The Family G-Man: IWTB

Chapter one Chapter two Chapter three Chapter four Chapter five
Chapter six Chapter seven Chapter eight Chapter nine Chapter ten
Chapter eleven Chapter twelve


Title: The Family G-Man: I Want To Believe
Authors: Neoxphile and FelineFemme
Feedback: neoxphile@aol.com, be8opcat1013@yahoo.com
Spoilers: X-Files seasons 1-9, X-Files: I Want To Believe, The Family G-Man, The Family G-Man: One Fine Summer, The Family G-Man: Confessions and Connections
Category: somewhat alternate reality, snarky humor, a little angst, baby/kid/teenfic, MSR-married & DRR-"living in sin" as your grandma would say, Mulder/Doggett friendship & Scully/Reyes friendship
Rating: PG-13

Summary: in 2008, six years after leaving The X-Files for the hit show Jose Chung's The Truth Is Out There, Mulder is asked to help investigate the disappearance of two women, including FBI agent Monica Bannan. Scully has more pressing concerns at home, at least until Mulder's safety becomes paramount.

Story Status: completed June 2014

Authors' Notes: If you're wondering if this story can be read as a stand-alone, the answer is that a lot of it probably won't make a lot of sense to you that way, at least in regards to anything that's different than the actual movie. We won't stop you if you want to try to read this without reading The Family G-Man first, though. See how far you get before you scratch your head thinking "They have how many kids besides William?!" =)

click here to be reminded how old the kids are in February of 2008



Chapter One

February 8, 2008

A dark dreary February afternoon is not the ideal time for a doctor's appointment, but that's when Scully's doctor managed to squeeze her in on one of her and Mulder's rare afternoons off from filming, so she couldn't complain too much. By the time they get home, it's snowing at a rapid clip, and the walkway is already covered in a white blanket three inches deep. "Guess we'll have to shovel," Mulder remarks as he takes the keys out of the ignition.

"Get David and Jared to help you," Scully suggests, referring to their nine-year-old twins, as she reluctantly opens the passenger side door. The car's interior is toasty warm, and she's not eager to go out into the wind. Still, she can't sit in the car all afternoon.

"You're hoping to have them burn off some energy?" Mulder asks.

"You bet," she agrees, gingerly stepping out into the driveway. "Little league's still a long way off." Of all the kids, their twin sons take after Mulder the most when it comes to their sleep patterns. If they don't do something to tire themselves out, they'll be awake by five a.m. which no one in the house appreciates because they're never quiet early risers.

It must have rained a little before it began to snow, because before she gets very far from the car her boots find an icy patch under it, and she begins to slip.

"Whoa," Mulder murmurs, grabbing her elbow before she loses her balance completely. For a moment she's reminded of another time when he literally kept her from falling and gallantly promised that he always would. That was a year before they married, and so far he's made good on the promise. But then he says "We'll salt out here too," and she's reminded of how much has changed since his act of chivalry prompted an elderly observer to tell them that they'd have beautiful children. Well, she wasn't wrong about that, Scully thinks with a small smile.

"Thanks," she tells him as they make their way towards the house. She can hear some of their kids outside already, probably playing.

"No problem."

She waits for him to say something about how her safety is especially important to him right then, but he doesn't and she's glad for it. And she's even gladder when they reach the front door and leave the cold outside.

"David! Jared!" Mulder calls, wandering deeper into the house as she takes her coat off and hangs it.

They could easily afford to hire someone to do the shoveling, but Mulder insists that they ought to do it themselves, and it's good for their sons to help him do it. For now she lets him continue to insist that, but when they get older;­ fortunately, he's very fit for a man in his forties still, so she suspects most of the kids will be out of the house before it's an issue. Most of them. And it's not like she has a leg to stand on lately when it comes to doing things better left to younger people, she thinks, hand snaking around behind her to rub the small of her back where it aches.

Mulder returns a couple of minutes later with the boys, and he lets them grumble for a moment before pointing at the coat closet. They figure out that complaining won't get them anywhere and greet their mother before pulling on gloves and coats.

"I want the green shovel," Jared's saying as they head out, and she thinks that she hears David object, but maybe it's Sammy. Sammy was supposed to be writing a report but when Mulder had fetched them a moment before she heard him proudly declare that not only was it done, Page had only found four typos before taking their little sisters outside to build a snowman.

Scully goes to the playroom to see who is inside still, then heads back to the foyer so she can see if she can see how Mulder and their older sons are making out. There's not that much snow, and with three helpers it shouldn't take long before they come back in. As soon as they do, it'll be time to think about getting dinner started.

Just as she reaches the window, the front door swings open, letting in her oldest and youngest children. "Hi Mom," Page greets her. "Can I make us hot chocolate?"

"If you do it right now so you're done before I need to start cooking and if you're careful with the stove."

A year or two earlier this statement would have been met with a moody reply, but Page has a better handle on the perils of adolescence now that she's thirteen. "Always."

"Nuh uh," Zoe says then. "Remember you burned the Mac and cheese last month?"

The blonde teenager sighs and gives her five-year-old sister a wounded look. "Of course I remember. You're not supposed to bring it up and make me feel bad about it, though."

"Oops."

"Miss Spencer says you should say something nice if you hurt someone's feelings on accident," Brianna tells her twin, referring to their preschool teacher. They both like Miss Spenser so much that they cried when they figured out they'll have a different teacher for kindergarten in September.

"Oh." Zoe thinks about this. "You and Sammy always got the cleanest bathroom is the house," she ventures with a forgive-me-yet? smile.

"Great," Page drawls. "That's sure to make me popular in high school. Come on, pipsqueaks."

"We're not pipsqueaks!" they predictably protest despite being so much smaller than their eldest sibling; to Sammy's considerable envy, due to a growth spurt Page is now as tall as Scully, and he's still two and a half inches behind her. The younger set of twins are both small for their age, which is one reason Scully's glad they won't be starting public school until the fall of the following year.

In the kitchen Page puts a kettle of water on the stove to heat, then asks the younger girls if they could go and find out if the other kids still in the house want hot chocolate too, adding that they don't need to go outside because she's sure everyone outside will. The brunette twins rush off eagerly, but not quite so energetically as the older set of twins would have at their age.

"So?" Scully asks, knowing that Page has sent her sisters off so they can speak in what passes for private in their house.

Page squirms a little under her gaze. "Um...­I know you were worried, so I want to know if your doctor's appointment, went, uh, okay."

Scully has to clamp down on a sigh before it escapes. As hard as she's tried to keep her level of anxiety from infecting the kids too, it's clear that the older ones are perceptive enough to realize Mom's Been Really Worried lately. Smiling as best as she can she tells Page, "Dr. Hart says everything looks good."

"And he did all those tests you and Daddy told us about?" Page asks, still looking concerned.

"Yes. They all came back, and there are no abnormalities."

"Oh, wow." Now Page looks relieved, and it doesn't surprise her mother to be hugged a second later. "I'm so glad!"

"Me too," Scully admits, hugging her daughter back.

After a moment Page lets her go and takes a step back. "So, did he also tell you if it's going to be a boy or a girl?"

"He did, but your dad and I haven't discussed telling you kids yet," Scully tells her. At twenty-two weeks gestation the baby is now more than big enough that Dr. Hart was able to give them a definitive answer to the question of gender during the appointment as well as a clean bill of health.

"Aww, come on, Mom," Page wheedles. "A new baby is big enough a surprise, isn't it?"

Well, she's got me there, Scully thinks.

When Scully began to get sick a few months earlier, at first she and Mulder chalked it up to the flu. But when it went on for weeks, they both began to become very concerned. He has rarely ever spoken up about what it was like in his life before back when she got cancer instead of Krycek, but she could tell by the way he looked at her that it was something he was thinking about even if he didn't say so. And to be truthful, she thought about it too.

After three weeks passed and she still wasn't well, she went to her primary care physician fearing the worst. Dr. Jewel carefully listened to her symptoms, did an exam, and suggested a pregnancy test. Scully's response was to laugh and tell her that the idea of her being pregnant was either ridiculous or insulting because Mulder had gotten a vasectomy five years earlier, and she certainly hadn't slept with another man. Jewel asked her to humor her ­and after Scully did just to shut her up, Jewel then recommended that Mulder return to his doctor himself before handing her case over to Dr. Hart.

Mulder took the news that his vasectomy failed a lot better than she did, telling her that somehow it's not too surprising that he's one of a fraction of a percent of men to have them fail, not when the odds of having two sets of identical twins in one family are also infinitesimal and that happened in their family too. Where she was worried sick, sometimes literally, about having a baby that far into her forties, he seemed to vacillate between concern for her and the baby and what seemed to her to be an absurd pride in his own virility that irritated her.

Once they realized that they were expecting again, there was no question about what to do, just how they would cope if there turned out to be anything wrong with their unanticipated baby. Mulder had surprised her by telling her that he felt the same way as he did when they were younger and taking care of the infant half-demon Louie had prompted him to tell her that they'd welcome any child of theirs, even if it wasn't perfect. She of course agreed because even if there were problems she could never do anything to harm a child of theirs on purpose, not with what she'd been raised to believe about morality.

This afternoon has her feeling better about the new baby than most, and she's sure it's because she's relieved that her past their prime ova haven't caused her surprise child any damage. It's been hard wrapping her head around the idea of another baby, too, because while she probably wouldn't have minded more after Zoe and Brianna they thought that a vasectomy had put a definitive end to the expansion of their family, and she'd made her peace with that years earlier. Unmaking your peace with something, even a good something, feels odd.

It's her hope that maybe from this point on, with a lot less to worry about now, she'll begin to enjoy her pregnancy more. At least so far it's been less physically difficult than the last one. When she told Mulder that she found that surprising given she's more than five years older than the last time, he pointed out that she's only half as pregnant as then, which is true. Fortunately there's only one baby in there, not two. And thank the Lord not four like Tara's second slash last pregnancy.

"I'll talk to him about it," Scully promises Page.

"Do you think April will be nicer about things now that we don't have to worry about the baby being...­sick?" Page asks then.

Scully wonders that herself. When they told the kids that she was pregnant two months earlier, she expected that Zoe and Brianna would be the ones who would take the news the least well. After all, they were the youngest, and had gotten to enjoy that position in the family years longer than any of their siblings had. But they actually seemed pleased by the idea of having a little brother or sister to boss around someday soon.

The older kids seemed to be a mixture of confused, concerned (just the ones old enough to understand that having babies is riskier at older ages), and somewhat pleased.

Except for April, who had given both her parents a disgusted look and declared, "This is so embarrassing!"

Mulder had given their almost eleven-year-old daughter a confused look and repeated, "Embarrassing?"

"If you have another baby, all my friends are going to know you still, you still do it. At your ages!" the preteen wailed in response.

"Considering Mom and Dad are still married and not having affairs, most people assume they still do it with each other," Page had told April, making their mother blush.

"But now they'll know for sure!"

Scully's blushing had only gotten worse when Sammy decided to help defend them. "Your forties isn't too old to do it. I hope I'm still doing it in my forties too."

"Still?" Mulder had asked, sounding like he was going to choke. She couldn't tell at the time if he was trying not to laugh or had actually been worried.

"Dad! I don't mean I am now, " twelve-year-old Sammy had protested, and the relieved look on Mulder's face had suggested that he had indeed interpreted Sammy's comment that way. "But when I do find someone to. Well, you know. I hope we do for years and years, you know?"

"Uh, I don't know what to say about that, Sammy," Mulder had said faintly. "That's good, I guess."

"Yeah, so I totally don't blame you and mom for still...­" Sammy trailed off then when he looked at their faces.

By that point Scully had wanted the floor to open up and swallow her. They'd thought teaching the kids where babies came from and what to expect during puberty would be the most uncomfortable conversations they'd ever had with them. But they were so very wrong.

"Mom?" Page asks, pulling her head out of the clouds.

"Hmm? I don't know. We'll have to hope," Scully finally answers Page's question. If they're lucky it'll turn out that April's distaste has really been masking worry that the baby could turn out not to be chromosomally normal. Of all the kids she was the most interested in medical things, and occasionally that led to her having worries she shouldn't really need to.

"She'll get over it," Page says but her tone implies that she's not sure of that herself. "By the time we get to hold him or her for sure."

The idea that April might on the other hand still be moody over it until July does not gladden Scully's heart. But what does is when the baby kicks and Page notices. "Can I feel that?"

"Of course."

Page puts her hand flat on Scully's belly, then looks awed when the baby obligingly kicks again. "That is so cool. Does it feel different from the inside?"

"Yup."

"I'm going to wait until I go to college and get married first, so don't worry, but, ­I'm definitely going to do this too," Page confides. "I just hope I'm as good at it as you are."

The thought of Page wanting to be a mother someday too makes her happy, especially since it's the first time they've discussed it since she's been old enough to understand that you don't have to be a parent or get married just because you've grown up, which seems to be what most small children believe. She can't resist teasing Page, "You hope to be as good at it as me? You mean you want a kajillion kids too?"

Page instantly looks worried, obviously giving the thought of ten kids serious thought. "Um, maybe not that many. But a few."

"What's a few?" Scully asks, curious now.

"Four or five?" Page suggests.

"Oh, I see, a small family."

"You must think Aunt Missy and Uncle Charlie's families are tiny then," Page shoots back with a smile.

"How my little brother and Elaine ended up with just one kid, I'll never know."

"It seemed like Uncle Bill was going to too," Page points out. "But now there's five of them!"

Scully smirks at this. Just a week earlier Mattie sent her a video of the quads' latest antics, which he confided had gotten him in trouble with Bill for taping instead of stopping it, but capturing them on film wrapping each other up in toilet paper 'to be mummies' had totally been worth getting grounded a week for. At least he's having a lot more fun being an older brother now that his three small sisters and brother are no longer needy babies, she muses. And poor Brandon has no one to play with, she thinks, though given her oldest nephew is now a college freshman he probably doesn't mind.

But still, it would be entertaining to alarm her little brother with the suggestion that he and his wife could give it another go. They're both younger than her, after all. "You know, you should call your uncle Charlie and ask if he's ever going to give Brandon a brother or sister. He doesn't have enough kids of his own to give him a hard time."

"Funny, Mom." Page snorts. "You know if you told Sammy to, he'd really do it."

She grins at her daughter. "And he'd tell you about it with a completely innocent look once he'd done it too."

Behind them the kettle on the stove begins to sing, and acting like a siren it brings the kids inside running to the kitchen.

Except for April.

But it's William who comes to join Scully and Page after everyone else grabs their mugs and scatters again. Giving them a suspicious look, William demands to know, "What are you talking about?"

Page seems torn, and after a moment or two apparently decides not to tell her youngest brother something that might get back to Sammy. "The new baby. Mom and Dad haven't decided if they're going to tell us if it's a boy or a girl yet."

The red-haired boy looks surprised. "But we know."

"We do?" Page asks skeptically.

He shrugs. "Well, I do anyway."

Page puts her hand on her hip. "Well, which is it?"

"A boy," William says confidently.

"You don't know that," Page protests. "How could you know that?"

"I just know," he declares confidently.

They both look at their mother, but Scully holds her hands up. "Very clever, but I'm not falling for it."

"Falling for what?" William asks, looking confused.

"If I take someone's side, then you'll know. And as I told your sister, Daddy and I haven't talked about it yet," she explains.

"Oh."

"Go on, before all the hot cocoa is gone," Scully tells them both, point them in the direction of the kitchen. They go without argument. As soon as they're done, she'll set up another round for the snow shovelers still outside.

Watching after them, Scully shakes her head. As they'd begun to suspect a couple of years earlier, William is able to figure out things that he shouldn't be able to, just like April does. But unlike his older sister, he has no qualms about declaring that he "knows" things he merely wants to be true.

Maybe it's better that way, she muses, given he's much more extroverted than April. The world isn't ready for an out-going child who can flawlessly tell what's going to happen, so it's probably better that people believe he's being fanciful even on the occasions when he's right. Silly kids make friends much more easily than ones who are eerie, and they're glad that he's made more friends in first grade after such a rough start back in kindergarten.

Humming to herself, she wanders back into the living room, feeds the fish, pets the cats, and calls her youngest girls back to hang their coats up again, properly this time, before Mulder and the boys come back in. The snow outside is getting heavier, and she wonders if they'll need to shovel again later, or if the storm will pick up so much that Alan will be watching all the kids the next day, not just the littlest ones after school.

All of the sudden Scully hears a distinctly liquidy sound, then Page exclaims "Will!"

There's a quieter "oops" just before Scully reaches the kitchen and an agitated teenage sigh. She's not overly surprised to see a flood of cocoa spreading across the counter and threatening to cascade down to the floor. "What happened?"

Page rolls her eyes. "Will wasn't paying attention and almost knocked me over when he bumped into me looking for marshmallows."

It's then that Scully notices that a chair has been dragged to the counter and a few doors to the upper cabinets hang open.

"I didn't mean to!"

"Yeah, well, I was in the middle of pouring," Page complains. "Now look."

William's eyes scan the mess of cocoa and knocked over mugs, and she'd almost swear that he's only now really comprehending the extent of the problem he has created. Looking meek, he says "sorry."

"I'll clean it up," Scully announces. She refills the kettle and calmly puts it on the stove before turning back to the two children.

Her oldest gives her a wary look. "You will?"

"Yes. The two of you are going to put on your coats and boots and take Daisy for a walk."

Daisy, their five-month-old springer spaniel, has been dozing in her bed on the far side of the kitchen but her ears prick up at the word 'walk'.

"I was going to ask April and Christopher to do it, but it seems like the two of you need the exercise more," Scully concludes.

"But I just came in-" Page protests, but she breaks off with a sigh when Scully gives the wet counter a pointed look. "Come on, Will."

The second Page reaches for the leash Daisy scrambles out of her bed, tail wagging excitedly. It's hard not to smile as she watches the puppy dance around the kids as they put their winter gear on, or back on in Page's case.

Scully and Mulder had chosen Daisy specifically because she and her littermates were going to be old enough to go to their new homes at Christmas. They'd already brought the kids to see Daisy twice by the time they realized that Scully was pregnant, so her and Mulder's conversation over whether they should still get a puppy even though they'd told the kids that they couldn't have one before the youngest kids were five was very brief. Even they were unable to say "we're not taking you" while looking into the black and white puppy's soulful brown eyes. That's how Mulder found himself abandoned in Petco three days before Christmas, suddenly picking out puppy supplies himself when she'd run next door to find a restroom once she'd been struck by a sudden wave of morning sickness.

"What are you doing?" Mulder asks a couple of minutes later, startling her because he'd come into the room so quietly.

She notices his cheeks are pink from the cold when he plucks the sponge she's been using from her hand. "I can do it," she protests instead of answering his question. "It's all on the counter so it's not like I need to get on my hands and knees to do it."

Even after nearly fourteen years of marriage, he still smirks when she mentions getting on her hands and knees. She pokes him, making him smile instead.

"I know you can clear this up," he says, picking the mugs up and wiping under them. "But I don't want you to feel like you should have to." He glances at her. "You didn't do this, did you?"

"No, William did," she admits.

"Figures," Mulder mutters. "Alan asked me yesterday if I think some of his sudden perchance for causing chaos is due to being jealous about the babies coming soon." The second baby in this statement is Alan's own: he and his wife are expecting their first baby a couple of weeks after Scully is due, and Alan will be bringing his new daughter to the house while he works. Some people they've told about this arrangement think it's odd, but letting Alan have his baby there too is a small price to pay to get full time care for the baby without the stress of shopping for yet another new nanny. They're just grateful Alan was willing to work with them to find a way for him to move from part to full time like they need him to.

"What did you tell him?" Scully asks.

He shrugs and rinses the sponge. "It's the age. Sammy, David and Jared broke or otherwise ruined more things than I want to think about when they were his age."

"Probably that's it. We should keep an eye on it, though."

"Of course." He leans down and kisses her forehead.

"What's that for?"

"You're just awesome."

"Thanks, you're not too bad yourself."

The kettle on the stove that Scully filled to finish making cocoa whistles, bringing the boys who'd been shoveling running in.

She shakes her head slightly when Sammy jumps in to poor cocoa for the three of them. With all the activity in their house all the time, it's a minor wonder that she and Mulder ever found enough time alone to find themselves unexpectedly expecting.

"What are you smiling about?" Sammy asks suspiciously as soon as she thinks of something.

"Nothing," she declares.

"Your mind was really blank, or I'd regret it if I keep asking?"

"Yes."

"Mom, you can't answer yes to an 'or' question," David complains.

"She just did," Jared points out.

"I KNOW that, but..."

Still smirking to herself, Scully decides her earlier thought was right: a good lock on the door to the master bedroom definitely helps.

Eyeing Mulder as he referees, she decides it should help once everyone is sent to bed, too.



Chapter Two

February 9, 2008
4:38 a.m.

The keening howl of the wind outside rouses Doggett from a light sleep, so he rolls over and looks out the window. Even in the dim street-lit predawn he can see that the snow is coming down at such a rapid clip that it's unlikely that either of his daughters will have school, so he makes a mental note to watch the news crawl for cancellations before closing his eyes again. It's only then that he becomes aware of another sound nearly drowned out by the voice of the wind: a faint whimpering.

Beside him in bed Reyes is dead to the world, but he knows she'll wake soon if he ignores the distressed noises, so he heaves himself out of bed and stretches as he leaves the room. She's been the one getting up most of the time considering that she talked HR into letting her tack all her unused vacation time onto the end of her leave but it seems unfair to ask her to get up if he's already awake.

He doesn't bother turning on the light in Jon-Jon's room because he can see the crib and its occupant well enough. Reaching into the crib he asks "what's the matter, big guy?" before carefully lifting up his four-month-old son. The dark-haired infant's crying tapers off to unhappy grumbling in his father's arms.

Doggett lucks out, discovering that his first suspicion - a wet diaper - is correct, so he's able to quickly calm the baby. Most nights he isn't such a good guesser.

Once the baby is changed, he sits with him in the rocking chair so he can yawn and watch the snow falling outside. Jon-Jon quickly nods off, no longer aware of the man holding him or anything else.

The wooden chair rapidly becomes uncomfortable, and as an ache settles in he, not for the first time, finds himself thinking, maybe we shouldn't have waited so long. He and Reyes hadn't set out to have their second baby almost four years after the first, but a whole host of reasons led them to this point. When he thinks of the fact that not only is Rebecca four, Hannah's already twelve and Luke and Gibson are only three months away from getting their undergraduate degrees, he can't help but feel old as father time. His oldest sons will be starting grad school before his youngest even takes his first steps.

Still, as absurd as he feels sometimes to have started all over with an infant at his age (but he's glad Monica is younger than Dana, though he'd never dare say that to either of them), he wouldn't have it any other way. Jon-Jon is a treasure he'd never part with. Well, he thinks as he gets up and lowers his sleeping little boy into the crib, not for more than a few hours, anyway.

He only makes it as far as the hallway before a phone in the kitchen begins to ring. Startled, he nearly trips over his feet in an effort to answer it before it wakes the whole house up. Glancing at the caller ID panel, he's somewhat relieved that it's the FBI calling at that time of night, not his sons. Luke and Gibson would never call at that hour if it wasn't a dire emergency, so he's glad it's only work. But as soon as the person on the other end of the line begins to speak, his relief that there's nothing personally important going on falls away and he begins to strategize how to deal with a situation that's still dire for someone else.

"What?" he answers the phone tiredly, not up for pleasantries.

"We have a missing agent," the voice on the other end of the line explains, and he can't immediately place him. Obviously the caller thinks he should know who he is because he hadn't bothered to mention their name. With that sort of self-importance, he figures the caller for a fellow AD.

"Who?" Doggett asks, feeling more awake and wary. One of his agents is sleeping in his bed, but there's always Leyla. What if her boyfriend woke up in the middle of the night and discovered her missing? With Leyla, there was always a possibility that she'd do something reckless like that.

"Monica Bannan," the voice announces. "You worked with her-"

"On that case in August, yeah," Doggett agrees, thinking about how the young agent had been lent to The X-Files for a couple of weeks when he and Leyla couldn't handle a case alone just before Jon-Jon was born. He'd liked her enough to be tempted to lure her away from her own division, but in the end she spoke so glowingly about her AD he hadn't had the heart to.

Now he wished that he had.

"I was hoping you'd be willing to help us search for her."

"Of course," Doggett says, looking at the snow as it comes down on the other side of the window pane.

"And I was hoping that you could aide us in enlisting some additional help," the other AD adds.

"Who?" Doggett asks. As soon as he's told who, he finds himself shaking his head.


Later
JCTIOT Studio

A blazing light lights up a dime-sized patch on Aldous Reed's forehead as he speaks, pointing a finger at Mulder while he does. "It's asinine to even contemplate the existence of these, these... beings."

