Title: Mulder's Creek: 29. How We All Got Here
Summary: A series of flashbacks explain what causes Sam to run away from home...and for Mulder and Scully to break up.
The tv plays Rudolph's Shiny New Years, but no one is paying it any attention least of all Mulder, who is the one who turned it on for a distraction. He can hear his brother fussing in his room, and one of his parents going in to care for him. Mulder continues to stare at the wall, lost in thought.
When he hears the police cruiser pull into the driveway, it's enough to roust him from his stupor. He moves to look out his window, and he hears his at least one of his parents rush down the stairs. The officer driving isn't either of the Witters, which makes him wonder if things are going to go worse than they would if one of Doggett's family members was taking care of the issue. Sighing, he tries to peer into the car's back seat.
December 30th 4pm, Leery home-
Mulder assists his parents with the preparation for their New Years Eve party, which they've decided to make a yearly tradition again after the year before's success, with a heavy heart.
Last year Langly, Byers and Frohike had been able to make the party, but this year they're still on campus in the apartment they share at MIT. They'd only been home for Christmas day, and they'd barely had time to talk to Mulder. He mostly kept up with what they were doing through their newsletter and e-mail. It was through e-mail too that he was able to keep in touch with the people he and Sam had met in Roswell, and it seemed from one bitter e-mail that he wasn't the only one who wasn't looking forward to this night.
The thing that is the same is that Scully won't be attending. Last year she'd been dragged by Bessie to go retrieve a friend of her sister's, but this year it was Mulder's fault she wasn't coming. Sort of. As much as he protested otherwise, Scully wouldn't believe him.
He is moping while he dusts when he hears a shout from another part of the house. Dropping the duster, he goes to see what's wrong. Before he can get up there his parents' door slams, and his parents begin talking in upset tones that are muffled just enough to keep Mulder from understanding what they're saying. He hesitates, wondering if he should go ask what is wrong, but Price catches sight of him, and begins to clamor for his attention.
Mulder shakes his head, and goes into Price's room. The baby is now strong enough to stand in his crib, as long as he holds on, which he is doing while he tries to get Mulder's attention. "'Der! 'Der!" he calls. An early speaker, Price's vocabulary at seven and a half months of age already includes " Mama," " Dada," " Sam," " 'Der," for Mulder " train," and " ball." His wish to have his name being mangled by his brother before Christmas has come true. Mulder picks him up, which makes Price laugh, then goes to Sam's room to see if she has any idea what is going on.
She's not there.
6pm, Leary home-
Doggett tickles Price, enjoying the baby's laughter. Price grimaces when Doggett reaches down and ruffles his wispy dark hair. While Doggett keeps up the pretense that he's helping out by looking after the baby while his father talks to Mr. and Mrs. Leary, he's really doing it so Mulder won't feel like he needs to talk if he doesn't want to.
He gives Mulder a sidelong glance as he moves a stuffed animal in an animated way that fascinates the baby. Price's eyes are wide as he reaches out his chubby little hands for the stuffed bear that has never walked before. Doggett is glad he can make the little boy happy, because he hasn't a clue how to make his best friend any happier.
From what his father told him on the ride over, Mr. Leary went into Sam's room to ask her to help with the party, and she wasn't there. What was there, however, was a note saying that she was running away. Although she phrased it more that she was 'leaving for a little while' which didn't make anyone feel any better. Especially since no one had any idea why she'd left or where she'd went.
As far as the Learys can tell it is her handwriting, so their initial fear that she'd been kidnapped again had dissipated somewhat by the time Doggett and the sheriff arrived. There was, however, nothing to make them feel good about a thirteen-year-old who is off on her own.
As Mulder watches Doggett play with his brother, the memories from the other reality he was allowed to glimpse come back to him. A bored five-year-old Doggett playing with Sam before her first birthday party. But that didn't really happen. He's fairly sure. His thoughts drift back to the present and this reality.
Doggett looks over at Mulder who is looking rather listless, and curled up on the couch.
"Penny for your thoughts," he says, attempting to draw him out.
Mulder replies in a tired voice. "I've been thinking about how we all got here, Doggett. Things were going so well before they got bad, you know?"
September 25th 3:30pm, Leary home-
Mulder lets Daden in and gives the boy a wry grin. You can tell by looking at him that he is Krycek's little brother. Besides the eye color difference, he looks very much like the Krycek in their own 7th grade pictures. There is, however, one other significant difference: Krycek's cocky sneer is absent from his brother's face. It makes the younger boy seem far friendlier and approachable than Krycek ever was, even as a first grader.
