Title: Home For the Holidays
Summary: Christmastime in 2009 collides with news that a seventeen-year-old girl has allegedly murdered a couple and kidnapped two small children...and has ominous news about a little boy named William Van De Kamp.
Last updated: the end- December 25, 2015
Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital
Heavy wet snowflakes drifted by the restroom window as Scully sat on the closed lid of the toilet and waited for the white plastic timer balanced on the edge of the sink to go off. As soon as it did, she looked down at the pregnancy test and sighed.
It had been foolish to hope that a pair of missed periods were the harbinger of another miracle baby, but until she saw the results she'd clung to the possibility that it was a successful pregnancy, not menopause, in her immediate future. At least she hadn't told Mulder, she considered. At least she'd keep her idiocy to herself rather than let it infect him too. The doubts must have been at the back of her mind because something had subconsciously prompted her to buy the test on the way to work and take it in one of the single occupancy bathrooms rather than at home.
Most of all it had been a mistake to allow herself to believe that life setting on a smoother course over the past eighteen months was some sort of sign that they might finally get all of the things they wanted out of life. It had truly began to seem that they had in fact left the darkness behind them after that last case, especially when things begun to go better for her at the hospital, and Mulder was contacted out of the blue by Phoebe Katz, formerly of FPS, with a proposal to create a highly fictionalized videogame based on the Monica Bannan case. He had thought it was a long shot, but over the past few months the development was going very well, and he was currently packing for Toronto where her new company was located and intending to go over storyboard ideas for the final production. All that seemed to be missing was their son, and since it was impossible to get him back, the idea that they might have another child to share their life with somehow didn't seem so far-fetched, not if they were finally getting what they deserved.
Now of course that was obviously not happening. For a moment she debated about whether or not she should bring the used test home with her, or if it was okay to throw it away in the wastebasket in the room with her. The odds of one of the nuns getting yelled at was low considering she had a fair amount of company when it came to lay people working in the hospital, but still… in the end she grabbed several paper towels to wrap it in, and then put the whole bundle in the bag the test had come in before shoving it down to the bottom of the trash bag.
Since she'd brushed against more trash than she would have liked to, she spent longer washing her hands than she usually did. And maybe if she was completely honest with herself, part of that was because she wanted to give herself longer before she had to reengage with the rest of the hospital more than out of concern for a risk to her patients' health.
Eventually Scully opened the restroom door and steeled herself for having to carry on a normal conversation like she wasn't devastated that her body was sending clear signals that any hope for another miracle should be considered now past. She'd already dabbed away the embarrassing tears that had threatened to overflow, so it was now just a matter of pasting a happy smile, or at least a neutral expression, onto her face. I can to this, she told herself as she stepped out into the hallway. I'm fine.
The thought that she only had to pretend to be okay for a few more days crossed her mind. Just after Thanksgiving she was pulled aside and told that she must take off the last three weeks of December because she had amassed an alarming number of vacation days, and they insisted that she used them up rather than carry all of them over to the new year. In a few more days she would be at home instead of under the steady gaze of her coworkers and occasionally far too perceptive patients. And thank God the weekend was coming up too.
"Hey, are you busy?" a voice asked behind her.
The speaker clearly wasn't one of the nuns, and father Ybarra certainly wouldn't have used the word 'hey' even if he was one of the few men she ran into in the halls so she was intrigued. Maybe it was another doctor, one whose voice she didn't readily recognize. "Why?" she asked even as she turned to see who it was.
If he was a doctor, it was one who was visiting. He was heavyset and older than her, she thought, but it was hard to tell if he was fifty or seventy because a snowy white beard obstructed most of his features. He did have crow's feet, but it was impossible to tell if he had other wrinkles. The fact that he was also carrying a large stack of brown cardboard boxes didn't help. "I could use some help with these if you don't mind," he told her.
"Oh," she mumbled and grabbed three small boxes off the top of the stack. "Where are we taking them?"
"I was told I could store them in a closet down the hall." He frowned. "Too bad I wrote the room number on a piece of paper that's in my pocket."
"I think I know where you mean," she told him, remembering a seldom used broom closet. She led the way there, and jumped back a few inches when opening the door caused a mop to launch itself out after her. He managed to stop it with his shoulder but some of his remaining boxes wobbled precariously.
"That was close," he said, pushing the mop into the room ahead of them. It skittered oddly across the old linoleum tiles and for a moment she was reminded of Fantasia.
She had no idea why the mop had been left by the doorway like that – rather than the room being filled to the brim like she expected, it was practically empty. A few dusty cleaning supplies sat on otherwise bare shelves, and a table with nothing on it was pushed up against the back wall.
"I must say," she said as she watched him put his boxes on the table. He reached for the ones she still held a second later. "This is all very mysterious. What exactly are we doing?"
"You were taking pity on a man carrying too many packages," he said, eyes twinkling with good humor. Then he began to whisper. "And I'm getting ready to play Santa in a few days."
"Really?" Scully lowered her voice to whisper conspiratorially. "Did all of these boxes come from your workshop?"
He squinted a shipping label. "This one is from Kentucky."
"But it is a gift?" she persisted, wondering why she cared. It would make no difference to her life if there were wonderful gifts in the boxes or just refills for the paper towel dispensers in the restrooms.
He nodded slightly. "Oh, sure."
Giving the table a doubtful look she asked, "And will you be wrapping them in here?"
"Nope," he said with a grin. "The parents were told they could have a present handed out during Santa's official visit – if they'd also pay to get them wrapped. Thank God for Amazon and grandmas who like to do their own shopping and wrapping."
"And you're going to be dressed as Santa when you hand them out?" Scully asked, glad that he wouldn't be wielding rolls of wrapping paper in the dusty confines of the closet. The last thing she needed was to do first aid on him if he managed to knock something on himself in the struggle.
He smirked at her. "It's a lot more magical if the sick kids are given a gift by Santa than by Carl, Sister Constance's brother."
She gave him a half smile, glad to finally know his name. The fact that she hadn't until now made the conversation feel a bit surreal. "It's very kind of you to do this to brighten up the Christmas of children who have had a rough year."
"I'm happy to. I've been blessed and I'm happy to give back." There must have been something about her expression that seemed pained when he said this because he said, "I have a feeling you're not feeling quite so blessed right about now."
"Not exactly, no," she admitted. She practically had to bite her tongue to keep from confessing that not being happy made her feel ungrateful for the things in her life she did have. There was no good reason to dump all of that on a complete stranger so she restrained herself.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Carl told her, sounding sincere.
"Disappointments are a part of life," she said philosophically. "I should be well-used to that by now. I'm simply not going to have the Christmas I'd hoped for, that's for sure." The thought of the test buried in the trash made her miserable all over again. Despite what Mulder thought was going to happen come 2012, she thought he would have been happy if she could tell him that she was pregnant. He really would have been happy about it, she thought, too.
"Well, the holidays have a way of surprising us sometimes," Carl said, sounding nearly as jovial as the man he was planning to imitate soon. "Maybe yours will be better than you think."
"I don't think so, Carl," Scully told him too quickly. It made her wonder if she really believed that she wouldn't be happy without a child in her life. How much of that was because she still felt guilty for giving her treasure away, and keeping Mulder from really knowing him?
To her surprise Carl put a hand on her shoulder. "Have faith. You work in a hospital where miracles of all sizes are pulled off every day. You can't tell me that doesn't gladden your heart at least a little."
"Oh, it does." But it didn't mean that she thought that her life would be improved by the association. "But…" she trailed off, unsure of how to articulate her thoughts.
The big bearded man gave her a sheepish smile. "Maybe I should have followed my sister's vocational path. Listen to me, lecturing you about divinity and I own a hardware store."
"When are you giving out the toys?" Scully asked, hoping to both change and soon end the conversation.
"The night of the eighteenth. I would have preferred later but the powers that be didn't want the children to actually think I was really Santa, and holding off to Christmas Eve like I would've preferred might have muddied the water," Carl explained. "I've met enough young kids to realize that they don't care about the date, they're going to believe what they believe, but try telling that to a board of strict Catholics."
"The eighteenth?" This disappointed her a little. "I won't be here then, but I'm really glad that you're doing this for them."
He stepped out of the closet, and she followed, turning off the light. "I'm sure you do more for them. Don't sell yourself short – my sister really does believe you work miracles around here."
"We try," Scully said.
Carl gave her a little wave and walked back towards the main entrance, step more lively now that he wasn't weighed down with boxes.
She watched him for a moment, then one of the sisters called for her, and she found herself rushing towards a patient's room. At least helping the little boy get his asthma attack under control served to take her mind off of herself, so that was probably one of the blessings the faux Santa encouraged her to count.
A long ziiiippppp noise rang in the air as Scully opened the front door that afternoon. So it came to no surprise to her to find Mulder sweating slightly with hands still on his suitcase. She gave his bulging bag a dubious look. "Do you really think that's going to fit into the overhead bin?"
"Sure," he said confidently, then looked down at it. "I mean, I hope it will."
"Oh, Mulder," she sighed with a slight shake of her head. Then she kissed him on the cheek. "Did you try rolling the clothes like Tara suggested?"
"Um, no." She reached down and unzipped the bag, ignoring his "Hey, wait!"
A pair of socks exploded out of the bag, and he caught them before they hit the floor. "Nice catch," she offered, already reaching into his bag and picking up clothes to try the method her sister in law had suggested at Thanksgiving after seeing Mulder's last attempt at packing.
"I don't see what difference this can possibly make," he muttered behind her.
But a few minutes later his bag was packed without bulging at its seams. "There," she said with some satisfaction. Mulder sheepishly handed her the pair of socks that he was still holding. "What would you do without me?"
"I don't know, and I hope I never find out," he said, leaning close to her ear before he kissed her back. His kiss took considerably longer than hers had. Once they finally pulled away, he asked, "What are you going to do without me this week?"
Scully shrugged. Part of her wanted to tell him about the negative test, but did he really deserve having her dump her disappointments on him just before he left for a trip? "I'm sure my patients will keep me busy," she told him when he continued to give her expectant looks.
"It must be a bummer to be in the hospital in December, especially the kids."
"Yes. But it seems that this year the hospital realizes that because they've roped someone into playing Santa for the kids." Even as she said it, she wondered how the families knew that their children would still be in the hospital nearly three weeks from then. Perhaps they just were being cautious, figuring it was better to send a gift the child wouldn't get there than to be overly hopeful that they'd be home for the holiday. "I met him today as he stashed some of the gifts in an old supply closet. I helped him carry a few of them."
Mulder's brow furrowed. "Should I be worried that you were in a closet with another man at work?"
"Mulder!" she exclaimed, laughing with surprise.
He continued to play up his concern. "You don't think I pay attention when you watch that Grey's Anatomy show, but I've caught enough to know that hospitals are a hotbed of clandestine romances."
"Have you ever taken a look at my co-workers?" Scully asked, trying not to giggle.
"I'm sure some of the sisters are quite lovely once you get them out of their wimples."
She raised an eyebrow. "Really. Now you're making me worried."
"Scully..." he protested, but he was still smiling.
"I assure you, I was not kissing Santa in the supply closet," she said, but all at once her good humor began to wan when she thought of that 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa' song. No one would be calling her mommy, not this Christmas or any other. A familiar pang of guilt assaulted her when she thought back on the only Christmas she and William had shared - he'd been too young to speak then, and only babbling. Poor Mulder hadn't even been granted that much time with their son.
Apparently her maudlin mood was obvious. "Are you okay?" Mulder asked, tone suddenly laced with concern.
"I'm okay," she reassured them both. Then she patted him on the back. "Come on. If we're going to have dinner before your flight, we've got to go now."
"Right," he agreed, threading an arm around her waist and maneuvering his suitcase with his free hand. "I won't be gone long."
"I know," she told him. Still, the thought of the next several days alone didn't gladden her heart.
Several Days Later
The first few days that Mulder had been gone had been more or less bearable because she had work to distract her. But once she went on vacation the house felt even more empty and lonely there without him. For a brief moment she had considered flying up to Toronto to surprise him, but speaking to him on the phone revealed that he was extremely busy, with long days spent with the game team, and too-short nights sleeping in his hotel room. She and Phoebe had gotten along cordially during their investigation into her former coworkers' deaths, but they hadn't become friends, so she couldn't simply invite herself to Mulder's meetings. Therefore, she would be spending a lot of time alone in a hotel room, which would probably be even worse than spending time alone at home.
By day four without Mulder their halls were thoroughly decked, and she was running out of neighbors to bake cookies for. Baking for others still held its appeal, but she had just sat down to an unappealing frozen dinner because she didn't have any desire to actually cook a meal for just herself, when her phone began to vibrate on the table.
Scooping it up, she began speaking before he could say anything. "Mulder? I didn't know that you planned to call tonight."
He was supposed to come home the next day, which was something that she was really looking forward to. Although she hadn't managed to find anything tempting enough to serve for one, she had enjoyed stopping at the market on the way home and planning an elaborate welcome home dinner for the next night. Given that the last day was supposed to be very busy for him, she didn't expect to hear from him until he was about to leave for his flight.
"Hi, Scully," Mulder croaked. "I think I've changed my mind. I think you might have something when you say that people should get flu shots." If he intended to say anything else, it was lost when he began to cough.
"You got the flu?" she asked, and immediately had to curb the impulse to ask him if he really had influenza, or if he has the so-called stomach bug that nearly had her ranting every time someone called it the flu. He knew better than that, she thought.
"Yeah. The woman next to me on the plane was sick, and I thought maybe I could ward off with zinc lozenges and vitamin C, but that plan was a failure. Canadian doctors are quite nice, it turns out." Sound was muffled after that for a few seconds but she could still hear him coughing even though he had obviously turned the phone away from his mouth. "And the wait time to see him wasn't nearly as bad as people say."
"I guess that's good. Are you on antivirals?" she asked, thinking back to when he'd first risen from the grave. There had been antivirals then too, but that wasn't something that would make her happy to dwell on.
"I am," he confirmed. "But even with them, I'm not going to be able to fly home tomorrow."
"No, of course not," she replied instantly. It wasn't hard to imagine how completely miserable it would be to fly while ill, or how unhappy other passengers would be to be trapped in a small space with someone coughing as badly as he'd been during their conversation. Although she supposed he already knew that from personal experience. "Don't worry about it. We'll get your flight changed when you feel better."
"I'm sorry," he said contritely.
"What for?" She asked in surprise. "It's not like you set out to get sick, did you?"
"Then I can't accept your apology. You didn't do anything wrong."
"I still feel bad for leaving you alone for longer when you thought I was coming home tomorrow," he said glumly. "I guess the only saving grace is that I managed to soldier through all of my meetings with Phoebe and the team, and everything's on track."
Scully was glad to hear that he had managed to finish his tasks before succumbing to his illness, because she wasn't looking forward to him staying way longer. either, and at least he wouldn't have to stay even longer once he got well. Of course she couldn't tell him that it bothered her, because how could she without making him feel worse? "I'm glad that you were able to hold out long enough to finish up before getting sick. And I'm fine here, so don't worry about me. I'm getting a lot done around the house, decorating wise. And we both know how much you enjoy decorating for Christmas." The past two Christmases he had reluctantly helped her decorate, complaining all the while.
"I can't say that I'm sorry to miss that," Mulder admitted. "But I promise to get the outside lights hung, if you have any more to go up, as soon as I get home."
"I appreciate that. But you have to concentrate on getting better."
"Yeah. Did you know that you can get chicken soup delivered by room service?"
For some reason this made her smile at least a little bit. "That's good to know." She paused for a moment. "Do you want me to come up there?"
"I don't think I'd feel better if I made you sick too," Mulder predictably said. "And, I think we both know I'm not super fond of your bedside manner."
"That's true," she said with a wince. Since she hadn't told him about her mistake earlier in the month, he had no way of knowing that a reminder of something he had said to her during her pregnancy would sting. "Well, if you change your mind, I'd be glad to come see you."
"I know you would. Love you," he said, sounding tired. No wonder he wanted to end the conversation.
"I love you too. I'll give you a call tomorrow to see how you're doing."
Somehow it just figured that she and Mulder would spend more days apart, she thought unhappily. Maybe it was karma. She had spent most of December wishing that the holidays could be spent with family, and now she would continue to be alone for the foreseeable future.
A Few More Days Later
By the time Mulder was back on his feet and scheduled to fly home, Scully was really feeling like something in the universe simply didn't like her. The day of his rescheduled flight was calm and overcast in Virginia, but Toronto was another story. Beginning the night before the weather channel spoke in terms of gloom and doom about a massive snowstorm that was poised to hit the providence where Mulder had already stayed overlong.
So it came as little surprise when he called and the first words out of his mouth were. "Scully? I'm sorry. My flight is cancelled."
"I know," she told him with a resigned sigh. "All the flights out of there have been cancelled."
"You've been watching the news," he commented. From the cacophony of voices she could hear on his end, she suspected that he'd taken a taxi to the airport anyway in the vain hopes that he would hear something different about his flight when he got there. He sighed too. "I can't believe that I'm finally better and I still can't fly home."
"It happens," she said with a shrug he couldn't see. He couldn't see her frown either, which was a blessing.
"I could rent a car-" he began hesitantly.
"No." He wouldn't be doing it for himself, but because he felt guilty for being away from her for so much longer than he intended to be. "You are not a lucky man, Mulder. I would feel a lifetime of guilt if you managed to get into an accident trying to drive home for my sake."
"Are you sure?" he asked, doubt obvious.
"I'm sure," she told him firmly. "Stay where you are until they reschedule your flight."
"Okay." There was a hint of relief to his tone and she wondered if he was conscious of it. "Hopefully it'll be relatively soon."
She thought back to one of the weather people saying that they were expecting the storm to rage on for another couple of days but didn't mention that to him. If she had, he might insist that he could drive again, and she didn't want him out on any more snowy nights, not after he'd run off the road in February the year before. That had been too terrifyingly close to losing him for her comfort. "Stay warm and safe, Mulder."
"I will," he promised, and that's how she knew he would make every effort to. "I love you."
"Love you too."
December 18, 2009
Two more days had dragged on without Mulder, and in an effort to prevent herself from going completely stir crazy Scully had asked her mother over to have lunch and watch movies. First they had watched her mother's favorite version of a Christmas Carol, and then they had switched to a movie that only had Christmas as part of its plot, The Trouble with Angels.
Hayley Mills and June Hardy had just tried to drown in the pool when her mother turned to her and began to speak. "I wish that you and Fox would reconsider coming to California with me for Christmas," Maggie said, but Scully didn't really think she intended to nag.
Scully shrugged and paused the movie so they wouldn't miss what came next - she had a feeling that her mother was gearing up for a long conversation. "At this point I would just be happy if he gets home from Canada before Christmas." This seemed like a safer subject than to admit that seeing Bill and Charlie's sons would be hard for her. It wasn't just seeing her growing nephews, but the inevitable conversational turn to how Scullys only seemed to produce boys. That was a double-edged sword, because it would inevitably both remind her of Emily and her failure to produce more offspring for her relatives to coo over. "He never would have left for the trip if he realized that he would still be in Canada at this point," she added somewhat defensively, even though her mother hadn't suggested that he was still away by design.
Her mother gave her a long look, making her wonder if her mother could read some of the things she hadn't said on her face. She very much hoped not. "You don't seem to be having much fun around here by yourself," Maggie noted. "But I'm sure he'll be back long before then."
Sighing, Scully turned to look at the calendar behind her. "It's already the eighteenth, Mom. I'm sure there are a few more disasters that life could throw his way just in order to keep us apart."
"Now now," her mother chided gently. "You can't think that way. I worry that you're getting the holiday blues like your dad used to suffer from."
Scully blinked. "Dad got depressed around the holidays?" This didn't seem to jive with the mental image she had of her father.
"Yes, Dana. You never noticed? I think it was because he didn't have anyone to boss around," she said with a smile. "Not like on his ship, of course."
"Well, he did seem to enjoy bossing us around," she said, with only a trace of bitterness. It always taken her and her siblings time to adjust to having their father around and inevitably most of the clashes centered around their father wanting to call the shots rather than their mother. He was more strict, though their mother had been no pushover herself during their childhoods.
"At least he never made you peel enough potatoes to feed fifty men like he did his men who needed to shape up," her mother said with a smirk.
"Well, there was that time when he decided we should volunteer at the food kitchen that Thanksgiving," Scully corrected her. She and Missy had thought it would be terrible, but they'd ended up having a pretty good time. Of course, it had been Missy, not her, to get in trouble for flirting with one of the other teenage volunteers instead of bringing food out to the servers. The fact that they'd already eaten before going to the food kitchen had probably helped them all feel benevolent rather than put upon.
"That's it!" her mother exclaimed, startling her so much that she reared back against her seat.
Looking sheepish, her mother leaned over to pat her on the hand. "Maybe you should find a volunteer opportunity rather than moping while you wait for Fox to come home. It's December, surely there are a lot of community efforts that could use an extra pair of hands."
"I'm not moping," Scully protested.
Her mother just gave her a look. Scully shook her head and unpaused the movie. On the screen Hailey Mills and the beleaguered nuns continued their wacky adventures, but she did give her mother's idea some thought.
There were more cars in the lot than typical of an evening at Our Lady of Sorrows, which had her wondering if some of the children's parents had come to see their children interact with Santa. She couldn't blame them if they had – she would have given a lot to have been able to see the wonder in Emily or William's eyes as they sat on the lap of the big guy and recited their Christmas wishes to him. Unfortunately, Emily hadn't been hers to take to the mall before she got ill, and William had been too little to get anything out of the experience before she gave him up.
These thoughts had her feeling bad again, so she gave herself a swift mental shake. What's wrong with you lately? Do you need to go back into therapy? she asked herself, and there was no ready answer. Of course the more clinical part of her piped up that if she had entered perimenopause which would be pretty normal considering she was now in her mid-forties like it or not, of course her hormones were completely out of whack, of course her hormones were completely out of whack, so it explained her becoming overly emotional. It's too bad Dr. Kossoff has retired, she mused as she walked into the hospital.
"Doctor Scully?" a pleasant voice asked behind her. She turned to see one of the sisters standing behind her smiling uncertainly. "Did you leave something behind when you left for your vacation?"
"Oh," Scully started to say, but she stopped in the middle. She hadn't really been invited to help out, so maybe it was better just to go and see if there was something she could do to be useful rather than to ask to be directed to where Carl was giving out gifts. "Something like that," she finished lamely with an awkward smile of her own.
"Well," the sister replied. The nun looked more relaxed now, as if it had really bothered her to see Scully when she hadn't expected to. If not for the fact that it would never happen at the hospital, Scully would wonder if she'd stumbled across secret Santa activities, or if there was a staff Christmas party she hadn't been invited to going on. "I hope you find what you need and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Merry Christmas, doctor Scully."
"Thanks. And merry Christmas to you as well, sister."
The other woman gave her a gentle smile and Scully found herself wishing she had something to give her. What did you give a nun, though? Would a scented candle or a nice lotion be appreciated? You know what? Scully thought to herself. Screw the rules. Next year I'm secret Santa'ing the nuns and everyone else.
The thought of Father Ybarra bemusedly holding a tiny gift bag festooned with tissue paper as he pulled out something from Yankee Candle with his free hand made her grin as she made her way up towards the storage closet where she and Carl had left the presents.
But a couple of minutes later it melted away into a frown. Except for a curl of ribbon on the dusty table, there was no sign that there had ever been any presents in the room. It was only six-thirty, and she assumed that she'd be early enough to give Carl a hand when he had to cart the gifts off to wherever he was going to give them out.
She decided that maybe she could still see the kids' reactions, but there was no one to be found in the kids' playroom or any of the other rooms that would be big enough to hold such an event. Disappointed, she left the hospital wishing that she hadn't taken so long to make up her mind after her mother left. For half a second she'd almost visited one of the kids on her way out to see if they'd enjoyed it, but that had struck her as a faintly ridiculous impulse, so she hadn't followed through with it. With her luck she would have asked a kid whose parents hadn't been able to participate and upset the little girl or boy just for the sake of satisfying her curiosity.
"Next year I'll ask him when he plans to give out the gifts," she mumbled out loud as she walked back out to her car.
It was snowing lightly again and her windshield wipers squeaked unpleasantly as she drove home. At least they weren't expecting as big a storm as the one that had grounded Mulder.
A frozen turkey pot pie and a Christmas romantic comedy on Netflix didn't make for much of a Friday night, but at least it looked like Mulder might be able to come home sometime that weekend. She was expecting a phone call from him when the landline began to ring.
Scully snatched up the phone without looking at caller ID to see who the call was from; very few people use their home number rather than their cell phones, so there seemed no need to. "Hello?"
And then she immediately learned that it wasn't Mulder. The voice on the other end of the phone was impatient. "I need to speak to Fox Mulder."
Her caller's gruffness didn't do much for her, so she wasn't inclined to be sweet or polite. "He's not home right now." Though she could have explained that he was away on business or offered him Mulder's cell phone number she didn't feel like being helpful.
"Look, is this his wife?" the man asked abruptly.
This startled her enough into blurting out "yes" without wondering what made him suspect that.
"Okay, good. I'm detective Darrel Lybecker from the Alexandria police department-" She blinked, wondering why a cop from D.C. would be calling, and then if there was another city called that in the US. She supposed not given he seemed to assume she'd know exactly where he meant."-and I'm calling about your stepdaughter. She's in some pretty damn serious trouble, so if you can make sure your husband gets back to me as soon as he can-"
"What stepdaughter?" Scully asked, not realizing that she'd said it out loud until the cop sounded awkward when he spoke again.
For half a second she thought he was about to evoke a prayer, but then realized it was actually the girl's name. "Kyrie what?" she demanded to know, wondering if this was some sort of prank call. If he said Eleison she would hang up on him.
There was a faint sound of paper rustling. "Kyrie Fowley. She's seventeen?" he said, but his tone was definitely uncertain enough that it sounded like a question. It was obvious that he thought that she knew about her husband's child. Maybe the poor man was wondering if he had accidentally called the wrong woman, and was creating a riff in an innocent couple's life. She wished.
"Dammit," she swore, not quite under her breath. "I knew her mother. I didn't know about Kyrie, though." Did Mulder? she wondered. Somehow she didn't think so. There weren't too many secrets between her and Mulder, and certainly none left the size of having a child with his ex-girlfriend would be.
"Huh. Well, the girl claims that her mother's dead-"
"She is. Died back in 1999." And she'd left Mulder at the end of 1991. If this girl was who she claimed to be, it seemed likely that she'd been born a few months after Diana had left him to go to Europe. It felt a bit surreal to realize that a few months after she herself had met Mulder, he'd become a father, whether he knew it at the time or not. She wished that she knew when exactly Fowley had left so she could figure out which case they'd been on when that happened.
"Okay, so that much is true, then." Detective Lybecker broke into her thoughts, and sounded uncomfortable.
"But you don't believe other parts of her story?" Scully asked, wondering if being a pathological liar was hereditary or influenced by nurturing instead.
"No, no one would," he snapped.
The cryptic nature of the comment was beginning to frustrate her, and she wondered if she was going to get anything useful out of him. She wasn't the girl's blood relation so maybe he was being evasive because of that. There was only one way to find out. This wasn't her immediate concern, though. "You've been questioning her without her father present?" she demanded to know. It occurred to her that the girl probably had another guardian, but if she did, why were they asking to speak to Mulder?
"No," he said a bit too quickly. "But she said some…things before her rights were read to her. Things that can't possibly be true."
A headache began to build at her temples and she tried to rub them with the hand not holding the phone. "What has she done, anyway?"
"We're holding her on two counts of kidnapping. And on of suspicion of two murders," he added, as a confusing after-thought.
"A seventeen-year-old is being charged with all that?" Scully asked, trying to be incredulous without any real degree of success. The fact that she was apparently Dianna Fowley's child was making it difficult for her to really convince herself that the girl was incapable of doing as much damage as the detective was implying she had.
"I'm afraid so," he said, sounding like he still wished he was having a conversation about anything else.
"Who did she allegedly kill? And who did she kidnap?" Scully asked impatiently, hoping that he would answer before he thought better of whether or not he should. It was far easier to prove that the girl had kidnapped someone than murdered someone – simply having the kid with her without a parent's permission was reason enough not to add 'allegedly' to that charge too.
"We think killed a couple who were the adoptive parents of one of the kids she kidnapped-"
"How old were the kids she kidnapped?" Scully blurted out. There weren't too many teenagers she could imagine that would want to deal with kids so badly that they kidnapped them. Most had to have their arms pulled just to get them to babysit. Maybe somebody had put her up to it. Knowing her mother, it wasn't hard to imagine that the apple hadn't fallen far from that metaphorical tree and that the girl could already be wrapped up in trouble like that.
"The older boy is two and a half," Lybecker surprised her by saying. "The younger one is about three weeks old."
"Three weeks??" Her voice rose in an embarrassing squeak.
"Yup," the detective said, apparently not surprised that this shocked her. "And honestly, a girl that age with a baby, we suspect that it's really hers. She insists that he's not her son, but we haven't done a psychical exam."
"And you won't without her father's permission," she said sharply. "She's a minor. You shouldn't even question her without a parent present."
"I know," the detective said with just as sharp an edge to his tone as hers. "That's why we're trying to get a hold of him."
"He is away on business," Scully told him. "Up in Canada, and the airport is closed so I don't know when he'll be back. I'm hoping that he'll be home this weekend."
"Do you have a number where I can reach him at his hotel?"
She paused for a moment. "I think it would be better if the news came from me."
"All right," Lybecker said reluctantly. It was very clear that he didn't trust that she would actually tell Mulder what was going on. In a way she supposed she couldn't blame him, there had to be women that would just pretend the phone call never happened. There was no way for the detective to know that she wasn't one of those women who just pulled their heads into their shells when faced with unpleasant truths. "The sooner you can speak to him about this, the better off his daughter will be."
Maybe Lybecker was giving her more credit than she initially thought after all. He was trusting that she wouldn't simply sit on it to make things worse for the girl that she had never met.
"I'll call him now," she promised, not that she wanted to. "What's your number so he can get back to you?" she asked. The police department's phone number would be easy enough to find on the Internet, but she figured that Lybecker had a direct number, and that he would be eager to give it out rather than waiting for someone to route Mulder's call to him.
"Thanks, hopefully I'll hear from him soon," Lybecker said, sounding rather sour as he ended the call despite the perfunctory expression of gratitude. Scully supposed she couldn't really blame him, it was never easy to work with teenage suspects, and the fact that Mulder was not readily available must make things even worse.
But she didn't spare him very much pity. After all, she was the one who was going to have to call Mulder and break the news to him. In her opinion that was much worse.
Despite the promise she made to the detective, Scully found herself sitting at her kitchen table for almost fifteen minutes before she could nerve herself up to make the phone call. During most of those minutes she wondered what the girl was like. It was easy to paint a mental picture of what a child raised by Diana Fowley would be like - as cold, arrogant, and insufferable as her mother - but it was harder to imagine a child who had only had Diana in her life for the first few years and then had been raised with other influences. Whatever those might have been. Had Kyrie been adopted by a loving family after her mother's demise? It was a nice thought, but she very much doubted it. Because if Kyrie did have a loving family why weren't they at the station with the girl right now?
It was the thought that Kyrie probably didn't have anybody if they were looking for Mulder that finally made Scully pick up the phone and call him. This scared her, though. What was the best case scenario? That the girl would get off on the charges, and come to live with her and Mulder until she started college? She would of course be intelligent enough that college was a reasonable expectation; of all of the things that Scully found objectionable about Diana, a lack of intelligence was never one of them. In fact, she had actually been too damn clever for her own good much of the time.
Dialing Mulder's phone number would set them off on a completely different path. And yet, she had to do it because it was no way around it. It was hard to blame her for doing it with trembling fingers.
"Hey, Scully, what's up?" Mulder asked cheerfully as soon as the call connected. "I thought I was supposed to call you tonight." Apparently he was completely unaware of what the nature of their conversation would be.
How could he know, she asked herself, unless having a daughter isn't a complete surprise... But Diana seemed more likely to successfully keep a secret from everyone than he did from her, so she had to think that he was about to be blindsided. This realization made her cringe, but there was no good way to ease into the topic. "Do you know about Kyrie?" she asked point-blank.
"It's the first word in a two word phrase that approximately translates to 'Lord, have mercy' and is the common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy," Mulder said promptly.
All doubt she had about his knowledge of the girl was erased with that flippant answer. He had a better poker face than she did, but he wouldn't have reacted like she was asking him for a bit of trivia if he knew his daughter's name.
"Not Latin, Mulder. Kyrie Fowley, age seventeen. She claims to be your daughter," Scully told him without any preamble. She paused only long enough to let him do the mental arithmetic. "Did you know that Diana was pregnant when she left you?"
After a bit of hesitation he finally said, "No. I had no idea." His tone was hard to read, but it wasn't joy that filled his voice. It was more akin to sadness or betrayal, and maybe frustration.
"I didn't think so," she replied, and something tense inside her eased up a bit even though she felt empathy for him. It hadn't seemed likely that he would have hidden the existence of a child from her, but she hadn't really been rational in many of her dealings with Fowley. The thought had crossed her mind that maybe he could have decided against telling her so she wouldn't go off the deep end and finally decide that she had a legitimate reason to kill his ex.
"Did she come to you? Kyrie, I mean," he asked quietly. "If she came to you because she needs something like money for college tuition or place to stay, we'll work it out. I'm not sure how yet but-"
Her heart sank a little more when she heard this. If he thought that the worst case scenario was that his nearly grown daughter had shown up out of the blue seeking support during her final year of high school, he should have thought of things a bit bleaker.
"No," she said, interrupting him before he could say anything else to break her heart with his naïveté. "The police contacted me about her. Actually, they were looking for you, but I got them to tell me what they'd brought her in for."
"What?" he sputtered in confusion. "What do they think she did?"
"Alleged murder and kidnapping," she said miserably. She tried to imagine what it would have been like if she'd learned about Emily only after she'd become a murder suspect. The only upside she could imagine to that was that Emily would have lived long enough to be accused of crimes that serious.
"Alexandria. They want you there." She didn’t explain that they 'they' was the police because he had to know that. "They need to have a parent there to question her."
"I'm not going to be able to get there tonight," he told her, as if that needed to be said. "All the news can talk about is flights still being cancelled. They don't even know if they will be able to fly tomorrow yet." There was a very long pause, and then he asked, "If the Alexandria PD agrees to it, could you go there for me?" His unspoken plea was that he didn't want his daughter there alone, which was another thing she didn't need to be told.
The request took her longer to think over than she wanted to admit. "I guess I have to. Hold on a second, the detective who contacted me gave me his direct line for you."
She recited the phone number to him, and wasn't surprised to hear him typing it rather than writing it down. His handwriting was perfectly legible, but he often typed out things that could be handwritten instead. Perhaps, she reflected idly, it was because hard drives were harder to burn than paper files.
As soon as the clicking stopped he said, "Thank you. If they agree, I'll have them call you."
"And if they don't," Mulder said uncomfortably. "… I guess she'll just have to hang tough until I can fly home."
"Hopefully they will let me see her," Scully told him, much more for his benefit then because she actually wanted to drive to Alexandria at that time of night.
They hung up then, and unlike usual neither of them said 'I love you.'
Mulder must have called them as soon as he hung up with her, because she heard back from the police department less than forty-five minutes later. They weren't entirely enthusiastic about having her there, and noted that it was an unusual circumstance that allowed it at all, but at least they weren't going to insist that the girl simply be held until Mulder could get back. It made her wonder if they felt bad for Mulder's daughter on some level.
She knew that she certainly did, and this was something that her thoughts kept circling back to on the drive into Alexandria. No matter what the girl had done, she couldn't allow herself to blame her for being Diana's child. If she had been twenty-seven instead of seventeen an argument could be made that she should have contacted her father and let him know of her existence, but she was only a minor. She had no legal right to contact him, even if she wanted to. Even if she knew who he was. More than his name, she reflected. The girl had obviously learned that at some point.
It was obvious that they were waiting for her, because the first thing she heard when she stepped into the station was, "Mrs. Mulder?"
Scully glanced at the person behind the desk before smiling wanly. "Doctor Scully. I kept my own name when I married."
"Of course," the officer said, seemingly slightly flustered. It made her wonder if assertive women were infrequent visitors to the station. "Detective Lybecker asked me to bring you to him as soon as he arrived."
"Lead the way," Scully invited.
Lybecker turned out to be a mid-aged man with a severe buzz cut that only half hid the fact that his otherwise dark hair was graying. Since she was feeling her own age so keenly lately, this made her thankful that her hair hadn't begun to gray, and might not if checkout aisle magazine articles were to be believed. It was clear that the detective had been sizing her up too, because not three seconds after she reached his office he said, "I think I told you that we don't usually allow this sort of thing, but considering the fact that your husband is marooned hundreds of miles away, we made an exception in this case."
"Great," she muttered, not feeling it all flattered that she had been granted this exception. It really would have been much better if Mulder could deal with this, but since he couldn't, she had to. That didn't mean that she had to like it.
Rather than lead her to the girl directly, Lybecker irritated her by asking her to take a seat in his office. She wanted to demand that she be allowed to see Kyrie immediately, but honestly, she could wait.
"Coffee?" Lybecker asked, glancing at the clock. "I'm afraid you're probably in for a long night, and maybe caffeine will help."
A longer night, she thought. Traffic hadn't been with her and it was already quite late. "Thank you," she said with all the politeness she could muster up.
Lybecker stuck his head out into the hallway, and said something indistinctly about coffee, before returning. It must be nice to have people at your beck and call, she thought. Neither she nor Mulder had ever had anybody at the FBI willing to go and bring them anything, not even old files.
"Thank you for contacting your husband so promptly," Lybecker said as he returned to his seat.
"Right." The hour was late and her patience had worn thin, so she immediately demanded to know, "So what exactly are you planning to charge her with?" She was vaguely aware that the knuckles of her hands had gone white as she gripped the arms of the chair she was sitting in herself.
"At this point the charges are just pending," Lybecker began to equivocate.
Scully cut him off with a shake of her head. "Don't give me that run around, I spent the better part of my adult life in the FBI, and you know that I'm not talking about paperwork here."
To his credit, Lybecker didn't will wilt under her glare. "Officers are still looking for enough evidence at the scene to charge her with the murders of the two people we discovered in the house just after we found her and the two children there. Obviously, we have enough evidence that she had the children."
"Legally she still a child herself, you know," Scully snapped. Then she thought a moment. "Were both of the children placed with the same family?"
Lybecker shook his head, and he looked as confused as she felt. "No. They were only the adoptive parents of the older of the two, Nathaniel. The girl claims that she was supposed to bring the baby to them, which is another reason we suspect that he is her child. But…"
She gave him a sharp look when he hesitated. "But what?"
"I know they say that young mothers bounce back more quickly than older women do when they have a baby, but she sure doesn't look like she could have given birth three weeks ago."
"So you're just assuming that she kidnapped the baby?" Scully asked pragmatically.
"I don't know what else to think," Lybecker shot back. "If he's not her baby, he has to be somebody's. If he somebody else's, she must have kidnapped him too."
Scully canted her head as she looked at him. "If you ran across me eating lunch with my twelve-year-old nephew, without my brother or sister-in-law present, would you assume that I had kidnapped him?"
"Of course not."
"Because there are other explanations for why someone else's minor child might be in my company?" she asked. "Such as babysitting, for example."
"This girl would be a pretty poor choice for a babysitter," Lybecker said stubbornly.
"That might be true, but that should have no bearing on whether you charge her with one count of kidnapping or two." Scully frowned slightly when he met her assertion with a barely disguised grimace. "What can you tell me about her?" she asked.
He shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"A good place to start would be her living arrangements. My husband didn't know she existed and you haven't introduced me to adoptive or foster parents…"
"I don't know," Lybecker said, and he sighed when she shot him a disbelieving look. "The only parent she would say anything about is your husband. She has a valid ID on her, but when we looked up the address, there's nothing there, so that's obviously not where she's living."
"And you didn't think to ask her?"
"We thought to ask her," he grumbled. "She wasn't inclined to answer any questions about where she lives, and her father's name and phone number were all she gave up when we demanded to know who was responsible for her."
Scully could picture how he 'demanded' the information, and she wasn't sure she would have told him more than the bare minimum either. "Do you think she's homeless?" she asked, not really wanting to think about that. It upset her some that the girl really didn't seem to have any adults in her life to turn to.
Not that she didn't want Mulder to have a relationship with her, Scully insisted to herself, but because being on your own at that age was mildly tragic to her, and totally outside her own scope of experience at the same age; Maggie had been there to help her study for her SATs and helped proof-read her college essays. The only time she'd seen her father shed a tear outside of a funeral service or when Charlie had gotten pneumonia at age three was when she and each of her siblings left for their freshmen years of college.
To her slight relief, the detective shook his head. "She's too clean, and too well-dressed. Her clothes might not look like much but I know from having teenage girls myself that they come from the sort of mall stores that put ink packs on everything so you only end up with ruined clothes if you try to shoplift them. She's living somewhere, even if she's closed-mouthed about it."
"Okay." She thought a moment. "Is she in school?"
"Not that I can tell," Lybecker admitted. "She won't say and none of the schools we called around to know anything about her."
Scully nodded slightly. She'd gone to school with a handful of kids that had graduated at seventeen, so maybe that wasn't so unusual. Mulder had never said when Diana had left him, nor had Frohike ever volunteered the information, so she didn't know if the girl was barely seventeen, on the verge of eighteen, or somewhere in between.
"I don't know what to tell you, Mrs. Mulder." He seemed to smirk when she bristled at this. "She hasn't volunteered much, so I'm glad you're here so we can get more out of her."
"I want to see her," Scully announced abruptly.
