother, who falls to the ground with a stunned expression. Then he glares at the pastor, who's staring at the fallen man. "It's all your fault, you damn wetback."

Pastor Carl isn't paying him any attention, instead, he's dropped to his knees beside Jerry. "Oh man, that's gonna hurt when you wake up," he says, gingerly feeling the big guy's head. "Can I get him an icepack?"

"Get the hell away from him!" Brad's screams so forcefully that his voice cracks. "You, you don't touch him!"

"Sorry," the pastor mutters and puts his hands up.

Then everyone notices someone's mumbling, and they turn to the source of the noise. It's Mr. Kryder, who's also dropped to his knees, but his eyes are rolled to the back of his head, shaking his head and hands, muttering incoherently. "What the hell's wrong with him?" Brad shouts, waving his gun at the clearly oblivious man as if it would help.

"Stress," Doggett replies calmly, "you've officially freaked him out." He doesn't add that the guy used to be in a mental ward a few years back, since it looks like that's where the gunman's going, nor does he wonder when the last time Mr. Kryder took his meds was.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Reyes, but he warns her silently not to come near, since Brad's way too close to them and way over the edge. But she's not the only onlooker, since the other doors are filled with the curious, and now shocked, crew members.

"Dad!" Kevin shouts, in spite of himself. Everyone, including the crazed gunman, looks at him through the south doorway. As if that's his signal, the teen rushes towards his father, still babbling in tongues.

"NO!" Doggett shouts, running to throw himself between the boy and the gunman.

"Stop, dammit!" Brad hollers, shooting wildly.

And then Kevin crumples to the ground, followed by Doggett, then Brad, then Mr. Kryder.


St. Mary Medical Center
Room 302

"Hey," Doggett says waving from a chair beside the bed when the door opens. Then he looks at the doctor. "Hey," he says, more surprised, and stands up.

Scully nods at him, followed by Mr. Kryder. "Hey," she replies, walking over. "So you're ready to get back to work?" Then she folds her arms over her already slightly rounded belly. "Then tell me why Kevin Kryder was in a gunfight?"

"I told you, Agent Scully, I didn't want that man to kill my dad," Kevin says from the bed, for what feels like the millionth time. "And I'm okay, they're just putting me under observation because my hands are bleeding again, that's all." He holds his bandaged hands up, but rather than a bright red, the stain looks faint and dark.

"That's all, you say." She gives him a mommy look that quickly quells him, then levels that same gaze at the other two agents. "Monica, you said once he started exhibiting stigmata again, you'd keep him safe."

"Well, everything was pretty much wrapped by then," Reyes replies from the chair, "and it was only at the end, when he bilocated to save his father's life, that his hands bled. Really."

"Really," Doggett adds, for lack of a better response.

Scully allows her head to fall back and her large pale eyes to search the ceiling. "Give me strength," she mutters. Earlier, she'd tried to ask Mr. Kryder about what happened, but it seems he lost consciousness not long after Jerry Turlington did, either through being in a trance and speaking in tongues like Reyes said, or flipped out from the stress and violence, like Doggett said. Either way, it didn't bode well for custody of his child, should it ever come to that.

Right now, however, the man is looking healthy, both mentally and physically. "So Kevin's all set, right?" he asks Scully, who nods.

"Yeah!" Kevin jumps out of bed eagerly and joins his father.

She gives him a look, then turns to Mr. Kryder. "Well, his hands appear to be healing quite well on their own," she admits, "and he's suffering no effects of blood loss. Just make sure you change the bandages regularly, okay?"

Both father and son nod, and then Kevin shakes her hand. "Thanks," he says, grinning at her surprise.

Scully smiles in spite of herself. "Take care of yourself," she says, "and don't always count on a miracle to save your hide."

"Okay," the teen says, hanging his head, but then looks directly at her. "You wouldn't hesitate to save someone, though, would you? Even though you or someone you love," he glances at her belly as he speaks, "might get hurt. And someone said the worst evil is if a good man does nothing while evil exists. I don't want to be that, I want to do something about it."

"Then do it when you're an adult," Scully corrects him gently, "that's what my job is about." Then she looks at her friends and coworkers. "That's what *our* jobs are about." After a beat, she adds, "Mr. Kryder, take your son home before he turns into an FBI recruiting commercial, okay?"

The man chuckles, "I'm sure he'll make a fine agent someday, but in the meantime, I'll make sure he stays out of trouble. Right?" He gives his son a meaningful look.

Kevin shies away, but finally nods after looking straight at his father. As they leave, he pauses. "I told you I'd see you again, didn't I?" he says over his shoulder before disappearing with his father.


"What was that about?" Reyes asks her, seeing Scully's mildly stunned look.

Scully shakes her head, smiling a little. "Nothing," she says, then puts her hands on her hips. "If Kevin hadn't pulled off a literal miracle, I'd be talking to Agent Doggett behind a glass wall and Agent Reyes behind a bullet-resistant plastic one. Granted, the boy did run into the hall of his own volition, but the loss of life in a hostage situation, especially with a minor, could have grave consequences for all of us."

"Well, I'm glad I'm not in ICU," Doggett says wryly. "Trust me, if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn't've believed it."

Reyes nods, then stands to join the others as they head out. "According to everyone else, while I tackled Brad Turlington, Kevin threw himself in front of John from the south door. And while I was handcuffing Turlington, we find Kevin had somehow shoved John and his father out of the way from the east door. Nobody could quite explain the discrepancy, but they were all relieved there was no loss of life." Then she asks, "By the way, how's Jerry doing?"

"Physically, he's okay, save for the enormous goose egg on his head," Scully answers, her thick heels click-clacking on the hallway tiles, "but psychologically, he's still stunned that his brother did that to him."

Doggett nods. "I'm not surprised. It's not every day you find out you're your brother's instrument of revenge, and then you get knocked out for trying to do the right thing."

Reyes sighs, then her eyes catch sight of a sign. "You guys go on ahead, I'm gonna check on something," she says.

Scully and Doggett look back, then nod, figuring she'll look in on Jerry, and they head out through the sliding glass doors.

The tall brunette smiles a little, then turns back, heading into a room marked "CHAPEL".

Chapter One Hundred and Fifteen



Mulder-Scully Home
May 10th, 2002

More than two dozen people mill through the house, making even it feel small. Most of the smaller people there are expressing their happiness in tones loud enough to be reminded by adults to use their "indoor voices." Not that many pay any attention.

Garbage bag already in hand, Mulder escapes the crowd in the living room and heads to the kitchen to begin his appointed chore. There are far too many people in the house, but the kitchen is entirely empty.

"But you said!" Mulder hears Emily protest in the next room even as he shakes open the bag. Her mother murmurs a reply, but he doesn't make it out. To his surprise, the small blonde stomps into the kitchen and wordlessly begins to help him throw away the paper plates and plastic forks left over from the babies' birthday party. A bag full of balled up wrapping paper is already patiently waiting by the back door.

Given that William and Ryan are only a few days apart in age, Missy and Scully decided to hold a joint party for the two young cousins. Privately, Mulder thinks they don't want to bear the full brunt of their mother's fussing over the little birthday boys.

Eventually, after they'd put the last plate in the bag, he turns towards Emily expectantly, and she finally speaks. "Uncle Fox, can I ask you a question?"

Mulder looks down into his niece's piercing blue eyes. "Sure."

Emily looks around until she spots her mother, out of earshot. "Did you ever get jealous of your sister when you was kids?"

::Were kids:: Mulder thinks, but he doesn't correct her because Missy chewed him out the one time she'd heard him do it in the past. "Sure, why do you ask?"

Emily sighs. "I asked Page, but she says she doesn't remember before Sammy was born. And I can't ask Mommy, because it's about her, kinda. Daddy doesn't even have any brothers or sisters, but I can't ask him either anyway."

"You feel guilty about being jealous of Ryan," Mulder guesses.

"Yeah!" Emily looks relieved. "I'm not supposed to, 'cause I'm a lot older than him and he needs a lot of attention, but..."

"But you still are, sometimes."

"Uh huh. He doesn't mean to mess anything up, but a lot of times they say we're going to do something, but then we can't. Because of him." This, Mulder decides, is probably something that has just happened again within the last few minutes.

"Yup, that sort of thing happened when Samantha was a baby too," Mulder tells her. "Babies have a way of changing people's plans on you."

"I know," she agrees glumly.

"But your brother is already a year old. In another year or so, he'll be able to run around and play too, just like Christopher did last year. I know a year seems like a long time, but it's not really. Once he's just a little bit bigger, he'll be able to join in on doing things instead of keeping you from doing them at all."

"Good. I like being a big sister, you know. I just didn't know it would be hard sometimes," she confesses.

Mulder forces himself to smile, and he hopes it's convincing. More, he hopes that she never finds the level of "hard" being a sibling that he did. Missy's kids aren't as cuddly as his, but Mulder hugs her anyway. "You're doing a good job so far, Emily. Keep it up."

She doesn't say anything, but she looks thrilled by his compliment.


Three Hours Later

Worn out, the birthday boy rests his cheek on his mother's shoulder. Scully slowly carries him up to his room, and seems surprised to see Mulder already there. He has a stack of William's birthday presents in his arms.

"You're organizing?" she asks dryly before settling William in his crib.

"I thought I'd give putting things away before they got all over the place a shot. See what a change of pace accomplished."

Her mouth quirks into a smile. "Good idea."

"Scully," he says, looking over his shoulder as he puts boxes on a shelf. "Have you ever thought about how lucky we've been in regards to sibling rivalry?"

"Why would we be competing with our siblings?" Scully looks confused. At least she doesn't ask him how he's supposed to compete with his.

"Not our siblings." Mulder smiles at her and points at their sleeping son. "His siblings."

"Oh. I guess we have lucked out. They all get along great."

"Knock on wood," Mulder says, and quietly raps on William's dresser.

"You don't really believe-"

Ignoring her, he says, "Your sister's going to have her hands full."

"Oh?"

"Emily's trying to put up a good front, but she's still not used to no longer being the center of attention. She is having some trouble dealing with Ryan's needs being put before plans."

"You know this how?" Scully asks curiously.

"She told me."

"Really? That's the sort of thing I would have only told a favorite aunt or uncle at that age."

"Jealous, Scully?" he teases.

"No. I'm glad she opened up to you."

"Me too. You're not going to squeal to Missy, are you?"

"Nope. I'll keep it in mind if she complains about them not getting along, though."

Mulder puts his hand on her slightly rounded belly. "I hope our luck with sibling rivalry continues to hold."

"God willing," she agrees.


Missy-Krycek Home
May 12th, 2002

The last person that Krycek expects to be standing on his welcome mat is Marita. She gives him a slow smile, and he assumes it's because of the shocked look on his face rather than any pleasure at seeing him. "There's only one car in the driveway, Alex. Is it safe to assume Wifey is out with the kids?"

"My mother-in-law dragged them off to church," he says nervously.

"But she left you behind. A smart woman, if she's not trying to convert you," Marita says before pushing past him. Surprised, Alex gapes at her. "Don't just stand there, we have something important to talk about."

Krycek pulls the door open in an exaggerated fashion, and she stalks past him, finally coming to a rest at the kitchen table. He pulls up another chair. "Coffee, Marita?"

"If you already have some made."

"As much as I welcome a visit from you," Krycek says dryly, "please don't leave me in suspense about the nature of our meeting here."

Marita stirs sugar into her coffee with slim pale fingers. "I've had some disturbing pillow talk lately."

He grimaces. "I know I'll regret asking, but with whom?"

"Brad Follmer."

"Ah. And you thought you should tell me that you're sleeping with the enemy because..." he prompts.

"That's exactly it, Alex. I am sleeping with the enemy. It seemed prudent."

"I don't even want to know what you mean by that," Krycek mutters. He doesn't begrudge her finding a willing sexual partner, but he still can't figure out why she is telling him about it.

"Men, though not you Alex, are easy to manipulate. Grandmothers want girls to believe that the fastest way to a man's heart is though his stomach, but men like Follmer are led around by their dicks. Sleeping with him is the easiest way to get information, and considering who is left on the outside after you and Mulder cleaned house a few months ago, the least repulsive of the bunch."

"We would have gotten the rest of them if we could have, Marita," Krycek says defensively. "We're still working on ways to get them punished the way we did the men who worked for them."

"Work faster, Alex," Marita says coldly. "Or your wife will never forgive you."

Krycek freezes for a moment before giving her a startled glance. "Wouldn't forgive me for what?"

"Follmer thinks I'm trustworthy, the fool. Half-asleep and half-drunk, he decided to tell me that while the project is shattered, they have hope for the future. The plan is to groom 'Alex Krycek's daughter' to restart the project when she comes of age. That was last night."

"No!" Krycek stands so suddenly that his chair keels over and crashes to the floor. "They're never going to get their hands on Emily again!"

"That's what I thought you'd say," she replies smoothly. "Which is why I got up at this ungodly hour to tell you."

It's almost nine, but Krycek supposes that non-parents who no longer work weekends might keep different hours. "Did he say how they planned to get her, to 'mold' her?"

Marita shakes her head. "I think he was just sober enough to realize he'd over-shared. After that he refused to talk about it anymore. But he did say something else that made me think."

"What?"

"When we pushed the smoking bastard down the stairs, we should have paired it with a bullet to the brain."

Krycek shoots her an incredulous look. "You can't mean that Follmer thinks he's alive?"

"Alive and still pulling the strings."

"How could he be, the way we left him?"

"He's our personal Michael Myers," she says with the faintest of ironic smiles. "You know what they say, the good die young."

"Where is he?" Krycek demands to know.

She shrugs. "It doesn't matter where he is right now. Follmer said that are keeping him under wraps, and are going to move him soon anyway."

"Moving to where?"

"I don't know yet. But I intend to find out." Her smile is chilling.

"And then you'll tell me?"

"Yes. Then I'll tell you."


Loup De Mer Restaurant
Later...

There's more to Mother's Day than presents and breakfast in bed for Scully with the kids. Whenever possible, Mulder likes to take his mother out for lunch, while Scully and her sister spend the afternoon with theirs. He hasn't been able to be with his mother every year, but he finds himself especially grateful that this year is one that he can.

Teena is still looking at her menu when a waiter appears at Mulder's elbow. "Mom, ready to order?" Mulder prompts.

His mother looks up and gives the waiter a charming smile before reeling off her order. Mulder follows, and the waiter ambles off, promising to be back soon with a basket of bread and their appetizers.

"How are the children?" Teena asks as she watches the server return to the kitchen.

"Good." Mulder gives her a genuine smile. "I think they're looking forward to summer vacation starting in a few weeks."

"You and your sister used to love summer, Fox. We couldn't get you in before dark most nights." Her good cheer fades. "I'm sure the children miss your father."

"Yeah. We all miss him," Mulder says softly.

She nods quickly. "There's something I've been keeping from you."

"There is?" Mulder immediately wonders which of his mother's skeletons she's referring to.

"I have a disease. It's called Paget's Carcinoma. I was told that it's incurable-"

He gives her an alarmed glance. "Mom, are you trying to say you're dying?"

"No, dear. I was told that it's incurable, but I eventually found a specialist who could treat it. I'm in remission, and there's no reason to think it will return."

"Thank God."

"Forgive me, but I didn't want to say anything until I was sure that your children weren't going to be losing another grandparent."

"Well, I'm glad you're okay." When Mulder looks up at her, he notices something for the first time. She's waiting to be included. "Dana and the kids ought to be done with church and their lunch by the time I get home. Would you like to come over after lunch? The kids ask after you too, Mom."

"Do they?" She looks so pleased that he feels ashamed that he just assumed that she wasn't particularly interested in her grandchildren.

"Sure," he says, hoping she won't ask him how often.

"I'd love to, Fox."

"Great."

When the waiter returns with their bread basket and tray of appetizers, he accidentally knocks the drink menu to the ground. "I'll get it," Mulder volunteers.

"Don't be silly." Teena bends down to pick it off the floor while the waiter apologizes. Mulder's face goes white when he glimpses her bent neck.

There's a tiny scar there, just like the one Scully had in their old life. ::Oh, Mom! What sort of "specialist" did you go to?::


Kersh's Home
May 14th, 2002
3 a.m.

The urgent need to urinate has Deputy Director Kersh reluctantly crawling out of bed hours before he needs to get up. He braces himself against the wall with one hand as his bladder slowly empties for the third time that night. Past experience has counseled him against bothering to turn on the light. The moon offers the required illumination to hit his mark, anyway.

"You might want to have your prostate checked out," a voice says behind him.

Kersh whirls around so fast that urine splashes his bare feet, and he grimaces in disgust. His desire to tuck himself back into his boxers evaporates when he realizes that for the second time in his life, he's got a gun pointed at him in his own home.

"Put that thing away," the gunman snaps waving the gun towards his privates, and Kersh is more than happy to oblige.

"I didn't have anything to do with the death of Mulder's father," he says steadily, wishing that he'd invested in a security system after the first time that this lunatic broke into his home.

"This isn't about Bill Mulder's suicide, though I guess that saying you have nothing to do with his death is debatable," the one-armed man tells him.

Kersh narrowly hangs onto his self-control and doesn't begin to scream at the home invader like all his instincts want him to. "Then why are you back?"

"Though you're a craven coward, you're a good source of information. I'll offer you the same deal as before – you tell me what I want to know, and I'll let you live."

"What is it that you think I know?" Kersh asks cautiously. He doesn't really trust the other man to keep his word.

To his surprise, the man dips his hand into a pocket and pulls out a small notepad and pen before flicking on the bathroom light. Kersh blinks owlishly, his eyes unused to the brightness. Before he can quite recover, the other man thrusts both objects into his hands.

"I want to know what happened to the children like my daughter Emily. The ones born in the eighties and nineties."

"What about them?"

"Are they dead?"

"No," Kersh admits. "They're not."

"Then I want addresses," the other man demands.

"Why?"

"Your only concern is not having your brains splattered over your ugly bathroom wallpaper. Addresses, now."

His tone assures Kersh that he is not making an idle threat, so he opens the notepad with trembling fingers. "I don't know the addresses off the top of my head, but I've got them written down in my study."

"I hope you realize that I'm not in a game playing mood, Alvin." But he does allow Kersh to leave the bathroom. He follows three steps behind. Too close for a workable plan to escape his tormentor.

Defeated, Kersh goes to his desk and pulls out a file. His uninvited guest waits as he laboriously copies out the names, ages and addresses of the seven children who were in the same experiment series as Emily. Then, without comment, he pushes the notepad back at the other man.

"Are they sick?"

"They take the same sort of treatments as Emily," Kersh admits. "They seem pretty well."

"Are any of them with their biological parents?"

Kersh shakes his head. "No. Melissa Scully is the only mother whose ova weren't taken by force. The other mothers have all died by now."

"Like Penny Northern," the gunman growls.

"I guess. I never learned their names."

"What do you do with these children?"

"They're studied every summer. Their adoptive parents think that it's a summer camp."

"By 'study' you mean experiment on."

"I have nothing to do with it, personally," Kersh says defensively, and he thinks that it's more or less a true statement. All he's ever done to the children is observe them. "And nothing is done that actually hurts them. The scientists just needed to know what went wrong with the older kids, so there was no repeating the errors."

"So you could go on to create scores of younger children," the other man says flatly.

"It was necessary-" Kersh starts to say, but a suddenly cocked gun cuts him off.

"Now, tell me what the smoking man plans to do to my daughter."

"I don't know," Kersh states honestly. "I know they didn't include her in the summer studies because of your in-laws, but beyond that? No one has ever spoken to me about the girl."

"Where is he?"

"I have no idea."

"I'd better not find out otherwise," his captor growls and flips off the light in the office.

Then, less than a minute later, Kersh finds himself alone in his dark house.


Mulder-Scully Home
May 14th, 2002
9 a.m.

Although he realizes that time is short before he and Scully need to leave for her OB appointment, Mulder is still in the middle of a phone conversation three minutes before they have to leave. He's mostly listening.

"Thank you," Mulder says sourly. "Yes, I know it's not up to you."

He's just hanging up the phone when Scully comes towards him with her purse in her hand. "Are you almost ready to go?"

"Sure. Let me put on my shoes, and I'll be all set."

"Who were you talking to? You didn't look very happy when I came around the corner."

He sighs. "Kersh's secretary. He's out for the day, but apparently he left her a message in case I called when he was out of the office."

"It wasn't good news?" She looks concerned and sympathetic.

"Not really. I do have a date for my rescheduled reinstatement meeting, though. After the new fiscal year."

"Ouch."

"From her tone, apparently I should consider myself lucky that he's willing to reschedule at all. I get the impression that Skinner put his neck out for me on that one," Mulder theorizes. "I'm sure he'll use the time to outline all the reasons he's going to recommend that I never return to the FBI."

Scully puts her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, Mulder."

"Me too. But it's not as though I didn't know this was going to happen. As soon as I blew off that meeting to go and look for my father, I knew that I was severely reducing my chances of ever returning to the X-Files."

"What else could you have done?" Scully looks outraged on his behalf. "I'm sure he would have done the exact same thing in your position, so how can he punish you for it?"

"Do you really think Kersh has parents, Scully? I got the idea that he hatched."

She smirks at him before looking over his shoulder at the clock. "Come on, we're going to be late."

"So what if we are? Doctors are never ready to see you when you arrive."

"Unless you're late," Scully counters. "That's the only time they're ready for you."

Smiling at her cynicism, Mulder grabs the keys to her car off the hook by the door, and ushers her out.

As they pass by the minivan that he's glad they don't need today, he stops and gives it a speculative look. Scully slows to a stop herself when she notices that he's not beside her any longer. "Mulder? What are you doing?"

"Thinking."

"About?" Scully is beginning to get frustrated.

"We're never going to get two more car seats in this thing."

"Of course we -" she starts to say, but gives the minivan a critical look herself. "Oh, crap."

"I think we're going to need to stop by a van dealership this summer," he says, finally walking to the car.

"A van?"

"Something that will hold twelve passengers."

"I thought we agreed that we're not having any more kids after this set of twins." Scully gives him a nervous look.

"They don't make eleven passenger vehicles, Scully."

"Oh."

"But if the van fills you with lust, and we need to christen it, well, things happen." He attempts a seductive smile.

"Brother."


Despite Scully's worry, they arrive at Doctor Hart's office with five minutes to spare. Half an hour later, they're still waiting to see him.

"We should have been late, Scully. After apologizing we could have seen him twenty minutes ago."

Hart doesn't offer any excuses when he finally enters the room. Instead he immediately launches into questioning Scully, and Mulder tunes out, thinking about buying a van and finally being rid of the soccermom-ish minivan. He finally looks up when he hears Hart ask, "Have you given much thought to names yet?"

"Not really," Scully tells him. "We don't know if we should be thinking of boys or girls names yet." She is careful to give no indication as to which she'd prefer.

Mulder himself is torn. While he'd love to have another pair of sons, he's pretty sure that Scully wants the babies to be girls, so it seems selfish to hope for boys. ::Whichever, as long as they're healthy.:: he thinks, hoping that God is listening in to his thoughts.

"If they're feeling cooperative, we might be able to solve that mystery today," Hart says with a smile.

It takes a few minutes to set things up, but before long the babies are wriggling on the screen. "They look great, Dana." Hart smiles.

"I'm glad we've got two healthy little....um...little..." Mulder peers studiously at the screen, but he can't make much out.

"Little girls," Hart tells them.

Scully's face lights up, and Mulder lets the thought of more sons go with almost no pain. ::With nine kids, I'm sure to have some grandsons in the future. All is good.::

"Girls?" Scully asks, sounding awestruck. "I didn't think we'd have another girl, not after four boys in a row."

::Not exactly in a row,:: Mulder finds himself thinking sadly, but he doesn't bring it up. "Do you want to paint the nursery pink or purple?" he asks instead.

"We've got a few more months to figure that out," Scully tells him, but her eyes are still on the image of their unborn daughters.


Victory Hill High School
Eaton, California
May 16th, 2002

Tenth grader Mark Cross is in the middle of handing in his English paper when the secretary announces over the PA that he's supposed to report to the principal's office immediately. Startled, Mark drops his paper and turns to the classroom door.

"What are you getting busted for, Mark?" one of the jocks in the class jeers as he shuts the door.

As he hurries down the hallway, Mark furiously tries to think of a reason he'd be called down to the office. He's pretty sure that he hasn't done anything to get in trouble, so it leaves him with the queasy worry that there's some sort of emergency at home. His hands are practically shaking as he turns the knob.

Principal Lancaster looks up at him with a slight smile. "Mark. This is FBI agent Alex Krycek. He needs to ask you a few questions."

"FBI?" Mark gives his badge an astonished look.

"I'm going to get a cup of coffee," Principal Lancaster says nervously, and Mark realizes that she just doesn't want to be involved in the conversation. "If you need anything, the secretary is right next door."

"Thank you," the fed says with a bright smile, and both males watch the principal scurry off. He then turns to Mark. "You haven't done anything wrong. I want to make it clear that you're not the one in trouble. Okay?"

"Okay." Mark relaxes a little. "But don't my parents need to be here when you talk to me?"

The man shakes his head. "They only need to be present if you've done something wrong, and like I said, you haven't."

"Right. So..." Could his parents have screwed up on their taxes? They said taxes are complicated on a home business, but wouldn't that involve the IRS, not the FBI?

"The reason I want to speak to you is because we're investigating a group who has done illegal experimentation on children."

"What does that have to do with me?" Mark asks automatically.

"Mark. I know. I know all about you and the seven other kids like you," the agent says softly.

For some reason, Mark believes him. "You do?" Even as he asks, he wonders what happened to the eighth child, given there's only seven of them at "camp" each year. It doesn't seem wise to ask, however.

"I know that you were all given to adoptive families after your births. I'm hoping that you know that as well, because this would be a terrible way to tell you that you're adopted."

"Oh, I've known I'm adopted since I was little."

"Good. I also know that they've brought you back to their labs every summer. What I don't know is what they did to you while you were there."

"Nothing bad," Mark says too quickly.

"I want to show you something." The man opens a folder, and for one second Mark is afraid that he's going to show him gruesome crime scene photos. Instead it's a group photo of dozens of toddlers. "This winter and spring my partner and I spent months recovering these children and finding them good homes."

"What do they have to do with me?"

"These little guys were created after they studied you and the other kids. I've come to you because you're the oldest, Mark. They're far too little to tell me what was done to them, though we know it wasn't good. Since they're little more than babies, they're counting on you to help get justice for what was done to them."

"And if I can't tell you anything?"

"Then the bad guys get away with everything," the FBI agent says grimly.

"I guess that would suck."

"You're what, sixteen?"

"Yeah, since a couple of months ago."

"That's practically grown up," he says evenly. "Maybe next they'll decide to see what they can do with your children."

"They wouldn't!"

"Are you sure?"

He isn't. Mark sighs. "What do you need me to do?"

Though the idea of possibly testifying in court makes Mark nervous, the possibility that his own hypothetical children could someday be the doctors' victims worries him even more. In the end he gives the FBI agent as much information as he possibly can, and then the two of them discuss the plan with his parents.


The Basement Office
May 17th, 2002

When Doggett and Reyes arrive at the office still laughing, they notice that Scully has beat them in. There's a box of donuts on her desk, and a trio of paper coffee cups.

"Are you trying to butter us up for something, Agent Scully?" Doggett asks flippantly as she hands him a coffee.

"Well..."

He looks down at her, surprised. "I was joking."

"I know," she says, handing Reyes one of the other coffees. "We need to talk."

"About?" Reyes asks nervously.

"We haven't told the kids yet, so please don't let this slip – Mulder and I are having a second set of twins, not the single baby everyone thought."

"Congratulations!"
"That's great, do you know the sexes yet?"

She gives them a small smile. "Thank you. We just found out that they're girls. Mulder and I have talked extensively and Skinner is backing up our decision... After next month, I'm not going to be doing any fieldwork."

"That's probably for the best," Doggett says supportively.

"Oh." Reyes looks disappointed.

Scully reminds herself that Reyes doesn't know about her last twin pregnancy as well as Doggett does, so she tries to explain: "David and Jared were a month premature due to my involvement with the X-Files, and that was close to four years ago. Factoring in my age, and the fact that there are two babies, this is considered a high risk pregnancy. I'm not going to repeat my mistake and put these babies at risk the same way."

"But David and Jared are fine," Reyes blurts out.

"And thank God for that," Doggett says sharply before turning to stare at her.

"Right..." Reyes blushes. "Will you be starting maternity leave early?"

"No. I'll be here in the office, riding a desk."

"We'll try to make sure that the case files you'll be writing up will be interesting," Doggett tells her with a grin.

"Speaking of which, are we going to get to check out that banshee case before you're grounded?"

"If we get a jump on it," Scully tells her.


Walla Walla, Washington
May 19th, 2002
7:30 p.m.

The TV is on, and Krycek has his feet up on the worn hotel room comforter. He has a phone to his ear.

"I'm flying home tonight, Babe," he promises his wife. "Yeah, I found all seven of them... I know, but Mulder and I warned you and Dana that we still needed to find those last kids. Can't you at least be glad it's taken me just a few of days to do it?"

He reaches for the remote and flips to the news. "They're all with nice families, like the Sims were. They look happy and healthy. Now that we know, we can rest easy. Yeah, I love you too."

When he hangs up, he feels emotionally drained. Most of the kids were very young, right around Emily's age, so he didn't want to get them involved if there were any legal dealings to come in the days ahead. Two of the kids, a girl name Jessie and a boy named Alan, were also in high school, so he spoke to them too. Then he faxed their statements, along with Mark's to the FBI tip line last night.

To his relief, the news offered him the glimpse he'd been praying for since the night before - footage of a raid on Knowle Rohrer's house. He turns up the volume, and listens to the very earnest news anchor. "In an unexpected move, FBI agents raided the home of a department of defense worker this afternoon. Shocking allegations link him other men with ties to the FBI, to the horrific human rights violations we reported on back in February and March. Dozens of young children were held captive and experimented upon. The FBI has had their eye on this trio for months, but until some older victims came forward, they weren't able to make arrests-"

Krycek smiles to himself. Like some of the very small children he and Mulder rescued, and as Krycek suspects of Mulder's second daughter, the girl, Jessie, is a telepath. She'd given him more than enough ammunition to nail Follmer, Kersh, and Rohrer to the wall for their parts in the medical torture of those little children.

And she'd given him the location of the Smoking Man.

Krycek once told Mulder that being a bad man had paid well, but Krycek has never let on how well that was. He picks up the phone, determined to get rid of the scourge in all their lives.


Meanwhile...

When Marita Covarrubias drives by Alex Krycek's house for the second day in a row, she growls with frustration. His wife's little silver car is parked in the driveway, but the sleek black one that belongs to Krycek isn't there.

"Dammit, Alex," she whispers, pounding her fist on the steering wheel. Inside the house, she can see his wife talking to their daughter, and his little son is staring out the window from his high chair. It makes her wonder if the boy can see her, not that she's worried about it one way or the other.

Not being able to talk to him yesterday was just annoying, but today is another story entirely. Just an hour before they hauled Follmer out of his bed in the middle of the night, he'd finally given up the location of the smoking man. They'd been shuffling the old bastard from place to place, and she was unsure how long the information might be good for.

She was supposed to take one for the team so they could get information, and Alex was supposed to act on it when she did. She'd kept up her end of the bargain, but he was falling down on his end.

There is only one alternative, and she hates to take it, but she doesn't see what other choice she has. Grimacing, she heads for a different part of DC.


Mulder-Scully Home
Forty Minutes Later

Scully notices the woman walking up the driveway before Mulder does. "Mulder?"

He joins her, wondering what she's looking at. "Oh. It's Marita Covarrubias. You remember her, don't you, Scully?"

"Uh, I guess so. What do you think she wants?"

"I guess we're about to find out," Mulder says, swinging the door open.

Marita gives them a brittle smile. "I'll be brief. I've discovered something that's very valuable to all of us."

"What's that?" Mulder asks cautiously.

"The location of the smoking man."

"Give it to me!" Mulder demands.

She shakes her head lightly. "Only if I can trust you to act on it."

"Act on it?" Scully asks suspiciously.

"I want him gone. Out of our lives. Unable to manipulate us further," Marita barks.

"We want that too."

She sighs. "I'm sure that you do, but I have a feeling that you'll just have him arrested."

"What would you prefer?" Scully asks.

The other woman just gives her a piercing look.

Chapter One Hundred and Sixteen



Texas/New Mexico Border
May 20th,2002

The thick clay buildings all look the same to Scully as Mulder pulls the car to a stop in front of one of them.

"How did you decide?" she asks curiously. "Which one to pick?"

"Pick what?"

"Which house to stop at."

Mulder points and her eyes follow his finger. He's spotted something she overlooked- there's a thin ribbon of smoke coming from the top of one of the pueblos.

"Maybe this is the place," she says, thinking. There doesn't seem to be any sign that the other homes are habited, so if the smoking man is anywhere. "But what if it's not? I don't want to go busting into someone else's home."

"So why don't we wait for a few minutes?" Mulder suggests. "It's been a while since we've done a stakeout."

"Yet somehow, I haven't missed it," Scully says dryly.

"You haven't?" Mulder does his best to look shocked and disappointed. "You, me, half a sandwich and ice tea. The good old days."

"It was root beer, Mulder."

"I know. I still loved you anyway."

She smirks at him as he hands her a pair of binoculars. Even before she focuses, she can see that there are people moving about inside the building. When she turns the wheel to sharpen the image, their nemesis comes into view. To her surprise, the old man waves from the window.

Mulder is already opening the door before she has a chance to ask him if he'd seen the man too.

"Mulder, don't you want to call the police to let them know where he is?" Scully asks, putting a restraining hand on his forearm. "They've been arresting people all week. They'll take him in too."

"Scully, I need to talk to him," Mulder insists. "We'll have him arrested after that, but I need to speak to him right now."

"Why, to tell him off?"

"Isn't that a good enough reason?" He looks at her. "This might be my last chance. Old men don't last long in prison."

She sighs, but follows him.


Inside the pueblo it is still shadowed despite the bright sun outside. There are no lights, and no candles or lamps, either. It is clear that the building doesn't benefit from electricity, and Mulder assumes that there is also no running water.

An old woman feeds small logs into a fire, and though she's doing her best to ignore them, the way her back tenses tells Mulder that she's acutely aware that they're there.

"Where is he?" Mulder demands to know before stopping to wonder if the woman speaks English. She hadn't spoken to him the last time, so he still didn't know. "The old man, where is he?"

She does seem to understand him, because she points at a cloth curtain pulled across the door.

Grateful that he can communicate with her, he says, "You should leave. It isn't safe here."

Stubbornly, she turns back to her fire.


"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," Mulder mutters to himself as he gathers the black cloth in one fist. "I am the great and powerful Oz."

"What did you say, Mulder?" Scully peers up at him, looking faintly concerned.

"Nothing important." They step into the next room.

"The prodigal son," the smoking man taunts as soon as Mulder sets eyes on him. "Coming to gloat, I take it."

"I'm not gloating," Mulder says firmly. "I'm not standing over your grave yet."

"At least I've denied you that."

"At least?" Scully asks coldly.

He grimaces at her. "You are not a gracious winner, Dana Scully."

"How have we won?" Mulder demands to know.

"How haven't you?" There's a bitter light in the old man's eyes. "I should have smothered you in your crib, no matter what joy your mother took in your then insignificant self. Or, failing that, I shouldn't have protected you from your betters when they wanted to eliminate you as a threat."

"Protected me," Mulder says scornfully. "You never protected me."

"If that's what you need to tell yourself," the old man says dismissively. "What does it matter now that you've destroyed the plans that men gave decades, and some their very lives, to? You've managed to ruin everything!"

"Ruined what?" Scully asks, and Mulder admires her detached curiosity.

"It's a scary story. You should sit on my lap," the smoking man says with a tired leer. Scully doesn't react. Sighing, he says, "There was a plan in place. The invasion was to start when the Mayan calendar ran out. It seemed like too good a joke to pass up on, fulfilling a witless prophecy centuries after the makers fell to invaders themselves. But you-" He thrusts a gnarled finger at Mulder's chest. "-and that idiot Alex Krycek have undone all our plans."

"Which plans are those?" Mulder wants to know. His mind is going a mile a minute, trying to figure out how he's managed, if the old man is to be believed, to put off an alien invasion with just Krycek's help.

"Those children you stole from us were going to be our liaisons. And the men that you've imprisoned were going to give the invaders all the help they needed. But now that most of them are dead..." He trails off, noting the shocked look on Mulder's face. "You don't realize how busy Alex has been the last few days, do you? No matter, most of them are dead in their cells. Without our leaders, liaisons and good soldiers, the invasion won't happen when it should. That's your fault."

"You blame me for not bringing about the end of the world. Gee, I'm terribly sorry about that."

"As you should be," the old man says, as if he takes Mulder's sarcasm as an actual apology. "Because of you, the world is denied a new genesis."

"A genesis that involves being enslaved by aliens!" Mulder retorts.

The old man shakes his head sadly. "I knew you'd never understand."

"I'm glad he doesn't," Scully says fiercely. "I'm glad he can't relate you at all."

Mulder is about to open his mouth and demand to know if this man is responsible for the chip embedded in the flesh of his mother's neck, but a small movement in the gloom behind Mulder's bastard father seems to catch Scully's attention. It catches the smoking man's too. He waves behind him, a come-here motion, and someone does.

For a moment Mulder is convinced that it's Emily, but his confusion abates slightly, and he knows that it isn't. Emily is seven and this child is so much younger than that. Still, she looks something like the Emily they first met, barely more than a baby.

"Angel?" Scully whispers beside him, but then shakes her head.

The smoking man's lip curve into a smile, one that more looks like the rictus of a skull, and he reaches out to pat the blonde child on the head. The little girl flinches away. "A comfort in my old age, this child. Of course, she dies too now that you've condemned me."

"Who is she?" Scully asks sharply.

The old man raises what's left of his eyebrows. "I should think it would be obvious." He pauses for a moment. "No? Alex Krycek and your sister are the parents of more than one little girl. This one he doesn't know about."

"Why? What would you want with my niece?" Scully demands to know.

Meanwhile, Mulder thinks he's pulled some of the pieces together. "This is the baby Diana insisted was mine."

::and the little girl April's been dreaming about?:: He finds himself wondering. The child doesn't have any readily noticeable injuries, but it was hard to know how much of April's dream was real, or how much was just a dream.

"Yes. She tried to steal her from me, but I got her back. Diana paid for that." CSM then turns to Scully. "She was going to be my pupil. I was going to train her to be every bit as ruthless as her father was before your sister got her clutches on him. This is the child who was going to rule after me." Fixing his accusing stare on Mulder he says, "Or was, up until you destroyed my kingdom. Now she's worth nothing."

"You wouldn't have lived long enough to raise her," Scully insists.

Glee fills the old man's face. "Ask your sister about the trip we took. I would have lived long enough, if there weren't people on their way here to murder me." Then, horribly, he laughs. "Can't you hear it? They're coming for you now too!"

Mulder freezes, and strains his ears to hear the sound that the old man means. A sinking feeling fills him as he hears the distant shush of helicopter blades. In the past he'd believed that the black copters had been sent after him and Scully, to punish him from escaping the kangaroo court. Darting his eyes towards the old man who continues to cackle like Rumpelstiltskin before his big fall, Mulder wonders now if he and Scully hadn't been the primary target after all.

"Scully, go!" Mulder shouts, and shoves her lightly towards the door when she hesitates.

The old man doesn't even reach out to stop Mulder when he bends down and pulls the little girl off her feet. She doesn't seem wary of him, and wraps her small arms around his neck.

Still laughing, the smoking man remarks, "Still the noble fool, my boy. A lot of good it will do you too. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends..."

Not waiting to hear the crazy man finish his quote of T.S. Elliot, Mulder slings his free arm around Scully's waist, and they run for their lives. Behind them a delighted cackling continues to emanate from deeper inside the structure. This time Mulder pauses long enough to push the old woman out of the pueblo too.

The old woman wails in fear as Mulder continues to prod her away from the pueblo. Then, with surprising speed, she darts down the road, heading towards a distant building. He hopes that it's enough.

"Get in!" Mulder shouts, looking up. The copter is still a distant speck, but it is growing larger as the volume increases.

Mulder wenches the SUV's door open and deposits the little girl on the rear seat. Without waiting for any of them to be buckled in, he throws the car into drive and roars down the road in the direction that the old woman took. She's no longer in sight.


Nearly a mile away, Mulder finally stops the SUV on a hill. They can see the pueblo they'd just come from clearly. Just as clearly they can see a helicopter rise above and in front of the building where the old bastard is probably still laughing. A moment later a missile fires directly at the clay walls.

For a moment, with the binoculars held to his eyes, Mulder sees at laughing face. Then walls cave in around the old man when a second missile follows the first, and the man is hidden from sight. After that he loses track of how many projectiles are wasted on a dead man.

At least he hopes that he's dead.

Five minutes later the copter reverses its course and heads back to wherever it came from. It's only as the din made by its blades fades that Mulder realizes that there's whimpering coming from the backseat.

He turns to see that their forgotten passenger has her fist in her mouth and tears streaking her face. Sighing, Mulder twists so he can reach into the backseat and pulls the girl onto his lap. "Hey, it's okay," he soothes. "What's your name?" Looking at Scully over the girl's head, he starts to ask, "He never said, so what if she d-"

"Addy," the girl says after taking her fist out of her mouth.

"Is your name Adelaide?" Scully asks gently.

After a moment's contemplation, the toddler nods. "Sometimes he say me that."

There's a lot Mulder would like to ask her, but the girl won't even be three years old until the end of the summer, so he's not sure that there's any point to it. The flip side of this, he decides, is that at least she's not likely to remember the old man, either.

"Mulder, look!" Scully hisses, and he realizes that she's looking through her binoculars again.

Trying to look in the same spot, he focuses on the ruins. The old woman has returned, and he can see that she's in distress, throwing out her arms in dismay as she examines the ruins. Then her mouth opens in what looks like a silent scream, though he realizes that it's just distance making her mute. She bends down and reaches out, her mouth still open, and stands clutching a bloody prize. Even at that distance, he can see that her wrinkled hands hold a wet skull smeared with clay.

"Scully?" He drops his binoculars and looks at her. "I think the devil has gone back to hell."

"It's over," she says, acid in her tone. "It's finally over. Good."

Mulder nods and puts Addy back on the rear seat. She doesn't struggle as he buckles her in. "Now what?"

"Now we bring Addy to the emergency room," Scully tells him. "We need to know what sort of shape she's in."


Saint Anthony's Hospital

"How long have we been here?" Mulder whispers to Scully.

She looks over Addy's head. "Close to two hours."

"She's being good." Except for the fact that she won't sit on their laps and tenses if anyone touches her goes unsaid. Now it seems like a miracle that he'd gotten her out of the pueblo without a struggle.

"I know."

"I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"

"Where are you going?"

"Gift shop."

He gingerly skirts around a woman holding an obviously broken wrist, and looks for the hospital directory. The gift shop is just down the hall, and it only takes Mulder two minutes to make his way there.

Most people in the hospital are adults, as is evidence by the small room being jammed full of flowers and magazines. And half of the small toy selection is imprinted with things like "it's a girl!" or "it's a boy!" While he thinks that's not entirely inappropriate, he thinks, for her parents who don't even know that she exists yet, they're not a good fit for the child herself. Eventually he finds a small blue kitten, and pulls it off the shelf. Then he stops to look at the candy shelf.


"Chocolate, Mulder?" Scully asks, looking amused. "Trying to buy her affection?"

"Not just for her. I thought we could all use a treat," he tells her before handing Addy a chocolate bar. The little girl stares at it like she doesn't know what it is.

"You still like Three Musketeers, don't you?"

"Love them."

Mulder pulls out the Snickers that he bought for himself and notices that Addy is looking at his shirt pocket. Smiling, he pulls the stuffed animal out and dangles it by one furry paw. "Addy, what animal is this?"

"Kitty."

"That's right. Would you like this kitty, Addy?"

She doesn't say anything, though it's clear from the longing look on her face that she wants the toy despite being scared to ask for it. Mulder sighs and puts the kitten on the seat next to her.

A nurse holding a clipboard wanders into the waiting room, peering about. "Addy Mulder?"

"You gave her last name as Mulder?" Scully whispers.

He shrugs.


"What's your name, sweetheart?" the young doctor asks as he picks the girl up and sets her on the examine table.

When she doesn't reply, Scully supplies it for her. "Her name is Addy."

"Why, that's a pretty name," he says, and the girl responds by covering her face.

"What did you say your concern was?" the doctor asks, looking up from listening to Addy's heart.

"Her older sister has a rare, severe sort of anemia," Mulder tells him. "Their younger brother doesn't, but we don't know Addy's medical history."

"Why is that?" the doctor asks. "She's your wife's niece, isn't she?"

"Custody battle," Mulder improvises. "Their parents each got one of the girls when they divorced a year and a half ago, and the boy arrived a few months later. Their father just got arrested, and we volunteered to go get the girl for my sister-in-law."

"I figured it was something like that." The doctor looks satisfied by the story. "So far she looks healthy, but we'll do some blood tests to be sure. I'm afraid that even with a rush order we're looking at a few hours' wait for the results."

Mulder nods, but his eyes are on the needle the doctor is already pressing against Addy's skin.

"This is going to pinch a little, sweetie," the doctor tells little girl.

To Mulder's relief, the blood that begins to fill the syringe is as red as his own.

The doctor continues his examination of the toddler, and when he looks at her feet, his expression becomes grim. "What?" Scully asks.

"Was your brother-in-law a smoker?" The doctor's voice is tight with anger. Mulder looks over his shoulder, and spots a scattering of small round scars on the child's soles. ::God,:: Mulder finds himself thinking furiously. ::April's dreams about a child being burned with cigarettes weren't just bad dreams.::

"Yes," Scully replies. She looks like she might cry.

"I think we should do some x-rays," The doctor tells them. "Being able to document the abuse should help your sister if he gets out of jail and tries to regain custody."

"Right. Whatever you think is necessary," Mulder agrees.

To their relief, it doesn't seem as though Addy was abused badly enough to break any bones, but the doctor's parting words are a warning that the little one might need therapy someday soon.


Later

Mulder is slightly disappointed to discover that the Holiday Inn Express does not allow a patron to pay by the hour like he always assumed. The image of happy hookers and their johns blithely paying $10 for the hour's use of a room dissolves as soon as he is handed a room key. It's too bad, he decides. For once, it actually would be more convenient to pay by the hour. He and Scully only plan to wait around as long as it takes to get the results of Addy's blood tests.

They are barely in the room when Scully decides that it is her job to arrange for a flight home. Since she is busy on the phone, Mulder finds himself in charge of Addy.

He has always thought that April and Christopher gave him experience with quiet children, but Addy puts them both to shame. While his children are quiet because they are introverts, Addy seems quiet for an entirely different reason. She seems afraid of them now that her sheer relief to be out of the old man's clutches is fading.

Because he does not want to scare her, Mulder sits on the floor next the bed where she is huddled. She has her arms wrapped around her knees, and is doing her best to ignore him. The stuffed kitten is tucked under one of her arms.

"Hey," he says gently. "I bet you wonder what's going on."

The child gives an almost imperceptible nod.

"Well, I'm your uncle Fox," Mulder says with an internal sigh. Emily calls him Fox. Even baby Ryan is beginning to attempt to call him Fox. "And my wife is your aunt Dana. Your real mommy is her sister." He gives the child a moment to absorb this, wondering if the terms aunt and uncle mean anything to her.

It's hard to hear around her arms, but Addy asks, "What about the mean man?"

This makes Mulder wince. April refers to him as "the mean man" too. "You're never going to see him again. Never ever."

Her small shoulders relaxed slightly, and for the first time she lifts her head to look him in the face. "He's all gone?"

"Yes. He's gone away and he'll never come back," Mulder says firmly. It's not the time to discuss what death is with the child, but he wants her to know that he is very certain that his father will never bother her again.

"Now what?"

That is a very good question he decides. "Now we're going to take a nap. And when we wake up, we're going to go on an airplane. Do you know what that is?"

Addy nods. "In the sky."

"Exactly." He waits to see if she has any questions about what happens after that, but she takes her shoes off, apparently more interested in the idea of taking a nap.

All of a sudden the weight of the past few days catches up to him, and a nap seems like a very good idea. As soon as Addy's eyes close, he kicks off his shoes and stretches out on the other double bed.

Scully closes her phone with a gentle click. "We have a 10 p.m. flight."

"Hmmm." He doesn't open his eyes.

As he starts to doze off he hears her punch in numbers on her travel alarm clock, and then the bed shifts as she lies down beside him. It takes a huge amount of effort, but he cracks open one eyelid, and checks to make sure that both the door is locked, and that Addy is sleeping too.


Las Cruces International Airport

Mulder parks the rental SUV and glances over at Scully. "Thank God this is not an international flight."

"Why do you say that?" Scully asks with a yawn. Although the three of them took a long nap, it is clear that she is still exhausted. He supposes that carrying around two other people in your belly does that to a person.

"We won't need a passport for her. She looks enough like you that no one will ever ask us any questions about our relationship to her," Mulder says indicating the toddler bouncing on the backseat.

Scully gives him a startled look. "I guess we should be thankful that he didn't take her out of the country."

"Yes, we should be," Mulder agrees. "It may well be the only thing we have to be grateful for, when it comes to him."

She doesn't say anything for a moment, and when she does begin to speak, she's very hesitant. "Mulder... and he called you a prodigal son, was he just being metaphoric...about the son part?"

"I wish," he says heavily.

"Oh Mulder..."

"It's okay, Scully. Bill was my father in every way that counts."

"Yes. He was."

After a moment, Mulder smiles at her. "Come on. We don't want to miss our flight." He slides out of the SUV and goes around to open Addy's door. "Addy, were going home."

Addy looks surprised. "Home?"

"Home," Mulder repeats firmly as he puts her on his hip.


Washington, DC
Later

After an uneventful flight, Mulder rents another car, and the three of them pile into it gratefully. This time there is even a car seat, because they actually knew in advance that they would have a small child with them. Addy nods off again immediately.

Mulder inclines his head toward the sleeping toddler in the backseat. "What are we going to do with her?"

"Obviously, we need to give her to Missy and Alex."

"I meant tonight."

"So did I," Scully says sharply.

"Don't you think it'd be a bit of a shock being woken up and handed a kid you didn't even know you had?" ::You sure seemed surprised once when Emily was dropped into your lap:: he thinks but doesn't say.

"Mulder, it's not going to be any less a shock after breakfast!"

When he thinks about it for a moment, he finds that he cannot disagree with this. It must be quite a startling revelation to find that you have a kid you didn't know you had at any time of the day.

"Right," he agrees.

The drive to Missy's is largely silent after that.


Kersh's Home
Meanwhile...

A resounding crash startles Kersh from a sound sleep, and he practically jumps out of bed. His first thought is that his lunatic home invader is up to his old tricks again, but his sleepy brain reminds him that the idiot has done no damage before.

He's still looking for his service weapon when he hears more than one pair of feet stomping up his stairs. Sighing, he puts his hands behind his head even before the men burst into his bedroom.

When over a day passed since Follmer and Rohrer's arrests, he'd allowed himself to complacently believe that he himself was somehow spared.

Apparently not.


Missy and Alex's Home
3 a.m.

Scully asks Mulder to wait in the car with Addy, so he does. There's no immediate response to her knock, which gives her more time to get nervous. Eventually the door opens, revealing her robe-clad sister and brother-in-law. They blink at her sleepily for a moment, but then Missy looks both alert and concerned.

"Dana, it's 3 a.m. What's wrong?"

All the ways she's rehearsed breaking the news evaporate. "I don't know how to tell you this-" she says in a strangled voice.

Missy gasps, so Scully looks over her shoulder. Mulder is carrying the sleeping child up the walk. Eventually he comes to stand beside her.

"Is she..." Krycek starts to ask before trailing off.

"Yours?" Mulder supplies. "As far as we know. I'm sorry that my father was wrong," Mulder adds, thinking of their conversation just after Bill Mulder's death.

"No." Missy's hands cover her mouth before she flees back into the house. "It isn't fair! This can't happen again! They can't keep creating children and keeping them from us like this!" She moves deeper into the house, and they hear something break.

Krycek winces. "Let me take her."

Mulder hands her over, and the child barely stirs.

"She looks so much like Emily," Mulder says quietly. "You can't tell now, but her eyes are the same blue."

"Her name, do you know?"

"Adelaide. She answers to Addy."

"Is she sick?"

"Not as far as we can tell. We had examined at the e.r. but I'm sure you'll want to have Emily's doctor look her over." Emily's doctors had seen Ryan as a newborn, too. "You should know, there are a few scars from cigarette burns on her feet."

"Bastards!" Krycek exclaims, but shock has robbed a lot of the heat from the invective. "Do you know how old she is?" he asks carefully.

"The same age as Christopher, give or take a week," Mulder explains.

This is when Scully begins to cry. "I'm so sorry. It's all my fault you didn't get her much sooner. Before anyone could hurt her."

"How is it your fault?" Mulder asks confused.

