URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner
"We have visitors!" the young girl burst into the room where the women were working. "Two men."
"Where's Wills?" Scully asked quickly.
"Cassie took him to her quarters."
Scully relaxed slightly. Cassie loved Wills as though he were her own. She'd keep him safe. "Did they give their names, where they're from?"
"I didn't hang around to find out. I thought you should know."
Scully nodded and rose from her seat. She didn't enjoy her role as head of this community but lived with it as a fact. At least it was a community and others helped her now. It hadn't been that way at first. She descended the stairs to the courtyard and wished again for an increase in height. Men didn't respect her in the beginning. If they stayed around long enough they would learn what she could do, the first impression was always lacking though. She squared her shoulders and stepped outside.
The two visitors were obvious; they were just now putting down their packs, which looked well worn. How far had they traveled? She looked up into the nearest one's face and the world froze.
Skinner had accompanied Mulder back to Bellfleur. Mulder had refused to let Scully return and she in turn had refused to let him go alone. Skinner had the definite impression that Scully wasn't that confident in him either. They had been on the way to the forest, the forest where Scully's involvement in the X-Files had first begun years ago. They hadn't made it. It had happened then, what Mulder had been warning him about for years. Colonization.
Oh they hadn't known what it was at the time. Their car had died. Mulder had been amused at first, apparently that happened to him often here. They had waited a little while, and Mulder had shared the story of the first time with Skinner. But it had lasted so long that even Mulder had become concerned. They had headed back toward town, walking and wondering why no one had passed them. Then they found other cars abandoned along the way. All humor was gone now as they hurried their steps.
They were on the outskirts of town when they heard it. A vibration, a hum that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Skinner stopped in the middle of the road, looking around. A few other people began coming out of buildings and heading for the intersections and open spaces, looking up at the sky. Skinner started to join them but Mulder grabbed his arm pulling him toward a clump of trees.
Skinner struggled against him, the compunction to go after the others pulling at him. "What's going on? We need to go over . . . "
"No, I'm not sure, but - " Before he could finish the sentence others began pouring out of buildings, looking up. Mulder scanned the skies, keeping one hand clamped on Skinner's shoulder though his movements to escape had lessened.
"Muld - " Light stabbed down from the sky, blinding painful light that seared through the eyelids. Both men turned away and Mulder's arm came up shielding his eyes as well. Then it was gone.
They turned back toward the street, but it was empty. How long had they been blinded?
"Mulder, what happened? Where . . . "
"I don't know, but I think we better get out of here." Mulder pulled him away.
They headed out away from town at a run, keeping under the trees. Twice more they heard the hum and stopped, staying out of sight. Skinner no longer tried to see what was going on, following Mulder's example. They were running now, away from town and heading out toward the country. Mulder tried twice to get a signal on his cell phone, but 'no service' was all he could get.
The sound seemed to stay ahead of them regardless of their direction, so they slowed. They'd seen no one since the intersection of town.
After a couple of hours they took the chance to approach a gas station that looked empty of people but had several cars abandoned in the lot. They hurried inside and looked around. The power was on but no one was in evidence.
"Let's eat," Skinner suggested. "We don't know when we might get our next chance." He pulled a map of Washington State from the rack and spread it out as they cobbled a meal together from the pre-made sandwiches and chips. Mulder tried the phone behind the counter but couldn't make a connection on it either.
They ate in silence and made use of the facilities, then both went outside to try to start the cars that had been abandoned. None worked, so they retreated back to the convenience store and settled far from the windows.
"Now what?" Skinner asked rhetorically.
"Good question. It's already dusk. Let's stay here tonight," Mulder suggested. "We're inside and there's food."
Skinner nodded. Neither seemed to have much to say, for now at least. He wasn't sure what questions he wanted to ask. He took back up the map to study while Mulder checked his cell phone yet again.
Finally they settled for the night, with Mulder taking first watch. He had too many thoughts racing through his head to sleep anyway. When Skinner relieved him, Mulder stretched out behind the counter. He needed to rest if they were going to be walking to DC.
// He was in the hall of the Bureau. "You're not going back out there. I'm not going to let you go back out there."
"What are you talking about?"
"It has to end sometime. That time is now."
" Scully, you have to understand that they're taking abductees. You're an abductee. I'm not going to risk losing you."
"I won't be here when you get back. It'll be too late. I won't be here, no one will be here. You will have failed again, like you always do. //
"Mulder! Mulder, wake up." Skinner had his hand on Mulder's shoulder.
Mulder blinked awake, relieved to be out of the dream.
"Sorry. A lot on my mind." Skinner nodded, not commenting on the nightmare. They both knew Scully wasn't here and there was no way he could fix that.
Mulder rolled over, deciding to only rest his body. Sleep wouldn't be welcome now. He pulled the small golden cross from beneath his shirt and held it.
She was on edge; she had been since Mulder and Skinner had left. Something wasn't right and it wasn't just that she wasn't feeling well. She'd promised Mulder she would get checked out while he was gone, but right now it wasn't the most important thing.
She was at the guys' place. Langly had hacked into a weather satellite that oversaw Washington and Oregon. Frohike was watching Google Earth. She was mainly pacing. Skinner would do his best, she knew that, but she covered Mulder's back. She should be there with him. They were four hours behind out there so they should still have daylight to set up the equipment the guys had lent them.
Byers joined her. "Can I get you some tea or something?"
"No, thanks." She smiled up at him, then they both jumped at Langly's cry.
"What the hell!" Langly exploded.
Frohike reached him first but they were all staring at the screen. "What? What are we looking at?" Scully asked anxiously.
"Those ain't clouds. Look at the activity. What is that?"
Frohike turned back to his computer and began tapping quickly on his keyboard. When he looked up, Byers met his eyes and paled at his expression.
"What?" Scully had grabbed Byers' sleeve but he didn't respond. No one said a word. She looked down at Frohike's screen and gasped. Then the screen went dark.
"That, that wasn't . . . "
"Spaceships? I - " then he scrambled to catch Scully as she lost conscious.
She turned her head away, not opening her eyes.
"We need you to wake up. Come on, Scully."
Reluctantly she opened her eyes. Memory flooded her and tears formed in her eyes. "What happened?"
"No, what happened to the satellite feed?"
Byers shook his head. "It's gone. They're all gone."
"All?" She sat up and Byers' hand came to rest on her shoulder.
"Take it easy."
"But something's happened, something . . . "
She stopped, listening to a sound that was growing louder.
"What - " Langly rose and started for the window.
"Don't!" Scully grabbed his arm, suddenly panicked. "In here, away from the windows, hurry!"
Startled, they obeyed her, turning away from the window and following her into the small inner room where they kept their supplies. The hum grew louder and then light leaked into the room even with the door shut.
The light cut off and the hum disappeared simultaneously. "What was that?" Langly asked staring at the door but not approaching it.
"I don't know," Scully responded. The question had seemed to be directed to her.
"But you didn't want to go check."
"Wait, has it started again?"
"Yeah, I think so. But it sounds farther away."
"What the hell is it?" Langly demanded of her, as though she should know.
Her hand was on the back of her neck, rubbing it lightly. "I, I don't know. Just wait." The fact that her voice trembled seemed to scare him the most.
They sat there in the dark for the better part of half an hour. They heard the hum twice more, each time farther away, the vibration less each time.
"We need to check, Scully," Byers finally said.
She reluctantly nodded and they left the inner room. "Keep an eye out. If you even think it's coming back, get inside, don't be out there." She drew her gun and led them down the stairs.
The sight they were greeted with caused even Frohike to go silent. Everywhere empty cars and abandoned bikes littered the streets.
"Do, do you see anyone?" Langly asked this in a whisper.
Scully shook her head and approached the nearest car. The keys were in the ignition in the 'on' position but the motor was quiet and the car was empty. They checked all of the cars on the block, but found no one.
"What do we do now?" Byers looked at Scully.
"Where's the nearest grocery and pharmacy?" All three blinked at her. "We need to get in all of the supplies we can, the ones that don't need refrigeration."
"But everyone's going to be returned, right?"
"I was gone three months, Samantha twenty-five years so far."
"Right, let's go."
They were approaching a farm outside of the town they had just bypassed, when they heard it again. Mulder pulled Skinner behind the barn. They heard footsteps running out of the house. Mulder started in that direction, maybe he could save . . . but Skinner stopped him and they hid their eyes as the light stabbed down again. This was the closest they'd come since yesterday and the hum seemed to continue in the atmosphere as they slowly uncovered their eyes.
Skinner looked over at Mulder who shrugged. "Let's check it out."
Cautiously they approached the house, but no one seemed to be anywhere around. The front door was open where the inhabitants had rushed outside at the disturbance. They entered with guns drawn but down at their sides.
They both jumped violently at the sound from the back of the house. They moved in that direction when it didn't end. Skinner gave Mulder a rueful glance when they recognized the sound as the oven timer. There was fried chicken draining on paper towels, vegetables simmering, mashed potatoes already in the bowl and biscuits in the oven.
"I thought this was southern cuisine," Mulder said looking around the kitchen.
"Maybe it's farm cuisine," Skinner mused.
Instead of answering him, Mulder moved to the phone on the wall. Once again only static greeted him. When he turned back, Skinner had a plate full of food. Silently Mulder joined him and they sat at the table. After their first hunger was slaked, Skinner leaned back and looked at Mulder.
"We've waited long enough. We need to talk about this. Tell me what's happening?"
"How the hell should I - " Mulder stopped at the look in Skinner's eye.
"Okay, I'll say it. Aliens are abducting the citizens of Washington State." Mulder just stared at him. "Give me another explanation for a light from the clouds causing people to disappear."
"I don't know. I need to get in touch with Scully."
"You've been trying for two days. Let's face it, if I were going to take over a planet, the first thing I'd do is disrupt communication. I'd say that's happened. At first I denied what I saw, then I just walked, trying not to think. Today I have to face the fact that something has happened and it's a lot more widespread than I wanted to believe."
Mulder looked down at his plate and Skinner sighed. "Mulder, it's what you've been waiting for. You've known about this for years. Why aren't you - "
"Scully's not here."
Skinner had no answer for that. After a moment he faced Mulder again. "We need to check out the barn. Come on." Skinner led Mulder back outside.
They found four horses, which they watered and fed. "Mulder, do you ride?"
"I have, why?"
"Well cars aren't working and if we want to get anywhere faster than walking . . . "
"You, uh, you're not what I imagined in the field," Mulder responded as he looked over the tack.
Skinner's eyes narrowed. "I've been your supervisor for years now. Do you think I've not listened to you at all?"
"Well, I . . . Sorry." He looked around the barn for a moment. "I just need to get in touch with . . ."
"I know. Let's see what these people have that can get us on the way."
Mulder took a deep breath, centering himself. She was okay, she knew about this stuff and she'd be okay. She had to know he was trying to get home to her. The nightmares about her illness were just dreams, she was okay.
They headed back inside and started going through the house. They found camping equipment in the attic and checked it out. It was well used, but they'd need it if they still couldn't get a car to start.
They sat at the kitchen table taking a break. "We need to think about changing our route," Skinner said, opening the map again. "Now that we have 'transportation', I think we should head due east. If we move, we can get over the mountains before the weather breaks."
"There's already snow," Mulder observed.
"There almost always is at that elevation. We could take Interstate 90 over the mountains. An interstate should take the most direct route. We can drop down into Wyoming when it gets cold."
Mulder nodded. "And with horses we shouldn't have to worry about traffic jams."
"True. We'll need to check out a ski shop, make sure we're outfitted for that weather."
// She was cold, shivering. He couldn't warm her. He was curled around her but she seemed smaller, insubstantial somehow. She was crying, quietly, but not turning to him. He tried to turn her to face him and his hand seemed to pass through her. Panic flooded him and tried to grip her shoulder.
"You left me. I was ill, dying and you wouldn't stay. Now it's too late. You can't save me. //
Skinner didn't comment on the number of times Mulder had pulled out his cell phone, hoping that some connection could be made. Mulder probably didn't even realize he was still doing it; the battery was long dead. He had no doubt that Scully would be his preferred companion at this time. No need to remind Mulder why he had ordered her to stay behind.
No one returned to the house, which didn't surprise either of them. The truck in the yard wouldn't start, though Mulder tried it as Skinner made decisions on what to pack up. Skinner was the one with military experience; he'd do better on what was necessary for them to carry.
After a full night's sleep, for Skinner anyway, shower and hot breakfast, they packed the horses, saddling two of them and heading out.
They made good time, not having to worry about traffic jams. They found a ski shop and loaded up on extreme winter gear. They also took some blankets from a moving truck and fashioned blankets for the four horses.
The hum seemed to have moved well ahead of them now and they no longer encountered it in their travels. They found no one and felt sure by now that the phenomena was not limited to Washington state. They began breaking into homes with garages for shelter each night, stabling the horses in the empty garages and scavenging for food and clothing that they could carry with ease.
The altitude was the main reason for the decline in temperature, but it was drastic. Mulder was more than happy to pull on the long underwear they had taken from the ski shop. Layers, lots of layers but he was still chilled.
Scully had been cold that last night in Bellfleur, unable to get warm. He had held her in his arms that night. She'd been ill, not, not the cancer but something had been wrong. Maybe she really didn't know what it was; she hadn't told him at any rate. Was she well now? Was she okay? He couldn't shake the feeling that whatever had been wrong with her was significant, a precursor to what had happened?
He had felt no compunction to step out and investigate when he'd first heard the hum. Skinner had, all the other people had, but not him. Was it because he knew, he recognized what was happening? Scully would know as well. They hadn't taken her again; she was home waiting for him and she had to know he was trying to get home to her.
He and Skinner had spent last night in a very nice place. Plenty of room with a nearly four car garage for the horses. He and Skinner had slept in king size beds and because of the propane instead of electricity, they'd done some laundry and had hot showers that morning. Fresh snow had fallen but it wasn't too deep. He would be more than glad to get to a lower altitude so the horses could graze again. That had become a bigger worry than their own food. He gave them the carrots he'd found in the crisper drawer in the kitchen last night in addition to their meager ration of oats but they were carrying a much heavier burden than he was.
Skinner was checking the house one more time for easily carried consumables as Mulder packed and saddled the horses. Finally ready, he pulled the door of the garage open and stopped, reaching for his gun. There in the fresh powder was a footprint that neither he nor Skinner could have made. It was much smaller in a feminine boot; at least that was his first guess. Now, where was she?
Skinner stepped into the garage and started to speak. He stopped and drew his own weapon when he saw Mulder's in his hand. He approached Mulder cautiously and when he was just behind him whispered, "What?"
Mulder pointed to the footprint. "She tried to get rid of her tracks, but she was headed over to that house." He nodded toward a house across the road and down a few yards.
Skinner nodded. "Well, it's another human. What's your plan?"
"Head that way. We need to see if there really are any other humans left."
Skinner winced but couldn't disagree. They stepped back inside and closed the garage again. They headed for the back door of the house and headed out in opposite directions to round the house and try to approach the other place unobserved.
It was Mulder who confronted her first, lowering his gun in the face of her baseball bat. He stayed back, trying to look less intimidating. "I'm Agent Mulder of the FBI. I'm not going to hurt you."
She looked at him with no trust whatsoever. "FBI?"
"Yes," he pulled his shield from the pocket of his jeans. So there had been a reason to keep carrying it.
She jerked when Skinner walked in from the other side and backed further into a corner. "Are you going to hurt me?"
Skinner let his gun down to his side as well. "No, we're not here to hurt you."
She sized the older man up as well. "You FBI too?"
Skinner nodded and pulled out his shield as well.
Slowly she lowered her bat. "What happened?"
No need for further clarification of that question. "Uh, we're not sure," Skinner said quietly.
She obviously didn't believe that.
Mulder drew her attention then, "What's your name?"
"Patti, uh, Patricia Tate."
"Can you tell us what you saw?"
"I, I don't know." She hesitated then looked back and forth between them again. "I really don't . . . I was doing my homework and listening to music to drown the kids out. My stepsister was trying on her Halloween costume and the boys were teasing her. Suddenly everyone else in the room stood up, I just watched them for a minute. I, I realized they were headed outside, so I jerked off my headphones and started shoving on my shoes. Then this light . . . It was unbelievable, I've never seen . . . " She choked up for a moment, then forced herself to look up at them again. "By the time I rushed outside I could see everyone was . . . "
Skinner nodded. Mulder asked, "Did you hear anything, feel anything?"
She looked startled at the question. "Well, I didn't hear, because of the headphones and I had the volume up, but I did feel something, it was like a big truck had gone by or maybe was going by but it took a long time, and the hair stood up on my arms. After the light disappeared, that was gone too."
Mulder nodded. "How old are you?"
She seemed to retreat again, her back rigid. "Why?"
"No good reason."
She again looked between the two of them. "I'm sixteen."
Skinner closed his eyes, shaking his head.
"Are you two gonna rape me?"
"No!" Skinner said immediately, beating Mulder by less than a second.
"No," Mulder repeated, "but we can't leave you here alone."
"They'll be back," she said defiantly.
"I hope so and when they get here, you can come back. But until then, we can't in good conscience leave you here alone. There's no one else, we've come from Bellfleur and we haven't seen a single person until you." "Are you, are you serious?" Her eyes were huge.
"Look, we're getting ready to move out. Pack some things, essentials only - underwear, socks, your heaviest clothes. If you have ski clothes, put them on now. We'll check your kitchen for things we can transport easily. We want to get over the mountains and down to a warmer altitude as soon as possible."
She nodded at that. "I'm coming back," she said it defiantly; it wasn't a question.
"I certainly hope so," Mulder said quietly.
She just looked at him for a long minute, then took a deep breath and headed for her room. When she had left them alone Mulder and Skinner exchanged glances, then both headed for the kitchen to see what they could find.
Their ideas of what to take had changed over the last couple of days. This time Mulder was looking for first aid, vitamins and medicines of any kind while Skinner looked for dry goods, noodles, beans and all the protein he could find. He was delighted to find carrots and apples for the horses.
When she returned with her duffle bag, they were ready. "Can you ride?"
"Not very well. I've been on a horse, like at birthday parties . . . "
"That's okay," Mulder nearly chuckled. "We got about four days more experience than you." He looked over at Skinner. "She can ride with me to start out."
Skinner nodded. That put more weight on Mulder's horse, but they'd manage. They had no choice. She didn't have much to say and Mulder didn't have a clue what to say to a teenage girl who had just lost her whole family and everyone she knew. She was stiff at first and afraid to get too close, but after nearly losing her balance she held on tighter around his waist and eventually rested her head against his back.
They stopped for lunch and to give the horses a break in a grassy area with no snow, then continued on. She climbed back on Mulder's horse without asking and no one argued.
Shortly after that the wind began to pick up, gusting strongly. Skinner moved closer to Mulder so they could hear each other. "That's gotta be a storm coming. I think we better look for a place quick."
Patti sat up at that. "I think there's a neighborhood not that far ahead. I've been over here with a friend; she was dating a guy from a different high school. There're big houses."
"Anything between here and there?" Mulder asked. She shook her head. "Sounds like our kind of place then. Let's pick up the pace a little."
It was sleeting by the time they saw the houses. Skinner pointed and Mulder nodded, conversation wasn't possible, and followed him into the neighborhood. The first house they came to was a large post and beam log cabin with a three car garage. Skinner wasted no time getting inside and opening the garage for them.
Exhausted, they unloaded the horses and began grooming them.
"I'm cold!" Patti complained.
"I lit the wood stove, it won't be long, but the horses come first," Skinner said not stopping his grooming.
"Why?" she was pouting now.
"Because otherwise we'd be a couple of miles from your house instead of nearly thirty. Hand me that blanket." She did as he bade, slightly chastened.
Mulder finished adjusting the blanket on his two horses and turned toward the door to the kitchen. "I'll get some water for them. Patti?"
"Uh, I could start dinner for us."
"That would be a big help. Find out what they have in cans and we'll cook it on the woodstove."
She nodded and hurried off, obviously glad to get away from them. Mulder and Skinner exchanged glances with Mulder grinning. Skinner rolled his eyes and turned back to his horse.
She had found a couple of cans of some hearty soup and a pot and had the soup heating on the woodstove. She smiled tentatively when they joined her and they thanked her for going ahead with the meal. Who knew how long they'd be together, they might as well be friendly.
They ate around the stove, letting the heat relax their muscles. "No hot showers," Skinner sighed, "but at least we can heat some water and wash up. There is running water?"
"So far there is," Patti said looking up, frightened suddenly. "Are we not going to have running water?"
