After the Future -
Chapters 44 through 51
They were barely out of sight when Bill began pushing his horse faster. "Bill!" Charlie called after him. "Hold up!"
"Hold up?" The larger man pulled up reluctantly. "We need to get going. We should have been out of here two days ago."
"Two days ago we had things we needed to finish before we could leave. Matt isn't even to Momma Ruth's himself yet, cool it." Charlie's voice had an edge of command to it.
"How can you be sure?" Bill sounded pissed on the way to angry.
Charlie motioned to Sam. "If he were there, Katy would tell Sam. Trust the process, Bill."
Bill moved on ahead of them again, rather than comment. Charlie looked over at Sam and shrugged. Sam only grinned. He was delighted to finally be making the equivalent of a vaccine run. If it got him out of the fields for a week or so, he wasn't going to complain.
Even though they were moving at an easy pace, Charlie called for a halt to rest the horses after a couple of hours. Bill managed to keep his mouth shut, but he wasn't happy.
Their next stop, for lunch and again to rest the horses, he rounded on his younger brother. "What's the deal? We haven't gotten above a damn trot. We need - "
"We need to make sure nothing happens to these horses. In case you haven't noticed, we have the entire herd and all future potential with us on this trip. We have given ourselves plenty of time to reach Momma Ruth's. We'll probably take even longer getting back. Mulder, Todd and Anne went over the route with Sam and me. You were invited as I recall."
Bill glared at him, but didn't speak.
When they continued on, Charlie and Sam rode side by side, catching up with each other. Sam had Charlie laughing at stories of the kids that he hadn't heard. Bill kept his distance.
It wasn't until they stopped for the night that Bill finally joined them. Charlie cooked; lunch had been cold, so the hot meal was appreciated.
Charlie and Sam ate slowly, savoring it. Bill just wolfed it down. When they were finished, Sam took clean up. When he was away from them Charlie turned to Bill. "We made good time today, so what's eating you now? We're on the way; we're going to get Matt."
"Good time? I want to get there. But we have to be careful with Mulder's horses."
"Okay, we're out here all alone. Just what the hell is your problem with Mulder?"
"My problem? Are you kidding?"
"No, I really want to know."
"How can you just ignore all the pain, the hell that man has caused our family?"
"All the . . . what are you talking about?" Charlie leaned back.
"He's the reason Melissa is dead."
"Melissa is dead because a lowlife shot her in the head. Mulder had nothing to do with it, other than protecting Dana so the same thing didn't happen to her."
"She wouldn't have needed protecting if she hadn't worked with him."
"Do you really believe that?"
"It's true. And look at all the other things that have happened to her, disappearing for months, being in a coma, the cancer - "
"You think Mulder gave her cancer?" Charlie just watched the man.
"I think all the crazy stuff he was mixed up with caused it, when she was missing, you know - "
"What I know is that the crazy stuff he was mixed up with saved her. That chip - "
Bill groaned. "You believe that?"
"Yeah, I do."
Bill made a rude noise. "Okay you tell me, why do you think he's such an allround great guy?"
Charlie leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, "Well, he's got a great sense of humor. I really enjoy working with him. And no job is beneath him, even if he is 'Mulder'. I mean, if he's on compost duty, he does it, if he's supposed to split wood, he splits it; then, when he's through he comes to help you finish up." Charlie took a deep breath.
"Then there's Missy."
"Missy? Your daughter?"
Charlie nodded. "If Mulder hadn't been there that night . . . " He looked up at Bill. "I've never been so scared in my life. Mulder kept it calm."
"Mulder delivered your daughter?"
"He started to."
"Where the hell was Dana?"
"At the next bed. MJ was born about two minutes before Missy. Fortunately he just slipped on out, because I came damn close to losing both Mary and Missy that night."
"What went . . . "
"Everything. The cord was wrapped around Missy's whole body. She was in distress, Mary was in agony. I . . . Dana moved right over when Mulder realized something was wrong. She just gave him instructions and together . . . They're a team. Maybe that's the thing I like best about the man, Bill, he fits our sister. They fit together like no one I've ever seen. Sometimes I think they're even closer than Mary and I. He's a good father and he adores Dana. He makes her happy."
Bill looked away then and realized Sam was standing there, listening. "I suppose you think he can walk on water as well."
Sam shrugged, "No." He seemed to be thinking of the right words as he took a seat next to Charlie. "I know I'd be considered a kid in the old world. In school, the leaders I knew were always . . . arrogant, thought they were better than anyone else. Mulder doesn't. And he doesn't treat me like a kid. When, when we had that meeting about the clone, he asked me my opinion and he listened to it." The boy shrugged again. "I feel like I'm . . . a full citizen. Important."
Charlie's hand squeezed his shoulder. "You are. Let's get some sleep."
The next day Bill was less standoffish and when they stopped for the night, Sam turned to him. "Can I . . . may I ask you a question?"
Charlie grinned. Bill looked up at the young man, "Uh, yeah."
"What do you remember?"
Bill looked away, focusing on the fire. "My memories aren't real. Chrissy . . ."
"I know, but . . . but what did they want you to think?"
Charlie's hand came up to stop him, but Bill shook his head. "We were at sea." He stretched out his legs and settled against his pack. "We expected to be out a couple of months. Then one of the men got a cable that his wife had died. It happens, but it's always a shock. She'd caught a virus; that was all we knew. Then another one came, and another. Then we were flooded. I don't know if anyone was unaffected. I . . . I heard about Tara on the second day. I just got a cable that she was gone and Matt was with the Hartley's.
"Of course we requested permission to head in, but we were told we were being quarantined. That the virus was apparently a pandemic and since we hadn't been exposed . . . That didn't sit well with anyone, but orders are orders."
Bill shifted to get comfortable. Sam leaned forward listening, his elbows on his knees.
"Then we lost communication. The systems were working, but no one responded. We were able to raise some distant bases, but no one could give us information on San Diego." He watched the fire for a few minutes.
"We decided to head in. We were all scared, and we needed information. We docked without a fight. That was something we were worried about, being fired on by our own, but there was no blockade. We were met by MPs and herded into a warehouse at the dock. They wanted to debrief us, but we knew nothing. We just wanted to find out what had happened to our families.
"When we were released, I raced over to the house. Of course it was empty. I tried neighbors, but the place was deserted. No one could tell me where Matt was, where the Hartley's might have taken him, even if he was still alive. There was no gravesite to visit. The bodies had been incinerated for fear of contagion. I couldn't live at the house and transportation was already a problem. I moved into a barracks."
He went silent then and Sam looked over at Charlie. "I'm sorry, Uncle Bill."
Bill nodded. "It wasn't true."
"What wasn't true?" It was Charlie asking now.
Bill stared into the fire. "Everything that happened after I got off the ship. The MPs weren't MPs, and the warehouse wasn't . . . I was . . . I was with them, the a-aliens. They could make people see what they wanted to see. I remember searching for Matt; I remember talking to people, but . . . but it didn't happen."