"When Fowley pretended she was yours, I only had the baby's DNA tested against yours and hers. If I tested it against mine too, we would have known she was related to me!"

"Scully..."

"You couldn't have known," Krycek says. "In your place I wouldn't have thought to see if my spouse's supposed love child related to me, either."

"But..."

"The important thing is we have her now," he says firmly. "How did you get her? Who had her?"

Krycek's face goes pale when Mulder explains that they found the smoking man and took the girl from him. "But he's dead now. Thank God."

For some reason, Krycek doesn't look very relieved. "How...how did the smoking man die?"

"There was this black helicopter," Scully tells him. "It came out of nowhere and shot missiles at pueblo he was hiding out in."

To Scully's surprise, the little girl is thrust into her arms, and Krycek sags against the door. He looks bleak when he stares up at them. "I swear to God I didn't know that you'd be going after him today. I swear it!"

"What-" Mulder breaks off with a look of comprehension. "You sent the helicopter?"

"I thought I was protecting Emily!" Krycek looks anguished. "Marita told me that they planned to use my daughter to restart the consortium one day. We both thought that they meant Emily. I'm sure she didn't know about Addy either."

"Marita?" Scully asks. "She's the one who told us where the smoking man was. Did she know what you had planned?"

"No. I haven't talked to her in about a week. She was going to tell me where to find him if she found out, but we didn't talk again. It was one of the kids that I found who told me where the smoking bastard was hiding out, not her."

"So it was a case of one hand not knowing what the other was doing," Mulder says.

"I could have killed my daughter!" Krycek wails. "And the two of you too," he adds as an after-thought.

"But you didn't," Scully says evenly, yanking on his good arm until he stands and she can give Addy back to him. "She's fine. We're fine. Dwelling on near misses has never done anyone any good."

"But-"

"She's right. You're going to have your hands full with the child in your arms. Worry about that instead of what could have gone wrong," Mulder tells him. They can hear another crash inside the house, and Mulder wonders how Emily and Ryan are sleeping through the din. "With Missy's meltdown going on, I don't envy you."

He winches when his wife elbows him in the ribs. "Mulder!"

"No, he's right," Krycek tells her. "Your sister is pissed."

"At least she's not pissed at you," Scully says with a smile. "I'm sure you know by now that she holds grudges."

"Do I ever," Krycek mutters.

"Are you going to tell my mother about Addy, or should I warn her?"

"Um..." He looks like a lost puppy. "Do you think you could? It'd going to be hard enough when Emily wakes up..."

"Fine. Goodnight, Alex," Scully says, linking her arm through her husband's.

"Good luck," Mulder says, being more practical.

As they walk back to the car, Mulder can't help but watch Krycek carry his new daughter into the house. ::Once upon a time, I would have immediately thought the worst of him. I would have assumed that he purposely tried to harm us. I guess he's proof that a person can change.::

"What are you think about, Mulder?" Scully asks, and he notices how tired she looks.

"I'm glad we're going home to our kids. And that they're the only ones we have."

"Yeah, me too."


The Next Morning

"Mom..." Scully twists the phone in her hand. "I have some news for you."

"What?" Maggie immediately sounds alarmed, and it makes Scully cringe. "Is there something wrong with your pregnancy?"

"No, the babies and I are just fine. This actually has to do with Missy and Alex."

"Well?"

As quickly as she can, Scully explains to her mother about the events from the day before. "...and while we were there, we discovered that he had a toddler with him."

"Dana, what does any of this have to do with your sister?" Maggie asks, sounding frustrated. Then after a pause, she says, "Oh no. Is this child theirs? Like Emily?"

"Yes, Mom. She is. Her name is Addy."

"Oh, God. How are they taking it?"

"Alex is being stoic. Missy is furious."

"Do you blame her?" Maggie wants to know. "Neither of us can possibly know how she feels, and to have it happen twice!"

"I don't blame her at all. I think she's going to need both of us to be there for her, is all."

"This isn't going to happen again someday, is it?"

"I hope not. Alex said he tracked down all the kids made with Emily and none of them are theirs," Scully tells her, hoping from her exclamation about it happening "twice" that Missy has kept her promise after Ryan's birth to finally tell her mother the truth about Emily's conception. "And he and Mulder arranged to have DNA tests on all the babies and toddlers they recovered this winter, too. None of those kids were theirs, either."

It seems as though Maggie is no longer in the dark because she says, "Good. I'm not sure how many times she could go through with this without going insane."

"Me neither. On the bright side, at least Emily will stop asking for a little sister," Scully says wryly.

"Don't make jokes," Maggie chides her. "Maybe later it'll be funny, but not now."

"Are you going to go see them today?"

"Of course. I was planning on visiting this week anyway. Maybe I can take all three kids out or something, so she and Alex can discuss things alone."

"That's brave of you, Mom."

"Knowing your sister, it might be giving her time to break things without the kids seeing."

"More things," Scully says under her breath. "I'm glad you're taking this as well as you are, by the way."

"I'm the grandmother. What do I have to angst about? I'm not the one who has to raise the surprise baby."

"That's true. Love you, Mom."

As she hangs up, Scully shakes her head. What would it be like to unexpectedly learn you have a child out in the wild world? And not once, but twice?


"Scully!"

She's barely hung up the phone when her husband's cry startles her.

When she gets to the den, Mulder's eyes are fastened to the seldom used TV screen. "What? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he says excitedly. "Everything's great."

"I'm not following," Scully tells him impatiently.

"Kersh was arrested this morning. The smoking man is dead, Rohrer, Follmer, and Kersh are behind bars. It's over, Scully!"

She watches their boss, erstwhile boss she corrects herself, being lead out of his house cuffed and in his pajamas. "It sure looks like it."

"We have to call Krycek."

"Don't you think he's got enough on his plate right now, Mulder?" she asks, amused that his second thought, the one after sharing the news with her, is to inform her brother-in-law.

"Right. I'll tell him later."

"We should celebrate. Let's go out to dinner tonight, you and me."

"And toast the consortium's defeat?" she asks with a smile.

"May they all burn in hell," he says cheerfully.


Mulder-Scully Home
June 1st, 2002

When Scully yawns her way into the kitchen one Saturday morning, she notices that Sammy is sitting at the table with his head bent down. She can't tell what he's looking at, so she asks, "What are you up to?"

"Thinking."

Resisting the urge to tell him he's just like his father, she asks, "Thinking about what?"

"This picture," Sammy says, and she finally realizes that he's looking at her ultrasound photo. "This is the new baby, right?"

"That's right, Sammy."

He points at one rounded shape. "This is the head, right?" Then he points at another. "Then what's this?"

"You know, that's a good question. We'll talk about that later today, okay?"

"Okay."

"Why don't you go see if your sisters and brothers are ready for breakfast, huh?"

"Sure," he says, scrambling out of his seat.

"Sammy, slow down!" Mulder scolds. Sammy has just smacked into him with a glancing blow. "You almost made me drop William."

"Sorry, Daddy." Sammy does look contrite. For two seconds.

After she's sure Sammy is up stairs, Scully hands Mulder the photo. "We need to tell them it's going to be twins."

"I thought we were going to wait a few more weeks," Mulder protests. He hands her back the photo so he can put William in his high chair. "We said we were going to wait until you're five months along."

"We were going to wait," she agrees. "But that was before Sammy started quizzing me this morning about my ultrasound. He wanted to know why it looked like there was more than one head in the picture."

Mulder is surprised. "He can understand it? I can't even understand these things."

"Obviously he can. It'll only be a matter of time before he puts two and two together, so we should probably just tell them."

"Right."


"So what's the family meeting about?" Page asks, looking uncomfortable. "Is someone in trouble?"

"No one's in trouble," Mulder reassures her.

She doesn't look comforted. "Is someone going away?"

"I don't want anyone to go away," David says quickly.

"Me neither!" his twin exclaims.

"No one's going anywhere," Scully says firmly before they start asking questions. "Daddy and I have some good news we wanted to tell you."

"Oh."

Scully looks at Sammy. "Remember what you asked me this morning?"

"Uh huh."

"Sammy was looking at the picture that the baby doctor gave me," Scully explains to the other kids. "Well, the reason you saw two shapes in that ultrasound picture that looks like heads is that there are two heads in the picture," Scully tells him.

To everyone's surprise, April wails, "I don't want a brother or sister with two heads!"

"Me neither!" Page declares.

"Daddy, can we have one of the heads taken off so he's normal?" Sammy wants to know. "I know a kid who had six fingers when she was born, and they tooked one off."

Trying not to laugh, Mulder gives Scully a helpless look. After a second he composes himself. "Guys! The baby isn't going to have two heads! Think about it. What else has two heads?"

The older kids look puzzled, but Jared's face lights up. "David and I have got two heads!" He gives his mother's belly a speculative look. "You gonna have two babies like we ordered?"

"Like they ordered?" Scully looks confused, and Mulder decides to explain the comment to her later. He never did get around to telling her about how they "waited and waited" for William to be "two" like them...

"Twins!" April exclaims in relief. "No wonder there's two heads."

"That's right," Mulder agrees. "Mommy is going to have a second set of twins."

"Two more brothers, just like us," David says happily.

Over his head, his parents exchange a look. "Actually..." Scully says, "The doctor thinks that the babies are going to be girls."

"Aww man!" the twins and Sammy groan.

"Finally!" April and Page exclaim excitedly.

After a moment Sammy sighs, and says grudgingly, "I guess it's fair. We've got a lot more boys than girls."

"No kidding," April tells him, and rolls her eyes. Just like her mommy and older sister.


Mulder-Scully Home
June 3rd, 2002

After a brief knock, Page's voice calls out, "Mom, there's someone here to talk to you and Dad!"

"Thanks," Mulder tells her. Turning to Scully he says, "I hope it's not an unfriendly."

Opening the door, they find a grinning man. "Wow, the kids are getting big, huh? That's your oldest, right? How old is she now?"

"Seven, going on eight," Scully says, staring at him in surprise. "We didn't expect you, Wayne."

Wayne Federman graciously takes the seat he's offered. "You know, the movie just came out on DVD. The sales are beyond our wildest expectations."

"You're not here hoping for material for a sequel, are you Wayne?" Mulder asks suspiciously.

"Nope. There's going to be a sequel, it's true, but I'm not here to pester you about that." Wayne looks around. "This is a really lovely house. I guess with your family you need a big house. How many kids do you have now?"

"We're working on eight and nine," Scully admits.

"That's wonderful." Wayne beams at her. She can see him mentally adding more little actors and dollar signs to the concept of the second movie.

"Wayne, you were going to tell us why you're here?" Mulder prompts, remembering the man's attention deficit problems.

He spreads his hands. "What would it take to convince you to walk away from the FBI?"

For a moment Mulder is frozen by the frightening idea that Wayne Federman might somehow be involved with the consortium, but he dismisses that as ridiculous. The consortium isn't scientology, they don't recruit from Hollywood. "Why do you ask?" Mulder responds cautiously.

"I've been told that you knew Jose Chung, is that true?" They both nod, remembering the stubborn old writer. "As you may know, he died three years ago, much to the scientific and literary communities' dismay. Awful tragedy."

"You're here because of Chung's murder?" Scully asks, confused.

Wayne shakes his head. "No. I'm here because we're finally getting the chance to properly memorialize the old coot."

"You want us to give a eulogy at a memorial service or something?" Mulder wants to know. He knows from talking with Maggie that some religions hold memorial services on the anniversaries of loved ones deaths.

This makes Wayne laugh. "He's already been both buried and celebrated in the manner befitting someone like him. No, what we're doing is creating a television program to honor him, and all the things he wrote about."

"A TV show?"

"Jose Chung's The Truth Is Out There!" Wayne enthuses. "And we want the two of you to be on it."

"What?!" Mulder and Scully exchange a look.

"Wayne, we're not actors," Mulder protests.

"I know," Wayne agrees. "But it's not that sort of show."

"What sort of show is it, then?" Scully asks.

"The thing we're looking to do is to put together a panel of credible show hosts. You've seen political shows where they have a democrat and a republican host together, and debate issues, right? That's what we're hoping to do, with a new paranormal topic each episode," Wayne explains. "We've got a scientist and Carl Sagan's son Nick lined up to represent the anti- paranormal side. What we want is the two of you to be the pro side."

"That sounds great, but I'm pregnant with twins, Wayne. I'm due in October," Scully tells him, and Mulder can tell that it's her way of putting the man off.

"No problem. We'll tape a lot of episodes all at once, so we can air them while you're off with the new babies. And Mulder here could probably defeat two people in a debate if he had to, couldn't you?"

"Probably," Mulder finds himself agreeing, but then his wife glares at him. "Um..."

"I should mention that we plan to do the taping right here in DC, so you don't have to worry about uprooting the family if you do this. Look, I know this is a big decision," Wayne says sympathetically. "What I'm going to do is leave you with the show's prospectus and give you a few days to think it over and discuss it. You can get in touch with me later in the week, okay?"

"Okay," Scully agrees, but Mulder doesn't think she's seriously going to consider the offer.

Wayne hands Mulder the paperwork. "I'm glad that you're willing to think about it. You're the best possible people for the job."

"Who else have you considered?" Mulder asks, knowing that the producer must have backups in mind.

"Did you ever watch Star Trek the Next Generation? Remember the guy who played Picard's second?"

"Your back up plan is to use an actor from a scifi show?" Scully looks shocked.

"He wouldn't lend the same credibility as you, that's for sure," Wayne agrees. "So you can see why I'm so hopeful that you'll consider it."

"Bye, Wayne," Mulder says firmly. The other man takes the hint and leaves jauntily, obviously convinced that he has done an adequate job selling the show to them.


When they get in the house, they go up to their room to talk.

"Can you believe him?" Scully asks the second he closes the door.

"I can."

"What?" She shoots him a confused look.

"It sounds like an interesting offer."

"You can't be serious, Mulder."

"Why can't I be?" he demands to know. "Once upon a time you asked me if I was tired of working on the X-Files. Don't you still feel that way?"

"Of course I do, sometimes," she agrees. "But I didn't think you'd ever walk away."

"Up until now, neither did I."

"This TV show offer has changed your mind?"

Mulder shakes his head. "The fact that the consortium has been destroyed once and for all might change my mind. I've been gone for two years, Scully. And for the first time I don't feel like I need to get back there to keep us safe."

"I know that it's a big part of why you've been trying to get reinstated, but you are really okay with giving it up for something else now?" She looks surprised.

"I think I am. There is still unknown to investigate, but it doesn't need to be investigated by us. John and Monica are more than capable of doing the job."

"So...you want us to do this show?" she asks, giving him a dubious look.

Mulder puts one hand over hers. "All I want is for you to think about this. I think we should both give the idea serious thought."

"All right. We'll think about it."


Chapter One Hundred and Seventeen



The Krycek Home
June 4th, 2002

It's another peaceful morning in the neighborhood, with Alex Krycek still fast asleep in bed, and likewise for the Krycek daughters. As for Melissa, her son woke her up with his crying, so here she is, maintaining the peace by bottle-feeding Ryan. It isn't long before another person joins the awake crowd, however.

"Mommy, what's wrong with her?" Emily asks with a frown, looking like a misplaced princess in her pink nightgown and loosely-braided blonde hair.

"What do you mean?" Melissa turns her attention away from feeding Ryan. "You mean Addy?"

Emily nods. "I wanted to play with her, but when I went to her room, she woke up crying."

Now Melissa frowns, and she stands up. "Emily, can you be a good sister and feed Ryan? I'm going to check on Addy." She waits until her eldest daughter is seated before handing over the baby and the bottle, then heads to the guest room, which has now become Addy's room.

"Addy?" she says, automatically softening her voice before entering the room.

These past few days has been a learning experience for all of them, most of all for the newest Krycek addition, she's sure. The girl had to be introduced to emotions other than fear and anger, which caused unintended amusement for her older sister. Her eating and bathroom habits were more like that of a wild animal's, and she was even more restless than Ryan when it came to sleep, probably due to being woken at odd hours by the unpredictable and irrational smoking man.

Already, Melissa's on her knees and lifting the blanket from the side of the bed, knowing that the girl will be hiding underneath. And like the aforementioned wild animal, Addy's blue eyes are wide with fear, but those same eyes snap shut before she curls into a ball and covers herself with her thin arms.

And again, Melissa Krycek feels her heart break. Like the wild, stray animals she used to meet on her sojourning, Addy continues to fear, rather than welcome, human contact. She knows, from her husband, sister, and brother-in-law, that the little girl has had a harsh life up until now. Still, her daughter has to learn what normal human interaction is, and she pulls the tightly-curled child out from under the bed.

Sighing, she wraps her arms around her, then sits heavily on the bed, the girl still in her arms. "Oof," she grunts, then shakes her head as the little blonde girl shudders. "It's okay," she says in a low voice, her arms still wrapped around her daughter, rocking her gently.

"Shhhhh, it's okay," she continues to croon, stroking Addy's hair. "Nobody's gonna hurt you, baby, we love you. Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, Emily loves you, Ryan loves you."

As she continues to rock her younger daughter, Melissa looks up at the ceiling. 'Dear God,' she thinks, 'if you're out there, thank you for giving Addy back to us. But I hope you help her become a normal little girl, full of love and life, not fear and sadness. Please, just... just please.' As she bends her head, she's unaware that tears are falling down her face, until she feels her nose clogging and she sniffles. Then she wipes away her tears hastily, still rocking her tense child.

She doesn't see her elder daughter peeking in from the side of the doorway, Emily's face wearing a mixture of sadness and jealousy, nor can she see her husband, watching Emily from his doorway with a weary, understanding expression.


Mulder-Scully Home
Later That Morning

Addy is taking up so much of her sister's energy, that for once Scully is glad that Missy doesn't have a "real" job; though Missy argues with anyone who disparages her livelihood. Since moving back east years earlier, Missy has been making decent money selling new age crystals to people who should know better on eBay and through her own online store as well, but it's not as though that takes her out of the house and away from her small children. This is part of the reason Scully doesn't balk when Missy makes a surprising request.

"Dana, she's having enough trouble coping. We need to put that off for a while," Missy had stated flatly when Scully had brought up the idea of introducing Addy to hers and Mulder's children the morning after they'd given the girl to her and Krycek. "Just a couple of weeks, okay? I'll make sure that Mom and Emily don't say anything either."

In a surprising fit of sibling diplomacy, Scully agreed to keep Addy a secret from her own children, at first. Promptly at the two week mark, Scully calls to ask if it's okay to let the cat out of the proverbial bag, and Missy agrees, though she's not sure that she'll be introducing the girl to the rest of the family any time in the immediate future.

Which is why the five oldest of Mulder and Scully's children have been gathered to talk about something "important." Each child is nervously exchanging looks, making it clear that someone should be in trouble, but isn't yet. Scully sighs and decides to ignore that, figuring they'll find out what was broken later.

"Daddy and I have something important to talk to you about. It has to do with Aunt Missy and Uncle Alex," Scully tells them, and their postures immediately relax. This makes her doubly suspicious of her offspring.

"What?" April asks immediately.

It was easier when Emily entered their lives, Scully finds herself thinking. Brandon had been the only child in the entire Scully family over the age of three at the time, so the rest had been able to accept "this is your new cousin" without any explanations necessary. When she'd called him earlier in the morning, Charlie had said Brandon hadn't much of a reaction because he rarely saw his aunts anyway...

Mulder squeezes her hand. "When Mommy and I were in New Mexico two weeks ago, we found a bad man. He was someone who we've wanted to put in jail for a long time."

"Is he in jail now?" Sammy wants to know.

"No. He died," Mulder tells him. "But before he died, we found something out. It's hard to explain, but Emily and Ryan have a sister. You have a new cousin, we mean. Her name is Addy."

"How old is she?"
"Where is she?"
"Is she okay?"

Mulder holds up his hand to stem the stream of questions before David and Jared add their own. The twins pout. "Addy is two. She'll turn three in August the same week as Christopher. Before the man died, we took Addy from him, and she's at your Aunt Missy's house. We brought her there before we came home that night."

"She's been there for two weeks?" Sammy looks surprised. "How come we only know now?"

"Because she's not okay, Sammy," Scully tells him softly.

"She's not?" Sammy suddenly looks very upset, and for some reason this reminds Scully of the day she'd told them Mulder had died. "Not okay how?"

His parents sigh. "The man who had her treated her very badly. He hurt her some, and worse, made her afraid of people."

"Why is making her afraid worse?" Page asks.

"Well, sweetie, her hurts have healed up, but it's going to take a long time before she's not scared of people," Mulder explains.

"Of us too?" David asks.

"She's pretty scared of Emily right now, buddy," Mulder tells him. "We don't think she ever got to see other kids when the bad man had her."

"We're not going to see her for a while, huh?" April asks, and Scully notices that there are a couple of tears on her daughter's cheeks.

"No, not yet. Aunt Missy thinks it will be overwhelming to meet the rest of the family before she's more comfortable around people. Daddy and I think she's probably right. So far she's seen Grandma once, but we're not going to see her for a while yet, and your uncles and other cousins won't either," Scully tells her.

"But we'll love her, Mommy," Jared promises earnestly.

"I know you will, baby." Scully gathers him into her arms and kisses his cheek. "We just need to give her some more time."

"Mommy?" Sammy says, and she looks up. "I think the kitties broke a glass."

"Did they?"

"Yeah." But he doesn't look her in the eyes.

Mystery solved.


The Next Day

"I'm sure it will get better soon, Missy," Scully says as she wraps up her conversation with her sister. "Love you."

Page has been sitting nearby, drawing a picture of the beach. Suddenly, she looks up at her mother. "Mom, is Addy the little girl?"

"What?" Scully asks, confused by the question.

Page tries again. "The bad dreams April had. Is Addy the little girl in April's dreams? The one who was being hurt?"

"Your cousin was abused, Page. It's going to take a while before she understands that she's okay now," Scully repeats what she and Mulder already told the kids.

"I know. But is she the girl April dreamed about?" Page persists.

"I think so," Scully admits reluctantly.

"How could April dream about her, when no one even knew that we had a girl cousin besides Emily?"

"We don't know," Scully tells her. "But sometimes, your sister knows things." Scully cringes internally, wondering if she's somehow setting April up to be considered different by her siblings. Missy has already expressed similar fears, wondering if Ryan will one day taunted his sisters for having been the only one carried by their mother.

"How come Sammy and I don't know things like that?" Page asks. "Or David and Jared?"

Scully shrugs. "There are a lot of times when your grandma and Aunt Missy seem to just know things too. I don't know why I don't, and why Uncle Charlie and Uncle Bill don't either. I guess it's like how not all of you have the same hair colors as Daddy or I do - not everyone inherits the same things."

"'fore he died, Bumpa said he thought that someday Christopher and I will have brown hair like Daddy."

"You might," Scully acknowledges. "Or it could stay blonde like your other grandfather's. We'll have to wait until you're in high school and see then."

"It's okay if it stays blonde," Page tells her in a way that suggests that she hopes it does. "And it's okay that April gets to know things we don't."

"Yup. Both those things are fine." Scully feels a wave of relief. Maybe April's special-ness won't be an issue at all.

She thinks Page is through with the subject, but the girl looks up at her. "I wish we'd listened to April's dreams sooner."

"Me too."


The Home of Edna Pierce
June 10th, 2002

Although there hadn't been any mourners at the house since the day before, there was evidence of them in the Pierce home. A lent casserole dish sat in the dish drainer, and it sparkled cleanly. Scully found it easier to look at it than at Mrs. Pierce's face.

Reyes, however, is looking at the woman. Mrs. Pierce has her gray hair drawn back into a loose bun, and her shoulders sag in her floral dress. The woman is trying to keep up a brave face, but you can see how defeated she is. "You said you saw black dogs before both deaths?" Reyes asks gently.

"Yes, though they were such big beasts that it's hard to believe that they were dogs."

"When did you see them?" Doggett asks a little less carefully.

Mrs. Pierce raises her hand and dabs at her eyes with a mostly concealed tissue. "The first time I saw one was two days before Seymour's death." Seymour Pierce, her husband of fifty years, had died ten days earlier. "I'd gotten up in the middle of the night to get myself something for a sour stomach, and saw it through the kitchen window. I can't tell you why I did it, but I threw open the back door and rushed outside, yelling at it to get.

"It turned its great shaggy head in my direction, and then it stared at me with two eyes that glowed red. It was live coals right inside its head." Mrs. Pierce shakes her head. "That's when I knew that it was evil."

Scully still can't look her in the eyes, but she asks, "How did you know it was evil?"

"My grandmother told me that there were dogs like this in England and Wales when she was a girl. I never thought I was the suspicious type, but when Seymour died..." Mrs. Pierce takes a shivery breath. "Then I found myself thinking about black dogs. I laughed at myself, telling myself that I'd grown to be quite the superstitious old woman to think a stray dog could cause my husband to have a massive heart attack. But when Billy...when Billy..."

Billy Pierce had been thirty-eight years old when he'd died three days ago, but he'd never grown up. Sweet and gentle, Billy had been a happy person who seemed to love life despite his intellectual limitations. The Pierces had known that their son would live with them his whole life, and had long since made peace with the idea.

"The car just seemed to come out of nowhere," the elderly woman says in a quavering voice. "He liked to get the mail, so we let him. There didn't seem to be any harm in it. And now...Now he's gone."

"I'm sorry for you loss."

"That's not why I wanted to talk to you," she tells them, straightening in her seat. "I saw one again, the night before last. I need to know who is going to die next, me or my daughter Christine. She's Billy's older sister."

A sort of hopeless horror squeezes Scully's heart. She gets to her feet and mutters "excuse me" before walking out the door.

Outside, she leans against the car and takes several deep breaths. It isn't fair. Even if there isn't a death omen stalking the Pierce family, how can it be fair for a woman to lose her husband and son within days of each other and then worry about herself and her only surviving child?

Neither Doggett nor Reyes remark on her defection when they finish talking to Edna Pierce.


Mulder-Scully Home
5:30pm

"Christopher, what's this one?" Mulder asks, holding a flash card up. A six inch high letter is printed on the front.

The little boy studies the card for a moment before grinning at his father. "J!"

"Good job!" Mulder flips to the next one. "And this one?"

"C!" Christopher tilts his head. "C for Christopher?"

"That's right. Boy, are you smart." Mulder grins, and shifts his gaze to the unlocking front door.

The second he sees the look on Scully's face, Mulder pats Christopher on the shoulder. "Why don't you go play with David and Jared?"

"OK, Daddy," the towheaded toddler says before racing up to the twins' bedroom.

"Flash cards, Mulder?" Scully asks as she drops her bag onto the hall table. "Don't you think he's a little young for the ABCs?"

"Since he's already memorized eighty percent of them, apparently not."

"Eighty? How long have you been drilling him?"

"Ten minutes a day for the past four days. He's so smart, Scully," Mulder says with a trace of pride. "If only he'd talk a little more about what he's thinking about."

"I'm sure he will, eventually. Look at how much sooner he began speaking than April," Scully says, but he notices how tired she looks.

"Long day?"

"Yes." She sits on the couch and folds her hands across her growing belly. "Mulder...we need to talk."

"Sure, what about?" Mulder asks, looking around the living room to see if there are any kids that need to be shooed off. The room is deserted.

"That silly show that Wayne Federman pitched to us," Scully says and he gives her his full attention. "I think we should do it."

"You what?" Mulder squeaks, shocked.

It hasn't crossed his mind that she'd be interested in doing a TV show, especially since she's never brought it up again after agreeing to think about it. He's been convinced that her agreement was just a way of humoring him.

"I want to do that TV show," Scully repeats.

"You want to leave the FBI?"

"Yes, Mulder. I don't think there's anything left to accomplish there, do you? You said that yourself a few days ago."

"Well, I didn't say that exactly, but I agree that nothing that still needs to be accomplished necessarily needs us doing the accomplishing."

"So let's do this," Scully says eagerly.

Mulder gives her a long look. "Did something bad happen at work today, Scully?"

Her happy expression wilts. "We've been investigating a series of banshee sightings. Nothing's come of most of them, but someone heard about what we've been doing and sent an elderly woman to us. She hasn't seen any banshees, but big black dogs-"

He looks up. "Someone's been seeing black dogs in DC?"

"No. Virginia. Mulder, she saw the dog before her husband died last week. And before her son died this week. And she saw it again. Now she's worried about whether it's coming for her this time, or her daughter."

"That's awful."

"I don't want to keep doing this," Scully tells him, and her eyes are wet. "These things need to be looked into still, but...they don't need to be investigated by us. I think we've put in our time and given enough."

"It'd be good for the kids if we're here more often," Mulder says.

"Yeah. Let it be someone else's turn to save the world for a while."

"Okay."

"Really?"

"Really."

Eagerness begins to bubble up in Mulder, but reality steps in to temper his emotions. "What if we leave the FBI and the show never happens? Or if it's canceled after a season?"

"We have other skills, Mulder. I don't think we'd spend a lot of time moping around the house in our pajamas while looking in the want ads."

"All right. Let's do this."


The Next Day

When Wayne Federman arrives the next afternoon, the house is practically empty. Michelle has taken every one of the kids with her, except for William. He plays at his parents' feet as his parents talk to Mr. Hollywood.

Wayne is so keyed up that he practically vibrates. "Cute little guy here, he looks just like you," he says, giving Scully a quick glance. Mulder wonders how often he's used kids in the past to get on their parents' good sides. "So, I think I know why you asked me to come over today."

"Do you?" Mulder asks, keeping his voice even because he can't wait to hear his theory.

"You're waiting for me to give you the hard sell," Wayne tells him. "I'm willing to do that, if that's what it will take to get you to sign the contract. Which speech do you want to hear - 'it's better for your kids if you travel less' or 'you've done so much for the public, don't you deserve a less dangerous job now?'?"

Scully stares at him. "You're joking, right? Tell me you haven't committed two speeches to memory."

Wayne sighs. "People think working in the movie and TV industry is thrilling. Sometimes you need to memorize persuasive speeches as part of the job. But hey, you won't have to worry about memorizing anything, Jose Chung's The Truth is Out There isn't scripted. So, which speech?"

"Wayne, it's awfully nice of you to give us a choice like this, but we don't think we'll need to hear either," Mulder says, trying not to laugh at the idea of prepared monologues to convince them.

"Are you sure?" He looks disappointed. "I should have known that you wouldn't even hear me out."

Wayne starts to stand, but Scully holds up her hand to stop him. "You don't need to give us your spiel because we've already made up our minds. We want to do it."

"What?" The look he gives her is dumbfounded. "You're serious?"

"No Wayne, we just called you over to screw with you," Mulder says cheerfully. "Of course we're serious. If we weren't interested we would have ignored your messages for a few weeks, and hoped that you'd soon give up on the idea."

"A lot of people take that approach," Wayne mutters before brightening. "I've got the contracts in the car, so just wait here-"

Mulder smiles to himself as he watches the other man practically trip over his own feet in his rush to get outside. He reappears, out of breath, less than two minutes later. "Here. Just so you know, Nick Sagan backed out because his publisher has him on the hook for a new book. We've replaced him with Aldous Reed."

"Aldous Reed?" Scully asks.

"You've heard of the book series Debunked! haven't you? He writes them."

"I think I saw one of those books in..." Mulder almost says Morris' study, but bites his tongue. "Barnes and Noble."

"He's a real intense guy. You should find him interesting to debate," Wayne enthuses, but he fails to look Mulder in the eye.

Mulder shrugs. Debate shows are supposed to have sparks, and from Wayne's demeanor, it seems likely that this one will too.


Signing their new contracts takes them into the dinner hour, so Scully unaccustomedly orders a few pizzas for dinner right before the kids get home. Wayne is invited to eat with them too. Sammy is the one who finally asks why his parents' "friend" is eating with them. "How come you're still here?"

"Sammy, that's rude," Mulder scolds as he helps William get his special toddler dinner into himself instead of on himself.

"Well, sport," Wayne tells the little boy, "I'm here because your folks are getting a new job. They're going to be on a TV show."

Mulder cringes, wondering how the kids will react to this news.

Page tilts her head to one side before asking, "Instead of being FBI people, or and being 'em?"

"Mostly instead," Mulder admits. "Mister Skinner might ask us to help out Uncle John and Aunt Monica when they need it, though."

This has the girl turning to Wayne. "Where's the TV show going to be? Like, when there's a camera to make it?"

"Right here in DC," Wayne says, looking like he's more than a little nervous to be included in the interrogation by a seven-year-old.

"So Mom and Dad won't have to go away a lot any more?"

"Not too often," Wayne agrees, before smiling. "Why, were you planning a party you'll have to cancel now?"

None of the kids seems to understand the joke, but Sammy and April are beginning to look as excited as their older sister.

"I can't wait to see you on TV!" Sammy says, bouncing in his seat. "Tommy and Jack are gonna be so jealous."

Out of the corner of his eye, Mulder notices that Michelle hasn't touched her current slice of pizza since Wayne blurted out the news. "Michelle, Dana and I want you to know that the lack of frequent travel doesn't affect our need for your services." He hopes that reassures the younger woman. "We wouldn't spring a change of employment status on you."

"Oh, good," she mumbles, and starts to eat again.

The kids take the news better than Mulder expected, but he wonders how much of that has to do with Page and Sammy already being excluded from their school-year cases, and April's knowledge that she'll be the next one told that they're too old to miss much school. He shrugs it off. Whatever the reason, the change promises to be smoother than he's hoped.

At least with the kids. The hard part might still be ahead.


The Hoover Building
June 14th, 2002
8 a.m.

When Mulder and Scully arrive in Skinner's office, he gives the couple a long-suffering look. Before they even take seats in front of his desk, he says, "I think I have an idea about what you want."

"Sir-" Scully starts to say, but he cuts her off, and looks at Mulder instead.

"I know that you're anxious to get back in the office, and I don't blame you for being frustrated by all the delays, but if you think I have any influence with the Deputy Director, I'm sorry to say that you over-estimate me. I can ask him to move up your meeting, but I honestly don't think that he'll see you any sooner than Kersh had planned to."

"I'm not coming back," Mulder tells him.

Skinner blinks. "You're not?"

"No. I've accomplished almost everything I've set out to here at the FBI."

"Actually..." Scully reaches for Mulder's hand. "We both have."

"What are you trying to say, Agent Scully?" Skinner demands to know.

She takes an envelope out of her bag and hands it to him. "I'm tendering my resignation."

"You're leaving, just like that?" Skinner looks incredulous at first, but his look softens. "I guess it's not just like that, is it."

"No, it's not," Scully agrees, and it's obvious that everyone in the room is thinking about everything that has happened over the past three years. "It's just...time."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed to lose you both, but I won't fight you," Skinner says with a sigh. "If the new Deputy Director is agreeable, would you at least consider retaining consultant status?"

"Of course, Sir," Mulder says immediately, having expected the offer.

"I guess you don't need to call me 'Sir' any more."

"Maybe not, but I don't think I can call you Walter."

"So, what are you going to be doing instead?" Skinner asks.

"Oh, we'll be keeping a hand in the industry, after a fashion..." Mulder says before beginning to explain the new career he and Scully are embarking on.


Basement Office
8:25 a.m.

The first thing Reyes sees when she returns to the office with a folder is Mulder sitting at a desk, holding his nameplate. She gives him a welcoming look. "Does this mean you're back?" she asks, then notices that Scully is in the room too.

"No. I just came to collect the junk cluttering up your office," he says. "I thought I'd put this on my desk at home."

"You're not coming back?" Reyes turns and sees that over her shoulder Doggett is staring at Mulder. His face is creased with concern. "Your health hasn't headed downhill again, has it?"

"He's fine," Scully says quickly. "We both are. But we're both leaving."

"Why?" Reyes plaintively demands to know. "Everything that was a danger is gone, so why are you running away?"

"We've not running from something," Scully corrects her. "We're running to something. An opportunity has come up, and we've decided to accept it."

"Besides, we're getting too old for this stuff." Mulder smirks at Doggett, knowing that the other man is a handful of years older than he is. "We'll leave this to you kids."

"So, this is it? You're out the door?" Doggett asks Scully.

"I've given my two weeks notice," she replies. "But that doesn't mean we have to be strangers, you know. We value both of you as friends, beyond mere colleagues, and our not coming into the office any more isn't going to change that."

"Nope, it just means that you're in charge of The X-Files," Mulder agrees. "We know we're leaving it in the best of hands."

"You'll be seeing us anyway." Scully's lips quirk. "Unless you've sworn off TV."

"TV?"

Mulder is delighted by their expressions as his wife explains their new job yet again. He's tiring of the dissemination of news, having already explained to his mother and Scully's family. At least he's consoled by the fact that, as Sammy said about his friends, the Gunmen will "be so jealous" when they explain the situation yet again later on.


After the couple has left, Doggett and Reyes stare at each other.

"This is ours now," Doggett says, making a sweeping gesture.

She nods. "We'd better not screw it up."

"Of course not, Mon. We already do a good job. We'll just have to...keep doing that," Doggett concludes, feeling a little lost.

"I never thought that they'd leave," Reyes confesses.

"Me neither. I pictured Mulder still here when he's as old and gray as that Arthur Dale fellow he's told us about."

A quiet falls after that, and they return to the task of staring at each other.


Doggett's Home
Evening

"...so, that's it," Doggett tells the kids that night.

"We can still play with Page an' April an' them, right?" Hannah asks.

Reyes nods, smiling. "Of course. They're just leaving the office, not us."

"Oh, okay." The little girl nods back.

"Wow, I thought they'd never leave," Luke comments, and Gibson nods, unconsciously echoing his elders. "But they're still gonna be checking out weird stuff, so I guess it's kinda the same thing."

"Let's hope that Wayne Federman guy isn't totally in charge, or it could turn out like that movie," Gibson adds.

Reyes and Doggett look at each other and then they both grimace. They'd seen the movie on a lark, but they'd all had to eat lots of junk food and play mind-numbing videogames to take the bad taste from their brains. Even Hannah was yelling at the TV screen, and Doggett had a mind to put some bullet holes into the rented DVD so no one else had to watch it.

"Uh, yeah," Doggett agrees. "From what Scully said, though, he's just pretty much bringing everyone together and filming stuff, so if there's any bias, it's gonna come from Mulder, Scully and whoever they're debating, not Federman."

"Thank God," Luke sighs, "but that better be on their contract."

"Mulder wouldn't sign anything dubious," Reyes says.

Doggett gives her a look. "He might, but Scully wouldn't," he corrects her. "Besides, if Federman pulled that kinda crap he did with the movie for the new TV show, neither Mulder nor Scully would let him live for long."

"What do you mean?" Hannah wonders.

"Oh, nothing, nothing," Reyes interjects swiftly, picking up the little girl, giving Doggett a look. "Now, what do you say we attempt that chicken masala recipe, hm?"

"Cool!" The girl beams. "If you guys wanna eat, you hafta help, too."

The Doggett boys look at each other, then at her. "Where'd you hear that from?" Doggett asks, with a brief glance at Reyes.

"Page," Hannah replies simply. "'Cause otherwise, Sammy an' them would just pig out and not leave nothin' behind."

Doggett starts to correct her grammar, but there's so much amiss that he gives up, shaking his head at Gibson's smirk. "'Course we'll help out, honey," he says, "won't we?" And he grabs his eldest child by the scruff of his t-shirt.

"Uh, yeah," Luke says, shrugging his father's hold off and trying to look as nonchalant and cooperative as possible while glaring at his father at the same time.

Reyes laughs. "The more, the merrier." She smiles, leading the willing and unwilling chefs into the kitchen.


July 1st, 2002
7 a.m.

The film studio does not meet Mulder's expectations. If he'd given it much thought, he would have assumed that the parking lot would be full of people bustling back and forth, most of them lowly errand boys or girls, and that it would be difficult to find a place to park their car. The reality is that the lot is mostly empty, and he and Scully are able to park near the front of the building. And a more nondescript building would be difficult for him to imagine.

Apparently he is not the only one to have this opinion, because Scully nudges him, and says "this looks like the type of building you'd find a bomb shelter in the basement of."

Before he can open his mouth to answer her, a person bursts out of the front door, and makes a beeline for them. "There you are. Come with me." They try to keep pace with the nervous little man, and eventually he looks over his shoulder at them. "I'm Larry. I'm bringing you to makeup."

Mulder gives him a puzzled smile. "Are we late? I thought that we were supposed to start taping at nine."

Larry shakes his head. "You're not late. It's just they get nervous about makeup the first time. And you arrived early, actually, so it will make things easier."

"We're just talking about standard makeup, right?" Scully asks, looking slightly apprehensive herself. "We never actually did discuss with Wayne what sort of outfits that the show wants us to wear. I'm hoping it's nothing too outlandish."

Larry actually slows down his stride a little bit, and looks pleased. "I wouldn't be worried about that. Mr. Federman and the show's producers were very specific about creating an image that would commandeer respect. You don't have to worry about being asked to wear a Star Trek uniform, and the other side won't be wearing lab coats or anything."

"Good to know," Mulder says, taking Scully's elbow.


As soon as they get inside with Larry, the two of them are separated. Mulder is shown where the men are being prepped for the show, and Scully is taken off in an entirely different direction.

Mulder watches her go, and mutters to himself, "So much for my imaginations of a his n' hers dressing room," he says goodbye to several small fantasies as he is directed to a makeup chair.

No sooner have his buttocks met the vinyl seat, does a smiling middle-aged woman with teased blond hair approaches him. "Oh my gosh. Your hair is wonderful. Anyone ever told you that?" ahe asks, speaking more quickly than most people Mulder has ever met.

"My wife's partial to it."

"That pretty little redhead who's pregnant, right? You guys already got any kids?"

"Several."

"That's so nice to hear. Most these days just want two, mostly a boy and a girl, but you know I grew up with twelve brothers and sisters, and I miss seeing big families like that."

"Twelve?!"

"So not that many for you two, hmmm?"

"No. We're keeping it to a single digit, but just barely."

"Still, that's not bad. I have eight myself." Bette smiles. "Have you ever heard of Jim Bob Duggar? He's running for state in Arkansas. He and his wife Michelle are expecting baby number fourteen this November. Now that's a respectably sized family."

Mulder looks up at the woman, fascinated. He's never actually met someone who approved of having a large family before. There were those who are careful not to judge, but quiet disapproval is far more common. "What did you say your name is?"

"Bette."

"Well, Bette, it is really nice to meet you."


Over on the other side of the hallway, Scully is having a different sort of conversation.

"Okay, hold your arms out," a brunette, who had introduced herself as Trish, tells Scully as she approaches her with a cloth measuring tape. "Wow, how far along did you say you are?"

"I didn't," Scully says, trying not to feel impatient. "But I'm just past five months."

Trish's eyes widened in surprise. "Going to be a big baby, I guess then."

"No," Scully says, shaking her head. "Two probably slightly smaller than average ones."

"Right!" Trish says before turning back to the wardrobe rack. She pulls out an emerald green, short-sleeve silk blouse and holds it to Scully. "I think this one would do, what you think?"

"It's lovely," Scully says, and she's relieved that Larry did not seem to be just telling them what they wanted to hear.

"So, let's try this on, and I think will pair this with a black skirt-" Trish's eyes have begun to wander back over the clothing on the rack. "Maybe...that one!"

"Sounds good," Scully says as she strips off the shirt she came into the building with. She has never been fond of undressing in front of people that she's not intimate with, but she knew before she and Mulder signed their contracts that getting dressed with an audience was going to be a part of the deal.

"So." Trish looks her up and down with a speculative eye. "I don't suppose you've ever had twins before, so you'd know how big you're gonna get..."

"Actually, my husband and I have twins boys who are almost four."

"Cool. You don't have any maternity clothes from way back then, do you? It would just be helpful for ordering wardrobe stuff."

"I'll see what I can find," Scully promises.

"Great," Trish says, looking at her again. "Looks like I was right about that blouse and skirt huh?"

Scully finally looks at herself in the mirror. She does look good.


::Aldous Reed looks exactly like you'd expect a man with that name to look::, Mulder decides as they are introduced to the opposition. Reed is probably in his early fifties, but he's never lost the air of hipster pretension so common to folks less than half his age. From his pointed Vandyke to his small framed glasses, it's clear that he's cultivated an image that he's proud of.

Perhaps Mulder's negative opinion of the man also stems from the withering look he gives them as they join him. "I see that the true believers have finally joined us," Reed remarks to Doctor Mary Greene.

Greene immediately shoots them an apologetic look.

"Is it true that you wasted our tax dollars for years whilst tilting at windmills?" Reed asks.

Neither Mulder nor Scully dignify the question with a response. Instead they begin a polite conversation with Greene while ignoring Reed's bellows at the hapless gopher in charge of providing them with coffee.


Mulder and Scully's Home
Two Weeks Later
7:57 p.m.

The brand new big screen TV is surrounded by a crush of small bodies, as all the kids insist they want to sit on the floor to watch the big show. Missy has decided to keep Ryan and Addy home, but Krycek has brought Emily over. She, Page, April, and Hannah beat the boys to the floor space directly in front of the TV, but Sammy and the twins are taking it well since someone had brought out every bean bag chair from the playroom and they've only been told to stop smacking people with them once.

Doggett and Reyes are sitting on the floor as well despite there being folding chairs in the offering; Krycek is the only one besides Michelle to actually deign to sit on one. Luke and Gibson are sitting with Byers, Langly, Frohike, and to everyone's surprise, Mrs. Scully who keeps up a cheerful conversation with the hackers and the teenagers. Mrs. Mulder doesn't seem to want to talk to the other guests, so she is unusually attentive to her two youngest grandsons, both of whom are sitting on her lap. Skinner and Kimberly aren't even sitting, though they occasionally move towards chairs before being distracted by conversations in the room.

"Who still needs popcorn?" Mulder asks, balancing a tray in his hands. Several of the kids say that they're "good" but some of the adults reach for the bowls.

Teliko and Piper hang around the humans with a hopeful air, until they stalk off in disgust when they realize that despite there being more than twenty people in the house, no one is going to fill their food dishes.

Bottles of soda and plastic cups make the rounds before Page loudly shushes the rest of the under-ten crowd in front of the TV. The older folks hush up too when the show's logo appears on the screen with a ringing noise. A woman's voice whispers "Jose Chung's The Truth is Out There" before the scene changes to reveal the quartet of panelists and their host.

Looking calmer than anyone has ever met him believed possible, Wayne Federman introduces the show. "I'd like to welcome you to the first episode of Jose Chung's The Truth Is Out There. Jose Chung is no longer with us, but he is the pioneer of the non-fiction science fiction genre, and we've created this television show to honor the spirit of his work."

"Wow, he must have taken his Ritalin before the show," Skinner mutters, and most of the adults smile. "Did you know he was going to be the host?"

Both Mulder and Scully shake their heads, hard.

"I'd like to introduce our panel," Wayne says on screen. "Our experts in the paranormal, Fox Mulder and his lovely wife and former partner at the FBI, doctor Dana Scully." He then points at the other two, "And our professional skeptics, writer Aldous Reed and doctor Mary Greene."

The four thank him for his introductions, and he then goes on. "Tonight our topic of discussion is ghosts. Aldous Reed has volunteered to discuss the issue first."

Shooting Mulder and Scully a nasty look, he flatly states. "Anyone who believes in ghosts is a moron who shouldn't be allowed to live on their own."

Greene looks alarmed, and quickly says, "That's a rather dismissive attitude, Aldous. There are probably good reasons that so many people have reported seeing ghosts-"

"Because we have seen them," Mulder states, and on-screen Scully cringes.

"Sure. In the house," Sammy says before refocusing on the screen.

Reed leans forward. "And were you drinking at the time, Fox?"

"Of course not," Mulder snaps. He looks as if he's about to say something insulting, but the expression on Scully's face reigns him in.

In the living room, however, Luke gets outraged on his behalf. "What a tool."

"Luke," Doggett says warningly.

"Dad, he's right," Gibson pipes up. "That guy is a tool."

"Boys," Reyes attempts to back her boyfriend up, but it's clear that she's trying not to smile.

"Daddy, what's a tool?" David asks, and half the adults groan.

"Oh, great," Doggett mutters. "You're teaching insults to preschoolers."

"I'll explain later," Mulder tells his little boy, hoping that he'll forget the question.

"Then perhaps you have some sort of mental illness?" Reed asks acidly.

On screen Mulder turns an amusing color, but it's his wife who responses to the writer. "New research suggests that inflexibility of thought can also be a sign of mental illness." Reed blinks, apparently shocked. "What I'd like to know is how you explain cases like the one my former partner John and I took a couple of years ago.

"We were called in because a boy who had disappeared ten years earlier had shown up at a playground, and looked like he did before he'd been kidnapped. Hundreds of people saw this boy, and we were even able to do some medical tests on him, before his body was discovered in the woods. How do you explain hundreds of people having identical hallucinations at different times? This couldn't be a case of mass hysteria, mind you, because people who were strangers to each other saw him at various times over the course of several days."

Reed sputters something in reply, and Greene admits that the case is unusual. But then Reed makes another snotty comment and they continue to argue until the closing credits are shown at the end of the hour.

"You guys sure won that one," Langly says before catching the trash bag that Frohike tosses him.

"No doubt," Byers agrees. "This was great, we'll definitely be watching you every week," he says as the trio departs after throwing away all the trash. Skinner and Kimberly are out the door seconds later.

"Yeah, what kind of idiot thinks that there aren't any such thing as ghosts?" Luke asks.

"Uh, you?" Gibson reminds him. "Don't you remember the camp-in?"

"Ha. I obviously was convinced, okay?" Luke smirks at him over the bean bag chairs he's gathered in his arms.

"Bed time!" Scully announces, and most of her children groan. Still on her mother-in-law's lap, the two youngest of the Scully children are already asleep. Since the twins are nearly asleep on their feet as well despite their protests, Maggie and Michelle gather them up and follow Scully up the stairs.

Krycek and Doggett look at each other. "Yeah, we'd better be going soon too." Hannah and Emily both pout when the adults hasten the process by helping Luke and Gibson haul the bean bag chairs back into the other room.


Eventually Mulder and his mother are the only people in the room besides the sleeping toddlers. "Hey, Mom, let me take them," he says, reaching for his smallest sons.

"Not quite yet," Teena disagrees. "You know, I think your Dad and your uncle Saul would both be very proud of you, Fox."

"Uncle Saul would be too?" Mulder asks, surprised. "I never even got to meet him."

Teena shakes her head. "Yes you did, you just don't remember it."

"Really?"

"You know that your father and I lived here in DC up until I was expecting your sister, don't you?"

"Well, I know we moved when I was really little, but did we live anywhere near this neighborhood?"

"Not exactly. They tore it down decades ago but your preschool was just down the street from here. I didn't tell your father since I knew there was bad blood between them, but we used to stop by here once in a while and see your uncle. He asked me to bring you by, and I didn't have the heart not to."

"Wow."

"He thought you hung the moon, Fox. I just wish your father hadn't found out when you were almost four, because that put the end to the visits. It hardly came as a surprise to me that Saul left you this house, considering you were the only one of his nieces and nephews to spend any time here," Teena concludes.

"I always wondered why he did that. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Mom." Mulder bends and kisses her cheek.

"I probably should have told you sooner, but I didn't think of it until tonight," she says, and passes him Christopher. "Why don't we bring these two upstairs now?"

"Sure."


Later on, after everyone including Scully is in bed, Mulder goes back down stairs and stands in the dark. He looks around, but none of the ghosts seems interested in making a nocturnal appearance. Sighing, he whispers, "Uncle Saul, if you're still here, I'm sorry I forgot about you. And I hope Mom's right about you being proud of me too."

He thinks he catches sight of something out of the corner of his eye, but when he turns to look, nothing is there.


Chapter One Hundred and Eightteen



August 10, 2002

"You've gotta help me," the pasty-faced man tells the agents. "I think somebody's gonna kill me."

Doggett merely raises his eyebrows at his partner, who gives him a wide-eyed look. "Who'd do somethin' like that?" he asks.

The man looks around, then hisses, "Is it safe?"

The FBI agent gives him a level look. "You're in a basement office with two fully armed agents. What's going on?"

Reyes says, "According to the lobby, this is Fitch Roberts, a toy company head."

"And founder," Roberts adds quickly.

She gives him a look, then holds up a small, generic memo paper with scribbles on both sides. "Who tried to sue the CIA for using his factory as a front to pay for weapons. He lost, and he brought his case to a local congressman in Florida, who recently died in a freak accident."

"It wasn't an accident!" Roberts says, exasperated. "You gotta believe me!"

It seems he's said this before, Doggett notes. "So who was the congressman?"

Reyes turns to him. "You might recognize him. Former '70s pop star turned politician State Senator Phil Salvatore." She nods at Doggett's expression. "Yeah, him."

Roberts pulls out a manila envelope from his jacket. "Here, everything I got is in here."

"I thought all the nuts rolled to California," Doggett mutters under his breath, opening the large envelope. There are a lot of accounting documents he could probably unload on Agent Harrison, copies of letters he sent to Salvatore and letters sent back, notes from the trial, and others that look like the ramblings of a madman. Thanks, Mulder, he thinks.

"Okay, Mr. Roberts," he says, "we'll take a look at this, but there's something I wanna know." The pasty man looks at him eagerly. "Who else died?"

Roberts blinks. "Nobody, just Mr. Salvatore."