"Let's not worry about it now," Skinner said soothingly. "Mulder and I are going to check the house for anything else we can use." Wind howled around the house then and Patti looked up shivering.
"I'm not sure we're going to be leaving here anytime soon," Mulder offered glumly.
Skinner met his eyes and nodded.
They were there for four days. Mulder was more than grateful for the wood that had already been split. They slept in the main room, the only real privacy was in the bathrooms, and they were cool enough not to want to stay there very long.
Patti kept her distance, listening to them, but not offering much.
When the weather finally cleared, they were on their way, starting out at first light. They had no idea how long they had between storms. Both men were lamenting the loss of the weather satellites they had grown so accustomed to.
At least they were heading out of the mountains now. They were sticking to the highways for the large part of each day, heading off on an exit when it was time to settle for the night.
This wasn't their best accommodation so far, but at least they were inside. Skinner pulled the well-worn map out of his pack and spread it on the table. "90 heads south in a few miles. I'm thinking we should stay with it. We've been able to find shelter for us and the horses, and in this part of the country the people seem to understand alternate heating. We won't find that in cities."
Mulder sighed. "Agreed."
"We've only been on the road a couple of weeks, Mulder. We're making good time for not having the kind of transportation we're used to."
There was a grocery and a butcher shop on the block, a pharmacy one block over. Scully had no problem taking a couple of carts and filling them to the brim. After unloading them and leaving Frohike to do his magic with the fresh meat - she didn't ask - she headed back out for another load.
Langly offered to finish up at the pharmacy, but Scully refused to allow them to separate. She was the only one armed, not that it would help against the light. Where was everyone else? Surely someone else had stayed inside.
After several loads it was too dark to continue so Scully called a halt. It didn't look like they were fighting anyone else for the supplies, so they agreed.
Suddenly exhausted, she allowed them to talk her into taking Byers' bed and getting some rest. They continued storing the supplies they had gathered and eventually Byers and Langly had taken some time to sleep as well, leaving Frohike as guard.
The next morning only brought more questions. No one was in evidence and they returned to their scavenging for supplies. It was eerie seeing no one on the street or in any store.
When they returned to their building late that afternoon Byers took Scully aside. "Look, why don't you stay here with Frohike. Langly and I can make the next trip. We haven't seen anyone."
"I can - "
"I think you're about to collapse again, if you want the truth."
She tried to stare him down, but she was the one who dropped her eyes first.
"You told Mulder you'd see a doctor."
"Know where I could find one?" she asked bitterly.
"So you'll have to take care of yourself. We can handle this part. Go lie down. When Mulder gets home he'll skin us alive if we haven't taken care of you."
She gave him a tired smile but couldn't dispute his words. She gave in and laid down on her borrowed bed. When Mulder gets home . . . she should be out there looking for him. She knew where he was headed, but he knew where she was too. Practically it would be better to wait here, but how did she do that?
She was startled when Byers tapped on the door and stuck his head inside. "I thought you were going for more supplies," she said sitting up.
"We did. We've been gone about three hours. Are you okay?"
She was stunned, she'd just laid down a moment ago. "Uh, yes, I'm fine. I guess I'm not sleeping well."
"That's understandable, but we are . . . concerned."
"Thank you," she said simply and started to rise. A wave of dizziness struck her and Byers had hold of her arm immediately. He didn't speak but his eyes showed how worried he was.
She pulled away gently, not wanting to hurt his feelings. "John, I'm fine."
He looked down at her without speaking. She blushed and turned away. "Maybe the, the chip is reacting to what's happening."
"So you do think it's . . . aliens?"
She made a harsh sound and looked back up at him. "Do I have a choice?"
"No, I guess not," he sighed. "Come on, you need to eat."
She preceded him from the room and found the other two at the table, but waiting for her. "Thank you," she looked over at Frohike. "How did you do this?"
"Sterno, but that won't last long."
She looked up to find the others watching her, as though waiting for instructions. She closed her eyes for a moment, then sighed. "Go ahead and eat before it gets cold."
They did, not bothering to ask if she had any ideas for now.
When they were through they didn't rush to leave the table. Scully leaned back and looked at each of the men. "We can't stay here."
Frohike and Byers were silent, but Langly leaned forward. "Leave? Where would we go?"
"I, I don't know. We need to think about it, but how can we stay here? The power may not ever come back on, that means no heat, no cooking, Langly, no water! "
He blinked at that; stuff like that had never occurred to him.
"We, we need to calm down. We need to be rational about this," Byers' voice was steady. "Right now we all need to get some rest. We'll think better in the morning, clearer. Scully, go on."
Silently she nodded and rose from the table. She needed some time alone.
// He was screaming her name, terrified for her and she couldn't make him hear her. He was searching but he didn't get any closer. She felt heavy, slow, unable to reach him. What was wrong with her? He needed her and she was useless. Why had she ever allowed him to leave her? His voice was cracking and moving farther away. Mulder!
It changed then, he was watching her, his eyes scanning her body, showing his concern and his love. "You have to stay safe. I'm coming but you have to stay safe, because I'm not there to cover your back. Please, Scully, be safe. //
She woke the next morning knowing where they needed to go. She jumped out of bed and took a couple of steps before the nausea hit her. She made it to the bathroom before she got sick, then sat weakly on the floor for several long minutes. Maybe this was an ear infection, the dizziness, the nausea. She had no fever and her ears didn't hurt but maybe a sinus infection. Aliens affecting her chip was a possibility but even now she instinctively fought that. Yes, she needed to take the time to check herself out, but right now there was just too much to do.
Feeling somewhat better she emerged and was pleased to see that no one had heard her. She headed for the kitchen where she heard activity.
"I know where we need to go."
Frohike and Byers turned to look at her. "What?"
"I know a place, in Virginia. Have you heard of Millboro?"
Both men shook their heads.
"There's a resort there, a lodge with outlying cabins. It was billed as rustic luxury. There were fireplaces in the rooms, a woodstove in the main room and I believe in the kitchen. It had these hand pumps for water. They had all the luxuries, microwaves, VCRs, running water, but they also had these 'back ups' if you really wanted to rough it."
"When were you there?"
"A few months ago. Mulder and I questioned the owner about an X-File."
"Did you stay there?" Frohike asked, confused.
She looked up surprised, "No, the Bureau would never pay for some place like that. Besides it was close enough to come on home."
"A couple of hundred miles."
"Couple'a hundred?" Langly joined them staring at her. "We have to walk it, remember?"
"We can ride bikes," Frohike offered and Langly glared at him.
"What about supplies?" Byers asked the group in general.
"We'll have to take some with us," Scully said firmly. "But if there really are no other people, we'll be able to find plenty of food for now. What we won't have is fresh food. That's one of the reasons we need to go. We'll be able to plant a garden there in the spring. We should be able to . . . to live there," she finished lamely.
Byers nodded. "You're right. We need a place like that. Frohike, do we have any maps?" He'd taken over the conversation and Scully looked at him with gratitude.
Frohike found the maps and they spread them over the table. "We need to get over to 81. We don't have to stay on major highways, we can go the straightest route, but head that way. There's likely to be traffic jams if people just got out and then . . . vanished, but with bikes we should be okay."
"How many supplies to do you think we can carry on our backs while we're pedaling? This is insane!" Langly waved his arm toward the window. "For all I know, we're all part of a really detailed dream and - Ow!"
Frohike stepped back. "You still think you're asleep?" He pinched his fingers at the taller man who glared at him. "You know this is real and you know she's right. We have to get away from DC. We live in the middle of a frigging swamp. Our forefathers were idiots to pick this place. The amount of 'yard' we have wouldn't grow six stalks of corn and we have to have running water. If that means hand pumps, then we use hand pumps. We can't heat this place any better than we can cool it without power. Yeah, it's gonna be a bitch getting there, but if Scully's right, we've got a better chance at surviving there."
"There are towns along the way," Byers spoke up. "We can pick up what we need; take just what we need for a few days at the time."
Scully nodded. "And whatever we take with us will be closer than here if we need to backtrack for it." She looked up at John. "I have to go to my apartment. There are things there I need."
"Okay, we'll head over - "
"No, it's out of the way. I'll go, get the things I need and come back - "
"No," Frohike interrupted. "You're not going alone. These two can get things together. I'll go with you."
"Frohike, that's not necessary. I'm armed - "
"I will be too."
"You can shoot?"
"Better than either of these guys. I'll tell you about it some time. We can get over to your place in a day, since we won't have to take supplies with us. Coming back might take a little longer. Guys, I'm thinking no more than three days. We'll definitely stay at her place at least one night."
The other two were nodding even as Scully sputtered her protest.
"Forget it, Dana," Byers stopped her. "You're our responsibility until we hand you back to Mulder. If that's offensive, so be it. I'm all for women's lib in principal, and you're undoubtedly the smartest of us, but you're a woman and physically smaller even with your training. Later you can train us, but you are not going anywhere alone."
Scully opened her mouth, but then shut it without a word. They were wrong, but their hearts were in the right place. She would need them, and they would need her. After a moment she nodded. "We could leave now."
John looked outside. It was well before lunch. "Do you think you can get there before dark?"
"I think so. We're not taking anything." Frohike looked over at Scully who nodded. "Okay, then. We'll see you guys in a day or two."
He ducked into his room and returned with his revolver. He checked it to ensure it was fully loaded, then tucked it into the back of his waistband. Scully watched with no comment.
They picked the best two of the bikes that they had accumulated and stacked near the door to the building and took off.
They saw and heard no one, both keeping their eyes peeled for anything that moved.
Scully knew she was in pretty good shape despite her current illness and she was mildly surprised at how well Frohike was doing. She was fighting exhaustion and she knew Frohike had noticed. It was still light when they got there. Frohike helped her off her bike and supported her to the door.
"We need to get the bikes inside."
"I'll do that after you lie down. Don't - " he interrupted her when she opened her mouth to protest. He led her to the bedroom and yanked down the covers as she kicked off her shoes. She was asleep before he left the room.
It was dusk when she woke confused. Home? Had it been a dream? She reached for Mulder, but his side of the bed was empty. Not a dream. Damn. Slowly she sat up, testing for dizziness. She was okay. She headed for the living room and found Frohike in the kitchen. There were candles burning on her coffee table and kitchen table.
"Hi, you okay?"
"Yes. I guess the ride took more out of me than I thought. What are you doing?"
"Well, I started packing for you. I've cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer. I made dinner with what was left."
"You didn't have to - "
"Not a problem, Scully. I took all of your personal pictures out of their frames as well. I've put them in a file, lighter to transport. I found your stash of matches and candles and put them in bag with the stuff I took out of your bathroom."
She just looked at him, moved and slightly embarrassed at the emotion that was tugging at her. "Thanks."
He winked at her.
"How are we going to get this stuff back to your place? I don't have backpacking equipment."
"Oh, while you were busy sawing logs I made some improvements."
He moved past her into the living room and to the front door. The bikes were now in the hall and attached to the back of each of them was a grocery cart.
"I admit I don't know how it will hold up long term, but it's a start. It'll slow us down but we can start earlier and take our time. I did pick the carts with decent wheels to start out with." He grinned at her.
She chuckled as she turned to the kitchen. She was starving. The ride had taken a lot out of her and she knew she'd be sore tomorrow, but there was still a lot to do tonight.
The carts worked a lot better than she would have thought. She hadn't bothered with any of her work clothes, taking her more sturdy clothing, jeans, sweatshirts and boots. Her winter coat and long underwear also made the cut. Frohike had packed her medical supplies and spices into bags to ensure nothing would fall through the cart. They grabbed a few hours sleep but were up and ready to leave before six.
It was chilly which gave her the excuse to wear a few more layers and not bother to take things out of the cart. They were slower, but not excessively so. It was early afternoon when they got back to the building.
They were ravenous and made quick work of the food Byers laid out for them. The others hadn't been wasting their time, getting as much together in as small a package as they could. Seeing Frohike's new invention with the grocery carts sent them both out to acquire more, replacing the two that had taken that day's abuse and loading up the others.
They sent Scully off to bed after a second meal, promising everything would be ready when she woke. They had no illusions about reaching Millboro in less than a couple of weeks, but they agreed it was time to leave.
Mulder heard the pump action of the shotgun and winced. They'd missed something in their hurry to get somewhere warm before dark.
"Just hold up there." The voice was that of an older man.
Skinner raised one hand, holding the reins with the other. "We don't want any trouble. We were just looking for shelter. There's a storm coming."
"Yeah, there is."
"We have our own supplies, but we need to get the horses settled."
The man took a deep breath and lowered his weapon slightly, not releasing his hold on it. "Take the horses into the barn. I'll meet you there."
Skinner nodded and turned his horse toward the imposing building to his right. The wind was unforgiving already. Mulder looked back at Patti. He could feel her shivering with cold even through her heavy clothes. They rode the horses inside and Mulder lifted Patti down. She looked exhausted but helped with unloading the horses and picked up a brush for one of the pack horses.
"I'll do that, Little Miss," the older man joined them. He still had his weapon, but he propped it by the door. "Get yourself inside, Missy. I'll help these men. There's a good fire going in the woodstove."
"Is she safe?"
"Yeah, no one to bother her here."
Patti looked over at Mulder and after a moment he nodded. "We'll see you in just a few minutes. Don't worry."
He didn't get too close, but he took the fourth horse and after unloading their things, began wiping her down. "My name's Hal."
"Walter Skinner, this is Fox Mulder."
Mulder nodded but didn't approach the man.
After all of their practice, the unloading took little time. The best part was being able to give the horses the feed they so desperately needed. Mulder looked around the barn. It was large, but only three horses besides their four inhabited it.
"Before we go inside, I need to know, where did you come from?" Hal watched them.
Skinner looked over at Mulder. "We were in Bellfleur, Washington when . . ." He shrugged.
"You've come a ways. Seen anyone else?"
Both men shook their heads. "We found Patti at one of our other stops. That's it. I'm sure there are others, but we didn't . . ."
Hal shook his head. "Do you know what happened?"
This time Skinner didn't look at Mulder. "Theories. What did you see?"
"Let's get inside and warm first."
"You've decided to trust us?"
Hal shrugged. "You looked after your horses first."
Skinner nodded and they followed Hal toward the house. Patti was watching the door and when she saw Mulder and Skinner entered unharmed she visibly relaxed. She'd removed her hat and gloves, and unzipped her ski jacket but hadn't removed it.
"Get comfortable, I'll get you something warm to eat."
"Hal, we're armed."
His eyes narrowed but he didn't lift his shotgun back up to aim at them.
"We're, we were FBI agents. We were in Washington on a case." Skinner offered his shield, one of the few unnecessary items they still carried.
Hal looked it over silently, then looked the two of them over once more. "What did you see?"
Skinner looked over at Mulder, so Hal followed suit.
"There was a hum, a vibration, did you feel it?"
Hal shook his head.
"It came from the sky. I didn't see anything but I, we both heard it. We saw people run outside to see what was happening and then a bright light was there. It was painfully bright; we couldn't see where it came from. Then it was gone and the other people weren't there."
Hal gaped at him then turned back to Skinner for confirmation.
Skinner nodded. "I started toward it myself. Mulder stopped me, he saved me."
Mulder looked over at him startled, he had no idea Skinner felt that way, but he kept quiet.
"What about you?" Skinner asked.
"Let me get the vittles on while we're talkin'." He turned toward the kitchen, but was back quickly with a sauce pan which he placed on the woodstove. "This'll get you warmed up," he said stirring. "I'm a passin' fair cook, used to be I went on all the round ups as cook, last couple of years I've stayed here but got the supplies together. Boys said they missed me."
"Smells good," Mulder said.
Hal nodded his thanks. "I didn't see anything. I'd gotten in the supplies for winter and was puttin' things away. I was in the root cellar and the dang light went out. Nothing's darker than down there when the light goes out. I fumbled around and found another bulb and changed it. It didn't help, so I headed upstairs." He fell silent for a moment. "No one, there wasn't no one here. And no one showed up. Those three horses in the barn were inside, tied up. Used to be a herd of several thousand cattle on the place. Don't know if any of them are still here or not. I'm not young enough to go lookin' for 'em alone."
Everyone was silent for a moment, then Hal shook himself. "Where you headed?"
"DC," Mulder said quickly.
"Washington, DC? Are you kiddin'? On horseback?"
"We don't have a car."
Hal gave a slight chuckle, "No, guess you don't. That's a far piece and you were right about a storm coming. You're welcome to sit it out here."
"Thank you," Skinner nodded.
"There's hot water in the boiler. I've got a hand pump so if you take your time, there'll be hot water for everyone to wash up. Little Miss, you could go ahead now."
"It's Patti," she said quietly.
"Miss Patti. There're towels in the bath, right through there."
She looked between Mulder and Skinner, then back to Mulder. They both nodded to her so she picked up her bag and headed where Hal had pointed.
"Any guess on when we could get moving again?" Mulder asked.
"Nope. It'll be several days at least. We don't get that much snow, but we get major cold and wind. Be glad you're here. You'd die out there."
Mulder's eyes closed.
When Patti was through in the bath, Mulder took his turn. Patti excused herself and went on to bed, exhausted and wanting to get under the several layers of blankets she'd seen on the bed Hal offered her.
Hal looked over at Skinner. "His wife in DC?"
"She's his partner, FBI partner, but yeah."
Hal nodded. "He that sure she's still around?"
"He can't think anything else. And to be honest, if anyone could have figured this out and survived, it would be her. They've been together a long time. He knew immediately what was going on. She would have recognized it as well."
"It's gonna be a while before he sees her again."
Morning came late; the sky was completely overcast with a freezing mix blowing wildly outside. Mulder lost the coin toss and went with Hal to the barn to check on the horses. The wind was making them restless, but they had food and water, blankets and clean stalls when the two men bundled back up to return to the house.
Skinner and Patti had a hot breakfast waiting for them when they returned. After they were finished, Hall leaned back. "I was thinkin' about your travel plans. This time of year I just don't know how far you could get before the next storm. You wouldn't even necessarily find another shelter in a day's ride. Like I said, I'd just gotten in supplies for winter. That's supplies for the ranch, twenty-five full time hands. I don't know if you want to sit out winter here, I don't know that we could get along, but you might want to think about it. That little girl couldn't make it, not this time of year."
"We could head farther south, it wouldn't be - "
"There's no place you can reach on horseback in a couple of days heading south. With perfect weather, moving at top speed, I'm talking at least a canter the whole way, you might reach the Triple Bar in a day, but that's heading due north, not east."
Mulder looked away, so Hal directed his comments to Skinner. "You can't count on several days of good weather this time of year and you sure as hel-heck can't count on finding supplies and shelter. I'm not holding you prisoner, you do what you need to do, but you're welcome here. Personally, I'd like the company; it's been lonely. You don't have to decide today; it's pretty obvious you're not leaving now, but I wanted to put it out there for you."
He rose then and took the dishes into the kitchen to wash.
Byers and Langly were more than ready to stop for lunch and to have a good stretch. They weren't making great speed but no wheels had come off and by the time they would be heading uphill to the site, they should be in decent shape.
They quickly learned that a cart really lasted only a couple of days. They spent their nights in homes along the way, leaving early because it was getting dark earlier.
Mulder was in her dreams every night as though checking in on her, giving her advice that she didn't consciously remember. It didn't matter, he was there for her, trying to help her and desperately trying to get home.
When they finally arrived, the place was as she remember. As she had suspected it was completely empty. Admittedly they had not passed through any cities in that part of Virginia but she still had led them away from areas of population. She wasn't entirely sure why she was so insistent on avoiding areas of higher population, but it felt right. They were all exhausted but they sent her off to 'her' room, insisting on unpacking the supplies without her. She wanted to protest but her eyes were closing.
When she woke a couple of hours later, it was dusk but not full dark. She checked quietly in the other bedrooms until she located the guys. All three were asleep, so she left them alone.
She made her way to the kitchen to find that the wood stove had been lit before they crashed. She checked the cabinets and found a couple of cans of stew which she opened and began heating.
While dinner was warming she began investigating the area. The refrigerator needed to be cleaned out, so she began there. The aroma of the stew reached the men shortly and they stumbled into the kitchen. Scully motioned them to the table and served them over their protests. After they had eaten, Byers turned to her. "I think you've saved our lives."
She looked up blinking. "No, we did it together."
"We wouldn't have found this place, Scully. We would have stayed in DC until it was too late."
"We, we haven't survived yet," she said in a low voice.
