Tile: Family Business Series: 04. Children of Sedna
Authors: Laurie D. Haynes and Bear
Category: X, A, MSR, MT
Rating: PG-13
Archiving: Xemplary, Jeopardy, MTA, Ephemeral and Tex-Files are fine. All others, just ask.
Spoilers: Minor ones for Colony/End Game and Existence.

Summary: This is the fourth in the "Family Business" series. Mulder and Scully, along with William, investigate the strange disappearances of some hunters in Alaska.

St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
April 2009

The guide pointed out the animal and accepted the $100 bribe from the hunter. The illegal target, a bearded seal, was just climbing out of a hole in the ice. The hunter held his breath and squeezed the trigger, but the force of the bullet sent the animal back into the water.

"Hurry up, it's gonna sink!" the hunter snapped at the guide, who revved his snowmobile and carefully maneuvered nearer to the hole where the animal was floating in the icy water. Both men set their guns down, got off their snowmobiles and approached the hole on foot.

Suddenly, two huge seals surged from the hole and dragged the two men into the ice cold water. They struggled to climb back out, but their heavy clothing and boots quickly dragged them under the surface. Of course it didn't help that more seals made sure the hunters stayed under. After the bodies had sunk, two other men, naked despite the sub-freezing temperatures, pushed the snowmobiles into the hole to send them to the bottom of the ocean.

Nome, Alaska Airport
May 2, 2009

"I sure do appreciate you taking this case, Mr. Mulder," said Barry Rivers, pulling his red cap firmly down over his graying hair. "I haven't had any hunters signing up with my service since that second one turned up missing. One of them was a congressman, so it was in all the local papers. Now my local guides refuse to take anyone out hunting on St. Lawrence Island. Claim there's a curse or something."

"No problem. This is what we do -- investigate unusual things," Mulder assured him. They walked to the small plane that would take him and his family to St. Lawrence Island, where Rivers' hunting service operated a base camp. "I still can't believe you remembered me after all these years. We probably should give you this one on the house. After all, I wouldn't be here if you and the other corpsmen hadn't pulled my butt off the ice and airlifted me to the hospital in Deadhorse."

"That's what the Navy paid me for. While you were in the hospital for so long, your partner told us what kinds of cases you two investigated. My hunters started going missing and no one seemed interested in helping after an initial search by the Coast Guard, so I called the FBI. They put me through to A.D. Skinner, who gave me your number."

"You saved my dad's life?" asked 7-year-old Will, fascinated and half-running to keep up. "Did you see the submarine and the Bounty Hunter, too?"

Scully's cautionary nudge to keep Will quiet, unfortunately came too late, as Rivers frowned in puzzlement. She shot an accusing glance at Mulder.

"That sub was gone when we got there," Rivers explained to the boy. "And I don't know what you mean by a bounty hunter."

"That's a long story," Mulder told him, casting a warning eye toward Will, whose cheeks flushed with more than just the Arctic cold. "I'll explain it some other time. So what do the locals have to say?"

They had reached the plane now and the pilot and Rivers loaded the bags and supplies aboard.

"This is my pilot, Dave Katak. He's going to take us to St. Lawrence Island."

The short, dark-haired Inuit shook hands with his passengers and helped Scully and Will aboard the plane.

Scully shifted Will to the side as well as she could in the cramped quarters so that he could have a window seat. She noted wryly that, as much as she chided Mulder, the Gunmen and even Skinner for spoiling Will, she was every bit as guilty at spoiling the boy. Especially when it came to occasionally foregoing the comparative luxury of a commercial flight -- well, that and allowing Will as many pets as possible.

Remembering those long periods as a child of waiting for Ahab to come home to her and the family, she was determined that at least her child would never have to know what that was like. Will had been so excited about hearing about a case in Alaska where his father had that "submarine adventure with the alien" that neither parent could bear leaving Will behind. Plus, it was something of an early birthday present for the boy, who would soon turn 8. For this reason, Will had also been allowed to take along the digital camera for pictures.

Admittedly, Scully felt Mulder had glamorized his tale of woe a bit for the boy's benefit. Of course, for her, memories of Alaska had meant long vigils at his bedside and pumping him full of antivirals, which was hardly what she would have called an adventure. But feeling the warmth of Mulder at her left side and Will shivering in his many layers of protective clothing at her right, she could safely say that the experience had been worth it.

Returning to the present, she focused on Barry's words. He had to yell to be heard over the roar of the engine. "Well, we haven't really had a chance to get over to St. Lawrence Island. I'm afraid we really didn't get clearance for an investigation until recently. All I can really tell you is that my hunters down there were after caribou. Of course, they were very good marksmen, which was a damn good thing for them, considering the fact that bears have been known to be attracted to a freshly-killed caribou. Now, normally, you wouldn't go after caribou on the ice, but it's possible they came across one out there."

"And you're positive that these men couldn't possibly have been taken out by a bear challenging them for the caribou?" Scully asked as loudly as she could.

"Actually, not really, my guides had been with me for a couple of years," Barry shouted in return. "They know their way around these parts. Plus, the searchers scanning the area where they were last seen found no signs of frozen blood on the ice to indicate that either an animal or a human had been injured at the time. They were supposed to spend most of their time on the island, going after caribou, but a lot of visitors like to get in a photo shoot of the seals, otters and walrus, so that's probably why they had gone out on the ice."

"Well, my son and I have been studying the region," Mulder spoke up. "Could they have run into any animals unusual to that area? Have you heard of any unusual sightings around that area?"

Scully couldn't help but shoot a slight grin at Mulder that only he and Will would recognize. Same old Mulder, looking for anything unusual. Once, a bit of a curiosity and a slight annoyance, but after eight years of marriage, it was what she had come to expect and one of the things she loved about him.

"No unusual sights to speak of, which makes the situation all the more extraordinary. There have been plenty of rumors going on in the village, or so I've heard, but try to ask anyone a direct question and they'll totally clam up on you. Perhaps they'd be a bit more likely to open up to folks who have had experience with this sort of thing."

"Well, I hate to disappoint you, Barry, but I'm afraid, if anything, we've had the opposite reaction," Mulder chortled, throwing a wink in the direction of a grinning Scully. Will chuckled a bit from his rather cozy window seat, where he had been marveling at the sight of so much ice below. He was a little surprised that the ocean hadn't thawed just yet; it must have been a late season, he supposed. He felt the tell-tale dip in the plane and, seeing the slight tinge of panic in his face (not to mention Scully's), Rivers assured them that they were approaching the location and were soon to land. Both mother and child relaxed, and Mulder bit down on a nasty premonition that something untoward was about to happen, that it was a bit early for relaxing.

Nevertheless, he listened attentively to Rivers, trying to ascertain the facts surrounding the disappearances of the victims.

The plane landed on a runway on the frozen ground. No one came out to meet them, but apparently, that was normal because Barry didn't comment on it. The pilot opened the door, lowered the steps, and his passengers disembarked.

Scully saw Will shiver at the cold ocean wind and made him zip up his parka and pull on a stocking hat and a pair of gloves. At Will's expected whine of "Moooom, not the haaaaat...I look like a dork!" she rolled her eyes. "Like your mother, father and Mr. Rivers?" Scully asked him pointedly. "And I don't see them shivering like you are!"

Will glanced around at the hooded adults, and protested immediately. "Yeah, but you guys just have hoods on..."

"Well, you're going to have your hood on here in a minute," Scully replied, pulling the hood tightly around his ears as she spoke. "I'm not going to have you sniffling around with a head cold or worse come your eighth birthday. Of course, if that's the type of birthday present you want, then by all means..."

"No, no! It's fine, it's fine!" Will quickly assured his mother, pulling the strings of his hood tightly around his neck. "I can do it."

Scully chuckled. Perhaps the Scully gene of self- preservation hadn't missed her offspring after all. "OK, but just don't strangle yourself in the process -- it defeats the whole purpose, you know."

Mulder overheard the entire altercation and briefly relived a similar stand-off with his own mother at Will's age (of course, Samantha, only 4 at the time, hadn't helped matters dancing around him chanting "Dorky Fox, Dorky Fox"). Mulder grinned briefly to himself, then looked around with interest, as did Will. The camp consisted of three mobile homes and a storage hut.

"Where are the igloos? And the dogsleds?" Will asked.

Dave Katak laughed. "Well, as recently as 60 years ago, you could find Native Alaskans living in igloos, tents and the like, but not anymore. And they drive snowmobiles, now, not dogsleds."

"Oh, OK. I did read up some, but it was mainly about the 19th century," Will admitted.

"Things have changed a lot in 200 years. Alaskans, including Native Alaskans, live in regular homes," Katak explained. "Most are trying to preserve their culture, but they're practical when it comes to their homes and modern conveniences like electricity and plumbing."

"C'mon, let's get inside before dark," Rivers encouraged the group. "It's pretty mild, now, but I guarantee it will get a lot colder once the sun goes down."

Will shivered. He'd never been so far north before. Despite the cold, he was still excited. He noted his parents pulling their own parkas tighter around them.

Rivers unlocked the first trailer, turned on the lights and increased the heat. The trailer had two bedrooms, a small sitting area and a tiny kitchen. "There's coffee in the cupboard and breakfast stuff in the fridge," he informed the Mulders. "Come over to the middle trailer in an hour and I'll have dinner ready -- caribou stew."

"Cool!" remarked Will, but his parents didn't look too enthused.

Rivers noted their expressions. "Don't like wild meat? Afraid we don't get much in the way of beef out here."

"Oh, it will be fine," Mulder replied. "It's just that when we spent all that time back in Deadhorse, it seemed like they served caribou at every meal."

"Well, I can understand that," Rivers said. "Brings back bad memories?"

"Very," Scully replied dryly. "But caribou stew will be fine."