"No attempts on your life, no threats," Doggett looks back at the papers, but he already knows there's nothing written, "nobody at your company in cahoots or killed?"

"N-no," Roberts says, "why?"

"What you're suggesting is a conspiracy involving a government agency using a seemingly benign company as a front for weapons armament and drug smuggling," he says seriously, "pretty heavy charges. And you're suggesting this same agency killed off a political figure, a somewhat prominent one at that, to silence you. According to your paperwork, you were allowed to go to trial, although the charges were dismissed at the end."

"It's because of them!" Roberts points his finger in the air.

"Uh-huh," Doggett comments, nonplussed. "You also appealed to a local politician, who seemed genuinely concerned about your plight, but you also raised the issue to the local media, who covered the story briefly." He holds up a taped-together article. "Why weren't any reporters killed?"

"They were bought off!" Roberts is shaking, not with fear, but anger. "They caved in to the wiles of the CIA!"

"Okay," Doggett says, "but like I said, you haven't been threatened personally. So far, you've been telling this story to everyone, but nobody's even sent you a death threat. I don't see a connection between Salvatore's death and your story."

The pale man looks stricken, then turns to Reyes, who shrugs a little. "He's right," Reyes says gently. "According to the reports, Salvatore's death was ruled accidental, caused by his head hitting a pole while water-skiing."

"They're wrong!" Roberts practically bawls, running out the door. "I'll show you!"

The door slams, and Reyes looks at Doggett. "I think you could've handled it a little better," she says.

"Look at this," he says, holding out a stack of handwritten notes. "Moldah makes more sense than this. Not by much, but he does."

Reyes takes the notes from him and frowns a little while reading it. "I could do a check on this," she says, "it's not every day we get to investigate a pop star's death."

"Former pop star," Doggett corrects her, "and are you serious?"

She smiles, tapping a pile of folders in the "out" box. "These all washed out, maybe this one could be an X-File," she says.

He rolls his eyes, but she's right. At least, it'll give him something to do to justify hanging out with Reyes.


A couple hours later, Doggett and Reyes are at the Mulder-Scully home, making their case to former agent Dana Scully. "We've even got your tickets, Dana," Reyes adds hopefully.

"You want me to do what?" Scully raises her eyebrows. "Look, I'm retired from the FBI, I'm pregnant with twins, and I really don't want to leave the kids," she ticks off her reasons on her fingers.

Reyes smiles and puts her hands over Scully's. "Yeah, but how often would you get to autopsy a politician and pop star, huh?" she says, her dark eyes bright.

Scully looks at Doggett, who shrugs. "We got a court order and everything," he says, "but if you can't make it, we could always bring in someone else." Reyes elbows him sharply. "Ow, what?" he asks, looking like his recalcitrant son at the moment while Reyes shakes her head.

"We could," she says smoothly, "but I'm afraid someone might leak this to the press. I trust you more than anyone else currently in forensics."

"Because I'm the only one you know from forensics," Scully snorts. "Monica, nice try, but I don't think so."

"What's up?" Mulder asks, coming into the living room with Christopher and April, who are both wanting to watch a certain cartoon for the ten thousandth time. "Let me guess, we're on babysitting duty."

"Not quite," Scully gives the FBI pair a look, "they want me to autopsy Phil Salvatore."

Mulder looks surprised. "The former '70s pop star?"

"And former politician," Scully nods. "Mulder, do we have to hang the word 'retired' on our door?"

He grins. "Actually, that sounds pretty cool. Like getting to autopsy JFK, if I remember the conspiracy theory about Salvatore," making his wife roll her eyes.

"Oh no, not you, too," Doggett groans. "It figures." "Hey, it's good to keep your fingers on the pulse." Mulder shrugs and grins, then nods at his son pulling at his pant leg. "Okay, okay, hold your horses. Let's see, which one is it?" he teases.

"Daddyyyyy," Christopher whines and April fidgets impatiently.

"Sorry." He grins, then pulls out the videotape. "So, when's your flight?" he asks, looking at Doggett and Reyes, but not his wife.

"In the morning," Reyes says. "Dana? Are you in?"

Scully looks at her husband, who is being surrounded by more of their brood, and looking slightly surprised. Then she smiles at the nanny, who is walking in with the twins. "Michelle, keep an eye on things here," she says. "I'm going with John and Monica to Florida for a case."

"Cool." Mulder grins and says, "make sure to bring sunscreen."

"Shut up, Mulder." She makes a face. "You're helping me pack."

"Aye-aye!" He salutes her smartly, then raises his eyebrows at Doggett and Reyes before following his wife.

Doggett looks at the children before looking at Reyes. "Do you think it's a good idea we leave my kids by themselves?" he asks her.

She shrugs. "What's the worst that could happen?"

He sighs, leading her out of there. "Please don't ask questions like that," he says. "You'll never like the answer."


Uncle Fitch's Fun Factory

Jacksonville, Florida

The FBI agents have their sunglasses and sunscreen on, Doggett in a suit and tie, Reyes in a dark red blouse and black slacks. They walk into the factory, earning curious looks as they flash their badges to the security guard and get a map. "Can I get a copy of all your employees' names and addresses?" Reyes asks the human resources manager.

The guy, grinning at her with a bad sunburn, says, "Sure thing."

Doggett rolls his eyes while the guy opens a file and prints out the information. "Thanks," he says, taking it from Mr. Sunburn.

"Uh, yeah," the guy says, looking at Reyes. "Say, if you're free after..."

"I'm on duty," Reyes says crisply, smiling. "And I'm taken."

"Oh, sorry," the sunburnt man finally subsides.

As they walk down the hallway, Doggett groans. "I hope the other people here are more professional," he sighs.

Reyes smiles at him, more heartfelt this time. "I'm sure they are," she says, and makes a right turn through a hallway marked 'Accounting.' "John?"

"Yeah?" he says, his sharp blue eyes more aware of the various names on the doors than his partner.

"Ever get the feeling like we're being watched?" she says lightly.

"Once in a while," he replies, just as lightly as they walk into a brightly-lit room. They get the accounting ledgers from a dour-faced man, aware of the similarly pasty-faced workers in there. "Maybe they're friendlier on the floor," he comments as they head that way.

"It's too bad Roberts isn't here," Reyes says, "but then, I wonder what his employees think of him."

"They think he's a nutcase," a man says.

They spin around, their eyebrows raised at a hefty man in a blue jumpsuit and grey t-shirt. "Who are you?" Doggett asks.

"Floor manager, who're you?" the man responds, his arms crossed.

Doggett pulls out his badge. "FBI, John Doggett."

The man looks at the badge, then at the agent. His eyes flicker over to Reyes, who also has her badge out. "Nice. Looks like we got all types here."

"What do you mean?" Reyes asks, putting her badge away.

The floor manager shrugs. "Crazy guy's our boss, undercover cops working as plant workers, and now FBI. I'm surprised we got as many regular folks as we do."

"You have undercover here?" Doggett raises his eyebrows again, looking skeptical.

"Sid Holstein," the guy says, putting out a hand. "Yeah. Roberts thinks the CIA's up to something here, but the cops think it's the local mafia."

"And what do you think, Mr. Holstein?" Reyes asks him.

Holstein shrugs. "Damned if I know," he says. "We do pretty good, but that's only because we're busting our humps for a paycheck. Let them think what they want, I run a clean operation." He leads them into the factory, giving them hard hats.

There are workers everywhere, some inspecting the large machines' output, others with small tools working on fine details. "We do damn good work and we do it fairly," he says, a note of pride in his voice.

Doggett looks up at the sign on the wall displaying how many days gone without injuries. "Eight months," he remarks, "nice."

The floor manager raises his eyebrows. "Yeah, like I said, we do damn good work."

Reyes hands over the list of names. In a low voice, she says, "Can you note which ones are here?"

Holstein gives her an understanding look, then walks outside. "Some of them are my best workers," he says, taking out a red pen and underlining a few names. "You'd be surprised."

Knowing that a lot of the undercovers in the FBI have varied backgrounds, Reyes isn't surprised. "Thanks." She smiles warmly.


Meanwhile, Fitch Roberts, owner and founder of Uncle Fitch's Fun Factory, is running for his life in a darkened warehouse not too far from his factory. "Please," he begs, tripping as he goes around a corner, "don't!"

Two men are chasing him, but not very urgently. In fact, the way they go after him is less like professionals after a kill and more like cats playing with a mouse before they destroy it. "Take the side," one man in a suit and tie says to another similarly dressed. The second man nods, then covers the side, pointing his gun at the hapless Roberts who comes out with an almost comical surprised expression. The first man is suddenly at Roberts' side when he tries to run. "Don't," he tells the sweating prey. "It makes more of a mess."

Roberts looks from one sunglassed man to the other. "No, no!" the pasty-faced man gasps. "You can't do this!" he says, holding his hands up. "I'm innocent!"

The first man snorts a little. "You're funny," he says, and shoots Roberts point blank in the head, followed by the second man shooting him in the torso. Then he pulls out a cell phone and dials out while Roberts bleeds out. "Yeah, we need cleanup," he says, and hangs up. He jerks his head at the second man, and they leave as unnoticed as they came.


Back at the motel, the two agents are on the bed, doing their investigating horizontally. "Oh, my God," Reyes sighs, running a hand through her long dark hair, "this is too much." She wipes the sweat off her face and looks at her partner, who is similarly drenched.

"I can't believe it," Doggett groans between his laptop and his half of the employees list, "Mr. Sunburn is an undercover, too." He finally gives in, unbuttoning the first three buttons and pulls off his long-sleeved shirt, revealing the sweat-stained wife-beater underneath.

"I can," Reyes says, smiling in her tank top and shorts. The A/C conked out half an hour ago, and in spite of opening the windows and fanning themselves with papers, they're still sweating like crazy. Pulling her hair up, she grabs an elastic band and ties it up in a loose bun. "They have all sorts of people doing undercover."

"Yeah, well, I think he wanted to go undercover with you, if you know what I mean," he grumbles.

She laughs and throws her arms around him. "Baby, you know you're the only one I wanna be with," she says in a high-pitched voice, rocking him in her arms. "Undercover or otherwise."

Doggett chuckles. "Okay, okay," he says, but doesn't make her let go, even though he's hotter than ever. "What say you we finish this list," he waves the papers, "and then we do something crazy?"

Reyes raises her eyebrows. "Crazy? Like what?"

"Eating ice cream in a freezer," he says, "I've been dreaming about that for the last ten minutes."

She laughs. "You're on." She smiles, and after they finish their respective lists, they go out and get some mostly-cold soda from the machine down the hall.

Doggett's cell phone rings as they head back to their room, and he raises his eyebrows at the number, then answers, "Doggett." He listens, and says, "Sure, we'll be right there." When he hangs up, he answers Reyes' unspoken question. "They found Roberts shot in a warehouse near his factory. Looks like a professional hit," he sighs, picking up the pace.

Reyes takes a large gulp of her Coke before opening the motel door. "You wanna call Scully, or should I?"

"You do it," Doggett nods his thanks before walking to the bed and grabbing his shirt, tie and jacket. "I gotta get dressed."

"Why?" Reyes says. "I like that look." She smiles and raises an eyebrow suggestively.

He rolls his eyes before heading to the bathroom. He's gotta at least wipe the sweat off before he puts on his work clothes.


"Sorry, Dana," Reyes says as they walk about the crime scene, "we've got another body for you." Doggett is on the side, talking to some of the local police while a couple of forensic techs are snapping photos of the dead man, who's lying on his side in a very uncomfortable position. Well, it would be uncomfortable if the man were still alive.

"Are you kidding?" Scully asks on the other line, looking at the open body on the autopsy table in front of her. She's thankful that there's no one attending, especially the original coroner who signed off on the first autopsy, because the rather-ripe corpse is starting to get to her rather-sensitive nose. The only good thing about this place is that it's nicely air- conditioned, as opposed to the rest of the state, it seems.

"Wish I were," the dark-haired woman sighs, lifting her sunglasses and putting them on the top of her head, "it's Fitch Roberts, the guy we started this case for." She wipes the sweat from her forehead, her mouth thinning a little as she looks down at the dead man.

"Wow," Scully says dryly, "how low-profile do you think this will stay?" So far, there's nothing that jumps out at her, since the head trauma is consistent with a water-skiing accident, or any sort of high-velocity impact, really.

"Fairly low, actually," Reyes answers, "conspiracy theories aside, Roberts wasn't high- profile. In fact, this body might've stayed undiscovered longer, except that a delivery company trucker drove to the wrong warehouse by mistake."

"Huh," Scully makes a monosyllabic comment, now looking at the former Salvatore with a more settled stomach. The skin discoloration's consistent with natural decay exacerbated by time spent in the water, but it could mask any sort of bruising. She picks up a prophylactic glove and pokes the left arm, noting the strange rubberiness of a formerly-bloated corpse.

Too bad there's no sign of any foul play, that would really make Mulder's day, she thinks flippantly, or make Roberts' death worthwhile. "What does the local PD have to say about Roberts' death?"

"They're saying it was a mob hit, but John's getting more details," Reyes replies. "I think they're also trying to get more information out of their undercovers, because nothing like this was supposed to happen on their watch."

"Or ours," Scully notes, her large eyes narrowing as she tilts her head to examine Salvatore's right shoulder. There's something about it that bugs her. "Sorry to cut this short, but I'm going to need both hands to turn Salvatore over," she tells Reyes, "I'm checking something out."

"Okay," Reyes says, "see you."

Scully hangs up, then pulls on a pair of gloves before turning the body over. Grunting, she does the best she can without breaking anything, and sighs with relief when the job is done. Then she grabs a camera and starts taking photos, then gets the original autopsy report and compares the photos with the body she sees before her.

Turning the recorder back on, she says, "According to the photos from the original report, there are no bruises or dislocation of the right shoulder." Then she squints hard at the photo in the report, then looks at the body again. "But neither is there a mole on the right shoulder on the body detailed in the report, and there is a mole on the body of Phil Salvatore before me. This coroner will consult with Mrs. Salvatore and confirm if this is her husband's body, and will also take x-rays of the body lying here. This coroner will also do a DNA test to reconfirm the identity of this corpse." She flips the body again, this time with more effort so as not to disturb the joints, and takes more photos.


"So, what's up?" Reyes asks when Doggett walks towards her.

Doggett's lips thin, never a good sign. "None of the undercovers got wind of this," he says, "no one even knew he was in town."

"Not even Holstein?" Reyes raises her eyebrows. "How is that possible?"

He shakes his head. "He said it wasn't unusual for Roberts to be gone days, even weeks at a time. Even the vice president, a Ralph Ramirez, is out of town, but at a business convention in New York."

"Great." Reyes makes a face. "So, aside from the mob theory, is there anyone else who'd want to kill him?"

"The CIA?" Doggett intones sarcastically.

She sighs. "John, seriously. This man is dead, and it's obviously not a suicide. Remember, we follow the leads, no matter how far-fetched they might be."

Doggett shakes his head. "Far-fetched is right," he mutters, as the forensic techs load the body and evidence into a van. Then his cell phone rings. "Doggett."

"John," Scully says in a low voice, "contact Mrs. Salvatore."

"What's this about?" He frowns.

"The body I have here," Scully says, her voice still low, "may or may not be Phil Salvatore. Ask the widow if he had a mole on his right shoulder and a, I think it used to be pink, birthmark on his left shin. I'm going to do a DNA test, just in case."

Doggett nods, "Sure thing." When he hangs up, he says, "Mon, join the corpse crew," he says, "this is getting weird."

"You think?" Reyes smiles, but joins the forensic team in their van.

Then Doggett sighs before getting into the rented car.


Trump International Hotel

A well-dressed Hispanic man strays away from the rest of his business group, relieved to be out of the morning panel. His stomach's been growling at him for the last half hour, and of course, the first panel doesn't have a buffet, those cheapskates. He walks towards the elevator at a brisk pace, figuring he's got time to get coffee and a bite to eat before the next panel.

A pair of hands grab him from the side, and he yelps when he finds himself in a dimly-lit hallway. He blinks quickly, and finds himself facing two men in matching shades and suits. "God, you scared me," he says, straightening his tie. "I told you I'd talk to you tonight."

"We don't need to, Ralph Ramirez," one of the men says, and shoots him a couple of times.

He slides down the wall, unaware he's leaving a very messy stain. His eyes are wide, looking for cameras, guards, anyone, but it's just him and the spooks. "Why?" he breathes.

They say nothing, but take his briefcase and cell phone. One of them takes his wallet, peruses it, then puts it back into his pocket, then steps back and shoots him in the head. They put their weapons back, carrying off his possessions as if it were their own, and walk away, unseen and unnoticed.


Doggett keeps the sunglasses on when he steps out of the car. This place is damn ostentatious for a house, and having lived in the South and New York, that's saying a lot. He takes a deep breath, unaware that his eyes are narrowed suspiciously behind his shades, and hits the doorbell.

"Yes?" a Hispanic woman in a maid's outfit answers the door, her accent thick with that one word.

"Is Mrs. Salvatore in?" he asks.

She nods. "What is your name?" she says, her eyes wide.

He opens his badge. "Agent John Doggett, I'm here to talk about her late husband."

If that woman's eyes could get any bigger than they are now, he's not sure he wants to see it. The maid nods quickly, then turns and fairly runs inside. He walks in after her, guessing she probably thinks he's with INS or something. Looking around, it doesn't seem like a man lived here at all, with all the flowers, fancy vases, and even fancier paintings and furniture. The floor's a white marble, and the air condition's a welcome change to the temperature he's been experiencing ever since he stepped off the plane.

"Yes?" a woman's voice startles him.

Doggett turns to see a thin woman, her dyed-black hair pulled up in a bun, wearing tasteful business clothes. This looks a like a woman who's stepped into the political realm, all right, he thinks, having seen more than his fair share of the type.

"Agent John Doggett," he re-introduces himself, flashing his badge briefly, "I'm working on a case that may be related to your late husband, Mrs. Salvatore."

"Senator Salvatore," she corrects him, her large dark eyes barely flickering at the badge or the title. "What about?"

"I'm not at liberty to say," he says, using a standard line, "but I was wonderin', did your husband have a mole on his right shoulder?"

Apparently, she hasn't gone in for Botox or plastic surgery, since her eyebrows go up and her forehead wrinkles. "Um, yes, I believe so," she says.

"And a birthmark on his right shin?" he presses.

She shakes her head. "It was his left shin," she says. "What's this about?" she asks, more sharply.

His lips thin, writing the answers in a notebook he keeps purely for show. "It looks like your late husband was definitely involved," he says vaguely, "thank you very much, ma'am." Then he nods briefly before leaving, making a mental note to himself to look up the current State Senator Salvatore's background and current dealings.

When he gets in the car, he makes another call. "Hey, guys," he says, "I want you to do me a favor."

As usual, there's a pause before there's an answer. "No habla Ingles," the masked voice says, "se habla Espanol."

"Very funny." Doggett makes a face. "Don't worry, you'll get paid."

"Now you're talking," Frohike says, his vocabulary unmistakable, even if he's running his voice through a mixer. "Let me guess, cell trace, background checks, the works?"

"How'd you know?" Doggett frowns, heading towards the forensic lab where Scully and Reyes are.

"A mutual friend gave us a heads-up on your case," Langly's nasally voice jumps in. "Don't worry, nobody can tap this call. At least from our end."

"Great," Doggett says dryly. "I need you to look up a few names, like the late and the current State Senator Salvatores."

"We're already in progress on the first," Byers' clipped voice chimes in, "you say the current as well?"

"Yeah," Doggett says, taking the freeway exit, "and there's also a whole list I'd like you boys to go through. Think you're up to it?"

"Please, you're talking to the masters here," Frohike brags, "we're looking forward to the paycheck."

"Thanks," Doggett says before hanging up. Then he hits speed dial.

"Reyes," she answers, and there's some crazy loud music in the background.

"Mon, tell Scully's that's the right body," he says, raising his voice, "what's going on?"

Instead of answering, Reyes says, "John, she says thanks, she's almost done with the second body."

"What?" Doggett frowns, because even Scully can't work that fast.

"We'll tell you more when we see you," she yells as if she's in a dance club, "but could you swing by the motel and get the files? It could be unsafe leaving them there."

His eyes narrow. He's got the files right with him, she even saw him tucking it into his jacket pocket. Something's definitely up. "Don't worry," he says, "I put them inside the room safe."

"Oh, good," she says, sounding relieved. "See you soon."

He hangs up, wondering what the hell's going on.


Getting to the forensic lab as fast as he could without breaking the speed limit was no mean feat, but he managed it, thank you very much. "What the hell's going on?" Doggett hollers, once he gets past a disgruntled forensic team and through the doors. It's also strange that they're playing some uncensored rap music on a stereo set to nearly level eleven.

Neither woman goes to turn off the stereo, or turn it down to a more bearable level, but Reyes locks the door behind him. "You've still got them, right?" she whispers in his ear while Scully is murmuring into a recorder in between pulling out various organs like a magician doing a gruesome trick.

His eyes widen, catching on, and he nods. He jerks his head at the covered windows. "What's she find?"

"First autopsy report's been tampered with," the dark-haired woman replies, "she's waiting on the DNA tests." She turns away to look at the redhead and sighs. Turning back to him, she says in his ear, "It's also very likely that the body was tampered with as well, having been dumped in the water after he was dead."

He stares at her. "After?" he says, and she nods. "What the hell's going on?"

She smiles, but there's no warmth in it. "You're repeating yourself," she murmurs.

And now Doggett regrets bringing Scully in on this, since now she's not only a private citizen, but a pregnant woman as well. Mulder would kill him if anything happened to her, if he didn't beat him to it. "Make sure you're with her at all times," he says.

"She's still got a registered weapon," Reyes tells him, "but I will."

He nods, then pulls out the folders and his cell phone. He punches in a few numbers, then he starts texting as fast as he can, going name by name on the list given to them. When he catches Reyes's curious gaze, he answers, "The boys are on it, too," she says as she nods, taking the second paper and starts texting as well.

He continues to laboriously type away, his face a grim mask, and hopes Agent Harrison can write this part of his phone bill off, because it's going to be a monster. When he runs out of space, he hits send, then continues on.

And so they continue their work in silence, while Scully works on Roberts' body, while rap music is pounding away inside the autopsy room and a disgruntled coroner is pounding outside the door.


A couple of hours later, Doggett and Reyes are escorting Scully back to the airport. "You're crazy, you know that?" Doggett murmurs as they drop her off.

Scully shakes her head. "Fortunately, there are some people at Quantico I can trust," she says, "it's you two I'm worried about."

He makes a face. "As soon as I know you're back at home safe and sound, that's when I can rest easy," he says, putting her luggage on a coin-operated cart.

"Mulder's picking me up at the airport, so everything should be good there, and your kids are with ours at the moment," she says. "Just a reminder, if you can't keep everything on your person, keep it safe."

Reyes and Doggett nod, and the tall woman gives the shorter woman a hug. "See you, Dana." She smiles.

Scully smiles back. "I thought I'd miss this sort of thing, but now I know I really don't," she says, and pushes her luggage cart into the terminal.

The two agents watch the small woman until she disappears from sight, then a security officer tells them, "Hey, if you're not dropping off, move along." They do what he says, and hopes that the two bodies, well-cushioned and hidden inside Scully and Reyes' long suitcases, will make it to Quantico, but more than that, they hope that Scully makes it home safely.

And now they're in a new rental car, having inspected it thoroughly for bugs, and wondering if their new room is going to be ransacked as well. After they'd snuck the bodies out of the lab, Scully took them to a gadget store and bought a few items, and they'd come back to two thoroughly-ransacked rooms.

She didn't seem as surprised as they were, and proceeded to debug as much as she could, from their clothes to their personal appliances, and thanks to Doggett's lock-picking skills, they'd disposed of the bugs in the two rooms above theirs.

"I can't do electronics," she'd said and shrugged on their way back to their messy rooms, "but take them back to that store and I'm sure they can help you out."

"Did you learn that from Mulder?" Reyes had asked.

She'd made a face. "That, and plenty of experience," she'd sighed. "Something I'm afraid you'll learn for yourselves the longer you stay with the X-Files."

And then they'd packed the bodies away in the two women's luggage. "Remind me not to piss either of you off," Doggett had said, meaning it.

The women had laughed, but Scully had said, "Whatever you do, trust each other, because that's the only thing you can do from here."


But they can't rest easy yet, because they've got to check Robert's home for any clues, if it hadn't been ransacked as well. So here they are, in a dingy part of town, flashlights out and guns at the ready. Doggett picks the lock, while Reyes keeps an eye out, but it doesn't seem like this is the kind of neighborhood that would call the cops. "Clear," he finally says, flipping on a light switch, but putting a finger to his lips. She nods, and they carry their equipment inside.

Turns out, Fitch Roberts has his own anti-bugging equipment, and the place, while messy, has a kind of order, with everything in piles, newspapers, clothes, books, even Chinese takeout cartons. Looking around, Doggett has a feeling this might be what Mulder's place would look like if he didn't have a family and a house, and turns on the equipment, doing a thorough sweep of the living room and taking pictures before they touch anything.

Reyes does the same for the man's bedroom, which looks more like a storage area for books and magazines, along with some oddly-designed toys. She takes out on that looks like a stretchy plastic doll. "Check this out," she says, and pulls at the elastic man's arm.

Doggett rolls his eyes. "Figures," he says, "it's clean."

She nods at the bedroom. "There, too. Play time." She smiles.

He snorts, taking the toy out of her hands. "Later. Let's see if he left anything useful."

"Like that?" She points to a corkboard covered in newspaper clippings. "I took quite a few shots, but basically, it's all about Salvatore's death, plus any CIA activity mentioned in Florida, which isn't much, and some printouts of online conspiracy stories dealing with the CIA."

"Fine," he sighs. "Let's see it." He walks inside, and sure enough, there it was, joined by its twins on the other walls. "Unbelievable," he says, his eyes narrowed as they skim through the various headlines. "This guy makes the Gunmen look normal."

"Maybe that's why he got killed," Reyes comments, and he spins around. She shrugs, then goes back to squinting at some article printouts. "It's a theory."

"If that's the case, why'd they let him walk for so long?" he asks. "Roberts must've done something or pissed someone off more than usual. I wanna know what that is."

Reyes stops her perusal of the articles. "Maybe it's us."

"Us?" Doggett snorts. "Monica, much as I'd like to think we work for a higher power, working the basement office isn't that scary, especially if we're dealing with some mobsters."

"Who said anything about the mob?" Reyes presses her point. "Granted, we may be in a rather esoteric location," and he snorts again, "but we're still part of the FBI. And there are still some people who may be nervous about what we represent. After all," she says, pulling off a few articles from the board, "they killed off a politician. If they can kill someone with a somewhat high-profile like that, as well as a conspiracy nut, who's to say they won't stop at popping off a couple of feds?"

"You're serious, aren't you?" he asks, and she nods. "All right. Operating under that crazy assumption," and now she snorts, "it seems like we're gonna have to do bug sweeps every time we enter a room." He takes down quite a few articles himself, and stuffs them into a "Times" magazine.

"You search me and I'll search you." She smiles suggestively.

"Don't give me ideas." He grins, then pulls her out of the bedroom, "or I'll personally knock off every damn book and magazine off that bed and put it to good use."

She laughs as he drags her out of there. "I hope you're taking us to the hotel," she says, "where we've got a bed for just that purpose."

"What do you think?" he asks, making her laugh again, and kisses her. "Shhhh, you'll wake the neighbors," he mock-scolds her before kissing her again.

She gives him a look, "Some of them are loud enough to wake the dead, but you're sweet."

They turn off the lights, then look up and down the street before checking the car for bugs. Reassured the car's clean, they steal kisses in the car on the drive to the hotel.


"Home sweet home," Doggett remarks, as they open the hotel door, both of them unconsciously holding their breaths as he does so.

They step into the room, but find it's as pristine as they left it. They look at each other, and without another word, they both sweep their room for bugs. Doggett and Reyes find nothing except perhaps the occasional stain covered by furniture, but that's it. Then they breathe a sigh of relief, sitting heavily on the bed.

"How do they do it?" Reyes wonders, flopping backwards, staring up at the ceiling. "James Bond never had to do room sweeps every time, he just had to sleep with the chick of the day or fight off the bad guy. Easy."

Doggett laughs, brushing her dark hair off her face. "You notice that the bad guys sometimes had some crazy secret weapon to try and kill him," he says, then smirks, "and sometimes, the chick of the day was the bad guy."

She makes a face. "Yeah, well, he also had stunt doubles and we don't, which is totally unfair."

He nods, leaning over her. "Good thing we don't need stunt doubles for this," he says in a low voice, then kisses her.

She wraps her arms around his neck, smiling. "Mm, nice," she comments. "I could get used to this part of the James Bond life."

He chuckles, unbuttoning her top. "James Bond would wet his pants if he had to deal with a family," he says, pulling a bra strap down, "or have a breakdown with our job."

She laughs, pulling off his tie before working on his shirt. "He would, wouldn't he?" Reyes smiles, then tugs at his belt. "You need your pants off, mister."

He raises his eyebrows, then does as she says. "Better?" he asks, sitting in his boxers.

She's already topless, and the desire in her eyes coupled with a wicked grin, makes him think he's the luckiest son of a gun in the world. "Hm, maybe," she says, and yanks off his underwear. "Okay, much better," and she laughs.

"Hey!" he complains. "I'm totally naked, while you're only half-naked!" Then he gets to work on her pants, but ends up tickling her.

She doubles over in laughter, making his job harder. "Oh, John," she gasps, wiping the tears from her eyes, "oh, you're too much!"

"Just you wait," he growls, pushing her knees down and unzipping her pants. "God, Monica," he moans, seeing her thong, "you're amazing."

She smiles, removing the barely-there underwear with a finger. "Of course," she says, wrapping her legs around him and pulling him down for a kiss. Soon, their hands are all over each other, kissing each other hungrily, and Doggett's mouth is on her left nipple and his hands on her ass when his cell phone rings. "Unh, turn it off," Reyes sighs, her eyes closed and her fingers digging into his back.

He glances at the phone, removing his mouth from her breast. "If it's important, they'll leave a message," he mumbles, then clamps onto her right breast, his hands moving to her crotch. The phone stops ringing, and they sigh, then smile at each other. "See?" he says, and fingers her.

"Ooh!" she gasps, then sticks her tongue out. "If you need to make a point, you'll need a bigger pointer than that." And she raises an eyebrow, daring him.

He grins, and answers her challenge by pulling out a condom and slipping it on. "Big enough?" he grunts, thrusting into her.

Her dark eyes fly open, her mouth hanging open for a moment. "Ah, unh, oh, John," she finally gasps, "oh, yeah." And her hips buck upwards, letting him in deeper.

It's not only his ego that gets bigger, and she smiles, tilting her head back as they continue to connect. He grabs her shoulders, pumping harder and deeper, making her moan and writhe beneath him. "Damn," he growls, knocking the phone off the bed when it rings again. "Don't these people have a life?"

"Not as big as yours," Reyes moans, and they continue with their business.

Then his phone rings again, and they both groan, but not out of sexual release, but from sexual frustration.

Doggett groans, answering the phone. "This better be good," he growls after seeing the number.

The digitally-altered voice says, "Don't worry, it's great."

Doggett sighs, giving Reyes and her gorgeous body a longing look before pulling his boxers back on with his free hand. "What's up, guys?"


"You're not gonna believe this," Langly's nasally voice practically cuts through the digital masking. "But your Mr. Ralph Ramirez is on CIA payroll."

"What?" Doggett's blue eyes fly open. "Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack," Frohike interjects. "Of course, he's not the only one."

"Quit stringin' me along and just tell me," Doggett growls, zipping up his pants.

"Approximately twenty employees in various positions are being paid quite handsomely by said organization," Byers' precise diction comes on. "Approximately, because there are a few we're triple-checking on for other sources of income."

"Oh, goody," he sighs. "So, mind sending us the names and what they're getting paid for?"

"That's easy," Langly says, "the names are in your e-mail and they're getting paid to kill Castro."

Doggett nearly drops his phone. "You're kidding," he finally says when he finds his voice.

"Nope," Frohike smirks. "You think Central Intelligence stopped their death plots in the '60s? Typical naivety."

"Shut up," he grumbles. "It just sounds like, well..."

"One of our crazy stories, yeah, yeah," Langly mutters. "But this is an X-File, so deal with it. Happy reading."

Doggett blinks when they hang up, then sighs when Reyes steps out of the bathroom, fully dressed. "Dammit," he sighs, "didn't 007 get more sex time?"

Reyes chuckles and pats his back. "Poor baby," she says, "hey, the sooner we wrap this up, the sooner we get back to business." She smiles, then pulls out her laptop. "So, what'd the boys say?"

He gives her a look. "He says Ramirez and about twenty other factory workers are getting paid to kill Castro."

She looks at him, surprised. "You're kidding, right?" she says, a smile on her face.

He shakes his head, pulling out his own laptop. "I wish," he says, heartfelt. "This thing is getting crazier by the minute."

She nods, then types in her password. "And to think you nearly turned this case down."

"Ha, ha," he mutters. "I'm just wondering how they got from 'CIA payroll' to 'kill Castro'."

"What, that's not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear 'CIA payroll'?" she quips, and he groans.

And for the rest of the night, they're hard at work on the bed, but just not the way they planned.


Ralph Ramirez Residence
8:54 a.m. "This is ridiculous," Mrs. Selina Ramirez, a short, busty woman tells the FBI agents when they present their badges and a subpoena. "Come in, but you won't find anything."

"Thank you," Doggett says, stepping inside and tucking his badge into his jacket. He pulls his sunglasses off, but his eyes are still narrowed. He looks at Reyes, who's talking with Mrs. Ramirez in a low voice, then walks into a room that appears to be an office.

He looks around, seeing how much better this guy's place looks than, say, Fitch Roberts. Then again, it seems Ramirez took the business part of his job seriously, while Roberts was the more creative, or crazy, head. "Stranger partnerships have happened," he mutters, going through Ramirez' desk. He opens desk drawer after desk drawer, nothing really jumping out at him, until he comes across one drawer that's locked. "Bingo," he mutters, and whips out his lock-pick tools. He opens it to find a gun lying on top of quite a few folders. "Jackpot."

And he pulls on a pair of prophylactic gloves, going through page after page. It's almost too easy, he thinks, and then he jumps to his feet, shoving the papers back into their files and shoving them into his jacket. "Mrs. Ramirez," he says, pausing when he can't find her in the foyer. Then he finds his partner with the suspect's wife in the kitchen, "Mrs. Ramirez, when was the last time you talked to your husband?"

The short woman blinks, taking the coffee cup from her lips. "Yesterday," she says. "It was between panels, so he couldn't talk long."

"You sure that was your husband?" he asks.

She stares at him. "What are you saying?" she asks, her face controlled.

Reyes looks from the woman to her partner, putting down her coffee cup. "Agent?" she asks, also curious.

"I'm saying that you should call your husband," Doggett says, feeling his gut tighten with a terrible suspicion. "Please."

Mrs. Ramirez stares at him, and looks at Reyes, who nods at her. Then she takes the cordless phone off the hook and dials. She waits, unaware that she's tapping the counter with her right hand. "Honey, oh," she sighs, and then waits. "Ralph, this is Selina. Please call as soon as you can. Love you." She hangs up, forcing a smile on her face. "He's probably at a panel," she says.

"Mrs. Ramirez, do you know anything about your husband's work?" he asks.

"I know that he was the real head of Uncle Fitch's Factory," she says, with a note of pride. "Fitch, he invented all those toys, but Ralph's the one who made it successful. He was even talking about buying out Fitch before he flew out."

"He did?" Doggett says, and Reyes's eyebrows go up, also surprised. "So Roberts knew about this?"

She nods. "He and Ralph were still going over the details, but it looked like things were okay." She pauses. "Well, before Fitch." She shakes her head, waving her hand.

"Yeah." Reyes nods. Then she pulls out her cell phone. "I've got a couple of friends in New York," she says as she dials, "they can check on that conference. What was the hotel again?" she asks.

Mrs. Ramirez tells her, "Trump International Hotel."

Reyes nods again, then turns away. Doggett looks at the woman, but doesn't know what to say. After all, it's just his gut feeling. That, and the gun lying in the locked drawer. Usually, men don't keep guns in a difficult-to-reach part of their desk if they feel the need to have one in their office, from his experience, at least. A part of him reasons that Ramirez probably wanted to keep it safe from his son, and he asks, "Do you have a safe, maybe in the bedroom?"

She shakes her head. "I think he has one at the factory."

He sighs. Dammit, there goes that theory. "And you wouldn't happen to know the combination, would you?" he asks, but not hopeful. She shakes her head again. Great. Then again, the gun might not be his, and he could be jumping to conclusions. He texts the Gunmen, asking them to check the serial number.

"Reyes, I'm going back to the factory," he says, and she nods. He doesn't know what to say to Mrs. Ramirez, so he merely nods his head before leaving, and hopes that the guy's office there hasn't been flipped yet.


The Same Time
The Salvatore Mansion

"Look, I did what you asked," Senator Salvatore says, looking more vulnerable in her robe and nightgown. To say this was a surprise visit is an understatement, judging by the lack of makeup and decent wardrobe on her person. "The FBI agents know nothing."

The two men, both in shades and suits, look at each other. "We know," one man says. "We came to say thanks." Then he pulls out his gun and shoots her in heart and stomach.

As she staggers backwards, she gasps, "No, wait, I can help." Her eyes are wide and her arms are outstretched, a far cry from the strong and polished politician she appeared to Doggett the day before.

The second man simply shoots her in the head for her troubles. "Thanks," he says, and they turn, putting their weapons away, and walk out, leaving behind the unconscious maid and disabled security system. They drive off in her car, unnoticed by anyone in that ritzy neighborhood because everyone has a black limo there.


A couple of hours later, the safe in Ralph Ramirez' office has been broken open, and Doggett's poring through the contents. Of course, he went through the rest of the office while the locksmith was working on the safe, so he's got lots of pictures, but nothing really incriminating. With his luck, he'd have to get someone in tech to get to Ramirez' accounts to confirm legally what the Gunmen gave him through, well, less than legal means.

So far, it looks like an accounting of the twenty employees that the Gunmen gave him, but nothing on Ramirez himself. Dammit. Then his cell rings, and he answers, "Doggett."

"John, they found him," Reyes says tersely.

Doggett's guessing by the wailing in the background that it's not good news. "He's dead, isn't he," he says, rather than asks.

"Yeah," she says, "and according to the forensics, there's no way he could have made that call to his wife. They didn't find his cell phone, by the way."

"Figures," he mutters. "Well, Ramirez has a lot of dirt on his employees, especially the flagged ones," he tells her. "Hey, Mon?"

"Yeah?"

Doggett sighs, hating to ask. "Ever get the feeling like you're being played?" he asks.

"What?"

She sounds more curious than annoyed. "I found all sorts of stuff in Ramirez' home office, including a gun," he tells her, "and now I've got all sorts of dirt from the safe here, but nothing on Ramirez. Hell, nothing on Fitch, either, but I'm guessing that Ramirez didn't think Roberts was worth bothering with, financially speaking."

"Considering that he sunk most of his finances in a lawsuit against the CIA, plus his traveling and research expenses, he probably didn't have that much," Reyes remarks. Then her voice fades as she says, "Mrs. Ramirez, do you want to lie down? Here, let me get you some water." Then the sound is muffled, and after a minute or two, she comes back. "Sorry, I had to give her a sedative. Judging by the well-stocked medicine cabinet, I'm guessing this isn't the first time he gave her grief."

"But it might be the last," Doggett says. "I hope."

"I hope so, too," Reyes says. "Because people are getting killed left and right. Oh, and Scully's okay."

"Well, there's some good news," he sighs. "Remind me to put her on the budget."

"Oh, I won't let you forget," she chuckles, the first bright sound he's heard since feeling everything's gone to hell in a hand basket. "Hey, John?"

"Yeah?"

"You mind if I forward our findings to the Gunmen? I want to make sure nobody erases everything."

He senses, rather than hears, the caution and pessimism in her warm voice. She thinks we're next, he thinks, but it's not surprising, since that's what he thinks, too. "Sure," he says, and his phone beeps. "Sorry, I got another call."

"Take care," she says, "I'm going to stay with Mrs. Ramirez until the cops come in."

"You take care, too," he says, then switches to the new caller. "Doggett."

"This is Detective Danny Garcia," a slightly nasally voice says, and it takes only a second for him to place the name to the cop he talked to yesterday at Roberts' crime scene. "You can turn on any channel, but just to let you know, Mrs. Salvatore's dead."

"What?" Doggett dislodges the papers on the desk. Fortunately, Ramirez has a TV in his office, and he turns it on. And the local news station is showing the very same mansion he stepped into yesterday, with a shot of a body being carried out, the high heeled-covered feet sticking out of the sheet like a gruesome parody of the Wizard of Oz witch. "Not suicide?" he says.

"Hell, no," Garcia says. "The nice big sheet is covering another plastic sheet, which is hiding three shots, two to the torso and one to the head."

"Mind sending that body to Quantico?" Doggett asks.

"Uh, sure," Garcia says, and Doggett watches the hefty detective wave and yell at the ambulance crew on TV, and then Garcia says, mildly breathless, "Agent, you there?"

"Yeah," Doggett says, "I see you're in there, too."

"Ha, ha," the detective says. "So, I take it this is a federal case now?"

"The way things are looking, yeah," Doggett says, "but it looks like this is still a very local operation." Then what Reyes said earlier, about people dropping left and right, is coming back to haunt him sooner than he wants. "Any ideas who'd do something like this?"

"She wasn't in office long enough to make that kind of enemies," the detective tells him, "but I can find out."

"Thanks," Doggett says, then hangs up. He flips through the channels, but finds they're all just repeating themselves with the breaking story. "If it bleeds, it leads," he murmurs the old saw about the news. Then he turns off the news, calling another news source.


"What do you mean?" Doggett asks.

"There was nothing in Mrs. Salvatore's file that indicated she'd get killed next, there's no connection whatsoever," Byers says through the digital voice filter.

Doggett groans. "Well, look again," he says, "there's gotta be something you guys missed."

"Hey, are you dissing our work?" Frohike jumps in.

"I'm just sayin', double-check," Doggett attempts to placate him. "Ramirez and Mrs. Salvatore turning up dead is kinda unexpected, you know?"

"We're on it, we're on it," Langly can be heard in the background, "I'm not sure what Mrs. Salvatore had to do with all of this, there's nothing so far that says she had CIA ties, other than that her husband got killed by them."

"Jury's still out on that," Doggett sighs. "Besides, the missus could've been a mob hit."

"Yeah, and we'll find Jimmy Hoffa working in McDonald's," Frohike grumbles. "You do the fibbie stuff, we'll stick to our stuff."

"Fine by me," Doggett says, "thanks, guys."

"Yeah, yeah," Frohike says, "make sure you stay alive long enough to pay us."

"That's not-" Byers starts to complain about his comrade's less-than-polite contract demand but apparently, Frohike cut the connection.

Doggett snorts. He doesn't intend on dying any time soon. Besides, the selfish part that thinks between his legs says he hasn't gotten nearly enough bed time with Reyes to justify death yet.


Doggett is going down the list of undercovers, both for the local police and for the CIA, against those who have clocked in for the day. So far, everyone's checked in, at least according to their timecards.

Then he turns to a long-haired, bespectacled girl in the Human Resources office. "Say, you wouldn't happen to know where," he pauses, looking up Mr. Sunburn's real name, "Jason Pettig would be, would you?"

The girl, whose nameplate declares her as Janice Hope, rolls her eyes. "He comes in, he goes out, of course never bothers to clock in his lunch or break times," she sighs. "Just because this is a toy factory, everyone thinks they can play around."

Then Doggett takes another look at the timecards, pretty much all of which have been punched in. "Anyone other than Fitch Roberts and Ralph Ramirez not on timecards?"

She shakes her head. "They're the, I mean, they were the heads, so they went on salary. The rest of us are hourly."

Doggett's eyes scan the timecards, which, according to his mental math, add up to the total employees. "Wow. I'm surprised that managers aren't on salary, too."

The long-haired girl gives him a thin smile. "There's no union here, which raises red flags for the cops. Probably why we get raided every so often, but one thing about us, we're all legal."

Citizen-wise, at least, Doggett thinks cynically, but as for true full-time workers, this place is a mess. "So there's no guarantee that any of these people are actually working?" he says incredulously.

She nods. "The first day you and the other agent came in, of course we were on our best behavior," she rolls her eyes again. "Any surprise visits like today, well," she says and shrugs. "No wonder our company's going down the toilet."

He raises his eyebrows. "Janice, out of all the timecards here, how many employees are actually on the job?"

"Look around and count for yourself," she waves at the door, "see you in a few minutes."

And to his dismay, it takes about that long to actually find less than ten percent of the staff actually working, and it was still morning. Jeez, this is worse than a state job, he thinks, heading back to the Human Resources office. "Ha, ha," he says.

No wonder Ramirez and the others are working for the CIA, if the regular job sucked that much. Not even Holstein was around, since he was also listed as on CIA payroll, surprise, surprise. He's surprised the factory's still running, since it's practically a front, period. "So who's running the place now that Roberts and Ramirez are gone?"

She shrugs. "No idea," she says. "But we've all got at least one or two other jobs, so it's no big."

Good night, he groans inwardly, as he says outwardly, "Good to know. Thanks." She gives him an ironic smile, and he leaves, then calls the Gunmen. "Guys, the payroll folks are gone."

"That's not the only thing," Frohike says, his voice masked. "The links we had to the CIA are nonexistent now. Langly's trying other backdoors, but those bastards are erasing everything. Don't worry, we've got backup," he says quickly, "but since it's not linked to anything concrete, we might as well be linked to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy."

"Great," Doggett sighs, "if they're cleaning up, that means they're done. And with no definite suspects, we might as well be chasing down Santa and the Tooth Fairy."

"But you've got evidence," Byers says, "the bodies and the files, correct?"

Doggett sighs. "The files only point to the twenty employees being bought out, but no specifics on the source," he says, "and I'm sure if you trace the accounts, it could point to anything between the cops, the mafia, and everyone in between."

"He's right on that," Langly's voice is heard in the background. "It's like they're all dummy accounts. Dammit, we've been screwed!"

"And they're getting away with it," Doggett says dully. "Without any real suspects or probable cause, it's like these people magically got killed." He sighs, hating this.

He thought once he left the force to join the FBI, he'd get more information, more hard evidence to nail the bad guys, but it's the same game, just with bigger stakes. Instead of scared neighbors, blasé passersby and self-interested pushers and pimps, it's scared families, blasé company workers, and self-interested government agencies. And now he knows how Mulder and Scully felt like, whenever they came to a dead end because of higher-ups within and without their own agency. "This sucks."

"Yeah, sorry, man," Frohike says before hanging up.


"Please, tell me Scully found something good," Doggett says when he sees Reyes at the Ramirez home.

She shakes her head. "There's definite evidence that they were shot and killed by two people, judging by the direction of the wounds, but aside from that, the killers were very careful to leave no trace behind. There were no surveillance cameras to record their images, there's no telling whether it was a man or woman who did it, no bullets left behind to narrow down the caliber, although Scully's leaning towards a high caliber hand gun, and no clue as to where they're from."

"It's like we're chasing ghosts," Doggett grumbles, "or as Frohike put it, Santa and the Tooth Fairy."

"Even ghosts have a history." Reyes smiles, but it's a pessimistic one, "and I'm sure even Santa and the Tooth Fairy would've left more evidence behind."

"Probably," Doggett mutters. "And the guys gave me more bad news: their links and online information disappeared."

"What?" Reyes' eyebrows nearly reach the top of her head. "You're kidding, right?"

He shakes his head. "They copied the info, of course, but without actual links tying them to the CIA, they might as well be writing a tabloid story."

"Dammit!" Reyes explodes. "We won't let them get away with this!"

He gives her a look, sympathetic, but weary. "If we don't have any specific names or real people tied down, they will get away with this." As her eyes narrow and her arms cross, he goes on, "Look, we're gonna hold on to the bodies, okay? And the files, what we've got. It ain't much, but it's something, and when one of them slips up, which I'm sure they will sooner or later, we're gonna nail those bastards." Then he looks up at the ceiling. "In the meantime, we're gonna have to tell Mrs. Ramirez the bad news."

Reyes leans heavily against the kitchen counter. "Fine," she says, "but this sucks."

"Big time," he agrees, then takes her elbow and leads her upstairs to talk with the widow.


Less than a week later, Uncle Fitch's Fun Factory is closed down, what little of its assets left have been liquidated, and its workers scattered, most of whom left the same day Doggett broke open Ramirez' safe. The bodies are still in Quantico's morgue, and the retrieved files, along with copies of the information the Lone Gunmen gathered, are in a secure location.

In spite of all this, Doggett and Reyes have more questions and not enough answers. Did Roberts somehow get too close to the truth, or scare one more person he shouldn't have? Why was the new Senator Salvatore killed, did she know too much, or did she have another connection? And why did they take Ramirez out, was he too much of a loose end? And why was the factory riddled with so many double-agents? And who exactly killed Roberts, both Salvatores, and Ramirez, anyways?

"Well, you wanted a case," Reyes says diplomatically, sipping her rum and Coke.

"Yeah, next time I'll specify that I also wanted to take down some bad guys," Doggett grumbles before swallowing a large gulp of Jack Daniels, his fourth for the night. "Preferably with my boot up their asses."

She laughs. "Since when do you wear boots, John?"

He pouts over his drink. "Since those CIA pricks practically got away with murder, that's what," he says. "I don't care if they want to kill Castro or cure cancer, they can kiss my ass."

"Good to know." She shakes her head, then takes another sip of her drink. "Make sure to wear Dr. Scholl's so you don't develop weird foot problems. And I'm sure it wasn't the entire CIA behind this, just a small, clandestine part of it. The president probably doesn't even know about it."

"The president don't know a lot of things," he retorts. "Mon, I do believe you're sloshed, if you're thinking so pragmactac... pragmeg... straight," he finishes, trying to ignore his tongue tripping.

She laughs at him, slapping him on the shoulder. "I think you, are, too," she giggles, "but you've had more to drink than I did."

He makes a face. "I don't like drinks with umbrellas," he growls.

"But they're so cute," she says, and sticks the tiny pink umbrella behind her ear.

Doggett snorts, pulling it out. "And you're silly," he says, a fond, if drunk, grin on his face.

She leans over and kisses him. "So are you," she says, "but I still love you."

"Love ya, too," he murmurs, then pulls her in for a longer kiss.

The kiss doesn't stop there, and they kiss again, and again, their hands going lower and lower, until she pulls away. "John, I don't think they'll let us make out at the bar," she says breathlessly.

The bartender nods wearily. "This goes on your tab," he mumbles as they stagger towards the elevator.

They make it to their room, stumbling more than a few times, before landing face-first on the bed. Reyes is too wiped and drunk to really do anything other than snore, and Doggett has enough presence of mind to set the alarm so they can catch their red-eye flight out of the bright hellhole known as Florida. The last words he mumbles before sleep takes him is, "Stupid CIA."


Chapter One Hundred and Nineteen



Mulder and Scully's Home
August 17th, 2002

Since no one knows for sure which date is Addy's actual birth date, Missy and Krycek decide to celebrate her birthday as the seventeenth of August based on Scully's recall that the girl seemed to be a few days younger than Christopher when Fowley showed up with her shortly after her birth. This is also the date that they decide to introduce Addy to most of her cousins, during a party in honor of Addy and Christopher's third birthdays.

"We're all going to sit very quietly when Aunt Missy gets here," Scully reminds her children after the living room has been decorated.

Scully looks up at the balloons and resists the urge to sigh. Although she doesn't really mind providing the locale when it comes to joint birthday parties, she wishes that her sister and brother-in-law might eventually volunteer to do some of the decorating. She doesn't intend to hold her breath, however. Her gentle suggestion recently that Ryan be weaned off his bottle was met with hostility, so she doesn't think that any other "you should" suggestions will go any better.

"Because Addy is scared of people," David announces to show that he, at least, has been paying some attention to their mother.

"That's right," Scully agrees. "We're not going to run around shouting, because that might overwhelm her."

"She's gonna be normal someday, though, right Mommy?" Sammy asks.

Scully has to force herself not to frown. According to Krycek, Addy's therapy sessions have not been going as well as could be hoped. Though Addy is generally docile, and tries to please adults, she melts down during a third of her meetings with her therapist. It had also been firmly suggested that Addy not start preschool with Christopher in September.

"It's going to take her a while to learn to trust people, Sammy," Scully says at last. Her son looks satisfied by this bit of misdirection.

The kids practically wriggle in anticipation when there's a knock on the door, but Mulder shoots them a warning look and they settle back down. When he opens the door he finds Missy, Emily, and Ryan waiting for him. "Hey, come on in."

"Alex will be up in a second," Missy says with a strained smile. Neither Scully nor Mulder ask her how getting Addy into the car for the visit went. Before doing anything else, she deposits Ryan in William's playpen, and the two babies babble happily to each other, unaware that they're being kept out of the way.