"No, but we sure have a better shot at it." The others nodded. "Tomorrow we'll scout out stores and see about bringing back what we find. You're in charge of being able to find a place for everything after we get it back. Now why don't we heat up some water. I'm sure you'd like a bath, I know we would."
She couldn't help but smile. It sounded wonderful.
The next day, true to their word, they headed out. She stayed behind and finished the unpacking of their current supplies; they looked woefully inadequate for the long term. Then she began fixing her room up, personalizing it. They had all taken rooms on the first floor and hers was slightly apart from the others, and larger with a sitting area in addition to the bedroom. She realized abruptly it was the honeymoon suite.
She sank down onto the bed and closed her eyes. Where was Mulder? Was he okay? Did he know that she was alive and waiting for him? Why had she ever allowed him to leave her behind. They were together, together in every way now and she had just let him go off without her to cover his back.
She hadn't taken into account the rise in elevation in the foothills of the Appalachians. It was cooler during the day than she had imagined. She put on another sweater and checked the linen closet for supplies. The guys were shivering when they returned, but were pushing three overfull carts. They struggled the carts inside through the delivery doors. She shoved them over to the stove and had them describe where they had gone while she began unloading.
She smiled at one of the carts, finding it completely stuffed with paper products and one plastic bag shoved into the corner. Whoever had pushed this cart hadn't gotten off easy, the underside of the cart was piled high with pre-cut kindling, the kind of firewood that tourists bought. Well at least they had toilet paper for awhile.
Byers came over as she pulled the plastic bag out of the corner. "We, uh, we didn't know what you liked." His face was a deep red and she opened the bag to see what he was talking about. It contained an assortment of tampons and pads.
Scully didn't look up, knowing her eyes were moist that these three wonderful geeks had thought about her, worried about their selection. "This is perfect. Thank you." Nothing more was said, but she opened one of the boxes of Kleenex and pulled out a tissue.
They looked embarrassed and after giving them a slightly crooked grin, she moved away toward her bedroom. She sank down onto the bed, overwhelmed suddenly. She'd pushed everything away pretending she was just waiting for Mulder to return. It was the end of the world, literally and Mulder was on the other side of the continent. How would he get back? How would she be able to just sit here and wait? She curled into a fetal position dragging her pillow to her and giving in to her tears.
She woke some time later. It was dark and she didn't hear anyone. She sat up and used the lighter by the bed to light the candle on her bedside table. She started to rise and heard something rustle on the bed. She looked down and spotted the bag the guys had filled for her. She reached for it but stopped.
She hadn't needed these supplies lately. She hadn't needed them since . . . since before Mulder had left, long before he left. How long had whatever made that light been in orbit? It could have been affecting her chip. Or stress, it could be stress. But she hadn't been stressed before going to Washington. Things had been the best between them that she could remember.
At least she could rule out pregnancy. She could rule out pregnancy. There was no way. She made her way to her bath and shoved the bag all the way back under the sink. She'd need it in a few days.
It took a long time for her to fall back asleep for the night.
The next morning she was dressed before the others rose, and had coffee made. When she heard them stirring she opened a couple of cans of corned beef hash and began heating it up.
"What's on the agenda for today?" Langly asked as they took their seats at the table.
"I want to go to the store with you," she said joining them.
"There's no need - "
"Maybe not," she interrupted Byers, "but I can make a better decision about medical supplies. And we can bring back four carts full." It was the stubborn look on her face that shut them up.
After the exercise they'd gotten on the way, they made good time back to the store. She was surprised the shopping area was as large as it was, but this was a tourist area. Scully left them to continue with the canned and dry foods while she headed for the small pharmacy at the back of the store.
She stopped in front of the pregnancy tests. She didn't need one, but there was no reason not to take it. It was one thing she could check off her list of things that could be wrong with her. Shaking her head at her own foolishness, she placed a couple of the tests at the bottom of the bag she was filling, then turned her back resolutely from that aisle and entered the actual pharmacy.
Yes, her cart would be used for these things, vitamins and first aid supplies. With the practice they'd received lately, filling the carts took a lot less time. She left the food to them, cautioning that protein needed to be at the top of the list.
She made them sandwiches at the store. They were headed back the to lodge before noon. She was quiet as the three men discussed making a second trip that afternoon. They were also finally coming to terms with the gravity of the situation.
They refused to talk about her returning with them but weren't able to talk her out of putting things away. She didn't fight too hard, there was enough work for everyone.
She watched until they were out of sight, then made a bee line for her bedroom. The bag was dumped on the bed and she grabbed up one of the boxes and pulled out the instructions. No way could she wait until morning, that's why she'd picked up two of them.
Feeling foolish she took the test into the bathroom.
She shut the door on the test and headed for the kitchen. There were a lot of supplies to put away and that should keep her mind off of . . . things. Damn it, she was actually getting her hopes up and she knew it was impossible.
After forcing herself to finish emptying another bag of spices, she folded the bag and with a grimace returned to her bedroom. She stopped with her hand on the door and took a deep breath. She opened the door and stopped with only one foot inside the room. She could see the bright pink at the end of the stick already.
Pregnant? It would explain her symptoms, but it was impossible. She'd made her peace with that, hadn't she? What had happened? Okay, she and Mulder had finally . . . and they hadn't taken any precautions because they had known she was barren. Oh god, Mulder, please hurry home.
Hal was obviously pleased to have the company, though he didn't crowd them. He did bring out the chess board and asked Skinner to play, eventually scrabble as well. They began sharing some history and slowly time passed. Only Mulder remained more to himself. His nightmares had not abated and he didn't want to talk about them. The lack of sleep made him even more antsy and he began taking more and more care of the horses to give himself a little privacy.
It was on one such excursion that he looked up as the door opened and Patti blew in, pulling the door closed behind her with effort.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, mostly I wanted to make sure you were all right."
"I'm fine," he said, wincing slightly at the phrase.
"Uh huh," she acknowledged clearly not believing it. "Talk to me about Scully."
He jerked at the sound of her name. "What?"
"Tell me about her. She's obviously important to you and you need to get it out. Maybe it will help with the nightmares."
He scowled at her but she ignored it. "I picture her tall and commanding. Skinner said she's a pathologist, so - "
"No, she's not tall. She hits me about here." His hand indicated a space just above his heart. He stopped then.
"She really cuts up dead bodies?"
Mulder looked down, "Yeah. Looking at her you'd never guess it. She's little, dainty though I'd never say that to her. She doesn't look like she could cut apart ribs or stick her hands in gore, but she doesn't even flinch. She's strong, the strongest person I know."
"You really love her," Patti said quietly.
He looked up startled, blinking at her. "What?"
"I said you really love her."
"She's my partner," he responded.
Patti grinned, "Right, partner." He started to bristle but she continued. "A blonde right? With a hot body."
"She's, she's a redhead."
"Really? I'd never have guessed that. But I was right about the body."
He didn't respond, but she saw the light color touch his cheeks.
"You are lovers, aren't you?"
"I don't believe that's any of your business," he shot back at her.
"Then why do you think something's wrong?"
That stopped him again. "I, I don't know."
"You two are really close."
"Yes," he could admit that at least.
"That's why you believe she's still alive."
He turned then and loomed over her. "She is still alive!" Patti managed not to retreat. He was the one that backed up apologetically. "She is. I would know."
Patti nodded. "I believe you're right. What about Skinner? He never talks about family."
"He's a widower, no kids. His job is, was his life. I guess getting me home is his life now." He finished the horse he was working on and moved to the next stall, she followed. "So you tell me, what about Hal?"
"Never married. He's really been a cowboy all his life. I didn't know there were people that did that any more, not in real life."
"I'd think they were rare myself."
"You know he's saved our lives."
"What?" Mulder looked up startled.
"Letting us stay here. There's food, shelter and he knows the territory."
"I know that."
"Do you believe it?"
He just stared at her, but she waited. "Yeah."
"So don't be mad that we're still here."
Mulder took a deep breath. "How old are you again?"
She grinned. "Getting older by the day."
"What about your family?" he decided to change the subject. Her smile disappeared. "I miss my Dad. My stepmother, not so much, and her brats not at all."
"What about your mother?"
Patti shrugged. "She ran off with some guy years ago."
"Me too, but it was a long time ago. I don't really remember her. Dad and I did okay, then he met Cynthia and he felt sorry for her. She couldn't handle her kids and he . . . anyway," she shrugged again. "They're really gone, as in not coming back, aren't they?"
"It's too early to give up on that."
After a moment she nodded. "I'll do the next stall, then you come back in with me and join us. You don't have to stay apart. We're all looking for someone."
Mulder stared at her for a long moment. She picked up the curry brush and moved away. Mulder took up the shovel.
Mulder turned the calendar hanging on the wall beside the refrigerator. It was finally March, nearly five damn months since this nightmare had begun and he was still two-thirds of the way across the country. She did know he trying to get home to her, she had to.
The weather had been good for a couple of days. Skinner saw Mulder standing out in front of the barn, watching the sky. Mulder turned to him, "It's time. We need to get moving."
Rather than answer Skinner watched the sky for a minute himself. "Let's talk to Hal."
Mulder turned toward the house and Skinner followed. Hal was in the kitchen, putting some beans on to soak for dinner.
"We need to get moving," Mulder said without preamble.
"I know you're anxious and I don't blame you, but you need to wait."
"Wait for what? Next winter?" Mulder couldn't help his tone, his frustration was growing.
Hal met his eyes calmly. "There'll be one more storm."
"Gone psychic on us?" Mulder's sarcasm was thick.
"Nope, just lived here a long time, son. I agree we should start getting ready. I've checked out the wagon and it looks good. We can get the things we need together. But there's gonna be one more." Mulder opened his mouth, but Skinner's hand on his arm stopped him. "Mulder, let's get our gear together. If he's wrong, we'll be ready to leave."
"How long are we going to wait?"
"Give it a couple of days," Hal said quietly. "I don't want to be right, but it'll take that long to get everything together anyway."
Mulder looked up at the ceiling. His dreams were getting worse, but they knew that as well as he did. Last night had been typical, something was different, wrong even. She wasn't alone, but he didn't know the people around her. It was as though they were standing in his way, keeping him from her. He had to get home.
The next morning proved Hal right. It was barely light outside when wind picked up. The temperature, which had been stable during the night, began to drop. By lunch time sleet was falling. Hal walked up behind Mulder, who was standing watching through the front window. "I'm sorry."
Mulder looked over at him. "No, I'm sorry. I just . . . "
"Yeah, I know. But my experience says this is the last gasp. Not saying spring is great weather, but we won't freeze."
"We'll head farther south."
Hal nodded. "Into tornado country."
"You're just a ton of fun," Mulder growled.
Hal chuckled. "Too much experience, or age. We should finish getting things together. In a few days we can start out. I don't think we can get to the next ranch in a day with the wagon, but we can probably make a way station."
"Even cowboys don't love sleeping outside all the time. There are places set up for an overnight. No facilities really, usually a wood stove, bunk beds. It's always left so the next group can just show up."
"You didn't mention them before."
"They aren't that much good in cold weather. They don't even have running water. It's literally shelter from the storm for a night, maybe two."
Once again, Hal had called it and they took off three days later. It was as though that last gasp had proved that winter had lost its strength and the days were actually comfortable. They had reached the way station that first night.
Again Hal had been right. This was a structure with a roof and a door. No windows, four sets of bunk beds with a Franklin stove in the center of the room. The wood box was filled and there was more wood stacked on the outside as the only insulation.
Hal didn't seem phased by the accommodations, fixing a fine, hot meal for them using their pots and dishes. After washing up they got ready for bed. There was little else to do and they didn't want to waste any more fuel than necessary for the lamp. Hopefully others would come this way as well.
"There's a small town most a day's ride from here. Don't know what we'll find, but at least we'll have shelter and if it's empty, there should be supplies."
"Okay. I need a new map anyway. We've gone off the edge of this one," Skinner smiled. "We are making progress."
Patti looked over at Mulder, who nodded. They were closer, he had to hold onto that.
The wind had picked up by the time the guys got home. She had hot tea waiting for them and insisted they sit and get warm before even thinking about unloading. It wasn't like any of the things they had brought home needed refrigeration.
"We've got weather coming in," Byers said after a few minutes. "The temperature is dropping like a stone."
"It's early for this," she looked over toward the windows.
"Yes, but we don't know what having them in our atmosphere might have done. And industry is kinda down, so theoretically there's less heat being generated. No cars. Hey, if there's a next generation, we might have clean air for them," Langly said, then spotted the look on Frohike's face and looked down.
The three men exchanged glances but Scully ignored them. She wasn't ready to share her news, she couldn't really believe it herself. And it could have been a false positive. Even as she had the thought she knew it wasn't true. She was pregnant. She and Mulder had created a child and he wasn't here to share it with her.
They ate canned stew that night and being a comfort food, it helped. They didn't seem to notice how quiet she was and she took advantage of that.
It wasn't full dark but she started to rise to head for her bedroom when she heard it. There was someone, something outside. She had her gun in her hand automatically. That drew the guys' attention, they hadn't heard anything.
"There's someone outside," she said in a low voice. Frohike's weapon was in his room and she shook her head when he motioned toward it. "Stay back."
She moved quickly and quietly to the door and took a swift glance out the window closest to the door. Yes, there was a figure out there and as far as she could tell it was alone.
Before she could convey this to the guys, there was a knock on the door. That surprised them all and Scully motioned for Byers to open it, while she took a position just behind the door.
He pulled the door opened cautiously and an older woman, tall, gaunt and obviously cold and exhausted stood there.
"Please - " she managed to say through blue and trembling lips.
"Are you alone?"
Scully didn't wait for more, she stepped around Byers and pulled the woman into the room. "Bolt it." She led the woman to the wood stove and seated her, a glance at Frohike had tea being steeped immediately.
"Just relax," Scully said soothingly as the woman's trembles seemed to increase rather than to halt.
Frohike brought the mug of tea over and the woman wrapped her hands around it. She nodded at the little man and managed to bring it to her lips. Byers returned with a quilt and wrapped it around her shoulders. She was able to smile her thanks.
After a couple of minutes she seemed to relax a little and leaned back in the chair. "Th-thank you. My name is L- Lucy Burns."
"I'm Dana Scully. This is John Byers, Ringo Langly and Melvin Frohike. How, how did you get here?"
"I walked," Lucy said with a grimace.
Scully didn't dispute it. The woman was dressed for winter, but winter in the city. A sturdy wool coat over pants, knit cap that mostly hid iron gray hair, boots and gloves, but not enough to keep her warm outside tonight.
"When did you last eat?"
The woman shook her head. Frohike was up again, to bring back something to go with the tea.
"Just relax, you're inside and safe. We can talk in the morning."
Lucy's eyes were closing and she nodded. She roused enough to eat the sandwich Frohike brought, then seemed to fall asleep after the last bite.
"Let's get her on the couch. She can sleep here, close to the stove. I can sleep in the chair and keep an eye on her," Scully directed.
"You need your rest too," Byers countered.
"I can sleep in this chair. Go on."
"Let me fill the stove first. Scully, my door will be opened. Yell if you . . . "
The other two men nodded as well and she smiled. "I promise. Go on, I don't think she'll be moving for awhile."
Lucy did wake once in the middle of the night. Scully sat up as she moved. "Are you okay?"
"I, is there a restroom?"
"Yes, come on." Scully rose and took her arm, leading her to the bathroom off of the lobby. She waited just outside the door and escorted the woman back. "Are you okay?"
"We all are. Go back to sleep, there'll be time to talk in the morning."
Lucy nodded and pulled the covers back around her, sinking down into the couch. She was asleep again before Scully got settled.
They were both still asleep when Byers came to check on them. Rather than disturb them, he started the coffee that morning and laid out some things to heat up for breakfast, intent on not waking them. Scully was sitting up and stretching when he returned to the main room. "Did you get any sleep?"
"Yes, she only woke up once. She's totally exhausted," Scully spoke in a low voice. "I'll put on some water for tea."
"Already have. Go get dressed. I'll keep an eye on her."
Scully nodded in gratitude then hurried to her bedroom. She was dressed and in the bathroom before it hit her. There were other people. Maybe not many, but some humans had survived. Mulder was one of them and he was on his way to her, to them.
The other two men were up and dressed when she returned, but Lucy slept on. They gathered around one of the tables in the dining area and sipped their hot beverages.
"We got a light snow last night," Frohike told Scully as she took her seat.
"Snow? It's too early."
He shrugged. "It didn't last, but there was definitely snow on the railings before the sun got to it."
"That wood you got from the store won't make it through winter."
"Yeah. We need to get started on that. One more trip to the store should pretty much finish up what we have room to store here."
Scully shook her head. "No, we need to get everything. We can store things in the cabins. After Lucy's up, we need to head that way again."
"I'm up," came a hoarse voice from the main room.
Scully rose, followed by the guys and they returned to the other room, bringing her tea.
"Thanks," she sighed as she took a sip of the hot tea.
"Do you think you could talk a little bit?" Scully took the seat nearest her and the others gathered around.
"Of course. First, I want to thank you for taking me in. I don't . . . "
"We're glad you found us and a little astonished as well."
Lucy nodded and took another sip of the tea, savoring it.
"Where did you come from?"
"You walked here from North Carolina? Alone?"
The older woman nodded wearily.
"Why here? I mean, do you have family in the area?"
"No, I've never been here before. It, it was just the direction that, that felt right." She shrugged. "What happened?"
"We only have theories. We didn't see much. What did you see?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was at Baptist, that's the hospital in Winston. I've been having problem with tinnitus so I was at the audiologist's being checked. I was in the little sound proof room and the technician and nurse were outside the window. I saw them stand up, like something had disturbed them and they hurried out of sight. I thought the doctor had called them or something so I waited. Eventually, after I got mad at being left like that, I got up and left the exam room. No one was there, no one, not in the office or waiting room or the halls. I went to the window and looked down and there was no one walking around outside. Then I got scared." She looked up at Scully and saw her nod encouragement.
"I followed the map back to my car. Baptist is huge and mostly a maze. There were cars abandoned and in the way, but I got to my car and it wouldn't start. I sat there for a little while, trying to decide if I was asleep or something, and finally I, I started walking home. It was a few miles but not as bad as following I-40, so I got home in a little over an hour."
"Your family?" Frohike asked.
"I'm a widow. I have two sons, one's married with two children, the older one is . . . sometimes he lives with me and sometimes he's homeless. I hadn't seen him in a few days. The phones were out, no one was at home in the neighborhood . . ."
"That was true of us as well, Lucy." Scully took up the tale to give the woman time to recover. "We were together in these guys' apartment. There was a hum, a vibration. It was . . . beckoning, but it wasn't 'right' and when Langly there decided to go see what was going on, I stopped him. We hid in a closet but there was a light, dangerously bright, we could see it even in the closet. When it passed, everyone was gone. We heard it several times, but moving farther away."
Lucy stared at her, then at the three men individually. They all nodded their agreement. "What could do that?"
Frohike took that one. "Aliens." Scully winced but didn't correct him.
"Aliens? Little green men?"
"Gray," Scully spoke before she could stop herself. Lucy turned to stare at her. "Sorry, it's . . . sorry. We have no proof, we don't really know what happened. It does appear to have been wide spread and capable of knocking out power, disrupting communications - "
"Humans couldn't have done this," Frohike looked at Scully, his expression determined.
"Lucy, are you still having the tinnitus?" Scully looked back at her.
"Uh, no. I'm not. I haven't had any since, since I left the doctor's office."
Scully nodded. Maybe they had been in orbit for awhile. "Why don't you guys go ahead and make the supply run. I'll stay here with Lucy. And look for clothes too while you're there. Lucy will need - "
"Oh! My pack," Lucy got to her feet. "I must have dropped it. I was so exhausted I didn't realize."
"We'll look for it. You take it easy. Scully - " Byers motioned for Scully to follow him into the kitchen. Once they were alone he touched her shoulder. "We can't leave you alone with - "
"Byers, I can take her. And I don't think I'm going to have to. I'm armed and I'll stay that way."
"One of us - "
"No. We need the supplies you're bringing. It's bad enough that I'm not going to help. I'm not helpless." The look of concern on his face did not go away. She took hold of his hand and squeezed it. "Thank you, but you have to trust me. I can look after myself."
"And all of us too," he sighed. "Okay, we'll hurry."
After they had set off, she returned to the kitchen to continue storing supplies. In a few minutes Lucy followed her. "May I help?"
"You sure can. We've got a lot of supplies we need to store so we can get to them."
Lucy looked around. "Where are your fresh foods?"
"We haven't been bringing those. They're already pretty far gone."
"Yes, but they're going to seed. You'll need them in the spring."
