Beyond the Truth: 01. Lost and Found

by Neoxphile

Archive: Anyone may link my fics to their pages (an e-mail to let me know where would be appreciated), but please seek permission before uploading
Rating: R (violence)
Series: Beyond the Truth, story #1
Originally Posted: July 7th, 2002 to October 31st 2002
Summary: This story takes place immediately after season nine. Mulder and Scully discover that some lost parts of their lives can be reclaimed after all.
Spoilers: all nine seasons, possibly, but particularly "Christmas Carol," "Emily," "William," and "The Truth," and the X-files novel "Antibodies."
Disclaimer: These characters all belong to 1013 who, though they probably don't realize it, have lent them to me.

Summer, 2002

Scully dropped her book and looked out the window without really seeing anything. The character in the book was cooing over her baby, and Scully just couldn't take it any more. She missed her son too much to be unaffected by the paternal pride of others. Feeling caged in, she grabbed her sandals and headed for the beach.

That she was not dead, and instead was smelling the salty air and listening to the cry of seagulls, was a wonder in and of itself. Everyone was sure that their detour had signed their death warrants, or at the very least it'd keep them from escaping the country, but by some miracle they had gotten to Mexico, safe and sound. But her thoughts were circuitous and the thought of one miracle immediately conjured up thoughts of her own missing miracle again. The wind picked up, making her white linen shirt billow and her hair stream behind her as she walked, remembering.

Most days she didn't regret her decision to give her son away, but some days were worse than others. Today was one of those days. She had given him up because she thought it was safer for him, but there were days she worried that she might have done the worst possible thing. Her daughter, the child she never knew existed, had died after being in the care of strangers her whole life. Scully tried not to remember her, but whenever she worried about William, thoughts of Emily, the doomed child, would surface. She hoped her baby, her perfect baby, was safe and happy.

Mulder looked out the window of the motel room and watched as Scully walks the beach, managing to look both determined and listless at the same time. He knew that being on the lam was taking its toll on her, because she was less adventurous than she wanted him to believe, and that she missed her life. He missed his life too, but he'd had more practice with dealing with the loss of their brand of normalcy. He knew from experience that if he were to chase her down and ask her what's wrong he would be rebuffed by her dismissively said "I'm fine," because though she could bear him knowing that she isn't fine, she can't bear saying it aloud. So instead he watched her from the window.

Two days and three cities away, Mulder left Scully sleeping in bed to go jogging at dawn. Even though his entire life has been in upheaval, and they have been constantly on the move, he's been able to cling to some old habits to comfort himself. Some mornings it seemed like jogging, sunflower seeds, and Scully were the only things he can still call his own.

Jogging has always been a way for him to get away and think, because the moving of muscles as they pound the pavement is so automatic he doesn't need to waste any of his concentration on it at all. His thoughts over the past few days have kept returning to the one thing he couldn't tell Scully.

Though he told her that he agreed with her decision to give up their son, privately he worried that William was no safer with his adoptive family than he would have been with them. In fact, over the past few days he wondered if the baby might be far less safe, which was ironic because trying to figure that out is what made him worry more.

A week ago, leaving on the pretense of picking up some Chinese food to bring back to the motel room of the moment, he drove out to the middle of nowhere to use a pay phone near at broken down looking convent store. The man he called was an old friend, one with resources at his fingertips. Danny. The only friend he could count on with such a request now that the lone gunmen had passed on. Danny cheerfully agreed to try to find out what Mulder wanted. And he did.

Three days later Danny called him back from another pay phone, one far from his house, just as Mulder insisted as a precaution to ensure that the call couldn't be traced. When Mulder thanked him and hung up he had the name and address of the family caring for his son.

What frightened Mulder about the news was not the temptation to go there and whisk his child away from those people, though he certainly did feel it, but that Danny was so easily able to break into sealed adoption records and find that information. Scully obviously thought that the family's anonymity would keep them safe, but if Danny could track them down, who else could?

Mulder wiped the sweat off his brow and jogged back, hoping to have time to slip into the shower before Scully woke up and missed him.

The teenager opened the door to the apartment and walked into the living room, and the older of the two women who were chatting there looked up at him with a big smile. "Well hello, Gib. Good day at school?"

"Yes, Ma'am, thank you," he said, returning her smile.

"Oh, come on now, no need to be so formal. You can call me Elaine."

"Ok...Elaine," he repeated, trying it out. He found it a little strange to be calling a woman who was old enough to be his grandmother by her first name, but figured it couldn't hurt to be nice to the landlady.

"Your aunt was just telling me about how well you're doing in school. I'm glad to hear it, because a good education can take you far in life. Have you any idea where you think you'd like to go to college?"

"Not yet. I still have a couple of years to think about it, since I'm only sixteen," Gibson said, taking a seat next to Monica. Elaine smiled at him and nodded knowingly.

As he sat and listened to the two women talk, he tried not to smile at the thought of how easy it all had been to get people to believe their story. After Doggett and Reyes returned from New Mexico, they debated for hours what to do with him, because Doggett was determined to keep his word about keeping the boy safe.

Eventually they decided to concoct a story about Reyes' nephew coming to live with her after being orphaned. Most people readily went along with it, figuring that Reyes must be one of those people of Hispanic origin that was like Cameron Diaz: so fair you couldn't guess their nationality. Reyes didn't correct them by revealing that the only thing Spanish about her was her adopted surname. She also didn't bother to tell them that it was moot since Gibson was from the Philippines

Elaine suddenly leaned forward in her chair. "'s that boyfriend of yours, Monica?" she said slyly.

Reyes felt heat coming to her cheeks. "I don't know if I'd say we're as serious as that...John's fine," she finished quickly, giving a Gibson a sharp look he interrupted as 'stop reading my mind this second'. Gibson grinned at her.

Skinner grimaced at the phone though he knew the person on the other end of the line couldn't see him. "Yes sir, I understand that you feel an obligation to defend his privacy, but this is a matter of national security..."

Doggett half listened to Skinner's conversation as he filled out a form that he'd withdrawn from the mountain of paperwork on his desk. After the X-files office was closed, he, Skinner, and Reyes were reassigned to work on a project doing security checks that related to 9/11. None of them found the job very stimulating, so Doggett worked by rote, his mind elsewhere, until he heard Skinner put the phone down none too gently.

"Problems, sir?" Doggett asked, giving him a sympathetic look.

"Oh, of course there are. You know, sitting here right now, I can empathize with how bored Mulder and Scully must have been doing background checks the last time the X-Files was closed. Or was it the time before..."

"I remember thinking as I read through the files that the X-files has quite a history of being shut down and reopened again," Doggett commented.

"Tell me about it. Every time I ran into a friend of my ex-wife's, the woman's first question was always 'Hi, Walter, is the X-files open or closed this week?' Which just goes to show that it was so bad even civilians noticed," Skinner grumbled.

"Speaking of Mulder and Scully, have you heard from them?" Doggett asked.

"No. Not since before they went to New Mexico."

"Let's hope no news is good news, then," Doggett said, looking a little worried.

"Come on, Doggett, let's finish up here and go home. This is no place to spend a Friday night," Skinner told him, then sighed as he reached for the phone again.

The problem with being on the run, Scully thought, was that she had too much time on her hands that could be spent brooding over her problems. Some days she had hours to herself while Mulder occupied himself with doing research on library computers. She never asked him what exactly he was looking into, because she didn't know if she really wanted to find out.

One of those days she found herself brooding about the Shadow man's insinuation that he knew about the lonely night she first invited Mulder into her bed. That night had started out being one of the worst in her life; it was the night that Donnie Pfaster came back into her life and tried to finish what he had started years before. After she shot him she was so shaken by the fact that she was capable of committing such an act, that she found herself reaching out to Mulder for any comfort she could get. They didn't talk about it for months, pretending it didn't happen, and it humiliated her to the extreme that someone somehow knew about that first instance of intimacy.

The other thing that she found herself unable to forgive the dead man for was that it was talking to him that lead her to learn something a few weeks later that, even all these months later, she was still at odds with. She sighed and remembered the day she found out that her miracle might not have been as much of miracle as everyone had thought.

Scully sat on the examining table and gave the doctor, a mild looking middle-aged man with dark hair, an apprehensive look. The doctor gave her a smile and tried to jolly her out of her skittish mood. "Come now, Ms. Scully, you're a doctor yourself and you have a child. Surely you know that ultrasounds don't hurt."

Scully tried to return his smile and failed miserably. "I'm just worried about what you'll find, is all."

"Well, let's take a look."

A few minutes later, he pointed at the screen, which was angled for her to see. "Everything looks normal to me."

"What do you mean, normal?" Scully asked, startled.

"Your ovaries look healthy, as do your ova- are you ok? You've suddenly gone quite pale," he said, breaking off his explanation.

"I...I..I was told that besides the eggs I had put storage to conceive my son that I had none," Scully said, studying the monitor.

"I can't imagine why you were told that, Ms. Scully. While you do have significantly less than I'd expect in a healthy woman your age, you do have enough that it's definitely detectable, and should have been able to conceive a child through natural means. Still could, I expect," h added, giving her a questioning look. "To tell you that you had no eggs..." He trailed off shaking his head.

"That's, um, good to know," Scully said faintly. "I guess my other doctor was wrong."

The doctor's face looked angry. "Criminally so, I should say. It's reprehensible to tell a woman that she's infertile when she is not. Besides preying on the woman's emotions, causing heartache, that sort of thing can lead to unplanned pregnancies..."

Scully looked away, in shock. It shouldn't come as a shock to me that I was deceived, she thought, since I know I was during my pregnancy. I would have never suspected that it went that far back though. What possible gain could anyone have had from me thinking I was barren? Her thoughts returned to the present when she realized that the doctor had said her name at least twice.

"Sorry about that, I guess I got caught up in my thoughts for a few moments," Scully said, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks.

"It's understandable. Do you need the receptionist to call someone for you? After this sort of shock-"

"No, that's ok," Scully said quickly. "A friend of mine is actually waiting for me."

"Well, ok then. I hope, after the surprise wears off, this will end up being happy news," the doctor said, still looking concern.

"I'm sure it will. Thanks. For everything," Scully said as he left the room so she could get dressed.

Agent Reyes stared at her intently as she walked out into the waiting room. "You found out something unexpected," she stated, no hint of question in her voice.

. Scully marveled at the other woman's ability to read people. "That," Scully said as she put on her coat, "is an understatement."

The elephant in the room, she thought, was that she couldn't bring herself to tell Mulder that she could maybe someday have another baby. She hadn't told him because she was afraid that she might look into his eyes and see the question that haunted her sleep: would she have been able to give William up if she hadn't known it was possible she could have another child?

Standing at the window of a rare boarding house, the man peered across the street with high power binoculars. The building that had his undivided attention was an elementary school. It was first thing in the morning, and students were trickling into the building. One child in particular caught his attention.

A small girl with short sandy blonde hair, who was wearing shorts and a matching Scooby Doo T-shirt, was giggling as she walked through the door of the school with two other girls in her third grade class. All three were excited that the school year was nearly over, and they chattered on, oblivious to the attention that the girl was attracting. Eventually the bell rang, and the girls rushed to the door of their classroom, the plastic lunch boxes they were clutching knocked against their sides.

Back in the room of the boarding house, the man sighed in frustration, and put down the binoculars. With one hand he massaged the back of his neck, paying no attention as his fingers ran over a knob under his skin.

"Billy! Billy, where are you?" a sing-song voice called out from around the corner. Thirteen-month-old William Mulder's chubby face broke out into a four-toothed grin as he looked around and realized that his adopted father was playing their favorite game. The man would sneak out of the room while the baby's head was turned, then call for him from the next room, waiting to be discovered. William took a few wobbly steps in the direction of the doorway before plopping down on his diapered bottom, then dropping to his hands and knees. Though he had been walking for a couple of months, crawling was still his fastest mode of transporting himself, so he used it whenever he was impatient to get some where.

William rocked himself back onto his bottom when he finally reached the man. The man laughed and called him a clever boy. William held out his arms to be picked up, and soon found himself soaring as he was quickly lifted off the floor.

The man carried him to the window and pointed at the woman in the garden. William felt safe in the man's arms and was beginning to get used to see his, or the woman's faces when he woke up. But his head turned every time he spotted someone with red hair, and his face would fall when he realized it wasn't his mother.

Mulder thrashed in his sleep, a low moan coming from deep in this throat. Scully, lying peacefully beside him, didn't wake to notice that he was in the throws of a nightmare. Moaning again, Mulder drew his knees up to his chest, and dreamed.

He was twelve years old, and it was happening all over again. The worst moment of his life was playing itself out again right before his stunned eyes. As always, he felt paralyzed, just as he did that night, and unable to lift a finger to help Samantha. Some sinister force was carrying her away, ripping her out of his life. All he could do was scream "No!" and fight against the force that kept him motionless.

Her horrified eyes were locked on his, and she screamed "Mulder help me! Help me!"

And as she was drawn away, and he still couldn't move a muscle, his eyes filled and he whispered "I can't." Then, before his blurry eyes, Samantha got smaller and smaller, until she was finally morphed into a very small child with frightened tears rolling down fat cheeks. The tiny toddler reached out imploringly with chubby hands, sobbing out a single word. "Da...Da..." Grief-stricken, Mulder finds that he still can't move.

Mulder wakes up with a panicked gasp, covered in sweat. As soon as his heart stops pounding, he flings himself onto his back, staring at ceiling. Anguish welled up in his chest as he realized that he's never heard William say his name because he hasn't seen his son since the boy was two days old.

Danny put down the controller to his playstation two so he could mute the TV. He listened hard for a moment, then realized that he was right- there was a buzzing sound coming from his computer. He got up off the floor and nearly tripped over one of the stacks of books from his latest project, which littered his floor. He sat down at the desk, and impatiently flicked the screensaver away. When he saw that what he'd been worried about was true, he swore under his breath and smoothed his fair hair back with one hand in an unconscious gesture of annoyance.

He grabbed his cell phone and quickly punched in numbers, willing the person on the other end to answer quickly.

"Mulder," the answering voice said, making Danny sigh a breathe of relief- he wasn't going to have to make up an excuse for Scully.

"Mulder, it's Danny. That thing you asked me to keep an eye on? It happened just a couple of minutes ago. I called you as soon as possible."

"Thanks," Mulder replied, hanging up on him. Danny sighed and wished that he hadn't needed to make the call at all.

Scully was looking at Mulder when he hung up the phone. "Well?" she said him expectantly.

Mulder thought about blurting out that he'd asked Danny to figure out a way to find out if someone else ever broke into William's adoption records, and, like the genius he was, Danny had devised a program to do just that. And Danny just called to let him know that it had happened. Mulder decided against that. "How would you like to take a little trip to North Dakota?" he said instead, his tone as light as possible.

The SUV's wheels rolled over miles of empty roads before dawn. Mulder glanced over at Scully who was sleeping in the passenger seat. It had been his hope that he could some how come up with a convincing lie about what he wanted to do in North Dakota, perhaps convey a strong urge to see the Bad Lands, but he realized before he even finished the thought that there would be no lying to her, no protecting her from the awful possibilities that ran screaming through his mind even when his eyes were open.

She had given him a long look, then evenly asked "Why would we go to North Dakota? Why, a mere five weeks after we barely escaped the country with our lives, would we turn around and head right back into that sort of danger? Don't be cute and try to tell me you want a vacation."

Mulder looked back into her frightened, angry eyes, and told her the truth. "William is in danger."

"No, Mulder, he'd be in danger if he was with us. His whole life would be flight from one devil after another. He's safe with his anonymous family, and though it kills me to have him out there without us, they'll give him a normal, safe childhood that we can't. Maybe it's too much to expect from you, or from anyone for that matter, but can't you try to accept that?" she said, a pleading note in her voice and tears in her eyes.

"Dana," he said, getting her attention instantly, because even after knowing each other for ten years he seldom used her first name, even in moments of intimacy; the rarity of using it when back to the cold reception he received from attempting that form of address after her father's death. "Dana, I know where he is. I know the family's name..."

"How?" she said him, her face stunned.

"I tried to do what you just asked, to accept that he would be safer with strangers, but I worried. When I worry I obsess, you know that. Every time I tried to tell myself that he'd be fine, I kept wondering what it would do to you if another one of your children died in the care of strangers." Mulder paused for a fraction of a second when he saw the hurt that 'your children' put on her face, but then rushed on. "So I asked Danny to see if it was possible to break into sealed adoption records, and he did."

"But that doesn't mean-"

"I also asked him, once he was able to get into the records, if there was a way to determine if someone else ever did it. He just called to say that the program he installed just informed him that someone had. So we need to get to North Dakota before it's too late."

"What are we going to say to his new parents when we get there? 'Sorry, we changed our minds because there are aliens looking for William, and we think he'll be safer with us'?" Scully asked in frustration.

"I don't know, Scully. I just hope we get there in time to be able to say anything to them at all," Mulder told her grimly.

Now, several hours and two false sets of identification later, they were on their way to their son, and his new family, hoping to be able to get there before danger did.

The van headed west down the interstate, and the driver didn't have anyone to complain to about how long a trip it was. Not that he would have complained anyway. The desire to complain about anything, anything at all, fled him soon after he first became involved with the project five years ago.

When he went over a bump in the road he glanced over at the empty passenger seat, and saw that neither the high power binoculars nor his cell phone had fallen to the floor. While he considered himself well nigh indestructible, the pieces of technology were more fragile than he would have wished. The cell phone, he considered with another sidelong glance, was the more vital of the two.

Eighteen hours earlier it was what informed him that the boy had just become his top priority, and that his surveillance project was to be put on hiatus until further notice. He accepted his orders without question, and did not even feel annoyed that he was being yanked from the project that he had been consumed by for several months. A normal man might have been unhappy with the sudden change of plans, but it had been five years since the last time anyone had considered him a normal man.

Several states away, Billy Van de Kamp, nee William Mulder, looked up at his mobile and frown. The familiar buffaloes hung from the mobile above his head, much in the way that the one with stars once had. He stained his ears, but he didn't hear either of his adoptive parents stirring in the night. But something had woken him. William whimpered in frustration, knowing that once he cried loud enough to wake someone, he would no longer be awake and alone. Even, then though, he didn't have the words to tell anyone that there was something wrong, or explain why a young toddler could sense something that grown adults lived in blissful ignorance of.

A couple of minutes after he'd worked himself up into a full-blown wail, he heard footsteps coming down the hall towards his room. A sleepy voice said "It's ok, Billy, everything's ok." Which only made him cry harder; he knew it wasn't true.

"So what do you know about these people?" Scully asked as they waited for their meals in the dinner they'd found along a desolate stretch of the endless highway. Scully strongly suspected that Mulder's enthusiasm for the diner had a lot to do with its appearance - it was a rounded silver structure. She couldn't really argue with him about it, though, they were starving, and there wasn't another place around for miles.

"Their last name is Van de Kamp. He's 35 and she's 32. They've been married for eight years and decided to adopt after having tried for years to have their own child. They live on a farm in North Dakota, though they still have strong ties to where they both grew up- Wyoming. In fact they fly a Wyoming flag in their yard. He as a degree in agriculture from the University of Wyoming, and they raise Buffalo on their farm."

Scully raised her eyebrows. "You didn't learn all that from Danny hacking into the adoption records."

"No...but they do have their own home page devoted to their farm," Mulder said with a grin.

For a moment Scully's heart leapt into her throat. "Do they have picture of William on the page?"

"Nope, just stuff about their ties to farming."

"Thank God. The last thing William needs would be for there be pictures of him out on the web. Where god knows who could see them."

"I don't think it'd make things much worse," Mulder said soberly. "Good thing we only have a few more hours to go to get there." But what will we say to the Van de Kamps when we get there? he wondered for the hundredth time as the waitress slid his plate in front of him.

Meanwhile in LA...

Though the doctor was not entirely conscious of it, he kept his gaze averted from the man he was speaking to. The man was not surprised, after all, he thought resignedly, most people had that reaction to his deformed countenance. Except Dana Scully.

"As I was saying, Mr. Miller, these old photos of you are invaluable. I'm confidant, now that I've examined you and looked at the pictures, that we can restore your appearance," the Doctor told him, daring to look up at Spender for a moment. "I'm sure you know that this will be a lengthy process and require more than one surgery, but I know you'll be pleased with the final results."

Spender nodded, and looked at the man with something akin to pity in his eyes, which the doctor did not catch. He doesn't know, Spender thought, that I sold out a small boy, my own nephew so I could have my appearance back. Of course that's how it looks on paper, but in reality I know that I couldn't have politely refused, so it was do it or die.

He couldn't help but feel a deep sadness well up in him, because he had heard that Scully had given her son away, just like she was supposed to. She thought that he'd be safe without his powers, and Spender doubted that she knew that he had lied to her about the child. Because the magnetite that he injected William with did not, contrary to what he'd told Scully that terrible night, destroy the boy's powers. All it had done was temporarily dampen them, sort of a power sucking kryptonite for superhuman babies, until his system was able to process the metal and flush it out. He had wished with all his might that Scully would hold onto the boy long enough to realize that, but she hadn't, thinking it would be best to remove him from her life as quickly as she could so he would be safe.

Which of course, Spender told himself as the doctor carefully explained that they wouldn't be able to restore his actual hair but there were flattering alternatives available, was the dumbest belief the woman had ever had. There are still those who believe that if William is raised by his father, the boy will prevent the aliens from coming invading. And he, Spender, did the bidding of those who would see the invasion come to pass, by preying on Scully's greatest weakness: a mother's hope that her child would have a normal life.

Spender thanked the doctor and set up an appointment for the first surgery. As he walked out of the building, he vowed to himself that after his surgeries, he would find a way to tell Scully that he'd lied. He just hoped that the boy hadn't been found and killed before he looked like his old self again. He couldn't risk telling her sooner, because as guilty as he felt, there was no way he could betray the syndicate before he was through with the doctors who could potentially kill him for his enemies while he was helpless on the operating table.

Wendy Van de Kamp snapped off the living room light and walked out of the living room. She went into the nursery to make sure that William hadn't kicked off his summer weight blanket. He was sound asleep, one arm clad in a sleeper decorated with airplanes thrown over his chest. She gave the boy a fond look, glanced at his night light to make sure that it was on, and walked out of the room.

Jared was already asleep when she slipped into bed beside him, which didn't surprise her since he had had an extra long day dealing with the new buffalo calves. She bent down and kissed his cheek without disturbing him at all. After that Wendy said her prayers quickly, then was asleep as soon as her head hit her pillow. She'd had a long day as well.

The man smirked when he reached for the door, and realized that he wouldn't have to pick the locks because the doors were unlocked. He walked quietly down the hallway, and by instinct picked a door. To his pleasure, it was the right room- the master bedroom. The man and woman in the bed were of no consequence to him, so he decided to dispatch them quickly so he could get to his main objective.

He quietly removed a gun equipped with a silencer from his coat, and placed the muzzle to the back of Jared Van de Kamp's head. With clinical detachment he watched the body jerk once after he pulled the trigger. It did interest him slightly that Wendy wasn't awoken by her husband's sudden and violent death, because humans are often said to be able to sense the deaths of loved ones continents away; Wendy hadn't sensed his, and he was a mere two feet from where she slept. He shrugged his shoulders slightly, then pressed the gun up against her chest, and pulled the trigger.

Down the hall William's eyes snapped open, and he nearly opened his mouth to bawl, but then didn't. Instead he curled himself up in a ball at the foot of his crib, buried his face in the mattress and hoped whatever was wrong would go away. The man was about to look for the nursery when he heard the sound of a vehicle scream into the driveway.

Mulder and Scully drew their guns before they even got to the door of the Van de Kamps house. Something about the house's quietness spooked them, and they both feared the worst. Instead of turning on lights, which might have alarmed anyone still in the house and alerted them of their presence, they relied on flashlights. The house was a single level, so they knew that they were going to discover that everything was all right or nothing was very quickly.

They listened hard and heard nothing, which could have been a good or bad sign. They opened a door and stepped into the room. The first thing that the beam of Scully's flashlight picked out was the blood pooling on the sheets of the Van de Kamps bed. Her breath hissed through her teeth as she confirmed to herself that they were both dead, and very recently, since they were still warm to the touch. One thought screamed through her head, ohmygodohmygodpleasenotwilliamtoo as she and Mulder hurried out of the room.