"Oh, it's okay," Mulder retorts with a smirk. "People won't think less of you for using the correct term. Genie."

"Correct term," Reed scoffs. "More like overactive imaginations."

"So you think all effects attributed to genii activity have logical explanations?" Scully interrupts them to ask Reed.

He gives her a suspicious look before raising his chin. "Definitely."

"Then how would you explain the man I autopsied who had no internal organs?"

Reed stares at the camera, apparently at a loss for words.

"And commercial," someone announces.

Reed grabs a glass of water and chugs it down. Mulder almost does the same, at least until he notices someone who isn't normally there speaking to Wayne. It's somewhat disorienting to see someone very familiar in a completely abnormal setting.

"Why doesn't everyone take 15?" Wayne suggests as he and Doggett approach the stage. Reed shrugs and pulls out his phone.

Mary Green is asking "no organs? Really?" when Scully looks over and starts. "John?"

"What are you doing here?" Mulder asks, standing. He offers his wife his arm when she gets up too. Mary notices and smiles, making him feel like a little boy. Scully doesn't really need to hold onto him, but he likes that she can.

Doggett smiles too, but it's strained. Mulder thinks that his gaze lingers on Scully's belly, but when he looks at her face, it's clear she hasn't noticed. "I'm afraid it's not a social call. Can we talk?"

"Sure, what's up?"

Doggett shifts from foot to foot, looking like an uncomfortable little boy too. "I know that neither of you are eager to revisit the FBI, but I'm here to ask you to consider helping with an FBI matter."

"What kind of matter?" Scully asks warily. Her hand unconsciously goes to her belly, as if to shield the child within from whatever Doggett will say next. Mulder tightens his grip on her slightly when he realizes how apprehensive she is.

The AD sighs. "There's a young agent missing. Monica Bannan. She helped me out on a case a few months ago, and I really liked her. I've been asked to join the taskforce that's been established to look for her. And I've been asked to approach you about participating too."

Mulder is still trying to decide if he should suggest accepting or declining when Scully asks "Why us?" When Doggett looks confused, she sighs and leans against Mulder. "There are any number of active agents that could be recruited to help find her. Surely there are enough between cases that simply adding warm bodies to the hunt isn't the issue. Something about this case warrants asking a couple of retired agents for help, and I want to know what that is," she concludes.

Mulder has to hide a smile; whoever it was that popularized the 'baby brain' meme surely hadn't met enough women like his wife. Instead of grinning openly, he adds an expectant look to hers.

To Doggett's credit, he doesn't squirm under their scrutiny. "There's a psychic aiding the case-"

"Not Yappi-" Mulder groans. "Don't tell me that fraud is back up to his old tricks."

"God, I hope not," Scully mutters.

It's clear Doggett is unfamiliar with the TV personality. "Oh, no. His name is Father Joe."

"A priest?" Scully asks.

"A former priest."

"Former?" she asks sharply. This has Mulder thinking of how often men voluntarily leave their vocation. He knows it doesn't happen often.

"Defrocked," Doggett finally admits. When she frowns, he says, "Please hear me out. For all his faults, he's having a positive effect on the search for Bannan."

"But not so positive you've found her," Scully says darkly.

"Well no."

"So...we're being asked for because we didn't kill Yappi?" Mulder finally asks.

Doggett shrugs. "I got the call before dawn. I didn't have the wherewithal to ask why you."

Scully glances down at her belly. "I'm not exactly up for fieldwork, John."

"You were out in the field plenty of times when you were pregnant before," Doggett blurts out, and then his cheeks turn a deep red, as if he can't believe he's just said that.

"Not at nearly forty-four," Scully replies sharply.

When he thinks that she's really going to get wound up, Mulder puts a hand on her arm, and she looks up at him. "It could have been us, once. One of our lives at stake." This doesn't seem to sway her like he thought it would, but his Scully doesn't have the memory of having been abducted by Duane Barry to give her empathy. "If not for the two of you and Skinner, it could've been me," he adds, and this moves her at last.

Scully sighs. "You're right. You can go all in on this, but I'm still not willing to go out and hunt in the field during winter. Not in this state."

Doggett gives her an embarrassed smile. "I'm sure you can be of a lot of help even if you never leave the Hoover building. I probably won't be doing much outside myself."

"When would they want to talk to us?" Scully asks.

"Um." Doggett looks even more uncomfortable. "Late this evening."

"How late?"

"Really late? Not until nine."

"Then I take it you'll be coming over to stay with the kids, then," Scully suggests. This has him squirming a little. "I'm not leaving a houseful of kids alone, even if most of them will be sleeping, and Alan can't stay that late."

"Uh, yeah. I'll be over then," Doggett promises unhappily.

"Great," Mulder looks over to when the producer is now chatting with one of the camera man, pointing at something he can't see. "Now who's going to tell Wayne we'll probably miss a few days this week?"

"Skinner already has," Doggett announces, surprising him. "He can't help, but he did remind Wayne that he owes him."

"I wonder why?" Scully asks, and Mulder understand she's asking why Wayne owes Skinner, not why he'd call in the favor.

"Mutual dirt, I'd imagine."

To Wayne's relief, they aren't wanted until the evening, so they're able to finish taping the episode at least.


It's snowing lightly when the middle school bus lets the three oldest Mulder kids off an eighth of a mile from their house. Page usually likes the brief walk home but Sammy and April are having an argument about baseball, and she's not at all interested so it comes as a relief when they get to the house. But when they walk in, Alan rushes over to them. Page still has her coat in her hand, but she's trying to be attentive anyway. Alan doesn't usually pay all that much attention to the kids he doesn't mind, but today he looks like he wants to talk to them.

"Hey," he says quietly. "Your parents are in bed, so please try to keep it down, okay?"

April's brow furrows. "Are they sick? Four kids were out today in my science class-"

The nanny cuts her off with a shake of his head.

Then Sammy's eyes widen. "Oh, are they, um..." his cheeks turn bright red, giving both of his sisters a good idea what he's thinking of.

"Sammmmy!!" April wails, punching him twice in the shoulder.

"Geez, April, you know they -" he complains, rubbing his shoulder. He backs away when she balls her fist again.

Alan's beginning to turn a little pink himself, and he speaks up quickly. "They've been asked to help with an FBI case late tonight, so they're trying to get some sleep before they have to leave. Getting enough rest is important for your mom right now, so I'm sure you'll find something nice and quiet to do, right?" he prompts.

"Because of the baby," April says, scowling.

"Yeah, sure, we'll be quiet," Page agrees distractedly. "But they're helping on a case? Wow, it's been a long time since they did."

"They haven't since the ghost episode, right?" Sammy asks.

Alan just looks confused. "When you say 'episode,' do you mean an event, or their show?"

"Show. That other kind of episode sounds like something Grandma Teena would say."

"Oh."

"I think you're right, Sammy," Page adds.

April nods, but it's clear that she's thinking of something else. "Are you staying here tonight?"

"Nope, not me. My wife would kill me."

"Oh cool, I want to be in charge then," Sammy exclaims.

"Yeah right. Mom and Dad would leave me in charge sooner than you," April grumbles.

"Hey! They would not!" her older brother protests. "But it'll be Page, right? She's the oldest."

"I didn't sign up to babysit," she protests, holding up her hands.

"Like it'd be on the chore chart, Page," Sammy says. "We only sign up for things we can all do."

"I was being, like, figurative," Page says, happy to have remembered that vocab word.

If anything, Page thinks that Alan looks even more confused. "They said that the FBI owes them and someone from the bureau will be will be staying with you tonight in exchange for their cooperation in this case. I don't know, that sounds like your dad being funny, but-"

Page and Sammy look at each other. "I wonder if it'll be Uncle John or Monica."

It's hard for Page not to smirk - Alan was really, really confused about the fact that their parents taught them to call their friends aunt and uncle. So much so he once cornered her and asked if Samantha and Missy were really siblings of their parents, or more friends.

Alan drags a hand down his face; even though he's met the couple, it's clear he didn't think of them as being who Mulder meant. "Somehow, I don't think I'm ever going to get used to the fact that your parents are still friends with feds..."

All three kids give him a blank look as if to ask what's so strange about that. Sighing, he says, "Anyway, whoever it is will get here after dinner."

"I'm not cooking, either," Page complains.

"They asked me to order pizza."

Sammy almost opens his mouth to express his joy in this, but a sharp look from Alan wilts him. "So...going to find something quiet to do now."

"Thank you."

Page looks back after April follows Sammy out of the room. Alan has taken a position by the door, probably to capture the younger boys before they get into the house. She wishes him luck with that.


When Doggett gets home, he finds Reyes making dinner, and the girls in the living room watching a movie while Jon-Jon dozes in his swing. A glance at the screen reveals that the main character is a cucumber, and he gives his older girl a grateful smile. Hannah just shrugs, as if to say she doesn't really mind Rebecca's choice of movie.

As much as he'd like to just sit down, he picks up a vegetable peeler and reaches for the first of the potatoes stacked on the island. "What are we making?" he asks.

"Stew," she tells him, reaching for a carrot herself. "How it'd go with Dana and Mulder?"

"They're going to go do it."

"That's great."

"I'm glad. Muldah's a much better profiler than I am, and he'll be a lot more help to them than I would be. I don't have half his experience working with people who claim to be psychic."

"Don't you?" Reyes asks archly, making him grin.

"Friends and family don't count."

"Okay, sure." A knife makes the newly peeled carrot into an orange pile of chunks and she reaches for the next tuber. "Just Mulder, or...?"

"Dana too."

"That's a little surprising." He waits for her to mention Scully's pregnancy, but she just raises an eyebrow. "Considering that she was the one who pushed for them to leave."

"I know. Maybe she misses it."

Reyes snorts. "Like hell. Probably she's worried that he'll get sucked back in if she's not there to provide some balance."

"Well, she's not thrilled about doing any fieldwork, but yeah, you're probably right. Either way, I feel a little selfish being so pleased that she's willing to get involved too."

Putting the knife down, her look softens. "I really hope they find her. I only met her a couple of times, but you and Leyla both had such good things to say about agent Bannan..." she trails off, apparently thinking. "Did they ask Leyla-"

"No," he says quickly. "I asked them not to."

"Why?"

"She means well, but I don't think this sort of case would play on her strengths."

"Because you think she likes Bannan too much to be objective, or because you don't want to send her out into the field without either of us?"

"Does it have to be one or the other?" he asks, shrugging. "If you weren't going to be off for another couple of weeks, I'd be fine with you both pitching in, but I don't think she's objective enough to be off on her own. She'd believe anything a supposed psychic said as if it was gospel."

"Pun intended?" she asks, and he gives her a confused look for a moment before shaking his head.

"Well, you could-"

"I'm already doing my penance. I'm babysitting tonight," he says sourly.

"Who?" Reyes asks blankly.

"I asked Muldah and Dana to meet with Whitney and Drummy at nine, and they'll be out all night."

"Then I guess we'd better get these veggies into the stew quickly then," she suggests, kissing him on the cheek.


Dinner is ready soon enough for Doggett to eat and get to play with Jon-Jon for a little while before he has to go. He'd probably never admit it to Reyes, but he envies the time she's gotten to spend home with him. Of course, she's gotten to change a lot more diapers, gotten thrown up on a lot more often, and listened to a hell of a lot more crying than he has too.

He's reaching for a rattle when he's poked in the elbow. Looking up, he's not surprised to see one of the girls staring at him.

"Daddy, I drawed you a picture," Rebecca says, in an obvious ploy to get attention away from her baby brother.

He shifts Jon-Jon on his lap, then holds out a hand for it. His mouth is opened to say something about how pretty the picture is, but then he really looks at it. It seems to be some sort of animal, with triangular fangs and claws a third as long as its body. "Wow, Becca, this is really...wow."

"It's a cat," Hannah helpfully informs him as she walks over to them.

"It's a...cat," Doggett repeats, trying not to sound doubtful.

"A kitten!" Rebecca insists. "Shouldn't we have a cute one like this?"

A shiver rips through him, and he can't help but think that a cat like that would be sooner to get a bullet in the head than a new home. "Maybe with shorter claws," he blurts out.

Rebecca's face instantly takes on a hurt cast. "The whiskers?"

"What?" He stares down at the paper. He guesses that some of those lines could be whiskers. "Oh."

Hannah bats him with a phone, which he's failed to notice she's been holding until now. "We're supposed to trade," she tells him wryly before reaching down to scoop the baby up. "It's Gibson."

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" he complains, picking the phone up. She smirks at him and walks off. Rebecca trails her, asking her something about cats. "Hey, what's up?" Doggett asks as soon as it's quiet enough for him to hear.

"Not much," Gibson replies. From the sounds in the background, he's probably in the common area of his dorm. "I just felt like calling home."

"Well, I'm glad you did. How are classes going?"

"Pretty good."

"Studying hard for those midterms?" Doggett asks, hoping this is the case. The boys had both found out their first year that college was harder than high school, but beyond a couple of Cs that year they've done well.

"Of course!"

"Luke too?"

"I think so," Gibson says, but there's a note of doubt to his voice that his father easily picks up on.

"He seems worried or somethin'?"

"Yeah," Gibson readily agrees. "But he hasn't talked to me about it. I don't know, maybe he's finding concept art and creative illustration more difficult than I do."

"Maybe," Doggett says, scratching behind his ear. Gibson has always been better with free-hand drawing than Luke. Unfortunately, Becca's efforts don't show more than an average amount of skill. On the other hand, his little girl still wants to be a pirate when she grows up, so maybe not getting into art school won't be that big a deal. "So...you and Katie doing anything special for Valentine's day?" he asks to change the subject.

He almost swears he can hear the boy shrug. "A not-too-expensive dinner and a movie."

"Sounds like Valentines on a college campus. And a college budget."

"Basically." After a second Gibson adds, "of course Luke's bummed out about not being able to do even that."

"Promise you won't rub it in?"

"Of course not."

"Uh huh."

"Hey, John, are you about ready to go?" Reyes asks, making him jump when he realizes she's there. How long, though, he wonders.

"Yeah," he tells her before returning his attention to the phone. "Hey, do you want to talk to Monica? I'm really glad we got to talk, but I'm about to leave."

"Where are you going?" Gibson asks curiously.

"Uh... I'm babysitting Dana and Muldah's kids. I owe them."

Gibson laughs, then says, "Next time we talk you've got to tell me all about that."

"Deal."

After he hands Reyes the phone, she settles into the chair with the baby, who doesn't seem to mind that he's been passed to a third person in just a few minutes, and begins to chat with Gibson, dangling a toy for Jon-Jon's amusement as she does so. Seeing that cozy scene makes Doggett even more reluctant to go out, but he's the one who is responsible for Mulder and Scully leaving, so it's really the least he can do.



Chapter Three

It's dark and cold when Doggett pulls up in front of the Mulder home, but if he really expected everyone to be in bed he'll be sorely disappointed. It's only eight o'clock and only the three youngest kids have bed times that early. Snorting to himself he gets out of the car reminding that most of Mulder and Scully's "extra" kids are between Hannah and Rebecca in ages, so course they don't all go to bed as early as his little(er) girl.

Mulder and Scully walk out and meet him in the driveway. He's not surprised that he has her arm; he's been subtly overprotective most of the times he's seen them since they announced that they were expecting another baby. To Doggett it seems like a blend of pride and mild guilt, as if Mulder feels bad about being glad that their efforts to keep their family from expanding didn't pan out. This strikes him as odd given she seems more or less happy too.

His weak attempt to psychoanalyze them falls awake when Mulder speaks up. "You really think we can help?"

"I do," he says honestly. "Of all the agents I've ever met, you're the two I'd put the most faith into finding anyone. If I was ever missing myself..." he trails off, a blush heating his wind-slapped cheeks when he remembers that he's speaking to a man who'd been missing and declared dead, and a woman who'd endured through both.

"Even though we've been away from the FBI this long?" Scully asks.

"Yes," Doggett insists. "Even if you'd been gone twice as long."

"Aww, John, I'm touched," Mulder crows, making him roll his eyes.

"I left a list of bedtimes on the fridge. And they ate a while ago," Scully tells him.

"Great." When they start towards their car, he impulsively calls after them, "Be careful!"

Mulder waves, which he takes as agreement. Watching them go, he fervently hopes that the case he's talked them into will find them both safe at the end of it.

He's less than halfway up the walk when the door swings open again. A dark-haired little boy who looks a lot like Mulder in miniature grins at him." Hi, Uncle John," he says happily.

It only takes him a fraction of a second to identify which of the twin boys he's speaking to. ''Hey, David. How's it going?" He's known them so long he forgets that they're identical until someone complains that they're too hard to tell apart. Their younger sisters are even easier to tell apart because they have distinct taste in clothing that Mulder and Scully gently encourage.

"Pretty good. We're making Valentines cards for school," David explains.

This surprises Doggett a little because he knows that Mulder and Scully could easily afford to buy premade cards. But when he sees Jared and Christopher gleefully cutting up paper he realizes it's probably the kids' idea to hand make them.

''Hey," he asks the boys at the table, "where are April, Sammy, and Page?"

"The laundry room," Jared explains.

"Oh." This sort of surprises him and leaves him wondering if he should be making Hannah do hers. "Folding clothes or washing then?"

"Dunno," Christopher says, reaching for glue.

For a moment he wonders if he should leave the younger kids to go find out, but he decides that this is silly. He's not really there to supervise the oldest kids, who barring an unexpected crisis can look after themselves. He's there so the older ones aren't burdened by the responsibility of baby siting. It's always has seemed to him that Mulder and Scully consider that unfair. Doggett sees eye to eye with them on a lot of parenting views, but not that one. He's never felt guilty about expecting his older children to pitch in to care for the younger ones. Luke and Gibson rarely complained when Hannah was small, and she now does only a little more than when she was the babysitee.

"How many cards are you making?" he asks, looking at the mountain of completed cards in the center of the table. There are so many that the ones on top look ready to topple.

"Sixty," Jared says. "Twenty for each of our classes."

"Any idea how many you have to go?"

"We've done fifty-three," Christopher declares, adding another to the pile.

Doggett waits for a second to see if the stack will fall. It doesn't. "Then you're almost done." He glances at the list on the fridge. "And just in time for bed too."

"Oh, man!" they complain.

Behind them a door opens with a bang, making them all jump. Sammy wrestles a laundry basket through the door, and then puts it on the floor to help his sisters with two more. "Thanks," they say but all three of them glare at the younger boys.

It's only then that Doggett notices that the table has been moved, causing the difficulty getting through the door. "Sammy?" Doggett asks, catching the red haired boy's attention. "Do these guys help put away their own laundry?"

"Yup."

"Okay. Why don't you boys do that now?" Doggett firmly suggests.

"But we still have some cards to make!" David protests.

"Do you need to bring them to school tomorrow?"

"Nooo..."

Doggett makes a shooing motion with both hands and they reluctantly follow their siblings into the next room. By the time Doggett has dragged the table back where he thinks it belongs and has scooped all the cards and art supplies into the box that's been left on the counter, Christopher and the twins have their arms full of clothing. It seems as though the bigger kids had sorted things downstairs as well as folding then.

He's definitely going to have to consider teaching Hannah how to do laundry sooner than her older brothers; he really doesn't want a repeat of Luke and Gibson's own first foray into the task. The flooded basement had taken him away from doing reports and took hours to wet vac up.

Once laundry is put away and showers taken, it's time for the middle kids to go to bed. He's happy that there's no outright refusal and little grumbling about it. And after they go to their rooms he checks on William, Zoe, and Brianna, and is relieved that all three are sleeping.

That just leaves him with three kids to actively worry about. "So..." He looks at Sammy and the two girls. "What are you going to do?" He predicts they'll say watch TV or play video games.

"Read," Sammy tells him." I'm reading The Sea of Monsters, and I want to see if they rescue Grover."

"The blue muppet?" Doggett asks blankly. He can't recall any story arcs on PBS that put the...whatever Grover is in danger.

"Of course not." Sammy looks indigent. "I don't read books about Sesame Street characters!'"

"Cleveland?"

"What?"

"A Satyr," Page explains.

"Oh." Doggett thinks for a moment. "Have fun with that."

"Thanks."

Page follows him, saying that she has a paper that's due in two weeks. Doggett stars after her, deciding that she must take after her mother in regards to work ethic. He has always suspected Mulder would have grown old and gray before typing up case files if he'd been left to his own devices.

"Oh, what about you?" he asks April awkwardly when it's just the two of them in the living room.

Her response is to sit down, making it obvious she's in no hurry to leave. "Can I ask you about something?"

"Oh. sure."

"Do you think my parents are too old to have another baby?" she asks intently. "Or, are you as old as my dad? I mean, you have a little baby, so maybe you think they're not too old."

"Um..." he stammers. His cheeks flame up again.


Washington, D.C.
9:24 p.m.

After so many years away, it feels strange to Scully to be walking into the Hoover building. It's stranger still not to use an ID to let themselves through security, but instead need to wait for the agent who has been assigned to meet them. They don't wait long before a man in a suit briskly walks towards them and explains why they're there to security.

Looking at them he merely says "Agent Mosely Drummy" rather tersely. It's obvious he doesn't expect them to introduce themselves. Instead he impatiently waits for them to finish with security.

"Nice to meet you," Scully offers as soon as they're waved through.

The tall black man frowns, not the response she expected. "This way."

They follow him down a hallway on the ground floor, and she glances over her shoulder at Mulder wondering what he thinks of going anywhere in the building other than the basement. John, Monica, and Leyla are still housed in the office down there, but it's now a matter of choice given that they'd been offered a second floor office eight months earlier. Doggett had turned it down, citing tradition as his reason, and the offer wasn't made again.

Glancing at them, Drummy says "Wait here" firmly as he swipes his ID through a reader, like he expects them to bully past him. Even Mulder isn't that eager, so they just roll their eyes when his back is to them.

"Nice guy," Mulder mutters seconds after Drummy disappears into another room.

She feels like she should tell him to be nice, but she doesn't. For someone getting help from them, he's barely civil so far. It's possible that he's a nice guy once you get to know him, but she doesn't think they'll spend enough time with him to discover that.

When he reappears a moment later he says "Come in" and ushers them into a conference room. The room is full of agents and there's so much conversation going on it sounds more like the waves of an ocean than words. Drummy taps a tall brunette woman on the shoulder, who turns away from the other agent she's speaking to. "Excuse me," he says gruffly. "They're here."

She gives him a smile and Scully is somewhat gratified when he doesn't smile at her, either. "Thanks for meeting them." Turning to Mulder and Scully, she says, "I'm Special Agent in Charge Whitney. Dakota Whitney."

"Dana Scully," she replies, shaking the woman's hand.

Mulder hangs back, studying the agent until she says, "And Fox Mulder, I believe. I know this is probably a little awkward to be here after so long but welcome back. My team and I appreciate your trust."

"Trust being what it is, what if I can't help you? Or your agent turns up dead?" he asks bluntly.

The wattage on her smile dims. "That would be unfortunate. But I know your work on X-Files cases and believe you may be the best chance Monica Bannan has now." Whitney hands a folder to Mulder, and he holds it open so Scully can see the contents too.

"How long has she been missing?" Scully asks, looking up from the photos.

Whitney looks grim. "Almost three days."

"Three days?" Scully gives the agent in charge a slightly alarmed look. "I know you know this, but after 72 hours there's a slim chance that she's still alive."

"We have some reason to believe she is. But so far we've got no evidence to the contrary and the facts give us hope. Soon after she was missing, we find this. A severed arm." Whitney holds out photographs, showing a bloody and severed limb. The hand has large blunt fingers.

Looking up from the photos, Mulder asks "Where?"

"About ten miles from her home."

"I don't understand, " Scully tells Whitney, looking very confused. "How is this related to the kidnapping? This is a man's arm."

"Is it a match for evidence found at or near the crime scene? Blood or tissue?" Mulder guesses.

"Blood. Found in her garage and on the tool that matches the wound," Whitney explains. At least now they know that there's a connection, that the FBI thinks that it belongs to someone who took their agent.

Mulder raises an eyebrow. "I take it you were led to it."

"Like a needle in a haystack," Whitney replies.

Mulder exchanges a look with his wife. "By someone claiming psychic powers."

Whitney nods. "Joseph Fitzpatrick Crissman."

"And you think he's full of shit."

Drummy looks faintly amused. "What makes you say that?"

Tapping his own temple, Mulder says "Psychic."

Drummy doesn't protest that he believes in the man they've yet to meet. "Father Joe cold-called six hours after Monica Bannan was reported missing, claiming a vision of her, a psychic connection."

"And he tells you she's alive."

"That's right."

Mulder looks skeptical himself. "Have you found any other connection?"

"To Monica Bannan?" Drummy asks.

