graphic to be replaced when I think of something nicer

Beyond The Truth: 04 Reopened

Author:Neoxphile

Series: Beyond the Truth story 4

Written: April 7th, 2004 to April 9th, 2006

Spoilers: any episode of the nine seasons is fair game, probably will spoil parts of the first three BtT fics as well.

Archive: Anyone may link my fics to their pages (an e-mail to let me know where would be appriciated), but please seek permission before uploading.

Disclaimer: The X-files characters all belong to 1013 who, though they probably don't realize it, have lent them to me. However, Jacey, Quinn, and Landon Doggett belong to me, as well as two Mulders to be named later.

Timeline: This story takes place post-season nine, two years after the events in Elegy for Origin (three years after "The Truth")

Note: The Events of "Beyond the Truth: 03.5 Twinsville" have no bearing on this fic =) That was an April Fool's joke, not canon of this universe.

Two birthdates were given for Samantha over the course of the show. Neither of them made her fourteen when she died on October 23rd, 1979 as stated in "Closure". (by the older date she was 15, by the newer 13). We'll go with the date given second, which was November 21st, 1965.

Rating: R (some references to past child abuse/medical torture, maybe not a fic for the faint of heart)

Summary: When Mulder learns grim new truths about his sister, will he go so far as to destroy an innocent person's life to find peace at last?




-Prologue-

Pleasantwood Manors' construction site
(formerly April Air Force base)
Near Sacramento, California

Sweat rolled down the man's face and mixed with the light coating of dirt already on his cheeks. He didn't enjoy being dirty, but it was a definite occupational hazard when you were razing homes. A smear of clean skin appeared when he rubbed one gloved hand across his face, but it would only be a matter of minutes before the breeze stirred up more dirt, and more sweat started the whole muddy process again. Sighing, he glanced at his watch, trying to gage how much longer until he had a break so he could wash his face and drink some water.

As he looked away from his watch, he noticed something sticking out of the ground near the spot where he was digging out the old home's foundation. It seemed to be plastic, but not clear like a ziplock bag would be. Curious, he used the tip of his shovel to unearth the plastic, saying a quick prayer that his interest wouldn't lead him to a gruesome discovery like the ones he always heard about on the news.

Fortunately, the bag was too small for a body, even an infant's. Besides that, whatever was inside it was hard and flat, so it was unlikely to even be a family pet. He chuckled at his own thoughts, but he'd always had a morbid streak, so he couldn't help it. Stripping off his gloves, he wiped his sweaty hands on his shirt, and unwrapped his find. When he saw what it was, his eyes widened, and he went to find the foreman to ask him what he should be done with it. It seemed important, not the sort of thing you just threw away.




The foreman, a do-it-yourself'er who decided not to sub-contract to developer, had bought the entire block of base housing for thirty seven million dollars. The man in question planned to turn the thirty little homes, and their far more valuable land into twenty luxury homes. He'd sell them each for four million dollars, earning far more than he was laying out. Perhaps one or two would be bought by a celebrity, throwing more status, and more business, his way. All in all, he was convinced that it was a profitable under taking, even at this stage of the project.

What he didn't need was the problem that one of his workers had thrust upon him with the enthusiastic expectation that he'd track the thing's owner down. Had he been another man, he might have barked at the worker and told him that he didn't have time for such trivialities. But he was who he was, and he liked the young man who'd brought him the problem, so instead he was standing in a portable trailer, phone book in hand, looking for the owner of the thing sitting on his desk.




Mulder picked up the phone on the first ring. "Hello."

"I know this is a long shot, but I was wondering if you might be related to a Samantha Mulder," the foreman asked in a nervous rush, looking up from the short list of Mulders he'd finally found on the Internet.

"She was my sister," Mulder answered faintly, wondering who could be calling, and why.

The use of past tense was not lost on the foreman. "Um… Look, I'm building some houses on an old air force base, and one of the construction workers found something of hers. A diary. It's in good shape," he added quickly. "I was hoping to return it to her, but if she can't take it, maybe you want it."

"Yes, of course," Mulder said numbly, then gave the man his address.

The foreman wrote the address on the envelope he'd already put the diary in, and gave it a sad stare. From the way the brother sounded, he was sure that the girl was dead.

- End of Prologue –




Doggett Home
Washington DC
That day

With a definitive snap, Doggett finished buckling the last of the car seats. While he panted with exertion, his children smiled at him, apparently amused by the contortions daddy went through to get them into the van.

Jacey, the boldest of the trio, reached out and patted his arm until he looked into her big blue eyes. "Doggy, Daddy," she said very seriously.

"I know," he replied, brushing her light brown curls off of her face. Her sister's hair was straight so it was less unruly; otherwise they looked a lot alike for fraternal siblings, and he cringed when people said they looked like him; he thought they were far too pretty for the comparison. Landon, on the other hand, looked like his mom, all dark hair and dark eyes.

"Doggy! Doggy!" Landon and Quinn chorused from the other car seats. Reyes had initially worried about their language acquisition being slower than William's, but their pediatrician told her it was an unfair comparison since William had the undivided attention of both parents and a much older sibling so lack of competition had given him a linguistic edge. It wasn't, Doggett thought ruefully, as though the triplets didn't express themselves.

Reyes smirked as she got into the car. She'd warned him not to tell them where they were going. Doggett was excited about getting a puppy too, though, and had blurted out their destination before thinking better of it.




"Puppy!" they squealed happily, being bowled over by small furry bodies attached to wet, pink tongues. The policy the shelter had was to let people into the "puppy room" and play with all the puppies so they could pick one out. The employee had done a double take when they'd first arrived, but was now watching the kids with an amused expression, rather than a worried one.

Quinn wore an expression of comical surprise as one of the puppies kissed her nose. Watching them romp with the puppies, Doggett couldn't help but grin. Now that they were toddlers, they all had their own unique personalities.

Looking back at their first few months, it seemed like they'd never survive long enough to get this far. Maria Reyes stayed the first two weeks they were home from the hospital, and Doggett's younger sister Jenny spent the rest of the summer, but even with help the first few months passed in a haze of feedings and diaper changing, and baby soothing. It was a minor miracle that only Landon had suffered from colic, since it might have driven them all mad if it had been all three of them.

After the first few sleep-walked months, though, they got into a good system, and life went on pretty much as normal, although you were likely to find Gibson writing his homework with one hand, while holding a bottle with the other. He'd been an absolute godsend, and they all missed him now that he was in college. He came home every other weekend, and Doggett privately thought that it was good for the boy to get away from the three very affectionate, very demanding kids who thought of him as their "big brother."




The first inkling Scully had that there was something wrong, was the fact that she arrived home to a completely silent house. After listening a few seconds, she heard the reassuring sounds of Emily and William playing, but it was coming from the back yard. Baby on hip, she went out back to investigate.

Lounging in the hammock, Scully saw that Emily was reading the book Mulder had recently given her – "The Door in The Lake" by Nancy Butts- while William played in the sprinkler. Emily looked up, closing the book around her thumb. "Hi, Mom."

For a second that made Scully's chest ache. It had only been a few months since her oldest daughter gave up "mommy" entirely for "mom" and it was still hard to get used to. At least for Scully. She even felt a little jealous that Mulder was still "daddy," even though she called her own father that until she was in her early teens.

"Mommy!" William shrieked, throwing his wet body against her pants. She smiled a little, wet thought it might be, it was the kind of greeting she expected from her four-year-old son.

"Hey guys." Looking around, she still didn't see Mulder. "Where's your dad?"

William looked away, so Emily spoke up. "He's inside...and he's crying." It cheered Scully only a little that neither child seemed too alarmed by his behavior.

"Why?"

"He didn't say," Emily explained with a slight shrug, as if to suggest not knowing the minds of grown ups was hardly unusual.

Her son nodded in solemn agreement, either at what Emily had said or what her gesture implied, then changed the subject. "Mommy, I want to hold Calli," he implored, turning his beautiful eyes on her. If her own were anywhere near as devastating, she could understand why it was so easy to sweet talk Mulder into doing things her way- as long as those things weren't case related.

Scully bit her lip. Mulder hadn't cried, as far as she knew, since their daughter had come home from the hospital four months ago. Before then, they both shed plenty of scared tears, because the baby had been two months early, and things hadn't looked good the first few days. She was fine now, as was evident from the check up they were just getting home from.

"Calla," she corrected William absently, still worrying about Mulder. They were trying to break William's insistence on calling her "Calli." They'd named her for lilies and he wanted to call her a state's nickname.

William's response was to wrinkle his nose. "Can I?"

If William felt any loss over no longer being the baby of the family, he hid it well. Constantly begging to be allowed to hold the baby, he seemed to adore being a big brother. It surprised Scully, but he was even more in love with the baby than Emily.

"You need to change into dry clothes first."

"Pants too?" he asked about what she'd been about to say. Sometimes it was still unnerving that he could read minds.

"Yes, pants too."

Before he could tell her that it wasn't fair since pants were hard to get on, especially since they made him wear ones with zippers and buttons now, Emily seemed to sense that her mother was upset by her earlier revelation. "Come on, Will. I'll help you zip them up."

"Thanks!"

"Mom...do you want me to take Calla in? I'll make sure Will's sitting down before he holds her."

"That would be nice, thank you." Scully gave the girl's shoulder a gentle pat before handing her the infant. Fortunately, Calla was a good-natured baby, so "pass the kid" didn't bother her as much as it did many infants.

Walking towards the house alone, she wondered what was wrong with Mulder. The kids didn't seem too upset, but that might just mean it was something they couldn't understand, not that there wasn't something very wrong.




Meanwhile...

In the end the Doggetts went home the proud owners of a lab mix. Two months old, the puppy was all black fur and pink tongue. There was a white spot on her chest, but other than that you wouldn't know that she had less than purebred lineage. Doggett let himself wax poetic as they carried her out to the car in a box – she was a mutt, just like most of the people living in the country today.

Fortunately for the puppy, the restricting car seats kept her away from the reach of small hands, so she wasn't loved to death on the drive home. Not that it stopped the triplets from trying to reach her anyway. The trip was full of frustrated whining, not all of it coming from the puppy who didn't like the box.

Once they got home, and unloaded the kids, they let the puppy explore the house. She seemed eager to lope through the rooms, and wagged her tail as the triplets chased after her. Ten little feet, six of them clad in hard heeled toddler shoes, on the hard wood floors made quite a racket, but Reyes was glad to see the kids so thrilled with their new pet. She thought back to the argument she and Doggett had had a few months before they were born, and was glad that she'd ultimately decided that they ought to put off getting a dog for a while. The image of herself trying to walk a dog while very pregnant with triplets made her chuckle to herself.

"What's so funny?" Doggett asked from behind her.

"I was just thinking about the first time we thought about getting a dog."

"Ah. Got any names in mind for this little beast?"

Just then the puppy ran by, a giggling Jacey hot on her tail. Landon and Quinn were only a few feet behind them.

Doggett and Reyes looked at each other and spoke in unison. "Chase."




Scully found Mulder sitting at a chair in the living room, with something she couldn't identify clutched in his hands. His head was bowed, and she didn't think he heard her come in.

"Mulder?" When he lifted his face, she saw that he had indeed been crying. Going to his side, she slipped one arm around him. "What's wrong?"

He dragged one hand across his eyes before he answered her. "I got a strange phone call today. They're tearing down April Air Force base to put up houses. And they found something."

Before she could imagine anything too morbid, he held up what he'd been holding and she finally recognized it. "This, this isn't the only one she kept, apparently. Someone digging out a foundation found another one yesterday."

Samantha's diary. She hadn't realized he'd kept it, though it made sense, since she probably would have kept it had it been Melissa's. It would have been even more important to him, she realized, since it was the only record there was of her life after she'd been ripped out of his.

"Oh…" All she could do was pull him closer to her. He didn't resist.

"So they're mailing it to me. I don't know that I want to read it, but I have to. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes."

"What if… what if what's in that one is even worse than what's in this book?"

What if it was? She had no answer for him.




Hoover building
Thursday

Before the much anticipated and dreaded diary arrive, Skinner call them in to assign a new case. Since he looked more annoyed unusual, they figured that it wasn't going to be a fun case. He didn't smile when he noticed them come in. In fact, annoyance was very plain on his face.

"The State Department has requested that we give this new case that I've just been given the particulars of our full attention. I asked them if I could assign just two agents to this case, but the request was denied." Skinner continued to mumble, not seeming to care that they could still hear him. "Why they think this requires a lot of attention I have no idea."

Though he wouldn't say to the agents, Skinner suspected that this was another one of Folmer's idiotic pet projects. Since Folmer was somehow behind the X-Files office being reopened, Skinner just grated his teeth and bore it. Most of the time the man's involvement didn't interfere with how he wanted to run his department.

"What sort of case?" Reyes asked, her face concerned. Glancing at her, Skinner knew that she worried that it would be an out-of-town case.

Skinner sighed. "Agent Mulder, I'm sure you, at least, are familiar with the idea of a doppelganger?"

"Of course, Sir. Legend has it that some people have exact duplicate of them in the world. Dostoevsky actually wrote a book about a man who thought he had a double who was trying to takeover and destroy his life. Actually the book is very fascinating, and is often read in classes dealing with madness in literature."

Skinner gave him a 'whatever' look. "Yes, and that is what this case is about."

"The book 'The Double'?" Skinner glared at Mulder. "Oh, you mean a person who thinks they have a double ruining their life."

"Exactly."

"They think they need four agents for this?" Doggett asked, unable to keep disbelief out of his voice.

"Like I said, agent Doggett, I asked to be able to assigned just two agents to this task. Apparently, the person being plagued with the doppelganger is considered a great importance by the State Department."

"A senator??" Scully asked. Skinner shook his head.

"Military man?" Doggett guessed. Skinner said nothing.

"A physicist?" Reyes asked hopefully.

"Not an actor," Mulder groaned. They all looked expectantly at their boss after that.

Skinner looked grim. "I believe you all familiar with RIAA."

They all moaned. "Of what importance could someone representing the recording industry be to the State Department?" Mulder demanded to know.

"You remember that thing with the baseball strike, don't you? Well, the government does not enjoy acting as a referee, which is what would happen of this man cracks up completely and can't do his job."

"This is just great," Mulder complained. "I hope none of you have any MP3s on your computers."

"Of course not, agent Mulder," Doggett said piously. "Federal employees would never break the law like that."

"I didn't think so," Mulder agreed his voice also pious. "Just checking to make sure, though."

Skinner just look disgusted, though they could not tell if because of the case or the conversation, as he handed them the case files. "Just deal with this quickly so we can get back to doing something more useful."

"Of course, sir. We would want those frequent alien cases to linger," Scully said dryly, which earned her a frown from Mulder.

Skinner didn't say anything. He just waved them away.




The agents pulled up in front of a nice two-story house. It looked as though it had cost a small fortune.

"Looks like trying to imprison old people and children for nonsense pays pretty well," Mulder observed with a grumpy look on his face.

"Of course it does," Doggett said. "Most things like this do."

"Why is that?" Reyes wondered aloud. "It's not as though it's dangerous. Unlike, say, our jobs."

"I wouldn't be too sure that. You never know what a bunch of angry preteen Metallica fans are capable of," Mulder retorted.

"Would you all promise to least pretend that you think this guy doing serious work?" Scully asked. "It's not going to make things go any easier if he thinks we think he's a useless moron." She glanced at Mulder. "Even if he proves that opinion of him."

Mulder just gave her a ‘I wasn't going to say anything rude' look. It didn't seem as though she bought.

Feeling rather foolish, they trooped up to the front door en mass. It did not take long after the door was opened for them to realize that they didn't have to worry very much about what sort of impression they made. The man made quite an impression himself.

He was tall and thin, probably mid 30s, had longish black hair and the whitest teeth this side of a dental commercial. And the biggest, bluest, wildest eyes this side of a locked ward.

"You're the feds right? Of course you are. Stupid! Yeah, so come in. I bought cookies and made some tea. Everyone likes tea, right?" He started to rush away from them, while they still stood in the doorway looking increasingly bewildered. He waved a frantic hand at the living room. "Sit! Couches right there. I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail." He paused. "Just so you know I'm me, I'll say ‘Dodo.' I don't say it's not me, okay? One of you's gotta ask me the password."

"Sure," Scully called faintly as he wandered off.

"But how do we know he's him, and not the doppelganger pretending to be him?" Mulder whispered with a smirk.

Scully just smacked him on the arm.

When the man returned he was carrying tray of cookies which were getting splashed by the tea that jostled with every one of his footsteps. Though they didn't realize it at the time, Scully and Reyes simultaneously decided that they were they were on a diet. Neither Mulder nor Doggett seemed fazed by the slightly wet nature of cookies and they each took one.

"You didn't ask for the password," Willis looked slightly agitated.

"Oh right. Password please?" Reyes asked politely.

"Dodo," he said, looking triumphant.

When the three men had finished their cookies, Mulder spoke up. "Our supervisor informed us to you are having a problem with a doppelganger."

"Yeah sure. A whatchamacallit. This guy, he thinks he's me. But that's crazy, because I'm me. I'm Willis Zinc, not that guy."

Scully gave Willis a steady look. "Mr. Zinc, I'm sure this problem is quite distressing, but I'm not quite sure what our supervisor meant when he said that you felt that this man was ruining your life. Is he ruining your life in an emotional sense, preying on your sense of well-being–"

Willis shook his head violently. "No, I mean it in quite literal way. This… this man, is posing as me and intentionally screwing everything up. I get in trouble at work, he said something to my girlfriend and she broke up with me…even called my parents told my father he's a fat worthless bastard.

"Even if I think that about my father, I would never tell him-"

Reyes cut him off. "Does this man look like you?"

"Yeah, he looks exactly like me. At first I thought maybe I had a twin and my parents never told me, but they said no, just to be sure I looked at my birth certificate and it said I was a singleton birth. I don't think my parents could have changed it, because this is the original that was filed at the state offices. My father really is a fat lazy bastard, so he never could've afforded to bribe somebody to change it…"

After 30 more minutes listening to Willis Zinc go on and on about how the man was exactly like him but a jerk, and another wet cookie for each of the men, they told Willis that they would begin their investigation immediately and keep in touch.




"So Scully, what's your scientific opinion of this case?" Mulder asked as they drove back to the office.

"It's my scientific opinion that Willis Zinc is nuttier than a Snickers bar."

"Dana!" Reyes gasped.

Scully didn't look apologetic. "I'm sorry. I should have said schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies."

"I like nuttier than a Snickers bar," Doggett commented. "So are we supposed to go tell Skinner that he sent us to talk to a crazy?"

"Let's not. We should keep investigating this just to be sure."

"I'm pretty sure he is crazy," Mulder objected mildly.

"No, Dana's right. We should be very thorough," Reyes said. "We want to be absolute certain we give this case the full attention is due."

Mulder looked suspicious and so did Doggett. "Explain your interest in this case."

"Location, location, location," Scully said.

"Yeah, we wouldn't want this case to be over quickly, and get another one in God-only-knows-where Montana," Reyes agreed.

Doggett pretended shock. "You'd exploit this case for personal comfort?"

"You're damn right we would." Scully growled.

"You know, Doggett, I'm beginning to see the merit in what ladies are saying. If the government wants us to fully investigate this matter, it's our obligation, nay duty, to explore this as fully as possible," Mulder said.

