Chapter 18: Lullaby
March 13, 1998
6:00 a.m. Hartford, Connecticut
Spender paid cash for the two airline tickets, and they walked quickly through security to the gate. They arrived before boarding started, and Teena twisted her hands together in her lap, perched on the edge of the vinyl-and-chrome waiting room chairs. Spender reached over and awkwardly patted her hands. “It’s okay. She wants to see you.”
She bit her lip and looked up at him. “I hope so. I haven’t been this nervous in a couple of decades.”
Spender gave a half-hearted smile. “She sounded eager, if that helps.”
They boarded the plane together. For the most part, they were quiet, but every once in a while, Teena would say, “Tell me about...” and Spender would try for a few minutes to give her back a tiny shred of what she’d lost.
7:00 a.m. La Jolla, the Condo.
Scully opened her eyes, and realized that for the first time in almost two weeks of mornings, she couldn’t already feel Mulder against some part of her body. She raised her head and looked around. He was halfway across the bed, curled up on his side, still asleep. She smiled, and slid across the bed to spoon up against his back.
He stretched a little, and she ran her hands down his sides. He turned, lifted his arm, and she snuggled up against his chest. He blinked down at her, sleepily, then smiled and closed his eyes again. She traced her fingers along his abdomen, and he finally said, “I could really get used to this.”
He felt her chuckle, and then sighed as she slid her leg across his groin. “And definitely that.”
He stretched a little, then rolled toward her, grinning as she raised her eyebrow and smiled.
She rolled onto her back as he started to sit up. He reached down to her ankles and ran his fingers up the inside of her leg, not fast, just steady, light touch until he reached the top of her leg, where, in one little motion he slid a finger inside, chuckling at the slight gasp and sudden moisture. Fingers, thumb, just enough to feel her pulse against his fingers. He pulled his hand away, sat up, and looked at her with a funny grin on his face.
She looked at him, smiled, and said, “What?”
She laughed. “Well, let me know when you decide.”
He waggled his eyebrows, and said with his best Groucho voice, “Oh, I think you’ll know, baby.”
She stretched a little, and he knelt, watching her watch him as he lowered himself, propped himself on one arm over her, stopped a moment, and then slid himself in. She didn’t take her eyes off him, but he felt her shift, tighten, her feet coming up to wrap around his ass, and he started to move.
It was when she said, “Harder,” in just that tone of voice that he had to close his eyes, his entire awareness dropping to that point of contact. When she slid her hands under his, until he most of his weight was on her, pressing her wrists into the bed, he felt her clench, arch, and cry out. He found himself too fascinated by her response to follow her. He was about to push himself back up, when she reached her arms around him and held him there, heavy on her, still thrusting, plateaued but enjoying the feeling of her aftershocks. He propped himself again after a minute, then whispered, “Turn over.”
He leaned up, withdrew, and she rolled on her stomach, looking at him back over her shoulder, then said, “More please.”
He laughed, wondered idly what their sex talk would be like if they could call each other by name. As he slid back into her, bringing his hand under her to find her clit, he imagined her crying out, “Mulder”, and the thought was enough to push him over the edge soon after.
In the sleepy afterglow, before he dragged himself out of bed to get ready for the day, the thought floated through his head, *Sometimes she likes not being in control.*
8:00 am, Washington DC
Skinner found himself reaching into his pants pocket to run a thumb along the metal rim of the vial in his pocket. *This is what can save me from the unimaginable.*
He’d actually slept the night before, after dropping off all but two of the vials with Frohike’s Swift. He hoped that the mild looking mousy grandmother lived up to her name. The chemical analysis that had been stapled to the note in the box had indicated the fluid to be a combination of a synthetic glycoprotein, cyanocobolamine, an enzyme similar but not identical to fumarate reductase, specific mechanism unknown, a substance suspected to be a cofactor for an enzyme found naturally in the body, lipoic acid (R isomer), neoisomenthol, and the largest portion, polyetheleneglycol dilaurate. The note indicated that testing showed that large scale infection could be cured over a period of days, but that intramuscular injection seemed paradoxically faster than intravenous application in its effects, with less damage to the subject. Suspected action similar to immunoglobin, no long term immunity. Repeat doses result in building toxicity, the paradox of too many antioxidants, not enough free radicals, turning the good guys into bad.
One cure, full of minty goodness.
He’d divided the vials into packages of two. Two for Gwynne, in one small, padded box. In a larger box, a series of small packages. Two for each of the boys, including Krycek. Two each for Mulder and Scully. He copied the chemical analysis and tucked one in for Gwynne and one in for Scully. Swift, who never gave her real name, but made him tea, promised to overnight the packages to someone who would get them where they needed to go. She’d actually sent him on his way with a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which sat now on his desk, on a plate, reminding him that there was still good in the world. He didn’t eat them.
Pocket. Cell phone. Vial. Worry stones, really. He ran his finger over the buttons of the pay-as-you-go that Frohike had tossed at him, and prayed that it would ring. Then he prayed that it wouldn’t. Eventually he just put his head down on his desk, and waited for someone to tell him what came next.
9:00 a.m. Thornton University Hospital, Human Resources
Byers presented a resume giving a phone numbers which would reach Frohike, Gwynne and Jessica Eglantine as references, with a work history that include lab tech work (technically true), custom computer assembly and tech support (very true) and programming (also true). His short-sleeved button-down shirt, tie and slacks were comfortable. Familiar. His razor burn was not.
Frohike’s comment, as he left that morning, had been, “You look like Dilbert.”
The network went down right five minutes after he showed up. He had a job as network tech an hour later. He only felt a little bit guilty... clearly they needed better network security. When he called back to the office to let the boys know, Langly congratulated him before he could get the words out.
He didn’t bother asking how Langly had known.
9:00 a.m. National City
Mulder arrived at the SDCSS office, presented his ID to the clerk, and was buzzed back. Flo met him and took him back to the conference room, where she handed him a stack including a map of the greater San Diego area, three case files, and a list of appointment times.
She smiled. “These were all happy to have you drop in. I saved Tifiny for last.”
He took the files, and said, “Oh, I talked to my wife. She asked when we could start.”
Florence smiled. “Tomorrow, we have an intensive from 8 am to 6 pm. It takes care of 10 of the 27 hours required. Our next session after that doesn’t start until May, and that one is every weekday night for two and a half weeks. Are you available Sundays?”
He shook his head. “I think we’ll be going to church.”
She looked slightly surprised. “Oh? Which one?”
He smiled dryly. “My wife is Catholic. I go for moral support.”
She laughed. “Well, that means that you’ll need to take CPR classes over the course of a couple weekday nights. Anyway, if you come this Saturday, and next, there will be two Wednesday sessions as well. We’re just starting a new session tomorrow, so your timing is excellent.”
He frowned. “Sally’s a doctor, and we both keep our CPR certification current. Will that be sufficient?”
She shook her head. “That will get you out of all but two hours, but you need to take the infant version of CPR as well as the standard CPR/first aid combo. Bring your cards to the infant CPR class.”
He nodded. “When would we do just those sessions?”
She looked. “Through us? You’d have to wait to the next Saturday after your last class. We do have an afternoon program on the 19th, for staff, but I think I can work you in.”
He smiled. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”
She cocked her head. “How long are you staying in the U.S.?”
He shrugged. “We’ve got visas for the next six months, but if we need to stay longer, I’m sure something can be arranged. We’re flexible right now. Let me call her and make sure she can make the class this weekend, but pencil us in. Is it here?”
She nodded. “We’ll have someone by the front door, to let people in, until 8:15.”
He looked down at the stack. “Thanks for the leads. I’ll get right them. First appointment at 10?”
“Yep. Second at 11:30. Thought you might want more time at Tifiny’s, so that’s at 1:30, and you can stay until she kicks you out.”
“Perfect.” He smiled at her sweetly. “You’ve been very helpful.”
9:00 a.m. UCSD
Joe was there at the lab, waiting for Scully. She cocked her head at him and said, “Don’t you have class?”
He leaned back against a lab table, hands holding the edge.. “Told you. I’m a screwoff. And, not until 11. Besides, I worked up a computer model. And I think I know what that protein does.”
“Oh really? Care to share?”
“Come on over to the computer.”
She followed him across the room to a large cathode ray monitor, where a roughly 3d ball and cylinder sketch of the molecule was displayed. “It looks like tinker toys.”
He pointed at the dense center section. “Not there. I had to simplify it, the processor was balking. But for the outer part, it really works nicely. See? You can see just where the bonds are, which are weak, which are strong, where you’ve got reactive bits.”
She looked. “Okay, so there’s your hydrogen, and the carbon... okay, I see it. So what do you think it does?”
He zoomed out, and dragged a copy, then shifted it until it snapped, stacked on the other molecule. She took the mouse, and started moving things around.
“You’re saying that this is a protein equivalent of a Lego?” She studied, then rearranged again.
“More like a bristle block. But yeah, it looks structural to me. It's not just a protein either. And I think that something’s missing. How sick are your people?”