Rivers smiled and left the family to settle in.

Will tossed his bag at the foot of the bunk in his room and pulled his Palm Pilot out of his parka before throwing the coat on a chair. He logged onto the Internet and looked up St. Lawrence Island. Fascinated, he read about its history and discovered that St. Lawrence Island had been inhabited intermittently for the past 2,000 years by both Alaskan and Siberian Yup'ik Inuit. The island had numerous villages with a total population of around 4,000 by the 19th century. But a tragic famine occurred on the island in 1878-80, severely reducing the population.

Remembering cases where ghosts killed people out of revenge, Will wondered if the spirits of the Eskimos who had starved to death might have something to do with the disappearances of the hunters.

The boy jumped up and ran into his parents' room. Fortunately, they were just pulling off their own coats and grabbing toiletries and the like from their suitcases, not getting amorous.

Not yet, anyway, Will thought. "Hey, Dad, Mom, I read here that a bunch of the Eskimos here died of starvation in the 19th century. I bet their ghosts are still around!"

"Didn't you know that one of them came to me and hired me to investigate?" asked Mulder, and gave Scully a quick wink.

"Oh, Dad. I'm not a gullible little kid anymore, I'm almost 8!" Will said, rolling his eyes.

"No, your father gets that label," Scully teased.

Mulder gave Scully a mock look of hurt then replied with a grin, "Just kidding around. Now go wash up for dinner."

Later, after they'd had a chance to freshen up, the three walked down the boardwalk over the tundra to Rivers' trailer.

The odor as they entered the hunter's trailer was heavenly.

"Smells delicious," Scully complimented Barry. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Well, actually, it's a recipe I got from Dave's mom."

"Yeah," Dave agreed. "It's good, but nowhere near as good as my mom makes. And my grandmother is an even better cook."

"My grandma is a great cook, too," offered Will. "She makes the best Irish stew. And no one makes apple pie as good as her."

Scully cleared her throat in amusement.

"Oops! Sorry, Mom, you're a good cook, too!"

Scully gave the boy a hug. "Nice try, but that won't get you an increase in your allowance."

Will blushed and looked up earnestly at his mother. "Well, could it at least get me another pet, maybe another dog? You know, Ghostrider's been looking kind of sad and lonely lately..."

"We'll have to see about that," Mulder interjected, crossing his arms and narrowing his twinkling eyes.

"Your father's right, Will, this can wait until we get home," Scully said just a little too loudly, looking in Mulder's direction. As soon as he turned his head, she leaned into Will's ear and whispered, "I'll see if I can talk him into getting another dog, but no promises, OK?"

Will shot her a brief smile in gratitude and sighed loudly for his father's benefit. "All right, I'll wait."

She smiled and glanced at Rivers. "Cooking isn't my forte, as my family well knows."

"I'm not any better, but I can charcoal steaks with the best of them," Mulder added with a laugh.

Rivers dished out five bowls of stew and they sat down at the table to eat.

"So what about this curse?" asked Mulder.

"All I know is it has to do with hunters," Rivers replied around a mouthful of stew. "But I don't really understand it, because the locals have hunted this area since man first crossed over from Asia. Savoonga, the nearest town, is a traditional Inuit village with a subsistence lifestyle of hunting walrus, caribou and whale. In fact, it's known as the 'Walrus Capital of the World.'"

"Could it be that a competing guide firm is doing this to damage your business?" asked Scully.

"Anything's possible, I guess, but I know the guys who operate around here. I just don't see them resorting to this."

"And there's still the possibility they were taken out by a bear," Scully reminded him.

"Problem with that is there hadn't been any new snowfall between the time they went missing and the time the searchers went out. As I mentioned before, there was no blood or remains found. And the snowmobiles and gear were completely missing."

"Combine that with the curse and it does seem like there is something supernatural going on," Mulder said. He finished off the last bite of stew in his bowl and pushed it away.

"What could it be, Dad? A ghost or some sort of native spirit?" asked Will, resting his chin on his hand, completely enthralled with the discussion.

"Don't know, son. We'll talk to the local Yup'iks tomorrow and see what we can find out."

"I know some men in town who are going hunting tomorrow," Rivers told him. "We can tag along and you can talk to them. Otherwise, it's going to be tough to catch them home. This is hunting season, after all."

"Sounds good. Do you have enough snowmobiles?" asked Mulder.

"Yes, though I would prefer that your son ride with you or your wife," Rivers said. At the look of disappointment on Will's face, he told the boy. "But I'll personally teach you how to operate one if your parents approve."

Will's face lit up and he turned to his parents, silently begging their permission.

"We'll see," Scully replied. "If there's a good safe open area on land, then fine."

"All right!" the youngster exclaimed. "What time are we leaving?"

"Sunup will be a bit after 7. We'll leave at 7:30 for the village. It's only about 15 minutes by snowmobile," Rivers informed them. "Dress warmly in layers. It may be above freezing during the afternoon, but morning will be cold. And in the Bering Sea, the temperature can change rapidly."

The Mulders made their way back to their trailer and settled in for the night.

St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
May 3, 8:00 a.m.

The hunters were just hooking up their sleds behind the snowmobiles when Rivers and the Mulders drove up. Dave Katak had flown back to Nome about the time they had left camp. Rivers had arranged for three snowmobiles, with Will sharing one with Mulder. Seeing the wounded look on Scully's face when Will had announced he had wanted to ride with his father, Mulder had suggested that he could, as long as he rode back to the camp with his mother. After all, Mulder could all too well understand that fear Scully was having of "losing her baby," yet at the same time he remembered that the last thing he had wanted to do at the age of 8 was to be seen "hanging out with Mommy" when his buddies were looking. But in the meantime, Will seemed to accept this compromise fairly well.

In any event, Mulder had allowed Will to steer, albeit briefly, and there were times when Mulder feared the boy would tip the vehicle over and topple them both onto the ice, but somehow, Will managed to keep it upright. Actually, all things considered, even though this little event caused Mulder to fear future driving lessons for Will all the more, he did have to admit that Will had done a pretty good job.

Unfortunately for them both, Will was all too aware of it. "So, Dad, think I could get one of these when we get home?" he beamed, as they came to a stop just behind Rivers.

"Uh, maybe when you're a little older -- you might need more practice." As Scully roared in, Mulder added, "Plus we might want to discuss it with your mother."

"Discuss what with his mother?" Scully inquired with a slight suspicion in her voice as she removed her helmet and smoothed out her longish red hair.

Mulder was about to respond when Will blurted out excitedly, "Cool! So we could get a snowmobile then? Hey, how about a motorcycle? Or a motor scooter, maybe? I mean, you did say I needed more practice, right?" he added a hopeful grin.

"WHEN YOU'RE OLDER!" both parents shot at him simultaneously.

Will looked at them longingly. "How much older?"

"Think at least another eight years," Scully informed him firmly yet affectionately. At Will's groan, Scully added, "Oh, come on, it's not as far off as it seems now! When you get to be our age, you'll see what we mean."

"I'll never get to be your age at this rate," sighed Will.

"No, you won't if you don't stop moping about it!" Scully muttered under her breath, Ahab's genetic pool getting the better of her. Then she stopped and looked at Mulder. "Did he just imply what I think he implied?"

"You mean that we're a couple of old fogies? Wherever did you get that idea?" Mulder muttered to her with a grin as they fell in step behind Rivers, Scully holding Will's gloved hand in her own. Then with a wicked grin, he added, "You know, I never did tell him that story about the USS Ardent..."

"Please promise me you'll save that one for when he's at least 16, Mulder," Scully groaned in return. "He's enough of a handful pushing 8 -- I'd hate to deal with an 8- year-old going on 80."

With a chuckle, Mulder returned to the present, asking Barry, "Now where are we going exactly?"

Rivers introduced them to the hunting party -- including Jerry Soonagrook, who was on the tribal council -- and explained what the Mulders had come for. "They're trying to help me find out what happened to my guides and customers. Do you mind if we come along and ask some questions?"

The six hunters all exchanged looks, then Soonagrook nodded. "Just be sure to not get in the way, and stay close to us."

Rivers and Mulder agreed. The Yup'iks took off with Rivers, the Mulders bringing up the rear. About a couple of miles out of town, they came upon a group of seals that watched them warily, some of the younger ones diving into a hole in the ice. The largest of the seals came toward them a bit, then turned to face the northwest. Soonagrook turned his snowmobile in that direction and the others followed.

"Did you see the seals, Mr. Rivers?" Will asked, gesturing to the sidewith his free hand. Rivers glanced at their right and saw more clusters of seals moving along, seemingly unnoticed by the hunters, who moved along on the snowmobiles with their rifles holstered.

"Hmmmm, interesting," Rivers mused to himself. "You'd think someone would notice by now, wouldn't you?"

"You would indeed," Scully was forced to admit.

St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
May 3, 12:05 p.m.

The hunting party soon came upon a congregation of walruses, which took off as the snowmobiles approached. The hunters managed to bring down four of them, then got off their vehicles to tend to their kills. They expertly field- dressed the animals, removing the internal organs and draining them of blood as well as possible.

Will felt sorry for the walruses, but he understood that the Yup'iks needed the meat for their families and would sell or trade the hides for other things they needed, if they didn't end up tanning them and using them themselves. Surprisingly, he wasn't grossed out by the process of preparing the kills. He had inherited a strong stomach from his mother. His innate curiosity came from both parents.

Rivers and Mulder lent a hand with maneuvering the dressed walruses on the sleds. Scully and Will worked beside Mulder. Soonagrook showed Will how to properly tie the lashing on the sled.

Mulder felt this was a good time to make conversation. "You guys did pretty good here; is this all you'll take today?"

"We need a couple more, one for each family. Fill up our freezers for a while," Soonagrook replied.