Whitney shakes her head. "No. That's why I hoped you be willing to help. I need to know we're not wasting time."

Scully gives her a penetrating look. "You've ruled him out as a suspect, of course."

"Of course," Whitney says sharply. "We have no reason to believe that any of his knowledge in this case comes from being a doer himself."

Mulder watches the other people in the room, the ones not involved in their conversation. "He's a religious man, clearly educated man. He took right action, said nothing to cast doubt upon himself, has no material connection to the crime. You are wasting time, only it's mine and your agents'."

Whitney sighs. "There's a question of credibility."

"If you have no reason to doubt the man, why doubt the man's visions?" Mulder asks.

Drummy scoffs. "He didn't lead us to Monica Bannan. He gave us a guy's bloody arm in the snow."

"That's more than you had," Mulder notes. "This is not an exact science. If it were me, I'd be on the guy 24/7, I'd be in bed with him kissing his holy ass."

Drummy and Whitney turn away, murmuring to each other in low voices. Scully is pretty sure she hears "we have to tell them" before they turn back to them. Whitney looks like she's pained to have to say what she says next. "Father Joe's a convicted pedophile."

"Maybe I'd stay out of bed with him." Mulder swallows hard. "And I doubt we'll be inviting him home for Sunday dinner."

"We won't be inviting him anywhere near our children," Scully snaps.

Mulder holds up his hands. "A joke. Of course we wouldn't let him near the kids."

For a moment she contemplates leaving, but they took her car and she knows Mulder wouldn't come with her. Storming off in a snit isn't worth the price of a cab ride for one of them.

Whitney looks worried. "I'm not going to try to downplay his crimes. But I need to know if this is a deal-breaker for you." As she speaks, she's looking at Scully, not her husband.

A bitter taste fills Scully's mouth as she says, "I don't want to work with this man. But even more I don't want to look Bannan's family in the eye and tell them that my personal prejudices kept me from helping find their daughter alive."

"Okay," Whitney says, her posture suddenly a lot less tense.

"In that case, it's time for a fieldtrip," Drummy announces, a business-like tone to his voice provides an interesting contrast to his more jovial phrasing. He pulls his keys out of his pocket, making it clear that he intends to drive.

"Father Joe's up for visitors this time of night?" Mulder asks, surprised.

Whitney nods. "He said he'd help us day or night. Well, this is night."



Chapter Four

Richmond, Virginia
1:01 a.m.

Mulder begins to hum Elvis's "In the Ghetto" until Scully frowns at him, but he just shrugs until she lightens up; he's actually impressed that she's paid enough attention to his Elvis CDs over the years to have picked up on the tune. And it's hard not to make the comparison to a ghetto because the small collection of buildings isn't the type of place it seems like anyone would live in on purpose. The buildings are worn and utilitarian, looking more like something you'd see during one of the great wars than a housing complex in Richmond.

"What is this?" Scully asks for them both as they take off their seatbelts.

"Dorms for habitual sex offenders," Whitney says reluctantly.

"Dorms?" From her tone it's clear that this is the first time she's heard of such an arrangement, and it's the first he has either.

"I hope Luke and Gibson's is nicer than this," he whispers, but Scully isn't paying attention to him. Instead her eyes are fastened on Whitney's face.

"They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate."

"Just avoid the activities room," Mulder can't but help to quip. Predictably, both women glare at him, but he grins unrepentantly.

Despite the hour, the father and his roommate are both awake. It makes Mulder wonder if they work third shift, or if they work at all. It can't be easy to get a job if you're a registered sex offender. Food is frying on a stove when their knock is answered, and Mulder quickly predicts that this man is the roommate rather than the defrocked priest. He simply doesn't look like he's ever spent any time preaching to a flock.

Him calling "Joe?" uncertainly, spatula still in hand like he intends to use it as a weapon if his roommate doesn't know their visitors, confirms his suspicion.

He relaxes when a voice in another room calls back, "Tell them to come in."

Father Joe might welcome their presence but his roommate clearly doesn't, at least judging by his show of reluctant when he finally allows them in. At least we didn't wake them, Mulder thinks as he hears a TV in another part of the apartment.

Beside him, Scully stiffens, and Mulder almost asks her what's wrong, but then he follows her gaze. An older man with a wild tangle of gray hair is kneeling on the floor, clearly praying.

He bites his tongue to keep himself from asking her what's wrong because he's fairly certain that she'll retort that it's wrong for a criminal like him to seek peace in the Lord's sanctity. There's been enough discussion between the two of them when sensationalist stories hit the news for him to be sure that she considers the man beyond all redemption.

Watching her stare holes in the old man's back, he begins to wonder if she'll be able to maintain her objectivity well enough to work with Father Joe. Throughout their years at the bureau this had rarely been her problem, but the fact that children are involved in his list of misdeeds is beginning to wonder if asking her to be involved too was a mistake. It's one thing to make cracks outside of the former priest's hearing, but treating him like they think he's scum would be quite another given how useful Whitney hopes he can be with their agent's disappearance.

He has no idea if Drummy feels the same way about child-molesting priests as Scully does, but it's clear the agent has no problem interrupting his prayers. "Father Joe?" he asks loudly, making the old man turn towards them.

The former priest wears a ratty robe and Mulder is somehow reminded of a dog-eared Hugh Hefner, but he immediately shoves the thought away when the next whispers that old Father Joe probably wouldn't get much out of associating with playboy bunnies.

Father Joe glances at the room, and a faint pink blush makes his cheeks rosy. "Excuse the mess. I haven't been sleeping."

Insomnia, perhaps, rather than habitual late nights, Mulder decides. He'd suffered it in his own life too, but fathering so many babies had cured him of the self-indulgence, so he'd learned to sleep whenever he could.

Drummy points at him. "Father Joe, this is Fox Mulder."

"Okay..." Father Joe looks slightly wary. Apparently Drummy and Whitney hadn't thought to call ahead.

"He'd like to ask some questions."

Scully interrupts. "Actually, I'd like to ask something. What was it you were praying for in there, sir?"

Father Joe returns her look, unabashed by her tone. "For the salvation of my immortal soul," he says, and Mulder identifies his accent as a not-very-Sean-Connery-like Scottish one.

"And you think God hears your prayers?" she asks.

"Do you think he hears yours?" Father Joe returns.

Scully narrows her eyes.

Oh crap, Mulder thinks. Don't say it, Scully, don't say it-

She says it. "I didn't bugger thirty-seven altar boys." Clearly his crimes are what she used her phone to look up on the drive over.

"Oh." Father Joe deflates, and sits on his bed.

"That's a colorful way of putting it," Mulder murmurs.

Now it's him she looks upset with. "I have another word, if you like."

Holding his hands up in surrender, he says, "I'm sure you do."

Father Joe gives her an appealing look, which does nothing to soften her demeanor. "I have to believe he does hear me, or why would he send these visions?"

"Maybe it's not God doing the sending," she says flatly.

Mulder jumps in, hoping to salvage the conversation. "You call them visions," he pounces, dragging the conversation into safer waters. "You see them?"

Father Joe nods. "They're what you might call my mind's eye."

Mulder finds himself growing interested in spite of himself. "What do you see?"

Before he replies, Father Joe picks up a cigarette and lights it. Mulder has the urge to warn him that those things can be killers, but he can easily imagine the former priest retorting that he's not so eager to extend his life so he holds his tongue. "I see the poor girl being assaulted." He takes a drag off the cigarette, eyes far away. Apparently it's not a no smoking apartment. He guesses that tolerating smoking indoors is a small thing next to housing men like that anyway. "See her putting up a fight. I hear dogs barking."

Whitney's expression makes it clear that this is not new to her or Drummy. "Where?"

Father Joe shrugs helplessly. "Can't tell."

Mulder frowns a little. "But you see her alive."

It's not the answer he hopes for. "No, but I feel that she is."

Mulder feels like he's floundering. "Can you show us how you do it?"

The man looks game enough, and puts his cigarette out before closing his eyes. If he's not really concentrating on looking for Bannan with his mind's eye, he's at least making a good show of it. After a few seconds he frowns in consternation and opens his watery blue eyes. "I don't know that I can do this right now. Maybe it'd be better if she wasn't here." His extended finger indicates Scully to no one's surprise, least of all Mulder's.

Scully doesn't take kindly to this. "Maybe what you see is a way to try and make people forget what it is that you really are."

Mulder stares after her, torn between wanting to run out after her and wanting to make sure that Father Joe won't write them off. He's not convinced that this man has any answers, but what if he does? She'll forgive me, he tells himself, but it feels like a possible lie. "I'm sorry about that."

Father Joe glances up at him, not looking too upset. Maybe more resigned. "I'm used to it. Mothers often take a special dislike of me."

"Oh." He doesn't say that it's a small wonder, but it might be written on his face so he looks away.

"This isn't your first child, is it?" Father Joe asks, and Mulder is somewhat surprised that he looked at Scully long enough to notice that she's pregnant. Many people don't, given she's only been showing at all for six or seven weeks. They'd never said they were married, but if the man's sharp-eyed enough to notice her belly, he's also bound to have noticed their matching rings.

"No. It's not."

To his surprise, Drummy laughs. "This is what, number ten? A small Catholic family." This immediately has Mulder's back up because he hadn't had any intent to tell Father Joe about their children. Nothing would spark Scully's not terribly unjustified paranoia faster than the man asking solicitous questions about the kids, especially the boys.

Father Joe startles. "You're Catholic?" he asks, and Mulder finds himself calming down when Joe doesn't let the topic linger over his children. Maybe he's already learned it's a bad idea.

"No. She is, though."

"Well, that says a lot." Father Joe sighs. "Catholic mothers hate me most of all."

Mulder notices that Whitney is giving Drummy an odd look, but he won't know what she's thinking until later because at that moment she turns to him instead. "Is this going to be a problem?"

He understands what "this" is without asking for clarification. "Honestly, I don't know. I guess I should go find out."

"Thanks," Whitney says, but she looks doubtful.

Fortunately, Mulder thinks he knows Scully a lot better than that.


Outside, Scully stews, knowing that it's only a matter of time before Mulder comes out and tries to get her to act reasonably. The part that bothers her the most is that she knows that he'll be right. As horrible a person she feels Father Joe to be, they'll only be working with him for a short time, and some good might come out of swallowing down the bad feelings and just trying to cope with associating with him the best that she can.

Eventually the door behind her opens, and she looks back, expecting Mulder. It's not him, though, it's Father Joe's roommate, putting out the trash. Sighing, she looks through the folder that Whitney gave her, studying the lurid photos of the severed arm and test results.

She's so engrossed in the folder's contents that she jumps a foot when a hand lands on her shoulder. Before she can completely freak out, Mulder hugs her to him. "I'm sorry to scare you."

"Jesus, Mulder," she complains.

Rather than remain apologetic, he gives her a long look. "So much for kissing his holy ass, huh?"

"I'm sorry. I've had too long away from this business. Or not long enough," she tells him, feeling like it's true that she's had too much time away from dealing with psychopaths to be good at it anymore. The closest they've come to lately has been debating Reed and he's probably just a narcissist.

Mulder shakes his head. "It's probably a good thing that you challenged him. Drummy's skeptical, but I'm betting Whitney's been doing all the ass kissing he could hope for. Maybe we want him to be off balance, or else he's just going to keep claiming psychic impotence."

"Psychic impotence?" she repeats, lips twitching as she fights off the urge to smile.

Mulder makes an unmistakable hand gesture. "You heard him in there, he couldn't get his mojo up."

"Mulder." His grin is unrepentant, which makes her shake her head. "Do you think he really can connect to the victim, or whatever it is that he's claiming to be able to do?"

"I don't know," Mulder admits, which surprises her a little. "I'm willing to reserve judgment. For now. But I take it you're not."

"I'm not," she agrees. "I think he's a creep, and a liar. He knows who did this and they're supplying him with information. And look where he lives. And this arm they found - it wasn't severed in any fight, it was cut cleanly, chopped right off. And tell me how he's been able to lead them straight to it and not even muster a guess as to where the victim is? And two things you're going to find in the next 24 hours - a dead agent and that this guy, Father Joe, is a big fat fraud."

"You could be right, Scully. You could be right. But what if you're wrong?"

This has her staring at him. "What if we cut him loose and it turns out he really knows something?" Mulder asks. Before she can respond, he goes on. "You saw yourself that he desperately wants to be forgiven for his sins. What if one of those sins is an involvement in this case that the FBI hasn't picked up on?"

"You think he's got a guilty conscience?" Scully asks, absurdly picturing Sammy when he was small and ashamed of something he'd done. Father Joe looks nothing like any of her children, yet the mental image is hard to banish. Something on the old man's face must've seemed familiar she decides.

"I'm not a psychic myself, Scully, but my gut insists that one way or the other, he's going to lead us to some answers."

Behind them the door opens again, and Drummy comes out, followed by Father Joe. The former priest has now seen fit to put on some pants, and is in the middle of doing up his coat. Whitney closes the door behind them, and Scully thinks that the Father's roommate looks relieved to see them go.

Casting Mulder a look, she asks, "What's going on?"

"We're going to take him for a ride, see just how psychic this Father Joe really is."

"Yeah, well, it's been fun," she says, starting to walk away from him.

Mulder stops her with a gentle hand on her arm that makes her look up at him. "Scully. Nobody's going to make you sit next to him."

She pushes his hand away. "Thanks, but I've already been taken for a ride. Anyway, he doesn't want me there."

She walks down the steps and he hurries after her. "I want you here."

Scully stops and frowns at him. Putting her hands on her hips, unaware that it makes her belly all the more obvious, she says, "This isn't my life anymore, Mulder. I'm done chasing monsters in the dark. I think you've done all they've asked of you here too. You know, no one says you have to stay here."

"I know," he says so softly she barely can hear him over the wind. "These people need my help. I could really use yours." His eyes are pleading as he holds another case file out to her. Still frowning, she takes it from him and follows him to the car. He may have a point. Even if Father Joe is a bad guy rather than an oracle, there might be something to gain from playing as nicely as possible with him. She's just not sure how nicely that can be, not when she finds his misdeeds so repulsive. It makes her glad when Mulder clambers into the middle of the back seat, putting a few more feet between her and Joe.

Father Joe looks at her, and she doesn't have to be a mind-reader herself to realize he thought she'd have left in a snit. Like she wanted to. Surprising him gives her a small, mean glow of satisfaction.

Once they also climb into the SUV, Whitney pounces on her partner, poking him in the shoulder before letting him put the keys into the ignition. "When I suggested bringing them in, you sneered like you don't watch the show, but I know you do. How else would you know how many kids they have?"

Scully shoots her husband a look, but he merely shrugs.

"Their files?" Drummy suggests, sounding oddly flustered.

"Nice try. The kids are hardly mentioned in any of the files-" Mulder wonders in alarm which cases they might be mentioned in, but then considers that they took three of the kids with them undercover once, and thinks of a couple more write-ups they were named over the years, such as the Great Mutato's. "-and even if you counted up Dana's maternity leave for god knows what reason, you wouldn't know the exact number of kids they have considering there are two sets of twins and the younger set wasn't born until after they left and the show started."

Drummy's shoulders sag in defeat. "Yeah. All right. I watch the damn show."

"I knew it!" Whitney crows. Looking at the couple through the rearview mirror, she smiles. "I love your show, by the way. Jen and I make popcorn every week and cuddle up to watch it together. She even tapes it for us to watch later if I'm not home because of a case."

"That's sweet," Scully remarks sincerely before covering her mouth to yawn. "It sounds like something Mulder would've done when we were younger if there was a show we followed like that."

Mulder smiles to himself, careful not to look Scully's way. She might be nominally Catholic, but it doesn't mean that she doesn't keep an open mind about various topics churches tend not to.

"At least you mostly got to work cases together," Whitney says wistfully. "Jen's a vet, and we don't need someone to look at animals too often."

"Yeah, well, we don't have my girlfriend tag along either," Drummy says a bit sourly. "And there are really nights we could use a bartender."

"Ain't that the truth," Whitney says with a sigh. Glancing at Scully, she asks, "So...I know you two went undercover as a couple at least once. Any tips about scoring a case like that, where you might get to bring your significant other along?"

"It's not like we volunteered for it," Scully demurs. "It just landed on our desks."

Whitney looks a little disappointed. "Oh well."

Drummy looks mildly alarmed. "It might sound like fun, but if anything happened to Chandra or Jen, we'd never forgive ourselves."

This seems to shut Whitney's playful mood down cold. "Yeah..."

Once they get to the main highway, conversation rolls over and dies. Mulder looks like he doesn't really mind, as long as she's the only one to fall asleep and lean against him, not Father Joe too. That's the price you pay when you volunteer to sit in the middle, though.


Washington, DC

It's hard to believe that a house with nine kids in it can be so quiet, but it's nearly silent when his phone ringing breaks the spell. Startled, he drops the book he's been thumbing through, and Daisy comes to see what's going on.

"Doggett." He's not surprised that it's Mulder. He listens to him explain that they're going on a long drive, then replies, "Sure. No problem. As long as you need.--Bye."

The puppy seems antsy, when he hangs up and after a few moments he realizes that she is looking from him to the front door. "Oh," he tells her, getting up and grabbing her leash. She waits patiently as he snaps the leash on her collar, but as soon as he opens the door Daisy leaps forward. "Hey, hold on," he complains. Wind rips at his unzipped coat and it ruffles Daisy's fur, but she's so intent on sniffing the ground for the perfect spot that she doesn't notice. He wishes that he didn't. "I guess waking up needing to pee isn't just a human thing, huh?" he comments.

He has to fight the door to keep it from slamming when they go back in, and he sighs with relief when he's able to shot it quietly. His relief is short-lived, though, because he's just barely able to hang up the leash when he hears something that makes him look up the staircase. At first she has trouble making sense of what he's seeing, which is just a white blur. His first impression is that it might be one of the ghosts Luke and Gibson both claimed to have seen, but he hears a hand turn the knob to a door, and both boys claim that the ghost simply appear without the need to bother with doors or windows.

After a second his brain catches up, and he rushes up the stairs. When he reaches the top, Brianna is huddled against her parents' again closed door, head in arms. He hears her moan "mommy" in a heartbroken way just as he gets to her.

Observing her behavior he's initially worried that she's acting like a child younger than Rebecca, but it soon dawns on him that she's not entirely awake. Crouching down next to her, he gently raises her chin. "Hi sweetie, what's wrong?"

"Mommy and Daddy are gone," she tells him, sounding confused. "They're gone!"

"I know," he says, picking her up. She doesn't resist. "That's why I'm here," he explains. Getting there after the little ones went to bed now seems to have been a really bad idea. No wonder she's disoriented, he thinks guiltily.

"Uncle John?" she asks, a little more awake.

"Yeah?"

"Where are my mom and dad?"

"They're doing me a big favor."

"What kind of favor?" she asks as he carries her down the hallway.

"Oh. A woman I know is missing. So your folks are helping to look for her."

"She's lost?"

"Well, she might have been taken by a bad guy," he admits, deciding with the stories she's grown up hearing about their past she's more likely to worry that her parents could get lost too, more than bad guys could kidnap them. "And your parents are good at helping with stuff like that."

"That usta be their job. 'fore we were born."

"Sure was."

"Sammy and Page remember," she says with a yawn. "But I don't."

You wouldn't, he thinks. It seems a bit strange to him to think that this girl and her twin hadn't even been born yet when Mulder and Scully last worked with him regularly. It's really been almost six years since they left the X-Files in his hands?

By now they've reached the door to the bedroom she and Zoe share. He puts her down and asks, "Before you go back to bed do you need to use the bathroom?" He thinks of Daisy, who has gone back to her dog bed in the kitchen. "Or get a drink of water?"

"No. But tuck me in?"

"Sure."

To his relief, the girls' night light gives enough illumination for him to see her bed. Fortunately, their room is neater than his own young daughter's. Holding a finger to his lips, he points at a sleeping Zoe with the other hand.

Nodding, she gets in to bed very quietly. He pulls the covers over her and reminds himself not to kiss her on the forehead like he would Rebecca and whispers "goodnight" instead. She smiles sleepily and rolls on to her side, curling up.

Shutting the door behind him, he backs into the hallway. It'll be hours yet before Mulder and Scully gets home. He hopes this is his last excitement for the night, and that they'll come home with good news about a lost woman now found.

He picks the novel up from where he dropped it on the floor and settles back in a recliner. The story's actually pretty good, as long as you don't roll your eyes too hard over the spy intrigue, and he's so engrossed in it that he's a little confused when he hears a rusty noise and looks down.

The fact that his lap is now warmer should have been the first clue, but he honestly doesn't remember Teliko and Piper climbing up onto his lap. They take up most of it. And when he looks at them, they give him slow blinks as if to ask if he's going to make an issue of their presence.

Shrugging, he decides the cats make night watch a little less lonely, and goes back to his book.



Chapter Five

Somerset, Western Virginia
5:02 a.m.

After what seems like an eternity, the SUV finally reaches a bumpy track that might be called a road if one was feeling particularly generous. If Scully was awake instead of dozing against his shoulder, Mulder would probably lean over and make a paranoid joke about being driven out to the middle of nowhere to be murdered. Just as well, he decides, looking at her sleeping face. The joke would likely fall flat, annoying her, considering her reluctance to stay involved rather than amusing her as he'd hope it would.

And, he thinks as they slalom over yet another sizeable bump, no one at the bureau has any reason to want him dead at the moment. Everyone who'd eventually gone on to work with the super soldiers or their would-be invaders had been safely locked up before they could congregate at Mount Weather to scheme against mankind, and the jailed conspirators haven't proven to be able to reach beyond the bars of their cells. If he and Krycek hadn't eviscerated the remnants of the consortium, he can't imagine being able to trust Whitney and Drummy enough to work with them.

Father Joe has been sleeping too, fortunately leaning against the door rather than on Mulder, but his head snaps up when they hit a particularly vicious pothole. Yawning, he glances out the window before asking, "Are we getting warm?"

Whitney leans over the passenger seat, replying coolly, "You tell us."

Scully begins to wake up, staring at Father Joe when he shrugs. "I don't have a clue where we are."

Before she can say something snarky, which he senses she's about to, Mulder squeezes her hand. She scowls at him, but lets him speak instead. "That's all right. Everyone works differently."

Father Joe snorts. "Who are you now, the good cop?"

"Nah. I'm not a cop at all now. I'm a TV personality."

"She said that." Father Joe hooks his thumb in Whitney's direction. "But I have to tell you, I've never heard of your show."

It's somewhat refreshing that he hasn't, at least in Mulder's opinion. There's only so much gushing or complaints about the show that he can take. He slips Monica Bannan's FBI ID card out of his pocket and holds it out. "What about her? Do you know her somehow that would explain why you have visions about her?"

Irritated, Father Joe pushes the card away. "I don't know this girl, your agent. I can't explain the connection."

"There's always something." Mulder puts the card away, which seems to make the other man slightly less tense. "However small."

The scowl this earns him is a lot like Scully's a couple of minutes earlier. "And who made you the expert?" he demands to know, his unhappiness making his accent more pronounced.

"The FBI," Scully says flatly. Father Joey gives her an interested look, but it doesn't induce her to elaborate.

Frowning, Mulder decides that he has to share more about their past than he cares to if he wants to get anywhere with the man. For someone who contacted the police, he can be surprisingly uncooperative. "Dana and I are former agents. We investigated a series of cases involving unexplained phenomena for the FBI."

It surprises Mulder that this revelation doesn't appear to have surprised Father Joe. "So you believe in these sort of things?" he asks, and it's clear that he doesn't find that a laudable quality.

It makes Mulder wonder if he only believes in his own visions but is somehow able to dismiss the rest of the unexplained. Holy cognitive dissonance, he thinks to himself. "Let's just say that I want to believe."

"And his sister was abducted by an E.T. when they were kids," Drummy rumbles from the front seat. There's a hint of bitter amusement to his tone, reminding Mulder of the days before Scully joined him on the FBI, and people at the bureau openly mocked his search for his sister as often as they praised his profiling skills.

"Is that true?"

"It was a long time ago," Mulder says evenly. He turns to the window, looking out at an endless plane of snow, wondering if they're ever going to reach their destination, or drive endlessly until they all grow old and die.

"She's okay now, though isn't she, your sister?" Father Joe asks.

"Yes, Samantha's fine. She and her husband are quite happy."

In the front seat both Drummy and Whitney look shocked. This pleases Mulder on some level, and makes him glad that there was no media-involvement in his reunion with his sister. He's deeply glad that they found each other again after decades, but it's a private joy, and not something he'd want splashed across a page even under the well-meaning guise of a human interest story.