She hesitated. “It’s complicated.”
He nodded. “It would be. What if we had something like this?” He took the mouse, opened a file, and a much smaller molecular model appeared. He dragged a few copies, then started sticking them to the large molecule. He clicked and dragged and typed something, and then clicked again, and the whole block was now covered with little molecules.
She stared. “How did you know that?”
“The model says. And if this thing really is in people, then the only way it’s not killing them outright is if it has some kind of buffer wherever the substance terminates. Call it a waxy coating. I mean, this is a methane molecule, which would be unlikely, but there are a lot of paraffins that would work. Petroleum derivatives would almost have to be the originating source of the protein, given the component molecules, but the structure is crazy, organized, like a virus on steroids. What the hell is this crap?”
She sat leaned against a lab stool. “They’re connected. They have to be.”
He looked every bit as confused as she hoped he would be. “I know this is all hush hush, but I’m actually going to fall over dead with curiosity if you don’t tell me SOMETHING.”
She stared at the molecule a long time. “Did you figure out something that would help us tag the protein?”
He nodded. “It’s the coating, see? Most of the things that form that coating would not be found in the human body. But it’s tricky, because you need something to get through the paraffin, then at the protein below. And most solvents are pretty toxic. I mean, you could use ethanol, but even there, dose is an issue.”
“This would almost have to create larger structures, wouldn’t it?” She frowned, then sat down, still staring at the molecular model.
“No point in just having one, unless you’re trying to poison someone, and this stuff... it has a lot of things like other molecules I know, but... it looks like it was designed to find as many things as possible and latch onto them, and in a human body.... I mean, this thing here, that is so simple? Look at it over on this computer, just that molecule. It would be like DNA if the base pairs weren’t, you know, not base pairs. And if the scan we did in the ‘scope is right, this thing is highly structured, only it’s not a cell. These two chains down the side here? With the unattached termini? They make this thing act almost like soap, ionic termini and the hydrocarbon shell... It can probably penetrate, at least partially a lot of things most molecules couldn’t. And it’s part of why this thing stacks so well. I mean, you were talking about a search and destroy machine. This is like a destroy machine, move in, take over, build something new. I mean...”
He frowned, then went back to the first computer, eliminated all the molecules on the screen and brought the original molecule back up. He switched tools and started cutting bonds, pulling sections of the molecule apart. “Look at this. It’s almost like... If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the chain in the middle... I’m not sure it has to be the same, or even the size we saw. It’s only attached in two places, and those not-base-pairs could hook into the connections without too much trouble. And it’s certainly not important to the things on the outside... It’s like a string of viral code. If you had a lot of this stuff, and the pieces had any method of communication with each other at all... you’d have a hell of a parallel processor.”
“You mean it could think,” she said, before she could stop herself.
He raised an eyebrow. “Well, I suppose if you had enough of them. And it’s a lot of ifs. And impossible, too. Did I mention the impossible bit?” He turned the pieces he’d taken apart over. Then put two of them back together.
She looked. “If you put that in a solution containing, oh, I don’t know, a lot of trace minerals, water, sodium... What do you think it would do?”
He shrugged. “Depends on what’s inside. I mean, theoretically the stuff in blood and cells is a pretty good conductor. And the bloodstream moving all the time means hormones get pretty well dispersed through the body, rapidly. So it theoretically could have communication, unit to unit, chemically or electrically, but that could really screw with the body chemistry.”
Her cell phone rang. She answered, and said, “Chemistry lab, room...”
Joe held up his fingers. She repeated the number, hung up, and then she smiled. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to need a little bit of time. When are you free again?”
He grinned. “You like me! Um, I can get away about one.”
She rolled her eyes. “Still happily married. But yes, you’ve been extremely helpful.”
He was about to close the program, when she said, “Would you leave that up please?”
He nodded. “Sure thing, Mrs. H.”
She shook her head. “Dr.” *Were the boys that annoying when I was in college? Oh. Yeah.”
He left, and she sat staring at the molecular model until an undergrad came up, open FedEx box in hand.
“Professor Howard said you’d want this right away, Dr. Harrod.” The girl was tall, and astonishingly thin, with a shaved head and a ring through her eyebrow.
Scully smiled. “Thank you very much.”
She waited until the girl was gone to peek inside the package. She pulled out the note first, then a small cardboard box and a manila envelope. She opened the note, three pages, stapled, read the first paragraph, opened the box with shaking hands, shut it again quickly, and continued to read.
When she was done, she opened the envelope, and slid out a number of sheets of film. The first one, Mulder. The second had a post it note on top, -CSM?-. She held them up to the light, then shook her head. The third, her own. *Good Skinner.* A fourth one... Samantha Mulder? She looked at the date. *The Roche case, from the old evidence file, just in case... *
She held up Mulder’s and the Cancer Man’s. Superficially, a lot of matches.
Mulder and Samantha. Also a lot of matches.
Her own. Not enough similarity to raise an eyebrow at, with any of them.
Cancer Man and Samantha. Yes.
She pursed her lips, sighed, heavily. *He’s going to just love that.*
She tucked everything back into the envelope, scribbled a note and left it on the keyboard, and walked back over to the medical center to finish her PCR.
2:15 p.m., Genetics Laboratory, UCSD
It wasn’t a particularly interesting process, not once you’d done it enough times to amplify the desired protein chains. It was amazing if you thought about it, but not sitting there watching the strands denature, anneal, lather, rinse. But it did the trick. She laid her film over the Samantha Mulder film.
Exact. She’d not run quite as many cycles as she might normally, so the lines were not as large on hers... but every one matched one below it. She reversed the films. Separated them, put them back together. Four or five times.
She blinked. Closed her eyes. Looked again. *She’s alive. And she’s near. And we can’t risk it at the moment.*
She thought about Mulder, looked at her watch, wondered if he’d seen their son yet. She didn’t remember until much later that she’d not kept the appointment with Joe at all, even though her note had just said that she would be delayed.
1:30 p.m. Chula Vista
It wasn’t a bad house. A bland ranch house among other bland ranch houses, it had a greenish front yard, a squat palm tree next to the front door, a fenced front yard with an amazing variety of cheap plastic toys. He flipped up the latch to the gate, walked through, latched it behind himself.
The morning visits had been reasonably smooth. He’d worked out a survey script, gone through the questions, smiled at the children. One, a baby, a few months old, slept through the entire visit, wired to a machine that the foster mother glanced at every 10 minutes or so. Another, 15 months old, not walking, not exactly crawling, just sort of oozing around the floor on her belly, not really noticing him at all. He’d had momentary panics... *What if my son is one of these silent children...* And then he reminded himself of Flo’s words. *Except that he’s not sick.*
He rang the bell. A large woman, mousy hair cut short, opened the door. She seemed to have an oddly protruding stomach, when he realized that a baby was inside the long swath of bright purple fabric wrapped around her middle, tiny feet sticking out the bottom, baby hair sticking out the top. She had one hand on the round ball of hair at the top, and smiled when she saw him. “Flo said you were goin’ to come meet the boys, help me out a bit. Come on in!”
Her voice was alto and a little brassy, a tiny bit of vague drawl colored it, but he couldn’t place it, and he usually could tell. Under the swath of purple, she appeared to be wearing something with flowers on it, and some blue stretch pants. She led him down a hallway, and pointed at the living room. “Trent and Jacob are in there. Trent’s kinda crazy, don’t let him bite you. Jacob... he’s a love, but he climbs everything, including Trent. You’ll notice that room is stripped down to the bones, lest they kill themselves on a bookshelf.”
He peeked in, dutifully, then asked, “What about Tyler?”
She smiled. “He’s asleep. Want to see?”
*Yes, now, please.* “Sure. How long does he normally nap?”
She laughed. “Oh, about an hour, but he went down at 12:30, so he might just be awake by the time we get back there.”
He followed her through the narrow hall, and into a little bedroom with two cribs in it, side by side.
He looked in, and saw mostly blankets, then he found a head up against the corner of the crib, a little body...
Sandy hair, curling in loops, a little sweaty, long enough to stand out from his head. Funny position, diapered butt sticking up in the air, knees tucked under, head turned away. Small feet, a hair caught in the toes, impossible toes. He walked over to the crib, peeked around.
It took every ounce of willpower he had to keep his composure. Curve of cheek, brush of lashes, slightly knit eyebrow... the babyness of the boy’s face made it hard to see, but there was a curve to the tiny nose, a stubbornness to the tiny chin... He looked up at Tifiny, and said, “He’s beautiful.”
She laughed. “They all are, when they’re asleep.”
Tyler turned his head when they spoke, arched his back, stretched, stuck his legs straight out in the bed, scrunched up again, and then pushed himself up to a sitting position with a little thump, blinking sleepily.
Mulder said, “Hey there.”
The boy looked up at him, cocked his head, and reached his arms up. Mulder blinked, and looked up at Tifiny, who shrugged. “He doesn’t usually like going to strangers, but hey, go for it.”