Bill rose abruptly. "We need to get some sleep."
"Yeah," Charlie nodded. "I'll get the fire."
They were quiet then, each thinking their own thoughts.
The next morning Bill didn't ride off ahead of them, but stayed with them. They didn't talk a lot, but were more comfortable together.
When they made camp that night, Bill fixed dinner. Both Charlie and Sam were surprised at how well he did. When they settled in after clean up, it was Bill that started the conversation. "Okay, we know I was incarcerated. How about you guys? Did you stay in Columbus? How did you catch up with Dana?"
Charlie grimaced. "No, we left Columbus almost immediately. The virus hit us later than the larger cities, but soon enough. Mom had raced to us from DC when Dana had told her what was happening. She knew the virus was carried by bees and Dana had talked her into taking some of her blood. She shared it with us as soon as she got there. Thank God she made it when she did.
"We took off, heading for DC, but we didn't get far. There weren't any deliveries of gas for personal vehicles almost immediately. We made it as far as Devola, Ohio. That's a small town on the eastern border. That's where the gas ran out. We'd avoided the highways, so we got farther than a lot of people."
"They took you in?"
Charlie nodded. "We were healthy, able to work. The boys were big enough to help in the fields too. We took over the house of an older couple that had died. They quit letting people stay very soon after us, they realized that there'd be no food deliveries. We got gardens going right away, but . . . " Charlie looked over at Sam. "It was rough. We were hungry."
He sighed, "We were real hungry. We lost people because of it. Those that survived the virus . . . then they died of starvation." He shook his head. "We were considered important, Mary being a nutritionist. She kept a lot of people alive."
Charlie stretched out in his sleeping bag then, the memories of life before Quonochontaug overwhelming him for a moment.
"I'm not saying being held captive by aliens was any picnic, Bill, but it was bad out here. Anne, Todd's wife, the woman that's pregnant?" He added at Bill's blank look. "We met her there. She'd been . . . she'd been used. She managed to stay alive. By the time she got to Devola . . . well, Mom took her in."
"Used? You mean . . . "
"She had to stay alive."
Bill glanced over at Sam; he understood. "This town, Devola, did you want to leave?"
Sam snorted before Charlie could reply. Charlie smiled at his son, "Yeah, we wanted to leave. There was another 'Sam' there. He had been mayor before the virus. Apparently that gave him authority when civilization broke down. He had a greatly decreased population. He did get the people moving, gathered the people closer in town where we could communicate in an emergency, and consolidated the available food."
"So what was wrong with him?" Bill shifted to a more comfortable position in his sleeping bag.
"Having a Ph.D. in Nutrition wasn't the only reason he wanted Mary. She's a young woman, capable of bearing children. So was Anne."
Bill blinked at that, "He, he wanted to breed them?" He glanced over at Sam by way of apology, but Sam was nodding.
"Even though we were short on food, he wanted to increase the population. He thought of women as wealth. Hell, maybe he was planning to create an army to fight them. I wasn't part of his inner circle. He was also after Mom."
"Mom? What do you mean, 'after'?"
"I mean, he wanted her for his consort. I'm sure he planned to have other women to carry his children, but he wanted her to act as matriarch and help him keep order."
"What did you do?"
"Me? Not much. We worked; kept our heads down . . . Then Walter came."
"Mulder found out where we were, and sent for us. Walter, Todd and Alex came." Charlie grinned, "Walter and Mom made Sam think they had a long standing relationship. Well, they did, but not the kind they presented to him. Really pissed Sam off and he kind of threw us out. I wasn't sure we'd get Anne out, but Walter didn't flinch."
"Why didn't Mulder come for you?" That belligerent tone was back in his voice.
Charlie closed his eyes for a moment to count to ten. "Dana was pregnant with Katy. She couldn't make the trip and he didn't want to leave her. She had Katy about three weeks after we got there."
Bill gave a short nod and turned to Sam, "What do you remember?"
"I remember mostly being scared in Devola." Sam admitted. "We were hungry and isolated and I hated working in the fields."
"You work in the fields now." Bill observed.
"It's different, now I'm doing it for my family. We own it, not Sam or a bunch of strangers I don't care about. And we're not isolated anymore."
"How are we not isolated?"
Sam grinned, "We have contacts all over the US and Canada; a few in Europe. We're growing every day."
Bill watched him for a moment, "Katy?"
Sam smiled, "Yes, and she's taught Will and me a lot."
"You can hear her."
Sam nodded, "And the others now. Missy is with MJ at Hickey's. Chrissy is 'talking' to Lee."
"Lee?" Bill looked over at Charlie with that question, but Charlie was looking at Sam.
"Chrissy can talk to Lee?"
"Well, they can communicate."
Charlie finally looked over at Bill, "Lee is the baby Anne's carrying."
Bill swallowed hard, "Will Matt be able to . . . "
Sam shrugged, "If he wants to. Suzanne, Petey and John picked it up really fast. Tracy and Jennifer are pretty good."
"What about the . . . us older ones?" Bill asked.
"Mulder and Scully can."
"You call her Scully too?" Bill sounded a little aggrieved at that.
"It's faster than Aunt Dana. Besides, she's 'the Scully' known around the world, just like he's 'the Mulder'."
Bill shook his head, "'The Mulder'. Christ. If he knew so much, why didn't he try to stop it?"
Charlie opened his mouth to tell Bill to shut up, but Sam was speaking. "Nobody believed him. And people like you called him crazy." He said it without malice. "Besides, it didn't work."
"What didn't work?"
"The virus. I'm sorry, I know Aunt Tara died, but the virus didn't work the way it was supposed to."
"What do you mean?" Charlie was asking now.
"Well, the virus was supposed to make an alien grow inside of us. That's how they reproduce. You know, like what they did to Sc - to Aunt Dana in Antarctica. Instead people died without growing anything. Katy thinks they moved before they were ready or it got away from them in Russia. That or it mutated out here in the real world."
"It was supposed to grow an alien?" Charlie sounded strangled.
"Uh, yeah. That's what was happening in the spaceship where Mulder found Scully. They used human bodies like eggs, then they burst out when they were ready to be born. That didn't happen. It never got that far. The people infected died instead."
"How do you know this?" Bill looked between Charlie and Sam, confused.
"I didn't." Charlie admitted.
"Katy found out. She told us. She hasn't been able to get close to an alien, and the clones don't know anything, but that's her theory."
"She's not going to get close to one either. Not if Mulder and Dana have anything to say about it."
Sam grinned, "I know. She really just wants to see if she can read them, but don't worry. She's got no plans to go hunting."
"Good to hear." Charlie said dryly. "Come on we need to get some rest."
They were eating their cold breakfast on horseback the next morning when Sam looked over at the two men and smiled. "Matt should reach Mama Ruth's tomorrow."
Bill's head shot up. "When should we get there?"
"The next day. That'll give him a chance to rest up a little. And there's a woman with them who's coming with us as well."
Charlie's look asked the question. Sam just grinned and shrugged.
