Title: Starkweather’s Creek
MC Creek/Starkweather crossover
Authors: Neoxphile and Scully3776
Genre: Crossover, Alternative Universe
Spoilers: Shows- X-Files seasons 1-9/Dawson’s Creek seasons 1-4
Feedback:Scully0776@aol.com , Neoxphile@aol.com
Note: If you’ve stumbled across this fic all by its lonesome, you’ll probably be pretty confused. This is a crossover fic between the Starkweather and Mulder’s Creek universes. The Starkweather series features Agent Jerlyn Starkweather; Mulder’s Creek places teenage x-files characters into the lives and families of Dawson’s Creek, with stories revolving around Mulder Leary and his friends and family. Believe it or not, there are readers who follow this all perfectly J
Summary: Mulder Leary finds himself somewhere he never imagined- the X-Files office, where no one has ever heard of Capeside. How will he get home if no one believes his home exists? Starkweather and Doggett have their theories... and Fox Mulder has *his*.
Scully3776 & Neoxphile
You took every chance now
Left me hanging there
Thanks a lot
Now that I've said this
Left me out nowhere
Thanks a lot
Thanks a lot
Filter, Thanks Bro, from The X-Files: Songs in the Key of X
One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is seeing my mother sitting at her desk, painstakingly jotting down all the events of her day in her little leather bound journal. The houses, the carpets and walls changed through the years as the Navy moved my mother and father (and subsequently myself) here there and everywhere. But the desk and the journals remained the same. I never had much curiosity to find out what was so precious about her simple housewife life that Mom had to record each mundane detail. Until she got sick, of course. Until the nasopharengeal mass, a small growth sitting quietly between her superior conchea and sinoidal sinus decided not to be so quiet anymore. And began to grow and grow and grow, pushing against her sinuses and her mind, robbing her of her memories and her sanity.
Then, of course, I wanted her journals. But my "father’, in his "infinite wisdom" had by that point hidden them away from me. To protect me.
Still, I felt no need to start a journal. After all, I have a perfect memory. Why do I need to write anything down?
Because I realized that journals are more that just a selfish catalog of one’s petty triumphs and embarrassing failures. The written words from the past could very well be the one piece missing to complete the puzzle of the future.
My mother underwent intense suffering due to experiences in her past. A past lost when my stepmother burned the journals my father gave to her to protect. Fortunately, my older brother managed to save two of the journals. Both now are considered FBI property and have been read by two people and neither one of those people being me. So the gaping holes in the future remain and without my mother’s memories, it’s up to me to look inside myself for the pieces.
My brother was also the one that suggested that I start journaling because of my own experiences; a nightmare directly because of whatever it was that happened to my mother when she was still a girl.
But God, it’s one thing to investigate into other people’s lives, I’m trained to do just that… it’s investigating myself that fills me with such… I can’t even find the words to describe the abject fear I feel when I close my eyes and invoke the total recall that is my inheritance and my curse… and I can feel the nightmares touching me… I can hear the screaming dreams… but I’m told to be strong, I’m told I am strong and if I can bear what I have in the past, I can triumph over anything… but all I want is dreamless sleep. That would be nice. But sleep beckons dreams. We dream even when we don’t remember.
Once, I had opted for death and nearly carried out the threat. But then… what if Shakespeare was right?
"To die, to sleep;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…"
If the nightmares now are bad, how bad are they when you can’t wake up? Worse, how bad would they be because you chose not to wake up?
But now in life… the life that I have reclaimed… I have is this one thing… this one dream that remains… that’s the chance I have to take now… what dreams may come could very well be my becoming… or my undoing.
So, acting on my brother’s advice, I’m writing what I can remember from a dream I had…
But was it a dream…?
Thanks a lot Mulder.
April 1, 2003
Mulder Leary is trying to finish an English paper on Antigone, which he is finding unreasonably difficult, when he hears a knock on his door. He looks up from the computer and sighs quietly. The disruptions come fast and furiously in a family of five.
"Who is it?"
"Come in." he answers flatly.
"Wow, you’re growly." Sam bounds into the room and jumps on his bed. "You ever hear the expression ‘don’t kill the messenger’? I am only bothering you ‘cause Mom told me to tell you that dinner is going to be in an hour. Something about the chicken not defrosting. I wasn’t really paying attention."
"Ok, thanks." Mulder rolls his eyes when his sister makes no move to leave. "Don’t you have some homework or something to do?"
"It’s all done." She replies in a sing-song voice. To their parents delight she was placed in advanced classes after "miraculously "learning to speak perfect English towards the end of the summer. Half-way through the school year, even the advanced classes bore the seventh grader. Of all the horrible things that Candling might have been, a poor school wasn’t one of them.
"All right, smart girl, why don’t you help me with mine then? I’m trying to draw a parallel between the way Antigone’s brother’s body was left to be desecrated by dogs for being a traitor and the virtual raping wrong-doers suffer at the hands of the media when-"
Mulder smiles to himself when his sister flees; she probably thinks that he’s going to go off a tear about the media, which as of late is a favorite axe of his to grind, regardless of the fact that their mother is a reporter herself. He probably wouldn’t have ranted, but he doesn’t mind if she assumes otherwise. It’s not that he minds her company, but he’d rather just finish his paper first, then socialize with his family. The night’s events are probably going to be drawn out, especially considering his parents’ guilt over the lack of fanfare the year before, so he know he needs to seize the opportunity to finish while he can.
There’s fifteen minutes left to the hour before dinner when he’s finally satisfied with his paper. He’ll probably ask Gale to proof-read it before he turns it in, but for now he doesn’t want to look at it any more, so he turns the monitor off.
He turns on his stereo and throws himself on his bed, hoping to listen to at least a couple of songs on the cd Scully gave him today before being called downstairs for dinner. It was a minor nod towards acknowledging that today is, at last, his eighteenth birthday. Other birthday gifts from her have been more elaborate and thoughtful, but it was enough to him that she’d made an effort at all this year. Scully had actually given the cd to him along with a magazine that proclaimed that it was the "prom issue" in very large brightly colored letters, and knowing Scully, she’d probably circled various things she liked, perhaps even wrote notes in the margins. But since he’d chosen to bury the thing at the bottom of his backpack, he didn’t know for sure if she’d marked up. The prom simply isn’t something he’s prepared to think about yet, especially given the friction between him and Scully over the past few months. They were ok now, but would they still be in late May? He didn’t like to think about it. So instead he plans to talk only about the cd she gave him. It’s safer that way.
Some days he wished he could tell Scully what it is that makes him concerned about Fowley, but it’s not really his secret to tell. All he can do is assure her repeatedly that there is nothing going on between them, and if he silently adds the words "of a romantic nature" after "nothing," he’s even telling the truth.
When the cd starts he realizes that it’s not the type of thing he usually listens to, but it’s interesting in a strange raspy voice vs. guitars vs. electronica way. He uses the remote to fast-forward through the cd until he lands on a track that immediately catches his interest. Music begins to pour out of the speakers and fills the room.
<whispered>…set the tone
...cold kick it, right side
There’s love in your future
There’s love in your psycho future
There’s kick in your future
There’s kick in your psycho future
Cool memories – cool – can you give it to me?
Cool movies – cool - can you show me?
Can you send it out? The information
Can you send it out? As entertainment
Send it out
There’s fear in your future
There’s fear in your psycho future
There’s kick in your future
Kick in your psycho future
Cool memories – cool – can you talk it to me?
Set the tone, just show me
Can you send it out? The information
Can you send it out? As entertainment
Can you send it out? The information
Can you send it out? As entertainment
Send it out
Can you send it out?
Can you send it out?
Because I’ve been waiting a long time
In the here and now
You know I wait a long time
In the psycho now
I want to get out
In your psycho future
Can you send it out? The information
Can you send it out? As entertainment
Can you send it out?
Information as entertainment
(Girls Against Boys "psycho future")
It’s with relief that he realizes that the song reminds him of no one but himself.
The music cut off abruptly. Finding that he had to open his eyes, which he considered strange since he didn’t recall closing them, Mulder Leary blinked rapidly as he looked around the drab, and unfamiliar, office. He took in the desk he was sitting next to and poster with the UFO on it with a sense of dazed wonder. His thoughts were not <<where is my room?>> or even << where am I?>> though both would have been understandable. Instead he was thinking, <<Oh no, not again.>>
His immediate thoughts after that were frantic musings about how this had happened <<again>>. Actually, he didn’t know how it had happened the first time, either, but he knew that it had somehow involved a mysterious figure named "Stan"who has been posing as former reporter/environmental author Thadeus Quinn. How he’d been involved was still a mystery he had yet to confide in anyone about.
It was only after wondering if Stan could be responsible this time that he realized that he was not in the room alone. A woman was sitting at another desk. He guessed that she was about a decade older than he was, which would make her somewhere in her mid-to-late 20s and he thought it was a shame that she pulled her pretty blond hair back in such a severe bun. He thought that she was a bit too well dressed for her surroundings. The last time he’d seen a woman dressed like that she’d been posing as an FBI agent, but had probably really been an actress like her supposed partner. The thought of the harsh spoken "Agent" Vee made him frown slightly.
The woman was looking right at him, but was reaching into her desk drawer for something. <<But she can’t see me. If there’s one thing I know about this crap it’s that no one pays attention to me no matter what I do. But what I can’t figure out is why I’m here. This certainly isn’t my past. Maybe she’ll do or say something to give me a cl- >>
The young woman slowly raised her hand and he saw that she was holding what looked like a gun. She pointed it right at him. <<Oh shit.>> He himself had only used a gun once, and not very well, but he thought she held hers like she knew exactly what to do with it to cause the most damage possible.
"Would you mind explaining to me what you are doing in this office, and how the hell you got here?" Jerilyn Starkweather asked the teenager in an almost conversational tone. She congratulated herself on not letting her voice betray the shock she felt at having someone appear suddenly in the back of the office.
Mulder Leary swallowed hard. "I would tell you if I knew, lady."
She gave him a hard look, but he didn’t squirm, so she wondered if perhaps he was telling the truth. The gun was probably making him too nervous to talk, she considered, so she put it up. "Did you wander off from a tour group?" She guessed.
A puzzled look marched across his face. "Tour group for what?"
"For the building." Starkweather said, with a wave of her hand. She was annoyed that her elaboration failed to remove that look from off his face. "You know, the Hoover building?" she prompted him.
The puzzled look did leave his face, only to be replaced by one of horror. " The FBI building? Isn’t that in Washington, DC?"
"That’s not possible. I can’t be in Washington. No way, no how." He said, sounding frightened.
Starkweather gave him an almost sympathetic look. She was beginning to wonder if she was going to have to call the local nuthatch to let them know one of their patients escaped. "I assure you, you are in Washington." She said gently.
"That’s not possible. A few minutes ago I was up in my room listening to music."
<<Sure, your room at the asylum>> Starkweather thought. "Where’s your room?" She was hopping that he’d give her the building’s name.
"In my house." He glared at her, sensing that she thought he was insane. " In Capeside Massachusetts."
It was Starkweather’s turn to look puzzled. She had a photographic memory, and Capeside rang no bells with her despite having looked at New England maps. " Where’s Capeside?"
"On the Cape. About thirty minutes from Cape Cod."
Starkweather shook her head. Knowing where he thought he came from wasn’t helping any. "Do you know your name?"
"Of course I know my name, I’m not psychotic, I just don’t know how I got here." Mulder snapped, getting frustrated that the FBI agent wasn’t helping him.
"Then what is it?" Starkweather challenged him.
Starkweather’s eyes widened in surprise, and she brought her gun back down.
<<Uh oh, I guess she doesn’t like my name>> Mulder thought as he became frightened all over again.
Starkweather stared hard as she took in the boy’s looks. Now that she thought about it, he did look something like her brother. The same dark hair and hazel eyes, the distinctive nose…She began to wonder if her brother had been more successful with women as a much younger man. "What’s your first name?" She snapped at the boy.
"Mulder is my first name. Mulder Leary." Mulder said quickly, hoping that he didn’t sound as scared as he felt.
Starkweather wondered if his mother had been one of those women who decided to give her child a family surname as a first name. "Who are you named after?"
"I don’t know. My parents never gave an explanation for any of our names."
"Any? So you have siblings?" Starkweather asks.
"Yeah, a brother, Price, and a sister, Sam." <<Oh God, now what did I say?>> The color drained out of the FBI agent’s face.
"I suppose your eight-year-old sister was kidnapped when you were twelve, never to be seen again." She said in a strangely hollow tone.
Mulder Leary was astonished. He scooted back closer to the desk he was sitting on the floor next to. "How did you know Sam was kidnapped? I was only four though, when she was taken. She was a newborn at the time, not eight."
"Lucky guess. I bet you’re trying to find her." Starkweather said, wondering if maybe she was the crazy one after all. Perhaps the boy was a very vivid hallucination.
"Not any more."
Something twisted in her stomach. Maybe this Mulder’s sister was dead. "Why not?"
"Because we have her back now. They let her go in May, when our brother was born."
"I have the feeling that you know something you’re not telling me."
Starkweather resisted the urge to laugh. "I bet I know lots of things you don’t. It’s just that you’re not the only Mulder I know who had a sister kidnapped."
Mulder Leary decided that she was being sarcastic. "Sure. Next you’ll be telling me that his girlfriend is named Scully and his best friend is Doggett." Mulder griped.
Starkweather’s eyes widened. "If you tell me that you know a Skinner too, I’m going to shoot you."
"Please don’t." He said, holding his arms over his face.
"So you do know a Skinner."
"I don’t if you’re going to shoot me for it!"
"All right, I won’t shoot you."
"Promise?" He asked in a shaky voice. She nodded and he lowered his arms. " Ok, I know a Skinner. His twin sister, Reyes, is Doggett’s girlfriend."
Starkweather began to root through her desk for a bottle of Advil. "Do you know a Justin Leo? Marita Covarrubias? "The boy shook his head twice. Who was that bitch Scully told her about the last time she was drunk? "How about a Diana Fowley?" He nodded. "Anyone named Spender?" Another hit.
"I know a Fowley, but Spender is dead. He drowned." He said, wondering if those answers would garner any more threats.
Starkweather nodded. She wasn’t very broken up about the death of someone she never met. Or the deaths of two someones she never met. She popped open the pill bottle and gulped down three without water. "Do you know a Starkweather?"
"I’ve never heard the name before, but it sounds cool." He told her, relaxing slightly when it seemed to be the right response.
She reached for her phone, and noticed that the boy’s eyes widened. "Don’t worry, I’m just going to call my partner."
Mulder Leary did not take any comfort in that, since he didn’t have any way of knowing if this partner of hers would be more or less trigger-happy.
Doggett was talking to Skinner when he got Starkweather’s call demanding that he come downstairs. When he did get to the basement office, he was met by a strange sight: Starkweather was wearing an expression like she’d just seen a ghost, and was loosely aiming a gun at a huddled figure that was pressed up against his desk. He couldn’t make out the person’s features very well since the desk cast a shadow, but what he could see told him that it probably wasn’t an adult she was aiming at.
Since she looked more scared and confused than angry, and the person next to the desk seemed to be doing his best to appear non-threatening, Doggett didn’t draw his own weapon. Instead he leaned close to Starkweather and asked her in a low voice. "Who’s the kid?"
Relief flooded her face. "Oh, thank god, you can see him." She blurted out before she could stop herself. Her expression deeply worried him. He couldn’t think of a time when he’d seen her as rattled. Maybe the kid was more of a threat than he originally thought. Before he could ask any more questions, Starkweather gave a brittle laugh and wave her hand in the boy’s direction. "That’s Mulder."
Mulder Leary looked up at the tall man with dark blond hair, and waited to see what his reaction would be. There was nothing at reach that he could defend himself with, so he resigned himself to the fact that he was at the mercy of these people who the woman claimed were FBI agents. The man looked confused, and upset rather than angry. Interesting.
Doggett gave Starkweather a concerned look. "I know your brother, and that ain’t him."
"Oh no, it’s not my brother, it’s another Mulder."
"Are you related to Starkweather here and Agent Muldah?" Doggett asked the boy, who shook his head.
<<Jesus, I have the same name as her brother, no wonder she was so upset>> "Not that I know of, sir. Mulder’s my first name, not my last. Mulder Leary."
"Any relation to Timothy Leary?" Doggett quipped. His joke fell flat because Starkweather didn’t notice the jib, and the boy took him seriously. He wondered if the kid even knew who he meant, since Leary hadn’t be a big deal since his "everyone should be taking drugs"fame before the boy was even born.
"No sir. He just has the same last name." Mulder Leary told him.
"How’d he get in here?" Doggett asked Starkweather.
"We don’t know." Starkweather and the boy chorused.
Doggett tried not to let his alarm show on his face. Sometimes one person might not know how the other got there, but it was rare for neither people to know what had happened. He tried to discretely sniff the air, suspecting a gas leak.
"Starkweather, do you think it’d be ok if the kid got off the floor, and sat in a chair?" He asked carefully, not sure how she was going to react.
She gave him a sheepish grin. "Uh…Go ahead and sit in a chair, Mulder."
Mulder Leary got to his feet very carefully, glancing back and forth between the two FBI agents. He glanced back at a chair, then scrambled into it without taking his eyes off of them. "Thanks." He mumbled.
Starkweather turned to Doggett and he didn’t like the look in her eyes. "You haven’t heard the best part yet, Doggett. Not only is his name Mulder, he’s got a best friend named Doggett, a girlfriend named Scully, and friends named Reyes and Skinner who are twins."
Doggett’s jaw dropped. "Twins?"
"Yeah." Starkweather said, starting to giggle hysterically. Doggett soon had difficulty containing himself as well.
Mulder Leary just sat in the chair giving them concerned looks. He had no idea what they found so funny about that. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know. "Um…"he finally tried to interrupt. "From what agent Starkweather said, I gather that this other Mulder has my first name as his last, right? So what’s his first name, then?"
"Fox." Doggett said, finally swallowing his mirth.
It was then Mulder’s turn to crack up. Once he finally caught his breath, Starkweather asked him, "What’s funny about that?"
"Scully…"Mulder Leary chuckled. "Scully has a Finnish Spitz puppy… a puppy named Fox! "Calming himself, he added, "Up until now I only thought it was funny that its color matches her hair."
Doggett reached up and ran his hands over his own head. Then he reached over and did the same thing to Starkweather. She pulled away from him, annoyed, worried that he was going to mess up her hair. "What are you doing?" She snapped.
"At least one of us must have a head injury." Doggett explained. "I was just trying to figure out which one of us it is."
"Do me a favor," Starkweather said, smoothing down the fly-away strands of
hair Doggett had disturbed. "And stop being helpful."
"That was my second mistake," Starkweather grumbled, finally, to Mulder Leary’s relief, putting the safety on her weapon and laying it on her desk.
"What was your first?" Doggett asked.
"We need to know how you got here," Doggett said patiently.
Mulder Leary stared up at Doggett helplessly. "I don’t
"Oh. No. Well. At least, I don’t think so."
"What ‘bout your family?" Doggett drawled.
Mulder Leary shook his head.
Starkweather leaned against her desk, studying the boy, cataloging his
clothes and shoes. Determining that he was from an at least middle-to-upper
class family, she asked "What do they do?"
"My mom’s the news anchor for Channel 6 News and my dad works for Candling
"Excuse us," Doggett said, putting his hand on Starkweather’s back to escort her from the office.
The minute he touched her though, she yelped "Don’t touch my back!"
"Sorry," Doggett said contritely as Mulder Leary watching them with a confounded expression on his young face.
"Stay there," Starkweather said to the young man over her shoulder as she walked out of the office. As soon as she and Doggett were in the hallway, she awkwardly tried to fan her back with her own hands. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…"she said pathetically.
"I said I was sorry," Doggett said, now a little irritated. He was the one, after all, who had been in the hospital for a gunshot wound. And except for that one disastrous bedside visit, hadn’t gotten much sympathy. "Besides, that happened a long time ago."
"Well, it still stings," she bitched at him, unbuttoning her blazer and letting it drop to the floor. Pulling her blouse away from her back she said "Plus Caesar thought it would be fun to use me as his cat scratch post so all the old cuts have been re-opened. Fucking cat."
"Aww," Doggett said without a trace of sympathy. "And here I thought your cat was harmless."
"Ben was watching ‘Pet Cemetery’ on cable last night and I think it spooked
She squirmed. "Well, okay, I was lying in front of the TV on my stomach and
there was this really scary part and I jumped… and squealed just a little but I
forgot that Caesar had been lying on my back and…. ANYWAY"she glared at him,
getting back to business. "You thinking what I’m thinking?"
Not able to come up with an appropriate response, Doggett said "So what do
you think the odds are? We shut down Luna Blanca and Unigen and now this kid
shows up out of the blue?"
… if he didn’t have the bullet-wound from the local nut job Justin Leo waking him up at night throbbing still…
… and if he hadn’t remembered the sound of Ben Starkweather’s fists against his hospital door when he saw Jerilyn visiting him… sitting next to him… holding his hand…
Her next question broke into his thoughts.
"Doggett… Even if they are connected, what do you want to ask him? ‘Hey, Mulder, your dad isn’t evil, is he?’ "Starkweather grumped, putting a hand on her hip.
"Well…"Doggett drawled. "At least you’d find out if you had something in common or not." She gave him an icy stare. He paled slightly, then added. "I was thinkin’ we could ask him if he knew what his Dad’s place does. Chances are that if you work with Dinosaurs, it’d be hard to hide it from your kids. I'll ask 'em."
"Yeah…You'll go easy on him, right? We don't know that he's done anything wrong, per say." Starkweather said, with a slight note of anxiousness in her voice. "He's just a kid, obviously scared…"she trailed off suddenly.
It was on the tip of Doggett's tongue to ask her if she was going soft, but he suddenly thought about her kindness to small kids, like her nephew, and little Peter Sedai, whom they'd met and helped while at la Isla Luna Blanca. That was admirable, and not really the sort of thing to give anyone flack over. Instead he raised his fingers and grinned. "Scout's honor."
"Were you a scout?"
"Well, no, but…"
Mulder Leary kicked his feet as he watched the FBI agents talk out in the hallway. He couldn’t hear them, but he figured that they were probably talking about whether or not he was crazy, and that bothered him. Doggett and Scully might tease him, as one’s best friend and girlfriend are wont to do, but no one had ever seriously questioned his sanity before. He wasn’t smiling when they came back in.
Doggett pasted a stern yet friendly look on his face as he sat down across from the boy. It was the sort of expression that usually got people to confess, be the person in question a felon or small wayward relative. "So Muldah, do you mind if I ask a few questions?"
"Oh, family, stuff like that." Doggett said blandly.
Although he was suspicious of the older man's intentions, Mulder Leary thought it was probably in his best interest to play along. At least at first. " Ok, sure."
"You get along with your parents?"
"I already told you I'm not in any trouble." He answered quickly.
"Oh I know." Doggett said calmly. "I was just wondering how you got along with them. Me and my dad, when I was your age…it wasn't pretty."
"We get along ok. Mostly. We're not a Nick At Night family, but there's no yelling or hitting if that's what you're after."
"Got any brothers or sisters?" Doggett asked.
"Yeah. Like I told her-" Mulder nodded towards Starkweather who was hovering in the background. "I've got a brother and sister. Sam and Price."
"You the oldest?"
"Sure. Sam's thirteen and Price is just a baby. But I was an only, practically, before Price was born."
Doggett raised an eyebrow, unconsciously mimicking Scully's trademark gesture. "How's that?"
Mulder looked distressed. "Sam, she was kidnapped as a baby. We didn't get her back until a Price was born. I don't want to be rude, Mister, but is it ok if we don't talk about that? I don't really like to think about it now that she's back."
Doggett exchanged a quick look with Starkweather. "Oh sure, we don't have to talk about it. So, your folks pretty busy? Both having careers and all. I bet you look after the other kids a lot."
"Some, but not a lot. I don't mind, really. Except for one time when this old woman thought Price was my girlfriend's baby. I mean, I thought it was funny, but Scully didn't." Mulder Leary said with the smallest of smiles. "I like spending time with Sam. You wouldn't believe how strange it is to be apart from a sibling practically their whole life, then having to get to know them after all that missed time."
"You'd be surprised how easy that is for some people to relate to." Starkweather muttered under her breath. The boy looked at her, but she didn't say anything else.
"It must be neat that your mom is on TV every day." Doggett commented.
Mulder shrugged. "I guess. She's been on TV since I was in kindergarten, so… It's kind of normal, rather than exciting."
"Is your dad's work exciting?"
"I don't think so. What would be exciting about working in a lab? A bunch of people wandering around in lab-coats. Whoooeee."
"What's his place do?" Doggett asked casually.
"They create genetically altered food. It's supposed to be more nutritious."
"Is that all they do?"
"Yup." Mulder said too quickly.
Doggett tried not to let his thoughts show. There was something about the look on the kid's face that suggested he was lying, or at least leaving something out. He paused, wondering if he should try to get him to confess whatever it was that he was hiding. He decided it was worth a shot.
"Are you sure?" Doggett pressed.
"That’s all my Dad does." Mulder Leary said firmly. His conviction puzzled Doggett, who thought the kid believed himself to be telling the truth. "Look, you can check out the website if you want to." Mulder added irritably. "I don’t know what you’re so interested for, but the url is www.candlinglabs.com."
"Nah, there’s no need. I was just curious." Doggett blandly told him.
"Well, you know what they say, curiosity killed the cat." Mulder replied, still looking slightly upset.
"But satisfaction brought it back." Starkweather completed the saying with its seldom heard rejoined, earning a reluctant grin from the boy.
It faded before too long. He tried to ignore the silent conversion that he was sure the agents were engaging in over his head. Instead he went back to swinging his feet. Doggett asked Starkweather how she knew about the second half and she cited some obscure text as a source, but Mulder was no longer listening.
Mulder Leary, meanwhile struggled with his mental vertigo. <<I was
listening to my CD player… I was doing homework… I don’t remember anything else.
No bright lights… no weird sounds or weird people… >> He then realized
that Agent Starkweather had asked him a question. "Huh?"
"Um, that’s nice," Mulder Leary responded and found himself on the receiving end of another withering look from her. He bristled. <<Lady, what in the hell did I do to you???>>
"Diet Coke," he drawled.
She instantly crinkled her nose. Mulder Leary realized that she sort of
looked the same way Sam did when Gale or Mitch told her something she didn’t
want to hear, like when they told her about those speech lessons they made her
take when they thought she was a mute. "Why drink diet when regular is far
Of course Agent Doggett didn’t realize that the young man was unconsciously warming up to him because he bore a striking resemblance to his best friend Doggett Witter. A much older resemblance… but still…
Heaving a sigh, Starkweather first went to her desk to get some change for the pop machine and then left. Before walking out the door, she said "If I’m not back in ten minutes just wait and wonder."
When he was confident that she was out of earshot, Mulder Leary blurted out to Doggett "She’s not very nice."
Doggett grinned. "Actually, this is one of her good days."
"Oh God… how do you put up with her?"
"Um… okay, but what’s wrong with the phones down here?"
"Other than them being tapped by every other week by some sort of federal agency or underworld mob that we inadvertently pissed off one way or ‘nother, nothing," Doggett said blandly.
Mulder Leary gulped. "In that case… lead the way…"
Mulder Leary followed Doggett down the hall to the elevator. Just as they stepped onto the elevator and the doors closed, Starkweather walked out of the stairwell, balancing three cold pop cans in her small hands.
"Alright," she said "I’ve got two regular Cokes and one unleaded…"she looked
around and saw the empty office. "Doggett? Kid?" Her shoulders slumped. As she
slammed the pop cans down on Fox Mulder’s unused desk she swore soundly. "Now
where in the fuck did they go????"
And teenagers weren’t exactly on her Top Ten Favorite Things List either…
Doggett was about to knock on the door when he heard a peal of girlish laughter. That was a bit odd, since Skinner wasn’t the type to entertain women in his office. He gave Mulder Leary a "beats me"look, then knocked anyway.
"Sorry if I’m interuptin’ anything." He said when Kimberly opened the door.
Her cheeks reddened. "Oh, um, no. I was just on the phone with my boyfriend." She admitted guiltily.
"Ah. Is the director in? I want him to meet this young man." Doggett said, glancing at Mulder, who hung back shyly. He was willing to bet dollars to donuts that the kid thought Kimberly was pretty. Who didn’t?
"Yes." Kimberly pushed a button on the intercom. "Agent Doggett to see you, sir."
Skinner gave the door a puzzled look. He had no idea what would cause Doggett to come back so soon. "Send him in."
When the door opened, Doggett was ushering a young man in front of him. The boy looked familiar, but Skinner couldn’t quite place why. "I thought we were finished talking earlier, Agent Doggett. Was there something you meant to add before Agent Starkweather called you away?"
"No sir." Doggett said quickly. "Something’s come up since then." He nodded at Mulder Leary. "This boy was the reason Starkweather called me down, he was in the basement office."
"I didn’t break in." Mulder told Skinner quickly. There was something slightly frightening about the man’s steely gaze that made him want to get that fact out there quickly.
"The fact is, sir, neither he nor Agent Starkweather have any idea how he got there. If it’s ok with you, I thought I’d call his folks so they can arrange to come get him." Doggett told him.
"Fine." Skinner said, wondering how the boy got past Starkweather.
"Muldah, what’s the number?" Doggett asked. Skinner shot him a look.
"410-1977"Mulder told him.
"Your name is Mulder?" Skinner asked, wondering if he’d merely misheard.
"Yes sir, Mulder Leary." While he supposed he didn’t have to say sir since he wasn’t employed by the man, it seemed like a good idea to follow Doggett’s lead. If grown men gave him that level of respect after all…
Doggett looked bothered. "There’s a recordin’, says the number is out of service." He held the phone out so the boy could hear it.
"Did you dial one first?" He asked anxiously. "Maybe I said the number too quickly."
"Why don’t you dial it?" Doggett invited. "That’s ok, isn’t it sir?" Skinner nodded.
Mulder dialed the number, then held the phone to his ear with an expectant look. His face feel with the same recording came through the ear piece. "I don’t understand it…the phones were working fine earlier today."
"Lines develop problems some times. Well, maybe we can call your dad or mom’s work and get someone to give them the message." Doggett suggested. He glanced at the clock, wondering if Starkweather had gotten back with the sodas yet.
Skinner fished a pen out of his desk, and handed it to Mulder. "Here, why don’t you write down your home number, and your folks work numbers. I’ll give them a shot in a few minutes."
"Ok, thanks." He wrote them down, and was about to hand the pen back when disaster stuck. "Oh no." He said in dismay
Skinner looked at the pen, which had just self-destructed. "Dammit. That’s the fourth pen this month to do that. Sorry, Mulder, I thought it was only the blue ones that did it."
Mulder Leary glanced down at the red ink that stained his hands. "That’s ok…is there a sink somewhere?"
"Yeah, I’ll show you." Doggett told him. Five minutes later he’d scrubbed off as much ink as possible, but his fingers were still all red.
"Looks like I went on a grading marathon." He commented. Doggett chuckled.
When they were about to get out of the elevator, Doggett remembered that he’d left something in Skinner’s office. "Muldah, I forgot something. Why don’t you go back into the office and wait for me? You remember how to get there, right?"
"Sure." He walked back into the office, and Starkweather flipped out.
Doggett rushed back up, and Kimberly waved him in. "Sorry sir, I forgot this when Starkweather called me down." He said sheepishly, grabbing up a folder
"Doggett, who is that kid?" Skinner asked him.
"I’m not sure, sir. He’s a lost kid who somehow ended up downstairs with us." Doggett confessed.
"He’s not…I mean, Agent Mulder when he was much younger, he didn’t…"Skinner looked slightly embarrassed.
"I don’t think so, sir." Doggett said, catching his drift. "The resemblance is there, though."
Skinner picked up the paper Mulder Leary had given him. "None of these numbers work." He informed Doggett. "Same out of service recording with each one."
Doggett looked puzzled. "Maybe there’s a storm or somthin’ there. Knocked out all the lines, maybe."
"That may be. I did hear that a storm has closed down Logan Airport for the night, and that’s probably near where he lives." Skinner said grudgingly. "I don’t like not being able to get through to his parents, though."
"Me neither, sir. I suppose I ought to get back, though, before Starkweather says somethin’ rash."
"Like that would ever happen." Skinner said, a glint of humor in his eye.
"Oh, by the way sir, he gave me the url to his dad’s company, if you want to check it out. www.candlinglabs.com."
"Thanks, Agent Doggett."
Starkweather took one look at the boy’s bloody hands and screeched, "What have you done to Doggett?"
Mulder Leary’s eyes widened in shock. "I uh…what?" he asked, bewildered.
Starkweather picked up a mug off of Scully’s desk, and threw it at him. He ducked and it shattered against the wall." I never should of trusted you! Stupid! I knew there have been dangerous kids, so why should I have thought you to be any different? There were those clones who poisoned people, and that kid that tried to kill Doggett and Reyes not too long ago! Oh no, I was dumb enough to think you were more like Peter and Boo, I should have known!" As she ranted she picked up more things and threw them at him. "I can’t believe I thought we should be nice to you, that you were just some lost kid!"
To busy trying to dodge objects to talk, all he managed in response was, " Ididn’tdoanything, areyoucrazy?" And what did she mean, nice to him? How would she have acted if she decided to be mean?
She didn’t acknowledge that he’d spoken. "What did you do to Doggett? I know you hurt him, there’s blood all over your hands." Her voice was shrill. No, hysterical.
"Blood?" He asked blankly, then remembered. "Ink!"
Starkweather didn’t hear him because she was shouting. "Is he dead? Where’d you put him, under the desks?" She looked reluctant to turn her back to check. " I want you to know that I’ll be sure that they try you as an adult. If he’s dead, you’ll probably get the chair. People don’t like cop-killers."
"Tell me what you did to my partner!" She demanded loudly, looking for something else to throw. Her hand seized on one of the phones.
<<I guess bugs don’t matter now.>> Mulder thought wildly as he prepared to dodge the heavy missile.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE?" Doggett roared from the doorway. Doggett had thought he heard shouting when he got off the elevator, and began to run down the hallway when he became sure of it.
Starkweather gave him a shocked look, and all the fury drained out of her instantly. She let the phone drop harmlessly to the desk. "I thought he did something to you." She mumbled, turning redder than Mulder’s hands.
"Why?" Doggett demanded harshly, as Mulder stopped cowering.
"Because everyone dies on me!" she said, bursting into tears. She pushed past Doggett and ran out of the office.
Mulder Leary gave Doggett a questioning look. "Um…you stay here, ok? I swear today isn’t normal for her." Doggett waited just long enough to see Mulder shrug and take a seat, then chased after Starkweather.
Mulder stared at the clock with a growing sense of helplessness. It was five minutes before seven. By rights he should at home, eating cake by now. His stomach grumbled a little, reminding him that he’d missed out on chicken too. But here he was, no cake, no dinner, stuck with a couple of FBI agents, who were bound to be leaving soon. How late did they typically stay? It couldn’t be much later than this, probably earlier than this normally. Surely even the feds had lives away from the office. He wanted to go home. To his horror, he felt his own eyes tearing up as well.
Doggett caught up with Starkweather and grabbed her arm, right as she was pushing the buttons on the elevator. "Where are you going?"
"H-h-home." She hiccupped, swiping angrily at the tears that stubbornly refused to stop wetting her cheeks. She felt like an idiot to be standing there, crying in the hallway.
"You can’t go home. I need your help on deciding what to do with Muldah. I don’t think he’s gonna be able to go home tonight." Doggett said patiently.
"My help?" She laughed shakily. "He probably thinks I’m insane."
The look Doggett gave her wasn’t nearly as sympathetic as she’d been hoping for. "You’re probably right. What is wrong with you today? I know that havin’ a strange kid show up is odd, but you’re taken your reactions right out of the Daily Soaps Guide to Proper Etiquette For Unexpected Situations."
"It’s just…just," She threw her hands up in the air. "Ben shows up a week ago, and now this kid… It’s getting to be too much. I don’t know how much more of the unexpected I can handle. I know, don’t say it. That’s ironic given we work for the X-files. But it’s not case related unexpected I’m having trouble with."