The boy had already grabbed the bars of the crib and started to pull to a stand. Mulder reached in, put one hand around the boy’s thighs, one hand under his arm, and picked Tyler up.
Mulder gave an uncertain laugh, as Tyler immediately grabbed the glasses off his face and started mouthing the temple bow. Tifiny chuckled. “You any good with diapers?”
He blinked. “I never tried.”
She pointed at a dresser near the closet. “If you’re game, put him on that pad, on his back.”
Mulder sat the boy down on the dresser, then awkwardly helped the boy lie down. He was just starting to feel like he’d figured something out, when Tyler flipped over. He looked over at Tifiny, who laughed, and came over. “He’s fast,” she said. “Watch.”
She got out a papery diaper, and a box labeled “Friendly Fanny Baby Wipes”, and only then did she flip the little boy over, putting one arm across his upper half while she unsnapped the crotch of his shirt. Mulder stood next to the dresser, bemused, watching Tyler grab the toes of the infant strapped to Tifiny’s chest.
“Is it okay if he grabs the baby’s toes?” Mulder asked.
Tifiny laughed. “Can’t stop them from doing that, and as long as he’s not biting or scratching, it’s no big deal. Little Oscar here doesn’t really care what happens as long as it doesn’t hurt and he gets fed on time.” While she talked, she dropped the clean diaper over the wet one, flicked the tapes open, and tossed the wet one into a little trash can full of white lumps next to the table. A quick wipe, then she tucked the rest of the diaper under Tyler’s bum, and worked the arm on his chest around to tape the sides, then in one movement, released him and taped the other sides. “Easy peasy. It’s important with boys to put that one on top. Where grownups have the gallant response, most little boys like to pee the minute the air touches their balls. And in this position, it’s aimed right at your head.”
Tyler had already climbed to a stand, one chubby hand on the wall, the other still clutching Mulder’s glasses. She reached between his legs and snapped his shirt back together at the crotch. “You want to take him now? He seems to like you.”
Indeed, the little boy had noticed Mulder standing close, and changed his support from the wall to Mulder’s shoulders. As soon as Mulder picked the boy up, Tifiny said, “If you don’t mind, I need to take this out, and those boys are being calm out there, so if you have him for a minute, it would make it easy...” She’d picked up the garbage can.
He looked down at the boy, who was still holding his glasses. The child looked at him, and held the glasses up, nearly poking him in the eye. He took them, and folded them, and stuck them in his pocket. Tyler smiled at him, then put his head down on Mulder’s left shoulder, and Mulder swallowed hard. *Sorry, Scully. My heart was just stolen by a tiny little boy.*
He closed his eyes, and put his right hand up to touch the boy’s hair. When Tifiny came back in, she stopped in the doorway of the little nursery, and said, “He’s sure fond of you in a hurry. You look a bit smitten yourself. You ever been a daddy?”
*28 times, but never knew it.* As the thought hit him, he looked down at the little body resting against his. *And up to this moment, I had no idea what I lost.* “No,” he answered. “My wife lost a baby not too long ago.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Well, why don’t you bring him into the den, we’ll sit and talk, and I can keep an eye on those heathens through the door.” She beckoned.
He followed her, grateful for the moment when she wasn’t looking at him, to blink back the emotion that was threatening to drown him.
When he sat down, Tyler sat up, and wiggled down to the floor. Tifiny walked over to the arch and clipped a gate shut. The little boy pulled to a stand on the coffee table, and proceeded to cruise around the table to a little corner filled with baby toys.
Mulder asked, “So I understand he’s considered medically needy?”
She snorted. “Yeah. My left foot is more medically needy than he is. But they tell me to take him to the doctor, and they take him back and then bring him back to me, and he doesn’t seem any different before or after, so as long as I don’t have to pay for the crazy visit, it’s no big.”
He wrote on his clipboard. Glanced back over at Tyler again. Then pulled a small digital camera out of his pocket. “Mind if I take a picture or two for his file?”
Tifiny smiled. “You go ahead and do that. When people adopt, they love having baby pictures. I try to get a few, but film is expensive.”
He put his clipboard down, and walked over to the toy corner, where he knelt down and took a picture. He kept snapping as soon as the shutter would click again, and stopped when a little hand started pulling on the camera strap. He flipped the cover back across the lens, and put the camera behind him on the coffee table. By the time he looked back, Tyler was pulling to a stand on his right arm, and climbing into his lap.
Tifiny looked at him, and said, “You know, how about I fill out your questions on the clipboard, and you play with that boy. He’s been awfully subdued since I got him, and that’s the most I’ve seen him go to anyone, including me.”
He nodded, and a little hand came up to his chin and pushed up. He nodded again, and Tyler giggled. *Mulder, you are so dead. Slain completely by a toddler.*
He bobbed his head again, just to make the boy laugh.
Tifiny wrote for a while on the clipboard, and then left the room to pull Trent off of Jacob.
At some point, the baby on Tifiny’s chest started wiggling, and she set him down in the den on his tummy on a blanket. “All you have to do is keep half an eye to make sure he doesn’t roll off the blanket, and keep little Tyler there from poking the baby’s eyes out. That alright? Because if you don’t mind, I’d like to go get a snack for the hooligans. Mulder nodded, lying on his back with Tyler’s feet in his face.
After a while, Oscar fussed, and Mulder set Tyler down to go pick the infant up. It was an entirely different experience. The child’s head flopped forward, and Mulder gulped. Tifiny came back into the room right then, and said, “Oh, you should support the head.” She helped guide his hands into a better position, and he looked at the squinchy little face.
“What’s his story?” he asked.
She said, “Oh, he’s fast track. He’s about 4 weeks old, and he’ll go to an adoptive family by 6 weeks. He’s not medically needy, it’s just that newborns are pretty easy. I just strap ‘em on and go about my day. Couple of the caseworkers tend to push the newborns my way when they’re fast track, because the way I do it, when they go to their final home, they get along better. Less fussy. By the way, both those little ones need a bottle right now. You want to feed one of them?
He nodded, then said, “You better get Oscar, I’m afraid I’ll drop him if I try to hold a bottle too.”
She pulled some of the purple fabric aside, flopped the baby up onto her shoulder, then slid him down into the folds of cloth. She said, “Follow me, bottle’s in the kitchen, and the boys are already at the table.”
He stood up, picked Tyler up, and followed her into the kitchen.
2:15 p.m. Downtown San Diego
Krycek didn’t rent a car this time. He and Langly took a bus downtown to a café, then he used his primary cell to call the old man. A few minutes later, two black sedans with government plates pulled up, the driver of the front one got out, tossed Krycek the keys, walked back to the second car, stepped down into the passenger seat, and the car drove off without a word.
Langly watched them go, then said, “Do people usually just drive by and give you cars?”
Krycek gave a dry smile. “Only when I tell them to.”
They drove to Calderon’s office. The guard waved them in, and they walked back to the lab unaccompanied. Calderon was manipulating a waldo with one hand, and a keyboard with the other. Without moving, he said, as the door opened, “You must wait a minute. I’m doing something delicate.”
They pulled up stools, and sat, watching the doctor not move.
Ten minutes later, he pulled his hand out, sat up, and said, “May I help you, Mr. Krycek?”
Krycek nodded. “I need to know how you monitor the subjects after you release them to SDCSS.”
The doctor shook his head. “Not my department. You’ll have to ask Calderon 6.”
“Six?” Krycek asked.
“Oh, I think he’s going by some human nickname. Ernie. Talk to Ernie.” The doctor started to turn back to his work.
Krycek put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. “First, I need you to give me a progress report.”
The doctor sighed. “I have made progress on designing a linking molecule. But it’s slow going, particularly with interruptions.”
Krycek gave the clone an intense glare. “And do you have notes about this progress?”
Calderon stood up, walked over to a computer, brought up a file, and said, “Let your man copy that. And then, if you don’t mind, get out of my lab so I can get started on destroying the work I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.”
3:00 p.m. Thornton
Scully changed into scrubs for her shift, put her clothes in a locker, clipped her name badge to the scrubs, took a deep breath, and walked out to her first shift.
Meg smiled at her. “How are you doing today, Sally?”
Scully gave a halfhearted smile. “A little daunted. What have we got?”
“Here, chart. Simple laceration in 4, I thought you’d want to start with the familiar.”
She took the chart, looked, and then pulled back the curtain to area 4, where a college student sat holding gauze on his forehead. She pulled his hand away, then asked, “Frisbee injury?”
He looked at her strangely. “How did you know?”
She smiled. “My brothers both had them, same length, cut on the bottom, bruising for a half inch above, worse in the middle, taped on the top half of the ends.” She peered at the cut. “You get sweaty much?”
He nodded. She checked his eyes, watched them move smoothly together as his gaze tracked the light.
“Okay. I’ll put in a stitch to hold everything in place. Did you feel dizzy afterward?”
He shook his head. “Just stung like a sonofabitch. Oh. Sorry, ma’am.”
