Chapter 20: Benedictus, Mrs. Robinson
March 15, 1998
7:00 a.m. The Condo
They slept fitfully, without moving. It reminded Scully of sleeping in a hospital with the door open. It reminded Mulder of everything he hated about Alex Krycek.
Every time he was about to drift off, the word, *Samantha* would drift through his head, and he would find himself wide awake again.
Scully spooned up to him, stroked his hair, but it did not help. She drifted off after a while. He watched the clock, and at some point between one blink and the next, it was 7 am.
He whispered, “Can I get up now?”
She nodded against his back. They did not talk as they showered, as he combed her hair, checked her patch. All routine, all done quickly. Clothes on in the steamy bathroom. She looked at her wet hair, curling down, and spent the next half hour puttering around the kitchen with the diffuser in her left hand, pointed at her head, while she made a bowl of cereal with her right and ate it.
When her hair was dry enough, he took the diffuser away, and came back to put her hair into a soft French braid. She smiled up at him when he was done, and he bent down and kissed her. She smiled when she realized that they were in the same outfits that they’d been married in the week before.
At 8:30, she squared her shoulders and asked, voice sounding odd and forced after the silence of the morning, “Are you ready to go?”
He nodded. She transferred the most mobile of the contents of her fanny sack into her purse, frowned at it, and then rolled up the fanny sack and stuck that in too. He quietly stuck the pen in his pocket. He put his hand out, and she took it, standing up, and simultaneously passing him his earpiece.
He said, “I’m so nervous about going to church in a new place. It’s been so long.” He bit his lower lip and willed the tears that were burning to be let out to stay put.
She processed that, then said, “I’m sure they’ll welcome you with open arms.” Her arms felt slightly tingly, and her throat was tight.
He threw the keys to her as they walked to the car. By the time they got onto the highway, she could see a black sedan following them.
The church was lovely. White stucco and terracotta and stained glass. An older couple handing orders of service out as they walked in. They took seats in the pews closest to the vigil shrine, and he held her hand in a death grip as the service started, priest and deacon walking in, followed by alter boys. He focused on his breathing, quiet, in, pause, out, pause, until he felt calm. He stood, sat, knelt in time, following her lead, then watched her go up to accept the Eucharist. His watch peeked out from under his sleeve, and he found himself watching each minute tick by. *Soon.*
A choir sang parts of the mass in Latin, though most was in English. Remembered phrases stuck here and there.
In nòmine Patris, et
et Spìritus Sancti.
Et ìterum ventùras est cum glòria, iudicàre vivos et mòrtuos.
Et exspècto resurrectiònem et vitam ventùri sàecul.
Benedictus es. Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei.
Lìbera nos, quaesumus ab òmnibus malis, da propìtius pacem in dièbus nostris.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccàta mundi miserère nobis.
He thought for a moment, and then wondered how he could say in Latin, “Please, father, don’t be an asshole today.” *Pater, placeo si libet, no malum dia.* Close enough.
Then Scully’s hand was on him, and she said, quietly, “It’s time.”
He couldn’t feel his limbs, but he stood, let her lead him to the vigil candles, watched as she dropped a bill in a little basket in front, and then she was taking his hand in hers, murmuring a prayer, and together they lit the candle.
He expected the church to be empty, but there was a man standing there. An inch or two taller than him. Dark eyes, brown hair, looking almost as nervous as he felt. The man said quietly, “Fox?”
The man extended his hand. “Joel Cavendish. If you would come with me?”
Scully said, “We need to change, if you’ll give us a moment?”
They followed him out to the entry to the church, and they ducked into the coat room. Garment bag. He handed it to her, and she went into the bathroom. A few minutes later, she came out looking completely different. Her hair hung wavy and loose down her back, loose. Contacts gone. *I could get lost in those blue eyes.* Glasses gone. Lipstick red, *When did she get that?* and eyes accented a little more heavily. She did not quite look like Agent Scully--a one-piece fitted dress took care of that. He took the garment bag from her, went into the bathroom, took out his contacts, changed his shirt to a blue one, lost the jacket and tie, and put the little piece of plastic and metal in his pocket. Beard had to stay, but it sat differently on his face with the plastic gone.
*Hurry.* He felt himself resenting every step, every fumble, because it felt like hours and minutes adding on when he wanted to be there, now, already.
He emerged, hung the bag back on the hook, and followed Scully and Joel out of the church.
Mulder sat in front, Joel drove, Scully sat behind, leaning forward to put a hand on Mulder’s shoulder.
Joel said, once they were out of the lot, “She’s really eager to see you.”
“Likewise,” Mulder answered. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to find her?”
Joel gave him a wry look. “Exactly. Yes.” A moment later, he said, “I was an abductee, too.”
Mulder looked at him, then. “You haven’t found your family either?”
Joel shook his head. “Apparently my father was not a willing party in the sacrifice. So they offed him.”
Scully sighed. “They seem to make a habit of it. I understand he is there?”
Joel nodded. “He has always been kind to me, as long as I’ve known him. But when he told us...” He stopped, shuddered. “You have every right to be furious with him. What he’s done... it is unforgivable.”
“How much do you know?” asked Scully.
“Not all. But much. He will tell you. He refused to tell Jeff until you were there, said he wasn’t going to tell it twice. But what I do know--I understand why he did it. Even if I don’t agree with how he did it. Please let him tell you his story. We need to hear it, no matter how badly you want to put a bullet in his head.”
“I think someone already tried something like that, and failed. How is he alive after so much blood loss?” Scully asked.
“Mandy was already there, to see you, Fox. He managed to call her, and she got him to someone who could help. We took him home, eventually. He’s still on oxygen.” Joel picked up his cell phone, slipped an earpiece in his ear, and hit speed dial. “We’re on our way.” He thumbed it off.
“I haven’t shot him yet,” Mulder said. “I’ve never quite known why.”
Scully answered, “Because you’re not a murderer.”
Joel said, “Mom was surprised to hear you’re married.”
“Joel, I’m surprised I’m married. It was one of those rare opportunities. Once in a lifetime.” Mulder put his hand on Scully’s on his shoulder.
Joel laughed. “I’ve been married so long, I forget what it’s like not to be married.”
“When did you guys...” Scully asked.
He frowned. “Let’s see.. Lisa was born in 1984... 1982. Fifteen years, last December.”
“She was eighteen,” Mulder said. “So young.”
“We’d already been together for 8 years. Although of course, the first five years or so, it was never more than spending every day together, dealing with more hideousness than any adult should ever have to face, let alone a child. She saved me. I saved her. Without her, I would have become vicious and angry. Without me, she would be dead.” Joel spoke the words without rancor, without even much emotion.
“You sound so calm about it,” Scully said. *He saved me. I saved him.*
“It happened a long time ago. And without what happened, we would not have each other, or our children. As horrific as it was at the time... I would not trade it.” Joel slowed down, turned. “We’re almost there.”
Mulder looked behind them. No car following. He smiled, then looked at Scully. “I think I understand what you mean about not trading it...”
She swallowed hard, and smiled back. “Yeah.”
