Title: No Less Than The Trees and The Stars
Author: Casey Rhodes
Written: 1998
Spoilers: None.
Rating: R for language and sexual situations.
Classification: X
Keywords: Mulder/Scully
Disclaimer: The characters of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are the property of Chris Carter, 10-13 Productions, and the Fox Network, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Forward to Gossamer and ATXC, keeping my name and email attached; please notify me before sending to any other mailing list or using on an archive.

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a website's claims that a young girl is a demon who possesses the ability to cheat death.


Feedback: Please, please, please let me know if you read this story! Tell me what was good and bad and your overall impression... Thank you!


St. Patrick's School
West Rankin, IL
2:20 PM

Beatrice McKay sat at her desk, fidgeting uncomfortably as she gazed out the window into the empty, desolate schoolyard. The scene was dark and gloomy, aided by the overcast sky and old, dirty snow that blanketed the ground.

Trici could hardly believe *this* was the scene on the day before Christmas.

The eleven year old felt overwhelmed with a sense of gloom that gnawed at her like a vicious animal on its prey. Trici silently scolded herself for feeling such self-pity, considering that once the school bell rang she would be off for a winter holiday in sunny California.
California, the girl thought, could mean the beginning of a new life for me, the beginning of a new family.

For the past four months, Trici had been living in the Catholic boarding school on a tuition. Her elderly grandmother, who'd taken care of Trici since the girl's parents died six years ago, sent Trici to the boarding school knowing her age was preventing her from parenting the child. As the months at the school passed, Trici withdrew from everyone into depression and anguish; she felt nobody wanted her, and the cold, unaffectionate nuns at the school only reinforced Trici's fears.

"Beatrice McKay!" Sister Mary Elizabeth spat out angrily. "I asked you a question."

Trici, a small yet precocious girl with dark blonde hair and gleaming blue eyes, looked away from the dismal outdoor scene and faced Sister Mary Elizabeth.

"Excuse me, Sister?" Trici asked, her voice soft.

"I asked if you would please share with the rest of the class the answer to number sixty-two of yesterday's homework assignment," the nun answered, glaring at young Trici.

The algebra book sat closed on Trici's desk, and she turned to open it to the assignment. When Trici realized she had only completed a third of the assignment, up to number thirty, she closed her eyes. She was caught now, and she knew what it meant when one neglected to complete Sister Mary Elizabeth's assignments.

"Beatrice!"

"I'm sorry, Sister, I don't have that answer," Trici muttered, shaking her head as the students seated around her began whispering back and forth. "I didn't finish the assignment."

 The hallway was dark, lit only by the sun shining in from the school entrance at the far end of the hall. Beatrice started toward the office with her head down, her eyes fixated on the ugly black shoes she was wearing. She prayed to God in Heaven that Sister Anne wouldn't give her detention; the worst thing Trici could imagine happening would be missing the flight to California.
 
Trici's aunt and uncle had traveled all the way from California two days ago, waiting until she was out of school for the holiday to introduce themselves to her and take her home with them. They were thinking of adopting her, and Trici dreaded having to explain to the *perfect* couple that the child they were considering taking in as a daughter was an incompetent student. Would they reconsider the invitation then?

Tears filled Trici's eyes. She squeezed her fists tightly, digging her nails into her palms, ordering herself not to dare cry.
At the opposite end of the hallway, the doors slammed shut behind two men. Trici could hear the tap, tap, tap of their shoes as the made their way up the hallway. She stopped walking, turning to see who was behind her.

When Trici turned to them, the men stopped cold. She could see that they were dressed in black. They started towards her again, walking faster.

"Oh, no," Trici whispered. "Leave me alone."

She turned and walked away from them, stepping up her pace in hopes they might turn into one of the classrooms rather than continue following her. Instead, the men began to accelerate in her direction, and Trici knew it was Them.

The girl pretended not to hear the fast footsteps until she rounded the corner and could see the staircase that led to the main office. Now, she began to run, as fast her small legs would go. The men turned the corner a few seconds later, realized Trici was running, and their speed quickened yet again.

Trici knew they were right behind her, getting closer and closer. She reached the staircase and hopped up three steps at a time until she reached the top of the stairs. By now, the men had nearly reached her. Trici glanced back at them; one lunged for her but she pulled from his loose grip, crashing through the door of the main office.

Half expecting the men to follow, Trici turned and watched the door in terror. She was breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating, and her eyes, large with fear, didn't dare leave the door.

"Beatrice," the school secretary said from across the large counter, "is something the matter with you?"

"No ma'am," Trici answered, taking a final deep breath and struggling to regain her composure as she put her back to the door to address the secretary. "I'm fine." Trici's voice quivered, betraying her, but the secretary seemed oblivious.

"Sister Anne is waiting to see you."

Trici didn't know what to do. She was at school, a safe place, and They were here. How could that be possible? Her grandmother had made careful precautions to ensure nobody would know how to reach the girl. And they hadn't; they hadn't touched her since she moved to St. Patrick's.

But now, only a door stood between safety and disaster. She couldn't let them harm her, she couldn't hurt anyone else.

Sister Anne appeared in the doorway to her office, looking at Trici impatiently. "Trici, please, I haven't got all day," the 57-year old woman said. "Into my office, now."

Trici complied, following the Sister into her office.

The office was small and cluttered, in need of a good dusting, and maybe a vacuum. Photos of Sister Anne with various religious figures, including Mother Teresa, lined the walls, along with plaques, awards, and certificates.

"Good afternoon, Sister Anne," Trici said, sitting in the chair reserved for the many, many children who faced the Sister each day.

"Really?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Trici replied.
Sister Anne began to scold Trici, while the girl sat silent. Trici could hardly sustain the intense fear that was blazing inside her. Despite the pain she had felt the last four months being away from her grandmother and away from a normal life, nothing compared to the fear. Although Trici had been unhappy and sad, at least she had been safe. She didn't appreciate that at all until now, knowing They had found her and would stop at nothing to get to her.

"Are you listening to me, young woman?" Sister Anne snapped, watching Trici's eyes wander to a corner of the room.

"I'm sorry," Trici apologized. "I should have done the assignment. I'm really sorry." Trici spoke deliberately, choosing each words carefully so as to not let Sister Anne in on her panic.

"Sometimes sorry just won't cut it," Sister Anne said. "This is the third time this semester you have been sent to me from Sister Mary Elizabeth for this exact same offense."

The bell blared across the speakers, signalling the end of the school day. Trici jumped in her seat, feeling as if her heart would crash through her chest.

She had to leave, and now. There were 130 girls out in the halls now, and Trici knew she could easily blend in enough to get away from Them. 130 girls in plaid skirts, white blouses, black shoes, and bright white socks.

Trici squeezed her eyes closed, then looked up into Sister Anne's eyes. "I can't stay here, Sister Anne. I've got to go," Trici said. She put her hands on the arms of the chair to help herself stand.

"Beatrice McKay...you're grandmother told us you might not be returning after the Christmas holiday, but you are still a student of this school now and you must abide by any punishment handed down to you," Sister Anne said. "Now sit down this very instant, and we'll discuss your detention."

"I can't!" Trici refused. "I have to go." She sprinted out of the room before Sister Anne could even rise and attempt to stop the defiant girl.

Trici rammed right into the body of one of Them when she exited the office, but he was caught off guard and didn't grab at the child until she was out of his grasp. The men were tall enough to keep track of Trici as she ran, but maneuvering through the crowd of girls was not a simple task. They knew they couldn't run without risking attention, but if they didn't she would get away.

In fifteen seconds, Trici emerged from the back exit of the large, four story brick building. Parents of the students, all who lived at the boarding school year round except for holidays, lined the school in their nice, expensive cars. The car driven by Trici's grandmother stuck out like a sore thumb; it was a white Ford Fairmont, at least it used to be before the chipped paint and rust took over. Despite its idiosyncrasies, it was easy to spot, and for once in her life Trici was thankful for the ugly thing.

Trici jumped into the car, yelling, "Drive!"

The grandmother didn't ask any questions before slamming on the gas pedal and speeding around the school and out onto the street. Trici watched out the back window for the men; sure enough, they flew out the entrance of the school just as the car reached the city street. One of the men held his arm out to the car, and the other shook his head in defeat.

Finally, Trici could relax. She turned and leaned back against the scratchy fabric of the front passenger seat. "Oh..." she murmured.

"Trici, baby, what is it?" Bridget McKay asked, extending her arm across and rubbing Trici's sweaty forehead. "Are you all right?"

"Grandma, they found me," Trici answered, her face wrinkling as she finally allowed the tears to come. "They found me."


O'HARE AIRPORT 6:15 PM

Bridget McKay felt her heart slowly breaking into a million pieces as she reached to give her granddaughter one final hug. She didn't want to say good-bye, but Bridget knew it was best for Trici to be out of the mid-west, especially now that They had found her. She wasn't safe at St. Patrick's anymore; she wasn't safe with Bridget. But, hopefully, she would be safe several states away in California.

"I love you, Grandma," Trici said as Bridget wrapped her arms around the small girl. "I'll miss you."

"Me too, sweety, me too," Bridget answered. "You have a good time with Craig and Amanda, OK? You be a good girl, OK?"

Trici nodded. "I will. I promise," she said, smiling at Craig and Amanda as Bridget released her from embrace. "Have a good Christmas, I'll call you."

"That's right, Mom, she'll call you every day," Craig told Bridget, taking her hands in his. "Every day."

"Take care, now," Bridget said. "You better go, I don't want you to be missing your plane on account of me."

"Thank you, Bridget," Amanda said, hugging her mother-in-law tightly. "Thank you so much."


GATE 17C 10 minutes later

 Craig and Amanda McKay couldn't take their eyes off Beatrice as the three sat waiting to board the airplane that would take them to their home for the first time as a family. The girl wasn't a perfect beauty, yet at the same time she was beautiful. Amanda could easily get used to the idea of calling Trici her daughter.

"So, how does it feel to go back to California after all these years?" Craig asked Trici, in an attempt to start a conversation with the quiet girl.

"It's great. I loved it there...until my parents died," Trici said, her sentence trailing off.

Following an awkward silence, Amanda and Craig began describing their house and neighborhood, when Trici happened to look over and see Them standing, watching her intently. Trici almost bolted, but thought the better of it when she remembered Amanda and Craig were sitting there with her. If they knew about her now... she wouldn't ever have a family.

Trici pretended she hadn't seen the men, and she watched Amanda's mouth move in slow motion. She could feel her breathing become labored as she attempted to ignore the impending danger; soon the noises around her became nothing more than echoes, with nothing clear reaching her brain. The men from the school were slowly inching towards the area where Trici sat with her aunt and uncle, and although they didn't realize it, Trici knew of their presence.

Just then, the flight attendant came over the speakers. "We will now board first class passengers as well as passengers with small children."

Trici stood.
Amanda and Craig stood, also. "You still consider yourself a small child, Trici?" Craig asked, as Amanda reached into her black carry-on bag for the airplane tickets.

"I'm just...I'm not feeling well," Trici said, looking back at the men.

If she could get on the plane, she would be safe. With it being Christmas Eve, Flight 841 had probably been a sold-out flight for months. There was no way They could have known that long ago about Trici's trip to California. There was no way They would be on the flight.

Trici, Amanda, and Craig boarded the plane and ventured to their seats, which were near the back of the plane. Trici chose an aisle seat; she was already nauseous and had no desire to watch out the window as the plane took off.

"Are you OK, Trici?" Amanda, who had taken the middle seat, asked noticing Trici had turned pale.

"I'm fine," Trici answered. Her throat was dry, making her voice barely audible. "I'm fine."

"She's never flown," Craig told his wife, trying to explain Trici's anxiety. "It's really no big deal, Trici. The flight will be over before you know it."

Trici forced a smile, and tried to relax. She closed her eyes. Before she knew it, the engines to the plane were rumbling and the plane began to move. As the plane sped up the runway for take-off, Trici dozed off to sleep.


8:40 PM

"Trici, we're almost there," Amanda said gently, touching Trici's shoulder.

Trici flinched, gasping into consciousness. "Huh?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's OK. Really. You didn't," Trici assured her. "We're almost there?"

"Yep," Craig replied. "We over the Pacific now, coming in to the airport from the West Coast."

Trici nodded. She was groggy, but feeling much more at ease. Craig and Amanda were good people; they would protect her. Everything would be fine.

These comforting thoughts glided through Trici's mind, calming her, when They arose from the seats fourteen rows ahead. Trici saw Them immediately, making eye contact.

Trici looked around, and towards the back of the plane. There was a last minute line for the bathrooms and even if she could get into a bathroom, she would eventually have to come out.

Trici realized she had no good option to escape, and watched in horror as They reached her row.


BEACH ROAD RUSSELL, CA 8:45 PM

Ralph and Kathy Jacobsen had driven this road hundreds of times over in the twenty years that they had lived in the small beach town of Russell, California. Long ago the beauty of the ocean had ceased to amaze the couple, but on this night before Christmas as Ralph drove, Kathy stared at the waves crashing along the beach.
Kathy looked up at the sky and she could see the lights, moving in half-circles, downward. It looked like an airplane, but didn't move with any control whatsoever. As the lights drew closer, Kathy screamed at her husband.

"Stop!" she hollered.

As Ralph slammed on the brakes, his wife jumped out of the car without explanation. She could see the object was, indeed, an airplane, and she could also see that not only was it headed straight for the ocean but it was on fire.

Kathy listened to the noise of the plane's engines growing louder and louder; with a huge splash into the water, not more than twenty feet from the shore, suddenly the engines went silent. The ocean went dreadfully, eerily silent. The wreckage from the plane was lost to the ocean's heavy waves.
"Kathy! Kathy!" Ralph called after his wife, who sprinted across the beach to the edge of the ocean. "What was that?"

"It was an airplane!" someone yelled in response to Ralph. "An airplane's crashed into the ocean! Oh my God, call the police! Call the police!"

"Nobody could have survived that!" someone else yelled.
"It was on fire," screamed another witness.

A group of on-lookers had already formed by the time Kathy and Ralph made it to the oceanside. Flames remained on the water where the plane had crashed, and already pieces of the destroyed airplane were washing to the shore.

"This is horrible!" Kathy said to her husband. "That was a huge plane, Ralph, a huge plane."