*Ma’am. Right.* “It’s all right. I’m going to send the nurse in to put some numbing cream on that.”
While she was waiting for the cream to take effect, she looked in on room 3, where a 20 year old girl was complaining of nausea and fatigue. She sent the girl to give a urine sample, and Meg handed her another chart.
This one, a 40-year-old physics professor, with shoulder pain. A few questions and she’d managed to determine that he’d pulled something, that it was not a heart attack. She had them draw blood to make sure.
Then back to the Frisbee injury, where she put in a running stitch. After she was done, Meg asked why she’d chosen a running stitch rather than individual stitches, and she said, “Well, he’s active, he gets sweaty, and he’s a 19 year old boy, and that doesn’t spell a high level of compliance.”
Meg answered, “It’s a more challenging stitch.”
She laughed. “I learned that one early, my husband is a terrible patient, and he heals better if I don’t leave him much to pick at.”
Scully felt like she’d passed a test when Meg smiled.
Back to the 20 year old girl. Pregnancy test negative, nausea long-standing. Scully frowned, and then looked at the girl’s blood pressure. “Have you been losing weight?”
The girl nodded. “I can’t seem to eat enough, and I’m queasy all the time, so it’s hard to make myself.”
Scully asked the nurse to do a finger stick to test blood glucose, and then went into room 5, where a worried looking mother held a feverish toddler. The little girl was hot and listless. Scully fumbled a little with the otoscope when the little girl wiggled away from it, but once she got the mother to hold the girl’s head, the bright red eardrum made for an easy diagnosis. Scully didn’t realize how tense she was until she felt the overwhelming relief. “Just an ear infection. We’ll give antibiotics, and some drops. Talk to her regular doctor in a couple days if she’s not better.”
Back to room 3. Low blood sugar, but not that low. Scully frowned, then took the girl’s blood pressure herself. 90/55. She had the girl stand up. 80/40, and the girl looked wobbly.
“Have you ever had trouble with your adrenals?” Scully asked.
The girl shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’ve been getting dizzy when I stand up for a couple years, but the queasy has only been around a few months.”
Scully nodded. “I’m going to run a blood panel, but it won’t be ready right away. What I’d really like to do is talk to one of the doctors upstairs, and see what they think. We might need to admit you for testing.”
The girl nodded, and Scully stepped out to order the panel. Meg looked at her curiously when she asked for the lab codes, and said, “Most of our docs would tell her it was something she ate, or give her an antianxiety drug and send her on her way.”
Scully smiled. “Diagnostics are my specialty. I’m just more used to doing it on dead people.”
Meg nodded. “You’re going to do just fine.”
3:30 p.m. Chula Vista
Mulder was surprised at how much more natural it felt at the end of the visit to handle Tyler. When he’d given Tyler his bottle, both he and Tifiny were surprised when the boy crawled into his lap and lay down for his bottle. Tifiny’s response was a surprised, “He never did that with me.”
The boy seemed to have a clear idea of what he wanted. After his bottle, he pulled on Mulder’s shirt until he could twist around to stand on Mulder’s lap, then he flopped dramatically on Mulder’s shoulder.
Bemused, he brought his left arm around,across the boy’s legs, and put his hand on Tyler’s back. Tifiny shooed the older boys back into their play area, and asked, “You ever thought about adopting?”
He smiled. “My wife and I are starting our first class tomorrow.”
She nodded. “You ought to ask about this boy, when your home study is done. Because you’re a natural with him, even if you aren’t with little Oscar.”
“Really? Because I felt like an utter idiot about it.” He looked over, then asked, “Is he asleep?”
She looked. “Yup. Your wife wants a kid too then?”
He nodded. “After she lost the baby, they told us we couldn’t get pregnant again. She was... upset.”
Tifiny sighed. “I couldn’t have any of my own either. But with those monkeys, and lots of yummy little newborn fuzzballs to keep me company, I hardly miss it.”
He asked, “Are you married?”
She shook her head. “Never have been. After what my momma went through with my daddy, it just seemed like way too much trouble. I used to work a factory, and had a work-related health problem. Well, lots of us did. Anyway, there was one of those class-action thingies, and the settlement wasn’t bad. That money pays for the house. When I realized that I wasn’t going back to the thing I knew how to do, I figured I might as well do someone some good. The state gives enough for the munchkins that we all have what we need, and we do alright.”
“Did you ever want to keep one?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I love them to death, but I’m much better as a soft place to land than a place to stay. I’m real good with the little ones, but once they get mouthy, well... I keep some of them for up to a year. I’m thinking about keeping little Jacob... I don’t think he’s ever going to stop being a baby. I’ve had him the longest, nine months now. You know, Mr. Harrod,” she said.
“Martin,” he corrected.
“Martin, you should go into the den and sit in that rocking chair if you’re going to hold him asleep like that.”
He tried to twist his head around to see, and failed. She jerked her head in the direction of the kitchen door. He stood, slowly, and walked carefully to the den.
After he was settled in the rocking chair by the window, Tifiny picked up the little camera, squinted at it, turned it on, and said, “You mind if I take your picture? Your wife will go all mooshy seeing you like that.”
He raised his eyebrow. “Oh?”
She laughed. “Men never get it. Nothing a woman likes better than to see a man being gentle with a child. Makes ‘em hot every time.”
He laughed, and Tyler turned his head, squirmed a little, and then relaxed. “I’ll try to keep that in mind,” he said with a quiet smile. “Go ahead.”
She moved around until she was almost over his shoulder, and he looked up at the camera as she took a shot. She frowned at the camera. “It didn’t flash.”
He looked at the light coming in the window. “It didn’t need to.”
He actually dozed a little. When Tyler started squirming, and sat up to look at him, he smiled. “I’ve got to go, little boy. I’ll see you next week.”
Tifiny asked, “Monday then?”
He nodded. “If you don’t mind.”
She smiled. “Seein’ a smile on that boy’s face is worth it. Besides, it frees me up to take care of my older boys. And this little monkey. I don’t usually take four at once, but once we had Tyler, Oscar wasn’t really any more trouble.”
He nodded. “Research aside, I think it’s good for my soul to get down and just play with someone for a while. You’ve been really helpful, Tifiny.”
She smiled. “We’ll see you Monday then, Martin. Oh, and call me Tif. Momma never did have much sense.”
3:45 p.m. Teen Mothers’ Home.
“You know, I hate this place already,” said Langly, conversationally, as he pulled into the parking lot of the old school.
“Good. Otherwise I’d worry,” Krycek responded.
Langly pulled to a stop, and stared at Krycek. “You really are getting soft, aren’t you?”
They got out, let themselves into the building, and walked down to the office.
Ernie the Clone was forthcoming. Foster parents vetted before placement, thorough surveillance, including cameras, mics. Existing foster parents and adoptive parents were monitored, but not as heavily. The cameras might remain in place, but new people got someone watching at all times. Existing families were watched on one monitor, one person for all of them. GPS tracers on all family vehicles, credit cards monitored, subcutaneous microchips in the subjects, not stabilizers, but more conventional technology. Detectors for the microchip at ‘usual destinations’, the computers would scream if a subject was out of monitoring range for long.
“So are you monitoring any new prospective parents?” Krycek asked.
Ernie shrugged. “That’s the job of the boys with the monitors to say.”
Krycek nodded. “Introduce me.”
The doctor led the two of them down a hallway inside the office, and opened the door to a large blackened room. *The principal’s office?* Langly wondered.
The walls were lined with monitors. Looking, Krycek recognized a third of them as showing interiors of the various rooms, hallways and grounds of the home. Those were all on the narrower far wall of the room. On the wide wall, clusters of monitors, one showing homes, another showing workplaces, one showing satellite imagery. Most of the home and work monitors were flicking at 4 second intervals from room to room. Whenever a child was in frame, the flicking stopped and the focus stayed. The monitor clusters showing satellite information were larger, fewer, multiple tracking points on each. Cars on one. People on another. The third showed the entire continent, flares of brightness in several major cities, one or two pale lights moving fast enough for the motion to be seen. Air travel? San Diego very bright. Four men were in the room, each focused on a wall of monitors. Each man wore headphones, and the noise from computer equipment and ventilation was significant.
Krycek pointed at it. “What’s that one?”
Calderon said, “I think that’s stabilizer chips.”
“Can you identify specific ones?” Langly asked.
The doctor shrugged. “I really don’t know. Ask that one.” He pointed at one of the men watching the screens.
Krycek moved into the room, looked at the dark-haired man sitting in the closest chair, and said, “Oh, hi Jerry.”
Jerry looked up. “How’s it going, Alex?”
Langly suppressed a twitch. *In the belly of the beast.* One thing to know Krycek was in bed with the enemy, another to watch him friendly and chatting, on a first name basis with evil.
“Pretty good. I’ve been told to check out the situation here. Looking at anyone new?”
Jerry tapped a monitor. “See that guy there?”
