Title: Coach II
Author: Gillian Leigh
Feedback: gilleigh@hotmail.com
Distribution: Archive where you'd like, but just email me and let me know where it's going in addition to keeping all of the headers attached, please.
Categories: AU,SR
Disclaimer: Well, we all know who Mulder, Scully, and any other recognizable characters belong to, and we all know it's not me.

Summary: Sequel to Coach.

Author's Notes: It's Christmastime, one year and six months after Coach ended. Shortly after her release from the hospital once her cancer had gone into remission, AD Skinner offered Dana the position of Head Pathologist at Quantico. She gratefully took it, and became an honorary member of the X-Files investigative unit, though she can't technically be Mulder's partner because they're married. John Doggett and Monica Reyes, who were not mentioned in the first story at all, have existed all along, and Monica, Dana's best friend, works with Mulder on the X-Files. Diana was moving shortly after Christmas to France to be with her fiancé, George, and Mulder won a custody battle, which ensured that the kids would stay with him full-time once she left

For many years, Fox Mulder had not believed in miracles, and with good reason. He'd lost his sister, his wife had taken his children from him, and he found love, only to learn that she too could very well end up leaving him. The day she told him that her cancer had gone into remission, he could believe again. He was witness to a miracle.

"Fox?" He blinked, realizing he had been staring off into space. His attention focused on his wife, who stood before him, making Christmas cookies. She had her oven-mitted hands balled into fists and resting on her hips, her eyebrow raised as high as it would go.

"Did you hear a word I just said?" she asked, staring him down. His cheeks flushed.

"No," she sighed and shook her head.

"I said that Skinner wants me to come in early tomorrow to do that autopsy on the body for the Fletcher case."

"Oh," he responded. "Okay," he noticed that she was still watching him expectantly. "What?" he asked. "What else?"

"That means that you'll have to finish all of the wrapping and put the presents under the tree..." His eyes widened.

"Oh no." Dana smiled.

"You'll be fine," he said, placing both of her hands on his shoulders, and rose up on her toes to kiss him. Mulder kissed her and then picked her up off the floor, placing an arm behind her knees, and another one across her back, carrying her like he'd carried her over the threshold after the return from their honeymoon seven months before.

"Fox!" she exclaimed. "What the hell are you doing?" He kissed her again.

"I don't know, Mrs. Mulder, something about you wearing an apron, and being all covered in flour... it really turns me on," Mulder said, kissing her once more. She grinned, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"You can't forget the oven mitts," she whispered in his ear.

"Oh yes, the oven mitts..," he said, and started walking toward the stairs to the second floor. He kissed her neck, and she threw her head back and laughed. Once inside their bedroom, Mulder pushed the door shut with his foot. He set Dana down on the bed, and pulled off her oven mitts, flinging them across the room. He climbed into the bed with her, and covered her lips with his once again, reaching around her waist to untie the apron. She toed off her shoes, and abruptly pulled back from his kiss.

"Damn it! My cookies are burning!"

Mulder opened his eyes at the sound of a crash in the kitchen. He was aware that while it was still dark outside, his bed was very, very empty, and it was ten minutes after five on Christmas morning. His muscles tensed, and he reached for the gun on his beside table, but set it back down a moment later. The crash was followed by a stream of loud swear words, uttered by none other than his wife. He smiled and shook his head, rising up out of the bed.

Slowly descending the steps, Mulder paused to both watch and listen to his wife. The words coming out of her mouth would make her father proud. She was picking up the various pots and pans which had fallen from the cabinet, making the horrific crashing noise.

"Stupid goddamn pieces of---" Mulder laughed aloud despite himself and Dana looked up, startled at his sudden presence. "Jesus, Fox, you scared me!" she exclaimed, holding a frying pan in one hand and a cookie sheet in the other.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," he said, setting the pans down on the counter. She bit her lip, and he smiled and gently kissed the top of her head.

"I'll just make sure to tell Ahab about the kind of words you used to describe the lovely Teflon pans that he and your mother got us for our wedding..." She raised both of her eyebrows.

"You wouldn't..," he said. He smiled and said, "Wouldn't I?" She slapped him playfully.

"Merry Christmas, you big jerk," Dana quipped, rising up on her toes and giving him a kiss on the lips. "You can go back to bed if you like."

"Merry Christmas to you too... And what in the hell are you doing up so early? The kids aren't here; we don't have to play Santa Claus for Gwen..." Mulder questioned, studying his wife. She was wearing the cream-colored satin pajamas which were known to unbutton themselves from time to time.

Noticing where his gaze had wandered to, Dana buttoned the top button of the shirt before saying, "I have to make food for twenty-two people. I'm getting started as early as possible."

"Twenty-two?!" he exclaimed. "Are you sure?" She sighed.

"My mother and father, Bill, Tara; their kids, Matt, Andrew and Amy; Charlie, Ellen ;their kids, Jennifer, Jeremy, David and Mary; Missy; Eve, Jake, Gwen, you, me, and the Gunmen."

"Holy crap," Mulder exclaimed, making her laugh. "Where are we supposed to put them all?"

"That's why they pay you the big bucks, Agent Mulder, so you can figure out just how we're going to do this," she replied, pulling various food items out of the refrigerator and cabinets.

"The only ones spending the night are my mom and dad. Everyone else managed to get hotel rooms, because I called two months ago and booked them," she replied, grinning up at him. "Of course Eve, Jake and Gwen will be here, but they have their rooms. But we still have to figure out how we're going to seat everyone for dinner, and I leave that to you..." Mulder sighed. It was going to be a long day.