For second she thought that Lybecker was going to protest, but he seemed to realize that he didn't have any grounds to, so he slowly nodded instead. "Okay, that is why you're here, I guess."
All sorts of icy retorts about how being there wasn't her idea crowded her mouth, but she was careful not to let any escape. The last thing that Mulder's daughter needed was for her to start off by purposely antagonizing anyone on the police force. Even if she didn't feel like she owed the girl more, Mulder wouldn't thank her for it if Kyrie ended up getting extra grief because of something she'd said or did.
Lybecker surprised her when he immediately left the room, leaving her to follow him. Though she had expected him to take his sweet time about leading her to their destination, he actually moved pretty sprightly and with purpose. Maybe he wasn't the only one who was feeling the lateness of the hour. After a short walk, they came to a stop.
"She's in there," Lybecker indicated with a wave towards a window. Scully stepped up to it without hesitation as soon as she recognized it as an interrogation room. She knew very well that there was a mirror on the inside of the room, so the girl wouldn't know that she was being scrutinized.
Kyrie had pulled her knees up and was resting her heels on the seat of the chair. Her arms were wrapped around her jean-clad legs, and Scully felt a brief pang of pity for her. Regardless of whether the accusations against her were true, the only way she could possibly look more miserable would be to actually being crying. The expression on her face said that she was fighting that urge with every fiber of her being, and so far it was a battle that she was winning. As soon as she became conscious of this observation Scully couldn't help but think of the girl's mother, though she tried to push the thought away. It would do neither her nor Kyrie any favors if she kept trying to compare her to the late Diana.
As if in defiance of this conviction a vaguely curious voice asked over her shoulder, "Does she look like your husband or more like her mother?" She didn't bother to turn to look towards him. Instead she continued to look at the girl.
Kyrie was smaller than Scully had imagined that she would be. Mulder was tall, and Diana hadn't been short either. But Kyrie was probably no taller than Scully herself was. Even in the abstract it was hard to imagine a teenage girl managing to overpower and kill two people, and now that she was looking at her, the idea seemed positively ludicrous. If Kyrie was one hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet, she'd eat her hat. No wonder Lybecker had so much trouble believing that she could have given birth to the younger of the two children.
"She looks like her father some," Scully offered after a while. "She has his eyes." But not his nose, she privately noted with some relief. She'd always been fond of that feature of his, but what added character in a man would just be unfortunate on such a delicately built girl. "Both of her parents have dark hair, so it's hard to tell about which gave it to her." The girl's dark hair was down to her shoulders, and even jammed under a plum colored knit beret it was clear that it curled.
"I'm glad she doesn't look just like her mother," Lybecker surprised her by saying. When she raised her eyebrows at this, he didn't look cowed. "I'm just saying, if I found out my wife had a kid by someone I'd known, and obviously hadn't liked much, I'd be happier if I didn't have to see my enemy every time I looked at her boy."
"Diana and I weren't-" Scully paused, and abandoned the obligatory protestation. "We weren't friends. And you're right, it's probably easier on me that she doesn't look like her mother's clone."
"She worked with you?" Lybecker asked, and this made her wonder how much Kyrie had actually been told about her father. And more importantly, by whom. When Diana died, Kyrie had only been in elementary school. Had someone else told her about her father and his work? And if they had... the implications of that were almost worse than the crimes the girl was accused of.
"For a short time. She'd worked with my husband, and had been in a relationship with him, before he and I met. Some project took her to Europe, so she left him behind. And then she returned to the US not terribly long before her death," Scully admitted, and she was happy that this didn't seem like old news to him. Until she wondered if Kyrie herself knew all about it but hadn't shared with the detective.
"I bet you're pissed at her all over again right about now," Lybecker said.
Her curiosity got the best of her. "Why?"
The detective shrugged. "You husband said he didn't know about the kid either, and I believed him. Going away and never telling anyone you had a kid is one thing, but to come back and still keep that from people? That's awfully cold."
"That was Diana for you."
"And yet you don't seem real surprised that she was capable of that level of deception," he noted. "She must have been a real piece of work."
Scully almost opened her mouth to agree, but then all at once she realized that she was falling into a trap. More likely than not Lybecker only playing at being sympathetic. Instead he was trying to establish the fact that Fowley had been a person capable of unthinkable acts... and by extension her daughter probably was too. This realization had her kicking herself, but she tried to remind herself that it was late and she'd gotten a hell of a shock, so it was not too surprising that she'd let her guard down. "Makes me glad that she wasn't the one who raised the girl for long," she said flatly.
Lybecker looked vaguely disappointed, confirming her suspicions about his motives. "Right."
Staring in at the girl it wasn't hard to imagine what she'd looked like a decade earlier, and she felt a renewal of her old hatred of Diana. It was bad enough that she'd left Mulder without telling him that she was pregnant, but she hadn’t bothered to tell him when she'd come back, either. It might have been upsetting if Mulder had taken custody of his young daughter only a couple of years after Emily died, but at least she wouldn't have grown up however she had after her mother's murder.
"Can I speak to her now?" Scully asked, but it was less a question than a demand.
Scully gave him a frosty look. "Alone at first. Don't bother with a camera either, I know where to look for it."
"You can have ten minutes alone with her, but then we're going to start questioning her about these crimes," Lybecker informed her.
"Okay." Ten minutes seemed quite long to talk to a kid she'd never met before, but she wasn't going to argue with him about it.
"Go on," he said, waving her towards the door.
She took a deep breath and opened the door.
As soon as the door opened, Kyrie looked up sharply. She now looked more annoyed than pitiful. "Who are you?" Kyrie asked, tone as sullen as Scully could have predicted from the expression on her face. Kyrie had no idea who she was, and no reason to think that she was in another adult just about to make her life even more miserable. "I know you're not my lawyer, not dressed like that."
Scully looked down at herself, almost surprised to see that she was wearing an olive green fisherman's sweater and jeans, neither of which would have passed muster if she'd gone to the hospital that day as a doctor instead of a visitor. No wonder the nun she'd met in the hallway had looked at her so strangely - it had undoubtedly been the first time she'd ever seen her dressed down.
"I'm Dana," she offered, and the girl gave her a blank look. "Your father is my husband."
The teenager blinked now. "I didn't know he was married," Kyrie said.
"Surprise," Scully said dryly. The girl had no way of knowing how often other people had shown similar surprise in the year and a few months since she and Mulder had exchanged vows before a very small group of loved ones. "Your father will be here as soon as he can, but at the moment he's snowed in near the airport in Toronto."
"Traveling on business?" Kyrie asked.
"Something like that," Scully agreed. "Since he can't be here, the detectives agreed to let me speak to you."
"Why would you want to?" Kyrie demanded to know. "The fact that I exist can't make you happy. I mean, your husband having a kid neither of you knew about? That's got to be upsetting."
Had the girl already known that her existence was a surprise to them, or had it been something Lybecker had told her to needle her after talking to Mulder? It was hard to hazard a guess. "The fact that you're in trouble doesn't make me happy, but existing… I haven't made up my mind about how to feel about that," Scully told her, deciding that honesty would be something the girl was more receptive of than a cheerfully false insistence that she already loved her. At seventeen she wouldn't have appreciated someone trying to be best buddies with her off the bat, and she was hoping that this girl wasn't so different because she didn't know how warm and fuzzy she could be on demand.
"Did you work with my dad?" Kyrie asked curiously. Scully was slightly startled by this, but she tried not to let that show. "You did, right? No one ever told me your first name."
"I did," Scully acknowledged. "For many years."
"Then you're Scully," Kyrie said triumphantly, and for a second she almost sounded like Mulder when he'd figured something important out that had alluded others.
"That's me. Dana Scully."
"Okay, well, then I know who you are." The girl looked less confused, but Scully wasn't.
"But how?" Scully asked. "Who told you about me?"
To her disappointment, Kyrie just shrugged, as if she didn't know, or maybe didn't consider it important.
Scully glanced around the room trying to see if she could actually spot a camera, or if her semi-threat to the irritable detective had just been bluster on her part. There was nothing in any of the usual places, but that just left her uneasily wondering if there was no camera, or if they'd just managed to hide it better than any other police department she'd been in. This left her wishing that the gunmen were still around, which was something that she felt more often than she ever expected to, and not always because they were useful or because her husband missed them.
"It's a two way mirror, huh?" the girl asked after a while. She nodded towards the wall.
"That's right," Scully agreed, not bothering to correct the idea that she was just trying to see through it.
"Are they coming back?" Kyrie sounded like she was going for indifference, but she failed. "I don't know what they expect us to talk about," she complained as an apparent afterthought.
Scully shrugged. "Do you know that they think the baby is yours?" she asked, wondering if that would get a rise out of the girl.
It didn't. She merely snorted. "Ha ha. I don't even have a boyfriend. I sure as hell don't have a baby."
"But you were picked up with him in your possession," Scully pointed out. "So of course they're going to wonder why you had him with you, especially when it became clear to them that he didn't live with the other kid."
"That was weird," Kyrie remarked.
"What was weird?"
Kyrie leaned back and affected a bored look. "They should have had stuff there for him. They knew that he was supposed to come to them soon. But they didn't have any baby stuff there. For a tiny baby, I mean."
"They were adopting him?"
"Yeah, I guess. I mean, he was supposed to be theirs, but I'm not sure how legal it all was, you know?" It was clear that this was meant to be a rhetorical question.
"Uh huh. They said you knew about them."
If she thought this question would be answered, she was to be sorely mistaken. The girl had no real interest in giving her anything she didn't want to share. "Fox, that's my dad's first name, right?" Kyrie asked, and Scully nodded. "I didn't know that 'til recently. Anyway, do you and Fox have children together?"
For a moment she wondered if she was trying to determine if she would have to share a room if she ended up being released instead of imprisoned for her alleged crimes. That seemed rather optimistic. "We have son," Scully told her. "He doesn't live with us, though." For a moment she found herself thinking about the house Mulder has chosen for them, and its empty bedrooms. Even with him setting up an office in one and a guestroom in another, there were still empty bedrooms that had once sheltered the children of the farmer who had built the place.
"I know. And I know his name is William," Kyrie shocked her by saying. She looked nearly amused when Scully shot her a look.
"How do you know that?" Fear and concern made Scully's tone icy. What if it was all a ruse? she found herself frantically thinking then, what if this isn't Mulder's daughter after all, but someone the Consortium has hired to torment me?
Dammit, Dana, think, she admonished herself. The girl had Mulder's eyes. Even if they had somehow managed to clone his sister and let it grow up, Samantha had blue eyes. Besides, she thought the girl might have Diana's nose.
If anything, Kyrie looked grim and more than a little scared now. "I don't know if it'd be better or worse to tell you."
"You have to tell me," Scully replied, forcing herself to keep her voice even. Forcing herself not to lunge across the table and grab fistfuls of the girl's striped sweater to pull her close and force her to spill her guts. She wasn't exactly angry at the girl, but she wanted to shock her into honesty.
Maybe some of that showed in her eyes because Kyrie shrank back in her seat and looked down at the battered surface of the table instead of up at her face. "I would have gotten him next. If I could have. You have to understand, I did try to get that far, but the cops pick me up before we reached him." She traced a scratch in the wood with a finger and barely spoke above a whisper. "I got the little ones first because they were closer. Now I worry that I planned it wrong…"
From the oddly beseeching way the girl spoke, it seemed to Scully that she was trying to apologize for not having gotten to William too. And if she was, that made her more frightened than ever, because the only remorse she was showing was that she hadn't done more than she was accused of. There had to be a reason, and it couldn't be something pleasant. "Kyrie, why would you want to get William? And why did you take the other two kids?"
The look in Kyrie's eyes was bleak and entirely unfeigned. "I needed to get them before something bad happened to them."
"But why you, why did you in particular have to make sure nothing bad happened to them?" Scully demanded to know. The thought of something "bad" happening to William was almost too terrifying to contemplate.
Kyrie's cup of soda jumped when she slammed her fist down on the table, and Scully involuntarily moved backwards. "I have to save them because they're my brothers!" Kyrie exclaimed, looking wretchedly unhappy. "I'm the only one who knew what they wanted to do to them!"
"They… They're your brothers?" Scully asked, confused. "William is your half-brother but-" If the little ones that she'd kidnapped were her brothers too, who was their mother she wanted to know. She knew Diana was dead, but that meant little; if they'd done to her what they'd done to Scully, Diana could have children who hadn't seen the light of day until years after she was cold in her grave. Somehow she didn't think that they had spared much more sentimentality for women like Diana that had been on their side than they had those they'd stolen away to experiment on.
"The little ones are too," Kyrie insisted. She was beginning to look tired. "And they may be my half-brothers, but they're William's full brothers."
"No," Scully said, feeling herself fill with horror at the implication of that.
"Yes," Kyrie corrected her.
"You're trying to say that they're my sons? Mine and your father's?" Scully asked numbly. Could they have been so cruel that they'd done it all over again, like Emily? Of course they could, she told herself. She'd be a fool to believe otherwise. Hadn't she just imagined them creating children from Diana's ova? They had hers for certain, so many more than Mulder had been able to recover, so it would be naïve to think they had never used any more of them.
"Yeah," Kyrie agreed without pity or mercy. "Nathaniel and the baby are yours, too. They explained it to me once, but I didn't want to believe them. They tested us a lot, and the file room was fairly easy to get into if you knew what you're doing, so I looked one day at our DNA test summaries. They have the same mother even if I don't. But we all have the same dad."
"What's the baby's name?" Scully asked quietly. Maybe if she could focus on just one tiny part of what Kyrie said at a time, maybe she wouldn't completely break down and lose her mind.
"Nope," Kyrie said, shaking her head, and for a second Scully wondered if she was trying to be cruel. After a second she realized that she wasn't. "They didn't give him one yet. They like to let the parents name them. Right now, they call him XYDSFM007 in the paperwork."
"Seven." It felt like all of the world's horror could be neatly fitted into a single digit number that trailed her and Mulder's initials.
Kyrie shrugged. "There was a girl, right? They told me that you knew about her." The look on her face made it clear that she was really hoping that she wasn't giving her yet another shock. It made her wonder faintly how devastated she must look if a person accused of murder was worried about her.
"Emily," Scully replied, heart still feeling pinched. "She died."
"Before they had real names... Emily was one," Kyrie said with a tiny duck of her chin. "Even though you carried him they considered William to be four, though I don't know why. Nathaniel five, and the little guy is seven." She paused for a second. "I didn't get a number. Guess that's because there was only one of me. My mother probably would have set the place on fire if they made her any lab babies."
"What happened to two, three, and six?" Scully whispered, indifferent to the girl's thoughts on her own lack of a number or what Diana would have done if they'd made her any children. It could be worse, a voice reminded her, Emily might have been left out of that string too, so there could have been a separate XX string as well. Then there would have been another number one.
Kyrie hunched her shoulders. "I don't know. I couldn't find anything out about them. I don't even know if they were-" The girl swallowed hard and wouldn't meet her eyes. "-or are, boys or girls. Part of me hopes they're dead."
Another woman might have snapped at her and told her that was a hateful thing to say about siblings even if she didn't know them, but Scully understood the sentiment. In the grasp of the Consortium, a child might literally be better off dead.
Scully nearly screamed when the doorknob began to rattle. There was so much more she needed to ask Kyrie. Making a quick decision, she decided the best way to get more time to talk to the girl would be to help her. The kid had no idea how to help herself, so she'd have to guide her.
"When they question you, you need to tell them something," Scully told her.
Kyrie looked startled. "Everything?"
"No. Start with basic stuff, like where you've been living if they ask again. School. Where you work if you have a job." She could only hope that there was something about those things Kyrie could whitewash. "Keep it simple."
"Why?" Kyrie demanded, tone and eyes both conveying her suspicion. "Why should I tell them anything?"
"Because you want to give them a way to believe you. Offer them some information that can be verified, and maybe they'll trust that other things that you tell them aren't BS either."
"Oh." Kyrie hunched over again as the door finally opened, giving no indicator of whether or not she intended to take the advice she'd been offered.
Lybecker was juggling two cups of coffee and what seemed to be another cup of soda, which probably explained why he had such trouble getting the door open. He set the cups down and passed them across the table without saying anything. To humor him Scully took a sip of her own and found it passable. "Thanks."
He nodded rather than saying anything in response to that. Instead he looked down at Kyrie. "Since your dad can't be here, he signed documentation to the effect that your stepmother here can act as the parental representation that as a minor you're entitled to during questioning. Understand?"
Lybecker glanced over at Scully. "Do we need to wait for a lawyer to get here?"
Scully crossed her arms over her chest. "I haven't heard anything yet that indicates a lawyer is necessary."
"Uh huh." The detective looked like he thought she was kidding herself. "Alright, we'll begin then." He looked over at her again. "Interrupt as soon as a lawyer begins to sound like a good idea to you." The look he was giving her was measuring, as if he was trying to decide if she hadn’t asked for a lawyer because she was hoping to screw the girl over. Considering his obvious disdain, she imagined that he might if he was put in that situation. Maybe he wasn't just BSing her earlier when he said things about how he'd react in her place.
Scully made a 'go on' gesture, waiting for him to begin. If it did sound like Kyrie needed a lawyer, she would of course ask for one. Mulder would want her to.
He flashed her an irritated look before turning to the teenager. "Let's start with what you were doing with Nathaniel Donavan and the baby that you claim has no name." Lybecker gave her an expectant look, as if he expected the truth to begin to pour out of her mouth now that she had a parental figure with her.
"Keeping them from being murdered," Kyrie insisted, and he rolled his eyes. "I'm being serious."
"Someone told you that they were going to murder an infant and a toddler?"
"And why would they do that?" Lybecker almost sounded bored. He took a long sip of his coffee and gave the teenager a look.
"They were stupid enough to think that I wouldn't try to stop them," Kyrie said. It was clear that she had interpreted his question as why would someone tell her, rather than why would someone try to murder babies. It made Scully wonder what he had meant. "They thought that telling me was of no consequence." She shrugged, as if to say she'd handily proven them wrong.
"But you did. Stop them, I mean." Whatever the detective had meant, he apparently had decided that what she answered was interesting enough to pursue further. "I mean, the boys are alive and they're not."
"I did what I had to," the girl said tightly.
Scully listened to her, and studied her body language. Any doubt she had whatsoever that this was Diana's child fell away. Kyrie didn't have her mother's wealth of experience or the clout to bluster through things, but Scully had seen the same defensiveness on Diana when she'd done things that left a bad taste in her mouth. That had been one of the most maddening things about her – she hadn't simply been evil and able to do the things she'd done without the pangs of conscience. Diana had felt badly about at least some of the things she'd been asked to do…and had done them anyway.
Oblivious of what was going through Scully's mind, Lybecker continued to question the girl. "So you started your day deciding that you had to kill a couple of people?"
"I started my day the way I always do," Kyrie said, calmer now. "I went to my shift at the donut place and worked."
"Which donut place?" Lybecker asked, suddenly seeming interested.
Kyrie told him the name of a small donut place that Scully had passed by countless times before she'd moved to Virginia with Mulder. It had been a homey looking place, but she had never stepped foot in the place. As he listened to her, the detective wrote down the name and address, and then demanded that Kyrie provide the phone number before calling someone into the room and handing them the paper he'd written on.
"Okay, so you spent the morning and early afternoon slinging donuts, and then what happened? What made you decide to take Nathaniel and the baby from the Donavans' home?" Kyrie shook her head no. "No, what?" he asked irritably.
"I didn't take the baby from the Donavan house," Kylie insisted. "I brought him there with me."
The detective tried to hide his surprise that she had volunteered this by making an elaborate effort at disposing of his empty coffee cup before he looked back at Kyrie. Scully supposed he was trying to buy a few seconds to think. "So you got him… where? before you went to their house?"
"I got him from the people who were going to kill them both," Kyrie said quietly.
"And what, they didn't notice you'd taken him?" His lips thinned, and it didn't surprise Scully at all when he said, "Or am I going to be looking for another crime scene?"
The girl didn't seem to quite grasp the fact that she was all but being asked if she'd killed anyone else. "I was able to get him out without any trouble."
"Is that what you call it?" Lybecker's voice rose. "Do you call murdering a couple of people 'trouble'?"
"I-" she stuttered, throwing Scully a frightened look.
Before Scully could say anything someone tentatively asked "Detective?" from the doorway.
Lybecker reared back, and Scully waited for him to bite the interrupter's head off. He apparently knew who it was, because he got up with a growled "don't try to go anywhere" and disappeared without another word.
Kyrie turned to her, eyes wide. "Where did he go?"
"I'm not sure," Scully said, although that was a half-truth. She'd sat in on enough interrogations to understand that someone had called Lybecker away to discuss a finding. It wasn't necessarily something related to this particular case, though, so there was no real reason to mention it to her and possibly scare her when it could have nothing to do with her at all.
"Is he coming back?"
Scully looked over at the clock behind its wire cage and sighed. "I'm sure he will, eventually."
"Did I say the right stuff?" Kyrie asked anxiously.
"So far, yes." Scully reached over and touched the girl's wrist, not terribly surprised when she flinched. "But don't say anything now you wouldn't in front of him." She half wished she'd stopped her from saying some of the things she'd said earlier, but she mostly believe that the detective hadn't turned on a camera before after swearing he wouldn't. Mostly. And she'd learned things she couldn't regret-
Before responding she looked around the room, and Kyrie did too. "There's probably a camera in here."
"I thought things you said when there wasn't a cop around were, like," the girl reached for what had to be a vocabulary word, "inadmissible."
"They are. But that doesn't mean that they can't watch a tape and ask about things you said on it. I'm not sure how good a liar you are, but cops can have a way of asking things to confuse you, and you don't want to get caught up in lies. Better not give them any ammo if you can avoid it," Scully explained. She wanted to tell the girl that they'd have plenty of time to talk later, but she didn't know if that was true.
"Oh. I've seen movies like that."
It was all she could do not to laugh like a lunatic. The Alexandria PD was holding Kyrie on suspicion of murder and kidnapping, and she was comparing the dangerous possibilities of saying something unwise to a movie. Everyone said that teenagers' brains weren't fully developed and had a reduced capability to work out the consequences of their actions, but until just then she'd thought that was just a fact that really wasn't that people liked to bandy about like how we only use 10% of our brains and everyone desperately needs to drink eight glasses of water a day.
Forcing herself to maintain her composure, Scully just said, "It's not really like the movies."
Kyrie rested her chin on her fists. "I guess not," she muttered.
Since neither Scully nor Kyrie spoke, the minutes ticked by loudly. Literally. For lack of anything better to do, Scully stared at the clock, wondering if there was a special supply catalogue for really loud clocks for interrogation rooms. The cage that surrounded it was obviously specially ordered, and it made her wonder if anyone had ever been left alone in the room long enough for them to snap and try to use some part of the clock to commit suicide.
For her part, Kyrie simply looked drowsy. Scully marveled at the idea of someone being able to get sleepy enough that they seemed in danger of nodding off after they'd been accused of a double homicide. And don't forget kidnapping, her brain helpfully reminded her. You don't want to forget that you want more than anything to talk more to her about the little kids she alleges are your sons while you sit here instead not being able to ask her a goddamn thing about them. Or hear more about why she wanted so badly to get to William too, who you should probably have more loyalty to than a couple of infants you've never even met. But then, you were always good at not thinking about William when it was inconvenient to, weren't y-
Detective Lybecker opened the door abruptly, saying only "Doctor Scully, a word?" before mostly closing it again.
Scully stood and gave Kyrie a weak smile that did nothing to erase the scared expression on the girl's face. Had she known the girl better, or at all, she might have gave her hand a comforting squeeze on the way by, but she didn't really know her and the fact that her hands were both balled into anxious fists pretty much broadcast the fact that a friendly touch would not be welcome.
"Yes?" Scully asked, trying not to match the terseness of the detective's tone. They weren't going to get anywhere if both of them were bristling.
Lybecker pushed on the door, obviously making sure that she'd shut it completely on her way out of the room. It was all she could do not to roll her eyes in reaction to this. "We're not going to charge her with either of the murders," he said abruptly.
Thank God, she thought but didn't dare say. Out loud she asked, "why not?"
Frowning, the man said, "The coroner just got back to us about his initial findings. The dead couple? They've been dead for about three months. Kyrie's job confirmed that she didn't miss a single day all that month, or any time at all over the past five months, so we don't have probable cause. Maybe a labor violation for letting a kid work seven days a week, but-"
"They've been dead for months?" Scully asked to halt his rambling, wondering who had been looking after Nathaniel for the past several weeks if not the people who had adopted him. She had to shove down a possessive burst of indignation at the thought that he'd been neglected - after all, she only had Kyrie's word that the boy was related to her.
"Beyond a shadow of a doubt," Lybecker said reluctantly. "And they didn't die the way she said she killed them either. According to the coroner they were both shot point blank in the forehead. They definitely weren't stabbed in the back of the neck like the girl said they were-" He paused, and looked at her. "-before we read her her rights."
"In the back of the neck?" Scully asked, and she could barely raise her voice above a whisper. "Right here?" She indicated where she meant with her right hand.
"I see that she told you the same outlandish story," he snapped, unwittingly telling her that there had been no recording. It made her wish she'd simply let Kyrie talk then. Too late to change that, unfortunately. "I don't know if I should admire her consistency or recommend her for a psych hold."
"Did anyone find any, um, fluids? In the house, on the floors maybe," Scully asked, trying desperately to sound like it was a casual question.
Lybecker gave her a quizzical look. "Yeah. The responding officers said it looked like anti-freeze."
She waited for him to demand to know why she'd asked, but he just looked into the interrogation room. Scully didn't.
Bile churned in her stomach, but she forced herself to stay calm and tried to will away the horror. If the detective thought that Kyrie was lying, it was probably better than if he knew the truth.
Because the truth was, and Scully was sure of it, than the dead couple that Kyrie had killed hadn't left any bodies behind. Instead, they'd dissolved into puddles of green fluid the moment after she'd plunged the gimlet into the vulnerable spot at the back of their neck.
Which meant that for approximately the past three months the toddler that Kyrie had taken with her from the scene of the crime had been cared for by the sort of monsters that had once made themselves look like Mulder and had tried to choke the life out of her before she realized that the thing with her partner's face wasn't him at all.
And from the remorseful way Kyrie spoke about not getting to William like she intended to, Scully was terrified that William's adoptive parents had been replaced by the bounty hunter's cousins too.
To keep from panicking, she let herself get angry instead. "What about the kidnapping charges?" she demanded to know. "I'm assuming dead people can't press charges."
"Of course they can't," Lybecker blurted out, but then he looked like he wished that he could take the words back. "But the state-"
Scully crossed her arms. "I can, though. Or actually, I could sue."
"Sue who, and for what?" He looked very confused that the conversation was getting so far away from him.
"This department, for utter incompetence," Scully scornfully replied. "I want you to do a DNA test on those two little boys. See if they're related to Kyrie, and me."
"To you? But you're not her mother."
"No, I'm not. But after speaking to her about why she took them, I'm fairly sure you'll discover that I'm their mother."
"Look, I don't know what the girl told you, but-"
"She told me that they're mine, both of the boys. And that she was trying to bring them to her father after she rescued them when your people picked her up." Kyrie hadn’t actually said that she was trying to bring the little ones to Mulder, but Scully couldn't imagine what else she would have done. Then again, why Kyrie hadn't planned to see Mulder before trying to get to William was something she wondered about.
"How is that possible?" Lybecker demanded to know with narrowed eyes. "A man might have a child he didn't know about, but you haven't said anything about having other children, so I can only assume that you didn't know about the boys any more than you did about Ms. Fowley-" It took her brain a moment to puzzle out that he meant Kyrie, not her mother."-I just don't see how that would be possible, a mother not knowing about some of her children."
Scully returned the glare. "I have an eight-year-old son. He was conceived through IVF and if those little boys are mine, then you've allowed the fertility clinic to get away with stealing embryos and selling them. Completely unchecked! And now you're holding my stepdaughter for trying to rescue her baby brothers from their exploiters, can you imagine the field day the press would have with that?"
Her rather bombastic accusations had the desired effect, at least judging by the fear in his eyes. A tiny voice at the back of her mind told her that it shouldn't be that easy, but she told it to hush up because she deserved to have things go her way once in a while.
"Um..." Lybecker stammered. Up until that very second he had seemed like a rather competent law enforcement agent, but now he was giving her helpless looks.
"I believe that you were about to suggest that you're going to go and arrange for someone to come and take our DNA right now, weren't you?" Scully prompted.
"Obviously," he mumbled. Then he turned away and caught the eye of a young uniformed officer walking by. "Allison, go and find someone who can administer DNA tests, would you."
"Of course," the officer said before walking away.
Lybecker suddenly seemed to regain some of his composure. "Considering you're a doctor you must understand that even a rush DNA test is going to take a while to get actionable results."
"Yes, of course," Scully said evenly. "I expect you to do a competent job, not perform magic."
Her tone hadn't been overly polite, but it still had the effect of making him look a little less uneasy. "Well, good."
She thought for a moment. "Call Allison back, would you?"
Lybecker looked confused, but he went to the hallway and called the other woman. Then he gave Scully an expectant look.
Trying to be more polite, she mustered up a smile. "I'm sorry, Allison, could you also ask this person if they can do an ABO test too?"
Allison pulled a notepad out of her pocket, and wrote it down. "No problem."
"Thank you very much," Scully told her.
"ABO?" Lybecker asked as soon as the officer walked away.
"It's a blood typing test," she explained. "They do them a lot in the ER when somebody comes in and needs blood, because as you probably know a person can die if they give them the wrong type of blood. It's a quick test to get results for, so that makes it very valuable in an emergency situation."
Lybecker finished his coffee and asked, "Unh huh, and that test is useful now because…?"
"Being an FBI agent is not without risk of physical dangers. Even in the relatively short time I worked with Kyrie's mother, she got severely injured too," she said, deciding to gloss over the fact that Fowley had once been shot while trying to protect Gibson Praise.
"So I know that her blood type and mine are completely different. I'm type O, but Kyrie's biological parents are both type A. With two type A parents Kyrie's blood can only be A. If the baby or Nathaniel have type A blood too, nothing can be ruled since both Kyrie and my husband have that blood type. But if they have type O..."
"Then maybe they're yours," Lybecker finished hesitantly.
Scully shrugged. "Or if they're not ours, maybe their own father also has type O. It's nowhere near definitive proof of anything, but still, it might tell us at least a little bit while we wait for DNA test results."
"I guess," the detective said. The look he gave her had her wondering if he was questioning whether or not she wanted them to have type O. She wondered that too. Her heart of course screamed 'yes!' in response to the question, but her brain tried to insist that she couldn't let herself get too attached to the idea of either being their mother or being able to gain custody if they were her and Mulder's children.
So much so that she decided to change the topic to get her mind off of it. "Since I assume there will be something of a wait before the test can even be administered, is there any reason I can't continue to speak to her?"
"I don't see why there would be."
"All right then."
He stopped short, making her pause as well. "You like her," Lybecker remarked.
Scully gave him a confused smile. "What?"
"I was just thinking, you like Kyrie. Even though you hated her mother."
"I barely know the girl," Scully protested.
He nodded but said, "I've met a lot of people, and I've gotten a pretty good sense of them. A lot of women would have nothing to do with their husband's love child, but you're taking finding out about her well, even though she's in a boatload of trouble."
"Not anymore," Scully told him with a wan smile.
"No, I guess not," he said grudgingly. He gave her a warning look, though. "Even if we drop all of the charges, you'll have to wait to have her statement taken before you can leave with her."
If? she wanted to ask. It made her wonder if he was bluffing, or if her attempt to threaten the department with legal action hadn't been as effective as she'd hoped.
Still, Lybecker didn't make a move to join her when she stepped back into the integration room.
"Has she eaten anything?" Scully asked, pausing at the doorway.
"Since we brought her in? No."
"Don't you think she should?" She frowned at him. "You've already had her here for hours, and it's not like you're going to let me drive her down the street for a happy meal."
He smirked a little at the words 'happy meal' but she'd used them deliberately to remind him that in the eyes of the law Mulder's daughter was still a child, and it was their duty to take reasonable care of her as long as they held her in custody. "Fine," he said at last. "I get someone to bring her a sandwich."
"Good," she said curtly. He walked away without asking Kyrie what she liked, but she supposed that was more than she could hope for. Besides, even if it wasn't something the girl liked, she'd survive an undesirable meal once or twice.
"What's going on?" Kyrie asked as soon as he was out of sight. She plucked nervously at the hem of her sweater, which gave away her nerves more than her tone did.
"They're not going to charge you with the murders," Scully announced. She watched the girl's face, expecting to see relief.
There wasn't much there. "And the kidnappings?" Kyrie asked nervously.
"I'm not sure yet," Scully admitted.
"What happens now?"
"Someone's going to bring you something to eat. And they're going to take our DNA-" She held up a hand when Kyrie flashed her a look of alarm. "-which is just a cheek swab."
"And after that?"
"I don't know." Scully looked at the clock again, knowing that only time would tell if Lybecker would take her seriously or not. She hoped he would for multiple reasons. Not the least of which was that he'd been right. She wasn't entirely sure why, but she did like Kyrie.
Over an hour later Lybecker came back in, looking like he was pretty ticked off. He had trouble meeting either of their eyes as he said, "as long as Dana agrees to allow you to be released into her custody, you're free to go."
Kyrie looked shocked. Scully felt fairly surprised herself, and that little nagging voice spoke up again about things not going like they should. Again she pushed it away. "I'll agree to that. But is this one of those 'don't leave town' situations?"
If anything, Lybecker looked more aggrieved after the question. "No," he said shortly. When she stared at him he sighed and went on. "There isn't enough circumstantial evidence to hold her on any of the charges."
There were a lot of things that ran through Scully's mind, but she opened her mouth and found herself saying "oh. That's good I guess." Then, before Lybecker could come to his senses, she turned to Kyrie and said "I think it's time we leave."
"I'll show you where to get her things," Lybecker mumbled.
Scully stop short. "And the boys?"
The detective's lips folded into a thin white line. He shook his head slightly, and then said "until the results of the DNA test come back they're going to stay where they are."
"With a foster family?" Kyrie asked, worried.
When he didn't answer her, Scully gave him an expectant look. "Obviously," he huffed.
"And when the DNA tests come back and prove that they're related to us?" Scully asked, knowing that she should have a lawyer there when asking such a thing. At that very moment being slightly reckless felt right. She couldn't really explain it.
Now he crossed his arms. It was a strange gesture on a large man. "If in fact they are your sons as you claim is likely, I presume that a family court judge would give you and your husband custody of them. Especially with the family the toddler has lived with being dead."
Scully was thinking hard about this, hoping that if the boys were in fact hers getting them would be soon, and that Mulder would be home too, when Kyrie spoke up again, "Before Christmas?"
Lybecker looked anything but charmed by this question. "I suppose it's possible."
Given it was the eighteenth, or technically already the nineteenth if the clock was to be believed, Scully found this almost too much to hope for. The fact that the charges against Kyrie were being dropped was a minor miracle in and of itself, and it didn't seem like she'd get many more. Still, she couldn't hope but long to see them. Lybecker seemed defeated, though, and maybe she could take advantage of that, even if she couldn't reasonably expect for him to let her visit with the kids. There was a chance that they weren't hers, so even though some things were going her way, she couldn't push them too far. However…
"Do you have pictures of them?" she demanded to know, feeling for once that she was in a position of power in her dealings with the detective instead of a victim of whatever the department decided. "You must've taken pictures of them when trying to determine what happened."
The detective sighed heavily. "Wait here," he said abruptly before leaving the room and slamming the door behind him.
Kyrie gave her a slightly worried look. "He's really not happy about letting me go it, is he?"
"No, I'm sure he isn't." When the girl looked aghast, she clarified. "It's not personal, you know. I know from experience what it's like to think you have the culprit to discover that you don't and you have to start all over again. It can feel a lot like pushing a stone up a hill for eternity."
"Like that Greek myth," Kyrie surprised her by saying. "Sisyphus." It made her wonder about the girl's education.
"That's the one."
Conversation dried up then. They said nothing until Lybecker returned, and thrust some glossy photos at Scully. "Here."
"Thank you." Scully's voice trembled, and she didn't look up at the aggravated detective. Instead, her eyes scoured the photo she held, searching for signs of her and Mulder within the tiny faces. She thought that Nathaniel looked like Mulder. His hair was a little bit longer than one would want for a two-year-old boy, and it was the same color as Mulder's. She had always wondered what color hair William's had decided to be, but she had never seen him this old, with hair this long. Nathaniel looked scared, but his eyes were wide open, and the same sort of blue Scully had spent a lifetime looking at in the mirror.
The baby, and as she thought that she realized dimly that if he was hers she would someday have the responsibility of giving him a name, was even easier to figure. Since he was a newborn, it wasn't surprising that his eyes were tightly shut in every picture, but he had a shock of red hair. He looked a lot like Charlie did back when she and Missy would bicker about who got to hold him just after her parents brought him home from the hospital.
When she looked up at Lybecker she noticed that his expression was chagrined. No doubt he had noticed some similarities himself, and must have begun to connect the dots before they had spoken very long. "If the test turn out the way I think they will," she said, tapping the photos lightly to make her point. "My husband or I could take custody of them?"
"Well, he's probably got to be tested as well, but if the tests prove that they're yours and you wanted him to bring them home for you I could get someone to help you sign a sworn affidavit to that effect, if necessary." It was clear that Lybecker wasn't entirely sure how that worked, but he seemed confident that it did, somehow.
"Good. Let's do that before I take Kyrie home," Scully said briskly.
"I think you're being a little cocky here-" he started to say, but a look from her cut off his objection. "Okay. If it means that I don’t have to see you again, we can do it now and throw it away if it's not necessary."
Scully tried not to smirk at him, and thought she mostly succeeded. "We'll be back," she promised Kyrie.
The girl nodded, but didn't look entirely convinced that Scully wasn't just going to abandon her there. She supposed that shouldn't sting since the girl barely knew her and certainly not well enough to have a good sense of her character, but somehow it did a little.
Less than an hour later Scully had signed several pieces of paperwork, and Kyrie had been given back an overstuffed backpack that was the same purple hue as her hat. Scully glanced at her, noting the anxious way the teenager held the bag by both straps. It hadn't seemed to take very long to Scully, but she wasn't the one who was desperately hoping that they wouldn't say it had all been a mistake and that she wasn't free to go after all.
Glancing over at her, Scully tried to give her a reassuring smile. "Ready to go?"
Kyrie's voice shook. "Yes."
"Good," Scully told her, leading her to the door. She opened it, and wasn't surprised when Kyrie nervously hesitated on the threshold before stepping outside.
Scully took her keys out of her pocket. "I'll show you where my car is."
"Okay," Kyrie said in that same trembling tone.
Once they reached it, Scully used her key fob to unlock the doors, and again Kyrie hesitated with her hand hovering over the passenger door handle before Scully gave her a reassuring nod. Even with the door open Kyrie looked unsure about what to do with her backpack.
Scully looked at it. Somehow the sight of it made up her mind. "Do you have clothes in there? Stuff you could change into tomorrow?"
"Good. I think you should put in the back seat."
Kyrie did as instructed, and then tentatively sat in the passenger seat. Scully almost thought she was going to have to remind her to shut the door, but she seemed to think of it at the last moment and did it herself.
After Scully buckled her own seatbelt, she glanced at Kyrie and said "We're not going home."
The look that Mulder's daughter gave her was one part dismay, and one part fear. "We're not?" It was obvious that she was worried that she was going to be left on the side of the highway before long. She looked resigned, though, as if she was thinking that she should be thankful to have been sprung from jail at least.
"No, at least not to stay long," Scully said firmly. "We're going to Wyoming."
Kyrie look stunned. "You believe me?"
"I do. I don't know how much your mother ever told you about what your father and I, and occasionally she, investigated before she died. But I've seen a lot of things, and I don't think you're being alarmist. If you think that William is in danger, I believe you."
"What about the little ones?" Kyrie demanded to know, as they began to drive away.
"I'm going to get in touch with your father, and hopefully he'll get back here sooner than we do. It may be several days before they get the DNA test results anyway, and I am thinking that we would really be pushing our luck to expect to that they would give them to me without conclusive results in hand."
Kyrie leaned her head against the window. "You're saying there's nothing you can do for them now anyway."
Scully shrugged. "That's about the long and short of it."
"Triage," Kyrie said unexpected. She blushed a little when Scully turned her head to look at her. "Helping those you can the most immediately."
"More or less," Scully agreed. "But I don't think there's anything we need to rescue them from." Or so she desperately hoped. What were the odds of alien bounty hunters figuring out which foster home the children had been taken to? Probably next to nil.
There was silence for several seconds, and Scully thought about volunteering to let Kyrie pick the radio station when the girl finally spoke up again. "I hope we get to William on time."
"Me too." Scully glanced out the window, noting that there was a burger joint about a quarter of a mile ahead. She hadn't eaten since that morning. "First things first, we're going to stop at that hamburger place so that we can get something to eat – if you're not hungry yet, maybe you can pick something that doesn't need to keep warm. Then we'll swing by my house, and I'll pack some clothes myself. And we'll use my laptop to print out directions to William's house."
"I have the address," Kyrie volunteered. "I memorized it. I said I was going to go get him next, and they would have if-"
"I know," she said. And somehow she did know that. Even though she had only known Kyrie for a few hours she was absolutely certain that the girl would have tried to get to William next. "With the way the weather has been the last few days, and the amount of flights canceled, I think we're going to have to drive there."
It was already threatening to snow again, you could see it in the gloomy gray set of the clouds up above. "My car has good snow tires, so that should be a help." She looked at the girl again, pleased to see that she now seemed slightly less nervous. "I'm really hoping your dad can fly back today or tomorrow, but like I said, there have been a lot of flights canceled."