"Maybe you should learn to ask for help." Doggett said sternly, as he led her back towards the office.
Mulder Leary was glad that he’d been able to, if just barely, stop himself from crying, because when he looked up, the FBI agents were coming back. The woman hesitated at the doorway, then jumped with a startled look, leading him to suspect that the man poked her in the back to make her move. Mulder gave her an apprehensive look, trusting that Agent Doggett would be able to keep her from throwing anything else at him. He was a lot bigger than her, so he hoped so.
"Please…can I go home?" He asked, hating how young he sounded. He sounded around his sister’s age, not eighteen.
Doggett gave him an unhappy look. "Muldah, the director called the numbers you gave him, and none of them are workin’. He said he found out that there’s a bad storm up your way that’s closed down the airports. That’s probably why the phone lines are down."
Mulder Leary nodded. One of the worst things about living in New England was that severe storms could show up any time before the first week of May. The later in the year, the more sudden, usually. "That’s ok. There must be buses…"
Doggett shook his head. "I don’t think that would be a good idea. It might not be safe. I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to go home, Muldah."
The boy looked around the office. "I can’t stay in this office over night."
"No, that wouldn’t be allowed. I was thinking that you could spend the night with one of us." Doggett told him. Mulder Leary gave Starkweather a horror-stricken glance. "With me, I mean." He decided right then and there.
"Oh…ok, I guess." Mulder replied, relaxing a little.
Starkweather looked at him with embarrassment. "I want to apologize for my over reaction." She told him, not looking him in the eye.
Mulder Leary didn’t acknowledge that he’d heard her, he just followed Doggett when the man told him it was time to go. Starkweather sighed, and waited until they were gone to begin gathering up her stuff.
As she put the files she had photocopied earlier so she could review them at
home, fatigue settled into her bones, making her feel at least a hundred years
old. "Oh my God, what a fucked up day," she said to herself, closing her
briefcase with a snap. "Maybe I’ll call in dead to work tomorrow…"she told
herself as she pulled on her coat and grabbed her briefcase and her work out
bag. "Or maybe I’ll just skip the gym tonight and get drunk instead…"
Slowly made her way home as the falling snow intimidated many drivers, causing a slow down on the freeway.
"Oh for Christ’s sake…"Starkweather complained, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. "People, get some balls and drive! This is nothing. People in Minnesota are still playing golf in this weather…"
Irritated, she began to surf through the radio stations, as her car was so
old a cassette tape deck hadn’t even been standard issue when it was made.
Finally she settled on a rock station. As Aerosmith blared out of her speakers,
she thought to herself <<Okay, Jerilyn, it’s just you now… what the hell
is your problem? Why did you flip out so bad when you saw that
She couldn’t think of a viable answer.
Except for <<Maybe I’m just going nuts...>>>
The sudden onset of exhaustion made her feel like she was trapped in a bad dream. As she inched along the freeway with the rest of the traffic, she devoutly hoped that Doggett could pry some answers out of the kid.
And then send him back wherever the hell he came from.
Mulder Leary looked around at the leaden sky as Doggett drove out of the parking garage. "Does it snow down here?"
"Sure. Not so much as you’re used to, but it snows some times." Doggett told him.
After they’d driven for fifteen minutes or so, he broke the silence again. " Do you live around here?"
"Not too far, but we need to make a stop first."
"Why?" He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of stopping anywhere. He realized they were pulling into the parking lot of a shopping plaza.
"Well, I’ve got a spare room you can sleep in, but I thought we’d stop off and pick you up a few things. Clothes for tomorrow, something to sleep in, a toothbrush…and I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry."
Mulder gave him a stricken look. "I don’t have much money with me." Since he hadn’t any warning about his little trip, he’d had zero time to prepare.
Doggett climbed out of the car, saying "Don’t worry about it."
"I couldn’t ask you to-"
"Relax. I’ll bill it as case related expenses. Technically, you’re a missing persons case, I guess."
"You can do that?" Mulder asked him as he followed Doggett through the double doors of the department store.
"I better be able to." Doggett said somewhat roughly. "If Starkweather and Agent Scully got away with charging one thousand, four hundred, eighty-six dollars and twelve cents on stuff for Starkweather’s undercover case, I can sure as hell pick up some essentials for a lost kid."
"Agent Starkweather went undercover?" Mulder asked looking up from a rack of I Love DC sweatshirts He was unable to keep the disbelief from his voice. He couldn’t picture her keeping cool undercover. Or…ever.
"Yeah…she pretended to be a college student a while back." Doggett explained. When Mulder still didn’t look convinced he added, "She looks a lot younger when she’s got her hair down and is wearing a tank top and shorts instead of a FBI appropriate outfit."
"Wait, you said she went shopping with Scully. Is she an FBI agent too?"
"Yeah. She and Mulder were partners for years."
"That’s really strange. My Scully once told me she thought I ought to be an FBI agent when I grow up. Later she said she was joking, but she seemed serious at the time."
"Is that what you want to do when you grow up? Become an agent?" Doggett asked, wondering if that’s what prompted him to come to the Hoover building.
Mulder shrugged. "I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I guess I should since I’ll be graduating high school in a little over a year but... It seems like everyone else has plans for me already. Doggett’s Dad thinks he, Scully and I ought to go to the police academy together. And this summer my friend Fowley called me up with this crazy idea that the perfect career for me would be a cryptozoologist..." He trailed off.
"But you want to do something else." Doggett guessed, tossing him a packaged pair of pjs.
"I spent a long time looking for my sister. It didn’t turn out that anything I did brought her back, but it felt…what is it when you feel good about doing something worthwhile?"
"Yeah, fulfilling to be doing something to try and solve a mystery. Maybe looking for missing persons is something I’d be good at." He said with a small smile.
"You could be a cop or a Fed to do that." Doggett observed.
"Or a TV psychic!" Mulder added brightly. Doggett groaned.
Doggett hoped that the kid would talk more about his sister, since Fox Mulder never got his back, but he didn’t. A few minutes later they bought Mulder’s things and stopped by the store’s café to get some food. By the time they were done eating, Doggett couldn’t think of a way to steer the conversation back towards Sam Leary, the only Samantha to ever be recovered.
As they were leaving, Mulder glanced down at the arm his bags were on. "You know what’s strange? I have my coat."
"Why’s that strange?" Doggett asked.
"Because I wasn’t wearing it in my room." Mulder replied. Neither of them had any explanation for that.
Back at Doggett’s house he didn’t have much luck getting Mulder to say much about himself. He put on a ball game and learned only that Mulder was a Celtics fan, which was hardly a revelation given the fierce loyalty most people showed to the local teams. As they sat there listening to the officiating, he wondered if the kid would be more inclined to talk about his friends and siblings than himself. That was fine with Doggett, you could get a sense of people from what they valued in others. And, he had to admit to himself that he was curious yet. It wasn’t a burning feeling yet, but he could feel it simmering in the background. It was finding a tactful way to bring it up…
"Must be strange, meetin’ and hearin’ about all these people with names like yours and your friends, but so much older." He commented during a time-out.
"I know it’s strange hearin’ about them, and knowin’ nothing about them but their names." He offered.
Mulder Leary gave him a surprised look. "You care? I figured you were like your partner, and would be happier knowing as little about them as possible. So you can pretend they don’t exist. I know she wishes I didn’t exist either."
This remark made Doggett frown. "She and I might work well together as partners, but you’re just about the first person to accuse me of thinkin’ like her."
"Sorry." Mulder Leary sounded nearly contrite to Doggett. Nearly.
"If you’re willing to tell me about them, I am curious." There. Either he’d take the bait, or he wouldn’t.
The kid shrugged. "Who’d I start with?"
Doggett forced himself not to smile. Hook, line and sinker. "Dunno, How about your Doggett? I’d kind of like to know how we compare." He said with a grin.
"Anything specific you want to know?"
"Nah, anything interesting you feel like sayin’ is good enough for me." He didn’t want to make him reconsider, so he was trying to be careful.
"Well, ok. Doggett. Hmm. We’ve known each other since we were three and in the same preschool class, so that makes him both my oldest and best friend. He kind of looks like you, except besides being younger, he’s shorter than me still, and his hair is darker than yours." Doggett found the fact that there was a physical resemblance too more than a bit disconcerting, but he kept it to himself.
Mulder Leary didn’t notice and continued his description. "He’s a smart guy, but you wouldn’t know from his grades. Not that he fails anything, he gets by, but he doesn’t put in the effort. It drives his parents and his girlfriend crazy." He said with a smile. Doggett’s grades weren’t a cause of personal concern, so he could find humor in them.
"Lots of kids are like that when it comes to school." Doggett remarked, opening a fresh can of root beer. "I know I didn’t take it seriously when I was young."
"Yeah…but I think if he tried a little harder, he and Sheriff Witter would get along better. His grades seem to give the sheriff the idea that Doggett is dumber than his older sisters and brother. Instead of proving his dad otherwise, he seems to get some sort of grim satisfaction out of being aggressively mediocre. I think it has something to do with wanting to seen as little like his brother- the straight A+ student who followed in their dad’s footsteps- as possible."
"He’s the youngest, right?"
"Un huh. First there are his two oldest sisters, known throughout town as the wicked witches of the Northeast. Thankfully they got married and moved away years ago. Then there’s Kersh- "
Doggett choked on his root beer. Mulder gave him a concerned look and stopped talking. "Kersh is your Doggett’s brother?" His voice sounded strangled even to his own ears.
"I just can’t picture Kersh bein’ white." Doggett blurted out before he could think of a better way to put it. His cheeks burned.
"Oh." Mulder blinked. "But he isn’t. Except for the two youngest kids, all the other kids are half-siblings. The oldest girls have a different dad, and Kersh had a different mom. Who was black. Kersh is a lot darker than Alex, though, so people who didn’t know the Sheriff probably think that Kersh is just black."
Doggett nodded, wondering who the hell Alex was, since he didn’t think it was Krycek.
"Anyway, after Kersh is Gretchen, who is really cool. She’s a junior in college, so she’s not around a lot. Last is Doggett, of course."
"So, do you and your friend Doggett see eye-to-eye on everythin’? Fox Mulder and I…most of the time I’ve know him, we’ve been like oil and water. I don’t think we’ve have ever learned to get along if it wasn’t for Scully." Doggett confessed.
Mulder smirked. "Which is funny because the Doggett and Scully that I know only grudgingly get along because of me. It’s more his fault than hers, he never should have pushed her into that duck pond when we were little." He chuckled. " He and I usually get along pretty well. He’s got a strange sense of humor, and claims the same about me, so we give each other a hard time a lot. But for fun. The only time we don’t get along is when he thinks I’m making things up. Our town is a lot stranger than skeptics like he, Scully, and Reed want to believe. That causes friction sometimes, because they’re too damn stubborn to believe what’s right in front of them sometimes."
Reed? Doggett wondered fleetingly. He formed a theory that he wanted to try out. "But I bet Reyes believes you." He guessed. Doggett had always half wondered how Mulder and Reyes would have gotten along if they’d known each other before so much sh*t had happened in their lives- before they’d become part of the X-files.
"Hey! Good guess. Reyes, and Fowley to a lesser degree, are a lot more open minded. Skinner though, rarely takes a side. He’s probably safer that way."
Ben and Jerilyn Starkweather’s apartment
Starkweather unlocked her apartment door and turned on the lights. "Hello?" she called out needlessly.
Caesar, her beloved tabby cat, leapt down from on top of the fridge and went straight to his food dish, meowing expectantly.
"Like you’re starving," she told her fat cat as she put her briefcase and gym bag down on the kitchen table. She then noticed the note on the kitchen table:
Have to work late tonight. Don’t wait up.
"Gee, that’s a shock," Jerilyn said, crumpling up the note. Caesar yowled. "All right, all right, I know, I know," she sighed. "Bad pet owner."
Tossing the paper ball back onto the kitchen table, Jerilyn went to the kitchen cabinets and got out a can of Nine Lives cat food. "I know," she said, popping the top of the can as Caesar did a feline equivalent of a happy dance. "That your vet said that you are getting way too heavy and I’m supposed to put you on a kitty diet, but you know what? If I’m going to drink beer and eat chocolate ice cream tonight, you can have a high fat snack too." She dumped out the wet cat food into Caesar’s bowl. Caesar began to purr.
Jerilyn said with a grimace "Eat it fast though. That shit
Doggett nodded. "Director Skinner is like that too- quiet about what he thinks until push comes to shove. That quality in him helped agents Mulder and Scully more than once, ‘cause not seeming towards them allowed him more room to negotiate on their behalfs when they got in deep."
Mulder Leary had no idea what Doggett was talking about. He thought that the older Mulder and Scully were supposed to be FBI agents, so how could that get them in trouble? It didn’t seem worth asking about at the moment. "He sounds like a good boss, then. He seemed a little…scary, though." He admitted.
"Yeah, well, they say that a lot about us former military guys."
"Which branch were you in?" Mulder asked.
"Wow." The awe in Mulder’s voice was very plain. "That’s one big way you and my best friend are different. I can’t see him surviving training. Not with his mouth, anyway."
"You’d be surprised." Doggett grinned. "What about your friend Skinner, do you see him in the services?"
"Oh yeah. He’d love it, as long as he stayed in long enough to gain a position of authority. You should have seen his impersonation of drill sergeant when we all went hiking last May. It’s too bad that he’ll probably won’t get to find out if he likes the military, though."
"Why not?" Doggett asked, wondering if Skinner the younger had a psychical problem that Mulder thought would keep him out.
Mulder looked uncomfortable. "Well, I know there’s supposed to be a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, but I know he’s not the type of guy who would want to pretend to be something he’s not just for the sake of a job."
"He’s gay?" Doggett blinked involuntarily.
Mulder pretended not to notice. "Yes. Being open has made it tougher on him, I’m sure, but like I said, he’d rather be honest and suffer for it, than pretend to be straight and hate himself for lying."
"Does he have a boyfriend?"
"No. I mean, he did, but things didn’t work out with Ethan. Then he didn’t realize how he felt about Reed- who had had a wicked crush on him for months- until it was too late. So no, he’s not dating anyone."
Doggett found the matter of fact way he spoke about his friend’s relationships, or lack there of, to be refreshing. He was more used to people his own age, most of whom spoke about gay relationships in hushed terms, not as if it was normal. Something the boy said clicked. "Oh, so that’s who Reed is. You mentioned him earlier." He wondered if he’d find out who Alex was too.
Mulder looked embarrassed. "Did I? I guess I forgot that you wouldn’t know who he is."
"That’s ok. I’m sure we’ve done that to you at some point too."
Just then her phone rang. "Now what?" she said, kicking off her high heels
and walked across the kitchen to answer. "Hello?"
In the relative safety of his messy apartment, Fox Mulder stopped channel
surfing at her remark. "How is that possible when this is the first time I’ve
spoken to you in over a week?"
"Really?" Amusement spiced up Mulder’s normally bland voice. "Good to know
that my tax dollars are hard at work keeping federal institutions safe. Did he
wander off from the tour?"
"He made no references to ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’"Starkweather said. "He said that he was from a little town called Capeside, in Massachusetts and he had been in his bedroom doing his homework and listening to CDs and then poof! He was in the X-Files office."
"Did he tell you his name?"
"That’s his name."
"WHAT?" Mulder said, becoming irritated.
Starkweather snorted. "The kid said his name was Mulder. Mulder Leary. He also said that he has a girlfriend named Scully. And this girlfriend has a puppy named Fox, isn’t that JUST darling?" she finished sarcastically.
"The kid’s first name is my last name?" Mulder said, reaching for his bag of sunflower seeds on the coffee table.
"His best friend’s named Doggett who is dating a girl named Reyes who has a twin brother named Skinner."
"I need a flow chart," Mulder complained.
"I wonder if this Skinner has hair," Starkweather couldn’t help but muse out loud.
"You said he’s a twin? I know we didn’t explain, but the reason we found that so funny is that our Skinner and Reyes are more than 20 years apart in age." Doggett said.
"She’s seventy?" Mulder Leary guessed.
"No! She’s in her early thirties." Doggett exclaimed in shock, then realized Mulder had been joking. "You already knew that there aren’t 70-something couldn’t be an FBI agent." He accused lightly.
"Of course. It’d be hard on Gramma or Grampa to chase after criminals. But yeah, he and Reyes are twins. You know, I think she was more broken up than him about how things didn’t work out with Reed."
"Yeah. She’s got the matchmaking bug. Strangely, she shares it with Doggett." He commented.
"With Doggett?" Doggett nearly choked on his soda again. Monica Reyes might well butt into people’s personal lives with wanton abandon. But he certainly didn’t. That simple difference helped dispel the feeling that the people Mulder Leary knew were just younger versions of people he himself was and knew.
"It’s really weird, but really jonesed for Scully and I to end up together. I still don’t know why."
"So, did you grow up with the twins too?" Doggett asked.
"Nope. They didn’t move to Capeside until after…the accident. Their older brother died, and their mom fell apart. Like completely. So their dad moved the two of them to Capeside. They don’t see their mom much."
"That must be really rough." Doggett commented, feeling badly for these two kids he’d never even met.
"You would think so. I mean, it probably is, but they handle it pretty well. You wouldn’t look at them and think, ‘Oh, they’ve been marked by tragedy. Poor kids, a dead brother and a crazy mother.’ Because they’re…normal. As normal as anyone who has their whole family healthy and sane, anyway."
"Good for them. Some people don’t recover from something like that."
"I know. I’ve never asked Doggett, but I think it might be what drew him to Reyes. The fact that she was trying to handle everything on her own, and doing a good job of it. A lot of girls would be weepy and clingy, but she was pretty stoic, you know what I mean? It never seemed like she was interested in him because she needed someone." Mulder told him.
Doggett wondered how he would feel if he would meet the Capeside’s version of Reyes. Would this young friend of Mulder Leary inspire the same feelings of protectiveness, respect and at times, irritation that flowed through him whenever Monica was near? Or would he feel completely different toward her since Reyes was a young girl and Monica was a grown woman.
For the time being though, he kept his thoughts to himself and continued to ask the young man about his friends.
"You ever ask her what it is she does see in him, then?" Doggett asked, wondering how much kids these days talked about their relationships. It made him feel old.
"No. Even though she has been dating my best friend for what seems like forever, I didn’t really get to know her until a few months ago."
A shadow seemed to pass over Mulder’s face. "She thought I could help her with a problem she was having with a friend." He said shortly.
Doggett smelled intrigue. There was something that Mulder wasn’t saying, but he decided that it wasn’t the right time to ask about it. Pressing the issue might make him clam up. "Oh."
"I wasn’t much help, but things sorted themselves out."
"Do you like her? As a friend, I mean."
"Sure. She’s got stranger ideas than even I do, and she’s really sweet. Doggett couldn’t have found himself a better girl. Plus, this one time she helped me totally play a trick on Doggett for his birthday." Mulder looked amused. "Although that didn’t turn out quite the way I thought it would." He was thinking about Bigfoot, but glancing at the older man, he decided not to mention what the trick was. Doggett probably took as dim a view on the beasts as he buddy did.
"I don’t know if I’d want a girlfriend who’d be party to something like that." Doggett chuckled.
"Maybe not. I think the thing I like best about her, though, is that she looks out for Fowley. Now there’s a girl who’s had a rough time of things."
"So where’s the kid now?" Mulder asked his half-sister. "With
"How old is this boy anyway?"
"Did he say anything about his family?"
Mulder ignored her "Did he say anything about what kind of genetics the lab
"I’ve never heard of Candling. Wonder if it’s a subsidiary of other plant genetics labs?"
"I’d be more interested if Candling had ties to Unigen." Starkweather said, sipping her drink, screwing up her face when she realized she had added too much Jack Daniels, therefore ‘burning’ her drink. She also realized she didn’t care and took another mouthful.
"Or maybe someone was able to smuggle Unigen’s research out just before it went other and brought the project to a different lab?" Mulder theorized.
"Do you think that this kid’s father could have possibly sent his son to the X-Files office to steal our case files into Unigen?"
"Possibly…"Mulder mused, crunching on another shell, knowing full well that
the sound repulsed Jerilyn but he didn’t care. He was too deep into thought.
"The things parents have coerced their children to do, makes me lose complete
faith in humanity."
Mulder chose to ignore that jab. "But there are fundamental flaws in your
theory, Agent Starkweather."
"First of all, what good would those case files be to a laboratory?"
"Perhaps the scientists mistakenly believe that the information on how to clone dinosaurs is in my case report," Jerilyn countered. "Or maybe the kid wasn’t sent after just the Rexy Is Sexy X-File. If Candling is tied to Unigen and Unigen has been proven to be tied to the Syndicate… maybe Dad’s trying to get his mitts on other X-Files and he sends Junior to go get them?"
"That’s a weak theory and you know it," Mulder chided her.
"I’d like to hear what you’ve got."
"I’m saying, the boy belongs to one reality, we belong to another and some
how, the boy wound up in our world."
"Didn’t your mother tell you to say no to drugs?" Starkweather took a big
swallow of her drink, finishing it off. "There’s no evidence of parallel
"What did you do?"
Mulder crunched on a seed and waited silently.
"Um… okay, so I pointed my gun at him when I first saw
"You’re right. Most people remain cool, calm and collected when a gun is being pointed at them and having their life threatened later on in the day."
"Not only am I going to buy that fucking doll, but I’m going to buy an
unlimited supply of batteries to go with it."
"Thanks for the unwanted mental picture," Jerilyn made a disgusted face as if Mulder could see her.
"So, other than the threat of termination of life and gun in face, why do you
think the boy was frightened?"
"What other people did he mention? That are connected to the X-Files office?"
"Um… he said he knew a Spender… a Krycek… a Fowley…"
"Maybe not. I think the thing I like best about her, though, is that she looks out for Fowley. Now there’s a girl who’s had a rough time of things."
Doggett thought about that for a moment. He hadn’t ever met Diana Fowley, since she’d died before he joined the X-Files office. All he knew about her came from the x-files he read, and Scully’s occasional admissions, usually alcohol induced, to despising Fox Mulder’s ex-girlfriend. Nothing he knew about her, from case files or confidences, made her sound remotely like someone anyone would worry about. "There was a Fowley who worked for the FBI once too. But she died before I got the chance to see her." He said as neutrally as possible. " Rough time of things, how?"
"Well, back in 2001, her parents decided that they couldn’t handle her, so they shipped her off to her grandmother’s house to live. When she first lived with Grams…you said you and agent Mulder were like oil and water, that’s a good description of them too. Grams is set in her ways and really religious. Fowley is an atheist with a mind of her own… I’m sure you can guess how that went. But she settled in and made the best of it. She even started dating a guy, Spender. Then things really went to hell."
Doggett wondered what the problem was. "Was he abusive or something?"
Mulder shook his head. "No, he was a nice guy. A real nice guy who fell off a dock when they were drinking…he drowned."
"And of course she blamed herself since it was her idea for them to celebrate Labor Day.
She tried to get over it, you know? I think I might have made things worse by asking her out. Unfortunately, I picked a place way too close to the dock to ask her. I pulled away because I was upset. Then Spender came back."
"He was alive?" Doggett asked in surprise.
Mulder gave him a studying look, not sure if he should give him a straight answer or not. He picked the middle ground. "It seemed so. Of course, I was really jealous and not a good friend after that. Which would have been bad enough, but then her parents decided that Christmas break would be a good time to take a little trip…for six months in Europe. They gave her no warning whatsoever, and scared the hell out of poor Reyes by dragging Fowley off by force while she watched."
"Poor parenting." Doggett assessed.
"Yeah…Then when she came home she and Reyes stopped being friends for a little while, since Reyes had to tell her the truth- Spender was spreading all sorts of rumors about her. She was mad at Reyes for telling her, I guess."
"What sort of rumors?"
"Don’t know." Mulder said too quickly, making Doggett suspicious. "It was after that that things got really weird…"
"Weird how?" Doggett prompted.
"Do you believe in ghosts?" Mulder ventured timidly, worried Doggett was going to think he was insane.
"I believe that people have seen somethin’ when they think they’ve seen ghosts." Doggett conceded, thinking of a case involving a little boy that he and Agent Scully had not long after they became partners.
"It wasn’t Spender. I mean, we all saw him. Teachers, kids, his own parents. But it turned out not to be him at all. Because Fowley and Reyes went to talk to him about his lies and found his body. It was really horrible. "
"Was it someone pretending to be him?"
"I dunno. No one ever found out what it was we saw. It was so hard to understand that people mostly pretended it never happened. But not Reyes. She tried to cheer Fowley up. They’re good friends that way."
Doggett shook his head slightly. "Sounds like you’re right. This Fowley of yours has been to hell and back. Good thing she’s got a good friend in Reyes." He wondered…"So, is Scully friends with her too?"
Mulder didn’t say anything, but it fascinated Doggett that he could see the boy’s eyes change from their normal greenish to as dark a brown as hazel can get. He suspected that he hit a nerve.
Mulder frowned. "Not hardly. Before Scully and I dated, we were friends. And apparently she liked me long before we started dating…she was really jealous of Fowley. For her part, I don’t think Fowley noticed, since she wasn’t interested in me. Even after we’d been dating for months, and Fowley was back, they still didn’t get along. Not fighting or being bitchy, but cold. Eventually, after Spender died- Or died again, whatever- Reyes decided that Scully should help her cheer Fowley up, and help in matchmaking activities. It even worked for a while, and they half-way got along."
"But something happened to change everything." Doggett guessed.
"How did you know that?" Mulder asked.
"Hey, I was a teenager once. What happened?"
"Scully sort of got the impression that Fowley and I were more than friends. Which is so unfair since we never were, but… you know how that goes. Scully and I eventually patched things up between us, but that was the nail in the coffin for the attempts at friendship."
Doggett sensed that the kid wasn’t loving dwelling on the past unpleasantness, so he decided to change the direction of the conversation. "So you and Scully are all right, though? That’s probably more important. What’s she like?"
Mulder gave him a wry look. "Perfect. Or pretty damn close, she would be if she wasn’t so sarcastic all the time. Although, I wouldn’t admit it to her, I sort of like it. It’s sort of Shakespearean- Beatrice and Benedict. Me and Scully."
Or Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Or Starkweather and I, Doggett thought. " Perfect doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone." He pointed out.
"True. Ok, how’s this? She’s about the smartest person I’ve ever met, except she’s dumb enough to love me for whatever reason. She’s pretty and doesn’t seem to notice, which suits me fine. She’s got a redhead’s temper, but unless you’re Fowley, she’s forgiving. She’s a strong person, but not too hard-shelled to be affectionate. I’ve never met anyone I could love more." Mulder said without the slightest trace of embarrassment.
"Yeah, I’d say it sounds like you’ve found the one for you."
"And I can’t believe I almost lost her." Mulder said, sounding glum. "If it wasn’t for Bessie-"
"Her older sister. Bessie is her legal guardian. She took on raising Scully, along with her own little boy, Alex, not long after Scully’s mom died when we were twelve."
Doggett was pleased to find out who Alex was after all. "No Dad, either?"
"Not much of one." Mulder said hotly. "Their dad is in jail. He broke out last year and got caught again, so he’s going to be in there a good long time. I was wrong earlier. Scully has never forgiven him either, so Fowley has company. Anyway, Bessie, the saint she is, talked to Scully and convinced her to give me another chance. I’m not sure how she knew that I wasn’t lying, but…"
"Impartial witnesses can be good that way to help people see past their feelings when it comes to relationships." Doggett stated.
"I guess… What about you? Do you have a relationship, with all it’s woes to sort out, or are you single?" Mulder asked him suddenly.
"I’m single," Doggett said matter-of-factly.
Mulder nodded, not sure what to say next. Then he smiled. "You’re lucky that
my Doggett and Reyes don’t know you then. You’d be their next matchmaking
Mulder Leary grinned back at Doggett. "They would love a challenge."
Doggett shook his head and got up to get himself and the kid another soda. "Thanks but no thanks," Doggett said.
"Don’t you want a girlfriend?" Mulder asked but then suddenly thought
<<Crap, is he gay?>> Then he thought <<Maybe Doggett and
Skinner can … nah.>>
"Nothing to be sorry ‘bout," Doggett said lightly. "Not your fault."
"Once bitten, twice shy, huh?"
"Somethin’ like that," Doggett said, turning to go into the kitchen again.
Then Mulder blurted out "Is it Agent Starkweather?"
Doggett froze. "’Scuse me?"
Mulder quailed. "Just by the way you guys were bickering and all. You both were acting like an old married couple earlier before you and I went to your boss’ office and then it seemed really tense between you guys afterwards when she got freaked out by my red hands and I overheard her crying in the hall and you snapped at her…"he took a breath. "I don’t know… it just made sense, sorry."
"My ex-wife is in New York," Doggett said. "Agent Starkweather is my partner. She is also a close friend. She’s also married to someone else."
Mulder’s jaw dropped. "Someone married her?!?!?"
Mulder shook his head. "I think Starkweather is one of a kind," he said darkly, turning his attention back to the game.
Doggett devoutly hoped so.
"Siblings?" Mulder felt his stomach twist a little. "What are their
"What other people did he mention? That are connected to the X-Files office?"
"Um… he said he knew a Spender… a Krycek… a Fowley."
"I’d like to meet this young man before you and Agent Doggett attempt to
return him to Capeside."
"Dear God, why?" Starkweather groaned as she walked out of the kitchen and into the living room.
"Because I believe there is more to this boy than meets the
"You really believe a small nutrition lab and a quantum physics lab would
combine forces and be willing to work for evil Corporate America?"
Mulder only sniffed pompously.
"Need a tissue?" Starkweather asked sweetly, basking in the glow of having trumped Mulder. "Besides, what does that have to do with quantum physics?" Starkweather asked.
"As we agreed earlier in our conversation, there is no conclusive evidence of
"Mulder, quantum physics operates on a-"
"Are you familiar with the name John Wheeler?"
"One of Wheeler’s students, Hugh Everett III is credited to formulate the
first official theory regarding the possibility of other
"Everett’s doctorate thesis, which by the way, has been considered a valid theory since it’s publication, proposes that time branches off into each possible direction just as real as the single one that we experience."
"Mulder, I KNOW about the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Theory," she barked at him. "But that theory is speaking on a molecular level! You have to realize that the atomic world is vastly different than from ‘our’ world and reality as most people see it. Most scientists believe that Everett’s theory can only be applied to the micro level. And also what you need to realize about the Many-Worlds or Branching Universe theory is that, one, all the parallel universes are identical except for the initial universe from which the first break was made from and two, unlike sci-fi movies and TV shows, it is not possible for interaction between the parallel universes. And three, it’s just a theory. That’s all. There’s no proof."
"Maybe this boy is the proof. The conclusive evidence that we’ve been looking
"Hear me out, okay?"
"Gee thanks," Mulder said sarcastically. "Now, if I’m not mistaken quantum physics studies quanta, tiny units of energy that an electron is either giving off or absorbing as the energy levels change. And per quantum physics, these atomic particles change from solidity to probability to travel, right?"
"Well, kind of. Yeah, but-"
"And according to the Schrödinger’s Cat Theory, if you put a cat in a closed box along with a radioactive isotope, a detector, and some poison gas and every hour, there’s a fifty-fifty chance of the isotope setting off the detector, which would break the vial and thus kill the cat. But since you can't observe the cat inside of the closed box, it exists in an uncertain state, dead and alive, right?"
"Speaking of cats, I really need to change Caesar’s litter box, can we pick up on these delightful conversation tomorrow?"
Again Mulder acted as if he hadn’t heard her. "Because the cat is now a wave of probability both alive and dead, this can be interpreted in two ways. The conservative way would be to say that because we can’t see the dead/alive cat in the box until we open the box, the dead/alive cat doesn’t exist until we see it. Or to be more succinct, nothing is real until it’s observed."
"Kind of like if you went out to the woods alone and a tree fell on you, would there be a sound and would anyone care?" Starkweather saccharinely said.
"But," Mulder continued to talk as if Starkweather was a good, silent listener. "A less conservative view would be that the particle has decayed in one reality, but is stable in the other reality. Two conflicting realities exist but neither is connected to those of us outside the box. When this delightful Pandora’s Box is opened to see the cat, is when we find ourselves in one of the two realities. The experiment, essentially, creates two cats, each cat existing in its own world. Only when the box is opened, then can we connect with one of those realities.
"With ONE of those realities. You still can’t exist in the other reality at
the same time. And like I said earlier you can’t travel between the realities,"
Starkweather said in a huffy voice. "Interaction between proposed parallel
universes is not possible on a physical level."
"When did you become a science nerd?"
"Scully’s idea of talking dirty is reading books like "In Search of Schrödinger's Cat’ and "Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality" in bed. Some of it must have sunk in."
"You said to correct you if you were wrong, Mulder. And you’re wrong. Your
view of the Schrödinger's Cat Theory and Everett’s doctorate is completely
screwed up. Twisted and manipulated to work around your preexisting theories
about the paranormal, supernatural and preternatural. Quantum physics is a
meticulous, complicated science that to be totally honest, I’m not even sure I
completely understand it. But I do know that what you are talking about is
theoretically, key word there, Spooky, THEE-OH-RET-TICK-AL-LEE. The travel
between alternative worlds is only possible at the micro level. And alternative
worlds has a vastly different meaning in the atomic world than at
"No I’m not," Starkweather said.
"Yes you are," Mulder said "I’m picking up your happy ass and we’re going to
Doggett’s so I can talk to the kid tomorrow."
"I liked being an only child better," she whined, scratching Caesar’s ears. "I really really did!"
Mulder Leary tossed and turned in his borrowed bed. It was getting late, and he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to sleep. Foreign beds were always hell on him. Even the one he coaxed Scully- after promising to be a gentleman- to share with him that night in the haunted lodge hadn’t allowed him an easy night’s rest. He’d still had nightmares, and her attempts to soothe him hadn’t stopped them. He fleetingly wondered if her arms around him would make any difference now. Maybe with her there, all warm and comforting beside him, he’d at least gotten to have the chance to suffer nightmares.
The truth of it was, that he was unbearably homesick. Over the past several months, he’d grown accustomed to Sam sleeping in the next room, and Price in the one next to that. More than anyone else in the world, even Scully and Doggett, they were his. It made him uneasy to be away from them, since he felt a duty to look after them at all times. He felt that one else would, and his attitude was not completely unjustified, considering their past. He worried about how long he’d be apart from them, since he didn’t know how things worked here, or it was going to happen again. It wasn’t fair that he’d had no say in coming to this place, and little more, thanks to the weather, in when he’d be leaving it.
He resented that he hadn’t gotten to play with baby Price after dinner, hearing the child mangle his name to "’Der"as he took practice steps, giggling as he threw himself at his older brother. The blue-eyed baby was becoming a real person as he got bigger, and Mulder found that fascinating. Price’s sporadic displays of inhuman talents were fascinating too, but he tried not to dwell on that too often; he knew what was coming eventually, but there was nothing to do until then, so worrying about it in advance didn’t help any.
And Sam…Moody and lovable by turns, and unendingly sarcastic…She was still a stranger he was desperately trying to get to know. Even months later it was still a struggle to reconcile the image he had of the missing two-week-old and the nearly thirteen-year-old she was the next time he met her. His deepest sense of failure came from his inability to keep them from taking her. He knew it was irrational since he’d only been four and they’d been grown men, but his subconscious took a firstborn’s normal sense of responsibility to new heights. A little voice at the back of his mind warned him that he’d been given a second shot at taking care of his siblings, and he better not blow it this time. Even when he wasn’t aware of it, it was there, whispering to him. Always.
Throwing himself on to his other side, he had a new and startling thought: Sam wasn’t altogether unlike agent Starkweather in personality. At least he could vaguely picture Sam growing up that bitter if she hadn't returned to her family, back where she had people who loved her. Even if she doubted their parents as much as he did, she had to know that her brothers both adored her in their own way. It made him a little sad for agent Starkweather; when had she been cut off from people who loved her?