A few seconds later Krycek walks through the door with Addy in his arms. The little girl isn't crying, but she hides her face against her father's shoulder. "Addy, these are some of your cousins," Krycek tells her softly as he puts her on her feet.

"Hi, Addy," David says gravely as his cousin stares at him and his siblings.

"Addy, say hi," Missy encourages.

Instead of saying anything, the little girl gives the other kids a brief wave before staring at her feet.

"Well, I guess that's something," Missy says and sighs. "Is Mom here yet?"

"No. She called to say that she's running a little late," Mulder tells her.

"Missy, do you mind coming up stairs with me? I have their presents up in our room." Scully looks down at her large belly. "I think I could use some help fetching and carrying. The guys can keep things calm down here. Right, dear?" she asks, turning to look at her husband.

"Of course, darling," Mulder retorts in as sickly sweet a tone. "Alex and I will keep everything on the level."

Missy gives an unladylike snort of disbelief as she follows her sister up stairs.


The kids are calm and seemed mindful of their young cousin's nervousness, until Maggie Scully arrives. Then disaster strikes. Before anyone can quite react two streaks of fur catapult themselves out the front door, past a confused Maggie. "What?"

"The kitties!" Sammy shouts, before launching himself out the front door as well.

Within mere seconds the majority of the children have followed Sammy's lead. "Hey wait a minute!" Krycek cries after them, but it's useless. Not even one of them turns around. So he runs outside too, hoping to keep everyone, feline or child, away from the road.

Mulder and Maggie exchange a bewildered look, as if asking each other if that really happened. "Fox, they're not indoor-outdoor cats are they? I mean, you always keep them in, don't you?"

"Unfortunately." Mulder turns and grab something off a shelf. "Cat treats. Maybe we can lure them back with these."

Maggie takes one of the cans of treats from Mulder's hand, and the two of them go outside to help look for the escapees.

In the confusion, nobody notices that not everyone went outside to look for the cats.


"What's going on down here?" Scully demands to know as she and Missy return to the living room with a stack of gifts. At first there's no one there to answer, but then the front door is flung open, and two grim men gripping flailing felines make their way inside, followed by of virtual parade of children.

"Mommy!" Jared exclaims when he sees his mother. "Grandma Maggie let the kitties out."

His oldest sister gives him a baleful look. "She didn't do it on purpose. They just ran out when they saw the door open."

Maggie doesn't say anything, but she shoots Page a grateful look.

"Has anyone seen Addy?" Missy asks, looking worried. "She went outside without telling anyone last week..."

A quick headcount reveals that not one but two members of the family are missing.

Mulder and Krycek exchange a look. They know they're in for now. "I guess we better split up and look for them," Mulder suggests.

"Not you kids," Maggie says firmly to her grandchildren. "You sit here with me, and let everyone else look."


It's a big house, Scully reminds herself. Odds are they did not in fact go outside, no matter what Missy thinks. Even so, she decides that she'll look for them on her way to the back door, and hopefully they'll be found before anyone needs to go outside. She stops when she realizes that she can hear someone talking in the kitchen. Trying not to make any noise, she follows the voice.

"Don't be sad, Cousin Addy. It's our birthday time. We're gonna get stuff."

When Scully looks around the corner, she sees Christopher on his hands and knees, with his head poked into the pantry. She can just barely make out her niece's form stuffed under the bottom shelf.

"We get presents!" Christopher adds.

"Yeah?" a small voice asks, sounding curious.

Christopher backs up and sits down, and to Scully's surprise, Addy scoots forward until she's sitting in front of the pantry instead of in it. Her son's blond head is just inches from his equally blonde cousin's. "Yup, cause we're three now."

"We are?"

"This many." He holds up three fingers to show her.

Addy stares at him, then holds up three fingers of her own.

"Just like that!" Christopher enthuses.

His cousin gives him a wobbly smile.

"And cake," Christopher says, climbing to his feet. "We haft to share, but it's really for us."

"What's cake?"

His blue eyes widen in shock. "It's yummy! Come on, you'll like it." He holds out a small hand, and to Scully's shock, Addy takes it.

"Hey," Scully says softly, not wanting to scare Addy.

"Can we open presents soon?" Christopher asks as soon as he notices her.

"Definitely."

To her amazement, Addy lets Christopher lead her back to the other room without pulling away.


"So, you got two," Missy comments to her sister a few minutes later. Both of the cousins are enthusiastically opening gifts.

"Two what?"

Two quiet, introspective kids who are kind to others," Missy explains. "April and Christopher are just like you and Charlie were as kids."

"You think so?"

"Absolutely. Every family needs a few."

"What about only children?"

"Only children tend to turn out neurotic. Just like my darling Alex."

"Hey!"

Missy smirks at her husband. "Just checking to see if you were listening."

"Well, I was."

Pitching his voice low, Mulder says, "let it go, Man. If you don't, they might remember we screwed up."

Krycek nods almost imperceptibly. "Who wants cake?"

The loud replies drown out any further banter between the adults.


September 15th, 2002

By the time Saturday rolls around just after the second week of September, Mulder wants to spend the day in bed. They've been taping episodes of Jose Chung's The Truth is Out There on a fairly brutal schedule, trying to get as many episodes in the can as possible before Scully leaves for her maternity leave. The fact that twins often arrive early, even under better circumstances than the end of Scully's pregnancy with David and Jared, has everyone keyed up. Or, it has Wayne frantic and he's gotten everyone on the set keyed up. So after three weeks like that, Mulder is exhausted.

But a household with three adults, seven children, and a pair of cats goes through a lot of food, so Mulder finds himself preparing bring everyone, except Michelle who is off for the day, to the grocery store. Everyone else is dressed and putting on shoes when Mulder finds himself being met in the hallway by his wife.

"Here, Mulder." Scully hands him a sheaf of paper.

"What's this?"

"The grocery lists. I've written everything we need by where they are in the store."

"I take it that you're not coming with us, then?" Mulder asks, trying not to allow his annoyance to show. It wasn't that he minded bringing the kids himself, he just wished that he'd known sooner that she wasn't going to be coming to help marshal the troops.

"I need to do laundry. Nothing I have that's clean keeps me from looking like I swallowed a Buick."

Considering that the Webelos song has popped into his mind more than once this week, he doesn't even attempt to lie to her and say that it's not true. "Okay, but you take it easy after that. We'll be home in a couple of hours."

"Love you." He leans down so she can kiss him, knowing that he tippy-toe days aren't going to return for a few more weeks.

"Love you too, Scully."

"Everyone out of the house!" Mulder orders before grabbing the double stroller from David and Jared's baby days out of the hall closet.

Without needing to be asked, Sammy hefts William up, and Page leads Christopher towards the car. It only takes Mulder five minutes to get all seven kids and the double stroller into the van, so he drives off feeling moderately proud of himself.


Less than twenty minutes later, Mulder is in the parking lot of the mammoth supermarket that serves the area. He pulls the stroller out of the van and gives the older kids instructions as he settles the two youngest, despite Christopher's loud protests that he's a big boy, into their seats.

"Mom wrote three lists for us. One for Page and David, one for Sammy and Jared, and one for April and me. We're each going to take a carriage and get everything on our lists. Then we're going to meet at the front of the store when we're done. While I check the lists to make sure we didn't forget anything, you can each pick out a candy bar. Do not go wasting time looking for candy before then, because anyone with candy in their cart when I check the lists isn't getting any. Got it?"

"Got it!"

Mulder hands lists over to his two oldest children, and finds himself grateful that they are both reading above their grade levels. Still, he asks, "Is there anything on your list that you can't read?"

Both children study the lists before shaking their heads.

"I can't read any of it!" Jared complains, peering down at the list in Sammy's hand.

David gives his twin a surprised look. "Duh. That's why you and me can't be shopping buddies."

"Oh." Jared looks sheepish.

"All right, move 'em out," Mulder declares, taking the handles of the stroller. "Everything on your list should be in the same part of the store, so I had better not see you running around acting like monkeys."

"Does anyone got bananas on their list?" Sammy asks.

Before Mulder can answer to say that he does, they're accosted by a woman leaving the store. The entire procession grinds to a halt when she blocks the door. "You're Fox Mulder, from that Jose Chung show!"

"I prefer just Mulder, but yes." Mulder gives her an uneasy look, wondering if she'll be the first person to demand an autograph.

"And these are your kids?"

"That's what my wife tells me," he deadpans.

"Huh. I figured that they were just a back-story."

"A back-story?" Mulder asks, puzzled.

"You know, an invented history to make the characters on a show seem more interesting."

"Oh. Nope, they're really ours."

"How about that! My girlfriends are going to be so surprised. And a little disappointed that you're really taken, but..."

"Have a nice day now," Mulder tells her before hurrying the kids out around her.

"Daddy, we're a back story?" April asks after watching her siblings head off in opposite directions. She's barely tall enough to see over the stroller, but she pushes it gamely while Mulder navigates a shopping cart.

"No way. You guys are definitely the important part of mine and Mommy's life."

She doesn't say anything, but her smile is beaming.

"It looks like we need size four Huggies for William. Could you grab them for me?" he asks while reach for a large package of newborn size diapers himself, figuring that it's probably a good idea to stock up before the girls are born.

"Yeah!"


GMC Dealership
September 24th, 2002

"I think it's coming up, Mulder," Byers says, looking anxiously out the window.

Mulder notices that there's a sign twelve feet high that says "GMC" and bites back the urge to ask "Gee, you think?"

It's Scully's fault that Byers has been drafted into Mulder's van-buying expedition. Doggett offered to help, and she rejected the idea based on the fact that he likes NASCAR. And she didn't even give a reason when she flat-out rejected Frohike and Langly's offer of assistance.

This had lead to a tiny argument between the couple. "You know I'm capable of picking out a vehicle on my own," Mulder had insisted once they'd left the gunmen in another room.

She'd just given him a hard stare.

"I know what you're thinking, but I can so be practical," he found himself whining.

"Yes, you're capable of it, but in practice? I want someone with you who'll be worried about the same sort of things that I am. That's why I want Byers to go with you."

"If you're so worried about what I'll come home with, why don't you come with me?"

She tilted her head. "Is this when I'm supposed to whine about being eight months pregnant with your twins, and how that doesn't make me anxious to spend a few hours at a car dealership? And how if you really loved me, you'd do this one little thing for me?"

"I guess so."

"Can we just say that I did, and that you gave in?"

For a change, that had him rolling his eyes.

"Are you sure you don't mind doing this?" Mulder asks Byers as he pulls into the dealership parking lot. "I could drop you off at the mall and come back for you, if you want."

"I told Dana I'd help you," Byers insists.

"Okay, don't say I didn't offer to spare you the boredom."

They're barely gotten out of the mini-van when a man wearing a suit and a bright smile approaches them. "Hi, I'm Steve. What can I help you with?"

"I called earlier and was told that you have some of the 2003 GMC Savnna passenger vans in stock," Mulder tells him.

"Sure, our 2003 stock just arrived a few days ago. How many passengers are you talking about? There are a few choices based on how many you need to seat."

"Twelve," Byers tells the salesman.

"Right. Is this a work vehicle, or a personal one?"

"Personal," Mulder informs him. "I hope all the seats have anchors for car seats and booster seats."

"Lots of kids, huh?"

"Soon to be nine." Mulder smiles faintly.

"Wow." The salesman looks impressed. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but what adoption agency are you using?"

"Adoption agency?"

"Well, you know. I have this cousin, and he and his significant other haven't had much luck finding an agency that's open-minded."

"I'm sorry to hear that, but none of my kids are adopted, so I can't really help you."

"Oh."

"His wife is about to have twins. She asked me to come along so he doesn't come home with something stupid," Byers says quickly, and Mulder can't figure out why he thinks it's relevant to the conversation.

At least not until the salesman turns red. "Oh, your wife."

Byers shrugs, and Mulder decides to let the salesman stew. ::Maybe thinking he's insulted us will make him give me a better deal.:: Mulder thinks to himself.

"She and I are hoping to use the minivan as a trade-in," Mulder tells the man at last.

"Yeah, let me see what I can get for it for you," the salesman mumbles before walking quickly to the minivan to look it over.

Mulder turns to Byers. "I get the feeling this is happened to you before."

"I think I strike some men as too fastidious to be straight," Byers says without any ire.

"So...do they usually think you're with Frohike or Langly?"

Byers just shakes his head.

In the end the salesman's error works in their favor, because he's so embarrassed that he rushes them through a normally lengthy process, and Mulder walks away with a good deal to boot.


September 28th, 2002

A rainy weekend in September finds Reyes preparing to chaperone a trip to the museum. While she waits for Hannah to find her raincoat, she takes the time to glare at the girl's father.

"John, tell me again why I'm taking three little girls to the Museum on my day off."

"I told you, we owe Scully for looking after the kids when we were in Florida. She suggested this because we'd only have two extra kids to look after, and she's not up to wandering a museum herself." He doesn't mention that Mulder said silly or not, he doesn't ever want his wife there again while pregnant.

"She looked after your kids," Reyes points out. "I don't have any kids."

"Come on, Mon. It's a doll exhibit."

"Have you seen any dolls around my apartment?"

"No, but you used to like dolls, didn't you?" Doggett asks. "Most girls do."

She stares at him.

"I'll have to think of something to pay you back?" He sounds uncertain.

"Yes, yes you will."

"Oh crap," Doggett mutters. "If you really don't want to go, I'll take them."

"No, I'll do it. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with as pay back."

Doggett gulps.


Tamblyn Museum of Natural History
Afternoon

Though she moaned about the museum trip, Reyes does find some of the exhibit interesting.

Their guide, a cheerful woman in her early thirties, keeps up a lively stream of facts about the dolls on display. "As I said earlier, there have been dolls for almost as long as there have been little girls." She smiles at all eight little girls and their chaperons. "Sadly, a lot of our historical knowledge of the history of dolls comes from dolls found in the tombs of children."

One girl whispers a hasty question to her mother, and from the aghast look on the child's face, Reyes believes that the question was probably "what are tombs?"

"In Egypt, dolls were made of wood, clay, ivory or even wax. As long ago as two thousand, six hundred years ago, dolls were already being made with movable limbs and dressed in clothes. I bet a lot of you like to dress your dolls up, too."

The guide's question makes all the girls grin at her.

"How many of you have dolls that are babies?" she asks, and every girl raises her hand. A few of the adults do too, and only one of them looks embarrassed to admit that she still has dolls of her own.

"It might surprise you, but the sort of dolls that people bought, rather than made, were almost all meant to look like adults until a French manufacturer created a doll called 'bebe' in the 1850s."

The guide shows them several antique dolls, including one that had been on the Titanic. It had been one of the few belongings anyone had been allowed to take with them the night the ship sank.

"This is a nice museum," Page remarks later to April and Hannah. "I'm glad I was born in this museum instead of some other one."

"People aren't born in museums," another child, probably an older sister of one of the doll fanciers rejoining her family, who has overheard tells her. "People are born in hospitals."

"Most people, but not me," Page tells the snotty girl. "I was born here."

"That's ridiculous," the older girl snaps. "You can't possibly have been born in this museum."

Reyes is still trying to decide if she should intervene in the argument, but she hears another adult speak up instead.

"Sweetheart, did you just have a birthday?" the guide asks, looking interested.

"Yup. I'm eight," Page replies.

"And your mother, she has red hair like your sister, here?" the guide asks, making April hide behind her sister.

"Uh huh."

The guide smiles at Reyes. "I guess you're babysitting, because this one-" she points at Hannah, "-is the only one who looks like you."

"Um, yeah." Reyes is a bit nonplused by idea that Hannah looks enough like her to be mistaken for her own. Doggett mentioned that Barbra's undyed hair color is close to hers and Hannah's, however.

"We were talking about your birth just a few days ago," the guide addresses Page again. "You're the only person who has ever been born in this museum."

The bratty child looks shocked, and so does her mother.

Looking at Reyes again, the chatty woman asks, "What have her parents been up to since she was born?"

"Well, they worked at the FBI for quite a while, and now are on a TV show. Other than that, they've added to their family, and most of Page's brothers and her sister were born in the hospital."

"Most of?"

"Me and April have five brothers," Page explains to the instantly wide-eyed woman. "One's between us, and four are littler than April."

"And Mommy's going to have twin girls soon," April adds. "So it'll be more fair."

"That's not why," Page tells her sister. "They just wanted another baby."

"No sir, Mommy knew that two girls and five boys wasn't fair," April insists.

"I've just got two older brothers," Hannah tells no one in particular.

"Come on, girls. It's time for lunch," Reyes tells them before steering the young trio towards the museum's cafe.

~ http://ctdollartists.com/history.htm


October 19th, 2002

"Fine."

Mulder looks over at his wife who is angrily hanging up their phone. "What's up, Scully?"

"Doctor Hart is a jerk," Scully growls.

"Ah," Mulder says carefully. His wife's mood went decidedly south the night before when they went to bed on her due date. "In what way, in particular?"

"He says that I was very sure that the date you and I 'had relations' and as a doctor I should know that the actual fertilization can take place a few days later, so I probably shouldn't expect the twins too much before the 25th of this month, despite already being past the due date he gave me," Scully says irritably.

Mulder already made the mistake of pointing this out to her the night before, so he doesn't mention that he still thinks it's reasonable now. "Yeah."

"And he says that given that, he won't consider inducing labor until the third. The third, Mulder! That's more than two weeks from now!"

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," he murmurs.

She sighs. "I know that I'm being grumpy, but I'm just ready for this to be over with."

"It doesn't sound like a picnic, having two squirmy babies in you."

"No, Mulder, it's not that. Well, not just that. I'm just ready for them to be here. Aren't you?"

"Sure. We've redecorated the nursery, moved William to his new room, bought everything we need. I'd say that we're ready."

Moving William went easier than they expected. They'd been prepared to put him in with Christopher if he'd been afraid of being alone farther from Mom and Dad, but he seems to like the new room well enough. For the time being only David and Jared insist that they need someone else in the room to sleep.

Scully smiles at him. "That wasn't the ready I was thinking about, but I guess we're prepared too."

"I know what you mean," Mulder tells her after a minute. "I can't wait to meet them, either."

When she looks up at him, he sees a little bit of fear in her eyes. "It's going to be okay, isn't it? We haven't had a girl since..." She trails off.

"Losing Angel was terrible, but it's not going to happen again just because we're having girls," Mulder tells her. "They're going to both be fine." Most of the time they cope with their loss without a lot of trouble, but there have been more reasons to think about that baby than Mulder could ever have predicted.

"Do you promise?" she asks.

"Yeah," Mulder says just after silently praying that he's telling the truth. "Do you want a massage before the kids get home?"

"Okay." She looks more cheerful. "But can I have another one in about two months?"

"Only if you plan to return the favor in two months," he tells her with a grin. "We'll have to go shopping before then."

"Deal."


Mulder-Scully Home
October 31st, 2002

By the time that Halloween rolls around, it seems to Mulder that Scully has accepted that none of the home remedies they've tried have jump-started her labor. Occasionally he hears her mutter something about "the third" to herself, which he takes as his cue to find a way to distract her.

One of those times is Halloween night. "Hey Scully, is my cape on straight?"

"Hmm?" She looks up at him. "Oh, sure. Your makeup looks good too. What time did you say that you're going to meet Krycek?"

"Five." He looks at his watch and discovers that it's almost four thirty. "Are you sure you want me to go?"

"The kids have been looking forward to this haunted corn maze thing for weeks. You have to take them."

"But what if-"

She reaches up and cups his chin with her hand. "The third is still three days away, Mulder. Seventy-two long hours from now. Go on. You're going to be late."

"All right, if you're sure." He stoops to kiss her. They're soon interrupted by a witch, a daisy, Fonzie, two pirates, and a panda bear. Only the panda holds out his arms to be picked up.

Before they leave, Sammy gives his mother a pleading look, "Mom, why can't Will come too?"

"He's too little, Sammy. He won't even understand what's going on."

"But-"

"When you all come home with Daddy, William's going to go trick or treating with you. He'll like being able to say 'trick or treat' more than going to a scary maze."

"He's not going to be lonely?"

"With me and Michelle to keep him company?" Scully asks. "Don't feel guilty, Sammy. Just go have fun."

"Okay!"


Krycek and Emily are standing by their car when Mulder parks the van. After releasing Christopher and watching the rest of the kids pour out of the vehicle, he walks over to his brother-in-law.

"You're late," Krycek announces.

"I'm aware," Mulder retorts. "You only had the one kid to get into the car. I had six. One of them had a hard time leaving."

"Likely excuse."

"No, I'm serious. You've actually adverted a crisis by not bringing Ryan with you."

"Why would I bring Ryan? He's a year and a half old."

"Ask Sammy. I don't know why got so upset that we didn't bring William." Mulder shrugs. "I almost had to drag him out the door by the leather jacket the gunmen gave him for his birthday."

"Your friends are strange, strange men."

"At least none of my friends have ever been on America's Most Wanted."

"Yet."

"Dad!" Mulder looks down when Page tugs on his coat. "Do Emily, Sammy and I have to stay with you?"

"What's wrong, we're not cool enough for you?"

"Nobody's parents are cool," Page tells him in a tone that suggests that he really ought to know that.

"Gee, thanks."

"Well?"

"What do you think, Alex?"

"I think that if they promise to stay together, they don't need to stay with us."

"All right," Mulder consents.

The three kids cheer and run up to the line for people who already have their tickets.

"Oh crap!" Mulder hisses under his breath.

"What?"

"I forgot to charge my cell phone."

"Guess you better charge it when you get home."

"Yeah..."

"Daddy, they're gonna get way ahead of us!" David complains, and this gets Mulder and Krycek moving towards the entrance.


David turns out to be correct, because they don't see the older kids when they enter the maze. Thick walls of corn stalks make up the walls to block their sight, and it's already gloomy inside the maze despite being daylight still. He's glad that they're taking the kids trick or treating afterwards, because they were warned that the maze is designed to scare an older crowd after dark.

"I don't see much corn," Jared says as he looks down the first long corridor of the maze.

"Yeah, it's not yellow," April agrees.

Mulder looks down at them, and realizes that they haven't quite grasped the concept of a corn maze. "Here, look." He puts his hands on the wall. "These are corn stalks. Corn grows on these. That's what a corn maze is made of."

"Yeah, and if you look up high, you can see some ears of corn," Krycek points out.

"Oh!" Four pairs of eyes widen when they finally understand what's going on.

"And there's a pumpkin," April tells her brothers as she points. The pumpkin has been carved into a snarling face. "Actually, it's a jack o lantern 'cause it's carved. Right?"

"Right."

"And there's a ghost!" Krycek yells, and the kids whip around. "Oh no, you missed it."

"There was no ghost," Jared scoffs, then shrieks when someone in a ghost costume taps him on the shoulder before darting off.

Ten minutes and a few more mild scares into the maze, Mulder and Krycek disagree about where to turn next.

"We should go left," Krycek insists.

"No, right makes more sense."

"Then you go right, and I'll go left," Krycek tells him. "Who wants to come with Uncle Alex to prove your dad wrong?"

"We do!" David and Jared cry. When he notices his father, Jared shrugs. "He was right about the ghost, Daddy."

"Go on." Mulder smiles.

"We're gonna beat them," April declares.

"Yeah, we will. But we're not going to rub it in, right?"

Christopher and April giggle, but they nod their agreement.


"Mulder?"

Looking around, Mulder tries to pinpoint where the voice is coming from. He's pretty sure that it's Krycek calling him, but Krycek isn't within sight.

"Mulder!"

"What?" Mulder calls back.

"Where are you?"

"By the pumpkins."

For a moment he doesn't hear anything, but then he hears Krycek's shoes. Krycek soon appears with the twins on his heels. He looks worried.

"What?"

"Scully called me, after figuring out that your phone is dead. She's in labor."

"Oh my God, we need to find the kids so I can go home-"

Krycek shakes his head. "What you need to do is to trade keys with me, take my car and Christopher to your house, and bring your wife to the hospital."

"What about the other kids?"

"There's no reason the rest of them can't finish the maze."

"What about trick or treating?" April asks, looking worried.

"When I get you home, Michelle said that she's going to take you. Your daddy is going to give her a nice bonus for that," Krycek says, turning to smirk at Mulder as he does.

"And it will be worth every penny."

"You're sure you don't mind trading cars and rounding everyone up?"

"I mind. I'll also have something to hold over you, though, so it works out."

"Thanks. I think."

Mulder tells April and the twins to behave before picking up Christopher and rushing over to one of the actors to request an emergency exit. The Mummy agrees to guide him out, and he's soon on the way home.


When Mulder gets home, he sees that Scully doesn't look nearly as well as when he left her. Sweat has broken out on her forehead, and she looks like she's in a lot of pain.

"Oh, thank God you're home," Scully gasps, doubling over. "Labor hit me out of nowhere."

"We'd better get going, then," Mulder mutters, and he's surprised when she shakes her head.

"I don't think we're going to have enough time to drive to the hospital. I had Michelle call for an ambulance as soon as she saw you pull into the driveway."

"You think time's that short?" He gives her a shocked look.

"I've done this before, I think I know."

"Damn."

Flashing lights flood the front windows, and Mulder helps Scully out the door. Michelle follows them with William in her arms. "I'll bring the kids out just as soon as Alex gets here. I'll check their candy too."

"Thanks, Michelle," Mulder says before couching down to address Christopher. "Be a good boy for Michelle."

"No!" Christopher surprises everyone by shrieking. He darts towards the ambulance, surprising the paramedics who are helping Scully into the back. "Mommy! Mommy, don't leave me!"

Mulder catches up to him within seconds. "Christopher, you have to stay here."

"I wanna go, I wanna go!" Tears roll down his chubby cheeks.

One of the paramedics looks down at the wailing three-year-old before picking him up under the armpits. "Listen. You need to sit with your daddy, the Count, and not touch anything. Understand?"

Mulder doesn't understand "the Count" crack at first, until he notices that he and Christopher are still wearing their costumes. ::too late to do anything about that now.:: he thinks to himself with a repressed sigh.

"Uh huh," Christopher tells the paramedic quickly. "I'll be good."

The paramedic looks at Mulder next. "Well, go on and get in, Dracula. I'll hand him to you."

"I'm sorry about this," Mulder says quickly.

"This isn't the first kid we've had refuse to be left behind. You can call someone to meet you at the hospital to take him when we get there."

Once inside the rig, Christopher is subdued and sits silently on Mulder's lap. He's still crying a little, and Mulder wonders what prompted his hysterics in the first place.

At least until Scully says, "It's okay, Christopher. It's not like that movie. I'm going to be fine, baby."

"Movie?" the paramedic in the back asks before Mulder gets the chance to.

"We watched a stupid movie yesterday where someone who d-i-e-d was taken away in an ambulance."

"That explains a lot. No wonder the little guy freaked out when he saw us putting you in here."

"I know," Scully agrees before another contraction hits her.

The paramedic gives her a look that Mulder finds hard to read. "Have all your contractions been this bad?"

"Yes," Scully says through gritted teeth. "It's like I just skipped to the bad ones."

The paramedic doesn't say anything, but Mulder can see that he looks worried.


Trick or treating has started in earnest, and the streets are clogged with traffic that has both slowed to watch for children, and to let kids out to spare them from walking. Mulder fumes about the laziness of the latter as they make their way at a crawl despite the siren and flashers.

They're still about a mile from the hospital when the paramedic who has just finished examining Scully tells his partner to pull over.

"What's going on?" Mulder worries as they pull to the side of the road.

Christopher, who has bent over to see past his father looks up at him with an astonished look on his small face. "Daddy, there's a little head!"

"We're not going to make it to the hospital before the first one is born," the paramedic announces calmly as he opens the back door so he can get out and get into a better position to deliver the baby.

Christopher scoots off the bench to get a better view.

"Christopher, come here," Mulder demands, but Scully objects.

"Let him watch, Mulder. Otherwise he might think women always have another head down there."

"Good point." Mulder and Christopher go to stand out of the way but close enough to see what's going on.

After a few more contractions the paramedic catches a small slimy baby in both hands. One who is quick to announce her fury at the situation. "It's a girl."

"A loud one," Christopher pronounces.

After looking the baby and Scully over the paramedics bundle the little girl up and place her in Scully's arms. "It seems like we might be able to make it to the hospital before you deliver the second twin."

"Then let's go," Scully decides instantly, and they swing the back door close and head back onto the road.


Though he pouts, a nurse looks after Christopher while Mulder and Scully head to the delivery room. He declares that it's not fair that he doesn't get to see the other baby come out, but no one pays attention to his demands this time.

In the delivery room Mulder finds his attention torn between trying to listen to what the doctors are saying about "twin A" and the progression of Scully's labor with their other baby.

Within twenty minutes of arriving at the hospital, Mulder and Scully's last child has arrived. "It's another girl!" the doctor announces.

"Since they're identical twins, she'd have to be," Mulder replies, and the doctor takes the comment in good humor.

"Both babies look great. Apgars are both 9s," he tells the couple a few minutes later.

"That's wonderful." Scully holds out her arms for their new daughters, and nurses place one in each of her arms.

"They're beautiful," Mulder tells her, bending down to kiss her forehead. "God, they're so beautiful."

"So, Mom," the doctor says, "I hear that your track record isn't too good. Nine kids, and twin A here is the fourth one who didn't make it to the hospital?"

"I've had a few impatient kids," Scully tells him with a tired smile.

"I guess so." He laughs. "You and both girls look good, but as you know, we're going to be admitting you all now."

"Standard procedure," Mulder acknowledges.

"Do you have names picked out?"

"Sure. Being several days overdue gave us time to hash out the details," Scully says. "Baby A, little Miss Impatient, is Brianna. Baby B is Zoe."

"Lovely names," the doctor says before looking towards the door where an orderly is waiting. "Looks like your ride is here."

As Scully and the babies are transported to their room, Mulder follows behind. He's silently thanking the universe for allowing their healthy new daughters to arrive safely. ::Thank you for not making me a liar when I promised her everything would be okay.::


Once Scully and their new additions are tucked into their new room, Mulder wanders out to make the phone calls to the family. He finds himself surprised by the first number he dials. "Hi, Mom, it's Fox. Dana just had the babies, but you're not going to believe what happened..."

Mulder listens to his mother's well-wishing for a moment before telling her that he loves her and hanging up so he can call Maggie next. By the time he gets around to calling Missy his kids have already been driven home by their uncle, and are currently out trick or treating with Michelle.

Last of all, Mulder goes to retrieve his son from the nurse. "I hope he wasn't too much trouble."

"No, he's a doll." The nurse beams. "He's been telling me what all the equipment at the nurse's station is called. You don't meet too many three-year-olds who watch e.r. but he asked me if Doug and Carol work here."

"e.r.?" Mulder looks at his little boy. "Have you and Mommy been watching TV before preschool?"

Christopher nods enthusiastically. "Lots."

"Oh boy, and she said for years that TV was bad for kids." Mulder laughs to himself. "Come on, kiddo, let's go meet the sister you didn't see born."

"The other baby is here?" Christopher looks surprised.

"She sure is."


Chapter One Hundred and Twenty



Scully's Hospital Room
November 1st, 2002

"This never gets old, does it?" Mulder asks his wife as he looks up from the newborn in his arms. He's perched on her bed, trying not to crowd Scully and the other baby. Since Mulder had already brought the kids to see her earlier in the day, it's now just the four of them.

"What doesn't?" Scully sounds curious.

"The wonder that we feel when we hold a brand new baby. It's holding a world full of possibilities."

"That's pretty deep for someone who said he only got three hours sleep," Scully says, but there's only a gentle barb in her voice.

"I did only get three hours sleep. William missed you last night. It's true about them being filled with possibility, though," Mulder insists. "Zoe here might someday find a cure for cancer, and maybe Brianna will be the country's first dictator-"

"They're less than a day old, and you've already decided which one is the evil twin?" Scully doesn't sound quite as amused.

"Of course not. It's just that a baby is filled with infinite possibility, both good things and bad. That's what's so scary about parenting, we can't forget that without guidance they have a capacity just as great for terrible things as beautiful ones."

"True."

"And with nine, we have a lot of destiny to be shaping," Mulder concludes. "A lot more than most people."

"I hate to sound conceited, but I think you and I are a lot more capable than most people, Mulder."

"I know, but even we have limits." He's quiet a moment, and then fishes in his pocket for something with the hand that isn't cradling Zoe's head. "Here."

"What is it?" Scully asks as she reaches for the card he's holding out to her.

"An appointment card from my doctor's office. We're 100% sure that we're not having any more kids, right?"

"We're sure," Scully says firmly.

"Then I guess you'll be getting that 40th birthday present I promised you early," Mulder tells her. "I thought...I thought I should have it done sooner than later."

Scully looks amused. "You're worried that one of us might change our minds?"

"Or that we might accidentally on purpose slip up with birth control." When she smirks at him, he gives her his best innocent look. "The subconscious can be a pretty powerful thing."

Scully nods, then reads the card. "Three weeks from today, huh?"

"Yup. Remind me to make sure there are frozen peas in the house then."


Baker Elementary School

The last thing Mulder expects is to be going to a parent-teacher conference during the first semester of school, but Page's teacher had sent home a note yesterday requesting that he or Scully come for a chat as soon as possible. Since Scully isn't home yet the task falls to him. Page assured him that she'd been good, and the note offered no clues as to the subject of the meeting, so Mulder decided not to worry about it until he got there. At least Page didn't see a baby born and explain the process to two classmates like her little brother did.

Of course, he's now pacing the conference room, waiting for the teacher to show up. ::You'd think if you schedule a meeting that drags a parent down here, you could at least show up on time. I'm just glad I'm not working today.:: Mulder distracts himself by looking at the pictures on the wall. He thinks that some of the kids show a good deal of promise as artists.

Eventually the door creaks open, and he turns his head in time to see a short brunette woman enter the room. Her expression is friendly, so he suspects that Page was being sincere about her good behavior. "You must be Mister Mulder," she says politely. "I'm Ms. Smith."

"Nice to meet you." He extends his hand. "Your note didn't say what you wanted to talk to me about. I hope that Page has behaved well in your class."

"She's a doll." Ms Smith smiles warmly, but her the corners of her eyes crease with concern. "I'm a little concerned about her, though. Has Page ever been tested for learning disabilities?"

Mulder feels himself bristling. His daughter is perfect, so how could this woman imply otherwise? Then his more rational side takes over. "No, why?"

"I asked the children to do a short piece of writing for me yesterday, and I was a little concerned by what Page wrote."

::Oh crap. I hope it's nothing about aliens.:: Ms Smith passed him a piece of paper with large childish handwriting.

My name is Page Mulder. I'm eight years old. I like to read books alot. I'm the oldest of 9 kids. Or 9 real soon, anyway. I like to listen to the storys my daddy tells because they're funy and scaree. Sometimes we went with them on cases, but not anymore 'cause they're on TV instead now. I want to be an FBI agant like Mommy and Daddy were when I grow up. My brother Sammy dose too.

Mulder reads it twice and hands it back to her. "Is it the spelling? I didn't spell any better when I was her age-"

"No, he spelling is pretty typical of a child just starting second grade. I was more concerned about the backwards numbers. Writing numbers or letters incorrectly is a sign that a child might have dyslexia. I know it's only one number and that all kids learning to write do it occasionally, but I couldn't find anything in her records."

"But her number wasn't backwards," Mulder protests.

"Well yes, but she wrote nines instead of sixes-"

"She meant to write nines."

"She's barely eight years old, how could she be the oldest of nine children?" She blushes as soon as the words are out of her mouth.

"Page is the oldest of nine children. She has a seven-year-old brother who is also a student in this school, a five and a half year old sister, four-year-old twin brothers, a three-year-old brother, an eighteen-month-old brother, and newborn twin sisters born yesterday who haven't come home from the hospital yet." Mulder could tell that the woman was mentally adding it all up. "I'm sorry if our family size defies your sense of credibility-"

"I'm...It's just...sorry." When she finishes sputtering, she looks like she wants to put her head on the conference table.

"If there's nothing else now that we've cleared that up, I need to get home. My nanny has to be somewhere at five."

Ms Smith looks thrilled that he's leaving. "Um, of course. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding."

Mulder nods curtly. "Perhaps if something like this comes up with another student, instead of jumping to conclusions you could ask the child their siblings names and see how many names the list."

"Good advice," she mumbles as he gets up to leave.


As Mulder is walking towards the school's exit, a door to another classroom swings part way open. A small boy, around four years old, bolts out into the hallway. He notices Mulder just before he bumps into him, and skitters to a stop with a grin. "Hi!"

"Hi yourself." Mulder smiles back, because the kid is cute. Not as cute as his own brood, but almost. The boy has black curls and green eyes, and looks like the type of child you'd see modeling clothing in a JC Penney ad.

After a few seconds, a man appears in the doorway, and Mulder gets the feeling that he's seen the guy before. The look the man gives him is friendly enough, but it's clear that he doesn't recognize Mulder.

"Louie!" the man calls.

::Louie?:: Mulder stares at the boy as he races back to his father. ::It can't be.:: But it would explain why the father looks vaguely familiar.

"Sorry." The man gives Mulder an apologetic look. "He didn't find the discussion I was having with his brother's teacher too interesting and escaped. Hope he didn't bother you."

"No, no, not at all," Mulder mutters, feeling dazed.

"Oh, good." The man takes the boy and leads him back into the classroom.

Shaking his head, Mulder wanders down the hallway. ::I guess I finally got my question about learning to glamour answered.::


November 3rd, 2002

Scully turns around to look at the twins approximately seventeen times on the drive home from the hospital. On the sixteenth time, Mulder looks at her and grins. "They're fine."

"But they're quiet," she says sheepishly. "Shouldn't at least one of them be fussing?"

Mulder shrugs without taking his hands off the steering wheel. "It's the calm before the storm, Scully. Mark my words."

She gives him a slightly tense smile and he stops teasing her. The rest of the drive home is uneventful.

"It's okay, I've got them," Mulder tells his wife as she appears at his side when he reaches into the van to take out their new daughters.

"Are you sure?"

"They barely weighed six pounds each, Scully. I think I can handle it."

"Of course," she says, and he gets the sense that she didn't really want to carry in either of the babies. Instead, she was just trying to be her usual involved self.

With everyone from Page down to Christopher at their various schools, the house is atypically quiet when they open the front door. The distant sound of a radio probably on in Michelle's room is the only indication that anyone is home at all until they hear the slap of William's hard baby shoes on the wood floor.

The small redheaded toddler wobbles into view, with Michelle just a step behind him. William's face breaks into a huge grin when he sees his mother. "Mommy!"

"Hey, buddy!" Mulder says, but his youngest son only has eyes for Scully. At first.

William's unsteady gait slows to a halt when he notices the baby seats hanging from his father's hands. He looks from one tiny girl to the other, seemingly confused. "Baby? Baby?" After a couple seconds his puzzlement seems to overwhelm him completely, and he loses track of his balance, sitting heavily on his diapered behind.

"Now I wish he'd been awake when I brought the kids to see you at the hospital," Mulder says to Scully. Then he sets the baby seats on the floor, and sits on the floor himself. Drawing William onto his lap, he says, "Will, these are your baby sisters."

From the safety of his father's lap, William examines little creatures in front of them. One small hand tentatively reaches out to pat the baby seats. Looking up at his father and mother, Williams says, "Nice."

"I'll take that as a good sign," Scully murmurs. Standing next to her, Michelle nods.

Mulder takes William's hand and helps him point. "This baby is your sister Brianna." Next they point to the other baby. "And this baby is your sister Zoe. They are twins like David and Jared are."

"Oh..."

William jumps when Zoe opens her mouth, and lets out a bleating cry. Mulder hugs him reassuringly. "They do that a lot, William. Don't worry, you'll get used to it."

Scully sighs. "Mulder, you want to carry them upstairs for me? If I don't get them fed soon, I think we will have lot more crying to get used to in a hurry."

"You've got it," he says, standing and passing William to Michelle.


Later That Day

Mulder is annoyed that his wife only gets a couple hours of rest before members of her family show up, but he does his best not to show it. Mostly, he achieves this by staying out of the room. "Look at how precious they are," Missy coos at her new nieces. But she doesn't have that soft look on her face anymore when she looks up at her sister. "Dana, I need to talk to you about Christopher."

"What about him?"

"I talked to Addy's therapist about their birthday party, and he was really interested in what happened."

"Was he?"

"Yeah. He suggested that I talk to you about borrowing Christopher."

"You want to borrow your nephew?" Scully shoots her sister a confused look.

"We were thinking, that if it's okay with you and Fox, that a couple days a week I could come and get Christopher and take him to my house for a few hours before dropping him off at preschool." Missy doesn't look at Scully as she explains. "He thought that Christopher might be the one who'll break her out of her shell."

"That's a lot of responsibility to put on a three-year-old," Scully protests.

"I wasn't thinking that we'd tell him why he'd be coming over my house, Day. If he even asks why, we can tell him it's so he doesn't need to worry about being super quiet while the babies are sleeping during the morning."

Scully looks skeptical. "You seem to be under the impression this house has ever been kept quiet for any napping babies past Page."

"Then the modified truth. Addy needs someone to play with, and he's the same age as her."

"If Mulder doesn't mind, I don't see why not," Scully says at last. "You can explain it to him."

"You want me to explain?"

"Of course. This is your idea, after all."

"Uh, okay."

"Mulder?" Scully calls, and Missy instantly looks alarmed.

"You meant right now?"

"No time like the present," Scully says evenly.

"Yes?" Mulder asks as he steps into the room.

Scully gestures for her sister to speak.

"Um... can Alex and I borrow Christopher a couple of mornings a week?"

"Do you promise to return him in the same condition he was in before you borrowed him?" Mulder asks.

Missy stares at him, obviously at a loss for words.

This makes Mulder laugh. "What exactly is it that you want him for?"

"As kind of a play therapy for Addy."

"Sure. No problem."

"Really?" Missy looks surprised that he agreed so easily.

"It doesn't sound like you're going to be doing psych experiments on him, so I don't see why not."

"Thanks, Fox."

He wrinkles his nose. "Thank me by not calling me Fox."

Missy watches as he walks out of the room, before turning back to her sister. "He didn't really mean that, did he?"

"Oh yes he did. He hates being called Fox."

"And why hasn't he ever said-"

"Mom. He's never been able to bring himself to ask her not to call him Fox, so he figures that if he can't ask her not to, he can't ask any of you not to. So, trying not to be rude to Mom, he grins and bears it from everyone."

"That's so sweet, Dana."

"I know. He can be surprising that way."

"Trying to remember now might be a lost cause for the rest of us, but I can try to teach Ryan and Addy to say 'Uncle Mulder' instead."

"I think he would really like that."


Mid-November 2002

Zoe and Brianna are home from the hospital for two weeks before the household reasonably recovers from the addition of two newborns. Since they're bigger than David and Jared were at birth, they sleep better, but as it is, it's still that long before Mulder or Scully find themselves getting a total of four hours of sleep a night.

It's this lack of sleep, and the fact that unlike Scully Mulder has returned to work, that has Mulder less than pleased to hear somebody knocking on the door early one Saturday morning.

Yawning, Mulder looks his visitor, an unfamiliar blond man, up and down. He's got the chiseled features that grace the front of celebrity rags at the grocery checkout counter. At first Mulder finds himself wondering if this is a friend of Wayne's. "Can I help you?" Mulder asks as he smothers another yawn.

"Um..." The man sticks his hand out. "I'm Scott Hill. Are you Fox Mulder?"

"Yup. That's me," Mulder tells him, wondering if he can say something to make the man leave so he can go back to bed.

"I don't know how to tell you this, but..." The man swallows hard, and his obvious nervousness robs him of his movie star quality. "...I think you might be my wife's brother."

Mulder blinks. "Samantha?"

All at once the tension drains from the man's shoulders. "That's right."

"My sister is dead," Mulder tells him flatly. "I don't appreciate the joke."

Scott's hands flutter up in defense. "I'm not joking! She told me that you probably wouldn't take this well. She didn't even want me to come here and bother you, but I had to."

"Why?" Mulder asks irritably. "Look, I don't want to be rude, but my wife just had twin girls a couple of weeks ago and neither of us are sleeping much. I'd like to get in a nap before they wake up too."

"So you're a father." Scott's expression is an odd mixture of hope and wariness. "Are the twins your first?"

"No. They're numbers eight and nine," Mulder says, though he's not quite sure why he's sharing that information with the man. "My older kids are between the ages of eight and one."

"Are any of them four years old?" Scott asks softly, to Mulder's bewilderment.

"David and Jared, our older set of twins, are four," Mulder says nervously, suddenly wondering if the man might be dangerous.

Scott nods. "Our youngest, Andrew, is four. He's sick. That's why I've come to talk to you, even though your sister didn't want me to."

"Oh." Mulder has a feeling that the other man is telling the truth. Or at least believes himself to be telling the truth.

"Yeah...the doctor says that he needs a bone marrow transplant." Scott's eyes are filled with pain. "Samantha and I have three girls too, twelve, nine, and seven, but none of us are a match for Drew."

Mulder feels bleak when he realizes where the conversation is going. The woman, whoever she is, can't be his sister. If she's not, then he wouldn't be a match either. He suspects that the imposter is the woman he met long ago in another when, back when he was desperately trying to find a cure for Scully's cancer. She had seemed sincere at that point, but he'd long since concluded that she'd just been an actress playing a part.

"We'd hoped that her father could prove to be a match, but he died unexpectedly this spring – just after we learned he wasn't a match either." Scott adds, and Mulder's eyes widen in surprise. "The last time we saw him in person, he told your sister that you were still living, unlike she'd been led to believe most of her life."

"She thought I was dead?" Mulder finds himself saying. "She's the one who disappeared."

"When she was eight," Scott agrees. "She'd been told that she was the only member of the family to survive a home fire, but her birth father got in touch with her last year."

Mulder shakes his head. "There was no accident. She just disappeared one night, never to be seen again."

"All I know is what my father-in-law told me," Scott says. "The only person I know who disappeared was the little girl he was raising up until his death. We assume social services took her."

::He's talking about Addy!:: Mulder thinks in a rush. "Well, if she thinks there was an accident, she was lied to."

"I guess it doesn't really matter," Scott says to Mulder's frustration. "All that matters to me is that my little boy is going to die if we don't find a match for him. He's in the hospital again, and I'm not sure how much he can endure."

The horror of watching Emily's decline in the past and the still too fresh memory of losing the baby before William both keep Mulder from blurting out that it isn't possible for him to be a potential match for little Andrew. Even though Mulder believes this to be true with all his heart, he can't stand the thought of adding more pain to this man's life.

Scott digs into his wallet, and pulls out a white business card. He pushes it into Mulder's hand. "I know this is a lot to drop on you. And you need time to think about it. But if you find it within your heart to have a DNA test done to see if you're a match for Andrew, please call me anytime, day or night."

Before Mulder can even say anything, Scott ducks his head and quickly turns to walk back to his car.


"Who was that?" Scully asks as she joins him at the doorway. They both watch as Scott gets in his car and drives away.

"He claims to be my sister's husband," Mulder says tonelessly.

Scully stares at him. "I thought you concluded that she was dead. You told me about meeting a psychic who led you to her final resting place. Didn't you say you saw her ghost?"

It's painful for him to think back to when he claimed to have met Harold Piller because it was during the only rocky time in their marriage. There hadn't been an investigation into Amber Lynn LaPierre's disappearance this time around, nor had he ever really met with the grieving father who had once shown him to the location of Samantha's diary. But he had to give Scully some sort of explanation for no longer looking for his sister, so he'd given her a modified version of the truth once they'd decided to save their relationship – while they were pushing each other apart a psychic approached him and proved that Samantha had died as a teenager. Thankfully Piller has never shown up to poke holes in his story.

"There were hospital records that matched Samantha's description, a retired nurse claims she disappeared from the hospital before the smoking man came for her, and a diary that seemed to be hers...I don't see how it couldn't have been her I saw that night. Walk-ins are hard to believe in, but those little spirits seemed very real that night."

"I believe you," she says in a surprisingly heartfelt tone.

"You do?"

"After your abduction, I saw something in our house," she says slowly. "Let's just say I've reconsidered my position on ghosts."

"I never thought I'd live to hear you say that," Mulder says, thoroughly awed. "What happened to change your mind?"

Scully waves her hands impatiently. "My new found belief in ghosts is far a field of what's going on right now. Let's go back to talking about our visitor. What did he want? Does he want you to meet up with this woman who claims to be your sister?"

"No. He wants a DNA test."

"To what purpose?"

"He claims that their youngest kid needs a bone marrow transplant, and that no one in their family is a match."

She looks skeptical. "Do you think this sick kid exists?"

"Maybe. I'd certainly want to see him before I let anyone draw any blood. Scully, you are going to tell me why you've decided you believe in ghosts, aren't you?"

She gives him a cryptic smile. "One of the child ghosts introduced me to your uncle Saul."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope."

When she doesn't furnish any more details, he begins to get impatient. "You aren't going to tell me how that happened, are you."

Scully stands on her toes to kiss his cheek. "It's more fun to let you think about it for a while."


Seconds after they step back inside, there's a wail from the newly redecorated nursery. Scully turns towards the stairs, but Mulder stops her by taking her arm. "You look exhausted still. Let me get her."

"What if she's hungry?"

"I can heat up one of those bottles of breast milk with the best of them. Go on, go back to bed before I rethink the offer."

When he enters the nursery, Mulder finds himself amazed that Zoe is sleeping peacefully through her sister's unhappy squalling. David and Jared had constantly woken each other up as babies, but the girls don't seem to do that much. At least not yet.

"Daddy's got you," Mulder says softly as he picks up the angry infant. "No need to shout, I'm right here."

She doesn't seem at all mollified at first, but her noise shuts off as soon as she latches onto the rubber nipple of the bottle. Mulder looks down at her, admiring the thatch of light brown hair that she shares with her sister. ::Funny how both sets of twins, and only them, inherited brown hair.:: He eyes the other crib, wondering when the girl's sister will wake up with her demand to be feed too.

As Mulder rocks Brianna, he finds himself thinking about how his own sister's mystery was solved in his other lifetime. Back then it had seemed like an airtight case, but had it been? Without Scully to know about his brain illness and to urge him towards a cure, he'd been slowly succumbing to it. Had he really been convinced that the dead girl who'd met him with open arms had really been his sister, or had he been so worn down by his illness and the length of the search that he'd accepted what had seemed like facts without thinking critically about their veracity?


10 p.m.

An hour after everyone else has gone to bed, even Scully, Mulder finds himself putting on his jacket instead of his pajamas. He's not sure he even wants to go to the hospital, but he's already driving there.

The doors to the hospital open with a gentle whooshing sound when he steps in front of them. Harsh lights make him blink owlishly, and a nurse at the admitting desk looks up with a small amount of interest when he walks up to her.

"Can I help you?" she asks in a tone just this side of boredom.

"I know that visiting hours are over, but I just found out that my nephew is in the hospital. Is there any way I could just look into his room? I promise I won't wake him or anything."

"Didn't your wife just have twins?" the nurse asks, surprising him. When he glances at her name tag, he notices that it says "Nurse Elliot," which brings up a faint memory of Scully mentioning a nice nurse by that name.

"Yup, that's us."

"I thought so! You look a little different without the Dracula makeup. I bet the babies are making it hard to get anything done," the nurse adds, to his confusion.

"Pretty much," Mulder admits.

She straightens up in her seat. "Considering your special circumstances, I think that we can let the whole visiting hours issue slide - if you keep your promise not to wake the boy."

"Of course."

"What's his name?"

"Andrew Hill? His parents call him Drew. He's four."

She looks up Andrew's information in her computer. "Room 417. I'll page an orderly to walk you up there." She looks at him over her glasses. "Then you won't have to worry about keeping your promise."

"Sure."

And orderly appears a couple of minutes later, and Nurse Elliot explains in hushed words. The orderly nods to Mulder, and he's quick to follow the other man.

The orderly looks over his shoulder at Mulder. "Elliot must like you for some reason."

"My wife kind of caused a stir a couple of weeks ago. We had twins, and only one of them waited until we got here to be born."

"Oh, that was you! How is everyone?" the orderly asks as they step into an elevator.

"My wife and both girls are doing great."

The ride in the elevator takes only seconds, and the orderly steps in front of Mulder. "We'll stop talking now. The nurses will kill us if we wake up the peds floor."

"Right," Mulder whispers.

They stop in front of room 417, and the orderly holds a finger to his lips before gently opening the door. Mulder looks in, and is immediately disheartened to see that the room is dimly lit by a night light that could have come out of David and Jared's room. How can someone still scared of the dark be so ill?

Even in the relatively dim light, Mulder and see that the child sleeping in the bed is not healthy. His dark blond hair is pasted to his forehead with sweat, and it immediately summons up a mental picture of Emily in her last hours. Drew doesn't look quite as sick as Emily had been then, but he's decidedly not well.

After a moment of tossing and turning, the little boy opens his eyes and looks at Mulder. His eyes look just like Samantha's. Mulder steps out into the hallway as soon as the boy's eyes close.

Once they've walked back to the elevator, Mulder glances at the orderly. "Do you know who I'd speak to about finding out if I'm a bone marrow match for my nephew?"


Mulder-Scully Home
1 a.m.

