Title: Long Trail Home
Author: Nantglyn
Feedback: nantglyn@yahoo.com
Keywords: MSR, Angst, Historical AU
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine. Just for fun, not for profit.
Archive: I'll post to Gossamer. Note: Any errors are my own.

Summary: A new life lay ahead for many who traveled the Oregon Trail. This is just one story.


Chapter 1

March 4, 1852
Thursday

Winter was still struggling to show its force with a chill in the air and a light dusting of snow on the ground. Hannibal Missouri was a typical river town that was growing along the banks of the Mississippi River, with rolling hills rising from the river. Mark Twain was twenty-six years old, just beginning his career as a writer.

Fox Mulder walked down the street, his steps crunching lightly against the cobblestones. He breathed in the air, walking with purpose. He heard that his friend Walter Skinner was in town and was planning to go west with his family. He spotted Skinner's two oldest boys, sixteen year old Victor and twelve year old Matthew, loading their wagon with supplies from the general store.

Mulder crossed the street. "Victor, hello. Where's your father?"

Victor and Matthew paused from their work. "He's inside, Mr. Mulder. Did you hear?" Victor asked excitedly. We're going to Oregon."

"Yes, that's why I wanted to see your father." He looked at the supplies sitting next to the wagon. "Do you boys need any help?"

"No thank you sir, we're fine. Father is just finishing up inside."

"Then I suppose I can help you after all."

Mulder had been helping the boys for only a short time when Walter Skinner came out of the store, looking down and counting his money. "Boys, finish up and then..." He paused when he saw Mulder next to his boys, smiling.

"Hello, Skinner."

"Mulder," Skinner said, reaching out to shake Mulder's hand. "It's been too long. You didn't need to help the boys. They can do this by themselves."

Mulder moved away from Skinner's sons and Skinner followed. "I was just waiting to speak with you. Do you have a minute?"

The boys had stopped working, but soon began packing the wagon again when they saw the look on their father's face. "Of course, let's walk," he said as they began to stroll down the street.

"I hear you're heading out west."

Skinner nodded. "That's true. We're going to Oregon. I'm leading about five families to St. Joe. We'll join others when we get there."

Mulder looked down, as if he was watching his steps carefully. "I was wondering if another family could come along."

"I don't see a problem with that, but we leave in about a month." Skinner removed his hat and scratched the top of his balding head. "I don't know how they'd get ready in time. I've been planning this since last fall." He replaced his hat and asked, "Who do you know that wants to go?"

Mulder looked back up. "Me."

"Your father would allow that? I don't see Mr. Mulder as being someone who would let his only son leave."

"I'm a grown man. I've been married and I have a child. I think I've lived under his roof long enough. Walter, I want to be on my own. I feel like I have no control over my life. My father has controlled my life long enough. I'm twenty-six-years old for God's sake. It's time I live my life the way I choose to live it, not the way Bill Mulder says I should. I should have done this a long time ago."

Skinner stopped and Mulder followed suit. "I'm not saying I wouldn't welcome you Mulder. It's just that I never saw you leaving Missouri. I thought you had too many ties here."

Leaning against the brick wall of a building, Mulder shoved his hands into his coat pockets and said, "There are too many ghosts here. I want to start fresh...I just need to start over. I can't keep living in the past."

"Are you planning on leaving Samantha with your parents?"

"No. She's my daughter and I won't leave her behind."

Skinner hesitated before continuing. "Then who's going to take care of her?"

"I will."

"On the trail by yourself? Mulder, you've had your mother taking care of her since Penelope died. You've never taken care of her by yourself." Skinner shoved his hands into his coat pockets, imitating Mulder. "You need a woman to help you."

"What, you have someone in mind?" Mulder joked.

Skinner stared at him.

"You're serious."

Skinner looked down the street and ran his hand across his beard. His eyes followed the stagecoach as it drove through town. "Maybe." He looked back at Mulder. "I know someone who needs a man to take care of her, but you can't say it to her that way. She's been living with us this winter. Her husband died last fall. Jack Willis...did you ever meet him?"

"No, I don't think so."

"That's what I thought. They came from Pennsylvania only last spring. Anyway, she tried to run the farm by herself, but I found her December alone with her son, running a fever. If she had been conscious, she wouldn't have let me bring her to my house, but fortunately, she couldn't argue with me. She can be stubborn and independent."

"She sounds wonderful," Mulder commented sarcastically.

"She briefly talked about returning to the farm, but I think she realizes how unrealistic that is. I just sold the land for her last month, so she'll have a little money."

"I don't need her money."

"I know, but her brother Bill is insisting that she come to St. Joe to marry a friend of his who recently lost his wife. This man said that he would marry her, but I don't think that's best for her. He's forty, has buried three wives already, and has ten children. I've promised her that we would take her and her son there on our way to Oregon. Her brother is supposed to meet us in St. Joseph to get them." Pulling his coat closed tighter, Skinner said, "Fox, Dana is only nineteen years old. Marrying him will make her old before her time."

"But she's agreed to this."

"Yes, but only because there doesn't seem to be any other option. She told me that the only family she can turn to is her brother Bill. He has a family as well and has let Dana know that he can't take care of her and her son. He told her he can't afford to take on any more responsibilities, not when she has a future available to her." Mulder pushed off the wall and Skinner followed suit, heading back towards Skinner's sons. "I would much rather see her with you than with him."

"I'm not interested in remarrying. The love of my life died in my arms. I will never love anyone else again. It's just going to be me and Samantha."

"Think Mulder. That's not good for Samantha. You can't be so selfish. She needs a woman in her life, someone to show her the ways to being a woman. If you stayed here, your mother could do that, but you're going to a new land with no support. Besides, you need sons to carry on your name. Every man needs that."

"I have three sons. All three buried next to their mother. I'm not destined to have sons who live beyond a day. I've accepted that."

"But Dana has a son...and she's strong. She could give you sons. Look Mulder, I'm not asking you to love her, but you need a woman in your life if you and Samantha are going to survive in Oregon. Samantha is what, three years old?"

"Four."

"Who's going to look after her while you work the farm? You're going to need someone. Besides, they say that there aren't many unattached women in Oregon. Any woman who is unattached is quickly snapped up. The Oregon Donation Land Act gives you twice as much land if you have a wife. Now is the time to find a wife and she's a good woman. This is the perfect answer." They reached the Skinner wagon. "Boys get in the wagon." He turned back to Mulder. "Fox, just think about it. She'll be at the Methodist church with my family on Sunday. You can meet her there."

"You know I haven't set foot in a church since Penelope died."

"Make the exception Mulder. This is important." With that Skinner jumped in his wagon and without looking back, headed home.


March 7, 1852
Sunday

Outside the Methodist church sat buggies, wagons, and some horses tied by themselves. Mulder jumped down from his horse, stretching his legs. As he tied his horse to a nearby tree, he could hear the service already in progress. The churchgoers were singing hymns of praise. One thing about a Methodist, Mulder thought to himself, they do love to sing their hymns. He quietly climbed the stairs and stood inside to let his eyes adjust. He found an open seat and slid into one of the back pews.

He went mostly unnoticed since the parishioners were standing and singing their hearts out. An elderly woman next to him smiled and Mulder smiled back.

After the song, the parishioners sat down and Mulder followed them. The preacher began his sermon about some sin, but Mulder wasn't listening. He wasn't here for the sermon. Looking around the church, he spotted Skinner's balding head. It shone like a beacon about four pews up.

The Skinner family seemed to take up a whole pew. Mulder looked down the pew at the family. Victor and Matthew sat on the outside of the pew, next to Skinner. On Skinner's other side sat his wife Sharon Skinner. She had her arm around their youngest son Francis, who was seven years old and very fidgety. Mulder began to feel envious of Skinner. He had three sons. Maybe Skinner was right.

Sharon bent down, whispering to Francis and he soon sat still. Next to Francis sat the two Skinner girls, Matthew's twin sister Louisa and Margaret who was nine years old. All of the children had Sharon's light coloring.

As his eyes passed the girls, he saw a woman with red hair. "So this is Dana Willis," he thought to himself. A young boy with blond hair rested his head on her shoulder. He was fast asleep, but Mulder could see there was nothing unappealing about the child. He wondered if he looked like his mother or father. He couldn't tell what the mother looked like since she was turned away from him, listening intently to the sermon.

Mulder didn't care if she was beautiful, but he hoped she was at least slightly pleasing to the eye. He had decided that if she was too unattractive, he could easily slip out of the church without Skinner ever knowing he was there.

Before he knew it, they were on their feet, ready to sing again. Mulder stood, keeping his eyes on Dana Willis. She still hadn't turned so that he could see her, but he could see that she wasn't very tall. She didn't stand much taller than Louisa and she was slight in build. Skinner thought she would be able to handle the hard work that was ahead of them? She looked too delicate. He was beginning to rethink meeting her when suddenly, he found Skinner standing in front of him.

"Mulder, I didn't think you would make it."

Mulder hadn't realized the service was over. He turned to look back at the Skinner pew, but no one was there. "Yes, I arrived a little late."

Skinner leaned in a little and whispered, "Wanted to make sure you could make a quick exit?"

Mulder looked back at him, horrified that he had guessed his intentions. He didn't want to appear rude. Looking past Skinner, he tried to see Dana Willis, but could only see the top of her head.

Skinner saw Mulder trying to find Dana and turned around. "Mrs. Willis, would you please come here? I have someone I would like you to meet."

Slowly, Dana made her way through the Skinner family, carrying her son who was still asleep. She kept her face turned down, so that he still couldn't get a good look at her.

"Mrs. Dana Willis," Skinner said, "I would like to introduce you to Mr. Fox Mulder." She nodded her head but still didn't look up.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Willis," Mulder said.

"Thank you. I feel the same way, Mr. Mulder." When she finally looked up, he found himself looking into the bluest eyes he had ever seen. He caught himself before he gasped out loud. When she slowly smiled, it was as if her whole face lit up. She was truly an attractive woman. Maybe not as pretty as Penny, but he thought to himself that yes, there were possibilities here.

"Fox, why don't you come and have supper with us?" he heard Sharon Skinner ask.

"Yes, Mulder. You can follow us to our house. Sharon has plenty to eat," Skinner added.

"Thank you. I'd enjoy that. Could I walk you out Mrs. Willis?"

Dana nodded and he walked behind her out the doors, the Skinners following closely. As they descended the stairs, Dana looked down, making sure of her footing as she carried her son. Mulder followed her to the back of Skinner's wagon.

"Let me help you with your son Mrs. Willis," Mulder said.

She looked down to her son before deciding to trust him for a moment. She handed him to Mulder and her son woke up. "Mama?" he asked.

Mulder bounced him in his arms as Dana climbed into the wagon. "What's his name?"

Dana turned around and sat down, reaching for her son. "Caleb."

The Skinner children began crawling into the back of the wagon with Dana. Skinner was up front helping his wife.

"That's a good strong name," Mulder said, reluctantly handing him back to her.

"Thank you."

"Mulder," Skinner called. He headed around to the front of the wagon, where Skinner was waiting. "Why don't you just follow us? You can stay the afternoon and talk to her."

Mulder nodded and headed back for his horse. Skinner turned his wagon and headed back for home as Mulder hurried his horse to catch up, following closely. As they rode, the Skinner children talked among themselves while Dana rode silently with Caleb on her lap.

Every so often, Caleb would look up at the tall man with the mustache riding behind them. Mulder would smile and wave at him and Caleb would smile and bury his face in his mother's shoulder. He would get courage to look up at Mulder again and they would begin the game all over again. This continued until Caleb began to tire and fell asleep in his mother's arms.


After lunch, Sharon ushered the children outside. As Dana climbed the stairs to put her son down for a nap, Mulder followed her with his eyes.

"Have you decided?" Skinner asked Mulder. He didn't respond. Skinner tried again, "Mulder, have you made a decision?"

"Huh? Oh, I think so. Yes, I believe so."

"What is your decision?"

"I've been thinking about what you said. Samantha does need a woman in her life. It wouldn't be fair to her." Mulder paused, "Do you really think she'd agree to this?"

"I've already mentioned it to her. We've talked and I think she believes you're the better prospect. Of course, you'll have to ask her yourself."

"Have you told her about my family?"

"No. She only knows that you're a widower, with a daughter, who wishes to start a new life in the Oregon Territory. I haven't told her anything beyond that. You'll have to use your own judgment on when or if you decide to tell her."

"Thank you. I'd prefer that she didn't know that my family has money. I want her to make an honest decision, not based on my money but on our combined circumstances."

Sharon came back inside. "It was nice that you came to eat with us Fox." She began collecting the plates from the table. "So, what do you think of Dana?"

"She seems nice."

"When Dana comes down, why don't you ask her to walk to the river?"

"Maybe." Mulder leaned back in his chair. "She's small. Do you think she'll be able to handle the trip?"

Skinner smiled at his wife. "She's stronger than she looks," Sharon said. Dana came back down the stairs and they all turned in her direction, halting her in her tracks, sensing that they were all talking about her. Sharon covered by asking, "Is he asleep?"

"Yes. He falls asleep quickly." Sharon sat down opposite the head of the table, which her husband occupied. Dana followed suit, sitting opposite of Mulder.

Skinner stood, walking to the fireplace to stoke it. "Mulder, why don't you take Dana for a walk? It's nice out this afternoon." Mulder looked up at him, and behind Dana, Skinner jerked his head towards the door with a stern look.

Mulder looked back at Dana, who had cast her eyes down towards the table, her fingers lightly rubbing the surface of the coarse tabletop. He sighed and stood, throwing Skinner an irritated look that said, 'I was getting to it, don't push me.'

"Mrs. Willis, would you do me the honor of your company?" Mulder reached out a hand toward her. Dana looked up, the corners of her mouth lifting briefly. She looked as uncomfortable as he felt. She turned in her seat and put her hand in his, nodding.

"Dana, put this blanket around you to stay warm," Sharon said, handing her a small blanket. Dana nodded and put it around her as Mulder put his coat back on and held the door for her.


The children played in the yard, running after each other as Dana and Mulder passed them. Their voices faded as they headed toward the river along a footpath. They didn't speak since the path caused them to occasionally walk single file and branches of trees or bushes would reach out, temporarily blocking their way. As they reached the river, the path opened up. Mulder directed Dana towards a log that lay parallel to the river and they sat side by side, listening to the water as it rippled over rocks that lay in shallow water. Mulder picked up a rock and threw it, skimming the water in a pool across the way. He heard Dana sigh and turned towards her.

"Sorry," he said. "I don't know where to begin."

"You know, I've come to consider the Skinners like family. They've been very good to me."

"Yes, they're good people."

Dana smoothed her dress with her hands. "And I know they saved me and my son. I trust them." Mulder nodded for her to continue. "I know they've spoken to you about me. My brother and his family live outside St. Joseph. I have a sister in New York, but her husband is a harsh man and I have no desire to live with them. I have a younger brother Charlie but we don't know where he is. He was living with my sister, but left her home last year and hasn't been heard of since."

"I didn't realize you had other family. Skinner only mentioned your brother Bill."

"I haven't seen Melissa for a couple of years. I've only heard from Billy because Skinner wrote him on my behalf when I was ill. I don't think he would have contacted me on his own."

"Oh."

Dana placed the blanket on the log and picked up a rock, throwing it, trying to imitate Mulder. It landed with a plunk not far from where she threw it. She heard Mulder chuckle beside her. She turned back to him. "So, my brother has arranged a marriage to his friend, Mr. Sanderson. I guess Walter told you about him too."

"Yes. He said you've agreed to marry him."

"I don't really want to do it, but I have to provide for my son. I have to do what's best for him."

"Is that best?"

Sighing, Dana stood, grabbing the blanket. "It's clear to me now that it is. I'm sorry I wasted your time, Mr. Mulder. The walk down was pleasant, but if you'll excuse me, I think I should get back to my son." She passed in front of him, but was stopped when Mulder grabbed her wrist.

"Wait."

Dana turned towards him and looked down at his hand. He immediately released it. Getting up, he walked away from her and tilted his head back, taking a deep breath and releasing it. Turning back in her direction, he said, "Mrs. Willis, please sit back down." When she crossed her arms and just stood there, staring at him, he said, "Please."

Dana turned around and took her seat again. "All right, I'm sitting."

"I'm sorry, but this is uncomfortable for me."

"It's uncomfortable for me too."

"I know," Mulder agreed. "I think you should know I want to start a new life. There are too many memories here. There are pleasant ones, but there are also ones that I want to forget."

"Like losing your wife."

"Walter told you." She nodded. "Of course he did. Yes, like losing my wife. Mrs. Willis, I can't promise you anything except to provide for you and your son. In return, I would like you to take care of my daughter."

"I need to hear it, Mr. Mulder. From that description, I could be your housekeeper. Is that what you want from me? Do you want me to be your housekeeper or your wife?"

"I loved my wife very much. I loved her more than anything. I ache so much still from the thought of losing her. I thought we would be together forever. All I can promise you is as I said. We will be husband and wife, but I can only promise to be a good husband...to be kind and to provide for you and your son. I'm sorry, but I think that's all I can promise you."

"I see."

"I'll be a father to your son too. He'll be my son. He will inherit the same as any of my sons will."

"That's very generous."

"I'm sure we could get your preacher to marry us. I was thinking we would marry the day we leave. Would that be all right? I have a lot to do before we leave."

"I suppose."

"I think we should go back now. They've probably been watching the path since we left."

They went back the same way they came, quietly walking, deep in their own thoughts. When they reached the opening, they again walked side by side. As they got close to the house, Mulder said, "I'll come by for you a few days before we leave. We'll need to get some supplies. I'll get the basics, but I'll want you to go to the general store with me to get things for the children and us. I don't think we'll see each other again until then. I have a lot to do to get us ready. Do you mind?"

"No, I understand."

They looked up and saw Sharon and Walter Skinner in the doorway, watching them. Mulder stopped Dana as Skinner came up to them. "Well?" he asked.

Mulder spoke up. "We've come to an agreement."

Skinner tilted his head. "An agreement?"

"Mrs. Willis, I'll be by as promised if the weather is good. Thank you for the walk."

Dana smiled, nodded her head, and turned to walk back to the house. Sharon quickly pulled her into the house. Mulder had the feeling she would be questioned as well.

"Mulder, what do you mean by an agreement. Did you ask her to marry you?"

"Sort of."

"What did you mean by an agreement?"

Mulder walked towards his horse. "I don't think I want to discuss it."

"Did she say yes?"

"Sort of. Listen Skinner, I have to get going." With that, he mounted his horse and looked down. "You're going to be there when the brother finds out, right? I don't think he's going to be happy about what we're going to do," Mulder joked.

"Told you about her brother, did she?"

"Just a little, but I just have a feeling that he's not going to be happy with either of us."

Skinner nodded. "Probably not."

"I'll be back a couple of days before we leave to take her to town."

"You're not going to see her again until then? When will you marry?"

"The day we leave."

"You're kidding. You don't want to get to know each other before then?"

"What would be the point? We've made a decision. She seems like an honorable woman. I don't think she'll change her mind."

"Yes, but..."

"I'll probably see you in a couple of weeks. Walter." Mulder tipped his head in farewell. As he kicked his horse and headed down the lane, his thoughts turned to his plans for the next month.


Chapter 2

March 17, 1852
Wednesday

The Mulder family had gathered for breakfast in the large dining room. At the table, Samantha was chatting about a doll that her grandfather had bought her just yesterday. It sat in a chair next to her. Mulder smiled across the table and nodded, though he wasn't really listening to her. Seated next to Samantha was her grandmother, who smiled and nodded. She reached over to smooth Samantha's long brown hair. Mulder's father sat at the head of the table between his son and wife, speaking whenever Samantha asked a question. "Samantha, why don't you go play upstairs in your room? I need to speak with Grandmother and Grandfather," Mulder said.

Samantha pouted. "I'm not finished eating."

"You've been playing with your food for the last few minutes. Go on, go upstairs."

"Grandmother," she whined to his mother.

Mulder sighed and his mother nodded for Samantha to go. He watched her climb out of her chair and grab her doll, skipping as she left the room.

She listened more to her grandparents than she did to him. He supposed that was partly his fault. After Penny had died, he had been too distraught to think about anything but losing his wife. Even his daughter was in the background. He didn't take control of his daughter when his grieving eased; it was just easier to let his mother take care of her. This made it even more important to break free and start over.

When Samantha left, his father said, "Well Fox, what's this about? It sounds serious."

"It is Father." He watched the motion of his thumb rubbing the smooth surface of the spoon in his right hand. He felt his father's eyes on him, watching him intently. He placed the spoon down and sat up straighter. "You know I appreciate everything you have done for me and Samantha. And you know I love you both."

"Fox, what is it dear?" his mother asked. Mulder could tell he was making his parents nervous.

"I'm going to Oregon," he said abruptly. He took a breath and continued. "There are too many memories for me here. I haven't felt happy for quite some time, not since Penny... Anyway, I plan to go with Walter Skinner and his family."

"Skinner. I should have known this would have something to do with him," his father stated.

"But what about Samantha?" his mother asked.

"She'll come with me of course," he said to his mother and to his father, he said, "and it was my idea, not Skinner's."

"What?" He could tell his father was unhappy with this revelation. "You're not taking her all the way to God knows where. I've read stories about the trip. It's dangerous. I won't allow it Fox."

Mulder stood up from the table. "You can't stop me. She's my daughter and I'll do what I think is best for her...and that's going with me to Oregon. I want to be a father for her again. I haven't felt like I have been for a long time."

His mother got up and went to her son, placing her hand on his arm. "Fox, please, don't do this. If you feel you must go, do so, but please, leave Samantha with us. I lost my daughter; I don't think I can stand to lose my granddaughter too."

"Well I can't lose my daughter either. I promise; I'll take good care of her. Maybe one day we can come back for a visit."

"She needs me in her life Fox. You're a man. When she gets older, she'll want to talk to a woman who can help her. I can talk to her about things you'll never understand," his mother cried.

Mulder paused before saying, "She'll have someone. I'm getting married before I leave."

His father had been quiet, but could not stop himself. "Married? I didn't know you've been courting anyone. Who is she?"

Mulder hesitated. "You don't know her."

"Well, how do you know her?"

"Walter Skinner introduced me to her."

"When?"

Mulder looked up, and then sighed, looking his father in the eye. "A few days ago."

"Fox, have you lost your mind?" Mulder flinched at his father's harsh tone. "Now I know you're not taking our granddaughter."

"She's a good woman."

"And you learned this in a couple of days?"

"She's agreed to be a mother to Samantha and I'll be a father to her son. It's a good bargain."

"'A good bargain.' It sounds more like a business arrangement than a marriage."

"Well, maybe you're not too far off there. I just know that this feels right. For the first time in a long time, I feel optimistic." Mulder crossed to the opening of the door when he was halted by his father's harsh words.

"Fox, if you take Samantha, you will never see one penny of my money. I'll see to it that only Samantha gets my money."

Mulder turned back to his father. "That's the only way you think you can control me, isn't it Father? Well you can keep your money. I don't need it. Grandfather has taken care of me. I haven't touched the money he left me, but it'll be enough to take care of us. I don't want your money Father. Leave it all to Samantha. I don't care; you're not stopping me. We're leaving in a month. I don't wish to leave in anger, but you won't stop me."

His father tried another tactic, his last desperate attempt to stop his son. It was all he had left. "So, you're going to turn your back on your sister? You're going to stop looking for her?"

"We haven't found her in over 10 years. I'm not sure I would even recognize her if I passed her on the street. You continually make me feel guilty for losing her. I do feel guilty, are you happy?"

With that, Mulder turned his back on his parents, grabbed his coat from the entryway, and slammed the door as he left the house.

Later that morning, Mulder stopped by the bank to withdraw the money he had inherited from his grandfather. The banker was shocked to hear that he was leaving, but said more people were leaving daily. Some were heading for California where it was said a man could get rich quickly. Was he going there? Mulder told him Oregon was where he and his family would be heading.

As he left the bank, Mulder knew that Oregon was the right decision. He wasn't interested in going to California to get rich. He now had enough money in his hand to guarantee that his family would be comfortable wherever they decided to make their home.


March 19, 1852
Friday

Mulder rode up the short drive to his Aunt Millie and Uncle John Pendrell's farm. They lived in a simple two-story home and owned 160 acres. It wasn't a huge place, nothing compared to what Mulder grew up in, but it was comfortable. When he was younger, Mulder loved to stay overnight with his aunt and uncle.

His mother had married above herself and had lived a wealthy life, but he often felt that there was something missing from his father and mother's marriage. He believed that they weren't as close as they had once been. He felt them drift apart after his sister's disappearance and only recently, they seemed to be drawn together again, after his daughter Samantha was born. He supposed they were reliving their Samantha through his Samantha. That couldn't be healthy for his daughter.

His aunt and uncle truly appeared to be in love and their love had never seemed to wane. He now sought out two of their sons, Jimmy and Danny. He hoped he could convince them to go west with him. He would need their help and he thought he could easily convince the boys, but his parents might be another matter.


"No Fox, you are not taking my boys away from me. I won't have it," his aunt firmly told him.

"But Mama, it's a chance for us," Jimmy said. He was tall and lanky, but a hard worker. Mulder had seen him work a full day in the field and never complain. He was three years older than his brother Danny, who was seventeen. Danny was more solidly built than his brother. They both favored their father in coloring, with fair skin and reddish blond hair.

Mulder knew that if he had these boys along, they would have a better chance of building a future in Oregon. He could hire some men to drive his wagons, but he preferred to have family along. They knew how to work a farm, something of which he had absolutely no knowledge. He felt that he could learn from the boys and then survive on his own. In return, Mulder intended to provide them with supplies and money of their own so that they might begin their own lives.

They had been talking for over an hour and Mulder knew his aunt was weakening. "I don't want to lose you both," Aunt Millie said. She looked over to her husband, hoping he would say something to discourage them, but she knew she had already lost her battle when she saw the resignation on his face.

"The boys have to be on their own sometime Millie," Uncle John said. "At least they'll be with Fox."

Mulder nodded. "We'll be all right Aunt Millie. This is an opportunity for all of us. I'll make sure they're safe, I promise."

"Don't make promises to me that you can't keep Fox. You don't know what dangers lay ahead."

Mulder nodded. "You're right, I shouldn't promise." He saw tears in her eyes, but now she wore the same look of resignation as her husband. They had won. They had made their case.

Millie stood up and hugged Mulder. "Just promise that you will all try to be safe," she whispered. "I'll be satisfied with that."

Mulder hugged her back. "I promise," he said, stepping away from her. "I'll need to take the boys to town with me in a few days to get some supplies."

His aunt nodded and walked up the stairs and out of sight. When she was gone, the boys followed Mulder outside.


The house was dark when Mulder arrived late at his parent's house. It was quiet as he entered and headed for the stairs. Mulder began to climb when he heard his father call from the parlor. He headed back down and saw his father sitting in his favorite chair.

"Fox, come sit down."

Mulder hesitated by the door but finally crossed the room to sit on the sofa. He stretched out his legs and leaned back, lacing his fingers across his lap. "Father, I'm really tired. Could we talk in the morning?"

"No. I don't want this to wait." His father got up and crossed to the fireplace which Mulder only now noticed still glowed with orange embers. After putting another log on, his father stirred the embers. Soon, a small fire was glowing in the fireplace. Keeping his back to his son, he said, "Son, you know we love you."

When his father didn't say anything further, Mulder said, "Yes, of course I do."

Bill Mulder turned back around and said, "We don't want to lose you or Samantha. Fox, you're all we have."

"I know that, but you have to let me do what I think is right. You left your home when you were young. Grandfather didn't want you to come to Missouri. He wanted you to stay in Kentucky. You've told me that story many times. Did you stay like he wanted you to? Of course not. I'm not any different from you Father. I want to build my own life. I believe I deserve the same opportunity you had. I know this is right. I do," he finished quietly.

"But I didn't go to another country," his father reasoned. "There are many more dangers that you will face if you go. Do you really know what you're getting yourself and your daughter into?"

"I've read the stories just as you have, but you and I both know that sometimes stories are exaggerated."

His father sighed and returned to his chair. "And sometimes they aren't."

"That's true, but I have to take that risk...if nothing else, then for my sanity."

"We'll never see you or Samantha again," his father said sadly.

"You will. We can return and visit sometime."

"You can believe that Fox, but I don't." His father shook his head and sighed. They sat quietly, listening to the fire crackle when his father continued, "All right. Go with our blessing. Just be careful."

"I will."

"I'm going to have the men make the best wagons for you. I'll have them start on yours right away. I want you in safe wagons."

"Thank you Father."

"How many are you going to take?"

"I'm only taking two. I'm going to load one with the supplies and have the other for us to sleep in. I don't want us sleeping on the ground the whole trip. Do you think you could send one wagon on ahead up the river and have a man wait with it? We'll use that one to sleep in once we leave St. Joe. I would prefer to only take one across the state."

"If that's what you want."

"I really appreciate this."

"I'll buy and send some livestock for you too. Do you want me to find men to go with you?"

"No. I'm taking Jimmy and Danny with me."

"What? Do your aunt and uncle know?"

"Yes, although it took some convincing. I trust the boys."

"Do you need any money?"

Mulder smiled. "No thank you. I meant it; Grandfather's money will be enough for us."

His father nodded, and then asked, "When are we going to meet your bride?"

Mulder laid his head on the back of the sofa, looked up at the ceiling, and let out a long breath. "You aren't."

"Of course we are. We have every right to know who is going to be raising our granddaughter."

"No."

"Why don't you want us to meet her? Are you saying we won't even be invited to the wedding?"

"I don't want her to know about my background. I'm going to marry her the day we leave. We'll just say our vows and go."

Mulder heard his father shift in the chair. "Fox, I know you grieved for Penny, but I didn't think you were still grieving for her."

"What do you mean?" he asked, surprised. "Of course I still miss her. I miss her every day." He looked away and said quietly, "Why did you have to mention her?"

"I just can't believe you're marrying a woman you obviously don't love, couldn't even love because you don't even really known her."

"I don't love her. This is just an arrangement...an agreement between the two of us."

"I would rather you didn't marry anyone if you didn't love her. A loveless marriage is not a pleasant way to live."

"Is this the voice of experience?"

Shooting him an angry look, his father said, "No. That's not true, you know it isn't Fox. I love your mother."

"But are you still in love with her?"

His father got up and walked toward the door. He ignored the question, but said instead, "Your mother and I will pray every day for you and Samantha, Fox. Make sure the fire dies down before you go to bed." As he left the room, he heard his son call, "I will."


April 14, 1852
Wednesday

Mulder knocked on the Skinner's door and their daughter Louisa answered it. "Hello, Mr. Mulder. Mama says to come in and sit in the parlor. Mrs. Willis will be down in a few moments." Louisa grabbed his hand and pulled him into the room to the side. She stopped in front of the sofa and sat down, pulling Mulder with her. They listened as they heard feet running down the stairs. Soon Margaret, her younger sister, ran into the room.

"Hello, Mr. Mulder. Mama says that Mrs. Willis will be down in..."

"A few moments. Yes, thank you Margaret."

"Mama and Mrs. Willis said that Louisa and I can go to town with you if you say it's all right. Can we, Mr. Mulder, pleeeeze?"

Mulder hadn't counted on chaperones, but he supposed that Sharon was right. If they were to meet anyone, it wouldn't be proper to be alone on the road. Besides, he really liked the two girls. They were curious, but well mannered. "Yes, you can go."

As soon as he answered, they raced out of the room, squealing with delight. He supposed that they were going to give his answer to the women upstairs. Mulder soon heard two sets of feet running back downstairs, followed by a sharp, "Girls, do not run in the house," and the steps immediately slowed.

He saw the smiling girls first, followed by Sharon Skinner and finally Dana Willis, who cautiously avoided his gaze. Since she didn't speak, he took the opportunity to say the first words, "Good morning Mrs. Willis. I apologize for not coming yesterday, but I thought it was too wet to go out. It looks like we'll have a fine day today though. It's a bit chilly, so you'll want to wear a cape this morning."

Turning towards him, but not looking up, she said, "Thank you, I'll do that." Dana headed toward the door where several capes were hanging and handed the girls their capes. "Come on, let's go girls." To Sharon she said, "Are you sure you'll be fine with him? I can take him with me."

"Dana, go on. I've raised my own boys; I believe I can handle Caleb. I'll enjoy it. I miss having a little one around." Sharon saw her hesitate again as Mulder was trying to urge her out the door. "Go on, we'll be all right."

Dana looked up at Mulder when he said, "He'll be tired from a trip to town. It'll be easier on him if Sharon takes care of him. Come on," he urged, placing his hand on her arm, "we need to get going. We won't be gone that long." As Mulder was about to close the door, he turned back to Sharon. "Tell Walter I need to talk to him when we get back."


Mulder headed the wagon towards the general store, pulling up in front. "Okay girls, each of you can buy three cents worth of candy."

They smiled and said, "Thank you, Mr. Mulder."

The girls jumped down as soon as the wagon stopped, racing to the store. "Girls," Mulder and Dana both yelled and the girls halted in their tracks.

"Remember; be on your best behavior. I don't want to tell your father you were otherwise."

"Yes, Mr. Mulder," they chimed before entering the store.

After Mulder jumped down, he secured the team and came around to help Dana down. He began to grab her waist, but changed his mind and offered his hand instead.

Dana chuckled slightly and smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Mulder," she said as she took his hand.

Mulder opened the door and Dana entered in front of him. "You go ahead and look around," he told her. "I already picked up most of what we need, but I want you to pick out clothing for the children. Buy what they need now and in the future. The children will grow on the trip, so they'll need larger clothes and shoes. Also, get yourself a couple of dresses, shoes and anything else you might need."

"I don't need anything, but I can pay for my child's clothing, Mr. Mulder. I do have some money."

"Nonsense, keep your money. I'm paying for everything."

"Really, I can help. I want to help."

"I said no. I'm taking care of everything. Trust me; you don't want me to pick out your dresses."

"All right, Mr. Mulder. I'll let you buy things for Caleb, but really, I don't want anything for myself."

Mulder grabbed her wrist and tugged her towards a wall where dresses were hanging. He began pulling out the first dress he saw.

"Mr. Mulder, I wouldn't wear that, it's too revealing."

He put the dress back and pulled out another one. "How about this one?"

"You're joking," she said. "It's too big." When he placed it back and began to pull out another, she put her hand on his arm to stop him. "All right, I'll find something. Please, just go."

Mulder smiled at her, happy to have his way. "Good. Get at least two dresses. If you don't, I'll be forced to come back and pick some out for you. As you saw, I'm not very good at it. And buy plenty of material for making other clothes later. I've heard the prices are much worse out west."

He headed toward the back of the store leaving Dana to her own devices. He wanted to buy a few personal items for himself as well. While he was looking, he heard a woman from behind say, "Fox." He jumped in spite of himself. He turned around and saw Miss Emmy Lou Baxter, a pretty woman with blond hair and blue eyes. Not as blue as Dana's, Mulder noted.

"Emmy Lou, how are you?" he asked politely.

"Oh, I'm fine. Have you been avoiding me Fox?"

"No, why?" Mulder looked back at the shelf, his eyes searching randomly for anything they might need.

"You haven't come by in a couple of months." She moved in closer to Mulder. "Did I do something wrong?" she asked, pouting her lips.

"Of course not, I've just been busy."

"Daddy and Mama have missed you too. I've been making excuses why you haven't come by, but I'm running out of them. Fox," she said, stamping her foot, "I want you to come by to visit me."

Mulder turned back towards her and said, "I told you, I've been busy. In fact, I don't really have time to talk now."

"But Fox," she said, leaning into him, "I miss you."

Mulder looked back at the shelf. He was looking for a mirror that would be big enough for them to use, but not too big to take along with them.

Emmy Lou tried again. "Remember when we went to the lake."

Mulder smiled. "Yes, I remember."

She dropped her voice and said, "You are the only one I have ever let do that to me...the only one."

Mulder looked into her eyes and said, "Yes, I know."

"Fox, when are we getting married?"

"What?" Mulder asked a little too loudly. He lowered his voice back down. "I never said we were getting married."

"But I let you. I wouldn't have unless I expected us to get married." Her pout abruptly turned to a smile. "Come to Sunday supper. I absolutely insist that you do."

Mulder was about to answer when he spotted Dana standing behind Emmy Lou. He wondered how long she had been there.

"Mr. Mulder," she said, "I was wondering if you thought your daughter might like this color?" She held up a bolt of green material.

"Um, yes, I think so," he said, moving towards her, pushing past Emmy Lou. "She really isn't a picky child. She'll like whatever you select."

Dana looked around Mulder and said, "Hello, I'm--"

"Emmy Lou, this is Mrs. Dana Willis. Dana, this is Miss Emmy Lou Baxter, an old friend."

The frosty smile on Emmy Lou's face warmed a little when she heard Dana introduced as a misses. "Oh, are you a friend of Fox's?"

"I'm afraid I won't be able to join you this Sunday Emmy Lou, but thank you for the invitation." He turned Dana around and headed her towards the front of the store.

"Who is she?" Dana asked. "I don't think she was too happy that I interrupted you."

"She's no one. Have you found everything you need?"

"She didn't seem like no one to me."

"We'll be gone in less than a week and she will have forgotten me," he said, taking the bolt of material from her.

"Doesn't look like that's possible." Dana peered around him.

"What do you mean?"

"Fox, why won't you come?" Emmy Lou asked from behind him.

Mulder sighed and as he turned around, he saw her pouting again. "Emmy Lou, I'm leaving for Oregon Saturday. I won't have time for a social call."

"Oregon?"

"Yes. I'm getting married before I leave and taking Samantha and my new family there."

"What do you mean you're marrying? You're marrying someone else? Fox, you promised to marry me."

"No. I never said that." Mulder handed some money to Dana. "Dana, please go make your purchases. We can get whatever else we need later."

"Wait a minute, you're marrying her?" Emmy Lou looked her up and down; a contemptuous look began to appear on her face. "Fox, this is a joke. Tell me this is a joke that you're playing on me."

"No, why would I do that?"

"You've never been interested in a woman like...," she waved her hand in the air, searching, "like her."

"Miss Baxter, I don't have to explain myself." Mulder tried to get Dana to move, but she seemed rooted to the floor.

"You owe me everything," Emmy Lou said, her voice beginning to rise in volume. "I wouldn't have let you do it if I didn't think we were going to get married."

"Emmy Lou," Mulder said through his clenched teeth, "lower your voice."

"Did he tell you?" Emmy Lou asked Dana.

"That's enough," Mulder said to Emmy Lou. Mulder grabbed Dana and pushed her towards the door. "We're leaving." As they were walking by the front, Mulder said, "Harvey, bill my father for everything. He'll take care of it for me."

"No problem, Mr. Mulder. I'll have my son load your things on your wagon," Harvey said, looking uneasy.

Mulder looked at the bolt of material, still in Dana's hands. "Add this too. Come on girls, we're leaving."


Outside, the owner's son finished loading the items that Dana and Mulder had bought. Mulder lifted the girls into the wagon and they immediately settled down, eating the treats that Mulder had bought them.

He offered a hand to Dana to help her into the wagon. She gathered her skirts, ignored his hand, and climbed up by herself. Mulder dropped his hand. He knew this would probably be a long trip back. He unhitched the team from the post and climbed aboard.

As they pulled away, Dana saw Miss Baxter glaring at her through the large window in the storefront. She scooted as close to the edge of the seat as possible as they drove in silence for some time.

Later, Mulder looked back to see the girls asleep. "I'm sorry."

Dana startled and sat up straighter. "Sorry for what?"

"For what happened back at the store."

"I'm all right, Mr. Mulder."

"I was courting Emmy Lou a few of months ago. I decided that it didn't feel right, so I ended it. I guess she didn't understand."

"She implied you were doing more than courting." Dana looked up at Mulder and then back down at her hands. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. It's none of my business."

"No, it is. We were--"

"No. Really, I don't want to know."

Mulder looked at her, but she continued looking away from him. They rode the rest of the way in silence.


When they drove up the lane to Skinner's house, Mulder saw the older boys working in the field. It looked like Skinner was trying to finish up with last minute preparations. He stopped the wagon and turned to the back of the wagon. "Girls, wake up. We're home." The girls stretched and rubbed their eyes, trying to get the sleep out of them. They slowly became aware of their surroundings and jumped out of the wagon, racing towards their brothers.

Mulder chuckled, "Those girls only have one speed...fast." Dana was quiet so he started the team again. "They're good girls."

"Yes, yes they are. All of the Skinner children are wonderful. Walter wouldn't have it any other way."

When they pulled up to the house, Mulder jumped down intending to help Dana down. When he offered his hand, she just sat there.

"Mrs. Willis, going up on your own is one thing, but coming down is not as easy. Let me help you."

"We're not going to get married."

"What?"

"I know asking to marry me was asked in desperation, but Miss Baxter said it herself. Obviously, I'm not someone that you would normally select as a wife. I'm releasing you from your promise, Mr. Mulder."

"The hell you are."

"Please do not use profanity, Mr. Mulder. Go ask Miss Baxter to marry you. It's the right thing to do."

"She may want to marry me, but I have no interest in marrying her. I couldn't marry her."

"Why not?"

"Because..." he said, smiling, "because I want to keep my sanity. Listen Dana, if you want to back out of this arrangement, then I'll live with your decision, just don't use Emmy Lou as an excuse. I plan to get married Saturday. If you still don't want to marry, then I will accept your decision. Now give me your hand and get out of the damned wagon Mrs. Willis."

Dana felt her face flame, but put her hand in his. He gripped it firmly, but immediately regretted losing his temper when he felt her hand shaking in his. He hadn't meant to be harsh, but she was acting foolish.

When she was on the ground, he held her hand, and lifted her chin so that she was looking at him. "I am willing and ready to marry you, but the decision will ultimately be yours." He released her hand and she quickly walked into the house, leaving Mulder standing alone by his wagon.


Chapter 3

April 17, 1852
Saturday

The Skinners almost had their three wagons loaded and waiting outside of their house. The two men that Skinner had hired to drive his wagons, George Brown and Zachariah Lear, were helping him and his older boys finish with last minute details. The Skinner girls and Francis were busy chasing a hen.

Mulder pulled up with Samantha beside him in their wagon, his horse tied to the back. The Pendrell boys followed Mulder on horseback with the preacher trailing behind them.

Mulder jumped down and reached for Samantha. As he set her on the ground, she immediately ran off to help in the chase.

Skinner came up behind him. "You ready?" he asked.

As he turned, Mulder said, "As I'll ever be. Is she still marrying me?"

"Yes, she's waiting inside."

The Reverend Walkup came up to the men. "Mr. Skinner," he said, nodding. "The church is going to miss the Skinner family. You have always been such an asset."

"Well we're going to miss the church too preacher, but we have a bright future ahead of us. Shall we get started?"

Mulder nodded and yelled, "Samantha." She immediately came running to him. He lifted her up and kissed her.

"Mulder, maybe you should leave her with the girls." Skinner said. "We need to get going, we're already running late."

"All right." He turned to Samantha and said, "Be a good girl and stay with Louisa and Margaret. I'll be right back."

"Okay Papa." Mulder set her back on the ground and she joined back in the chase as if she had never stopped. "Reverend, after you." Mulder and Skinner followed him into the house.


The Skinner's three wagons led the party. Mulder's wagon followed Skinner while the others followed him. In all there were now seven families and twelve wagons. Dana sat next to Mulder, her husband of five hours. Caleb sat on her lap and Samantha sat between them, watching the scenery quietly.

Dana glanced down at her new wedding ring, a plain gold ring. Earlier that morning, she had removed her old wedding ring from Jack and put it deep inside her trunk. It was more exquisite, with several rubies. She intended to give it to Caleb when he found a wife.

Mulder looked across Dana to see a large black and white dog running beside the wagon. "I don't know why you had to bring that mongrel along."

"Mr. Mulder, it's my son's dog. I couldn't leave him behind."

"Well he's not going to ride in the wagon," Mulder grumbled.

"I didn't ask you to let him up. Dog is very protective of my son. He'll be an asset, you'll see."

"Humph. What a stupid name...Dog."

"My son named him," Dana said frostily.

"Oh. Well he's your responsibility. I have enough to worry about without another thing on my mind. You'll have to take care of him."

"I intend to," she said, wrapping her arms tighter around Caleb.


They rode on for another few hours before stopping. The sun was beginning to set low in the sky. Skinner felt that they had made good time, so he decided to make camp beside a small river after getting permission from the owner of the land.

Dana prepared the meal while Mulder and the Pendrell boys set up a tent for the night. Mulder's family would stay in the tent and the boys would sleep in the open unless it rained. If it did, then they would join the family in the tent. For now, they had to be content to sleep in the open, not particularly pleasant considering the nights were still chilly. When they arrived in St. Joseph, Mulder intended to sleep in the other wagon that his father was sending on ahead and allow the boys to take over the tent. He also planned to buy the more practical oxen to add to his livestock.

After Dana had fed the boys, Mulder and their children, they settled by their campfire. Danny and Jimmy were off to themselves somewhere. They could hear the quiet conversations of the others in the party.

Samantha lay in Mulder's lap, asleep. Caleb was in the same position in Dana's arms. Both of the children were exhausted after their first day on the road. Dog lay at Dana's feet, quietly snoring.

"You said that the boys were your cousins. How are they related to you?"

"Danny and Jimmy are my mother's sister's children."

"You must be pretty close to them for them to want to come with you."

Mulder nodded. "I trust them. I spent my weekends and much of my summers with my Aunt Millie and Uncle John."

"How old are they?"

"Danny's seventeen and Jimmy is twenty."

"Jimmy's older than me? I wouldn't have guessed that."

"They've been pretty protected by their parents. Their family is very loving. That's one of the reasons I loved spending time there."

Dana wasn't sure what he was implying, but wasn't comfortable enough with him yet to ask too many personal questions. She had a feeling he didn't grow up in as loving of a home.

"Good evening," Skinner said as he came into their camp. He sat down and Dog came over and put his head on Skinner's lap. He reached down and scratched Dog behind his ears. "Glad he's your responsibility now. Hope you brought plenty of food, he's a big eater."

Mulder shot him a glare. He wasn't happy about the damn dog, but when they had stopped for the night, Samantha had walked over to the dog and threw her arms around him. The dog licked her face and Samantha smiled at her father. Mulder knew then that there was no way he was going to be able to dump the dog. He had thought maybe he could get rid of it somewhere along the way, but that was out of the question now.

"Mulder, he's a good watchdog. You'll be glad you brought him," Skinner assured him.

"If you say so. I just don't care much for dogs."

"If you'll excuse me, I think I need to get the children to bed," Dana said. Skinner rose and Mulder began to rise to help Dana, but she stopped him. "Stay, Mr. Mulder. I'll put Caleb to bed and come back for Samantha. You stay and talk."

Skinner and Mulder sat down, causing Samantha to stir in her sleep. "Shhh, go back to sleep," he said and she instantly fell back to sleep. "Just like her mother," Mulder said to himself sadly.

Mulder and Skinner sat quietly until Dana came back for Samantha. She lifted her into her arms and Samantha threw her arms around Dana's neck, snuggling into her. Dana smiled at Mulder, who smiled back. She turned to Skinner and said, "Good-night. Tell Sharon I'm sorry I didn't get to see her tonight, but I wish her well."

"I will," said Skinner. "Thank you."

Watching them as they disappeared into the tent, Samantha still sleeping, Mulder asked, "How many days before we get to St. Joe do you think?"

"I'm hoping no more than two weeks. We still will probably have to lay over in St. Joe for several days at the very least. We're setting out early enough that if we get delayed, we should still be fine." Skinner paused. "Your father came to see me Fox. He told me it was my ass if anything happened to you or Samantha."

"I'm sorry about that. I'm not your responsibility; I told him this was my idea."

"That's all right. What's he going to do? He'll be too far away to control anything that happens."

"Don't underestimate my father. His reach is farther than you think it is."

Skinner stood back up and dusted of his seat. "Well, I better be getting back. I'll see you in the morning Mulder."

"Good night."

Well, he thought to himself, no sense in putting this off any longer. Stretching as he got up, Mulder reached down to stir the embers and placed more wood on the fire. The boys would appreciate the fire when they returned. He headed for the tent with Dog following closely behind. Mulder turned on him. "Oh no. You're not going in there with me." Dog looked up with sad eyes, his head slightly down. "Don't give me that look. You lie down right here, outside." Dog lay down and wagged his tail slowly. "That's better," Mulder said to himself.

Opening the tent flap, Mulder went inside. Dana had left the lantern low, allowing Mulder to see. She lay under some covers with her son next to her and Samantha next to him. He pulled back the covers and slid in next to Samantha. Leaning on one elbow, he bent down to kiss Samantha good night. As he leaned back, he saw Dana staring at him.

"Dana, you didn't have to place the children between us. You have nothing to worry about. I'm too tired to do anything but sleep anyway."

Dana looked ashamed, "I don't know what you mean Fox. I thought you would want Samantha near you."

"Please don't call me Fox."

"Why? You're my husband. Do you want me to continue to call you Mr. Mulder? I'm sorry, but that would be too strange." She paused before continuing. "Why don't you want me to call you Fox?"

"It's personal." Dana stared at him. "My wife called me Fox."

"But that woman--"

"You can call me by my middle name...William, but please don't call me Bill either. That's my father's name."

"Fine...William," Dana said, feeling hurt somehow.

"You don't have to say it like it's a dirty word."

Dana reached down to stroke her son's blond hair. His little lips puffed out as he exhaled. Mulder watched with her.

After some moments, he said, "You know, I'm not going to push you into doing something you're not ready for right now. I'm not in any hurry either. Let's just take this time to get to know each other." He saw the relief on her face and she let out a big sigh. He reached up to put the lantern out. "But, I do want more children. So, eventually our children won't be sleeping between us any longer."

She said no more, but he heard her breathing increase slightly. He felt guilty for making her uncomfortable, but he didn't want to lie to her. He would accept this arrangement for only so long.


May 3, 1852
Monday

The small party arrived at St. Joseph, Missouri mid- afternoon. They were directed to an area where they could join with other wagons to form a larger group. There were more wagons than Dana had ever seen. Mulder was amused to see her turn this way and that, looking at all the different people. He followed Skinner and his family down near the river.

Over the day, Skinner made arrangements for them to join a larger group that would contain around seventy wagons. Mulder and the other men were asked to come to a meeting that evening. Skinner explained that they would elect a captain and come up with rules that all in the party would follow.

Mulder returned from the meeting to find the boys smoking pipes. "Danny and Jimmy, I want you to stay with the wagon because tomorrow, I'm going to take my wife and the children to town and stay at a hotel. My father's man should be finding you soon with a wagon, livestock and more supplies. Can you take care of things for me?"

Jimmy spoke up first, "Yes, Mulder. When are we going to go across the Missouri?"

"Skinner says we'll cross in about a week. He's making arrangements to get a pilot. We elected Skinner as captain tonight."

"What's a pilot?" asked Danny.

"Someone who will guide us." Mulder noticed that Dana wasn't in sight. "Where's my wife?"

"She went to see Mrs. Skinner. She took Caleb and Samantha with her."

"All right, I'm going to head over to the Skinner wagon."

Mulder walked down five wagons and stopped when he saw Dana holding Samantha and Sharon holding Caleb as they talked quietly. He noticed Dana nodding her head every so often.

Skinner came out from behind the wagon, not noticing Mulder. "Sharon, I have the children settled down. I think we should turn in. Hand me Caleb." Skinner lifted Caleb into his arms and said, "I'll carry him and walk Dana back to her wagon."

"That won't be necessary," said Mulder as he came into the light. Dana had Samantha still in her lap and stood with her. Mulder reached for her and Skinner handed Caleb to Dana. The boy began to wake up, but Dana rubbed his back and he soon settled back down. Mulder turned to her and said, "We should be getting to bed too. I have a lot to do tomorrow." Mulder nodded to the Skinners and put his arm around Dana, guiding her away from the Skinner camp.

When they were out of hearing range from the Skinners, he said, "We're going to stay at a hotel while we're here. I want to check in tomorrow. In the morning, I'll need you to pack for our stay."

"Just us? Not the boys?"

"No, just us. When is your brother supposed to come to town?"

"We had arranged to meet Saturday at the Hanson Hotel at one o'clock."

"Well, we can easily make that." They arrived at the tent and Mulder pulled back the flap to let Dana in first and then followed her.

"What do you mean 'we'?" she asked.

"I'm going with you."

Dana shook her head. "No, I don't think so."

"Of course I am."

"Walter will go with me."

"Skinner is no longer responsible for you, I am." Samantha began to stir when Mulder raised his voice, but soon fell back to sleep when he began to rock her.

"My brother will be in a foul mood when he finds out what I've done. It's going to be hard enough to deal with him without you being there."

"Dana, I have every right to be there with you. Besides, he's your family. I want to meet him."

"You didn't let me meet your family," she argued.

"That's different."

"How so?" Dana asked.

"Dana, don't start. I told you I was sorry about that."

"You're ashamed of me." She kissed Caleb softly on his head, refusing to look up at Mulder.

"Of course I'm not. I told you, it was simpler this way. You'll meet them some day."

When she looked back up, she was unsure if he believed that or not. She tried once more. "Please William, don't go with us. I'm afraid there may be bloodshed."

"Your brother would shoot me?"

"No. At least I don't think so, but he has a violent temper. He may cause you some harm. He's a big man."

"I'm not afraid. Besides, I owe it to him and the man he promised you to. It's only right."

"Fine. I'm tired of arguing with you." Dana settled the children into their bed and then crawled in with them. Mulder joined her on the other side of the children.

"Dana, there's another reason I want to move to town besides being more comfortable."

"Why?"

"The children won't be in bed with us in the hotel. We can get them their own bed."

"Oh," she said, suddenly feeling her stomach knot.

"Now let's go to sleep. We have a long day ahead of us."

She heard his breath soon become steady, but it was quite a while before she fell asleep that night.


May 4, 1852
Tuesday

Dana packed early and they set off for the hotel where Mulder had arranged a room the day before. She had refused to ride on the horse, so they used Mulder's horse to carry their cases. She wouldn't give him an excuse why she wouldn't ride and after a brief argument, he had given up and just decided that they would all walk. Danny carried Caleb while Mulder carried Samantha. Mulder didn't think Dana could carry Caleb the long distance, although she briefly argued that point with him as well.

When they reached the hotel, Mulder and Danny set the children down. Mulder grabbed their bags and then handed the reins of his horse to Danny, who was going to take the horse back to camp. "I'll come by in a few days," Mulder told him before Danny left.

Mulder picked up Caleb and Dana grabbed Samantha's hand. "Come on," he said to his family, "this is the place."

After signing in, they walked up the stairs to their room. Mulder stood back and let Samantha and Dana go through first. Samantha ran to the chair by the window, climbing in it to look out. "Samantha, be careful," Dana told her.

Smiling, she looked back and said, "I will." She turned around, leaning over the back of the chair to look at the action below.

Mulder set Caleb down, who ran to Samantha and tried to climb on the chair with Samantha but couldn't. His little behind stuck up in the air with his legs swinging helplessly. Dana went over to him and lifted him up so that he could look out too. Samantha moved over so that Caleb could share the view with her. As he inched closer to the back, she placed a protective arm around him.

Mulder watched the scene and felt his heart lighten. "Dana," he whispered. She turned around. "Come here." She crossed the room to him and he leaned down to lightly kiss her on her forehead. She smiled up at him and he leaned down again, kissing her lightly on the lips. They had been sharing more easy moments like this, feeling more comfortable with each other. He turned her around and pulled her against him.

"They really are becoming brother and sister," he whispered in her ear.

"I'm happy."

"So am I." He squeezed his arms around her and kissed her once more on the neck. "I'm going to go out for a short time to see if I can arrange some things. When I get back, we can take the children to get some dinner. How does that sound?"

"I'd love to," she said as she turned back around. "I'll have the children take a nap. Maybe we can walk around town too. Would that be okay?"

"Of course," he said. He bent down for a final kiss, but as he was pulling away, Dana pulled him back for a longer kiss.

"Be back soon," Dana commanded when she released him. Mulder smiled and left her to her tasks.


They had eaten at the hotel, a chore in itself. Caleb had fussed and Samantha, not to be left out, whined that she didn't like the meat. Mulder and Dana were thankful when they were able to step outside. Dana bent down to pick Caleb up.

"Dana, I can carry him," Mulder said.

"No, I'm fine. Thank you," Dana said. "Let's walk this way."

Mulder reached for Samantha's hand and they set off down the street. They stopped to look in windows and Mulder halted them when they came to a photographer.

"Dana, let's go inside."

She shook her head. "It's too extravagant."

"Nonsense," he said, opening the door.

When they walked in, a young woman greeted them. "Hello," she said.

Dana smiled and rocked Caleb. "Hello."

"Are you heading west?" she asked.

Mulder laughed and rubbed his jaw, "Are we that obvious?"

The young woman smiled at him and said, "No, it's just that we get more people coming in to have their picture taken before they head west."

"Business is good."

She smiled again at him, "Yes, very good. I'm Sally Daniels. My father can take your picture for you. He's in the back; would you like me to get him?"

"Yes, thank you," Mulder said. He watched her exit through a curtained area and felt Dana tug on his coat sleeve.

"William, we cannot afford this. We need to save our money. This isn't necessary."

"Relax Dana. I want to do this. I haven't had a photograph since right after Penny had Sa..." He looked away from her but forced himself to look back before continuing, "Since my daughter was a baby." Mulder turned away from Dana and looked at the pictures that hung on the wall. Somber looking people stared back at him.

Dana turned around and moved to place Caleb in a chair sitting next to a wall. She smiled when Samantha came over to her and stood next to Caleb, saying, "I'll watch him."

Standing back up, Dana looked over to where she had left Mulder. She came up behind him, placing her hand on his back. "It's all right you know."

Mulder looked down at her. "What is?"

Dana smiled reassuringly. "You can talk about her. I don't mind."

He looked away from her and shook his head, "But I do mind. It's personal. It's a part of my other life and I'm ready to start a new life."

"You can't forget the past."

"But I can try," he said. Just then, Miss Daniels walked back in, followed by a man who was graying at the temples and sporting a white beard. Mulder turned around to shake his hand.

"Hello, I'm Mr. Daniels. My daughter tells me that you would like to have your photograph taken."

"Fox Mulder. Yes," Mulder said. "Could we have more than one taken?"

Mr. Daniels nodded, "Yes, what did you have in mind?"

"I would like one with the family, one with just my wife and myself, and one with the children by themselves."

"William," Dana admonished, "that will be very expensive."

"I'm afraid your wife is correct, Mr. Mulder. It will be expensive."

"That's fine." Mulder looked at Dana. "Really, it's fine. Consider it a wedding gift from me if you must."

"Good, good," Mr. Daniels said. "Sally, would you get the family set up for a portrait first? Then we'll take the children next before they tire."

Mr. Daniels went about setting up his equipment while Sally arranged Dana in a chair with Caleb in her lap. Next to her in another chair was Mulder with Samantha in his lap.

"Now, you'll need to hold very still. Children, you need to be very still," Mr. Daniels said.

Caleb kicked his feet. "Caleb, be still," Dana said and Caleb settled down.

When Mr. Daniels finished with the family, Sally placed the children in a chair together. Dana and Mulder stood to the side and Caleb looked at them. Mr. Daniels tried to get his attention, but he was focused on Dana.

"Mrs. Mulder," Mr. Daniels said. When Dana didn't respond, he tried again. "Mrs. Mulder?"