After the Future - XLV (PG-13)
Charlie didn't try to hold him back too much this morning. Bill was going to see his son for the first time in seven years. That was something Charlie couldn't even contemplate, his sons and now his daughter were his life, his and Mary's. Maybe in the old world they would have gone off to college, married and lived apart from him. There was less chance of that happening now; he could grow old with grandchildren surrounding him.
Charlie glanced at the back of Sam's head and grinned. Something made Sam turn and return his smile. Then he winked and picked up his own pace so that his Uncle Bill wouldn't get too far ahead.
They reached the outskirts of Refuge Mission just before lunch that morning. They were greeted by a small delegation, led by Mama Ruth. She hugged Sam fiercely, then Charlie. She turned to Bill then, "I'm glad you could finally join your family."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"Mama Ruth. Everyone calls me that. I know you want to see your son. He's at my house. I thought we should have a few minutes - "
"I appreciate that, M-Mama Ruth, but I need to see him now. We could talk after I see him."
Her eyebrow rose and she glanced over at Sam. He shrugged, shaking his head slightly.
"All right, Bill. We'll take you there now. Let Scott and Phil take the horses. They'll feed them and get them settled in."
"Thank you." Charlie stepped closer and took the older woman's free arm. He walked at her pace, Sam on her cane side. They visited, bringing her the news of Anne and Todd.
Bill was obviously anxious, wanting them to move faster, but he couldn't legitimately rush the old woman.
When they arrived at her house, Mama Ruth led them inside. She turned to Bill, "I'll get the boy." She limped toward the back of the house.
Bill folded his arms, then stuck his hands in his back pockets, then wiped his hands on his jeans. Charlie kept quiet, would he have been any better under the circumstances?
She returned shortly, prodding the pudgy boy in front of her. The look on the boy's face showed his fury. "Say hello to your father, boy." Mama Ruth touched his shoulder.
He jerked away from her and refused to look at the people assembled.
Bill stepped forward, "Matt? Matt, do you remember me?"
"My name is Matthew, Matthew Hartley."
Bill reached out to put his hand on the boy's shoulder, but Matt knocked it away and stepped back.
"I want to go home."
"We're going to take you home."
"To Florida?" Matthew's eyes were narrowed.
"No, we're going north. You have a lot of family there - two aunts, a bunch of cousins - "
"No!" He looked up into his father's face, fairly spitting with fury. Then he turned and ran back to the other room.
Mama Ruth sighed and sank into the nearest chair.
Bill stood there stunned.
"That was what I wanted to talk to you about." She looked up at Bill.
Instead of responding, Bill turned on his heel and left the house. Charlie watched him, then looked over at Mama Ruth. "I, uh, I better - "
"Give him a minute, son."
Charlie sighed and nodded. He didn't have a clue what to say anyway.
"I was hoping the boy would have calmed down some by the time you got here, but . . . Let's have some lunch. There're a lot of people here who want to meet you. Then afterwards you should spend some time with Dick, Melanie and Ricky. They brought Matthew and Lynne here."
"Lynne? Is that the woman that's going back with us?"
"Oh, that's right. You didn't know about her when you left. She's a lovely young lady. She's twenty-one but doesn't look it, and she's very good with animals. We'll be sorry to see her leave. She's lived near Matthew for years; maybe she'll be able to help."
"Looks like we're going to need it." Charlie shook his head.
"Well," Mama Ruth rose to her feet, "let's get some food in you. You'll feel better."
Again taking her arm, Charlie walked with Mama Ruth to the larger building nearby. Others were assembling, and greeted them warmly. They were served a warm filling meal, with promises of a celebration that evening.
"What about Matt, uh Matthew?" Charlie whispered to Mama Ruth.
"Don't worry, he won't miss a meal." A man sitting at the table spoke lowly. Mama Ruth looked over at him and he fell quiet. Charlie caught Sam's eye and the young man nodded.
"Ah, here's Lynne." Mama Ruth looked up and smiled. "Lynne Alexander, meet Charlie and Sam Scully."
Her eyes lit up. She shyly held out her hand. "Please to meet you." She shook Charlie's hand first, then Sam's.
"I hear you're coming home with us." Charlie smiled.
"I would love to, if you'll have me. I'm a hard worker and I know animals."
"So I heard; that's going to come in handy now. We're just gotten our first horses and a cow. We had rabbits and pigs. Now we're a little overwhelmed."
Lynne's smile grew. "I have a horse, a donkey, some goats, a cat and a dog."
Sam laughed out loud. Lynne, startled, laughed too and Charlie joined in. "I think you're gonna be as handy as Lewis."
At her puzzled look, Charlie nodded. "Don't worry; you'll know everyone very soon."
They looked up to see Bill come in and get some food. He sat off to one side, not speaking to the others, his eyes down. He didn't look very inviting. Everyone respected his privacy and gravitated toward Mama Ruth.
The conversation was quieter then, but everyone spoke to Charlie and Sam. After a little while people began drifting back to work with a promise to see them at the special dinner that night. After almost everyone had left, Sam saw Matthew slip in from the back and get his lunch.
Bill didn't notice him. Charlie kept quiet, watching the boy. Sam's hand on his arm brought him back to the present. They rose with Mama Ruth and left the room as well.
After lunch they rested for a little while. No one would allow them to help with the upcoming dinner, the animals or even their own laundry. The pampering was nice.
Mama Ruth brought Dick and his family over after about an hour, for some debriefing.
Dick was holding Ricky's hand, his other on Melanie's back as they moved on inside. Bill was quiet, withdrawn. Charlie looked over at his brother, then took the proffered seat. Sam sat beside him.
Dick looked at Bill, but then focused on Charlie when the older man wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Look, I do think being with his family is the best thing for Matthew." Dick began; their topic obvious. "He's angry, he's hurt and though he probably doesn't even realize it, he's scared. He's a little boy whose life has been turned completely upside down a second time. He lost his mother, now he's lost the people that raised him and been forced from his home. The only stability he had for as long as he can remember was his grandparents. They were older and in grief when they got him. You know this, maybe they did spoil him, but I do believe he became their whole world."
Charlie nodded. He'd seen how scared the boy was under his faade.
"He hasn't had to work before and he's not happy about that. He also didn't spend a lot of time with other people his age. He was living in what had been a retirement village before the virus. There were no children there when he arrived. What followed had to be horrendous to him. Older people did not survive the virus well at all, so he loses his mother, races across country with what they could carry, and moves into basically a hospital ward."
Bill had eased himself into a chair and let his face fall into his hands.
"I wouldn't take too much on, Bill. I didn't know this when I met him either. I was mostly irritated that he wasn't a help along the way, then I realized I was expecting him to act his size rather than his age. He's younger than he looks, and I had to remember that. Ricky was more help and he's four. But Matthew was coddled. After people quit dying, he became almost a pet to the older people. They weren't having children and for the most part didn't know what had happened to their families."