"You know, I believe you are right. What could have been thinking." Doggett chuckled to himself.




Georgetown University
Saturday

It was last day of summer classes, so the dorms were emptying as the students moved home for the month of August. Gibson was sitting outside of his dorm, surrounded by boxes, waiting for a ride home. Nearby, a girl he'd never saw much was also waiting.

"Your parents picking you up?" she asked.

It was the type of question that used to give him pause, but when he turned 18 there was no longer any need to claim of blood relationship between him and Reyes, so he no longer pretended that she was his aunt instead of his foster parent. "Yeah, my dad."

"What's he look like?" the girl asked. She quickly added, "In case I see him first, if he parks somewhere and walks over."

Gibson told his wallet out and showed her a recent picture of John and Monica. She gave him a quizzical look. "Your mom looks really young."

"She is pretty young. She's not my real mom, though. She took me in when I was 15, and she and John get married while later. Now they're my folks."

"That's cool… is just the three of you?"

"Nope. I've got a little brother and two little sisters."

"How old?"

"They turned two in June."

"All three of them? Wow, I bet none of you got any sleep when they were little babies."

Gibson gave the good-natured shrug. "Triplets make life interest."

"I'd bet you were a big help to your parents," she said with a smile.

"I like to think so. Oh, I'm Gibson by the way."

She blushed. "I'm Megan. Will you be in this dorm next year?"

"Yup, room 125," he said, seeing Doggett pull up and another car behind him. "Looks like our folks are here."

"I'll be in 257. See you September!" Megan called before dashing to the car.

Doggett walked up and grabbed two boxes. "Sorry to keep you waiting, traffic was horrible."

"You're late?" Gibson looked surprised. "I hadn't noticed."

"Glad to be going home?"

"Yeah . I've been kind of homesick the past couple of weeks," Gibson told him, but he was still thinking about the girl he'd just spoken to.




Doggett Home
Later that Afternoon

Doggett was nearly knocked off his feet when a small body, clad only in a diaper, careened into him. Looking over the boxes, he was able to determine it was his son, shrieking "No bath!" at the top of his lungs as he continued to run through the house.

"I've got it." Gibson declared, dropping both duffel bags he'd been hauling in been and making a grab for the toddler. On the second attempt he was successful.

Landon looked at him in surprise. "Hi Gib!"

"Hi Landon, what are you doing?" He asked the little boy as he hoisted him off his feet.

"No bath." Landon insisted. Gibson wondered about the wisdom of this, since the boy's arms, legs and face were coated with dried dirt. This made him decide to hold Landon under the armpits.

He carried him towards the bathroom and poked his head in. Quinn and Jacey were both in the tub, acting like angels as Reyes scrubbed them. "You lost one," he remarked.

"I was going to go after him, but I heard you and John come in and figured one of you would grab him." She sighed. "He really doesn't want a bath for some reason."

"How about John and I hose him off outside? It's warm enough."

She didn't look up because the girls suddenly decided that splashing shampoo in each other's eyes was a good idea. "Just use soap," she said over the howls of outrage now coming from the tub.

*

A few minutes later Landon shrieked as Doggett and Gibson took turns spraying him with the garden hose. Like most little boys, he loved having the undivided attention of the household's men.

Off to one side of the deck Gibson saw a tipped over watering can and several mud pies. The mystery of how the triplets came to be covered in dirt was solved. "Did you have fun?" Gibson asked Landon, who was playing with the soap bubbles Doggett had just coated him with.

Landon giggled and Gibson got a flash of him gleefully playing in the mud with his sisters. "Looks like." He murmured to himself.

A while later all three of the little ones were bundled into their summer onesies and sacked out on laps as they watched a Disney movie before nap-time.

Gibson glanced down at Quinn, then to either side to see everyone else, and was filled with a quiet sense of awe. Ten years before, when he was taken from his parents, he thought he'd never be part of the family again. But now he undeniably was. There really was no place like home.




The diary also arrived on Saturday. It took Mulder half the day to work up the nerve to open it. When he did it wasn't what he had been expecting. He anticipated reading painful, teary, entries talking about how unhappy Samantha was, and how much pain they had put her through, but not this.

The entire book was written in nothing that resembled English. It didn't look much like any language so much as symbols. And the symbols were different on every page. Page after page of indecipherable entries.

It's only the last entry of the book that had recognizable language, but it didn't make any sense to him either. He read it twice, but that didn't help.

For one x-ray

In a moon so unlit reaching easily through heated air tumbling young outside underneath heaven amen vitreous ether father impatient god unwitting reluctant elf don't order unrelenting terrible arched lose loud mapped youth cutting our days every second stupidly oh for angels repair. In a moon still or right realm you think he ate this though he is so ordinary no earth island stars hold another rain down either rip, better understand torn iceberg coupled airy now 'til heaven's army vengeful entities are now yet our naked end bitter underside tapers yesterday others uncle kneel north our weight weird hot angry tide in no empty endless doors towards other truths ending longing logic your oppressed unness. It's so tired i'm little lethargic cooked and not 'til bellows enter living insects everywhere virtually enough hold on wait my urchin catches his itty tiny huge ugly ripe towel tipped on dark ink splattered caves out very early ripe tree harts all try it too we always see the real understanding entirely... Terrible horror everywhere but amber breathe yours, and both of yours, likely i'm vexed etched dirty. If our new lamp yawns seamlessly and winks how is mom focused on righteousness angelic monsters inside nothing under there emptily beneath every face or right eagle time has easy years though own ornamentation kills half imps murders all with another year... bottles undone though how easy lurking owners orbs known every daily part every round finger effects course trembles. Where hearts order 'damnation over fright ticking hearts oven unrest going home too idle 'demons beneath every arrow more oh more, apples twist meaninglessly yours again gone earth? Ten houses ease something more or keep inside no go matters are not tumbling hats other uncles gates horrible turtles Independent cats our usher lights dim not 'totally heroes enemies after rightness hopes impenteritrible men, branded up to it down in darkness. This hammer elephant yellow 'version enters gains ordinary interests never gave tails or gave ingrained velvet enormity holding in mutiny traveling odor after finally aimless miracle instead licks your nobly arm muddy engine dumb Nobody yet everyone. Has even Satan aflame interesting doors through how ether yours 'runes even girls ogle in nothing great tip over candles all lit lightly hate it more Round on round yearning. Have our way over do don't think how army takes soothing or melody even one no even Eskimos lose so eneminity no am more every door more yobs but adams boy's young.

In 'morbid nature end vast end rules gave orphans in no game tall or short even every hight in mother arguing going able island no, able north down no or or nothing endless caring are response every scream. If some now 'too they're hot anoght to serve and dream? Inside 'most no one there's some unearthed rich elegant Ibid. corner aunt remember enemy in faith In love in very evening, others rate it far too hard everything yells kola in lightless lamps more empty when in the hate after long larks those helpless enfants sore enfants terrible enfants so terrible so... beautifully under their Insides three hours inside no Klan Insides 'more gone on in nature gone too overturn racing until no arrows were after you. My answer yawns before everything In care around north marked ankles killed enough if that brutal attack closed kites hard ok may even, after naked doors gathered enough time don't able dying trying on-going hearts enter lift partly mean even fate is not dead Risen other rights yank. Trip him evil yield potatoes right orchestra bobbles and bobbles late years damn our nightly 'terror waning and nifty trees trees over rich and insects summer enlarge and grapes ring and no day counts how it large dawn, bobble up toss them hard end your heart and veil earth too owned. Toss hearts in some in some no 'trash me yank forward and up lift tons, In death in death no 'topple around ski kill fortune or rate the help in some, boys ugly toddlers happy enough in some morning yawn beneath apple boy years.

Intricate feathers torn hinges intricate nothings gray sins doubtful origins nether 'tap what our rights kill our uncle tacks, again never doubt this how evil you devil oh are cuts too uphill all little ladies your kind in liquid lanes more every, place long endless and showered earth might all kept even sour unclean red earth how e'ver some hearts apply piteous pity yards. Impatient 'men can only utter nothings terrible intense nothings grandfather oh no your oh unless, birthday is games birthday rights or their holy eventful race.

Leave only very endless

Some and more and not three hearts again

Scully gave Mulder a sad look as she handed the book back to him. He knew that she was thinking the same thing that he was – whatever they'd done to Samantha had driven her mad in the end.

But that's not what she said. "Maybe it's poetry."

"Maybe," Mulder allowed. "But the syntax doesn't really sound like poetry. It's too odd and awkward for a poem."

"Perhaps it's not a poem. It could be lines from many poems, spliced together."

This brightened Mulder a little, but he wasn't sure he was ready to be soothed. "Why would anyone do that?"

Scully shrugged. "Teenage girls are weird? You'll have first hand knowledge of that in about two years, and then again in twelve. I remember that I did some pretty odd things myself when I was in my early teens."

"Odder than stealing cigarettes from your mom?" he asked, remembering one of the things that had made her so willing to give Luther Boggs the benefit of a doubt after her father's death; the man had claimed to have knowledge of her adolescent misdeeds, presumably because he was "in touch" with her father.

"Much odder," she assured him.

"Like what?"

"I plead the fifth."

"Aww, Scully…"

She continued to tease him for while, seeing that it distracted him from worrying about the diary.




Despite seeming to cheer briefly, Mulder backed out of going to the pool with them, saying that he'd rather just spend some quality time with Calla. She knew that meant he'd brood as he paid the baby as little attention as necessary, but she figured that it'd do more harm than good to object, so she rounded up the kids for the outing after kissing his cheek.

The chlorine fumes made Scully's eyes water as she sat next to the pool. She found it hard to believe that all these years removed from her childhood, they still didn't have a less smelly option for keeping pools clean. William was also sitting on the concrete edge of the public pool, content at that moment to just kick his feet. He liked the water well enough, but was always slow to get in the pool, so she knew it was safe to let her gaze wander.

What her eyes found was Emily playing with Georgie and Brian. The three of them played noisily, and with many fans of water passed between them. Each of the two boys bore an identical scar on their chests, ones that matched the one that Emily's swimsuit hid. All three scars were from where catheters had been inserted into them for their bone marrow transplants.

Scully felt a little bad for their parents even still, because she knew that they'd all managed to convince themselves that the boys weren't going to get as sick as Emily had three years earlier. But they had, eerily falling ill within two months of each other the year before. Her analytical mind wondered if their gender had something to do with how long they were well without medical treatment, but her heart was just glad that they'd both come through it ok too; there were higher risks for them, since unlike Emily, they lived with adopted families. By some minor miracle the boys were quickly matched with suitable donors through the database that had inadvertently discovered the identity of Emily's biological father. When the boys first got sick Mulder vowed to look blood relatives for them, and she was still sure he would have, if it'd come to that.

"Mommy! I want to get in!"

She looked down at William and smiled. Some how even though he'd yet to get in the pool, his red hair was already wet. Touching it, she asked, "How come your hair is wet?"

"I was kicking the water, and I splashed myself," he mumbled his confession.

Rather than ask how he managed that, she just shook her head and decided that he was more like his father every day.

"Oh brother…"

"Can I have a brother?" William asked, giving her a big hopeful grin.

"Sorry Kid. Mom and Dad are too old to have any more kids," Scully half fibbed. "You'll have to make due with two sisters."

She thought he'd be disappointed, but his sunny look didn't waver. "That's ok, Mommy. When Emily grows up and gets married, I'll get a brother then."

"Really."

"Yup. So she's gotta marry someone who's nice to me! Do you think she'll marry Brian or Georgie? They're both real nice to me."

"I think since she's only eleven, you've got a long long time to wait for a brother-in-law," Scully said, her face as straight as she could manage.

"She's gonna be twelve," William objected, then shrieked as she grabbed him and dove into the water.




Meanwhile...

After Scully left with the kids, Mulder kept thinking about what Scully had said to him right before she left.

"Mulder, if you want, I can see if one of the people who helped me interpret the etchings from that ship can help you out. This is a child's code, I'm sure that they'd be able to make short work of something like this."

"I'll think about it. Thanks."

And he had. All he could think about was the mysteries locked away in that damn book.

The last time Mulder felt this helpless was immediately after Calla was born.

He and Scully had just been talking to a witness for their latest case, and had gotten in the car when Scully's water broke. They were both in a frenzy, because she'd just barely begun her eighth month, and it was too soon for the baby to be born. They made hasty arrangements to have Maggie pick up the kids from their respective schools, and then they made a mad dash for the hospital.

The next few hours had passed in a panic, and doctors keep trying different drugs to get the contractions to stop. Scully was in an agony of guilt, because she felt it was somehow her fault that she'd gone into labor. Maybe she should have gone on maternity leave, even though she'd been given the o.k. to work for another month. It didn't help any when the OB decided that she'd lost too much amniotic fluid so it was futile to continue to try to halt her labor.

Mulder had expected that the birth of their third and final child would be a joyful occasion, but it was just a wearying terror. Calla wasn't much more than half the size of Doggett and Reyes' babies, who'd seemed so tiny when they were born. A mere three pounds, Calla was so fragile she seemed to be just slightly more substantial than a dream.

Though he hated himself for the thought, his first sight of her made him wonder if she was even human. Her head was too big for her painfully thin body. She made him think of the things in jars that he and Doggett had discovered shortly before William had been born. The shock about her appearance wore off soon enough, and he chided himself for ever thinking anything so silly, but the shock of her very existence didn't wear off.

Wires went in and out of her little body; most of them attached to machines that were struggling to keep her alive. Everyone told them that she'd be fine, in fact she'd get bigger quickly. But it hadn't happened that way. She fought one infection after another, and they ravaged her already way too slight form. For every hard won ounce she gained, another infection came and took it away again. They came close to losing her dozen times.

*

He could remember being frantic that the hospital wouldn't allow Emily or William into the NICU to see their sister. The doctors have thought that he'd been worried that they weren't going to get to see her before she died, so they kept trying to tell him that the kids would have plenty of time to see her sister when she got better. How could he tell them that he thought they could make her better?

Ever since Maggie told them about William's freak injury right before he turned two, they'd been hoping to figure out which one of the children had the ability to heal. One of them obviously did, if they could just come into the room and touch Calla the baby would probably be healed. If they could just touch her…

Eventually, her immune system improved and she finally began to put on weight and grow, instead is spending all of her energy fighting illness. Still, it'd taken almost three months before she was well enough- big enough- to come home. She'd been on the heart monitor even after that, but fortunately they'd never had another scare.

Mulder was more than half convinced that it was because William and Emily had done something to her once she had gotten home. What that might have been, he was never something he was sure of. He was just thankful that she seemed to be doing so well now.

Looking down at the baby was playing on a rug nearby, he wondered how long he was going to feel so helpless, and hopeless, this time around. It almost made him take Scully up on the offer to contact the translators she knew. But, something made him think that Samantha would have wanted him to figure it out on his own.

Calla cooed as she reached for toy. Seeing that, made him more determined to put self-pity aside and find strength to deal with whatever horrors there were to find. By himself. It would probably be better for everyone else, and he knew that it would definitely be better for him.




July 2nd, 1973

"Fox, we've gotta make a secret code," Samantha insisted, looking up at him from the floor. She was lying on her belly, coloring, while he read the latest Superman comic. It was one of his first, and few, forays into the world of baby-sitting.

"Why do we have to make a secret code?" he asked, not even looking away from the lurid printed pages.

"If we do, we can write things, n' mom n' dad won't know what they say."

He stuck a thumb between the pages. "We could learn Spanish too. Mom and Dad both took French in high school."

"Fox! That'd take years! I wanna do this now."

"And I want to read my comics."

Samantha scowled at him. "Mom said you've got to be nice to me, or they won't give you money for the bike you wanna buy."

That made him pause. As much as he didn't want to give in, just on general principle, he really really wanted that bike. His parents had promised to give him the money for it if he'd baby-sit Samantha twice a week while his mother spent the day volunteering at the old folks' home.

"They call that blackmail, Squirt."

"Don't call me Squirt."

"Whatever. You've got paper, but do you have pencils too? I'm not doing this with crayons."

*

She jumped to her feet and scampered off, soon returning with a pair of nicely sharpened pencils.

"So how do you want to do this?" he asked, sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table.

"I'll make up a code, and you make up one too. Then, on another piece of paper, write a message and we can see if the other one can figure it out," Samantha told him, sounding excited.

"Fine." He didn't figure that her code would be too hard to crack, because though she'd been writing a little since she was four and a half, she wasn't even in third grade yet. With that in mind, he decided not to make the code he came up with too hard. Hard, but not too hard.

As they worked on their codes, he realized something. This project was taking all of her attention. She didn't even have time to drive him crazy. He wished she'd come up with the idea of secret codes a long time ago.

"Ok, mine's done!" she said, pushing a piece of paper at him. It was filled with a surprising neat, fairly short, message.

"Just give me a minute…" when he was done, he gave her his message.

It didn't take them long to crack each other's codes. Samantha looked a little disappointed.

"You know, I think it's because we used letters and numbers, Sam. Maybe it'd be harder if we used symbols, ‘cause there could be more than twenty-six symbols in the world."

"That's a great idea! Let's do this again next time Mom and Dad aren't home," she begged.

"Yeah, ok."

For the rest of the summer they worked on codes, making them more and more elaborate. If there parents ever had any interest in what they were saying – mostly things about how much they hated it when their parents argued, and how much more they hated the nights when their father's creepy smoking friend came over- they never said anything about it.

*

Mulder's eyes flew open. He hadn't thought about their codes for a long long time. As far as he knew they were never thrown away. They could still be with Samantha's boxed possessions at his mother's house.

He gave Scully a puzzled look as she lifted Calla off his chest. They'd been taking a nap, him and the baby, tired of waiting for Scully and the kids to get home. "Hey."

"You looked so cute like that, but I need to wake her up to feed her," Scully apologized.

"I don't know if I was asleep," he told her, sitting up.

"You looked like you were asleep."

"I was remembering."

"Anything good?"

"Samantha. When we were young, we did codes like this. I think they might still be at my Mom's."

"Oh." Scully gently bounced the baby, who seemed less than thrilled to be awake.

"I've got to go there, to see if I can find them."

"What about work?"

Mulder smirked. "I hardly think this case is half as important as figuring this out, Scully."

"But Skinner-" She looked worried.

"Skinner will think I've got the flu. Just as soon as I practice my fake cough."

She looked like she wanted to protest more, but she didn't. Instead she left the room, heading for the nursery.




It was easier than he thought it would be to get a flight on Sunday morning. The hard part was telling the kids that he was going to be gone for a couple of days, and they couldn't go with him.

"Mom's not going either," he pointed out, trying to reason with William. This was almost always a mistake.

"Maybe it should be a trip just for boys," William wheedled.

"You've got school tomorrow, Buddy."

"It's not really school." William wrinkled his nose. "It's daycare. I won't be going to real school 'til next year."

"It's still important. You learn, um, colors and letters."

"Daddy, I know all my ABCs. Wanna hear me sing the song?" William threatened.

"No, I believe you. Listen, Buddy, I need to go for two days, then I'll be home. It's going to be really boring, and there's not going to be a TV-"

"No TV?" William squeaked. "No cartoons!"