"Scully, I think we ought to spilt up so we can find William faster," Mulder urgently whispered to her.

Though she didn't want to be the one to discover that their son was missing, or worse yet, dead, she reluctantly agreed, knowing that time was of the essence if William was somewhere in the house with the person who murdered his adopted parents. She nodded and headed down the opposite end of the hallway.

Scully slammed a door open and looked around, gun pointed towards the interior. No madman or tiny body met her sight, instead she saw a poorly decorated bathroom that had a fuzzy lavender seat cover on the toilet. She nearly cried in relief when a cursory look relieved nothing more sinister than soap scum hiding in the shower.

Mulder threw open the door and saw the cloud wallpaper before he saw the crib in the rear of the room. For one moment his heart squeezed when he thought that the crib was empty. Then it squeezed even tighter when he saw a lump up against the foot of the crib. He felt his body tremble all over as he reached for the baby blanket and pulled it back. A small pinched face looked up at him, and his sudden relief was palpable. He reached down for the boy who suddenly burst into tears and wailed "Da!" Then immediately snuggled against Mulder's shoulder and continued to sob himself out.

Because he was trying not to be so loud that he scared the baby, it took him two tries to get Scully's attention. When she faintly heard her name she ran down the hall and almost bumped into Mulder. "He's ok, he's really ok," Mulder told her, tears running down his cheeks.

Scully stood on the lawn holding William with one arm, while she shined the flashlight around the perimeter of the yard, on the look out for the murderer. Mulder stood a few feet away and spoke on the phone to the local police, who assured him that they would come immediately to secure the crime scene.

As he thanked the person he was speaking to and glanced over at Scully, who was now cuddling her son with both arms, the forgotten flashlight near her feet. William, who obviously remembered his mother despite being separated from her nearly a quarter of his young life, looked thrilled. Which just made what he had to say to Scully that much more difficult. He dragged his feet as he walked back to them.

He took a deep breath to steel himself and lightly touched her arm. "I know that finding him alive and safe is both wonderful and overwhelming, but have you given any thought to what we're going to tell the police about him when they get here?"

Her joyful look instantly slid off her face. "Do we have to tell them anything?" she said in a small voice, already knowing the answer.

"You know we do." He sighed. "I suppose we tell them that we were working on a case near by, and came by to see if they'd allow us to see William when we found the house quiet and the back door open, so we went in to investigate, fearing the worst."

"That sounds like a pretty plausible story," Scully remarked. "They'll probably let the three of us go on our way after we explain that."

Mulder winced, because he could tell that she wasn't reaching for logical conclusions to what would happen after that. It both surprised and pained him that his super rational partner obviously wasn't where the baby was concerned. "After that they'll probably take William into protective custody until they find him foster parents," he told her as gently as possible.

"Why would he need foster parents? We're his parents!" she exclaimed then, clutching the baby closer to her.

"We're not, legally, anyway. You know that we lost all our rights to him when you signed the adoption papers." Without me, he was tempted to add if only to bring her to her senses.

"I signed away my rights, and was allowed to put him up for adoption without your consent because we had reason to believe that you might be dead," she said, suddenly looking more together than she had since before they arrived at the house. "Since you're not dead you can fight for custody of him, even if I can't."

If he's mine, he told himself silently. Not wanting to hurt Scully he merely said, "I think that's the angle we'll have to use." He put his arms around them both, determined to be thankful for the time the three of them had together, no matter how short, no matter how soon the police would arrive to complicate everything.

Two Weeks Later

Mulder looked at his lawyer who gave him a smile of encouragement. He wanted to smile back at the man, but he was too nervous to look anything but dour, too uncomfortable in the courtroom. His lawyer assured him that it was a good sign that the case was being heard relatively quickly, but the whole thought of some uninvolved woman in a black robe deciding the fate of his family scared him. At least, he thought, we got through that night and the next several after that...

Three officers had arrived at the Van de Kamp's home, and two immediately went in to examine the crime scene while the third stayed outside to speak to Mulder and Scully.

" what you're saying is that you came by the house to look in on the baby here, and found the door open and the house quiet, so you decided to go in and investigate?" the officer paraphrased the story Mulder had just fed her.

"Yes," Mulder said, while William tugged on his tie.

"This couple was his legal guardians, then," the officer said flatly, giving them a suspicious look. "There was no custody battle between you and the Van de Kamps?"

Mulder's blood turned to ice as he caught the undertones of what the officer was implying. "Are we under suspicion?" he said sharply.

"At the moment, no, but your cooperation at this point would be appreciated."

"What would our 'cooperation' entail?" Scully asked, and Mulder heard an almost indictable note of fear in her voice.

"Giving your statement as you are right now, and your fingerprints."

"Why our fingerprints?" Mulder asked, curiously.

"You indicated that you didn't touch the door knob when you came in, so we hope to be able to match the freshest prints there and in the Van de Kamps' room. I know that Ms. Scully at least had to have touched the bodies to make sure they were dead, so having two pairs ruled out, in addition to the deceased's, will make it easier for us to isolate the prints that belong to the murderer. Assuming that he or she left any," the officer explained, sounding entirely reasonable, even to Mulder.

"Please," Scully said, looking at the other woman. "What's going to happen to our baby?"

"Standard procedure is that if the child has no next of kin, which seems to be the case here, the state takes the child into temporary custody until suitable foster parents are found for him or her," the officer said, looking away when she sensed that Scully was close to tears.

Mulder shifted William in his arms, and spoke quietly. "I'm not sure that the adoption was entirely legal. I never signed away rights to my son."

The officer's face brightened. "If that's the case, we can probably get a judge to award you temporary custody of the boy while you wait for a formal custody hearing."

He let out the breath that he was holding. "That would be wonderful."

"This would make things considerably easier for us too, paperwork-wise, and negate the need to find social worker at this hour. I can ring up a judge to sign the order after we do the finger printing." The officer smiled at Mulder, and for a moment he allowed himself to forget that the custody they were hoping to be granted was only temporary.

The judge, a middle aged man with a kindly face, looked like he had been roused from his bed in the middle of the night, which he had been. He looked away for a moment and yawned, then looked back at Mulder and Scully.

"I don't see why I shouldn't grant you temporary custody of the boy, Mr. Mulder. You have a clean record, you're in good standing with the FBI, and you are the father of record on his birth certificate. I advise you to locate a lawyer tomorrow so we can arrange a formal hearing. Hopefully this matter can be dealt with quickly, because I'd hate to see the fate of such a cute little boy remain undecided any longer than necessary," the judge said, smiling broadly at William who was sitting quietly on the police officer's lap.

Mulder shook the judge's hand retrieved his son from the officer, trying not to let his mixture of elation and fear show.

Bright and early the next morning Mulder found himself sitting in his lawyer's office. The lawyer's name was Ted Feldman, and Mulder suspected that he'd been a quarterback in high school twenty years ago. Ted looked slightly uncomfortable in his suit, and his big frame took up most of the space behind his desk, all of which might have made him slightly frightening to talk to if he didn't seem to have the sunniest disposition Mulder had ever known an adult male to have. He'd been nothing but encouraging and smiles since Mulder began his odd tale.

"To be perfectly honest, Fox, you don't mind if I call you Fox, do you?" Mulder stifled a shudder but let it go. "I think that you have a very good shot at getting your son back."

"You do?" Mulder asked, not being able to prevent surprise from seeping into his voice.

"I've looked at your son's adoption papers. First, the adoption was rushed through with inordinate haste. I know that you said that your girlfriend asked for it to be so, but that's not your concern, since you're the one seeking custody instead of her." Mulder stared at Ted when he said the word 'girlfriend'. It startled him to have someone refer to Scully that way, though he knew it was more or less the truth. His mindset still wasn't much different than when he answered Ellen Adderly's question of if he a significant other by saying "Not in the widely understood definition of that term." And it surprised him to have someone so simply label such a complicated relationship as his and Scully's was by using the word.

"And?" Mulder asked, sensing that Ted had noticed his distraction.

"And, even more importantly you didn't sign the papers to give him away, meaning that, for all intents and purposes, you had no intention to give up your rights to your son. The way I see it, we only need to establish two things for the judge before you are granted custody of the boy."

"What would those things be?"

"Well, first we'd have to do DNA testing to prove conclusively that William is your biological son. That shouldn't be too difficult, and I have a doctor friend at a local hospital who has the clout to get the results quickly. He's done rush jobs for me in the past. While I know that you said that you and your girlfriend are still together, you should bear in mind that making her look bad makes you look good, because after all, she was instrumental in depriving you of your parental rights. If the two of you can't handle that maybe she shouldn't attend the hearing." Ted cast him an apologetic look before continuing. "Unfortunately, her looking bad will have the effect of making the judge question the boy's paternity, so that's why the DNA tests will be necessary."

"What's the other thing?" Mulder asked, already dreading not only the test but also the thought of his lawyer deliberately casting Scully in a bad light. Maybe Ted was right, and she shouldn't attend.

"The second thing would be confirming with one of your superiors that you were required by your position in the FBI to temporarily be out of contact with everyone, which is why your girlfriend was able to persuade the adoption agency that she went to that you were presumed deceased. Those things shouldn't be too hard, now should they?" Ted asked with a grin, still apparently in a jovial mood.

"No, not too hard," Mulder agreed, if you compare them to the tasks of Hercules perhaps, he added silently.

Mulder studied the small blue sneakers on William's feet. They looked a lot like a pair he himself owned four or five years ago, but of course his weren't a mere three inches long. He wondered why anyone would spend so much time constructing footwear that will be outgrown in three months. "It's ok, buddy, almost through," Mulder murmured to the boy, who whined and struggled in his arms.

The reason Mulder had developed a sudden interest in Will's shoes was because he was trying not to look at his face while the doctor drew the baby's blood. He didn't know if he could bear the looking at the baby's face while he was in pain. After an eternity, the doctor cheerfully said, "All done, William. Now it's daddy's turn."

Mulder rolled up his sleeve, then looked away, still marveling that the doctor had referred to him as William's "daddy." For a moment Mulder was tempted to ask him if he said that because he'd noticed some sort of family resemblance between him and Will or if he was just being polite, but then he noticed that William was staring at something on the tray where the doctor had put the boy's sample, and the discarded needle. At first Mulder thought it might have caught his eye because the metal tray was shiny, but then he realized that a pair of scissors also in the tray were gently vibrating. Mulder immediately decided that he could stomach watching his own blood fill the vial after all.

The doctor seemed blissfully ignorant of his scissors' strange behavior, and cheerfully said, "Well, Mr. Mulder, we should have the results for you in about a week. Good luck with your trial," confirming Mulder's suspicions that Ted had told him why he wanted the results quickly.

Mulder thanked the doctor, put William's sun hat on his head, and rushed him out of the room. A backward glance confirmed that the scissors had stopped their restive behavior and were lying quietly in the tray once again

Skinner hung up the phone with a sigh as Doggett walked into the room with the files he had gone to retrieve. Doggett gave him a wary look, because even 15 feet away he could see that the other man was so tense he seemed about to snap.

"Is there something wrong, Sir?" he said cautiously.

"As I've said before, Agent Doggett, there is always something wrong on this job. However what's wrong today is of a more personal concern. That was Mulder I was just speaking to," Skinner said flatly.

"Has something happened to Scully?" Doggett asked, fear seeping into his voice. He'd long had protective, big brother-like, feelings for the diminutive agent that he'd come to respect a great deal.

"No, but something has happened to William's adoptive parents. They were murdered in their bed." Skinner held up a hand to keep Doggett from interrupting. "Before you worry, William himself is fine."

Putting aside a dozen less important questions, Doggett asked the one he considered the most important. "What happens to Will now?"

Skinner sighed. "That's what Mulder was calling about. Apparently he and Agent Scully were the ones to discover the bodies, and a judge awarded him temporary custody of William."

"That's good, right?" Doggett asked, wondering why Skinner looked so grim.

"It's a good sign, yes. However, Mulder's lawyer thinks that he has a good shot at getting custody of the boy since he didn't sign the adoption papers, as long as two things are proven to the judge."

Doggett felt uneasy then. "What conditions?"

"The first is that William is his biological child. Mulder said he just left the doctor's office where he and William have just had blood drawn for the tests. They should get the results of that in about a week."

"What's the second condition?" Doggett asked, wanting to know before he worried about the likely results of the test.

Skinner rested his chin on his steeped hands. "The second is proving that he was ordered to remain out of contact with the rest of the world, which is why Scully was able to say he was dead when she gave William away, and why he didn't immediately protest the adoption."

" could he prove that?"

"He was ordered away, more or less, Agent Doggett. The problem is convincing Kersh to testify to that fact." Doggett gave him an equally grim look. "I think Agent Reyes, you and I need to pay Kersh a visit. Tomorrow."

Doggett wondered for a moment about the futility of that. "Reyes took a half day so she could go for her required yearly physical, but I could swing by her place and leave her a note to tell her what's up." He offered.

"Good idea," Skinner said. "I think Mulder would approve of that since notes can't be bugged like phone lines."

"I really miss the Lone Gunmen at times like this. They were always handy for sniffing out bugs," Doggett said with a sigh.

Doggett knocked on Reyes' door, and when there was no answer, dug out the key that she'd given him in case of emergencies. When he figured that Gibson also wasn't home, he decided it would be ok to write her a note inside the apartment where no one undesirable could surprise him.

He found a pen and a notebook and began to scratch out his note, wishing for the thousandth time that spiral notebooks weren't as torturous to the left handed. Eventually he realized that he was mistaken about the apartment being empty because he could faintly hear what he thought was singing; apparently Reyes' doctor appointment hadn't been as time consuming as she'd feared. He quickly finished the note, ripped it out of the notebook, folded it in half, wrote her name on it and put it on the table.

Curiosity propelled his feet in the direction of her bathroom, and he stopped outside the door. Even though he could hear the steady stream of water pattering on the bottom of the tub, it was quite easy to make out the words to her song. He was surprised that her voice was so clear and sweet, given the ribbing Reyes occasionally took from Scully over her 'whale songs'. Doggett felt glued to the stop as he listened to a song he couldn't quite place, but reminded him a little of the letter verse in "Your house" by Alanis Morissette, if only in melody or the fact that there was no music to accompany her voice. He leaned up against the wall, closed his eyes, and listened.

I followed your lead
Agreed to be friends
Now my heart bleeds
This needs to end.

It's what we don't say
And things we don't do
The reason we stay, here
And why I don't love you.

I thought I could wait
For your change of mind
'guess that sealed our fate
I'm leaving this behind.

It's what we don't say
And things we don't do
The reason we stay, here
And why I don't love you.

Now that I know
You'll never love me
I can let you go
And finally be free.

It's what you don't say
And things you don't do
The reason you stay, here
And why I don't love you.

The reason you stay, here
And why I don't love you.

The reason you stay, here
And why I don't love you.

Doggett left as soon as he heard the water being turned off in the shower, since he didn't want to risk surprising Reyes and embarrassing them both. As he drove home he couldn't get the lyrics of the strange song out of his head, and he kept wondering why she was singing it.

The more he thought about the song, later when he was making dinner, the guiltier it made him feel, because he thought it was some how connected to him. There was a lot he'd never told her, and many things he'd never dared to do, all because past pain made him hesitate. Even if the song had no particular significance to her, he decided that it was a good reminder that things ignored often die of neglect. He found it food for thought.

It's what we don't say
And things we don't do
The reason we stay, here
And why I don't love you.

With a jolt Doggett realized that he was singing the song's sorrowful refrain to himself as he got ready for bed.

The man was now back on his original assignment, although he was no longer doing surveillance on the elementary school, because school had let out for the summer while he was away. He wasn't exactly pleased to be back in New York, though that was due mostly to the overall muting of his emotions, but he was comfortable with the return to familiar routines.

Despite his near lack of emotions, he had been reluctant to report to his superiors that he has failed, because his abilities to feel fear and shame had not been completely eradicated. In fact, those in charge of the program has purposely preserved them in the subjects, considering those two feelings to be highly valuable. At the time of his failure, the man had felt ashamed that he was unsuccessful in completing his orders- to dispatch the boy in addition to his adoptive parents- but had known that the directive to avoid being captured at all costs superseded his goal.

He had reported his failure, then numbly waited for the consequences. It was therefore a slight relief to find that his failure would not result in any punishment at all, and in fact he would no longer be required to have any concerns about the boy's life, or death. Being what he was, he didn't even think to question why he had gotten off so easily, nor what would be done with the boy now.

Besides, he thought as he peered out the window of his newly rented apartment, I will not fail in this, the original assignment, nor will it be left undone. He merely had to continue his observations until the date upon which he was supposed to act arrived.

Reyes knocked on the door, flanked by Skinner and Doggett. It secretly amused her that neither of the tough, brave men could bring themselves to be the first thing Kersh saw when he opened the door. Perhaps, she reflected, they were embarrassed to be asking him a favor.

When the door swung open, she realized that they were not the only ones who had something to be embarrassed about. Kersh was wearing a wife-beater that had probably once been white but was now a dingy gray, and baby blue boxer shorts. His face had a few days worth of stubble decorating it, and Reyes thought she saw a bit of dull color rise up amidst it, though she wasn't sure if was due so much to shame as anger.

"What are you doing here?" he said harshly, making no move to allow them in his home.

"Please sir, if we could only have a few minutes of your time," Skinner said in an uncharacteristically placating and humble voice.

"Yeah, sure time I have in abundance, I guess I don't mind sharing. Get in here before the neighbors see you and start to ask questions," he said, his voice still gruff. He led them through a kitchen littered with cardboard boxes that had mostly contained cereal and other dry foods. Though the room was cluttered it was fairly clean. Their destination was a spotless living room. Gesturing towards the couch he had them sit. "You caught me in the middle of getting my recycling together," he told them, though Reyes couldn't tell if the statement was an explanation for the state of the kitchen, or an expression of annoyance. "What do I owe the pleasure of your company?" he said, a bitingly sardonic note in his voice.

"Frankly, sir, we need your help," Skinner said simply.

"Let me guess, Mulder and Scully have blundered their way into trouble again."

Skinner was slightly taken aback by the other man's accurate guess. "In a manner of speaking...their son's adoptive parents have been murdered-"

"I couldn't get him off on a murder charge two months ago, why do you think I'd be able to now?" Kersh demanded.

"Neither Mulder or Scully is a suspect in the case," Skinner assured him. "However, Mulder is seeking to be granted custody of the baby."

"I fail to see what that has to do with me," Kersh replied.

"Well...Mulder's lawyers seem to think that the best course action would be for one of Mulder's former superiors to make a statement in court that he was required to go underground, and that's why he couldn't be found to contest the adoption. Since you're the person who more or less suggested he do so..." Skinner trailed off as he noticed the look on Kersh's face.

Kersh cut off any further discussion. "Look, I'm glad that he might be able to get his son back, but he's going to have to do it without my help. I risked everything to help him before, and as you can see, there have been serious consequences to my actions. I'm sorry," he said, almost sounding it.

The three agents thanked him for his time, all hoping that Mulder would be able to get the baby back anyway.

"There you go, good catch!" Mulder told William as the baby pounced on the beach ball. Mulder retrieved the ball since he knew it wouldn't be returned to him because William didn't quite understand the rules yet. That did not, however, prevent him from feeling proud of him. "Did you see that catch, Scully? Maybe we have a future outfielder on our hands."

Scully looked up from her towel and smile. "Oh, Mulder, you and baseball..."

"As I recall, you quite enjoyed it when I taught you to hit the ball," Mulder told her with a sly grin. He watched a blush rise on her cheeks. "You might want to put on more sunscreen, you've suddenly turned all pink."

Anyone passing the trio as they lounged on the beach would have seen a still athletic looking man in early 40's, a pretty woman in her 30's, and their obviously adored son, who seemed to be basking in his parents attention, even as he was trying to force his sun hat into his father's startled mouth.

"No no Will, that doesn't taste good." Scully admonished as she went to Mulder's rescue.

"Yuck! Must have said something he didn't like," Mulder chuckled.

"Maybe he just doesn't like the colors. Who buys a green and purple hat?" Scully suggested playfully.

Before long William was dozing under Scully's umbrella, and Mulder grew more serious.

"I've been putting it off, but there's something my lawyer said that you and I should discuss."

Scully didn't like his serious tone, and fought to keep her own voice light. "I thought we already discussed everything he told you."

"Not everything," he confessed. "I, um, have put it off so long because I'm afraid this will be painful for you to hear."

"Don't leave me in suspense, Mulder," she told him evenly.

"He said that in order to make me look good, he might have to make you look bad. Probably would have to. Present you as someone who was so eager to give up the baby that you rushed things through and didn't really make an effort to find out if I was really dead like you told the people at the adoption agency...that sort of thing."

Scully swallowed hard. "Whatever it takes to get him back permanently, Mulder. Whatever it takes."

Mulder put his arm around her and pulled her close. "He also suggested that you not be there and...I think that might be for the best."

"You might be right, Mulder," Scully replied, even though the thought of not hearing the outcome first hand was painful.

As they were going back into the motel, the desk clerk called to him. "Mr. Luder, a courier delivered a message for you," the man said as he passed a white envelope across the counter to him.

Mulder thanked the man and caught up with Scully, who was carrying a sleeping William back to their room. "I got this," he waved the envelope, "from the desk clerk. I think it might be the results of the DNA test." His voice trembled slightly. That a simple white envelope could contain the answers he'd so desperately sought for a year overwhelmed him. He stared at it dumbly.

"Well, I think you ought to open it," Scully told him as they walked through the door of their room. She laid William in his borrowed crib, then turned to look at him. "Would you rather I left the room while you read it?" she said, desperately hoping the answer would be no.

"No of course not," he told her, sinking into a chair. His fingers didn't seem to be working properly, but he was finally able to extract the letter from the envelope. "Dear Fox Mulder, the results of the test report an over 99% certainty that William S. Mulder is your biological son. See enclosed report for further details," he read aloud, then sighed in relief.

Scully felt like dancing around the room in joy, but held on to her dignity. "Thank God. That's one hurtle we've gotten over." Her mind continued to race, because knowing at last that Mulder was her son's natural father left a lot of questions unanswered, particularly about William's 'differences'. Had Mulder told her what he'd seen in the doctor's office, her questions would have multiplied even more. Those questions can be answered later, she told herself, forcing them out of her mind.

Mulder didn't bother trying to retain his dignity, and couldn't stop smiling broadly. "I say this is a cause for celebration. Let's order a feast from room service to celebrate."

"Let's. Don't forget to order wine," Scully told him, snaking her arms around his neck as he picked up the phone to dial.

Mulder glanced over his shoulder, looking first at Skinner, then at the social worker who had his son beside her in a baby carrier. He wished that it was Scully sitting there with William, but they discussed it and decided in the end that it was for the best if she wasn't there. Also conspicuously absent was Kersh, which is why Skinner was there, hoping that he could make it sound like he had anything to do with Mulder's leaving. He looked at his son once more, and thought about how heartbreakingly innocent he looked while wearing a baby blue shirt and pants covered in teddy bears. William noticed his father's glance, and broke out into a sunny smile.

A noise from the side of the courtroom drew Mulder's attention, and he watched as the Judge walked into the courtroom. It seemed to him that he'd been waiting hours for her entrance, but a more reliable witness, the clock on the wall, said it had only been a matter of minutes. Mulder studied her features as she walked towards the bench. He took her to be in her mid-fifties, tall and thin. Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun, and though still mostly dark brown, though it was shot through with silver in places. He took her reluctance to color her hair as much of a testimony to her no-nonsense style as the expression on her face as she surveyed the courtroom. He wasn't sure that he wouldn't have preferred a fuzzy-minded and grandmotherly type as overseer of his case.

"All rise, the honorable Vanessa Winters presiding."

From the time he scrambled to his feet until he was about to be questioned about his nearly year long absence, Mulder felt as ease. Ted was doing a fabulous job of presenting Mulder as a victim of circumstance, without doing much sullying of Scully's good name in the process, and the judge seemed warmer than he first guessed she would. She even had a ghost of a smile on her face when William interrupted the proceedings by calling out "Dada!" until Mulder looked at him.