Ricky moved closer to his father and looked over at Bill. "You can't blame Mulder for this one. You might as well quit trying to find a way."
Bill looked up stunned.
Dick looked down at his son confused. "Why would anyone blame Mulder for Matthew's attitude?"
Ricky just looked at Bill, who now refused to meet his eyes. Charlie closed his eyes, shaking his head.
After a minute Dick faced Bill again. "I don't know, Mulder's the psychologist, but I'd think talking about his mother, how happy you were when he was born, that kind of thing would help. He's not going to listen at first, but he might hear. He doesn't trust anyone, I don't know how long it will take until he does, but he's going to be with you now. I wouldn't let him push you away if you can help it."
"I won't. He won't push me away." Bill said quietly.
Melanie had left early to help with the dinner, now Dick and Ricky headed for home. Dick wasn't thrilled with the way the conversation had gone and he wanted to ask Ricky what he'd meant about blaming Mulder, but right now he was tired. He felt Ricky's hand slip into his and immediately felt better.
He looked down at his son. "You know, I'm glad to be home. I don't like traveling nearly as much as I used to."
"I know." Ricky grinned up at him.
"But we got a great reward, didn't we? Your aunt is here and your cousins. And we did a favor for Mulder."
"I like the other reward even more." Ricky's smile was full and his eyes were laughing.
"What other reward?"
"My new baby brother. The one you and Mom made me in Florida."
Dick stopped dead in his tracks, gaping at him. After a minute he found his voice, "Does, does your mother know?"
Ricky shook his head.
Dick grabbed him up then and tossed him in the air. Then he hugged him tightly. "Why don't we go find her and tell her?"
"Good idea!" The boy hugged his father's neck and they headed in that direction.
They left two days later. Again Matt rode with Lynne. The donkey was loaded down with gifts and supplies, and it was tethered to the goats to keep everyone together.
They started out with Charlie leading, Bill at the rear. Sam was beside Lynne and Matthew. Lynne looked over at him and smiled. "You ride well."
"Thanks. I've had a lot of experience lately."
"You'll be glad to get home."
"Very. I'm even looking forward to working in the fields again. And I miss my girl, Trisha."
"You have a brother and a sister too, don't you?"
"Yeah. Will is my brother, he's older. Missy is five. She was born after we got to Quonochontaug."
"Lots of kids there?"
Sam looked over at Matthew, who was pointedly ignoring them. The boy couldn't help but hear. "A whole bunch. Katy is the oldest born there after . . . well, after. But we've had some families move in with kids that a little older. Dad's the teacher; we're back to the old one room schoolhouse with all ages learning together. We've got some real little ones too and Anne is gonna have a baby in the fall. She's the one that Mama Ruth knows. She and Todd named their first baby Ruthie, after Mama Ruth."
"Who else? Is it a big place? Where will I live?"
"It's not that big, at least not Quonochontaug Itself. We're ringed by a lot of villages about our size. We trade with them. When we go on a big hunt, several of the villages will get together so we can all share. Jerry's our chief hunter. He's been hunting his whole life, even with a bow, so he's taught us."
Sam looked back to make sure Bill was doing okay. "I'm not sure where you'll be living. Probably at Brittany's house, at least at first. That's been where the single women usually go. The men have moved to the clinic. It's not really a clinic, it's a mansion, but we use it as our gathering place. It has a big kitchen and we all usually have lunch together. Some people eat all their meals there."
Matthew still hadn't spoken, or even looked in Sam's direction. "What about you? Were you in a town or out in the country?"
"Kind of both. When I was younger, Dad sold a lot of our land to the company that built the retirement village. The center of the complex was the nursing home part, almost a hospital. Then they added a building for people that needed less care, but still older. Eventually they added condos. That's where Matthew lived. Right?" She turned to look at Matthew. He sniffed and didn't respond.
They moved on to other topics, discussing things that should be of interest to Matthew.
That night after they set up camp and ate, Matthew went on to bed rather than visit with them. Lynne picked up the story where she and Sam had dropped it earlier.
"Everyone in the nursing home died and most of the people in the assisted living part." Lynne looked away for a moment, then continued.
"Mom and I went over to help, but there wasn't much we could do. Finally the city came in and created a mass grave. Matthew's grandfather helped with that. Matthew wasn't there, but the smell, the . . . the horror of it was everywhere. When the virus died out or whatever, maybe the rest of the country could go on, but most of the people around us were already old and in failing health."
She sighed, "For a long time I didn't even know a kid was living with them. If I had, maybe I could have gotten him away occasionally. Kids like to be around animals and he could have had a break. When I did find out, it was too late. And Mrs. Hartley didn't want him out of her sight. When she died, I think Mr. Hartley tried to change things, get him to help out around the place, but . . ."
Bill looked over at his sleeping son and seemed to shrink a little.
"Bill," Charlie's arm went around his shoulders, "You were being held prisoner. There was nothing you could have done. He's young, he can get past this. Yes, he'll remember, but with new better memories . . . We have to try."
Bill nodded, the look of defeat not leaving his face. "I don't know how." He quietly admitted. "I wasn't a father to him when he needed it and I don't know what to do now."
"He still needs it. He'll always need you. None of these kids came with an instruction book. I didn't know, don't know, what I'm doing most of the time."
"Yeah, right. Look at your boys. They're men, fine men."
"Thank you, but I didn't do it alone. My guys have been lucky enough to have a lot of family around their whole lives. That's started for Matthew now."
The yearning look in his big brother's eyes was hard to face. Charlie nodded, "We'll all help."
Sam rose and went over to where Matt was sleeping. He squatted quietly by his head and held his hand out, over Matt's face but not touching him.
Bill opened his mouth to question him, but Charlie shook his head, "It's probably a message from Katy."
For a moment Charlie thought Bill was going to protest that as well, but the older man shut his mouth and looked away.
After Lynne was asleep and Bill had turned in, Charlie joined Sam. "Want to tell me what that was about?"
Sam looked up at him and moved over to make room. "I don't really know. Katy wanted to give Matt a message. He won't accept it when he's awake."
"Do you know what the message was?"
Sam shook his head. "I got the impression of pictures from home, but nothing specific."
"So nothing's wrong at home?"
"No, things are fine. They'd let me know if there was a problem."
"Good. Get some rest."
The next morning Bill was riding close to Lynne and Matt, so Sam slowed down to ride beside his father. "Dad, growing up, was Bill like Matt?"
Charlie thought about that for a moment, then shook his head. "Physically Bill was a big guy, like your grandfather, but he was muscular. He was on all the teams growing up, tackle in football, forward in basketball, clean-up batter in baseball. And he was a bully."
Sam grinned at that.
"In his defense, he kind of had to be, with all the moving around we did. He was always my opposite. I mean, I played some baseball, even a little basketball, but never football. And I think he was born wanting to join the Navy. I never even considered it."
Charlie sighed, "Bill thought Dad could walk on water. I loved Dad, but we didn't always see eye to eye. I didn't like that he was gone so much, and I didn't like that Bill thought he was 'in charge' when Dad was out on maneuvers. Bill and Missy argued all the time. Fortunately I was enough younger than him that he mostly ignored me."