Mulder was quite proud of himself when he found a way for all twenty-two family members to fit in their dining and living rooMs. The dining room table had had all four of its leaves put in, making it long enough for the twelve adults, and the kids were banished to the living room. Four folding tables had been placed end to end for them, and Eve was in charge of keeping things calm. Dana was also very proud, and rightfully so, that she had managed to get all of the food done in time, and get the presents under the tree before her mother arrived. There was a general hum of conversation around the table, as several different conversations were occurring at once.

"So, Dana, when are you and Fox going to get busy and give your father and me a new grandbaby?" Maggie asked. Across the table from her, her daughter turned a terrible shade of red, and suddenly became totally speechless. Mulder smiled and leaned over and kissed his wife on her reddened cheek. When his complacent grin remained, Maggie's eyes lit up.

"Dana Katherine, are you pregnant?" The whole table became silent, and Dana wanted nothing more than to crawl under the table and hide. She swallowed and looked down at her plate.

"Well, now that you mention it---" she responded quietly, and paused, reaching over and taking hold of Mulder's hand. "Yes I am." The dining room erupted in various forms of congratulations, and Mulder looked over at his wife, and kissed her gently on the lips.

"Well," he said. "That's one way to break the news to them."

Eve walked in from the living room, holding the cordless phone in her hand.

"Dad, it's Mr. Skinner," he said, handing Mulder the phone.

"Merry Christmas, Sir!" Mulder exclaimed, his mood light because of the holiday and the congratulations on the baby. He got up and walked out of the noisy dining room and into the office, closing the door behind him. Dana smiled as she watched him go, and then went back to talking to her father and mother.

"When did you find out?" her mother asked, smiling at her. "And how far along are you?"

"I went to the doctor to have a formal test done about three days ago, after I took one of those 'at-home' ones. The doctor believes I'm just over a month along. I'm due in mid-August," he said. Her father smiled and embraced her.

"I'm so happy for you, Starbuck," he said, kissing the top of her head.

"Once the baby's born, Ahab, I think the tradition of reading Moby Dick should be kept," Dana said. "And you---." She stopped mid-sentence, because her husband came back into the dining room and stood just off to the side, still holding the phone.

"What is it?" she asked, raising her eyebrow.

"Skinner needs us down at Headquarters within the hour," he said simply.

"But Fox, it's Christmas! What is so damn important that it can't wait until tomorrow?"

"There's been a murder and a kidnapping," Mulder said.

"Isn't that something for Violent Crimes? And why does he want me there? Do they have a body already?" his wife asked. Mulder shook his head. "Then what is it?"

"Jenn Carver was murdered tonight, Dana. And your stepdaughter Elena is missing."

It was three a.m. Pacific Time before Mulder, Dana and Monica's plane touched down in San Diego. They stood at the counter of the car rental agency, and Mulder had his arm around his wife, who was falling asleep as she leaned against him.

"Danes," he said, putting his arm around her shoulder. She jerked awake.


"Why don't you and Monica go sit down? I'll take care of getting the car," he said. He was surprised when she didn't argue with him and went over to sit down. Monica looked at Mulder questioningly and then went and sat down an empty chair beside Dana. She'd been sitting for about twenty seconds when she stood up unsteadily and approached the counter.

"Excuse me," he said to an unoccupied attendant. "Where's your restroom?" The woman pointed to her left, and Dana said, "Thank you." Darting off down the hall past her husband, she burst into the bathroom and into an open stall before throwing up everything she'd eaten for dinner the night before.

She stepped up to the sink and splashed cool water on her face and cupped her hands together, rinsing her mouth with it. She dried off her face with a paper towel, and took a moment to study her reflection.

"Dana, you look like hell," she muttered to herself. Thinking of how just twelve hours before she'd been celebrating the Holiday with her family, and now she stood in a Lariat rental agency, securing a car so she could investigate the disappearance of her stepdaughter, and the murder of the girl's mother. Her lower lip trembled, and try as she might, she couldn't fight off the tears which came so forcefully. The door to the restroom opened.

"We're ready to go," Monica said, and then rushed to her friend's side and embraced her. "Oh, Dana, what's wrong?"

"This whole damn thing is wrong," Dana replied through her tears. "Someone murdered Mark's ex-wife on Christmas and then kidnapped my stepdaughter. On Christmas, Monica! What kind of sick bastard would do this?! She's fourteen years-old, for God's sake, what could they want with her?" Monica, not knowing how to respond, dampened a paper towel for Dana to put on her face. She handed it to Dana.

"Thank you, Mon. This is just --- this is so difficult. It's complicated and messy, and emotional, and I'm scared," he said, quietly. "I've never been this scared in my entire life. Not when Mark died, not when I had cancer."

"I'm so sorry that you have to go through this. I know we'll find her," Monica said. Dana smiled sadly.

"Thank you." She paused, and looked downward before continuing. "There's something I should tell you." Monica raised her eyebrows. "I'm pregnant."

"Congratulations!" she squealed, hastily hugging Dana.

Both smiling, the pair exited the restroom, and nearly hit Mulder with the door. Upon seeing his wife's slightly reddened face, his expression morphed into concern.

"Are you alright?" he asked frantically, grabbing her arm.