His last thought as he finally drifted off was to wonder if maybe Doggett might be the one who’d ultimately save her from herself. Of course, he’d never share that thought with either agent, because while he was still young enough to think of most people in terms of victims and saviors, he knew that the idea probably wouldn’t go over well with either of them. Adults seldom liked to be reminded that they needed other people.
Starkweather yawned, and nearly tripped over Caesar as he took to sycophantically rubbing of her ankles the second she existed the bedroom. "Damn cat." She hissed, barely resisting the urge to boot his gingery-colored ass across the room. "You have dry food go eat that and leave me alone. It’s like cat cereal." She told him, knowing he’d ignore her and immediately bother Ben the moment he got home. Ben wouldn’t mind, she knew. He was too happy that they hadn’t discussed what his reappearance meant to their divorce proceedings to mind much of anything lately. It didn’t even bother him that she was just too shell-shocked to broach the issue.
She shook her head. Ben wasn’t the problem she felt like tackling at the moment. While she waited for coffee to brew, she logged onto the Internet. intending to prove that her older brother was being an idiot, as usual, she went to Google and typed in the term "Capeside MA."
She smirked happily when page after page of hits came up, all for the town Mulder insisted that she would find didn’t exist. The descriptions for the pages ranged from tourism pleas to resumes from people who listed Capeside High in Capeside Massachusetts as their place of graduation. It was a real place, quite obviously, so there was no way that the boy came from some far-fetched alternate dimension.
Satisfied that Mulder was wrong; she didn’t take the time to click on any of the links before rushing to throw some clothes on. Instead she just hit the print button so she could show her irksome sibling the error of his idiotic theory. It was all she could do to keep herself from calling him up to gloat. Once again Mulder had leap in the most inconceivably wrong direction possible. Caesar meowed in what she chose to think of as agreement, although it was probably really an insistence that dry cat food was not like cereal at all.
The next morning…
John Doggett had already finished reading the sports section of the Washington Post and was sipping on his second cup of coffee when Mulder Leary wandered into the kitchen. "Morning," Mulder said, sitting down across from Doggett at his table.
"Hi there," Doggett said, putting down the paper. "Sleep okay?"
"Hungry?" Doggett began to fold up the business section of his paper. "I can fix you something if you want."
"I don’t want you to go to all the trouble…"Mulder Leary said politely although his stomach hurt from hunger.
Doggett grinned. "I’m not talking Belgian waffles and quiche here. Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast are my speed," he said even though he usually began his mornings with coffee and a Pop Tart; and sometimes only coffee when he was in a hurry.
Mulder Leary grinned. "Sounds good to me," he said as he started to reach for
the paper. "Are you done with this?"
Just as Doggett took out the carton of eggs and the butter, the phone rang.
"Now who’n the hell is that?" he muttered, putting the eggs and butter on the
counter. Then he said "Ah, I’ll let the machine get it. You like cheese on your
Agent Starkweather’s bitchy voice on the answering machine rudely brought him back to reality.
"Doggett? It’s me. Pick up the phone. Pick up. Pick up, pick up, pick up.
Now. Riiiiiight…. Now. God dammit Papa John, you have no life and you’re a
morning person so pick up the phone right now or else I’m going to continue
talking until the tape runs out and…"
"He wants to come over to your house."
… on the other side… another X-File had followed him home last night. <<Followed? You invited this one in…>> Doggett chastised himself as he listened to Starkweather rant.
"Because Mulder thinks he’s got all the answers as usual and he’s butting in
where he’s not wanted so he wants to prove that he’s right and I’m wrong and
he’s going to be here to pick me up in less than twenty minutes to come to you
house so he can scare the shit out of the kid-"
<<Ouch>> Mulder Leary thought. <<He sounds like my dad…>> while Starkweather winced on the other end of the phone.
<<First name. Not good…>> she thought, cringing.
"Why in the HELL did you TELL him about the boy?"
"I had a blonde moment?" she offered meekly.
"Aw, Christ, Doc, we did NOT need Mul-duh in on this," he covered the phone’s
mouthpiece. "Not you. The other Mul-duh."
Starkweather was whining on the other end. "I know, I know, I fucked up, I’m
sorry! I should have known better. But I really thought that he might have some
insight on what the hell is going on. I should have called Scully
"No. Jerk. Schrödinger’s Cat and Many-Worlds are two existing theories in
quantum physics regarding the creation of alternative and multiple universes
existing in the same time as ours. However, what Mulder doesn’t get is that it’s
not talking about parallel dimensions like in the movies. It’s a form of
molecular science particularly with atoms. Treating an individual atom as if it
was it own little world or universe. See, the Many-Worlds talks about the
possibility of time branching off from a single moment and continuing and
Schrödinger’s Cat was an untested hypothesis which places a kitty-cat in a
closed box along with a radioactive isotope, a detector, and some poison gas and
every hour, there’s a fifty percent chance of the isotope triggering the
detector, which would break the vial and poison the Mr. Kitty. But since you
can't observe the cat inside of the closed box, it exists in a vague state, it’s
both dead and alive, making the Mr. Kitty into a wave of probability … and I’m
losing you aren’t I?"
"You don’t have me on speaker phone, do you?"
"He wants to interrogate the boy."
"You don’t want to investigate how this kid wound up in the X-Files office?" Starkweather asked, pacing back and forth, nervously glancing at her watch. Fox Mulder would be at her door in fifteen minutes…
"I’ll explain the method behind the madness later," Doggett said firmly. "Right now, I just wanna get this kid fed and back home."
"That’s right *partner*. We." Doggett said.
"Well, I hope your driving because my car is running like shit and I don’t trust it on a road trip to Massachusetts," she said grudgingly.
"Is it in good enough shape to get you to Falls Church?"
"Yeah, but that’s about as far as I trust it."
"See you in about twenty minutes, Doc."
Caesar jumped at a t-shirt as it flew through the air, then landed with a look of utter disgust on his furry face when all he got for his hunt was a mouthful of fabric. He stalked off, tail slashing the air. Starkweather, who was hastily flinging things into an over-night bag, didn't notice. She was just zipping the bag closed when there the front door began to vibrate with the pounding of an over-zealous fist.
"Knock it off Mulder!" She shouted as she approached the door.
He was grinning when she opened the door. "How did you know it was me?"
"What other asshole would be trying to break down my door?" She smirked nastily at him.
"I wouldn't know. That's between you and your boyfriends." He said seriously.
"I've seen what that does to babies, you wouldn't like it. You wouldn't want your kids to be any more screwed up than they're going to be just by virtue of having you for a mother, would you?"
"So, are you ready to go?" He asked calmly, seeming to be oblivious to the fact that the look she was giving him said she'd sooner murder him as go anywhere with him.
"No. There's been a change of plans. I'm going with Doggett to bring the kid home, and you're leaving." She said, eyeing her bag.
"You're not going to get him home, at least not by vehicle, as I keep telling you." He droned.
"Watch us try." Starkweather said, narrowing her eyes.
"I'll tag along, to see what happens."
"You are NOT invited."
"As if that's ever stopped me?" He pointed out. "We'll just swing by my place and I'll grab the bag I've always got packed. You never know when you're going to be on the run." He explained away the packed bag's existence.
"God, you're paranoid. But um, I promised Doggett I'd be there in twenty minutes, so we don't have time to go to your place." She said out of desperation to get rid of him.
"Puppy-man will keep. It's not like the kid is going to turn into a gremlin if we get him home an hour later."
"Fine." She said angrily, giving up all hope of deterring him. "Grab the pet carrier out of the closet, and come help me catch Caesar."
Mulder looked inordinately pleased. "You weren't going to make it there by his deadline anyway."
Starkweather sighed deeply, and started looking for the cat who'd seemingly melted into thin air.
"Come in." Doggett called after quickly swallowing his last bite of toast. He was a bit surprised, Starkweather was never early. Maybe his ultimatum had convinced her to turn over a new leaf. Or her watch was fast, one of the other.
"Hi John," Monica Reyes said she walked into the kitchen, "I just stopped by to see if you wanted to- "She stopped in mid-sentence, staring at Mulder Leary.
"What?" Mulder asked irritably. He was already getting annoyed with people in DC doing that, and he expected she wouldn't be the last.
"Mulder." She blurted out, then shook her head. "I'm sorry, it's just that you look like Mulder."
"I am." He told her, slightly amused by the puzzled look on her face.
"Did I miss something big? Like Mulder finding the fountain of youth?" Reyes asked Doggett, sounding just as perplexed as she looked.
"Monica, this is Mulder Leary, and it's a long story." Doggett said quickly.
She shrugged. "Like I started to say, I just stopped by to see if you wanted to go with me to buy rock salt, but if you have company, I guess not."
"Yeah, sorry about that...wait, why would either of us want rock salt?"
"Haven't you looked out the window today? Oh, John..." Reyes said as he shook his head.
Doggett and Mulder both rushed to the nearest window and drew back the blinds. There was a good four inches of snow on the ground. "I thought you didn't get a lot of snow down this way." Mulder said, frowning at the snow.
"We usually don't." Doggett told him. "They didn't forecast a storm did they? I would have remembered."
Reyes shrugged. "Freak storm. They're not even giving predictions of how long it will last or anything. I'm going to get to the store now before they sell out."
"Bye." Doggett said distractedly. He wondered how long it would be before Starkweather would show up so they could get going too.
Reyes glanced at the windows as she got into her car. The boy was still standing at once of them. The sight of him made her shiver for a reason she couldn't put her finger on. It wasn't him, exactly, but there was something about his being there that bothered her deeply.
Monica Reyes was not the only one who had felt a shiver up her spine. Doggett
frowned as Mulder Leary continued to stare out the window. "You
Doggett grinned. "I bet she’s not too bad on the eyes right now." As the boy
turned a little red, Doggett asked him curiously "Do I really look at all like
your friend Doggett Witter?"
Doggett grinned a little. Just then his phone rang. "’Scuse me," he said as
he darted back to the kitchen to pick up the cordless phone.
"Um… no," Doggett said, assuming she meant Fox Mulder.
She sighed explosively. "Great."
"Because Mulder called me late last night, all excited because of this kid
that appeared in the X-Files office yesterday. After a conversation with
Jerilyn, he seems to think that the boy is conclusive evidence of existence of
"Close enough," Scully mumbled. "But he’s completely wrong on how those
theories work. That deals with molecular science. Atoms, electrons, neutrons.
Not like the parallel universes you see in the movies."
"I’m not calling for a head’s up," Scully said grimly. "I’m calling to rip
Mulder a new asshole."
Pacing back and forth in her living room, bouncing William on her hip, she
said "Actually, Mulder is looking for a valid reason to duck out of a doctor’s
"He’s already cancelled twice," Scully fumed.
"Oh," Doggett said again, at a loss.
Another sigh. "The truth of the matter is John, is that Mulder just can’t
accept that he’s not part of the X-Files anymore. He’s got to learn how to trust
you and Monica and Jerilyn to do the work presented in front of you and to do it
"Yeah, I know."
"Capeside is the name of the fictional town that this television show takes
"Another thing, I did a search for Candling Labs."
"It might not mean anything," Scully was quick to add. "Capeside might just
be such a small town it may not be listed on the Internet. And Candling Labs
might not have a website. Its work may be considered confidential."
"Do you think the boy is lying?" Scully asked.
"No," Doggett said honestly. "But he’s given us a real nice
"Oh, and I already called Skinner but I won’t be coming to the office today. There was already a car accident down the street due to the slick roads and I’d rather not take William out in this weather if I have to," Scully peeped out the curtains and watched the snow and sleet pelt the pavements.
"I know. The roads are getting nasty. Monica was just here asking if I wanted
to come with her to buy rock salt. I hope she made it home alright… oh shit… I
hope Starkweather gets here in one piec-"
"Mulder, would you get that?" Doggett yelled. "I got to go," he said into the phone to Scully.
"Talk to you later," Scully said then hanging up.
Doggett re-entered the living room just in time to see Mulder Leary open the door for Starkweather, who carried an overnight bag and a cat carrier. She was coated in snow. Her hands were purple and her teeth were chattering.
"Jesus, Doc," Doggett rushed to her. Taking the bag and carrier from her, he
said "What did you do? Walk?" He put the carrier and the bag on the floor.
Mulder Leary moved aside and watched Doggett and Starkweather
"God, we need to get you one of those clip-on mittens so we can attach them
to your coat," he said. "And why’n the hell did you bring the cat?" Noticing
that Mulder Leary had knelt down by the carrier and was looking through the bars
at the fluffy orange terror inside, Doggett said "Careful, son, he
"I was going to drop him off at the boarding kennel before we left for Capeside," Starkweather scowled as she started to unzip her heavy winter coat
Then the door bell rang again. "Who is it?" Doggett asked in dread.
"Candy-gram," a voice droned from the other side.
Doggett glowered at Starkweather. "I tried," she snapped at him. "Back off. "
Mulder listened to the exchange nervously. What in the world were they
Mulder Leary looked at Doggett in confusion. Then he swung his head around to see the door open and Fox Mulder entering, brushing snow off his long black trench coat.
Fox Mulder’s eyes locked on Mulder Leary’s. Both Mulders appraised each other.
"Whoa," Mulder Leary finally said.
"I couldn’t have put it better myself," Fox Mulder replied.
Mulder looked at Mulder for quite a while, until Doggett complained "Guys, you’re lettin’ winter in. Shut the damn door." They did so quickly, both looking slightly sheepish.
Starkweather, not at a loss, glared at them. "Mulder, meet my nightmare." She said sarcastically. Mulder Leary tilted his head to the side, wondering who she meant.
As if reading his mind, her brother whispered loudly "She means both of us you know. You can tell by the little wrinkle between her eyebrows when she pouts."
"I do NOT have any wrinkles. And who’s pouting? You’re both managed to be a pain in my butt within the past 24 hours. Congratulations."
Mulder Leary grinned. "She’s really your sister? I wonder if I’m in trouble when I get older, then, because so far Sam’s never so –"
"So what?" Starkweather growled at him.
"Cranky." He finished primly, which predictably caused her to roll her eyes.
Fox Mulder, however, didn’t find the comment nearly as amusing as Doggett, who was hiding his laugh with a fake cough, because of the mention of the boy’s own sister. He wanted to dive right in then and there and ask the boy a million questions about his own Samantha and how he got her back, but he didn’t. It didn’t seem the right way to start off, and the twinge of envy he felt might make him ask questions in the wrong spirit. Better to wait and get to know him a little before crossing that bridge.
Instead he decided to go with a less volatile choice of conversation topic. " So, uh… Mulder, my sister said your dad works with in a physics lab."
Starkweather shot him a look, wondering why he thought she’d said that. She was sure that they’d had an entire conversation how Mr. Leary worked in a genetics lab. Then a couple of seconds later she figured his tact out.
Mulder Leary shook his head. "No, he works at a genetics lab. They make genetically engineer food."
"It’s Candling, isn’t it? I could have sworn that I heard that they did stuff with physics." He pretended to muse.
"No. They only deal with living things." He said with such conviction that Fox Mulder had to believe him. There was something about his phasing, however, that bothered him, but nothing he could put a finger on immediately.
"Guess I’m confusing it with another lab."
Mulder Leary had to suppress a groan. Doggett was all right even if he wasn’t being 100% straight with him, but Starkweather and her brother were obviously very full of themselves, and seemed to have a low opinion of his intelligence. If they thought they were being subtle about their interest in his father’s workplace, they didn’t have very good social skills. Even Sam would have seen though their flimsy attempts to disguise their interest.
While he would like to know what they were trying to dig up, he didn’t think it was worth asking them. All of which only served to convince him that he was smart not to mention the side of Candling hidden from public scrutiny. He’d had a lot of practice evading adult questions thanks to his parents, and he had no intention of letting those skills get rusty while he was away from home.
"Guess you must have." He commented innocently. "Our physics teacher liked to bore us with documentaries that take place in physics labs, and I’ve never seen any of the equipment at my dad’s work when I’ve been there. It’s sort of neat, they let you tour the whole place, no locked doors or anything during family open houses. If they did physics stuff too they’d have to have the equipment, right?"
"Right." Starkweather said firmly, which made him wonder why she’d take his side all of the sudden.
"Unless they had another site." Fox Mulder reluctantly agreed.
"Oh, they do, a few of them." Mulder Leary said, thinking about New Mexico, although that place didn’t have a physics lab either. "But I’ve never been to any of them." He lied without betraying a trace of guilt or hesitation. "Mr. Doggett, do you have an internet connection?" he asked suddenly.
"Yeah, I got it so I could keep up on sports." Doggett mumbled, turning pink when Starkweather mouth "nascar".
"Can I log on for a minute?" The boy asked.
"Knock yourself out." Doggett said, showing him to the computer. He watched as the boy typed in a url, sure by the time Mulder has typed the "d"he’d be disappointed again given Scully’s report that the url, like the phone numbers, wasn’t a working one. So he was utterly surprised when the website popped up for Candling labs.
"Here, you can check everything out." Mulder Leary gleefully informed them. "Did you all like science a lot when you were young?" He asked curiously. "I know Scully would get a kick out of learning this stuff too." He added, referring to his girlfriend, not the FBI agent.
The three agents mumbled replies and crowed around the computer. The website confirmed everything he’d claimed about his father’s work place. It did not, however, mention a word of the prescient project, which was something Mulder Leary knew before he dared typing in the url. None of the agents knew what to make of the website, and they were at a total loss of their next conversational tactics.
Outside the snow quietly continued to pile up.
Later on that day…
Falls Church, Virginia
"… and for your Capital City weather… Washington DC and the surrounding area
are still under a severe blizzard warning…"
Parked on Doggett’s couch, in a giant black sweatshirt, bundled up in an ugly blanket, she didn’t look as threatening as she did yesterday in the office, Mulder Leary decided. Still, he’d rather not tangle with her.
The radio announcer continued to drone as Doggett continued to fuss with his DSS satellite box and Fox Mulder continued to attempt to make a phone call on his cell phone. "Dammit, the storm must be knocking out the cell phone towers," Mulder said. "I can’t get my voice mails."
"Hey, genius, try the land line," Starkweather said. "And Doggett, if the
cell phone towers are knocked out, it’s probably safe to say that satellite TV
is going to be all fucked up too."
"Maybe I should try and call my parents again?" Mulder Leary congratulated
himself for keeping his voice steady. The disappointment of being stuck in
Washington DC for another day and night was enough to make him actually want to
cry like a bratty little kid. "They’re probably worried…"
"Say, Doggett," Starkweather asked. "Your Internet. Is it dial up or cable
"Hey Mul-duh?" Doggett said, correctly interpreting the look on Mulder’s face. "Scully called right before you got here. Before the phones went out. She said she was staying home with William today."
"Oh." The tone of voice didn’t change but the anxiety in his eyes melted
away. "Good. Okay." He nodded. That concern alleviated, he turned to Mulder
Leary and said. "Well, then this storm gives us a lot of time to get to know
each other, doesn’t it?"
Mulder sat down next to Starkweather on the couch, facing his young doppelganger. Mulder Leary nervously watched Starkweather’s feral eyes flicking back and forth between Fox Mulder and John Doggett. Doggett stood up and leaned against the wall, arms crossed across this chest with the same look he would have on his face if he was watching a car wreck he was helpless to prevent.
Fox Mulder loosely laced his fingers together. "How old are you?" he
"Liar," Starkweather said under her breath.
"Doc," Doggett said in a disapproving tone and Starkweather went back to scratching Caesar’s ears, but her eyes focused on Mulder Leary.
"So that makes you a….?"
"Junior," Mulder Leary said, then added as an afterthought "Sir."
Starkweather snorted and Mulder Leary thought <<Gawd, Fox and Agent Starkweather REALLY don’t like each other. Wonder what their house was like while they were growing up together… and would Sam and I hate each other if we had grown up together.>>
After giving Starkweather a severe look, whereas she responded with a
negligent shrug, Fox Mulder turned back to the boy. "So make any plans for
"That’s nice," Mulder said. "So you don’t want to go work for your dad?"
Mulder Leary decided it would be safer to answer with a shrug.
Fox Mulder recorded the motion in his indelible memory. So young, so secretive… <<Was I like that when I was eighteen?>> he asked himself even though he knew that indeed, he was.
Starkweather and Doggett were surprised when Fox Mulder suddenly changed
gears. "So, what questions do you have for us?"
"Don’t call me Fox then," he countered, still staring at Mulder. "Go ahead,
Mulder. Whatever is on your mind, ask away."
However, she smiled wickedly at the boy’s very first question because she knew that was not what her arrogant sibling was expecting.
"What are the X-Files?"
Both Doggett and Starkweather gloated over the look of surprise on the older Mulder’s normally placid face. Granted, this wasn’t helping them figure out where the boy came from and why…
<<But if the kid has no idea what an X-File is… maybe he’s not here to steal files…>> Starkweather thought. She looked up at Doggett, wondering if he thought the same, but he already had his game face back on, so Starkweather turned her attention back to the conversation between the Mulders.
"The X-Files are cases which the FBI has deemed unsolvable due to unusual
circumstances of the crimes. Most of the committed crimes have supernatural or
Mulder Leary let this sink in. "So…"he said with a smirk. "You guys are like
"Or the subtle drug references," Starkweather added, seemingly going back to stroking her cat.
"But seriously, how many of those kind of cases have you solved?" Mulder
"Not as many as I would have liked," Fox Mulder admitted.
Starkweather had to bite her tongue not to say that the case closure rate had increased dramatically when Doggett joined the X-Files Division. Whereas Fox Mulder had to investigate ever single lead, his hope always tethered to a distant star, John Doggett’s pragmatic cop-sense obliterated most hope, found the direct cause of the crime, which was normally not extraordinary at all, and crushed the case into nothing if there was no reason to pursue it.
Suddenly, Starkweather felt sad for her friend. He was a good man and a kind one, but did not have the fire or passion that drove Fox Mulder. Indeed, hope and faith were as foreign and far-fetched concepts to Doggett as aliens and monsters.
<<What do you dream about at night, Papa John?>> Starkweather wondered.
Mulder Leary, meanwhile, found himself being lured more into Fox Mulder’s verbal trappings. "So, when you say supernatural and paranormal, do you mean like ghosts and monsters? Like Bigfoot?" he asked while thinking <<That would be a kick in the head. Bigfoot being real. Doggett wouldn’t like that idea at all… either Doggett, come to think of it.>>
"We haven’t investigated Bigfoot yet," Fox Mulder said indulgently which annoyed both Doggett and Starkweather, especially Doggett, thinking back to the conversation he just had with Scully only a few hours ago…
**"The truth of the matter is John, is that Mulder just can’t accept that he’s not part of the X-Files anymore. He’s got to learn how to trust you and Monica and Jerilyn to do the work presented in front of you and to do it well." **
"So what kind of cases do you investigate that deal with that kind of stuff?"
"Oh, you know, typical things." Fox Mulder droned. "The sort of things that people would have to believe don’t exist outside the covers of magazines like Weekly World News."
"Like what though?" Mulder Leary persisted, not liking the evasiveness of the answer.
"Flying bat creatures." Doggett said.
"Vengeful ghosts." Starkweather suggested.
"Liver-eating mutants." Fox Mulder added.
"Cultists who worship parasites they try to find a host for."
"Planes that crash ejecting the pilots without breaking the glass."
"Little boys who can make picture come to life and hurt people."
"Islands with strange creatures that look like extinct animals on them."
"Babies with tails." Fox Mulder said. For just a second he thought he saw something he couldn’t identify flicker in the younger Mulder’s eye. It was gone before he could identify the emotion, which annoyed him, since he really wanted to know what it had been.
"Babies with tails?" Mulder Leary’s eyes were wide. Up until then he thought with amusement that the agents probably would feel at home in Capeside, but the mention of babies drove the pleasant thought from his head. Why do people always want to mess with little babies, he wondered darkly.
"Yeah. Scully and I once investigated a case that a guy who could change his appearance fathered a lot of babies by impersonating women’s husbands. He also had a tail in addition to his strange talents, and he passed it along to the babies."
"Oh, so they were born that way. No one did anything to them." Mulder Leary muttered. "Do you have many cases involving little kids?"
"A few." Doggett allowed, thinking of Luke and William.
Mulder shivered. "That can’t be any fun. Kids are too innocent for it not to hurt you when someone does something to them." He said earnestly. Starkweather wondered if his seemingly sudden burst of insight came from worrying most of his life about what was being done to Sam before she was returned to his family. She didn’t get the chance to ask him, because he moved on quickly. "What about aliens? Do you investigate little gray men?"
"Most people would have said green." Doggett commented.
"No, they’re gray. I’ve…"He blushed. "I saw one once."
"Oh?" Starkweather asked, wondering again if the kid was as nuts as her brother. "Did he abduct you?" She quipped.
Mulder Leary looked shocked. "Why would he do that? No, he was just…um…leaving Christmas presents. You know, for Scully’s nephew."
"Was he a friend of the family, or do you think he was Santa Claus?" Doggett teased, but sobered quickly when recalled how convinced he’d been for a short while that he’d seen his son’s ghost the Christmas before last.
Mulder shrugged. "He was dressed in a Santa suit, had a sack full of toys, and drove a sleigh with an accompaniment of glowing green reindeers. He looked authentic so I didn’t ask to see his ID. Mostly we hid behind a couch so he wouldn’t see us watching him."
Starkweather snorted. "My brother would have jumped out and asked for an autograph, or posed for a picture."
"It would be nice to show William." He protested with a slight grin. "And it’d annoy the heck out of Scully. ‘Mulder, it’s scientifically improbable for there to be a being like that…’ "
Giving the older Mulder a puzzled look, Mulder Leary asked, "Who’s William?"
"My son," Fox Mulder replied.
Mulder Leary blinked. "Oh…"
"Makes you wonder why the government doesn’t make people get licenses for
parenting, doesn’t it?" Starkweather said. When the elder Mulder glared at
Starkweather, she quickly added. "Not that Mulder has screwed him up completely
yet. He’s a sweetie."
Mulder Leary turned his attention to Starkweather. "Do you have any kids?"
Starkweather, with sympathetic eyes, watched Doggett leave as she answered "No. Ben and I don’t have children."
"Is Ben your husband?"
"How long have you guys been married?"
"And you guys don’t have kids yet?"
Now Starkweather wished she had tagged after Doggett. "We’re still not ready for kids," she said, feeling slightly dishonest. Ben, after all was more than ready for kids. "We both have very demanding jobs," which was the truth "with me being a fed and Ben being a lawyer. We both put in so many hours at our jobs, we barely have time for each other," also the truth "so I really can’t see how we could find the time to be parents. Decent parents, I mean. We could probably start up the fetal factory right now and be great fodder for the Jerry Springer show."
Mulder Leary couldn’t help but laugh. "Yeah," he said. "That’s a good point.
Is it ever going to slow down for you guys so you can be decent parents?"
"What about you?" Fox Mulder said.
"Yeah," Fox Mulder said, reaching into his back pocket to get his wallet out. "Hold on a sec," he said as he pulled out a leather billfold that had seen better days. Opening it up, he rifled through it, muttering "Oh, so that’s where that went," when he found a parking ticked dated January 21, 1999, until he found what he was looking for. "Here," he said with a small, proud grin, handing the 2x3 photograph over to the teenager across from him.
Mulder Leary took the picture and felt all the air inside escape in a whoosh when he looked at it.
Both Starkweather and Fox Mulder observed how quickly the boy paled.
Exchanging a worried look with Fox Mulder, Starkweather asked "Are you alright?"
"Fine," Mulder Leary lied as he thought <<Price… this is a picture of Price…>>
Same dark brown hair, same weird dark blue eyes, same nose, same everything, except he was in an outfit that he had never seen Price wear before.
He flipped the picture over. On the back, written in a neat, woman’s handwriting, it said "William Christopher S Mulder, May 1, 2001."
"Are you sure you’re alright?" Starkweather asked again.
"I’m fine," Mulder Leary said faintly, handing the picture back to Fox Mulder. "Um… I didn’t sleep very good last night… I’m going to crash for a little while since the cable is out." Without waiting for them to protest, Mulder Leary retreated to the back bedroom to be alone with his whirling thoughts.
Meanwhile, Doggett had re-entered the living room. "Coffee’s ready if anyone
wants some… hey, where did the kid go?"
"Mul-duh?" Doggett said, "Coffee?"
Mulder sat alone in the living room, staring at the picture of his son as the bitter winds rattled the windows.
Mulder Leary’s thoughts raced <Candlingcandlingcandlingtheyhurtbabiestheyhurtbabies they hurt babies fox’skidisacandlingbaby. Isn’t he?> and it took him a couple of minutes to get himself calm enough to think things through rationally. If that’s what you could call it. His conversation with Sam about those eyes rushed back to him with the mental equivalent of a scream; she’d been trying to explain to him what had upset her enough to run off. And it’d all came back to Candling and the terrible secrets they’d learned in Roswell.
** "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?" **
"Price has blue eyes, because of what they did to him before he was born." **
** "I know." **
** "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?" **
Of course as soon as he’d said it, he realized the implication of what he’d thoughtlessly blurted out. The children at Candling had that eye-color for the very same reason his brother did, probably the reason Sam’s best friend did; it was a side effect of the manipulated genes they all had. Not long after that he’d looked up the meaning of the her friend’s name, sure it was another joke. And it was. He didn’t find the name in a baby book, but on a Dutch to English translator. Daden meant "deeds." Dark deeds, the price for happiness, the parents in the know had a great sense of humor. But did Fox Mulder know? Did he? He didn’t seem evil, but then, neither did the Learys. William was a normal name, maybe he didn’t know. It was tenuous proof, but he knew so few of the Candling babies’ names.
Since the agent might very well not know, and therefore not know the danger, distant as it was for a baby not yet one, he knew that he’d be doing the man a disservice if he didn’t let him know. Probably no one else would if he didn’t. But how? "Say, Agent Mulder, was your baby’s genes tampered with before birth?" was too blunt. And "Hey, does your cute little baby have any scary mental powers?" was subtle enough to land him in the mental hospital that agent Starkweather thought he might have escaped from. There had to be a way to work into the conversation naturally, but for the life of him he didn’t know how.
He took out his wallet and flipped to a picture of his brother that had been taken when he was a month old, and stared at it, hoping for inspiration. Nothing. The clocked ticked on and he sighed because he hadn’t come up with an answer. Sensing that he ought to go back out and pretend he was ok before someone came looking for him to see what was wrong, he wandered out into the kitchen claiming that he couldn’t sleep after all and asked if there was anything he could do to help with supper.
* dialogue from MC 213: How We All Got Here
Starkweather, as usual, surprised them all by volunteering to cook. They were all even more surprised when they discovered her cooking was edible.
"I never said I couldn’t cook," she had said defensively as she ladled tomato
sauce over a plate of noodles for Mulder Leary. "I said I didn’t like to cook.
Is that enough for you?"
Now everyone sat around Doggett’s kitchen table, feeling fat and warm after the massive spaghetti dinner Starkweather put together. She was even able to salvage a pack of hamburger buns that had a bad case of freezer burn by buttering them and adding liberal doses of garlic powder before putting them in the oven, using the broiler to toast them.
Even Caesar got a treat. Doggett had found a can of tuna hiding behind the cans of tomato paste so, hoping that the cat could be bribed into liking him, opened it up and put it in a dish for him. Caesar only stared at it until Doggett walked away. Then, bushy tail in air, he pranced over and began to inhale the tuna, making little snorting noises as he did so.
"I have to say," Fox Mulder said, as he mopped up spaghetti sauce off his plate with a crust of the hamburger bun garlic toast, "Starkweather, you never fail to surprise me."
"I was just surprised there was food in this house," Starkweather said, sipping on a bottle of Bud Light that Doggett had produced for the adults. The younger Mulder had to make due with soda. "Normally there’s a box of Arm and Hammer and expired milk in the fridge."
"How often am I home to actually buy food?" Doggett said, a bit defensive but
good natured. "Nine out of ten times, I buy groceries then I get called out into
the field and by the time I get home, it’s all rotted away."
"Lately we hadn’t had to, but yeah. There’s a lot of travel involved with what we do," Doggett said.
"Where have you guys all gone?" Mulder Leary asked.
"Oh…"Doggett thought. "Well, Starkweather and I went to Scotland for our
first case together."
"What was La Luna Blanca?" Mulder Leary asked. "And what genetically mutated animals?"
"A tropical island," Starkweather said.
"Some one was trying to make a real life Jurassic Park," Fox Mulder said.
"With real dinosaurs?" Mulder Leary couldn’t keep the amazement out of his voice.
Fox Mulder said "Yes"the same time Starkweather said "No."
"We have reason to believe that the scientists were taking already existing animals and manipulating their DNA so that they would resemble prehistoric creatures," Starkweather told the young Mulder.
The elder Mulder over-ruled her. "However we also have reason to believe that
the same scientists had acquired dinosaur DNA and were creating real
"Neither can your theory," Fox Mulder pointed out calmly.
"Mine is more plausible," Starkweather said curtly. "After all, there is no
documentation of dinosaur DNA recovered-"
The younger counterpart fell for his bait. "Why not?" Mulder Leary asked.
"All of our evidence melted into the ocean," Starkweather said.
Doggett added. "Whole island went under. Volcanic explosion."
Respecting Doggett’s opinion a little more than Starkweather or Fox Mulder’s,
Mulder Leary asked him "What did you think of the island?"
"Occupational hazard," Doggett said quietly. "But fortunately, there were not one but two doctors to play mother hen over me," he grinned at Starkweather. "So even though I was pretty much useless, I was in good hands."
"Oh. Okay. So you don’t remember the dinosaurs then."
"Oh, I remember ‘em alright," Doggett said grimly. "And I didn’t really care
*what* they were, I just knew that they were bigger’n me and wanted to eat me.
My main priority was getting our collective asses off that island."
"Although," Fox Mulder said thoughtfully. "There have been rumors of
pterodactyl sighting off the eastern shores of Mexico…"
"Mulder, how DID you survive being in the FBI without someone using you as target practice?" Starkweather snapped, not believing how unsubtle Mulder was being.
Mulder Leary glared at Fox Mulder. "My dad…" he started to say but stopped, heart pounding with anger. Anger that his father was being accused of being involved in laboratory exploits as heinous as Unigen…
… and anger that he couldn’t defend his father against the allegations.
"My dad doesn’t clone rabid dinosaurs," Mulder Leary said sullenly.
"Dinosaurs can’t be rabid, only warm-blooded animals can contract rabies," Starkweather said, pointlessly.
Both Mulders glared at her. "Thank you, Mr. Wizard," Fox Mulder droned.
"Besides," Mulder Leary countered "It’s been theorized that dinosaurs could be warm-blooded." He congratulated himself on the surprised expression on the cranky blonde agent’s face and thought to himself <<Ha ha, you don’t know *everything*, do you?>>
He then turned to wipe the smug expression of Fox Mulder’s face. "If you guys think that my dad’s doing something wrong," he said hatefully. "Then get a warrant for Candling and search it yourselves. Stop grilling me. I don’t know anything. I don’t know how in the hell I got into your damn office and believe me, I’m REALLY sorry that I did." Excusing himself, he jerkily got out of his chair and left the kitchen.
"Thanks a lot," Starkweather said in a disgusted voice. "Way to go, bro."
"What do you mean?" Mulder asked.
"Oh Jesus Christ, Mulder. You idiot! You played our only card. If the kid’s lying to us, what makes you think that the minute the phone lines come back, he’s not going to call or email his dad and tip him off that the FBI is on to him!"
"I agree," Fox Mulder said placidly. "After that outburst, I don’t think he’s lying either. However, I don’t think he’s telling the complete truth."
"Mulder, I’m about ready to cut your head off with a butter knife. What the hell were you doing to that kid? Goading him into an emotional response to gauge his honesty? That’s irresponsible profiling and YOU of ALL people should know better."
"When he said he doesn’t know anything about his father’s lab, he means it. I think Mr. Leary has done a very good job of covering his tracks. It may have even been an accident that Mulder Leary was transported to this universe."
"Oh we are NOT going back to that Star Trek bullshit!" Now Doggett lost his temper. "Mul-duh, I’m in Stawk-weddah’s camp here. There’s no such damn thing as a parallel universe! I’d stake my life on it."