He soon wandered off muttering about Blues Clues, leaving Mulder there to shrug and wonder what just happened.

Scully, at least, seemed to be more understanding, if equally un-thrilled, about his need to go back to his childhood home. She kissed his cheek and told him to be careful. Then he was on his way.




The flight was worse than usual, since it was just a small noisy charter plane that hummed to itself like an angry bee the whole flight. He'd seldom been so happy to be back on the ground as he was at the end of that flight.

Driving the rest of the way to Greenwich, Connecticut Mulder more than half wished that he had brought William along with him. Or Emily, or even Calla. Especially Scully. It was such a lonely drive, and not just because it had begun to rain shortly after he exited the airport.

He felt lonely, and more than a little frightened. He had barely been to the house in the since his mother's death in 2000. He'd thought about clearing all her things out and putting it on the market more than once, but he never seemed to find the will to do it. He'd briefly, after he and Scully returned to the US, considered suggesting that they take the kids there to live. But they'd been reinstated on the X-Files not long afterwards, and it just didn't seem like a good idea. At the time he'd tried to tell himself that it wasn't fair to Emily, since she would be moving yet again, this time even further from her friends, but in his heart, he knew that was just an excuse. It was himself he didn't want to subject to moving there.

Alone though he was, his depressing musings kept him company all the way to the closed-up house. With all the rehashing of his feelings about the house, he'd barely had the chance to think of the possibility that Samantha's old codes wouldn't be there after all.

Thinking of it when he finally reached his destination, however, made his wet hands shake a little as he attempted to fit the key into the lock. To his surprise, the door swung open easily. He'd half expected he'd have to ram a shoulder against the door to gain entrance, since the house, long since used to its abandonment, would be reluctant to admit visitors, even rightful ones.

Once inside, he reached for the light switch. It was only when the expected illumination didn't come that he remembered that he'd had the power turned off five years ago, right after emptying the fridge. He jogged back to the car and rummage through the baby supplies and preschool toys that perpetually filled the trunk and fished out his flashlight.

The hush in the house was broken only by the hollow echo of his footsteps as he walked through the rooms and the steady drumming of the rain on the roof.

*

Everything was exactly as his mother had left. When his mother had first died Scully had volunteered to help sort through things to decide what to keep, what to throw away, and what to sell, but then the case that led to finding out that his sister was really, truly dead interrupted. After that he'd never had time to go back there, what with starting an intimate relationship with Scully, being abducted, being dead, being resurrected, hiding out for a year…

Even knowing that, though, it still came as a shock that it looked just as he remembered looking last time he saw his mother alive. Though not sure why, he was filled with vague certainty the something ought to have looked different in her long absence.

Hurrying past the haunting rooms, he went down to the basement. It'd been longer since he'd been there than in the rest of the house. The last time he'd been looking for a vacuum cleaner. The house had some connections to Samantha, even though she never stepped foot in it.

The boxes neatly stacked against one wall, each with the word "Samantha" written on the front and his mother's hand. They were decorated with spider webs, suggesting that while humans may not have wanted to make the house their home for the past five years, spiders have no such qualms.

Fortunately, a feather duster still hung in the cellar stairwell, so he was able to make short work of them before opening the boxes. He didn't remember Samantha having so many dolls, but there were two boxes full of them. Baby dolls that drank and wet themselves, Barbies in frightenly dated outfits, scary Sunshine Family dolls that looked more than a little inbred. Other boxes contained books, the box car children, Nancy Drew, Dr. Doolittle, all of the Anne of Green Gables books… then came boxes of clothing that were somehow more or less back in style. A box for schoolwork. He lost a little more hope with each box he opened.

Finally there was just one more boxed left

His fingers trembled, but he got it open and there it was, all of their secret code stuff from that long-ago summer. He blinked hard and looked again. It was really there.

The he gathered up the box, pausing to look at those boxes that contained toys. For a moment he wondered if his daughters might want them - never mind that Emily was too old for them and Calla too young - then decided that he didn't really want them to have her things after all. Maybe was superstitious, but it seemed a bad idea.




He was half upset that he didn't think to bring the diary with him, but equally relieved, since it meant that he wouldn't be tempted to stay at the tomb-like home any longer than he had to. Even after being there for over an hour, he still couldn't shake the vaguely creeped-out feeling that had plagued him since he opened the front door.

The flight home was nicer than the one there, since he wasn't as nervous. Although the lines to that Alanis Morissette song he hated - mostly because Scully complained every time it came on that it wasn't really anything ironic about the song other than its lack of ironic imagery - kept running through his mind.

"Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
Well isn't this nice... "

It would be just his luck if he did get into a plane crash on the way home. Fortunately, he landed safely and was soon back in his own car, driving home to his family. And to the diary.

His emotions were in turmoil the second he walked into the house. William and Emily were eager to greet him, Scully wanted to talk about whether or not he'd been successful, and even baby Calla was demanding of his attention, holding her arms out to be held. And all he wanted was to go and lock himself away in the office so he could pour over the diary. Instead of growling at them to leave him alone, he hugged the kids, and calmly answered all of Scully's questions. But it took a supreme effort.

Seldom in the past three years was he ever more thankful when the kids' bedtimes came, and they were all tucked into their own beds. Or crib in the baby's case. Scully's innate ability to sense his moods also kicked in, so she told him not to stay up too late, and went up to bed herself.

*

He flipped the diary open and spread out the lists of codes. To his delight, he quickly found a code that matched the first entry, and set about decoding it. It seemed to go quickly, but glancing at the clock he saw that it had taken him an hour to decode it.

When he was done, the message that had looked like this:

Entry #1

I'm writing this in code, the case it's ever found. I hope it isn't, but it could be. This book isn't for anyone to read but me. And maybe Fox. He's the only one I can trust.

They think I've forgotten that I ever had a brother or a Mom and Dad, but that's just what I let them think. Safer that way, you know? I learned pretty quick that any mention of my past mad them angry, and I really don't want to make them angry at me. It's scary when they are angry.

But anyway, I do remember my family even though it's been four years I've seen them. And I still hate my parents. The hope to get to see my brother again, though. He is almost grown-up now, maybe he can save me because I can't save myself. I want to though.

I need to stop for now, someone will come soon. More tests. I hate them too.

Samantha

Became this:

Entry #1

I'm writing this in code, the case it's ever found. I hope it isn't, but it could be. This book isn't for anyone to read but me. And maybe Fox. He's the only one I can trust.

They think I've forgotten that I ever had a brother or a Mom and Dad, but that's just what I let them think. Safer that way, you know? I learned pretty quick that any mention of my past mad them angry, and I really don't want to make them angry at me. It's scary when they are angry.

But anyway, I do remember my family even though it's been four years I've seen them. And I still hate my parents. The hope to get to see my brother again, though. He is almost grown-up now, maybe he can save me because I can't save myself. I want to though.

I need to stop for now, someone will come soon. More tests. I hate them too.

Samantha

He read it several times, not knowing what he should think about it. The message it painted was far different than in the other diary. That diary had told a tale about not remembering her family, but this one made it quite clear that she did indeed remember them, and that she'd still be counting on him. Though he admired the cleverness of pretending to make things easier on herself, his heart ached; it filled him with a keener sense of regret that he hadn't found her while she was still alive. The fact that the codes matched made him feel a bit guilty too, since she'd obviously memorized them, and he had difficulty even remembering they existed.

Soft footsteps alerted him that Scully was still awake. "Mulder, are you coming to bed soon?" she asked as she came into the room.

Standing, he held his arms out to her, and she fit herself against him. Touching her hair he murmured, "She remembered me, Scully. The other diary was a fake, so they wouldn't know that she still remembered her family."

She nodded, and led him to bed, half-surprised that he didn't insist that he stay up and finish decoding the diary. The old Mulder would have, but he was so much more grounded and practical than when she first met him. It made her think she'd been a good influence on him.




It wasn't until the next morning that she got a chance to look at the diary translation. Something about it bothered her, not just the occasional errors, but she wasn't quite sure what. Maybe it was Mulder's suspicious nature rubbing off on her, but tiny voice of doubt niggled at the back of her mind. What if the new diary was the fake, and the one they found several years ago was the real diary? It would destroy Mulder if he found out that this diary was just a cruel parting gift from the Smoking Man. It was not beyond possibility that the cruel bastard would reach out from beyond grave to wreak havoc on his unacknowledged son's life.

If only there was some way she could figure out if Samantha had really written-

"Dana?"

Scully turned to look and saw that Melinda, one of the aides the new Hoover building daycare - which she knew that Monica would never heard the end of, because it was only after the triplets were born that the parents who worked in the Hoover building ganged up on the planning board and demanded a daycare be built - was looking at her with a concerned look. She blushed little, and wondered how long the woman had been talking to her and waiting for her response.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I asked if you knew if Monica was going to be dropping off the triplets today."

"Oh. Um. I think she said something about leaving the kids with their older brother today. He wanted to spend more time with them or something like that."

"Ok," Melinda said, taking Calla out of Scully's arms. Scully handed her the diaper bag. "I'm sure she'll pop in and tell me what's up. I just wondered if you'd already talked with her today."

"Nope, not today." She reached out and patted Calla's cheek. "Be a good girl, Mommy will be back later on."

"Don't you worry, Mom. We'll have a great day."

But that actually was something she worried about. Emily was growing up quickly and even William was gaining independence especially now the he was going to preschool for half the day instead of just daycare, so it felt like Calla was the only one who really needed her anymore. Except for Mulder. She knew she was being silly, and that William and Emily still needed her too, but emotions enjoy playing tricks on people like that.

Given her conflict instead of mind, she really was not looking forward to talking to Willis Zinc. Frankly, she didn't know how much craziness she could put up with.




Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of craziness to put up with. The plan had been for them to the Willis at his house again, but instead Mulder called to her as she walked into the door of basement office "Hi, Scully we have a visitor."

Apparently, while she was bringing the baby to daycare, Mulder had been accosted in the hallway by a wilder-than-normal seeming Willis. Although, it seemed hard to believe that he could be any more abnormal then he had been when they met with them at his house before, seeing turned into believing.

He was barely in the door before he was ranting. "That bastard! I can't believe it…" He broke off, shaking his head. When he noticed that Mulder was watching him, he addressed him instead of himself. "That bastard insulted my mother."

Another person might have asked "What bastard?" but not Mulder. "How did your double insult your mother, Mister Zinc?"

"Double." Willis scoffed. "Those pricks at Doublemint gum have no idea that there's no pleasure in having a double…He went over to her house and called her a fat cow when she didn't get out of his way soon enough. I would never be that rude to my mother, never!"

Mulder chewed on his lip. "Does your mother have a weight problem?"

"No. That's what makes the insult so strange. She's at a very good weight for her height, and has been fit her whole life."

"I see. Did the remark hurt your mother's feelings?" Mulder asked, wondering how one could be insulted by a remark that didn't apply. But then, he wasn't a woman, so how did he know how they saw things?

"She was insulted enough to call me and demand an apology," Willis grumbled.

"And did you apologize?"

"Yes… she doesn't believe that I have a double. And I had a private detective do a little looking into the question your partner asked – I really and truly am an only child like I told you. I'm glad of that, even if it doesn't answer the question about why this asshole is plaguing me," Willis said excitedly. Mulder half expected foam to fly off the corners of his mouth.

"I'm sorry he insulted your mother, Willis," Mulder told him.

"Don't be sorry. Do something about this so he doesn't keep wreaking havoc in my life!" Willis shouted seconds before he stormed out of the office, nearly bumping into Doggett and Reyes who were just arriving.




Both agents gave him confused looks as he passed by. He didn't seem to notice. Shrugging it off, they went to their desks and dropped their stuff on to them. "What was Mister Zinc's problem?" Doggett asked Mulder when he noticed that he was sniggered in the corner.

"It seems as though Mister Zinc's 'double' paid his mother a little visit and insulted her."

"Do we know if this actually happened?" Reyes asked. Then, noticing Mulder surprised look she added, "Well he's a nutter, we can't be sure that he is interpreting things correctly."

"Suppose we should go to visit his mother?" Mulder asked.

"I don't think it could hurt," Scully said with a shrug. "It might be useful to our investigation to see how his mother perceives the things going on."

"Sure. Although I don't think we really need a second opinion. It's pretty certain that he's crazy," Mulder told her.

Scully gave the look of mock surprise. "You don't think anything supernatural is going on here?"

"Not everything has paranormal explanation, Scully." Mulder attempted a pious tone. He didn't quite pull it off. Doggett grinned at him before leaving the room.

Scully slid up to him, and made sure she dropped her voice low enough that only he would hear what she said next. "You shouldn't talk like that at the office, Mulder. You know how hot it gets me." As soon as the words were out of her mouth she went to her desk like nothing had happened.

Staring at her, Mulder realized that he deserved it. But he wished that it was the end of the day. "Um. As soon as Doggett gets back from the can we ought to requisition a car so we can go pay Mrs. Zinc a visit."

"That's a good idea," Reyes agreed. The look on her face made it clear that she was dying to know what Scully had whispered to him. He sighed when he realized that Scully would probably tell her. It made he wonder why he approved of their friendship…then he remembered it wasn't as though it would stop either of them had he been against them being friends. He thought darkly about the occasional pitfall of knowing strong-minded women and tried to will Doggett into arriving quickly so he wouldn't stay outnumbered.




It didn't take long for them to confirm that Willis actually had insulted his mother. They were barely out of the car before Mrs. Zinc brought up her son's behavior. Perhaps this was why Mrs. Zinc seemed almost eager to talk to them, which was slightly unusual; more people do not enjoy, if they aren't outright dismayed, to speak with FBI agents. It was strange to get a welcomed reception.

Scully got to the point almost immediately after they exchanged empty pleasantries. "Mrs. Zinc, does Willis have a history mental illness?" Her no-nonsense approach had Mulder cringing little, but no one else seemed bothered by it.

"Heavens no! He was always so well adjusted, and people were always drawn to his bright, happy nature. That's what makes how he's been acting lately so upsetting."

"He's had a recent personality change, then?" Doggett asked.

The older women nodded. "It's as if he's a different person."

Mulder shot Scully look, which she ignored. Reyes, on the other hand leaned forward as if in interest.

"How so?" Scully asked.

"Half the time he's mean-spirited, nasty even. The rest of the time he's hyper in his almost desperate show of interest and concern. He's never been like this at all before."

Scully continued on doggedly. "Mrs. Zinc, has anything dramatic happened to your son lately? A breakup or divorce, death of a loved one, something like that?"

"No, well Carla broke up with him, but only after he began to behave oddly. Willis, most of his life, has been pretty stable... at least he was, until he started acting like a nutter."

A smile tugged at the corner of Doggett lips, he mouthed "Snickers bar" to his wife, but she looked more annoyed than amused.

If Scully noticed the silent exchange, she gave no indication of it. "This is a delicate question, but... is there any history mental illness in your family?"

"No. Well... Arthur had an aunt that used to strip on the subway and tell the other passengers that Jesus told her to do it."

"I see."

"Do think he inherited it from her? Craziness?" Mrs. Zinc looked anxious.

"It's hard to say without doing psychological testing..." Scully spread her hands helplessly.

"He'll let you," Mrs. Zinc said fiercely. "Even if I have to drag him in myself. I can't stand how different he is. I want my old son back."

Mulder's ears seemed to prick at that. "Mrs. Zinc, would you mind telling us a little about what Willis was like as a boy?" Scully shot him a confused look, which he pointedly ignored.

"Oh, he was a good boy. Pretty quiet, even at an age when most small boys are boisterous, but he loved adventure stories. Every night his room was filled with the pirates, astronauts, and explorer that peopled the books that his father and I would read him. Once he was older he began to paper his walls with maps and spent a lot of his time on models of things that might bring him to exotic destinations. Ships, planes, UFOs-"

The gleam in Mulder's eye intensified to a bright green spark. "Did he ever talk about being taken away? Perhaps at night?"

Mrs. Zinc laughed. "When he was in kindergarten he used to try to get out of going to school by claiming that the aliens had kept him awake all night, so he was too tired. It was certainly an inventive excuse."

"Sounds like something my four-year-old might pull," Scully said with a smirk. "He inherited a wild imagination from his father."

"That would be you, wouldn't it Mister Mulder?" Mrs. Zinc asked politely. "Willis mentioned that the agents helping him with whatever this is were all married to each other. Well, not to all three of each other, but you know what I mean."

Mulder nodded without looking up, carefully studying his shoes.




"Well, spit it out," Scully said impatiently. "We all know that you're dying to tell us that somehow you've come to the conclusion that Willis was abducted by aliens as child."

Mulder's lower lip jutted out in a pout. He hated when people stole his thunder by guessing at his theories before he had a chance to say them out loud. "I think it fits," he said stubbornly. "All of this is seeing a double could just be a manifestation of subconsciously remembered trauma resultant from early abduction experiences."

From the driver's seat, Doggett gave a derisive snort. "If you weren't talking complete bullshit you might sound like a real psychologist."

Reyes hit Doggett's arm. "Be nice." She hissed. Doggett gave her look that asked why should he.

"Then let's hear a better explanation." Mulder demanded, looking from Doggett to Scully.

Neither of them said anything.

"Just as I thought," Mulder said, settling back into the seat to sulk. "Shoot down my theories, but no one ever has any better ones…"




Doctor Hoffman's Office
Thursday

Quietly steaming, Scully wondered if a request for soft restraints would not be uncalled for. Although Zinc agreed to the testing readily enough he had been bouncing around the room for 15 minutes. The psychologist administering the test had repeatedly shot Scully pleading looks, which she'd done her best to ignore. It's not as though she knew how to deal with him, after all she was not along with the fancy psychology degree, now was she?

Zinc fidgeted nervously with the blinds and seemed in danger of tangling them permanently when Scully got an idea. "Willis, would you like a drink? I can see if they have some tea."

"That would be lovely, agent Scully," Zinc enthused.

She got up and left in search of tea muttering herself "nice soothing, calming tea."

To her surprise Zinc was sitting quietly when she returned with three mugs of steaming tea. The psychologist took her mug with gratitude. "Thank you agent Scully. We're just about done here."

Scully stayed behind after Willis Zinc left for his house. "Thank you for speaking him Doctor Hoffman. What did you think of Mister Zinc?"

Dr. Hoffman shook her head slightly. "Agent Scully, after meeting with your client, there are two possible takes on this."

"Which are?"

"Either Mister Zinc has deep psychological problems. If so it'll probably take years of therapy and medication before he is stable."

"Or?"

"Or... he really is being bedeviled by a look-alike who's trying to destroy his life," Dr. Hoffman said with chagrined expression.

"But that's rather unlikely, don't you think?" Scully asked expectantly.

"I don't know what to tell you. The details he gives... either this person is in fact real, or it's real in his mind. At this point I couldn't tell you which."

"I appreciate your candor." Scully told her offering her hand to be shook, which Dr. Hoffman took.

Dr. Hoffman gave a slight smile. "I know this might be against regulations, but I'd really love to how this case turns out in the end."

Scully chuckled. "Maybe I can bend the rules just this once."




That night
7pm

"Mulder?" Do you think you could go check on the kids?" Scully asked him during a commercial break. They were watching a TV show together, but his mind wasn't really on it anyway. "They're being too quiet."

He nodded. "And every parent knows that's when you're supposed to be the most worried."