Kyrie considered this for moment. "Will he be upset that we aren't waiting for him?"
"Despite anything your mother might've told you, deep down at his core your father is a practical man. He may not like the fact that he's not going with us on this rescue mission, but he'll understand that someone needs to stay behind for the little ones." Scully felt brave as she said it, even though her heart cried out that it wasn't fair that she couldn't take those tiny kids with her right then and there.
But she was practical too. A road trip rescue mission was doable with a girl who was almost an adult, and even could drive for part of the way if necessary, but as badly as she wanted to see the babies, it would have been totally impractical to bring them along. She couldn't let her desire to hold them in her arms reduce the odds of them reaching William before something bad happened to him.
"She didn't," Kyrie said abruptly. When Scully gave her a questioning look, she sighed. "I never really understood how my mother could say that he was a good man, and not want him to know about me. But, that was pretty much how it was."
"That's good to hear," Scully told her, and it actually was. It had been her presumption that Fowley had probably not had anything flattering to say about Mulder considering that she didn't feel it was important to let them know that even had a child. Though, it did remind her uncomfortably of things she told William about his father. She didn't like to think that she and Diana had anything in common. Especially not something as intimate as what they told their children about their father.
"But…" Kyrie hesitated.
"But what?" Scully prompted.
Kyrie began to blush. "She… She, um, didn't like you very much."
The girl looked surprised when Scully snorted. "That was mutual. Your mother and I, we didn't have much use for each other."
"Oh." Kyrie suddenly looked relieved, as if she had been afraid that her mother's feelings would've been news to Scully. "There were a lot of people who didn't get along with her very well, at least as far as I remember."
"I think the same can be said of all of us," Scully said, trying very hard to be diplomatic. "Nobody rushes to hand out party invites to your average FBI agent."
"It's okay, you don't have to sugarcoat it like she wasn't unique. I know a lot of people thought she was a bitch."
"Did…" Scully started to ask before she could bite her tongue.
"Did I?" Kyrie asked. "No, not really. But I knew even as a little kid before she died that she wasn't like a lot of people's mothers. Mom wasn't the cookie baking type, if you get what I'm saying."
"I guess I can see that," Scully said, although she really was having difficulty imagining Fowley as a mother at all. Diana had diapered this girl's bottom and nursed her though early colds? She gave the girl a thoughtful look. Maybe there was a nanny. Maybe Kyrie got sick as infrequently as Mulder did.
As if reading her thoughts, the girl went on. "She wasn't all bad, though. I mean, she kept me safe as long as she could. You know, until she died."
Their conversation got put on hold temporarily as they pulled up to the drive through window, and somehow this came as a minor relief to Scully, who wasn't looking forward to asking the next thing she needed to know. The reprieve was brief, and before very long a man was handing Scully an over-stuffed bag of food in exchange for the bill she handed him.
To her slight surprise Kyrie had asked for a milkshake and she began to drink it as soon as Scully handed it over. The thought of drinking something that cold left her shivering, but Kyrie didn't seem to be bothered at all by holding the chilly cup.
Scully looked down at the lid of her own drink for a moment before regretfully putting it into the drink holder so she could pull away from the drive up window. "I think we need to talk about what happened to you after your mom died," she said quietly. "And if it's connected to why you took the little boys."
"Of course it is," Kyrie snapped. "How do you think I know about them, anyway?"
"So far I haven't known what to think."
The look Kyrie gave her was glowering. "I don't want to talk about that now, okay?"
"All right," Scully said reluctantly. "But we're going to have to talk about it eventually."
"I know." Kyrie sighed.
Scully shrugged internally and pulled off to the parking spaces. They didn't talk as they ate.
After Scully's failed attempt to get Kyrie to open up, the girl mostly stared sullenly out the window at the scenery as it passed by but when Scully slowed down to pull onto their road the girl finally began to perk up. Her eyes scanned the houses on that side of the street and it was easy to understand that she was wondering which of the homes would be their final destination.
"There used to be a fence here that we had to get out and open before driving up to the house," Scully commented as they drove past the posts that once supported the fence, wondering why she'd brought that up. After the final case they'd consulted on, she and Mulder had spent hours debating whether or not that sort of security measure was still needed. In the end they decided it wasn't because the FBI was no longer looking for them, and even if they ever were, they knew where they lived.
"Why'd you get rid of it?" Kyrie asked. Her eyes were peering down the driveway, apparently trying to make out the distant house.
"It was a pain to move," she explained, not really wanting to get into the whole issue of Mulder having once been on the run from the law just then. Though, she thought as she gave the girl's profile a thoughtful look, it wouldn't surprise her much if Kyrie already knew that.
"Good reason." Kyrie yawned. "I wouldn't want to move a big heavy gate every time I came home, either."
Trying not to let her surprise show, all at once the remark despite a lack of proprietary tone, reminded Scully again that this would now be Kyrie's home too. She might not have even realized it herself when she spoke, but at least until she turned eighteen, this was where everyone would expect her to live now that she'd been released into her stepmother's custody.
The sun was just coming up and the house looked different to Scully as she drove down the driveway which was longer than some roads she'd been on. Something about the edges seemed to glow in the harsh morning sunlight, and it served to be beautiful but somehow also made the house seem more shabby too. Maybe it was the way the white paint peeled along some shingles, she considered as she turned off the car. They could have invested several thousand more dollars into the property to make it seem more modern, but it was nothing she and Mulder had ever felt the need to do. Usually the house seemed cozy, but now that the girl was studying the structure Scully was feeling self-conscious about their choice to leave things "historic" as Mulder liked to put it with a wry smile whenever the topic came up between them.
Hers was the only car in the driveway and noticing this nearly made her sigh. It had probably been too much to hope that Mulder would have been able to surprise her by getting a late flight home after they spoke, but some part of her hadn't been able to shake the expectation that he'd of course be able to get home so they could go look for William together.
As soon as they got out of the house, Kyrie looked around, but Scully eventually realized that she wasn't looking at the house. Instead she seemed to be looking off towards the woods. The girl shivered a little and said, "No neighbors close by, huh?"
"No," Scully agreed. "Your dad likes it that way."
"Oh." Kyrie's instant wariness made her wonder again where the girl had been living, because it sure didn't seem likely that she'd been living in an open area like this that wasn't within shouting distance of the neighbors.
Scully was tempted again to explain why Mulder found comfort in their privacy on the property, but she decided against it. If the girl could keep secrets, so could she. On some level she realized that she was being petty, but she still couldn't help herself. "Come on, let's go in."
Kyrie's expression was unreadable. "Okay." After a beat she followed closely, not lingering to look at anything much as they made their way up the path.
As soon as the door opened, Scully stepped into the house, motioning for Kyrie to as well. She did, but now that they'd entered the building there was a decided hesitation to her movements, and Scully found herself feeling a little bad for her. Although she still didn't know the girl's previous circumstances, she had gotten the sense that they hadn't been ideal. However, even if this was an improvement, it would still be a big adjustment to suddenly find herself in another state, living in an isolated home with a father she'd never even met.
"Come on, let's go down this way," Scully invited.
Kyrie glanced down the hallway. "Lots of bedrooms," she observed, but it was nearly a question too.
One Scully chose to ignore. She couldn't really bring herself to admit that she was still fairly certain that Mulder had insisted on this house because he'd known that she'd never fully given up hope that they'd have a family to fill it. Looking at the girl from the corner of her eye, she guessed that she'd been right to hold onto it because at the bare minimum their house would now be home to three people, not just two. Maybe more, an internal voice whispered, but she shoved it down.
When the teenager's expression became more uncertain, Scully forced herself to smile. "I think I know the right room for you," she said and walked past the girl. After a couple of seconds Kyrie followed her.
That same internal voice asked Scully if there was a reason that she was showing the girl the bedroom that was the farthest from hers and Mulder's, but she told it to be quiet. The room they stopped in front of was the second largest in the whole house, which was fitting for a teenager. And besides, no seventeen-year-old would prefer to be right next to them if there was another choice. She tried not to think about other possible bedroom occupants needing to be closer to her and Mulder since that was still only a possibility, not a certainty like Kyrie's presence.
Scully pushed the bedroom door open, and nearly managed to convince herself that this was her entire reasoning, not because some part of her didn't want the girl sleeping in the next room. Even that had nothing to do with Kyrie, she reassured herself, it was just that she found it difficult to relax with people too near. This had her thinking of her high school boyfriend and the disastrous weekend she and Missy took their significant others to their grandparents' cabin for a weekend; she'd been so self-conscious that her sister might overhear that the poor guy had barely gotten a kiss.
Her thoughts returned to the present when she noticed Kyrie's dubious expression. "We'll have to furnish it, of course," Scully said, trying to imagine seeing the large empty room for the first time. It wasn't dusty or anything, but in its emptiness it probably seemed fairly stark. Unsurprisingly her thoughts circled back to wondering where Kyrie had been living most recently. This time she held her tongue, determined not to alienate her new charge. Still, it was beginning to feel like OCD's obsessional thoughts and it probably won't go away until Kyrie told her more.
Kyrie just nodded slowly.
For a moment Scully had the urge to suggest that they take the stack of catalogues from the living room with them, but it struck her a ridiculous so she restrained herself. Even though Kyrie would be a passenger, she seemed as keyed up as Scully did, so there was no way that she was in a state of mind to pick out a comforter and drapes that was to her liking.
Sighing, Scully stared at the empty room with the girl. The natural light filtering into the room was rather gloomy and she wished it wasn't December. As a kid she'd hated it every time the military moved her family, but the winter moves were the worst. Glancing at Mulder's daughter, she wondered if she was just projecting her old half-remembered disappointment on to her. It wasn't as though the kid didn't have other things to worry about.
"We'll worry about this later," Scully said, and led the way out of the room. "Let me get you set up on Mulder's computer so you can print the directions to William's house while I pack."
"Okay," Kyrie said listlessly. She seemed half awake, and Scully wondered how long it had been since the girl had been given a chance to rest.
"You seem tired."
To her surprise, this elicited a look of alarm from her. "I'm okay" Kyrie mumbled quickly.
All at once she realized that Kyrie was worried that she was going to be left behind if she showed any vulnerability. That was probably an understandable concern – Scully was capable of driving on her own and wouldn't really need a companion if she knew where she was going. Of course Kyrie worried that she'd take the directions and leave her behind. "Maybe you'll fall asleep on the drive," Scully suggested.
The tense set of the teenager's shoulders relaxed a little, and Scully suspected that her hunch was correct. Kyrie's biggest worry at that moment was that she'd immediately be abandoned while Scully raced off to play rescue ranger on her own. Looking up with a faint smile, Kyrie just said "maybe."
"Here's his office," Scully told her after they walked down the hallway. Fortunately, Mulder had been on one of his rare cleaning jags before he left for Canada, and she wouldn't have been surprised if he'd just been worried she'd take his absence as an opportunity to discard his clippings if he left them everywhere like usual. Regardless, the office didn't look like the site of a small localized disaster like it usually did, which came as some relief even if Scully did think she was projecting critical-ness onto Kyrie.
"It'll take a couple of minutes to boot up," she apologized reflexively, "But it'll connect to the internet automatically, and you can use IE or Firefox, whichever you're more comfortable with – the icons for both are right on his desktop."
After Kyrie nodded to indicate her understanding, she started to leave, but Kyrie asked "that's it?" and had her eyebrows raised when Scully looked back at her.
"Oh, right," Scully reached up and turned on the printer. "Sorry about that. I forgot it doesn't power on automatically."
"No, I mean…" Kyrie paused. "Aren't you going to lecture me about not snooping on his computer or something?"
Startled, Scully blinked. "Do I need to tell you something like that? I had the sense that I didn't."
"Of course not," she replied sourly. "Most adults say things like that regardless of whether or not the kid tells them too."
"I like to think I'm not most adults." As she spoke she thought about how she'd like to think she'd already proven that too, given that most adults she knew would have been far less welcoming to the child of her husband and an old lover of his.
"You're not," Kyrie admitted. "So far as I can tell."
"That almost sounds like a compliment," Scully replied, tone as light as she could manage. "I'll leave you to this. I need to pack and call your father."
That same wariness returned to her eyes. "Oh."
"Do you want to speak to him too?" she asked, realizing that making the offer was probably the polite thing to do. Not that she thought Kyrie was eager to take her up on it.
"Um..." Kyrie looked down. "I'll talk to him if he brings it up, okay?"
By the time Scully left the room, Kyrie had already turned her attention to the computer screen and was typing with a speed that Mulder would admire.
Indecision followed Scully into the master bedroom. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment, torn between packing what she thought she'd need for the road trip to rescue William, and calling Mulder. Neither thing seemed particularly appealing - how could she know what might be needed to rescue her long lost son from potential doom? how could she tell Mulder about all the thoughts knocking around in her skull? - but in the end she decided that packing would be the easier of the two tasks and did that as quickly and efficiently as she possibly could.
It was also in the back of her mind that she could probably find something for Kyrie to sleep in too, but as she looked at the packaged pajamas she'd gotten the Christmas before from her mother (who had good intentions but paid no attention to her taste) she realized that the girl would probably like the packaged satin outfits even less than she did.
"We'll have to stop along the way," she muttered to herself as she zipped her own suitcase closed. Of course they would, that should have occurred to her earlier because there was no way that Kyrie's backpack could possibly hold enough clothes for what would probably be a three day drive each way. If they were really really lucky, they'd see Mulder on Christmas day.
Eventually she'd put everything she could possibly need, right down to deodorant and a spare magazine for her gun, into her bag, and realized there was nothing else she could do to continue to stall.
Mulder picked up on the very first ring, and she heard a note of caution in his voice. "Hey Scully. Where are you?"
"I'm at home, Mulder," she said and it was easy to realize that there was more to his question, so she went on without making him ask. "They dropped all the charges against Kyrie, and she's here at the house with me."
"Wow, that's great," he enthused.
"Mulder, there's more. A lot more," she confessed. It seemed like a good time to sit, so she sat on the end of the bed.
"Like what?" Now he sounded concerned, which made her feel bad because nothing she said was going to make him feel less worried.
"Um…" She rolled her eyes at her lack of eloquence. She'd rehearsed this conversation in her head on the drive home, so why wasn't it coming out more easily? "Kyrie took the little ones because she was concerned for their safety. They dropped the murder charges because the coroner determined that the toddler's 'parents' had been dead for three months."
"How old is he again?" Mulder asked, sounding puzzled.
"Two and a half."
"There's no way a two-and-a-half-year-old could have taken care of himself for three months."
"I know," Scully replied, her voice dropping low without her notice. "I asked the cop…they found puddles in the house. The responding officers thought that it was anti-freeze." She swallowed hard when he said nothing. "And before I got there, before they read her her rights, Kyrie claimed she killed Nathaniel's parents by puncturing the backs of their necks."
Mulder swore softly, and Scully was fairly certain that he dropped the phone from the sound of it. After a few seconds he recovered it. "So we're talking about the alien bounty hunter, or at least his race."
"It certainly sounds like it to me."
"What motivation would they have for impersonating the little guy's parents?"
"I don't know. We may learn more."
"How?" he asked suspiciously.
"Oh, Mulder." She sighed before pulling herself back together. "That's not the half of it, and I don't know how to begin to explain this all to you."
"Kyrie was concerned about Nathaniel and the newborn because it's quite possible that biologically they're also yours. And mine," she added. When he didn't say anything immediately, she went on in a rush. "I'm waiting on DNA test results, and if they are ours, you should be able to take custody of them. Kyrie and I probably won't be back by then because we're going to William, who might also be in danger."
"Jesus, Scully. When you said that there was more, you weren't kidding!" He said nothing for a few seconds, obviously trying to collect his thoughts. "How does Kyrie know where William is?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "I'm having trouble getting her to open up to me about things like that. So far she hasn't said much of anything about what's happened to her since Diana died."
"That's a pretty huge gap."
"I know. Honestly, at first I thought she was being stubborn, but now I think she might be afraid to talk about it." It was only as she said it that she realized it was true. "But even though I don't know how she knows, I believe she really does."
"And the two of you are planning to drive there? To William's home?"
"Yes," she said, and steeled herself for him to object.
Instead of protesting, he said, "When?"
"As soon as I get off the phone with you."
"Right." He paused. "I think I'll be able to fly home late tomorrow afternoon."
"That's great," she enthused, but she really wished that he was there then.
"I'm glad that I'm finally coming home. But you can't wait for me." It wasn't a question she realized after a beat, it was a statement of fact. It made her want to apologize. "How long did they say it would take for the DNA test results to come back?"
"They didn't, but three days is typical. While we were at the station I filled out paperwork saying that you could take them if I can't."
"You sound like you think they really are ours," he commented. His neutral tone made it impossible for her to figure out if he thought that was a good or a bad thing.
"I've seen pictures of them. They look as much like us as Kyrie does you."
This obviously threw him. "She looks like me?"
"She does, Mulder. Not your Xerox, but there's definitely a familial resemblance."
"Hope she doesn't have my nose," he predictably groused.
"No, she looks more like Diana there." Should she ask Kyrie if she could take a picture to send him, she wondered. Why hadn’t she used her cell phone to take a photo of the photos she'd been shown of the boys? That probably would have led to a fight with the police station, she decided and felt a little better about not having done it. Moreover, she probably would have looked at the pictures obsessively if she could.
Mulder, at least, managed to pull his thoughts away from what he'd rather obsess on: Kyrie. "Is it okay to say that I hope that these kids are ours?" he asked. "And that we somehow get William back too – I mean, that's why you're going to him, isn't it? Not just to make sure he's safe, but to take him back if his parents have also been replaced?"
"Yes," she admitted. Her brain was buzzing by that point, though. Mulder hoped that the little boys were theirs too? "If his 'parents' aren't the people I had him placed with, I'll fight tooth and nail to get him back."
"I know," he answered. Of course he did.
"Mulder, you really would be happy if we suddenly had four kids to look after?" She felt shy asking, but she really wanted to know. "For your own sake, not just mine."
"Scully, I love you, but I'm not a saint. I've always wished that we could somehow see William again but wouldn't welcome the other boys into my life if I was only doing it for you. That would bring resentment, after all."
Resentment. That had been an entity that had slept between her and Mulder frequently during the first few weeks after they'd fled the FBI. He'd said that he understood why she'd had to give William up, and intellectually he probably had, but she could still feel it rolling off of him in waves. It had been easy for her to understand because she had regrets to match. Eventually he seemed to get past it, quicker than she had her guilt, and probably only because he still worried about what would happen in another three years. God forgive her, she had probably had made it seem like she was more in agreement with him that there was a coming danger than she really felt because it had been a way for him to feel less upset about her actions.
Trying to smile, Scully finally replied. "I'm glad to hear that, Mulder."
"Yeah?" he asked. "You sound a little surprised, Scully."
"Well, I am." She squirmed uncomfortably, and forced herself to sit stiller when she noticed that she was wrinkling the comforter on the bed. "Ever since you told me about what you found at Mount Weather, I've wondered how you'd react if…" Her voice trailed off as she thought about how she should best finish that sentence: if they somehow had gotten the adoption dissolved? If they'd gotten a call telling them that Emily's death was a lie and she was still alive? If there had been a plus on a pregnancy test? In the end she just let it all linger unsaid. Mulder was good at filling blanks on his own.
Moments before Mulder's voice had been playful, but now it was sober. "I was afraid of what might happen then. And to be honest, part of me still is. But I wouldn't trade that fear for the chance to raise a family with you, Scully. If I was willing to do that, I might as well roll over and die, because letting them dictate what we did with our lives to that degree would be worse than dying."
"Oh, Mulder," she sighed.
"Do you disagree?" he pressed.
"No. Not at all."
"Well, that's good then." After a moment he began to speak again. "Don't forget to take the phone charger kit with you, huh? We'll want to keep in touch."
"Already packed," she reassured him. Glancing at the doorway to make sure that she wouldn't be overheard, Scully mulled over Kyrie's presence in the house. So far Mulder hadn't asked to speak to her, but she could understand why he might hesitate – it was probably for the same reasons that his daughter was worried about expressing wanting to talk to him. "Hey Mulder, before we hang up, should I give Kyrie the phone?"
His hesitation had an uncomfortable edge to it, and she could practically feel him struggling to reply. "Um. That's a good idea, thank you."
Scully carried the phone to the office, and found Kyrie standing in front of the printer with a stack of black and white map printouts in her hand. At first the girl tentatively smiled to see her, but then her gaze landed on the phone and her expression became nervous instead.
Scully held the phone out to her, and Kyrie took it. Swallowing loud enough for Scully to hear, she said "Hello?" and Scully realized it was one of the bravest things she'd see someone do in quite a while.
She really wished that she could hear Mulder's side of the conversation too, because Kyrie's wasn't much to go on. "Yeah… Mom told me about you, before… I'm sorry she didn't… Yes… She was awesome, and I really appreciate it… Yeah, the cops didn't know what hit them… Yes… Yes… We've been e-mailing each other… Yes… Because I think that he's in danger… No, not this second, but soon… Yeah, I printed them out… Right, we'll see you then, I guess." Scully couldn't help but notice that Kyrie had begun to absently play with her hair then, as if she needed something to do to help her nerves. "I hope so to… Well, it's not exactly what expected, but I'm glad… Have a safe flight… as much as I can… Okay, I'll give her the phone."
"Thanks," Scully murmured as she took the phone back. For some reason Kyrie blushed as she nodded.
Although she desperately wanted to ask one or both of them how they felt the conversation had gone, but she couldn't. For one, Kyrie was standing just a few feet away, and it would be rude to ask about something so intimately related to her without including her in the conversation. And for another thing, the closed off look on her face all but screamed that she was still processing how she thought the conversation had gone, so no doubt Mulder felt similarly.
"Scully?" Mulder's somewhat distance voice asked, reminding her that the call hadn’t yet disconnected. Her fingers were somewhat clumsy as she raised the phone back to her mouth. "You still there?"
"I'm here, Mulder."
"I… God, I don't know what to say here, Scully. Saying 'good luck' feels inadequate. But I do believe that you really do need to go to William. And right now. I was hoping that I could talk you into waiting for me, but I understand now that I can't do that. He needs you."
Scully glanced over at her new stepdaughter, and then realized that she didn't really care if the girl overheard – it was something she had to tell him, because only he would understand how she felt. "I'm going to do everything I can to reach him in time," her voice broke then. "But Mulder, he doesn't know me. How am I going to convince him that I'm doing the right thing for him if he doesn't know me? Or that I'm capable of doing the right thing for him, considering…" Tears pricked in her eyes when she realized that this had been bothering her from the moment she decided that she would take up Kyrie's quest to save her last unaccounted for little brother.
Or at least the last one that we know anything about, a tiny internal voice relentlessly reminded her. Those other three, though...You don't know if they're boys, girls, alive, dead like Emily. You never bothered to look for them, so it wouldn't be surprising, would it? Maybe that's why she couldn't learn anything about them, because every one of them is d-
"You did the right thing for William then," Mulder said quietly, interrupting her thoughts. "When I couldn't help you protect him."
"Did I?" Her voice sounded harsh to her own ears, but she still felt guilt whenever she thought too long about the adoption, so it was of little wonder that she now sounded so critical of herself. Not that William was the only child she was currently feeling guilty about for that matter.
There was a time when that one word wouldn't have come to him so readily, she thought. "Mulder…"
"I know you beat yourself up because it was only a few weeks before you and I returned to each other, but you of all people should know how much trouble we'd repeatedly managed to pile up in just a few weeks' time," he reminded her, and she began to feel a little better.
"Well, that's for sure," she muttered, thinking instantly of several occasions when they'd defied death three times in a month. He hadn't come back for two.
"For all you know, the next bad thing could have happened during those few short weeks, and that time he would have ended up dead if he was with you," Mulder went on, not letting her have the time to dwell too long on things. "Or, what if they'd used him as leverage against me during the trial?"
The thought that they might wasn't a brand new one for her. There had been days when she imagined that the people who had wanted Mulder out of commission might have done just that… and then if anything had happened to William because of that, it would be her own resentment that they'd be dealing with instead of his, which he claimed to no longer feel. Maybe he really didn't, she mused, he was less adept at holding a grudge than any member of the Scully clan was, including her.
"I guess they might have," she reluctantly said when she sensed that he was still waiting for her to say something. "It's not outside the realm of possibility."
"Of course it isn't," he replied patiently. "And unfortunately, neither is any of this."
"I wish you were coming with me," Scully said, irritated with herself when she realized that her eyes were beginning to fill with tears. She glanced over at Kyrie, but the girl was looking away uncomfortably.
"I wish I was too," Mulder admitted. "Thank you."
"For what?" Surprise dried up her eyes a little.
"Everything. Getting Kyrie, being willing to do this without me even though it's hard- but I have every confidence that you'll make it all work out."
"That's a pretty big compliment, Mulder."
"Not big enough. I love you. Call me when you can."
"I will. Love you."
"Love you too."
Despite the fact that she was less teary, letting herself be overheard being so emotional at all left Scully feeling embarrassed, so she automatically tried to cover it up by adopting a business-like tone when she spoke to Kyrie. "What do you think of these?" she asked, holding up a pair of champagne and burgundy colored pajamas for Kyrie's inspection. She'd almost forgotten that she'd taken them with her.
It was clear from the conflicted look on her face that the teenager was trying to formulate a positive response about them despite an apparent distaste.
Scully let them drop to the seat of Mulder's chair. "I don't like them, either. There's a Target near where I work. We'll stop there on the way."
"Um, we don't have to," Kyrie protested reluctantly. "They're okay. I mean, why spend money we don't have to?"
Before she opened her mouth, Scully's brain finally honed in on the fact that Kyrie had said we rather than you. Lybecker was right when he observed that she didn't seem homeless but that hardly meant she had money to burn. If she thought Scully was going to expect her to foot the bill, no wonder she seemed nervous.
"'We' don't," she said lightly. "We'll use your dad's credit card." It was actually in both Mulder and her name, but Scully doubted Kyrie knew enough about credit to realize that the bill wouldn't just come to him.
"Your father will be overjoyed to be able to do something for you," Scully told her and Kyrie looked both guilty and doubtful still. "Believe me, it's a lot cheaper to support a child through college than their whole life."
Something about this seemed to bother Kyrie, and she only mumbled "I guess."
"Come on," Scully invited, leading the way out of the office.
Kyrie did follow her, but then she hesitated. When Scully gave her an expectant look she asked "Before we go, can I see the bedroom across from mine?"
For half a second Scully was tempted to tell her that she wouldn't like it as much as the room she thought that they had settled on, but curiosity prompted her to hold her tongue. Instead they walked back to that end of the house, and she opened the door. This room was smaller but somehow sunnier, and Scully didn't fail to notice dust notes hanging in the air and reflecting tiny dots of light. Kyrie stared in for almost a minute and a half before turning and saying, "I think he'll like it."
"William?" Scully wondered aloud. Surely she didn't think Nathaniel or the baby would have much of an opinion about the dimensions of a bedroom... if they were even going to live in that house, of course.
"Yeah. He'll like it here once we bring him back with us."
There were a lot of things Scully might have said in response to this idea, but she was afraid that if she opened her mouth a flood of her guilt, fears, and tempered joy might flood out and drown them both in the deluge of emotion. So instead she shut the door.
The beginning of the drive didn't much feel like the momentous journey it no doubt was - instead Scully just felt like she was on the way to work. No doubt that was because so far the drive had been the same as her twice-daily commute.
She slowed slightly as they passed by Our Lady of Sorrows and pointed out the window. "That's where I work."
Kyrie stared at it before asking, "I heard the detective call you doctor. What kind of doctor are you?"
Scully always found that revealing her specialty was met with blank looks, so she just said "I often work with people who are otherwise deemed hopeless."
"Oh, so you're a miracle worker?" Kyrie asked, and when she glanced at her, she was smiling a little. Most people would have used that phrase sarcastically, so it was a bit refreshing that Kyrie hadn't. Or if she had, she had an even better poker face than Mulder did.
Scully shrugged. "I try."
"My mom said that you cut up dead people," the girl offered. She said it in a tone that suggested that it was interesting rather than horrific to her.
This made her wince. "I performed a lot of autopsies when I worked for the FBI, yes."
"But now you're a doctor for living people. That must be quite the change."
"Only most of the time?" Kyrie asked innocently.
"Yeah. I don't love the hospital."
"Maybe you should go into private practice."
"Hmm. Maybe I should."
There was no real reason she couldn't consider a career change. She and Mulder weren't rich, but they weren't poor, either. They could easily get by if she took a few months to join a practice or even start one on her own. She might not have thought a lot of Teena or Bill Mulder, but they'd made sure that their son wouldn't hurt for money once they were gone, so in a way she had to be thankful to them for that. This was something that first occurred to her while she and Mulder were on the lam.
"What about you?" Scully asked, once she yanked her thoughts back to the presence. "Would you like to go to college?"
"Do you think I'm a child prodigy or something?" Kyrie asked with an unexpected defensiveness. "You know I'm not in school, but you seem to think I've already graduated or something."
"You didn't?" Scully asked carefully. Kyrie was exactly right - she did figure that she'd graduated from high school, early and already. This had less to do with her impression of Kyrie than it did the fact that she'd only ever met a handful of people who didn't have a high school diploma. There had been a couple of boys in her year in high school, and everyone else she'd met after that had been involved in X-Files cases.
"No, I dropped out."
"When?" Scully asked. Shaking her head lightly, she clarified. "What year were you when you dropped out, a junior or senior?"
"I stopped going to school after finishing my junior year," Kyrie said sullenly.
"Because school was too hard, or for other reasons?"
"For other reasons."
"I figured," Scully acknowledged.
Kyrie narrowed her eyes. "Why?"
"You're obviously an intelligent person. Unless you had some sort of learning disorder, like severe dyslexia, I can't imagine that the typical high school curriculum would give you too much trouble."
"Thanks, I think."
"You could go back," Scully impulsively suggested. "You're only seventeen, so it shouldn't be too difficult to enroll you at the local school."
"Even though I dropped out?" Kyrie sounded dubious.
"Yup. The school will have the final word, but being under eighteen will help." Scully thought for a moment. "When do you turn eighteen, anyway?"
"Not until July."
"4th." Kyrie gave her a crooked grin. "When I was really little no one made a big deal out of that. Not being a holiday in Europe and all."
"I guess they wouldn't. But you not turning eighteen until July is good." When Kyrie looked at her she shrugged. "It'll just make things easier. You'll want to go back in January, not wait until September, Right?" she prompted.
"Sure, why not." The girl sighed, but Scully thought that she also looked mildly pleased. That hadn't been a given - the new school year was less than three weeks away, after all.
"Okay then. I'll put off pressuring you about college until after we've enrolled you in high school for your senior year." She'd meant it as a joke, but Kyrie clearly didn't find it funny.
Some day she and Mulder would have to sit down with her and find out exactly why she'd dropped out, but it could wait for the moment. Sneaking a glance at the girl, it wasn't hard to decide that the reasons that drove her to break from her education were probably nothing that involved a boy or a bully.
Shopping with Kyrie in Target went a lot quicker than most trips to the store with Mulder did. For one, Kyrie was obviously uncomfortable with Scully spending money on her despite their conversation so she didn't have anything she particularly wanted to look at and slow them down. For another, Kyrie didn't feel compelled to stop and make fun of every useless thing they came across in the store. It made her wistfully long for Mulder to be there too, even though she knew that there would be plenty of shopping trips in the future where he was.
In fact, the only thing that slowed them down at all was Scully herself getting distracted by a notice on a message board by the exit doors.
"What's up?" Kyrie wanted to know when Scully came to a sudden stop. The girl's eyes scanned the pages of Target's flyer that were also tacked up on the board. It was obvious that she thought that was what Scully was looking at.
Instead Scully's eyes had caught sight of a single page flyer printed on red paper. It showed a picture of a man dressed as Santa Claus and informed parents that Santa would be handing out treats during that month's WIC clinic.
"I know him," Scully told her. "Sort of. He's the brother of one of the nuns who works at the hospital," she explained. The photo was definitely that of Carl Tate and she supposed it shouldn't be too surprising that he pulled off the Santa gig in more than one location. "He was at the hospital yesterday to give the kids gifts, though I met him earlier, while he was storing their gifts. I don't know why I'm surprised that he's playing Santa for other kids too."
"That's nice of him. Is he a priest?" Kyrie asked.
Scully gave her a blank look. "No he has a hardware store. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know," Kyrie mumbled, cheeks a deep pink. "I just thought because his sister's a nun..."
"Oh," Scully suddenly got what she was saying. "I actually don't think it's all that common for more than one child in a family to decide to dedicate themselves to the church. Way back when only the oldest child was expected to inherit a title or the family's money, sending a younger son to seminary was a pretty popular choice, but these days families are smaller and most people want grandchildren, so their families are less likely to want one or more children in the church."
They left the flyer behind and as they walked back to Scully's car, Kyrie curiously asked, "Do you?"
"Do I...what?" Have a brother that's a priest was Scully's first guess, but it turned out to be wrong.
"Want grandchildren," Kyrie supplied as she opened the passenger door.
Scully slid behind the wheel before she formulated an answer. "Oh. Honestly, I haven't given it all that much thought." Which was true, given that all of her nurturing imaginings focused on having a child to raise rather than a grandchild in the future.
"Yeah, I guess I can see that. But I also wonder what my dad thinks about that."
Scully gave her a sharp look, fearing that Kyrie would suddenly look away before haltingly confessing that Mulder was going to be a grandfather much sooner than later, but the expression on the girl's face was bland. There was no way that her question had been more than one meant to get to know Scully better, she was now sure. She let her own look soften, and explained, "I'm pretty sure he'll be really happy to be a grandfather one day if you decide to have kids."
"Good," Kyrie said easily, reinforcing Scully's belief that she only want to get a better sense of her father and stepmother. "My kids are never going to meet my mom, so I hope that he'd want to be involved with them, you know?"
"I do," Scully said with such conviction that the teenager stared at her. "My dad... he died several years ago. Long before Emily or William or my nephew Mattie could ever have met him." For a moment she wondered what her dad would have made of Kyrie before deciding his go-to move probably would have been polite disapproval. Her not being married at the time of William's birth would have met with less polite disapproval, she was sure.
Neither said anything for a moment as Scully began to drive away from the store, but then Kyrie said, "Do you miss her?"
For a moment Scully thought she just misheard her but then she slowly asked, "Do I miss Emily?"
Kyrie nodded. "Mom said that she died not too long before she met you."
"Yes, she did," Scully acknowledged. Her throat felt tight as she thought not just of Emily but the fact that she'd never probed deeply enough to learn that Emily had not only had siblings, but that at least some of them had lived. "I, um, met your mother about five months later."
Scully braced herself, waiting for Mulder's daughter to ask her why she never looked for the other children, and she began to defensively pile up the reasons. She'd been afraid that they'd die and that she couldn't go through all of that again. She worried that she'd find them, healthy, but have her own cancer come back so she'd leave them alone again. She wanted a baby that she knew wasn't a hybrid, and had focused on that failed path instead. None of these reasons seemed very strong on their own.
"That sucks," Kyrie offered. "You must be glad that Nathaniel and the baby don't have the same thing wrong with them. Not that there's something else wrong with them, they're healthy I mean."
"What?" Scully asked a bit more forcefully than she meant to. She'd never even asked if the little boys had Emily's disorder. She'd just assumed that they didn't.
Kyrie squirmed in her seat, apparently trying to sit up straighter. "I'm glad that they're not sick like she had been, too. I never could have gotten the baby away or looked for Nathaniel if they had to get shots like your daughter did. It just would have been too much to handle on my own."
The semi-guilty tone to Kyrie's voice bothered her. "You went above and beyond for them both, and you still are for William. I don't think anyone on earth could reasonably have expected you to do as well as you have if they were medically fragile as Emily was."
"I'm sorry," Kyrie said softly. Scully was about to ask her why, but she went on. "It must have been awful to realize that not only she existed without your permission or knowledge, but that she was dying too and there was nothing you could do about it."
For a moment Scully found herself lost in thought, dwelling on how things had worked out differently on that front for her and Mulder – Mulder's child hadn't immediately died (or so she feverishly hoped she wouldn't, though there was no way of pre-gauging the danger they might find at William's house) but his daughter was all but grown. Which wasn't to say, she reminded herself, that there wasn't value in knowing her now, but he wouldn't be responsible for the type of person she'd become, good or bad.
"What they did to that child was evil," Scully said eventually. "Knowingly creating her to have such a short, painful life... I wouldn't have wished that sort of existence on any child, let alone my own. But I guess you know as well as I do what they're capable of."
Kyrie nodded, but to her disappointment neither offered any collaborating evidence or even leapt to their defense. "I guess you're glad that they never got their hands on Will. Well, at least until now."
"You really think that his parents have been... replaced, like Nathaniel's were?" Scully asked impulsively. She didn't really expect Kyrie to be forthcoming, but she did have to try.
"Did you always call him William?"
"You never say Will, or Willie, or Bill, or Billy," Kyrie commented. I just wondered if you called him William as a baby too."
"Yes." This had Scully's mind wandering down the path of a memory now years old.
"I don't mind that you want to name him after your father. And mine," Mulder added, looking momentarily confused. "But please, in the name of all that is holy, don't nickname him Willie."
"I hadn't intended to," Scully assured him, amused. "But what's your big objection to that?"
"Oxford," he said firmly, but then explained. "Guys I knew there, they were constantly talking about their willies. I don't want to look at my son and find myself thinking about that body part."
"That's a pretty good reason," Scully said, managing a straight face for a moment. But only a moment.
Glancing over at Kyrie, she said, "There have always been a lot of Bills in my family. And your grandfather was a Bill too-" She wondered if she should mention the fact that Bill Mulder had technically been her step-grandfather considering Mulder's biological parentage, but heading onto the highway didn't seem to be the right time for it. "None of them went by William, so I hoped that he would."
"What?" Scully asked, not daring to take her eyes away from the traffic she was attempting to merge into.
"He doesn't go by Bill, or Billy, or Willie. He calls himself Will."
Kyrie shifted in her seat. "Is it weird? Not knowing something like that about him?"
Scully frowned, wondering if Kyrie was being mean or simply curious. She hoped that it was the latter. "It is, yes."
The girl turned her face to look out the window. "It's weird not knowing much of anything about my dad, too."
All at once Scully got it. Kyrie's questions were motivated by hoping to find common ground, which in their case was unfortunately not knowing much about a relative. "Anything you want to know about your dad, ask. I'll do my best to answer."
Kyrie nodded timidly, and Scully thought she sensed her gathering up her courage, so she expected her first question to be profound. But what Kyrie asked was "what's his favorite food?"
"Oh," she said, not able to completely mask her disappointment. "His favorite food is sunflower seeds."
"I take it from your tone that you're not a fan."
"No. My favorite food is chicken fingers. The kind you get at a Chinese food place, not at a pizzeria."
Good to know, Scully thought, deciding that they could probably stop for Chinese at least once on their journey. "I've never been a real fan of them either, but more because of the shells than the taste."
"Because of the shells?"
"Your father is not a neatnik," Scully explained. "Did you know that he never used his bedroom for the first few years I knew him?" she asked, although she knew that Kyrie didn't. "He had a bedroom, but there was too much stuff in it for a bed."
"Wow. That's pretty messy."
"Um... did he get a bed because you started dating?" Kyrie asked, her voice dropping to almost an inaudible level. It didn't surprise Scully much to see that she was blushing.
"No, though that's a good guess. For reasons he's never explained, he eventually decided to get a waterbed, before he and I started a non-work relationship."
"I always imagined that you were friends," Kyrie said, a hint of disapproval in her voice.
"Well, yes. I suppose I should have said non-platonic, because you're right. We were friends for a long long time before we dated."
"Oh. That's good."
"It is?" Scully blurted out.
"Yeah. Look, I wasn't one of those kids who wished my mom and dad would get back together. I didn't even know my dad, so how could I? But I'm happy that you were friends if you were the reason that they didn't pick up where things left off."
Scully want to deny that she was the reason that Mulder hadn't taken Diana back, but wasn't she? What other reason would there have been? Mulder hadn't been bitterly broken-hearted, after all. He hadn't been licking his wounds when Scully met him, and that had only been a few months after Diana left him.
"We were friends from almost the start," Scully found herself saying.
Kyrie looked at her when Scully laughed. "He accused me of spying on him the first day we met. Things got better quickly after that."
"That's good," Kyrie remarked. "It'd of been hard to solve cases if you hated each other."
"That's for damn sure." When Kyrie stared at her, she grinned. "Did your mother ever tell you about a man named Alex Krycek?"
"No. I've heard a little about him a little, though."
Scully decided not to think too hard about where she might have picked up any knowledge of the double agent. "Well, your father had to work with him on more than one occasion, and they hated each other. Things didn't go smoothly, that's for sure."
"I hope I never hate any of my coworkers..." At least Scully thought the last word was coworkers, but Kyrie yawned through it.
Just how long had it been since she'd last been able to sleep? Scully wondered again. "You sound tired."
"Maybe you should try to get some sleep," Scully suggested.
"But," Kyrie said hesitantly. "Doesn't it suck to drive with everyone else asleep?"
Scully thought about times when she'd fallen asleep on Mulder, or more rarely vice versa on occasions when he'd actually allowed her to drive. "No, it's okay. Do you mind if I put on an audiobook though?"
"Oh, sure. I can sleep through practically anything."
"Great, it's in the glove compartment. Could you put the first cd in the cd player, please?"
Scully could have done it herself at a stop light, but she thought Kyrie would like to feel a bit helpful given she really did seem like she thought it was a sin to sleep while someone else drove. Kyrie put the cd in and then unwrapped the travel pillow Scully had insisted on buying her.