Dana still didn't respond until Mulder nudged her. She looked at him puzzled. "Dana, Mr. Daniels has been calling you."

"What?" Dana looked over to Mr. Daniels who was beckoning her to him. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said as she moved towards him.

"I think if you stand by me, your son will look into the camera," he said, pointing to Caleb, who was indeed looking the right way now. "Okay children, hold still."

Dana let out a breath after the photograph was taken. She smiled at Mr. Daniels, "Well, I'm glad we made it through that. I was afraid he would..." Just then, Caleb began crying, reaching towards her.

"Mama," Caleb cried. Mulder went to the children, lifting Samantha down off the chair. He picked Caleb up before Dana could reach him. He bounced him a few times, but Caleb was intent on his mother, still reaching for her.

"Let me take him," Dana said, reaching up for him.

Caleb leaned towards her, but Mulder turned away from Dana. "Miss Daniels, can hold him while we have our picture taken?" Mulder asked, smiling brightly at her.

Sally smiled back. "Yes, I'd be glad to." She took Caleb and bounced him. Caleb put his fist against his mouth and continued to cry.

Dana reached for her son, but Mulder put his arm around her waist, blocking her from reaching him. "He'll be all right for a few moments Dana." He was leading her back to the chair where the children had been sitting. "Let's do this and then we can take the children back to the hotel. Sit down."

"But my son is crying." She looked angrily up at him.

"He'll be fine. Sit there and be good." Dana sat down, crossing her arms and glaring at Mulder as he moved back towards Samantha.

He bent down to her level. "Be a good girl for Papa. Can you do that for me?"

Samantha nodded and her eyes followed her father as he rose. Mulder returned to Dana and Mr. Daniels, who was explaining to Dana that she should uncross her arms and place them in her lap. He wasn't having any success. Dana was too angry at being denied access to her son.

"Dana, listen to Mr. Daniels. The sooner you do, the sooner we'll get out of here."

Dana uncrossed her arms and placed them in her lap. Mr. Daniels positioned Mulder behind his wife, telling him to place his hand on her shoulder.

When Mr. Daniels returned to the camera and looked, he frowned. "Mrs. Mulder, it isn't suggested that you smile, but I would not recommend that you frown either."

Mulder leaned around his wife, but she refused to look his way. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Dana, do you really want our children and grandchildren to remember you with that expression? Please, for just a few moments, try not to look like a sour old maid."

Dana looked up at him shocked. "I have never looked sour and I am not some old maid."

"Well if you continue with this nonsense, then that's what they will think."

"Fine," Dana said, "Mr. Daniels, I'm ready. Please take the picture so I can leave."

Mulder rose back up and squeezed her shoulder lightly. Her expression must have been satisfactory to Mr. Daniels, because he finally took their picture. Mulder was aware of Caleb sniffling from the side and felt bad that he had denied him his mother, but they would have never finished if he hadn't insisted on Miss Daniels holding him.

"There," Mr. Daniels said. "All finished. You can pick up the pictures tomorrow. Sally will collect the money while I begin my work. Thank you for coming in." He reached to shake Mulder's hand and nodded to Dana, who nodded back.

Dana took Caleb from Sally and kissed him. Caleb put his head on her shoulder as she began rocking him. She glared at Mulder, who looked back at her with a guilty expression on his face.

"Mr. Mulder, if you'll come over here, I'll finish things up," Sally said.

Samantha walked over to Mulder as Dana looked out the window. She hated him for keeping her from reaching her son, but she knew he was right. Caleb would never have let go of her when he was this fussy. She just hated the fact that he had ordered her in front of strangers.

She looked over to Mulder and Miss Daniels. Mulder was grinning and laughing at something Sally Daniels said. Samantha bounced up and down, pulling impatiently on Mulder's coat. It seemed like she wasn't the only one who wanted to leave, but Mulder didn't seem to be in any hurry. Dana watched him lean on the countertop. It was obvious that they had finished their transaction, but still Mulder continued on with Miss Daniels.

Dana had lost her patience. She opened the door and exited the building. She heard a bump behind her and saw Samantha slapping the door with her hands. The door was obviously too big for her to open, so Dana opened it for her and Samantha grabbed onto her skirt.

Dana looked down at Samantha and asked, "You ready to go?" Samantha nodded and Dana bent down to grab her hand. "Me too. How about we go back to the hotel? Are you ready for bed?"

"Yes, please. I'm tired."

"I'm sorry Samantha, I can't carry you too. Do you think you can walk by yourself?" Samantha nodded. "Well, let's go then."

They walked back to the hotel and Dana wondered how long before Mulder would realize they were gone. She wondered if she had done the right thing. Mulder only seemed to pay attention to her when she was in the immediate vicinity. When a pretty woman came around, she seemed to fade into the background. Dana knew she wasn't exceptionally pretty, but she knew that men were attracted to her. She supposed that Mulder had meant what he said. He wanted a mother for his daughter and a woman to bare his children. Well, that she could do. She could live without love as long as she had her children.


When they entered the hotel, the desk clerk came to attention. "Hello, Mrs. Mulder. Did you enjoy the town? Where's Mr. Mulder?"

"Yes, thank you. We had a pleasant walk, but the children are tired. Could I have the key to our room?"

The clerk reached back into a cubbyhole for her key and handed it to her. "Do you need help with the little girl? She looks like she's ready to fall asleep."

"Yes, if you wouldn't mind. When my husband returns, would you tell him that we've already retired?"

The clerk gestured for a bellboy to help Dana with Samantha. "I'll do that Mrs. Mulder."

"Thank you." The bellboy picked Samantha up and led her to their room. She handed the key to him and he opened it for her. Samantha was already falling asleep on his shoulder.

When they went in, Dana whispered to him, "Thank you for your help. You can place her on the bed over there." Since it was dusk when they stepped into the hotel, the room now had become almost dark. He went over to light the lantern by the window.

After the bellboy was gone, Dana removed her cape and began to undress Caleb. Placing him on the small bed that had been brought in earlier, she turned to get Samantha ready for bed. Samantha barely woke up as Dana pulled the covers over both the children. Leaning down to kiss both of them, she realized how fond she had become of Samantha.

She wondered how long it would take Mulder to arrive back at the hotel. Dressing in her gown quickly, she searched through her bag and removed her bible. She sat in the chair by the window, opened the bible and began to read, waiting for her husband to return.


Chapter 4

May 4, 1852
Tuesday

Dana heard the key in the lock as she slowly awoke. She had fallen asleep in the chair by the window waiting for Mulder to return, more exhausted than she realized. She saw him glance over to the bed where the children were sleeping.

When he spoke, his voice had a dangerous edge that Dana had never heard. "Where the hell have you been? I have been looking all over for you."

"We've been here," she said nervously. "Didn't you think to come here directly? Or have you been with Miss Daniels all of the time."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Please do not curse William. I just meant that you didn't seem to notice that the children and I had left. You seemed very happy talking to her."

"We were talking about St. Louis. She and her father came here a few years ago from there." He moved closer to her until he was looming over her. "I don't want you to ever leave like that again, especially with my daughter. You tell me when you are leaving next time and I will escort you. You are not to be walking alone. What were you thinking?" He turned away from her exasperated and ran his hands through his hair. He looked at the sleeping children before he turned back to her. "Let's go to bed."

Dana was startled at the abrupt change. "What?"

"I promised that I wouldn't touch you until the children were no longer between us. Come to bed."

Dana stayed in the chair and Mulder turned from her. When he began to remove his clothes, she averted her eyes.

After he had climbed into bed, he realized that she still had not moved. "You're going to let me watch you undress?"

Dana shook herself. Don't be afraid, she told herself. It's not like you haven't done this before. She reached over and turned down the lantern until it quit glowing. She faced away from him even though he would not be able to see her from across the room with no lights. What she didn't realize was that he was watching her silhouette, because there were some lights casting a light glow outside the hotel.

She began to return to her bed when she heard him say, "Remove everything Dana." She gasped when she realized that he could see more than she thought. How did he know? She quickly finished undressing and climbed under the covers. I might as well get this over with, she thought. Hopefully he would be as quick as Jack.

She lay there quietly, but Mulder didn't move either. She couldn't stand the delay any longer. "What are you waiting for?"

Mulder waited a few moments before responding. "I'm just making sure the children are asleep. We've been in such close quarters that I can recognize when they're sleeping by just listening to them breathe."

"Are they asleep?"

"Yes."

As Mulder moved towards her, his weight pressed down on the bed, causing her to slide towards him. She jumped when she felt him. "Sorry," he said.

"It's okay." He leaned over her, his mustache lightly brushing over her forehead before he turned to kiss her cheek. He kissed her along her jaw before he detoured towards her lips. She returned his kisses, much to his delight. It was the first response from her that even acknowledged that he was touching her.

He kissed her on her neck and began to move down, kissing her in the valley between her breasts. He continued down, kissing her stomach and then her belly button, caressing the side of her breasts in a feathery touch with his hands. He made his way back up to her, kissing her as he went. When he headed for her breast, he felt her stiffen and he changed his course, returning to her lips.

Dana felt him kiss her again and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. She was trying to relax, but couldn't. She kept her arms to her side, her hands gripped in a tight fist. She didn't understand why he was taking so long, why he was not just getting this over with.

"Dana, are you all right?" he asked.

She opened her eyes and looked up to find him just inches away. "Yes."

She felt him move over her and settle between her legs, bracing his arms on either side of her. She could feel him. Now, she knew that this would soon be over. She spread her legs further, allowing him easier access and he entered her. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. As he moved, she tried to relax and the pain began to ease a little. Dana turned her head, but soon felt tears begin to form in her eyes. She heard his breathing increase and his pace picked up. She was grateful that this would end soon. Finally, he collapsed on top of her. Her arms had remained at her side the whole time. She unclenched her fists and brought her hands up, pushing at his shoulders. His weight was causing her to lose her breath.

He rolled off of her and was quiet for a few moments. Finally, he said, "I'm sorry. That was painful for you, wasn't it?"

"It's all right. It was only in the beginning. I expected it to be a little."

"Why?"

"My husband...Jack said I should expect it to be painful sometimes."

"You're kidding. He told you that?"

Dana rolled away from him, onto her side. "I don't want to talk about it anymore."

He rubbed his hand down her spine and he heard her sniffle. "Dana, you didn't touch me."

"What?"

"I said you didn't touch me. Why?"

"Please, I don't want to talk." He heard her sob again and she moved away from his touch. "I just want to go to sleep. I'm very tired; it's been a long day."

Mulder sighed and rolled onto his back, away from her. Some time later, he heard her breathing deepen, but it was a long time before he fell asleep.


May 5, 1852
Wednesday

When Mulder woke up, the room was lit from the morning sun. He turned over and found the bed beside him empty. Looking over to the children's bed, he discovered it empty as well. He got up, dressed, and went downstairs to the restaurant in the hotel. Across the room, he saw Caleb sitting on Dana's lap and Samantha sitting next to her. They were eating their breakfast quietly. Samantha saw him, jumped out of her chair, and ran up to him. "Good morning, Papa," she said.

He picked her up and kissed her cheek. He looked towards Dana, who avoided his eyes. She was busy wiping Caleb's face. "Good morning, baby. What have you been eating?" he asked Samantha, licking his lips. He looked back at Samantha and saw strawberry jam on her cheeks.

He set her back into her chair and sat across from Dana. The waiter came up and took Mulder's order while Dana wiped Samantha's face.

"Good morning," he said to Dana.

"Good morning. You didn't wake up when I got the children ready. I thought it would be better for me to go ahead and feed the children since they were hungry."

"No, no, that's fine. I'm sorry I didn't wake up in time to come down with you."

"I managed."

"Yes, I see that." They fell silent, watching the children eat.

When the waiter brought his food, Mulder began eating voraciously. Dana smiled, and he asked, "What?"

"Nothing," she said. "What are your plans today?"

"I have to make some arrangements for some things still. I need to make sure my other wagon arrived with the livestock and supplies. I also have to buy oxen to pull the wagons."

"We're not having the horses do that?" she asked.

"Oxen are better; they're sturdier than the horses. We'll still take the horses, but they won't be pulling the wagons." Mulder took a sip of his coffee. "I need to go check on the boys too. Will you be all right by yourself today?"

"Yes. The children and I will be fine."

Dana didn't say anything else and he finished his meal in silence.

Placing his fork down, he leaned back and asked, "Do you need help with getting the children back to the room?" Dana shook her head. "Well, I'm going to head on out then. I'll see you later." Dana nodded and turned her attention back to the children. With one last look, Mulder stood and headed out of the restaurant.


May 6, 1852
Thursday

After they had eaten their supper and returned to their room, someone knocked on their hotel door. Samantha raced to open it and Mulder followed her. When she opened it, she took a step back. The bellboy hesitated when he saw Dana sitting in a chair across the room.

"Yes, what is it?" Mulder asked.

"Um, Mr. Mulder, there's someone downstairs who would like to see you."

"Yes, who is it?"

The bellboy looked at Dana again and then leaned in to whisper to Mulder, "It's a woman."

"A woman? Who?" he whispered back.

"She didn't give her name, sir. What shall I tell her?"

"Tell her I'll be down in a moment."

The bellboy left and Mulder turned to Dana. "What was that about?" she asked.

He whispered, "There's a woman downstairs asking to see me." He started chuckling and said in a normal voice. "Who do you think that could be, Sharon?"

"I don't know. You'd better go see who it is."

"Can I go?" Samantha asked.

Mulder looked down to see her bouncing and he nodded. "We'll be back soon."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

"No. I just hope it's not Sharon and something has happened to Skinner."


Downstairs, Sally Daniels rose from the chair she was sitting in. As Mulder approached her, she said, "I'm sorry to come here Fox, but when you didn't come for your pictures, I thought I would deliver them myself." Looking down, she said, "Hello, Samantha."

"Hello," Samantha said looking around her father's leg. She wrapped her arm around his right leg and Mulder placed his hand on her head.

"I'm sorry. I forgot. I was busy yesterday and today and didn't get to it. You didn't have to come by though, I had planned to come by tomorrow to get them."

Sally Daniels handed the wrapped photos and a small package to Mulder, saying, "I didn't just bring this by, I wanted to see you."

"See me? Why?" Mulder asked, pocketing the smallest package.

"I enjoyed the conversation we had. I was hoping to speak more to you about St. Louis. I really miss it."

Mulder shook his head, "I'm sorry Miss Daniels, but I really need to get back to my wife."

"Do you think we could write each other? I would love to know what it was like in Oregon."

"I don't think my wife would be happy if I did that. We've only married and everything is still new."

"And you feel she would feel threatened by me?" She smiled and asked, "Is your wife insecure?"

"Papa," Samantha said. "I want to go back upstairs." Mulder blessed the child for her good sense in timing.

"I'm sorry, I have to go. Thank you again Miss Daniels for bringing these to me. It was a pleasure to meet you." Mulder turned Samantha around, smiled at Miss Daniels and walked back up the stairs to their room. When he arrived, Dana had already changed into her gown and had Caleb tucked in.

"Come here Samantha, let's get you changed so you can go to bed," Dana said.

Samantha came over to her and turned around for Dana to unbutton her dress. "What do you have there?" Dana asked Mulder, as she continued to get Samantha ready for bed.

"Our pictures."

"That lady brought them to Papa," Samantha said through her gown.

Dana paused and asked, "What lady? Miss Daniels?"

Mulder took the wrapping off the pictures and looked at them. "Yes, I forgot to get them and she brought them by. They're really very good." He held them out for her to see and she nodded her approval. "Her father is an excellent photographer."

"Miss Daniels wants Papa to write to her."

Mulder looked over at his daughter, shocked. He didn't think she was paying that much attention to the conversation.

"She wants him to write to her? Why does she want you to write to her?"

"I told her no."

"But why would she think that you would?"

Mulder rewrapped the pictures and put them on the bureau. He huffed as he sat on the bed, "I don't know Dana. I suppose she thought..."

"She thought what?"

"Nothing. Samantha, get into bed, I'll tuck you in." Samantha climbed into bed, Mulder hoisting her in the end.

Samantha lay down and looked up at her father, smiling. "Love you Papa."

"Love you too," he said, "now go to sleep."

Dana moved to their bed and climbed in, covering herself up to her chin. Mulder walked over to the lantern and lowered it until it flickered out. He walked to his side of the bed and prepared for bed.

As he was lying down, she asked, "So, what did she think?"

"Huh?"

"Did she think that you might need another wife in the future? Did she let you know that she would be able to fill that role?"

"Dana, stop. You sound jealous."

"I'm not jealous, but I just want to know, do women always seem to throw themselves at you?"

"She didn't throw herself at me. I think she's just lonely. She found something that we have in common; we both grew up in St. Louis."

"I didn't realize that you grew up in St. Louis."

"My father moved us to Hannibal when I was thirteen. Now go to sleep."

"But..."

Mulder reached for her and pulled her up against him, her back to his front. "No more talking. I said I told her 'no.' I'm tired, please, let's just sleep."

He was relieved when he heard no more from her. He tried to analyze the conversation with Miss Daniels at her father's studio. He didn't think that he said anything that would cause her to draw a conclusion that he was interested in her. He was just being friendly. He smiled, thinking that perhaps Dana had been jealous after all. If she was jealous, that meant that it was possible that they had more of a future than he could hope. He soon followed her in sleep.

May 8, 1852 Saturday

"Walter is supposed to come and get me to meet my brother." She reached for her cup of coffee and took a sip. "Can you watch the children?" Mulder glared at her. When she looked back up at him she asked, "What?"

"I told you, I'm going with you. I've already arranged for Danny to come watch the children while we're gone. He should be here by noon."

"And what are you going to say to Walter when he shows up?"

The waiter arrived with his food and he stabbed the eggs. "I'll thank him for coming and then send him back to his family. There isn't any need for him to come along."

"You might need protection," Dana said under her breath.

"What?"

"Nothing. Do what you think is best William; just don't say that I didn't warn you about my brother."

"We'll be fine."

"Papa," Samantha said, "When Danny comes, can we go to the river to watch the boats?"

"No. You'll stay in the room."

"But I want to see the wagons cross," she said, pouting.

"Samantha, finish your breakfast."

"I am finished. Please Papa," she whined.

"I said no. You'll stay in your room with Caleb and Danny." She kicked her chair and crossed her arms. "This comes from my parents spoiling her. It's a good thing I'm getting her away from their influence. Can you handle the children by yourself?"

Dana nodded and said, "I'll be fine."

He turned to Samantha and kissed her on the top of her head. "You be a good girl for..." He had almost said Mama. He couldn't understand why he was having trouble with calling Dana that. She would be Samantha's mother, but he still felt like he was betraying Penny. He started again, "Be a good girl and I'll be back soon." Samantha nodded and he turned to Dana. "I'll try not to be long." He bent down, kissed her on the cheek, and then patted Caleb's head. Caleb looked up at him with a big smile on his face. He left Dana to watch the children.


The Mulders heard a knock on their door around twelve- thirty. When Mulder opened the door, a smiling Danny stood before him.

"Hello cousin, I'm not too late, am I?" Danny asked.

"No." Mulder closed the door behind him. "Have you eaten?"

"Not yet. I already miss your cooking Mrs. Mulder. Jimmy isn't very good and I feel I've already starved under his care."

Dana smiled at him. "That's kind of you to say, but I'm sure Jimmy is doing fine."

"Well, you can order yourself room service," Mulder said. "Just go easy and don't order too much. I know that appetite of yours."

Another knock sounded and Mulder returned to the door, finding Skinner on the other side.

"Hello, Mulder. Is Dana ready to go?"

"Skinner, come on in," Mulder said.

Skinner said his hellos and turned to Dana. "You ready to go?"

She shook her head. "It seems we will not be the only two going."

"What do you mean?"

"She means I'm coming too," Mulder said. "Look Skinner, I appreciate you coming here, but it's my responsibility now to meet her brother and explain the situation."

"You plan to go? No Mulder, I don't think that's a good idea."

"I wouldn't be much of a man if I left it to you two to do this. Really Walter, you can go back to your family. Dana and I can take care of this."

Skinner looked to Dana and saw the resignation on her face. "Fine. You can go, but I'm going too."

Mulder crossed his arms and Skinner stood his ground. "All right, you both can go with me. Let's just get this over with," Dana said and picked up her cape. She kissed both the children and left the two men staring at each other before they realized that they were about to be left behind. They quickly followed her out the door.

Outside, Mulder picked up his pace and moved to be next to Dana. For someone so short, she could move quickly.

When they reached the outside of the Hotel Hanson, Dana halted her steps and Skinner ran into her. He apologized to her, but she didn't hear him. Mulder realized that neither Skinner, nor Dana was with him anymore. He walked back to them and turned to where she was looking. Through the window of the hotel, he saw a large man with red hair, about his age. Next to him was a stout older man with receding, gray hair. He turned to her and was surprised by how pale she was. He touched her arm and asked, "Dana?"

She startled and looked up into his eyes. She hesitated for a moment before saying, "I'm all right."

"Is that them?" Mulder asked.

She nodded and moved towards the entrance. Mulder rushed ahead to open the door for her. She and Skinner entered in front of him. Her brother turned when he recognized her and walked over to her, the older gentleman following closely behind him. He reached down and picked Dana up, "Sis, it's so good to see you again." He put her back down and hugged her to him again. Over her head, he stuck out a hand and said to Skinner, "You must be Walter Skinner. I recognize you from Dana's description. It's good of you to get her here safely. You don't know how much I appreciate it."

Skinner shook his hand and said, "Mr. Scully, there's something we need to tell you."

Bill Scully ignored him and looked down, saying, "Dana, this is Mr. Irwin Sanderson. He's the man I mentioned. He's been a good friend to my family."

Mr. Sanderson stepped forward and said, "Mrs. Willis." To Bill, he said, "She's a tiny thing, Scully. I thought you said she was sturdy." Dana moved back slightly in her brother's arms when she looked up into the cold eyes of this stranger.

"Dana is sound. She'll do just fine. Dana, where's Caleb and your things? We need to get going if we're going to make it home before dark."

Skinner tried again, "Mr. Scully, we really need to discuss..."

"Billy," Dana said, "please listen."

"Thank you again Mr. Skinner, but we can handle it from here. Irwin why don't you..."

"She's not going anywhere with you," Mulder said. Bill looked behind Skinner, noticing Mulder for the first time.

"Excuse me? Who are you?" Bill asked.

"Fox Mulder, her husband."

Bill Scully narrowed his eyes. "What the hell do you mean you're her husband? When did this happen?"

"We were married a couple of weeks ago. Dana and I are heading west to Oregon, but we felt..."

Grabbing her by the arms and turning her to face him, Bill asked, "Are you crazy? You never mentioned any man. How long have you known him?"

Dana backed away from her brother, closer to Mulder who said, "How long we have known each other is not the point. We're married and Dana wanted to see you and explain the situation before we move on."

"You're not taking her and my nephew to some foreign country."

"Scully," Mr. Sanderson said, "you never told me there was anyone else. You said that she was unattached."

Bill was about to answer him, but Skinner said, "Mr. Scully, I know that this wasn't the plan, but the fact is that Dana and Mulder are married."

"Forget it Skinner," Mulder said. "Look, I know this is a shock, but Dana just wanted to let you know our situation. I think she was also looking forward to seeing your family. We could bring our children for a visit."

"Your children?"

"Yes, Caleb and my daughter Samantha."

"I don't think so, Mr. Mulder. My sister has embarrassed me by not keeping her end of the bargain."

"Please Billy. I know you're angry with me, but don't let that affect us visiting. We may never see each other again," Dana reasoned.

"No. I'm sorry Dana."

Mulder wrapped an arm around her waist and said to Bill, "We're not getting anywhere. If you change your mind Mr. Scully, we'll still be at the St. Joseph Hotel tonight. Come on, it's going to be okay," Mulder said as he ushered her out. She took one last look at her brother. She felt she would never see him again; he was her last tie to her family. Now, she was truly on her own with only her own family to worry about.

"When Mulder realized that Skinner wasn't behind him, he stuck his head back in the doorway, "Skinner, are you coming?"

"No. I'll see you in a couple of days."

Mulder nodded and left.


Back at their hotel, Dana and Mulder entered their room to find Danny playing on the floor with Samantha. Caleb lay asleep in the bed. When Dana went to check on him, Danny said quietly, "We wore him out. He fell asleep just a few moments ago."

Dana turned and smiled at him. "Thank you for taking care of them."

Danny rose from the floor and said, "It was no trouble. I like being with them."

"Danny, I plan to make this our last night here," Mulder explained. "I want you to come and get our things tomorrow morning. Drive the wagon in, because I'll want to buy a few more supplies."

"All right Mulder. Good-bye," he said to them all as he left.

Dana was looking out the window at the street below and Mulder came up behind her, putting his arms around her waist. He laced his fingers there. "Last night here Dana. How are you feeling?"

She knew what he was asking. He had left her in peace since their first time. She supposed she should be thankful; most men would not have cared how she was feeling. Jack hadn't. He took from her whenever he felt like it. How could she deny Mulder, when really he had every right?

"I feel better," she answered honestly.

"Good, good. Last night of civilization. Our road ahead is going to be rough, but I think we'll be fine. Let's go have supper and then we'll go to bed early. I don't think the children will be up for long after they eat."

Dana turned around, placing her head against his chest and sliding her arms around his waist. Mulder rubbed her back, "Dana, are you really all right?"

"I'm fine. You and the children are my family now, I don't have any other."

"Your brother will change his mind. He was just angry. I don't blame him, you shouldn't either."

"Easy for you to say. You didn't grow up with controlling men all your life." She gasped and said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

"Dana, you can tell me anything. Was your father the same as your brother?"

She paused before deciding to answer him. "They were almost identical. I married so that I could get away from my father."

"Dana, I've been wondering. Did you love your husband?"

Dana began to feel uncomfortable. She didn't want to talk about Jack with him. She had said too much and pulled away from him, going to Caleb to wake him. "Caleb, get up, we're going to go eat now."

"Dana, you're ignoring my question."

She picked Caleb up and looked Mulder in the eye. "Yes, yes I am. Come on Samantha, we're going to eat." Samantha raced after her and Mulder had no choice but to follow.


Chapter 5

May 10, 1852
Monday

The sun was just rising over the horizon and the families were already up and moving around. Mulder left Dana to her preparations for breakfast. They were supposed to cross the river today and the boys were packing up and gathering the oxen. Mulder arrived at the Skinner camp to find the same preparations going on.

"Good morning," Skinner said to Mulder when he approached. "Ready to cross?"

"Yes. I'm anxious to get started."

As they were talking, a man about Mulder's age approached Skinner. "Mulder, this is Alex Krycek. He's the one we've hired to be our pilot."

Mulder shook his hand and asked, "How many times have you crossed, Mr. Krycek?"

"Alex. I've been across a few times. I've scouted a little too. I plan to make this my last trek across though, because I'm settling in Oregon myself."

Mulder turned to Skinner. "When are we leaving?"

"Be ready to head down by nine. We'll have to wait in line, but I think we'll all cross by the end of today. Quite a few of our party already crossed yesterday."

"We'll be ready. How many will there be all together?"

Skinner hesitated, doing the calculations in his head. "Around seventy wagons with over three hundred men, women and children. I'll see you soon Mulder." Skinner motioned for Alex to follow him and they turned to leave.


Dana had just settled the children in the wagon for the night when Mulder arrived back at their camp. "Did everyone cross all right?" she asked, climbing out of the wagon. Mulder rushed over to help her down.

"That's what Skinner says. I just hope it goes this smoothly at every crossing, but I don't think we'll be that lucky. Krycek says some of the rivers are dangerous."

"Who is Krycek?"

"Alex Krycek. He'll be our pilot. He's going to guide us to Oregon."

Dana glanced around. "Where are the boys?"

"Taking care of our livestock. They'll be on watch tonight. All of the men will take turns being on watch."

Dana spread a blanket next to a wagon wheel and sat down, close enough to hear the children should they need her. Mulder sat down next to her and they listened for a while to a fiddle someone was playing at another camp. The music floated softly to them. Dog came over and laid his head on Dana's lap and she rubbed her hand down his fur. He thumped his tail gratefully.

As she leaned into Mulder, he put his arm around her. "How long do you think it will take us to cross?" she asked.

Leaning his head back against the wheel, he sighed. "If all goes well, it could be as soon as a little over four months, or if we run into trouble, it could take up to six months."

"It's good Skinner was elected our Captain, don't you think?"

"Yes, he's a natural leader. I just hope our pilot is as good as Skinner thinks he is."

"Why wouldn't he be?"

"I've heard of men leading people to their deaths. What I fear most is not finding water when we get to the desert."

"No water?"

"No. Or if there is water, it could be poisonous. I picked up a book in St. Joe and I've been reading of the dangers."

"Are you sorry we're going? We can still go back home."

"No, I'm looking forward to the trip. I think the children will have an experience they will never forget."

"I don't think Caleb is old enough to be able to remember it."

"He might." Mulder reached over and scratched Dog's ears. "He's a good boy."

"I told you he was. He's always been protective."

"What? No, I meant Caleb, not the dog."

"Oh, thank you. Samantha is a good child too. I think we're fortunate."

"Yes, yes we are. I just hope all of our children will be as good." Mulder smiled and placed a hand on her stomach, "Maybe we already have one on the way."

Dana looked away, embarrassed. "You can't tell those things this early."

"No, but we can hope it comes true."

"I'm just glad that I won't have to worry about having a child while traveling, not like Sharon."

"What do you mean?"

"Walter didn't tell you?" Mulder shook his head. "Well, from your calculations, Sharon will have her child on the trail. She thinks the baby will come in about three months. I don't envy her."

"Are you sure about this? To look at her, you wouldn't be able to tell that she was going to have a child."

Dana smiled. "I'm sure."

"I wonder why they didn't just wait another year to travel. Sharon isn't young."

"No, but she's strong. She'll be fine."

Mulder rose and said, "I need to go for a walk."

"Wait," Dana said, rising to follow him. He continued walking away, ignoring her. "William, wait, what did I say?" But he was already gone.


May 11, 1852
Tuesday

The next morning, the sun rose over the horizon warming Dana in her bed. She looked over and saw that Mulder hadn't returned. The children were sleeping soundly above her head. She turned over to watch them for a while and then decided to let them sleep until she had breakfast ready. Dressing quickly, she stuck her head out of the canvas covering. Danny and Jimmy talked quietly outside the wagon.

"Good morning boys," she called.

"Mrs. Mulder," Danny said, "let me help you down."

When she was on the ground, she said, "Boys, you didn't have to fix breakfast. I should be doing that for you."

Danny said, "Mulder sent us here. He said we should let you and the children sleep."

"When did you talk to him?"

"We spoke early this morning. We didn't expect him to help on the watch, but he stayed anyway." Dana turned away from him. "I'm sorry, did I say something?" Danny asked.

"Danny, come over here and leave Mrs. Mulder alone," Jimmy said.

Dana turned back to them with a smile on her face. "Boys please, call me Dana. We're family now." Jimmy and Danny smiled, pleased that she was accepting them. "I'll just go wake the children since you seem to have everything taken care of." As she was climbing back into the wagon, she turned back and asked, "Did my husband say when he was going to be back?"

"He said he'd be here before we leave. He better get here soon though because Danny has a huge appetite and there may not be anything left," Jimmy joked.


Dana dressed the children and they were soon eating the breakfast that Jimmy had cooked. Despite what Danny had said earlier in St. Joe, Jimmy was a good cook. As they were eating, a young, attractive man with dark hair walked up.

"Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt, but I'm introducing myself to everyone before we leave. I'm Alex Krycek."

"Oh, Mr. Krycek," Dana said, standing. "My husband mentioned you; you're going to lead us. You're our...what do they call you again?"

"I'll be your pilot ma'am. And please call me Alex."

Dana smiled. "Will you get us across safely?"

"I intend to ma'am. I've made this trip several times and I've been a scout for the army."

"My husband says that this can take anywhere from four to six months. How long do you think it will take?"

"God willing, a little over four..."

"Mr. Krycek," Mulder said as he walked up behind him. "Can I help you?"

Alex turned to shake his hand. "Mr. Mulder, I didn't realize this was your camp. You didn't tell me you had such a beautiful wife," Alex said, smiling broadly at Dana and winking. Dana smiled back shyly.

Mulder scowled and moved behind Dana, placing an arm around her waist. "Shouldn't you be getting near the front? I thought we were taking off soon Krycek."

"Alex, call me Alex. And I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name," he said to Dana.

Dana opened her mouth to speak, but Mulder spoke instead. "It's Mrs. Mulder."

"Well, Mrs. Mulder," Alex said, reaching for her hand and kissing the back of it. "It's been a pleasure., Mr. Mulder." He tipped his head to Mulder and left Dana speechless.


"I thought he was very charming," Dana said as she finished packing up the last few items in their wagon.

"He shouldn't have touched you or talked to you like that. I can feel he's going to be trouble."

"Nonsense, I liked him."

"It's not your place to like him."

"My place? What does that mean?

"Your place is being a good wife and seeing to my needs and my children's needs. Not to flirt with a man...a single man at that."

"I was not flirting. You sound like a jealous man."

"I'm not jealous. Telling you that you were beautiful," he huffed.

She turned away, hurt by his words. Alex had said she was beautiful. It had been a long time since someone had said that to her. Not even Jack had said that and certainly Mulder had never given her any words of endearment.

"Come on, I'll help you out of the wagon."

Dana felt the tears fall down her face. With her back to him, she said, "I still have a few things to do. You go ahead." She felt him leave and turned around to sit down. She couldn't believe his words had hurt her so. This marriage was going to be more complicated that she thought.


Mulder's second wagon, led by Danny, contained all the supplies. Mulder's father had sent a milk cow, which was tied to the back. Jimmy led the first wagon, which Mulder's family now slept in. Dana and Samantha walked near the back of the first wagon, watching Caleb bob up and down, playing a sort of hide-and-seek game. They laughed at his silliness and soon, he disappeared for good. Dana assumed he had tired himself out.

"Samantha, would you like to ride in the wagon too?" Dana asked her.

The little girl grasped her hand and swung their arms. "I'm not a baby. I can walk."

Smiling, Dana said, "All right, but you're too big to carry. As soon as you look like you're getting tired, up you go."

Samantha nodded and asked, "Where's Papa?"

Dana sighed and shaded her eyes, trying to spot him through the wagons. She shook her head. She hadn't seen him since he left her in the wagon that morning. When she came out, he was gone, taking his horse. Jimmy had said that he was heading up front with Skinner and Krycek.


At about noon, the train pulled to a stop for a layover near a creek. The oxen grazed as Dana pulled out bacon, bread, and water. Mulder still hadn't returned, but Danny said he had promised to be back to eat.

After eating their lunch, Dana put Caleb and Samantha on a quilt and they soon fell asleep. Dog lay down next to them, guarding the children.

After making sure that Jimmy would watch the children, and since Mulder hadn't returned, Dana decided to take a short walk along the creek. The flowers were just beginning to bloom across the field and Dana reached down, pulling up a blue flower.

"The blue of that flower compares nothing to your eyes, Mrs. Mulder."

Dana turned around to see Alex Krycek staring at her. "Mr. Krycek, how are you?"

"Doing well Mrs. Mulder. And it's Alex."

Dana smiled as he moved closer. "All right Alex. And I'm Dana."

"Dana. That's a lovely name."

Dana blushed and said, "Mr. Krycek...I mean Alex, I don't think my husband would appreciate us being alone here."

Alex looked around, seeing families close by. "We're hardly alone." He turned back to her and continued, "In fact, you can forget about being alone on the trail. It will be hard to find a moment's peace to yourself."

Dana observed Mulder ride by on his favorite horse, Baron, not noticing Alex and Dana. Alex turned in the direction she was looking. "Ah, there's your husband now. Could I walk you back or would you like to stroll a bit?"

"I'm sorry, but I think I should get back to our camp. My husband hasn't eaten yet." Alex moved to follow her, but she raised her hand to stop him and she felt his chest come up against her hand. It seemed like an eternity before she realized what she had done. She felt his heart beating under her hand. Flushing and dropping her hand, she said, "I'm sorry, I have to go." She picked up her skirts and hurried back to her camp. Krycek watched her with a grin. Mulder doesn't know what he has there, Krycek thought.


Mulder was dishing his food out when he heard her. "Where have you been?"

"I was just walking. Have you found everything all right?"

Mulder nodded, chewing on a piece of bacon. He scanned the nearby camps and saw Krycek walking, staring in their direction. Mulder stared back at him in a challenge.

When Krycek had passed, he sat down and rested the food on his lap, waving his hand in the direction of the children. "Did they eat?"

"Yes, of course. Where have you been William?"

"Riding with Skinner and Krycek and a couple of other men. We're making good time." He took a sip of the coffee that Dana handed him. "Krycek seems to know his way so far. I just hope he's as good as he thinks he is." Dana looked away at the mention of Alex's name. "What?"

"Nothing. Samantha missed you today."

"I'm sorry; I'll take her with me when I go back." As Mulder finished eating, he looked around and saw others begin to pack up. "I'll go wake her now."

Dana watched him go over to the quilt where the children were sleeping. "Samantha," she heard him call. "Wake up."

Both children slowly woke up. "Papa," Samantha said, when she realized who was shaking her. "Where have you been?"

"Would you like to ride with me for a while?"

She nodded her head in agreement and reached her arms towards him. He picked her up and began heading for his horse when he heard behind him, "Papa." Mulder turned in surprise. "Me too."

"No, Caleb, you're too small," Dana said.

Caleb began to cry when he realized he wasn't going to get to go too. He wailed louder when he saw Mulder walk over to the horse and place Samantha up on the saddle. Mulder told Jimmy to hold the reins and make sure the horse didn't move. Dana began to walk over to Caleb when Mulder stopped her with a hand on her arm. "I'll get him." When Caleb saw Mulder walking back towards him, he began to sniffle, thinking that he was going to get his way. Mulder picked him up and bounced him slightly. Caleb put his arms around Mulder's neck and held on.

"William, you're not going to take him," Dana protested.

Mulder shook his head and she let out a sigh of relief. "Can't take you Caleb. Sorry buddy."

"Please Papa."

"Maybe when you're a little bigger."

Caleb squeezed tighter. Dana tried to pull him down, but his grip was firm. "Caleb, let go," she told him. Caleb shook his head. "Caleb, I said...Let...go."

"Come on Caleb," Mulder said, rubbing his back. "Mama wants to hold you now."

Caleb reluctantly let go of Mulder and reached for his mother. "That's a good boy," she said.

Mulder leaned down and kissed his head. "I'm just taking her for a short time; I'll be back in a little while. Maybe I could..."

"No," Dana said. "He's too small."

Mulder nodded and climbed on his horse. Samantha smiled and waved at Caleb. "Caleb, I'll be back soon. We can play when I get back."

Caleb laid his head on Dana's shoulder and continued to sniffle. Dana rocked him as they watched Samantha and Mulder ride off.


Mulder laid on his stomach in their bed that night, the children at their head. He gazed at Caleb while Dana finished getting ready for bed. Reaching up and smoothing down Caleb's hair, he asked, "Was Jack's hair blond too?"

"What do you mean?" Dana asked. She finished brushing her hair, laid the brush to the side, and slid under the covers, mirroring Mulder's position.

"He doesn't have your color."

"Oh. No, Jack's hair was dark."

"Then why is his hair blond?"

"I don't know."

Mulder hesitated before he asked, "Is Jack his father?"

"Of course he is," Dana answered, horrified at what he was suggesting.

"I found your bible Dana."

"Have you been going through my personal things?"

"No, you left it out one night." Mulder took a deep breath before continuing. "Was Caleb early?"

Dana sat up abruptly and pulled her legs to her, wrapping her arms around them. "No."

"I noticed that the dates in your bible don't seem to fit." Caleb stirred in his sleep and Mulder reached up and rubbed his back. Mulder looked her in the eye and she looked away. "If he wasn't early, then that can only mean one thing. Does it mean what I think it means?"

"Please, I don't want to talk about this."

"I'm not judging you, I just want to understand. Jack was quite a bit older than you. Did you find yourself in trouble and he helped out?"

"I told you, Jack is his father."

"Then explain it to me. Why was Caleb born five months after you were married?"

Dana sighed and slid back under the covers. She turned on her side, facing him. "My father's gift, my bible, was meant to be a reminder of how I let him down. He knew I would never throw it away. He's the one who put the dates in the bible."

Mulder nodded for her to go on.

"Jack used to be a friend of my father's, but they had a falling out. My father never wanted me to marry him; he had someone else in mind. I felt nothing for that man, but my father thought it was a good match. So, I did the only thing I could think of...I went to Jack. He was a good man, despite what my father thought."

"Why didn't you just get married first?"

"Jack didn't want to marry me. He thought I was too young...and I suppose I was, but I wanted to be out of my father's control."

"Did you love him?"

"Did I love him? I guess."

"No, I meant, were you in love with him? But, from your response, I would guess that would be 'no.' How did your father take it when he found out about Caleb?"

"He wouldn't speak to me. He was so disappointed in me. Of course, I had ruined his plans for a good marriage too. I knew Jack didn't want to get married, so I went to my sister's for a while, but her husband was as bad as my father. When Jack found out I was going to have a child, he came for me. He married me and sold his place. We lived shortly with his parents and then we moved to Missouri."

"Dana, I just realized something. When your father arranged for you to marry a man, you ran away with Jack. When your brother did the same thing, you ran away with me."

"I'm tired; I think I'll sleep now."

Realizing that she had divulged more of herself that ever before, he decided he had pushed her enough. "He sleeps like you do."

"What?"

"He sleeps with his mouth open."

"I do not sleep with my mouth open."

"Yes you do."

"I do not."

"Dana, how would you know? You're asleep."

Dana huffed and rolled over, facing away from him. Mulder looked back at Caleb, smiling. "He called me 'Papa' today, did you hear him?"

"Yes, I heard."

"Do you think he'll remember Jack as his father?"

"No. He was only a year and a half when Jack died."

"I suppose that's good, less confusing for him." Mulder pulled the cover up higher on Caleb and rolled on his back. "I always wanted to raise a son."

Dana had been quiet for a short time when she said, "You're a good father. I made the right choice."

Mulder reached over and turned down the lantern until the light sputtered out. He stretched for Dana and pulled her on her back.

"I'm tired," she said.

"I'm not," Mulder said.

"The children may wake up."

"They're sleeping soundly. Besides, I can tell when they wake up." Mulder kissed her neck, then made his way to her mouth and she responded, but made no other move.

Mulder stopped. "Dana, why don't you touch me?"

"What? I am touching you."

"No, you only kiss me and only if I'm kissing you first. You don't respond any other way. Why?"

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry. Just tell me why? Is it that unpleasant for you?"

"No, but this is for you, not me."

"Who told you that? Jack? What kind of ass was he?"

"He was good to me."

"Dana, you can touch me, honestly."

She hesitated and then said, "All right," and reached up cautiously, touching his face. She gently caressed his cheek and Mulder grabbed her wrist, bringing it to his lips. With her other hand, she ran it up his back, slowly, then back down again.

Mulder reached to help her remove her gown, but she stopped him. "Not with the children so close, please."

"All right." Instead, he bunched it up around her waist and continued to kiss her.

Dana felt herself responding to his kisses. They deepened their kisses and she felt her heartbeat increase, her blood feeling as if it was rushing into her ears. She ran her hand through his hair, pulling him closer. It didn't seem that she could get close enough to him.

As they began to make love, for the first time in her life, she felt free to be herself. He was taking his time with her and she felt her pleasure begin to build. When she cried out, Mulder put his hand over mouth and said, "Shh, you'll wake the children." He soon followed her and collapsed on top of her.

She ran her hand down his back as she heard his breath slow back down. He rolled off of her and pulled her against his side, pushing her hair back off of her face and kissing her.

"You okay?" he asked.

He felt her nod. "I never have felt anything like that. I feel like I've sinned."

He chuckled. "Trust me, you didn't sin."

"I never knew it could be like that."

Mulder rubbed his chin along the top of her head. "It can be like that always. It should be like that. I can only imagine how unpleasant it's been for you. Dana, I promise, I will always try to make it enjoyable."

"Mmm hmm. I'm tired," she said with a yawn.

"Then go to sleep." He pulled her closer and they both soon fell fast asleep.


May 12, 1852
Wednesday

The next morning, Dana awoke to find Mulder still next to her. She looked up at the children and found them sleeping soundly. She then rolled onto her side to watch Mulder. She reached over, tracing his lips lightly and Mulder smiled in his sleep.

Sounds of the camp could be heard as other members began to start the day. She stretched her arms above her head and rolled over, getting up to dress. Jimmy and Danny could be heard outside, talking quietly. When they saw her exit the wagon, they ran over to help her down. "I'll get breakfast ready."

Jimmy nodded, "Can't be soon enough for Danny."

"Well, I'll be quick."

Dana almost had breakfast ready when Mulder appeared from the back of the wagon.

"Danny, come here," Mulder said. Danny trotted over to Mulder. "Take the children." Samantha stuck her head out from around Mulder and he lifted her. "Down you go," he said to her. Caleb quickly followed and Mulder followed him. The children had already run over to Dana by the time his feet hit the ground. "Dana, keep the dog away from the food."

She looked away from handing the children their food when Dog nudged her empty hand. "Dog, go away."

Samantha and Caleb giggled and both offered Dog some of their breakfast. "No. Don't you dare," Dana said as she stopped Dog just inches from the children's food.

"Dana, I won't have that dog eating the children's food," Mulder scolded.

She pushed her hair behind an ear and looked up at him, holding Dog back. "He didn't, did he? He's hungry too."

"He almost did. I don't care if he has scraps, but he's not eating our food. We can't afford to let him do it." He eyed the dog and said, "Get over there and lie down."

Dog just looked at him until Dana commanded, "Lie down Dog." He immediately complied and looked back at her, wagging his tail. "Good boy."

After they ate, Mulder walked over to the boys at the second wagon. "How about you boys take the dog for a walk and maybe lose it?"

Jimmy and Danny shook their heads. "Not us," Jimmy said. "I wouldn't do that to the children and I can't believe you would either. The children love that dog."

Mulder looked over to where Dana was cleaning up. She threw their extra food to Dog and he wolfed the food down. Samantha ran off with Dog, with Caleb trailing behind.

"Samantha, stay close," Dana said as she climbed back into the wagon. Samantha stopped and nodded before continuing.

"Fox?"

Danny and Jimmy turned around at the same time Mulder did to find a woman with dark hair standing behind him. The boys saw recognition in their cousin's eyes.

"Diana?"

"Fox, I can't believe it's really you. Running into you, here of all places."

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm heading to Oregon with my sister and her family. My husband Edgar died two years ago so I'm hoping to start a new life."

Mulder looked over to his other wagon. He assumed Dana was packing up the wagon inside. "I'm sorry to hear about your husband. I didn't even know you had married before you had already left for... Where was it you moved?"

"Plattsburg."

"Do you have any children?"

"No, we never did. And you, do you have any children?"

Mulder almost said two, but he stopped himself. This was Diana after all. "Penny and I had one who survived. Her name is Samantha. We lost three boys."

"I'm sorry Fox, but I'm sure Samantha is a comfort. I only recently heard about Penny. I'm so sorry Fox."

Mulder nodded, "Thank you."

"It's a shame for a young girl to grow up without a mother. I know how much Penny loved you, but I don't think she would want Samantha to be without a mother."

Mulder wasn't sure, but he thought Diana was implying that she would be the ideal candidate. "Samantha does need a mother--"

"I'm sure she's a lovely girl." Diana reached for his hand and he felt the old chemistry they had once had spark again. Mulder had loved her...before Penny. He knew she had felt betrayed when he married Penny instead of her, but it seemed like she had forgiven him. Diana reached up to touch his face, caressing it gently and he leaned into her touch. "I've missed you Fox."

Mulder began to wonder if he hadn't been hasty in his decision to marry before leaving. He never even dreamed that he would find Diana in his life again. They had been in love before; at least he thought they had been until he met Penny.

"Hello," Dana said behind him.

Mulder hadn't heard her come up since she had gotten out of the front of the wagon instead of the rear. She saw a guilty look pass over his face when he turned her way and dropped the woman's hand quickly.

Mulder moved towards her, but was stopped when Dog ran right for them, dripping wet, Samantha close behind. Dog ran right for Diana and jumped up on her. She screamed and backed away, pushing at him. "Get away from me you horrid dog." When Dog heard his name, he tried to jump up higher and lick her face.

Mulder reached for Dog, but he jumped back down and took off again. When Samantha began to follow, he reached down and picked her up. "No you don't." He turned to Diana and said, "Diana, I'm really sorry about that. The dog doesn't have any manners." He turned around, but Dana was climbing back into the wagon, Caleb waiting just outside for her.

"That's your dog? I never knew you liked dogs Fox. I don't remember you ever having a dog."

"I don't like them. It's the children's dog."

"Children? I thought you only had Samantha."

"Samantha, say 'Hello' to Mrs. Tipton. She and Papa were friends when we were young. Tell her you're sorry for getting her dirty."

"But Papa, I didn't do it, Dog did."

"Samantha."

"Fox, really, she doesn't have to. I'm all right. It just surprised me. Hello, Samantha."

"Hello," Samantha said.

Diana smiled at her and reached for her braided hair. "My, your Papa can braid your hair very pretty. Who would have thought he could do that? You are a very lucky little girl to have a Papa who can do that for you, but I bet you would like a Mama to help." Diana smiled at Mulder.

"I have a Mama," Samantha said.

"I know and I'm sorry about your Mama."

"Papa, what's wrong with Mama?" she asked. Mulder could hear the worry in her voice. She thought Diana was talking about Dana, not Penny. Mulder felt her struggle in his arms to be put down.

"Samantha, it's all right," he said.

Mulder saw Dana climb down out of the wagon and as soon as she was on the ground, Caleb ran ahead of her. Mulder put Samantha down and she raced to Dana.

"Mama," Samantha cried.

Dana looked shocked when Samantha rushed to her, tears flowing down her face. She bent down to pick her up and Samantha threw her arms around her, burying her face in Dana's neck. Dana walked with her, back to Mulder. Caleb unsure of why Samantha was crying ran to Mulder and joined in. Mulder picked him up and rubbed his back, trying to sooth him.

Dana handed Diana a cloth and said, "I'm sorry about Dog. He loves meeting new people." She turned to Mulder and asked, "What's wrong with Samantha? Why is she so upset?"

"She thought something was wrong with you. Dana, this is Diana Tipton. She's an old friend."

"How old?" Dana asked. Although she wore a smile, Mulder knew it wasn't genuine.

"Fox?" Diana asked. Mulder saw Dana bristle at her use of his first name.

So, Dana thought, here is another woman who gets to call him 'Fox.' How many more women would she be surprised by?

"Fox, I don't understand."

"Diana, this is Dana." Mulder paused and took a breath, "My wife. And, this is Caleb, her son."

"You married again already? I can't believe it. I didn't think you would marry so soon after Penny."

"It's been over a year. Diana, you were just saying to me that Samantha needs a mother. Well she has one again."

Dana started feeling left out of the conversation and said, "I'm sorry Miss Tipton..."

"It's Missus," Diana corrected.

"...but I think we need to get the children calmed down before we set off today. I don't want them traveling this upset."

Diana felt herself being dismissed by this woman. She looked to Mulder, but saw no support. Well, she thought, she doesn't look all that strong. This would be a long, hard trip and Fox might still need a wife by the journey's end. Diana knew that while Mulder's new wife might not be strong, she was. She began to form a plan to be there for him, to be a friend again. She could be patient. Diana had seen Dana upset when she used his first name. She wondered what that was all about.

"It was nice meeting you Dana," Diana said. "Fox, I'll see you sometime soon." She reached toward Samantha, "I'm sorry I upset you dear. I know you miss your Mama. She was a lovely woman. Your father loved her more than anyone." She looked Dana right in the eyes. "Any woman who thinks she could replace your Mama would be crazy, their love was that deep."

"Diana," Mulder said in warning behind her.

Diana turned to face him and squeezed his arm. "I'll see you soon Fox," she said as she headed back to one of the many wagons. Mulder watched her go and when he turned back, he saw Dana stalking back towards their other wagon, Samantha gripping her tightly, trying to hold on.

Mulder turned to see Jimmy and Danny staring at him. Of course, they had witnessed this whole mess. "Boys," he said, "finish packing up. We've already wasted too much time."

"Sure, Mulder," Danny said and headed off.

"Mulder," Jimmy said. "I don't remember her. Should I?"

Mulder switched Caleb to his other arm. "No, you were probably too young to remember her."

"I remember you saying you were in love with someone before Penny. Is that her?"

Mulder nodded his head. "I have to help Dana."


When Mulder discovered that Dana wasn't in the wagon, he scanned the area, but couldn't see her. Mulder looked down at Caleb. As soon as Dana had disappeared with Samantha, Caleb had stopped crying, but there were still tracks on his face. Mulder reached up and rubbed his hand across Caleb's face. "What do you say we go find the girls Caleb?"

Caleb nodded and pointed. Well, Mulder thought, at least one of us was paying attention. While Mulder had been focused on Diana, Caleb probably had his sights trained on his mother. He headed in the direction Caleb pointed.

They found Dana and Samantha by the river, Dog lying beside them. Dana held Samantha in her lap, rocking her. Mulder approached quietly, but Caleb ratted them out.

"Mama," he cried. Mulder set him down and he tried to crawl into her lap too.

Mulder sat down next to her. "Come here Caleb," he said, reaching for him and pulling him into his lap. "Both of you can't sit on Mama." Samantha was facing him so he reached over and ran his finger down her nose. "Samantha?"

Samantha looked up at him, "I'm okay Papa."

He nodded as a thought occurred to him. "Samantha, did you come to the river with Dog?"

She shook her head.

"Samantha, Dog could only get that wet in the river. Did you bring Caleb with you?"

"No, Papa. I didn't."

"Samantha, hasn't Papa told you over and over to stay away from rivers unless you're with an adult?"

"I didn't Papa. Dog got wet by himself."

"William, she's upset," Dana said, still rocking her. "Don't upset her more. She said she didn't come here."

Mulder nodded. "Come on, we have to get going."

"I think we need to talk first," Dana said.

"Later." Mulder rose, pulling Caleb back up in his arms. "Come on Samantha," he said, reaching for her. He carried them both back to the wagon. When he looked back, he saw Dana in the same spot where he left her.


Chapter 6

May 16, 1852
Sunday

Reverend John Byers looked around at those who had come to his service, disappointed by the number who chose to show up. There were only a few men, Mr. Skinner being one of them. The rest were comprised of about fifty women and their children. Skinner's wife and children were there, as was the Mulder family, sans the head of the family. Skinner had told Byers that Mr. and Mrs. Mulder were recently married and that the girl was his and the boy was hers. He watched her reach down and place a hand on the boy's head to still his movements. The boy looked up and grinned at his mother, who gave him a stern look. He bent down and inspected some creature in the soil. Looking over to his wife, Reverend Byers saw his wife smile her encouragement as they sang their praises. He was lucky to have her, he thought to himself. Though they hadn't been blessed with children, his wife Susannah of ten years was devoted to him and his calling. They were going to Oregon to hopefully start a church of their own. It was said that there was a need.

As they finished their final praises, the group began to break up. Most of families headed back to their camps with their children. Skinner and Mrs. Mulder stayed to talk to each other, so Byers wandered over to introduce himself.

"Hello, I'm Reverend Byers. I'm so pleased you could come."

"Thank you, Reverend," Dana said. "I'm sorry there was such a light turnout, but I imagine folks are rather tired already."

"I understand, Mrs. Mulder. I just thought that we might get one good service in before the trip really did begin to wear on everyone. I do thank you for coming and bringing your children."

"I'm sorry, but I couldn't convince my husband to come."

"I would like to meet your husband. Maybe I could convince him to come next week."

"You could try, but I'm afraid you would be wasting your time. My husband is very firm in his convictions and I'm afraid not going to church is one of them."

Skinner interrupted, "Reverend, my wife and I would like you to join us for supper since we aren't traveling today. Dana, you and your family are invited too."

"Thank you Mr. Skinner. My wife and I would be honored," Byers said.

"We'll see you around five then." Skinner turned to Dana and said, "And we'll see you as well?"

"Thank you Walter. Yes, we'll be there."


When Dana returned to the camp, she found Mulder gone, but the boys relaxing by the wagon.

"Where's William?" she asked.

Jimmy and Danny both sat up straight. "Um," Danny said. "He said he was going for a walk."

Dana tilted her head, "Where?"

"Said he was going to visit a fr--"

"Danny," Jimmy warned.

"He was going to visit a friend?" Dana asked cautiously. "A woman friend? The one who was here yesterday? Mrs. Tipton, right?"

"Dana, they haven't seen each other since before Mulder married Penny," Danny said. "He just wants to talk to her. Find out how she's doing."

"Just to talk," she said, trying to reassure herself. She glanced away from the boys, not wanting them to see how troubled she was.

"There's nothing going on."

Dana looked back at Danny quickly. "I didn't say there was, but from your tone, I think you might think there is."

"No, no, Dana," Jimmy said, giving his brother a look of warning to stop talking and making it worse. "They're just friends."

"Which way did you say he was headed?" she asked. Jimmy sighed and pointed in the direction Mulder had walked. "Watch the children. I'll be back soon."

Dana tried to appear as if she was just on a casual walk. On the other side of the camp, she spotted Mulder sitting with Diana at a camp. They were laughing and Dana realized she had never really made Mulder laugh. This woman appeared to make him happy. She felt a pain in her chest and her eyes began to water.

She turned sharply and ran into a solid body. Stepping back, she looked up and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't see..." Alex Krycek smiled as he looked down at her. She hadn't realized that he had his hands around her until he spoke.

"Mrs. Mulder, Dana, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were going to turn suddenly."

She stepped out of his hold and said, "Were you watching me, Mr. Krycek?"

"Alex. I'm sorry; I admit I'm guilty. But you can't blame me. I'm a man. When a man sees a beautiful woman, he can't help but look."

"Mr. Krycek..."

"Alex."

"Alex, please don't say things like that. It's not proper. I'm a married woman."

"Nonsense," he said, waving his hand in dismissal. "Would you like to walk Dana?"

"No thank you, I have to get back to my family," she said, looking in Mulder's direction.

Alex followed her eyes and said, "A friend of the family?"

"What?" she asked, turning back to him. "No...no. Just a friend of my husband."

"A good friend by the looks of it."

Dana froze. "I'm sorry Mr. Krycek, but I have to get back to my children." She turned on her heel and headed away from him.

Krycek followed her with his eyes until she was no longer in sight and then looked back at Mulder. "Interesting," he said to himself.


Mulder came back to the camp to find Dana sitting by the wagon with the children sleeping on the quilt on either side of her. Dog lay at her feet, but he lifted his head when he saw Mulder, thumping his tail slowly. She was stitching a shirt Mulder had torn the week before.

"I'm sorry I didn't come back for lunch," he said quietly, trying not to wake the children. "I lost track of time."

She didn't acknowledge his presence. He tried again, "Dana, you shouldn't let that dog lay on the same thing the children do." She reached down, patted Dog's head, and then continued to stitch his shirt. He tried a direct approach. "Are you ignoring me? I said I was sorry I forgot lunch."

"Yes, you said so... You 'lost track of time.'"

"Yes I did." He wondered if she knew where he had been. He had been careful not to let her know where he was going, not wanting to upset her, but decided to be honest. "I went to see Diana."