"Your parents too?" Scully asked, looking amused.

"Especially my parents."

Emily was in her room doing some homework, but William's room was empty. Mulder wondered if Scully was right to be concerned, because he'd expected his son to still be playing cars like he had been right after dinner.

"...and then the handsome prince gotta sword n' a horse. He didn't know where the princesses were, but he promised that he was gonna rescue them-"

The voice from Calla's room got Mulder's attention. Last he knew the baby was asleep, but it did solve the mystery of where their son was. The door was slightly ajar so he peeked in through the crack. His daughter was sitting up in the crib, and her adoring gaze was on William. The little boy's red curls were in disarray, probably because he was running around the room, acting out his tale. A paper tube, messily colored on with elephant gray marker, was gripped in one hand and seemed to be his 'sword'. Mulder couldn't figure out what the bath towel tied around his neck, Superman's cape-style, was supposed to be. He didn't ask because he didn't want to interrupt the story.

"But it didn't matter, 'cause just then the bad guy rode by on a black horse and didn't even see the prince. But the prince was smart, so he followed the bad guy right to where the princesses were being keeped."

Still watching, Mulder nearly had to swallow his tongue to keep himself from suggesting the word 'kept'.

"It was a castle. Not a nice one like in snow white, but a big, black one. Real scary looking. But the prince wasn't scared. He had his sword n' his white horse. The bad guy didn't see it coming, so the prince beat him easy, and tied him up so he couldn't get away. then he tickled him to make him talk." Mulder grinned, knowing how much Will hated it when Emily tickled him. "After a while he couldn't take no more and screamed 'uncle'. The prince said 'No! I'll tickle til you tell me where my sisters are!' The bad guy began to cry like a little baby, kinda like you, but the prince didn't stop tickling 'til the bad guy yelled ' they're in the tower!' So then the prince left the bad guy tied up and went to save his sisters from the cold tower. He had to break a big door with his sword, then there they were. They were so happy to see him that they hugged him and said that he was sooo brave. He said ' I know' and showed them the way down. Once he got his sisters' horses he told the guy who cleans the barn that the bad guy was still tied up, then they rode off."

William pantomimed being on a horse, which made Calla laugh in that wet gurgling way some babies have. "When they got home the king and queen were so proud of the prince, because he was a big hero."

Mulder turned away from the door, suddenly depressed. Although his version lacked princesses and castles, it was a story that had played out in his own head as a boy too many times to count. Unfortunately, he'd never made the king and queen proud.




Hoover Building
The next day…

Mulder picked up the office phone on the first ring. "Hello."

Skinner's voice came over the line. "Send Scully and Reyes to my office, Mulder."

"Yes sir," Mulder replied. He fixed the women with his gaze. "You two are in big trouble."

"Why?" Scully asked flatly.

"Dunno." Mulder grinned. "Skinner just said he wanted to see you two in his office immediately."

"So you assume we're in trouble?" Reyes asked, giving him a look. He didn't flinch.

"Don't mind him, it's his only experience with being in Skinner's office," Scully told her as they got up to leave the room.

"At least I'm not the one getting called to the carpet this time." Mulder muttered to the empty room. He looked out the door, wondering how long it would be before Doggett came back with their lunches.




Skinner looked up from some paperwork on the two women opened the door. He sighed. "I know is tomorrow Saturday, but I needed to have you to go with Willis Zinc and his mother to a flower show."

"A flower show?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Yes to both. Zinc is afraid that his' double' will cause problems tomorrow that will embarrass his mother. The two of you will accompany them and make sure that there's no interference."

"But sir, you do realize that this person only exists in Zinc's mind, don't you?" Scully asked plaintively.

"I read the report from the doctor you brought him to. Doctor Hoffman said he was either faking it or it was actually happening. Given that the doctor wasn't absolutely certain that he was imagining this person, it seems best to offer FBI protection, and you two would blend in much better than Mulder or Doggett."

"Yes sir," Reyes said resignedly.

Scully still looked agitated. "In the unlikely event that someone does come and bother Zinc and his mother, what would you have us do? I don't suppose you care to authorize use of force against an imaginary person."

"Your sarcasm is not appreciated agent Scully."

Her only reply was a stony silence.

"The show starts at 10 AM. You will be riding with the Zincs so please arrive at Willis Zinc's house no later than 9 AM."

"Yes sir," they both said getting up to leave.




Mulder was surprised at their grim looks when they returned to the office. He thought he'd been only been joking about them being in trouble. "What's wrong?"

"The two of us have been sentenced to a flower show. Tomorrow," Reyes said with a sigh.

"Wow. That's terrible. I hate when cases take over the weekend." Even though his voice was somewhat sympathetic, the women could not fail to notice him and Doggett exchange smug looks; they're obviously thrilled that they had not been assigned at the same duty.

"Yes," Scully said. "But I'm sure the two of you will find a way to amuse the kids while we're gone all day."

The look they exchanged then spoke of fear. It was Scully and Reyes turn to feel smug. Mulder and Doggett had never been in charge of all six kids at once before.

"Uh, here are your lunches," Doggett said, and he didn't fool anyone. He was just trying to change the subject and they all knew it.




17th Annual Burpee Flower Show

When they got to the flower show, Scully's eyes started to water. She hadn't suffered from hay fever since right around the time that she started high school, so she'd assumed that they were gone for good. Apparently she was wrong.

"Are you okay?" Reyes hissed. Scully's eyes were streaming and red rimmed. Neither Willis nor his mother seemed to notice; instead Mrs. Willis was exclaiming over the beauty of the closest flowers, something blue and feathery that Scully couldn't identify. Not much more enthusiastic then they were, Willis occasionally made half-hearted interested noises now and then.

"No."

"Do you have a cold?"

"It's the flowers. I used to be allergic."

"Obviously you still are."

Scully nodded sadly in agreement. They trailed after the Zincs, Scully sneezing miserably the whole time. Suddenly they saw an oasis. Or Reyes did since Scully's eyes were too watery to see anything clearly that point. She did however feel it when Reyes grabbed her arm. "There!"

"What?" Scully was alarmed; if there was any danger to the Zincs she couldn't see well enough to shoot without possibly harming a bystander.

"Wait right here. With the Zincs." Mrs. Zinc was exclaiming over display of zinnias, so moving anytime soon didn't seem a likely problem. Whenever Reyes had seen it didn't appear to be in danger of any sort so Scully just tried to grin and bear the older woman's long monologue on the flowers merit.

"Look at the rich color on these! You rarely see them in this precise shade. I used to know someone with a hothouse who raised zinnias that were almost, but not quite this color…"

When Reyes returned two minutes later, she pressed something rectangular and something else that was cold into Scully's hands. "Takes two of these and you should feel better in an hour so."

Peering into her hands Scully found that she was holding a soda and the box of allergy pills. "God bless you, Monica," she said as she ripped the box open.

Reyes laughed. "A lot of people must discover allergies at flower shows because that stand had about 300 boxes of allergy pills and I was in line behind five people buying them."

"And some people think that capitalism has no upside."

They stayed at the flower show for another three hours, and were nearly bored to tears. It seemed to be contagious, because Zinc's eyes were as noticeably glazed as their own. On the drive back to Scully's the two agents decided that it was a complete waste of the day, since there'd been no sign whatsoever of a double lurking around Zinc or his mother.




Later

As soon as she stepped through the front door, Scully looked around and took stock of things. Reyes was just two steps behind her, clearly eager to gather her husband and kids, so she could go home and recover from boredom.

In the living room Gibson and Emily were playing a video game on the couch, which despite there being loud noises coming from the TV was not bothering Calla, who slept in the playpen. Voices from the kitchen told them where the rest of the kids were.

All four of them were seated at the kitchen table. Each of them had a thick white ring around their mouth, not that any of them noticed. A jar peanut butter with the knife in it sat in middle of the table, and Doggett and Mulder were standing at the counter filling small waxed paper cups with Kool-Aid. It must have been time for a refill, because there was a pink puddle near Landon's right hand.

Though she was amused Scully kept her voice even. "Mulder? Is there a reason why the children look rabid?"

"Fluffernutters Mommy!" William chirped. The triplets agreed, sort of. It was a little hard to figure what they were saying because the two-years-olds hadn't learned not to talk with their mouths full, and their pronunciation was suspect anyway. They were enthusiastic in any case.

"We tried to give them something healthy for lunch," Doggett told her.

"This is your idea of healthy?" Scully exchanged an amused look with Reyes.

Mulder defended their choice. "Hey, compared to what they wanted to eat, this is healthy."

William looked at his mother and grimaced. "Daddy said that ice cream and ketchup aren't a good lunch."

"Unless you're a pregnant woman, Daddy is right."

William cocked his head. "What does 'pregnant' mean?"

"Going to have a baby. Like Mommy was a few months ago, before we got your baby sister," Mulder reminded him.

"Oh yeah," William said. "Can we have ice cream now?" he wheedled.

"If you promise not to put ketchup on it," Scully allowed.

"Yay!"

At the words "ice cream" the triplets stared at the adults, then began to babble happily when they heard William cheering.

Scully shot Reyes a look and mouthed the word "sorry." Her friend just gave a tired smile, and sat at the table between her daughters.




Once the kids were in bed for the night, Mulder took out a notepad, and picked up Samantha's diary. He glanced around the room, thinking suddenly that he should probably have a hat and a pipe to accompany his sleuthing.

By the time he worked out the first sentence, he'd put the idea of emulating a literary figure completely out of his mind.

An hour later he put the key that he was working from and the diary aside. The second translation was complete.

Entry # 2

I think I'll keep a record of everything that's happened to me. Maybe no one else will ever know, but writing it all down makes it seem more real somehow - which is important when the world every day feels like a bad dream. I'm not sure why, but I know I'm not alone in this, even Robinson Crusoe kept diary and he didn't think he'd ever get off the island.

Of course I don't remember anything much from the first few years of my life, but my mom said Fox was less than thrilled to become a big brother. I guess he liked being the center of attention, who doesn't? He also wanted me to be a boy and…well, I'm a girl. The first thing I remember is wanting to play with him, and him pushing me away.

It was like that a lot but we could be nice to each other too. Sometimes we were the only nice people in our house, maybe most of the time. Mom and dad yelled a lot, and not just at each other. Neither of us liked it when they yelled.

Things weren't too bad, though, when I was really little. It wasn't until I was in first grade that things started to get bad. It was when he started coming around. Everything was worse after that.

We were told that he was a friend of my father's, but he didn't seem like a friend to us. It seemed like they really didn't like each other at all. I don't know, it kind of seemed like they hated each other. Me and Fox, we were both scared him, and not just because of how he and Dad were to each other.

He'd upset mom and dad a lot, and there was always shouting when he was in our house. He wanted them to do something they didn't want to do. We didn't find out what until too late.

Gotta go,
Samantha

As Mulder finished translating the second entry, he realized something that bothered him. The entries had numbers but they didn't have dates. This meant he has no idea how old she was when she wrote the entries after the first one that mentioned not having seen her family for "four years." They could have all been written when she was twelve, but it was hard to figure out because there was a marked level of sophistication and fewer errors between the first two entries alone. He hoped as he translated more of them he'd figure out when in her life these entries were from. He couldn't say why it mattered so much, just that it did.

Once he'd thought about practicalities, he had room in his mind to really think about Samantha's words. His sister had know what was going on all along, even though he'd done his best as a kid to shield her from the worst of it. Sighing, he was somewhat thankful that she'd pretended so well to believe him that nothing that happened in their house was a big deal. It would have been so much worse for him when she'd vanished if he'd of known that he hadn't pulled pleasant wool over his sister's eyes after all.

Mulder thought of his own children, suddenly. Emily was older, and naturally looked after her brother and sister. It was his two youngest children whom his thoughts dwelled on, however. William was four years older than Calla. Would he have a different relationship with Calla than his father and aunt had had? And would Mulder find himself in therapy in eight years, when his children were eight and twelve?

The thought was enough to drive him out of the room, and to go search out Scully and the book he'd been reading last. Anything to keep those sorts of thoughts out of the forefront of his brain.




Doggett Home
Mid-Week

Strains of Coldplay emanated from Gibson's room. Doggett and Reyes were moderately grateful that he wasn't into louder music, but still didn't spend a lot of time up in his room while the music was on, since they rather disliked it.

The triplets, however, were not bothered by it in the least, having yet to develop anything resembling taste in music. Which is why Gibson kept turning away from his instant messaging with Megan. The girl had shocked him by using the collage directory to look up his e-mail address and sending him her screen name to him with an invitation to IM her at any time.

He was too nervous to at first, but he finally decided that he was being stupid and worked up his courage. It had been easier to talk to her the first time than he ever dreamed, and within a week or so they'd gotten into the habit of chatting online every day.

Praise686: Sorry about that.
MegPeg: What are they doing?
Praise686: ::sigh:: My mom and I took a trip to Mexico a couple of years ago, and she brought me a sombrero as kind of a gag gift. I stuck it on one of the stuffed animals - the brats were given a gross of them when they were born and they're still all over the house-
MegPeg: You don't really think they're brats, do you?
Praise686: Nah. Calling them "the triplets" gets old, and using their names gets long.
MegPeg: Ah.
Praise686: Anyway, Just now my brother decided to wear it, and it went over his eyes. So he walked into a wall and fell over.
MegPeg: which scared him, and made 'em cry?
Praise686: You have younger siblings too?
MegPeg: Nope, just to older brother. Babysit a lot, though.
Praise686: Ah.
MegPeg: I'd like to see a picture of your siblings, do you have one?
Praise686: Oh sure. Let me e-mail it to you.

Eventually, without Gibson quite realizing when, Landon ended up on his lap. For once the little boy behaved and didn't try to "help" type, instead he leaned back against Gibson's chest and sucked his thumb.

"Don't tell anyone," Gibson whispered down at the dark little head. "But I like being home with the family. I miss you guys when I'm at school."

"Oh," Landon said. It made Gibson wonder if the toddler understood what he'd been told. Probably not, but it was nice to think that he might. He could have read the boy's mind, but he tried not to do that at home. Leaving himself always open to thoughts made him tired, and he was getting better at blocking out the thoughts of people he knew well.

"Maybe you guys can meet Meg some day when you come to campus."

"Okay."

Gibson looked up at the screen and was sad to see MegPeg: Oops, got to go. I didn't notice how late it was.

"How about we go find your sisters and the puppy so we can teach her to fetch?"

"Yeah!" Landon exclaimed enthusiastically, scrambling off Gibson's lap. Gibson cocked his head. Apparently some of what he said to his brother registered. Monica must be right about them understanding a lot more than they said.

Three minutes later, the two of them, plus the girls, were out in the yard with the puppy. They didn't even protest when he said he'd pick the sticks himself; so far big brother was a force to be reckoned with just like Mom and Dad. Maybe, Gibson thought, that would change when they were capable of declaring "You're not the boss of me!"




Hoover Building
Monday, late afternoon

The look on Skinner's face made Mulder squirm a little as he sat in front of him and waited for him to say something. Skinner merely sighed, pulled off his glasses, and began to polish them with a tissue. Once he put them back on, he gave Mulder another firm look. "The State Department and the RIAA have expressed concern that the Willis Zinc case is not being taken seriously enough."

"Do they actually believe that anyone is capable of taking a case like this seriously?" Mulder asked, being sincere.

"Someone apparently does!" Skinner barked. Calming a bit, he folded his hands. "Look, Mulder, we have to show them that we're doing all we can to investigate this man's 'case'. I think it's only a matter of time before Mister Zinc becomes a guest of the state hospital, but that's neither here nor there."

"What is here?" Mulder asked, which seemed to puzzle Skinner for a couple of beats.

"You're going to accompany Zinc tomorrow."

"Accompany him where?"

"He's going to visit a…law-breaker tomorrow, and you're going to escort him. You're not to do anything other than to guard him against being bothered by a look-alike. You don't need to concern yourself with assisting him, because at the moment he still seems capable of carrying out his duties at work."

"You don't know how thankful I am to hear that he's still able to keep us all safe from the evils of downloaded music," Mulder said sourly. "Is this really necessary? I was thinking of asking to take tomorrow off, actually."

"Why?"

"I'm making some progress on translating my sister's diary, if you must know," Mulder replied somewhat stiffly.

"That's something you should work on in your free time. Unless you'd like to schedule a vacation?"

"No," Mulder replied quickly, thinking that Scully would kill him if he took a vacation while she was scheduled to work. Frustration simmered in his stomach, but he couldn't call Skinner on what he considered to be a callous attitude. "What time am I meeting Zinc?"

Skinner rewarded him with a thin lipped smile. "Zinc will stop by here to pick you up at eight."

"He's going to drive?" Mulder asked, suddenly alarmed. "Is that a good idea?"

"It's better than his original idea, Mulder. He offered to pick you up at your house."

This further alarmed Mulder. "Tell me that the psycho doesn't know where I live."

"I don't think he does. I'm sure he could find out over the internet, though, if he really wanted to."

"You're just trying to give me nightmares now, aren't you, sir."

"Be a good boy tomorrow, agent Mulder," Skinner said, almost smiling for real.

"Yeah, whatever." He was still grumbling to himself as he left Skinner's office.




Later

"You like the carrots, don't you?" Mulder spoons more orange glop into his youngest daughter's mouth. "I guess someone has to. I wonder why they don't make sunflower seed baby food-"

"Mulder?" When he turned his head, Calla took advantage of his distraction and knocked the spoon away. It immediately hit the open jar, sending a fan of orange puree across the highchair tray and his shirt.

"Crap. I was doing so well for a novice too." He gave Scully a rueful look. "Does it make me a bad father if I confess that I'm glad we missed this stage with the older kids?"

"I don't know. It reminds me of how long it took to get Emily back, so maybe." Her look was playful, so he didn't agonize over whether or not he'd really upset her.

"Pray for me, Scully."

"Why?"

"Skinner's trying to have me bumped off. He's insisting that Zinc be allowed to drive when I go with him tomorrow."

Scully winced, which didn't make him feel better. "Okay, I will."

Mulder looked up from scrubbing at his stained shirt. "Isn't this when you're supposed to tell me that I'm being silly?"

"I wish you were. But I also have reservations about letting a man that ill command a deadly piece of machinery."

"So you're leaning towards his being troubled as an explanation?"

"I'm leaning towards him being out of his damn mind." She leaned down to kiss his cheek. "Go change. I'll finish feeding her."

"Thanks." He gave up on the shirt and pulled it off. Noticing her contemplative stare, he grinned.

"Tell Zinc I expect you to be returned in the same condition you're currently in."

"Half-naked and smelling like a root vegetable?" he wondered quietly. Scully had strange taste, but he liked that in a woman.




After he read to William, Mulder decided to take Skinner's earlier advice, and work on the diary in his free time. And given that Scully and Emily were absorbed in a soapy primetime drama he couldn't stand, his time was pretty free. So he sharpened a few pencils and got to work.

Entry # 3

Remember that night he came over and Mom got all upset, screaming that she refused to do something? I guess what he wanted them to do, was to pick one of us to take away from them. I don't know who mom wanted him to take, but I know dad said to take me. I think that Mom said to take Fox because one time when they thought I wasn't listening, he said that it could've been Fox. The dad wouldn't let them take Fox. Which is why I him hated more than Mom. But it's funny, I don't hate you, Fox. Somehow, I think you would've gone instead if you had the choice. (Don't tell me if I'm wrong!) You liked to protect me like that. I think that's what you thought a big brother did.

