Title: Recovering Gemini
Author: Neoxphile
E-Mail: neoxphile@aol.com
Spoilers: TrustNo1, Providence, William, The Truth, IWTB
Keywords: MSR, challengefic
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the X-Files characters, but I promise to put them back in the toybox when I'm done with them.

Summary: Five years later, the child Scully gave up for adoption is alone in the world. Staged Duplicity sequel.

Author's note: this story's conclusion posted 8/20/10


The first year after Mulder and I took our son back from my brother Charlie had been difficult. Even though we'd escaped and gotten our son back, we still were looking over our shoulders at every moment. It took us a year of reassurances from Skinner that they were truly not looking for us any longer to finally begin to let down our guard. Mulder didn't trust that entirely, but having some old friends of the gunmen surreptitiously bug key offices in the Hoover building did a lot to put his mind at ease.

Looking back, that hard anxious year was just a blur. It seemed as though we had long since settled into the white picket fence dream that my mother projected onto both Missy and I all our lives with a waxing sense of despair. I don’t think anyone was happier than her when Mulder and I walked down the aisle four years ago. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

I liked our life together, which Mulder had jokingly dubbed "Life 2.0" and it did seem like we'd rebooted our existence almost entirely. Life had settled into ordinary and predictable, with me being a doctor at last at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital, and Mulder heading off four and a half days a week to work with homeless folks with treatable mental conditions. His practice was proud of every person they were able to help find a more stable life.

Medicine and social work weren't what we planned on, but we were soon to discover that there are many things you can't plan on. The most important of these things all started on what seemed like an average May afternoon.


Mulder-Scully Home
Carter, West Virginia
May 8th, 2007

I watched as my almost six-year-old son laboriously filled in a math worksheet at the kitchen table. His brow was furrowed, and the tip of his tongue poked out between his lips, but after a moment he wrote down the correct answer. I wanted to congratulate him, but it would break his concentration.

Instead, I busied myself with the salad I was making to go with dinner. As I was chopping tomatoes, I heard William say, "I'm all done."

"Good. Put it in your backpack. Then go wash up for dinner."

"Okay." He slid off his chair, and ran off.

"Will! Walk!"

"Okay, Mom!" he called back without slowing down.

I sighed. Mulder kept telling me that he was just being a boy, but I was still dumbfounded by the amount of energy that child had.

The phone rang, and the first words I heard were, "Dana, are you sitting down?"

"No, Mom. Should I be?" I asked warily. My mother wasn't the type of overly dramatic person who often told people to sit down to hear something.

"Yes," she said firmly, "and send William out to play so he doesn't overhear our conversation."

"You're scaring me, Mom," I complained nervously.

"I'm sorry, but please. Do it," she insisted.

I put her on hold, and found William in the bathroom still washing his hands. He was pleased when I suggested that he ask Mulder to play catch, though Mulder himself looked full of questions. With a look I promised to tell him everything, and they were soon outside with their baseball gloves.

"What’s wrong?" I asked as soon as I picked the phone up again.

She took a shuddery breath that could clearly be heard despite the miles between us. "Something happened today, and I have no idea what to do." I was about to ask her what, but she went on. "It's about that little boy you gave up for adoption."

Instantly anxious, my fingers tangled in the phone cord. "Did something happen to Joey?" I demanded to know.

All sorts of terrible images went through my head, making me fear desperately for the little boy who had allowed me to effortlessly send William into hiding when they were infants. Up until he crash landed in my life, I was going to have to admit to having sent William away, but his presence allowed me to keep it a secret.

She responded to the urgency in my tone. "He's okay, Dana," she soothed. "But there's been a terrible tragedy in his family this week. His father is in jail and his mother committed suicide."

"What happened??" I immediately pictured a half finished murder-suicide, and in this macabre mental picture, poor Joey saw everything.

"Oh God, Dana, it's such an awful thing." I could hear her voice change, as if she was suddenly on the verge of tears. "How much of the news have you caught over the last three days?"

"Not much. Mom, tell me what happened."

"Joey's parents adopted another baby three months ago. A little girl almost a year and a half old. Three days ago the husband was supposed to have dropped her off at daycare on the way to work, but...he forgot."

At first I wondered what was so tragic about forgetting to bring a baby to daycare, when I suddenly remembered a news story I'd only half paid attention to. "Oh no. He left her in the car."

As much as I wanted my mother to say no, of course not, she said, "He did. When he got out of work there was a cop breaking the window of his car, but it was already much, much too late. The baby was long dead."

"Poor little thing," I muttered absently, horrified that Joey had lost his little sister that way. It seemed a cruel thing to think considering what had happened to the little girl, but I was also happy that if the man was destined to do this, it hadn’t been Joey who’d been forgotten in a car.

"Usually they chalk this sort of thing up to a terrible accident, but they've arrested Joey's father. Because the baby was special needs the state has decided to prosecute, apparently thinking that it wasn't an accident."

"God. I guess they assumed that he decided that she was too much trouble and used the accident to get rid of her."

"Yes. His wife thought so too. She said so in her suicide note."

"Was Joey home when all of this happened?" I asked, and then stopped to wonder about something. "Mom, how do you know all these details? Was all this on the news?"

"No, Joey goes to a boarding school, so he wasn’t around to see...what happened. As for your second question, a social worker came to the house to see me. She said her name was Carlie Thomas. Does that sound familiar?"

As she named her visitor, my mind summoned up a memory of the woman's sympathetic expression when I cried giving Joey to her. "Yes, that was her name. Why did she come to you, though?"

"She couldn't find you, so she came to me. She... she promised Joey’s father that she would ask me if I thought you would take the boy back now."

"Back?" I asked senselessly.

Of course the Thomas woman thought Joey was my son, given that we'd said he was William. William Joseph Scully, answers to Joey. The baby son of a single mother who just couldn't keep him. In reality, he'd been the motherless child of woman who abandoned him on my doorstep just before managing to get herself killed.

Joey had only lived with me three months after his mother's body was discovered. Only up until Mulder's lunatic half-brother injected him with metal and told me that aliens would always be looking for him. Worried about his safety, I'd given him to an anonymous family, repaying him for his role in keeping my son safe too.

"Both his father and the social worker think Joey is your son," my mother pointed out, unaware that I’d just concluded that on my own. "So of course his wanted to know if you'd want him back."

"He must think he’s going to jail, if he’s even thinking of Joey returning to me." The memory of Mulder behind bars, looking hopeless, sprang to mind, and I quickly banished the thought.

"Apparently," my mother agreed. "Even if he didn’t do it on purpose, he might think that it’s a fitting punishment. So naturally his thoughts would be on making arrangements for the boy – while he still has any say in the matter."

If they convicted him, he could lose his right to keep Joey, I realized. Even if he didn’t go to jail, would he want to raise a child on his own, one that wasn’t even his flesh and blood? A lot of men wouldn’t.

"Me getting Joey, is that even a possibility?" I asked, not really thinking about whether or not it was a good idea. Yet.

"Apparently. Neither he nor his wife have any living relatives, so his father's thoughts naturally turned to you. I told the Thomas woman I'd ask you about it," my mother said neutrally, not trying to bend me towards one decision or the other.

"Oh. And if we didn't take him? Did she say what would happen to him?"

"I asked her that. She said it's hard to place six-year-olds. Joey would probably end up in a group home until they can find a foster family. Group home is a modern way of saying orphanage." A bit of heat seeped into my mother's voice, and though she had not said anything to pressure me, I could tell what she thought I should do. "If his father goes to jail, a foster family might be able to adopt him, not that their parent going to jail automatically makes the state release a child for adoption."

That's all it took to send my mind racing in ten directions, trying to sort out the pros and cons of bringing Joey home to us, and how on earth Mulder and I would decide on the best course of action.

My mother's next words stalled all of those thoughts. "Sweetheart, there's something you should know. I saw a picture of him..."

"Mom?"

"He looks just like William still. He...looks like you, Dana." My mother's voice dropped to a whisper. "He looks just like you. Even more than William does."

For a moment I was struck with a numb horror - had I accidentally given away the wrong baby? But after a moment I was able to quell the fluttery panic. The boys had looked enough alike to fool people who didn’t see them every day, but not that much alike. Not to mention that William had a coffee stain on one hip, and Joey didn’t have any birthmarks. I’d seen the familiar smudge on my son’s skin often over the past few years.

"Dana," My mother said, intruding on my thoughts. "Why does he look like you?"

"I don’t know."

I was willing to chalk it up to coincidence when she asked me something that my mind had already shied away from. "What if your doctor was wrong about how many embryos were viable, and Joey is also yours?"

"I think I would have noticed if I’d given birth to twins, Mom."

"Damn it, Dana," she snapped back. "You of all people should know that you don’t need to carry a child for it to be yours. That little girl..." She trailed off, leaving both of us to think about my doomed daughter. "I want to know something. Did you ever do a DNA test on Joey?"

"No. Why would I have? His mother dropped him off, which proved that he had one." Not that I'd ever seen the woman who left Joey on my welcome mat.

"It didn't occur to you to wonder why he looked so much like William when they were babies?"

"Babies often look alike," I said defensively. In truth, now that she asked, I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder about that very thing.

"You're going to talk about this with Fox, aren't you?"

"Of course!"

"Tonight?" she prompted.

"All right." I paused after letting her think she'd convinced me to do something, thinking. "Did you give the social worker my number?" It seemed unlikely, considering my mother was the one calling.

"No. I told her that I'd try to get in touch with you by tomorrow, and have you call her."

"Okay, I'll talk to Mulder."

She gave me Carlie Thomas' number, and we said goodbye. Mulder must've been watching me through the window, because he and William reappeared a few minutes later.

"What's up?" he asked with a deliberate casualness.

"I'll explain after dinner."

This response seemed to frustrate him, but it wasn't a conversation we should rush through, and dinner would be ready in five minutes. Not to mention that I was sure that neither of us really want William there to hear it. Dinner was subdued. If not for William chattering about his day, there might have been no conversation at all.

"Mom, can I play video games?" William wheedled as soon as his plate was in the dishwasher.

"Sure."

He looked surprised that it hadn't taken more argument, but didn't waste any time scampering off before I could change my mind.

When I turned to Mulder, he was already staring at me. "Scully, are you going to tell me what's going on?"

I gave him a faint smile. "In our room." The living room where William would be playing and our bedroom were at opposite ends of the house.


"So?" Mulder asked after closing our door.

"That was my mom. Social services contacted her today about the baby I said was William. Joey's mother is dead, and his father is in jail."

"What the hell happened?" He looked shocked. "Is the little boy okay?"

"That story on the news, about the baby dying after being left in the car?" He nodded, obviously having listened to the news. "The baby was Joey's little sister. They arrested his father, and his mother killed herself. The father had the social worker I gave Joey to get in touch with Mom. They wanted her to ask us if we'd take him back," I explained.

"You gave him up because you thought we couldn't protect them both. Has that changed?" Mulder asked carefully.

"I gave him up because I thought I couldn't protect him. When I gave him up, I had no idea if you and I would ever be reunited again. I couldn't bear to be apart from William much longer at that point, and if I was going to be raising him alone, I didn't think that I was up for protecting two helpless babies. If I had known that you would be back six weeks later... I would've toughed it out."

"You wanted to keep him," Mulder said softly.

"Of course I did. You don't take care of a baby that sweet for three months without wanting to keep him," I confessed. "Up until Spender gave him that shot, I thought I was going to. You'd come home, we'd go get William at my brother's, and we'd raise them as twins."

"I got the sense that might be the case, but you never told me," Mulder said.

I looked up at him with stinging eyes. "If I hadn't been sure that his new family would have demanded a paternity test, I would've begged you to contest the adoption on the grounds it was illegal because no one had notified you. I would have asked you to get him back for me because between the two of us, we could've kept them both safe."

"Scully..."

His sympathetic look loosened the first tear to roll down my cheek.

"Now I wish I had, and let them do a paternity test."

"Why?" he asked curiously.

"The social worker showed Mom Joey's picture. She's convinced that Joey is ours because he looks like me. What if he is ours, Mulder? No matter how hard it would have been, I wouldn't have given him up if I had known he was ours. Like I said, I thought we'd raise them as twins. But I had no idea that they might actually be twins."

"How likely is that?" Mulder asked gently. "I think you might have noticed giving birth twins. We could call Monica Reyes-"

I smirked at him. "I unwisely said the same thing to Mom. She was quick to remind me that I hadn't given birth to Emily. Mulder, what if she's right and we were lied to about how many ova were viable? Or embryos? It wouldn't be the first pre-birth kidnapping..." Not even the first in the family, I thought with a pang.

He looked lost in thought for a moment. "It doesn't matter if he's yours, though, does it? You want him back either way, don't you?"

That shut me up. Would bringing Joey into our lives be the best thing for him? For us?

My mind summoned up the helplessness that I felt at the hospital after Jeffrey Spender injected Joey with magnetite. At that moment I didn't know if he would live, and I had never felt less capable of protecting anyone. He was completely dependent on me, and I let him down.

Worse, I felt like I had been entirely responsible for putting him into danger in the first place. But if Joy's mother was right, if Joey's birth mother had been right, then these children had already been in constant danger before I met either of them. Alone I hadn't been able to protect Joey. I wasn't alone now.

"Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder. Even if he is not mine - ours - if he can't stay with the man who has raised him, he needs to be cared for by someone who understands what he might be. I spent the past five years regretting that I allowed him to be given to a family who had no idea what he was. I don't know how I'll live with myself for the next 12 years if I repeat that mistake."

"All right. We'll call that social worker and see if we can have him," Mulder said, as if the matter was settled.

"Don't we need to discuss this more? This not a puppy I saw the pet store and just had to have. Were talking about raising another child, don't you need more time to think about this?"

"If I hadn't left you and William, odds are that Joey would be living with us already," he pointed out.

"So you're agreeing with me because you feel guilty?" My voice rose, and I hated it.

"I'm agreeing because I want to make things right." He put his hand over mine. "Let's talk to social services and express our interest in Joey."

"Okay." I felt the fight go out of me.

"But let's not tell William before we talk to them." Mulder paused and gave me a long look. "Scully...if it turns out that he's not our biological son, I don't think we should take him back unless the plan is that we're taking him back permanently. All right?"

"All right," I agreed, wondering how long it would take to do a DNA test, and how we could do one secretly.

"Good," Mulder said softly. "It doesn't matter to me whose son he is if we can keep him, but I don't want to get attached if he's just going to be returned to his father in a few weeks or months."

"I understand that." It had only taken me three months to get attached the first time.


Washington, DC

Twenty hours later, Mulder and I found ourselves sitting in front of Carlie Thomas, the social worker for the private adoption agency I'd used to give up Joey five years earlier. She was the last person I thought I'd ever see again, but she welcomed us with a smile.

"You look well," she told me, probably thinking of the last time I'd seen her. Blotchy-faced and crying, I'd probably looked pathetic. I'd felt pathetic.

"Thank you."

"Why don't you each take a seat?" she invited, and we sat in the chairs she indicated. Glancing at Mulder, she turned to me and asked, "Is this William's father?" I must have looked surprised, because she quickly added, "Sorry, I know everyone calls him Joey."

Mulder gave her a charming smile. "That's right. I'm Joey's father." He touched my arm. "Dana and I were reunited quite a while back."

"That's lovely," Thomas said warmly, but a business-like demeanor soon took her over. "I was hoping that I could convince you to come with me this afternoon to speak to Mister Van de Kamp before we get into the legalities of Joey's situation." She paused a moment, letting the request sink in.

"He wants to speak to us?" Mulder asked after a moment.

Ms. Thomas nodded. "He wanted to speak to you about dissolving the adoption."

"So he doesn't want to keep Joey even if he's not convicted," I said, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that. On one hand knowing that taking Joey in would be permanent was a relief, because we wouldn't have to worry about giving him up later. But on the other, how would Joey feel about the man he considered to be his father not wanting to keep him?

I suppose she read the mixed emotions on my face, because she gave me a wan smile. "The jail is less than an hour from here, and I've called ahead to tell them that we may be coming, so a meeting has already been approved."

"Let's go," Mulder said, starting to stand. He took my arm and we followed Thomas out to the parking lot.


As Mulder followed Thomas' car to the jail, I couldn't help but be glad that the Van de Kamp family had relocated on the east coast after Joey's adoption, because that made it possible for us to speak to the man without having to fly. Over the phone Thomas had said the couple raising Joey had originally lived in Wyoming, but had come to Maryland three years before when they decided to give up raising livestock for tobacco. That bit of information was startling in a way, because we'd had no idea that the boy was so close.

During the drive I wished that we'd taken one car so we could talk to the social worker, but I had a feeling that she'd taken her own car to prevent that. I got the sense that she thought that the answers to our questions would be better received from Joey's soon-to-be erstwhile adoptive father. Realizing this left me feeling uneasy, and wondering why she thought that a hard sell from him would be necessary.

After what seemed like an eternity, a blocky gray building loomed into view, and Thomas put on her turn signal. Mulder followed suit, muttering, "I guess we're here."

Thomas was already standing beside her car by the time Mulder and I got out of ours. She looked at us and said, "I think your willingness to speak to him will mean a lot to Mister Van de Kamp."

I shrugged internally. What did it matter to us that it would make him happy? I trusted him with Joey's future, and over the course of one day he'd managed to turn the child's life upside down. To say that making him happy wasn't one of my priorities was a massive understatement.

A staff person met us at the door, and after a brief conversation with Thomas, led us to one of the visitors' rooms. As soon as we stepped inside, I noted that this would not be a conversation behind a thick pane of glass, and I couldn't decide what if that was a good thing or not.

After a three minute delay, a guard led the prisoner into the room. This was the first look I'd ever gotten of the man who'd spent the last five years raising Joey. Though Jonathan Van de Kamp clearly had been a man who'd spent much of his adult life doing hard work, his shoulders slumped in a defeated way, making him look smaller than he surely was. What hair he had left was disheveled, and I shot Mulder a glance – the fact that he hadn't bothered to brush his hair before meeting expected visitors didn't seem to speak well of his mind state.

Mulder nodded minutely.

Van de Kamp then sat at the metal table across from us and put up no fight as he was shackled to the concrete floor. I glanced briefly at the guard who had immediately retired to the doorway. Did Van de Kamp seem like a man who might bolt? The guard, his arms crossed sternly over his chest, didn't seem inclined to discount the possibility, no matter how small.

"You look just like him," Van de Kamp said, barely able to bring himself to look me in the eye. He didn't even seem to notice that Mulder and Thomas were sitting on either side of me. "When he asked us about his birth parents, we told him that he looked like his mother. It was just a guess, but it's true."

I thought about saying that William had my eyes too, but bringing him up seemed only likely to confuse the father and the social worker both, so I didn't. Instead I nodded. I didn't know what to say to this man, a man who was obviously broken, but had pasted on a hopeful look when he'd spotted me at the table.