Mulder doesn't really like to think about Krycek, but they've fallen into an uneasy sort of truce since their siblings became friends. And that only came about because Gale and Mrs. Valentine told the two of them in no uncertain terms that they would be grounded until they graduated high school if either of them did anything to discourage the younger kids' first attempts at friendship in a new school. Mulder and Krycek both felt that their mothers were eerily united on the issue given that they barely knew each other. So Mulder and Krycek are on their least snippy good behavior...at least around their families. At school they can relax and openly despise each other like normal.
Mulder joins them in the living room, and resists the urge to give an indulgent smile as he notices them sprawled at opposite ends of the couch as they watch tv. They look nearly as boneless as Price does while sleeping. He does give them quick glances, though. They remind him a lot of him and Scully at that age, and he finds himself idly wondering if they're old enough to have crushes. At their age he and Scully would still sometimes have sleepovers, and hormones didn't rear their heads to detract from the innocence of it. It wasn't until he met Fowley, and developed as massive crush on her, when he was 15 that he ever felt much of a difference between the girls and guys he was friends with.
He glances at them again. They still look like pals to him, so maybe he's not the only late bloomer in the house. Or maybe they're just normal, despite what tv and movies would have you believe about young kids. It makes him feel better about the rightness still left in the world.
December 30th 8pm, Leery home-
Price is now sleeping flat on his back, his arms thrown out, and his lips slightly parted. For a second Doggett imagines what it would be like to come home from that and see that in a few years...He smiles to himself, wondering what Reyes would think sometimes if she could actually read minds.
Mulder is still curled up on the couch, looking despondent, so Doggett is about to offer to bring the baby up to his room when Sheriff Witter comes in. He'd been talking to the Learys' and directing his officers via phone and radio since they'd gotten there. The sheriff scoops Price up expertly, having a lot of recent practice with his own grandkids in past few years, and motions for Doggett to come with him. Mulder doesn't even look up.
Once they're upstairs, Sheriff Witter gently puts Price in his crib. Despite his admonishments to his two youngest children about not wanting either of them to make him a grandfather again any time soon, he does love little kids. He closes the door behind them, and pauses to talk to Doggett in the hallway. "I want you to do something for me, Doggett. Go into Mulder's room and get some clothes for him. I don't think he should be alone tonight, because he looks really depressed, but his parents are too wrapped up in this to do more than necessary to take care of the little one. There are going to be people trooping through here all night probably, so I'm going to bring you two to our house for the night. See if you and Gretchen can cheer him up, ok?"
Doggett nods, then grabs some clothes that he thinks he remembers seeing Mulder wear. He wishes that Reyes was there, because she'd remember what his favorite clothes are, even if Mulder never told her. Or better yet, Scully, but he knows that Mulder wouldn't want her over. A few minutes later he's on his way back down, and his father assures the Learys that he'll be back soon.
"Get up, son." Sheriff Witter demands gruffly. "You're coming to my house for the night. Your parents have enough to worry about right now."
"Ok," Mulder agrees faintly, following after them like a dutiful puppy.
Once they're in the cruiser, Mulder presses his face up against the window. " What are you thinking about?" Sheriff Witter asks, glancing at the rear-view mirror.
Although their friends tried to talk Skinner and Reyes into having another Halloween party, the twins reacted with horror. Since the last party resulted in there being a dead body on their front lawn, their trepidation was not hard to understand. And even if they had embraced the idea, the likelihood of convincing Mr. McPhee to allow one would have been slim. He'd had to fill out a huge stack of paperwork the year before, which might be why he hadn't offered to let them have another party since.
Instead, the plan for the night is to gather at Mulder's house, and watch horror movies while feasting on sweets. Scully and Reyes arrive first, while Doggett and Skinner are still out picking up the movies. Fowley and Reed plan to arrive fashionably late.
Although Scully claimed that she and Reyes are there to help him set up, it's obvious that their real motivation for being there early is Sam and Daden. Envious of their more extreme youth, which allows them to go trick o' treating without guilt or embarrassment, they gush over the costumes the pair is wearing. Predictably, they're going as super heroes. Sam is Rogue, and Daden is Gambit, which doesn't surprise Mulder at all, since his sister is still harping on the fact that her favorite male x-men character has been written out of the movie.