Skinner apologized profusely when he explained that he and the other agents had failed to convince Kersh to testify on Mulder's behalf. Mulder had sighed, but told Skinner the truth: he didn't really expect Kersh to help him. Skinner explained that after the last trial, Kersh was given a six months' leave of absence for his part in the "jail break," even though the FBI trial was later declared by all to be absurd once the remains of the deceased were looked into by the local police; to save face, the tribunal overturned their guilty verdict for Mulder. Kersh, Skinner said, was still seething over the face that he had faced sanctions for helping a fugitive who turned out not to be one after all.

Mulder tried not to tremble when he approached the bench to answer the judge's questions.

"Mr. Mulder, could you please explain to me what you were doing between May of 2001 and May of 2002?"

Mulder squirmed a bit. "I'm afraid I can only answer in general terms, your honor. Most of what I was doing is highly classified."

"Very well, in general terms then," she agreed with a sharp nod of her head.

"I was assigned to care for a teenage boy who was the subject of one of our investigations. There was concern that he might be adducted again, as he had once four years before. It was deemed to be safest for him, and myself, if I maintained no contact with anyone while protecting him," Mulder said in a steady voice. He had rehearsed it in his head a score of times, so it came out perfectly.

"And this boy is no longer in danger?" the judge asked, looking interested.

"No, your honor. The man who kidnapped the boy previously has recently died, and the boy is now living with an aunt."

"And what about you, Mr. Mulder? The FBI is a dangerous line of work."

"I'm no longer employed by the FBI," Mulder answered quietly, not bothering to add that it wasn't by his choice, or that he hoped to be in its employ again one day. Mulder looked up and wondered why she was accepting his story with nods, as if she'd heard it all before, instead of seeming the least surprised by what he had to say.

In a moment she enlightened him and the rest of the courtroom. "I received a letter from one Alvin Kersh this morning, that collaborates with your position. Given that is the case, and you were not allowed to be cognizance of Ms. Scully's plans to place William up for adoption, I think that there is only one ruling I can make in this case."

Mulder held his breath, surprised that the moment of truth was so quickly upon him.

"It is my ruling that you did not, in fact, give up parental rights to your son, so therefore he will be remanded to your custody immediately," she said with a smile.

"Thank you, your honor!" is all Mulder could blurt out before he rushed to claim his son from the social worker. Mulder held the baby tightly and grinned with sheer happiness, even as Ted and Skinner offered their congratulations.

Scully paced back and forth in the hotel suite, checking the clock on the wall constantly. Mulder had promised to call her as soon as the judge gave the ruling. The waiting was agony. What if, she thought, Mulder didn't get custody of William? For four months she was able to make an uneasy peace with the idea of her son growing up in the care of strangers, but she knew that could never be the case again. Yet again Mulder's seemingly misplaced paranoia proved to be justified, and William had been put in far more danger than she could imagine that he would ever face if he lived with her and Mulder. She had very nearly lost yet another child while it was away from her. She didn't know if she would survive if she found out that William would yet again be taken from her. There were always appeals, and while she thought that Mulder was strong enough to fight indefinitely, she wasn't sure that she was.

She was about to wear a track into the carpet with her pacing when she heard the doorknob rattle. Mulder walked into the room, alone, with unreadable look on his face.

"I thought you were going to call me," Scully said, her voice thin with anxiety.

Mulder sighed. "I was going to, but I decided that it wasn't the sort of thing I could tell you over the phone."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully said, her hand going to her mouth.

"I talked to Skinner and he agreed that it'd be best to tell you in person." Mulder poked his head out the door. "Skinner, could you come in here please?"

Scully nearly screamed at him for inviting Skinner in on what she thought should be a private conversation. Skinner walked into the room, holding the hand of a very small boy who was talking unsteady steps towards her. Scully rushed forward and crouched down. William's face lit up. "Mama, mama, mama!" She scooped him up and held him close.

"I'm going to get you for this, Mulder," she threatened over the top of William's head.

Mulder turned towards Skinner. "What do you think, Sir? Should I try to get into the witness protection program?"

"No, Mulder, I think you should just face her wrath and get it over with. Even with her temper I'm sure you'll survive," Skinner said with a completely straight face.

Scully listened without retorting, too thrilled to have her son in her arms to come up with any witty rejoinders.

William gnawed on a garlic bread stick, and kept a close watch on his parents, as if to make sure they weren't going anywhere. He kicked his feet one more time to test whether or not escape from the restaurant high chair was possible, and resigned himself to the fact he could not. So instead he focused his bright blue eyes on the people gathered around the table.

He was at his father's side, and his mother sat next to Mulder, which suited William fine since he could see them easily. Skinner, who William liked a lot, sat next to Scully, which meant that he had to crane his head to see the man clearly. His grandmother, whom William kept reaching out to pat, sat at the head of the table, adjacent to him. Across the table agents Reyes and Doggett smiled at William, and occasionally, at each other. William looked around for the three funny men who had doted on him before he went to live with Van de Kamps, and was puzzled why they weren't there. The person who most captivated William's attention, though, was the teenage boy sitting directly across from him. He though several times that the boy had said something to him, but each time he turned to look, Gibson's mouth was closed. No one but Gibson noticed his bemusement.

" how does it feel not be a fugitive from justice after all?" Doggett asked Mulder.

"Not bad at all. Krycek made the one armed man thing work for him, but I'm just not cut out for it." Mulder quipped.

"So...what are you going to do now?" Reyes asked eagerly.

"Oh, you know, move to little village in Vermont where I can open a small general practice and Mulder can stay home with William while writing a book on alien abductions," Scully said with a straight face, which she kept until she saw that everyone but Gibson and Mulder were taking her seriously. "I was joking!" she said, trying to smother a laugh.

"Actually," Mulder said, "We don't really know what we're doing yet. Maggie has been kind enough to offer to let us stay with her, and we probably will take advantage of her hospitality for a few days." He cast a fond look at Mrs. Scully.

"Oh! Could I come over too, just for the night?" Gibson asked unexpectedly. Reyes shot him a suspicious look.

"That'd be fine with me, dear, if it's ok with Agent Reyes," Maggie said warmly.

"Why?" Reyes asked him.

"There's a chess exhibition I wanted to see starting early tomorrow morning. They're trying out another super computer against a human, and I'd really like to get there bright and early. Since it's so much closer to Mrs. Scully's house..." he trailed off, giving her a pleading look.

At first she was going to demand how he knew where Mrs. Scully lived, but then realized that he'd probably just read the older woman's mind. "I...guess so. Can you drop him off tomorrow afternoon?" Reyes asked Mulder, who nodded. "Thank Mrs. Scully," she demanded.

"Oh, sorry. Thank you," Gibson said with a smile.

"In that case, perhaps we could go for a drink after dinner," Doggett suggested to her.

"Sure. Would you like to come along, sir?" she said Skinner, not even noticing the annoyed look that flashed across Doggett's face.

"Normally I would, but I'm going on a trip this weekend, so I hitting the hay early tonight."

"Guess it's just you and me then," Doggett said, trying not to look too pleased.

Gibson had to hide his smile when Reyes went off with Doggett. Although he knew she suspected that he had an ulterior motive for wanting to go home with Mrs. Scully, she only guessed half of it. He did, as she suspected, want her and Doggett to be able to have the time alone he sensed they both longed for, but there was more to it than that.

"Here you go, dear," Maggie said as she handed a pillow and blanket to Gibson. "You're looking forward to this chess exhibition tomorrow?"

"Yes, very much. I don't know if Dana told you, but I used to play chess myself. Before...everything got strange."

"I think she did mention that. Do you miss it?"

"A little... Mrs. Scully, is William asleep yet?"

"I don't think so, why?"

"I was sort of hoping to play with him a little. I was an only child, so I didn't have much of a chance to play with younger kids."

"I'll go see."

Gibson made the bed in the guest room while Maggie went to get William. Gibson knew the boy was awake, so he was looking forward to playing with him. He'd told Maggie the truth, but omitted why he was particularly interested in playing with this baby.

"Here you go," Maggie said as she put William in his arms. "I left the door to the room his crib is in open so you can find it when he gets tired."

"Thanks," Gibson said with a grin, and watched her walk out the door. He put William on the bed, and decided to begin his experiment. ::William, look at me:: he thought in the baby's direction. William's head whipped around, and his little face filled with confusion.

Gibson was fascinated, because while he'd met other people who had telepathic gifts of varying levels, he'd never met one as young as William. William was so young that his vocabulary was very limited, meaning most of his thoughts were more in pictures than words. ::I know you can hear me, William:: Gibson got a sudden flash picture of himself with his mouth closed. ::You're right, my mouth is closed. I'm talking to you in your head!:: William laughed. ::I hear you too. Most people, like your Mommy and Daddy can't hear you, because we're special, we can. You can tell me things, if you need to, like if you're scared.:: Instead of thinking about being scared, William sent him a picture of Mulder and Scully holding him tight. ::Oh, I see, you're safe. Good!::

Gibson and William "talked" a little more before he put him to bed. He was surprised how much the baby understood of what was going on, despite his tender age. The thing that impressed him the most was that William really seemed to understand that Mulder was the "daddy" that Scully had told him about since birth. He went back to the guest room, having finally satisfied his curiosity; he'd wondered since Mulder told him about a worried e-mail from Scully about William's abilities to move things if he might be telepathic as well.

"Waitress, could we get another two bottles of Sam Adams?" Doggett asked the woman as she passed by.

"John, do you think we should?" Reyes asked, putting a hand on his arm.

"Monica, we don't have to work tomorrow, so I can't think of any reason on earth why we shouldn't," he told her with a half-smile.

"Well..." She smiled back in spite of herself.

"Can we talk?"

"Isn't that what we've been doing for the past hour?" Reyes teased.

"I meant can we have a serious conversation," Doggett replied.

"Uh oh. Serious, huh? So we should have this conversation before we have anything more to drink?"

"Something like that," he said, then paused for a moment as the waitress set the frosty bottles on the table. "I've been doing some serious thinking lately."

"What about?"

"Oh, you know, life. The lack thereof... Within the last couple of months I've finally become at peace with the loss of my old life. I've been able to say good-bye to Luke and my ex-wife, and I've finally had the room in my mind to think about other things that are important to me as well. Other people."

"People like who?" Reyes asked curiously.

"William, for one. I've finally been able to allow myself to acknowledge that I care about a child other than my son. For a long, long time I couldn't even think about caring about another kid, not my wife's nieces and nephews, and not him, because I couldn't bear the thought of something terrible happening to them. Now that the little guy is back with his parents, and is safe, I can let myself love him."

"Anyone else?"

"Scully," Doggett said, gratified by the disappointed look on her face, because it gave him the courage to continue. "I don't know if I ever told you, but growing up, I always wanted a little sister. Who knew it would take me half a lifetime to find someone who made me feel that way? It's a nice feeling, which is why I felt so frustrated when she didn't seem to be using as much caution as she should have the times Mulder was gone. She feels like the little sister I never had."

"But I don't." Reyes turned her question into a statement.

"No, because that sort of thing isn't legal in most states," he told her with a grin as a look of slowly dawning comprehension filtered across her face. "I don't have half the words to tell you how much I care about you. I've wasted enough time in this life holding things back...I think it's time you know that I love you."

"I don't you what to say," Reyes said, suddenly blushing.

"That's a first," Doggett teased, knowing when she smiled that he'd done the right thing by confessing.

After Mulder took Gibson home from the chess tournament, which he claimed to love, he and Scully had the afternoon, and the house, to themselves. Mrs. Scully insisted on taking William with her to go shopping, even though Scully protested that there were already enough toys for him to play with in the house. "There is no such things as too many toys," Maggie had said to over rule her objections.

"You know, Mulder, I wish she'd adhered to such a policy when I was growing up," Scully said with a smirk as Maggie and William drove off.

"Awww...but look on the bright side, kids who don't have every toy their hearts could desire are supposed to grow up to be more creative."

"That's true..."

"Besides, I bet you spent a lot of time playing games. House for example. Would you like to play house now?" he said her, turning his puppy dog eyes on her.

"You're a devious man," she said with a smile. "However, maybe we should think about really playing house?"

"Really?" Mulder asked her, leading her up the stairs, back to Scully's childhood room.

"Well..," she said as she began to unbutton his shirt, "We have our son back, and you're no longer a wanted man...So I was thinking that the three of us would be safest from any over-zealous replicants if we were all together."

"Oh?" he said as he shrugged off the shirt. "You think we could make the official family thing work?"

"I think we could manage," she said, dropping her shoes over the side of the bed. "It would be nice, though, if we could somehow find a way convince my mother that we eloped shortly before William was conceived, but forgot to mention it."

"What? And skip all the drama of living in sin?" Mulder said with a grin as he reached for her skirt.

"So you wouldn't want anyone to think we were married?" she said with a playful pout.

Mulder laughed. "Who would believe that you'd married me?" Scully shrugged. "Nah, we can live in sin, scandalize your mother's church, and still plan for that honeymoon video you wouldn't let me make a few years back."

"Only if you're better at putting the lid back down than you were then," Scully said as she tugged on his belt.

"For you, anything. A little house with a white picket fence, two cats and a kid in the front yard."

Scully decided it was time to tell him. "What about two kids in the front yard?" she said lightly.

"Do you mean adoption? Sure, it would probably take a long time though, unless we got an older kid-"

She put a finger across his lips. "I meant another baby, our baby," she said, stressing the word "our."

"I don't understand," he said, after gently removing her hand from his mouth.

Scully gave him a sober look. "I found a few months ago that there's a possibility that I'm not completely barren after all."

For a moment he nearly asked her why she kept it to herself, but then thought better of it, considering things he'd kept from her. "That's wonderful news," he said as her blouse landed on the floor.

"I'm glad you think so." Scully paused for a moment. "Mulder, I thought you said you weren't going to wear those Marvin the Martin boxers any more."

A moment later he gave her a broad smile. "Problem solved." Scully laughed as she reached out to draw him closer.

Spender's hands twitched with an impotent impatience as he forced himself to allow the nurse to do her job without his interference. It felt strange to him that the bandages were finally unraveling and falling away. As the innermost layer came off, and the conditioned air hit his bare skin, he felt a fleeting sense of loss; the bandages had been his second skin for over a week, and he'd gotten accustomed to their feel.

As the nurse finished, he looked up at her face, hoping her expression would tell him as much as his own reflection. Her face was devoid of horror or pity, so it made him hopeful. Either was an accomplished actress, or her impassiveness was unfeigned because the face she was looking at wasn't remarkable.

"I'll get you a mirror, Mr. Miller," she told him with a smile.

For a moment a cold and irrational fear filled him: he was sure he'd look into it and see nothing, then begin laughing madly in a sad parody of "the invisible man." The nurse hadn't seen anything horrible, because there had been nothing to see.

By the time the nurse held the mirror out to him, he was feeling braver. So he took it from her and looked. "I have a nose." It wasn't until she nodded in agreement that he realized that he'd said it aloud. He supposed he ought to have been embarrassed, but instead he gave into his fascination. He gently his nose with one scared finger, finding it firmly affixed. Further probing revealed the same about the ears that sat on either side of his head. The artificial hair that the doctor spoke so highly of looked nearly as real as the hair that had once grown on his head. A bubble of joy expanded in his chest.

Eventually the nurse spoke, "the doctor said to tell you that the redness of your skin should go away within a couple of days, and that it's normal for the bandages to have caused that sort of irritation." Spender nodded, thinking that even if by some chance it didn't, it was one hundred times better for people to look at him and think that he had a rash than to think he was a monster. "I hope you don't mind my saying so, but I've seen the pictures from before your accident, and I've got to tell you that yours was one of the most successful restorative surgeries I've ever seen."

"Thanks," Spender said, not sure her motives.

"The doctor would like to see you before you leave so he can schedule the next surgery to work on those scars of yours." Spender looked down at his hands when she said it, and thought that he'd like to have his old hands back too. "I know that you're be in and out of the hospital for the next couple of months, but I have some time off around Christmas...Think about it," she said, then walked out of the room.

Spender watched her go, his eyes wide with shock. The last thing he'd ever expected anything to think of him was desirable. He now had two reasons to hope the operations were performed quickly: the sooner they were done, the sooner he could contact Scully, and the sooner he could get his normal life back.

Mulder and Scully were lucky to quickly find a lovely three-bedroom house for sale in the same neighborhood as Mrs. Scully, which was handy since she might still baby-sit occasionally. For the most part, though, it was much as Scully had jokingly said the night Mulder won custody of their son, Mulder planned to stay home with William, while she took a job as a medical examiner in a large hospital. Mulder, however, had no plans to write a book about alien abductions.

The day they moved in, Mulder was ripping the tape off another carton when he heard a thumping sound. He quickly set the box down, and had a sinking feeling that Scully was wrong about William's inability to get out of the playpen she had left him napping in when she went to the grocery store a half an hour before. Despite the maze of boxes, Mulder reached the living room quickly.

Scully had opened a box before she left, and William was industriously emptying that box of books onto the living room floor, reaching in with one hand, while the other held onto box with a death grip so he could keep himself on his feet. More than a dozen books already surrounded the little boy. Mulder assumed that he didn't hear his work sooner because most of the books had soft covers on them.

"William-" Mulder began, wondering how to convince a just over one-year-old to behave.

William looked at him with an excited expression. "Book! Book! Book!" he chortled.

Mulder crossed the room and gently took the book out of William's hand. "Mommy and Daddy's books. Let's see if we can find William's books."

A quick look around the room led him to find a box neatly labeled in Scully's hand writing. Mulder yanked the tape off the box, and set in on the floor in front of William, who immediately began to empty his picture books onto the floor.

Mulder sighed and looked at the pile of books that William had already scattered across the room before he got there. He decided it was as good a time as any to begin filling the bookcases that lined one wall of the living room. Fortunately, the only shelves at William's level had doors with secure locks on them.

Mulder busied himself with filling the bookcase, while William emptied the boxes. Mulder grinned to himself and thought that maybe he and Will made a good team after all.

" as soon as I got home from the grocery store, Mulder informed me that we needed to put William's crib together, immediately," Scully told Reyes the next day while out for lunch.

"Well, at least no one can say that William isn't already trying to help out around the house. Which I bet is more than you can say for Mulder." Reyes grinned.

"Oh, Mulder helps around the house...not much more effectively than William, though," Scully said, trying not to laugh. "I will say one thing, however, he's a much better cook than I would have ever given him credit for. Apparently he just never got around to mentioning that he took several cooking classes in college, until I expressed my astonishment at his culinary skills last night. When I asked him why he always ate fast food then, he told me that cooking for one was depressing," Scully said, and rolled her eyes. "I wouldn't have minded helping him eat if he felt the need to cook for two."

"Isn't it funny how men keep little things to themselves like that?" Reyes asked archly, thinking about Doggett's recent revelations.

"Oh well, mystery is what keeps things interesting, wouldn't you say?"

"I guess so. So how do you like the house?"

"It's great. And with William helping, I'm sure that we'll be unpacked in no time," Scully said.

"I'm glad you guys are finally settling down. If anyone deserves some peace and quiet in your lives, it's you two."

"Don't say that, you'll jinx us," Scully told her, only half kidding.

He preferred food high in protein, so he was at the stove, frying himself bacon and eggs when the phone rang. He flicked off the burner before reaching for the phone, picking it up on the third ring. For a long moment he merely listened, silent.

"Yes sir, I understand that. I will be in place to act at that time. Thank you for confirming my instructions," he said respectfully. The man hung up the phone and went back to making his dinner.

His superior was stationed in Washington, but he kept his eye on various subjects as they carried out their individual goals for the project. The man has just received the confirmation that his goal was to be carried out in a few days time. He grabbed his coat and left the apartment, heading to the local ammunition store.

The last day of finals had long since come and gone, so Gibson had free range of the city, as long as he kept Reyes informed of where he was going to be for the day, and kept a cell phone with him for emergencies. Most poor weather days he spent in museums and historic sites so he could learn something even while forced to behave like a more or less normal kid so he didn't stick out. Usually he struck up a conversation with some elderly people, who always took a liking to him, so he'd look like a bored grandson forced to tag along.

Since it was a nice day, for once, he decided to surprise everyone so he met Reyes, Doggett and Skinner at the front doors of the Hoover building as the three of them left for the day. He had only had a two minute wait before the door swung open and they were walking down the stairs towards him.

"Hey Gib, how are you?" Doggett asked, giving the boy a smile.

"Great thanks." Gibson then turned his attention to Reyes and asked, "'Aunt' Monica, do you think it'd be ok if we got some soft pretzels from the vendor before heading home? I promise it won't ruin my appetite."

Reyes smiled in spite of herself. "Sure. You guys want some to get some too?" It didn't surprise her much when both men eagerly agreed to get them too. She knew them well enough to realize they were both junk food connoisseurs.

Gibson was just taking the first bite of his pretzel when his blood went cold. A man, who had come out of the Hover building walked by him, thinking terrible thoughts. He stared after the man for a long while, and for a moment expected the man to confront him, but he kept walking down the street without so much as a glance back at Gibson.

Reyes looked sharply at the boy, and watched as Gibson's brown eyes filled with sadness. "Scully's child is in danger and needs her," he told them flatly.

"What do you mean?" Reyes asked him. "William is with Mulder and Scully. You know that."

"Not him, the other child," Gibson said in frustration, not having heard enough thoughts to puzzle out what child the man had been thinking about, just knowing that it wasn't William.

"Scully doesn't have any other children," Doggett told him with a bemused look on his face. "William is so important to her precisely because he's the only child she could ever have."

Reyes wondered for a moment if she should mention what Scully learned about her fertility, and perhaps suggest that Scully might be pregnant, but Skinner spoke first. "William isn't an only child. Wasn't, that is."

"What?" Doggett and Reyes ask simultaneously. Gibson just looks at Skinner and nods with understanding, reading what's on the man's mind.

"Scully had a daughter," Skinner told them quietly. "Several years back she learned that her eggs had been harvested, and that the victim's eggs had been used in a genetics experiment. An experiment that produced a little girl named Emily, who was gravely ill her entire, short life. She died five years ago at the age of three from a rare form of anemia."

Doggett's heart went out to Scully when he learned that she too had lost a child. "Did she find out about the girl before or after she died?"

"Mere days before," Skinner said with a sigh. "She has rarely spoken of the girl since, because there was just enough time for her to become attached to the child before she died."

"But she didn't," Gibson objected, throwing them a portion of the stranger's dark thoughts as evidence. "Ask Scully about the coffin full of sand. She's known all a long that they took the girl's body, and assumed they destroyed it to hide the evidence of their experiments. However, the girl didn't die then, but is in danger of doing so now," he said, worry etched across his young face. Skinner took one look at the boy and reached for his cell phone.

That Afternoon in New York...

The summer sun beat in through the window, and Emily sighed. Unlike most seven and a half year-olds, Emily hated the summer. Summer meant endless days of being in the home, away from her school friends, and having new medical procedures designed to "cure her" being done because they didn't get in the way of her schoolwork then if they backfired and made her sick instead of helping her.

It wasn't the tests and treatments that she minded, though many of them hurt, since that was an everyday facet of life, but it was not being able to be in the classroom that she missed. She loved school and everything that went along with it, and applied herself so diligently that she would be starting the fourth grade two months shy of her eighth birthday.

Her caretakers encouraged her lively curiosity, but perhaps only because they didn't realize what it was that she so desperately wanted to learn: how to become a normal girl. It was one of the only reasons she submitted so willingly to the doctors, they had improved her condition considerably since she "died," now she even bled red.

Every night Emily had the same dream: she became normal, so someone would love her again, just like her dimly remembered parents did. Once she was normal she'd have two happy parents and a covey of brothers and sisters, who would all be glad that she existed. In the summer, the dream was broken by nurses before she ever saw the dream-parents faces. At least during the school year she'd get glimpses of blue and hazel eyes, looking at her with love.

"Coming!" Mulder called at the closed door as he hurried to it, with William tucked under one arm. The insistent pounding on the door made him nervous because it sounded urgent, and he wondered if there was a significance to the call he'd missed while changing his son. "Uh, hi," he said to the agents standing on his doorstep.