I don't really remember how they took me away. I just remember playing Stratego with you. And there being some yelling and a light shining in through the windows. Then nothing.

The next thing I remember I was some place I'd never been before. I was cold. I was still just wearing my nightgown. It'd been right before bed, and looking around the room, I was suddenly sure I'd never see my bed again.

And I was right. There all these people and they did stuff to us. Things that hurt. We didn't die, but it hurt bad.

Samantha

The text blurred, and he realized that it was because his eyes were filling with tears. He rubbed them roughly with the sleeve of his shirt. Of all entries, why had she written that one in particular as if she was specifically addressing it to him?

She was right, he realized. If he'd been told what was going to happen, he would have immediately demanded to go in her stead. But, not just because it was the right thing for a big brother to do. They were both tortured after she disappeared. Her by them, and him by his parents and guilt both. Over the course of his life, he'd experienced both. In many ways, the scalpels and needles were more appealing to him. At least they had been impersonal.

And when he thought about it, he was okay with the idea that him going instead would have condemned her to their parents' indifference and the guilt he'd felt. At least she would have grown up to experience something.

Sighing, he picked up his pencil and flipped to the fourth entry. It probably couldn't hurt any more than the third had.

Entry #4

There were other people who'd been taken away too. Some of them were kids, but most were adults. Cassandra was the one I liked best. She was nice to me, and said she had a little boy at home. She said his name was Jeffrey.

When they finally brought us back, he was there. And he wasn't going to let me go home. The worst part was that Cassandra knew him. He was her husband, Jeffrey's dad. I couldn't believe it; that was so horrible. How could a nice woman like Cassandra marry a guy like that?

The funny thing is, it wasn't so bad when he took me home. I was so angry my parents, I almost didn't care that I wouldn't be seeing them. And I liked Cassandra, so that made it even easier not to see Mom and Dad. I just missed my brother. Little did I know that I would soon be getting another brother. Jeffrey.

This time I was big sister. That was strange too. I'd always been the little sister. Jeffie was pretty little, though. He said he was almost five, and I was nine. That meant I was almost twice as old as him. It was kind of cool too, though.

The longer I lived with Cassandra and Jeffie, the more I wondered how on earth she ended up marrying him. I mean, I can understand why people like my parents would be around him and the others, because they're cold, but Cassandra is warm. Sometimes she made me not miss home so much.

I wish I didn't miss home so much right now. Jeffie is probably homesick too, since he sent him away to boarding school. Who sends a kid who is only six away? I'm afraid that's my fault. I hope Jeffie forgives me for it.

Samantha

After the fourth translation, there were no more corresponding keys. He looked through the stack frantically, looking twice, three times. Though it upset him, he wondered if the key-less entries indicated a heightened sensitivity to the nature of the remaining entries. Perhaps she was worried that the old codes might fall into the wrong hands, and she really didn't want that to happen. Or maybe it was just for her own amusement, since she didn't seem at all sure the book would ever be read by any eyes but hers.

No matter the reason, he was going to have to figure out the rest of the codes on his own. Since he could be reasonably sure of the symbols for "e","n","t","r" and "y" it was a starting point, but it would still be a painstaking effort to work out all the surrounding letters; like a demented version of "Wheel of Fortune." He also wondered why she had dated the entries in the other diary, but numbered the ones in this one. She must have had her reasons to-

"Dad, what are you doing?" The voice made Mulder startle for a moment, then he turned to see Emily standing in the doorway. The show must have ended.

Beckoning her forward, he said, "I'm translating my sister's diary."

"Oh, I didn't know that you'd found Aunt Samantha's diary." Emily climbed onto the empty chair beside him.

"Really? Your mom and I have talked about it a lot lately."

She shrugged. "Not in front of me. Will's the one who reads minds, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember." He reached over as if to tickle her, and she shied away giggling. "If you read minds, you'd of known I wasn't really going to tickle you."

"Or maybe I only wanted you to think that I thought you were really going to do it," Emily fired back with a smirk. She leaned in for a better look at the open pages. "That looks like a secret code."

"It is a secret code," Mulder agreed.

"Why'd she write it like that?"

"Refresh my memory, what have Mom or I told you about what happened to my sister?" He would probably regret not discussing it with Scully first, but Emily was old enough to know the truth. At least the sanitized version of it, anyway.

"When you were a little bit older than me she got taken away, and she died real young," Emily recited.

"Anything else?"

"I don't think so."

"Okay. After she got taken away she was given to another family. The mom was a real nice woman, but the dad wasn't. He let corrupt doctors do some medical experiments on her. Eventually she ran away, but they found her again, and she died." In deference to not wanting Scully to kill him, Mulder decided not to say anything about the nature of the experiments, his relationship to the bad father, or the starlight children.

"Oh, that's terrible!" Emily exclaimed.

"I think so too. She didn't want the people who were doing experiments on her or the mean dad to know that she was writing down things about what they did to her. So she wrote the diary entries in code, and then hid the diary. A couple weeks ago a person making a new house where the family lived found the diary and mailed it to me."

"That was nice of them," Emily remarked.

"Wasn't it? When I went back to my mom's house I found these codes that Samantha and I had made when we were kids, and that's how I've been translating the entries."

"So she knew that you might read it?"

"Yes. Actually, in the first entry she said that she hoped that no one ever saw it but her, and maybe me. I get the feeling that she was hoping that I'd find it someday."

"Wow, all these years later her wish came true."

When he thought about it, it was sort of impressive that the last wish of a doomed child was posthumously fulfilled decades later. "The only problem is that there are new codes in the book too, that I don't have a key for."

"It'll be okay," Emily reassured him.

"Why?" Mulder asked curiously.

"Because you're real smart. You'll figure this mystery out just like the ones you figure out at work."

"From your lips to God's ears, kiddo."

"Uh oh. I was supposed to tell you that Mom was looking for you."

"We'd better go see what she wants then."

Mulder followed Emily as she scampered out of the room. It was nice to hear that someone believed in him.




The Next Morning

Standing on the walk in front of the Hoover building, Mulder couldn't help but fidget nervously. When he was fifteen or so, his father had sat him down and explained that if they ever learned that he'd gotten into a car with a drunk driver, he'd be grounded for the rest of their lives, and maybe beyond that if they could arrange to come back from the grave to haunt him. That scared him enough to prevent him from ever considering accepting a ride from someone who had been drinking.

As an adult, however, he realized that it wasn't the mere fact that someone was intoxicated that made them an unsafe driver. It was the fact that alcohol made a person's actions unreliable, and clouded their thinking that was the problem. Which was probably the problem with letting a mentally ill man drive too.

Then there was the issue of the pirates. All he dreamed off the night before was something along the idea of Mad Max, staring Willis as Max, and him as a guy trying to beat pirates off of the car after their take over of the pirate ship failed.

He was so deep into trying to recall the bizarre details of the dream, that he didn't notice at first that Zinc had pulled his car up to the sidewalk.

"Morning, agent Mulder."

"Ah, good morning Mister Zinc."

"Call me Willis," the unstable man invited as Mulder climbed into his car.

"Okay, sure. Willis it is."

"Do you have a cell phone?" Willis asked suddenly.

"Yeah, why?"

"I read this article last month that says that the signals cell phones emit can interfere with a car's GPS system, so if you're going somewhere unfamiliar, you'd better turn them off so you don't get thrown off course."

This sounded at least semi-plausible to Mulder, given what he knew about airplanes and electronic devices, but if it were true he thought it'd be widely publicized. Unless car GPA systems weren't yet popular enough for many people to care..."On vibrate or completely off?" he hedged.

"Completely off."

Shrugging, he decided to honor the request. It wasn't like Willis had demanded that he hand it over, so he could still use it in an emergency. "How long a drive are we looking at?"

"About an hour each way." Willis eyed him. "Don't forget your seatbelt, huh?"

"No, of course not," Mulder said quickly. He wondered if they could find a drunk to drive them instead.




Hoover Building
Meanwhile...

Reyes was frowning when she hung up her cell phone.

"Bad news?" Scully asked, looking up from writing a report.

"No, more of an annoyance. The hospital keeps pestering me to speak to a group for couples expecting higher multiples."

"And you'd rather not."

"I don't know anything about expecting triplets."

"But I bet they keep saying ' But you had triplets,'" Scully guessed.

"Exactly. Explaining that I didn't know that until the last five minutes I was pregnant doesn't seem to sink in."

Scully shrugged. "If they don't drop the issue tell them that the constant reminders about your pregnancy make you wonder if them missing one of the babies is grounds for a lawsuit."

"I'm not sure I'm ready to resort to threats. Maybe next time."

"You know what your problem is? You're too nice for you own good," Scully complained.




An Hour Later

When the phone rang again Scully grabbed it. Reyes might be too nice to tell the hospital off, but Scully was of a mind to give them a few choice words, since even if their request was reasonable, it was inappropriate to tie up the FBI's phone line with it. "Hello?"

"Have you heard from Mulder?" Skinner's voice asked to her surprise.

"No, sir, why do you ask?"

Skinner sighed. "I've tried calling his cell phone, but he doesn't pick up. I don't know what's going on, but I just got a hysterical call from Zinc's mother. He's there vandalizing her house. If he escaped Mulder, I'm worried about his mental state. I think it would be best if you go over and assess his mental state, and see if an ambulance is necessary. Take Doggett with you, and have Reyes stay here in case Mulder tries to check in."

"You don't think Zinc did anything to Mulder when he gave him the slip, do you?" Scully asked quietly.

Skinner sighed again. "With Mulder's luck...Hope for the best, agent Scully."

She and Doggett were out the door within seconds of Skinner hanging up.




Conner Walsh Residence
Fifteen Minutes Later

The tires squeaked a little as Zinc pulled the car to a stop in a graveled driveway. Getting out, Zinc motioned to Mulder. "Just hang back and look stern, okay?"

"No problem," Mulder said absently, finishing his mental prayer of thanks that Zinc didn't get them killed on the way there. He'd actually driven like a mostly sane person, his litany of complaints against his double aside.

Zinc strode purposefully up the driveway, then firmly knocked on the door. A middle-aged woman answered, looking as if she'd spent the day home from work nursing a cold. Mulder made a mental note not to breathe too deeply near her – his week would be complete if he managed to bring a cold home to the baby.

"Can I help you?" she asked Zinc in a slightly hoarse voice.

"Does Conner Walsh live here?" Zinc asked flatly.

Mulder expected her to say, 'that's my son' but the words that actually came out of her mouth were "That's my grandfather." He shot Zinc a surprised look, but the other man didn't let on if he was surprised. His earlier snide comment to his fellow agents notwithstanding, Mulder hadn't truly thought that Zinc busted little kids or old people. The woman went on to explain that he was at a lodge meeting.

Reaching into his suit jacket, Zinc pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to the woman. "This is a warrant to search Mister Walsh's computer."

Looking horrified, she reached out for it. "This must be some sort of mistake."

"I assure you Ms. Walsh, it's not. We keep very careful records at the RIAA and were able to trace the files back to this residence."

She looked confused. "RIAA? Isn't that something to do with music?"

"Yes."

"God, I thought you were talking about something seriously illegal, like kiddie porn. Which he does not look at," she hastily added when Mulder raised his eyebrows.

Zinc, on the other hand, was beginning to look peevish. "Downloading songs is 'seriously illegal' as well."

"Well, sure, but it's not like anyone is being exploited."

"I think the artists being deprived of royalties might disagree," Zinc snapped. "Show me to Mister Walsh's computer."

Shrugging, she opened the door to admit them, and showed them to a second-floor bedroom. There was a brown plaid comforter on the neatly made bed, a stuffed fish nailed to a plaque hung on the wood-paneled walls, and a bookshelf was filled with hardbacks about various wars of the twentieth century. It looked like a typical single, elderly, male's bedroom.

Across the room, Zinc stood before the computer. There was no dust anywhere on the desk, or anywhere else in the room. The computer let out a slight rattle as Zinc booted it, and Mulder found himself looking at photos on the wall. They were probably of his grandkids, or maybe great-grandkids, since there seemed to be evidence of elementary-age children strewn through the house. Zinc typed at the keyboard and a list of files began to appear on the screen.




Mrs. Zinc's Home

"Holy crap," Doggett breathed as Mrs. Zinc's house came into view. He shot his partner a sheepish look. "Sorry."

"No, don't be. 'Holy crap' about covers it," Scully replied. Her eyes scanned the front yard.

"Why would...?"

"I have no idea." Scully bit her bottom lip, and then checked to make sure that her cell phone had a decent connection. "Don't turn off the car yet, John. Pull forward a bit, in case we need to get an ambulance in here."

He looked a bit surprised. "Do you think he hurt himself or his mother, then?"

"I wasn't thinking of that sort of hospitalization," Scully said, waving her hand at the yard. "This man has clearly had a mental break-down of some sort."

As they picked their way through the hundred pink plastic flamingos wearing risqué lingerie, Doggett found himself inclined to agree with her. "Fucking nutter," he mumbled under his breath.

Mrs. Zinc met them at the door, wringing her hands. Tell-tale marks on her face suggested recently dried tears. "My poor boy has lost his damn mind!"

"I'm afraid that is a possibility, Ma'am," Scully said gently. Plastic flamingos leered in at them from the windows. "Is he still on the property?"

"I think that he's out in the backyard," Zinc's mother said unsteadily. "I'm afraid to look and see what he's doing."

"Leave that to us," Doggett told her. Bracing themselves, they left Mrs. Zinc in her house and headed out to the back yard.




Conner Walsh Residence

"So now what happens?" Mulder asked as Zinc set about disconnected the old man's computer.

After he let the cables he was holding drop away, Zinc looked up. "We take the computer, verify that the MP3s on it were downloaded with a peer to peer program, then have mister Walsh served. In six or eight months he'll appear before a judge who'll determine if he's guilty or not."

"Say he is guilty, are you really going to put a man who's old enough to have a thirty-something granddaughter in jail? He's probably in his eighties or nineties!"

Zinc gave him a sharp look. "Do you honestly think people should be given a free pass to break the law just because they've lived a long life?"

"Well no," Mulder admitted.

"In the vast majority of cases, these suits result in censure by a fine only. Jail time is only called for if the law-breaker in question happens to be the front-person for distributing software that allows others to break the law."

"That's something, anyway."

The home-owner shook her head as they walked back down to her. "I can't believe that granddad is a pirate..."

Zinc handed her a card. "We'll be contacting Mister Walsh soon, but if he'd like to call us first, he can."

"This is unbelievable." She wandered off, still shaking her head.

As soon as they got into the car, Mulder pulled out his cell phone. "I going to turn this back on now, all right? I need to make a quick call before we leave."

"Sure."

"Good, I need to call Scully."




Mrs. Zinc's Home

"Aw, God," Doggett muttered to himself. He'd wandered into the backyard and had finally found what Zinc was up to back there. "You stop that right now!" Doggett shouted at the man who was urinating on the door of the potting shed.

The man ignored him for a moment, and then took off running, his pants still tangled around his ankles. "Agent Scully!"

Scully looked up from examining the cellar bulkhead doors, just in time to see Zinc fly past her, kicking free of his pants in mid-run. As he bent to quickly grab his discarded clothing, she found herself slightly affronted. This was a very different half-naked man than the one who'd been in her kitchen the night before.

"He's over here, Doggett!" she called, unwilling to make a grab for him if she didn't have to. Doggett sprinted by, in hot pursuit. Then she nearly had a heart attack when her phone began to ring.

"Hey Scully-" Mulder's distant voice greeted her.

"Mulder! Where are you? Skinner's been trying to reach you for the past hour!" she shouted.

"What for?"

"What do you mean 'what for'? You let Zinc wander off! He's been defacing his mother's property all morning, and now he's running half-naked down the street with Doggett chasing him!"

"Ah..." Mulder paused. "What the hell are you talking about? Zinc's sitting next to me right this second. We just confiscated some old guy's computer for pirating big band tunes."

"But..." Scully peered down the road, trying to catch sight of the man Doggett was running after.

After a moment Doggett jogged back, looking hot and tired. "I lost him."

"Mulder, I'm going to have to call you back." She snapped the phone shut abruptly. "Doggett, are there any baggies in the car?"

He wiped sweat off his forehead before answering her. "Yeah why?"

She pointed down at a brown object next to the cellar doors. "We need to bag some evidence."

"Jesus! Who takes a crap on their mother's lawn?" Doggett asked, completely disgusted.

"The sort of man who can be in two places at once," Scully said, but not loud enough for him to have heard her.




Hoover Building

Zinc waved as he drove away, and Mulder lifted his hand half-heartly in response. The fact that he was still concerned about Scully's bizarre phone call made him hurry as he headed for the basement office. Both Scully and Doggett looked up when he came in the room.

"So what on earth we you talking about earlier?" he asked without a preamble. "Willis wasn't out of my sight for a moment, so I'm not sure what you were talking about with the vandalism-" Doggett got up and walked over to him, handing him a stack of Polaroid photos. Mulder flipped quickly through them before asking "Is this some sort of joke?"

Looking grim, Doggett said, "Oh, it's a joke all right. That's Mrs. Zinc's front lawn."

"Okay, this is rather odd, but what makes you think that Willis had something to do with it?"

"Because we saw him, Mulder," Scully said firmly. "He was urinating on her potting shed when we got there, then he ran away and Doggett chased him."

"But Zinc was with me," Mulder said slowly, as if trying to explain something to his son.

"I chased after him, Mulder," Doggett insisted. "It was definitely him."

"That's not possible."

"Maybe we should consider the possibility that he really does have a doppelganger," Reyes said, contributing to the conversation for the first time. "I'm not sure there's any other logical explanation for what's going on."

"A doppelganger is hardly a logical explanation," Scully huffed. "Besides, we got a....frankly, we got a stool sample at Mrs. Zinc's house today."

"That's disgusting!"

"That it is, but most fecal samples contain trace amount of DNA. It's probably going to take a while for the results to be processed, but eventually we'll know for sure if Willis Zinc is the man who defecated at his mother's house this morning."

"And set up whorish looking pink flamingos everywhere," Doggett added.

"That too."

Mulder looked down at one of the photos. "Is it just the photo, or did some of the flamingos really have lipstick on their beaks?"

"They really did," Doggett grumbled. "The sicko."




Mulder got up early the next morning to work on decoding before anyone else woke up. Eventually Calla decided that it was morning too, so he put her on his lap and held a bottle with one hand, writing with the other.

Entry #5

I guess you could say that my being here, getting stuck with needles, is my fault. I mean, if I hadn't pissed him off, I'd probably be at home with Cassandra and Jeffie.

It wasn't like I was going to say what he wanted, so it was like I got set up, you know? I think Adam and Eve were set up too. If they didn't know good from evil until they ate from the tree of knowledge, how was it fair to tell them about the tree in the first place? They didn't know that eating the apple was bad!

Me, though, my problem had nothing to do with God. He got mad at me because he wanted me to say something, and I wouldn't. "Call me Dad like your brother does, dammit!" He said after I called him Sir as always.