She still didn't look at him. "Really?"

"Yes, and I've invited her for supper."

She shook her head. "I accepted an invitation from Walter."

He placed his hands on his hips and said, "Well, you'll have to cancel. Diana will be expecting to eat with us. I want you to get to know each other, for her to get to know the children."

"Why?"

"Why? Because she's an old friend, a good friend."

"Well if you want to have supper, have it with her, but the children, the boys and I will be eating with the Skinner and Byers families."

"But I need you to cook."

"If you want to eat here with her, then do so, but you'll have to cook it yourself."

"Dana, be reasonable."

"I want to get to know the Reverend and his wife."

"You want to have supper with the preacher?"

"He and his wife seem very nice. Yes, I want to get to know new people."

"But a preacher? You know how I feel about church."

"You don't have to talk about religion."

"Right. I have never known any preacher who couldn't resist bringing God into any conversation."

Dana placed her sewing down and stood, "And what's wrong with that?"

"I'm not going."

"Fine, don't."

"And you aren't taking my child with you either."

"Okay, but you explain it to her. I'm going to the Skinner wagon now." Dana bent down and touched Caleb on the shoulder, shaking him lightly. "Caleb, wake up honey. We're going to see Uncle Walter." In waking up Caleb, she also inadvertently woke up Samantha. She saw Dana pick up Caleb and begin to walk away.

"Mama," Samantha cried. "Wait for me."

Dana stopped and turned around. "Samantha, you have to stay here."

"Why? I want to go with you and Caleb. I want to see Uncle Walter too."

"I'm sorry Samantha; your father wants you to stay here with him. He's invited his friend to dinner and he wants you to get to know her."

"What friend?" Samantha asked, turning to Mulder.

"Mrs. Tipton. You remember, the lady who was here yesterday."

Samantha turned back to Dana. "I want to go with you."

"All right, you win. We'll go eat with the Skinners," Mulder huffed. "You don't have to go yet. I'll go tell Diana that we'll do it another night."

"We're not going to see Uncle Walter?" Samantha asked.

"Not yet. We'll see him later," Dana answered. Mulder stalked by her. "We're supposed to eat with them about a couple of hours before sundown," she called.


After dinner, the boys excused themselves to attend the livestock, while the adults sat around the fire, relaxing. Caleb and Samantha sat quietly between Mulder and Dana. The Skinner children were playing near one of their other wagons.

Mulder found that he was enjoying himself. The dinner was good, Reverend Byers and his wife seemed nice, and best of all, Byers left God and religion out of the conversation. He still didn't forgive the boys for running off, since he couldn't do it himself.

"My wife and I come from Indiana," he heard Byers say. "We hated leaving our family, but we feel that our future is ahead of us, in Oregon. There are so many opportunities for anyone who is willing to work."

"I agree," Skinner said. "We've been planning to go for a couple of years. Unlike Mulder here," Skinner said, pointing over his shoulder, "who just decided to come."

"I've heard stories. I know what I'm getting myself into," Mulder said.

"Yes, but I'm not sure any of us really know what lies ahead," Walter said.

"Prayer will see us through," Byers said.

"Yes, that will do it...prayer." Mulder looked over to Dana, as if to say, 'See, I told you so.' "Mr. Mulder, I'm sorry you weren't able to attend our services this morning," Byers said.

"Not much of a churchgoer Reverend."

"But you believe in God, right?" Byers asked.

Mulder looked over to Dana. She was shaking her head. He turned back to Byers. "I haven't had call to believe in him. I know all about prayer Reverend. I prayed hard for my sons to survive, but God didn't listen. I prayed for my wife to live. Again, God didn't listen. So no, I don't think there is a God, or if there is, he just happened to be deaf when I talked to him."

"William," Dana said in warning. "Please."

"It's all right Mrs. Mulder. Just makes my job more challenging."

"What job Reverend? To make me a believer? I'm sorry, but that isn't going to happen. I don't believe. And even if I did, I wouldn't trust leaving it to prayer alone. Not ever again."

"God doesn't always answer our prayers, Mr. Mulder. Or at least not the way we want him to. I believe there is a reason for everything that happens. It's all part of God's plan."

"So, what you're telling me Reverend is that God wanted my sons and my wife to die."

"I didn't say that, Mr. Mulder."

Mulder stood. "No, but you implied it. I want my sons back. I want my wife back. Can God do that for me?"

He saw Byers look behind him. When he turned, he saw Dana's shocked look. She stood, grabbing Caleb, and began running in the direction of their wagons with Samantha following closely behind. He turned back, seeing Skinner and his wife looking uncomfortable. Byers and his wife also looked as uncomfortable as the Skinners.


It was quiet when Mulder returned to his camp late. He stumbled as he was tried to walk to the wagon.

Dog came around the wagon, but crawled back under when he realized it was Mulder. Always on the watch, thought Mulder. Maybe it was good that they had the dog with them.

It took him several attempts to climb into the wagon. When he finally did, he found it dark. He felt his way to the bed, undressed, and crawled under the covers. Dana was against the other side of the wagon, as far away from him as she could be.

"I'm sorry, Dana," he spoke quietly. She remained silent, so he reached over to touch her and felt her stiffen. "I lost my temper."

She turned towards him, furrowing her brow. "Have you been drinking?"

Mulder hiccupped. "Just a little."

"I think it was more than a little. I can smell it on you from here." She lay back down and turned away from him. She was quiet for several minutes before she spoke again. "You didn't tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"That you weren't over losing your wife. I thought you would have mourned and moved on by now. I was wrong."

"I can't help it that I still miss her," a bit of sorrow touching his voice.

"Don't you think I miss Jack? I do, but I am ready to move on. I thought I had, with you. You should have told me you weren't ready, you should never have married me." He heard her sniffle. "I should have listened to my brother."

"No, you're wrong. I am ready to move on."

"You wouldn't have said that you wanted your wife here...here with you instead of me."

"Dana, I do want you here with me."

"Please, just leave me alone."

Silence filled the wagon for some moments. Finally, Mulder said, "All right, I'll let you sleep now. But, I mean it, I am glad you're here with me." He rolled over onto his side, away from her, just wishing for the night to be over.


May 20, 1852
Thursday

They had arrived at the Big Blue River, a little bit more tired. Dana had only spoken to Mulder when he asked a direct question and when she did answer; she used as few words as possible. He had avoided Diana, even though she had attempted to talk to him. He didn't want to cause further problems with Dana, but he was beginning to feel guilty, guilty that he was ignoring a friend. He wondered what Diana thought. Even though it might hurt Dana's feelings, he knew that he had to talk to Diana. He didn't have many friends. He needed to keep those he already had, especially with going to a new country.

They had arrived at the encampment before sunset. The company planned to stay the next day because Mrs. Riley was going to have her baby soon. Dana had told him that the baby should be delivered before midnight. Mulder was left to take care of the children after she and Sharon went to help with the delivery. Earlier, the children had been playing quietly with Dog. Samantha had found a stick and threw if for Dog to retrieve. Caleb would squeal with delight when Dog brought it back. Mulder smiled as he watched his daughter try to teach Caleb to throw the stick farther than in front of his feet, but she wasn't very successful. She was being so patient. Mulder wondered if she might be teacher in the future.

Now, the children were tucked in bed. The camp had become quiet an hour ago and Mulder was waiting for Dana to return.

He was interrupted from his thoughts when he heard from his side, "Fox, are you avoiding me?"

He looked up and said, "Diana, what are you doing here? It's late." Mulder glanced nervously around. "You shouldn't be here."

"Relax Fox, nobody knows I'm here and your wife is still at the Riley's wagon."

"How do you know?"

"My sister went to help too."

"Oh."

"Can we walk?" Diana asked.

"No, I'm watching the children."

"We haven't talked in a long time Fox. Did I do something wrong?"

"No, you didn't doing anything wrong. It's just that we've been traveling so much, there hasn't been time."

Diana moved closer to him and reached for his hand. "We used to be close Fox. Is it your wife? She doesn't like me, does she?" He could hear her voice trembling. When he didn't respond, she said, "I'm sorry Fox, maybe we shouldn't be talking."

She moved to turn when Mulder stopped her by reaching up and cupping her cheek. "Diana, wait. I'm sorry."

She grabbed his hand and pressed it closer to her, leaning into his touch. "I just want to be your friend Fox. I've missed you."

Mulder leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips without thinking. Diana was surprised by the horrified look that began to cross his face as he jerked his head back. He pulled back his hand like she was fire. "I'm sorry Diana. I shouldn't have done that."

"No, Fox, it's all right." She reached for his hand again, but he pulled back out of her reach.

"No, it's not all right Diana. I'm married now. It's not fair to Dana. I can't do this. I have never broken my vows."

"You mean with Penny. I understand that. You loved her deeply and you were loyal to her." She paused before saying, "Fox, you have to know that I love you still. Can you say that about her? Does she love you?" Mulder looked away. "No, you can't say it. I don't care what people think. I can't stop the way I feel about you. Please Fox, just think about us." Diana turned and walked the way she had come before Mulder could respond.

Mulder decided that maybe he shouldn't be up when Dana returned. He didn't want her to see him like this so he climbed into the wagon to go to bed.


May 21, 1852
Friday

Dana had arrived at their camp late at night and found Mulder fast asleep. She had quickly joined him but woke to find him gone the next morning. Danny was outside the wagon when Dana climbed out. She handed the children down to him and they began to run off.

"Samantha, Caleb, stay by the wagon. Breakfast will be ready soon," Dana called.

Danny stoked the campfire for Dana. "Where did William go?" Dana asked.

"He went with Jimmy and some men to look for game."

"Oh. How long will they be gone?"

"Maybe all day. It's hard to say. Mulder asked me to look after you."

"Danny, you don't need to look after me."

"But Mulder said..."

"I don't care what he said. I'll be fine. You go ahead and do what you need to do after breakfast. Then you can come back for lunch."

"All right. By the way, how is Mrs. Riley?"

Dana smiled. "Had a little boy. Mother and child were both doing well when I left. I love babies."

"Too much trouble," Danny said, shaking his head. "Do you think you and Mulder will have children?"

"I hope so. I think William wants children. At least he says he does."

"Maybe."

"What, you don't think so?" Dana asked.

"I think he blames himself for the sons he lost. I think he really blames himself for Penny... I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't say anything."

"No, it's all right. Why does he blame himself?"

"Well, the doctor told them that Penny shouldn't have any more children. He told them that they were lucky when Samantha survived. He didn't think Penny would survive another baby."

"But he wanted a son."

"No. He told me that he was all right with just Samantha. He didn't want to risk losing Penny for another child but she thought the risk was worth it; she wanted to give him a son. She promised that when they had a son, they wouldn't have any more children."

"So she talked him into it. She must have really loved him."

"Yes, yes she did. He loved her just as much."

Dana turned from him to take the bread and meat off the fire. She put the food in plates for the children and called them. They came running with Dog following closely.

"I'm sorry. You're upset," Danny said.

She turned back to hand him his plate. "No, I'm glad you told me." To the children she said, "Samantha, Caleb, sit down and eat your breakfast."

They all ate their meal in silence.

When Danny finished, he asked, "Dana, are you sure you'll be all right today? I can stay around."

"No, really we'll be fine."

"All right, I'll see you later."


Dana put the children down for a nap in the wagon after they hauled water from a spring. She was relaxing on her quilt next to the wagon, reading the bible when she was interrupted.

"Mrs. Mulder?"

Dana looked up to see the last person that she wanted to see. "Mrs. Tippett."

Diana smiled, "Tipton, but call me Diana."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Tipton, I didn't remember. William isn't here."

"William?" she asked, cocking her head. "Oh, you mean Fox. No, I came to see you."

"Me?" Dana asked in surprise.

"Yes, I wanted to get to know you."

"Why?"

"Why? Because I'm Fox's friend and he said he wanted me to get to know you."

"I'm sorry, but my husband really hasn't talked about you with me."

"Really." Diana moved to sit on the quilt with Dana, although she hadn't been asked.

"So, how do you know my husband? He hasn't said."

"Fox and I were engaged to be married before he knew Penny. No one knew about the engagement though." She spread her skirt and sighed. "We were both very young and planned to wait a couple of years to let others know. Our parents wouldn't have let us marry so young."

"I hadn't realized," Dana said.

"Yes, but Penny came along and he only had eyes for her. He broke our engagement and married her."

"That must have been painful."

Diana nodded. "Yes, it was then, but I see that he was right. He wouldn't have been happy married to me when he loved her more."

"More?"

"Yes, I know Fox loved me. Your first love is always very special, don't you think?"

Dana looked up when she heard, "Mama?" from the wagon.

"I'm sorry Mrs. Tipton, but I have to go to my children."

"Your children?"

"Mrs. Tipton, when I married my husband, his daughter became my child and my son his."

"How long have you been married? Fox didn't say."

"A little over a month."

"Oh, so not very long. I hadn't realized," Diana said. "Is he happy? I can't tell."

Dana huffed and stood up. Diana followed her. "Mrs. Tipton, I don't wish to discuss my husband with you anymore."

"I'm sure he's very protective of his daughter. I can't believe Fox and Penny named their child Samantha. I'm not that superstitious, but I would never have allowed my child to be named after her."

"Her? Her who?" Dana asked.

"You mean he hasn't told you about his sister?"

"What sister? I thought he was the only child."

"Oh, really. I shouldn't have said anything. It's a very sensitive subject with him. He doesn't usually talk about her unless he really trusts a person."

Dana didn't miss the slight Diana had thrown her way. "Really Mrs. Tipton, I have to go now." Dana quickly turned away and climbed into the wagon.

If Dana had turned back around, she would have found Diana gloating at the hurt she had just caused.


May 22, 1852
Saturday

Dana was walking with Samantha next to their lead wagon as Caleb slept inside. Jimmy led this wagon, while Danny took charge of their second wagon. They heard a horse come up behind them and stop. Turning around, Samantha and Dana saw Mulder jump down from his horse and walk up to them.

"Papa," Samantha yelled, running to him.

Mulder bent down and threw her up, before he hugged her to him. He lifted Samantha and placed her on his shoulders. When he handed the reins to Dana, she tied the horse to their lead wagon. The horse plotted along at the oxen's pace.

"Thank you," Mulder said to Dana. She looked up at him, her eyes questioning him. "For talking to Diana. She said she saw you yesterday."

"Humph," Dana said, looking straight ahead. She began to walk again.

Mulder moved to follow her. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Didn't sound like 'nothing' to me. Don't you like her?"

Dana turned to him before looking away again. "Not particularly."

"Why not?" She remained silent. "I asked why not?" When she still didn't answer, he said, "Look, she's a good person."

"I don't think she's too happy with me being your wife."

"She's happy for me."

"She told you that?"

"No, but I know Diana would want me to be happy."

She stopped and Mulder followed suit. "Are you? Are you happy?"

He looked down at her. "Dana, I'm very satisfied with our arrangement."

"Satisfied. That doesn't mean happy."

Mulder reached down and placed his hand on her neck. "Dana, I'm glad we married. It was a good decision."

"I get the feeling that if we hadn't married, Diana would be walking here with you. Do you regret marrying me now that you know Diana is a widow?"

"Dana, I don't understand why you're questioning me."

"She said you loved her. Do you still love her William?"

Mulder moved his hand to her waist and started walking with her again. "No. Honestly Dana, I don't know if I ever did."

"Well she still loves you. I can hear it in her voice."

"No, I don't believe that. But even if it were true, I married you. I'm committed to our marriage. I don't know what else I can say."

"Papa, I want to get down now," Samantha said from above. He lifted her from his shoulders and set her down. She immediately ran up to Jimmy who grabbed her hand when she reached him.

Mulder stopped Dana, leaned down, and quickly kissed her on the lips. "What was that for?" she asked, surprised at his impulsiveness. Mulder grinned and looked away. "William?"

He turned back to her. "I just felt like it." He leaned in again and kissed her longer this time. Dana felt breathless when he leaned back. "Gotta go," he said, grinning even bigger. He placed his hand under her chin and lifted, shutting her mouth that had opened in surprise. Turning from her, he trotted back to his horse and untied him from the wagon. After Mulder climbed up, he turned back to her once more and waved.

She remained frozen in the spot where he left her. She watched him ride off ahead, still in shock. He had never openly shown affection in public. She looked to her right and saw Danny smiling as he passed her. She turned and ran back to the first wagon and followed Jimmy and Samantha, her heart still beating rapidly.


Chapter 7

May 23, 1852
Sunday

Early in the day, they had seen their first Indians. Krycek had told them that they were Pawnee Indians. He told them not to worry, but to just keep moving. Mulder had wished he could ride up to them. They fascinated him, but Krycek had insisted that they keep their distance.

Yesterday, the train spotted antelope for the first time. They also saw their first buffalo. Some were lying down, others feeding, or moving about. Some on the men decided to cross the Platte and hunt them. Mulder saddled up along with his cousins, Skinner, and about fifteen other men.

The men began shooting them, shooting more than they could possibly take back before Skinner could stop them. They left several on the field, not able to take it all back with them. When they returned, they set about preparing the meat and skins.

They had camped along the Platte River last night and today reached the head of Grand Island as the sun hung low over the horizon. Mulder asked Dana if she would like to take a walk with him, away from the camp, to spend some time alone.

"Do you think we'll make it before winter?" Dana asked him as they walked.

He placed his arm around her and pulled her close. "We're doing just fine. Don't worry."

"I've heard some stories about how people could be trapped on the mountains."

"I told you, you don't need to worry about that. You just worry about taking care of us."

"I wish there were more trees," Dana said, looking over to a lone tree just ahead. "I can't believe how few we're seeing now."

"It's like that on the plains." Dana stopped. "What?" he asked.

"Do you feel that?"

"Feel what?"

"My feet. They feel odd."

Mulder nodded and bent down, putting his ear to the ground. He heard what sounded like hundreds of heartbeats. No, it couldn't be, he thought to himself. He lifted his head, looking back over the hill on the horizon.

"Dana?"

"Yes?"

"Run!" He got to his feet and began pulling her along with him. She looked back over her shoulder and saw what looked like a dark cloud, coming towards them.

"Faster!" he exclaimed, pulling her. She saw where he was heading, the lone tree she had spotted earlier, and tried to keep up with him. When they reached the tree, he lifted her up. "Climb higher." She reached for a higher branch and pulled herself up just as Mulder cleared the lowest branch. "Climb higher Dana," he shouted.

"I'm trying." She felt him reach down and grab one of her legs and lifted her so she could reach a sturdier branch. She turned around and sat down, grabbing the tree for support. When she looked down, she saw great beasts passing underneath the tree.

Mulder climbed up next to her and wrapped his arms around her and the tree. The roar of all the hooves beating the ground became louder. "Hold on," he shouted, turning and looking in the direction of the hill. The buffalo seemed to be coming as strong as when it first started. He watched in awe as he said to himself, "There must be thousands of them."

The dust began to get thick in the air, making it difficult to breathe. A few of the buffalo bumped their tree and Mulder tightened his grip around Dana. "I just want them to stop," Dana said. "You men must have made them angry."

Mulder laughed. "I don't think it works like that. They're just dumb animals. Besides, that can't be the same herd." Dana leaned her head against the tree and coughed. "Are you feeling okay?" Dana nodded her head. Mulder looked back over the hill again. "It looks like there are less of them."

Dana looked in the same direction. "I'm not getting down until they're all gone," she told him.

"All right, we'll wait."

After the last of the buffalo had passed, Mulder began climbing down, helping her along the way. When they were back on solid ground, Dana grabbed Mulder's arm for support. He looked down at her and she said, "I guess my legs are a little shaky."

Mulder gripped her waist tightly and said, "Come on, let's go back to camp."

When they walked into camp, they noticed people staring at them. Danny stood up and came to them when they reached their wagon. "What happened to you two?"

"What do mean?" Mulder asked.

"You're filthy."

Dana and Mulder nodded and laughed. "I guess they threw up a lot of dust on us," Mulder said.

"They?" Danny's eyes grew wide. "Don't tell me. Were you in the middle of all of that? We could see them from here, but we never dreamed anyone would be out there."

As Dana shook the dust from her dress and headed for the wagon, Mulder said, "We were just taking a walk."

"You're lucky you survived," Danny said.

When Dana returned, she handed Mulder a rag. He looked solemnly at her and said, "Yes, yes we were."

"I'm going to change," she said, heading back towards their wagon.

"I can't believe you made it," Danny said.

"We found a tree."

"Really? Must have been the only one for miles."

Mulder nodded. "I think I'll go change too."


May 24, 1852
Monday

The company had traveled about ten miles that day when it began to rain. After an hour of traveling in the rain, they realized that they would have to stop. Mulder was on first watch, so when Danny came to relieve him after five hours, he was more than ready to get out of the rain.

Mulder returned to his wagon late in the evening, the rain still falling. Before he entered their wagon from the back, he tried to shake off as much of the water as possible, but ended up getting the end of the wagon wet.

"Stop," he heard as he began to crawl in.

"What?" he asked, a leg still hanging out in the rain.

"Just stay at the end there and don't come in any further," Dana said, grabbing cloths. She had a lantern lit, but it wasn't burning brightly. It was lit just enough to see, but not much more.

"Papa's wet," he heard Samantha say as he brought his other leg into the wagon.

"Yes," he said, "very wet. Want a hug?" Samantha backed away from him, shaking her head. Mulder laughed and he watched her lie back down. "Go to sleep Samantha."

As Dana reached around and closed the end of the canvas to shut the rain out, he saw Samantha nod and roll back over, turning away from him. Caleb snored softly next to her.

"It's really coming down out there," he said as Dana began wiping him down with a cloth.

"We won't be able to go tomorrow either will we? Even if it stops raining soon."

Mulder bent down so Dana could dry his hair. "Mmm," he said, "that feels good."

"William?"

"Sorry," he said, bending back up. "No, I don't think we'll be able to go tomorrow. It will be too muddy. God, I'm soaked through."

In an attempt to help him undress faster, Dana began to unbutton his shirt from the bottom as he unbuttoned it from the top. He turned around so that she could pull his shirt off. It seemed as if his clothes were glued to him. Mulder had abandoned wearing his drawers about a week into their journey from St. Joe. When he pulled his pants down, bearing himself, she turned away to look for the drawers she had set out. When she found them, she held them out behind her. He took them and then tossed them back in front of her.

"I'm not wearing those."

"Why?" she asked, as she felt him come up behind her and slip his arms around her waist. He pulled her back against him and kissed her neck lightly. Dana turned her head so he could have better access and Mulder trailed kisses along her jaw as he turned her, finding her lips. She deepened the kiss when she felt his lips touch hers.

Mulder looked over her shoulder to make sure that the children were both sleeping soundly. "I'm still wet. Dry me some more?" he asked, grabbing the cloth she had been using.

Dana smiled and said, "Turn around."

Mulder smirked and said, "I was thinking my front is wetter," but turned around for her.

She took her time and wiped him thoroughly, starting at his shoulders and arms. She especially took her time on his rear, he noted, before wiping his legs off. He turned around before she could get up and she paused. "Dana, I'm still wet."

She took a few moments before she started at his feet and rubbed them with the cloth. She traveled up his legs until she came midway. She had never seen a man completely naked before, not even Jack. She was curious enough that she looked at him, but when she raised her eyes to him, she looked back down, closing her eyes tightly. She was embarrassed to find him watching her.

"It's all right, you can look."

Dana shook her head. "I can't."

He lifted her chin and said, "Dana, look at me."

"It's not right," she said, opening her eyes to look at him.

"Not even to please me?" He felt guilty for emotionally blackmailing her, but he wanted her to not be so reserved. She had been opening up to him more and more.

"It makes you happy for me to look at you?"

"Yes," he said. He bent down and helped her to her feet. Lifting one of her hands, he turned it so that he could kiss her wrist. Her eyes followed their joined hands as he placed hers on his penis. When she began to pull back, he gripped her hand tighter, causing himself to groan.

Dana looked up at him, surprised at his reaction. She began to stroke him and she heard his breath quicken. "Stop," he said.

She instantly pulled her hand back. "Sorry." She began to back away from him, but he stopped her by putting his hand around her waist.

"No, it felt good, really good. It's just that I want to make love to you and I'm afraid we won't be able to if you keep doing that."

Dana smiled. "Oh."

Mulder extinguished the lantern and began to unbutton her dress. He lifted it over her head and quickly dispensed of her other clothing. He leaned down and began kissing her again.

They both stopped when they heard Samantha speak unintelligibly. After a few moments, he said, "It's all right. She sometimes talks in her sleep, but once she goes to sleep, she sleeps heavily. Come on, let's get under the covers."

Mulder crawled in first and he covered them both when she crawled in after him. He immediately kissed her and she responded in kind. He placed his hand on her stomach and caressed her softly before moving lower. He was surprised when he felt her open her legs for him. When he sensed that she was ready for him, he crawled over her, settling at the junction of her legs.

"William," she said, reaching up and caressing his cheek.

"What?" he asked.

"I like touching you."

Mulder laughed. "I like you touching me too." He entered her and heard her sigh.

"You've never done that for me."

"What?" he asked, stilling for a moment.

"Laughed for me."

"Dana, what are you talking about? You're distracting me."

"Sorry. It's nothing."

Mulder began moving again. In a little while, he heard her breath quicken and covered her mouth before she had a chance to cry out. He quickly followed her, collapsing on top of her. When he had his breath again, he rolled off. He didn't really know what he was doing differently with her, but none of the women he'd been with had ever reacted as Dana did with him, not even Penny. He hadn't known a woman could experience the same intensity of pleasure he did until he was with Dana.

Mulder pulled her to him, and she settled her head on his shoulder, throwing a leg over his. He slowly rubbed his hand over her back and she cuddled closer to him. "I'm happy," he said. "For the first time, in a long time, I'm happy. It's because of you Dana. I really feel like I have a future and I'm glad you and Caleb are both in it."

Dana nodded and felt herself drift off into a blissful sleep. Mulder, however, listened to the night sounds, unable to sleep yet. He had meant what he said to Dana. He still felt twinges of betrayal to Penny, but that was slowly easing. Dana was his present and Penny was his past. It wasn't fair to Dana and Caleb to continue living in the past. He vowed to himself that he would try hard to make Dana feel just as happy as he felt.


May 25, 1852
Tuesday

The next morning, Mulder woke to see light and was thankful the rain had seemed to stop. They would have to spend the day drying out and hopefully; the earth would dry as well. The wagons would easily get stuck in the mud if they tried to leave today.

In the night, Dana had turned on her side and he had snuggled up to her back. Reaching under the covers, he rubbed his hand along her hip. He enjoyed waking up with her naked beside him. He couldn't wait until they had more privacy in Oregon and intended to make sure they would have their own bedroom, no matter what. He felt that he was only beginning to understand this Dana, the one who shared his nights.

He moved his hand down to her stomach and caressed her. He was having mixed emotions. He loved being with Dana, but the closer he felt he was getting to her; the more he worried about her having a baby.

"It's still too early."

"What?" he asked.

She linked her fingers with his. "A baby. We won't know for a couple of months."

"When?"

"Maybe late June or July sometime. I got sick a few times a day about six or seven months before I had Caleb."

"You'll let me know as soon as you know?"

Dana rolled over to face him. His hand returned to her hip and he slowly moved his thumb there.

"William," she said, "I'll be all right, I promise."

He shook his head. "You can't promise something like that." He looked into her eyes and felt tears begin to form. "I can't lose you too."

She smiled and said, "You won't. I had an easy birth with Caleb. The midwife was surprised how easy it was considering he was my first. She said the first was always the hardest."

"Penny wouldn't let me be there when she had our children. Promise me that you won't shut me out. If we have children, I want to be there."

"Why would you want to? Men just don't do that."

"They said my sons lived for a few minutes, but they wouldn't let me in to see them. No one would let me see my boys."

She thought for a moment before saying, "All right, you can be there. Just don't be surprised when I start blaming you for the pain."

"What does that mean?"

Dana chuckled. "When you begin to feel that much pain, you begin to blame the source of it. And," Dana said, running her finger down his nose, before poking him on the tip, "that would be the man."

"Just so long as I'm there, you can say anything you want."

"You may not have a choice anyway. If our neighbors aren't close, you may have to deliver the baby yourself."

"What?" Mulder asked loudly.

"Papa?" Samantha asked, rubbing her eyes.

Mulder turned on his stomach and reached up to her. He pulled the covers back over her and said, "Shh, go back to sleep. It's too soon to get up."

"Okay."

Mulder settled back down by Dana. "I hadn't considered not having a midwife, let alone a doctor."

"William, we'll be okay."

"Mulder," they heard from outside.

"Yah," he called back.

"You're due on watch in an hour."

"All right."

"I should get up," Dana said. "I need to fix your breakfast."

Mulder pulled her back down as she began to get up. "Kiss first," he said.

Dana smiled and leaned back down to kiss him. Their kisses became more intense, but Dana broke away. "Not in the day, William."

Mulder released her, but said as she pulled her dress down over her head, "Just wait until we have a bedroom."

"What does that mean?" she asked.

Mulder grinned and said, "Just go fix my breakfast."

Dana stood up and pulled her shoes on. "I'm going." She began to crawl out of the wagon, but leaned back in. "But you have to get the children dressed." She left before he could respond.


Later that day, when Mulder arrived back at their camp, he saw clothes scattered around their camp, drying. Dana didn't notice his arrival.

"Where are the children?" Mulder asked.

Dana looked up and smiled at him. "Inside napping."

Mulder stretched. "I'm bushed myself."

"When do you have to go on watch again?"

"Not until tomorrow. How about we join the children for a nap?"

"You go ahead," she said as she continued to lay out the clothes. "I still have things to do." Mulder came up behind her and took the clothes out her hands. "Leave it until later."

Dana took them back. "I can't." He grabbed them again and when she went for them, he held them high above his head. "That's not fair."

He tossed the clothes back down. "Come on," he said, placing his hand on her stomach, causing her to walk backwards. "You can do this later." He bent down to her ear and said, "And I'm tired." When he looked back at her, he winked.

"Oh, no. I told you, not in the day."

Mulder sighed. "All right, let's just take a nap."

"William, I mean it."

"I do too," he said as they reached the wagon. "Just a nap." He turned her around and lifted her by the waist. She climbed in ahead of him and noticed that the children were thankfully still asleep. Mulder pushed her ahead of him, being careful not to step on the children.

When she collapsed on their covers, he pulled off his boots. Dana reached down to do the same, but he stopped her, saying, "I'll do it."

She thought it was innocent enough until she felt him massage her foot. "I don't see how you wear those tight shoes. Your feet must be killing you."

"I'm used to it. William," she warned, looking back at the children.

"What?" he asked. His hands had started to roam up under her skirts, but he removed them. "I've always wondered," he said, moving to cover her body with his.

"Wondered what?"

He began kissing her and felt her respond. He heard her moan as he moved to her neck.

"Shh," he said, but secretly, he enjoyed being able to make her feel like this. He glanced up to make sure the children were still asleep. "This," he said as he began to move over her, rubbing back and forth. He reached down and adjusted himself through his pants until he found a more pleasant position. He felt himself swell with each pass and felt her spread her legs wider.

"Oh my," she said, breathing harder.

"Yes," he said.

They moved quietly, until Mulder felt himself explode. He looked down to see that Dana was writhing underneath him. He continued to move for her and she shortly cried out. He hadn't been fast enough in covering her mouth this time and she woke the children.

"Mama," Samantha called.

Mulder had recovered before Dana and said, "It's okay, you can go back to sleep."

Samantha sat up, followed by Caleb. "I'm not tired anymore," she said, rubbing her eyes.

"Well Papa and Mama are," he told her, looking down at Dana's flushed face. She looked up at him accusingly. "Go back to sleep. Both of you."

"I don't want to Papa," Samantha whined.

"No, Papa," Caleb said, shaking his head.

"All right, that's enough out of the both of you. Lie down. I don't care if you sleep, but I want you to be quiet." They both lay back and despite their best efforts to do otherwise, they soon fell asleep.

"See, we can do it in the day now," Mulder whispered.

"William, that was sinful, what we did."

"What do you mean?"

"Sex should only be for making a baby. It says so in the bible."

"What, just because I didn't stick it in you, it's a sin?"

"Don't be crude."

He kissed her neck. "Did you enjoy yourself?"

"That's not the point."

"What is the point then? I thought you enjoyed it. I know I enjoyed it," he said smiling.

Dana looked away. "I did."

"Good. Now go to sleep. I really am tired, especially now."


May 29, 1852
Saturday

Fort Kearny was a grungy looking post that contained only a few decent looking dwellings. Luckily, it had a post office. As Dana sat quietly beside him, Mulder sat down to write his parents to let them know they were well. Danny had walked with them to the post office and when he finished his letter to his parents, he handed it to Mulder.

Mulder turned to Dana and asked, "Don't you want to write your brother?"

She shook her head. "Not yet. I don't know what I would say."

"It might make you feel better. You should write him."

"I will, but not yet."

Mulder didn't want to push her, so he just nodded. "We'll be moving on, so you go on back with Danny to the wagon. I'll be there shortly."

She nodded and he watched them leave. He looked over his letter again, reading:

Dear Folks,

Hope you are well. It is the 29th of May and we have seen many sights. The children and Dana are well.

You will never believe who is traveling on this trip with us. Diana Tipton. You'll remember her as Diana Fowley. Her husband died and she is traveling with her sister Sarah, Sarah's husband and their three children. She is well and it seems hard to believe that so many years have passed.

Samantha adores Dana and I know Dana feels the same way. Dana's son Caleb is a charming little boy who is two and a half. He was born the same month as Samantha, so we will be celebrating two birthdays in March.

I have grown to love Caleb as much as my dear sons who are buried next to their mother back in Missouri. Penny. I still miss her, but Dana is slowly finding a place in my heart. I sometimes feel guilty for this feeling, but I also know I must move on.

Death seems to be more common than not. We usually pass three to four graves each day, sometimes more. Our company has been fortunate and only lost one member to the sickness that seems to plague the trip, an elderly lady by the name of Mrs. Mary Wiley. She was traveling with her son and his family.

The sickness can vary, but some get diarrhea and their skin becomes wrinkled due to being unable to keep water in their system. Some think this is due to fatigue, but we have begun to think it might be something they eat or drink. We are careful about what water we drink or what we eat as a result. We are told that when you pass Fort Laramie, there is much less sickness. I cannot wait because I hold my breath each day, praying that Dana, the children, and I do not get this deadly sickness. People have been known to be fine in the morning, but die within the day.

The Indians have left us alone for the most part. I know you fear for our safety, but I feel that the sickness is more of a threat than the Indians.

I am hoping that one day, we will be able to return home for a visit or you will be able to come see us, but I know that is far in the future.

I will write again when I have the chance.

Your loving son,

Fox

Mulder folded the letter and walked into the Post Office to send the letters.


After leaving the fort, they traveled several miles when they saw other teams crossing the river. Skinner met up with Krycek to discuss what to do.

"I think it's worth the risk. At least there shouldn't be as many people on the other side," Skinner said.

"We should have crossed yesterday," Krycek said to Skinner. "The water seems to be up."

"Can we still cross?"

"Yes, it just won't be as easy. Everyone should secure all of their items."

"I'll take my wagons across first. It was my decision to cross. If it isn't safe, we'll know."

Krycek nodded. "I'll help. Go ahead and tell the others to get ready. I rode across early this morning, but I'll ride across again to make sure it can still be done."

"All right Krycek." Skinner watched him mount his horse before he headed back to the wagons.


Dana paused from walking along the shore. Their wagons would be the last to go across. Mulder had volunteered to bring up the rear, so she had nothing to do but wait. Samantha and Caleb were playing in the sand a short distance from her. She glanced their way every so often as she kept an eye on them, making sure that they didn't stray.

She stopped and sat down, pulling her shoes off to get the sand out of them, glancing out over the procession. The Skinners were the first to cross and all had gone well. Now, there was a lot of action on the other side of the river, but Dana's attention was drawn to Krycek directing the wagons to the best route. When he looked up and waved, she smiled and waved back.

"What is he waving to you for?" Mulder asked from behind, surprising her.

Dana looked back at the children to make sure that they were still safe before answering. He sat down beside her as she said, "He's just being friendly."

Mulder looked back at Krycek. "I don't like him. I don't want you to talk to him."

"What?" she asked. "You're not serious."

"I mean it Dana. I think he's a dangerous man. I don't trust him. You're my wife and I'm telling you, you are not to talk to him."

"I can't be rude."

Samantha came running towards them, Caleb lagging behind her. "Papa, do we get to go now?" Samantha asked.

"Almost," he said to her, standing up. "I just came to get all of you."

"Papa, up," Caleb commanded, reaching toward Mulder.

Mulder reached down and threw him on his shoulders. After Dana had slipped her shoes back on, he reached down to help her up. She grabbed Samantha's hand and they walked back towards their wagon.

"You're going to ride in the first wagon with the children. Make sure that they stay down. I'm going to drive the team across. Jimmy and Danny will drive the second team."

"All right," Dana said.

As Mulder was helping Dana into the wagon, Krycek rode up. "You ready Mulder?"

"Yes," he said, lifting Caleb off of his shoulders and into Dana's hands. He then lifted Samantha up.

"Mrs. Mulder," Alex said, "you'll want to make sure you hold onto the children and sit down inside your wagon."

"She knows," Mulder said to him. "Dana, go on inside."

"Wait. Hand up Dog."

"Dana," Mulder said, "he can swim across on his own."

"I want him in the wagon, not trying to cross that river."

"He can make it all right, he's done it before."

"Fine," she said, beginning to climb back out, "I'll get him myself."

Mulder put up his hand to stop her. "I'll get him, just get back up." He went to the back of the wagon and whistled for Dog. Soon, the dog came running and Mulder reached down and tossed him into the back of the wagon.

Up front, he began to climb, but Krycek leaned towards him and said, "There are a couple of men missing. They're looking for them, that's what you're seeing," he said, pointing across the river. "You need to be extra careful."

"I will be," Mulder said.

"Just to be sure, I'll ride at the head of your team."

Before Mulder could answer, Krycek headed back towards the river to wait for him.


The action continued across the river, but Mulder focused on keeping his own team on course. As promised, Krycek was waiting to help him cross. As Mulder entered the river, the water level on the wagon began to rise. He held a tight grip on the reins as they crossed. The wagon slipped slightly once, but they were soon on the other side. As soon as he could, Mulder stopped his team and stood, watching for the boys to lead their other wagon across. Krycek headed back into the river again to help guide the boys across. Mulder breathed a sigh of relief when they were also safely across and he motioned for Danny to come over to their wagon.

Mulder sat back down and leaned into the covering of the wagon, saying, "Dana, I'm going to have Danny take over the wagon. There's been some trouble and I need to go find out what's going on."

"What trouble?" she asked.

Mulder had her lean in and he lowered his voice, "Krycek said there are some men missing. I'm going to go see if I can help."

Dana nodded and she watched him jump down and head off to the action while Danny moved into position to move the oxen. "Hold on, we're going to move again," Danny said.

Dana pulled back inside and the children snuggled into her again. "We made it!" Samantha said.

Dana smoothed her hair and said, "Yes, we made it safely. Papa is good with the team."

Samantha nodded her head in agreement. "When can we get out?"

"Soon," Dana said.


Dana had settled the children down for bed when Mulder walked into their camp, his hat in his hands. Dana was sitting near the fire and he came over to her, dropping next to her.

"Did they find them?" Dana asked.

Mulder nodded. "I'm so tired."

Dana reached up and pulled his head into her lap. He lay there while she ran her hands through his hair soothingly. "Who was it?"

"John and Daniel Tanner. The sand under Daniel's wagon shifted and the wagon turned over. John jumped in to save his brother and he was swept under too. It was stupid of him to do so."

"He was trying to save his brother."

"Yes, but now his wife is a widow. They've only been married a month."

Dana leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "You don't think you would have done the same thing if it was your brother?" Dana hesitated before adding, "Or your sister."

He turned and looked up. "Why did you say that?"

"What?"

"Why did you say my sister?" he asked.

"I don't know. You know, I don't know anything about your family. I only know that your mother and father live in Hannibal and I haven't met them. You've never mentioned any brothers or sisters. Do you have any or were you the only one?"

Mulder sat up abruptly and stood up, towering over her. "I don't want to talk about this. The children are in bed?" She nodded. "I'm going to kiss them good-night," he said and turned to head towards the wagon.

"I'm your wife and Diana knows more about you than I do."

Mulder halted in his tracks and turned back to her. "That's because I knew her for so long."

"She said you had a sister."

Mulder walked back towards her. "What did she tell you?"

Dana looked down to her hands, "Nothing. She said that you only talk about your sister with people you trust. Do you not trust me William?"

"Of course I do. I just don't want to talk about her."

"Why not? Why can't you share that with me?"

"I'm not talking about this," he said and stalked away from her.

He didn't see Dana's head fall further. She lifted her knees up and rested her head there, letting the tears fall.


Chapter 8

May 30, 1852
Sunday

The company decided to lay over out of respect for the Tanner family, giving them a day to grieve. During the day, they saw several companies ranging in size from sixty to one hundred wagons. Somehow, the companies seemed to sense the somber mood of the Skinner company and passed quietly by. This was probably because they had experienced losses as well.

Mulder hadn't come back to their wagon that night. Dana had begun to notice that when they fought, he conveniently found a way to put himself on watch. She knew he was doing more than his share when he stayed away the whole night. She just hoped that he was on watch and not with someone else. Dana immediately chastised herself for that thought. He hadn't given her any reason to suspect that Diana was anything other than a friend.

At noon, they held a funeral service for the Tanner sons. Catherine Tanner, widow of John, was flanked by both of his parents. They held her as she sobbed.

Mulder joined Dana shortly after Reverend Byers began his service. "Where have you been?" Dana whispered.

Mulder reached down to pick up Caleb, who was reaching for him. "I was helping dig the graves."

"Mrs. Tanner isn't doing well," Dana said, looking over to the grieving widow.

"I expect not."

"Papa, when can we go?" Caleb asked.

Mulder whispered in his ear, "Shh, Caleb." Mulder kissed him and Caleb laid his head on Mulder's shoulder. He began rocking him and Caleb soon drifted off.

After the Reverend finished, the party dispersed and a few men stayed behind to cover the bodies. The family walked away to be by themselves. The Mulders turned away and began walking back to their camp when Diana stepped in front of them. They stopped and Mulder said, "Diana."

Diana reached up and touched Caleb's hair. "Such pretty hair," she said. She turned to look at Dana and asked, "His father had blond hair?"

"Yes," Mulder said. Dana turned to him, surprised at his answer. "What do you want Diana?"

"Fox, I was wondering if you could stop by our camp later today."

"Why?" he asked.

"I haven't talked with you for some time. Of course, your family is invited," Diana said as an afterthought.

Mulder looked at Dana and said, "I'm sorry, Diana. I can't today."

Diana smiled and said, "All right, another time then. It was nice seeing you again Dana."

Dana nodded and began walking away at a quick pace, clutching Samantha's hand. When Mulder had caught up to her, he said, "Dana, wait."

She stopped and said, "I have to fix lunch for us."

"It can wait. Why are you mad? I told her no."

"I'm not mad about that." Mulder bent down to look her in the eye. "Really," she said as she looked up at him.

"Then why were you running from me?"

"Why did you have to lie about Jack's hair color?"

"There's no reason to cause gossip." He touched her hair and said, "It's obvious to everyone that he didn't get your coloring. If you said that Jack had dark hair, it's likely to start rumors. Whether it is true or not, some people will believe what they want. I don't want you to experience any embarrassment."

"You mean you wouldn't want yourself to be embarrassed. I wouldn't be embarrassed because I know the truth. I don't care what people say. If they want to be petty, let them."

"Well, whether you like it or not, it would also affect our whole family, including Caleb, Samantha, and any children we might have. Dana, listen I don't want to fight. Please do this for me."

He saw her shoulders sag with defeat. "All right. I don't like it, but I'll let them believe the lie."

"Thank you," Mulder said, caressing her cheek with his thumb.

"I have to go," she said, turning and grabbing Samantha's hand again, heading back to their camp. Mulder followed more slowly with Caleb.


June 2, 1852
Wednesday

Dana left Jimmy with the job of cooking their meal, trusting him to do as good of a job as she could. She had decided to take advantage of the break and give their clothes a much-needed washing. She thought this would be the best time to wash since the hot air would dry the clothes quickly. Mulder was off somewhere, so she gathered all the clothes together.

"Danny, get any clothes you and Jimmy need washing and carry them down to the river." Danny nodded and as she looked at the second stack of clothes, she added, "Could you carry these clothes as well for me?"

"Sure Dana. I'll come back if I need to." He turned and went about the task she had assigned him.

"Caleb, Samantha, do you want to go to the river with me?" Dana asked.

They both bounced up and down, yelling "Yes."

"All right, follow me then. Dog," Dana called. He came running from around the other side of the wagon.

When Dana reached the river, she had the children stay up the hill from her in some shade, not wanting them to get too close to the river. "Dog, stay with the children. You two be good and stay here, where I can see you. Do you hear me?" They both nodded.

Dana walked closer to the river and was disappointed to find that she wasn't the only one who had decided to take advantage of the break. Danny soon brought all of the clothing down for her and left her to do her work. As she began to wash the clothes, she felt the sun beat down on her.

In the middle of washing, she saw Diana and her sister come down to the river with their clothes. She nodded to Diana who looked away without acknowledging her. Dana shrugged and continued her work.

She had just finished with washing the clothes, her arms tired, when Alex Krycek appeared. "Hello, Dana," he said.

"Mr. Krycek." She continued gathering the clothing.

"Do you need some help?" She pushed her hair off of her face with the back of her hand and shook her head. "No, thank you. I can make several trips."

"Nonsense, let me help."

Dana stopped him as he bent down. "No, really. My husband wouldn't approve."

"He wouldn't approve of you receiving help? He'd rather you carry all of this heavy clothing yourself? I can't believe he would be that heartless," he said, smiling.

As Dana was about to respond, she heard a scream. She turned in the direction of the children and began running. Krycek followed closely behind.

Samantha was staring at a snake, not six feet from her. Dog was barking, stepping between them, and pushing Samantha back. He circled around and continuing to bark. The snake turned in his direction, taking the focus off of Samantha. Dana raced up and grabbed Samantha as Krycek pulled out his gun. As the snake made a move to strike, Krycek shot it. Dog grabbed the lifeless snake and took off with it.

Dana bent down, searching Samantha. "Did it bite you?" she asked, her voice full of worry. Samantha shook her head. Dana continued to search her until she was satisfied she was all right. "Where is Caleb?" Samantha pointed to the shade where Samantha had left him. "Why didn't you stay with him?"

Samantha began to cry at Dana's harsh tone. "I wanted to pick this flower," she sobbed, holding a crushed flower in her hand.

Dana hugged Samantha to her. "I'm sorry. I was just scared. I didn't mean to yell, but you have to listen to me. You need to stay where I tell you. You can't wander off."

Samantha nodded into Dana's neck as she continued to cry. She carried her over to where another camper, Mrs. Crump, was holding Caleb. Caleb had decided to join his sister in crying.

"Thank you," she said to her. "I can take him now." Dana gathered Caleb into her arms too and sat down with them both, rocking them until they were quiet. She looked up to find Krycek hovering over her. "Mr. Krycek, I can't thank you enough for your help. If you hadn't been there, I don't know what I would have done. I think I will take you up on your offer of help with the wash."

Krycek nodded solemnly. "I'm glad I was here too. I'll go gather some of your clothes. You go on ahead."

Dana stood and held Samantha's hand as she carried Caleb back to their camp. When she reached it, she saw Danny. "Danny, could you go down and help Mr. Krycek with our wash?"

When he took off, Jimmy came up and asked, "What's wrong?" looking down at the sad faces on the children.

"We're all right. Just a little scare. Has William come back yet?"

"No, do you want me to go get him?"

"No. I think I'll just put the children down for a little nap."

"Dana, you look really red. Are you all right?"

She lifted her hand to her face and felt the heat emitting from it. She nodded her head and said, "I'm fine, just a little too much sun. I'm just going to lay the children on the quilt and then set the wash out to dry."


As Dana finished setting the clothes out to dry, Mulder rode into their camp at full steam. He jumped down and said, "I just heard what happened. I heard Samantha got bit by a snake." He rushed over to his sleeping daughter and began looking for marks.

"No, she didn't get bit. She's just exhausted. Who told you?"

Mulder turned on her. "How could you let this happen? You're supposed to be watching her." He turned back to his daughter, smoothing her hair, waking her.

"She's fine. I was watching her, but I had to do the wash. I told her and Caleb to stay by the shade, but she got up to explore."

"Don't blame this on her. You're the adult."

Dana was stunned by the accusations he was tossing her way. "I'm not blaming her. I'm just explaining what happened. She didn't listen to me; she went off on her own."

"She's just a child."

"I know that, but Dog was with her. He stepped in between her and the snake. William, who told you?"

"Diana." Mulder pulled Samantha into his arms and stood. Samantha, still exhausted fell back asleep in his arms. "Did Dog kill it?"

"Diana, that figures. Of course she would be the one to run off and tell you."

"She should tell me. She told me you let my daughter get close to a snake and it bit her."

"First of all, it didn't bite her. Diana misinformed you of that. Second of all, I think of Samantha as my daughter too."

Mulder huffed and turned away. He walked away a few steps before turning. "You didn't answer my question. Did Dog kill the snake?"

"No," Dana said, hesitating.

"Is it dead?" he asked, as he lay Samantha back down.

"Yes."

Mulder turned to look up at her. "Who killed it?" She didn't answer. "Dana?"

She bit her upper lip before saying, "Mr. Krycek. Diana didn't tell you that too?"

Mulder stood abruptly. "What in the hell was he doing there?"

"I was finishing up with the wash and he offered to carry it for me. We heard Samantha scream by then."

"I told you I didn't want you near that man."

"Well if he hadn't been there, your daughter might not be alive," she said, placing her hands on her hips, not backing down. "I don't care if you like him or not. He has always been nice to me. I'm sure he would be to you as well if you let him."

"Great, now I owe him. It couldn't have been anyone else." Mulder turned and glared at her. "I guess I better go find him and thank him."

"William, I'm sorry, but everything turned out all right."

Mulder threw up his hands and stalked away.


Later in the evening, Dana quickly fixed the children their plates. The sky looked threatening and she wanted to feed the children before it began to rain. She was hoping for rain so that the air might cool. Across the way, Dana spotted Mulder standing by a wagon, talking with Diana.

When Diana put her hand on Mulder's cheek, he looked away, turning in Dana's direction, seeming to sense her stare. When he saw her looking, he said his good-byes and headed for her.

"Danny," Dana said, "could you watch the children for me?"

"Sure Dana. Anything wrong?"

Dana glanced back at Mulder and shook her head. "I forgot something." She quickly headed around the wagon and out of sight.

Losing her appetite and having no desire to return to their camp, she decided to take a walk. As night began to slowly set in, she found her way back to the river where she had almost lost Samantha. Dana knew that if anything had happened to Samantha, Mulder would have blamed her. She was kidding herself, he already blamed her.

Sitting down by the water, she reached in, feeling the cool water trickle through her fingers. It felt so nice.

Dana had been feeling feverish since she started her walk and took out her handkerchief, soaking it in the water. She drew it back out and dabbed her face with it. It felt so soothing, that she put it back in the water and repeated the process. Hearing someone walk up behind her, she turned and jumped up, stepping back into the creek.

When she saw that it was Mulder, she said, "Go away, I want to be alone."

"I've been looking for you. Have you been here the whole time?"

"No." She moved out of the water when she realized that she was standing in it.

"Come back and get something to eat. You need to eat."

Dana shook her head. "I'm not hungry."

"Dana, I'm sorry for yelling at you. I shouldn't have."

"Did you come up with that conclusion on your own or did Diana help you?"

"What?"

"Nothing, never mind. I'm just tired."

"Dana," he said, reaching up to touch her face, "I really..." He felt her forehead. "You're burning up. You said you weren't hungry. Are you sick to your stomach?" he asked, his voice full of concern. She shook her head. Mulder pulled her to him and she shivered. "Oh God, I hope you don't have the sickness. Come on, you need to get back to camp."

"I'm all right. I was just in the sun too much."

"You're not all right. Let's go."


At their wagon, Mulder helped her up and lit their lantern, so that he could see. When he pulled it closer to her, he saw the true color of her face.

"My God, you're really red. Why didn't you cover yourself up or stop sooner?"

"It had to be done," she said as she shivered.

"Come on, I'm going to get you out of those clothes and under the covers. You need to stay warm."

As Mulder began to reach for her dress, she stopped him by pushing his hands away and said, "I can do it. I don't need your help."

Mulder sat back on his heels. "All right, you get undressed. I'm going back to the river to get some cold water so I can cool you down."

When he returned, Mulder ripped some rags and soaked them in the water. "Lie back down and I'll put this on you." Thankfully, she was running out of steam and was resisting him less. He pulled up the sleeves of her gown and ran the cool water over her arms. Dana sighed.

They had been alone an hour when he heard Jimmy return. Mulder stuck his head out of the canvas and said, "Jimmy, can you and Danny keep the children tonight?"

"Sure. What's wrong?"

"Dana's sick."

Jimmy shook his head. "I knew it; I told her she didn't look good this afternoon."

"She has a bad sunburn. I'm going to have to keep her cooled down tonight and I don't want to keep waking the children when I go back for more water. Here's their bedding."

Jimmy reached up and took it. "Just take care of her; we'll take care of the children."

Mulder nodded and disappeared back into the wagon.


The sound of thunder and the flash of lightning woke Mulder. He turned to Dana when he heard her moaning. "Jack?" she called. Mulder took a rag and pressed it onto her head. "Jack, I'm sorry. Don't leave me."

"Dana, shh," he said, wiping her arms and face.

"Don't leave. The baby's coming. Don't leave me alone. I'm sorry; I shouldn't have trapped you like that. Forgive me?"

"Shh. I'm not Jack."

Dana opened her eyes to look at him and said, "William?" He nodded. Flashes of lightning lit up their wagon. She looked around and asked, "Where are the children?"

"Jimmy and Danny have them." She shivered and Mulder covered her up. "Are you hungry? I have some bread."

Dana shook her head. "No, I'm just tired."

He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Then go back to sleep."

Mulder thought she had drifted off when he heard, "William?"

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"For disappointing you."

"You didn't." Mulder let out a breath. "I'm sorry for yelling at you, you didn't deserve that."

"I keep disappointing you because I'm not her."

"Who?" Mulder asked.

"You know who. Your wife."

"You're my wife."

"No, not really. I'm a mother to our children, I'm a cook, I'm your bed partner, but I'm not your wife. Maybe I'll never be."

"Dana, it's the fever talking. You know that isn't true."

"You don't trust me; a husband should trust his wife."

"Of course I trust you."

"Then why haven't you told me about your sister?"

"Not that again."

"It's important to me that you tell me."

"Why?"

"Because, it's a part of you that I know nothing about. I know nothing about your family."

Mulder sighed and rested his head on the side of the wagon. "We were in the woods playing and I lost her. We never found her. End of story."

"For such a big secret, that's a short explanation."

"It's not a secret."

"You've made it into one."

"Damn it. Do you know you exasperate me sometimes?"

"Tell me please." He was silent. "William, I won't ask again. You know I want to know. Please tell me."

He bumped the back of his head on the wagon a few times before he hung his head in defeat. When he looked back up at her, he began his story. "All right. I was twelve and Samantha was eight. We were playing in the woods. Samantha had begged to come with me, so rather than listen to her whine, I gave in. We played her favorite game, hide-and-seek, for a while. She was hiding when I came upon a cave. It was too interesting to pass up. I had never seen it before. Being a typical young boy, it was too irresistible not to explore. I forgot about Samantha as I crawled in. The light filtered in enough for me to see the large cavern. I must have been in there an hour or so when I remembered that I had left her outside. I rushed to the entrance and called for her to come out of her hiding place, but she didn't. So I began searching for her, becoming more desperate as time passed. Finally, I realized I couldn't find her myself, but I was too afraid to go back home. I was sure my parents were going to kill me."

"When did you return home?"

"At night. They were already looking for us. When they found me, they were thrilled. They didn't realize that I was hiding from them and only Samantha was lost. They asked me where Samantha was and I said I didn't know. They thought that once they found me, they would find her. When my father found out the truth...that I had lost her... Well he never forgave me."

"After so much time, I'm sure he has."

"No. I can see it in his face when I look at him. He never told my mother the truth though. I was surprised at that."

"You never found her at all?"

"No, she just disappeared."

She was silent for a while and Mulder thought she had drifted back to sleep. "Why did you name your daughter Samantha?"

"I didn't want to, that was Penny's idea."

"It was a nice tribute to your sister, don't you think?"

"I guess so." Mulder reached out and felt her forehead. "You're feeling cooler. Do you feel better?"

"Yes, a little."

"I think you should ride in the wagon tomorrow and rest. You can have the children in here with you."

She nodded and pulled him down beside her. "You rest too. Thank you for taking care of me."

Mulder smiled and said, "That's what a husband does. They take care of their wife."

Dana shook her head. "Not all husbands do."

"And you are my wife, in every aspect." When she didn't answer, he said, "Dana, did you hear me?" He heard her soft snore as her answer. He hadn't expected this marriage to be this complicated. He thought it would be easy, like it had been with Penny. Penny had lived for him, eager to please him. If he asked her to do something, she did it. She never contradicted him. Pulling her closer, his last thoughts before he drifted off were of Dana.


June 9, 1852
Wednesday

The company passed Ash Hollow in the afternoon. Getting there was complicated. After traveling on virtually flat land, they encountered a steep hill. It took them a while before they were able to get all of them down. When they arrived at the bottom though, they were rewarded with green trees, the first in a long time. Also, there were roses and jasmine that created a pleasant fragrance. The spring was pleasingly cold and thirst questioning.

They had a hard time leaving this wonderful place, but they decided to push on until they reached a creek. The water in the creek that they found was cool, but not very deep, less than half of a foot in places.

The Skinners invited the Mulder family to join them for dinner that evening. Afterwards, the children played quietly while the adults relaxed.

"How do you think we're doing?" Mulder asked Skinner. "Do you think we're making good time?"

"About as well as can be expected," Skinner answered.

Mulder looked over to where Sharon and Dana were talking while they sewed some garments. "How is Sharon doing?"

"I think she's doing well. At least there will be plenty of women who can help with the birth. She'll be fine; she hasn't ever lost a child." Skinner looked up suddenly and said, "I'm sorry Mulder. I wasn't thinking."

"It's all right," Mulder said. "I'm happy for you both."

Skinner smiled and said, "Maybe you'll soon be as happy as we are."

"Maybe."

The men both turned to watch their wives. Dana laughed suddenly and Mulder's heart lightened a bit. He enjoyed hearing her laugh and wished she did it more.

Dana looked over at the men and said to Sharon, "What do you think they're talking about?"

Sharon shook her head. "No telling."

Dana paused before she continued. "Sharon, are you afraid? I mean about the baby?"

Sharon smiled and patted Dana's hand. "No. These aren't the best conditions, but I think I'll be fine. Besides, you'll be there."

Dana nodded. "I told William that if we have a child, he might have to deliver it. He hadn't thought about that. I think I scared him," she said laughing.

"Well hopefully, we'll be neighbors and I can be there for you."

"I hope so too."

"Dana," Mulder said.

She stopped sewing and looked up. "Yes?"