"hi. hi!" William repeated, smiling at them. His smile faded when they didn't smile back. "Dada?" he tried again, and felt better when Mulder tickled him and made him giggle.

"Mulder, we need to talk. Is Scully home?" Skinner asked as the four of them entered the house in a tense group. The look on Gibson's face made him especially nervous.

Before he quite realized it, Mulder had handed his son to Reyes, who was cuddling him. "No, she started her new job this week, and is at the hospital right now," Mulder said with a bemused look on his face.

"Will she be home soon?" Skinner persisted.

" about fifteen minutes," Mulder said, giving him an expectant look. To his disappointment, no one said another word to him as the minutes passed with an agonizing slowness. He found the silence unnatural and disturbing.

Scully noticed the car in their driveway, but she thought it was a social call. Until she saw their faces. Her first thought, as she looked at their morose expressions, was that someone must have died. Mulder and William were in the room, safe and sound, so her mind raced, trying to think of someone the agents might have come to talk to her about. When she came up with no names she finally asked, "What's going on here?"

Mulder gave her an apologetic look. "I wish I knew. They wouldn't tell me why they are here because they wanted to wait for you to get home."

Reyes gave Scully such a purely sympathetic look that Scully felt fear race up her spine even before Skinner began to speak. "Scully, do you believe in Gibson's ability to read minds?"

"Yes of course. He was tested intensively, and it was proven without a doubt that he reads minds."

"Do you believe he's accurate?" Skinner added, looking at Mulder.

"As Scully said, without a doubt," Mulder replied as he stared at the boy who was sitting between Reyes and Doggett.

Skinner sighed and massaged his forehead. "I wish to God that we weren't here to tell you something that will disrupt your lives now that you've finally settled into something like normalcy, but that's not the way it has worked out."

"With all due respect, Sir, what the hell are you talking about?" Mulder asked, forgetting for a moment that the man was no longer his superior so he could have called him Walter.

"Tell him," Skinner said to Gibson.

"I met Monica, John, and Walter at the Hover building today and while we were standing around having pretzels, a man walked by and I read his thoughts."

"And?" Scully asked, reaching for her son, whom Reyes quickly handed over.

"And he was thinking about a plan to hurt your child," Gibson said, not quite looking her in the eyes.

Scully tightened her grip on William until he whined to protest. "Someone else wants to hurt William?" she said in a strangled voice.

"No. He wasn't thinking about William," Gibson said softly.

"Emily??" Mulder blurted out the only other possibility, blinking in surprise. "But Emily died almost five years ago."

Gibson shook his head. "She didn't die. The ones who made her took her back and made her better."

Scully looked at him, feeling completely overwhelmed. "If they made her better, why would they want to hurt her now?" she said him, her voice threatening tears.

"The ones who want to hurt her aren't the same as the ones who made her," Gibson said.

"I don't understand!" Scully cried.

"No, Scully, it makes sense. Right before William was born, the replicants, like Billy Miles, set about to destroy all people creating the hybrids, because they consider hybrids 'abominations.' We know that Emily bled green, the same as the aliens-human hybrids we encountered early in our work in the x-files, so chances are she is one of the hybrids too," Mulder told her.

"Which puts her in danger," Scully said, looking at her hands.

"Don't worry, Scully, we'll find her in time," Mulder told her with more confidence than he felt.

"Do we even know where to look?" Scully asked plaintively, and no one said they did.

"No, I have an idea how to find out, though," Gibson told her.

Calderon looked in on the sleeping children. Each had its blond haired head on a pillow. The youngest clutched a teddy bear to his chest, and had a smile on his lips. Once his nightly rounds were completed, Calderon shut their doors and went to his own room.

There had once been eight children, now there were only three. Most of the "mothers" that Mulder had once met in the retirement home had lost their children without even knowing it. In fact, they would have been surprised to learn of the children's existence, dead or alive, in the first place.

The "beauty sleep" that Anna Fugazzi had told Mulder about when she met him was not an actual process that Dr. Calderon had perfected: He told his patients that the beauty sleep would take years off their age, as Anna had said, but in reality he was merely drugging them into a coma state for nine months at a time. None of the women ever suspected what was happening to their bodies while they were helpless and unconscious.

The products of the experiments, like Emily herself, eventually all came under the care of Doctor Calderon's successor. A man who looked like Calderon, and went by the same name, but was not him. No one on his staff ever figured that out he killed the first man and took over his identity, perhaps because there had been no one who has really wanted to know it. This doctor Calderon doesn't mind the fact that a few people had to die in order to ensure that the project continued, or that some of the deaths personally stained his hands. In his mind, the only important thing was the children.

The original Doctor Calderon's delays also had cost lives. Five of the children died because the second Calderon could not help enough soon enough. Those of whom stayed with their adopted families all fell victim to their strange blood chemistry, and died, as Emily herself nearly did, because the out-patient treatment they received was not aggressive enough to halt the disease's progression. Had the five other adoptive mothers dared open the caskets for one last glance at their beloved children, they would have been met by the same sight that Scully had been: coffins full of sand. Calderon had ordered this be done so their bodies could be disposed of in a place where no one was likely to stumble over them before there was no psychical evidence of their differences left to threaten the project.

In fact, it was this practice that had saved Emily's life, though the girl herself didn't know it. The alien element of her DNA sent her into a similar sleep as Mulder's post abduction state, and like the doctor who declared Mulder dead, the hospital staff hadn't realized that she was just deeper within her coma. Calderon himself realized it, and was gladdened by the realization, because he'd been too late four times before. The only other child who was in such a coma and not dead never woke up, and truly died two months after his body was confiscated.

Emily, and the two boys, whose adoptive families gave them up so they could have round the clock medical care, flourished beyond his wildest expectations. All three were well enough to attend a private school during the day, and needed treatment only once a week, which was an improvement over the states they were in when this Calderon got ahold of them. In fact, though he never told the boys' families, they could have returned to them with little danger to their health. However, both families had moved on and tried to forget that they had ever loved boys named Brian and George. The younger boy, who went by Georgie, was the final product of the first Calderon's experiment, and had been give up by his adoptive family at such a young age that he didn't realize that he'd once had a family. The other boy, like Emily, vaguely remembered what it was like to have parents, and resented the people who'd given him up because of it.

Calderon kept the three surviving children in a private home he purchased when he became convinced that there was a chance that some of the eight children might recover from the rapid failing they were all experiencing around the time that the first Calderon was disposed of. Emily, Brian and Georgie regarded the doctor as a nice person, and he worked hard to keep it that way, going so far as living in the house with them, so he was always on hand when they might need him.

Scully had fallen into an exhausted sleep not long after everyone had left, but Mulder, who had not spent the day working, was still awake in the middle of the night. He sat in front of the TV, hoping that the inane programs would drug his mind into unconsciousness, but it hadn't worked. He was determined not to climb into bed before he was ready to drop, because he didn't want to wake Scully. He even found himself wishing that William would wake up, so he would have someone to be awake with.

As he flicked to a rerun of a golf match, a sport he hated, he gave up hoping to empty his mind of unpleasant thoughts. He felt guilty about the ambivalence he felt upon learning that Emily was still alive. Of course he didn't begrudge her life, but he was at odds at what her being alive would mean to him and Scully. He was sure that Scully would want to have the girl with her, and he found the idea of having two children that were targeted by sinister forces under on roof to be frightening. Though he thought that the alternative would be worse; they could be too late to save her once again. Even in the best of worlds they'd face yet another battle for custody. He worried that he and Scully would not survive if the cycle of losing and gaining their children continued.

When Scully woke up the next morning, she had only one thing on her mind. Mulder was lying in bed looking dead to the world, so she tried not to disturb him when she left their room. Once she got to the kitchen, she pulled out the step stool and carried it to the hallway closet. The thing she was after was in a box on the top shelf. She took the box down and opened it, pulling out a thick packet of papers. After the thumbed through they, she returned them to their envelope and got ready for work.

Mulder yawned, stretched, and dragged himself out of bed a couple of hours later. He walked to William's room and looked at the sleeping boy for a minute before going to start a pot of coffee. It was only as he was pouring the water into the coffee maker that he noticed that Scully had left a note for him on the kitchen table, next to a fat envelope.

Once the coffee began to drip, he picked up the note and read:

I know you must be as overwhelmed as I am about this whole Emily thing. I hope you don't feel badly if you have mixed emotions, because personally, I can't sort through mine rationally enough to know if they're mixed or not. However, the envelope on the table should make things a little easier for us to both deal with; I spoke to a lawyer this morning about their validity, and she seemed certain that they'd at least help. It's nice to know that there are law firms open early in the morning! I think it won't be as hard as you fear...I know what you've been worrying about, I saw it in your eyes last night. I never mentioned the envelope's contents before, because they arrived three days too late. I love you,

He had a sneaking suspicion of the envelope's contents, so he snatched them up with eager hands. Inside was the adoption approval that Mulder had helped Scully fight for over four and a half years earlier. He wondered how much Scully had hurt when they'd arrived on what must have been on the day of the girl's funeral.

Gibson, with a visitor's pass pinned to his shirt, followed Skinner down the hallways of the Hoover building. A man smiled at the boy and asked Skinner, "You got a new recruit?"

Uncharacteristically tolerant of the ribbing, Skinner said, "Nope, he's a little young for that. Peters, have you met Agent Reyes' nephew, Gib, yet? He's taking the opportunity this summer to do a little job shadowing, and today he's spending the day with me."

"Nice to meet, you Gib," the other man said, shaking Gibson's hand. "How's DC treating you?"

"It's, uh, a nice place to visit," he told Peters, hoping to come off sounding like a typical teenager.

"But you wouldn't want to live here. I get you," Peters replied with a laugh. "Well, I hope your visit helps you decide to lean towards, or rule out, a career in the FBI."

"Thank you, sir," Gibson said as the man began to walk off.

As Gibson got into Skinner's car at the end of the day, he grinned broadly. Skinner noticed his mirth. "Did it work?"

"Like a charm. No one perceived 'Reyes' nephew' as a threat, and, fortunately, the super solider who was at Mulder's trial wasn't around, so no one who could identify me as anyone else was in the building. I pretended to be lost after using the restroom and asking directions back to your office most of the day," Gibson told him.

"Did you hear what you needed to?"

"I did. Do you realize that there are six or seven replicants working right in this building?"

"No, and while that's fascinating and frightening, I need to know what you found out," Skinner said, trying to be patient.

Gibson decided not to toy with the man anymore, having heard about his temper in many people's thoughts. "Emily and two other children are being cared for in New York. There's a tentative attack on the caretakers, and the children, scheduled for tomorrow night."

"Did you hear when, though?" Skinner pressed.

"They told the person who is supposed to 'eliminate the problem' to make his move at 11pm sharp. The town is having a fireworks display then to celebrate its 200 anniversary, and they're hoping it will cover up any of the noise, since the house is near the launch site."

"We'll have to get there before then," Skinner told Gibson grimly.

Mulder walked down the hallway, and peered into the bedrooms. For once he'd managed to make their bed before Scully got home, so it was neat. The next room was Will's nursery, and they'd only begun to decorate it, consciously making it look nothing like the room he'd had in the Van de Kamp's house. He passed these first two rooms quickly, but the third made him pause. As he looked in he focused on the only thing in the room: a bare twin bed with white sheets and a pillow case stacked neatly on the foot of it. He closed the door with a sigh and went downstairs to continue his argument with Scully.

Skinner had called earlier that night and told them what Gibson had learned, and they'd been arguing ever since. Scully started arguing her side again as soon as he stepped back into the room. "Mulder, she's my daughter. I need to be there."

"All right, Scully, fine. You better find a baby carrier made of kevlar while you're at it," he snapped angrily.

"What are you babbling about?" Scully demanded crossly.

"What I'm getting at is that if you go, William needs to go too, so he won't be left unprotected. Or have you forgotten that Gibson said that the same person who is after Emily already tried to kill William once? What would be a better opportunity for one of the others to try again than knowing that we both left William alone? We know from experience that they're as likely to pick up the phone as we are. Maybe we could leave him at your Mom's house so we can put her in danger too," Mulder said cruelly.

Scully opened and closed her mouth without saying anything, then burst into tears. Mulder immediately felt guilty and flustered, because he rarely saw her cry, and even less frequently was the cause of her weeping, at least that he knew of. He stood there, frozen, unable to decide how he should be reacting.

She wrapped her arms around her body and tried to stop herself from shaking. She looked up at him with red eyes. "I'm sorry. Sorry. I just...I just can't deal with being left out of important decisions regarding my children. I know that I need to get a grip and put aside my selfish need to be there always, but it hurts, Mulder. I'm afraid that when they grow up and ask me why I wasn't there for important moments of their lives, I won't know what to tell them. I've already missed so many events in their lives..."

Mulder finally crossed the room and gathered her up in his arms. He stroked her hair as he spoke to her. "You'll tell them that you weren't there because it was what was best for them. Tell William that you weren't there in court because it increased the odds that he would come home to us. And you'll tell Emily that you couldn't be there because you needed to keep her brother safe so she could have the opportunity to meet him. They'll love you, so they'll know it's true."

Scully didn't say anything, but nodded her head against his chest while she let her tears dry up.

28 Hours Later...

Scully and Skinner sat in a café in New Jersey, with William in a carriage between them, hoping to appear like family members catching up over a late night meal. Scully's print dress and Skinner's jeans made them look less professional than ordinary, so they at least looked the part. Earlier in the night it was decided that it would be safest for William if he was neither at home, nor in the same state as the person trying to kill his sister. Skinner volunteered to help Scully protect him, if it came to that, because he felt that Doggett and Reyes would work better in a crisis with each other than with him. Gibson was with them as well, since they worried his alien DNA put him into danger as well, even if he hadn't heard that it was so.

"So, like I was saying, it's been really nice catching up with you, this weekend, Uncle Dan," Scully said brightly as she fed William part of a blueberry muffin. "Hasn't it, Jay?"

"Absolutely," Gibson said, smiling broadly. "When Dad first told me that I was supposed to go with my step-mom and little Frankie to see you and Aunt Kate, I thought it was going to be a drag. No offense, but you're not really my family, so...but you guys have been really cool. It's just too bad that Aunt Kate has to work tomorrow."

"Oh I know," Skinner said, after he sipped his chai. "She would have loved to come out with us too, but she's got to be at the daycare at 7am. Lucky for you guys I took this week off. Jenny, you really should try to see her more often, she misses you," Skinner added in a slightly disapproving tone.

Gibson took over Will-feeding as the two adults continued their mock conversation. He tried to keep his face from showing it, but he marveled at their acting ability. No one in the café was thinking about them at all, so they were doing a wonderful job blending in. He was startled that their acting was so flawless, considering that he could feel they were both sick with worry about what was happening at that moment in New York. Even better, he read William's mind, and the little boy wasn't picking up on it at all. Gibson broke off another piece of muffin and hoped there wouldn't come a point that night that the baby would.

The partial collapse of a bridge under construction caused traffic to be backed up for over an hour and a half, which resulted in everyone becoming tense as they made their way to the house in New York. Doggett and Reyes drove together his car and at least had each other to commiserate with about the mess. Mulder, on the other hand, was alone with his regret that they hadn't left earlier. Before the traffic jam it seemed important not to arrive too early, but now he worried that it had been the lesser of two evils without his even realizing it.

Mulder had been expecting the celebration to resemble an understated version of the town fair that would probably be held in the fall. He rubbed his eyes with one fist at the first sight of the fairgrounds, sure that it was a hallucination. When it didn't go away he decided that the town had left the designs to people more used to planning raves.

Garish neon lights covered blocks, and the effect was dizzying, because it was difficult to tell the rides and booths from the lit fairways. Most of the fair-goers looked like they had just stumbled out of a concert and were confused, lights dazzling their eyes and making them stupid. They also were wearing glowing necklaces, some making them into slim headbands, which Mulder thought looked foolish.

Eventually the size of the crowd and the temporarily blocked roads made it impossible to travel any father by car, so Mulder got out and began to walk because he could see the house, which Gibson had described perfectly. He left Doggett and Reyes to try to find another road with access to the house, hoping that either he or they would make it to the house by eleven.

Pushing his way through the throngs of people, he decided that had he been a beat cop, he could have cleaned up that night; the air reeked with the strange sweetness of pot. Sweaty bodies pressed upon him from all sides, making his progress slow. Had he not been concerned that it might let his mark know he was coming, he would have flashed his badge and screamed " FBI!" to get the milling crowd to clear the way. As minutes ticked away he became filled with dread: he was going to arrive at a crime scene too late for the second time that summer.

Back in the car, Doggett swore under his breath as beeping his horn failed to part the sea of people around the car. Finally, if by magic, the crowds disappeared off the road. Doggett was about to remark upon their good luck to Reyes, when he glanced at the clock on the console: it was quarter of eleven. He pounded his fist on the steering wheel and let out a string of obscenities. He looked towards Reyes, meaning to apologize to her for his out burst, but the grim look on her face stilled his tongue.

The man swung his shotgun up against his shoulder and began approaching the house. The first small fireworks were already bleeding against the night sky, so he felt confident that he could make his move a few minutes early without putting the plan into jeopardy. Waiting for a loud firecracker, he kicked the front door open and went in.

Calderon heard one of the nurses scream, and saw the man moving along the floor below. He took a step back from the railing, not wanting to be seen. In an instant Calderon decided that he would sacrifice himself in order to give the children a better chance. He moved as quickly and quietly as he could to the second floor, hoping to be able to hide the children before he needed to confront the gunman.

Screams that turned to wails, then chillingly stopped, drifted even up to the second floor as Calderon entered the first bedroom. Emily was sleeping, so he roughly shook her shoulder to wake her, and covered her mouth with one hand. "I'm going to take you to hide. You mustn't speak. Nod if you understand." Emily nodded, wide-eyed. Calderon hurried her up to the third floor, then pushed her into a closet. A minute later he returned with Georgie, then finally with Brian, both of whom he pushed in beside her. "Whatever you do, do not come out of the closet. There are bad things happening downstairs, and you will be safe here. Understand?" Three blond heads nodded before he firmly shut the closet door.

Calderon hurried down the stairs to confront the shooter.

The three children sat in their pajamas, with their knees drawn up, trying to make themselves as comfortable as possible in the cramped space. Eventually they couldn't hear any more screaming, and in their naiveté thought that the bad man had gone away; they didn't realize that he'd just run out of nurses and caretakers to make scream.

Brian, the eldest of the three at nine years old, was also the most headstrong. He suddenly stood, making the other two children cry out in dismay. "Where are you going? Doctor Calderon said to stay here!" Emily hissed at him.

"Listen. I don't hear anything anymore, do you? I think that whatever the bad things he told us about are all over. I'm gonna go see if he's ok," Brian said stubbornly.

"But we're supposed to stay here," Georgie whimpered.

"Stay here, then. I'll find Doctor Calderon and have him come back and tell you two chickens that's everything is all right," Brian scoffed. He pushed open the door, slipped out, and shut it behind him. Emily and Georgie wrapped their arms around each other and began to cry soundlessly.

Mulder felt a sickening sense of deja vu as they stepped over the first body that blocked the opening of the broken door. It was still three minutes to eleven, but they could see that the shooter had been quick and efficient as well as early. Mulder suggested they split up as they searched each floor so they could cover the mansion more quickly, and with dire nods they agreed.

Mulder touched the piece of magnetite that hung from a chain around his neck, and hoped that what Scully, then Doggett and Reyes, saw happen to replicants as a result of being in contact with the metal would happen every time, and were not fluke events. Before they split up, he whispered to Doggett and Reyes "You have the magnetite, right?"

They both nodded, and Doggett pulled down the edge of his pocket to show the ends of the capped syringes. "I feel like the freaking main character from Blade," he complained.

Mulder gave him a grim grin. "Just bear in mind that Blade survived to be the focus of a second movie." His grin disappeared as he thought about the dangers they faced. "Be careful," he commanded. They nodded and headed to different parts of the basement, hoping to find survivors and the replicant.

Mulder held a gun in one hand. Although he knew it wouldn't stop a replicant, he hoped a few well placed slugs would buy him the time he needed to plunge a syringe into it. He swung open the door and found himself standing inside a lab.

A cursory glance located a pair of feet lying on the ground. He reached into his pocket and took out a syringe just in case, and cautiously made he way towards the prone figure behind the work bench. At last he stood over him, and blinked in surprise. Doctor Calderon lay at his feet.

Mulder wondered what a man who had once withheld life prolonging treatment from Emily would be doing in the same house as her now. Calderon didn't look like he was in any condition to explain, Mulder decided as he noticed a puddle of green oozing from a wound in the man's neck. But Calderon wasn't dead, which surprised him, since in his observation, clones died quickly after they were stabbed in the neck. He didn't think there was anything he could do for the man, but he did lean down when Calderon weakly motioned for him to do so.

Calderon's breathing was labored but he spoke to Mulder in an urgent tone. "I remember you...FBI. You must save the children." Calderon's eyes roamed over the room, and Mulder felt sure that he was trying to determine if they could be overheard. "They're in a closet in the third floor. They're almost normal, almost, almost. It's their bone marrow. Transplants someday."

Mulder was tempted to tell him not to talk, which seemed like common advice for the dying in movies or on shows, but he didn't, because the man needed to speak. Suddenly Calderon reached up and grabbed Mulder's wrist. "You will save them?"

"If it's the last thing I do," Mulder assured him, and the man's grip loosened.

Calderon sank back to the floor. "My papers. In that closet." His eyes rolled back into his head, and the green puddle expanded rapidly as his body dissolved. Mulder backed away from the toxic puddle, and ran for the stairs, hoping that he'd find the children's hiding place before the replicant did.


Doggett and Reyes checked the rest of the basement without finding anything. They met up at the stairs in the middle of the hallway, and walked up to the first floor together. Before they could split up again, they heard a door from another stairwell swing open. The footsteps that immediately followed were too heavy to be Mulder's.

The replicant hadn't been expecting anyone to show up, but it didn't bother him. Two more pitiful dead humans lying on the floor wouldn't inconvenience him any. He actually smiled when Reyes drew her gun, shouting. "Freeze! FBI!" He even smiled as the first slug hit him in the stomach. Doggett flattened himself against the wall across from Reyes.

"Guns won't help you," he said, not sounding as though the bullet was causing him any pain, even though he was bleeding, and his shirt was becoming even bloodier than it had been already. Reyes continued to fire her weapon, and he continued to approach her, even as a bullet sheered away his left arm.

"I know that guns won't help, but I think this will," Doggett said, as he dodged around the replicant, and plunged the needle into his neck before the replicant could react.

The replicant began to vibrate, as though he were suddenly and inexplicably being electrocuted. As they'd seen happen with Rohrer three months earlier, black patches began to form on the replicant's skin, as his flesh became metallic. But he laughed, and it was a terrible sound.

"You think you won. But I left you a present on the second floor. I hope you like it," he said, before his face was consumed by the process of becoming metal. He lost his balance and fell to the floor. Within seconds he was fully consumed.

Doggett and Reyes gave each other horrified looks, and wondered for the first time whose blood stained the replicant's clothes. Doggett kicked the metallic corpse, and watched for a moment as the metal form collapsed into a shower of silvery dust. Then he and Reyes turned and ran for the stairs.

Though he didn't realize it at first, Mulder had, by some luck, managed to pick the right end of the third floor to start his search. He opened the first door he came to, then jumped back in surprise as screams issued from within.

Mulder tried to put as friendly a look on his face as he could before he peered back into the closet. To his dismay he saw that there were only two children in there. A small boy, and a girl who looked very much like she had at three years old. He tried to sound friendly too. "Doctor Calderon said to tell you that you should come with me."

"He's dead, isn't he," Emily stated flatly, which took Mulder aback.

"Um...why don't you guys come out of here now," Mulder hedged. They slowly got to their feet and walked towards them. "Where is the other little boy?"

They both shook their heads. "Don't know," Georgie said, sounding worried.

"We told him to stay with us, but he wouldn't," Emily said, sounding angry. Mulder was suddenly seized by an urge to giggle at the idea of Emily having inherited Scully's temper, but composed himself. "He left....a while ago. Maybe fifteen minutes ago?" she guessed, not sounding as though she was really sure how to tell time yet.

