TITLE: Divido
AUTHOR: Kinados
ARCHIVE: Archive at Gossamer, ask before anywhere else.
DISCLAIMER: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully belong to Chris Carter.
SPOILERS: Christmas Carol/Emily, Lazarus, Small Potatoes
DEDICATION: In memory of Hunter, who left too soon- you're missed. And to Hannah.

SUMMARY: Could a six-year-old commit murder?

Dana Scully left her partner still questioning the boy suspected of trying to murder his foster sister to wander around the old house, hoping to come across some clues to the attempted murder of the ten-year-old.

It was a beautiful place, and she would have killed to have grown up here instead of in the places she had, where the homes were always cramped with six people. Here, even with the eight children and the three adults - the parents and a live-in housekeeper - nobody would ever feel suffocated, as she had as a child.

She found herself at a door, the door to the only bedroom Mrs. Thomson, the 'mother' of the children. She had said that it was empty. But Scully had a strange suspicion that it wasn't.

Reaching out a hand, she turned the knob and opened the door. The room inside was almost bare, with only a bed and a small chair. The walls were painted white, the carpet a dark blue. The only window was closed and had thick curtains hanging from it.

It was a sharp contrast from the other bedrooms, the ones they'd seen, anyway. All those had been filled with toys and had walls of all colors of the rainbow and beautiful pictures on them. Windows had been opened, beds unmade, clothes on the floor and on desks. Normal 'kid' rooms.

This was a child's room, too. On the walls were pictures- pictures obviously done by a child, in crayon. But a child who was an artist like none Scully had ever known of. Even done with wax, they were some of the most breath-taking works she'd ever seen. One was of a school, filled with children who were obviously whispering over books, a teacher at the front of the room seeing them but only smiling gently. Another was of a dog and a little girl and boy, laughing and running through a field of beautiful flowers.

She wanted to reach and out and run a hand over the papers tacked to the wall, to make sure they weren't pictures. But she couldn't. She couldn't move from her position in the doorway, awe more complete now than it had ever been before.

It was the slight touch of cloth brushing past her leg that broke her trance. A tiny girl, no more than four or five years old, brushed past her without ever looking up and went to the bed. She sat down, cross-legged, and picked up the crayons and sketch pad that were the only mess in the room. Then she proceeded to lean over and engross herself in her work.

Scully stared at her, realizing with a quick, sharp pain in her heart that Mrs. Thomson had lied to them, she just hadn't wanted them to see what this little girl lived like.

The girl was as beautiful as her drawings. Her hair was a golden blonde, braided carefully so that it hung in pigtails down her back. She wore a simple sundress, unlike any other the other children, who were all dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Her feet were bare, but clean. She didn't seem to know Scully was even in the room.

So Scully slipped a little closer to the bed, hoping not to disturb this girl who seemed so content with just paper and a box of ancient crayons. She could see the beginnings of another wonderful picture, full of the magic most artists strafed for and never got. And yet this girl not even old enough for school was getting it and seeming not to notice.

She crouched down by the bed, watching the girl rub a red crayon over the page with half-hearted strokes. "Hi," she said softly. "My name is Dana. What's yours?"

There was no answer. Not even any indication the child had heard. She put the red crayon up and pulled out a blue, adding to what was quickly becoming one of the other children on the swing that Scully had noticed in the front yard when they'd first arrived.

She tried again to get a reaction from the girl, but had a sinking feeling that she knew what was wrong. "Can you tell me your name?" She reached out and put a hand on the girl's shoulder, careful not to shake it and ruin the picture.

Now, the girl looked up. She stared at Scully for a few moments with clear blue eyes. They seemed to light up for a moment at seeing someone new. Then she was gone, turning back to her drawing and going back to coloring the sky.

So Scully had confirmed it for herself. The girl was without a doubt autistic- an idiot savant, to use the old term for one who could bring up talents other couldn't, yet unable to do the simplest things such as talking or even walking. Apparently this child didn't have it that bad, but she was still worse than many of the others Scully had seen while in med school.

She didn't move, watching the girl bring to life with a few colored pieces a picture. There was something awe-inspiring about just watching her.

Scully didn't hear the footsteps coming down the hall, too shaken by what she was witnessing.

"Scully?" Mulder said, so suddenly that she jumped. "What are you doing in here? Mrs. Thomson said this room was empty."

She stood up and stepped to the side so he could see what she'd discovered. "And obviously it's not."

Both heard the soft footsteps of Mrs. Thomson coming to join Mulder, and the barely-audible sounds of a child's tennis shoes. The woman appeared in the doorway, one of the youngest children, four years old, holding her hand protectively when he realized she was heading for the room that all the kids referred to as 'the freak.'

"What are you doing in here?" Mrs. Thomson asked Scully, as though truly surprised that she could have any interest at all in the room of a little girl who was locked in her own mind.

"A better question would be," Scully said, not bothering to keep anger and coldness out of her voice. "What is SHE doing in here. And why did you lie about the room?"

Mrs. Thomson flushed red, flustered and embarrassed. "Well, I don't think a six-year-old girl has anything to do with our little problem with Billy."

"That doesn't mean you had a reason to lie to us," Mulder said.

"People... most people have no interest in seeing Alexis. We've been trying to... to..." she struggled to find the word she needed.

"To get rid of her. You don't want her here," Scully said for her.

"Uh... yes. She has an older brother, but a very nice couple took him almost a year ago."

"Did they not want her because she's autistic?"

"Oh, she's not autistic."

"She's not?" Scully glanced back at the girl, Alexis, who hadn't looked up at them the whole time. She didn't even seem to notice they were in the room with her. Her drawing was really taking shape now, a clear blue sky, grass so perfect it was almost like you could see the individual blades... Dana Scully had graduated from medical school. And she would have sworn on the rest of her life that Alexis was severely autistic.