By the time Kyrie drifted off, the narrator was reading Scully the first chapter of a Mary Higgins Clark Christmas mystery. Scully enjoyed listening to something that was both seasonal and of a completely different nature than the mystery she'd found dropped in her own lap less than a day before. Had it really only been a day, she found herself wondering. So much had happened it hardly seemed possible.
For reasons she couldn't quite grasp, the fact that they were driving endlessly west began to remind Scully of all the trivial depictions of historical westward journeys she'd ever encountered. It was snowing lightly, so she supposed that she should be happy that there was a steel car frame around them and snow tires under them rather than a canvas roof and wooden wheels like the half-remembered story of covered wagon travel she'd read in the pages of Little House on the Prairie and a few lesser known works she'd read in elementary school. And that she and Kyrie were really unlikely to die of dysentery like the people in that video game kids she'd baby-sat during summers off from college had been obsessed with. Even with an audio book on, it was clear that she had too much time to think while Kyrie napped.
Kyrie woke up after a couple of hours, but she didn't say much. And she didn't offer to drive. It made Scully wonder if she could, but she didn't ask: she truly hadn't decided to bring the girl with her because she thought she could spell her driving, though it would have been nice if she could. A sleepy inexperienced driver was more of a liability than an asset, so she really had no desire to make her feel obliged.
Still, after Scully found herself yawning more than one or twice a few more hours later, she decided that they'd driven as far as they could for the day – as eager as she was to reach William, her driving while tired would benefit no one if it led to them getting into an accident. It was dark out already, but that wasn't all that surprising given how short December days were. Mulder's voice spoke up in the back of her mind, reminding her that it was only days until Solstice. She couldn't remember when they'd discussed it. It didn't mean nearly as much to her as Christmas did, but she found that it was something she'd remained vaguely conscious of ever since he'd brought the topic up.
Thinking of Christmas made her miss Mulder even more, and she couldn't completely banish the idea that they'd been spending this one apart. The holiday was coming so soon, and she wished that she could slow time down a little so she could get some breathing room. Reminders that it was coming were everywhere.
Even more than the Christmas lights festooning almost all horizontal surfaces, seeing sign after sign displaying "No Vacancies" really brought home the idea that it would soon be Christmas. Scully herself was convinced that she'd go mad if she was required to spend more than a handful of days socializing with her brother rather than doing something productive, she should have remembered that a lot of people were apparently more masochistic than she was.
She must have seemed tense, because when she looked over at Kyrie at a stoplight, she looked worried. "We'll find some place to spend the night, right?" she asked, clearly nervous.
"Of course," Scully replied, doing her best to sound optimistic. "We might have to drive a few more miles out of the city, though," she added, trying to be realistic. She really hoped that Kyrie wouldn't ask her what city it was because she'd lost track. "It's harder to find lodging in a populous area than a more out of the way one."
"You're sure?" The teenager sounded doubtful. And younger, too, Scully thought. It was interesting that she'd been through what she had over the past few days but doubts about their ability to secure lodgings made her seem like any other teenager in the same situation.
This in mind, Scully tried her best to convey her optimism that they'd find a place to spend the night. That they might need to drive quite a ways more before they did didn't need to be said, she decided. "Sure. Your dad and I had plenty of cases where we ended up at some hole-in-the-wall instead of a Marriot. It always worked out, though." For no good reason she found herself thinking of the Ronnie Strickland case and the lack of charm that the Sam Houston motor lodge had held then. Perhaps if they'd been able to admit their feelings for each other at the time, they could have made more interesting use of the magic fingers setting on the bed, she mused. And then again, it had almost always been true that they'd found a place to stay – she could think of a night or two when they'd been out in the elements for one reason or another, though not because of a lack of room vacancies. And on the topic of missed opportunities, they could have made better use of the night it had rained sleeping bags too. These things must be occurring to her because she wanted Mulder with them.
"Oh, yeah," Kyrie remarked, sounding at least slightly reassured. For one horrified second Scully wondered if her line of thinking was plain on her face, but before she could blush Kyrie said, "I forgot that you traveled all over the country for your cases."
This caused Scully an unexpected pang of sorrow because it suddenly had her again acutely aware of what a terrible disservice Diana had done Kyrie and Mulder both: had she not hid the girl's existence from him, he could have taken custody of her ten years ago. They might even have brought her on some of their tamer cases, though it had been more difficult to predict the danger than they had often thought.
"What are you thinking about?" Kyrie asked curiously, making her wonder what her expression must be to prompt the question.
She shrugged lightly. "Just thinking about the past."
"Oh." Kyrie's face shuttered, and Scully took this to mean that she was either worried that Scully was going to grill her on her own past again, or that her own past was painful to think about. She wasn't sure which was worse.
"We'll find something soon, don't you worry."
But an hour later it seemed a lot like karma was trying to make her eat her words. There were plenty of places to rent a room, but they were all full. It was difficult to keep herself from showing her frustration, but it was her place to act like a grown-up so she did her best. This was one aspect of parenting that she hadn't experienced firsthand before but she supposed that she was getting a crash course in it.
"What about that one?" Kyrie asked, looking down a side street Scully could barely see from the driver's seat.
"Let's check it out," Scully decided. If it was full too, there was nothing lost, but there was an off-chance it wasn't. Tiredness spoke up to remind her then that nothing to lose wasn't quite true - in another hour she'd be nodding off behind the wheel.
As they got closer to the motel, though, Scully's heart sank a little. The sign said "Vacancy" but nearly every parking spot in the lot was occupied, so she wondered if it was just an oversight by staff too overwhelmed to have changed it to reflect their actual room status. Still, they parked and got out of the car.
Someone had placed bells above the door to the lobby and they rang merrily as Scully pulled the door open. For some reason this seemed to startle Kyrie quite a bit, even though Scully could think of dozens of other doors she'd encountered with similar bells over the years. Giving her a sidelong look, Scully wondered if it was possible that she hadn't.
"Can I help you?" the clerk called, interrupting Scully's thoughts.
When she looked over to that end of the room, the desk clerk was giving her a pleasant look that had her feeling a lot more hopeful than she had since seeing the full lot. "Yes, I hope so," she replied, unable to completely hide her nervousness. Unsurprisingly Kyrie immediately shot her a look, which she tried to ignore.
"If you're looking for a room, you and your daughter are in luck. We've got one room left."
Absurdly, Scully still felt disappointed. She'd still hoped to be able to rent two rooms, perhaps mostly because she wanted to show Kyrie that she trusted her not to run away in the middle of the night if she had her own room. "Two beds, I hope."
"Oh, sure." When the clerk, whose name tag declared her name was Greta, spoke she reminded Scully of one of her great aunts, though she was probably only fifteen years older than she herself was, which made her quite a bit younger than her father's older sisters. Perhaps it was the cap of tight gray curls that framed her angular but only moderately lined face.
"Great," Scully replied before rummaging through her purse for her credit card. She looked down into the purse longer than was strictly necessary, mostly to avoid having to look at Kyrie to see her reaction to having to share a room.
The clerk did the intake and slid the room passkeys over the counter to them. "She must take after her daddy, huh?"
This made Scully blink. It hadn't really occurred to her that other people would think anything of how little they looked alike. But their similar build had obviously been enough to prompt the clerk to assume they were in fact related anyway. "She's got his hair and eyes," Scully told the clerk as cheerfully as she could.
If the question had been born of any suspicion, it wasn't obvious on the other woman's face. Maybe she'd just been attempting to make small talk. Still, Scully decided then and there that if they did in fact have William with them on the way home, they wouldn't stop at this particular motel on the return trip. That's putting the cart before the horse, she reminded herself harshly, but still, it was something to keep in mind. Like that song her brother Charlie had been obsessed with when he was young said, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.
Kyrie didn't seem too worried when Scully made a quick exit after that, but simply took one of the passkeys from her and studied it. "Room 137. That's upstairs?"
The motel had two floors, and for a second Scully thought of several action movies she'd watched with Mulder – directors apparently thought that running up stairs or shooting over balconies was more exciting than the alternative because the good guys almost never kicked in a ground floor door. She scanned the nearest doors to get a sense of the numbering system before pointing in what she thought was the right direction. "Let's try over there."
Her instinct proved to be right and they were soon heading up a staircase towards room 137. Scully's opinion of the clerk and the rest of the staff upgraded itself as soon as they entered the room: it was still a motel, but it was uncommonly nicely decorated and extremely clean, which was more than could be said for a lot of the rooms she'd ended up spending the night in when cases had driven them far from civilization.
Apparently Kyrie agreed because the first thing she said was, "This room is a lot nicer than anything Sam and Dean get to stay in on Supernatural."
It wasn't a show Scully spent a lot of time following, but she was at least familiar with it enough to know who she was talking about. "Your dad watches that. And I agree. They seem to end up in rooms that have been sealed up since the 70s, don't they?" The terrible and varied décor had always grabbed her attention while trying to watch the show with Mulder, but he seemed a lot less traumatized about seeing artifacts from the design decade best forgotten than she was.
Kyrie grinned and dropped her overstuffed backpack onto one of the beds. "I'm always impressed how many girls Dean hooks up with when he and his brother are basically homeless drifters. 'where are you from?' 'Uh… nowhere.' 'That's cool, let's go back to your motel room.'"
Scully quashed the impulse to use this opening to segue into a conversation about where Kyrie herself has been living. "Well, that's TV for you."
She dropped her own bag onto the other bed, picked up the cable channel guide and scanned it, and then wondered what else there was to do. If they'd planned to spend more than just a night she might have unpacked her bag, but it didn't seem worth bothering with.
"Hungry?" Scully asked once she spotted a sheaf of takeout menus on the desk.
"Actually, yeah," Kyrie admitted. A few seconds later her stomach growled.
It was all Scully could do not to sigh. If Kyrie didn't feel comfortable admitting that she was hungry, things were going to be more difficult. This made her wish that she'd paid more attention in the psychology classes she'd taken in college because she couldn't remember anything about shyness and she honestly was beginning to hope that Kyrie was just shy…and not that she made her deeply uncomfortable.
Maybe I should grab a few boxes of granola bars from that 7-11, Scully mused. Might be worth paying three times the normal price to keep her from fainting from hunger. She shuffled through the menus until she found one for a Chinese place. "Want to try this one?"
Kyrie took it from her. "Okay." She handed it back as soon as she'd looked through it.
This time Scully read the menu with purpose, examining the offerings. "You said you like chicken fingers. In addition to that would you prefer a spring roll or fried wantons?"
Note to self, I now know two things about this girl, and they're both food preferences, Scully thought acerbically. Wait, three if you count not liking sunflower seeds. "Me either," she replied, deciding to add an order of chicken fingers to their plate orders.
The food came in record time and Scully offered the delivery guy a wan smile as she took the hot paper bags from him. She didn’t love to cook and left it to Mulder as often as her stomach would let her get away with it, but after an entire day of takeout and more looming ahead, she had a strong urge to cook a lot once they got home.
Home. Maybe she could convince Kyrie to take a cooking class with her, she thought cynically, and pretend that they actually knew each other. Maybe Mulder could buy Kyrie a car and they could bond over the injuries they'd get trying to fix it up without knowing what they were doing… unless of course she was secretly a mechanical genius and keeping that from her too.
Be fair, she scolded herself as she handed Kyrie her food. You may feel like you've been through a lot the past couple of days, but she's been through more. How long could you be scared and still be able to embrace opening up to a complete stranger?
It'd be nice to believe that she was accidentally giving off a wicked stepmother air that kept Kyrie quiet, but she doubted that the girl was going to be a chatterbox once Mulder joined them. That seemed like too much of a miracle to hope for, even at Christmas. Some people are just introverts, and maybe that was all their was to her discomfort when pressed to talk.
Tired herself, Scully didn't keep up a forced effort to talk and instead just ate quietly. And when she glanced at the girl out of the corner of her eye, she looked the most relaxed she had while awake since the moment Scully met her.
They both needed a break, that much was obvious, so Scully flipped the TV to a channel with a movie just starting and let herself get absorbed in that rather than continue to let her brain continue to return to her worries about William, Mulder, the girl in the room and the kids who were by now several states away. The movie wasn't to her typical tastes because it was a B horror movie that was only marginally more coherent than Plan 9 From Outer Space, but it was entertaining in a not-quite-intentional way.
Kyrie seemed to enjoy it too, though they didn't make sarcastic remarks about it like she and Mulder did more often than not when their movie selection was not up to par. It was because of their relative silence during the movie that Scully was surprised when Kyrie spoke up as the credits rolled. "He asked me why you gave him up," she said, quietly dropping a bombshell. "In one of our e-mail conversations."
Scully knew that she was in contact with him, but this still surprised her. Apparently Kyrie had much deeper conversations with her younger brother than she'd been willing to engage in with her. "And what did you tell him?" she asked, thankful when she got through the question without her voice breaking.
The teenager shrugged. "I told him that you had a dangerous job when he was a baby and you'd put him – his safety, I mean – first," Kyrie surprised her by saying. Apparently whatever she felt about her father didn't keep her from being able to give William an unbiased answer.
Kyrie looked confused. "What do you mean?"
Scully finally allowed herself to sigh. "You're the only person he's biologically related to that he's ever spoken to, and he obviously trusts you. That means that your opinion carries a lot of weight with him, especially given he's so young. You could have told him things that would have cast me in a much poorer light, but you didn't. I really appreciate it."
"Like what?" Kyrie persisted. "I know what you were up against back then."
But how do you know? Scully's wanted to scream. It would have been a futile effort, though, so she didn't. "You could have told him I was too much of a coward to try to protect him after his uncle told me that they'd never stop looking for him, after I did nothing when he gave him that shot to take away his ability to move things with his mind."
For a second she looked shocked, but Kyrie recovered her emotions as quickly as her father would have. But still, even though she looked calm she couldn't help ask, "Your brother gave him a shot?" but she sounded uncertain, and a lot like she was hoping that she was right, which Scully distractedly found interesting but not worth dwelling on.
Scully shook her head. "No, not one of my brothers. You father's half-brother."
"He never told me," Kyrie said unhappily, no longer making a pretense of hiding her upset. "He said that them snatching William had made you give him up, not that he was involved himself."
"You know Jeffery," Scully said heavily. Somehow, it hadn't been a possibility that she'd even thought of.
"Of course I do," Kyrie replied bitterly. "Once Uncle Brad went to jail he was the one who was supposed to keep an eye on me."
Scully shuddered involuntarily at Brad Folmer being referred to as 'Uncle Brad' – it was nearly as hard to comprehend as Monica's past relationship with him was, though she hoped to hell that Brad's relationship with Mulder's child was much more platonic.
Forcing herself to put her mind back on Jeffery Spender instead, she asked, "Did… Did Jeffery raise you?" And if he did, was he going to show up again like a bad penny? There was very little she'd ever liked about the smoking man's other son, and her last run-in with him had done nothing at all to improve her sentiments towards him.
"No," Kyrie snapped. "If you know him, you know that he doesn't care about anyone but himself. He didn't want the burden of looking after a little kid, so she didn't even ask him."
That wasn't quite right, Scully knew. For all his faults, Spender had cared a lot about his mother, and probably had cared more about what his father thought of him than had been healthy for him – it certainly hadn't done him any favors. She even thought that in his own twisted way he'd justified what he'd done to William as being out of a sense of familial care.
But she couldn't exactly say that to the girl he'd let down, so she only offered a non-committal shrug. It was hard to sense whether or not Kyrie was right to be angry at him because she'd yet to explain what had happened to her in lieu of Jeffery reluctantly being her guardian.
"It sucks that he didn't stick around like my mother wanted him to." Kyrie sighed. "But like she had a choice anyway."
"Oh." Scully waited to see if she'd say anything else, but she didn't seem inclined to. So, after a suitable pause, she decided to turn the conversation back to William. "Um, Kyrie, how long have you and William been emailing each other?"
The girl rolled over on the other bed so she was facing Scully more directly. "I don't know exactly, ten, eleven months?"
"Did he get in touch with you, or the other way around?"
Surprisingly, Kyrie smirked at this. "Don't get me wrong, he's a smart kid, but he didn't find me. I found him."
"Okay..." Scully held her breath, and silently willed the girl to give her more. Maybe that showed on her face, because eventually Kyrie sighed.
"I got in touch with him right around the time that I found out that they were going to make the baby."
"How did you find that out?" Scully asked sharply.
Kyrie just shrugged. Plowing on, without even an excuse for why she didn't intend to answer Scully's question, she said, "up until then I didn't really worry too much about him. Or Nathaniel, either."
"But you knew about both of them?"
Kyrie nodded. "I did."
"But not about… The others," Scully said, and then bit her lower lip. "Other than Emily." Who is dead, a voice in the back of her mind added, as it usually did.
"No. They didn't want me to."
Scully took a deep breath, and then blew it out while looking away from the girl. "Kyrie. Who are 'they'?"
Somewhere in the motel a radio with Christmas carols was playing. The faintest strains of "Up on the Rooftop" filtered up to them. For half a second Scully thought that "What Child Is This?" would have been more appropriate. It was almost a relief to think about music for a moment. But only almost.
Reflecting upon Kyrie's answer, she felt that she probably did know. The problem was, however, there had been so many people working against her and Mulder over the years that it was hard to pinpoint just who might have done it. It was impossible to believe that anybody but the Consortium had requisitioned the creation of Nathaniel and the other children, but that didn't mean that the Consortium was that they in question. There were other groups, other factions, that could have just as easily have wanted Kyrie to know about her siblings, and also to threaten their lives. Just the thought of trying to narrow down which enemy the girl was referring to made her feel both helpless and angry. It had only been the year before when she had told Mulder that she no longer wanted to allow the darkness into their lives, but yet again, here it was.
As much as she wanted to grasp the girl by both of her thin shoulders and shake her hard enough to make her head snapped back, Scully just balled her fists in her lap. It wouldn't help. It might feel good, at least in the moment, but it would do more damage than anything else. Kyrie was capable of looking after herself, and had managed to take care of two tiny boys as well, so who was to say that she wouldn't simply decide that William was better off with her, and take off with him as soon as they got him? That was far more likely if Scully acted on her angry impulses than if she restrained them.
Forcing her irritations down, Scully just said, "You thought things would be different because of the baby?" It wasn't exactly a question, and it wasn't surprising when Kyrie nodded. "So once news reached you that this baby would exist you began to worry that William was-"
For once, Kyrie interrupted her instead of the other way around. "Expendable."
Of all the things she thought that Kyrie might say, this wasn't one she had anticipated. "Expendable?" she repeated, unable to keep the trepidation out of her tone.
"They thought that the baby would be what they really needed. And if he was, there really wasn't any need for any, um, loose ends."
William and Nathaniel being considered "loose ends" brought a level of horror that Scully hadn't anticipated she would feel. Trying to force that down, she looked at Kyrie and asked, "How long would it take for them to know if the baby was going to fulfill whatever purpose they had for him?"
Kyrie stood for a moment, and stretched, before plopping back down on the bed. "About a year, I think. If I remember correctly, they couldn't really be certain until Nathaniel could walk and talk that he wasn't it."
Wasn't "it" for what, Scully wanted to know desperately. At the back of her mind the musing thought that there was a child in between Nathaniel and the baby buoyed to the surface. That child would have to be approximately a year old, at least he or she would be if they hadn't commissioned his or her existence until Nathaniel failed them. Had they waited to see if this unknown child was also a failure, or had there been something about it at birth that had told them that this child would not work out either?
"Kyrie," Scully said slowly. "What do they want them for? What was the end result they were seeking, do you know?"
Although Scully fully expected the girl to give her another run around answer, she actually nodded. "The world ends in 2012, at least according to the Mayan calendar."
Blinking, Scully thought she might have finally figured it out. "This has to do with the prophecy?"
"Yes," Kyrie agreed. "Both prophecies."
"Both?" Scully repeated, confused.
"The Mayan prophecy that says that the world will end 2012. In the prophecy that says that my father son will be a miracle child who will follow in his father's footsteps and tried to stop the aliens from invading us. But if he isn't raised by his father, then he will be the aliens envoy and help them destroy us," Kyrie said, her voice detached. "They of course, would prefer the latter."
This reminded Scully far too much of her conversation with Robert Comer, and she had believed that this line of dangerous thinking had died with Josepho's cult. "If they know where William is, why would they need another child, another son of Mulder's to bring the prophecy about?" They had to know where William was if she did, Scully decided. But she still faintly hoped that Kyrie would correct her, saying that they didn't.
"It's not him," Kyrie said, shaking her head. "I know you thought you were protecting him by giving him up, but I hate to tell you, they have known where he was almost all along. His pediatrician, the person that his adopted parents thought they had picked themselves, has been observing him since just before he could walk or talk. And that man determined that William wasn't the son they needed after all."
"And they took his word for it?" Scully asked, forgetting how absurd this all seemed to her. She couldn't, however, forget that she had just heard that her attempt to keep William safe had been completely in vain. Still, she couldn't allow herself to follow a guilt spiral that would have her in the bathroom crying over having lost the years with her son for no reason. There would be time enough to dwell on that later, if things went well. And if they didn't…
"Yes," Kyrie said, and it took her a moment to realize that she was answering her question about pediatrician. "Though of course, they shouldn't have."
A none-too-gentle throbbing began to make itself known in Scully's temples. Involuntarily, she reached up to rub them. This did not escape Kyrie's notice. "Are you okay?" she wanted to know, looking concerned.
"It's a lot to take in all at once," Scully muttered.
"I'll be right back," Kyrie promised, slipping off the bed and leaving the room before Scully could protest.
She spent a couple of tense minutes worried about what the girl was up to before the door opened again, and Kyrie returned carrying a small plasticized envelope in her hand. She handed it to Scully saying "I noticed this in the vending machine as we walked by it."
Scully looked down at what she was now holding, and saw that it was a two pack of Motrin. "Thanks," she said, and reached for the bottle of Sprite she had opened when they ate. Bubbles irritating her throat indicated that the soda had not yet gotten a chance to go flat, and reminded her of how little she liked soda. There hadn't been any bottled water, so she had made do with it.
Putting the bottle down after she swallowed both pills, she looked up at Kyrie. "It was kind of you to go and get that for me."
The girl shrugged. "No problem."
"I've been thinking about what you said. I understand that they may have decided that William can't help them orchestrate an invasion, but they think a three-year-old might?" she asked. "After all, the baby is only two or three weeks old, so if the invasion is to happen on schedule in 2012, he might not even be able to speak in complete sentences yet."
"If he is the child they think he will be, that wouldn't be an issue."
"It wouldn't be?" Scully asked, feeling like she was in the weeds again.
Sitting on the bed now, Kyrie crossed her legs Indian style. "Remember when you were little and they read you fairytales about princesses, and how they were also magical and wonderful? They were the smartest, prettiest, and kindest people?"
"The child of the prophecy will be all of those things. Or at least that's what they believe."
"And William and Nathaniel aren't."
"Nope. They're smart. But other than that, they're pretty typical little boys." Kyrie wrinkled her nose. "Nathaniel peed on me yesterday morning. I don't think it was on purpose, but still, the future leader of the aliens wouldn't pee on you."
To her complete and utter shock, this made Scully laugh. The look on Kyrie's face implied that she was more than a little surprised to hear this too. After a moment, Scully waved her hand, and tried to pull herself together. "Either they were completely correct and your brother is not the savior they're looking for, or the prophecy was written by somebody who has never met a toddler boy. It's hard to say, isn't it?"
"Pretty much," Kyrie agreed, sounding somewhat wary. It was obvious that she was worried that Scully was breaking down, but somehow that was only funnier to Scully, and she kept laughing.
"I hate to think that Nathaniel got ruled out as the savior because he wasn't potty trained by a year old," Scully finally gasped between gales of giggles.
"I, um," Kyrie looked at her. "You don't seem to be taking this as seriously as maybe we should," she suggested.
"Kyrie, when you get older you'll realize there are situations when you have to laugh to keep from crying," Scully advised. "This is pretty much the definition of one of those situations."
"Okay." After a few minutes passed and it seemed as though Scully had finally calmed down, Kyrie looked at her and asked, "Can I borrow your laptop? I want to check my email to see if William has emailed me today."
"Of course," she said, and then had to bite down on her tongue to keep from insisting that if he had sent a message, Kyrie needed to share it with her. "I'd like to know how he's doing, okay?"
"If he tells me," Kyrie agreed.
There really wasn't any way to argue that, so she just handed over the laptop, and watched while the teenager started it up. Unlike Mulder, she didn't password protect hers, because she didn't really feel the need to. None of her coworkers at the hospital were likely to try to break into her files, and even if they did, she didn't have anything sensitive for them to find.
Rather than hover, Scully tried to keep her attention on the TV instead of what Kyrie might be reading on the computer. Eventually she was rewarded by the girl looking over at her and saying, "He says that he's okay."
Relief began to flood her, but then suspicion reared its head again. "And it sounds like him?"
Kyrie looked confused. "I don't under-"
Leaning forward, Scully tried to think of how to make her point. "It sounds like his other emails. Not like someone else might have written it."
"Oh. Yeah, it sounds just like his other emails."
"Good. When you're done with the computer, let's go to bed. I'd like to get an early start."
"Sure." Kyrie typed a few more sentences, and then turned off the computer.
Scully didn't ask her what she had written back. And she certainly didn't tell Kyrie that the reason she wanted to get an early start was that they might know that William was okay for now, but that didn't mean things wouldn't change and quickly.
The next day Scully realized, really realized, that she and Kyrie weren't on the same page when they got back into the car after stopping for lunch. Scully herself had been preoccupied with the grim fantasy that she and the girl might literally turn into hamburgers if they ate any more of them, like in a Loony Toons cartoon, when she noticed that Kyrie was peering into the back of the vehicle.
"What's up?" she asked, trying not to let her impatience show. Despite the positive-sounding e-mails Kyrie was getting from William, she couldn't shake a sense of urgency, and that was spurring impatience with Kyrie, with other drivers on the road, and even herself. She'd hoped that stopping for food would give them both a break from worrying, but even as they'd eaten she'd found herself wondering if William was okay. And how she'd carry on if he wasn't.
"Do you think the car is big enough?" Kyrie asked, mystifying her.
"Big enough for what?"
Kyrie waved a hand, seeming a bit impatient herself too. "To fit William's all of things. He's going to want to bring stuff with him when we go home, you know? Nathaniel is too little to have much of anything he's attached to – other than his bear but I brought it with us – but William's a lot older. Hopefully he won't want his furniture or anything, but kids have a lot of clothes, toys, and other stuff."
For half a second Scully was distracted by imagining Kyrie taking the time to make sure Nathaniel had his favorite toy all while frantically trying to get away with what seemed to be a kidnapping, but the thrust of Kyrie's statement sank in soon enough. Look at her, she slowly shook her head, and from Kyrie's expression it was obvious she already knew what Scully was going to say. "Kyrie, we don't know for sure that William is going to be coming back with us."
"But we'll get there in time," Kyrie protested automatically. From her tone it was obvious that, unlike Scully, she hadn't allowed herself to imagine any other outcome. That was probably why every night Scully stayed awake while she drifted off to sleep easily enough.
Worry about William was beside the point, though, and she had to address that. "I think you know that's not what I mean," Scully prompted gently. All she got in response was a stubborn look. "I know you think he's in danger too, but if he's not-"
"If he's not you'd just leave him there?" Kyrie demanded to know. Her tone suggested that she was holding down barely contained outrage.
"I'd have to," Scully said, as much as she didn't want to. "If we get there and his parents are the ordinary people I gave him up to, then we have to leave him be." She didn't point out that William's account of events wasn't definitive proof given he was at an age to be influenced by stories... and a desire to please his sister by agreeing to things that might not actually be true.
"But you're his real mother!" Kyrie snapped, glaring at her.
"I'm his biological mother. But as far as the law is concerned, Mrs. Van De Kamp is his mother. As long as she's herself, the legal system will feel that he's better off with her and her husband," Scully explained, wondering not for the first time about the girl's schooling. She'd dropped out of school, but she'd gone through the end of eleventh grade. Surely the basics of how adoptions worked weren't a completely foreign concept. Then again, she considered, there was a lot to be said for a teenager's belief that how things should be being more important to them than how things actually were.
The latter seemed the better explanation the second she heard Kyrie mutter "sometimes parents get their kids back."
"They do," Scully agreed. "But we only hear about it because it happens so rarely that it makes the news. More often than not the adoptive parents win custody suits." And they should, Scully thought privately. Adoptions are only secure if the new parents are reasonably sure that they won't have to give the kid back.
"But you're a doctor," Kyrie continued her protest, but with less certainty now. "You having a good job has to count for something."
"It might, but not as much as the family's feelings," Scully told her. "They've had him since he was less than a year old, and he doesn't even know me." As it always did, thinking or saying this hurt. Usually it was a dull ache, but it was sharper now.
"It's not fair," Kyrie said grumpily.
"I know," Scully agreed. But even as the girl scowled she found it a sign of hope for a normal life for the girl: no matter what she'd gone through since her mother died, Kyrie still held on to enough idealism to want to bend reality to her wishes. It was something that could be maddening about teenagers but at least life hadn't buffed all the shine off her attitudes.
"But maybe it's all moot," Kyrie suggested then. "William's parents might be dead like Nathaniel's are."
"That's not something we should hope for," Scully blurted out irritably before she could stop herself. Kyrie looked startled by her forcefulness, but she probably didn't realize that the scolding had been as much for Scully's own benefit as for the girl's. Even though she felt like a monster every time the idea crossed her mind, she had to admit that deep down she'd be disappointed to find out that the Van De Kamps were still themselves and still a hindrance to getting her son back. It was terrible to wish them dead at all, and even worse to speak about it out loud.
"Well yeah, I don't want them to be dead, but it's not like my wanting something now has any effect on things that already happened." The girl's reasonableness made her sound more than a little like her mother – Scully had always imagined that Diana must have done a whole lot of justifying while she worked with the Consortium. "They're either dead already, or they're not."
Scully's temples began to pound, so she cast about for something else to talk about rather than dwell on the morality of desires. For a moment she almost asked if Kyrie herself didn't have possessions somewhere that she too would want to be reunited with, but she knew already that it was a line of questioning that would immediately shut communication down. So instead she asked, "Kyrie, can you drive?"
The teenager squirmed in her seat. "I know how to. But I don't have a license."
"Do you think you could pass the driving test?" Scully asked, trying hard not to show her disappointment that Kyrie wasn't going to be able to take on any of the burden of driving. They were still hundreds of miles from William's home, and all that driving was already beginning to take its toll on her.
"Sure, no problem." There was nothing in her tone of voice that suggested false bravo. This did make her wonder how she'd learned. And about who had taught her.
"Before Mulder or I can bring you to the DMV for the test we'll need to get a copy of your birth certificate," she said, vaguely wondering if Kyrie being seventeen meant that she'd have to take driver's ed to get her license before age 18. Making a mental note to look up the laws in Virginia, she asked, "Where in Europe were you born?"
"I wasn't born in Europe," Kyrie objected. "I was born in Paramus, New Jersey. Mom didn't move us to Europe until I was three months old. We can probably just fill out an online form or something."
"Oh." Scully let that sink in for a minute. Fowley had spent a year longer in the US than they knew about, apparently hiding out in New Jersey of all places. Why hadn't she told Mulder that she was pregnant? After a second she thought that perhaps Diana had kept it to herself because she knew Mulder all too well; if she had told him that she was expecting his baby, Mulder would've moved heaven and earth to keep her there. Not for Diana's sake, but for their child's.
"Why did you think I was?" the girl eventually asked, sounding curious. "Born in Europe, I mean."
"Well," Scully said slowly. "I don't know all that much about your mother's past, especially between when she left the FBI and came back. Your father told me that she'd left to work in Europe and I didn't know that there'd been a gap of time before that happened." Nor did Mulder, obviously, she added silently.
"Oh. I suppose she might have gone to Europe immediately if not for me," Kyrie offered. Fortunately, there was no guilt in the statement, Scully thought. "Or maybe she wouldn't have gone to Europe at all."
"What do you mean?"
Kyrie turned to look at her and as she did she shivered. This made Scully wonder why they were still standing out in the cold instead of talking inside the car with the heat on as reasonable people should. "Have you ever wondered why my mother left him?" the girl asked.
"Only just now," Scully admitted, thinking again about what Mulder's reaction would have been had he known that he was going to be a father.
"She was more afraid of them knowing about me than my dad knowing," Kyrie said, surprising her. Scully had been sure that Kyrie would say that Diana had left to keep Mulder from bothering her. "Mom said that staying as long as she had was risky, but she hadn't been able to bear the thought of flying with morning sickness and then she read a lot of stories about women going into labor on planes so she'd waited even longer-"
Scully interrupted, wanting to backtrack, asking "When you say 'them' you mean the consortium?" She hoped. She didn't know if she'd take it well if Kyrie started talking about little gray men instead.
"Sure. Obviously she was right to worry – they did find out about me somehow, even if my father didn't. They're the ones that made her come back to the FBI."
"By threatening your safety?" Scully asked quietly.
The look this earned her was one of deep cynicism, and out of place on such a young face. "Would you expect anything less of them?"
Kyrie wrapped her arms around herself. "I didn't think so." She sighed. "What were you afraid of as a kid?" Kyrie asked.
"My dad not coming home from one of his assignments," Scully told her, thinking of days spent looking out the window of base housing, waiting for him to walk up the driveway. Some days she'd spent forlorn hours there. "Clowns. My brother Charlie dying trying to do something dumb Bill dared him to. The cold war."
"But not the Consortium."
"Not as a kid, no."
"I did." Kyrie shrugged. "They were the boogieman under the bed. 'Don't draw attention to yourself,' she'd scold me. 'You don't know who could be watching.' At first I was too young to understand what she was talking about, but I was never too young to be afraid."
Scully wanted to hug her then, but she still didn't know how the girl would react. So she settled for touching her arm, and Kyrie tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace. "And then... and then she told me that we were moving to the United States. And who she'd be working with. I hid under the bed, because it turned out to be the one place they weren't."
"Oh, Kyrie..." Scully sighed. And then this time she did hug the girl. For a second she resisted but only for a moment. It made her wonder when the last time anyone had given her a hug. Too long, she sensed.
For a moment Kyrie leaned her head against Scully's shoulder, but then she pulled away, perhaps out of embarrassment. The girl looked around and almost seemed surprised they were still standing outside the fast food joint. "Maybe we'd better get going, before traffic picks up."
"You're probably right," Scully agreed and aimed her key fob at the car, unlocking both doors.
They didn't say much when they finally pulled onto the highway. At least not until Kyrie spoke up a few miles later. "I lied to you," Kyrie confessed.
"When?" Scully asked warily.
The girl looked at her folded hands. "I said that I wasn’t one of those kids who wanted their parents to get back together. That was a lie. I’d never even met him, but I used to think... "Kyrie trailed off with a sigh.
"Used to think what?" Scully prompted, not taking her eyes off the road again.
Even though she didn't turn to look at the girl this time, she could sense that Kyrie had shrugged. "Used to think that if they had gotten back together maybe he would've been able to protect me from my grandfather."
"You mean the smoking man," Scully asked. She was unusually pleased that they had just stopped at a red light. Odd seemed small that Kyrie was afraid of Diana's father as well. Although, it was hard to say what a person who had raised Diana might have been like...
The thought that Mulder's daughter knew the smoking man did not fill Scully with joy. Somehow, even knowing that the girl was in some way unfortunately mixed up with members of the Consortium, she hadn't fully realized that odds were good that Mulder's bastard father had gained access to her. Maybe I just didn't want to think about it, she chided herself. "Mulder would've done his level best to protect you if he could," Scully offered. If only he had known that she existed and needed to be protected, she thought.
Kyrie sighed. "I think I know that."
"At least the smoking man has been dead for a long time," Scully told her. "Neither your father nor I were sad to see him finally get what was coming to him."
To her confusion, Kyrie greeted this with a puzzled look and said nothing else.
Another day and two phone calls to Mulder later, one of which confirmed that he was finally home, they were in the middle of packing up before they hit the road for the final leg of the journey west when Scully's phone rang. She dropped the sweater she was holding and grabbed it up without looking at the display. "Mulder?"
"You call your husband Mulder?" a man's amused and semi-familiar voice asked.
"Detective Lybecker?" she asked, uncertain.
When she realized it wasn't Mulder she felt an instant burst of irritation. Talking to Mulder was one thing, but she was growing more impatient by the second because every moment she spent talking to Lybecker was one that kept her from reaching William sooner. It had actually been difficult to force herself to stop the night before because they were already so close to William, but showing up there exhausted wasn't going to improve the outcome, so she had gritted her teeth and accepted temporary defeat. All she could do was hope that the conversation was a short one.
Across the room, Kyrie was also packing. She said nothing to interrupt, but it was obvious that she was also annoyed that the phone call meant that they were going to take longer to reach William. In response to her unspoken question, Scully could only shoot her an apologetic look. Kyrie nodded, and went back to her packing. The girl picked up her speed, as if determined to make up for some time they were currently losing. Scully was almost tempted to ask her to pack for her as well.
"Right," he confirmed, and her brain immediately began to construct worst case scenarios rather than dwell on her irritation, and most of them ending with him demanding that she bring Kyrie back immediately to face charges after all. She was so busy imaging the worst that when he asked her a question it didn't quite sink in. "How did you know?" Lybecker asked, no longer sounding amused.
"Know what?" she asked blankly.
For a moment he said nothing, and she got the sense that he thought she was being disingenuous. Eventually he seemed to grasp that she was really confused, and his reply took on a condescending tone." How did you know that Nathaniel and the newborn are your biological sons?" Before she could process this revelation he went on. "We got the DNA results, and you were right, they are yours. You said that you did IVF and you immediately suggested that there could have been a mistake at the clinic. I know that has happened but it's so rare it makes the news every time. Yet it didn't even take you a second to come to the conclusion that it happened to you. It makes me wonder about your taste in fiction, Doctor Scully."
Until his last sentence her heart had begun to gallop in anticipation of him accusing her of wrong-doing or even revealing that he knew something about the conspiracy. It settled down once she figured out that he knew nothing damaging after all. Relief led her to letting more truth out than was strictly wise. "Have you made enemies on the job?" she asked quietly.
His response was a "yes" that dripped with wariness. "You pissed off another doctor? Professional jealousy, I mean."
"No. I did most of my pissing people off when I was still an FBI agent. My husband ended up being involved in an investigation of my OB when I was pregnant with our son William," she decided not to mention that the investigation hadn't simply fallen into Mulder's lap innocently. "It ended up going badly for him and he retained access to my.... I'm just saying that he knew Mulder's connection to me well before the end."
After a pause Lybecker spoke again, now less gruff if not sympathetic. "So you wondered if it was a revenge thing."
"Yes," she said half truthfully. Revenge not from the headless doctor, of course, but the heads of the hydra that hadn't been lopped off. "Considering we hadn't attempted to use all of the embryos," she invented.
"Doing the right thing can have a backlash. I'm sorry this was yours," he said, sounding since.
"I'm not," she admitted, surprising them both.
"You're not?" Lybecker was clearly in disbelief.
Scully distractedly rubbed her phone as she gathered her thoughts. Just then Kyrie dropped something, reminding Scully that the girl was hearing her side of the conversation. "I would have had more children if I could have. I'm definitely not upset that these boys exist, even if how their existence came about is a deep betrayal."
"That's... understandable. I can't imagine regretting the existence of either of my children, now that I think about it, no matter what."
Scully nodded, even though he couldn't see her. Steeling herself, she finally asked him the question that was both terrifying and excited her. "Now what happens, with the boys?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw Kyrie freeze and she was sure that she was now going to be listening very carefully.
"A judge issued a bench order giving you custody. You can pick them up at social services tomorrow."
Elation battled concern within her and she found it hard to get her next question out. "Can my husband pick them up?" she asked, hoping the form she'd filled out would be honored and enough.
"I'm surprised you don't want to yourself, but yes."
"Oh, I want to," she quickly objected. "But I'm out of state, dealing with a family emergency."
"And Kyrie's with you?"
"Yes," she admitted. Hopefully this wouldn't evoke fresh ire now that they were being nicer to each other. "My husband didn't get home before the issue arose."
To her astonishment he laughed. Sobering up he said, "Sorry. Sorry. But I don't envy your life, careening from one emergency to another. You don't get a break, do you?"
"Life isn't usually this hectic," she said defensively.
He chuckled again. "I suppose it can't be given we've never been called in to coax you off a ledge."
"Maybe they'd call in the fire department for that," he joked before suddenly becoming a lot more serious. "So you're really keeping Kyrie?" he asked. "You're moving her into your home?"
"Of course," she said, nearly asking him what he thought the alternative was.
Lybecker obviously had one in mind. "A lot of people's first step would be to find a residential school to dump a kid like her into. Oh, they might couch it as giving her every advantage by sending her to the poshest boarding school they could afford, but still, they'd really do it to keep the kid out of their lives."
"Not everyone can go from raising one kid to four without missing a beat," he said unapologetically.
She blinked, realizing that nothing she'd said to him had clued him into realizing that she and Mulder didn't have custody of William. Maybe he wouldn't be wrong, she reflected, maybe Kyrie's assumption that they were going to take William home rather than just see if he was okay wasn't merely sweetly naïve.
"I don't know about not missing any beats, but we're more than willing to try our best, "she said. Trying not to be obvious about it, Scully turned her head just enough to see Kyrie's profile. To her relief the teenager looked less tense, making her wonder if Lybecker's side of the conversation could be overheard too.
"That's pretty much all a child can really ask of a parent," Lybecker commented. His change in attitude was surprising but Scully wasn't about to look a proverbial gift horse in the mouth. He went on after a moment. "I'm going to let you go so you have time to speak to your husband before social services contacts him this afternoon. Happy holidays, Doctor Scully."