All of the sudden Father Joe leans forward, and Mulder wonders if he's okay until he begins to talk excitedly. "Stop!" Drummy hits the brakes a lot harder than Mulder appreciates, and he and Scully both slide forward, but he automatically puts an arm out to keep her from being attacked by the seatbelt as they pitched forward.

"This is where she was taken. This is where your agent was attacked," Father Joe explains, oblivious to how close all of them came to being dumped out of their seats.

"I want to see the crime scene," Mulder announces and snaps off his seatbelt. Scully follows his lead.

"Hold on," Drummy insists, giving them a long look until they put their belts back on. He then advances slightly, pulling into a driveway Mulder's hardly noticed. The vehicle following behind them pulls in too, and everyone is allowed to get out.

Father Joe walks toward the garage as eagerly as a beagle scenting a rabbit, but he stops abruptly, looking confused. That initial confusion fades quickly into irritation. Looking at Whitney and Drummy he complains, "No, this isn't right. You've brought me to the wrong house." Then he begins to walk back to the driveway, leaving the rest of them there.

"Pulled that right out of his ass," Mulder says.

Drummy follows the old man who has now reached the road. The former priest approaches the house across the street, and Mulder finally notices that there is crime scene tape near that house's garage. Without asking, Joe enters the garage. Drummy looks back at them, and Whitney gestures to indicate that he should keep him in his sights.

Whitney looks skeptical, eyes still on the garage across the street. Occasionally movement can be seen through the out-building's small windows. When she notices that Mulder and Scully are both looking at her, she says, "There were news crews out here covering the scene, pictures of the neighborhood. He could have recognized it all from TV."

She begins to walk towards the street, and they follow her. "Yeah, but why?" Mulder asks.

"Why?" Whitney clearly doesn't get his point.

"Why do it?" he asks. "Why would he go to such great lengths to create an elaborate fiction?"

"Maybe he's a sociopath," Scully remarks, shrugging unapologetically when Mulder and Whitney stare at her. "Maybe he just enjoys winding people up."

"I don't think we need to automatically jump to the 'he's evil' explanation," Mulder protests. Her look tells him that she considers Joe evil in general, so it's not a jump for her.

"What other reason makes sense? He's either the real deal, purposely wasting our time and resources, or motivated by what?" Scully demands to know.

"Expiation. Forgiveness of his sins. He's written dozens of letters to the Vatican, pleading re-engagement with the church."

"A rather odd way to impress the Holy See," Mulder remarks.

"That's a futile effort. He's never going to gain forgiveness for what he did to those boys. You don't accidentally molest children who trust you to have their best interest at heart," Scully says hotly.

Whitney shrugs. "Whether his requests get him anywhere isn't the issue here. If he's really seeing where Monica is."

"You think it's possible?" Scully asks her.

"I don't know," Whitney admits. "But the voice of God speaking through a man - I think that's been a winner a few times."

"You think God would know better than to pick such a broken vessel," Scully snaps.

"Or maybe God is using someone who deserves the disruption to their life," Whitney suggests. "Prophets generally didn't have long lifespans once they took on their tasks."

Scully clearly doesn't like this argument, but she doesn't have a remark to repute it on the ready. By the time they get to the other side of the road, Father Joe and Drummy have left the shed and are walking towards the woods.

She watches them for a moment before spying something interesting in the snow. "You catch up with them," she says. "I'm going to look at something over there."

"Sure."


As soon as she's out of earshot, Whitney says, "Does she often go off on her own like that?"

"Only when she's pissed off," Mulder says with a wry grin. "Luckily for me, that's not too often."

"I bet she takes walks on the set between takes to keep from punching Reed," Whitney says, smiling back.

"We all take walks to keep from punching Reed." He watches Drummy, who is shadowing Father Joe like he's a teenager a clerk thinks is going to shoplift from the drug store. "So you think he's guilty too, huh?"

Whitney purses her lips. "With the details he claims to know, we have to consider him a suspect."

"But you found no connection to the crime," Mulder points out.

Giving him a long look, she asks, "And you never had a suspect who had no obvious connection to a crime turn out to be guilty?"

An image of Victor Tooms swatting at him before he was crushed by the workings of an escalator swims to the forefront of Mulder's brain. "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't."

"Everyone else on my team is still looking for Monica via conventional means, and they think they're going to find her."

He blinks, reminding himself that she's not talking about their Monica. It feels strange to him, so no wonder Doggett is hesitant to get too deeply enmeshed in the case. "But you don't, or you wouldn't be here."

"Yeah, I'm not the most popular girl at the FBI right now for calling in TV stars for help."

"I wouldn't say we're stars," Mulder automatically demurs, but a look from Whitney makes him sigh. "I was never exactly Miss Popularity at the FBI myself."

"Maybe not, but I did hear jokes about Mr. January when I first started." When he gives her a confused look, she laughs. "You know, like a model for a calendar? That was back before I brought Jen as a date to a function. I guess they thought all women could appreciate how attractive you are. God knows they also said a few catty things about your wife that made it clear they thought she cheated somehow in the contest to get your attention."

"I. What? Wow."

"Sorry to fluster you," Whitney says, clearly not sorry at all. "But I wouldn't want you to think that you were forgotten after you left."

"Thanks?"

"And it's because you haven't been forgotten that I wanted your help. You've worked with psychics before. Luther Lee Boggs, Clyde Bruckman, Gerald Schnauz. I went through those cases and I was extremely impressed."

"Thank you. But I'm only half the team."

"Oh, of course, but-"

Their conversation cuts off when there's a cry of surprise behind them.


Meanwhile

It's been so cold that Scully hasn't really been aware of the depth of the snowpack below her feet because it offers a hard enough surface for all of them to walk over the top of it. Until suddenly it doesn't. Scully exclaims in alarm as the crust beneath her boots suddenly gives way, making her lose her balance. Before she knows it, she's in snow up to her knees with her hands thrown out to break her fall.

Since she had forged ahead, Mulder, behind her, sees her fall and yells "Scully!" before running to her. He's there in an instant, hazel eyes filled with concern as she tries to free her feet from snow that's nearly up to her knees. Sighing, she takes his hand when he tires of watching her struggle.

"Thanks," she says, shaking the snow off her gloves as he pulls her onto snow she hopes will hold her weight a little better. From the knee down her pants are wet, and the sharp wind is already making her feel uncomfortable.

"Are you okay?" Mulder asks breathlessly, and she knows it's not because the wind has taken his breath away. "We should get the EMT to check you out-"

She shakes her head, ignoring his instant look of dismay. "I'm fine."

"But-"

"Look at me, Mulder," she says, making a sweeping gesture from neck to thigh. "I'm fine, the baby's fine. I didn't even get any snow on my belly, let alone hurt myself there, see?"

He actually does examine her coat, and she turns her head to hide a smile. Once upon a time, before Sammy was born, she had gotten roughed up enough to warrant a visit to the ER. But this time she's just fallen though a little snow, not been tossed around like a rag doll. "But what about the rest of you?" he asks. "I'm worried about you, too."

"I'm damp, not injured." She tries not to feel indigent because she knows he means well.

"If you're sure you're all right," he says, looking only mildly doubtful now.

"Really, I'm fine," she says, brushing snow off her pants as she speaks. "And I don't believe in signs and portends, but I do believe in pushing your luck." He frowns, maybe predicting what she'll say next. "If you want to continue to do fieldwork on this case I'm not going to try to talk you out of it, but I'm done out here. I'll offer what assistance I can from the safety of the inside of a snow-free building."

"Right," Mulder says, not arguing like she anticipates. "Good idea."

She can tell that he's not happy to be abandoned in the field, but she's grateful he's not guilting her into staying on. "What were you looking at over here, anyway?" he asks, but he's curious rather than challenging.

"Nothing. Another thing of interest that turns out to have nothing to do with this case." When she points at the ground, so he too can see the thing that caught her attention. It's a tattered mitten, too small to have fit any adult. "Probably belonged to a neighbor kid or got pulled off a snowman by the wind and dropped here."

"Or maybe it belonged to a nephew," he suggests, taking his eye of the scrap of red outerwear.

"What's going on?" Whitney calls, but when they turn to look, she's not facing their direction. Instead she's watching as Father Joe also sinks to his knees, but Scully can tell that he's done this deliberately, not falling like she has.

By the time they make their way over to them, Father Joe is saying something to Drummy. "...She ran away. She tried to escape. There were two men. Well, she couldn't. He pushed her down," Father Joe's voice is as ragged as the mitten now. "It was right here, then they put her in the back."

"Where?!" Whitney demands to know, and Scully idly wonders if her urgency is because the agent thinks he's a real psychic, or because she thinks he's confessing.

"In the car. No, it was a truck. A truck with something on it."

"We have to find her!" Whitney doesn't seem to notice how frantic she sounds.

Moaning, Father Joe covers his face, then says through his fingers, "She's in pain. Great, great pain."

"Tell me where!" Whitney demands, shaking his shoulder to get his attention when he hesitates too long.

"I don't know," he says querulously. "I can't see."

"We need to find her!"

"I can't see."

"Because he's pulling it out of his ass," Drummy says scornfully. Then he stomps off, leaving the three of them to deal with the weeping man.

Scully spots blood on the snow, and points at it until Whitney and Mulder both notice. "Father Joe?" Mulder asks worriedly.

This has him lifting his head in response. There's blood seeping out from under his closed eyelids.

"Call an ambulance!" Scully snaps at Whitney. She might not like the psychic, but that doesn't get in the way of her doctoring instincts. Leaning down towards him, she begins to ask a series of questions beginning with did something get in his eyes, but Father Joe just whispers no each time.


The ride home feels tense to Scully, and she eventually realizes it's because Mulder has said very little since they left Father Joe at the E.R. with Whitney and Drummy. Even with the few hours' sleep they got before they went to the Hoover building, Scully is feeling tired and more than a little irritable. She's tried to be a good sport, but now it feels like he's shutting her out.

Although it's her instinct to snap "what's your problem" she opts for a lower level of hostility. "Cat got your tongue?" she asks. When he says nothing, she sighs. "I guess you'll be going back out with them later."

"Yes..." He turns from the road long enough to give her a look that she doesn't like.

"Don't look at me like that. Have I tried to stop you from continuing to work with them?"

"No," he admits.

This doesn't give her the satisfaction it should. "So what's the problem?" she wants to know.

"I just have been thinking about something," he begins. "Do you really think that there's something different about April and William? That they're tuned into something most other people aren't?"

She shifts uncomfortably, cursing the seat belt for pressing awkwardly against her belly. The baby doesn't seem to like it much either, judging by the viciousness of the kicks. "I think I have to believe that. They know things that it's impossible for them to have learned through everyday means."

"I thought you did," he says, nodding thoughtfully. "I really thought you did." She cringes, waiting for him to accuse her of just saying that to humor him. But the next words out of his mouth are, "Which is why I really can't understand what's going on with you now."

"What's going on with me'?" she repeats, not bothering to disguise how insulting she finds the comment. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"If you believe that there are people who can dream of a cousin they've never met and accurately describe the child's systematic abuse, or who can predict if they're having a brother or sister-"

"That prediction is always meaningless, Mulder," she interrupts. "Your odds of being right are always 50-50. Well, at least with a singleton birth, anyway."

"And April dreaming about Addy when no one knew she even existed?"

Scully leans back against the headrest. "That's harder to explain. There is no other explanation than she dreamed something that really happened."

"If April dreaming about another little girl hundreds and hundreds of miles away is somehow plausible to you, why are you so sure that Father Joe is a fraud?"

"Because our children are innocent," she snaps. "If gifts like this are given by God, don't you think He picks people who are worthy of his love to bestow them upon?"

"Yes," Mulder agrees, and for a moment she feels good that she's gotten him to see it her way. Maybe that means he'll leave the search for the missing agent to the FBI. She has nothing against Bannan, especially since she's never even met her, but the odds of her being alive still are laughingly small.

But before she can suggest that Bannan is probably beyond saving, Mulder asks, "But what if the gift wasn't given to him by God?"

She doesn't have an answer for that.



Chapter Six

Later That Morning
Boston Museum of Science

Luke is frowning as he takes a Hello My Name Is sticker from Gibson and sticks it to
his shirt. The kids, all wearing royal blue tee shirts and nametags, are darting around and talking loudly. Luke's expression doesn't change as he watches them.

"Are you sure you're up to this?" Gibson asks quietly. "I know you haven't been sleeping lately." It looks like Luke is going to accuse him of snooping so he points at his face. "Major dark circles going on, Luke."

In Gibson's estimation Luke had been in good spirits while they were home for Christmas break and at the beginning of the semester, but for the past few weeks he's been rather quiet. Not everyone is thrilled to be finishing college, so Gibson chalks it up to that. It makes him wonder if Luke's worried about midterms and/or their acceptance into the graduate program, but given their grades and the praise heaped on all their games he thinks they're both a shoo-in. Being bound to be accepted doesn't necessarily mean that neither of them will worry needlessly about it anyway.

If Gibson hopes Luke will open up to him about what's been bothering him, he's to be disappoint "I'm fine," Luke says with forced cheer." I've been looking forward to this."

Gibson gives him a skeptical look. "You've been looking forward to chaperoning kids at the museum?"

Frankly, he'd expected an outright rejection of Katie's request that he join the tutoring center's roster of additional grownups helping overseeing the visit, but Luke had agreed. It made Gibson wonder if everyone was a potential victim of Katie puppy dog looks, or just men between 18-30. Not that he worried that Luke had any untoward feelings towards Katie: Luke had announced that he was dating Mr. Mulder's oldest niece the week Adrianna turned eighteen. Everyone else pretended that the couple had spontaneously begun dating in November, but Gibson had gotten him to admit that they'd been dating longer than that. He hadn't asked how much longer because he didn't really want to know. In his opinion Luke was being treated pretty civilly considering Adriana's a high school senior.

"Is that so hard to believe?" Luke asks defensively. Gibson is confused at first, his wandering thoughts having him lose track of their conversation. "I like kids."

"Uh... sure." Gibson's eyes follow two of the kids as another chaperon keeps them from climbing on a sculpture. There are still six kids who haven't been assigned a chaperon and they're probably the best behaved there at the moment. At this second all six are looking up at models suspend from the ceiling. "Three each," he tells Luke. "Which ones do you want?"

Luke shrugs and points to the three nearest. "Them, I guess."

"Not Alice," Gibson says more sharply than he intends to once he gets a better look at the kids they're walking up to. His brother gives him an odd look and he can feel heat rising to his cheeks. "Oh, it's just that she's a handful. I'll take her."

"Okay... why don't I take the boys, then? I could probably use more practice figuring out little boys after only being around Hannah and Becca."

"Prepping for when Jon-Jon's mobile?" Gibson asks. He can remember how surprised he and Hannah were when their baby sister got on her feet and began to destroy things. A baby boy will probably cause even more property damage.

To his surprise Luke seems bothered by the question, tempting him to break brotherly code of conduct and sift through his thoughts to figure out what's wrong because he's beginning to doubt it's grad school. But as quick as it came Luke gets over it. "I guess. And if we're going to someday market games to little knuckleheads, we should learn how they think, how they behave in the wild," he adds before Gibson can suggest that the Mulders would probably lend them some kids. It's probably just as well considering Becca's arrival was the result the last time. Not that he had anything against more siblings, but they'd hardly seen Jon-Jon yet and he suspected an even bigger age gap would make them even less close to any younger kids. Their folks seem like they're through with babies, but so had the Mulders...

"Have fun," Gibson says at last, feeling like he should say something.

Luke looks mildly alarmed. "You don't think we should keep our groups together," he asks nervously.

"It's usually up to the kids."

"Right...."

When they reach the kids, Gibson clears his throat to get their attention. "Sydney, Alice, Kennedy, you're with me. Adrian, Juan, Caleb, be nice to my brother Luke, or you'll regret it."

''He's your brother?" Kennedy, an eight-year-old with raven hair and an attitude, asks skeptically. "You don't look like brothers."

Before he can patiently launch into his usual explanation, Alice smiles in a way that reaches her brown eyes. "Gibson's adopted, silly."

"You are?"

He nods, bothered once more by something Alice has said or done. Even after all this time telling Katie that he doesn't think Alice should remain part of the tutoring group falls on deaf ears; because Katie still doesn't know about his gift, she's decided that he has just taken an irrational dislike to the little girl. And her older sister, he reminds himself. Charlotte pegs his not-quite-right meter too.

How can you tell someone who doesn't know you read minds how upsetting it was when you realized you'd met someone whose mind couldn't be read? You can't, Gibson reminds himself impatiently. And he sure can't tell her that he's growing more sure that Alice can read his.

"Come on," he tells the kids. "Let's go see the dinosaurs."

The kids cheer and all six decide to stick together, much to Luke's relief. Not to Gibson's, though. Not when he has to keep an eye on a child he doesn't like or trust.


Gibson keeps a close eye on Alice as they make their way through the museum. Considering 3/4ths of their group is under the age of ten, they detour a lot on their way to the dinosaur exhibit. All it takes is one kid stopping to look at something to divert the attention of all six kids who follow the first to allow themselves to get derailed.

"So..." Luke leans in while they watch them gawk at yet another distraction. "Do you think Katie's really going to want to take these guys here overnight?"

"We'll see." This daytime trip is a theoretical dry run for a night at the museum, a program that allows kids and their chaperons to get to do some after-hours programming and sleep in the museum.

"Uh... I'm not spending the night here with them if she does. Sorry, bro."

"I don't blame you." Looking at the kids he calls "Guys! Dinosaurs?"

"Oh yeah!" Caleb cries, leading the charge back to Luke and Gibson.

Like a row of ducklings, the rest fall into line and race back to them too. If they hadn't nearly knocked over a three-year-old and his mother, he probably wouldn't be cringing or Luke covering his face.

"That's it," Luke declares irritably, and all six kids look up at him with wide eyes. "If you can't stick together, and near us, I'm going to lash you together with our belts."

"You're not wearing a belt," Kennedy points out.

Without missing a beat, he points at the gift shop window. "Those scarves they sell would work just as well."

The kids all give each other looks as if to ask 'he wouldn't really do that would he?' and it's clear from their expressions that they don't know. Gibson smiles inside, glad that Luke is the one who decided to take a stand: the kids don't know him, so they don't know if he's serious or not, and they waver towards behaving due to this.

"We'll be good," Juan promises.

"You'd better be. Now let's go to the dinosaurs you keep saying you want to see so badly without any more detours. And no running into anyone else!"

Somehow, this seems to work and they get to the exhibit without any further problems. Inside the large room it seems safe to let them explore, at least after Luke demands that they all pinkie swear that they'll stay in the room.

Despite feeling a little frazzled, Gibson begins to enjoy looking at the dinosaurs. It's a little disappointing that there are more life-size models than actual bones, but that doesn't seem to bother the kids any.

"Hey, look at this Gibson!" Sydney calls, and he looks up to see that the girls are clustered around a display that holds the skeletons of other, considerably smaller, animals. He imagines that the point of having them there is to show how immense the actual dinosaur skeletons (although he suspects the ones made of bones might be casts) are.

"Isn't this neat?" Kennedy asks him, forgetting to be snotty for once. "I had no idea how many ribs snakes have. They're like all ribs, aren't they?"

"And spine," he suggests.

"Oh yeah, that holds the ribs."

To Gibson's confusion the skeleton they're looking at begins to shake. At first he wonders if it's someone in museum design's idea of a feature, but nothing seems designed to do that. It's very like an extremely localized, extremely small earthquake. Whipping his head around, he can't see anything else shaking. But over Kennedy's gasps of alarm or amazement, he hears another sound: Alice giggling.

When he spins to look at her, she winks.

And by the time he turns back to the snake skeleton, it's still again. Unlike his stomach.



Later That Afternoon

Not burdened with housing a tiny human, Mulder finds himself getting up well before Scully does. He notices dark circles under her closed eyes, and smoothes the covers over her after he gets out of their bed, and leaves the room quietly. She needs the sleep.

Alan's gone to get the youngest kids, so it's nice to have the house to himself for a little while. He makes coffee, and sits at the kitchen table, wondering why it's about two feet closer to the cabinets than it usually.

He's only halfway through the sports section when he hears the rasp of Scully's slippers across the tiles. Trying not to look disappointed, he turns to her and says, "I thought you'd sleep for a while longer."

"My mom's coming over," she reminds him.

"Oh." He'd forgotten to ask her if she planned to cancel the visit and it's now apparent she didn't. Maybe she hadn't expected to be out all night.

"I'm going to get dressed," she says pointedly.

"Right, me too."

He looks longingly at his coffee, wishing there was time to savor it. There isn't, so he gulps it down, needing the caffeine even if he can't linger over it.



Maggie arrives after they've gotten dressed and Mulder has guzzled another mug of coffee. The first thing she does it to hug her daughter and tell her how good she looks. Scully just nods, but he wonders if she thinks her mother is as full of it as he does. His normally gorgeous wife looks extremely tired, and he's beginning to feel guilty for having asked her to remain out with him all night, especially since they don't seem to be much closer to finding Bannan.

"How are you feeling?" Maggie finally asks, giving Scully a chance to say something after speaking breathlessly for a minute.

"Like a middle-aged woman who stayed up all night trying to get a self-proclaimed psychic to admit he's a crank," Scully says sourly.

Maggie looks surprised. "You're doing an episode about a psychic?"

Blinking, Mulder says, "Uh, no. We were asked to help look for a missing FBI agent, a friend of John's."

"And his friend was kidnapped by a psychic?" His mother-in-law looks more confused than he feels.

"No. Supposedly one knows where she is," Scully complains. "And you'll love this, he's a defrocked priest."

"He is?" Maggie asks cautiously.

"He is. He molested a bunch of boys. And you wondered why I refused to consider having Sammy be an alterboy."

Mulder says nothing: he didn't approve of the idea either, but his reasons went beyond rumors of abuse.

"The priests at our church would never...!" Maggie sputters, taking the bait.

"You're right. But what if they left and less trustworthy men took over for them?" Scully asks with a shrug, obviously not bothered that she's offended her mother.

"You say that like there are a ton of priests who are just dying to get their hands on kids."

Scully's arched brows as much as ask 'aren't there?' but she doesn't actually ask that, which Mulder considers something of a blessing.

"Most priests wouldn't dream of doing anything like that," Maggie continues defensively.

"But you can't tell by looking can you?" Scully challenges her. Eventually Maggie bites her lip and shakes her head. "The man we met last night looks like Santa Claus minus the paunch. He might not look like a dangerous predator, but he is one."

As she says this, he idly wonders when Joe's crimes were committed. He knows she knows, but he's too tired himself to consider winding her up more by asking about it. If he finds himself desperate to know, he can use the internet himself.

"Well..."

A door hinge squeaks and a voice cries "Grandma!" before the speaker comes into view.

Zoe runs over to Maggie and throws her arms around her.

Her twin, on the other hand, wants to talk to him instead. "Daddy, did you and Mommy catch the bad guy last night?"

"Not yet."

"Uncle John says you're gonna."

"I'm glad he's got faith in me," Mulder tells her.

"Can we have a tea party, Grandma?" Zoe wheedles, apparently uninterested in the other conversation.

For a moment Maggie looks torn, but she gives her daughter a sidelong glance and says "Sure, for a little while." Apparently she's regretting the visit, or at least where their conversation has gone.

"Come on, Brianna!" Zoe insists, practically pulling her sister by the arm.

Maggie wanders after them, looking a little more relieved than Mulder likes. In the other room he hears Alan talking to William, so he decides to see what they're up to. The nanny is probably about to go home, but Mulder has grown to like him, so he'd like to chat with him for a couple of minutes, if only to give his wife a few minutes to calm down.


If Mulder thought he'd get to have some peace after Maggie leaves, he's to be sorely mistaken. No sooner does she leave that the kids get home from school, and Reyes drops by with Jon-Jon. The infant is sleeping in his baby seat.

The very first thing Reyes does after putting her son down is to give them both hugs, and he thinks that Scully looks as surprised by this as he is. After she lets them go, she says, "Thanks so much for helping to look for Monica. That feels weird... but anyway, John won't tell you, but he's really hoping she's found alive. I don't know her as well, but he and Leyla really liked her."

"I hope we find her," Mulder offers, and he notices that Scully stiffens as soon as the words are out of his mouth. It disappoints him because it's obvious that she's hoped that he'll tell the FBI he's no longer interested in working with them either.

"The odds aren't too good, but I'm still-"

The angry squeal of brakes shuts her up, and she gives them alarmed look.

Without even thinking about it, Mulder bolts out of his chair and runs outside. Three of the kids have been playing outside, and he needs to reassure himself that they're okay.

"David! Jared! Christopher!" he shouts, looking around frantically.

His heart stops its erratic stuttering in his chest when the three of them round the corner. "Yeah, Dad?" David asks worriedly. It's obvious that they haven't been playing in front of the house, or anywhere near the road.

