Title: Resurrection series: V. Clothed In Starlight
Spoilers: The Calusuri, The Walk, Closure, William, The Truth
Disclaimer: Chris Carter created the characters you recognize. I created the one you don't.
Author's note: This is the last story in this series. It follows:
Summary: I think I realized the implications of what Samantha said before he did. But then, for once I had less unwillingness to believe the incredible. (Scully POV)
November 29th, 2004
Although she was the subject of our conversation, five-year-old Amber Lynn LaPierre rarely looked up from the picture she was drawing. It looked like it might have been a Christmas tree.
"Amber loves Christmas, always has," Mrs. LaPierre said fondly when she noticed that my eyes were on the crayoned page. "I kept the presents we bought her that year. I'm so glad that she's here to get them now. This is going to be the most wonderful Christmas ever."
"God, will it ever be," her husband added reverently.
I nodded, but I was thinking about Christmas shopping. I'd never bought Emily a Christmas present before, but not by choice. I'd wanted to, back when she was in the hospital.
I was going to buy her a copy of Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie. Tara had shown it to me, saying that it was her favorite of those she'd been given at her baby shower. There had been this picture in my mind of reading it to Emily every night once the adoption went through and I had her home with me. But she'd gotten sick so fast and I'd been so reluctant to leave the hospital that I hadn't even been able to buy the book before she was gone.
"You must be looking forward to Christmas too," Mrs. LaPierre said, unable to pick up on my mood. "Now that you have your girls back, too."
My girls. Emily was well within her rights to call me Mommy, but I had the sense that Samantha barely tolerated my existence. She was little fonder of Emily and William. Considering that Mulder was all that remained from her old life, it wasn't hard to understand her jealousy of those who divide his attention. She often seemed angry at him too, however. To say she was a complicated child only touched the surface...
When I became aware of the conversation lull, I blurted out "Yes." It was almost the truth.
Like the general and his wife had been, Amber's parents were thrilled to have their little daughter back. So thrilled that it made me feel guilty that I was still feeling somewhat ambivalent about Emily's return. I was so amazed that she was alive, but it was hard to get past being startled every time I looked at her. That would eventually change, wouldn't it? Why was it so much easier for Doggett and the others?
Well, not all the others. At least I'd never looked at my daughter or my youngest sister-in-law with the thought that they were evil and should be dead again. Not after they revealed their identities Halloween night, anyway.
I made a mental note to check in with Charlie and Teddy once I got home, just to see how the boys were doing now that Teddy was out of the hospital. Then I became aware that the convention in the room had continued in my mental absence.
"Thank you for speaking to us," Doggett said as he extended a hand to Mr. LaPierre. "Your interview will help our investigation a lot."
Mr. LaPierre firmly shook his hand. "I'm glad we could be of assistance. Do you mind if I ask you both a question?"
"No, but I can't promise that I can answer it," I answered guardedly and Doggett nodded slightly.
"Of course. I was just hoping to know how many children we're talking about."
"Six that we can confirm at this point. We're looking into one more," I admitted. We were fairly sure we'd soon be meeting with Harold Piller's newly resurrected son, but I wasn't willing to add him to the official tally until we saw him with our own eyes.
A strange expression flitted across Mr. LaPierre's face. "So this is a fairly isolated miracle. I wonder what blessed us of all people."
Though I didn't say, I wondered too.
The LaPierres were still smiling as Doggett and I left their home. I was mostly convinced that their delight was genuine.
"After what happened here during our case, I never expected to come back again." I said as I returned Amber's wave.
Doggett looked up at me with a small smile of his own. "Do you know what Skinner said to me before we left? 'Years ago when Mulder and I discussed that case he told me people thought she was dead but not to bet on it.' Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy."
I felt a chill, and couldn't stop myself from shivering.
Doggett sighed as we got into the car. "One more family, then we can go home."
"Are you just missing Tabby and Luke, or worried about Monica?" I asked.
"Both," he admitted. "We're supposed to take the kids for a family portrait this week, and Tabby has been practicing 'dressing up' which is both goofy and adorable considering she doesn't usually dress herself yet, or even help. Last time she 'dressed' herself in Luke's bathrobe and Monica's winter boots."
Doggett's pleased expression wilted. "It's stupid, but it also worries me to leave Monica when she's pregnant. I mean, when you were pregnant Mulder..."
I thought about telling him that my pregnancy probably would have been difficult even if Mulder had been glued to my side the whole nine months, but I didn't. It would have been insulting to imply he didn't know that.