"No, at least according to her brother and her old doctor, she's not. She was perfectly normal until... until a couple of years ago. When her parents died and she came here. She just seemed to withdraw from the world."

What had been a few-seconds glance turned into a gaze. Scully was now fascinated by Alexis- not as a doctor, but as a woman. One who would never have children of her own, now standing before a child who needed her help more than any she'd ever seen before. She could feel it in her heart- she was the one who, to use a term Melissa would have, destined to save her from whatever trap she'd fallen in.

"Is she deaf?" Scully asked next, but doubting it. If Alexis was deaf, she would have noticed the vibrations from people walking in her room, would have looked at Scully when she walked past her.

"No. There's nothing wrong with her. She's just..."

"She's a FREAK." Another one of the children had joined them - the girl who claimed her brother had tried to kill her. She seemed okay now, Scully noticed.

Scully ignored the newcomer. "You said her brother was... adopted?... by a very nice couple. Why didn't they take her, too?" she asked.

"They didn't want to responsibility. As far as I can see, no one does," Mrs. Thomson said, shrugging. "Maybe the kids are right and she is a freak."

Now Scully couldn't believe what she was hearing. It was bad enough that the children at this house called Alexis names that she almost definitely understood, Mrs. Thomson - and probably Mr. Thomson and the housekeeper - did as well.

Silence filled the room for the next few moments. Scully was still looking at Alexis, lips pursed. Mrs. Thomson was trying to look busy, telling the two girls standing with her to go make sure everything was okay downstairs, that everyone had lunch, did anybody need her? Mulder watched Scully watch Alexis. He remembered what had happened to her when she'd found Emily. That look was back in her eyes- the 'maternal' look that she couldn't hide any more than any other emotion from him, no matter how much she struggled to.

"Mulder, let's go," she finally said, forcing herself to turn away from Alexis. "Mrs. Thomson, we'll look at the evidence and get back to you."

"Please, try to find the truth. I just can't imagine Billy wanting to hurt anybody, much less Jane."

"He did TOO," Jane insisted. While the younger girl had disappeared when told, Jane had stuck around to see what happened. She could feel the anger from Scully over them calling that idiot little girl Alexis a freak. Like she couldn't tell that she WAS.

"We always do," Mulder said.

"I'm going back one more time, in about an hour. I need to talk to the boy again, and his sister if she's ready to. I'm beginning to doubt he did anything, but I can't be sure until I talk to both of them again," Mulder said. "Wanna go?" He picked up his pencil from his desk and put it in his mouth, chewing on the eraser while he waited for her answer.

A week had passed since they'd left the Thomson's home, and neither of them could get the image of Alexis out of their minds...or the way the others there had treated her. And Mulder had the picture of Scully, watching the girl with such anger and, maybe, love going through his head all day and most of the night.

He knew she couldn't have children and how much that bothered her. What if Alexis was the one she was meant to protect? Not that Kevin kid, not Emily Sim, but a child who needed her more than either of them had. To get her out of an existence that was all pain and loneliness. If Scully was given the chance, Mulder had no doubts that she could bring Alexis back to the world, make her into a normal child, like she would have been if she hadn't gotten stuck in a place that hated her because she was different.

"Sure," Scully said. She had spent hours looking over the profiles of each child that came with the case, getting to know them in her mind. Alexis was included and she had found herself wondering more than once what would have happened had she stayed with Mulder and not gone into that room, then got back and found the papers on a child they hadn't been told about. It didn't say anything in the profile about Alexis being closed up completely to everybody, just that she had a tendency towards shy and withdrawn around strangers. "Just let me go home and... get ready."

He nodded as she stood and grabbed her coat from the back of her chair. "See you in about an hour. I'll come pick you up."

"Sounds good."

As she walked down the hall and to the stairs that led up to the main floor, she tried to come up with a plan for getting herself back into Alexis' room. There was something about it that bothered her, more than just the fact that it was so bare compared to the rooms of the others in the house.

When she had first looked at it, an uncomfortable feeling had gone through her. A feeling she'd wanted to get rid of. She hadn't acknowledged it in the week since visiting the Thomsons, choosing to try and block it out as she did all unwanted emotions. Anger, sadness, even joy- if at all possible, she hid them behind the mask that she wore over her eyes and mouth. The one that was calm and cold, uncaring what others thought and said. Only her family and Mulder had had the chance to see beyond that facade to the person beneath. The one that felt and loved and hurt, the one that wanted children and a family, the one that yearned to comfort and help all that she saw in her work.

As she unlocked her car, got in, and turned the key, she could finally lose her disguise. She was alone, as she usually was, it seemed. Others, men, women, her family, Mulder... all, even those that she sometimes, though rarely, bared herself to, seemed to think that she didn't need love. That she was something that COULD cry, laugh, smile, not something that needed to. Jack Willis had been the only one in a long time that she knew had really understood the way she felt, because he had been the same way. When Eddie van Blundht had tricked her as Mulder, she had really believed for a few moments that her partner at work had seen beyond her outer image and was trying to reach her, become more than just a co-worker. If that's what he was.

Mulder was an anchor, she decided as she pulled out into the thin early-afternoon traffic. She might anchor him to the real world, but he anchored her to sanity. If she had been alone, or even with just her mom, Melissa and her wacky ideas, or Bill with his know-it-all-older-brother attitude, she would have fallen into the well she seemed to be walking along the edge of. A crumbling edge, threatening to collapse beneath her at any second- unless Mulder was there to catch her as she fell.

Maybe Alexis could do the same. From what she'd heard, Scully got the idea that the girl might have seen some of the same hardships Mulder had- loss of family and unneeded teasing from those she should have been able to trust most. But Alexis was only, what, six?