"I just heard a car... Nevermind. Why don't you go back to whatever you were doing?"

"Uh huh," they agree, giving him odd looks.

They return to the backyard, and he almost goes into the house deciding that the car they heard just needs a brake job, when he notices something on the side of the house, to the right of their driveway.

A sinking feeling fills him as he walks over to it and sees a splash of blood on the snow. "Damn," he complains sadly.



Chapter Seven

When Mulder comes inside, his face is grim enough to make Scully worry.

"What's the matter?" Scully demands to know. "Were the boys near the road-"

He shakes his head. "A cat got hit by a car out in front of the house. I think she must've been a stray because I've never noticed her around."

"Is she dead?" Scully asks.

"Definitely."

"Oh no," Reyes groans, looking horrified.

"Yeah," Mulder says forlornly. He ducks into the kitchen and returns with a big paper bag and a pair of rubber gloves that haven't been used since the time the dishwasher broke and couldn't be fixed until after a holiday. "With the way the ground's frozen, it's a blessing we dug that hole for the tree April wanted and couldn't get."

Scully winces. She hopes April doesn't object to having the hole that was supposed to be for an apple tree usurped for a far less pleasant job. She'll understand, she hopes.

"At least it's not a neighbor's pet," Reyes comments after Mulder sighs and goes back outside.

"That's true."

"So, what do you make of the psychic the FBI's using?"

"Not much," Scully says acidly, then launches into a tirade about the bad father.

She's still on a roll when Mulder comes back, and even he doesn't dare object to the things his wife is saying about the man they're working with. After several minutes, Mulder tentatively tries to interject. "I don't think he-"

But before he can get any farther than that before their twin sons skitter into the room, coming to a wide-eyed stop in front of Scully. "Mom! Mom! You won't believe what Christopher has!"

It takes Christopher almost a minute longer than his brothers to come in, and it's almost immediately Obvious why he's moving so slowly and cautiously: he's holding on to the edges of his shirt, and a trio of kittens are cradled in the pouch of fabric he's fashioned.

"Uh oh," Mulder moans.

The boys look at him in alarm. "What?"

"David, Jared, you need to go outside and see if you find any more kittens."

"Why would there be more kittens?" Jared wants to know. "Where did these kittens come from?"

"Jared..." Scully says quietly. "Daddy just buried a stray cat that got hit by a car. We need to make sure all her kittens are found."

"Oh, right!" He and his twin rush back outside. The door bangs behind them, making the kittens stiffen in alarm.

"I think I found them all," Christopher says quietly. He looks down at the kittens as he speaks.

"Hopefully," Mulder says. "But we still need to check."

"Hey, Chris, I'm going to pick up one of the kittens," Reyes warns him before plucking one of the kittens out of his hammocked shirt. The one she picks up is white and almost impossibly fuzzy. The two remaining, one orange and the other a pale gray, cuddle closer together in alarm.

Reyes handles the kitten gently, not minding when it hisses at her. "About ten weeks old," she pronounces. When Scully looks surprised, she grins. "My abuela had a lot of cats when I was a kid. I got good at figuring out the ages and-" She turns the kitten around so she can see under its tail. "Boy."

"Ten weeks," Mulder asks. "Old enough to eat food instead of being bottle fed?"

"Oh yeah, definitely." She looks from the kitten in her hands to the two Christopher is still holding. "Are you going to look for homes for them?"

Mulder shoots Scully a look before holding up his hands. "We don't need three kittens, so yes."

Reyes looks thoughtful for a moment, then takes the gray kitten from Christopher too. "John and I have been talking about getting kittens for each of the girls. Taking these two off your hands is safer than going the Craigslist route. If that's okay?"

"Sure," Scully says automatically. Then she notices how unhappy Christopher looks.

"I'll need to bring them to the vet to get checked out and get their shots, should I tell the vet you're looking for a home for the last one, in case he's got someone trying to find a kitten?"

"No..." Christopher protests softly.

'"What?" Scully asks, but he doesn't respond. Cradling the last kitten to his chest, Christopher looks up at them instead, his eyes filled with longing and an unspoken hope.

For a moment she feels an ache deep within her heart, but of course it's not a physical pain. There are times when she worries about this middle son of hers. He's not as boisterous as most of his older siblings and less needy than the younger ones. Because he tends to be on the quiet side and never asks for much, it's possible for him to get lost in the shuffle.

Looking over at Mulder, she sees that he's looking at Christopher too. When she catches his eye, she asks a silent question. He's immediately contemplative rather than confused, so she knows that he understands the question. Eventually he shrugs, conveying a 'why not' answer.

"No thank you," she tells Reyes. Then she takes the orange kitten from Christopher, who only gives it up reluctantly. "But could you tell us if it's a boy or a girl?" she asks, handing it to Reyes.

After a few seconds, Reyes hands it back. "Boy. All three are boys."

Christopher looks surprised when Scully hands the kitten back to him. "If we're going to keep him, he needs a name."

"We're going to keep him?" his voice shakes as he asks that.

"Yup. But if David and Jared find any others, we're finding them new homes," she cautions.

"I understand," Christopher says happily. By this time the kitten has crawled on to his shoulder.

"What's his name?" Reyes prompts. Her expression suggests she too had hoped they'd keep the last one. It makes Scully wonder if she asked about the vet to provoke a decision.

"Wallace," Christopher says firmly.

"Wallace?" Mulder repeats, not fully hiding his disbelief. "How come?"

"Well, I'd call him Charles Wallace after the boy in those awesome books Sammy's helping me read, but we already have Uncle Charlie whose real name is Charles, I think, I'm pretty sure, so my kitten hasta just be Wallace. I think he likes it, doesn't he looks like he likes it?" Christopher says, using more words together all at once than Scully can remember when. He's been petting the kitten as he talks and now the small kitten's whole body rumbles with a purr.

"Yup, I think he likes it," Mulder agrees.

A cold draft beats the boys back into the kitchen. "There aren't any more," David announces.

"You're sure?" Mulder looks about ready to go look himself.

"We're sure," Jared agrees. "We counted the tracks. Four sets, a big set and three little ones. The big ones musta been their mom's." He looks down as he says the last, which isn't surprising considering the mom is now planted in their backyard.

Mulder relaxes. "Smart."

"Thanks." He looks proud of himself. "What's going to happen to the kittens now?"

"Well, John and Monica are going to take the white one and the gray one," Scully says.

"What about the orange one?" David asks.

"His name is gonna be Wallace," Christopher announces.

"Christopher gets to keep him??" The twins goggle comically.

"We get to keep him," Scully corrects gently. But watching the kitten interact with Christopher she suspects already that no matter how they label their new pet, it'll be Christopher's. "But we're going to have to keep him away from Teliko and Piper until he's gone to the vet for a checkup, shots, and deworming," and a sterilization procedure much more drastic than Mulder's, she adds silently. "Why don't you give me the kitten and the three of you go downstairs and find a cat carrier? The old one, please."

"Yup!" This time Christopher doesn't balk at handing their new kitten over before dashing after the twins.

"We lucked out not having any kids scared to go in basements."

"So far," she says, hand not holding the kitten going to her belly. "We also lucked out that these guys are super friendly for feral kittens."

Mulder nods, but Reyes says "no" so they stare at her. She's been playing with the kittens but she stops, shaking her head. "Their mother might have been without a home for a while, but she wasn't feral. If she had been, she'd of taught these guys to fear humans, and obviously they don't."

"You think she was a pet someone tired of?"

"Or the owner was elderly and died or their house got foreclosed on." Reyes shrugged. "Or they just got tired of her."

"That's terrible."

"But it happens," Reyes replies. "People do that sort of thing."

"And worse," Mulder says darkly.

So darkly she knows that he's no longer thinking of the type of people who make no effort to rehome a house cat they don't want or can't keep. He's not wrong, she thinks with a sigh. She just wishes that she could really believe that the young woman who'd been dragged from her home was still alive.


That Night

"I can feel you thinking," Mulder says eventually.

Since he's spooned up against her she can feel his warm breath on her cheek that's more pleasant a feeling in February than it is in June. She'll be as big as a house by then too, so she thinks they'll be extra glad of having a king size bed come early summer. Right now, though, they're both huddled in the center of it, and the far reaches of their blankets are too distant to be warmed by their body heat.

Scully sighs and reaches over to turn on the light on her nightstand. It's not bright enough on its own to bother their eyes. "Sorry, I can't sleep."

"Actually, I have a little something for that," he teases, pressing himself up against her so she can feel exactly what he means.

"Uh, not so little," she replies, turning her head to kiss him.

"You know, Scully, flattery will get you everywhere with me."

"Down boy," she says, laughing. When she pouts she reaches for his cheek. "I'll take you up on what I sense you're offering later, but I'm hoping we can talk now if we're both still awake."

"Sure, as long as you intend to honor that rain check."

"Don't I always?"

"Um hum. What's on your mind?"

She rolls over. Then she rubs her belly because it becomes clear from sudden jabs that she's now disturbed the baby too. "Is it insane to take on a puppy and a kitten at this point in our lives?" Scully asks, yawning. Her hands are folded across the still small mound of her belly.

Which Mulder gently pokes. "No more so than taking on another baby."

"We didn't have a choice about that," she says sharply.

He nods slowly. They've never really talked about his own feelings about abortion, and he's always gotten the sense that she feels he must agree it's wrong. Fortunately, he does agree with her, so they're not at odds. Before he had a family of his own his feelings about the sanctity of life were less strong, but now that he's done so much to assure that their family exists...

"Sure. And I think we've survived a lot more chaos than a baby, a puppy and a kitten could ever team up to throw at us," Mulder tells her with a smirk.

A visit to the walk in vet clinic nearby, which Mulder told her is a genius idea given it's the quadruped equivalent of an urgent care center, has earned Wallace a clean bill of health. He's been giving de-worming pills anyway considering most strays have worms, but other than that he's in great shape. They'll make an appointment to get him neutered soon, too.

"You sound pretty confident," Scully says, amused.

"I'm pretty sure it'd take a lot more puppies and kittens to add up to a second baby, and we managed that twice."

"That's true," she yawns. "But we were younger then. And Alan's not going to nanny the four-legged babies."

He gives her a look as if to suggest that he smugly believes Wallace will be as easy to care for as Daisy is. Mulder leans over her to kiss her, but then looks comically surprised when she pushes him away to sit up. "Oh. Speaking of dogs and cats, there was something weird on the toxicology report Doggett e-mailed me."

"The victim was a werewolf?" When she looks confused, he gives her a long suffering look. "You said 'speaking of dogs and cats'," he prompts.

She blinks. "The report indicates that there were traces of a drug commonly given to patients being treated with radiation-"

"He's Godzilla?" Mulder asks, reminding her that that on Saturday she'd woken up late and discovered Mulder and all four of their daughters in the den watching the Matthew Broderick version of Godzilla. It might have alarmed her if she hadn't immediately realized the girls were helping him make sarcastic comments about the movie.

Rolling her eyes, she goes on. "There were also traces of a drug called acepromazine."

"Why's that weird?"

"Acepromazine is an animal tranquillizer."

"Crap," he says, rolling away from her and getting out of bed. "Now I can't sleep. You've infected me too, Scully."

"Mulder?" she asks, torn between being amused and alarmed.

He wanders into their bathroom, turning on a light bright enough to make him wince. "What is an animal tranquillizer doing in the tissue sample of a man's severed arm?"

"I can't even begin to speculate," she admits. It takes her a bit of effort to lever herself out of bed too, and she thinks ruefully that it's only going to get harder over the next few months.

"He said he heard barking dogs," Mulder tells her, voice somewhat muffled. She's not too surprised to see this is because he's got his head in their medicine cabinet.

"Who?" she asks.

"Father Joe."

"Mulder, what are you doing?" Scully watches him take something out of the medicine cabinet and he looks down at it. It seems to be a prescription for one of their pets considering his remark but obviously not a tranquillizer.

"Is it a tranquillizer you might give a dog?" he asks.

All of the sudden she feels very tired. "He's a charlatan, Mulder. He pulls these so-called visions out of thin air, and now he's got you straining to connect the dots for him."

"When I see a man cry tears of blood at a crime scene he recognizes without ever having visited before, I'm willing to go out on a limb. Do you know what I'm saying?" When she doesn't say anything he asks, "Tears of blood, Scully. Some trick, huh? How do you fake that?"

They both jump when a cellphone near their bed rings. Scully realizes it's hers, and is tempted to cuss out the caller for calling so late in the night. But, unfortunately, the number is one she recognizes. "Hello?" she asks, wondering if she should have bothered to.

"Hello, Dr. Scully?" Agent Drummy asks. The background noise suggests he's driving in a car.

"Yes."

"I have Dakota Whitney for you."

After a moment, Whitney gets on the call. "I'm sorry to call at this hour."

"Has there been a break?"

"Did they find her?" Mulder asks. When she glances in his direction she sees that he's standing in the doorway between the bedroom and the bathroom. The light from behind him frames him oddly, almost making him glow.

"We're pursuing another lead," Whitney says.

"The same source," Scully says, realizing that she can hear Father Joe in the background.

"The same source, new news," Whitney explains.

Then she clearly hears Father Joe exclaim "It's here. It's here. Turn up ahead, at the barn."

When Scully looks back at Mulder, she's not surprised to see that he's giving her a puppy-dog pleading look. "Someone has to stay with the kids," she tells him firmly, and he deflates. She'd really meant it when she claimed to have been through earlier in the day, but from the way he looks like he's been slapped, it's clear that he didn't believe her.

"You're right," he says uncomfortably. "I'm on my own." He sits on the bed, reaching for his shoes.

"Mulder?" she asks, feeling bad when he looks up with a hopeful expression. "Call me when you get there, okay?"

"I will," he promises, then goes back to tying his shoes.



Chapter Eight

February 11, 2008
Three Hours Later

Yawning, Mulder is glad when they finally reach the address that Drummy gave him. By now it's likely Scully is sound asleep, and he hates to wake her. If working the case is messing with his sleep, it's got to be worse for her. He's still trying to talk himself out of calling her when the phone rings, startling him.

Caller ID reveals that it's not Scully, which would be pretty spooky. Instead it's Whitney. "We're at the barn," she informs him. "Pull right up to it, okay?"

"How did you know I was here?" he asks, trying not to laugh nervously.

"Drummy saw your headlights."

"Oh."

Whitney hangs up before he can say more, so he shrugs that off and drives to the barn he can see about a quarter of a mile further down the road. This time there are a lot more FBI vehicles, and the sight of them makes him feel awake and more excited. If they have amassed more agents, maybe that's a sign that they've really found something.

The phone rings again, and this time he expects it to be Whitney, telling him where to go to find the door. This time it's Scully. "You there yet?" she asks.

"Just got here," he says, feeling a little spooked after all. How could she have known? "I'd hoped you'd get some sleep."

"Oh, I did," she tells him. "But Daisy woke me to go out twenty minutes ago. I wish she'd find a place to pee quicker than she does."

"The novelty of going outside into the freezing cold will wear off when she gets older."

"I hope so."

As he's been speaking to her, Mulder has been looking for a way into the barn. Finally he rounds a corner and finally sees the doors. They're open, and he can hear Whitney inside. "One more time. Ten minutes!"

"Whitney?" Scully asks.

"Yup."

"Put me on speaker phone," she demands. Mulder's close enough for Whitney to notice him, and he shrugs.

"Did you find her?" Scully asks, obviously directed towards Whitney.

"No," Whitney tells them both, surprising Mulder.

Scully speaks again a moment later. "You said there was news."

"The news is our psychic led us to the exact same site he led us to before."

For a moment this confuses Mulder, but then he realizes that Whitney isn't including him and Scully in her 'us'. Shrugging, Mulder and Whitney walk over to where Father Joe stands smoking a cigarette. Drummy watches him with obvious distaste.

Father Joe snubs out his cigarette. "You're going to find it."

Drummy snorts. "That's what you keep saying."

Father Joe isn't bothered by his skepticism. "You're going to find a body."

This statement obviously doesn't impress Drummy very much, and Mulder wonders if he's going to punch him. "You keep telling us she's alive."

"She is."

Turning to Whitney, Drummy snaps, "We could do this all night. These guys are running on empty."

Whitney gives Mulder an embarrassed look. "I'm sorry for bringing you out here."

Drummy obviously takes this as an admission of defeat. "Hey, let's go, fellas. Bring it in. Let's go. Bring it in, gentlemen, time to go home."

On the other hand, Mulder's not quite ready to give up. Maybe it's from overtiredness or not wanting to accept that he's wasted over two hours driving, but either way he finds himself turning to speak to Father Joe. "Tell me. Tell me what you see."

Father Joe almost falls over himself in basking in someone listening to him. "I see a face. I see eyes staring out."

"Who? Who is it?"

"It's unclear." Father Joe drops his cigarette butt into the snow and begins to walk forward. "Like through dirty glass. It's out there, I know it."

Mulder watches him for a moment before remembering his wife is still on the other end of the phone. "Scully, what does he mean like through dirty glass?"

"Mulder."

"What?" he asks, not liking her tone.

"Stop."

He grits his teeth, annoyed that she seems to feel the same way as Drummy does. "Okay, just feel free to give up like everybody else."

"This is not our job anymore, Mulder."

"No, that's right, that's right, our job is just to entertain now, right? Not help anyone."

"We did our time," she replies flatly. "We did more than most people would. It's not up to us to save everyone."

Isn't it? he wants to ask. I saved you, didn't I? But he swallows that all down because as irritated as he is, he knows it isn't fair to throw that in her face. Instead he says, "Not everyone. But in this instance? It's the right thing to do, Scully."

"Not if nothing's going to come of it," she protests.

Oblivious to their argument, Father Joe has continued to walk away, and Mulder watches him. From the old man's posture, Mulder can tell that he's looking at something that surprises him.

Fortunately, the FBI team hasn't left yet, which Mulder notes with some relief before yelling "I need those men back!" at their retreating backs.

He hurries in the same direction as the priest after Whitney reluctantly signals the search team back.

"What are you doing?" Scully asks.

"I'm trying to ignore your advice." Snow crunches under his shoes as he closes the distance between himself and the psychic. Father Joe is standing in the center of a clearing, and he seems to notice Mulder eventually, lifting his focus from whatever he's seeing for only long enough to nod.

"This is it! Here it is!" Father Joe cries. Then he drops to his knees. His gloves look too thin to dig in the snow with, but he doesn't let that stop him. A small pile of snow grows next to him on the ground. "This is it."

After watching a moment, Mulder calls over his shoulder to the team that has been approaching with a lot less urgency than he had. "We need shovels."

Whitney backs this request, and a couple of the men run through the snow, a lot less awkwardly than Mulder thinks he could himself. Of course if any of them is older than thirty-five, he'd eat his hat.

"What's going on?" Scully asks, her voice over the phone sounding more weary than curious. From this he realizes that she's already guessed that something has happened to draw his commitment in deeper.

"Father Joe has found something, buried in the snow."

"What?"

"I don't know yet."

By this time men have returned with shovels, and have begun clearing the snow where Father Joe says to. Unlike Scully, they seem pleased that something is happening. Mulder nudges Father Joe until he too is standing out of the way so the men can work. But unlike him, it's clear that the psychic is using all his self-restraint to keep from pushing the other men away and doing it himself.

There's a hard sound, and it's hard to place. The agents stop in surprise, and one gives Mulder his shovel without question when he holds his hand out for it. Drummy steps forward, and looks down at it with Mulder. "It's solid ice," he says.

Mulder uses the side of the shovel to clear away some of the remaining snow. "No, it's dirty glass." Staring at one of the agents now just standing around, he holds out his hand again, saying "Flashlight." One is immediately placed in his hand.

Holding the flashlight with one hand and using the shovel with the other proves to be awkward, so he finally realizes that he can get Drummy to hold the flashlight. If he'd been sleeping, he might have more wits left to gather around him, but on the other hand it hadn't occurred to anyone to offer to take it, either.

The hard scraping noise of shovel on ice is viscerally disturbing, but at least there isn't much snow left to remove. And when it's finally gone, and the flashlight's beam is focused in the hole, there are gasps. A woman's frozen head looks back up at them with unseeing eyes.

Looking up at Whitney and Drummy, Mulder merely says, "You're going to need resources," before stepping away. Regarding his phone, he explains, "We just uncovered a woman's head encased in ice."

"Is it Bannan's?" Scully asks.

"Who else's could it be?"

Behind him, Mulder can hear Whitney and Drummy direct the rest of the team. "We need equipment. Concrete saws and a backhoe." "You two get in the line. You come with me."

Father Joe walks up to Mulder, holding his hand out for his phone. Surprised, Mulder just gives it to him. He merely says "Don't give up" before handing the phone back. Then he walks away.

"What was that about?" Scully demands to know.

"You tell me." The cold is beginning to seep into his bones now that the thrill of action is abating. He notices a big truck with a plow up on a ridge and really hopes that it being out isn't an indicator that a storm he hasn't heard about is on its way.

"Are you coming home?"

Mulder looks at the scene, noting that it's probably going to take nearly as long to free the body as one at an archeological site. Or maybe not nearly that long, he thinks with a yawn. And even if they do get it freed a timely manner, he doesn't even know if Whitney feels that he could be of any more use to her. "Yup."

"Don't fall asleep driving," she says, still unhappy with him.

"Wish I had one of Monica's creepy whale song CDs." It was meant as a joke, but the fact that the frozen head and their friend share a name makes him feel oddly.

"Crack a window." Suggestion made, she hangs up on him.


Quantico, Virginia
11: 20 a.m.

The next morning is tense in the Mulder household, mostly because Mulder is happy when Whitney asks him to come back. With the glowers he's getting from Scully, it hadn't occurred to him to try to talk her into going to see the body on ice. Still, she didn't try to talk him out of going himself.

So this is how he finds himself standing in front of a block of ice bigger than he is in an FBI lab, watching men with power tools carefully try to extract frozen body parts. Many, many more parts than one would expect from a single body.

At first it's on the tip of his tongue to suggest that the victim is a human incarnation of Kāli, but that seems absurd, even to him. The limbs are mismatched, in color, in hirsuteness, in the amount of muscle, and of length. Obviously this is a case of victims, not a victim.

And none of the limbs is wearing the medical bracelet that is on Monica Bannan's wrist as she shakes hands in the photo that is on a desk nearby.

Scully probably won't thank her for keeping her in the loop, but he's not sure how to make sense of things without her insights. Whitney's nice, and Drummy's at least hard working if not personable, but he doesn't feel the same connection that he did to Scully when they'd worked cases together. Maybe it's just that he doesn't know them well enough to predict how they'll think, or hold much hope that they'll build upon the ideas he might throw out.

"Come on, pick up," he complains to his phone. Unfortunately, his message goes to voicemail. Part of him wonders for a second if she's just ignoring him out of spite, but then he remembers her saying something about wanting to shop for baby clothes given that Wayne has given them the week off. Since they'd been sure that Brianna and Zoe would be their last babies, they hadn't kept any of their clothes other than those that had sentimental value. At least they'd held onto the cribs, intending to give them to the kids once there were grandchildren in the picture.

Maybe she'll call back soon, he thinks hopefully, listening to the beep after their voices regretfully inform him that they should leave a message. "Scully, it's me. I know you're sick of this case, but I need to tell you what we've learned today. That woman's head in the ice? It's not Monica Bannan's. We don't know who she is or why she's there, but so far we've pulled eleven discrete human limbs from the ice and we're not even done yet. Each one a clean cut too, an exact match to the previous amputation you noted, Scully. It looks like someone's been dumping body parts in the ice there for months, possibly years. And there seems to be no pattern to the limbs, men and women, all with healthy, undiseased tissue according to forensics. Which suggests to me that they are victims. But here's the thing, what I need you to know, we found more traces of your animal tranquillizer, Acepromazine. I don't know what the hell it means but I'm hoping you can make sense of it because I don't know what to make of it." If he had more to say, it would have to go unsaid because another beep cuts him off. He's given her all the important stuff, so he doesn't call back.

Whitney notices him putting his phone away, so he's not surprised when she comes over to ask "Anything?"

"No, I can't reach her, she's probably in a store with poor reception-"

"A store?"

"She's shopping for the baby."

"Oh." Whitney blinks. "I guess that's the other part of having a family."

"The other part?" he asks, wondering what she's getting at.

Whitney's shoulders rise and fall in an embarrassed shrug. "Jen and I occasionally discuss adoption or insemination, but I don't think either of us have thought about the less fun parts of parenthood. Sure, it's easy to imagine having a cuddly little baby, but the reality of getting up in the night or taking out a second mortgage to afford everything he or she needs? Neither of us have dwelled on that much."

"Well, neither did we before Page was born," Mulder tells her, hoping to say without spelling it out that heterosexual parents are often equally clueless before their first baby arrives. "But we figured it out quickly."