"What about with Dana?"
Charlie grinned then, "Have you ever noticed that Dana is a little stubborn?"
Sam laughed out loud then. Bill glanced at them but immediately turned back to Matt. "I believe I heard Mulder mention that one or two million times."
"Yeah, that Dana. She wouldn't take much off of Bill. She knew he wasn't Dad and reminded him of it a lot. Really pissed him off."
"I believe that."
They dismounted, knowing that they wouldn't be alone for long. Charlie was more than delighted to be home and off a horse for the foreseeable future. Matthew was looking around, Charlie could see the fear and, and hopelessness in the boy's face.
They all looked at the sound of others approaching. Sam smiled at the sight of Dana running toward them. Mulder was beside her, his hand out to make sure she didn't stumble.
Something made Charlie look over at Matthew. His eyes were glued on Dana, his mouth open. He looked as though he was transfixed.
"Oh Matty! I'm so happy you're here!" She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. To Charlie's amazement, the boy's arms went around her, clinging as though he'd never let go. Tears were streaming down his face.
"The angel. You're the angel." He was murmuring over and over. Scully looked up at Mulder, confused and concerned. She didn't let go of the boy.
Katy joined them from the barn and stood watching them, nodding slightly.
After the Future XLVI (PG-13)
Scully looked up at Mulder. She certainly wasn't expecting this. Mulder was looking over at Katy. He nodded to her then turned back to Scully.
He leaned down to whisper to Matthew, "She is an angel. And she wants you to be happy. Think you could live here?"
Matthew looked over at him. Mulder met his eyes and after a moment he nodded. "Good to have you here, Matthew." He stood up and held out his hand to shake. After a long moment, Matthew held out his right hand. His left gripped Scully's even tighter.
Bill stood on the far side of his horse, watching. His eyes narrowed when Matthew voluntarily shook Mulder's hand. Something made him look down and he realized Esther and MJ had appeared beside him and were watching him, their faces impassive.
Bill ran his hand over his forehead, and sighed. Of course Mulder would be able to reach him. He could walk on water, right?
"Let's go over to the clinic, Matty. Your Grandmother is there." Scully coaxed him gently.
He pulled back slightly. "A lot of people?"
"They won't bother you. Everyone is very happy that you're here." Scully hugged him again. "I'll be with you the whole time."
That didn't completely relax him, but he let her lead him in that direction. "I'll catch up in just a second, Scully." Mulder squeezed her hand and she nodded.
Mulder turned back to the rest of the group. He smiled at Charlie as he approached him. They grinned, hugging each other. "You missed me." Charlie chuckled.
"Yep, I did. Kevin kept me on compost duty just about the whole time."
Charlie laughed out loud at that and Mulder turned to Sam. "Did you keep the old guys in line?" He asked.
"I tried, but they're pretty old." He responded, giving Mulder a hug himself. "I want you to meet someone very important." He turned to Lynne.
She stepped forward shyly and held out her hand. "Hi."
Mulder shook it and looked her over. "Lynne, right?"
He winced. "Mulder, please. I'm not that old."
"Mulder?" Her eyes widened, "You're Mulder?"
"Pleased or horrified?" He asked with a grin.
She blushed and looked over at Sam. He stepped closer. "He's always like that, Lynne. Tell him horrified, it'll help his ego."
She gave a nervous laugh. Mulder rolled his eyes. "Now I know who's doing compost duty tomorrow. Yeah, I'm Mulder. The little redhead that left with Matt is my wife, Scully."
"Little redhead? Just try to put me on compost." Sam began unloading the donkey.
Charlie moved in then to rescue Lynne. "Don't listen to them, they're always like that. You'll get used to it."
Jerry, who hadn't spoken until then, nodded. "He's right. But they're relatively harmless. We'll get these animals unloaded and bedded. Go on up to the clinic and get a bite to eat, rest up a little. Don't worry about your livestock, Lynne; we'll take good care of them."
"Thanks. I'll check back later. They shouldn't give you any trouble."
Mulder looked over at Bill then, "We're glad you're home."
"Is that the royal 'we'?" Bill asked, his tone as angry as always.
Mulder nodded as the smiles slipped from Charlie and Sam's faces. "Your mother is anxious to see you." They started for the clinic, but Lynne stopped and looked back. "Bill? Are you coming?"
"In a minute." He turned away from them. Charlie took her arm and they moved toward the clinic.
Mulder looked over at Charlie. "We need to debrief, Mulder." He said quietly, "but give us a little time to get settled."
"Take all you need. You're home." Mulder agreed.
They spotted Trisha running in from the large field then and Sam raced to meet her. Sam picked her up and swung her around. Mulder and Charlie exchanged glances, but didn't comment.
When they turned back to look at the clinic, Mary was running toward them. The smile that came over Charlie's face caused Mulder and Lynne to fall back a little so that they could say their hellos alone.
"I think they like each other." Mulder said in a stage whisper to Lynne. Mary looked up then, blushing. Charlie winked at them, then turned to Mary. "I'd like you to meet Lynne, our new vet."
"I'm glad you're here. Everyone's so excited to have you. Come on in." She led them up the stairs and onto the porch. Missy tackled Charlie around the legs and he picked her up and swung her up in the air. She giggled wildly and hugged his neck, then looked over at the others, "Hi Lynne!"
"Uh, hi. You must be Missy."
The little girl nodded and scrambled down. She took Lynne's hand, "Come on, we made sandwiches." Lynne looked back at the others and flashed them a grateful smile, then followed the little girl inside.
Charlie spotted Dana and Matthew on the couch. His mother was on Matthew's other side and still had tears on her cheeks, though she was smiling now. Matthew still clung to Dana's hand.
Mary joined the other women, "Matt? Can I get you a sandwich?" He looked up startled that someone had spoken to him.
"You should eat something, Matt. People will be coming in for lunch soon; this will put us at the front of the line." Maggie stroked his hair again.
He looked over at Dana, then nodded. Mary headed to the kitchen and returned shortly with food for the three of them. Mulder took a seat in the chair next to Dana. "I know you've been on the road for a while, Matt, but you're home now. We're all looking forward to getting to know you."
Matt wouldn't look at him, but seemed to move closer to Scully.
Mulder continued smoothly, "We've got a lot of young people here. Most are younger than you, but they're good kids. I guess you met Missy. She's Charlie and Mary's youngest. The rest are around somewhere. They'll try not to overwhelm you, but it's just because they've been looking forward to meeting you."
"Why would they want to meet you?" Mulder asked confused. At the boy's nod he continued. "Well, you're first cousin to a lot of them. Charlie has three kids, you know Sam and Missy. Will is older than Sam. And Scully and I have four kids, Katy, Walt, Lexie and Chrissy. I think Walt will enjoy having another boy around." He smiled at the boy.
"They're different, aren't they?" Matthew asked suddenly.