Scully rolls over with a yawn when she hears the bedroom door open. "Mulder, why are you dressed?"

"I went to the hospital," Mulder tells her while he sits on the bed and starts to pull off his shoes. "One of the nurses let me peek in on Scott's son."

"You went to see the little boy? Why?"

"I've been thinking about this situation all day. It's all well and good to insist that I discovered what happened to my sister, but what if I'm wrong? I was so sick when I thought I saw Samantha's ghost..."

"Now you're doubting yourself."

"Of course I am. What if I continue to insist that this woman couldn't possibly be my sister, and it turns out that no only that I was wrong about that, I'm the one who could save that little boy? I don't know if I could live with the guilt. So I'm arranging to have the necessary testing done to determine if I'm a bone marrow match for the boy," Mulder explains.

"Are you going to go and see this woman, to let her know what you've decided?"

Mulder shakes his head. "They said I didn't have to. If it turns out that I'm a match, I'll speak to her then. I don't think I can stand to see her look hopeful if it turns out that I can't help her son."

Scully scoots across the bed and wraps her arms around him. "I think you're doing the right thing, Mulder."

"Me too."


Mercy Medical
November 21st, 2002

The day has finally arrived when Mulder is making his sacrifice for family planning. The doctor speaks to him briefly, administers a shot, and is called away by a nurse. Doctor Penman promises to be back "before the shot wears off" which just makes Mulder gulp.

"You okay, Mulder?"

"I'm fine. I don't have to watch, right?" Mulder whispers.

Scully squeezes his hand. "Of course you don't have to."

"You know, I can't feel them at all," Mulder admits while they wait for the doctor to return to Mulder's room. "That shot he gave me is something else."

"Good."

The door open and Penman strides in, surprisingly spy for a white-haired gentleman. "How are the baby girls, Dana?" he asks as he goes to sit near Mulder's waist.

"They're both great."

"You are both sure that you don't want more, right?" Penman asks, sounding amused. "I'm supposed to ask before I cut anything, no matter how many kids a couple has."

"We're sure," Mulder tells him, turning his gaze from the scalpel. ::Not that it isn't sad that we're never having any more.::

"Okay, then. I'm going to start. You shouldn't feel the incision, but yell if you do and I'll give you more Novocain."

"Do you have to do that very often?" Mulder asks in a shaky voice.

"Almost never."

::I can handle this. I've been shot, dammit!:: Mulder thinks, trying to calm himself. ::I've been tortured by aliens. Twice!::

Several minutes later Penman says, "Okay, just two more stitches to close things up, and we're done."

"You're done?" Mulder asks, surprised.

Penman puts aside a needle and thread. "All done."

"Wow."

"When you get home, I want you in bed with an icepack for a few hours, got it?"

"I'll make sure he follows your orders," Scully tells him.

"Good. I'd tell you not to have sex, but with three-week-old twins at home, we know that's not going to be happening." Penman chuckles knowingly. "And we already discussed using condoms until you can provide us two sperm-free semen samples."

"It could take up to three months, right?"

"It could, but it probably won't be that long." Penman glances at Scully. "How old are your youngest boys?"

"Three and one and a half, why?" she asks, confused.

"This isn't an order, Fox, but a recommendation: get Dana to buy you a cup."

It takes Mulder a second to figure out what he means. "I haven't worn one since I played sports."

"You're going to be sore for up to two weeks. Do you think you can keep your little sons from crawling on your lap with their hard little feet for that long?"

Mulder looks up at his wife, "He has a point."

Scully smiles. "Once he's in bed I'll go out to the sporting goods store."

"And buy him some Tylenol for the pain too, dear."

"I will."

Penman pats Mulder's shoulder. "You can get dressed, Fox. Just see the receptionist out front before you go."

"Thanks, Doc."

"No problem. Take care now."

"So, that's it," Mulder says as soon as they're alone in the room.

"Looks like," Scully agrees.


Federal Correctional Institution, Cumberland
Cumberland, Maryland
A Week Later

A typically monotonous day is broken up for Brad Follmer when he's unexpectedly informed that he has a visitor. A faint hope involving Marita and conjugal visits accompanies him as a guard walks him to the visitor's lounge. Alas, his dreams dry up before he's even seated.

"What do you want?" Follmer asks sullenly as soon as he sees that his visitor is Mulder.

"To talk to you."

"About? I doubt you want to discuss this week's sports or my past sexual exploits with your friend Monica." Follmer manages to look both snide and bored, which impresses Mulder on some level.

"I was thinking about a bribe," Mulder tells him.

"A bribe?" Follmer looks incredulous. "I know what you must have asked yourself: 'what do you get for a man who has nothing?' So what did you come up with, and more importantly what do you think I have that's worth bribing me for?"

"A man like you is going without a lot of things that might make the duration of your sentence more bearable. You could get a radio, a fan, a small TV, nicer sneakers, even some hair care products. I have the cash with me to get those things into your hands."

"In exchange for what?" Follmer waves his hand around. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm no longer master of my domain. It's not like I have any power to get things done on the outside these days."

"I don't expect for you to do anything other than have a conversation," Mulder says, putting a sizable stack of ten dollar bills on the table. "Two thousand dollars would buy you a lot of perks at the commissary."

"To think I'd ever sell myself so cheap," Follmer says with a rueful look. "What do you want to know? And more importantly, why me?"

"As the most senior member of what's left of the tattered consortium, I think you might be the only man left standing who knows what I want to hear."

"One of those seniority things people say are such a privilege. Do go on."

"That and your reputation for being historically knowledgeable about the organization," he says, thinking of what Krycek has said about him. Mulder leans forward slightly. "Tell me about the girl who was experimented on in my sister's name."

"Ah. You must mean one of the Samanthas," Follmer tells him, and Mulder feels his heart skip a beat.

"One of?"

"Don't be coy, Mulder. You tried to save one of the Samanthas on a bridge several years ago. And I know you know all about the bees and corn. You rescued your lovely wife and regretfully dead ex from the clutches of the beasties after you and Scully poked your noses where they shouldn't have been."

It's on the tip of Mulder's tongue to mention the boys and girls that he and had once seen tending to those very crops. "What does corn have to do with my sister?"

"One of the very first things the consortium did after taking their hostages was to attempt to clone some of them. Your sister and the son of one of the British members were cloned to provide an unpaid workforce for the program."

"You're trying to tell me that clones of my sister were used as slaves??" Mulder tries hard to look like he can hardly believe Follmer's words.

The other man seems to buy his reaction. "Exactly. They looked like your sister since we'd taken her DNA to make our mute little worker bees. I know you met some of the clones in the Kurt series, so you know that we were able to grow them to the desired age whenever we felt like it. Since they weren't really children, we didn't have to worry about the mundane details like teaching them, and since they were mute they couldn't exactly tell anyone if they thought they were being mistreated. They were ideal, in a way."

"What do they have to do with the girl I'm talking about?" Mulder asks impatiently. "She spoke to people."

"It took them quite a while to perfect the clones. Early on they left them too intact, with the ability to speak and to think independently. Later on we rectified that, of course, but the girl you mean was the earliest, a regrettably imperfect model."

"Regrettable? What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that unlike their later toys, this one was fairly human. Just enough alien DNA in her to grow her up to age eight in a year. The old man had a soft spot for your sister, so he insisted that she be released as soon as we procured the necessary DNA. The rest of the consortium insisted that it wasn't possible because the visitors would know that one of the hostages was missing. Not to be stymied, he put the cloning project into high gear, and they soon had an exact duplicate of your sister in their possession." Brad gives him a sickly smile. "Or maybe I should say 'our possession' given I was brought into the project by my father before the ink on my high school diploma was dry."

Mulder tries not to show his amazement at Follmer's revelation about his early involvement. It really shouldn't surprise him – if the Smoking Man had raised him, Mulder thinks that he himself would have been recruited very young as well, which is just one more reason to be thankful he'd grown up as Bill Mulder's child instead. "Why didn't he bring my sister home, then?"

"Your father. Bill was backing out of the project as far and as fast as he could by then, and the old man refused to give him the satisfaction of being the only person to get his loved one back. So, instead he arranged for the girl to be fostered by another family. They all pretended that the clone you're speaking of was really your sister. I think the old man pretended the hardest, because they way he talked about her made people occasionally doubt that he recalled that she wasn't the real Samantha Mulder."

Mulder nods slowly. "I guess giving my sister away makes sense in context of what I knew about the despicable bastard. But how did the clone end up dead?" "That girl is the reason the subsequent clones were made to be mute and limited in their ability to function independently. Since she was an almost exact duplicate of the girl he'd given away, it was hard for people, even him, to think of her as clone. He rarely saw your real sister even from a distance, and this girl was readily at hand, so he made a pet out of her clone. Eventually he even brought her to live with his wife and son, which turned out to be a fatal mistake."

"Fatal to the girl, you mean," Mulder grumbles.

"Sadly. It seemed to some that he was taking too many liberties with the girl, so there was a plan to take her back regularly to experiment on. The girl endured it for a few months, but considering that she thought of herself as a person, it eventually because unbearable to her and she ran away. As a punishment the Smoking Man was sent to retrieve her from the hospital she ended up in."

"But the walk-ins took her first."

"Walk-ins?" Follmer looks surprised, but not, as it turns out, by Mulder's choice of descriptors. "What fairytales have you been telling yourself? He took her from the hospital, and she begged him to kill her rather than make her go through any more experimentation."

"Did he?" Mulder asks tonelessly.

"I already told you that he had taken a shine to the girl. In the final instance of him not being able to deny her anything, he did as she asked. A single bullet to the heart stopped her suffering, and he appeared back at the consortium covered in blood and carrying her body. The girl was cremated that night, and an immediate plan to alter all further clones was immediately instituted."

"But I saw her," Mulder blurts out, making Follmer look up at him. "Evidence of her, I mean. Three years ago a psychic brought me to where the smoking man's family had lived, and I found her diary. I also talked to a nurse who had treated the girl before he came to the hospital to take her. She said the girl simply disappeared."

"You spoke to nurse Ray?" Follmer asks casually.

Mulder's mouth instantly tastes of ashes.

"Did you really think that no one thought to wonder what would happen if you ever made your way to April Base? They paid off a nurse connected to the clone on the off chance that you ever were able to access the hospital records from the girl's final night. From the look on your face, whatever tale she spun for you must have been convincing."

"She was paid off?" Mulder asks, barely able to get the words out. A cold fear fills his belly when he thinks about the holes that the woman could put in his story, given that this time he never actually spoke to her any more than he had Harold Piller.

"Until the day she died," Follmer tells him.

"She's dead?" Mulder asks, hating himself for the relief he feels knowing that.

"Sorry. You're more than a year too late to interrogate her about what she hid from you with her lies about walk-ins," Brad says without a trace of pity in his voice. "I'm curious as to why you've come to ask about the dead girl now. Am I to surmise that you've discovered the carefully hidden authentic Samantha, then? That must be it, am I right?"

Mulder spreads his hands. "How could you be wrong?"

"They could have dreamed up worse fates for her, you know."

"I know." Mulder slides the stack of money towards Follmer. "I suspect that nice guard is going to keep this safe for you, but I bet he'll let you count it first."

The guard nods from his corner.

Follmer smirks at Mulder. "Do I need to count it? You're not the cheating type."


Later

As Mulder gets into Scully's car, his gaze happens on the letter still sitting unfolded on the passenger seat. He's already read it three times, even though he committed the contents to memory the first time.

He, Fox Mulder, is a bone marrow match for Andrew Benjamin Hill.

That fact alone is proof that the woman who gave birth to Andrew is his long-lost sister, but he'd still wanted to hear it from someone else's mouth that the girl he'd been mourning since seeing her ghost in a year 2000 was yet another clone. It makes him wonder if he would have ever have realized that his sense of closure over his sister's disappearance had been counterfeit, or if he'd of gone to his grave without knowing the truth.

::Speaking to Follmer was worth the two grand, easily.:: Mulder thinks as he puts the car back into drive.

Scully has promised that they'll arrange to have Samantha come over tomorrow, and he feels sick to his stomach thinking about that. What will it be like to see her again, at long last?


Mulder-Scully Home
The Following Day

Zoe fusses as Maggie bundles her into her bunting bag. Scully tries to soothe the baby by talking to her even as she gets Brianna dressed to go out too.

"You're sure that it's really her?" Maggie asks, now swaying slightly to calm her granddaughter.

"The DNA test says that it is," Scully replies. "Thanks for taking them for us."

"No problem. But where's William?"

"He's right here," Michelle announces as she walks into the room with William on her hip. He's already wearing his tiny royal blue coat and winter boots. "Mrs. Scully, are you sure you want me to bring the boys to your house after I pick them up from preschool? I could take them to a movie or something instead and pick the babies up later."

"If you don't mind sticking around my place while they watch a DVD, I don't mind at all."

"Sure." Michelle looks over at Scully. "Should I tell Mister Mulder good luck? I'm not sure what to say in this sort of situation."

"You mean you're not experienced with talking to people about meeting their long lost sisters?" Maggie asks the nanny with a grin.

Michelle blushes.

"I don't think anyone needs to say anything," Scully decides. "But thank you for the thought."

Mulder walks into the room just in time to take Brianna out of Scully's arms. "Thanks, Maggie."

She doesn't say anything, but kisses him on the cheek. "I think we're all ready to go. Would you grab the diaper bags, dear?"

He does, smiling at his mother-in-law's inventive way to avoid awkward conversation.


Half an Hour Later

When there's the sound of an engine in the driveway, Mulder insists on being the one to go and greet his guest. Scully kisses him on the check and heads for the kitchen. He watches as the car door open and his guest steps out. After a second's hesitation, she heads up the walk towards where he waits.

"Samantha?" Mulder's voice is barely a whisper as he opens the screen door for the woman on the other side. He's not sure why, but it shocks him that this woman looks so like the ones he met over the years. ::Of course she does. They were cloned from her, after all.::

She gives him a tentative smile. "You've grown up on me, Fox."

Mulder steps back so she can enter the house. "So have you. You don't look like the tree climber I remember."

"I guess not."

"Please, have a seat," Mulder tells her gesturing towards the arm chairs.

"Thanks."

There's a moment of mildly uncomfortable silence as they look at each other, but Mulder thinks of something to say. "How is Drew doing?"

Samantha shrugs. "As well as can be expected. He's in isolation for now because they need to destroy his immune system before he receives your bone marrow...Scott and I can't thank you enough for doing this."

"That's what family is for," Mulder says firmly.

"But still, not everyone would do that for a sister they haven't seen in decades. When I didn't match Drew, and Scott and the girls didn't either...we almost lost hope."

"Scott mentioned that you have girls too, but I don't know their names."

"Adrianna, my oldest, just turned thirteen. Ariel is ten, and Alyssa is eight. We waited a few years and decided to give having a boy one last shot, and we got Andrew," Samantha says with a smile. "When you told Scott that you have nine kids, were you-"

Mulder shakes his head. "I wasn't joking. Dana and I really do have nine."

"Wow. I'm going to have a lot of names and ages to remember."

"Unless you've changed a lot since you were a kid, that won't be too much of a challenge for you. I should probably tell you first that I named my oldest son after you. He's seven now," Mulder says quietly.

Samantha looks up, surprised. "Samantha isn't an easy name for a boy."

Mulder forces himself not to smile as he recalls saying the same thing to Scully when she suggested making Sammy his sister's namesake. He can tell that his sister is teasing him, but he pretends that he thinks she's serious. "Samuel," Mulder explains. "We named him Samuel Taylor Mulder."

"Wow," Samantha says again. "I never thought I'd have someone named after me."

"Promise me not to return the favor," Mulder insists, making her laugh. "I still haven't forgiven Mom and Dad for sticking me with Fox."

"If, in the very unlikely event that we have another baby, I promise not to name him Fox."

"I'll hold you to that. Anyway, Sammy has one older sister, Page, who is eight..." Mulder says, then tells her the names and ages of the rest. "...April considers that half to be very important, so I try not to forget it."

"She sounds serious."

"As far as my kids go, yes. Christopher is serious for a three-year-old too, but he has his moments."

"Oh?"

"After throwing a tantrum, he became the only one of my kids to see a baby born."

"Now that sounds like a story..."

Mulder obliges, and tells her the tale of Brianna's quick entry into the world. This has them both laughing. Eventually he becomes more somber.

"What really happened to you?" Mulder asks, trying to be more patient with Samantha than he had the last lifetime he talked to her.

Samantha spreads her hands. "There are things I still don't remember."

"That's okay. Just tell me what you do remember."

"You and I were playing a game-"

"-Stratego."

"That's the one. When some men broke into the house. One of them did something to you, I think they drugged you. You collapsed, and I thought they killed you when I screamed your name and you didn't answer."

::Did they drug me? Is that why I remember not being able to move? Did the drug cause hallucinations?::

"When they got me outside, they insisted that there was a fire, and that you were already dead, so that's why they didn't rescue you too. I didn't want to believe them, but they said you fell down because of the smoke..." Samantha shakes her head. "I shouldn't have believed them."

"It's not your fault," Mulder insists. "Kids are expected to believe adults, so how could you be at fault for doing what you were supposed to?"

"I was kept with some other kids for about a year, and then I was given to a new family, the Foresters."

"Were they okay?"

"They loved me, Fox. I missed you, Mom and Dad, but they loved me too, so it was hard not to love them back."

"Can I meet them?" Mulder asks impulsively. Mostly he wants assurance that the people who raised his sister aren't evil.

Samantha shakes her head. "I wish you could, but they passed away not long after Adrianna was born. Ruth had lung cancer, and Gary seemed to lose the will to live without her."

"I'm sorry."

"Thanks."

"So Ruth and Gary raised you. How did you find out that you were lied to about my death?"

"Last year an old man who claimed to be our father told me that I'd been lied to. I know that he wasn't really our father, but I think I remembered him visiting the house. We didn't like him."

"I know who you're talking about," Mulder tells her.

"He made me promise not to bother you because you were happy. According to him it would be too big a shock for you if you found out that I was alive, since you'd been told I was dead too." She gives him an apologetic look. "I wasn't even sure that I believed him, about you being alive, until I was watching TV a couple of months ago. And there you were, alive and well."

"I knew something good would come from doing that show." Mulder smiles.

"Did you really used to be an FBI agent?"

"Dana and I both were, for years and years."

"I think I can picture that," Samantha tells him. Then she looks like she has something difficult to say. "Is Mom..."

"Mom would probably love to see you. I only wish Dad have lived long enough to, but he died last year."

"You really think she'd want to see me?" Samantha's voice is small.

"More than anything. She'd love to see you and meet the rest of her grandkids."

"Okay. Would you mind telling her about me, first?"

"Not at all. I do have one last question for you, though."

"What's that?"

"When are my kids going to meet their aunt Samantha and their 'new girl cousins'?" Mulder asks. "Page and April will be thrilled to death to find out that there are three more girls in the family, even if two of your girls are older."

"Pretty soon, Fox," Samantha promises.

"Good. If it's okay with you, I'd like to arrange that before I donate the marrow, before there are any holes drilled into me. My kids are good at sensing weakness," he deadpans.

"Sure, let's do that."

"Mulder?" He turns and sees Scully holding a tray of mugs. "Would you two like coffee?"

"I would."

"Nice to meet you, Dana," Samantha says, standing. "Though I feel like I know you a little already from the TV show."

"At least it's been good for something," Scully says, unknowingly echoing Mulder.


Mulder spends the rest of their first meeting torn between being grateful that their silly TV show made Samantha aware that he was alive, and regretting not having met with her in a diner years earlier because he'd concluded back then, due to not yet understanding who she was, that they'd had nothing to offer each other. In the end he decides that meeting now needs to be good enough to satisfy him considering how many other could-have-beens he's been able to repair.

After Samantha leaves, Mulder walks across the room and gives the phone a contemplative look. He studies it for a minute, stalling for time before picking it up and dialing a number that he knows by heart.

He sits as the phone begins to ring. It only takes a moment before a distant voice greets him more warmly than it might have in the past. "Mom, are you sitting down? I have something to tell you."


Chapter One Hundred and Twenty One



December 17, 2002

It's a cramped studio, but it's been a second home to the lone smoking resident within for almost thirty years. The musical intro fades out, and the red light blinks on when the DJ hits the mic button. "You've been listening to 'Dark Night of the Soul' by Loreena McKennitt," a warm, friendly voice says. "That wraps up the metaphysical mysteries, at least for tonight. Thanks to my guests, Rabbi Levi Markowitz, Father Leroy Schiaparelli, Dr. Morgan Eisenhower, and psychic Melissa Morton, and of course, each and every one of you listeners. This is Ted Ringer, of Late Nights with Dead Ringer, with you every night because strange things happen every day."

After hitting the mic button off and hitting a couple of buttons to switch the station to satellite programming and cutting the web streaming feed, the DJ leans back and sighs, looking content. "So, did any of you drive in, or should I call for cabs?" he asks his male guests. The lone woman, Miss Morton, was a call-in guest, and only came on in the first half hour of the two-hour program.

The doctor shakes his hand before leaving, "I drove," he says, and the rabbi does the same. The priest, however, pulls out a cell phone, "Don't worry, I'll call for a cab."

The DJ nods at him and smiles. "Okay, I'll just take care of some things for tomorrow's show, then." Then he turns his attention to his laptop, checks his e-mail and, after forwarding some of the more interesting entries to his program director, deletes a good deal before carefully perusing others. By the time he finishes with his official e-mails, the priest waves him goodbye, and the DJ waves back. Then he confirms that the guests for the next show are coming in, double-checks on any special arrangements(there are none, for once), and skims through the show prep, most of which is familiar to him after years of doing this kind of show. He highlights the various points he'll need to cover, plus new information, and copies it onto a new document. Then he saves everything, and, owing to his mild paranoia about technology, saves everything again before turning it off. He puts the laptop into a half-full briefcase, which looks worse for the wear than he does, but just barely.

The DJ grunts as he pushes his chair away from the soundboard, and when he stands, he's a lot bigger and taller than most of his listening audience would think, but his shoulders are bowed and his head hangs low, as if shouldering an invisible burden. The large man, clad in the old school uniform of suit and tie, grabs his now-empty coffee mug and half-empty cigarette carton, along with his briefcase carrying his laptop and large-print notes, and walks out of the studio.

Once he steps out of the radio station, he's no longer Ted Ringer, host of the paranormal and supernatural call-in show, but just Ted O'Neill, age 65, married five times and divorced just as many times, father to five girls and two boys, all of whom live with his ex-wives. Just a regular guy, really.


The Mulder-Scully home
December 25, 2002

After holding Brianna and Zoe for two hours, she's given twin duty to her husband, who is currently sitting on the couch with said twins and William. "Merry Christmas!" Scully warmly hugs the next arrival. Or rather, set of arrivals, since Mattie is holding a squirming cat. "Merry Christmas, Bill, Tara," she says, hugging each in turn. "Food in the kitchen, presents under the tree."

"I think we'd know the drill by now," her older brother retorts, amused, as his son races inside with the hapless cat. "Let me guess, Santa's up in the chimney and monsters are under the bed to keep the kids company."

"Don't mind him," Tara says and shakes her head, "I think the long flights have messed with his brain as well as his sleep."

Scully chuckles as she closes the door behind them. "Those, I don't miss," she says, ushering them into the crowded house. "Bill, Tara, these are my friends John and Monica, and their children Hannah, Luke, and Gibson - David, no, that's not for eating," she groans, snatching the plastic candy cane out of the boy's mouth and putting it back on the tree. She taps a white- haired woman on the shoulder, and the woman spins around. "This is my mother-in-law, Mrs. Mulder," and her brother and sister-in-law shake the proffered hand. "And you should know these two," she waves at Melissa and Krycek, who are sharing a lazy-boy while Melissa holds Ryan. "Missy, is Addy with Christopher?"

Her red-haired sister nods, sending warning looks at both her brother and husband as both men start to glare at each other. "Dana, can you check on Emily? I think she and Page went upstairs to fix their dresses for the hundredth time," she says and rolls her eyes.

Scully laughs. "Like you never had a girly phase," she says, and her older sister wrinkles her nose. "I'll check on them after I check on Addy and Christopher." Melissa shoots her a relieved look before standing up to put a wedge between Krycek and Bill junior's glaring contest.

The shorter red-haired woman makes her way to the kitchen, but finds herself deftly plucking Teliko out of Jared's clutches and putting him into Hannah's, steering Sammy and April away from shaking the presents again, and taking Doggett's and Reyes' cups before actually making it into the kitchen. "Hi," she says, finding her mother teaching her son and Missy's until recently estranged daughter how to decorate the Christmas cake.

All three look up, and two smile at her while one merely stares. "Hi, Mommy," Christopher says. "Look, we made a star!"

Scully puts the cups on the counter before inspecting the children's handiwork. "Wow, it's beautiful," she says, smiling.

"Of course it is." Mrs. Scully beams, her face, hands and clothes decorated with previous cooking efforts. "My grandchildren made it, after all." And she hugs both blond children, and to Scully's surprise, they both hug her back with equal affection.

Still marveling at the magic of her mother, Scully manages to remember some other important information. "Bill and his family just joined us," the red-haired daughter informs her brunette mother, "and they brought a cat."

"Kitty?" Addy says, looking interested.

Scully nods, remembering the first time her sister's daughter met Teliko and Piper - after the pair was captured - and was utterly enchanted. "So far, Mattie's holding on to it, but I doubt a cat will stay put for long," and she explains and smiles.

After a beat, the little girl smiles back. "Good," Addy says, "kitties gotta play."

"That they do," Scully agrees.

"Which reminds me, we haven't made the Christmas cookies," Mrs. Scully says. "We can make cats," and she smiles at Addy, who smiles back, "stars, trees, bells, all sorts of things!"

"Cool!" Christopher crows, and the little blonde girl nods her head. "Mommy, you wanna make some?" he asks.

Scully shakes her head, refilling her friends' cups with coffee. "I made them when I was your age," she says, "now it's your turn. Have fun!" She raises the mugs before she leaves, and they wave back.

She's a little disappointed that Charlie and his family couldn't make it over, but they're spending it with his in-laws who live closer, which is understandable. It's not like she needs to fill this house to the brim, although the conversations, laughter, and even mild grudges from everyone within are more than enough to fill it with life.

After giving Doggett and Reyes their coffee cups and waving at Luke and Gibson on their way to play basketball outside, she gives Melissa a thumbs up before heading upstairs to check on their girls. Of course, if she'd stayed downstairs, she would've been the one to answer the door instead of her husband.


"I'll get it," Mulder says when there's a knock at the door. He limps over, his hip still bothering him from the marrow donation, smiling because he figures the Lone Gunmen have given up on their week-long stalking of some radio show host. "Merry Christmas," he says as he opens the door. Then his eyes widen when he sees who's actually standing there. "Wow, it's a Christmas miracle," he says, half-joking.

Even though he's seen them all before, the sight never fails to move him. His sister, once thought to be dead another lifetime ago, is standing before him, along with her movie star- looking husband and their four kids. "Shh, don't tell her we're here," Samantha says. "I want to surprise her."

"Oh, you'll do that, all right," Mulder chuckles, as Scott gives him a sheepish look and the kids are still in the polite stage of acquaintance. "Come on in before you freeze."

They do that, and are surprised to find the house rather full. "How many people are you related to?" Scott asks his wife in a low voice, before setting Drew down to remove his jacket.

She gives him a look. "I'm guessing these are Fox's friends and in-laws," she says, seeing a woman with red hair like her sister-in-law's.

"That they are." Mulder nods, and once they've removed their sweaters and jackets, he puts a finger to his lips as he leads the family through the living room.

His mother has her back to them as she listens to April, and he taps his mother's shoulder. "Mom, there's someone here to see you."

"Oh?" she says, turning around. Then her eyes widen, and she puts a hand to her chest. "Samantha?"

The short woman with long, wavy brown hair nods. "Um, Merry Christmas," she says awkwardly.

And to her and her brother's surprise, Mrs. Mulder wraps her arms around Samantha, tears rushing to her eyes. "Fox told me you were alive, but I didn't," she chokes out, "I didn't know what to believe."

And her daughter's similarly affected, if the tears in her eyes are any indication. "I'm here," Samantha says with tears in her eyes, "I'm really here."

When they drop their arms, Mrs. Mulder pulls out a handkerchief from her purse and dabs at her eyes. "Oh my." She smiles, embarrassed by her tears, "this is a lovely surprise." And she hands her handkerchief to her daughter, who smiles a little before wiping her own eyes dry.

Samantha steps to the side so her mother can see her family. "Mom, this is my husband Scott Hill," she says, and holds her breath as her mother does a quick appraisal of her husband before shaking his hand, "and these are my children, Adrianna, Ariel, Alyssa, and Andrew."

"Hi, Grandma," Drew says from his father's shoulders. "Sorry I couldn't see you before, but I'm healthy now!"

Mrs. Mulder smiles, "Yes, I see."

"Why don't you guys take the dining table?" Mulder says, steering them in that direction. "I'm sure you have plenty to catch up on."

His mother nods, and they're already talking as they take their seats. Mulder smiles a little, then limps back to the couch where his little ones are. "You takin' anything for your hip?" Doggett asks, relinquishing the spot for the babies' father.

Mulder shrugs a little. "Some aspirin, but nothing much," he grunts, easing gently onto the couch. Then he turns William's head towards the scene at the dining table. "See that? That's your grandma with your long-lost auntie and her family. That's what's called 'surreal'."

Doggett snorts. "You and your family drama," he says, "do you ever have a normal Christmas?"

Mulder gives his friend an innocent look, which the other man's not buying. "This is normal," he says, then looks around. "Hey, where'd Monica go?"

Doggett smirks. "She went upstairs to tell your wife. You think she wants to miss out on this?"

Mulder blinks. "What would she do, scream 'Oh my God, Samantha, this is such a total surprise!'?" he says in a high-pitched voice, flapping his hands around like a bad imitation of a girl.

"You're a sick man." Doggett shakes his head, but chuckles anyways, ruining the effect. "No, I think it's more like-"

"Adrianna!" a young girlish voice suddenly screams. "Oh my God, Ariel, Alyssa, you're all here!" Mulder's head whips around so fast to follow the source, he almost hurts his neck. His daughter Page, however, only has eyes for her older cousins, and she's practically a blonde blur as she races to the dining table.

The eldest, Adrianna, turns and graces her with a smile. "Hi, Page. Who's your friend?"

Page turns and almost seems surprised that she's holding on to her cousin's hand. "This is my cousin Emily," she says, and Emily, suddenly shy, merely nods.

And now Mulder sees why the girls have been upstairs so long. They've been trying to imitate Samantha's daughters, who are all rather stylish, if such a thing can be attributed to pre- teens. Scully and Reyes have made their way down, and they share looks after seeing all the girls. This is gonna be fun, he thinks.

"Cousin?" Ariel looks at her.

Page nods. "She's one of Auntie Missy and Uncle Alex's kids," and she points to the couple on the lazy-boy, who wave. "That's their baby, Ryan. Emily's younger sister Addy's in the kitchen with my brother Christopher and Grandma Maggie."

"Welcome to the extended family," Mrs. Mulder says wryly. Then she looks at her new son-in- law, who's still processing all of this. "Let me guess, your family gatherings don't usually get this big."

He shakes his head. "No, ma'am. After my parents passed away, it's been just my older sister. This year, she's in the Bahamas with her new boyfriend." He smiles a little as the girls talk shop, er, shopping, leaving his son with a disgusted look on his face. "Looks like Drew needs to find someone to talk with, too."

"Talking's boring," the little boy grumbles, making a face when his mother ruffles his hair affectionately.

Then Mattie comes to the table. "Hey, have you guys seen my cat?" he asks.

They all look at him blankly, until they hear a girl crowing, "Kitty!" And then they hear crashes and muffled yelps.

"Never mind, I found him," the dark-haired boy says, running into the kitchen.


December 29, 2003

Doggett's stretching his arms out, having had quite the extended weekend. He yawns, then cracks his neck before sitting down behind the desk. Spending the holidays with Mulder's and Scully's families almost makes him want to spend it with his family - that is, until he remembers his older brother and the reason why it's "almost" want to rather than "definitely."

He looks at the pile in the "in" box and squints, wondering how it got to be so low. His memory, however fuzzy his brain might be from the mini-vacation and the extra time spent with the lovely Monica Reyes, serves him well enough to tally off the various cases they'd had and solved (or outright debunked). A brief glance at the headings of the 401s is enough to tell him that these are pretty small fry, too.

"Oh well, as long as the world ain't endin', I'm happy," he mumbles, wondering when his partner, in and out of the office, will show up. Nonetheless, he starts to give the case on the top of the scrawny pile his full attention, that is, until he hears footsteps approach, and his head perks up.

"Hey, partner." Reyes smiles as she walks in, waving a form. "Guess what we got."

He gives it a look, then gives her a look. "Doesn't appear to be a late Christmas present," he notes wryly.

She shakes her head, still smiling, and hands it over. "We're going to be guests on the Dead Ringer show," she says while he reads. "Isn't it great?"

He looks up, puzzled. "Says here it's some kinda radio show. I thought radio just played music."

Reyes tilts her head. "Not on the a.m. side," she says, "that's where the talk radio kings rule. What, don't you listen to Rush Limbaugh?"

"He's still on the radio?" Doggett says, surprised. "Naw, I just listen to country music."

"Which is probably why we don't listen to the radio on stakeout," she murmurs, and he sighs. "Anyways. Ted Ringer, that's the host of the show," he says and nods, "he invited us to be on his show one night."

He starts to nod again, then his eyes fly open and he looks at the form again. "Wait, so this guy thinks we're gonna be free in February?" He frowns. "Who does he think we are?"

"The second coming of Mulder and Scully." She grins. "Come on, it'll be fun." Then she looks at the slim pickings in the "in" box. "Not like we're going to be busy anytime soon," she remarks.

"Not so loud," he groans, "I'd like to keep earning my paycheck while I can, thanks."

Reyes nods, smiling again as she sits beside him, turning on the computer. "In the meantime, what are we doing the day for New Year's?"

Doggett blinks. "Um, good question."

"Work on that problem first," she suggests, "I gotta call Mulder."

"Why?" he asks, curious.

She smiles far too brightly. "To gonna gloat, of course! It's like being on the Howard Stern Show, except for paranormal and conspiracy stuff!"

He sighs and rolls eyes. It was gonna be a long week, and it had barely started.


"So, why are we gonna be on that show and not Mulder and Scully?" Doggett wonders as they go shopping for party supplies.

Reyes shrugs a little. "Mulder said something about their contract with Federman, some exclusive blah-blah-blah, and he pouted."

Doggett gives her a look. "How could you tell he pouted over the phone?"

"Because there was a long, jealous pause," she says, straightforward.

"How could you tell it was a jea - never mind," he says, figuring it was a woman thing. "Uh, no, Monica," he says, pushing her hand away from the really tacky 2003 sunglasses and party hats. "I'd like to keep as many pictures after ringing in the New Year."

She pouts. "Hey, who says you can't have a little fun with silly accessories?"

Doggett sighs heavily, steering her away from the aisle. "We've got enough food and snacks for a couple of troops, I'd say that's enough for a party."

Reyes gives him a teasing smile. "John, was there some kind of childhood trauma that prevents you from wearing party hats?"

"No," he grumbles.

"Then party hats it is!" she declares gleefully, running back to the aisle and grabbing as many silly things as she can hold, as well as the aforementioned party hats. "This will go on my card, don't worry!"

"Oh, I'm already worried." He shakes his head, following behind her. "You're not even on a sugar high and you're as giddy as a kid."

"La la la, I don't hear you," she singsongs, heading, no, practically skipping, to the checkout counter.

Unseen, he rolls his eyes, then pushes the shopping cart down the direction she was headed. She's a grown woman, he thinks, she can wear her own party hats if she wants to. He knows she's going to take a million pictures, but he's determined not to wear anything ridiculous, or at least delete any pictures showing him in anything ridiculous.

Of course, when they get home, the boys are happy with all the food they brought back for the new year's party, while Hannah's the only one who shares Reyes' enthusiasm for the cheesy hats and glasses, among other things.

After dinner, they played ball with the kids, but that only got the kids revved up while Reyes and Doggett drag themselves to bed. It's not that they're sick, it's just that even though they're back to regular work hours, the fact that the kids are on holiday-slash-vacation mode gets Doggett and Reyes into the same, semi-lethargic mode when they're home. What that translates to is, at least during this winter break, the kids stay up late and wake up early, while the adults go to bed early (well, sometime around midnight) and drag themselves out of bed in time for work, but barely.

The tall brunette locks the bedroom door, but it's mostly out of habit rather than planning to get some, since she's fairly wiped out. "I swear, we could power half this country from our kids' and Scully's kids' energy." Reyes yawns as she stretches before getting into bed, clad in a t-shirt and shorts.

Doggett's already in bed, wearing a t-shirt and sweats, and he's got the radio on. "What are we listening to?" she asks before snuggling next to him, since they decided to forgo their usual news-viewing. "That Ted Ringer show," he says, "if I'm lucky, I'll fall asleep before he says anything stupid."

She chuckles. "You mean, anything you don't believe in?" she teases.

He sighs. "Mon, you're staying with the kids if you don't behave," he grumbles.

"Can't make me." She sticks her tongue out. "I'm your partner, and there's no way I'm missing out on that interview."

"Speaking of which, the topic tonight is haunted houses," he says, turning the volume down slightly since it's a commercial break, "the guy's talking to ghost busters and psychics. I don't know where he gets these people from."

"I think a lot of them contact him rather than the other way around," she says, propping herself on an elbow. "It's not very often that people like us are invited."

"People like us?" he asks.

She nods. "People in the government," she says. "Once in a while, he's got some retired military guy who used to work at Groom Lake," and Doggett snorts, which she ignores, "or some physicist who worked on some top secret aircraft. But I don't know if they're invited or they invite themselves."

Doggett shakes his head. "Either way, this is a pretty weird setup," he comments, then turns up the radio when it declares that the show is back on. "What're you doing?" he asks when she pulls out her laptop.

"Looking them up," she says, "Ted Ringer has links to his guests on his home page."

"Nice," Doggett notes, then a thought hits him. "Wait, if he links his guests, people can look us up. And that'll mean more weirdoes e-mailing us," he comes to his gloomy conclusion.

Reyes chuckles. "More cases for us, you mean," she says, typing in her password at the prompt.


During a commercial break, Doggett turns to Reyes, who is surfing the net beside him. A small smile on his lips, he says, "Too bad we're going to be the only boring guests on his show."

"What are you talking about?" she retorts, pulling her eyes away from her laptop. "You've seen a dead man come to life, been raised from the dead yourself, encountered BEK, met a boy who brought nightmares to life, foiled a terrorist plot, witnessed a miracle, investigated a conspiracy-slash-mafia hit without getting killed, and you're on the X-Files when you don't believe half the things you investigate. I'd say that's pretty non-boring."

"Wait, what do you mean, I was raised from the dead?" Doggett wonders. "Are you talking about that Lukesh case?"

Reyes sighs. "Yes, I do. It makes more sense if your consciousness was aware of both planes like myself, however."

"I won't even try to explain that one," he groans. "Anyways, we went through them together, for the most part."

She nods. "Besides, my New Orleans story outdoes the haunted house guy's story."

"You haven't even heard that guy's story," Doggett says, "how would you know?"

She gives him a look. "Have you ever asked Mulder or Scully about their New Orleans vacation?"

He shakes his head. "I'm guessing you were involved somehow?"

She nods. "That's how I met them. And like I said, whatever he's got, mine's ten times better."

"I could say that about a lot of things about you," Doggett murmurs, and she snorts.

The rest of the program, much as Doggett is loathe to admit it, is rather normal, in spite of the topic, hell, in spite of the show. Thanks to his older brother Joey, he's heard his fair share of boring talk shows, and this sounds like most of them. The host chats up the guests on certain subjects, then lets the audience in on the questioning after a while, or at least gets some feedback, with commercials and brief musical interludes.

And while the haunted house stories were entertaining, the one Reyes told him during one of the commercial breaks had him in stitches. "Maybe you shouldn't share that one," he says, wiping his eyes. "I know it was your first time working with Mulder and Scully, but honestly, braniac chickens taking over the factory?" And it sends him into another fit of laughter.

She makes a face. "When you say it like that, it sounds ridiculous," Reyes mutters. "You had to be there."

"Apparently," Doggett agrees when he catches his breath. "Then again, to this audience, it might make sense."

"You don't give them enough credit," she disagrees. "Granted, there are a few truly insane ones in the bunch, but that's statistically true for any social group. The rest are a mix, ranging from the mildly curious to the true believers who do their homework on any or all given topics." She smirks at his surprise. "Sometimes I find the forum discussions on case-related topics informative."

He shakes his head. "You're resourceful, that's for sure," he says, smiling a little when she beams. Before he can add anything regrettable to that compliment, however, the program resumes.

Ted Ringer is adept at handling even the more unruly callers, which is a skill not found very often in either old-school or novice DJs. Then again, the man's got years of experience, according to the website, and the fact that he runs his own board as well as handling all sorts of topics and people with ease is quite a feat, at least according to Reyes.

"And you know this how?" Doggett asks during another break.

"Me and a broadcast major ran a radio show for a semester." She grins. "It was our cheap knockoff version of Delilah's program, um, she plays love songs and dispenses love advice," she explains quickly to his confused face. "Anyways, it was more of a sociological project for me, and more of a personal challenge for him," she chuckles. "It does require some physical and mental coordination to run a soundboard and answer broken-heart questions while trying to deal with some of those issues yourself, so after a while, I was the one answering questions while he ran the board and played the sad songs."

"Hoo boy," he comments.

"Some of the male callers said other things, but yeah," Reyes agrees. "What surprises me is that Ted Ringer's work hasn't followed him home yet."

He looks at her blankly. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, working on the X-Files takes a certain kind of willpower and dedication," she says, "and sooner or later, it becomes a very large part of your life, if it doesn't consume it entirely. I'm sure if Scully was never assigned to the X-Files, Mulder would still be toiling away diligently to this day, his life dedicated to the work."

Doggett thinks so, too, but out of curiosity, he prompts her, "Why do you say that?"

"Because he and I are alike that way," she replies. "But when I saw him with Scully, and later when Gibson became a part of my life, I realized that I wanted my relationships to be more permanent rather than a sidenote to my work." And she puts a hand on his arm to emphasize her point.

Doggett puts his hand on hers, half-smiling. "Guess I owe those three a lot, then," he says and she nods. "But I've got a feeling that after, what, twenty-plus years of doing this kind of a show, his work has followed him home. Guess we'll find out when we meet him, huh?" They're both distracted when the program, and the callers' varied questions, pour in to pursue that point.

And when the program ends, he turns off the radio. "All things considering, that didn't sound too bad," Doggett grudgingly admits. "He sounds like a fair person, even if more than a few of those callers were off their rockers."

"John," Reyes sighs. "Remember that he'll be as fair to us, okay?"

"Okay," he says, then yawns. "Oh man, I can hardly wait for Thursday and our early vacation," he mumbles, his blue eyes closing.

"Mm, you're not the only one," Reyes says, kissing his cheek before starting to shut down her laptop. "Goodnight, John."

"Night, Mon," he murmurs, his breathing already slowing down.


The Lone Gunmen Headquarters
December 31, 2002
11:50 p.m.

The Lone Gunmen, Mulder's family, Doggett's family, and assorted acquaintances, are gathered to ring in the New Year as festively as possible. This means, for the most part, an abundance of food, music, and people, as well as the requisite sparklers and party hats.

"You know, for a secret hideout, this is getting to be pretty not-so-secret," Jimmy Bond says.

The Lone Gunmen look at their blonde linebacker-like friend, then at each other. "You know, the goof has a point," Langly says as several children run by with cupcake-smeared faces. "Then again, who knew we'd know this many people?"

Frohike shakes his head, then smiles at Scully and Reyes sharing a toast and laughing. "Oh, but how glad I am that we do," he says.

The balding man's compatriots shake their heads when they see who he's looking at. "I believe both ladies are taken," Byers reminds him gently, steering him away.

"Yeah, yeah," Frohike says, "for now."

The other three roll their eyes above his head, including Jimmy. "Hey, Mulder!" Jimmy grins and waves.

Mulder grins, but can't wave because both his arms are occupied by adorable little baby girls. "Hey, Jimmy, guys." He nods at the other three, "where are you off to?"

"Fireworks," Langly says quickly, "before this guy," he says and jerks his head at Frohike, "can start any that'll get him killed."

Mulder raises his eyebrows, but says nothing as Byers and Langly haul Frohike away, with a goofily-grinning Jimmy following behind. He just thinks it's a hoot that it was the Gunmen's idea to host it here, considering how they used to pride themselves on their privacy.

Perhaps their near-death experience and losing Yves for a second time is loosening them up, he thinks, and makes his way past Luke and Gibson making bets over to his lovely wife. "I am surrounded by beauty," he deadpans. "I can tell this is going to be a very good year."

Scully snorts, with William in her arms, while Reyes smiles behind her 2003 glasses and gaudy party hat. "How much have you had to drink?" his wife asks as he kisses the top of her head.

"Nothing, actually," he says, "Brianna and Zoe are making sure their daddy stays out of trouble, while the rest of our offspring are making merry, as they should." Then he spies his sons with cupcake faces and grins. "Definitely making their mark on what's left of the old year, I say."

"You are such a silly." Scully smiles. "Monica, if I stop making sense from now on, you know why."

Mulder nods wisely. "Yes, standing beside such a handsome man would make most women lose their mind," he says, and his beloved wife whacks him with her free hand. "Ow, what?" he says in a normal voice, pretending to ignore Reyes' boisterous laughter.

"Hey, what's up?" Doggett asks, wrapping an arm around Reyes' shoulders.

She smiles and leans against him. "Mulder was just saying that standing beside such a handsome man would make most women lose their minds," she parrots his tone.

Doggett raises an eyebrow, and Mulder merely nods. "I beg to differ," the new X-File division head says.

Mulder tilts his head, then gives the other man a once-over. "Well, I must admit you are a fine specimen in that tight t-shirt and jeans, John," he says seriously, "and with those washboard abs and nicely toned arms, you probably work out more than I do. Hell, if I weren't straight or married, I'd probably kiss you into the new year."

Doggett simply rolls his eyes while their significant others laugh. "Mulder, do I have to tie you up and put you in the corner to make you behave?" he says in a long-suffering tone.

Mulder bats his eyes rapidly. "Ooh, I always knew you were kinky," he says, and winks.

The other man groans, but before he can form an appropriate retort, the music's cut off and Jimmy yells into a bullhorn, "Okay, everybody! One minute to New Year's! Come on outside, we're gonna shoot off the fireworks!"

Obediently, but in a merry way, everyone does so, spilling out of the warehouse and into the road. The Gunmen have cordoned off their area, which holds a good number of most-likely illegal aerials, and the crowd point their flashlights in their direction.

"Hey, hey, that's enough light," Frohike protests. "Okay, Byers, give us a countdown."

The neat Gunman, who is still in a suit and tie in spite of his friends' best efforts, lifts his arm, which reveals a watch with a glow-in-the-dark face. "Thirty seconds," he declares.

"Anyone got a light?" Langly asks, and Reyes hands her lighter over while Frohike pulls his own out. "Thanks, Man."

"Ten seconds," Byers says.

Jimmy asks, "What?"

The bearded man takes the bullhorn from his less-brilliant friend. "Nine!" he shouts through the bullhorn.

As he continues to count down, everyone joins in, well, those who are old enough to count, that is. "Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

And Langly and Frohike whoop while shooting off their rows of fireworks, lighting up the Takoma Park, Maryland sky, giving their friends (and some surprised airline pilots) an unforgettable night show. Mulder and Scully kiss, and so do Doggett and Reyes, while Luke pays Gibson, Page and April and Hannah dance around with sparklers, and Sammy, David, Jared and Christopher have a food fight. Byers and Jimmy think of their respective mystery women and sigh, then wish each other a happy new year before going inside to get the fire extinguishers, just in case.


February 2, 2003
9:42 a.m.

The Doggett children are lined up in front of their father in a manner that reminds Reyes of a similar scene in "The Sound of Music," but she's got a feeling Doggett probably wouldn't know or appreciate the reference. "Remember, three square meals, no snacks in bed, TV's off before midnight, and curfew at 10," Doggett rattles off the list, standing military straight.

"Dad, come on, we've done this a thousand times before," Luke groans. "You and Monica have fun on the conspiracy show."

"Yeah, we're taping this one." Gibson grins, and only Reyes grins back.

"Thanks." Reyes hugs him, then hugs Luke and Hannah. "See you Sunday."

"Will you get to have new clothes like Uncle Fox and Auntie Dana?" Hannah asks.

"Um, no, sweetie, it's for radio, not TV, so we could come in a t-shirt and jeans if we wanted." Reyes smiles.

"Which we won't." Doggett gives her a look.

"We won't," Reyes agrees belatedly, heading out the door. "See ya!"

"Yeah, you don't wanna be late for your plane," Luke prompts them.

Gibson nods. "Or for the extra time going through security," he adds.

Doggett looks at him, then at his other children, who are looking up at him innocently. Hmph. Fine. "Bye," he says as he heads out the door, "don't burn the house down."

"Dad!" Gibson groans, then pulls out a dollar bill. "Oh, man!"

"Told ya." Luke smirks, shoving it into his jeans with one hand and waving at their departing parent with the other. When the door closes, the angelic faces drop, with all of them smirking at each other.

"TV!" Hannah flies to the couch, where the remote control is sitting. In seconds, a kiddie show is on, full of annoying music and bright colors.

"I think I hear the potato chips calling my name." Luke grins, heading for the kitchen.

"I think this is gonna be a crazy weekend." Gibson shakes his head, but grabs a video game controller. "Bet you I can beat you at 3 out of 5 games on Halo, and I get my dollar back."

"Dream on," Luke says from the kitchen, "three cans of Coke say you can't."

"You're on," his shorter brother shoots back, and they're busy yelling at each other and the video game in minutes.


"So, John," Reyes says when they're waiting to board, "what was that all about?"

"What?" he asks innocently.

She gives him a look. "The whole riot act before we left the house. Like they said, they've done it before. What brought on the whole 1950s dad thing?"

He gives her a look right back. "Normally, I'd agree with you, but," he pauses, "dads have a kind of radar."

"Daddy radar?" Reyes raises her eyebrows. "Like mommy eyes in the back of the head?"

After a beat, he answers. "Something like that. I just got a feeling that my kids will be up to no good this weekend," he finishes grimly.

"So, if they do something incredibly stupid and we're not there, you can say that at least you told them so?" Reyes tilts her head.

He smiles a small smile. "Something like that," he says again.

She puts a hand on his shoulder and massages it briefly. "Then relax. We won't be in front of the firing squad until ten tonight." She smiles.

"Way to take the worry off." Doggett rolls his eyes. "Distract me from one problem with another."

"Is it really a problem?" Reyes asks. "You could've said no to the interview if you didn't feel comfortable."

He shrugs. "I guess it's just part of my background as a cop to distrust the media, legit or not."

"Uh-huh," she says. "You better let me handle the tough questions, then."

"Why?" he asks, surprised.

She laughs. "Because if you give Ted Ringer the same look you gave me when saying 'the media', he might think you're out to get him," she answers. "That, or you looked like you swallowed a pint of unsweetened lemon juice."

"Sorry," he says, a little surprised, but smiles anyways. "Okay, I'll try not to look at him too much, then."

Reyes smiles and puts her arms around his shoulders. "I think when we get back, we should get you into a media relations class. In the meantime, we're going to do a bit of role-playing before we meet Mr. Ringer, okay?"

"Okay," he sighs. It was going to be a long flight, Doggett thinks, even though it's only a couple of hours long.


Dallas, Texas
10:13 p.m.

Doggett and Reyes find themselves in front of a small two-story building with the correct media name emblazoned on the marquee. They look at each other, since it's one of the smallest structures they've seen in Texas, then walk inside. Inside, it's air-conditioned, well-lit with eggshell-colored walls, mottled blue carpet and a big man sitting behind the secretary's desk. Doggett gives the man a quick appraisal before asking, "Ted Ringer?"

The slightly-heavyset man smiles, his eyes crinkling as he does so. "Thanks for coming in, Agents Doggett and Reyes," he says, standing, and they see he's a little taller than Doggett. Like Doggett, he's wearing a suit and tie, and shakes the man's hand, then Reyes'. "I can't begin to say how pleased I am that you're here. Follow me, the studio's upstairs."

They take an elevator upstairs, then follow him to a small studio. Once inside, he motions them to sit down, then pulls a couple of forms from his briefcase. "Okay, according to this, Agent Reyes, you've had some experience with radio, and you haven't." He nods at Doggett, who nods back.

"Okay, some ground rules," he says, smiling a little. "If you're even slightly familiar with this show, you know we don't tolerate discrimination of any kind. We also don't tolerate foul language, but that's got a little something to do with the FCC and heavy fines as well. However, we do our best to embrace all sorts of ideas and information, and to present them as truthfully as we can to our listeners. I realize that you may not be able to disclose the entire nature of your cases with our audience, but I'd like you to do your best. If you've got any questions, feel free to ask them now, and we may cover them on-air as well."