Whitney gives him a crooked smile. "I guess it wasn't so bad, or you wouldn't have had another baby less than a year later."

Mulder laughs to cover up his surprise. "Is that in our personnel files?"

"Nah. Your Wikipedia articles."

"We have Wiki articles?!"

"You don't google yourself, do you?" Whitney looks amused.

For unexplained reasons this makes him blush. "Anyway," he says, changing the subject and looking at the techs working on the block of ice. "This is a break, I'm feeling it."

Whitney looks nauseous, reminding him a little of Scully in the grips of morning sickness. "You're feeling it, Father Joe's feeling it, all I'm feeling is my head spinning."

"No, no, this is a serial case you've uncovered here. You're going to solve a

dozen murders here," he says, wondering why she doesn't seem more excited about what's been pulled out of the ice.

Whitney nods slowly, but her eyes are filled with sorrow. "Yes, but I'm no closer to finding my agent."

This leaves him feeling a bit ill himself. In this lifetime he hadn't had to worry about losing Scully due to setting Krycek up to be kidnapped in her place, but he can easily remember still what it had been like when Duane Barry had whisked her out of his life and it had seemed like she was beyond reach, likely gone forever. He'd probably have had the same gut-punched reaction later on if they hadn't managed to find Reyes after she'd been taken from her new apartment just after he'd been unearthed himself. In both cases, in both realities, things had worked out so he wasn't missing one of his agents in arms. But there was still no guarantee that Whitney and Drummy would get their fellow agent back in one piece.

"Well, we're going to find her. I know it," he says stoutly, hoping to make them both believe it.

"Well, she may have to stand in line," Whitney replies, making him wonder at first what she's talking about. Then he slowly becomes aware that Father Joe is sitting in a chair on the other side of the lab, eyes closed, and describing another vision.

Mulder strains his ears and makes out Father Joe saying, "I see a woman's face. Another woman, taken from a car. She's being held, in a box, I think."

Walking over to him, Mulder asks, "Is she with Monica Bannan?"

Father Joe looks up at him. "I don't know."

"Is it the same men that took her?"

"I think so. Yes. It's the same man," he says, but he sounds uncertain.

Mulder sits down next to him. "You see this? Or you just telling these people what they want to hear?"

"No."

"No, you don't see it?"

"No, it's the same men," Father Joe insists, sounding more sure.

Sitting there, Mulder ponders this for several long seconds. Then he looks at Drummy. "I want a car ready."

Drummy gives him a suspicious look. "To go where?"

"I don't know yet."

Drummy throws up his hands up in disgust. "I don't believe this."

"That's been your problem from the start," Mulder snaps.

Whitney decides to play referee, saying "I can get you a car."

"And a list of missing persons in the greater area over the last 48 to 72 hours," he prompts, earning another sour look from Drummy.



Chapter Nine

Somerset, West Virginia
2:08 p.m.

Drummy gets more hostile when it becomes clearer that another woman has been kidnapped. "It doesn't mean anything. Kidnappings happen all the time. And the details he gave could apply to anything."

Mulder decides to humor him, and doesn't insist that there aren't all that many kidnappings in Somerset, West Virginia, unlike Juárez, Mexico. Or that they confirmed that the news hadn't reported on a second kidnapping yet.

"Maybe it wasn't even a kidnapping," Drummy insists as they pull up behind a police cruiser that has independently discovered the wreck Father Joe told them they'd find. "She might have just skidded off the road and gotten out, disoriented, and wandered off."

"If she's hurt, I hope we'll find her quickly," Mulder says blandly. This seems to stymie the agent because he can't very well refuse to look into the incident if there's a lost person out there like he claims to believe.

A dented hay bale has a car partly embedded in it, and the police are already digging at the snow around car to unearth it. Mulder lets Whitney and Drummy go and speak to the police, already confident that they'll learn that the car was empty when the cops got there. Scanning the ground, he doesn't see any footprints small enough to belong to a woman who has simply left the site of a wreck on her own. The snow is churned up with large footprints, and he's sure it's not only because the police have been walking around the car.

Whitney eventually motions him over, and Father Joe wanders away instead of following him. "Cheryl Cunningham, 34. Never made it to work last night. No show at home either," she says, not wasting any time getting to the point. The police have already begun a handwritten report and she offers it to him. He scans it, only looking up when Drummy tries to continue to convince him it's simply an accident.

"There's no blood on the airbags. Driver's side window knocked out. Keys in the ignition. It's a survivable crash with a seatbelt. She sets off, takes a shortcut, gets tired, sits down, falls asleep. Happens all the time," Drummy says, tone too 'let's be reasonable' for Mulder's taste.

Pointing up at the road and the skid marks through the snow, Mulder says, "Pretty hard left turn for such a long straight stretch of country road, don't you think? But why settle for my opinion."

Without asking for anyone's leave, Father Joe walks over to the vehicle and sits behind the steering wheel. Drummy opens his mouth to protest, but Whitney touches his arm and he snaps his mouth shut with a glare. Inside the car Father Joe looks around for a moment, then climbs back out again.

"I'm sorry. I'm not getting anything."

"What a surprise. What a surprise," Drummy says bitterly.

Father Joe walks away, but Mulder isn't ready to write the vehicle off yet. He crouches to peer inside.

Sounding regretful and exasperated herself, Whitney says, "I think we're done with Father Joe." Drummy immediately agrees with her, probably about to go on a tirade about having wasted him on him in the first place.

Something glitters in the snow outside the driver's side door, making Mulder interrupt them. "Whoa, whoa. Mulder: We're not quite finished." He snags it, holding it up.

"What is that?" Whitney asks, looking at it.

"It's a medical I.D. bracelet. I noticed that your missing agent wore one too."

"For what?" Drummy demands to know.

But Whitney gives Mulder a curious look. "What are you thinking?"

Mulder walks around to the rear of the car. "Let's pop the trunk."

As soon as they do, Whitney pulls out the woman's gym bag. "This isn't going to do her much good," she says regretfully. The idea that she's wandering in the cold must have taken root in her brain too, so she must think it contains warm clothing.

"It's her gym bag. It's her bathing suit. It's frozen stiff."

Whitney bends and sniffs the frozen bathing suit. "Chlorine."

"Where's the nearest public pool?" Mulder asks.


A Short Time Later

The nearest public pool turns out to be an unlovely place called the Natatorium. Mulder follows Whitney and Drummy when they approach the reception desk to ask the older man standing behind it their questions. He looks up in polite interest, seeming a bit surprised that people dressed like the two agents might be interested in taking a swim.

Whitney offers him a professional smile. "Hi, we're hoping you can help us."

"Would you all like lockers?" the man asks, apparently still stuck on the idea of them being there for the usual reason.

"No, we're with the FBI. We'd like to show you a photo, sir, if you don't mind."

He looks puzzled. "Why would I mind?"

Drummy decides to go for gruff instead of polite. Or maybe he's so weary that gruffness is now his default setting. "Do you know this person?" Drummy shows him photographs of Monica Bannan.

"Let me see." His look is eager enough, but he soon hands the photos back with a regretful look. "These young people look so much the same."

Whitney's not ready to give up on the idea of the pool being a common thread between the two missing women. "Do you have a sign-in register?"

"Yes, I keep one every day."

Whitney looks pleased. "I'd like to see yesterday's."

"I threw yesterday's away," the man informs them, obvious to how unhelpful this is to them. Whitey looks crushed.

Irritated, Mulder heads towards the changing rooms, determined to see if there are clues there. There's really nothing to lose, so why not explore every avenue, he figures.

Behind him, he hears the reception attendant ask Drummy, "Excuse me, sir. Doesn't he know that's the women's side?"


As Scully and her mother walk out of the store pushing their shopping cart of clothes and other goods, her cell phone blares into life, startling her. "Sorry," she tells her mother, seeing Mulder's name on the I.D. and several missed calls.

Maggie pats her shoulder. "It's okay," she says, "I'm going to call Page."

Scully nods, and as both women turn from each other, she answers, "Mulder, what's going on?"

"There's another woman missing," he answers. "She's given us something to go on. She and the missing agent swam at the same pool. We found that the agent kept a locker there, we think they were stalked there. Both women wore medical I.D. bracelets, and they both had the same rare blood type - AB negative."

She frowns, putting the pieces together. "That means organs, harvested for transplant. That's how they were targeted. Donors and recipients need matched types. Someone using that pool knows that."

Her information seems to spike excitement on the other end of the line. "Yeah, black market, somebody filling orders."

She shakes her head, as if he could see her. "Well, they have access. Recipients, hospitals." She pauses as a thought comes to her. "Tell them to start with the transporters, call the Richmond D.A."

"Great idea," Mulder says. "I'm guessing you weren't able to get my calls earlier, but would you be able to make it out here?"

Scully frowns again. "Mulder, just because Mom's staying over tonight doesn't mean she's up to watching over all our kids."

"Dana?"

Scully turns to see her mother still on the phone. "Hold on," she tells her husband, and to her mother, "Yes?"

Maggie Scully smiles. "Page said Sammy's up to helping me out. Guess he doesn't want to be left out of bossing his siblings around when you're not there."

Both mother and grandmother can hear the oldest daughter wailing through the phone, and both women laugh. "It's okay, I'll be coming home," Scully says, then sighs. "Mulder, are you sure you want to do this?"

"Scully -- "

"Mulder," she interrupts him, "you helped them already. You broke the case for them. The FBI are more than capable enough to run with it."

"It's not that simple," he argues.

Are we really having this conversation? Scully thinks. Are we really talking about this, in front of a baby store, with me pregnant and my mom in front of me? She decided to cut the surrealness of the moment and deal with it. "Mulder, this isn't our life anymore," she says in a lower tone, walking away from her mother. "We're not FBI anymore. We have a home, a family, and a completely different career now. I don't want that darkness in our home again."

Now he sighs. "I know that," he says, "I just thought you'd understand that I can't leave knowing that there's someone out there who could use our help. I thought you'd want to help, too, even if that's not our job anymore."

That's not fair, she thinks, but then, it seems life is dealing the Not Fair card to everyone. "I'm sorry," she says, swallowing against the sudden tears springing to her eyes. "Just, just be careful, okay?"

"You, too," he says, before hanging up.

She walks back to her mother, who has been waiting by the shopping cart. And there, in front of God and everyone, she wraps her arms around her mother as if she were five years old and cries.

"What's the matter, Dana?" Maggie Scully asks softly, hugging her daughter back.

Scully shakes her head, even as her mother "I'm scared," she chokes, "I'm afraid Mulder won't come back."

Her mother tightens her hold briefly, then pulls back to put her hands on her daughter's biceps. "He will," she says firmly, "he's going to work hard and do his best, and then he's going to come home. Or so help me, I'm going to find him and hurt him myself."

"Thanks, Mom," Scully smiles.

Maggie nods, then wipes the tears from her daughter's eyes. "All right," she says, "let's get some handsome young man to put these away for us, and then we'll be on our way home."

Scully giggles, wipes at her nose, and hooks her arm in her mother's. It's an elderly gentleman who helps them move their things, but she can't help but see him wink at her mother before he leaves. "Oh, Mom," she says as they seatbelt themselves in.

Her mother is smiling, but ends the conversation with, "Oh, Dana." And so they drive home, with the easy listening station on, both with thoughtful smiles on their faces.


4:31 p.m.

Her case-free afternoon was not to be, however, when Agent Leyla Harrison came to the house. "What happened?" Scully asks. "Is Mulder okay?"

The blonde agent smiles nervously. "Yes," she answers, "but I have a huge favor to ask."

Scully knows it's got to be something the younger woman thinks she will get in trouble for, but puts her hands on her hips. "I'm listening."


Which is how she finds herself half an hour later at the very place she thought she'd never be again: Father Joe's apartment. "A vision, if I ever had one," he says, as he lets the two women inside.

They make an unlikely duo to willingly enter a compound of sex offenders, Scully with her very long red hair and moderately pregnant body, and Leyla with her short blonde hair and still very youthful body. It's because of her appearance of youthfulness that Scully has agreed to come: although Leyla isn't literally a child, her air of innocence makes Scully worry that he'll take advantage of her...but not the same way he did those young altar boys, of course. It's hard not to have that worry when she's aware that Doggett has what he feels are good reasons to keep her from the case.

"I'm Agent Leyla Harrison," Leyla flips open her badge, and Father Joe visibly deflates. That only perks up Scully's spirits, but just a bit. "May we speak with you about the Bannan case?"

"If you must," he says stiffly.

"Unfortunately, we must," Scully sighs.

The former priest scrounges up manners from somewhere and says, "Please, have a seat. God forbid if I allow a pregnant woman to stand longer than she has to."

The blonde agent bites back a laugh as Scully glares at both her and the older man, but she takes a chair, nonetheless. "Father Joe?" Leyla asks.

"Yes?"

She sighs, her large blue eyes serious. "I've been reading the case notes so far, but you never did answer how you get your visions. Or why. Did it start with this case, or was it much earlier?"

Now he sits down, and heavily, on his bed. "You do that on purpose, don't you?" She raises her eyebrows. "Look and sound so innocent, until you pull out your big brains." Leyla smiles widely, and he smiles back, just a little. "This is the first it's ever happened to me, honestly. You may not believe me," and his gaze slides over to Scully briefly, "but it's the truth. I've had nightmares before, but it's the first time I've seen someone I've never known. They kept coming, and coming, and when I saw the news, that's when I knew it was a confirmation, a confirmation that these were visions from God."

"What makes you think they're from God?" Scully speaks up from her corner. Maybe she shouldn't have worried so much. At the moment it feels more like Father Joe is potential prey than Leyla.

The long-haired man looks at her, as if a teacher disappointed with a student. "Who else would they be from?" he asks simply. "Proverbs 25:2."

"What does that mean?" Leyla asks sharply.

"God's glory to conceal a thing, for the honor of kings. To search out a matter," he answers, but now he looks distracted.

"Why did you tell me 'don't give up'?" Scully asks.

He frowns. "I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know? Was that another vision?" she stares at him.

He shakes his head. "No, I don't know," he says, "why did I say..?"

"Father Joe?" Leyla stares at him, his focus seems to go to pieces before her eyes.

"All I ever wanted was to serve Him. All I've ever wanted was to serve God," he declares, his hands shaking.

"Don't give me that," Scully says, striding over, but he collapses before she even touches him, his body convulsing onto the bed. "Dammit!" Then she turns to the blonde woman, who looks as shocked as she herself feels. "Leyla! Call 911, tell them there's a man in his 60's having a seizure, and give them the address."

Leyla snaps out of it, following her instructions to the letter, while Scully does her best to keep the man on the bed alive.


It's with some mixed relief that the paramedic team comes as fast as they do, taking him off Scully's hands and into their ambulance. Not long after, Agents Whitney and Drummy arrive, along with Mulder.

"What happened?" Mulder asks his wife, as the agents do of Leyla.

"He had a seizure," she said.

"What are you doing here?" Drummy asks Leyla.

She doesn't seem fazed by the gruff demeanor, probably seeing enough of it from Doggett as it was. "I may not be assigned to the case, but I am an FBI agent, and I'm part of the X-Files division, too," she says. "I'm guessing you're here to talk to Father Joe."

Whitney nods. "We've got a suspect. A Russian émigré working as an organ transporter."

"In custody?" Scully raises her eyebrows.

The brunette ASAC's lips thin. "No. The Richmond D.A. questioned him about trafficking in black market human organs this afternoon, but he was released. They had no evidence to hold him. We've got a fairly credible witness who says he swam with the women at the pool."

Drummy calls her over, and Whitney leaves. "What's that got to do with Father Joe?" Leyla asks as the original agents on assignment confer with each other.

"It's the man in his visions." Mulder glances to where the ambulance has left, then back at her and Scully.

"Who?" Scully frowns.

"The suspect," Mulder says, pulling out a photo of a bearded Caucasian man with short hair. "The man right here."

"Here's a vision for you." Drummy's face is tight. "Couple of my guys just had it."

"Who's this?" Mulder takes the photo, and Leyla stands beside him. It was a bald, middle-aged man with large, flat eyes staring back at them.

"That's our suspect's employer. An old friend of Father Joe's, we just learned. Known him for over twenty years," Drummy answers.

"Known him how?" Mulder says flatly, having a thoroughly unpleasant idea occur to him.

"That's one of his thirty-seven altar boys," the black agent says, proving his suspicions right. "Three guesses who he's married to in the state of Massachusetts. Our suspect, Janke Dacyshyn."

Whitney joins them. "We got a warrant to search their offices." She's about to go to their car, when she raises an eyebrow. "Agent...?"

Leyla smiles way too brightly for an FBI, no, X-File agent and nods, causing Drummy to sigh. As the three agents walk away, Scully sighs, "Thank God it's over."

To her surprise, however, Mulder runs after them. "It's not over!" he yells over his shoulder.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of him!" Leyla yells, and now both men groan. "What?" But the four of them pile into Whitney's car.

Scully shakes her head. It's a good thing she drove her minivan over, but she honestly can't believe they're taking Leyla with them. She hopes they do find that Datsun or whoever without having to worry too much about Leyla. And she wonders what it says about both Mulder and Leyla that they'd all worry more about Leyla than Mulder being on the case.



Chapter Ten

It isn't long before the FBI team arrives at an office block and spill out from their cars. The ones in riot gear are led by Agent Drummy, who, for all intents and purposes, storms the building. Mulder's about to follow, when Whitney stops him. "Why don't you hold up, let these men do their jobs," she says. "We were all fooled on this. I wanted to believe it as bad as anyone."

Here it comes, Mulder thinks, this is when the hammer drops. He makes a face. "Look, you don't have to sweet talk me," he says.

The brunette shakes her head. "You led us here," she says.

"No, Father Joe led us here," he corrects her.

"I called you because I thought you were going help me with this case because I valued your belief in these phenomena," she says, crossing her arms.

"Now what do you think?" he says, stopping himself from sounding completely belligerent.

She opens her mouth, but something stops her. "I think this is a longer conversation," she says instead.

Mulder turns to where she's looking, then frowns when he sees who's coming back through the doors. "Ley – Agent Harrison?" he corrects himself, since she's got riot gear on and everything.

She smiles, but it's a businesslike smile. "I'm not going without you," she says. "I told Scully I'd take care of you, didn't I?"

Hoo boy, two against one, he thinks. At least Leyla is easier to understand, and he nods as she crosses the street to join them.

Then someone bumps into her, and she glares. Then she shouts, "Dacyshyn! Stop!" and starts running after him after he drops a bag-like container.

"Leyla!" Mulder yells, running after her.

"Hey!" Whitney yells, running after them all.

The suspect runs down the road, sometimes through traffic, trying to lose them. Either Leyla, er, Agent Harrison's been doing long-distance running, or she's naturally a marathon runner, because it doesn't look like Dacyshyn's shaking her any time soon. "Stop him!" Mulder yells at a bunch of construction workers when they reach a construction site.

Dacyshyn dodges all attempts the construction workers make, and proceeds to throw things at Leyla and Mulder, but they continue to pursue him. Whitney, not having long legs or marathon training, asks the construction workers, "Where did they go?" They point her to the right direction, and she takes off, pulling her gun out.

"Shit, where'd he go?" Mulder whispers as he and Leyla make their way to the second story. Then he puts a hand on her arm when he sees her pull out a flashlight. "No, he'll see us," he murmurs.

"Fine," she whispers, putting it back, but pulls out her gun. "So, how do we find this guy in the dark?"

They stiffen when Whitney shouts, "Mulder!"

He sighs, then answers, "Up here!" Then they see a figure pass behind a plastic screen, and go after it. They see Dacyshyn climb the ladder and Mulder's about to go first when he feels someone grab his arm.

"I'm armed, remember?" Leyla says, and he gives in, letting her lead. They follow the suspect up another ladder, then run across the connecting platforms. She fires a few shots when she thinks she has him in her sight, but it's too far and the suspect's still moving after she shoots, so they keep running after him. It's fine when they can see him by moonlight, but Dacyshyn disappears when he gets back inside the skeleton of the building.

"Mulder!" Whitney calls from the distance, somewhere below them.

They both turn, but can't see her. Neither can they see the suspect, or hear him, since his silhouette or shadow isn't apparent. "Shit," Mulder whispers feelingly. Even though they've all got cell phones, this is the one of the few times where walkie-talkies would be better, just press the button down and talk. The downside is when multiple people try and talk, but then, that's always a downside to any kind of conversation where someone's trying to kill you.

Then a new voice shouts from below, "Whitney?"

Both Mulder and Leyla sag against the steel frame they're leaning against. Drummy. Mr. No-Nonsense. Hopefully, he's got better night-vision than Leyla, or at least has night-vision goggles. "Yeah?" she shouts back.

"Shit, behind you!" he yells, and starts firing.

The former-fed-turned-civilian and the blonde agent run down as fast as they can without breaking their necks, but when they arrive, they can see the chase is over, even as Drummy is covering the scene with his reloaded service pistol. The ASAC is sitting down, holding a jacket with a bloody sleeve, but even the flashlights show that she's bleeding from a forehead wound. "Ooh," Leyla winces, pulling out a handkerchief, "How did that happen?"

Whitney takes the handkerchief, grimacing as she dabs at the wound. "I didn't spin around fast enough to shoot him," she says, "he grabbed me and shoved me against one of those beams and bam." She gives her partner a strained smile. "Thanks for the fire cover," she says, "I tried to grab him when he went down, too, but this is all I got."

Drummy wrinkles his nose. "Too bad I just nicked him," he says, "he's got a lot to answer for."

"What did you find?" Whitney asks, even as Leyla's calling 911.

The black agent exhales through his nose. "We found Agent Bannan's head, in that bag he dropped in front of the building."

"Shit," Mulder says, heartfelt, and Leyla nods.

They all look down for a few moments, briefly lost in their thoughts. The moment is broken by the ASAC clearing her throat. "What's the ETA for backup," Whitney asks in a firm voice.

Mulder almost kicks himself in the head for not checking that himself. Then again, it was rare that he's actually part of a large team, especially in civilian life.

Drummy raises his eyebrows. "As soon as they finish processing Bannan," he says. "This is gonna take all night."

It's the second time that night that an ambulance comes in, even though Whitney protests, "Guys, it's no big deal. Head wounds just bleed a lot, that's all. I'm fine."

Her partner rolls his eyes. "No, 'fine' is when you're hitting the clubs with your girlfriend. Speaking of which, I'd better let her know what happened, so she doesn't think that it's my fault you look like a mess."

Whitney tries to stop him, but the EMT guys are now checking her vision, which means she has to keep still and all that crap. She sighs when they bundle her up into the ambulance, but gives her so-called partner the middle finger before the doors close.

"I'd say she'll be out of the hospital and back on the job in less than an hour." Drummy smiles a small but genuine smile as the rest of the riot-clad team arrive and search the area for traces of Dacyshyn's whereabouts or destination, but all they recovered was their spent bullet casings, as well as the jacket with a bullet-torn and bloody sleeve that Whitney pulled off the suspect. "Too bad the same seems to go for Dacyshyn."

"By the way," Mulder says conversationally, "how did you know where to find us? I think only the construction workers knew we were up there, and the gunfire was too far to hear, much less triangulate, from the office building."

Drummy mumbles something, and both Mulder and Leyla pause in their stride. "What?" Leyla asks.

The black agent made a face. "I said," he says, then paused and lowered his voice as they came across more agents in riot gear, "I followed a hunch. Happy?"

"Oh, just like me!" Leyla says, and both the men groan. It's a little indecent to see a grown woman, even if she's an X-File agent, practically skipping through a crime scene. "I had a hunch about Father Joe, so…"

Mulder notices with no little amusement that Drummy does his best to set the crazy agent and civilian up with a small team of surveillance grunts as soon as humanly possible. It isn't the first time he'd been shuffled off for scut work, but it is the first time in a while that he looks forward to hearing another person's insights on said surveillance, one who might also have, as Scully puts it, "Mulder-leaps".


Meanwhile, at the hospital, a tall, muscular blonde woman with a blonde buzzcut and thick dark glasses is powering through the hallways. She only stops to get information, and reaches her destination at a rate even Mulder and Scully would envy.

"Dakota? Oh my God!" Jen waits until the doctor finishes wrapping the bandage around her girlfriend's head until she clasps the brunette's hands in hers.

"Wow, you make it sound so dramatic." Whitney smirks at her.

The large blonde glares. "Says the woman with a head wound. Of course it's dramatic, you idiot."

The doctor clears his throat. "Ma'am," he directs this to Jen.

"Jen," the blonde fills in.

"Jen," he repeats, "here are some instructions for follow-up care." He hands her a sheet of paper, but goes over them verbally just in case. "Is that clear?"