Krycek looked. *Mulder.*
“He showed up at two other homes this morning. My source down at SDCSS says that he’s working with one Floria Hernandez, some research project out of UCSD. Heard of it?”
Krycek shrugged, and shook his head. “Should I have?”
“Well, if he’s going to be visiting our people, I want to know more about him. You’ve done that gig before, no?”
Krycek nodded. “Morley had me on tagging detail more than once.”
“You got time to check this out for me, or do the boys upstairs have you working too hard?”
Krycek looked at Langly. “How about I put my man here in with you, and I tail your boy for you? We’re in town until this business is wrapped up and tied with a bow, and I suspect it’s going to be a while.”
“What’s your guy’s gig?” Jerry asked.
“He’s a certified die-throwing pointy-eared geek. Computer expert.” Krycek answered.
Jerry looked at Langly. “Alignment?”
Langly thought fast. “Neutral Evil.” *Chaotic good.*
“Yeah, alright. Sit down. You want him to bunk here, Alex?”
Krycek considered it. “Actually, I think he and I will alternate. Let him stay every other night, I’ll stay the others. My nights here, he can take over the snore shift. That work for you, Ralph?”
Langly blinked, then remembered that Ralph meant him. “Whatever you say, boss.”
Jerry dropped his feet to the floor, and bent over, reaching under the counter his feet had been on. He pulled out a heavy box of electronics, and pushed it toward Krycek. “When you catch up with that guy, wire him up for us, okay?”
Krycek nodded. “I’ll bring Ralph here along with me for now. He’s faster than I am about this shit. You can have him back in time for curfew.”
Jerry nodded. “Fair enough. Not like this place is going anywhere.”
“Hey, Jerry. Those stabilizer chips. You know who’s who from them?”
He shrugged. “We have a general idea of who should be where, but we don’t pay much attention unless the big boys say they want someone. Otherwise we’d be spending all our time worrying about people on vacation and going to the wrong store. It takes a relatively close pass to get a good ID, and that’s a lot of trouble to go through. This just gives us an inkling of how many people we’ve got handy in an area at any given time.”
“Right. You got a phone number, if I need backup?” Krycek asked.
“Sure thing, man. Here.” Jerry pulled a business card out of his pocket, and held it up.
“Thanks. You call me if anything interesting happens.”
4:50 p.m. National City
Mulder had a smile on his face when he stopped back at SDCSS to drop off the case files. Flo looked at him, head cocked. “You look like you had fun today.”
He nodded. “The little baby was kind of scary to handle, but little Tyler... We had a blast.”
She raised an eyebrow. “If you were sighing like that over a girl, I’d say you were in love.”
He shrugged. “He’s a sweet kid. Crawled into my lap and snuggled when it was time for his bottle. Fell asleep on my shoulder.”
She flipped through to Tyler Smith’s file. “That’s interesting, Martin. Because his last foster mother was raising questions about possible attachment issues. She wasn’t sure if he was grieving his first foster mom or not... usually when they’re that young, they don’t notice that kind of change so much.”
*He’s my son, he may have a better memory than you think.*
Mulder said, “He was very affectionate, didn’t have any hesitation at all about coming to me. If you still need a more long-term home for him when we complete our class, I wouldn’t mind introducing my wife to him.”
Flo nodded. “I’ll put a note to keep him status quo for the next month. How’d you get along with Tifiny?”
“Well, she goes by ‘Tif’, apparently, and she was very helpful. She was more than willing for me to come back next week.”
6:00 p.m. La Jolla
The condo was empty when he got home. He thought about it, and then got back in the car to go pick up food. Then he drove over to the hospital.
When he found Urgent Care, he walked up to the receptionist with a bag in his hand, and said, “Delivery for Doctor Harrod.”
She reached out her hand for it, and he pulled the bag back. “I prefer to deliver it in person.”
She frowned. “I’m sorry, the doctor is with a patient. Do you need payment?”
He reached over, and snagged a piece of scratch paper off her desk, and scribbled on it, folded it, wrote “Sally Harrod” on the outside, and handed it to the receptionist. “That’s what she owes. I’m happy to wait.”
The receptionist started to unfold the paper, and he held up a finger and said, “Ah! Let her do that.”
She stood up, looked at him strangely, and talked to someone through an opening in the wall, then handed the slip of paper back.
He waited. A minute later, he saw her peek out, smile, and then disappear.
Five minutes later she came out, and leaned up for a kiss. He planted a relatively chaste kiss on her lips, handed her the bag with the sandwiches, and said, “Do I get a tip?”
She chuckled. “I’d try, but you’re way too tall.”
He grinned, and then swept her into a back bending kiss, which he broke off when they heard applause.
“Dip, Tip, what’s the difference?” He smiled, and then said, “Do you have a few minutes?”
She looked back at the waiting room. Not too full yet. She asked the clerk, “Can I get away with a ten minute lunch?”
The clerk smiled. “You can probably get away with 20. I’ll let Dr. Carson know you’re stepping away for a few.”
They walked out and found a bench out under the palm trees. While she unwrapped her sandwich, he pulled the camera out of his pocket. “Want to see him?”
She looked at the camera. “Where did you get that?”
He smiled. “Picked it up last night on the way home.”
He turned the camera on, and handed it to her. She stopped mid bite, then gulped the bite down and said, “Is that him?” She put the sandwich down on the bench next to her.
He nodded. She advanced to the next picture. “He’s adorable.”
She flipped through slowly. When she got to the last shot--sleeping baby, Mulder looking up at the camera, a glow of light around the two of them--she covered her mouth and blinked hard. “Oh my god. You got to hold him. That’s...”
He looked at the tiny screen. A really good shot. “He knew, Sally. He just knew. The first thing he did when he saw me was reach up to me to be picked up. We played for three hours. Tif thinks that we should adopt him. Flo is making sure no one else does first. And we’re taking our first class tomorrow. We’ll have done everything we need for prereqs within about two weeks. And I get to go back and see him on Monday.”
She leaned into him, closed her eyes.
He said, “Eat your sandwich.”
She nodded. “Walk with me while I do.”
He took the bag, she took the sandwich, and when they were a couple hundred feet from the hospital, she turned, and said, “I have some news too.”
He looked down at her. “Oh? Is it good.”
“So?” he asked.
“We found her. And it’s really her. She’s in the area.” She felt her throat tighten a little.
“Her... who?” He stopped, hand on her elbow.
“Your sister.” She smiled. “We found her. She’s alive. I did the PCR myself.”
6:50 p.m. San Diego International Airport
Jeffrey Spender pulled a suitcase off the baggage carousel, and hitched his carry-on up over his shoulder. “This the right one, Teena?”
Teena Mulder nodded. “Thank you. I can carry it.”
He picked up the bag, gave her a look that said, “Don’t be silly,” and they walked out and over to the rental agencies.
Twenty minutes later they were on the road heading north. It was dark, but Spender knew where he was going.
About ten minutes away from their destination, Rancho Bernardo, he was surprised when she reached over and gripped his arm. “She’s really there?”
He nodded. “Just a few more minutes.”
Off the highway, onto a wide road, then turning into a residential area, they turned several times before pulling up in front of a large ranch-style house. The porch light was on.
Before he turned the car off, she said, “I’m so nervous, I’m shaking.”
He chuckled. “She doesn’t bite.”
7:00 p.m. La Jolla, the Condo
Mulder sat on the couch, staring at the television. It was off, it just seemed like a convenient place to fix his gaze.
When the words had come out of her mouth, he felt something in him go completely quiet. He didn’t say anything at all, and Scully had finally resorted to leading him back to the car and driving him to the condo before she returned to work. She’d asked if he was all right, and he’d just nodded, unable to speak.
His gaze drifted downward, and he cocked his head. A manila envelope lay on the table. Scully had led him in, nudged him toward the couch, and set it down in front of him. And there it sat.
He sighed. Stared at the TV again. Then closed his eyes and ran his palms from his temples to the back of his head. Looked at the envelope again.
After a long time, he picked it up. He didn’t open it. Just stared at it in his hands, like some holy book he’d been handed, too mysterious to open.
Eventually, he looked inside. She’d said, after telling him, that she’d learned more. It hadn’t quite registered. He pulled out the films, a stack. A sheet of white paper behind all of them.
*One of these things is not like another.* He slid Scully’s film back into the envelope.
That left four.
He pulled the top two, slid the white paper behind them. Separated them, put them back together. Samantha.
He looked at the other two. Not identical. Similar. Fucking Darth Vader. “Leia, you’re my sister,” he muttered. *Sister.*
The word hovered for a long time. Then landed on another word.
7:45 p.m. The home of Mandy and Joel Cavendish
Spender rang the bell. Teena stood back, not in the covered entryway, down a step. She watched the door open, watched the woman, so like the one who’d come before, give him a warm smile and a hug. Then he stepped aside, and they stood, looking at each other, not moving, until the distance was too much and Teena Mulder wrapped her arms around her daughter for the first time in almost twenty five years.