"I'm okay. Just a little nausea and some hormones, that's all," she reassured him. "Let's get to the motel and get some sleep." Her husband nodded in agreement, and the trio walked out to the parking lot to claim their car. in the moment before she opened her eyes, Dana Mulder felt that everything was normal as she slept peacefully in her warm bed. She was at home, and her stepchildren were sleeping in their respective rooms as her husband slumbered beside her. When she opened her eyes, she remembered. She was not safe at home; she was in the Sand and Pebble Motor Lodge in San Diego, California, because her stepdaughter was missing and the girl's mother had been murdered.

"I was hoping it had all been a terrible dream," she whispered. Her husband momentarily ceased tying his tie and came over and sat on the edge of the bed beside her.

"Are you going to be able to do this?" he asked, looking at her with concern.

"I don't really have much of a choice, now do I?" she asked, sitting up.

"You do have a choice, Danes. You only have to be here to hear the reading of Jenn's will. You can leave the casework up to us and go home. You don't have to be here for all of this," Mulder said. His wife raised her eyebrows.

"So I can sit at home every day agonizing, waiting, and wondering? If we're going to find Elena, I'm going to be here when it happens, no matter how things turn out," he said, pushing the covers off and climbing out of the bed.

"Right now, I'm going to take a shower," he said. Mulder sat on the edge of the bed, and sighed, covering his face with his hands. He was not ready to deal with the emotional overload associated with this case. There was a knock at the door, and he opened it to find his partner on the other side.

"You guys ready?" she asked.

"Dana's in the shower. She'll need probably another twenty minutes," he replied. Monica nodded.

"Well, I'm going to make a breakfast run, what do you want?" she asked, pulling a cigarette from her purse.

"Just get me a coffee, black, and get Dana a cup of decaf and a plain bagel with light cream cheese. That's about the only thing she can tolerate in the morning," he replied. Monica nodded.

"I'll meet you back here, and then we have to go over to the police station to meet with the local cops and get all the necessary info, and to talk with the field agents working on this," he said, still holding the unlit cigarette between her two fingers. Mulder nodded, and Monica walked away. He closed the door and walked over to the closet and pulled his jacket from it. He heard the bathroom door open beside him, and turned to find Dana leaning against the doorframe, wearing her bathrobe, her hair still wet from the shower. Her eyes met his and she said shakily, "What if she's dead?"

Dana had an overwhelming sense of dread as their Crown Victoria pulled up to Jenn Carver's house. Mulder stopped the car, and all three agents got out.

"Are you okay?" he asked, stepping closely to her. She gritted her teeth and sighed in aggravation.

"I'm tired of you checking on me every five minutes, Fox ! I'm an agent, and a pathologist, and that is how I am looking at this case. I'm not looking at this case as Elena's stepmother. And just because I'm pregnant and a little emotional doesn't mean I can't handle this, okay? Just let me *be*!" she shouted. Several police

officers and agents milling around the crime scene stopped and looked at them, but then turned away when Dana glared at them.

A male agent approached them. He was tall, the same height as Mulder, with short brown hair. He extended his hand to Monica, who was standing just to the couple's left.

"John Doggett," he said, showing his badge to the group at large.

"Monica Reyes, Fox Mulder, and Dana Scully," Monica said, and Doggett shook each of their hands. Dana put on her game face, as did Mulder, and they all walked with Agent Doggett as he briefed them on what had happened so far in the investigation.

"The local 911 operator received a frantic call from a young girl at about six o'clock PST. We have the tape right here," he said, leading them over to a satellite van. He hit the play button, and Dana's stomach wrenched at the sound of Elena's voice as she whispered to the operator.

"He's still in the house.."

"Sweetie, I need you to tell me where you are. What's your address?" the operator asked.

"He killed my mom," Elena whispered back, her voice breaking. Dana could hear that her breathing was ragged.

"What's your address? I need you to tell me what your address is so I can send the police," the operator interjected patiently.

"He's here... He's getting closer... I can't..." A gruff male voice interrupted, and Dana could hear Elena scream before the call was abruptly cut short.

"Elena?" the operator said. "Elena, are you there?"

Doggett turned off the tape, and when he turned to face the agents, he found that Scully was trembling.

"Agent Scully, are you alright?"

"I'm fine," she replied shortly, looking him in the eye. She did not need another man checking up on her. "What time did the police arrive on scene?"

"At about 6:35. The call had to be traced in order for the police to get an address, and they got here as soon as possible."

"Both Elena and her kidnapper were gone by then?" Monica asked. Doggett nodded, and then continued speaking.

"I'd like to take you all inside the house." The three agents nodded, and as Agent Doggett led them into the house, Dana ignored the worried looks both Monica and her husband were giving her.

Looking around, the agents could see that the house had been ransacked. The tables had been turned over, and all the drawers were pulled out of the desks and tables, in search of money or other valuables.

Doggett led them into the kitchen.

"When the police arrived, there was something burning in the oven. The victim had been cooking dinner. We believe the suspect broke in through that ground-level window, and startled the victim..."

"She has a name, you know, Agent Doggett," Dana interjected. "Her name is Jenn Carver, and She's a person. Her name is not 'the victim', and neither is her daughter's." Doggett looked a little taken back, and became apologetic, remembering that he had been warned that Agent Scully had ties to the case.

"I'm sorry Agent Scully. I thought it would make it less personal. I'll refer to them by their names," he said. Her eyes met his, stone cold and devoid of emotion.

"Thank you, Agent Doggett. And I'll have you know there's no need to protect me. I'm on this case as an agent, and I'm looking at it professionally." Doggett nodded, and then continued speaking. Monica exchanged a worried look with Mulder, who was dreading this case more heavily than he had been before.