As if he didn’t hear either one of them, Mulder mused, "I wonder what Agent Reyes’ thoughts would be on this. Too bad the phone lines are down."
Doggett stood up, still visibly angry. "I’ve got some propane lanterns in the garage," he said stiffly. "I’m going to go get them in case the power goes out completely." He stormed out the side door to the garage.
When Doggett left the room, Starkweather said to Mulder "And by the way, you’re doing the dishes."
She rose to leave as well, but Mulder grabbed her wrist. "Wait."
Mulder Leary, meanwhile had been missed out on most of the conversation that followed his exit. Tired of fuming alone in the living room, he stalked back towards the kitchen without really being sure what he was going to say. But he figured he should at least help with the dishes. He was just outside the kitchen heard Doggett slam the door and actually liked Starkweather for few minutes after hearing her barbed remarks to Mulder.
But he didn’t like the conversation that followed.
"This better be good, you jack ass," Starkweather seethed.
"Do you trust Doggett’s judgment on this case?"
"Why wouldn’t I?" Starkweather started to gather up the dirty plates. "And get off your dead ass and help me."
"Have you noticed that Doggett has taken this boy under his wing?"
"You know that Doggett’s a soft touch towards kids. And he sees this kid, scared witless and… but that’s not saying any thing against his abilities as a federal agent."
Who was Luke?
The curtains fell closed heavily as Starkweather let them go with an angry shake. " Do you think you could try not to destroy my curtains?" Doggett drawled. " I hate shoppin’ so it’d be really inconvenient to have to replace them."
" I can’t believe it’s still snowing!" she ranted. " They haven’t even plowed, so how am I going to get home?"
" It should be obvious, Doc, you’re not going to. What did you think they meant when they announced the highways are closed?"
" I don’t have to go home on the highway." She insisted petulantly. " There are backroads."
" Which are always in a much better state than the well-traveled highways." Her brother droned. " Be realistic."
" I don’t want to be realistic, I want to be at home."
" Does that mean you don’t enjoy our company?" Doggett said, affecting a mock-hurt tone to his voice. " I can’t imagine that you’re all fired up about your desire to get home to Ben." A barely detectable note of bitterness crept into his voice at the last word.
Starkweather deftly avoided a reaction to his tone, because it was the last sort of conversation she felt equipped to deal with right then. " I left Ben a note saying I was going with you to return the kid-" She said matter of factly. Mulder Leary would have normally protested being called that, but given that he and Fox Mulder shared half of their names he was cutting people slack. " So he probably thinks we’re in Massachusetts by now. " She sighed deeply.
" You’re not the only one who wants to be at home." Mulder Leary muttered under his breath.
Starkweather heard him and fixed an angry glare on him. " What are you doing to my cat?!"
He looked down at his lap, startled. He didn’t know when the orange critter had staked a claim to his lap, but it obviously had, since it was purring merrily as it sat on him. " Petting him." He said defiantly, tentatively petting it away from its head so it would be less likely to bit him- Doggett’s warning was still on his mind.
" Oh great." She moaned. " First you worm your way into the X-files office, and now you’re trying to subvert my cat-"
" Subvert your cat?" Fox Mulder choked, giving her an incredulous look. " And you have the balls to call ME paranoid?"
" Ovaries, Mulder. Boys and girls have different parts, or did you fail biology?" She asked, sticking out her tongue. " Caesar hates everyone, so what else would you call it?"
" A miracle." Doggett declared reverently.
" If it bothers you so much, come take him." Mulder Leary said, annoyed and unable to figure out what the big deal was. It was just a cat. She didn’t make a move to get up, but gave him another dirty look. The cat continued to purr.
" Doggett, we can’t stay here." Fox Mulder declared apropos of nothing. " Starkweather and I will end up killing each other if we spend the night in the same house. And it will be on your head." He added ominously. Doggett snorted.
Past the point of caring about manners, Mulder Leary looked at Fox and Jerilyn. " What is wrong with you two? I don’t know anyone who gets along as badly with their siblings as you do, not even Doggett and his bitchy oldest sisters. You’re supposed to love your brothers and sisters, but you two seem like you hate each other. I’m kind of surprised you didn’t kill each other as kids from the way you carry on. What happened growing up to make you have such a terrible relationship now?" He demanded to know. Whatever it was, he was going to do everything in his power to avoid doing it to his own siblings.
Starkweather and her brother exchanged looks, while Doggett seemed ready to flee the room all of the sudden. It made him wonder what can of worms he was trying to open.
"We don’t hate each other," Starkweather finally said. "We just don’t like each other." Seeing Mulder Leary’s face redden even more with anger, she quickly added "That was a joke," she said as Caesar leapt of Mulder Leary’s lap and start to prowl around the room. Doggett watched the cat nervously while listening to Fox and Jerilyn attempt to explain themselves.
"The truth of the matter is," Fox Mulder said, his voice sounding very cautious, "that several years ago, almost thirteen years ago, I did something that was very…" he folded his lips, pausing as he searched for the right words that would clarify the situation for the young man but still shield his sister’s secrets, "Insensitive and thoughtless to Agent Starkweather. And it’s taken a long time for Jerilyn to get over the wrong that I’ve done to her…" <<and her mother…>> Mulder thought regretfully, thinking about how gung-ho and idiotic he had been, fresh into his FBI career, following up on a tip from someone who told him that Lynnette Bailey could help him find his sister.
Of course he had no idea that his source meant Jerilyn and not Samantha.
"It can’t be that bad," Mulder Leary said. "I mean it was almost thirteen years ago, so it’s over and done with by now, right?"
The room went dead silent. Starkweather turned to face the boy, her eyes narrowed. Mulder Leary felt himself leaning away from her. Her silence frightened him more than her ranting and throwing office supplies at him had.
Then her eyebrows lifted up once and her face became expressionless. "We just like to bicker, kid," she said in a cold voice. "Don’t take it so seriously." She looked at Doggett. "I’m calling dibs on the shower unless anyone else has pressing need for the bathroom."
"Neither did Sam and I," Mulder Leary said. "Not at first. But I don’t treat her the way you treat her."
Fox Mulder folded his lips together, not appreciating being lectured by a teenager. Then he looked over at the bookshelf and noticed Caesar sitting on the very top shelf, lording over them. "Cat, come on," he said as an excuse to stop listening to Mulder Leary’s reprimands. "Be a good houseguest for once…"
Meanwhile, ensconced in Doggett’s immaculate bathroom, Starkweather turned the shower on full blast. As the bathroom mirror fogged up, she turned on the cold water tap on the sink and splashed cold water on her face. Holding her wet hands to her face for a moment, she thought <<I am cracking up. I’m seriously heading for the funny farm. Jesus, if the roads aren’t cleared by tomorrow and we’re stuck here another day, I’m going to pull a Jack Nicholson from ‘The Shining’ and chase everyone around the house with an axe.>>
She shook her head and lowered her hands. "Christ," she muttered as she pulled her sweatshirt over her head. Just as she was going to unhook her bra, she heard a terrific crash, a cat’s yowl and lots of shouts and swearing.
"What the fuck now?" she cried out.
Pulling her sweatshirt over her head, she darted out of the bathroom to find Doggett’s bookshelves toppled over and Doggett and Mulder Leary struggling to lift them up.
"What the hell?" she said.
"Your god damned cat jumped when Mulder tried to get ‘em off the top shelf and the whole damn shelf fell over."
"Oh my God," she groaned. "Where’s Mulder?" For a minute, she panicked. "He’s not under the shelf is he?"
"Mulder, are you alright?" Starkweather asked.
"He got out of the way before the damn shelf fell over," Doggett said.
"Very ungracefully," Mulder Leary added, trying not to laugh.
Then Starkweather noticed the wad of bloody tissue stuck up his massive nose and the beginning of a bump on his high forehead. "Oh… shit," she said, reaching down to pick up the cat.
"Don’t worry," Mulder said icily. "My face broke my fall." Then he added "Jerilyn, we’re not going to get any sleep tonight if we have to sit and worry about that vicious hairball. You’re going to have to put him into his carrier for the rest of the night."
"Just put the fucking cat in its crate for one night. It’s not going to hurt anything."
" Doggett, do you have any oven mitts?" Fox Mulder asked, glaring over at Caesar, who was looking back at him with a murderous expression.
" I think so."
" Good, I’m going to need to borrow them so I can shove that demon into his pet carrier."
" You’re not putting him into the pet carrier!" Starkweather shrieked, hurting Mulder Leary’s ears.
The other Mulder didn’t seem phased by her impressive decibel level. " Watch me."
" If you do, I’ll duct tape the oven mitts to your hands." Starkweather threatened.
" I’m not sick now, how do you think you’ll accomplish that? Scully never would have if I’d been in fighting shape- " Mulder Leary gave the older man a startled look. He didn’t want to know what sort of kinky thrills people got from duct tape and oven mitts, but he was afraid he was going to find out. Starkweather started harping on the cat being a better guest if given free run of the house, so he was spared the details.
As the argument escalated, Mulder Leary was forcibly reminded of the time he’d gone over to Scully’s to help her look after Alexander and Jared- except the boys had been two and a half, not grown adults much older than himself. Growing up in the same house or not, you’d think a pair of professionals could hide their disagreements a little better than that.
He tried to think of how they’d settled the boys down. Him and Doggett holding the feuding agents on their laps was right out. Agent Starkweather might have struck him as very pretty if she had a different personality so the idea could have some appeal in another world, but he figured even attempting to get her on his lap would get him shot. Doggett didn’t seem to have any Disney movies either…But he wondered if another type of distraction might do the trick.
" Mr. Doggett, do you have any board games?" He asked.
" A couple, I think."
" Why?" Starkweather demanded to know, giving him a suspicious look.
He barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. " When the power goes out at home, we play board games to pass the time. I thought it’d be something to do." <<besides argue.>>
" Do I look like the type of person who plays board games?" Starkweather asked haughtily, and he almost told her what sort of person she did look like, but a glance from Doggett prompted him to bite his tongue.
Agent Mulder, on the other hand looked a little pale. " I, uh… I don’t play board games any more." You’d of thought he’d been asked to juggle rats from the expression on his face.
Mulder Leary shrugged. There was no pleasing these people. " Forget I asked." He said moodily. A couple of minutes later he got up to go to the bathroom. Even in there he could hear the two of them still arguing about couches. He shook his head as he washed his hands, hoping that he’d never stoop to being so petty when he was that old. Then he wandered off towards the bedroom he’d slept in the night before with the idea that there might be something of interest in the small bookcase he noticed that morning.
Scully tiptoed through the apartment, desperately attempting not to wake William. She considered just staying on the couch, but eventually she realized the effort would be futile. If he was going to wake up, he was going to wake up.
Still, she nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone rang. She dove for it, certain that this intruding noise would be greeted by a shrill wail of complaint. To her amazement, she was able to grab the phone up before it woke William.
" Hello?" She answered, sounding a little testy.
" Dana? Did I wake you?" He brother’s smooth voice, full of concerned, asked.
" No, Bill. William’s teething, that’s all. You know how that is."
" Sure do. I’m glad that Matthew is past that." He said with a slight chuckle. "So, I was looking up the weather online, and found out you folks are having quite a storm up there. Are things going ok?"
" So far so good. The power’s on, obviously the phones are working too," But she’d called the phone company earlier when she couldn’t get through to Mulder and learned that the people in Falls Church weren’t so lucky about phone lines. " So I think we’ll weather the storm without any problem."
" I’m glad to hear that, Dana." He replied, sounding sincere.
Scully wasn’t fooled. Her brother might be being nice at the moment, but he was usually a sanctimonious prick, so she was waiting for him to get to the point of his call. She didn’t have long to wait. " Lots of snow, though, guess you’ll have to send Mulder out to clear off the steps."
" The manager takes care of that." She replied quickly. " One of the perks of living in an apartment."
" Still, they probably won’t be doing anything until the morning. Unless he’s not feeling well enough to shovel, he probably ought to for safety’s sake."
<Why didn’t I check caller ID first? Oh yeah, waking Will> She seethed about his snide little comment about Mulder’s health. He really meant he thought Mulder was unmanly for being sick so often. " Actually, Mulder’s not here right now." She admitted.
" How can he not be there? Anything could happen to you or William in a bad storm like that, and he’s off god knows where doing god knows what!" Bill ranted. " I honestly can’t figure out what you see in that man, he’s never there when you need him. He’s the least responsible man I’ve ever met… look at all the danger he’s put you in, he doesn’t have any concern whatsoever for your well being, never mind his own. Guys like that never grow up, they’re just Peter Pan forever. And you stay with him! What’s going to happen if he does something to get himself killed? Or worse yet does something that gets Will hurt? God knows I wouldn’t put it passed him to try some stunt with your kid-"
Since she’d been having a bad day anyway, her usually fine control of her temper eluded her. " For God’s sake, shut the fuck up, you have no idea what you’re talking about."
" Dana!" He squawked, obviously shocked to be sworn at.
She ignored him. " You don’t even ask why he’s not there before assuming the worst. And you accuse him of not growing up? I don’t think you honestly give a shit why he’s not here, you’re just thrilled to point out yet another example of his short-comings as you see them. And don’t say it doesn’t fill you with glee, because I know you, and you are that fucking petty, Bill. Well, no one asked you what you thought of Mulder’s skills as a parent or lover –" She said that deliberately instead of boyfriend, knowing he’d cringe."- so why don’t you keep your opinions to your goddamn self?"
Before he could stop sputtering long enough to reply, she slammed the phone down. That felt good for close to three seconds…right up until William began to scream. She knew she ought to go to him right away to assure him that there was nothing to be scared of, but she knew too that you’re not supposed to handle a kid when you’re dangerously angry. It’s too hard to keep yourself from being rough when your emotions are running high.
Instead she covered her face with her hands, and willed herself to calm down. It wasn’t easy, though, because Bill was half right. She was pretty damn sick of Mulder not being there when she felt she needed him. Not that she couldn’t take care of things herself, but it would be nice to have someone else there to try to comfort their teething baby. It wasn’t fair to have to do everything herself, not when William had two mostly healthy and whole parents.
William’s fussing had subsided to sniffling and tears by the time she was ready to face him. She picked him up, and tried to soothe him. " Awww, Mommy didn’t mean to scare you by slamming the phone. It’s just that your uncle is such a self-righteous asshole that he makes me upset. Not to mention I’m upset with Daddy for not being here. " She swayed slowly from side to side as she spoke to him, and she felt him relax in her arms. " Grandma swears frozen waffles feel good to achy gums, want to give it a try?"
A few minutes later William was drooling happily as he gnawed on a waffle. It gave Scully some hope that he’d sleep through at least part of the night, but she still wished that Mulder were there.
Sick of the bickering, Doggett grabbed his sleeping bag out of the hall closet and dumped it on the floor between Starkweather and her brother. "Here. Problem solved. Or if it isn't, keep it down, 'cause I'm going to bed." He stomped off and shut his bedroom door with a slam.
Fox Mulder nudged it towards her with a toe. "You take it, you're the one who went through basic training, you should be used to it."
"Oh, so being used to shabby arrangements makes it ok for me to have to endure them now?" Starkweather snapped.
"I don't fucking think so!"
He gave her a disapproving look. "You really shouldn't swear around our young guest, you know."
"Mulder, he's a teenager, not a toddler like Boo. I'm pretty sure he's got as extensive a vocabulary in obscenities as we do." She said with a roll of her eyes.
"As I do maybe, but you know some I've never heard of." He grinned. "Look, I'm going to humble myself and beg here. My back isn't what it was when I was younger. Like you. "he said pointedly. "So can I please take the couch?"
"Has appealing to my sympathies ever worked in the past?" She asked sarcastically.
"Well no, but I wanted to see if a new approach worked- I pretend you have a heart, and see if you respond like you've got one."
She was about to make an angry retort, but then brightened. "Mulder, what are we fighting about? Doggett's got a guest room. All we have to do is figure out where the kid wandered off to, and inform him that he's going to be using the sleeping bag. Then you can sleep on the couch like you wanted."
"And you get the bed, I suppose."
"Of course." She said, going to see if Mulder Leary had escaped the arguing by hiding in the kitchen.
Fox Mulder wandered into the kitchen a minute later. "There's a problem with your plan." He informed her.
"What problem? It's a perfect plan." She insisted, wondering if he was implying that she ought to feel guilty for making the kid sleep on the floor. She didn't.
"I found him. Apparently he decided that hiding out in the guest room was the best way to avoid us."
"And? Did he refuse to leave?"
"And he's sound asleep. It's your brilliant plan, you wake him up." He insisted.
"Fine, I will." She said haughtily as she stalked off towards the guest room. She opened the door, fully intending to wake the boy up and order him into the living room, but she couldn't do it. He was deeply asleep and looked far more relaxed than she'd seen him be so far.
"So I'll be sleeping on the floor tonight," She informed her older brother when she noticed him defiantly stretched out on the couch. "And don't you dare say word to me about my plan failing."
"I wouldn't dream of it." He innocently claimed to which she snorted rudely. "Hey, did Scully ever tell you about the mothman case we had a few years back?"
"Mothmen? Is there anything you don't believe in?" She asked, rolling out the sleeping bag and crawling in it.
Ignoring her, he kept talking. "We were investigating some disappearances out in the woods, and we ended up having to stay the night. Injuring myself, per usual, Scully decided I must be in shock. But between you and me, that used to be an excuse she used a lot when she wanted to cuddle closer. Anyway, I tried to explain to her that I'd heard that people regenerate body heat best if they take their clothes off and share a sleeping bag with another unclothed person. So she retorts 'maybe if it rains sleeping bags, you'll get lucky.' "
"So I still don't know what she meant by that. I've come up two possible explanations. Either she meant if I was lucky, sleeping bags filled with naked people would rain out of the sky. And if I was really lucky they'd be naked women, not men. Not that there's anything wrong with naked men, but they don't do anything for me." He wrinkled his nose. "Or she meant that if we'd had a sleeping bag, which we didn't, she'd take off her clothes and climb in it with me. I'm more fond of the second explanation-"
"Why are you telling me this?!" She asked with a horrified look on her face.
He shrugged. "Shits and giggles. The cable's still out so I have to amuse myself somehow."
"Have I told you how much I hate you?"
"I hate you." She whined, snuggling into the sleeping bag and turning away from him.
" No, don’t go to sleep." Mulder said suddenly, not sounding smug at all.
" Why not?" Starkweather asked grumpily, rolling over to face him again.
" I saw something in the kid’s room when I found out he was asleep."
" A gun? A bomb? A love letter?" Starkweather guessed, almost enjoying his frowning response. " Ooooh, was it a stick of gum?"
" No. His wallet was open on the night table – "
" Oh, did you look at his license? Was he lying to us about who he is or where he’s from?" Starkweather asked eagerly, bored to the point of grasping for anything exciting enough to keep her awake.
Her brother shook his head. " The wallet was opened to a picture. And it looked like a picture of William as a newborn."
" He has a picture of your baby?"
" I said it looked like William. But I’m sure it wasn’t him. It wasn’t taken any place I recognized, I’d never seen Will in that outfit, and you know Scully shows me evvverything she buys him. No, I’m sure the baby is his brother."
" That’s spooky. But it would explain why he looked like he’d been slapped when you showed him Boo’s picture."
" Do you think so?" He asked her in a tone that said that she was missing something that she ought to be able to figure out. He never said another word, and she soon realized that he’d fallen asleep while she’d lain on the floor trying to puzzle it out. She felt like waking him up just for spite.
The wind howled outside, waking Mulder Leary from a sound sleep. He reluctantly opened one eye long enough to look at the bedside alarm clock he hadn’t set. Two am. He knew he ought to be thankful that there was still power, since he knew from life-long experience that storms much less severe could knock out the power in the northeast for hours and hours, which made fireplaces and wood stoves there less a lovely Martha Stewart-esque home decorating touches than a necessity so you don’t freeze to death. It was nice that the power grid in D.C. was a little more stable, apparently.
He couldn’t believe that he was still in DC. His parents were probably frantic, or they would at least be putting on a show like they were, just as they had when Sam had briefly run away. Whether or not their reactions would be, or had been, anything like authentic he still didn’t know, since he was never sure of how they really felt. They blocked him out, always. It was something he’d grown used to; it’d been like that nearly his entire life, so he wasn’t expecting to come to any sort of revelation regarding their motives any time soon.
Even if he parents didn’t care if he was missing, he didn’t want to be in DC. Though he was grateful for agent Doggett’s kindness, he didn’t know what to make of anyone else he’d met so far. Agent Starkweather seemed to run hot and cold, only nice to him when it contradicted something her brother said. And agent Mulder was just very strange. He was nice enough when not playing grand inquisitor, but he definitely didn’t seem like he was playing with a full deck. It made him worry that he might get that strange himself as he grew older, since he knew that the older man was the sort of believer he and Reyes McPhee were. Not that he really wanted to be compared to her either, he thought with a small smile.
Slipping out of the warm blankets, he walked to the window and pulled back the curtains, mindfully being more gentle with them than Starkweather had been; it wasn’t his desire to cause agent Doggett any more trouble than he had to. What the view revealed was the sort of scene that would be the perfect backdrop for a " Walking in a Winter Wonderland" video- snow encased everything it didn’t bury outright. He felt like screaming. Instead he climbed back into bed and prayed he’d at least be able to dream about being at home, and earn a small measure of comfort that way. A small creaking sound in the hallway made him wonder if agent Starkweather’s cat was lurking, or if he was not the only one having a restless night. He was asleep before he figured it out.
The culprit was Doggett, standing out in the hall, feeling stupid.
He’d been sound asleep when a noise in his room woke him up with a start. If asked to swear on the witness stand, he would have said it was giggling. Luke’s giggling. Despite the cool of the evening air, sweat began to bead on his forehead as he strained to listen. Nothing. He gave a rueful smile as he thanked God that he couldn’t hear any more arguing. It didn’t matter to him how the argument had finally resolved, he just was thrilled it had, since the bickering had made it hard for him to fall asleep.
<< Maybe I’ll drop right off now. Anything’s possible.>> He thought with a yawn. His head hit his pillow and he had only just closed his eyes when he heard it again.
He forced his eyes open again, not looking forward to another hallucination or dream of his son, not after how upsetting the last one had been. Reyes would have told him it was a ghost he’d seen, and Scully would have tried to schedule an MRI, so he’d kept that Christmas whatever it had been to himself.
But when he opened his eyes, there was no one there. His heart slowed to a more normal pace, and he began to wonder if maybe scheduling that MRI wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Hearing things probably wasn’t as bad as seeing and hearing them, but it was bad enough. He had decent enough insurance-
Then he realized the reason he didn’t see anything was because the giggling was coming from the other side of his bedroom door.
For a split second he worried that his guests might see the boy, which is how he found himself standing next to the bed, wondering what he should do next. It didn’t take thought when the noise sounded again, he was already in motion.
The hallway was an inky darkness, and he couldn’t recall it ever being that black before. Peering into the hall, he couldn’t see Luke, but he could hear him. Tiny footsteps and a silvery laugh. Eventually he realized that Luke wanted him to follow him, so he did.
He nearly stubbed his toe on the door to the guest room. Straining his ears, he didn’t hear a damn thing. For a second he considered calling out to Luke, but he realized it’d be really hard to explain if anyone woke up and asked him why he was calling for his dead son.
Shaking his head he wondered if Luke was in the guest room with Mulder, but the creak of bed springs told him that the boy was getting back into bed, which meant he was awake. And as well as the kid was dealing with being in DC unexpectedly and despite his beliefs in aliens, Doggett didn’t think he’d simply shrug off seeing a ghost without coming to find someone. So it had all been another dream or hallucination. Maybe he just needed to get more sleep.
Feeling sheepish, he walked back to his room, wondering why his mind had dredged up another round of imagining Luke, when he stopped in the hallway, startled by a sudden thought << Luke and Mulder could have been in the same class as little boys if they’d lived in the same place.>> He finished the trek back to his room wondering why he hadn’t realized that before.
Doggett thought he would fall asleep again right away, but he was wrong.
Because, as Doggett returned to settle back in for the night Caesar had felt it was his duty to prowl through the halls; he slunk through the darkened corridor until he entered the room of the other human occupant having a restless night.
Doggett paced for a little bit in his room, unaware of the cat roaming the halls. He felt tired but not sleepy. And he realized it was Mulder and Starkweather that had brought him down. His angry speech earlier to Fox Mulder and Starkweather served only as an escape so he could go to his room and shut the door on their angry voices, sick of Mulder and Starkweather sniping at each other. Didn’t they realize how their continuous arguing drained other people? Then he realized, as arrogant as they both were, probably didn’t.
Realizing he wasn’t going to be able to sleep, Doggett laid on the bed anyway, rifling though an older copy of a Sports Illustrated he had been meaning to look at for a long time now. "Hey, Swim Suit Issue," Doggett said to himself in realization, pulling out one of the inserts.
Then he sighed and let the magazine slid out of his hands and down to the floor. Lacing his fingers together, he put his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling, willing sleep to come, but knew it wasn’t going to. Earlier, he had heard Mulder and Starkweather still talking in the living room, but now it was silent. Thank God.
Then his door creaked open. Doggett bolted up, heart pounding when no one came through. Half-afraid he was seeing things again, he slowly reached for the gun laying on the in-table next to his bed.
Then he looked down and saw Starkweather’s cat staring up at him serenely.
"What’n the hell do you want?" Doggett sighed, lying back down. "Shoo."
"What’s this?" Doggett tentatively reached out and stroked the cat’s head. "Since when have you liked me?"
"Yeah, yeah," Doggett said. "Okay, so you know my little secret. I like cats. You don’t have to be such an asshole when I come around, you know."
Caesar continued to purr. Doggett idly continued to pet the cat as he allowed himself to think about the past two days extraordinary events. And felt frustration creep into his bones when he decided that they have made absolutely no progress.
Nothing on the surveillance cameras. Nobody saw him come in, not even Starkweather, she had simply had lifted her head and there he was sitting in front of her.
And what truly bothered him was that the kid was not telling the whole truth. He had been making pretty good progress with the kid the night before. But Doggett realized that there was no way the kid was going to disclose anything with Starkweather and Fox Mulder hovering around him like hawks. The kid simply did not trust them and was not going to say a damn thing while they were around.
<<I’m going to have to get alone with the kid>> Doggett thought. <<And how’n the hell am I going to do that? Starkweather, I can talk to her and explain, but Mulder? No way. He wants to interrogate that kid so bad, he can taste it… wonder if I could enlist Starkweather in helping me distract Mulder so I can talk to the kid…?>>
The wind began to howl again and Doggett closed his eyes. <<’Course, none of us are going anywhere if this storm keeps up. >>
Doggett knew that the potential for homicide would be pretty high if all four of them, five including the cat, were forced to confinement in his house for another twenty-four hours.
But that thought flew from his mind when there was a gentle rap on his door. Doggett turned his head and saw Starkweather’s face peeping through the slightly opened door.
"It’s okay," he quipped. "I’m decent."
"I saw your light on," she said faintly, swaying as her arms wrapped around her stomach.
"What’s wrong?" he reached out and gently grasped her upper arms to steady her.
"I don’t know," she said. She looked and sounded like a little girl. "I woke up a few minutes ago and… I just don’t feel good."
He tsked over her and smoothed her bangs away from her sweaty forehead. "What’s the matter? Are you sick? There’s a bad bout of flu going on around the office."
"Oh shit," Doggett said, fearing something awful like appendicitis. "Do you want to try to get to a hospital or something?" He looked over his shoulder at the window. Which was a useless motion for him to make since the drapes were closed. But he could still hear the wind howling.
She shook her head. "It’s starting to go away a little anyway. It woke me up though, the body aches, so I don’t know… it could be the flu."
Laying Starkweather down on his bed, he grinned at her. "Hear that? The plows are out. We should be able to get out of here tomorrow."
He reached over to turn off the small lamp on his in-table, but Starkweather’s small hand suddenly gripped his shirt sleeve.
"You’re going to stay here, right?" she pleaded.
Doggett looked down at her. Her eyes were wide with fear.
With the same trepidation as he had exercised when he reached to pet Caesar, he slowly reached down to stroke her cheek. It felt cold and clammy. "I’m not going anywhere," he promised her right before turning off the light.
After hearing his son’s laughter in the halls, he had no desire to be alone anyway.
The next morning
Fox Mulder woke up feeling sunlight hitting him in the face. He looked down and saw that Starkweather’s sleeping bag was empty. A smug smile transformed his scholarly handsome face into the face of a gloating school boy. Then he yawned, dismissing the thought.
She was a grown woman and probably very aware of the risks her actions created. It was none of his concern. And would make him a hypocrite to judge her. After all, how many times had he and Scully…
"Oh, I better call her," Mulder sighed out loud, opening his eyes.
Kicking off the covers, Mulder yawned again and walked to the kitchen, scratching his back. He found Doggett, fully dressed, sipping coffee, staring out the kitchen window.
"What? No doughnuts?" Mulder asked, reaching for a coffee cup.
Doggett frowned at him but reached out for the coffee pot and poured Mulder a cup. "Keep it down. Starkweather’s sick."
"Yeah, probably. Hope so anyway," Doggett said, his eyes drifting back out towards the window.
Mulder walked toward it and peered out. "It stopped snowing."
Mulder digested this just as his younger edition in. His hairstuck up wildly everywhere. "Hi," Mulder Leary said, plopping down in a chair.
"Morning," Doggett said in an even voice. "We’ve got good news for you."
Fox Mulder said nothing, only sipped his coffee.
"You look like shit," Mulder said, a touch of surprise in his voice.
Starkweather tried to sound superior "No wonder you stayed single for so long. How much do you pay Scully to stay with you?" but instead sounded worn out.
"How’re you feeling?" Doggett asked sincerely.
She shrugged. "Like a Mack truck ran over me, but nothing near what I felt like last night. Must have been a twenty-four hour bug or something."
"You feel up to driving?" Doggett asked her. "I didn’t sleep much last night and we’ve got a long trip today," he looked over at Mulder Leary, who was unsuccessfully hiding his elation.
<<I’m going home today!>> Mulder Leary wanted to shout from the rooftops. <<I’m leaving this nightmare behind and am going home! I’ll be back with *my* Scully and *my* Doggett and *my* Reyes and Sam and Price...>>
What if something happened to Sam and Price while he was away? What if this unexpected trip to DC was really a plot to pry him away from the siblings he swore he would protect?
He then noticed that Fox Mulder was staring at him intently while Doggett and Starkweather were hammering out the driving plans. Mulder Leary scowled at Fox Mulder and got up from the table. "Do you mind if I make some toast?" he asked Doggett.
"Knock yourself out," Doggett said. Then he turned back to Starkweather. "Are you positive about driving?"
"I’m fine, really," she said, sounding more or less like herself again. "If I feel too shitty, I’ll pull over. My only question is though, what vehicle. My car won’t make it."
"We’ll find you a phone book to sit on," Fox Mulder droned.
Now it was Starkweather scowling at him. "And you’re going home… when?"
"In a little bit," Mulder said serenely. "I wouldn’t want to miss out on a moment of your company before your big expedition. How far of a drive is it?"
"That’s what I’m going to find out," Doggett said as he got up from the table. "Hopefully my ‘Net’s up and running again. I’m going to check out mapquest.com." Taking his coffee cup with him, Doggett left the room.
Startled by her sudden gesture of kindness, he said "Okay." Pressing the button on the toaster and watching the bread sink down; he asked "Where is your phone?"
"In the living room, on the coffee table," she said placidly. Her tone became ugly the minute Mulder Leary left the room. "Fox, if you fucking follow me and Doggett today, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll think of something terrible to do to you, I swear to God."
"Ooh, first name," Mulder said in a bored voice. "I’m shivering with fear."
Mulder Leary’s toast popped up. Starkweather rose from the table. "Dammit, stop being such a pretentious dick for once." She stalked over to the toaster and took the browned bread out. Buttering it for Mulder Leary before it got cold, she said "Mulder, listen. It’s not like we don’t appreciate your help. You’ve…" she clenched her teeth for a minute and then forced herself to keep going. "Saved our asses a time or two. And if it hadn’t been for you, there’d be no X-Files. But," she looked up at him. "We don’t need you on this one, okay? It’s not a personal thing. It’s just… it’s pretty cut and dried. We need to investigate the parents. We need to get the kid home."
"What if there’s no home to speak of?" Mulder said. "Starkweather, listen to me. If the kid is from an alternative universe, you and Doggett are going to drive up to the Great White North and find nothing."
"Mulder, for the last time, there is no alternative universe! There are no parallel dimensions! Sorry to burst your bubble but this is not an X-File. There’s no paranormal happenings going on."
"How reliable is the surveillance video in the X-Files office? With all the people you pissed off while you were in the Bureau that are still trying to shut the X-Files Division down?" she shook her head. "As soon as we reunite the kid with his parents, then we’ll get to the bottom of this."
"I agree," Mulder said gently. "But not the way you think they are."
"Why not?" Starkweather crossed her arms, still holding the butter knife. A glob of butter got on the sweatshirt she borrowed from Doggett, but she didn’t notice. "Surely you saw how defensive he got the minute anyone implied that his parents might be involved in any sort of wrong doing. Most teenagers wouldn’t give a damn about their parents’ work ethics or personal lives just so long it didn’t interfere with their next football game or kegger."
"I think there are definitely secrets within his family," Mulder said. "But I don’t think it’s within our power to assist them. If we interfere with his family life, we could severely mess up the space-time continuum."
"Starkweather, you might have better luck taking the boy back to the office and seeing if the wormhole he came out of re-opened."
"Well, I’m believe the boy’s neglected," Starkweather said.
"He looked clean and well-fed to me. No visible bruises or lacerations either."
She allowed him that barb. "As can I."
"So it is your belief, and I’m confident the Puppy Man will concur with you, that the boy was coerced by his parents, or more accurate, his ambitious scientist father, to enter the X-Files office. For what purpose?"
"How can you interview the parents if you can’t find them?" Mulder asked.
"Doggett’s online right now getting directions to Capeside," she said. "And I found a shit load of information on Capeside right before coming here. The kid’s calling his folks on my cell phone, which will save the number he enters. There is a Capeside."
"Or the destruction of Hiroshima," Mulder said placidly.
Starkweather sighed and rolled her eyes. "Yes, okay, a lot of quantum physics did provide some of the theory that led to nuclear technology. But that’s not my point. Those physicists are talking about the creation of atoms invisible even with the most powerful of microscopes. Not the duplication of earth and sky, tree and house. Man and animal."
"Because there is no proof!" Starkweather cried out. "We can’t just blindly believe something that there’s no evidence of!"
"Don’t even drag religion into this. That is completely separate."
Meanwhile, Mulder Leary sat gloomily in the living room, eavesdropping on Mulder and Starkweather. Not that he could help it, their squabbling echoed through the house.
"At it again?" he sighed, looking at Mulder Leary.
"They just don’t learn, do they?" Mulder Leary grumbled.
"They’re both very pig-headed," Doggett explained. "I think it runs in the family."
"Well, it’s personal, so I’d appreciate you keeping this to yourself. But… Starkweather and I were caught in New York during Nine-Eleven."
"And Mulder, well, he was in Boston. He was supposed to fly out of Logan. He missed his flight. By five minutes," Doggett looked intently at Mulder Leary. "We all thought Mulder was on that plane that crashed into the World Trade Towers. And Mulder, stuck in Boston, thought that Starkweather was at Ground Zero during the attack." Doggett let that sink in before continuing. "They were pretty happy to see each other when they finally caught up with each other." He grinned at the boy. "Lots of tears, lots of hugging, believe it or not."
Doggett smiled. "Because they’re both stubborn and both stick to their guns when they believe they’re right. They stick together though when push comes to shove. Trust me."
Mulder Leary looked at Doggett oddly. "No," he said in a tight voice. "Not like that. Not like that at all," he got up from the chair. "I’m going outside for awhile."
"Okay," Doggett said, regarding the boy with a furrowed brow and a frown.