Scully looked at her, feeling inadequate. "I wasn't thinking. Of course we need seeds and cuttings. I don't - "
"Don't beat yourself up. Next time those men go to the store we can ask them to bring those things here and some egg cartons. Now that they're made out of Styrofoam, the cartons aren't much good for anything except seedlings."
"You know about these things."
Lucy smiled. "Yes, after I retired from the library I became quite the gardener. I'd like to take that on as a project here."
"You were a librarian?"
"Thirty years. When I started we had card catalogs, I bet those people who demanded we go to computers are sorry now, that is if any of them are still . . . " She shook her head. "What about you?"
"I'm an FBI agent and a medical doctor, a pathologist."
Lucy gawked at her for an instant. "I guess I never thought of that combination."
"We are pretty rare," Scully smiled at her.
"What about the men with you?"
"They published a newsletter called The Lone Gunman."
"Are you serious? We had a subscription at the library. I never missed it. I had no idea. I'll have to thank them when they get back. No family?"
"No, they're each other's family, and mine now. I'm afraid everyone else is gone."
"You have parents, siblings?"
"My mother, she was in California when . . . visiting my sister-in-law and nephew. My older brother was on maneuvers. I don't know what happed to them or my younger brother and his family. I'd like to think they weren't taken, or that they're going to show up here but . . ." Scully took a deep breath and shoved down on the emotion that threatened to overwhelm her.
"Who is Mulder?" Scully jerked at the name and Lucy's expression turned to one of concern. "I'm sorry, I - "
"He's my partner, my FBI partner."
Lucy looked confused at that. "I would have thought husband."
Scully's blush was unavoidable. "We're . . . together. Where did you hear his name?"
"Last night, when you were sitting with me. You fell asleep at one time when I was awake. You were calling for him."
Scully's eyes dropped and Lucy changed the subject. They visited until the guys returned with their carts full once again.
To Scully's surprise, one cart was full of less than fresh vegetables. "What made you think of this?"
"Well, Byers made the comment they were going to seed," Scully and Lucy exchanged glances, "and it made us think."
"I like these guys," Lucy said to Scully.
"Oh, and we found your pack," Byers said, pulling it from the cart.
Her eyes lit up and she took it from him reverently. "My pictures are in here. I didn't pack enough clothes, obviously, but I couldn't leave everything behind. When I go back I'll . . ." her voice trailed off and no one commented on her future plans.
"Uh, speaking of clothes, we ducked into the ski shop and found some sweats we thought would fit you. You know, there's lot of shops there we haven't even checked. We've been concentrating on food but there are other things we're going to need." Byers dug through the supplies to find the bag with the clothing in it.
Lucy just stared at them for a long moment. "Th-thank you," she finally managed to say and all three men blushed at the obvious emotion behind her words.
Scully cleared her throat, the emotion had gotten to her too and she blinked back tears. "I think Lucy and I need to go with you tomorrow. We might have different ideas about what we need."
"Good idea. For now looks like we have more things to store," Frohike nodded.
"You know we haven't taken the time to check out the other buildings here. I know the cabins have fireplaces, I don't know if they have kitchens but having supplies in different areas might be a good idea," Scully's eyes were far away, planning again.
"The barn is huge and we don't have any animals, so that's a good place for things that the cold won't hurt," Byers picked it up. "I don't think we're going to be bored for a long time."
Scully chuckled at that, coming back to them. They had no idea.
The next morning, they all returned to shopping area. Langly headed to the grocery to continue there, Byers and Frohike headed to previously unexplored stores and Scully and Lucy headed for the ski shop the guys had search previously.
Scully was very relieved to discover that it wasn't only ski equipment. They ignored the skis and poles entirely, concentrating on the clothing and boots. Lucy watched as Scully added children's clothing to the cart but kept quiet. If there were no children left . . .
They were nearly through stuffing the carts they had when Byers and Frohike joined them. Frohike was nearly bouncing with excitement. "We found a wilderness shop!"
Scully looked confused and looked over at Byers.
"Survival stuff, knives, bows, fishing equipment and MREs - "
"And stock of those wind-up flashlights, like the laptops," Frohike interrupted.
"Laptops," Scully looked back over at Byers. "Were you thinking the power would come back on; because I'm pretty confident there are no crews out there working."
Byers grinned. "No, remember that project, the $100 laptops for third world countries? We were part of the beta group. They were equipped with wind-up power. We brought them with us along with all the CDs and thumb drives we had."
Stunned Scully looked between the two men. "I love you guys."
Byers blushed, but Frohike grinned a leer at her. "I knew you'd realize it someday."
She rolled her eyes and they began moving toward the grocery to pick up Langly. Excited now, they were already discussing what they wanted to haul back on their next trip.
She and Lucy were gathering fallen wood to add to the pile. The guys were working on winterizing the cabins and the house. They didn't need the other structures to live in this winter with only the five of them, but there had to be more people and if any of them found there way here, they wanted to be ready.
Scully stopped, looking around.
"Someone's here," Scully said quietly.
Lucy began scanning the edge of the woods, looking for whatever Scully had seen. Scully dropped the wood in her arms and pulled her pistol from the back of her waistband. Startled Lucy dropped her wood as well, then bent down and picked up the largest piece. Then she saw him.
A young man walked wearily toward them, stumbling just a little. He had a pack on his back and something in his arms as well. He spotted them too and stopped.
Scully moved slowly toward him and realized he carried a little girl in his arms.
"Are you real?" his voice cracked and he stood still. His eyes flicked to the gun then away.
"Yes. Is anyone else with you?"
"No, just my daughter, Emma. I'm Chuck. We've been walking . . . "
"Let's get inside. I'm Dana, this is Lucy. We have three men with us as well."
"A regular town," he kind of grinned.
"Headed that way. Go to the lodge."
"Are you going to shoot me in the back?"
"Not unless I have to. Come on." Scully motioned for him to move ahead. Lucy nodded to her and took her place beside him.
"The stove's already warm. When did you last eat?"
"Last night. I felt like I had to keep moving, that we were heading toward something. That there were other people."
"That's how I felt too," Lucy agreed. "How old is she?"
"Almost four. She wants her mother."
Scully's steps faltered slightly at that but no one noticed. She hadn't told anyone yet, had kept from thinking about it except at night when it filled her dreams. She pushed that aside. They had a stranger here and precautions had to be taken.
Lucy opened the back door and preceded Chuck inside. "Put Emma on the couch in front of the stove. She'll warm up. I'll put on some water."
"Thank you," he said simply as he gently laid the little girl on the couch she indicated. She curled around the pillow as he pulled the afghan from the back of the couch over her.
Lucy filled the kettle and placed it on the woodstove.
"Lucy, please go let the guys know we have company." Scully kept her distance, the pistol still in her hand but not aimed at anyone.
"I'll be right back." The older woman headed out the front door, closer to the cabins. She wasn't exaggerating. Frohike burst into the room in minutes, the other two right behind him. Their glare at the young man frozen beside the stove caused him to take a step closer to the couch.
"They're not going to hurt you," Scully assured him. "We just haven't seen many people lately."
After a moment he nodded, glancing back down at Emma.
"Have a seat, Chuck. We need to talk."
He took the seat at Emma's feet and Scully nodded. The child was his main concern as it should be. She let Lucy take the warm tea over to him and took a seat slightly away, still holding her gun. "How far have you traveled?"
He took a sip of the warm liquid and sighed. "I'm not sure. Where are we now?"
Scully smiled slightly at that. "Millboro, Virginia."
"Virginia, I didn't realize. I should have, we crossed a lot of mountains. We were in Mount Lebanon outside of Pittsburgh."
"Where were you headed?"
He shrugged. "I didn't have a plan, some place warmer. We were looking for people. Half the time when we'd come to an intersection I'd ask her which way she wanted to go. She led me here as much as anything. A couple of times she was quite insistent on a direction."
"You let a kid decide - "
"What would have been a better way? I'm here," he met Langly's eyes at that and no one disagreed.
"Where were you when . . . "
"Emma and I were in my workshop in the basement. I felt it and Nikki . . . " he paused for minute, "my wife called down and asked if I heard it and said she was going to go check. I started up the stairs too and Emma had a fit. She grabbed my leg and screamed, keeping me downstairs. Since I didn't think it was that big a deal I picked her up and comforted her. The light startled us and she buried her face in my chest. That scared me, the fact that we could see that bright a light down in the basement. The windows are painted black; we were seeing the light from the stairwell." He shook his head.
"After that I grabbed her up and raced upstairs. Nikki was gone, just gone. I couldn't find her anywhere. I wouldn't put Emma down, so we checked the neighbor's houses together. We never found anyone, until . . . " He looked back down at Emma who was stirring a little.
The little girl rolled over then and opened her eyes. She blinked at the sight of the small crowd around her. Her gaze landed on Scully and her eyes widened.
"Hi, Emma. Don't be scared," Scully said softly. "You and your daddy are going to stay here with us for awhile."
Emma clambered into Chuck's lap but didn't stop staring at Scully.
"Would you like some hot chocolate with those tiny marshmallows?" Lucy asked the little girl.
Scully bit her lip to keep from laughing at the look of longing on the child's face. Lucy nodded. "I'll get it." She headed for the kitchen and found the box of instant chocolate and fixed her a mug. "It's too hot for now, wait just a little bit for it to cool off." She set the mug on the coffee table in front of the little girl and handed her an extra marshmallow to tide her over.
Conversation became easier after that. Lucy told her story and Scully and the guys related theirs. Emma just watched everyone, especially Scully and slowly drank the warm chocolate.
"What did you do, Chuck?"
"I'm an engineer."
"He can't drive a train," Emma said, her first full comment and she looked over at the scary little man when he chuckled.
"I bet he would have been a good engineer for Thomas," Lucy smiled. "My grandson loves Thomas the Train."
Emma nodded seriously and Chuck hugged her. "I was hoping to get my own crew, eventually be a contractor on my own. I did construction in the summers to put myself through school."
"Sounds like you could be handy to have around," Lucy said quietly.
"Nikki thought so," he still winced at her name, but relaxed back into the couch with Emma in his lap.
The little girl looked over at Scully then. "Where's the baby?"
"What?" It was Byers that asked, Scully just looked at the girl.
"The baby boy. He should be here."
They all looked at Scully now. "Do you know what she's talking about?" Byers was staring at Scully's pale face.
"I, I don't . . . "
"She's talked about some baby before, in her dreams. I don't know what she's talking about. She hadn't mentioned it awake before," Chuck offered.
Scully sat forward, she didn't know these people, she was comfortable with the guys, and getting to know Lucy, but she didn't know Chuck at all, though she had noted his care of his daughter. "What baby are you talking about, Emma?"
She shrugged. "The little one. I thought he'd be here."
"Dana?" Byers was staring intently at her now.
She closed her eyes for a moment, then met his eyes. "I'm pregnant."
Langly goggled at her, Frohike's eyes popped and Byers sank back into his chair. Lucy and Chuck were obviously confused but kept quiet.
"When were you going to tell us?" Byers voice was laced with pain.
"I haven't known that long. I didn't know when he left, it never occurred to me. I didn't . . . I took the test after we got here."
"It explains a lot," Frohike finally spoke. She nodded then. "When?"
"Spring. I haven't . . . "
There was silence then for a long time. Emma looked up at Chuck, uncertain at the atmosphere.
"Are you okay?" Byers finally asked.
"I, yes, I think so. The dizziness is mostly gone."
"You should have told us," Frohike's voice was hard but she heard the fear underneath.
"I, I'm sorry. I was trying to . . . to find a way."
Lucy leaned forward. "We need to start some dinner. This conversation can wait."
Byers opened his mouth to protest, but then shut it. She was right. Lucy glanced over at Scully and she rose to assist in cooking dinner.
"Scully, maybe you should - "
"Don't. I'm fine." She turned away from them, Chuck still sat silently, not completely understanding what was going on.
"Come on," Byers rose, "we can get some more work done. It's not dark yet."
Langly looked between his two friends, then stood up and headed toward the door. Reluctantly Frohike followed.
"Uh, can we help?" Chuck watched them.
"You don't have to help, but you could come with us for a tour. Would you like that, Emma?"
It was the least scary of the three, the one with the beard, that spoke so she nodded taking a tight grip on her father's hand.
Scully listened for them to leave and gave a sigh of relief when she realized they were out of the house. Lucy turned to her. "Look, I know we don't know each other very well, but as the only other adult female and apparently the only one that's given birth around here, I think we need to talk."
Scully glanced up at her, then away.
"You look like a normal, healthy woman. Why were those three guys so freaked that you were pregnant?"
Scully took a deep breath. "Because I've been told that I'm barren. And I've had a . . . spotty health record over the last six or so years."
A ghost of a smile crossed Scully's face and was gone. "That could take a while."
"I'll start on dinner, you talk." Lucy took out a large pot and filled it with water for the noodles.
Scully watched for a moment, then took a deep breath. "Well, I was abducted, missing for three months and returned in a coma. My mother removed life support, it was that close. I woke up. Shortly after that I discovered a microchip in the back of my neck. I had it removed and very shortly came down with sinus cancer. Mu-Mulder found another chip and replaced it. The cancer went away. Then I was stung by a bee that was carrying a virus. Again Mulder located me and gave me a vaccine that, that destroyed the . . . what was growing inside of me."
"Hold it, back up a minute. When you were kidnapped - "
"Abducted," Scully corrected.
"Okay, abducted. Who took you?"
"Aliens," she said with a defeated sigh.
"The gray ones you talked about." Scully nodded. "They put the chip in." Again Scully nodded. "The bee was carrying a virus?"
"An alien virus. My body became a, an incubator for an alien fetus."
There was a long silence then and finally the older woman sank into the nearest chair. "Go on."
"There's not a lot more."
"There doesn't need to be," Lucy said dryly.
Scully surprised herself by chuckling at that point. "You're right. Look, I don't expect - "
"Good, because I need to assimilate what you've said, but if all these things have happened to your body . . . "
"I know. If I were my doctor I would probably advise me to terminate the pregnancy because there is no way of knowing what all of this has done to the ba-fetus. What I didn't mention," Lucy's eyes widened and she waited. "I found my biological daughter a few years ago. I did not give birth to her, but I was her mother. She was terminally ill and passed away shortly after I found her. This child . . ."
"Was Mulder her father too?"
Scully blinked, "No."
"Maybe that's a good thing."
After a long moment Scully whispered, "thank you." It was very nearly inaudible but Lucy nodded.
"Well, I understand the men's concern. Since you are a doctor, I'm going to count on you to look after yourself, blood pressure, weight gain, and though a degree in library science doesn't exactly make me qualified to second guess you, I expect you to be honest with me about your condition. I'm old enough to be your mother and I've had two children and two grandchildren. That makes me the ranking expert for now. Okay?"
Startled Scully nodded. "Yes, I, I'll need your help."
"Good. Now let's finish dinner."
"I'm going into town with Frohike," Lucy said to Scully, smiling at Emma who was never far from the younger woman.
"There's something left?" Scully smiled up at her.
"Maybe a few things. We shouldn't be long. Don't be traipsing around outside gathering wood."
"Lucy, I can - "
"Yes you can, but not alone and not with just Emma. You had another dizzy spell this morning." Scully looked down abashed. "You were going to tell me, remember?"
"It wasn't that bad."
"Probably not and it's better than nausea, but you should take it easy. In your second trimester we'll send you out bear hunting." Scully chuckled at that.
Lucy headed for the door after winking at Emma. Frohike met her at the door and they each grabbed a cart to return to the store. Once there she waved him to go on back to the survival store he loved and she returned to the grocery store. She headed for the school supplies section which they had left almost completely alone earlier.
Before she reached it she heard the footsteps, then "Stop!" She obeyed immediately, raising her hands slightly to show she wasn't a danger. Very slowly she turned toward the sound.
A young man, almost still a boy, stood there. He had a mop handle in his hand, holding it like a weapon.
"My name is Lucy. I haven't seen you here before." He looked confused at that. "I'm not going to hurt you. I bet you're hungry. Are you alone?" He stiffened then. "I only ask because if you have someone with you, they're probably hungry too."
"There's no food here."
"No, not really. My friends and I took it back to our place."
"There are more of you?" he looked wary now.
"Yes, a few. We've been hoping more people would show up, because we need more people, a community, you know?"
"Jeremy?" Another voice, a girl this time, came from the next aisle. He glanced that way, then immediately back at Lucy and she saw his hands tighten on the mop handle, his conflict. "Is your friend okay?" He didn't respond and Lucy took a small step toward him.
"You don't have to be worried about me. I wandered in here a couple of weeks ago and they took me in. This is a nice place and we're not going to hurt you."
"Her name's Cassie," he sounded defiant. "She had a wreck and hurt her leg. We came in here to find something to eat and some first aid."
"May I see her?" She stayed back, not wanted to rush this boy or frighten him. "Cassie?"
"We need help, Jeremy," the young, scared voice responded. He seemed to wilt slightly, but stepped back. He didn't release the broom but Lucy ignored it and rounded the corner into the next aisle. A young teenage girl was sitting on the floor. Her jeans were torn and bloody.
Lucy grimaced. "That looks painful." Cassie looked up at her but didn't speak. "We need to get you back to the house."
Before she could say anything else, Frohike came into view, his gun trained on Jeremy. The boy's eyes widened and his look of betrayal caused Lucy to glare at Frohike.
"Melvin, put that away. Our new friends here need help." Frohike just stared at her for long moment. "Did you hear me?" Her voice carried all the authority of a head librarian and he lowered the gun. "Now, help be figure out a way to get her back to the house. She obviously can't walk that far." Jeremy looked back and forth between the two, confused.
"Well, uh, there are some of those carts that hold a couple of kids. It wouldn't be comfortable, but we could move her that way." Lucy nodded. "That could work, if you two could push her."
"Go get the cart," Frohike said to Jeremy.
"The cart, the one with the green toddler seats and bring it back here."
"You can't order me -"
"Please go get the cart with the green toddler seats, then help me get your friend into it. Okay?" Frohike barked at him.
The boy blinked at him, then headed toward the front of the store. He was back quickly with the cart. Frohike handed the gun to Lucy. "I don't want that."
"I don't care," Frohike responded immediately. "It's standard procedure. We don't know these people, we have to take precautions." Lucy rolled her eyes, but carefully accepted the gun. Frohike motioned Jeremy over to him and together they lifted Cassie into the right-hand seat. Frohike gently turned her so that her damaged leg was supported and her feet were in the left-hand seat.
"Where are you taking her, us?"
"We live not far from here," Lucy explained. "Do you mind if I put a few things in the cart?"
"Sure, go ahead," Frohike motioned for her to hurry. She returned shortly with a bag of children's books, toys, crayons. Frohike spotted a jump rope. "What the hell?"
"We just got some new people in and one of them was a three-year-old girl. She's lost her mother, her home and everything she loved except her father." Frohike looked abashed but kept quiet until she started off again. "Wait, what - "
"Just a minute." Lucy returned quickly with the largest package of newborn size diapers and a bag stuffed with of all kinds of baby paraphernalia. At the look on Frohike's face she dropped the things in the cart. "I know she may not need these things."
"She talked to you." Lucy nodded. "With him gone, if she loses it, it'll kill her." Jeremy and Cassie looked totally confused at that. "So we look after her to the best of our abilities. She needs to see these things so she'll know we believe everything will be all right."
Frohike finally nodded. "Let's get going. Jeremy, you're going to help me push the cart. Lucy, you're going to walk behind us and keep hold of that gun. We won't need it, it's just a precaution, remember?"
"Get a move on guys. I know you're hungry." Lucy moved ahead of them when they reached the lodge. "Chuck? John?" she called and they both came running as well as Langly. Scully was right behind them. "Picked up two more strays. The girl, Cassie, is injured. We need help getting her inside."
They all exchanged glances then the men moved outside to help. Lucy stopped Scully as she headed for the door. "Where did you put all of that first aid stuff?"
"Oh, in the empty room, I'll - "
"I'll get it. I think she'll need stitches. Can you do that?"
Scully grimaced. "Yes, I've had too much practice with that." The men entered then, Chuck had Cassie in his arms, Jeremy, looking overwhelmed and angry followed. The other men were behind him. Scully approached Jeremy first and felt Byers, Frohike and Langly stiffen. "Hi, I'm Dana Scully. I'm so glad to see more people. What happened to your friend?" Taken aback at her welcome,
Jeremy hesitated. "Jeremy, we need help. Please," Cassie spoke from the wooden chair where Chuck had settled her. "We, uh, she hit a rock and . . . "
Scully nodded and turned to the girl, "Hi. May I look at it?"