"Based on the call to 911 and the evidence we found here, Elena must've been upstairs when the man or group of men broke in. It is the belief of the agents and officers who have gone over the crime scene so far that Ms. Carver was struck over the head with this rolling pin," he said, holding up an evidence bag with the bloody rolling pin inside, "and then dragged up the stairs to her bedroom." The agents followed the ever increasing trail of blood up the stairs and into the first room on the right. "The one non- serrated knife missing from Ms. Carver's kitchen set was found over on the other side of her bed, next to her body. He slit her throat and stabbed her numerous times in the chest and abdomen. Blood loss is what led to her death." Dana stood back as both Mulder and Monica walked over to the other side of the bed. They both looked up at her, and she slowly walked around the bed herself. The body had been removed, but the blood stain made the knot in her stomach pull tighter, and she covered her mouth with her hand.

"Oh, my God," she whispered. "Poor Jenn."

They finished their tour of the house in Elena's room. Her closet door was smashed in, and her drawers had all been ransacked as well. The portable phone was found in the closet as well, smeared with Elena's blood. There were only a few drops of her blood around the room, suggesting that she hadn't been hurt too badly. They'd also found drops of blood that when type crossed did not match Elena's or Jenn's. It was the suspect's blood, which meant that Elena fought back. Other than his blood, the police had nothing else to go on. They hadn't found a fingerprint, or a strand of hair, but the forensic investigation of the scene was set to continue for at least another day.

Sitting cross-legged on the bed in their hotel room, Dana silently studied Elena's silver cross, which had been torn from her neck in the struggle; it was sealed in an evidence bag. Rolling the chain back and forth between her thumb and index finger, she remembered the day she's given her stepdaughter that cross. The morning of her wedding day, she'd given the cross to Elena to wear with her bridesmaid's dress. It was more than a simple adornment to Elena, who hadn't really had a religion before she met Dana. Even before she and Mark were married, Dana would take Elena to church with her, because the girl expressed an interest in theology and Catholicism. Elena had quickly adopted the religion, and even talked her father into going. The smile she'd worn at the memory quickly faded, and Dana choked back a sob, setting the evidence bag down on the bed.

She stood up and walked to the window of their motel room and pushed the heavy curtains back. The night sky was clouded over, and the rain fell lightly, making pin pricks in the puddles. Mulder had gone out to buy them dinner, and though she'd insisted she wasn't hungry, he had insisted that she eat to keep her strength up. She sighed and allowed her forehead to rest on the cool glass of the window, watching as her breath fogged the glass each time she exhaled. For the second time in as many hours, she glanced skyward and uttered a silent prayer.

"How's Dana doing, Dad? This Elena thing is all over the news..." Eve said. Mulder sat in his car in the parking lot of the restaurant he'd just ordered their dinner from.

"She's taking it really hard. She insists on being involved in everything, but it's killing her emotionally. She's even insisted on doing Jenn's autopsy tomorrow before the reading of the will," he replied, running his hand over his face.

"Grandma Maggie said she was really worried about Dana and what it must be doing to her in her condition... Is she alright? She's not sick again is she? Has her cancer relapsed?" Eve asked, twirling the phone cord around her finger.

"She's fine, Eve. Don't worry. She was just feeling a bit under the weather," he said. "The flu or something. But she's fine. Don't worry."

"Okay," she responded. "Tell Dana we miss her and we love her."

"I'll tell her. Make sure to send everyone our love, and hopefully we'll be home soon," he replied.

"Bye Dad."

"Bye Eve."

Mulder pocketed his cell phone and started the car, heading back to the motel. He reached their room and knocked at the door.

"It's open!" Dana called from within. He opened the door and set the bag with their dinners inside on the small table with two chairs which sat next to their bed. Dana emerged from the bathroom a moment later, wearing her pajamas and bathrobe.

"It smells good," she commented, sitting down at the table. "What did you get?"

"There's a great Thai restaurant the next block over, so I stopped there. I hope you don't have any objections," he said as he removed the containers from the paper bag. She shook her head.

"No, the baby only objects to Mongolian food. Thai passes the test," she replied, opening the containers he had set in front of her.

"What happened to having 'no appetite', Mrs. Mulder?" he asked, teasingly, passing her the bottle of iced tea she had requested. She looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

"Has it occurred to you that you passed on your appetite to all of your children, this baby included?" she asked, dumping rice and several other entrees onto her plate. He smiled at her and shook his head, and he was relieved to see her smile back.

The meal was mostly silent, but the silence was not uncomfortable, and Mulder watched with amazement as his wife ate more than he did, and even finished off whatever he left on his plate. Once the garbage had been taken care of, they brushed their teeth, and climbed into bed. They then spooned up and fell asleep.

Jenn Carver's autopsy was the most difficult Dana could ever remember doing. Several time she had to stop her tape recorder to steal into the bathroom to either cry her eyes out or throw up. The police weren't wrong. The woman had indeed died from blood loss. She had also been raped, and stabbed forty-seven times. *Forty-seven.* Halfway through the autopsy, Dana had had to cover the woman's face, because every time she looked at her she saw Elena, or hallucinated that the woman was speaking to her, pleading for her help. She was standing motionless over the body, scalpel in hand when a lab tech opened the door.

"Dr. Scully? I have the results on the blood and body fluids for you." The young woman paled at the sight of the mutilated body on the table and Dana met her at the door.

"It's okay, Abby. You don't have to come in any further." The girl looked relieved.

"Thank you." Dana turned to walk away. "And, Dr. Scully?" She turned back to face the girl.


"I hope they catch the bastard who did this."