Mulder Leary paused long enough to hold out a cell phone. "Here," he said. "Give this back to Agent Starkweather. It’s hers. She said I could call my parents with it."
Brow still furrowed, Doggett fussed with Starkweather’s cell phone until the call log came up. "What the hell?" he muttered when he saw the message pop up on the cell’s LCD screen:
NOT IN SERVICE
Confused, Doggett looked at the front door where the boy had just exited. Then he got up to go tell the other Mulder and Starkweather to please shut the hell up and for Starkweather to get ready for a nine hour drive. And for Mulder to go home to William and Scully.
It annoyed Mulder Leary that Starkweather and her brother were bickering again. Even after getting all annoyed with him for expressing his unhappiness with their fighting, they still didn’t let up on each other.
He began to sing to himself under his breath. Even without an audience he didn’t feel like singing out loud just then. That would indicate a happiness he didn’t feel.
My sister... My sister... My sister
I hate my sister, she's such a bitch.
She acts as if she doesn't even know that I exist.
But I would do anything to let her know I care.
But I am only talking to myself 'cos she isn't there.
Mulder Leary stopping singing abruptly and looked around nervously.
The second time he was certain he heard it, and his heart filled with dread. He knew from experience that it was better to met this sort of thing head on, so there was no jumping out at you. There was nothing worse than a stealth duck. Sighing, he began to look around for it.
Trudging through the rapidly melting snow, he found the source of the quacking on the border between John’s yard and the neighbor’s. He was relieved that the offending fowl was actually on the neighbor’s property. Agent Doggett was a nice guy, and he’d hate to think less of the man for associating with ducks.
Fox Mulder had stalked off to the bathroom, leaving Starkweather suddenly alone in the kitchen she realized. Neither Doggett nor the kid seemed to be anywhere around. It was Doggett’s house, so his disappearing didn’t bother her, but the boy was a different matter. Annoyed that the kid had wandered off and worried he’d get into something, Starkweather looked around for him, eventually resorting to peering out windows. She noticed him standing at the edge of John’s yard, staring at something. Sighing, she decided to go out and see what he was doing before he made the neighbors nervous. She didn’t notice that Caesar was hot on her heels.
The duck, for his part, did not notice Mulder’s paranoid fascination with him. He was just happy to have found a nice semi-liquid pond to paddle around it. It wasn’t an actual pond, but rather an over-grown one the neighbor bought to keep goldfish in, which had rapidly been consumed by the neighborhood cats, but the duck wasn’t picky. Water was water.
<Stupid duck> Mulder thought as he watched it swim aimlessly in the black plastic pond. <If you were a smart duck you would have migrated instead of hanging around here all winter>
There was a sudden flash of orange in Mulder’s peripheral vision, then he was wheeling away from a flurry of dark feathers. For the second time in his life, he was attacked by his winged nemesis. Or so he thought.
The reality of the situation was that Caesar had snuck up on the duck and pounced. And panicking, the duck had flown up and away from the cat- and directly into Mulder, who shouted in fear. It dodged away from him at the last second, but not before upsetting Mulder’s balance.
Starkweather reached the multi-species trio just as the duck flew off and Mulder landed on his butt. A smirk began to form on her face until she realized that Mulder’s face was a mask of terror. Her brows knit as she tried to figure it out. She worried that something else had happened that she hadn’t seen. " Are you ok?" She asked as she reached down to give him a hand up.
" Is it gone?" He asked, wild-eyed. " The d-d-uck." He stuttered.
She looked around and noticed it flying over Doggett’s roof. " Yeah, it’s gone."
" Oh, good." He said, but he was still trembling.
" Seriously, are you ok?" Starkweather had never seen someone act that upset over a small bird before.
He wouldn’t look at her, and a blush crept over his cheeks. " I’m afraid of ducks." He muttered.
Starkweather shrugged. Lots of people had phobias. " Yeah? Scully’s scared of clowns. I thought she was going to jump out of her skin when we were surprised by a clown while taking Boo to the circus."
" Boo is William’s nickname, by the way." She added.
Mulder felt calmer, and grateful that she hadn’t made fun of him over his fear. People less prickly than her had over the course of his life. " My Scully hates clowns too. She told me that she dreamed about them a lot when she was in the hospital."
" In the hospital for what?"
" Chicken-pox induced pneumonia. It was touch and go for a while, and that was really scary." He shivered a little as he remembered how scared he and Bessie had been those long days.
" Really? My brother got really sick with the chicken pox not terribly long ago too…" They wandered back to the house, not realizing that they were getting along fairly well. For once.
A little later that morning
"Starkweather!" Doggett called out as Mulder Leary handed him the last of the luggage. "Get your rear in gear!"
"Oh," her irritable voice came from inside the house. "Keep your shorts on."
Doggett grinned at the boy as he put the last bag in the backseat of his truck. "It’s going to be a tight squeeze," he said apologetically. "But Starkweather’s driving and there’s no way in hell I can fit back here. My knees will be touching my eyebrows."
<<God, please let Sam and Price be okay, please please please>> he thought fretfully, wishing that Agent Starkweather would hurry the hell up.
Or rather, that her cat would cooperate.
"Should we go in and try and help her find the cat?" Mulder Leary asked, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt.
"Caesar!" they heard her bawling out from inside. "Kitty! Oh come on you little shit head!"
"Yeah we better," Doggett said, "Else I’m not going to have a house to get back to."
They found her standing in the living room, one hand holding the cat carrier, the other hand on her hip, looking around, positively fuming. While Doggett and Mulder Leary were loading up the truck, she had taken the opportunity to take the shower she had wanted to the night before. Her hair, piled up on top of her hair in a thick bun, still looked damp, Meanwhile Fox Mulder, in the same rumpled suit he had on yesterday, sat on the sofa, watching his sister in great amusement.
"Doc, come on," Doggett said. "We got to get going." He, like Starkweather, was dressed for comfort instead of protocol, jeans and a dark navy sweater instead of his usual dark suits.
"Don’t tell me something I don’t know," Starkweather said pushing her bangs out of her eyes and setting the carrier down.
Mulder Leary frowned as he caught sight of a funny looking scar on her forehead. Then his frown deepened when she turned around and he saw an even odder scar on the back of her head. He got an even better look at the scar when she knelt down. He tried not to stare, but couldn’t help it. It looked really deep. Like someone dug something out of the base of her skull.
"There you are," Starkweather said, unaware of Mulder Leary’s morbid fascination with the back of her head as she reached underneath the footstool, dragging Caesar out. "Hey there fuzzy britches. Ready for a ride?" She stroked his head lovingly. "Hey Mulder, can you get the carrier for me?"
Aware that Doggett and Mulder simultaneously pitied him and silently laughed at him, Mulder Leary put what he thought was a brave face and held the cat crate up for Starkweather to deposit the ornery feline into it. Once, locked in, Caesar began to hiss and spit loudly. Mulder Leary held the carrier as if it was a time bomb.
"So, would it be alright for me to put a radioactive isotope, a detector and some poison gas in there?" Fox Mulder asked, earning a filthy look from the cat’s owner. "For scientific purposes, only, of course."
"I hope all your fish died in the night," Starkweather said. Then, turning to Doggett, she said "Ready to blow this taco stand?"
"Mulder," Fox Mulder said, extending his hand. "It was nice meeting you."
"Me?" Mulder said much too innocently. "I’m just going to head over to Georgetown. Spend some quality time with Scully and William."
Starkweather and Doggett exchanged a look that Mulder Leary didn’t like.
"Right," Doggett drawled in disbelief. "In that case, we need to get going. "
"My coat’s in the kitchen," Starkweather said, shooting another nasty look at Fox Mulder before leaving.
"Mulder, head out to the truck," Doggett said causally. "I wanna have a word with Mu- uh, Fox for a minute."
Once alone, Doggett said "I meant what I said last night, Mulder. Your expertise is not needed or wanted here. You need to leave this kid alone. You need to leave us alone."
"Puppy-Man," Mulder said in a mock hurt voice. "Don’t you trust me?"
"About as far as I could throw you," Doggett said, digging in his pocket for his keys. "Now, I got to kick you out now. I need to lock up."
"Would it be too much to ask," Mulder said as he pulled his coat on. "For either you or Jerilyn to call me and let me know how things turned out."
"Why?" Doggett said, voice heavy with suspicion.
As he drew on his black leather gloves, a Christmas gift from Maggie last year, Mulder said in a too-innocent-to-be-innocent voice. "I’d like to know if the boy made it home safely." Seeing that Doggett was not convinced, Mulder added "And I’m curious. I’d like to know how it turned out in the end."
Grudgingly Doggett said "Yeah. Alright. We’ll call you." Looking at his watch, Doggett said "We really need to get going Mulder."
Doggett had the last word though. "Give my regards to Scully," Doggett said. "She’s expecting you," he said with a nasty smirk as he shut the door in Mulder’s face.
" Hey, Scully, I’m-" The words died on Fox Mulder’s lips when he saw look on Scully’s face. It was far from friendly. Reminded him quite a bit of daggers, actually.
" You’re what?" She asked, a dangerous edge to her voice.
" So happy to see you and Boo." He improvised quickly. William smiled at him and held out his arms, so he knew that at least one person was glad to see him, anyway.
" So you’re not just stopping by to say hi before you dash off to be a pain in Doggett and Starkweather’s asses?" She asked icily.
A sudden understanding filled him. " Starkweather called you, didn’t she." He accused.
" You’re not going with them." Scully said firmly. " They don’t need you. I do. William does."
If she wasn’t so furious, he might have asked her for what, and made a few comments that would have her blushing, but she still looked like she wanted to hit him, so he kept the innuendoes to himself. He wasn’t, however, prepared to be bossed around like a child. " They don’t need me, but I want to go. I’m off the x-files, so how much opportunity do I get to deal with the paranormal these days? This might be my only chance ever to see evidence of an alternate dimension." He told her, turning his best puppy dog eyes on him.
" Fine." She said, picking William up and abruptly thrusting him into Mulder’s startled arms. " Keep an eye on him."
Mulder rubbed William’s back, because Scully’s sudden movements had obviously scared him. " Ok, but what are you doing?" He called as she stalked out of the room.
" Packing." She called back. " If I can’t convince you not to go on this idiot’s errand, William and I are going with you."
" Being called an idiot hurts Daddy’s feelings." He murmured to his son before speaking up loud enough for Scully to hear over the opening and slamming of dresser drawers. " I’m not sure this is such a good idea." He protested. " It’s going to be eight or ten hours in the car-"
" If you want to stay home, I understand." Scully’s voice floated back to him. Her tone was so sweet he cringed; that voice meant trouble. " But if you’re going, so are we."
" Oh boy, your old man has really done it this time." He told his son as they listened to Scully throw things at a suitcase. William regarded him solemnly, then reached for Mulder’s nose, giving it a rough yank. " I see you agree." Mulder said, rubbing his injured part.
Downtown Alexandria, Virginia...
"Not in the last five seconds or so," Doggett said. "And you missed a perfectly good spot back there."
"Starkweather, the sign says ‘Staff Only’," Doggett informed her as she shifted the truck into park.
"Thank you Captain Obvious."
"Doc, if I get a ticket-"
"Hurry," Doggett said as Starkweather took the carrier from Mulder Leary. "We’re already running late."
"Hey," Mulder Leary said thoughtfully. "I never really noticed but you do sort of-"
"Sorry," Mulder Leary grinned. "Bet you hear that a lot."
"Oh yeah," Doggett grumbled. "People either run screaming from me or towards me. Hoping for an autograph." He stirred a little, trying to get himself comfortable. "You like movies, Mulder?"
"Bet this feels like one big movie, though," Doggett said artlessly.
"Nice segue," Mulder Leary said, not buying Doggett’s innocent act for a second. He’d seen Doggett Witter pull that one too many times to fall for it.
John Doggett smiled. "You don’t miss much, do you?"
"So you’ve probably figured out that Agent Starkweather and I are trying to help you, right?"
"Well…" Mulder wrestled with his thoughts for a moment, wanting, needing someone to talk to but unsure if he should trust someone who could very well be a government pawn. <But then he is the sanest one of them all>> he reasoned with himself. "You seem to be."
"I told you," Mulder Leary said helplessly. "I don’t know."
"Tell me again," Doggett carefully pressed on. "Just start from the beginning. Don’t leave anything out."
Doggett craned his head around and saw Starkweather returning.
"Sure Mulder," he promised him swiftly. "We’ll talk later."
The promise of talking later fell through however.
Mulder Leary did not feel slighted however. Agent Doggett had looked exhausted. And once Starkweather had managed to maneuver the massive Ford truck through hellish DC traffic and onto the interstate leading north, leading home, Doggett’s head started to bob.
"Would you stop fighting it and go to sleep?" Starkweather said when Doggett shook himself awake for a third time. "The roads are fine. The weather is fine. And may I remind you, you *asked* me to drive so you could sleep?"
Doggett’s response was to yawn. "Alright, alright," he said settling down in his seat. Crossing his arms across his chest as he let his head relax against the head rest, he asked "You okay back there, kid?"
His knees nearly touching his chin, Mulder Leary said "Oh yeah, I’m swell."
"Don’t worry," Starkweather said. "He doesn’t snore. He does talk in his sleep occasionally. Which can be fun."
Mulder Leary would have dearly loved to ask just how Mrs. Starkweather knew that Doggett talked in his sleep. But he wisely figured a moment of fun was not worth the price of his life. So he kept quiet.
And hoped that there would be something good on the radio to listen to.
But Starkweather decided to forego the radio since Doggett’s truck had a factory CD player – a luxury she longed for in her car.
"You like Dave Matthews?" Starkweather asked as she slipped the CD into the player.
Actually, he didn’t. At all. But the only thing that kept Mulder from opening the car door and flinging himself out of the moving vehicle was that he didn’t relish the idea of walking home. "He’s okay," was the best that he could do.
"So," Starkweather said over the singer’s grating voice, "How are you feeling?"
But he said, "Fine," nervous again, not wanting to destroy the peace between them but not willing to be the subject of interrogation again.
He wondered if he could *accidentally* kick the back of Doggett’s seat until Doggett *accidentally* got woken up.
"Do you know what *fine* stands for?" Starkweather asked him, her feral eyes flicking up to glance at him in the rear view mirror, then flicking back to the road.
"Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional," Mulder Leary said.
Starkweather allowed herself a smile. "You kiss your mother with that mouth, young man?"
Starkweather felt that aching void within her threatening to pull her down whenever she had to think about her mother. "She would if she could," she managed to keep her voice light. "She died when I was kid."
Curiosity got the better of him. "How old were you?"
Thankfully Starkweather finished the question for him. "How did she die?"
"Oh." Mulder digested this. <<Maybe this was why she was so prickly>>, the amateur psychologist pondered.
Meanwhile, Starkweather took a shot in the dark, "Did you ever have anyone in your family seriously ill?"
"No," Mulder said soberly. "Not like my mom or dad or anything."
For a horrible minute, Starkweather imagined Maggie Scully stricken with cancer but banished that thought straight away. Dana Scully could withstand much but Starkweather doubted even Dana could cope with losing Maggie. Starkweather then wondered about this young girl, this Scully Potter. How was she able to cope? <<How am I able to cope?>> Starkweather couldn’t help but dwell on it. <<It’s been more than a decade and it still hurts just as bad as it had happened yesterday. When I think about it. I guess that’s how I cope. I don’t think about it unless I absolutely have to.>>
"I’m sorry to hear that," Starkweather said, somberly. "When did she pass away?"
"It was a while back," Mulder Leary said, watching the frozen landscape pass by through the window. "We were in middle school."
"Yeah," Mulder Leary said uncomfortably, not sure how much sure he should tell her. <<Oh, by the way Agent Starkweather? After her mom died, Scully had to be raised by her sister, a single mother, because her dad went to jail for drug trafficking. And then her dad goes and breaks out of prison. Family reunions are just one big party at the Potter residence.>>
Mulder Leary decided it would be prudent not to give this highly strung woman any more reason to believe he came from a den of criminals. After all, she still believed that his parents, more specifically his father, had illegally masterminded his appearance in Washington DC.
But doubt nibbled at him. <<What if… what if this was all a big scheme to get him out of the way… to leave Price and Sam alone and defenseless…?>>
Music was the only sound within the truck as the agents continued their trek up North to return Mulder Leary. Starkweather had been in control of the CD player for a large part of the ride. Mulder only complained once. He had put up with Prince whining about Purple Rain, Cake drooling over a Girl with A Short Skirt and A Long Jacket and Aerosmith complaining how the Dude Looked Like A Lady. And he even quietly endured Dave Matthew’s shrilly rendition of All Along the Watchtower. However, when he saw her taking a Tori Amos CD out of the massive CD case she had brought with, he balked.
"I’m not listening to femi-Nazi music," he said mulishly, this time not caring if he had to walk the rest of the way home. He had limits.
Starkweather, as usual, assumed the world had the exact same music taste as she did, only rolled her eyes. "She’s not a femi-Nazi," she said but she did put the CD away. Mulder heaved a sigh of relief.
"What else do you got?" Mulder asked, trying to keep quiet for Doggett’s sake.
However Starkweather said "Speak up. Don’t worry about waking up the old man. He’d sleep through an alien invasion."
"See," Starkweather snickered. "Told you he talked in his sleep."
Mulder Leary grinned. "Can I look at this?" he asked.
"Knock yourself out," Starkweather said, while thinking <<Oh, maybe I should have asked him what he liked to listen to. Oh well, his fault for not speaking up.>>
Mulder reached over the seat and grabbed the heavy CD case. As he sat back down, he noticed the car following them a few miles back. <<No way…>> he thought with a groan.
" Hey, doesn’t that look a lot like Agent Mulder’s car?" Mulder asked, peering out the back window. He’d helped the other Mulder clear the snow from it, so he had a pretty good mental picture of what the vehicle looked like.
Starkweather glanced at the rearview. " Exactly like it. Could you hand me my cell phone? It should be next to my purse."
He didn’t like the idea of her talking and driving at the same time, but he shrugged it off as something FBI agents probably did all the time- though he did open it for her. As soon as it was in her hand, she pushed one of the preset buttons. " I thought you were going home." She growled, making Mulder really glad it wasn’t him she was talking to. Her brother was going to get it.
She grumbled at her brother for a couple of minutes, and Mulder was startled to hear the sound of a wailing baby coming in over the phone. It hadn’t occurred to him that Agent Mulder might have dragged his poor son along. He looked out the window again, and thought he could make out someone in the passenger seat, so he figured it must be the other Scully.
Starkweather finally reached into the back seat and dropped the phone near her purse. " That’s just great. My goddamn brother decided that he’d like to tail us, and brought poor Scully and the baby along too. Doggett is going to be pissed when he finds out."
" Since they’ve got the baby with them, we’re going to have to stop in an hour or so and wait for them to change him at a rest stop."
Mulder turned all the way back around in his seat. " Do you think it would be different if you’d grown up knowing that you each existed?"
" Do I think what would have been different?"
" You and your brother. I mean, I grew up knowing that Sam was out there somewhere, so I was thrilled to get her back. But Sam didn’t even know she had a family until the day she came back to us. Her? Less than thrilled. God, she wouldn’t even talk to anyone for months."
" Sometimes kids are quiet after a traumatic experience, and finding out you have a family is pretty shocking-"
" No, I don’t mean quiet like she didn’t say much, I mean she didn’t say anything. At all. My parents were worried she was mute. She started talking to me at Fourth of July, but didn’t say a word to them unless she was forced to until right before school started, ‘cause she didn’t trust them. I bet if they didn’t threaten to put her in special classes she still wouldn't talk to them.
" So that’s what I was wondering about. Maybe if you’d been looking for each other, you’d feel differently."
Starkweather bit her lower lip. <<Interesting question kid. One I never asked myself.>>
"Why?" Mulder Leary asked, thinking she was just dodging his query.
"Because," she said "There’s no definitive answer to that."
"Even if we would have known about the other, I don’t think anyone would have exactly broken their backs to reunite Fox and I and become one big happy family."
Mulder digested that bit of information quietly. "You’re his half-sister," he said, believing that he was beginning to understand.
Starkweather knew her exclusion was misleading him, but she really didn’t care. <<Tough shit, kid>> she thought coldly. <<My life is not yours to pick apart. There are enough people doing that for me already. >>
She then spied her exit. Doggett stirred as she switched lanes to get to the exit ramp. "What’re you doin’?" he said sleepily, still not opening his eyes.
"Making a pit stop," she said. In a softhearted voice that Mulder didn’t think she was capable of, she said to Doggett "Go back to sleep, you’re exhausted."
The corner of his lips quirked up just a little. "Yes’m," he said obediently, shifting in his seat, trying to get comfortable as Starkweather pulled into rest stop. Mulder Leary turned and saw Fox Mulder’s car following them, parking a few feet behind them.
"Mulder," she said, shifting the truck into park. "Get your coat on."
" Do I have to get out?" Mulder Leary asked, giving the other car apprehensive looks.
" Yes." Starkweather snapped. " You’re crammed in the back seat, do you want your muscles to cramp up? Get out and stretch, it’s not like they bite."
" Are you sure?" He muttered under his breath, giving the already-sleeping-again Doggett an envious look.
Scully couldn’t help but stare as Starkweather and the young man got out of Doggett’s ugly truck. He made her wish there were some photos of her Mulder at that age handy so she could compare the two. Like everyone else, she did wonder if there was a familial relationship, but dismissed it quicker than anyone; she knew his past hadn’t been littered with too many discarded relationships. Her first thought was to say, you must be Mulder Leary, but that’s painfully obvious, so she doesn’t give the thought breath. " Nice to meet you." She said finally.
" Hi." He replied shyly. Of all the people he’s met, these almost dopplegangers, she looks the least like her namesake. Some of it’s the length of her hair, but mostly it’s the sharpness of her features, his Scully’s face has more softness to it. He was glad that they didn’t have a greater semblance; his homesickness was already nearly unbearable.
When Fox Mulder appeared a moment later carrying his son, all thoughts of homesickness fled his mind, crowded out by horrorstruck fascination. If he hadn’t known for absolute certain that there were two babies, he would have been utterly convinced that the man held his little brother. Not only did the two little boys look just alike, they also seemed to be close in age.
It did not escape Agent Mulder’s attention that the boy was looking at his son in much the same way he might have if someone had approached him carrying an infant gray. " Do you want to hold him?" He offered, mostly to see what the reaction would be.
Mulder Leary’s eyes widened. " Uh… no thanks."
" I thought you liked babies." The older Mulder teased.
" I like a baby." He muttered. " My head’s kind of achy and I’m getting stuffed up. I’d hate to give him a cold or something." He said in a louder voice.
Scully and Starkweather exchanged a look. He didn’t seem sick to either of them. Scully came to his rescue, however. " William’s been changed, so I guess we’ll see you later."
" According to the directions we got off of mapquest, there’s a restaurant about sixty miles from here, so we’re planning to stop there for lunch." Starkweather told Scully.
" Sounds good, meet you there." Fox said with a salute.
Starkweather groaned as expected, but she was really paying more attention to boy than her brother. His reaction to William really bothered her.
Meanwhile in DC…
Reyes arrived to an office like a ghost town. The only light coming in to the room was from the half window near the ceiling, and it was so quiet and empty she half expected to see a tumbleweed blow by. A little panic voice suggested that she must be missing a meeting, but she thought she’d definitely have remembered something like that. After she dropped her bag onto her desk, she decided to go visit Skinner.
Skinner didn’t look too surprised to see her. " Agent Reyes."
He was alone, so she was right about the meeting. " Looks like I’m the only on in today. Any idea why?"
" Doggett and Starkweather are bring that young man home, and Scully called to say she wasn’t going to be in either. Something about having to look after Mulder. I hope he’s not getting sick again."
It surprised her, but she couldn’t help but feel a little slighted that Doggett and Starkweather had gone off without even mentioning it to her. " I see."
" I’m sorry, but I guess today is going to be a catch up on writing case files day for you." Skinner did look sorry, but then, he hated doing paperwork himself.
" That’s fine, sir. There are two or three reports I’ve been meaning to type final drafts of. Sir… what do you think of this boy showing up here, so suddenly?"
Skinner shrugged. " The surveillance tapes don’t indicate that he broke in, so I’m not sure what to think."
" I met him, briefly, and… I don’t want to sound like Mulder, but there was something not right about him being here."
" You think he’s up to no good?"
" No no, nothing like that. He just shouldn’t be here." She stressed the last two words.
" Then it’s good that he’s on his way home." Skinner replied. " You don’t think he’s a ghost do you?" He added, making a rare joke.
" No…but he’s something." She gave him a halfhearted smile. " I’ll go start on those case files now."
All the way down to the basement she couldn’t shake the idea that the boy’s appearance meant something, something that hadn’t occurred to any of them yet. But her frustration over a lack of an answer was forgotten by the time she polished off the first case file of the day.
En route to Capeside
"I feel like a chauffeur."
Mulder had obvious misgivings on bringing his son along but for the most part, mercifully, William had cooperated. And he nicely distracted Scully as she played with him in the back seat and read him stories.
<<That’s right Boo>> Mulder had thought earlier <<Keep Mom busy so she forgets to kick Dad’s ass.>>
But now William had dropped off to sleep and Mulder couldn’t keep the radio tuned in to one station to save his life.
"How’s your mom?" he asked out of the blue.
"She’s fine," Scully said evenly. She looked out the car window and crossed her arms, watching the sun sinking over the tree lined horizon and waited for his next attempt at a diversion.
"How’s Bill and Cara?"
Scully leaned back in her seat and shifted as much as her seat belt would allow so she could get a little more comfortable. "They’re fine."
"Good, good," Mulder said distractedly. "Have you heard from Charlie lately?"
"Eventually," Scully said. "But first I want to talk about why we’re here."
"Mulder," Scully said, softening her voice to cushion the blow. "You’ve got to let it go. The X-Files. They…" She looked away from the window and stared at the back of his head. "You’re sacrificed so much and gained so little. Isn’t it time…"
"Time? Time for what Scully? To soften? To forget? Forget about my sister? My sisters," he amended himself. "Or to forget about what was done to you? Or me? Or what could happen to William if we let our guard down?"
"So what are we going to do Mulder? Leave the lights on all the time? Home school William? And then what after that? When he’s eighteen and we’ve kept him so sheltered, he’s afraid of his own shadow?" Scully realized that she wanted to start yelling so she forced herself to keep quiet. William had been so good through most of the long, boring car trip; she would hate it if he woke up cranky now. "Do you think that not I’m scared, Mulder? Do you think I don’t lay awake at night, worrying about what could happen?"
"Mulder, everything has to end sometime. I know what the X-Files means to you, I do. I spent nine years with you, fighting the same fight with you. Nine years is enough. The threat… the conspiracy, it’s too big for two people to battle alone. We have allies now, Mulder. People that we can trust," she put heavy emphasis on the word ‘trust’. "John, Monica, Jerilyn… they are in the X-Files now."
"On limited hours," Scully said. "And I’m rarely sent out to the field anymore. And…"
Mulder shook his head in disgust. "I can’t believe you said that."
"I didn’t have toy a taken away from me, Scully."
"It wouldn’t be an easy choice, Mulder. But it may very well be the choice that I might take. A choice made easier because we have Agents Doggett, Reyes and Starkweather in the X-Files." She knitted her brows as she strove to think up the right words to make him understand. Then it came to her. "’I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’"
Mulder frowned in confusion. "Billy Joel?"
"I’ll get that tattooed on my ass," Mulder droned. "Here’s some more food for thought, Scully. ‘The first casualty when war comes is truth.’ Attributed to Senator Hiram Johnson. When the storm breaks Scully, and the skies finally fall, can you really honestly say you fought the good fight and kept the faith?"
"Because," Mulder said stubbornly. "They’re wrong. They’re going to end up in the middle of nowhere. Because this boy doesn’t exist in this universe."
Then the odor finally wafted to the front seat. "Good God," Mulder said, unrolling his window. "The next rest stop is at least another twenty miles."
After the second unmistakable thump, and Will’s first shrill cry, Fox Mulder vowed that he’d let Scully shoot him again if he ever indulged once more in the thought " Things couldn’t get worse." Obviously they could, as evident by the force required on the steering wheel to keep control of the car.
" Flat tire?" Scully asked tersely as he finally got the car off to the side of the road.
" Sarcasm doesn’t help anything, Mulder."
" No, but it makes me feel better."
He reached back and unsnapped the carseat’s straps. " It’s ok, buddy." He crooned, extracting the tearful baby from his prison. " Just a little car trouble, we’re ok. Everything will be fine." It would have been easier to let Scully take him out since she was closer, but he wanted to calm himself too, and holding William often had that effect on his mood.
" Do we have a spare tire?" Scully was suddenly more tired than angry.
" Should be in the trunk." Mulder passed their son to her, and got out of the car.
Scully heard the trunk open and a tire being man handled out, but doesn’t notice that she hasn’t heard anything else for a while until William is quiet and back in the carseat. Looking out the window, she saw Mulder standing near one of the tires. He seemed to be staring at it, since she couldn’t see his down turned face. William seemed content with a plastic key ring he was shaking, so she got out of the car.
" Have you ever changed a tire before, Mulder?" She asked, startling him.
A dull red crept across his cheeks. " I’ve never gotten a flat before. But I know how to change a tire." He assured her. " In theory."
" Ah. Why don’t you go get the jack from the trunk?" She resisted the urge to ask him if he at least knew what it looked like.
When he returned with it, she talked him through the procedure. " I didn’t know you knew anything about cars." Mulder told her admiringly.
" Bill and Charlie were obsessed, and Mom made them show Missy and I the basics. Neither of us learned how to rebuild an engine, but knowing things like this comes in hand now and again."
Mulder smirked. " I’ll have to thank Bill the next time we see him."
" Do you want to call Doggett to explain the delay, or should I?"
" Oh, let me." He told her, whipping out his phone. " I owe you one."
" Just one?"
" Don’t push it, Woman."
" Mulder…does something about the spare tire look odd to you?"
The waitress was clearing their plates when Doggett swore softly, and closed his cell phone. " That was Muldah. Now I know why they didn’t show up for lunch. Apparently, he and Scully got a flat tire, and they don’t have a spare."
" So they call triple A." Mulder Leary said, wondering what the big deal was about.
" They’re not members." Doggett grumbled. Mulder looked at him in surprise. He didn’t know anyone who could drive who didn’t have a membership. Maybe it was the all too real possibility of driving off an icy road that prompted people up his way to get them.
" Let me guess," Starkweather smirked. " You’re going to play knight in shining armor, and we’re supposed to be good and wait here while you’re gone."
" Well, yeah." Doggett admitted. " That was the idea I had in mind."
She waved a negligent hand. " You better get going before they freeze to death."
" You’ll be ok?" He asked, eyeing them anxiously.
" I promise no blood will be drawn." Starkweather told him. " Now get! I don’t want my nephew to get frostbitten while you worry about our ability to play nice."
" I’ll be back as soon as I can." Doggett promised.
" Guess we should order more coffee." Mulder commented.
" That depends on how clean the bathrooms are." She replied. Fixing him with a sharp look, she asked what had been on her mind for quite a while. " Alright, what is bothering you about William? I know there’s more to it than him looking like your brother."
" I…" He stammered, giving her a shocked look. He thought she was too self involved to notice that sort of thing about a person.
" The truth, too." She added quietly. " I’ve got the idea that there’s a whole lot you haven’t told us. I’m not accusing you of lying, but the sin of omission is one of your obvious faults. I guess that’s normal for teenagers, but don’t."
He surprised her by asking a question instead of launching into a confession. " Is William a *normal* baby?"
" Does he seem damaged to you?" Starkweather asked, feeling faintly insulted. How dare anyone imply there was something wrong with her nephew!
Mulder shook his head. " I didn’t ask if there was something wrong with him, I asked if he was normal. My brother, he’s not normal."
Starkweather was intrigued. " Not normal how?"
" Not normal like he can make small creatures like butterflies do things for his amusement. And he can move things. With his mind." Mulder replied flatly, not happy to be discussing it with her. " And that’s just so far, he’ll probably be able to do other things when he’s older." He added, thinking about the files he’d snatched.
Starkweather felt like she’d been doused with cold water. The boy couldn’t know about how special Mulder and Scully’s son was. When she noticed that the silence was dragging on, she finally spoke. " I don’t see what that has to do with my nephew, even if by some chance it’s true."
His stare intensified, and she had the urge to squirm away from his scrutiny, which was ridiculous since he was just a kid. " He was an IVF baby, right?"
She began to wonder what the signs of a brain aneurysm were, he knew too much, maybe he was a really involved hallucination. Shrugging internally, she decided that being evasive wouldn’t help even if he wasn’t real. " We think so. "
The boy just nodded. " I thought so. He looks too much like Price not to be a Candling baby."
Starkweather shot him a puzzled glance. " I thought your father’s company only dealt with genetically altered food." She accused half-heartedly.
Mulder shook his head. " I said that his company deals with genetically altered food, that it’s all HE does, and that they don’t have anything to do with physics. All of which is true. But…"
" Sins of omission?" She asked weakly.
" Right." He stared off into space, trying to think of the right way to word things. He’d thought he’d be confessing this all to Doggett, or maybe blurting it out to Fox in a rush, but he’d said too much to Starkweather not to tell her everything. " Besides working on genetically altered vegetables and livestock, they do things with human genetics too."
" To help infertile people have babies?" She asked hopefully, but was disappointed when he shook his head.
" They’re manipulating genes to make babies with desirable traits."
" Like blond hair, blue eyes, and an IQ of 160?" She asked desperately.
" Like mind reading, telekinesis, remote viewing and mind control." He said with a sigh. " And they require people who work for them to have one of these babies. Price, he was my parents’ fulfillment of that obligation."
Setting aside her incredulousness, she let her natural curiosity take over. " You can’t make people have a baby. What can they do if someone refuses?"
" They break into their homes and steal one of their children, holding it as a hostage until they cave in." Mulder said darkly.
" Your sister." She blurted out in surprise.
" Don’t you think it’s odd that my family got her back the day my brother was born?" He asked, sensing that she was struggling to believe. " They kept her for years! All because my parents wouldn’t agree to have another baby."
" That’s horrible." Starkweather said vaguely.
" They’re terrible people." Mulder said hotly. " They even kept Fowley’s baby."
" Mulder, you need to slow down. I’m not following you very well. What are they making these babies for, and how is your friend, not to mention your baby brother, involved in this?" Starkweather asked, turning her puzzled hazel eyes on him.
He forced himself to breath slowly a few times, then took another stab at explaining. " Ok. Back in the mid 70s Candling decided to diversify, and branch out from just dealing with food. They felt that there was money to be made in creating people who could be useful to certain parties."
" Useful for what?"
" For recognizance, for spying, for killing. Typical scifi stuff, but real." He said guilelessly, not noticing her eyes widen in shock.
<<he’s talking about super soldiers, or something like them, and doesn’t even know it.>> " Oh."
" At first they tried eugenics back for the first few years, breeding people with the ‘gifts’ they were hoping for together. But that didn’t work a lot of the time, and there were a lot of what they called nulls born- "
" Null as in nothing?" Starkweather asked. <<That’s definitely different than the super soldiers.>>
" Yeah. So they decided that that they were going to have to genetically manipulate embryos, or maybe they are only zygotes, I’m not sure, if they were going to be able to get the babies they wanted all the time. So about a few months before my sister was born, they isolated the gene that caused the expression of these traits and began inserting them into unborn babies-"
" Wait, they could have. No one had isolated genes back then." Starkweather protested.
Mulder shook his head. " No one when public admitting they’d succeed by that point." He corrected. " And why would they? It’s not like they were doing something as good as using genes put in viruses to cure disease, or as harmless as making bunnies glow."
Starkweather grudgingly admitted to herself that she was impressed. Even if he was making it all up, he knew more about gene manipulation than she’d ever dream a kid his age would. " Good point."
" Anyway, what they were doing to the babies could only be done before they were implanted, so they were sort of upset that my parents conceived my sister the old fashioned way. They didn’t think that it would be a problem to convince my parents to have another baby right away, though."