11:15 a.m. Rancho Bernardo
Joel pulled into the driveway. As they were climbing out of the car, several small bodies came hurtling out of the house. “Daddy! Is it them? Is this Uncle Fox?” Their chatter and excitement were contagious, and Scully found herself face to face with a teenage girl, auburn curls pulled back in a ponytail, standing with arms crossed, looking a little shy.
Scully smiled and offered her hand. “I’m Dana. You must be Lisa?”
Lisa looked at her, then shook her hand briefly. “You’re my aunt, right?”
Scully blinked then laughed. “Yes, I am.”
Then she looked over. Mulder was standing next to the car, a little girl pulling at his sleeve, staring at the house. His expression was unreadable, but when Scully saw who he was looking at, she put her hand up to her mouth.
She recognized the woman. She’d seen someone very like her before, years ago, on a bridge, when he’d traded the clone’s life for hers. Scully looked from Mulder, to Samantha, and felt a hitch in her own breathing.
Samantha said, quietly, “Fox.”
He glanced down at the children pulling at him, and let himself be led around the car. She stepped down the walkway, and he held out his arms, she stepped into them. He rested his cheek against her hair and tears flowed.
Scully realized that she was crying too, and she stepped forward, but did not interrupt.
He was murmuring a low running babble. “So long.. I looked and I did everything I knew how to do and I almost gave up hope and you’re here and you’re okay.”
He pulled back, hands on her shoulder, looking at her face. “You are okay, aren’t you?”
She nodded, laughing and crying at the same time. “I’m better than okay. And you’re not as tall as I remembered.”
He laughed. “I didn’t shrink.. but you’re all grown up.”
She nodded. “And this is your wife? Dana? Mom flipped when she heard.”
He nodded, then frowned. “Where is she, Samantha?”
His sister laughed. “Call me Mandy. Everyone does. It feels strange to have someone say that name.”
He blinked. “Your name has been in my thoughts every single day for twenty five years. It may take me some time to remember that.”
“Come on in, Fox.” She held out her hand. He took it, and let her lead him up the stairs into her house.
Dana followed, and then looked back. “Are you guys coming?” she asked Lisa.
Lisa shook her head. “I’m walking them over to the playground, so they don’t hear Uncle Fox yell at Grandpa.”
Scully laughed. “Probably wise. Will we see you later?”
Lisa shrugged. “I don’t know. But you know where we live now.”
She stepped up to the house and pulled a stroller off the porch, then loaded her little brother in it, and took her sister by the hand.
Scully stepped through the door, and found Mulder already sitting on the sofa next to Samantha. He looked up, and patted the sofa on his other side. “Come on, Scully.”
As she moved into the room, she noticed Teena Mulder sitting in a highback chair, and Jeffrey Spender sitting on the floor. Joel came in and perched on the edge of an overstuffed recliner. She smiled at Teena, hesitantly, and sat down next to Mulder.
Jeffrey Spender spoke first. “So you guys got hitched. That’s just strange. Do you know who won the office pool?”
They looked at each other. Mulder said, “It wasn’t really high on our list of things to think about. What do you think, Scully? Heidi? Danny?”
She shook her head. “I strongly suspect Kim. She never misses a thing.”
Teena frowned. “You didn’t tell me. I would have liked to have known.”
Mulder looked at Scully. “We didn’t even know it was going to happen until an hour before it actually did. If that.”
“Forty-five minutes,” she said. “We weren’t likely to have another chance in a long time, and it was...important. For one thing, we were in one of the few places where there would be a Catholic priest willing to do the honors. It was Mulder's idea, really.”
Mulder smiled. “It’s only official in the church right now. When it will be safe, we’ll formalize it with a real license. That’s when we’ll want our families near.”
Scully said, “It was urgent for you to see us. Can you tell us now?”
Jeffrey and Mandy looked at each other. He said, “We’ll have to bring my father out to talk. He stayed back so that you would have some time with Mandy.”
Mulder looked down. “You’re my brother. I wish I’d known.”
Spender looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t know either. And I had something you didn’t... As soon as I realized, I went looking for you. Skinner sent me on a trip, and when I was done, I went to tell your mom.”
Mulder looked up. “You did the right thing. Thank you.”
Spender shrugged. “I knew what she was going through, because of my mom... If someone knew where she was, and didn’t tell me, I think I’d have a gun in their face wanting to know why.”
Mulder nodded. “Speaking of putting a gun in their face, where is he?”
Mandy looked over her shoulder. “Back in his room. I’ll let him know you’re ready for him.”
Scully muttered, “Ready is an overstatement.”
She really wasn’t prepared for how old he looked. Hair several shades grayer. He walked hunched, dragging his O2. Joel stood up when he came in, and helped him sit in the recliner. Joel walked out of the room, and then reappeared with a couple of chairs.
Mulder stared at the man. It surprised him, really, that he didn’t feel as much like putting a gun to the man’s head as he’d thought he would.
Teena said, “Gary? Are you going to tell them?”
Mulder raised an eyebrow. “Gary?”
Teena shrugged. “He always signed his name CGB Spender. Carleton Garrett Bingham. Gary.”
Mulder gave a dry laugh. “I’ve always just thought of him as The Smoking Man.”
CGB Spender leaned forward, and pulled up the sleeve to his button-down shirt. “Not anymore.”
Scully laughed. “You can’t very well call him the Nicotine Patch Wearing Man, Mulder.”
The man shrugged, and said, “You could call me Dad.”
Mulder’s face changed entirely. “You haven’t earned it. My dad died, because you told someone to hold up a gun and pull the trigger. My mother may have been crazy enough to sleep with you, but you will never be ‘Dad’. Not after the things you’ve done.”
Scully leaned over, and whispered into his ear. Mulder gave a sharp laugh, and said, “I’ll call you Garrett. It’s close enough to garrote that the irony alone is worth it.”
Garrett sat up a little straighter. “I can live with that.”
Scully said, “We’re here because you were going to tell us what the hell has been going on, what you’ve done.”
He looked down. “I’ve had to do some terrible things. I’m hoping that once I tell you, you will understand why." He picked up a pencil from the lamp table next to him. "Fox, you know that I was the cause of your sister’s disappearance. And your father’s death. I was also the directing power behind Agent Scully’s abduction, and many of the conspiracies you’ve worked so hard to uncover. What you don’t know is why. You think you know... that there has been a government conspiracy about the existence of extra terrestrials, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Fifty years ago, an alien crashed in Roswell New Mexico. It was not the first, and it will not be the last. But what we learned from it... By 1968, we’d figured out just enough to be dangerous... and we learned that a force would be coming. We knew in 1968 that everything we loved would be destroyed in a rain of fire, unless we persuaded them to work with us. We made a deal with the devil... because if we had not, they would have taken matters into their own hands, and started, then, preparing for Armageddon. We saw a chance, and we took it, and we were required to pay a terrible price. Tell me, Fox, if you were told that in order to save the human race, you would have to give up your child, would you do it?”
Mulder started forward off his seat, but Scully put both hands on his arm, and he sat back down. “You son of a bitch. You know exactly how many of my children I’ve ‘given up.’ Now you just try to tell me how it’s worth it.”
Garrett Spender cocked his head. “Oh, you know about them, do you? How is little Emily? Tyler?”