Instead I asked, "Do you know if you're having a boy or girl yet? Monica hasn't said." I wasn't sure if I had the right to expect her to. We were friends, but that was mostly born of proximity and a shared livelihood.
"Nope. We want to be surprised."
I had to kill an inappropriate urge to laugh. But after having a dead child return to life, could anything surprise him still? My ability to feel surprised seemed to have been amputated.
"We'll be home in a couple of days. I'm sure she'll be fine."
"Yeah," Doggett said in an almost convincing tone.
My phone began to ring shortly after we reached the airport. I was people watching while waiting for Doggett to get coffee, so the unexpected ring startled me.
"Mulder?" I asked, confused when I saw our home number on the phone's screen. "I thought I was going to call you tonight?" Maybe I'd crossed my wires.
"Scully, Samantha knows. She definitely knows!"
That statement made no sense to me and his agitation worried me. "What does she know?"
"I'm pretty sure she knows everything. And she won't tell me!"
"Mulder, I have no idea what you're talking about. Slow down. Give me more details."
I heard him take a deep shuddery breath. "A little while ago I was trying to get Samantha do her homework. She said that she hated third grade and should have chosen to be in high school when she had the choice to. I asked her what she meant by that and she refused to tell me.
"Scully, when she had the choice to? Do you understand now?"
His reaction was beginning to make sense. "So you think she was being serious about having had a choice?"
"I didn't at first, but when she refused to answer I began to suspect that it wasn't just talk. Now she's upstairs and refuses to let Emily into the room, even. Considering she won't talk about it I'm pretty sure she wasn't lying."
"Wow," I said weakly. It had never occurred to me to wonder if any of the kids had any idea what had happened to them. I'd taken it for granted that they didn't.
Before I could even begin to articulate my next thought, he was reading my mind. "Haven't you wondered why she's eight instead of fourteen?"
Of course I had. I'd never tell Mulder, but the instant after I saw her whole and alive in our living room I thought to myself, so I was right. As much peace as the idea of "seeing" Samantha's spirit a few years ago had seemed to bring him, I'd never been convinced that it hadn't been a hallucination. or an illusion.
We had a diary, true, and an old nurse's word that she'd seen the girl in the hospital, but I had always thought those things could both be part of an elaborate hoax. Seeing the smoking man one last time after we sprung Mulder from jail had only bolstered my belief that the feeling of resolution Mulder had gotten had been authored by him. He just hadn't lived long enough afterwards to pull the rug out from under Mulder yet again like a wrinkled old chain-smoking Lucy Van Pelt.
"Yes, I've wondered," I said without admitting any of my other thoughts on the matter.
"You have to help me convince her to tell us everything. It's not just us any more. If this keeps happening, we have a responsibility to the other parents. Especially if it helps people not to react like Maggie Hovey did."
He was right. We'd told the LaPierres that there were six, maybe seven kids, but there could be more that we didn't know about. Maybe a lot more.
"I will, Mulder. Just as soon as we get back, okay?"
"Can you come home now?" His voice held a plaintive note that alarmed me. And he'd never asked me to bail on a case before, so it was telling about just how worried he must be.
"I'll ask Doggett if he can talk to Piller on own," I promised half-heartedly.
"Please," he begged, nailing closed the coffin of my reluctance to put everything on Doggett.
Doggett's worries suddenly seemed dwarfed by my own.
"You look worried," Doggett remarked as he returned with our coffee.
"I am. John... I need to go home. Now."
Doggett's face flooded with concern. "What's wrong?"
"Mulder needs me to help him deal with a situation that's come up. With his sister."
"Does it have something to do with this case?" he surprised me by asking.
I nodded slightly. "It's possible that she might know how the kids returned."
"Monica and I have asked Luke what happened, but he always says that he doesn't know. He claims he can't remember anything. It would be good if one of them can give us answers."
"I know." It was slightly manipulative, but I made no effort to hide the worry I felt.
"I can talk to Harold Piller on my own," Doggett assured me. "Don't worry about bailing on me."
"Don't be. If you get answers, it'll benefit us all."
I knew he was right, but it was hard to leave him standing there with his bag as I ran to get a ticket for a flight home.
Four Hours Later
While I paid the taxi driver for bringing me home from the airport, I cast the house an apprehensive look. It was quiet and well-lit. Nothing seemed amiss, which I considered a good thing. I didn't think Mulder would ever harm his sister, but I could easily imagine her refusal to talk leading to a shouting match that would bring down the house. Or bring out the neighbors, which would be worse.