"Ms. Thomas tells us that you want to dissolve the adoption," Mulder said. "And want us to consider taking Joey back."

"Yes." Van de Kamp sounded almost scared to admit it. He didn't look at either of us as he spoke.

"What if you're found not guilty?" I asked, thinking of Mulder's caveat about taking Joey in, if he's not ours biologically. "We don't want to take him back, only to have you trying to regain custody a few months from now."

We'd fight him for it, if he turned out that he was ours was something that went without saying, but at the moment, it wasn't an "if" I wanted to focus the conversation on. Bringing up the fact that he might not be our biological son would only make things more difficult.

"I am guilty," Joey's father said, sighing heavily. "It doesn't matter what the judge and jury decide, I did it. I didn't mean to-" He looked up at us with eyes full of unshed tears, "-but Ava is dead because of me. I don’t deserve to be in another's child's life. Michelle said as much herself in the note she left..."

I was about to reply with a polite lie, but I noticed Mulder nodding his head. "So you want to give him up no matter what the outcome of your trial."

"I do. If you can take care of him now, he should be with you."

"We can," I said softly, and Mulder reached for my hand. "We want him back."

The expression on Van de Kamp's face was a bitter mixture of relief and regret. I wonder if it's what Thomas had seen on my face the day I put Joey in her arms. He cleared his throat before saying "Thank you" in a mechanical tone.

"We need to know what Joey knows about the situation," Mulder said, making us all focus again. "Ms. Thomas said that he attends a boarding school?"

"In Delaware."

"Why?" I wanted to know. It made little sense to me that people who desperately wanted a child would then turn around and send him off to boarding school for kindergarten.

"He's so bright. The regular school system admitted that they didn't know what to do with kids like Joey. So they recommended a boarding school for exceptionally bright children. It was hard to let him go, but Michelle and I thought that it was the best thing for him. Even if it wasn't necessarily for us."

"Hmm," I muttered, trying to appear understanding. I was just glad that the school system in Carter was able to handle exceptionally bright children like William, and apparently Joey. However, if the local school system wasn't up to the task of supplying gifted education, Mulder and I would have taken on the task of supplementing William's education rather than sending him away.

"Does he..." I leaned forward in my chair, trying to find the words. "Does he know your wife and daughter have passed away?"

Van de Kamp nodded briefly, looking sad. "The headmaster told him immediately. He's taking it about as well as expected, real broken up about Michelle." He sighed. "I guess it's a minor blessing that he didn't spend much time at home since we adopted Ava..."

It was startling to think that not having the chance to become attached to a sibling could be a blessing, but in this case it was hard to deny that it was probably true. If Joey had spent every day of the past few months getting to know his sister, he would be even more grief-stricken.

"Does anyone at the school know that you intend to give him up?" Mulder asked.

"Does Joey?" I added.

Van de Kamp hung his head. "The headmaster does, but I haven't let anyone tell Joey."

"Why not?" Mulder demanded to know. "It's not going to be any easier on him if we show up to get him and catch him completely unaware."

"I'll...I'll have my attorney give them a call after you leave and have someone tell Joey that he's not going to be living with me any more."

"Well, good," Mulder said grudgingly.

"There's just one thing, though. Do we need to tell him that giving him up is my choice?"

"Who do you propose take the blame instead?" I demanded to know. "We're not about to tell him that we're taking him away from you. That wouldn't do anything positive to help him learn to live with the situation and trust us."

"Oh no, of course not," Van de Kamp said quickly. "I, um...he's not quite six. Can't you just let him believe that the people who arrested me won't let me have him any more because I've been in jail?"

"I guess so," Mulder answered for both of us. I shot him a look. I hadn't decided yet how I felt about lying to the boy. He shrugged.

"Thank you." Van de Kamp's eyes were decidedly watery. "If you tell him that you talked to me, can you tell him that I love him? That I always will?"

"Why don't you tell him yourself?" I suggested. "Don't you want to keep in contact with him?" I'd already been envisioning walking into this place with Joey holding my hand.

"No."

"No?" Mulder frowned at the other man.

"It would make me feel better to talk to him, or even see him, but how is it fair to him? If he and I keep in touch, won't he be thinking about living with me again?" Van de Kamp said, and I couldn't help but agree with him. "I'd appreciate it if you'd give me updates on him from time to time, but I think we all need to agree that a clean break is better for him."

"And if he wants to contact you?" Mulder asked.

Van de Kamp sighed. "Tell him that 'they' won't let me talk to him or have letters from him, or vise versa."

When I glanced at Mulder, he looked as tense as I knew he would. Without asking him, I knew that his mind was on giving Joey a good start on distrusting authority. We, of course, distrusted authority quite a bit ourselves, but it was hardly an indiscriminant distrust.

"All right," I said after a moment. I knew that a time would come when we'd tell Joey the truth. I wondered if Van de Kamp knew it was true. "Are we done here?"

"You're really going to keep him?" The prisoner looked a bit desperate around the eyes suddenly, as if he thought we'd just been humoring him.

"We keep our word," Mulder said shortly before standing up.

Neither of us offered him any wishes of good luck as we parted company with him. Joey's father was too thoroughly resigned to his fate for that.


Just as she had when we entered the prison, Carlie Thomas led the way out.

"Now what happens?" I asked as soon as the door swung behind us.

Instead of answering, she asked a question of her own. "Do you have a lawyer?"

"We can get one," Mulder told her. "Why, do we need to have a court hearing?"

Thomas shook her head. "If you can get a lawyer to file a motion asking that Jonathan's wishes be enforced, it may well just require a judge signing a desk order to transfer custody to you."

"And if it doesn't?" I asked.

Thomas' shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. "We'll have to go through another adoption. It occasionally happens when all parties agree that a child should be raised by their birth parents."

"How long will it take to know one way or the other?" Mulder asked.

"It depends on how soon you engage a lawyer."

We drove home that afternoon racking our brains to think of who we trusted to lend legal council for us.


Carter, West Virginia
May 12th, 2007

To our utter shock, the lawyer we hired was easily able to follow through on Carlie's desk order suggestion. When my mother first suggested that it might be possible for us to have Joey, my mind spun out an involved courtroom battle, where Mulder and my's character were put on the stand, and we'd have to defend the decision to give the baby up in the first place. Instead, within 48 hours of meeting the lawyer, we had custody papers signed by a judge in our hands.

That behind us surprisingly quick, we had the next hurtle to jump over: telling William.

Mulder decided to kill two birds with one stone, which is why we put William in the car and headed to the mall the next morning. William didn't ask why until we were standing in the bedding department of one of the stores. "What are we buying?"

"What do you think of these sheets?" Mulder asked him instead of answering. "Do you think a boy your age might like them?"

"I guess. The blue ones you're holding, or maybe the green ones next to them." William didn't seem to really care, but I didn't think nearly six-year-old boys usually care about bedding.

Mulder threw both sheet sets into the cart, before turning to the comforters. "What about these?"

William picked one up and handed it to him. "Why? Who are you buying stuff for?"

"Your brother," I said softly.

His eyes widened. "My brother?! I don't have a brother."

Mulder shot me a warning look to remind me that we weren't going to mention the possibility of them being twins until after we did a DNA test. "Will, remember how we told you another baby came to live with me and you for a little while before he got a new family?"

"Yeah. You said his name is Joey," William said, surprising me by remembering that detail. I must have talked to him about Joey more than I thought.

"Right. Well, Joey's family had something terrible happen a few days ago. His mom and little sister died, and his father can't keep him." Mulder didn't mention that Jonathan Van de Kamp was in jail, but I'm sure it would come up in the future.

"Oh, man! He must be so upset! What happens to him-" William stopped short, and looked at us and the bedding piling up in the shopping cart. "Is he going to live with us again?"

"Yes," Mulder told him. "We're going to get him tomorrow."

"For how long, this time?" William asked.

"Forever," I replied. "A judge said that he belongs to your dad and me now."

"So I'm going to have a brother."

"You sure are," Mulder said carefully.

"And since he's the same age as me he isn't going to cry, sleep all the time, or wear diapers," William added. I wondered for a moment if he felt cheated, but he then said, "A new brother without him having to be a stupid baby first. Cool!"

"Babies aren't stupid-" I started to protest, but Mulder squeezed my shoulder.

"Let it go, Scully." He leaned down and whispered in my ear, "If we ever manage another miracle baby, we'll work on changing his mind then."

I relaxed. The possibility of a baby was so remote that it wasn't worth worrying about.

"Dad, what about this?" William asked, handing his father a boxed lamp. It was filled with fake jellyfish that were supposed to swim when the light was on. "Can we each get one of these?"

"Sure," Mulder told him, and they added a pair of them to the cart.


Monroe, Delaware
May 13th, 2007

Amesbury Academy sat on several acres of precisely manicured lawn. It was a large imposing building, and it instantly made me feel as though Mulder and I ought to have changed into more formal clothing.

We timidly knocked on the door, and were soon led to an office that had the words "Thaddeus Crane, Headmaster" painted upon it in thick definitive lettering. After a moment a stern-faced man walked over to us.

"Hi, we're-"

He cut me off with a look. "I know who you are."

"You do?" Mulder asked, and I could detect his faint amusement.

"Yes. You're Joseph Van de Kamp's biological parents," Crane said abruptly. "I take it then that custody of the child has been transferred back to you after the tragedy in his family."

"Yes," I admitted.

"Do you intend to have him finish the semester, or take him home with you today?"

"I think we'll be bringing him home with us today," Mulder said, sounding uncertain. I didn't blame him. Crane was hard to read, so it was not easy to tell which answer the man wanted to hear.

"That's probably for the best. If he's to be integrated into your family, it should probably be sooner than later. I'll have someone pack up his belongings so they can be shipped to your home."

"Great, we'll just-" I started to say, but Crane's eyes cut towards the door.

For a second my heart jack-hammered, and I was sure that I was staring at a ghost. When we were growing up, Charlie resented people telling him that he looked just like me, but he had. And this little boy could be him, thirty-odd years ago. Thick red hair framed his face, and wide blue eyes regarded us suspiciously. Something about seeing a kindergartener wearing a tie and blazer made my heart ache, maybe because he was immaculately dressed, and I didn't expect that.

Mulder turned towards me and mouthed "He looks like Will." And I realized then that he did. William's colorless baby fuzz had darkened as a toddler and his hair now was as brown as Mulder's. But apart from that, they looked a lot alike. It left me vaguely wondering why I'd never realized that William looked like my brother too.

"Don't just stand there, Joseph," Crane admonished the little boy. "Come say hello to your parents."

"I can't," Joey said in a strained voice. "My parents aren't here."

"Don't be silly." Crane's lips thinned to a thin line. "You know I meant your biological parents."

Joey looked up at us with a mixture of resentment and fear. All my day dreams about seamlessly adding him to the family dissolved under the weight of reality.


"Joseph!" Crane barked. Even I cringed. "This is no way to embark upon an important relationship. You will be going home with these people, so it does you no good to deny their kinship to you."

It did not escape my notice that Crane seemed less than enthusiastic about our presence. I suppose that stood to reason, from a fiscal standpoint at the very least. We were after all taking a paying student out of the school.

Joey looked down at his feet. In a small voice he said, "Sorry."

Even as I looked at him, I felt as though this contrition was an act. There was something about the set of his shoulders that said that Joey was not sorry at all. I'd seen William playact the same remorse after being caught doing something wrong.

"It's okay, Joey," Mulder said softly beside me. Obviously he had not picked up on the same thing I had. "Dana and I know how difficult this is for you."

Crane spoke up, "Do you?"

"I believe we do," Mulder said evenly, not allowing himself to be cowed.

"I certainly hope so," Crane said to us with another thin smile, before walking to Joey and putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "I'll see you out to your car. Someone should be there now with his luggage."

The comment by Crane sounded casual, but I had to wonder about what sort of world Joey had been thrust into where it was normal for children that young to have their own sets of luggage.

Before Crane left us, he reminded us that the bulk of Joey's possessions would be mailed to us, because no one had taken the time to do anything but pack his clothing. The thought suddenly made me anxious. "Is there something other than his clothes that he needs to bring with him now, a stuffed animal that he sleeps with perhaps-"

"Students at Amesbury Academy are not coddled that way. Joseph most certainly does not have any such item."

From the look on Joey's face it was clear that this had been an issue for him. I wished there were a toy store on the way home, because I would have made Mulder stop and bought him a bedful of plush toys.


Even after Mulder opened the rear passenger seat door Joey continued to stare at it, as if he didn't know what was expected of him. Fortunately, my mental picture of having to put him in the car bodily dissolved when he climbed in himself. Without needing to be prompted he sat on one of the booster seats, and allowed Mulder to strap him in.

I could see the question in the boy's eyes as he took in the fact that there were two booster seats in the rear of our car. Mulder and I had not discussed how we were going to broach the subject of William, but it seemed that an explanation was needed sooner than later.

"Your brother-" I started to say.

Joey interrupted before I got any farther. "My sister."

"What?"

"My father killed my sister. Ava was a girl. You said my brother." Joey spoke in such a tired, detached voice that my heart hurt.

"Dana wasn't going to talk about your sister," Mulder said softly.

"I don't have a brother," Joey said, sounding slightly agitated now.

Before the conversation went any farther, I pulled my door shut too. Crane had gone back inside, but it didn't seem like the sort of talk that should be overheard. Mulder was about to protest that he did have a brother, but I held up a hand to stop him.

"Fox and I have a son," I said, because there was plenty of time to for him to realize and accept their relationship later. "His name is William."

"That doesn't make him my brother," Joey muttered insistently.

I shrugged. It wasn't the hill I wanted to die on. "Anyway, William is looking forward to meeting you."

"Great." I didn't think he was going to say anything else, but then he said, "How old is this William? Am I going to have to worry about him breaking my toys when I get them back?"

"He's almost six," Mulder told him. "Four days older than you." When the newspaper articles about the murder of the woman who'd left him on my doorstep surfaced, the stories had noted that the missing boy had been born May 24th.

I could see the wheels turning in Joey's mind, but he didn't ask the obvious question. I shot Mulder a look, hoping to telepathically tell him not to answer questions Joey didn't ask. He nodded slightly, and turned on the car.


Half way through our four hour drive, Mulder looked over his shoulder at a red light and asked, "Joey, are you hungry?"

It took the boy a minute to answer. Literally. "Yes."

In response Mulder swung the car into the driveway of a McDonald's. Joey looked up at the Golden Arches in surprise.

"Would you like a hamburger or cheeseburger happy meal?" Mulder asked him as he slotted the car into one of the spaces near the door.

"I don't know."

"You can't decide?"

"I don't know if I like hamburgers or cheeseburgers," Joey told him, and I could tell from the look on his face that he was not just trying to be difficult.

"Oh. How about chicken nuggets?" Mulder asked gamely. Apparently Mulder thought that he was one of those little kids with strong food preferences, who hadn't tried a lot of foods just because of how they looked.

This didn't elicit a more enthusiastic response. Leaning over in my seat, I asked Joey, "Do you eat meat?"

Joey shook his head. "I haven't eaten meat before, but I want to try it."

Mulder and I exchanged a look. We had thought that we had done a fair amount of contemplation as to how Joey's life might have been different with the Van de Kamps, but dietary differences were not something we had given any consideration to. It should not have surprised us that the family was vegetarian, because so many were, but it did. It would have been nice if Jonathan had thought to warn us, but I suppose he had other things on his mind when we saw him.

"Are you sure?" Mulder asked gently. "If you don't want to eat meat, Dana and I will not be upset at all. We can go somewhere else for lunch."

"I want to try a hamburger," Joey insisted.

Mulder smiled at him. "Okay, a hamburger happy meal it is."

When we got out of the car, I hung back so that Joey was a few steps ahead of us. As we walked inside I whispered to Mulder, "Stay on this highway the rest of the way home."

"Sure. But why?" he asked, obviously baffled.

"Some people don't react well to eating meat if they haven't before. We may need to pull off to a rest stop short order, and this highway has the most of them."

"Oh."

"A dietary experiment like this would have been better at home, but it's a little late now to rescind our offer of a hamburger happy meal," I reminded him.

We both looked over at Joey, and saw his wide-eyed stare at the menu board. I had the feeling that not only had Joey not eaten meat before, this might also be his first fast food experience. While I hoped he liked it, I also hoped that he didn't think it was going to be a regular part of his diet. Generally speaking, we only allowed William to talk us into fast food once a month.

"You get a toy!" Joey said to me excitedly as Mulder ordered for us. This confirmed my assumption that he had not been given happy meals in the past.

"Yes, you do. Your brother has a small collection of them."

At the mention of William, some of the delight left Joey's face. I could read the writing on the wall. It was not going to be easy when we finally got home.

By the end of the meal Joey had decided that hamburgers were good. He ate his entire meal enthusiastically, even the small crunchy pieces of French fries that I myself inevitably leave on the tray. And like all little boys presented with a small toy with wheels, he entertained himself by driving the movie themed vehicle up and down the sides of our booth.

The only bad moment came when we were leaving the restaurant. We had come in through a side door, but left through the front to keep out of the way of the employee mopping the floor. Joey saw something that made him recoil and turn white. I followed his gaze, and found myself staring at the maniacal face of Ronald McDonald.

Mulder had stopped short and looked concerned. "You okay, Joey?"

"I don't like clowns," Joey said in a small voice.

I put my hand lightly on the shoulder. "I don't like clowns either."

He looked up at me, and I could tell he was trying to figure out if I was lying. Apparently I look sincere enough, and he didn't seem on the verge of accusing me of lying.


The afternoon sunshine was still bright as we pulled into the driveway. Through the window I could see two expectant faces, but they disappeared, and I assumed that my mother had pulled William away.

"We're here," Mulder announced, but the declaration was wasted. Joey was sound asleep in the backseat.

"He's just like William," Mulder remarked as we discovered this. William wouldn't have lasted a four hour drive awake, either. "But now what? Do we wake him, or carry him in?"

I briefly imagined him waking in Mulder's arms and throwing a fit. "Wake him up," I decided.

"Hey," I said, shaking his shoulder a little. "Joey, we're home."

Joey rubbed his eyes and looked like he was thinking about arguing about my use of the word "home" but ended up letting it go without argument. Instead he hopped out of the car and stared at the house. "Our house was blue."

Mulder's expression suggested that he'd gladly paint our house if it would make the little boy happy. I doubted that it would.

"Mulder, why don't you and Joey get his bags?" I suggested and hoped that Mulder would understand that I wanted to go inside to speak to my mother first. He seemed to, because he soon was cheerfully talking to Joey as I dashed up the walk.

My mother studied my face as soon as I stepped through the door. "How is he, Dana?"

"Less than enthusiastic," I admitted.

"Oh, dear." She shook her head sympathetically.

"He's not in a good mood?" William asked, having decided that must be what we meant.