There's a commotion as Mr. Leary bring down Price. Sam objects violently when their father insists that she and Daden go out with him and the baby, saying that it's tradition for him to shepherd trick o treaters. When Sam looks to Mulder for back up, he can only shrug. His dad had gone with him when he was their age. Sam pouts.
Mr. Leary compromises with the indignant young teenagers by telling them that if they carry a walkie-talkie, he'll let them get ahead of him and Price. They agree, because while it's not quite as good as going out on their own, at least they won't be mortified by an adult sticking to their sides.
The night goes by in a subdued manner, at least compared to the year before. There are no murders, no romps though the woods, no broken bones. It was very tame by Capeside standards. The scariest thing all night is wondering how the neighborhood kids are going to react when they are told that there's no more candy.
As people are leaving, Mulder says good-bye at the door. Fowley was the last one to leave. "Pretty mundane compared to last yeah, huh?" Mulder asks, holding the door for her.
She smiles wryly. "Hey, at least I won't be capping off this Halloween with an e.r. visit," Fowely says, referring to the ankle she broke exactly one year before.
"Ah, but at least the handsome e.r. doctors would be bore exciting company than I have been tonight."
"I don't know...I can't think of too many people who lead more exciting existances than you do. Besides, the only handsome e.r. docs are on TV. The one I saw last year was about my dad's age, fat, and balding. You've got a leg up on them," she told him laughing as she left.
It's only a couple of hours later as he's trying to get to sleep that he wonders if she might have been flirting. He shakes his head at his own foolishness and rolls over to try sleeping on his other side.
8:30 pm, Witter home-
Mulder docilely follows Doggett into his house. Doggett pauses just long enough to wave good-bye to his father, who will be returning to the Learys'. Mulder doesn't seem to notice that Doggett stopped.
The first and only thing Mulder does is park himself on yet another couch. " So, are you tired? Dad says you'll be sleeping in Kerry's old room, and it's all set if you are. Don't worry, my folks had it fumigated after she left." Doggett says with a wry look.
"I'm not tired." Mulder answers in a disinterested voice.
"Hungry? Mom made meatballs, and it'd only take twenty minutes to make pasta. Well, if I turn the burner up high. Mom hates that, but who's going to tell her?" Doggett's mother is spending the week at his oldest sister's house.
"No thank you," Mulder says. That same flat tone, devoid of emotion.
Doggett looks frustrated. "Not tired, not hungry...I'd ask if you wanted to play a video game, but you'd just say no to that too." Doggett sighs and picks up a remote control. "Let's watch TV, no thinking required."
Doggett startles as Mulder grabs the remote control from him. "Why?" The other boy looks aggravated, but not angry. At least not at him.
"I figured it was something we could-"
Mulder shakes his head. "Why would she run away?"
"I don't know. A lot of kids do. Almost all of them come back in a day or two. That's what my dad says, and he deals with a lot of runaways. "
"No! She's not a lot of kids. She's someone who was taken from her family. Doesn't she know that she can't run off because of that? Doesn't she?" Mulder eyes were glassy with unshed tears.
"You're right. She's not like most kids. But she is just thirteen years old. Kids that young don't think like adults do, or even like we do. Don't you remember when we were thirteen? We were pretty stupid some times." Doggett tells him.
"Yeah, and you still are."
"Hey!" Doggett assumes an insulted look, but he's secretly glad Mulder looks a little better.
"Isn't that the year we decided to paint your parents' garage?"
"Without asking," Doggett adds. "I didn't leave my room except for school for a week."
"I still think it looked pretty good," Mulder tells him, forgetting to be upset for a moment.
"Yeah, so good that Dad had it repainted professionally." Doggett laughs, remembering the two them covered head to toe in gray paint, some of which got on the garage that they neglected to strip the old paint from first.
November 9th, 9am
Mr. Leary went into the office, and doesn't expect to be home until noon. Mrs. Leary and Sam are also gone, having taken an impromptu visit to the urgent care clinic. Sam had woken up with a high fever and a sore throat, so their mother worried that it was strep throat. She and Sam argued about it for fifteen minutes, but Mrs. Leary finally won in the end, despite Sam being nearly in tears at the thought of visiting a doctor. Mrs. Leary was blithely unaware of what memories Sam associated with all people in white lab-coats, so she thought that Sam was just being stubborn.