After a minute, a man’s voice said, “Mandy, honey? Are you going to introduce me to your mother?”
They broke off, and Teena looked into the house. A man stood there, mid-thirties, short brown hair, tall, long but reasonably attractive face, dark hazel eyes. He extended his hand, and she shook it, as he said, “Joel Cavendish. Mandy said you would be coming.”
She nodded, and followed Mandy into a large living room with a vaulted ceiling.
Teena found her voice. “Jeffrey said you have kids?”
Mandy smiled. “They’re back in the playroom for now. I thought it might be too much at once to have us all descend on you in a bunch.” She and her husband sat down on a sofa.
Teena nodded, and sat in a high, wingback chair. “It’s a shock. After what happened a couple years ago, with that woman... I gave up hope.”
Mandy and Joel looked at each other. “I know she looked like me, but she wasn’t me. I’m so sorry that happened.” Mandy looked at her hands. “My father was responsible for her creation. He has a lot to answer for.”
Teena cocked her head. “How do I know you’re real?”
Mandy frowned. “Didn’t Mr. Skinner run a test?”
Teena looked at Jeffrey, who said to Mandy, “I didn’t know he was running one. I just thought your mom would need to see you.”
Mandy laughed, nervously. “Now you’re going to have me wondering if I’m really me.”
Joel stood up, walked over to the bookshelf, and pulled a small photo album out. He flipped through, and then said, “I think this might help.”
He handed the album, open, to Teena. “If what he tells us is true, the lookalikes can’t do that.”
She looked down. A picture of Mandy, lying on her back, mostly naked, with a gooey newborn baby on her belly. In the background, a nurse, in the foreground, an IV stand.
Teena closed her eyes and bit her lip. “I should have been there for you. How could he keep you from me for so long?”
Mandy gave a bitter laugh. “He says it was necessary.”
“Says. You’ve seen him? He’s alive?” Teena’s voice was quiet, intense, guarded.
They looked at each other again. “He’s here.”
“Here. Here in San Diego? Or ...”
“In the house. He has an in-law suite down the hall,” Joel said.
She started to stand up, but felt Jeffrey’s hand on her shoulder. He looked down, and said, “I could do that thing for you, the dismembering and burning.”
She looked almost tempted, but she looked at Mandy and Joel, and asked, “Why? Why would you give him safe harbor, after all he did to you? To both of you, if I’m right about who you, are, young man.”
Mandy looked down at her hands. “I understand how you feel. But he’s been one of the only people who gave me any sort of sense of history, for twenty five years. And whatever he’s done to us, he’s been good to my children. I couldn’t... he’s sick. And while he’s made some mind-blowingly bad choices in his life, I think at heart he was doing the things he was doing, ultimately, for the right reasons.”
Teena sighed. “Fox really needs to know.”
“If Mr. Skinner is doing what I think he’s doing, Fox will know soon enough.” Mandy answered.
“I haven’t been able to get a hold of him for a week. I tried calling the FBI, and they just said he’d taken personal leave, using his accumulated vacation time.”
Spender coughed a little. “Um, I think maybe the Assistant Director can help us with that. But in the morning. It’s really late there. Mandy, should I assume you’re full for the night?”
His sister smiled. “Actually, no. We’ll put Carl in our room, and Kit can have the bottom bunk in Lisa’s room. As long as you’re okay with staying here...”
Teena sighed. “I’m sorry. If he’s here.. I can’t...”
“Mom, I understand, but you should know that his suite is fairly self sufficient. You don’t have to see him. In fact, he’s agreed to stay out of the rest of the house until I tell him I’m okay with him being with us. You’re not the only one angry at him right now.”
“Angry doesn’t begin to cover it. You don’t know...” She looked down. “Is there a lock on his door?”
Mandy nodded. “The suite used to be a rental, and it has a double locking door. He can leave out the side, but his room has a different keying than the rest of the house. He can lock his door from the inside, and we can lot it from the outside. We don’t usually use that feature, but, um, I was pretty mad Wednesday.”
Joel smiled ruefully. “She broke a plate. And there’s still a grease stain on the wallpaper from where the mayo hit it.”
Teena laughed in spite of herself. “He does have that effect on people. I’m surprised that’s the only one.”
Joel’s expression was unreadable. “Whatever he did to us, before... Since we got married, he’s been supportive. I think he has been trying to atone for a long time.”
“Not long enough. The things he’s done to my son... to his partner...” Teena shook her head. “No one should have to experience that. It’s unforgivable. I’d be surprised if Fox didn’t pull a gun on the man the minute he saw him.”
Mandy frowned. “His partner? What about his wife?”
Teena cocked her head. “Fox isn’t married.”
“But Mr. Skinner said...”
Teena leaned forward. “What, exactly, did he say?”
Mandy turned her hands palm up, “Not a lot, just that he’s married, and that he and his wife lost a baby recently.”
“Agent Scully found out she had a daughter in December. And the little girl died in January, Fox said. But she was three. Not a baby. And the last time I talked to him, he was still very much single.” Teena looked up at Jeffrey. “You don’t think...”
Spender shrugged. “I don’t know either of them very well. I know there have been rumors... but every time I saw them, they were more professional with each other than they were with anyone else at the FBI. But they did both take leave last week. I don’t know why A.D. Skinner would lie, especially to her, about that, but I haven’t talked to him in over 10 days.”
Teena looked like she was about to cry. “I don’t know what to think. If he did get married... Why wouldn’t he tell me?”
Spender said, “I think they may be undercover. I’m not sure. But if he is undercover, and they did for some reason decide to get married. I suspect that you’ll be one of the first to hear about it once they resurface.”
“And I suppose you can’t tell me what he’s doing, or where he is, and now that I don’t have to wonder about my daughter, I have to wonder about my son.”
“Mom...” Mandy started. “I’m sure he’s okay. And that he’ll get in touch with us soon. Will you stay tonight?”
Teena sighed, then nodded. “Will you please show me my grandchildren?”
8:30 p.m. La Jolla, the Condo
Langly pulled the car into the cul de sac, and parked at the end of the street. “You really think this is a good idea?” Langly asked.
“You mean, finding out when they’re getting the hell out of there so we can bug the place? Letting them know they’re not being watched tonight, but that they will be tomorrow? Touching base with them about what they’ve learned and what we’ve learned? Yeah. It may be our last chance for weeks to have a fully unmonitored conversation.” Krycek opened his door.
“I’m just saying, it feels weird to me. And staying there? With them? Not my idea of a fun camping trip.” Langly got out of the car.
Krycek smirked at him over the roof of the car. “What, afraid the boogieman is going to get you?”
Langly smirked back. “Just going to miss your cooking, Tor Glad.”
They walked up to the front door, and knocked. No answer. Krycek looked in the front window, and saw Mulder sitting on the couch. He knocked louder. Langly looked. “He’s just sitting there.”
Inside, Mulder registered the sound, but it took a while for him to respond. Finally, he put the envelope down, and checked the spyhole. *That’s odd.*
He opened the door. Krycek and Langly walked past him, and sat down on the couch. He closed the door, said, “Come on in. Sit down. Nothing strange about you two showing up here, now. Is there?”
Krycek said, “We dropped by to fill you in.”
“Isn’t that a bit odd, with the whole, ‘You’re not supposed to know me’ thing?” Mulder said, sitting down and picking up his envelope.
“Well, not really. See, I’m supposed to be tracking you. Finding out where you live. Bugging your house. Figuring out what you’re up to. Watching you and the missus to make sure you’re who you appear to be.” Krycek looked smug.
Mulder stared at the envelope in his hands. “Right. So you’re sitting on my couch with my friend, what, doing research?”
Krycek rolled his eyes. “Actually, I thought I’d do you a favor, and tell you that you are absolutely NOT under surveillance tonight. Any idea when I can come in and plant cameras?”
Mulder looked bemused. Then he started to laugh. “Right. Tomorrow. We’re going to a foster parent training class. Gone from eight to six. Have fun. By the way, did you know that my sister is alive?”
Langly cocked his head. “Yeah. How do you know?”
Mulder sighed. “Apparently I’m the last one in the loop.” He pulled the films back out, handed the two matching sheets to Langly. “My lovely wife ran that.”
He pulled the other three sheets out, then slid Scully’s back in. “Take a look at this little bombshell, too. Apparently, Krycek, I owe you an apology.”
Langly took the two sheets, held them up to the light. “Right. Guess Mister double--or is it triple now? Quadruple-- agent here is getting some confirmation. Sweet.”
“So, can you guys drop that off with Carol? We don’t dare keep it on hand. But Scully may need it, I’m going to get a swab from Tyler next week. Oh, and tell Skinner. My mother will want to know.”
Langly nodded. “Sure thing, man.”
Krycek said, “We have one more piece of news on our end, but you’re not going to like it. You know that apology you mentioned?”
“Don’t tell me...”
“He’s alive. And if we’re right, he’s in contact with your sister.” Langly said, gently.