"Are you a doctor?"
"Yes," Scully said simply and looked up as Lucy returned with the supplies in her arms. "We need a medical kit, something easier to transport."
"Good, another project," Lucy grinned at her and handed her a pair of scissors. "I hate to finish ruining your jeans, but they're pretty much beyond repair already. This won't hurt as much as trying to take them off, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," Cassie watched the little red headed woman bend over her.
"Why don't we put her on the table? It'll be easier for you to reach her," Byers said quickly. Scully shot him a look but didn't protest when they moved her higher. It was going to be a long pregnancy with this many nursemaids riding her. Once Cassie's leg was stitched and bandaged, Frohike handed the girl a cup of soup. Jeremy had taken a seat at the table near Cassie's head and talk softly to her during the procedure. He accepted a cup after she began eating.
Mulder heard the movement and motioned for Skinner to cover him. Skinner nodded silently and took up a position beside and slightly behind him.
Suddenly a little boy ran out of the room across the hall from them and directly to Mulder.
"Harry, no!" A woman darted after him. "Don't hurt him, don't hurt us." She grabbed the boy as he reached for Mulder.
Mulder's gun was in the air. "Who else is with you?" he demanded, shaken by the sudden appearance of the child and the fact that he had actually aimed his weapon at him.
"No one, no one for ages," he heard the tears in her voice.
"Okay, okay, we're not going to hurt you. We're traveling home and stopped here for the night."
"Yes, we have two other companions. We're not going to hurt you. I'm Mulder, the bald guy behind me is Skinner. We have Hal and Patti with us as well. Are they in danger?"
"Uh, no, not from me. I'm Carolyn, Harry and I have been alone since, since everyone disappeared."
"When was that?"
"A, a long time. Since before winter."
"It's just been the two of you, all this time?" She nodded, tears in her eyes. "If you're going to kill us - "
"We're not. You need to believe us; we don't want to hurt you. We just stopped to get supplies. We're on our way to Washington, DC. Would, uh, would you join us for dinner?"
She blinked at that still trying to hold Harry back. The boy seemed very anxious to see these new people. Hesitantly she followed the men, who made no effort to get too close, toward Liberty Road.
They turned right and she spotted the horses and wagon in front of the feed store over a block down. She slowed down even further then and Mulder looked back. "Hal and Patti are feeding the horses. No one's going to bother you."
She nodded slightly and continued to follow them down the street at what she considered a safe distance. She seemed to relax a little when she saw Patti. Introductions were made.
Harry was wild about the horses, so Patti allowed him to ride to the shelter they had chosen for them that night. Finding a supply of grain was a real bonus and Hal was lobbying to stay for a couple of days. Mulder kept quiet with difficulty. Of course he wanted to move on, they hadn't made nearly the progress he had hoped, but then he was used to the life of traveling 70+ mph down a highway. A supersonic jet wouldn't get him home as fast as he wanted. They couldn't push the horses and of course the wagon slowed them down, but kept them alive with the supplies it carried. They all needed a rest, not just the horses. Maybe a couple of days . . . Scully, I am coming.
Carolyn pointed out a house near the feed store that had been turned into apartments. Once they were settled, they all met in the living room of the apartment Mulder and Skinner had chosen. "So we're agreed we need to stay here a couple of days, let the horses rest."
"Yeah," Mulder spoke first. "I don't want to, but it makes sense."
"What about Carolyn and Harry?" Patti asked that.
"We'll invite them to join us. We won't force her, but I'd think a single woman with a child needs help. It's extraordinary that she was able to keep them both alive all winter."
"Do you believe she's really alone here?" Hal asked. "Can't be sure, but she wasn't faking that she was grateful to see us. Scared at first, but still pleased to see anyone. There may have been someone else at the beginning, but I think she's been alone for awhile."
Skinner nodded. Mulder was the profiler, whether or not he claimed the title anymore. He'd go with what the man noticed. "In any case, lock and barricade your doors tonight. It never hurts to be careful."
Carolyn and Harry came over the next morning and had breakfast with them. "Did you sleep okay?"
"Fine. This is a nice place." She nodded. "I used to work here, help out when Mrs. Brooks was down in her back. My place is just a block over. It's smaller, easier to heat."
"How have you managed that this winter?"
"Not well," she admitted. "I had some wood put up, but of course not enough. I used the neighbors' supplies. That got farther and farther away. I wore out Harry's wagon in just a few weeks. The wheelbarrow worked better, but it took a lot of trips. I guess I didn't believe that no one was going to come back."
"What did you see when it . . .?"
She shook her head. "Nothing. For the longest time I tried to believe it was all a dream, well, nightmare. Harry and I were in the basement getting some green beans for a church dinner and waiting for Steve, my boyfriend. There was a shaking," she shuddered at the memory. "I thought it was an earthquake, though I've never felt one before. We hid under the stairs until it stopped. When we came up . . . we didn't realize everyone was gone. Harry and I live alone since my husband left. Then I realized the power was off. I tried to call around, but the phones were out too. I headed next door, but no one was home. That wasn't that unusual, but then I saw some cars just abandoned in the middle of the road." She took a ragged breath then and just watched her son now sitting next to Hal. "That's when I got scared. I guess I've been scared ever since."
"Not scared enough to give up. You kept you and your son alive all by yourself. That's an incredible feat and you should be proud of it," Mulder said gently. Carolyn blushed and wouldn't meet his eyes but seemed pleased at his praise. Skinner nodded to himself. He'd seen Mulder work before. It was why his interrogations with women went so well. "We'll be leaving in a couple of days," Mulder continued. "We have to get to Washington. We're not forcing you, but you need to know you and Harry would be welcome to come with us."
"L-leave?" Mulder nodded. "I know this is your home, but you need to think about what another winter here would mean."
"Where did they all go? Was it, was it the rapture?"
Mulder blinked, "Uh, no."
"So what was it?"
Mulder looked over at Skinner, who shrugged. "Alien colonization."
Carolyn stared at him for a long moment in complete silence. "I think I'll stick with the rapture."
Mulder chuckled. "Okay, no problem. In either case, you can't count on them coming back soon."
"It might happen."
"It might," he agreed. "And then you can come home."
Her eyes filled with tears, but she nodded. If they were going to leave, she had to go. She and Harry couldn't make it alone any more. "What would I pack?"
"Clothes. We've got the rest," Mulder assured her.
"I don't know how to ride a horse."
"You can share the wagon with Hal. Harry can ride with you or one of us to keep him busy."
"Ride a horse!" Harry joined in the conversation then and broke the tension as the others chuckled.
Carolyn and Patti went off to her home to gather clothes for her and Harry along with 'essential' items, like the stuffed Ninja Turtle that Harry could not sleep without. "It will be okay," Patti tried to assure Carolyn as they headed toward her house. She saw Carolyn check back again. "And don't worry about Harry. They'll keep an eye on him."
Carolyn looked back one more time. The boy hadn't been away from her while he was awake for months, but he'd so desperately wanted to stay with his new friends. "You've been with them a long time?"
"Almost since the beginning. Mulder and Skinner found me about a week after . . . well, after. We'd been traveling a couple of weeks when we ran into Hal. He invited us to stay for the winter at his ranch; he taught us about the horses."
"Hal owned a ranch?"
"No, he wasn't the owner, but he'd been there a long time."
"You trust them?"
"Three men and you're, what - "
"I'm 17, not legal, but it's not like that." Carolyn just looked at her. "Mulder's woman is in Washington, Skinner is a widower and Hal is a life-long bachelor."
"Uh, yeah," Patti suddenly didn't like the expression on Carolyn's face. "She's the reason we're all heading that way. He can't wait to see her."
"He thinks she's still . . . here?"
"He's sure of it." Patti watched her absorb that and felt a sense of unease, then moved on. "Come on, we need to get your stuff together." Carolyn nodded and let Patti in her house.
They started in Harry's room, but instead of pulling out clothes, Carolyn turned to Patti. "Why do you call Mulder and Skinner by their last names?"
"Oh, because they do. Walter is Skinner's first name, Mulder's is Fox."
"Fox?" Carolyn stopped and over at her. "For real?"
"Well it fits," Carolyn said so low Patti almost didn't hear it. Patti turned away and opened a drawer but she realized she was annoyed at the comment. Mulder was Scully's. Yeah, she'd realized how good looking a man he was but he was taken. She took a deep breath and began pulling underwear from the drawer. "Do you have any bags we could put Harry's clothes in?"
"I have a couple of suitcases," Carolyn offered. "We need to use the lightest possible transport. Garbage bags would be better."
"Okay, I'll go look." Patti continued to unload drawers on the boy's bed looking for the least worn and largest looking clothes. They'd have to look for more things for him along the way; these had been hard worn and looked like they might already be too small. Carolyn returned finally after Patti had emptied the dresser and gone through the things.
Patti found her annoyance growing but she kept quiet. She didn't know this woman, maybe she was just coping like Mulder was. Patti packed the best of the clothes while Carolyn headed to her bedroom. Patti put the Ninja Turtle on top, then picked up a couple of other obviously well loved toys and stuffed them down in the bag. Carolyn's room took longer; she had more clothes. Patti left her to it while Patti went through the living room, taking family pictures down and removing them from the frames. They left at first light. Harry rode in front of Patti for now. Carolyn was beside Hal in the wagon and obviously nervous. Patti was annoyed again, the woman had kept her son and herself alive all winter, now she had trouble getting up onto the wagon seat. Mulder had given her a hand, much to Patti's disgust. Now Patti could hear Hal talking to her, introducing her to the horses, making her familiar with the wagon. They stopped for lunch and to stretch their legs. Harry was ecstatic, telling his mom about his ride. Carolyn listened with a smile on her face and shared her quiet amusement with Mulder.
The next morning dawned frosty. Scully was looking out the front window when Lucy joined her. Scully turned to look up at her. "It's already so cold in the mornings."
"I know. This should be burned off by late morning. I think Frohike and I need to go back to town, and take Jeremy with us."
"Jeremy? Are you sure?"
"He needs to know he's needed. We kind of took over the care of Cassie yesterday, right out from under him. He'd been looking after her and I know he was resentful as well as grateful. He's young and strong. If he brings back two carts . . . And Chuck got the log splitter in the barn working, so the others can work out there."
"Good point. And you're right about keeping Cassie and himself safe until we found them. Did you get their story?"
"No, they were too tired and hungry last night. I'll see if I can get him talking today."
"I fell asleep last night," Scully looked abashed, "where did everyone sleep?"
"Chuck and Emma moved upstairs because of Cassie's leg. Cassie and Jeremy took the room closest to the kitchen. We're full up on the first floor now."
"I hope we fill up the upstairs soon. We're an awfully small group of survivors."
Lucy's face grew somber then. "There's not enough of us. Putting in a crop that would feed us all . . . No, I'm not going to think like that. In less than a week your little group has more than doubled in size. We'll see what happens."
Scully smiled, "I saw the things you brought back for Emma last night. I'm glad you thought about that. If there are any notebooks there, I could use one. Without a printer, I need to keep paper medical records of the people here, even if I do use one of Frohike's laptops."
"That's a good idea. You know, we ought to make a history as well. Have everyone write up their biography. You know, where they were born, parents, siblings. Mine might be thicker than some of the others that live here, but it doesn't have to be in chronologic order, just stories."
"That's a wonderful idea. Memories will bring up other memories; give us a link to our past. I could go with you."
"Yes, you could, but Emma would want to go. That would slow us down and Cassie has got to be fairly traumatized. I'm better with boys, since I raised two."
Scully's eyebrow raised but the excuse was plausible. "Okay, this time, but - "
"I know, you're not helpless or sick," Lucy grinned. "Neither was I but why not take advantage? There's more than enough work for everyone."
"What are you looking for today?"
"There a small bookstore and coffee shop. I want to raid it and I know Frohike's not finished with his favorite store. There's also a diner. They should have the big cans of beans, ketchup, maybe vegetables too. With a larger crowd we could use them."
"Then I hope we need them and soon."
The three of them headed for town as soon as they had eaten. The day was warming up nicely, at least when they were in the sun. Frohike left them at the intersection to return to the survival store. He was intent on cleaning it out entirely. Lucy led Jeremy to the bookstore.
At her instructions, Jeremy began loading his cart with one copy each of the classics. She moved to the coffee shop and loaded those supplies into her cart. At least the tea would last for awhile.
Lucy joined Jeremy once she had cleared out that area. Her cart was nearly full but she began filling in the empty spaces with books. "Yesterday was a little wild, Jeremy. I didn't even ask where you and Cassie were from."
"Uh, Woburn, north of Boston."
"Boston?" she sounded stunned. "You came that far?"
"Well, I'm very glad you made it. Did you see what happened?"
He shook his head.
"Where were you?"
"Uh, school," he looked up and realized she was going to continue asking, so he sighed. "We had cut class. We were down in the boiler room. There's a couch . . . "
"You two were together before?"
"Cassie and I have been together for a long time."
"That's good for her."
"You knew each other, you could depend on each other when this terrible thing happened. You were able to get here because of that. It's obvious you took good care of her." She saw his flush of pleasure this time, she thought. "Go on, what happened?"
"Well, you can hear the bell in the boiler room, but she realized that we must have missed it. Neither of us had a watch, but we . . . we - "
The boy blushed, but she just motioned for him to go on. "Yeah - "
"So what did you see?" Scully asked as Cassie blushed.
"We hurried upstairs. There was no one in the halls, so we knew we were really late. We separated at the corner and I hurried on to my class. I glanced in the window of the door and the room was empty. I looked next door and it was empty too. Then Jeremy came racing back around the corner.
"I knew he'd seen the same thing. I asked if it could be a fire alarm or a bomb threat, and of course he didn't know, so we looked outside. There was no one in the parking lot, or the football field. Jeremy couldn't get the car to start, so we started walking. He took me home and we didn't see anyone. Our cell phones wouldn't even give us static. It was really creepy."
"By the time we got to my house we were starving. The power was off and the stuff in the refrigerator was going to go bad anyway, so we ate up everything in the refrigerator that didn't have to be cooked. After we waited a while Jeremy told me to go pack some things and we'd go over to his house and see if anyone was there. I packed some clothes and we headed over. It's not that far. There was still no one, but we were really freaked and I didn't want to be outside any more.
"We spent the night at his place. He kept me safe, in his arms, in his bed. The next morning nothing had changed. He convinced me we had to check and I couldn't let him go alone, so he packed some clothes too and we took some bikes from his neighbor. He was a serious biker and had all kinds of equipment. I guess we stole it but . . . Anyway, we started riding."
"How far have you come?"
"We were north of Boston."
Scully blinked at that. "Boston?"
"I don't know that we planned to come here. I mean, I've never heard of this place. We were just headed south."
They were quiet for moment, then Cassie asked Scully, "What about you? Are you pregnant?"
Scully froze. "What?"
"Well, Emily keeps talking about the new baby - "
"Emma, her name is Emma."
"Sorry. She's not yours, is she?"
"No, she's Chuck's daughter. They arrived just a couple of days before you did."
"Is the father here?"
After a long minute Scully shook her head. "No, Mulder's not . . . "
"Mulder. Did he vanish?"
"No. No, he was on a case - "
"A case? He's a policeman?"
"FBI agent. He's my, my partner."
"Partner? You're an FBI agent? I thought you were a doctor?"
"Oh. I guess that explains why you're the leader here."
"The leader? I'm not - "
"Yeah, everyone looks at you when there's a decision to be made."
"I can't . . . there's so much I don't know."
"Well, doesn't that make you a good leader? I mean most of the bad leaders I know think they know everything."
Scully chuckled, surprised. "Well, I don't know about that, but I think we're really going to need each other to get through this. We have enough food to last probably more than a year, if we don't mind a little boredom, but first we have to get through this winter. We need to concentrate on warmth and shelter."
"What do we need to do?"
"Get in enough wood to keep the stove going. We're lucky to have that kind of stove. A fireplace would suck the heat out the chimney. This way we can cook and heat at the same time. We'll have to leave the bedroom doors open during the day, so heat can get into them. At night we'll have to warm the sheets with, with bricks wrapped in flannel."
Scully nodded. "My grandmother did that, I remember when I was a little girl she did that when I visited. I slept in an upstairs bedroom and it was cold, but the bed was always warm."
"Cool," Cassie grinned.
Scully with Emma and Cassie's help had a pot of homemade soup ready when people began returning for dinner. The men came from the barn, stamping their boots and rubbing their hands.
Emma stopped them at the back door to remove their boots, then led them to the stove where hot water was ready for them to wash up. "You're looking after me so good," Chuck said picking up the little girl and giving her a hug. "What did you do all day?"
"We cooked and we put things away and we did lessons and - "
Emma nodded quickly. "Cassie was teaching me to read. And sometime you only have to look at the picture and you know what it says, like green beans."
Chuck smiled broadly at Cassie who was listening by the kitchen door. "Thank you."
"It was fun. She's really smart. She already knows her alphabet. We had a good time."
Emma, who had moved to the window, got their attention. "They're coming. Lucy and 'Hickey and Jeremy. And it's snowing!"
"What?" Scully hurried out of the kitchen at those words. "It can't be." But as she joined the others she saw it was true.
Chuck and Langly were already hurrying to put their boots back on. Byers hadn't finished removing his, so he was already headed down the driveway. They took the cart from Lucy and the one that Jeremy was pulling leaving him only the one to push. Langly took Frohike's second cart and they hurried inside. Scully was ladling up hot soup as they took seats in front of the stove. Cassie grabbed the afghans off of the couches around the room and laid them over their shoulders then took a seat beside Jeremy, sharing her body heat as well.
"Get the carts under cover if you can. We covered them with the tablecloths from the diner, but it's paper and books," Lucy looked up from her cup of soup.
"We'll bring them inside, you warm up," Chuck said, heading for the loading dock at the back of the kitchen.
After the flurry of activity had died down and everyone was seated near the stove, Scully asked, "When did it start snowing? I didn't notice it when you came in from the barn."
"It wasn't snowing then, not here anyway. The wind had picked up, but nothing was falling."
"About half way here," Frohike stretched his hands toward the stove. We'd put the tablecloths on because of the wind and we thought we might be able to use them for other things since they were vinyl. It was a good call, Lucy."
She smiled tiredly. "I'm just glad we went today. We might be stuck inside for awhile, and now we've got something to keep us occupied."
"What did you find?"
"Books, lots of books. And I didn't get only classics," she grinned at Jeremy. "There's lots of things to read and we found puzzles and games as well. It's gonna be okay."
The next morning showed that they had at least a five inch accumulation, but the men headed back outside to continue splitting the wood and stacking it in the barn to dry.
It didn't stop there and Scully worried about the effects of cabin fever on a group of virtual strangers. The one time she had ventured out she realized that Chuck was on one side of her, Jeremy on the other and Byers and Frohike right behind. Her snarl hadn't fazed them, so shaking her head she had returned to the house and reconciled herself to being overprotected.
Now that she was showing, Langly frankly avoided her as much as possible. She had seen the look of panic on his face when he had realized that it wasn't an abundance of clothes that made her look heavy. Byers was obviously nervous as well, but Frohike seemed more excited as he watched her grow. Chuck had been through it with Emma's birth and Jeremy was more or less ignoring the whole thing.
Lucy monitored her well, learning how to take blood pressure measurements and recording weight gain. Mainly though she forced Scully into talking about the pregnancy. "I need to know who you want to coach you through labor," Lucy tossed over her shoulder at Scully as she poured the hot water into the sink to wash dishes.
"Uh, I thought you would," Scully stopped and looked up, her hand unconsciously caressing the baby bump.
"I assumed I'd be delivering. We're going to someone at 'both ends'," she said dryly.
Scully grinned then. "I suppose that's true. Well, Chuck has some experience with Emma's birth."
"Yes, but are you comfortable with him? You haven't known him very long and this is a really intimate time."
Scully took a breath, no longer a deep one, that was impossible now, "You think Byers?"
"Actually I was thinking Frohike."
"Frohike?" Scully sat up straighter. "I . . . why?"
"Well, he's the only one with experience delivering a baby."
"Frohike has delivered a baby?" Scully's tone said it all.
Lucy nodded calmly. "Yes, when he was Viet Nam. I don't think it was his idea, more of a wrong place at the wrong time thing, but . . ."
"He, he's never said anything."
"I don't think he talks about Viet Nam very much."
"But he did with you?"
With a slight smile, Lucy nodded. "We remember it rather than reading about it. That makes a difference sometimes."