Luggage, airplane seats, and clothing washed up at the feet of the witnesses. Worried parents walked away with their children, fearful that body parts would soon be visible.
"It's OK, Kathy," Ralph said to his wife, putting an arm around her. Everyone was amazingly quiet, focused on what wreckage and fire they could see, wondering how many lives had ended as they frolicked along the beach without a care in the world. Thanking God it hadn't been *their* plane.

A woman approached Ralph and Kathy, dazed. "My father died in a plane crash ten years ago. He died in a plane crash," she muttered, walking by them. "My father died in a plane crash ten years ago. A plane crash."

Sirens blared nearby, and Kathy turned her focus towards the left of where everyone had gathered. In the distance, Kathy could make out the figure of a small person struggling to walk along the shore. The person was walking diagonally, as if just coming onto the beach from a swim in the ocean.

Kathy knew the water was too cool for anyone to have been swimming in it. "Ralph, look," Kathy whispered to her husband, pointing at the figure. "Do you see that?"

Ralph nodded. "Yeah."

The couple grasped one another's hand and set off towards the figure. As the got closer, they began to realize that the small person was actually a child. A little girl. With dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and freckles along her nose and cheeks. She was fully clothed, and soaking wet.

Kathy instinctively wrapped her arms around the child, whose skin was freezing cold and wet. "Honey, what are you doing?"

Other than being cold, wet, and afraid, the girl had no visible injuries, and Kathy and Ralph assumed she lost her family and decided to go for a foolish swim in the cool ocean water. Fully clothed.

"Honey, where are your parents?" Ralph asked.

"The plane," the girl said. "The plane."

"What's your name, sweety?" Kathy asked.

The girl shivered violently, her teeth chattering. "Beatrice. Trici. Where's the plane? Where is everyone? Where's the plane?"

"Did you see the plane crash, sweety?" Kathy asked sympathetically. "Did it scare you?"

"Please, where's the plane?" Trici asked desperately. "I need to know."

Trici followed Ralph's index finger as he pointed to the fire still blazing on top of the ocean. "It's out there, darling."

"Is anyone else alive?" Trici asked. "Is there anyone else? My aunt? My uncle?"

Ralph frowned, exchanging glances with his shocked wife. Kathy's jaw dropped. "Oh my God, Ralph, she was on that plane."


 FBI HEADQUARTERS 9:00 AM

Dana Scully was freezing. She tried to keep her mind off the cold, focusing on the field report she was typing, but it was impossible to ignore that her hands were shivering so badly that her fingers weren't hitting the right keys. The FBI Agent paused, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. The coldest day of the New Year and the heating in the basement office Scully shared with her partner Fox Mulder had malfunctioned. Perfect.

Not that this was a field report Scully was eager to write; in fact, she wished the entire investigation had never occurred in the first place. She and Mulder had returned to Washington from Florida completely humiliated, and then were raked over the coals by a none too happy Assistant Director Skinner. The whole case had been a crock, a big hoax, that Mulder should have recognized earlier.

Instead, he'd deluded himself into believing yet another lie, and had withheld information from AD Skinner AND Scully to get authorization for the investigation. The case load had been scant since Scully returned to the Bureau full-time, and with each day Mulder had grown anxious and incredibly bored. He couldn't stand not having a case to devote his time to, to get his mind off the near-loss of Scully and what he saw as the second loss of Samantha.
When the first prospect of a case came up, Mulder jumped at it. Frankie Roman, a 62-year old Floridian, had a very fascinating story of alien abductions and experiments; his memory of the supposed incident was crisp, and Mulder convinced himself Frankie Roman had an important story to tell. What Mulder left out was that Frankie Roman was an institutionalized schizophrenic who had a history of making reports to the police about alien abductions, ghost possessions, and various other stories that he always confessed to making up. Authorities got to the point where they refused to take any more police reports from Roman.

And so Roman turned to Special Agent Fox Mulder and found a very willing puppet whose interest encouraged Roman in the ploy. Once Scully and Mulder arrived in Florida, all hell broke loose. Roman played Mulder, who hung on the man's every word, until Scully discovered the truth and convinced Mulder it was a ruse. It was bad enough that the two would return to Washington so shamefully; perhaps Skinner would have given them the benefit of the doubt had Roman not taken a bus full of schoolchildren hostage.

Thank God Mulder had convinced Roman to give himself up.
But the damage had been done, to both their reputations, and Scully was furious. Her partner had betrayed her trust, he'd humiliated her and kept secrets from her. She could hardly stand to look at him anymore. That he would compromise both of them by withholding facts from her was what perturbed Scully the most.
"And how are we this morning?" Fox Mulder asked, interrupting Scully's thoughts as he strolled into the basement office they shared.

"Ready to be thawed," Scully replied, wryly. She didn't so much as glance up at him.
Mulder ignored Scully's unresponsiveness. Noticing the lack of heat, he said, "Damn, it's cold in here." He breathed out. "But not that cold, I can't see my breath."

Scully shook her head slightly, looking over at her partner as he pushed papers and objects on his cluttered desk aside to make room for his briefcase. He opened the briefcase, pulling a large file out. Mulder breezed over to where Scully was sitting and handed her the top few papers from the file.

"And what's this?" Scully asked, staring at what appeared to be a print-out from a World Wide Web site.

"Our next case," Mulder replied, enthusiastically.

Scully stifled a laugh, snickering. "Mulder, please. Evil Child Terrorizes United States...with an ability to cheat death that could put everyone in danger?" she read. The smile quickly disappeared as the events of the Roman case replayed in her mind. "This is NOT our next case, Mulder."

"But it is. This file was mailed to me anonymously from Oregon, containing approximately sixty five pages of evidence supporting the claim made on this website," Mulder said. Scully looked as though she was going to say something, but Mulder continued, "There is a child by the name of Beatrice McKay who indeed seems to be damn lucky at escaping deadly situations."

"Such as?"

"Well," Mulder began, "at the age of two, this child Beatrice fell from a ten-story building and landed on a concrete sidewalk. A witness later told police that the child landed on her head."

"And she survived?"

"Not only did she survive, but without a single scratch. Forget brain injury or broken bones, this child didn't come out with so much as a bruise," Mulder continued. "Three years later, an explosion ripped through a McDonald's restaurant in Santa Monica, killing fifteen people, including Isaac and Patty McKay. Again, Beatrice was unharmed. Pretty amazing considering it was later determined that Beatrice was standing near or right at the spot where the explosion occurred."

"A bomb in a McDonald's restaurant?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nothing was uncovered to suggest a bomb, or any
structural defect or chemicals that could explain the explosion. But the fact that a five year old child came away uninjured while everyone else who was standing within ten feet of her was either killed or gravely hurt was enough to bring media attention to the child."

"Mulder, it's extremely possible the child had slipped away from her parents before the explosion. If everyone near the family died or was injured enough to have suffered head injuries, there wouldn't have been any witnesses to pinpoint the girl's location at the time of the explosion," Scully pointed out.

"There was one survivor who claims to have witnessed the whole thing. A man named Steven Hasley. He's the one who set up the website to vocalize his belief that Beatrice McKay could very well be a demon," Mulder said.

Scully stared at Mulder penetratingly. Finally, she said, "Listen, Mulder, it sounds very intriguing but I'm afraid after last week..."

He cut her off. "Scully, in all honesty, I don't understand what you're making such a big deal about. So I was wrong. I admit it. End of story."

"It's not the end of the story, Mulder," Scully argued. "If I didn't think the Roman case was preposterous, I do think this one is. Anyone can have a website, Mulder. This could be a work of fiction for all we know."

"Whoever sent me these print-outs also included newspaper clippings linking Beatrice McKay to half a dozen life-taking accidents that she managed to live through unharmed," Mulder said. "I have clearance to go to California, and you are my partner. I don't know what's happened to you since you've recovered, but you sure as hell haven't been acting like my partner lately."

The nerve! What right did he have to say that to her after all the deception during the Roman case? And to suggest her recovery from cancer had affected her professionally was beyond insulting.
Rather than engross herself in a long, drawn out argument with Mulder, Scully bit her tongue. There had been enough bad feelings exchanged in the last ten days. At some point the wounds created by those feelings would become unhealable, and if there was one thing Scully had learned from her bout with cancer, it was that she needed Mulder.

Infuriating, patronizing Mulder.

RUSSELL, CALIFORNIA January 7 2:30 PM

Kathy Jacobsen sat at her kitchen table, nervously awaiting the arrival of the FBI agents who had telephoned her the previous evening. They wanted to know
everything Kathy and Ralph could remember from that horrible, devastating Christmas Eve two weeks ago, including details of the child who claimed to have been on the plane.

At first, Kathy had been reluctant to speak with the FBI or anyone else about the little girl. Nobody believed her and Ralph anyway; their claim that the child had appeared from the ocean was met with criticism, suspicion, and the over-all agreement that the story was preposterous. So why was the FBI suddenly interested in such a crazy story?

"Try not to be so bitter," Ralph told Kathy, "if it had been anyone else telling the story, you and I would have doubted along with the rest of 'em."

Kathy nodded. Though she tried to understand the reactions of everyone she couldn't help the rage that was brewing inside her. A child had survived that terrifying plane crash into the ocean, that was a fact, a fact she hadn't felt able to come to grips with in all the confusion and backlash against her and Ralph.

Ralph was Kathy's anchor, her saving grace. At least, Kathy thought, she wasn't alone in her experience with the child. Ralph knew as well as Kathy what had happened, and he approached the situation with dignity and ease that sometimes amazed his impatient, sensitive wife. Yes, Ralph Jacobsen was a keeper.

A loud knock to the front door shook Kathy back into the here in now. Ralph had waited in the living room, watching for the agents, ready to escort them to the kitchen where Kathy sat.

Kathy's first impression of the agents was that they were stiff, lacking any sense of humor or character, dressed in dark clothing that matched their dark beings, and she didn't like them. Not one bit.

The taller agent, a black man, stood silently in the background as his partner got down to business. "I'm Special Agent Jack Raines, and this is Woodrow Davis," Raines introduced. "I spoke with you on the phone last evening."

"Please, have a seat," Ralph offered, pulling one of the three remaining kitchen chairs out for Raines.

"No thank you," Raines said sharply. "We'll stand."

"Well, lets cut to the chase, here," Kathy suggested. "You want to know about the little girl."

Raines stared down at Kathy, and although he was not a large or built man he loomed over her in an almost intimidating way. "Yes, we want to know about the child. What did she say?"

"She asked if anyone else was alive," Kathy said. "From the plane crash."

"And?"

"We told her that, no, we hadn't seen any other survivors," Kathy explained. "She told me her name was Trici, and she was scared. She said there had been people on the plane that wanted to hurt her."

Raines frowned, and prominent wrinkles appeared in his forehead. "Did she elaborate?"

"No. She just referred to the people as 'Them' and 'They'," Kathy recalled. "She said she needed our help."

"Did you help her?"

Kathy and Ralph exchanged a long glance, unsure whether to divulge the secret they had kept from the media, the police, even from their families. Despite the fact they wanted to be taken seriously, they had refused to exploit the child in order to substantiate their claims.

"Mr and Mrs Jacobsen, I asked you a question. Did you help the child?" Raines repeated, impatience tracing his voice. The Jacobsen's pause was not broken. "It is vital that you tell us everything, do you understand? You must be completely honest or face stiff penalties. Do you understand?"

Kathy sighed. "Yes, Agent Raines, we understand. We took her to the Loving Roof Shelter in San Francisco. My brother is the director, and we told him she was a fifteen year old runaway named Trina."

"Please, if you find her, be gentle. She went through hell on that plane, knowing she was the only to live of all those men, women, children," Ralph said.

"She was shattered," Kathy agreed. "Horrified. She said her aunt and uncle had been on the plane with her. That they were taking her home and they were going to be her parents. I felt awful for the poor child."

"That's unnecessary," Raines said. "The girl's so-called grief was most likely an act."

Kathy was taken aback. "It most certainly was not an act, Agent Raines," she snapped. "She was completely heart sick."

"What would possess you to say such a thing about a child?" Ralph questioned, his eyes narrow.

 "Beatrice McKay wreaks havoc wherever she goes, Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen. She is a great danger to society and it is our duty, as defenders of justice, to locate that child before she harms anyone else," Raines said. "We must protect ourselves from this demon."

"Oh dear," Kathy muttered, looking over at her husband, whose face had turned a dark shade of red.

"Who the hell are you?" Ralph roared, stepping behind his wife and placing his protective hands on her shoulders.

**
 
 DRURY, CALIFORNIA 3:00 PM

Steven Hasley owned a new and used bookstore, Books 'R Us, where he worked every day from 10 AM until closing time of 5 PM. Although located conveniently in the heart of Drury, customers were few and far between, leaving Steven free to tend to other business day after day. Usually, he tended to the business of his secret organization, The Protectors.

If not for The Protectors, Steven might have gone into bankruptcy three years ago. It was three years ago that he had met Jack Raines, a young FBI trainee who had lost his baby sister in the same McDonald's explosion that claimed Steven's wife and son. Jack and Steven were in agreement over the cause of the explosion:

Beatrice McKay. No doubt about it.

Jack and Steven's mission was then born to find, and annihilate, Beatrice McKay who was surely a child of evil. Why else would such death and destruction follow her around as closely as her own shadow? Jack and Steven approached family members of those killed in the McDonald's explosion as well as acquaintances of Beatrice McKay who had witnessed her death-defying abilities. A website was born, recruiting concerned citizens to join in the mission of The Protectors. It was the website that generated an overwhelming amount of attention. And money. A lot of money. Enough to save Steven's business.

The Protectors now boasted a membership of 549, from the West to the East Coast, stretching from the Northernmost tip of Maine down to Florida. Many of these people were fanatical in their support and action; already six had proven their loyalty by losing their lives to the quest.

The crash of Flight 841 that caused the death of two Protectors members reaffirmed Steven's belief that Beatrice McKay *had* to die. There had to be a way to kill her, if only Steven could get his hands on the little fiend again. He would kill her himself this time, allowing no possible means of escape.

In the front of the store, the bells jangled to signal there were customers. Steven minimized the frame of his website and strode to the front of the well-lit store. He found a tall, lanky man and a petite redhead waiting at the counter.

"Hello," Steven greeted them cheerfully, smiling broadly. "May I help you?"

Dana Scully and Fox Mulder pulled out their badges. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully," Scully introduced herself. "This is Agent Mulder. We've come from Washington to investigate your website's claims."