The drive to her apartment seemed to take forever, even without the normal struggle when she went home late afternoons, and Scully was exhausted by the time she got inside and collapsed on the couch. She was no longer sure she wanted to go with Mulder- rather because she was tired or scared of facing a child she wasn't sure, but she would rather have stayed home just the same. But she had a feeling Mulder had planned to go back just because of the way he'd seen her looking at Alexis the last time.

She forced herself to stand and find something a little more comfortable to wear. They weren't officially on the case, after all, since it had been decided that nothing to classify it an X-File was involved after the girl had suddenly remembered it had been her brother that had attacked her, not the monster she'd originally described.

Ready for Mulder in jeans, a T-shirt, and light jacket, she had almost 20 minutes of time before he was supposed to arrive to pick her up. Although she had no doubt that he would probably be early, even if just by a few minutes, she turned on her computer to look over the profiles - specifically the one on Alexis - once more before leaving.

It looked the same way it had every time: the picture taken around the time that the investigation had first started, just in case, followed by a description of her person's both physical and emotional features. For most of the children, the emotions included things like 'outgoing' or 'excitable', things that could possibly mean that whoever it was possibly would lash out at a sibling, for any reason. But under Alexis' emotions, it only said, "Has a tendency towards being shy and withdrawn. Was not available for interview."

If she hadn't known, Scully would have wondered about there not being an interview. Where would a six-year-old have been the day the interviews had been done that none of the others had gone to- not even an adult? But she knew the truth- Alexis refused to talk. To her foster parents, siblings, police, and even, as was obvious, to FBI agents.

After the features, there was an additional note about Alexis' brother, Andrew, and the death of their parents. This was the part Scully was most interested in. The deaths of the parents, without a doubt, had a lot to do with Alexis' current condition.

They had been murdered by an unknown assailant, the father shot in the head, the mother in the chest. Alexis had been home and in the same room at the time of the murders; Andrew had been with the neighbor's, who had a swimming pool.

The father died immediately, but the mother had survived for almost an hour. Scully, shuddering as she did, could imagine what Alexis must have seen from her mother- lying on the floor, trying to catch her breath even as pain ripped through her with each breath, blood, at first quickly, then slowing, flowing from her wound and staining the floor. Maybe the mother had even tried to hold her daughter, realizing she was dying. Alexis, who had been found with blood on her clothing, would have struggled. Her mother would have used all the strength she had left trying to hold down Alexis, but after only a few minutes, she would probably have to give up and release the sobbing, trembling girl. When the woman stilled, Alexis would most likely have crawled back to her, fearing she had done something wrong by trying to get away.

That was how Andrew had come home and found them: his father dead on the floor, his mother a few feet away, his little sister curled up against her, thumb in her mouth, crying softly and pulling on her mother's arm with her free hand.

He had eventually gone on with his life. Alexis hadn't.

The whole thing was probably a dim memory by now, mostly colors and sounds- crying, even screaming, the ruby-ish color of the blood that slowly turned black on the carpet, whatever the mother had been wearing when Alexis had buried her head against it, terrified she'd done something to injure her mother worse than she already was...

Scully shook her head to clear it of the image, her own ideas of the colors of blood and clothing, the shouts and sobs, faded from the vivid movie-like daydream to a river of colors that eventually disappeared altogether, leaving her shaking, scared of something she hadn't even seen, tears dripping down her face.


She looked up, right into Mulder's worried hazel eyes. "I didn't hear you come in," she said, ducking her head to hide her tears. She brushed a hand across her cheeks and sniffed.

"What's wrong?" Although he was a couple of minutes later, she hadn't realized how much time had gone by, he sat beside her and put an arm around her shoulders.

She cleared her throat, but her voice still cracked when she said, "I'm fine." She tried to pull away from him, but his arm tightened. This just made her struggle harder. Not hard enough that she really wanted to escape or felt unsafe with him, just enough to let him know that she really did seem to think she was okay.

"I was just thinking about... death."

He balked, taking his arm away and pulling her around to face him so spontaneously that she gasped in shock. "Your cancer's back."

"No, Mulder, of course not," she said with a forced smile. "I'm really fine."

He relaxed enough so that the pressure on her arms was no longer painful, but didn't let her go completely. She knew he was afraid that she would slip away from him, like she had come so close to doing so many times before. It could make her sick, the way he hovered over her whenever she so much as frowned. Other times she loved it. This was one of the times when she couldn't care less- she wanted to get the case done and try to forget about Alexis.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

She nodded and got away from him, standing up. He let her, but stayed at her shoulder as they walked out of her apartment and to his car. Even in the car, as he pulled out in the street, he glanced at her over and over again until she was beginning to feel very uncomfortable.

Why did he always feel like she needed protecting? From the very beginning, he had... hovered. After her abduction, Donnie Pfaster, cancer... all of it was just an excuse for him to worry.

She had wondered once if maybe she was the substitute for his sister. Or the replacement. He had worried about Samantha for almost 20 years when she had joined him on the X-Files. Maybe he saw a little bit of that eight-year-old girl who he'd been unable to save in Dana Scully. And if he could save her instead, then he would do it. Not for her, not for himself, but for Samantha, his parents, and all the others he felt he had disappointed and let down when he hadn't been able to save his sister.

If so, she decided, she could at least go a little easy on him- he needed someone to protect. If it made him feel better about himself, well, good.

They weren't the first people to arrive at the Thompson's. Mulder and Scully found themselves parking three houses down, behind all the police cars, five at Mulder's first count, and an ambulance.

"Maybe we should have come back sooner," Mulder muttered as Scully got out of the car, mouth open and eyes wide, legs already carrying her to the house before he even had the keys in hand. He got out behind her and followed to where Mr. Thomson and three of the eight, or nine, if Alexis was counted, children clustered at the edge of the lawn. Mrs. Thomson was walking alongside a stretcher, where Mulder could just make out under a sheet the body of one of the kids. He or she looked about ten years old.