"I would have thought you'd go after seals. There were quite a few back there," Mulder pointed out.

Soonagrook shrugged. "More meat on a walrus."

"True enough, I guess. I was just sort of surprised," Mulder said.

"You mainlanders are always complaining about our seal hunting," Jerry retorted. "I'd think you would be glad we aren't taking seals."

"Hey, this is your land and your families to feed. It's not for me to say."

Soonagrook nodded approvingly at the response.

Encouraged, Mulder continued, "I am interested in what happened to those mainlander hunters and their guides, though. Got any ideas?"

The tribal councilman was quiet for a while as he lashed the walrus on his sled. "Not really. Maybe they tried to shoot something they weren't supposed to and it cost them their lives."

"Do the local hunters resent these rich guys coming in to sport hunt?"

"Some do. Especially if they don't abide by the game laws. For instance, only rural Native Alaskans are allowed to hunt seals, walruses and polar bears. Otherwise, we don't mind. They bring money into the village," Soonagrook answered.

Finally, when Mulder felt he had exhausted his line of questioning, he and his family trudged back to their snowmobiles. Rivers caught up with him.

"What do you think?" Rivers asked.

"Something kind of strange about it all," Mulder replied.

As Mulder was discussing the unusual behavior of the Yup'iks with Rivers, Scully had lagged a bit behind, holding Will's hand, and cautioning him about not sliding on the ice. But Will finally managed to convince his mother that he was a big boy now and that he could stay on the ice himself without falling.

"Are you sure?" Scully asked. At Will's very firm "Yes," she fought back the maternal urge to cling to him. After all, he was almost 8, and it was only natural that her little boy would want to let go of her and prove to her and to himself that he could indeed take care of himself. She did worry, however, that a day would come when, like his father had been many a time, he would find himself in over his head. Her heart broke over the thought that she might not be there to help him.

Finally, she ended her inner struggle and informed him, "OK, but you stay close. Don't wander off too far from the snowmobiles. All right?"

"Okay, that's fair," Will agreed. Digital camera in hand, he walked about 10 feet away from the rest of the group so he could get some good pictures. He was now dividing his attention between his mother's thick blue coat and his surroundings. But a crackling sound beneath his feet drew his focus downward. There, he could see a growing crack of ice just below his feet. Fearfully, he stopped where he was as the adults talked, seemingly unaware -- even his mother, who had looked back at him as often as possible, seemed to be more absorbed with what Mr. Rivers was saying.


Mulder's and Scully's attention was immediately wrenched from Barry and onto their son. Their parental instincts surfaced as the cracking sounds, grew steadily louder, instantly clueing them in to their child's predicament. Scully went pale and whimpered, "Oh, my God" as Mulder automatically shifted into the role of the negotiator, trying to keep his son at ease. "It's okay, Will, we're almost there," he tried to say as calmly as possible. "You just need to distribute your weight evenly on the ice, just lie down on your stomach. It's okay, Will, you can do it." He looked directly into Will's eyes as the child obediently eased himself onto the ice. Mulder silently prayed that he could get to Will in time as he lowered himself onto his own stomach. He motioned for Scully and Rivers to get on the snowmobiles and pull them back away from the thin ice.

Scully did so reluctantly, trying to ignore that cold block in the pit of her stomach that had nothing to do with the climate. Her eyes stayed glued on her husband and child crawling around on the ice. Perhaps this was going to be another one of those moments they would be able to look back on with laughter when Will reached his teens. But for the moment, Scully was just hopeful that Will would be able to make it to his teens. And while she was grateful that Mulder was so protective of their child, she did hope that, just this once, both child and father could come out of this relatively unscathed.

"OK, Will, you're doing just fine," Mulder told the frightened boy, reaching our for the little hand as the sickening crackles grew even louder. He was startled to find Will's hand trembling, and looking up at his face, he could see that Will's face was streaked with tears. His father could see he was crying from genuine terror. "Hey, come on, buddy, it's almost over now. I'm just gonna jerk you toward that snowmobile, and your mother and Mr. Rivers will catch you. I'll meet you on the other side, okay?" As Will managed a small nod, forcing a smile, Mulder continued, "OK, on the count of three, I'll shove you over, okay? One...two...THREE!"

Will was shoved into the waiting hands of his mother and pulled onto the safety of the snowmobile on the more solid ice. But no sooner had his gloved hands touched hers than the crackling noise gave way to a nauseating mixture of a loud thunderous splash and a man's cry. As Will was settled onto Scully's snowmobile, she called out hopefully for Mulder, only to see a watery hole where Will had been standing and a dark, soaked head bobbing above, coughing and gasping for air.

So much for wishful thinking, Scully thought as she sprang to action after Rivers, who had acquired a rope from his bag of supplies. "Will, STAY PUT!" She hastily yelled behind her as she crawled toward the hole after her husband. Will could only watch the horrific rescue scene helplessly and a little guiltily from his safe perch on the snowmobile. He couldn't help but think that none of this would have happened had he not told his mother to let go of his hand.

For Rivers, this experience brought back memories, albeit not necessarily pleasant ones. He could see Mulder's lean gloved hands flailing about the surface and he aimed the rope in that direction. Scully reached for the groping hand and attempted to guide it toward the rope. "Come on, Mulder, grab the rope...you can do it..."

Mulder, for his part, could see the rope, in between gasps of cold air and dunks under the water, and held onto it as best he could -- literally for dear life. But he found the rope slipping out of his grasp, and was now battling a new enemy -- sleepiness creeping in. Just as he thought he had reached the last of his strength and couldn't hold on any longer, he could have sworn he felt a heavy, forceful nudge from behind. Looking briefly behind him, he spotted a large, dark, blurry shape which he was too tired to make out. But before he had enough time to comprehend it, he felt his hands hit the surface of the ice and Rivers, Soonagrook and Scully pulled him away from icy abyss .

"Is he okay?" Will called out, seeing that his father had been pulled to relative safety.

Immediately, the doctor in Scully kicked in as she took stock of Mulder's shivering, blue lips and half-mast eyelids. "Definite hypothermia; looks moderate right now, but that'll only be temporary unless we can get him to a doctor. Otherwise it could give way to severe hypothermia - - it looks like he's slipping in and out oof consciousness, which is worrisome. We need to get him warm, his clothes are soaked."

"Here," said one of the other hunters, casually walking toward them with a thick sleeping bag and some blankets.

"These will keep him warm," said Soonagrook. "There is a medical clinic in Savoonga where we can take him. Believe me, they are accustomed to dealing with hypothermia."

Scully glanced quickly at Rivers for confirmation, and he replied, "Yes, that's right. It makes Eisenhower Field look like the Ritz in comparison and there aren't exactly any doctors there, just a health aide..."

"That's all right, I can make up for that," Scully replied confidently, and thanked the man for the blankets as she, with Rivers' help, began to gently strip Mulder of his soaked clothing. Then they quickly wrapped him in the covers and rolled him into the sleeping bag and zipped it up around him.

"Oh, I don't doubt it," Rivers said. "I was there that night you took on the entire medical staff and shocked Mulder back to life, remember?"

Mulder, apparently in a moment of consciousness, managed a grin, then raised his eyelids just enough to look at Scully. "Ah...mem'ries..." he whispered in a slur, but managed to give her an evil grin. Scully grinned herself, remembering another Arctic moment where the roles were reversed, and it was her naked body being wrapped to ward off the cold.

At least their chief concern was the decidedly earthly possibility of hypothermia and possible pneumonia, not an alien virus. However, she was too worried about the consequences to actually be pleased with such a nice change of pace. Why couldn't they get more cases where Mulder would come out relatively unscathed?

The hunters picked Mulder up and carried him to an empty sled. As if reading Scully's mind, as they strapped him to the sled and pulled a heavy tarp over him, Mulder could be heard whispering "...leg...'kay...least..."

Scully nodded in understanding. Of course that leg was okay -- if it hadn't healed back in December, she would have lopped it off herself. Well, maybe not. But it was certainly tempting. And he did say he had wanted a peg-leg as a child...

Before going back to her snowmobile, she draped her wool scarf lightly across Mulder's face and nose to keep him from losing heat through respiration.

If the circumstances had been different, Will would have been elated at being asked to drive Mulder's snowmobile back to the village. As it was, he was just grimly determined not to make any mistakes.

Savoonga Health Clinic
St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
May 3, 1:45 p.m.

The hunters carried Mulder into the clinic. The weather had turned ugly and overcast and the winds were howling down off the mountains. Mulder was unconscious, now, but still shivering mightily under the blankets. The health aide, Janet Alowa, directed them to put Mulder on one of the two hospital beds in the clinic. Alowa brought in an electric blanket, plugged it in and she and Scully tucked it around Mulder.

"Warm a bag of glucose and let's get it running," Scully ordered. She knew, as did Alowa, the importance of getting Mulder's core temperature back up. "Do you have warm, moist oxygen? And let's pack some hot water bottles around him. Can you call for an airlift?"

"I can," replied Alowa, "but the winds are too high. They won't be able to land. It gets like this pretty often. Might not improve until tomorrow. It's up to us to treat your husband."

Within a couple of hours, Mulder was responding to the treatment. They took his temperature and saw that it was now 96 degrees and slowly rising. It had been 93 degrees when they brought him in.

Will was made to stay in the waiting room, despite begging to be allowed to stay in the room with his father. Soonagrook had offered to take the boy to his own home, but because of the seriousness of Mulder's condition (and her unwillingness to send her child off with a stranger, no matter how seemingly kind), Scully had politely declined.

Finally, it was just a matter of waiting. Scully suddenly realized she was starving and figured Will must be, as well.

"Is there anywhere we can get something to eat?" she asked the health aide.

Alowa nodded. "I've got some canned ham in the cupboard and some bread. You can make a sandwich."