Mulder closed his eyes. “This is one of those dreams where any minute now, my third grade teacher is going to show up and start hitting my hand with a ruler while feeding me chocolate ice cream.”
Langly said, “Dude, that’s really strange.”
“Like this Darth Vader crap isn’t?” Mulder responded.
“I saw you with your son on the camera,” Krycek said. “Looks like you two really hit it off.”
Mulder pulled the camera out of his pocket, tossed it to Langly. “Have a look. He just sort of grabbed onto me and didn’t let me go the whole time I was there. Surprised the hell out of his foster mom. You know, he’s not sick. The chart said stage 2, but he’s not sick. Why isn’t he? And what’s stage 2?”
Langly frowned, turned the camera on, and looked at the pictures of Tyler. “Not sure. I can try to find out, if you want. He’s got your chin. Cute kid.”
Krycek said, “Maybe he’s a control.”
Mulder frowned. “Have we seen any other controls? And why would he be at stage 2 if he was a control?”
Langly got up, and went back out to the car. A minute later, he came back with a laptop. He turned it on, waited for it to boot, and said, “Let me see if I have the answer already.”
Krycek picked the camera up off the coffee table, and said, “Did you show these to Scully?”
Langly grinned. “Bet you get laid tonight. Chicks love that stuff.”
“Langly, don’t make me shoot you.” Mulder said, trying not to smile.
“You don’t have your gun.” Langly started typing, then stopped to read.
Mulder looked at Krycek. “Did you get an in on the surveillance operation beyond tracking?”
Krycek nodded. “Ralph here is going to sit with my old friend Jerry at headquarters, and I’m going to be your special friend for the next couple weeks.”
Mulder sighed. “Who’s going to be watching the cameras I assume you’re putting in?”
Krycek raised his hand. “I thought that would give you a little more room. They may want the feed duplicated to their monitors, but I’m going to pretend I don’t know that until they ask for it. I’m thinking we’ll tape a couple nights so that if you need a cover, we can just feed the recording in.”
Mulder sighed. “I don’t suppose there is any way that we’re going to have any real privacy.”
Krycek laughed. “Hey, at least it’s me, and not Jerry.”
Mulder shook his head. “If I want to screw my wife, I’m not sure whether it would be worse having you watch, or them.”
Krycek snorted. “Like I care. Have fun, I’m going to be sleeping anyway. Anyway, I thought you liked video.”
Mulder didn’t answer.
“I think I found something,” Langly said. “Stage two is actually prenatal. It’s the last stage before they do the amnioinfusion. So it looks like they did the tweaks the doctor told Krycek about, and then stopped before they did the nasty stuff that makes most of the kids die.”
Krycek said, “The doctor seemed to think that a kid would be fine after that. I wonder why they didn’t do the rest of the treatment?”
Mulder frowned, thinking. Then he said, “Tyler was born in April of 1997. That treatment starts what, three months before birth? So January of 1997.”
Krycek said, “It could have been as early as November. They start stage two in the second trimester.”
“The boy is a control. He’s just not a study control. Do you think that Cancer Man decided to ‘spare’ him when we were in Russia? Or maybe when Scully was getting sick...” Mulder felt something starting to boil. “I want to kill him. I want to hold a gun to his head, and shoot him and I want him to know it was me.”
“Because he made your son?” Krycek asked.
“Because he killed 27 of my children, children who never should have existed at all. And god knows how many others. He took my sister from me, and he knew that she was alive, and he didn’t tell me or my mother. He nearly killed Scully, he essentially raped both of us, and he expects me to be grateful because one part of all the evil he did might actually turn out to be not evil. I want him to understand just how wrong he was, in every sense of the word.” Mulder stood up, started pacing. “He is the epitome of ends and means and he had NO RIGHT.
“I have a son. And I missed the first 11 1/2 months of his life. I never would have named a child Tyler. He’s already had more loss in his short life than most people have by the time they’re twenty. If I was going to have a child with Scully, I should have damn well had the pleasure of making that child with her. Should have had a chance to feel that baby kick inside her, I should have been running to the fucking store for pickles and ice cream, and I should have been there to panic while she called me names and pushed out my fucking baby. I’m already fucking head over heels in love with that boy, and he feels like a fucking consolation prize. And that’s just not something I can forgive.” Mulder put his arms against the wall, leaned into it, head hanging down. “It’s just too much. Do you know what kind of fucking week I’ve had?”
Langly came over, and put a hand on his shoulder. Krycek sat on the couch, a pensive look on his face, and finally asked, “So what would you have named a kid?”
Mulder stood up, turned, and stared at Krycek. Then he gave a strange chuckle. “I honestly don’t know. Euripides, maybe. Or Isaac. Or Rumpelstiltskin.”
Langly laughed. “You think Scully would go for that?”
“We should have had a chance to have that argument,” Mulder said.
Krycek snorted. “If only for the makeup sex.”
“Krycek, you are so damned lucky I don’t have my gun right now.” Mulder walked back over, sat down. “Any other bombshells?”
Krycek and Langly looked at each other. “Did you get your vials today?”
Mulder frowned. “Vials?”
“Maybe Scully has ‘em.” Langly said, pulling a vial out of his pocket. “Apparently Skinner got more vaccine.”
Mulder muttered, absently, “It’s not a vaccine.”
Krycek frowned. “Oh?”
“It’s an antidote. Maybe actual antibodies, Scully could tell you better. But if it was a vaccine, they wouldn’t be able to reinfect people after they cure them. And they wouldn’t be very successful at treating them after they got sick. Vaccines work ahead of time, and if they’re any good, give long-term immunity. Doesn’t do jack shit to add to the viral load after someone gets sick. Call it a treatment if it requires ongoing dosing. A cure if it only requires one dose.” Mulder put his feet up on the coffee table. “Do you know where Samantha is?”
Langly shook his head. “Skinner has a way of contacting her, though.”
“Tell him to tell her...” Mulder paused. “Krycek, what would be the best way for me to meet with my sister without blowing this all to hell?”
Krycek frowned. “Her face is well known in those circles. And if you actually manage to disappear...Honestly, I recommend against making contact until we’ve managed to close this operation down, or until you’re ready to walk away from here and not come back. Especially since there’s a strong probability that she’s in contact with her father.”
Mulder closed his eyes. “I was afraid you would say that. Irony lives.”
Langly said, “She’s married. Has three kids. Named the middle one after you, I”m told.”
He opened his eyes. “She did NOT name her son Fox.”
Langly shook his head. “She named her daughter Kit.”
He pursed his lips together. “That’s actually kind of nice. Who’s her husband?”
“I don’t know. Guy named Joel. You’d have to ask Skinner.” Langly answered.
“Spender might know,” Krycek said.
Langly nodded. “He’s the one that told Skinner in the first place.”
“Tell Skinner to send this message to her: I love her, and I miss her, and I hope she’s doing well, and I will see her when the dust settles.” Mulder sighed. “If you’re doing the bugging, Krycek, can you leave one spot where the cameras can’t see, someplace we can pass messages?”
Langly smiled. “Frohike got a job doing the landscaping here. He starts Monday.”
“Fear for the plants,” said Mulder.
“Oh, one last thing, Mulder,” Krycek said. “They are loosely tracking stabilizer chips... the thing in Scully’s neck. But they can’t really pick who’s who unless they physically come close enough. San Diego is glowing... One would be hard pressed to pick out a single person.”
Mulder nodded. “Good. Can you give me a list of hot spots? Anywhere in the western hemisphere.”
Krycek nodded. “Langly can do that. He’ll be in position. Might be a few days, but I think we can get it to you.”
Langly put a memory card on the table. “That’s for Scully. Calderon’s research to date.”
They left soon after, taking the PCR films with them, and Mulder resumed staring at the television.
9:00 p.m. Rancho Bernardo
Teena sat with Carl on her lap, rocking in Mandy and Joel’s bedroom. She sang, softly, and watched as his eyelids drooped.
Mandy lay on her bed, watching them. She said, after a few minutes, very quietly, “If things hadn’t gone exactly the way they did, I wouldn’t have that little boy. I think it was when I realized that that I was able to consider thinking about eventually forgiving him.”
Teena kept singing, and didn’t look at her daughter.
Teena didn’t stop singing until ten minutes after the boy had gone completely limp with sleep. Then she shifted carefully, and lay him on the foot of his parents’ bed. Mandy pulled a little quilt up, and they walked quietly out.
Lisa was sitting on the couch. “So, we’ve had a grandmother all this time. I still don’t get why I haven’t met you before.”
Teena frowned. “Sweetie, if I’d known your mama was alive, and where she was, there would have been nothing in this world that could have kept me from coming to meet you as soon as I possibly could.”
Lisa sighed. “I know, it’s just weird, is all. I mean, first, Grandpa. And now you. Were you Grandpa’s wife?”
Teena looked at Mandy in panic. Mandy laughed. “She’s my mother. I’ll explain the rest when you’re older.”
“Mom, I’m already trying not to envision Grandpa having sex.”