Steven's eyes grew incredibly wide, his heart racing. "You've come all the way from DC to talk about my website?"
"Yes," Mulder replied. "We received print-outs from your website and are hoping you'll tell us more about the child, Beatrice McKay."

Steven's face grew sullen, his smile disappearing rapidly. "Then you read she was the only survivor of that plane crash, Flight 841, a couple weeks ago?"

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, then Scully answered, "No, the print-outs were dated December 20th. And I believe there were no survivors of Flight 841."

"Beatrice McKay survived," Steven disagreed. "A couple that witnessed the crash claims to have aided a child that matched Beatrice's description, who said she'd been on the plane. Of course, the media didn't believe them and refused to carry the story. But I've no doubt she survived. She's as immortal as the devil."

Scully raised her eyebrows. "You witnessed the explosion at McDonald's six years ago," she said.

"Yes," Steven replied. "I was there, and I watched Beatrice McKay kill my wife and my child, and thirteen other people. Little children were ripped to shreds, families shattered. All because of her." His voice was full of nothing but spite and contempt for the eleven year of which he spoke.

"Tell us what happened that day," Mulder said, "and why you blame Beatrice McKay."

"I left work one afternoon, and when I passed McDonald's I saw my wife's car in the driveway. I decided to stop," Steven remembered. "Cara and our son, Gabriel, who was six, were standing in line. We talked, Cara got her tray, and went and sat down. I had to go to the back of the line to wait to place my order."

"Did you see the McKays at that time?"

Steven nodded. "They were seated in the booth behind Cara and Gabriel. Beatrice was upset with her parents, and jumped up from the booth. She ran towards my wife and son, to get away from her father because he was ordering her to sit down. After this, everything goes so fast," he said, pausing briefly before continuing. "Beatrice climbed under our booth, and before I know it she screamed bloody murder and there was a huge explosion. Huge. My family was reduced to dust in front of my own eyes."
"And you hold Beatrice McKay responsible?" Scully questioned.

"My families' bodies were obliterated. Never found, they were that close to the point of impact. Most of the other bodies had to be reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle, because they'd been torn apart into ten pieces. Beatrice McKay should have died, if she was normal " Steven stated. "But instead, she walked away and I lost my life. Beatrice McKay killed fifteen people."

 On their way out of the bookstore, Mulder and Scully passed Ben Sykes, who was on his way in. The 25-year old man watched through squinted eyes as the agents headed towards their rental car before heading into the store.

"What the fuck was that all about, man?" Ben asked Steven, who was standing at the large glass window in the front of the store looking outside.

"FBI," Steven answered, avoiding eye contact.

Ben's jaw dropped in astonishment. "Why the hell was the FBI here, Steve? Did they find out about Raines using his old badge-"

"No," Steven interrupted. "They came across the website. Shit. We should take it down. I think we have enough members."

"Man, we can never have enough members. Not when that little bitch keeps blowing planes out of the sky," Ben said, taking Steven by the shoulder.

"What did you tell them?"

The man sighed, turning and looking up at the tall and lanky Ben. Steven tried not to appear as intimidated as he was, but his expression failed him. "I stuck to what was on the website, but I let it slip about the plane crash."

"You let it slip! Do you want to fuck this up, man!"

Ben's attitude towards Steven was growing more and more demeaning as time passed, more in rage at not being able to capture Beatrice again than out of anything personal. Ben simply saw himself as an honest, aggressive man who always got what he wanted. It shamed him that an eleven year old had outsmarted him; that she had tricked him and escaped when he had her in his grasp, that she had managed to allude him since then. He couldn't tolerate the slightest slip-up if it jeopardized capturing Beatrice.

"I didn't tell them that we had two people on the plane," Steven said.

"Don't worry. I think they'll be leaving the state soon."

"What makes you think that?"

Steven's thin lips turned up to form a smile. "The bitch seemed to think I was a crackpot. I don't think they believed a word I said."

Ben relaxed, nodding. "Good. That's good."

 "Mulder, we've got to go back to Washington," Scully urged as she and Mulder buckled their seatbelts.

Mulder started the car. "Scully, we've talked to exactly one person about this case, and you're ready to throw in the towel already?"

"Who is there left to talk to Mulder? The case is over because Beatrice McKay is dead," Scully reminded him. "Nobody could have lived through that crash."

Her partner said nothing, and Scully fidgeted uncomfortably, incensed. He refused to listen to a goddamn thing she said.
As Mulder steered the car onto a highway, Scully asked, "Where are we going?"

"Russell. That's where Flight 841 crashed, and hometown of the witnesses who say they helped a young girl who was on the plane.

Scully shook her head and leaned back in her seat, closing her eyes. How much more of this could she take? Wild goose chases all across the country that amounted to absolutely nothing, leaving she and Mulder in a knee dip of shit by the time Mulder admitted he was wrong and dragged Scully back to Washington to face Skinner...and the other agents.
She'd almost had enough.

 **
 
 LOVING ROOF SHELTER 3:15 PM

Trici was hungry. No, not hungry, famished. Sure, the shelter offered afternoon snacks of various fruits: raisins, apples, pears, and bananas. None looked appealing to Trici, who wanted nothing more than a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich.

"You make yourself sick," Trici remarked, staring at the bland fruits and shaking her head.

"Trina," a familiar voice said.

She almost didn't turn around; the name did not belong to her, although after two weeks Trici thought she should be somewhat used to it by now. Trina.
Again, "Trina."

Trici finally turned to face Mark Hill, the director of the shelter. He looked solemn, almost sad.

"Hello," Trici said. "How are you?"

"Not so good, Trina," Mark said. "You know that the last thing I want to do is turn anyone away who needs the help of the shelter."

"I know," Trici agreed.

"But we're at our quota here, and there's another girl who is looking for somewhere to stay," Mark explained. "You've been here two weeks, and after that amount of time if someone else is waiting, it's policy to bump whoever has stayed here the longest amount of time."

Trici took in a deep breath. True, she hadn't expected to live at the shelter forever, but she had grown accustomed to the staff and the atmosphere...and the security. What would she do now?

"I have to leave," Trici said, softly.

Mark nodded. "I'm sorry. An option is to call social services. They could find you somewhere to stay," Mark suggested.

"No," Trici rejected adamantly. "They'd only send me to a detention center for runaways. I'm not even from California."

"Where are you from, Trina? I'm sure you have family who loves and misses you very much," Mark said. "You're a sweet girl."

Trici thought of her grandmother. Contact with Bridget wasn't possible, not after an entire plane went down. Trici wondered if Bridget wasn't better off assuming the child perished in the crash. Lord knew Trici had already caused Bridget enough heartache.

"I don't have a family," Trici lied. "It's just me, myself, and I. All three of us. Wrapped in one."

"How old are you?"
"Fifteen."

Mark tilted his head, and Trici knew he knew she was being dishonest. He had known all along, at least suspected, that she was younger than she claimed to be. If he had any idea how young Trici was, she doubted he'd have even let her stay at the shelter. Children her age would be sent to a foster home, runaway or not.

"What's your name?"

Trici's gaze fell to the floor. "Why so many questions now that I'm leaving?"

"I'd like to help you," Mark said. "I can't help you anymore unless I have the truth. Now, Kathy is my sister, and I don't second-guess my relatives, but I suspect she might have lied out of concern for you."

"My name's Trici," she admitted. "And I'm eleven."

"Eleven?"

Yes, he was surprised all right. "Yes, sir," she mumbled. "I was in an accident, someone was after me, and Ralph and Kathy helped me. I told them I didn't want anyone else to know the truth, that meant you, too."

"Who's after you? Your family?"

Trici smiled. "No," she said. "It's a long story. But I don't think they'll find me now. They probably think I'm dead."

Mark mulled over his options in his head. It would compromise his job if he took a client home with him, but he knew very well he would not send a girl of eleven to the streets. Especially not *this* child. She possessed an innocence about her, a quality that lit up every room she entered. Mark Hill knew she was special, and he had to help her. "Wherever you go, you're going to need medical help. You can't survive on the streets of San Francisco by yourself," Mark said.

"I will not go into foster care," Trici stated, firmly.
"No, no you won't. " Mark agreed. "I'll tell you what. Get your things together and you can come to my house. I'll try to get ahold of my sister, perhaps she and Ralph will let you stay with them. At least for the next few months."

"Thank you," Trici said, staring down at the floor. She didn't have to look at Mark for him to know she truly meant it.


 YORK HOSPITAL YORKTOWN, CA 5:00 PM

"It was the worst carnage I've seen in my life, and being a Vietnam Vet, I've seen a lot of dead bodies," Dr. Clarence Reddings recalled, his deep brown eyes clouded over in remembrance. "Men, women, children, pieces of men, women, children. Only one body was intact, that of a 13-month old girl. She looked so peaceful, lying on the stretcher. You'd have never guessed by first glance that she was dead."

The doctor was a likable man with a prominent nose and large, shifty eyes. He was more than happy to speak with Mulder and Scully in detail about the events of Christmas Eve.
"I've never seen anything like it," Dr. Reddings continued. "This ER was made into a makeshift morgue, considering there were only about six bodies that weren't missing all the limbs. Most of what we had were body parts. The explosion was that intense."

"What types of injuries did the bodies have?" Scully wondered.

"You mean, besides the decapitation?" Dr. Reddings asked. Scully nodded. "Well, there really weren't any burns, which did surprise me. The bodies that did contain...heads were easily identifiable. It was as if these people had been slapped really, really hard. So hard that they died instantly, were torn apart, and had no burns that are usual in explosions of this magnitude."

"Besides the victims of the plane crash that you attempted to save that night, you also examined a young child, an eleven year old girl," Scully said. "What can you tell us about her?"

Clarence sighed. "I can tell you I've known Kathy and Ralph Jacobsen for twenty- five years, and I was taken aback when they developed this...hoax. They brought in a perfectly healthy little girl, and despite the two hundred bodies scattered here and there had the gall to claim the child had come off the airplane."

"You didn't believe them," Mulder said.

"Damn right I didn't. The girl, they called her Trici, she was wet and cold, but registered normal temperatures that led me to believe she hadn't been emerged in water but perhaps someone had poured water over her quickly. Otherwise her temperature would have been much lower than it was," Dr. Reddings explained.
"Beatrice McKay was listed on the passenger manifest of the flight," Mulder pointed out.

Dr. Reddings shrugged. "I dunno who this kid was, though she said she was Trici McKay. She probably was wandering up along the beach on Christmas Eve, desperate and alone, when the plane crashed. Perhaps she found a piece of luggage belonging to the child Beatrice McKay and thought she could pass herself off as that child. My opinion is that she ran away to hide her condition," he hypothesized.

"Her...condition?"

"Yes. An examination disclosed that the girl was about 20 weeks into a pregnancy," the doctor revealed.


 RUSSELL, CA 8:00 PM

By the time Mulder and Scully reached the tiny beach town of Russell, the sun had long disappeared from the sky and the darkness that surrounded their car echoed their mood perfectly. Mulder had long given up trying to engage in small talk with his partner, who answered in only slight nods and muttered "yes"s or "no"s. She was thoroughly pissed at him.

Mulder was tired of defending himself to her; he thought that after all their years together they had developed an understanding about the cases they pursued. Hell, they'd been on much stranger investigations than this one, yet Scully behaved as if Mulder had dug a knife into her flesh and relished in her pain. Something about this case, however absurd it seemed, struck a nerve with Mulder that he wasn't going to ignore simply to alleviate Scully's anger.

The Jacobsen's owned a small, one-story home overlooking the beach and ocean. Scully was immediately taken with the location and with the quiet calmness that surrounded the few dozen homes that made up the small town of Russell.

Mulder pulled up into the driveway of the Jacobsen home, parking behind a large brown van. The house looked dark, as if nobody was home.

The two agents approached the house. Once they reached the front door, Mulder rang the doorbell. There was no answer. They stood in silence for several seconds. Finally, Scully turned to leave but stopped when a loud pounding noise erupted inside the house.

Mulder and Scully hurried into the unlocked home. Once inside, the pair spotted a light coming from the kitchen in the back of the house. They glided across the hallway noiselessly, with ease. After they reached the door to the kitchen, Mulder put one hand on the doorknob and had his gun ready in the other hand. Both of Scully's hands clutched her gun, extended in front of her body.

Mulder flung the door open and both he and Scully flew into the room. Tied to one chair was Ralph Jacobsen, who was leaning over against the kitchen table
unconscious. His face was bloodied and bruised. The bodies of two men, both lying in a large pool of blood, were halfway under the kitchen table with only their legs visible. Lying in the middle of the floor was Kathy Jacobsen with bullet holes to the chest and one to the forehead. Kneeled down next to the body was a woman with dark blonde shoulder length hair and almond-shaped brown eyes. She stared up at Scully and Mulder in fear, dropping the handgun she was holding and putting her hands up.

"FBI!" Mulder yelled.

"Stand up!" Scully commanded.

The woman complied, slowly standing upward. She was dressed in a professional- looking outfit, a cream-colored skirt and jacket over an off-white blouse. She was covered in blood. "Please don't hurt me," she pleaded.

"We're the FBI, we won't hurt you," Mulder said. "Now you tell us what you're doing here and what happened to these people."

"Those men killed this woman," the lady said, her voice shaking so much she could hardly speak. "They beat up her husband and they were going to kill him. I had to help him."

Scully pulled latex gloves from her pockets and covered her hands with them. She crouched down and retrieved two weapons, one that the woman had been holding, and the other that sat at the foot of one of the dead men.

"You shot these men?" Mulder asked.

The woman nodded emphatically. "I had to. The white guy had a gun to Mr. Jacobsen's head. I took the black guy's gun and I shot the white guy. The black guy lunged towards me and I shot him. They killed Mrs. Jacobsen and they were going to kill her husband. I had to stop them."

Scully examined the gun that the woman had been holding. "How many times did you fire this weapon?"

"Twice," the woman answered.

"There are three bullets missing from each gun," Scully pointed out.

"He shot Mrs. Jacobsen three times. I grabbed for the black guy's gun, and when we struggled it went off. But I got it from him, I couldn't let them kill Mr. Jacobsen, too," she said.

Scully examined the bodies of the two men lying under the table while Mulder questioned the woman.

"What's your name?"

"Autumn," she replied. "Autumn Parker."

"What are you doing here, Miss Parker?" Mulder asked.