"It's been a long day for him," I said lightly. It was possible that his mood might improve after a good night's sleep so I didn't feel like a complete liar. Not quite.

"What do I say to him?" William wanted to know.

"How about 'hi' to start with?" my mother suggested, bless her.

"Okay."

The door swung open and Mulder staggered through weighed down with luggage. Joey slowly followed, carrying a small bag.

"Hi," William said shyly from the couch.

Joey looked annoyed, but his parents had instilled manners in him, so he said "Hi" back.

Encouraged, William slid off the couch. "Our rooms are down the hall."

Mulder, my mother, and I watched to see what would happen. Joey followed him. "This is my room. And here, the next door, is your room," William explained. The two stepped into the room that Mulder and I had hastily set up the night before. There was furniture in the room, sheets on the bed, curtains on the window and not much else.

"Good. Leave," Joey said abruptly, and William gave him a startled look before backing out into the hallway. The door shut so quickly that it nearly got his sneaker-clad toes.

"He doesn't like me." William's eyes were instantly shiny with tears that there threatening to spill over.

"Give him time, Will. He doesn't know us yet," my mother soothed when he went to her for a hug.

I was all for letting Joey sulk, but Mulder, still holding all the bags, headed down the hallway. He knocked once sharply, then let himself into Joey's room. I heard muffled voices, but couldn't make out what they were saying.

Joey came out a minute after Mulder retreated. "Sorry," he apologized to his brother grudging.

"It's okay," William said, already ready to forgive him.

"I'm going to unpack your bags," I told Joey. "Why do you boys watch a movie? Let him pick," I told William, who nodded eagerly.


It could have gone worse, I decided as I heft the first suitcase up onto Joey's bed. It could still go worse, I reminded myself glumly.

When I opened Joey's suitcase, I looked into it in dismay. Neatly folded stacks of blouses and slacks filled the interior. It was the same with the other one too. Blazers and dress socks, two pairs of polished leather shoes, but nothing at all that could be considered remotely casual. We couldn't send him to the public elementary school dressed like that.

Mulder looked up when I returned to the living room. "We need to go shopping. Tonight."

"Why?"

"Clothes. Food he might actually eat," I explained.

He looked over to where the two boys were enjoying a fragile truce while watching one of William's DVDs. I knew what he was thinking. "I don't need him to try anything on."

"You sure?"

"I looked at the sizes in his clothes." The truth was that he was the same size as William, but it seemed like suggesting that he borrow clothes for tomorrow would just be asking for another fight. "If you'll watch them, I can get what he needs alone."

"Okay." Mulder's shoulders relaxed, as much as telling me that he was relieved not to be going out again himself.

"Joey," I said, tearing his attention away from the movie.

"Yes?"

"What are your favorite colors to wear?" I asked.

Again it took him a long while to respond. Despite his quick temper, I was beginning to get the sense that Joey wasn't used to being offered choices. "Um...blue, green, brown. Colors like that."

I smiled to myself. He might still be days away from his sixth birthday, but he already had good taste. It had taken my mother longer to lure me to the appropriate color palette for autumns like Joey and I were.


The rest of the day passed with relative success. Joey didn't lavish approval on my clothing choices, but he did thank me politely and didn't seem to hate anything that I bought him. I'd only bought enough clothing for his first week at school, figuring that I could take him shopping with me over the weekend.

We had cheese and tofu pizza for dinner. Mulder and William were already used to my trick of making the pizza marginally healthier by adding tofu to the cheese, and I decided that it would be a bad idea to serve meat for dinner before we knew how Joey's system would take to a radical change in diet. Everyone seemed to enjoy dinner, so I made a mental note to convince Mulder that we ought to have it more often. We switched off with the cooking, but I had a feeling we'd only have tofu pizza on my nights.

Joey was subdued most of the night, but a lot less sullen than he had been earlier in the day. I felt bad that William was clearly giving him space due to fear of rejection, but I knew that the boys were going to have to work things out between them. I'll admit it was a relief when their bedtime rolled around.


When I was a little girl, I occasionally was awake when the captain would poke his head into my room. I never let on that I was, because it seemed like a secret. Not to mention it gave me valuable practice for pretending to be asleep before slipping out to smoke my father's cigarettes. Years later, when I was in college, I asked my mother if she knew that the captain looked in on us while we were sleeping. She said he did it every night that he was home, and I found it difficult to believe.

Then.

That was long before I was a parent myself. Taking after my father, I guess, I looked in on William nearly ever night. And the first night that we had Joey, I looked in on him too. He was awake that night, and even in the dim light I could see that his face was awash with tears.

It was my first instinct to rush to his side, gather him in my arms, and promise him that everything would be all right as I cuddled him. That was an impulse I dismissed, though, because I didn't think a boy who felt he needed to hide his tears would respond well to that sort of coddling. Instead I went and pulled the chair to his desk up next to the bed. "Hey."

At first he didn't even look up at me, but then he said, "Everything's different."

"I know."

Joey rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his fist. "Is...is it okay to be angry?"

"Of course."

"I don't ever want to see him again. He ruined everything!" Joey sounded bitter at first, but gave me a scared look. "Are you going to make me see him?"

"Your father?" I asked, just to be certain I was correct about which "he" he meant.

"Yes."

"We'd rather you didn't see him," I admitted without elaborating.

"Good." Joey let himself flop back onto his pillow. "I was scared you'd make me."

"I can't promise you that Mulder and I will never make you do things you don't want to, but you never have to see your father again."

"How come you call him Mulder?" Joey asked apropos of nothing. "That's a funny thing to call him."

"We used to work for the FBI. When we did, we called each other by our last names. It stuck."

"Kind of like a nickname? Like how people only call me Joseph instead of Joey when they're mad at me?"

"Sure, like that," I agreed as I pulled his blankets back over him. "He doesn't like his first name, anyway."

"What is it?"

"Fox."

"Like the animal? That's weird!"

"Your grandparents had a strange sense of humor," I told him. I never could think of another reason to stick a boy with a name like Fox.

"They're dead, huh? And your dad too?"

That observation surprised me. "How did you know that?"

"They weren't here today."

"You're right. They died a long time ago. Do you think you can sleep now?"

"I think so."

"Goodnight, Joey."

" 'night."

As I left the room I reminded myself not to be lulled into thinking it would be smooth sailing from then on out. No child adjusts to a major life-altering shift in just a day. It was progress, though, I decided. I was feeling slightly more optimistic as I slipped into bed beside Mulder.


Sun streamed in through the windows the next morning, waking me before my alarm went off. Waking up was a relief. All night long I have suffered nightmares about bringing Joey to the elementary school's office, and having to explain his relationship to us. They anxiety dreams just highlighted what I'd been trying not to think about for the past forty-eight hours.

"Morning." I looked down at the bed and saw that I'd woken Mulder as I got up to turn off the alarm clock. "Are you ready to bring Joey to register for school?"

I shook my head. "I'm not going to."

He looked amused. "You're not going to?"

"Not today. West Virginia doesn't require students to attend kindergarten," I pointed out, as if he was making some sort of argument. "I'm going to take a few days off."

"Okay." He sat up. "What changed your mind?"

"Nightmares. I had a few last night, about trying to explain to people what Joey's relationship to us. I think that they were a sign."

"A sign of what?" I could hear the laughter threatening to escape his voice. "You've never been the signs and portents type, Scully."

"I'm not talking about reading tea leaves. It just doesn't seem wise to bring him to school, tell people one story about how come we have a kid they didn't know about, and possibly have a DNA test results cause us to change our story later."

He nodded slightly, thinking about what I'd just said. "That makes sense. But how long will it take to do a DNA test?"

"If I drop off samples this morning, we might have the results by Wednesday afternoon."

Mulder looked surprised. "That soon?"

"It is the marvels of modern medicine," I said with a slight smirk. Not everybody who came to us thought that test results for DNA tests were so wonderful. Mostly the ones who didn't were men who were being threatened with paternity suits. Fortunately, we only had a few of them wander in, it being a Catholic hospital.

"I know that always be prepared is your motto, but do you happen to have any of those kits on hand?"

"In fact, I do." I had picked a handful up the day after I spoke to my mother about Joey.

"Then I guess we should get it over with the sooner the better," he paused and looked back at me. "What are you going to tell work?"

I shrugged. "I already called them. I said I had a family emergency. They didn't ask for any details, so I didn't provide any."

"You've taken off two days in the past three years, Scully. I'm sure they thought that it must be something pretty upsetting for you to call in, so that's why they haven't asked anything."

Yet. There would be questions, soon. No matter how the results of the DNA test turned out, there would be a lot of questions. I wasn't sure yet how we would answer them.

I went to the bathroom and pulled kits out from underneath the vanity. Mulder took his with a slight smile, and I knew that I didn't have to explain to him how to use the kit. We both read the directions anyway, and quickly deposited the samples back into their packaging.

By the time we were done I could hear the boys stirring. William greeted me sleepily as he headed towards the bathroom, and I went to see how Joey was faring. I knocked briefly and let myself into his room. He looked up from tying his shoes, which surprised me a little because most of William's classmates weren't able to do it on their own yet.

What surprised me more was Joey's neatly made bed. Even with all his years in the military, the Captain couldn't have made a bed more perfectly than that. I thought about telling Joey that he didn't have to worry about the bed, but it couldn't hurt if he wanted to make it. Maybe he'd rub off on William.

"There is something we need to do before breakfast," I told him, still holding an unused DNA kit.

"What's that?"

How do you explain a DNA test to a child that young? "When someone gets a new doctor, they need a physical before they see the doctor for any other kind of appointment. This doctor has never seen you before, so we're going to get that getting to know you type of appointment over with this week, so that will be out of the way if you get sick. This is a really simple test that we can bring to the lab today so we don't have to waste time doing it at the doctor's office."

He gave the kit a wary look. "Are there needles?"

I shook my head. "No. Just cotton swabs."

To my surprise this did not entirely erase his unhappy expression. "Where do they go?"

I finally figured out what he was getting at. I had always wondered if small children could remember the indignities of rectal thermometers, and it seemed that I had my answer. "Just in your mouth."

He relaxed a little bit. "Oh, okay."

I unwrapped the first swab. "First you need to swallow all the spit in your mouth, and then I'm going to rub this swab inside your cheek. Then I'm going to put it back in the package and do the same thing three more times, but you need to swallow again before each swab. Okay?"

"Okay." Joey then swallowed and opened his mouth for me.

"All done." It had taken five minutes at the most. "Ready for breakfast?"

"Yes." His eager response was punctuated by a growling stomach.

"Good. I can smell Mulder's waffles. If you would like, there are probably strawberries and whipped cream down there too."

"Really? My mom used to make waffles a lot."

The casual reference to Mrs. Van de Kamp seemed to change the atmosphere in the room. It made him sad, and both of us guilty for different reasons. I had to say something, so I said, "I hope that Mulder's waffles are as good as hers."

"Could be."

It seemed as though Joey did not find Mulder's waffles lacking: he ate just as many of them as William did. His expertise at applying his own whipped cream led Mulder to ask if his family ate a lot of dairy and eggs, and we found out that way that the Van de Kamps had been ovolacto-vegetarians. That would be a lot easier to make allowances for if he decided he didn't couldn't tolerate eating meat than it would be if they had been used to a more restrictive diet.

I kissed William on the cheek before he got the chance to go out to the bus stop. "Will, I need you to do something for your dad and me."

"What?"

"I don't want you to tell anybody at school about Joey." It seemed hard to believe that he hadn't already had the chance to tell anyone, but he hasn't considering he himself hadn't known about Joey when he'd gone to school Friday.

William looked puzzled. "Why? How come I can't tell anyone?"

"Joey will start school in a few days. We want it to be a surprise when he does." I hoped that he would not think this was too strange a statement and question it, because I didn't really have an explanation for why we would want it to be a surprise.

"Oh, okay," he said. "I won't tell anybody."

"Good boy."

I'd kept him too long, and he had to run to beat the bus to stop. Fortunately, he got there seconds before it did. Mulder left not long after that.

It immediately became clear that Joey took after me in one way. Neither of us had any idea what to do with ourselves when we had time on our hands. After an hour or so of doing nothing in particular, I picked up my purse and gave Joey an expectant look. "Let's get out of the house."

"And do what?"

"Well, we need to go to the doctor's the lab to drop off the test, and I thought that you and I could go shopping after that."

Joey continued to stare at me. "Shopping for what?"

"You'll see."


It took us all of fifteen minutes to drop off the DNA tests, and then the rest of the day was ours. I decided to get the boring shopping over with first, so we went back to the stores I had visited briefly the night before.

Joey submitted to picking out and trying on clothing for two hours before he got grumpy. I considered buying him an ice cream cone, but decided that might be pushing our luck, so I went to the drugstore in the mall for juice and granola bars instead.

As we sat on the bench in the middle of the mall, Joey slowly ate his granola bar. Then he looked up at me. "I learned how babies are made last year."

The statement sort of surprised me, and I wondered where he was going with it. "Oh? What did you learn?"

"Babies are half their mommy and half their daddy from special cells in grown ups' bodies. And I learned those mommy and daddy parts get together in the mommy's belly. Then nine months later there's a baby."

I thought carefully about how to respond. I decided the best idea was not to make a big deal about it, and above all not to try to predict what he might be about to say. "That's basically how it happens."

He didn't ask the question I was waiting for. The one that went "If babies take nine months to be born, how come William and I are only four days apart in age?" That was a question I wanted the answer to as well. It was possible that the results for the DNA test would give us some answers, but I had a feeling that they would also spawn more questions.

After a while I said, "I liked science when I was young like you too. I think that might be why I decided to become a doctor."

"I don't know what I want to be yet," Joey confessed.

"That's okay. Most people don't know what they want to be until they are a lot older then you."

He gave me a sidelong look. "Does William know he wants to be yet?"

I shook my head. "Your brother has a lot of ideas, but he hasn't settled on anything."

"Oh." He looked pleased. It was amusing to see that even kids that young could be made to feel better by the fact that others had mastered something they had yet to themselves.

"So, did you notice the bookcase that we put in your bedroom?" I asked.

"Yup. But there's nothing in it."

"I know." I pointed across from where we sat. "That store over there is full of books. I think we might be able to find something to put on those shelves."

His eyes widened in surprise, and I thought, delight. "Really?"

"Really. Mulder and I think that reading is a very important. And while we bring William to the library on a regular basis, it's also nice to own your own books. So, we need to pick some out today."

We spent three hours in the bookstore, and the time flew by. I learned that Joey loved books, just like William. He loaded up our basket with chapter books, but I caught him looking longingly at the picture book section.

"I know you can read very well, but you can get picture book too," I encouraged him.

"Picture books are for babies," he mumbled.

"Don't let Mulder hear you say that. He has a few picture books of his own." This was true, but Mulder's picture books invariably were gag gifts that people had given him over the years, and all featured aliens.

Joey gave me a suspicious look. "Does he really?"

"Sure. I'll show you when we get home," I promised.

We left the bookstore with two dozen chapter books... and a hardcover copy of Where the Wild Things Are. We even found a plush Max and some of the Wild Things to buy too.


On Wednesday afternoon I picked up the DNA test results in person. Fortunately, no one said anything about what the results were for, so Joey didn't ask me any questions. It took all of my self-control not to rip open the envelope right there in the parking lot, and scan the form for the results.

My willpower ran out ten minutes after we got home. As soon as Joey was settled into his room, playing with his new Lego set, I brought the envelope into the kitchen. My fingers trembled slightly as I rummaged through a drawer for a letter opener. The envelope was just paper, and would've torn easily enough, but I didn't want Mulder to find any clues about my anxiety to know the truth, so I did torture myself by forcing myself to use the hard-to-find letter opener.

I found that when the paper was finally in my hand, I was scared to unfold it and read it. That didn't make sense because Joey was ours legally, whether or not he was our biological son. In retrospect I now realize that I was more afraid of the implications that he was our son, then I would have been if he wasn't. It was the door that led to more questions.

The dry language of the document seemed designed to obfuscate, instead of simply stating "yes, he is your son" or "no, he isn't your son." But there, in stilted legaleze was the truth: Joseph van de Kamp was a 99% match for both Dana Katherine Scully and Fox William Mulder. No match was ever 100% so there was no doubt.

The letter fell from my fingers, and I sat down heavily. Joey was our biological child. But how had he come about?

I sat there, for who knows how long, in a stunned silence. Eventually I heard the toilet flush upstairs, and snapped out of my daze. Reaching for the phone, it quickly dialed Mulder. I didn't say hello. "Mulder, come home."


By the time Mulder got home I had called my mother and had her come get Joey, and William who had just gotten off the bus. He found me alone in the living room.

"Scully, what's wrong?" His hazel eyes were filled with concern as he looked down at me.

Instead of saying anything I handed him the letter. It took him less than a minute to extract the important details from the thick unwieldy prose. "He's ours."

I looked up at him. "How is he ours?"

He stared at me. I could see the gears moving behind his eyes, but he didn't have any answers either. "I don't know."

"Will we ever, Mulder?" I asked, trying to put my worry into words. "The smoking man is dead. Alex Krycek is dead. Who is left that might have any idea who made Joey, and more importantly why?"

"I don't know," he repeated himself.

I felt like screaming, but not at Mulder. This wasn't his fault, but of course it wasn't mine either. "Does he come from one of my ova that were stolen, or did they lie to us about how many embryos were viable or implanted?"

He just shrugged helplessly. I knew how he felt. After a while he asked, "Does it matter?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"A sincere one." Mulder's voice was surprisingly even.

"How could it not matter?"

"Will it make any difference in how we raise him? How we treat him?"

"No, of course not-"

"So I ask again, does it matter?"

Frustrated, I bit my lip. I had assumed that Mulder would approach this mystery with all of the zeal he had every other mystery that came our way, so I was confused as to why he didn't seem to think this one was important. And it was important. If we didn't know how we been victimized, how could we keep it from happening again?


That night Mulder and I sat the boys down to discuss the results of the DNA test. Mulder let me direct the conversation, chiming in when he felt as though he could explain things better.

When we first asked them to join us for a family meeting in the living room, they'd given us nearly identical concerned looks, and I wondered briefly if they thought they were in trouble. They'd behaved much better towards each other after the first night, so I couldn't imagine what they thought was wrong.

"You look like you think someone is in trouble," I teased them gently. "Neither of you is."

"Then what are we going to talk about?" William asked.

"How babies are made."

"But I know-"

I cut him off. "You both know how babies are usually made, but there are other ways." I handed them a picture of an infant Louise Brown I'd printed off the internet. "This girl is a grown up now, but when she was born she was totally unique. She's the first person to be created outside her mom's body."

"How did they do that?" William demanded to know.