She smiles briskly. "I'm a vet, and Dakota's only slightly less trouble than a Malamute with the same problem."

Whitney growls, but smiles tiredly. "Love you anyways," she says.

"Love you always," her girlfriend says fondly. Then she says to the doctor, "So it's okay to take her home?"

Whitney would roll her eyes, but she knows it would hurt too damn much since it seems her forehead's attached to the back of her eyeballs in some weird way. "Like he said, if you keep hovering over me like a mother hen--" the brunette says.

But Jen interrupts her, "You mean take basic care of you."

"--Then I should be fine to go home," Whitney finishes. "Take me, you big, blonde Viking!" And she throws her arms up as dramatically as her girlfriend entered the room.

Jen snorts, but the description isn't false. "Doctor, if I push her wheelchair, can I pop a wheelie?"

The man seems to have had a long day full of people like them, and merely pulls his hand down his face. "Talk to security," he says, walking out before them, "I need to get some sane patients in here."

Whitney is about to spring off the table, but Jen put a hand on her shoulder. Then she links her fingers with her girlfriend's, and they walk calmly out of the cubical.

They are halfway out of the building when the ASAC's cell chirps, and she grimaces apologetically at her girlfriend, who rolls her eyes. "Agent Whitney," she answers.

"Hello, this is Dr. Freeman," the voice at the other end says. "I understand you were with Father Joseph Crissman earlier tonight."

It felt like a thousand years ago, honestly, but Whitney only says, "Yes, I was. How is he?"

"Pretty bad," Dr. Freeman says bluntly. Shit, Whitney thinks, there goes the psychic. Doesn't sound like he's got long to live, whatever it is. "He's got advanced-stage lung cancer. The fact that he's been living independently without care is amazing, but it's been eating up his time. He could have anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of weeks to live. Does he have any living relatives?"

She searches her mental files and came up with nothing. His family in Scotland disowned him when he was first convicted of child molestation decades ago, and there's nobody stateside for him. "No," she finally says. "Is he lucid?"

"No, we sedated him a few minutes ago," the doctor says, and she sighs. Whether it's relief or disappointment, she's not sure, but she'll take the sleep she can get. "He may be awake tomorrow. Should we list you as next of kin?"

"Just a minute," Whitney covered the mouthpiece. "The doctors want to put me as next of kin to the psychic priest. Are they nuts?"

"He doesn't have long to live, does he?" Jen says practically. "Sure, why not."

Whitney shakes her head, then winces. "All right," she says, and they make a detour to so she can sign papers to tie herself to a criminal, even if it was temporary.


February 12, 2008

The next morning, Mulder is rubbing his face, surprised to see his wife up and making coffee. "I thought you weren't supposed to have caffeine," he says, walking into the kitchen.

After the events of last night, it's a bit surreal to see his pregnant wife in a dressing gown, nightdress and fuzzy slippers going about her normal routine on a wintry morning, as if everything's normal. Well, for the most part, it is for her and the rest of the world. "It's fine in small doses," Scully smiles briefly, handing over the cup of steaming goodness, "but this is for you."

He blinks. "Yeah?" He's pretty sure the last time they had an actual conversation, they were mad at each other, and now she seems, well, friendly. Weird.

She shakes her head as he drinks up. "Look at you, sounding so coherent. Yes, it is." She reaches up and brushes her hand on his chin stubble. "From what Leyla said, it's a wonder nobody broke their necks chasing after Dacyshyn. You should've said."

Last night, Mulder's adrenaline rush was tempered when they didn't catch Dacyshyn, found Agent Bannan's head but not the rest of her, and sat through hours of footage which only showed how the suspect slipped through their fingers but not where he went. "Yeah, well, a lot happened." He took a gulp of coffee, which was just the way he liked it. "And you were pretty wiped last night, too."

Which was an understatement. He'd come home to a snoring wife and mother-in-law, a house full of awake children, some of whom most likely had a ton of cookies after said wife and mother-in-law passed out, and all of whom should've been asleep as well by the time he came home. "Very politic of you, Mulder," Scully smiles. She remembers him nudging her and her mom awake, as well as shepherding their chastened children to their rooms. "I didn't want to wake you this morning, so I called Leyla."

He smiles and kisses the top of her head. "Look at us, being considerate and everything with each other," he says, and she snorts. "Thanks, Scully."

She nods. "I'm glad you came back so we could be considerate with each other," she says honestly. Her eyes are suddenly shiny, as if she's holding back tears.

"Why wouldn't I – oh," he says, then put the coffee cup down and hugs her. "I'm sorry."

She hugs him back, then pulls away. "So help them catch the bad guys, and come home safe," she says, "and Agent Whitney wants you to call her once you've got coffee in your system."

He raises his eyebrows. "Seriously, Scully, how long have you been awake?"

She smirks. "Amazing what a small bladder can do to motivate one to get out of bed on a cold morning," she says, then squeezes his hand. "I'm going over to see John and his family after I see the kids off to school. Can you wake Mom up when you go back upstairs?"

"I'm surprised she isn't up already," Mulder murmurs, hearing the pounding of not-so-little feet overhead and others coming down the stairs. "Is Alan coming in today?"

Scully nods as Page comes in yawning. Sammy and April go for the eggs and toast, and Christopher's paying more attention to the kitten bounding about than his siblings. "Sammy, don't forget to walk Daisy," she reminds her eldest son who was already chugging the OJ. "And Christopher, remember to clean the kitty litter boxes."

"Already done," he says, then scoops up the kitten before he pounces on Scully's fuzzy slippers. "Gotcha!"

David and Jared are poking each other, trying to irritate each other in the way siblings do, until William pushes past them, even more irritated because he's hungry. "Mom, can I have Jared's toast if he doesn't want 'em?" he asks once he wolfed down his meal.

"No," David says, finally getting to the table, "'cause they're not yours." But he reaches for them anyways.

"Hey!" Jared grabs his plate.

Mulder smiles at his family, then kisses his wife's cheek, ignores April's wail of "Gross!", and goes upstairs. "Zoe? Brianna?" he calls out. "Mom's got breakfast downstairs."

"They're here," Mrs. Scully's voice comes from the guest room.

Mulder stops in to find his baby girls looking frankly adorable in ribbons and dresses. "They felt like dressing up," Maggie Scully tells him and smiles.

"Daddy, Daddy, look, we're pretty!" Zoe spins around, and so does Brianna.

He chuckles, then knelt down to kiss both his five-year-olds on the head. "You're always pretty," he says, "yesterday, today, and always."

They giggle, and go downstairs, presumably to show off how pretty they are. Mrs. Scully smiled indulgently after them, but her expression sobered when she looked at her son-in-law. "Are you still on the case?" she asks.

He nodded. "Thanks," he says.

She raised her eyebrows. "For what?"

He smiles and stands up. "For whatever you said to your daughter after our phone conversation yesterday. And for dressing up my daughters like little princesses. I needed that."

"They need you, too," she says. And with that motherly reminder, she looks briefly at him before joining the rest of his family in the kitchen.

There's no way I'm bringing darkness into my home, he thinks as the sounds of Daisy barking, the front door slamming, and then the rest of his elder children running to either their rooms or the bathroom to get ready fill the house. There's too much life, there's too much love here, and I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I came anywhere close to endangering them. Just as predictably, there are wails of "Mo-ooom! Page is taking too long!" and "Where's my blue t-shirt?" He grins as he gets ready for his own day, unconventional though it may be. He may have the brains and experience for the job at hand, but at the end of the case, he's got an awesome family to come home to.



Chapter Eleven

"Dana, hi." Monica Reyes smiles as she lets her friend in. She continues in a lower voice, "John's asleep, but at least so are the kids."

Scully smiles back. Between work, the kids, and her pregnancy, it wasn't often that she got to see Monica or John once Jon-Jon was born. She tries not to think too hard about the irony that this little baby is the reason why it's her husband, rather than Jon-Jon's parents, that are chasing after a body-chopping serial killer. "How have you been?" she asks.

The brunette leads them to the kitchen, yawning along the way. "Sorry," she says, but Scully smiles wryly in understanding. "I'm glad we have the time off," she says when she attaches the breast pump, "but at the same time, I want more hours in the day so we can rest. Sometimes, I think there's some kind of time-warping that happens after birth that decreases the number of hours slept as well as actual hours in a day."

"I know what you mean," Scully says, "have you heard from Leyla?"

Reyes nods, then purses her lips briefly in thought. "There's a part of me that wants to throw myself in there, be part of the hunt, solve the case, and all that," she says, "I don't blame Leyla for wanting to be a part of that, and I'm glad she managed as much as she did." Then she squeezes Scully's hand in hers. "And I'm glad you and Mulder were with her. Her instincts are improving, but -- "

"If Agent Bannan could get taken out, so could she," Scully finishes the thought. "I know. But Monica, that's a risk we all face. Well, I used to face." She looks away, trying to sort through her memories. "Were we ever as naďve as she was?"

Reyes smiles. "Yes," she says, "but sooner or later, time on the X-Files takes that away. Well, for most of us. Somehow, Leyla's managed to hold on to her sense of wonder and trust longer than I have, and she's seen incredible things and fought with monsters as much as any of us." Then she shakes her head, bemused. "Maybe that's her superpower."

Scully snorts. "I think you need more sleep," she says, "mind if I look in on Jon-Jon before I go?"

"Of course," Reyes says, "give me a couple of minutes and I should be done."

"Oh, there's no rush." Scully puts her hands up.

The brunette smiles, and in a few minutes, she puts away the contraption, covers and labels the milk bottles and puts them in the fridge. "This makes things so much easier," Reyes sighs, "I'm glad we got the pump as soon as we did." A small part of her envies the ease at which Scully was able to continue breastfeeding her children, but then again, she's not sure she'd be able to raise that many children, nanny or no, and keep her sanity.

Then again, she knows she herself is part of the population that has a hard time breastfeeding after a certain point, and she's been blessed to live in a place and time where she can get an effective breast pump. She'd long ago put aside her pride and squickiness at the thought of using something akin to a bovine milker, because, to be honest, that's basically the same idea in play, only it's to benefit her little Jon-Jon, and that was the important thing.

They make their way to the bedroom as quietly and quickly as a currently-pregnant and a post-pregnant woman can, although giggling every now and then as they pass the ever-growing number of framed photos in the hallways. Most of them are silly, as opposed to the "normally posed" ones in the foyer and living room. One that has Scully snickering stars Rebecca as Captain Jack Sparrow fighting against Luke wearing a bad squid mask, that is, Captain Davy Jones. And the best part was that it wasn't even Halloween when they were dressed up like that.

When they reach the bedroom, lying on the bed, is John Doggett snoring softly on his back, along with Rebecca on his right and Jon-Jon on his belly. They're all in pretty much the same pose, mouth hanging open, limbs akimbo, and neither woman is bothering to hide their wide smiles. Reyes is the first to pull out her cell phone and snap a photo, but Scully isn't far behind.

The picture is just too cute, and when they go back to the kitchen, Reyes is already forwarding the photo to her college sons. "I'm going to show this to Hannah when she gets home," she says, "as proof that I can resist drawing on people's faces when they're asleep."

Scully gives her friend a long look, then chuckles. "I think I need to tuck you in before I go."

"No, I think we've got a new picture for the hallway," Reyes smiles. "No, okay, sleep sounds like a really good idea."

And once Scully leaves Reyes to pass out along with the rest of her family, she decides to sleep in for the rest of the day. She figures she bloody well deserves it.


When Mulder joins Agent Whitney at the hospital, she tells him, "I think you should know that he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. He has advanced-stage lung cancer."

"Then we've got a captive witness," Mulder says, "looking at a few photos shouldn't be too hard on him." The ASAC inclines her head slightly, and Mulder notices her makeup's done more carefully than usual, probably because she had less sleep than he did, if she had any.

They walk into the room, where Father Joe is lying in bed, his torso raised by the adjustable bed. While he isn't exactly happy to see them, he does look rather excited. "You wouldn't believe," he said, "or maybe you would. I was thinking of you. I had a vision you might find interesting. Of a man speaking a foreign language."

Mulder and Whitney share a look, and Mulder pulls out a photo from the manila folder. "Did he look like this?" he asks, holding out Janke Dacyshyn's photo.

The defrocked priest puts on his glasses before taking it. "Yes, that's him," he agrees. "How did you know?"

Whitney exhales through her nose. "We think he's the man who abducted the FBI agent, and the second woman you say you saw and possibly many more. And we think that is helped by this man." She pulls out Franz Tomczesyn's photo.

He squints through his glasses, then frowns. "Who's he?"

"You don't know who that is?" Mulder asks blandly, his face matching his tone, but both he and the brunette ASAC are watching the old man carefully.

"No," Father Joe says, starting to shake his head, but finds that it uncomfortably dislodges the oxygen line from his nose a bit, and he stills. "Am I supposed to?"

"Take another look," Whitney urges.

He does. "Who is he supposed to be?"

"Someone you've known since he was a boy," Mulder says flatly, and now the bedridden man blanches.

"Oh, no. It can't be true," the old man says, his eyes going from the photo to them and back again. "I don't believe this. He was my connection to the girl. My visions were to save her from him." He looks back up at Mulder, holding the photo as if it were some kind of relic. "This is God's work. This is God's work."

"One more thing, Father Joe," Whitney says seriously, "the FBI agent, the first woman that you saw, Monica Bannan. Is she still alive?"

Father Joe exhales, then leans back and closes his eyes. "I feel her. Yes. She's still alive," he says, softly but firmly.

Mulder and Whitney exchange another look, but this time, Mulder looks determined and Whitney just looks irritated. They walk out of the room, and when the door closes behind them, Mulder says in a low voice, "That second victim may be alive. Everybody's given up on her, but I'm not going to."

"Do you really think so, or do you just want to believe the word of a dying man so badly that you're willing to waste resources on it?" she shoots back.

He shrugs. "It's not wasting anything if I just have a look around. Besides, you've got the best of the best working on the case. I'm just a retired guy going on a hunch." He smiles inoffensively, then waves without looking back as he walks out of the building.


That's why Mulder finds himself alone in the middle of a snow field, walking towards yellow crime scene tape, rather than doing the sane thing and staying at home, nice and warm, keeping his lovely and pregnant wife company. Nope, he's just gonna stare at the yellow tape… and large snow banks… and yeah. Wow, that was inspired, his inner monologue deadpans. So he's gonna wander around until something catches his eye. Oh look, the "No Hunting" sign's got blood on it. And more man-made snow banks! Perhaps those are clues! Ugh.

It's no fun being snarky by himself, so he cuts it out, gets in the car, and starts driving. And then he notices he's getting low on gas, and being that it's the middle of winter (or sure as hell feels like it) and the near-middle of nowhere, he decides to hit up the nearest town. He scores a gas station, and while he's filling up, he sees "Nutter's Feed, Animal Supply" nearby.

That stirs another hunch, so he rushes over as fast as he can without falling on his face, just as the owner's closing up. He brings up the Acepromazine, and, just as expected, the feed store carries it. He pulls out Dacyshyn's photo, but the older man sighs as the phone rings, and goes into his office. But he catches sight of the snowplow truck, and something else clicks, so he gets out of the store and into his car. And, just as expected, Dacyshyn drives off in the truck, so Mulder follows after him. This is a good time to talk to Scully, so he pulls out his cell and is scrolling through his speed dial. When the hell did he add these idiots to his speed dial? And why isn't Scully at the top?

What's expected is that he loses sight of the truck briefly. What is unexpected, is that the suspect has stopped, so he jams on the brakes, spins out of control, hits the truck, and gets smacked in the face by the airbag. As he groans, Dacyshyn rams his truck into Mulder's car, pushing it over a snow bank. Mulder has enough presence of mind to make a grab for his cell, but not enough coordination or speed to catch it, winding up with a nasty case of vertigo-induced nausea. And when the car comes to a stop at the bottom of a steep slope, he finally closes his eyes, giving in to both inner and outer pain.


Of course, there's no rest for the pregnant, especially not one with an overactive bladder. Scully had a nice nap while Alan took the younger ones out to the library and the older children were in school, but now that they were all home, her body felt obligated to stay awake, unfortunately. So she decided to tidy up the notes she and Mulder had on the Bannan investigation, and noticed an article about Russian stem cell research. Curious, she scanned through the article, and frowned. "Mulder," she breaths, and pulls out her cell phone.

When she hears, "Yeah, it's me," she isn't relieved, instead, she's worried. Why did his phone go directly to voicemail if he's with Agent Whitney? As his voicemail message plays on, she decides to forge on ahead. Perhaps he's in one of those lovely dead zones the Hoover building is known for, and says after the beep, "Mulder, I just found something in the stem cell research. Experiments were being done in Russia on dogs, Mulder. I think that's what your suspects have been doing, only on humans." She can't help emphasizing that last word, it gives her the willies. "Those women who've been abducted - you've got to call me. Mulder, the FBI agent's alive." Technically, her body could be still functioning, if that was what Father Joe was referring to, since her head was removed.

She feels uncomfortable enough to try and call the FBI, only to get the runaround, or, more politely, a game of phone tag. But as the hours tick by, even her kids are getting worried, so she calls Missy, only to have Kry – no, Alex, answer the phone. "Yeah?"

"Alex, where's Missy?" Scully doesn't beat around the bush.

"She's with the kids for some arts classes. Well, Emily and Ryan's classes, Addy's judo class is nearby. Why? What's up?"

Scully exhaled. "Could you watch my kids? Mulder's been working a case with a psychic," She's proud of how she doesn't stumble over that word, "helping the FBI find a missing agent. Unfortunately, the case is connected to serial killers who I believe have been performing some kind of radical surgeries using ideas from Russian stem cell research. The thing is, I haven't been able to reach Mulder for the last four hours, and the only thing helpful I've heard from the FBI is that the agent in charge said the last time she saw Mulder was this morning when they went to interview the psychic. I'm going after him, Alex, so I need you to watch the kids for me."

There's a long pause, and then Krycek says, "Wouldn't it make more sense for me to look for him?"

Scully closes her eyes. "Normally, yes, and I've been advised to let the police take care of things. But I've still got ties with other branches of the FBI, should I need to pull strings. You, on the other hand…"

"Yeah, yeah, more likely to get arrested, blah blah," Krycek grumbles. "Fine. But for God's sake, Dana, get some backup first. Otherwise, Missy will kill me if something happens to you or your baby. Promise?"

To her shame, Scully realizes that her first impulse was, yes, to go headlong, as she's always done when it comes to Mulder. Dammit, she thought she was over this by now! "Promise," she says. "As soon as I hang up on you."

"And I'd better see him or her driving you out," Krycek says.

Ugh. She thought she was the overprotective one, but considering his background and Missy, he's probably taking as many precautions as possible without actually going out there himself. "Yes, Dad..." She smiles. "And Alex?"

"What?" he says, grumpily.

"Thank you." And, true to her word, she calls the only other person she can count on to cut through red tape at the FBI. "Sir," she says when he answers, "I need your help."


So by the time Krycek and Scully are going over things with the kids, Skinner's pulling up to her driveway. "I thought this would be over by the time you guys retired," the bald AD says wearily.

Krycek rolls his eyes while Scully flashes her former boss a grateful smile. "And yet, like a certain organization, it keeps dragging us back in," she says.

Skinner scowls. "No, I think it's just the two of you being your usual idiotic selves," he says. "Of course Mulder would find the suspect the hard way. And of course you'd run after him. At least you had the presence of mind to call for backup this time."

She blushes as the former double-agent snickers.

"Oh, God, you had to remind her?" Skinner looks at Krycek, who smirks. "Come on, let's find your husband and hopefully some common sense." He nods at the older Mulder children, and a somewhat chastened Scully and long-suffering Skinner leave the house.


On the drive out, Skinner gets a call, and he nods, offering some terse comments before hanging up. "So, serial killers with some kind of Frankenstein deal?" he asks, glancing at her before returning his eyes to the snowy road.

"Simplistically, yes," she says, her eyes also on the road. "With an eye to some ethically questionable Russian stem cell research."

"Russian? I'm surprised you didn't send Krycek out here."

"It's Mulder," she says, and Skinner doesn't sigh, his lips tighten, but that's it.

When they come to the crash site, Scully gets out of Skinner's car as quickly as she can. It's their car, but there's no sign of Mulder anywhere. "I'm Dana Scully and that's my car," she says, forcing herself just stand there and not to tear the car apart for clues, letting the police do their job.

The officer nods, apparently realizing she hadn't been driving it. "Yeah, I talked to some bigwig down at the FBI, called from Washington."

"Yeah, that's him." Scully nods at Skinner, who walks towards them. "Is there any indication what happened, or any footprints?"

"Nothing. The snow is pretty heavy. But we did find this, you might want to give it to him." The officer hands her Mulder's cell, and any hopes of finding him alive and well takes a dive in Scully's mind. "Excuse me."

"Skinner," is all she says, as the blood stains are visible to them both. She's waiting for the tears to come, but all she feels is numb.

Skinner grabs her shoulders. "Hey, listen to me, calm down, stop and think. He's okay. He's got to be. He climbed out of this thing, he climbed out, he probably climbed up."

She nods, a small gesture, but she doesn't trust herself to say or do anything much. Inasmuch as she'd like to blame the hormones, she knows she's in an emotionally precarious situation, and lets the older man lead her back to his vehicle.


In the meantime, Mulder's done exactly what Skinner described, climbed out of the car, albeit a bit dazed and bleeding, but nothing serious. He blames the brief blood loss and mild concussion for his timing, checking for his cell phone only when he sees the snowplow truck parked on a side road. He figures it's probably in the car, but also figures there isn't time to run back and get it, instead, he picks up a wrench from inside the truck. Might as well have some kind of weapon, he thinks, since he came in unarmed. He walks down the cleared path, hoping against hope that he'll be in time to save anyone.

Once he sees the badly-lit building, he goes forward and climbs the chain link fence. It's only when he gets knocked down by the guard dog that he wishes he'd bought some Acepromazine, or maybe stolen some. "Shit," he mutters, getting his breath back, and swings the wrench.

He hates beating up on a dog, but he hates getting torn up by one more, and getting caught by the bad guys more so. When the dog lies still, to the accompaniment of other dogs barking in the distance, he sees it has not one, but two heads. "Oh, God," he whispers, his face folding. Of course the mad science had to start somewhere. In the case of the Great Mutato, it was an unlucky boy, but here, it was an unlucky dog.

He knows someone's going to come looking, thanks to all the barking dogs, so he runs off to hide in some kind of weird chute attached to the building. There's a shadow of a man he can see from his side of the plastic chute, but the footsteps fade after a while. When they do, he walks into the building through the chute, and he finds himself in the operating room of Frankenstein. That's as close as his shocked mind can translate for him, as he stares at a small crew of people in hospital scrubs, surrounding a woman lying in a large ice bath, connected to a large humming machine by plastic tubes that carry what looks like blood.

"Stop what you're doing," he says hoarsely. None of them hear him, preoccupied as they are, and the hum of the machine overwhelming his soft tone.

"Stop! Back off!" he shouts, raising the wrench as he walks towards them. "Back away! Back off! You speak English? Anybody speak English?" Now that he's closer, he can distinguish their mutterings as Russian, or some Slavic derivation close to it.

"I want her out of here," he says clearly, in case they can understand English. "I want those tubes out of her neck and I want her neck sewn up." He draws on what little he's learned from Alex and waves the wrench menacingly. "Я хочу ее отсюда. Сделай это!" (I want it out of here! Do it!)

Mulder makes his way to the operating table, pulls back the sheet, and grimaces when he sees the headless body. He snaps, "Собираетесь ли вы делать то, что я говорю?" (Are you going to do what I say?) He holds on to his anger, because otherwise, he'd throw up and lose what little control he has of the situation.

"Вы не можете быть здесь!" (You can't be here!) one of the doctors says, and Mulder looks at an ice bucket which holds what looks like Tomczesyn's head. The eyes open, and he momentarily freezes in shock. Unfortunately, that's when the doctor sticks his needle into Mulder, and Mulder's reaction is like he got instantly drunk, minus the good buzz. He sees Dacyshyn, who grabs him and punches him in the face. Unlike alcohol, however, Mulder can feel the hit, even as he can't move to block it, and he goes down, the secondary pain of hitting the floor finally forcing him to black out.


It's quiet in the car. Skinner doesn't bother to break the silence with the radio, knowing it would just irritate the both of them. "We will find him," he says, after a side glance shows how upset Scully's allowing herself to look. "I know Mulder. He'd get to a phone and call first. He wouldn't do anything crazy."

Now she raises an eyebrow in disbelief. Well, that's better that sorrow or surrender. Giving in to the urge to play the straight man, he goes on, "Not overly crazy."

She snorts, then shakes her head before returning her gaze out the window.