Scully was off the couch and almost midair. Joel caught her, restrained her, and she stopped fighting, brushed him away and sat back down on the couch. “Don’t you dare say her name, you bastard.”
“Emily? Is something wrong?” He looked genuinely concerned.
Mulder almost spat. “She’s dead. Your pet clones killed her adoptive parents, because the Sims would not allow them to continue torturing that little girl. She died just after Christmas.”
The elder Spender closed his eyes, and leaned his head back. Then he said, “I’m very sorry to hear that. I was fond of her.”
“You have a bad habit of doing horrific things to the people you are ‘fond’ of,” Scully said. “Tyler’s first foster mother is dead, too. Was that you?”
He looked down. “No. The men have their standing orders. How is Tyler?”
Mulder relaxed a little. “He’s healthy.”
“You’ve seen him then? I’m surprised they let you.”
Mulder and Scully looked at each other. “Tell us your story,” she said, finally. “We don’t owe you ours.”
He sighed. “Well, we were given a choice. Prepare the human race for colonization, or they would simply start spreading plagues until the planet was empty of our kind of life. They can breathe our atmosphere, but they don’t like it. So we have spent the past thirty years trying to adapt humanity to what will come after. And at the same time, we’ve been working very, very hard to find a way to stop them. In order to buy that time, each of us, the Project members, was instructed to give them one of our family members. They wanted leverage, and genetic material. Eventually they taught us what they were doing, and how to continue the work. There are not that many of them, now, in the vicinity of earth. But when the seeder gets here... that’s when it will go to hell. And in 1947, and even in 1968, we had nothing that had even the remotest chance of fighting off an alien invasion.
“Their craft move more quickly than the human body can survive without the kind of technology they employ. They can stop time. They can change our memories and if we do not comply, they can infect our bodies, and now they can kill us and take on our likenesses. We needed time to drive the science forward to the point where we might have a chance... a hope. A vaccine, a weapon, a craft, ANYTHING that could help us fight the coming holocaust. Because in 2012? They’re coming. They gave us a choice... they would start then, forcibly changing and eliminating the population, or we could work with them, and adapt. So I gave up my wife, my daughter. And eventually, I had to trade my wife for my daughter, to buy Mandy’s freedom from the tests. Cassandra... she knew. And understood why, once, before it got bad. Mandy was dying. One day they were simply not going to bring her back.”
He stopped, turned up his oxygen, closed his eyes for a minute. Scully stood up, walked over and felt his pulse, looked at the O2 canister, and frowned. She looked over at Mandy. “Would you get him some tea please?” She reached down, and pulled the lever to recline him, then pushed to lay him more flat, then pulled up his pant leg a little and pressed a finger against his ankle. Then she said, “What kind of equipment do you have here? Oximeter? Nebulizer?”
Joel stood up and went down the hall. A minute later, he returned with a nylon kit in one hand, and a small machine in the other. Scully unzipped the kit, put an oximeter on his finger, frowned, plugged the machine into the wall, broke a few ampules of sterile water into a small chamber at the end of the device, then dropped in a measured amount of albuterol. She pulled the canula off the old man’s head, plugged them into the mask of the nebulizer, and put the whole business on his head.
She stood there for a moment, watching the oximeter, then said “When you get back up to 94% or so, you can start talking again.”
He pulled the mask off for a second. “I never get above 92% anymore.”
She shrugged. “Fine. 92% then.”
Mulder was watching her with a strange expression on his face, a mix of respect, bemusement and concern, with an undercurrent of anger. She looked at him, and realized the anger was not directed at her. She walked back over, and sat down. “How long has he been like this?’
Mandy sighed. “He was in remission from his cancer... but the emphysema was starting, and it got very bad after he was shot. We think the cancer may be back, but he’s refusing to see a doctor.”
Scully shook her head. “He’s giving up.”
The elder Spender pulled the mask off his face briefly. “I’m right here. And if I showed up in a hospital, my life would be much shorter than it is right now.” He put the mask back on.
When it appeared that it would be a few minutes before he recovered enough to talk, Mulder followed Mandy went into the kitchen.
She looked over at him, and said, “You knew about your son.”
She looked down at the empty teacup. “That was the big reason I wanted you to come now. When he told me...”
Mulder shook his head. “You couldn’t have known. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and there are only a few friends that knew what we were doing.”
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He sighed, and told her about Scully, about the babies, about Tyler.
She bit her lip, and told him about the fertility doctors who’d ‘helped’ them with material gained during her abduction, how she’d not known until days ago that her father was capable of such things.
The teakettle whistled, and she dropped a tea bag into the cup, then poured the water in after.
He said, “You still let him live here.”
“He’s my father. Where else would he go? Kit would be brokenhearted.”
He frowned. “You forgave him?”
“Not exactly. But my children... If I’d not been taken... I might not have had them at all. I might have gotten married in my twenties, and Lisa wouldn’t exist. I might have married someone else, and none of them would be who they are. And I love my children. I can’t imagine not having them, no matter how much hell I went through. I don’t forgive his methods... but I am glad I can’t go back in time and change it.” She lifted the teabag, swirled it around.
Mulder looked at his hands. “Tyler is amazing. He took one look at me and climbed into my arms. It was like he knew. And as much as I rage at how he was brought into the world, how much we missed with him, the idea of him not existing? He fell asleep on my shoulder, like it was the safest, best place in the world. How could I wish that he wasn’t? And yet, it almost killed his mother, the process that created him. And I would trade all the children in the world to see her safe and healthy.”
“Be glad there are choices we do not have to make. What do you think about his explanation?” Mandy asked.
“I think we need to look at it seriously,” Scully said from the doorway of the kitchen. “If he’s correct, then we’ve been fighting the wrong battle. Then again, they’ve been doing it wrong, too.”
He turned, looked at her. She’d pushed her hair back behind her left ear, the other side was hanging down, just longer than he remembered. The look in her eyes... intent, concerned, and very focused. He sighed. “So what do you want to do?”
She walked into the kitchen. If he squinted just so, he could almost overlay his memory of Scully the FBI agent over this new person he called ‘wife’.
“I want to go back to the hospital. I want to figure out that protein, and the nanoids. I want to understand their so-called vaccine, and I want to put it all together to save those girls and the babies they carry, the children who are still alive, and then I want to get the hell out of dodge. Then? I want to start gathering resources and start making sure that our children have a future. Because if he’s right? When Tyler is 15, the world will end. And if we manage to undo what has been done to those children, it just might be a weapon.”
He stared at her. “Who are you? And what have you done to my skeptic?”
She laughed. “You haven’t been looking at this stuff. There’s no way on Earth that our science is that far advanced. It’s not paranormal, it’s simply not from Earth. I’m a scientist, not a fool.”
He grinned at her. “Come here, Scully, you’re turning me on.”
She glanced at Mandy, blushing. “Mulder...”
Mandy looked at them. “Why do you call each other by your last names?”
Mulder smiled wryly. “I stopped going by Fox around the time you left. And I like to hear her call me Mulder. The only times I’ve called her Dana, something’s been wrong. It’s a thing.”