I turned to Joey. "Remember when we were at the mall and you told me that you knew that cells from the Mom and Dad form a baby inside the Mom?" I waited for him to nod, knowing William knew this much as well. "Well, a special doctor called a fertility specialist can take those cells out of the parents' bodies and let them start to form together in a glass dish too. That's what happened with the girl in the picture, and they call that a test tube baby, even though it's a petri dish, not a test tube, where the baby starts to form."

"The two of you were test tube babies too," Mulder added.

William looked shocked. "We were?!"

"Yup."

"Then what happens?" Joey asked. "After the part with the dish?"

"After that they let the new baby grow a few more cells. Babies start out as one cell, then they grow more. Really early, after just a couple of days, it looks like this." I gave them another picture, this one of a zygote. "It doesn't at all look like a baby yet, and you can hardly see it with a naked eye. They take the baby and put it inside the Mom's womb, and if everything works right, nine months later it is a baby exactly like any other." It didn't seem like a good time to point out that after IVF embryos often didn't survive which is why William hadn't been part of a set of quadruplets.

"And that's what happened with William," Mulder said. "When he was a tiny ball of cells like that, he got put back inside of Dana."

Joey looked puzzled. "But what about me?"

I sighed. "We're still trying to figure that out, Joey. When doctors make babies in their lab, they don't have to put them in the mother that the cell came from, because they can grow in another woman instead if she took special medicine first. Somehow, when you were still that little ball of cells you got put inside of another woman's womb instead of mine. And after you were born, she gave you up for adoption to the Van de Kamps."

Before we started the discussion, Mulder and I agreed not to talk about how it was I who'd given Joey up, unless one of the kids asked about it. We couldn't see how bringing it up would be good for either of them.

"You don't know how that happened?" Joey sounded no less confused.

"We don't," Mulder said quietly. "We didn't tell doctors that they could put any of our babies into anyone else, and no one told us it happened, either."

"And we wouldn't have said it was okay to do that," I added. "If we were going to have two babies, we would have wanted them both to grow in my body."

"Mom, are we twins?" William asked then.

"More or less." I didn't see the point in quibbling over the definition of twins, especially when I couldn't quite decide myself if they were twins or not.

Joey was thinking about another point of the conversation. "So you didn't know there was a me? If you didn't ask for me to be put somewhere else, and didn't know they did it, you didn't know I was your baby too."

Mulder shook his head. "We had no idea that there was another baby who belonged to us."

"Oh." Joey thought about that. "Are you mad? That there's a me, I mean."

"Of course not!" Mulder said too excitedly, making Joey flinch in alarm. "We've sad that we didn't get to raise you from a baby, but we are not at all sorry that you exist."

"I always wished I wasn't an only kid," William offered. "And now I'm not. That's cool."

"We're glad that we've found you, and added you to the family," I told Joey.

"Thanks."


Joey and William seemed at ease by the time we put them to bed, but I didn't share in their good mood. Mulder found me up in our bedroom, and the look he gave me was one of pure confusion.

"Scully, why are you crying?" he asked, touching the tears on my cheek.

How could he not understand? "I gave away our baby!"

"You didn't know-"

"No, I didn't know back then. But I know now," I sniffled.

"How can you be upset at yourself for that when you had no reason to suspect that the baby you were trying to do right by was ours?"

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

"True, but this isn't the law," Mulder said reasonably. "We cut people breaks when it comes to other results sprung from ignorance."

"Everything that happened to him when he wasn't with us, all the bad, is my fault because I gave him away."

"No, it isn't!" Mulder insisted. "What happened with his adoptive family was the result of other people's poor choices, not yours."

I shook my head. "I should have kept him from that, protected him better."

"Maybe you should have," he surprised me by saying. "You feel how you feel, and I'm not going to convince you otherwise. But that doesn't matter. We can't do anything about that now. All we can do is do better by him in the future."

I scrubbed my tears off with a fist. What he said sounded logical, reasonable, but I wasn't in a reasonable mood.

"Scully," he said, wrapping his arms around me. "We have to look to the future now, for all of our sakes."

I didn't say anything, and just enjoyed the feeling of being in his arms. Maybe I'd be able to believe his platitudes too someday.


The morning that Joey was to start school I dreamed that I was drowning in an ocean. Waves crashed around me and I was sinking in them. This feeling didn't immediately abate when I started to wake, which confused me until I realized that Mulder was thrashing in the grips of a nightmare. I knew which one it was, because just before I reached over to shake him awake, he muttered, "I'm a guilty man. I failed in every respect." Those words chilled me. I thought he was past nightmares about his trial, but apparently not.

He didn't seem to feel like talking about it, but went for a shower without even thanking me for waking him. I shrugged and went to see how the kids were getting along. William was already dressed, but Joey was sitting on his bed in his pajamas. He gave me a worried look when I asked to come in.

"How do you decide what to wear?"

This was hardly a surprising concern considering that wearing a uniform had kept him from ever needing to make that choice. "Well, you just pick based on what you feel like wearing any given day. As long as what you want to wear is clean, of course."

"But..." He looked frustrated.

Or maybe it was just his being overwhelmed. I opened his dresser and took out two pairs of slacks and two shirts. Holding up the slacks, I asked, "Which looks more comfortable?"

Joey studied them a moment before hesitantly saying, "The black ones?"

"Good." I put them on his bed and put the other back before holding up the shirts. "Red or green?"

"Green," he said a bit more decisively.

"You're all done picking what to wear then," I told him before going back to my room to dress; all of his socks and underwear were the same color so I knew there'd be no issues there. Mulder might like morning showers, but I took them at night when I could. Probably left over conditioning from living in a house with four kids and a strict bathing schedule.

"Mom!" William called to me from the hallway. "I'm gonna make breakfast for me and Joey!"

"Okay." I knew his version of "making breakfast" would involve nothing more dangerous than pouring cereal and using the toaster, so I didn't worry.

"That was nice of him," Joey remarked as he appeared in my doorway, fully dressed.

"It was. Maybe you can make breakfast for him tomorrow."

"Really?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Mom and Dad wouldn't let me get my own cereal." His eyes were downcast, and I wondered what disasters called for a ban. It was probably a good thing that Mulder and I tended to buy milk by the half-gallon.

As we walked down to the kitchen I told Joey about the day ahead. "When we're done with breakfast, I'll bring you and William to school. He'll go to class, but you and I need to go to the office to get you registered. After that, someone will show you to your new classroom. Mulder will pick you both up from school because I need to go to work today."

He didn't say anything, but I could tell that he was paying attention.


Since we didn't know the truth, Mulder and I decided to improvise a tale that others would believe; no doubt the truth would be stranger, but this fiction was as much as we were willing for other people to know about our family. I got to tell this fabricated story for the first time that morning, just after I greeted William's very confused principal twenty minutes before school officially started for the day. She looked at my "new" son for a moment before ushering me into her office.

"I wasn't aware that you had more than one child," Principal March told me as Joey's new teacher met him in the next room. I'd always liked March, thinking her a sensible person, and it felt a little bad to look into her green eyes and spin a tale.

"That would be because Fox and I didn't know that we had another child," I began slowly, watching her expression carefully - it was one of polite disbelief. "You probably aren't aware of this, but we had trouble conceiving, and went through IVF to have William."

"I didn't know that."

I nodded. "It's a sensitive subject still, so I'm sure you can understand why we haven't advertised this. We were told that we had four viable embryos, and one of them took - William. It seems as though this wasn't the whole truth, and another embryo was viable, which was inadvertently implanted in a woman who ultimately gave the baby up for adoption. We didn't learn any of this until a tragedy struck Joey's adoptive family."

Principal March looked vaguely horrified. "Finding out that you had another son must have come as quite a shock."

Lady, you have no idea. "It did. We're both happy to have Joey with our family as he belongs, but as you can imagine we wished we'd had him from birth."

She nodded sympathetically, and I could tell that she was imagining what it would be like if such a thing happened in her family. From the expression on her face the idea didn't strike her as pleasant. I'm sure that few people would be happy with what had happened, actually.

"Is he... adjusting?" the principal asked carefully. "I'm sure this came as a huge surprise to him as well."

I nodded. "Joey knew he'd been adopted, but not that the woman who had given up was not his biological mother. Honestly, I'm pretty sure she didn't realize it either."

"Oh. So this was some sort of mixup at the fertility clinic?"

"Well, nobody is saying that it was deliberate," I equivocated.

"Of course not," March said quickly.

"While I don't mind sharing the details with you today, I'd prefer it if the staff did not talk much about it to Joey or William. We're still trying to figure out the exact circumstances that led to this, and we would like for people to keep their speculation in their presence to a minimum."

March's head nodded so fast I worried that she was going to get whiplash. "Oh of course. The staff here is very discreet, I'm sure that no one would be tempted to say anything."

I gave her a long look, and a dull red began to creep up her cheeks. "Discussing interesting things like this is human nature, and there are not that many things more interesting than a mystery child. I just ask that all discussions take place during non-school hours."

"Right."

When I exited March's office, Joey had already left with his new teacher. I felt a pang of disappointment. I'd wanted to tell him to have a good day, and to reassure him that everything would be okay. Instead, I pacified myself by stopping outside of his classroom, and looking in. He looked shy, but not unduly stressed. I thought it would be okay.


Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital

It seemed strange to be back at work that morning after being out for days, but I found myself falling into the groove fairly quickly. This was helped by that fact that I was handed an interesting case about a boy only three years older than my sons.

He was obviously ill, but there was something brave and cheerful about the way Christian greeted me for the first time with a small smile. "You're the doctor who is going to make me better, right?"

Before I could say anything, his mother blushed. "He says that to every new doctor," she told me quietly.

That was a depressing thought, because that meant that any doctor who had already answered his question by saying "yes" had lied at worst or deluded themselves at best. Still, I returned the boy's smile. "I sure hope so."

After making small talk with the child for a couple of minutes, I stepped out of the room with his father, Blair. I couldn't help but notice that he and his wife were a few years younger than Mulder and I, and it felt like they'd been given a greater burden than even we had.

"We didn't even know anything was wrong at first," he began to explain to me like so many other parents had before him. "At first he was just a little clumsy, and we wrote it off to growing. You know how kids are when they're going through a growth spurt, all knees and elbows. But he continued to trip over everything and drop everything a month after he last grew any. And then his speech began to slur...well, you could hear that, I'm sure. He used to be easier to understand..." Overwhelmed, he wiped his hand across his forehead. "He's just been getting worse and worse, and no one can tell us why he's on the verge of needing crutches to steady himself."

"I can't promise miracles, but I can promise that I'll do my best to figure out what's wrong with your son."

When we reentered the room, I began a cursory examination, and I found the muscle weakness that his father had suggested through his commentary. It worried me to see that in a nine-year-old boy. My mind raced as I ran though possibilities even as I examined Christian. I hoped that his condition was caused by one with a favorable outcome, but so many of the diseases that it could be had no cure.


That afternoon I ate my lunch alone in the hospital's slightly crowded cafeteria. My mind was still abuzz as I pondered Christian's condition, though, and I mechanically made my way through a container of lemon chiffon yogurt and a bag of carrot sticks. Given that I was a million miles away, it's a wonder that I didn't shriek when someone finally tried to get my attention.

"Hey," a slightly rough voice said as a hand dropped lightly onto my shoulder.

Smiling, I looked up into the clear blue eyes of one of my ex-partners. "Hi, John. How long did it take you to find me?"

"I asked where I could find you, and they said you'd gone to lunch. I didn't figure you for leaving the building, so finding you wasn't too hard."

"Monica told you what's going on," I said, knowing that it had to be the reason that my old partner had sought me out. I'd called her a few days earlier to vent.

Predictably, he nodded before taking the seat across from me. "How's the kid? When we drove you to drop him off at the adoption agency all those years ago, I thought we were seeing the last of him."

"So did I." I sighed. "He's doing as well as can be expected. Better than me, probably."

"Well, going from a family of three to a family of four must call for an adjustment period."

So he'd talked to Monica, but she hadn't given him all the highlights, apparently. "It's more than that."

"That, and finding out that he's your flesh and blood."

Strike that. "And being the only one who seems the least bit concerned about where Joey came from."

"Muldah doesn't care?"

"I think that it's more of him being afraid of turning over stones and finding out what's underneath them."

"Like more kids?" John guessed shrewdly.

I shivered. "There's that, though I hope to God that no more children of mine are out there. I think he's afraid of what else we might discover if we look into this further. Like the fact that the consortium might not be as dead and buried as we thought."

"But Joey is almost six, the same as William. I could see his fears there having some validity if Joey was only three or four, but..." John looked confused. "He has to know that whatever caused Joey's existence took place before the smoking man died. Everything died with him."

It was nice that he could make that last statement with such conviction, because I doubted that I could. "I didn't say it was rational. He claims to be totally at peace about the trial and being ousted from the X-Files, but I know he's more uneasy about things that he lets on."

"Post traumatic stress?"

"Probably something along those lines," I agreed, thinking about his nightmare. "Most of the time he manages it just fine, but Joey's reappearance in our lives has to have stirred things up even if they don't show much. And they really don't, he's good with both boys, but still there's this vague sense of unease coming off of him that we don't talk about. I'm afraid to investigate this whole mess too much on my own, worrying that it'll make him really upset. Not that I have my old contacts anymore, anyway." I broke off with an unhappy laugh.

"I do."

I looked up. "What?"

"I still have the same sort of access to contacts that I ever did. The X-Files office closing and trading us to other departments hasn't caused anyone to tell me that I'm dead to them, anyway."

Trying not to frown, I turned that over in my mind. The first year after Mulder's Great Escape, we had difficulty keeping in touch with people, so it had actually been a couple of months before we found out that the X-Files had been shut down before Mulder's cell was even cold. John and Monica had followed Skinner's lead and taken positions in other divisions of the FBI. "What are you suggesting, John?"

"I can't promise anything, but I can poke into things and see if there's anything to be learned through official channels."

"The problem becomes where to go after that," I muttered.

"Private detectives are a dime a dozen around here."

He had a point. You couldn't throw a brick without hitting someone who fancied themselves a PI. Most of them seemed like glorified peeping Toms who did their thing more for the joy of taking titillating pictures than for a paycheck or any sense of duty. "Maybe I could go that route."

"Great. Give me a few months, than hire one if I come up empty." John stood. "At least you'll have the time to find a reputable person."

A few months? I felt like screaming. He was doing me a favor, though, so I couldn't really object to the timeframe. Maybe I'd be buying PI services for myself for Christmas. Trying to calm down, I made myself admit that the mystery didn't really have any bearing on how I'd treat Joey, so it wasn't really an urgent matter even if I was keyed up to know the answers.

"It was good seeing you," I said at last. "Tell Monica I owe her a chance to vent herself."

"I will. Hopefully it won't be about me, but it probably will."

Then he was gone, leaving me alone with an unsolved puzzle to cope with.


By the time I drove home, I'd already decided to keep John's generous offer to myself. Telling Mulder would only lead to an argument, and there was time enough to tell him if he actually turned anything up - which I sort of doubted that he would.

I found Mulder in the kitchen standing before a pan of sizzling meat. "Hey, burgers seemed to agree with Joey, so I decided to give my dad's method a shot." He gave the counter next to him a speculative look. "Maybe we should buy a fryer too, to do our own fries at home."

"What, and add to the childhood obesity epidemic?" I asked. "If you want fries, bake them."

"I knew you'd say that. Look in the oven."

There was something on a tray baking already. "How was Joey when you picked the boys up?"

Mulder sighed. "Subdued. I made the mistake of asking him if he'd made any friends yet. The answer was no."

I immediately began to feel a swell of indignation, wondering how it was possible for these kids not to be drawn to such a sweet, smart, charming little boy when I threw the brakes on that line of thinking. I just committed a parental sin: the desire that one child be like another. William was all of the things I was thinking of, but Joey wasn't.

At least not yet.

Joey was undeniably smart, but his whole life had just been upended, so of course he wasn't exuding charm and sweetness. Naturally his demeanor was guarded, and he couldn't be blamed for lack of trust. In his shoes it would be hard for a lot of adults to put aside their grief and anger well enough to immediately try to form new attachments, so is utterly foolish to expect that of a child.

As a Navy brat, I of all people should have known that.

"First days can be rough," I said eventually.

Mulder looked concerned. "Do you think that we should ask that he be moved to Will's class? I don't want him to feel like an outcast-"

"An outcast? Did he say it was that bad?"

"Well, no, but..."

"I don't think we'd be doing him any favors, Mulder. Kids would know that we intervened, and that won't win him friends. It's just the first day. If he hasn't made friends by the end of the school year, over summer break we can quietly request that he be put in the same classroom as William next year."

He gave me a lopsided smile. "We should give him a chance to work things out for himself, huh?"

"Definitely." I punctuated that with a kiss to his cheek. "Besides, we don't want to earn the label of well-meaning but clueless until they're in middle or high school, do we?"

"Ha!"


After dinner that night, I took Joey aside to talk to him. He gave me a wary look and settled on the couch.

"When I was little girl, my dad was a captain in the Navy, and we moved whenever he got stationed somewhere new."

"Oh yeah?" He fidgeted with one of his new stuffed animals as we spoke.

"Yup. I hated it."

"Why?"

"I didn't like being the new kid at school. Everyone stared at me, and my parents thought we should all come home from school the first day with a whole new set of friends. My big sister and my little brother usually did, but my oldest brother and I almost never did."

Joey looked up at me with his truth-gauging stare. "You didn't?"

I shook my head. "We didn't. They thought we should like all of these new people immediately, but we were still busy missing the old people."

I paused, and predictably, Joey said, "I miss Andy and Jake."

"I bet you do. When I grew up, I realize that there are two types of people who make friends. Some people out-going and they love to meet new people, but they hate being alone. And then there are introverts who would rather keep a small bunch of friends forever, and like to do things on their own. Bill and I are both the second kind of people." It was true, even though Bill and I have a lot of things that we don't see eye to eye on, we were both far more introverted than either Missy or Charlie had ever been.

"Me too."

"I thought so." I leaned over to hug him, and he let me. "Both kinds of people are equally as good as the other, and they make the world a more interesting place."

"It's okay that he didn't make any friends today, right?"

"Of course, there's no schedule you need to follow to make me happy. It's fine if you need to take longer to get to know people first."

"Good." When he looked up at me, he didn't seem so anxious or vulnerable. "You and him were friends before you got married, right?"

Mulder and I were trying not to make an issue of how Joey went out of his way to avoid giving us labels or names, so I ignored the "him" reference. "Yes, we were. We worked together, and we became friends that way."

"Did you like each other the day you met?"

I thought about Mulder claiming that I'd been sent to spy on him. "No. It took a little while before we became friends."

"Oh, okay."

I pressed my luck by giving him another quick hug. "If you ever want to talk more about making friends, I'm ready to listen."

"Thanks."