When I opened the door, William and Emily ran to greet me. I swung Emily up to rest on my hip, and she wrapped her arms around my neck. Neither child seemed to be upset, which I took as a good sign.
"Mommy, Emily and I are making cards. With paint!" William exclaimed happily. "Daddy said we could make Christmas cards for Uncle Bill and Uncle Charlie. Wanna see them?"
"I do, but not right now, baby. You can show me once they're all dry. Where's Daddy?" I asked.
"In the kitchen."
I expected to find him either in a rage or in tears, but he was calmly readying a chicken for the oven.
"Mulder?" I put Emily down and she ran off to play with her brother.
He put the bird back in its pan and looked over to me. "Hey. How was your flight?"
"Fine, how are you?" I asked pointedly.
"All right. I was thinking that we could talk to her after dinner. Okay?"
"Sure," I told him.
I found his calm unnerving, so I'll admit that I left him there and went to see Samantha immediately. As disloyal as it felt, I just needed to see her with my own eyes.
After rapping sharply on the door, I called. "Samantha? It's Dana."
An agonizing minute passed before the door slowly swung open. Though she looked pissed off, Samantha seemed fine otherwise. Giving me a cool look she said, "I thought you weren't going to be home until the day after tomorrow."
"There was a change of plans." I replied just as coolly. "We're having dinner around seven-thirty."
Dinner was quiet, and Samantha escaped to the room she and Emily shared as soon as she put her plate in the sink. I thought Mulder would protest, but he let her go without a word.
The picked clean carcass of the chicken was still on the island when my mother arrived to take William and Emily to her place for a while.
"Hello, darlings!" She hugged both of my children. "I was thinking that we'd watch a movie tonight."
"Which one, grandma?" William asked eagerly.
"I was thinking we could watch Aladdin. Your auntie Tara sent me a copy of the movie." She patted them on their heads. "Why don't you go get ready to go?"
"Okay!!" William grabbed Emily's hand and dragged her towards the stairs.
Although she greeted the children with smiling enthusiasm, she pulled me aside the moment they ran up stairs to get their coats. "I don't mind spending some time with the little ones, but you sounded upset on the phone. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Mom. We just need to talk to Samantha alone."
The look on my mother's face all but called me a liar, but she nodded slightly and touched my arm. "I'll bring them back in time for you to tuck them into bed."
I watched her bring the two happy children out to her car, and felt a pang of pity for the unhappy one upstairs. It was plain that it wasn't going to be an easy night for those of us who remained home.
Once my mom was gone, there was the matter of getting Samantha to leave her room. I didn't relish doing it, but I volunteered for the job. She'd probably have other reasons to be mad at Mulder soon, so I could spare him this, at least, and let her be mad at me for making her come talk to us. I found her sitting at her desk, playing with the playstation 2 Mulder had insisted we buy her.
"Come on down stairs," I said, holding my hand out to her.
Obviously suspicious, she made no move to get up. "Why?"
"Just come down, please."
I more than half expected her to say "you're not my mother" for the tenth time since she'd come to live with us, but she stalked past me without reply. Behind us the game continued to play. I considered turning it off, but decided it'd probably lead to another argument.
By the time I got to the living room myself, she'd already sulkily claimed one of the arm chairs. Mulder sat across from her on the couch, and I couldn't help but think of Mulder so recently sitting there protectively clutching Teddy Holvey to his chest.
"Well?" Samantha asked impatiently.
Mulder frown at me before turning to his sister. I guess he wanted me to take note that she was already being difficult, but I didn't feel the need to acknowledge that.
"We need to talk about what you said earlier today." His eyes locked onto hers. "We want to know what you meant when you said you should have chosen to be in high school."
"I don't want to talk about it," she muttered. Her arms where already folded across her chest in a defensive manner.
"I'm sorry you feel that way, but we need you to tell us." I tried to keep my voice calm.
"Why? What difference does it make?"
"A little boy almost died a few days ago, Samantha. Right here in this room. His mother drugged him because she couldn't understand what happened to him, and she gave him too much." Mulder explained in a deadly soft voice.
I could see real fear on her face. "You'd do that to us if I don't tell?"
Mulder's voice shook slightly as he spoke, "I'm sorry you thought that it was a threat, I just wanted you to know what's at stake. We would never hurt you or Emily, but not all adults are as equipped to handled a situation like this as we are. That's why we need to know, so no one else ever gets hurt."
"You do remember," I pressed. A guilty part of me wondered if we should have let her interpret Mulder's words as a threat. At least then we were more likely to get answers. It was too cruel, I decided immediately after having the thought. I would have reassured her if he hadn't.