Scully laughed. “When I started at the FBI... there were a lot of men who would call me Dana while they put me down. Mulder called me Scully from the start... it felt good to be on that kind of footing with someone.” She pursed her lips. “Besides, I like the way he says it.”
Mandy asked, “So how long have you two been a thing?”
They looked at each other. Scully said, “Well, either since 1992, or since last week, depending on how you define ‘thing’.”
“Dating?” Mandy asked
Mulder looked thoughtful. “Have we ever really dated?”
Scully frowned. “There was Yachats...”
He gave a small, happy sigh. “Yeah. Yachats. That was what, a week ago last Wednesday?”
Scully shook her head. “I have no idea. We’ve lived a million years since then.”
Mandy grinned. “It was like that for Joel and me. We were taken together, and returned together. His family was gone... his father killed, his mother and sister disappeared. So Dad brought him to the base we were living at. He lived down the street, but whenever Dad was gone, Jeffrey and I would go stay there, and whenever his foster family was gone, he’d stay with us. Eventually he just moved in with us. I don’t think we were apart for more than 24 hours, except abductions, between the time we were returned and... ever.”
She looked at them. “What?”
Scully pulled up a bar stool. “His family disappeared. What do you know about them?”
Mandy shrugged. “His mom was Genny Thorne. His sister was Angelica, and she was about my age, maybe a little younger. He was almost 11 when we were abducted, his birthday is right before the new year. His father was killed, and his mom and sister... if Dad couldn’t find them, I don’t think they want to be found. Dad thinks they’re dead.”
Scully frowned. “He was ten? What was his name?”
Mandy cocked her head and frowned. “Noel.”
Scully looked up at Mulder. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
He looked at her. “You mean...”
Scully looked to the door of the kitchen. “Do you have someplace we can go where he can’t hear us?”
Mandy nodded slowly. “The back yard.”
Mulder said, “Get your husband. We need to talk.”
Joel joined them on the patio, and then gestured for them to walk across the yard to a small shop building. “Come on in,” he said.
The shop was rough and smelled like wood chips and gasoline. He brought over a set of stackable plastic chairs, and set them in a small circle. When they were settled, Scully looked at Mulder. “Do you want to tell them?”
He shook his head. “Your catch. You get the honors.”
She took a deep breath. “I think I know your mother, Joel. And your sisters.”
He frowned. “I only had one sister...”
Mulder said, “Your mom adopted her partner’s daughter years after you were taken.”
Scully continued. “We met a woman on our travels. She’s been very helpful, because she wanted answers about what happened to her son. She’s been funding us, actually. She told us that her son was taken when Samantha was, for the same reasons. That he was ten, and that her husband had been killed. She’s been working for a very long time to build the resources to find you, but she had no idea until a few weeks ago that any of that group of abductees had been returned, because she went underground to protect Jessie.”
“Jessie... is that what Angelica is called now?” Joel asked, quietly.
Mulder nodded. “She’s Sam’s age. I’m sorry, Mandy’s age. And Gwynne knew our family... she never contacted me because I’d kept my name, and she didn’t want Them finding her.”
Joel nodded. “We changed our names for the same reason.”
Scully said, “Please don’t share this with him. I know you care about him, but he has never given us a reason to trust him, and lots of reasons to tread very lightly around him.”
Mandy nodded. “I understand.”
Joel leaned forward. “Can I see them? I didn’t even begin to hope...”
Mulder smiled. “I know the feeling.” He pulled two cell phones out of his pocket, and put one of them back, then dialed.
“How goes it?” asked Gwynne, when the line went through.
“I have someone here who needs to talk to you,” he said. Then he handed the phone to Joel.
After watching the tearful phone reunion for a few minutes, Scully went back inside. Jeffrey was coming out, and when he saw her, he said, “He wants to talk to you.”
She said, “Thank you, Spender,” and he looked at her strangely.
“Why don’t you call me Jeff? I mean, it’s weird, but we’re family.” He looked completely bemused by the thought.
She nodded thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard you called anything but Spender. Oh, your mother called you Jeffrey, but...”
He chuckled. “I don’t have a lot of close friends, and Mandy is the one who nicknamed me. But if this whole craziness is giving me more family...”
He shrugged. “Anyway. Dad needs you, if you’ll help him.”
She walked inside, and into the living room. Garrett Spender held up his hand, to show her the number on the oximeter. Then he pulled the mask away, and said, “Dr. Scully, would it be acceptable to turn the oxygen up?”
She reached down and twisted the nozzle until the pressure ticked up another liter, then picked up his wrist and watched the numbers change. She nodded, then helped him pull the mask off, removed the canula from the mask, and handed it back to him.
He looked at her as he put the mask back on. Then he said, “You didn’t have to help me.”
She turned a little, looked away. Then she looked back at him. “I swore an oath. And your children need to know what you have to tell them. Were it not for those facts, I would turn the oxygen off, pick up a pillow, and smother you myself.”
He closed his eyes. “I suppose I should have expected that.”
“I’m not finished,” she said.
“Oh?” he asked.
She handed him a pillow, which he put behind his head, and she sat down. “I’m going to operate under the assumption that you are telling the truth about the aliens. Primarily because nothing else makes sense, given what I’ve seen. And if that is true, and their intentions are that bad... Let’s just say that while I think your methods are repugnant, the war you’ve been fighting is one that I need to fight too. Are you committed to the cause of fighting the alien invasion? Are you committed to making sure that they do not succeed?”
He nodded slowly. Across the room, Teena Mulder listened.
“Then I will tell you this. I have three pieces of information. Three substances. And I think that with the right resources, the right people, I could put them together and make something that would reverse infections by the black oil, reverse the hybridization process, and if I’m right, it would poison the aliens whose entire biology is based on the substances I’ve seen.” She watched his face.
“The thing I don’t think you understand,” he started, “is just how closely they’ve been monitoring the work we do.”
She asked. “The shape shifters?”
He gave a small nod. “There are only a handful of them on Earth right now, but they keep incredibly close tabs on the parts of the project they know about. The subproject which created your son, for example.”
“Krycek says there’s another faction. Rebels, he thinks. They have been attacking groups of abductees, and he thinks they’re working against the invasion.” Scully said.
“Alex is working with you?” He smiled. “How industrious of him.”
She nodded. “He brought us the information. Walked in, intimidated some people, and walked out with years worth of records on disk.”
“You need to contact them, the rebels. If they can help...” He coughed.
“I’m really worried they’re going to hit the teen mothers’ home,” she said.
He shook his head. “You can’t worry about them. We’ve managed to keep that project from bearing fruit for years, but it’s taken an incredible amount of sleight of hand. If you interfere with that now...”
“Those girls...some of them are no older than your granddaughter. One of the girls who is pregnant with my child is fifteen, and she has already had one baby die. They are not subjects. You are using them for a ruse and that ruse has killed what, hundreds? Twenty seven of my children have died, for what? To what end?”
He closed his eyes. “To buy us time. Always to buy us time. You never would have had those children, not one of them. They were conceived from cells created at a time in your relationship with my son that they never would have borne fruit.”
“You didn’t leave me the choice. I can’t have any children at all...” she said.
He opened his eyes and looked directly at her. “Are you going to rage at me for the children who are gone? Or are you going to look at the one who is still alive? The children in utero... we cannot save them the way you want to.”