It seemed as though the issue of friends was on William's mind too, because he came to us with a proposition: instead of a birthday party like he usually had, he wanted us to buy him and Joey and expensive joint present for their birthdays. While it's remotely possible that William had been waiting months to spring the idea of getting the latest game system on us, I think that he was worried that Joey would have no fun at a birthday party until he made his own friends, and that wasn't likely to happen just days before their birthdays.

That sounded like a very good idea, so we decided that we would honor what seemed to be Joey's wish as well, because he waxed enthusiastic about several of the games too, and buy them it. There would be time for parties next year, and for years to come. Both boys seemed completely thrilled by their new acquisition so it felt like a good choice.

The days flew by after that, and before we knew it, it was nearly summer. And Joey began to come home with stories about kids in his class, so we no longer worried about his ability to make friends.


Weeks tumbled past without any word from John, and soon it was summer. I tried to put my anxiety about the unknown aside and concentrate instead on the vacation we had planned for the second week of July. We want to take the boy to the beach, but at the same time wanted to avoid throngs of people who took off the fourth.

We rented a cottage on Cape Cod, intending to make a few daytrips to attractions in the area. Both of the kids seemed excited, and they were cheerful the entire drive there. Mulder and I could have done with fewer games of "I went to the beach and I brought___" but we didn't have the heart to shush them when they were getting along so well. Things went well, right up until we arrived at our destination.

As was often the case, Joey's reactions to situations drove home the point that he hadn't always been with us. We parked in front of the rental cottage, and William lobbied for taking a look around first thing. After they threw on their matching purple and green swim trunks, I warned them to stay dry and went to help Mulder bring the first load of stuff in from the car before going to check on them.

When I made my way down the path, the first thing I saw was Joey. He was standing stock-still, looking at the waves. William was chattering to him nearby, but I could tell that Joey wasn't listening.

I only became concerned when I saw his face: it was the very picture of fear. Kneeling in the sand, I put my arm around him. "What's wrong?"

A little shudder went through him. "It's so big," he whispered.

He sounded so shocked.

It slowly dawned on me that there was a reasonable explanation for his surprise. "Is this the first time you've seen the ocean?"

"Yeah."

How could that be? I wondered. I knew the family was from out west, but they'd relocated here in the east quite a while ago. If you'd never seen the ocean before, wouldn't you want to see it right away? Within the first year, surely. There were things about his adoptive family than struck me as very strange.

To my surprise Joey twisted and threw his arms around my neck. "I can't go in. It's too big. I'll get lost."

I unwrapped his arms from about my neck so I could look him in the eyes. "Listen. No one is going to make you go in the water. But if you do, we won't let you get lost. We'd be right there with you the whole time."

"You wouldn't let me go?" Joey's expression was anxious.

"No, we'd never let you go." Never again, I added to myself.

He grabbed my hand, holding tightly. "Okay. Let's go in."

I stood up and brushed the sand off my knees with my free hand. "Are you sure? I won't be disappointed if you're not ready."

There was still fear in his eyes, but he nodded.

We made our way to the shore slowly, and he watched his father and brother splash each other the whole time we did. His fingers tightened around mine as we waded into the water, but he didn't panic.

Joey never really became comfortable with the water over the course of our vacation, but he stopped looking at it with dread. As long as Mulder or I stayed within reach, he was okay with splashing in that vast scary ocean.

Later on that first day, Mulder brought the boys up onto the beach to make a sandcastle. William eagerly ran to the water to fill his pail, but to my surprise, Joey was soon volunteering to do it too. Before long the three of them had created a huge castle, decorated with spires made of sand and assorted shells they'd collected.

Once they were done, Joey squatted, a plastic shovel in his hand, and gave the ground in front of the castle a contemplative look.

"What are you doing?" William wanted to know.

"We gotta dig a moat."

"Why?"

"So that the castle is safe from attacks."

"Oh." William hunkered down beside him with his own shovel. "We'll need to fill it with water, right?"

"Right. That's where the sea monsters will live."

"And eat the enemies!" William declared as the two began to sketch out where they planned to dig.

I was amused by their conversation…until I looked up and saw the expression on Mulder's face. It was an oddly stricken one. I shot him a look, and he shook his head slightly before saying, "Mom and I will get the water to fill the moat."

William's blue plastic pail in hand, I followed him down to the shore, and waited for him to speak while tiny waves lapped at my feet. When too much time passed, I prompted, "Well?"

He sighed. "Wouldn't it be nice to dig a moat around our lives? To have a pet sea monster that would keep any harm from reaching either of them ever again?"

"I don't think it works that way, Mulder."

Mulder bent down and scooped up sea water. "It should."

There wasn't anything I could really say to that.


On the final day of our vacation, Mulder and I decided to drive down to Mystic, Connecticut. We spent most of the day at the Mystic aquarium before going to dinner at Mystic Pizza.

"You know," I said as the four of us walked into the small restaurant, "they made a whole movie about this place."

This wasn't news to Mulder, so he nodded. "A long boring movie," he intoned.

"Mulder!"

"What? It took me four attempts to sit through it."

I shook my head. "One of the girls in the movie, the youngest one, she makes me think that that's what Monica look like when she was a teenager," I mused.

Mulder shrugged and looked down at the boys. "I promise, I won't let her make you watch it."

Both William and Joey grinned. "Thanks Dad," William said. "Can we get a beluga whale?"

I almost laughed at the surprised look on Mulder's face. His expression edged into panic when Joey added, "Yeah, they sound like fog horns. That's so cool."

"Um..."

After a moment I actually did laugh. Mulder thought they were serious. I have no idea why, but he clearly did. Deciding to be the voice of reason, I gave our sons a stern look. "No, you cannot have a beluga whale. The mollies said that there tank is crowded enough."

William rolled his eyes. "Mom! Even if we didn't have the mollies it wouldn't fit in that tank. We need a whole new one."

"And just where in the house is big enough for a tank that size?" I asked.

"Well..."

"Exactly."

That's settled, Mulder asked, "One cheese pizza, one pepperoni, right?"

A few minutes later we settled around a small table and began eating our pizza.

Joey paused with his pizza slice two inches from his lips. "You've been here before, right?"

"Not me," I told him.

"I have," Mulder said. "I grew up in Massachusetts, so wasn't too unusual for our family to come to Connecticut once in a while."

William looked interested. "Did you and my aunt go to the aquarium when you were kids too?"

"I have an aunt?" Joey asked, looking puzzled.

For one brief moment, I felt torn. On one hand I was happy that he said 'I have an aunt,' but on the other it made me sad, because the inevitable was about to happen.

It did when Mulder opened his mouth to say, "You did. I had a sister named Samantha."

Joey looked uncertain. "Not anymore?"

Before Mulder could answer, William did. "Bad men took her away when she was a kid. She never came home."

As he said that, I wondered if William actually understood what he was saying. Did he know that she didn't come home because she was dead? Or did he think that she might still be out there somewhere, just as Mulder did for decades after her death?

"Oh," Joey said softly, making me wonder if he was thinking of his own lost sister. "I'm sorry."

Mulder reached over and patted Joey on the shoulder. "Thank you."

"Do you... miss her?"

"Every day."

I thought the subject had come to a close until five minutes later when Joey looked up at Mulder. "Do you wish that your sister came home to you, instead of me?"

My heart pinched at the fragile sound of Joey's voice, and I wanted to tell him no, of course not. But it wasn't my answer he wanted.

Mulder looked horrified. "No. I wanted her to come home, but that has nothing to do with you. We don't live in the sort of world where those kinds of choices happen, Joey. It's not a game where if you get one thing you can't get the other. I am glad that we have you, but even if we didn't, it doesn't change the fact that Samantha died a long time ago."

I got the answer to my earlier question when William said, "She died? I didn't..."

It was trite, but there was only one thing I could think of to say that might diffuse the situation. "Your aunt is in a better place now." How I wished I could be certain of that.

The rest of dinner was subdued, as each of them quietly wallowed in their own thoughts. I was tempted to cajole them out of their morose moods, but I didn't think that attempt would be welcomed. Sometimes we just have to feel what we're feeling. This seemed to be one of times.


I finally heard from John about a week after we got back from our trip. If I had any expectations that John Doggett was going to solve my problems for me, they were neatly blown apart.

"Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I have been trying to find that stuff out for you," he said not long after I answered the phone.

"And?"

He sighed, which I took as a bad sign. "I wish I could say there was more I could do through Bureau channels, but..."

Though he couldn't see it, I nodded to myself. There were times when official channels could be a hindrance. "I understand."

"Anyway, most of the things I looked into lead to dead ends. I did find the address of somebody who worked for your OB. Since there is no crime involved, at least not one I can get a warrant for, I don't have any cause to talk to him in an official capacity..." He trailed off, obviously hoping that I would connect the dots.

I grabbed a notepad. "What's that name and address?"

"477 Hazel Street here in DC. James Monroe. Used to be one of Parentti's lab techs," John said. Obviously this person hadn't had their head ripped off by Billy Miles.

"Thanks, John."

"I'm just sorry that I couldn't do more." He paused. "Do you need the name of a PI?"

"Why, you got one?"

"A few, actually."

"Things not going as well as you'd like with Monica?"

"Why-" he started to say, then snorted. "I don't know 'em because I've used any. There's this poker game twice a month, and some of the regular players are private detectives. Couple of them used to be cops."

"Like you."

"Sure. Not all of us decide to be feds when we grow up."

"No, thank you though."

"You still haven't talked to Muldah about this, have you." It was a statement, not a question.

"It hasn't come up yet."

"Well...let me know if things change."

"I will. Give my love to Monica."

"Will do."

Even as I hung up, I knew that I wouldn't be bringing the matter up with Mulder any time soon. Mulder thought that things were going well, and he wouldn't want to rock the boat. Sighing, I flung the notepad I'd written the name on into a drawer.


The summer bled into September, and almost before I knew it, I was worried about getting my sons to school on time rather than the baby-sitter's. Weeks had flown by like days, and the changes between Joey and William's relationship had been so imperceptible that I found myself startled when I realized that they were getting along so much better than they had that day we'd brought Joey home in May.

At least as important, Joey was no longer had an aura of anxiety emanating from him. Since he seemed to be doing better socially by mid-June, Mulder and I had decided not to request that he be put in the same class as William for the next school year.

I was thinking about just that two weeks into the school year when a pair of thumps that could only be backpacks being dropped on the floor that alerted me that they'd just gotten off the bus. A moment later two excited little boys burst into the kitchen.

"Mom!" William said excitedly. "Can we go to a sleepover this weekend?"

Before I could ask if Joey had been invited too, he threw in his own "yeah, can we?"

Smiling at their enthusiasm, I started to go through the required checklist of parental questions necessary before granting or denying permission. "Whose sleepover?"

"Jake Brown's," William told me. "He's in my class."

"How do you know him?" I asked Joey.

"I play with him at recess too."

"Well, if it's okay with your dad-"

"Yay!" They preemptively declared victory before going to ask Mulder.

Mulder looked pleased when he wandered into the kitchen a few minutes later.

"Hey," he said as he wrapped an arm around my waist.

I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before shooing him away from the stove, so neither of us got too close to the pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. "So, they're going?"

"Of course. It's nice that they're both making friends."

"It is. How about you drop them off and I pick them up in the morning?"

"That sounds good." He gave me a suggestive look. "I can think of a few other items for the itinerary while they're gone, too."

"Can you?" I asked archly.

"You bet." He kept a straight face long enough to say it, but was laughing by the time he gathered materials for the salad. I was laughing too.


Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital
October 31st, 2007

"Hi doctor Scully," Christian slurred slightly as I walked into his hospital room.

His parents weren't with him, then. He'd been admitted two weeks earlier, and they both had to work, so most of their visits took place during the evening hours. Admitting Christian hadn't been something we'd decided on lightly, but he wasn't doing as well as anyone hoped, so it had seemed like the prudent move.

"Good morning, Christian," I said as brightly as I could without sounding fake. "How are you doing?"

"Oh, you know."

Having read all his latest stats, I was afraid that I did. "Any pain?"

"Just a little." He bobbed his head before changing the subject. "Do you have kids?"

"I sure do, two little boys."

"Thought so. How old?"

"Six."

"Are they going to go trick-or-treating tonight?"

Looking out into the hallway, I frown. If this had been a secular hospital, there would probably be paper bats dangling down from the ceiling, and plastic pumpkins full of candy on the desks. As it was, there were no indications that this was even many kids' favorite holiday.

For a moment I was torn. Should I say yes and possibly make him feel bad, or lie to spare his feelings? "Yes, their father and I are going to take them."

"The Sisters said we can go around room to room for candy tonight. My dad is going to push me in a chair, so's I don't trip."

At that point Christian could still walk, but not very well. We'd begun to have him be transported by wheelchair when he needed to be moved any distance.

"I didn't know about that. I hope it's a lot of fun."

"Me too," he agreed, but he looked me in the eye. "Next year, I'm going to trick-or-treat at home."

What could I say to that? It hadn't been a question. "God willing."


Later That Night

Mulder agreed to stay home and hand treats out so I could bring the boys around our neighborhood. They were thrilled by the opportunity to collect five pounds of candy each, but I found myself admiring the decorations at nearly every house - most people put a lot of care into things. It made me look forward to Christmas.

After two hours, I announced that trick-or-treating hours were officially over. They groaned, but looked fairly happy with their haul anyway. It took a lot less time to walk home than it had to get away from it.

Things went well, right up until we got home and settled in front of the TV to watch a mildly scary movie that Mulder had already cued up. He waited patiently while the kids told him all about which houses were scary, and which ones gave out the best candy. Then William turned to me and changed everything.

"Mom! Going trick-or-treating with Joey tonight was so much fun!" William's eyes sparkled. "Did we go trick or treating with him when we were babies?"

I'm sure it looked like a deer in the headlight, and I prayed for him not to elaborate on that statement. Maybe Joey could just think that William was speaking about vague what ifs, or had momentarily forgotten that they hadn't grown up together.

He crushed this possible reprieve moment later, "you know, when Joey lived with us before."

Joey had been sorting through his candy, getting ready to broker a trade with William. His hand froze in midair, hovering over a Hersheys with almonds bar. "What you mean?"

Apparently totally ignorant of the havoc he'd just wroth, William cheerfully went on. "You lived with us for a while when we were little babies. Someone left you in a basket on mom's doorstep, and she took care of you until you found a new home."

I cringed inside when Joey's shocked eyes flew to my face. "Really?"

Instinctively, I almost said no. Anything seemed better than doing something to destroy Joey's hard-won sense of trust. But I didn't. I valued William view of me as well, and it wasn't fair to make him seem like a liar in order to cover for myself.

"Joey..." I stopped, unsure how to frame my thoughts. "When your father and I told you that we had no idea that we had another child until this May, we weren't lying to you. As far as we knew, William was our only living child."

He didn't say anything in response to this, but continued to stare at me. And William was looking at me strangely too, obviously wondering what the word "living" had been doing in my last sentence.

"But William isn't lying either. When he was a baby some men kidnapped him. My friend Monica and I got him back. I decided that week that I was going to send William to live with my brother Charlie until Mulder came back. He had gone away to make things safe for William and me, but things had gotten dangerous anyway.

"The day before I took William to the airport, I opened my front door and there was a basket on my doormat. Inside the basket was a cute little baby, and a note asking me to take care of him."

"Me." There was no inflection at all to Joey's tone and his expression was blank, so I couldn't tell what he was feeling.

"I went on with our plan to bring William to my brother's house, leaving Monica to baby-sit. I had hoped when I got home that Monica would tell me that the baby's mother had come to get him while I was gone, because he was a lovely baby, and I couldn't imagine that his mother really meant to give him away. But when I got home, the baby was still there. Then my boss came. He looked at the baby, and called him William."

"He thought the baby was me." William's voice was full of disbelief.

"Yes," I said, but I was looking at Joey. "It seemed like that might be okay. I had hoped that Mulder would come back soon, and then he and I would go in get William back, and we would keep this baby too. But, as you must realize, things did not work out that way. Instead, someone tried to hurt this baby, apparently thinking he was William just like my boss did. And that wasn't fair, the baby hadn't done anything wrong, and it wasn't okay to put him in danger." I paused, seeing if either boy had anything to say.

Neither did.

"The only fair thing seemed to be that I give the baby to a family who wouldn't be connected to Mulder or me. Because, it was people we worked against, bad guys, who wanted to hurt our family. If he was with someone else, the baby would be safe. So, after three months of taking care of that sweet baby, I did the hardest thing I've done as a grown up, and brought him to the adoption agency."

"What happened to the bad guys?" William demanded to know.

"They all died or went to jail a long time ago."

"So why didn't you going get Joey then?" he asked the question that too frequently haunted me.

"As far as I knew, and as far as Mulder knew, Joey was not our little boy. We thought he was the son of the person who left him at my apartment. I know that doesn't sound like it matters, but it does when it comes to laws. After a baby is adopted, it's hard for someone's real mom or dad to get them back, even if DNA tests say that the baby is theirs. Most of the time, a judge will say that the baby or child is better off staying with the people who adopted him or her. And we didn't even know that DNA tests would tell us that Joey was ours. As far as we knew, Joey wasn't related to us by blood, which meant that the judge wouldn't even be as likely to let us have him back as he might be if Joey was ours.

"And, we thought he was happy. It's not fair to take a little kid away from the people they now considered to be their mom and dad just to make you happy. That's selfish. We thought we were doing the best thing for Joey by leaving him where he was safe and happy."

There was a moment of silence. Then a small voice spoke up, "I was."

I looked at Joey. "Really?"

"Until they made me go away to school, things were happy."

As he spoke, I felt as though I could look into his mind and see how upsetting it had been to be sent away so young. And then the things that happened after that, after his adopted parents adopted another child... I didn't want look at those things.

Acting without thinking, I crossed the distance between us, and gathered him in my arms. Then I began to cry. "I'm so sorry. I've been sorry everyday since we found out that you are our little boy too. I wish had been stronger and had kept you, instead of letting someone else keep you safe." After that I cried so hard I couldn't talk.

Some point William left the room, perhaps alarmed, but I didn't notice. I don't think Joey did either. In the end both Joey and I were left covered in my tears and his face-paint.


I was sitting on the bed when Mulder came into the room, staring at the wall but not really seeing it. He came to sit beside me, and I leaned my head against his shoulder. "I'm not going to cry about this anymore," I told him quietly. "I've done too much of that already."

"Okay."

I went to my desk and pulled out the notepad I'd stashed there during the summer. "Doggett found a possible lead for me. I want to hire someone to look into...it." When he didn't say anything, I went on. "Mulder. I've tried. I can't live with not knowing how this happened any more."

Emotions warred on his face - disappointment, pity, acceptance - and he finally nodded. "If you need to know, we need to find out what happened."

"Thank you, Mulder." I suddenly felt drained.

Joey timidly looked into our room a moment later. "Are we still going to watch the movie?"