That made me so mad that I finally said what I was thinking after keeping it in my head so long. "You're not my father. I remember my real parents, and my real brother. You think I'm a cuckoo chick? Hatch me in a new nest and I won't remember the difference? I remember everything!" Then I stormed off. I was pretty pleased by my bird comparison - we were learning about them in science class.

I only had one more class, though. On the way home from school a black car pulled up next to me, and the door opened. Next thing I knew I was being dragged into it.

They brought me here, and I've been here ever since. If it wasn't for Gwen and Nicholas, I'd go crazy. I swear to God.

Samantha

 

He stared at the pad of paper. Who were Gwen and Nicholas? They sounded like friends. It was nice to think of Samantha having friends, even when she was being...when she was away from home. It was trite, but it made him think of people lauding the strength of the human spirit, and how kids were adaptable. If kids who were being subjected to horrible, pointless, medical experimentation could reach out and trust other people enough to be friends... maybe there was hope for humanity yet.




A Couple Of Days Later

"Lookit!" William crowed, showing Scully a drawing. "See?"

"Very nice," Scully told him. She thought it might be a horse. Or maybe a dog. "All great art has a title, so what's this called?"

"A title, like a book or movie?"

"Exactly." Scully pointed to the print on the wall. "That picture is called Sunflowers. It was painted by a man named Vincent Van Gogh."

William giggled. "That's a funny name."

"He's from another country," Scully explained. She wondered how long it would be before he realized that his father had a funny name too. "So, what should we call your picture?"

"You write it?" he asked, offering her a crayon.

"Sure."

"Rex the dinosaur!"

As she bent to the task of writing the title, she was glad she listened to the parenting advice that suggested you should never guess what a preschooler's drawing was of.

Scully looked up when she heard footsteps coming into the kitchen. "Mom, can ask you something?" Emily's eyes were filled with her question, but Scully couldn't tell what was. She suspected it had to do with the first-day-of-school homework that she held in her hands. She still couldn't figure out why DC had started the school year in August.

"Of course, you can, honey," Scully told her as she handed William his crayon.

"I'm gonna put this in my room," he declared, slipping off his chair and running off.

"I'm doing a family tree for my social studies class... I've known for a long time that Will and Calla's dad is Daddy, but he's not my real dad. Do you know who my real father is?" when Scully didn't say anything, she hastily continued. "It's okay if you don't, 'cause I know you didn't get to decide to have me or anything."

"Can we talk about this tomorrow?" Scully asked faintly.

"Sure, Mom," Emily replied quickly, looking as though she felt guilty for upsetting her mother. "It's not due for two weeks."

Scully didn't want her to feel guilty but she didn't want to answer the question without discussing it Mulder first, either. She was hoping that the girl would get over her guilt quickly. As much as she didn't like the idea of it, she had the sinking feeling that they were going to have to talk to Spender too. Especially, since they'd once promised him that they wouldn't discuss her paternity without his approval; if it had been hard to imagine how he'd fit into her life back when they'd first gotten her back, how much harder would it be now that almost three years had passed?




"We need to talk to Spender," Scully said as she got into bed a few hours later. Emily hadn't brought up the subject the rest of the night, so Scully gave herself the luxury of putting the subject off until all three kids were down for the night.

"Yeah… wait, why?" Mulder asked, remembering that he hadn't shared Samantha's diary entry with her yet.

"Emily has been asking questions. Today she wanted to know if I knew who her natural father was."

Mulder frown a little, not liking the question; as far as he was concerned he was the only father she needed. "What did you tell her?"

"I told her that I needed to talk to you, and she thought she upset me and dropped it. For now."

"Ok, I'll call him. I know how he felt about it a three years ago, but things have changed a lot since then. We'll have to make him understand that she has a right to know."

"She's so young… I didn't think we'd have to deal with this for years yet," Scully moaned.

"Why? She inherited your thirst for knowledge. 'Where did I come from?' is one of the fundamental questions. She was bound to wonder sooner rather than later."

"I guess. Every time I think about how the kids are getting older, it comes as a shock to me. I can't help but wonder, where did the time go? How do they get older without our permission. It's silly, but…"

"No, I understand. I think all parents feel that way." Mulder put a reassuring arm around her. "I need to speak to Jeffery too, about something else." Scully didn't ask why, just gave him a look that said she was listening. "I was able to decode another one of Samantha's diary entries… she talked about living with Jeffery and Cassandra. I need to know what he remembers."

"How old was he when Samantha went to live with him?"

"Five or six. I hope that's not too young to remember, because she also said that CSM sent him away to boarding school."

Scully's voice was soothing. "I remember things from when I was very small," she said, thinking briefly about her poor dead rabbit. "I'm sure that something as significant as having another child live with you is something that would stick in your mind."

Not another child, Mulder thought. A sibling.




LA

Bqueen9: Oh, you're finally on!
Bigspender: That's an astute observation =^)
Bqueen9: Jerk
Bigspender: But you love me ::puppy-dog eyes::
Bqueen9: That reminds me, I've been meaning to look into voluntary commitment…
Bigspender: =^( If you were in the nut hatch, I couldn't talk to you.
Bqueen9: We could be committed together!
Bigspender: Now there's an idea…lmao. I wonder if my insurance covers that.
Bqueen9: <makes note to look into hospitals with co-ed wards>
Bigspender: Damn, I've got a phone call…my brother, so I've got to take it.
Bigspender: brb

Spender heaved a big sigh as he looked away from the computer screen. He'd much rather talk to Kate Queen online than to talk to Mulder. Especially since he thought that he might be wearing down her objections about meeting in person some day soon.

Grumbling to himself, he grabbed for the phone. "Spender."

"Hi, Jeffery-" To his surprise, it was Scully calling. He immediately wondered if there was something wrong with Mulder, because she seldom called him. "Mulder and I were wondering if there was any way you could come and visit in a couple of days."

Spender didn't relax much; invitations were even more rare from her. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong, exactly. Some things have come up and we'd like to talk to you about them. In person. Um, let me give the phone to Mulder, he'll explain." Spender waited while he listened to the phone being passed.

"What sort of things, Mulder?"

"Thing number one is that there was another diary, one that Samantha wrote. It was mailed to me recently. She talks about you in it."

"Oh…"

"And thing number two is that Emily has finally asked about her birth father."

"What did you tell her?"

"Nothing, really. Scully managed to change the subject. But I think it's time for her to know. She's not going to be put off very long, if I know her as well as I think."

"I don't know…" Spender trailed off. "Are you sure you don't want to tell her that you're her real father?"

"She already knows I'm not, Jeffery. Look, I know what it's like to find out as an adult who your real father is. Maybe this isn't so bad since no one has told her, or let her assume, that someone else is her father, but…I don't want to see her put through years of not knowing."

After a pause, Spender asked, "How would this weekend be? For me to visit."

"That would be great."

"All right. I'll see you then."

Bigspender: back

Bqueen9: Good talk with your brother?

Bigspender: Not too bad, considering.

Bqueen9: He didn't seem too bad to me when I met him at my friend's wedding.

Bigspender: Nah, he's not these days. I'm going to go see him and his family this weekend. Did I tell you I have a new niece? I haven't even met her yet.

Bqueen9: Awww, I bet she's adorable.

Bigspender: I'll take pics.




That Weekend

After Scully let him in, Spender noticed that William was playing with a brown toy he couldn't identify.

"What have you got there, Will?"

"It's a bigfoot! Daddy's friend Barry sent it to me. He's a cy, cryp, Daddy, how do you say his job?" William asked Mulder, who was coming over to them.

"Cyptozoologist."

"Yeah, that," William said happily.

"I see you still have interesting friends," Spender remarked with a smirk.

"I know what I like. Speaking of friends…"

Mulder swung William up in the air, making him giggle. "Daddy!"

"Hey guess what. I know a very lucky boy who has got a playdate."

"Me?"

"Nope, some other little boy named William."

"Daddy…." William rolled his eyes, a trait Mulder was convinced he learned from watching Scully and Emily.

"John's going to come get you so you can play with the triplets."

"Do I haf to play with Jacey and Quinn too?" William gave him appealing look before lowering his voice. "They play with dolls!"

"Maybe you and Landon should invite them to play trucks. A lot of girls like to play with trucks too, but you have to bring it up before they think of dolls."

"Good idea!" William shouted before wiggling his way free so he could go gather up some of his toy trucks.




Twenty minutes later, Doggett had taken William off to play with his kids, leaving Mulder, Scully, and Spender in the living room.

"What did you want to talk about first?" Spender asked. He perched on the sofa and looked very uncomfortable.

"Since Emily is up doing her homework, maybe we should talk about our sister first." Our sister. It was the first time that Mulder had ever said that particular phrase to Spender.

"Um, okay."

"So...do you remember her?"

Spender nodded. "Some. She was nice to me."

"That's good," Mulder encouraged. "Do you remember when she arrived?"

"Barely. It was dark out when my father brought her, and I remember waking up to see what was going on-" As Spender spoke Mulder found himself imagining a dark-haired little boy just William's size wandering out of his room, clad in cartoon covered pajamas and rubbing his eyes. "-and my parents were having an argument. Which was not unusual. Then I noticed that there was someone standing behind my father. A big kid. A girl."

"Samantha."

"Exactly. I called her 'Sam', though, and she called me Jeffie. It was obvious that her arrival wasn't something my mother wanted or expected, but as usual she backed down, and did what he wished. Sam slept in the guest room that night, and by the next day it was hers. She taught me how to read," Spender said softly and then looked at Mulder. "Then she was gone, we both were."

"What happened?" Scully asked, and they both started, having forgotten that she was still in the room.

"Sam did something to piss him off. I guess they got into an argument or something. Next thing I knew I was being told to pack, because I was going to be going to boarding school in three days. I wasn't even six yet, so he had to pull some strings to get me put into first grade earlier. My god, Mulder, I never saw him again after that until I was an adult, and I didn't even recognize him!" Spender frowned at his hands. "She was gone before I left, everything packed up as if she hadn't even been there."

"So you never heard from her again," Scully said sadly.

Spender gave her a sharp look. "Haven't you ever wondered where the diaries came from?"

Mulder straightened up in his chair. He never had wondered how the diaries got to the air force base. "It was you."

"Yeah. She mailed them to me at my boarding school, then I snuck them into the house during the summer. She thought it was one place that you'd be able to track her to, so it was the place she wanted them. I'll admit, I was a little jealous of you, before I even met you," he told Mulder. "But she made me promise, so I did."

"I wonder why the second one was found so much later," Scully remarked.

"I buried it," Spender said simply. "Per her instructions. I wrote her name in it too, though she hadn't thought of that."

"Ah," Mulder said. That explained why 'Samantha' had put her name in recognizable English while nothing else in the diary had been in it. "I guess that's about all you can tell us, huh?"

"Probably."

Neither of them said anything else, but just stared at the floor.

"I suppose I should get Emily," Scully said finally.

"Okay," Spender agreed.

Emily looked surprised when she came into the room. "Where's William?"

"He went to play at John and Monica's," Scully told her. "We wanted to talk to you without him getting underfoot."

She instantly looked alarmed. "Is something wrong? Is Calla sick? Or Mommy?"

"No, sweetie, nothing's wrong," Mulder said quickly, drawing her towards him for a reassuring hug. "We need to talk about what you asked Mom a few days ago."

Emily still looked puzzled, so Scully decided to take the plunge. "Remember when you asked me how babies were made a long time ago, and I told you that babies can be made outside a woman's body?"

"Yeah, test tube babies. We learned stuff about them in health this year."

"Well, we have something to explain to you about that. We do know who your real father is, Emily."

"I am," Spender said quietly. "We didn't know that until you got sick, but the computer figured it out from a DNA test I once took that proved that your dad and I are half brothers." Spender looked down at his hands. "It was quite a surprise to find out that I had a child, so I asked Mulder and your mom not to tell you."

Emily seemed to take the news rather well. "I know…that Mom didn't have anything to do with me being born." Scully had eventually admitted to the girl how she'd come to have been carried by a surrogate. "But, um…did you know you were going to have kids? Or was something bad done to you too?"

"Well, I was lied to, but I wasn't hurt the way your mother was. You probably know from health or your mom telling you that it's a lot easier to get…um, the male's contribution to a baby than a woman's, and I wasn't forced to, or kidnapped."

"But you didn't have any say either?"

"No. I was told that my contribution was going to be used to help design ways to store things for people trying to have a baby, but not that it'd be used to make a baby."

"Are you mad?" Emily's voice was small. "That there's me?"

Spender looked shocked. "Of course not! I'm mad that they didn't ask me if it's okay, but I'm not sorry you exist, Emily."

Tears trickled down her cheeks. "Then why didn't you want me to know?"

"Because you were happy. Because I knew that my brother was a much better dad than I would ever be. I thought it would be better for you if you learned how to be part of this family before you knew about me…I didn't want you to worry that I'd take you away from your family."

Wrapped in Mulder's arms, Emily only nodded. "But if you're my real father, and Dad's your brother, that makes him my uncle, right?"

"It sounds strange to hear that, but yes."

"So I'm related to Daddy after all." She smiled for the first time since the conversation began.

"Yup, that's the first thing I thought of when your Mom told me, too," Mulder told her.

"That's kind of cool," Emily said, and they knew that a potential storm had already passed.

"I think you should spend more time around here, Jeffery," Scully announced. "You're part of Emily's family too, and it'd be good for William and Calla to see more of you."

"Good for us, too," Mulder admitted. "Hopefully we're the only siblings each other still has, so it's about time we acted like it more often."

"Yeah," Spender agreed. He stayed for dinner before heading to a hotel for the night. It was clear that he wanted to ease into things.




Mulder had a pensive look on his face later that night. Scully assumed that he was thinking about what they'd revealed to Emily.

Guessing that he might feel like talking about it, she asked, "What are you thinking about?"

"When I was in middle and high school I had nightmares."

"What about?"

He shrugged. "After my parents split up, Mom and I moved. Not too far, but we lived in a different house. I begged her not to move, but she insisted that it would do us good to have a change of scenery. So we moved despite my protests.

"The nightmares began the very first night we lived at the new house. They were always the same: Samantha would escape the aliens and make her way home. Only it wasn't home any more. The house would be all dark and sealed up...and she'd be standing there on the lawn, forlorn. With no idea how to find us."

Scully put her hand on his. "If that had really happened one of your neighbors probably would have helped her."

He shook his head. "Even as a kid I realized that. My mother even checked in with the old neighbors every few weeks...but in the dreams our house wasn't the only one that was abandoned. Every house was dark. It was like the entire neighborhood had died."

"That does sound upsetting."

"Yeah. Eventually the dreams went away. Maybe I was finally convinced that she wasn't going to come back. I've been trying to figure out which happened first - did the dreams stop, or did she die?"

"Mulder..."

"You don't need to say anything, Scully. I know you feel bad about what happened to her. Everyone does except those who should. At least they're all dead and can't hurt any more innocent little girls."

"At least," Scully repeated softly.

"Emily is the last, and they didn't get the chance to break her beyond repair."

She didn't look at him, because she was afraid that if he caught her eye, she wouldn't be able to keep herself from asking the question that had haunted the back of her mind for three years: deep down did he begrudge her happy ending with Emily? For years they'd had something in common, they'd each lost someone to them. Now they didn't.




Two Days Later

"The analysis on the sample just came then." Scully announced after thanking the courier for handing her the package.

They gave her a few moments to study the results before Reyes asked "So what's the poop on this situation?"

"Not funny." Her husband groaned.

"The sample was not produced by Willis Zinc."

"I told you he was with me all day!" Mulder crowed.

"Then who, uh, produced the sample?" Reyes wanted to know.

"That's something that can only be determined if the culprit has a record." Doggett reminded her.

"Luckily," Scully said, "he does. Hair and fiber analysis from a break in eight years ago match the sample."

"Don't leave us in suspense, who is Zinc's double?" Mulder demanded to know.

"One Justin Case."

"You're kidding," Doggett said dismissively.

"No, I'm not. That's what the report says."

"What sort of person would name their son Justin Case?" Reyes wondered.

"The kind that raises a kid that grows up to take a dump on someone's lawn," Doggett said sourly.

"Let's see what good old Justin looks like," Mulder said, going to his computer. In putting the information from the report allow them to pull up a mugshot. They all stared at it.

"That's Zinc!"

"No," Doggett corrected. "That's Zinc's evil twin."

"But he doesn't even have goatee," Mulder said and they all looked at him. He shrugged.

"I guess we had better let Zinc know that he's not crazy," Scully said.

"Are you sure that's not being a little hasty? He might be crazy anyway, this aside."

"Doggett," Scully said wearily.

"I'm going to bring him in some Snickers bars when we talk to him tomorrow," Doggett announced defiantly.

"No you're not!" Reyes told him.

"God, it's like being at home with the kids," Mulder said to no one in particular. No one in particular listened to him, either.




No one was bickering when he settled down to do more translations that night, making Emily and William better behaved than his partners.

 

Entry #6

The latest experiment was very painful. They gave me some drugs, but they didn't seem to do anything to me but make me feel like I had wicked bad PMS. Yesterday they strapped me down, and stuck a big needle in my side. Wow did that hurt for some reason - I know I heard one doctor say they should have given me something for pain, but the other said they were under orders not to.

They were talking about eggs. At first I thought there might be a bird around somewhere, and I got nervous about that, but then I realized that they were talking about part of me. Then I remembered what Cassandra told me about getting your period and how eggs are half of a baby. Couldn't for the life of me figure out why they'd want eggs from me. Just to torture me, I thought.

But later on Gwen said she heard someone talking about how it was to punish me for talking to Nicholas Manning. Someone got mad about it, even though they never said so to us. And Gwen said seeing Nicholas and I together gave them this idea.

I hope I don't give them any other ideas that hurt.

Samantha

A rock seemed to have formed in the pit of Mulder stomach. He tried to convince himself that his suspicions had to be wrong, but a small, mean part of him was already convinced that they had to be true. He to set to work on the next entry, filled with a frantic desire to translate the next diary entry and prove to himself that it wasn't so.

Entry #7

This is the first time I've been able to write in months, sorry. We're going to run away both of us. Maybe. It's something we decided on last night. Gwen's a lot braver than me. All I kept thinking of is, what if we get caught? So last night she finally said it, so what do you want to do, stay here until they kill us? That really made me think. Even though I've said that I hate mom and dad, I've really still been hoping that they'd find out how bad things are here and make them stop hurting me.

But not any more. Not since they did that thing to me that they claim will create a baby. You know, that sounds like science fiction, like you like Fox, but I think they're really serious. That woman I talked to seemed all excited that she was going to have a baby that wasn't hers, because no one has done it before.

And they say the baby is supposed to be mine. Nicholas' and mine. How can you have a baby with someone you've never even kissed? It's really really weird. I bet mom would hate to be a grandmother so young, huh? That's kind of funny.

I sort of want to wait to see if the baby looks like me. They said that it's going to be born in just a few days. What if it does look like me, and it really is mine? I couldn't take it with me... I wonder if I got away and got back home if Dad could get it. He's important, I'm sure he could do it.

I just don't know if I want him to. I don't want to have a baby just fourteen years younger than me. That's completely crazy. But it's not like anyone ever asked what I want. Gwen doesn't understand why I can't go right now, tonight. What if I leave and never ever see the baby to know if it's really mine?