Will scarfed down one sandwich, then asked his mother for another. Around a mouthful of ham and bread, he asked, "How long will Dad have to be in the hospital?"

Scully found her appetite wasn't as great as she thought, but she forced down the sandwich anyway, realizing her body needed the sustenance. "That depends on how well he responds and if any complications set in. Right now, his lungs are a little raspy after inhaling the sea water. His temperature is coming up well, but it was a nasty shock to the body. He's healthy and strong, though, so he should be OK. Actually, I've seen him survive far worse than this, so I'm sure he'll be out of here before we know it Knowing him, he'll still probably be here longer than he wants to be," she added, almost to herself.

The boy set his half-eaten second sandwich down on his plate. "It was my fault. If I hadn't gone out on that bad ice, this wouldn't have happened." And if that seal hadn't been there to push Dad to the surface, he most certainly would have drowned, Will thought.

But for now, Will decided to keep what he had witnessed from his perch to himself -- he was positive he was the only one who had seen the seal. And besides, he was still too consumed with guilt to give much thought to the seal.

Alowa entered the small kitchen about that time and overheard Will.

"Now, don't think like that. It could have happened to anyone. Did you really expect your daddy to let you fall in that cold water?" the aide chided the boy.

"That's right," Scully added. "You know how precious you are to your father -- and me."

"Yeah, I know. I was a miracle baby, you said."

"Absolutely. And we love you more than anything in the world."

"I don't like Dad to get hurt," Will said, sighing.

"Your father has a way of attracting trouble. You seem to have inherited the same trait," Scully said drawing her son to her for a hug. "I swear I spend my time doctoring your skinned knees or your father's injuries."

"Well, hey, someone has to keep you in practice during your down-time!" Will responded as he returned the hug. As Scully looked down at him in puzzlement, he explained, "That's what Dad always says, anyway!"

"Oh, you two certainly do that," Scully chuckled as she placed a kiss on the top of his head.

Savoonga Health Clinic
May 4, 3:15 p.m.

From one of the two beds in the room, Mulder sighed and glanced ruefully at the snoring, overweight Yup'ik with the broken leg in the other bed. He had awakened to it two hours ago, and hadn't been able to sleep since, much to his frustration. Thankfully his family was there to keep him company and more or less entertained, now that the initial danger of his condition had passed. Taking advantage of his roommate's state of slumber, he nudged Scully and said "Too bad you couldn't pack Will's tape-recorder -- the child could build up a collection there!"

"It's just too bad you can't seem to get any rest at the moment, Mulder," Scully added with a nasty grin. "It would have been fun to have a little competition! Wouldn't it, Will?"

"Yeah, cool!" Will lit up as his father snorted, then began to cough. The "cough of doom," Mulder called it. At the moment, he was not very happy with his wife's recommendation that he stay bedridden for at least a week. At least in Eisenhower Field he had the luxury of both his own room and a nice peaceful coma, albeit for three weeks.

Then again, his son was here. Perhaps it was just as well that it was merely hypothermia this time and not a retrovirus, though Scully kept ignoring his insistence he would be all right and that the near drowning hadn't done him any serious harm. But from the looks of Scully's frowns, the cough was not working in his favor. "Mulder, I don't like how deep that cough sounds. There is no way any doctor in her right mind would let you out of here. You probably inhaled some salt water and the sea water here is extremely saline."

"Sure we can't make a deal?" Mulder tried, giving her his best leer.

"Well...when you feel better, maybe." This innuendo earned a groan from Will..."but for now you're staying right here." Leaning forward to kiss him on the forehead, she added, "At least you're looking better than you did when we brought you in -- that's a start!"

At that point, Rivers came into the room. "Well, well, well, Mulder, looks like you got a roommate this time -- hopefully this experience will be considerably livelier than that lonely little Eisenhower Field hospital room," he joked cheerfully.

"Oh, yeah, I'm thrilled beyond belief," muttered Mulder, earning an interestingly-timed snore in return. (Will and Scully almost seemed to be whimpering from the effort to hold back their laughter, for his father's sake if nothing else.)

After a chuckle, Rivers suddenly sobered up and said, "Well, I just came to apologize personally for what happened out there -- I can't help but feel responsible!"

"You shouldn't," Mulder told him. "Injuries are just a part of the job, at least for me. Just ask my wife!"

"Ah, so marrying a doctor could be considered a 'marriage of convenience' in your case, eh?"

"You could say that," Scully smirked, "though I wouldn't exactly say it's always that convenient for everyone else."

"Hey, what about me?" Mulder retorted then, after another coughing fit, added, "I'm the one stuck in the hospital bed, after all."

"Well, I have to admit, I have a nagging suspicion about those hunters," Rivers interjected nervously. He hated bringing this up to the sick man, especially when he was sick on Rivers' account, but it continued to niggle at him. "I still can't figure out why they aren't taking seals. And why they're not talking."

"Hmmmm, wonder if that was what was shoving me to the ... to..." Mulder muttered, almost under his breath, before realizing all three sets of eyes were glued to him.

"What was that, Mulder? Did you see something?" Scully asked with genuine concern.

"Ahhhh, nothing, Scully. The hypothermia was setting in, I was probably seeing things, that's all. Nothing to worry about," he added with a grin. Truth be told, as brave a front as he was trying to put up, he really didn't have the strength to argue over the possibility that his life might have been saved by a large seal.

If that's what it was.

"Uh, maybe we need to discuss this outside, so your husband can get his beauty rest," Rivers suggested to Scully. "Looks like his roomie's quieted down a bit, finally."

"Sure. Will, you coming?" Scully got to her feet as Will lagged behind.

"Can I just stay five more minutes, Mom? Please?" his eyes pleaded with her. Little did she know what he wanted to discuss with his father.

"All right, you have five minutes, young man, but then you need to let your father get some sleep! All right, poopyhead?" she added with a wink as she leaned down to kiss him.

"You got it, honeybunch!" Mulder replied with a grin.

As soon as the two adults were out of sight, Will turned to his father. "Why did you lie to Mom about the seal? That seal that pushed you to the top?"

Mulder looked at his son partially in amazement. "How did you know I saw a seal? Your mother told me you were on the snowmobile the whole time!"

"I had a better view. I was standing on the snowmobile seat," Will replied, then frowned at his father. "You didn't tell her because you didn't think she'd believe you, huh?"

Mulder sighed and put a comforting hand on his son's head. "It wasn't a matter of thinking she wouldn't believe me. It was a matter of knowing she wouldn't believe me. You'll understand this a lot more when you get older, but sometimes it isn't always such a good idea to push your mother into believing something before she's ready. A lot of people are like that," he added thoughtfully.

Will burrowed his head into his father's neck affectionately. "She eventually does believe me if I push her enough."

"Sometimes she'll be like that," Mulder nodded, patting the boy's back. "And sometimes she'll gradually come to believe you on her own, or figure it out for herself." But if you push her too hard...well, let's just say that, from personal experience, I wouldn't exactly recommend it."

Will nodded. "The thing I don't get, though, is how the seal knew you were in trouble?"

"Oh, well, I don't necessarily think there was that much to it," Mulder replied matter-of-factly. "When I fell, I obviously invaded his territory, so it probably wasn't so much a gesture of help as it was an effort to evict the intruder from his home, so to speak." An odd look from Will startled him out of his reverie. "What? Oh, don't tell me -- I'm starting to sound just like your mom, right?"

"Hey, I didn't say a thing!" Will smirked at him. Then he grew thoughtful. "Besides, I don't think it was quite that simple as just trying to get you out of their territory. I mean, OK, maybe that was part of it, but I didn't get the vibe that was all of it. It's kind of like a lot of those cultures that believe in the reincarnation of certain guardians and guardian spirits in the form of animals -- maybe it's something like that here?"

Mulder couldn't help but be impressed at how his son's mind was working a mile a minute. Definitely a chip off the old block, he thought in a moment of paternal pride. "Hey, that's pretty good, pal. So do you have a way to tie that theory of yours in to those missing hunters?"

"Well, maybe the seals somehow got mad at them for invading their territory? Maybe? Especially if they tried to shoot at the seals?" Will's face crinkled in doubt and confusion, leaving Mulder equally puzzled and confused. There certainly were a lot of holes to fill in, and he wasn't exactly going to fill them in lying here trying to recuperate from his little "ice bath."

It was at that point that Scully poked her head in to inform Will that his five minutes were officially up. And Mulder decided that there was entirely too much to be done for him to just roll over and play sick for a week. There could be a very good chance that another hunter would disappear to...whatever this phenomenon was, be it seal or some phantasm. He had to help Scully figure this out. He'd managed to come up with a plan. He waited until Scully pulled the blankets tightly around his neck and smoothed his hair in a soothing gesture before springing it on her.

"You know, Scully, I've been thinking..." he began in a soft, almost seductive voice.

"Mulder, if it's what I think you're thinking of, trust me, it's entirely too early for that!" Scully replied with a suggestive smirk.

"I know, I know, but I've just been thinking more about this case, and..."

"Mulder, you are in no condition to trot all over Alaska trying to solve this case!" Scully said firmly.

"Who said I'd be trotting all over Alaska?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, what if I stayed here overnight, like a good little patient, then helped you out with the case, on the condition that I stayed indoors as much as possible. Maybe I could just do a bit of research on the computer. And in the rare instances when I couldn't stay indoors, I could agree to stay wrapped up as much as possible."

"Now how would we be able to accomplish this traveling all over the place on snowmobiles, Mulder? There is no way we'd be able to keep you wrapped up traveling from hither to yon..."

"I could just wear three sets of long johns and an extra sweater, couldn't I?" Mulder all but pleaded.