Mulder got up first. "Sure, Buddy. How are you?"

"I'm okay."

For moment I watched as Mulder gently prodded him out of the room, and then I slid off the bed to join them. If Joey could handle what I'd told him, I could be brave enough to face him and everything else.


Once I was in the living room, however, my courage began to waver. Mulder was fooling with the settings on the DVD player again, which meant that the boys and I were sitting there in silence. Neither of them was really looking at me, but I was still anxious that one or the other is going to want to talk about the bombshell that had so recently decimated the living room.

Popping to my feet I said, "I'm going to go get us some popcorn," and hurried out of the room before anyone could say anything. I found the act of measuring out popcorn kernels and putting them into the microwave popper to be calming. At least until I felt a small tug at the hem of my sweater.

Looking down, I saw William's woebegone expression. "Mommy, I'm sorry I made you sad. I didn't mean to make you cry." He was beginning to phase out the use of the word Mommy, so I knew he was really feeling badly.

"I know," I said as I swung him up onto my hip. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"But-" he started to protest, wiggling in my arms. "No one would be sad if I didn't tell that secret. I just didn't know I shouldn't."

I shook my head. "It wasn't exactly a secret. Your dad and I just didn't know how to tell him. Or you," I added.

"Me?" William looked surprised.

"Yes, you. Daddy and I never told you about the people who wanted to hurt you when you were a baby, so that must've been upsetting for you too."

I nearly dropped him when he shrugged, because I started to lose my grip with all that movement. "You said they're all gone, right?"

"For a long time, Will." At least I hoped. Unlike the mythological hydra, cutting off the consortium's head did not seem to spawn two new ones in its place. Things have been quiet for years. Hopefully that meant the beast was dead for good.

"Then everything will be okay then," William said earnestly.

Looking down at him I smiled. No wonder people thought that the children were optimists. I felt less optimism myself, nervous that Joey would be slower to forgive and forget.


November 7th, 2007

John gave me the name of one of his poker buddies, and I showed up downtown right after work to find his office in a moderately priced brick building. The name done up in block lettering on the door said Richard Flint. I knocked and he let me in.

Richard Flint was exactly the sort of name one expected a private detective to have. A mass of curly brown hair, and apple cheeks, however, one didn't. If someone had put a picture of the word wholesome in the dictionary, Richard's, or Ricky's, as he had introduced himself, might have appeared there.

"I assure you, I am old enough to drink." He gave me a broad smile. "People seemed surprised that I'm aware that I look like a kid. How could I not be?"

"Okay." What else was there to say?

Ricky frowned a little. "Believe it or not, my looks can be an asset in this business."

"How so?"

"People like to talk to me."

I nodded. It was easy to see how that could be an asset. People were more willing to talk to the boy next door than they were a person who scared the shit out of them. Some of the agents Mulder and I had worked with in the Hoover building, mostly the older, more gruff-looking ones, complained over many a lunch that suspects and witnesses alike lost their tongue around them. It was these same agents who were often eager to mentor brand-new agents during their two-year probationary period. The way they looked at it, despite the drawbacks of being saddled with a rookie, they had two years of more talkative witnesses and suspects.

"So, John told me a little bit about your problem, but..." Ricky shrugged. "I'm afraid I didn't exactly follow."

It was all I could do not to sigh. How I was going to explain everything to the PI was something I had spent a lot of time thinking about, but I had never settled on anything that sounded less than absurd. Feeling him out, I asked, "Do you know anything about what John used to do when he worked with me?"

"The way John told it, it seemed to be intrigue, espionage, and aliens," Ricky said cheerfully.

"That's about the long and short of it," I said as I watched the smile slide off his face.

He was beginning to look positively alarmed. "Um, you want me to look into something that has to do with aliens?"

With great difficulty, I managed not to laugh. "No, this has more to do with intrigue and espionage."

"Okay." Ricky regained some of his composure. "So, what exactly...?"

"There used to be a group of delusional men who thought they could negotiate with aliens," I said, deciding not to mention that the aliens in question were in fact real. Ricky didn't really need to know that. "And, they did a lot terrible medical experiments on people to achieve this fantasy end." I looked away for moment. "I was one of those people."

"You were? Why?"

"My husband and I were two of the few people who stood up to these men. A lot of people were afraid of their power, and the way they dealt with their enemies. I was one of their enemies... they kidnap me, and used the sort of technology one does to create a baby through IVF to steal some of my ova."

Ricky looked impressed. "Jesus."

I nodded. "Not only did they steal my ova, they used it."

He looked puzzled now. "Used it? How?"

"How do you think?"

"To make kids?" he said doubtfully.

"Exactly."

"No way! That's so evil. Well, what happened to the kids? And how many kids are we talking about?"

"Two. One died," I said quietly. "My husband and I have the other, a little boy named Joey. We only found out that he was ours a few months ago."

"Man, I'm sorry about the one that died, but I'm glad you have the other one." Ricky did look apologetic. "So what you want me to do is..."

"John thinks he found a man who has ties to that organization. I want you to confirm that before I go and speak to him."

"If you already know where this person is, why do you need me?" Ricky wanted to know.

I suppose it was a fair question, considering that most people probably went to a PI to look for somebody, not after they found them. "You have the time and the resources to make sure that he is the right person, and I don't," I said simply.

"Right, I get that. But why do you need to confirm his identity before you speak to him?"

I looked Ricky in the eyes. "If he's the right person, we're not going to have a calm conversation."

Ricky swallowed hard. "Oh. So, let me take that information, and I'll get on it."

When I left I had Ricky's promise that he would look into the man's past and see if he could find evidence that connected him to the consortium. He warned me that it may take a few weeks, but I left with a lighter heart. It actually felt like I was getting closer to the answers I so desperately needed.


William looked extremely cheerful when I got home. "Hey Mom, we asked Dad if we could build a treehouse, and he said to ask you because you're the doctor and you would know if it was dangerous or not."

I grinned at him. "Oh, I'm gone all afternoon and you and your dad hatch plans to spring a treehouse on me?"

"Yup!" he said happily. "So, can we?"

"Well, I haven't heard of too many kids being injured while using a treehouse, so if you and Joey will promise to be very careful-"

"We will!" he interrupted. He looked over his shoulder as Joey wandered into the room. "We would promise to be very careful with a treehouse, right Joey?"

"Yeah, we promise."

"Oh cool, I'll go tell dad." William bound out of the room, and I decided not to even bother to tell him not to run. I was pretty sure that Mulder would catch him at the other end.

"Thanks," Joey said, still standing there. "This is going to be neat."

"Did anything interesting happen besides talking about a treehouse while I was gone?" I asked, mostly making conversation. I had worried at first that things would be strained between him and I, considering my meltdown on Halloween night, but he had mostly taking it in stride, and we were doing well.

Joey looked like he needed to think about it "He told me that you hired someone so that we can have answers about me. That's why you were late."

I gave him an exasperated look and all at once I got very tired of pussyfooting around this issue with Joey. "Joey, it's been months. Please don't refer to your father as 'he.' If you want, you can call him Mulder like I do."

"Could I call him Dad?" Joey asked softly.

For a moment I just stood there, stunned. Gathering my wits, I said, "I think he'd really like that."

"Okay." He smiled up at me, revealing a missing baby tooth. "But, you did hire someone like Dad said, right?"

"I did. He's going to find out if there's anyone around still who might know what happened before you were born."

"And then we can be happy, right?"

I shook my head. "I don't think whether or not we're happy depends on the answers, Kiddo. We can be happy even with out them." Though, perhaps not quite as happy.

"I know, but still..." Joey wrinkled his nose. "I think the answers will make you happier."

"They may," I admitted. I put my hand on Joey's shoulder and began to steer him out of the room. "Come on, you need to talk to your dad about the treehouse before William made all the plans."

"Do you think we could have a wooden ladder?" Joey asked. "I think that would be better than a rope ladder."

"I bet that could be arranged," I said as we walked towards the sounds of Mulder and William's voices.


November 15th, 2007

Sooner than I thought possible, Ricky called me at work to let me know that he had found something. I called Mulder to let them know I would be late, and then rushed over to Ricky's office. He looked nearly as eager as I felt when he let me in.

"Okay, I looked into the guy's past like you asked me to." Ricky said, motioning for me to sit down.

I did. "And?"

"Well, John is right. The man did used to work for your former obstetrician." Ricky cocked his head. "I still find it kind of strange that someone who seemed like a legitimate doctor also did this shady stuff on the side, but what do I know? Anyway, your guy did work as a lab tech during the year in question."

I nodded, but that wasn't enough of a connection to convict the man. "Were you able to find out anything else?"

"Does the name Brad Folmer mean anything to you?" Ricky asked.

I sat up straighter. "Yes. Why do you ask?"

"When I talked to John about it, he gave me a couple of names to see if I could find in association with, besides the ones you and I talked about. I wasn't having any luck connecting him to that Kersh character you told me about, so hope you don't mind that I asked John for a bit of information too," Ricky said apologetically.

"Of course I don't mind. Why did you bring up Brad?" I asked impatiently.

"So, you probably know that Folmer is in prison."

"For murder," I acknowledged.

Ricky nodded. "Right. Anyway, this Monroe guy, he's gone to see him several times. I wasn't able to get any specific details about what they talked about, but I talked to a guard who seem to recall been talking about genetics, like it was a work discussion. Which is kind of strange, considering that Folmer is a former FBI person, not a doctor of any sort."

It was what I suspected, but it was still a bit stunning. When I didn't say anything, Ricky gave me a concerned look. "So, do you want me to keep looking into things? I could probably find some other way of tying him into this organization you and John were concerned about-"

"No, this will do." I stood and shook his hand. "It has been very nice working with you, Ricky."

He grinned at me. "I'd say don't hesitate to call me if you need anything else, but I'm hoping your family won't need my services again. I think you have all been through enough."

I smile back. He thought we'd been through enough, and he barely knew anything about us. "I'll tell you what, if I ever meet someone in need of a private investigator, I will definitely send them your way."

"Cool." For a moment he sounded barely older than my boys. "Good luck. Trying not to get yourself arrested."

I'd try.


November 16th, 2007

Breaking and entering, all in a night's work for Dana Scully. Not really, at least not since leaving the FBI, but I found I still had the knack for it as I let myself into Monroe's house. While it was tempting to break in during the dead of night, the possibility that he might be armed, and I might get shot for my trouble, dissuaded me. I could never tell you for sure the political leanings of the Consortium, but it would just be my luck if they were all strong second amendment Republicans.

The first thing that I noticed while taking stock of the situation was that he was sitting in the living room watching TV, so I headed around to the back door to pick the lock. It seemed like the safest course of action. And from the look on his face as I appeared out of the darkness of his kitchen, it also seemed like a good way to scare the crap out of him.

"Who...who the hell are you?" he demanded to know, floundering for the remote control, and upsetting a bowl of popcorn as he did so. For God only knows what reason, he muted the TV. Was he worried that I wasn't going to speak up enough to hear over Grey's Anatomy?

I decided not to answer. The only sound for a moment was a click as I drew back the hammer of my gun. He blanched but got up to take a step towards me. In a high thin voice he said, "I'm going to call the police if you don't leave my house immediately."

"No, you won't," I said with a slight shake of my head.

"Why wouldn't I?"

"I think with your past, you have more to fear from the police than I do. My PI uncovered quite a few outstanding warrants, and it wouldn't take the police long to figure out that you been living here for years under an assumed identity." James Monroe. A history buff, how cute.

His shoulders slumped and I knew that I had him. It came as no surprise, then, when he asked again, "Who are you, and what do you want from me?" I kept my gun trained on him as he backed towards the couch and sat. I decided to remain standing.

"You must have a theory about my identity," I said quietly.

"Pissed off women break into my home less often than you might think." He huddled into the sofa cushions.

"I'm here to get information about my six-year-old son."

He looked surprised, but I could see him pull the pieces together. "I thought you'd be taller."

"You've figured out who I am, then."

"Yes."

"And you know I've shot bad guys in my day." He gulped. "That wasn't a threat, I'm just making conversation," I said casually. "You'll know when I'm making a threat."

I was bluffing of course, but I hoped that he didn't realize it. As much as I wanted the information, I wasn't willing to kill for it.


Ignoring me for a moment, he scooped the spilled popcorn back into the bowl. "You have a lot of nerve, breaking into my house, and making demands. I don't see what makes you think I would feel the need to speak to the likes of you."

"The likes of me?" I asked, wondering what he meant.

"Little bitch that got discredited and drummed out of the FBI, that's what I mean." He put the bowl on the coffee table rather roughly. "You're what, a doctor now?" He glanced up at me, smirking at my surprise. "Oh, don't flatter yourself, I'm not keep tabs on you, just making an educated guess. What power do you think you have over me? The way I look at it, I don't have to tell you shit."

Rather than dignifying his comments with a response, I pulled my gun up so quickly he flinched. "Just so we're clear," I said, aiming for his crotch. "Now..." my voice was low and furious, "it's a threat."

To my disappointment, this statement was not met by a spreading stain, which meant that Monroe was slightly braver than I gave him credit for. Still, his face went as white as milk. To help him consider the possibilities, I jiggled the gun a little. This was all that further encouragement he needed. "What do you want to know?" he asked in a strangled voice.

"Who made my son," I said slowly, letting him think about it. "If you say he was left by the stork, I swear to God I will shoot you right now."

"I don't know his real name!" Monroe protested.

"The smoking man?" I asked sharply.

He nodded. "Yeah, that's what most people called him."

"Why?" How?"

"How? You can't be surprised that he had access to your ova." The man's confirming glance at my face was unapologetic. "He once remarked that he had commandeered some after your abduction and was 'saving them for a rainy day.' As for the rest of the DNA needed, his son was unconscious after that surgery..." he trailed off, letting me connect the dots myself.

I didn't bother to hide my shudder. As obscene an invasion as the brain surgery had been, this seemed like an even worse violation. I found myself hoping nonsensically that Diana Fowley hadn't had a part in procuring my husband's genetic contribution. "Why then? What made seven years ago the rainy day he was waiting for?"

He shrugged. "After Fox Mulder discovered the fate of his sister, my employer worried that he'd soon lose any hold over his wayward son."

This surprised me a little. I hadn't been expecting to hear that the bastard had felt a burning need to become a grandfather, but I'd been sure the answer would lie in another attempt to prolong his miserable life with the DNA of another unfortunate male relative. I said as much.

Monroe took this under consideration before giving a slight nod. "I'm sure the thought crossed his mind, because he had the baby's DNA mapped at birth. As you can imagine by looking at your little boy, he inherited quite a lot of his genetics from you rather than your husband. This disappointed the smoking man."

I couldn't help it. I laughed. "It must have been terrible for him."

"I think it accounted for his not being as upset as he might have been when the boy went missing."

I looked up sharply. "Went missing? You're saying it wasn't his idea to leave Joey for me to find?"

"You didn't imagine that it was his idea for the boy to be spirited away to your doorstep, did you?"

Crazily, my first thought was to protest that my apartment hadn't had a doorstep, just a welcome mat in the hallway. Giving myself a mental shake, I tried to pull myself together. "Who brought Joey to me?" I had already come to the conclusion that Debbie Tyler, Joey's first adoptive mother, had been a work of fiction.

The former lab flunky shrugged. "No one ever found out who had the balls to break in when the old man and his nurse were sleeping to steal the boy."

My stomach turned. It seemed as though the Joey had spent the first nine months of his life living with the devil himself. Thank God he couldn't remember his poor excuse for a grandfather. It wasn't something I would've wished on any child, never mind one of my own. "Your investigation came up empty?" I was eventually able to ask.

"Completely. The list of suspects is a mile long, of course, considering how many enemies he had."

"Considering how many people he'd wronged," I corrected bitterly.

He didn't bother denying that. "What else?" He glanced at the gun. "You're still holding my balls hostage, so there must be more you want to know."

"Is Joey the only one?" I asked softly. My brain buzzed unpleasantly at the thought that there might be more children out there, perfect ones like Joey, not ones who hadn't survived like Emily.

Apparently he understood what I was asking, because without hesitation he said, "Yes." I almost sagged in relief, but he continued to speak. "Only because there wasn't enough time to make any more babies. The idea had been on the table when your boy went missing, but by then old man was too sick to put the plan into motion."

"Thank god for that," I muttered. "Did they destroy them? The other ova?" I paused for a moment, hoping hard that it was what we were talking about. "Or embryos?"

"Ova," Monroe replied to my relief. "They didn't get as far as creating any more embryos."

"Were they destroyed?" I repeated.

"No, they were just left in storage."

Neither of us said anything for a while, and I think it helped Monroe relax a little. Getting cocky again, he asked, "So, are you going to call the cops on me, or what?"

"I'll tell you what, you get those ova for me, and I'll make sure that both my PI and I forget all about those out standing warrants."

"What?" he squawked. "The last time I saw them was six years ago! Who knows if they even kept up the bill to make sure they remained frozen?"

"You seem resourceful, you'll figure it out." I put the gun away. "And don't even think about running. I'm going to have you put under surveillance until I either get my ova or you furnish proof that they're gone."

"You'd prefer the former, I bet," he grumbled.

Did I? "Find out. Good evening, mister Monroe." With that I let myself out.

I toyed with the idea of really keeping him under surveillance, but I didn't think it would really be necessary.



That Night

When I got home, I reheated what Mulder had made for dinner, and tucked both boys into bed like it had been any other night. It hadn't, but only Mulder and I knew that. He waited until the kids were in bed to bring up my extracurricular activities.

"Did you find the answers you needed?" Mulder asked quietly.

"Most of them, anyway." I slowly told him everything that James Monroe had confessed, hoping that I didn't leave anything out, and that telling him would help burn the conversation into my mind.

When I was through, Mulder put his head back against the couch and sighed. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised. This seems exactly like something he and the men he worked with would come up with. It's probably best not to think about what they planned to do with Joey."

Shivering, I nodded my agreement. I wasn't sure about Mulder, but I knew that the horrible possibilities would haunt my nightmares for months. There wasn't one terrible thing I could cross off the list - he'd been capable of every vile act I could imagine, and probably dozens more that I couldn't.

"How do you feel?"

I looked up. "Feel?"

"Angry? Used? Relieved?" Mulder prompted. "How does knowing the truth make you feel?"

"Better," I admitted. "But there are still things I can't figure out."

"Like what?"

"Who broke into the smoking man's house to take Joey? And what happened to Debbie Tyler?"

For a moment he looked puzzled. "The woman who died?"

"Yes. I decided that she didn't exist, but Mulder, there was an obituary in the paper."

Mulder shrugged. "So? You think that he'd have trouble getting a fake obit put into the paper?"

"But why would he bother?"

"I don't know." He looked down at me. "Another possibility is that maybe the obit you saw had nothing to do with the note left with Joey. Maybe you just drew a conclusion that seemed to fit."