Mandy laughed. “Me too, baby. Me too.”
Joel came back into her room. “Kit’s on her best behavior, she says. She’s going right to sleep. She swore she wouldn’t touch any of your makeup.”
Lisa looked alarmed. “G’nite guys.” She started to leave, then came back and gave Teena a hug. “Can I call you Grandma?”
Teena hugged the girl back, and said, “Please.”
Lisa disappeared down the hall, they heard an indignant yelp, and then it was quiet.
Spender yawned. “It’s midnight.”
Mandy looked at her watch. “It’s nine thirty.”
He rolled his eyes. “My body says it’s midnight. Which room do you want me in?”
“Take Carl’s. Last door on the left. How long are you staying, Jeff?”
“I need to leave Sunday. Skinner’s going to have my hide as it is.” He pushed himself to his feet, found himself yawning again, and gave Mandy a hug. Teena stood up, and held out her arms to him.
He looked surprised, and then leaned down to hug her. She said in his ear, “Thank you.”
He let go. “Thank you for not hating me. This..” he gestured at the room, “is the least I can do.”
She smiled. “Good night, Jeff.”
He made his way to the back room.
Teena looked at Joel and Mandy. “I think I remember you,” she said to Joel.
He nodded. “You were friends with my mother.”
“Genny. Yes. I still don’t know what happened to her,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever know.”
“I think she decided that if she couldn’t protect you, and she couldn’t protect her husband, she was sure as hell not going to stick around and let them touch her daughter,” Teena said. “I envy her for getting away from it all, but if I hadn’t stayed, I don’t think I’d have ever seen you again.”
She walked over to the couch. “Stand up and give me a hug, sweetie, I need to go to sleep.”
10:00 p.m. (ab)Normal Heights
“I’ll call him in the morning. That’s amazing news.” Frohike looked at the films, smiling. “And he got to see his boy? That’s the best news of all.”
“So you going to call Skinner?” Langly asked?
“Do it in the morning,” said Byers. “It’s tomorrow already there.”
“We’re going to need to hack the California records database as soon as they break cover, and give that boy parents on his birth certificate,” said Frohike. “That craziness with Emily should not happen again.”
“Paternity test. Mulder proves he’s the father, and it’s easy from there. Paradoxically, it’s easier for a father to prove paternity than for a mother to prove maternity, given their situation. According to California law, technically that boy’s parent is the person who intended to create him. Which means he legally a child of the Syndicate, if an corporate-type entity can be a parent, rather than an individual. But they’re not going to step forward and claim custody, and Mulder’s got a good claim, in that he never donated sperm, so if the boy’s his, then he’s the father, period.” Byers smiled. “That’s actually the easy part. And we need to be thankful that this happened in California, where it is actually against the law to steal embryos and gametes. Presenting two people who want a child, who are married--although they’ll need to legalize that as soon as they’re them again--who are biologically parents of the child, who never signed a contract allowing someone else to create that child with their cells... it’s a far easier step to legal parenthood than if a law hadn’t been broken.”
“I would love to see that case tried in court,” laughed Frohike. “I want to see those bastards stand up and say, ‘He’s our baby, your honor. We kidnapped both his parents and did surgery on them without their permission, causing permanent harm to one of them, but he’s our boy and we wuv him.”
“So they just need to apply for a delayed birth certificate? Can they do that?” Langly asked.
Krycek yawned, stood up. “I’m going to be bugging their house tomorrow, early. Go speculate elsewhere.”
Frohike looked interested. “Can I help?”
Langly and Krycek said at the same time, “No.”
11:06 p.m. The Condo
Scully arrived home to find Mulder sitting on the couch, head tipped back, snoring.
He jumped when she shut the door, looked at her, and said, “Oh, hi, Scully.”
She blinked at him, “Martin?”
He smiled. “Well, there’s this thing, see? Krycek came over.”
“And now you’re calling me Scully?” she asked.
“He managed to get himself a plum assignment.” He smiled.
“Mulder, you’re smiling about Krycek. You’re scaring me.”
He smiled, sighed. “Do you know it’s been days since I heard you say my name? I miss it. Anyway, it’s like this. He’s going to be the one bugging the house. He knows for a fact that it is not bugged tonight. It will be bugged tomorrow when we’re at the training. We need to leave here by about 7:15, by the way, to get there on time.”
She looked at her watch. “Mulder, it’s ten after eleven. I’ve been on my feet for fourteen hours. I’m completely exhausted.”
He smiled. “There, you did it again. You said my name. Can we go have sex now?” He stood up.
She frowned and laughed at the same time, rubbing her forehead. “I swear you must be fifteen or something. I love you, Mulder, but I need to get off my feet.”
He smiled, and walked around the couch. “I can help with that.”
She put up a hand. “Don’t pick me up.” She leaned against the wall and reached down to pull off her sensible shoes.
He pouted, but then smiled again. “Did I mention that I got to play with him today? That he hugged me? And that my sister is alive? And you said my name.”
She smiled, in spite of herself.
He said, “And look, you’re smiling. It’s like getting a royal straight flush. Well, if you let me help you off your feet, that is.”
She looked up at him. He stood in front of her, grinning, holding out a hand to her, and she let him lead her upstairs.
In the bedroom, he pulled her into his arms, and looked down at her. “Scully.”
“I just want to hear you say my name, Scully.”
He kissed her then, or she kissed him. One of those things where it doesn’t quite matter who started it, but after a moment he pulled back, and said, “Scully,” again.
She smiled up at him, full force. “Mulder.”
He reached down, pulled her shirt up and over her head. Then he said her name again, and she said his, and another piece of clothing went, until they were naked, and he sat down on the bed.
He said, “Come here, Scully.”
“Okay, Mulder,” she said.
He looked at her for a moment, and then asked, “Would you do me a tremendous favor?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Yes, Mulder?”
“Would you take the contacts off?”
She laughed. “You too.”
They threw the contacts away, he set his little plastic insert on the bathroom sink, and she brought out the kit, set it there. “I don’t want to forget tomorrow.”
He looked at her, looked at the bathroom counter, the bright yellow light spilling out into the dark bedroom. She saw what he was looking at and said, “Another time when I’m not about to fall off my feet.”
He smiled, and caught her hand, and pulled her back into the bedroom, then turned on the table lamps.
She pulled the elastic out of her hair, ran her fingers through it, then looked at him. “You look more like you now,” she said. “Even with the beard.”
He looked back at her. “The hair is different, but the eyes, Scully. I miss your eyes.”
She smiled. “So, Mulder, are you going to fuck me?”
“Oh, hell yes, Scully. C’mere.”
He scooted back onto the bed, and she climbed in after him. He started at her ear, whispering, “Scully,” and then dragging his tongue down her neck. She sighed and relaxed back onto her pillow, as he found a nipple, whispered her name against it. When he whispered between her legs, she pushed up against his mouth, and he worked at her clit with his tongue until she said, “Mulder.” Then he found her nipple with his free hand, slipped a finger inside her with the other, until she was almost there... He stopped, pulled back, and she looked at him, and said, “Please... Mulder.”
He rolled on his back, and pulled her over with him. She smiled, shifted, held herself with him just at the entry, pulled up a little when he tried to thrust up into her, and said, “Say my name, Mulder.”
He breathed, “Scully,” and she lowered herself agonizingly slowly, heat and warmth and pressure, sliding.
As she sank all the way down, she said, “Mulder,” and he felt the word run through his body. For a moment a silly idea that the word would slide into her and come back out again passed through his head, and then she ground against him and most ideas left completely.
They were moving, together. She noticed that it was smoother now, that they’d finally figured out the rhythm of each other, and no longer had to find it each time.
He looked up at her, looking down at him, blue eyes almost strange after so many days, rocking against him, just so. He reached up to her breasts, to her nipples, then one hand down. She gasped as he said her name again, feeling the overload of stimulus.
He watched as her eyes glazed over, as she threw her head back, then hung it forward over him, hair trailing down, then he felt the orgasm hit her, and when she cried out his name, his orgasm followed, and all he could say was, “Scully, Scully, Scully,” over again like a mantra until his body relaxed.
She rolled off of him, and he opened his eyes. He smiled. “There’s my royal flush.”
Cheeks pink, she smiled, sleepy, and said, “Go to sleep, Mulder.”
He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “I’m going to miss hearing you say my name for a while, Scully.”
She sighed a little. “Me too. I love you, Mulder.”
He lay back, smiled, and said, “I love you, too, Scully.”
March 14, 1998
2:00 a.m. Crystal City, VA
Skinner lay awake in his apartment, staring at the cell phone and the vial lying on the bed next to his pillow. He’d been staring at them for four hours already, in the light of the city, reflecting orange and purple off the clouds outside his window. But the phone didn’t ring, and the vial didn’t do anything at all, and eventually, he slept.
End part 2
Continue to Chapter 19
*Title--The Dixie Chicks Lullaby. As opposed to, say, the Cure.