Taking stock of the situation, and being faced with the real possibility of being dragged along to entertain the baby in the waiting room, Mulder took preemptive action and immediately offered to baby-sit Price from the comfort of home.
"Oh, Mulder, that would be great." His mother had told him, apparently so wrapped up in helping a sullen and frightened Sam get bundled up to go out that she failed to recognize his ploy for what it was.
She led Sam, with a comforting yet firm grip on her shoulder, out the door, but took the time to look back at Price on the way out. "You be a good boy for your brother." She admonished her youngest. Price just laughed at her.
Mulder yawns and stretches once they're out of the house, and plops down on the couch. He fixes his glaze on his brother. "Did mom feed you before she left?" Price started at him. "Hungry?" He actually expects an answer to the second question.
Some of Sam's old sign language books covered babysign, and Mr. Leary is teaching it to Price. So far he knows the signs for " yes," "no," "more," and "all done." While not as precise or intricate as the real ASL signs, they're adequate for allowing pre-verbal babies an opportunity to express at least some of their wants.
Price smiles at Mulder and wags one curled fist up and down in response to Mulder's question. Mulder drags himself off the couch. "Ok, I'll feed you then. I haven't eaten either," he says as he frees his brother from the clutches of his baby swing prison, only to immediately put him in another one in the kitchen.
While it's not exactly a sign, Price quite clearly conveys his impatience by smacking the tray of his high chair repeatedly. "Geez, give me a minute would you?" Mulder complains. The pounding increases in volume.
Sighing Mulder puts a baby cookie in each of Price's fists, so he gum them while Mulder gets their breakfasts. The baby only has three teeth yet, so Mulder thinks the cookies will keep him occupied for a while.
Once he's done putting the baby food in Price's suction-cupped, sectioned bowl, he advises his brother that he's about to go for a ride. The baby squeals in delight as Mulder drags the high chair to the center of the room. "There! I've been watching you throw things, and I'm pretty sure the cabinets are out of your range." Not quite sure why their parents are so reluctant to allow Price to feed himself, since baby food wipes up, he wants to see if Price has any luck if he's able to practice it. For once Mulder would like to be able to eat his own breakfast before it gets soggy. He firmly affixes the bowl's suction cup to the tray, and hands the baby his spoon. "Go nuts."
He watches a moment to see if Price has any luck, and when he does, he walks to the cabinets and gets himself his bowl of cereal. He's just putting the milk back when the phone rings on the other side of the kitchen.
As he expects, it's his father. "High Dad..," he says, noticing that the fridge door has bounced back open the way it does when it hasn't been closed firmly enough. Mulder frowns at it as he tells his father what's on the grocery list his mother wrote before realizing she needed to take Sam to see a doctor. He wishes that his brother is big enough to send to close it while his father drones on. Price, who's been attentively watching Mulder between clumsy attempts to get the spoon in his mouth, follows Mulder's gaze. Mulder nearly drops the phone when the door swings itself shut with a definitive snap. Price claps.
Shaken, Mulder immediately decides to keep what just happened between himself, Price and the fridge. What his parents don't know, and can't report on, won't hurt Price.
9:30 pm, Witter home-
Reyes gives Mulder a quick hug. "Do you mind if I steal Doggett for a minute? I need some help getting something from my car."
"No, that's fine," Mulder tells her with a wane smile. Reyes is sweet, but her smothering concern and attempts to cheer him up are getting on his nerves, and she's only been here for half an hour. He knows she means well.
Reyes leads Doggett outside by the hand. Once she gets to the car that her father bought for her and Skinner, she pops the trunk. "What is that?" Doggett asks, peering into the dimly lit interior.
She shrugs. "Something heavy. Maybe a sewing machine."
"If you don't know what it is, why did you bring it?? " Doggett asks, giving her a shocked look.
"Well, I had to have some excuse to get you alone that wouldn't make Mulder feel self-conscious," she insists.
"But... how did you-"
"I knew such an excuse would come in handy from the way you described how he was acting. No psychic skills required." She laughs. "So...has he told Scully about what's happened?"
"You should know he hasn't. They don't talk much lately." Doggett shrugs helplessly.
"I know," Reyes says looking chagrined. "It's still hard to believe that they're not together."
"At the moment," Doggett insists. He picks up the heavy plastic case. "I'm sure Gretchen will be glad for the loan."
"What?" Reyes looks confused for a second. "Oh, right... Poor Mulder, first that thing with Scully happens, now this. "She trails after Doggett, wishing that she knew how to make things better for their friend.