"That's not a better possibility," I griped.

"Why not?"

"If Debbie Tyler was real, what happened to her baby?"

He didn't say anything for a long while, and when he did speak it wasn't on the topic of a hypothetical long-missing baby. "I have a theory about who brought Joey to you."

My eyes widened, surprised that he'd thought that through already. "You do?"

"Think about it, Scully. Who do we know that might have thought that pissing off the old bastard was worth the price of what might happen if they got caught?"

Of course my first thought was Alex Krycek, but he'd already been dead by that point. Thinking about Krycek, however, made my mind cast the net a little farther. "I don't know," I said, waiting to see if he came up with the same face that had surfaced in my mind.

Mulder shook his head. "Yes you do. Marita Covarrubias."

I stared at him, not sure if I should be pleased that he'd come to the same hasty conclusion as I had. "Mulder, why on Earth...?"

"Scully, think about it. Don't you remember how strangely she acted during my trial? Furtive and guilty, didn't that make you wonder why?" He shook his head at the memory. "I think she helped me because she felt badly that things hadn't gone better with Joey. Or, maybe it was another way to strike back at the consortium, but obviously giving Joey away hadn't been a complete success."

That gave me pause. It had crossed my mind back then to wonder why she had put herself at risk to come forward. Maybe she was the one who'd stolen Joey away from the smoking bastard and brought him to me. There had been times when she had looked like she wanted to say something to me and I had never really thought about what it might have been.

"Any idea where she is now?" Mulder asked.

I shook my head. "I haven't seen or heard from her any more recently than you have. Why?"

He sighed. "I assume that you want to talk to her."

Would that do either of us any good, I wondered. I had worried about Marita a little since the last moment I saw her. It was hard to imagine what her life was like, but I had the feeling that she was not married with two great kids like I was.

Looking up at Mulder, I said, "No."

Mulder didn't bother to hide his surprise. "No? Does that mean you have all the answers that you need now?"

My mind summoned up the image of a liquid nitrogen filled container, but I pushed the thought away. For all I knew they had already been destroyed, so it was best not to give them much room in my head. "Yes."

"Good."

It was.


The Next Morning

Sleep had been elusive that night, mostly because I couldn't stop thinking about how I was going to explain things to Joey. By the next morning I had worked out an entire script in my head, and haltingly began to recite it when a bright-eyed Joey joined me for cereal. He always took longer to get ready in the morning than William did, and so far the bed-making habit wasn't rubbing off on my slightly older son.

Joey nodded thoughtfully, and seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to what I had to say as I clumsily explained things, without mentioning the gun, of course. I thought this was a positive sign. Encouraged, as I wrapped up I asked "Do you have any questions?"

Putting down his spoon, Joey looked directly at me. "We are going to have a turkey for Thanksgiving, right?"

"Uh... right." I wasted a couple seconds trying to make sense of his off-topic question. "Joey, do you understand what I was telling you?"

"Yup." He dug around in his cereal bowl, apparently looking for crunch berries. Mulder had bought the boys the cereal under the condition that neither of them would whine if it ripped up the roofs of their mouths. "You know all that stuff now, so you can be happy."

"Basically," I said weakly.

"Is it going to be a big turkey?" Joey asked. "I've always wanted to try turkey because everyone else says that it's the best food ever."

"It is pretty good," I said, still rather confused about how we've gone from the story of his origins to what was on our Thanksgiving Day menu. "There should be a lot left over for sandwiches and other stuff."

"And can we have cranberry sauce that's from the can? My old dad made some from berries, but it didn't taste as good. I like the ridges."

"Sure..." I said, wincing inside at the casual term "old dad." I'd talked to Mulder once about whether or not it was worth visiting mister Van DeKamp again to see if he was still completely against the idea of keeping in touch with Joey, but we ultimately decided not to pressure the man. I couldn't imagine he'd be having happy holidays, though.

"Do you make pie?" Joey asked. "I want to try to help sometime."

I gave up. "You and Will can both help. We'll make apple and pumpkin pies."

William stuck his head into the room. "You're not done yet? We're going to be late for the bus!" Joey quickly finished his cereal and ran after his brother. The door slammed behind them.

I was still sitting at the kitchen table, staring at my cold coffee, when Mulder came in. He poured himself is own mug and sat down across from me. "So, how did it go?"

"Bafflingly. I told him everything we discussed, and he started to ask me about Thanksgiving. He had a lot more questions about food than where he came from," I complained.

Mulder stood and came to put his hands on my shoulders. "That's good, Scully."

I looked up at him. "It's good?"

"This whole topic hasn't been bothering him like it has to you. He's happy. You've noticed that, haven't you?"

He was. Joey and William got along great now, and he seemed to have forgotten all about me crying on him Halloween night. Most afternoons he came home from school smiling, and he stay that way until I tucked him into bed at night. By inches and yards the sullen little boy we brought home in May had made way for a still quiet but far happier one. "He is, isn't he."


The second week of December

I was setting the timer on the dryer when the basement door creaked open, and Mulder's voice drifted down to me. "Scully, phone!"

Grabbing the basket of towels, I took my time going up. It didn't sound like anything urgent, so I wasn't going to race up the stairs and risk tripping. When Mulder traded me the phone for the laundry basket, he wore a slight smirk. So it hardly surprised me to hear my hello answered with "Hey Sis, how are you?"

I leaned against the wall and made a face at Mulder's retreating back. "Oh, pretty good. How about you, Bill?"

"Can't complain. How's your new little guy settling in?"

I paused and listened to the distant sounds of William and Joey playing a video game. My new little guy? That seemed oddly endearing coming from my older brother. "He's doing great."

"Oh good," Bill said, sounding a little nervous. "Do you...would you and Fox like to come to our new place for Christmas?"

"Um...sure." I hoped that Mulder wouldn't be upset that I made the decision without consulting him, but Bill had caught me off guard. "Do you mind me running it by Mulder real quick first, though?"

"No problem."

I put my brother on hold before finding Mulder still stacking towels in the linen closet. "What's up?" he asked.

"Bill has invited us to his place for Christmas. I said sure, sorry."

"Scully, it's fine. If he's a jerk to me, I'll take the kids sledding or something."

I planted a kiss on his cheek. "God, I love you."

"You better." He grinned as I walked away.

When I picked up the phone I found out that Bill was planning to invite my mom and Charlie's family too. A regular family reunion. I hoped it would go well.


Newport, Rhode Island
December 25th, 2007

After we got off the plane in Boston and began the drive to Newport in a rental SUV, I began to wonder what Bill thought about being stationed in Rhode Island. He'd been in California for a number of years, but eight months earlier had been transferred to the East Coast.

My brother hadn't said very much when I talk to him on the phone to confirm that Mulder and I would bring the kids, but I got the sense that they liked it well enough. There had been some talk about how Mattie liked his school in Rhode Island better, and that Mattie was getting a better education. Knowing my brother, thinking that Mattie was doing better was the equivalent of saying that the whole family was.

My mother must have been thinking the same thing, because she adjusted her knit cap, and said, "I wonder how your brother's dealing with all this snow."

"Stoically," I said with a straight face.

The corners of her mouth quirked. "I'm sure you're right. He probably has a full complement of snow shovels and a snow thrower in his garage by now."

"Of all of us, he took most to heart Dad's insistence that any job could be tackled with the right tools," I agreed.

"It's been a real-" Mulder started to comment from the driver's seat, but his eyes darted to the rearview mirror, so I knew he was about to self-edit for the boys' sake. "-bear of a winter up here already, though. I think they're already gotten more than four feet of snow."

"So much for global warming," my mother joked.


The engine to the SUV must have been a lot louder than our own cars, because I saw Tara waving from a second story window as soon as we pulled into Bill's driveway. The kids waved back, and Mulder and I loaded ourselves down with gifts as we trudged towards the house.

Since Tara was upstairs, I assumed my brother would be the one to open the door, but instead a dark-haired child did, my nephew. Matthew started to smile, but when realized that there was a boy he didn't know with my family, he stopped short, wide-eyed. "Who is that?"

Before could explain, my brother did - he'd been just across the room. "This is Joseph, your cousin William's twin brother."

"Twins!" Matthew exclaimed. "I didn't know Will had a twin."

"Me neither," William piped up. "It was a big surprise."

That's my boy, the master of understatement.

"But..."

Bill put a hand on his son shoulder. "You can ask me all your questions later. Right now you should be a good host and to make him feel welcome."

My almost nine-year-old nephew was clearly still confused, but I watched him try to shake that off. "Okay." He approached Joey with a friendly smile. "Hey, I'm your cousin Mattie. Wanna help me make a snowman? Will, too."

"Okay," I heard Joey answer shyly.

In a moment or two the three boys ran out the door after nodding at Tara's demand that they stay within sight of the windows. Mulder and my mom had followed Tara into the kitchen, so it was just Bill and me left in the living room.

"Cute kid, kinda looks like Charlie did at that age," Bill said behind me as he rearranged our offerings under the Christmas tree. I turned to look at him. "How is he handling it all?"

"As well as can be expected," I said slowly. I was more than half expecting a cutting remark to come out of his mouth next.

He merely nodded. "For a while, Tara and I considered adopting an older child. But the more we learn about it, and the more we realized that they probably would need so much special attention, the less it seemed like it would be in the child's best interest to have us as their new family. So we decided against it before meeting any kids."

This was news to me. "Oh."

"We might adopt a baby instead, and that be easier on everyone." Bill paused. "I admire you for being undaunted by the challenge of adding Joseph your family, as old as he is." After a moment he added, "Truth be told, I also admire your idiot husband for it too."

Six seemed a very small to me, but that's not what I chose to focus on. "He's my son, Bill. You'd do the same in my shoes."

"I hope so. But not everyone would." He looked out the window, so I did too. The boys were laughing as they formed a huge ball of snow, probably the base for snowman. "You ready for Charlie and his crew to get here?"

I smirked at him. "Bring it on."

I heard a noise in the driveway. Apparently the car rental places really liked giving out big noisy vehicles.


Despite being the baby of the family, Charlie's kids were the oldest of the grandkids. Charlie and Heather gotten married right after college, and the first of the three kids arrived not too long afterwards. Lauren was fifteen, Mark thirteen, and Sean ten.

It was Lauren who first asked about Joey, but unlike Matthew she was old enough to take me aside to do it. "Aunt Dana, did you have William cloned? There seem to be two of him now."

Lauren had too good of a sense of humor to be Bill's, that was for sure. "It's a long story, Lauren, but to make it short when we discovered in May that William had a twin brother we didn't know about."

Her expression was full of questions. "How...?"

I patted her on the shoulder. "I'll tell you when you're older."

She wrinkled her nose at me. "You better. I bet it will make a killer story to tell my college friends someday."

"Come on," I said. "I'm sure your aunt Tara could use our help in the kitchen."


Dinner went very well, except for Mark and Sean arguing throughout. Charlie kept shooting them looks to kill, and the boys would quiet down for a few minutes, but would inevitably ramp back up. Eventually he got bored of refereeing, and sent them away from the table the second they finished eating. The rest of the kids drifted away too, though I was pretty sure that Lauren intended to go call a friend, not join the boys in the game they were about to play.

My mother looked around the table, and gave the adults a half smile. "Well, when almost all of the grandchildren are boys, I guess we can expect a spirited dinner."

Charlie shot her a baleful look. "Mom, go on and say it. Mattie and Dana's boys behaved like little gentlemen. It's me who's raising a pair of uncouth heathens."

Mom shook her head. "Mattie is an only child. He simply doesn't have a lot of experience arguing with kids he's related to. And as for Dana's boys, they're six. There's plenty of time for them to argue with each other once they get to know each other even better."

"Wow, Mom, thank you for being optimistic," I grumbled.

She gave me a beatific smile. "They have this Scully blood, Dana. Dustups are inevitable."

When I looked at Mulder, I could see his eyes smiling, even as he tried to keep his mouth straight. "Maybe they'll take after my side of the family, Mrs. Scully. We do calculated silences instead."

Her face was also composed when she replied, "That would make for an interesting difference."

I was fairly certain that Tara was trying not to laugh, because she took a couple of deep breaths before asking if anybody would like coffee. That mostly got her answers in the affirmative, and we finished off the dessert leftovers while the kids were out of the room.


December 27th, 2007
2a.m.

We dropped my mother off at her house before proceeding on to ours. The boys had fallen asleep in the back nearly an hour ago, so they didn't stir when we pulled into our own driveway.

I felt like groaning as I unfolded myself from the passenger seat. Two plane trips and too much time in rental vehicles had left me sore. Still, I knew that Mulder couldn't carry both boys in by himself, so I forced myself to go around and help him out.

After what felt like forever, and with aching muscles protesting, we got both boys undressed for bed, and tucked in. Then Mulder and I sprawled out on our bed, still fully clothed. It was nice to just lie there bonelessly.

Eventually Mulder turned his head towards me. "Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah." Lauren had made a game of trying to get one of the adults to explain to her how she had a cousin that no one knew about, Mark and Sean had finally started to get along after Charlie threatened them with something I didn't hear, and my guys had a great time playing with Matthew. "Better than I would ever have guessed."

"That's good."

His tone was light, but I could tell by something in his expression that he was thinking about Samantha. I wound my fingers through his, and he held them tight.


January 3rd, 2008

I had only been in the hospital for a few moments before one of the sisters waved me over. The look she gave me was nervous, I became anxious myself as I waited for her to speak. "Doctor Scully, do you have a minute?"

"Of course, Sister Mary. What do you need?"

After hesitating a moment, she said, "it's about Christian."

"Yes?" I prompted her, beginning to worry.

I half expected the nervous nun to begin to twirl her hair to calm her nerves, but I guess wearing a wimple helped keep her from doing that. "Christian has been asking about your sons."

I blinked. I'd been afraid she was going to say that Christian had taken a severe turn for the worse during my vacation, but then nun was agitated because of a conversation with the boy? "Has he?"

If anything, she looked more uncomfortable. "Christian wants to see them." The glance she gave me was apologetic. "We had been talking it one point about playing with other children, and he noted sadly that there weren't many other children in the hospital at present, and those that were around were mostly confined to their rooms. Then he started talking about how he knew that you had two little boys, and that he would like to see them..."

Nodding to myself, I said, "Well, thank you for letting me know."

"Of course, Doctor Scully." She looked down to me. "Will you bring your sons in?"

"I think will have to discuss that with my boys first, Sister Mary."

"Yes, I should've thought..."

Would it be okay to tell a nun not to worry about something? In the end she wandered off before I could say anything at all. What I didn't tell her was that I would discuss the situation with Mulder before I asked either of the kids if they'd like to meet Christian. Mulder usually had a pretty tolerant view of my work, but I wasn't sure what you would think about mixing our children into that.


It was snowing lightly when I got home, so I sent William and Joey out to play. I could already hear them begin to whoop with excitement as I shut the door behind me. "Hey, Scully, how was work?" Mulder asked, coming out of his study.

I shrugged as I hung up my coat. "You know how it is, getting back to work after having some time off."

"Oh, mind-numbing you mean." He smiled. "Or tedious."

I smile back, and reached up to touch his face. He was growing out a beard and I wasn't sure what I thought of it yet. "Something did come up at work today that I wanted to talk to you about."

"What's that?"

I sighed. "I think I've told you a little bit about Christian."

"The nine-year-old?"

"That's the one. One of the sisters-"

"Why do you call them sisters? Aren't they nurses?" Mulder interrupted.

"They call themselves sisters, Mulder. We just follow their lead."

"Oh. That was something I wondered about, but I interrupt you. What were you saying about this little boy?"

"Apparently, he asked one of the nuns if she could ask me to bring William and Joey in to see him. I was wondering what you thought of that."

Mulder practically squirmed. "How sick is he? I mean, how sick does he look?" He looked sheepish. "I'd like to make the boy happy, but I don't want to traumatize the kids..."

"He doesn't look like he's at death's door. There aren't wires connected to him all over and he's not painfully thin like someone dying of cancer might be, if that's what you're worried about. Mostly he slurs when he speaks, and he's not steady enough to walk or well anymore."

He looked relieved. "That doesn't sound too scary, so, if you want them to go and see this kid it's okay with me."

"Thanks, Mulder." I hoped that they would want to go, but I wasn't interested in traumatizing them either, so I wouldn't force them to.

"Scully?" I turned towards him. "What if they like him...and he dies?"

That's what I'd been worried about, truthfully. "I guess we explain to them that we try as hard as we can to make people better, but we're not always successful."

He nodded, but he said, "It doesn't bother you that this might be an assault on their faith at such a young age?"

Religion and our children was still an issue between us. Mulder didn't particularly like the fact that I brought them to church with me, but he didn't try to stop me from encouraging their belief in God, either. "There isn't much point to having a faith that's never tested, Mulder. And I think Joey has already had his first instance of doubt, considering what happened to Michelle and Ava Van de Kamp."

"I guess that's true..."

"Are you sure you don't mind me bringing them to meet Christian?"

"No, it's fine."

"Right." I could tell that if he had any objections, he wouldn't express them. I supposed that was his problem then.


I sat them down after dinner and began to talk to them about Christian. "One of my patients at the hospital is a little boy named Christian-"

"How old is he?" William wanted to know immediately.

"Nine. Anyway, he's been living at the hospital for a few weeks, and it's lonely for him," I told them, wondering if I could lead them to the idea of visiting themselves.

"Why? Aren't there other kids at the hospital?" Joey asked.

"Some. But most of them are too sick to leave their rooms."

William looked curious. "Is he too sick to leave his room?"

Not yet, I thought. "He needs a wheelchair, but no, he's not too sick to leave his room."

"Does he have brothers or sisters to come play with him, if the sicker kids can't? Or cousins?"

"No, he's an only child, and I don't know if he's got any cousins."

"What about kids from school?"

"Remember we talked about home schooling?" I asked, reminding them of a conversation we'd had after they'd seen a news story about some cultists. They nodded. "When Christian started to get sick about a year ago, his parents decided to home school him. So he hasn't been to school this year, and doesn't have any classmates right now."

"But he will when he gets better, right?" Joey asked.

"Uh, sure."

"Mom, can we go see him?" William asked, and I smiled. "We could play with him so he's not lonely now, 'fore he goes back to school."

"I think he'd really like that."

"When? Can we see him tomorrow?" Joey asked, obviously on-board with the idea.

"Monday after school," I said firmly. "Okay?"

"Oh, okay. Can we bring some games to play?" William asked.

I thought about Christian's mobility problems. "Let me think about that, okay?"

"Okay," they agreed.

I watched them wander off on an important mission, and wondered if either of them would have as much fun as they thought they were going to.


Saturday

We spent the morning making sure everything was tidy before our guests arrived for a movie marathon. I thought about throwing a couch pillow at Mulder when he told the kids we were having a "playdate" that afternoon, but he grinned at me so I left my projectile where it was. He might not have been as excited about seeing our old friends as I was, but then, I'd been half afraid that he'd never come out of the house again once we moved in.