"Different?" Scully asked this time, and Maggie went still beside him.
"I heard them talking about the new kids; how they were different from humans."
"They're very human, Matt." Scully said quickly. "I don't know what you heard, but everyone here is human."
The boy looked frightened then, that he'd upset his angel. She saw his fear and hugged him again. "They're your cousins and soon to be your friends, Matt. Don't worry."
Katy came in the front door then, carrying the cat and stroking it. She joined them and took a seat in Mulder's lap.
"Katy, this is Matt, your cousin." Mulder introduced them, knowing it was unnecessary on her part.
"Hi. Is this your cat?" Katy asked, again knowing the answer, but finding a topic for them.
"Uh, no. It's Lynne's." He answered a little sullenly.
"She's pretty." Katy let the animal down and it scampered to Lynne, who was sitting at the table listening to Missy. Missy had her hand lightly on the young woman's arm.
"Wanna come see our school?" Katy offered, as Matthew finished his sandwich. She held out her hand. Matthew looked up at Scully, who smiled and nodded. He seemed to think about it, but then rose, though he didn't take her hand.
They headed for the classroom, but Matt glanced back at Scully one more time before disappearing into the hall. He didn't notice Bill at the front door. Mulder and Scully exchanged glances but before they could speak, Bill was standing in front of them.
Scully rose and hugged the large man, "I'm glad you're home safe, Bill."
"Really?" He glanced over at Mulder.
"Really." Maggie said as she stood and also hugged her son. "Was it a good trip?"
Bill glanced toward the classroom. "Not exactly what I'd hoped."
"Honey, he's unsettled. Give him a little time."
"Right, that's what everyone keeps telling me." He glanced over at Mulder.
"Once he feels like he's home, Bill, he'll calm down. The other kids will help him, like they did with Pete and John and Suzie."
Bill's look said it all, the other 'normal' kids. Mulder felt Scully bristle and took hold of her hand. She took a deep breath and managed to keep quiet.
"Why don't you get cleaned up and rest today, Bill." Mulder spoke. "I'd like to hear about your trip in a day or so."
"We like to hear what's happening out there." Mulder said mildly.
"Ask Katy." Bill turned then and stalked up the stairs.
Maggie's sadness tore at Mulder. He put his arm around her, hugging her to him. "Don't worry about it, Mom. He's upset about Matthew. Give him a little time."
Maggie nodded, but left them and disappeared into the kitchen.
Mulder's arm went around Scully. "Are you going to be here this afternoon?"
"Yes, I'm working in the kitchen, so I can keep an eye on Matty. At least he seems comfortable around me."
"Looks like Katy's taken him in tow. That should help."
"It's because of her guilt about Bill." Scully sighed, "But if it helps Matty . . ."
Lexie opened the door and led everyone in. Scully turned toward the kitchen to get a large glass of water before nursing Chrissy. Mulder adjusted the baby on his shoulder to a more comfortable position so she could stretch her legs. He looked over at Katy. "Angel?" His tone was dry, sarcastic.
Katy rolled her eyes as Lexie giggled and even Walt smiled. "That's not what I sent." She sat on the couch, leaving the end for Scully. "I know for sure Uncle Bill is his Dad." She sighed.
"What do you mean?" Scully asked as she took her seat.
"They're both thick as bricks." Katy muttered.
Mulder's laugh turned quickly into a cough and he nuzzled Chrissy's neck. Scully glared up at him and reached for the baby. He surrendered their youngest to her and sat in his chair. Lexie immediately climbed into his lap. "So what did you send?" He asked, hugging Lexie to him.
"Safety, home, love. He has almost no real memories of Uncle Bill, just what his grandparents said about him. They didn't like him much. He has some of his mother, but even they're fuzzy. We thought he needed something to make him feel better. I didn't send pictures of Mom with white wings." She sounded disgusted.
"But you may have made her seem like a Madonna." Mulder said. "Images of her with you kids, being a doctor. Whatever he got, you're right, he needed to feel safe and that happened."
"Will you be able to train him?" Scully asked. "He and Suzie are about the same age."
"Only if he'll let us touch him." Again Katy sounded put out. "Not human." She shook her head.
Scully looked over at Mulder then. He rose with Lexie in his arms. "Bedtime. I know Kevin has you guys in the Clinic garden in the morning before classes. I'll be checking the tooth brushing in a couple of minutes." He gave Lexie a light squeeze and put her down.
The kids hurried off to get ready for bed. He kissed Scully and shook his head. They would talk later.
Mulder came out of the bathroom and spotted Scully lying on his side of the bed, waiting for him. He couldn't help but smile. Seeing her there, even after all this time gave him a feeling of warmth he couldn't express.
He crawled in beside her. "You okay?"
She cuddled in close. "I don't know. It wasn't what I was expecting."
"I know. But they're home now. The kids will help him."
"If he'll let them. Where did he hear that the kids weren't human? Are people out there saying things like that?"
"I don't know, Scully. But it doesn't matter. We know they're human; they're ours, part of you and me."
"But if someone is spreading stories about them, they could be in danger."
He pulled her even closer, "Our kids can look after themselves. And they're not alone. Look what they did for Esther. They can look after each other."
When Mulder arrived at his office the next morning, he was surprised to find no one else there. It was rare that he beat Kevin, and since Walter hadn't been at breakfast, he had assumed he'd already eaten and headed this way.
He pulled out the work chart and saw that Kevin had been working on it, adding new responsibilities for the growing number of animals, as well as the fast approaching second harvest.
He looked up when Walter walked heavily into the room, and rose immediately. "Are you okay?"
Walter waved him down, "I'm fine, just didn't sleep much."
"We had Matt, excuse me, Matthew at our house last night. After you and Scully headed home, he flatly refused to stay with Bill and pitched a fit. Maggie tried to calm him down and talked him into sleeping at our place. He did, grudgingly, but nothing suited him. Mulder, he's a spoiled brat. I think even Maggie is disgusted with him, though she'll never admit it. I left her asleep; and him of course. Look, I know we're spoiled by the kids here, but I don't remember other children acting like him."
Mulder absorbed this quietly. "I could go over and get him up and put him to work. I don't think he'd refuse me outright, but that puts me in the position of discipling Bill's son." He shook his head, "That would get ugly in a hurry."
Walter sank into the chair and sighed. "Then who is gonna do it? Bill?"
Mulder gave a silent laugh then. "When we debrief Charlie, let's beg for ideas."
"Soon. I don't want that boy in my house long."
"Suzie, John, Pete, they weren't like this." Mulder agreed.
"They worked, even as babies. Now that Katy and the rest have trained them in whatever they can do . . . "
Mulder mused on that, "We talked to the kids about that last night. Think it's possible?"
Walter just looked at him, "Not if he doesn't want to be. I heard about his nonhuman remark."
"Gee, I'm glad Bill found us." Mulder sat back in his chair and they both turned to the chart.
Kevin came in a few minutes later, laughing and escorting Lynne. "Hi, about time you guys showed up." He tossed toward Mulder and Walter.