"I'm, I have to think about it."
"Okay, but you don't have that much longer."
They fell into a routine, checking out the small towns they came to, avoiding larger towns and cities. On occasion, now that they had the wagon, they had to stop and move cars out of the way. They found no one else, though they did find evidence of others traveling ahead of them on a couple of occasions. No one seemed to be heading west, which struck Mulder as strange, but he made no comment. They took advantage of sleeping in abandoned houses whenever possible.
Patti noticed Carolyn's increased interest in Mulder as they traveled and found herself feeling more and more territorial. Mulder had treated her like an adult from the beginning; he'd talked to her about Scully. Okay, she hadn't met Scully, but Mulder was Scully's and this woman was just trying to latch onto the alpha male.
All three men seemed oblivious to what was happening, which didn't really surprise Patti. Hadn't her father married some bimbo to 'save' her?
They had stopped early in yet another small town and Mulder held his tongue. They hadn't made the time he wanted today. Hell, they never did, but the need to get home seemed to be growing lately. His nightmares were increasing and he was again sleeping apart from the others so they could get at least some rest at night.
Carolyn brought his dinner over when he came in from the garage after wiping down the horses.
"You work too hard. Someone should have helped you," Carolyn said, taking a seat beside him.
"I don't mind. It gives me time to think."
"You think too much. You need to relax occasionally."
He gave her a quick grin. "Wish I could."
"We'll get there."
He nodded, "But I want to be there now. Have you eaten?"
"Go get some for yourself," he smiled and took a seat at the table. She took that as an invitation and returned to sit across from him. "Where's Harry?"
"With Hal. He's his new best friend. They talk about horses and being a cowboy," she glanced back toward the living room of the house they were using that night.
"I guess that would be a kid's dream," Mulder agreed, taking a spoonful of the stew, some sort of fish this time, probably tuna.
"Do you have any children?"
"Me? No, no I don't think anyone would want kids with me." He gave her a rueful grin.
"This Scully doesn't want children with you?"
He blinked and then forced himself not to snap at her, "It's time to turn in. Morning will come early." He rose, taking his plate and reached for hers. He turned away and she missed the pain her comment had made on his face.
Mulder woke to the feel of a small feminine hand on his chest. "Scully?"
"If you want to call me that, it's okay," the woman whispered to him.
He jerked back startled. "Carolyn? What are you . . . "
"I was lonely; I know you must be too."
"No, uh, Carolyn, no. I, I'm . . . flattered, but no."
"No one needs to know, Mulder. We could just give each other - "
"No. Thank you, but no. I, I'm taken. You know that."
"It's okay, Mulder. You haven't seen her in months. You won't see her for months if she's even - " she stopped as Mulder's eyes hardened and she began to realize what a big mistake she had made.
"I, I'm sorry. I thought - "
"You were wrong. Look, no one knows about this. Let's keep it that way."
She nodded and hastily moved away from him. "I, I - " she shook her head then and all but scampered from the room. There was no one to see Patti close her eyes the rest of the way and smile silently when Carolyn returned to their room.
Mulder rolled over and eventually drifted into a restless sleep.
Carolyn was quiet the next morning, but no one seemed to notice except Patti. When the men were loading the wagon and they were alone, Patti took the opportunity to speak to Carolyn. "I told you he was married."
Carolyn's face darkened and her eyes narrowed. "You don't - "
"Yeah, I do, but I'll keep quiet. You keep away from Mulder. Don't try that again." Patti moved away to help load the wagon and Carolyn just glared after her.
Scully turned the calendar - March, finally. The last of the snow was making a mess of the yard, but the mud was kind of nice to see. There might be some more winter weather, but the air smelled like spring had finally broken the back of the really cold weather. The seedlings that Lucy had been nurturing would be ready to go into the gardens soon.
The wind had kicked up - in like a lion. She missed weather bulletins and radar, but they'd managed so far. She'd been unprepared for the amount of snow this winter had brought, but she hadn't lived in the foothills of Virginia before and Washington snow was usually shoved out of the way before she'd even had a chance to appreciate it. The naval bases she'd lived on didn't lend themselves to much snow.
Her 'guards' hadn't allowed her outside much, but she did understand where their concern came from. A fall could have been extremely dangerous and since she still considered this pregnancy high risk even as far along as she was now, there had been no reason to chance it.
She took a sip of her tea and saw Emma run to the window and look out.
"No more snow for you, Miss Emma. It's finally going to get warm again."
Emma turned to smile at her, "I know, the others are coming."
"Others? What others?" She slowly made her way over to her. She looked out the window but didn't see anything. "Are other people headed this way?"
Emma nodded. "They're almost here."
Scully just looked at the little girl for a long moment. Chuck saw them and joined them at the window. "What's going on?"
"Emma says there're some people on the way here to join us."
"For real? Emma, look at me."
She looked up at him and smiled.
"When, when will they get here?"
"Today, they're tired and dirty and hungry."
She hesitated then. "Three I think."
He picked his daughter up and gave her a hug. "Why don't you go tell Cassie?" She nodded and scrambled down. Chuck turned to Scully. "I don't know what to say. She never did anything like this until that day. Somehow she knew that I shouldn't go upstairs, she led me here, she knew you were having a baby. I don't know what's going on but I'd be willing to bet someone is on the way."
Scully looked into his eyes and after a moment, nodded. "Do you think we're in danger from them?"
After a moment he shrugged. "I think it would be prudent to go meet them before they get here. Frohike, Jeremy and me."
"Why that combination?"
"We don't look that threatening, and Frohike's a good shot, if we need that."
Still she hesitated. "We, we should talk this over."
"Okay, I'll get everyone. Why don't you sit down?" He took her arm and with a slight shake of her head, she took his advice. Just a few more weeks . . .
They watched from the side of the road, in the trees. Emma had been right, three people, a man, a boy and a girl. The girl was riding piggyback on the boy, both obviously exhausted.
Frohike looked at the others and at his signal they stepped out onto the road. The three travelers stopped immediately. The man lifted his stick into a defensive position, the girl slid off the boy's back and stood behind them.
"Hello!" Frohike called to them. "Good to see you. What're your names?"
The older man took a step closer and the girl whimpered. "I'm Wally, Wallace Gibson. These are my children, Randy and Rebecca."
Frohike and Chuck raised their hands in welcome, Jeremy nodded. "I'm Melvin, this is Chuck and Jeremy. Where did you come from?"
"Why did you come here?"
Wally seemed surprised at the question and looked back at Rebecca. "We, I don't know."
Chuck grinned then, that had been his answer. He stepped forward, "Why don't we get you inside and fed. You can meet the people that are already here."
"Who, who's in charge? Is it one of you?"
"No, but we'll introduce you," Frohike assured him.
"Do you think he'll see me, let me ask for my kids to stay?"
"Yes, come on." He turned, allowing his back to be vulnerable to them. Jeremy was tense, but Wally actually sighed with relief.
"Come on kids." He started walking behind Frohike. Jeremy took up a position behind them and Randy sent him a suspicious look but followed his father, pulling Rebecca along with him.
Chuck walked beside Randy, not getting too close. He pulled some granola bars from his pocket and handed three of them to Randy. "Think these could tide you over?"
Randy looked at them a long time and realized they were still sealed. Finally he accepted them with a nod of thanks. He opened one and handed it to Rebecca, then tossed one to his father who had turned to look. He opened his last, but once he took a bite, he devoured it in three bites. Chuck kept quiet. The boy had every right to be wary of them.
Chuck looked over at Rebecca. She avoided his gaze, eating her granola bar quickly as well. "I have a daughter; her name is Emma. She just turned four and I know she'll be happy to see you. I think she's gotten tired of being around only grown ups."
Rebecca's eyes darted toward him and quickly away. She kept quiet. Randy watched them both.
Byers opened the door for them and they stepped inside, awed at the accommodations as well as the crowd. Wally stopped and faced Byers, straightening his posture. "I'm Wallace Gibson. These are my children, Randy and Rebecca. I'd appreciate a word with you."
"You actually need to speak with Scully, she's our leader."
Scully closed her eyes, leader? She couldn't wait to see the expression on this man's face when he saw her. She was as big around as she was tall right now, not exactly leader- looking. She drew a deep breath and turned to look at Wally. The others had parted to let him see her but were obviously standing guard around her.
"Mr. Gibson," she extended her hand and after looking at the people surrounding her, he nodded and stepped forward to shake it. "My friends tell me you're from Georgia. What did you do there?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw Byers draw a chair up for her, leaving their guests standing.
"Uh, I was a long haul trucker and part time mechanic. Both jobs seem to be gone now."
"Yes, I suppose they are," Scully smiled at him. "We can talk more later; why don't you wash up. We have water heating now, then you can eat and bring us up to date on what you saw on your trip here. We can discuss arrangements later."
"I, thank you."
Everyone seemed to give a sigh of relief and Emma broke from Cassie's grip then to run up to Rebecca. "I'm glad you're finally here."
Lucy approached Scully with a cup of hot tea. "You're up early. Couldn't sleep?"
Scully gave her wan smile. "Oh I can get to sleep, I think I nap about 23 hours a day, but I can't stay asleep."
"I remember. You're dreaming aren't you?" she asked quietly, taking a seat beside her.
Scully looked down into the tea but nodded.
"That's normal you know; especially now."
"I know, it's just . . . "
"What about him?"
"He's all I dream about, every night. I know he's trying to get home, I can feel that even awake, but . . . "
"What was the dream?"
Scully looked away, toward the lightening window. Dawn was coming quickly. "There was a woman."
"She, she was lying beside him, her hand on his chest, whispering to him."
"I haven't met Mulder; do you have any reason to be insecure?"
Lucy was watching her, she knew the tears in her eyes were visible, but the question startled her. Insecure? She'd given Mulder some grief about Bambi years ago, but mostly in a teasing way. Detective White had bothered her but she still wasn't sure what had been going on during that investigation. Diana . . . that was a different category entirely and one that had been 'put to bed' as it were a long time ago. But no, she had no reason to be insecure about her place in his life. She was being ridiculous, upset about a hormonal dream. She faced Lucy, wiping her eyes and smiled. "No, I have no reason to be insecure. Thank you."
"Reminding me of that."
She started to rise from the table but sank back into the chair, closing her eyes. She heard chairs scrapping and realized that Frohike was already behind her.
"Scully!" that was Byers voice.
Then she heard Lucy calmly at her side. "Dana? Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Just a little light headed."
"You didn't eat anything," Frohike said from behind her.
"Just not hungry."
He apparently opened his mouth to protest that, but Lucy stopped him. "That's okay; you may be in early labor."
Scully opened her eyes and saw the look of terror on Byers face and Langly was even paler. "Don't panic guys, there's a good chance the baby will have my nose."
Frohike chuckled behind her. "Well that would certainly help with delivery."
Byers gave a startled laugh and even Langly's lips seemed to twitch. The others looked slightly confused but stayed out of it. Emma moved then, coming to Scully's side.
"Is the baby going to come out?" Her hand caressed Scully stomach.
"I think so, Honey," Scully smiled at her.
"Good, I want to see him."
"Cassie," Lucy looked up at the young woman. "Why don't you make up Dana's bed like we talked about?"
Cassie nodded and left the table.
"Are you feeling better now?" Lucy asked Scully.
"Yes, I think so. I'm sorry to cause a scene."
"You haven't," Lucy assured her. "Come on. Let's get you to your room." She helped Scully to her feet. Frohike had a firm grip on her arm and Lucy lightly held the other one. Scully didn't protest, she'd obviously frightened everyone.
Cassie already had the bed stripped and was spreading a light tarp over the mattress. Lucy ignored that, leading Scully to the small sitting area of her room. Scully settled in her favorite chair and relaxed back into its comfort.
"You'd like to be alone for a little while, right?" Lucy looked down at Scully.
Frohike started to protest again, but Scully looked up at Lucy. "Yes, thank you."
"I understand. We'll be right out here when you want us. If you want to walk around, please ask one of us to be with you." Her glance at Frohike kept him silent and he followed her from the room. Cassie had already slipped out and Scully settled back in her chair. She picked up her book from the small side table but didn't open it.
The baby was coming and Mulder wasn't here. Her hand caressed her swollen belly and a slow tear rolled down her cheek. She let her head fall back against the back of the chair and gave into memories of Mulder.
It was harder to conjure the feel of his arms around her, his lips on hers. She needed him, especially now she needed him. There was nothing she could do. She brushed a tear away.
After a little while, she rose carefully and headed for the bathroom. The dizziness seemed to have passed, but she was startled by the gush of warm fluid and realized her water had broken. Well, there was no going back now.
"We need to find shelter," Hal yelled over the wind, "and fast." He pointed to the southeast.
Mulder and Skinner nodded; they couldn't have made themselves heard, but turned toward the town they could see in the near distance. The first large building they came to was a small county hospital. They headed for the ER entrance. Once the wagon was under the entrance used by the ambulances, Mulder and Skinner hurried to dismount and force the sliding doors open. Hal drove the wagon inside, scraping the sides a little as hail began beating down on the overhang.
Patti rode her horse on inside, pulling the two pack horses behind her. Mulder and Skinner followed with their horses and shoved the doors closed again.
"Move on down the hall, away from the glass. If there is a tornado, we need to be away from the windows and doors," Skinner ordered. The horses now moved ahead of the wagon into the maze of cubicles. Mulder caught the odor first and turned to Skinner who looked at him questioningly then caught the whiff himself. He shook his head slightly at Mulder, but they stopped their forward progress. "Everyone stay here. We're away from windows. We'll just wait it out here." Skinner said as Mulder dismounted.
"What stinks?" Harry demanded.
"I'll go check. You wait here with Hal and your mother," Mulder ordered. He looked over at Patti, who while younger, seemed to grow more mature than Carolyn each day. Patti nodded and moved closer to the wagon to keep Harry occupied.
It took little time to find them, bodies. For the first time since this whole thing had started they found bodies lying on the floor and in some of the beds. The people who couldn't get outside when the hum had called to them, already sick or injured, they had died here.
"This is why I wanted to avoid cities. Skyscrapers, slow elevators . . ." Mulder looked around and shook his head.
"Maybe they stayed longer over larger population areas," Skinner offered.
Mulder shrugged, "Probably, but there had to be hundreds of thousands of people who couldn't make it outside regardless."
Skinner shook his head. "We need to get back. There's nothing we can do here."
Mulder followed silently.
The other adults had realized what the odor was by the time Mulder and Skinner returned. Carolyn looked a little green but Hal and Patti were keeping Harry occupied. A huge whoosh of wind went over them, and they heard the entry doors rattle violently and glass break somewhere off to the left. The three men exchanged looks. Hal mouthed the word 'tornado' over Harry's head and Skinner nodded.
Their only option was to wait it out and hope the structure held.
Mulder moved over to help Patti who was trying to keep the horses calm. They were restless in the enclosed space and as aware of the weather as the humans were.
"Are we safe here?" Patti asked in a low voice.
"Sure hope so," Mulder replied and she glared at him before shaking her head. "Come on, let's break into the snack machines."
She had to chuckle. He was the most irritating . . .
They returned with their arms full of soda and snacks. Hal had lit a couple of lanterns to give them light. Harry was delighted with the Coke and slightly stale animal crackers they gave him. The storm had not abated, but at least he was distracted from the fury outside.
A distinct crash close by caused Mulder to start to rise. "It don't matter," Hal advised him. "Best to stay away from the windows."
Mulder nodded and resumed his seat, taking another swig of his Coke. They were inside, hopefully whoever had designed this hospital had taken their location in tornado alley into account.
Eventually Harry fell asleep and Carolyn curled up beside him. Mulder, as usual, took first watch. The others could get a little sleep at least before his nightmares woke them. When Skinner came to take over the wind had died down but the rain was lashing at the doors and Mulder wondered idly if the drive-up that had protected ambulances in the past still existed.
Mulder took one of the ER cubicles away from the others and tried to get comfortable. Exhaustion sent him to sleep quickly.
// She was in pain, horrible pain! Someone was torturing her! Frohike was there and others, people he didn't know. But they weren't helping her! Why weren't they taking care of her? She was moaning his name, breathing heavily, sweating with the effort. What were they doing to her? Scully! God, Scully, I'm sorry! //
He woke sweaty and shaking to find Skinner standing over him and Patti crouched beside him, smoothing back his hair.
"What was it, Mulder?" This one must have been worse than usual. Even Skinner looked shaken.
"She was screaming, crying out for me. Something's wrong. I need - "
"Mulder," Skinner said it with compassion but the meaning was clear. They weren't going to let him go off on his own, even to rush to her side. It wasn't safe for him or for this little party of survivors they had accumulated.
Patti kept quiet. It had been seven months since they had found and rescued her. His need to get to his Scully had not lessened and tonight's nightmare . . .
She stroked his shoulder but didn't say anything. There was nothing to say anyway. He looked up as she turned back to her bed. Her quiet support and occasional nudge to behave himself reminded him of Scully. He wanted them to meet. He was pretty sure they'd get along well if Scully was still . . .
"Try to sleep, Mulder."
Mulder gave Skinner a look of anguish. Skinner left him again after another look and returned to his watch.
Mulder rolled over on his side and went over the nightmare again. This one was more vivid than usual. She was being tortured, that had to be it. She was sweating, crying out for him, in pain. Frohike had been trying to help, but he had been useless.
Should he be relieved that she wasn't alone, that she was apparently still on the planet? Shit.
Things had progressed rapidly once her water broke. Rather than play the hero, she notified Lucy. "I guess I don't really want to be alone right now."
"We're going to do this your way, Dana. Whatever you want."
"You have an epidural hidden in your pocket?" Scully tried to smile.
"No, sorry. Just remember, only one or two generations of women have had that aid anyway. We're back to basics."
"Yippee," Scully muttered and Lucy chuckled.
"Do you want to walk around? Changing positions seemed to help me, and it really ticked off the nurses as I recall." Lucy smiled at some memory. "I was supposed to lie quietly and 'take it'. I think that's what my grandmother said about sex too as I recall," she said dryly.
Scully gave a startled laugh. This woman was going to keep her on her toes, that was for sure.
Cassie brought in the supplies that Lucy had stored for the occasion. Frohike had joined them and to Scully's relief had been the consummate gentleman, in every sense of the word. His arms supporting her as she walked felt strong and secure.
"You really delivered a baby?" she asked, wanting conversation.
He nodded. "Yep. Didn't plan it." He looked over at Lucy who nodded to encourage him to continue. "There was a little girl who sold us vegetables out where I was based in Nam. She came around almost every day and we gave her things, chocolate, teased with her. She learned some English and we kind of looked after her. One afternoon she came running into camp and spotted me first. She was frantic and had lost her English, but was pulling me out of camp to come with her.
"I went, probably a stupid thing to do, but I trusted her after all that time. She led me to the shack her family lived in and turned out her mother was in labor. It was too late to go back for real help and the girl was just a kid. Can't say I did that much, mostly just caught the kid as she pushed him out, but I was glad she wasn't alone. They had some string and some scissors, I had a flask," he grinned at Scully's eyebrow. "Anyway, I used that to sterilize what I could. It was a real experience, seeing that little boy born."
"What happened to them?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. When I went back to check on them, they were gone. Probably back to family, I hope anyway."
She nodded, but her attention was drawn back to her own situation then and she breathed through another contraction. There was little conversation after that, At her unspoken request, Lucy and Frohike helped her to the bed and arranged the pillows so that she could recline.
"I should check your progress, Dana," Lucy said softly, keeping stimulation to a minimum.
Scully closed her eyes, but nodded.
"This is going quick, Dana. I'm jealous."
Scully sighed and opened her eyes. "Really?"
"Really. I can't say how many centimeters, but I think you're almost there."
"I want to be 'after' there."
Lucy chuckled, "I don't blame you, but things have progressed rapidly. I'm wondering when your labor started."
Scully thought about that. "I might have been having contractions earlier, but they didn't hurt."
"The best kind. They obviously did you some - " she went quiet as Scully's breathing changed and she watched the younger woman's grip tighten on Frohike's hand. She counted to herself. The contraction lasted over 45 seconds and her breathing had turned to a moan. It really was almost over.
Scully sank back against the pillow and Frohike cooled her face with a damp cloth. "That was a good one."
"Says who?" she gasped.
Before he could retort her breathing had picked up for another contraction.
"Already?" he mouthed to Lucy, who nodded.
She seemed to lose control near the end and Lucy began crooning to her, giving her something to focus on.
"I can't, it's too fast," Scully closed her eyes again.