Scully sighed, knowing all too well that something was going on behind those gorgeous hazel eyes of his. He had always been the type who would solve a case almost from his death bed. It was a possibility she really didn't want to explore anytime soon, even though he had come dangerously close to that many times before. "OK, tell you what -- I'll take you up on your offer, on two conditions."

Mulder nodded. "OK, let's hear them."

"First of all, you stay planted to that bed until we can get you out of here tomorrow afternoon -- no cheating. And no complaining about the food, taking medicine, and no staying outdoors any longer than necessary until that cough is down for the count. And don't think I won't haul your ass back here if your health starts deteriorating."

"OK, fair enough," replied Mulder. "And the next?"

Scully crossed her arms and drew a bead on her husband. "That the minute I spring you, you tell me exactly what crazy theory you have that has made you so desperate to get back on this case."

Feigning a look of hurt, Mulder asked, "Scully, what makes you think it's a crazy theory that makes me so interested in doing more investigation and research?"

"Because, Mulder," Scully replied with a grin as she leaned over to kiss him on the cheek, "I consider the source." Mulder grinned as she once again ran her fingers through his hair. "Now try to get some sleep and take advantage of the peace and quiet so we can spring you that much sooner, hmmm?"

"Yes, dear," Mulder replied in a mock browbeaten voice. "And thanks, Scully. I really appreciate it."

"Any time." Scully grinned a bit to herself as she made her way toward the door. Secretly, while she wasn't so sure about Mulder's checking out "against medical advice" (hers, of course), she was glad that his fighting spirit had kicked in, and actually couldn't wait to hear what he had come up with.

Rivers was in the waiting room when she came out. "How is he?"

"Feeling much better and eager to get back to work," Scully answered. "There's no stopping him short of tying him down when he's on a case. His temperature has been normal for almost 24 hours now, so I'll probably let him out tomorrow providing he takes it easy."

"That's why I didn't know if I should mention it to him just yet, but there was something really weird around where Mulder fell in," Rivers told her. "I thought I had caught a glimpse of something next to Mulder in the water, so I went back today to look. The hole had frozen back over, though the ice is still very thin, there. But in the area of the hole was a set of footprints."

"Well, of course. There were 10 people walking around there yesterday," Scully pointed out.

"But all of us had boots on. These footprints were of BARE feet."

Scully's jaw dropped and Will, who was listening to the whole conversation, whispered, "Cool!"

"I know. I can't explain it either. It was below freezing out there. I can't imagine anyone going barefoot."

"Yes, this is something Mulder needs to know, but not until tomorrow," Scully said. "If we tell him now, he'll want to go out there immediately. He needs more rest before he goes out in the cold again."

Rivers suggested they all go back to the trailers, but Scully didn't want to leave Mulder.

"Well, there is a lodge in town, it isn't far..."

Scully stuck her head in Alowa's office.

"I'm going over to the lodge and get a room. Let me know if Mulder asks for me or if you need me for anything," Scully told her.

The health aide smiled. "That's my cousin's place -- Alowa's Lodge. Tell him I sent you over here and that your husband is my patient and they'll take good care of you."

Scully smiled at herself in appreciation of such a tight- knit community. "Will do. And thanks."

Savoonga Health Clinic
May 5, 2009, 3:30 p.m.

Normally during these moments of helping his mother "spring" his father out of the hospital, Will could usually be found hunting for items missed by his parents. This time, however, thanks partially to the small quarters of the clinic, he had little else to do than to sit on the now- empty bed, watching his father struggle with the many layers of clothing his mother had insisted on. He noted that his father, who usually would snap at his mother in frustration over all her fussing, was now very nobly taking on the extra clothing without so much as a groan.

It was interesting, and amusing to see his dad struggle into one more pair of thermal underwear or a sweater (and struggling not to curse, especially with Will present). But what fascinated Will to such an extent at this moment was not that, as much as the conversation between his parents. It was the moment Will had been secretly been hoping for since yesterday afternoon, when he and his father had mused over the seal that had saved his life.

In keeping with Mulder's promise that he would inform Scully what happened, he had indeed told her about the seal. Scully in turn admitted that Rivers had seen a pair of bare human footprints surrounding the area in which Mulder had taken "The Nestea Plunge," as he now referred to it. And in Mulder's grand tradition of leaping from Point A to Point Z where bizarre theories are concerned, well...

"Mulder, just because a seal was in the same area where human footprints are found does not mean that a human could turn into a seal at will!" Scully, a little concerned with how Alowa would take their discussion of this little theory, was careful to keep her argument regulated to a harsh whisper.

"Scully, how else could you possibly explain how human footprints without shoes could be found around that area?" He made an effort to stifle his still-lingering cough, prompting Scully to gently thump him on the back until it subsided.

"Oh, come on, Mulder, even you admitted that you weren't exactly in the best condition at the time, to tell what you saw, especially underwater!" As Will cleared his throat, Scully glanced at him, then back at a gloating Mulder, continuing, "OK, fine, you had a witness. But even Will doesn't claim to see a...well, a man change to a seal or whatever! And just what are you basing this theory of yours on, anyway?"

Over Scully's shoulder, Mulder shot Will a look that clearly said, "See what I mean?" and Will winked in return. Just as Scully noticed. "What?"

"Ah, nothing, Scully, just a little...man-to-man type of talk, that's all." Mulder said innocently, but from Scully's look of suspicion, she wasn't buying it.

"OK, seals who turn into humans and vice-versa, are not unknown in human myth," Mulder informed her. "The Scots and Irish both have legends of selkies -- seal-humans who would romance and intermarry with regular humans. I'll bet anything that the Native Alaskans have such a legend."

Scully sighed. "OK, well, you can research that on the Internet."

"Actually, I thought I might talk to some of the locals about it," Mulder countered.

"Oh, no you don't," Scully said. "You do the research inside where it's warm. You just got out of the hospital after a nasty shock to your body. I'm going to offer my services at the clinic, since Alowa helped me save you. And maybe the Yup'iks will open up to me. I've already got us a room at the lodge. Should be warmer than the trailer at the hunting camp -- and it's close by. Rivers brought our things in earlier."

"But..." Mulder protested.

"Or you could just stay right here at the clinic with your snoring roommate," Scully suggested.

"Uh, no. I'll take the lodge."

Will just sat there on the bed, chuckling to himself at the exchange. But he knew his father would be the same way with his mother if the circumstances were reversed.

Alowa's Lodge Dining area
7:30 p.m.

The Mulders feasted on delicious grilled salmon and roast potatoes. A bit of wine would have been nice with the dinner, but Savoonga was a dry town, like many of the Native Alaskan villages.

Jerry Soonagrook and an older woman were having dinner there also, and he came over to the Mulders' table.

"You look a lot better than the last time I saw you," he remarked to Mulder.

"I imagine!" Mulder replied, chuckling. "I can definitely say I feel warmer."

"Well, I can tell you from experience that it takes a little while to come back from hypothermia, so don't rush it. But I'm glad you and your boy are all right."

"Thanks. Unfortunately, this wasn't my first experience with hypothermia in Alaska, but I do hope it will be my last," Mulder told him. "Did you guys go back out after more walrus?"

"Yes, we did, actually. We took two more the next day."

"I figured you'd be dining on fresh walrus, then," Mulder said with a smile.

"Well, it's my mother's birthday today, so I brought her out for dinner," Soonagrook informed him. "Kind of nice to get out now and then. We don't get to do it much. Too expensive."

"Cool!" Will piped up "Well, happy birthday to your mother, then -- it'll be my birthday, too, soon, so she's in good company."

Soonagrook actually smiled and nodded in acknowledgment.

Smiling herself, Scully added, "Would you and your mother like to join us? Our treat. If you and your friends hadn't helped, Mulder wouldn't be sitting here today."

"Thanks, but we've already finished. And I can tell you folks are about done, as well. When are you going to be heading back?"

"Well, that's hard to say," Mulder replied. "We haven't solved our case, yet. Any ideas?"

"Well, there can be tricky places in the ice where the sea is a little warmer and the ice is thin or even has holes. That's why the walrus and seals like it around here. Those mainlanders probably went off in one of those holes," Soonagrook theorized.

"Both of them? And all their equipment?" Mulder asked dubiously.

"It can happen," said Soonagrook. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to the wife. Take care."

"Sure. Say, would you mind if I came by and talked to you in a couple of days or so?"

The Yup'ik council member sighed and nodded his head in resignation. He jotted down directions to his home and gave them to Mulder.

Alowa's Lodge
May 6, 2009, 9:05 a.m.

"OK, then, I'm going over to the health clinic for the day," Scully announced.

Both of her men were showered and dressed and huddled together in front of the laptop.

"Will, are you going to stay here or come with me?"

"Can I come back here later if I get bored?" asked Will, looking up from the computer and pushing his bangs out of his eyes. His father had been threatening to take him for a haircut, but somehow hadn't got around to it, yet.

Scully nodded, rather pleased that Will wanted to come with her. Maybe he would end up being a doctor after all.

"Maybe I can talk to the kids that come there," Will suggested. "Maybe they'll talk to me where the grownups won't talk to you guys."

Well, Scully decided, it was a little too soon to be assured he would follow in her own footsteps and choose medicine for a career. He most definitely had a large dose of his father in him.

"All right, come on. Mulder, you stay put and do NOT go outside," Scully ordered.

Mulder gave her a challenging look. He didn't like being ordered around, though Scully was the only one these days who could get away with it.

"Not if I don't have to," he replied mildly, but firmly.

Scully decided on a different tactic. She knew she couldn't control him by nagging and insisting. She crossed over to her husband, leaned over and put her arms around his neck, her lips to his ear. "Please?"

Mulder's pants suddenly grew tight. "OK, you know I can hardly refuse you anything when you ask so nicely."