December 2nd, 6pm
Capeside House of pizza-
Mulder walks in through the front door, scanning the moderately sized crowd for Scully. Although she said she'd meet him here at six, she seems to be running late. He does, however, see a familiar face. Huddled in a booth, Fowley picks listlessly at a piece of pepperoni pizza.
Figuring that she looks like she could use someone to talk to, Mulder walks over and slides onto the seat next to her. "Why so glum?"
When she looks at him, he sees that her eyes are red-rimmed, as if she'd been crying a lot. This doesn't make him feel any less concerned. "Oh...It's December 2nd, you know."
"Yes..." Mulder knows the date, but it doesn't explain things, like perhaps it being the 7th might. So far as he knows, the second is not a day of infamy.
Fowley gently shakes her head. "Sorry. It's been exactly one year since...since Spender came back."
"Oh," he says, since there's nothing else he can think of to say. The anniversary of the return of ones' dead-undead boyfriend isn't something to lend itself to spur of the moment speeches. At least not for him.
"I can't help but think about Spender. I mean, I wasn't exactly thrilled when he came back, or whatever that was, and I even ordered him to leave because he freaked me out! I was really mean to him a couple of days later, and yelled at him too," she says guiltily.
"But that wasn't really Spender," Mulder says gently. He's worried about her mental state, if just a little bit.
"I know... but I didn't know then. I should have been nicer. I didn't know having him, or who I thought was him, back was only a temporary thing. I guess that's sounds silly." Her cheeks begin to redden.
"No, I think I understand," Mulder says quickly.
She smiles wanly. "That's something I've always liked about you. You're very understanding."
"Well, that's just because I'm willing to believe just about anything."
"No!" She gives his shoulder a playful push. "One thing I don't like about you, though, is that you sell yourself short. You have a lot of good points. You're smart, you're funny, you're handsome..." Before Mulder knew what was happening, she leaned over and kissed him full on the lips.
Mulder pulls away quickly, blinking in shock. "What are you... you know I have..."
"I hate you both!" a voice exclaims suddenly, confusing Mulder even more. By the time Mulder figures out what is going on, Scully is running out the door of the pizza place.
"What did you do?" He hisses angrily at Fowley as he struggles to get out of the booth. Fowley gives him an unrepentant look as he leaves as well.
"Scully, wait," Mulder calls as he races after her fleeing form. He catches up with Scully half a block away from the pizza place. "Please stop." He pleas.
She whips around, looking at him. "Why should I?"
Wisely, he doesn't point out that she already has stopped. "Because that wasn't what you thought it was."
"It wasn't you kissing Fowley?" She challenges.
"No, it was Fowley kissing me!"
"Like that's so much better," she says angrily.
"I don't know why she did it, she just did!" Mulder exclaims.
"There's got to be a reason."
"There isn't," Mulder insists. "Or if there is, I don't know what it is, because it just exists in her head."
Scully's expression tells him that she doesn't believe him. "Leave me alone, Mulder." She turns on her heel and walks quickly away from him.
"Scully, please," Mulder calls after her. She doesn't look back.
8am, Witter home-
A large, slightly rough hand on Mulder's shoulder pulls him out of sleep. Mulder blinks and looks up at sheriff Witter. "Time to go home?"
"Yeah, time to go home," Doggett's father agrees.
"Did they find Sam yet?" Mulder asks, fear seeping into his voice.
The sheriff shakes his head. "I've got cops looking for her right now."
"So she's not dead." Mulder blurts out. Seeing the horrified expression on the man's face, he adds, "That's all I dreamt about. Sam, found dead."
"Mulder, we're going to do everything we can to find your sister as soon as possible. This isn't the big city, there aren't a lot of predators in Capeside, so there's no reason to think that we won't find her safe and sound."
Mulder looks up at him with hollow eyes. The sheriff hasn't seen half the things that he has, and doesn't realize that humans aren't the only monsters roaming the world. Especially in Capeside.
December 24th 9pm
As soon as she gets in the house, Arden Leary makes a bee-line for her cousins. "Sam, show me your room," she says brightly as she throws a familial arm around her shoulders, leading her past a Christmas tree standing over half a ton presents the elder Learys seem subconsciously convinced are necessary to make up for the dozen missing holidays. Arden seems to be part of the "making up for it," and her family has just gotten to Capeside. They are just stopping off for a quick visit before going to the hotel for the night, planning to return in the morning.