She said, “You can’t. I can. But I need the resources to figure out this damn protein, the nanoids, the immunoglobin.”
“Nanoids?” he asked.
“Calling them molecular probes would have been unwieldy. And suspicious. We’re under surveillance. We don’t have much longer we can stay here today.” She looked at the oximeter. “It’s time to talk to them again.”
She walked out to get his children.
When they were all seated again, he continued.
“I struck a hard bargain for Mandy’s life, and her freedom, for Joel’s freedom. I paid that price for years. It cost us... We were playing both sides of the table, working to help the aliens while working to do everything we could to stop them. I was one of the few who knew the whole story. Mulder, the military who told you how important their work was? They were right. And the secrecy... In this case, loose lips don’t sink ships, more the pity. They could destroy the planet. The minute the aliens got wind of anything that smacked of rebellion? They crushed it.
“So many times you came close. When I destroyed evidence, or hid it, I was working to keep it from the bounty hunters. To prove we were not fighting, we often sabotaged years of work. And ultimately it was the Russians, wasn’t it? They had less pressure. If we’d been open to anyone about the fight... it would have stopped being a fight, and turned into a massacre. We’re close. I believe that it is possible that in ten years, twelve, we may make the advances we need to make. You can disappear. Or you can keep making a mockery of what we do... it helps, actually. Or, as your lovely wife suggests, you may join the cause.”
Mulder looked at Scully, questioning. She said, “If we join the cause, we’re not doing it the way you did it. I’ll work this case, but I need people on my side, I need access. Resources. You can’t give that, can you?”
He frowned. “I think you already have the access you need. Young Mr. Krycek is working in tandem with an old friend... well, an old acquaintance of mine. They have already provided you with much. By the way, your hair is lovely my dear. I did not know it had been so long...”
She recoiled slightly. *First chance I get, the hair is gone.*
Teena spoke up, finally. “You need to know why. Why he is your father.”
“Mom,” Mulder started. “You don’t have to...”
She frowned. “I do. I really do. Your father... I didn’t betray him.” She closed her eyes. “Not at first.”
Garrett Spender said, gently, “Your father had an injury. They wanted children. I helped at his request. Cassandra knew.”
Mulder was surprised to realize that something ugly that had been bothering him since Krycek’s pronouncement unraveled. “I understand... I was prepared for the children we found to be... not mine. I’m glad they are. But it wasn’t a requirement.”
Scully said, “We need to know everything. Who is working on what. How far they had gotten, last you knew. I need to understand the chip in my neck, the light in the sky, and where Cassandra Spender is. And who we can trust in the network.”
He sighed. “The military at Area 51... they are not to be trusted. There is a project in Antarctica... it is the very heart of the worst of the appeasement. We have a place in Texas, which while it is designed for the propagation of the alien virus, could also be used to disperse a cure as easily, although truly it is not the most comfortable method. In each effort we make to help, we are also learning how to fight. As you have seen. Hill... in Utah... there are good people working there. It is a busy place, which is why the enemy does not suspect it. Several of our best labs have been destroyed. We have a few people in place at UCSD, but they must work without making contact with our other people at UCSD, working the other side of the problem. There are more, but I am tired at the moment.”
He sighed. “The chip in your neck... is a stabilizer. Tell me, Agent Scully, have you been sick since your dramatic recovery?”
She blinked, frowned. “No.”
“They’re not perfect. And there is a price to wearing one. But they mitigate some of the worst effects, and have some health benefits. Removal can only be done safely, as far as I know, with the help of a shapeshifter. And it is difficult in the extreme to gain their cooperation.
“As to how far we’ve gotten... I think you know most of it. The military has planes which fly very fast and are very maneuverable. They have some devices which can have telekinetic effects, but they cause...damage. Not something worth using if you plan on getting your subject back in one piece, unless you have some way of healing them. Which makes it more useful to the aliens than to us. But we do not have weapons more advanced than those the military could achieved independently. We have access to the devices you so amusingly call nanoids. We have some ability to manipulate DNA, and to manipulate cell structures. We can create hybrids, but they tend to run more alien than human, and they are weak. We can kill humans with more efficiency than ever before. We’ve made very little advance on killing aliens, but I’m intrigued by your ideas, Dr. Scully. Our electronic capabilities and our medical capabilities far outstrip those of the mainstream, but we cannot use our advances freely.
“Cassandra... she is one of two places. Either with our military, or with the aliens. Given the events of last month? My money is on the aliens. And that means that you won’t get her back until they’re done with whatever they’re doing, and when they do give her back, she’ll go to the military first.”
He looked at Jeffrey. “You cannot save her. At one point, she consented to this, as much as anyone can.”
Jeffrey looked down. “She believes they have come for a higher purpose.”
“Higher, not better. My only blessing is that I will not be alive to see the end when it comes. I fear for you all. With all the advancements we’ve made, I still don’t think it’s enough.”
“What is coming?” asked Mandy.
“We are told that it is a seeder. Sent back thousands of years ago at subliminal speeds... since then they have gained more control over space-time, we believe, and can send small units quickly... but the larger force comes at relativistic speeds. They are patient...but not flexible. And when they arrive... we don’t know what happens then, but we do know that what will remain of humanity will not be recognizable.”
Mulder’s head dropped to his hands, elbows on his knees. Then he said, “What about these rebels?”
“I don’t know,” Garrett answered. “They are a new development. We know so little about extrasolar politics.”
“Where does that leave us?” asked Mandy. “I don’t think any one of us can step into the subterfuge of the project... but I know that all of us will fight for our children’s lives, for our own. Where can we fit in?”
Her father shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought I did, once. But I have lost my stomach for murder. You have your degree, but you haven’t used it, not really.”
Mulder looked at his sister, curious.
“Astrophysics. Joel has a doctorate in molecular biology,” Mandy explained.
Mulder smiled, and said, “Get out of here. My kid sister is an astrophysicist?”
She shook her head. “I have a degree in it. I haven’t done much besides read journals and parent my kids. I’ve been working slowly on graduate work in quantum physics for years, as well.”
Mulder shook his head. “Still, that’s pretty impressive.”
Scully laughed. “Are you really surprised that your sister is smart?”
“I’m surprised that my sister is sitting here talking to me. The degree is just icing on the surprise cake.” Mulder looked at Garrett Spender. “I want you to tell me that you are not going to get in our way. That we are not going to return home and find men with guns on our doorstep waiting to send us back to Washington empty handed.”
Scully thought, *When did Washington stop being home?*
He answered, “I have one person in the syndicate I feel safe contacting. The rest of them? We were all complicit in both deceptions. But my associate says that their will for the fight has waned. They now simply seek a way to survive the holocaust, to allow their children whatever passes for safety in the Day After. You already have a contact to him, and thus I assume you are working with his help and blessing. I cannot give you more, but I will not stand in your way.”
Scully looked at him. *When did the devil lose his teeth? Or are we simply walking the slippery slope?* She said, “I think I can live with that,” and could not believe the words were coming out of her mouth.