"Don't worry, we'll find him," Mulder told her, and privately hoped they'd find the boy before they found the replicant. He bent down and retrieved a thick file folder from off the floor and tucked it under his arm before taking the children's hands. "If I tell you to, let go of my hand immediately, ok?" They didn't understand why, but agreed to, if that was the condition for being able to hold somebody stronger's hands.


"Oh my God, no!" Reyes stricken voice echoed through the deserted corridor. Doggett's blood froze in his veins, suddenly sure that his only glimpse of Emily would be of a dead child.

As he rushed into the room he thought for a moment he was right. It was a typical child's bedroom except for one thing. On the floor under the window lay a crumpled and improbably small body. Thoughts of finding Luke fluttered through his mind as he looked down at the dead child. It might have been the superficial resemblance to Luke that made his knees threaten to give out. He reached out and took the boy's wrist, hoping for a pulse though he knew he would find none. As he got to his feet and picked up the limp body, he thought that you could almost pretend that he was sleeping. As long as you ignored the gaping wound in his chest. Doggett shifted the body to one arm as he grabbed a blanket off the bed and draped it to hide the hole. Tears poured down Reyes' cheeks as she silently followed him out of the room.

To their horror, they ran into Mulder in the stairwell, who held a child's hand in each of his. "We took care of that problem," Doggett said to Mulder, who nodded his understanding.

The two children probably wouldn't have noticed if Doggett had told Mulder what they'd done in blunter terms, because they were both staring at their fallen friend. The younger child, whom Doggett took to be no more than six, looked up at Doggett with frightened eyes. "What's wrong with Brian?"


"He's hurt. So he needs to sleep," Reyes said quickly, daring both men to correct her.

"Yeah," Doggett said, his voice coming out more gruffly than he'd like. "We're gonna bring him to the hospital now." He could tell that the little boy believed him, but the girl...Scully's skeptical eyes stared at him from out of her small face. Doggett would remember his first real look at Scully's daughter for the rest of his life.

Doggett gently placed the body in the back seat of his car, and started the engine while he waited for Reyes to slip into the passenger seat. They had waited until they saw Mulder leading the children off the property, on the way back to his car, to call the police and the coroner's office. They agreed with Mulder that it was better to get some flack for waiting a few extra minutes to report the crime if lessened to Emily and Georgie's sense of trauma by keeping them unaware of the deaths. Which was also why Doggett had a dead child in the back of his car. He picked up the phone and made the phone call to the coroner's office while Reyes used her own phone to call the police.

He and Reyes sat in a morose silence for several minutes while they waited for the cruisers to arrive, both unable to stop thinking about the body in the back seat and the ones in the building. In all six people had died, not counting Dr. Calderon or the unnamed replicant. Reyes reached for his hand, and he allowed himself to find a little comfort in her touch.

It was so quite that they both jumped when they heard a small sound like a sigh. They looked at each other with scared eyes, then looked in the back seat when the sigh turned into a pained moan. Doggett reached down and gingerly moved the blanket away from the body.

Pain-hazed green eyes blinked up at him. "I hurt." The boy croaked out before his eyelids fluttered and he seemed to pass out. Which was just as well, so that he didn't notice Doggett recoil in fright when he opened his eyes.

"He was dead!" Doggett sputtered, thinking of the red hole the size of a baby's fist in the boy's chest. "He was very dead."

Reyes nodded to him, already dialing 911 for an ambulance. Doggett gently pulled up the child's shirt so he could have a better look at the wound. Though still terrible, he swore that it seemed to have gotten shallower. He took the boy's pulse again, and this time it was there, and fairly strong.

"How do we explain to people that we had a dead child in the car with us, but now he's alive?" Doggett demanded as she turned off her phone.

"We tell them that his pulse must have just been weak," Reyes told him.

"But that's bullshit. He wasn't unconscious with a weak pulse, he was flat out dead."

"John, you and I both know that, but the typical person can't deal with knowing the details of an x-file," Reyes told him, looking at the little boy.

"At least," Doggett said gruffly. "We won't get a hard time for removing a body from the crime scene."

Before he drove off, Mulder pulled out his cell phone, and dialed Scully's number. Being mindful that the children were listening to his every word, he let Scully do most of the talking. "It didn't quite go as planned...well, we did, but there was more damage before we got there than we an earlier start is why...fine, fine, bad news though, we only got two...Reyes and Doggett...we're on our way there, I'll keep you posted...Can't see why not, now...Yeah, see you at home then." He looked back at the kids, sighed and threw the car into drive.

Mulder pulled into the local police station's driveway, then reached into the back seat to help Emily and Georgie remove their seatbelts. He then got out of the car, and opened their doors for them. The followed him into the station, looking frightened. They were walking up the stairs when his phone rang.

"Mulder.... What's keeping you? Really?? That's good news.... See you soon. Thanks Reyes." Mulder smiled a bit as he led the children into the station.

A man walked over to him and smiled warmly. "Hi, I'm Officer Green. I believe I spoke to one of your partners?" he said to Mulder.

"Yes. Agent Reyes mentioned that when I just spoke to her."

The officer nodded, then bent to speak to Emily and Georgie. "I bet you guys are tired. I'm going to bring you into the lounge where there's a nice soft couch, and a TV. You can watch cartoons while I talk to Agent Mulder, here." Emily looked like she was going to protest for a moment, but then followed Officer Green and Georgie.

Officer Green returned after a moment, and offered Mulder a seat. "I believe I heard that this has something to do with the deaths at Doctor Calderon's home?"

"Yes. Yesterday we were tipped off that a hit man had been sent to kill the people who lived in the house," Mulder replied. "These two children, as well as a third who is being treated for a gunshot wound, were kidnapped by Doctor Calderon, who seems to have fled the location."

"Do you have any idea why the hit man had been hired?" Officer Green asked, looking confused.

"Apparently someone was not keen on his work, so they decided to kill him. To complicate matters, we believe that the doctor kidnapped the children so he could give them experimental medical treatment without having to get FDA approval. To be more accurate, documents show that he may not have kidnapped the boys, but cohered their parents into giving them to him, claiming that the treatments would be the only things that would keep them alive."

"But you don't think that's the case with the little girl?"

"I know it's not. She's my fiancée's daughter. We were told she died in the hospital in 1997, but that is obviously not the case," Mulder said with some heat unintentionally creeping into his voice.

Green didn't say anything for a moment while he digested what Mulder had told him. "The children are ill? They seem scared and a little shaken, but perfectly healthy."

"That seems to be the case now, as Calderon had great success with his treatments. I suppose, in a warped way Dana and I should be thankful for his actions, but right now all I want to do is know that Georgie and Brian's parents have been informed of what happened, and take Emily home to her mother."

Green gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sure. Do you have the numbers for the boys' families?" Mulder handed them over, having copied them from Calderon's files while in the car. "Great. We'll just do a little paper work, then you and your daughter can leave."

Mulder blinked at that, but Green was already dialing the first number so he didn't notice. He supposed that given that he claimed that Scully was his fiancée, it was natural enough for Green to have called her his daughter for simplicity's sake. He wondered if he would be given pause for the rest of his life every time someone applied a short label to a member of his complicated little family.

As Mulder plowed through the paper work, Green got in touch with both families, who were both, he related, very surprised to hear that their sons were doing very well. They both promised to come and get the boys, although Brian probably wouldn't be going home from the hospital for a few days.

"There's something I need you to tell the parents when they get here," Mulder said to Green, who nodded to show he was listening. "While I can't make copies of it because it's evidence," or because it doesn't exist, he thought, "in a federal case against Calderon, he left notes on the children that indicated that he believes that the children may eventually need bone marrow transplants to continue to stay healthy. I know that's something that they'll have to consult with their family doctors, but since he's the one who figured out how to treat their disease so successfully, it's important that they know his opinion on the matter."

Green pulled out a pen and jotted it down. "Will do."

It was hard to leave Georgie behind. Mulder had hoped that he'd go into the lounge and find them both asleep, but he was only half right. Georgie was watching the loony tunes with rapt attention. Mulder reached down and picked Emily up, being careful not to wake her.

"Where are you going?" Georgie asked, his eyes big.

"I'm taking Emily home to her Mommy," Mulder whispered.

"Emily doesn't have a Mommy. None of us does," Georgie replied.

"Actually, your Mommy and Daddy are coming to take you home too. And Brian's Mommy and Daddy are going to get him at the hospital," Mulder explained gently.

"Noooo! I don't know them. I wanna stay with Brian and Emily!" Georgie wailed, starting to cry even as Officer Green came in and tried to console him.

Mulder felt a stab of pain in his chest. "Listen, Georgie, I left my address with Officer Green to give to your parents. You'll be able come to see Emily soon."

Georgie scrunched himself up on the couch and continued to cry, looking miserable. For a moment Mulder wished he could take the boy with him, but he knew that he belonged with his own family. Still, his heart was heavy as he carried a sleeping Emily out to the car.

Doggett and Reyes thanked the doctor who admitted Brian, and left the hospital. Doggett was still confused even when they were half-way back to Washington. He finally turned to Reyes, who was driving them back and exclaimed "It still doesn't make any sense! Not only is the boy not dead, he was awake and alert when we left."

"John, didn't Mulder and Scully once work on similar case?"

"What do you mean, spontaneous resurrection?" Doggett asked.

"No, I mean spontaneous healing," Reyes said, glancing at him for a second before returning her attention to the road. "I haven't read all the case files like you did, but one in particular springs to mind. Scully and Mulder once investigated a case in 97' that involved things called 'nanomachines' which were injected into subjects so the machines could repair damage on a cellular level. While some of the prototypes went horribly wrong and ended up killing healthy people, some of them actually worked and saved a child suffering from what should have been a mortal injury. There aren't supposed to be any left, though," Reyes concluded, sounding puzzled.

"It must be something else," Doggett said, then lapsed back into silence as he thought hard about something that was trying to break through his unconscious. Then he slapped his knee. "I think I know what it is. Remember a couple of days ago Mulder told Scully that it all made sense because the replicants were after the hybrids? Way back, only a few months after Scully joined the X-Files, they had a case involving one of these so-called hybrids. The guy survived drowning and other mishaps, quickly healing. Apparently the only way to kill one is to spear them in the back of the neck. They bled green, though, so I'm thinking that Brian and the other kids must be mostly human."

"They just inherited quick healing?" Reyes asked with a faint smile that Doggett couldn't see in the dark.

"Exactly," Doggett agreed. While he wouldn't admit to himself that he'd just suggested that Scully's daughter was part alien, he was at least satisfied that he'd reached a logical conclusion about what was bothering him.

Emily woke briefly during the drive back to Washington, but had fallen asleep again long before Mulder pulled into their driveway. He tried waking her, but she was only half awake a best, so he carried her into the house.

He had expected that Scully might be up with Gibson while they waited for Reyes to come for him, but he didn't expect William to be up too. Nor did he expect his son to be trying to dance to 80's pop music while Gibson and Scully cheered him on.

"Scully, you tell me I'm a bad influence on him," Mulder said drolly as a scarlet-cheeked Scully quickly turned off 'The Warrior' by Scandal and Pattie Smyth. Deciding that he'd had enough of Emily yawning in his face, he set her on her feet.

Emily took an uncertain step towards Scully. "Are you...are you my Mommy?" she said in a tiny voice.

Scully's heart melted. Emily looked almost exactly like she remembered, except her hair had darken slightly, and she'd grown considerably. "Yes, sweetheart," Scully said gently. "And this little boy is your brother, William."

Emily's face broke out into a big smile, her dream was coming true so quickly. She squatted down so she was at the toddler's level. "Hi William, I'm-"

"Em," William interrupted her. Everyone blinked.

"That's right, Emily," Emily said, and gave him a hug.

"How did he-" Mulder muttered.

"He must have overheard me talking-" Scully said looking doubtful.

Gibson shook his head, and they both felt a sudden sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs. "He knew. I think there's something you ought to know about him...but maybe we should talk about it in the kitchen," he said, looking at Emily and William.

"Uh, sure. Emily, we'll be right back, ok? Give us a shout if he causes any trouble," Scully said, reluctant to leave the children alone for even a few minutes.

"Sure," Emily chirped, already sitting on the floor and playing with William.

"Spill it," Scully demanded as soon as they were out of earshot of the children.

"I know that back when you decided to give William up, Jeffery Spender went out of his way to convince you that he'd given William magnetite in order to make a normal little boy..." Gibson trailed off, looking uncertain if he should continue.

"What are you saying, he lied?" Mulder asked, thinking about the scissors, which he'd done his best to forget about.

Gibson nodded. "He lied. All the shot did was dampen his powers until it got broken down in his blood stream."

"So you're saying he's still telekinetic?" Scully asked, her face suddenly looking gray.

"And telepathic," Gibson added. "He knew her name because he read her mind. He told me that a couple of minutes ago when you were asking each other how he knew. He also told me it's frustrating that neither of you reads minds. Emily doesn't either, if you were wondering that." Gibson smiled faintly.

"I guess there's nothing we can do about it except accept it," Mulder mused. "Who knows, maybe his powers will come in handy some day."

"I was hoping you'd say something like that instead of suggesting you keep giving him magnetite. Dana, what do you think about it?" Gibson asked, so Mulder could hear her thoughts too.

"I think a certain Jeffery Spender is in need of a severe ass-chewing," she growled.

Spender sat bolt upright when the phone rang. Many years of working for the FBI and receiving important phone calls in the middle of the night had conditioned him to waking instantly when the phone rang. He sighed ruefully as he fumbled for the phone, nearly dropping because the bandages on his hands made him awkward.

"Hello?" he said, trying to stifled a yawn.

"Spender?" a familiar feminine voice asked.


"I'm going to kick your ass the next time I see you," the woman growled.

Spender was suddenly able to place the voice. "Agent Scully?"

"Don't ask like you don't know who this is. You lied to me about my son, you son of a bitch. How could you let me believe that the shot you gave him made him normal? You wanted me to give him away, didn't you?!" she screeched at him, making Spender glad he hadn't had too many opportunities to be on the receiving end of her wrath. Twice was quite enough as far as he was concerned.

He tried to think his way through several placating lies, but finally opted for the truth instead. " Look, agent Scully, if I didn't go along with their plan, they were going to experiment on me again. I'm sorry it hurt you, but I couldn't go through that again. Can't you try to understand that? I...I'll help you get William back, I promise."

"Save it, and drop the 'agent.' I don't work for the FBI any more. We have Will back, no thanks to you. And who the hell is 'they'??" Scully demanded.

"They. The Syndicate," Spender sputtered in confusion. He was glad that William was back under his parent's protection, but he sensed that now wasn't the time to ask how that had come about.

"What are you talking about, Spender? CSM is dead. Surely you know that," Scully shot back, sounding slightly less angry.

Spender sighed loudly. "Yes, I know he's dead. And I don't mourn him any more than I'm sure that Mulder does. But they syndicate didn't die with him, and you'd be a fool to believe so. Didn't you wonder how Mulder's murder conviction was over-turned?"

"Well, of course, but we got the call about it on our way to William, so didn't ask many questions. We were just glad that Skinner had Mulder's cell phone number. He told us they said the local police put up a fuss because they realized that the body was from a murder they were working on," Scully replied, sounding less certain.

Spender gave a hollow laugh. "And you think that would be enough to get the tribunal to overturn their verdict? Don't delude yourself, Scully. The Syndicate ordered it. They still order a lot of things, so watch your back."

Spender reached down and abruptly ripped the phone cord out of the wall, ending the conversation. He threw the phone to the floor, turned off the light, reminded himself to get an unlisted phone number in the morning, and went back to bed so he could get some sleep before his next doctor's appointment.

Mulder kept an eye on the kids while Scully made her phone call. He looked at the two children, searching for similarities. Emily had dirty blonde hair that promised to darken even more when she got older. William, on the other hand, had hair that was finally long enough to show its reddish gold color. They were both fair, and both had Scully's blue eyes. His son, however, seemed destined to inherit his nose, something which he nearly pitied the boy for. With a rueful smile he told himself that not everyone could have a button nose.

"What are you doing?" he said, sorry to have startled them.

"Em," William told him, pointing at his sister. "Pway."

"We were playing," Emily told him shyly. Several of Will's stuffed animals shared the couch with them.

Mulder sat down on the floor near the couch. "You know, even when I was a boy, kids played with toys."

"Do you still remember how to play?" Emily asked.

Mulder was momentarily grateful that she didn't express her astonishment that even he had once been a child. "I think so. You know, if you asked your mother, she'd probably say I played too much."

Emily looked like she was at a loss for words for a moment. Then she said what was on her mind. "She's my mom, and his mom," she said, pointing to William, who smiled at her. "But you're only his dad... could you be my dad, too?"

The hopeful look in her eyes broke his heart. "Would you want me to be?"

"Yes," she said, nodding vigorously.

"Why?" he asked, not being able to contain his curiosity.

"Because you're the daddy in my dreams. Lots of times I dreamed about you and mom being my parents, but I don't know why."

"Emily, do you know that you met Scully and I before?" The girl shook her head, but looked uncertain. "When you were three we met you. Maybe you remembered our faces," he suggested.

"Maybe..." she replied sounding doubtful. "Some times I remember things about the Mommy and Daddy that died a long time ago. But no one here is going to die, right?"

Mulder put his arm around her shoulders. From your lips to God's ears, kiddo, he thought. "I think we're going to be a family for a very long time," he told her with a gentle smile. He looked at his watch. "You, know, though, today has been a very long day. It's so late it's actually tomorrow," he said, making her giggle. "So I think it's time for you two to go up to bed. Your mom bought a few things for you, like some jammies for tonight, but I see a shopping trip in your future this weekend. Come on, I'll show you your room."

With that, he reached down and scooped up William, and lead the way to the bedrooms.

Doggett rolled onto his side and savagely punched his pillow in frustration. It had been hours since he'd gone with Reyes to pick up Gibson, then dropped them off at her apartment, yet he still couldn't sleep. An irrational envy of everyone else in the state, whom he felt sure were sleeping unless they worked third shift, set in as the clock in his hallway chimed four times. He just barely resisted the urge to see if kicking his pillow into the wall would make him feel better.

He threw his head back onto his pillow with an aggravated growl. Though he knew that Mulder's insomnia was legendary around the X-files office, he himself seldom suffered from it. In fact, he reflected as he started at the ceiling, the last time that he had this much trouble sleeping was right after Luke passed and his marriage itself was itself dying.

Luke, he was slowly coming to realize, was the reason he couldn't sleep. Luke, Brian and Emily. Having found a dead boy who turned out not to bed dead threw him for a loop. Brian had looked so much like Luke had, at least with his eyes closed, that he'd been thinking about Luke off and on all night. When the horrific sense of dj vu had passed into stunned disbelief at the sound of Brian's pained moan, he'd become even more morose. Why couldn't his little boy have been ok too? Why was he the one who had to bury his beloved son, while people who hadn't even bothered to see theirs for nearly five years received such a gift? It wasn't fair.

At least he wouldn't have to see Brian constantly, to be reminded of it. Emily was another story. When Skinner told him about Scully's loss, he'd felt an immediate sense of kinship, an empathy that only one parent who has lost a child can feel for another. But Scully's child wasn't really dead, and was now sleeping peacefully in her house.

When Scully invited them to peek in on the child, presumably so he and Reyes could reassure themselves that she was fine after such a traumatic night, Doggett found himself lingering in the doorway as he stared at the resting girl. He didn't coo over her as Reyes did, but instead stood his ground, trying to fight the urge to wake her. He wasn't fully convinced that she was alive, not after having met a boy like Billy Underwood two years before, who had been something else entirely. He still wasn't convinced that Billy had been a ghost, but he'd been something strange.

Emily, he repeated to himself as he hugged the doorframe, was not like Billy. She'd grown and changed, and communicated normally. Still, it was hard to shake the image of eventually finding Billy's bones, and he didn't want to ever have to be the one to find another dead child. But dammit, he thought, pounding his fist against the wall, I can't take finding living ones either.

Reyes had tried to tell him something as he dropped her off, but he'd brushed her off with a curt "good-night" and had nearly ran back to his car. He knew she meant well, but he couldn't take being doused in sympathetic words, so he'd taken the coward's route and run off to escape everyone.

As he finally felt his body giving into sleep, a drowsy thought passed through his brain: maybe Emily had been sent to test him. To make him consider putting his money where he mouth was, and actually moving on with his life. Once he fell asleep, he dreamed of holding a newborn in his arms who wasn't Luke.

Two weeks later...

"...A number 3 with a coke and two happy meals, both with just ketchup and mustard on the burgers, and I'll need a toddler toy for one of them," Mulder shouted into the speaker.

"Toddler toy?" a voice crackled back.

"Yeah, is that a problem? The signs always say you can ask for them."

"No problem, just double checking," came the reply. "That'll be $8.73 at the window. Please drive through."

As he waited for the order at the window, Mulder glanced back at Emily. "Um...we won't tell your Mom about lunch, ok? She's not a fan of fast foods."

"Of course I won't tell her. I'm not stupid," Emily told him with a broad grin, making Mulder chuckle. "'sides, she promised to make me eat carrots tonight, I don't want extras."

Mulder was still smiling as he handed over the money and put the food on the passenger seat. "What do you guys say to eating in Playland?"

"Yay!" Emily shouted as he pulled into a parking space.

The kids finished eating their meals before he did, partly because he'd had to help William with his burger- Mulder divvied up the boy's fries between himself and Emily because he worried about them being a choking hazard to the toddler- and partly because they were eager to play. Mulder finished his food as the two kids romped through the bouncy castle that was shaped like Grimace. They bounced and fell, only to clamber back up to do it all over again, laughing. It thrilled him that Emily was so gentle with her brother and only went where the little boy could easily follow without Mulder.

As he got up to join them, so Emily could play on the climbing structure, he couldn't help but marveling at how easy it had all been. The night they got Emily, he'd gone to bed, bracing himself for another long drawn out court battle, but it hadn't turned out that way. The judge had taken one look at the old papers Scully had from her previous attempt to gain custody of her daughter, and smiled, declaring that there was no reason to believe that she shouldn't have her little girl living with her. As simple as that Emily joined their family, or as simple as that after Scully filled out a mountain of paperwork; something which Mulder thought was only fitting, considering how much of the paperwork on both children he himself had dealt with. Mulder remembered smiling ruefully after the judge's declaration and wondering why they couldn't have gotten a judge like that the first time around. Or even the second.

After a mere two weeks with them, Mulder was already beginning to forget what life was like before Emily moved in with them. Unlike with Will, who was just a baby, he and Scully had worried about how she would adjust to the third living arrangement in her short life. To their relief and delight, she'd had no noticeable problems with the disruption of her life, and in fact seemed quite happy to be with them. Every time they asked her how she felt, she told them she was glad to have a family, and actually seemed to mean it. Mulder's revive was broken by Will's demand of "Up!" as the boy pointed to one of the bizarre ride on toys. As soon as he set the boy on, Emily cambered on behind William and held him on securely.

Mulder reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his new digital camera, something he'd bought the day after the unpleasantness in North Dakota. More recently, he'd found that it was a vital piece of equipment for a stay at home Dad, and he was already developing a nice scrapbook of the two children. He was careful to avoid taking any pictures that reminded him of his own childhood photos.

Doggett lit the green tapers in their holders on the table and stuck a single red rose in the delicate vase he'd bought at Hallmark on his way home from work. He only had time to douse the lights and turn the stereo on to a classic love song before the doorbell rang. Grinning widely, he went to answer the door.

"John, what's this? I take it we're not having take-out chicken like you said," Reyes said with a mixture of pleasure and confusion on her face.

"Sure we are, Mon. Why don't you take a seat?" Doggett said, rushing out of the room.

Reyes sat and looked at the rose, wondering about its significance. Doggett returned a moment later, carrying Chicken cordon blu for two. "There's a fancy restaurant offering gourmet take out about a block from here." Doggett explained. "If we had to rely on my cooking skills, we'd be eating microwave tacos."

Reyes nodded with approval. "Take-out is the way to go in that case."

Clearing his throat nervously, Doggett said, "I'm sure you're wondering about the candles and the rose..."

"Well, yes, I did wonder about that. I have a feeling we're not going to be talking about work," Reyes said with a tentative smile.