"Beg pardon?" Mulder looked up. "Where were you?"
"Come and gone already. Lynne's been giving me a lesson in animal husbandry. Now she's going to help me revamp the duty rosters to make sure everything's covered."
The two older men just looked at him. He grinned back, "Ever milked a goat, Mulder?"
Mulder groaned and shook his head, not in answer but in disbelief. "Lynne, are you encouraging him?"
She grinned, "Well he did seem to enjoy the thoughts of you mucking out the stables."
"You know we created a monster." Mulder looked over at Walter who nodded. He took a deep breath. "Give me a quick overview. I need to get to work."
Kevin motioned for Lynne to take his seat and he leaned over her, showing Mulder and Walter his notes.
Lynne fit in well and her laugh was infectious. Mulder even heard her singing to herself as she worked with the animals. She loved giving the kids rides on the horses, and worked with them, showing them how to groom and care for them.
She also volunteered to work in the kitchen and the classroom. Smiles followed her. Mulder had even seen Bill smile at her once, though it hadn't lasted.
Scully was curled up next to Mulder on the couch. The kids were all in bed; Chrissy had been nursed and was down as well.
"What are you thinking about so hard?" He tucked a strand of red hair that had worked its way out her braid behind her ear.
She glanced up and snuggled in a little. "I'm a little relieved."
She sighed lightly, "That Katy's taking Lynne so well."
"Well, Lynne's spending a lot of time with Kevin and . . . "
"You know Kevin and Katy have always had a special bond. And he's spent a lot of time with her."
"Katy's a baby; did you think she'd be jealous?"
"Katy's not a baby and I don't mean jealous exactly, but . . . Anyway, I'm glad things aren't, aren't uncomfortable."
"Are you playing match maker for Kevin?" He grinned. "What about Marie?"
"You're not paying attention, Mulder. Phil is quietly courting Marie. They're both so quiet I'm not sure anyone's noticed. They are cute together."
"Like us?" He nuzzled her neck, his hand cupping her breast.
She nearly strangled on her laugh. "Cute? You and me?"
"Hey, I'm adorable." He pretended to be hurt.
"Yes you are, dear." She pulled his face down and kissed him.
He mock glared at her, but she was off in her head. "What now?"
"Just thinking about how people come here and then find their mates. I mean, I suppose the kids could be involved, but don't you think it a little odd that these people find each other in such a small place? Frohike and Beth, Todd and Anne, Julie and Jerry . . . even Mom and Walter. Don't you think the odds of that are a little high?"
"I, I never really thought about it. I got my true love here, why not everyone?"
Her smile softened her face. "Mulder, every once in a while you say just the right thing to me."
"Mmm, why are we out here, when we have a bed in the next room?"
"To make sure Chrissy is really asleep. Don't ruin it, Bub."
He snatched her up in his arms, causing her to squeal. He carried her into the bedroom, and after lying her gently on the bed, shut the door softly. "Don't disturb the baby, Scully. You need to keep it down."
"Me, huh?" He couldn't answer since she was suckling his lower lip.
After the Future - XLVII (PG-13)
Mulder spotted her in the rocking chair, nursing Chrissy, when he returned from his run. She smiled up at him as he approached, reaching down to give her a quick kiss and letting his hand caress the baby's head. He sat for a moment to watch them.
"What?" She asked quietly.
He shook his head, "I just love watching you. This one scared me."
"All of our kids have scared you, admit it." She retorted with a grin.
"Not like this one. This one sent me over the edge. No surprise she's the redhead in the bunch."
Scully cut her eyes at him, but Chrissy looked over at him and gave him a milky smile in agreement.
He chuckled and rose from his seat at the foot of the bed. He stopped again just outside the bathroom. "What would you think of me growing a beard?"
She looked up and appraised his face with loving eyes. "Depends. What's the occasion?"
"MJ says it's going to be a really cold winter, like when Ruthie was born. Think it has anything to do with Anne being pregnant again?"
"I doubt it." She said dryly, "and she won't be pregnant by then anyway."
"Good to know." He ducked in the room, but left the door open and took a quick shower. When he returned she was changing the baby's diaper. "We're working harvest in the big field again today. You can't imagine my delight at the new animal help. Where are you?"
"I'm taking the mobile kids to the kitchen gardens. Anne will keep the little ones."
"What about Matt?" He looked up at her sigh. "Did he work yesterday?"
"He will today. That's why I took this assignment from Anne. He can't refuse when he's on my crew."
"Has Bill talked to him?"
"I've seen him try," she said sadly, "but he did just get here."
"So did Lynne. She was at the barn when I ran by."
"It would be terrible for me to trip Katy and have her kind of fall into him, wouldn't it?" She looked up at him, cuddling Chrissy to her.
His grin was large, causing her heart to flip. "That sounds like something I would say. But I'd warn Katy first."
Scully rolled her eyes.
He took the baby from her, "Are we having breakfast here or at the clinic?"
"I need to get on over there, so I can make sure everyone knows what I expect."
"Will there be cuffs and whips? And can you bring them back here afterwards?" He cut his eyes at her, but she just moved around him, shaking her head. He looked down at Chrissy. "Your Mom's ignoring me." She waved an arm at him and blew a couple of bubbles.
At the clinic Mulder rounded up breakfast for the kids and himself as Scully settled Chrissy and visited with Anne. Alex joined them at the table, slipping in between Walt and Lexie.
Mulder nodded to him, then looked back quickly. "Where's your arm?"
"Phil's looking at it. I think I dented it or something. It's not fitting right."
"Oh, well, he should be able to fix it."
"Hope so. In the meantime, I'll be helping the kids in the kitchen gardens."
Mulder nodded, "Scully will be there too." He took his seat and passed the honey to Lexie.
Scully held Esther's hand as they walked to the garden outside Brittany's house. Most of the other kids were already there with Alex. Matt trailed them, looking down and not responding to any of the greetings.
It wasn't long before he was whining that he was tired and his back hurt. Scully ignored him for a little while, but when several of the baskets were full, she turned to him. "Why don't you and Alex take these over to the kitchen at the clinic."
"It's too heavy."
"I'll be carrying half." Alex said, somehow emphasizing where his sleeve was pinned up.
Matt's face flushed and he noticed that everyone was watching him. He grabbed one side of the basket without looking at Alex. Alex and Scully exchanged glances, but said nothing. The other kids returned to picking beans.
Alex and Matt made several trips. Matt was complaining about blisters when he returned. "Matt, have Walt look at your hand." Scully said quietly.
Matt looked up stunned and backed away from her.
"Matt? It's okay, Walt can - "
Scully started back at the vehemence in his voice. "Why not?"
"He's not human. If he touches me I'll be infected."
Alex stepped closer to Scully when she grew pale at his words. "Matt - " He said, but Scully's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Walt is my son, Mulder's and mine. That is as human as you can get. If you are going to live here with us, you better understand that. Yes, he can make your hand feel better because his brain works in areas that mine doesn't, but he, and all of the children here, are human. Suzie, Pete, and John weren't born here, but they have learned to do what the other children can do. Do you think that makes them less human now?"