"Me too, Abby," he said, walking back over to the table. Reading over the results, she banged her fist on the metal tray her instruments were resting on, causing them to jump.

"Damn it!" she exclaimed. There was no evidence of semen- whoever raped her had used a condom. Feeling defeated, she continued reading, and her eyes widened, and her stomach wrenched.

"Oh, my God... Jenn was pregnant."

Sitting in the lawyer's office, both Dana and Mulder were nervous and anxious. The only two in the room, they were having a quiet conversation about the autopsy findings.

"She was pregnant?" he asked. She nodded.

"About two and a half months."

"So she definitely knew?"

"Yes, she did. I checked her medical records, and she'd already visited with an obstetrician. Monica's trying to find out if she had a boyfriend."

"If her boyfriend killed her, why kidnap Elena?"

"She was a witness, a liability. He knew he had to make sure she couldn't tell anyone what she saw," she replied.

"But then, surely he'll k---" Mulder began.

"That's what we're looking to prevent. If we can find out who he is, we might be able to find out *where* he is," Dana replied, cutting him off. He opened his mouth to speak, but the lawyer entered the room at that moment, and they ceased all talk of the case.

Dana rose to her feet, as did Mulder, and Jenn's lawyer looked at them over the rim of her glasses and smiled.

"Please sit down, Mr. and Mrs. Mulder." They sank into their chairs obediently as the lawyer set her briefcase down across from them and opened it, removing several documents. She leaned across the table and extended her hand to Dana first. "I'm Annabelle Milano. It's nice to meet you both."

"It's nice to meet you too...Do you prefer Ms. Milano?" Dana asked.

"Call me, Annabelle," she replied.

"Then you may call me Dana. My husband prefers to be called Mulder," Dana offered. Annabelle nodded, and readjusted her glasses before speaking again.

"I wish we were meeting under happier circumstances. As you know, we are here to read Ms. Carver's will, to which only you and her daughter, Elena are the only beneficiaries. I'm aware that Elena is missing, so we will have to reconvene once she returns so that she understands what she is getting." Mulder and Dana both nodded at the same time. "But as for you, Dana... Jenn Carver said, 'In the event of my death, I wish to make it legally known that I leave full custody of my daughter Elena to Ms. Dana Scully. I also leave her half of my estate and money, with which to best raise my daughter. The other half of my money I leave for my daughter, Elena.'"

Dana reached for her husband's hand, and he took hers in his and squeezed it. She futilely swiped at the tears running down her cheeks.

"Why don't we take care of the formalities now so you two can finish your investigation? I don't want to keep you from it," Annabelle said. Mulder nodded, and smiled at her.

"Thank you," Dana said. "Now where do we begin?"

By Midnight PST, Dana's body was telling her that it was three a.m. and that she should be sound asleep, not at the San Diego Field Office working her tail off. They were looking for Jenn's boyfriend, whose name was James Parker. They knew he was their man, because the forensic team's final combing of the crime scene turned up DNA evidence. Saliva and a single hair. The blood droplets affirmed their suspicions. Now they just needed to find him.

A team was sent to his apartment, as Dana and Mulder sat at desks in the field office reviewing Parker's travel expenses, in addition to Jenn's, hoping to find a place he might have taken Elena. Monica and John Doggett sat side by side at a desk across the room, making calls and talking to friends and family members of both Parker and Jenn, hoping to find something.

By four a.m. Monica and John had amassed a list of James Parker's "hang-outs"; the places he was known to be. Their search turned up nothing conclusive however, and all of the agents were beginning to lose hope. They found themselves back at the field office by 8 a.m., pouring over any files they had on Parker in hopes of finding something they had overlooked. It was Mulder who discovered the clue, which had been buried in Parker's travel expenses.

"Four consecutive weekends in September and October James Parker rented a car from the San Diego Lariat Car Rental Agency. The mileage is almost the same for all of the weekends," Mulder said, looking at his wife. Her eyebrows went up. "My bet is he's going to the same place. We just have to find out where..." She nodded, and shuffled through some papers.

"Jenn's friend Amy mentioned once when James took Jenn away for a romantic weekend to his cabin in the mountains," Dana replied, her eyes widening. "We just need to find out where it is. He could have taken Elena there..."

A very tired Mulder knocked at Amy Fitzgerald's door, with Monica, Dana and John Doggett beside him. The young, blonde woman answered the door, wearing her pajamas and bathrobe.

"Can I help you?" Mulder presented his badge.

"I'm Agent Mulder; Ms. Fitzgerald, you spoke with my colleague Agent Scully yesterday regarding your friend, Jenn Carver." Her eyes widened in recognition as she noticed Dana standing beside Mulder.


"Ms. Fitzgerald, you mentioned when I spoke to you yesterday that Mr. Parker took Ms. Carver to his cabin for the weekend, and you watched Elena. Do you happen to know where the cabin is, or how to get to it?" Dana asked. Amy raised her eyebrows.

"Yes, I've been there before. They had a get-together up there once. There's a copy of the directions Jenn gave me in my desk upstairs. I'll go get them for you," she replied. The agents waited patiently on her doorstep until she returned a moment later with the detailed directions to the secluded cabin just over two hours away. The four agents read the directions over and looked at one another.

"Let's get a team together and get out there," Doggett said. Three other agents nodded in affirmation. This could be the break they were needed so desperately.