"Not unless you want to discuss the exciting background checks we've been doing lately. I don't think Mulder and Scully even spent a meal doing that. But I digress." Doggett apologized. "So..."


"So I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Monica, do you want to have kids?"

"In general...or with you?" she said with a quizzical look.

"I um, well, after Scully got Emily back, I started doing a lot of thinking. About kids. I still love kids. I miss being a father. I realized I want another baby, so I can love someone more than life itself again," Doggett said, his voice more animate than usual.

"And you want me to be this baby's mother?" Reyes asked.

"If you want to be. I mean, we could do the whole wedding and a cute little house thing, or...I could keep the baby," Doggett replied with a goofy look on his face. "But, you know, only if the whole family thing doesn't work for you, that is."

Reyes got up and threw her arms around him. "John, don't be silly, of course I'd love to marry you and start a family. My biological clock has been ticking lately, and I've spent a lot of time fantasizing that you'd want the same thing."

"Really?" Doggett asked, looking hopeful.

"Of course, John." Reyes replied. "John...John..."

Doggett startled and came back to reality. "What?"

"I asked you if you were awake," Reyes told him with a curious look.

"Oh, uh, yeah. I was just lost in thought," Doggett said, looking at the folder Reyes was holding. "Was there something you wanted to show me?"

"Yeah, this is a file on someone Skinner said we're supposed to keep an extra close eye on. He's supposed to be related to one of the suicide bombers, and he already has a rap sheet a mile long...are you feeling all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Doggett said with a sigh as he took the folder from her and glanced at the walls of their office. The daydream had felt so real...

Scully thought she heard screams as she walked up driveway, which quickened both her pace and her pulse. As she swung the door open, she realized her mistake; it had been childish laughter that she'd heard. She'd forgotten that Mulder had arranged a playdate.

Brian and Georgie sat on the couch on either side of Emily as they watched Toy Story 2. Scully herself was not completely immune to the movie's charms, but she didn't find it screamingly funny as they did. A quick look around the room didn't reveal Mulder, so as much as she hated to interrupt their fun, she paused the movie and asked, "Where's Mulder?"

Emily didn't quite manage to look her in the eye, which flagged Scully's sense of alarm. "He and Will are upstairs," Emily replied in a small voice, which tempted Scully to sprint up the stairs.

"Thanks. Sorry to about interrupting your movie, you can put it back on now," she told them calmly before going upstairs.

As she got to the hallway she heard splashing water, so she walked towards the bathroom. As she stuck her head in the room she saw a pile of small, brown-stained clothes on the floor next to the bathtub. Mulder was kneeling by the tub, shampooing William's hair while the boy splashed water into his father's face.

"Dada," William said with another vigorous splash.

Mulder blew the water off his lips. "Will, Daddy doesn't think this is funny..." Mulder noticed Scully standing there, and gave her a tight smile. "Scully, as a heads up I think I ought to warn you that Will is now tall enough to reach things on the kitchen table."

"What happened?" Scully asked as she tried not to laugh at how wet Mulder was getting as he rinsed the suds out of William's hair.

"Since Brian and Georgie were coming over, I decided it'd be nice to make the kids a treat. You know, something that didn't require having many teeth to enjoy, so Will could have some too. After I made it I set the bowl of chocolate pudding on the table and turned to get a spoon to serve it when he pulled the bowl off the table..."

"Did he hurt himself?" Scully asked, looking the squirming wet boy over for cuts as she lifted him out of the tub.

"Nope. Neither he nor the bowl sustained any injuries. We should thank your mother again for the Tupperware." Mulder grinned. "The floor on the other hand, might be a little worse for wear, since I haven't gotten around to washing it yet. I just wiped up the worst of the mess before dragging this one upstairs for a bath."

Scully wrapped William in a fuzzy yellow towel. "What to you say to me dressing the little terror while you get into some dry clothes?" she said Mulder.

"Thank you, Love," Mulder said as he bent to kiss her cheek. "You're a life-saver." Scully smiled as she carried William to his room to hunt for a clean outfit.

"I'll see you both later," Doggett said with a yawn as he reached to put the car into drive. "Tonight was a lot of fun." He added, referring to the showing of Much Ado About Nothing that they'd seen at the playhouse that evening.

Reyes leaned in through the window and kissed him on the cheek. "Bye, John."

Gibson, who was already at the door, dug his keys out of his pocket so he could pretend not to be paying attention to their low-key goodbye. He was nearly as frustrated by their sense of propriety and restraint as they were, because it was obvious that they were not happy with the way things stood between them. He wished he could have chalked up their tendency to keep each other at arms-length as being the result of his presence, but he knew it wasn't the case. They weren't any more demonstrative or forthcoming with their feelings when they were alone. It simply wasn't in either of their natures to take risks. As he tossed his keys from one hand to the other, he decided they needed a push.

Doggett was about to drive off when Gibson ran back to his car. He gave the boy a questioning look and asked, "Did you forget something in the car?"

"No. You mentioned tonight that you did a lot of fishing when you were my age. Do you still do that?"

Doggett thought about quiet weekends he'd spent alone with just a fishing pole and a cooler for company. "Yeah, I do. Why, do you want to go some time?"

"If you wouldn't mind the company," Gibson said, sounding slightly eager. "I've never been before."

"Naw, I don't mind company at all. How about this weekend? You could borrow one of my fishing poles, and we could stop off and get you a fishing license on the way. Just check with Monica first, ok?"


"Saturday morning, then," Doggett said with a smile before driving off. Gibson hummed the matchmaker song from Fiddler on the Roof to himself as he walked back to the apartment.

Reyes was making pancakes the next morning when Gibson surprised her by asking, "Do you ever make breakfast for John?"

She flipped over the pancakes and said, "No. I don't usually make breakfast for anyone, not even myself, as I'm sure you've noticed. I couldn't sleep so I got up early and was feeling domestic, so you lucked out," she said, grinning at him while she passed him a plate.

"He'd like you to, you know," Gibson told her as he cut his pancakes. "Or for him to cook for you," he added.

"Oh really?" she said, raising her eyebrows.

"Yup. He thinks about that a lot."

Reyes joined him at the table, and found herself suddenly curious. Before she thought the question through, she asked. "What other sorts of things does he think about?"

"Well..," Gibson said slowly, putting his fork down. "He thinks about you a lot. And the future. But he's afraid you'd think he only wants to be with you because he wants a family again."

"He wants a family?" Reyes asked in surprise.

"Very much. But he wants you more," he added, blushing, and starting to squirm in authentic embarrassment, which amused Reyes. "He's not sure how you feel about him, and what you want out of life, though."

"I'm going to have to give some thought about how it'd be best to show him how I feel," Reyes said, feeling far less intuitive than she usually did. "Don't tell him we had this conversation, ok?"

"Mum's the word," Gibson said, smiling at her. One down, one to go, he thought.

One morning before Emily and William woke up, Mulder took the time to work on making a video scrapbook on the computer. He was sure that Scully would be thrilled when he played it for her, since most mothers love having mementos that remind them of when their children are young. His own mother had certainly held on to things that had sentimental value to her.

Mulder sighed and thought about the love letters he found amongst his mother's things right after her suicide. The night that Scully found him crying, he let her think that it was just because of her death, and never mentioned the letters at all. In reality, his pain had as much to do with the letters as his mother abruptly choosing to exit the world without taking the time to talk to him first. Letters, left out in a box near her bed, spared from the fire in the wastebasket, that he'd barely had time to read before Scully arrived...

The first letter was dated two years before Mulder was born, written by his mother to a man that she called her "dear Colton." Mulder had furtively looked up the name in a baby book at Barnes and Noble later on, and nearly laughed out loud when he discovered the name meant "from the dark town," because it seemed so fitting to him somehow. He'd always wondered why the "C" had stood for, and he thought perhaps he now knew.

In the letter, his mother told this man, Colton, that she was worried that she might be pregnant, and wanted to know what to do about it. Mulder supposed her fears were natural given that the late fifties were hardly years in which society openly embraced single mothers. However, for a while after that sweat broke out on his brow as he thought about the possibility that he might have yet another unknown sibling out there, or perhaps worse yet his mother and this Colton plotted the child's death long before it would have been born. The thought that his mother might have grieved for one child after destroying another made him sick to his stomach. Though scanning the letters quickly put that fear to rest, nothing he read made him feel any better.

Colton wrote back and told her that he couldn't help her, because she knew he was already married, but he did have a great guy in his company who was jonesing to find the right woman and start a family. If Teena could arrange to be at the bar they frequented off hours, she could be sure to meet him, and if she came on strong the poor dolt would eat it up...Mulder had read on in dread, his heart breaking for Bill Mulder when he read her next letter, thanking Colton for arranging for her to meet such a nice guy, who she wouldn't have to deceive after all because she'd found out she wasn't pregnant.

It didn't surprise Mulder in the least that Colton's last letter to his mother that year was a threat: if she didn't continue her affair with him, he'd tell Bill about the whole thing, the plot to stick him with another man's responsibility and so on. There were more letters, dated a couple of years later, that he didn't read because he thought he already knew what they would say. Instead he read the last one, dated a few weeks before his sister's abduction telling Teena that she should "choose soon" and if she didn't he'd visit to expose everything to Bill. The entire letter was cold, but the explanation about his returning of her letters was the coldest: he simply didn't love her any more and wanted no reminders of his weaknesses. For a moment some mean part of Mulder's soul had been glad that his mother was so dispassionately cast aside, and felt that she deserved it.

Everything he read that night broke his heart, and he couldn't bring himself to tell anyone that along with mourning his mother he was also mourning the fact that his idealization of his mother had been shattered by a few words on paper. It seemed as though she left the letters for him as a confession, so he could not pity her even in death. He was also crying for his father, who so desperately wanted children that he let himself believe that another man's children were his own flesh and blood.

Now, given that Emily was alive, he wondered if he would have accepted her as his own had she stayed with Scully when they had originally discovered her and if William not been born. He thought he might have. He wanted to believe he would have.

As Mulder finished up the video scrapbook, he was stuck by a chilling thought. Would Emily one day react in horror if she ever found out who her real father was? He sincerely hoped not, because it was one experience he could never wish on anyone else.

Gibson cast directly into the weeds. He gave a rueful smile as he gently tugged, hoping not to snap the line. Some things, he thought as the hook finally unsnagged, cannot be learned about by reading up on the subject. Some things must be experienced first hand in order to understand them. Like love.

"Hey, that wasn't so bad for a first try," Doggett told him, lying through his teeth. Megan, the then nine-year-old daughter of his old friend, Carl, from the force in N.Y. had cast better on her first try. At least Gibson isn't scared of worms, and baited his own hook without any blood loss, Doggett thought with a small smile as he remembered the rest of that particular fishing trip. Fortunately there had been a first aid kit in the car, so they were able to patch Carl up without an emergency room visit. Doggett had made sure to throw one in his car before picking Gibson up that morning, least he tempt fate by not being prepared.

Eventually, after an hour or two mostly spent idly waiting as they sat on the pier, Doggett and Gibson had landed three fish between the two of them. Gibson's was barely legal size, but Doggett was sincere in his congratulations, since he'd been sure that the boy was going to do nothing by drown worms all afternoon. To his surprise, Gibson caught on quickly, despite his abysmal start. Which was one of the reasons why he very considerately didn't mention that each of his fish was twice the size of Gibson's.

"If we keep catching them at this rate, we might be able to surprise Monica with a fish fry for supper tonight," Doggett commented.

"She'd probably like that, since she likes fish...if we clean them ourselves, that is."

"You're right. Most women don't take the right attitude towards fish guts for some reason."

Gibson smiled at the joke and decided that it was time to launch into the actual reason he had wanted to spend time with Doggett. "So...Do you see you and Agent Reyes having a lot of dinners together?" he said casually.

"What do you mean?"

" you promise to keep this between us?" Gibson asked, and waited for Doggett to nod his agreement. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but she's been worried lately."

Doggett looked at him with a slightly alarmed expression. "Worried about what?"

Gibson kicked the pier with the heel of his sneaker. "Your, um...relationship." Gibson did his best to assume an embarrassed look, as if he was recounting something he'd overheard while eavesdropping. Which in a way he had. "She wonders where things are going between the two of you."

"Oh." Doggett sighed, and paused to cast again. "Where does she see things going?" he finally asked, finding it difficult to believe that he was soliciting advice on his relationship from a sixteen-year-old. At least, he told himself, a mind reading one offers more insight than a typical teenager.

"She keeps thinking about how she's in her thirties, and if she's going to have a baby she should do it sooner than later, because despite the media hype surrounding celebrities, only two percent of first-time mothers are in their forties. She's also tired of being unattached, and longs to settle down to something pleasantly routine, rather than continue being single and having to keep taking chances on relationships. And she doesn't know if you want the same things, or if you could even deal with her bringing it up, given how you feel about Luke," Gibson told him in a rush.

"Ah," Doggett grunted, sounding uncomfortable. "I guess she and I need to work on our communication."

Gibson didn't say anything, but instead began the task of reeling in whatever it was that he'd just noticed was nibbling on his line.

"Let's give this fishing another hour, then call it a day," Doggett said, before lapsing into his own thoughts, which Gibson made a conscious effort to ignore.

Mulder was watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 and heckling the movie along with the robots when the doorbell rang. He set his bowl of sunflower seeds on the coffee table, looked himself over to make sure he was decently attired, then padded barefoot to the door. When he opened it he was surprised to see Mrs. Scully standing on the doorstep. "Hello, Fox," she greeted him with a warm smile.

"Oh, Good morning...Maggie," Mulder said, for once remembering to call her by her first name before she told him to. "I didn't expect you...I'm sorry, but Dana took the kids with her to the mall, and they probably won't be back until dinner time. Apparently there's a sale on 'cute' kids clothes, and she needed them to try things on," Mulder apologized as they went into the house.

"That's quite all right. Dana mentioned her weekend plans to me in passing. I actually came by because I wanted to talk to you," she told him.

"You came to see me?" he said in surprise. "Sure, ok. What's on your mind?" he said, wondering if he was going to be led into a loaded discussion. That wasn't Maggie's typical MO, but they seldom had the chance to talk alone, so it made him nervous.

As Maggie took a seat she said, "I was hoping to be able to talk to you about my granddaughter."

"What about Emily?" Mulder asked, sounding slightly puzzled.

"Every time I try to talk to Dana about her, she only speaks in delighted and glowing terms about how thrilled she is to have Emily at last."

"And you think I'm less delighted?" Mulder asked slowly.

"I really have no idea, Fox. She seems to think you're happy as well, but I'm not sure that she's objective enough when it comes to the children to know that for sure. That's why I wanted to talk to you directly. You've had a lot thrown at you this summer. You've been cleared of false charges, found and fought for your son, and now Emily. How have you felt about everything that's happened in the month since you found out Emily was still alive?"

"I take it that you're looking for complete honesty?" he said, putting his hands on his knees and leaning slightly forward to bridge part of the gap between them that was caused by the furniture's arrangement.

"If you would. I assure you that nothing we talk about will leave this room," Maggie told him.

"When we first learned that she was alive, my feelings were admittedly mixed. Of course I was happy that she was not dead as we'd long been lead to believe, but...I was worried that we might not get to her in time, and about what that would do to Dana if we were too late. I was also worried that we would get there on time, but then suffer another long drawn out fight for custody, with the risk of still losing her that way. And, between you and me, I also felt a small measure that all of this came at a time when we were finally settled, and was turning our lives upside down all over again," Mulder told her.

Maggie nodded her encouragement for him to continue.

"But," he went on, "That night that we rescued Emily and those little boys changed things for me. As I carried her into the house to see Dana for the first time in years, all my reservations vanished. I knew that she belonged here without a shadow a doubt, and that it was worth everything to make sure she stayed her. I haven't had a second of doubt or regret since," Mulder said with a soft smile. "She belongs to us."

Maggie reached out and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "You're a good man. My daughter is lucky to have you, and so are my grandchildren."

Mulder did something unusual for him: he blushed. "Look what you're making me do," he muttered in embarrassment.

"It's true, though," Maggie said with a small laugh. "Thank you for speaking so frankly with me."

"No problem," Mulder told her, feeling relieved that the subject of 'living in sin' hadn't come up.

Maggie kissed his cheek. "I wouldn't even mind having you as a son-in-law one of the fine days," she said, and left before Mulder could untie his tongue.

A Week Later...

Skinner opened the door to his apartment and let Gibson in. He wasn't quite sure how it had happened, but he'd ended up being drafted to keep an eye on the boy over night. He personally thought that agent Reyes was being silly, since Gibson was more capable than most sixteen-year-old boys, but he kept his mouth shut.

He couldn't read minds like Gibson could, but even he could tell that something big was going on that night, and it would make things easier on everyone if there was one less thing to worry about. Of course he'd also overheard bits and pieces of Reyes and Doggett's accounts over the phone to Scully about what Gibson had told the two agents. Skinner hadn't said anything to them to indicate his opinions, but he honestly thought it was about time someone gave them a push in the right direction. He had already watched enough of another will-they-or-won't-they couple to last him a life-time.

As they watched a baseball game, Skinner gave Gibson a sidelong glance. "Gibson, can I talk to you about your...special abilities?"

"You mean mind reading?" Gibson asked him, turning his attention away from the game.

"Yeah. That," Skinner said, his cheeks turning slightly pink.

"Sure, ask away," Gibson told him.

"Do you have to try to read people's minds, or do you just do it all the time?"

Gibson countered with a question of his own. "You know how people sound when there's a big crowd? And how you have trouble separating the noise into actual voices?"

"Of course. Too many voices begin to sound meaningless as the sound of ocean waves."

"Exactly," Gibson said. "If there are lots of people around, I just hear a murmuring, so I don't really pick up on anything in particular unless I hear my name, or something that keys my interests, just like a person listening with their ears does in a crowd."

"And if there's not a big crowd?"

"It's like reading a book and listening to music. If I'm deep in own thoughts, I barely notice, unless I want to, even if there's only one other person. And I can tune other people's thoughts out if I concentrate on it, because I don't want to hear them. That came in handy when my folks would think about my birthday and Christmas presents," Gibson told him with a broad smile. "It's not as though I spend all day every day spying on people with no control over it, I just sort of notice some things more than others, because people are thinking too loudly."

"Too loudly?" Skinner asked him curiously.

"Well...take someone who is obsessing about something. They're thinking about it constantly, and, to me, rather loudly. It's almost as though they're shouting inside their head. Was there any particular reason you wanted to know about this stuff?" Gibson asked.

"No, no reason," Skinner said quickly.

Gibson shrugged and turned his attention back to the Mets.

Doggett thanked the waiter as he brought a bottle of wine to the table. They were still waiting on their dinners, but felt it was ok to have a drink before they ate. Doggett stared at the shiny red liquid in his wineglass, that brought cherries strongly to his mind, for a moment and waited while the man poured Reyes'.

When the waiter left, Doggett gave Reyes a winsome smile. "I'm no psychic, but I bet our young Kreskin had a lovely chat with you about love in the past week or so."

Reyes nearly choked on her sip of wine. "Yes..."

"He's a sneak, but we have to give him credit for being clever. He made me do some serious thinking, how about you?"

"It was food for thought," Reyes admitted.

"So where does that leave us? I...I don't want to follow Mulder and Scully's lead. I count them among my closest friends, and respect them very much, but proper role models when it comes to admitting your feelings they aren't. They wasted seven years because they were at a stalemate, and I can't do that without going crazy," Doggett finished, looking her in the eyes.

"I don't think I could endure keeping quiet about what my heart feels for that long, either, John," Reyes answered quietly.

"So where does that leave us?" Doggett asked again, glaring up at the waiter who chose that very moment to return with their dinners.

"I guess that leaves us in the position to be up front with our feelings," Reyes said, also giving the waiter a look that could kill. Finally the man took the hint and busied himself by checking on another table.

"In that case," Doggett said, reaching into his jacket for an object he concealed within his hand. "I will be painfully honest. I love you, and nothing would make me happier than having you as my wife." He opened his hand to reveal a small box covered in black velvet. "Will you marry me?"

Reyes looked from his hopeful face, to the jewelry box which bore a tasteful diamond ring, and back to his face again. She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. In the end she opted for neither. "John...yes, I'll marry you," she answered in a shaky voice.

As if by cue, a trio of violin players came over and began playing for the happy couple. Doggett immediately tipped them ten dollars to go pester someone else. "Monica, I'm so glad...We can do this any way you want to. If you want to take a year or so to plan something big, I'm fine with that. Or if you'd like to do something small, that's ok too."

A smile twitched at the corner of Reyes' mouth. "I don't want to take forever to plan this, John. In fact, given our erstwhile assignment, I can think of only one day that would be appropriate for our wedding."

Doggett, still riding high on elation, didn't quite grasp what she meant. "When?" he said innocently.

"The thirty-first of October," Reyes replied with a naughty grin.

Doggett stifled his laugh. "Everyone will love that. A black and orange wedding," he said, already imagining the ribbing he'd take from Mulder.

"Black maybe, orange no." Reyes laughed throatily. "Well...maybe for the reception." The rest of the night flew by in a flash for the happy couple as they discussed the plans for their wedding.

Scully wasn't quite sure why Reyes insisted on taking her to lunch, but her guilt about leaving Mulder home alone with the kids on a Sunday obliterated most of her curiosity by the time she joined Reyes in the delicatessen. She did notice right away, however, that Reyes was in a damned good mood. If it hadn't been for her clear speech, Scully might have wondered if the other woman had been drinking before she got there.

Reyes had already claimed their customary booth by the time Scully came in, which made Scully suspicious. It was the same booth they'd last discussed Mulder and Doggett's frustrating habit of keeping secrets.

Scully sat across from Reyes as they ate their sandwiches and talked about the kids. A piece of lettuce worked its way out of Scully's sandwich and fell to her plate.

"I can't believe you'd come to a delicatessen and order a vegetarian selection," Reyes teased her.

Scully shrugged. "Mulder does a lot of the cooking, and Mulder's specialty is meat. I try to avoid it when I'm out so my arteries get a break. Did I tell you that William learned a new word this week?"

"No, what word?"

"Movie," Scully said, rolling her eyes. "At least he doesn't have his daddy's tastes in movies," she added with a raise of her eyebrow.

Reyes lowered her voice, "So...what did he do with those things?" she said in a conspiratorial tone, thinking of all she'd been told about Mulder's "collection."

"He sold them on e-bay, believe it or not, and made a couple thousand off of them. Back before he was abducted," Scully told Reyes, who laughed. "I took it as a compliment."

Reyes continued to laugh for a moment before asking, "And how's Emily?"

"Mulder took her to the elementary school last week to register her. Can you believe she's going to start fourth grade in a week? She won't even be eight until the second of November," Scully answered with pride.

"Sure, I can believe it, Dana," Reyes said with a smile. "She takes after her mother. I'm sure that William will turn out to be brilliant too."

"I don't know that I'd say I'm all that smart..." Scully demurred.

"Don't be modest!" Reyes admonished her. "If you can't take a friend's word for it, trust Mulder's taste. You know he would never settle for a woman who couldn't match his genius."

That gave Scully pause for thought. Reyes declaration made her think of the two women she'd met of the few Mulder had ever been involved with before her. Phoebe Green, and Diana Fowley. Both of the women, whom Scully had disliked on sight, had been as intellectually gifted as they were cold. Before Scully got any deeper into that line of thinking, she realized that Reyes had discovered a very clever way to stall mentioning whatever it was that had prompted her to want to have lunch with Scully. "So," Scully said briskly as she picked up the second half of her sandwich. "I've taken up enough of lunch talking about my little darlings, and my not-so-little darling. What's new with you?"

A slight flush appeared on Reyes' cheeks. "John gave me something last night..." she said shyly, bringing her hand up from where it had been resting on the seat.

Scully looked at the ring on her friend's finger and did something out of character for her- she squealed in girlish delight. "You're engaged?!"

"As of last night," Reyes confirmed.

"Wow, that's fantastic!" Scully exclaimed.

"I'm glad you think so, because I have a favor to ask of you. Would you be my maid of honor?"

"Of course I will," Scully said with a broad smile.

"And could Emily be the flower girl?" Reyes asked coaxingly.