"You too," she replied. She hoped that she didn't sound as dazed as she felt.
Kyrie waited almost a minute after she'd hung up the phone to verbally pounce, showing what Scully considered to be admirable restraint considering her age. "So you and dad are going to get them?"
"We're going to get them," Scully agreed, still feeling dazed. "Your dad will pick them up tomorrow. Or maybe they'll drop them off. I don't know, exactly." The idea that Mulder would be taking custody of them in just one more day still had a dreamy feeling to it, and it was hard to convince herself that it was really going to happen.
"This is good news, right?" Kyrie asked, uncertain. Probably thrown off by her subdued reaction, she thought.
"Yes, of course. I just..." Scully paused, gathering her thoughts. Giving Kyrie a crooked smile, she decided to be completely honest with her. "Earlier in the month, there was a time when I thought I might be pregnant."
"But you're not," Kyrie said. It was nearly a question, but not quite.
"No, I'm not. And in retrospect it was foolish to have thought I might be. Have you heard the term perimenopause?" Kyrie shook her head, so she explained. "Menopause isn't a quick process. For a fairly long while before you stop being able to produce children entirely you're in a pre-menopause state. Periods become erratic, some months missed all together, and you aren't truly considered post-menopausal until you've gone many months without a period, not just the first month. Unexpected pregnancies happen sometimes while in this iffy state because women assume that they aren't fertile anymore after a few missed months. I haven't seen my doctor yet, but my missed period was probably that." Scully decided not to mention that the theft of her ova should have made her doubly skeptical and didn't, but she'd never even told Mulder that she wasn't entirely convinced that every single ova could have been extracted from her.
"Oh." It was obvious from the girl's tone she had no idea why Scully was sharing all of this with her.
"Kyrie, I was upset when I figured out my mistake. Because I did want a baby. Having one at my age would be far from ideal, but I did want one. So for those few days when I'd gotten my hopes up... and afterwards I was depressed. Not just because I wasn't pregnant, but because I almost certainly wasn't ever going to be pregnant again."
"So this is a blessing?" Kyrie asked.
"It is." Outside it was beginning to snow again, reminding her of taking the pregnancy test. "I had cancer when I was younger," she said, and Kyrie looked startled. Clearly Diana hadn't told the girl everything she knew. "That being in my history, and giving William up for adoption... those things would have likely been held against us if your father and I decided to adopt, too. And our ages, of course, since most birth mothers would want younger parents for their child-"
"You're not that old!"
Scully didn't bother to correct her. "-so adoption was an unlikely path to parenthood too," she concluded.
"But you are a parent," Kyrie said softly. "Even before you knew about the little ones, you were William's mom."
In response she just shrugged. There wasn't a good way to articulate her feelings about parenthood after William exited her life.
Scully decided to go for a walk before she called Mulder. She'd invited Kyrie to come too, but was secretly glad when the girl declined. It wasn't that she didn't want her company, but the point of taking a walk was to gather her thoughts before she informed her husband of the massive change to their lives. Or, the second one, she thought after a moment's reflection. Somehow, even though it had only been a few days, having Kyrie in their lives had already lost its alien quality and was being to feel pretty normal.
By the time she returned to the motel, she was feeling pretty confident about what she would say to Mulder. Smiling at Kyrie, she picked up her phone and asked, "Should I put in on speaker phone when I call your dad?"
The girl looked surprised by the offer. "Um, sure," she mumbled.
Scully thought about explaining why she thought Kyrie should be part of the conversation but didn't – she'd only known her a few days and was already getting tired of feeling like a lecturing mom of a teenager. Kyrie would catch on, or not, as they spoke.
Mulder picked up on the first ring. "Hey."
"Hi, Mulder," Scully said, feeling inexplicably shy. It was an unusual thing considering how long she'd known and loved him. "I've got big news."
"The boys are both ours," she said in a rush. "Social services should be calling you this afternoon to arrange for you to get them."
"Wow," he said simply.
This understated reaction made her a little nervous. "You okay?" She'd expected him to say so much more. But then, she hadn't met the news with a great gush of words, either. She gave Kyrie a sidelong look and wondered if perhaps not wanting to make a far bigger deal about adding the boys to the family than her was what caused both of them to be somewhat subdued. On the other hand, not having yet reached William was probably damper enough for her at least.
"I'm good," Mulder reassured her, and his words sounded natural instead of strained. "Great. Thrilled. A little nervous about how much shopping I'll have to do tonight, though."
For a moment her mind went blank at the mention of shopping, but then it hit her: they had absolutely nothing at the house that a toddler or a newborn needed. "Yeah... want me to help you make a list? Actually, we both can. We're on speaker phone, by the way."
"That would be great," Mulder enthused, sounding a tad desperate. "Okay, so I already knew I needed to buy a full size bed for Kyrie's room-" They'd already discussed which room would be hers during a previous call. "-but am I buying two cribs or a crib and a toddler bed for the nursery. Nursery. Didn't think we'd have one of those in this house, but there you go."
Scully's brow furrowed as she tried to figure this out because at Nathaniel's age it could go either way. Then she realized she had the answer right in the room with her already. Turning to her stepdaughter, she asked, "Which did Nathaniel have before now?"
"He was still in a crib." As she said it, Scully imagined Kyrie reaching into it, picking up the toddler and his bear, then skirting around the two dead things that had unsuccessfully impersonated the child's adoptive parents.
With some effort Scully managed to push away the morbid scene. "Okay, so a crib for each of them," she decided. "Keeping it the same as he's used to will make his transition a little easier, I think."
"How about the type of cribs that converts into toddler beds?" Mulder surprised her by suggesting. "I've seen a bunch of those in ads earlier today," he added, making her smile: apparently he had suffered no doubts that they'd be getting the boys.
"Perfect," she and Kyrie both said at once.
"Dark wood or white?"
Scully shrugged, so Kyrie spoke up a little hesitantly. "White seems a bit girly to me."
"Sure," Mulder agreed. "And if these little guys are anything like I was when I was that young, we'll want something that looks dirty less easily."
"What about you?" Mulder asked, and for a moment they were both confused, unsure who he was talking to. "Do you prefer dark finishes or white, Kyrie."
"Oh, um, dark," she said shyly. "If I have a choice."
"Of course. I'll see what I can do when I'm out buying furniture for you and the little ones tonight."
"And please get a twin-size bed for the guest room," Scully added. Kyrie gave her a pointed look, but she didn't allow herself to react to it. "If we can call it that with no furniture," she added without knowing quite why she was still talking.
"Okay," Mulder immediately agreed. It was obvious that he understood why she thought the room should finally furnished with something more substantial than dust bunnies. But he also knew her well enough not to make an issue of it. "I'll have to buy some dressers too. Oh, and maybe some screw drivers. It's going to be a long night putting everything together."
"Sorry," Scully said immediately and guiltily.
Mulder's response was to laugh at her. "I think I've got an easier task than you do, Scully. When do you think you'll reach William's house?"
"In a few hours." Or so she hoped. The clouds in the sky took on a more ominous cast, she thought, even though it was still only snowing lightly. Every single one she could see was swollen and had the potential for dropping a greater inconvenience on them. Kyrie was looking outside too but with no apparent alarm, so maybe she had no experience with winter driving, or maybe she herself was just being paranoid. Scully decided it was the latter – there was no way for anyone to arrange to have the weather provide a hindrance to their goal; snow was on no one's payroll.
"Good. Check in as soon as you can afterwards, okay?"
"Of course." She'd call him either way, of course, but despite what she'd said to Kyrie earlier, she hoped that she'd be reporting that she had William with her. Had she not been ministered by stern Catholic priests her entire childhood, she might have been able to convince herself that it wasn't a sin to think it as long as she never shared the thought with anyone else.
"Be careful. Both of you," Mulder half admonished. "Since I can't be with you, I need you to take care of each other."
Kyrie seemed a bit surprised by this, but Scully honestly wasn't. He had long ago proven that he thought that she was just as competent as he was. "Of course," she told him automatically. "Kyrie and I are in this together."
"Yeah," Kyrie mumbled in faint agreement. Her expression all but said that she was feeling overwhelmed, and Scully guessed that she couldn't blame her.
"All right then," Mulder said. "I hope we have nothing but good news to report the next time we speak. Love you both."
"Love you too, Mulder." As soon as she finished speaking, Scully hung up the phone.
Kyrie stared at her. "Do you think he meant it?"
"That we should both take care of each other? Of course."
The teenager squirmed. "No, um, I know he meant that part. He said… He said love you, both."
In that instant she became painfully aware of what Kyrie was getting at. "Yes, I absolutely do."
"But he has even actually met me yet," Kyrie protested.
"In many ways your father is a complicated man. But he doesn't waste time pretending to feel things for people that he doesn't," Scully told her. "You're right that he may mostly love the idea of you right now, but I don't doubt that he already loves you."
"Yeah, he's a pretty amazing guy," Scully told her with a grin. For a moment she amused herself by imagining the shopping Mulder would be doing that night: he'd probably need to ask for help, and it wasn't hard to picture him blurting out the fact that he was becoming a dad.
As pleasant as this was, her brow furrowed when she realized that by the time she saw Mulder and their newborn son together, he would have spent more time with both Nathaniel and their still nameless infant than Mulder had been able to spend with William.
"You okay?" Kyrie asked, sounding mildly concerned. Apparently her sudden change of mood had been telegraphed across her face.
"I'm okay," Scully said bravely. She shook her head lightly, as if it could banish the sad thoughts.
Who knew what they'd find at William's house, she reminded herself. Even if William was safe and happy, it didn't have to be a dead-end. Maybe they could write to him or see him once in a while. And even if his parents didn't go for that, he'd be eighteen eventually – him seeing her might prompt him to want to have a relationship with them both when he could.
All of the sudden, she found herself feeling better. Even if they didn't get William back, he wasn't likely to remain as lost to them as he'd been for the past seven years. That might not be exactly her heart's desire, but it wasn't anything to sneeze at, either.
By the time they reached the Nebraska/Wyoming border, all of Scully's thoughts were focused on what it would be like to meet William for the first time. Some of them were nice, even bordering on insipid, but others took a less optimistic cast. She was so entirely preoccupied that she almost forgot that there was anyone else was in the car with her until Kyrie quietly asked "Can I ask you a question?" which made her jump. Not that the girl seemed to notice. "A really serious one."
"Of course," Scully told her, hoping that none of her wariness leaked out into her tone.
"Um…" The girl seemed to have trouble getting started. "It's about my dad."
Scully just nodded, since that was what she expected.
"You said that he would have done everything in his power to protect me, if he'd known about me when I was younger…" she looked away as she continued to speak, voice now falling to almost a whisper. "Do you think he still would?"
"Kyrie, of course he would," she said automatically, but then she gave her stepchild a piercing look before looking back at the road ahead. "I take it that this isn't a hypothetical question."
"No, it's not," Kyrie admitted. For what seemed like forever, Scully said nothing, waiting for her to elaborate. Eventually she did. "My paternal grandfather's not dead."
"Wait, we saw-" Scully began to protest, but then she stopped short. What had she and Mulder actually seen? The unmarked black helicopters had fired on the adobe building, but they'd high-tailed it out of there immediately rather than sifted through the rubble themselves to find the old man's bones and assure themselves that the devil was truly dead.
"You saw what he wanted you to see," Kyrie noted cynically.
"What he wanted us to see?" Scully asked sharply.
The girl nodded. "The helicopters? They were his. Or he hired them, anyway."
"Why would he hire someone to blow up his home?" Scully demanded to know, not bothering to disguise the fact that she thought the idea was absurd. Though, the adobe structure hadn't really struck her as homey. Even now she wondered if he'd really been living there, or if it was yet another instance of him showing them what he wanted them to see, just like his granddaughter had just suggested.
Kyrie offered an inelegant shrug. "People stop looking for dead men. They stop paying attention to what they're up to, too."
As much as she wanted to insist that there was no way that he'd lived through the utter destruction of that building, her heart wasn't really in it enough to open her mouth. If someone had known that the helicopters were coming, it was possible that they could have carefully planned out how to survive. She and Mulder had spent no time at all exploring the structure and had seen very little of it. There was no way of knowing if there had been a lower level that had been fortified to withstand fire and the destruction of the building.
"That son of a bitch," Scully muttered.
To her surprised, Kyrie smiled wanly. "From the stories he told me about his mother, I mean my great-grandmother, you're not far off."
A sudden thought struck her, and left her feeling nauseous. "Kyrie, before you said that you were mad at Jeffery for not looking after you like he was supposed to. Did, did your grandfather raise you after your mother's death?" The idea was almost too horrible to contemplate, and if it was true, she imagined that Mulder would have Kyrie in therapy by New Years, detectable signs of post-traumatic stress or not.
To her vast and utter relief, Kyrie shook her head. Scowling, the girl said, "As if. He didn't have much use for an elementary school kid and pawned the task of caring for me out onto others, in a whole separate house."
"Thank god," Scully muttered under her breath, then gave Kyrie a weak smile as soon as she realized she'd spoken out loud. Fortunately traffic slowed to a crawl, so she felt less like she was being reckless by looking at Kyrie and thinking too hard about what she was saying. "He's really alive?"
"Yep." Kyrie sighed deeply. "He made me drop out of school."
"Why would he do that?" Scully asked automatically, but then she felt a sinking feeling when Kyrie's face fell. Even before she answered, she already anticipated exactly what she was going to say.
"He said that I didn't need a high school diploma for what I was going to be doing." She twisted in her seat, trying to get comfortable, but Scully doubted that her discomfort was entirely physical. "I tried to say of course I did, if I was going to be of any use to them, but he just stared me down and said that being a pretty girl was more than enough of a qualification to convince others to join the cause."
Feeling ill, Scully could barely get out her question. The thought that anyone might use their own flesh and blood, his own grandchild, in some sort of contrived honey trap scenario was appalling. "Did he make you... I mean, have you..." She swallowed hard, unable to finish.
"No, thank god. He at least realized that I needed to be eighteen before any of his potential... recruits was approached. It's kind of funny that he thought that they'd be willing to join a plot against humanity, but not to get mixed up in a situation that could potentially open them up to statutory charges," Kyrie said cynically.
"Stupid or not, I'm glad he hasn't made you do...anything yet." But then a thought struck her. "You won't be eighteen until July, right?"
"Then why did he make you drop out? High schools have their graduations in June or even May, but not as late as July that I've ever heard of. Letting you finish school wouldn't interfere with his, um, plans," she said, trying hard not to think about what he'd had in mind for her.
"Oh, Dana, haven't you figured that out?" Kyrie asked plaintively, and it startled her to hear her use her first name. When Scully shook her head, the girl hunched her shoulders and looked down at her lap. "A person who doesn't even have a high school diploma can't get too far in life. If I can't do anything else...why wouldn't I do what he wanted?"
"Listen, that's all over with," Scully said firmly. Traffic began to move again so she had to attend to driving, but she could still see Kyrie's face out of the corner of her eye. The girl looked skeptical. "Your dad and I will never let him use you in his plans, got it?"
"I guess," Kyrie said with a drawn out sigh.
Shooting her a quick look, Scully asked, "What have you been doing the last six months if you haven't been in school and he hasn't deployed his plan yet?"
"Learning more about The Consortium," Kyrie told her with a small shrug, as if this should be obvious. "For an evil organization, they've sure kept meticulous records. Or, you know, had people keep them for them."
The thought that there might be ordinary-seeming women or men writing up records as if they weren't about inhumane acts almost made Scully hit the car in front of her because she didn't immediately realize they'd braked suddenly. A small detached part of her brain wondered what the going rate was for being an administrative assistant to someone like the smoking man was before she forced herself to focus.
"And that's how you know so much about what they'd planned for your brothers," Scully suggested, grimly putting the pieces together.
To her credit, Kyrie didn't say "duh" and roll her eyes like a lot of teenagers might. Instead she nodded and said, "I'm sorry I couldn't find out more about the other kids. I tried, but being his granddaughter wasn't a key to unlimited access, so there was only so much I could look into without drawing attention to my snooping."
A realization dawned on Scully quite suddenly. "You figured out the stuff about the prophecy early on, didn't you?"
"Sure. And to be honest, I found it interesting, so I kept going back to look once I realized those files were still active. That's how last week I figured out..." Kyrie trailed off, biting her lower lip.
Part of Scully wondered if Mulder's father had any idea that Kyrie knew about her siblings. And she wondered if he cared - it was quite obvious that Kyrie was more capable than he thought, despite what Scully gathered was a long term campaign to convince her that she wasn't good for anything else. Kyrie hadn't said as much, but it was easy to imagine that his plans for her future hadn't come as a shock to her back when she ended the school year in June. No wonder she had trouble being open and honest, Scully reflected, no wonder at all.
"Anyway," Kyrie concluded. "That's how I knew I had to get the baby out of there and where they'd sent Nathaniel."
"I bet you surprised them," Scully said quietly, and Kyrie gave her a curious look. "Let me guess - people who knew who you were, they thought you were docile and obedient, and would never do anything to defy your grandfather. They thought you were less capable of betraying him than they were, and that you were even more under his control than they'd foolishly placed themselves because they'd had a choice and you didn't."
"That's about the long and short of it," Kyrie agreed.
"Then you must have surprised the hell out of them."
"I guess," Kyrie agreed half-heartedly.
Scully just nodded to herself. All she could do was hope that their surprise didn't prompt an all-out search for any of the kids. Or worse, that it already had: the last thing they needed when they got to William's house was someone else to have beaten them there. She couldn't share this with Kyrie, not when she already had dark shadows under her eyes and a perpetually worried look on her face.
If they had to run off into the night with wolves nipping at their heels it wouldn't be for the first time, she thought with a fatalistic resignation. But there was plenty of time to worry about that later. Right then she decided to only worry about the next hour or two, not the days ahead.
Eventually they reached the small Wyoming town that William called home, and Scully felt her impatience and sense of urgency growing exponentially as they listened to the dull droning voice of the GPS tell them where to turn after they left Main street.
Part of her felt that it was idiotic to trust that a piece of electronics could guide them to their final destination, but they'd put the paper maps aside a few states ago once it became clear that the GPS did know where it was going and wasn't determined to lead then off a dock and into the ocean like one occasionally heard about on the news when yet another Darwin award nominee had trusted their GPS instead of their own eyes.
Several turns later, the GPS announced that they were approaching their destination with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
Kyrie, however, was more than excited enough to make up for that. "That's it." She pointed at a house. The numbers next to the mailbox matched their printed out maps.
Scully was still parking when Kyrie asked her, "Do you have a gun?"
"With me?" she asked, surprised by the question.
"In my suitcase," Scully admitted. She hadn't really wanted to bring it with her, but she'd felt like she had to, much in the same way Mulder had insisted that she get the gun in the first place not terribly long after her glock had been left behind in the Hoover building. For a moment she thought about the argument they'd had about that - he'd thought it was foolish to go unarmed while they were on the run and she'd angrily insisted that theft of government property would only up the amount of prison time she was up for if they were discovered like he'd then feared - but then forced herself to listen to what Kyrie was saying.
"Maybe you should get it," Kyrie nervously suggested. It more or less answered Scully's question of whether or not the smoking man had yet gotten around to ordering someone to teach her to shoot. Either he hadn't thought Kyrie would need to be armed when he sent her out into the world to seduce people for his cause, or he figured she was going to pick the skill up quickly so there was no rush. "Please?"
The fact that a teenager was asking her to be armed felt more than a bit absurd, but she found herself nodding. It wasn't as though there would be time to go back to the car and rummage through her luggage if they needed to be armed after all.
Thankfully, her coat hid the holster even though it had been years since she'd needed to make wardrobe choices with that particular consideration in mind.
They walked towards the house with a deliberate casualness, both apparently in unspoken agreement that they wouldn't rush and give away their plans.
At first no one seemed alarmed by their appearance at the house, nor even seemed to have noticed their arrival, but movement caught out of the corner of her eye sent adrenaline surging through Scully and it took a lot of control not to give into the instinct to immediately draw her weapon in response. When she turned her head to get a better look she saw a somewhat familiar seeming figure headed around the house, clearly going out towards the backyard. She shook her head, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. Kyrie hadn't yet noticed anything.
"Carl?" Scully whispered. It didn't seem likely, considering that Sister Tate's sibling was supposed to have been delivering toys just the night before. How would he have had time to get all the way to Wyoming after being in Virginia the night before like the poster at Target had said he'd been?
Apparently Kyrie heard her. "Who's Carl?" she asked, sounding confused.
The door to the house opened, and once Scully realized that the poster they'd seen had made no impression on Kyrie, she said "We'll talk later." Maybe. If her eyes weren't just playing tricks on her, and the man wasn't a figment of her imagination, summoned up by a desire to have potential allies around. Though why she'd imagine a man she only met once would be willing to walk into danger with her, she didn't know.
For no good reason Scully felt a bit better with Carl going around the back of the house, phantom or not. Still, she tensed up a bit when the door opened all the way and someone stepped outside.
It turned out to be someone rather small.
Rather than aliens rushing out to meet them with force, an ordinary looking boy with blue eyes and light brown hair came outside and looked around. After a moment he spotted them.
"Kyrie!" the little boy yelled in their direction and ran right for the teenage girl.
Scully found her heart sinking as he raced right past her without any recognition in his brief glance at her. She hadn't seen him since he was ten months old, so how could she possibly expect him to recognize her? Magic?
William nearly bowled Kyrie over when he reached her and threw his arms around her for a big hug. "You came. You said you would come, and you did!" He grinned. "And you wore your purple hat so I'd know it was you."
Kyrie blushed. "Of course I did, I told you I would." William nodded. "So, how have things been going?"
All semblance of cheerfulness instantly drained from the little boy. He looked at the ground and said roughly, "Not good."
Scully hung back, feeling awkward. Apparently Kyrie noticed this, because she poked him until he looked up. "Will, this is Dana. She's going to help us with the whole… Um, situation."
Dana. For some reason this made her even more unhappy. It was meant innocently, she was sure, but she didn't want to be Dana. Not to William.
For the first time William really looked at Scully "Wow, I'm happy that some grown up plans to help us."
"I…" Scully began, but she forgot what she was going to say.
He tilted his head. "You kinda look like me." William continued to study her. Then he looked up at Kyrie, expression surprised. "You brought my mom? I mean, my real mom."
Kyrie smiled and put her hand on his shoulder. "What other adult do you think would believe us?"
Now he looked like he didn't know how to react. "I thought you said you didn't know her."
The girl shrugged. "At the time I didn't. We met this week."
"How?" William demanded to know.
"Oh." Kyrie squirmed a little bit. "I got into some trouble. And Dana helped me out."
"Even though she's not your mom," William said. This left Scully wondering how much they had talked about her through their e-mails. "She helped you anyway because she turned out to be the sort of person you said you thought she would be." Apparently, she had come up enough for him to develop an opinion of her of his own.
"What can I say," Kyrie said expansively, giving Scully a quick smile. "I figured she would from everything that my mother told me about her. I told you, my mom didn't like her, but she did respect her."
To hear that Fowley had respected her felt so surreal that Scully nearly laughed. But she managed to keep it together and not distract either of the kids.
"Okay," William said, looking directly at Scully. "If Kyrie trusts you, I do too."
"I'm glad," she said honestly.
Still feeling awkward, Scully then shifted from foot to foot, making the snow beneath her shoes crunch before asking William, "um.... how are your parents?" which sounded inane even to her.
"Dead," he said flatly, shocking her. Before she could William react held out his hand and said, "Come on, I'll show you."
When she made no move to do anything Scully found a small hand tugging hers, and she felt dazed as she tried not to stumble as he led her around the house. Kyrie seemed shocked too - clearly the fact that his parents were now dead wasn't something he'd told her through e-mails. The dim thought that it had probably been a good idea not to post such news in writing bubbled to the surface and was dismissed immediately when he stopped and pointed at a pair of metal bulkhead doors. "They're in there."
Scully looked about, wondering if Carl was around, or if indeed he'd never been there at all; she was beginning to suspect the latter.
Kyrie wasn't as distractible and continued to speak to William. "They're in the basement? When did... that happen?" she asked swallowing hard. The show of squeamishness surprised Scully a little, perhaps because she'd never considered the possibility that Kyrie hadn't easily done the things she had to protect Nathaniel and keep the baby from also possibly being marked for death too down the road.
William suddenly looked stricken, and Scully could almost see his denial shatter. "Last night," he said thickly, and Scully felt a wave of pity now that he could no longer keep up his I'm-okay-despite-all-of-this façade.
Scully impulsively held her arms out, not really expecting him to respond, but after a moment he went to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. As much as she wanted to believe this was because it was her, she'd seen enough small suffering children cling to strange adults to know that they sometimes would take comfort from any adult who offered it to them. Unsurprisingly, he began to cry immediately, bolstering her theory.
Scully let him cry himself out, shaking her head when Kyrie opened her mouth to say something. The teenager scowled, but obeyed. Scully could already see that they'd butt heads at times over how to handle William, and perhaps the younger boys too. She'd hoped that it wouldn't be an issue considering that Kyrie hadn't cared for the little ones very long, but she'd failed to take how long the two siblings had been communicating and building their relationship.
Eventually William let her go and began to rub his eyes with his fists. If he'd been older he probably would have gruffly insisted "I'm okay" even if he was still miserable, but he was still too young for that sort of masculine denial of his feelings to be automatic.
"Can we talk about what happened last night?" Scully asked gently.
After a moment of staring at his boots, William eventually nodded. He sighed. "I was in bed last night when I heard some fireworks. Pop, pop! But there shouldn't be any until New Years. Then I got scared and realized they'd finally done it."
It was only in that moment that Scully realized that she had no idea what William had been dealing with in Wyoming: until now she'd assumed that William's parents, if they were dead, had been dead as long as Nathaniel's. Otherwise, they were fine and at worst they'd be pissed at her for tracking him down despite the closed adoption. Obviously neither of these things were actually the case, yet them not being dead had made Kyrie worry about his safety enough to make a plan to rescue him.
Pausing for a moment, she wondered why Kyrie hadn't known for sure if the Van De Kamps were dead or alive, and she was sure she didn't because she would have said so when Kyrie tried to argue for them taking William had she been able to. Had William refused to tell her how they were, or had he told Kyrie that they were alive (up until the night before) and she simply hadn't believed him?
A tree branch a few hundred feet away rattled in the wind and Scully suddenly became aware of how exposed they were. She could only blame shock for failing to think about how vulnerable they were attack as they stood there talking. "We shouldn't be out here, um, in the cold," she improvised, not wanting to scare either of the kids more. "Can we go into the basement?" she asked hesitantly, not eager to force William to see his parents' bodies again. All of the other buildings were too distant to make a run for, and even if they could do so without danger of being shot at, she really wasn't sure how to suggest running without causing them to panic.
Her trepidation must have shown, because he offered her a sickly smile before saying, "They... They're in the root cellar in the back. So it's okay."
It wasn't okay, but even her vocabulary had a better word for what he meant, so she and Kyrie just helped him to open the bulkhead doors as quietly as possible. Inside it was almost as dark as night and Scully found her anxiety ramping up as they ascended the concrete steps rather than lessening - what if she'd made a mistake? What if the Van De Kamps' killers were waiting for them in the dark? What if-
A dim spot of light appeared in front of her, and by the time her eyes adjusted, William was letting go of a string pull to turn on the light. He'd had to stand up on his tip toes to reach.
There wasn't much down there - a big black metal tank for home heating oil, an ancient washing machine, and a few wooden crates, and a box of replacement shingles - which surprised her a little until she considered the out buildings on the property... the thought of those other buildings sent her down a rabbit hole as she found herself wondering if the bodies had been put inside the house to torture William when necessity didn't require it.
Without being asked, Kyrie found a rag somewhere and used it to dust off some of the wooden crates before upending three of them so they'd have a place to sit. The wood felt cold and splintery, but Scully sat on it without complaint. William dragged his own "chair" closer to Kyrie and she tried not to let it show that his obvious preference for his sister over her bothered her; it was hard to fight down the imp of jealousy, even though it was irrational given the boy knew Kyrie much better.
Scully looked around for a moment, finding nothing terrible in the dim reaches of the soon before looking back at the two children. "You need to tell me what's been going on around here."
At least there was no movement in the shadows that suggested an impending attack. That did mean that they were somewhere else, though, which was something that could be equally deadly if she allowed herself to forget to wonder what they were up to.
"They shot your parents last night, like they did Nathaniel's, right, William?" Kyrie asked.
He nodded, but frowned when Scully shook her head.
"I understood that the 'fireworks' were really shots being fired. But, Will-" she bit off the -iam she would have normally added when she remembered that he went by Will. "-you said they'd 'finally' done it, and Kyrie seemed to agree that their deaths were something that was something predictable. Why is that?"
William looked surprised and loudly whispered, "you didn't tell her?" to Kyrie.
"No, I didn't tell her," Kyrie snapped and then said nothing more.
He made a frustrated noise before making eye contact with Scully for the first time. "For a long time I saw people who looked like my mom and dad, but weren't them."
"Aren't you going to say that's crazy?" Kyrie challenged her.
This made Scully wonder just what it had been that Kyrie and Lybecker had discussed before she'd gotten there because it seemed a lot like she'd been told just that thing. "No," Scully calmly told them both, not reacting to the skeptical looks this earned her. "Your dad and I... We've encountered people who could change their appearances before."
"They are NOT people," Kyrie hotly insisted.
Scully thought of Eddie Blunt and the Kindred before conceding, "Some of them aren't, that's true."
William shivered, which wasn't too surprising considering the basement was unheated. But as he went on, she wondered if there was more to it than that. "A few weeks ago I began to see them in places they shouldn't be. Watching me. Like I'd beat recess and I'd see Dad across the street but later he'd say he'd been at work so I'd imagined it.''
"They didn't talk to you?" Scully asked.
He looked at his feet. "Not at first. But last week they tried to get me to go with them."
"They did?" Kyrie asked. The look on her face suggested that this didn't surprise her, and when Scully glanced at her, she wondered why that was. Kyrie had opened up a little bit about her past, but there was still so much that Scully didn't know about her. From her reaction, she was willing to bet that the girl had spent more time around these creatures impersonating humans than just rescuing Nathaniel and the baby could account for.
Wide-eyed, William nodded. "Before you ask how I knew it wasn't them, I could just tell." For second he looked like he didn't have the words to express his thoughts, but then he looked at them both. "They just… They just weren't right. They looked just like mom and dad, but they didn't move right. I mean, they probably moved like they moved, but not like my mom and dad move. Moved. Does that make any sense?"
Scully thought back to the one that had once tried to strangle her and thought about how it had been more realistic an impersonation than the others she had run into. "I think I understand," she offered. "They moved like they had borrowed a body, and didn't quite know how to make it work right. Something like that?"
William nodded more vigorously. "Yeah. Just like that. And they didn't talk the same either. I mean, they sounded like mom and dad and their regular voices, but the way they said things, and the words they used… It was like a robot mom and dad."
"That must of been scary," Kyrie said.
This startled Scully more than she liked to admit to herself. Of course it had been a scary experience, although it paled in comparison to what it apparently happened the night before, but why hadn't she thought about how scary it had been for him? She was his mother, so shouldn't it have occurred to her sooner than it occurred to his sister?
As soon as she had that thought the little, mean voice in the back of her mind took the opportunity to pounce at once. It told her that maybe her lack of empathy was just another sign that she hadn't been mother material to begin with. And maybe it had all been for the best to give him up.
I'm doing the best I can here, so shut the hell up, Scully silently told that voice. For once, did.
"Anyway," he said. "I refused to go with them. They looked real mad, but maybe they were afraid that I'd scream, so they didn't try to grab me or anything."
"I'm glad you had the presence of mind not to go with them," Scully commented. The look that her son gave her in return was a combination of curious and suspicious, but she didn't elaborate. William was clearly as smart as she hoped he would be, but he was still a little boy. Perhaps it was selfish, but she was glad that he wasn't one of the dead bodies in the root cellar instead.
But as soon as she had that thought, her heart skipped a beat. What if he was? She and Kyrie had never met him in person, at least at his current age in her case, so they wouldn't know if he wasn't acting right.
That's crazy, she tried to tell herself, but the thought persisted.
"I guess it didn't matter though," William sighed. "They still got my mom and dad."
"Do they know you know?" Kyrie asked, and Scully through her a startled look. Of course that was an extremely germane question, and she was slightly ashamed that she hadn't thought to ask it herself.
It should have come as a relief when William shook his head, but it didn't really. Again, he was a smart little boy, but… "No. I didn't let them see me sneak down here and look at… at the bodies."
If this was one of the aliens pretending to be William, it was doing a convincing job of acting like an eight-year-old boy. Still. Looking at him, Scully asked, "Can I see them?"
"Okay," William said, his expression queasy.
This more than anything allayed her suspicions. A shape shifter would have tried to talk her out of it. Or so she assumed. "Thank you."
William didn't move from his spot on the box he was perched on, but instead pointed a small finger at a door along the wall. Somehow she hadn't noticed it until then, maybe because it was in the shadows, and the worn wood was weathered to nearly the same gray as the walls.
Scully stood slowly, and cautiously waited to see if William would get up to. He didn't, but he didn't stop her from worry ing about a sudden blow to the back of the head. Stop it, she told herself, he's him. He has to be. But what if there are no bodies at all? she couldn't help but think. What if instead of two dead people there were two shape shifters crouching in wait, ready to pounce as soon as the door was opened. Unconsciously, her fingers brushed against the butt of her gun.
The door had an old-fashioned latch on it instead of a knob, the type you have to lift up while you pull the door at the same time. At first the door stuck a little bit, but then it opened. As soon as it did her nose told her that death was the only occupant the dark dugout chamber; the earthy and musty smells one would normally associate with a root cellar competed with and lost to the telltale scents that never ceased to remind her that decay set in almost as soon as one's heart stopped beating.
"I'm so sorry," she muttered under her breath, realizing even as she did that the people in the root cellar could not hear her.
At first she just stared in at them, noticing how sadly pathetic their booted feet struck her, but then she had the presence of mind to remember that she had placed a small flashlight in her winter coat two weeks before. Of course, when she had done so, she had never for a second imagined that she would need its light to examine the dead.
The noise of it sounded echoy in the enclosed space, and it made her wince. There wasn't much blood. She tried not to think about how absorbent bare earth can be. When she finally cast the light on the dead couple's faces she saw instantly that each forehead was punctured by a neat hole. If it had been a crime scene she was examining she would have been forced to roll them over and look for exit wounds, but she knew without doing so now that the holes on the back of their skulls would be much larger.
She was still leaning halfway in the space when she heard William asked behind her "they're really dead, right?"
Straightening, she backed out and turned to him. "They are, Will. I'm so sorry." But even as she said so Scully thought to herself that perhaps his question meant that he hadn't gotten a very good look at them. She hoped so.
She hadn't realized that he had been hoping she would say otherwise until that hope fled from his expression. Deflating, he looked up at her and said, "That's what I… No, I think I knew for sure."
Before she could move, Kyrie hopped off the box she had still been sitting on, and hugged him. A burst of envy overtook her, surprising her as it did so. She was his mother, but what did that mean to him? Probably less at that moment than it meant that Kyrie was his sister.
"Now what?" William asked, his voice clotted with tears. In case it wasn't obvious what he meant, he went on. "Now what happens to me?"
"You'll come with us, of course," Kyrie said quickly.
Scully suppose that was a more comforting answer than her own, which would have been "that's a really good question."
"Okay," he replied in a small voice. It was beyond obvious that it wasn't okay. And as far as he was concerned, things might never be okay again. She couldn't blame him. She had felt that way when her own father died, and she'd been a grown adult (who still had a mother) at the time.
What they would now do with William was, in fact, a very good question. She had told Kyrie that they would have to leave William with his parents if they hadn't been replaced. And she had had so much doubt about the possibility of them being dead that she hadn't spent much time thinking about what it would mean if they were. Part of that, perhaps mostly if she was honest with herself, was because she didn't want to get her hopes up. But now she wished that she had spent more of what had seemed like endless time traveling thinking about the possibility that they would find both of his parents dead.
Could she just leave with him, she wondered. Just leave, never tell anyone that his parents were dead, and hoped that nobody would ask any questions? But of course people would ask questions. Schools would ask questions. Legal bodies might ask questions, the least of which being "why didn't you report finding bodies?" once they were eventually found by someone else, and she had no doubt that they would be. Maybe she and Kyrie would even be considered suspects in the deaths…
A subtle change in the amount of light in the basement had Scully looking up. "Oh, no," William whispered, and all the blood drained from his face. Scully grabbed his coat and roughly shoved him behind her, only vaguely sorry that her hasty actions made him stumble over his feet. He didn't fall down, and he was safer behind her, so there wasn't much room for regret.
Kyrie, to her relief, came and crowded next to them, somehow avoiding the side Scully's gun was on. She vaguely wondered if it had been an accident, or if Kyrie had known she'd need room to move her arm to draw her gun.
If the creature staring at them from the basement doorway was any indication, Mrs. Van De Kamp had been a pleasant looking woman with a welcoming smile. She was looking directly at William, and it didn't come as a surprise when she said, "William, I didn't know we had guests. Why didn't you bring them up to meet me and your father?"
As they stared at the woman with the bland expression Scully wondered what William would do, and it killed her a little that she couldn't whisper suggestions in his ear. Because nobody stopped her, the thing pretending to be Mrs. Van De Kamp walked into the cellar with them.
"You're not my mother," William said defiantly. His voice had come out in a high breathless rush, and Scully wanted desperately to reassure him that he'd reacted the right way.
"William, what a thing to say!" Not William's mother complained reproachfully. "I know that all adopted children struggle-"
"That's not what I mean and you know it," William told her coldly.
Not William's mother hesitated for a second before dropping the façade. "We should have killed you too last night," it said in an entirely different tone: none of the homespun, aw shucks nicety was still there. "Apparently it would have saved us some trouble."
Snow crunched loudly outside before a male figure stuck his head into the doorway and said cheerfully, "Hon, you down here?"
For half a second Scully had the absurd idea that the two shape shifters were in a romantic relationship like real people, but it burst abruptly when the man took one look at Not William's mother and simply said "Oh."
Scully stared back at him, stunned. Could the shape shifting aliens read minds, or had he simply taken in the scene at a glance and figured out what was going on?
"Yes, oh," Not William's mother said sharply.
"Then you were right," Not William's father said, sounding frustrated. "I should've listened." He too walked in with them. It made Scully feel claustrophobic, and nervous.
"Yes, you should have," she hissed.
The two continued to bicker amongst themselves, almost as if they didn't think they had anything to fear from the humans in the room. Scully calmly took her gun out, and cocked it, aiming it at them.
This finally got their attention. "Oh," Not William's father said again.
"Let's make a deal," Not William's mother suggested. There was a frantic tone in her voice, but her expression remained calm.
The phrasing made Scully think about Monty Hall, and she tried to push the image of things being behind doors away because it was unsettling in a way it normally wasn't. Perhaps because instead of a goat being behind when of the doors, utter disaster might be.
"Dana! We can't make a deal with them," Kyrie insisted.
Her gut agreed with the teenager, but her mind said slow down. Ignoring Kyrie, Scully looked at them. "What sort of deal? You must believe you have something of value to offer me."
The faux woman pointed at William. "Him."
"What about him?" Scully asked sharply.
"We'll let you have him."
"I could just take him?"
"Yes," she said eagerly.
Scully shook her head, and the other woman deflated. "You may not be human, but I'm sure you know that's not how it works. If I just took him, eventually I would get into legal trouble. I don't have legal guardianship of him anymore."
"Papers." The expression on the not-quite-a-woman's face began to take on at least an imitation of desperation. "I know that this society is based around laws and endless paperwork. Surely there must be some sort of paperwork we can submit to say that we want you to have custody of him again."
"Can they do that, Dana?" William asked quietly. Scully shook her head, silencing him. He looked confused, as if he wasn't sure if she meant to answer him or just tell him to be quiet. There would be plenty of time to explain later. Or so she desperately hoped.
"You can't simply fill out a form," Scully told her. "I'm fairly certain there would have to be a judge involved. In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure how it works, but perhaps a social worker could explain it to us."
"Then let's let one."
"So you want to go right now to the nearest social service office and tell them you want help giving up your adopted child back to his birth mother?" Scully asked, trying not to sound incredulous.
"We do," Not William's father said stoutly. "If you let us live, we'll go there right now."
Scully glanced over at Mulder's daughter. "Take William with you to the car, and get your laptop. We're going to need directions to find social services."
"Um, okay," Kyrie said, looking as confused as she sounded. William still looked confused too, but he took the hand that Kyrie extended to him, and the two of them walked out of the basement.
Trying not to let her anxiety show, Scully waited for one of the two creatures pretending to be William's parents to attack her. She was about 90% certain that eventually they would, which was the bigger reason she sent the kids away. She didn't really need them to see that sort of thing, even if she did hope that she would be the victor.
To kill time, Scully gestured towards the open root cellar door and said "what about them?"
For half a second they gave her a blank look, and she wondered if in their vernacular a person ceased to have pronouns applied to them after death. "The dead people?" she prompted which felt absurd. How could they not seem to remember that something would have to be done with the pair of corpses in the root cellar?
I'm standing in a basement with two dead people and two people pretending to be them, a hysterical little voice at the back of her mind began to speak up when no one else did. This is crazy. Nothing good is going to come of this. We have to get out of here. I really need to get the kids out of here. Maybe I should start shooting. Maybe-
"They're dead," Not Mrs. Van De Kamp said. She sounded a little surprised, as if she found out her prized student was a little dimmer than she thought.