" But they were wrong." Starkweather said, feeling the need to state the obvious.
" They were wrong." He agreed. " My mother was totally freaked by the idea and insisted the babies were ‘monsters’. A few other parents seemed to share the same opinion, so they did the most logical thing an evil corporation would, and kidnapped the kids of parents who refused."
" How many kids?"
" Five that I know of. Three kids went home not long after, but they kept Sam for years."
" What about the fifth kid?" Starkweather asked.
" They gave him to another family when it became clear his parents couldn’t have another baby. He died, though. Poor Spender." Starkweather vaguely recalled him saying that the boy had drowned. " So Sam was the only one that got kept long term. They have a school for these kids of theirs – they call the project the Prescient Project – in New Mexico, so she was pretty much raised there."
" Did your parents know where she was?" Starkweather asked, thinking about Bill Mulder’s deal with the devil.
" I don’t know." Mulder shrugged. " It’s about the only thing I don’t know. They did know that they wouldn’t get her back until they agreed to have a baby for the prescient project, though."
" So they just let her stay there for years?" Starkweather asked, feeling angry on the behalf of the boy before her and a girl she’d never met.
" They tried to have a baby a few years sooner, but… something went wrong. I guess they were upset about it, so it took years before they tried again. When they did, I got my sister back." He said with a small smile.
" How do you know all of this?" Starkweather demanded, before she could be overwhelmed by pity. " Did you parents’ tell you?"
" My parents haven’t told me dick." He said hotly, then blushed. " Oops, excuse my language. My parents went away on a business trip over the summer, so Sam and I sort of ran away."
" Sort of?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.
" Well, since they never found out…" Mulder shot her a mischievous look. " We went back to the school where Sam had lived most of her life, and broke in to get the files on her and Price, and Spender and Zane- " She didn’t know who Zane was but let it go." And me. Then once I read those over, we had to get the files on what the project itself was all about."
" Two kids did all that?"
" We had some help. Some of the project kids who lived outside the school gave us a hand. Now they had some pretty neat powers…anyway, with their help we got the files, and that’s how I know what I know."
" Ok, but what does this have to do with your friend Fowley?" Starkweather asked, hoping to finish the conversation before Doggett got back.
" It’s strange. We were all told that her parents had taken her on a trip to Europe, but Reyes kept getting e-mails from her, telling her the real truth. She was being kept against her will because they thought her baby was one of the project kids. But it wasn’t. She was pregnant before we even thought Spender had drown. Even when it must have become completely obvious that her kid couldn’t be one of there’s, they kept it."
" Do you only have it on the say-so of these e-mails that there ever was a baby?" Starkweather asked, suspicious. E-mails could come from anywhere.
He shook his head. " Back in December Fowley told me too. She was really messed up about the anniversary of when Spender came back, and got weepy about not even knowing what those people were doing with their baby."
" So they’re keeping this baby in New Mexico?"
" No. Right before they took it away, she heard someone say they were going to keep it right in Capeside. Probably where dad works."
" Was the baby a boy or a girl?" Starkweather asked. She didn’t know why it was important, it just was.
" A girl." Mulder Leary told her. He didn’t say anything else, but picked up a menu instead.
She wondered why he suddenly clamed up, but it became obvious less than a minute later.
" So, what were you two talking about?" Doggett asked, as Scully hailed a waitress for a high chair. William bounced excitedly in Mulder’s arms, obviously glad to finally be free of the car.
" We were discussing the possibility of having desert." Mulder Leary said promptly, betraying no trace of guilt. That fascinated Starkweather for a reason she couldn’t put a finger on.
" All this time?" Doggett replied, sounding surprised.
" There are a lot of choices." Starkweather told Doggett, gesturing at the list. " It’s not the type of decision you want to make lightly."
Doggett shook his head, and turned to Mulder and Scully to make recommendations about what they should order.
After a somewhat subdued late lunch or early supper, depending on how one viewed it, everyone was back on the road. Claiming he felt fine, Doggett insisted that he drive. Suspecting that as chivalrous as he liked to act, deep down he was really like all the other boys who didn’t want to share their toys if they didn’t have to, she turned her cattiness up another notch and spewed out overwhelming statistics about automobile accidents caused due to sleep deprivation. Doggett docilely let her drive some more. Mulder Leary wanted to laugh but wisely stifled the desire as he remained scrunched up in the back seat, hoping to fall asleep before Starkweather started playing any of her God-awful music.
However after the unsettling conversation she had with Mulder Leary regarding the Candling babies, Starkweather was in no mood to listen to music or to engage in conversation. She had only wanted to drive to serve as a distraction. If she had to pay attention to the road, she couldn’t really dwell on a previous conversation, could she?
The problem was, yes she could since she own a strange ability to concentrate on two things at once. Most of the time she welcomed this, it was nice to be able to listen to one thing, think about something else and still remember what she was originally listening too. She hadn’t realized that this was not a normal human trait until she was a teenager and then she had studiously hidden it, not wanting to be ridiculed anymore than she already was by her peers. As a grown woman, she still concealed this oddity, but as her secret weapon, the base for her arrogance and her formidable intelligence.
Today, it gave her no solitude; she could not just focus on the road. But at least she could pretend that she had to so that Doggett and the kid would leave her be.
<<But I am so tired of pretending… I am so tired of acting like I’m normal. And what exactly is normal? Who defines it? And who really wants it? If someone were to come up to me and offer me a magic potion that would take *all* of this away… take away my genius IQ, my imagination, my musical abilities, all of my strengths that make me unique, would I take it? For a chance to just be ‘normal’? The answer is obvious, no of course not. I could not live life as an average woman, happy with the picket fence and puppies and kittens and the 2.5 kids.
I did not want to admit that I was altered was a child, perhaps even before I was a child. Altered while I was merely an essence inside of a woman who did not conceive me, but carried me. And died because she carried me. But now there is too much physical evidence. I can not deny the cold facts handed to me on a silver platter. My existence is due to a science project.
Perhaps that is why the kid’s story about the Candling babies cut me to the core. Perhaps that is why I adamantly refuse to stop my work with the X-Files to settle down for real with Ben and have a, ha ha, *normal* married life. Those Candling children are not normal. They never had a chance to be what was meant to be, man had to step in, man had to meddle.
Maybe I am just afraid of what I could have been if there had been no interference with my creation.
And maybe I am just afraid of what my children could be because of the interference with my creation.
Was that why part of me, the secret part of me that I share with no one, not even my own husband, was relieved when I miscarried? That I wouldn’t have to relive my own childhood by watching a freak evolve in the guise of a "normal" human child. But my relief means pain for my husband. Ben would be such a good daddy. He’s wonderful with kids. He could be mother and father, he is so good at making up for my own failings. And we would have had a beautiful baby if I hadn’t miscarried. Ben’s a good-looking man… tall, full head of dark brown hair, good body… as for my contribution to the gene pool… well okay, so I’m not gorgeous, but I’m not hideous either. So his dark hair and my hazel eyes, yeah, our baby would have been adorable. Ben would be ecstatic with a roly-poly bundle of joy with dark curly hair and big sparkly eyes. But could he handle the truth that his children would be different, would be special and not necessarily in a good way? How could Ben Starkweather, a nice "normal" man born in the heart of America, live with knowing what I know? Could any man bear that? Any person? Any human?
I guess that’s the real question. What defines humanity? And do I fall in that definition?>>
Doggett, no fool, didn’t wonder why Starkweather kept so quiet during the drive. He just hoped that she trusted him enough to tell him what was on her mind eventually. Clearly it was troubling her. And a troubled agent was not a focused agent.
Or so he told himself.
Feeling better after his long nap, Doggett insisted on driving the rest of the way once they hit Providence, Rhode Island. He figured that Starkweather would immediately pass out in the passenger seat, but she was wide awake and admiring the scenery. Or so he thought.
" Doggett, stop the car." Starkweather insisted.
He gave her a brief, puzzled glance. " Why?"
" Because there’s a Petco right there."
" Doc-" He protested, but she cut him off.
" Caesar is pissed at being boarded, do you want me to have to deal with a pissed cat? Stop for just a minute so I can get him something to make him happy. You’ll be with me when I pick him up." She reminded him threateningly.
" Bribing cats…" Doggett muttered, but he dutifully pulled into the parking lot. Fox Mulder pulled in behind him, casting puzzled glances at them. Doggett just pointed at Starkweather. The other man nodded knowingly, and mouthed the word "women." Fortunately for him, his back was to Scully.
" I’m staying here, so make quick." Doggett grumbled.
Starkweather got out, and heard the one of the rear doors open. " You’re coming too?" She asked, glancing at Mulder Leary.
" Unless it’s going to make you mad at me."
Starkweather quickly found what she was looking for, a container of pricey cat treats and a remote controlled mouse a clerk assured her was a big hit with cats, even ones that didn’t normally attack everything that moved. Glancing around, she finally spotted Mulder peering into one of the Plexiglas cages. " You coming?"
" Um, just a minute."
" Fine. But remember what Doggett said about being quick."
Doggett gave her an annoyed glance when she got back into the car. " Where’s Muldah?"
" He said he’d be just a minute." She replied with an unconcerned shrug.
Three minutes later, Mulder reappeared carrying something Doggett couldn’t quite make out in the dark; he couldn’t believe how early it had gotten dark. To his surprise, the boy came to his door and rapped on the window. " Open your door, please."
Doggett did, then was surprised by having a small pet carrier thrust into his hands.
" I bought you a thank you gift for letting me stay with you and everything." Mulder explained, looking quite pleased with himself. " She’s got all her shots and everything."
Doggett peered into the pet carrier, and a tiny gray-faced creature looked back at him with amber eyes. " I thought you said you didn’t have much money with you."
" I didn’t. They’re working with the NSPCA to get unwanted kittens adopted, so she was only twenty bucks. Isn’t she cute? They said her name is Fluffy, but you can change it if you want to since she’s only eight weeks old and probably not too attached to it yet."
Doggett stared at the kitten, wondering what he was going to do with the thing. For a second he wonders if Caesar spilled his secret, but he dismissed the thought as ridiculous. Knowing that it would upset the boy if he refused the gift, he sighed softly, and handed the carrier to Mulder. " Keep her in the back seat with you, ok? There’s not enough room up here for the carrier."
" Sure." Mulder Leary agreed, then shook a small bag. " I remembered kitten food too."
" Great." Doggett said, managing not to sound sarcastic.
" Aww, Doggett got a little pussy on this trip." Starkweather whispered only loud enough for Doggett to hear.
" Don’t start." He groaned. Mulder, who hadn’t heard, gave Starkweather a puzzled look, and she shook her head, silently professing to have no idea why he’d said that.
If the car ride for Doggett, Starkweather and Mulder Leary was uncomfortable, then the car ride for Scully and Fox Mulder had been downright miserable. Especially for Fox Mulder when Scully began to gloat when signs counting down the mileage to Capeside began to manifest themselves on the roadside.
"Look Mulder," Scully said in that patronizing voice that Mulder loathed whenever her science rationale beat out his gut instinct. "Capeside, ten miles." The car’s headlights shone on the sign ominously, the only light available as the sun had retired hours earlier.
Unlike Starkweather who had tortured her car- mates by playing her CDs all the way, Mulder had insisted on playing the radio. He had gotten excited every time static started to take over, only to be disappointed when it was obvious that the static was due to the fact that they had driven out of that particular station’s transmitting signal.
So that ruled out driving through a wormhole.
Unless there was another rip in the time-space-continuum right before they entered the town.
<<What if we get trapped here?>> Mulder thought fretfully. <<What if this brave new world we are all journeying to is actually worse than the one we left behind? Besides, if we’re stuck in the same tiny town, Jerilyn and I might finally succeed at killing each other. Although at this point in time, I highly doubt either Scully or Puppy Man will mourn either one of our passing. >>
The kitten began to mewl piteously once they got to Capeside’s town-line.
" Are you doing something to upset her?" Starkweather snapped at Mulder. He didn’t seem to hate cats as much as most males she knew, but you always here those stories about adolescent boys harming small animals…
" No, I swear. She just woke up."
" At least we’re almost there." Doggett muttered. His thoughts turned to wondering if a local vet would prescribe kitty tranquilizers for the trip home.
Mulder Leary tried to comfort the kitten by putting his hand in the carrier without letting it out, but Fluffy continued to cry. " Must be strange to wake up and find yourself in a moving vehicle with people you’ve just met."
" Must be." Starkweather agreed sardonically.
A couple of minutes later Fluffy had cried herself out and dosed off again, so Mulder decided to play tour guide.
"That’s where Scully works." Mulder Leary said, pointing out the window at the Ice House as it loomed into view.
" That’s nice." Starkweather said politely. Why did she care where his girlfriend worked?
" Her sister’s place, right?" Doggett asked, thinking back to the conversation they’d had days before about Mulder’s friends and families.
" That’s right. Too bad they’re closed now." Mulder sounded as wistful as he felt. It would have been neat to show up with a couple of FBI agents and order burgers, fries and frappes while Scully and Reed or Skinner goggled at Doggett’s oh-so-familiar looking, yet older, doppleganger.
" Awfully big place for a young woman to run on her own." Doggett observed.
" She gets by. A bunch of kids work there part time, and she has someone manage the place a couple days a week."
" Their father doesn’t help out?" Starkweather asked, surprised. To her, a place like that looked like a family business.
" That’d be hard to manage from jail." Mulder answered reluctantly, breaking his promise to himself not to mention that to her. " He…maybe when he gets out he’ll go back to helping at the restaurant. I mean, Bessie doesn’t hate him like Scully does, so… I dunno." He shrugged helplessly.
" Guess Capeside isn’t Pleasantville after all." Starkweather said faintly.
Mulder gave her a puzzled stare. " Pleasantville? Nah. More like Eerie, Indiana or Sunnydale California." He joked.
But that wasn’t what Starkweather was getting at, at all.
Fox Mulder’s car pulled into the driveway right behind Doggett’s, and he was glad to see that they wouldn’t be blocking the parents’ cars in, even if he didn’t want them to get away. One fewer possible reason to cause the parents’ wrath, the better.
It took all of Mulder Leary’s self control not to throw open the truck door and run into the house as fast as he could. Instead he politely waited for everyone else before going to the house.
Doggett stopped him as he was about to open the door. " What are your parents going to think about having five people show up unexpectedly?"
The boy shrugged. " Beats me. I never know what they’re thinking, even when they’re talking to me."
He lead them into the house and they all walked in cautiously, making him wonder if they were worried that something foul was going to jump out at them. No one was in the living room. " Mom? Dad?" Mulder called uncertainly as Doggett shut the door. So much for a living room vigil praying for his safe return.
To his relief, he heard footsteps, but ones far too light to belong to either of his parents’. Sam came down the stairs quickly, carrying Price. " Mulder, where have you been?" She then noticed they weren’t alone in the room. " And who are they?"
Price looked excited, and tried to squirm out of Sam’s hold. " ‘Der! ‘Der!"
" ‘Der?" Starkweather mouthed at Doggett with a smirk, obviously thinking of its nickname potential. Doggett just shrugged.
Mulder reached for his brother before he answered Sam. His relief that they were both fine nearly made him cry, but he didn’t want a lot of fussing over him so he confined himself to blinking a few times to clear his eyes. " God, Sam, it’s a long story."
" Well, you’ve got time, I think. Mom and Dad aren’t home yet."
" They’re not? Since when do they let you baby-sit Price?" He asked, thinking of all the times her requests to had been denied.
" Since tonight. They’re over talking to Sheriff Witter. About you. He drove them in his police car and everything." Sam said, staring at William. " Boy, he looks a lot like Price, doesn’t he?"
Scully, who was thinking the same thing, asked, " Don’t you think we should call your parents and let them know you’re home?"
Before he could answer, Sam did. " I think you should tell me what’s going on first."
Mulder noticed the shocked look on the woman’s face and decided she didn’t spend any time whatsoever with thirteen year old girls if one having a mind of her own surprised her. " Agent Scully, why don’t you put William in Price’s playpen? They can play while we decide what to tell my parents." He suggested. Price looked upset to be going into the playpen, but the sight of the other baby being lowered in startled him out of fussing.
" ‘Agent Scully’?" Sam repeated. " This ought to be good."
No one said anything, but all eyes were on her.
As Sam led Scully to the playpen, Starkweather watched the girl carrying the baby named Price intensely. Sam’s comment about how similar William looked to Price was a huge understatement. If they had been the exact same age, they would have been twins. The same lovely blue eyes, eyes that would have been considered beautiful in a girl but deemed a waste on a boy’s face.
Starkweather cateloged the boys in her potent memory and continued to watch the girl with the long brown hair help Dana Scully get the boys settled in the play pen. Soon, after introducing several plush, baby friendly toy animals into the pen, the boys were playing happily, squealing and giggling.
Scully, secure that William would be entertained for a while, returned to the clutch of adults surrounding Mulder Leary. Sam lingered to reach down and stroke Price’s wispy fine hair. She noticed Starkweather studying her with them. Sam gave the tiny woman with the long blonde hair one of the fierce scowls she reserved for nosy adults. <<Who is she kidding?>> the precocious pre-teen thought <<Nobody would believe that’s her real hair color>>
Sam decided she didn’t like her.
How could she? Like repelled like.
Starkweather, of course, could have cared less if she realized Sam’s verdict of her. Annoyed by Sam’s dirty looks, she lifted her dark eyebrows and returned Sam’s scowl with a just-who-do-you-think-you-are-missy? look. Then Starkweather returned her attention back to the boys playing in the crib while still listening to the debate regarding what to tell Mitch and Gale.
"We’d really like to speak to your parents about how you wound up in Washington DC," Scully said in that tone of voice that did not provide room for debate.
Mulder Leary took a deep breath and said "I know. But honestly, they’re not going to be able to tell you anymore than I can."
Doggett glanced at Starkweather, eyebrows high, silenting asking for elucidation. But she had her poker face on as she watched the babies. Doggett flicked his icy eyes over to the playpen and then to the girl towering over the boys as if she was their sworn guardian. He gave the girl a small, friendly smile and received a puzzled look in return.
<<Wow, he looks like Doggett Witter>> Sam was thinking, mystified. <<I wonder if he could be an uncle or something…>>
Meanwhile, Mulder Leary realized that he may have told Agent Starkweather too much, backpedalled frantically. "First we really need to decide on what to tell my mom and dad before you guys start questioning them."
" What do you mean, decide?" Doggett asked gruffly.
Mulder Leary’s look wasn’t the slightest bit guilty. " Well, if you think my parents are actually going to believe that I just showed up in DC…not having a good explanation might make them think of kidnapping…"
" He’s got a point." Starkweather said. " They’ve already had that happen to them once, so the truth seems like a flimsy cover in this case."
" So what are we supposed to tell them?" Scully asked.
One hour and thirty minutes later…
" We really should pay more attention to the permission slips we sign, Mitch." Gale said with a chiding tone as he paid the pizza delivery boy.
He just shook his head. " It’s your signature, Gale."
Mulder Leary decided to try to smooth things over before they really argued. " It’s not really either of your fault’s. If I hadn’t gotten sick, I wouldn’t have missed the bus, so you wouldn’t be worrying about this right now."
" Are you feeling better, Honey?" Gale asked, reaching out to feel his forehead.
" I’m fine, Mom. It wasn’t anything a little Imodium AD couldn’t cure. It must have been going around, because Agent Starkweather got sick too." Starkweather only nodded, not trusting herself to offer details of her illness that would lend credence to his imaginary bout of the runs.
Gale nodded. " Agent Doggett, it was very sweet of you to look after Mulder when it became clear that his bus wasn’t going to return for him."
" Just think of it as your tax dollars at work, Ma’am."
Mitch was still looking out the door, even after the pizza boy left. " It’s starting to storm again. Did you folks have reservations for a hotel tonight?"
" Actually, no." Fox Mulder spoke up. " We were planning to go on to my family’s vacation home in Quonochautaug, Rhode Island." They hadn’t actually discussed the idea, but he’d come up with the plan while driving.
" I don’t think that’s a good idea." Mitch said, looking concerned. " That’s over a two hour drive in good weather, never mind the snow. And who knows how much worse it’ll get? Maybe you folks should stay here tonight, and leave in the morning."
Starkweather started to open her mouth, but Scully quickly answered Mr. Leary. " That’s very kind of you."
He nodded and put his arm around his daughter. " Sorry, kiddo, but you’re going to have to bunk with your brother tonight."
An hour earlier..
" You parents can’t be that stupid, Mulder." Scully objected.
" How can you say that? You’ve never met them." Sam mumbled, but everyone heard her, only Scully pretended not to have.
Mulder Leary smirked. " They’re not stupid, per say, but they’re not terribly…terribly…"
" Externally focused?" Starkweather suggested.
" Exactly. They’re kind of self-absorbed. We get away with things we never would if they were paying any attention to us at all."
" Doesn’t that make you sad?" Scully asked, feeling surprised that none of the other adults looked like they thought it was.
Sam and Mulder looked at her like she’d suddenly said something in Sanskrit. They shrugged. Why would their parents’ lack of smothering attention be something sad?
" If you tell them that I was there on a field trip, and got separated from the group when I fell ill, they’ll swallow it hook, line and sinker."
" Won’t they be suspicious?" Scully asked, apparently desperate to believe their parents weren’t that oblivious.
" They’re happiest when no one forces them to ask questions." Sam spoke up, and her brother could only nod in agreement.
Later that night
Up in his room, Mulder unfolded the cot as Sam watched, her arms full of blankets. " I didn’t even know mom and dad kept this thing. I haven’t had a sleep-over in forever."
" I thought Scully used to sleep in your bed when she slept over." Sam said, her grin mischievous.
Ignoring what she was implying, incorrectly, Mulder replied, " She did. Doggett used to sleep on this thing. He didn’t think it was too uncomfortable, so hopefully it’ll be ok for you too."
" Did he sleep on it because you thought it was weird for two boys to sleep in the same bed?"
" No, he slept on it because he kicks in his sleep. I’m going to feel bad for whomever he marries."
She laughed and made up the bed. " So tell me how you really got to DC. I mean, you couldn’t have really just appeared there, poof!"
" That’s what happened."
" It’s not possible." Sam argued. " You can’t just be transported from one place to another in the blink of an eye."
Mulder didn’t say anything for a long while. " Something like this happened before. Well, not exactly, but close enough."
" What? When, tell me!" She demanded, already sprawled out on the cot.
He sighed. " I’ve never told this to anyone before-"
" Not even Scully?"
" Especially not Scully. So you have to promise not to tell anyone about it."
" Like with the Candling stuff."
" Exactly." He agreed, thinking that what he told Starkweather didn’t count since she’d be gone soon enough.
" Cross my heart and hope to die."
Mulder hesitated. " I’m not sure you’ll believe me."
" Oh come on, Mulder. After what we saw those kids do to help us in Roswell, how could anything you could tell me be more unbelievable than something I with my own eyes?"
" You’d be surprised." He muttered. " Ok, so while you were…gone, Arden found an article about you that I’d never seen, and sent it to me. It was an editorial about how shameful it was that the search for your kidnapers was cut so short. It was, um, only three weeks." He paused, feeling bad about the hurt look on her face. He’d forgotten that she had no idea how short the charade about a search had gone on. Even if it hadn’t been real, it could still be painful, obviously. " Anyway, I wrote to the man who’d written the article, hoping he’d be able to give me some clue, any clue, about what happened to you."
" Then what happened?" Sam asked, looking a little more cheerful. Mulder thought she liked hearing stories about his search for her. He could see how reminders that someone cared were nice.
" Then he got in touch with me and asked me to met him, alone, at the museum of Science. So I did."
" This story doesn’t sound too unbelievable. Except maybe for the part about Mom and Dad letting you go to Boston alone."
Sam pet Fluffy through the bars of her pet carrier as Mulder talked. It hadn’t taken much begging to be allowed to keep the kitten with them for the night, and she mistakenly thought they were being nice to allow it. Fluffy rubbed her nose against Sam’s fingers, but didn’t howl to get out.
Mulder continued when she sheepishly returned her attention to him. " I lied. Told them it was for science class."
" Of course."
" The unbelievable part was when I met the guy. Except it was someone else, and the guy knew my name…he touched my arm, and, it’s so hard to explain this part, since I never have quite figured it out, exactly. Something happened, something damn strange." He bowed his head, more speaking to his folded hands than his sister. " I…I saw what would have happened if you had never been taken. No one could see or hear me, but it was like I was there, watching myself get older in a world in which your kidnapping never happened."
Sam raised an eyebrow. " You saw what could have been like in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’?"
He looked up at her. " It wasn’t wonderful. Things were just as bad, but different bad. In that life Price was never born, and Mom and Dad died in a car accident. "
" That doesn’t sound like it was any fun to see." Sam said softly.
" No. The only good part about it is you were there."
Sam looked like she was going to cry for a moment, but pulled herself together. " So this is different than that, right? I mean, this is our reality, not something else that might have happened."
" I guess so. When agent Starkweather pulled her gun out and pointed it at me, I almost wet my pants. That was my first clue that this wasn’t just a repeat of that other thing." He told her with a grin. A few days later, it was sort of funny.
" Yeah. Shouldn’t not knowing how I got to DC worry me more?"
Sam shrugged. " From things you’ve told me about growing up here, it seems like weird things are bound to happen to you. Kind of like you’re a magnet."
" A weird things magnet, great."
" It would explain why Scully likes you, she’s sort of weird."
" Yeah, just let her hear you say that…" He threatened.
" Oh no, don’t tell her!" Sam protested, until she realized he was kidding.
He didn’t continue to tease her, because he realized something. The last time she’d slept in his bedroom was the night that she’d been kidnapped. It made him feel vaguely uneasy, even though he knew that anyone who tried to bother her now would be met with a fight. " Sam…wanna watch TV for a while? We shouldn’t bother anyone if we keep the volume low."
" Sure." She gave him an inquisitive look, but didn’t ask why he didn’t want to talk any more. She was understanding like that.
"We’re sorry," Gale apologized again as she brought more pillows and blankets to Doggett and Starkweather as they stood waiting outside of Price’s tiny room.
"It’s okay," Doggett said, taking them from her, hoping that she had left some pillows and blankets on her own bed.
"We’re getting used to carpet-camping," Starkweather said. "Are you sure we’re not going to disturb the kids?"
She emerged only seconds later. "Good night," she said in a hushed voice, giving Doggett and Starkweather a small smile as she went back down the hall.
Doggett and Starkweather mumbled their goodnights and went into the baby’s room. By the dim glow of Price’s nightlight, they were able to find the sleeping bags that Mitch had gotten for them.
Quietly, Doggett handed Starkweather a pillow and some blankets, then he got down and started to undo one of the sleeping bags.
Starkweather knelt down onto the floor as well. First she put down the pillow and blankets and then reached for the sleeping bag that was left. "God I’m tired," Starkweather whispered as unrolled the sleeping bag, obviously Mulder’s old sleeping bag from childhood. Or at least she hoped it was, since there was a huge picture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. It also smelled of mothballs. But as exhausted as she was, she was not going to complain, not one bit.
Doggett didn’t even answer; he just unfurled the nice normal blue colored sleeping bag, tossed the pillow near the top of it and then laid down, pulling the quilt over himself. "G’night…" he mumbled.
Starkweather meanwhile had snuggled down into her sleeping bag, which was quite warm, thank God. She didn’t bother to pull the extra blanket over her since she was comfortable enough and prone to kick off blankets in her sleep if she got too hot.
"Night," she said in a soft voice, allowing herself fade into sweet oblivion.
The bear, which had been removed from its place of honor on Sam’s bed, had been set on the seat of her desk chair. It was now staring at Scully with its hard plastic eyes. Eyes which seemed to be passing judgment on her in a manner that William’s toys never had. It was that moment she realized that she was going crazy with tiredness.
That, combined with the fact that she and Mulder were now in the bed of a thirteen-year-old girl who was fond of purple sheets and stuffed animals. It made her think about being under her parents’ roof, and she couldn’t say that it was a feeling she enjoyed revisiting. It was hard to relax, especially cramped by Mulder’s frame taking up most of the mattress. At least the girl had a full-size bed; her own at that age had been a narrow twin-size that discouraged the thought of having more than one body in it.
Mulder’s hand brushed her leg, and she slapped it away. " Stop it."
" Why?" He asked, giving her a pouty look.
" If you really need me to explain why it would be inappropriate, I’ll have to get you copies of etiquette books." She whispered threateningly.
" Too kinky for you, huh?" He asked in his typical monotone.
She punched him, but he just smirked.
He’d almost thought she’d fallen asleep when she began to speak to him again. " Mulder, are you… all right?"
" Right as rain."
" I thought we declared a moratorium on the use of clichés." She chided him. " Meeting Sam Leary…that couldn’t be easy for you."
He propped himself up on his elbows. " She’s not Samantha."
" Well, she probably is, I’m sure Sam is a nickname…" She paused, realizing that he wasn’t talking about names. " Oh. Of course not."
He sighed. " My head said that, but… I don’t think my heart listens to logic. When it became obvious that Capeside was a real place, I couldn’t but hope a little…"
" I’m sorry." Scully said softly.
He shook his head. " This is better. If she’d been somewhere I could find her all along and I didn’t, and couldn’t take her home even if I could find her, that’d be worse. I’m not sorry that she’s not my sister. I’m just sorry that I’m not as lucky as her brother."
Scully nodded in the dark, trying to understand how he felt.
Mulder knew Scully was trying to divine his feelings.Time and time again, Scully tried to understand what made him tick and time and time again, she came so close but never quite grasped the beliefs he clung to. But she tried and he loved her in so many ways because she kept trying. Friend, lover, wife, mother, partner, all types of women rolled up into this one petite person with icy eyes and fiery hair. All the other women in his life had been ripped away from him, from Phoebe due to her own treacherous nature to his own mother due to suicide. Scully almost filled the void left behind.
He wished he could say that Scully was enough and be able to walk away. He wished that he hadn’t been lying about being fine, being free the night when he saw Samantha’s shade dancing with the other glowing children. He wished the truth was enough.
And now, here was this girl, another Samantha. No. Not Samantha. Sam.
And yet… and yet, he looked at this girl and didn’t see Samantha Mulder as she could have been at age thirteen. He looked at this girl and saw Jerilyn Starkweather as she had been at age thirteen. Young enough to be wonderfully naïve and yet old enough to understand the boon and plague of secretiveness. And bearing the dual weight of youth and experience on her skinny shoulders. Two big chips.
However, Sam didn’t act as bitter as Starkweather. <<But was Jerilyn’s bitterness acquired over time? I have no idea. She won’t talk to me unless she absolutely has to. It is not Scully who needs to understand how I work; she will accept me as I am even if she never comprehends why I believe what I believe almost religiously. It is Jerilyn who needs to understand. Because she and I, we think alike. Except I do not close my eyes to the truth. Jerilyn runs from it.>>
<<Oh, if only I knew then what I know now>> he mourned as he draped his arm over the sleeping Scully. He envied this young Mulder for receiving the gift the older Mulder spent most of his life yearning for.
His last thought before dropping off to sleep was <<What would it have been like if me, Samantha and Jerilyn had all grown up in the same house?>>
The last sound he made was a soft chuckle as his imagination led him down into his subconscious where he dreamed of being young again, building sand castles with two girls with dark brown hair, the oldest girl with bright blue eyes, the youngest girl with hazel eyes just like his.
But in his dreams, or rather, like his dreams, the castles kept collapsing.
<<"Night," she said in a soft voice, allowing herself fade into sweet oblivion. >>
Until snuffling woke her up.
She rolled over, looked up at the crib and saw William. He had pulled himself up into a standing position and was looking down at her, whimpering.
William continued to whine, the snuffles threatening to become full blown tears.
"Doggett," Starkweather said. "Don’t even pretend to try and pretend that you’re asleep."
"I don’t know! Just do something! Before-"
"Too late," Starkweather said, wiggling her way out of the sleeping bag. "God dammit," she said under her breath as she stepped over Doggett to get to the crib. "Guys," she said to the baby boys. "Don’t do this to me, okay?" She fished around the crib until she found a pacifier. Which baby it belonged to was irrelevant to Starkweather. She popped it into William’s mouth, then picked him up, gave him a kiss and laid him back down. That seemed to appease him.
Price, however, was not so easily placated. Evidently he thought it was play time by the way he giggled and clapped his hand. "Yes, yes, I know, cheer at the clown," she grumbled as she tucked Price back in. "Go to sleep you little puke," she ordered him in a sweet sing song voice.
Price popped right back up again, laughing. Soon William was up.
"Jesus fucking Christ," she groaned.
It was dark, but Doggett guessed Starkweather was giving him a foul look as she said "Instead of lying on the floor like a male chauvinist pig, why don’t you help me?"
"Because this is more fun," Doggett said, but he was getting up.
"What is more fun?" Starkweather scowled as Doggett stood beside her by the crib.
Bending down to pick up Price, he replied "Seeing you out of your element. Seeing you not have an answer for everything."
"The way you’re talking," Starkweather said snippily "You make me sound like an insufferable know-it-all." William held his arms out to Starkweather. "Well, at least someone in this room still likes me," she said, scooping William out of the crib.
"Oh, stop the pity party," Doggett said, sitting on the closed toy chest, rocking back and forth while rubbing Price on the back. "I was just giving you hell."
Starkweather claimed the rocking chair. She felt herself getting maudlin as she started to rock William. After all, if her baby had lived, he would have been roughly the same age as William. Or she. The miscarriage happened before the sex could have been determined. There wasn’t much of a baby to lose. Just a lot of blood…
She shook her head and cuddled William closer to her as she continued to rock.
<<I don’t want kids. I didn’t want kids. I didn’t want Ben’s baby. Until I heard the heartbeat and became resigned to the fact that I was going to be a mother whether I liked it or not. Then I lost the baby and hated myself. Because Ben wanted a family. I wasn’t ready. My body knew me better than I knew me. Or so I thought. My water supply was poisoned. It forced a spontaneous abortion. And I’m followed by a ghost of someone that never had a chance to use its lungs to drawn breath. I am haunted by a dream. By someone else’s dream…>>
"Price is asleep," Doggett said, looking at her oddly. "How’s William?"
As they put the sleeping boys back into the crib, Starkweather said "I don’t see how people can do this."
"Speaking of twins, is it just me or do Price and William-"
"Mulder grew up in the New England area, his family vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard," Starkweather theorized. "Maybe he has some distant relatives?"
"Who knows, we have such a screwed up family tree," Starkweather sighed. "Maybe Teena Mulder had family around here. I should ask Mulder what his mom’s maiden name was." She yawned; feeling so tired that her body ached. "Or maybe the connection’s on Scully’s side of the family, she was a Naval brat, she moved around, maybe she’s got relatives here, who the hell knows. I want to get some sleep before those two little hellions wake up."
Starkweather gave him a sheepish smile. "I suppose they could be worse." She got back on the floor again. Too tired to attempt to get into the sleeping bag, she reached for the blanket she had previously rejected. "Good night."
Starkweather sneaked a peek at her partner then rolled to her back, ready to sink back into the depths of slumber.
And then it happened again, the slice of pain cutting down from her ribs to her pelvis tore through her. Only this time it was much worse, so bad she actually cried out but tried to stifle it when she remembered the two sleeping babies.
As fast as the pain stabbed at her, it faded, leaving behind vertigo and nausea. She curled up in the fetal position and tried to control her breathing as her body broke out into a cold sweat. But every breath was a struggle as she fought not to hyperventilate.
Then she felt Doggett kneeling over her, one hand gently lifting her head the other hand resting on her back. "Starkweather," he said softly in an agitated voice. "What’s wrong?"
"No," she said, making herself sit up. "No," she said again. "It’s okay. It’s over now. I just feel kind of sick. Not worth an ER visit."
"The pain isn’t happening at the right part of the body for it to be appendicitis," Dr. Starkweather said just as stubbornly.
"Other organs can get infected just as easily," Doggett protested.
Starkweather wanted to point out his glaring medical ignorance but she felt too wiped out to argue. Knowing him that he would keep badgering her until she gave in, she said "If I’m not better by the morning, I’ll go, alright?"