"I have no objections, but you'll probably want to ask her yourself."

"Oh, of course," Reyes agreed. "There is one other thing I should mention..."

"What's that?" Scully asked.

"We're talking about an October wedding date. This October, that is," Reyes added to clarify. Scully nodded encouragingly. "The last day of October."

Scully's jaw dropped for a few seconds, then she collected herself. "I guess Halloween is oddly appropriate," she tried to say with a straight face.

Reyes smirked. "Given the date, I'll understand if you can't be my maid of honor."

"Why would the date make a difference?" Scully asked in confusion.

"I'm just trying to say that John and I will totally understand if you and Fox want to make it a double ceremony. It might be nice to share the spotlight that way," Reyes answered with an evil grin.

"Perish the thought! Why is there a conspiracy to get Mulder and me to get hitched?" Scully complained.

"Be careful, you've even using the 'c' word like he does. You can't get much more compatible than that," Reyes teased, but made an effort to stop laughing when she noticed Scully seemed to be sizing up her chips for their aerodynamic potential.

Emily ran down to the kitchen and threw her arms around Scully, who was about to head out the door. Scully took a step backwards to keep being knocked over, and looked down at her daughter. "You're up early. Couldn't sleep?"

"I wanted to give you a hug before you left for work," Emily explained.

"Are you nervous about starting a new school?" Scully asked, figuring that a little chat to calm the girl's worries was a worthwhile reason for being a few minutes late for work.

"A little," Emily confessed. "It's going to be a whole new school an' Brian won't be there like he's always been. Georgie didn't go to school with us, 'cause he was too little, but Brian was always down the hall."

Scully looked at the morose expression on the girl's face, and decided to break the promise she and Mulder made each other. He'll understand, she thought. I hope. "Emily, you know how the boys come over a lot because they don't live too far away?"


"Well, when they decide which school you go to, they decide by where you live."

Emily gave her a puzzled look. "So?"

Scully smiled. "Honey, what that means is that they live in the same school district, so they'll be in the same school as you. Or, actually, Georgie will be in the same school as you, since his Mom said they put him right into second grade after doing placement tests, and Brian will be in the middle school next door. You'll probably see him at recess, though, since the two schools share the same playground. Brian's mom said that you and Georgie can go to his home this afternoon."

"Oh wow!" Emily exclaimed, dancing around. "That is so cool!"

Mulder came into the room that moment, yawning. He looked at the excited child, then over to Scully, who gave him an apologetic look. "Mulder, if you'd seen the look-"

He smiled at her. "Don't worry about it, I probably would have done the same thing." Scully kissed him on the cheek.

"Bye Mom!" Emily called as Scully left. Then she looked over at Mulder. "Are you and Will going to be lonely?"

Mulder assumed a sad expression. "We'll miss you very much. But we'll find ways to fill our empty hours before you come back and fill the void in our day," he said gravely as he put bread in the toaster.

"Mulder! You're so silly." Emily laughed.

"Will and I will miss you, but we'll be fine. You can have fun at school without worrying about us, ok?"


"Good. You pick out some cereal for breakfast, and I'll get myself, and your brother, dressed so I can bring you to school," Mulder said, as he pulled the toast out of the toaster and buttered it for her.

"What about the milk?" Emily asked.

Mulder grinned. "Pick quick, and I'll pour it for you."

Emily ran to the pantry and grabbed a box of Count Chocula. "Breakfast of Champions," Mulder said with a shake of his head, not surprised that she picked out the only sugared cereal that Scully would allow in the house. Mulder had always wondered why Scully made that particular exception, given she didn't believe in vampires, chocolate sucking ones or otherwise. Everyone has their quirks, he thought, checking the count's picture for buckteeth.


Scully watched with envy as two of Reyes' bridemaids, Lee Murasaki and Kate Queen, left the bridal shop. She'd only just met them, since they had been college chums of Reyes'. She hadn't met the rest of the women, but supposed she would as the fittings continued. The seemingly endless dress fittings.

As excited as Scully was for Reyes and Doggett, dress fittings were something she could live without. Unfortunately, she had been required to go with Reyes and have adjustments made several times; an experience that was beginning to remind her of graduation practices for reasons she couldn't put a finger on. Maybe it was the wearing of unfamiliar costumes, she mused. At least, she thought, she wasn't expected to wear an actual costume, despite the Halloween date for the wedding. Mulder had made the suggestion to Doggett, who had loudly vetoed it before realizing that Mulder hadn't been serious despite his deadpanning.

While Reyes' back was turned to talk to the dressmaker, Scully looked down at her dress and frowned. She supposed it was only fitting that she disliked her dress, since most bridesmaids and maids of honor do, and she suspected the dresses were purposely made to look hideous so no comely bridesmaid ever stole the limelight from the bride. She had to admit that Reyes had tried, though. When they were discussing dresses, Reyes had told her that she looked lovely in green, and Scully had thanked her and said she did like green even though she seldom wore it. However, Scully had dark green in mind when she seconded green being a good color for bridesmaid dresses, not a pale, minty green. Of course the dress was a minty color.

However, she thought to herself with a small smile, Emily did look lovely while wearing a flower girl dress the same color. Scully heard her drop the basket of fake flowers that she was "practicing" with, so she turned, expecting to give Emily a hand cleaning them up. Instead she found herself rushing to Emily's side a moment after the girl swayed on her feet and passed out.

Scully wrung her hands as she waited to talk to the doctor outside of Emily's room. He'd asked her to step into the hallway, and had been accosted by a nurse before speaking to her. Scully gave the nurse an irritated glance, then looked into the girl's room.

Mulder was sitting in a chair by Emily's bed, holding her hand. Scully couldn't make out any of his words, but the gentle murmur of his voice leaked out into the hallway. Emily, looking pale and somewhat frightened, mostly nodded her responses to his words, saying very little herself. Scully sighed as she continued to wait. She knew she should be grateful that Emily had come around so quickly, but fear drown that particular emotion.

"I'm sorry about that," the doctor apologized as the nurse scurried off. "I have some of the test results back on your daughter. You yourself are a doctor, correct?" He waited for her to nod. "That'll make this all easier to explain then. If you wouldn't mind stepping into the next room..." He led her into an office, the back wall of which was set up to view x-rays and other films.

Flicking on the light, and picking up the first MRI film, he said. "This is an old MRI of Emily's, from when you said she got ill in 1997." He put up the film and something in Scully's chest hitched as she stared at the familiar, tumor riddled, image. He pushed it aside and hung up another next to it. "And this is the film we took an hour ago. As you can see, none of the tumors are still present." A faint smile played on his lips, then faded.

Scully felt weak with relief as she looked at the clear film. "That's good news," she said in a tired voice; the toll knowing nothing for the last three hours was beginning to show.

"I agree, but she's still severely anemic, and is not responding as well as I'd like. We've given her iron, but there seems to be a congenital cause for her body's inadequate ability to capture iron," he said, sounding faintly puzzled.

"She's been anemic her entire life. My..." Scully searched for an adequate label, than gave up. "Mulder spoke to her doctor before the man died of a knife wound. The doctor told him that Emily might eventually need a bone marrow transplant."

The doctor thought that over. "While that's usually a procedure done only in cancer cases, it does have its merits as a possible solution," he said slowly. "If donor marrow was successful in gaining a hold in her body, it's conceivable that the anemia would reverse itself once her body started producing red blood cells that worked properly."

"But are you willing to try it?" Scully asked, thinking about how difficult it could be to get approval for unconventional treatments.

The doctor seemed to read her mind. "Given how ill this has made her in the past," he said, skipping over the part about how this very hospital declared her dead from the illness. "I should be able to get aggressive measures approved more quickly than otherwise. Besides, it is an approved treatment in some forms of anemic, like aplastic. Do you know which kind she has? I can look in her records, but I didn't have time to before speaking to you." The doctor said, looking embarrassed to admit that.

"She has auto-immune hemolytic anemia," Scully told him.

"I'm fairly sure that I've heard of that being treated with a bone marrow transplant. Because auto-immune diseases are similar to cancer in that they attack the body's tissue, there are many cross-treatments used. So it should be even easier to get approved than I originally thought," the doctor said almost cheerfully.

"I'm glad to hear that," Scully said quietly. "What do we do next?"

"I'll continue to give her iron, since it seems to be helping some, while I get approval for a bone marrow transplant, and we begin looking for a donor. I'm sure you'll want preliminary typing tests done on yourself, her father, and perhaps on any other children you have, since relatives are usually the easiest matches to find."

Scully gave him a distraught look. "The identity of Emily's father is unknown. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't carry Emily. Someone, without my consent, used one of my eggs, which was in storage," Scully abandoned the pretense of honesty, and decided it would be easier to let him think she was an IVF patient, "to conceive her and had her carried to term by a surrogate. What if I'm not a good match? I only have one other child, a sixteen-month-old son, who might not match either, given he's only her half-brother. I suppose there's my mother and brothers, but they're even less likely to match, aren't they?"

The doctor gave her a reassuring look. "Hopefully one of you will be a match. And if not, your daughter may well benefit from database that D.C. hospitals are keeping of DNA test results. In the six months since the program's inception, we've found eighteen non-relative bone marrow donors. A surprising number of strangers are willing to help save the lives of those in need. So much for common man's nature to ignore the plight of others, eh?" he said with a smile.

"Thank you. The only better news you could have given me would be to say Emily could come home tonight," Scully said wryly.

"I'm sorry, but if she was your patient, I'm sure you'd favor keeping her monitored at the hospital as well."

Scully thought for a moment about how few of her patients ever had pulses. "I know, wishful thinking I suppose."

"With a little luck she'll be home before you know it." Scully thanked him, and turned to watch him walk down the hallway, on his way to change another life.

Emily's eyes welled up with tears as Scully walked into the room and Mulder excused himself so he could find a restroom. Emily looked up at Scully and said "Mommy, I'm sorry I ruined the wedding."

Scully gave her a hug, surprised that that was what was bothering her. "Don't be silly, Sweetie, the wedding isn't for a long time yet."

"But..." Emily hung her head. "But if I'm sick, Reyes won't want me to be the flower girl any more."

"Oh, Honey, you'll be all better by then, you'll see," Scully said a bit too brightly as she tried to convince them both.

"But I can't go home tonight, can I?" Emily asked sadly.

"I wish you could." Scully gave her an apologetic look. "But the doctor said you'll get better faster here than you would at home."

"I know." Emily frowned in resignation. "I'm going to miss Will though," she said, referring to the hospital's policy of not allowing visitors under twelve years of age.

Scully thought it was archaic thinking, since most hospitals discontinued that rule by the 90's. Because she couldn't get an exception made, William was at her mother's house. "I'm sure he'll miss you too, Emily. You concentrate on getting better, and you'll be back to playing with him in no time."

"Ok, Mommy," Emily said sleepily. Scully sat with her until she was sound asleep.

Scully stuffed Emily's belongings into a bag two days later as she readied the girl to go home. The doctor released her because she'd stabilized, and he thought that he could trust Scully, a fellow doctor, to keep her on the iron regiment, and keep her quiet, since there really wasn't anything the hospital would do differently while they waited to find a donor. Before Scully picked Emily up, despite the girl's protests that she could walk, he assured her that the preliminary match test results would be in within forty-eight hours. Scully thanked him.

"Put me down!" Emily demanded as he walked out of the room.

"Humor your mom, would you? It's not going to be too long before I can't pick you up any more."

"But I'm little," Emily corrected her, thinking about how much smaller she was than her classmates, but forgetting to take their being older into account.

"I know, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty little for a grown up, you know," Scully said wryly.

Emily thought that over for a moment. "Yeah, you're lots shorter than Monica. Am I going to be short too?" Emily asked curiously.

"It's hard to tell yet. You're only seven-"

"I'm going to be eight soon," Emily interrupted.

"Ok, you're going to eight soon, but girls don't usually stop growing until they're in their mid teens."

Emily's eyes widened. "That's not for forever!"

Scully shook her head slightly. It's sooner than you realize, she thought. "Ok, enough talk, I'm getting tired. Ready to be carried to the car?"

Emily giggled. "I guess so, Mommy. Can we watch a movie when we get home?" she said, wrapping her arm more tightly around Scully's neck.

"As long as you don't strangle me before we get to the car," Scully said. Emily laughed and took the hint to loosen her grip.

48 Hours Later...

After having received a call to discuss Emily's case the day before, Scully had called the doctor back and asked to speak to him during her lunch break. He'd agreed readily enough, so Scully was more than thrilled to be getting away from the most recent dead body when noon rolled around. The pathologist who planned to cover for her if the appointment took longer than an hour wished her luck as she hurried down the hallway.

The doctor caring for Emily looked up at Scully as she entered the room. "I'm glad that you were able to come her to discuss this will me," he told her before offering her a seat.

"You said you discovered something unusual?" she prompted him.

"I did indeed. Unfortunately, you are not a good match for Emily. However, as we discussed earlier, I ran Emily's DNA through the databases to see if there were any likely matches."

"And?" Scully asked, wondering what he was getting at.

"Well the program flagged that she did come back as partial match to both you and William, which is to be expected, since you are blood relatives. It's unfortunate that William so young, because the records that were forwarded to us from the DNA tests he and his father took in North Dakota, which we entered into the database, show that he is a good match. While it's not entirely unheard of to use children as young as one-year-old as donors, I'd prefer not to if possible, since their tiny bodies don't offer as much marrow as an older child's or an adult's. I think we should, however, keep him in mind as a last resort, because they match quite closely. Far more closely than one would expect half siblings to," the doctor said pointedly.

"What are you saying?" Scully asked, confused.

"In addition to those two matches, there were also two more. Am I correct in recalling that you said that you don't know who her father is because she was conceived without your knowledge, then carried by a surrogate?" He waited for Scully to nod in agreement. "I'm not sure how you're going to take this news..." he trailed off hesitantly.

"Please continue," Scully demanded anxiously. "I need to know if you discovered something that indicates who her father is."

"One of the matches, which unfortunately isn't close enough to consider for donation purposes, is Fox Mulder, your son's father-"

"Are you implying that Mulder is Emily's father?" Scully asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No. While the match is close enough to indicate a family relationship, he's not her father. The other match is."

Scully stared at him, one thought in her mind: pleasenotCSMpleasenotCSM... "Who?" she said in a quavering voice.

"There's over a 99% likelihood that her father is also a former FBI agent, who also recently underwent a DNA test. One Jeffery Spender."

At least it's not the smoking man, she thought giddily. "I wonder how Mulder is going to feel about being an uncle," she said thinly, trying not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

"I'm sure I have no idea. I take it from your reaction that you know this Spender.

"He and Mulder are half siblings themselves," she explained.

"I see. Do you think he'd be willing to help his child?" the doctor asked her. "He's the closest match."

"If I can contact him, I think he could be persuaded. He owes me one."

25 Minutes Later...

"What are you talking about? I don't have a kid," Spender growled, wishing he'd gone through with his inspiration of changing his phone number; he hadn't because he'd worried that the syndicate would have taken it as an act of rebellion. Now that he was fully healed he was more inclined to try to get out from under, and promised himself that he'd really change the number. And possibly flee the country to avoid further phone conversations like this one. "I certainly do not have a child with you!" Spender then silently added, I think that is an encounter I would remember. He listened for a moment without comment. "Oh, when you were I was never an alien abductee!! That was my mom's shick not mine. I don't care what the DNA test said, it's not possible," he insisted.

But he nearly dropped the phone when a half-forgotten memory rushed back to him. Several years earlier, a former classmate approached him for help... "Oh my God, Scully there is a way, I'd just forgotten about it. Back about ten years ago a former college classmate asked me to help her out. She was a scientist working for a company doing research for facilities performing IVF...yeah, but when she asked me if I'd give her a sperm sample, I sort of forgot what she was doing for a living, and thought she was just being coy...That's not a very nice thing to say to someone who you're asking a favor from! Anyway, by the time I figured out she was being literal, I felt so stupid I went through with it. She assured me that the sample would only be used in an experiment for improving long term storage...No, I've never seen that episode of Ally McBeal, and I don't think it's very nice of you to laugh at me....... I'm still here. Ok, but you have to promise me one thing....Don't tell her I'm her father....Well, maybe someday, but I'm not ready for someone to think of me as their father. We can discuss that later....Ok, call me back when you set up the appointment so I can book a flight. I'm not doing anything I can't take a few days off from. You're welcome, but if this is my kid, I owe her, right? Bye."

Spender slumped in his chair after hanging up the phone. After how maudlin he'd felt holding William and knowing he wasn't likely to have a child of his own, he was shocked at how little he felt now that he knew he had one. Perhaps, he reflected as he got up to pour himself a stiff drink, joy takes longer to develop than utter numbness. His hands shook as he poured his brandy.

Mulder was organizing the cabinet under the sink when Scully came home. William was imprisoned in his playpen, and Mulder had assigned Emily to be his warden, with instructions not to give him parole under any circumstances. The things he was going to be pulling out of the cabinet could hurt a baby, he explained to her, so it was for his own good that he be left in the playpen to whine. Emily was doing her best to entertain the indignant little boy, while also following her mother's standing orders not to tire herself in the process.

Scully had come into the kitchen so quietly that Mulder jumped when he finally realized that she was standing. He was about to moan about her scaring him, when the look on her face scared him more.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

"Mulder, we need to talk."

Mulder began to stuff things back into the cabinet as quickly as he could. "Did the doctor have bad news about Emily's latest test results?" he said, thinking about how Emily was being tested every other day as a condition of being able to stay out of the hospital. Scully shook her head. "Is there something wrong with your mom or something?" he said, clipping the childproof lock back into place.

"No, nothing like that," Scully said tiredly as she sat down at the table. Mulder shrugged and washed his hands before joining her. "Mulder, I talked to Emily's doctor during my lunch break this afternoon. And he gave me some unexpected news."

"Don't leave me in suspense," Mulder said, tying to break the tension and failing. He poured himself a cup of coffee and offered her some, which she refused.

"The first thing he told me was something I feared, I'm not a good match for Emily."

"But there's that database he told you about, isn't there?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah...and that's where things get weird. He went ahead and did the database search, and came back with some matches."

Mulder gave her a confused look. "That's a good thing, isn't it?"

Scully gave a short laugh, which frightened him. "I suppose that depends on how you look at it...Mulder, Emily's your niece."

"What?" Mulder yelped, dropping his mug. It didn't break but coffee splashed all over the table.

"The DNA search came up with an over 99 present probability that Emily is Jeffery Spender's biological daughter. He's also the best possible match for her. I talked to him this afternoon, and he's going to donate his marrow to her."

Mulder used a paper towel to tackle the spill with angry swipes. "I can't believe that you already talked to him without even telling me first."

Scully shrugged. "I'm sorry, but I felt I had to do it immediately, before I lost my nerve."

"So what does he want in exchange? Visitation? Custody?" The last word came out as half-growl.

Scully reached out and put her hand over his. "Nothing like that. In fact, he asked that we not tell her who he is."

Mulder's disbelief showed plainly on his face. "He knows that he has a child, and doesn't want anything to do with it?" Mulder could not fathom having a child and not doing everything in your power to keep it close.

Scully read him like an open book. "Apparently not. and your brother don't have much in common, so maybe it's not fair to expect him to react the same way you would," she told him gently.

"So I'm an uncle?" Mulder asked, some of the tension fading from his face. "After my mother died, I thought I didn't have a single blood-relative left, now I have three. Fancy that."

Scully walked over to him and gave him a hug. "I think Spender might be right, though, we may want to wait until she's older to explain the complicated family ties to her."

Mulder pulled her tighter. "Sounds like a plan to me." She's my niece, he thought with wonder, she's my blood after all.

Eight Days Later...

Spender grimaced when a nurse approached with the very large needle they would use later on to extract the bone marrow from his hip. Although he knew that it was going to be different this time, he was still plagued by his mind's insistent habit of equating any and all needles with the terrible experiment they did on him. As he thought about them punching the needle into a very ordinary, perfectly smooth patch of skin on his hip, he decided that this was the debt he needed to repay for his restored appearance, and that it was ok. He was going to go into hiding as soon as he left the hospital, so no one in the syndicate could take him to task for it, but it was ok.

He'd visited the hospital the night before, and looked in on Emily while the girl was sleeping. He thought about waking her to see if her eyes were as much like Scully's as he'd been told, but he was afraid to. It was better that she never know he was there. He studied her as she slept, looking for something of himself in her. He thought perhaps that she had his ears, and something about the shape of her mouth echoed his.

He couldn't believe that such a perfect-looking child had already come close to losing a battle for her life, and was headed down that path yet again. If not for the pallor of her skin, he might have been able to convince himself that she wasn't really ill. But he of all people knew you couldn't judge the outside to determine damage on the inside. They'd been able to remove the scars to his outside, but inside they were as thick and ugly on his soul as ever.

While he wouldn't need to check into the hospital until the next day, just a few hours before the procedure was scheduled, Emily had already been back in the hospital for nearly a week to prepare for the transplant. For five days she had received chemotherapy, like a cancer patient, so that her own bone marrow would be completely obliterated. It was the only way his marrow would have a shot at graphing itself to the insides of her bones. As he continued to study her, he gave her an empathetic look, because he knew that her hospital stay was far from over- it would take two weeks to a month for the borrowed marrow to begin to produce healthy cells, so she would probably be in the hospital until mid-October. He would be long gone by then, but planned to call Scully on a secured line to get updates about the girl's progress.

For a moment he mourned the fact that he would probably never know this daughter of his, and never feel her little arms wrap around him and hear her call him Daddy. His brother might one day gain those privileges, and for once he didn't feel bitter about his brother having something he didn't. After all, he'd had time with their sister that Mulder himself didn't. It all evens out in the end, Spender thought as broke the hospital's rule about germs and patients with compromised immune systems by briefly removing the mask from his face; he leaned down and kissed the sleeping child's forehead, and decided that life's cruelty is summed up in its checks and balances.

His thoughts were so consuming that he barely realized that he would be helpless as soon as the mask they'd just placed over his face made him drift into unconsciousness. His last idle thought before drifting off was if the procedure left scars, he'd be proud to bear them, since they would be legitimately earned.

As he started to come to a couple of hours later, his first thought was fear. Fear that he would open his eyes and find himself back to his erstwhile horrific state. But since he was so much braver than he used to be, he opened his eyes. And found he was unchanged, other than the bandages on his hips, and the aches there.

Before he sighed a breath of relief, he realized that he was not the only person in the room. His older brother was sitting in a chair next to his bed. He couldn't help but wonder why.

"Why aren't you with Emily?" he said Mulder, hating how hoarse he sounded.

Mulder noticed, and poured him a glass of water. "Scully's with Emily. I wanted to be here until you woke up."


"Partly because I wanted to make sure you were ok. I don't like anything that causes someone to be unconscious, so I like to be around to make sure they wake up ok. Not everyone does, and it's scary to think about."

"You said partly. What else?" Spender asked as he puts down his empty cup.

"I wanted to thank you," Mulder said simply.

"You don't need to thank me." Spender said getting embarrassed. "I owe it to her. She' daughter. I just did what any parent would."

"I'm thanking you because you made Scully feel a whole lot better about a grim situation when nothing I could do would. That sort of thing becomes important to you when you love someone as much as I love her. Love them both."

"I wouldn't know," Spender demurred.

Mulder smiled at him. "Don't sell yourself short. I think you might some day. I know you plan to start a whole new life when they let you leave the hospital in the morning. Let me give you the only piece of advice I ever will, brother to brother. Make sure that it's a real life you're starting. Don't cut yourself off from love and the other finer things in life because you're scared to. I spent a decade doing that, and it didn't get me anywhere fast."

"I'll keep that in mind," Spender told him, smiling weakly. For once in his life he actually felt like he had a brother. "How's Emily doing?"

"Ok so far. As the donor, you got the raw end of the deal, all things considered. All that is happening to her right now is that they have a catheter in a vein in her chest, which is slowly feeding the marrow into her body, and it will continue to do for hours. She'll be less sore when it's through than you are," Mulder apologized.

"Yeah, well, at least I get sprung from here in the morning, and don't have to lie around for weeks," Spender said with a rueful smile.

"That's a good point," Mulder said as the two brothers continued to chat about things that were important, and those that were not.