Sam, who has never met her before this very minute, doesn't seem to know what to make of their cousin, but seeing that Mulder likes her follows his lead. Once they're in Sam's room, Arden firmly shuts the door.
"Finally! This time last year I doubted that I'd ever get to met you. Oh, I know your brother was looking for you, but call me a doubting Thomas," she says with a grin.
"I like your hair," Mulder comments when she pauses for breath. She's dyed it a platinum blond, which keeps her and Sam from looking just alike.
"I was blond when I was born, so I figure I'm entitled," Arden explains.
Sam's expression suggests that she's trying to catch up to the conversation. " You're the cousin who helped Mulder try to figure out what happened to me."
"None other." Arden grins. "You know, I think he would have found you before long even if they hadn't decided to bring you back. I wish I could have helped him more, but college kept me busy – still does- and I was all the way across the country. I'm so glad you're back, though." She gives Sam's arm an affectionate squeeze.
Sam smiles back, surprised to learn that her brother wasn't the only member of the family willing to try to find her.
Mulder, however, doesn't pay much attention to his sister and cousin's chattering. Instead his eyes are fixed on the window. All he can think about is that he won't be seeing Santa this year, because Price is too little to believe. The mysterious alien and his glowy-green friends might be stopping at Scully's later on, but this year he won't be there to see them. He wonders for a second if Scully will stay up late, but concludes that without his insistence otherwise, she'll pretend that what they saw was nothing, nothing worth looking for a second glimpse of.
Noon, Leary home-
Mulder hasn't spoken to his parents since he's gotten home. Instead he's shut himself up in his room, so he can be alone with his bitterness. His parents are still carrying on, professing fear and grief, and it's killing him.
Though his memories of early childhood are admittedly faded with time, he's entirely certain that his parents hadn't made such an outpouring of emotion when his sister was stolen as a helpless infant. All he kept thinking about was how his parents told him to forget about her.
Now, that she was big enough to be able to decide to take off on her own, now they were all grief-stricken. It seemed so contrived, and he almost hated his parents for it because he had no way of knowing if they were generally upset or not. They wouldn't ever let him in, so he didn't know them well enough to read them. He promises himself that if Sam comes home, he'll make sure things aren't like that between them, since they may be the only true allies either of them will ever have.
December 30th 11am
Sam is watching Price in his room while Mulder and their parents move furniture downstairs in preparation for the party. Daden is over too, and he's helping her look after the baby. Sort of. At the moment he's holding the little boy's hands, and helping him to stand.
"Look at that! I bet he'll be walking soon," Daden cheerfully exclaims.
"I don't think so. He can't even stand up alone yet. He's not even eight months old, you know."
"I know. Most babies this young can't do this at all, though," he insists as Price bounces happily.
"You spend a lot of time around babies?" Sam asks, arching an eyebrow.
"My dad is dating a woman with two little kids," Daden explains. "One is a baby a little older than Price is now, and one's two. She's nice, the babies are nice too. Her husband died before the younger baby was born, so she and dad have been dating for a while now."
Mulder walks in then. "Hey, what are you two doing? And have you seen the step-stool? Dad thinks you took it."
"Oh yeah," Sam says sheepishly. "It's in my room. I'm too short to reach the closet shelves without it." As she stands up, she glances over at Daden and Price with a frown, then leaves the room quickly.
December 31st, 3pm
Not wanting to get underfoot, Mulder makes his way downstairs slowly. The two officers, one of whom Mulder vaguely recognizes, perhaps from the night of Krycek's accident, have already been let in the house. Silent and shrinking back against the couch, Sam doesn't respond to any of their parents' hysterical questions. The older officer speaks to Mr. and Mrs. Leary in a low voice, presumably explaining where they found Sam. Mulder, however, doesn't find out because she suddenly bolts away from their parents, pushing past him as he finally reaches the foot of the staircase. Her door slams shut with a rattle.
Mulder looks up the staircase, then wanders over to his parents, who are exchanging good-byes with the police. He's about to open his mouth to suggest that perhaps he should talk to Sam, when he mother beats him too it. "Mulder, she talks to you. Can you try to talk to her? Let her know that we're not mad, we were just scared," she pleads.
Mulder tries for a reassuring smile. "Sure mom. But I'm not going to report everything she says back to you."
"I don't expect you to. Just see if you can get her to promise not to ever do it again."