"I think it's time we go back. I'm going to get the children." He turned away from her and went in search of them.

"Well," Dana said to Sharon, "I guess it's time to leave. Thanks so much for dinner."

"You're welcome," Sharon said.

"When it's closer to your time, we'll make sure you come to our camp. You shouldn't be preparing food."

"I'll be fine. Besides, I have the girls."

Dana stood, looking in the direction of the children, "Yes, I'm sure they're a help. Our children really love them." Mulder was having trouble gathering the children, so Dana decided to head over towards him. "Good-night Sharon, Walter," she said as she left.

When she came to Mulder, she heard Samantha fussing. "But Papa, I don't want to go yet. We're having fun," she was saying.

"Samantha Mulder, we're leaving now. Not another word. Caleb, come here," Mulder commanded.

Caleb trotted over to Mulder and he picked him up. "Need help?" Dana asked. Mulder shook his head, turned and headed back to their camp. Samantha stayed rooted in her place, while Caleb stretched his arms toward her and called "Sam." Dana figured that Mulder knew what was best, so she turned and followed him. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that it had indeed worked. Samantha was following them at a short distance. When they reached their wagon, Mulder swung Caleb up and turned to lift Samantha as well. When she went inside, he said to Dana, "I wish she would stop being so stubborn. I suppose this is my fault. If I hadn't let my parents raise her, we wouldn't have to be dealing with this."

Dana shook her head. "You don't know that. It could be that she would have been the same."

"Are you going to get them ready or should I?"

"I'll do it. I'm tired myself."

"Good, because I want to check with Danny first before I turn in. You'll be all right?"

"Yes, go on," Dana said. Mulder leaned down, kissed her on the forehead, before heading off.


After talking to Danny, Mulder headed back to his wagon, but halted in his tracks. He found Krycek just ahead of him. Krycek hadn't seen him, so he stayed back, wondering what he was doing. It didn't take long for Mulder to figure it out.

Looking in the same direction as Krycek, Mulder saw that he was looking at his own wagon, where his children and wife were. Dana had placed the lamp in a position that cast her shadow. He soon realized that Dana was undressing and Krycek had a perfect view of everything that she was doing.

Mulder angrily stalked towards Krycek. Surprised to hear footsteps, Krycek looked back to see Mulder approaching. He smiled, tipped his hat and walked quickly away. Mulder figured that it wasn't worth pursing him at this point. Instead, he headed for his wife.

When Mulder climbed into his wagon, he saw the children fast asleep. He was thankful that they both fell asleep quickly and were heavy sleepers.

"Dana," he hissed.

She turned around, dressed in her gown. "What?"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"What do you mean?" she asked with wide eyes.

"People can see you undress. What are you thinking?" he asked, pointing to her shadow.

Dana turned to where he was pointing and said, "Oh, I didn't know. I'm sorry."

"Well, I think you only had one admirer."

"What do you mean?"

"Krycek was watching you. He doesn't need any more encouragement from you."

"William, I didn't mean to. I didn't know. I guess I was just too tired to notice."

"Extinguish the light," he said.

Dana reached over and did as he said. "Please don't be angry. I didn't know anyone could see."

Mulder sighed and said, "It's all right. Just be more careful."

"Did you say anything to Mr. Krycek?"

"I didn't get a chance, he was too busy fleeing." Dana crawled under the covers and Mulder took off his boots, crawling under the covers and pulling her close to him. "I'm on watch in a few hours, so I just want to sleep for a bit."


June 14, 1852
Monday

Dana was relaxing with the children by their wagon that evening; Danny was off with Mulder somewhere and Jimmy stayed to keep her company.

"I can't believe how big Chimney Rock is. It's amazing we've been able to see it for miles," Dana said.

"Danny talked about going to see it, but I think Mulder changed his mind. He told him he needed to tend to his work."

"I think he should go if he wants to."

They were enjoying the cool breeze after a light shower in the afternoon. "I hear the family of Mulder's friend has sickness," Jimmy said. "Did you hear?"

"Caleb, come here," Dana called to her son. Caleb crawled into her lap and Dana began brushing his hair. "No, who's sick?"

"Diana's brother-in-law, Martin Baxter. Mulder saw him this morning and he said he looked fine, but Diana said he was in pain by noon. Mark Benson said his skin was wrinkled and he was blue. If he dies, that will make nine people who have died."

Dana set Caleb down when she finished combing his hair and called Samantha to her. She sat Samantha on her lap. As she undid her braids, she asked, "So, has William been to see them? I wouldn't want him to bring it back to us."

"There are a couple of other people sick as well."

"Ow," said Samantha, grabbing her hair.

"Sorry." Dana moved Samantha a little bit away from her to get a better angle to brush her hair. "So it's serious?"

"They don't think Baxter will live past tonight."

"That's a shame. You didn't say if William had been there."

"Dana, honestly I don't know."

"We seem to pass more graves each day."

Jimmy nodded in agreement. "I just keep praying that our family will be all right."

"Amen," Dana said.

"Do you mind if I go for a walk?" Jimmy asked.

"No go ahead." Jimmy nodded and disappeared into the night. "There," she said to Samantha. "You're all finished. You can get down now. Stay close, it will be bedtime soon."

When Dana was alone, she said a silent prayer for her family, the company, and especially Martin Baxter.


June 15, 1852
Tuesday

Mulder hadn't returned that night, but he showed up just before they were about to leave. He walked with Jimmy, deep in conversation.

Dana walked up behind them and asked, "Where have you been?"

Mulder turned around, and then said to Jimmy, "Go ahead. I'll be there shortly." When Jimmy left, he said, "I was with Diana's family."

"Why, is her brother-in-law worse?"

"You heard about him?" Dana nodded. He continued, "I was helping bury him."

"He died."

"Yes. Sarah didn't want to have a lot of people around, so Skinner and I dug his grave and Victor went to get Reverend Byers so that he could say some words. It was just the family."

"You were there too?"

"Yes. Sarah is taking it hard. I've offered to drive for them until we get to Fort Laramie. I'm hoping to hire someone to drive for them when we get there."

"So you'll be with Diana."

"It's not like that Dana. I'm just doing this until we can find someone."

"But you'll be spending time with her. Why can't someone else do it?"

"Dana, don't be petty. Her brother-in-law just died."

"I'm not being petty. I just can't help but think that you must be making Diana very happy."

"Enough," Mulder said, turning away.

Dana reached for him and said, "Wait, I'm sorry. Did you eat?"

Mulder shook his head. "I'm not hungry. I have to go." Dana watched him leave before turning back to finish packing.


June 17, 1852
Thursday

They crossed the river at Fort Laramie, the first sign of civilization in many weeks. One family had decided to turn back, but rest of their party was going to push on.

Some of the emigrants wanted to sell their excess supplies, but the trader wasn't buying. Most didn't need to buy anything and those who did resisted because the prices were very high. However, it had a reliable post office. Mulder encouraged Dana to write her brother to let him know that she had reached the fort safely. He had already written another to his parents.

Dana's letter to her brother:

Dear brother and family,

I hope all is well with you and yours. It has been an interesting journey so far. William says we have come one third of the way. I think what I miss most is the trees in Missouri. We can go for miles without ever seeing a tree.

We have seen relatively few Indians. They have stayed away from us and we have stayed away from them.

We have seen many interesting sights, one of them being Chimney Rock. We were able to see this wonder for a couple of days. It looks like a domed building with a huge chimneystack.

For the most part, we have been able to find water and grass. We have had some frightening storms pass and we have seen a couple of cyclones in the distance. Fortunately, they did not head for us.

We see more graves every day and have had sickness in our company. Luckily, our family has been healthy for the most part.

I know you were angry with me for what I did, but I hope you have forgiven me. I am truly happy with William and our children. He is a good man. Caleb already considers William his Papa. He loves William and I believe William loves him. I know that his daughter has found a place in my heart.

I did not see a future with your friend, but I do see a future with William. I am glad that Walter Skinner brought him into my life.

I will try to write another time and hope that once we are settled, you will write me.

Your sister,

Dana

Dana sat on the porch of the store and looked over her letter for the third time. She could do no better. The porch was dirty and she dusted herself off as she stood. Mulder had taken the children inside to look for some treats. He said most of the store's prices were very high and he intended only to get something for the children.

When Dana entered the store, she found other emigrants milling around. Mulder and the children were looking over the candy. Holding both children in his arms, Mulder encouraged them to point out to the storeowner what they wanted. The owner would look up at Mulder as he nodded his head 'yes' or shook his head 'no' to let the owner know which candy was all right to wrap up.

Dana walked up behind him and smiled as she put her hand on his back. "You're spoiling them."

Mulder looked down at her. "They deserve it. They've been good so far." Samantha and Caleb nodded their head in agreement and then went back to looking at the candy. He looked down at her letter. "Did you finish?"

"Yes."

Mulder set the children down and took the letter from her. He nodded and said to the shop owner, "That's enough." To his wife, "Dana, take the children back outside and I'll meet you in a moment."

When Dana went outside, holding the children's hands, she ran into Krycek. "Mrs. Mulder," he said, tipping his hat.

"Good afternoon," Dana said.

"You're not buying anything here are you? The owner is a thief."

Dana laughed and said, "Just candy for the children. My husband is indulging them."

Krycek looked back at the store and then bent down to Samantha. "Candy, huh?" he asked Samantha. She nodded her head and moved closer to Dana. "Did you leave any for me?" Samantha nodded her head again.

He looked up at Dana. "Doesn't talk much, does she?"

"She's just shy around strangers." Dana rubbed Samantha's head and then said to Krycek, "My husband says that we still have a long way ahead."

"Yes, that's true, but we'll be all right."

Skinner came up behind Krycek and said, "Dana, Sharon was looking for you. Do you think that you could go to her?"

"Yes, I'll go as soon as William comes out of the shop."

"Krycek, can I speak to you?"

Skinner turned and walked away before Krycek could answer. "I guess I'd better go," Krycek said. "It was nice seeing you again Mrs. Mulder."

"Good-bye."


Mulder walked Dana to the Skinner's wagon before leaving with the children for their own wagon. She called out to Sharon who peaked through the opening of the canvas covering the wagon.

"Dana, I want to go trade with the squaws. Are you interested?"

Dana shook her head. "I don't think William would want me to."

"Come on. I understand we might be able to make some good trades. Some of the other women already have."

"Well, all right. I'll have to go back to my wagon though. What are you trading?"

"The women said they wanted bread and meat. We can go by your wagon on the way."

Sharon handed a bag to Dana and crawled out of the wagon awkwardly. She laughed and said, "This is getting harder and harder for me to do. I imagine Walter will have to lift me up and down soon."

"You look well," Dana said as they headed back for her wagon. "Remember, if you need me, I'm here for you."

"Yes, I remember. Thank you."

They soon reached her wagon where Mulder was handing out the candy to the children, who were being very careful not to drop it. Dog was sitting close by just in case.

Mulder looked up when the women approached. "William, Sharon has asked me to go trade. May I?"

He looked over to Sharon and asked, "Why? We don't need anything."

Sharon said, "It's safe Fox. Other women have come away with some beautiful beads. Don't you think Dana deserves that?"

"Of course, but what are you going to trade?"

"The women said that they want bread and meat," Sharon explained. "Can you spare some?"

"We can William. I want to go."

"All right, just not too much." He bent back down to the children. "You go ahead. I'll stay with the children until you get back."

The women headed off and came back within an hour. Sharon waved good-bye to Dana.

Mulder was playing with the children when Dana walked up to him. "Did you find someone?" she asked.

"Who?"

"A man to drive the Baxter wagon."

"Oh, yes I did. He's a young man left behind from another company because he was ill. He's better now and plans to go to California."

"Not to Oregon?"

"No, it was the best I could do. There wasn't anyone else."

Mulder nodded in the direction of what Dana was holding. "So, what did you get?" he asked. She showed him moccasins in various sizes for them all. Then, she pulled open a leather bag and pulled out a beautiful necklace made of colored beads. She handed it to Mulder.

He looked it over before handing it back to her. "It's beautiful. Do you plan to wear it?"

"No, not while we're on the trail. It's too nice." She walked over towards Samantha and reached into her bag again. She pulled out a smaller necklace. "Samantha, come here. See what I got for you."

Samantha ran to Dana and reached up. "What did you get me?"

"Turn around," she said. She bent down after Samantha turned and said, "Close your eyes." After Dana looked around to make sure that she did, she put the necklace over her head. "Okay, open your eyes."

Samantha opened them and looked down. She opened her mouth in awe and then looked up. "Mama, it's pretty." She carefully ran her fingers over the beads. She ran over to Mulder and said, "Look Papa."

Mulder bent down and lifted the necklace in his hands. "Yes, it's beautiful." He looked up at Dana and mouthed, "Thank you."

She shook her head. "I wanted to do it...for our daughter."

Mulder nodded his head and said to Samantha. "Do you want to wear it or keep it put up safe like Mama?"

Samantha looked at Dana and walked over to her. She lifted it from her neck and said, "Keep it safe with yours." She paused and said, "Can I wear it later if I want to?" Dana nodded and Samantha handed it over to her. She then ran off to look for Dog.

Dana walked over to Mulder and he put his arms around her. "Did you send the letters?" she asked.

"Yes. Do you think he's forgiven you yet?"

She looked up at him. "Did you read my letter?"

Mulder shook his head. "I just know that what happened has been weighing heavily on you."

"Yes," Dana said. She turned more fully into Mulder and he closed his arms around her, making her feel safe. "I don't regret my decision you know."

Mulder leaned her back and took her face in his hands. He slowly rubbed his thumbs along her jaw. "And I don't regret mine." He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips.


Chapter 9

June 20, 1852
Sunday

"How about a picnic today since we're not traveling?" Mulder asked Dana as they sat around the fire with the children.

"Really?"

Mulder smiled at her and said, "I thought we could spend some time together."

"Just us?"

"Us and the children. How does that sound?"

Dana smiled back, elated. "Where are we going?"

"There's a natural bridge about a mile south of here. I thought it would be a nice walk."

"Well, I better cook some things to take then," she said, getting up and heading for their second wagon to get some food.

Several hours later, they arrived at the natural bridge. In order to reach the bridge, they had to wind their way down to a flat area next to a small stream. They discovered a couple of other families who had the same idea. Mulder spread a blanket under a tree close to the river. Dana sat down, spreading the skirt of her dress around her.

"This is amazing," she said, placing the food in front of her. Caleb and Samantha crawled onto the blanket, encasing her.

"Yah. I'm glad the children are able to see things like this."

"Here Samantha," Dana said, handing her a plate. "Caleb," she said, turning to her son.

"Just think how long it took the river to cut through all of that rock," he said as he sat down across from her.

"It's something," she agreed as she handed him his plate.

"How about we climb on top?"

"No thank you."

"Well, I may later."

They ate their meal silently, watching the water roll through, passing underneath the natural bridge that rose about twenty feet and expanded across the water about thirty feet. When the children finished eating, Samantha got up and headed for the stream. Caleb moved to follow her and Mulder grabbed his shirt, "Oh no you don't. Samantha, come back here," he commanded.

She stopped and looked over her shoulder, but chose to ignore him. Mulder set his plate down, stood up, and lifted Caleb into his arms. "Samantha," he said more firmly, "I said come here."

"I'm just looking," she said.

Mulder began to make his way to Samantha when Dana said, "Samantha, come here." She turned back away from the river and ran to Dana, throwing herself into Dana's lap and hugging her. Dana looked over at Mulder, seeing his frustrated look.

"Samantha," she said. "Apologize to Papa." Samantha shook her head and buried her face into Dana's neck.

"Ummm," Caleb said, his eyes wide. He may only be two and a half, but he knew Samantha was in trouble.

Mulder moved back towards Dana and set Caleb down on the blanket. He reached to take Samantha, but she held onto Dana when he began to pull her away. "Samantha, let go."

"No," she cried.

"William, stop."

He stared at Dana for a moment and then said, "No, she can't defy me like that."

Dana shook her head and said, "Let me talk to her." He paused before agreeing and backed away. "Stay here with Caleb. We're just going to walk down to the river. Samantha, let's go. You and I are going to take a walk, okay?"

Samantha nodded her head and stood. Dana moved to follow her and grabbed her hand, leading her away. "We'll be back," she told Mulder.

Dana guided her away from Mulder and Caleb, but made sure that they were still in sight. "How about we sit down here?" she asked Samantha.

"Okay."

Pulling her knees to her when she sat down, Dana asked, "Samantha, what's wrong?" Samantha shrugged her shoulders and pulled in her knees to mimic Dana.

"Why didn't you listen to Papa?" Again, Samantha just shrugged her shoulders. "All right. We can just sit here and watch the water."

Gazing out towards the stream, Samantha suddenly said, "It's not fair."

Dana looked back to her. "What's not?"

"Papa never is with us anymore. He's always with that woman and her girls."

"You mean Mrs. Tipton and her nieces?" Samantha nodded. "He's just helping out his friend."

"I miss him," she said, crying and moving into Dana's arms.

Dana hugged her and said, "Samantha, I'm sure Papa misses you too, but he doesn't know if he can trust their driver yet. He'll be back with us again."

"When?" she sighed, sniffling.

"I hope soon." Dana wiped the tears from Samantha's face and said, "You know, I miss him too. I'm sure Caleb does as well. We just have to help Papa by letting him do this for his friend."

"I don't like it," Samantha said.

"I know, me neither," Dana confided. "You ready to go apologize to Papa now?" Samantha nodded and Dana stood and pulled her to her feet. "Okay, let's go back."

When they returned to the blanket, Mulder was tossing Caleb, making him giggle. "Hey," he said to them. "Did you talk?"

Dana nodded and said, "She has something to say to you." She nudged Samantha.

"I'm sorry Papa."

Mulder put Caleb down and moved to her, crouching down in front of her. "You'll listen to me from now on, right?" She nodded and he pulled her into his arms, kissing her. "Do you want to go down to the water now?"

"Huh uh, I'm tired."

Mulder smiled and said, "Okay. How about you and Caleb take a nap before we walk back?"

"Okay," she said, rubbing her eyes.

Mulder led her over to the blanket and Samantha crawled over next to Caleb, who was already settling in. She snuggled up next to him and Dana moved to sit next to them both. She looked up at Mulder and said, "Why don't you go ahead and crawl up there if you're going to. I'll stay here with them."

He nodded and soon disappeared out of sight. After about ten minutes, he appeared above the bridge. He waved at her and she waved back. She felt her heart skip a beat when he got a little too close to the edge, but relaxed when he moved back and headed in the direction he came.

When he returned to her, she asked, "Did you enjoy yourself?"

He nodded and plopped down next to her. He whispered, "So?"

"Yes?" she whispered back.

"Why is she upset with me?"

"She said she missed you." Dana reached down and caressed Samantha's cheek. "I know how she feels."

"You know I can't help that."

"I know, but she's just a little girl. You can't expect her to really understand. I also think she's a little jealous."

"Of who?"

"Of your friend's nieces."

"Her name is Diana," he said. "It won't hurt for you to say her name."

"Says you," she said.

Mulder just shook his head. "Well, she apologized. Maybe what you said made sense to her."

"Maybe."

"You ready to head back?" She looked down at the children and he said, "I can carry them both."

"They may be a little grumpy if you wake them now."

"They'll be okay," he said, shaking both of the children's legs to wake them.

Caleb pulled his leg up and rolled over. Samantha woke up though and Dana was right. She wasn't too happy. "Go away, Papa. I'm tired."

Mulder laughed and said, "Come on, we're going back. I'll carry you."

"Okay," she said. Mulder pulled her up and stood her on her feet.

Dana reached down and lifted Caleb into her arms while Mulder lifted Samantha onto his shoulders. Samantha reached down and put her hands under Mulder's chin to hold on.

"I think I should carry him," Dana said.

"It's okay. I can carry them both." When she handed Caleb to him, he placed Caleb on his hip. Dana turned back to the blanket and began gathering everything as Mulder set off, back towards camp.


June 29, 1852
Tuesday

It had been about a week and a half since they left Fort Laramie. For the most part, they had been able to find water and grass, but they had to make sure that their cattle stayed away from poisonous water. A few of the emigrants had lost oxen, but so far, they had been lucky and hadn't lost any of their own livestock.

They traveled only a short time that day and decided to camp not far from Independence Rock where there was plenty of grass, allowing the livestock to graze. Some of their party decided to visit the rock. Many emigrants left their names carved into it and some left messages for loved ones who might follow.

"The boys and I have done something we want you to see. They're still there, waiting for us," Mulder said after disappearing for a couple of hours.

"What do you want me to see?" Dana asked.

"We've carved our names into the rock." Mulder bent down to carry Caleb. "Come on Samantha, I want you to see this too," he said, heading back to the rock.

Dana had no choice but to follow. When they arrived at the large, long, and fairly smooth rock outcrop, they found others milling around. Dana noticed others who were higher and was glad when Mulder led them around the base of the rock.

"There are other names higher," Mulder told her. "Jimmy, Danny, and I climbed up on the top."

Dana stopped for a moment and looked up. "William, you didn't," she admonished.

He smiled and said, "Sure we did. It was really windy up there though. Thought I was going to lose my footing for a moment."

"Don't go up there again," she begged.

He began walking with the children again and said over his shoulder, "All right. I guess I'm glad you weren't here the first time or you would have tried to stop us."

"Not that you would have listened," she called back.

Mulder stopped them in front of some writing and pulled Dana in front of him, placing his left hand on her hip. With his right hand, he pointed to where he had chiseled out their names.

Dana read them aloud. "Fox, Dana, Samantha and Caleb Mulder. June 1852."

Mulder motioned for the children to come over to them. He picked them up and pointed to where their names were. "I hope you don't mind that I wrote Caleb's last name as mine."

Dana looked up at him with tears in her eyes and shook her head. "No, it's perfect. Thank you."

"We helped," Danny said, wiping the sweat from his forehead. "What do you think of ours?"

"It's great," Dana said as she moved to see theirs better. "I wonder how many names there are."

"Too many to count," Mulder said. "Hundreds or thousands I would guess."

They spent another hour reading other names before they turned back.


Dana had finished feeding the children when Mulder and the boys rode up. Mulder jumped down and said, "Come on, I want to show you something."

"Something else? Aren't you hungry?" Dana asked.

"Come on, I want you to see Devil's Gate. Jimmy and Danny are going to stay with the children. We've already been to see it and I don't think the children should go."

"Fox, I'm ready," Diana said.

"If the children shouldn't go, maybe we shouldn't go either," Dana said, her eyes falling briefly on Diana, clearly unhappy that this woman was at their camp.

"Diana," he said, ignoring Dana, "you can ride Danny's horse. You can still ride can't you?"

Diana smiled at him. "Of course. It will be just like riding when we were young," she said, then looked at Dana and frowned. "Well almost."

Danny brought his horse up to them and held the reins. "Be careful with my horse, Mrs. Tipton," he said.

"You have nothing to worry about," Mulder said, coming up behind Diana. "She's an excellent rider." He bent down and she put her foot in his hand. He lifted her with ease and she settled on the horse, sitting astride. Jimmy handed her the reins and he turned to move Mulder's horse into position.

"Okay," Mulder said. "Your turn now."

Dana backed away from him. "Oh no, I'm not riding that horse."

Mulder reached for her, but she continued to step away from him. "Come on Dana, it's much quicker if we ride. I want to get back before dark."

She folded her arms and said, "I can walk, I do it every day."

"Fine," he said and turned from her. She relaxed until he pounced on her, threw her over his shoulder, and walked back to his horse.

"Put me down," she said, kicking. Mulder raised his hand and lowered it down quickly on her backside. "Ow," she said, reaching back to where he had offended her.

"Quiet down. You're causing people to look."

Dana pushed her hands against his back, leaned up, and was horrified to find that people were indeed looking. She covered her face with her hands and groaned.

Mulder stopped by his horse and set her down. He lifted her up and she settled awkwardly onto the horse with both of her feet to one side. Mulder followed her up quickly as she tried to pull her dress back down to cover her legs. He looked down and smirked, but said nothing. Instead, he reached down to help her. He kicked his horse and they took off, with Diana quickly coming beside them.


When they arrived at their destination, Mulder pulled up on the reins and stopped. He jumped down from his horse and left Dana sitting high. He walked over to Diana and helped her down. Dana was a little put out with Mulder for leaving her on the horse while he walked with Diana, but she soon ignored them and looked around as Mulder led his horse. People were coming and going in both directions.

Dana had been so engrossed in watching the people, that she didn't hear Mulder call her name. She was unaware of him until she felt his hand close over her ankle and shake it.

When she looked down, she saw Diana smiling at her, standing closer to her husband than she liked. Dana frowned and looked at Mulder. "...calling you. Weren't you listening?" She shook her head. "Well?"

"Well what?" she asked, confused.

"Do you want to get down?"

"Oh," she said. "Yes, I'm sorry." Diana was forced to step back as Mulder reached up and grabbed her waist. He gently lifted her down to the ground.

They left the horses at the bottom. Grabbing Dana's hand, Mulder pulled her along. "Come on, we need to climb."

"Do we have to?" she asked.

Mulder nodded and put his hand around her waist to support her. He looked over his shoulder and said, "Diana, are you all right?"

"Yes," she called back. "I'm right behind you; I can't wait to see it."

Mulder nodded and continued climbing. Soon they reached the top. The ledge was rounded and rough in different places so they had to be careful of their footing. There were others who had ventured as well, but it wasn't as crowded as when Mulder had been there with Danny and Jimmy. In fact, most people were heading back to camp.

"I don't want to go any closer," Dana said.

"Come on," Mulder said. "We've come this far. Just get close and you can see down."

Dana shook her head.

Mulder shrugged and moved closer to the edge, looking down. Diana followed and he said "Wow," to her. "It's still impressive."

Diana nodded. "Fox, let's sit down." Mulder bent down to sit and he lifted his hand to help her after he was comfortable. She grabbed it and lowered herself to sit on his right side.

When Diana didn't seem to release his hand, Dana edged closer to them. She peered over Mulder's shoulder and saw that Diana was still holding on, but in doing so, Dana caught a glimpse of what they saw and stepped back. Looking down made her nervous. It looked so far down.

Gathering her strength, she edged closer to Mulder again and she closed her eyes as she put her hand on his shoulder. When she felt his hand over hers, she opened her eyes to find him looking up at her. "Change your mind?" he asked.

She nodded and saw him release Diana's hand in order help her sit down. When she sat, she buried her face against his arm, not wanting to look. She heard him laugh, but he gathered her closer, putting his arm around her back and smoothing her hair with his other hand.

"Come on Dana, look down. This is what we came to see."

"Fox, don't push her. If she's too afraid to look, don't force her."

Dana opened her eyes to see a challenge in Diana's eyes. She lifted her head from Mulder's shoulder and looked into his eyes.

"All right, but make sure you hold on to me."

"Always," Mulder said, bending down to kiss her forehead.

Dana took a deep breath and peered over the edge. "Oh my gosh," she said looking down into the chasm and seeing the Sweetwater river run over and around the rocks in the narrow canyon. "We are really high."

"Now you can see why we have to go around this."

She nodded and said, "I wonder why the river didn't go around. Why would it go through this way?"

"I'm not sure," Mulder said.

Diana began to feel left out of the conversation. "Fox, don't you think we should be getting back?"

"All right." Mulder scooted back to stand and Dana felt unstable without his support. She felt her breath speed up as he backed away.

She looked over and saw Diana watching her. Before Dana could do anything, Diana said, "Fox, help me up please." As he bent down to help her, she gripped his hands. "Thank you," she said, rising. As he moved to help Dana, she held on and whispered, "Fox, did you ask her?"

"Huh?" he asked, not noticing Dana begin to panic.

Diana smiled and said, "About tonight."

"Oh, no. Not yet."

"William," Dana finally said, unable to stand being so close to the edge by herself.

He heard the fear in her voice, turned his back to Diana, and reached down, pulling her back and to her feet. "I'm sorry. Were you afraid?"

She threw herself into his arms and nodded. "Don't leave me like that again. Please."

"I'm sorry, I won't," he said, holding her and rubbing her back. As he began to move them back down the hill, he heard Diana clear her throat and said, "Dana, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind if Diana joining us for supper tonight."

As Dana looked up at him, she backed away from him and placed her hands on her hips. The nerve of the man. He knew she wouldn't be rude if he invited Diana in front of her. Dana gritted her teeth and said, "No, that's fine." With that, she spun around and marched down the hill much faster than she had come up.

"Dana slow down," she heard him call behind her. "Dana," he yelled louder. She knew he was getting closer when she heard, "Damn it Dana, stop. You're going to fall down if you're not careful."

She turned to see if he was close and as she did, she realized her mistake. She saw him reach out for her and miss as she lost her footing and fell on her side and then rolled down about five yards. When she stopped, she found Mulder above her, concern written on his face.

"Are you hurt?" he asked.

Was he crazy? Of course she was hurt with a fall like that. He ran his hands over her body, looking for any breaks. "Ow," she said when he tried to sit her up.

"Where does it hurt?" he asked.

Diana appeared over his shoulder and said, "That was stupid Dana."

"Stay out of this Diana." He ran his hand over Dana's back. "Did you hurt your back?"

"No, my hip feels sore. And I think my left ankle."

"Fox, if she hadn't been running like a fool down this hill, she wouldn't have hurt herself."

He turned to her and said, "Diana, go to the horses. We'll be down in a minute."

"Fox..."

"I mean it. Go wait by the horses. When we get to the bottom, bring the horses over."

"Fine," she said, moving away from them. Before she went far she said, "See Dana, this is how you're supposed to go down. Slowly and carefully."

"Diana," Mulder called, "just go." He turned back to Dana and said, "Let's see if you can get up." When he had her standing, she tried to take a step, but it hurt too much and she leaned into him. She felt tears form in her eyes and she said, "I'm sorry. I should have been more careful."

"Yes. Yes, you should have been. We don't have a doctor and you can't afford to get hurt or sick. Here, sit back down. I want to examine your ankle."

She leaned back as he lifted her foot and she winced when he grabbed her ankle. "Can you move it?" She moved her foot and took in a sharp breath to keep from crying out. "Well, it doesn't look like it's broken, but I think you should stay off of it for a while. I'm going to take off your shoe now in case your ankle swells." He undid the hooks on her shoe and lifted her foot carefully out of the shoe. "I think it would be easier if I just carry you down. We're not that far anyway," he said, looking down to see Diana waiting at the foot of the hill with the two horses.

"All right," she said. "William, I really am sorry about this."

"I just want to get back to camp." He stood up and held his hands out to help her up. "I need you to stand so I can pick you up easier."

She raised her hands up to him and he lifted her up. When he had her in his arms, she held on tight and tried to stay still so that he would be able to concentrate on his footing. When they reached the bottom, he moved to his horse and set her down. She held onto the saddle as he grabbed her good foot and lifted her up. Dana awkwardly crawled into the saddle. When she stopped moving, he asked, "Settled?" She nodded and he handed the reins to her. "Just hold these."

He moved to the other side of Diana's horse, away from Dana. "Fox, I'm sorry, but it really is her own fault that she was hurt."

"Diana, she doesn't need to hear it. She knows."

He bent down and held his hands out for her to put her foot in. He felt her put her hand in his hair. She bent down and said, "I'm sorry, but you don't deserve having any more to worry about. You have enough."

"Put your foot in my hand."

Diana realized she had probably gone as far as she should, so she put her foot in his hands and he lifted her up. "Here," he said, handing her the reins. He leaned in so that Dana couldn't hear him and said, "Diana, I know you think you're helping, but you're not. You're my friend, but Dana's my wife. Please don't interfere."

She nodded and looked over to Dana and smiled.

Dana looked at her curiously as Mulder came around the horse. He climbed behind Dana and took the reins from her. Looking over to Diana, he said, "You go ahead Diana and let the boys know what's happened. We'll follow behind you."

"All right Fox," she said and kicked her horse, trotting off ahead of them.

"Does your hip still hurt?" he asked, rubbing it.

"Not as much," Dana said.

"Lean back," he said, as he pulled her to him.

"Are you angry with me?"

Mulder was silent for a while, but then let out a long breath. "No, I'm just concerned."

"You are?"

He looked down at her shocked, "Of course I am. You could have been hurt much worse. You were lucky."

"I don't feel lucky."

Mulder looked around and found that they were by themselves. Diana was now well in front of them. He began lifting her dress and she grabbed it when she realized what he was doing. "Let me see your hip."

"No, someone will see," she said, looking quickly around.

"I'm the only one who can see."

"No." When he continued to pull on her dress, she said, "Stop, I don't have anything on underneath."

Mulder chuckled and said, "I thought so. Come on, I want to see."

"No, it isn't decent in the day."

"Dana let go, I want to see it," he commanded. She looked up into his eyes and saw the stern look on his face. She released her hold and he pulled her dress up over her hip. "Roll towards me," he said. He ran his hand over her hip and then over her cheek. "Doesn't look that bad." He kept his hand on her hip, stroking it.

Dana saw Diana look back at them, and then turn forward again. "William stop, I think she can see you."

He ignored her. "You know, this could be interesting if you weren't hurt."

"What?" she asked. She felt him move his hand over her hip and to her front, slipping his hand between her legs. "Oh no William, you wouldn't."

"Well, all right," he said, moving his hand back to her hip. "But, I wouldn't rule it out for the future." He smiled and kissed her. "Maybe we could take a ride by ourselves sometime."

"Not in the day, please."

"So, the night would okay?" he asked grinning.

"Wait, I didn't...ah," she said as she felt him put his hand back over her. "William, no."

He looked around to make sure no one was still close, leaned into her, and said, "No one can see, just relax."

He leaned in to kiss her and began stroking her, making her breath quicken. He looked up as he was kissing her and saw Diana looking back, staring. She had stopped her horse and was watching them. He knew she could see them kissing, but didn't think that she could see anything else. He picked up his speed with Dana. He didn't want to leave her hanging and he was closing the distance between them and Diana.

He kissed her neck and she cried out when she climaxed. He had forgotten to silence her and looked in Diana's direction. He was shocked to see her heading back in their direction, closing the distance faster than he had anticipated. He removed his hand and made sure her dress was pulled down properly. "Dana," he said. She looked up at him and he smiled when he saw the passion still in her eyes. "We're going to have company soon. Diana is heading back this way and she's almost here."

She looked quickly in front of her and said, "She saw us?"

"I only think she saw me kissing you. I don't think she could see anything else. However, I think she heard you," he said with a lopsided grin.

"Oh god," she said and buried her face into his shoulder. Dana heard Diana approach them, but didn't look up.

Diana turned her horse and paced it with Mulder's. "Dana, are you all right? I heard you scream."

Mulder put his hand on Dana's back and rubbed it. He smiled and said, "She's fine. I just accidentally touched her hip. It's a little sore."

"You must have really touched her hard."

"Guess so. Look Diana, with Dana being hurt, I think we'll need to postpone supper tonight." They were nearing camp, so Mulder said, "Could you go ahead and take the horse back? Tell Jimmy he'll need to cook tonight since Dana's hurt."

"I can stay with you."

"No, really. It would be more of a help if you went on ahead."

"Okay Fox. Hope you feel better Dana," she said.

Dana nodded, but wouldn't look up. When they were alone again, Dana said, "I can't believe you did that where anyone could see."

"What? No one saw. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy it."

"Humph," she said and looked away from him. She refused to talk to him again until they reached their camp.

Jimmy and Danny were both waiting for them when they arrived at their wagon. "Dana, are you all right?" Danny asked.

"I'm feeling better, thank you."

"Mulder, I'll help her down," Jimmy said as he reached up.

Mulder stopped him and said, "I'll help her down, but thank you. Did Diana tell you what happened?" he asked as jumped down.

"Yes. She said Dana was foolish for running down the hill."

"I wasn't running," she said as Mulder helped her down, holding her dress close to her. "I was walking fast."

"Big difference," Mulder said. "Can you walk?"

Dana took a few steps away from him and noticed that she was much better. "It doesn't hurt as much."

Mulder bent down and had her lift her foot. "It doesn't feel swollen. That's good. I still think you should rest it tonight. Jimmy, can you cook?"

"No problem. Dana you rest, I'll take care of everything," Jimmy said, smiling.

She smiled back and said, "Thank you. Where are the children?"

"In the wagon. They've been sleeping for a while," Danny said.

"Could you wake them and bring them to me?"

"You sure?"

"Yes. They'll be awake tonight if you don't."

"Okay, I'll go get them," Danny said.

"Come on," Mulder said, grabbing her arm. "I want you to sit down." After he helped her to her seat, he said, "I'm on watch this evening. I can change with someone if you'd like."

"No, no, I'm fine. Go ahead. The boys will take care of us."

He bent down and kissed her, "All right, I'll be back later tonight." She nodded and watched him walk off.


Chapter 10

July 3, 1852
Saturday

Mulder rode up on his horse as the company was preparing to stop for the evening. Dana was walking with Danny when she heard him come up behind them.

"Dana," Mulder called to her. She walked over to him and he smiled. "You look much better."

"It feels fine," she said, rotating her ankle. "I walked on it all day today."

He jumped down from his horse. "Good." He turned away from her as he said, "Because I invited Diana and her family to supper. Hey Jimmy," he called, trotting up to him.

"William," Dana called. He paid no attention to her and talked to Jimmy instead, who looked uneasily at Dana. "William," she called again.

"You just going to ignore her?" Jimmy asked.

"No," he said, hanging his head. He stopped walking and waited for Dana to catch up to him.

When she reached him, she asked, "You invited them?"

He bit his lower lip and nodded. He released it and said, "Remember, we asked Diana a couple of days ago and you," he waved his hand in the air, "had your accident and we had to postpone it."

She put her hands on her hips and said, "No, William, you invited Diana, not we. Now her sister and children are coming too?"

"Yes. Please do this for me, Dana." She turned around and headed back for Danny. "Dana," he called. "Will you do it?" She nodded, not looking back.


Danny was taking care of the oxen that evening while Mulder walked over to Diana's camp. When he returned with Diana, her sister and her children, they found Dana cooking over the fire. Jimmy was helping her prepare the meal.

"Hello," Mulder said to Jimmy.

"Mulder," he said sharply. He looked up briefly at Mulder and then looked away. Jimmy dished up a plate for himself and Danny and then left, probably heading for his brother.

Great, Mulder thought, my own cousin is mad at me too. "Smells great," he said. He noticed that Dana still hadn't looked his way. Instead, she busied herself with getting the meal.

Diana walked up to her and asked, "Dana, could I help?"

Dana looked up for a moment and then said, "No." She prepared three plates and walked away, cautiously carrying them to the children who were seated on a blanket. She sat down between Caleb and Samantha and began silently eating with the children.

Mulder walked over to her, squatted down, and whispered, "Dana, we have company."

She shook her head and looked at him in the eye. "You have company. I don't."

"But you promised to have them over."

"No, I promised to cook. I didn't say I would serve them or talk to them. They're your guests, you take care of them. Diana only wants your company anyway. I'm sure she would prefer it if the children and I weren't here."

"Damn it Dana," Mulder hissed.

"Please do not curse in front of the children," she said. She turned back to her meal and began to eat again.

Mulder huffed and stood, walking back to Diana. "I'm sorry about this."

"Don't worry Fox. I know she doesn't like me. She feels threatened by me."

Mulder looked back over to Dana. "No, I don't think so."

"She knows we're friends. I think she would prefer to have you to herself. We could leave if you would like."

Mulder smiled. "No, let's eat. I promised you a meal."

Dana looked over to see Mulder smiling. She watched them walk over to her food and dish some out. Mulder looked back at her when he handed a plate to Diana and Dana looked away. From under her eyelashes, she watched them sit by the other wagon, away from her, and noticed that Diana's sister was very quiet, the conversation being held mostly between Mulder and Diana.

Dana sighed and looked down at the children. She pulled Caleb's bangs away from his forehead. "Finished?" she asked. Caleb nodded.

"Me too," Samantha said, holding up her plate. Dana placed her plate, along with the children's together and stood.

"Do you want to go to the river with me?" she asked them.

"Yes," they yelled, drawing Mulder and Diana's attention.

Dog followed them as they began walking away. "Where are you going?" Mulder shouted to them.

Dana ignored him and led the children away with her. Dog followed closely behind. "Guess I'm in trouble," he told Diana.

"I don't want to come between you and your wife Fox, but I would be dishonest if I didn't say that I don't want to lose your friendship either."

"You're my friend," Mulder said. "She's just going to have to get used to the idea."

Diana took his hand and said, "Thank you Fox. I do value our friendship. You know, I've tried to talk to her, but she doesn't seem interested."

Mulder nodded. "I know you've tried." He looked in the direction Dana had left with the children. "I think I had better walk you back to your camp. I don't think you should be here when she comes back."

"All right, if you think that's best."


Mulder had arrived back at their camp before Dana, so he headed towards the river. He stopped when he saw her seated and laughing. Samantha sat quietly next to her. Caleb laughed as Krycek threw him up and then caught him on the way down.

Krycek was the first to see him. "Mulder, did you seen Diana and her family home?"

Dana looked up at him, horrified that he had said anything. "Shh," she said to him.

Mulder stopped in mid-stride, but recovered. "Yes, before I came here. What are you doing with my son?" Mulder drew Caleb out of Krycek's arms.

"He enjoyed it Mulder," Krycek said.

"It looked dangerous. If you had dropped him..."

"Caleb was fine," Dana said.

Mulder looked in her direction and put out his hand. "Come on."

Dana shook her head and said, "I'm not finished talking to Mr. Krycek."

Mulder bent down and grabbed her arm, pulling her up roughly. "Samantha, grab the plates. We're going back."

"Hey Mulder," Alex said, grabbing the arm Mulder was holding Dana with. "Let her go. We were only talking."

"Stay out of my business, Krycek...and stay away from my family. Go find your own." Krycek took a step back and Mulder swung Dana around. He pushed her in the direction of their camp. "Stay away from that man."

She turned around and stopped. Mulder almost knocked her down, but she found her footing. "I can't have any friends but you can with that woman? That's not fair."

"No, you can have friends...just not him."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't like him."

"I don't like Diana, but you seem to be very friendly with her."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," she said and turned to walk again.

"Dana, you're a woman," he said as he caught up to her.

"I'm a woman, so it's not okay for me? Diana's a woman and you seem to think it's fine to flaunt your relationship with her in front of everyone. Do you know what people must be saying?"

"I don't care what people say."

"But I do," she said quietly as she grabbed Samantha's hand.

They walked silently until they reached the camp. Mulder handed Caleb to her and said, "I'm on watch. I won't be back until morning." He turned away from her without another word.


July 4, 1849
Wednesday

The company had decided to go only a short distance so that they would have time to celebrate Independence Day. In the afternoon, the women were busy preparing pies and food. The company had decided to have a big supper together and everyone was pitching in.

The weather was cold and the clouds threatened snow, but it couldn't dampen the travelers' spirits. After Dana finished cooking, Jimmy and Danny helped Dana carry the food. Samantha walked with Caleb, making sure he stayed with them. Dana hadn't seen Mulder since their confrontation.

When everyone gathered, Reverend Byers said a blessing and the families lined up to fill their plates with food. Everyone was looking forward to the feast, since the women put forth their best efforts to please everyone.

Someone told Dana that Mulder was helping herd the cattle a short distance away since there was relatively good grazing. They would bring the cattle back before dark, into the corral the wagons created.

Skinner came up to Dana, who sat with the children. "Dana, come eat with us. I know Sharon would enjoy the company."

Dana smiled at him and said, "All right. Thank you. Could you carry Caleb's plate?"

"Sure," he said, grabbing the plate.

After gathering her blanket and throwing it over her arm, Dana turned to get Samantha's plate, but she held on. "I can do it," Samantha said.

Shaking her head, Dana grabbed the plate from her. "But if you drop it, you won't have anything to eat. I better do it." Samantha crossed her arms and pouted. "Come on, I know you're hungry," Dana said as they followed Skinner.

When they arrived at Skinner's wagon, Sharon was sitting in a chair. She smiled and said, "Dana, I'm so glad you came."

Dana spread her blanket next to Sharon and sat down. "Me too."

Louisa and Margaret came up to her and Margaret asked, "Can Caleb and Samantha eat over there with us?"

Nodding, Dana handed her Samantha's plate. "Yes, that would be fine. You'll need to get Caleb's plate from your father."

"Great," Louisa said. She turned to Caleb and Samantha, grabbing their hands. "Come on, you're eating with us."

Dana watched the girls take her children with them and said, "You have such wonderful children."

Sharon watched them for a moment. "Yes, Walter and I are lucky."

Skinner sat on the other side of his wife and said, "It's all her doing. She's a great mother."

Shaking her head, Sharon said, "Now Walter, you know you had something to do with it too."

Skinner laughed and popped a piece of meat into his mouth, "I guess so."

Dana was surprised to see Mulder walk up with a plate in his hand and sit down next to her. He nodded to her and began eating.

"Everything all right out there Mulder?" Skinner asked.

Mulder nodded and wiped his fingers on his pants. "It looks like it could snow though."

Looking upwards, Skinner said, "I think you're right. It sure seems like it's cold enough for it. Who would have thought it would be this cold in July?"

"At least we should see less sickness now that we're past Fort Laramie. They say that once you pass the fort, less die."

"I hope that's true," Sharon said.

"How are you doing Sharon? I'm sorry, I should have asked," Mulder said.

"I'm fine. Hopefully, this baby will come soon."

They ate silently for a while, watching the children. When the children finished, the girls and the Mulder children came running up to them. "Can we go play now?" Louisa asked.

Sharon said, "All right, but don't go to far."

Mulder stopped them. "Caleb, come here. You stay with us. Samantha, you can go."

Caleb walked over to him and began crying, not wanting to be left behind. "Mr. Mulder, we'll take good care of him," Louisa said.

"I'm sure you would, but not this time. Just keep a good eye on Samantha."

"All right," she said. "Come on Samantha."

Mulder watched them run off as he pulled Caleb into his lap, rubbing his back as Caleb sobbed.

"William, they could have taken him," Dana said.

Standing, Mulder lifted Caleb into his arms. "No, we're going to go for a ride. How does that sound Caleb? Do you want to ride on the horse?" Caleb hiccupped and nodded. "We'll see you in a little while."

Dana stood and came over to him. "No, I don't want him on the horse."

Turning his back on her, he walked back to their wagon, Dana following him the whole way. When they arrived at the wagon, Mulder put Caleb on his horse, but was stopped by a hand on his arm.

"Why are you doing this? I don't want my son on a horse."

Mulder put his hand on Caleb's leg to make sure he stayed in place. "I promised him a ride a while back and I thought this might be the perfect time."

"No, you can't take my son."

"No? You're telling me 'no?' Well he's my son now and he needs to get used to being on a horse. The sooner, the better."

"Please, don't do this."

"What is it with you and horses Dana? You don't want to ride on one. You don't want Caleb to ride on one. I would have thought you would have been raised with horses."

"Papa, come on."

Dana looked away and said, "Fine. Go," and stalked back towards the Skinner wagon.

Mulder shook his head and looked back up at Caleb, who was grinning. "Ready to go buddy?" Caleb nodded his head and kicked his feet. "Okay, just let me get up there with you. Okay, here we go," he said as they trotted off.


The livestock was grazing quietly as the sun began to fall on the horizon. Mulder rode up to Danny. Caleb sat quietly in front of him.

"Who do you have there Mulder?" Danny asked.

"Me," Caleb said.

"I see that. You're a big boy now," Danny said, reaching to tickle him. Caleb giggled and moved back closer to Mulder. "I can't believe Dana let you bring him."

"She didn't want me to."

"She going to be mad at you then?"

"Probably, but it isn't like she isn't already mad at me anyway."

"Diana?"

Mulder nodded. "So, I might as well have her mad at me all at one time. Are you all ready to head the cattle back to camp?"

"We were just about to. We figure that everyone has eaten by now. You sure you want to help with him along?"

"We'll be fine. We'll just stay in the back."

"All right, see you in a little while." Danny kicked his horse and took off towards another rider.

"You having fun Caleb?" Mulder asked. Caleb nodded and reached to pet Mulder's horse. "Good. You can help Papa round up the livestock." Mulder guided his horse to the back as the other men began rounding up the animals.


When Caleb and Mulder arrived back at camp in the dark, the men were finishing with the animals. Jimmy had beat Mulder back to their wagon, so Mulder handed Caleb down to him.

"Have fun Caleb?" Jimmy asked.

"Yes," Caleb said, his eyes drooping.

"Tired him out did you?" he asked Mulder.

"Too much excitement," he said, taking Caleb from him and handing the reins of his horse to Jimmy. "Is she in the wagon?" Jimmy nodded. "Okay, take care of my horse." Mulder carried Caleb to their wagon and hoisted him up. When they entered the wagon, Caleb and Mulder found Dana with Samantha in her lap, brushing her hair.

Samantha looked up and said, "Papa." She tried to go to Mulder, but Dana held her in place.

"Oh no you don't. Not until I'm finished."

"Dana, you can do that in a minute, let her go."

"She's my daughter and I say that she needs to learn to be patient and wait until I'm finished."

Mulder hesitated before saying, "Okay, I guess I deserved that."

Caleb walked over to his mother and said, "I ride, Mama."

Dana smiled at her son and said, "You had fun?" Caleb nodded. "I'm glad." She reached over and pulled him into a hug, kissing his head. "Go have Papa get you ready for bed."

As Caleb was walking back to Mulder, he lost his footing when the wagon rocked from the wind that had been increasing. "Oops," Caleb said.

Mulder walked over to help him up. "Oops is right. That wind is really beginning to pick up. Where are his clothes?" Dana pointed and he picked them up and began to change Caleb. "Still mad at me?"

"No, not really," Dana said. "There," she said to Samantha. "Finished." Samantha got up and went to get her gown. "Need help?" Samantha nodded and Dana began to change her as Mulder was finishing with Caleb.

"Climb in Caleb." Mulder covered him up as the wagon rocked again. "I think it's going to be like that all night. I doubt we'll get much sleep." Samantha came over to him and he helped cover her too. He bent down to kiss them both and said, "Okay, sleep now." They nodded and he turned back to Dana, "You ready to turn out the light?"

"Yes, I'm ready," she said, gathering her gown.

When they had both settled under the covers, Mulder asked her, "You sure you're not mad?"

Dana rolled towards him. "I'm not. Sharon made me realize that I have to start letting you make decisions about Caleb too."

"Still mad about Diana?" Dana didn't answer and he said, "You are."

"I'm sorry, I just can't like her. I believe she would be happier if I wasn't here."

"I don't know what I can say to make you believe that isn't true. She's happy for me. I don't know why you won't believe that."

"Fine William," she said, rolling away from him. "Believe what you want."

Mulder huffed and rolled on his side, away from her. The air in the wagon was chilly from more than just the cold temperatures outside that night.


July 8, 1852
Thursday

"Where have you been?" Dana asked Jimmy when he returned to their camp that evening.

"He's been seeing the young widow," Danny said before Jimmy could answer.

"Who?" asked Dana.

"You know, Catherine Tanner. The woman who lost her husband on the river about a month back."

"Oh yes, I remember." Dana looked over to Jimmy and asked, "So you're seeing her?"

"Yes," said Jimmy.

"Are you two serious?"

"No, not yet."

"You need to bring her by. Maybe ask her to dinner one evening."

Jimmy smiled at her. "Thank you, Dana, I'll do that." Danny got up and put a few more buffalo chips on the fire to keep the meal warm. "Where's Mulder? Has he eaten yet?"

Dana shook her head. "He's on the first watch."

"I'll take the food to Mulder if you want me to."

"Thank you. I'm sure he would appreciate it."

Mulder and Dana had finally begun to get back to normal after the Fourth. Dana had vowed to herself to ignore Diana and Mulder's friendship since he was determined to have it. She realized that there was no reasoning with him.


July 9, 1852
Friday

When Dana woke up the next morning, she saw that Mulder still hadn't returned. She dressed the children and herself before finding him sitting by the fire.

"I'll have breakfast for us soon," she said to him. "Did you sleep?"

He shook his head. "No, I was called to the Baxter wagon to help."

She came up to him and ran her hand through his hair. He leaned into her as he closed his eyes, enjoying the soothing feeling. "Why?"

"There was an incident there."

"An incident? What does that mean?"

"Jacob Nelson is dead. You remember, the driver I hired. He was stabbed in his sleep last night. Mrs. Baxter and her young son are also missing. We've been out looking for them. I plan to go back and help as soon as I get something to eat."

She went to their supply wagon to get food for them. As she prepared the bacon and bread, Mulder sat, silently watching her.

"How old is her son?" Dana asked.

"About Samantha's age."

"Do they think someone took them after they killed Mr. Nelson?"

"Diana said Sarah's become more emotional this week. She's still very upset about losing her husband. She said that last night; Sarah cried and then went very silent, rocking Randolph. That's the boy."

"Are you saying that Sarah did this?"

"Possibly."

"When did Diana notice them missing?"

"Around three this morning. She woke up and found Nelson dead. She couldn't find Sarah or the boy. If we don't find them today, I don't think they'll survive another night if it's as cold as it was last night. Diana said neither one of them has a coat with them."

When Mulder had finished eating, he jumped on his horse and took off. Dana was surprised to find him back at camp two hours later.

When she saw his expression, she asked, "What's wrong? Have they found them?"

Mulder nodded and dropped down by the fire. "They're not alive."

"Neither? What happened?"

"I don't think it's something I want to describe to you."

"Was it an accident?"

"No." He looked up at her before looking back down. "She had a knife with her. It looks like she was the one who killed Nelson too."

"Oh. When will they be burying them?"

"Reverend Byers will hold a service around two. We're going to stay here until tomorrow. I don't think anyone is in the mood to go on today. I just came back here to clean up. I need to go back and help."

"Can you at least see your children? They haven't seen you since early yesterday."

Mulder looked up at her, remorseful. "I'm sorry, of course. Where are they?"

"Sharon's girls came to get them this morning after you left."

"I'll go over there then after I wash up." As an afterthought, he asked, "Do you need me for anything?"

"No, I'll get you something to clean up with. Stay where you are and rest."

After he had cleaned up, Mulder headed for the Skinner wagon, leaving Dana alone, yet again.


Most of the company joined Reverend Byers for the funeral service. Jimmy and Danny stood behind Dana, who held Caleb. Samantha stood next to her, holding onto Dana's skirts. Looking over to the family, Dana saw Mulder standing beside Diana, her nieces standing on her other side. As the Reverend read, Diana broke down, crying. Mulder put his arm around her and she leaned into him. He bent down and whispered something to her. Dana saw her nod and lean even more into him.

Dana looked away and kissed her son, rocking him. She was thankful that he was tired. He had been fussy earlier, but seemed to sense the solemn occasion and was cooperating.

Danny leaned into her and whispered, "Dana, do you want me to take him?"

She shook her head. "He's fine."

When the services were over, people began walking away quietly. Dana watched Mulder walk with Diana. He passed by her and didn't even acknowledge her or the children.

A young woman walked up to them and smiled at Jimmy. To Dana, she said, "Mrs. Mulder, I'm Catherine Tanner. Please call me Katie though."

"Oh, it's nice to meet you. Jimmy has told me a lot about you."

Katie blushed and looked up at Jimmy. "Thank you. It's nice to meet you too."

"Dana, do you think Katie could eat with us tonight?" Jimmy asked.

Dana smiled at Katie. "Of course, we could use the company. Jimmy can come and get you when we're ready," she told Katie. "Did he tell you he could cook?"

"Yes, he's very good too."

"Yes he is. Well, good afternoon Mrs. Tanner. I'll see you this evening."

Dana grabbed Samantha's hand and walked away, leaving Danny and Jimmy to talk with the young widow.

Instead of going back to her own wagon, Dana decided to visit Sharon. As she walked in that direction, she passed the Baxter wagon. She saw Mulder sitting next to Diana, who was enfolded in his arms crying. The two girls sat by themselves quietly. Samantha saw her father and began to pull in that direction. "Papa," she cried.

"Samantha shh, he's busy. You come with me."

"No, I want to go to Papa."

Mulder looked up when he heard her calling him. Samantha pulled free and Dana called to her, but it was too late. She was already heading for her father. Caleb struggled in Dana's arms to follow her and Dana had to put him down for fear of dropping him. He took off in the same direction.

When Samantha reached him, she tried to crawl into his lap, but Diana was in her way. Dana was sure she would back away so that Samantha could go to him, but she didn't move. She just kept crying and holding on. Caleb had caught up and tried to join his sister, which made matters worse.

"Diana," Mulder said as Dana reached him. "The children."

"I'm sorry, they broke free when they saw you," Dana explained.

"It's all right," Mulder said.

Diana leaned back, allowing the children access to Mulder. She looked up and said, "Oh, Dana. Hello."

"I'm sorry about your family. If you need anything, let me know."

Diana nodded and moved to her nieces. Mulder bent down, kissed both children, and then asked, "How come you're not at our wagon."

"I'm going to see Sharon. Her baby could come any day and I wanted to see if I could do anything to help." Dana reached down and grabbed both of the children's hands. "Come on, Papa is busy now," she said to the children. "Will you come back to our wagon later? Jimmy has asked his girl to supper."

Mulder looked over to Diana and shook his head. "I don't think I can leave her in this condition."

Dana nodded and pulled the children away. She glanced back and saw Diana return to his arms.

When Dana reached the Skinner wagon, she found Walter outside. "Hello, Walter."

"Dana," he said. He bent down and said to the children, "Come to Uncle Walter." The children ran into his arms and he picked them up. "Oh, you're both getting so big." They giggled and when he put them down, they went off in search of his daughters.

"How are you Dana?"

"I'm fine, and yourself?"

"Good. Good."

"I was coming to see if Sharon needed anything."

"She's at the back of the wagon. I'm sure she'll be happy to see you." Skinner put his arm around her as they walked to the back. "How are you doing? Is everything going all right with you and Fox?"

"As well as can be expected, I guess. He's with Diana right now."

"Really. Still?"

"She couldn't tear herself away from his arms." Dana looked up, ashamed. "I'm sorry, that's not fair. She's in a difficult situation. Now, she doesn't have a man with her wagon."

"Diana's strong from what I've seen. I think she'll be fine."

"Especially since she'll have my husband's full attention."

"Who has his attention?" Sharon asked as they came around to the back of Skinner's wagon.

Dana smiled. "Doesn't matter. I just wanted to see if I could do anything for you."

Sharon rubbed her belly and said, "No, Walter is good to me. He takes care of everything for me."

Dana nodded and said, "He's a good husband."

"You have a good husband too," Sharon said.

"When I see him."

"Are things not going well with you?"

"He's with Diana right now," Skinner said as he went looking for the children, who had wandered off.

"Oh. Well I'm sure he's just being a good friend," Sharon reassured her.

"I'm sure," Dana said. She shook her head and smiled. "How are your children?"

Sharon nodded and patted the ground beside her for Dana to sit. "They're fine. Victor has been riding with his father and Matthew has been helping me. The girls of course love your children. And Francis, well Francis stays pretty close to me."

"You have wonderful children Sharon. I just hope all of my children turn out as well."

"They will. Dana, you do promise to be there when this one arrives, right?"

"Of course, I wouldn't miss it. How is Walter handling it?"

"The longer it goes, the more nervous he gets. How about you? Any chance you might have another one?" Dana smiled shyly and looked away. "What? Are you?"

"I don't know. I can't be sure, it's too early."

"But it's possible?"

She smiled openly. "It's possible."

"Have you said anything to Fox?"