Autumn swallowed. "I've been looking into the crash of flight 841. I wanted to ask the Jacobsens about the child they found after the crash. I got no answer from the front door so I came to the back," she motioned towards the glass-sliding doors. "That's when I saw what was going on."

"But they didn't see you or hear you enter the kitchen?"

She shook her head. "They were too busy executing Mrs. Jacobsen."

"Mulder, come here," Scully said.

Mulder stepped over to Scully, who stood. She handed him a badge. "Special Agent Jack Raines from the Los Angeles headquarters," she revealed. "He's an FBI agent."


 8:10 PM

"Ben! Ben, Jack's come through for us again," Steven said excitedly into the telephone. "She's in San Francisco, Ben, at a homeless shelter called Loving Roof Shelter."

"Wonderful," Ben replied, "I'm on my way there right now."

Ben tossed his cell phone onto the passenger side seat of his Blazer and squeezed the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white. He was ready for her now. This time the little creature would not get away, he would make sure of it. August would not happen again, he would not let his guard down a second time. Beatrice was going to pay, and not just because The Protectors thought her evil.

She was going to pay for getting away.


 BOSTON, MA 11:30 PM EST

She needs you.

Matthew Oleskie bolted upright in his bed and looked frantically around his darkened bedroom. "Stacey," he called out to his sister. "Get out of my room, Stacey."

Silence.

"Stacey?"

Matty's breathing was deep, his heart racing. His sister wasn't in his room after all. But who had spoken to him, then?

"You idiot," Matty said to himself. "Stop scaring yourself, you baby."

He cautiously leaned back against his fat pillows and closed his eyes, telling himself to stop thinking and start going to sleep.

She needs you.. She needs you.

"Oh no!" Matty yelled, sitting back up. "Who's there? Momma?"

Don't be afraid. She needs you.

Where was that voice coming from? It was so soft and clear, beautiful. Unfamiliar. But comforting.

She needs you.


 YORKTOWN, CA 9:00 PM

Mulder joined Scully behind the two-way mirror, watching Autumn Parker sit at the interrogation table with her head down. Inside the next room, Autumn was very anxious, on edge.

"The second man was named Fred Jackson. He was a carpenter," Mulder informed Scully.

"Agent Raines was fired in August after illegally using FBI facilities to locate and apprehend Beatrice McKay. He wasn't charged with anything, but Beatrice
disappeared from her grandmother's home in Chicago for three days," Scully explained. "The grandmother didn't file any charges after the girl was returned, but Agent Raines was terminated."

"He must have used his old badge to gain entrance to the Jacobsen home. Do you think he's involved in the Protectors?" Mulder asked.

Scully shrugged. "I don't know, Mulder. It would make sense, I guess. If Steven Hasley really believes Beatrice survived that crash, he'd stop at nothing to find her. I think that the girl the Jacobsens took to the hospital that night is in danger, whether or not she's Beatrice McKay," Scully speculated. "And I think these people would kill to get to her."

"So you believe Autumn Parker's story?"

Scully nodded. "It checks out. She's a reporter at a small newspaper in Oregon. Although I never knew a paper with a circulation of 2000 that would send a reporter out to investigate a case like this. I think she's doing it on her own."

"Why?"

"Don't ask me." Scully pulled a large, thick white enveloped addressed to Mulder. "This is the envelope sent to you anonymously with the packet of information about Steven Hasley's website," she pointed to the postmark. "Sent from Portland, Oregon, on December 21st. Autumn Parker lives twenty miles outside Portland."

Mulder and Scully entered the interrogation room where Autumn had been sitting for the last hour. She quickly sat up straight at their arrival.

"When can I get out of here? I don't care if you set me free or take me to jail for the rest of my natural life. I just want out of here," she said.

Mulder pulled back a chair and sat down, while Scully continued to stand. "Miss Parker, did you know anything about Beatrice McKay separate from the fact she was a passenger on Flight 841?" Mulder asked, eye to eye with the woman.

After hesitating, Autumn finally admitted, "Yes, I knew of her before the plane crash. I sent you some print-outs from a website that I found interesting."

"How did you come upon the website?" asked Scully.

"Well, it's not exactly newsworthy to live in Maine, Oregon. Nothing ever happens, and usually our front page story is limited to the big high school football game. It's a weekly paper, but it's still sometimes hard to find enough crap to print," Autumn told the agents. "So most of the time, I sit by myself in the office, surfing the net. Hours and hours a day. And I came upon that weird website."

Mulder dropped the pile of print-outs in front of Autumn on the table. "Why did this interest you so much?"

"I don't know. I guess the insinuation that this child needed to be harmed in some way, that she was a devil," Autumn muttered.
"Why did you send this to me?"

"I went to the FBI in Portland on December 19 and I showed an agent all the print- outs," Autumn said. "He laughed at me. He actually laughed in my face. He said, well the kid can't die, so why would I worry? Laugh laugh. But he did suggest you, Agent Mulder. I wasn't about to be laughed at again, so I sent everything to you with no return address. I figured if you were curious, you'd investigate. If not, I'd saved myself a lot of humiliation."

Mulder nodded. "Then the plane crashed."

Autumn breathed in deeply. "Yes. A fax was sent to all the newspapers with a list of those on the plane. I saw Beatrice's name there, and my heart left my body for a second. Then, at the bottom of the page there was a blurb about a couple claiming someone lived through the crash and about how authorities dismissed it as a hoax," Autumn said. "But it wasn't a hoax. It was Beatrice."

"How can you be so sure of that?" asked Scully.

"I spoke to Kathy Jacobsen yesterday, and I showed her a picture of Beatrice McKay. She positively identified the girl in the picture as the girl she helped on the night of the crash. The Protectors killed Kathy Jacobsen, they tried to kill her husband, because they know Beatrice is alive. And they'll do anything to get her."

 SAN FRANCISCO 9:45 PM

The baby was kicking again, hard. Trici was lying across the big, soft sofa that sat in Mark Hill's living room as he prepared dinner. The sofa was Mark's only piece of furniture in the room, giving away pretty quickly that not only was he unattached, but that he rarely had visitors.

In many ways, Trici reminded Mark of himself at her age. She was extremely quiet, and when she did talk she mumbled. She obviously didn't enjoy conversation much, preferring to wade through her own thoughts rather than inconvenience herself with the constant chattering of those around her.

Mark had been like that as an early teenager. Everyone thought of him as the perfect, smart boy who did nothing wrong. They'd have been surprised to find out it was he who set a barrage of fires to people's yards and garages during the summer of '72 at the age of twelve.

Just as Trici's family had probably been surprised by her pregnancy. Quiet, withdrawn children just didn't do things like that, right? Mark knew better.

"Hungry?" Mark asked, handing Trici a bowl of Ravioli and a glass of Kool-Aid.

Trici laughed outloud. It struck her as funny that he'd spent the last thirty minutes in the kitchen making Ravioli and Kool-Aid. "Thanks," she said, straightening her face.
"How are you feeling?" Mark asked, taking a seat at the other end of the sofa next to Trici's feet.

"Fine. I'm fine," she repeated. "I'm sorry for being such a problem. If I had somewhere safe to go, I would go there. But thanks for helping me."

Mark frowned, perplexed. "Why do you feel unsafe? Did something happen with your family?"

"My parents are dead," Trici told him. "They died when I was six. I lived with my grandma, then at a boarding school. I was supposed to go live with my aunt and uncle but they died."

"That's an awful lot of death for an eleven year old," Mark commented.

"Tell me about it," Trici agreed. "It's all my fault, anyway."

"You shouldn't blame yourself, Trici," Mark said. "Sometimes things happen, bad things, and there's no explanation, no reason. But we can't blame ourselves."

Trici said nothing. If you only knew the truth, she thought, you'd despise me like everyone else.

The phone rang, and Mark reached behind the sofa to pick it up. "Hello.

This is he. Uh huh...What? When? What happened? Oh my God. Yes. Yes. OK. I'm at home. Thank you. Oh my God." Mark's face had turned to stone and Trici knew. She knew something terrible had happened.

"What's wrong?" Trici asked.

Mark looked over at her, bewildered. "It's my sister. Kathy. She's dead."


 DEEP SLEEP MOTEL 1 AM

Scully moved uncomfortably in the lumpy double bed, her body entangled in the sheets and bedspread. She couldn't sleep.
Her thoughts stuck on the rift that was growing between herself and Mulder, and knowing that if they didn't talk and work things out soon their would be no partnership; there would be no friendship. She'd relied so much on her relationship with Mulder, on wanting, needing to live so that she could return to him, when she was sick.

And he had been there for her.

Was she taking him for granted? After her cancer went into remission, had she forgotten to remember the gift she was given, the second chance to go back to the life she was living before she got sick? Was she now taking Mulder, her career, her life, for granted?

No, Scully told herself, you are not being ridiculous. Mulder's being irrational. They'd argued until midnight about the case, with Mulder's theories growing more and more absurd.

"Mulder, if Beatrice McKay is alive, and I'm not saying that she is," Scully reiterated, "there would have to be a logical explanation for her survival."

"Such as?"

"Perhaps she swapped tickets with someone who wanted an earlier flight. Airlines offer discounts to people who give up their seats for a later flight, and maybe Beatrice volunteered her seat,," Scully suggested.

Mulder shook his head. "Impossible. Her aunt and uncle would not have allowed her to travel alone. They'd have traded in their tickets, too," Mulder countered.

"Mulder, what are you trying to say? That you believe based on a little website and the testimony of an unskilled reporter that Beatrice McKay is incapable of dying, that she's immortal?" Scully asked, raising her voice unintentionally.

"I don't know Scully. I think we shouldn't close our minds to the possibility that there has been a little divine intervention that has protected this girl from harm, leading to a pregnancy that cannot be explained."

Scully rolled her eyes and shook her head determinedly. "I assure you that if Beatrice McKay is alive and she is pregnant, it wasn't any miraculous virginal conception. This girl isn't going to give birth to the next Jesus Christ."

"But how do you know that, Scully? How does any of us know when and in what form He will return in?" Mulder challenged. "I admit to not being the most religious person on this earth, but-"

"Trici was missing for several days in August. Those dates would coincide with when Trici most likely conceived," Scully pointed out.

Mulder dismissed the suggestion and said, "The Protectors' mission is to protect humanity from what they fear is a monster and a threat to the world. I strongly doubt that protecting humanity includes having sex with the eleven year old enemy demon."

"Mulder, these people are hypocrites," Scully argued. "They say they want to protect the innocent yet they pursue a little girl like vicious hunters would their prey. The website doesn't say, Lets kill this child, but it certainly alludes to harming her. I don't think it would be above these type of people to violate a child they see as being a fiend, less than human. Rape is a crime of violence, Mulder. And these people certainly seem to condone violence towards this child."

They'd parted on bad terms, both clinging stubbornly to their assumptions about the case.

Knock knock knock.

Scully shot up in bed. She tossed the bed sheet and blanket to the side, swinging her legs onto the floor and standing, revealing she was wearing a white T-shirt and navy blue sweats. "Mulder," she said, opening the door to her partner.

He wore only boxers and a T-shirt, and hurried past her out of the cool breezy air.

"Is something wrong?" Scully asked, looking him over intently.

"We need to talk," Mulder said. "Neither of us is doing very well right now, Scully, and we've got to-"

Scully cut him off. "Mulder, it's one o'clock in the morning. We're both tired. Hashing this out right now probably won't help anything. Let's start fresh tomorrow, with a clean slate, and try harder,," Scully suggested, her voice thick with fatigue.

Mulder shook his head emphatically, putting his hands on Scully's shoulders. She shuddered at his touch, so warm, so firm. Her gaze fell to the floor. She couldn't look him.

"Scully, we have been through so much together," Mulder began. "I've made mistakes, you've made mistakes, but we've never dwelled on that. We haven't tortured one another over it."

"So you think I'm torturing you?" Scully snapped, her heart pounding against her chest.

He paused, before saying, "Yes, I do." He put his hand under Scully's chin and lifted her reluctant head, staring down into her deep, blue eyes. "I don't want to fight anymore, Scully. I just want..." his voice trailed off as their eyes met. Scully closed her eyes as Mulder lowered his head and met her mouth with his. They kissed violently, their tongues exploring each other's mouth.

Scully pressed her body against Mulder's, feeling his hardness through the thin cloth of his boxers. She gasped in mixed pleasure and surprise as Mulder swooped her up and carried her across the room to the bed. He gently lied her on her back, pulling down her sweats and moving in on top of her. He slid the elastic of his boxers down to his own knees, and entered her swiftly, pumping feverishly into her until both of their bodies spasmed in complete pleasure.

They made love repeatedly throughout the night, exploring one another's bodies thoroughly, sensually, releasing all the tension and rage that had built up and exploded as they moved their naked bodies together furiously.

They finally succumbed to their exhaustion as the morning's first light appeared.

 McNEIL TRAVEL OFFICE BOSTON 8 AM

Matty Oleskie had camped outside the McNeil Travel Office since 6 o'clock in the morning, eagerly waiting for the business to open. Finally, Louise McNeil showed up to open the office she owned.

At first, Louise found Matty's request humorous. The boy couldn't have been more than twelve years old, yet he sat at her desk attempting to purchase plane tickets for an immediate flight to California. Using his mother's credit card number.

"Mr..."

"Oleskie," Matty answered. "Matthew Oleskie."

Louise forced a thin smile, showing her yellow teeth. "Matthew Oleskie, I'm sorry but it's against our policy here at McNeil Travel Office to sell any tickets to anyone under the age of 18 without parental permission."

Matty smiled back. "I have parental permission. How else would I have my mom's credit card?"

"Let's not play games, Mr. Oleskie," Louise said sternly. "I cannot sell you plane, train, bus, or even go-cart tickets to go next door without parental permission."

Give the boy the tickets.

Louise stared up at the ceiling, astonished.

Give the boy the tickets, the credit card is good.

"What the hell?" Louise asked, looking accusingly at Matthew. "What's going on?"

"I need to go to California. She needs me," Matty replied.

She needs him. Give the boy the tickets. She needs him.

Louise nodded emphatically, hurriedly typing into her computer and turning to her printer. "You're on Flight 385 to Chicago, leaving in 45 minutes. You'll transfer to Flight 986 in Chicago and will arrive in San Francisco at approximately 11:00 AM Pacific time."

She handed the tickets to Matty, her hand trembling as he took them from her.

"Thank you," he said, smiling broadly as he raced out of the office.