Doggett wasn’t going to allow himself to be pacified that easily but new whimpers diverted his attention.
"You don’t know how many times I’ve asked myself that question," Doggett said as he got up to tend to the kids.
Neither boy was hungry or in need of a diaper change. William was whining and pointing down at Starkweather. "What?" Doggett asked. "You want out? No, Will, it’s bedtime."
"Oh, bring him down here," Starkweather said wearily. "He can be my teddy bear tonight."
Doggett whispered to William, "Spoiled brat," affectionately as he lifted him out of the crib and placed him in Starkweather’s arms. William instantly snuggled up against her.
Which left Price feeling pretty left out so he started crying. "Oh, come on," Doggett said, lifting him out as well. "None of that."
<<How do people deal two babies at once?>> was his last conscious thought before he drifted fully asleep.
Waking with a start, Starkweather had just enough presence of mind to keep from sitting up suddenly and waking her sleeping nephew, who was still cuddled up against her. She yawned and eased away from the baby, glancing at the crib. It was empty. For one terrible second she wondered if Price had been kidnapped and how would they ever explain that he’d been taken while two FBI agents were in his room, but looking around the room, she spotted him in Doggett’s arms. They were both still in the rocking chair. Doggett was going to be begging for aspirin soon, she was sure of it. For a moment it made her wonder if he’d sleep in a rocking chair to pacify a child of his own. If he had.
She let him sleep, and stared at the mint-green walls instead, remembering a dream she’d had during the night. It had been about Price. The only thing she could attribute the dream to was her morose thoughts the day before about children like him- and her – not being allowed a normal life. That had to be why she’d dreamed about him as not a baby, but a little boy, maybe three, maybe five years old. She wasn’t good at figuring out how old small children were, and the fact that he’d been held during most of the dream didn’t help.
In the dream she found herself sitting in a pew of a church she’d never been to. No one else sitting there was someone she met, but they all looked vaguely familiar, so she thought they must have been Mulder Leary’s friends and their families. No one else was sitting in the same pew as her, but she didn’t feel shunned, just ignored. Everyone’s attention was focused on two shiny caskets that a pastor was standing over.
When they came in, Mulder and Sam looked a few years older too, and a little boy who could only be Price was held in Mulder’s arms. Either shy or in grief, the boy hid his face. The three of them approached the caskets, and when they reached them, Sam took Price. That’s when she finally got to see his face. It was calm, and his wide blue eyes looked over the mourners with a lack of interest. For some reason, that chilled her; she never wanted to see a look like that on Boo’s face, not when something important was happening.
He looked away from her when Mulder took the podium, as offered by the Pastor. Looking somewhat more grieved than his brother, Mulder began to speak.
" I want to thank you all for being here today, I think it would have meant a lot to my parents. The pastor has asked me to say a few words about them. What can I say about Mitch and Gale Leary? They were my parents, and they raised me but I can’t really say that I knew them. Mom and Dad had a lot of secrets, and they didn’t seem to care too much about whether or not these things harmed their children.
" They let Sam be taken away and raised by strangers for almost thirteen years, and they punished me for ever asking about her. Since I refused to forget her as ordered, they turned a cold shoulder to me most of my life. I do thank them, though, for getting Sam back by having Price.
" And Price… maybe of the three of us, he’s the one they sinned the most against. When he turned eighteen, they were planning to turn him over to the people who created him, so he could learn to spy, maybe even kill, without feeling anything. What parent wants that for their child?
" Because of this, Sam and I understand why he had to kill them. Really, what kind of life would he have if he didn’t? It was self defense, we all understand that."
Everyone in the church nodded solemnly, and Starkweather wondered if Mulder was going to explain how a small boy had managed to kill his parents. Instead Price waved one small hand in the direction of the caskets, as if to say good-bye, and she was so glad she couldn’t see his expression.
Then she woke up.
Shuddering at the memory even still, she bent down and picked William up, then walked over to Doggett. Price looked too innocent to harm anyone. Surely the dream was just a strange idea her subconscious was wrestling with. For all she knew, it really had to do with buried feelings about her own parents.
Leaning over, she whispered in Doggett’s ear. " Hey, do you want them to think you’re trying to steal their baby?"
" What?" Doggett opened his eyes, and realized he and Price were still in the rocking chair where they’d fallen asleep. " No, of course not."
" Relax, I was just teasing."
Both babies were back in the crib by the time Mulder Leary came to see if they were awake.
" Hungry?" Mulder Leary asked, reaching for his little brother.
The baby looked up at him with a solemn look. " Os?"
" Sure. After we get you dressed." He smiled at Starkweather and Doggett as he grabbed a change of clothes and a diaper for Price. " Mom and Dad aren’t awake yet, but I’m sure Price won’t mind sharing his fruit loops if you’re hungry. There’s other cereal too. I can’t cook, but you know I can make toast, anyway."
Doggett was slightly annoyed that Mitch and Gale weren’t up, but he decided that it was irrational since he didn’t know their schedule. " Sounds good. Just give us a couple of minutes to get dressed, and we’ll be down."
Once he was out of the room, Doggett and Starkweather looked at each other. " Who wants to get dressed first?" She asked.
" How did we do this last night?"
" I forget." Doggett admitted. "Why don’t you? I’ll see if Dana and Mulder are awake yet."
They weren’t, he quickly summarized while peering through the barely opened door. He sniggered a little bit as he shut the door; he never would have guessed that Scully was the one who snored quietly in her sleep. Feeling like a fool for standing alone in the hallway, again, he tapped his foot softly as he waited.
Starkweather got William dressed first and then herself. After she put her clothes on she picked her nephew up settled him on her hip. Before she could leave the room she spotted his binky in a corner of Price’s crib. " Wouldn’t want forget that." She said pocketing it. It might come in handy during breakfast.
Just before Doggett died of boredom, the door to Price’s room opened, " Your turn." Starkweather said.
" Took you long enough." Doggett grumbled good-naturedly.
" I had to dress two people, not just myself." She pointed out. " And I’m pretty sure you won’t require a diaper change, so you’ll probably be quicker."
" Good point." He agreed.
Starkweather arrived in the kitchen just in time to hear Mulder Leary say. " No no, Price." The baby giggled from his high chair, but a box of cereal that had been floating a foot in the air landed on the table with a soft thump.
Both Starkweather and William gave it goggled looks.
" Sometimes he gets impatient." He told her, if that explained the incident away.
" Yesterday, you were telling me the truth." She said slowly.
He looked surprised. " Of course. It’s the type of thing you lie about to avoid telling the truth about, not the other way around."
She sat heavily in the chair, William on her lap. If he’d told her the truth about his brother’s unusual powers, what else that he told her about had also been the truth?
" Do you think you can feed him by having him sit on your lap?" Mulder Leary switched gears, thinking about breakfast again. " There’s only one high chair, so…"
" That’s ok. We’ve all gotten good at this. He’s gone a lot of not very child-friendly places."
Satisfied with the answer, Mulder went back to getting bowls of cereal.
Reyes and Skinner McPhee’s residence
As far as Skinner was concerned, snow days were good for one thing and one thing only, sleeping in as late as possible.
With her brother sawing logs and her father braving the foul weather and fouler roads to get to work, Reyes inevitably became bored. Even the Internet lost its appeal after an hour or so. She had hoped that Scully or Fowley or Doggett would be online, or even Mulder but none of their screen names had popped up on her Buddy List. Doggett, she shrewdly concluded, was probably of the same mind of as her brother and snoozing still. Scully, probably busy with Alexander but as for Mulder and Fowley, with those two enigmas, who knew what they could be up to? Mulder would probably be off snow-shoeing in search of the Abominable Snow Man armed with only a digital camera. As for Fowley… Reyes shuddered slightly and blamed it on the cold. Reyes loved her friend Fowley but sometimes couldn’t help but wonder if Fowley told her one thing but turned around and then did the complete opposite.
Bored silly, Reyes wandered around the house aimlessly until she gave up and made herself a stack of cinnamon toast and a cup of jasmine tea before migrating to the living room. Resigned to spending the day killing brain cells as she watched day time talk shows and soap operas, she set her breakfast on the coffee table before plopping down onto the sofa.
Just as she reached for the remote control, the phone rang.
Reyes leapt off the couch and dashed for it. A ringing telephone meant human contact. Salvation from the boob tube! "Hello?" she said, hoping for either Doggett or Scully, preferably Doggett, she *really* needed to discuss prom with him. If boys had their way, they *would* wait until April or May before getting around to ordering the corsage or renting a tux.
But it was not Doggett or Scully. Instead a calm female voice asked politely "I’m sorry, who is this?"
"Oh," Reyes relaxed. Boring adult stuff. "I’m sorry, but he’s not available right now. Can I take a message?"
"No, that’s okay… ah, I’m sorry, I missed your name?"
<<That’s because I didn’t tell you>> Reyes thought with a roll of her eyes. "Reyes," she said.
There was a strange soft sound at the other end of the phone, as if the caller had to pause for breath. "Thank you, Reyes," the caller said evenly. "I’ll try again later."
"Alright," Reyes said politely before ending the call. "Good bye."
Meanwhile, Monica Reyes hung up her phone with trembling fingers. Her instincts had rarely led her wrong before.
It all started with seeing that strange boy, the one with the look of Mulder about him at John’s house that set her mind and psyche spinning. Nothing huge, just a niggling in her brain that something’s not right… and then her conversation with Skinner the next day… though nothing of import was really said, it only served to strengthened her convictions that something was not right with this corner of the universe.
She had trouble sleeping and so had made herself a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed. Her dreams were fragmented and restless, plagued with images of hospitals and lakes and grey skies and remorseless snowfall. She woke up several times in the night, writing down what vague images she could remember before trying to go back asleep again.
Monica Reyes woke up with the dawn. Giving up on sleep, she reached for her dream journal, an ugly little diary she had found on the discount shelf in Wal-Mart. Sitting up in bed, she began to decipher her awful handwriting:
Oh my God, what is going on
Oh God, where am I?
"What the hell?" Reyes said to herself bemusedly, preparing to forget about it. "Maybe chamomile is stronger than I thought…"
Then she tilted her head, looking at the page sideways.
5 O 8 4 1 O 2 2 2 1.
Brow furrowed, she re-wrote the sequence, substituting zeroes for O’s.
A telephone number?
Reyes went to take a shower, get dressed and eat a little breakfast. She found the left over tea from last night and poured it down the drain, noting that some of the tea leaves stuck to the mug.
So, on more of a whim than true belief, she studied the leaves, debating with herself it they really *did* appear to be in a shape of a telephone.
Taking her dream journal with her to work, she ran the phone number plucked from her imagination through the FBI’s massive computer data base and discovered it did belong to a real person, named Joseph McPhee. Who lived in Capeside. The same Capeside that Doggett and Starkweather had departed for to return Mulder’s doppelganger.
Curiosity aflame now, Reyes concocted a flexible cover story and dialed. And nearly fainted to hear her own voice in her ear.
"No, that’s okay…" Reyes licked her lips, "Ah, I’m sorry, I missed your name?"
"Reyes," came the polite reply.
Reyes inhaled sharply. "Thank you, Reyes," Monica Reyes had said, fighting to keep her voice even "I’ll try again later."
"Alright. Good bye," the girl named Reyes McPhee had said politely.
<<This isn’t right…>> Monica Reyes thought almost obsessively. <<There’s something wrong with this picture…>>
She leaned back in her chair. Well, not quite her chair. Fox Mulder’s chair. She didn’t have a desk as it seemed to be considered sacrilegious to clear off Mulder’s desk for her use. Reyes swiveled around in Mulder’s chair until she was facing the wall, facing the I Want to Believe poster.
She reached out and touched the poster.
Then she got out of the chair, put on her coat, grabbed her keys, purse and attaché case and hurried out the door, face set.
Mitch and Gale Leary’s residence
"There you are," Gale said in the honeyed voice reserved for the youngest Leary member. Following close behind Gale, was Dana Scully, her hair perfectly coiffed and her blouse and slacks pressed.
Meanwhile, Price banged his hands on the high chair tray, almost knocking his "Os" over. William, on the other side, reached his arms up. "Mommy!" he crooned, a big smile on his face.
Scully’s solemn face lit up. "Hey there sweetie," Scully said, crossing over to relieve Starkweather of her bouncy burden.
Just then, Mulder walked in. "Morning," he said, pausing to ruffle Starkweather’s hair.
"Would you like some coffee Mr. Mulder?" Gale asked hospitably.
"I’d love some," Mulder said, then hastily adding least that Scully think he was rude "If it’s not too much trouble."
"Sure," the younger Mulder said, rising to do his mother’s bidding.
"So Mrs. Leary," Mulder put his hands in his pocket, surveying the kitchen. "Looks like we’re all still snowed in here, do you mind if we move into the living room for some ‘adults only’ conversation?"
"Sounds kinky," Starkweather said under her breath.
"And you’re not invited," Mulder said to Starkweather, sticking his tongue out at her when he turned his back on Gale and Scully. However, he was all seriousness when he turned around again to accept the coffee from Mulder Leary.
"I didn’t want to come with anyway," Starkweather muttered while thinking <<Dear God, what is he up to now???>>
"I’ll go find Doggett and Mitch and meet you all in the living room," the senior Mulder drones as he exited.
"It’ll be refreshing to have a mature discussion for once," Gale said, sounding excited. "Sometimes it’s so hard to have a meaningful talk when you’re running after little ones. I’m sure you know what that’s like, Dana."
The kitchen seemed quiet once Scully and Gale came through and took possession of the little boys. Sam had bolted a bowl of cereal, but she was already off, having said something about organizing a sledding expedition with Daden and some other kids from their grade. So that left just Starkweather and Mulder Leary, listlessly eating soggy cereal and cold toast.
" Mulder…" Starkweather gave the boy a hesitant look. " Do you think that your friend’s baby is really being held in some sort of secret compound?"
He shrugged. " It wouldn’t be the first time."
Mentally cursing herself for falling prey to the Mulder duty-gene, she reluctantly offered help. " Maybe… Maybe you should have some help investigating this."
" Yeah… I tried to get Doggett and Skinner to come with me one night, but they were all like ‘ I don’t want to waste my time on another one of your stupid schemes, Mulder. Wasn’t hiking bad enough?’ so I dropped it."
It took her a moment to sort that out, but she finally realized he was talking about his friends, not hers. " I was thinking more…professional help."
" I’d really rather not ask Kersh or Sheriff Witter. They’re ok, but they’d probably go in guns a’blazing, thinking that it was a hostage situation. I don’t think that’d look too good in the paper."
Starkweather stared at him, wondering if he was dense, or truly that unused to adults offering to help. " Or I could help you."
" Yeah, you could, but- Wait, really?"
Starkweather shrugged. " I don’t plan to sit in on the pow-wow with your folks, so maybe this would be something constructive to do."
" You’re really not interested in grilling my parents?" Mulder looked surprised.
She just shrugged again. " Doggett and my brother are the ones who think the answers can be found by talking to your parents."
" Where do you think the answers lie?"
" Your dad’s work place is as good as any to look."
" But maybe there aren’t any answers." He told her quietly.
" It wouldn’t be the first time." She agreed.
" Who are you calling?" Starkweather asked when she noticed Mulder Leary pick up the phone.
" Scully and Reyes. My Scully and Reyes, that is." He clarified. " I think they’d be handy to have with us. Scully especially, she’s been there before."
Starkweather thought about teasing him, and making a comment about his girlfriend’s "usefulness" but his omission seemed more important. " Not Fowley, though?"
Mulder shook his head. " I don’t think that’s a good idea. What if we go there, and we find nothing? Or find out that something has happened to the baby since she last saw her? I don’t think either of us would like that if it were our babies, right?"
" Right." Starkweather absently agreed. She was really thinking about the baby she lost, and trying to push away the wistfulness that the idea of it being somewhere, anywhere, to be found brought up. " But neither of us have kids. At least I don’t, and you better not." She managed a faint smile.
He gave her an intent look that made her feel uncomfortable for reasons she couldn’t readily identify. " I’m not sure you have to have a child to understand what it’s like to be responsible for one. Or even to be expected to be responsible for one."
Starkweather knew he was trying to articulate something about his feelings about his siblings, but she thought there was something he was saying, maybe about her, too; something she wasn’t even aware of, perhaps. She dismissed the idea as paranoia, how could he know something about her that she herself didn’t know? Still, she found it mildly unsettling. " That’s too profound for this time of the morning, Kid."
" Yeah…" When she didn’t say anything else, he picked the phone back up.
" What are you wearing?"
Scully Potter rolled her eyes, but there was a faint smile playing on her lips as well. " A blue, oil-stained jumpsuit with the name Moe sewn onto the chest, hip waders and a bee keeper’s helmet."
" Sounds hot."
" Mulder, what do you want?"
" A guy can’t call his girlfriend just to see how she is?"
" A guy can. You, however, can’t."
He sighed deeply for effect. " I was hoping you’re not too busy to meet a new friend of mine."
" What kind of friend?"
" The kind with a badge and a gun."
" Aren’t we a little old for playing cops and robbers?"
" Nah. Ask Sheriff Witter, all sorts of grown ups play cops and robbers. This friend is an FBI agent, though."
" No, really."
" Really. Someone finally wants to look into Fowley’s claim that someone kept her baby."
" You did tell him that Fowley is unhinged, didn’t you?"
" Her, and no. Reyes thinks what Fowley said is true too, you know."
" Yeah… but you and Reyes will believe anything."
" Come on, you know you love that about us. Say you’ll come with."
" Yeah, all right. I was bored anyway."
" Great. Pick you up in twenty minutes."
Reyes nearly didn’t pick up the phone when it rang again. She figured it was that telemarketer again, but something told her that it was important, so she reluctantly grabbed it after the third ring.
" Got plans for today?"
" Nope. My brother and my boyfriend are both doing their best imitation of still life. Still life with pillow."
" Oh good. So you should be happy when we come to kidnap you in fifteen minutes."
" Who’s ‘we’?"
" Me, Scully, an FBI agent."
" Why won’t anyone believe me? Just be in front of your house, ok?"
" Right. See ya in a few." As she hung up she felt a stab of hope. Maybe the day wouldn’t be such a waste after all. Even if Mulder was making up the part about having an FBI agent with him.
Starkweather hid her amusement the best that she could while he was on the phone. Listening to him flirt with Scully and tease both girls, it stuck her that it must be what he was really like, when he was in his element. Even though he’d been bewildered in DC, he’d handled himself fairly maturely, though probably not as well as she would have at his age. But who would? Maybe he was just more comfortable at home.
" Problem. How are we going to pick them up, and get to your Dad’s work place? I don’t fancy taking Doggett’s monstrosity. I mean, truck."
" Not really a problem." He told her. Then he went to the doorway and called out, " Mom, can I borrow your car?"
" Sure honey." Floated back to them. Giving her a smug look, he grabbed a set of keys off a rack on the kitchen wall. " Let’s roll."
" You’re driving." It wasn’t really a question, but Mulder answered anyway.
" Unless you want to borrow Doggett’s truck after all…" She just shook her head. " I’m not a bad driver. Once I figured out that my driver’s ed teacher wasn’t really a murderer, I did real well in the class, and I’ve had my license for a while now."
She smirked, because she was sure that ‘a while’ probably meant something in the neighborhood of a year. Still, he couldn’t be worse a driver than her half brother. She hoped.
"Did you sleep alright?" Gale asked anxiously as she placed Price in the playpen next to William. "I can’t imagine Sam’s bed being very comfortable for two adults."
Mulder didn’t respond, he was too busy watching William playing with Price. William, giggling, had snatched the pacifier out of Price’s mouth and popped it into his own.
"Mine," Price said, taking the pacifier back and shoving it into his mouth.
"Aww," Gale cooed, "Isn’t that cute?"
Mulder, however, was not enthralled by the baby antics. He was too busy studying the boys interacting with each other. They had the same facial expressions, the same little hand gestures, even similar laughter. To him, it was spooky… almost creepy.
"How was your pregnancy?" Mulder asked tactlessly.
"Mulder," Scully scowled, now realizing what Mulder was up to. This wasn’t a friendly chat amongst adults, this was going to be an interrogation.
Understandably, Gale squirmed. "Oh… fine. Being pregnant is no walk in the park you know, well, I take that back *you* wouldn’t know," she said to Mulder. "But I’m sure, you know," she smiled warmly at Scully.
Scully smiled wanly back. <<Yes, I do indeed know. I thought I had a monster growing in me, waiting to burst through my chest like in ‘Alien’. Not my idea of a stroll through the park.>> She looked over at her son in the play pen and felt a stab of guilt.
<<I thought my son was a monster…>>
Just then Mitch and Doggett strolled in. "So is this where the party is?" Mitch said jovially.
"Oh yeah," Doggett muttered, sitting down on the couch next to Scully. "Big party." Scully shushed him. "What idiotic stunt is Mulder trying to pull now?" Doggett whispered to her. Scully only shook her head. "Great," Doggett grumbled. *He* wanted to be the one asking questions. Not Mulder.
"Mitch," Mulder reached over to the coffee table and scooped up a handful of peanut M&Ms out of the pretty candy dish. They weren’t sunflower seeds, but they’d do. "I’m curious to hear about what you do for a living. Your son alluded that it was interesting work."
Everyone ignored him. "To protect itself from these toxins, the body relies on its own detoxification system, which it an intricate network of enzymes working together to break down the toxin and then to remove what is left of the toxin out of the body through either urination or sweating.
Bored by the conversation Doggett looked over at Scully. She was hanging on every word. Mulder’s eyes had glazed over and Gale’s face had that familiar look most spouses wore when their significant other was babbling about something that most people just didn’t care about. The same pained expression Doggett remembered Barb having whenever he had started talking about NASCAR.
"Now," Mitch rambled on "Research shows that the genes that make up the detoxification process vary from person to person. And that diet and lifestyle factor in greatly with the detoxification process as well…"
"However, with the onslaught of pollutants, the body may not be able to keep up with the incoming toxins, so what Candling has been researching are ways for food to assist the body’s detoxification process."
"How?" Scully asked.
"Through enhancing the antioxidant benefits of cruciferous and allium vegetables provide."
Doggett just about turned to ask Starkweather what ‘cruciferous’ and ‘allium’ meant, and then he realized she wasn’t there. <<Where is she?>> he wondered as he interrupted Mitch. "Sorry, but what are cruciferous and allium vegetables?"
"Oh. Sorry. Cruciferous are your broccolis and cabbages and allium are your onions and garlic. But we’re also working with other vegetables, such as corn, for reasons I will explain in just a moment. Candling is also working on increasing the vegetables defenses against toxins. This will also benefit the meat industry as we are in the trial phase of creating a grain feed, mostly corn-based, for livestock that will be healthier for the animal to consume and therefore, healthier for us, to consume the animal." He smiled sheepishly. "I’m no vegetarian."
"How are you, uh," Mulder dug into the bowl of M&Ms again. "’Enhancing’ these vegetables, Mr. Leary?"
"Genetic tamperin- oops, I mean testing, has been quite controversial, Mr. Leary."
"Have you used human subjects in your testing, Mr. Leary?" Mulder asked, eyeing Gale.
"No, never… at least, not during my tenure at Candling and certainly not for the first series of tests."
"Are food the only things that undergo genetic testing?"
Doggett was awake now, watching Mulder mercilessly question Mitch. <<Too bad he’s more concerned about UFOs>> Doggett thought. <<He is a hell of an agent.. or he was.>>
"I have no idea," Mitch said stiffly. "The other departments are confidential."
"Does Candling handle any quantum physic projects?"
"I find that hard to believe," Mulder said. "Especially while sitting in a room, looking at a boy that looks nearly identical to my son." When the room became deathly quiet, Mulder said. "Mr. Leary, I suggest you start telling us what’s going on."
Gale, no longer looking bored, but afraid, clutched the magazine tightly. Mitch’s shoulders slumped. "I don’t have any answers for you," he said miserably. "I was hoping, after seeing your son, that maybe… maybe you’d have answers for us."
"Maybe," Gale said timidly. "Maybe we do know the answers, but we’re just afraid to face the truth."
"Or maybe we’re not asking the right questions," Mitch sighed.
"Or maybe we don’t know how to ask," Scully said. "Mulder, after all, you were the one that said ‘a dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask.’ Maybe what we need to know is buried within, in our past or in our subconscious, and we just don’t know how to bring that truth from within… to without."
"I’ve got another question," Mulder said. "Where’s Mulder?" He paused. "Did that sound as strange coming out of my mouth as I think it did?
To her relief, Starkweather found her foot groping for the imaginary brake far less often than she’d anticipated. Skinner probably would have been spared a lot of antacids if Fox Mulder attempted to treat driving as seriously as the boy did, which sort of surprised her.
It was a good thing that Mulder drove to Scully’s first, because Reyes apparently decided to walk there. As they got into the back seat, Starkweather secretly studied them in the review mirror. At least she hoped it was in secret. Mulder’s friend Reyes looked exactly like she’d picture her friend having been half a lifetime ago; except she had trouble imagining Monica with waist-long hair, ever. Mulder’s girlfriend, on the other hand, didn’t really make her think of Dana as much. She wondered why that was, but the car was in motion again before she decided, and the thought was quickly forgotten.
" Are you really an FBI agent?" Reyes asked, leaning forward to see Starkweather.
" Yup." Starkweather pulled out her badge and flipped it open so the girls could see.
" That is so cool. I’d like to do something like that when I grow up."
" Not me." Scully disagreed. " I’m going to be a scientist."
" You can be both." Starkweather said. " I’m a doctor."
" Doctor Scully." Reyes laughed, making Scully frown at her.
" Hey, Mulder, where are we going?" Scully asked suddenly changing the subject. " Exactly."
" Um… my dad’s work."
" Oh no, not again." Scully covered her face with her hands, which caused both Reyes and Starkweather to give the girl alarmed looks.
" Why is that bad?" Reyes asked. " The last time you were there you got a puppy, didn’t you?"
" A puppy?" Starkweather wondered aloud. Everyone ignored her. " Kid, what’s with you and giving people pets?" Mulder shrugged.
" I didn’t get Fox there, I saw him after we went there. Bessie got him for me the next day."
" Is anyone going to fill me in as to what the hell you’re talking about?" Starkweather asked in her most authoritative tone. The girls shrank back, but Mulder seemed unfazed.
" A guy that used to work at my dad’s company got fired. He decided that the perfect revenge would be to drive various animals, both indigenous and ones he imported, insane with sound waves that humans can’t normally hear. The animals attacked people. We very briefly stopped by Candling, but found the guy’s place in the woods."
Starkweather was slightly startled by the matter-of-fact tone in his voice. " You kids lead weird lives, don’t you."
" Yes." Scully and Reyes immediately agreed.
" I dunno… I like to think of it as interesting." Mulder objected. " You know how teenagers claim boredom all the time? Living here that’s not a problem."
Sighing, she slumped back on the seat, just thankful that the X-Files was only part of her recent past. These kids seemed to live in a spooky world all the time. " Do these weird things happen here all the time?"
" Not always." Scully replied. " Sometimes it’s just people. Like the kid who disrupted play practice by pretending to be a ghost."
" I told everyone it wasn’t a ghost. But no one believed me." Mulder pretended to be injured.
Rolling her eyes, Starkweather could only imagine how people would react to Fox Mulder claiming something wasn’t the paranormal.
Eventually they pulled up to Candling. All the windows were dark, and there wasn’t a car in the parking lot.
" Snow day?" Reyes asked.
" Yeah. That’s why my dad is home. Strange, though, since the roads are ok."
" Don’t look a gift snow day in the mouth." Reyes suggested. " Or something."
" So Kid, how are we going to get in? I’m not nearly as good as breaking and entering as my brother." Starkweather wondered why she hadn’t thought of that logistic before. It bothered her a little that she hadn’t.
" How about just entering?" Mulder asked, pulling a card out of his pocket. " Mom’s car isn’t the only thing I borrowed for this trip."
Starkweather rolled her eyes. Should pulled out one of her business cards and a pen, quickly scribbling down cell phone number. When she was done, she handed the to Mulder. " I remember being a teenager, so I know it’s practically useless to tell you not to wander off."
"We won’t-" Mulder began to protest.
Starkweather cut off. " If you get out of shouting distance…call me if you have trouble."
Mulder sighed and the slipped the card into his wallet anyway. She was probably right, knowing them they would wander off. It was a compulsion.
"So," Starkweather said as Mulder swiped the security card. "What are we looking for?"
Still giggling, the girls hurried inside, followed by Mulder. Starkweather, last to enter, looked around furtively, and then heaved a big sigh before ducking inside.
When Starkweather shut the door, she and the kids were plunged into total blackness.
"Mulder, where are the lights?" Reyes tried to keep her voice from quavering.
"Hold your horses," Starkweather said. A few minutes later a powerful flashlight beam cut through the darkness. "Alright," she said in a soft authoritative voice. "Everyone around me. None of this idiotic Scooby Doo splitting up bullshit. Mulder, where are the lights?"
"Not really and cut that out! It hurts my eyes," Mulder said, lifting his arm to shield his eyes from the ruthless flashlight beam.
"You’re lucky that’s all I hurt," Starkweather muttered as she shined the light down the hall. "Long hallway with lots and lots of doors," she said. "Mulder, can your dad’s card open all the doors here or just the one we came in?"
"What we’re looking for," Scully said in an assertive voice, "Is probably in the basement."
"Um," now Scully faltered a bit. "Probably because it’s easier to hide illegal scientific research in a part of a building that’s hardly used."
"You kids watch too much damn TV," Starkweather said. "First thing we’re going to do is find the light."
Just then all the lights came on.
"Lights found," Mulder said faintly.
"Right, okay," Starkweather said, clicking off her flashlight and reaching into her coat. "In my world, this is a bad sign." Reyes and Scully’s eyes widened with Starkweather drew her gun and took the safety off. "It’s not worth it, guys. Let’s get out of here." Mulder opened his mouth to protest but Starkweather savagely cut him off. "We’re leaving. Right now." She handed her flashlight off to Reyes and put her hand between Scully’s shoulder blades and gave her a push. "Walk, don’t run." Starkweather began herding Scully and Reyes towards the door. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Mulder heading towards the other direction. "Mulder! Come on!"
"We’ve come this far!" Mulder said. "Besides, for all we know, we could have just tripped a silent alarm which triggered the lights."
"I’m not worried about the cops, especially since Sheriff Witter is my best friend’s dad," Mulder said stubbornly, still walking away. "I can just make something up."
"God dammit, Mulder, not everybody is as stupid as your parents!" Starkweather said tactlessly. "One of these days you’re going to tangle yourself up in your own lies and today might be that day."
"I think we may have more problems than the local cops," Starkweather said, grabbing Scully by the coat collar and hauling her back away from the door. "Get behind me," she said, cocking her service weapon. Reyes made a small squeaking noise and ran to Scully. The girls huddled behind Starkweather as she pointed her gun and fired twice at the door handle. The halls reverberated with the gunshot echoes. Mulder and the girls covered their ears.
"Shit!" Starkweather said. "We’re trapped."
"Well," Mulder said. "Now we don’t have a choice but to keep going, do we?"
"Mulder," Starkweather said "Obviously someone doesn’t want us to leave. I have a sneaking suspicion we’re the next science projects." She reached into her coat pockets.
"What are you doing?" Mulder asked as she pulled out her cell phone.
"Calling for reinforcements," she said as she hit Doggett’s number in her speed-dial. "What the hell…?" she said. "What do you MEAN no service?" She looked at the kids. "Any of you have cell phones with you?"
Reyes dialed Doggett Witter’s number by heart. "I don’t have service either," she said weakly. "Mulder, are we really trapped here?"
Mulder scowled. "My dad is not a bad person."
Scully didn’t respond, she just looked at the floor.
"Come on guys," Starkweather said. "Let’s just find a way out of here. Everyone, stick together. Reyes." Starkweather looked around and saw Reyes staring at one of the hall way doors, as if it spellbound her. "Reyes, come on, keep up with the rest of the class."
"Actually," an unctuous voice purred behind Starkweather, Scully and Mulder, "I’m rather delighted to see you here. I’m terribly glad my experiment is working so nicely."
Starkweather whirled around and gave a little gasp. Scully, without realizing she had done so, grabbed Mulder’s coat sleeve. Mulder protectively held Scully to him as Starkweather pointed her gun at Mr. CSM.
"You smoking son-of-a-bitch" Starkweather said, her hands starting to shake. "This time I’ll shoot more than your knees," she threatened.
"Oh Agent Starkweather," Mr. CSM said mockingly, "You have no power here." He knocked her gun easily out of her hands. When he tried to grab at her, she twisted her wrist out of his hand with a neat little martial arts move and then spread her arms out wide, as if her skinny limbs could protect Mulder and Scully. She started walking backwards, forcing Mulder and Scully to do the same. Reyes was rooted to her spot on the floor.
"I told you he was evil," Mulder hissed at Scully.
"I thought you only said that because he gave you a C on the last quiz!" Scully whimpered as she and Mulder continued to back up, away from their encroaching teacher.
"And you know you deserved that C, Mr. Leary," Mr. CSM intoned.
Mulder’s mind was whirling. What was going on? And how did Starkweather know Mr. CSM?
"I have no use for the girls," Mr. CSM said. "They’re too young, too… underdeveloped. It’s only you and the boy I want."
"No," Scully said in a shaking voice, now moving in between Starkweather and Mulder. Mulder felt Scully’s hand reach for his and grip it tightly. He interlocked his fingers with hers and desperately tried to think of a way out of this disaster.
"Take me," Agent Starkweather replied. "Let the others go. They’re kids for Christ’s sake."
"I assure you, Agent Starkweather, the boy will feel minimum pain."
Mr. CSM snapped his finger and a door opened. Reyes shrieked as the ghostly figure of Spender drifted though the doorway. Spender became corporeal as he barreled into Starkweather, Scully and Mulder, knocking them all to the ground. With a strength he didn’t have in life, Spender grabbed Mulder and hoisted him up off the floor, his arm around Mulder’s throat. Meanwhile Mr. CSM tried to pin Starkweather to the floor but her boot connected with his chest, which sent the old man reeling. Starkweather then scrambled for her gun as Mr. CSM strained to get back up again.
Mulder meanwhile struggled with Spender, feeling light-headed from the lack of air. He sensed that he was being dragged towards the door Spender came out of and Mulder knew that he did not want to go through that door at all. Vainly he tried to slip from underneath Spender’s arm but the more he fought, the tighter Spender’s grip became.
Suddenly, everything became a noisy blur. Mulder heard gunshots and then he heard girls screaming. At first he thought one of the girls had been shot and then before he knew it, he was at the bottom of a dog pile. Scully and Reyes had charged Spender as Starkweather had fired at Mr. CSM. With primal screams, they had pounced on Spender, knocking him and Mulder down. Now they were pummeling Spender, trying to get him to let go of Mulder.
Starkweather, meanwhile, was on her feet, her long hair falling out of its prim-and-proper bun, her chin and hands scraped up from her fall, her eyes blazing bloody murder. In perfect firing stance, she aimed her gun at Mr. CSM, who lay on floor, nursing a bullet wound in his upper arm.
"Should have done the world a favor and blown your fucking head off a long time ago," Starkweather said, her hands no longer shaking.
"I wonder," Mr. CSM gasped as blood gushed out of his arm. "I wonder if you would like to know where John Doggett is."
Starkweather froze. "He’s at the Leary’s."
By this time, Scully and Reyes had overpowered Spender and managed to get him to let go of Mulder. Spender didn’t move as Scully and Reyes rolled him off of Mulder. When Scully and Reyes hauled Mulder to his feet, Mulder rubbed his throat, wincing in pain. The three of them helpless watched the confrontation between the agent and their teacher.
"What did you do?" Starkweather said in with a flat, dispassionate voice that frightened Mulder more than her raging tirades. <<Oh my God>> he thought as he watched Agent Starkweather take a step closer to the wounded man. <<She’s going to kill him.>>
"Agent Starkweather," he croaked out.
Starkweather ignored him. "What did you do?" she said again.