"What happened?" Scully asked on of the officers who appeared to be just standing around, waiting for someone to tell him what to do. He was young and probably nervous, and seemed pleased that she had chosen HIM to talk to, but unsure of whether he could tell her or not. She took out her badge and held it so he could see.

He nodded. "You've heard about the attempted murder?"

"That's what we were here investigating."

"Well, apparently it wasn't Billy Thomson that did it. He wasn't home when one of the other children started a fire in their bedrooms, which, as I assume you know, are in a line of five upstairs? All but a couple of the children were in their rooms. Billy and his older brother were the only ones gone. We got five of the six remaining children out alive, and managed to get the fire under control before it did any more damage. You can't see the fire damage from this side, but it's easy to see from the back..."

He stopped when he noticed that he'd lost Scully. Her eyebrow had raised for a moment as she considered something he'd said, then her eyes had grown large. "There's nine children, not eight, in all," she said. She turned and ran to the house.

"Ma'am!" the officer yelled, running after her. "It's not safe, we aren't allowing anyone back in there!"

She didn't bother to answer, just kicked off her shoes so that she could get around the shell of the upper part of the house more safely. Her mind was racing: Mrs. Thomson, Mr. Thomson, both had lied about the number of children again. Even with a fire that could possibly kill the one they seemed to frequently 'forget'. Alexis was still inside, most likely dead by now.

Maybe that would be better, she thought, then caught herself. Death wasn't the answer to any problem, not even uncaring parents and cruel siblings.

The officer was still hurrying after her, but there was no chance of him catching up in time. "Hey!" he yelled at Mulder, remembering seeing them arrive together. "Stop her! She can't go in!"

Mulder whirled from Mrs. Thomson and the only dead child to see Scully almost to the house. He didn't bother trying to figure out who had yelled, or if they had been yelling at him. He took off, reaching the door just as it slammed closed. She was inside.

He jerked the door open again and went in after her. "Scully!" he shouted.

There was no reply, but he heard a thud and a small cry of pain above him. He stumbled, half-blind from the smoke that hadn't quite cleared, up the stairs, and found Scully struggling to stand. Her leg had gone through a floorboard and he saw blood seeping through her jeans where she had cut it, deeply, it looked like.

Grimacing, she managed to get it out of the hole she had made, then cried out again, more softly, as her ankle touched the floor. It was already swelling up, and she knew she couldn't walk on it. "Mulder... get Alexis."

Now he knew why she had come back in. He would have done the same thing, had he been the one who'd heard about it. But how could Alexis have been left? Had nobody been up here yet to make sure all of them got out? Or had the Thomsons lied again, saying that all the children were out? He had a sinking feeling he knew the answer.

He edged past her, wary of the broken and threatening-to-break boards, hearing them creak as he walked over them. Most of the carpeting had burned away, and in a couple of places he could see the rooms below where the floor had gone completely.

Alexis' room was close to the end of the hall, the door closed. There was more smoke at this end of the house, either because it wasn't as open or the fire had started here.

He heard another small sound behind him, and turned to see Scully limping along behind him. Her injured ankle had turned the wrong way as she, too, edged past the more dangerous places and she had tried to stifle her cry.

"Scully, don't," he said, reaching out a hand to balance her as she held the wall to keep herself on her feet. "Just stay here. I'll get Alexis."

She took his hand off her shoulder, but other than that ignored him. He shook his head as she came closer and managed to reach around him to open the door. Shaking his head made him feel dizzy, and he knew that if they didn't get out soon the smoke would get them- probably her first, since she was smaller.

At least the fire was gone.

When the hall stopped spinning, he went into the bedroom behind Scully. She was walking slowly across the room, where Alexis was curled up on the bed. The glass of the frames around her pictures on the walls had shattered, scattering glass on the floor, and the paper edges were black.

As he moved, the lack of oxygen again got to him and he found himself on his hands and knees, a shard of glass digging into his hand. He jerked it up and examined his bleeding palm, then forced himself to ignore it and crawled across the room, avoiding glass.

Scully had managed to get to the bed and had almost collapsed beside Alexis, her ankle throbbing, the gash in her leg still gushing red. But she found the strength to pull Alexis into her arms.

The girl's eyes opened, but there was something different about them, something Scully couldn't quite place. She leaned into Scully, burying her face in Scully's hair. Then her body stiffened, as though surprised. Her arms threw themselves around Scully's neck and tears began to fall. Small hands moved up and down Scully's arms and then across her face as though trying to remember it. Then Alexis pulled away, looking up into Scully's eyes with her own. Scully realized then what was wrong.

Alexis couldn't see her.

Before she could do anything to get them out of there, the silence of the room was broken. A small voice, unused in years, came from Alexis:


Then the sobs overtook her.

Scully was in the room with Alexis when she finally awoke. It had been four days since Scully had blown up at Mrs. Thomson, and Mrs. Thomson hadn't showed up since to see Alexis. So Scully stayed with her all the time she could, just so the girl would have someone she could see, someone she trusted- possibly- when she woke up.

She was sitting by her bed, and had only been there about an hour, when Alexis' eyes finally fluttered open. She moaned a couple of times, blinking rapidly as though trying to clear her vision- Scully knew it was probably still blurry and would stay that way for a while-, then saw Scully.

"M-mommy?" her small, weak voice cracked as it had the first time.

Scully had been planning on explaining things right away, but couldn't get herself to do it. Alexis believed that she had her mother back, the one many, many people had explained to her was never coming back. But she WAS there- in the form of Dana Scully, who hadn't asked for the job, but just like her agreement to work on the X-files, would take it without complaint and do her best with it for as long as she needed to. When Alexis was ready, strong enough, to hear the truth, only then would Scully tell her the truth.

"Hi," Scully said softly.

Alexis' arms went up, wanting to be held in a way she hadn't been in the two years since, from her point of view, she'd been abandoned by everyone she knew. Her mother, her father, and then her brother- all of them had left her. Left her with people who hated and mistreated her. She hadn't been loved since then. She needed all the love Scully could give.