Mulder looked at her, then at the old man. *Ego indulgeo vos, tamen ego operor non absolvo vos. I forgive you, but I do not absolve you.* “I don’t agree with your methods. I never will understand your callous disregard for the life of my family. You are not my father, and you never will be, I don’t care what the genetics are. But I will support the fight, and I will do everything in my power to give my children a future. I came here half expecting to put a bullet in your head. I no longer have the will to do that, if only for the fact that it would upset the people I care about. Know this, however. If you ever do anything to hurt my family, my friends, or other innocents? I will find you, and I will kill you, and I will not feel a morsel of guilt about it.”
“I’ll be there loading his gun,” said Scully.
Garrett Spender tried to sit up, then sighed and said, “Mandy, love, will you go into my room and get the book on the bedside table?”
She got up without a word, and returned a minute later with an old hardback in her hand. She handed it to him.
He flipped it open, then leafed through it, pulling out sheets of paper. He held them up. “Fox, take these.”
Mulder stood up, moved over next to the man, and took the papers. He glanced at them, and then said, “Who are they?”
“The list marked alpha is people who will help you if you find them, primary movers, those who are instrumental in our subterfuge. If you see them, say, “Lux libera nos.” The beta list is those who are working with them, but ones I am less confident of. Gamma list is...” He continued explaining. After a few minutes, Mulder waved his hand absently, and Scully asked Mandy quietly for a piece of paper.
Mulder wrote the list, stared at it, then walked to the back patio, pulled a lighter out of his pocket, and burned the paper. Jeffrey watched him, and frowned. “Why burn it?”
Mulder said, “The list of names is not terribly useful without the title and code. And once I wrote it, I had it memorized. When we get someplace I can work, I’ll get it into a format Scully can use. But right now, it is safest in my head.”
Jeffrey nodded. “I assume you got the memory from your mother?”
Mulder shook his head. “I have no idea anymore who I got what from. I’ve just got a knack.”
“If it helps, I’m sorry.”
Mulder stared at him. “For what?”
“For doubting. For having what you didn’t. For being an ass.” Jeffrey looked at the little pile of ash on the patio. “I’ve been caught off guard by how I feel about having more family. I...” He stopped.
“It never occurred to me that I had a brother out there. I’m just...I think I’m glad that she wasn’t alone all that time. In my head, she was hurt and crying somewhere and no one was helping her, and there was nothing I could do about it.” Mulder ground the ashes into the bricks with the ball of his foot.
Spender walked over to the wall beside the sliding patio door, and pulled down a push broom, then pushed the ashes off the patio and into the grass. “You weren’t wrong... She would vanish, and come back shaken. They both would. And I wondered why everyone I cared about disappeared, but not me. I made shit up about being taken because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t. I guess I got lucky. But it never felt that way at the time. Mostly it just felt helpless.”
Mulder stuck his hands in his pockets and stared up at the blue sky. “Yeah. I know that one.” He looked over. “You know, Spender...”
But Jeffrey was shaking his head. “I told Dana, and I’ll tell you... Mandy calls me Jeff. And if we’re family, that will be easier.”
Mulder laughed. “Don’t call me Fox...”
Jeffrey laughed. “Your wife calls you Mulder. I’m not going to take it personally.”
“Anyway, Jeff, whatever the connection, you did the right thing where my mother and sister were concerned. You brought them back to me. You didn’t have to tell Skinner, and escorting my mother was above and beyond the call. I only wish I could repay the favor...” He frowned, remembering Cassandra.
“She’ll come back. She always has. And bringing your mom... I wasn’t thinking in terms of my brother’s mother. I was thinking that if someone dropped that bomb on me, I’d want company dealing with the aftermath.” Jeffrey hung the broom back up and sat down on a patio chair.
“What I’m trying to say... I may not be able to call that man in there ‘Dad’... but if you’re willing, I’ll count you as a brother.” Mulder looked at him.
Jeffrey blinked. “Thank you.”
Scully came to the door. “Mulder... we need to think about getting back soon.”
He looked at her. With her hair behind her shoulders, it was easier and easier to see her old self. He smiled. “Would you come talk to me in private first?”
She nodded, and Jeffrey excused himself as they walked back to the shop.
She walked in first, and as he closed the door, she started to turn. “What did you want...”
But he was kissing her, pushing her up against the wall. She broke off, gasping a little, and said, “We really should...”
He kissed her again, and started tugging at her dress. She reached down and started undoing his belt.
Their clothes ended up in a pile on the concrete floor, and still kissing her, he picked her up and set her down on a stout wooden table in the middle of the room, positioned himself, and started pushing against her. She was a little dry at first, but she ground against him anyway until he was inside, and then moisture was no longer a problem. He stood, legs apart a little, and reached down to rub her clit roughly as he increased his tempo and intensity.
She threw her head back and arched against him, wrapped her legs around him, and said, “Harder.” He obliged, until he was slamming against her, and she had to cling with her legs to keep from being driven backwards across the table. Her back arched, and she gasped, spasming around him, then reached down to touch, but he caught her hands in his and pinned her wrists to the table and moved faster until he started coming hard, collapsing forward onto her and releasing her wrists.
She whispered, “Jesus, Mulder,” and stroked his hair. He pulled himself upright, looked at her apologetically, and said, “I’m sorry...that was...”
She sat up and rolled her eyes. “Fucking incredible. Or incredible fucking. Don’t apologize.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Like it rough?”
She shrugged. “Sometimes. That was... hot.”
He reached up and smoothed her hair, then picked up one of her hands, and turned her wrists over. “I left marks.”
She chuckled. “So you did.” She reached up, and pulled him close for a kiss, then looked down. “We need a table this high at the condo.”
She shifted and hopped down. He grinned.
She returned the smile and went into the shop bathroom with her pile of clothes. He found a roll of shop towels and cleaned up a little, then got dressed.
When she came out of the bathroom and was about to leave, he said, “Actually, I did want to talk to you in private, it just occurred to me when we got in here that we might not get another chance for a while...”
She laughed. “So talk.”
He looked down. “It feels like we’re gearing up for a war, and we don’t even know who the enemy is, really.”
She nodded. “I know. But right now, we need to play the game. Nothing’s changed, not really. The men who control our children still have standing orders, and apparently aliens looking over their shoulder. The Calderons were on the Omega list... we still need to treat them as the enemy. We still need to walk the steps ahead of us, we just know that it won’t be over when we take this piece of the project apart. And I think we still can take this piece of the project apart. Krycek’s argument to the Calderons was valid. The project is in danger of exposure as long as those children carry that protein. Detective Kresge seems a determined type, and he’s seen things...he’s not going to let it go. I’m assuming he’s the one breathing down SDCSS’s neck? But maybe he needs to be brought in. We need to do what we would do anyway... just knowing that we’re looking for broader applications, allies, ways of fighting.”
He nodded. “I feel like my skills are not well suited to the changed mission...”
She shook her head. “Mulder, you have a way of ferreting out the truth... and just because you don’t have the same background in medical science doesn’t mean I don’t desperately need you helping me solve this case. You know we work better together... It doesn’t matter how much I know, I still don’t make those leaps you...”
She looked at him. “What?”
“You make leaps all the time. You just dress them up pretty in the science afterwards. But you’re right. We do our best work together. And hell, if it comes down to it, I now know how to change a diaper.” He smiled.