"Okay," Doggett says, "how much of this stuff do you actually believe?"

Ted Ringer laughs. "Boy, you shoot straight from the hip, don't you?" he chuckles. "Good. Well, over the years, I believe more and more. Granted, I like my guests to provide as much proof as they can for our listeners, but some more than others aren't able to. Working on the X-Files, I'm sure there have been cases you haven't quite sewn up, haven't you?"

"We try our best," Reyes interjects smoothly, smiling as she does so.

"Agent Reyes," he says and turns to her, "you've got quite an interesting resume. This must be your dream job, considering your interests."

She nods. "And I bet this is yours," she says, looking around. "What's it like, to go from working with a board operator to running everything yourself?"

He raises his eyebrows. "Actually, I was a board operator and engineer before I became a DJ," he answers. "It's made the transition much easier, as opposed to a lot of my colleagues, who are still dependent on a producer or board op to run things. But I won't bore you with the details."

"Trust me, it'll be a learning experience for the both of us." Reyes smiles, nudging Doggett. "We've got some time before the show, tell us what it was like before everything went to computers."

"I'm both oddly complimented and obscurely insulted by that remark." Ted Ringer grins. "But since we all know I'm older than dirt-" He winks at Doggett, "-fine. Back in those days, I grew my own tobacco in the backyard for my cigarettes, did backbreaking labor for the evil radio gods who would deign to drop a scrap of wisdom for a scrawny teenaged boy still playing with a ham radio, and clawing my way my way up the ladder while kicking the undeserving down." He finishes this with a mock-haughty pose.

"Ted!" Reyes huffs, half-exasperated and half-laughing. "Come on!"

"What, you think my life story's all that interesting? I'm just a radio show host, you two are the ones with the guns and glory," he says.

Doggett snorts. "Guns, yeah, glory, no. For glory, we'd have to do your job."

Ringer grins. "Yeah, all the glory, but not all the pay. Syndication's how I make most of my paycheck," he pats the soundboard, "and folks paying online to download the shows. And the random person here and there buying kitschy things from the online store." He shrugs. "A guy's gotta make a living, but I honestly never thought I'd be a radio man this long."

"Really?" Reyes wonders. "Why not?"

He shrugs again. "Back when I started, TV was just starting out, too, but radio was king. I was better at the mechanics but fascinated by the personalities, and radio had more fascinating personalities. As a board op, I worked with the best, and watched how they worked, listened to how they treated guests and staff alike. I was still in high school, but I was able to get a late night show, thanks to supportive parents," he pauses at Doggett's disbelieving look, "no, really. My mom was pretty much my cheerleader, while my dad appreciated the fact that I got paid. And after that small taste of power, it was pretty hard to stop." He grins.

"Power, huh?" Reyes raises an eyebrow.

He shrugs a little. "Well, I guess it's more of an addiction," he admits. "Even after that station folded, I worked for another station as an engineer and part-time board op. I did that for a couple more stations until one of them gave me a shot, covering for a talk show host on weekends and holidays. Eventually, I got another late-night show, which grew into the monster you're going to be on in about," he says while checking his watch, "twenty minutes, and thus ends our tale."

"Not quite," Doggett says. "What got you into the paranormal in the first place?"

Ringer nods. "Ghost stories. You could say it was my gateway drug for both radio and the paranormal. Both involve some kind of investment from the audience, some curiosity, a little bit of knowledge, and a lot of persistence. And my math teacher was the best ghost storyteller ever."

"Your math teacher?" Doggett's eyebrows are way up.

Ringer chuckles. "Yeah. Mr. Riker, seventh and eighth grade math. He was quite a character, strict when it came to formulas and writing out the steps to the answers, and strict when it came to following school rules as well. But on rainy days, which weren't often, he'd close the windows and doors, turn on a flashlight, and tell the scariest stories than would make your hair curl and your stomach turn." He smiles with remembered relish.

"I was one of those kids who had to find out if they were true stories or not. We didn't have the internet back then." He grins. "So I had to do it the old-fashioned way, by asking other adults and looking them up in the library. I found some of those stories in ghost story collections, but others, whoo, they came from newspaper articles and thick World War II books. Later on, I even found out that a few of those were from his own personal experience. You kind of remind me of him, Agent Doggett."

Doggett's surprised. "I do?"

The talk show host nods. "Yep. A real no-nonsense kind of guy, but you've seen all kinds of things on the job, haven't you? And I'm not talking about just the X-Files, but also your time as a police officer for NYPD and as a Marine." He smiles slightly at Doggett's reaction before going on. "Believe it or not, Agent Doggett, I do have a real respect for my guests, whether they come with crystals or badges."

Then he checks his watch. "Okay, we've got about eleven minutes. Now's the time to hit the bathrooms, which down the hallway to the left, or the kitchen for a cup of coffee, which is down to the right," he intones with well-practiced delivery as he shoves the papers back in and closes his briefcase, "but as for me, I'm taking a smoke break outside. Anyone care to join me?"

Reyes smiles. "I'll join you after I go to the ladies' room," she says, then heads out the door, while Doggett shakes his head.

"I take it you don't smoke, Agent Doggett," Ringer says, and Doggett shakes his head affirmatively. "Well, see you in ten." And he walks out with briefcase in hand, already pulling out a cigarette carton as he does so.

Now that everyone's gone, Doggett takes his time looking around the studio. Along with the soundboard, there's a couple of computer monitors, a keyboard with a wireless mouse and a couple of CPUs beneath the counter, a phone bank with seven rows of three columns of buttons (two columns with alternating orange and green lights) along with the numerical buttons, a large digital clock with an hour: minute: second counter, under which is a couple of shelves with CDs, two CD players and a CD burner.

One of the computer monitors shows what's been playing in the background, some show entitled "The Tom Torrent Show," which Doggett's never heard of, and next in line is the "Late Nights with Dead Ringer Show." Goody. To calm his nerves, he goes to the kitchen and gets himself a cup of coffee, which, thankfully, smells freshly made.


The first hour and a half, however, goes by more smoothly and quickly than Doggett would've thought. In part because of Reyes' preparation, and also in part because Ted Ringer is actually a good host, that his nervousness is forgotten faster than he would've thought. In fact, he finds himself telling the guy more than he would've expected, and at one point, they're all cracking up at some crazy remark on cars, of all things. "Maybe I should fear for my job," Ringer jokes, "with Monica Reyes' smooth voice and John Doggett's mechanical know-how, I think I know who my next replacements are."

"I don't know the first thing about running that soundboard of yours," Doggett disagrees, "watching you hit all those buttons reminds me of those science fiction movies with people hitting flashing buttons to make the spaceships go."

"You actually watch science fiction?" Ringer teases him.

Doggett groans. "Don't all Americans watch some 'Star Trek' or 'Star Wars' at some point?"

"You heard it, folks, as God-fearing, red-blooded Americans, you should all go out and rent 'Star Trek' or 'Star Wars'." Ringer winks at him while Doggett rolls his eyes. "At least, according to an actual FBI division head."

"Thanks." Doggett shakes his head with a rueful look. "I'm sure that'll make headlines."

"Wouldn't that be cool?" Reyes grins. "What?" she says to Doggett's "hush, you" look.

"It's a lovely idea," Ringer agrees, shutting off their mics, "ladies and gents, we'll be right back after this commercial break. You're listening to Late Nights with Dead Ringer." Then he hits the music outro from a mini-array on the touch screen monitor as he kills his own mic, then slowly fades it out on the soundboard before hitting the start button on the monitor for the commercials, their pots already raised.

"Oops, we're back on in a minute, agents, I suggest you put on those headsets so you can hear the callers." He hits the music bumper after the last commercial plays, waits for them to adjust their headsets, and then opens their mics. "And we're back," he says smoothly while fading the music out. "I'm Ted Ringer, in the studio with Agents Doggett and Reyes of the FBI's X-Files division. We're opening this to callers now, the number is 1-800-555-RING, that's 1-800-555- 7464. We're looking forward to taking your questions and comments. Before they flood you with questions, however, there's something I'm wondering."

"What's that?" Reyes leans forward.

"Are you ready to go through the gauntlet?" When they make affirmative noises, he grins. "Good, because we've got quite a few callers," Ringer says, "the phone's all lit up like my Aunt Martha! Hi, you're on the Dead Ringer Show," he hits the first phone line and raises the phone pot, "who's this?"

"Hi," the caller says, and feedback assaults their ears, making the agents wince.

Ringer merely lowers the phone pot and says, "You'll have to turn your radio off, that goes for the rest of you callers as well, you know the game rules." Then he slowly raises the phone pot, "Hello, are you still there?"

"Whoops. Oh, yeah. Hello?" the caller says, his speech punctuated by a quick, stop-start manner of speaking.

"Hello, who's this and where are you calling from?" Ringer says.

"Mitch. From Albany," the caller replies. "Just. Agent Doggett. Just wanted to let you know. I like Mulder and Scully much better. Just wanted to know why they never came on? And why you're here? Because Mulder and Scully. They're more qualified. Neither of you really have much experience. Mulder and Scully should be here."

Ringer's thick eyebrows are raised, but tilts his head at Doggett expectantly for the answer. Doggett narrows his eyes, but his voice is even as he answers, "If you've got a TV set, you can see Mulder and Scully on the 'Jose Chung' show. As to your other questions, I don't know why they've never been on Mr. Ringer's show, honestly. And we're here because we were invited. You're entitled to your opinion, but obviously I don't share it. That about do it for you?"

Reyes laughs when the caller hangs up abruptly. "It seems like we've got a feisty caller," she says, "wonder who's next?"

Ringer grins, then hits the next phone button. The next five callers are similarly "feisty", and Doggett's looking more and more like the grim tight-lipped cop Reyes had teased him about being earlier, while Reyes still looks unruffled, even after some personal attacks. Then comes a call from left field, so to speak.

"Hi, you're on the Dead Ringer show, where are you calling from?"

"Um, Amy, I'm calling from Kent, Washington?" a mild voice says.

"Amy, honey, speak up a little," Ringer prompts her, while raising the phone pot.

"Hi?" she says, a little louder. "I was wondering? Is the X-Files just a guy-girl thing? Or can it be guy-guy or girl-girl?"

"What exactly do you mean?" Ringer asks, while Reyes miming a big "I don't know" and Doggett's frowning.

"Well, it sounds like there's always a guy-girl pairing?" Amy says in her curious way of raising the tone at the end of her sentence, whether or not it's a question. "Because there was Mulder and Scully? And at one time there was Fowley and Spender? Who was a girl and a guy? And now there's Doggett and Reyes?"

"Hm, you've got a point," Ringer says, now looking at the pair. "Is it part of the hiring process?"

Doggett wonders how this girl, or young lady who sounds like a girl, got the information about Fowley and Spender. Jeez, it sounds like there's more people out there like the Lone Gunmen, like Reyes said. "No, that's kind of the way it turned out," he says, "it's always been a rather small division. And as you might know, it was just Agent Mulder at one time. At the most, there've been four people, with equal representation of gender," he says, and wonders why he's sounding like an FBI promo tonight. "Honestly, it could just as easily have been two men or two women, or four women, for that matter. We just try to make sure that it's the best person for the job, whether it's a man or a woman."

"Oh, okay?" Amy says. "Thanks?" And hangs up.

"We'll be taking a break," Ringer says, "and we'll get back to the calls when we come back. Remember, the number is 1-800-555-RING, that's 1-800-555-7464." He hits the music bumper and slowly raises the pot. "Once again, 1-800-555-7464. We'll be right back." Then he kills all three mics, letting the music play a little before starting the next commercial set. "There, that wasn't so bad, wasn't it?" Ringer says, but looks at Doggett.

"Are you kidding? Any more vicious and I'd have to shoot them in self-defense," Doggett says, only half-joking.

"Well, now that you've got a sample of what our audience thinks, are you ready to handle the next hour?" Ringer asks.

Doggett makes a face. "Sure, I'll just make sure not to hold back since they aren't," and grins when Reyes sighs. "In any case, that Amy's given me an idea."

"What, make it official that we only hire one man and one woman for our replacements, or turn the X-Files into a dating pool?" Reyes jokes.

He shakes his head. "I'd like to stick around long enough to retire, like Mulder and Scully, but I can't promise that'll happen. But if I do, I'd like to train the next batch of replacements. Doesn't have to be two, if the caseload gets bigger, maybe three agents," Doggett says. "I can handle three kids, and we can probably handle three new recruits."

"John, why do you look like a drill sergeant ready to break some fresh meat?" Reyes crosses her arms. "We've still got quite some time before we need replacements."

Doggett's still got that mildly bloodthirsty grin on his face. "Let's just say I've got a new plan for the future," he says, and Ringer chuckles while Reyes sighs again.

The next hour goes by in quite the same way, with mostly Doggett and Reyes bashers, a handful of supporters, and a quarter of really random questions like Amy's. After the baptism by fire, so to speak, Doggett held his own, and even won a couple of grudging admirers, while Reyes managed to convince a couple of other callers that she was on their side, but for the most part, the calling audience were still very much Mulder and Scully supporters.

"Just a reminder to our listening audience, the reason why the previous X-Files agents aren't on this show tonight is because they have legal, contractual obligations preventing them from doing so, thank you," Ted Ringer says, just barely stopping himself from rolling his eyes. Honestly, he expected better from his audience.

"And that wraps up tonight's program with our guests, Special Agent John Doggett and Special Agent Monica Reyes of the FBI's X-File division. I'm Ted Ringer, of Late Nights with Dead Ringer, with you every night because strange things happen every day." He hits the music outro with a flourish, killing all their mics, and turns to his guests with a pleasant smile.

They smile back, just as pleasantly. "Now tell us the real reason why we're here, Mr. O'Neill," Doggett says.


Ted Ringer, that is, Ted O'Neill raises his eyebrows, but is still smiling. "You really earn that government paycheck, don't you?" he says.

"Don't forget I was a cop before being a fed," Doggett says. "Now dish."

He doesn't answer at first, fading out the music before hitting the computer command to switch the station to satellite and turning off the website feed. When he turns back to them, the smile drops from the talk show host's face to be replaced with a deep frown, adding years to his already craggy features. "I have a really big favor to ask of you two," he says.

"What is it?" Reyes asks.

"I need you to kill me," he says.

They stare at him. "What?" Doggett's the first to speak, after more than a few moments of silence. "Are you serious?" he asks.

"As a heart attack," the heavyset man says. "What do you say?"

"No, of course not." Reyes' brow furrows. "Why would you want us to do that? Why ask anyone?"

Ringer looks up at the ceiling. "Ever heard of the phrase 'taking your work home with you'?" he says.

"Yeah," Doggett says, unsure of where this is going.

The talk show host says, "In my case, I don't have that problem. Because I can't go home. The farthest I can get is maybe a few steps away from my car, which, if you haven't noticed, is the beat-up piece of crap Taurus sitting in the parking lot, and I find myself back in the studio again. I haven't been able to go leave in three months. Thankfully, there's a shower here and delivery, but still! I'm not sure if it's a compulsion or a curse, but there's something preventing me from getting away. None of my guests have that problem, and I've asked more than a few psychics to help me with it. But they find themselves leading me back here when they try."

Doggett gives him a look. "You're kidding, right? I mean, you've got a home to go to and everything-"

"But I don't have a family," he says. "Well, I've got five of them, but thanks to a handy thing called divorce, they're all living their separate lives in different states and countries." He sighs. "Heck, I've even called for cabs, but they either pass by or don't show up at all. I tried asking my last couple of guests to take me home, but." He shrugs. "One forgot I asked, and the other started to take me, but then remembered there was only room for one on his bicycle." He smiles wanly. "It's a pity I can't fit on the handlebars like I used to."

"So this is like your Bermuda Triangle," Reyes says, "or some kind of vortex you're trapped in."

"Pretty much," Ringer says. He looks at Doggett's skeptical face and nods. "Okay, you try, then."

"Fine," the gruff agent says, and grabs the guy by the arm. "I swear, if you're trying to pull one on us, I will shoot you."

The radio host shrugs with his free shoulder as he's being dragged to the elevator. "Everyone at work thinks I'm just super-dedicated and I really love my job. Well, I do love my job, but not this much." They step into the elevator, and it's a quick flight down. "But this is starting to drive me nuts."

"And you think the best way to solve it is by dying?" Doggett shakes his head. "Come on." He marches the guy in front of him as if he's guiding a prisoner.

"So far, so good," Ringer murmurs as they step outside.

"Duh," Doggett says from behind. "Keep walking."

They keep walking until they're almost by Ringer's car, which truly looks like a wreck, and Doggett's not sure the car can move even if they do make it there. Then, out of nowhere, some crazy biker gang comes thundering down the road and nearly runs them over, hooting and waving chains as they pass by. Ringer is pushed by one of the bikers, and he falls on his back, while Doggett automatically throws himself out of the way, rolling to a stop.

When the dust clears, Doggett gets to his feet and squints at the breathing radio host. "You okay over there?" he asks, walking over. Ringer nods, staring up at the night sky. "Good," he says, pulling the man to his feet. "Come on, your car's just a foot away."

Ringer nods again, but as he walks, his breathing's heavy and his steps are slow. "Sorry, I think I'm just a bit winded," he says, and the agent, who's practically a couple of steps away from the car, stops and starts to turn.

And then a biker, perhaps a last-minute straggler, knocks Doggett off his feet. If he'd seen the bastard coming, his arm stretched out like a wrestling move and bolstered by a speed of over 40 miles an hour, he would've gotten out of the way like any sane person. Instead, he goes flying and hits the car, then bounces off the metal frame like a rag doll, landing at Ringer's feet.

"Oh, shit, Agent, can you hear me?" the talk show host asks, going down on his knees with a wheeze.

Doggett blinks, then rasps, "Get the hell over to your car." He winces as breathing's hurting, and slowly puts a hand to his side. Damn, a rib might be broken, but he's hoping it's just dented. "Move it."

Ringer nods, walking backwards, as if on the lookout for any other bikers. He's almost at his car when Reyes screams, "Freeze!"

Doggett groans as Ringer does so, his hands in the air. He watches as Reyes questions the talk show host at gunpoint, then marches the guy over to where he's lying. "Mon," he gasps, "let him go and get me an ambulance."

She nods, then pulls out her cell phone. "Yes, federal agent down," she says, and rattles off the address.

However, Ringer hasn't moved, even when Doggett scowls at him. "You got run over instead of me," he says, "don't worry, I'll get to my car as soon as the ambulance gets here." And when the ambulance comes, he gets out of the way, and is almost at the car when Doggett's rolled inside the white vehicle with Reyes jumping in. Then he finds himself slowly walking back into the building, as if he's forgotten why he came out in the first place.


South Dallas General Hospital
February 3, 2003
9:01 a.m.

The next morning finds one agent with a stiff neck and the other with enough meds to knock out a small animal. As he'd feared, he did have a broken rib, but all they could do at this point was give him as much painkillers as was allowable and have him under observation. "Hey, Mon," he says, cracking open his eyes to see his partner slowly rotate her head. "How's your neck?"

"Not as bad as your rib," she says, slowly smiling. "How are you feeling?"

"Not bad if I don't breathe," he says, and she shakes her head. Then his phone rings, startling them both. "Damn. Could you get that?"

She nods and roots around his clothes, then seeing the number, answers, "Hey, how's things at home?"

"Monica? Where's Dad?" Luke's voice sounds surprised.

"In the hospital, because some biker ran him over," she replies. "Here, let me pass this to him."

"Uh, Dad?" Luke's voice sounds a bit too casual, even over the phone.

"Yeah?" Doggett replies, shifting his phone to his other hand.

"How are you feeling?"

I could use all the curse words in the world and it still wouldn't describe it, is what's on the tip of his tongue. But he says instead, "Like hell. What's up?"

There's a long pause, and then a deep breath. "We, uh, kinda borrowed the car," his eldest son starts off quickly, "and then-"

"I don't wanna hear it," Doggett cuts him off. "You can tell me the graphic details when we get back home, but consider you and Gibson grounded from now."

"Me, too?" Gibson yelps from the other house phone.

"Yeah, you." Doggett scowls. "You didn't exactly stop him, did you?"

"No, sir," the younger teen sighs.

"Other than that, anything else I should know about?" Doggett asks his sons.

"No, sir," they chorus.

"Good," he sighs, "make sure it stays that way when we get back. See ya."

"See ya," they chorus before hanging up.

Doggett sighs, then sags against the hospital bed, wincing. "Mon?"

Reyes smiles slightly as she takes the cell phone away. "So, how's everything back at the ranch?" she asks.

He groans. "Is my hair white? It feels like it should be," he mutters, staring up at the ceiling.

She chuckles. "No, John, it's not. Come on, it can't be that bad, whatever they said."

He gives her a look. "When teenaged boys start off a conversation using the phrase 'kinda borrowed the car' and they're not legal yet, it's never a good thing."

"Oh," she says, raising her eyebrows. "So, how are we gonna kill them?"

He grins suddenly. "God, I love you, woman," he says.

She grins back. "Duh," she retorts. "So how did the rest of the conversation go?"

"It didn't," Doggett says sheepishly. "I told them they were grounded and I figure after Hannah spills, we can decide how we're gonna kill them."

Reyes nods. "Sounds like a plan." Then she says, "Sorry, I have to go. I told the doctor I'd notify him as soon as you woke up."

He blinks his assent, then closes his eyes when she leaves. There was something important he had to do, he thinks, but for now, he can't remember what it was.


The doctor, a stern-faced man with the improbable name of Happi, accompanied by a nonverbal male nurse, checks out Doggett and is satisfied that there have been no further negative developments concerning the rib.

He pulls out an X-ray and holds it up against the light. "Lucky for you, it's a hairline fracture, so it hasn't pulled away from the lung, nor has it punctured anything. Just make sure you don't do anything strenuous, take some deep breaths every few minutes and some ibuprofen, and it should heal by itself within a couple of months."

"A couple of months?" Doggett asks, now sitting up, wondering how long he can stay on the job while doing nothing.

Reyes smirks. "Looks like you'll be a desk jockey for a couple of months, hm?" she says, folding her arms.

He gives her a look. "Ha, ha." He takes a deep breath, then winces. "Damn."

"Yeah, it'll hurt," Dr. Happi says drily, his mouth turned down. "But that should help your rib regain its former shape. Any questions?"

His forbidding look would discourage most, except he's dealing a different kind of patient, namely, the impatient kind. "Yeah, when you said strenuous, did that include stretches? Or how about driving? Does shooting someone count as strenuous?"

Dr. Happi stares at the man in the bed, then checks the man's folder. Oh, FBI. "Yes, that includes stretches, no, driving's safe, and I wouldn't recommend shooting someone, but I suppose if you had some kind of support or prop, you could do it."

"Good to know," Doggett says, smiling grimly. "So I'm good to go?"

The doctor hands him a note. "You can pick up your ibuprofen at the front desk," he says, "but for further medication, you'd have to get it over-the-counter."

"Thanks," Doggett says, and after the doctor and nurse leaves, he looks at Reyes. "I just remembered."

She frowns slightly. "What do you mean?"

"Something important," he says, wincing as he stands, then gets his cell phone. He dials, and then waits. "Yeah, this is Agent Doggett. Are you home?" He ignores his partner's curious look, then scowls at the answer. "What do you mean, you never left? You said as soon as the ambulance got me, you'd leave, dammit!" There's some noise at the other end, but he interrupts, saying, "We're gonna get you out of there, got it? See you," and hangs up.

"Who were you talking to?" Reyes wonders.

He says, "Ted Ringer. Remember, the crazy guy who can't leave his job and asked us to kill him?" When she looks at him blankly, he groans. "Dammit. Come on, we've got a radio show host to rescue."

She shakes her head, but helps him into his clothes and follows his lead.


It doesn't take the agents long to return to the two-story building, and find the heavyset man behind the counter. "You are one determined son of a gun," Ringer remarks when he sees the grim-faced agent along with a slightly confused agent. "Honestly, I tried leaving, but I found myself here."

"Don't give me that bullshit," Doggett says, his eyes narrowed like a gunslinger's. "Agent, cuff him."

Reyes stares at her partner. "What?"

He looks at her. "We're not playing his game. Just cuff him and put him in the back of the car," he says. "We're taking him home."

She shrugs, but does as he says. "Sorry," she says, then goes to the car.

Ringer shakes his head. "No, I'm sorry," he says, turning around to face Doggett, who's walking behind in pain, "I didn't realize it would go as far as hurting you."

"Just walk," Doggett says, out of patience and breath.

The three go to the rental car, which is parked in front of the door, and Reyes has to hold Ringer's head down so he won't bump his head. She's about to get in the driver's seat, but Doggett's somehow beaten her there, and she raises her eyebrows. "You're up to driving?" she asks.

He nods. "Stay in the backseat and keep an eye on him," he says, "I don't trust him not to do something crazy."

She shakes her head, but gets in the backseat with Ringer. "Jeez, should I put a gun on him, too, while I'm at it?" she asks sarcastically.

"Might be a good idea," Doggett says, and starts the car. When they're about a few feet away from the radio station, the rental car breaks down. "You've got to be kidding!" he exclaims, then hits the steering wheel. "Ow!"

Reyes sighs, then says, "Pop the hood. Maybe it's just a small thing." She gets out and walks to the front of the car.

He nods, wincing as he bends down and grabs the release. He watches as she lifts the hood up and props it up. Slowly, he gets out of the car and walks around to see if there's anything that can be fixed.

"You've gotta be kidding," he says again, but muttering it in disgust this time. Somehow, some small mammal, maybe a rat or a squirrel, got inside the car, chewed the water line and one of the cables, and got itself fried on the battery. "Wonder if the FBI can cover the rental."

She makes a face. "I doubt it." She sighs, pulling out her cell phone and her wallet.

"Who're you calling?" he asks.

"Triple-A," she replies. "We need this towed and maybe the guy can get Mr. Ringer home on the way. Yes, my name's Monica Reyes," she says, apparently getting an operator. "That's M-O-N-I-C- A, no, N-I, wait, let me spell it again," and rolls her eyes as Doggett goes to the back passenger door of the car.

"Get out of the car," Doggett tells Ringer. "I need to get those cuffs off."

"What now?" Ringer asks, but doesn't seem surprised at the turn of events. When he steps out, Doggett motions him to turn around.

"We're getting a tow truck," he says, unlocking the cuffs and taking them back, "it'd be pretty complicated if we had to explain to the driver why you're locked up."

Ringer nods, then shakes his hands out. "So we wait?"

Doggett nods. Reyes joins them and he asks, "How long?"

She sighs. "For some reason, today's a busy day for them, so it'll take a couple of hours."

Doggett looks at the talk show host. "How far away is your house?"

"My trailer's about twenty miles away," Ringer answers.

"Figures," Doggett sighs, then winces. Then an idea comes to him. "The nearest strip mall is less than a mile away. Go there."

"What?" Reyes and Ringer chorus.

Doggett looks at Ringer. "You said you couldn't go home. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Well, try someplace close by. The strip mall's not too far, it's in walking distance, practically."

"I haven't walked that far in ages," the heavyset man says.

"Maybe it's about time you start," Doggett says unsympathetically. "Reyes, go with him."

She gives him a look. "He's a grown man, he can walk by himself."

He returns that look in spades. "If you don't remember, he's got this crazy idea that he can't go farther than a few feet from the radio station," and points at their current location. "If he decides to turn around, tackle him. I'd do it, but the doctor would probably classify that as strenuous exercise."

"Fine." She shakes her head, smiling a little. "Here, take my card." She hands the AAA card over, then takes Ringer's arm in hers. "Come on, we should be there and back by the time the tow truck gets here."

The tall heavyset man takes a deep breath, then nods. "Okay, I'm ready."

She grins up at him, takes a step forward, then stops. "I don't feel so good," she says, then topples to the ground.


Doggett forces himself not to run as he makes his way over to Reyes' prone body, Ringer kneeling beside her. "Monica," he says when he's beside her, "what's wrong?" He feels her forehead, and it's rather hot. He's not sure if she's had anything for breakfast, he knows he sure hasn't. Shit. "Ringer, get inside and get some food and cold water," he says, "she's got a fever and I'm not sure when's the last time she ate."

The talk show host nods, getting to his feet and lumbering as quickly as he can inside the station. When he comes back, he finds the male agent vainly fanning his partner with his wallet. "Here," he says, handing over a muffin, a cup of water, and wadded-up damp paper towels. He puts the soggy towels on the female agent's forehead, while Doggett props Reyes' head up and tries to coax her to drink.

"Mon. Mon, drink up," Doggett says hoarsely, but the water spills out of her mouth. "Dammit."

Ringer looks on helplessly as Doggett takes a gulp of water, then puts his mouth over hers and empties the contents down her throat. The FBI agent does this a few times, as it seems to have gone down the right tube, but she doesn't seem to be waking up. He starts when the agent barks at him. "What?"

"I said, carry her inside," Doggett snaps, his nerves frayed with worry. "I can't do it, thanks to this damned broken rib. There's a nice couch in the lobby, put her there." The heavyset man nods, then gets to his knees as Doggett topples her onto his back, dislodging the wet towels from her forehead. He pulls Reyes' arms around his shoulders like a cape, then pulls her to her feet and half-drags her to the lobby and gently lays her down on the couch.

After getting their overnight bags, Doggett follows behind, empty cup and muffin in hand. He hates feeling so helpless, especially when it concerns someone he loves. He leans against the wall, and says tiredly, "Could you get a bigger cup of water with a straw? Thanks." When the radio host leaves, he opens his bag and pulls out a t-shirt, then dumps the bag on the floor. He hauls himself to the men's room and soaks the t-shirt in cold water, wringing it out so it won't drip all over the place, then returns to Reyes' unconscious body and puts it on her forehead.

Seeing her sweat-soaked body lying on the couch reminds him of some kind of painting, but he's not sure what, only that it was depressing. And he promptly banishes that thought, frowning as he does so. "Thanks," he says again when Ringer comes back with the requested large cup of water and straw.

Ringer shakes his head. "This all happened because of me," he says.

"What, you gave her a fever?" Doggett says sarcastically, sitting down on a nearby chair. "Look, we just had a run of bad luck."

The other man shakes his head again, sitting heavily on the chair facing the agent's. "The secretary isn't here because she broke both her legs trying to drive me out," he says, "some asshole crashed into her side. A freak hailstorm hit when I tried to catch a cab. And Pizza Hut doesn't deliver here any more because three of their drivers got into accidents."

"You could've told us that earlier," Doggett says as evenly as he can. "Someone got a grudge against you or what?"

Ringer hangs his head miserably. "No," he says, "but whenever someone comes even close to really getting me away from here, they get hurt. And that's why I want you to kill me."

"Tempting as it sounds right now, there's gotta be another way," Doggett says. He looks down at Reyes, who he figures is more acquainted with weird shit than he is. "Since my paranormal expert is currently out of commission, give me some ideas of what you think might be behind this."

Ringer shakes his head. "Some of my guests say that it's not a curse, but a benevolent aura that surrounds me. Others say they sense no ill will towards me, all they see is prosperity in my future. No matter who I consult, even online, nobody knows who's behind it." He shrugs. "Well, I don't tell the online folks who I am, but I've told them as much as I've told you, and I've got nothing."

Doggett's scowl gets deeper. "Same here." He looks over at his partner, who is sleeping soundly, then looks at the radio host, who is looking guilty. Dammit. "Well, while we're here, might as well tell me some stories," he says.

"What?" Ringer looks startled.

Doggett shrugs, then winces. Jeez, even a shrug set off that broken rib? Anyways. "We got nothing better to do, and I wanna be here when she wakes up," he says, tilting his head at Reyes. He knows there's a TV in the kitchen and there's probably wireless availability for his laptop, but he wants to be here for his partner and keep an eye on Ringer. That way, when Reyes wakes up, he can tell her to strangle the guy, and he grins at the thought. "Start off with those ghost stories your math teacher used to tell."

Ringer's surprised and a little relieved. "Okay, but don't blame me if I don't remember how some of them end. It's been years."

"Oh, I'm sure you remember," Doggett says. "Go on."

And for the rest of the day and most of the night, the men tell tales, some taller than most.


"Geas!" Reyes shouts when she wakes up.

Doggett, who's lying on Ringer's sleeping bag on the floor, wakes up with a start. "What the hell???" he yelps, then groans, his broken rib reminding him not to move too quickly. "Son of a bitch," he breathes, putting a hand to his right side. He slowly sits up to find Reyes looking at him with her dark eyes wide. "What?"

"Ringer," she says, still lying down but clear-eyed. "He's got a geas on him."

"What's that?" Doggett squints at her.

"According to Celtic mythology, it could be considered a curse," she says, "but it's more like a rule or a powerful compulsion. If you obey it, you're blessed and you live a long life. But there are countless stories detailing how men disobeyed it and died."

"Oh, goody," he deadpans, then looks around. "Son of a bitch, where'd he go," he murmurs, when he hears a toilet flush. "Never mind." Then he looks at her. "Are you hungry?"

She nods, slowly sitting up, then puts a hand to the damp cloth on her forehead. She smiles when she sees it's his t-shirt. "What do you have?" she asks.

He looks around and holds up a half-empty pizza carton. "Pizza," he says, "apparently, Papa John delivers."

"Apparently," she agrees, helping herself to a slice. She waves at Ringer, because her mouth is full of pizza.

He waves back. "Good to see you're feeling better," he says.

She nods and swallows, then sees the big plastic cup of water and takes a big gulp. "Definitely better," she says, "and you're under a geas."

"What?" he says, echoing Doggett as he stares at her.

"I think I heard some of what you guys were talking about," she says, "and while I was dreaming, I put it all together. Your work is your geas."

"My," Ringer pauses, "my work is my geas?" He stands there for a while, not saying anything.

"You've pretty much given up everything else in your life for your work," Reyes says, "your kids, your wives, a decent home or a car, or even an outside life. And your work has rewarded you by placing a geas on you." She tilts her head a little. "In a way, it's a compliment. You've been faithful to this job more than anything else, and it's rewarding you by allowing you to be the best at what you do. It's just that when you have the all-too-human urge to leave the building, or work, as it were, you incur the geas' side effect."

He nods tiredly. "Well, when you put it that way, I suppose I can see how that works out."

Doggett looks from one person to the other. "This still doesn't make sense to me. So it's not a person doing it to you, but your work?"

Ringer shrugs. "Guess that's why all the psychics couldn't really pinpoint anything when I asked them about it. We were in the studio and it was pretty much all around us." He sighs. "Well, I could always put on a happy face and do this for the rest of my life. Like the lady said, I've been terrible at everything else, might as well do this right."

"I didn't mean it like that!" Reyes says hurriedly.

The talk show host chuckles. "I know, but I guess getting wrapped up in something, even as wide-ranging as this job, can give someone a single-track mind. And really, as long as no one else gets hurt, I don't mind having this kind of geas, now that I know what it is."

"In other words, you don't wanna leave," Doggett reiterates, making sure the guy wants to stick with the new game plan of staying put.

"Who knows, it could kill me next, and that would pretty much suck." Ringer grins lopsidedly. Then a loud horn honks outside, and they all look. It's the tow truck, finally arrived for their rental. He looks at them both. "Are you two okay to leave?"

Doggett looks at Reyes. "I think after swallowing more pills, I should be fine."

She nods. "Ditto." And after they down a couple of pills each, finishing up their dinners, she says, "I think we've still got those hotel and plane reservations, right?" Doggett nods, and as they both get to their feet, she shakes Ringer's hand. "Take care."

He nods. "You, too. Hey, if you're ever in this neck of the woods again, come in and say hi, no matter what my audience says."

She smiles, grabbing their overnight bags as Doggett shakes the man's hand. "You try anything stupid and I'll shoot you myself," Doggett says.

Ringer chuckles. "You really do sound like my math teacher. Too bad Mr. Riker's dead, I think you two would've gotten along great."

"Yikes." Doggett shakes his head, but smiles anyway. "See ya." He waves as he and Reyes take their leave, and the talk show host waves back. When they reach the tow truck, Ringer follows them as far as the door, watching them from that vantage point as he pulls out a carton and shakes out a cigarette. "You think he'll be okay?" he asks Reyes once she's gotten her card back from Doggett and given the truck driver her information.

She looks back, and the man in question is taking a long drag from his cigarette. "Yeah," she says, and helps Doggett into the truck.

"How do you know?" he asks, after wincing from the pain.

She smiles slightly. "Smoker's intuition."

He snorts, and when the truck driver asks them their destination, he says, "Airport. Return the car there, and we'll be staying at the hotel nearby."

The driver nods, and they watch the smoking figure in front of the radio station from the rear view mirror getting smaller and smaller as they go farther and farther, until a turn and a few miles takes Ted Ringer out of their sight.


The Doggett home
February 4th, 2003
12:23 p.m.

"Hello?" Doggett says when he and Reyes open the door. And what a sight meets his eyes. The place is clean, his boys are sitting ramrod straight on the couch and staring straight ahead, their bodies still but their foreheads sweating. Only Hannah is playing normally at the coffee table with her dolls and looks up when she sees her father and Monica.

"Hi, Daddy!" Hannah says, jumping up.

"Whoa, whoa," Reyes says, running interference. "He broke one of his ribs, so he can't pick you up, okay, sweetie?"

The little girl looks surprised, but her father nods, so she wraps herself around his legs. Doggett allows himself to smile before looking at his sons. "I've seen the car," he says, and it was pretty hard to miss in the garage, looking like something took a giant baseball bat and hit the front passenger side. As he slowly makes his way to a chair, hampered by a little girl-leg shackle, he says, "So, what happened?"

Luke and Gibson look at each other, then look down. "Well, I thought I'd get some practice driving time while you two were gone," Luke says quietly, "and just go around the block."

"And I wanted to take a turn when he was done," Gibson adds, in the same quiet voice. "So I didn't think anything would happen."

"We told Hannah to stay home and listen for the phone," Luke says, "just in case you called."

"Well, we told her to cover for us," Gibson clarifies. "We didn't think we'd be gone that long, but thought it would be a good idea just in case."

"So I started to drive down the block," Luke says, "and everything was okay. But then we saw some girls from school, and I just wanted to show 'em what I got, and Gib said it was his turn to drive, and we started arguing, and then I took my eyes off the road for a minute, maybe longer, and we hit a tree."

"Thank goodness that's all we hit," Gibson says, "and the girls ended up laughing at us. Well, they started screaming, but once they saw we were okay, they laughed. And fortunately, one of them had a cell phone, so she called her father, who was a tow truck driver, and he towed it back to our place." He sighs. "And then we called you guys." Then both boys look up at Doggett, eyeing him nervously.

After a long, tense silence, their father finally speaks. "Well, it's a good thing I broke my rib," he says, his eyes narrow, "or I'd be personally strangling you right now." He takes a deep breath, then winces. "And it's a good thing Monica took my gun before we stepped out of the taxi, or I'd shoot you where you sit."

Their eyes widen, and Hannah's grip on his leg tightens, and he sighs. "Fortunately for you two, you're both gonna stay healthy and grounded, which includes revoking your drivers' permits until next year."

"What???" both teens chorus. "You can't-"

"I can and I will," Doggett interrupts, his blue eyes flashing dangerously. "You're lucky you didn't get hurt, and you're also lucky you didn't hurt anyone else while you were at it. But you've shown that you're not ready for the responsibility of driving, by sneaking out, by making your sister lie, and by using someone else's vehicle."

He smiles grimly, and both teens stiffen, since it's a very unfriendly smile. "Guess my recuperation time won't be wasted, since I'll be supervising the both of you. First off, we're gonna get that girl's daddy's number and find out how much you owe." He nods at their surprised expressions. "Oh yeah, you're gonna work that off, sons. Then you're gonna work off the repair for the car, and if you have to, you're gonna have to help repair it as well. Got it?" They nod, their eyes on him. "Second thing, take out all the video games and equipment from your rooms and bring them out here. Same goes for the computer. If I have to, I will send Hannah in as clean- up, got it?" They nod again. "And third..."

He stands up, gently prying Hannah's arms from his leg, and walks over to his sons. Reyes starts to stop him, but he shakes his head, and she subsides. They watch him nervously as he leans over without saying a word. Then he knocks their heads together, and they yell, "OW!!!" Rubbing their heads, they wince while their father smiles briefly, and hugs them hard. "Ugh, Dad, can't breathe," Luke gasps.

But he doesn't release his grip. "Thank God you two are all right," Doggett says, meaning it. Then he releases them, just as suddenly. Looking from one boy to the next, he says, their shoulders firmly in his hands, "But if you ever do anything stupid like that again-"

"We're dead." Gibson nods. "Man, you're scary," he breathes.

"Damn straight," Doggett says, but part of his mouth goes up. "The tow truck number?"

Gibson rattles it off, and Doggett nods at Reyes, who pulls out her cell phone. "Guess we have to take out the computer and video stuff now?" he asks.

Doggett says, "You got it." Then he stands up. "Up and at 'em, boys."

"Yes, sir," they chorus, look at each other glumly, and head to their rooms.

"Wow," Hannah says when they're out of sight. "You busted 'em good, Daddy."

He sighs, then sinks into the couch. "You're gonna be a good girl for Daddy, right?" he asks his little girl who makes her way to her father's lap. "When you get to be a teenager, you're gonna be sugar and spice, right?"

"Right!" She smiles, about to throw her arms around him, but remembers his injury and holds on to his arm instead.

He smiles at her, "You can lean on this side, sweetie, it doesn't hurt," he says, patting the left side of his chest. As his daughter rests on his left side, he asks Reyes, who just hung up, "So, what's the damage?"

"Twenty," she says, "since he's not with Triple-A." She shakes her head, joining father and daughter on the couch. "Wow, considering all the stupid things I did as a teen, I'm glad nobody got hurt, either."

"Best not to share that with the boys just yet." Doggett smiles wanly. "Judging by the exterior and axle damage to the car, it's gonna take a while for them to pay me back."

She nods, smiling a little. "You're a good father, you know that?" she says, ruffling his short hair.

He grimaces, brushing his hair, even though not a hair's out of place. "I'm just thinking that, as bad as things might seem now, it's not all that bad," he says, thinking of Ringer's predicament.

Reyes looks at him, then nods again. "Yeah, it's not," she agrees, and leans against him.

And that's what the two grounded teens find when they come out with the first trip from their room with the computer equipment. Luke and Gibson look at them, then at each other, and make a face, making the threesome on the couch laugh.

"Keep moving," Doggett tells them, and the boys groan before heading back to their room for the video games. But he's still smiling, holding his best girls and being in charge of his sons. Yeah, all things considering, life's not all that bad.


Chapter One Hundred and Twenty-Two



Early February 2003

After the close of a rather spirited episode about chupacarbra, Wayne runs up to Mulder and Scully as they try to head back to their respective dressing rooms. "Hold up. I have something I need to talk to you both about."

Mulder gives him a wary look. There's something excited about Federman's expression. That worries him. "What's on your mind, Wayne?"

If anything, Federman gets more keyed up. "I have just learned of a fantastic opportunity for the two of you."

Now Scully looks apprehensive as well. "An opportunity? What sort of opportunity?"

"The two of you being involved with the X-Files for all those years, you must be science fiction fans as well, am I right?" he asks looking at them expectantly.

"I guess," Mulder says. "We've seen some Star Trek episodes from most of the series' incarnations, if that's what you're getting at."

"And a few of those terrible movies on the sci-fi channel," Scully says, shaking her head at the memory of the cringe-worthy flicks about killer fungus and bats run amuck.

"If you're been watching any sci-fi shows, you must've heard of the Saturn awards." Federman gives them an even more expectant look.

They both return it with blank stares.

Federman immediately looks slightly deflated. "It's only the biggest award show for science fiction films ever."

"Wayne, what are you getting at?" Mulder asks, hoping that they might eventually get to the point of the conversation.

"I was just called and asked if the two of you would be willing to be the hosts for this year's award show," Wayne says enthusiastically. "It's going to be in Roswell, New Mexico on March 13th. Roswell. They couldn't pick a more fitting place, huh?"

Mulder and Scully exchange a look. He looks more intrigued by the idea that she does, but her expression doesn't suggest that it's out of the question.

"We're flattered, Wayne," Scully tells him. "But aren't the people putting on the show more likely to want Reed to be the host? He is, after all, far more involved in the science fiction realm than we are."

Wayne shakes his head rapidly. "Oh no, they asked for 'Mulder and Scully' specifically. You two have quite the reputation."

Mulder smiles at him. "No thanks to you."

"You're welcome," Wayne says without a trace of irony. "Say you'll do it."

"Well..." Scully stammers.

Wayne gives her a sympathetic look. "I know that when I asked you to do the Jose Chung show I told you that there wouldn't be much traveling involved, and I really did mean that. But being selected for TV awards show hosting is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I know that your kids will miss you, but think of how proud they will be to be able to tell all of their classmates that you presided over the awards for very important event."

When he glances at his wife's face, Mulder knows that Federman has just scored a direct hit. This is confirmed when she says, "I think the kids could bear to be away from us for a few days, don't you, Mulder?"

"Sure. And I'm sure our mothers would stop by to help Michelle keep them entertained," Mulder says, thinking about how much more involved with his children and Samantha's four his mother has become over the past several months; seeing the joy his mother now takes in her extended family rather than continuing to keep everyone at arm's length like she doesn't deserve to be part of their lives makes him doubly glad Samantha has been found.

Wayne practically levitates with excitement. "Does that mean that you're going to do it?"

"Exactly how long are we talking about, though?" Mulder asks.

"Three days. That's including travel time."

They exchange another quick look. "We're in."

"Yes!" Wayne pumps his fist in the air. "I've got to go call them back."

Once Wayne runs off, Mulder puts his arm around Scully shoulder. "Maybe this will be fun."

"Maybe it will be a complete disaster," she says, but she smiles. "Either way, I think we'll have some stories to tell when we get back."

"Maybe we can ask Wayne to let us stay an extra day," Mulder suggests.

"Why would we do that?"

"Scully, haven't you always wanted to investigate the original crash site?"

"Oh brother."

When Mulder sees Wayne in the distance, he calls out to him. Wayne returns immediately. "What's up?"

"Did Scully and I ever tell you that our ninth anniversary is on Valentine's Day?"

"No. Congratulations. Are you doing anything special this year?"

"Well, we are shooting the show that day..." Mulder lets his voice trailed off.

"Oh. Did you need the day off?" Wayne asks, taking the bait.

"That would be nice," Scully says, getting in on the act. "If having the day off wouldn't be too disruptive."

"No, no. Make a long weekend of it. I'm sure Reed and Mary would enjoy a mental health day too."

Mulder gives him a good-natured thump to the shoulder. "You're the best boss, Wayne."

Wayne beams. "I am, aren't I?" Before Wayne can expound on how cool of a boss he actually is, he is called away by another voice in the studio.

"Mulder, what do you have in mind for our anniversary?" Scully asks as soon as Wayne wanders off to his next task.

He shrugs. "Nothing yet. It just seemed like too good an opportunity to waste. We'll think of something fun."

She gives him a slow smile, and then leans her head in close. "I'm glad it didn't take three months for your two samples to come back clear."

"Me too, Scully. Me too."


Early That Evening

While they fold tiny baby clothes in Zoe and Brianna's room, Scully and Michelle talk about the upcoming trip. Both babies sleep peacefully despite the conversation going on around them.

"...so, it's only supposed to be three days," Scully says, concluding her explanation of the award show to Michelle.

"Wow, I didn't really expect the two of you to be traveling for business again."

"We didn't either," Scully admits. "But, as Wayne says, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I'm sure there can't be too many other award shows that would be clamoring for our attention."

"You'd be surprised," Michelle says, startling Scully. "My friend Marcos is into all that science fiction stuff big time. You had better hope that your boss never finds out what a sci-fi convention is, or you may end up doing other celebrity guest appearances."

Scully laughs. "Celebrity? I hardly think that Mulder and I are celebrities."

Michelle looks at her askance but doesn't say anything.

"You're going away?" a small voice asks behind them. Scully turns and sees April, who is giving her a concerned look.

"Just for three or four days, sweetheart. Daddy and I are going to do a favor for Wayne."

"What kind of favor?"

"Remember when we watched part of the Academy Awards?" Scully asks, and April nods. "Well, Daddy and I are going to host an awards show like that. But for crazy science fiction movies instead of good ones."

"Oh. That sounds kind of fun," April says wistfully.

"I guess it's possible that it might be," Scully tells her just before Brianna wakes up with a shriek. So much for sleeping peacefully.


9:30 p.m.

There's a timid knock at their bedroom door, and Mulder opens it to find Page looking up at him.

"What are you doing out of bed?" Mulder asks reflexively.

"Can I talk to you and Mommy for a minute?"

"Of course you can, Page," Scully calls from the bed. She has a sleepy Zoe in her arms, who has just finished nursing.

Page scampers in and climbs on the bed. Mulder shrugs and shuts the bedroom door before joining them. "Well, what's on your mind?"

"I wanted to talk to you about how you're going away to be hosts for the awards show."

"What about it?" Scully asks, sounding wary. She hasn't really expected a protest considering how long it's been since they traveled for a case. But then, she considers, maybe the kids now expect them around all of the time.

To Mulder's surprise, Page says, "April really wants to go with you."

"She told you that?" Mulder asks her.

"Not really," Page admits before looking earnestly at her mother. "But I can tell. Mommy, can't you tell sometimes what Aunt Missy is thinking about from what she says, but what she doesn't say too?"

"Sometimes," Scully allows.

"Trust me, she wants to go with you," Page says firmly, and her father has to hide his smile. "Can she?"

"That wouldn't be up to us, Page," Mulder explains. "Wayne is the one who is making arrangements, so it would be up to him." He stands up, and takes Zoe from Scully, preparing to bring the infant back to her crib.

"But will you ask him?" Page persists.

"We'll think about it," Scully tells her. "How come you decided to ask us for her?"

"It sounds like fun. I know Sammy and I can't miss school, but April can. 'sides, sisters need to look out for each other. Right?"

"Right," Scully agrees before making Page giggle by suddenly swinging her off the bed and putting her on her feet. "Bed, now."

"Okay!"

"What do you think, Mulder?" Scully asks once they're alone again.

"First we should ask April if she wants to go in the first place," Mulder points out. "Just in case Page's helpfulness is misdirected. Then, if Page is right, we'll have to explain to April that we don't have the final say in the situation."

"Okay, we'll talk to her tomorrow."

They pause when they hear a distant fussing over the baby monitor. Mulder looks down at Zoe who is dozing in his arms. "Looks like it's time to swap babies."

"At least they don't wake up ravenous at exactly the same time," Scully says, thinking about her one early attempt to feed David and Jared at the same time before accepting that her milk wasn't going to come in properly for them. It had not been pretty.


The Next Morning

Sammy and Page shove their breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, and run then upstairs to get their forgotten backpacks. April is about to join them when Mulder stops her. "One second, April."

She sits back down and gives him an expectant look.

"So," Mulder says, looking back at her. "A little birdie told me that you want to go with mom and me, if possible, when we do that awards show. Is that true?"

April tilts her head. "A bird named Page," she mutters.

"That doesn't answer my question, sweetie."

Mulder's lips twitch with the effort of not smiling with his daughter heaves a sigh. "Yes, Daddy. I want to go with you and Mommy."

He ruffles her hair. "There. Telling the truth wasn't so hard, was it?"

His daughter just stares at him.

"Mommy and I will ask Wayne if you can come too."

"Thanks."

"No problem." Mulder watches as his daughter scrambles to her feet. "Where you going?"

"To punch Page for telling my secrets."

April is already out of the room before it occurs to him to tell her not to hit her sister. At a loss, he just shakes his head.


Film Studio

"Wayne, I know this is probably too much to ask, but one of our daughters is dying to go with us when we do the award show," Mulder says early that morning. "Is there any way that Scully and I can convince you to let us bring April with us?"

"April?" Wayne asks. "Forgive me, but I have to ask, which one is that?"

"Our second daughter," Mulder tells him.

"Is that the little redhead?"

"Yes."

"Oh sure, go ahead and bring her. I like that one," Wayne says, sounding genuine. "She didn't give me a hard time when I ate dinner with you guys."

"You really don't mind?" Mulder asks, surprised.

Wayne shrugs his shoulders. "A kid's fare on the plane, couple of extra meals, it won't cost me much. Besides, you'll be thinking about this when it comes time to renew your contracts."

"Don't you think you're showing your hand a little bit there, Wayne?" Scully asks, smiling.

"Am I wrong?"

They shake their heads.

"Exactly. I'll have somebody buy the ticket, and let the hotel know you'll need a trundle bed."

"Thanks Wayne!" Mulder calls to his retreating back. Wayne doesn't turn around to look. Instead he just waves his hand behind him.

Later that evening April looks both astonished and pleased when her parents inform her that she is going to be able to go with them. To their relief none of the other kids reacts with jealousy.


Mulder-Scully Home
February 14th, 2003

It's a glorious, albeit cold as hell, Friday morning with love in the air and chocolate and cards in various children's bags. On this particular morning, however, one couple is sleeping in. "Morning, honey." Mulder kisses his wife in bed.

"Mm." Scully kisses him back without opening her eyes. "You brushed your teeth."