 SAN FRANCISCO 6 AM

It was a last minute choice, made in Ben's rage that spilled over along with the gasoline throughout the hallways of Loving Roof Shelter, the flames spread by the fire in Ben's heart and the matches in his hand. Trici wasn't in the shelter, and because of that the 25 people who were there in her place would suffer.

"She should be here, she should be here," he repeated fitfully, standing at the doorway leading into the shelter. The night attendant, Carolyn, had been knocked out cold after Ben entered the shelter, and now she lied unconscious and bathed in gasoline.
Ben lit one of the matches and dropped it on Carolyn's body, fleeing the Loving Roof Shelter as the flames that engulfed Carolyn spread. No matter how much he longed to stay and hear the screams of those who would suffer in place of Trici this morning, Ben knew he had to leave before attention was paid to the fire.

Everyone was sleeping.
Everyone was dying.

Ben smiled.


 DEEP SLEEP MOTEL YORKTOWN, CA 8:30 AM

Scully awoke to pounding on her motel room door, drawing her quickly out of sleep. She lied motionless for several seconds, until the pounding grew louder and she abruptly was wide awake. Scully turned and found, to her dismay, that Mulder had left. She was still unclothed, and as the knocking grew faster and harder, Scully dug her T-shirt and sweats out from the blankets that they were entangled in.

She hurried to the door, dressing herself along the way. Through the peephole, Scully was only mildly surprised to find Autumn Parker standing outside the room.

Scully pulled the door open, staring at Autumn with an annoyed look. "Yes?" she asked, not bothering to feign concern for why Autumn was there.

"Agent Scully, Kathy Jacobsen's brother works at a homeless shelter in San Francisco. This morning seventeen people died as a result of a fire at that shelter," Autumn said, solemnly. "It was a shelter for homeless teenagers, but two of them had young infants that died."

Scully opened the door and motioned for Autumn to come in. "What was the cause of the fire."

"Arson, definitely arson," Autumn said. "Mark Hill, Mrs. Jacobsen's brother, hasn't been located. Police called him last night to notify him about his sister's death, and this morning they went to his apartment to question him about the fire and he had vanished."

"Was there any sign of foul play?"

Autumn shook her head. "No. But the police did find something of interest to them."

"What?"

"A suitcase full of clothes. Girl's clothes. Same size as Trici McKay," Autumn disclosed. "She was at his house. And now they're both gone."


 YORKTOWN, CA 9:30 AM

Trici McKay didn't know how she got pregnant, although she had been aware for several months that something was not right with her body. At first, she'd attributed the changes in her body to her age; she was, after all, only eleven years old and just beginning adolescence. But by November, Trici had realized the shocking truth: a baby was growing inside her.

She'd spent so much time in the bathroom stalls at school, vomiting from morning sickness or fear of the pregnancy being discovered; half the time she didn't know why she was sick. The distress was from trying to hide the pregnancy, as well as not knowing how it had come to be.

Of course, there were the days in August when she had been away from her
grandmother that, despite hours of focusing and working her brain, she could not remember. Trici thought that maybe They had her during those days, but she wasn't sure. Perhaps someone else had her. Whatever the case, Trici's memory eluded her and now she was expecting a child.

Trici reached down and rubbed her bulging belly. She hadn't grown much in her midsection, which was a relief to Trici during the weeks she was hiding the pregnancy at school. Luckily, she'd always been a very thin girl, and gaining fifteen pounds really hadn't made her look pudgy at all.

Trici glanced over at the clock that hung in the waiting room at Yorkstown Community Hospital. She and Mark had been here all night, close to nine hours. Mark desperately wanted to talk to Ralph, his brother in law, to try to make sense of Kathy's death. But, Ralph hadn't yet emerged from the coma that resulted from his beating.

Luckily for Trici's nerves, she had been the only occupant of the waiting room that night. She was intensely fearful They would show up at the hospital, but at the same time theorized They would avoid going anywhere near Ralph Jacobsen for fear of implicating themselves in the attack. Plus, an armed guard was watching over the ICU in the event of a repeat attack on Ralph.

The girl was now exhausted, and it became increasingly difficult for her to fight the fatigue. Trici exhaled. She hoped Mark would leave Ralph's bedside soon to visit her, as he'd done periodically through the night. Trici was eleven, and a consequence of her age was that she wasn't allowed in an ICU room.

The door to the waiting room crept open, and Trici sat up straight. She didn't want it to be obvious to Mark how sleepy she was; then he would feel guilty and she didn't want that.

Instead of Mark walking into the waiting room as expected, an unfamiliar couple appeared. Trici's first inclination was to tense up.

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully entered the waiting room expectantly. The child that sat in front of them was, in fact, Trici McKay. And she was frightened.

"It's OK, Beatrice," Scully immediately said, inching towards the girl.

"I'm Dana and this is Fox. We're with the FBI."

Trici leaned against the left arm of the chair she was sitting in as Scully took a seat in the chair on Trici's right. The girl brought her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms tightly around her legs.

"Please, don't be afraid," Scully said gently. "We want to help you."

"You can't," Trici muttered, staring into the blank white wall past where Mulder was standing. "They killed Kathy and hurt Ralph because of me."

"What makes you think that?" asked Scully, keeping her voice soft.

The girl shrugged. "Because I know Them. They'd do anything to get me.

I don't know why I keep running."

"Because you're a little girl, and you're scared," Scully replied. "They have no right to do this to you, Trici. You know that, right?"

"Yes," Trici said. "But They'll keep doing it anyway. I am so scared.

I don't even care anymore what They do to me...but my baby."

Scully reached over and placed her hand on Trici's knee. "Everything is going to be OK. We'll protect you."

Trici smiled half-heartedly, knowing the kindly FBI agent had no idea what she was up against.

 **
 
 DRURY, CA 9:45 AM

The little white church had once been used as a school in the 1930s, where teachers would educate the elementary age children in the basement and the older children on the first floor. On Sundays, parents would accompany their children to their school on the far southern edge of town for church services.
Henry Beauregard was a student back then in the 1930s, and even after a larger school was constructed to accommodate the schoolchildren, and long after
churchgoers raised funds to build a larger church closer to the heart of town, Henry made sure the little white church was kept up. He loved the building, spending many nights asleep at the alter wrapped in a sleeping bag.

He was sure that his efforts to tend to the building would be beneficial someday. The little white church would be of use again someday, thanks to Mr. Henry Beauregard.

Steven Hasley owed much thanks to Henry Beauregard; the old man had quickly offered Steven use of the little white church after Steven spoke of a demon child that threatened the souls of people everywhere. After all his work, praying every Sunday in the little white church alone for a sign from God that his life would come in handy, Henry believed Steven was that sign. A sign from God.

These days, the little white church was seldomly empty; people from across the country stayed there after flocking to Drury to meet Steven and beg for him to let them help him in his quest.
"I have bad news to pass on this morning, my friends," Steven Hasley said, speaking from the alter to the group of thirty followers that sat in the church's pews. "We've lost two more members, who sacrificed their lives to our cause. It's more imperative than ever that we find Beatrice McKay and send her to the depths of hell where she belongs!"

Women and men, boys and girls, young and old alike had come to Drury for the Second Annual Protectors Convention, only to find that their leaders were closing in on the demon girl who had managed to avoid them for four months. They were caught up in the moment, excited that they might actually get to help rid the world of this devil's existence.

The vibrant crowd cheered at Steven's ministry, clapping and whistling. "How can we help?" "Death to the demon!" "We must avenge these deaths!" the people cried out.

**
 
 MAINE, OR 1:00 PM

Wyatt Oleskie was out for his midafternoon jog, listening to his Walk Man blasting the latest Aerosmith song when the beeper in his pocket began vibrating.

He pulled the beeper out of the pockets of his sweats, and the number 555-555-8612 appeared.

The white-haired man sprinted across the deserted main street of Maine and to a pay phone outside the town's only gas station. He swiftly dialed in the numbers of his calling card, then those that showed on his beeper.

"Nina," Wyatt said. "It's Dad."

"Dad!" came the terrified response. "It's Matty. He's gone."

Wyatt frowned, rubbing his chin with his free hand. "Where is he?"

"That's why I'm calling, Dad. He left a note, it said: Mommy, Gone to California. She needs me. Love, Matty," Nina paused to catch her breath. "Daddy, he's going to get hurt. I don't know how he found out about her. But he's in danger. I was supposed to protect him, I promised!"

"Nina, sweetheart, relax," Wyatt urged. "I'm on my way to California right now."

"He took a flight to San Francisco, Daddy. He knows where she is and he's gone to her. How are we ever going to find him?"

"I'll find him, just as he's found her," Wyatt said. "Now don't you worry, my darling. He won't get hurt."

Wyatt hung up the telephone, and turned his head to the side, cracking his neck. Then, he continued with his jog, running with such grace that he seemed to not have a care in the world.


 BLUE SKIES MOTEL NEAR SAN FRANCISCO 1:10 PM

Autumn Parker was in pain. She had spent much of the day lying in a hot bath, repeatedly adding hot water to the tub in hopes that the heat would dull the excruciating ache that gripped her body.

Finally, though, Autumn rose from the bathtub, wrapping a soft towel around her trembling body. She came to the mirror over the sink and wiped the steam away so she could see her own reflection. Autumn slowly opened the towel and examined her own stomach. Two large, bloody wounds, one just above her naval, one to the side. The wounds were no longer bleeding, but their size and appearance frightened Autumn.

"You're OK," she told herself. "You're OK."

She squeezed her eyes shut, remembering what had really happened at the Jacobsens. She'd been shot. She'd played dead. She'd surprised the sons of bitches and gave them what they deserved.

But the pain wouldn't leave her. The pain...


 DEEP SLEEP MOTEL YORKTOWN, CA 2:00 PM

"I don't feel so well," Trici told Mulder, falling onto the bed in his motel room, clutching her stomach.

Scully had stayed at the hospital because doctors believed Mr. Jacobsen might be slipping out of his coma, while Mulder drove the girl to the motel so she could get some well-needed sleep.
Instead, upon arrival at the motel her small body writhed in pain.

"What's the matter?"

Trici grimaced. "My stomach hurts. Like cramps or something."

"Like contractions?" Mulder asked.

The child stared up at him with wide eyes. "I don't know, Agent Mulder.

I've never been pregnant before," she reminded him.

"I'll call Agent Scully. Looks like we might have to turn around and go back to the hospital," Mulder said.

"I'm sorry," Trici muttered. "I cause trouble for everyone."

Mulder sat at the edge of the bed, staring down at the fragile child. "It's no trouble, Trici. You're a little girl, you need to be taken care of. That's nothing horrible."

"I love my baby," Trici said matter-of-factly. "I don't want them to hurt us."

"Trici, Agent Scully and I spoke with the doctors at the hospital where you were treated after the plane crash," Mulder said, "and they told us about your baby, but that you didn't tell them how you came to be pregnant."

Trici froze.
"It's OK, you don't have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable."

"A boy. In my grandma's neighborhood. This summer, we were going together," Trici explained. "And it happened, and my grandma sent me to St. Patrick's. Not just because of me and him, but because They kidnapped me and she didn't want me around Them or around him."

She was lying, he thought. As she spoke, she didn't come close to looking him in the eye and instead her eyes shifted around the room. But he wasn't going to push it. If Scully was right, that Beatrice had been raped while held captive by The Protectors in August, a tall, strange man would be the last she would confide in.

And he really didn't know if he wanted to hear about a little girl being subjected to such violence.

Trici gasped in pain, her forehead wrinkling as tears filled her eyes. Mulder reached into his coat pocket for his cell phone, but just as he prepared to dial Scully's number, a knock on the door interrupted him.

Trici's eyes grew wide. "Please don't let them in," she begged, weakly. "Please."

Mulder pulled his gun and approached the door with caution. He slowly moved his face towards the peephole and looked through.

"It's OK, Trici," Mulder assured her, pulling the door open to the two young girls that were waiting outside. They were no older than fifteen years old age. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, please," the dark-haired girl with curly hair said. "We have the room next to yours and somehow we've managed to lock the key inside the door. Could we use your phone to call someone up to open the door?"

Mulder nodded. "Come in," he offered, putting his gun away.

The dark-haired girl walked into the room first, followed by her red-haired friend. Mulder turned and watched the dark-haired girl walk over and pick up the phone, his back to her friend.
"Are you OK little girl?" asked the first girl, taking a seat on the bed after dialing three numbers.

Trici gazed up at the girl, her eyes full of tears. "Yeah," she said.

Mulder felt the second girl brush up against him. Rather than walk past him, though, she stopped beside him. He glanced down to see what she was doing, and noticed a second too late that she'd pulled a hypodermic needle from her purse as she plunged the needle into his hip.

He instinctively grabbed for his gun, but already his head was spinning and his reaction was delayed. The red-haired girl got to Mulder's gun first.

Trici leaped out of the hospital bed, but a sharp pain to her stomach prevented her from outrunning the dark-haired girl. The other girl tackled Trici, landing on top of the young girl on the floor of the motel room.

Mulder collapsed onto the floor, watching Trici and the girl struggle as he fought to keep his eyes open. The battle was futile, though, and soon Mulder succumbed to the effects of the drug he'd been injected with and the world went black.


 DRURY, CA 3:15 PM

The yellow taxi cab pulled up to the small-town post office, and the cabby accepted a crisp $100 bill from his young charge, Matthew Oleskie. The boy exited the cab holding a blue duffel bag. He pushed his glasses up on his nose as he canvassed the area.
She needs you. She needs you. She needs you.

The voice was constant, repetitive. Matty knew he was close, that soon he would know what had brought him all the way across the country. Soon he would know who "she" was.

Matty strolled up the street until he came to a newspaper machine. 17 DIE IN EARLY MORNING FIRE! screamed the afternoon edition of The Drury Gazette.

Without thinking, Matty stuck a quarter in the machine and pulled out a copy of the paper. He stared at the photograph of the burned down shelter, an intense feeling nagging at him.

She needs you. She's coming. She needs you.

Matty turned from the machine and prepared to cross the street. A navy blue van sped up the street, and suddenly a loud, screeching, blood-curdling scream filled Matty's mind.
She needs you!

The boy put his hand to his ears and whimpered, disabled by the noise, feeling as if his head was about to explode. He would have collapsed to the ground in
weakness, but his body was stiff and unmoving.

She needs you, she needs you, she needs you, she needs you...

Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity passed, the van vanished up the street and the sound abruptly stopped. Matty fell to his knees and vomited, looking longingly into the distance where the van had disappeared to.


 3:20 PM

"God, Katie, she's bleeding everywhere!" Michele Gillham screamed from the back of the van to her sister, who was driving. "She's having her kid or something. I think she's pregnant, Katie."

Katherine Gillham inhaled deeply on her cigarette, then tossed it out the open window. "Let's hope she bleeds to the death then," replied the 17-year old Kansan. "Can you imagine how good we'd look if we were able to get rid of her?"

Michele grimaced, remembering the frantic attempts by Katie outside the Deep Sleep Motel to stab, beat, and strangle their little abductee to no avail. Michele had been astounded by the amount of blood one person could release, especially an 11-year old girl who didn't even come close to losing consciousness throughout the ordeal.

"I don't know about this, Katie," Michele said, glancing behind her at the still- unconscious FBI agent, who was restrained with his own handcuffs as well as ropes tied around his ankles and a gag preventing him from speaking if he did awaken. "We're going to be in so much trouble."

"It's a worthy trade," Katie assured her younger sister. "Don't worry about the little bastard."

Trici extended her arm towards Michele, touching the 14-year old's long-sleeve shirt. "Help me," she whispered. "Please."

Michele paused, staring down at the child, unsure of how to respond. Finally, she hit Trici's arm away and said, "Shut up, do you hear me? I won't help you. If I help you I'd be helping the devil and I'd earn a first-class ticket to Hell."

Trici shook her head. "No," she answered weakly.

Trying to ignore the pathetic little girl, Michele reached up to pull a loose strand of her red hair behind her ears, but refrained after noticing her own hands were drenched in blood. She gasped, turning her palms in and seeing that both of her wrists were slit. "Oh God Katie pull over!" Michele howled.

"What's the matter?" Katie asked, annoyed.

Michele barely heard her sister's muffled response. She blinked hard, trying to see past the spots and lights that blurred her vision. "Katie," she opened her mouth to say, but she couldn't find her voice. She pulled herself up, but slipped in a pool of her own blood as Katie slammed on the brakes.

Michele's body flew towards the front of the van, next to where her sister was seated.
"Ahh!" Katie screamed, swerving off the road and pulling into driveway.

Her sister was lying face down. "What did she do to you?"

When Michele didn't respond, Katie hesitantly pulled the girl onto her back. Michele's wide lifeless eyes stared back, and Katie recoiled, jumping from the van. Katie pulled the side door of the van open and jumped up, in-between where Mulder and Trici laid. She grabbed Trici up by the hair.

"What the Hell did you to my sister?!" she hollered, shaking the girl and grabbing her neck. "Damn it, what did you do!" her screams were now a mixture of sobs and rage.

"Nothing," Trici managed to respond, her voice hoarse and feeble.

Katie released Trici abruptly and Trici fell to the floor of the van. "You are lying! You are going to suffer, do you hear me? Suffer! And that little bastard inside you is going to suffer too, you miserable little bitch!"

Trici held her stomach, whimpering. Katie rolled her eyes, and screamed, "You killed my sister! You're dead! You're DEAD!" She slammed the sliding door closed, then hurried back into the van and sped off towards the little white church.

 Steven Hasley's impatience was about to get the better of him; Katie and Michele called him 90 minutes ago, and should have arrived in Drury by now. Could Trici have escaped? Would he be learning that the Gillham sister's were dead in a mysterious car explosion? Had Trici's cries of pain in the background during the telephone call been a trick, to get the Gillham girls to let their guards down?

She's pregnant.

He closed his eyes, leaning forward and putting his head against the pew in front of where he was sitting. He had to kill Trici before that baby was born; the problem was, no matter how devoted his followers were, Steven doubted they would help take the life of an innocent newborn. Even if the newborn was just as evil as his mother.

The doors to the church burst open, and Steven stood. He hurried up the aisle and found Katie Gillham. She was covered in blood with a look of pain dominating her face.

"Where's the girl?" Steven asked.

"She killed my sister," Katie cried.

"Where's the goddamn girl!"

Katie frowned. "You don't even care about my little sister, do you? You don't even care! My family came here all the way from Kansas to help you, and now my sister is dead and you don't even care!"

Hearing the commotion, Henry Beauregard appeared at the far end of the church. Katie Gillham was screaming hysterically at Steven, who answered her so quietly that Henry couldn't hear what he was saying. The girl pushed her body into Steven's, and he responded by punching her across the head.
She fell to the ground, limp.


YORKTOWN 4:00 PM

Scully was livid. She hadn't heard from Mulder in two and a half hours, and he wasn't at the motel with the girl. They'd had an understanding that he and Trici wouldn't leave the motel at all until Scully joined them, and now she couldn't reach him. Scully hadn't intended on staying at the hospital so long, but Ralph Jacobsen had opened his eyes and muttered a few unintelligible words and was on his way out of his coma. He wasn't talking yet, but he was trying.

She couldn't really believe Mulder would slip back into this behavior already, not after what had happened between them last night. She didn't expect him to change, as it was obvious to her that last night they had two options: beat the shit out of each other or make passionate love to one another. Their actions were based on stress, on wanting to lash out against each other in a forceful way. It was that desire, not love or romance, that landed the two in bed together.

And it had resolved nothing.

What could it resolve? Did Scully really think that just because she allowed Mulder to make love to her that he would actually start taking her feelings about their partnership to heart? That he would listen to her, that he would include her in every aspect of each investigation? It wasn't going to happen.

He'd left the motel room with the girl, no doubt pursuing another lead and leaving Scully in the dark. No, nothing at all had been resolved.

After her fifth call to the motel received no response, Scully, exasperated, shoved her cell phone into her purse.
"Something wrong?" Mark Hill asked, appearing behind Scully in the waiting room.

Scully turned to Mark. She'd been surprised at his reaction to the fire at the Loving Roof Shelter; there had been no reaction, in fact. Mark listened to Scully intently, and when she was finished he said nothing. He just stared at his dead sister's husband in silence.

This was the first he'd spoken her since that moment several hours earlier.
"Everything's fine," Scully lied, not wanting Mark to worry about Trici.

Mark parted his lips to speak, hesitated, then said, "What's going on here. Why did my sister get killed? Why was the shelter destroyed?"

"We don't know for sure, Mr. Hill," Scully answered. "We believe the incidents are connected, but that's about the extent of our knowledge at this point."

"And also that Trici is involved somehow," Mark added.

Scully's eyes shifted to Mark's feet and she nodded. "Yes," she confirmed. "It's a complicated situation, and unfortunately you and your sister ended up in the middle of it."

"Kathy was just trying to help a frightened little girl," Mark said. "She was always such a giver, my sister. How ironic that her kindness got her killed. Along with seventeen other innocent people."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hill."

Mark bowed his head. "So am I," he said, "so am I."


 5:30 PM

Mulder's head hurt like hell. The pains crashed into his skull like heavy ocean waves, the aches reverberating throughout his body. His eyelids were heavy, but he was able to lift them with effort. The room was dark, although light seeped in from under the door.
He imagined Scully there with him, tending to him, holding him, speaking softly in his ear that she would take the pain away. Touching him...

He snapped back into reality as his eyesight adjusted to the darkness, and he labored to sit up. The effects of the drugs were wearing off rapidly, and soon Mulder had the strength to stand.
A noise from the far corner of the room startled Mulder as he approached the door. He spun around, and whispered, "Trici? Is that you."

He could hear the heavy, raspy breathing of the second occupant of the room. Mulder felt to his hands and knees and crawled towards the person.

But he found no person. He found a blanket, rolled into a pile with a pillow lying on its top. The blanket moved, and Mulder pulled back. It had to be a rat, he thought.
Mulder carefully began unfolding the blanket, bracing himself for an animal to jump out at any moment. The movement inside the blanket became more fervent.

He was one layer away from the object, and very slowly lifted the blanket.

"Oh my God," he gasped.


6:30 PM

Mulder frantically pulled off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt, removing it quickly and wrapping it around the infant that had been buried in the blanket. He wrapped his shirt around the baby, who was still wet with blood and fluid. The baby was breathing. Impossible. He couldn't have been longer than 13", no bigger than a pound.

Trici's baby. Born at 22 weeks gestation, and breathing. On his own.

He was his mother's child.

The baby didn't cry, he whimpered. He was covered in light hairs, and his ears were low on his head. He was underformed, appearing as a typical 22-week fetus would. Mulder noted the baby's surprisingly good color, which could probably be attributed to his ability to breath with ease unlike other premature infants.

"Where's your mother?" Mulder asked, gently cradling the infant. Most of the baby's body fit into Mulder's hand, with its head resting against the lower arm.

Mulder was startled by a sudden rash of gunfire in the next room, and protectively covered the baby with his jacket. The door opened, and the bright light that shone in blinded Mulder momentarily. He held his left hand up against his forehead protectively.

Mulder's eyes narrowed as he adjusted to the light and recognized the person standing in the doorway.

Autumn Parker.

"It was you," Mulder spat accusingly. "You told them where to find us.

You told them I took Trici to the motel!"

Autumn tilted her head and dropped her arm to her side, revealing that she was holding a gun. There was a huge pause as the two stared penetratingly at each other.
Mulder was taken aback by the look in Autumn's eyes, and the expression on her face that was devoid of any emotion. She stood unmoving in the doorway, stony faced and composed.

A brief look of desperation crossed Autumn's face, but disappeared quickly. Her gaze moved from Mulder's face down to the bundle he held in one hand. Realizing she spotted the infant, Mulder retreated further into the corner of the room, his heart racing. There was no escape.

Autumn started towards Mulder through the darkness, holding tightly to the gun she gripped in her hand.


6:45 PM

Whatever contempt Scully had felt earlier in the afternoon towards Mulder had evolved into pure worry for her partner. Even though it was not above Mulder to go at things on his own, despite the fact it would be just like him to make exceptions to staying at the motel, he would have checked in with Scully by now if everything was all right.

It was chillingly clear to Scully that things were not all right. Mulder was in trouble.

"Agent Scully," Mark Hill called from up the hallway, startling her. He waved her towards him. "Ralph's communicating and talking. Come quick."

Scully sprinted up the hallway and entered Ralph's ICU room beside Mark.

They arrived as a doctor finished removing Ralph's respirator.

"Try not to speak too much," the doctor advised Ralph Jacobsen. "Your throat will be sore for a few days, your voice hoarse. Try to rest."

The doctor looked up at Scully, and she nodded in understanding. "I won't take up too much of his time," she promised the skeptical doctor, who had witnessed Scully's presence throughout the day, knowing she would move in like a vulture when the patient awakened.

Ralph gestured for Mark, who moved to his brother-in-law's bedside swiftly. "How are you feeling?" Mark asked gently.

"Not good," Ralph replied, distorting his mouth. "Kathy's dead."

Mark nodded painfully. "I know, Ralph. There was nothing you could do," he said assuringly.

"The girl, the girl reporter," Ralph mumbled. "Is she OK?"

Mark glanced at Scully, motioning for her to join him in the conversation with Ralph. "Ralph, this is Agent Dana Scully from the FBI. She'd like to question you."

The patient cringed, his heart rate accelerating.

"Mr. Jacobsen, please, don't be alarmed," Scully said. "The men that came to your house were not with the FBI. One was a former agent, but neither were legit. I mean no harm to you."

"Ralph, you can trust her," Mark vouched, earning an appreciative glimpse from Scully.

"The reporter, at my house," Ralph said. He was having trouble linking words into sentences, which was frustrating to the usual punctual man. "She helped me."

Scully nodded. "Yes, Autumn Parker. She's fine."

"Is she here? In this hospital?" Ralph asked.

"No, Mr. Jacobsen," Scully replied, "Autumn was unhurt in the attack. She killed the two men at your home in self-defense without injury."

Ralph shook his head emphatically. "No. No, she was shot," he said, lifting his heavy arm and placing his hand on his stomach. "Her stomach. Her chest. She was shot, fell down. The men, came back to me. Beat me. So long. Last I remember."

"Autumn wasn't hurt in the attack," Scully repeated, thinking back to Autumn's appearance when she and Mulder had discovered the woman in the Jacobsen home. She had been covered in blood, but said it belonged to the dead men and the victims.

"She was shot," Ralph said confidently. "In the stomach."

Scully drew in a deep breath, absently running a hand through her red hair. She guessed that Ralph had mistaken Autumn Parker for his fatally wounded wife, substituting the young stranger to purge the traumatic memory of watching his wife die from his injured mind.

"God," Ralph gasped. "The reporter and the girl. They must be...alike."

Puzzled, Mark looked over at Agent Scully. She glanced over at him, her face seeming to echo his confusion. Scully knew exactly what Ralph was trying to say, but she didn't understand how any of it could be possible. And she didn't understand at all how Autumn Parker could have had a gunshot wound considering her seemingly normal behavior after the incident at the Jacobsens.

Ralph Jacobsen had to be mistaken. What he was saying was impossible.

 6:50 PM

Trici McKay lied on the cold floor of her dark prison, trying to calm her own loud breathing as the voices in the next room raised into an arguement. She listened carefully, concentrating completely, trying desperately to hear their words.

"It's a baby, for Christ's sake!" the voice of an older man said. His voice sounded of determined dismay.

The next to speak was Steven Hasley. Trici knew his voice all too well, and it chilled her to the bone. "It's a baby that will one day grow into the Devil, Henry!" he pointed out.
"That whore in the next room has born the son of the Devil, whose been shielding her from suspicious eyes so that she could have his child," added Ben.

"That's bull," the old man retorted. "This is a house of God, Steven, and there will be no sacrifice of innocent babies here!"

A pang of hope surged through Trici, who lied curled in a small ball, her knees touching her chin. She wore only her underclothes and was covered by a cold, thin sheet that had been hastily tossed over her after They had pulled her son from her arms.

Her hope was quickly shattered, though, as the argument came to a sudden close. Everyone was yelling, the old man was screaming, begging for help, pleading for mercy, howling in pain; his screams came to an abrupt halt as a gunshot rang through the air.

Trici dissolved into sobs that seized her whole body. They were going to hurt her baby.
Trici wept for her poor, innocent baby as she was lost to exhaustion and sleep.

If Trici had remained conscious for another few seconds, she would have heard Ben Sykes pounding down the staircase to the bottom floor of the church. She would have listened as he told Steven that the FBI agent had somehow killed the two people guarding him, and had escaped with the baby.