Dana looked down and shook her head. "I won't say anything until I'm sure." She looked up quickly. "Please don't say anything to anyone else, not even Walter."

Sharon looked at her puzzled. "All right, I won't say anything if you don't want me to."

Breathing a sigh of relief, she said, "Thank you. Are you sure I can't do anything for you?"

"No, I'm fine. Just be there when I really need you."

"I will." Dana stood. "I have to go get the children now. Jimmy is having company tonight."

"Oh? Who?"

"The Tanner widow."

"Really? Do you think there's a future there?"

"Maybe. He seems smitten."

"That's good."

Dana bent down and kissed Sharon lightly on the cheek. "Good-bye Sharon."


"Thank you for the meal Mrs. Mulder," Katie Tanner said.

"You're welcome. It's nice to have someone else eat with us," Dana said. "Are your parents back home?"

"Yes. My husband and I lived in Ohio. He and his family decided to come west, so here I am."

"Do you get along with your in-laws?"

"Yes. They've been very good to me."

"That's good," Dana said.

"How about you?"

"Me?"

"Did you get along with your in-laws? I mean I heard stories about how hard it is for the wife sometimes, but I think I was fortunate."

Dana shrugged her shoulders. "I've never met mine."

"Really? Are they not living?"

"No. There just wasn't time to meet them."

"Are you ready to go back Katie?" Jimmy asked.

"Yes," she said, standing and linking her arm with Jimmy. "Thank you again Mrs. Mulder."

"You're welcome. Good-night."

Dana walked around, picking up their plates. She rinsed them off along with their cups. "Danny, I'm going to bed. If William comes back, tell him so, will you?"

"All right Dana."

Dana climbed into the wagon, being careful to step over the children. She leaned down and kissed them both.

After changing, she lay under her covers. She had almost fallen asleep when she heard Mulder climb in. She remained quiet and listened to him remove his boots and lie down. He lifted the covers and crawled in beside her. Leaning over, he kissed her on the cheek and pulled her against him. "Sorry I didn't come sooner. Diana was still having a rough time." He felt her nod. "You okay?"

"Yes. I'm just tired."

He settled his chin on the top of her head and stroked her hair. "Danny said the widow Tanner came over tonight. Was she nice?"

"Yes, I think Jimmy likes her very much."

"Good. Do you think they might marry?"

"I don't know."

"If they do, they should wait until we get to Oregon."

"Why?"

"You never know what will happen on the trail," Mulder explained. "Look what happened to Diana's family. She's lost her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew."

"I still don't understand why Mrs. Baxter did that. I can't even begin to understand how she could kill her child."

"I'm sure she wasn't thinking clearly. She couldn't have been sane."

Dana nodded. She felt a need to change the subject. "Are we really leaving tomorrow?"

"Yes." Mulder ran his hand down her back. "Dana, I told Diana I would help her with her wagon." He felt her stiffen, but continued, "She needs help with the team. She can't drive it herself. I feel responsible, she's my friend."

"There isn't anyone else? Maybe one of the boys could help out and you could drive one of our teams."

"No, Diana trusts me."

Dana leaned over him, on an elbow. "So what, you're going to drive her team all the way to Oregon?"

"Of course not," he said, pulling her back down. "I'll arrange something soon. It may just take some time."

"Fine William," she said. "Go to her." Dana moved as far away from him as she could. "In fact, why don't you just go to her now? I'm sure that's what she wants."

Mulder reached over and put his hand on her back, trying to placate her. "Don't talk silly."

"Take your hand off of me."

"What? Dana, I have every right to touch you."

"Please, take your hand off of me."

"All right. Fine," he said, pulling his boots back on. "I'll leave; it's obvious you don't want me here."

Dana felt the tears begin to roll down her face. She tried to contain her sobs, but they escaped anyway.

"Shit," Mulder said. "Dana, I'm sorry. Please, don't be angry with me. I'm doing the best I can. She's my friend." Mulder covered her body with his, wrapping his arms around her, and pulling her close to him. "I'm sorry," he whispered in her ear. "I didn't mean to make you cry." He nuzzled the back of her neck and then rolled her onto her back and wiped the tears from her face. "Please don't cry."

"You're going to leave me, aren't you?"

"What? Of course not."

"You are," Dana asserted. "Diana wants you and you want her."

"I don't. I want you, not her."

"Then why do you keep leaving me?"

"What do you mean?"

"You only stay here at night half of the time."

"That's because I have to be on watch," he explained. "You know that."

"Not the whole night. Sometimes, I think you don't want to be around me."

Mulder shook his head. "Nothing could be farther from the truth. I care about you."

"Promise me something then."

"What?"

"You'll stay with me at night. Not with her."

"Dana, you have nothing to worry about."

"If you say so."

"I do say so, because it's the truth." Mulder leaned down, kissed her, and curled up against her back again.


Chapter 11

July 11, 1852
Sunday

Krycek rode up to the Mulder wagons around two that afternoon. He tied his horse to the back of their lead wagon. Dana observed Krycek talk to Jimmy as she walked alongside their second wagon with Danny. She saw Jimmy nod, hand the reins to Krycek, and run off. Krycek looked back at her and smiled, motioning for her to come up with him.

She joined him as he walked with their first wagon. "What did you say to him?" she asked.

"Just told him his sweetheart was asking for him."

"So, you're willing to drive our team? That's generous."

Krycek cocked his head and said, "No, I thought I would show you how to drive the team...from up there."

"You're joking." She saw that he wasn't and shook her head. "No. My husband would never approve of it."

"How do you know? Besides, he's not here, is he? He's helping his friend instead."

"I don't think I should."

"Well, look at it this way. If Diana had learned how to do this, she wouldn't have any need for your husband to help her, would she?"

Dana stared at him for a moment and then said, "All right, stop them. I'll climb up."

Krycek halted the team, helped her up, and then followed her. "Here, take the reins and the crop."

Dana was driving the team in no time and she smiled at Krycek. "This is fun," she said.

"Mama," Samantha said from behind her, "Wow."

"Thanks," she said.

"Told you that you could do it," Krycek said.

"I feel like I have so much power."

"Well, if you'll stop the team, I'll get back to my job and let you take over."

Dana looked at him, worried. "No, I don't think I could do this by myself."

"You'll be fine."

Dana pulled up on the reins to stop the team and Krycek jumped down. He saluted her and headed off on his horse.

The children leaned against the seat behind her and watched her drive the team. When they stopped later, Jimmy returned, surprised to find Dana controlling the team instead of Krycek.

"Where did Krycek go?"

Dana jumped down from the wagon. "He's been gone for some time."

"How long have you been driving the team?"

"For a while," she said.

Danny came up then, saying, "You should have seen her. She's amazing."

"Thank you," Dana said, smiling shyly at the compliment. "But maybe we shouldn't tell William."

"Why not?" Danny asked. "I'm sure he'd be proud of you."

"No, I don't think so. Just don't say anything, please."

"All right Dana," Jimmy said. "I don't understand it, but I'll do it."

"That goes for you two also. You're not to tell Papa. All right?" Dana asked Caleb and Samantha. They both nodded and Dana let out her breath.


July 17, 1852
Saturday

They had traveled all day in the Bear Valley. There was good grass and in the summits there were many groves of fir, creating a beautiful view. They halted next to a stream with clear, cold water. While Jimmy and Danny were settling the team, Dana looked up to find Mulder driving Diana's wagon up to theirs.

He stopped the team behind their wagons and helped Diana down. Diana walked with Mulder, her hand on his arm, to Dana.

"Dana, I've decided to move Diana's wagon with ours."

"Really," she said, looking pointedly at Diana's hand.

Mulder looked down as though he had only just noticed Diana touching him and removed her hand. "She's willing to help cook and I thought it might be easier on you if you had extra help."

"I don't need help."

Mulder moved towards her and put his hand around her waist, leading her away. "Please, just do this for me."

"I thought you were going to find someone to help her."

"That's turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. Everyone has their own to worry about."

"This is not fair."

"I'm sorry. I know this will be hard on you. Please, do it for me." He ran the back of his finger along her jaw. "Besides, now I'll be closer to you all."

Dana put her arms around him and he did likewise. "All right. Can we walk?" she asked, looking over her shoulder to see Diana watching them.

"Sure, come on."

As they walked, she said, "Tell me about the girls."

"Eliza is seven and very quiet. Her sister is Fanny. She's a couple of years older and reminds me of Diana when she was younger."

"How so?"

Mulder smiled and said, "She's a little bossy. Have you talked to Skinner today?"

"No. Why?"

"He said Sharon will probably need you tonight."

Dana stopped and headed back to camp. "I need to go to her now."

Mulder ran after her and grabbed her. "Wait. Wait. He said tonight, not now."

"But you don't understand, I promised I would be there."

"And you will. Just relax, there's time. Besides, Skinner will come and get you if she needs you sooner."

Dana looked back to the camp longingly, but nodded. "Are you hungry?"

"Famished."

"I'll fix dinner, but then I'm going to go to her wagon."

Mulder chuckled. "All right. Diana can watch the children and we'll both go." Dana began to object but he said, "They'll be fine. Besides, Danny or Jimmy will be around until I get back."


When Dana and Mulder arrived at the Skinner wagon, Walter was pacing outside. He looked up, surprised to see them. "I didn't think you were coming this soon."

"Dana couldn't wait," Mulder explained. "How's she doing?"

Skinner shook his head and said, "I've never seen her in this much pain. She says she's all right, but I don't think she is."

"I'll go inside," Dana said. She climbed in, leaving the men behind. Sharon's daughter Louisa was wiping her mother's forehead with a rag. Sharon smiled when she saw Dana and reached a hand towards her. She moved to her and placed her hand in Sharon's.

"Dana, thank you for coming."

"I told you I would be here. How long do you think it will be?"

"Not long. I think before the night is over. Dana, could you send for Mrs. Donovan? I think I need her now."

Dana nodded. "I heard she's the best mid-wife. She'll see your baby into this world." She squeezed her hand reassuringly. "I'll be right back."

Dana leaned out of the wagon and called to Mulder. He trotted over to her and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. She's asking for Mrs. Donovan. Do you know where her wagon is?"

"I think so. She wants her to come now?"

"Yes, Sharon doesn't think it will be long."

"All right, I'll go now." He turned and began running in search of her.

"Dana," Walter called.

"Yes?"

"She is going to be fine, right?"

"I'm sure she will be. She seems to be in good spirits. Have Mrs. Donovan come in as soon as she gets here," Dana said before disappearing back in the wagon.


Shortly before midnight, Mulder and Skinner heard a baby cry. They had been listening to Sharon cry out and Mulder had to restrain Skinner several times from rushing in.

"Did you hear that?" Skinner asked.

Mulder nodded. "Congratulations."

Skinner began to climb into the wagon when Dana stopped him. "You can't go in yet."

"What do you mean?" Skinner asked.

"Mrs. Donovan is still cleaning her up."

"But I want to see her."

"In a moment." Dana turned to Mulder and handed him a bucket. "Can you throw this out and get me some of the water that's over the fire?"

He took it, glad to have a task. He quickly returned and handed it back up to her, finding that Skinner had climbed back down.

"Walter, I promise, you'll get to see her and your daughter soon," Dana said, taking the bucket from Mulder.

"A girl?" he asked.

"Yes and she's beautiful. I'll be back as soon as you can come in." Dana backed into the wagon.

"Well, congratulations," Mulder said. "A girl. Does that make you happy?"

Skinner smiled broadly. "I don't care, as long as Sharon and the baby are both all right."

"Come and sit down while we wait," Mulder said as he sat near the fire.

Skinner joined him and said, "I should have waited until the baby was born before I brought her. We could have waited another year."

Mulder shook his head. "You can't second guess yourself. Besides, Dana said they were both fine."

"You're lucky Dana won't have to worry about it on the trail."

"No, but it's possible we won't have anyone to help us later. At least here, there are plenty of people who could help."

"I hope we'll be close by."

"Me too, but you never know." Mulder reached over and stirred the embers of the fire. He looked back to Skinner. "I've made Dana promise to let me be there though, no matter what."

"Why would you...oh, because of Penny?"

Mulder nodded. "I can't lose her too."

"She's strong. She'll be fine."

"She told me her first went well."

"Well there you go, that's good news."

"Walter," they heard Dana call. They both jumped to their feet and Skinner was at the wagon in seconds. "You can come in now."

He climbed up before Dana could come down. He disappeared and Dana asked Mulder, "Help me down?" He reached up and lifted her down. "He's eager."

Mulder laughed. "Thrilled."

"Walk me back?"

"What about Mrs. Donovan?"

"Sharon said that Victor could walk her back."

They walked quietly through the camp. Everyone had long settled down for the night and when they approached their wagon, the fire had died down. Dog came up to them and after satisfying his curiosity, lay back down.

"I'm exhausted," Dana said as she reached up to get a grip on the wagon to lift herself.

He placed his hands on her waist and helped her up. "I imagine you are."

She climbed in ahead of him and crawled onto the blankets. She took off her shoes and next to her, Mulder did the same.

"I'm just going to cover up and sleep."

"Good idea," he agreed, as he settled next to her.


July 19, 1852
Monday

It seemed as if they had entered another world. They passed some lava fields, containing cones and craters, which fascinated most parties in the company. Shortly before noon, they arrived near Soda Springs.

They discovered that there were cold and hot springs. Mulder was awestruck by this country. When they rested at noon, he joined his family at the back of their lead wagon.

"Can you believe the sights?" he asked Dana, who was handing out the food and cold coffee to everyone.

"It's strange here. I've never seen anything like it," she said.

He took the food and coffee from her and said, "I thought we'd go see some of the springs. They say you can add sugar to the water at Soda Springs and it tastes great. There's also one that's supposed to taste a little like beer."

"I don't think we should go to that one," Dana protested.

Mulder laughed and said, "Okay. There's also one called Steamboat Springs. It's supposed to sound like a steamboat whistle."

"Oh, the children would love that."

"Finish eating and we'll go soon. We're going to move on in several hours. I'm going to see if Skinner wants to go with his children."

Dana smiled and said, "We'll be ready."


Mulder returned with the Skinner children. "Walter isn't coming?" Dana asked.

"No, he wanted to spend time with Sharon and the baby. He thanked us for giving them this opportunity."

"So are we ready to go?"

"I just want to get Diana and the children."

"Humph."

Mulder threw out his arms. "Dana, I couldn't not ask them."

"Fine, go get them." She bent to pick up Caleb. "We're going to go on. You catch up when you can. Come on Victor," she said, "please help me with the children."

He nodded and began herding the children. "Come on, let's go," Victor said.

"Dana," Mulder called.

"Samantha, let's go," Dana said, grabbing her hand. "Louisa, would you carry this bag. We have a surprise for you."

"Okay Mrs. Mulder," she said as they walked away.

"We'll be right there," Mulder called.


Victor helped them cross the small stream that seemed to surround the hill that they would have to climb to get to one of the springs. There were other families who had the same idea as they did. The white mound looked to be about fifteen to twenty feet high and it took them little time to climb it. When they reached the top, Dana looked down and saw Mulder helping Diana and her nieces cross the same stream. Diana held on to Mulder's arm as they began to climb.

Mulder waved to her but she turned away and said, "Louisa, hand me the bag."

Samantha pulled on Dana's skirts. "Mama, what is it?"

Dana reached into the bag and pulled out some cups. "In a minute," she said. "Victor and Louisa, go fill the cups with water. Matthew, you can help. Just be careful of your footing." There were other people filling their cups and the children went to join them. As the children took off, Mulder and Diana came up to them. Dana noticed that Diana was no longer clinging to his arm.

"This is something," he said, "don't you think?"

Diana answered before Dana could and said, "I agree."

Dana turned away without answering and said to Samantha, who was still clinging to her, pulling on her skirts. "In a minute Samantha. You'll see. Be patient."

The children came back, carefully bringing the cups. "Look," Victor said, "there are bubbles."

Dana smiled at him. "Hold them still, I'm going to add some sugar." She poured some in each cup and stirred it. "Hand me one of the cups. Let it cool for a bit, then make sure all of the children, including Eliza and Fanny get some." Victor nodded and the children gathered around him. After their cup had cooled, Dana bent down and said, "All right Samantha, here you go, take a sip." Dana helped her hold the cup and when she took a sip, Samantha squealed. Dana laughed.

"Papa, try it," Samantha said.

Mulder moved over to her. "Maybe in a little bit. Do you like it?"

Samantha nodded her head. "Can I have some more?"

"Let Caleb have some first. Caleb," Mulder said. "Come here. Dana, hand me the cup."

When Caleb took a sip, he giggled and stomped his feet. Mulder laughed and looked up to find Dana laughing too.

"Here Mama," Mulder said to Dana, "Your turn."

Dana shook her head and said, "You first."

Victor ran up as Mulder was drinking and asked, "Can we get more?"

"Sure," Dana said and the children took off again.

"Papa, more," Caleb said.

"Mama's turn first. It's good Dana. Try it," Mulder said.

Dana took the cup from him and agreed, "Yes, it is good."

"Diana," he said. "Do you want to try some?" She shook her head. "I'll go get some more water then."

The children ran back to Dana and she again put sugar in the water. "This is the last time. Enjoy it."

"You're so lucky, do you know that?" Diana asked when the children had moved away.

"What?"

"If I had known that he would have married again, I would have come back home. I thought he would never marry again after Penny." They both looked over at him as he knelt down to get more water. "If I had been there, you never would have stood a chance."

Narrowing her eyes, Dana said, "And you don't stand one now."

Turning away from her, Dana was stopped when Diana said, "Maybe."

Dana turned back and was about to say more when Mulder walked up to them. "Here you go," he said smiling at her. "Put some more sugar in." She reached into her bag and sprinkled some in.

"I don't want any more," she said as Diana moved over to her nieces. "You share it with the children."

"You sure? It's good."

"No thanks," she said, looking over at Diana. "Are we going to see the other spring too, the steamboat one?"

He gave the cup to Samantha. "Share with Caleb, Samantha." She nodded and he watched them to make sure she did just that. "It's not supposed to be far from here. Finish up," he called to the children. "We're about ready to go."

When the children were finished, they came back to Dana to give her the cups. "Did you enjoy that?" She asked them.

"Yes," they yelled.

"Okay, we're ready to move on," she said.

Mulder bent down and lifted Caleb to his shoulders. "Papa," Samantha said. "I want up too."

"Let's see if Victor will carry you. Would that be all right?"

She nodded and he called Victor over to them. "Victor, could you carry Samantha?"

"Sure," he said, bending down to tickle her, causing Samantha to squeal with delight.

"Fox," Diana said. "I can carry her."

"No," Samantha said, "I want Victor."

"Sorry Mrs. Tipton. Matthew," Victor called, "lift Samantha onto my back." When she was settled, they took off down the hill. Dana moved to follow, but Mulder held her back, instead, letting all of the children and Diana move ahead of them.

When they didn't follow, Diana turned and asked, "Are you coming?"

Mulder nodded. "We'll be there in a minute." When she turned away, he said to Dana, "Are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad."

"Could have fooled me," he said.

"Move Papa," Caleb commanded.

"Soon, Caleb," he said, swinging Caleb's feet, attempting to distract him.

"I'm not mad," she said, smiling and reaching up to pat Caleb's leg. She looked back at Mulder. "It just seems that when we're not traveling, she's always there. We don't have any time alone."

"I can't be rude to her."

"I'm not asking you to, but we need time for our family."

"Come on, let's head on down," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder.

When they reached the bottom, the rest were waiting on the other side of the stream. "Here, hold on to my hand," he said as they crossed. When they reached the other side, he said, "Let's go."

The children rushed ahead of the adults, but Diana chose to stay with Mulder and Dana, much to Dana's dismay. Dana walked on Mulder's right side and Diana moved to walk on his left.

Diana reached up and rubbed Caleb's leg.

"Don't," Caleb said, pushing her hand away and frowning.

"Caleb, you're so tall," Diana said, trying to win him over.

Caleb shook his head. "Papa's tall."

"Well I guess you're right," she said, smiling at Mulder. "He is tall."

"Humph," Mulder said.

"Caleb, do you remember your real Papa?"

"Papa," Caleb said, patting Mulder's head.

Dana moved towards her, but Mulder stopped her. He said, "Diana, don't confuse him."

"I was just wondering if he could remember his real father."

"What does that matter?" Mulder asked.

"Dana, you mean you don't care if he remembers his real father or not?"

"I don't see that it's any business of yours," Dana said, holding her arms up towards her son. "William, hand me Caleb please."

"No, he's fine. You're okay up there, aren't you buddy?"

"Yeah," Caleb agreed.

Dana lowered her arms and said, "Fine."

They walked on in silence and Mulder put his hand on Dana's waist. They observed that the springs were of varying color, some white, some red and some even black.

"We're here." Mulder lifted Caleb off of his shoulders, brought him down, and settled him on his hip. "Listen Caleb."

Mulder moved toward the children and Caleb said, "What's that?"

"Hear that sound?" Mulder asked. He pointed to the bubbling water where the sound was coming from. "That's what a steamboat whistle sounds like."

"What's that?" he asked.

"Remember when we rode the big boat on that big river?" Caleb nodded. "It sounds like those boats, remember?" Caleb shook his head and Mulder laughed. "That's okay. Just listen." After a moment, Mulder said, "You want to go with the other kids?" Caleb nodded and Mulder set him down. "Matthew," he called, "Watch Caleb." When Mulder was satisfied that he was in good hands, he turned back to the women.

Dana looked at him angrily and then began to walk by him towards her children, but Mulder grabbed her arm. "Let me go," she said.

"Wait."

"No," Dana said. "That was cruel. I don't care if she is your friend."

Diana stepped closer and said, "Dana, I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything. I'm sorry if I upset you or Caleb."

"I've told you I think of him as my son," Mulder said, still holding on to Dana, holding her eyes with a steady look.

"I just wondered if my nieces could ever begin thinking of me as their mother, since it seems I'm going to raise them," Diana explained.

"He's just a little boy," Dana said to Diana. "He couldn't possibly understand that reasoning, not that I believe it." She looked back at Mulder and said, "Please let go of me."

Mulder released her and she moved to the children. "I'm sorry Fox," Diana said.

"You shouldn't have said anything Diana."

"Thinking back, I see you're right."

"You can't make friends with her like that."

"I don't think there is even a possibility we will be friends."

"Maybe," Mulder said. "I just wished..."

Diana grabbed his hand, squeezing it. "I know."

Mulder pulled his hand away and said, "I need to go to the children."

"Fox, I rely on you. This won't affect our friendship will it?"

He hesitated, but then said, "No, I'll still be there for you."

Diana watched Mulder join his family and moved to follow, looking for her nieces.


Chapter 12

July 22, 1849
Sunday

"Where are you going?" Mulder asked, stretching and scratching his side as he came around the side of the wagon early that morning.

Dana bent down to straighten Samantha's dress. "The Reverend is holding a service this morning down by the river. He thinks it's shameful that we haven't had a service for a couple of weeks. Caleb, stand still," she said as she made sure he was presentable. "And I agree with him.

"So, you were just going to sneak away and not tell me?"

"You were sleeping."

"You weren't expecting me to come?"

Dana looked up hopefully. "You'll come?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nope."

Dana shook her head. "All right then, if you're sure, I'm going to go on." She bent down, lifted Caleb into her arms, and then reached down for Samantha's hand.

"Who else is going?" Mulder asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Did you ask Diana to go?" he asked as he pulled his suspenders over his shoulders.

"Everyone is invited to attend."

"Yes, but is she going?"

"I have no idea."

"Well, I think it would be nice if you go together."

Dana shook her head, "I don't think so."

Mulder tisked and said, "That's not being a good Christian."

"You're one to talk. You take her if you're so interested in seeing her go."

"Dana, I just meant that it would be..."

"I have to go," she said, turning and stalking off.


Dana stood next to Walter Skinner and his family. Sharon was resting in their wagon, still recovering from the birth of their child. Walter had confided that they were worried because the baby seemed so weak.

The service had already started when Dana noticed movement to her side. She was surprised to see Mulder, Diana, and her nieces join the service. She observed that others had noticed Mulder with Diana and they gave Dana curious looks. She felt her face flame with embarrassment.

Near the close of the service, Dana noted that while others were singing, Mulder was not. He seemed to be very uncomfortable and when he looked up and caught her eye, she looked back down, smoothing Samantha's hair as she sang. Samantha looked up at her and Dana smiled. Samantha smiled back and leaned against the front of Dana's legs.

When the service was over, Dana turned to Skinner, laying her hand on his arm. "Walter, I thought I could come to your camp and cook for your family and mine today. Since we have antelope meat from what the men killed yesterday, I thought we could have a good meal."

Skinner patted her hand and said, "Thank you. We'd appreciate that."

"I'll be over before noon."

Dana looked over at Mulder, who was following Diana to the Reverend. Mulder bent down to say something to Diana, who looked in her direction. She nodded and Mulder moved towards Dana.

She quickly picked Caleb up and grabbed Samantha's hand. "Come on Samantha." She pulled the little girl away from the people. "Excuse me," Dana said, trying desperately to go in the opposite direction of Mulder.

"Dana," she heard him calling behind her, but she continued moving forward, ignoring him. "Dana stop."

She ran into Mr. Zimmerman, an elderly gentleman who still had a slight German accent. "I'm sorry," she said after almost knocking him down.

Mr. Zimmerman righted himself. "That's all right. In a hurry are you?" he asked, looking in Mulder's direction.

"Yes," she said, "I'm sorry sir, but I need to go."

Dana took off again, but Samantha pulled on her, saying "Papa." Dana let go of her hand and looked back, seeing her run to Mulder. Knowing that she was safe, she hurried her pace again.

It wasn't long before Mulder caught up with her, Samantha in his arms. He put his hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off and stopped to face him. "Don't touch me," she said. She raised her hand to stop him moving closer. "Just...don't. I can't talk to you right now. It's Sunday and I don't like the thoughts that are running through my head."

"She talked me into going."

"That's great. She talked you into going. Yet when I asked you, you refused to go. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was for me?"

"Why would it be?"

"Didn't you notice how people were looking at us?"

"Honestly no. Why would they be?"

"Because, they asked me if you were coming and I told them no, my husband wouldn't come. Yet, you show up minutes later, at the side of an old flame. Or maybe she isn't so old."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"You know what? I don't want to talk to you anymore. I have to prepare a meal at the Skinner's camp. I told Walter I would help out."

"All right, I'll watch the children until it's time to eat."

She handed Caleb to him and said, "You do that. And if you decide not to come, please make sure the children at least get to the camp."

"I'll be there," he said and Dana turned away.


Victor was sent to get Mulder, the children, and the boys when Dana had the meal prepared. She was helping Walter get Sharon out of the wagon and onto a chair when Mulder showed up with the children. She looked behind him and saw Diana and her nieces following, with Jimmy and Danny bringing up the rear.

"Damn it," Dana said.

"Dana, it's the Sabbath," Sharon said.

She looked up, ashamed. "I'm sorry." Sighing, she said, "I knew he couldn't leave that woman behind."

"Dana, what has happened?"

"Nothing. Don't worry about it." Dana bent over to tuck the blanket around Sharon. "You need to focus on your health. I hope you like what I fixed," she said, rising.

Sharon stopped her from moving away; watching Mulder help Diana spread the blanket before helping her sit down. Skinner was lifting Caleb up in the air, causing him to bubble with laughter. Samantha was saying, "My turn Uncle Walter, my turn."

"Something has happened," Sharon said.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Walter said that Fox had moved her wagon with yours." Dana looked down and nodded. "Fox," Sharon said, looking over Dana's shoulder, who startled. She didn't realize that he had come up behind her.

"Sharon, how are you feeling?" Mulder asked. Dana began to move away when she felt his hand at her waist.

"I'm doing better, thank you."

Mulder felt Dana begin to move again and tightened his grip on her waist, stilling her. "How is the baby? Have you decided on a name?"

"No, not yet. Walter wants to name her after his grandmother Priscilla."

"That's a nice name."

"I suppose," she said. "What do you think of it Dana?"

"I like it. Excuse me," she said, pulling out of his arms, "I have to finish supper."

Dana moved to the fire, removing the meat. "Dana," she heard from behind her. She straightened up and swung around, feeling her temper rise. "Could I help?" Diana asked sweetly, although Dana knew she wasn't sincere.

"No thank you, I can manage."

"Don't be silly," she said, making a move towards the food. "Let me help."

Dana stepped in between Diana and the fire. "I don't need your help."

Diana looked over to Mulder and shrugged, moving away. When she was lifting the bread off, she heard Mulder say from behind, "Why did you have to do that? She just wanted to help."

"I don't need her help, nor do I want it."

He put his hand on her arm and said, "Dana, you're being silly."

She wretched her arm away from him and hissed, "I am not being silly and I don't need either one of you to say I am."

"This is getting ridiculous. You're acting like a child."

"Do you think you can insult me any more?" she said as tears began to form in her eyes. She turned to Skinner and said, "I'm sorry Walter." Skinner looked up at Mulder, accusingly when he saw the tears begin to fall from her face. "I'm not hungry anymore. Could you make sure everyone is fed?"

Skinner nodded and Dana took off, away from the camp, letting the tears fall freely. When Mulder made a move to follow her, Skinner stepped in front of him, halting his steps. "Get out of my way," Mulder said.

"No, I think you've done enough damage."

"Get out of my way."

"I'm not letting you go upset her further."

"She's my wife."

"Yes, but she's also my friend and I feel responsible for her." Skinner leaned in and said, "Give her a break. She needs some time."

Mulder looked at Dana's retreating back and sighed. "Watch my children, I need to take a walk," he said, heading in the opposite direction of Dana.


Dana retreated to the river and sat along the shore. She threw rocks in, enjoying hearing the plunking sound. She didn't understand why Mulder kept hurting her. She couldn't think of anything she had done to deserve it.

"Penny for your thoughts," she heard a familiar voice say.

Dana smiled and looked up, squinting from the sun in her eyes. "Alex," she said, wiping the tears from her face.

He immediately looked concerned. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"It doesn't look like nothing." He sat down beside her. "You can talk to me, I'm a good listener."

Dana shook her head. "I know you mean well, but I don't think I should. It's private."

"Let me guess. This has something to do with your husband and Diana Tipton."

"How did you know?" she asked.

Alex looked away, throwing a rock in the river. "There has been some talk in the company."

"What are people saying?"

He shook his head. "You don't want to know." Alex looked into her eyes. "For what it's worth, I think your husband is a fool Dana."

"He doesn't see that he's doing anything wrong." She pulled her legs up and rested her chin on her knees. "He says he's being her friend."

"Do you think they're..."

"No," she said quickly. "I don't, really I don't."

Alex nodded, "Okay."

"But..."

"But?"

"I think she wishes that she was his wife. He was her beau when they were young."

"Hmm." Krycek threw another rock and then looked back towards her. "Can I ask a personal question?"

"I don't know."

"Do you love him?"

Before answering, Dana paused. "You know, we married very quickly. I mean, really, it was more like an arranged marriage."

"So, not a love match?" Dana shook her head. "I'm not so sure that's unusual these days."

"I think I feel more for him than he feels for me."

"I don't know. He seems to be jealous when he sees me around you."

"I'm not sure that's jealousy. I think it's more that he's possessive." Dana stood and said, "Thank you for talking with me. I feel a little better, but I think I need some time to myself. Do you mind?"

Krycek shook his head and stood as well. "Anytime you need to talk, just let me know." She turned from him and he grabbed her hand. "Really, I mean it. I want to be a friend to you." She nodded and he released her hand. He watched her walk along the river before turning away.


When Dana returned to their wagon, it was late. She had stayed out, watching the sun set and finally watching the stars shine brightly in the sky until the moon rose in the sky. The company had settled down some time ago. She was thankful that Mulder hadn't pursued her, but she was uneasy about having to talk with him again.

Dana never knew it, but Mulder sent Danny to look for and follow her until she returned. From the shadows, Danny saw her return safely to their camp and then turned back to go on watch.

Bending down, Dana called Dog to her. He crawled out from under the wagon, wagging his tail. She petted him for a moment, then said, "Good boy." She began to climb into the wagon and Dog took his position of guard under the wagon again.

The moonlight provided enough for her to see the children sleeping soundly. Mulder slept on his side, turned away from her. She quietly crawled to her space and pulled her gown out. She stripped quickly and donned it. Slipping under the covers, she held her breath. When Mulder didn't make a move to talk to her, she let out a sigh.

She had almost fallen asleep when she heard him turn over. "Are you ready to talk yet?" he asked as he leaned on an elbow, towering over her. His face was in shadow, preventing her from seeing him. "I let you have some time like you wanted. I hope you appreciate how hard that was for me." She began to sob and he said, "Oh Dana, why do I seem to make you cry lately?" He ran his hand gently over her face, wiping the tears away. "What can I do to fix this?"

"You know."

"What? Tell me."

Instead of answering him, she pulled him down for a kiss. He responded in kind and was relieved when he felt her passion increase. "Just don't leave me," she said.

"What? Why would I do that?"

Again, she didn't answer him but instead, pushed him on his back. She crawled onto him, not seeming to be able to get enough contact with him. She pulled his shirt open and kissed him on his neck. He threw his head back so that she could have more contact and threaded his hand in her hair. She ran her hands over his chest and kissed him as she moved down. She pulled his britches apart and down, freeing him. Lifting her gown up over her hips, she braced her legs on either side of him and felt him ready for her. She eased onto him and released her breath when she was settled over him.

He reached up and pulled her down for a long kiss. When he released her, he tried to pull her gown over her head, but she stopped him, shaking her head, saying, "The children." Instead, he gripped her waist and she began to move in a steady pace. He felt his breath quicken and ran his hands under her gown, cupping her breasts. He squeezed them briefly, then ran his hands over her nipples, feeling them rise.

It excited him to make love to Dana. Penny had never let him touch her as Dana did and they had never made love except with him above her. It was exciting doing new things with her.

She quickened their pace, but stilled. She whispered, "I love you," before she bent down and kissed him again. She began the pace she set again and she soon felt him peak. She lay down on top of him until she felt him get his breath, not caring to feel the same as he did this time. She moved beside him and threw her leg over his. He reached down and ran his hand along her leg. He kissed her temple and pulled her closer. They soon fell into a deep sleep.


July 29, 1852
Thursday

Dana woke in the morning, thankful that Mulder had already left. She rose, feeling her stomach turn and rushed outside the wagon, losing the little contents that were in her stomach. This was becoming a daily occurrence, although she had thrown up at other times of the day. So far, she had been able to hide it from Mulder, but she feared he might soon find out that she was expecting a baby.

She didn't want him to know yet due to the uncertainty of the trail and of their marriage. Lately, they had only briefly spoken to each other since Mulder had to be concerned with making sure that Diana's wagon was prepared to leave each day. He left his own wagons to be tended by his cousins.

Dana was disappointed that Mulder hadn't been able to find someone to drive Diana's team at Fort Hall. But then again, the fort had been a disappointment since it had been abandoned by the government and was now run by some traders. They quickly left it soon after arriving. Before long, they saw the Snake River for the first time.

Climbing back into the wagon, she woke the children and dressed them and herself. She didn't feel like eating and Jimmy gave her a curious look when she again turned her nose up at his offering.

"Dana, you need to eat."

"No, I'm okay. Maybe I'll eat something later."

Jimmy turned from her, shaking his head. She pulled Caleb into her lap as he ate and Samantha ate quietly at her side. Dog came up to her and tried to get closer to the food, but she pushed him away. "Go lie down Dog."

Mulder came up behind her and dropped down. "Have you eaten?"

"Yes," she said. Jimmy looked sharply at her, but remained silent.

"Jimmy," he said, running his hand over Caleb's head, "please bring me some coffee and food."

Jimmy handed it to him and then said, "I have to yoke up the oxen. I'm going to get Danny now. Do you need me for anything else?"

Mulder shook his head, chewing the bread. "Go ahead. I already have Diana's wagon ready to go."

"When do you think we'll reach the next fort?" Dana asked.

"Less than a month, I expect."

"I've written my sister a letter, could you send it when we get there?"

Mulder smiled and said, "Of course. Do you want to send one to your brother as well?"

Dana shook her head. "I don't know if it will do any good. Besides, I said everything I wanted to say in the other letter."

Mulder put his hand out to her and she laid hers in his. He squeezed it and said, "I still think that over time, he'll realize you did the best thing for you. At least I hope it was?"

Squeezing his hand back, she said, "It was the right decision...for me and for Caleb."

"Good." He released her hand and went back to eating. They were enjoying the quiet when Skinner came into camp.

"Dana, the children wanted me to come and ask if Samantha and Caleb could ride with us this morning."

Samantha turned to her parents and said, "Please, I want to go." Caleb echoed her.

"I don't know," she said.

"Let them go. Caleb and Samantha love being with them." Mulder turned back to Skinner. "You're keeping them in the wagon right?"

"Yes. We thought they might like the change."

"Come on Dana, they'll be fine," Mulder said.

"You promise they'll stay in the wagon?" Dana asked. Skinner nodded. "All right."

"Can we go with Uncle Walter now?" Samantha asked.

"Are you finished?" Dana asked. Both of the children nodded. "Okay, you can take them with you Walter. You mind them while you're riding," she told the children.

"We will," Samantha answered for both her and Caleb.

Skinner bent down and picked up Caleb and Samantha. He carried them like sacks of flour, causing them to giggle at being held so awkwardly. "They just ate," Dana said. "Don't let them get sick."

"They'll be fine Dana," Skinner said over his shoulder and disappeared with them around a wagon.

"The girls will make sure they stay in the wagon," Mulder assured her as he moved next to her. He turned to face her.

"I hope you're right."

"Since the children are going to be with the Skinners, what do you say we take a ride away from everyone?"

"Why?"

"Remember? When we were on my horse together?" Mulder looked around to make sure no one was looking before he ran his hand up her leg, under her dress.

"Huh uh." Dana grabbed his hand through her dress to stop him.

"Oh come on. This would be the perfect time."

"No. Besides, you have to drive Diana's team, remember?"

Mulder pulled his hand back and said, "Damn." He looked back to Diana's wagon, frowning. It gave Dana a little thrill that he was upset about having to drive Diana today. He sighed and said, "Maybe we can hire some man at Fort Boise to drive the team."

Dana smiled behind him. "Do you think that's possible? You didn't have any luck at Fort Hall."

"Maybe. At least there shouldn't be men heading for California. They should have already turned off by then." He turned back to her. "That would make you happy if I found someone, wouldn't it?"

"That you wouldn't be spending so much time with her? Of course."

Mulder grinned, "You have nothing to be jealous about."

Dana stood up, hands on her hips. "I am not jealous."

Mulder grinned even bigger. "Liar."

She turned from him and said, "I still have a few things to get packed."

"All right," he said, standing. "I'll drop it. I'm going to help the boys finish up. Kiss?"

"Kiss what?" she asked coyly as she turned back to him.

"Me," he said, bending down. He took hold of her face and brought her lips closer to his. "Kiss?" he asked again. She smiled and leaned up to him, closing the distance. When they broke free, he left her to finish her tasks.


Mulder led them with Diana's wagon and Jimmy followed next with Danny right behind him. Dana, walking with Danny, was able to observe Mulder as he walked the team. Diana walked closely to Mulder, leaning in to say something every now and then. At around ten that morning, Dana was interrupted in her thoughts.

"Mrs. Mulder," Jacob Walker called, running towards her. "Mrs. Mulder." Dana turned around, walking back towards him. He halted when he reached her and said, "My mother sent me to tell you. There was word that a child fell out of the Skinner wagon and was run over by it. My mother thought she saw Mr. Skinner putting your children--"

She grabbed him to stop him from continuing and said, "Go tell my husband." She then took off running in the direction Jacob had come from. She passed wagons, checking each to see if it was Skinner's. She finally began noticing wagons had stopped and people were milling behind one. "Let me through," she said, pushing. "Please."

When she broke through, she saw Sharon on the ground clutching Francis, her youngest boy, to her. She was wailing and rocking him. Blood ran down his face and his neck was at an odd angle. Victor stood behind them crying. She saw Louisa, standing with Matthew. Dana went up to her. "Louisa, where are Samantha and Caleb?" Louisa stood there, unable to answer. "Louisa," she said, grabbing and shaking her. "Where are my children?"

"With Margaret in the wagon," she said at last.

Dana pushed back through the crowd, trying to reach the Skinner wagon. When she finally broke free, she saw Margaret, Samantha, and Caleb looking out the back. She felt Mulder come up behind her. "Oh, thank God," he said. "Who is hurt?" He pulled Caleb out and handed him to her. "Come here Samantha."

"Francis," she said, kissing Caleb and then Samantha, who was now in Mulder's arms. "It isn't good."

"Is he alive?" he asked, rocking Samantha.

Dana shook her head. "I don't think so. Has someone gone to get Skinner?"

Thomas Watkins answered. "I sent my boy to get him. He's up front, but he should be getting here..."

"Oh God," they heard Skinner cry.

Dana handed Caleb to Mulder. "I'm going to them. Take the children to the boys and then come back. I think we should both be here for them."

"All right," he said.

Dana pushed back through the gathering of people. Some of the men began dispersing the crowd, making it easier to reach the Skinner family.

Skinner was on the ground now with Sharon, holding her as she held their lifeless son. "Walter," Dana said.

He looked up, his eyes filled. "Dana. My boy."

Nodding, she bent down. "Is he breathing?" Skinner shook his head. "I think we should get him to your wagon then. You can send the children to ours."

"I'm sorry," Victor said.

Skinner looked up at his eldest son. "It wasn't your fault. It was an accident."

"No. I was in charge. You said so. It was my responsibility to make sure everyone was safe."

Skinner stood up, going to his son. "Listen to me son. It's not your fault." He pulled Victor to him as he began to cry. He looked over and saw Margaret, Matthew and Louisa, crying. He opened his arms and the other children ran to him, Skinner engulfing them all.

"Sharon," Dana said. "Let's take Francis to your wagon, all right?" Sharon shook her head and clutched him tighter. With the noise dying down, they were able to hear a child begin to cry. "Sharon, we have to get Francis to your wagon and you need to take care of Priscilla. Do you hear her crying?"

"What?" she asked, confused.

"Priscilla needs you too. Walter will take care of Francis. You go to Priscilla."

"I can't leave my boy, Dana."

"I know, but Priscilla needs you now."

Sharon looked down and kissed Francis on his forehead. "All right. You promise you'll make sure Walter brings him to me?"

"I promise."

Sharon nodded and laid Francis down gently. As she headed for the wagon, Mulder returned. He bent down by Dana. "Is he dead?"

Dana nodded. "I think we need to take their children back to our wagon."

"You go. I'll help Walter. He's going to need it."

"All right, I'll take them back." Dana walked over to Skinner and his children.

"Walter," Dana said. Skinner looked up. "William will help you. I sent Sharon back to your wagon to take care of Priscilla. I think the children should come back with me to our wagon. Would that be all right?"

"I'm staying," Victor said.

Skinner stared at him for a moment and then said, "You can stay. Children, go back with Dana. I'll come for you in a little while." They began to protest, but he said, "Please, just go. I'll come for you, I promise."

Dana reached up and gripped his hand. "Walter, I'm sorry."

Skinner nodded. "Just take care of my children."

"I will. Come on, let's go," Dana said, gathering the Skinner children and heading them in the direction of her wagon. Before leaving, Dana looked back to see Skinner and Mulder slowly approaching Francis's body.


Chapter 13

July 30, 1852
Friday

They had buried Francis at the head of wagons in the afternoon on Thursday. In the morning, the wagons slowly rolled over the grave and compacted the ground, hopefully preventing animals from destroying the grave.

Sharon was still distraught, but Priscilla required her attention and Sharon's maternal instinct forced her to turn to her youngest child for comfort. The Skinner children were now back with their parents and Skinner stayed close to his wagons.

The company stopped for the night at a cold, clear river. Dana decided to walk down to it before she had to cook. Mulder hadn't returned, so she left the children with Jimmy and Catherine Tanner, who Jimmy had invited for supper.

When she reached the river, she realized why Mulder hadn't returned. He was with several other men who were fishing in the river. It seemed that they were doing well, but Dana didn't want to be noticed, so she walked further down the river. The water ran swiftly over the boulders, causing a loud roar. She soon lost track of time, enjoying the scenery. As she walked back, she found that the men had already left and she quickly walked back to camp. When she arrived, she found Jimmy cooking over the fire and Catherine playing with Caleb and Samantha.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was so late," Dana said. Jimmy looked up and smiled. "Did William bring any fish to you?"

"Yes," Jimmy said, "but he said he was going to eat with Diana. I'm sorry Dana."

She shook her head and inhaled deeply. "The food smells great."

Catherine walked up to them, Samantha and Caleb in tow. "I love your children, Mrs. Mulder."

"Thank you. I think we should go ahead and eat, what do you say?"


Mulder was sitting alone with Diana, her nieces already in bed, when he heard from behind, "Dana says that if you don't come back now, then she would like you to stay with us tonight."

Mulder whipped around to find Danny standing behind him.

"I'll come in a little bit."

"She said to tell you that she doesn't want you waking the children, so if you don't come now, you have to stay with us."

"Go back and tell her that I will come back when I'm finished here."

Danny leaned in and whispered to him, "I don't think you really want me to tell her that. She's angry right now."

Mulder exhaled and said, "All right, I'll come." Danny hurried back in the direction he had come. "Diana, I think I better go now."

"Thanks for being with me tonight. I appreciate the company." Mulder moved to go, but Diana grabbed his hand, stopping him. "I really mean that Fox. If it wasn't for you, I think I would go crazy." She began to cry. "I don't want to be like my sister."

"You won't. You're strong." Mulder lifted his hands to cup her face, forcing her to look at him. "But, if you ever feel that way, even a little, I want you to come to me. I am still your friend. I will always be there for you."

"Thank you Fox."

"I better go," he said. Diana nodded and he waited until she had climbed into her tent before turning to go.


When Mulder returned to his wagon, Danny and Jimmy had already retired to their tent. He was about to climb into the wagon when he heard someone being sick on the other side of the wagon. When he looked, he saw Dana on her knees, throwing up into a bucket. He came up and bent down next to her, putting his hand on her back. "You're sick?"

Dana looked up momentarily. "What do you think?" she asked before she leaned into the bucket again.

She had already retired for bed and had taken her hair down, so Mulder pulled it back to keep it out of her way. "When did you start feeling sick?" he asked. She shook her head, not answering him. When she leaned back, he asked, "Finished?" She nodded and he took the bucket from her, heading off to rinse it out.

When he returned, she had disappeared. He looked in the wagon and found her lying down. He climbed in, being careful not to disturb the children. Before coming in, he had soaked a rag and now brought it to her forehead. She pushed his hand away, "I don't need it."

He placed the rag back on her forehead, "This will make you feel better. When did you start feeling sick?" When she didn't say anything, he said, "Answer me. When did you begin to feel sick?"

"I feel better, really."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yes, I just want to go to sleep."

"Danny said you were mad."

She glanced over at him before looking away. "He did?"

"Yes. Is it because I couldn't find anyone for Diana's wagon or because I was eating with her? I'm sorry if it was because of that, but I didn't feel like I could refuse her. She was really lonely tonight and needed someone to talk to."

"I'm all right now."

Mulder looked at her, doubt clearly written on his face. "You sure?"

She shrugged. "Did you look for someone again?"

"I did, but I couldn't find anyone suitable. I need to find someone who I can trust."

"Can't you teach her how to drive her own team?"

"She's a woman."

"So? I know..." she stopped herself. "You wouldn't teach me?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because my wife is not going to do a man's job. Now let's go to sleep."

"But..."

"Sleep." Dana turned on her side, facing away from Mulder. She had almost told him that she could drive the team. She wondered what he would say if she volunteered to drive Diana's team. Of course, that was the last thing she wanted or would do.


August 5, 1852
Thursday

The company was laying over for the day and Mulder was gone with a hunting party. They weren't expected to return until late in the day or early the next day, so Dana decided to take advantage of the situation and find Krycek. She didn't think Mulder would have gone if Krycek was in the party.

Earlier, she dropped off the children with the Skinners. When they asked where she was going, she lied and said that she just wanted a little time alone.

She found Krycek sitting on a hill, looking down at the camp. "Mr. Krycek, I've been looking for you."

"You've found me," he said, looking up at her. "What can I do for you Dana? And remember, it's Alex."

She nodded and sat down beside him. "I was wondering if you could teach me to ride a horse."

"Really?" he asked. "I thought you didn't like them."

"I don't, but I think I should learn how to ride anyway."

"And you want me to teach you? Why not your husband?"

"I want to surprise him. I would have asked Walter, but I didn't want him to have to be away from Sharon."

He stood and brushed off his pants. "All right, when do you want to do it?"

"Now."

"Now?" he asked, surprised.

Dana nodded. "My husband is away on the hunting party and we might not get another chance."

"I'll have to get another horse. Can you wait here?"

"Yes."

"All right, but I don't think we should ride where there are other people. It might start some talk."

"Where should we meet?"

"How about down by the creek? We'll find someplace then."

"All right, I'll see you there," she said. She watched him as he trotted down the hill and wondered if she was really doing the right thing.


Krycek approached her, riding one horse and holding the reins of another. Dana could feel her heart rate increase as he got closer. Maybe she was being too hasty, she thought. Maybe she really didn't need to learn how to ride a horse.

"You ready?" Krycek asked, jumping down and tying both horses to the branches of a bush.

"I suppose."

"Well then, come over here. I'll lift you up," he said, bending down and cupping his hands. She put her foot in them and he lifted her. When she settled with both legs over one side, he said, "You can't ride like that. You'll have to swing your other leg over or you'll fall off."

Dana looked at him horrified. "I can't do that. It isn't decent."

"Well, which do you think is worse, falling off or letting a little of your leg show?"

"Turn around," she ordered him. Krycek laughed, but did as she said. When she had her leg over, she tried to pull her dress down over her legs as much as possible, but her dress still rode up a little. "Okay, I'm ready."

Krycek looked back up at her. "This is Bessie. She's a gentle horse, so all you pretty much have to do is hold on and she'll take care of the rest. Here, take the reins."

She gripped the reins and held onto the saddle as Krycek climbed onto his horse. "Which way?" he asked.

Dana looked both ways. "How about further down the creek, away from everyone?"

"Okay, I'll lead. Just hold on."

After they had been riding for a few minutes, Dana felt herself become more confident. "How am I doing?"

"You're doing fine," he said, riding next to her just in case she would need his help. "Okay, now for some lessons. When you want to stop, just pull back on the reins, but not too hard. She'll know what you want. Want to try it?"

Dana shook her head. "I'm doing just fine."

"You'll have to stop sometime. Come on, try it."

Dana shrugged her shoulders and pulled back on the reins, making Bessie stop. The horse shuffled her feet a little, causing Dana to get nervous.

"That was good. She's just ready to go again. Now, how you turn her is to pull on the right rein if you want her to go right and on the left rein if you want her to go left. Think you have that?" Dana nodded. "Okay. Let's head toward that meadow. You lead."

"Easy for you to say," she said, but did as he asked. Dana found Bessie easily obeying her as they worked their way to the meadow.

"We'll just walk up and down here for a bit, until you feel comfortable."

After about twenty minutes of riding, they stopped and Krycek said, "How about going a little faster."

"No, we're doing okay like this."

"Come on, that's part of riding too. Remember, just hold on and when you want to stop, pull back on the reins."

Dana looked nervously to Krycek. "I don't think I can."

"Dana, I have every confidence that you can. Just give her a little kick with your feet."

"Okay, just let me get my courage first." Dana closed her eyes and said a little prayer. When she opened her eyes, she kicked her feet and Bessie stood still. She looked over to Krycek, confused.

"A little harder, you barely touched her."

"Oh," she said and kicked her a little harder. Bessie took off and Dana reached for the saddle to hold on. She heard Krycek behind her, but once she started, she found that she was paying more attention to enjoying the ride. She pulled back on Bessie and they stopped.

"Having fun?" Krycek asked. She nodded. "Why haven't you learned to ride before?"

"I've always been afraid of horses."

"Why?"

"Doesn't matter. I think we should be going back now. Is that all right?"

"Of course. Lead the way."


When they arrived back, just outside of camp, Krycek grabbed the reins of Dana's horse. "We better stop here." He jumped down and walked over to Dana, lifting his hands up to her.

"Turn around again," she ordered. He laughed and turned. "All right," she said after her leg was thrown over. He turned back and smiled up at her, again raising his hands to her.

She placed her hands on his shoulders and slid off as he held her waist. When she was on the ground, Krycek didn't step away, but slid a hand up to her face and leaned down, kissing her. Dana was too stunned to move as he moved his lips over hers.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Krycek stepped back from her and turned. Dana looked behind him and was horrified to see an angry Walter Skinner standing about twenty feet away from them.

"Walter. I-- I--" she stuttered.

"It was my fault," Krycek said. "Not Dana's."

Skinner moved towards them and grabbed Dana by the arm, pulling her. "You just stay the hell away from her Krycek." As they were walking away, Skinner said, "Just be thankful it was me and not Mulder who saw you. What were you thinking Dana?"

"I didn't know he was going to kiss me."

"What are you doing out here with him alone?"

"I don't want to say."

He stopped and spun her around to face him, grabbing both of her arms. "What games are you playing Dana? I can't believe you were out here alone with him. Is it because of Mulder and Diana?"

"What does that mean?"

"They're only friends you know. Nothing more, no matter what others say."

"So he says."

"Dana," he scolded.

She sighed and said, "I believe him. It's just that I don't trust Diana."

He turned her to walk again. "You're really lucky. Mulder would have killed him if he had seen what I did."

"Walter, you're joking. He would have been angry, yes, but he wouldn't have killed him."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that Dana. You've never really seen Mulder's temper. If I were you, I'd make sure that I was never near Krycek again, for both of your sakes."

"Walter, I really didn't know that he was going to kiss me."

"So you said, but you didn't stop him either."

"I was shocked. I couldn't move," she protested.

"Just don't let it happen again."

She nodded as they continued walking back to her camp.


August 13, 1852
Friday

When the sun rose over the wagon, Mulder awoke. The air was chilled, so he snuggled closer to Dana in an attempt to warm up. "Mmm," he said into her neck.

"What?" she asked.

"Do you know what day it is?"

"Friday?"

"No, I mean what today is?" She shook her head. "It's my birthday."

She turned in his arms and smiled. "Really?"

"Yes."

"You know, I don't think you've ever told me how old you are. I can't believe I've never asked."

"I'm twenty-six."

"Really, I didn't know you were so old."

Mulder laughed. "I'm not an old man yet."

"No, I just mean I thought you were younger." Dana stroked his arm and asked, "What do you want for your birthday?"

Mulder smiled and said, "I think you can think of something."

Dana looked behind her at the sleeping children. "Not now."

"Tonight?"

"Yes. I just..."

"What?" he asked, concerned when he saw the expression on her face.

She put her hands on his arms and pushed them away. "Let me up."

"Why?"

"I'm going to be sick."

Mulder jumped up and reached outside the wagon for a hanging bucket. He dumped most of the water out and rushed it to Dana just as she threw up.

"What's wrong?" Samantha asked, rubbing her eyes.

Mulder moved to her and said, "Lie back down Samantha. Mama's sick."

"Okay," she said, settling back down.

Mulder kissed Samantha's forehead before turning back to Dana, who was sitting back on her heels, wiping her mouth. "Finished?" he asked her. She nodded and he placed the bucket outside the wagon. Dana curled back under the covers and Mulder joined her. "You've been getting sick a lot lately." Dana nodded. "You haven't said anything, but..."

"What?"

"Are you going to have a child?"

"I think I have another present for you."

"So you are?"

Dana nodded, biting her lower lip. "Are you happy?"

Mulder hesitated before answering. "You know I want more children. Now that I know it's a reality, I guess I'm just worried."

"What are you worried about?"

Mulder ignored the question and instead asked, "When do you expect the baby?"

"I think in January, maybe February."

"It'll be cold."

"I was born in January."

"Really. I would prefer a warmer time of the year. What if I can't get help?"

"We'll be fine."

"Maybe we should have Diana come to live with us, at least until the baby is born. It would help to have another woman."

"You can't be serious."

"She won't know anyone. I'm the only one she has, so she'll need someone to stay with for a while."

"I can't believe you," she said, pushing away from him.

"What? I thought that was a perfect solution for you and the baby. And if it helps Diana, so much the better." Dana sat up, grabbing her clothes. "Where are you going?"

"I have cooking to do."

He tried to pull her back down, "Stay. You don't have to do that now." She pushed against him, out of his grip.

"Yes, I do."

Mulder sighed and said, "I didn't mean to upset you."

"Just stop talking William."


Mulder found Diana cooking breakfast, her nieces sitting near her, quietly watching. "Diana," he called.

She smiled as she turned around. "Fox, good morning. I didn't expect you this early."

"I need to talk to you."

"Oh?"

"Yes. I've decided to have Danny take care of your team from now on."

"Your cousin?"

He nodded. "He'll do a good job."

"Why Fox? You promised to help me."

"I am helping. Danny is very capable."

"Dana told you to do this," she said as she crossed her arms in front of her, searching his wagons with her eyes, but not finding the other woman in sight.

"No, this is my decision."

"You don't have to lie to me. I know how she feels about me. She can't stand when you spend any time with me."

"That's not fair."

"You're abandoning me, just like before."

"What?" he asked incredulously.

"You left me for Penny. Now you're leaving me again."

"Dana is my wife."

"So, she did ask you."

"No, that's not what I mean," he said, shaking his head. "Look, I know you're upset, but it's going to be this way now. You're just going to have to trust me that Danny will do a good job." He turned to go.

"Fox, wait. I'm sorry," Diana said. "You're my friend still, right?"

He came back to her. "Yes, you know I am. Diana, it's not like we won't talk. You're still riding with us. I won't abandon you, I promise."

Diana realized that he was going to do as he pleased. There was no sense in arguing with him. "All right. Danny's driving my wagon."

"Thank you for understanding. I have to get back to Dana now." She watched him for a moment and saw him climb into his wagon. Shaking her head, she turned back to her fire to finish preparing breakfast.


Dana had the wagon packed and the children ready. She watched Jimmy take his position next to the first wagon and waited patiently for Danny to come to take care of the second wagon, where she stood with the children. When Mulder walked up instead, she looked at him confused.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Danny is going to take care of Diana's wagon now."

"Really?"

Mulder nodded and put the children in the first wagon where they could keep an eye on them. He started the team moving and looked over his shoulder saying, "Come on."

Dana shook herself and walked quickly up to him. She put her hand in his and he looked down. "Thank you," she said.

"You come first. Never doubt that Dana." She placed her head on his arm and smiled. "But, I can't just leave Diana to herself. She didn't count on being on her own, raising two children who aren't hers. I can't just abandon her, I hope you understand that." When she didn't say anything, he decided to change the subject. "I'm pleased about the baby."

"Is that why you did this?"

"Maybe. I don't want you to be upset. I want you and the baby to be healthy."

"We're fine."

"That's good. You will tell me if you aren't, won't you."

"Yes." They walked quietly, content. Dana looked over and saw a wagon sitting abandoned. "Whose wagon is that?"

"It's Taylor's. He said he was losing some valuable items."

"We won't have to leave anything behind will we?"

"I hope not. I think we'll be fine."

"That's so sad. I heard of others having to lighten their wagon."

"We can always move some of the things from the other wagon into this one if necessary. We shouldn't have to lose anything."

"Good," she said.

"Mama?" Caleb called, peeking over the back and trying to get closer.