She smirked. “I can just see you as Mr. Dad.”
He kissed her, then mumbled against her, “Just so long as getting kids doesn’t mean we have to give up the hot sex.”
She swatted him playfully. “My parents had four children. None of us were older than 8 by the time Charlie was conceived. Ergo, my parents must have been able to find opportunity with young children in the house.”
He rolled his eyes. “Whereas my parents were in a tawdry triangle the entire time I was growing up?”
She shrugged. “At least they’re human.” She opened the door.
He glanced at the house. “Kinda.”
When they came back in, Joel and Mandy were in the kitchen. They passed through and went into the living room. Joel looked at Mandy and raised an eyebrow. She grinned and shrugged, and pinched his ass as they walked back into the other room.
Mulder went over to Teena. “Mom...” he started.
She stood up and hugged him. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get over it. Knowing she’s okay.”
He nodded, leaning down a little to put his cheek against her hair. “She’s okay, Mom. And we’re okay. Are you staying in town?”
She nodded against his chest. “I’m staying here, in little Kit’s room. I think I’ll be here for a while... I don’t want to lose her again.”
He nodded. “We’re going to be in town for a few weeks at the very least. But we can’t... This was risky coming today, but we had to chance it.”
She stepped back and looked up at him. “You’re in the war. So I’ll hug my son and send him out to fight. Mothers have been doing it for as long as wars have been fought, and I know you’ll do what you need to do. Go bring my grandchild to safety.”
He gave a half smile. “Apparently there are two babies in utero, and we’re going to try to save their surrogate mothers. If we can.”
She laughed. “You never do things by halves, do you? From bachelor to father of three in what?...”
“A week.” He laughed too. “But it feels like longer.”
Scully came over, and started to put out a hand, but Teena shook her head and gave her a hug. “I’d say welcome to the family, but you’ve been his family in truth for a long time now. I’m glad you decided to put up with him. So I’ll just say thank you.”
Scully blinked back a tear. “Thank you. It means a lot.”
Scully walked over to Garrett Spender, still reclined in his rocker. “Are you open to treatments?” she asked.
He shrugged, frowned, and then nodded.
“I’ll look into it,” she said, and turned to get a hug from Jeffrey.
Mulder hugged his sister tightly, then put up a hand to touch the side of her face. He shook his head, and said, “I never gave up looking... not even when I lost hope.”
She nodded. “It won’t be so long next time. I won’t hide from you again.”
Joel came over, and shook Mulder’s hand. Then he leaned in, and said quietly, “She’s coming on Friday. They are. Thank you.”
He nodded, then said, “Take care of my family. I need them to be safe.”
Joel nodded. “No question about that.”
Taking leave was hard. Mulder kept looking back at the house, and Scully led him to the car.
Joel followed them out, and smiled a little when Mulder adjusted the front seat forward without climbing in, then got in the back next to Scully.
As they drove back to the church, he said, “Don’t lose that spark you two have. Mandy and I have been close for twenty five years, and it’s still there for us. She knows I’m on her side, and I know she’s on mine. There is nothing we would not do for each other, and I think the world of her. The only times we slip are when we forget that.”
Scully looked at Mulder, and then leaned forward to say, “Thank you.”
Mulder said, “I’m glad my sister has you.”
Scully smiled at him and said, “You know, it’s six years this month.”
He chuckled. “Yes, it is, isn’t it. We missed our anniversary.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “Actually, the 7th was Yachats. And Ashland. If the dinner we had that night wasn’t worthy of an anniversary, I don’t know what was. Which means that the next day, when we got married, we’d known each other exactly 6 years.”
“Sounds like rushing it, to me,” quipped Joel from the front seat. “Then again, when Mandy turned 18, I asked her to marry me, and we got hitched the next day. We didn’t talk about it before then, but even so, we both knew it wasn’t a question of ‘if’. But that was 8 years after we met.”
“I’ve always been precocious,” said Mulder. “What can I say?”
“I’m just amazed at how much family I suddenly have. I’ve gone from a father-in-law, brother-in-law, wife, and three kids, to that plus another brother-in-law, a mother-in-law, two sisters and my mom. Plus whatever neices and nephews you manage to rescue. My sisters don’t have kids, do they?”
Mulder laughed. “Not a one. But you’ve made up for it. Does this mean we’re related to Gwynne?”
Scully shook her head. “Not exactly. She’s your sister’s mother-in-law, but there’s no other term for that. I suppose that the emotional relationship might end up being closer to “Aunt”... but not exactly. My mom is your mother-in-law.”
“I lucked out there, although I suspect I’m going to regret the brother-in-law. At least the one I know.” He smiled ruefully.
“How is Mom?” asked Joel. “We talked, but I haven’t seen. You know?
Mulder nodded. “Oh yeah. She is amazing. She’s got this network of people all over the country, and she has been planning for our undercover assignment for years. Far longer than we have. The military gave her a payoff, I think, right before she disappeared, and she turned it into leverage. We would have been winging this, but for her. She gave us this carefully crafted cover we just stepped into.”
Scully said, “She’s very wise. I don’t know if you’d call it happy, but she seemed very content. And her girls, your sisters... I think you’ll like them. I am hoping that some day we end up back up there. She’s got infrastructure, houses, a batcave.”
Joel looked thoughtful. “I’m going to discuss with her whether we should return with her. Mandy’s dad... this situation is getting complicated, and we’ve managed pretty well flying under the radar, but I would prefer to disappear completely. Your appearance, while welcome, puts a serious vulnerability in our cover.”
“You’ve been undercover for how long?” asked Mulder.
“Well, we changed our last names, both of us, when we married, entered something of a witness protection program so the name changes would not be tracked, and then moved. That was very late in 1982. So fifteen years, give or take.” He shrugged. “It wasn’t hard to do. It sounds like my mom was undercover a lot longer than that.”
Scully and Mulder looked at each other. Scully said, “I keep looking at this, and I can’t quite get my minds around going back to our lives. Can you imagine? The number of times we end up in the hospital, the number of times each of us has been kidnapped? I can’t imagine wondering where my child was, and I would not put it past the Syndicate to take our children the way they took you. How your mothers survived it...”
“Mine didn’t. Not as who she was. She had to become someone else.” Joel said.
Mulder sighed. “My mom lost a huge part of herself for a very long time. I’m hoping that she’ll get it back now. But survive... I’m not sure I’d call it that.”
Scully’s eyes burned a little as she said, “I only knew about Emily for a matter of days. And there is still not a day that goes by when I don’t think about her. Not one since she died. And the few days not knowing if Tyler was okay... that was so hard. I can’t imagine knowing a child for eight or ten years and then having them just vanish, not knowing what happened to them. I just can’t do it.”
Mulder put his arm over her shoulder. “No more. We’ll solve this. And we’ll solve it in a way that keeps our children safe and with us.”
She rested her head against him, and soon they were pulling into the church parking lot. A number of cars were still in the lot, and as they passed the dark sedan, Mulder saw Krycek look up, and give him a sardonic grin.
3:30 p.m. Teen Mothers’ Home.