"Yes," she admitted after a moment's silence. When she looked up at Mulder anguish and outrage shone in her eyes. "But why don't you remember?"
He looked too confused to reply so I asked, "What is he supposed to remember?"
Ignoring me, she looked Mulder in the eyes. "Why don't you remember that you were the first?"
"I don't understand," Mulder confessed.
But I suspected that I did. "Samantha, are you trying to say that Mulder is like you? That he... came back like you did? The same way?"
"Wait-" He looked so pitifully puzzled I nearly cried.
Samantha spoke slowly to her brother. "When you died, you were with us."
"In the starlight?" He sounded dazed. "But... I was never dead, Samantha. Not really."
Though I tried not to let it show, I was startled by this statement of his. In the past he'd joked now and then about his interment, so I always assumed that he'd considered himself a dead man who'd risen again.
"I was unconscious when they buried me, but it was just my system shutting down that made me seem dead. It was a coma, not actual death."
"You did too. And once you did, you came back to me." Tears began to course down Samantha's cheeks. "When we were in the starlight you volunteered to go first."
"Go where first?" I asked gently.
"Back." She dragged a fist across her eyes. "The walk-ins decided that they wanted to see if we could go back to the lives they pulled us out of, once there wasn't any more danger to us. They wanted us to be able to live again. You said you'd return to life first and see how hard it would be. Then they watched you for a long while to see if you were okay before they let anyone else try."
"They decided that he was okay? Right?" I encouraged her to continue.
The idea that the walk-ins that Mulder used to talk about being able to send people back to life was almost too fantastical to believe, but it wasn't any harder to believe than having three dead children show up, alive again. There had to be a way they'd been brought back, and there was a certain feeling of rightness to Samantha's explanation. So, in spite of myself, I found that I believed her.
"Yeah. But they didn't think hard enough about why he was okay. Fox was only gone a little while. Not years like us. The life he returned to wasn't so different."
"Did you know you'd been...gone a long time?" Mulder asked in a faltering voice.
"Sort of." Samantha sighed. "You were all grown up, so it had to be a while. I still thought it would be the same somehow. That's why I decided to be eight. I thought... I didn't know Mom and Dad were really gone, I mean it didn't even occur to me to ask you, so I thought it would be easier on them if I came back the same age as when I left. But they died the normal way, so it doesn't even matter... You don't care how old I am. It doesn't matter how old I am, I'm not your little girl. I'm no one's little girl, now."
I opened my mouth automatically to protest, but the words wouldn't come out. She was right, I realized. We were doing a terrible job at making her feel like she belonged to our family. My efforts to let Emily into my heart were steady if slow, but I still kept Samantha at arm's length. She wasn't a loveable child, and I used that as an excuse to let the distance between us remain a chasm.
And Mulder? I didn't know why they weren't closer. Or maybe I did. I doubt that I would easily relate to Charlie if he reappeared in my life a small boy, one who had to be raised rather than able to share adulthood with. He'd grown up and changed. She hadn't.
"When you came back," Samantha continued barely above a whisper. "You still had the family you made when you grew up. Her, your son...I don't even had Mom and Dad anymore. When I said I'd come back, I didn't know it would be like this!"
I think it surprised Samantha as much as it did me when Mulder burst into tears. Melissa told me that she'd seen him cry hopelessly when I'd been returned from my abduction near death, but I thought she'd been exaggerating. Looking at him as he gasped for air, his face awash with tears, I knew she hadn't been.
Eventually he calmed down enough to speak. "I didn't think it would be like this, either. When you came back."
"You remember the starlight?" Samantha asked hopefully. She looked disappointed when he shook his head no.
"No. No, nothing like that. I... I always expected to find you some day. Until I found out that you died, I thought I'd see you again some day. I spent half my life looking for you, and then I found out that you died while I was still a kid. I'd failed you before I even began." Mulder paused to take a couple of deep breaths. "When I learned that, I shut the door on that expectation. You had died, I hadn't found you in time, and I'd never see you again because it was much too late. I boarded up that expectation so it couldn't break the rest of my heart," Mulder admitted. "It was easier to look for you than to figure out what to do once you were back. Maybe I didn't really believe I'd ever get that far - finding you - so I didn't think about it as much as I should."
"You thought I'd be a grown up, though," Samantha stated, and he didn't deny it.
I felt like a voyeur, but neither of them seemed to mind that I was there, so I kept quiet and didn't leave like I wanted to. Maybe they wanted me to hear, I decided, as if a witness made the exchange more real.