"Yes, you can. You can because it's almost over, Dana. Believe me on this. That's why they're closer and stronger. You know that."
Scully looked up but another contraction took her. "Mmmuld, you're supposed to be here!"
"He's trying, Scully," Frohike couldn't help his automatic defense of the man.
"No, uhhhh, here. Damn you, Mulder!"
Lucy nodded at her anger. "Dana, Dana listen to me. Breathe, try to stay on top of it. You're in transition."
"Tran . . . ahhhhh."
"That's right, transition." Lucy calmly folded Scully's nightgown back and propped her knees up, drapping a sheet over her. Scully was having more trouble getting her breath back, and Frohike cooled her face again.
"Dana, I want you to try a small push on the next contraction, okay?" At those words, Scully looked up at her, questioningly. "Just a little one."
She tried to nod and concentrate as another contraction assailed her. Lucy noted her foot slipped a little on the sheet. "That's good, I think it's time." She turned toward the door and barely raising her voice called, "Cassie."
Very quickly the door opened and Cassie joined them. She shut the door behind her and hurried to Lucy's side. "I need you to help Dana. I want you to hold her leg, here and let her use your hand as a stirrup, she needs something to push against. Melvin, you here."
Scully looked up at him with narrowed eyes. He smiled down at her and cupped her cheek. "My eyes are already closed, darlin', don't worry."
She huffed, but then was swept up with the next contraction, pushing harder this time, listening to Lucy count. In such a short amount of time that even Scully realized it, Lucy smiled up at her, "Just a couple more, I think. You're doing great."
The ring of fire had Scully thinking other things, but this she remembered from her training. The baby was crowning. "Come on, Dana. This is almost over, push."
Frohike took up the count for her and Scully pushed and again. On the third, "Dana, the head's out, just a second." Lucy suctioned the nose and mouth as Scully had instructed her. "Okay."
Scully felt the baby leave her body and the pain vanished. Oh, there was still pain but in comparison it didn't matter and then the baby wailed its fury.
"It's a boy, Dana. Cassie get that towel, lay it on her stomach." Lucy quickly clamped the cord and cut it, then lay the squalling infant on Scully's stomach.
Scully's hands covered the tiny boy, warming him, touching him, ensuring herself that he was real, alive. She turned to see Frohike leaning over her, taking in the sight and smiled. He reached over and brushed a tear from her cheek. "You two make pretty babies."
"I still can't believe this."
"Believe it," Frohike said, letting his finger trace the dark hair of the infant.
"I need him for just a minute," Lucy finally interrupted and lifted the baby into her arms. Scully's hand didn't leave him as long as she could reach him. "Cassie, please diaper him and put that bandage over his belly-button. Melvin, as soon as he's dressed you take him out to be introduced and let us finish up in here."
"Happy to." He took the baby from Cassie a couple of minutes later and held him close.
"We'll be just a minute, Melvin, then he needs to nurse. Don't go far."
"Promise," he grinned at Scully. "Let me know when I can come back."
"Frohike - "
"I'll keep him safe, Scully. Let Lucy take care of you right now."
The storm blew itself out in the night and morning brought light to see the destruction the storm had wrought.
The southeastern corner of the hospital had lost part of the roof and they could easily see the path the tornado had taken.
"Do we stay or go?" Skinner turned to Hal.
"Good question. I say we go on. We'll probably have a couple of days at least, and this place is more splinters than structure now.
Skinner nodded and they reloaded what little they had taken from the wagon and saddled up. They shoved the wagon back through the doors, damaging them slightly as they forced it through.
They picked the path of least resistance, heading east as always. They had left the town proper and were out into the countryside when movement drew their attention. To their shock, a young man ran toward them, waving his arms.
"Help! We need your help. We can't get her out!"
Mulder and Skinner exchanged glances. A trap? No, this guy obviously did need help of some kind. "What's wrong?"
"The house collapsed! Brenda's trapped under the rubble."
Brenda? "Where?" Mulder asked quickly.
"This way. I was looking for a car jack, I never thought . . . " then he was running back yelling that he had found help. Other heads rose above the rubble and looked in disbelief at the people riding toward them.
The oldest man, still younger than Mulder, recovered first. "Over here!"
Mulder and Skinner dismounted and tossed their reins to Patti. Hal jumped down from the wagon and Carolyn climbed down more slowly, holding those horses. Harry started to climb down, but Carolyn barked for him to stay put. At her tone he didn't even attempt to argue.
Patti and Carolyn secured the horses and with Harry between them now, approached the others.
"I don't think she's badly hurt, except for where her leg's caught, but we haven't been able to shift anything and we're afraid of making it worse," said the man that seemed to be her husband.
Skinner had walked around the area and nodded. Everyone seemed to have calmed down at little with the additional help and looked to him automatically to lead. "We need to shore up this side before we try to lift anything off of her."
"Brenda," the man in charge said. "My wife, I'm Carl. This is our son, Tom. That's Pete, his wife Lillian, her sister Rose and her friend, Trudy."
Skinner made quick introductions of his companions, then he and Mulder took Pete and they began carefully shifting rumble to see where to shore up the wall. They worked quickly, following Skinner's orders. Patti stayed in the hole, talking with Brenda, explaining what was going on.
Mulder slipped down into the hole when everything was in place. "Brenda, we're getting ready to lift this off of you. When we do, Patti and Tom are going to pull you out. They're going to try not to hurt you, but we have to get you out and we don't exactly have all the safety equipment we'd like to have. Do you understand?"
Brenda met his eyes and nodded, calmer herself now that Carl had more help. She could be hurt worse by the rescue, paralyzed and she knew it, but there wasn't much choice. "Let's do it," she said, her voice steady.
Mulder winked at her and turned to Patti. "Be as careful as you can, but get her out. We're not going to be able to hold it up long."
"We'll do it," she assured Mulder, patting Tom on the shoulder.
"Everyone ready?" Skinner called out. With the assent, he and Mulder put their shoulders against the levers they had placed. Hal, Carl and Pete did the same on the other side and slowly they felt the wall shift.
"Do it!" Mulder yelled to Patti.
She looked over at Tom and they each took one of Brenda's arms and began easing her out from her prison. Brenda bit her lips to keep from crying out and sweat beaded on her forehead. Tom faltered, but Patti's look made him continue. Lillian and Rose were there to help carry her once she was free of the obstruction.
"She's free!" Patti called and men allowed the barrier to drop into place. Carl was already racing to Brenda's side.
She managed to open her eyes and gave him a small smile. "Good to be out."
Carl nodded, unable to speak.
"Let's move her out of the way here," Skinner said, moving over to help with the transport.
As gently as possible they moved her to a cleared area and Patti brought their first aid kit over. Skinner and Mulder exchanged glances and shaking his head slightly, Mulder took a look at her leg. It was obviously broken.
"We're going to need a splint and some crutches. Is there anyone else here?"
"No, we haven't seen anyone else in months. I can't believe you showed up when you did."
"Hal, you and Patti need to ride back to the hospital. Get the supplies we need and penicillin if you can find it."
They nodded and mounted up, riding back toward the hospital. They were back quickly with the supplies, including pain medication.
Skinner held her steady as Mulder closed his eyes for a moment, then pulled her leg jerking it back into alignment. "Brenda?"
"She's passed out, Mulder."
"Good. Give her the penicillin. We need to immobilize this leg, and treat her other cuts and scratches." He looked up at Carl. "She's going to be okay. She might limp, I'm not a doctor, but I think she'll be okay."
Carl nodded his thanks. "I still can't believe you showed up . . . "
After a moment Lillian spoke, "We've got some lunch together for everyone."
Carl didn't leave Brenda's side, but the rest moved away to give him some space and recover themselves.
They ate the bread and cheese and discovered that Patti and Hal had added canned corned beef to the sandwiches. Mulder nodded his appreciation.
"Are you all family?" Skinner asked Pete after they had eaten.
"Uh, no. After everyone disappeared, we headed out trying to find someone. Lillian and I have been married a little over a year, no kids yet."
Skinner nodded. They couldn't be much more than twenty.
"Rose is Lillian's sister. She and Trudy were visiting us when . . . Our parents, Trudy's family, they were gone. We got out here on bikes with what we could carry and found Carl and Brenda. Rose knew Tom from school; he's a few years behind her."
"How old - "
"Tom's ten. Rose and Trudy are fifteen."
Skinner closed his eyes. Children, they were leading a caravan of children across country.
It was decided that they would stay the rest of the day even though they had only traveled a few miles. These people had lost everything, literally. Mulder, Skinner and Hal settled the horses and had a quick meeting.
"We have to at least offer to take them with us," Hal said.
"I know," Mulder sighed. "How do we make this work? The wagon can't carry them, Brenda will have to ride, but we'll need more supplies and have less room to haul them." He didn't mention that they would be slowed down even more, there was no need.
"Patti agrees," Hal offered.
Skinner sighed, "We'll think of something."
They returned to find the women digging through the rubble to find what they could salvage. Carl joined them, leaving Trudy to sit with Brenda.
"Carl, we're on our way to Washington. We can't stay here, but if you want to come with us . . . "
The man looked around at the devastation that had been his home. "It was hard, before this happened, now . . . " he shook his head.
"Don't suppose you have any horses in that barn?" Mulder nodded toward the slightly damaged structure at the far end of the yard.
"No," Carl managed a smile. "Only two cows and a calf."
Skinner's eyes popped. "You have cows?"
"Uh, yeah, but they're not much good for riding."
Skinner turned to Hal. "Can they carry supplies?"
"Well, sure." Light dawned in his eyes. "That would free up two horses."
"It's still not enough."
"Uh, we've been using bikes to get around and we have plenty of those. Everyone around here had them and we've kind of collected them. They're in the barn too."
Skinner looked over at Mulder shaking his head. Mulder just grinned. "Let's start packing."
They found a dresser that had landed not far away and were able to recover some clothing from it and from the dryer that for some reason was still in place where the house had been. They piled the things that could be salvaged near the wagon. These people really had lost just about everything. Once again there was no way to leave them behind.
Pete was familiar with the area and led Mulder over to the nearest house where they were able to gather a few more things. Hal had determined they should be on their way in the morning while the weather held.
Brenda was their main concern when packing the wagon. Carolyn wasn't a great rider, but she joined Patti on her horse, her displeasure evident, and Harry rode with Mulder. The others were on their bikes, carrying backpacks. They were slowed down considerably, and Mulder's nightmare from the night of the storm pulled at him, but he managed to keep quiet. These people needed him.
They traveled at a slower speed in deference to Brenda and the bikes, and Mulder managed to hold his tongue. The nightmares seemed to have ended with the one at the hospital. That scared him down to the bone, but he didn't speak of it. Saying anything out loud was more than he could handle. So much of his life he'd been alone, then Scully had come to him, been given to him. Now he was constantly surrounded by people that needed him, wanted his help, his advice while he only wanted her.
The dreams were still there, but they seemed more like regular dreams now. The problem was, it was as though the nightmares had brought her closer to him. These new dreams still included her but weren't terrifying, which in itself was terrifying.
He spent a lot of silent hours on his horse wondering what that meant. With Patti there to keep an eye on him, he no longer isolated himself, but he couldn't talk about this. Fear was always there, that what had happened to her during that torture had . . . How many times could he shove that thought away. His Scully was strong, that was what he needed to remember.
They continued their trek eastward, moving slightly north now. They had followed I90 across the mountains then I25 down into Wyoming. They had picked up I80 then which had led them into Nebraska and I29 down into the tip of Kansas and on into Missouri. Avoiding the larger cities was easier on the interstates, they all had bypasses and with the manpower their small caravan now had, there was no problem in moving the traffic tie ups aside. The problem was there were a lot of cities to go around, and more coming up here in the mid-west. They were headed for Kentucky and all too soon the Appalachian mountains.
Skinner pulled out his collection of maps and began to study again.
Mulder pulled up and pointed. "What the hell is that?"
Everyone turned to look over at a huge square building off in the distance. It was Carl who answered. "It's one of the "Big Box" stores. They sell everything in bulk, no frills. We went to once when they had an open day, trying to get more customers. You had to be a 'member'. We didn't join; it was too far away to be practical for us."
"Think there'd still be stuff there?"
"We ought to try. No one or two groups our size could have made a dent and carried it away. Sure wish I had the minivan working."
"Me too," Mulder admitted, but this place wasn't his main reason.
They reached the place late that evening and forced their way inside. "Whoa!" Mulder took a shallow breath and stepped back outside. "They sold meat."
"Yep, hadn't thought about that," Carl admitted.
"You'd think six-seven months later it would be okay."
"We can't sleep inside. Let's set up camp at the edge of the driveway. That way the horses can graze and it'll be better on their hoofs," Hal advised and climbed back up on the wagon.
After they were settled, everyone but Carolyn, Harry, Patti and Brenda headed inside with kerchiefs around their noses and mouths. Carl had assured them that Brenda was an excellent shot, and Patti wasn't bad with a shotgun, so they had left them armed.
Each member of the party headed to a different section of the store to see what was still available. Mulder and Skinner headed toward the food section, closer to the source of the stench, but necessary. They could see where former visitors had taken meat, not realizing that the power wasn't coming back on. Ignoring the meats entirely, they headed for the dried goods. They had to be careful, there was just so much the wagon could hold and now Brenda was riding. Still they picked up several five pound bags of flour and sugar. Beans and rice were added to their cart, along with a couple of large cans of Crisco. The rest of their designated space went for spices, salt and pepper.
"Hey guys!" Pete called and they turned toward him. "Look." He pointed toward a cart-like thing attached to a bike.
"What is it?" Skinner asked.
"A rickshaw. You can take the kids for a ride."
"We only have Harry and he's - "
"We can put supplies in them too. I don't know how sturdy they are for long distance travel, but we could try," Pete looked over at Carl who nodded.
"You know that's a good idea, even if they only hold up for a little while, we could put the short term supplies in them. How many are there?"
"Three and one's already assembled. Know what I'm going to do this evening," Pete grinned.
They caught up with the girls who had their own supplies. Mulder looked over at the largest bag which seemed to be full of skeins of yarn.
"All kinds of sewing stuff, pins, needles, and all the yarn we could stuff in. If Brenda sets her mind to it, she could knit you a three-piece suit. These clothes aren't going to last forever. We picked up underwear for all of us and socks."
Skinner looked over at Mulder and grinned. "Makes me very glad we've got females along." Mulder laughed as they headed for the front of the store.
The sound of a gunshot outside stopped most of them in their tracks. Mulder and Skinner were racing away, pulling their own guns as they ran.
It was a standoff for now. Brenda had shot one of the men, the other three seemed to be in shock, but the closest one was recovering and bringing his gun up. "Don't do it," Mulder said, the man already in his sights. The other two men began to back away.
"She shot my bro!"
"Did you give her a reason?" Skinner drew his attention and the surly younger man looked even angrier.
The others poured out of the store then and their assailant spotted the other girls. That seemed to enrage him and his gun came up, pointing at Mulder. Mulder dived to the side as the man pulled the trigger. Mulder fired his own shot from where he lay and the younger man flew backward.
The other two stood like statues, afraid to move.
Mulder leapt to his feet and hurried over to the prone body, taking the gun from his nerveless hands. Then he felt for a pulse. He looked up at Skinner and shook his head.
"Is everyone okay?" Mulder turned to look at his people. "Patti!" There was blood on her sleeve and he raced to her.
"It burns, but I think it's just a scratch."
"Let's get off that shirt." He took hold of the neckline of her t- shirt and ripped it down the arm without thought.
"Mulder - "
He looked up into her face and realized what he'd done. "Sorry." He started to step back but she took his hand.
"Is it bad?"
He met her eyes, then looked down at her arm. She'd called it; just a scratch, thank goodness. He closed his eyes in relief, then smiled at her. "You were right. Let's get inside and clean it up. Barely needs more than a band aid."
She managed a smile then, pulling her t-shirt more closely around her.
"Uh, sorry about that."
"I understand and, and I appreciate it."
He grinned slightly and took her good arm to lead her toward the others.
"Is she okay?" Skinner asked quickly.
Mulder nodded. "What about him?"
Skinner shook his head. "Brenda's going to be taking her turn at guard duty," he said quietly to Mulder. They looked over at her to find her shaking and crying in Carl's arms.
The three of them approached her. "Brenda?" Skinner's voice was soft, compassionate.
"I've never . . . I didn't . . . "
"Brenda, you saved us, saved all of our lives. Those men would have killed us; they would have caught us unaware. They'd probably have killed Harry and, and taken you and all the women. You understand what that would have meant?"
She looked up at him, her face wet with tears, but she nodded.
"Do you believe it?" he asked just as gently.
She looked down then and Carl hugged her.
Skinner straightened up then and motioned for Mulder and Patti to follow him. "It's going to take her a little while," Skinner said.
Mulder nodded. He remembered his first kill and he'd been trained. "I need to take care of Patti's arm."
"Need any help?"
"No, it's just a scratch."
"When you're through, we need to question the other two. They look pretty subdued for now, but I need to relieve Hal and Pete."
Mulder and Patti moved back into the building and found the first aid aisle. He cleaned the wound and bandaged it. "We'll have to look for penicillin at the next pharmacy. In the mean time, take these aspirin. It's going to feel like you've had a tetanus shot, sore. Uh, you better go pick out a t-shirt to replace this one."
"Thanks." She grinned but did as he advised.
He left her, returning outside to assist Skinner in the questioning. The two remaining men were subdued and restrained now. They both flinched when Mulder approached.
"What do we know?" Mulder asked Skinner.
"Not enough. Gary and Joe here say they're innocent."
"Innocent? I'm stunned, and you don't believe them?"
"It's hard, but somehow . . . " Skinner said dryly.
"I swear! I didn't, we didn't know Psycho or Playboy before things went crazy. They were friends, well, gang members together, but Joe and I weren't part of any gang. We weren't with them. They found me when I was scavenging for food and a few days later we found Joe."
"You stayed with them."
"We'd have starved! No one can make it completely alone, not now."
"He's right," Joe finally spoke up. "We didn't have a lot of choice. We've not seen anyone else. They were crazy, but at least we ate. It was the women that set them off. We haven't seen a woman in over a year. When he saw one, just sitting there with all these horses - "
"We, we didn't see the one, the one in the wagon, the one that shot Playboy. We didn't know she was there."
"So if you had known these women could defend themselves you would have left them alone?" Mulder asked, his voice hard.
"No, I . . . that's not - "
"What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry. We shouldn't have . . . but he would have cut us again."
Gary reached for the hem of his t-shirt and Skinner's gun came back up. "No! I'm not armed, only Psycho and Playboy had weapons. I was gonna show you my, my scars."
Skinner relaxed slightly. "Go ahead."
Gary lifted his shirt and exposed a multitude of scars, small cuts that were obviously torture. "Joe and I, we didn't always agree with . . . " his voice trailed off.
"What's that?" Mulder moved closer to look at some sort of pattern in the scars.
"Psycho . . . he didn't know how to do a tattoo and he wanted Joe and me to match the one that he and Playboy had."
Skinner looked over at Mulder, disgusted with the two dead men. "What did you do, before?"
"Me? I uh, I sold insurance."
Skinner turned away; if people weren't traumatized or dead he'd want to grin. He got control and looked over at Joe.
"I was in grad school, public health."
Skinner looked over at Mulder who was barely managing to keep a straight face himself. "Looks like both of your professions got wiped out quick." The two younger men nodded, still looking terrified.
"Can we trust you?" Mulder asked almost conversationally.
"Yes! Just let us prove it. We weren't part of them, we were just . . . just along for the ride, well for the food anyway."
"Any more of you, hiding?"
Both men shook their heads. "That was part of the problem. There weren't enough of us to just settle somewhere. Those two," he glanced at the bodies, now covered and over to the side, "didn't have any intention of working to get food, so we had to keep moving."
"Any place particular in mind?"
Gary looked over at Joe and they shrugged. "No. We were headed east but I don't think it was planned. They wanted it to be close and easy. Riding the bikes really hurt their pride. I think they tried every car we passed."
Skinner sighed and looked over at Mulder. "We need to talk." They left the two, still bound and not resisting, and moved over to Hal. He had gathered everyone together on the far side of the wagon, feeding them and letting them calm down.
Skinner took the food that Hal handed him and took a seat close to Brenda. "You feeling any better?"
"Maybe a little," she gave him a slight smile.
"Good. Just give yourself some time. Mulder and I need to talk to all of you."
Everyone looked up. It was Carl that spoke. "We're taking them with us, aren't we?"
"I don't see how we can leave them. They can't look after themselves."