Six hours later, after assembling and briefing a team, ten FBI agents approached Parker's cabin in the woods. All ten agents were dressed in the uniform navy FBI jackets, and each wore a bullet-proof vest. Not knowing what to expect, three of the male agents carried heavier and more powerful guns. After reviewing what would go down once they got inside, the agents dispersed, and Dana moved to charge to the front. Her husband grabbed her arm.

"No, Dana. You stay back." She was indignant, and her temper flared.

"God damn it, Fox ! There you go trying to shelter me again! I can handle this, and I want to be up front when we get into that house," she hissed.

"No. I won't have you rushing in through the door in the first wave. We don't know what to expect in there, and I'm not going to have you risk your life or our baby's." Dana's expression softened.

"But you're going to rush in there yourself? I don't want you to risk getting shot either, Fox. We've got a baby on the way and three more at home who need their father," she replied. He reached up to touch her cheek.

"I'm going in second wave. I'll be okay. But I need you to hang back so you can evaluate Elena's medical condition once we get inside, okay?" She nodded, and as he turned to walk away, she pulled him back and rose up on her toes to kiss him deeply. Doggett ran by Mulder and backed up a step or two to hit him lightly in the arm. Breaking the kiss, Mulder turned to look at Doggett.

"C'mon. First wave's goin' in. You ready?" Doggett queried. Mulder nodded, and placed a kiss atop his wife's head before jogging off after the other agents. Dana shook herself mentally, readying herself for what she might find inside. Agent Reyes was about to walk past her, and Dana called out, "Monica!" Monica stopped and turned to face her friend and colleague.

"What is it?"

"Will you pray with me, please?" Monica nodded in affirmation, and Dana took her hand and bowed her head in prayer after making the Sign of the Cross.

"Heavenly Father, please watch over those men and women present here tonight, and keep them safe. Also, please help us to bring James Parker to justice for what he has done to Jenn Carver and her daughter Elena. And Father, please protect Elena, and help us to find her safe and healthy. Amen," she finished.

Beside her, Monica mumbled, "Amen."

She jumped at the sound of the door being broken down, and her heart thudded loudly in her chest. Monica broke free from her grasp and readied her gun running toward the rest of the agents. She could hear shouting from inside the cabin, and Agent Doggett's voice stood out as she heard him yell, "Freeze!" She could hear Mulder shout.

"You Goddamn bastard, if you so much as move from that spot, I won't hesitate to shoot you, you sorry son of a bitch!" She stood, frozen to the spot outside the cabin. Everything moved in slow motion as she watched two agents from the San Diego field office haul James Parker out in handcuffs. Moving her leaden feet, she stepped forward, and Parker's eyes locked with hers. His gaze was piercing, heartless, and unwavering as he was led over to the police car provided by the State Police. She shuddered, and felt cold all over. The air was not chilled; the cold came from the dread she felt. Her husband hadn't rushed out of the house to tell her that Elena was alright, nor had the girl herself given any hint that she was okay. Her heart was roaring in her ears, and her entire body became clammy as she felt herself covered in cold sweat. She asked herself that painful question she had pondered since Christmas night. The question she had only uttered once aloud, fearing that saying it aloud might make it come true. She was so absorbed in her own dread that she didn't see Monica rushing toward her.

"Dana! Dana!" She snapped out of her reverie, and looked toward the distraught woman standing beside her. "Elena's alive, Dana. But she needs you... and she needs a hospital..." She broke into a run, charging up the steps to the cabin. As she burst through the living room door, Agent Doggett caught her with an arm around her waist. She struggled in his grasp.

"How badly is she hurt?" she asked, frantically.

"Agent Scully, she's bad..," he said. "I don't think you should go in there." Ignoring his protests she wrestled free from his grasp and ran into the other room, pushing past several agents who stood in the doorway. She stopped short. Her breath caught in her throat, and several agents watched in horror as her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed, falling into her husband's arms.

Four Weeks Later

It pained Mulder to watch his wife sitting vigil at the bedside of her comatose stepdaughter. He turned away, and left the room, remembering all too well what it was like to find her. She had been bound to the wall, her wrists wrapped in chain, which was bolted to the wall. Mulder could tell that Parker had severely beaten her, but the extent of the psychological trauma could not be evaluated until she was conscious again... if she ever came out of the coma. The doctors were unsure that she would ever wake again.

Dana didn't even shift her gaze as her husband left the room. She continued to hold Elena's hand. Since Mulder was gone, she shifted in her chair to be more comfortable, and began speaking to Elena.

"Hi, Laney. I don't know if you can even hear me, but I'm hoping that you can. Regardless, I'm going to talk my fool head off to you," he said, smiling slightly. "I know you're probably very comfortable and content to lie here sleeping. I wonder if you dream. You'll have to tell me when you wake up. Well, no matter how comfortable you are, you need to wake up and come back to us, sweetie. There are so many people here who love you, and I need to tell you that the terrible man who hurt you and your mom so is going to jail, and he won't be getting out. He'll most likely get the Death Penalty. But there are some people here I want you to meet. People who are going to be like your family. We're going to build a life together. There's my husband, Fox, but you can call him Mulder. He's got three kids of his own; Eve's sixteen. She'll be that big sister you told me you always wanted. And then there's Jake, he's nine now, and Gwen's the youngest at six. And guess what, Lanes? I'm going to have a baby. I'm so nervous. I've never been a mom to a little baby before, but I'm going to have four sets of helping hands. And when you come home with us, I'll have five sets. It's going to be wonderful. Please, Laney, I need you to wake up," she concluded in a whisper, with tears streaming down her cheeks. "Come back to us."