6:55 PM

Autumn led Mulder across the front of the church, where they tore down the aisle and out the front door. Just as Autumn convinced Mulder to trust and follow her, Ben Sykes had entered the first of two rooms behind the alter of the church. Mulder and Autumn had narrowly missed discovery, tiptoeing out one of two entrances to the room as Ben set foot through the second doorway.

For what seemed to be an eternity, they ran. Through the wooded area leading to a park on the edge of Drury. They stayed on path, until coming to the playground area. Autumn put her hand on Mulder's arm and they stopped running.
Without speaking, Autumn took the baby from Mulder and cradled him gently. "We've got to help Trici," Mulder said, gazing back at the trees from which they'd just emerged. "She's all alone."

"They can't hurt her," Autumn said dismissively.

"That baby belongs to Trici," Mulder pointed out, both their gazes falling upon the small, delicate infant that slept contentedly despite the commotion.

Suddenly, voices echoed from inside the woods. The Protectors were in pursuit; Mulder and Autumn exchanged glances then began running as if in unspoken
agreement. They zigzagged through the part, coming to a backyard. The two ran along the side of the large, blue split-level home with Autumn leading. As she came to the front of the house, she collided with Steven Hasley.

"NO!" Autumn cried, as Steven reached for the infant.

Mulder was restrained by Ben, who delighted in choking the agent into near unconsciousness.

Upon hearing Autumn's cry, Steven's wide eyes slid from the infant and moved up to meet the woman's eyes. He immediately let go of whatever hold he had on the baby and stepped back, his expression paralyzed into a look of utter shock.

"Cara!" Steven gasped, putting his hands on her arms and shaking her slightly. "Cara, oh my God!"

Ben and Mulder froze, watching the exchange in surprise.
"You're alive! Cara!" Steven yelled, his words falling over each other. "Oh my God!"

Steven felt something against his chest and assumed it was Autumn's hand. The last thing expected was to hear the deafening blast, or to feel the bullet from a gun rip into his chest at point blank range. He stumbled back, clasping his hands over his chest, but didn't fall immediately.

"Cara," he muttered, "This...for...you...I...don't...un...der..."

Autumn followed Steven, until he finally collapsed to the ground. She pointed the gun at him once again and fired at his face before he could finish.


She needs you. She needs you. She needs you. She needs you.

Matty pressed both of his hands against his ears in pure frustration. He was so tired, worn out. All he wanted was to be home, safe in his own bed, protected from all of this craziness raging inside his head. His motions now were involuntary, his legs leading to where he did not know. They moved faster and faster, until Matty tensed up in fear his feet would stumble over one another.
Instead, he kept moving. Down the darkened, abandoned streets of Drury.

She needs you. She needs you. Help her. She needs you. She needs you. Help her.

Matty came to a stop, sharpening his eyes. Less than two blocks away, a group had formed in front of a dark house that sat at the front of a playground. The people were shouting in anger, fear, and confusion, descending upon two others.

Help her. Help her. Help her. Help her.

I will! I will help her!

He dashed forward, barely catching his breath from the previous race.

She needed his help. Now.


DEEP SLEEP MOTEL 7 PM

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, the occupants of that room checked out several hours ago," the flustered front desk attendant explained to Scully for the third time. "They left no message."

"They who? A man with a young girl?" Scully asked.

The attendant shook her head. "No, two girls. Teenagers. They ran in and handed me the key, saying the room had been in their father's name and they were checking out. That's all," the girl said.

"No," Scully said impatiently. "My partner Fox Mulder was staying in that room and he was protecting an eleven year old child. You must be mistaken."

"I'm not."

Scully contemplated her next move, and after taking down descriptions of the girls who'd turned in the key to Mulder's room, she retreated to her own room.

She walked along the second floor balcony until she came to her room; she was surprised to see a light on through the large window. She was sure she hadn't left the light on.

With a quiver of apprehension, Scully carefully turned the doorknob and kicked the room to the door open, her weapon prepared for trouble.

"Get your hands up!" Scully screamed instinctively at the man who sat on the bed, staring at her expectantly. He didn't look the least bit surprised to see her.

Wyatt Oleskie complied with Scully's order, lifting his arms. "It's about time," he commented. "I've been waiting for you."

Scully cocked an eyebrow. "Who are you and what the hell are you doing in my room?" she demanded.

"I'm Wyatt Oleskie and I'm here to tell you your partner is in danger," Wyatt answered, speaking with ease that took away the initial impact from his statement.

"What are you talking about? Where's Mulder?" Scully asked, a lump building in her throat.
"He's in Drury," Wyatt answered. "Beatrice has given birth to her infant, and they have all been captured by members of The Protectors."

Scully shifted her weight to her left side, staring incredulously at Wyatt Oleskie. "How do you know this?" she asked, her eyes narrow.

"I know," he answered simply.

"Mr. Oleskie, you'll have to do better than that. I have every right to throw your ass in jail," Scully said. "So I suggest you be honest with me."

Wyatt smiled. "You might want to sit down, Miss Scully," he suggested.

Scully didn't move. "OK, maybe not. Where to begin? Oh, for starters, the woman you know as Autumn Parker is my daughter. She was formally known as Cara Hasley until six years ago."

"Autumn is Cara?" Scully asked doubtfully.

The gray-haired man again smiled. "Although she wouldn't know it if you asked her. She was left with amnesia after the incident at the fast food restaurant, and I took her home with me to Maine. Up in Oregon," Wyatt explained. "To this day, she doesn't remember a thing about her life before 1991."

"And you've not told her about it?"

"For her own protection," Wyatt said defensively. "And for her son's protection."

"Gabriel?" Scully asked.

"Yes. He's been living with my daughter and granddaughter in Massachusetts. We told him his mother was dead, and Nina adopted him and changed his name to Matthew," Wyatt told Scully. "Immediately after the...accident, Steven went to the media with his allegations that Beatrice McKay was evil incarnate. He called me, rambling on about wanting to kill the child he blamed for the accident that killed Cara and Gabriel. Of course, I knew they were alive. But his rampage frightened me. He had really flipped his lid, getting family members of people who died together with the intention of harming that little girl."

Scully absent-mindedly sat on the edge of the bed. "This has all been about Steven avenging the deaths of Cara and Gabriel. Had he known they were alive-"

"Things would have been exactly the same," Wyatt interrupted. "He'd already worked a couple of the relatives from the McDonald's explosion into such a frenzy. The FBI agent, and then the young Ben Sykes, a well-known gang leader. By the time I spoke with Steven, it was too late. And if his recruits discovered the truth about the cause of the accident, they'd have turned on Cara, Gabriel, AND Steven."

"The true cause?" Scully wondered.

Wyatt nodded somberly. "It wasn't Trici's fault at all. She was simply reacting to a horrific scene that played itself out in front of her eyes."

"Reacting?"

"Miss Scully, you'll have to bear with me. This is a long, complicated, probably for you unbelievable, course of events," Wyatt warned. "You see, Autumn and Matthew lived through that explosion because they were like Beatrice. She isn't the only one."

"The only one to live through situations that defy explanation?"

"Yes," Wyatt said. "I served in the Vietnam War, Agent Scully. It was October 1963. I was a member of an Army Special Forces unit, positioned at Hiep Hoa in the Republic of Vietnam. We heard that the enemy was setting up camp nearby, and set off to halt the establishment of their command post. We fell into an ambush that lasted several hours. There were a dozen of us, unprepared for such a battle. One by one, we went down. Dead and wounded. Three of us remained. We came to an enemy soldier who'd been critically wounded. Our anger was directed to this man, and we beat him senseless. Over and over, we kicked, shot, and beat him. But he didn't die. Finally, Lieutenant Larry Kemp took a knife to the man and cut a deep wound that extended from the man's neck down to his belly button. Then without warning, we were overcome. Completely overcome with fumes that seeped from that man's insides, invading our nostrils, mouths, and eyes, immobilizing us. We fell to the ground in some type of seizure. The man that we'd attacked simply stood and wobbled away as we lied there."

"You must have been hallucinating," Scully deduced.

Wyatt Oleskie drew in a deep breath, shaking his head. "No, my dear, it was quite real. We were captured and sent to a POW camp where we were sentenced to death. Kemp, Lieutenant Gregory McKay, and I were tied to wooden posts and riddled with bullets. Then we were set on fire. To no avail. The Viet Cong were, needless to say, freaked out. They let us go."

"Just like that."

"Just like that," Wyatt affirmed.

"What happened after you were released from the POW camp?"

"We were sent home, after vowing to never tell anyone in the government about it, knowing we would be labeled crazy like many vets were at that time," Wyatt said, his voice reflecting his disgust at the stereotypes that had been placed on his fellow Vietnam veterans. "My wife and I already had Nina, and my wife went on to give birth to Autumn. We knew early on that it had been passed on to Autumn, and we raised her to guard the secret. Gregory McKay married Patty, Beatrice's mother. I contacted Gregory when Patty was pregnant and told him that our 'gift' or 'curse' as Gregory preferred to call it, might be passed on to his daughter. He disappeared a month before Trici was born, never to be seen again. Patty eventually turned to Isaac, Gregory's brother, who vowed to raise Trici as his own."

Scully sat in silence, taking it all in. Wyatt Oleskie's story was completely unbelievable but strangely, in a way Scully couldn't explain, made sense. It wasn't possible, but Scully sensed it was the truth.
"We all had abilities that seemed to accompany the immortality. As a consequence, I have a psychic connection to everyone else who has this gift. Larry Kemp's gift is similar to Trici's except that he can control the explosive impulse while Trici is young and cannot."

"Are you saying you believe Trici WAS the cause of the explosion at McDonald's?"

"Yes, as well as the explosion of Flight 841. Both were unintentional, occurring because Trici was under extreme pressure and overcome with fear," Wyatt
explained. "Greg McKay's extra ability, unfortunately, sent him into the depths of depression and mental illness. He had a view of the afterlife, of death, and knowing he would never reach that place destroyed him."

"You say you have a connection with those who have this 'ability' to cheat death," Scully pointed out, "so I assume you know what happened to Gregory McKay."

"He tied a rope to his leg, weighted it down with a rock, and jumped into a lake twenty miles outside San Francisco," Wyatt revealed. "He's at the bottom of that lake as we speak, as he has been for the last eleven years. We cannot die, Agent Scully, but we can lose consciousness. Which, to Gregory, was a better alternative and the closest thing to dying that we might ever achieve."

"And what happened six years ago at the fast food restaurant?"

Wyatt Oleskie paused for a long time. It was obviously a part of the story he preferred to forget. "Because of my connection to Autumn and Matthew, and also to Trici, I knew what was happening in that restaurant as it was going on," Wyatt remembered. "Trici was there with Patty and Isaac, in the booth next to Autumn and Matthew ironically. Trici was playing with her parents, but they weren't happy with her, so to avoid punishment she ran from them and tried to hide under the booth where my daughter and grandson sat. Immediately, Autumn and Matthew 'recognized' that she was one of them. Matthew, at six, believed the child was running from danger, and that belief was reinforced when Trici screamed at the sight of her father. Steven was watching all of this, but his back was to Isaac and he didn't see what Trici saw."

"What was that?"

"Matthew, trying to protect this little girl, used his ability and an invisible force slashed the throat of Isaac McKay ," Wyatt said, his voice lowered to an almost inaudible whisper. "Trici's reaction, which caused the explosion, was triggered by nothing but the horror of seeing her father's head nearly severed. By Matthew's doing."


 7:05 PM

Both Mulder and Autumn were overpowered by the angry mob of close to twenty- five Protectors. Just as they were descended upon Autumn shoved the baby, who was still wrapped in Mulder's white shirt, into her duffel bag. She then fell to the grass and prepared for the violent blows, struggling to keep sight of Mulder.

"Mulder!" she yelled. "Leave him alone! Mulder!"

"I'm OK," Mulder managed in-between the vicious punches and kicks.
A follower named Craig Leem slammed his body into Autumn's and wrapped his hands around her neck. "You! Tortured him with your absence all these years then return to murder him!" Craig growled, squeezing with all his might, exasperated that her color wasn't changing nor was her strength.

"Get off!" Autumn screamed, fighting to pull the duffel bag out from underneath the weight of her body and Craig's.
At that moment, a young but commanding voice halted the action. "Stop!" the boy yelled.

The Protectors simultaneously turned to the boy, who stood with his hands to his side on the sidewalk in front of the house.
"Leave, now!" the boy repeated, pointing at the group that hovered over Agent Mulder.

Craig Leem stood, confronting the boy defiantly. "Just who the Hell do you think you are?"

She needs you. Help her. She needs you. Kill him.

Autumn, who was lying face-down, lifted her body and pulled the duffel bag close to her chest. "I'm sorry, baby," she whispered as the infant moved vigorously inside the bag. She stared up at Matthew in awe as a flood of memories flowed through her mind.

"I asked you a question you little piece of shit!" Craig Leem yelled.

"Leave them alone!" Matty called to the crowd, motioning towards Mulder and Autumn. "Go away!"

"No!" Craig retorted, turning to the followers. "We must finish the cause that Steven Hasley and so many others perished for!"

The group rustled in conversation and nodded in agreement. One man kicked Mulder across the stomach for good measure; Mulder grunted in pain.

Craig reached to grab the small, unintimidating boy, but was thwarted when a painful slash appeared across his forehead. He reached up, dumbfounded, and pulled his hand down to look at his own blood. Before he could respond, another slash to the face, then to one wrist, then to another. His blood squirted onto the expressionless boy's face.
Craig was dead instantaneously.

The Protectors members began screaming and running as the slashes appeared on their bodies. Slashes to the neck, face, wrists, and ankles disabled them, dropping them like flies before any could reach the woods. Screams echoed through the quiet city streets.

In the midst of the confusion, Autumn helped Mulder stand.
"Run!" Matty yelled, fearing he might accidentally slash Autumn and Mulder in the counter-attack against The Protectors.

Autumn and Mulder did as the boy wished, running in the opposite direction of the woods, towards the heart of Drury. Neither looked back, having seen enough of the gruesome events up close and personal.


 7:45 PM

There was so much silence in the darkness. Had everyone gone, Trici wondered, or had her body finally succumbed to death after this last assault? This could have been easily mistaken for death. No sound, no light, no feeling anything physically or mentally.

Dead.