"I'm aware of that," Scully said impatiently. As long as she could focus on this conversation she could beat down the little voice that told her that she wasn't going to get out of the situation alive. Although, to reassure it she reminded it that she had given Kyrie the spare set of keys: if the shit really hit the fan at least Kyrie would be able to get away with William.
"Then I'm not sure I understand your question," the alien admitted, which almost made Scully laugh. It was the first time she ever heard one of them say something remotely like that.
"They can't just be left in the root cellar forever," Scully told her. Did the creature simply not understand enough about the decay of biological matter to realize that eventually a pair of smelly corpses would present them with a problem?
"With enough lime they could be," the alien man suggested, revealing that they did have some knowledge about what happened to human remains after all. "The neighbors would never know."
This statement made her snap to attention. "Because you would continue to pretend to be them?" she asked. This earned her nod. Honestly puzzled, she couldn't help but blurt out "you'll just go on pretending to be cattle farmers forever?"
The idea of aliens, if she imagined them as they really looked under their borrowed forms, as cattle ranchers was almost enough to make her giggle again. She only realized that she was on the verge of hysterics again when she began imagining how cows would react to looking over and seeing that they were being milked by gray skinned begins creatures with long fingers. Would their hands be very cold, she wondered. Get a grip, that little internal voice hissed, and for once she was grateful to it. But not a grip like on a teat, it couldn't help but joke, making her think of Mulder.
But like a game of association, the thought of Mulder helped her regain her focus. Thoughts of Mulder led to thoughts of Kyrie and Will, and that of course made her think of everything that was at stake. As soon as she had that thought, everything became less surreal.
Maybe her sudden clarity was obvious, because she detected the aliens becoming more cautious. The male one said, "We'd be them for as long as necessary."
Scully was slightly disappointed, because they were not being as loose lipped as they might've been had she continued to be on the verge of losing it. She supposed that it was a small price to pay, though. "As long as necessary?" she asked but they didn't elaborate. "How-" she nearly said would, but stopped herself in time, not wanting to give any hint that she was not fully behind the idea of letting them live. "-will you explain William's sudden absence?"
Not William's Mother shrugged indifferently. "I'll tell people my mother is not feeling well, and William went to spend some time with his grandmother while he still could."
For a second Scully was so distracted by the idea that William's adopted parents might have family members who would suffer the loss of their loved ones even if they didn't know it, that she barely realized that the creature before her had just offered her a clue about their plans. If they thought that a visit to grandma would completely explain why William was not around to those who asked, it was obvious that they didn't intend to spend years pretending to be the couple they had murdered.
"And he'll join you when you move?" she suggested. It was easy to imagine the poor bewildered neighbors thinking that grandma took a sudden turn for the worse and that the whole family would be joining her.
"Something like that," the alien replied, suspicion evident in its tone as well as the folding of its borrowed features. This made Scully wonder if she could have told if it looks suspicious if it wore its own face. Somehow she thought not, because even though grays had large eyes, those eyes tended to be expressionless.
"Okay," Scully announced abruptly, and they both looked somewhat surprised. "It sounds like you have thought this out. As soon as Kyrie brings me the laptop, we'll find out where social services is."
If this surprised them, they both recovered quickly. "Yes. Of course."
"Dana?" Kyrie's voice said hesitantly from the doorway. When Scully looked over she could see that Kyrie was clutching the still bagged laptop. Fortunately, it appeared as though William had remained in the car.
Glancing at the girl's face, Scully saw there plainly that Kyrie was surprised there hadn't been any violence in her absence. If she had intended for both children not to realize why she had initially sent them away, fooling them had not worked out, at least not in Kyrie's case. Scully tried to smile reassuringly, but it was difficult to force any real emotion into it. Holding out her hands, she said, "Thank you very much, Kyrie."
The girl came forward, but Scully didn't watch her, instead she focused her attention on the two aliens, studying them to see if they would regard her with hostility. After all, this girl, still a child legally, had killed two of their fellows. To her relief, if they bore the girl any animosity, they hid it well enough that Scully was able to take the laptop from her instead of shoot them.
"Um. What did you decide?" Kyrie asked, clearly not able to articulate what she really wanted to know.
Shrugging lightly, Scully pulled the laptop out of its case, and booted it. "As soon as we find directions, were headed to social services. I'm sure they're going to help us sort things out. Social workers deal with this sort of thing all of the time."
"Unh huh." Kyrie looked doubtful, but she wisely decided to stow her questions until later. Scully hoped that the questions would come much later, perhaps after William fell asleep.
For a moment Scully was distracted by the thought of William being asleep. They would need to ask for a cot when they rented the next room. He wouldn't want to share a bed with her or Kyrie, of course, and as much as she was growing to like Mulder's daughter, she couldn't imagine sharing a bed with her either. Not like she and Missy had shared beds during family trips.
She shook her head lightly to remind herself to focus, and typed in her inquiry into the web browser. Looking over her shoulder, she said to the aliens, "it's our lucky day. It looks like their open for another several hours."
Of course there was no guarantee that any sort of legal counsel required would also have such generous hours so close to the holiday, but that was a challenge they would have to face when they finally came to it.
To her automatic and visceral horror, one of the aliens came forward and crowded behind her, and she almost screamed until she realized it was just trying to read the directions and hours for social services over her shoulder. It quickly read the webpage, and then took a step back. Its eyes had only flicked across the page, and she wondered if it had a memory equal or better to Mulder's.
"Two cars?" the male alien suggested solicitously. It sounded for all the world like it was suggesting plans for going to brunch.
"Yes," Scully said, having to force herself not to shout her answer. She knew full well that she was making a deal with the devils, but there was no force on earth short of saving the kids' lives that would compel her to share a car ride with them.
"Then let's go," Not William's mother suggested.
The quartet was out in the yard, and the creatures pretending to be the Van De Kamps had already climbed into the dead couple's expensive SUV, when Kyrie grabbed her arm. They were still about eight yards from Scully's car, and she suspected that stopping her then had been calculated to keep William from being able to overhear.
"Are we actually going to trust them?" Kyrie asked.
Scully shook her head. "Trust is a little bit, let's call it a mile, too far."
"But we are going to go with them and hope that they actually sign the paperwork, right?" the girl asked.
"Yes," Scully admitted.
"You know this whole thing is crazy," Kyrie asked.
"Yes, I'm aware of that."
Scully had expected her to argue, but instead the girl just shrugged. "Well, as long as you're aware of it."
Impulsively, Scully gave the girl a half hug. Kyrie looked surprised. "You and your dad, you're going to get along wonderfully."
"Oh, that's good," Kyrie mumbled, looking acutely embarrassed. This made Scully remember how much being a teenager sucked. Every other thing seemed to be embarrassing then.
"Kyrie, I'm well aware that doing anything with them gives them the chance to screw us over, but I can't think of a better solution. I wasn't joking when I said that we need paperwork to prove that William belonged with us. If we just killed them, like I want to, like I'm sure you want to, eventually social services would catch up to us, realize that there was no reason for William to be with us, and they would take him from us. We'd never see him, and he'd be in a foster home. I know this is risky. But I don't think we have any other choice."
"Oh." It was clear that the girl hadn't been thinking in these terms, which didn't surprise Scully. Kyrie was obviously bright, but one way that she differed from her father was that she was obviously more driven by emotion than he was. On the other hand, she hadn't known Mulder at seventeen. Maybe he had been different then too. "I can see what you mean. I guess we do have to trust them."
Early That Evening
If Scully ever sat down and wrote her memoirs she thought perhaps the afternoon she spent with aliens at social services and then with a judge would have to be the centerpiece odd part of the book. The Not Van De Kamps played their parts well enough to fool everyone at social services, and the judge who signed the new custody agreement as well. The way they played it was that their farm was struggling badly, and it was no longer remotely financially feasible for them to raise a child. They wanted to give him back to his biological parents to avoid having to put him in the foster care system. They thought it was the right thing to do. Scully of course agreed.
All throughout, Scully got more of the sense that things weren't quite going the way they were supposed to, the way they would normally, but she tried to chalk it up to everyone involved, except for the aliens, having a generous dose of Christmas spirit speeding up what was probably otherwise the more lengthy process. Of course a voice of doubt at the back of her mind said that if this was a lucky streak, it was bound to end at some point. She tried to beat it into insensible silence.
Either way, by 7 o'clock that night, Scully was in possession of a signed document saying that William's adoption had been dissolved, and she and Mulder were now yet again his legal parents as well as biological ones. Technically, she was now William's adoptive mother too, but it made her head hurt to think too hard about that.
Once the papers were signed and they walked out of the building, neither Scully nor the aliens seemed to know what to do next, which was something she found slightly disconcerting – she'd never considered aliens as being capable of being at a loss for what to do before, since they were always so ruthlessly driven in comparison to the poor humans they ran roughshod over.
The five of them stood outside awkwardly until she herded the children towards her car, and made them get in; Scully handed Kyrie the paperwork as she did so. Kyrie gave her suspicious looks, and it didn't surprise Scully much when the girl cracked the window. It was quite obvious that she wanted to hear what was going to be said next.
The man pretending to be William's not any longer adopted father gave Scully a nervous smile. "So were good then?"
If Scully closed her eyes and turned off her brain, she could have easily imagine that he sounded just like a farmer closing a deal would. But she couldn't do that. She couldn't close her eyes in their presence, not when she didn't trust them. And as for turning off her brain… She looked around, not caring if it seemed suspicious to the pretenders, and noted that there was nobody else in sight. She had wondered if the social workers or perhaps the judge would also come out of the building, especially considering the lateness of the hour, but the entire area was deserted.
And this suited her well.
"No," she said suddenly, drawing her weapon and pointing at them.
For a moment they both looked betrayed, which she found comical. These monsters had done so much damage to humans, so it seemed rather bizarre to see them react in a way that made it obvious that they were surprised that the shoe was now on the other foot.
"We did everything you wanted us to," the woman of the pair said rather breathlessly.
"I know. And thank you. But I don't see why that should translate into letting you live. As you said, you have given me everything I wanted."
A sly look over came Not Mister Van Kamp Kamp's face. "Not everything."
"What you mean?" Scully demanded to know sharply.
"We know where one of the others is."
"One of what others?" Scully asked, honestly not exactly sure where they were going with this. Did they mean another alien shape shifter? Or did they mean something else?
"Your other children," he said quietly. Perhaps she looked startled, because he sneered at her. "We know the location of one of them. And you don't."
Scully lowered the gun a few inches, but was reluctant to put it away. "No, I don't."
For a moment he just nodded in a self-satisfied way. "If you let us live, will make sure you find that child."
"Which child?" Scully demanded eagerly. She didn't actually have a preference in mind. She just wanted to know if it was one of the two children between Emily and William in age, or if it was the youngest one that was still lost to her.
"I don't think we'll tell you that," the woman interrupted. Scully shot her a hateful look. The faux woman just met it calmly. "I don't think it would be healthy for us to."
Of course 'she' was right: if Scully could have gotten enough clues to locate the child on her own after speaking to them, she would have no compulsion against killing them both where they stood. There were no witnesses around, and by the time anybody came outside after hearing the gunfire, all they would notice is a couple of sets of antifreeze soaked clothing on the sidewalk and a car driving away.
"How do I know you would keep your end of the bargain?" Scully asked abruptly.
The alien who wasn't Mister Van De Kamp laugh mirthlessly. "So far we've kept our bargains better than you have," he pointed out.
It was true. She was the one who betrayed them, at least as far as any agreements between them went. "When?" she asked, not caring that it was a non-sequitur.
"Soon," the not-actually-a-woman promised.
"How soon?" Scully demanded to know. "Being vague doesn't give me an incentive to let you live. If your definition of 'soon' is a few months, or a couple of years…I could probably track the child down myself in that amount of time. I wouldn't need you."
The pair exchanged a look and Scully wondered if they could communicate telepathically like so many abductees claimed that they could. "Before you earthlings celebrate another of Earth's completed revolutions around the sun," the man offered.
She got the sense that he was being less obtrusively vague than being failed by his human vocabulary. "By New Years?" Scully asked, to be sure that the aliens weren't under the impression that another holiday was the celebration of the new year. She suddenly recalled the Chinese calendar year being different and clarified, "By January first."
"Yes," he said, looking relieved that she'd understood.
Still suspicious, she asked, "You'll-" Scully paused, realizing that they hadn't actually told her what they were offering. She assumed it was a coordinate, but she wasn't positive. "-give me the child's whereabouts by January 1, 2010?" There was no way she wanted to leave them weasel room by not clarifying which New Years they were talking about, either.
"Yes. We will give you the child's location by then."
A new thought shook her, and she thought suddenly of Emily. They could tell her where Emily was, and the girl was no longer alive. Knowing where her body ended up would offer a sort of closure, but it wasn't what she really needed. She needed to know where her living progeny was, if any of them were still alive. "Is… is the child alive?" Scully asked hesitantly. They looked a bit surprised by her question. She wondered if looking shocked would have been out of the question for them even with their borrowed human faces given that expressions weren't something innate to their species.
"Yes, of course," the not-quite-a-man replied. "We're not so dumb as to think you'd be pacified by a burial location."
"Is that what I'm looking for in the other cases?" Scully asked abruptly. "Am I looking for two graves and one living child?" This thought sent a spear of agony through her heart, but she'd be lying to herself if she claimed she hadn't wondered if Kyrie had learned nothing about them because they were already dead.
"We know nothing about the other two now," he admitted and she really wanted to believe that he was lying. She didn't, though. "Which isn't to say we might not know in the future," he added, apparently unaware that this sounded like a veiled threat.
"All right. Go," she said, lowering her gun the rest of the way. "But don't go back to the farmhouse until-" Scully glanced down at her watch. "Nine tonight."
"Why?" Not William's mother asked. This request didn't look like it pleased her, which Scully thought was rich given that they were being allowed to live.
Scully motioned towards the car with the hand not holding her gun. "We need to get his things and we don't want you there."
"Oh." The alien glanced over at its mate, or so Scully assumed their relationship was. "Cracker Barrel?"
The insanity of a couple of aliens going out for a homestyle meal almost had Scully breaking down in hysterics, but she was able to contain herself if only just. "Have fun," she said flatly.
Neither of the aliens said goodbye before getting back into the dead couple's SUV and driving off.
"Now what?" William asked plaintively.
Scully swallowed down a sigh. She knew he was asking about the bigger picture, but she wasn't ready to deal with that. "Now we go back to your house and gather as much of your things that'll fit in this car," Scully told him.
"I told you we'd need a bigger car," Kyrie muttered in the backseat.
"So you did."
For a kid it turned out that William was pretty practical about what he wanted to take with them. He did select a handful of things to remember his adoptive parents by, but they were all things that could easily be stowed in one of the duffel bags they were putting his other things in.
They were carrying his filled bags out to Scully's car when the boy stopped, and Scully slowed to a stop as well to see what he had to say. "Dana?" William asked hesitantly. "Is it true that you live with my dad?"
"Yes," she told him, wondering if the language used while they sorted his custody out had gone over his head. Scully supposed it must have if he hadn't realized for certain that he'd be living with both herself and Mulder. "We got married too."
"But you didn't live with him when I was a baby. Because it wasn't safe."
"Yes, that's right," she admitted cautiously. "We got some information that suggested that you and I would be safer apart from him. So it was very difficult for him, but he decided that he had to go into hiding to keep us safe."
"It didn't work out that way," William suggested.
"Unfortunately, no it didn't. The man who wanted to harm all three of us did end up trying to hurt us anyway." She hesitated for a second, but then went on. "And I lost contact with your dad for a while because things got more dangerous for him too. I had no way of knowing if he was okay, or to talk to him about what the best thing to do was..." If she could have spoken to him, he would have helped her weigh the options, one of which would have been abandoning DC and the three of them going on the run although it would have been no life for a baby.
"So you decided that I should be in hiding too. Be adopted, I mean."
"Yes," she said so softly she wondered if he could even hear her.
"Would you have…" he paused, obviously struggling to find words. "If you knew my dad was coming back would you have still-"
She interrupted him, "no."
"That's what I thought," he said, relaxing little. "That's what I thought."
"Will, have you ever wished you could go back and do things differently?"
"Sometimes," he agreed.
"Me too, Will, me too."
They were on the highway and headed towards the motel Scully had called ahead to make a reservation when her phone made a noise to let her know that she'd gotten a text. Not taking her eyes from the road, she handed the phone back to Kyrie. "Could you see what it says, please?"
"Is it from your dad?" Scully asked when enough time seemed to have passed for it to be read.
"No. It says it's from your mom," Kyrie told her. Scully could see her in the rear view mirror, squinting down at the text. "Your mom is still alive, right?"
"Oh good. I was afraid it was someone pretending to be her."
Kyrie didn't have to say who she suspected might pretend to be her mother if they didn't know she was dead; they all knew she meant the aliens. There hadn't really been a discussion of how they'd let her know where the other child was – somehow Scully had just instinctively trusted that they already knew how to find her. Kyrie seemed to believe this too.
"No, she's fine," Scully confirmed. "My dad passed away not long after I joined the FBI, though."
"So no texts from your Dad. Got it."
"Kyrie, what does her text say?" Scully asked when the girl made no attempt to tell her.
"She wants to know if you'll be home for Christmas. Heh. I guess not." After a moment, the teenager apparently realized that she might appear rude for finding it funny. "Um, sorry."
Good lord, what am I going to tell my mother? Scully found herself thinking frantically. Hi, Mom. You know how you've always wished that I hadn't made what you consider the biggest mistake of my life? Guess what. I got William back. Oh, I also have two baby boys. And I'm technically a stepmother to a teenage girl that Mulder had no idea he fathered just before he met me.
This of course, was all too much to text. "Kyrie, can you text her back that I'll call her soon?"
"I have a grandma?" William asked suddenly.
"Yes, you do. Just the one, though, unfortunately," Scully told him, hoping to break the news gently. "Both of your grandfathers are gone, too." Though she silently added to herself that apparently the smoking man was now a question mark rather than in the decidedly dead column, at least after her discussion with Kyrie on the topic.
William didn't seem too upset to learn that he only had one living biological grandparent. "Cool. My other grandparents all died before I started kindergarten," he remarked, and Scully found herself the tiniest bit thankful that there actually were no parents who'd be left wondering what happened not only to their children, but their grandson too.
"Do you have aunts or uncles?" Scully asked him.
"No. My dad, he had an older brother, but he died in a war. In the middle east?" William sounded uncertain. "And my mom was an only child. She said she was a 'turn of life baby' so grandma and grandpa thought she was a big surprise," he added, apparently understanding at least enough about female biology to understand a baby when you were older wasn't typical.
"I can see that," Scully murmured, thinking about Nathaniel, the unnamed newborn, and the negative pregnancy test that was now at the landfill. She'd been so devastated at the time, but now she found that she was nearly glad that the test hadn't come up with two pink lines after all.
"So... I guess no one will miss me but my friends, teachers, and the neighbors," he offered.
"You are an insightful boy, Will."
There was a movement just outside of the reaches of the rear view mirror, and Scully surmised that Kyrie had elbowed him because he rubbed his ribs. "Insightful is good, you goof. It means you figure out clues well."
The two kids continued to talk and Scully reflected that Kyrie was good with him. And she was good with her too, if she was honest with herself. Kyrie's presence made the three days of driving that they'd just undertaken bearable, and it had been nice to have another woman, or almost, to talk to. It reminded her some of before Missy had gone away to college and left her and Charlie behind.
Of course, Kyrie wasn't an adult, she reminded herself sternly, and even though she was a pretty steady girl, she still was a girl. Leaning too much on her was unfair, and something she had to work on, even if Kyrie didn't seem to object to being treated like an equal. Mature for her age or not, it was as much Scully's job to protect her as it was to protect William... not that she hoped they'd get into any more potential danger any time soon.
Although Scully would have liked to drive farther that night, they'd miss even late check in if they did, and she didn't want to be put in a position of needing to drive all night. So, it was with mild regret that she pulled into the motel lot at 11:57 p.m.
"We're here?" William asked, sounding sleepy. The little boy looked around and was clearly not impressed with the surroundings.
"Just the motel," Kyrie told him. "We're not home yet."
"Well, I know that-" he grumbled, but Scully gave them a look and they both quieted down.
"Come on, it's only for one night," Scully told them with more bravo than she was really feeling.
At first she worried that William would need to be carried, but he did manage to stumble out of the car on his own, and gained some alertness as he looked around. He didn't look impressed, and she didn't really blame him.
Due to the hour she'd intended to stop for the night, and the nearness of the holidays, she hadn't exactly been able to be too picky about the motel, and this one was already looking like a step down from the ones she and Kyrie had already stayed in.
They passed two cars with plastic covering holes where window glass was supposed to be, and she hoped hard that the drivers had been victims of separate misfortunes somewhere else, not of a vandal that targeted that lot in particular. She'd done what she could to shove William's belongings into the car below the line of the windows, but anyone walking by the car and looking in would see the many bags in there. Hopefully they looked more like random stuff than anything of interest, and at least there weren't any gifts in the car to pique anyone's curiosity.
The parking lot was almost deserted, but a couple of hoodie-clad young men in their twenties were drinking while they stood talking on a second floor balcony. Neither of them gave them a look, which Scully supposed she ought to be grateful for...especially when William said "sketchy" far too loudly. At that point Scully took his arm and hustled both kids towards the night clerk's office.
The man behind the desk was only a few years older than the drinkers, but half of his hair had already abandoned him for parts unknown. He was scrawny in an underfed sort of way that made Scully simultaneously feel bad for him and want to pick him up some burgers at the fast food place they'd passed down the street. And he looked like he'd rather be anywhere else than there.
"Just you and the two kids?" the bored clerk asked without bothering with so much as a "hi." He just pushed aside the car magazine he'd obviously been reading until they opened the door to come in.
"Yes, just us," Scully confirmed.
The clerk gave William a doubtful look before glancing back at Scully. "I hope they told you that a cot costs extra."
"I was informed, yes."
"Uh huh. Credit card and ID, please." He glanced at Kyrie overly long while Scully fumbled through her purse for the requested items. "She's a minor, right?" the clerk asked, and it was clear that his question had little to do with the cost of their room.
This had Scully bristling in a way she wasn't really familiar with, though it was more something off about his tone than the words themselves. "Yes, my daughter is a minor," she said icily.
"All right, then I don't need an ID from her," he responded in a way that was supposed to imply that she'd misunderstood him. But she was pretty sure she hadn't misunderstood him.
Scully didn't say another word to him, not even a thanks for the keys.
"That guy was a creep," Kyrie muttered after they walked back outside.
"Poor life choices," William piped up and they both looked at him. "My dad usta say that you get a job like this if you make poor choices."
Scully thought about how a lot of people were victim of circumstances even if they did try their damnedest to get ahead, but she was entirely too tired to mount a defense of a clerk she didn't like. "Sometimes," was all she said.
To Scully's surprise, William didn't complain about having to sleep on a cot. Her brother Bill would have complained bitterly, and depending on his age at the time, even Charlie would have whined about it.
On the other hand, neither of her brothers had narrowly escaped being murdered. At least not as children, she added mentally and then decided she wasn't going to spend any more time wondering about Bill's military service and what constituted murder vs warfare.
William just looked resigned when he placed the bag on cot. Glancing at him, Scully said, "I hope there will be a real bed for you by the time we get home." She'd have to talk to Mulder to see how shopping had gone – it seemed like they'd had that conversation weeks ago, not just the night before.
"Yeah," her son said under his breath.
"I'm going to call him now," she added. "You can talk to him if you want to."
"Have you?" William asked Kyrie instead of responding to Scully.
The girl shrugged. "Yup."
"You don't have to talk to him if you don't want to, tonight," Scully offered once she noticed his worried expression, although she knew that Mulder would probably be hurt. He'd understand, but still.
"It's not that I don't wanna..." William trailed off. "He left when I was two days old, right?"
"Yes," she said cautiously, not really liking where she suspected the conversation was going. She'd thought that she'd made Mulder's reasons for leaving clear, but it seemed to her like maybe William resented him doing it anyway.
"Then does he even know how to be a dad?" William asked.
This floored her because she'd been so very far off the mark, apparently. "I think so. He was still your dad, even if he couldn't see you every day." Or any day. They hadn't thought exchanging photos of William was a good idea, even before he was abducted, so he'd only had Scully's words painting him pictures of their growing son.
"I know, but." William worried his lower lip between his teeth and refused to look up at her.
"What?" Scully persisted. "I was only your mom for eleven months, and I don't hear you complaining that I don't know what I'm doing." She waited anxiously to see if she'd read the situation correctly before opening her mouth or if he'd immediately begin pointing out her shortcomings as a parent.
"But it's different," he protested.
"Because you're a girl-"
"Oh, God, Will. Don't ever say anything like that again," Kyrie groaned.
"Why not?" William asked. He seemed genuinely confused.
"Because it's sexist."
"I don't know what that means!"
"When you do, you'll be glad only your mom and I heard you say something like that," Kyrie explained, sort of.
"Please stop teasing your brother," Scully told her, which earned a smirk from her stepdaughter.
William just pointed at her. "See? She sounds like a mom."
"Well, Dad sounds like a dad," Kyrie told him.
"Okay..." Scully picked up the phone and dialed Mulder, and behind her both kids fell silent.
"Scully?" he asked before she even said a word. In all honesty, she hadn't even been sure that the phone had even rung once completely.
"I've been waiting for you to call all day!" he said, sounding a bit exasperated. "Are you all right?"
"We're all right," Scully told him. She refused to feel guilty for making him wait to hear from her – it was vastly more important to put miles between them and not-actually-William's-parents.
"Who's 'we're'?" he demanded to know.
"Me, Kyrie…William," she said, looking over at her son as she did. He'd gone still, no longer talking to Kyrie about whatever they'd been chatting about until then.
"You have him?" Mulder asked, somehow sounding both eager and worried. "What happened?"
This made her pause. So much had happened since she'd talked to him the day before, and it already was beginning to take on the fuzzy quality of a dream, perhaps because even at the time it had been surreal, never mind trying to make sense of it all after the fact.
She paused too long. "Scully?"
"His parents were dead-"
"Oh no," Mulder moaned, and this made her wonder if he was more capable of feeling sorrow for the dead couple than she was, or that she just hadn't had time for the realization that the people who'd cared for her son so long were really dead. She hoped for the latter.
"And a pair of bounty hunters had taken on their likeness," she continued, at least until Mulder spoke up suddenly.
"Are you sure they're bounty hunters?" he asked, and she couldn't imagine why he thought it was an important enough question to interrupt her over.
"I didn't ask to see their badges, but they changed shape." She shrugged.
"I guess that's a good assumption," he muttered before resuming a normal tone. "When did they kill William's adopted folks?"
"It surprised us too," Scully told him, referring more to herself and Kyrie than William.
Mulder's voice dropped. "Did he know?"
"How is he taking it?"
Scully glanced at the little boy again, trying not to be too obvious about it. "As well as any of us would. I think it'll be a bit before the finality sinks in."
"But he's okay for now?" Mulder persisted.
"I think so. Tough stock, you know."
"Don't I ever," he replied, and it sounded like he was on the verge of a laugh that never materialized. "I take it he's in the room?"
"Okay. Then I won't ask you any more questions like that until we're alone. Please let him know that I can't wait to meet him."
"Why don't you let him know yourself?" Scully asked impulsively.
"I never pegged you for shy, love."
"Put me on speakerphone for a minute," Mulder demanded stoutly. Apparently teasing him had the desired result, though she wondered how much of that was due to his worry that William might overhear.
Scully pressed the button before saying, "Okay, done."
"William, Kyrie? It's dad. I can't wait to meet you both." He paused for half a beat. "In person."
"Hi," William said shyly.
"We're looking forward to it too," Kyrie offered. She sounded braver, but she'd gotten to talk to him before so Scully didn't wonder about that.
"Talk to you soon," Mulder said, indicating to his wife that he'd like to be off speaker phone.
That suited her well, considering what else they needed to talk about. "Mulder," she began hesitantly. "What about the little ones?" The fact that he hadn't mentioned them yet worried her, so she was expecting to hear a depressing tale about delay, and was sure that he just was reluctant to tell her. So much could go wrong, what if-
"Oh! I've got them." There was a note of wonder in Mulder's voice, as if he couldn't believe that he really was saying what he was. Maybe he couldn't. "I was able to pick them up this afternoon."
"How, um…" Scully struggled to put what she was feeling into words. "How do they seem?" she concluded lamely. It's not like they can report on that, she admonished herself. What a stupid thing to ask.
"I think they're good," he told her, not seeming to think that she'd asked a stupid question at all. "They're both sleeping. They look like they should. Healthy, I mean. I don't think there's anything wrong with either of them."
Until he said that, she hadn't really thought about him comparing the boys to Emily. She'd taken it on faith that they were healthy like William, and he apparently hadn't. "That's good," she said carefully. She imagined him carefully examining each small neck for green pustules. "Do you think you're going to be able to handle them on your own for a few days?"
"Yeah, I think so." He sounded a bit like he was trying to be brave. But only a little.
Scully bit her tongue to keep from suggesting that he call her mother to help him until she could get home. He didn't seem terrified, so what good would suggesting that do? It would probably just undermine his confidence, and make him believe that she didn't believe that he could handle it. And she didn't think that at all – the man had handled liver eating mutants, being abducted by aliens and being buried alive. How could taking care of a couple of little kids on his own for a few days be worse than that? "I'm sure you'll be fine."
"Of course." He took a moment to gather his thoughts and then asked, "Do you think you'll get back by Christmas morning?"
Her eyes turned towards the window. The clouds outside were expansive and gray. If that didn't hint at more snow, she didn't know what did.
"I'll try," she promised, wishing that she sounded more like she believed she'd be successful. It would require driving like a bat out of hell, which was something she was more reluctant to try with passengers' safety to think of than just her own. And it would just figure if she managed to get herself arrested on the way home…
"Maybe you shouldn't," he surprised her by saying.
"What do you mean?" Scully snapped. There was no way she wanted to be apart from him for the holiday and that had to be mutual, so surely he couldn't be suggesting that she not even attempt to make it in time. Maybe they'd get home late in the day Christmas, but surely they could spend part of it together.
"I think it's more important to be together than be home," he told her, which didn't really make her understand his line of thinking any more clearly. "Look, it's okay here now. And I checked the weather in St Charles. It's okay there too. Should stay that way for days according to the forecast."
"Okay…" she said slowly, wishing she was following better.
"We can meet there. It's about a day's drive from home, and I can probably get there before you, even with two little guys in tow. Then you'll only have to make it that far by Christmas Eve."
"You want to spend Christmas Eve in a hotel?" she asked, and she shushed the questions that Kyrie and William had begun to ask as soon as they overhead what she'd said to their father. 'We'll talk about it in a minute' she mouthed to them, and they both quieted down. It looked like they thought that being patient was going to kill them, though. She could remember the feeling from being in their position during her own parents' conversations as a kid, so she found that she couldn't really blame them.
"I don't really want to spend Christmas Eve or day in a hotel," Mulder replied. "But I want to spend it as a family. Where is far less important than that. Don't you agree?"
"Yes, of course," she said quickly, before he had even a second to doubt that she might feel differently. "Okay, if you're willing to make the drive, that's probably for the best."
"Great. I've already found a nice place that claims to make the suites look Christmasish. There's even a tree in every suite. Artificial and up to specs for fire safety," he hastily added.
"Did they literally use the word Christmasish in their advertising?" she asked, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
"Uh, no," he sounded slightly abashed. "That was just the gist of what they said. Is it wrong to pick an accommodation based mostly on wanting the kids to be able to have a tree?"
"No, I don't think so. But we're not going to have presents to put under it," she said morosely.
"Sure we will," he said. "I'll shop along the way." Mulder paused for a moment. "Since you're not going to have to kill yourself to try to get all the way home, maybe you can buy them clothes. I can probably handle picking other things out for them, but being partially color-blind doesn't make me the best shopper for even my own clothes. The little guys here aren't old enough to protest that I'm dressing them funny."
As he spoke she thought about how very much shopping they were going to need to do over the next month or so. Fortunately neither Kyrie nor William would need to be enrolled in school for a couple of weeks, but they'd need whole new wardrobes and Kyrie and the little ones needed absolutely everything…At least Mulder had bought them beds, she thought thankfully. When she glanced over at the kids, though, and saw the way that they were desperately trying to contain themselves until she finally told them the plan, she decided it would be okay.
"That all sounds good, Mulder. We'll see you soon." Sooner than she thought possible until now, her heart giddily reminded her.
"Wait," he said, "Should I say anything to your mom if she calls the house looking for you?"
Scully though guiltily of the text she hadn't been able to return yet. "If you want to tell her..."
"How much should I tell her?"
"As much as you feel comfortable with," Scully replied, and she decided not to text her mother back as she did. Mulder was right to figure that Maggie would call him if she failed to get ahold of her, and for once Scully was happy to pass the buck to him, and let him take on the burden of an explanation. He owed her one still, ever since she tried to make their official story more palatable to the powers that be after the Ronnie Strickland case. Or so she rationalized.
"Okay," he said doubtfully, and then he changed the topic. "I'll give you a call back once I've got the hotel confirmation," he promised. Then she heard a faint crying in the background. "Oops, I'm being summoned. Love you."
"Love you too."
She'd barely ended the call when William's capacity for keeping quiet was finally exceeded. "What's going on?" he asked eagerly.
"Instead of maybe not getting home in time for Christmas Eve, we're going to meet Mulder at a hotel that's about a day from where we live. We'll spend Christmas Eve and day there, and then drive the rest of the way."
William nudged Kyrie and grinned. "We're really going to meet him there. Get it?"
She groaned, sounding all the world like the big sister she finally was getting an opportunity to be. "I get it. Unfortunately."
"Hey, that was funny!" William protested.
Scully gave Kyrie a look of sympathy. "Your father has a just barely more finely tuned sense of humor, so you should get used to this."
"Great," she drawled, but really, she didn't look like she minded.
December 23, 2009
Once Kyrie and William were settled into yet another motel room with an army of takeout boxes spread out before them, Scully slipped out of the room, saying only "I'll be back soon." They probably nodded, but she didn't wait to see.
Outside it had grown quite cold and Scully's breath frosted in the air as she headed for the car; she was pleasantly surprised to find that her fingers weren't too cold to get her phone to unlock.
She shivered and huddled into her coat while she called Mulder.
"Hey, Scully, checking up on me?" he answered with relatively good humor.
"No. I'm hiding out in the car while the kids eat."
"I take it that there are things you don't want them to overhear?" he suggested warily.
"A few things I'd rather William not hear about yet," she admitted. Taking a deep breath, she chose a place to start. "I'm sure you're wondering why we left the bounty hunter impersonating William's folks alive," she said, finding herself reluctant to call them his parents.
"The thought did cross my mind, especially considering that she killed two of them on her own."
Scully briefly imagined the teenager with a wickedly sharp gimlet in her hand, stealthily advancing upon an alien, but pushed the thought away. Food would only occupy the Kids for so long so she didn't have time to waste. "Oh, she wanted to kill these two too but I wouldn't let her."
"Why not?" he asked.
She sighed. "There are there more out there."
"Aliens?" Mulder intercepted to ask.
"No," Scully said quietly. "Children."
"What?" he asked, voice strangled.
"Kyrie wasn't able to find out anything about them, other than they existed, but attest three more children were made from my ova."
''And you don't know anything about them?" he pressed gently.
"No." She shook her head. "I don't know if they're yours too, or boys or girls... or even if they're alive."
"All I know is that two of them are," or were, she added silently, "Between Emily and William in age. The last one is younger than Nathaniel-" Or his twin, her brain helpfully suggested, heedless of why that was a scary idea considering Nathaniel was the only child in his original home.
"Jesus, Scully. You must be worried, especially for the youngest one." He didn't elaborate if he meant because they were obviously talking about a baby, or because the youngest was the most likely to still be alive.
"I am. And that's why we let them live- they promised to tell us where one of the Kids is if we didn't end them." She robbed the case of the Phone nervously. "Maybe I should have called you."
''It doesn't sound like you had time to," he said calmly. "And Scully? In your shoes I would have let them live too."
"I'm glad," she sighed again, this time in relief." I... I'm worried that they only offered to give me information on one of them because either they don't know a thing about them either. or..." she trailed off softly.
"Or they're dead."
"Or they're dead," she agreed." It hurts so much to think that, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding the faith to believe we'll find ourselves raising seven kids."
"I'm sorry," Mulder offered. "Honestly, I've spent the past several years wondering if going down the path towards finding out if other children were created from your ova would lead to more grates. Emily was so sick..."
"But the little guys aren't. And you said a" three are younger, right?"
She doesn't fail to notice he chose the word "are" instead of "were." "Yes."
"So maybe there's hope."
"Maybe." she tried not to sound doubtful.
"Say what you want about The Consortium, at least they looked for new ways to fail," he joked weakly.
This made her think of Casandra and their other attempts to create a successful hybrid. "I know." But she paused." I'm afraid I have another bombshell for you."
"What's that?" he asked evenly.
"The smoking man... Kyrie says he's not dead."
"God dammit," he swore." I knew it was too easy."
"You did?" she asked, uncertain.
"His ghost never pestered me," Mulder said, reminding her of when he'd seen Krycek and the gunmen. She'd thought that they'd ultimately decided they were stress-induced hallucinations, but apparently not.
One thing Scully had always been curious about his "ghost" was who didn't visit him. In popular culture it was the dead with unfinished business who tended to haunt the living and who better embodied unfinished business than a child cut down before they could grow up? Yet neither Samantha or Emily had ever appeared to him. At least not when he was seeing specters everywhere, not just in starlight. His parents hadn't either, and Scully couldn't imagine that either of them had died with the sense that they had squared everything away. Even her dad had seemed to make a posthumous appearance…
"Will deal with him if he needs to be dealt with," Mulder said, and it took her half a second to remember that they'd been talking about the smoking man.
"Right," she muttered. The thought of ways he could make their lives difficult was almost too much to bear. Especially now that there would be helpless children in their care. She had to bite her tongue to keep a paranoid thought from escaping her mouth - what if them getting to have a family at last was all part of an elaborate plan of the smoking man's? She didn't like to think badly of Kyrie and honestly couldn't imagine that she'd be a willing accomplice, but he had no qualms about manipulating her - and both of them - for his own amusement.
"So… do you have anything else to tell me before you freeze to death in your car?" Mulder asked.
For a moment she wondered how he could possibly know how cold she was, but then she realized that he must be able to hear that she never started the car and up the heat going. "Two life altering bombshells are enough for you?" she quipped with more good humor than she actually was feeling at the time.
"Never," he said dryly. "But they're done eating by now. You should probably get back to them." After a few seconds he added, "We'll have plenty of time to talk tomorrow."
God willing, she thought. Then, but not alone. That was a bit of a startling thought - they'd seldom be alone for the next eighteen years. God willing, she thought again.
When Scully walked back into the room, she didn't expect William to stare at her but he did. After a few seconds she got uncomfortable with the unwavering look and asked, "What's up?"
He looked down a moment before lifting his head. "Kyrie said I have to tell you something."
"Okay. Go ahead," Scully said, wondering what they might have spoken about while she was outside. Worry tried to suggest that it would be something bad, but she told it to hold on and give him a chance before coming to the party.
"Well, we were talking about my father and the babies. And how neither of them probably knows who Santa is yet," he began, and Scully found herself beginning to relax.
"They probably don't," she agreed, and she went to sit on her bed given that there were only two chairs in the room and they were already occupied. A flare of sadness cut through her as she thought about the word "probably": it was yet another reminder that not only had she never spent a Christmas Eve with a child of her own as they waited for the jolly old elf, she saw her nephews so seldomly that she hadn't even gotten to experience it vicariously.
Kyrie caught her eye and mouthed 'you okay?' while looking a bit puzzled. Scully shrugged and tried to smile – they could talk about her new desire for the kids to get to know their cousins later. And you take care of her, not the other way around, she reminded herself sternly. Kyrie needs to spend her energy on herself, not on you. "What about you?" Scully asked, making herself turn to look at her son instead.
The brown-haired boy shrugged almost imperceptively. "I figured it out last year. About a week after Christmas my dad said something about why don't I play with a toy 'we bought you' but it was a present from Santa." William sighed. From his expression it had been something he really hadn't wanted to find out that way. "I never told my parents I knew because I didn't want them to feel sad. Is that dumb?"
"No, of course not," Scully replied. She forced herself to stay sitting on the bed rather than leaping to her feet and hugging him…that probably would have startled him more than reassured him given they barely knew each other. "I had trouble telling my mom too."
"You did?" William asked, but Scully was glancing at his older sister. Kyrie had lost Diana at a year younger than William now was – who had she told that she didn't believe anymore? Had anyone even bothered to try to keep the myth alive for the orphaned girl? As much as she wanted that to be true, she doubted it so much.
"Sure did. But not as much as your uncle Charlie," Scully told him, grinning already at the memory. "He never ever gave our parents any indication that he no longer believed, so they sat him down, really worried how he would take it, when he was twelve and gravely explained that Santa was more of a feeling than a literal person."
This had William smiling too. "Did he cry?"
"No. He just nodded and told them that he understood." Scully laughed suddenly, and both kids stared at her. "By the time he came to find me, his sides hurt from the effort of keeping his laughter on the inside. I asked him why he never told them because I knew he'd known since he was nine, and he shrugged and said he didn't want to get fewer presents."
"That makes sense," William offered. Kyrie nodded her agreement that it was sound.
But Scully shook her head. "Not really. I asked him if he thought he got more presents than me, Missy and Bill, and he said no. Then he scowled because he figured out that our parents had just labeled some of the gifts he would've gotten anyway 'from Santa' because he still believed," she concluded, using air quotes on the last two words.
"That's pretty funny," Kyrie told her.