Fourteen Days Later...

Mulder gently badgered Emily's doctor over the phone into allowing her to leave her bed and go into the visitor's lounge. As soon as a nurse wheeled Emily into the lounge, William began to crow with excitement. The hospital's visitor policy only extended to patient's rooms, so he was finally able to see his sister.

"Em! Em!" he called, running to her as his pudgy little legs would allow him to. He immediately threw himself at her legs. The nurse gave them a pleased look and left the lounge after advising Mulder to go to the nurses' station when he and William were ready to leave.

Emily smiled brightly. "Hey Will, I've missed you too!"

William looked over to Mulder with a confused look on his face. "Dada..," he said uncertainly. "Em home?"

Mulder was about to tell him no, when he noticed the hopeful look on Emily's face. "Mulder, the doctor did say I could go home after two to four weeks. It's been two weeks. One of the nurses helps me keep track on the calendar in my room, so I know for sure. Can't you take me home today?" she said in a wheedling tone. "Please?"

Mulder smirked. "Nice try. You know that I'm not allowed to make that decision. Only your mom and your doctor can say it's ok." Emily pouted, which Mulder tried to ignore. "I know you say you feel better, but I'm not a doctor, so I don't know enough to say you're ready to go home. When your mom and the doctor are satisfied by your test results, they'll let you go home."

Emily smacked one of the arms of the wheel chair. "I'm gonna miss Halloween! I've never gotten to go trick or treating before, so it's not fair."

"Halloween isn't for another three weeks. I'm pretty sure that you'll be out of the hospital well before Halloween and the wedding," Mulder said reasonably.

A horrified look lit up her face. "Uh, oh, the wedding! If it's on Halloween-"

Mulder interrupted her. "Trick or treating is going to be the night before, so don't worry."

"How come it's not on the real Halloween?" Emily asked, looking puzzled.

"I have no idea. They've been having trick or treating on different days in some places since before you were born. They do the same thing with fourth of July fireworks too, since some places have them on the 3rd for some reason. Only the town councils know why for sure. You should be glad you're lucky enough that it is on the 30th instead of the 31st, so you don't miss anything," Mulder told her.

"I guess so..." Emily said. "But it's still strange."

"Hey, at least you get to eat your candy all morning before the wedding," Mulder told her, thinking that neither Scully nor Reyes would appreciate him saying that.

"Cool!" Emily chirped. "You're gonna ask Mom if I can come home soon, right?"

"Sure," Mulder said, ruffling her hair. "But why don't you ask her when she comes to see you later on?"

Emily refused to look him in the eye. "She made me promise not to ask her today," she confessed.


"Em!" William echoed, not understanding what they were talking about.

Three Nights Before Halloween...

Scully was surprised by a knock on the door about an hour after Emily and William went to bed. She groaned and threw herself off the couch, and away from Mulder, who gave her a hang-dog look. She didn't want to answer the door any more than he did, but she worried that it might be important.

Brian's father and Georgie's mother gave her tense smiles when she opened the door. Brian's father spoke up first. "We're sorry to drop by announced and so late, but could we come in and talk to you?"

"Sure," Scully answered, letting them. She gave Mulder a puzzled look when he joined them.

As soon as she sat down, Georgie's mother anxiously asked. "How is your daughter?"

"She's doing well," Scully told them. "Her doctor declared the bone marrow transplant to be a complete success, and her blood is functioning perfectly normal now. She's been home for over a week, and her weekly checkups look very good. She's even going to be a flower girl in our friend's wedding in three days."

"We're sorry that she's been so sick, and happy to hear she's feeling better," Brian's father said. "But we're worried about our boys."

"Why?" Mulder asked. "It's not as though Emily had something contagious."

"Oh nothing like that," Georgie's mother said, looking apologetic. "We are worried about them because the three of them all have the same disease, and all stopped being treated for it at the same time. I know you're a doctor, do you think that they'll also require bone marrow transplants?"

"Unfortunately, that's something I don't have an answer for. I can tell you that both times she became ill, it happened suddenly. This time we were at the bridal shop for our dress fittings when she suddenly collapsed."

"So there aren't really any warning signs." Brian's father sighed.

"No, but at least if they get ill too, you'll be able to tell the doctors exactly what is wrong, and how to cure it. In fact, you can give out my work and home number if a doctor needs to discuss it with someone, and I can give you the numbers for the doctor who treated Emily. Also, you might want to warn the school that they could become suddenly ill, and tell them to send the boy to the hospital immediately," Scully told them.

"Thanks for taking the time to talk to us at such a late hour," they said, and left as quickly as they'd arrived. Scully showed them to the door.

When she got back to the living room, Mulder was wearing a very pensive look on his face. "What are you thinking about, Mulder?" she said him.

"The kids' blood."

"The anemia, you mean?"

"No. The fact that Emily used to bleed green like the clones did, but now bleeds red like a normal person."

"Oh. I've wondered about that too. The only explanation I could come up with is that since Calderon was a clone, and therefore 'not of this world' he was able to access technology that we can't," Scully told him.

Mulder gave her an unusually skeptical look. "How do you make someone wholly human when they weren't before?"

"How do you, who started out perfectly normal, relatively speaking," she added mischievously. "Now have alien DNA? DNA which you passed along to our son?" Scully retorted.

"Touché," Mulder said wryly. He thought about that for a few moments. "However, it does explain why Brian was shot instead of stabbed like Calderon."

"How does that explain it?" Scully asked, thinking about how shell-shocked Doggett had been when he explained how the boy had seemed dead then revived himself.

"I speculate that the super soldiers, like Billy Miles and the nameless assassin, have some innate ability to distinguish humans from clones. Which helped them determine how to dispatch those who stood for something they were against, both when Will was born and this past summer. The only proof of that I can offer, though, are the bodies in the Calderon mansion...none of the humans had any stab wounds, and Calderon had not been shot at like the humans. Since the boy is now more or less human, the assassin treated him like one."

"I suppose there's some merit to that theory," Scully admitted grudgingly.

"If I'm right, as always," Mulder said, ignoring the eye rolling. "Then do you know what that means?"

"No, what?"

Mulder pulled her closer to him. "That means our Emily is just a normal little kid now, and nothing special."

"Except to us." Scully corrected.

"Except to us." He agreed.

October 30th

The jack o' lantern on the steps glared eerily at the street as the sun began to set. Mulder had hung a witch that had smashed into a building on the front door, and some spider's webs draped over.

William ran through the house giggling while dragging a plastic miniature pitchfork, with Mulder in hot pursuit. The toddler's costume was red, with a long tail, and the phrase "cute little devil" stitched across the chest. Mulder was trying to catch him so he could tie the horns onto the boy's head.

Scully just shook her head and put the finishing touches on Emily's costume. Emily smiled broadly as Mulder finally cut the boy off near the couch and made a grab for him. "Are my wings on straight, Mommy?" Emily asked Scully.

"They sure are. Your halo is a little crocked, though. Are you sure you want to wear it? Maybe it's crocked for a reason," Scully teased.

"Like Pinocchio's nose? No. I am an angel, so I'll wear it," Emily replied.

"Oh, you're a real angel, are you?" Scully asked

"Sure. Monica said so the first night I was here, and you said ' She really is' and you wouldn't lie would you?" Emily asked, reaching for Scully's nose.

Scully pulled away from her fingers with a laugh. "You were supposed to be asleep!"

"No one told me that," Emily said with a pout. "So you don't really think I'm an angel?"

Scully just laughed and gave her a hug. "Well, you're my angel."

Scully had just given out her last candy bars to trick or treaters # 126 and #127, a werewolf and a princess, and removed her witch's hat when Mulder returned with Emily and William. Mulder carried William with one arm, and his other hand clutched three bags brimming with candy.

"Three bags?" Scully wondered aloud.

"One of the houses gave out big bags of candy to all the grown ups that the lady said were 'stuck bring the brats out,'" Emily explained, making Scully laugh. "She only gave the kids one piece of candy each though."

"Looks like you and your brother got quite a haul though," Scully remarked.

"Trick! Treat!" William replied, looking pleased with himself. He then promptly ripped off the horns and threw them behind the couch. Mulder gave Scully a look that made her guess he was thinking about baseball again.

"It took us until we were almost done to get him to say that, Mommy."

"Scully, I sort of promised them that we'd check a few pieces of their candy before they go to bed. But that we'll leave most of it until after the wedding."

"Ok, sure. It's going to be hard to find candy that doesn't require a lot of teeth to eat though," Scully said, frowning.

"Mom, what about Milky ways, Three Musketeers and Peanut Butter cups? Those are all soft, and I don't really like them," Emily said. "I'd trade for other stuff."

"Good thinking," Scully praised her. "Ok, we'll check some candy now, and you and Will can eat it while we all watch the Garfield Halloween Special," Scully told them.

"Is that on now?" Mulder asked her when the kids ran off.

"No, but I taped it a few times," Scully confessed. "I've always liked that one, even if I was in high school the first time I saw it."

"No need to sound embarrassed. I was sort of thinking about watching Plan Nine From Outer Space again..." Mulder told her.

"Are you up to the 100th time yet?" Scully asked.

"Almost. Watch it with me?" He turned puppy dog eyes onto her.

"I guess so. As long as we don't stay up too late."

"Deal!" Mulder said happily as they began to sort through the candy. "You're not going to try to limit how much of my candy I eat, are you?" Mulder asked as he ducked out of reach when she made a grab for his candy.

October 31st 2002

Scully kissed Maggie and William and ignored the looks that Mulder and Emily were giving her and the clock. "Are you sure you don't mind, Mom?" Scully asked for the third time since Maggie had gotten there.

"I don't mind. It makes more sense for me to come over here if I'm going to be with him for the entire day. I brought my crossword puzzles with me for when he's asleep, so you don't have to worry about me having nothing to do over here," Maggie assured her. "If anyone calls, I'll take a message and tell them you'll get back to them tomorrow."

"Ok. Thanks again, Mom," Scully said, rushing out the door to catch up with Mulder and Emily who had given up in disgust and headed for the car.

She caught up to them just in time to hear Mulder say, "...and if Reyes asks why we're late, you can tell her that your mom was being a nervous Nelly. Reyes will understand, since she hopes to have rugrats of her own soon."

"Mulder," she said in a warning tone. He just grinned at her, which ticked her off more. However, she couldn't focus on her annoyance fully because she kept getting distracted by stray thoughts about how handsome he looked in his jet-black tux.

"So glad you decided to join us," he teased.

Despite Mulder's worry about the time, they got there well before the ceremony started. Emily's nervousness about being the flower girl faded considerably because her fascination pushed everything else aside. She'd never seen a wedding in person before, so she was captivated by the delicate flowers that decorated the church, and all the people filling the pews.

Right before the wedding march started, Emily tugged on Scully's hand and whispered louder than she meant to. "Monica looks like a princess." Several people in the surrounding pews nodded in agreement. Reyes dress was a dream in off white, and suited her figure very well. Scully glanced at her friend's face, and decided that delight took a decade off her face, because instead of merely looking good for her age, she looked like a very young woman indeed. Watching as her daughter flawlessly performed the very important duty of being the flower girl made Scully hide her smile, least the girl notice how much her solemn performance amused her.

She was not the only happy parent: Reyes' adoptive father looked very proud as he walked his daughter up the isle to where Doggett waited for her. Doggett had wondered if Reyes' parents would be able to make it to the wedding, and was relieved when they had arrived the night before. Up until then he'd had a reoccurring nightmare that passengers from their flight would be kept hours for security checks just because it was an international flight. He didn't realize that Reyes had shared his fear with her parents, and encouraged them to try to get a flight out of Mexico City the night before they had intended to.

The minister had a kind face, and gave the guests and the wedding party a beatific look before starting the ceremony. It would be several months before Doggett and Reyes compared notes and realized that neither of them had very clear memories of the ceremony. Most of the minister's words were a blur, and only the "I do's" stood out clearly. Doggett didn't even have time to worry that Mulder would do anything silly with the rings, and soon they were safely on their ring fingers. Both mothers of the couple cried tears of happiness as the couple kissed for the first time as man and wife.

Despite Doggett's threats, the reception was not decorated in black and orange. The only hint that it was Halloween came in the form of the wedding favors left on each table. In addition to the typical things, like miniature wine glasses filled with Jordan almonds, there was Halloween candy and plastic spiders decorating each setting. This delighted all of the children and teenagers in attendance, and many of the adults as well.

Scully worried that Emily would be shy, but before she knew it, the girl had dragged a reluctant Gibson out on the dance floor. "Uh oh. I didn't think we'd have to start worrying about her behavior around boys for a while yet," Scully said with mock horror as the pair got into the dancing, much to the shouts of encouragement from those watching. Gibson turned pink, but manfully ignored it.

Mulder gave her a serious look. "She's already a lot more forward than her mommy."

"Oh is that so?" Scully asked, raising her eyebrows.

"As I recall, I had to grab your hand and pull you kicking and screaming onto the dance floor the first time we danced," Mulder drawled.

"That's not how I remember it," Scully told him as she pulled him to his feet. "As I recall, I went quite willingly."

Mulder's arms went around her waist. "Well, I definitely kissed you first," he commented as he began to nibble on her ear.

"You know what they say," she said as they glided out onto the dance floor. "Good things come to those who wait."

Mulder looked down at her as she rested her head on his shoulder. "Does this give you any ideas?"

"You mean about getting married ourselves?" she said, lifting her face to look at him.

"Yeah, that."

"Will you be disappointed if I say no?" she asked tentatively.

His face broke out in a sunny grin. "Heck no. Because I don't really see us as the married in the church type," he confessed. "I picture us saying our vows as Elvis pronounces us man and wife-"


"Not the real Elvis, before you correct me since I'm pretty sure he's dead-"


"But an Elvis impersonator. They had one right in Graceland that would perform ceremonies for you there-"

"Mulder, you're incorrigible!" Scully exclaimed.

"I know. But that's why you loooove me," Mulder sang, making her laugh in agreement.

Sita De Brabant was wishing that she was wearing something other than the mint dress she was beginning to loathe, when a male guest, who had been taking maximum advantage of the open bar, gave a low whistle and said, "Hey, Sexy, don't I know you?"

She cringed and firmly said, "No."

"Naw, I'm sure I do," he persisted, staring blearily at her. He snapped his fingers. "Wait, I know where I know you from. You're the chick who jumped out of the cake at my best friend's bachelor party last year. Makes me wish I didn't miss the bachelor party for this John guy," he said while leering at her.

Sita gave him a hard stare. "You are mistaken. I'm a legal aide, not a stripper."

"Well, you look just like her," he said with a puzzled look.

"That's a fascinating coincidence," she replied icily. The man shuffled off red-faced and muttering to himself.

Skinner, who had caught part of the exchange, came up behind her and asked, "Is that man giving you trouble? You'd think going to a wedding as a woman's date would keep a guy from acting like an ass, but..."

Sista gave Skinner a small smile. "He just mistook me for my cousin, whom I am unfortunate enough to look just like," she explained.

"Why is than an unfortunate thing?" Skinner asked.

She frowned. "Because my cousin makes her living stripping at bachelor parties."

Skinner chuckled. "If he, or anyone else, gives you any trouble just give a yell. There's a whole table full of current and former FBI agents here, so anyone who gives a guest a hassle is in for it."

"Fortunately, she was with me last night so there probably won't be any more cases of mistaken identity."

"That's good to hear."

"Yeah, since it's a real pain. I'm sick of having to explain, always a bridesmaid, never a stripper," she told him with a smile. As he walked away she was struck by now much his demeanor reminded her of her protective, favorite uncle's.

Off to the side of the hall two young guests toyed with the favors on their table and chatted. One of them, Nicole Clark, was a young cousin of Reyes' who lived in the US, unlike most of Reyes' family. The other was Jenny Doggett, John's much younger sister who'd surprised the family with her arrival shortly before he graduated high school. The two young women had both been surprised to run into someone they knew at the wedding. Since they were seniors at SUNY, they'd struck up a casual acquaintance dating back to a shared class the year before.

At first they'd been watching Gibson as he was dragged onto the dance floor, and talking about how bad they felt for the teenager, but when Scully and Mulder rescued him from the little girl, then their conversation turned to the topic of the FBI agents.

"Your brother is an agent, and so is my cousin. Have you ever given any thought about maybe becoming one too?" Nicole asked. "We'll be old enough to start Quantico in a year."

Jenny shrugged. "I don't know...It could be interesting, but John said it's a dangerous job. Or at least it was, before he switched assignments."

"Yeah, Monica always made it sound so cool in their division," Nicole said wistfully. "I don't know if being a regular agent would be as exciting. It was just a thought, anyway."

"I wonder what the guys in the regular FBI divisions look like though..." Jenny wondered aloud, looking over towards Mulder. Nicole giggled.

"Your little girl was an adorable flower girl. And Monica tells me you have a little boy as well," Kate Queen commented to Scully as they got club soda during the band's break between sets.

"I sure do. William is with my mother, because we thought a wedding wouldn't be a good place for a not quite one and a half year old baby," Scully said with a smile.

"Do you have any pictures of him?" Kate asked, wondering what the child of a couple like Scully and Mulder would look like.

Scully went to the table and riffled through her purse. Skinner and Mulder glanced at her, shrugged, and continued their conversation while she dug. She returned with one of the most recent pictures of William and handed it to Kate, who examined it.

"Gosh, what a cutie!" she exclaimed, taking in the dimpled smile and the red-gold curls. "Who's the man in the picture with him, though?" she said, cocking her head to the side.

"Oh. That's his uncle Jeffery, Mulder's younger brother. This was taken a few weeks ago," Scully explained. The picture had been snapped right before Jeffery headed off for the unknown, leaving only a promise to keep in touch.

Kate nodded. He wasn't as classically handsome as his older brother, but there was definitely something attractive about him. "Is he, um, single?"

Scully shrugged. "So far as I know. He's pretty private about his personal life."

"Maybe you could give him my number if you see him." Kate said, turning pink with embarrassment. Scully just smiled at her.

Doggett's friend Kim Cho, the younger brother of a rookie who was wet-behind-the-ears when Doggett left the police force in New York, had flown in for the wedding. Doggett found it funny that he'd kept in touch with the younger man, since he hadn't even been the one Doggett had worked with, but that's how things turned out some times.

Doggett smiled when he realized that Kim had cornered one of the bridesmaids. He let it be, though, since Lee was smiling coyly, and seemed pleased by his attention.

Kim was immediately taken by the attractive young woman. He wasn't sure if it was something about the calculated way her eyes took him in, or the lithe way she moved, but she brought felines to mind. She certainly seemed to be enjoying the little game of cat and mouse they'd been playing, though. "So...what do you do?" he said her.

"I'm a DJ for an alternative music station," she told him with a half smile.

"You have a great voice for it," he complimented her.

She didn't even blush. "How about you?" she said.

He shuffled his feet a bit. "I bred Japanese Bobtail cats." Frequently his line of business put women off, so he wasn't sure if he'd like her reaction. "There's about a dozen kittens tumbling around my house at any given moment," he added with a faint smile.

"Really," she said, her eyes widening in appreciation. "You admire cats. I like that in a person."

"Do you, now..." Kim asked, taken a step closer.

Doggett stopped paying attention when his beautiful bride came up and pulled him back onto the dance floor.

The reception lasted for three more hours, then the newlyweds slipped away after a new round of well wishing, eager to start their honeymoon. The guests left soon after, all with kind words about the pair still on their lips. Finally it was just the staff left cleaning the hall, and wondering what would make anyone want to get married on Halloween.

Scully fumbled for her keys, and unlocked the door. Mulder, who was carrying a drowsy Emily who had been so tired she hadn't protested that at all, didn't complain about how long it took, and she gave him credit for that, since she knew that the girl was beginning to get heavy.

Maggie smiled when they got in. "How was the wedding?" she said.

"Lovely," Scully declared.

"They looked very happy," Mulder added, as he sat down on the couch after putting Emily on it. Since she just slumped against the couch, Mulder sighed and got back up to bring her up to bed, leaving Scully and her mom to chat.

"That's nice to hear. They're lovely people and deserve to be happy," Maggie said softly.

"If anyone deserves happiness, it's Monica and John," Scully declared.

"Oh, I don't know. I think Dana and Fox earned their happiness too," Maggie said, smiling at them. "You seem happy now, anyway."

"We are, Mom, we are," Scully replied.

"Well, that's good enough for me. Before I go, I should mention that you did get one message while you were gone."

"Who from?" Scully asked.

"That man you used to work for. Alvin Kersh."


Mulder managed to get Emily to wake up enough to get herself changed for bed. He wouldn't have objected to helping her, but he knew from what Scully said that Emily had begun to insist that she was a big girl and wanted to do everything herself. He turned his back until she declared " I'm all set." Despite her growing independence, she did still like to be tucked in at night.

Mulder finished tucking her in and was about to leave when Emily looked up at him expectantly. "Is there something you wanted to say?" he prompted.

"You know how it's my birthday on Saturday?" she said him.

"Nope, you've never mentioned it," he teased.

Emily ignored that. "Can I ask for something? From just you?"

"I guess so," Mulder said, wondering what she wanted.

"Would it be ok if...If I called you Dad like William does?" she said shyly.

Mulder wasn't sure if he was more stunned or happy. "Of course you can!"

"Thanks...Dad," Emily said sleepily, trying it out.

"Goodnight, Emily," Mulder said, leaving her to her dreams.

"Mulder, Mom just told me that Kersh called and asked us to call him back as soon as we got home," Scully told him when he got downstairs.

Mulder decided that he'd have to recount his conversation with Emily later. "I guess we better call him then."

"Do you want to call him, or should I?" Scully asked as she gave her mother a hug goodbye.

"Well..." he stalled, watching Maggie leave. "Maybe you should call him, you don't tend to irritate him as quickly as I do."

"You missed a lot while you were gone, but ok, I'll call him," Scully replied.

Mulder munched on some of his Halloween candy while listening to Scully's side of the conversation. "Hello, I'm sorry it's so late, but my mom said you asked that we call you back immediately...when was this?? ... You don't know why, though? I suppose that we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth... I think so Sir, I'll have to ask him. I know I am... Well, they're on their honeymoon, so I think you'll have to wait until they get back, but I'm sure that... Skinner already said yes? Well, that's great... two weeks from Monday, ok. See you then." Scully hung up the phone with a look of wonder on her face.

"What was that all about?" Mulder asked her.

"Kersh said that he was called by the head of the FBI this morning. They're reopening the X-Files, Mulder. And they want us back."

"Do you want to go back?" Mulder asked her.

Scully thought about her job at the hospital, and the day in day out autopsies. "More than anything. What about you?"

"Of course!" Mulder exclaimed. "But we're going to have to find someone to watch the kids."

"At least we have two weeks for me to give notice and find a suitable person, right?" Scully asked brightly, trying not to think about how hard finding someone who was qualified would be.

"Sure," Mulder agreed, also thinking about leaving their children to the care of strangers. "I never thought we'd go back to it, did you?"

"No, but it feels right," Scully said.

"It's what we're supposed to do," Mulder replied, warming up to the idea of returning to the fight to find the truth.


In a darken D.C. office, a man looked out the window and sighed. He pressed the intercom button and summoned his assistant. "Is it done?" he asked the younger man.

"Oh yes, Sir," the assistant fawned. "Kersh was informed, and the tap on his office phone picked up him calling Mulder and Scully. They're on board."

"Good. That's all, thank you," the man said, dismissing his assistant. Scully, he thought was negligible as long as she didn't know who had given the order to re-open the X-files, but it was Mulder he wanted back in the X-Files office. Mulder, a man he'd never met, but felt a connection to because they'd both gotten off on murder charges. The difference was that Mulder was innocent, but when you have the prosecution in your pocket, little things like guilt and innocence aren't as important as the dollar signs in front of the bribe for blowing the case.

The man got out of his chair and locked up the office, certain that Mulder would provide the proper foil to keep the grays on their toes as the time of the scheduled invasion approached, and distract them from the re-doubled efforts to develop a vaccine to protect against the black oil. As he walked down the stairs, he wondered if, when Mulder inevitably learned that they syndicate survived in part, if he'd still think it was run by devils. He didn't honestly care.

The End


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