"Caleb, get back," Mulder yelled. Caleb immediately ducked back into the wagon. "Sorry," he said to her. "I didn't mean to yell. I just thought of Francis when he was that close.

"No, you're right."

He called for Jimmy to stop the wagon and stopped his as well. Mulder said, "Caleb, come here." He popped back up and moved towards Mulder. "Papa, I want to come out too," Samantha said from behind Caleb.

"You want to walk with us?" Samantha nodded and he helped her climb out. He handed her to Dana who set her on the ground and grabbed her hand. He then reached for Caleb and lifted him onto his shoulders.

"Okay Jimmy, go ahead."

As they were walking, Samantha said, "This is fun."

Mulder glanced at Dana, looking guilty. "I guess I haven't been spending enough time with them if she thinks this is fun."

"She missed you." She shook her head. "We missed you."

"I know."


August 21, 1852
Saturday

The men had to drive their cattle down to the river and haul back some water for the company when they stopped late in the evening. Mulder was on first watch that night, so Dana fed the boys and children. As it began to rain, Dana moved the children into the wagon, entertaining them until they fell asleep. She loved listening to the rain beat down on the canvas, but sometimes, it got to her when it continued on and on.

When Mulder returned to their wagon, he tried to shake the water off, but ended up bringing it into the wagon. "When did they fall asleep?" he whispered.

"Just a little while ago."

"I'm bushed," he said as he pulled off his boots. "This weather makes me tired."

"Do you think we'll move on tomorrow?"

"If the rain stops sometime tonight, I think so."

In the dark, Dana helped him strip and rubbed him down, trying to warm him as he shivered. "Get under the covers."

"Like this?" he asked, indicating his exposed body.

Dana nodded. "I'll help you warm up." As Mulder crawled in, she quickly stripped down as well and followed him.

"Mmm," Mulder said, pulling her close. "You feel warm."

"And you're freezing. Maybe you should wear more clothing when you have to be on watch."

"No, it's just because of the rain."

Dana ran her hand over his chest. "You know, I never gave you your birthday present."

Mulder exhaled and said, "That's all right. Just knowing about the baby was enough."

"You don't want to?"

"Not now."

"When then?"

"Not until after the baby comes."

"What?" Dana asked, sitting up. "Why not?"

Mulder laughed quietly. "That's nice."

"What is?"

"That you enjoy it...when you're with me."

"I do. So, why can't we?"

Mulder pulled her back down against him. "When Penny and I first knew we were going to have a child, I was so happy. My mother and her mother said I should leave her alone. That it would be better for her and the baby. So, I did and Penny seemed fine with that."

"But I don't mind."

"No, I don't want to take any chances."

"All right, if you really feel that way."

Mulder kissed her forehead. "I'm feeling better."

"Good."

They listened to the rain beat down, enjoying just being close. Mulder finally broke the silence when he asked, "How is it going with Jimmy and the widow?"

"You haven't asked him yourself?"

"No."

"I think they're getting serious. It would be a good match."

"Don't encourage him to marry yet."

"I don't understand that William. Why shouldn't they get married?" she asked, clearly confused.

"I think things are too uncertain."

"But I think they're in love. We got married and we didn't even have that."

"We got married because it was best for both of us. Caleb needed a father and Samantha needed a mother."

Dana began to draw patterns on his chest with her finger. "Well, would it make any difference if I told you that she needed a father for her child?"

"She's going to have a baby?"

"I'm asking you, would it make a difference?"

"Yes," he said, enclosing her hand that now rested on his chest. "If there was a child, then I would give my blessing."

"They don't need your blessing to get married."

When Dana didn't say anything further, he asked "So is she?"

"Is she what?"

Mulder exhaled, groaning. "Is she going to have a child?"

"I wouldn't know, but I don't think so."

"Dana, if you don't know, why did you even mention it?"

"I was just supposing."

"God, you can drive me crazy sometimes. Go to sleep."

He thought she had when she spoke again. "Fort Boise was a disappointment."

"Yes."

"Are you going to have Danny drive Diana's wagon all the way?"

"Yes. He's offered."

"And you're still planning on having Diana and her nieces live with us."

"If I can't make any other arrangements, yes." He lifted her hand and brought it up to his lips. "I know that's not what you want to hear."

"You're right, it isn't. But, I'll do as you ask William. You're my husband. I'll try to make do."

Mulder kissed her on the forehead. "Thank you."

"Are you sure you don't want your other birthday present?" she asked, looking up at him expectantly.

Mulder laughed and shook his head. He whispered, "Go to sleep."


Chapter 14

August 27, 1852
Friday

Quite a few members in the company were suffering from a sickness. Members started feeling sick the day before, but others were soon falling to the same illness. The most common ailment was diarrhea and running a fever. Mulder was the only one in his family who was sick, but Skinner's family was hit hard with Sharon, Victor, Margaret, and Priscilla becoming sick. They were especially worried about Priscilla. It seemed like every other family was hit with the illness, but they were determined to keep traveling.

That morning, when Mulder woke up, he felt especially weak, but tried to hide it. He climbed out of the wagon and almost fell. Dana was awake before him and was cooking breakfast so she didn't notice him.

The children were waiting patiently for their breakfast and watched Mulder walk towards them. He stumbled towards Dana and almost fell. She turned just as he righted himself. "Good morning," Mulder said.

She smiled and said, "Good morning. Are you feeling better?"

Mulder lied. "Yes."

"Well go ahead and sit down. I'm almost finished with breakfast." She turned back away from him and began dishing out the food. Mulder came over and sat away from the children. "Here you go. Make sure you eat all of that."

"I'm not really all that hungry," Mulder said.

She put her hands on her hips. "You have to eat. You need to keep us your strength."

Mulder made a disgusted look, but said, "All right, if you insist."

"Morning Mulder," Jimmy said. "How are you feeling?"

"Better."

"You sure? You don't look like it."

"I'm fine, Jimmy," Mulder said, "just fine." Mulder glanced Dana's way, warning him not to say anything else.

After they ate their food, Dana gathered the plates and began cleaning them. "I'll be ready soon," she said.

Mulder said quietly to Danny and Jimmy, "I need you to yoke the oxen on my wagon for me. I don't think I can do it."

"Mulder, if you can't do that, you shouldn't be driving."

"I'll be fine if you just do that for me."

Danny shook his head. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"I agree," Jimmy said. "You don't look very good."

"Well who do you think is going to do it if I don't? I don't want us to be left behind." Jimmy and Danny both looked at each other. "What?" Mulder asked.

"Well, there is someone else who can drive," Danny said.

"Who?" Mulder asked.

Danny hesitated. "Go on," Jimmy said. "You brought it up. Tell him."

"Just tell me." Mulder said testily.

"Dana can do it."

Mulder stared at him for a moment before recovering. "That's not funny."

"It's true. She can do it," Jimmy said.

"Dana!" Mulder yelled.

She looked up surprised at his tone, but walked over to him. "Yes?"

"When the hell did you learn to drive a team?"

Dana looked stunned. She turned her gaze to Jimmy and Danny. "You told him?"

"Answer me. When did you learn?"

"About three weeks ago."

"Did you teach her?" Mulder asked Jimmy.

"No, but it's a good thing she learned how to do it. You're in no shape to drive," he said.

Mulder ignored his last comment. "So you taught her?" he asked Danny.

"No."

"Dana, who taught you?"

"I don't think you'll like my answer," she said.

"I want to know, who taught you?"

"Mr. Krycek."

"What?!" he yelled, getting to his feet. Just as he rose, he fell back and Jimmy caught him before he hit the ground. "Oh god, I feel dizzy."

Diana came from around the wagon, alerted by Mulder's shouting. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Dana said.

"It didn't sound like nothing. Fox," Diana said after she noticed him holding his head. "You're worse, aren't you?" Mulder shook his head. "Yes, you are, I can tell. Dana, what can I do to help?"

"I can take care of him," she said.

"Dana, you're going to need to drive the team today," Jimmy said.

"No! I will not have my wife doing a man's job."

"You don't have any choice Mulder," Danny said.

Diana turned to Mulder, surprised. "Dana knows how to drive?"

"Wasn't my idea," Mulder mumbled.

"Dana, did you know he's running a fever?" Jimmy asked, his hand on Mulder's forehead.

"No," she said, putting her hand to Mulder's forehead. He pushed it away. "That means you're worse. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm fine. I can take care of myself."

"Fox, someone will need to keep a cool rag on your forehead. Dana, let me do that for him."

"I'll be fine," Mulder asserted.

Dana looked at him, concerned. Although it was the last thing she wanted to happen, she realized that she wouldn't be able to take care of him while she was driving. She swallowed her pride and said, "All right."

"I'll take care of yoking up the oxen Dana. You drive the wagon I've been driving." Jimmy turned to Mulder and said, "That way, you can keep an eye on her. Come on, I'll help you get back in the wagon.

Mulder realized he was defeated and nodded. As he was passing Dana, he said, "We're not finished talking about this. I can see I'm outnumbered, so you can drive. But, you let me know the minute you feel like you can't do it. Agreed?" Dana nodded and he let Jimmy help him into the wagon.


Throughout the day, the scenery became more mountainous. Dana gripped the reins tighter whenever the road narrowed, which forced the wagons to follow in a single line. She kept her eyes on the wagon ahead of her. Jimmy and Danny had placed her wagon in between them, with Jimmy leading. He had explained that if she followed exactly the same path as him, she would be fine. She tried to keep her focus on his wagon, but her attention shifted to the voices inside the wagon whenever she heard them.

Inside, Diana tended to Mulder while Caleb and Samantha played quietly.

"Fox, are you feeling any better?" Diana took the rag and rung it out and placed it tenderly back on his forehead.

"Not much," he said weakly. His eyes drifted closed again.

"Papa?" Samantha said, inching closer.

"Don't come closer, Samantha," Diana said.

"Why?" she asked, pouting.

"Remember? I told you. You might get what your Papa has and then you would feel just as bad as he did."

"Papa," Samantha said as she began inching towards him.

"Samantha, go sit down," Diana said, her voice rising.

"What's going on in there?" Dana asked from outside.

Mulder woke up when he heard their voices. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Diana said, patting his arm. "Go back to sleep." He nodded and soon fell asleep, too exhausted to keep his eyes open. She glanced over at the children and saw that Caleb was sleeping, but Samantha was trying to creep closer again. "Stop Samantha," Diana said more quietly. To Dana, she said, "Samantha wants to sit by Fox. I told her she shouldn't because it isn't safe."

"Where's Caleb?" Dana asked.

"Asleep by Samantha."

Dana looked forward to make sure it would be safe to turn around and when it seemed fine, she turned and said, "Samantha, you can't get by Papa. Would you like to come up with me?"

She didn't see her response, but soon felt a hand on her waist. Looking down, Dana saw Samantha standing behind her, a sad look on her face. "Diana, could you help her up on the seat?" Dana asked.

"All right." She lifted Samantha over the seat and then disappeared back inside.

Samantha moved closer to Dana and she put her arm around her, hugging her. "You going to help Mama drive?" Samantha smiled and nodded. "Well, you keep your eyes on Jimmy's wagon and tell me when to turn, all right?"

Samantha nodded. "Why can't I be by Papa?"

"You might get what Papa has. We just want to make sure you're safe and don't get sick too. I'm sure Papa will be better soon. We just have to be quiet and let him rest, all right?"

"All right, Mama," she said and leaned against Dana.


Inside the wagon, Diana squeezed the rag out and laid it on Mulder's head. "What?" Mulder asked, rising up.

Diana pushed him back down and Mulder relaxed. Diana looked to make sure Dana wasn't looking back. Fearing that she might not get another opportunity and not caring about the consequences, she leaned down and kissed Mulder on the lips. She was surprised to find Mulder responding. Mulder pulled her down and laid gentle kisses along her jaw, detouring down her neck.

"Mmm," Diana moaned quietly, leaning back to give him more access, but he broke off.

"Dana? In the day?" he asked, grinning.

When she looked down into his glazed eyes, she realized that he didn't know who he was kissing. She decided it was best to take advantage of his haze. "Go back to sleep," she said, smiling sadly.

He nodded and began to drift off again. She glanced towards Dana and was relieved to see Dana still turned away, but was shocked to see Samantha watching her. Samantha glared at her before turning around. Diana was thankful that the little girl remained quiet.


August 28, 1852
Saturday

Dana and Mulder were lying quietly in the wagon. Friday was a fog to Mulder, but he began feeling better in the morning and by midday, he thanked Diana for helping, but suggested that she return to her own wagon. Samantha and Caleb kept him company while Dana drove. At night, the children were sleeping while they talked quietly.

"You did a good job," Mulder admitted.

"How do you know? You slept through most of it."

He nodded and said quietly, "You know, I would have taught you."

"Would you have?"

"Yes, if you had asked."

"I don't think so. I think your words were 'No way will my wife do a man's job' or something like that. I don't believe you would have taught me."

Mulder turned on his side. "I thought I had told you I didn't want you to have anything to do with that man."

"I'm sorry, but he was right. It was a good thing for me to learn. Besides, Danny was watching him the whole time. I was safe."

"I bet the weasel is hoping I die. Maybe take over for me."

She sat up abruptly. "William, I can't believe you said that."

"It's true. I think he has a thing for you."

She lay back down and said, "I just had a thought. Maybe we should get Mr. Krycek and Diana together."

"There's a thought," Mulder said, laughing.

"So, you forgive me?"

Mulder pulled her towards him. "Of course. But Dana, I mean it. Stay away from that man." She nodded. "I think you're going to have to drive tomorrow too. I still feel weak."

"Have you heard about Priscilla?"

"How is she?"

"They don't think she will live through tomorrow. She's getting weaker. It doesn't help that she's so young."

"Oh god, I didn't know it was that bad. Sharon and Walter must be going through hell. First Francis, now Priscilla. How are the rest of them doing?"

"About like you."

"I am feeling better you know. Just weak."

"Good. I think we should sleep now. Good-night," she said, snuggling closer to him.


August 29, 1852
Sunday

"Sharon," Dana said. "I am so sorry."

"Dana," Sharon said, reaching for her hand as Dana sat down beside her. "I can't believe it. I've lost another child. How much more can God punish me? I don't think I can take any more loss."

"I know, but you're getting better, Sharon. Victor and Margaret seem to be recovering too. Your family will be fine."

"How can we know?" Sharon asked, tears beginning to fall. "I thought Francis would be fine. I thought my baby girl would be fine. Nothing is certain in this horrible country."

"You'll survive," Dana said, trying to comfort her somehow. "How is Walter doing?"

"He won't talk about it."

"Would you like me to see if he'll talk to me? Or maybe to William?"

Sharon shook her head. "I don't think he would talk to you either."

"Well, maybe he just needs time."

"Maybe."

She stood and said, "I better get back to William."

"How is he doing?"

"He's doing much better. I believe he is almost completely over it."

"That's good news."

"If you need to talk Sharon, let me know. I'm here for you."

"Thank you Dana."


When Dana returned to her camp, she found Mulder stretched out on a blanket, the children playing quietly by him. Dana smiled when she saw Dog's head lying across Mulder's lap as Mulder slowly stroked the dog's fur. Dog lifted his head when she approached.

"Well aren't you all a sight?" she said.

Mulder looked up and smiled. "We're just relaxing." She moved to sit next to Mulder and he asked, "How is Sharon?" Dana shook her head, tears beginning to fall. Mulder opened his arms and she fell into them.

"I feel so bad for her."

Mulder kissed her head. "I know. So do I."

"It just isn't fair. She had five children when we left and one on the way and in less than one month, she loses two of them."

"I know how that feels."

She looked up at him. "I'm sorry. You do. I wasn't thinking."

"It's all right. I suppose it's a little different. My boys didn't live a day. I didn't get a chance to hold them and love them like Walter and Sharon did with their children."

"I hope you never have to experience that again."

Mulder smiled sadly. "Me too."

"Have you talked to Walter?"

Mulder shook his head. "I'll go soon, but I think they'll probably still need time to grieve together."

Dana leaned away from him so that she could see him better. "Do you think I shouldn't have gone so soon?"

"No. I think they think of you like a daughter. I'm sure you are a comfort to them."

She leaned back down into him. "I hope so."


August 30, 1852
Monday

In the morning, frost lay on the ground. Ice formed in the buckets and had to be broken to reach the water. The days were now like this, cold in the morning and gradually warming during the day.

The cold set the mood for the company, having lost twenty- one people to the sickness. Three children were left orphans when both of their parents and their youngest sister died during the night. Some of the men had gathered to discuss what to do with them.

"Someone will need to take them. We can't leave them on their own," Skinner said.

"How old are they?" asked a man.

"Sidney is seven, Dulcena is five, and Henry is three," Skinner said.

"Too young to be of any help," the man said, shaking his head as he walked away. A few others turned away with him.

"Do they have any family who will be able to meet them?" Mulder asked.

"No," Krycek said. "They're on their own."

"Well someone will need to take them," Skinner repeated. "Who wants to do it?"

"Maybe we could split them up between families," Krycek suggested. "That way, they wouldn't be a burden to one family."

"You can't do that to them Krycek," Mulder said. "They just lost their parents and a sister. Now you want them to lose each other?"

"What? They could still see each other."

"You can't do that to children that young. They need each other."

"So are you going to take them?" Krycek asked.

Mulder was about to answer when they heard from behind, "I will."

"Who said that?" Skinner asked.

John Byers stepped up. "My wife and I have talked about it. We haven't been blessed with any children. The children need a good Christian upbringing."

"Are you sure Reverend?" Mulder asked.

Byers nodded. "We've always wanted children. The children need parents."

"Then I think it's only fair that you receive whatever you want from their wagon. Does everyone agree?" Skinner asked.

The men nodded. "All right Reverend, they're your responsibility now."

Byers smiled and shook Skinner's hand. "Thank you. Where are they?"

"They're at the Patterson wagon. You can go get them now. Thank you for doing this Reverend. I would have taken them, but I don't think my wife is up to it."

"No thanks are needed," Byers said. "Thank you gentleman."


Dana was playing with the children while she waited for Mulder to return. Caleb was throwing a stick for Dog and Dana noted that he was able to throw it farther than when they first started out.

"Mama, how come Mrs. Tipton kissed Papa?"

Dana looked down at Samantha, shocked. "What do you mean?"

"She kissed Papa."

"When?" Dana asked.

"When Papa was sick."

Dana bent down to her, grabbing her arms. "Samantha, are you sure?"

Samantha nodded. "I'm not lying Mama."

Dana smiled and cupped her cheek. "I didn't say you were. I just wanted you to be sure of what you saw. And you are, aren't you?"

"Mmm hmm."

"How about you go get Caleb and Dog to come on back? Could you do that for me?"

"Okay Mama."

Dana watched her run off to get Dog and Caleb and looked towards Diana's wagon. Diana and her nieces were packing their wagon. Dana glared in her direction and when Diana turned, she immediately looked away from Dana when she saw Dana's expression and Dana knew...she was guilty.


Mulder walked next to Dana as their wagon moved along. "Really? The Reverend and his wife took all three children?" Dana asked.

"Yes."

"Do you think they could use any help?"

"Are you offering?"

"Well, Mrs. Byers has never had any children. I know when I first became a mother, it took some getting used to."

"But the children aren't babies. It's a little different."

"I disagree. She still has never raised a child. Now, she instantly has three. I doubt either she or Reverend Byers realize what a large task they have taken upon themselves."

"Maybe you're right."

She reached over and took his hand. "I'm glad you're on your feet again."

"Me too. It was hard to stay cooped up in that wagon."

"I guess now we owe Diana for helping you."

"I imagine that was hard for you...allowing her to help out."

"Only because I couldn't do it myself. You know I would have taken care of you if I could have."

"You did. You kept us moving by taking care of the team."

"It wasn't the same as what Diana did for you. She seemed to enjoy taking advantage of the situation."

"What do you mean?"

"I think you know."

He shook his head. "Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about."

"Samantha told..."

"Fox," they heard from behind. They both turned to find Diana walking up to them. Mulder halted the team.

"What is it Diana?" Mulder asked.

"I need to speak with you."

"What about?"

She looked at Dana and then said, "It's a private matter. Please, I need to speak alone to you."

Mulder hesitated before saying, "Excuse me Dana."

"But..."

"I'll be back. I know you can handle the team." He handed the reins and crop to her, bent down and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and turned to walk back with Diana. Dana frowned as she watched them leave.


"What is it Diana?"

"I need to talk to you about when you were sick."

Mulder looked over to see wagons pass as he and Diana stood to the side to talk. "When I was sick?"

"Yes. I wanted to talk about what happened."

"When?"

"In the wagon, when I was taking care of you."

"What happened?" Diana looked away. Mulder could see that she was embarrassed. "You know you can tell me."

Diana shook her head. "It was what you did. Oh god, this is so hard to say."

"Just tell me."

"Remember? It was when Caleb was sleeping. Samantha wanted to get closer to you but Dana made her move up with her." Diana hesitated and looked down.

"What?"

"I can't believe you're acting like you don't remember."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

She looked back up into his eyes. "When you kissed me."

Mulder shook his head. "What do you mean I kissed you? I don't remember that."

"You said 'Diana' and pulled me down for a kiss. It wasn't just a simple kiss. I just wanted you to know that I do too."

"You what?"

"You told me that you loved me still. I want you to know that I still love you too."

"What?! I wouldn't tell you that."

Tears began to pool in Diana's eyes. "I can't believe you don't remember. You were so serious."

"Diana, I'm sorry. If I said that when I was sick, I didn't mean it."

"So, you were just lying to me?"

"Diana, I don't even remember kissing you."

"Fine. Take it back. I thought I could believe you, but I guess I was wrong." Diana turned and headed back to her wagon, leaving Mulder to stand with his mouth wide open.


The company had stopped a little after noon for a break. The weather was cold and Dana had dressed the children in heavier clothing to keep them warm. She placed a blanket over one of the wheels and sat behind it to get out of the wind.

"Where have you been?" Dana asked.

"I was checking on Skinner and Sharon," Mulder said, as he plopped down next to her.

"Really? Why didn't you come back to let me know?"

Mulder shrugged his shoulders. "I knew you would be fine."

"Jimmy, please get William something to eat," Dana said.

Jimmy nodded and began preparing him a plate. Dana called Caleb over to her and pulled him into her lap.

"How are they?" Dana asked.

"As well as can be expected."

"I'll go see them tonight." She kissed Caleb and looked over towards Samantha, who was petting Dog.

"Samantha told me something."

"What?"

"Something that happened between you and Diana," Dana said quietly.

Jimmy brought Mulder his food. "Thank you," Mulder said.

"I'm going to see Catherine if you don't need me for anything else," Jimmy said.

Mulder stood, "No, go ahead." He watched Jimmy leave and asked Dana, "What did she say?"

"She said that she saw Diana kiss you."

"Diana kissed me? When?"

"Samantha was riding next to me and Diana was in the back with you. I didn't see it, but Samantha said Diana kissed you."

"Samantha is mistaken. I didn't kiss her."

Dana cocked her head. "I said Diana kissed you, not that you kissed Diana. I'm beginning to think maybe Samantha saw it wrong. You kissed her didn't you?"

"Honestly, I don't remember kissing her."

"I don't think I want to talk to you anymore William." Standing, she carried Caleb over to Samantha.

"Damn it Dana, don't walk away from me," he said as he rose to his feet.

"I don't have anything else to say to you," she said over her shoulder. Mulder shivered, swearing that the air suddenly became even colder. "And don't come to the wagon tonight."

"It's my damn wagon. I will if I want to."

Dana walked back towards him. "Fine William. The children and I will stay with the Skinners." She turned back around, grabbed Samantha's hand, and walked with both children towards Skinner's wagons.


Chapter 15

August 30, 1852
Monday

After Dana had left for the Skinners, Mulder stalked over to Diana's wagon and saw her eating with her two nieces. Seeing the angry expression on his face, she visibly cringed.

"Diana, I want to talk to you."

She looked at her nieces and then said, "I don't want to talk to you." Diana was beginning to doubt the wisdom of her plan. It didn't seem to be going the way she planned.

"Well, that's too bad. We're going to talk," he said, grabbing her arm and pulling her up. "Come on." Mulder dragged her along with him until he found a quiet place to talk. He was careful to make sure that they were close enough to be seen by others, but far enough away to not be heard.

"You are ruining my marriage."

"How am I ruining your marriage?"

"Dana knows."

"About us?"

"There is no us. No, she knows about the kiss. Samantha told her. She saw us."

"She did? I didn't know that," Diana lied.

"The interesting thing is that Samantha said that you kissed me. You led me to believe that I kissed you."

"You did."

"I believe my daughter. She said you kissed me. But now, Dana is angry with me because she thinks that I kissed you. If you hadn't said anything to me, I wouldn't have messed things up with her."

"Fox," Diana said as reached to touch his face, but Mulder jerked away from her.

"Don't touch me. I don't want to be around you anymore Diana. I have to think of Dana's happiness."

"It's because she hates me. That's it, isn't it?"

"No, it's because I love her."

Diana gasped. She became desperate and said, "So, you've forgotten Penny."

"Why would you say that? I haven't forgotten Penny. I'll never forget her, but Dana is who I want to be with. I loved Penny, yes, but Dana makes my life interesting. She makes me feel complete. I'm still your friend, but I need to put some distance between us. I want to make my marriage work. I do." Mulder backed further away from her and said, "Danny will still help you, but I think I'm going to have him put your wagon as far away from mine as possible. I have to think of Dana's happiness," he repeated. Mulder turned and stalked away from a stunned Diana.


Sharon and Dana were walking beside one of the Skinner wagons. Victor was carrying Caleb ahead of them and Dana walked with Samantha. The Skinner girls and Matthew trailed behind. Dana noticed that the Skinner children were all staying much closer to their mother since the loss of Priscilla.

"I can't trust him anymore Sharon."

"Are you sure? Dana, I know that he loves you."

Dana shook her head. "I don't think so. He's never said so even though I have."

"He does. I know it." Sharon bent down to take Samantha's other hand. "Dana, it was a kiss. It isn't as if it was more."

"Why are you defending him?"

"Mama," Samantha said.

Dana looked down, forgetting the child for a moment. "Yes?"

"I'm tired," she said. Dana bent down and picked her up. Samantha rested her head on Dana's shoulder.

"The children seem to have adapted well. No one would ever guess that they didn't both come from the both of you."

Dana nodded. "I love her as if she was my own."

"And Fox loves Caleb too. I can tell."

"Yes."

Skinner rode up and jumped off of his horse, tying her to the back of one of his wagons. "Dana, I didn't know you were here. Why aren't you with Mulder?"

"She's just visiting," Sharon said.

"Well," he said, kissing the top of Sharon's head, "you're always welcome."

"Really?"

Skinner looked surprised. "Of course."

"Then do you think the children and I could stay with you? At least Caleb and I. I don't know if William would want Samantha to stay."

Skinner looked concerned. "What's happened?"

"I can't talk about it right now. Maybe later." She looked up hopefully. "Can I stay?"

"Of course. But Dana, Mulder's your husband. I would guess that he wouldn't allow you to stay with us."

"I wouldn't be too sure."

"Dana, what's happened?" She looked away. "Sharon, do you know?"

"Yes, but it's up to Dana to tell you if she wants you to know," Sharon said.

"Well, I'm going to find Mulder."

"No," Dana said as she grabbed his arm. "Please don't Walter."

"Does he know you want to stay with us?"

"I told him that I was, but I don't think he believed me."

"Well, I think he should know for sure. I'll go tell him after we stop for the night."

"All right. Thank you Walter." Sharon and Dana watched him mount his horse again and take off.


"Mulder," Skinner called.

Mulder looked up to find Skinner towering over him on his horse. He dismounted and walked his horse over to Mulder, who was taking the yokes off of the oxen.

"I'm here to talk to you about Dana."

Mulder threw down the yokes and asked, "Is she with Sharon?"

"Yes."

Mulder nodded. "She said that's where she was going. I'm just giving her time to calm down. I expect her to come back before dark."

"I don't think she's going to do that."

Mulder looked back towards Skinner, surprised. "Why do you say that?"

"She's asked to stay with us. What the hell has happened between the two of you? I thought everything was going well."

Mulder placed his hand on one of the oxen and said, "I'm sorry you and Sharon are in the middle of this. I'll go get her and bring her back. Jimmy," Mulder shouted, "come finish taking care of the oxen."

"Mulder," Skinner said, grabbing his arm as he began to walk away. "Maybe you should let her have some more time."

"She's my wife. She should be here with me." Mulder looked down at the hand that was still on his arm and Skinner dropped it. "You can't stop me Walter. Where is she?"

"I'll walk with you."


Sharon sat with Caleb on her lap, bouncing him. Dana smiled. It seemed that Caleb was helping lift Sharon's spirits. Sharon looked up to find Dana watching them.

"Thank you for cooking Dana."

"I'm glad to do it. We're almost ready to eat."

"What are you doing Dana?" Mulder asked.

Dana stood up and spun around. She looked over to Walter who was looking down. "I'm helping Sharon."

"You should be at our camp, taking care of me and the children."

Dana crossed her arms in front of her. "I thought Diana would be filling that role."

Walter looked up, confused. When he looked at his wife, she shook her head, asking him silently to stay out of it.

"That's not even slightly funny," Mulder said.

"It wasn't meant to be."

"Mulder," Skinner said. "Why don't you join us? You can get the boys to come too."

"They're on watch."

"Well, at least stay for dinner," Skinner said, watching as Dana turned back to the food.

Mulder eyed Dana's back for a moment. "Thank you, I will."

Dana began putting the food on the plates as Margaret handed them to her. Louisa then handed them to each person.

Mulder sat down by Caleb and Samantha. "Thank you," he said to Louisa as she brought their plates to them. He watched as Dana handed Louisa and Margaret their plates and then finally fixed one for herself. When she looked up, seeing Mulder sitting with the children, she changed directions and sat down by herself. He saw Skinner and Sharon look at each other uncomfortably.

Mulder left her alone while everyone ate quietly. When they had finished, Mulder stood and picked up Caleb. "Come on Samantha, we're going back to our camp. Thank you for dinner," he said to Skinner and Sharon. "Come on Dana."

"Leave the children with me," she said.

Mulder moved closer as Caleb rested his head on his shoulder. "I'm not leaving them and I'm not leaving you. Come on, get up."

Dana looked into his eyes and then back down. "I'm not going. You know I don't want to be anywhere near that woman."

Mulder sighed. "She's on the other side of camp." Dana looked up surprised. Mulder nodded. "I told Danny to put her wagon on the other side. Now, will you come back?" He held his hand out to her, wiggling his fingers.

"If I come back, I want you to know I haven't forgiven you."

Mulder gazed at her for a moment before nodding. "I just want my family all together. Please come."

She took his hand and he pulled her up. "Thank you," she said to Sharon and Skinner. Sharon nodded her encouragement.

"Thank you again," Mulder said as he walked, pulling Dana by her hand. "Let's go Samantha."

When they had left, Skinner asked Sharon, "What was that all about?"

"I think that's for them to tell. I think they'll be fine though, once they talk."

"I hope so," Skinner said.


September 1, 1852
Wednesday

Jimmy was looking in the back of Mulder's supply wagon when Mulder approached him. Mulder had been on watch and was getting Jimmy to relieve him.

"Where's Dana?" Mulder asked Jimmy.

"Visiting Mrs. Skinner. She took the children with her."

"Thanks. You can go ahead and take off. Your young widow was looking for you. Why don't you go see her first?"

Jimmy smiled shyly. "I will. Thank you."

Mulder watched him leave before heading to the Skinner wagon. When he reached it, he found his children sitting at Dana's feet. Samantha saw him first.

"Papa," she cried, getting up and running towards him.

He lifted her into his arms before he noticed Caleb heading in his direction. When Caleb reached him, he lifted him up too. Walking with them both, he headed towards Dana who had stood up.

Mulder shook his head. "Stay as long as you like. I'm just going to go ahead and take the children back and get them ready for bed." Dana sat back down. "Hello Sharon. How are you doing?"

"I'm doing better, thank you. And you?"

"I'm fine. I'm going to let you two get back to whatever you were talking about. Goodnight Sharon. Dana, I'll see you when you return."

He turned around and headed back for his wagon. When he reached it, he set Samantha down first. "Up you go," he said to Caleb, putting him in first. He lifted Samantha up next and then climbed up after her.

After he dressed Caleb for bed, he turned his attentions to Samantha. As he was dressing her, he said, "Samantha, Papa needs to talk to you, okay?"

She nodded her head. "Okay."

"Do you remember when Papa was sick?"

"Uh huh. You rode in the wagon."

"That's right. And do you remember when Mama drove the wagon and Mrs. Tipton rode in the back with Papa?"

She nodded her head. Mulder finished dressing her and lifted the covers for the children to climb in. Caleb climbed in first and Samantha followed him.

"And then you rode up front with Mama. Do you remember that?" Samantha nodded. "While you were up front, did you look in the back and see something? Something that happened with me and Mrs. Tipton?" Again, she nodded. "Samantha, can you tell me what you saw?" She looked away. "It's okay. I won't be mad if you tell me. Please, I need to know what you saw. Tell Papa."

Samantha looked back at him. "Mrs. Tipton kissed you."

"She kissed me."

"Yes. And then you said Mama's name. Dana."

"Not Diana. Are you sure I said Dana?"

Samantha nodded her head. "Uh huh. Papa, I'm tired," she said, rubbing her eyes. "Can I go to sleep now?"

Mulder smiled. "Yes. Thank you for telling me Samantha." He bent to kiss her forehead and leaned over to kiss the already sleeping Caleb.

Mulder sat back, unsure of how he wanted to tell Dana. He decided that he better give himself a day before he talked to her.


September 2, 1852
Thursday

Although they hadn't talked about Diana anymore since Dana returned to their camp with Mulder, Dana still felt her presence. At night, Mulder slept on his side of the wagon and Dana slept on hers, with a very cold space in between.

Dana was relieved that Diana had not made any attempts to talk to Mulder, at least as far as she knew. Mulder always made Dana aware of where he was.

They were camped at the bottom of a mountain, resting their animals before the climb up the steep hill. The mountains reached high above them from all around. After supper, Mulder made sure that Dana knew that he was only going to see Danny and would be right back. As the sun was setting, Mulder arrived back at their camp just as she finished cleaning the dishes.

"I thought we could go for a walk," he said.

Dana stood up and asked, "Now?"

"Yes. That can wait."

"All right. I'll get the children."

Mulder shook his head. "Jimmy already said that he would watch them. I wanted us to go by ourselves. Just let me get some blankets," he said. "I thought we could sit by the river." Reaching into their wagon, he pulled a couple of blankets out. He then held out his hand for her. She hesitated before reluctantly putting her hand in his.

When they reached the river, they walked along it to find privacy. Mulder stopped them around a bend and laid the blanket down. He helped Dana sit down and then rested beside her. He lay back and said to her, "Come on. Lie down. The stars are amazing."

Dana looked up at the sky through the trees, but didn't lie back. "Yes. They're pretty."

Mulder reached out and laid a hand on her back. He felt her stiffen before she finally relaxed. "Lie down. We need to talk."

She looked at him over her shoulder before lying back. "What do you want to talk to me about?"

"I want to talk about what happened in the wagon when you were driving." She began to get up when he grabbed her and pulled her back down. He hugged her to him and said, "Please, I need to tell you something." He felt her continue to struggle until he said, "I talked to Samantha too."

She relaxed back into his arms. "What did she say?"

"She said Diana kissed me, just like she told you. But she also said that it was your name that I said. Dana, I thought I was kissing you. I still don't remember it, but I believe Samantha."

Dana turned in his arms. "I believe her too. Are you sure she said it was Dana and not Diana?"

"Yes."

"Then why did you say you kissed her?"

"Diana led me to believe that I initiated it. How could I dispute her when I couldn't even remember doing it?"

She shivered and said, "I'm cold."

Mulder reached down and pulled the other blanket over them. "I'm sorry that you were so upset," he said as he placed his hand on her stomach. "This has changed. Not a lot, but I can tell."

"It's the baby."

"I know," he said, kissing her temple. "How are you doing? Are you feeling well?"

"I'm not sick anymore."

"That's good," he said, rubbing her stomach gently. Mulder leaned over her. "Dana, you know I care about you don't you?"

"Yes."

He lay back down. "You know..."

"What?"

"I was thinking now would be a good time to get my other birthday present."

"Here?"

"No one is around."

"I thought you didn't want to because of the baby."

"I've really missed being with you. Do you still want to?"

She smiled. "It wasn't me who didn't want to."

He pulled her into a kiss. As they deepened their kiss, Mulder pulled her onto him. "I love being with you. I don't think I can wait until after the baby is born anymore." He ran his hands down her back and then along her hips. He began bunching her dress up and ran his hands along her naked flesh. He smiled and said, "Still not wearing anything?"

"Not always." Reaching under, she undid his pants and reached in. "I see you aren't either."

"You knew that." She moved to slide off of him, but he stopped her. "No. You stay up there this time. Lift up." Dana rose on her knees and Mulder guided her so that he came to rest inside of her. "You okay?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Okay, move whenever you're ready."

Dana braced her hands on his shoulders as she began to move. It didn't take either of them long before they both reached their peak and Dana cried out.

Mulder began to laugh. "I forgot about that. Hope no one heard you from the camp or they'll know what we're doing out here."

Dana lay back down and buried her face in his neck. "Oh my gosh. You don't think they really heard me do you?"

"Not unless someone's out here with the same idea as us. I think you're safe," he said as he ran his hand along her back.

Dana slid off of him and snuggled closer to him.

They lay there for quite some time when Dana asked, "We're not staying here all night are we?"

"No, I guess we should head on back."

"Jimmy is probably wondering where we are," she said, rising.

Mulder stood too and they folded the blankets. He put both under an arm and then put his other arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. She threw an arm around his waist and felt happier than she had in a long time. She was just afraid that something else would disturb the peace that had seemed to settle over them both.

As they were walking back, Mulder asked, "Do you want a boy or girl?"

"Honestly, I don't really care. I just want it to be healthy. But, I know you want a son, so for your sake, I hope that's what we have."

"That's true. I do want a son. But, I'll still be happy if we have a girl. I never regretted that I had a daughter survive instead of a son."

"What were your son's names?"

"Why?"

"Well, if we're going to think of names, I just wanted to know what was already used."

"We named my first son Hiram William Mulder after both of our fathers. Our next son was James Franklin Mulder after both of her grandfathers. We had both of their names picked out before the babies were born, so with the last one, Penny thought if we waited until after the baby was born, we might have more luck." Mulder helped her up a small incline before continuing. "So, when she died before we had a chance to talk about a name, I had to do it myself."

"What did you name him?" she asked.

"Jesse."

"Just Jesse?" He nodded. "Why Jesse?"

"I don't know. I guess I just liked the sound of it."

"So, what would you like to name this one?" she asked, placing her hand over her stomach.

"I don't know. Why don't you think of names?"

Dana stopped, causing Mulder to follow suit. She frowned. "I think we should both think of names."

Mulder pulled her again and said, "All right. We'll both think of names. Why did you choose Caleb's name?"

"I had a younger brother who died when he was two. I thought it would be a nice way to honor him."

"It's a good name. It's a strong name."

"I think so."

They had arrived at their camp to find Jimmy talking with Catherine Tanner, who was rocking a sleeping Caleb. Samantha was sleeping soundly in Jimmy's arms. "Hello Catherine," Dana said. "I didn't know you would be here."

"I came by for a visit. I hope you don't mind," she said.

"No. We wish you would come by more often. Let me take him from you," Dana said, lifting Caleb from her lap. "Shh," she said when he began to stir.

"She came by for more than just a visit," Jimmy said. "We wanted to talk to you."

Mulder took Samantha from him and said, "It sounds serious." He glanced at Dana before looking back at Jimmy.

"It is," Jimmy said. "We're going to get married."

"When?" Mulder asked.

"We're going to talk to the Reverend. We hope to marry by Saturday," Jimmy said. He reached for Catherine's hand.

"In two days!?" Mulder shouted, waking both children.

"William," Dana scolded.

Mulder turned to her. "They barely know each other."

"Better than you two did," Jimmy mumbled.

Turning back to Jimmy, Mulder asked, "What was that?"

"You didn't even know Dana when you asked her to marry you. At least Catherine and I have known each other for almost two months," Jimmy reasoned.

"He has you there William," Dana said.

He turned to her with an irritated look. "You're not helping," Mulder said.

"We want you two to stand up with us."

"Where do you plan on sleeping?" Mulder asked.

"With her family."

"Who's going to drive my other wagon?" Mulder asked.

"I could do it," Dana said smiling.

"No, I'll do it," Jimmy said. "I plan to keep my end of the bargain. However, I plan on staying with her family when we get settled."

"I was counting on you to help."

"Danny said he would help."

"Jimmy," Dana said. "You have to do what is right for you." Dana reached for Catherine's hand and said, "Congratulations. I'm sure you'll both be happy."

"Thank you Mrs. Mulder."

"Dana, please." She looked over to Mulder and said, "William."

He turned to her and asked, "What?"

"Aren't you happy for them?"

"I'm sorry. Of course. Congratulations."

"Thank you Mulder," Jimmy said.

"Well, we have to get the children to bed. Excuse us," Mulder said.

Mulder nudged Dana towards the wagon when Jimmy called, "Will you be there for us?"

Mulder looked back over his shoulder. "Of course. Just let us know when."

"Thank you."


Chapter 16

September 4, 1852
Saturday

During the day, they were traveling through the Blue Mountains, which was thick with timber. When they broke through the woods, they were in a valley with pines and cedars surrounding them. The Grand Round River ran through the valley and it was here that Jimmy and Catherine decided to say their vows. They wanted to have just family, so Danny, the Mulders, and the Tanners stood with them. When it was over, they all ate at the Tanners and then Jimmy and Catherine retired to their tent.

"They couldn't have picked a prettier place to marry, don't you think?" Dana later asked Mulder, looking over to the tent as they left.

"It was nice."

Dana had a sudden thought. "No one's planning a shivaree are they?" Mulder looked away, smiling. "No. You have to stop it. They deserve to have a quiet night."

"We haven't had a wedding on this trip. You have to let us have a little fun."

"Please William. Stop this."

"I can't. Wasn't my idea."

"But you're planning to join in?"

Mulder smiled, nodding. "I know there wasn't time for us, but it's a tradition. Didn't they do it to you when you and Jack were married?"

"No. I think it's stupid."

"Well, I wouldn't disagree with you on that count, but now, they'll remember their wedding night."

"I'm going to bed. Do what you want."

He watched her climb into the wagon and then headed over to Skinner, the ringleader of the event.


Dana sat up suddenly, her heart pounding from waking so suddenly. Outside, she heard shouts and pans being banged. She lay back down and looked back at the children who had also woken up. Caleb began to cry and Dana pulled him down next to her.

"What is it Mama?" Samantha asked, crawling to lie next to Caleb.

Dana pulled both children into her arms. "Just some grown men acting childish."

"Where's Papa?" Caleb asked.

"Your Papa is one of them."

"Why are they making all that noise?" Samantha asked.

"It's nothing you need to worry about." They heard the men shout again, but their voices began to fade as they moved away. "There, it's already getting quiet. Now go back to sleep."


Mulder stumbled into bed early in the morning. "Why's the chilren in bed wi' you?" he asked a little too loudly.

Dana woke up and asked, "What?"

"The chilren. Why're they in bed wi' you?" he said close to her.

"Shh, you'll wake the children." She sniffed the air. "Oh my gosh," she said, waving her hand in front of her face. "You're drunk."

"Jus a lil' bit," Mulder whispered. "You didn answer me."

"Because some grown men scared the living daylights out of them. You all made Caleb cry."

"Sorry."

"Where's Jimmy?"

Mulder shook his head. "Back with his wife," sobering up a little.

"Well, are you happy now?"

"Yah," Mulder said with a lopsided grin.

"Well go to sleep. I'm sure you're going to feel it in the morning."

Mulder covered up and threw his arm over the children and Dana, pulling them all close. "Okay," he said, falling promptly asleep.


September 6, 1852
Monday

Viewing the Cascade Mountains for the first time, the company stood in awe of the beauty around them. Mount Hood's snowy cap stood high above all the other mountains. It looked like a white cloud in the distance.

The stream that flowed near their campsite was low, but Dana was content to walk along it, alone. She liked the solitude sometimes, but she was also careful to not walk too far from safety.

"Dana," she heard. She turned around to find Alex Krycek standing and watching her. He walked slowly towards her. When he stopped in front of her, he said, "I've missed seeing you."

She took a couple of steps backwards. "I'm sorry Mr. Krycek. I don't think my husband would appreciate us being here alone."

"You didn't seem to have a problem with it before."

"You hadn't kissed me before. That was wrong of you Mr. Krycek."

Krycek's face broke out in a grin. "But you enjoyed it. I could tell."

"I didn't. I can't be what you want me to be."

"You did. You can't lie to me. Besides, your husband doesn't seem to mind being alone with Diana."

"What do you mean?"

"I just passed them both further up the stream, but they didn't notice me. They were too involved in their own conversation. So Dana, does that mean your husband can meet any woman alone that he wants to, but you can't talk to a man, a friend?"

Dana tried to not look shocked. She didn't want him to know how affected she was about Mulder meeting Diana. "I don't want to be with you Mr. Krycek," she said.

Krycek inched closer, grabbing her hand. "Don't run from me Dana. Your husband thinks nothing of being with her. Why should you deny yourself?"

"Because, I don't have any feelings for you."

Krycek wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a kiss. She put her hands on his chest and pushed hard, causing Krycek to stumble back. He was shocked to see the angry look on her face. "I mean it Mr. Krycek. I thought we could be friends, but that's impossible now. I don't want to be your friend anymore." She picked up her skirts and ran back towards camp. Krycek grabbed a rock and threw it hard against a tree.


Diana had asked Mulder to meet him privately. He was hesitant to meet with her, but Mulder was afraid that Diana might approach him in front of Dana. She was waiting by the low creek, sitting on a boulder. When she heard him approach, she stood and walked towards him, smiling.

"Thank you for coming," she said, reaching her hand towards him.

Mulder looked down at her hand, but refused to take it. Diana dropped it as her smile fell. "What do you want Diana?"

"I've been wanting to talk to you, but I haven't been able to find an opportunity. You've been staying pretty close to your wagon."

"And rightfully so. I should be with my family. I told you, I can't be around you anymore." Mulder quickly scanned the area. "I shouldn't be here."

"I miss you. I need to be with you again."

"That's in the past."

"Not so far. Just a few months ago."

"What do you mean?"

"Remember...that night, when we were together."

"Just what are you saying Diana?"

"When we were together. It was wonderful. I can't believe I did something..."

"What? I don't understand what you're saying."

"Fox, I can't believe you're making me say this out loud." She cast her eyes downward and said, "We slept together." She looked back up at him and smiled.

"What?" Mulder exclaimed. "That's not possible, we didn't sleep together."

"Yes, we did," Diana said. She stared at him, making Mulder uncomfortable. "You really don't remember. Do you know how much that hurts?"

"Diana, you and I have never been together. Ever."

"Yes we were. Shortly after we met again. You remember. We went for a walk. I had some whiskey."

"Oh my god," Mulder said. He walked away from her, bending over at the waist, feeling sick.

"You remember."

"I remember drinking, yes. I upset Dana and I wanted to talk to someone. That's what we did, nothing else." He remembered sharing a bottle with her and had to admit that he did get quite drunk that night, but he was pretty sure that he didn't have any lapses in memory. He stood back up and said, "I don't believe you. I would never sleep with another woman while I was married."

"Whether you like it or not, we did. You were wonderful," she said softly.

"It's a lie. I don't know why you're trying to get me to believe you, but I swear Diana, if you tell Dana or anyone else..."

"Do you think this is something I would tell? I value my reputation more than that."

"I can't talk about this anymore."

She grabbed for his arm as he moved to turn and said, "You can't abandon me."

Mulder stared at her a moment before shrugging her off and said sharply, "I'm going back to my family." He turned from her and headed back up the path, leaving Diana standing alone.


September 7, 1852
Tuesday

Dana was wiping Samantha's arms and legs to rid her of the thick dust that had accumulated on all of their skin. They had spent a dusty ride through the high plain that day.

Their dinner was cooking over the fire when Diana approached. Dana looked up from washing Samantha when Diana said, "Hello Dana."

Dana stood warily. "Diana." Samantha ran over the fire and began stirring the stew that was cooking.

"We need to talk Dana."

"What would we need to talk about?" Dana asked. She walked over to Samantha and reached over to help her.

"Where's your son?" Diana asked, looking around the camp.

"With his father."

"His father. Humph. You're lucky to have found a good man like Fox to pretend to be a father to your son."

"He doesn't pretend. He loves him as his own."

"Still, there's nothing like having your own son, your own flesh and blood."

"William couldn't love Caleb more than he already does." Dana looked down at Samantha, smoothing her hair, "Just like I couldn't love Samantha more than if I had given birth to her myself."

Diana walked up to Samantha and tilted her face towards her. Samantha pulled away from her and backed towards Dana. "She looks so much like her mother."

"What do you want Diana?"

"I'm concerned about Fox."

"Why?"

"He doesn't seem very happy these days. I thought maybe you could tell me why."

"Why would the happiness of my husband be any of your concern?"

"He's my friend and I care about him," Diana said.

"Well you needn't concern yourself any further. My husband is happy."

"Are you certain of that? Really certain that he is as happy as you think he is? I know what he looks like when he is and I just don't see it."

"I told you, he's happy."

"But not in love with you."

"That's none of your business. Please leave Mrs. Tipton."

"Yes, I can see it in your eyes. You don't know if he is or not. Well, I can tell you one thing for sure. You could never separate Penny and Fox. He told her he loved her every chance he could. I heard him. Does he say those words to you?" Diana realized that she had hit her target when tears began roll down Dana's cheeks. "Has he ever said those words to you?" Dana looked away. "You're kidding. He's even told me those words, but he hasn't told you?"

"Please leave Mrs. Tipton," Dana repeated.

"All right, I'll leave. Just know that I will make sure that no one will hurt him, not even you."

"What do you mean?"

"I saw you." With that, she turned on her heel and walked back in the direction of her wagon.

Dana collapsed onto the ground when Diana left. Had Diana seen Krycek with her? Would she tell Mulder? For the first time, she felt really threatened by the woman and the tears began to fall faster. Samantha came up and smoothed her hair, trying to console her.


"Papa, that woman made Mama cry," Samantha said as she came running up to him. He set Caleb down and bent down to her.

"What woman?"

"Mrs. Tipton. She came and made Mama cry."

Mulder placed his hand on her head. "Where is Mama?"

Jimmy came from behind their second wagon and said, "In the wagon lying down. I told her she needed to rest. I didn't think it was good for her to be that upset."

"You saw her too? Were you here when Diana was?"

Jimmy shook his head. "No. I think I arrived right after she left, based on how upset Dana was."

"You don't know what it was about then?"

"No. I'm sorry. Dana wouldn't tell me."

"Can you watch the children? I need to talk to her."

"All right. How about I take them for a little walk?"

"I'd appreciate that. Thank you." Mulder watched them leave before turning to the wagon. When he crawled in, he found her lying down, facing away from him.

He crawled towards her. "Dana?" Placing his hand on her back, he felt her pull away from him. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'm just tired," she said, her voice sounding thick.

"Samantha said Diana was here. What did you talk about?"

She was silent and he didn't think she was going to answer him, so when she spoke, she surprised him. "Nothing important."

"Then why are you so upset?" he asked, placing his hand on her hip.

Dana grabbed his hand and placed it over her stomach. "William, are you happy?"

He bent down and kissed her on the neck. "Of course I am. You know I'm thrilled about the baby."

"Yes, I know that. That's not what I meant." She rolled onto her back and looked up at him. "Are you happy with me?"

"You know I am. Why would you ask such a question?"

Looking back down, she threaded her fingers with his. "I want to ask you something, but you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

He began to feel uneasy, but said, "All right. What is it you want to know?"

"When you were married...before. Were you faithful?"

Oh my god, Mulder thought, Diana told her. "Yes."

"Because you really loved Penny? Or because it was the right thing to do?"

"Both."

"So, if you hadn't loved her, would you still have been faithful?"

"Dana, I don't know where you're going with this. I told you, I never cheated on my wife."

"Your wife. You mean Penny. But you don't really consider me as much your wife as you did Penny, do you William? So it's not the same."

"Not this again. You're my wife now. Penny is my past."

"What a way you have with words of endearment," Dana said sarcastically.

"What do you want to hear? I'm not good with words when it comes to that."

Dana rolled back away from her. "All right William. If you say so."

"Dana, don't be childish."

"I'm not being childish. I just know where I stand with you now."

"All right, Diana did say something. What was it?"

"No, she just got me thinking."

"About what?"

"About you and me. And I guess Jack too."

"What about him?"

"I just don't know how sure I am that it won't happen again."

"What won't happen again?" When she remained silent, he said, "Just tell me."

"Jack wasn't faithful to me. I knew about the other women before we married, but I thought he would stop seeing them once we did marry, but he didn't. Less than a month after we married, he was sleeping with other women again. His parents knew about what he did, but I think they really thought it was my fault that he didn't always stay home at night." She paused before continuing. "The real reason we moved to Missouri was because one of the women told him that she was going to have his child."

"Did he ever see the woman again?"

"As far as I know, he never had any contact with her." Dana sighed. "I heard she had a little girl."

"Dana, I'm not Jack."

"I hope that's true."

"It is."

"William, I just need you to go. I want to be alone right now."

Mulder nodded slowly, even though she couldn't see him. "All right, I'll leave." He turned her face so that she had to look at him. "You've wanted me to say the words, I know. I think you know how I feel about you. I care about you so much. I want to make our marriage work." He leaned forward to kiss her forehead and then turned, crawling back out of the wagon. When he was gone, she let the tears fall again.


September 12, 1852
Sunday

Mulder returned from his watch at about eleven that night. He found Dana waiting for him, sitting by the fire, wrapped in a blanket. When he reached her, he squatted down in front of her and placed a hand on her lap. "Where are the children? Already in bed?" She nodded. "What are you still doing out here?"

She smiled at him and said, "I was just enjoying the quiet. And, I've been thinking."

"What have you been thinking about?"

"Diana said something to me that I wanted to ask you about."

"Go ahead," he said hesitantly.

"It's about Caleb."

Mulder breathed a silent sigh; relieved it wasn't what he thought it was. "What about him?"

"She said you were pretending to be Caleb's father.

"You know that's not true."

"I do."

"Good. I love him as much as any father could."

"But will you still love him as much as any other son we have?"

"You know, it feels like he has always been my son. So to answer your question, I guess it would be 'yes.'"

"I'm sorry," Dana said, ashamed at having doubted him. "I shouldn't have even said anything." She stood up, pulling the blanket closer and Mulder stood with her. "I've cleaned up the children. They're staying with Jimmy and Catherine tonight."

"Oh they are, are they?"

Grinning, she said, "Yes." She grasped his hand and pulled him towards their wagon. He helped her climb up and followed her inside.

As he was taking off his boots, he said, "It's freezing out there."

"Well get undressed quickly and I'll warm you up."

He was surprised when she took off her clothes and climbed in without her gown. Undressing faster, he climbed under the covers after her. He turned on his side and pulled her back against him.

Dana yelped when he put a foot on one of her calves. "You said you'd warm me up," he said.

"I didn't mean I wanted your cold feet on me," she said, pushing his foot away with hers.

He laughed and said, "Okay." He heard her sniff and asked, "What's wrong?"

She reached back and cupped his cheek. "I haven't heard that sound for a while."

"What?" He placed his hand over hers and drew it to his mouth, kissing her palm.

"You...laughing."

He pulled her face toward his and kissed her. Reaching down, he pulled her leg back over his and caressed it. He reached around, cupping her breasts, squeezing lightly.

He whispered in her ear, "I want to do it like this. Is that okay?" She nodded and he said, "Do you know how much I love making love to you?" She nodded again and he entered her from behind. She arched her back and gripped the cover.

Outside their wagon, Krycek inched closer, staying in the shadows. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the noises inside. He pictured himself inside, with Dana. When the sounds inside diminished, he found himself breathing heavily. Checking to make sure that no one was looking, he slinked into the night.


Diana followed Krycek as he headed towards his horse. It seemed that he was on watch. "Mr. Krycek," Diana called.

He halted in his tracks and turned to find Diana Tipton walking towards him. When she reached him, he asked, "Yes, what do you want?"

"Can we walk Mr. Krycek?"

Krycek smiled. "People might talk if they saw us taking a stroll."

"I was thinking a private setting might be more beneficial."

Krycek looked at her, confused. "Why?"

"There are things I'd like to talk to you about that I don't want anyone else to hear."

Nodding, Krycek offered his arm. Diana slipped hers into his and they disappeared into the night. When they arrived at a secluded location, Krycek said, "You're not afraid to be alone with a single man?"

"I'm not when I know where your affections really lie."

Krycek backed away from her. "What does that mean?"

"I watched you tonight. Outside Fox's wagon. I don't think he would be too happy to know that you were there, listening. Do you?"

"Fox. You're pretty cozy with the man yourself, aren't you?"

"We were childhood sweethearts."

"So?"

"I've seen you with his...with her. I don't think Fox would like to know that you've spent time alone with her."

Krycek began to feel irritated. "Why am I here?"

"Let's just say that I don't particularly care for her. He would have been much better off married to me."

"What do you really want Mrs. Tipton"

"I want to know, do you want her for yourself?"

"Whether I do or not, it doesn't matter. She's married."

"Marriage didn't seem to make a difference to Fox."

Krycek stared at her. "Are you saying that you're his lover?"

"That may be too strong of a word."

"He doesn't seem like the type to cheat on his wife."

Diana walked over to a log and sat down. "I love him, Mr. Krycek. I guess I have ever since I met him."

"Does he love you?"

"Yes. I believe so. He's told me so." Krycek moved to sit next to her. "Did you know that he has never told Dana that he loves her?"

"How would you know?"

"I just do."

"Well, there's nothing I can do about it. She's married and I don't think she would be unfaithful."

"There's always divorce."

Krycek shook his head. "No. I don't think she would ever think of that. Besides, I think she really loves him."

"But would she if she knew he was unfaithful to her? Would she really stay with him?"

Krycek shook his head. "I won't be your pawn Mrs. Tipton."

Diana reached over to take his hand, feeling like she needed to make a connection with this man or she would lose his help. "Alex please, call me Diana."

"Diana, I can't help you. If I thought she didn't love him, then maybe."

"So, why did you kiss her then?"

Krycek smiled. "Saw that did you? Well I guess I just wanted a taste of her. I don't really see a future with her."

"Do you see yourself as her friend?"

"Of course."

"Then as her friend, do you think that she should stay with a man whose heart lies elsewhere?"

"You mean you?"

"Yes."

Krycek stood. "I'm sorry. I can't help you Diana. Would you like me to walk you back?"

Diana realized that she had failed. "No thank you, I can find my way back by myself." Krycek nodded, tipped his hat and headed back for camp. Diana silently watched him as he left.


Chapter 17

September 20, 1852
Monday

Lining up, the company prepared to make the long march through the mountains. They had to first go through what was known as Barlow's Gate. Samuel Barlow and several men had cut a path through the trees along the south shoulder of Mount Hood. In 1846, the road was opened for emigrants to travel and Barlow charged five dollars for each wagon. Emigrants now had two choices. They could either float down the rapids of the Columbia with Indian guides or take the long, strenuous path through the mountains. Skinner's company had decided to take the latter option.