When John and Monica arrived, I hugged them both. "It feels like forever since I've seen you," I said, feeling like most of that was my fault. "What's new?"

"Oh, same old same old," Monica said. "Working for a vanilla department in the FBI isn't as exciting as when we worked together."

"I'll bet. Mulder and I hated it when we got shipped off to do menial things when the X-Files office was shut down." I thought back to when we'd been in Dallas years ago. We hadn't gone looking for weirdness then, but it had managed to find us. Or, I hadn't gone looking for it. Mulder, I wasn't so sure about.

"Aww, come on, Mon. It could be worse."

"That's true," she agreed before looking at me. "Um, do you mind if I use your restroom."

"No, go ahead." She knew where it was, so I didn't bother with directions.

John and I sat at the table, and I could tell that he had something to say when she was out of the range of hearing. "So, how did Ricky work out for you?"

"Great. Thanks for recommending him to me."

He looked faintly puzzled. "I take it you learned what you needed to."

"I did."

"But you haven't pressed any charges yet."

"No, and I don't think I will be. What could I possibly have Monroe charged with? Working for an asshole isn't a crime."

"Well, it ain't a crime, exactly, but it sure as hell ain't right."

"I know." I shook my head. "God, I know. If there was something I thought might stick to him I'd be tempted, but I don't think there is."

"So he gets away with it." He looked chagrined.

"There's always eternal damnation," I suggested cheerfully, and he looked like he might laugh. "Come on, let's go find out what people want on their pizzas. Mulder's sparing me the effort of cooking and I want to take full advantage of that."

"Doesn't he do some of the cooking too?"

"He does," I lowered my voice. "And that's its own punishment."

We were both laughing when Monica and Mulder wandered in the room.


Monday Morning

I was still brushing my teeth when Mulder came up behind me. "Hey, we have a problem."

"What?" I asked after I spit my toothpaste out.

"Will's pretty sick. I'm going to call in today so I can stay home with him. He seems to realize he's too sick to go with you today, and he's not happy about it."

"Oh. Let me talk to him."

When I opened his door William looked up at me, and I was unhappy to see how red his eyes and nose were. I sat by his bed, and gave him a hug, and when I did, I could feel how warm he was. "Not feeling so good, huh?"

"Nope." He groped for a tissue and I ended up handing him one. "You're not going to let me go, huh?"

His expression was heartbroken, and for three seconds I was tempted to tell him it would be okay to go. It wasn't like Christian was immunocompromised but it wasn't right to drag a sick little boy off to nonessential places. I leaned over and kissed his forehead. "I'll make sure he knows you really wanted to come too."

William let his head drop back to his pillow. "Aww, man. He's going to be mad at me, and I don't even know him yet."

"Christian won't be mad," I said quickly. "Why do you think he would?"

"I promised I'd go. Now I guess I lied."

"Will, you had every intention of going to see him. It's not your fault you got sick." I pretended to give him a scrutinizing look. "You didn't get sick on purpose, did you?"

"No."

"You didn't hang around with someone sick, just so you could get out of going, did you?" I asked, lightly tickling him.

"No." William giggled. "I didn't!"

"Then he'll understand."

William sat back up again. "Because he's sick too?"

Is that what I meant? "Because he's old enough to realize that things like getting a cold can keep us from doing what we had every intention of doing."

"Yeah... I'll see him some other time, though, right?"

"If you want to, of course." I tried not to frown as I answered him - it was hard to escape the idea that Christian might be running out of time, no matter what I did for him.


Late Afternoon

As soon as I got back to the hospital, I began to have second thoughts about introducing Joey to Christian. Joey looked cheerful, though, so I kept those thoughts to myself. We walked down the hallway that always felt endless to me, and eventually came to a halt.

"This is his room," I whispered to Joey. He nodded, but looked a little nervous now that we were finally there. I gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze and opened the door.

Christian was sitting in bed, and he saw us right away. "He looks like you," he said with a slightly lop-sided grin.

"I look like my brother," Joey corrected but he didn't look affronted. "He wanted to come too, but he's got a cold."

"Oh, okay."

To my surprise, the next could of hours flew by without me really noticing. Eventually, the three of us looked up from a game of MadLibs when one of the nurses popped into the room to take Christian's dinner order.

Joey looked fascinated. "You get to decide what you want to eat?"

"Within limits," I explained. "Patients get a list of what's available for each meal and they pick what they'd like to have." I thought about explaining to them that some of the other patients couldn't have anything by mouth, but I decided that neither of them would care about that.

"Wow, I don't think I'd like to make choices every single day," Joey muttered, making me reflect on how he was much better about choosing things now but still not entirely comfortable with doing so.

"I have the same things a lot," Christian admitted. "It's easier. And I like pudding a lot anyway, so I always have it for desert."

I stood up when I heard the cart with dinner trays down the other end of the hallway. Christian's food would be arriving within minutes. "I think it's time for us to go home and have dinner too."

"Will you come back some time?" Christian asked, giving me a puppy dog look. I have to admit, it was just as effective as Mulder's.

"Yeah, can I? And Will too next time?"

"I'm pretty sure that can be arranged."

"Oh, cool. See you later, Chris." Joey got up and began to put on his coat too.

"I can't wait until next time."

"Me either. I hope you feel better soon too."

"Thanks. When you leave, don't look back," Christian told us.

"Why?" I asked, confused.

"'cause that would mean you're worried that I won't see you again." Christian looked at Joey as he spoke, instead of at me. "You will, though. I'm going to be here next time you come."

Joey nodded, but I could tell that he didn't quite grasp what Christian was telling him. For that matter, I wasn't sure if Christian even understood himself, since it felt like he might be repeating something a well-meaning adult had told him. "We won't look back," Joey promised.


"Are you going to make him better?" Joey asked, stopping before we got to the exit when we realized that one of his shoes was untied. Since we were standing next to a bench, I patted the seat and waited for him to sit down.

"I'm trying as hard as I can," I explained as I fiddled with his shoelaces.

"But?" he asked, sounding like his father for a moment.

"But I'm not sure how to help him." I sighed. "The disease he has is pretty rare, and there hasn't been a lot of research into curing it."

"Not like those pink ribbons?"

"Not like that." It surprised me a little that he understood that the ribbons meant research, but I was getting used to him coming out with the unexpected. "That's for a type of cancer than almost a hundred and fifty thousand women get every year. Only a handful of people will be diagnosed with the same disease as Christian this year."

"That's good, though, right?" He looked puzzled.

"It's good that more people aren't getting sick, but they put money and time into the diseases that affect a lot of people."

"Oh." He looked up at me and smiled. "You'll figure it out, though."

From your lips to God's ears, I said internally. "I pray that I will every night."

"You know what?" He slid off the bench. "I can pray that too. And I bet Will is gonna wanna pray it too. God will have to listen then."

For one horrified second I thought that I was going to cry. It had been so long since I'd felt such a powerful faith in anything that it was almost painful to be in its presence. I pulled myself together well enough to mumble something in reply, and left trying not to look back at Christian's room.


Mulder-Scully Home
Carter, West Virginia
mid-January 2008

The quiet in the house startled me a little when I got home the day I had an unwanted visitor at work, but when I glanced at the clock I realized that William and Joey were still at school. I'd made good time on my drive home. Listening harder, I made out the faint murmur of the radio coming from the study. Mulder must have been taking advantage of his one free afternoon while we were all gone.

When I opened the door he looked up at me with a smile. "What's up, doc?"

"You've become awfully trusting Mulder, for a man who may still be wanted by the FBI." I teased and he broke into a smile. The clippings pinned to the wall and the one still in his hand made me wonder if he was finally getting around to starting the book he's been talking about on and off for the past three years.

"Eyes in the back of my head, Scully. 'Auf einer Wellenlänge' as the Germans say. It's a precognitive state often confused with simple human intuition, in which the brain perceives the deep logic underlying transitory human existence, unaided by the conscious mind, materializing much as you did just now. Though if you'd actually materialized, you'd be rapidly de-materializing. But who believes that crap anymore?"

When he stood to give me a hug, I let my fingers brush his beard without smiling. I had never told him that I preferred him clean-shaven, but I was sort of hoped that it would be a hint to that effect. "Well, they do at the FBI apparently. I had a visitor today, Mulder. The FBI wants your help finding a missing agent."

"Well, I hope you told them go screw themselves."

"They say all is forgiven. That they'll drop all charges against you if you come in and help them solve a case."

"The FBI will forgive me." He looked incredulous. "They put me on trial on bogus charges and tried to discredit a decade of my work, they should be asking me for my forgiveness, Scully."

"I think they are. Desperately," I told him. "And I think they believe we owe them for leaving us in peace since your escape."

"In peace." Mulder snorted. "Several years of looking over our shoulders hasn't exactly been in peace. How can I possibly help these people, anyway?"

"Someone's come forward with some promising evidence. A psychic, he claims."

"It's a trick, Scully. They're hoping to tempt me out into the open. Then they'll swoop in and..." He made a throat cutting gesture.

"You don't think they could have found us before now, if they really wanted to?" I asked, knowing that he was being theatrical rather than displaying warranted paranoia.

"People with access to black helicopters could probably have nuked us from orbit if they'd had a mind to," he said darkly.

Well, he wasn't wrong. "The only reason I'm bringing there request up is that a young agent's life is at stake. Mulder, I know I don't have to say this, but it could have been you once, or me." Or Monica, or John, I thought, wondering why the FBI hadn't asked them for their help instead, considering they haven't left the X-Files of their own accords like we had. Wondering if they had in fact asked them.

His only reply was a laugh, but it didn't hold any joy.

"I'll tell them your answer is no," I promised, feeling almost glad that to be done with the matter. I felt bad for the missing agent, of course, but the FBI would have been in a much better position to deal with this if they hadn't made a concentrated effort to discredit John and Monica years ago and drum them out of the basement office. This was just a case of their chickens coming home to roost, I decided as I left the room.

I immediately heard the door open again behind me.

Mulder looked conflicted. "Tell them that I'll go. Under one condition."

I sighed. "What condition is that?"

"You go too," he said, smiling wanly. "Just like the old days."

"Mulder my job-" I started to protest. It was one thing for him to take a few days off from his practice where there were so many able to fill in, but I was putting in extra hours working on Christian's case, hoping that I wasn't going to run out of time before I found a cure.

"-will understand," Mulder finished for me. "How much vacation time do you have banked because you weren't able to tear yourself away from difficult cases that needed your attention?"

Too much, I thought. I felt a twinge of guilt when I thought about Christian, but there was nothing a few days away from him might further damage. He was in a steady decline, but not yet critical. "All right."

"Good." His smile gained strength. "Do you think your mom might be able to have the boys come stay with her while we're gone? They'll be on school vacation all next week."

"I think she might be persuaded," I admitted.


The Next Day

If I thought that asking my mother to watch the kids while we were gone was going to be a simple thing, I was wrong. The look on her face when I suggested it was angry, and I couldn't figure out why she was so upset. At first.

"Dana, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Mulder got up, and I shot him a questioning look. "I told them we could watch Jurassic Park. This is as good a time as any." I'd agreed that they could watch it, but I hadn't expected them to do so while my mother was over.

It was hard not to frown at her, but I was annoyed that she was chasing my husband out of the room with her tone. "What's on your mind?" I asked coolly.

"You don't owe them anything," she said insistently, and it took my mind a moment to catch up. Obviously she meant the FBI.

"I know that, Mom."

"Do you?" she shot back, surprising me. "Think about how much working for the FBI cost you over the years." I winced and waited for her to add herself into the equation of loss and bring up my sister, but she didn't. "If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have had to sent William to your brother for three months, and so many other things. You don't owe them your time now."

"I know," I repeated.

"Then why-"

"Because it could have been me." I looked her in the eyes, and she was the one to flinch this time. "When I went missing on the job, it could have been me that no one was out looking for all those months. But it wasn't. I had Mulder searching heaven and hell to bring me home. Who does this young agent have? No one that I've heard."

My mother looked past me, and stared into the living room. Mulder was sitting in the middle of the couch, William on one side of him, and Joey on the other. All three were completely absorbed by the action on the screen, and when the worker got pulled into crate with the dinosaur, my sons gasped with excitement.

"It's nice to see that, isn't it?"

My brow furrowed with puzzlement. "Someone being eaten by a dinosaur?"

"Of course not," she said before pointing at the couch. "I meant them."

"Oh, sure."

"I used to love catching your father and brothers doing things like that," she confided. "People are never more themselves than they are when they don't know anyone is watching."

"Uh huh." I sort of understood what she was getting at.

"I think I understand," she said, turning back towards the kitchen table.

"What do you mean?"

"Why you're loyal to the FBI in spite of everything."

"I wouldn't exactly say I'm loyal to the FBI-" I protested, but she shook her head.

"You gave up a lot for that job, but you got him. And now them. You wouldn't have if you'd been a doctor like your father wanted."

I stared at her. How different would my life have been if I'd never been assigned to work with a man who accused me of being a spy during our first conversation?

"I don't like it, but I accept that you feel it's your duty to help," my mother went on. "I'll watch them for you."

"Thank you, Mom."

"Don't thank me. Just keep yourself safe. Both of you."

"We will."


Several Days Later

When we left the next day, I was still convinced that we'd be able to help the missing agent. It didn't work out that way. Which isn't to say that we didn't do any good at all, just not the way we thought we would.

Mulder and I didn't really talk much about what happened when we helped the FBI until after I performed Christian's operation. I got home so late that night that he'd already put the kids to bed. As soon as he saw me he closed the distance between us, more slowly than usual because he was still sore from his misadventure, and wrapped his arms around me. For a moment or two we just stood there, but then he looked down at me.

"How did it go?" His face was a mask of concern, and I thought he was worried that we'd have to sit Joey down for a serious discussion. I could tell by the tension in his muscles.

"He's holding his own."

"That's good."

I leaned back to look up at him. "It's early yet, but I have this feeling that he's going to be okay."

"A feeling, huh?" The faintest of smiles twitched at the corner of his lips.

"Yup," I said firmly as I wormed out of his arms. "I'll be devastated if I'm wrong, but right now I'm sure like I won't be."

"I have a feeling too, but not about this."

"Then what?"

"I have this feeling - no, let's call it a premonition-"

"Oh no, you don't think you're psychic now too, do you? I knew Father Joe was a bad influence," I couldn't help but tease.

Mulder gave me a wry smile. "I have a premonition that you're sorry you ever brought up the idea of helping the FBI, and you'll never ever do it again."

"Never is a pretty strong word, Mulder. But you're right, I'm not eager to go running back to the FBI again, even now that we know Skinner's still on our side." I sat and pulled off my shoes before looking to see what he thought of that. "What do you think about what we just did?"

"I never understood when people would say that you can't go home again. But now I do. Things moved on without us. We don't belong there any more."

"So I can stop worrying that you'll want us to quit our jobs and run back to the FBI?" I asked, and I wasn't entirely joking.

"No worries. I don't think we're cut out for it any more."

"Me neither."

I wasn't entirely sure where I saw us going from there, but back to the FBI wasn't a possibility I had any interest in exploring and I was glad that seemed to be mutual.

The End




Epilogue:
A Well Deserved Summer Vacation

Mulder had joked once about us, a vacation and a rowboat, but the boat we took had an engine.

"Oh, look!" I heard William cry. When I turned my head to look, I saw the boys crowded so closely together that the sides of their blue and purple lifejackets touched. They were staring intently into the water.

"What do you see?" I called to them.

Joey pointed excitedly. "It's a fish!"

I could see Mulder smirking, and I wasn't surprised when he said, "It's the ocean, of course there are fish. Where do you think those fish sticks you won't eat come from?"

William was the one to glower at their father. "We know that, Dad. We just didn't know they'd be so close to the top."

"Oh, sorry."

"He keeps opening his mouth like Mr. Pike. Do you think he wants us to feed him?" William's eyes cut to the cooler.

"Don't even think about it. He's not a goldfish, he's not going to want your sandwich," Mulder grumbled.

I found myself wondering if Mr. Pike had ever been feed a sandwich. If he had been, it had been on Mulder's watch, not mine. I did not, however, wonder why the boys had named him Mr. Pike when we set up an aquarium two months ago. They told us then that we wouldn't understand why they named him after another sort of fish, and so far they were right.

"Are we almost there?" Joey asked, looking ahead. "Almost. Maybe fifteen more minutes."

"Cool."

We could have taken a ferry to the island, but Mulder told me that he wanted to redeem himself as a boat captain. I told him as long as we didn't end up on the rocks this time, it was okay, and the kids seemed thrilled by the ride.

Joey tore his eyes away from the fish and turned to look at me. "Will Christian be able to swim, too?"

"I don't know. I guess we'll have to ask him."

"Oh, okay. I'm glad you made him all better."

"Me too."

We were taking this trip because of Christian. His family insisted that we come with them when they planned a tropical vacation to celebrate the fact that Christian was well again. At first I refused, telling them that we couldn't accept a gift like that, but they insisted, saying that if it wasn't for me, they would have lost their son. I liked to think that God played his part in Christian's recovery, but I didn't need to bring it up because the boy's family shared my faith.

The hospital wasn't thrilled when I requested the time off, but things had gotten edgy before Christian's surgery and the situation hadn't improved any. It was getting so uncomfortable there that I was thinking more and more of leaving someday soon. I still have my faith, but I also believed that God would want doctors to use the abilities he gave us to cure people, and not just leave it to him. Trying to convince others of this, however, was like banging my head against a brick wall.

Both boys cried out in excitement when the island finally came into view. I almost did myself. It looked nothing like the place we'd left behind, and I found myself subtly adjusting my mental picture of what heaven must look like. I think it must have showed on my face, because I noticed Mulder looking at me with the hint of a smile tugging at his lips.

I refused to apologize. "What? It's beautiful."

"I know. Maybe we should move here."

"That'd be lovely, but I don't think we could afford to."

He nodded slowly. "Maybe we can find a more affordable paradise," he suggested.

"Mulder, that would be nice."

I don't know what he intended to say, but he didn't say anything at all because we could see Christian's family waiting for us on the dock Mulder was aiming at. Christian was standing without any support at all, and he and my sons waved at each other enthusiastically. Even if the rest of the vacation turned out to be a disaster, I knew right then that the sight of that healthy little boy would make this the best vacation ever.


Author's end note: I'm toying with continuing this story universe by moving the family to a sleepy little New England town. What do you think?

Set between this story and the move to New England is this new fic, Christmas in (Haven) Maine

  Keywords   Related Challenges
Twins, Triplets+
William as a Kid
Non-Canon Kids
William's Twin
Merry Multiples Challenge

Neoxphile's Series fics Neoxphile's Works-In-Progress Neoxphile's Stand Alone fics