Emily was three, I couldn't help but thinking then. She was the best off of the kids, because she wouldn't remember when I was too surprised to love her. Already she was settling into our life, happily. She wasn't as melancholy as Samantha was - it was that, not sullenness, I should have realized sooner.
"I'm sorry." the whispered words hung in the air for a full second before I realized that I had said them. Two pair of eyes, so much alike despite the difference in color, fastened on my face.
"Why?" Samantha's voice held an unexpected note of curiosity. "What did you do?"
"Nothing." And that was the cold truth of the matter. Beyond buying her food and clothes and providing a shared bedroom to live in, I hadn't offered her much. I hadn't done anything to make Samantha's addition to our family easier on her or Mulder. William and Emily had done all of the work on that score so far, treating her like a sibling. "But I should have. I just don't know how."
"How to do what, Scully?" Mulder wanted to know.
My shoulders rose and fell in an inelegant shrug. "I don't know how to make her feel like she belongs to us." I turned to Samantha. "Because you do, you know. If we didn't want you we would have sent you away, to live with another family, or to boarding school. But we want you here, even if we're not quite sure how to show you that."
Minutes earlier I'd been sure that Mulder's tears would be the most shocking action of the day, but Samantha quickly proved me wrong. Her arms were around me before it even registered that she's gotten out of her chair to hug me. I was even more surprised when I hugged her back. It was the first time I ever had, and some part of me was surprised that she felt just like William. Flesh and blood. Not a ghost.
This was a real child who needed me, maybe as much as she needed her brother, and it was a sobering thought.
"Hey," Mulder said, making us look up at him.
Samantha returned to her chair. We both gave him curious looks, wondering what he was going to say next.
"Things can't keep going like they have been. We're all going to have to try harder. Especially the three of us. Emily and William will follow our lead. We need to make this work," He said firmly.
"What do we need to do?" Samantha asked in a small voice. I leaned forward, hoping that he was going to reveal that he had all the answers. But the thought that he might be withholding the right ideas needled me instantly.
Mulder held his hands out, empty and palms up. "I don't know. Which is why I think we need to consider family therapy."
Samantha looked shocked. "You mean a shrink?"
Mulder grimaced. "I see you remember grandpa's favorite term. I mean a therapist."
"But grandpa always said-" Samantha started to say, but I interrupted her.
"Your brother has a psychology degree, Samantha."
"I'm not practicing in any way, though," Mulder told her. "But I think a therapist could help us learn how to relate better."
"I think you're right, Mulder." It was going to require some subterfuge to include an outsider but one might really help us.
"Sam, are you willing to give it a shot?" Mulder asked.
"You care what I want?" she asked incredulously. He nodded. "So if I said no, we wouldn't do it?"
"Therapy doesn't work well if the participants aren't there willingly," Mulder explained.
She gave this some consideration. "Yeah. Okay. Let's do it."
"Good." Mulder looked pleased. For a moment. Then he looked horrified. "Sam, are there more kids that were sent back that we don't know about?"
Samantha shook her head. "Not now. Before they sent you back, you made the walk-ins promise to only send back kids you knew. So you could keep an eye on us."
He immediately looked relieved, but I was stuck on her saying "not now." Somewhere out there a race of beings capable of extracting humans from the mortal world and reinserting them at whim was monitoring our progress. The very fact that they had no qualms about ripping people out of their lives to avoid the unfortunate natural order of things made me nervous about their judgment. That they meant well offered little comfort.
I looked over at Samantha and Mulder, half aware that they'd changed the subject to what we should do for Christmas. The fact that they, Emily and Luke would be here to celebrate another holiday was a miracle. I saw that now. But it was a miracle that came at a high price. If it was offered to others, I could only pray those who received it could also afford it.
"What do you think, Scully?"
"About what?" I asked, having paid little attention to their exchange.
"Is it okay if we go to midnight mass Christmas Eve?" Samantha asked, looking both eager and unsure of my reaction.
And as I looked at them, I was suddenly filled with an absolute certainty that we were all going to be okay in the long run. It wouldn't always be easy, but we'd see it through.
"Maybe your mom would want to come," Mulder suggested.
I smiled at him. "Why don't we ask her when she gets back?"
"Sounds good," Mulder said.
It really did.
I have a brief epilogue for the series started, and hope to post it within the next couple of weeks. It'll be called A Fragile Shell.
|The Resurrection series||Return to NeoX's Other Fics||Return to Mulder's Creek home|