Scully gave him a quick kiss, then grabbed her medical bag and parka. She headed out the door, son in tow and reminding him to zip up his coat.

Once Will had fastened his coat, he was seized with a revelation. "So that's why you and Dad get so mushy -- it's sort of a way that you guys can bribe one another?"

Scully blushed a bright red that had nothing to do with the temperature. At least in the scientific sense of the term. "Well...not exactly, but yes, it can be effective at times. You'll understand it much more when you're old enough to see girls as more than just 'mushy.'"

"I guess," Will shrugged. "But it's a good thing you're no longer with the FBI, since it's a crime to bribe a federal agent. You'd be in jail for sure, I'll bet!" he added with a laugh.

"Careful now, Will," Scully joked. "You don't want to give him any ideas, after all."

Savoonga Medical Clinic
May 6, 2009, 12:30 p.m.

"And you learned how to apply that tourniquet when you were how old?"

Will gaped in fascination at the technique of 7-year-old Lindsey Alowa, the daughter of Alowa's cousin Paul, as she skillfully tied up the tourniquet on the patient. Of course, since the patient in question happened to be her rag doll, Lulu, it certainly wouldn't have qualified as a life- and-death situation per se. Still, it was utterly fascinating to Will. Despite all of the medical techniques he had seen performed on his father, he swore to himself he would never be able to handle the more "gritty details" of the medical profession, at least not right now.

Lindsey just shrugged. "Oh, I was about 6 or so -- Janet taught me as much as she could, and I learned the rest just by watching. Of course, I've never had to use one on a real person, but it helps to practice just in case, you know?"

Will chuckled. "Yeah, you never know with my dad. My mom says he seems to find more creative ways to get himself into trouble. Probably so he'll have an excuse for her to doctor him," he added with a shake of his head. "They're always getting lovey dovey."

Ignoring the opportunity for humor in Will's reference to his parents' mushy behavior, Lindsey looked at him very seriously. "Is this a dangerous business that your parents run? Your father gets into so much trouble...well, does he go into a lot of places he shouldn't be in?"

Will cocked his head with curiosity at her choice of words. "Sometimes. Mostly because he says he doesn't want anyone else to get hurt. That's what he's always telling me -- he doesn't want anyone to get hurt, but if it means that Mom and I are OK, he'd rather be the one in trouble."

"Ah, then he's not a trouble-maker." Lindsey smiled with sudden understanding as she wrapped Lulu in a blanket. "That's good to know. The people who seem to get into trouble are the ones who don't understand things, because they are selfish and don't want to understand."

"What kinds of things?" Will asked, seeing his opportunity to get some key information.

Lindsey's long jet-black hair swirled around her as she quickly glanced outside the door of the room, but found that Alowa and Scully were absorbed in helping the Yup'ik with the broken leg balance himself on a pair of crutches so he could leave by the end of the day. Satisfied that no one could hear her, she leaned in closely to Will. "You won't tell too many people, right?"

"Sure!" replied Will. He figured his parents might want to tell Mr. Rivers, especially if it were important enough, but it wouldn't go any further than that.

"OK. Well, everyone who grows up around here respects the home of the seals, and the seals in return love and protect those who respect them. But there are a lot of people from other places who don't understand and don't know. And they try to kill the seals and take what is not rightfully theirs."

"So in other words, you think a seal would kill a human to protect itself?"

Lindsey nodded. "Anyone would kill to protect oneself. But see, there's something that not everyone really knows about the seals here -- they're actually people."

"You mean they're people who can turn into seals?" Will asked in all seriousness, remembering that "were-cat" his parents had gone after a few months earlier. This would also explain the human footprints in the ice.

"No, you've got it backwards -- they're seals who can turn into people."

"Have you actually seen them do it?"

Lindsey blushed a little. "Well, no, not really, but everyone around here knows about it. We've all been told the story of Sedna from an early age."

"Sedna? Who's..." Will's question was abbreviated by a commotion at the front door as Alowa and Scully sprang to action. The group of hunters were bringing in a fellow Yup'ik who was clutching his bleeding arm. Alowa led him to the examination table and, upon examining him closely, finally concluded, "Well, for a minute I was afraid it was a compound fracture, but it doesn't even look like there's a break. This is a nasty gash on your arm, though -- it'll require stitches, and of course we'll need to watch it for infection, but I'm afraid you'll live, Kitsopalak."

Kitsopalak wasn't listening, however. He was talking very quickly and excitedly in Yup'ik, repeating a phrase over and over. Scully and Will both noted that Lindsey blanched as Alowa and the rest of the hunters simply shook their heads at him.

"What is he saying?" Will whispered to Lindsey.

"He's saying, 'It was true. It was true all along,'" Lindsey whispered back. "He'd never believed the story of Sedna."

Alowa's Lodge
5:30 p.m.

Mulder stretched a bit in front of the laptop and sipped a cooling mug of hot tea with lemon, the latest in cold remedies supplied by Paul Alowa, the lodge owner. Upon hearing Mulder's congested cough in the dining room during lunch, a concerned Paul had come over and immediately set him up with a bowl of caribou broth loaded with garlic, a natural antibiotic. As for the lemon tea, Paul insisted it would break up the cough and help clear some of the flem out of Mulder's lungs. Mulder, his head whirling from all of the alternative medical tips Paul was dishing out, couldn't help but ask, "I take it you run into this quite a bit? Customers suffering from colds?"

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Paul had replied in a friendly, jovial manner.

"I think you might have missed your calling." Mulder had grinned a bit as he spooned some of the broth. "You should have helped your cousin at the clinic rather than run the lodge."

Paul had laughed. "Ah, my little girl, Lindsey, is already talking of becoming a doctor. She likes to spend time at the clinic helping Janet. She'll make up for me, don't worry."

Setting the mug down next to the laptop, Mulder's thoughts shifted back to that expression of paternal pride and chuckled to himself. There was a good chance Will had already met Lindsey, Mulder was sure. Like Scully, he wondered if Will would decide to be a doctor, too.

The creak of the door opening brought Mulder back to the present, and Will bounded into the room with Scully close on his heels. "So, how did you guys make out today?"

"Oh, great!" Will beamed. "Lindsey, Ms. Alowa's niece, was really nice -- she told me a lot of cool stuff about the seals. And she even showed me how to make a tourniquet. Well...on a doll, but it was still a tourniquet..."

"Let's just hope we don't have to practice on your father for awhile, OK?" Scully joked.

Mulder snickered, which of course gave way into a cough. Scully actually looked pleased. "Wow, Mulder, that cough is sounding much better than it did yesterday. You don't sound nearly as congested."

"Do I sound good enough to actually go out to do some real- life investigation, Doctor?" Mulder grinned at her.

"Let's just take it one day at a time." Scully leaned in for a kiss, but was stopped by Mulder.

"I should probably warn you that Paul's remedy involved a lot of garlic."

"I'll take my chances," Scully replied with a grin, moving in for a quickie. Unseen by his parents, Will shook his head.

That bit of business taken care of, they began exchanging information.

"So how was the day at the clinic?" Mulder asked. "Find out anything interesting?

Scully sat down in the other chair and Will bounced onto the bed.

"It was pretty routine, except when a local hunter came in with an injured arm," Scully replied. "He was very upset, but he was speaking his native tongue, so I couldn't understand."

"But Lindsey did," Will interjected. "She told me about an Inuit legend -- seals who can turn into humans. Sounds a lot like the Scottish legends you were talking about, Dad. Then she mentioned the story of Sedna, but she didn't go into detail."

"Well, I think I can fill in the rest," said Mulder, gathering a stack of printouts from his portable printer. "I found out from my research today that in Inuit mythology, Sedna was the goddess of the sea, but she started out as a human." He began to read:

"Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who lived with her father. She was very vain and thought she was too beautiful to marry just anyone. Time and time again she turned down hunters who came to her camp wishing to marry her. Finally one day her father said to her, 'Sedna, we have no food and we will go hungry soon. You need a husband to take care of you, so the next hunter who comes to ask for your hand in marriage, you must marry him.' Sedna ignored her father and kept brushing her hair as she looked at her reflection in the water.

"Soon her father saw another hunter approaching their camp. The man was dressed elegantly in furs and appeared to be well-to-do even though his face was hidden. The father offered his daughter in marriage to the stranger, telling him how well she could cook and sew. Under great protest, Sedna was placed aboard the hunter's kayak and journeyed to her new home on an island. Sedna looked around. She could see nothing. No sod hut, no tent, just bare rocks and a cliff. The hunter stood before Sedna and as he pulled down his hood, he let out and evil laugh.

Sedna's husband was not a man, as she had thought, but a raven in disguise. She screamed and tried to run, but the bird dragged her to a clearing on the cliff. Sedna's new home was a few tufts of animal hair and feathers strewn about on the hard, cold rock. The only food she had to eat was fish. Her husband, the raven, brought raw fish to her after a day of flying off in search of food.

"Sedna was very unhappy and miserable. She cried and cried and called her father's name. Through the howling Arctic winds Sedna's father could hear his daughter's cries. He felt guilty for what he had done -- he knew she was sad. Sedna's father decided it was time to rescue his daughter. He loaded up his kayak and paddled for days through the frigid arctic waters to his Sedna's home. When he arrived, Sedna was standing on the shore. Sedna hugged her father, then quickly climbed into his kayak and paddled away. After many hours of travel Sedna turned and saw a black speck far off into the distance. She felt the fear well up inside of her for she knew the speck was her angry husband flying in search of her.

"The big black raven swooped down upon the kayak bobbing on the ocean. Sedna's father took his paddle and struck at the raven but missed as the bird continued to harass them. Finally the raven swooped down near the kayak and flapped his wing upon the ocean. A vicious storm began to brew. The calm Arctic Ocean soon became a raging torrent tossing the tiny kayak to and fro. Sedna's father became very frightened. He grabbed Sedna and threw her over the side of the kayak into the ocean. 'Here, he screamed, here is your precious wife, please do not hurt me, take her.'