Mr. CSM smiled serenely. "Perhaps one of our old friends can tell you." He looked over his shoulder.
Starkweather also stared past Mr. CSM. She watched as one of the doors down the hallway on the left side opened with a creak.
Starkweather felt her stomach turn to water. "Oh my God," she breathed, backpedaling as Knowle Rohrer stepped out of the door and started to advance on them. "Run," she said, turning towards Mulder and the girls. "Don’t just stand there, run!"
Seeing the panic plain on her face, the kids all turned and fled. There was no sound in the hall except for the clatter of shoe soles and boot heels.
They turned a corner down another long hallway with doors everywhere. Running blindly, they ran towards the elevator. "Hurry, hurry!" Starkweather urged them. Reyes reached the elevator first and frantically pushed the button. "It won’t move!" she wailed.
"You need the card," Mulder said, with Scully in tow, clutching her hand. He didn’t know why Starkweather ordered them to bolt from that guy like that but if she was scared, then it had to be bad. Mulder swiped the security card just as Rohrer rounded the corner.
"Agent Starkweather," Rohrer purred. "Aren’t you glad to see me?"
Starkweather fairly pushed the kids inside the elevator and pushed the close button as Rohrer began to sprint towards them. The doors closed with a soft swish in Rohrer’s face.
"Who is that man?" Scully asked.
"He-" Starkweather started to say just as fist rammed through the stainless steel doors.
Reyes and Scully screamed. Mulder ducked fast, barely missed by Rohrer’s fist. Starkweather took her gun and unloaded the clip into Rohrer’s fist and arm. Rohrer howled and then Starkweather began to push Rohrer’s arm out of the door. Mulder helped her as Scully collected her wits enough to push the button to the top floor.
The elevator lurched up. There was a sickening sound of tearing flesh and cracking bone as Rohrer was separated from his arm.
The arm flopped to the floor and then started moving around of its own volition.
Starkweather knelt down and took out the Beretta she kept strapped to her ankles. She shot the arm again and it stopped moving. "It’s part of a project in biological engineering project to enhance a human being’s natural abilities and instincts to defend and destroy."
Starkweather smiled humorlessly as the mangled creaked open just enough for every one to slide out. "Kind of," she said.
Scully looked around. "Another hallway," she groaned.
"And more doors," Reyes said.
"Well, I didn’t really care for what was behind door number one," Starkweather said. "Should we check door number two?"
"Don’t go too far!" Starkweather admonished them as she stopped to hand Mulder her service weapon. When his hazel eyes widened, she said "It’s unloaded. You think I’m nuts enough to hand you a loaded gun?" Mollified, Mulder took the weapon as she checked his throat, which was rapidly turning purple and blue. "You okay?"
"Fine," he rasped.
Starkweather then took back her service weapon and then handed him the Beretta. "No one has accused me of being fully sane before she said lightly as she put a fresh clip into her service weapon. "Don’t get all Dirty Harry on me with that thing. Keep the barrel pointed down," with her free hand she guided Mulder’s hands so that he held the gun properly. "Unless you’re ready to shoot and don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. That little bad boy doesn’t have that far of a range."
"Okay," he said in a shaky voice.
"What are you thinking?" she asked him seriously as they slowly walked to catch up with Reyes and Scully.
"What you said about that guy whose arm we ripped off," he said, wishing that there was a drinking fountain somewhere. His throat burned. "The biological engineering…"
"Like that fact that my mother and I were part of the experiments in gene alterations," she said. "Like the fact that someone deliberately poisoned my drinking water so I would miscarry." Her eyes constantly scanning the hallways for potential threats, Starkweather said "So you see, Mulder, I want answers just as bad as you do." Uncomfortable with the subject topic, she cleared her voice and called out "Scully, Reyes, any luck?"
While Mulder and Starkweather had been talking, Scully and Reyes had been pulling on doorknobs. "They’re all locked!" Reyes said.
"And there’s no place to swipe card on these doors either," Scully said, pushing her hair out of her face. "How are we going to get out of here?"
A door at the end of the hall opened. Mr. CSM, Spender and Rohrer all walked out.
"That’s just it, Miss Potter," Mr. CSM said as he adjusted his cuffs. "You’re not."
Scully and Reyes slowly backed away from Mr. CSM, Spender and Rohrer. Rohrer was still missing an arm but the glint in his narrowed eyes let them know that he was not handicapped in any way, shape or form.
Mulder clenched the gun but was too afraid of putting his finder on the trigger. Starkweather, meanwhile, was in firing stance the minute Scully and Reyes were behind them. He looked over at Starkweather and she looked back at him. Mulder saw the defeat in her eyes and he knew then that they were not going to get out of this.
<<Not without a miracle anyway…>>
Another door, behind them, opened and their miracle walked out.
She didn’t have to say that twice. Starkweather and the kids turned heel and fled. The minute the last person was through the door, Reyes slammed it shut behind them, once again, cutting off their light source.
"Oh good," came Mulder Leary’s voice from the abyss. "Another dark hallway."
"It’s alright," came Monica’s reassuring voice as she turned on her flashlight. "I know the way. Hurry," she said as she cut ahead of them and started walking.
As they hurried down the hallway, Starkweather and Mulder kept looking nervously over their shoulders, expecting the monsters they had left behind to appear behind them. After all, Rohrer had ripped through the elevator door as if it was tissue paper.
To their amazement and heartfelt relief, they arrived at the end of the hall with no unexpected guests. Not to say though, that the surprises ended there.
"Here we are," Monica said, shining her flashlight on the door at the end of the hall. With her long-legged gait that five-foot-two Starkweather envied, Monica walked over to the door and opened it. "After you," she said to Mulder Leary with a bewitching smile.
Mulder, realizing he still had Starkweather’s Beretta, handed it back to her gingerly before going through. Something felt familiar about this…
"Oh my God," Mulder said, peering through the door. "Scully, Reyes, come on."
"Hey!" Sam said, sitting straight up in her bed when Mulder, Scully and Reyes walked through her closet doorway, her comic book fluttering out of her hands. "What are you doing in my closet? And how did you all FIT in there?"
"Ever see Monsters Inc?" Starkweather asked blandly as she and Monica Reyes entered. "We’re the monsters. Boo."
"Come on, lets join the others in the living room," Monica said.
Starkweather grabbed Monica by the arm. "What the hell is going on?"
Starkweather looked back over at Sam. Sam shrugged disinterested and returned to her comic book.
Starkweather entered the living room to find Doggett, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully still speaking to Mitch and Gale intensely. "Mr. and Mrs. Leary, you can go now, you’re no longer needed." Mitch and Gale got up without a word and left.
"Mom?" Mulder Leary said as his parents passed him by without a word. "Dad?"
"Who are you?" Scully Potter asked Monica Reyes. Then she fells silent when saw Dana Scully sitting next to Fox Mulder, with little William in his arms.
"Jerilyn, Mulder," Monica Reyes stood in the middle of the room. "This is nothing but a dream."
Hearing that, all the other adults, and William, suddenly left.
" Are you on crack?" Starkweather added giving Monica an incredulous look. " If anything this has been a nightmare."
" Hey!" Mulder Leary protested. Starkweather absently patted him on the head, until he pulled away with a glare. He stalked to the other side room.
Monica shook her head. " I mean it’s an actual dream. None of this is real. Nothing that’s happened over the past few days has happened in reality."
Starkweather groaned. " Ben is right about you and Mulder-" she looked at Mulder Leary." I mean my brother- he says neither of you are wrapped too tight. First Mulder has this crazy idea about alternate worlds, and now you’re sprouting this crap about dreams. Remind me why I wanted to work for the X-Files, again?"
There was a shrewd looking Monica’s eyes. " You mean Ben said, don’t you?"
" Well, was a couple days ago, but he says it quite often."
" Jeri, Ben’s dead."
" What do you mean?" Fear filled Starkweather’s eyes. " Did something happen to him last night? You should have called me. Wait, why would someone had told you instead of calling me? There was no problem with my phone yesterday."
Starkweather couldn’t bear the look in Monica eyes. Why should there be so much pity there? " Honey, Ben has been dead since December of 2001. He died on the seventh of December, don’t you remember?"
" The seventh isn’t for four days!" Starkweather said hotly, but even then she said it, the stirring of a memory worried the back of her mind like a stubborn sharp-toothed dog. There was something about a funeral, and it didn’t have anything to do Price. " I know you think you’re an empath, you think you see the future now too?"
Mulder Leary gave her confused look. " That was over two years ago, agent Starkweather. Its April 4th 2003."
" No it’s not, it still March." Reyes McPhee told him.
" No, I know it’s April. It was my birthday when all this crap started, and that was April Fools’ Day." Mulder said with faltering confidence.
" That explains a lot about you." Starkweather mumbled.
" Your birthday isn’t for like two weeks." The look Reyes McPhee gave him was puzzled.
" Ha! I knew you weren’t 18." Starkweather declared triumphantly.
Mulder held up his hands in surrender. " If it’s not early April," and he shot Starkweather a look. " And I know it’s not December 2001, then when is it?"
Reyes McPhee and Monica Reyes said at the same time " It’s March 15th, 2003."
Starkweather reached up and ran her hands over her own head. Then she reached over and did the same thing to Mulder Leary.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"At least one of us must have a head injury. I’m just trying to figure out which one of us it is." Starkweather said as she ran her hands over her head again. Then stopped when she discovered her hair was not in its usual prim-and-proper bun, but hanging loose, down to her chin. "Oh," she said faintly, letting her hands fall. "It is just a dream."
Mulder Leary thought he was hallucinating for a moment when he saw tears welling up in her hazel eyes. "You alright?" he tentatively asked her. When she didn’t answer, he asked "How did this happen? How did we get here?"
"English translation, please," Starkweather said.
"We’re all living the same dream at the same time," Reyes McPhee said helpfully.
"How?" Mulder Leary said.
"Well, Reyes and I," Monica chuckled for a moment at how silly that statement sounded coming out of her own mouth "Are in touch with our own spirituality and psychic potential. So reaching out with our minds would be relatively easy in the right circumstances. It’s only logical that she and I would connect on another dimension."
"Jerilyn, you were in a coma for an extended period of time. As a last resort, you slipped into an unconscious state to escape your kidnappers."
"They what?" Mulder asked faintly.
"Nothing," Starkweather said.
"Like hell nothing," Reyes said. To Mulder Leary, she said "She was abducted-"
"By an organization who conducts secret experiments on human subjects in order to build the perfect weapon against the alien invasion."
"But they believe they are, which makes them dangerous," Reyes countered. Turning back to Mulder, she said "Mulder, our Mulder, tried to find her but he was captured and nearly killed, executed with full sanction of our government. He escaped and took Dana with him. We found Jerilyn only a few months ago. She was not in good condition."
"But you keep dreaming about it," Reyes said. "You re-live it every night. Only tonight was different. Tonight, your dreams brought you here. To these kids. To Dana and Fox and-"
"You miss your brother," Mulder Leary said. "As much as you complain about him, you’re worried about him and you want him to come home."
In a soft voice, Reyes McPhee asked "What about William?"
Looking steadfastly up at the ceiling, Starkweather said "The pains I was feeling were probably just the phantom pains from the little procedure the Syndicate performed on me." Looking at Reyes again, she said "So, that’s all fine and good. This is just another shining example about how fucked up Jerilyn Starkweather is. Whee. What about him?" she pointed at Mulder Leary. "How did he get involved?"
"Gee, thanks," Mulder Leary said dryly.
"Or maybe this is how his subconscious is working out the conflict he feels about his parents’ involvement with Sam’s disappearance and Price’s conception?" Starkweather said, glad that the subject of discussion was no longer on her.
"Maybe," Mulder said while thinking <<Or maybe you’re not the only one doing wishful thinking>>
He remembered Scully clasping his hand when Mr. CSM threatened to take him.
He clenched his hand in a fist.
"Well," Monica said. "I think this has been dragged out long enough. She smiled at Jerilyn. "See you on the other side," she said as she walked out of the room.
"Bye Mulder! I hope I remember what we dreamed about…err, except the soldier guy losing his arm. That was…" Reyes shuddered before she exited through another door.
Soon it was just Jerilyn Starkweather and Mulder Leary alone in the living room together.
"Well," Starkweather said. "It’s been real, it’s been fun…"
"But it hasn’t been real fun," Mulder finished for her.
"You take care of yourself kid," Starkweather admonished him. "From the way your friend was talking, you have a tendency to get into trouble."
Worry in his eyes, he said "What about you? Are you going to be okay?"
Still Mulder felt guilty for leaving her. From the way Monica Reyes was talking, her world, her universe, was an empty one. Before he could express his concern, he gripped his head and cursed.
Starkweather hurried to him. "Like I said," she said with a sigh, running her hands over his head again. "One of us had a head injury and it’s you buddy-boy. That’s probably how you got sucked into this dream. You’re more than asleep, you’re unconscious. You’ve got a lump the size of a goose egg here."
"I guess," Mulder Leary. "But-"
An arm snaked around her waist and then another across her chest.
"Just friends waiting for you back home?" Doggett breathed into her ear before kissing her neck.
She turned around and Doggett straightened up as she reached up to unknot his tie. "Hey, I had to get rid of the PG-13 element before I could do anything." Pulling his tie off and working on the buttons on his shirt, she said "And I can do anything I want to now. It’s my dream."
Though he was on his way out of the room like Agent Starkweather asked for him to, Mulder Leary paused just long enough to hear her say "And I can do anything I want to now. It’s my dream." With that in mind, he went to look to and see where Reyes and Scully, his Reyes and Scully, were.
He found both girls outside in the snow. They both looked a little puzzled still, though Scully more so than Reyes. "Haven't figured out how to wake up yet." Reyes admitted sheepishly. "I kind of thought I opened the front door and go outside and then, you know, wake up. Apparently it doesn't work like that."
Mulder glanced over at Scully who was standing little apart. He didn't think she could really hear them. "I guess we keep dreaming until it's time for us to wake up the real world. And I think you should go home and look for Doggett or something else to dream about that is more fun than this."
"That's ok, this isn't too bad to dream about."
"I really think you should go home. I'd like to talk to Scully alone."
A light dawned in Reyes' eyes, and then her look was one of concern. "Are you sure you want to do that? You know this is just a dream. You know it's not real to her."
He gave her sad smile. "The dream I can control is a lot more than I've had lately."
"Yeah…"She agreed. But she gave him a dispirited glance as she walked away. It made him a little mad, why did she think he needed her approval? He wouldn't have monitored her dreams.
As he knew she would be, Scully had been completely oblivious of what was going on, and she didn't seem animated again until he approached her with his arms held out.
She went to him readily enough, seeming pleased when he wrapped his arms around her. "What were we talking about again?" She murmured into his shoulder.
"I was just reminding you how much I love you."
Mulder held his breath waiting to see what she would say in reply.
He felt her nod against him. "Oh yeah. Now I remember."
If he'd expected it to feel good, he was very wrong. It fell more like his heart was breaking. All over again. So much easier to pretend when he didn't know that he was pretending… Even so, he didn't have it in him to be cruel to this Scully, a figment of his dreams or not.
"I should probably tell you more often." He said contritely to the dream he held in his arms.
"You should." She agreed. "I tell you every day, don't I?"
It was even worse when his dream stood up straighter to kiss him. So much worse.
March 16th, 2003
It was quiet except for a few faint beeps, and he was lying in bed. Not his bed, from the feel of it. Mulder was groggy when he sat up. He couldn’t sit all the way up, and that worried him at first, until he realized that there were electrodes attached to his forehead. The other ends were attached to machine that seemed to be collecting some sorted data, at least judging by the little arms that made marks on paper.
A woman in scrubs seemed to notice his movement and rushed over. " Oh, hi, Mulder. looks like you’re the first one to wake up. We won’t let Reyes sleep too much longer though, since you drove in together."
Looking over his shoulder he sees Reyes lying in a bed much like the one he seems to be lying in. it slowly comes back to him. He knows why he’s there. Both of them, actually. They’re there to earn extra credit for their social studies/psychology class. They’d thought a sleep lab sounded like the best experiment. Maybe because they were both fans of the movie Flat Liners. Not that either of them thought they’d die during this experiment.
The woman, a nurse he supposed, reminded him where he should go to change back into his street clothes, adding that they’ll be debriefing the experiment in a few minutes since Reyes was waking up. He was glad of the reminder of where the bathroom was, since it was really hard to remember much from the night before. Glancing in the mirror he looks at his throat, expecting it to be black and blue from the strangling he’d gotten. <<Oh yeah, that was just a dream.>>
There was, however, a cut on his forehead, and looking at that made him grimace. He had no trouble remembering how he’d gotten that.
Capeside High School
The day before
It sucked to be at the school on a Saturday night, but all the kids who’d signed up for extra credit experiments were expected to attend a meeting first. Even if, unlike Mulder and Reyes, they’d signed up for an experiment that wouldn’t be occurring for a month or more.
<<Of course he’s going to drone on for hours.>> Mulder thought, repressing a sigh. << Mister CSM never misses an opportunity to prove that he’s a windbag.>>
Mr. CSM looked rather smug as he addressed the twelve students grouped in front of him. " I hope you children-" <<children!>> Mulder thought indignantly. "- realize that it’s quite a rare privilege to be allowed to take part in academic psychology experiments at your age. Usually the volunteers are only those who are well above the age of eighteen, many of them graduate students. I was, however, able to convince a former associate that my students are mature enough to take part in something like this. I’m sure that you will not prove me wrong, hate to have my former colleague think that I-"
Mr. CSM went on at length for the next 20 minutes into how they ought to be on their best behavior when they were taking part in experiments. Looking around the room, it was quite clear that Mulder wasn’t the only one tempted to tell Mr. CSM where he could stuff his warnings. Even Reyes looked a little bit taken aback by their teacher’s apparent lack of faith in them. Finally, he let them go.
" C’mon Mulder, if we don’t hurry were going to be late."
" We wouldn’t want that." Mulder said with a sneer.
Just as Mulder was walking by a bust of Jung that was pompously displayed on Mr. CSM’s wall it tipped and fell.
"Oow!" Mulder yelped in pain, one hand reaching for the spot on his head where the bust had hit him.
" Oh gosh, are you ok?" Reyes gave him a concerned look and reached for his hand, he swatted her questing fingers away. " Oh, Mulder you’re bleeding!"
" Shit. Yeah, that does hurt. I’m going to have a helluva headache…"
Reyes reached for his arm to steady him, but he mumbled, " I’m OK. Just let me look at it in the mirror."
Leaving his slightly frantic, way too helpful, friend behind, Mulder staggered into the boys’ room. It didn’t look at that bad, but there was a lot of blood considering that scalp wounds are known to bleed a lot. Using some of the rough brown paper towels, he was able to get it to stop bleeding fairly quickly.
She still looked upset when he came back out. " Are you okay? Or should we go to the ER? I’m sure that Mr. CSM will understandable if we have to miss the experiment…"
" Nah, I’m all better." He said lifting the paper towels to show her. When she grimaced, he added. " Well, almost."
" Are sure? I know you are mostly doing this so I didn’t have to do it alone…"
She was right. If Doggett had been the class too, Mulder never would’ve volunteered. " C’mon, Reyes we’re going to be late, you said so yourself."
" How about I drive though? You know, just be safe. You’ll be lucky if you don’t end up with a lump on your forehead." She smiled a little. " That might make it hard to see to drive."
"Whenever, let’s go."
Neither of them noticed Mr. CSM watching them leave the building.
March 16th, 2003
" So, I bet that you’re both dying to know what that experiment was about." A slightly geeky looking lab technician said brightly. Way too brightly for not quite 5 a.m.
They both nodded wearily.
" What we were trying to do is see if we can get two people to dream the same thing. " Mulder and Reyes exchanged startled glances. " In this debriefing will see if we were successful." Man turned his head to look Mulder. " Why don’t you start by telling us what your remember about your dream?"
" Well, it was my birthday and I was listening to a CD, when all the sudden I found myself an office in Washington D.C."
" Yeah!" Reyes said excitedly. " And you ended up with a bunch of FBI agents who looked like us. And had the same names even."
" Uh huh. The one that looked like Doggett liked me, but the others…"
The lab geek looked about ready to die of happiness " This is so exciting! Go on!"
"…they thought he would there because of something sinister his dad did, or maybe because there was more than one world." Reyes said looking amused.
" Yeah and when I finally got home there was this strange stuff about a… soldier?" Mulder said.
" Super soldier."
" I wonder where the hell that came from." Mulder said hoping to convince Reyes that it’d just been dream wackiness.
" Who knows?" she shrugged.
" Also wonder about that stuff about Fowley having a baby." Mulder said. Reyes blushed little bit.
" Um, I think I might have put that in the dream." She turned to the lab geek. " Is that all possible?"
" I’m not sure. But I suppose it might have been."
"Ok yeah… I’ve got the future on the brain, babies, husbands, that sort of stuff." Her face turned little red.
" I wonder what that stuff about Mr. CSM was." Mulder said.
Reyes snorted. " Probably just our subconscious commenting on how we feel about him."
After several more minutes of gleeful interrogation by the lab geek, they were allowed to go on their merry way.
" Wow, that was weird, huh?" Reyes remarked as they walked out. " I never thought to be doing an experiment like that we signed up."
" Me neither. I picked it because you got the most credit for it because it was so long." Mulder confessed.
" I don’t think I would like that on a nightly basis." Reyes told him. " Dreams are supposed to be private, not a group thing. I hope you’re not too upset that I tagged along."
" Nope, not upset at all. It was actually kinda cool. It’s just too bad it wasn’t happier dream."
" Ha. At least it wasn’t a dirty dream. I’m not sure that I’d even want to see Doggett’s." she said with the smirk.
" You know what the worst part of that dream was?" Mulder asked Reyes as they got into his car. The sun had only begun to rise, so there were very few cars on the road yet, unlike there’d be in a couple of hours once the churchgoers woke up.
She didn’t say anything, seeming to give the question serious consideration. He turned on the radio while she thought about it.
I never thought I'd come back around
I never thought I'd see you again
And it took one night when I packed my life
And one to take it out again
I took a look at a photograph
Where we didn't even notice the lens
Something came to life from that 3x5
It was you and me and innocence
This is what I want
This is what I need
This is exactly what I've been waiting for
This is what I want
This is what I need
This is exactly what I've been waiting for
" Having an FBI agent point her gun at you? Being stuck away from home with no way to get back? Having Spender try to kill us? That scary super soldier thing lose an arm in the elevator?" He shook his head each time, even though she shuddered at the last mention.
" The worst part was in the dream Scully and I were back together."
" Oh man…" She moaned sympathetically. " I guess that would be the worst part for you."
" I dunno, maybe all of that crap being real would have been worth it if Scully would forgive me."
" Awww, Mulder…"
I set it up in a picture frame
Then I put a nail into the wall
Time has put lines here on my face
But it doesn't matter now at all
" Yeah. I know ‘ hold on, it will get better’. But it’s really hard to re-earn someone’s trust, you know?"
Reyes just nodded sadly. " It will get better, though, Mulder. Really. Didn’t you say that you talked to her last weekend when you went to get burgers at the Icehouse?"
Mulder gave a derisive snort. " A civil conversation about a lunch order is miles from where I want to be, Reyes. Miles and Miles."
" One step at a time though, you know?"
" I know."
Because it was me and you when we were together
It was me and you when we were apart
It was me and you in my mind and
It was me and you in my heart
This is what I want
This is what I need
This is exactly what I've been waiting for
" Baby steps, right?" He gave her a weak smile.
" That’s the ticket." Reyes agreed.
" I just hope it doesn’t take nine months. Like a baby." He added when she gave him a look. " That’s way too long."
The look in her eyes said it all: even another minute was too long, but he’d have to keep fighting the good fight and hope that she’d come back around again.
It took so long to find it and some they never will
A color print it took time and it held it still.
This is what I want
This is what I need
This is exactly what I've been waiting for
This is what I want
(It took so long to find it)
This is what I need
(and some they never will)
This is exactly what I've been waiting for
Autopilot Off " What I want"
After Mr. CSM spoke to the lab geek, he picked up a tape recorder and began to speak into it:
" My theory proved correct. Having a head injury, however minor, does seem to make one more susceptible to having another person be able to observe and participate, minimally, in their dream. This pair of subjects seem to have far greater success than the previous pairs that did not contain any one with an injury."
He smirk the little to himself. Setting up that bust to fall on Mulder had been a stroke of genius. And there was no student that he would have preferred to have it break on. Something about young Leary just rubbed him the wrong way. It had been an ugly statue anyway.
He continued to recite to the tape recorder." Results on parasitic dreaming show some promise. At the moment I’m not sure of the practical applications for this but I’m sure they will prove to be quite lucrative. This might be the thing that helps me regain some of the financial potential that I gave up when I lowered myself to work with these mewling infants. Alas, molding the next generation is more important than creature comforts…"
March 16th, 2003
Dr. Starkweather’s residence
4:55 AM Eastern Standard Time
The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was a big, furry, orange face.
"Hello beautiful," Starkweather said, reaching out to stroke her cat.
Caesar mewed and rubbed his face against her chin.
"It’s Sunday," she whined. "I want to sleep in."
"Cat, I didn’t sleep very well last night," she started to say but her powerful memory betrayed her, flashed back scenes of last night’s dream like a slide show. Staring at the ceiling as she remembered the dream, she reached up and touched her hair.
Chin length. Short again. Dammit.
She closed her eyes and tried to shake the dream off. After all, she had experienced worse. Last night’s dream was a welcome change from the usual gauntlet of reoccurring nightmares.
A slow smile unfurled on her face.
Especially the ending to this particular dream.
Then she frowned. Of course the dream had ended *just* as it was getting good.
"Alright, alright," she said, sitting up. Caesar leapt to the floor, trotting out the door, knowing victory and food were at hand.
Having kicked off the covers sometime during the night, Starkweather simply rolled out of bed and shuffled out the bedroom into the giant room that served as a living room and a kitchen.
"Mornin’ Doc," came a muffled voice from her couch.
Starkweather froze. "What are you doing here?"
Doggett sat up. His hair stuck straight up and he had a day old beard on his face. "I was trying to sleep but your damn cat was caterwauling."
"But why are you trying to sleep here?"
"Oh," Suddenly Starkweather felt very stupid. Doggett had called late last night begging to crash at her place. He had been stuck in the X-Files office the day before trying to catch up on the mountains of backlogged paperwork while fighting a head cold at the same time. When he finally figured it out that he was fighting a losing battle, he had felt too drained to attempt the drive home to Falls Church. Starkweather’s place was closer.
"Sorry, Papa John, I’m not awake. Are you feeling any better?"
"No," Doggett said pathetically. "I kept having fucked up dreams all night."
"You and me both," Starkweather mumbled as Caesar wound his way around her legs as a reminder of what her real purpose in life was. "Alright, alright I’m going, I’m going."
As Starkweather placated her cat and as Doggett lay back down on the couch again, the phone rang.
"I’m not here," Doggett mumbled.
"No shit," Starkweather said, tempted to let it go to voice mail. But when she saw the caller ID said REYES, M, she picked it up. "What?"
"Then you shouldn’t drink tequila before going to bed," Starkweather said grumpily.
"You shouldn’t stereotype, I don’t like tequila," Reyes said primly.
"Well, my mom and the Admiral were both Irish so knock yourself out with the politically incorrect ethnic joke of your choice."
"Anyway," Reyes said, filing away that little tidbit about Starkweather’s ancestry for future usage, "The strange thing about the dream was I felt like my soul was transported to another dimension. Another world. An alternative universe so to speak."
"Most of those theories speak on a molecular level. You have to realize that the atomic world is vastly different than from ‘our’ world and reality as most people see it. Most scientists believe that Everett’s theory can only be applied to the micro level." Starkweather rubbed her forehead. "I feel like I’ve already had this conversation."
"You did," Reyes said. "With Mulder."
"In your dream last night," Reyes said.
"Reyes, it’s way too damn early for this," Starkweather mumbled. "Can we discuss out-of-mind experiences some other time? Like never? Does never work for you?"
"Just answer one question for me, please."
"Did you dream about a boy who looked like Mulder?"
Starkweather didn’t answer but she bit her lower lip.
"I thought so," Reyes sounded supremely smug. Then she sounded giddy. "This is so exciting! I’ve always wanted to have an out-of-body experience. Do you think John had the same dream as well?"
"I wouldn’t ask him about it," Starkweather said. "At least not today."
"That’s true," Reyes said. "Oh, my puppy is barking. I got to go before he wakes up my neighbors. We’ll talk later, okay?"
"Right," Starkweather said. "And I’m Martha Stewart."
"What’d Monica want?"
"Oh she wanted to toss some theories around about alternative universes but I said it was too damn early for that kind of shit. Oh, and thank me for sparing you her lunacy this early in the morning."
"Thank yo-" Doggett started to say but then he sneezed.
"And thank you for coming to spread disease in my apartment," Starkweather sighed.
"Sorry," Doggett said, sounding and looking truly piteous.
"I’m going back to bed," Starkweather said. "Do you need anything?" Doggett shook his head. Starkweather turned to go back to her bedroom, but paused to ask. "What were you dreaming about that was so weird?"
Starkweather pressed her lips together and shook with suppressed laughter as she went back to her bedroom.
She heard Doggett call feebly from the living room "And stop laughing!"
In an alternative universe far far way…
Mulder and Scully are both in bathing suits, and they’re walking hand in hand on the pristine beach of some island far away from Capeside. A toddler throws his beach ball, and it rolls past their feet. Scully bends to retrieve it-
Mulder looks up from his daydreams. There’s a worried looking woman with her arms full of envelopes a few rows away from him. " Over here." He calls to her. The arrival of the much awaited photo delivery is greeted with a lot of enthusiasm from his classmates, anything to distract from polynomials.
It only takes her a few steps to reach Mulder’s desk." Oh good." She says, handing him an envelope with his name on it. " If there are any problems, you can call the photographer. I don’t suppose that he could retake them, but you know, discounts."
" Ok." He agrees, giving her a look. For an adult, she doesn’t seem too professional to him.
Unfortunately, he’s actually expected to be paying attention during math, so he’s forced to shove- carefully- the envelope of pictures into his bag, without even taking the time to look at them.
It’s not until he’s home and getting ready to do his homework that he remembers the picture. He pulls them out, then dumps them on his bed. He doesn't look too goofy in his tux, he decides, so he won’t protest much when Gale insists on hanging one of the bigger photos on the wall in the living room, and pointing it out to everyone over the age of thirty when they walk into the house.
Scully, however, takes his breath away, half because of the perfect image she presents in the pictures, half from the memories of that night. He’s not big on fashion, but even he can tell that the silky green dress she wore looks so good on her that you’d think that it’d been made for her. Everyone thought she looked stunning. Especially Krycek. When he thinks of what had happened between the two of them at the end of the night, he has to smile.
Grabbing a pair of scissors off his desk, he trims himself a wallet-sized photo, knowing that Mitch and Gale will claim most of them to send to various relatives. Since they paid for the pictures, he guesses he can’t complain too much as long as he’s left with enough to trade with friends. Besides, Scully ordered pictures too, and that halves the people he has to give them to.
Pulling out his wallet, he notices that there’s not an empty space to put the picture in. He looks at each photo in turn, wondering which one he should sacrifice to make room. A picture of Price at his first birthday, and another when he was only two weeks old. Mulder and Sam with their arms slung around each other’s necks, taken not long after she’d begun to talk- at least to him. One of him and Scully and Doggett when they were in kindergarten; they were at missing at least one front tooth. Others of his friends. At the very back of the bunch he finds the photo that lead him and Scully to Mystic Connecticut a year and a half ago. Sam looks so sad in the photo…as best as they could tell she’d only been four years old. He pulls it out and presses it between the pages of his yearbook from the year before. Unhappy Sam isn’t something he’s eager to think about, especially considering how different that is from how she is now.
Of course, he has to take all the pictures out to rearrange them, since he wants to put the prom picture first. It’s as he’s manhandling the wallet that something falls fluttering by his hand. He finishes putting the pictures back in before bothering to reach down to the floor to get it.
Once it’s in his hand he can see what it is: a business card. With a cell phone number scribbled on the back of it in large girlish handwriting. He stares at it, momentarily stunned.
<<But that didn’t happen. I know it didn’t. It was all part of that dream experiment. I never went to DC, I never met an agent Starkweather, or agents with the same names as me and my friends. I never left Capeside.>>
Gale calls for him, telling him that dinner is ready. He drops the business card onto his desk. << There has to be a rational explanation.>> Yet as he’s leaving the room he looks back at his desk and wonders…
The End (MC Universe)
Melanie Doggett’s residence
May 1, 2003
"… you worry too much," Doggett said to Starkweather before getting out of his truck.
Starkweather arched an eyebrow but said nothing as Doggett walked around to the back to get William out of his car seat. But she thought <<Pot, kettle, black>>
Once William was in Doggett’s arms, Starkweather climbed out of Doggett’s truck, never an easy feat it was a fully loaded dual Ford pick up truck, the equivalent, to someone as short as Starkweather, to a tank. Still, she got out as gracefully as she could and then grabbed William’s luggage.
Doggett’s sister met them on her porch. "My first customer," crooned Melanie, reaching out to stroke William’s hair. William, playing shy and coy, smiled at Melanie and buried his face in Doggett’s chest. "And a flirt," Melanie’s blue eyes sparkled. Looking up at her "little" brother, she asked "How long are you and Jerilyn going to be in Savannah?"
"Of course I will," Doggett said, handing William off to Starkweather in one swift move as he took William’s bags from her. "Here, lemme take these up to William’s room."
"Fine," Doggett said. "Hey, Mel, I want to talk to you in private."
Melanie shook her head. "You two," she said as she looped her arm through Doggett’s. "Be back in a hot minute," she said to Starkweather and William as she led Doggett into the house.
Starkweather looked down at the boy on her arms and playfully tapped him on his button nose. "Now you be good for Melanie while Papa John and Aunt Jeri are gone," she told him.
"Me be good," William said.
"No, it’s ‘I’ll be good’" Starkweather corrected him.
"I be good."
"Close enough," Starkweather said, starting to hug him, but as soon as she cuddled William close to her body, something in her coat pocket poked her. "Ow," she said, shifting William to her other arm. Digging in her pocket, she pulled out a pacifier. "What the hell?" Starkweather said, examining it.
"Binky!" William said, reaching for it.
"No, Will, big boys don’t have binkies," Starkweather said, holding it out of William’s grasp. "Besides, I don’t remember your mother letting you have one after you started getting teeth." Looking at the pacifier closer, her thin brown brows crinkled together when she saw a strange word written on it.
"Price…?" she wondered aloud.
William lit up and reached for the pacifier again. "Price!" he squealed. "Price my friend!"
Starkweather stared at the toddler in her arms and remembered a baby from her dreams, a baby with William’s deep blue eyes.
She shuddered. Then she kissed William on the top of his head.
"You’re a weird little kid, you know that?" Starkweather murmured into his hair. "Unfortunately, you get that from your dad."
"Me want Price," William said. "Price my friend."
*THE END… for now*
Quantum Physicshttp://www.jracademy.com/~jtucek/science/what.html http://www.jracademy.com/~jtucek/science/terms.html http://library.thinkquest.org/3487/qp.html http://everythingforever.com/everett.htm http://members.tripod.com/~EshlemanW/
Gribbin, John. In Search of Schrödinger's Cat. Bantam Books, Toronto: 1984. ISBN 0-553-34103-0
Rae, Alastair. Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? Cambridge University Press, London: 1986. ISBN 0-521-26023-3.
Genetic Testing of Foodhttp://ehealthforum.com/health/topic893.html
X-Files Main Titles, Mark Snow
Mulder’s Creek Theme (Stranded, Plumb)
Thanks Bro, Filter
Psycho Future, Girls Against Boys
My Sister, Julianna Hatfield
I Did It, Dave Matthews Band
Purple Rain, Prince
Girl with A Short Skirt and A Long Jacket, Cake
Dude Looked Like A Lady, Aerosmith
All Along the Watchtower, Dave Matthews
This is What I Want, Autopilot Off
|Mulder's Creek series||The Starkweather series|