Samantha

 

He didn't say anything when he handed it to Scully. Her eyes flew back and forth across the page, and she looked up at him, obviously concerned. "Just because they told her that, doesn't mean that it's true."

"Why would they lie about something like that?"

"Why did they lie about any of the things they lied about?" She asked rather sardonically. "They have always used lies to manipulate people. You know that."

"But why this lie?"

"Let's assume that this was written in the months before she ran away. That would make this entry from 1979. The very first test tube baby was born July of 1978. Even your sister could not have been isolated enough to have never heard about that. Many people at the time thought the science involved was little better than making Frankenstein's monster. What better way to terrify a young girl?"

"What if it's true?" Mulder asked raggedly.

"Then we'll deal with it when we have more proof."

"What more proof? This is the last entry except for the one in gibberish."

Scully put her hand over his. "Maybe there's a message in there. If there is I'm sure you'll figure it out."

"That makes one of us," he said darkly.




Hoover Building

"Would you like some candy?" Doggett held out a bowl containing mini Snickers bars to Zinc when he arrived at their office.

"Oh, I love these," Zinc declared happily, taking one.

Since Scully was best able to interpret the results of the DNA analysis, they let her be spokesperson. "We asked you to come in today, because we've had a development in your case."

"Okay." Zinc agreed, not looking up from unwrapping his sweet.

"Yes, well, we now know for certain that it wasn't you who vandalized your mother's property."

"You could have asked him that." Zinc hooked his thumb in Mulder's direction. "Since he was with me all day."

"Yes, but we've proof that these crimes were committed by another man," Scully continued lamely.

This didn't seem to impact Zinc. "I told you that the first day we met. Some idiot pretending to be me has been doing things to people I love. And you didn't believe me." His tone was faintly accusatory, and directed at Scully rather than anyone else.

"I think what agent Scully is trying to say is that we have hard evidence." Reyes attempted gamely.

"Oh, why didn't you say so?" Zinc asked.

"I was trying to," Scully mumbled.

"Well, do you know who was doing these things, then?"

"Yes, we do."

"Who?" Zinc asked.

"I'm afraid that we're not allowed to tell you that until we've brought him in for questioning," Doggett apologized.

"Why not?"

"You ever see one of those movies were someone decides to take the law into their own hands, going all vigilante on the suspect?" Doggett asked.

"Yeah."

"That's why."

"Ah. But you're going to arrest him?"

"Actually, the police will," Mulder told him. "The only crime we have him to dead rights to at the moment is vandalism, which is just a police matter. After they book him on that, they'll turn him over to us."

Zinc stood up. "Well, as long as he stops this crap. I guess I'll talk to you later, then."

As he walked by Doggett, Doggett held out the candy dish. Zinc took two more snickers. Doggett smiled and refused to look at his wife.

"Well, that was weird," Mulder remarked.

"This whole case has been weird," Scully told him. "Why the hell would someone pretend to be someone else then commit a series of petty crimes and make themselves a general nuance?"

Mulder shrugged. "When DC's finest brings Justin Case in, we'll have to ask him."




Later

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, older brother of singer Poe. It had been a birthday present years before, but Mulder had never gotten around to reading it until recently. When he received it Byers had called it "a masterpiece of ergodic literature," while Langly had merely deemed it "a pretty decent horror novel." Frohike had disagreed entirely, saying that it wasn't horror at all but "science fiction wed to the diary of a mad man." Mulder thought he could almost sense their approving presences as he read. Maybe their ghosts even reading over his shoulder.

Scully had urged him to "Watch a movie, or read a book. Do something to take your mind off of things" so he'd pulled it out of the bookcase at last and began to read it. Until he closed in on the end, he thought that it was a good means of escaping his restless thoughts about Samantha. It turned out not to be.

When he read the letters from the mother in the book's appendix, a light bulb went off in his head. The letter wasn't quite as jarringly disjointed or nonsensical as Samantha's final letter but there were definite similarities. They seemed to say something but at the same time did not. After a moment of studying the letter in the book, he decided to act on a hunch: he wrote down only the first letter of each word. Within a few minutes he had a readable letter. At least as readable as a message from a madwoman to her son could be.

His mind buzzed as he picked up Samantha's diary. What if the strange poetry-like entry also concealed a coherent message? In just a couple of minutes he almost stopped breathing. Words were beginning to emerge. Samantha had hidden her message in plain sight.

Fox,

I am sure that you have figured out all my codes so far. I am sorry that this one is harder, but I can't have anyone but you know what I need to tell you. I still can't believe how much it hurt to discover that it was true... The baby, a boy, lived. I only saw him for a minute before they took him away... but he looked perfect. Who'd of thought I'd be a mom, at my age? The smoking man thought I couldn't hear him, but I did. They've going to give him to a family named Nye. He said they're going to call him Rory. How odd that someone else named my baby.

I'm never going to see him again, and no one cares. Isn't that sad? I'm not sure I care if I live, or if they kill me with all these tests... but I think I'm going to run away. Maybe I can make it back home, and get dad to help me find Rory. They probably don't want to raise a grandchild, but they have to. This isn't my fault, I didn't ask for this, but he is my baby.

If things don't work out, and they do actually kill me, please make sure he's happy. I'm counting on you, big brother.

Love
Samantha




"No! No! This is not fucking happening!"

When the shouting is accompanied by a crash, Scully dropped the picture book and thrust Calla into Emily's startled arms, and hissed, "Stay here." Emily nodded, and William, wide-eyed climbed up on to the couch next to his sisters.

Scully took the steps three at a time, and entered the room in time to see Mulder send more books crashing to the floor. "Mulder!"

He froze, and stared at her, his eyes drowning in misery. Without a word he picked up the notepad by his feet and handed to her. She scanned the page, and she felt a pain in her heart. "Oh, God, Mulder..." She thought of hugging him, but his expression suggested that he'd be rebuffed.

"It's just like you," he said in a fragile voice. "They used her the same damn way as they did you."

"I know, Mulder."

"Why would they do that to her? She was only thirteen years old!"

Scully shrugged. "They're evil men. There's no other explanation."

"Yeah. Now what do I do?" he asked raggedly.

"Do?"

"About the boy. About my nephew."

"Oh." Scully found herself wringing her hands like Mrs. Zinc had the day Willis had vandalized her yard. "I suppose the first thing to do is to investigate to see if he's..."

"Alive." Mulder nodded. "And if he is, find out where he is."

"Yes, probably." Now that he was calmer, Scully dared to hug him, and he clung to her. "I'm going to call Mom to take the kids tonight."

Instead of asking her why, he just nodded docilely. She didn't want to leave him alone, but she knew that he'd resent it if he realized that she thought he needed babysitting. "Try to take it easy, Mulder. I'll be back soon."




The first thing he did when Scully left the room was to hop onto his computer and use a search engine and look for his nephew's name. It turned out to be a very short search, since there were only about three dozen hits for Rory Nye, and the majority of them were pages that happened to have the hit "…Rory. Nye…" meaning that the words just appeared near each other. Of the dozen or so remaining, most were for family trees from generations before or news articles that seemed to be about an elderly man. The last four were for home pages.

One of the homepages was for a fifteen-year-old girl in Duluth.

Another was a fan site devoted to actor Rory Cochrane, the front page of which was a rant about his having been killed off on CSI: Miami

The third was apparently a page for the sixty-nine-year-old man the articles mentioned.

And the last one was for a twenty-five-year-old man in California.

Mulder studied the page, and was frustrated to learn that there was no way of contacting the young man anywhere on the page. Worse still, using the internet white pages, he didn't turn up any Rory Nyes in the city the boy listed a his. Or in the state of California. And there were two hundred and fifty R. Nyes. It might take weeks to call them all and see if any of them were Rory. The thought of pestering two hundred and fifty people did not fill him with joy.

*

"Mulder?" Scully asked a short time later. "My mom just swung by to pick up the kids."

"Oh, good," he told her. Standing up, he hit the power button on the computer's monitor. "Do you mind if I call it an early night?"

"Of course not. Are you…okay?"

"I'm better. I'm sorry if I upset the kids."

"I told them that you got upsetting news, and they were okay." As she said it, she wondered if she'd have many more reasons to explain that to them. She hoped not, and that his search for his nephew would not be a dead end.

"Still." Mulder sighed. "I'll make it up to them. Are you coming to bed too?"

"Not yet. I'll be up in a while."

Mulder kissed her. "Later, then."

She stopped him. "Mulder? If you need to hire someone to look for…him, don't worry about the expense."

"Are you sure? It could be a lot of money."

"So? This is your family we're talking about. Money shouldn't be a barrier to finding him."

"I love you," he told her. Then he went upstairs.

When she joined him in bed an hour and a half later, she suspected that he'd be tossing and turning, his brain working overtime as he tried to figure out a solution to this new problem. To her surprise, he was already sleeping soundly. She couldn't tell if that worried her more or less.




Before leaving for the office the following morning, Mulder got on the phone and placed a call to the sheriff's department that had picked up his sister twenty-five years earlier. It might take a private detective to locate his nephew, but maybe he could find another way by making use of other potential sources of information.

"Hi, my name is special agent Fox Mulder of the FBI. I'd like to speak to someone in records."

It took only seconds for his call to be transferred. "Records, how many I help you?"

"I'm looking into a case that coincided with someone from your department picking up a runaway on October 23rd, 1979 and bringing her to Dominic Savio Memorial Hospital. Basically, I'm trying to discover if she was alone that night, or if there was another girl with her. The report we received only mentioned one girl, but-"

"If being a runaway was the only charge for each girl, they might have wrote up incident reports separately. Let me go look into that for you. Hold please."

"Of course." Enigma's "Return to Innocence" cut out when the clerk came back onto the line.

"Agent Mulder? We do have two incident reports from the night in question."

"One of the girls later disappeared from the hospital, if that helps narrow it down," Mulder told the clerk quickly. "Unless they both did."

The clerk didn't seem to know what to make of that information. "Neither girl gave her name at the time of being picked up, but there's a note that hospital called back when they learned the name of one of the girls."

"What's the name?" Mulder held his breath. For all he knew, it was Samantha that had given her name. Perhaps the person who had given Scully the gist of the report five years earlier had overlooked the note. Or even deliberately withheld the information because Samantha was a minor…or for a more nefarious reason.

"Gwen E. Stone," the clerk told him. "There's an address too, but I doubt it's still valid after all these years."

"Could I have it anyway? If it's for her parents, they might be able to give us a more up to date one."

"Sure."

Elated, Mulder took down the address before thanking the clerk and hanging up. He had just enough time to dash off a letter before Scully called to him, complaining that they were going to be late if he didn't get a move on.




Doggett Home

The house was quiet as Doggett sat and watched a taped NASCAR race. Gibson was back at school, and Reyes had taken the kids to a play group that went on while parents of multiples met to discuss the special challenges their families faced. So it was just Doggett and Chase. Chase didn't seem very interested in the race, but she thumped her tail sleepily as Doggett petted her.

Then chaos returned with the opening of the front door. The triplets tumbled through and threw themselves at him. "Daddee!" Also excited by the activity around her, Chase began to howl.

After he greeted his children, Doggett looked up at Reyes and was shocked to see that she looked white as a sheet. "Monica, what's wrong?"

"Oh, John… It's Linda," she said, referring to another parent that they'd both become friendly with.

"Is she okay?"

"No," Reyes said, and tears began to seep out from under her eyelids. "It's terrible."

As he listened to his wife explain what had happened, he found himself agreeing. It was terrible. And they were so fortunate compared to her that it almost made him cry too. He was a very sober, and very grateful man when he put his children to bed that night.

The last thing he said to Reyes before they went to bed themselves was, "We can't fix anything, but we can help. I don't know how yet, but we will." Reyes nodded, but he wasn't sure if she was agreeing that they could help, or that they couldn't fix things. Maybe both.




Dive In Books
Centerwood, Virginia

The woman in the back room of the book store wondered again if she could afford to hire a bookkeeper part time. She probably could since business was good. Actually, if she was honest with herself, she could more than afford it. It was making herself hand over the reins to someone else that was the problem. Trusting that other people were competent was not her strong suit.

The door opened, and she looked up to see an employee, Josh, peering into the room. "Erica, there's someone asking for you out front."

"Who?"

Josh shrugged. "Guy in a suit. I don't think it's a vendor."

Erica sighed, then got up to see who it was. The man was standing near the front counter. Tall and lanky, dark haired, and when he turned towards her she saw greenish-brown eyes. She was fairly sure that they'd never met before, but nonetheless something seemed naggingly familiar about him.

Before she could open her mouth, he asked, "Are you Gwen Stone?"

"Yes. I go by my middle name, Erica, these days though." The lack of expression on his face unsettled her. Not to mention that he knew her first name, which she never used any more. "And you are?"

Instead of answering immediately, he stuck his hand in his pocket. For one wild moment she was struck by the fear that he was going to withdraw a weapon, or nearly as bad, serve her with papers. The object he took out looked a lot like a wallet, but when he flipped it open it held only a photo ID. "Special agent Fox Mulder. I have reason to believe that you might have helpful information regarding an unsolved case."

"W-what case is that?" Erica stammered in surprise. A visit from the FBI was the last thing she would have guessed was waiting for her when she left the back room.

Pain was suddenly evident in the man's eyes. "The 1973 disappearance of my younger sister, Samantha Anne Mulder."

"Samantha," she repeated. No wonder there had been that vague sense of familiarity. "That's not a name I've heard in a long while." She motioned Josh over. "Josh, you always say that you want more responsibility around here...you're in charge for now."

"Okay."

Turning to the FBI agent, she gave him a tentative smile. "There's a nice coffee shop a few doors down."

"Sounds good," The fed said as he followed her to the door.




Inside the coffee shop, Erica staked out a table while he waited for his drink. He'd flustered the counter help by ordering coffee regular rather than a latte or chai. Erica secretly suspected that they'd had to brew a pot of coffee just to fill his order.

Eventually he brought his coffee over and took a seat. He took a sip and then gave her intent look. "I take you brought me here because I was right. You do have information for me about my sister's disappearance."

Erica nodded. "I think so. At least, I knew her after 1973."

The agent nodded. "The man my father worked with took her. For long time I didn't know what happened to her after she was taken from our house, but within the past few years two diaries that she'd kept as a girl surfaced. The second one, the one that I've only had for a few months, mentioned you."

"Oh."

"From what she wrote, it seemed like you are one of the few people who was kind to her."

"Yeah. Me and Nicholas. I think we were her only friends."

"Nicholas. I take it that he's my nephew's father."

"As far as I know." Erica gave him long look. "Your nephew. Do you-"

The man shook his head. "I don't know where he is. Just that he was born."

Erica laughed bitterly. "I suppose you can call it that. Every time I think about test tube babies, and surrogates, I think of your nephew. It strikes me as being science-fiction, or maybe voodoo, even though the science has helped thousands and thousands of people the same way to have babies they want."

He looked mildly surprised. "Then he was carried by a surrogate?"

"You didn't know?"

"That's what I surmised from what she wrote, but I didn't think the technology existed back then, at least not in very many places. I was afraid that she only put it in terms that vaguely suggested that because she was ashamed about what they'd done to her, and she'd really been pregnant-"

"No, she didn't carry the baby. I guess they weren't quite evil enough to embrace forced teen pregnancy." The look on Erica's face suggested that she wasn't quite being truthful. She clearly thought that they were in fact that evil, but that they'd had reasons for not making Samantha carry her own baby.

"Perhaps. Or maybe, just maybe, they thought it would hurt more to know that there was a baby, and it was hers, but there was no way she could protect it."

"If that was their goal, then they were successful. It drove her frantic knowing that they could do anything they wanted to the baby, which they eventually did."

"From what I can figure, they made the baby to punish her. Well, I'm sure they also wanted to see if they could do it, but they chose her because she'd made them mad. But she never explained how. Not what she'd done to anger them."

Erica blinked. "You don't know? No, it's clear you don't. It's just... you weren't surprised and I mentioned Nicholas's name, so... what do you know about Nicholas?"

"Not much. Just as he was one of Samantha's friends. It seems like he lived there too, with you girls."

"That's right. Like Sam and I, he was the child of one of the people working with-" Erica broke off.

"With the colonists," Mulder supplied.

She looked relieved. "Yes. I met him before I met your sister, actually. If you can call both being dragged out of your beds in the middle of the night and herded into a building by your fathers meeting someone...

"He was his father youngest son, and at that point much out of favor. He never told us why. He was convinced his father didn't love him, and it was hard for us to disagree. I don't know Samantha felt, but I made me secretly relieved that my father, though involved with the project, was not one in the men on site. At least, that way I could pretend that when he was doing wasn't quite as wrong. Nicholas didn't have the luxury.

"He was supposed to be isolated. I think they kept him with some of the adult hostages, but we never saw his room. Samantha and I were allowed to have the room together, so we weren't quite as alone as we could've been, but Nicholas was kept apart. Somehow, I don't remember exactly how, we met him. He was our friend. Eventually his father found out. And of course he was pissed. He yelled at us, told us never to see each other again."

"But Nicholas and Samantha didn't listen," Agent Mulder stated.

"No. I still remember the screaming... most of Nicholas is father's ranting didn't make much sense, but the gist of it was that he'd somehow thought that Samantha and Nicholas were behaving inappropriately." Erica looked up at him. "But it wasn't true. They hadn't even kissed. Last thing he yelled was something about if they wanted to be teenage parents so badly, he'd arrange that for them. I never got to ask Nicholas was he thought about it, but Samantha and I thought he was just being crazy.

"Until the next month when they hurt her with the needle. And began to taunt her with the idea that actually would be a baby." Erica looked melancholy. "I always wondered what happened to Nicholas after that. All I can remember it is his father dragging him away. The image of his father's gleaming fingernails digging into his arm stays with me."

FBI agent Mulder's head shot up. "Gleaming fingernails? Like they'd been manicured?"

"Exactly. His fingernails always looked like they were manicured. He was that type of guy. Suit never wrinkled, never a hair out of place."

The woman had no idea she'd just described the man who'd helped Mulder save Scully to a T. Mulder's mind conjured up the last conversation that the Well Manicured Man ever had, and his mention of making the world a better place for his grandchildren. It made Mulder wonder if he had counted Rory among them. "So you never saw Nicholas again," he said.

"No. And to be honest with you, I have no idea if he's still alive. I've been checking now and then on the internet for years, and never came up with anything. But how much can you do when you never knew his last name?" She shakes her head. "We looked for him, before we ran off. Didn't find him though. I never saw the baby either. I think he was long gone by then, probably hours earlier. Samantha saw him once. The baby, I mean Did you know that? I think they did it just to be cruel to her. They held him up, so she could see they weren't joking. She said he had wispy blond hair. She couldn't see the color of his eyes, but she said she thought they would've been blue anyway. Maybe they would've changed when he got older. Then they took him away. That's the night we left."

"You just left?" The man's voice trembled just a little.

"It was easier than we thought it would be, like it never occurred to them that any of us might leave. The locks were broken easily enough by a couple of teenagers with no lock-picking experience. A couple of the doors weren't even locked at all... I don't know why, but neither of us thought to question it. Ever since, though, I've wondered if someone meant for us to get out."

"Like you were being set up?"