And Scully would give. She wrapped her arms around Alexis' small six-year-old body and pulled her against her. Alexis was thin and didn't weigh nearly enough for her age. Scully had a feeling that was because Mr. and Mrs. Thomson hadn't bothered to make sure she ate, not because she refused to like they said. Alexis didn't seem like the type to refuse to do anything, except maybe speak. And that was understandable. Scully would probably have stopped talking, too, if she'd gone through what Alexis had. She doubted she would have lasted as long as well.

"I miss you when you gone, Mommy," Alexis said. Her voice was still thin and broke often. She spoke like a very young four-year-old, if that old.

Scully swallowed, tears coming to her eyes at the innocence and complete trust coming from this child. No one she'd known had ever trusted so easily and completely as the children she seemed to attract in her line of work. She didn't deserve the trust. She was lying about who she was. But it was for the good of a scared, mistreated little girl.

"I missed you, too."

Mrs. Thomson patted Alexis on the head as she left. No hug, no comforting words, just a 'how are you' and a 'I hope you feel better' before she escaped. Scully was, as she had been the last time they had been at the hospital at the same time, waiting for her in the hallway.

This time she didn't confront her, although her mind screamed for her to point out how well Alexis was doing, better than she ever had at home. She was speaking to no one but Scully, but she gave doctors occasional smiles and was eating and gaining weight. She looked healthier, her eyes clearer, her hair shining in the braids a caring nurse carefully did for her each morning. She wore her own clothes, was playing on the floor with the Legos Mulder had gotten her.

"Mrs. Thomson, I need to talk to you," Scully said, reaching out and touching the woman's arm as she tried to get away without Scully really noticing her. She flinched at the hand and jerked away, but she stopped and turned.

"What?" Her voice was cold but frightened. She wanted to be brave before Scully, who was a good four inches shorter, but something about the way Scully held herself made her feel as intimidated as she could make her children feel when she needed to. She brushed her silver-streaked brown hair out of her face and tried to look Scully in the eye.

"I'd like to adopt Alexis."

She said it in a straightforward, blunt way, as no-nonsense as always. But underneath the strength, she was pleading with Mrs. Thomson to listen to her. To try to see it the way she was.

All her life, Scully had tried to help people if she could. In her childhood, from helping Melissa with all her homework (after convincing her that she should do it) to taking in every stray dog and cat that came around, though most of them she had to give up. She had gone to med school to be a doctor, one who did more for people than any other profession she had been able to think of at the time. She kept Mulder from getting himself killed every other month. She had loved a child that she'd been told was created as a result of tests people had done to her that changed her life forever. And she loved this child, Alexis.

Mrs. Thomson actually looked a little upset. "I'm sorry, Agent Scully. The ones who took her brother have agreed to take her."

She turned away, walking down the hall, heels of her shoes clicking as smartly as Scully's usually did, before Scully could reply.

Scully watched her go, shoulders falling from their determined position. She closed her eyes and stood, unmoving, until she felt something touch her hand tentatively. She jumped and looked down, into Alexis' worried face.

"Wha's wrong, Mommy?" she asked.

Scully leaned over and hugged the girl. "Nothing, Alexis. You need to go back in your room, okay?"

Obedient as ever, Alexis hugged Scully back, then went as told.

A tear she'd been struggling to hold back slowly trailed down Scully's cheek.



Scully rubbed her forehead, trying to hold back the headache, and took off her glasses. She couldn't write any more that night. The events from earlier refused to leave her head. Alexis' face... Mulder's words... all of it replayed over and over in her mind.

She and Mulder had both gone to the hospital today, because they knew that any day now Alexis was going to be going with her 'new parents' and Scully knew she had to tell Alexis the truth before it was too late.

They'd arrived to find the new parents, with Alexis' older brother Andrew, already there, trying to convince Alexis to leave. Alexis was clutching so tightly to the edge of her bed that none could get her loose and screaming at the top of her lungs. When Mulder and Scully had entered the room, she had run to Scully and attached herself to Scully's leg.

"They're gonna take me 'way, Mommy! Like las' time! Don' wanna go!" she had sobbed.

"Shh, Alexis, it's okay. It's okay," Scully said, doing her best to sooth the girl, smoothing her neat braids and the back of her dress. "They're your new parents."

"No, Mommy. You my parents. You and Daddy," Alexis said, her voice solemn now, her screams stopping as quickly as they'd started.

Andrew was looking from Scully to his younger sister and back again. He was about ten years old, with the red hair of his mother, almost the exact shade Scully's was. If she had looked into the room, she would have thought that they were closely related.

"Alexis, that's not our mom," he said.

Alexis still refused to talk to anyone but Scully, and didn't even turn at the sound of his voice. Scully had a feeling that Mrs. Thomson had exaggerated Alexis' sudden 'recovery' in terms of speech to convince the couple who had adopted Andrew to take Alexis, too.

"He's right, Alexis. I'm not your mother," she said, taking a deep breath in her mind.

Alexis pulled away, enough to look at Scully but not enough that any of the others in the room could get her. Scully looked right back as the others in the room stood silently, watching.

"Mommy..." Alexis whimpered, unable to understand what was happening. The woman before her had saved her life, held her close when she was afraid, wiped away her tears. If she wasn't Mommy, then who was she? Nobody in the world had ever treated her like that, the way her mother had.

Scully felt her heart breaking at the sight of Alexis standing before her, confused and frightened. Mulder looked at her like that- like a puppy who'd been hit without reason. Her brother Charles had once or twice when she, like Bill and Melissa had done to her, told him he was too little to go with her to a movie or the mall. But this was different. This wasn't somebody she could go back to later and apologize to. This was probably the last time she would ever lay eyes on Alexis.