"Ok." Mulder wonders if Sam will even talk to him, but he agrees with his mother, he's the one she's most likely to talk to. It's not as though either of their parents has given the girl a reason to confide in them.
Mulder knocks softly on Sam's door, then opens it slowly when there's no answer forthcoming. He expects her to shout at him to leave, or at least give him hateful looks, but she doesn't. Instead she's curled up on her bed, crying softly. He sits on her bed next to her and touches her back. "Do you want to talk about it?"
She sits up suddenly, and turns her red eyes on him. "I lied to you."
"I told you that I wasn't interested in those...files we went and got, and that I wasn't going to read them."
"But you read them anyway?" Mulder guesses at what the lie is, that's all he hopes it is.
"Price has blue eyes, because of what they did to him before he was born," she says in a hollow voice.
"And...did you ever really take a good look at Daden?"
"I'm not sure where you're going with this, Sam."
"Ok, yesterday, I finally took a good look at them. Price and Daden. They're got the same color eyes, Mulder. No one else has eyes that color."
"Weren't there kids at Candling with eyes that color?" Mulder blurts out before his brain catches up to what she's implying.
"I told you, we weren't allowed to play with those kids," she says sounding frustrated. "They said in the report that they wanted to show mom other kids who would be like Price. But back when I was a baby. There was a parents' group, remember? For people in the area with kids like that. Daden is one of those kids, Mulder, he has to be."
"Sam, that's an awful lot to assume based on someone's eye color..." Mulder says, then realizes that he's just trying to placate her, not approach the idea logically. "but you might be right. Has he...done anything strange in front of you?"
Sam shakes her head. "No...but I've never seen Price do anything either, and you know he does."
Mulder thinks about the incident with the refrigerator door, and the butterflies. He nods. "So you ran off because you were upset?"
"Yeah... I know I shouldn't have, but... I couldn't think here," Sam says, looking slightly ashamed.
"The thing is, though, I don't think we should tell Mom and Dad the truth. God knows they have no regrets about lying to us. Ok... the people that kidnapped you used to... scream at you and tell you how worthless you were on new years because it meant another year had gone by without your parents getting you back. You thought about all the bad memories, and it made you scared that they might be right and that we didn't really care about you. When you heard the police calling for you it made you realize how silly that was, and how much it meant to us that you were back with us, so you went to the police so they could bring you home. After you explain that, start crying and they'll feel so guilty they probably won't ask you anything else about it," Mulder tells her.
"God, Mulder, that's brilliant. But don't you feel bad about all the lying we do to them?" Sam asks curiously.
"Do you think it's not justified?"
"No, but I was wondering, because I don't," she says with a small smile.
"Whatever it takes to keep you and Price safe," Mulder says. "And we'll help Daden too if we can. But you know they're not going to do anything until he grows up, just like Price," he points out.
"Yeah... but you'd really help him too? He's not our brother or anything."
"You can't judge someone's importance by virtue of sharing DNA with them." Mulder says with a shrug. But he's thankful that Daden is almost five years away from his eighteenth birthday.
Leary house 8pm-
Since everyone's nerves have calmed, Gale has spent the last two hours on the phone, explaining to people that the party is on again. Most people have been delighted, and still plan to come. Most people.
Mulder doesn't notice the guests arriving, because he's been on the phone himself, with Scully, for the past ten minutes. He allows himself to be hopeful because things have been going well, as far as he's concerned. So far all they have talked is how Sam took off, and how the police found her hanging around an abandoned house a few miles away. Mulder doesn't tell her the real reason Sam took off, because as of yet he's been too afraid that she won't believe him to ever have explained the adventure he and Sam had over the summer. So she receives the same bland explanation for the running away as Mulder's parents did. Like them, she seems to buy it. Feeling brave by her politeness, Mulder suddenly decides to make his move. "That party my parents were having? It's back on now that Sam's home. The invitation still stands if you want to stop by."
Three heartbeats later, Scully says, "Thanks, but I'm not going to. I just don't think it's a good idea. I'll....I'll see you once school starts. Bye."
Mulder stares sadly at the phone as the dial-tone sounds.
Produced by CC, KW and Neoxphile
< Voice Over>
This episode of Mulder's Creek featured music from:
Jeremiah Freed ("How They All Got Here")
The Cardigans ("Erase and Rewind")
Mighty Joe Plum ("Borderline")
Stay tuned for scenes from the next Mulder's Creek
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