Back at the compound, Dacyshyn drags the headless body outside to a shed, then does the same for Mulder. Mulder groans, the effects of the brief dose of what he thinks is Acepromazine wearing off. Thank God, he thinks, even though he feels so tired, and his body won't move, period.


From Skinner's car, Scully tells Skinner to back the car up, then stop. "Proverbs 25:2," she says, opening the mailbox with the numbers 25 and 2. "The glory of God to hide a thing. I've got it." She holds up an envelope. "It's an invoice for medical supplies to a Dr. Uroff-Koltoff. It's an address on Bellflower Road." They look around. Middle of Snowy Nowhere. Of course.

"Maybe I could Google it," Skinner mutters, and takes out his smartphone.

"Listen," Scully says, putting a free hand up.

"What?"

They look around, straining their senses. "Dogs," Scully whispers, then repeats louder. "Dogs!"


In the shed, Dacyshyn is chopping up the headless body on the chopping block. When Mulder sees the medical bracelet on the arm, he closes his eyes briefly. He was right, and yet, it wasn't enough to save this person, whom he strongly believes is what's left of Agent Bannan. Once in tinder-sized pieces, Dacyshyn gets down to the business of putting the severed body parts into a black plastic bag.

Seeing that not only Dacyshyn is suitably distracted, but that the axe is stuck in the chopping block, Mulder forces himself to get to the axe. He pulls at the axe handle, hoping it wasn't in as deep as it looks. Unfortunately, he's still weak from the shot, and Dacyshyn easily knocks him down, replacing the axe with Mulder's head on the chopping block. The bastard smiles as he sharpens the axe, even as Mulder attempts to raise himself for the second time, but it seems the effort is forcing more of the drug into his veins, because he can't friggin' move.

As Dacyshyn raises the axe, Mulder thinks, Sorry, Scully. And that's when there's a loud thunk, followed by Dacyshyn going down like a sack of spuds. Behind the fallen man is Scully, who looks like an angel, framed by moonlight and bad fluorescent light.

"Mulder, can you hear me?" she asks, checking his head.

He tries to smile, but it feels like a grimace. "Sorry about the car," he rasps, "the girl, she's still inside." He rolls his eyes rather than pointing, but the effort feels about the same.

Inside the building. Skinner yells, "Show me your hands!" His gun is pointed at the surgical crew which was busy cutting into a young woman's neck, but thankfully, they've stopped. "Put the scalpel down. Put that scalpel down!" he yells, not caring that they're trying to argue in Russian with him. He flicks off the safety loudly, "Just put it down or I'll blow your goddamn hand off." The so-called surgeon does so, but is still trying to argue with him after he pushes him to the side.

Before he can start yelling some more at them, Scully rushes into the room. "Mulder needs warm clothes and fluids."

Skinner jerks his head at the woman in the ice bath. "Oh, God," Scully says, taking off her coat. Now firmly distracted, she says, "I've got work to do here."

Skinner's jaw clenches, then orders the mad scientists into the dog kennels. He's got a pretty good idea it wasn't just dogs kept in those kennels, and feels a keen surge of vindictiveness as he locks them in. Much as he'd like to shoot them where they sit, he's got more pressing issues, like an idiot freezing to death outside.

"Mulder," he says, after checking to make sure the suspect stayed unconscious.

"The girl inside," Mulder said weakly.

Skinner would smile, except he's frankly too tired to do so. That guy and his priorities, he thinks. "Scully's got her. She's in good hands."

"Skinner?"

"Yeah."

"I'm cold."

Now Skinner rolls his eyes, but shrugs off his coat and puts it on the younger man, then hugs him. "Next time you go chasing after someone, make it someplace tropical," he says.



Chapter Twelve

February 13, 2008

When Mulder and Scully come home the next day, they're greeted not just by Alex, but by Missy as well. "Oh, thank God," Missy cries, wrapping herself around her baby sister, then punching Mulder's arm.

"Ow," Mulder says, rubbing his arm, but is wise enough not to ask what that was for.

"Thanks for taking the kids to school," Scully says to her sister and brother-in-law.

"Thanks for taking my advice, for once," Krycek says.

"Just this once." Scully smirks. Then she looks around. "Are Alan and the twins here?"

Missy shakes her head, sitting them down in the living room, where still-warm cups of coffee were waiting. "We figured you two needed to decompress after the last night's events," she said. "He took them out to a tea party." She smiles. "Apparently, he 'knows people who do that'," Missy says, the quotation marks evident in her voice.

"Speaking of people who know things, I'm surprised you didn't," Mulder says, giving Krycek an appraising look.

"What?" The green-eyed man blinks. "What do you mean?" But his second question was less innocent than the first.

"I mean," Mulder presses, "the surgical crew spoke Russian. I didn't get Scully's message in time about the experiments, but even I could see they were up to no good with crazy science, and Scully caught me up with medical things on her end. So. Even though you're officially out of the loop, I'm sure you still hear things."

The old Krycek would've lied through his teeth before making his escape, but Alex just sits there, resigned. "Yeah, I hear things," he says. "I hear all kinds of things, usually just stuff from guys still wanting to be in the game, depressing kinds of bullshit. I thought this was one of them. You know, eugenics, Mother Russia's still got her hand in the science thing, people trying to resurrect the Project and all kinds of stupid shit. But it looks like it was legit. Sure as hell didn't think they were in our backyard," and now his expression takes on a more serious cast. "Guess I've been too used to hearing guys blowing smoke up my ass to tell the difference between that and a smokescreen. Dammit."

"You couldn't know," Missy says, rubbing her hand down his real arm.

He narrows his eyes. "I used to be able to. I've gotten soft."

"No, you haven't, I have," Scully says, startling the Kryceks. "Your focus isn't on yourself any more, it's on your family. If any of that had come near you, you would've been on it in a second, I know that much. But I, I let myself get distracted. I've been retired too long." She sighs. "I almost got you killed, Mulder."

He barks out a short laugh. "You saved me, Scully. If you were out there with me when I found them, you would've been hurt, too." He looks down at her belly. "You both would have. And I wouldn't have forgiven myself for it." His cell phone, now cleaned up and out of evidence, rings, and he excuses himself to answer it.

When he's in the kitchen, Missy shows Scully the morning paper. "Dana, look," she says, "there's an article about the case. The FBI says that Father Joe was an accomplice. Nothing about his psychic connection." She looks visibly hurt, as if they were badmouthing someone in her family, rather than a pedophile priest.

Scully was about to respond, when Mulder came back in. "That was Doggett. He said Father Joe is dead," he says.

Scully hands him the paper, pointing at the paragraph Missy exclaimed over. "He was dying of lung cancer," she says.

"Yeah, the same as that man that Dr. Frankenstein tried to give a new body," Mulder says, his eyes scanning the article. Then he lowers the paper. "What time did you pull those tubes from that woman's neck. What time did you cut off the blood supply to that man's head? That's when Father Joe died. You get me his death certificate and I'll show it to you, and then I'll take it to the FBI and I'll show them. Father Joe wasn't an accomplice, and Whitney and Drummy know it."

Krycek looks away from the hopeful look in Missy's eyes, while Scully merely purses her lips. "Then you tell it to Doggett and Reyes, not to Whitney and Drummy," she finally says. "They're the ones who are still with the X-Files, and who can properly finish the case. Tell it to Harrison. She'll be able to collate the files and give it as much closure as she can, all things considering."

"Closure?" Mulder echoes.

Scully nods. "Alex, who told you about those experiments?"

He sighs, not looking at any of them. "Marita told me about Dr. Uroff-Koltoff. She told me all kinds of things, about this guy, which didn't help when I'd heard they took away his license, I didn't realize he was still practicing …" He shakes his head. "Like that stops anyone from doing their job." He makes a face.

"Was this when Emily found out about you?" Missy asks. Krycek nods, after a beat. "Oh, God…" she murmurs.

"Like I said, I thought she was full of it," Krycek argues. "I sure as hell didn't think that anything was for real, I thought she was just trying to drag me back into, into all that." He runs his real hand through his hair. "Is this gonna keep biting me in the ass?"

"Your past? Probably," Mulder says honestly. "You know what, Alex? Why don't you try and verify the other stuff Marita talked about, and get back to John and Monica about it. They should be off their maternity and paternity leaves by the time you double-check everything."

Krycek nods again, then gives Mulder and Scully a wry look. "From one parent who used to be in the business to another, at least get a gun and license to carry. I'm sure this isn't going to be the last time you'll get caught up in some kind of consulting," and he raised his eyebrows on the last word, "but at least don't go out there without some kind of weapon."

"Alex." Missy glares at him.

He levels a stare back at her. "Missy, they chose to stick their heads back into the monster's mouth again. I'm just telling them it's a good idea to have something to keep their heads from getting snapped off, because it's not just them anymore, they're about to have another little one, and they were damn lucky when the other kids were small."

She sighs. "Fine." Then she stands up, and so does he. "But if I ever see any of our kids with a gun -- "

"Then they probably have a good reason." Krycek smiles. "I'm not stupid enough to leave one lying around the house."

"That's not what I'm saying," Missy argues, and they carry their argument outside.

"Mulder?" Scully asks.

"Yeah?" He sits beside her.

She smiles at him. "I'm not going to give up."

He frowns.

"On what?"

Her smile fades. "That's what Father Joe told me. 'Don't give up'. I had no idea why he said that, and when I asked him about it later with Leyla, even he didn't know why he said that. But I know now. I'm not going to give up on us, on this life we have together, or on the crazy twists and turns it takes us. I thought I'd lose you to the darkness, and for a while last night, I thought I almost did."

"But you came just in time," Mulder says.

She smiles briefly. "No, I saved you from the monster just in time. I was just looking at it all wrong. It's not the darkness I was afraid of taking you from me, it was you still willing to chase after the monsters, the mysteries, to accidentally be the hero. And I'm still willing to chase after you, even when I'm pregnant." She makes a wry face at her stomach. "I hope this one doesn't become an adrenaline junkie because of all this."

Mulder raises his eyebrows. "If that was the case, David and Jared would be parachuting to class."

"Oh God," Scully said, half in mock-horror, "don't ever give them that idea."

He smiles, holding her to him. "Thank you," he says, "for not giving up on us. And to listening to Father Joe, even when you didn't want to."

"Proverbs 25:2 saved your life," she sighs against him, "I thought I might as well be thorough."

He smirks. "That's my awesome Dr. Scully," he said, "never let go of one crazy hypothesis even if the other's sound."

"I married you, didn't I?" she said archly.

He gasped loudly and put a hand to his chest. "Scully, are you saying I'm crazy?"

She snorts. "Duh. Just like I am."

He chuckles. "No more darkness for us. And no chasing after monsters, at least for a while."

She rolls her eyes. "Really?"

"Really."


Buckminster Fuller School of Design and Technology
Valentine's Day

Gibson's pretty damn sure that there's something definitely not right with Alice. Sure, it has all seemed like accidents, being that their space in the Copley Square Complex isn't one of Boston's best-built places, much less the world's, but there's no way that the floor's so uneven that both Crystal and Kayley's chairs fell backwards today, causing them to sport giant goose eggs on their otherwise bump-free heads. And it probably didn't help that they were teasing Alice earlier, either. They're new to the afterschool program, and while the other kids know by now not to mess with the blonde girl with the flat eyes, the new girls didn't.

Katie had scolded them, because teasing other people wasn't right, but it seems that wasn't enough for Alice, and so the new girls wound up with matching head wounds. Great. And of course, he can't tell his girlfriend about it, because she doesn't know that he can read minds…

And just when he'd thought that, Alice had turned to him and smiled, the kind of smile that implies a shared secret. And now he knows what he seemed like as a kid to others who couldn't read minds. That was pretty damn creepy.

Frustrated by keeping his suspicions about Alice to himself all afternoon, he's all set to unload his suspicions and general creepiness possibly related to telekinesis and telepathy coming from a little girl onto his brother, when he lets himself into Luke's room only to see that his dorm room is empty. Huh. That's depressing.

He pulls out his cell phone, only to find Luke's cell battery's most likely dead, because it automatically goes to voice mail. Great. Honestly, he thought Luke would learn to recharge it more often if he keeps up those hours-long convos with his long-distance girlfriend, but hey, that's his life.

So he makes his way back to his own dorm room, depressed that he can't immediately unload on the one person on campus that understands him. Or would, if he could get a hold of him. What use is going to a high-tech college if you can't talk to people instantly? He's tempted to use the other alternative left to him, to see where his brother is, but it's been a while, and the last time he randomly did that, he was listening in (accidentally) to him taking a crap. Eugh. So.

To avoid that kinda thing happening again, he put that on hold for the last resort. When he opens his door, he frowns at the note left on his unmade bed. Not the kind of thing Katie's into, she's more into texting, if anything. Of course, there are a handful of people who know his door combination, just like he's memorized Katie and Luke's, so it could be from any of them.

Gibson picks up the note, frowns briefly, then mutters, "Uh-oh. Dammit, Luke."

There's a knock at the door, and he tosses the note into the bottom of his backpack. "Yeah?" he says, then smiles when he sees who's on the other side.

"Hi." Katie smiles. "Hope you don't mind if I'm early."

"I don't." Gibson's own smile deepens. "Let me get a nicer jacket, at least."

She giggles, and he pulls off the puffy but warm jacket and replaces it with a red fleece jacket. "Oh, I see someone's dressing up for V-day." She smirks up at him.

"Someone's got to have the fashion sense in this relationship," he says lightly, pushing his brother's woes out of his mind. "So, ready for a romantic dinner and a movie?"

"Sure." His girlfriend smiles brightly, linking her hand in his. "With who?"

"Ha, ha." Gibson rolls his eyes behind his glasses. "For that, we're going to McDonald's and watching Hannah Montana."

She gasps. "You wouldn't," putting her free hand on her heart in an 'I'm scandalized' gesture.

He smirks. "Try me."

Katie glares, but then sighs. "I thought we were going to see something good, but if you're determined to kill us both with a kiddie movie…"

"Hell, no," Gibson says quickly, "I want this to be the best Valentine's Day we've had at this college. Which isn't much, but--"

She interrupts him with a kiss. "Stop apologizing and take me out," she says with another smile.

"Okay." He smiles back, and they head out into the chilly Boston weather for dinner at Angelo's Diner for a delicious Italian meal and watching "Step Up 2" for the soundtrack and giggles. And there are a lot of giggles that evening, not necessarily due to the movie, to be honest.


Meanwhile, in a suburb of D.C., the Mulder-Scully household is in the usual state it is for Valentine's Day: a mess. Mostly because the kids did their last-minute attempts at cleaning, in between dodging two cats, a new puppy and a new kitten, and hoping their parents are too in love with each other to notice the chaos caused instead of cleanliness.

Unfortunately for them, their mother isn't floating on romance or baby hormones as much as they'd hoped, and she sends them back to cleaning with a raised eyebrow and, "Guys. Really. Clean this up, please."

Sammy sighs the loudest, but Mulder raises his own eyebrows at him, and he sighs again. "Come on, guys," Sammy mutters as they go back for their mops, brooms, and whatnot, "this stinks."

"You stink," William complains. "You said they wouldn't notice this year."

"We can still hear you!" Mulder calls, then grins when they're all out of sight and earshot. "Finally," he sighs.

Now Scully raises an eyebrow at him. "And what flights of fancy do you have planned tonight?"

Mulder blinks. "Funny you should put it that way," he says, then leads his wife into the kitchen. "You can come in now," he says, and Wayne Federman walks in.

"About time!" their erstwhile boss and all-around-insane-person-in-charge grumbles, stomping his feet and rubbing his hands together. "Why you had me waiting outside when I could be--"

"Wayne, the cocoa's on the counter." Mulder rolls his eyes.

Federman, suitably diverted from his complaints, drinks up, only complaining that it's cooled a bit. Scully looks at him, then at her husband. "Mulder, this really isn't the romantic dinner I was thinking of," she starts.

"Oh, about that," Federman jumps in, pulling out an envelope from his jacket and proffers it to the pregnant woman. "This is for you. Well, all of you, really."

Scully frowns as she takes it, then her eyes widen as she reads the itinerary she's holding. "What, what is this for?"

"Happy anniversary, happy Valentines, happy whatever." The producer throws his hands in the air. "Now that I've used my connections to play travel agent on your behalf, my job here is done. As for taking the time off for it, apparently Mary and Aldous pitched some of their built-up vacation time too in when they heard Fo – I mean, Mulder's plea for time off so you don't eat up a chunk of the time off you'll need for maternity leave. And you guys were due for a real vacation, anyways."

"But." Scully shakes her head. "This is something you'd do for a fifteenth anniversary. Or twentieth."

Mulder smiles sheepishly. "It's the least I could do for you. After all, you have to walk around with an ever-increasing waistline and backache for nine months, while I get to brag about being virile at my age."

She raises an eyebrow. "When you put it that way, the least you could do is get re-snipped," and both Mulder and Federman wince, the latter going so far as to cover his privates with both hands. She snorts. "I can believe Mary helping out, but Aldous?"

Mulder shrugs. "Said it was the least he could do, getting us out of his hair for a couple weeks."

She shakes her head again. "I really don't understand, but I don't care." Then she hugs her husband. "We're going on a Disney cruise!" On the same impulse, she hugs Federman too, but briefly. Then she smiles up at her husband. "So, how long until we tell the kids?"

Mulder kisses her forehead. "You keep reminding me why I married you, Scully," he says, "God, I love you."

"And on that note, I'm getting outta here," Federman groans and makes a face. "Please, have a good time, kids, don't do anything I wouldn't do." He laughs as they make faces right back, and leaves the same way he came in.

Scully's still giddy, but exhales a sigh of relief when he's gone. "Seriously, Mulder, I was scared for a few seconds there that you'd want a threesome or something."

"Omigod, I forgot the second part of my surprise!" he mock-gasps, and she slugs his arm. "Ow."

She folds her arms under her breasts. "I believe there's supposed to be a romantic aspect to the proceedings, husband of mine."

He smiles blindingly. "Of course, wife of mine," he said, then pulls out a paper bag from one of the very top shelves, a single line of duct tape sealing the top. He cuts it open with a pair of scissors and pulls out a small bouquet, kneeling dramatically before his wife. "Heyyyy, pretty mama," he drawls in his terrible Elvis imitation, "would you be mine?"

She laughs, taking the colorful flowers from his hands. "Stand up, you goof," she says laughing, "of course I am."

Their kids walk in to find them kissing up a storm, and the middle kids leave grimacing with "ewwww" spilling from their lips, while the younger and older kids smirk, watching their parents get all gooshy for Valentine's Day like they always do.


February 15, 2008

And that's how they and their family find themselves on a sunny Disney cruise the following day in part thanks to Wayne Federman, Mary Green, and Aldous Reed.

"Mulder and Scully team, 11, darkness, zero," Mulder smiles as Zoe and Brianna, in princess outfits, no less, take the seven thousandth picture with Disney characters. He and his lovely wife, however, are sticking with sunglasses and matching tourist clothes. They're on vacation, after all. Scully was so happy that he volunteered to pack she hasn't said anything at all about his choices. Of course, their older daughters insisted they could pack on their own as soon as they glanced in their parents' bag on their bed.

Scully shakes her head, but smiles back anyways. Even though the oldest kids complained about Disney being baby stuff, Page still gawped at the celebrities that stepped on for a brief concert or photo ops, and Sammy and April still had a blast schooling the younger boys on how to throw oneself into the water rides and the pool. "You mean, Scully and Mulder team, 12," she says, patting her baby bump.

"Exactly," Mulder smirks, rubbing her belly. "I just wanted to hear you say it."

She rolls her eyes, but then their attention is caught by their two youngest, dragging them out of their chairs. "Look, look, look!" has pretty much become Zoe and Brianna's main phrase during this cruise. Oh well, she should probably go to the bathroom after all the fruit juice she's been drinking anyways.


Meanwhile, back at the Doggett household, Doggett and Reyes get a surprise visit.

"Luke!" Reyes says warmly, and wraps her arms around her tallest son. "Not that I'm complaining, but it's not spring break yet, right?"

"Uh, right," he says, smiling like he's trying it on, rather than actually feeling it.

Or at least, that's what she thinks in the brief time she studies him before John joins them. She can see why Gibson said that it seemed like he was blocking him out, because he was. In fact, it seemed he was so used to blocking people out that he was doing it right now.

"Luke?" Doggett says, carrying Jon-Jon in his arms. "What's the special occasion? If you've come all the way home by bus, I'd bet you'd rather try to see Adrianna this weekend than us, given you just missed Valentine's with her. Not that I'm complaining," he says and smiles briefly, jogging his youngest son in his arms while looking at his oldest.

"Um, just needed to get away for a few days," he says, and it's a lie at the same time as being the truth. Luke doesn't look good, Doggett notes. In fact, he looks like a mess.

"Maybe you should sit down," Doggett tells him in a way that's not really a suggestion and hands the baby over to Reyes. "You don't look so good."

"Yeah, I think I will," Luke says gratefully, and when Doggett comes back with a sports drink, he guzzles it down. "It's been a rough few weeks, actually."

"Why is that?" Reyes says.

Luke's pale blue eyes are just like his father's, a bit more expressive than he wishes, so he looks anywhere but at his parents. When his eyes light on his little brother's though, he feels a bit sick again. "Long story."

"We're on leave," Doggett says, "we got all the time in the world."

"Sort of," Reyes says when Jon-Jon starts to fuss. "I'll be back. John, is Rebecca still in the bathroom?"

Doggett nods, his eyes not leaving his son's face. "Yeah. Check on her, would you?"

"Sure," Reyes says, and leaves the two men alone.

"So, what's this all about?" Doggett asks when she's gone.

Luke puts his head in his hands and sighs loudly. "I messed up, Dad."

Doggett's mind goes in a thousand different directions, but he squashes the hysterical thoughts down and forces himself to keep his voice steady. He might not have Monica's gift for empathy, but it's obvious his kid's going through something big.

"Messed up, like got a low grade? Or messed up like you went driving without a license and crashed my car?" he asks, thinking of that who debacle for the first time in a couple of years.

"Worse," Luke finally says after a long pause. "I figured I should tell you before my body shows up in a morgue."

"You're not using, are you?" Doggett voices one of his fears.

"What?" Luke's head whips up. "No, no, it's not that."

"Then what," Doggett grinds the question out between his teeth, "is the problem?"

Luke stares at him, then says, "Maybe I should wait until Monica gets back."

"You're the one who brought up the morgue," Doggett says, "that's pretty damn serious."

"'Cause it-" he breaks off, hearing something that sounded like a herd of elephants running through the house. "Is that Rebecca?"

"And Monica." Doggett sighs, the tension being put on hold because his family is oddly silly, whether he likes it or not. Usually, he likes it, except when his oldest son's about to spill the beans on some life-changing mistake he's yet to admit to. "Becca's gotten into a tag-you're-it phase. I think Monica's trying to keep her out of our hair for now."

"Okay," Luke says, and the tension is back, along with the furrows in his brow. Since when did a college kid get a wrinkled forehead? Geez, Doggett thinks. "You know I came home at Christmas..."

"Yes, I recall that," Doggett says irritably when he trails off. "With the colored lights and presents, it's hard to have forgotten."

"Dad, I'm-" Luke stops again, raises the plastic sports drink bottle, only to find it's empty, then sighs again. "This is hard."

It's hard for me, too, mostly because I'm trying not to shake the answers from your skull, Doggett mutters inwardly. "What is it?"

Luke takes a deep breath, then closes his eyes. The last time Doggett saw him do that was when he was ten and jumping off the highest board at the swimming pool. "I'm gonna be a father," he says gruffly, "and Adrianna's gonna be a mother." Then he opens his eyes.

It takes three seconds for the words to enter Doggett's brain, for his brain to process them correctly, and properly sort his emotions before they direct his actions. And just when he's ready to punch the living daylights out of his oldest boy –

That's when Rebecca throws herself from behind at her brother, yelling "TAG!"

The body blow is completely unexpected and tips him off his feet, sending him towards the coffee table, his skull bouncing off the wooden finish.

Reyes runs in with Jon-Jon in her arms when she hears the thunk only to find Luke groaning and picking himself up off the floor, Doggett's hands in fists at his side, and Rebecca doing a victory dance. She looks at her partner, who seems to be the only one able to give a coherent answer to the insanity.

"Better Becca than me," is all he says, before stiffly going into the kitchen.

The tall brunette shakes her head, following after him because it's close to the baby's feeding time. She knows there'll be an explanation sooner than later, and by the looks of things, it's looking to be a real doozy.

The End



Well? What did you think? neoxphile@aol.com, be8opcat1013@yahoo.com

Authors' endnote: Begin reading the next story, The Family G-Man: From Here to Paternity now

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