"These are your new parents. They'll love you like your mommy and daddy did. And you'll be with Andrew. Don't you want to be with Andrew?" she asked.

Alexis didn't answer. Her eyes had the same blank, unknowing and uncaring look they'd had the first time Scully had seen her.

"Please, Alexis. Don't do this again," Scully said.

"Don't leave me again, Mommy," Alexis said so softly that no one but Scully could hear. Her voice had changed from scared to determined. "I don't want to live with them."

And Scully knew it was time to let her go, while she seemed as okay as she was ever going to be. "I'm sorry, Alexis. I'll see you again sometime, okay? I promise." She gently pulled away from Alexis, let Mulder put an arm around her shoulder to help her out of the room, since she was sure she would collapse under the strain of what she had just gone through. She had killed the dream of a little girl, not even ten years old. A dream she had had the chance to keep alive.

She ignored Alexis' cries that resumed the minute she was touched by her new parents. "Mommy! Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" she screamed, and Scully could imagine her trying to fight off the couple.

She put her head on Mulder's shoulder to try and block out the screams. It didn't help.

In the car, with Mulder driving but looking at her, not the road, she tried her best to sleep on the hour-long drive home. She didn't want to talk to or see anybody for about a month. Even suicide, something she'd never contemplated, seemed a good escape at the moment.

Mulder had actually stayed quiet the rest of the way home and had let Scully have the rest of the day off. She had gone to her apartment, done her best to read or work on the case report, but failed at both.

With a small cry of frustration, she put her head on her desk and closed her eyes. Sometimes she wondered if things would ever get back to normal in her life. First her abduction, Melissa's death, her cancer, discovering Emily... sometimes things got so confusing.

Her gun was sitting on the table in her bedroom. It would be easy to go get it and end it all.

She wanted to. But, as usual, she couldn't help thinking about the others in her life, what it would do to them. Her mother, who had already lost so much. Bill and Tara and little Matthew, who didn't even know her yet. Charles and his wife and children. All her friends, her godson. And most importantly, Mulder.

Though he still claimed to be in it for Samantha and the truth, she knew that in his heart, Mulder was in it as much for her and to find her truths as anything. If given the choice between finding out what had really happened to her all those years ago when she had disappeared and what had happened to Samantha, much as she hated to admit it, she wasn't sure which he would choose. She didn't want to be his obsession, but she didn't really have much choice. It just seemed to happen that way. She had taken most of the place his sister had occupied in him, without either of them realizing it as it happened.

What would he do if she left him the way Samantha had? If she did take the suicide route? She wanted to think he would get over her, go on looking for his sister. But that was doubtful. He had dropped everything to find a cure for her cancer, had threatened to kill so many people to save her life after her abduction, and worst of all- she almost smiled- endured Melissa and her strange ideas and Bill and his over protectiveness to be with her when she was hurt. She'd lashed out only once, over something as unimportant as a desk, only because she could no longer take how much he obviously loved her. Love like he would love a family member. He would have given his life for hers, and she knew it.

The real question was, did he know she knew it? If something ever happened to her, something that killed her, would he realize that she loved him back just as much as she loved him? And what would he do if he didn't?

Alexis had been back for almost a week when she spoke for the first time. Andrew wasn't expecting it. He was doing his homework, just a math sheet, when she came into his room.

All week, she had refused to speak or even look at any of them- Mom or Dad or Andrew. She ate when food was put in front of her, slept when put in her bed. Other than that, she drew on anything she could get her hands on, books, old paper, even the walls, a picture of the woman she had thought was their real mother.

Andrew could have hit her every time she did, especially if Mom and Dad found it before he did and got it away from her and threw it away or washed it off. It hurt their feelings that she didn't love them the same way she'd loved that woman.

He, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less. He liked them better than his real parents. They'd hadn't treated Alexis as nice as they should have, and that wasn't good. Mom and Dad here loved HER more, because she wasn't normal. Alexis had been normal before, and she'd been pretty and sweet and a girl- but that hadn't mattered.

But in the last couple of days, something had changed. Mom, and sometimes Dad, seemed to be getting father from Alexis. He didn't think it really bothered him yet, since she didn't seem to care a bit about them. She'd ignored all their kisses and hugs and pats on the head when she'd first gotten there.

She came into his room as he did his homework and thought about all these things. Maybe it did bother him, a little. But not enough to matter.

"Let's go outside," she said, as though she'd been talking all her life, or at least since the regular time that little kids started talking.

Andrew turned to look at her, not really surprised. He'd known she would give in sometime. And they needed to get out of the house, anyway. She didn't go outside enough. It was nicer outside.

"Okay," he said, pushing the chair away from his small desk and following her down the hall and out the front door. He expected her to stop and ask where to go, but she just kept walking. And he was right behind her.

They weren't even a hundred feet away when the loud explosion sent both of them to the ground and the house disappeared in flames.

This time, Scully drove. And she managed to make a two-hour drive into a forty-five minute one. Mulder held on for dear life the whole time, not used to being the one who was slung in all directions by a fast driver.

When she had heard about the explosion and Andrew and Alexis both missing, she had dragged Mulder with her to the home of their parents at four A.M. He had known better than to say a word about it.

The explosion had happened the evening before, but nobody had bothered to tell them anything until Mrs. Thomson called from Scully's home at about 3:30, apologizing for waking her, but knowing she would want to know.

She had wanted to know, at the time. But as she stopped the car and got out and saw the damage what police believed to be a homemade bomb had done to the house, she wasn't so sure she shouldn't have left this up to the bomb experts at the FBI.

"Have you found anything?" she asked one of the officers at the scene of the explosion.

He, having heard that an FBI agent might show up asking about the kids, knew what she was talking about. "A partial shoeprint from the boy. We think they were both out of the house when it exploded."

"Is there any chance they could have been involved?" she couldn't stop herself from asking. She had to know that Alexis, even only six years old, hadn't not given up on getting back to her.