"Sedna screamed and struggled as her body began go numb in the icy Arctic waters. She swam to the kayak and reached up, her fingers grasping the side of the boat. Her father, terrified by the raging storm, thought only of himself as he grabbed the paddle and began to pound against Sedna's fingers. Sedna screamed for her father to stop, but to no avail. Her frozen fingers cracked and fell into the ocean. Affected by her ghastly husband's powers, Sedna's fingers, while sinking to the bottom, turned into seals. Sedna attempted again to swim and cling to her father's kayak. Again, he grabbed the paddle and began beating at her hands. Again, Sedna's hands, frozen by the icy sea, cracked off. The stumps began to drift to the bottom of the sea, this time turned into the whales and other large mammals. Sedna could fight no more and began to sink.

"Sedna, tormented and raging with anger for what had happened to her, did not perish. She became, and still is today, the goddess of the sea. Sedna's companions, her children, are the seals that swim with her at the bottom on the ocean. Some of her children had the ability to change themselves into the human form of their mother. The Inuits are forbidden to harm these special seals and in fact, some of them have fallen in love with the seals in human form, married them and had children. These "selkies," for want of a better word, who have married humans, will spend the spring and summer in the ocean, and the fall and winter as a human on land with their spouse.

"Sedna's anger and fury against man is what drums up the violent seas and storms . Hunters have a great respect for her. Legend has it that they must treat her and her children with respect. Shamans from the world above must swim down to her to comb her long black tangled hair. This calms Sedna down. Once this is done, she releases her mammals to allow the Inuit to eat from the bounty of the sea. It is for this reason in the north that after a hunter catches a regular seal, he drops water into the mouth of the mammal, a gesture to thank Sedna for her kindness in allowing him to feed his family."

"Wow!" commented Will.

"It's just a legend," countered his mother.

"A legend that appears to be true," Mulder declared.

"Yeah, at the clinic, Lindsey told me that the hunter with the hurt arm said he didn't believe the legend before," Will said. "I think he tried to shoot one of these special seals and the others attacked him."

Scully sighed. She didn't exactly feel they were ganging up on her, but they obviously had her outnumbered.

"Well, I'll hold off on believing that until I see it," she said.

Mulder exchanged a long-suffering look with Will, and continued. "It seems pretty obvious that those mainland hunters must have illegally been trying to take seals. To make matters worse, they chose seals that can fight back."

"You really think that Barry Rivers is going to buy that theory?" Scully asked dubiously.

"I guess we need proof. Maybe I can get Jerry Soonagrook to confirm it," Mulder said. "I'll call Rivers and we'll go talk to Jerry." Mulder started to reach for the phone, then halted when he could no longer hold back the cough building inside his chest. After a short coughing spell, Scully handed him some cough syrup and he took a dose without complaint.

Before Scully could protest, though, he had picked up the phone and was dialing Rivers at his base camp. However, it was late in the evening, and Scully and Will looked tired and were probably hungry after working in the clinic all day. Mulder decided his interrogation could wait until morning, and arranged for Rivers to pick them up at 9.

Mulder, Scully and Will went down to dinner and stood at the door of the dining area, attached to the main lobby. As they waited to be seated, they noticed a couple of heavily-built Caucasian men check into the lodge. They were obviously hunters, because they both carried rifles in zip-up cases.

The Mulders listened as Paul chatted with the newcomers.

"Yes, you can rent a couple of snowmobiles and sleds here in town. Friend of mine owns the place and will give you a good deal," Paul told them. "But if you're needing a hunting guide, you might have a hard time. Nobody's taking out any tourist hunters right now since those other hunters were lost. But as long as you stay on the land, you should be all right if you pay attention to where you're going."

"We've hunted here before," said the older of the two men. "We came here a couple of years ago. I think we can find our way around well enough with the map we have."

Mulder glanced at Scully, who shrugged. About that time, the waitress came up to seat them at a table.

Again, they enjoyed a delicious dinner -- moose steak, this time.

Bellies full, they retired to their room for the night.

Alowa Lodging Main Lobby
May 7, 2009, 9 a.m.

Mulder greeted the lodge owner with a smile. "Hi, Paul, how's it going this morning?"

"Not too well," Paul replied. "It seems someone saw those two mainland hunters headed out onto the ice instead of into the bush. I don't think they are after caribou, at all. Probably trying to bag a walrus or a seal."

"In other words, there's going to be trouble." Mulder turned to his wife and said, "Well, if Rivers is late in picking us up, looks like you may very well get your visual proof, Scully -- in the form of two more victims."

Scully paled a bit. While she still wasn't sure about this legend herself, she wasn't too keen on the prospect of finding out the hard way that it was, in fact, true. "If you're that sure, Mulder, then why don't you find them and warn them yourself?" she gently asked.

"Scully, if you can't just take Will's word and mine for it, what makes you think they would be any more receptive?" As Scully stopped to ponder this, he added, "I just think it would be a better idea to get some backup from some credible sources from other Yup'iks. No offense, Will."

Will just shrugged at Mulder's apologetic look in total understanding. It was then that the Land Rover pulled up at long last, and the Mulders climbed into the 4X4.

"You didn't get here a moment too soon, Rivers," Mulder gasped out, stifling a small cough. "Hopefully we can get the story confirmed from Soonagrook in time to stop a repeat performance of what happened to your hunters."

"You figured it out?" Rivers sputtered. "What does Soonagrook have to do with it? Did that son-of-a...I mean, did that jerk do it?"

"Relax, Barry," Mulder assured him. "I'm sure he didn't do it. But I do have some things to explain on the way..."

Jerry Soonagrook's home
9:17 a.m.

Mulder knocked on the door of the small wood frame house and a little boy, who looked to be a couple of years older than Will, answered.

"Hi, is your father home? We'd like to talk to him, if he doesn't mind," Barry Rivers said.

"No, my father is out hunting and my mother is visiting relatives," the boy told them. "But my grandmother is here. You want to talk to her?"

"Sure, that would be fine," Mulder replied.

The boy let them in the house and into the living room, where his grandmother was watching an Inuit historical drama on TV. Two other children, a toddler and a somewhat older child, played on the floor.

The boy who had answered the door said something in Yup'ik to his grandmother. She looked with suspicion at the visitors.

Mulder introduced himself and his family then stated again that he was looking for Jerry. "We're not here to hunt," he stressed.

The old woman nodded and explained how to find where her son had gone to hunt caribou out in the bush.

Savoonga 10:30 a.m.

Rivers pulled his Land Rover up behind the hunters, who were in the midst of tracking down a herd of caribou. The animals quickly scampered off at the approach of the vehicle. Rivers and Mulder got out, leaving Scully and Will inside

Soonagrook stalked angrily toward them. "We tried to help you, and you reward us by scaring away our food supply?"

"I'm very sorry about that," Mulder informed him sincerely. "I can assure you it was unintentional. But there's a very serious matter I would like to settle with you." At Soonagrook's questioning look, he replied, "I need you to tell me what you know about the children of Sedna."

Jerry paled, and a glimmer of protective hostility entered his dark eyes. "It is none of your business. You are a stranger here, you should respect your boundaries and our personal lives."

"It is our business when another stranger's life may be at stake because of what you hide from them," Rivers countered.

"What do you mean?" asked one of the other hunters.

"There are two visitors here who have come to hunt the seals," Mulder explained. "They're staying at the same lodge we are, and they were seen going out on the ice. I need to warn them, but I'm sure they won't just take my word for it. I know the whole story here, guys, and I understand why you've kept it a secret, Jerry. But that secret is going to kill people who don't know it; who think they can hunt seals without any consequence."

Soonagrook groaned and cursed. "If they would just follow the damn game laws, there wouldn't be any trouble. OK, I think I know where they might have gone. Meet me at your base camp, Rivers, that isn't far. I''ll be right behind you."

Mulder and Rivers returned to the Land Rover. Jerry turned to his oldest son and told him to keep hunting, that he'd return later or meet him at home. Then he climbed on his snowmobile and waved at Rivers to go ahead.

There was no time to go back to the lodge and drop Will off, but both parents had agreed Scully would stick with their son on the snowmobile so they could keep him out of harm's way, in case things got ugly. The fact that they had both left their guns at the lodge certainly seemed to have them at a disadvantage, but they would have wanted their child to stay in relative safety in any event.

3.5 miles north of St. Lawrence Island
11:35 a.m.

Mulder and Rivers shared one snowmobile, and Scully and Will, the other. They had been driving on the ice for about 30 minutes, looking for the mainland hunters.

From a short distance away, a shot rang out. Following the sound of the gun, Mulder, Rivers and Soonagrook hurried toward the two men from the lodge, firing at some nearby seals. The older hunter muffled a curse when he missed and was about to take another shot when Mulder, having beaten the others, caught up with him and wrestled him to the ground, effectively knocking the rifle out of his hands and far from reach.

"You stupid bastard!" the man hissed. "What are you trying to do? I just missed another shot!"

"I'm trying to save your life, damn it!" Mulder yelled, stifling yet another cough. "You can't kill these seals. There's something about them that you don't know."

"We have better things to do than to listen to empty threats from some fool--" the younger man started impatiently, but was cut off by Rivers.

"He's right. I lost some of my own hunters to this, last month." Rivers gestured toward the seals.

The older man sat up a bit. "Is this that stupid legend about the seal people?" Soonagrook noticeably stiffened. "Yeah, I've heard some things about it. It's all hogwash." He started to get up, but Mulder grabbed him by the arms, keeping him pinned down, and looked him full in the face.