She rose out of her chair and wiped her tears away. With her left hand she tugged at the waistband of her slacks, which seemed too tight. She didn't expect to be outgrowing her slacks in two months. Walking toward the door, she opened it and stepped out into the waiting room in search of her husband. She found him standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling window in the lobby, staring out at the city lights. They had found since they arrived in San Diego that the city hardly slept. It was nearly three a.m., and there were still thousands of sets of headlights traveling the freeways, and the landscape was also dotted by lights in the windows of buildings.

"This city looks so beautiful all lit up," Mulder said quietly as his wife joined him. His voice was barely above a whisper. The pediatrics floor was the only one that seemed to sleep in the hospital.

"Yes," she began. "It almost makes you forget the horrible things that happen here." She sniffled and fought back tears as her husband put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into him so that she was facing him. She rested her head on his chest, and tears slid down her cheeks. "The doctors have given up hope," she continued in a defeated whisper.

"No, Dana, surely they haven't," he said, stroking her hair. "She's breathing on her own."

"They have, Fox. They told me so, just this evening. She may be breathing on her own, but they don't hold out hope that she'll ever wake up."

"We can't give up on her. When you had cancer, you felt so defeated, and you wanted to give up. The doctors told us that you might as well quit fighting, but you didn't. You kept on fighting, and you won. You cheated Death, Dana, and Elena can do the same. You haven't lost Faith yet, and you can't do it now," Mulder said, wrapping his arms around her. She responded simply by grabbing his hand in hers, and giving it a firm squeeze, assuring him that she wasn't going to give up just yet.

"Mrs. Mulder? Mrs. Mulder?" The disembodied voice grew more and more urgent each time it said her name, and finally roused her from her sleep. Dana was instantly aware of the fact that she had been sleeping in her husband's lap, and she jumped to her feet. Dr. Crenshaw stood just in front of her, and he looked into her eyes.

"What is it?" she asked frantically. "What happened?" Mulder rose off the couch and stood behind her, taking her hand into his as he too looked at Dr. Crenshaw with urgency.

"You should come with me quickly, Mrs. Mulder. Elena's awake, and she's asking for you."

One month and two weeks later...

"I wonder why Dad and Dana are calling a family meeting," Eve said, removing the red polish from her fingernails. Elena looked up at her from where she sat Indian-style on the floor of the bedroom they shared.

"I'm not sure. You don't think we're in trouble do you?" she asked. Her stepsister shrugged. There was a knock at the door, and both girls called, "Come in." Jake entered, followed by Gwen, who looked concerned. Family meetings were a big deal in the Mulder household. Elena hoisted herself up off the floor and sat beside Eve on her bed. The two had become inseparable since her arrival a month before. Eve and Elena were just as much sisters as Eve and Gwen were, blood relation or no.

"Did you guys do anything bad?" Jake asked of the three females around him. The three adamantly shook their heads. Gwen rested her hands on her hips, and pursed her lips.

"What about you, Jake? You get in trouble all the time," he said, evoking laughter from both Eve and Elena. Jake, however, looked less than amused.

"I'm not the only one who screws up around here," he replied. "And Dad and Dana only call family meetings when it's something major."

"Are we all sure that we didn't do anything wrong?" Elena asked, rising to her feet. Her three stepsiblings joined her, and they all formed a circle as they stood in the middle of the bedroom. Eve's eyebrows went up.

"Oh God... Dana's been sick since she and Dad left for San Diego..." she began.

"Oh no," murmured Elena. "You don't think her cancer's back, do you?"

"Didn't she lose weight last time?" Jake asked.

"Yeah. But now Dana's getting fat..." Gwen said, voicing in their concerns, but in a much less eloquent manner.

"Back when she was married to my dad, she couldn't understand why she was gaining weight. That was before she even knew she had cancer," Elena said.

"She's gained a little weight," Eve said. "But she was so skinny after her chemo, that any weight has seemed like a lot." Elena felt the cold sensation associated with dread covering the walls of her stomach. She'd lost her father and mother, and she'd had to leave Dana once before... She couldn't bear to lose her too. Though none of the Mulder children were ready to admit it, they were scared.

As they remained in silence, Eve couldn't help but worry for Elena as well. Though she'd become a Mulder in both name and demeanor in the past month, she still looked to Dana for most of her support, because Dana shared Elena's losses with her. Eve feared what would happen to Elena, and to the rest of them, if something bad were to happen to Dana.

"Hey, are you guys meditating in there or something? I've been calling your names for five minutes now..." The laughing voice belonged to Mulder, who watched the four with perplexed amusement. They filed out silently to the living room, and all sat down on the couch. Dana raised her eyes from the magazine she was reading, and arched her eyebrow at the solemn-looking children sitting on the couch. She grinned as her husband moved down the line and placed his hand on each child's forehead, checking them all for fever.

"Are you sure you're not sick?" he asked. "I've never had the four of you so quiet." None of the four replied; they simply looked at him. Dana dog-eared the page she was reading and set the Medical Technologies issue on the end table.

"You guys are really worried about this family meeting, aren't you?" she asked.

"Well, you only call family meetings when it's serious..." Jake said. "And one of us usually gets in trouble..." Mulder sat down beside Dana and the pair laughed. The kids were right.

"Okay... you have a point. But tonight we're not here to discipline you, and no one is going to have to do extra chores for any reason," Dana said. "But Fox and I do have something to tell you..." The kids all leaned forward a little, their hearts thudding in nervous anticipation.

"Guys, we're moving," Mulder said. Four jaws dropped, and four enraged cries soon followed.