When she really thought about it, she knew that things were even worse for Alexis than for her. Though she had been abducted and lost a lot of time in her life, almost died from cancer, and gotten stuck with Mulder, her parents hadn't been murdered and she hadn't been tossed from family to family when she was so young. She knew she wouldn't have held together at all if that had happened to her. Family was very important to her, always had been.

"Doubt it. This would probably be beyond the capabilities of such young children. Although we have to take into consideration that the girl was around both the attempted murder of her foster sister and the fire before."

This realization hit Scully for the first time. She had asked because she knew she should, needed to get all the facts before trying to put all the evidence together. But when it was put that way... Alexis couldn't have done all of it! Could she?

"Scully!" Mulder's shout jerked her away from her sudden worry. He was yelling from the woods that began at the edge of the land the family owned... had owned and beckoning her.

She took off running, careful to avoid the muddy patches from the rain earlier that week, in his direction. "What?" she asked when she got closer.

"I found them. Over there," he said.

She turned to where he was pointing... and gasped. He had found them- on their backs, knocked apart by the force of the blast even so far away. Alexis' dress had been almost completely ripped off her small body and Andrew's shirt was in pieces. Their faces were cut, arms, and legs mostly blood and shredded skin.

It was too much for Scully. She allowed herself to be caught by Mulder as she reeled backwards, shocked by what she was seeing.

They couldn't be dead. It was impossible. She'd seen them both only a week before.

Alexis had been crying for her. Screaming for her. And she'd turned away, believing that once she was gone, it would all be okay. She had let Alexis down, left her to this fate that was even worse than a life of misery and abandonment at the Thompson's. But had Scully not abandoned her, in a sense? Alexis had believed that Scully was her mother and that her mother was letting her go live with strangers. Was that not abandonment?

Police arrived minutes later, paramedics soon after them. Andrew and Alexis were taken away on stretchers.

Scully, sobbing against Mulder, didn't notice, but he did- the bodies of the children were uncovered on the stretchers.

They were alive.

"Alexis?" Scully asked softly, knocking on the door though she knew there was no reason to before entering. For the second time in a month, poor Alexis was stuck back in a hospital.

Alexis didn't even look at Scully as she came into the room. She was staring at the TV, where Andrew had turned on cartoons when he'd come in a few minutes before. "You're not my mommy," she said.

It hurt Scully deep in her heart to hear those words. She had known that Alexis had been carefully explained to about her parents and what had happened to them and what death was. But it still made her feel horrible to know the girl's disappointment.

"No," she said. "But you get to go live with me until Mrs. Thomson is ready for you and Andrew again. See Andrew? He's waiting outside for me to get you."

Scully was glad that she no longer had to lie- it was the truth. Andrew WAS watching, smiling at the idea of going to live with the woman he called Scully and his little sister. Scully was nice to him, nicer even than his parents had been. And she loved Alexis, but him too. If only Alexis could trust her again. Then maybe everything would be okay.

"I don' wanna go with you," Alexis said. Andrew winced. He hated it when this happened. If Alexis didn't like somebody, then they ran into problems. Because whoever it was stopped liking Alexis... and that meant... he stopped himself. It wouldn't happen this time. She liked Scully too much, he had seen how much she loved Scully before.

Andrew had been released from the hospital a couple of days earlier- they'd wanted to keep Alexis long enough to make sure she didn't have any damage to her brain-, and had been having the time of his life with Scully and her partner, Mulder. They'd taken him to a bookstore, something none of his other parents would do. They said a boy should be out playing, not reading. He'd gotten a book about guns and Scully hadn't said a word about liking violence too much. But then, she WAS an FBI agent.

"Well, you have to, okay? Just for a while?" Scully said.

Alexis considered it for a minute. She thought about how nice Scully had been to her before. She knew that Scully had been trying to be nice when she let her think she was her mother. So she finally, grudgingly nodded. "Okay."

Scully gave her a wonderful smile, just like her mother had given her. Before she started not liking her, because she didn't like to eat some of the stuff her mother had fixed and didn't like going to school and had complained. That was when the trouble started, when her parents quit liking her so much.

Andrew caught the smile, too, and took that as a sign that it was safe for him to go in. He went in and stood beside Scully at Alexis' bedside and asked expectantly, "So it's okay with you?"

She didn't answer.

Alexis refused to speak to anyone in the car or at Scully's apartment. She watched movies when Scully turned them on for her and Andrew, ate, slept, looked at the picture books Mulder brought her.

And finally, Scully got fed up with it. "Alexis, you can't do this your whole life!" she said when Alexis refused to speak to Margaret Scully when she came by to see Andrew and Alexis. Scully had said something to her about using her 'practice as a parent', and she had agreed to try.

And had failed. Andrew loved her, but Alexis stared at her as though she were an alien lifeform. Eventually, she had to leave. And Scully blew up.

But even then, Alexis only stared at her with cold eyes, silent.

Andrew watched them. He knew what was coming. But he wasn't going to tell. It had to happen. It always did.

Mulder was worried about Scully, and without knowing it saved her life. He called her around midnight, unable to sleep. She'd told him about her problem with Alexis earlier in the evening, and he couldn't help feeling sorry for her. She was doing her very best to help those children, and one of them refused to cooperate.

He knew he never would have gotten as far as she had. He would have given up after the first try. When it came to kids, he wasn't the best in the world. But Scully was wonderful around children, he knew that for a fact. She had some strange ideas about the kids they came across- sent to protect them? he didn't think even she really believed that- or had strange connections to them- she found her DAUGHTER- but she always said just the right thing to make them love her.

Until this time. He knew she was probably feeling like a failure with Alexis, who had thought of her as the closest thing to a goddess there was to find on Earth until just a few weeks ago. He knew that he, after years of protecting Samantha from everything that came along that might harm her either physically or emotionally, had felt like the most horrible, evil person that existed when she had just disappeared- right before his eyes.