"Don't do this. Please," he all but begged. "Whoever you are, this really isn't worth it. There are plenty of caribou in the area."

"Yeah, but a seal is what I want. Now are you going to take your damn hands off of me, or do I have to take them off for you?" sneered the older man.

From their point of safety, even though Scully and Will could hardly hear what was being said, they recognized the look in Mulder's eyes: cold, steely determination. They could see a similar resolve in the man as well in the stand- off, and were all too familiar with the results of this type of a situation.

The results were seldom good where Mulder was concerned. Unconsciously, they clung to one another tightly in helplessness and dread of what was about to unfold. Then Will began to flail excitedly, struggling to escape his mother's grasp. "I gotta stop them! They're gonna hurt him!"

Scully clung to him tighter. "I can't let you, Will. I don't want him to get hurt either, but there is no way I'm letting you do anything foolish. You're going to live to see your eighth birthday even if it kills me." Almost as a reaction to her choice of words and despite her best efforts, a tear plummeted down her cheek and landed on Will's hair.

Mulder's eyes locked into the older man's, giving him his answer. In response, the older man pulled a knife from his coat and slashed Mulder's arm, forcing him to cry out in pain and release his grip on the man. Rivers rushed to his aid. Scully gasped, and Will could be heard from the snowmobile screaming "Noooo! He's hurt him -- I gotta help him! DAD!" Scully practically had to sit on him, her only outward sign of distress, the tears rolling down both of her cheeks as she rocked her son back and forth.

His obstruction now gone, the older man spotted a likely looking seal who had been watching the whole scene, and picked up his rifle to take a shot. As though they were waiting for this moment, however, a second seal came from behind, rising on its back flippers until it towered over the hunter. Then before everyone else's very eyes, its form shifted into that of a large man and jumped on top of the hunter, effectively pinning him down on the ice. The man's eyes bulged out in shock as the first seal, which had also shifted its form, grabbed one sleeve, and the other grabbed his pants leg, tossing him into a nearby hole in the ice.

Filled with rage, the younger man screamed and struggled in Soonagrook's strong arms. The Yup'ik councilman's eyes were two dark coals of raging fire. "Leave them alone, or I will kill you with my bare hands."

"They killed my father!" the younger man spat out furiously, struggling to escape the strong hunter's tight grip, but the grip only tightened.

"You kill them and you will have murdered my wife," Soonagrook informed him firmly. "And then I will have to kill you."

Mulder's eyes widened in shock, not only from the pain of his wound, but also from the sudden revelation. He now understood Soonagrook's reluctance to discuss the legend. Why hadn't he figured out Jerry was attempting to protect his own family?

At that point, in confirmation of Soonagrook's words, one of the seals suddenly morphed into a beautiful woman with waist-length black hair and covered with nothing more than a seal's skin. This sudden metamorphosis earned a gasp from all of the Caucasians present, including Scully and Will.

The seal woman approached the younger man and laid a hand on him as he cringed. "I am sorry for what I did to your father," she said quietly to him. "But he wasn't going to leave us be, and he wouldn't listen. If I could bring him back to you, I would. But all I can ask you to do is leave before you suffer the same fate. Please don't make the mistake your father did." The younger man nodded and gathered his equipment quickly, making himself scarce. The woman, meanwhile, exchanged a long, passionate kiss with Soonagrook before turning back into a seal and joining the other sleek black creatures.

Soonagrook watched her leave, a sad, longing look in his eyes, before turning toward Rivers and Mulder. The danger now over, Scully and Will finally leaped off the snowmobile and rushed to Mulder's side. Scully shook her head and gingerly touched Mulder's arm for a closer look at the wound, bringing him out of his daze as he hissed in pain.

"Looks like there's only so much they can do for you at the clinic -- that idiot managed to cut a tendon from the looks of it. Rivers handed her a first aid kit and she tightly bandaged Mulder's arm. "We can stitch up this arm at the clinic, Mulder, but we'll have to get you shipped off to the nearest hospital ASAP."

Mulder nodded at his wife, then seeing his worried son hovering behind her, whispered "Sorry, Will, guess the old man forgot to frisk the guy for sharp weapons."

"Mulder, be honest," Scully admonished him gently. "You would have done it even if that guy was carrying a machete."

"And for that I am very grateful," added Soonagrook, handing over blankets and preparing the sled. "You were willing to give your life for my family when you had no reason to do so."

"Anytime," Mulder hissed between coughs and bouts of pain. "You have a very lovely wife, by the way...<cough>...if I may...<cough> say so."

"You may -- it's a fact," Soonagrook replied in a surprisingly saucy voice as he tied Mulder to the sled. "Why do you think I made her my wife? I am looking forward to the winter, when she comes to stay with me."

"Of course, Dad, you do have your own lovely wife," Will reminded him in response to Scully's pointed "ahem."

"That I do, Will," Mulder nodded. "That I do."

Providence Alaska Medical Center
Anchorage, Alaska
May 7, 2009
10:30 p.m.

Scully was exhausted and Will was curled up asleep on the waiting room couch. It had been a very long day. They had rushed Mulder in to the Savoonga Health Clinic, where she had stitched up his arm to stop the bleeding. They had called for an air ambulance to fly from Nome to pick them up and fly to Anchorage. It was crucial that Mulder undergo surgery as soon as possible to repair the tendon and nerves cut when his arm had been slashed open. Nome might have had the facilities, but she wanted to get him to a major hospital and a top surgeon.

Scully and Will had been waiting about four hours for news on Mulder. Finally, the surgeon came out to talk to them. He introduced himself as Larry Novotney.

"Mrs. Mulder?"

"Yes, but I go by Dr. Scully. I'm a forensic pathologist. How is my husband?"

"The surgery went very well. I repaired the tendon and the nerves. Fortunately, the tendon wasn't cut all the way through. He should recover completely with no loss of function. I will recommend physical therapy, though, when he's had a chance to heal from the surgery."

Scully sighed in relief. "Thank you. I was afraid he might lose the use of that arm."

"No worry there," Dr. Novotney replied. "What does concern me is the congestion in his lungs. I see from his recent medical history that he suffered near drowning and hypothermia just a few days ago."

"That's right. He was recovering well from that, though."

"As you know, we used general anesthesia," said the surgeon. "That can be tough enough on the respiratory system, but in his weakened state, I am worried about him developing pneumonia. The bronchitis is rather pronounced, already. We'll be giving him antibiotics intravenously, so hopefully, we can knock it out before it gets worse."

By this time, Will was awake and standing beside Scully. He slipped his small hand into hers and she squeezed it reassuringly.

"Mulder never does anything the easy way, but he has excellent recuperative powers," she told the doctor.

Novotney nodded. "Let's hope they are well in force, then. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to get cleaned up, take another look at your husband, then go home."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"A nurse will come for you when they've put him in a room." He turned and walked away, stripping off his surgical scrubs.

Providence Alaska Medical Center
Anchorage, Alaska
May 12, 2009
11:15 a.m.

Unfortunately, Dr. Novotney's fears had come true, though it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Mulder had indeed developed a mild case of pneumonia. Because of his recent injury and bout with hypothermia, they kept him in the hospital longer than they might have following the surgery.

The last couple of days had been miserable for Mulder. The expectorant they gave him made him cough up the mucus in his lungs, which was a good thing, but the jarring didn't make his injured arm feel any better. But the arm was healing fine, with no infection. Scully and Will sat with him during the day, keeping him company and making sure he got what he needed.

But today was Will's birthday and a celebration was in order. Mulder was scheduled for release tomorrow, but they wanted to do something at least a little special today. All his other presents were at home, but Scully had picked up something in Savoonga for him -- something to help him remember his trip to Alaska.

Mulder was sitting up in the bed and there were several balloons in the room. A birthday cake sat on the table.

"Well, you're really getting up there, buddy," he joked. "You know you're going to be over the hill at 10." Mulder grinned at the boy.

"Ha, ha!" Will replied sarcastically. "And what does that make you guys?"

"That makes us the ones who are holding your birthday presents," Scully answered with a teasing smile.

"Ah, right! As I was saying, you both look so young and attractive," Will corrected himself.

They all laughed.

Scully handed the wrapped package to Mulder, who turned it over to Will.

Drawing out the suspense and the enjoyment of the moment, Will tore open the package a bit at a time. Then he opened the box and removed the tissue covering the gift. He drew in a deep breath and whispered, "Wow! This is really cool!"

He picked up the item and turned it over in his hands. "It's a beautiful piece of scrimshaw," explained Scully. Will admired the depiction of a polar bear on the ice, standing watchfully beside an opening where the ocean showed through. "The artistry is exquisite, isn't it? It was done on fossilized walrus ivory found on St. Lawrence Island. The whole piece is mounted on rosewood."

Will hugged each of his parents.

His mother reached for the cake, which had eight birthday candles stuck in it. Mulder was no longer on oxygen, so they figured it would be all right to quickly light the candles and let Will blow them out.

He bent over the cake and gave a big puff, extinguishing all of the candles.

"Now, I'll have you know this is no ordinary cake," his mother told him, cutting it into pieces. The top layer was meringue, followed by a layer of cake, and on the bottom was a layer of ice cream. "This is Baked Alaska."

Will took a bite and moaned in pleasure. "Oh, man, this is good stuff."

Scully handed Mulder a plate of it and he imitated his son.

"Just one thing, though," Mulder remarked. "Somehow, the words 'baked' and 'Alaska' just don't seem to go together. One thing for sure, I don't believe I'll be complaining about the Maryland heat this summer."

The three enjoyed a good laugh.

The End

Authors notes: The locations are real, though we took a few liberties. The legend of Sedna is also real, but we adapted it a bit to include a purely invented Inuit version of selkies.

Feedback is cherished.

Many many thanks to Mori for the beta read!


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