"I thought so too. At least until he punched me for laughing at him."
"He hit a girl!" William looked outraged. "That's not right."
"Yeah… but we were pretty close in age, so it happened now and again. I punched him too, and for a while I was bigger than him so that wasn't right either."
"True." William conceded. "But you get it, right?"
"Maybe?" Scully asked, not exactly sure what he meant.
"I mean, I'm telling you that I don't believe in Santa so you won't worry about that," William explained. "There's enough to worry about, so don't worry about that."
"Thank you," Scully told him. This time she did walk over to him and give him a brief hug. He was less startled by that then she thought he might be. "That's very considerate of you."
"I try," he said, blushing.
After she let him go, Scully looked at them both. "This is not going to be a Christmas like any of us have ever experienced, but I think it will be okay. I hope we'll all have a good time."
"Me too," William told her. "But it's going to be weird."
"Yeah. We're going to meet our bio-dad and have little brothers. Me and Kyrie, we've never had siblings before, so it has to be weird, right?"
"I think it's going to take adjusting on all of our parts," Scully said seriously. "Your father and I have never had a house full of kids, either." The thought that the house wouldn't be quite as full as it could be sobered a little. Maybe we'll find the other one in a week or two, she reminded herself. But that child wouldn't be there for this Christmas, and god only knew if the remaining two ever would.
"Dana?" Kyrie asked, making her look up. "Did you and Dad ever have a case over Christmas?"
"Did we ever miss Christmas because of a case?" Scully asked, seeking clarification. "No, but there was one year when we almost did."
"Almost?" William asked.
"Almost," Scully repeated. "Do either of you believe in ghosts? I didn't. At least not until that night. But don't tell your father I told you that…"
December 24, 2009
Scully's first instinct when the alarm went off was to grab the digital clock and heave it through the window, but she knew that the burglar bars would just make it bounce back into the room with them.
"Make it stop," a peevish voice lower to the floor snapped as she stumbled over to the clock.
Looking down at her sleep-rumpled boy, she said, "Time to get up."
His only response was to scowl at her until she lightly poked at him with a bare foot.
Across the room Kyrie sat up in her own bed with an aggrieved sigh. "I think this is against the Genova conventions. Let me borrow your laptop so I can check."
"Funny," Scully said sourly. "We've got to pack and checkout."
"Is there even anyone at the desk?"
"24-hour checkout," Scully reminded her.
Scully wanted to remind her that at least she wasn't going to be the one driving at that hour, but she decided not to waste the energy on it. Instead she mutely stuffed everything back into her bag and made sure that neither of the kids overlooked anything of their own because there was no way she ever wanted to return to the room.
The motel they'd spent the night in was probably a bit nicer than the one from the day before, but there had been a fire down the road a few hours earlier and the scream of sirens had managed to rouse them all from sleep on at least three different occasions.
Despite bells on the door and a potted Norfolk pine on the desk, it didn't seem like the night clerk was filled with the holiday spirit either. Scully supposed she didn't blame him; working third shift on a holiday wasn't ideal in her opinion either.
"Trying to beat the traffic, huh?" he asked as Scully handed the passkey over to him.
"Yes. We're on our way to meet my husband and our younger sons further east," Scully offered, unsure why she'd bothered telling him anything. It would have been rude not to reply, so she chalked it up to that.
"Good luck, happy holidays, and consider us for your next stay in this area," the clerk said without bothering to mask his boredom.
Scully thought she might have heard one of the kids mutter 'yeah right' and hoped it was only in response to the suggestion they might come back.
"Merry Christmas," Scully told him before putting her hands on the kids' shoulders and steering them out the door.
Barely loud enough to be heard, the clerk muttered "yeah right" himself.
Her brother Bill had once told Scully that Christmas Eve was the second most-traveled day of the year after Thanksgiving and at the time she figured he'd pulled the fact out of the thin air like most of the rest he offered up. But now that they were caught in stop and go traffic, she was beginning to wonder if he'd had the right idea after all. Christmas Eve might not be heaviest travel day #2 but it certainly seemed to rank right up there.
Every time Scully called Mulder to ask him how he was, he said that everything was going great. She hated to admit it, but this surprised her, not only because he had so very little experience with babies, but because that morning William and Kyrie were doing their level best to work on her last nerve. They seem to get along very well at first but perhaps they were only on their best behavior. Now that it'd been a few days they were beginning to become more comfortable with both each other and her, and now they were bickering the same way that Scully remembered bickering with her own siblings. Or maybe their best behavior had been worn away by the restless night they'd all had. It certainly hadn't improved her own mood.
A big part of her wanted to blame Kyrie for the bickering, but she supposed that wasn't fair. At first she couldn't understand why Kyrie acted less mature around William than she had when they were alone, but it had eventually dawned on her: once William was safe, the girl no longer had to keep up the façade that everything that happened was okay with her and things she could handle. She'd done so very well for so long, it had come as a surprise when she had reverted to what was probably her natural maturity level, and that was that of a typical seventeen-year-old. And besides, William was needling her too, and she remembered Charlie doing the same thing when they were growing up, so she knew from experience that there was only so much provocation from a younger sibling one could shrug off.
I don't know how mom did it, she thought. They are trying to make me and each other crazy, and there are only two of them, not four. Although, she did realize that this wasn't strictly true - there actually were four children, and they would have to figure that out sooner than later. At least the baby can't talk yet, she found herself thinking irreverently.
Still, she was anxious to meet up with Mulder, and hoped that traffic would be kind so they could do so by midmorning. Maybe William was being obnoxious because he was anxious too, she reflected, and she supposed that he had more of a right to be nervous than she did. Most adults didn't take it personally if babies and toddlers didn't warm to them immediately, and poor William was meeting another biological parent for the first time. That had to be stressful.
But if only he would stop asking-
"Are we there yet?" William whined, interrupting Scully's thoughts.
"Is the car still moving?" Kyrie demanded to know.
"Then we've obviously not there yet," the teenager snapped.
"I know, but…" William protested automatically.
Scully wanted to tell Kyrie to lay off, but this was the fourth or fifth time that William had asked the same thing, so she understood why his sister was becoming impatient with him. She herself was trying hard to keep the fact that he was grieving the loss of his adoptive parents on top of everything else in mind, but there were moments when he made it hard to.
This is harder on him than it is on me, she reminded herself yet again, and it worried her a bit that it had already taken on the feeling of a litany. Having never lost anyone at all, not even a grandparent, by his age, she was finding it difficult to understand what loss was like in an eight-year-old. And honestly, she'd expected tears, not fractiousness. Weepiness was a reaction to grief that made sense to her, not wanting to irritate others enough to pick a fight, which is what he'd been doing in several ways over the course of the past couple of days.
Maybe it's not so strange, she finally reflected. Maybe it makes sense that he'd react to hurting by irritably lashing out at others – not because he blamed them for the events that hurt him, but because hurting felt lonely, and he'd realized that he could hurt others too and no longer be alone in it.
Of course, he probably wasn't doing it on purpose – that'd be pretty devious for a little kid to consciously attempt, but the subconscious took the driver seat more often than most of us dared to think about.
Tired of trying to work it out, Scully's free hand felt for the tuner buttons on the radio, and she kept pressing them until cheerful Christmas music began to pour through the car's speakers. Brenda Lee encouraged everyone to rock around the Christmas tree, and Scully found herself idly wondering why Sweatin' to the Oldies had never put out a Christmas edition. Surely this song would be perfect for a themed workout.
"Hey," she said, not taking her eyes off the road ahead of her. "What's your favorite Christmas movie?"
Both kids quieted for a moment, and it was a relief to have paused their bickering.
"Santa Buddies," William replied to her question.
Scully was pretty sure she heard Kyrie mutter 'what the hell is that?' which she could relate to. "Oh. I don't think I've heard of that on, Will. What's it about?"
"Puppies," he said, and she caught a movement that must have been him shrugging in the rearview mirror. "They have to learn to be good puppies so they're not on the naughty list."
"Well, that certainly sounds…" Scully tried to think of something nice to say about it. "We'll have to watch it before you go back to school."
"I don't want to go back to school," William complained.
"Too bad, you have to," Kyrie replied with just a tad more glee to her tone than Scully would have liked.
"You're not in school," William pointed out.
"I will be. She's making me go back."
Scully wanted to protest that she thought that Kyrie was in agreement that it was in her best interest, and that she had a sneaking suspicion that the state of Virginia would even require Kyrie to be in school until she was eighteen which was something Mulder promised to look into, but there was a lot she'd forgotten about being a teenager too. For all she knew, Kyrie did feel like she was being forced to go back, For a moment this left her feeling bad, but then she remembered all the mornings she'd reluctantly went to school and then work feeling like she had no choice, and the moment passed. There probably wasn't a person over the age of two who didn't acutely feel at least part of the time like they were being made to do things they didn't want to, so it was all part of the human condition and probably somewhat good for us besides.
"Huh," William said, apparently feeling less singled out now.
Oh joy, I'm helping them bond over being forced to go to school, Scully acerbically thought before speaking up. "How about you, Kyrie, your favorite Christmas movie?"
"The Ice Harvest."
"O-kay. Your dad tells everyone that his is Diehard."
"Tells?" Kyrie seemed to perk up a bit. "What do you think it really is, if not Diehard?"
"I'm not sure I've seen that one," the girl admitted.
"Me neither," William chimed in.
Scully was a bit surprised that Kyrie hadn't seen it, but that a boy whose favorite Christmas movie apparently involved puppies hadn't, that didn't shock her.
"We'll add it to the must-watch list, then," Scully promised them.
"What about you? What's your favorite?" William asked her.
She had to think about it for a moment. "It's a Wonderful Life."
"I knew it!" Kyrie groaned. "I just knew it."
"Why?" William sounded confused.
"It was my mom's favorite too," Kyrie told him. "It's such a mom movie, what with redemption as the theme and all."
Scully blinked, and had to brake harder than she should have when a car ahead of her slowed to turn suddenly. The thought that she and Diana had anything in common shocked her, but she supposed it shouldn't – after all, they'd both managed to capture Mulder's heart at one time or another.
"What are you thinking about?" Kyrie asked with such a knowing smirk that Scully wondered for a moment if she could read her mind. That moment passed, and she realized that she still had a terrible poker face.
"Your mom," she said, taking one hand off the steering wheel for a moment to wave it and let it fall to back down.
"Oh, that's right," William said suddenly.
"What?" they both asked.
"Your mom and my bio-mom knew each other." He grinned. "And they didn't like each other."
Scully wanted to say something to this that might make Kyrie feel better, or maybe just get past the sting of being called his 'bio-mom', but…
"My mother had a knack for making enemies everywhere she went," Kyrie commented, not sounding upset. "Even my teachers didn't like her."
"Why?" William wanted to know, and Scully cringed inside.
Kyrie shrugged. "My mother was used to being the smartest person in most rooms, and she never tried to hide it. People don't seem to like that sort of thing. It's actually kind hard to blame them."
Scully found this view of Diana interesting, and when she thought about it she couldn't really disagree. "In many ways your mother was brilliant," Scully offered. "You couldn't help but notice that, even when you wanted to strangle her."
William sniggered, and Kyrie just shook her head. Eventually Kyrie said, "thank you."
"For what?" Scully asked, honestly puzzled.
"Not sugarcoating it. A lot of people would be falling over themselves to try to explain that deep down they had really liked mom, and that they had been friends, even if it was complete BS."
"BS! I know what that means. Dad said it meant-" the rest of William's outburst was smothered by Kyrie's hand being placed over his mouth. She didn't keep her hand there long, and by the way she shook it when she removed it, Scully suspected he might have bitten her.
Ignoring her brother, Kyrie continued. "I'd rather hear the truth, you know? I did love her, of course, because she was my mom, but she's been gone a really long time. I'm not going to fall apart if people tell me the truth about her."
"No, you wouldn't, Scully said softly.
"What does that mean?" Kyrie asked, a hint of defensiveness in her tone.
Scully shrugged this time. "I'm saying that you are like your mom, in a good way," she added. "Your mother was no shrinking violet, and I'm already sure that you are very much the same."
William disrupted the moment by asking "what's the shrinking violet? I thought that plants couldn't make noise. Is it true that plants cry when you cut them down? I thought that was just to make vegetarians feel bad too."
"A wuss," Kyrie explained succinctly. "She means that I'm not the type of person, and my mom wasn't the type of person either, to be so shy that they can't speak up or cry over getting their feelings hurt."
"You?" William asked incredulously. "I bet you wouldn't cry if someone cut your finger off."
Kyrie laughed. "I bet I would."
"Okay. But still, you're like the toughest person I know." Williams tone held a lot of admiration, which Scully found interesting.
"Your mom's pretty tough too," Kyrie said, and Scully began to feel a tiny bit uncomfortable because they were speaking about her as if she wasn't there. She filed that away in her memory banks, determined to avoid making the kids feel that way too considering how often adults it made her feel that way growing up.
"Yeah…" William said, and didn't add anything else.
Once the car went quiet, the voice on the radio began to sing about Mary's boy child, and traffic finally let up.
Scully nearly cried in relief when she saw the sign for the hotel Mulder had picked out. The parking lot had been plowed after an apparent snowstorm, but not well enough because the car made noises of protest as it drove through ruts.
"Is the snow real?" William asked just as she put the car in park.
Scully gave him a puzzled smile, before asking, "Why do you ask that?"
The little boy shrugged. "If'n it's supposed to look like Christmas, I thought maybe they made fake snow too."
"I don't think they'd wa-" Kyrie began, but Scully cut her off.
"I know that we didn't see much snow on the way here, but your dad said it snowed on his way here." Scully paused for a moment, giving him time to let this sink in. "So I'm pretty sure it's really snow, even if they do sometimes go all out when it doesn't."
"Like a ski resort," Kyrie suggested, apparently deciding to be nice and not shatter his illusions after all.
"Could be," Scully remarked and removed her seatbelt. The kids were quicker than her, and had already gotten out of the car by the time she opened her door.
Feeling more awkward than she could figure out, Scully methodically got their luggage out of the car and didn't run to the hotel like she imagined she might have. Something slowed her feet, and eventually she wondered if she was just nervous to meet her two youngest sons for the first time in person.
"Well, this is it," Kyrie said while pulling the handle out of one of the rolling suitcases.
Scully wondered if she'd be able to roll it given the state of the parking lot, but she decided that Kyrie would work that out on her own.
"We know the room number?" William asked. His face had a pinched look to it, giving away the fact that she wasn't the only one nervous.
"Sure do," she told him.
The boy nodded and shifted his backpack into a more comfortable position.
Warm air rushed out at them as they walked through the door of the hotel, which was a relief considering the biting breeze they were escaping for.
"I'm going to go to the desk and-" Scully started to say.
But a voice called "Scully?" and she turned to see that Mulder was standing near the elevator he must have just gotten off of. One of his hands reached down to hold the tiny hand of a small brown-haired toddler, and his other arm cradled a redheaded newborn. "I'm so happy to see you!" he called to them.
When Scully looked at William and Kyrie, she could see that they'd both pasted on brave smiles and were looking to her to signal what they should do next.
All Scully could think to do was to smile back at Kyrie and William, although hers was genuine. She hoped it conveyed a sense that things would be okay now. She noticed that they both relaxed minutely… at least until Mulder unexpected handed her the baby and transferred Nathaniel's little hand to her own so he could sling his arms around their necks.
Looking delighted, Mulder told them, "I'm so happy to see you both in person!"
"Thanks," William mumbled, and a blush rose up on his fair cheeks.
"Um…" Kyrie began awkwardly, looking even less confident than she had when Scully had walked into the interrogation room with her. "We've… It's good to...uh-" It was clear to Scully that she was trying to avoid using the word meet. That was understandable considering they'd at least spoken already. "-see you too."
"Come on," Mulder told them. "There's no reason to stand around here. And I want to show you the suite."
In Scully's arms the baby stirred, and she felt bad because she'd somehow forgotten that she was holding him because she'd been so concerned about how Mulder's first words with his older siblings would go.
By the time she looked down at him, his eyes were shut tight again. And then she felt Nathaniel's hand slip out of hers.
The toddler walked the few steps that separated him from Mulder and held up his arms. "Up! Want up."
Looking slightly sheepish, Mulder finally let Kyrie and William go before picking the little boy up. Glancing at Scully, he said, "He doesn't say much yet" and the implication was that this made him eager to fulfill the boy's requests.
That didn't bother her, but the fact that he sounded a bit behind other children his age, linguistically, anyway, did. It wasn't as though she worried that he wouldn't catch up, because she was certain that he would, but that it made her worry about how he'd been raised in his first two and a half years of life.
"Well," Scully said, "Let's go."
It didn't surprise her much that William and Kyrie fell behind, choosing to stay near her rather than forge ahead with their father. Fortunately, Mulder didn't seem to notice, so she didn't need to find a facial expression that might convey 'give them time.'
Nathaniel seemed comfortable riding on Mulder's hip, which was something Scully noted with a faint amusement as Mulder stopped in front of a door and began to fish through his pocket for the key card. How he'd managed to put in the pocket that wouldn't be blocked by their son's body, she didn't know. That had never been the sort of thing she'd mastered herself when William was a baby and she could remember having to juggle him and everything else she was carrying more than a few times.
"Well, here we go," Mulder announced, pushing the door open as he did.
"Wow," William remarked as soon as he could see into the room.
When Mulder told her that the place really had Christmas in mind she'd more or less expected a ragged artificial Christmas tree that had seen better days, a couple of strings of lights – maybe two thirds of which lit – and perhaps a poinsettia from the local grocery store plunked into a dark green plastic pot and wrapped in some candy cane speckled plastic wrap.
What she hadn't expected was a tree that looked so real that she immediately assumed that Mulder had been wrong about it being artificial, that said tree would be tastefully decorated with white, cream, and purple ornaments that had judiciously been placed above Nathaniel's reach and only had unbreakable ones below that, and that there would also be colorful boxes under that tree, though she suspected both the rearrangement of ornaments and the placement of the gifts to be Mulder's handiwork. But surely he had nothing to do with the fact that on the couch the throw pillows were covered in blue and cream shams that each had one large snow flake on them, and a matching throw blanket was artfully draped over the back of the couch. Or that the fireplace's mantle might have several white deer statuettes on it, and a lighted garland that traced the edges without spilling over and being within the reach of small inquisitive fingers. Even the row of stockings were out of the little one's reach; each had a name on them, except the smallest.
"The holiday theme goes on into the bedrooms," Mulder remarked. "Here, let me show you," he said, taking both William and Kyrie by the forearms.
They both cast Scully a look, but she only smiled back encouragingly.
"I'm sorry about you two needing to share a room, but it's only for a couple of nights," Mulder apologized. "My sister and I did too, back on family trips," he added, as if to make them feel less put upon.
"As long as we have our own beds, we're good," Kyrie replied. "I've had worse than my own bed in a shared room."
This made Scully wonder again about the huge swaths of her past that she wouldn't talk about, but being reunited with Mulder made her feel more mellow and the urge to insist that Kyrie spill it all wasn't nearly as strong. She was learning to give the kids time too.
Inside the bedroom that had been set up for the kids, there was red and green plaid everywhere. The curtains, the sheets, and the comforters all matched. Each nightstand had a small also realistic looking burlap wrapped tree on them.
William looked back at Scully. "This is awesome. Can I have plaid curtains and stuff at your house?" He reached out to touch the nearest comforter. "But maybe blue and black instead."
"If you'd like," she agreed, wishing he'd said 'our house' instead of your. "I believe your dad has already gotten you a bed and sheets for it, right?" she asked, glancing over at Mulder.
"I did. But I didn't think about comforters and blankets, though," he said, looking a little chagrined.
"You've had a lot on your plate," Scully said, giving the little boy on his hip a pointed look.
"That's for sure." He grinned, however.
"We'll shop on the way home," Scully decided, even as she wondered how they'd manage to fit everything once they dropped off the car Mulder had rented – at the time he'd suggested it, driving home all together from the Hertz place had seemed practical.
"Good. But that's after Christmas. Today's Christmas Eve - what do you kids want to do first?" Mulder asked them.
They both looked at the plaid covered beds. "Can we take a nap?" William asked.
"Oh, that'd be great," Kyrie enthused.
"Um…" Mulder looked disappointed. "Sure. I guess I'd be tired too after such an early start."
"Great. I'm going to use the bathroom first, okay, Will?" Kyrie asked, already putting her suitcase on one of the beds and beginning to dig through it for her pajamas.
"Okay." The boy's head was practically buried inside his own bag, so he clearly didn't mind letting his sister change first.
Kyrie offered him a smile and slipped out of the room with her PJs under her arm to find the bathroom.
"Maybe you should consider making use of the dressers, Will," Scully suggested when she realized that he was not having any luck finding the tee shirt he wanted.
"But we're just going to have to put everything back in our bags in a couple of days," William whined. That more than anything else made it obvious how tired he was.
"Such is life, buddy," Mulder said lightly. Then he scooped up things that had escaped William's bag and began putting them in a drawer. William sighed and began to help him put the remainder away. "You mom made me use the dressers rather than live out of suitcases on every one of our work trips."
To her surprise the baby in her arms opened his rosebud mouth and began to wail. She threw Mulder a helpless look. "Oh, I think he's hungry," Mulder told her. He quickly crossed the room and took the baby from her. "Will, I think your mom can help you finish up, okay?"
William frowned for a moment, and seemed to be considering if he was going to protest that he hadn't wanted to unpack in the first place. But then he looked down at his belongings and nodded. "Yeah, okay."
The room became much quieter as Mulder took the crying baby out of it and Scully found herself trying to remember where Mulder had told her the mini-fridge was. "I guess we should put Kyrie's stuff away too," William said with a sigh.
"That would be nice of us."
"Yeah…" He grabbed a stack of Kyrie's clothes – folded not bunched like his own – out of her bag and placed it in the top drawer of the dresser nearer her bed. Looking over at her, he asked, "Dana, do you think Santa is really a feeling?"
"In a way, Will," Scully agreed, wracking her brains to come up with an explanation. "When they say people 'have the Christmas spirit' they mean that they're compelled to be nicer to people. I think that it's because the holidays make people feel better. Happier."
"Except when someone dies right before then," William muttered.
"Yes, except then."
"I miss them," he admitted, and her heart broke when she saw that he was suddenly struggling to hold back tears. "I'm trying to be brave, and…"
"Come here," she invited, holding her arms out to him. He came to her without hesitation and put his head on her shoulder as soon as he reached her. "You don't need to be brave or to pretend with your father and me. We know that they were your mom and dad, more than we were," she said, even though it hurt to, "and of course you're sad. You're probably angry too," she added, wanting him to know that wasn't a bad thing.
"I am angry!" he said forcefully enough to startle them both. "At me," he said, surprising her again. "How come I couldn't kill them before they hurt my mom and dad? I just… I just hid. Like a baby."
"Will, no one expected you to kill them. There were two of them, and just one of you-" Scully started to tell him, but he cut her off.
"There was only one of Kyrie," he pointed out.
"And Kyrie is practically an adult. Not eight," Scully said flatly. "What if you hadn't hid, and something bad happened to you too? That would have made things more tragic, not helped your folks. You were smart, not cowardly. Part of being smart is knowing when you can't win something by brute strength and that you have to concentrate on surviving instead."
"Is that what you do?" William demanded to know.
"When I'm out-matched, I sure do," Scully told him. As she did, she thought of the times when she'd been taken against her will. "Sometimes the only thing I've been able to do is hope that someone got to me on time."
"I thought you were brave," he said, his tone mildly reproachful.
"I am. What I'm not is suicidal."
Their conversation might have continued, but the door opened and Kyrie said "Your turn for the bathroom, Will," as she came into the room.
"Okay, thanks." He slipped off the bed and grabbed his tee shirt and sweatpants.
As soon as he was gone, Kyrie tilted her head and asked, "Was he crying?"
"Because of his parents." Kyrie sighed.
"And because he didn't think he was brave enough."
"What? That's crazy." She sat on her bed. "How can he think that?"
"I think that's something your dad might be better at explaining," Scully offered. "Neither of us have ever been a little boy."
"And…" Kyrie looked away.
"Dad's sister disappeared when they were kids."
"Yes." For half a second it startled Scully to realize that Samantha would have been this girl's aunt, if only she'd lived long enough to be.
"And Dad was a little older than her… he probably thought he wasn't brave enough, either."
"It screwed him up for a long time, Kyrie," Scully said quietly. She had no idea how much Diana had told the girl about her father's long-lost sister, but it had obviously come up between them... unless the smoking man told her. The thought of that left a bad taste in her mouth, and she found herself afraid to ask.
The girl sighed. "I hope this doesn't screw William up too."
"I'm going to lie down now, okay?" Kyrie asked. It looked like she was trying not to yawn.
"No problem." Scully let herself out of the room.
"Sorry," Scully told Mulder as she rejoined him in the suite's sitting room.
"About what?" He was watching Nathaniel play with a pair of over-sized toy cars that definitely couldn't be swallowed even by the most determined of toddlers.
"I should have gotten them to bed sooner last night," she said, nodding towards the closed door.
Mulder snorted. "Spoken like someone who has never had trouble getting to sleep."
"Compared to you? I guess so."
"We have the rest of their childhoods with them. I'm not going to begrudge them a nap," he said, but this just reminded her that Kyrie would be 18 come midsummer. On the other hand, Mulder probably wouldn't prove to be the sort of parent who'd shove a kid out of the nest as soon as their birthday candles were blown out, either, which meant that they'd have more than a few months with Kyrie, even if she managed to graduate high school before next December.
"That's good, Mulder," she said eventually.
"Thanks." He scooted closer to her and she soon found his arm wrapped around her, and the baby, who'd just finished his bottle, end up half draped across her lap. The baby's tiny feet were covered in slate blue socks, and he occasionally kicked her without any real intent or coordination.
"These two seem happy enough," she commented, wishing that the kids sleeping in the next room were happier too.
Mulder followed her gaze, first from the little ones and then to the closed door. "It's easier to be happy when you have no idea what's going on," he remarked.
"Well, this guy doesn't," she said, touching the infant's downy red hair, "-but what about Nathaniel? Two and a half is more than old enough to be upset about missing caregivers."
He shook his head. "I keep expecting him to cry for his mommy or daddy, but he still hasn't. I have to wonder why."
Scully looked over at the little boy in question. "Nathaniel," she called, trying to keep her voice quiet enough not to wake Kyrie and William. He looked at her immediately. "What are you playing with?"
"Oh, that's right. What colors are they?"
"This one llellow. This one red," he said, grinning toothily because he knew he was right.
"How many cars do have?"
"One car," he put his hand on the red one. "Two car!" he crowed, pushing the yellow one across the rug. "Two."
"Good job!" Scully praised him. Once he lost interest in her and went back to playing, she turned to Mulder. "Well, he's definitely smart enough and engaged enough to notice their absence - were you thinking neglect?" she asked, imaging a scenario where he saw his "parents" so infrequently that their lack of presence wasn't alarming. "Or maybe that he got pawned off on a nanny 24/7?" she added when she considered that he was way too little to feed or toilet himself.
To her mild surprise, he shook his head. "I don't think he fails to notice they're gone. I think he already did."
"I'm not sure I follow," Scully admitted.
"What I mean is that I think he noticed three months ago," Mulder suggested. "He's not looking for them because they've been gone for months. He's given up hope that they'll ever come back. Maybe he's not happy about it, but he's at least resigned about it."
"That's giving an awful lot of credit to a very small child," Scully said doubtfully.
The two of them drifted off into silence for a while. But then she spoke up. "I've missed you," she told him. "So much."
His arm tightened around her a little. "Even though you knew I was coming back this time?" There was just a hint of amusement to his tone.
"Even though," she replied. "Even before I got that call from the police about Kyrie and wished you could help me make decisions about her and then William. Before you got the flu."
"Wow, I sound really miss-able," he teased gently.
"You are," she told him, poking him with an elbow accidentally when she reached over to touch the baby's socked foot. "Oops. Sorry."
"Right. It was an 'accident', Scully," he said making air quotes.
"Well, you know me," she said gravely. "I just can't keep my hands off you."
She expected this to provoke a smirk or leer, but he looked mildly alarmed instead. "The door to our room doesn't have a lock," he said nervously. "So I think you'll need to exercise self-control until we get home."
When she realized that he wasn't joking, and actually was worried that she might ravish him while in the possible view of the kids, she rolled her eyes before complaining "You!" and kissing his cheek.
"Hey, a guy can hope that his wife has at least considered taking him then and there, the wisdom of that be damned, right?" he mumbled.
"Oh, I've considered it..."
To her delight, he blushed scarlet. "We're lucky, you know," she said, taking pity on him and changing the topic of conversation before he got too frustrated.
"That we found each other?" he suggested.
"That, and it's something I'm grateful for almost every day," she said.
"Almost?" Mulder asked with a sardonic smile.
Her fingers continued to tickle the baby's toes. "But I meant finding them too."
"Oh, of course."
"No, I really mean it," she insisted in response to his quick agreement. "We're never going to have another baby the old-fashioned way."
"I think we've always known it was a long shot..." he trailed off and gave her a searching look. "But that's not what you mean, is it."
"We've talked out having periods as being suggestive that I still ovulate even if they took almost all of my ova, and William being proof that they couldn't have gotten them all... so when I missed it early this month I let myself hope." She looked away and sighed. "I'm definitely not pregnant. It's not super unusual for a woman to miss a month here or there over the years, but at my age it's possible we're talking about early menopause. I guess it's not too surprising that I could go early considering what was done to me."
"I'm sorry," Mulder said simply and sincerely.
"I was too." She gave him a wan smile. "But I'm more at peace with it now." Scully didn't feel the need to explain that she meant that the kids had proved a salve for that particular wound.
"That's good." His smile was brighter than hers. "But when they say 'children are a great comfort in your old age,' I don't think this is what they have in mind."
"Mulder-!" she giggled. While he was distracted, she took the baby from him.
He noticed. "You know, there's something else we need to address: we can't keep calling him 'the baby'."
"Yes, 'The Baby Mulder' would be bullied terribly," she agreed flippantly.
"Scully...Any thoughts on a name?" Mulder asked quietly.
She reluctantly looked up from the baby now nestled in her arms. "What do you think of the name Tate?"
"Yeah." If she needed to, she could explain to him that she'd been thinking about how Sister Constance Tate had obviously kept her maiden name, which meant Carl was a Tate too. Carl wasn't a name she wanted to hang on a baby, but Tate seemed like something that would fit in around the playground. And though she couldn't really make herself believe that Carl was magical, he had played a part in what had happened, if only making her more open to the possibility of happiness that Christmas. His advice to keep the faith had helped her.
"Hmm. William, Nathaniel, and Tate Mulder," he mused. "That doesn't sound too bad at all."
"I'm glad you like it too."
"What about Kyrie Mulder?" a soft voice asked behind them, making them both turn. The teenager gave them a weak smile.
Mulder's response was to hold out his arms, and then hug her as soon as she got near enough to. "Are you sure you'd want to take my last name?" he asked, sounding cautiously excited. "It's just some paperwork, but-"
Kyrie shrugged. "My mom's been gone a long time. But you're not. If it's okay, I think it'd feel more like a fresh start."
"It's more than okay."
Scully nodded her agreement.
Scully was about to ask Kyrie if she couldn't sleep, but then she noticed the time: the lull in her and Mulder's conversation earlier must have gone on longer than she thought. Though Mulder would have had other theories about missing time.
"So, Tate, huh?" Kyrie repeated as if she was testing it out. "Not too common, but not too weird, either. Lucky boy," she added, wrinkling her nose.
"You don't like your name?" Scully asked, a bit surprised it hadn't come up sooner.
Kyrie shrugged. "Some people insist on pronouncing it like the word in that prayer, not as Ky-re like I want them to. It makes me cringe every time people draw it out into three syllables. It's okay otherwise."
"Unlike Fox," Mulder said.
"Dislike of a given name." Mulder sighed. "That wasn't something I was hoping to have in common with any of my offspring."
"Hey!" a voice complained from the doorway." You're all out here now?"
"We all are," Scully agreed. "Does anyone have any suggestions about what might be fun to do today? Besides having lunch and dinner."
"Do you have suggestions?" William challenged grumpily. She got the sense that this was mostly due to not being fully awake yet. Charlie and Missy had been like that when questioned too soon after waking up, and Charlie had brought the trait with him into adulthood.
"Actually, yes. Since you don't believe in Santa and Nathaniel and Tate are too little to-"
"Who's Tate?" William asked blankly.
Kyrie pointed at the baby. "He is."
William threw up his hands in disgust. "No one tells me anything."
"He's only been Tate for three minutes. You didn't miss much." Though it was true, the explanation just got Kyrie a scowl in return.
Scully went on before he could continue to complain, "-I was thinking we could go to a midnight mass."
William shrugged. "Okay."
"Uh, okay with me."
"Then it's a plan," Mulder agreed, though he was probably less than thrilled by the idea.
Late That Night
They'd spent a fairly pleasant day, going out to eat, and taking the kids to a nearby mall so Kyrie and William could buy each other gifts, and so Scully could find a sling for Tate that matched the one Mulder had already bought for himself. She'd been sure there would be more naps in the day's schedule too, but only Nathaniel and Tate had gotten tired by the time they left the hotel for church.
It comforted Scully some to see that the church they pulled up in front of wasn't so very different than the one she went to with her mother. It was made of stone and some of the windows held stained glass scenes of saints, just like her mother's did.
However, it clearly wasn't a familiar thing to Kyrie. The girl got out of the car cautiously once they'd figured out where to park and then stared at the building in obvious trepidation. "What's wrong?" Scully eventually asked.
"Are they going to be mad that we've come?"
"Why would they be mad?" Scully asked blankly.
Kyrie shrugged helplessly. "We don't belong to this church. They didn't invite us. We just, you know, showed up."
"Don't worry about that," Scully told her, and her stepdaughter only looked a little less worried. "We won't be the only new faces tonight, I promise."
"You're sure?" Kyrie sounded as doubtful as she looked.
"Positive. Churches all over the world will be happy to have strangers join them tonight. They'll be hopeful that a lot of the newcomers will be back, but even if they're not they're happy to have them tonight."
"Why?" Kyrie asked.
"There's room at the inn?" William suggested.
"Something like that," Scully agreed.
Even though it wasn't really an explanation, it seemed good enough to get Kyrie to shed some of her reluctance, so they finally made their way to the church.
Once they'd scaled the stone steps William paused just inside the vestibule and pointed at the rack of votive candles. "What are those for?"
Since there was already a woman her mother's age there lighting a candle, Scully pitched her voice low as to not disturb her. "Some people like to light a candle for people who have died, Will."
"Have you done it?" he challenged.
Scully thought about that first Christmas Eve after her father died, and how she'd only lit a candle after being bullied into it by her mother. After that it had become more natural to her and she stopped resisting it because while it didn't bring her all that much comfort, it was important to her mother. By now it was simply just habit.
When she noticed that the little boy was staring at her, she nodded. "I light a candle for your grandfather Scully every year. And your aunts Melissa and Samantha too, now that they're gone as well," she added, wondering how long ago it had been when she'd begun to light them for the latter too. Probably not until the year she was pregnant with William and both certain Samantha was gone forever and hopeful Mulder wasn't. "And your sister, Emily."
"Kyrie told me that she died when she was really little," William said solemnly.
"Yes, she did."
"Me too." For a second Scully imagined lighting other candles, for the Gunmen, for agent Pendrell, for Mulder's parents...If she lit candles for everyone they lost over the years, starting with Deep Throat, Mr. X, Penny Northern, and Max Fenig and then onward, she could probably fill the rack...especially if she lit them for the two children no one had even promised she'd find. Maybe they're not dead, she told herself, but even her inner voice lacked conviction.
William then asked, "Does it make you feel better? These candles."
She thought about this for a moment, and then nodded. "A little."
"Oh," he said, and then looked down.
"Will," she said slowly. "Would you like to light candles for your parents?"
He didn't answer for several seconds, and then said "yes" in a tight little voice.
Scully nodded at Mulder and Kyrie and then looked towards the entrance into the church, indicating that they should go find a pew. Mulder nodded and nudged his daughter to get her going. The other woman finished her prayer and slipped into the nave behind them.
"First we'll put some money in the offering box-" Scully started to explain.
"I don't have any money."
"Then it's a good thing I do," she told him. Then she handed him a few ones and motioned for him to put the money into a box with a slot.
William carefully pushed the wad of bills through the slot before asking, "Now what?"
"Now we light the candles. Do you want to hold the candle or the match?" Scully asked, taking two candles down from the rack for him.
"The match," he decided.
"Okay." Scully watched a little anxiously as he lit the match and was relieved when he got the first wick lit without burning his fingers. He gave her an expectant look as she placed it back with the other candles for him. "Traditionally people pray for the departed now. You don't have to if you don't want to, but-"
"I will," he said, and then he closed his eyes. Several seconds later, he opened them again. "Okay. Next candle, please."
They got the second candle lit, and then Scully lit her own. She expected him to tell her he was done almost immediately again, but the two of them lingered in silence for a much longer time. She finished her prayers and found herself beginning to wonder what her father and Missy would think of what had been dropped into her lap over the last several days when a small warm hand slipped into her own.
When she looked down at William, he looked less stressed than he had. "Thanks," he told her.
"Do you feel better?" she risked asking.
"A little," he said, echoing her earlier statement.
"I'm glad," she said, hugging him briefly with one arm. He blushed. "Let's go see where everyone else is, okay?"
William looked back at the candles for a moment. "Okay."
Scully found Mulder in a pew towards the back of the church, and she and William slid into it with them. Mulder smiled at her, and handed Tate over to her as soon as she was beside him.
The service began soon afterwards, and Scully was surprised by how good Nathaniel was during it. She'd expected him to be wriggly, perhaps crawling over everyone's laps to Tate's peril, but he spent the entire time sitting quietly on Mulder's lap. He even seemed to enjoy the singing, not that anyone in his family added their voices to the chorus.
Before the end, Scully closed her eyes and shut out the rest of the world for a moment, knowing that Mulder was there if anything happened. Dear God, she prayed, thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing these children into our lives. Please protect them, and look after those we have yet to find. Thank you for bringing my mother and brothers safely to the end of another year. And thank you for my separation from Mulder only being a brief frustration, not the agony it had been in the past. Thank you for sending Carl my way so I could get past my own petty issues and be there for a girl who needed me, and for lighting the way towards everything that has happened since. Forgive my sins, help me resist future temptations, and help me become the type of mother I should be. In Jesus's name, Amen.
When she opened her eyes again, Nathaniel was still on Mulder's lap, though he was beginning to yawn. Before they left it became clear that she wasn't the only one to notice the toddler's good behavior because an elderly woman stopped before she passed their pew. "You have a lovely family," the woman told her and Mulder. "And the young men are so well-behaved!"
William smirked a little, and Scully could tell that he was amused that he and his two and a half year old brother qualified as "men" even young ones, but he didn't say anything smart. Mulder, on the other hand, smiled broadly at the woman. "Thank you so much for saying so."
"And you, young lady, it must be a bit odd being the only girl."
"A little," Kyrie said with a shy duck of her chin.
"Well, I'm sure you're a big help to your momma," the woman said cheerfully.
"You have no idea how much of one," Scully murmured. Kyrie blushed.
"Will we see you on Sunday?" she asked.
To Scully's surprise, Mulder spoke up before she could. "Unfortunately, no. We're from Virginia, so I don't think we'll be back this way any time soon."
"Oh. It is nice to see travelers making an effort to attend church even far from home. Merry Christmas," she added, apparently finished speaking to them.
"Merry Christmas to you as well."
"Such a nice family," the woman said in a fond tone before shuffling off in the direction of an elderly man who was patiently waiting for her.
"Well, that was weird," Kyrie muttered once the woman was out of the range of hearing.
But William elbowed her. "But nice, too."
"Yeah, I guess."
Nathaniel yawned loudly in Mulder's face, making his father stifle a laugh. "On that note, I'd say it's time to go back to the hotel."
Both Nathaniel and Tate were sound asleep by the time they parked in the hotel's lot. Mulder had started to get the toddler out of the car when he woke up and began to struggle. "Hey, it's okay," Mulder soothed, obviously thinking that he was upset because he'd woken up in a strange place. "I'm going to get you out."
"No!" Nathaniel hollered. He craned his neck, and then saw Scully. Pointing a tiny finger, he howled, "Want her. Want her!" and his tone became increasingly hysterical as Mulder fumbled with the car seat straps.
"It's okay," she called and nudged Mulder out of the way. When he gave her a questioning look, she whispered, "Get Tate instead, huh?"
Mulder looked both confused and a little upset, but he finally stepped away and went to the other side of the car for the baby.
"Hey," Scully told Nathaniel as she stuck her head into the car. "That wasn't nice."
"You!" he squealed happily, oblivious to her efforts towards chastising him.
"Yes, me," she said with a sigh. He held still so she could unstrap him, not struggling at all now. He immediately wrapped his little arms around her neck as soon as she picked him up. "You've got to be nicer to your daddy, huh?"
"Daddy?" Nathaniel asked eagerly, and he immediately began to look around.
This immediately made her heart sink. It was beyond obvious that he wasn't looking for Mulder. I'm so sorry, she thought and hugged him a little tighter to her. He looked disappointed, but didn't cry or struggle, lending credence to Mulder's theory that Nathaniel was already long aware that his mommy and daddy were really gone.
William and Kyrie had both managed to get out of the car by the time Scully rejoined Mulder. William was yawning, and she wasn't surprised when he looked over at her and said, "Wow, it's really late."
"Sure is," Mulder told him. His neutral tone suggested that he wasn't as hurt by Nathaniel's spontaneous rejection as she feared he was. "So let's get you boys to bed, huh?" he suggested, looking down at Tate. The sleeping baby was limp in his arms.