He chuckles. "I decided to be nice on our anniversary. Happy ninth, Dana."

She smiles, slowly opening her eyes. "Happy ninth, Mulder." Then she pouts, "But you let me kiss you with morning breath."

He shrugs. "Yeah, well, you let me make out with you with morning wood, I'd say we're even."

She laughs, then swings her pillow at him. "So much for romance," she giggles when he blocks her successfully.

Mulder waggles his eyebrows. "Oh, baby," he says and leers at her in an over-the-top fashion, "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

Scully doesn't trust the look in his eyes, humorous though the delivery may be. "Where are the kids?" she asks, noting how suspiciously quiet the house sounds.

He smiles and snuggles next to her. "The older ones are in school," he answers, brushing her hair out of her face. "And my mom wanted to take the younger ones to a museum to culturize them."

"'Culturize'?" Scully raises an eyebrow at the word.

He nods. "In her words, she wants to 'develop an appreciation for the finer things in life', and when I told her we could take them window-shopping at expensive shops, she looked like she could cheerfully shoot my other shoulder."

"And she would've been within her rights," Scully retorts. "So they're with your mom."

Mulder nods again. "And I've got breakfast downstairs. I would've brought you breakfast in bed, but I wasn't sure if you were up for food or," he suggests and waggles his eyebrows again, "whatever else might come up."

She rolls her eyes, but laughs. "Food first, Mr. Smarty Pants," she says, pulling on a robe, "and we'll get to, you know, whatever, after that."

He smiles, then kisses the top of her head. "You're so cute when you get all modest, Scully."

She sticks her tongue out, then gets out of bed with as much dignity as a just-woken up woman can muster. "I'll be brushing my teeth," she says, "and that food better be warm by the time I get downstairs."

"Yes, ma'am," Mulder salutes her, and rushes downstairs, making her laugh.


3:11 p.m.

They've spent the day making love, watching chick movies (after Mulder promised not to tease her), and making out some more, and now they're having a late lunch at the table.

"You know, you've spent all day spoiling me," Scully says, after he kisses her cheek, "I think I should return the favor. After all, it's OUR anniversary, not just mine."

Mulder smiles. "Well, what do you have in mind, O Wife of Mine?"

The redhead smirks, then puts the cut of meat in her mouth in a very suggestive manner. "I was thinking," she says after she (and Mulder) swallows, "that we could take our anniversary outside."

"Doing what?" he asks, having to clear his throat when she goes down on, er, downs another cut of steak.

She shrugs, but runs her socked foot up and down his leg, making him raise his eyebrows. "Oh, nothing much, maybe walking past those expensive shops and pretending like we'll buy something, but we won't. And we'll actually buy something so tacky and cheap, and walk past those same expensive stores and flaunt it."

He does an exaggerated gasp. "You tease!" he says, in a mock-outraged voice, a hand to his chest.

Scully rolls her eyes. "Please. You know you want to."

Mulder starts to protest, then grins. "You are definitely my one in a million, aren't you?" he says fondly.

"Duh." She smiles. "And it's one in kajillion. Sammy said so."

He raises his eyebrows again. "Oh, now we're using his word? Kajillion? Pray tell," he says, walking over and lifting her up, making her squeal in the process, "scientifically, how much is a kajillion?"

"Well," Scully attempts to be aloof and objective, which is difficult when one's husband is carrying one up the stairs, kissing her on every other step, "a kajillion, ah, is certainly, mm, definitely more than a billion."

"A lot of things are more than a billion." Mulder smiles at her, and not for the first time in their partnership, she feels her stomach drop. "Can you be more specific?"

The redhead in his arms sees they're back in the bedroom, and also sees neither has any desire to leave it any time soon. When he gently deposits her on the bed, she sighs, then undoes the robe. "I have a feeling we'll be here for a while," she says, patting the space beside her once she gets under the covers.

He grins, jumping under the covers beside her. "If someone told me I'd be spending our ninth anniversary totally making out with my wife, I'd give them a high five," he says, then ducks as she swings another pillow at him.

Scully pouts, then works on divesting him of his clothes. "I do know that we'll be out of here tonight," she says, "I've made reservations."

"Where at?" Mulder asks, then gasps when her cold fingers wrap around his manhood. "Whoa!"

"Whoa?" Scully repeats.

He nods, hating to take her hands off him, but knowing he'll probably freeze down there if she leaves them on. "Cold hands," he tells her.

She looks surprised, then smirks. "Then I'll put on something warm," and when he's about to ask, she dives under the covers, the answer engulfing him with lips and tongue.

He moans, his eyes rolling upwards. "Oh, God," he groans, putting a hand on her head, "that's, uh, yeah, that's warm." It isn't long before he's completely unintelligible, and so is she.


6:50 p.m.

A petite redhead is leading a tall blindfolded man into a restaurant, making more than a few people smile at the couple. "It was weird enough while you were driving," Mulder complains, "but I know we're inside the place now. This is weirder than when we were on the X-Files, and I hope there's not going to be a gray alien sitting at the table."

Scully smiles. "Don't worry, there's nothing like that here," she says, guiding him to his chair. "You can take the blindfold off now."

He does so, blinking at the lights. Then he looks around, and sees that the place is full of people sitting at simply-decorated tables, with splashes of gold here and there, and a stage with a catwalk that reaches into the audience. He gives her a questioning look, but gets no answer, and when the lights dim, he's even more curious.

An MC steps up to the lone mic, his smile as bright as Wayne Federman's on a crazy new idea. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to A Night of A Hundred Elvises! I guarantee that you'll never see the King like you will tonight, and see him in every phase of his life! If you see your favorite Elvis, he or she will personally serenade you for the rest of the night! Enjoy!"

Then bright music, sprinkled with a horn section, announces the first several Elvises, and they all strut out, to the tune of the original's TV special, striking various poses. Mulder turns to his wife, his eyes shining. "God, I love you," he says, clasping her small hands in his.

She smiles, "I know." Then she nods her head at the stage. "See any one you want?"

Mulder pretends to put on a critical eye. "Well, the ones on the left are cute," he says with an exaggerated lisp, "but oh my darling, that one on the far right is a sweetie!"

Scully lightly socks her husband. "Never mind." She rolls her eyes. "Just make sure to tip whichever Elvis you choose, okay?"

"Okay!" he continues in his over-the-top gay impersonation. Then he kisses his wife. "Thanks, Scully."

She smiles back. "I didn't feel like going all the way to Vegas, so I thought it was nice that it came here for tonight," she says.

"It is nice," he agrees, as more Elvises (Elvii?) pose up a storm, doing something like karate kicks. "Hey, they weren't kidding, there are chick Elvises." He points to a couple.

Scully nods. "Yeah, they're really good," she says, a little surprised that they are.

Mulder smiles at her, then leans back. "I'm waiting for the big guys," he tells her in a confidential whisper, "those usually tend to be the best singers."

"Really?" his wife's eyebrows go up.

He nods. "Call it an unofficial study, but I've noticed that Big Elvis usually has to be, I guess to make up for the tummy."

She laughs until she snorts, and glares when he thumps her back lightly. "I'm fine," she says, trying to have some dignity.

He shakes his head. "No, fine is when we get our Big Elvis," he says.

And to Scully's delight and Mulder's satisfaction, their Big Elvis really is a good singer, white brightly sequined jumpsuit and all, serenading them through their ninth anniversary with every request Mulder throws at him.


Mulder-Scully Home
March 7th, 2003

Scully and Michelle have just come back from walking Sammy, Page, and April to the bus stop one morning when they hear Mulder calling them from the living room. "Hey, come watch this!"

When they reach him, he's got the new Tivo paused. "What?"

"Just watch."

As he unpauses, a reporter on the morning show begins to talk about a high profile murder case. Then a familiar figure appears in the background.

"It's Amy!" Scully says, looking amazed.

"Who's Amy?" Michelle asks blankly.

"Our first nanny," she explains. "She left for law school when Sammy was a baby."

"Yup, we found out that we were expecting April that same month," Mulder remembers. "Looks like she's doing well."

"Doesn't she? She already looks completely at home in the courtroom," Scully comments fondly. "I wouldn't have minded her prosecuting a case for us."

"Maybe she will be involved in an X-Files case, but for John and Monica instead of us."

"She looks happy," Michelle says wistfully, and then blushes when they both turn to look at her. "Not that I'm not. I mean, that we're not."


New Mexico
March 11th, 2003

The sunlight is dazzling when they step off the plane. Scully notices that April is squinting, so she quickly pulls a child sized pair of sunglasses out of her carry-on travel bag. April looks relieved when she has them on her face.

She reaches up to tug on her father's shirt. "It's like the desert."

"I guess they don't have a gardener here at the airport," Mulder says, smiling at her.

"There's the kiosk for the car rental place," Scully says, looking over to the right. She rifles through her carry-on bag for a moment and comes up with a handful of paper. "And here are the directions to Roswell."

"We better go pick up our car then," Mulder replies, taking the papers from her hand.

They leave the car rental place 15 minutes later, and Mulder has a smile on his face. "A convertible! I was expecting a Ford Taurus or something pedestrian like that." He turns to his wife. "Scully, do you have something to tie back your hair?"

"Of course, Mulder."

"Good. We're going to ride with the top down."

Scully smiles at him, and fishes hair scrunchies for her and April out of her bag.

He grins broadly when the top folds down at the push of a button. "Ladies, this is the life."

They can't help but to agree with him.


Roswell, New Mexico

April spends most of the ride looking out at the scenery as it passes them by. She seems fascinated that there is not the same sort of plant life that she sees every day in Washington. When they stop at a red light, she points her finger. "Daddy, what's that?"

Mulder turns, expecting to have to defer to Scully's more comprehensive knowledge of flora, when he sees where she's pointing. A small building decorated with garish cartoon aliens occupies a corner lot. A sign declaring it to be the Alien Tourist Bureau takes up most of the front above the windows.

"April, I don't know what that is," Mulder admits, but he promises himself that they will go and see it before they leave Roswell.

"Mulder, right there," Scully says urgently, pointing at the opposite side of the road. Down a side street he can see the building that she's indicated. Much like the building where they film Jose Chung's The Truth Is Out There, this one lacks impressiveness from the outside. The name however, does indeed match the name but Wayne Federman gave them before they left.

When the light turns green, Mulder takes a left, and pulls up in front of The Karloff theater. Though the building certainly appears to be spacious and has a large parking lot, it also seems to be built out of cinderblocks.

April says what's on all three of their minds, "This isn't very pretty."

"It doesn't need to be," Mulder tells her. "When it's full of people, no one will notice what looks like outside anyway."

His daughter nods and slips her hand into his.


Mulder almost gasps in surprise when they open the door to the utilitarian-style building. The inside looks nothing like one would imagine from the exterior. For a second he feels as though he has again been transported through time, and has landed this time in a theater from the turn of the last century. In the far distance, past rows and rows of chairs, a stage is hung with thick blue velvet curtains.

"It's something isn't it?" a voice asks behind them. They all turn to look.

The man looking back at them gives them a small smile. He's in his early 30s, has very short dark hair, and wire rim glasses. After a moment he holds out his hand to Mulder. "Hi, I'm, Josh Wentworth, the building manager. What do you think?"

Scully shakes his hand as well before answering him. "I'm impressed."

"No, I'm the one that's impressed. We like to think that the Saturn awards are a big deal, but it doesn't take a finely honed sense of realism to know that they are not. I bet you never even heard of them before you were asked to be the hosts." At this Mulder and Scully exchange a look, but neither of them admits that the building manager is right. "How someone managed to talk the two of you into doing this, I'll never know."

"You say that like we're some sort of big deal," Mulder protests.

"Let me ask you a question. How often do you check on the ratings for your show?"

"Um...never."

To their surprise the building manager begins to chuckle. "Do me a favor. When it comes time for contract renewal, make sure you've checked out the numbers by then. You'll easily be able to get more money out of them."

"Wow," a soft voice says that the vicinity of everyone's waists.

Looking down, Wentworth asks, "And who is this?"

April's response is to immediately hide her face against Mulder's hip. He places a calming hand on her shoulder. "This is our daughter April."

"Kind of shy, huh? Is she your only child?"

This time it's Scully's turn to laugh. "Hardly. April is third of nine. And before you ask, no, none of them are adopted. We've left that to our friend John."

"Nine kids?? How do you people find time to work?" the building manager asks with a good- natured grin.

"We've had a succession of wonderful nannies since this one's two older siblings were babies," Mulder admits. "And we've been lucky, because none of our children have suffered any of that severe separation anxiety you always hear about in parenting magazines. From what our nanny says, even the four and a half month old twins don't seem to notice that we're gone, and unlike during the infancies all of their older siblings, we haven't traveled for work since before they were born."

"I guess you've really lucked out then."

"And you had better believe that we realize that," Scully says.

By this point April has lost some of her bashfulness. Looking up at Josh, she asks, "Is that where they're going to be when they're on TV?" One of her small fingers points at the very center of the stage.

"Yup," Wentworth tells her. "And, if the three of you will follow me-" He leads them down through the ocean of chairs to the right side of the front row. Then he points at a chair which is set slightly apart with just five others. "And this is where you will be, April. One of the nice people who works here will sit with you. You'll be able to see everything, but this part of the row never appears on TV, so you don't have to worry about strangers seeing you."

This is the exact right name to say to April. She immediately looks relieved. "Good."

Mulder grins down at her. If it'd been Page or Sammy, either one would have been put out to learn that they would not be on TV themselves. April, however, has never shown any interest in being in the spotlight... which is just one of the reasons why having red hair has been more difficult on her than on Sammy. He has always greeted comments about his pretty hair with enthusiasm, while his younger sister has always seemed to wish that no one noticed her at all. It's far too early to tell how William or Ryan will feel about being a redhead.


They continue their tour of the theater, and Wentworth stops every now and then to introduce them to some key member of the theater staff. Everyone is professional and polite, and Mulder, at least, feels a sense that things should go smoothly here. Everyone seems to know what they are doing, and they're far more composed than most TV or movie depictions of theaters. It's hard not to find that reassuring

Eventually Wentworth taps a short, stout boy in his late teens on the shoulder. When the boy turns to see what's going on, Mulder and Scully can see that he has Down syndrome. "This is Davey. He's in charge of bringing people things they need. Right, Davey?"

"Yup," Davey agrees cheerfully. "It's my job."

"A pretty important one," Wentworth praises him. "This is Mulder and Scully and their little girl, April. I bet that they haven't eaten breakfast yet."

"We have, but April only picked at hers," Mulder tells them. He hadn't been thrilled by their plane breakfast, either, but he'd had more of an appetite for it. "I wouldn't be surprised if she's still hungry."

"Do you like donuts?" Davey asks April, and she gives him a shy nod. "What kind? I've got lots of kinds."

"I like honey dip."

"Okay! You stay right here, and I'll bring you one. Okay?"

"Okay."

"You'll stay right here?" Davey asks suspiciously.

"Sure."

Davey rushes off, leaving April to stare up at her parents.

"What a nice boy," Scully tells her, and April relaxes.

"Yeah."

Wentworth nods. "Davey is the son of one soundmen. He does a good job for us now that he has graduated high school."

"It looks like it," Mulder agrees when he sees Davey returning with a donut carefully centered on a small paper plate.

"Not everyone is thrilled about him being here," Wentworth admits just before the boy reenters the range of overhearing. "We've had some nasty remarks from entitled people."

"Well, you won't hear any from us," Scully assures the building manager.

April surprises everyone by tugging on Josh's sweater. "I'e=ve got a little brother named David. That's like Davey."

"His name is probably David, too," Mulder tells her. "Davey's a nickname."

"Oh."

Scully has clearly not been following the conversation. From the slightly sad look on her face, Mulder suspects that she's thinking about the case that convinced her to leave the X-Files in favor of doing the TV show. A small selfish part of him is glad to have been spared meeting with the woman who'd lost her son.

As Wentworth tells them a little more about the theater operation, April and Davey chatter to each other. Mulder had been slightly worried that that there would be no children there for April to talk to, but it seems as though she has found a kindred spirit in the errand boy.

The building manager conducts them to a large, spacious dressing room. It's much nicer than either of theirs at the studio back at home. "This should give you a lot of room to get ready the night of the awards show."

"It sure will."

The building manager looks down at April. "See that empty corner over there? We're having a small table and chair brought in tonight so you can color there while your folks are changing."

"Thanks," April says shyly. She then studies that corner of the room intently for no reason that Mulder can discern. He makes a mental note to ask her what's so interesting, later.

"The night of the show we'll have people stationed in the hallway to make sure there aren't any flow issues. That way we can all stick to the time schedule."

"Good idea," Scully replies. "You sound like you've had a lot of experience with shows. What goes on here when it's not the location of an awards show?"

"The Karloff is used for a lot of plays and a few concerts. With the balconies it's not the best place acoustically for electric instruments, but a lot of bands do 'unplugged' sets here. There's usually something going on here at least a couple of weeks a month."

"It sounds like the show was lucky to get this venue, then," Mulder says.

"Well, the schedule is empty until International Kiss and Xanthic have a show a week from tomorrow, so the Saturn awards are timed just right."

They follow the building manager through The Karloff for another half an hour, seeing more of a theater than most people ever get to. At last, Wentworth says, "Well, that's it. We would like you to come in tomorrow morning at nine for a dress reversal. I think that the rest of the afternoon is yours."

This surprises Mulder. He is expected a much more arduous schedule. Shaking the building manager's hand, he says "We'll see you then. Nine sharp."

Davey calls goodbye to April as they leave, and the small redhead looks over her shoulder and waves.

"Now what?" Mulder asks as they stand in the parking lot once more.

"I thought that the Alien Tourist Bureau looked interesting," Scully says. "Why don't we go and check that out?"

Mulder stares at her. "Really?"

"Mulder, how long has it been since we've gone to cheesy tourist attraction? Even I like them once in a while."

"I love you," he tells her, sounding very sincere.

"I know."


Alien Tourist Bureau

If the outside looks gaudy, Mulder doesn't have a word to describe the interior of the small building. Every square inch of the place is decorated with alien-themed memorabilia. It's more of a museum than a store, however. A small gift shop counter is crammed into the front.

"Hi, can I help you folks?" a cheerful voice asks.

Mulder looks up to see a woman in a gypsy-like dress float into the room. "Hi. We were wondering what this place is."

"Alien Tourist Bureau."

"Okay..." he says, trying to maintain his smile. "What's the function of the business, though?"

"Oh, sorry. We're partly a museum as you've probably worked out for yourself. We also conduct tours of the crash site." From the tone of the woman's words, one can be certain that she believes that everyone would know exactly which crash site she was referring to.

"Isn't that interesting," Scully murmurs.

The woman hands her a brochure. "We do nightly tours from ten pm to four am, hourly."

Mulder smiles at her. "We may have to take you up on this."

"We may not," Scully hisses, but he pretends not to hear.

"Daddy, can I buy an alien?" April asks, pointing to the display case.

"Only if you can find seven of the same thing."

"Okay," she agrees, ready for the challenge.

Mulder looks at his wife, wondering how much of a challenge he has ahead of him when it comes to convincing her to take the tour.


The Next Morning

The impression of order and efficiency that Mulder had noted the day before seems lacking when they arrive at The Karloff at exactly 9 o'clock the next morning. He can't make out any of the conversations he hears throughout the theater, but there's a clear sense of unhappiness to the tones of most people speaking.

When Wentworth appears before them, the younger man looks stressed.

"Good morning," Scully greets him.

"Morning, no doubt. Good on the other hand..."

"I take it that something has gone wrong," Mulder says.

Wentworth shakes his head. "You haven't noticed the stage yet, then."

When Mulder looks past the harried building manager, at first he has trouble making sense of what he's seeing. The floor of the stage is dappled with what seem to be pink and white splatters. At that distance he can't tell what might be the cause, but the pink ones look sticky.

"What in the world?" Scully asks.

"Donuts," Wentworth sighs. "Four dozen jelly or cream filled donuts."

"Yikes," Mulder says. Now he understands what he seeing. Obviously the pink is jelly, and the white is from powdered donuts and the cream filling. "Who would do such a thing?"

"And that's the topic on everyone's mind. No one will confess to it. The only one who said they saw anything was Davey..." The building manager shakes his head.

"What did he say he saw?" Scully asks.

"Davey is a really good kid. Everyone has to understand that. But he's... somewhat limited. That doesn't make him a terribly reliable eyewitness."

"What did he say he saw?" Mulder repeats his wife's question.

Wentworth spreads his hands. "Davey told me that little gray men did it. Obviously some people have been telling him about the Roswell crash, and that influenced his imagination."

"I can see how you would think so," Scully says diplomatically, but her eyes dart towards Mulder's. Her expression clearly says 'don't even start'. He gives her a wounded look in return.

The building manager has apparently missed the silent exchange, because the next thing he says is, "I tried to leave a message at your hotel room, but they said you'd already left. We're going to start the rehearsal in two hours. Hopefully by then I will have found a way to clean the damn stage. Why don't you go and explore for a little while."

Scully smiles down at April. "When we were driving here this morning I saw the toy store. Why don't we go and pick out presents for your brothers and sisters?"

"Okay, Mommy."

She snags the back of Mulder's shirt. "Come on, Mulder."

"Sure," Mulder says, but he's caught sight of Davey in the distance. The boy looks distraught. Whatever happened, he doesn't think that Davey believes that he was making up stories.


"Well, you might as well say it," Scully says as they get in the car.

"Say what?" Mulder asked innocently.

"You believe Davey's story about little gray men."

"Scully, we are in Roswell after all-"

"Which of course means that if there is such a thing as aliens they will pepper stages with donuts. Mulder, how does that make any sense to you?"

"Roswell, Scully. Roswell."

"Donuts, Mulder. Donuts." She sighs in exasperation. "Have you ever heard of aliens playing practical jokes before?"

"Do cow mutilations count? Ouch," he complains, rubbing his it suddenly sore arm.

April alerts them that she has been paying attention, when she says, "I'm worried that Davey is going to get in trouble."

"Why is that, sweetheart?"

"Donuts are Davey's job. If somebody did something bad with the donuts..."

Mulder frowns to himself. Unfortunately, April is probably right. Suspicion probably will eventually fall on the boy if things continue in the same vein.


11 a.m.

When they return to The Karloff things have settled down. The first place that Mulder looks is the stage, and it is so clean that it seems to gleam under the lights. Whatever they had found to clean up the donuts it'd done an admirable job.

"Mulder!" Both Mulder and Scully turned to look to see Wentworth waving frantically. He is accompanied by two people who look vaguely familiar. A flawlessly dressed older woman in a stunning silver gown stands to his left, and to his right is a gentleman Mulder believes that he might have seen in at least one movie.

"Hi," Scully says as she, April, and Mulder join the other trio.

"You probably know who these two are but I'll introduce them anyway," Wentworth says, giving them all a smile. "Lana Carter and Stone Roberts."

"Lana Carter!" Scully says, sounding surprised. "My brother Bill and I watched all of your movies back during the 70s."

Lana gives Scully an indulgent smile. "During 70s? You must've been quite young then."

Too polite to possibly insult the older woman, Scully does not tell her how old she really was then.

"Mr. Roberts," Mulder says, "I know I've heard of you, but forgive me-"

Stone laughs. "But you don't recognize me. No surprise there, I spent most of my time in costume."

"You were... you were the robot!" Mulder feels proud of himself for dredging that up from his memories. "On that show, The Distant Sun."

The other man nods, and looks pleased. Wentworth interrupts, "Stone and Lana will be the first presenters tomorrow night. I thought we'd start with a run through of the opening right now."

"What about me?" April asks, looking around.

"Davey!" Wentworth calls, and the boy jogs over.

"Yeah?"

"Why don't you sit with April?"

"Okay!"

Mulder and Scully go through the motions of introducing the show to an audience that only consists of two people, and Lana and Stone likewise present an award for best action sequence to the still nonexistent audience.

Over the course of the next few hours, Mulder and Scully get to meet several other celebrities. Most of them are either retired, or so new to the scene that that they are still generously referred to as up and coming.

Things go without a hitch right up until the Best Kiss Goodbye award. The young starlet who is supposed to be offering a list of nominees shrieks when all of a sudden one of the curtains falls from above and lands on her. It seems as though everyone, except for Davey and April, rushes up on the stage to try to de-tangle the distraught actress.

The girl's face has just cleared the curtain when Davey stands up and points. "He's getting away!"

Wentworth and a few other people descended upon Davey and start asking him questions. He answers a few, but it's clear that he's more upset that they're ignoring the fact that the culprit is getting away. He points again. "He was right there. You let him get away."

By the time Mulder and Scully reach him and April, Davey looks like he's near tears. It's clear that this does not escape their daughter's notice, because as Mulder picks April up she says, "See. It wasn't Davey. He stayed with me the whole time."

"We know wasn't Davey," Scully says.

The little girl shakes her head. "You didn't hear them, lots of people said that Davey did it. But Davey didn't do it. He didn't even move."

Mulder gives her confused look. "Who said he knocked down the curtains?"

"Not the curtains, Daddy. The donuts."

"Oh."

In the distance they hear Wentworth shout, "Places in fifteen. We're going to finish this rehearsal come hell or high water."


Dressing Room

Mulder sits April on the edge of the dresser. "Maybe you should stay here and color."

"Why?"

"Somebody's playing pranks. I hope nobody gets hurt."

"Can Davey stay with me?"

"I don't think that's such a good idea, April."

"Why not?"

"Davey's here to work, Honey," Scully says lightly, but Mulder can tell from the look on her face that she's not sure that the boy will be returning to his duties tonight. It probably depends on how wound up he still is when they return to the stage in a few minutes.

"So I've got to stay here all alone?"

Before Mulder or Scully can answer that, Wentworth appears with an elderly woman in tow. "This is Alice. She's going to sit with April while we finish the rehearsal."

"Josh, you've read our minds."

April gives the older woman a moderately apprehensive look, but settles at the table with crayons and paper. Alice gives her an innocuous smile and opens the thick novel she's brought with her.

Before she leaves the room Scully goes to her daughter and kisses her on the cheek. "I know I don't have to tell you to behave for Alice, but..."

"I Will, Mommy," April promises.


As soon as April is settled, Mulder and Scully head back out towards the stage. Wentworth looks ready to pull his short hair out by the roots.

"Is Davey all right?" Scully asks.

He gives her a weak smile. "We sent him to one of the dressing rooms to calm down."

"Do people still think he's responsible for what's been going on?" Mulder wants to know.

Wentworth shakes his head. "I know it's not Davey. We've had issues like this in the past. It's been months though, so I had hoped they were just in the past," he concludes with a sigh.

"What, like Phantom of the Opera?" Mulder asks with a chuckle.

"Something like that," Wentworth mutters, and does not look amused by a Mulder's comment. "This place has had many strange incidents since it opened five years ago."

"You have any disgruntled staff members?" Scully asks.

"No, people who work in the theater business usually thrive on stress. The staff here has been no exception to that."

"You must suspect someone," Mulder insists, and Wentworth shakes his head.

"No. Until Davey insisted he saw 'the little gray men' no one has ever seen a damn thing."

The rest of the dress reversal goes off without a hitch, but there's a sense of unease running through everyone in the entire building. It's clear that everyone is anxiously awaiting the next disaster to strike.


When Mulder and Scully reenter their dressing room they discover that Alice, the woman assigned to mind April, is sound asleep. When they wake her up she looks embarrassed and says that April was an angel before rushing off.

"Did you see any little gray men?" Mulder jokingly asks his daughter.

"A little gray man," April corrects him.

Mulder blinks. "Are you teasing me, or did you really see someone?"

"I really did see him!" April insists earnestly. "But Daddy, he's not an alien. It's a real man."

"April, tell us what happened." Scully looks worried.

"I colored and Alice read her book. Then she fell asleep and began to snore, which was kind of funny." April grins. "I kept coloring but I heard a noise so I got up to look for it."

"Did you leave the room?" Mulder asks sternly.

"No. The noise came from over there." She points to far corner of the room.

"What kind of noise?"

"Tap, tap, tap. Like somebody hitting metal. Then that metal thing-" April pauses, looking frustrated by not knowing the word she wants to use.

"The grate?" Scully supplies.

"Yeah, that. It fell out. When I looked in, a little man looked out at me! He made a little scream noise and pulled the grate back on."

Mulder gives the grate a doubtful look. "He would have to have been a have very little man."

"He was," April agrees. "I think he was in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs."

"That's a cartoon, sweetie," Scully points out gently.

"I know," April says, looking half exasperated. "But Michelle says that some people on TV and in movies are based on real people, like that movie about you and Daddy. I thought that maybe it was like that."

"Why? Because he was little?" Mulder asks.

"Yup. And he had an axe like they did."

"And axe? For chopping wood?" Scully asked, confused and obviously thinking of the woodcutter in the story.

"I think she means a pick axe."

"For diamond mines!" April exclaims.

"Scully, do you have your phone?"

"Yes, why?"

"I want to call Monica."


Doggett's House

A good part of the home is filled with the scent of fresh paint, and Reyes tries to hear Mulder over the grumbling of the reluctant painters in the next room. Painting the kitchen is the latest of the chores Luke and Gibson have been assigned to help work off their debt to their father.

Reyes repeats what Mulder has told her. "Okay, so you said that April heard knocking, swears that she saw one of the seven dwarves, and there have been pranks played? Hold on. I want to look something up."

Laying aside the cell phone, she grabs a book of world mythology from the shelf that she has claimed in Doggett's living room, and flips to the index. A couple of minutes later she picks the phone back up. "See if you can find out if there's ever been a quarry in the area."

"Why?" Mulder's voice comes back to her.

"Did you ever read that terrible Stephen King novel, The Tommy Knockers? He got the tommy knockers all wrong. They aren't aliens, but mine spirits."

"Mine spirits?"

"Yeah. You've heard The Elves and the Shoemaker story, right? Though they were called elves, the description was more like brownies, which are helpful spirits that live in homes."

"The thing in the theater doesn't seem too helpful to me."

"Unlike brownies, tommy knockers play pranks if they're not pacified."

"How do you pacify them?"

"The book says miners used to leave them pastries."

"But they hated the donuts, apparently," Mulder protests.

"Not that kind of pastry, Mulder. More like a meat pie."

"Okay, thanks."

When she hangs up her phone, Reyes notices how bored Hannah looks. The little girl offered to help paint the kitchen a couple of times, but her father told her that it was the boys punishment, obviously not realizing that she kept wanting to be included.

"Hey, do you feel like ice cream?" Reyes asks her.

"Why?"

"I was thinking, since your dad and your brothers are busy, you and I could go and have some sundays by ourselves. Wanna?"

"I do! Thanks, Mom! Oops, I meant Monica." Hannah looks embarrassed by her slip up.

Knowing that the girl has been practically motherless since the age of three, Reyes cuts her slack and pretends not to have noticed. "Put your shoes on, and I'll let your dad know where we are going."

"Sure!"


"Mulder, where are you going?" Scully asks when he starts to walk off after finishing his conversation with Reyes.

"I need to grab my laptop out of the car. I'll be right back."

"I wonder what Monica said to him," Scully says, and her daughter shrugs.

Mulder returns and sets the laptop on top of the vanity table. "Okay, Reyes said that we should look to see if there was ever a quarry in the area."

"A quarry?"

"Yes. Like that one-" he says, poking his finger at something on the screen. "Roswell gravel quarry, still in operation. If there's one open, there probably were others over the years."

"You think this theater was built on an old quarry?"

"Maybe."

"And that it's haunted?"

"No. Well, sort of, but not by ghosts. Reyes suspects that the place might be infested with tommy knockers, which are a fae creature that liked to hang out in mines."

"Like the dwarves," April says.

"Sure," Mulder agrees.

"Did she say how to get rid of them?" Scully asks.

"We need to bring some meat pies with us tomorrow."

"You're kidding."

"I'm not," he protests. "It's a good thing that there's a microwave in here."


The Karloff
March 13th, 2003
3:50 p.m.

Josh Wentworth looks surprised to see them when they arrive the next afternoon laden down with bags from the local grocery store. "You don't need to be here until five. There's been another incident, and I want to get it cleaned up-" Looking around they can see that someone has shredded what looks like a box of programs and strewn the pieces through the seating area. "Luckily, I was able to get the printers to agree to a rush job for the replacements."

"Josh, do you consider yourself an open-minded man?" Mulder asks him quietly.

"I guess so..." Wentworth looks slightly doubtful.

"You know what we did before the TV show, right?" Scully asks. "We investigated the paranormal."

"I've heard that. You really saw some stuff, huh?"

"We did. And we think we know what's been going on around here. We need your permission, and your help setting things up before the show," Mulder tells him.

"You're not performing an exorcism, are you?" the building manager asks with a nervous laugh.

"No," Scully tells him before handing him a grocery bag. "But we're going to need to use every microwave in the place."

Wentworth looks surprised, but doesn't object.


The four of them meet back near the stage with the heated meat pies that Mulder was able to find in the frozen foods aisle. "So, what we're going to do is pull off some grates and leave the pies in the ventilation shafts. We won't put them in any of the dressing rooms but ours, though, because it would be too hard to explain to the presenters. If they're still there tomorrow, you probably will want to toss them out then."

"You don't think there will be any left, though, do you?"

"No, Josh, we don't. April told us what she saw, which collaborates Davey's story, and all the details fit."

"This is some pretty weird stuff," the younger man mutters.

"Mulder!" Scully calls to him from a hallway near the stage.

"What?"

"This vent doesn't have any screws, just like the one in our dressing room."

They soon discover that half of the grates in the building have no screws, so they pick those vents to place the heated pies into.


That Night

"I'd like to thank the universe for allowing me to win this award. And all you good people at home for..."

April cranes her neck, looking for the cameras that she's supposed to be invisible to. They're behind her, and all the people in the audience. The grown ups are all dressed up, but none of the women look as pretty as her mother does in her green dress. Even though she's not supposed to be seen, April is dressed up too, and her dress looks a little bit like her Mommy's.

The awards show is kind of boring, and she wishes that Davey was sitting with her instead of a nice old woman named Mabel, but he's working. Her Daddy said that it's important that he do his job too. The other reason the awards show is boring is because nothing bad has happened. All those people are there which seems like it could be the makings of really bad things, but nothing has gone wrong.

"And the award for Best Crash Landing goes to..."

A small sound makes April turn her head. It's the tap tapping again, just like the first time she was in her parents' dressing room, and just like after Alice fell asleep with her book on her knees.

The tapping get louder and closer before it stops. April looks at the grate in the hallway, where she watched the adults put a pie before the show started. While she watches a small hand darts out and pulls the pie into the darkness of the ventilation shaft. April giggles and turns back to the stage.

"Our next presenters are known for portraying Zanda and Quark on the Scifi hit..."


After the show, the B and C list actors funnel out of the building, and many of the crew members follow suit. Before long there are only a handful of people left. No one seems to notice what Mulder and Josh Wentworth are doing as they peer into the grates.

"They're all gone," Wentworth says, sounding dazed. "I'll be damned. I can't thank you enough for figuring this out."

"Don't thank me. Stock up on O'Henry's meat pies before your next show."

"Believe me, I will be doing that," Wentworth tells him.

"Davey!" Mulder turns when he hears his daughter. The teenage boy is making his way to the child. While he watches, she gives him a hug. "You did a good job, Davey."

"Thanks." The boy beams at her.

"Ready to go?" Scully asks a couple of minutes later.

"I think so," Mulder tells her before turning back to Wentworth. "Thanks for having us."

Wentworth shakes Mulder's hand. "No, thank you both. Seriously."

They collect their daughter and proceed out to the parking lot.

"I told you this would be fun," April reminds her mother from Mulder's shoulder.

"You sure did."

"Thank you for letting me come. This was so cool."

"I'm glad we all had fun," Mulder tells her.

He means it. For a short while it has felt like being back on the X-Files, but without the high stakes and danger that he and Scully were used to. It was nice to help out without anyone ending up in the hospital.

"So, Scully. What about that crash site?" he asks, turning on his puppy dog eyes.

She throws up her hands and laughs. "Sure, why not?"


Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Three


The Underground Den of Love, um, the X-Files Basement Office
June 4, 2003

It's been a week since they started on their case, and they're in the office, not to catch up on any paperwork, but for a respite from the new clients. They'd go home, except their kids would be there, fully energized from being about to go on summer vacation, and they just wanted some peace and quiet. So, here they are, bathed in the orange glow of sunset, no closer to figuring out who exactly the suspects are.

The current head of the X-Files division looks rather weary, even though it's barely 7:30. "Why did we become bodyguards?" Doggett grumbles, not for the first time, tugging at his tie and unbuttoning his collar.

Reyes, simply clad in black top and slacks, smiles a little, "Since you accepted the assignment. Remember, just because you prevent the suspect from shooting the clients doesn't mean that you can."

Her partner sighs heavily. "I think I musta had a screw loose to take this job to protect Those People," he mutters, his head in his hands.

The tall brunette nods. "It's not every day there's a husband-and-wife team of romance writers who've had their lives threatened. Then again, it's not every day we get a non- paranormal request and you take it."

He looks up, his eyes weary. "Stupid me, doing a favor for an old friend," he says. "Thanks to Agent Warburton, I get some crazy guy who insists on narrating everything like it was a book. Wonder if Mulder and Scully had to go through this when that Federman guy was making that movie."

"It's not that bad." Reyes smiles, sitting on the desk that he's leaning heavily on. "Janet's quite sweet, I just love those chocolate chip cookies of hers."

Doggett gives her a look. "Mind if we switch?" he says. "Then you can have the crazy talking guy and I get cookies."

She laughs, tossing her head back. "Fat chance," she says, then pats his head consolingly. "The sooner we solve this, the sooner you get to have a narrator-less life."

He narrows his eyes, looking much like his boys when an adult pats their head in the same manner. "Next time I think about doing someone a favor, hit me," he says and juts out his lower lip.

Reyes shakes her head, then hops off the desk. "Consider this a kind of R&R rather than a test of patience, okay?" she says, heading for the office door. She stops before stepping through the doorway and looks over her shoulder. "And it wouldn't kill you to read their stuff once in a while, at least as a diversion." A corner of her mouth goes up and then she walks away, leaving him in the emptiness of the basement office.


The Mulder-Scully Household

Mulder's taken most of the kids over to his mother's house for the day, along with Samantha's kids, for something between a mini-family get-together and kids' playtime, leaving his wife with their infant twins and the company of a dark-haired guest. Scully, however, isn't complaining, because she's catching up on the gossip, er, excitement of what's been happening for the basement crew with Reyes.

"I can't believe you get to bodyguard Devon and Janelle Letourmaine!" Scully sighs enviously, holding Brianna to her breast. "Why couldn't this have happened while I, I mean, Mulder and I were on the X-Files?"

Reyes, holding Zoe on her shoulder, smiles. "Even though Fox is open-minded, I think he'd probably be of the same mind as John when it comes to romance novel writers," the brunette chuckles. "John's there right now, most likely plotting of ways to get me back for leaving him alone with Those People."

Scully raises an eyebrow. "'Those People'?" she repeats.

"Their crazy fan already knows them as Dick and Janet Ackerman, which is why we're at their home or with them as often as possible." Reyes nods. "But John doesn't even bother to call them 'the Ackermans', it's become 'Those People', although he's polite enough never to say it to their faces," she sighs. "If he doesn't watch out, he'll grind his teeth into powder trying not to say anything regrettable."

The two women give each other a long look after that statement, then Scully breaks the impasse by sputtering, snorting, and finally giving into laughter, joined quickly by Reyes. It's only when the twin baby girls start fretting that the ladies' mirth is interrupted, and Scully dabs at her eyes with her fingers. "Before I suggest he get some dentures, isn't there some way to make it more palatable for him?" the redhead wonders.

Her brunette friend shrugs. "I have no idea. I wanted to try rewards, but when we get home, we're either too tired for sex or doing split shifts. And when I'm talking with the Ackermans, he either leaves the room or does only the bare minimum to participate in conversation. You know, the male grunting thing?" she says, and Scully nods, making a face. "Yeah, that."

"Oh, Monica, I'm so sorry," Scully says, patting her friend's arm with her free hand. "I suppose the best thing would be to do the job quickly, since I can't think of anything else right now." Then she smiles wryly. "He really is a guy, isn't he?"

Reyes nods, and her smile returns, "I wouldn't have it any other way." Then she pats Zoe's back when she starts fussing again. "I think Zoe wants her turn," she says.

Scully notices how her friend's expression has gotten wistful. "Monica? Have you ever wanted children of your own?"

Reyes blinks. "Where did that come from?" she laughs, startled.

Scully gives her a look. "Don't give me that," she says, "are you still on the pill?"

Reyes' dark eyes go from "innocent" wide to a resigned but normal size in a matter of seconds. "I haven't been for quite some time, but John still uses condoms," she says, "and like I said, ever since we've been on this assignment, neither of us have the energy or timing for sex. Besides, he's got three kids already, why would he want more?"

"You never know," Scully says consolingly. "And so what if he's got three kids? If he's got enough love for you and Gibson, I'm sure there's enough for one or," and she looks down at her baby girls and adds, "two more."

Reyes's smile is lopsided. "That's what I keep hoping," she admits, "but what if I'm wrong?"

The redhead is silent for a few moments, which is starting to worry her dark-haired friend, until a gleam in her blue eyes spark, which worries her friend even more. "We could always take a cue from the Letourmaines," she says with a devious smile.

"What are you talking about?" Reyes is starting to feel nervous, which is a strange, since this feeling usually doesn't occur outside of a casefile.

"I mean," Scully says, eagerly leaning forward, "we steal their idea from 'You, Me, and Baby Makes Three'!"

Reyes stares at her, and then comprehension comes. "Wait, you're not suggesting I borrow some random person's kid in order to gauge what John thinks about me having babies, do you? That only worked because millionaire playboy Tony Sardonis wanted to settle down with a nice, down-to- earth girl, which school teacher Lana Shepherd was. I am not a nice girl, and John is no millionaire playboy."

Scully shakes her head. "Minor details," she says, firmly resolute now that she's got a plan in mind. "The main thing is, Brianna and Zoe will give John a visual cue about your future together!"

And now Reyes looks at Scully like she's grown another head. "Are you sure you want to entrust two new babies to my care while I'm on assignment?" she asks.

"And that's where we enlist some inside help," Scully plows on, her excitement undiminished. "You've got two teens and a little girl, we can see how open they are to the idea. With Luke, Gibson and Hannah, they'll get hands-on practice in caring for babies, and get used to the idea of having them around. Besides, unlike Lana and Tony, I figure a weekend is long enough, don't you think?"

"And if they say no?" Reyes says.

Scully shrugs. "Then we scuttle that plan and think of something else," she says, "but they won't say no."

"They won't?" the brunette asks.

"They won't," the redhead says firmly. "They love you as part of their family. I've even heard Hannah call you 'Mom' when she talks with April."

"Yeah." Reyes smiles a little, "I've heard that, too. I kinda like it."

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Scully says, picking up Reyes' cell phone from the coffee table. "Call them!"


When Doggett comes back from babysitting Those People, as he's already put it in his mind, he's surprised to find his home a little fuller and louder than expected. "Um, whose are those?" he asks when he finds Reyes on the couch holding a couple of babies in her arms. "I know they're not yours."

Reyes chuckles. "You know that they're Brianna and Zoe, Mulder and Scully's daughters. They want us to watch them for the weekend."

"They want us to what?" Doggett asks.

"It's just the weekend," Hannah says, her pouting face much stronger than any puppy eyes either teen boy could ever hope to try for, although they're both crossing their fingers...though less because they're eager for a baby in the family than for Monica to become a permanent member of it herself and they're sure she'll never leave if she and their father have one. "Pretty please?"

The word 'no' is on the tip of his tongue, but when he sees how excited everyone is, especially his little girl, his expression softens. "Sure," he says, patting her head gently. "Although I have no idea what they're thinking."

"Thanks, Daddy!" his dark-haired girl hugs him, then bounces over to Reyes, who is holding a twin in each arm. "He said yes!"

Reyes smiles, a genuine one of relief and happiness. "I know," she says, "would you like to hold one?"

"Sure." Hannah beams. "Can I hold her?" She points to the baby in Reyes' left arm.

"This would be Zoe," she says, bending down. "Careful."

The little girl nods. "I've held Auntie Dana's babies before," she says, reaching out over Reyes' knees.

"Okay," Reyes says, placing the baby on Hannah's shoulder rather than in her arms, to allow Zoe's weight to fall more on the girl's torso rather than her arms. "Got her?" she asks as Hannah, as she expected, holds the baby to herself.

Hannah nods, her eyes bright, then turns her head and sniffs the baby. "She smells so good."

"You won't be saying that in a couple of hours." Luke grins. "you were pretty stinky as a baby, Hannah."

His little sister glares up at him, holding little Zoe securely to herself. "I was not!"

"Was too!"

"Was not!"

"Was too!"

"Not!"

"Too!"

Doggett groans, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. Before they can get any louder, he puts his hands in the classic T-shape and says, "Time out, guys. Those People are waiting outside because Monica has to take over for me, so she can't watch over Brianna. Hope you big guys up to handling a baby, 'cause I gotta take a nap," he says, heading upstairs.

Luke and Gibson look at each other. "Rock, paper, scissors?" Luke says.

Gibson shrugs. "Sure." They go at it, and Gibson's paper loses to Luke's scissors. "Aw, man."

His slightly-older brother grins. "Have fun," he says, grabbing the TV remote.

"Switch off when Dad wakes up," Gibson says quickly while Reyes hands over the small baby. "Right?"

Reyes nods, getting her car keys. "Switch off every three hours after that until I get back."

"Okay," the boys chorus.

But Reyes still hears them bickering after she closes the door and waves at the Ackermans. She really, really hopes Scully's idea works. That, or it'll totally turn John off to the idea of babies AND his own kids, she thinks, uncharacteristically negative.


Denny's

While she realizes they've got a deadline, in a way, so does Reyes, as she asks them to break their routine and eat out. The Ackermans chose Denny's, albeit with curiosity burning.

"Trouble in paradise?" Janet Ackerman asks when they're seated.

Reyes gives her a look. "Need you ask?"

Then the silver-haired woman elbows her husband in the side. "I told you to stop narrating around that boy," she scolds him. "Even that drives me nuts after a week!"

Dick Ackerman rubs his ribs, wisely choosing not to comment on his wife's bony elbows. "But he's so inspiring." He pouts. "He's the classic hero, tenacious in the face of great odds, loyal to friends and family, and ruggedly handsome, to boot."

Reyes snorts, chuckling. "You sound just like Mulder when he's teasing Doggett." She smiles. "No, it's not just that," she says. "Usually, when people make threats, they step up their activities when they see the object of their vitriol being protected. That makes it easier for us to flush them out and find them, but so far, there hasn't been any follow-up. I'm inclined to think we might have scared him or her off, but the strong language in the threats seems to indicate they wouldn't be that put off." She looks around speculatively. "It's strange."

"Isn't that your specialty, investigating the strange?" the heavyset old man asks.

She favors him with a half-smile. "Well, that might actually make this case an X-File, wouldn't it?" Then she pauses. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm borrowing something from a book of yours."

"What do you mean?" Janet wonders.

"I mean," Reyes says, and pauses, feeling embarrassed, "not for the case, but for me. Actually, it was a friend of mine who suggested it, and, well, I'm not sure it'll work, especially since my partner seems so frazzled."

"You're killing me here," Dick says dramatically, putting a hand to his chest, "what did you do?"

"Well, it's what I'm do-ing," Reyes clarifies, "with some help from his, our family. Remember what Lana did to Tony in 'You, Me, and Baby Make Three'? Well, my friend is lending me her twin baby girls for the weekend and his sons and daughter are helping me look after them." A rare blush creeps across her cheeks, and she puts her hands on her face. "Wow, saying that out loud makes it sound even crazier than it already is."

The Ackermans look at each other, then laugh. Janet reaches over and pats the brunette's shoulders. "Don't worry, dear, you're not the only one," she says, "in fact, we find many of our fans do the same. We've gotten," now she looks a little embarrassed as she confesses, "a few not-so-nice calls to our publisher telling her they've gotten arrested for something they copied out of one of our books. We try to stress, especially with the more adventurous or risqué titles, that this sort of thing shouldn't be attempted in real life, but I suppose with reality shows and home videos being sillier than scripted comedies, nobody can tell the difference any more."

Reyes puts her hands down and stares at them. "So, I'm not the only one?" she says incredulously.

Dick shakes his head, his face solemn but his eyes dancing behind his bifocals. "I'm sure if they had our phone number, it would be ringing off the hook with people doing foolish things for love."

"But love, or at least infatuation, makes you do crazy things." Janet smiles.

She's about to say more, but the waiter comes with their orders of two glasses of orange juice and a cup of coffee, the last for Reyes. "I just hope Brianna and Zoe survive this okay, because I'm not sure our house will," Reyes sighs before taking a sip of coffee.

The elderly couple looks at each other, then say nothing, taking a gulp from their respective glasses.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, Doggett's home, the three children are finding that taking care of babies is a lot harder than expected, especially when there's two of them. "I don't wanna change diapers any more," Hannah declares, her eyes still watery from the pungent experience.

"Tough," Luke says, "told you you were a stinky baby."

"I'm not a stinky baby any more!" The dark-haired girl puts her hands on her hips. "Besides, you didn't change any diapers yet, Gibson did."

"Thank goodness," the tow-headed teen sighs while his bespectacled brother glares at him. "What?"

"Switch off is when Dad wakes up," Gibson reminds him. "Don't make me wake him up earlier and grumpier than he has to be."

"Fine," Luke mumbles, then his stomach grumbles. "So, you guys want pizza or tacos?"

"Pizza," they chorus, and Luke scrounges around in the freezer.

"Maybe we should feed the babies, too," Hannah says, then looks around. "Um, Gibson, where did you put the babies?"

"Where did I-?" Gibson stares at her, then at the space where Brianna formerly occupied. "I'm sure I put them on the couch... Oh, no..." They both rush into living room, but there are no baby girls to be found.

"Zoe! Zoeeeeeeeee!" Hannah calls out, cupping her hands around her mouth.

Gibson winces, putting his hands over his ears. "They're babies, not dogs. They can't even walk yet," he says, and then a thought comes to him. "Wait, stop talking for a minute."

"Why?" Hannah's about to unleash a mountain of questions, but Luke puts his hands over her mouth. She glares up at her oldest brother, but stands still.

"Thanks." Gibson smiles at Luke, then narrows his eyes. He's never tried to listen for infants before, since he's always tried to block out regular voices. He can hear Doggett's dreaming, Hannah's bubbly but unvoiced questions, and Luke mentally placing bets, but he can't hear anything else. Whoa, wait, what's that weird noise? He walks down the hallway, and the other two follow him, not saying a word.

The noise is louder on the left side, and then he runs, pulling open the bathroom door. "Thank God!" he says, wrapping his arms around the babies, still lying in the tub. "I'm so sorry!"

Luke stares, perplexed. "Why did you guys put them in the tub?" he asks. He never really took care of Hannah as a kid, but he remembers his parents, well, mostly Dad, changing her diapers on a flat surface and the bathroom being really stinky.

"It was easy to clean them off that way," Gibson explains, relieved that they're still fully diapered and clothed and out of reach of any chemicals. "I've never changed a baby before, so once I got rid of the diapers, I just hosed them down, then washed them and dried them off, and put talcum on because I heard that's what you're supposed to do." He pauses. "You're supposed to put it on their bottoms, right?"

Luke shrugs. "Sounds right."

"Wait, you've never done it before, either?" Gibson looks at him incredulously. "Great."

"Well, I watched over Hannah and stuff when she was really little," Luke mumbles.

Gibson makes a face, but hands Zoe over to Brianna. "Man, I don't know how grownups do it," he says. "We nearly lost them and they were just sitting right here."

"I think they have radar," Luke says, unconsciously echoing his father from a couple months ago. "Man, I don't know how many times Dad would run right to the place where I was hiding after Mom would take hours trying to find me. Hide and seek was pretty funny with a cop for a dad." He grins.

"So why didn't he wake up when we couldn't find the babies?" Gibson asks. "Is it because they're not his kids?"

Luke starts to answer flippantly, then stops when he sees Hannah looking up at him, seriously and expectantly. "No," he answers after a beat, "I think it's because they were safe where they were at. I'm pretty sure that if they were in trouble, he'd wake up."

Hannah smiles, carrying Zoe out with her. "Nice save," Gibson says in an undertone once she's gone. "I think Hannah would've cried if you said he would've only woken up if they took the car out for a spin and crashed it into a tree."

Luke makes a face. "But it was still funny."

Gibson snorts, hefting Brianna on his shoulder. "Yeah, but I'm hoping these girls have a short memory. I don't understand baby talk, but they seemed pretty pissed at me and Hannah." He walks out of the bathroom, telling himself he'll keep a paranoid eye on the girl.

"Oh boy," Luke says, not looking forward to his turn. Maybe Dad will take care of both of them, he hopes.

"Keep dreaming." Gibson grins, not looking back.