"I have to go pay," Mulder told Dana. He approached a tent where two men were sitting, waiting to collect the toll. Men came and went as they paid and then headed back to their wagons to drive through the tollgate. Dana watched as Mulder drew his money out and paid the man with the beard. He shook his head and trotted back to Dana and Jimmy.

"All right, let's head on through," he told Jimmy. As they drove their teams and cattle, Mulder reached for Dana's hand.

"What?" she asked.

"Look up ahead. What do you notice?"

She turned her gaze towards the mountain and saw clouds gathering, encasing it. The wind had been gathering in strength. "A storm in coming."

Mulder nodded. "Skinner doesn't think we should go very far. Krycek told him it would be better that we just get everyone through and only travel a couple of miles."

"That little?"

"It's a start," he said and paused before continuing. "I haven't asked you, but have you stayed away from Krycek like I asked?"

Dana stumbled over the rocky surface and Mulder grabbed her around the waist, preventing her from falling. After she righted herself, she said, "Yes. Why do you ask?"

"I was just wondering."

"I've told him that you didn't want me to talk to him."

"Good. That's good."

"Are you looking forward to stopping?"

"It seems like we've been traveling forever and it seems a lifetime ago back in Missouri, don't you think?"

"It does. How long do you think it will take before we have a house?"

"I don't know if we'll have time to build something. We'll see. If we do, it may just have one room. I know I don't want you to have this one," Mulder said, placing his hand on her stomach, "in a wagon. I think we're arriving in plenty of time to build us our house, as well as a house for Skinner's family."

"We'll be fine either way," she said. Now that the end was in sight, it felt exciting to be talking about their future.

They heard a horse approach from behind and turned to look. Mulder was unhappy to see Krycek dismount from his horse and walk it over to them. Mulder halted his team.

"Hello Mulder, Mrs. Mulder."

"What do you want Krycek?" Mulder asked, pulling Dana closer to him.

"Skinner wants to talk to you."

"He can wait until we stop. We're still stopping shortly aren't we?"

"Yes, but he said he needed you now." Krycek looked at Dana and then back at Mulder. "Dana can handle your team. You trust her don't you?"

Mulder took a step towards Krycek, but Dana halted him by grabbing and holding onto his arm. He looked down at her. "I'm not letting him talk to me like that."

"Please stop. I'll be fine. Walter's not that far away and Jimmy is right here. You should be able to go and be back in no time, right?"

Mulder looked back at Krycek. "Where is he?" Krycek pointed and Mulder said to Dana, "I'll be right back." To Krycek he said, "You've told me, now you can leave."

Krycek shook his head. "I think I'll walk a little bit."

"Go on. I'll be fine," Dana said.

Mulder handed her the reins and crop. He leaned down and kissed her quickly before walking at a brisk pace in the direction Krycek had indicated.

"Have you told him anything about us?"

"There is no us, Mr. Krycek. Now, you can leave. I know how to handle the oxen. You made sure of that."

"Yes I did. Aren't you glad?"

"I am grateful, but I don't want to upset my husband any further. I would appreciate it if you just go."

"Because it's you who asked me, I'll go," he said. He jumped on his horse and turned back to her. "I'll see you later Dana. You're not rid of me yet."

Dana placed her hands on her hips and watched him trot off. She shook her head and turned to start the oxen again.


"That bastard lied to me," Mulder said, fuming when he returned.

"What do you mean?" Dana asked.

"Skinner didn't even talk to Krycek. What did he say to you?"

"Nothing. I told him I couldn't talk to him."

"Are you sure? Here, let me take the team," he said, grabbing the reins and crop.

"I'm sure. He left didn't he?"

"I guess. At least he's gone now," he said.


A light mist blanketed the area as they were setting up camp. It was only noon, but they weren't going to go any farther that day. Mulder was with the men, taking the cattle to an area that provided more grass. Jimmy and Danny went with them, leaving Dana and Catherine alone with the children.

"I'd like to go see my mother if you don't mind," Catherine said.

"Go ahead," Dana said, smiling. Dana thought it was sweet that Catherine thought of Mrs. Tanner as her mother, even though they now had no legal connection. "We'll be fine. Will you be back to eat?"

"No. I think I'd like to eat with my family tonight. Could you send Jimmy our way when he returns?"

"Of course. I'll see you later."

Dana went about setting up camp after Catherine left. She called the children to her and gave them a light meal. She felt fortunate that Mulder was able to buy them food whenever they needed it. Some families weren't so fortunate. She expected Mulder to need the money that she had saved, but he never asked for it.

The children finished their food and Dana wiped their faces and hands. While stooped over, Samantha said, "Mama, that lady is here again."

Dana turned around to find Diana Tipton standing by their second wagon. Diana walked over to her and smiled at Samantha. "Hello Samantha."

"Hello," she said shyly.

"What do you want Diana? My husband isn't here."

"Yes, I know."

"Then why are you here?"

"I've been talking to Mr. Krycek...Alex."

"And?"

"He is quite taken with you, did you know that? I even believe he may be in love with you."

Dana shook her head. "No, that's not true."

"You know Dana, I'm curious. Why don't you call him 'Fox?' I call him 'Fox,' his wife called him 'Fox,' but I notice you don't. Why is that?"

"I'm not answering you."

"Is it because he doesn't want you to?"

"This is none of your business."

"Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that maybe you aren't as important to him. Do you think he sees you as a temporary solution? I mean, the two of you seemed to get married pretty quickly. He asked you to marry him after knowing you how long? A few hours? Was it even a day? Sounds like a man who was just desperate." Diana knew she had hit the truth, at least some of it, as she saw tears begin to slowly fall down Dana's cheeks.

"I'm not temporary," Dana shouted.

"Dana," Krycek said, looking at Diana. "I heard yelling. Are you okay?"

Dana swiped the tears off of her face with the back of her hand and picked up Caleb, clutching him close to her. "I'm all right."

Putting his hand on Dana's shoulder, he said, "You don't look fine."

"Get your hand off of her," Mulder said. They all turned towards him, but Mulder only had his eyes focused on where Krycek's hand rested.

Krycek looked where Mulder glared and dropped his hand, but not soon enough. Mulder punched him in the jaw, sending Krycek sprawling backwards. Mulder made a move towards Krycek again, but halted when he heard, "Stop it."

Mulder turned and looked at Dana, seeing the tracks on her face. "Why have you been crying?" he asked.

"It wasn't his fault. He was trying to help," Dana said, looking at Krycek, who was now standing, rubbing his jaw. "I'm sorry," she said to Krycek.

"Don't apologize for me," Mulder said.

"He was just checking on me when he heard how upset I was."

"Why were you upset?"

"Because she..." Dana looked to where Diana had been standing, but discovered that she had left. She looked back at Krycek, but he shrugged. Reaching down to grab Samantha's hand, she walked quickly away with the children.

"Why is she upset?" Mulder asked.

"Diana," Krycek simply stated.

"What about her?"

"I don't know what was said, but I heard both of them yelling. Diana seemed pleased with herself when I arrived."

"But you didn't hear what they said?"

"No."

"I won't apologize for hitting you," Mulder said. "You shouldn't have your hands on any man's wife."

"I'm not looking for an apology. I just don't want to see Dana hurt."

"I'll take care of my wife. You worry about yourself," Mulder said, turning on his heel. He began to start for Diana's wagon, but changed his mind. No need to upset Dana any more by talking with her. Instead, he headed for Skinner's wagon, sure that she would retreat to her surrogate parents.


Victor held Samantha, rocking her as tears fell down her face. Samantha was crying because of how upset her mother was. Caleb sat on Sharon's lap, his fist against his mouth.

"Dana, just tell us what's wrong," Skinner said. He held Dana in his arms as she sobbed against his chest. "We can't help you if you don't tell us." Dana shook her head.

"Just tell us Dana," Sharon encouraged.

"I can't. It's too embarrassing."

"Dana, you can trust us," Skinner said. He lifted her head with his hands, gently wiping the tears away with his thumbs. "You know we can't stand seeing you hurt like this."

"I'm sorry. I don't want to talk about it."

"Papa," Samantha said, reaching for him.

"What have you done to her?" Skinner asked Mulder, pulling Dana tightly against his chest.

Mulder pulled Samantha into his arms and wiped the tears from her face. Bouncing her and trying to console her, he said, "I didn't do anything."

"Then why is she upset? We can't get her to tell us."

"I think you need to let Dana and I talk."

Feeling safe in Skinner's arms, Dana turned and shook her head. "I don't want to talk to you."

"Not this again. You can't keep running to Walter and Sharon whenever we have problems."

"Fox, Walter and I are here for you both," Sharon said. "It can't be good for Dana to get this upset."

It began to lightly rain and Skinner said, "Sharon, you're right. Why don't you take her and the children inside our tent? Mulder and I need to take a walk."

"No. I think Dana, the children, and I need to go back to our own camp."

Pulling Samantha from Mulder's arms, Skinner ignored him and handed Samantha to Dana. Clamping his hand on Mulder's shoulder, he said, "No, you and I need to talk. Dana, we'll be back in a little while. You should lie down while we're gone. Come on Mulder." Skinner pulled Mulder away and Mulder reluctantly followed his lead.

When Skinner and Mulder were away from the camp, they ducked under a tree to avoid the rain. He turned to Mulder and said, "Mulder, you know we love Dana like she was our own. It hurts us when she's hurting."

"I know," Mulder said, leaning against a tree. "I know you mean well."

"Just tell me."

Mulder looked away, embarrassed. "I think it's something that Diana Tipton is claiming."

"What?"

"I can't tell if she told Dana, but I think she suspects something."

"What?"

"She claims that we slept together."

Skinner stared at him, shocked. "Is it true?"

"Of course not. I think I would remember something like that." Mulder turned from Skinner and scrubbed his hands over his face. He turned back to face Skinner. "Diana was at our camp when I came back. Krycek was there too."

"What was he doing there?"

"He said that he heard Dana and Diana yelling. Diana disappeared before I could question her and Dana ran off to see you."

"Well, I think you need to stay away from Diana."

"I have been."

"You need to talk to Dana, but you need to make sure that you don't upset her." Skinner had a thought. "Does Diana know that Dana is going to have a baby?"

"No, I don't think so. You, Sharon, and the boys are the only other ones who know. We haven't even told the children."

"And how is she doing?"

"She seems fine."

"Good. I know how hard this trail can be on a woman."

"I know you do. How is Sharon doing?"

"She gets better every day." Skinner pulled the collar of his coat up to cover his neck. "I think we need to get back so that you can get Dana back to your wagon before the rain gets any heavier."


When Mulder and Skinner returned to the tent, they found Dana lying down. "Are you ready to go?" Mulder asked her. She nodded, not looking at him, but getting up. "Caleb, Samantha, come here." He bent down and lifted them both up in his arms. "Let's go," he said to Dana, as he ducked outside.

He hurried to their wagon, hoping Dana was behind him. He set the children down and lifted Caleb up, followed by Samantha. When he turned, he was relieved to find Dana behind him. She let him help her up and he climbed in after her.

Dana reached for rags and began drying the children. After she dried Caleb, Mulder grabbed him and changed him into dry clothes. When she finished with Samantha, he changed her too as Dana changed into her own dry clothes.

"Get under the covers," Mulder told the children. "You'll get warmer."

They both climbed in as Mulder pulled the covers back. When they were covered, he smiled as he saw them fight to keep their eyes open. He kissed them both and said, "Go to sleep. We'll wake you when it's time to eat."

"Okay, Papa," Samantha said, rubbing her eyes. Caleb turned over and Samantha turned to put a protective arm around him.

When Mulder looked back, Dana had changed into a new dress. Handing him a shirt and pair of pants, she turned away and began laying the wet clothes to dry.

After changing, Mulder slipped under the covers and said, "Come on. You need to get warm." She nodded and climbed in next to him.

As he pulled her closer to him, she rolled over and put her head on his shoulder. He rubbed his hand over her back and took a deep breath before asking, "What did Diana say to upset you?"

He didn't think she was going to answer until she asked, "Why can't I call you Fox?"

"What?" Her question caught him completely off guard.

"You let everyone but me call you Fox."

"Is that why you're upset?"

He heard her sigh and say, "No. I don't know. I guess I'm just a little more sensitive lately."

"You know, I like it that only you call me William, but if it makes you feel better, call me Fox."

"No, I don't want to."

Mulder let out a frustrated breath. "Then tell me why you're upset."

"I'm not sure why really. I think it's just a feeling in general. I guess Diana makes me feel unsure about us."

"What did she say this time?" he asked with a sigh.

"Would you leave me?"

"What? Don't talk silly."

"She seems to think you would."

"All right, enough of that," he said. "I'm not going to discuss possibilities that will never happen." He rose above her. "Know this Dana. I am your husband. You and the children are my life. You are my future. I will not let anyone take that away from me. I love you. I'm sorry I haven't said that before, but know it's true." He brushed the tears away from her face that had begun to fall. "I feel complete when I'm with you. You believe me, don't you?" She nodded and he leaned down to kiss her. "Now, I want no more talk about Diana. I want you to rest now, for yourself and for the baby."


September 21, 1852
Wednesday

The skies again looked threatening and the company decided to stay encamped for the day. Mulder and Jimmy were off with the men watching the cattle. Dana had decided to take advantage of the break and wash the dirty clothes. Catherine had taken over the duty of cleaning the boy's clothes, so she was off gathering Danny's clothes. When she returned, Diana was following her with her own wash.

"Mrs. Tipton would like to join us," Catherine said. "I hope that's all right."

Looking beyond Catherine, she saw a smug Diana smiling. She knew Dana wouldn't be able to say 'no' without having to explain why to Catherine. Diana was taking a chance that Catherine didn't know about their conflict.

"Sure," Dana said, gritting her teeth. She turned away from them in search of Samantha and Caleb, who were sitting by the clothes that Dana had gathered. She picked up the pile of clothes and said to Samantha, "Grab Caleb's hand and my apron. Don't let go. Come on Dog."

"Okay Mama," Samantha said, doing as she was directed.

Catherine and Diana laughed as they walked ahead of Dana and the children. When they reached the river, Diana and Catherine set their load down next to each other. Dana moved to Catherine's side and laid her wash down. She turned to her children and sat them down. "Stay here," she told him. "You are not to move. Do you understand?"

They both nodded as Dog sat between them. Satisfied, Dana began washing her clothes. As Diana and Catherine talked, Dana remained quiet.

"What's wrong?" Catherine asked. "You're so quiet."

"I'm sorry, I wasn't listening."

"We were just talking about babies. I told Diana that Jimmy and I hope to have at least eight children. How about you?"

Dana smiled and shook her head. "Any children would be a blessing."

"I want lots of sons."

"I don't care what they are. Just so they're healthy."

"You probably didn't know this," Diana said to Catherine, "but Fox lost three sons. He doesn't seem to have luck with boys."

"Oh that's a shame," Catherine said. She grinned. "Well maybe his luck will change now."

"Maybe," Diana said.

"Mama," Samantha called.

Dana looked over her shoulder. "What?"

"Can I help?"

"No. The water's too cold for you."

"Please?" she asked again.

"All right. Take the clothes when I hand them to you and put them in a pile."

Samantha stood and moved next to Dana's left side. She hugged her before turning back to her work.

"Mama," she heard from behind her.

"No Caleb. You stay right there," Dana said.

"Ow," she heard Diana say. When Diana again said, "Ow," Dana looked up to see Diana looking in Caleb's direction.

He was getting ready to throw another rock when his mother stopped him. "No Caleb. Don't throw rocks."

She saw him pout and throw the rock down. She smiled, not too sorry that his target had been Diana. Maybe her son had picked up on her feelings about the woman and was seeking revenge for her.

"Don't you teach him manners Dana?" Diana asked haughtily.

"My son is well-behaved," Dana shot back.

"Where are you going to live when we reach Oregon City Diana? I imagine it would be hard for a woman alone with two children. Will you head back home next year?" Catherine asked.

"Fox has promised me that the girls and I can live him."

"Really," Catherine said. "That's generous of him. But from what I've seen, he's a generous man."

Dana stared at Diana, shocked. She didn't realize Mulder would make that kind of promise to Diana. She was hoping he would first try to find a place for her. She didn't think she could really bare living with Diana. No, she knew she couldn't.

"Papa," she heard Caleb scream and looked up to see him and Dog running towards Mulder. Mulder briefly petted Dog, who easily out ran Caleb. When Caleb reached him, Mulder tossed him up in the air. Carrying Caleb, he walked towards her. He smiled as he watched Samantha helping Dana, but he was surprised to see Diana there.

"I didn't expect you back so soon," Dana said.

"I thought I'd come and help you bring the clothes back. Hello," he said as an afterthought to Diana and Catherine.

"Fox," Diana said.

"Are you almost finished?" he asked Dana.

"I just have a few more things to wash."

"You're doing a good job Samantha," he told her.

Samantha smiled as she folded the clothes. "Thank you Papa. Caleb was bad," she tattled.

"Oh yah?" he asked Caleb, pulling him away to look at him.

Caleb shook his head. "You're fibbing Caleb," Samantha said.

"Huh uh," Caleb said, pulling his fist to his mouth.

Mulder pulled his hand down and asked, "What did you do Caleb?"

"He threw a rock and hit her," Samantha said, pointing at Diana.

Mulder looked at Dana before turning to Diana, "I'm sorry about that Diana. Did you say you were sorry?" he asked Caleb.

"William, he didn't... Caleb, no," Dana yelled, but was too late as Caleb threw a hidden rock at Diana.

Mulder grabbed Caleb's hand too late and looked up to see Diana wiping blood off of her cheek. "Diana, I'm sorry," he apologized.

Dana reached up to take Caleb out of Mulder's arms, but he turned from her. Instead, he swatted Caleb twice on his bottom. Caleb immediately began crying, struggling to get out of Mulder's arms. "Mama," he cried, reaching for her.

Mulder pulled him back and said, "No you don't. Look what you did to Mrs. Tipton, Caleb. You hurt her."

Caleb shook his head and buried it into Mulder's neck. Mulder patted his back and said, "I'm really sorry Diana. I'm sure he didn't really know what he was doing."

"He needs to be taught manners," Diana said, still wiping blood away from her cheek.

Mulder saw Dana begin to speak, but cut her off. "He won't do it again, I promise." He opened Caleb's other hand just to make sure that he didn't have any other hidden rocks.

"Good. I know if he was really your son, he wouldn't have behaved like that," Diana said.

"I've told you Diana, he is my son." Caleb sniffed and wiped his eyes, looking back at Diana. Mulder leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, bouncing him.

"I'm sorry, I'm just upset," Diana explained. Mulder nodded. "Fox, do you think you could help me carry my clothes back?"

Mulder looked at Dana, who was clearly showing her disapproval, but he didn't want to say anything in front of Catherine.

"All right, I'll help you, but I'll be back to help you with our things," he told Dana. He begged her with his eyes to forgive him for allowing Diana to manipulate the situation. He didn't think she did.

"Come on Caleb," Mulder said, lifting him to his shoulders. "You can go help Papa." Mulder figured at least this might placate Dana, having their son along. "You'll have to hand some of your things to me," he told Diana.

"Thank you for doing this," she said, handing him half of her load.

Mulder moved back to Dana. "I'll be right back. Don't lift any of those clothes. I'll do it." When she looked away, he grabbed her arm and leaned in, saying, "I mean it. I don't want you carrying that."

She nodded that she understood and bent back down to help Samantha with the clothes.

"Come on Diana," Mulder said.


Chapter 18

September 22, 1852
Wednesday

When Mulder returned to the river with Caleb, he found that Dana and Catherine were gone. "It figures your mother wouldn't listen to me," he said to Caleb. "Let's go find Mama, what do you say?"

Not waiting for an answer, he headed back for their camp. He found Dana laying out the clothes.

"Why didn't you wait for me?" he scolded her.

"Jimmy and Danny came to help. I didn't carry anything."

"Oh," he said, lifting Caleb from his shoulders and setting him down. "Well all right then."

Dana arched an eyebrow and asked innocently, "Did Diana get back all right?"

"You know she did," he said. "I came looking for you as soon as I laid the clothes down. Imagine my surprise to find you gone."

"I did as you asked. I didn't carry anything."

"Good." He looked to the firewood stacked and unlit. "When is supper?"

"When I have a chance to fix it," she said sharply.

He was taken aback by her tone. "Why are you angry with me?"

She threw the clothes she was holding back into the pile that lay at her feet. "William, do you really plan to have Diana live with us when we get settled?"

"What? Why would you ask that?"

"Diana said you promised her. It seems she thinks she'll be living with us. Is that your intention?"

"Of course not. I'm hoping to help her find a place though and maybe help her with a little money. I don't think she has much."

"You still feel responsible for her. That is so like you William." Mulder looked away. "People will talk if the money comes from you."

"Would you have me abandon her? She's a woman, alone, responsible for two little girls. Besides, I'm more concerned about those two girls than I am Diana. I want to make sure they're taken care of."

"Where are you going to get the money to take care of them? You have to think of your family first."

"We're fine."

"You keep saying that, but I've been watching how you spend your money."

"Our money."

"We have to think of our children, our family. I can't believe Diana doesn't have her own money from her husband. She should be the one paying. People wouldn't talk then. Even I have money from Jack."

"I'm sure she has a little money, but from what she's said before, I'm not sure it will be enough."

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. We'll deal with it when we have to."

"Well, that will be soon. We're almost there. You can't keep putting it off."

"Just stop," Mulder shouted. He looked at the other camps nearby and immediately regretted what he said. People were looking their way. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."

"This is important. I want to give our children the best we can."

"I think I'm going to look for Jimmy," Mulder said, wishing to avoid any further discussion on Diana. "You'll be okay?"

She sighed and finally said, "Yes." When he left, she said, "Run away William, but you can't avoid this forever." She suddenly had a thought and decided to stop by to drop the children off with Sharon.


"Mrs. Tipton," Dana said, walking towards her.

Diana was clearly surprised that Dana had ventured to her camp, but quickly recovered. "Fox isn't here."

"I didn't think he would be," Dana said, crossing her arms.

"Then why are you here?"

"I want to talk to you about what you said before...down by the river."

"What was that?"

"That you think you're going to live with William and me. I came here to set you straight. You won't be living with us."

"Fox has promised me."

"I just talked to him. He'll help you find a place. I'm sure you have money from your husband and I would imagine that you have the money from your sister and her husband."

Diana moved closer to Dana. "Is that what's bothering you? Fox spending his money? It's not like he doesn't have plenty."

"What do you mean?"

Diana hesitated, not understanding why Dana was confused until it dawned on her. "You don't know who he really is, do you?" When she didn't answer, Diana continued, "He's Bill Mulder's son. His only son. Dana, Fox is rich. Didn't he tell you?" She smiled. "Well, clearly from the look on your face, he didn't."

"I don't believe anything you say anymore Diana."

"Well, I'm not lying about this. Go ask him. He can't deny it."

Dana picked up her skirt and turned, walking away at a quick pace. She gathered her children from the Skinners, who were concerned about the way she was behaving, but let her leave.

When she reached their wagon, Mulder was still gone. She began a fire, preparing to fix their meal. She was unsure how she was going to approach Mulder with this newfound information about him. It was yet another confidence he shared with Diana, but not her. Whether she liked it or not, she did believe Diana. She just wasn't sure how she was going to bring up the subject to her husband.


The meal was cooked by the time Mulder returned. He smiled at her, but she didn't smile back. So she still doesn't forgive me, Mulder thought. Well, giving her time had always worked before.

"Is supper ready?" he asked, trying to keep his tone light. She nodded and began putting food on their plates.

"Samantha, Caleb, come get your food," she said. After she handed the food to the children, she fixed a plate for herself and Mulder.

"Thank you," he said when she handed his plate to him.

The family ate their food in silence, the children tuned in to the unease between their parents. When they finished, the children ran off to play with Dog, leaving Mulder and Dana alone.

"So, are you still mad?" Mulder asked, chewing the last of his food. He wiped his hands on his pants and stood.

"I have a new mad," Dana said.

"What does that mean?"

"You didn't tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"It all makes sense now...why you're so free with your money. Every time I saw you pay for food that others couldn't afford, it made me anxious."

"Dana, I..."

"No, I'm talking now. I don't understand why you thought you had to keep this from me. This is one more secret you have kept from me. How many more are there?"

He dropped his head. "So you know about my family. Who told you?"

"Diana was glad to share that information with me."

Mulder looked up suddenly, surprised. "Why were you talking to her?"

"I wanted to make sure she was clear about what you intended to do."

"All right. I confess," Mulder said, throwing his hands up. "My family is rich, but that isn't me. The money means nothing to me."

"Only someone with money would say such a stupid thing. Money means everything. It means a better way of life. It means you never have to go hungry."

"So you're upset because we have money?"

"No, I'm not upset because you have money. I'm upset because you kept it from me."

"I didn't want it to influence how you felt about me."

"You think I would be so petty as to love you for money?"

Mulder shook his head. "Of course not."

"I would love you whether you had money or not, but I guess you made sure that you had your proof."

"Listen Dana, I'm sorry I kept it from you. Now you know why I didn't want you to use your money. I want you to give Caleb that money when he becomes of age."

Dana had a sudden thought. "Is this why you didn't want me to meet your parents?" Mulder bit his lower lip and looked to the left of her, avoiding her gaze. "Shame on you."

"What?" he asked, looking back, confused.

"You were embarrassed by me because I didn't come from money."

"No, that's not right," he protested, grabbing her hand and bringing it to rest over his heart. "I was embarrassed because I did have money. My parents are both arrogant when it comes to money."

"Now, I'll never get the chance to meet them."

"You don't know that."

She shook her head. "Just think how long it took us to get here. Do you really want to go through that again just to get home?"

He thought a moment before saying, "No, you're right. I'm sorry."

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. I have to get the children ready for bed. Please find the children for me."

"All right," he said, dropping her hand. They were slowly losing light and Mulder hurried off to search for the children.


When Mulder didn't return by dark, Dana began to worry. She knew he should have been back with the children by now.

Catherine and Jimmy returned from her in-laws. "Dana, we just heard," Jimmy said.

"Heard what?" Dana asked.

Jimmy looked over at his wife, unsure of what to say. "You don't know?"

"Know what? What's happened? Is it the children?" she cried.

Jimmy grabbed her arms. "Mulder is looking for them. He has others looking too. I'm sure they've just wandered a little too far. I'm going to go help, but I just wanted to bring Catherine to be here with you."

"No," Dana said, backing away from him. "They were just playing. They knew they should stay close to the camp. Maybe they're with some other children at someone else's camp."

"I'm sure you're right. They probably aren't looking in the right place."

"I want to go look too," Dana said, moving to pass Jimmy, but he stopped her.

"No. If they come back..."

"If?"

"They know where your camp is. You need to be here in case they come back before we find them."

"All right, I'll stay here," she said, worrying her hands. Jimmy kissed his wife before he left and Catherine wrapped her arms around Dana.

"Catherine, I hope you don't mind, but I think would rather wait here by myself."

Catherine pulled away from her. "Are you sure Dana? I think I should stay."

Dana shook her head. "I'll be fine. I think I just need to wait by myself." She reached for Catherine's hand and squeezed. "Thank you anyway."

Catherine turned to go and Dana moved by the fire to wait for them all to return.


Mulder walked into his camp, his head hanging low. Dana looked up when she saw him approach with Caleb in his arms. She ran to them, pulling him from Mulder's arms. She kissed him and asked Mulder, "Where's Samantha?"

He shook his head and tears began to fall. His knees gave way under him and he collapsed to the ground. Dana followed him to her knees. She cupped his face. "William, where is Samantha?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? She wasn't with Caleb?"

"No," he sobbed. "He was by himself."

"Where was Dog?"

"I don't know. Oh god, it's my sister all over again."

"No, no it isn't. You'll find her."

Mulder looked up at her angrily. "You don't know that. I should have found her with Caleb."

"Maybe she's with Dog."

"That damned dog. He's the reason she's lost."

Dana decided not to argue with him. "Did you ask Caleb what happened?"

Mulder shook his head. "He was upset enough," Mulder said, smoothing Caleb's hair.

Pulling Caleb away from her, Dana asked, "Caleb, where did Dog and Samantha go?"

"Away," he said solemnly.

"Did they walk away from you?" Dana paused as she glanced at Mulder, but decided to finish, "Or did someone take her away? Did someone take them?"

Caleb shook his head. "No."

"Did they run away from you?"

"Mmm hmm. Go away."

Dana patted his back. "At least it doesn't sound like someone took her. She just wandered away. When are you going back out?"

"Now. I just wanted to bring Caleb to you." He stood and pulled her up with him. "I have to go now," he said, kissing them both.

Dana rocked Caleb close to her as they watched him disappear into the dark.


While Mulder was gone, Dana put an exhausted Caleb to bed in the wagon. She stirred the fire and sat up to wait for Mulder to return. Her best efforts to stay awake failed.

The fire had died down and she shivered when she woke up. She couldn't understand what woke her until she sensed Mulder standing over her.

"Shh," he said. He put a hand out to help her stand. Dana was relieved to find Samantha wrapped in his coat and sleeping in his arms. Dog stood by his side.

"Where did you find them?" she asked, placing her hand on Samantha's back to reassure herself that she was safe.

"They were under some bushes. Samantha was sound asleep with Dog curled up next to her. He was keeping her warm."

"Thank God she's all right," she said, resting her head against Samantha's back.

"I couldn't believe God would be so cruel as to take two Samantha's away from me."

"Did you pray?" she asked, looking up at him.

He stared at her for a moment before nodding and saying, "I did. I think I prayed harder than I ever have before."

"At least she's safe now. Let's get her to bed." Dana reached down to pet Dog. "Good boy." Dog wagged his tail and crawled under the wagon to settle in for the night.

Inside the wagon, Mulder placed Samantha under the covers. "I still can't believe we found her." He slowly ran his hand over her hair. "It still seems like a dream."

"We're going to have to make sure that neither one of them is out of our sight again. I can't believe we almost lost them."

Mulder nodded. "We're lucky."

"Let's go to sleep. I know you have to be exhausted too."

As she stood over him, he leaned against her, his hand around her waist and his head on her stomach. His eyes began to close as she ran her hand through his hair. "How is this one?" he asked.

"Doing fine. We both are."

"I can't wait, you know," he said, looking up at her. "As time goes on, it seems to become more real."

Mulder pulled her down to lie next to him. "Everything will be fine," she said. "You'll see." She heard him sigh and begin to soon snore lightly.


September 30, 1852
Thursday

After over a week, the company rolled into Oregon City, the first sign of a real civilization in a long time. The street was lined with mud, thick and hard to walk through. Dana's skirt grew heavier as she carried Caleb. Mulder carried Samantha on his shoulders, while Dog plotted along at his heels.

Dana stumbled and Mulder grabbed her arm. "Be careful where you walk. Do you want to get in the wagon?"

Dana nodded. "Yes. I'm afraid I'm going to drop Caleb."

He stopped the team and grabbed Caleb from her, lifting him up into the wagon. He held out his hand to help her up and then handed Samantha to her.

"How about Dog?" Dana asked.

"No way," he said. He started the team up again and whistled for Dog to follow him.

"Where are we going?" Dana called from the wagon.

"Just outside of town to camp."

"We're not going to stop?" she asked wearily.

"Not tonight. I thought it might be possible to stay in Oregon City if we can find a place to winter over," he said, looking up to her. He squinted from the sun in his eyes. "Would that please you?"

"To not have to keep traveling? Yes, very much. I'm tired of moving."

"Well, we'll camp and I'll see if I can find a place for you and the children to stay."

"You're not going to stay too?"

"No. I want to go ahead and stake out our claim. Skinner and I are going to look for land where we'll be next to each other."

"In that case, I don't want to stay here."

"You'd go just to be with me?"

"I don't want to split up our family." She paused before asking, "Are you angry?"

"Of course not. I'd much rather have you with me. Jimmy and Danny are going to find land near us too."

"I thought Jimmy was going to be with the Tanners."

"I think Catherine has begun to rethink that. Jimmy wants to stay close to family and since the Tanners aren't really her parents, I think he has convinced her that it would be better to be with our family."

"I'm glad. I don't think I'll be as lonely with Sharon and Catherine close by."


The company was going to split up the next day and there was a general feeling of sadness in the camp that afternoon. Some had decided to head north, others to the south, and some chose to stay in the area.

Unfortunately, Catherine gave Dana disturbing news, though Dana tried to hide how upset she really was. Diana Tipton was coming with them.

"Isn't it great news?" Catherine said, smiling. "I've become good friends with Diana and will be glad to have her near."

"I'm happy for you," Dana said, a false smile on her face.

"I can't wait to have my own home."

"I'll just be glad when we stop. William offered to find a place in the city for me and the children, but I told him I wanted to go with him."

"I know what you mean. I wouldn't want to be away from my Jimmy."

Just then, Jimmy and Mulder rode into camp with a new wagon filled with supplies. Jumping down, Jimmy immediately went to his wife and kissed her. "Miss me?" he asked.

"Always," she said, smiling up at him.

Mulder leaned into Dana whispering, "Ah, young love."

Putting her hands on her hips, Dana said, "They're not any younger than I am."

"You're right," he said grinning. He bent down to kiss her, pulling her off of the ground. "There, that better?"

"Much," she said, looping her arms around his neck. "What have you two been up to?"

Setting her back down on the ground, he said, "Just making sure we're set when we head out. I want to make sure we'll make it through the winter comfortably."

Dana looked over at the wagon, an eyebrow raised. "I don't think that's going to be a problem."

"Well, there are going to be quite a few of us," he said hesitantly.

"You don't have to say it. Catherine has already told me."

"There wasn't any place available. I wouldn't have been able to find a place for you and the children anyway." He bit his lower lip before saying, "I'm sorry Dana. I don't know what else I can do."

"Well, maybe you should look for a man for her. I hear there are plenty here who would gladly marry a woman...any woman, including someone like her."

"Dana, I'm not going to try to find her a man."

She shrugged. "As long as she stays away from me, I'll be fine."

"We're going to leave early tomorrow morning," he said. "We'll cut our herd out and then be moving. Do you think you can stand a few more days travel?"

"Just so we're stopping soon, I'll be fine." As he moved them away from Catherine and Jimmy, she continued, "William, when we get there, will you build us a house soon?"

"Well, the plan is to build a house for us first and we'll all live there until we begin to build other houses. Hopefully, everyone will be in their own house by winter."

"All of us? Who is all of us?"

"Besides us you mean?" She nodded. "Well there will be Jimmy, Catherine, Danny, the Skinners...and Diana and her nieces."

"That's going to be awfully crowded."

"I plan to have at least three rooms with a second level above."

"Really? So big? I hadn't counted on something that large."

"I want us to have our own bedroom. Once the children are old enough, we'll make bedrooms upstairs for them too. I've arranged to have some men follow in a few days to help us build our house."

"I can't wait."

"We'll take one of the bedrooms and Skinner and his family will take the upper level. Diana and her nieces will stay in the other bedroom. Jimmy and Catherine will take the sitting room next to the kitchen. Danny has agreed to stay in the tent to give Jimmy and Catherine privacy."

She sighed and said, "I'm sure we'll be fine." In reality, she wasn't sure how it was all going to work out.


Chapter 19

October 16, 1852
Saturday

The temperature was pleasant outside and the wind lightly blew through the open door of the new Mulder home. Mulder had told Dana that she couldn't come in until it was finished. He made sure that once it was finished, she had a chance to look the house over without others interfering.

He trailed her with the children as they went from one room to the other. Dana climbed the ladder ahead of them and Samantha followed. Mulder held onto Caleb as he climbed up. Mulder intended one day to make stairs, but for now, the ladder would have to do.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked her.

She turned around and smiled. "It's perfect." She walked over to the window at the end of the house and looked down at the people waiting outside. Sharon saw her looking and waved. Dana smiled and waved back. "I guess it's time for everyone to get settled.

Except for Danny, they all moved their bedding into the Mulder house that evening. Mulder had the new chairs and table that he bought in Oregon City moved into the kitchen area. Mulder, Skinner, Jimmy, and Danny sat around it, designing the Skinner home.

While the men were planning, Dana and Sharon washed and dried the dinner dishes. Catherine and Diana sat away from them all, talking quietly.

"I don't know if I'll be able to live under the same roof with her Sharon," Dana said quietly.

Sharon looked over at Diana and said, "I suppose we could have her come live with us."

"No, I couldn't ask that of you. It's my burden. I'll have to deal with it. Besides, from the sound of it, you won't have enough room."

"That's true. We'll be crowded as it is. We're only going to have the two rooms to start. You're fortunate that Fox is able to afford such a nice house."

"I'm sure he would loan you some money to build a bigger house if you asked."

"No, Walter wouldn't think of it. Besides, we'll be fine." Sharon covered Dana's hand with her own. "I'm just glad that you'll be close to us."

"Me too."

"Dana," she heard Mulder call. "Are you two almost finished?"

"We just finished," she said, handing Sharon the last plate.

"Sharon, I want you to see this. Tell us what you think," Skinner said.

She came up to him and he placed an arm around her waist. "What am I looking at?" she asked, trying to decipher what they had drawn.

"Our home. This is where we'll have the kitchen and sitting room. Behind this will be our room. What do you think?"

She smiled at him. "It's a good start. We'll make it bigger later, won't we?"

"Yes, of course."

"Walter, let's make it bigger now," Mulder said. "It will be much easier than later."

Skinner shook his head. "It's fine as it is."

Dana walked up and stood behind her husband. "I agree with William. Besides, you'll want the girls to have their own room eventually. Why not go ahead and build it right now?"

Skinner looked up at her. "Dana, we don't need that much."

"Please, do this for yourself and Sharon...and for the children."

Skinner looked at Mulder. "All right," he relented, "but that's it."

"Good," Mulder said. "Now, let's draw this again."


October 17, 1852
Sunday

"Come on, it's not going to hurt you."

Mulder stood with arms crossed in front of him, staring at his wife. "I don't want to."

"You can't keep running away from God forever."

"No."

"Remember how he helped you find Samantha," she argued.

"That's not fair."

"You need to set a good example for the children."

"Dana," they heard from the other room.

"Yes?"

"We're leaving now. Are you coming?" Skinner asked.

Dana stared at Mulder. "Well?"

"No, you go ahead. You can take the children yourself."

"Fine," she said, throwing her hands out. She turned and stalked out of the room, leaving him standing alone.

"You can't force him," Skinner said outside.

"I know you're right. I can't believe we're fortunate enough to have the Reverend settle so close to us."

"Well, if the truth be known, Mulder convinced him to move here before we left Oregon City."

"Really?" she asked, surprised.

"I think he did it for you." Skinner grabbed her hand. "Dana, he'll come when he's ready. I have faith that he'll come around. Let me help you up."

"Thank you," she said, climbing into the back of the wagon. Dana, her children, and the Skinner children sat behind Skinner and Sharon in the lead wagon. In the other wagon, Catherine and Jimmy sat in the wagon seat. Diana and her nieces rode behind them, with Danny trailing on his horse.


As the Reverend was preaching, Dana sat on a log with both of her children on either side of her. She wrapped her arms around them, hugging them close. Being out in the open made Dana feel somehow closer to God.

The only ones in attendance were the Skinners, the Mulders sans the head of the household, the Pendrells, the Byers, Diana and her nieces. Byers was thrilled that he was again able to spread the word of God. As he closed the service, he looked up to see Mulder standing next to a tree about thirty yards away. He smiled, wondering how long he had been standing there. Well, at least he had attended, no matter how far away. He watched Mulder turn away and head back towards his home when the services were over. He promised himself he would keep his secret. Mulder would let Dana know in his own good time.

Byers walked up to Dana and said, "Thank you for coming. I can't believe we're finally here."

"I know. It's exciting," she replied.

"You have a generous husband, Mrs. Mulder."

"Yes, I know."

"Oh, so he told you then. I can't tell you how excited I was when he promised to have a church built for all of us."

"He what?"

The Reverend looked embarrassed. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you knew."

"No, he didn't tell me, but I can honestly say I'm happy to hear the news."

Byers looked relieved. "Good, I'm glad. Good morning, Mrs. Mulder."

Dana nodded and headed for Skinner. "You didn't tell me," she said when she reached him.

"What?"

"I can understand why he wouldn't tell me but why didn't you?"

"Dana, I don't know what you're talking about."

"William has promised the Reverend to build a church."

"He didn't want you to know."

"Why not?" Dana asked.

"You'll have to ask him. It's not for me to say. You ready to go now?"

She knew he wouldn't discuss the matter any further and said, "All right, I'll go gather the children."


Sharon, Skinner, Mulder and Dana sat around the table, relaxing after dinner. The light from the fire slightly illuminated the room. Diana and her nieces were in their room with Catherine. Dana was thankful that she wouldn't have to spend time in the same room with her that night. The Skinner children were playing with Samantha and Caleb upstairs. Jimmy and Danny were taking care of the livestock.

"When do you think we can get started on our house Mulder?" Skinner asked.

"I was thinking tomorrow morning. What do you think?"

Skinner smiled and looked over to Sharon. "Anxious to get rid of us Mulder?"

"Of course not," he said, "but I know you must be excited to have your own place."

"True," Skinner said, reaching over and taking his wife's hand tenderly. "We're ready to be settled."

"You know we love you both. I'm just happy we'll be neighbors. We'll be close enough in case you'll need us," Sharon said knowingly. Dana nodded.

"I worry you know," Mulder confided to Sharon.

"Yes, I know, but she'll be fine."

"I keep telling him that," Dana said.

"I have every right to be concerned," Mulder said angrily, getting up and stalking to the fireplace. He leaned on the mantle and stared into the fire.

Dana got up and followed him, putting a comforting hand on his back. "I'm sorry. You're right." Dana looked over at Skinner and Sharon, who sat uncomfortably.

Standing, Skinner pulled his wife to her feet. "I think we'll head upstairs," he said.

Mulder turned around and said, "I'm sorry Walter. Don't leave."

Skinner shook his head. "No, we're all tired. Besides, we'll want to get an early start tomorrow."

"I'll have Victor bring the children down to you," Sharon said. They watched her climb the ladder and shortly, Victor handed the children down to Mulder.

When the children were back on the main level, Mulder turned to Skinner and said, "We'll see you early tomorrow."

"All right. Good-night," he said with a yawn as he disappeared out of sight upstairs.

Dana followed Mulder into their room after the Skinners retired. Upstairs, they heard the Skinner family talking. The Mulders on the other hand moved around quietly, preparing the children for bed and then getting themselves ready. Mulder climbed under the covers while Dana brushed her hair. He watched as she stroked her hair with her new brush, something he had picked up in Oregon City. When she finished, she climbed into bed with him, snuggling close. Mulder put his arm around her and pulled her closer.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have overreacted like that," he said.

"No, I understand. It's all right." Dana took his hand and laid it over her stomach. "We'll be fine."


October 18, 1852
Monday

The men and Skinner's sons left early the next morning. At about eleven that morning, Sharon, her daughters and Catherine headed over to take them lunch. Sharon told her that they would probably be back sometime after two that afternoon.

Which meant that Dana was left alone with Diana.

Dana busied herself with unpacking items that still sat in crates. As she was putting the dishes away, she glanced over at her children, who were having fun playing with the packing.

"Did you think you could hide it from me?"

Dana spun around, almost losing her grip on the saucer she was holding. "What?"

"Do you think I'm blind? I can see you're going to have a child." Dana took a step back and put a protective hand over her stomach. She glanced over at the children and was relieved to find that they weren't listening. "I guess Fox is thrilled."

"Of course."

Diana moved closer to Dana, who took a step back. "You know Dana, a small thing like you might not survive."

"I'll be fine. I was before."

"Hmm, maybe. But, we're not back home. We're out here in the wild. Anything could go wrong and who would be there to help? There aren't any midwives around. There certainly aren't any doctors."

"Sharon will be able to help," Dana said, lifting her head defiantly.

Diana backed away and headed towards Samantha who was still busy playing with Caleb. She was surprised when Diana lifted her into her arms. "Four children and only one to show for it."

Samantha looked over at Dana and reached for her. Dana walked over to pull her from Diana's arms and rocked her. "I'm not Penny."

"No, you're not. That's pretty obvious."

Dana narrowed her eyes. "What do you think? You're going to take my place if something happens? Think again Diana. Nothing is going to go wrong. Everything will be fine."

"Oh, he'll forget you soon enough. Like you said, it's not like you're Penny."

Dana bristled. "No, no I'm not. But I am his wife now and he loves me. I know he does."

"Oh, you may think he does, but I saw the way he looked at Penny. He doesn't look that way at you."

"Go to hell Diana," Dana said, gasping a second after she realized what she said. She covered her mouth, eyes wide as she looked at Samantha. Samantha's eyes were equally as wide.

"Mama," she said, surprised.

"I know. I'm sorry." She set Samantha down and said, "Go take Caleb to our room, okay?"

Samantha nodded, grabbing Caleb's hand and leading him to the bedroom.

"My husband somehow feels an obligation to you, so I have to put up with you living in my house for now. However, I don't have to put up with your meddling in matters that have nothing to do with you."

"Fox is my friend. Anything that has to do with him has to do with me."

"No it doesn't. I don't care if you consider him your friend or not. I won't discuss matters about my husband with you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to be with my children."

Dana left and shut the door to her room loudly, leaving Diana alone.


When the ladies returned, Dana told Sharon that she needed to take a walk. Sharon could tell that something must have happened, but decided to let Dana tell her in her own time.

As she was walking by the river that ran through their land, she found an outcropping of rock that formed a bench. She decided to stop. As the sun warmed her, she was soon lost in her own thoughts.

"It seems that we keep running into each other at rivers."

Dana turned around suddenly. "Mr. Krycek. What are you doing here?"

"Didn't you know?" Dana shook her head. "Your husband knew my place bordered yours."

"Yes?"

"We're neighbors. My place lies just up over the hill. I happened to be walking my land and saw you sitting down here."

"My husband knew this? He never said anything to me."

Krycek smiled. "Probably because he doesn't want you to be around me."

"I'm sure that's true. How have you been?"

"Well. I started my house, but I don't plan to finish it until spring."

"Are you doing it all by yourself."

Krycek nodded. "I don't have any other choice."

"I'm sure that our men would help you when they finish the houses."

Laughing, Krycek said, "I don't think that's likely."

"I can talk to them if you'd like."

"No. Don't. I'll be fine." Krycek moved to sit down next to her and she edged away from him. "Diana told me that she was going to live with you. Is that true?"

Dana looked away. She picked up a rock and threw it into the river. "Yes, it's true."

"That can't be easy. I can't believe he would have the two of you live under the same roof."

"It's uncomfortable, that's for sure."

"So, you know about the two of them."

"What do you mean?" When he said nothing further, she asked, "Are you implying that William's been unfaithful to me?"

Krycek stood and walked to the water, his back to her. "Dana, I'm sorry. I thought you knew."

"No. It's not true. He wouldn't do that to me."

"Of course. I only have Diana's word anyway."

"She told you this?"

"Dana, I'm sure you're right."

"She's just trying to separate us. You shouldn't believe anything that woman tells you."

"Listen, I have to go. I'm just over the hill," he said, pointing. "If you need me, you know where to find me."

She watched him walk up the river and cross on a log that had fallen over the river. It wasn't true, she was sure of it, but maybe that explained why he didn't send Mrs. Diana Tipton on her way. Confused, she laid her head back against the rock, closed her eyes, and rubbed her stomach. "I don't believe it. Your Papa wouldn't do that to me," she said to her baby.


October 26, 1852
Tuesday

Dana never told Mulder that she had run into Krycek. Nor did she say anything about what Krycek had told her. If Mulder and Diana were lovers, she couldn't find any evidence of it, which further reinforced her belief that Diana had lied to Krycek.

The men had been delayed a few days by the intense rain, so they had fallen behind schedule. They estimated that if they had about three days of good weather, they would be able to finish Skinner's house. Today was one of those days.

At about three in the afternoon, the women heard a wagon pull up to the house. Dana stood and went to the door. Jimmy was helping Mulder down just as she reached them. The other women followed.

"Why have you returned?" Dana asked.

"He hurt his ankle," Jimmy said. "He tripped and fell and a log rolled onto it. We don't think it's broken, but he says it really hurts."

"I'll be fine in a few days," Mulder said.

Dana moved towards him and said, "Lean on me."

Diana blocked her. "You're too small to handle his weight," she told Dana and moved to the other side of Mulder, wrapping an arm around his waist. "I'll help Jimmy," she said, dismissing Dana.

Jimmy and Diana walked with Mulder, ahead of the others. Mulder turned back to see an angry wife with her hands on her hips. He had to turn sideways to allow them to get him through the door and when he turned forward again, he lost sight of her.

"Ow, damn it," Mulder said.

"Sorry," Jimmy said as he lifted Mulder's foot up on a chair. "I'm trying to be as gentle as I can."

"Well try harder."


Dana came in with a cloth she had soaked in a bucket of cold water outside. Diana was hovering over Mulder and Dana had to move around her to reach his injury. Lifting his ankle, she began wrapping the cloth around it and she heard him hiss, but one look from her silenced him from complaining further. She eased his leg back down and turned away.

"Papa," Samantha said, "what happened?"

"I had a little accident. I'll be fine. It's not so bad." Caleb walked up and patted his father's ankle. "Ahh," Mulder exclaimed.

"Humph," Dana said. "You sure about that?" She walked up to Caleb and pulled his hand away saying, "No-no, Caleb. Don't hurt Papa."

Mulder smiled weakly at Caleb to show him that he was not angry. "Come here Caleb." He pulled him into his lap. "I hate this. I'm not going to be any help. It'll just put us further behind schedule."

"Don't worry Mulder," Jimmy said. "We'll be fine." He turned to his wife and gave her a quick kiss. "I have to be getting back. You going to be fine Mulder?"

"Yah. Go ahead."

After Jimmy left, the household began to return to normal, with Mulder sitting aside observing. Sharon and her daughters were preparing candles by the fire. Diana was reading from the bible as the other women and the girls listened, Samantha among them. Dana sat to one side, mending the torn clothing - Mulder's ripped shirt and a patch added to the knee of Caleb's pants. The two men, Mulder and Caleb, stayed out of the way of the women.

It had been a long time since Mulder had read his bible, but he found himself listening to the stories Diana read. She looked up at him and smiled. He smiled back. He was unaware that Dana caught the little exchange, but his eyes flicked to her when he heard her get up. He watched her with rapt attention as she came over to him. He smiled, but she didn't. His brow furrowed in confusion. Lifting Caleb, she said, "Come on Samantha, let's go take a nap." Samantha followed her and Dana closed the door behind them.

"Sharon," Mulder called. "Could you help me to my feet?"

Sharon came over and said, "Fox, you should really relax."

Mulder smiled. "I plan to. I just thought I would join them."

"All right Fox. Louisa, come help me."

Mulder held on to Louisa and Sharon awkwardly, but they got him to the door. "I can handle it from here," Mulder said. "Thank you."

Opening the door, Mulder found Dana laying Caleb and Samantha onto their bed. She didn't hear him come in at first, but as he clumsily made his way over to the bed she turned around and asked, "What are you doing in here?"

"I thought I'd join you. I'm glad to see you taking it easy. Climb in."

Dana went around to the other side of the bed and climbed in next to Samantha. Mulder climbed in; Caleb nestled between Samantha and himself.

"Is your ankle still hurting?" Dana asked.

"Not as bad as before."

"How much more is there to do?"

"Maybe a few more days worth."

"I know they're all anxious to have their own place."

"Yes, I imagine so." Mulder looked down at her stomach and reached over the children, to lay his hand there. "When do you want to tell the children?"

She looked down at them as they drifting off. "Not yet. Can we wait?"

"Yes, but I don't think we should keep it a secret from them much longer. They're going to notice your body is changing. At least Samantha will."

"We'll say something when they do. I just want to rest now."

He moved his hand up to her cheek and said, "All right. I think we all need it." He felt himself drift off as he saw Dana's eyes close.


November 1, 1852
Monday

It took longer than Mulder estimated to finish the Skinner house. The rain had caused more delay, but it also allowed Mulder time to heal and return to help finish the house.

Now, Dana stood outside with Sharon and Catherine as the men and Skinner's children carried their things inside. Caleb and Samantha played close by. Diana and her nieces had stayed back at the Mulder place.

"I can't believe we're finally going to be settled," Sharon said.

"I know what you mean. It's beginning to feel more real each day." Dana looked over to her son and said, "Caleb, don't throw rocks at the house."

"I can't wait until we have a place too," Catherine said. "Do you know when they're going to start our place?"

"I think William said maybe tomorrow."

"Oh that would be wonderful. Jimmy said we're going to have two rooms, but he'll build onto it later. It's enough for me now. Danny's going to stay in the main room. I'm just anxious to be on our own."

Dana smiled and said, "I know the feeling."

Sharon put her arm around Dana and said, "You know, we can still have Diana and her nieces move in with us."

Dana shook her head. "William would never allow you to take on what he feels is his responsibility. Besides, you really don't have the room anyway." She smiled. "Thank you for offering though."

"Well," Sharon said. "I guess I better go in and make sure everything is going well inside."

As they watched Sharon enter her new home, Catherine turned to Dana. "I don't understand why you don't like Diana. She's always been nice to me."

As much as Dana liked Catherine, it wasn't something she wanted to discuss with her. "It's personal."

"Well I would invite her to live with us, but we won't have any extra space."

"We'll manage. Looks like they're finished. Excuse me," Dana said as she walked over to take her children into the house.


"Well, what do you think?" Skinner asked Sharon, his arm around her waist.

"It's perfect," she said. "Thank you all for helping. I can't believe we're finally here."

"I know it's not as big as our old house, but it's a start."

"What do you think of your room girls?" Dana asked Margaret and Louisa.

"We love it," they chimed.

"At least you have a room," Matthew said. Victor elbowed him.

"Hey now," Skinner said. "We'll fix you boys a room as soon as we can. You'll just have to be satisfied with being in here for the time being."

"It's fine," Victor said, giving his brother a disapproving look.

"Well," Mulder said, "I guess we had best be getting home and letting you all settle." Mulder bent down to pick up Caleb and grabbed Samantha's hand. To Dana, he said "I'll let you say your goodbyes while I get the children in the wagon."

Jimmy, Catherine and Danny said their goodbyes as well, leaving Dana with the Skinners. She felt her eyes tear up. "I'm going to miss you," she told them.

Skinner and Sharon felt their eyes tear up as well. "We're not too far away that you can't send for us."

"I know," she said wiping her eyes. She threw her arms around Sharon for a last hug and turned to Skinner, doing the same. "I'll miss all of you. Don't forget, you're welcome anytime."

"The same goes for all of you," Skinner said.

"Well goodbye," Dana said. She closed the door quietly behind her.

Outside, Mulder was waiting for her. The others had already headed home. When she approached him, he pulled her into his arms, hugging her tight. "It'll be all right. We'll still see them."

"I know," she said against his shirt.

He broke their embrace and helped her climb up into the wagon. "Anytime you want to come and see them, you just let me know," he said as he climbed up.

"All right. Thank you."

"Jimmy and Catherine are going to move upstairs now that the space is available and Danny's going to move into the front room. It's getting too cold for him to stay out in that tent anyway."

"So are you really going to get started on their house tomorrow?"

"I think we'll rest tomorrow, but we'll start Wednesday."

"Good. Catherine's anxious to have her own place too."

They rode quietly until Mulder broke the silence. "I don't think we're going to be able to build Diana's house until the spring." When she didn't answer, he asked, "Did you hear me?"

"I heard you."

"We only have time to build one more house. I don't think it would be fair to build her house and not Jimmy's when he and Danny have been helping Skinner and me."

"I didn't say anything."

"I know you didn't, but I know what you're thinking."

"No. I agree, it wouldn't be right."

"Besides, I think we may need Diana in the house when your time comes. If I have to run for Sharon, I don't want you alone in the house with only Samantha and Caleb."

"I'll be fine. I don't need her."

"No. I mean it Dana. I don't want you to be alone. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you. I don't think you truly realize how scared I am that something will go wrong. I don't think I could go on if..." She heard a hitch in his breath. When she looked over at him, she could see tears in his eyes. He swiped his arm across his eyes.

"Then I want her out of the house as soon as the baby is born," she said, turning to him. "And I mean that."

"All right, I promise." He left her alone as they drove on in silence and the rain began to fall. And it continued to fall on and off for the next month.


Chapter 20

November 29, 1852
Monday

It had been four weeks since the Skinners had moved out and four days since the Pendrells had left the Mulder home. It was beginning to get quiet, but it wasn't as quiet as Dana would like. Diana was still in their home.

They had finished a late afternoon meal and Mulder was sitting by the fire with the children in his lap, reading to them.

"I ran into Mr. Krycek," Diana said. "Dana, how come you didn't tell us he's a neighbor?"

"What do you mean?" asked Dana.

"He said he ran into you some time ago by the river."

Dana looked up, first at a gloating Diana, then to an angry Mulder. "What did you just say?" Mulder asked, his voice rising with each word.

"Dana didn't tell you?" Diana looked at Dana, as did Mulder. "He said he met her by the river."

Mulder stood and put the children on the floor. He handed the book to Samantha and walked over to Dana, grabbing her by the arm. "Get in there," he said through gritted teeth, dragging her towards their bedroom. He pushed her through the door and slammed it behind him. "You met him?"

Dana turned around and backed up against their bed. "She's twisting it around. That's not how it happened."

"Are you saying you didn't see him?"

"I was down..."

"Answer me," he yelled, causing her to flinch. "Yes or no?"

"Yes. But..."

"Damn it!" He turned away from her, shaking with anger. Dana looked up at him nervously, but was afraid to say anything more, fearing that she might make it worse.

He turned around and glared at her. "I have to ask. Why were you meeting him? Is he your lover?"

Dana gasped. "How can you ask that question?" She narrowed her eyes. "That would be more like you, not me."

Mulder raised his hand and before he could stop himself, he slapped her. She fell back on the bed. He stood rooted, horrified at what he had just done. He watched her raise her hand to her cheek, tears flooding her eyes.

"Dana, I'm sorry," he said, reaching towards her. She rolled away from him and ran for the door. When she swung it open, she found Diana standing on the other side. She was sure Diana had been listening to every word. A slight smile lit upon Diana's face. Dana pushed past her, running out the front door. She heard Mulder calling her name, but ignored him. She ran awkwardly away from their cabin, heading for what she now considered her retreat - the Skinner household. Dog followed closely behind her.


The sky had turned dark when Dana reached the Skinner house. The air was getting cold, but she had stood the rain and chill rather than go back home. The tears had stopped falling long ago and she now felt empty.

Looking up the hill, she saw a light ahead. "Come on Dog," she said, picking up her pace as she got nearer. Knocking on the door, she stood back, knowing that she would find security and comfort inside.

She began to cry again when Walter Skinner opened the door, a concerned look on his face. He opened his arms and she fell into them. Sharon threw a blanket around her and they allowed her to cry until there were no more tears. When Skinner thought she was finished, he said, "Dana, I know what he did was unforgivable, but I know he regrets what he did. He came looking for you here earlier," he explained. "He's going crazy with worry."

"He told you what he did?"

"Yes."

"He had no right," she said into his shirt, gripping it tightly with her fist.

"He wants to apologize. He's willing to listen to you now." Skinner pulled her away and cupped her cheeks, forcing her to look at him. "Will you do that?"

"I don't want to see him."