Scully waited for William to protest that he shouldn't have the same bedtime as the babies, but the boy just nodded.
She brought up the rear, and got distracted when she realized that Nathaniel was patting her hair. "Wha?" she asked, and the little one just smiled at her. Supposing that it was better than trying to pull off her jewelry, she decided to just grin and bear being treated like a lapdog.
Given Nathaniel's behavior, she thought they'd have trouble getting him to go down for the night, but within just a few minutes both he and Tate was asleep in the hotel cribs. William must have been tired himself because he went to bed without prompting too.
Enjoy it while it lasts, Scully reminded herself, every night won't be this easy.
Kyrie, however, wasn't as sleepy as her brothers. "Can we talk?" she asked Scully and Mulder quietly.
"Sure," Mulder told her, getting up to make sure that the door that led to William and Kyrie's room was shut. It was obvious that he realized that she wanted to talk without being overheard. "What's up?" he prompted as the three of then retired to the suite's sitting area.
"I don't think Will overheard when Dana was talking to those things about them knowing where another one of the kids is. I mean, he didn't ask, at least, and he's a pretty curious kid." She paused for a moment, and then asked, "Are you planning to tell him? I mean, Nathaniel and Tate are way too little know what's up, but…"
Scully looked at Mulder and said, "I don't think we should say anything to him until we know more." Glancing at Kyrie, she asked, "Have you and him ever talked about the other kids?"
"No." Kyrie looked down. "He has no idea they exist."
"Because you thought they were dead?" Mulder asked, figuring out why she looked sad.
"Yeah. And…" The teenager sighed. "I'm still not convinced that they're not."
"Well," Scully objected mildly. "They did say that the child that they're going to tell us the whereabouts of is alive." She thought about them saying that they knew that she wouldn't be satisfied by a burial location, and how badly she'd wanted to believe them.
Kyrie looked up. "And the other two?" she asked bleakly.
"We'll have to see," Scully told her, but there was a tightness in her chest as she spoke.
"Okay, I respect that. But are you going to tell William about the one they're supposed to tell you about?"
"No," Mulder said firmly, making them both look at him. He shrugged minutely. "I want this to work out as much as anyone, but I'm not convinced that they made that promise for any other purpose other than to save their own skins. I don't want him to know that there are other kids out there until we know they're alive."
"Right," Kyrie mumbled.
"And on that note, I think it's about time for us to get to bed too, right?" Mulder asked.
Scully and Kyrie both shrugged. "Right."
The first thing Scully became aware of when she woke up the next morning was the sound of Mulder snoring lightly beside her. He wasn't entirely over his illness, she decided, because he didn't typically snore. Maybe she should buy him some Benadryl on the way home.
Just after she thought of this, another noise intruded: she could hear the TV on in the suite outside their door.
Someone's up, she thought to herself and slipped out of the bed. She tucked the coverlet back around Mulder before she left the room – being only 90% well and being on solo baby duty probably meant he needed to catch up on sleep.
Tate was sleeping, but Nathaniel's crib was empty. This didn't really alarm her because although she'd thought "someone" a moment before she'd really thought it was Kyrie who was up. But when she opened the door into the sitting area she was more than a little surprised to see William and Nathaniel, both still in the holiday PJs they'd been dressed in the night before, sitting on the couch with the throw blanket covering them. William threw her a guilty look, as if he was suddenly worried that he'd done the wrong thing.
He hadn't. "Good morning," Scully told them.
"Hi," William said. He smiled faintly when Scully sat on the couch next to them.
"You!" Nathaniel cried, and then crawled onto her lap.
"Yup, still me," Scully agreed. She pulled the throw blanket over her lap so the three of them were now covered.
Nathaniel snuggled against her, and the three of them watched whatever the boys had been watching for a few minutes. Since she was tired she didn't give it much thought, but the movie was definitely unfamiliar and was becoming unexpectedly slapstick. "What are we watching?"
"Some movie on Lifetime," William told her. "It's about a guy screwing up bringing a baby to the family who is adopting it. I think it's called Special Christmas Delivery, or something like that."
"Oh," Scully said slowly. She was thinking about how her and Mulder's Christmas could be made into a strange TV movie. They'd definitely gotten a Christmas special delivery – or four – of a sort.
"I like it," William said. "It's funny. The delivery guy is super clumsy and keeps causing disasters."
That's-" Scully started to say, but then there was a cry from the next room.
"Oops," William muttered. "He was asleep when I got Nathaniel, I swear."
"I know, he was asleep a couple of minutes ago too. Hey, how did you get Nathaniel out of our room without waking us up?" Scully wondered out loud.
William just shrugged. "I guess you were really tired. You didn't hear him playing in his crib, either."
"Must've been." Scully set Nathaniel on the couch beside William, and when he began to whine, she kissed his forehead and said, "I'll be back soon."
"Nathaniel, look at that!" William said, pointing at the screen to distract him. The toddler was in a mood to let himself be distracted rather than cry, so he turned his attention to the screen.
By the time Scully got back to her and Mulder's room, he was standing over the baby's crib. He was only wearing his boxers, which unlike the boys' PJs were solid blue rather than covered in reindeer. "He's hungry," Mulder said with a yawn. "The formula's on the dresser."
"How many ounces are you offering him?" she asked, going to fix the bottle because Mulder already had his arms full.
Mulder yawned again, and gestured towards the can in her hand. "Whatever it says on there."
"Oh, sure." It bothered her a little that the formula was room temperature, but the hungry baby didn't share her concerns; he gulped it down eagerly.
"The kids up?" Mulder asked, watching her feed the baby.
"Except for Kyrie."
"Yeah." She remembered sleeping in on Christmas mornings as a teen, once Charlie no longer woke them up with the belief that Santa had come the night before. "She hasn't gotten a good night sleep in who knows how long, so it's hard to blame her."
"Hopefully that's about to change," Mulder remarked. He waited patiently for her to burp Tate before going on. "The beds I bought the kids came with high comfort ratings."
Scully forced herself not to smirk – she had the idea that the things that would change in Kyrie's life that'd allow her more rest were more to do with no longer being under her grandfather's thumb than lumpy beds. "It was nice of you to take that into consideration, Mulder."
"I try," he said with obvious false modesty. "I got them put together too, by the way. So they'll be able to sleep as soon as we get home, if they want to."
"Excellent." Scully thought that the comforters they'd bought and managed to cram under the kids' seats in the car would help too.
No sooner had Kyrie stumbled into the sitting room did William eagerly turn to their parents. "Can we open presents now?"
Mulder glanced at the clock and shook his head. "Sorry, Will, they're only serving breakfast for another hour, so we've got to get dressed and go down," he explained, referring to the special breakfast that the hotel was offering to guests given that virtually all food places in town were closed.
"Sorry," Kyrie mumbled, and then immediately yawned.
"The presents will be here once we get back, huh?" Scully suggested.
"Go get dressed," Kyrie told him. "Maybe they'll have waffles."
"I hope they have pancakes," William retorted, and it took Scully a moment to realize he meant instead of waffles so he wanted her to be punished for sleeping in.
"Hey, they might." Kyrie, who was already dressed herself, wandered over to a chair and plopped into it.
William snorted and walked out of the room. Kyrie finally looked up at Mulder and Scully and said, "Merry Christmas."
"Can I ask a question?"
"Sure," Scully replied, but she immediately began to feel a bit wary.
"What's the plan?" she asked, leaning forward. "I mean, today's Christmas, so food and presents, but after that? When are we going to drive back to your house?"
Mulder glanced at Scully, then explained. "We're going to spend the night and then begin the drive home tomorrow. Since we've got three little boys to deal with, it's probably going to take us until the wee hours of the next morning to get there."
"That makes sense," Kyrie said, slumping back in her chair. "I mean, what's the hurry?"
Scully had to force herself to bite her tongue; the hurry was, of course, the need to get home so that the bounty hunters would know where to deliver the information they'd promised on New Year's Eve.
As if reading her mind, and reminding Scully uncomfortably of when Mulder could after coming into contact with the artifact that landed him in a mental hospital, Kyrie looked at her and asked, "Do you think they're really going to keep their word, and contact us before next year?"
"I have to hope," Scully said quietly.
If Kyrie thought this was foolish, she was wise enough to keep this to herself.
"Anyway... We should be home before the mailman get there on the morning of the 27th." Mulder glanced at Scully. "And hopefully before your mom gets there."
"Oh God, Mom!" Scully groaned. "What exactly did you end up telling her?"
He began to fidget evasively. "Uh, you know. We got William back – she was really excited about that, Scully. I told her that Diana and I had a daughter, and she had nothing good to say about her. What exactly did you tell your mother about Diana? Good lord. And I told her that my daughter knew about us also having two little ones and with her help we got them too."
Mulder paused for a moment. "I felt like she took it all pretty well overall."
"Overall?" Scully asked, raising an eyebrow.
He looked sheepish. "There was a moment when she asked me if we were on a prank show, but I feel like she finally came to accept I was telling the truth rather than trying to screw with her."
"Hey, she stopped accusing me of lying once I texted her a picture of me holding Nathaniel and Tate," Mulder said defensively. "I don't think I did too bad a job conveying a lot of huge news."
"I'm sure you did fine, Mulder," Scully said with a sigh. "I'm just sensing that the conversation I have with her this afternoon is going to be a long one."
"Super long," he corrected her.
"That doesn't make me feel better."
"Can we go now?" William asked. They all looked at him, startled that he was now in the room.
"Absolutely," Mulder said cheerfully. He held out his hand to Nathaniel, and the little one grabbed it. "Mush!"
"I hope they do have waffles or pancakes, not mush," William quipped, sounding a lot less grumpy than he had before he'd gone to get dressed.
"I don't think mush would do much for their Yelp rating." Kyrie grinned at him.
"Yeah... this does seem like too nice a place to feed us paste."
"You know mush isn't literally paste, right?" Kyrie asked.
"That's not what I read..."
As they walked into the dining room, Scully admired the hotel's commitment to maintaining the holiday theme in common areas too. There was a real fireplace to one side of the room, and a line of colorful stockings hung there too. Kyrie nudged her, pointing at a stocking that said "Mulder" in glittering gold script. After a second she realized that every stocking had a surname on it, presumably representing each family staying there.
William noticed what they were looking at and commented, "I think there's something in it."
Kyrie shrugged. "Crumpled paper?"
"I don't know."
"Would you look at that tree!" someone exclaimed in delight behind them. The elderly woman the outburst had come from gave them a weak smile when she noticed that they'd overheard her - clearly she hadn't meant to broadcast to everyone in the dining hall.
Scully smiled back at her; the tree was quite remarkable. It was at least 12 feet high and the lowest branches so full that it would've taken up most of their living room at home. It had been decorated with glass icicles in white and blue and strung with warm white lights. As she looked closer she noticed other ornaments, realistic looking birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Someone had taken great pains to make the viewer think of the great outdoors.
She was so engrossed in her examination of the tree that she failed to notice that a server had approached the table until William asked, "can I have orange juice?" and from Mulder's lack of disapproval it must of been in response to a question Scully had missed, not a random request.
"Certainly," the server replied cheerfully. Scully marveled that anyone could be that happy at work on Christmas morning. Squinting slightly, she wondered if the girl might be related to the owner but the resemblance was faint.
After the server took their drink request, she announced, "I hope you're hungry. We'll be serving fruit and pastry as the first course."
"How many courses are there?" Kyrie asked.
"What's a course?" William asked.
"This morning, just two," the young woman answered Kyrie before explaining the concept of a meal course to William.
The little boy wrinkled his nose. "That sounds fancy."
"Doesn't it?" Kyrie asked with a grin. "Like Hogwarts, or maybe eating in a castle."
Scully shot her a half smile, struck for a moment that Kyrie had a normal enough upbringing to be familiar with the books or maybe the movies that Mulder had insisted they catch up on when they were no longer on the run.
Their server continued to speak to William. "Wait until dinner tonight. There's four then."
"Yeah. You'll love it, trust me."
His only response was a skeptical look.
They were two thirds through breakfast when they heard kids at another table gasp excitedly and then a booming voice called out "Ho, ho, ho!"
William looked around in his seat, and Nathaniel stood in his own to get a better look before Mulder wrestled him back into his chair. For a few seconds the toddler pouted but he heard the other kids talking and laughing so we settled for pointing across the room at the white-haired man in the red suit. "Who's that? Who's that?"
"Santa!" William said, his impatient tone all but saying that he thought it was a dumb question.
Mulder tapped William on the arm. "Your mother told you yesterday that he was too young to believe in Santa Claus," he reminded him.
This made William scowl. "Okay, too believe, but he has to know who he is."
"Two and a half is really quite little," Scully told him, and he didn't look like he believed this was a valid excuse. "There are some kids that young who know who Santa is in a vague sort of way, but most of them have had people pointing out Santa constantly to them. Apparently Nathaniel didn't."
"Oh," William muttered. But his expression indicated that he found it hard to believe that a belief in Santa Claus was something a person learned, and wasn't born with.
Looking back at him, Scully wondered what sort of conversation they would have if she asked him if he thought that belief in a higher power was something taught or something innate. Breakfast on Christmas morning wasn't really the place for that type of talk but it was something interesting to think about.
From the sounds of the conversations at other tables Santa was visiting each table in turn. This being the case, Mulder turned to his two older sons and said, "I think it's going to be a while before Santa comes in visits us, so please concentrate on eating your pancakes."
"Yeah, sure," William muttered. "Who cares about Santa anyway?"
Scully hid a smirk: William wasn't doing as good a job pretending indifference as he probably hoped. He may not currently believe in Santa Claus, but she felt that odds were fairly decent he had last year, or at least the year before. It wasn't too hard to remember her own preteen desperation to project a 'I'm too cool for all of this' air about things she had recently come to consider childish.
"These waffles are awesome," Kyrie commented, apropos of nothing. When they looked at her, she asked, "Do you have a Belgian waffle maker?"
Mulder shrugged. "We might. Dana's mother has sent us all manner of cooking equipment over the past few years, and I can't identify half of it."
Scully tried to think about it. "Honestly, I'm not sure. We could get one, if we don't. They're not very expensive."
"Do they sell a pancake maker?" William asked.
"Yeah, it's called a frying pan," Kyrie said with a snort.
"Now children," Mulder said sternly, but Scully could see that the corners of his eyes were turned up in amusement.
"Merry Christmas," a voice behind them said, just slightly less booming than before.
Scully turned to look at the faux Santa she could see that his beard at least was real. He noticed, and smiled at her. "Well Mom, have these children been good this year?"
"As far as we know," Mulder remarked, earning a strange look from Santa Claus.
Scully nodded her head. "I think it's fair to say that."
"What about you?" Santa asked William. "Do you think that you and your sister and brother had been good?"
William cut his eyes towards Kyrie. "Oh yes. Nathaniel is learning to use the potty, Kyrie killed two aliens, and I learned I'm really good at hide and seek - especially when it's important."
This whole remark had Santa looking very puzzled. The man decided to go with it, and just laughed. "That does sound good."
"And baby Tate is really good at being a baby," William added. "Especially since he's only three weeks old and hasn't had much practice."
"That's always nice to hear," Santa said, and Scully could practically see the gears moving in his head as he wondered if there was something wrong with William or if the little boy was just messing with him. "Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?" Santa asked. "I like to hear from children if my elves and I have done a good job."
William shrugged. "I don't know. We haven't opened presents yet."
"Oh! Maybe I'll have to check back later. I bet you haven't opened your stocking either, yet." Santa pointed at the Mulder stocking hanging from the mantle, and Scully wondered how she knew which one to point at. Perhaps the servers had done a quick seating chart on the sly.
"See?" William said to Kyrie. "I told you I thought there was something in it."
"Right you are, my boy," Santa agreed. "You'll have to take the stocking with you when you go back to your rooms."
It was only then that Scully realized that some of the stockings and some of the families were missing from the dining room. Apparently they had finished eating quicker.
Santa turned to Kyrie, who looked uncomfortable. This did not seem to bother him. "I suppose you don't know if you got what you wanted for Christmas either."
"Well…" Kyrie hesitated. "We are getting a new home, and that is something I really wanted. Even if we're not there now, at least we have it to go to this week."
"But Kyrie, home is where the heart is," William teased her in a sing-song voice. She just gave him a chagrined look.
The man in the red suit suddenly looked interested, and turned to Mulder and Scully. "Oh, did you buy a new home?"
"Not exactly," Mulder admitted.
Their collective evasiveness finally got too much for Santa Claus, and he decided to just wish them a Merry Christmas and move on to another family. "Well, I hope this entire family has a great Christmas. And that you find something you wanted under the tree, or in that stocking. Merry Christmas!"
"You too, Santa," Kyrie said.
"Merry Christmas, Santa!" William said with just a little too much enthusiasm to maintain his air of nonbelief. Scully was completely certain that he didn't think that man was Santa Claus, but she did have her doubts about whether or not he was entirely certain that Santa wasn't in fact real. Of course, lately she had her own questions in that regard...
Mulder leaned over and spoke in her ear. His breath was warm on her neck. "What are you thinking about? You had the strangest look on your face just now."
For half a second she thought about telling him that she was wondering if Carl Tate was actually Santa Claus, but she didn't. Not because she worried that he'd make fun of her, but more because she knew he'd only encourage that type of irrational thinking.
So, instead of saying anything at all, she just smiled and shrugged.
He snorted and shook his head before looking at the now empty dishes in front of all of them. "Isn't it about time to go back to our suite and open presents?"
William's response was to cheer and Scully found it interesting that he was so enthusiastic given that the presents were picked out by a man who had no idea what he'd wanted. In this case perhaps William had decided to embrace it's the thought that counts for all it was worth.
Next year would be different, Scully reflected. Next year they'd be at home and they'd have had a whole year to get to know the kids. Tate stretched on her lap, startling her when she thought about how much change a year would bring to him: by Christmas next year he might very well be walking.
"Bet I can beat you to the elevator," William said to Kyrie, making Scully notice that everyone was on their feet but her.
Scully waited for the girl to roll her eyes, but the teenager just said, "You're on," and the two raced off.
Mulder held Nathaniel's hand while he waited for Scully to stand up. "Scully, did you know that statistical archives show that more people on TV shows are born in elevators than in real life?"
"I think I did know that," she said, flashing him a brief smile before adjusting her hold on Tate. "Of course, a lot of things are like that."
"Like what?" he asked curiously as they finally left the dining room. He paused only a moment to unhook the Mulder stocking from the fireplace's long mantle.
It was on her tongue to quip 'fight off alien invasions' but she knew he really did worry that hordes of alien spaceships would descend upon them in slightly less than three years, so she bit it back. "Oh, you know, a lot more gang fights turn into choreographed dance offs than ever happen in real life. And fewer people in real life ever have to deal with zombies than on TV."
"Hmm. Speaking of zombies, did you have anything in mind for New Year's Eve?"
"No, not really," Scully told him.
They arrived in sight of the elevator just in time to see William run up to the doors and tag one.
Scully wouldn't stake her life on it, but she was pretty sure Kyrie could move faster than she was if she wanted to.
"I'll win next time," Kyrie promised. She glanced at Scully and smiled.
The kids both made a beeline for the tree, and Scully was amused to see that her stepdaughter was as enthusiastic about getting gifts as her oldest son was.
I have three sons, Scully thought with wonder again as she and Mulder settled on the floor with the little ones on their laps. She held Tate and Mulder assisted Nathaniel with opening gifts if any of the wrapping was tricky for tiny fingers.
William appointed himself as head gift passer-outer and seemed to be having a good time diving under the tree and figuring out who the tags said each gift was for.
At least until he backed out from under the tree when most of the gifts were unwrapped. "I told you I don't believe in Santa," William said with a scowl.
"We know," Scully told him.
"Then why does this tag say 'from Santa'?" he asked, pushing a wrapped box towards her.
"Mulder?" she asked, looking over his shoulder at him. He looked puzzled and shrugged. Frowning at him, she turned just in time for William to yank another present out from under the tree.
"This one says 'to Kyrie, from Santa.'" He found another. "And this one is from Santa for Nathaniel."
"Huh." She huddled next to Mulder and whispered, "When did you get this idea?"
He shook his head and whispered back, "I didn't! Maybe the hotel did it?" he suggested. "They knew when guests would be at breakfast, and maybe they counted on no one opening presents before then."
"I guess so…"
"We should open them," Kyrie suggested.
"Okay…" William sounded wary.
Kyrie gave her brother an encouraging smile, and then ripped the paper off her own gift when he hesitated. "What? Wow…"
"What is it?" Scully asked trying to crane her neck over Tate's head so she could see.
Kyrie held it out so she could get a better look. "A snow globe."
"That's really nice," Scully said automatically, but her brow furrowed when she realized that the miniature house under the glass sphere looked familiar.
"Scully," Mulder leaned over, trying not to spill Nathaniel off his lap. "Doesn't that look a lot like our house?"
"Yes…" she admitted.
"How could they do that?" Mulder asked, obviously still thinking that someone at the hotel had left the gifts. He snapped his fingers. "Oh, google."
"They have our address, right? From when I made the reservations days ago. You can look at photos of things via Google, so they must have looked at our house."
This idea creeped her out a little and she thought it should have him too, but she decided not to say anything about that. They'd have plenty of time to discuss it in private once they got home, and they probably didn't want to get a jump on instilling paranoia in the kids quite yet.
William opened his own gift. "Neat." It was a small statue of a T-Rex. "This is my favorite dinosaur."
"You can keep it on your desk when we get home," Mulder suggested.
"I have a desk?"
"Sure, you both do." Mulder rolled up his sleeve and showed the little boy a scabby mark on his forearm. "I put your bedroom furniture together myself."
"Let's see what Nathaniel got," Scully suggested.
William passed the small package over to the little boy. "Here."
"Whatzit?" Nathaniel asked.
"I don't know," William told him. "It's from Santa."
The toddler cocked his head. "Red guy?"
"Sure, why not."
"Yes!" everyone told him.
Nathaniel pulled the wrapping paper off and revealed a toy phone. "Phone! My phone!" he said excitedly.
"Speaking of phones, can Kyrie and I get some?" William asked in a wheedling tone.
"We'll see," Mulder said instantly. "Your mother and I have to talk about it first."
While Scully and Mulder spoke to William about the potential for cell phones, it seemed as though Kyrie had taken stock of the remaining gifts. "There's not much here for you two," she said hesitantly.
"Oh," Mulder replied. "I knew we'd have a lot of stuff to bring home with us, especially when we ditch my rental car, so I left most of Dana and my gifts at home. We'll open them once we get there."
"But that's sad," Kyrie said, and she looked like she really thought so.
"We've gotten the important things already," Mulder said, and he unexpectedly hugged her and William both to him.
"Oh, God, you're so corny," the girl groaned, but her smile was radiant.
Mulder was right though, as silly as it sounded. That was proven as they spent the rest of the day together, watching movies, eating the elaborate meals in the dining room, and talking to her mother on the phone. As far as Scully was concerned, there had never been a better Christmas in her adult life.
December 27, 2009
"We're almost there, right?" William asked as they drove through Virginia. "This is the name of your town."
"That's right. We've only got a handful of miles to go," Scully said with a yawn. They'd ultimately decided to drive home the night before rather than spend yet another night in a hotel along the way. With both her and Mulder available to drive it hadn't been too bad, but the lack of sleep was catching up to her because the three hour nap they'd all taken hadn't been enough, and sleeping while he drove hadn't been very restful.
"How come you're so awake?" she asked. William was completely alert, which was a lot more than she could say for herself even after turning the driver's seat over to Mulder two hours ago.
"We slept while you drove," Kyrie reminded her.
"I've never slept well in a car," Scully admitted. "I'm glad you both can."
"Will, we live on the next street," Mulder announced.
As they pulled onto their street, Scully took out her cell phone. Mulder gave her a questioning glance, so she said, "I'm going to text my mom to let her know that we're home."
"She'll be glad." Mulder nodded to himself. "I'm pretty sure she found my explanations inadequate and you didn't get to have a completely coherent conversation with your brothers interrupting with their own calls."
"I'm not sure there's such a thing as an adequate explanation for something like this," Scully replied, and he began to chuckle.
She swatted his shoulder, but not with any real malic. "Stop that. This isn't funny."
"This is it?" William asked, bouncing in his seat as Mulder pulled into the driveway.
"This is it."
"It's big," William remarked in admiration.
"Good thing considering there's now going to be a lot of people living in the house," Scully told him.
"You're going to be invaded," William teased. "Invasion of the kids."
"Bring it on," Mulder told him, laughing. "We've faced worse threats than a house full of children."
"We'll see." William giggled. He and his sister got out of the car.
Scully and Mulder were still in the process of getting Nathaniel and Tate out of their car seats when Kyrie tapped Scully on the shoulder and said urgently, "There's something on the front stoop."
"What?" Scully asked, lifting her head up to look.
"There," Kyrie said as she pointed. "That definitely wasn't there when we left."
Whatever it was, Scully could see that it was fairly large. A box of some sort, she thought, a white one. "Mulder, did you order anything to be delivered while we were gone?"
"Huh?" He looked over at them with Nathaniel in his arms and a quizzical look on his face. "No. Everything I bought I picked up in the stores."
"Oh…" Scully felt wary as she approached the stoop, which was something she'd grown unaccustomed to once they figured out that no one was looking for Mulder. It was theoretically possible that her mother or a brother had had something delivered to the house for them, but she couldn't imagine why they wouldn't have mentioned it. They weren't friendly enough with neighbors to exchange Christmas gifts, so that seemed unlikely as well.
There was just something wrong with whatever had been left for them, and it almost seemed to emanate a faint menace. Glancing at Kyrie, she saw unease mirrored on the girl's face as the teenager trailed behind her, and she began to wonder how much of her own dismay was a product of picking up on what Kyrie felt first. Maybe she was being completely ridiculous, she thought.
She'd actually half-way convinced herself that there was nothing wrong when she noticed something that made her heart stop. "Oh my God," she muttered, and then spun towards her stepdaughter and thrust Tate into her arms. "Take him." The girl looked startled, but she didn't drop her baby brother.
Running up to the stoop Scully could only hope that what she'd noticed was a trick of the light or a figment of her imagination. But as she got closer she saw that she was not wrong. A tiny limp hand hung over the lip of the box.
"No, no, no," she whispered and steeled herself into looking down into the box.
There was no blood. That was the only blessing, because the baby's skin was tinged blue with cold. Looking over her shoulder, she yelled "Mulder, call an ambulance!" before reaching in for the little one.
Her fingers found a faint pulse, which she noted with some relief. Lacking anything else to do, she ripped her coat off and wrapped it around the still form of the toddler. Even though she felt numb she absently continued to notice things about the child in her arms. The baby was about a year old. It was a girl. She was only wearing a thin pink cotton onesie. Her hair was the same color as Mulder's.
She'd known it would be a girl, ever since Kyrie explained why the kids younger than William had been commissioned. Of course it would be a girl, because why else would they have gone onto make Tate right away, not waiting to see if number six was the son in their damned prophecy? Obviously they'd known from the moment she was born that she was no waited-for son of Mulder's. Maybe it had been a lab accident, she mused distractedly, or had they lacked the foresight to DNA test the embryos before implanting them in some unwilling host?
"Dana, what is it?!" William yelled, running towards her, making her look up from her confusing thoughts. He skittered to a stop three yards away and gave the coat wrapped bundle an apprehensive look. Behind him Mulder was still on the phone, and Kyrie hung back, staring at her with dismay. "Is it a puppy?" her son asked while staring at the bundle in her arms, his voice uncertain.
It was only then that Scully realized that William and Mulder had both been too far away to make sense of what she was holding, and she now had the little girl so covered up he still couldn't see her. Poor Mulder probably had no idea why he was calling for an ambulance. "No, it's, um, a baby."
William blinked. "Is it dead?" he asked more hesitantly.
This question finally snapped her out of her trance. "No! But she's been out in the cold far too long." How long, Scully wondered. The child was alive but unconscious, and surely had at least moderate hypothermia. "Please reach into my pocket and get my keys. We should go inside while we wait for the ambulance, okay?"
She had no idea if the child would survive, but at least being inside wouldn't make her worse. She hoped. The doctor part of her brain reassured her that the baby wouldn't warm up too quickly inside, not when the house itself was cool after being empty for several days, but she couldn't tell if it was lying or not.
"Okay," William agreed, eyes wide. He deftly pulled out her keys, reminding her of Oliver Twist for some reason, and opened the door. How he'd picked the right key on the ring on the first try, Scully didn't know.
"Thank you," she whispered and hurried inside.
"Those bastards," Kyrie shocked her by saying. Until that moment she hadn't realized that Kyrie had followed her in, though of course it made sense – Tate wouldn't hold up to being out in the cold very long either. "We trusted them, and they did this?"
"At least she's alive," Scully said quietly as she set the baby down on the couch. The small girl didn't stir. "Hand me that blanket, would you?" she asked, pointing at a throw blanket on the other end of the couch.
Kyrie expertly shifted Tate in her arms so she could free a hand, reminding Scully that she'd had the baby boy on her own for a couple of days before anyone else entered the picture. "For now," she said grimly and thrust the blanket at Scully.
Scully looked out the window at the box that was still near the front door and thought back to something Kyrie had said when they'd gotten out of the car out in the driveway the day they met. At the time the isolation of the property didn't seem ominous, but if the house had been within the view of other houses, maybe someone would have seen the baby before she lost consciousness. Surely she'd tried to get out of the box, and cried when she realized that no one was going to come and rescue her from the cold...
"You okay?" Kyrie asked quietly.
"No," she admitted. "We never should have trusted them."
Kyrie bounced Tate gently in her arms when he began to fuss, and stared down at the unconscious child. "I know."
"I found something!" William announced, startling her. She'd assumed that he'd followed her through the house like Kyrie had, but evidently he had not stayed inside with them. In his hand he held a piece of paper. "This was in that box."
Scully smoothed the blanket over the baby girl again before reaching for it. She half expected that it would be an envelope with her or Mulder's name written on it in dark ink, but it turned out to be half a sheet of paper. There were only a few words written on it.
Aspen Elizabeth Nichols
Narrowing her eyes, she crumpled the piece of paper, and muttered "Not if I can help it" when she noticed that Kyrie had read it over her shoulder. William looked apprehensive, and he went to stand next to Kyrie for comfort.
"She's only a year old?" William asked, proving that he'd read the note. Probably had read the whole thing, maybe even before handing it over, Scully realized morosely. Yet another thing to push the kids into therapy. "Mom, that's so little. Can she be okay?"
Not 'will she', Scully noted. William wasn't asking her for a prediction, he was just searching for facts. "Maybe," she told him, and his face predictably fell. "There have been other cases where toddlers with hypothermia ended up just fine." And a lot where they died, but she didn't have the heart to say that to an eight-year-old boy.
"So it's not impossible," William said, mostly to himself, she thought.
Ice crunched in the driveway, and Mulder came in, leading Nathaniel by the hand. "Scully, the ambulance is here."
Mulder's eyes were sad as he started down at the toddler on the couch, and she thought again about how they'd had the audacity to indicate a date of death for the curly-haired child they'd abandoned on the stoop. Apparently they figured that Aspen would freeze to death before they got home. The aliens had counted on them spending another night in a hotel, and she now was so thankful that they'd been too impatient to get home to do so.
"Thank you," she said numbly and scooped Aspen up into her arms. Did the girl's skin feel a little warmer? Was her pulse a bit stronger? It was hard to tell.
The walk out to the ambulance seemed to take forever. The paramedic that met her wore a blue uniform, and he gave her a concerned look. "What can you tell me about what happened?" he asked, and held out his arms.
"I don't know," Scully admitted. She was somehow reluctant to hand the girl over to him, and paranoia suggested that maybe this was a trap. Maybe these paramedics were part of the conspiracy and would take Aspen away, never to be seen again. That sort of thing had happened once before… eventually she let the girl go, despite her misgivings. If she kept her there at the house, she'd surely die. "My husband and I just got home and found her on the stoop. I don't know how long she's been out here by herself." Crying in vain for help that wouldn't come...
The paramedic frowned. "So she's not your child?"
"She might be," Scully told him, and he looked even more confused. "We found out that some of the embryos we had created, you know, for IVF, had been used to create a baby," she improvised, deciding not to mention Nathaniel or Tate, "and they promised to give us the baby if we…"
"Oh, blackmail," the paramedic said, as if they explained everything. Perhaps as far as he was concerned it did. So rather than break the spell cast by saying those magic words, she merely bit her lip and nodded. "It's a damn shame when they take it out on a kid when the parents don't comply with jumping through all of the hoops they set up."
"You've seen things happen like this before?" Scully couldn't stop herself from asking.
The paramedic nodded. "A couple of times when I lived in Chicago." He must've noticed her worried look, because he did his best to smile reassuringly. The smile didn't actually reach his eyes though. "Hey, in both of those cases the kids were okay in the end."
"Right." she agreed, all the while thinking that he sounded a lot like she had talking to William a few minutes earlier.
"You want to ride in the ambulance with her?" he offered.
Scully turned to look for Mulder, and was surprised to see him standing not far behind her. He nodded. "Yes please," she half begged.
New Year's Eve
In the end everyone said that Aspen was really lucky, but as Scully looked at the bandages on her tiny left foot, she wasn't so enthusiastic about declaring that herself. The orthopedic surgeon who amputated Aspen's severely frostbitten pinky toe after it became gangrenous assured her and Mulder both that Aspen would probably be able to do everything any other toddler would after some rehab, but it burned Scully up that she would have to work so much harder than she should to do it.
And even more it galled her that she and Kyrie had been so betrayed by the monsters that'd they'd spared.
But the only saving grace that she could see was that they might have killed Aspen outright instead, like they'd apparently originally planned for Nathaniel and Tate. Being dead was considerably worse than growing up with only nine toes. Of course they hadn't intended for Aspen to live. It was very fortunate that their plan to devastate her and Kyrie as thoroughly as possible had ultimately backfired.
Mulder, Maggie, and Kyrie had brought the kids to visit earlier, but they'd gone home when the two other little ones had had enough of the hospital, so Scully had stayed behind again. Mulder had been pretty understanding about how much time she spent at the hospital, and had yet to complain that taking care of the other kids had fallen entirely on him. She wished that she could feel guilty about it, but Aspen needed a grown up too badly for her to be able to. The fact that her mother hadn't left after arriving at the house made her feel a little better about the situation too, though she still felt badly that her mom had gotten there only to be informed that Scully had just left in the back of an ambulance.
At that moment Scully had Aspen on her hip and was pointing out the window at fireworks.
"Look Aspen, that one's red!" she cooed, cuddling the little girl to her. After a few seconds a brilliant green spray of sparks flew across the night sky. "Green, so pretty!" Scully tickled her, making her giggle. "Like your eyes sometimes, huh?" Aspen's eyes were Mulder's hazel, but at the moment they tended towards green rather than brown.
A lot of toddlers were afraid of fireworks, but Aspen seemed fascinated. Scully was in the middle of wondering if it was because they were too far away to hear them when a voice asked "Doctor Scully?" from the doorway.
She turned in response, and wasn't really surprised to see Carl Tate standing there and offering her a friendly smile. "Is that your daughter?" he asked.
Scully hitched the baby up a bit higher on her hip and said, "Yes, she is." They'd gotten the DNA test results back before they'd known for sure that Aspen would live. It was really remarkable that she was now doing so well just a few days later.
Carl nodded. "I thought so, she looks like you."
"Does she?" Scully asked. "I think she looks more like my husband."
"Well, she doesn't have your coloring, but her bone structure is a lot like yours." Carl chuckled to himself before explaining, "Both of my girls are the spitting image of their mother too, thank god."
I guess that'd make his wife Mrs. Claus, Scully found herself thinking irreverently. "Carl," she asked impulsively. "Have you spent any time in Wyoming lately?"
Carl looked genuinely puzzled. "I can't say that I've ever spent any time in that fine state," he said. The look he gave her suggested that he would like her to explain herself, and she supposed she couldn't blame him.
"Oh," she said, not willing to articulate the idea that she had believed she'd seen him there when she and Kyrie first arrived at William's house. It'd probably been like she is suspected: she had so badly wanted an ally that her brain had conjured one up for her. Either that, or Carl actually was Santa Claus, which he would never in a million years admit if it were true. "If you ever get the chance to, you should go. It's lovely there."
"I'll keep that in mind the next time I need to make travel plans for a vacation."
"You really should."
"So… how's the little one doing?" Carl asked awkwardly. She could see that he was looking at the girl's foot and wondering how that had sparked an admission.
"Pretty good. I'm actually waiting for a nurse to bring me the discharge papers. We're going to get home tonight after all," she explained. The fact that Aspen was going to be released had only come to light after Mulder had visited, or else she would have told him not to bother.
"She is a doll," Carl told her. "But I have a question for you, Doctor Scully."
"Did you end up having a better Christmas than you thought you would the day we met?"
"Oh, Carl, you have no idea. It was a lot more exciting than I'd figured on, but in the end it turned out to be wonderful."
"That's fantastic. Everyone seems to have had a great Christmas, and that's something I love to hear."
I'll bet, she thought while smiling at the big man. "Me too."
"I'm glad that I ran into you, but I'm actually hear to pick up Constance. We're going to have dinner with my family."
"Thank you. And take care of yourself and your little ones," Carl said before turning to the door.
"You too, and I will," Scully replied automatically, but then she paused, staring after the departing man. Why had he said little ones instead of little one? He hadn't met the other kids…
"Doctor Scully?" a voice asked, and she blinked when she noticed there was someone standing in front of her. The woman handed her a clipboard. "If you could just sign these, you can take Aspen home."
"Great!" Scully replied. The nurse took the clipboard back and held it for her when she realized that Scully couldn't hold it, and Aspen, and sign at the same time.
"That's it. Have a wonderful New Years."
"I assume you'll be leaving now?" the nurse asked.
"Actually not quite yet. I have something to do first."
"Oh, you probably need to call your husband."
Make that two things, then, Scully thought.
After dressing Aspen, and wincing over only putting one boot on the girl, Scully took the child's few belongings and stuffed them in the diaper bag Mulder had left for her before going home to set up another crib. For convenience's sake, rather than a lack of empty bedrooms, they'd keep all three babies in the same room for a trial run of seeing if that worked without them waking each other up all night.
"Hey," Scully told her as she picked both Aspen and the bag up. "We're going to go bye-bye after we talk to someone, okay?"
Aspen said nothing, but snuggled against Scully.
"I'll take that as an agreement."
The elevator made creaking noises as it brought Scully up to their destination. She'd put the thing she needed to deliver in the outer pocket of the diaper bag, and she checked to make sure it was there before the doors opened.
She walked down the hall before stopping at a door and giving it a perfunctory rap with her knuckles, but she didn't wait for a reply before opening the door.
Father Ybara looked startled as he stared at her from behind his desk. "Doctor Scully-"
"I'm so glad you're here," Scully said, cutting off what was sure to be a tirade about manners. "I wanted to give this to you in person."
"What is it?" Ybara was giving her daughter a wary look, as though he expected the toddler to lunge at him and bite his neck. "And who-"
Scully drew the envelope out of the bag and handed it over to him. "My letter of resignation."
"What?" His shocked eyes flew to her face.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances, and frankly because I feel like it, I'm going to be taking the next few months off. I could request that you allow me a leave of absence, but let's be honest here: neither of us are going to be sad that I'm gone. So rather than making you hold a job I no longer want for twelve weeks as the family leave act requires, let's end this way and you can begin searching for my permanent replacement right away. Hopefully you'll find someone you enjoy working with more than you have me."
He struggled with what to say for a moment, obviously wanting to get in one last bit of hectoring, but in the end his shoulders slumped and he merely held out his hand for the letter.
"If you need me to come in over the next two weeks-"
"That won't be necessary, Doctor Scully. As you said, a clean break it probably best for all involved."
"Doctor Scully, I take it that the child you're holding is the unforeseen circumstance you alluded to?" he asked. She could tell he was wondering if she'd adopted without telling anyone.
This more than anything else suggested that the man's lack of curiosity was just as bad as she'd suspected since before Christian's illness first put them at odds. He'd had no idea that there'd been a patient with her husband's last name in the hospital the last several days? Most people would have found that interesting.
"Yes," she agreed. "Part of it." But you have no idea, buddy.
"Good luck with her and wherever life takes you next, Dana."
By the time she made her way out of the hospital, Mulder had already driven up to the front door. "There's my princess," he clucked to Aspen before getting out of the car to take her from Scully.
Scully smiled and watched him buckle the girl into the car seat he must have bought. It was pink, unlike the two blue that flanked it.
Looking up at her, he asked, "How did Mr. Personality take you resigning?"
"He tried to look upset, but honestly, I think he's probably relieved."
"That's good. But I bet you're not going to get a glowing letter of recommendation when you're ready to go back to work," Mulder teased, referring to the fact that they'd decided that she'd stay home with the three youngest kids for the next six months, dipping into their savings, before attempting to find a private practice that would take her on.
She snorted. "I sort of figured."
"So," Mulder said as he shut the rear door and they both walked to the front of the car. "Will and Kyrie were wondering if Aspen might be up for some First Night activities."
For a moment Scully worried about bringing her out in the cold, but then she thought of the warm snowsuit Maggie had picked out for her. "As long as they're resigned to leaving early if any of the younger ones has a complete meltdown, I can't see why not."
"They're be so pleased. Apparently all Kyrie wants is warm apple cider, and the fireworks will be fairly early so that'll make Will happy."
She waited for him to turn the key in the ignition. "Sounds good, Mulder. Let's go home and get them."
November 2017: Go here to begin reading the sequel, Home Is Where the Haunt Is
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