"No! You can't make us move! All of our friends are here!" Jake cried indignantly, rising to his feet.

"Well, guys, we really need a bigger house..," Mulder began.

"No, Dad, Laney and I are fine sharing a room, and Gwen and Jake each have their own rooms, and you and Dana have your room..."

"If you're worried about what we'll do when we have company over, we'll give up our rooms, and they can stay in our beds!" Elena said. The kids all nodded enthusiastically.

"Yeah! We'll be good!! We promise!" Gwen said. "Daddy please!"

"Calm down, everyone!" Mulder interjected. "We're not going to move outside the school district... we just need a bigger house."

"But Dad, all of my friends are here," Jake said. "Collin lives just down the block, and Owen does too! The house is big enough..." There were cries of overall agreement, and it appeared that none of the kids wanted to move. Dana smiled at them, and waited until they'd finished protesting. All eyes focused on her, including her husband's. She reached over and took his hand in hers, and the kids watched once again with nervous anticipation.

"Well, you are right. We all fit in the house just fine..." she paused, and her smile grew wider as she said, "But where are we going to put the baby?"

Dana Mulder smiled at the little girl sleeping soundly in her arms."My beautiful little Meghan," she whispered, stroking the baby's pudgy cheek. Her daughter had been born with a full head of red curls, which were sticking out from under her pink hospital cap. She could hear the hum of excited voices, and knew that her family was approaching. Shifting the baby in her arms, she adjusted the blanket that the little girl was wrapped in, and touched one of her tiny hands, marveling at the idea that this child had grown inside of her for nine months. She still couldn't believe that she was a mother. Hearing a childish giggle from the doorway, Dana looked up and saw that Eve, Elena, Jake, Gwen, Monica Reyes, John Doggett, her mother and father, and husband were all crowded in the doorway of her hospital room.

"Hi, guys," he said, and smiled. "You can all come in." They were all ear-to-ear grins as they quietly approached her hospital bed. The only sound in the room for a moment was the sound of Meghan sucking profusely on her pacifier. Mulder broke from the tight-knit group and stood beside his wife.

"Do you want to do the introductions?" he asked. "Or should I?" Dana looked up at him and smiled.

"May I? I've never gotten to do this before..." He smiled.

"Of course. Everybody gather around," he replied. Moving the blanket away from the baby's face so it did not mar everyone's view, Dana cleared her throat and then said, "Everybody, this is Meghan Riley Mulder. Meg, these crazy people are your family, and They'll probably drive you totally nuts, but it's just because they love you." Maggie and Bill Scully smiled at Dana, and Maggie had to wipe away a tear. Meghan was their first flesh and blood grandchild. Bill and Charlie weren't married, and neither was Melissa.

"She's so little," Gwen commented, clinging to Elena's hand as she looked over her baby sister.

"Another girl," Jake muttered. "Four sisters." His father reached over and mussed his hair, smiling at him.

"She's gorgeous," Eve said, smiling at her father and stepmother. "Congratulations." Everyone else echoed the sentiment, and then Maggie and Bill stepped forward, and Dana looked up at her father and said, "Would you like to hold her, Ahab?"

"I don't know, Starbuck... It's been a long time since I've held a baby..." His daughter smiled at him.

"They don't make them any different now than they did back then," she replied, and he leaned down to take his granddaughter in his arms."She's absolutely beautiful," he said, quietly. "You two do wonderful work." Mulder smiled at his wife, and then at Bill, who passed Meghan to Maggie.

"I'm a grandma," she whispered. She studied her granddaughter.

"May I hold her?" Monica asked.

"Of course," Mulder said, and Maggie gently passed the baby to her. Dana laughed at the look on her face, and said, "John, you'd better be careful. I think Monica's pupils just turned into bassinets." John's eyes went wide, and Dana laughed again.

After a few more minutes of congratulations, Dana noticed that Elena hung back slightly and she said, "Elena, can I speak to you alone, please?" As the crowd in the room dispersed, the girl stepped close to the bed, and Mulder placed Meghan back in Dana's arms before leaving the room himself. "Are you alright?" Dana asked. "With all of this, I mean. You seem really quiet." Elena tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before responding.

"I feel a little weird about this whole thing. I guess...I feel a little out of place."

"What's wrong?" Dana asked.

"It's kind of silly, actually. I just feel odd, because I'm the only one who's not related by blood to you or Fox. I feel sort of... detached..," he said, playing with the blanket Meghan was wrapped in. "I feel like I'm not as much a part of this family." Dana's voice was gentle, but it still commanded Elena's attention.

"Elena, look at me." The girl's eyes met hers. "I felt the same way at first, you know, when I married Fox. I felt like an outsider, like I didn't belong. I was afraid the kids would hate me, and think that I was trying to take their mother's place. And you can't forget, Lanes, that I'm not related to Fox's other children by blood either. But there's something I want you to remember." She paused to take Elena's hand in hers. "You are just as much my child as Meghan. I may not have carried you for nine months, but I love you like you're my own flesh and blood, and that will never change. I don't think of you any differently than I think of Meghan, Eve, Gwen or Jake. You don't have to feel out of place, or any less loved. You are a part of this family, Elena. Always and forever." Her eyes were filled with raw emotion, and Elena blinked back a tear as embraced Dana.

"Thank you," he said, quietly. After a moment she raised her eyes to meet Dana's and said, "Can I ask you something?" Dana nodded.


"Is it alright if I call you 'Mom'?"

-the end- Feedback is much appreciated! gilleigh@hotmail.com

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