Langly had spent the morning staring at computer monitors. It was a good opportunity to see that indeed, Krycek was not on the system anywhere. The night before had been spent at the home, not sleeping, and he found that the monitors were almost hypnotic. At 11 in the morning, he’d begged off and gone to poke into the computer system.
In the middle of the afternoon, he found a cluster of network linkages he’d not noticed before, considered hacking them, and then decided to go play tough guy and make someone open them for him. More in character, he told himself, but he didn’t feel like leaving fingerprints of that sort.
*Time to channel my inner bully,* he thought, *Except that I don’t have one.* He settled on channeling his evil cousin’s outer bully, and soon the Calderon clone was writing down passwords in for him. *I can’t call him Ernie. Ernie is cute and hapless and teases Bert, but he’s not a fucking psychopath. Not that kind of psychopath, anyway.*
He actually smiled when he realized he’d found three new sources of data, and when he investigated further, he realized they’d be able to cross a good 20 names off of Krycek’s list as ‘known, tapped.’ He would reach up and adjust his glasses every page, snapping a little picture for later. *Finally a match for Mulder’s photographic memory.*
4:01 p.m. St. William’s
Krycek walked into the church and found them in the coatroom. “How did it go?” he asked.
“Better than we could have hoped,” said Scully. “He’s not going to interfere. We are fully committed to the fight. All six of us. But for the moment, it changes nothing about what we are doing.”
Krycek nodded. “Good. Did you shoot him?”
Mulder shook his head. “Tempting, but no. Mandy would have been upset.”
“When we leave here, as soon as you’re home, you’re under surveillance again. I’m telling them that you were at church, then went to lunch nearby, and a movie. If you want, you can do dinner, too, but I’ll be in the vicinity.” Krycek nodded at the garment bag. “Don’t forget your clever disguises. They’re not perfect, but they do help. You guys look almost like you right now.”
It was a strange sort of caravan. Krycek didn’t bother keeping much distance. A call to Langly had put his mind at ease about that one. *Too cowed to risk being caught following me.*
They stopped at a little Thai restaurant for Thom Ka Gai and curry at about five, and lingered over bowls of coconut ice cream until almost seven, before finally heading back to the condo. On the way out, Mulder handed a takeout bag through Krycek’s window. He looked at them strangely and then followed their car back to the cul de sac, where he retreated to his condo, and they to theirs.
6:00 p.m. (ab)Normal Heights
Byers and Frohike were playing gin, badly.
Byers muttered, after they ran the draw deck out for the fifth time running, “I miss Ringo.”
Frohike said, “I miss Krycek’s cooking. That’s a little twisted, isn’t it?”
Byers shook his head. “After that mushroom soup? I understand completely.”
“Pizza?” Frohike asked.
Then Frohike’s pocket rang. He looked at the caller ID, and said, “Go.”
“They found him.” Gywnne’s voice was shaking.
Frohike thumbed it to speaker, and set the phone down on the table. “Say that again.”
“They found Noel.” Gwynne said again.
Byers blinked. “Who found him? Where?”
She gave an almost hysterical half-laugh. “The Harrods. He’s... Oh my god. He’s married to her.”
Frohike cocked his head. “Which her?”
They looked at each other, then at the phone, then back at each other.
“They were together. They’ve been married for over 15 years. I have... I have grandchildren.”
Frohike realized after a moment that he had tears running down his face. “That’s...” His voice was rough.
Byers breathed out, “Amazing.”
“Incredible.” Frohike managed.
“We’re coming down Friday. Oh my god. I’m coming down to see my boy. Jessie’s coming too.” Overwhelm was evident in her voice.
“You have people with you tonight?” Frohike asked.
She gave a weak laugh. “The girls are both here, and Dena. But we’re all gobsmacked.”
Byers said, “Order in. Otherwise someone’s going to substitute salt for sugar and then it’s all over.”
She laughed. “Yes, sir.”
Frohike swallowed hard. “I’m delighted for you. Take care of your girls. We love you and we’ll see you on Friday.”
She said, “Thanks. Will do,” and the line went dead.
They stared at the phone for ten minutes. Finally Byers said, “I think I need a drink.”
Frohike nodded stupidly.
Another five minutes passed, and Byers said, “Have we gone to find a bar yet?”
Frohike shook his head.
Byers leaned forward and picked up the phone. He stared at it, then found Heron’s number, and dialed it. When she answered, he said, “Luke, 15:32.”
There was a long silence, a rustling, and then he had to hold the phone away from his ear for a moment until the shrieking stopped.
Skinner was next. The reaction was much quieter, but they could hear him smiling.
An hour later, they were sitting in the living room of someone they’d never met. Food appeared, and half dozen older women and one other man passed around beer, wine and scotch, which were used to toast birds cryptically all evening.
10:00 p.m. The Condo
Mulder and Scully spent the evening curled on the couch together, reading. She sat with her legs off to one side, in the corner of the sectional, and he put a pillow in the little curve between her hips and her left knee, and lay on his back with his head on her leg, holding his book up near her shoulder while she draped her left arm across his upper chest, holding her MessagePad and scribbled with her other hand.
When they went up to their room, he stripped down to his boxers, and climbed into bed. When she took off her clothes down to her underwear, he wasn’t surprised. When she took those off too, his eyes shot involuntarily to the camera. She slid under the blanket and tucked herself in under his shoulder. He didn’t dare comment, but he could feel her smile into his shoulder as he reached to turn off the light.
The Other Condo
Krycek watched as they got ready for bed, and saw Mulder’s eyes flick to the camera as his wife stripped to the buff. He shook his head, and said for no one’s benefit, “She’s not my type, Mulder.”
Continue to Chapter 21
This chapter snuck up on me. Ten years ago, I had this amazing plan for how Samantha was going to show up. On Easter. Her father was going to be in a goddamned bunny suit. Which is almost a full month later than it is happening here. But Spender, that stubborn sonofabitch, was adamant that he was going to go visit Ma Mulder. And when that happened, well, she’s pretty stubborn too, and it wasn’t going to happen any other way than the two of them getting on a plane. And when Cancerman refused to tell Spender without Mulder there? I threw out several already-written chapters. And the whole damn timeline. I still know where it’s going, I’m just surprised at how fast it’s getting there, story time. And at the same time, how many words it’s taking. But I’m glad that the characters in my head are that smart. I hate artificial stupidity, and would rather sacrifice an arbitrary timeline than dumb them down. Spender and Krycek were NOT GOING TO BE IN THIS. I didn’t know Spender existed when I started. My original name for the Cancerman’s family? SPENCER. Which I came up with in 1997. Really.
The chapter was very emotional to write. I tend to have them in my heads pretty strongly while I’m writing, and I was unprepared to share the physical response to the meeting between Mulder and Samantha. The mytharc stuff was like pulling teeth. Which is why this took two days rather than the one most chapters have taken.
Translation of the Latin in Mulder’s head:
In the name of the father, and son, and the holy ghost. He wll come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We look for the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Blessed be. This is the cup of my blood. Deliver us from evil, and grant us peace in our day. Lamb of god, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
I’ve had the sung mass in my head for two days. Alternating, improbably, with They Might Be Giants singing “Why Does the Sun Shine?” Don’t ask.