With a good meal in her stomach, along with a healthy dose of caffeine in her system, Reyes is in a better frame of mind to think about things. Okay, she and Dana may have been carried away with their idea, but it was only for the weekend, right? And it wasn't like it wasn't going to change things drastically, even though that was kind of the original intent. John would still be happy with his current kids, and she'll probably have to poke holes in his condoms or something for an "accidental" baby. Bleagh. Though that still sounds like it's in the realm of the Letourmaines, not real life.

Oh well, it's not like she'll be home to deal with the fireworks any time soon, and for that, she breathes a silent prayer of relief. Besides, she's currently better able to deal with the case at hand rather than the craziness she started at home. "Do you have records of the people who called your publisher from jail?" she asks.

"You think one of them might be writing those threats?" Dick says, surprised.

Janet shakes her head, just barely stopping herself from rolling her eyes. "I told you, but you said it was too far-fetched," she says, then snorts. "Imagine, too far-fetched, and this coming from the man who comes up with most of the crazy schemes for our stories!"

"Somehow, I'm not surprised." Reyes smiles, getting out a pen and paper. "Or do I have to contact your publisher?"

"Yes, you'll have to contact our publisher for those jail calls," Janet says, getting up, her husband following belatedly. "We'll give Terry a heads up so she can get the information ready."

Reyes nods. "Thanks." She pulls out a credit card and hands it over to the waiter when he comes over. "If we're lucky, there'll be a death threat waiting for us at the house."

"You've got a strange idea of lucky." Janet gives her an odd look.

The brunette laughs. "I said, 'if'. There's no guarantee that the threats will escalate, since they've been playing the opposite of what we've been expecting."

"Let's hope they keep playing that way," Dick sighs, pulling his car key out.

"Don't you want them to catch whoever's terrorizing us?" Janet asks.

"Well, yes, but I do like having the FBI around," he admits.

Now the old woman rolls her eyes before getting in the car.


Unable to come to an agreement on what channels and shows to watch, the kids decide to put the babies to sleep so they can go to sleep too. "Best way to do it is to read to them," Luke says, "Dad used to read to Hannah and it knocked her right out."

"Are you sure?" Gibson asks, now doubtful of Luke's babysitting experience.

"Hey, Dad did it, and it worked." His brother would put his hands up, but he's got Zoe now that Hannah's distracted from her "older sister duty". "That, or he'd drive around the block, but since we're still grounded from driving forever, that's not an option." He shrugs.

That leds to Gibson raiding the guest room, that is, Reyes' room, for her stash of quote- unquote homework for her current case. They decided to start off with Luke reading first, since, according to Gibson, his voice is so dry Hannah wouldn't notice it was a "sexy book." As Luke started on the first chapter, Gibson heated up the milk bottles for the twins, then got some iced tea for the rest of them, since the night was getting somewhat stagnant and muggy rather than cool. When he joins his brother on the couch, he notices Luke's glass is barely a quarter full, and hands over a milk bottle.

Luke takes it, thankful for the break, and silently hopes it helps put the mildly fussy baby to sleep. "Jeez, when do they get to the good stuff?" Luke whines, albeit softly, when he notices Hannah's out for the count. "Zoe's still awake, how's Brianna?"

Gibson shifts his head so he can see the baby on his shoulder. "Same here. Man, romance writers must get paid by the word," he grumbles in a similarly low voice.

Hannah has apparently been bored insensible, and is curled up in a chair, occasionally snoring softly due to a stuffy nose. Gibson glances at the babies, wishing they were fluent enough in English to have been bored to sleep already too.

"No, that's what Mrs. Johnson said about Charles Dickens," Luke corrects him, and when his brother looks at him, surprised, he makes a face. "What? I pay attention once in a while."

Gibson smirks, but takes a gulp of his iced tea. "Keep reading."

Luke sighs. "Good thing the chapter's almost over. This is almost as boring as school books." Once he's got baby, book, and bottle balanced, he goes on in his slight monotone. "Amelie wondered if there would be anything exciting waiting for her once she reached the New World." In an undertone, he mutters, "I'm wondering the same thing."

Gibson chuckles, "Luke!"

"Okay, okay," the other teen sighs. "She put a hand to her locket, hoping against hope that her aunt and uncle would recognize her and greet her at the dock. Brushing a lock of mahogany hair back, she set her green eyes resolutely on the horizon, determined to make her way and not be a burden on anyone." He makes a face. "Too late." He goes on quickly, before Gibson can chide him, "The petite woman held on to the railing, the salty sea wind blowing against her face and hair, rendering her features similar to that of the brave figurehead born on the ship's bow." Then he hands it over to Gibson. "Your turn."

"Goody," Gibson says dryly, trying not to shift Brianna's bottle as he takes the book. "Chapter Two. A tall, brooding man watched as he saw yet another British refugee rush to the ship's upper deck. Captain Jameson Richards couldn't help but notice how the sea breeze blew about her threadbare clothes, revealing her shapely body. He felt his loins stirring, but told himself she'd be emptying her stomach soon, and turned away." He pauses. "You know, it seems the rest of the chapter's looking pretty boring. Or stalkery, I can't tell."

"Great." Luke makes a face. "Talk about deceptive packaging, there's some dark-haired movie- star guy holding on to a Jennifer Love Hewitt girl on the cover, and on the back, it talks about sex and passion." He rolls his eyes. "What a rip-off!"

"Mind if I skip ahead?" Gibson asks.

Luke shrugs. "Go for it."

"Cool," the slightly-younger teen says, and flips through until he finds what he's looking for. "Okay, here we go. Jameson Richards stared at her with lust in his eyes. 'I need you,' he declared, holding her tightly to him, pressing his lips firmly on hers before she could brook an argument.

"The kiss, like their love, was as sudden and swift as a fire. Amelie felt her knees go weak, the very thing she'd scoffed at earlier to her aunt. But here she was, with the devastatingly handsome Captain Richards, kissing him, and weak-kneed, to boot. When their lips parted, she moaned, opening her eyes slowly, her bosom heaving with passion. 'I need you, too,' she admitted softly, her lips feeling lonely without his on them.

"'Oh, Amelie!' he groaned, his fingers impatiently tugging at the fastenings of her dress, and soon her perfect, lovely breasts were in his hands.

"'Jameson,' she gasped, then she felt something firm and hard come up between them. 'Oh my!' " By this time, Luke's practically shoulder-to-shoulder so he can see, too, but Gibson's too wrapped up in the scene to notice. "When he lifted her up and hiked up her skirt, she knew there was no going back. Wrapping her legs around his waist, her bare breasts against his-"

"What the hell?" a gravelly voice startles them. The boys look up to see a very dumbfounded man staring back at them. "Why are you reading one of Monica's books?"

"Uh." Luke looks at Gibson, who shakes his head. There's no way he can rationally explain this one, so he gives up.

"Gimme that," Doggett growls, snatching the book out of Gibson's hand. "I put the basinets in my bedroom, so take the twins up there," he sighs. "I'm gonna put Hannah to bed."

"Yes, sir," both teens say, red-faced.

"And you'd better go to bed, too. It's late," he continues to grumble, going over to pick up his little girl.

"Yes, sir," they sigh.

Doggett shakes his head, then carries Hannah to her bed. He kisses her on the forehead, then pulls the sheet up. "'Night, sweetheart," he whispers.

As his sons go to their beds, he shakes his head. Jeez. Babysitting twins, reading trashy books, sleeping odd hours, his family's going nuts. He sighs, pouring himself a glass of iced tea, then notices the book still in his hand and tosses it to the side. Everybody's going nuts, but he's determined not to be one of them.


The problem is, while he might not be nuts, things are definitely not normal around here, Doggett sighs inwardly. The twins wake up three hours later, right when he's starting to doze off again, and when he went to pick them up, he realized quickly why. "Ugh," he grimaces at the smell of stinky diapers. "Hang on a minute."

A few minutes later, he's back, clothespin holding a handkerchief on his nose, and he takes them to the downstairs bathroom, since that's where the babies' things are. "Zoe, you're first," he says, since she's squalling louder, and changes her diapers as fast as he can. He does the same for Brianna, although more efficiently than Zoe's, having relearned from the first girl. "Okay, are you guys happy now?" he asks rhetorically, since he knows better than to expect coherent answers from them at this developmental stage.

The twin girls blink at him, then start crying again.

"Greaaaaaaaat," Doggett groans. "Shoulda known." He picks them up, one at a time, and starts rocking them. "So, what is it this time, back to sleep or milk?" he murmurs, hoping for the former.

Of course, it's the latter. "I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to let us take care of you guys," Doggett murmurs, holding the babies in his arms. "I'm sure it's one of Mulder's crazy ideas." Then he smiles. "You know your dad's crazy, don't you?" They stare up at him, uncomprehending, and the smile stays on his face. "Yeah, you do, don't you? But that must mean I'm almost as crazy, because me and your Auntie Monica have taken over his job at the FBI. Don't tell your dad I said that, though," he continues in his same low sing-song voice.

And then he flashes to a mental picture of Reyes holding both babies in her arms like he is. Instead of it seeming strange, like he would have expected, it seems almost normal. "Mon as a mom, that sounds nice," he says, and startles himself when he realizes he said it out loud. "Don't tell your Auntie Monica I said that, okay?" he says to the twin girls, who are still busy sucking away at their bottles. "'Cause that's really selfish of me."

Still, he can't shake the picture of Reyes as a mother of a newborn, and part of him doesn't want to.


Sitting alone at the Ackermans' living room table, since the elder couple having gone to bed a couple of hours ago, Reyes is hoping there will be at least one hit on her computer. After taking a gulp of now-lukewarm coffee, she squints from the aftertaste, and makes a face. "Bleagh." Reyes glances at her laptop, which is still running through various databases in several windows, and gets up to nuke the coffee mug in the kitchen. She knows she could probably call up some rookies at the FBI or even the Gunmen to get the job done quicker, but so far, it seems like the letter writer is taking their time now that she and Doggett are guarding the Ackermans.

When she walks through the hallway, her coffee now nice and hot, she notices something odd. "That wasn't there before," she murmurs to herself, seeing an envelope on the floor near the front door. It's likely Dick forgot to mail it, so she walks over to pick it up. It's only when she's bent over it that she notices it doesn't have a stamp, and she pulls out her cell phone and takes a picture. Then she dials and waits for the other person to pick up.

"Hi, this is Agent Reyes, I need you to process a new piece of evidence for fingerprints and what-have-you," she says. "I'll leave alone for you guys to take care of it." Then she rolls her eyes. "No, I didn't see who delivered it, it just got here in a five-minute window, probably shoved under the door like the others." And, although she's tempted to open it, she leaves it by the door, and goes back to her laptop.

Taking a swig of hot coffee, she smiles a little as she sits down. The more evidence the letter writer gives them, the closer they are to catching him or her. She hopes the criminal databases will come up with a hit, or maybe two. And as one window after another stops scrolling through various information, all she's getting is the infamous three-word hope-killer, "NO MATCHES FOUND." "Hope the crime lab has better luck," she murmurs to herself.

It doesn't take long for the professionals to come in and do their job, promising to call as soon as they have some helpful information. But if the letter writer keeps up their lack of evidence like they've done so far, they'll have nothing. She knows she'll have to do a little explaining to the Ackermans once they wake up so they can explain to their neighbors about the midnight visit, but figures it'll be no big deal.

And then the last of the windows stops scrolling, and Reyes holds her breath, although she's sure it's going to read the same as the others. But this one says "ONE MATCH."

Holy shit. Reyes calls Doggett, hoping he'll be awake by now. When he picks up, she smiles. "Hi, John," she says.

"Hey," he answers, his voice less gravelly now that he's got a few hours of being awake and a glass of iced tea down his throat. "How's it going?"

"I think I made a breakthrough," Reyes says excitedly, "remember how the Ackermans said they had no enemies they knew of?"

"Which is hard to believe, if they're getting death threats," Doggett says sarcastically, "so the bastard finally tipped his hand?"

"Looks like it," she replies, "we finally got a new letter. And after talking with the Ackermans over dinner, they told me that they've had some people blame them for their romantic failures." She decides to edit how she came about that little revelation and continues, "After getting in touch with their publisher, who kept a record of calls made from jail from unsuccessful 'romantic' tries, I ran the names against various criminal databases and got a match."

"Great," he says, surprised. "Got an address, too?"

Reyes smiles. "Yeah. Wanna come with?"

"Hell, yeah." He grins at the other end of the line. "Lemme wake up the kids to take care of the twins before I go. See ya."

"See ya," she says back, and hangs up. Wow, who knew her embarrassing story would get them this far? Then she sighs, picking up her keys. Well, she'll tell Doggett about the other part once they finish the case.


They pull up to a small apartment complex, one of those brownstone types in the redeveloped neighborhoods. Walking down to the fifth door on the left, Reyes raps smartly on the door. "Geraldine Van Dusen?"

"You sure that's her real name?" Doggett squints at her.

Reyes shrugs. "It's the one that's on her driver's license, home address, and overnight prison record."

"Goody," he grunts. "How long do we wait before breaking in?"

She gives him a look. "I know you want to break the case, but aside from threats, she hasn't posed a viable threat just yet."

He jerks a thumb at the window. "Lights are on, but is anyone home?"

Then the door opens to a short, heavyset woman with ratty brown hair, thick glasses, and frumpy clothes. "Hello?" she squints up at them.

"Geraldine Van Dusen?" Doggett asks.

She nods, nervously. "Yes?"

"Mind if we ask you a few questions?" he says, flipping out his badge.

Her eyes widen noticeably behind her thick glasses, and she shrinks back. "What? What did I do?"

The FBI agents walk in, irregardless of not exactly being invited in. As they look around, they see the apartment is bare of any sort of decoration other than paperback books and discarded food cartons lying in all sorts of places. A shrill whistle sounds, and they both turn to see it's a teapot, and she rushes over to turn down the stove. It was a little disturbing to see how the woman was practically a walking stereotype of a romance reader, minus the cats. "So, it's just you living here?" Doggett asks, half-expecting several dozen cats to materialize.

Geraldine nods. "Do I look like I have a boyfriend?" she says, bitterly.

Reyes pulls out a copy of one of the death threats. "Did you write this?" she asks.

The absurdly-plain woman looks at it, then at them. "What?" she gasps.

The agents look at each other. It's hard for Doggett to believe that this woman was ever arrested for anything just by looking at her, but he knows looks can be deceiving. Besides, this woman was arrested for not only breaking and entering, but also for disregarding the TRO against her. According to her account, she was trying to imitate the "romantic gestures" described in one of the Letourmaines' books, but the man, who was already affianced at the time, considered it harassment.

"Don't give me that," Doggett makes a face. "You're sneaky enough to break into someone's apartment, you're sneaky enough to leave death threats on someone else's doorstep."

"No, I, I, I," Geraldine protests, but her eyes are darting left and right, as if looking for an escape from her own home.

Reyes picks up a magazine and flips through it. "This has a lot of holes in it," she notes, "I'll bet your other magazines are in the same shape."

"No, that's not," the mousy woman tries to deny it, but tears leak from her eyes. "It's not fair!"

The two agents stare at each other, baffled. "What, that we caught you?" Doggett asks.

"NO!" Geraldine shouts. "You wouldn't know!" Then she glares at Reyes. "You especially wouldn't know!"

"What are you talking about?" Reyes asks her, confused.

"You, with your perfect looks, and perfect boyfriend, and take-charge job," the shorter woman sniffles, then wipes her nose with the back of her sleeve. "You have no idea how I feel, or how those people betrayed me!"

Doggett stares at the suspect, then at his partner, wondering how Geraldine knew they were a couple. Forget trashy novels, this was starting to sound like a soap opera. "What?" he unconsciously echoes Geraldine.

"How do you think we found you?" Reyes shoots back. "I have a woman's heart, too, no matter how perfect you might think I am! And don't blame the Letourmaines, you knew what you were doing was wrong but you did it anyway, and then went on to threaten them for your own mess!"

"But they-!" Geraldine tries again.

"I don't give a rat's ass!" Reyes interrupts her angrily, surprising Doggett. "You're going to confess and apologize to those nice people, and then we're booking you, got it?"

And to Geraldine Van Dusen's surprise, that's exactly what they do.


Now that their case is wrapped up, tied with a bow, so to speak, the FBI agents head back to Doggett's home, where they find it's refreshingly quiet, for once. Mostly because the twins are sleeping on the dozing boys' laps, with Hannah curled next to them on the couch.

Reyes smiles, then yawns. "There's a pretty picture," she notes in a quiet voice, then goes over and moves Hannah so the girl can sleep on her lap. "Now I've got a Hannah blanket." She grins.

Doggett shakes his head, but smiles. "Say cheese," he says, taking a picture of them with his cell phone.

She looks up at him, bemused. "What was that for?" she asks.

"Enjoying a quiet moment while I can," is all he says before he joins her and everyone else on the couch. "Move over a little."

Reyes does so, and smiles. "What, you didn't want to be left out?" she teases.

"Heck, no," he says, smiling back, and kisses her nose. "Besides, you guys look good together."

"Babies included?" she asks, hopeful inside while her tone is light.

He nods. "Babies included," he murmurs, then yawns. "But if we ever get twins, the boys are definitely on diaper-changing duty," he mumbles, closing his eyes.

"Promise?" Reyes asks, but there's no answer, because he's out like a light. Then she smiles, "Well, I'll try not to make it twins, but there's no guarantee. 'Night, John." And she kisses his cheek before closing her eyes. "Sweet dreams."

And for more than one of them sleeping on the couch, there are sweet dreams.


June 30, 2003

Reyes stares down at the readings in her hand. Just to be sure, she'd peed on three tests, and all of them show that she's positive. "I'm pregnant," she murmurs, then a huge smile lights up her face. "I'm pregnant! Whoo!"

"Mon, you okay in there?" Doggett's muffled voice says from behind the door.

Her eyes widen, and she hurriedly wipes up and flushes the toilet. "I'm fine," she calls out, then washes her hands. Pregnant! She looks in the mirror. Well, it's not like it'll show just yet, and she yet looks down at her stomach. "Hot damn." She smiles, borrowing one of Doggett's phrases. Then she looks nervously at the door. Oh yeah, now let's see how well he takes to the news, she thinks, and wipes her hands twice before unlocking the door.

"What was the screaming about?" He looks at her curiously, standing in his t-shirt and boxers.

"Um, John, I, uh," she stammers, trying to think of how to put it, but simply blurts out, "I'm pregnant."

"What?" He stares at her in disbelief.

Reyes pats her tummy, which looks rather flat under her tank top. "We're having a baby," she says.

"We're having a baby?" Doggett repeats numbly.

She nods, still unsure since she can't figure out if he thinks it's a good thing or not. Tough. No matter what he thinks, she's still having one. "Isn't it great?" she asks, putting a smile on her face, hoping he'll smile back or do something positive.

He nods distractedly, and walks over to her, his face still the picture of shock. "Wow," he says, putting a hand on her stomach. "Really?"

She nods again. "Really. If you don't believe me, there are three pee sticks in there saying the same thing," she says, jerking a thumb at the bathroom.

He looks up at her face, then snorts. "Three? Jeez, Mon, isn't that overkill?"

She makes a face. "I had to be sure," she says, but inside she's screaming like a little girl, Yay, he wants a baby, too!

Then he puts his hands on her shoulders, his face serious, making her nervous all over again. "Monica, there's something I wanna ask you," he says.

"What?" Reyes breathes, her eyes huge.

"Will you marry me?"

She stares at him. "What?"

He sighs, but he looks as nervous as she feels. "Mon, I just wanna do the right thing by you," Doggett says, "will you marry me?"

Reyes rolls her eyes. "I think this baby shows just how committed I am," she replies, putting a hand on her stomach. "I think us being a family is the right thing. We don't need to get married, all right?" she says, smiling to show she doesn't mean ill will.

He looks at her, then sighs again. "Okay," he says, reluctantly giving in. "What'll we tell the kids?"

She shrugs. "That we're having a baby, and they're all gonna take turns changing diapers."

He chuckles. "Stick with the first part, they'll figure out the second part soon enough," he says, happy to share the chores with his kids.

Reyes smiles, then kisses him. "I love you," she says.

"I love you, too," Doggett says back, smiling, "although I really don't understand you at times."

She hugs him and laughs. "Same here." And they go downstairs to tell everyone the good news.


July 12, 2003

Doggett and Reyes come home to find their sons cracking up, with Hannah asking, "What? What's so funny? Why won't you tell me?"

"What's going on?" Reyes asks, a smile on her face.

Gibson and Luke look at them, then at each other, and start laughing madly all over again. Hannah looks at them, then pouts at her parents. "They've been doing that ever since we got the mail. I dunno what's so funny!"

"The mail?" Doggett raises his eyebrows at Reyes, who shrugs. Then he sees the teens are holding on to a small paperback book, and swipes it from them. "'Guarding Her Heart' by Devon and Janelle Letourmaine," he reads the cover aloud, noticing that the couple embracing looks somewhat familiar. Frowning, he reads the back, then looks at Reyes. "I think this is supposed to be about us," he says, then tosses it to her.

She catches it, reads the back, and grins. "Cool," she says.

"No, it's not cool," he corrects her, then glares at the two boys, who are now trying to keep a straight face. "That what you've been reading just now?" he demands.

Luke and Gibson look at each other, then at him and nod. "They wrote a note for you at the beginning," Luke says, and Reyes flips to the front. "So, are you gonna read it?"

"Do I look like I read those kinds of books????" Doggett glares at them.

In an undertone to his brother, Gibson mutters, "His piercing blue eyes flashed with anger, although they couldn't help but notice her heaving bosoms."

Luke snorts in spite of himself, and Doggett's jaw clenches. The two teens straighten up under his steely gaze, but Luke's eyes are still dancing.

He stares at them before speaking. "Go to your room," Doggett says, "before I strangle you." And with that, Gibson and Luke practically fly out of the living room to their safe haven.

"John, it's not that bad," Reyes says, putting a reassuring hand on Hannah's head, since the little girl's eyes are practically huge with fear. "It's just a book."

Doggett forces himself to relax, since it's not Hannah's fault that her brothers and the Ackermans are idiots. Exhaling, he says, "Yeah, just a book," then shakes his head. Squatting down, he says, "Hannah, sweetie, sorry about that. Daddy's not mad at you, okay?"

His dark-haired little girl stares at him, then nods. "Okay," she finally says. "Daddy?"

"Yeah, baby?" he says.

"How come that book makes Gib and Luke laugh, but it makes you mad?" she asks.

He blinks, then looks at Reyes, who is unhelpfully reading said book. "It's complicated," he says, "but it's something you shouldn't read until you're older. Much older than Luke or Gibson," he adds.

"Oh, okay," she says, and goes to her room, presumably to play with her dolls.

I hope she stays that innocent forever, he thinks, although he knows she'll probably wind up reading those trashy books in her teens. He's not looking forward to that time, that's for sure. Then he stands up and looks at his partner, who is still absorbed in the troublesome book. "Is it that good?" he asks.

She looks up, blinking, then smiles. "You should really read this," she says, handing it over, "especially the dedication."

"Why?" he says, and reads it, curious.

The dedication is handwritten, although one seems to have made the effort to write somewhat legibly, while the other is in a neat cursive style. The former reads, "Thank you for your courageous efforts in protecting my wife and myself. You've inspired us, not only as writers, but as a couple. Agent Reyes, you are a lovely woman and thank you for your sunny smile. Agent Doggett, you are a good man, but you should smile more often." Doggett growls to himself, not noticing Reyes' smile as he does so, then reads Mrs. Ackerman's neat dedication. "Thank you both for all that you've done. I hope you learn from us as much as we've learned from you. Take care of your children, and any ones to come along." Then he looks at her. "How did she know?" he asks.

Reyes shrugs. "Women's intuition, I suppose." She smiles. If he bothers to read the book, he'll find out soon enough.

It isn't until after the kids are asleep that Doggett finally musters up the courage to read the trashy, er, romance novel. Reyes read it while everyone was watching TV, and merely smiled when the teens asked her how it ended. So, safely out of sight from his sons, John Doggett goes past the dedication and title pages and into the story.

And Monica Reyes crawls into bed next to him with an earlier Letourmaine book, reading hers until he's done with his. "So, what do you think?" she asks when he finally puts down the book.

"Are you sure we're the main characters?" he squints at his partner in disbelief.

Reyes nods, smiling a little. "Yeah," she answers. "Why, don't you think I look like a raven-haired beauty?" she asks, tossing her dark hair.

He snorts, but smiles. "You're drop-dead gorgeous," he says, standing and putting his arms around her. "But you knew that already."

She smirks. "Yeah, but it's nice to hear you say that," she says, leaning against him.

He shakes his head. "It almost sounds like our case, except it reads more like a screwball comedy," he says. "I mean, would you really do something crazy like take an idea from a romance book?"

Reyes freezes, then sighs. "Um, yeah," she admits.

"What?"

She silences any further questions from him with a kiss. "I learned that from romance books, too." She smiles, "and this..."

And they spend the rest of the night exploring what exactly she's learned from "trashy books".


Chapter One Hundred and Twenty-Four



Samantha's Home
July 13th, 2003

"Fox, do you remember the vacations we took in the White Mountains?" Samantha asks one night when she has his family over for a cookout. Their kids have scattered through the house, and Scott and Scully have wandered off too, so she and Mulder have been reminiscing about their childhoods.

"I remember Dad getting us really lost," Mulder tells her, thinking of how hard Bill fought to keep his temper when they took a wrong turn on a hiking trail and got hopelessly lost for two hours.

"Besides that it was kind of fun, though, wasn't it?"

"Sure. I loved the cabin. And fishing with Dad." Mulder feels wistful as he thinks about how Bill had baited hooks for Samantha, but insisted that his son was big enough to bait his own. He'd been proud of himself for getting it done on his own that day.

"You know, that place is still open."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Scott and I were thinking about bring the kids there for a week in August. We haven't had a vacation since before Drew got sick, and I think it would be good for us." Samantha's face looks pained as she mentions her youngest child's illness, but the little boy's check ups have been looking good, so everyone has been hopeful that he's cured.

"That sounds like fun."

"Does it?" She leans forward, and gives him a hopeful smile. "Because I was hoping to convince you to take your vacation there too."

"How did you know that we have our vacation in August?" Mulder asks, curious. His wife and sister haven't talked much on their own that he knows of, so he doubts that Scully told her that they were told by the studio when they'll have a break from taping the show.

"Mom mentioned it."

"Oh." Mulder is a little surprised, but pleased to hear that they're talking. "I'll ask Dana what she thinks, okay?"

"Great." Samantha stands and hugs him. "If anyone had told me a few years ago that it was possible that I could go on a family vacation where 'family' didn't just mean my husband and kids, I would have thought that they were crazy."

"I know what you mean," he admits, reminded of how surprising his father's offer to take the family on vacation had been. "Do you think Mom would want to come with us?"

"No, actually. Your vacation came up after I invited her and she said that she didn't like 'roughing it.'"

"That's too bad. Though cabins with electricity and running water aren't exactly roughing it."

"You know Mom." The look in her eyes silently adds 'better than I do' but he pretends not to notice.

"You're right. She considered living in Massachusetts the boonies, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised that she won't go 'camping' with us."

Samantha's smile slips. "Do you think Dana will want to? I don't know her very well..."

"If she has any objections, it won't be over camping. She's not the city girl Mom is."

"Well, let me know," Samantha concludes as Sammy and Page wander back into Samantha's living room talking about getting home before some TV show their mother agreed to let them see, signaling that it's nearly time for their family to go.

"I will," Mulder promises.


Baywood, North Dakota
August 4th, 2003
12:31 a.m.

The live rock show wrapped up over half an hour ago, but two people are still high off the concert buzz and each other's pheromones. Both came out of the stuffy warehouse wearing the usual black clothes, but now they're naked in a nearby alley, clawing and kissing each other hungrily, not caring about anything like having an audience (they don't), or a clean place to screw (they don't). Their grunts of pleasure are interspersed with the occasional swear word as endearment or exclamation, and he's banging her as hard as the drummer did on his kit less than forty minutes ago, the wall scraping into her back like a bitch.

Braced against the wall, she kicks off, sending them both on the ground, but they land so she's on top of him. "Holy fuck," she laughs, since he's still inside her, "are you okay?"

The skinny guy grins up at her, then sits up and thrusts his hips up against her. "Yeah," he grunts, and her eyes widen with surprise as he holds her to him.

"Shit!" she hisses when he licks her neck, finding that somehow erotic combined with him thrusting madly into her. Then she runs out of words, even swear words, when she comes, exploding with pleasure on top and against him.

His mouth clamps on to her neck, and she groans when she feels the familiar suction of a hickey coming on. But he doesn't stop with a mere neck bruise, puncturing her skin with two strangely sharp teeth, and sucks hard. She starts to fight, but it's too late, because her body's oddly numbed, as if the orgasm sapped her strength, and all she can do is make incoherent moans as he continues to drink her blood.

When she blacks out, he lifts his head, his eyes unrecognizable now with an animal lust. And then he tears off her head, letting the blood spurt up into his wide mouth like a geyser.


J. Edgar Hoover Building
August 10th, 2003

"Looks like we got a serial killer," Doggett sighs as Reyes walks in.

She blinks in surprise. "And a good morning to you," she says, handing him a cup of coffee before sitting down at her desk. Holding her own cup of tea, she asks, "What and where?"

"Guy's been under the radar because it was classified as wild animal attacks at first by local police," Doggett says, opening the file but reciting from memory. "I don't blame 'em, the vics were beheaded so viciously, I'd probably come to the same conclusion."

"So what changed their mind?" Reyes asks.

He takes the photos from the file folder and passes them to her. "Notice anything strange?" he says, once all twelve photos are in front of her.

She smiles at his challenge, then places the photos next to each other. The victims, male and female, are all beheaded, some with their heads found and likewise photographed, others not. And then she sees what he saw. "There's no blood," she says, "strange for such a vicious attack. Did they clean up after themselves?"

He shrugs. "That's why we got it," he says, "there's no trace of cleaning agents of any kind. Could be that the kill was done on tarp or something like that, but even so, there would have to be some kind of residual trace on the bodies, which there isn't. It's like the guy decapitated his vic after sex and somehow drained them of blood without missing a drop."

"Wait, after sex?" Reyes says. "Does that include the men, too?"

Doggett nods, making a face. Yeah, he's more old-fashioned than most, but he knows it's a different world than the one he grew up in. "All the vics, including the ones mistaken as animal attacks, showed signs of sexual activity. Unfortunately, the damn guy wore a condom, so there's no DNA from him."

"Not even foreign DNA on the necks or the bottom of the heads?" she asks, her eyes back on the photos.

He shakes his head. "They can't figure out the murder weapon, either," he goes on. "Given the right amount of speed and force, I could probably take a man's head off with my bare hands, but it would still be pretty messy. The way the killer did it, it's like he used some kind of weapon rather than just his hands."

"What kind of weapon?" Reyes asks.

"Damned if I know what it is," Doggett answers. "One other thing."

"What's that?" she says, handing the photos back.

"One of the cops thinks it's vampires," he says, his lips thinning. "The main reason why we got this."

Reyes shrugs. "Well, he may be right," she says, smiling at her partner's scowl. "Or it may be something completely different."

"Yeah, like a killer who gets off killing his vic after sleeping with them," he says, "nothing new there."


Red Mills, North Dakota
August 11th, 2003

Doggett and Reyes are interviewing another of Kaylee Morrison's friends, since her uptight parents have still disowned the 19-year-old, even after death. Doggett was surprised to find the local police more helpful, until he found she was responsible for a number of petty crimes. Reyes, however, isn't surprised at the turn of events, and so far, she's been the one leading the interviews with the victim's friends.

Currently, they're at a novelty shop, waiting after the last customer leaves to talk to a girl who rather looks like a novelty herself with bright blue hair, her ripped clothes liberally decorated with safety pins, and far too much black makeup. Her real name is Amanda Short, but the last friend they interviewed, "Kitty", said she went by "Corona".

"People are saying that Kaylee got killed by a vampire," Corona says disdainfully, as some unintelligible band plays on the overhead speakers. "I think they've been watching too much 'Buffy'."

Doggett looks surprised. Kaylee's other friends seemed to buy into that theory wholeheartedly. "You don't think so?"

She gives him a look, then rolls her eyes. "There's a lotta wannabes in this town," she says, "just like in any small town. I'm just a businesswoman who just likes to dress up. I don't believe all the hype I sell," and waves a hand at the shop. "Honestly, I think it's just some creep who gets off on killing groupies."

"What makes you think that?" Reyes says.

"I take it that I was introduced as one of Kaylee's friends, or you wouldn't be talking to me," the blue-haired girl says, "but I guess you could say I was more like her rock pusher. That's pretty much my job here." She sighs and looks down. "Kaylee was a sweet kid, though, no matter what her folks or the police thought. Yeah, she did stupid stuff, but just because she wore too much black or not enough clothes, that didn't mean she was bad."

Reyes nods, then smiles. "You sound like an older sister," she says, "or her mom."

Corona smiles back. "Some days, I feel old enough to be their grandma," and laughs. Then she sobers up. "Hey, you ever catch that bastard that killed Kaylee, you let me know so I can kick him in the nuts with my steel-toed boots."

"I don't think we can make that kind of promise." Reyes smiles.

The blue-haired girl shrugs. "Well, I didn't think you'd let me shoot him, but it was a thought," she says, and Doggett raises his eyebrows. "Hey, I might be a rock pusher, but we look after our own, you know?"

The agents nod, then leave, not looking back to see that Amanda Short looks more tired and older than she did when they first walked in.


Mulder-Scully Home
Meanwhile...

Four hundred and seventy three bags, at least that's Mulder's estimation, litter the driveway as he studies the van and tries to figure out how to cram all their gear into the back. He's contemplating dashing to Sears for a luggage rack when Scully taps him on the shoulder.

"Mulder, there's a problem. It's not our problem, but..." she trails off.

"What sort of problem?" Mulder asks warily.

"My mom has the flu."

"So, you want to stay home to take care of her?" Mulder guesses, trying not to let his frustration show. He's already thinking about the vacation that Scully ended up taking alone before David and Jared were born.

"She'd kill me if I did that. No, the problem is that Brandon and Mattie are supposed to be arriving for a week this today. Obviously when she planned to have her grandsons over, she had no idea that she was going to be sick as a dog."

"And, let me guess, it's a little late to call your brothers and tell them to keep the boys home now." He heaves a bag into the back experimentally while he waits for her reply.

"Considering that the boys are probably on planes already, yes."

He stares off into space for a moment. Then he shrugs. "They're little boys. They probably like camping, right?"

"Probably," Scully agrees. "But 11 to 2 aren't exactly fair odds."

"I think it would be a little much to ask my sister to keep an eye on them too," Mulder objects mildly.

"Actually, I was thinking of my sister. She kinda volunteered to come, leaving Ryan and Addy with Alex."

"And Emily?"

"Missy thinks she would just love to see her cousins."

"Okay fine. It's supposed to be a big cabin, I'm sure there's room for four more."

Scully reaches up and kisses his cheek. "Now I know why my mother told me you were keeper."

He smiles at Maggie's compliment. "After nine years of marriage you are only figuring this out now?"


Baywood, North Dakota

Half an hour later, Doggett and Reyes are in Baywood, a slightly bigger town boasting three times the population of Red Mills, but still having a small town feel. The FBI agents pull up to a warehouse that's been converted to something like a performance center and get out of the car. "Hope it looks better at night," Doggett mutters, since the building looks every bit of its 106 years and then some.

Reyes smiles, but shakes her head as they make their way to the alley where Kaylee Morrison's body was found. "It does seem like the backdrop for a murder, doesn't it?" she remarks.

"Let me guess, this looks like makeout central?" Doggett jerks a thumb at the alley, which is obligingly grimy and nasty-smelling, remnants of crime scene tape hanging off the dumpster and the nearby wall. "They must've been really horny to get it on here."

Reyes looks around, then looks back at him. "If it wasn't a crime scene, I could probably get you to make out here."

He raises his eyebrows, but decides not to push it. There have been times when he wanted to make out with her at work, but it was a completely inappropriate time and place, but he's not about to bring that up now. "Let's talk with the proprietor, shall we?" he says instead.

The proprietor, a Mr. Wilson Teagan, is a hefty, bearded middle-aged man in a t-shirt and overalls, sweeping the cement floor with a push broom. Initially, they'd mistaken him as the janitor, but when he introduced himself, they shook hands with him. "Kids are supposed to be coming in four hours for gymnastics class," he says, "I gotta get this cleaned up."

Doggett and Reyes nod. "So, you were there the night of August fourth?" Doggett asks.

Teagan nods. "Yeah, this is my place, so I'm here whenever there's an event, whether I like the music or not," he says and shrugs with a slight grin.

"I understand it was one of your security guards that found Kaylee Morrison," Reyes says, and Teagan nods again.

"Yeah, Marty Brewer," he answers. "Poor guy puked right there, and this is the same guy who's seen all kinds of stuff as a bouncer at the club." He shakes his head.

"He's a bouncer, too?" Doggett says, surprised. "That wasn't on his file."

Teagan also looks surprised. "Really? Huh. 'Cause that's his main job, he only works for me part-time whenever something comes up. Weird."

Doggett opens the file, "According to this, he found Ms. Morrison around 1:24 a.m., but the concert ended around midnight. You had security help the roadies break down the band's equipment, as well as herd everyone out of the building once the concert ended. Nobody saw or heard anything between midnight and 1:24 a.m.?"

The older man looks at the agent. "Listen, if you saw some couple making out when you were busy doing your job, would you pay attention, or would you ignore them?" He smiles slightly at Doggett's lips thinning. "I'm sure one of my guys might've seen that poor girl making out with her killer Romeo, but nobody really saw the murder. The police said she was killed a little after one, and that's when we were packing up the last of the band's gear. We cracked open some cold ones in the office once that was done, and Marty was the one we picked to toss out the empties, so that's how he saw the body. And I swear on my mother's grave none of us heard anything outside, or could hear anything, especially since we were still yelling at each other 'cause the music was so damn loud it had made us deaf."

"Where's your office?" Doggett asks.

Teagan leads them to a room on the right side, whereas Kaylee's body was found on the left alley. The walls are made of brick, and unless someone had exceptional hearing, no normal human could've heard Kaylee if she tried to scream for help. "I brought a cooler from home to store the beer," he says, "one can for each man."

"Ten men, including yourself, correct?" Doggett says.

The older man nods. "I lock up the office once we finish, 'cause sometimes the cops come by, no offense," he interrupts himself, and they shake their heads, "and we have a celebration beer. It's kinda my bonus to them on top of their paycheck," he explains, "and just one, 'cause I don't want them too drunk to get home by themselves."

Neither argue the wisdom of a man who encourages his employees to get mildly drunk before driving because they have bigger fish to fry. "So, nobody left the room while you had your celebration beer?" Reyes reiterates.

"Hell, no," Teagan says, "like I said, didn't want the cops to see." Then he makes a face. "If I let them go home earlier, we might've caught that killer."

"Maybe," Reyes says, outwardly agreeing, but inwardly doubting it, since the killer managed to make out with and brutally kill his vic, and somehow clean up all the blood in less than half an hour, and all without being seen or heard. "Where can we find Marty?"


Margaret Scully's Home

::Maggie's porch looks almost like our driveway did:: Mulder thinks to himself as he pulls into her driveway and sees the luggage waiting to be put somewhere. Missy is standing nearby with Emily and her two nephews, one of whom launches himself down the stairs as soon as the passenger side door of the van opens.

"Auntie Dana!" Mattie crows, throwing himself at Scully, who immediately returns the hug from the small dark-haired boy. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you too, sweetie," Scully is telling him as Mulder gets out of the van. "How's your grandma?"

"Sick." Mattie frowns. "Brandon said she looks like death warmed over."

Mulder raises his eyebrows in the direction of the older boy, and he can see a blush rising up on his swarthy skin. "I didn't mean it literally," the fourteen-year-old mutters.

Scully looks over her shoulder. "Mulder, you don't mind if I go check on her, do you?"

"Of course not," he says mildly. She'll call her mother four times a day, he predicts as she walks into the house.

"I think I will too," Missy announces before following her younger sister into the house.

"How about we get some of this stuff into Missy's car?" Mulder asks Brandon as the two younger kids climb into the van to talk to their cousins. He'll leave to Missy to pull them back out.

"Okay."

They're half through cramming bags into Missy's undersized trunk when Mulder decides to strike up a conversation with his seldom seen young in-law. "I guess this isn't exactly what you had in mind for this week, huh?"

"It's cool."

"Sure, but I bet you think it's a drag that you're going to be the oldest kid by a few years."

"Well..."

"My sister has four kids too," Mulder tells him. "One of them is your age."

This peaks Brandon's interest. "Boy or girl?"

"Girl. The three oldest are girls, and the little boy is Jared and David's age."

"Oh. What's the one who is my age's name?"

Mulder fights a smile. He'd been the most interested in hanging out with kids the same age when he was in middle school too. "Ariel."

"Huh. Like The Little Mermaid."

"My sister claims that she's named after the sprite in The Tempest, but yeah."

"Does she fish?" Brandon asks as they slam the trunk to Missy's car.

"I guess we'll find out."

Brandon looks happier by the time Missy gets behind the wheel, so Mulder considers his work done. At least the kid won't be miserable on the entire several-hour drive there because he thinks there's no one worth spending time with.


Meanwhile...

The X-files agents find Marty Mortenson in the alcohol section of the H Mart on 12th and Vine. He's a big, hefty guy, like one would expect from security, and the agents flash their badges before Doggett says, "Teagan sent us."

"Teagan?" the bear-like man repeats, mildly confused. "This about the body I saw?" They nod, and he puts the beer bottles away, sighing as he does so. "What about it?"

"Aside from the body, do you remember seeing or hearing anything unusual?" Reyes asks.

Marty shakes his head. "If you mean like a cape or something, no," he says. "People are saying that maybe a vampire did it, but what I saw, I haven't been sleeping too good since that night."

Doggett nods. "Hard to stomach," he comments.

The bouncer and part-time security guard nods. "Yeah, it looked more like an animal kill until I saw the girl's head lying nearby. Like she didn't even know what was coming or something. And that's when," he pauses, his eyes still haunted by that image, and the agents look at each other.

"Yeah, Teagan told us," Doggett interjects kindly. "Not every day you see something like that."

"Hope I never see that again," Marty says feelingly, glancing at the beer behind the glass doors of the cooler. "For a while, one of the cops even tried to pin it on me, then decided it was some vampire, that bastard."

"Really?" the agents are curious. That wasn't in the report they'd gotten, and aside from the vampire accusation, the detective seemed like a straight shooter.

Marty nods again. "His uncle's chief of police, so that's why he hasn't gotten kicked out yet," he confides, "but he's known for trying to hog in on the big cases. The older cops put up with him, but I dunno, I think after this vampire thing, they're tired of babysitting Larry."

"This is Detective Larry Whitehouse, correct?" Reyes says, just to make sure.

"Yeah," Marty answers glumly, "that's him. Biggest kiss-up outside of Boston."

"I see," Doggett says, "I take it there's some bad blood between you two?"

Marty shrugs. "Aside from the fact that the twerp's been picking on me ever since high school, not really."

Reyes looks at the big guy. "How on earth did he do that?"

Marty looks away, embarrassed. "I wasn't the brightest kid in school," he says, "and looking like this as a freshman didn't help, either."

"And his uncle's chief of police," Doggett adds, now understanding why he got a bad feeling from the seemingly-upstanding detective. "By the way, why did you list your security job as your primary?"

"Uh, well," and the big man looks down, shuffling his feet like an elementary kid, "my mom thinks that's more respectable. If she found out I was working the door at a club, where there's drinking and stuff, she might have a heart attack."

"Ah," Doggett says, and looks at Reyes, who shrugs. "If we have any more questions, we'll come find you."

"Okay," Marty says, "see you." While leaving, Reyes notices, from an overhead mirror in the H Mart, that he's putting a couple of beer bottles into his cart.


"Well, small town drama," Reyes remarks, as they drive to their hotel.

Doggett shrugs slightly. "Yeah, well, crimes always stir those up," he says, "I don't know about you, but I don't get any sense of the killer here, do you?"

She shakes her head. "Marty's probably the only one physically capable of pulling off the murder, but psychologically, not really. We haven't even figured out how the killer decapitated his vics, or how he manages to kill without spilling a drop," and then she pauses. "Well, if it really is a vampire, he probably wouldn't want to waste his meal, would he?"

"Oh, no," Doggett groans. "Don't tell me you're actually taking that cockamamie theory seriously?"

"Well, Detective Whitehouse might've pulled it out of his ass." She grins. "but that's no reason to say it's not valid."

"I'd say that was more than enough reason," he mutters. "Just like saying I dreamed you turned into a tuna fish sandwich doesn't mean you are one."

Reyes raises her eyebrows, smiling. "Well, we can get into all sorts of fun Freudian and Jungian interpretations," she says, and proceeds to do just that before they get a phone call informing them of a new crime scene.


Woodstock, New Hampshire
That Night

"We're here," Mulder announces as he and Missy pull their vehicles into the large driveway of their rental cabin twelve hours after leaving DC. According to mapquest it was supposed to be a ten hour drive, but with several small children in their party, there were multiple rest stops along the way.

The older kids cheer, but Scully murmurs, "We're here, but where's your sister?"

"I'm sure she'll be along soon."

"Of course."

Everyone gets out and admires the cabin they've rented for the week. The label "cabin" is misleading, because though it is made of logs, it also is spacious enough for all of the campers. Five of the eight large bedrooms each contain two sets of bunk beds, so even slightly larger parties would have been accommodated in the building. In all it's three times the size of the cabin Bill Mulder used to rent when his kids were young.

As soon as everyone is inside and the lights are turned on, Scully pulls a sheet of paper out of her pocket. "Listen up, Kids. There are eight bedrooms, and I've assigned everyone their rooms.

Room one: Page, April, Emily, Alyssa
Room two: Adrianna, Ariel
Room three: Brandon, Sammy
Room four: Drew, David, Jared, Mattie
Room five: Christopher, William, Zoe, Brianna
Room six: Missy
Room seven: Samantha, Scott
Room eight: me and Dad."

Mulder more than half expects the younger kids to whine about there being more of them to each room than the oldest ones, but they seem pleased by the idea of quadruple occupancy. However, he can tell already that Christopher will spoil for a fight when bedtime comes and he's separated from his older brothers and cousins. Sammy looks slightly disappointed by the room assignments too.

Ninety minutes after all the bags are stowed away in the correct bedrooms, and two portable cribs set up in one of the rooms, they are still waiting for Samantha's family to arrive. "I should have insisted that they meet us at our house before we left," Mulder says worriedly. "They must have gotten lost." "They'll be here soon, Fox," Missy says.

Though the comment was well intended, it makes Mulder snappish. "Are you psychic now?"

"Forgive me for trying to be reassuring," she retorts.

Scully interrupts. "Uh guys? I hear somebody in driveway."

Mulder and Missy stop bickering and look out the windows. Scott and Samantha are already getting out of the car. Though Mulder cannot hear the conversation, he sees that Scott is arguing with Drew about a bag, but in the end the little boy wears a triumphant grin and drags the bag to the cabin himself. Mulder shakes his head. The "I can do it myself" stage requires a lot of patience.

"Sorry we're late," Samantha says as the six of them pile into the cabin.

"You wouldn't believe what happened," Scott says. "I underestimated how much gas it would take to get here, and we ran out of gas in Derry-" Brandon looks startled. "Derry, Maine?"

"No, New Hampshire," Samantha's oldest daughter, Adrianna says with a roll of her eyes. "Derry, Maine is only real in Stephen King's imagination."

"Oh."

"Besides, why the heck do you think we'd go to Maine? That's north of here."

"You two-" Scully points at Brandon and Adrianna. "-have just gotten the younger kids out of bringing everything else in. Go get it yourselves. Now."

"Aww, man," Brandon moans as he follows Adrianna. "This isn't even my stuff!"

"Why did you go through Derry?" Missy asks as soon as the kids are through disrupting. "We didn't go through Derry."

"I wanted to see Beaver Lake," Scott explains. "One of my coworkers found that we were going to New Hampshire for our vacation, he told me all about his vacation near Beaver Lake. So, I want to see it for myself."

"Oh. That's why you're late."

"Scott shakes his head, "No, we never even found the lake. We're late because I ran out of gas like I said."

Mulder thinks about arguing with his brother-in-law, but decides that pointing out that he wouldn't have run out of gas in Derry if he hadn't gone out of his way to get there in the first place wouldn't serve any purpose.

"I told Samantha and the kids to stay in the car, and that I would walk to the gas station to get some gas myself."

"Did you get lost on the way to the gas station?"

"No. What happened was that I found a bear."

"A bear?!"

"Yeah. Apparently, up here, unlike in DC, bear sightings are pretty common occurrence. It must be trash night in Derry, because I startled one molesting a trash can on the side of the road."

Mulder looks him up and down. "I don't see any scratches, so you must've gotten away clean."

"It was the strangest thing. I tried to scare it away, because everything I read back as kid said that they don't like loud noises, but it just stared at me. I was contemplating my tree climbing skills when she arrived."

Everyone looks at Samantha. She holds up her hands. "Not me."

"Who?" Scully asks.

"According to her, a queen," Scott says with a wry smile. "Queen Tsienneto."

"You were rescued by a queen?" Mulder is delighted by the skeptical look on his wife's face, but he doubts that Scott is.

"That's what she claimed. All I know is that she rode up on a horse whose tack was covered in bells, and scared the bear away. I was so grateful that I didn't question her pedigree."

"What happened after that?" Mulder asks.

"She told me that I wasn't far off from my destination, and rode away. I think she might be the strangest woman I ever met, and that's saying a lot. But at least the bear was terrified of her horse, so I got the rest of the way to the gas station and back without ever seeing it again." Scott yawns. "Anyway, sorry we're late. We stopped to eat on the way since we didn't know if anyone would be up when we got here."

"We ate too," Missy tells him, unapologetically. "We saved food for you of course, but everyone's fed for the night."

The front door thumps open, and Brandon and Adrianna, both weighed down with bags, are still arguing when they come in. Samantha and Missy immediately set about lecturing the pair, while Mulder and Scully show Scott the list of room assignments.

All in all, Mulder thinks it's a typical beginning to a family vacation.


Four Springs, Montana
Gas Works Factory
11:41 p.m.

"Dammit," Doggett sighs as they reach the site. "Are we getting too close, or are we getting farther behind?"

"Why do you say that?" Reyes says, after they both flash their badges at the local PD and crime scene techs.

He waits as the technicians finish gathering their samples, stepping aside as they carry evidence, including the body, away into their vans and trucks. "Because there's no discernible pattern here, save for the fact that the victims are killed the same way. And based on the previous victims, there's no rhyme or reason to when he kills, but it seems he's stepping up his timetable. I don't recall the killer making two kills in the same month."

"Maybe it's that time of month," Reyes mutters, and he shakes his head.

They talk to the teen couple who found the body, and who are clearly still shaken by the encounter. "Hi, I'm Agent Doggett," he introduces himself, "this is my partner Agent Reyes, okay if we ask a few follow-up questions?" he says.

The girl shakes her head, even though she's still teary-eyed, while her boyfriend holds her protectively. "N-no, go ahead," she says.

"Tracy Kendall, right?" Reyes says in a softer voice, and the girl nods. "Tracy, you told the police that you and your boyfriend Rich Petersen were walking from the store to his home when you found the body. Which store was that?"

"The 24/7 Mart, down the street," Rich answers for her, pointing down the road with his free hand. "Tracy was feeling light-headed after the concert, so I wanted to get her something to drink, and maybe something to eat, before we got home."

"Concert?" Doggett picks up on the word. "What concert?"

"Huh? Oh, Broken Crucifix, they're a local band," the boyfriend replies. "Tracy's cousin is in it, otherwise, we probably wouldn't have gone."

"Oh," Doggett nods. "What time did the concert end?"

"Um, around 10, something like that?" Rich says, then turns to his girlfriend, who nods. "Most concerts wrap up around 10 'cause everything, including the buses, stop running around 10:30 or so." He tilts his head at the building they're standing in front of. "The Gas Works has pretty good parking, but they know not everyone's got a truck, so they usually cut encores pretty short."

"And it took you how long to get from here to the store?" Doggett continues.

Rich blinks, then answers, "I dunno, maybe ten minutes. No, maybe more, 'cause I was carrying Tracy on my back. Like I said, she wasn't feeling too good."

"I guess I shoulda had more to eat," Tracy says, wiping her face of tears, not for the first time that night. "But I was so excited to see Tank and his band, I guess I didn't have enough of a dinner."

"Maybe it was a good thing," Rich says, "or you would've been puking instead of fainting when we saw the body."

"Oh, yeah," Tracy says, turning a shaky smile to her boyfriend.

Doggett and Reyes look at each other. "The police say you called them as soon as Tracy woke up. You must have a helluva constitution," Doggett comments.

The boy shakes his head. "I didn't stay here, if that's what you mean," he says. "I wasn't sure if whoever killed that guy was sticking around, so I picked her up and hauled ass as far as I could. We only came back because the cops drove us here," he says, and now the agents notice that the only person he's really focusing on is his girlfriend, not simply because he's being protective, but because he might get sick or faint if he looks anywhere else. "They said we could