With these thoughts running through his head and refusing to leave, he couldn't stop himself from calling.

"...Hello...?" she said groggily into the phone.

"Hi, it's me," he managed to get out.

Then he heard her gasp, and cry out. "Mulder! I need your help!" she shouted.

The connection went out. She was gone.

Alexis was after her. He knew it. It had to be. He'd never thought about it before, but Alexis had been there at all the incidents before- the attempted murder, the fire, and the explosion. It had been a homemade bomb, the police had said. If she could find out a way to make that, all the rest wouldn't have been too hard, even for a six-year-old.

And now she was after Scully.

He jumped out of bed, dropping the phone, not caring about the dial tone he now heard as loudly as if someone was playing drums less than a foot away from him. His heartbeat was even louder as he threw on jeans and jerked his shoes on and ran from the apartment building.

Images of what was happening to Scully forced their way into his brain as he drove, swerving around the few cars that he came across.

Alexis with a knife, slowly cutting Scully from the neck down... pushing it deep into her chest and enjoying the screams. Hitting her heart, or a lung, pulling the knife back out. Smiling at the blood that spurted out. In one of the more gruesome scenarios he came up with, she leaned over and licked at the gushing blood.

Alexis got Scully's gun and took it into her bedroom, holding it to her head so Scully could feel the cold metal against her skull before Alexis pulled the trigger, using all her strength, then shooting Andrew, who came to see what was going on, before he could say a word.

Mulder shuddered and went a little faster.

The phone went dead in her ear as Scully cried out again. She could feel the blade of the knife against her arm.

Alexis. Alexis had gotten a knife and was going to kill her. She must have killed her parents before, tried to kill her foster sister and all the others in her foster home.

The knife was slowly increasing in pressure, until Scully felt it break the skin and the warmth of blood spill out onto her arm. And still, it went deeper.

She was going to die and she wasn't even bothering to fight back. There was nothing she could do except... she rolled away, strangely calm in it all.

Alexis climbed on the bed with her then and brought the knife down in a slashing motion, and Scully screamed at the pain in her arm. That time, it had gone all the way to the bone. How could a six-year-old be so strong.

The knife was out of her arm, coming again. She rolled again, but Alexis was still coming... it got her side this time, just missing a lung. She shouted for help, moving a hand to cover her side. She was alone, in a dark room, with a child who was trying to kill her.

She wasn't going to make it. There was too much blood gone now.

Alexis must have gotten the gun, too. She heard a gunshot.

Light filled her vision. She was dying. This was it. She had lived through an abduction, multiple killers, even cancer. And a little kid had killed her.

Alexis stood in the doorway, holding the gun in a shaking hand. After she turned on the light, the other hand quickly went to help support the weapon. It was too heavy for only one hand.

And beside her, Scully saw as she realized it HADN'T been Alexis, lay Andrew, knife in hand and bullet hole in his forehead.

She moaned and lost consciousness.

When she woke, she was the one in a hospital bed. Mulder sat beside her, holding her hand. His eyes were closed, but they opened when he felt her stir.

"What happened?" she asked, the events of that night- how long ago had it been- now hazy in her mind. Alexis... a knife... Andrew had been shot...

He smiled at her before replying. She'd been out of it for almost two days, suffering from multiple knife wounds in the arm and left side. "Andrew tried to kill you. Alexis saved your life by shooting him. She told us the whole story- Andrew killed their parents, and she knew it, but he told her if she ever said a word he would have to kill her. She thought he meant she couldn't say ANYTHING. So she refused to speak, and instead drew pictures, trying to tell people what happened. The pictures in her room all had children in them and usually no adults. The few that had adults in them were the ones she also put herself and Andrew in- always separate from the rest.

"Andrew, she said, killed because whoever the adults were, they no longer liked her as much as they once had. He tried to kill the foster sister because she was close to figuring it out, looking at Alexis' pictures all the time."

Scully let this sink in. She'd been sure it was Alexis who'd been killing. So had Mulder, obviously, by the look on his face when he spoke.

"So what's going to happen to Alexis?" she asked.

"Well, Mrs. Thomson took her back the last couple of days. But Alexis keeps asking for you, if you're still interested..."

"I-" she said. "I don't know anymore that I'm ready for it."

"Well, that's okay. There's somebody else who said they're interested in her anyway."

She tried to keep disappointment off her face. Though she needed time to think about it, she wasn't sure she wanted to give Alexis up, not after all they'd been through. "Who's that?"

He grinned. "Me and you."

"Huh?" she asked.

"Children, I discovered in my own childhood, should have two parents. And Alexis definitely deserves two, after all she's gone through."

"What is this, some kind of Mulder-marriage-proposal?"

"Only if you say yes."

It was her turn to smile. "Yes."

Alexis shrieked and then giggled as the dog she'd gotten for her birthday, Gemmy, leaped out of the bucket she was giving him a bath in and shook himself off, spraying her with water.

Near her, Mulder and Scully- as they, and Alexis, still called each other- smiled at the sight with all the love of parents who had known their child for most of their lives.

Alexis grabbed Gemmy. "You get back in there," she said, her eight-year-old voice strong. She turned and grinned back at her parents. "He doesn't listen sometimes," she informed them.

"No," Scully said.

Alexis, still holding the wet, squirming puppy, stood up and walked over to stand by her parents. Mulder put his arm around her, though she was as wet as her dog was.

"I love you guys," Alexis said, leaning against his side.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other, wondering what had brought that on. Alexis didn't talk about love much, which was understandable. She hugged them a lot, cried when they had to be apart for more than a few hours, but never said anything sentimental like that.

"We love you, too," Scully said.

Gemmy barked.

That's the end. Hope you liked it! It was going to be longer, but I couldn't keep dragging it out forever.

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