And the thought, surprisingly, didn't even scare Trici anymore. She preferred death to the constant pursuit, the running, the torture, the thought of going on with life when her baby has been mercilessly slaughtered.

She'd only seen him for a moment before Steven Hasley tore into the van and ripped the baby from her hands. But she'd held him long enough to know that he was alive. Long enough to build hope that maybe he would live through whatever They planned to do to him.

But at the same time hoping he wouldn't.

She would sacrifice her son's life if it meant preventing him from living the life she had endured. They hadn't succeeded in killing Trici's physical body, but They'd taken much, much more from her in their attempts. She would never have a normal life now. And if her son lived, if he was like her, he would walk in her tortured footsteps throughout his own life.

Austin.

Trici cried for Austin, and for the excruciating pain he was probably being put through right now.

Why hadn't they returned for her? Had their priorities turned towards tormenting her harmless baby?

The door swung open. The fear left Trici before she could panic; she instinctively knew. She was safe.

 8:30 PM

Of the thirty members of The Protectors that had met in the little white church earlier today, only Don Tucker and Morris Hasselbrook remained. Both grossly overweight, they had fallen behind the others in the pursuit through and around the woods. Accepting they would be of no help to the others, they had stopped to share a cigarette before continuing on to the playground.

By the time they exited the woods, all was quiet. There was no sign of anyone, and the men exchanged flustered looks.
They deduced that everyone had returned to the church, and headed through the playground with the intention of slipping off to the nearby gas station to stock up on cigarettes.

Then they literally stumbled upon the bodies. The bodies of their friends and fellow Protectors, scattered across a front yard. Slashed apart, dead.

Morris' wife, Don's three children. All dead.


 8:45 PM

"Who was that boy?"

Autumn stopped walking and rubbed her forehead. "He was my..." her voice trailed off.

Mulder stood in front of Autumn and gently took hold of her arms. "Steven Hasley called you Cara. She was his wife."

Nodding enthusiastically, Autumn said, "I know."

"Are you his wife?"

"God, Mulder, I don't know!" Autumn yelled, frustrated. "It's like everything I've come to know about my life in the last six years is gone! Gone! And I don't know why!"

The two were crossing a long bridge that separated the town of Drury from its twin city, Pascal. In the middle of the bridge rested a white cement bench. Autumn released herself from Mulder's grip and sat on the bench.

Mulder silently followed, sitting next to the woman.

"I've been living a lie, one that I didn't even create," Autumn told him through tears. "My father. He told me my name was Autumn Parker. He said my memory had been wiped out in a brain operation. That I had no children. That I had been married to a man named Phil Parker who died in a car accident. That I was a reporter. But not a damn word was true! I don't understand!"

"Do you remember the truth now?"

"I'm drowning in memories. I can hardly breathe," Autumn replied. "Cara Hasley. I was Cara Hasley. She was so- so different than I am now. She was outgoing, fun- loving, happy. She loved her job. She loved her family. She had a husband and a boy. And I have had nothing. Why the hell would he do that to me? My own father has lied to me!"

Mulder was at a loss of words. "Was that boy your son?"

"Yes," Autumn said, her voice cracking. "My little boy. Gabriel. My Gabriel."

A car crossed the bridge slowly. Mulder thought nothing of it, until the vehicle slowed to a complete stop just before reaching the end of the bridge. Then, the car backed up quickly, squealing to a stop just a few feet from where Mulder sat with Autumn.

Autumn and Mulder arose, and started back on the bridge towards Drury. They tried not to look suspicious, facing forward and walking along quickly. Don Tucker stepped out of the vehicle and began running after the two, who had been disarmed during the struggle with The Protectors. Autumn's pace was faster than Mulder's, who was battered and weak from his beating, but she repeatedly stopped to wait for him and pull him along.
Morris Hasselbrook, to their dismay, was walking towards them from the opposite side of the bridge with a gun extended in his hand.

They were trapped.

Without hesitation, Autumn jumped onto the railing of bridge and swung her body around to the other side. Mulder reached for her, grabbing her by the right arm.

"No!" he yelled.

"We'll be OK," Autumn said. "Let us go."

"No! Hand me the bag!" Mulder screamed.

Autumn shook her head, "I can't. We'll be OK, they'll come after us and they'll leave you alone."

Mulder reached for the strap of the bag that hung on her left shoulder, but it was out of his grasp. His grip on Autumn was loosening too, to his own weakness and because she was struggling.

"Let us go, Mulder!" she yelled.

There was a long pause, when Mulder's world seemed to move in slow motion. Don Tucker was hurrying towards Mulder on the left, with Morris Hasselbrook closing in on the right. They were armed, their eyes wide with murder.

"Mulder!" Autumn shrieked as Morris Hasselbrook reached Mulder and stared over the side of the bridge.

Reluctantly, Mulder released Autumn. He watched her fall, and fall, and fall, until she was a small spot that disappeared in the flowing river far below the bridge.

Mulder stood and was immediately attacked by Tucker and Hasselbrook.

Headlights appeared in the distance, coming from Drury. The car sped onto the bridge and screeched to a violent stop next to where Mulder struggled with Hasselbrook and Tucker.

Scully emerged from the car, her gun drawn. "Put the gun down!" she hollered at Hasselbrook, whose gun was pointed at Mulder's head. "NOW!"

Wyatt Oleskie sat in the car at the steering wheel, watching the exchange from Scully's open passenger side door.

"Put the gun down!" Scully yelled again.

Morris Hasselbrook didn't want to die. Not like his dear Sylvia. The woman and the baby were dead, there was nothing more he could do now to help the cause. There was nothing he could do to bring Sylvia back. His head fell as he let go of the gun, which landed on the concrete sidewalk almost noiselessly.

Scully rushed to handcuff her prisoners. Mulder knelt down against the bars of the bridge, burying his face in his hands.
Wyatt Oleskie reached across the car and slammed the passenger side door, catching Scully off-guard and making a U-turn. He raced back towards Drury, leaving Mulder and Scully with their two prisoners.

Scully sighed in defeat, then turned her attention to her partner. "Mulder, where's Trici McKay?" Scully asked.

Without raising his head, Mulder shrugged.

"And Autumn Parker?"

Mulder didn't respond.

"Mulder," Scully said. "Where's Autumn Parker?"

Mulder lifted his head, making eye contact with Scully. He said nothing.

 Ten minutes later Mulder burst into the doors of the little white church, looking around frantically. Ambulance sirens blared at the nearby playground, where they worked to remove the carnage from Roberta Clouhy's front yard. But here, at the little white church, the air was thick with silence. Deserted.

"Mulder," Scully called after him, following him into the church. "You need medical attention, Mulder."

"She was here," Mulder said, his eyes shifting side to side.

He disappeared up the aisle and behind the church's alter with his bewildered partner in pursuit.

Scully found him sitting on the floor of a large walk-in closet, presumably where robes belonging to a church choir were once hung. She turned her flashlight on, slowly shining the light across the floor, which was stained with blood.

"She was here," Mulder repeated, his voice shaky.

"Mulder, she's gone," Scully told him.
He took in a deep breath and nodded, shutting his eyes for a long time.

Scully interrupted the long pause that followed by saying, "They haven't been able to find any bodies down at Magwell River. It's a very shallow river, Mulder. Authorities say the body of a grown woman should not have floated away."

"Are you saying she's alive?" Mulder asked, surprisingly sarcastic.

"I'm saying, they haven't found her body," Scully said. "That's all I'm saying."

"An animal could have gotten to the body," Mulder said.
Scully nodded. "That's true. But if no body is found, there's no way to conclusively know whether Autumn is dead," Scully added.

Mulder tried to collect himself. He knew what Scully was saying, and even if she didn't believe her own words, she was trying to give him hope and he appreciated the gesture more than Scully could've realized.

Lightheaded, Mulder nearly fell as he stood but Scully held him up. Scully's strength never ceased to amaze him; despite her small frame, she was stronger than Mulder in many ways and he knew it. The two agents walked slowly down the aisle in the little white church, holding onto one another, then disappeared out the front doors.

Scully helped Mulder to an ambulance, then returned to the little white church. A few cops stood in the church, talking. Scully flashed her badge and headed to the back of the church and down the stairs. She found the room where Mulder had been held, using her flashlight as there was no bulb to light up the room.
Scully reached down and picked up Mulder's jacket, which he had torn off of himself after discovering what he claimed was Trici's baby.

Suddenly, the door closed behind Scully. She spun around, her light hitting Ben Sykes' face just as he lunged towards Scully. He tackled her to the ground, where they rolled on the floor struggling. He pried the flashlight from her hands and frantically hit her over the head with it repeatedly.

"Where's the little bitch!" he yelled. "Where is she? Damnit! Where the hell is she?"

"I...don't," Scully tried to say, but was interrupted by another blow to her head with the flashlight.

The flashlight went off, leaving Scully and Ben struggling in total darkness. Ben nearly disabled Scully, lying on her back, squeezing at her neck. As Ben worked to cut off Scully's air supply, she reached back and pulled her leg up, retrieving her gun from where it was concealed at her ankle.

Scully could feel herself beginning to lose consciousness as she lifted the gun, hoping that she was pointing it towards him despite the awkward positioning, and fired. Immediately, his grip on her neck tightened and Scully lost her grip on the gun.

Then, his hands pulled back. She heard gurgling, and felt Ben's warm blood soak into the back of her shirt. Finally, he fell over to the side and off of Scully.

Cops, having followed the sound of the gunshot, burst into the room finding Scully and Ben Sykes, who was suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.


JASPER COUNTY HOSPITAL
10:30 PM

Scully, aside from a bump to the head and a few bruises, was fairly unscathed after the encounter with Ben Sykes. She was treated and released at the hospital, and immediately ventured to Mulder's side in his hospital room. In contrast to Scully, Mulder had a concussion, bruised ribs, a broken wrist, and a broken nose. He was admitted to the hospital to stay over night.

He was watching TV when Scully entered his room, and muted the sound when he looked over and saw her standing there.

"You OK?" Mulder asked.

"I'm fine, Mulder," Scully replied. "You're the one lying in the hospital bed."

She approached his bedside, taking a seat on the stool next to the bed. She felt odd being here with him, like this, hardly able to speak to him without thinking about what they had done. Without feeling an uneasy mixture of regret and longing desire.

"Still no sign of Trici McKay?" Mulder asked, trying to ignore Scully's obvious discomfort.

Scully shook her head. "No, but I believe she is with Matthew Oleskie and his grandfather. Witnesses placed Wyatt Oleskie's car in front of the church shortly before we arrived there, and another witness recalls seeing Wyatt at a gas station with two young children in the car," Scully answered. "I would guess that...she is safe."

"Have any witnesses seen Autumn Parker?"

"No," she said softly. "She's presumed dead. Mulder, I also want to apologize. I was wrong to second-guess you on the validity of this investigation. I guess my confidence in you was shaken after the Freddie Roman incident, but I shouldn't have let that interfere with your judgment. So I am sorry."

Mulder's forehead wrinkled. After a long pause, he looked up at Scully sitting next to him and said, "We should talk, Scully. About what happened."

"I think that what happened last night should not happen again, Mulder," Scully said. "I-uh think we got carried away, and we made a mistake."

"A mistake?" Mulder asked, dumfounded. "People don't accidentally have sex, Scully."

Scully exhaled. "I know. But..." her voice trailed off. "I question the meaningfulness of an act that occurred on the spur of the moment, without thoughtful discussion."

"Did you not want to do it, Scully? Because I don't recall any objections."

"You're making this more difficult than it has to be, Mulder," Scully said. "What I'm trying to say is I'm letting you off the hook here. We are professional partners. To persist in this...other more dangerous part of a relationship could jeopardize our partnership, and I'm not willing to take that risk. I don't want to destroy what we have."

"What we have."

"You are the only person outside of my family, Mulder, that I have been able to open up to. I was so accustomed to being alone before, it was comfortable for me to not have to work at any relationship. To not have to take or give," Scully explained. "But I'm secure in our partnership, in our limitations, in what we bring to each other. And I can't go back to being alone. Not because of one night, one mistake."

A long silence followed, with Scully staring into Mulder's eyes as if pleading for his understanding. Part of him knew she was right, but the other part relished in how it felt to finally be with the only woman who has ever known him. To be intimate sexually with a woman he has so long been intimate with professionally and psychologically. Knowing that in spite of his problems and obsessions she was accepting him completely.

Only to now regret it.

"Scully," Mulder finally said, "I would never push you into anything. I think we care so much, maybe too much about each other, that we needed to find a release and last night it happened. I don't regret it Scully and I don't think you do either. It had to happen-"

Scully interrupted, "Mulder..."

"It had to happen, if only once," he finished, reaching out and taking her hand into his. "If only once."


WASHINGTON, DC
EIGHT WEEKS LATER

"Agent Scully."

Dana Scully removed her glasses from her face and glanced up at the delivery man standing in the doorway. "Yes?" she asked.

He handed her a clipboard and she scrawled her signature in exchange for the 6X9 vanilla envelope. The return address was blank, with a postmark from Missouri.

She tore the envelope open and allowed the contents to slide out in her hand. There was no letter, only five photographs. Scully carefully turned them over, her lips coming apart slightly in astonishment as the face of a small baby stared back at her.
Trici's baby.
The first four photographs were of the baby by himself. He was tiny, but healthy looking. He had Trici's engaging eyes and full lips. The last photograph told Scully all that she and Mulder had wanted to know since the resolution of the case. It was taken in a park in front of a large tree. Trici and Matty Oleskie, standing side to side, with Trici holding her wee baby in her arms. Wyatt knelt down on the ground, next to his daughter Autumn. They were all smiling. Happy. Content. Free.

Alive.


EASTMAN, IA 4:10 PM

The baby's room was decorated in everything Winnie the Pooh. From the bedsheets to the curtains to the musical toy hanging above his crib, Winnie the Pooh. the room was small yet inviting, comfortably warm but not too warm. Just perfect for Trici's little miracle.

Three of the four walls were decorated with Winnie the Pooh wall hangings as well as studio photographs recently taken of little Austin as he turned one month old.

The fourth wall was completely bare, except for a small, glass wall hanging Trici had found in a gift shop as she and the others traveled through Nevada. The words, scrawled in neat, cursive black letters, read:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

-From Desiderata, Max Erhmann 1927

THE END



SPECIAL THANKS TO MY WONDERFUL EDITORS: Valerie, Deb, Aileen, and Erin. Thank you all so much for helping with this story!

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