"Are they going to try to kill us in our sleep?" Carolyn asked bitterly, causing Harry's eyes to go wide.
Mulder, in exasperation, shook his head. "I believe we can handle these two."
"How? How can you guarantee that?" she demanded her voice getting louder and shriller.
"Well, for one thing they're not armed and weren't even when Psycho and Playboy attacked - "
"Psycho and Playboy? Their names were - "
"Yes, the two of them knew each other before. Gary and Joe were picked up by them after things fell apart. They were tortured but didn't have anywhere to go."
"You feel sorry for them," Carolyn said sounding outraged.
"Yeah, I do. If we hadn't found you, it could have happened to you and . . . " he glanced at Harry.
"Why do you believe them? What did they say that makes you think - "
"We saw their scars. Look, we're not going to let them have complete freedom; they'll have to prove themselves, but personally I'd rather have them with us than behind us. There were more bicycles in there. They can pull the new rickshaws, that way we can keep them busy and contained. You'll just have to trust that Skinner and I will keep an eye on them. Any other objections?"
There were none and they ate the rest of the meal in silence, trying not to think about what had happened. The men dug two shallow graves and buried Psycho and Playboy, then Mulder and Skinner returned to Gary and Joe. They had eaten, under guard from Hal and Patti and no longer looked in fear of their lives. Mulder heard Joe again apologize to Patti for her wound.
"Okay, we've talked among ourselves and we're willing to let you come with us. You'll be under guard until you can prove yourselves to us, but - "
"Thank you," Gary interrupted. "We're not going to cause you any problems. As far as I'm concerned you rescued us. Those two," he indicated the graves, "were getting more psychotic by the day. Whatever you need to do to feel safe around us, it's okay."
Skinner nodded solemnly. "That's good. We'll be staying here a couple of days, rearranging supplies, getting some rest. When we leave, you'll both be on bikes and we're assembling some kind of rickshaw thing that each of you will be pulling. We're going to be hitting the mountains soon, so we'll need every hand. We'll see what you're made of then."
Both men nodded and seemed to heave a sigh of relief.
There were more people, there had to be, of that he was sure, but none that they had found. Amazing that two thirds of the way across country and they only had picked up thirteen people. Others had preceded them, but they hadn't caught up with them. No one seemed to be traveling west. That fact kept bugging Mulder, but he couldn't put a finger on why.
The mountains weren't as steep as the Rockies had been, but no more fun to cross. The nights were cool enough to be uncomfortable and the houses weren't as grand, but they managed. Mulder's sleep was calmer now; he hoped it was because he was finally close to her, at least in the same damn time zone again.
Their pace was slower now that the roads were narrower, and the remaining traffic more able to completely block highways. He didn't remember switchbacks like this in the west, nor this steep a climb. It had to be selective memory, but they hadn't had a wagon to pull then, nor bicycles. 'I'm coming, Scully', his constant mantra even though he no longer realized it.
One thing they had noticed was more evidence of wild life. They had seen very little as they had moved east; a definite worry for Hal. At first Mulder and Skinner had been grateful, one less thing to worry about at night, but they had begun to see the implications themselves. Animals weren't all gone, they had the horses and cows, but how long could humans hang on without their help? Now there were positive signs. What had caught Mulder's eye was that they too were headed east. What the hell was he missing? Everything wasn't headed toward Scully, but it was beginning to feel like it.
Once on the downward side, tempers cooled and sighs of relief were heard, not only from the humans. They had pretty much stuck to I64 crossing from Kentucky into West Virginia. When Skinner had gone over the map with everyone, it had been decided to turn north on I81 to I66 to head to Washington. They had agreed, but Mulder had fought fiercely with himself with it came time to turn north. That made no sense. He wanted to get to DC more than anyone. He didn't have time for a detour. He felt more strongly than ever that he needed to get back to her. The nightmares returned, not as strong but they had been there for a few nights. No, ignore everything else. He had to get to Scully.
Scully moved out to the main room and saw heads turn toward her, smiling. There was definitely a lightening of the mood. Spring was here, there was more sunlight, they were able to be outside more. But she knew it was more than that. With the baby here and everyone safely through the delivery it was as though a weight had been lifted from everyone.
She had never seen this side of the guys. They were always available to hold him, change his diapers. They had moved a cradle out to the main room so that he could stay with them even when he was asleep. It seemed the only time she was alone with him was when she nursed him, but that was okay.
His first dark fuzz of hair had fallen out, but now it was growing in dark with a red tint when the sunlight hit it. His eyes had darkened too and she thought he looked more like Mulder every day. He was a very tolerant baby, he almost never cried, but then he had no reason, there always seemed to be someone there for him. Emma was his most devoted slave. It was as though he was communicating with her.
Lucy was standing at the kitchen entrance watching them when Scully joined her with a mug of tea. "Everything okay?" she asked Lucy.
"Uh, want to expand on that?" Scully looked up at her concerned.
"I'm not sure." She nodded toward the little girl sitting by the cradle.
"Dana, he's an adorable baby. Besides my own two, of course, probably the most beautiful baby in the world," she smiled, "but Emma is four years old. She's not allowed to pick him up but she's with him all the time. Typically she should be bored by him by now. She's not, she sits where he can see her and she quietly colors or draws."
"She's not going out to play or - "
"She goes out; she works in the little garden, but only when he's napping. And when he wakes up, she knows it and comes inside."
Scully's eyebrow began to rise at that. "What are you saying?"
"I don't know. She knew that Wally and his family were coming before any of us could have seen them. I hoped that Emma and Rebecca would be friends."
"I thought they were getting along."
"Oh they are. But they're not close. Emma's with Wills, Rebecca sticks with Randy, which isn't surprising. Whatever Randy's working on she helps. She's quiet but I think she's happy here. As long as Randy's around she's good. That's not unusual, I believe she was closer to her brother than her father before all of this happened. You've seen how protective Randy is of her. No, I'm not worried about her, it's Emma."
"She knew I was pregnant." Lucy nodded. Scully looked up, shaking this off. "She's not tried to hurt him, as long as she's just being near him . . ."
"I know. I didn't mean to upset you. We're all keeping an eye on Wills and there is something about him that makes us all feel good. Maybe it's the hope, Spring, maybe I'm just getting old and seeing things that aren't there."
Scully squeezed her arm, "It's definitely not that last one. You're right about Emma, I've noticed it. I just haven't . . . He's going to hungry soon. As soon as I've nursed him I'll join you in the garden."
At dinner they all caught up with what they had done during the day. Lunch was less formal, everyone catching something when they took a break. They were all sitting around the table now, Wills in a place of honor in his carrier next to Scully.
"We found some rabbits today," Randy announced, smiling.
"Rabbits? That's wonderful," Lucy said, her eyes gleaming. "Can you show us where? It would be wonderful to build a hovel for them. Not to be indelicate, but we haven't had fresh protein in a while."
"I've noticed more wildlife too," Byers remarked, tearing a hunk of bread from the loaf being passed. "I realize I'm no expert, but it's like they're 'arriving' here like we did. I'm sure I caught sight of a deer this morning."
Wally's head came up. "Do any of you hunt? I haven't in years, but I used to go with my Dad. I've gotten a couple of deer over the years, some wild turkeys. That could certainly come in handy. We've got that big old empty barn out there. It would be nice to have some livestock."
Scully could feel the level of excitement grow in the room. New discoveries like this made everyone feel hopeful.
"I've got some news too," Wally smiled. "I hiked over to the west today. There's a good size farm and some crops have volunteered. I saw some corn, not enough to do much eating, but we could certainly get seed corn from it if we keep any animals away from it. But the biggest news is, in one of the old out buildings I found a steam powered tractor."
Everyone seemed to freeze at this news. "Do you think you can fix it?" "Where is it?" "Can we get it over here to work on it?"
Questions overlapped and flew around the table. Scully looked down and saw Wills was awake, watching the people calmly. Scully's finger came out and brushed his soft little cheek. Mulder, please, hurry home. You need to be here. We need you so much.
The next morning Wally and surprisingly, Langly, headed back over to the other farm to check out the tractor. They all had untapped skills and were beginning to find them. Scully smiled at memories of Byers and Jeremy working by lamp light at the laptops, the irony strong, as they cataloged in spiral notebooks the information on each of the thumb drives and disks they had brought. Jeremy would have made a great fourth gunman if circumstances hadn't changed so.
Cassie was a great help in the kitchen, learning to cook for a group along with Scully under Lucy's supervision.
Frohike spent most of his time in the gardens, getting help from Randy and Rebecca.
Chuck had ensured that all of their buildings had survived the winter with no significant damage. He'd already repaired the few places he'd found. He was also now exploring the territory, more to the east as Wally had taken west. What he wanted most now was reliable transportation that they could use for the items he was finding. The grocery carts had done their best, but had never been built for the kind of work they'd been used for lately and weren't big enough in any case for some of the things he found.
He and Jeremy were checking out a tool shed in a nearby farm, the food long moved over to their place, when they heard them. People, more people! Carefully Chuck moved out into the open and they stopped. Three of them, a man, woman and boy, closer in age to a man himself, watched at him. They were well equipped with backpacks, boots and looked healthy.
"Hello, good to see you," Chuck called.
"Are we, are we there?" Stan asked, looking him over carefully.
For an instant Chuck was confused, then he seemed to understand. "Not quite. But you're very close. Come with us, we'll take you home."
They moved close enough to shake hands and Chuck called Jeremy out to meet them as well. Stan and Liz, with their son, Bob exchanged information as they headed back to Scully and home.
Everyone was waiting when they arrived, Emma having once again given the alert.
After that it seemed to be almost a daily occurrence. They came in small groups, two, four, in varying states preparedness for the trip. The second floor was long since full and the four outer cabins were turned into men and women's dormitories. The large house was given over to married couples. Every new party came to her, which was a little embarrassing but Scully had given herself over to the necessity. They wanted to be welcomed, accepted and it seemed it had to be her. Her 'guards' were always around her and Wills was carefully hidden in her or Cassie's rooms. He never participated in this ritual and was kept out of sight as much as possible. Scully wore him in a sling when she left the house with him. Lucy or Cassie stood guard when she couldn't.
The day a party of eight arrived, Scully sank into her chair after the formal greeting. "Where are we going to put them?" she asked Lucy, not really expecting an answer.
"I don't know," Lucy chuckled, "but they have goats!"
"Goats?" Scully's head came up quickly.
Lucy nodded. "So now we have rabbits, turkeys and goats. The barn's getting some use after all. Now I guess we'll have to learn how to make cheese."
Mulder was traveling too fast for the conditions. He knew it, but he was back. He was in DC and almost within reach of Scully. He didn't want to think about the trip across the Rocky Mountains or the winter spent on a deserted ranch or the long slog across the mid-west. He didn't care about the small caravan they had led east, picking up people as they went, all already heading east and grateful to join up with a larger group.
The small group that had joined them as they traveled along part of the Appalachian Trail just a few days ago hadn't slowed things down. The three of them, a man and two women, Robert, Blaine and Ellen, had brought their numbers up to twenty. Twenty from across the country. He didn't want to think about that now.
He didn't care about the fact that after seeing their scars, Brenda had turned into a mother bear around Gary and Joe, or that Joe had fallen for Patti. He had made it to Washington and he had to see her.
He couldn't think about the fact that his nightmares had changed after that horrible torture scene he'd dreamed. Oh, he still dreamed of her, but they were different now - softer, warmer and he didn't know how to feel about that. Once he had allowed himself to think she was angel-like. That had scared him to near paralysis.
"Mulder! I know you're anxious, but you can't push the horses on this pavement. We're here, come on."
Mulder wouldn't face him, but he did slow down. Hal had cautioned him about the same thing before he and Skinner had taken off to check Scully's apartment. Everyone else had stayed back at the camp, but Skinner wouldn't let him come alone. "Scully sent me with you, to keep you safe. I'm still on duty."
Mulder had nodded then, a slight smile on his face. Now they were practically in sight of her apartment and Skinner wanted him to slow down. They had left the others behind, leaving most of the weapons with Hal and Carl. There was definitely more evidence of people here, but they hadn't actually seen anyone.
They turned the corner and he could see her apartment. Her car wasn't there, but he refused to acknowledge that. At the steps into the building they both dismounted and carefully led the horses inside. They were too valuable to leave alone; there were other survivors here, that had to be assumed.
Skinner tied them up in the hall while Mulder used his key to open Scully's apartment. It was empty and he couldn't quite shove aside the stab of despair. He hadn't really expected her to be sitting here waiting for him, but . . .
He began looking around. Someone had removed all of her food and cleaned out her refrigerator. Her personal pictures were missing, that was a good sign, right? He headed into her bedroom. The linens, blankets were missing too. Someone had stripped the place. Would she have left on her own?
Something made him turn toward her dresser. He opened her lingerie drawer and saw it, a envelope with one word on the front - Mulder. He tore it open and saw her blessedly familiar handwriting on the page. "Mulder, how did I know you'd look in here?" He had to smile, teasing him even now.
"I know you're alive, there was never a doubt in my heart. I know you understood what was happening and you're on your way home to us. I've felt you, felt your love and that's what has kept me going. I'm with the guys. We've looked after each other in turn, waiting for you. We have to move out of the city, we can't feed ourselves there. Remember X- File number 965412, the third person we interviewed, and how much I liked the place? That's where you'll find us. Please, hurry. I need you, we need you. I love you, Scully."
He closed his eyes, relief sapping his strength. She had survived; she was waiting for him in a place she knew he would recognize.
Skinner's voice brought him back and he turned to face him. "She's alive. We need to head south."
"We need to get back to our group," Skinner corrected him.
"No, I - "
"No. You aren't going off alone. I've followed Scully's instructions this far; you're not going alone."
"We could - "
"And leave behind the people we've brought this far? They need us, they need us more than ever here. You know that. We can leave at first light."
Skinner could see the conflict in Mulder's eyes but knew he wasn't going to let these people down after all these months of protecting them. Finally the younger man nodded and they returned to the horses. Mulder stopped at the door for a last look around the place where he and Scully had spent so much time. She was safe, that was all that mattered.
Their group had made camp in an empty warehouse, the livestock inside with them in order to protect them. Patti raced to them as soon as she spotted them. Her eyes asked the question.
"She wasn't there, but she left a note. I know where to look."
Patti's smile took over her whole face. She couldn't wait to meet this Scully. "She's safe."
He nodded, "And she told me where she is. We'll leave at dawn."
No one had held him up that morning. If anything they were ready before he was, wanting him to succeed in his quest, their quest now. The mood was upbeat and they only smiled as Mulder had to keep reining in his horse, who seemed as anxious as him. They broke for a short lunch, mostly to feed and rest the horses a little.
Pete, Carl, Gary and Joe often rode ahead on their bikes, and began moving cars that might block the wagons. Everyone had gotten every efficient at their roles on their travels.
Emma was jittery today. Even Wally had noted that she was up and dressed early. Wills had been different this morning as well, not fussy, he was never that, but unable to fall asleep.
"Do you think it's too many new faces?" Scully asked Lucy as she walked with him, trying to get him to sleep.
"He's still a little young to notice, as long as he has familiar arms around him, I'd think, but . . . "
His eyes finally closing as he surrendered to sleep, Scully placed him in the cradle in the main room. She felt the need to keep him closer than usual for some reason. Damn, now she felt jumpy. What was going on? Was there a storm coming?
Emma jumped up from her seat near the cradle and ran to the window.
"They have horses!" The little girl turned to look at Scully smiling widely.
"Horses? Are you - " she had started to ask if the girl was sure and shook her head. Horses! If they stayed that would be such a help to them. Well, everyone else had stayed. They had a regular campground in what had been the parking area now.
Scully headed for the door, not waiting for her 'delegation' to assemble. Horses, maybe this was why everyone was so excited today. They were all catching it from Emma. She smiled and stepped out onto the porch in time to see two men ride up to Wally and speak, then dismount.
Mulder, slightly ahead of the rest, spotted the gates to the compound Scully had referred to in her note. Skinner pulled up next to him. "This the place?"
Mulder nodded, his throat tight.
"Looks well kept, gardens everywhere."
"She'd do things right," was Mulder's comment.
"Well? We going in?"
"Uh, yeah." Mulder urged his horse forward. The gates were still open as workers were still coming in from the fields. They were being watched but no one had approached them yet. Maybe newcomers weren't that uncommon here.
As they approached the gate a man stepped out with his arm up. "Evening. I'm Wally, welcome. Where you from?"
"Originally DC, but we've come from Washington State."
The man's look of surprise was comical. "Washington State?"
"Yes sir. I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder, this is Assistant Director Walter - "
"Are you shitting me?" the man interrupted them.
"Uh, no," Mulder looked over at Skinner. Okay, they weren't adhering to FBI dress code but -
"Mulder? The Fox Mulder?"
"Far as I know." Mulder swung down from his horse and eased his pack to the ground. They all turned as a small red headed woman emerged from the main house and approached them. She had a long red braid over her shoulder and wore jeans and t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it.
She stopped dead for a moment as recognition hit her like a blow. Over a year of longing shown in her eyes. Then she was moving again as was he. He moved faster, nearly knocking over one of the men in his way. And they were together. Her arms clasped around his neck as his arms lifted her to his lips. It didn't matter that her feet dangled several inches above the ground; she wouldn't have been able to feel it anyway.
He was alive. He was here. She was in his arms and the rest of the world vanished. They didn't feel the dozens of eyes on them as they held one another.
She had no idea how long they stood that way, clasped in one another's embrace. Time didn't matter anymore.
When they were able, he reluctantly lowered her to her feet but didn't release her. Her hand was shaking as she caressed his bearded cheek. He couldn't look away from her eyes which were brimming with tears.
"Scully," she closed her eyes to take in the sound of his voice and the tears spilled over.
"You're here. You're really here."
He pressed his lips against her forehead and pulled her close. She pressed her face against his chest. After a moment she opened her eyes and looked over at his companion.
"Walter?" She looked up then and he stepped closer.
"It's good to see you, Scully."
She was leading him to her quarters. She had a vague memory of turning Skinner over to someone to get him settled but he had made some comment about the 'others'. It didn't matter, nothing mattered but that Mulder was here and alive.
He kicked the door of the room she had led him to shut behind them, their hands too busy reacquainting themselves. She was thinner, too thin but strong. Her grip on him showed that. Her hair was long, longer than he'd ever seen it, but then she'd never seen him with a full beard and ponytail before.
Words were interspersed with kisses, caresses but they made little sense. He had her in his arms, her feet again dangling above the floor and he was moving vaguely in the direction of her bed when he heard the knock at the door.
"Dana? I'm sorry - " someone called through the door.
"Ignore it," he managed to get out between kisses.
"I can't. Wait here." She straightened her spine and with a last kiss stepped out of his arms.
He stared at her in disbelief.
"You need to see this," she said over her shoulder and opened the door.
He kept quiet. There had to be a good reason, she'd been enjoying him as much as he had been enjoying her.
He couldn't hear what was being said, but he took the opportunity to catch his breath. He took a seat on the side of her bed. From his angle he could see her take something, he hoped it wasn't food, he wasn't hungry for food. But maybe it was good that they had slowed things down. He didn't want their first time together to be rushed, really.
She turned then, closing the door behind her and stood looking at him. He was starting to rise when he finally grasped what she had in her arms. A, a baby?
"What is - "
That didn't compute, so he just stared. She took a seat in the rocking chair he hadn't really noticed and pulled up her t-shirt. He sank back down onto the bed, not able to stand. She was watching him, just watching.
"I call him Wills, Fox William Mulder, Junior."
If possible Mulder's eyes widened even further, but he didn't speak.
"I wasn't sick in Washington, Mulder," she said gently, waiting, giving him time.
He couldn't seem to form words but now his eyes were riveted on the child suckling at her breast. The baby released her nipple and turned to look at him. Then Wills smiled.
Scully's eyes widened. "He's never done that before, you were here to see his first smile. He's ours, Mulder."
His mouth moved, but no sound emerged for several long moments. "O-ours?"
She nodded and looked down at the boy. "He's got your hair, your eyes, maybe my nose."
It took two tries, but he made it to his feet. He approached them as he would have a bomb. The baby, his first hunger slaked, let go of her nipple and looked up at him with obvious curiosity. Mulder's knees felt like they wouldn't hold him any longer and he sank down beside her. Samantha's eyes looked up at him. Still unable to speak, his head turned to meet Scully's eyes. They were filled with tears.
"We're so glad you're home."
Author's notes: The title is Reunion. They're together. Yeah, I'm sure there's more to the story, but not under WIP deadlines