Erica shrugged. "Or maybe helped. I don't know which. Anyway...when we got out of the compound it was all we could do keep quiet instead of loudly celebrating. I grabbed your sister's hand, and we ran until we staggered to a stop, panting for breath."

"It must have been hard to run, with Samantha so hurt," he remarked and Erica looked at him sharply. "I know she ended up in the hospital not long after getting away."

"Yeah, we both did. We were both in poor shape to begin with, and the running didn't help. Forty-eight hours later we were thirty miles from the compound and dead on our feet. Samantha collapsed on the side of the road, and I wasn't far behind her."

"Someone picked you up then?"

Erica shook her head. "Once we caught our breath we got to our feet we staggered into police station that was only a quarter of a mile away, thank God. Any farther than that, and we never would have made it. A sheriff escorted us to the hospital instead of just giving directions like we wanted." She frowned at him. "I take it from the look on your face that you know what happened after that. Or as much as anyone does."

"She disappeared out of the hospital, and…she died," the brother said slowly. "Do you believe in spirits?"

"I believe in a lot of things, given what I went through as a kid," Erica admitted.

"A few years back, not long after my partner and I talked to the nurse that admitted Samantha, I…I saw her. Samantha. She seemed fairly happy, for someone who wasn't alive, I mean." He blushed. "I probably sound crazy to you."

"No, not really," Erica told him. "I've never told anyone this before, but think I saw her too, not long after she disappeared. I was still in the hospital, and no one had come for me. One night I woke up and saw her near the window. I was about to ask her where she'd been for the past few days, but I noticed that she didn't look right. Insubstantial somehow. She waved good-bye and then she vanished."

He didn't say anything for a while, which was okay with her. She was still trying to absorb the fact that they were sitting there, playing true paranormal confessions, and both being believed by the other. That wasn't something that happened every day. Eventually he looked up at her, asking, "Have you had an okay life? Considering?"

She shrugged. "I have a business, two sons, and a failed marriage. It's been years since I woke up in the middle of the night worrying that someone was coming to take me away. It's a pretty typical life, all told. I don't have many complaints these days.

"Good. But one last question, if you don't mind," Samantha's brother begged.

"Sure."

"What did Nicholas look like?"

Erica set her cup down and gave him a curious look. "Like an ordinary kid. He was one of the few boys we saw with any regularity, so you'd of thought that would make him handsome to us, but it really didn't. I don't know about Samantha, but I never really thought much about him being a boy, if you can understand what I'm trying to get at. Nick was just our buddy, nothing more. Anyway, he was short for his age, thin, blond and blue-eyed. He looked like a million other boys you'd pass on the street and never glance at twice. Why do you ask?"

For a second she saw something that looked a lot like pain in his eyes, but then in was gone. "Sometimes I wonder what my nephew looks like. I picture him looking like my sister, but he doesn't have to."

"Blue eyes!" Erica exclaimed, and the brother cast her a startled look. "They both had blue eyes, so he probably does too."

The brother nodded slowly, then got to his feet. He pulled a ten-dollar bill out of his wallet and laid it on the table. "Get another drink, if you want. Thank you for speaking to me today. I'll let you get back to what you were doing, now."

Before he left, Erica called out to him. "Mister Mulder?" He turned. "If you find your nephew, I'd like to know you did."

"Sure."

Then he was out the door, without a backwards glance. Erica sighed then left herself, hoping to find that Josh had managed okay in her brief absence.




On the drive home, Mulder mentally composed a thank-you letter to Erica's younger brother Rick. He'd written Mulder to explain that he'd inherited his parents' home after they died in an unfortunate fire, and had given him the address of Erica's business so he could contact her there. Mulder figured that he understood why Rick Stone had hesitated over giving him her home address - lots of people looked out for their siblings, and giving their addresses to strangers violated the spirit of that.

Although it would probably require a detective's help to locate Rory, Mulder was calm as he drove home. There was something about knowing that it was all real that made him somehow feel better about things, not worse as he predicted. Perhaps, he thought as he pulled onto an onramp, it was just knowing that Samantha had been telling the truth, and not crazy that did it.




Hoover Building
Two Days Later

Case was surly when the police handed custody of him over to the FBI, but at least he was human, so he had that going for him over a lot of suspects that the office had investigated.

Justin looked exactly like Zinc and Mulder resisted the urge to ask if the real Willis Zinc would please stand up. "So we finally meet," he said sarcastically. "This isn't the sort of thing that the FBI normally wastes their time on, so I suppose you ought to be honored."

Case didn't look honored.

"Mister Case…" Reyes broke off and stared at him. "Is Justin Case your real name?"

Case nodded. "Yes. It's not the one that my parents put on my birth certificate, but I had it legally changed to it."

"Why?" Doggett asked, fascinated.

"It's a memorable name."

"That it is."

Scully cut to the chase. "Mister Case, why did you engage in the systematic harassment of Willis Zinc's loved ones?"

"One reason. Money."

"Then you intended to black mail him?"

"No, nothing like that. I was paid to be him." Eventually the sullen impostor let the cat out of the bag. "Look, I'm an actor, okay? I was hired to 'be' this guy and be mean to people he knew."

"But why?" Reyes asked plaintively.

The actor shrugged. "This guy has made a lot of people angry at him. So some got together and hired me."

Mulder remembered how the daughter of the man Willis busted had reacted. He could imagine other people being more riled. "Okay, I can see some people being mad enough to want revenge. But why get it in this way?"

"They're college kids."

"So?"

"They're English majors or something. Said they got the idea from some book by a Russian author-"

"The Double?" Mulder asked eagerly.

"Yeah, I think that's what it was called," the actor agreed.

"I told you!" Mulder crowed, giving his fellow agents smug looks.

"But you mentioned it as if you believed that he actually had a doppelganger like the man in the book did." Doggett objected.

"You're just jealous that I figured out the connection to the book."

"Book, smook, they paid me ten grand to fuck the guy's life up," Case told them.

"I hope that was worth the jail time you'll be facing now," Scully said evenly, and he glared at her.




That Weekend

In the end Willis Zinc had been a satisfied, if not happy, man. Everyone that Case had harassed forgave him, and he was able to go back to his normal life. It made Mulder wish that his own problems could be solved by a few "sorrys". A PI had located his nephew and he planed to go and visit the boy unannounced within days.

He still couldn't put aside his obsession with Samantha's diary, even though he'd solved all the riddles. Holding it now and then made him feel a little closer to the girl who had been so violently ripped out of his life. He sometimes wondered if their roles had been reversed, as they well might have been, if she'd have spent as long looking for him as he did trying to locate her. He hoped so.

Thinking about this, Mulder absentmindedly worried the cover of the diary with the nail of one thumb. Eventually he put too much pressure on it, and the end paper began to separate from cover. When he looked down at the cover and noticed an ancient crust of dried glue. Curiosity propelled him to tug a little more on the end paper. When he did, the corner of a folded sheet of paper was revealed. It obviously was not part of the book.

Digging into his desk, he came up with a pair of tweezers. Pulling as gently as he was capable of, he slowly extracted the paper. Then he took a few deep breaths before he unfolded it and read it. It was written in sloppy, but readable, English.

 

Fox,

Gwen and I are leaving in about an hour. Do you remember mom saying that she had bad feelings about things, and sometimes those feeling came true? I've got one of those. I'm never going to get home. But I'm not going to die here either, I won't. Maybe Gwen will get away, or Nicholas, so you'll know what happened to me. I loved you, okay? You need to know that. You're the only one I still miss.

I told you that they showed me the baby today. I've changed my mind about him. If you find him, and he's happy, don't hurt him by telling him about me. I'm sure the people who are going to raise him won't ever mention that he was an experiment and a punishment. That sort of thing would really hurt his heart. It does mine. So rescue him if he's being harmed, but if he's happy let him go.

One of us deserves to be happy after all of this.

Samantha

 

Mulder slide down in his chair. It had never occurred to him that contacting Rory might turn the boy's life completely upside down in a wholly uninvited way. If he was secure and happy already, to bring up the horrible past would be as cruel to him as to what had been done to Zinc – but minus even revenge as shaky justification. The only thing it might accomplish was making him feel better at someone else's expense.

He opened the link to Rory's homepage again and studied it. Did Rory look happy? Did he look like a piece of his life was inexplicitly missing, one that he wanted filled? The small photograph of Rory didn't really look one way or the other. Rory looked serious, but not tortured.

Frowning to himself, Mulder's next web destination was to return to his travel agent's webpage.

*

When he went down to wash up for dinner, he kissed Scully first. "I cancelled my trip."

"You did? Why?"

He handed her the last message. "Be gentle with it, it's the original." When she finished reading and looked up, he explained, "On his webpage he seems like a pretty together guy. He's got three younger brothers, a girlfriend, and some decent hobbies. I think that's what Samantha had in mind when she wanted him to be happy. I don't want to go against her final wish."

"This is a selfless thing you're doing, Mulder. I know how badly you wanted to meet the last living connection to your sister."

Mulder shrugged. "My happiness isn't worth destroying his."

She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said, "This doesn't need to be the end of it. If it was my niece or nephew, I'd register with the biggest adoption database. If you're right and he doesn't know he's adopted, or doesn't care, then he'll never find out about you. But if on the other hand he's looking for his birth family, it's a way to let him find answers without being tracked down unexpectedly."

"Even if he wants answers, do you think he wants this kind of answer?" Scully smacked him on the arm. "Ow, what was that for?!" Mulder asked indignantly.

"Have you really forgotten what Monica went through looking for her own truth? She knew that it might end as badly as it did going into the search. If Rory's looking, he's old enough to know that too."

"You're probably right," he admitted.

"Besides, even with all the bad stuff he might discover about his history, there's one thing that he gets in return that poor Monica didn't – a family."

"Well, she did make her own," Mulder pointed out. "But you've sold me. I'll register this week."

"Good. After dinner will you help William learn how to tie his shoes? He's determined to be the first kid in his preschool class to do it, and he and I aren't making much headway."

"It's all about the bunny ears, Scully." Mulder grinned at her, and for the first time in weeks she was convinced that he was going to be all right.




October 14th, 2005

The phone rang while Scully fumbled to get the lock open. They'd turned off the answering machine the night before to replace the battery backup, and she was doubtful that they'd remembered to turn in on again. When it got past the fourth ring, she knew they hadn't. Swinging the door open suddenly, she paused just long enough to put Calla in the playpen before diving for the phone.

"Hello?"

The person at the other end hesitated. "Hello, I'm hoping to speak to Fox Mulder."

Whoever he was, he was young, and she didn't recognize his voice. "I'm sorry, he's picking the kids up from school. I can have him get back to you if you leave your name and phone number."

"Uh, ok. My name is Rory Nye-"

She almost dropped the phone. "You found him."

Rory sounded puzzled. "You know who I am?"

"Yes, you're my husband Fox's nephew. He only found out you existed a couple of months ago, and didn't know if you'd want him to get in touch with you or not."

"I was kind of hoping to meet him, actually." Rory sounded shy. "If that's ok with you and him, of course."

"I think that would please your uncle very, very much, Rory."

There was another pause. "My mom's dead, right? I'm sorry, I shouldn't put you on the spot."

"I'm sorry, but she died not long after you were born. You do, however, have two uncles and three cousins, so you aren't without blood relations."

"Yeah… I always kind of thought she'd died. Anyway, my number is 555-5178. I'll be home all night if he wants to call me."

"Ok, I'm sure he'll be calling you before long. Bye."




Mulder was barely in the door when Scully grabbed him by the arm and lead him aside.

"What gives?" he asked as they huddled in the laundry room.

"He found you."

"He who found me."

"Rory, your nephew. He called an hour ago and left his number. I think he wants to meet you!"

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him that you'd call him back when you got home. Are you excited?"

"Yeah, sure." He smiled at her. But he'd thought to wonder something after canceling his trip. Would meeting Rory mean that he'd have to deal with people connected to the syndicate? Samantha's diary entries had implied that the choice of Rory's parents had been made by the syndicate, so the parents were probably involved.

Scully didn't seem to notice his ambivalence. She put a slip of paper in his hand. "Go on, call him."

So Mulder did.




October 21st, 2005

Standing at the window, Mulder tried to calm the butterflies in his stomach as he watched a young man get out of the strange car parked in their driveway. The young man gave the house a quizzical look, then pulled a scrap of paper out of his pocket and glanced between it and the numbers next to the door.

Scully elbowed him in the ribs. "Don't leave him out there wondering if this is the right house."

"Oh yeah," he said, heading for the front door. The blond man spun in his direction as the door opened. "Rory?"

Rory smiled. "You must be my uncle Fox."

To his credit Mulder didn't react to the use of his given name. "That's me. Come on in and meet your cousins."

"Okay," Rory said, bravely following him into the lions' den.

They only got as far as the living room before Mulder paused. Calla was wide awake in the baby swing and seemed thrilled to have company. She smiled at her Daddy, showing off her first tooth. "This little sweetheart is my youngest, Calla."

"How old is she?"

"Eight months."

The next words out of Rory's mouth weren't ones Mulder had never heard before, "That old?"

"Yeah. She was two months early, so she's behind full term kids born when she was, but on target for when she was supposed to have been born. Her pediatrician says most preemies catch up as toddlers."

"It must have been scary, back when she was born," Rory said sympathetically.

"Beyond belief. But all that's behind her now," Mulder told him.

Rory smiled down at her. "Lucky girl!" he was rewarded with a wet baby laugh.

"Daddy?" a voice called from the vicinity of the stairs. "Can we come down now? Mommy said to wait."

"What do you think, Rory, up to another couple introductions?"

"Bring it on."

"Come on down," Mulder called back. William sprinted down the stairs and Emily followed at a more dignified pace. Suddenly shy at the sight of his cousin, William hung on Mulder's legs.

Mulder reached down and attempted to smooth out Williams curls." This shy little fellow is William. He's four-"

"Four and a half!" He was immediately, indignantly, corrected.

"-four and a half. And the charming young lady to the right, is Emily. She will be twelve next month."

"Nice to meet you," Emily said quietly.

Rory made a small talk with his cousins for a few minutes, and then Scully came in to claim the children. "I need some help setting the table." She announced and they both took off the kitchen. She held at her hand to Rory. "It's nice to finally meet you. He calls me Scully, but you can call me Dana."

The look on Rory's face suggested that he thought the fact that his uncle called her Scully was odd, but he didn't say anything about it. Instead he just shook her hand. "It's nice to meet you too, Dana."

After a rattling noise from the kitchen, Scully looked alarmed, and said, "I better see what they're up to" And hurried off.

"So, my cousins are a lot younger than I am," Rory remarked. "I guess my mother was the older sibling."

"Actually no," Mulder said uneasily. "She was four years younger."

"But..." Rory looked confused.

Mulder sighed. "How much do you want to know about the circumstances of your birth?"

"The fact that you feel you have to ask makes it sound as though there some unpleasantness there," his nephew said warily. Mulder just nodded. "Well, let's start with when was she was born?"

"November 21st, 1965."

"Wow..." He looked off into the distance, and Mulder was absolutely sure he was doing the math in his head. "She wasn't even fourteen yet. Did, um, your parents send her away when they found out that she was…I mean, Dana said on the phone that you'd just found out about me so… "

"My parents didn't know about you, either," Mulder said, refusing to consider the fact that his parents may well have known what had been done to their daughter. "Samantha was kidnapped in 1973 and none of us ever saw her again. It was only about five years ago that I discover that she died in October of 1979."

Rory looked crestfallen. "This is she died because of me, then? I know that pregnancies are more dangerous for teenage girls-"

Mulder had decided to let Rory direct the conversation, and ask about what he wanted to know at his own pace, but he couldn't let him believe that. "Her death had little to do with you. The people who kidnapped her did medical experiments on her. One of them involved extracting some of her ova and using a surrogate to carry a baby of hers to term. You. I think that it was coincidental that she died just couple days after you were born. I believe that she would have died either way."

"Why would anyone…?"

"I don't know. Beyond 'because they could', I can't give you a better answer."

"No, you wouldn't be able to. Sorry. Do you know anything about my father?"

"Very little," Mulder admitted. "His name was Nicholas, and he was a teenage boy that was being experimented on as well. I spoke to a woman who had lived with Samantha and Nicholas, and she said the last time she saw him was early into the year you were born. He may be alive, but they never knew his last name, so her efforts to find him haven't ever turned anything up."

"So he was just a kid too. Jesus."

"I'm sorry to be the bearer of such news, Rory."

"It's not your fault. I came hoping to find answers, so I can't complain that they aren't pretty ones. I've wondered about things for years, and now I have some pieces of the puzzle."

"So you knew you were adopted? I found your webpage and you mentioned being the oldest child, so I wasn't sure if you knew that you were."

"We're all adopted. My folks couldn't have any kids but wanted a big family, so they adopted us all around the same time."

"All around the same time?" Mulder gave him a puzzled look. "Your brothers are still in school, so you must be a lot older than they are."

"I am. I was adopted by the Daniels-"

"The Daniels? But I thought your last name was Nye."

"It is. My first adopted parents surname was Nye. They died in a car crash when I was seven. I lived in a children's home for about six months before being adopted by the Daniels."

Mulder's mind buzzed. When Rory was seven, he himself had been in his mid-twenties. Raising a little boy wouldn't have been easy as a rookie, but he wasn't even given the opportunity to accept or decline the duty. It made him angry enough at the people who had orchestrated Rory's childhood that he wished they weren't all dead so he could track them down and kill them.

"Uncle Fox?" Rory asked uncertainly. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Just suddenly very angry that fates conspired to keep us apart when you needed a home."

"It's okay, really. The Daniels have been very good to me, and I love them dearly."

"Glad to hear it." Mulder did feel relieved about that, if only just a little. At least they probably were in no way involved in the syndicate's conspiracy. If they'd been involved it was unlikely that Rory would have spent any time in an orphanage before being given to them. "I'd invite you to come for Thanksgiving, but I suppose you'll spend the day with your folks."

"Actually, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. My mother says she doesn't believe in, I quote, 'the oppression of native peoples.' I'm sure that's entirely my brother Bleu's fault."

"Bleu?"

"His real name is Blue Sky, but he insists on spelling blue like the cheese. Though he says that it's like the band every time we give him shit about it. It's his name though, so I guess he can spell it any way he likes."

"Yeah." Mulder decided that Bleu's parents probably hadn't been hippies. "If it won't cause friction with your mom, the offer stands. You're more than welcome to come share turkey and pie."

"She always said that she knew we'd probably celebrate the holiday someday. I can hear her in my head saying that if I have to do it, there's no one better to do it with than my long lost family."

"Guys?" Scully poked her head back into the room. "Dinner's ready."




A Couple Hours Later

They spoke a while longer, then Mulder walked Rory out to his car. "Take care of yourself, Rory. I guess we'll see you in a few weeks. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November."

Rory groaned good-naturedly. "I know that!"

"Just checking." Mulder smiled broadly at him.

"See you then, Uncle Fox."

As his nephew backed out of the driveway, he waved out the window of his rental car. Mulder waved back. Uncle Fox. Finding his nephew wouldn't bring Samantha back, but it was something. Maybe it was enough.

The End

Author's end notes: in my pics on this site Rory Nye is played by Benjamin McKenzie and Emily by Skye McCole Bartusiak.



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