"Well you'll have to eventually."

"I can't talk to him. Not now."

"All right. I understand that and he'll have to also. I'll go tell him you're staying with us. Can I tell him you'll be back tomorrow?"

Dana shook her head. "I don't know."

"I'll tell him I'll bring you back when you're ready. How does that sound?"

Dana nodded. "Thank you."


Before Skinner had a chance to saddle his horse, he heard a horse ride in. Moving from under the shelter, he saw Mulder dismount and head for their house.

"Mulder," Skinner called from the shadows. "I was just going to ride over to see you."

"Why?" he asked as he walked towards Skinner. He looked back towards the house. "Is she here?"

"Yes."

"Thank God. I was so worried. I thought she might return home when she wasn't here."

"She's inside, but she doesn't want to see you. Not yet."

"I have to see her Walter. I have to apologize."

Skinner sighed and said, "All right, but just for a minute. If she wants you to go, I want you to do as she wishes." Mulder nodded. "I'll get her to come home in a few days if she doesn't on her own."

Skinner pushed the door open and escorted Mulder in. Sharon and her children sat around the table while Dana sat by the fire, still warming herself. Mulder moved towards her, but Skinner stopped him.

"Dana, Fox is here. He wants to talk to you."

Dana stood up and backed away from him. "I don't want to talk to him."

"What?" a surprised Mulder asked. "Dana, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. Honey, I would never hurt you on purpose, you know that."

She didn't say anything and Skinner moved her back by the fire. "She needs to get warm. Dana, sit down here." He held onto her as she sat. Mulder moved towards her again, but Skinner stopped him, grabbing his arm. "Leave her alone tonight. She can stay with us."

"She's my wife."

"And she's carrying your child. She's already upset. You don't want to do anything that could endanger her or your child, do you?"

"No," Mulder said, shaking his head.

"Go on home Mulder. I'll ride over tomorrow. We'll talk."

Mulder nodded and Skinner released him. Mulder headed for the door. "Come on Dog." He paused and said, "I am sorry Dana." She turned back towards the fire and he closed the door behind him.


November 30, 1852
Tuesday

The next morning, as the sun began to warm the room, Dana awoke to find the Skinner girls already gone. All of the Skinners were already up and out, so she made her way to the kitchen to eat the food that Sharon had set aside. After eating, she cleaned her dishes and wiped down the table.

Skinner walked in from outside. "Dana, you're up. That's good."

"I can't sleep forever."

"You ready to go home?"

"I don't think so."

"I think you should go home. If not for him, then for your children."

"That's not fair."

"Hiding from your husband won't do you any good either." Skinner walked over to her. "Look Dana, he should never have hit you, that's true, but you're going to have to move on. You can't hide out here."

"I'm not hiding."

"You know we love having you around, but you need to be with your family."

Dana sat down and put her head in her hands. "I know. I do." She looked back up at him. "All right. Will you take me back?"

Smiling, he nodded his head and said, "You bet. I'll just hitch up the team. I'll meet you outside shortly."


After Skinner dropped her off, Dana took a deep breath and entered the cabin. She was surprised to find Mulder gone and Diana with her children, rocking them slowly by the fire. Diana's nieces sat quietly by her side.

"You're back," Diana said, disappointed.

Dana didn't answer. Instead, she lifted Caleb up and pulled Samantha from Diana's lap. She led them to her bedroom and closed the door.

When Mulder opened their bedroom door several hours later, he found Dana sitting on their bed. "I asked Diana to give us some time today," Mulder said behind her. She jumped and turned to look at him. "Diana said you've been here for a while. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you returned."

"I missed the children."

"Not me?" Mulder asked smiling.

His smile dropped when he saw that she didn't return it. "Could we go sit in the other room?" he asked. She nodded and walked into the other room, staying away from him as much as possible when she passed him. She also sat in the farthest chair from him.

When he lifted Samantha and Caleb into his lap, they relaxed against him. "No one has ever hit me," she said.

"I've never hit a woman either."

"So I have the honor of being the first," she said contemptuously.

"And I had no right to do that. If I could take it back, I would. You have to know that."

"I want you to make me a promise."

"I'll never do it again."

"All right, two promises."

Mulder cocked his head. "That wasn't it?"

"No. I had something else in mind."

"What?"

"I want you to get that woman out of my house."

"Diana? Dana, we've been over this. You're going to need her."

"If she wasn't here, you would never have hit me."

"You can't blame her for that. You were the one who saw Krycek," he said, feeling angry again.

Dana slapped the table with her hand and Mulder jumped. "I tried to tell you, he found me by the river. I didn't go to meet him."

Mulder paused. "All right, all right. So he found you by the river. What then?" When she shook her head, he said, "Dana, I insist. Tell me what you talked about?"

Looking at the children, she said, "I don't want to talk about this in front them."

"Fine," he said, standing and carrying the children back to their bedroom. She heard him talking to the children in a quiet tone. He shut the door and turned back to her. "Now we can talk. The children aren't here anymore."

She hesitated for a moment. "He said something about you and Diana."

Mulder thought for a moment before saying, "He said Diana and I were lovers? That's it, isn't it? You don't believe him do you?"

"I don't any more than you should believe Mr. Krycek and I are."

"I'm sorry. I should never have thought that. I know you better than that."

"Besides," she said, "he said Diana was the one who told him. He was just repeating what she told him."

"Do you want me to say something to her?"

She shook her head. She didn't want him spending any more time with Diana Tipton than he had to through the necessity of living under the same roof.

They remained quiet for a while, listening to the children in the other room. "You know, when we were on the trail," he began, "I thought we were getting closer. When we married, I told myself that I would be happy if we just got along...that we would be good companions. I had experienced that special love with Penny and never dreamed that I could feel that way again." Mulder leaned forward. "Dana, look at me." He waited until she looked back up at him. "You've made me feel that way again. No, that's not right," he said, shaking his head. "I have never been this happy in my life. I thank God every day that you've come into my life." He watched the tears begin to fall down her face. "I love you," he said. "I'm sorry I haven't told you that enough, but I want you to know that."

Dana got up from her seat and came over to him. He opened his arms and pulled her onto his lap. She rested her head on his shoulder. "It was cruel of both of them." He began to bend down to kiss her when they heard the outside door open behind him. "Oh excuse me," they heard.

Mulder saw Dana look beyond him and felt her tense. She moved off of his lap and away from him, heading towards their bedroom. He watched her as she closed the door behind her.

Mulder turned in his seat. "Diana, I asked you to give us time. Why are you back?"

"I'm sorry Fox. I thought we stayed away long enough. The girls are getting cold. Do you want me to keep them outside?"

He shook his head. "No, bring them in."

Diana moved to the door and called her nieces in. "It's really getting cold outside," she said. "Girls, get by the fire and warm up."

"Sorry girls," Mulder said. "Thank you for giving my wife and myself some time."

"You're welcome," the girls echoed, moving over to the fire.

"I'll start dinner," Diana said. "I suppose Dana isn't feeling well?"

"Why would you say that?" He couldn't help the irritated tone that crept into his voice.

"Well, she went back to her bedroom instead of starting supper."

"I'm sure she's checking on the children. You better wait and see if she wants to fix dinner," he said as she headed towards the pots.

Diana stopped and turned. "All right Fox. Whatever you want," she said, smiling. "Did you settle things with Dana?"

"Yes," he said.

"Oh."

Mulder could swear that she sounded disappointed, but chose to ignore her for the time being. "I'll just go see if she feels like cooking. Excuse me."


Dana was on their bed, brushing Samantha's hair when Mulder entered their room. Caleb lay nearby, watching his mother. When he saw Mulder, he stood up, arms stretched in Mulder's direction. Mulder picked him up and turned him upside down, causing Caleb to squeal with delight, giggling as Mulder swung him.

"Be careful," Dana said. "Don't drop him."

"I won't," Mulder said, swinging Caleb again. "He loves it, don't you Caleb?"

"He's turning red in the face," Dana said, setting the brush down. She began to braid Samantha's hair. "He might throw up."

Mulder turned Caleb back over and lifted him up into his arms.

"Again Papa," Caleb said.

"See? He loves it," Mulder said to her.

"All the same, it's best not to get him too excited." Dana finished braiding Samantha's hair and said, "There you go."

"My turn. Can I brush your hair Mama?" Samantha asked.

"I'd have to take it down. How about another time?"

"Please?"

Dana looked over at Mulder and Caleb. "Go ahead," Mulder said. "We've got time. Diana can fix dinner tonight. I'll go tell her."

"No," Dana said, moving to rise.

Mulder put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her back down. "Let Diana cook for once. Samantha wants to do this for you. Let her."

Dana looked back at Samantha, an expectant look on her face. "All right," she said. She turned back to Mulder. "Just this once."

"I'll just go tell her. I'll be right back."

When Mulder returned, Dana had her long hair down and Samantha was running a brush through the ends. Mulder sat down beside her, picking up a handful of her hair. He ran his hands through it and said, "Have I ever told you that I love your hair?"

"I do too Papa," Samantha agreed.

He looked back at her. "You're doing a good job." Mulder reached down and grabbed Dana's hand. "Do you want to tell them now?"

"What?" Dana asked.

"You know. The b-a-b-y. Do you want to tell them now?"

"Not yet," she said.

"When then?" he asked, dropping her hand and placing Caleb on his knee, bouncing him up and down.

"I don't know, but not yet. Please?"

"You know, you're lucky they haven't noticed anything yet, but whenever you want to tell them, I'll be ready."

She turned and took the brush from Samantha's hand. "Thank you. You did a good job," Dana told her. Dana began to put her hair back up.

"I like it down," he said.

Dana laughed, "Well I can't do that in the day."

"Why not? It's not like anyone would care?"

Dana thought for a moment before saying, "It gets in the way when I'm working. You'll have to wait until tonight," she said smiling.

"If I must," he said with an exaggerated sigh. Mulder set Caleb down on the floor as Samantha slid off of the bed. "I think I'll go take them for a walk to wear off some of their energy so they'll sleep soundly tonight," Mulder said with a wink. Dana laughed to herself as Mulder walked the children out of the room.


December 1, 1852
Wednesday

The rain was falling outside while Mulder was out of the house, tending to the livestock, making sure that they had plenty to eat. He returned to the house just as Dana finished preparing the supper.

His children ran to greet him as he entered the cabin. "Look out," he warned them. "You're going to get all wet." He pulled off his jacket and Diana rushed to take it from him, hanging it up by the door. He nodded his thanks and lifted Caleb up, walking towards Dana who was putting the food on the table. He leaned over and inhaled. "Smells good," he said, bending down and kissing her neck.

She looked up at him and smiled. "Just wait until you taste it. Go wash up."

Setting Caleb back down, he went over to the washbowl and did as she asked. He lifted Caleb up so that he could wash his hands. "Come over here Samantha. You too."

"I can reach it Papa," she said, leaning on tiptoes to reach in.

"So you can. You're getting so big."

She beamed up at him. "I helped Mama stir the potatoes."

Dana smiled, "Whip."

Samantha nodded. "Whip the potatoes."

Mulder looked into the bowl of mashed potatoes and saw a lot of lumps. "Looks like you did a good job."

"Everyone sit down," Dana said. Mulder took his place at the head of the table with Caleb on his right. Samantha sat next to him with Dana on her right, opposite Mulder. Diana sat between her two nieces.

Dana said the blessing and they dug in to eat. While they were passing the food around, Dana said, "Do you think it will stop raining soon?"

Mulder shook his head. "I don't think anytime soon. Samantha, these potatoes are delicious." Samantha beamed.

"Yes Samantha," Diana said, "I don't think I've ever had better potatoes than these." Diana smiled at her, but Samantha bent her head.

"What do you say?" Mulder said.

"Thank you," Samantha said quietly. Dana reached over and squeezed her hand, smiling. Samantha looked up and smiled back.

The family ate the rest of the meal in silence.


December 3, 1852
Friday

Diana came upon Samantha and Caleb playing beside the cabin. Caleb was throwing rocks as Samantha watched.

"Samantha," Diana said. "Come here, I want to talk to you." When she moved closer, Diana bent down and asked, "Are you hoping for a little brother or little sister?"

Samantha looked back at her, confused. "What?"

"When Dana has the baby, are you hoping for a little brother or a little sister?"

"Mama isn't going to have a baby."

Diana smiled at her. "Of course she is. Didn't she tell you?" Samantha shook her head. "I wonder why not. Maybe she didn't want you to worry about having to share your Papa with another little girl."

Samantha began to tear up. "I'm Papa's girl."

"I know you are, but you may not be the only one anymore. I know you think of Caleb as your brother, but he's really not. Your real brothers are buried alongside your poor Mama. Having those boys killed her. It was so sad."

"Caleb is my brother," Samantha said, putting her arm around him, pulling him close.

"I know you think that dear. But your Papa can only have little girls. You're proof of that. If this baby survives, you'll have to share your Papa with her. I just don't understand why Dana wouldn't tell you this."

Samantha released Caleb and backed away, tears shining along her cheeks. Diana smiled as Samantha turned and ran inside the house. Diana felt the sting of a rock hitting her arm and looked up to see Caleb poised to throw another rock. Diana stood and began to move towards him.

"Caleb," Dana shouted from the door. "Put that rock down." Diana halted in her tracks and Caleb dropped the rock. "Come inside Caleb, I want to talk to you," she said, keeping her eye on Diana.

Dana shut the door behind Caleb and herself, leaving Diana outside. She walked over to the rocker by the fire and sat down, pulling Caleb into her lap. "Tell Mama why Samantha is sad."

"She's mean," Caleb said.

"Who is?"

"That lady." Caleb looked up her. "I don't like her Mama."

"What did she say to Samantha?" Caleb shook his head. "Caleb, tell Mama."

"No."

"Caleb," Dana scolded.

Diana walked in and Caleb buried his head in Dana's shoulder. She decided not to pressure him further in front of Diana. She stood with him in her arms and walked into their bedroom, hoping she could get Samantha to talk to her.


Mulder found Dana sitting on their bed, rocking the two children who were crying on her shoulders.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know, they won't tell me, but it has something to do with your friend," she said, tossing her head in the direction of the other room.

"Diana? She said Caleb was throwing rocks at her again. He hit her with one."

Mulder bent down and pulled Caleb from her arms and Caleb instantly buried his head in Mulder's neck. "Caleb, what has Papa said about throwing rocks?"

"No."

"That's right. Why did you hit her with a rock?"

Caleb lifted his head from Mulder's shoulder and said, "She's mean Papa. Made Samantha cry."

Mulder looked down at Dana. "What did she say Caleb?" Caleb shook his head.

"He wouldn't tell me either."

Mulder sat down next to Dana and turned Samantha's face towards him. "Samantha, honey, tell Papa what's wrong." She shook her head and turned her face away from him.

Mulder began to stand when Samantha said, "You said I was your little girl."

"You are," he told her.

Samantha turned back towards him. "She said I wasn't going to be the only one anymore because you only have girls."

Mulder looked up at Dana, then back to Samantha. "What does that mean?"

"She said Mama was going to have a baby and that it would be a girl. Papa," Samantha cried, "I want to be your only girl."

Dana looked down at Samantha, anger beginning to show on her face. She hugged Samantha tighter as she looked up at Mulder. "She had no right to say that to her." Mulder nodded, anger clearly beginning to show on his face as well. "Samantha," Dana said, "Papa will always love you. No matter how many brothers and sisters you have."

Samantha lifted her head and looked at Dana. "She said all of Papa's boys die. Like the other ones. Mama, I don't want you to die too if you have a boy."

"Mrs. Tipton doesn't know what she's talking about. Look at Caleb. He's healthy. I was fine when I had him. You don't need to worry about anything."

Samantha brightened up a little. "Really?"

Dana nodded. "No matter which it is we will love the baby just as we love you and Caleb."

Mulder stood up and sat Caleb next to Dana. He looked at the door to their room and sighed. "I have to go talk to her."

"Don't you believe them?"

"Of course I do. I just have to talk to her. Stay here."


"Diana, I need to talk to you privately."

Diana was sitting at the table with her nieces. "Of course Fox. Girls, go to our room." When the girls were no longer in the room, she asked, "What is it?"

Mulder sat down and said, "I need to talk to you."

"Yes?"

"The children are upset. Can you tell me why?"

"Maybe it's because they didn't know that Dana was going to have a baby. I didn't know it was a secret."

"Dana didn't want them to know yet."

"So, it was her decision. Why wouldn't she want them to know?"

"I don't know, but it doesn't matter. It was Dana's decision when to tell them."

"I wouldn't have said anything if I thought they didn't know."

"Diana, why would you bring up my sons? What good did it do to remind Samantha about her mother?"

"I'm sorry Fox, I didn't mean to."

"Well, I have two upset children now."

Diana hesitated before saying, "Dana seems to like to keep secrets."

"What does that mean?"

"I mean, she kept the secret about the baby from the children. She kept the secret about meeting Mr. Krycek."

"She's explained that to me. And I don't want to get into it with you right now, but I think you knew exactly what my reaction would be when you said something about Krycek seeing her. Do you get pleasure out of making trouble for Dana and me?"

"I don't know what you mean Fox," she said, trying to profess ignorance.

It didn't work. He began to slowly nod his head. "Thinking back, I think that's been your intention all along. If you think I would ever be with you, you need to think again. I only love Dana and I know she loves me. I have never loved you."

"That's not true Fox."

"It is. I can't allow you to try to destroy my family any longer, no matter what our friendship was in the past. I've tried to be patient, but you've upset my wife and children."

Diana began to grow nervous. "I've got to go check on the girls," she said, rising.

She stopped in her tracks when he said, "Diana, I don't think it would be good for Dana and the children if you stay here anymore."

She turned back around. "What do you mean?"

"I'm going to take you and your nieces back to Oregon City and see if we can find a place for you to stay for the winter."

"Fox, I don't want to go back there. I want to stay here."

Mulder shook his head. "I'm sorry. I can't risk you upsetting Dana or the children anymore. I just have to go see Danny tonight to have him stay with Dana and then we'll leave tomorrow morning." He rose and headed back to his room. "Get your things packed and be ready to leave early tomorrow," he called over his shoulder. "I don't want to be gone any longer than I have to."

He left a shocked Diana behind and went to tell Dana the news before heading over to see Danny.


Chapter 21

December 10, 1852
Friday

The rain began to change to snow during the middle of the day. The children were excited to see the snow begin to fall. They had been waiting for Mulder to return for the last two days. Dana wasn't sure how long it would take for him to return, but she was beginning to grow anxious.

When he told her that he was taking Diana back to Oregon City, she was thrilled. She only wondered how he was going to find a place when he hadn't before. He took quite a bit of money with him, hoping that this would encourage someone to give Diana and her nieces a place.

They heard a wagon roll into the drive outside the cabin and the children began cheering. Dana stood and went over to the door. "Hush," she told them. "It might not be Papa."

"It is," Samantha exclaimed. "I know it is."

Dana smiled and said, "All right, let me get the door open." Her smile diminished when she saw Mulder helping Diana down from the wagon and then lifting the girls down as well.

They all hurried toward the cabin and Dana stood away from their path. The girls and Diana immediately headed for the fire. Mulder walked more slowly behind them. "We're back," he said unnecessarily.

Dana shook her head and felt her heart sink.

"I'll talk to you about it in a little while. I want to first get the things in. Danny," Mulder called. "I need you to help me with bringing some things in."

Mulder and Danny began to unload the wagon as Diana and her nieces tried to warm themselves by the fire. They all looked exhausted. When Danny and Mulder returned from the wagon, Dana was surprised to see them carry in a bathtub big enough to relax comfortably in.

Mulder grinned. "I thought you might enjoy this. Do you like it?"

"For me? Where did you find it?"

"Well, you're not going to believe this. My father had several things sent on a ship for us as wedding presents. They arrived after we left Oregon City and it's been sitting there waiting to be shipped. I guess Father thought it would get here before we did. He also sent us some furniture. Oh, and you'll love this...they included a stove."

Her eyes lit up. "Really?"

"I thought you'd like that one. I had to buy another wagon to carry it all. Mother sent us clothes too. There are all kinds of things. Their letter said that they had heard how people had to abandon their wagons and all of their possessions. He was afraid we didn't have anything."

"I have to sit down," Dana said.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm sorry. I guess I'm not used to having so much."

Just as she said this, Danny walked in with Fanny and Eliza's things. "I thought we should move them upstairs first so we can move in some of the new things," Danny suggested. "What do you think?"

"That sounds best," Mulder agreed.

As Danny began carrying his load up the ladder, Diana and her nieces followed him.

"Dana, you just sit here out of the way," Mulder said. "We'll do everything."

"But, you said you were going to talk to me."

"As soon as we're through," he assured her. "I just want to have it all in before we talk."


In less than an hour, they had everything moved inside and in place. Samantha and Caleb pulled Dana up and into their new bedroom, which had been occupied by Diana and her nieces. "Mama, come see what Grandmother and Grandfather sent us." Inside were two beds, smaller and lower for the children.

Dana began to feel overwhelmed with emotion as she watched the children play on their new beds. "Dana," she heard Mulder call from their bedroom. "I have something else to show you."

When she entered their room, she found a smiling Mulder, rocking a cradle with his foot. "Looks like my parents thought of everything."

"Oh my goodness. I can't believe they sent that."

"I'm sure they're counting on us giving them more grandchildren. I guess this would be a hint if we couldn't figure it out for ourselves."

Dana bent down awkwardly and ran her hand over the fine wood. "This looks expensive." She turned around and looked at their new furniture. "It all does."

"Well, that's the Mulder way. Nothing but the best. We can send it back if you don't want it."

She looked at him shocked. "Don't you dare."

Mulder laughed and sat on their bed. "That's what I thought." She moved over to a chest and began putting clothes away. "I tried you know," he said.

"Hmm?"

"I tried to find a place for them. I even offered more money than I should have, but no one would take them."

"I'm sure you did."

"But I have a solution," he continued with a smile. "I just have to check on one more part of my plan."

She stopped unpacking and placed a hand on her lower back. "Your plan?"

He nodded. "On the way back, I convinced Diana to move to Jimmy and Catherine's home."

"But they don't have enough room for all of them."

"They will if Danny moves here." He hesitated, unsure how she would handle his next suggestion. "And if her nieces stayed with us." Before Dana could say anything, he finished by saying, "I don't think she really wants the girls anyway. They're really good girls."

"I know they are."

"And you know I want a big family anyway." He pulled her towards him and onto his lap. "So, I thought if you agreed, the girls could stay with us. We'd raise them."

"What does she say about us keeping the girls?"

"She actually agreed quickly to my suggestion."

"The good news is that this way, we will rarely see her. Maybe only at church. I'm sure some man will come courting her soon. A man would be able to double his land if she agreed to marry. Diana isn't going to do her own homesteading anyway."

"What man would want her?"

"Well actually, the men are quite desperate for any woman of marrying age. Skinner was telling me about a couple of young men who came to him about Louisa."

"You're not serious."

Mulder nodded his head. "Yes, I am, and so were they. Skinner told them to go to hell and ran them off with his gun."

"Maybe he should have sent them over to check out Diana."

"Bet he didn't think of it," he said, laughing.

When Mulder finished, she asked "What does Danny have to say?"

"He's happy anywhere he has a bed and is fed. He agreed," he clarified. "So, would that be all right with you? Us taking the girls in?"

"Don't you think they'd miss her?"

"Think Dana. She really doesn't have all that much to do with them anyway. They're pretty quiet when she's around. I'm not sure how much she likes children."

"She certainly doesn't understand them."

"You still haven't agreed."

She smiled and kissed him softly on the lips. "I would say that I would have no problem with that arrangement."

"Are you sure? The girls will be our responsibility."

She nodded. "I know Samantha and Caleb love playing with them. I say we do it."

Mulder leaned in to kiss her back. "Thank you." He placed his hand over her stomach. "How much longer do you think?"

"Maybe a month or two?"

"Good. The closer we get, the more scared I get...oh," he said. "What was that?"

Dana looked at him confused. "The baby. Didn't you feel that when Penny was going to have a baby?"

Mulder shook his head. "I didn't touch her then. She went to stay with her parents when she was this far along."

"Didn't you go and stay with her?"

"They wouldn't let me. They were afraid I would upset her."

"I'm sorry. You shouldn't have missed that," she said, placing her hand over his.

Mulder rubbed his hand along her stomach, searching. "What's that?" he asked, feeling her skin slightly bulged.

"I think his foot. I'm not sure."

"This is amazing. I can't believe I can actually feel the baby."

Dana laughed and kissed him. "I'm glad you're so happy."

"Remember your promise. You said I could be with you."

"I still don't understand why you would want to."

"Dana, you promised."

"I know. You can be there. I wouldn't stop you."

Mulder relaxed. "Good."

"But I wouldn't get in Sharon's way if I were you."

"No, I won't," he promised.

They cuddled for a short time, both glad to be in each other's company again. "When is Diana leaving?" Dana asked quietly.

"Danny and I are going to take her over to Jimmy's today. I'm just hoping that I'm not presuming too much. Danny assures me that they'll be fine with taking her in. He plans to pick up all of his things while we're there."

"Come on," she said, getting up from his lap and feeling happier than she had when Mulder first returned. "Let's go see what our children are up to."


December 12, 1852
Sunday

The Mulder home was full of people that morning. Their small community of the Mulders, Skinners, Byers, Pendrells, and Diana Tipton filled the house with melodies of hymns.

Both Mulder and Dana were disappointed that Diana came, but knew that Jimmy and Catherine wouldn't leave her behind. When they arrived earlier, Diana didn't look in their direction. In fact, she pretty much avoided them both. For that, they were both thankful.

It was Mulder's idea to have the service at their house since it was the largest. Dana was thrilled when he attended the service instead of retreating outside or to their bedroom.

Diana sat next to Catherine on the other side of the room from the Mulders. Fanny and Eliza stayed with them instead of going to their aunt. As they listened to the Reverend's sermon, the girls sat on the arms of Dana's rocker. Diana didn't seem to mind that the girls didn't come to her. Maybe William was right. Maybe she didn't really want the girls at all. Diana hadn't even talked to them since she arrived.

When the service was over, Louisa put herself in charge of the younger children and escorted them upstairs to play. Victor and Mathew decided to stay with the men, who had gathered around the fire. The women began preparing lunch in the kitchen.

It had been a while since they had all been together and the men and women wasted no time in catching up. "How are things going over at your place?" Mulder asked Reverend Byers.

"Good. We're still getting used to being parents." He paused before adding, "I was happy you attended services, Mr. Mulder."

Mulder smiled. "Me too."

"I know you've made your wife very happy."

He nodded. "You know, the reason I didn't go to church or attend your services was because I blamed God for him taking Penny, my first wife, and our boys. I didn't think God cared about what happened to me, so why should I care about God."

"And you now realize your error?"

Mulder shrugged. "At the time, I don't see how I could have reacted any differently." He looked his wife's way as she and Sharon began organizing the preparation of the food. "I now see how blessed I really am."

The Reverend looked in the same direction and smiled. "Yes, you certainly are."

From the other side of the room, as the women sat around the kitchen table preparing the food, Catherine asked, "Dana, when is the baby due?"

Dana looked up from peeling potatoes. "I think late January or early February."

"Really," Diana said skeptically.

Dana turned at her tone. "Yes, why?"

"Well," she said, indicating Dana's stomach, "you certainly seem bigger than my sister was."

"I'm not your sister."

"Dana's smaller than your sister was," Sharon added. "All pregnancies are not the same." She came around and hugged Dana. "Dana's doing just fine."


As the families were climbing back into their wagons, Diana pulled Mulder aside.

"Fox, have you noticed how large Dana is? My sister wasn't nearly that large with her children at this point."

Mulder stood back, trying to analyze the motives behind her statement. "What are you implying Diana?"

"Nothing," she said innocently, moving back away from him. Mulder grabbed her arm, stopping her.

"It doesn't sound like nothing."

"I'm just concerned about you Fox. I mean Alex Kr--"

Mulder bit down into her arm and Diana grabbed at his hand. "If you think that anyone besides me is the father, then you can forget it. That's my child. Dana's small. Of course the baby will look bigger on her."

"I wasn't saying that Fox."

Mulder released her. "You better not be. And don't ever say anything to Dana either. I'm really tired of your games Diana."

She glared at him before turning back and heading for Jimmy and Catherine. They didn't speak to each other again for a long time.

Mulder was sorry that he hadn't found a place for her in Oregon City. It seemed that she was still trying to cause trouble. However, he knew if he had left her there, that in all likelihood, she would never have agreed to turn Fanny and Eliza over to him. He was sure he had made the right decision to welcome them in to their family and Dana seemed to agree.


December 15, 1852
Wednesday

Dana stared out the window, watching the snow fall for the sixth straight day. "When is it going to stop?" she asked wistfully.

"It's already over a foot out there," Mulder said, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her.

"Do you really have to go out in that?"

He put his chin on her shoulder, watching with her. "I have to go take care of the stock. We don't want to lose them."

"I don't want to lose you. Promise me you won't go too far."

"You worry too much. I'll be fine. I won't be out of sight of the house."

"How long do you think it will keep snowing?"

"I don't know, but I suspect that there will be snow for Christmas." Dog scratched at the door, wanting to be let out. Mulder went over to the door and opened it. He returned to her, slipping his hands back around, slowly rubbing his hands over her stomach. "I can't believe I'm living in a house with a dog."

"You'll get used to it."

"I don't think... Oh," he said, "there he is."

Dana laughed and said, "I guess he's waking up. He's been quiet for some time."

Mulder kissed her neck and said, "I've got to go." He pulled his coat off the hook by the door and slipped it on. "I'll be back shortly. Stay warm." She watched him from the window as he ran to the shelter that they had erected for the feed.


December 20, 1852
Monday

Dana was in their bedroom, napping with Samantha and Caleb when Mulder began heating water over the fire. He had been bringing water from one of the barrels outside, when Danny questioned him.

"What are you doing Mulder?"

He looked up as he was about to pour the water into the large pot that hung over the fire. "Heating up the water for Dana."

"I didn't know she was going to cook anything."

"It's not for cooking," he said with a wink. "I wanted to surprise her with a bath. I know it's not very comfortable for her right now and I thought this might be relaxing for her."

"I'm sure she'll love it," he said. "Personally, I don't like baths. Besides, I don't think a man needs to take one too often."

"That's what you say," Mulder said, crinkling his nose and then laughing.

"Hey Mulder, I thought I'd take Fanny and Eliza over to Jimmy's to see their aunt. Do you think that would be okay?"

Mulder was surprised Danny would want to venture out in the snow. "Did they ask to see her?"

"No, but I think they should. Besides, I wanted to see Jimmy and Catherine. I just thought I could take them along. Would you mind?"

"If they want to go with you, go ahead and take them. Just be careful."

"I will. Thanks." Danny climbed the ladder and disappeared out of sight.


Dana was dreaming about a waterfall when she woke up, disoriented. She heard the sound of water across the room. Sitting up, she leaned back on her elbows. "What are you doing?"

Mulder smiled as he put another bucketful of water in the tub. "I'm preparing a bath for you."

"Really? How come?"

"I thought you could use it. You will use it won't you?"

She smiled from the bed. "After all your hard work? Of course."

"Well it will take me a little while longer. I'm still heating water. Lie back down and I'll let you know when it's ready."

"All right," Dana said. She wrapped her arm back around the two children who were sleeping peacefully beside her.

She must have drifted off because Mulder was shaking her foot to wake her. "Hey there, you ready?" he asked.

"Mmm. Yes, I'm awake."

"I'll get the children and take them back to their beds. Just stay where you are."

"Okay," she said, drifting off again.

When Mulder returned, she felt him unbutton her dress. "Come on, I'll help you stand," he said, helping her roll off of the bed.

"I can undress myself," she told him.

"Yes," he said with a twinkle in his eye, "but my way is more fun. Turn around." He helped her remove the rest of her clothing and walked with her, holding her hand as she climbed in and sat down.

"Are you going to stay?"

"No. I'm going to let you have some quiet time," Mulder said, heading for the door.

"Don't go."

Mulder stopped, his hand on the door. "You want me to stay?" he asked, turning back towards her.

She smiled and said, "You can help me."

He grabbed a rag that was on the table next to her, soaking it and rubbing the soap over it. "Lift your leg," he told her. As she complied, he said, "Dana, I need to tell you something."

"Yes?" she asked as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

"Diana said something to me the last time she was here."

Dana's eyes popped open. "What?"

"I've been hesitating telling you, but I don't want there to be any secrets between us." He looked up briefly before returning to his task.

"What did she say?" Dana asked. He felt her tense up as he lifted her other leg out of the water.

"Relax," he said. "I'm telling you this so you won't get upset."

"Go on," she encouraged.

"She said she thought the baby was a little large."

"Oh that," Dana said. "She already said something to me."

"She did?"

"Yes, when we were all cooking. Why?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nothing. Anyway, I want you to know that I have no doubt who the father is."

"What? Why would you even say that?"

"You didn't understand what Diana was saying when she made that comment?"

Dana thought back. She hadn't really thought about it, but she could see how Diana could use that to try to throw doubt in Mulder's mind, hoping to cause a rift in their relationship. That woman seemed to never give up.

"No. I didn't see it that way, but I see you did."

He let her leg slip back down into the water and moved closer to her. He reached down into the water and placed his hand on her stomach. "I told her you were small. The baby is going to look large."

Dana reached down and moved his hand over to where the baby was active and Mulder smiled. "I can't believe she said anything to you. It's none of her business anyway...but why would that stop her. It hasn't before."

"That's true."

Dana sank further into the water, dunking underneath. When she surfaced, she asked, "Can you wash my hair?"

Mulder moved behind her, lathered up his hands, and began massaging her scalp. He heard her sigh and he continued. He grabbed the soap again and lathered up the rest of her hair. "Dip down," he said. When she came back up, he made sure all of the soap was out of her hair. "You ready to get out?"

She nodded and he reached over to get a quilt while she stood. He wrapped her up in it as she stepped out. "You warm enough?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Good, because it's my turn now." He turned from her and began stripping. She sat down on the bed and watched him. "Ahh," he said as he sunk into the water.

"Feel good?"

"Feels great." He closed his eyes and leaned back. He didn't fit as well in the tub, but it still felt good. "There's a new robe behind you that you can put on."

She turned around, surprised that she didn't notice it before. "Where did this come from?"

"I bought it last time I went to town."

She slipped it on and said, "I'll be back."

When she came back, she had Caleb with her.

"Hi buddy," Mulder said.

"I thought maybe he could join you and you could give him a bath."

"Sure, hand him over."

Dana undressed him and lifted him over the edge. Mulder grabbed him and set him down on his lap. Caleb began slapping the water. "Oops," Dana said. "I should have warned you that he likes playing in the water."

Mulder grabbed his hands and said, "That's okay. Come on Caleb, I need to get you clean."

Mulder soaped up Caleb's hair. He said, "Dana, is his hair getting darker? It doesn't seem as blond as when I first saw him."

She came over to him and looked closer. "I don't know, is it?"

"I think it is."

"Hand me the soap, I'll wash your hair for you."

He handed the soap up to her and she began lathering his hair. "That feels good," he said, bouncing Caleb in the water.

"I didn't see Danny or the girls when I went to get Caleb."

"He took them to Jimmy's."

"He did? Did the girls ask to go with him?"

"No, but he asked them and he said they wanted to go."

"Hmm. I'm surprised." She briefly kissed him on his cheek and said, "Lean back so I can rinse." When he did, she scooped water up and rinsed his hair.

"I think we're both clean," Mulder said. "You want to take him?"

"Just a minute," she said, going to get a couple more quilts. "Okay, hand him up." She wrapped Caleb up in one of the quilts and handed the other to Mulder as he stood up. "Can you finish drying him off?"

"Yah. Let me dry off first."

"I want to go get Samantha. Can you take him to his room and dress him for bed when you're finished?"

"Go ahead. We'll be fine," he told her.

By the time Dana brought Samantha back, Mulder had changed and was drying Caleb. Mulder smiled at Samantha. "Your turn," he told her.

"Do I have to Papa?"

Mulder laughed. "One who loves the water and one who doesn't. I'm glad I had the one who loves water. Good luck," he told Dana.

"Come on Samantha," he heard her say as he carried Caleb out. "It's not that bad."

He closed the door to give them privacy. Mulder took Caleb to his room and dressed him, but decided to bring him back to the fire until his hair dried. Dana found him rocking a sleeping Caleb, wrapped snuggly in a blanket.

"He's asleep?" she asked as she guided Samantha, who was already dressed for bed. Dana had her wrapped up as warmly in a smaller quilt.

Mulder nodded. "His hair is dry now. Why don't you go ahead and put him to bed." Dana took him from Mulder and headed for the children's bedroom. "Come here Samantha," her father said.

When Dana returned, she took the seat across from him and bent her head towards the fire. She turned her head and said, "I'm glad we have that tub. I haven't felt this clean for a long time."

"I guess that means I'll be hauling a lot more water into the house."

Dana smiled. "That's right."

He watched her dry her hair and he rubbed an end of the quilt over Samantha's hair, trying to speed up the process. "I'll be back," he said after a while. He lifted Samantha and carried her to her room. Dog followed closely. When he returned, he bent over and ran his hand through her hair. "It's almost dry."

She relaxed into his touch as he let his fingers flow through the tresses, over and over. When he thought it was dry, he said, "Sit back. I'll braid your hair for you." She sat away from him and laughed. "What, you don't think I can do it? Who do you think did Samantha's hair before you?"

She smiled and said, "Your mother."

"Very funny. I can do it. Just turn around."

He separated her hair into three sections and began winding it around. When he finished, he tied it off with a piece of ribbon. She ran her hand over the long braid and said, "Very nice. I stand corrected."

"Come on, the children are in bed, let's go too."


December 24, 1852
Friday

The weather was cold the day before Christmas and the snow continued to blow. They were all getting tired of the snow, but the children were getting excited about Christmas.

Dana was busy cooking a pie for the next day while Mulder was outside feeding the livestock. Eliza and Fanny were playing with the Mulder children upstairs.

She heard something drop and she yelled up, "Be careful up there." This was followed by giggling from the children.

Dana began to roll out the dough to prepare the crust, when she heard giggling behind her. She turned around to find four smiling children.

"What have you been up to?" she asked them.

"Nothing," they chimed.

"Can we help Mama?" Samantha asked.

"All right. Fanny and Eliza, you can take turns rolling out the dough. Here Samantha, you sprinkle the flour."

Dana hoisted Caleb into a chair at the end so that he could watch the girls work. She stood behind the girls, making sure that they were preparing the crust correctly.

"Mrs. Mulder," Eliza said, "Fanny and I like living here."

"You do?" The girls both nodded. "Do you miss your Aunt Diana?"

"Huh uh," Fanny said. "She didn't like us being around."

"I'm sure that's not true."

"When we went over there with Danny, she didn't even say anything to us."

"Really?"

"When she lived here, she told us to be quiet when we were around you. She said that you didn't like us and that we were lucky we got to live here."

"That's not true girls. You know that don't you?"

They nodded. "Aunt Diana lied to us. You like us, right?"

Dana smiled and pulled both girls close to her. "Of course I do. I'm glad you're a part of our family now."

The girls went back to rolling out the dough. She couldn't believe that Diana was so cruel as to tell the girls she didn't like them. But then again, what else could she expect from her?


December 25, 1852
Saturday

From her bed, Dana stared out the window in the early morning, watching the snow blow outside. She looked over her shoulder and observed Mulder sleeping soundly. She rolled out and moved over to the chamber pot to use it. She had forgotten how much she needed to go as the child grew. She lifted the covers and crawled back into the bed.

"Feel better?" he asked as he pulled her closer.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You're needing to get up more in the night, aren't you."

"I'm sorry to keep waking you."

"I don't care. I just didn't know one small woman could go that much," he said, laughing.

"Well, it's only going to get worse."

They had settled back down into a quiet slumber when they heard a banging on their door, followed by the tread of tiny feet approaching them.

Mulder turned over onto his other side. "What are you two doing up?"

Samantha said, "Come on Papa, it's morning. Can we open our presents?"

Mulder reached down and tossed her onto the bed. "No. It's too early. Come here Caleb," he said, reaching down and lifting him up. "Climb under the covers, you two."

Caleb crawled under, but Samantha stood up and jumped on the bed. "Come on, get up."

"Samantha," Mulder said loudly. "Stop that jumping." He sat up and pulled her down, forcing her to get under the covers.

"Shh," Dana said. "Let's sleep a little more. The day is just going to be that much longer."

Samantha kicked her feet under the covers. "I want to open my presents."

"You won't get any, young lady, if you don't stop that," Mulder told her. He looked down and saw that Samantha had crossed her arms and was pouting. He relaxed and soon drifted off.

When Mulder woke again, Dana and Samantha were sleeping soundly, but Caleb was wide awake, sitting up and staring at him.

"You ready to get up?" Mulder whispered. Caleb nodded and Mulder slipped out of bed, lifting Caleb over Samantha. "How about we surprise Mama and fix breakfast?" Caleb nodded again and Mulder carried him out of the room.

At the table, Mulder prepared the biscuits while Caleb stood in a chair and stirred the eggs. Mulder leaned over him and grabbed his hand. "Break the yolks like this. Then stir." When Caleb was doing as he had shown him, he turned back to the stove, turning the meat. Mulder put the biscuits in the stove and then warmed up a skillet to cook the eggs.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Danny stretching as he made his way to them. "Need some help?" he asked.

"No, we're doing fine."

"Dana isn't feeling well?"

"She's fine. I'm thinking it's a tradition Caleb and I may start. How would that be Caleb? You and Papa cooking Christmas breakfast every year?" Caleb nodded and Mulder laughed. "He's easy."

Mulder went about setting the table while Danny poured milk for them all. Mulder went back to the stove and poured the eggs into the heated skillet.

"Looks good Mulder."

"Thanks," he said, smiling. "I just hope it tastes as good."

They heard someone clear their throat and both turned to find Dana standing with Samantha in front of her. Mulder moved towards her and bent down to kiss her. As he picked up Samantha and carried her to the table, he said, "I thought I'd surprise you."

"Is this my present?" she asked.

Mulder smiled and said, "Just one of many. Come on, sit down and relax. Danny, why don't you go get the girls."

"Sure Mulder." He called for the girls and they heard them come running. Danny helped the girls down the ladder and they all headed for the table.

"Did you help Papa?" Dana asked Caleb.

"Mmm hmm," Caleb answered.

"He did a good job with the eggs," Mulder said, bringing the skillet to the table. "See?"

Dana looked in and smiled at Caleb. "Yes, you did a good job."

"Thank you," he said.

When everyone was seated, they began passing the food around. Mulder smiled across the table and Dana smiled back. He was sure she felt as content as he did.


The children enjoyed playing with the toys that Mulder and his parents had bought. Dana was touched that his parents would include toys for Caleb. Mulder made sure that Eliza and Fanny also had toys.

Dana had made two new shirts for Mulder and he immediately put one on. He surprised her with a new locket containing the pictures of Caleb and Samantha. She realized that he had saved this for her since the pictures were taken when they were in St. Joseph.

Mulder came over to where she was sitting in the rocker by the fire, "You okay?"

She nodded. "I wish I had met your parents."

He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. "I wish I had taken you too. I know that they would have loved you. Maybe someday." He sat down next to her on the floor and she reached over to run her hand through his hair. "I sent them a letter when I went to Oregon City, did I tell you?"

"No. What did you say?"

"I told them that by the time they received the letter, they should be grandparents again."

"Maybe I should write my brother and sister after the baby is born."

"I'm sure that they would want to know."

Caleb came over to Mulder and sat down in his lap. In Caleb's hands was a horse made of wood. Mulder smoothed his hair as they watched Caleb gallop the horse in mid-air. Samantha was playing with Fanny and Eliza and he suspected that Caleb was starting to feel left out.

"Won't they let you play?" Mulder asked Caleb.

"No. I don't want to. I'm not a girl."

"Well, what do you say you go help Papa milk the cows?" Caleb looked up, surprised.

"No. Don't take him out," Dana begged.

"He'll be fine. I'll bundle him up and tie a rope to him to make sure he doesn't wander. You want to go?" he asked again. Caleb nodded his head and Mulder stood him up and then followed him. Lifting him up, Mulder sat Caleb on Dana's lap. He retrieved Caleb's coat and Dana dressed him while Mulder put on his own coat. As he pulled Caleb's hat on, Dana worked Caleb's mittens on his small hands. Hoisting Caleb into his arms, he said, "I won't keep him out too long. We'll be back shortly."

While Mulder was gone, Dana sat watching Samantha play quietly with Fanny and Eliza. Danny sat nearby, watching too. Dana looked away and watched the fire, slowly rubbing her stomach as the baby kicked.


Mulder looped two buckets that were sitting outside the door on one arm and carried Caleb in his other arm. He had made this trip every day, so the path was well worn, but each day, he had to walk through a new patch of snow.

When he reached the shelter, he put the buckets down, then set Caleb on his feet. He brushed the snow off of Caleb, then did the same to himself. He found a short rope and tied it around Caleb's waist and then tied the other end to a post. This still allowed Caleb access to Mulder as he worked, but wouldn't allow him to wander out into the snow.

As Mulder sat down on a stool, he set a bucket under the first milk cow. Caleb came over and Mulder moved him in front of him. "You want to milk the cow?"

Caleb looked up at him. "Okay."

Mulder grabbed his hand and put Caleb's on the cow's teat. Mulder put his hand over Caleb's hand and began to show Caleb how to get the milk to start flowing. Caleb squealed with delight, stomping his feet, when he did it on his own. The cow began to move when Caleb screamed.

"Caleb, don't do that. You'll scare her." He pulled Caleb back against him until he had the cow settled again. "Try again," he said. When Caleb squirted a little more out, Mulder said, "There you go. Now let Papa finish milking the cow. You did a good job."

Mulder had three milk cows and he quickly milked them all. He didn't want to keep Caleb outside too long because the temperature had begun to fall again. He decided to take Caleb back to the house and then return for the milk later.


They were both covered with snow again when they entered the house. Dana began to rise when Mulder stopped her. "I'll bring him over to you. Stay where you are." She settled back down as she watched him take off Caleb's outer clothes. "Go on Caleb, go over to Mama."

While Caleb climbed into her lap, Mulder took off his own coat. "Did you have fun?" Dana asked Caleb.

"I got to milk the cow."

"Really?" Dana asked, looking over to Mulder.

"Yep," Mulder said. "He was a big help, weren't you buddy?"

"Uh huh," Caleb said.

Mulder quietly asked, "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine. The baby is a little active though."

"He is?"

"Baby's kicking me," Caleb said, leaning away.

Mulder laughed, "Let me feel." He reached between Caleb and Dana and felt for the baby. "He sure is." He looked back up to Dana. "I can never get enough of feeling this. To imagine, I missed all of this before." Mulder rubbed his hand over her side. "Is this his foot?"

Dana felt where he did. "No, I think it's an elbow."

"Oh," he said, removing his hand. "Are you warm enough?"

"Yes."

"I can't wait for this to be over. You're already so big, I'm afraid you won't be able to take much more."

"He is bigger than Caleb was, but that's probably because Caleb was my first."

"I just hope this snow stops soon. I don't want to have to bring Sharon out in this weather."

"I'm not due for at least a month."

"See," he said. "That's what bothers me. You still have a month to go. You know, you may have to just stay in bed. I know Penny was in bed by now during her time."

"I'm not staying in bed."

He laughed. "All right, it was just a suggestion. You're the one who has to get around. You want me and Danny to cook at noon?"

"No, I can do it."

"Dana, let us help out."

"I'm afraid of what you'll do to my kitchen."

"We did fine this morning."

"True." She shook her head. "I'll be fine in a little while. If I'm not, you can cook."

"Okay then. Come on Caleb," he said, lifting Caleb from her lap. "Let's go put your toys away."

"All right," she relented. "You go ahead and cook."

He nodded and she secretly felt relieved that she wouldn't have to cook. Maybe every Christmas she could sit back and let them run the show.


December 31, 1852
Friday

"I can't believe the snow is finally gone," Dana said, looking out the window.

"Yah," Mulder said across from the room, "but now we have the rain to deal with again."

"Yes," she said, walking slowly back towards him where he was swinging Samantha. "But at least it isn't as cold as it was."

"The children will be glad to get outside...if it will just stop raining." He put Samantha down and then picked up Caleb, swinging him as he did Samantha.

"I think you can't wait to be outside too," she said, reaching down to tickle Caleb as he swung past her.

"Stop, Mama," Caleb giggled.

"Can I feel the baby?" Samantha asked from behind Dana.

She turned around and led her to the rocker. "He isn't awake right now, but maybe he'll wake up for his big sister," she said, lifting Samantha onto her lap. She laid Samantha's hand on her stomach and covered it with her own. Dana began rocking her while Samantha laid her head on Dana's shoulder.

Danny was upstairs with Fanny and Eliza. He had begun to teach them both how to read, something that neither had been taught earlier.

"Maybe we could all take a walk when it does stop raining," Mulder said, setting Caleb back down.

"Again Papa," Caleb cried.

"Maybe later," he said to him, laying his hand on Caleb's head. "Could you handle that?" Mulder asked her.

"I think so. If we didn't go too far."

Mulder sat on the floor and pulled Caleb into his lap. "Tomorrow's a new year. Can you believe it?"

"Eighteen fifty three. I'm going to turn twenty in less than a month."

"That's right," Mulder said. "Your birthday is coming soon. What would you like?"

"I'd be happy to just have this baby. If it's healthy, that will be enough of a gift."

Dana looked down and discovered Samantha was sleeping. "You wore her out," she said.

"Good, she'll sleep better."

"I see he's still wide awake," Dana said, indicating their son.

Mulder wrapped his arms tighter around Caleb and rested his chin on Caleb's head. Smiling, he said, "He'll be down soon, just you wait."

They sat quietly for a while, until Mulder felt Caleb relax in his lap. He stood, lifting Caleb up with him. Cradling him in his arms, he said, "Just stay there. I'll be back for her after I put him to bed." Dana nodded and Mulder took Caleb into the children's bedroom. After Mulder took Samantha from her, she tried to get out of the rocker. On her fourth attempt, she was able to stand up.

"What are you doing? I was coming back for you."

"I'm okay." As they walked past the ladder to their bedroom, Dana called up, "Danny, don't keep them up too late."

"All right Dana," they heard.

Mulder guided Dana into their bedroom and quietly closed the door.


January 10, 1853
Monday

Dana began feeling pressure in her back in the early morning. She looked over to Mulder to find him sound asleep. Rolling over, she tried to find a more comfortable position.

As the light began to appear in the window, she knew that she couldn't wait any longer. Nudging Mulder, she said, "William, wake up."

"Huh?" he asked, still half asleep.

"Wake up. I need Sharon."

"Now?" Dana nodded, biting her lower lip when she felt the pain again. "It's too soon for the baby, isn't it?"

"Go...get...her," she said through the next wave of pain.

Mulder jumped out of bed when he realized that she was serious. He threw on pants and pulled on a shirt. Sitting down on the bed, he pulled on his boots. "Why didn't you wake me earlier?"

"I didn't want you to drag Sharon out in the middle of the night."

Mulder bent down and kissed her on the forehead. "I'm going to have Danny go get her. I don't want to leave you."

As he got up, Dana grabbed his arm. "No. Wait."

"Ow," Mulder said, reaching down, trying to take her biting hand off of his arm. "Dana, let go."

"Don't go yet."

"All right, all right." When the pain eased, she released her grip and he rubbed his arm. "Do you want me to bring the children in here with you?"

Dana smiled. "No, thank you."

Mulder returned shortly after helping Danny saddle his horse. He crawled back under the covers with her. "Danny's on his way. I told him to get back as fast as he could."


When Danny returned later with Sharon and Skinner, they found Fanny and Eliza sitting by the fire, alone.

"Mulder," Danny called. "She's here."

Mulder stuck his head out of the room with Caleb in his arms and motioned for Sharon to hurry. After she passed him, he closed the door behind them.

Samantha sat on the bed next to Dana, placing a wet cloth on Dana's head. When she heard the door close, Dana looked up, relieved to see Sharon.

Sharon moved immediately to her. "Dana, how are you doing?"

"I'm okay," she said, looking over to Mulder. "I think you can take the children to Danny now."

Mulder nodded, reaching over her with his hand to help Samantha off of the bed. "I'll be back. Remember, you promised me I could be here." Dana nodded. "Sharon, what do you want me to get?"

"Boil hot water, warm some blankets and you'll also need to put a knife over the fire to make it safe to use."

"All right. I'll be back soon." He escorted the children out, turning them over to Danny. Skinner helped with the chores that Sharon had given Mulder.


"Push Dana," Sharon said from between Dana's knees. Mulder sat behind her, supporting her. He wrung a rag out and wiped her forehead.

"You're doing great Dana," Mulder said.

She nodded her head as she relaxed back against him. "How much longer?" she asked Sharon.

"Just a couple of more pushes. The head is out. You ready to push again?"

Dana nodded and grabbed Mulder's hand, holding tight as she pushed again. She fell back against him. Mulder kissed her temple and said, "You know how much this means to me, right?"

"Yes, but I want to push again," she said.

On the next push, the baby slipped free and Sharon caught it. The baby began to cry and Sharon smiled up at the parents. "It's a girl."

"Really?" Dana asked. She hesitantly looked back, expecting to see a disappointed Mulder. Instead, she saw him smiling. "Are you happy?" she asked, panting.

He looked down at her, surprised. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"

"It isn't a boy."

"I don't care. I'm just glad she seems to be okay." He looked up at Sharon between Dana's knees. "She is okay, isn't she?"

"Yes. She looks perfectly healthy," she said. Sharon went about cutting the umbilical cord and took the baby over to some water to clean her. She glanced over at the couple to find Mulder kissing his wife again. She brought the baby over to Dana, laying the baby next to her.

"Do you know what you're going to name her?" Sharon asked.

Mulder said, "Gabriella Marie."

"Is she named after anyone?"

"No. She'll have her own name."

As they were relaxing together, Dana reached down and stroked the baby's cheek. "She's beautiful William, isn't she?"

"Yes. I think she's...what's wrong?" he asked Dana, looking down at her expression.

Dana looked at Sharon, saying, "Something's wrong."

"What Dana? The baby looks fine."

Dana shook her head. "No. I don't mean the baby. I mean me."

Mulder looked alarmed. "Dana, what's wrong. Sharon, help her."

"Dana, what's wrong?" Sharon asked.

"It feels like... Ahhh," she said, rising to push.

Sharon looked back down between Dana's legs and said, "Oh my gosh."

"What is it?" Mulder cried.

Sharon smiled. "Another one."

"Another one?" he parroted. "How can that be?"

Sharon smiled, "They do come in a pair sometimes."

Mulder shook his head. "Oh yah. I know that."

"Dana, when you're ready, push."

She nodded and immediately began pushing. Soon, there was another baby.

"Another girl?" Mulder asked when the baby began crying.

Sharon shook her head. "A boy this time." Sharon prepared the baby as she did his sister.

Mulder smiled down at Dana. "One of each. Is he okay?" he asked Sharon.

Bringing him over, she laid the baby on the other side of Dana. "Yes, he's fine. What is this one going to be called?"

Dana looked up at Mulder. "Well, Dana and I talked about it earlier. We wanted to name him Thomas Francis. Would you mind if we included Francis's name? If you don't want us to, we'll think of another."

Dana noticed Sharon tearing up. "Sharon, we can think of another name. It's all right."

"No," she said. "That's not it. Name him that. It would make me happy."

Dana and Mulder smiled. "Good," he said as he picked up Thomas and cradled him in his arms. "He looks strong, don't you think?"

Dana smiled. "Yes. He looks fine." She looked over to Sharon. "William, Sharon and I need some time alone."

"Why?" he asked, rocking the baby.

She smiled. "You don't want to know. Really, I need you to leave for a little while."

"She'll be fine," Sharon said, patting his arm.

"All right. Sharon, hand me Gabriella. I'll take them both to see their brother and sister."

Sharon bent down and laid the baby in Mulder's other arm. Opening the door for him, she guided him carefully out. She heard the children run up to Mulder when they realized what he was bringing.

Sharon turned back to Dana, closing the door behind her.

"Two Dana. He'll be floating for a long time."

"I know."

Outside the room, Mulder walked carefully to the rocker and sat down. Samantha and Caleb stood on each side, looking at the babies. He felt Skinner and Danny come up behind him. Fanny and Eliza stood next to Danny.

"What do you think of your brother and sister?" Mulder asked them.

"They're so small Papa," Samantha said.

"Yes, they are. We'll have to be very careful with them."

"Congratulations Mulder," Skinner said. "They're beautiful."

"Yes, Mulder," Danny agreed.

"Thank you," he said.

"How come there are two?" Caleb asked.

Mulder smiled and said, "I guess we just got lucky."

Caleb nodded, accepting the explanation. He reached up with a tentative hand and touched one of the babies.

"What are their names?" Samantha asked.

"Your sister is Gabriella and your brother is Thomas."

"I like those names," Samantha said.

Caleb said, "Me too."

"Fox." Mulder turned and saw Sharon standing by the door. She carried a basin that was covered and walked over to him. "Dana's wanting the babies to come back in there with her."

Mulder stood carefully. "You two stay in here," he said when Caleb and Samantha began to follow him.

"We want to come too," Samantha said.

"No. Not now, maybe later."

"Caleb, Samantha," Skinner said. "You stay here with us."

Mulder closed the door behind him with his foot and brought the babies back to their bed. Dana reached for one of them when he sat down. "Are you doing okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine," she said, laying Gabriella next to her. "Looks like we all are."

Mulder shook his head. "I still can't believe it. I guess we now know why you were so big. You were carrying two."

"Are you happy?" she asked him.

"You know, when Gabriella first came, I was happy. I didn't care if we had a boy or a girl. I just wanted us to have a healthy baby and for you to be all right. Then, when Thomas came, I couldn't believe it."

"A healthy son."

"Yes. I always felt guilty for the boys not surviving. I thought maybe something was wrong with me. I didn't think I could have a healthy son. I guess Skinner was right."

"About what?"

"He told me not to worry because you had Caleb."

Mulder laid Thomas next to Gabriella and crawled in next to him. He bent down and kissed her lightly on the lips. "I love you Dana."

She reached up and tenderly touched his face. "I love you too."

"Now, I want you to rest. I'll be right here, watching over all of you." He moved up against the bed and brought his knees up. After carefully bringing both babies up to rest against his legs, he turned to see her watching him, a small smile on her face. Slowly her eyes began to close and he returned his gaze to the sleeping children resting quietly. He felt happier than ever before. He knew that they had taken a long road to get here, but now, he was finally home, really home for the first time in his life.

THE END


Notes:

I originally wrote this over the winter of 2003-2004 without editing it. I almost didn't post this because I originally wrote it just to see if I could complete a story and I wasn't sure if it was good enough. Thank you for being patient for the last several months as I rewrote the story.

This is the first story I have ever completed (if you don't count the few short stories I had to write in high school and college). I originally thought I might be able to write 10 chapters, but the story kept growing.

I tried to keep in mind what life might be like in the 1850s. I felt that Scully and Mulder wouldn't be the same (guided by the social standards of the time), although the essence of them would be.

Last summer, as part of my continued research, I traveled the Oregon Trail. The most memorable experience along the way for me was climbing Independence Rock and almost losing my footing a couple of times due to the strong winds on top.

Thank you again for your patience and for going along for with me on this journey.

Nantglyn


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