The other children had stopped and were watching them now. Matt seemed to want to shrink away, he hadn't meant to say that out loud. His angel was angry with him and he was surrounded by danger.
He turned and ran from them. Alex looked up at Scully, but she shook her head. She turned to Katy, "Keep an eye on him, please."
Katy nodded, then all of the children returned to their work.
When they broke for lunch, Maggie looked over the crowd and turned to Scully. "Is Matt not with you?"
"No. He didn't want to work with us."
"Dana, he - "
"Don't worry. He's at your house."
"He got some blisters and I suggested he let Walt look at them. He . . . he freaked. He's terrified of the children." She shook her head. "I'm not sure what to do. I can't force the children on him."
"Give it more time, Dana. He's a little boy whose life has been turned upside down."
"I know, Mom. I keep reminding myself of that." She sighed. She realized Bill had come into the house and was watching them. After a moment he moved to join them.
"At Mom's house. He had a problem working with us."
"Is he okay?"
"He's probably tired. They did a good job on the beans at Brittany's this morning. He has some blisters."
"Didn't Walt . . . " Bill went quiet then, realizing what he was asking.
"He didn't want Walt or any of the kids to touch him. I'm sorry."
Bill nodded and turned away. Maggie's hand came up, but she let it drop back to her side when he walked away.
They were back at Brittany's, the largest of the kitchen gardens again, and hoping to finish it up today. Maggie, Mary, Jennifer and Anne had already begun the canning and freezing for winter. Matt had shown up. Scully had the impression that Bill had had a conversation with him, but he stayed to one side and his production was the lowest.
Without warning Katy jerked upright. "No!" The other children froze for an instant, then they were all running for the clinic. Alex scooped Ruthie up in his good arm, Scully had Esther's hand as they raced after the children. Stunned, Matt watched for a moment, then still unsure, trotted after them.
Scully spotted Mulder racing to meet them, Will and Sam on his heels. The others weren't far behind.
Nothing was said, the kids already knew what was happening and apparently there wasn't time to educate the others. Mulder noted they took their seats in a circle in front of the fireplace. Later he would puzzle over the arrangement, for now he merely noted it. The 'heavy hitters' were at the top of the circle. Walt was beside him; Katy, holding Chrissy sat between he and Scully. Lexie was on Scully's other side. Missy and MJ sat opposite each other at east and west in the circle. Esther and Ruthie were at the other end; Will and Jennifer, holding Malcolm, and Sam and Trisha, holding Louise, flanked them. Suzie, Pete and John were arranged in the spaces between.
The adults had joined them as well. Mulder could feel Walter behind him, Alex stood behind Scully and Kevin had placed himself behind Katy. Charlie and Mary were holding hands behind Missy, as Frohike and Beth stood behind MJ. George took his place behind John as Julie and Jerry took up a space behind Esther.
Lynne, looking scared, none the less joined the circle and Byers took her hand, smiling reassuringly at her.
Unexpectedly Katy spoke, "Anne, no! You can't. Todd, keep her back."
Todd didn't hesitate to follow the orders of this six year old and took Anne's arm, pulling her from the circle. As everyone closed their eyes, he took her in his arms, turning his back on the circle to shield she and their unborn child with his body.
Only Bill didn't join them. He spotted Matt, face pasty white, sidling for the door. He hurried to the boy's side, and put his arm around him. "Stay here with me. We'll be okay." He whispered to the terrified boy and for the first time, Matt's hand gripped his.
Bill felt the energy rise in the room. The hair was standing up on his arms and he heard Matt whimper. Then as suddenly, it was over. Bill had no idea how much time had passed, but he saw the other's open their eyes, and immediately droop again. He saw that Walter managed to get Maggie to the couch before both collapsed. The others seemed to drop where they stood, falling asleep even as they sank to the floor.
"Stay here." Todd sat Anne in a chair as far away as possible and motioned to Bill. "There are blankets in Scully's office. We need to cover at least the little ones. Come on."
Bill leaned down to a quivering Matt, "They're just asleep. Come on, help me with the blankets." He didn't know if Matt nodded or just twitched, but he followed his father to Scully's office. Todd handed them each a stack of thin blankets.
"Matt, it's okay. Someone was in trouble, or hurt. The kids helped them. It's okay." Todd looked at the boy and felt a moment of sympathy. "It just exhausts them to help from a long distance."
Matt didn't respond, but he followed Bill and Todd back to the main room. Anne rose when they returned and helped them cover the children and the adults as far as the blankets went.
When they were finished, Todd looked up at Anne. He saw the grimace flit across her face and he took her arm. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." He wouldn't let her look away, and after a moment she nodded. "I've had a couple of contractions."
His eyes widened, "It's too soon. That's why Katy wanted you away."
"I'm sure it's just the tension."
"I want to take you to Scully's office. You need to lie down, put your feet up."
"I need to stay here, near Ruthie. I'm okay."
"Come here." He led her to one of the larger chairs and settled her in, pulling an ottoman up for her. He blanched as he watched her breathing change again. "Anne?"
"Sit here with me."
Bill finally approached them, Matt trailing him. "Can I get you anything?"
Todd looked up at him, "No, we'll be okay." Anne smiled at him.
"Did you . . . do you know what happened?"
Todd's arm pulled Anne closer, but he shook his head. "I wasn't there when they finished the connection, but it had to be big. Katy called the adults too. This wasn't like Esther."
"Esther?" Bill asked.
"Yeah, you didn't live here then. Before they joined us, Esther was attacked by a woman in their old home. She knew Esther was . . . different. She tried to kill her; poured a pot of boiling soup over her."
"Was she burned?"
"Yep, but you'd never be able to tell it. Since she's one of the family, Katy knew it when it happened. The kids and Mulder joined, like you saw and saved her. Then I guess Katy talked her parents into coming here - " He stopped and turned back to Anne. "It's okay Baby. Just relax. Remember what happened to Scully when Malcolm was born." He kissed her brow, but Bill could see his tension.
"What happened to Dana when Malcolm was born?" He asked quietly, not sure he'd get an answer.
It was Anne who spoke this time. "Scully was pregnant with Chrissy when Malcolm was born. Chrissy got 'in touch' with Malcolm and Scully went into premature labor."
"How did they stop it?"
"Mulder was able to stop it."
"Of course he did." Bill looked away.
"Get over it." Todd said immediately.
"Get over it. Mulder and Scully belong together. They were made for each other. They're married, they have four children and they've made your life paradise. Get over it."
"Paradise?" Bill shot back immediately.
"Yeah. You now live in the safest place on the planet because the kids keep the aliens away." Todd responded.
Bill drew back slightly, but he didn't speak.
"You have plenty to eat, a warm safe place to sleep. We have luxuries a lot of other people don't. Humans have gone back to a barter system, you do know this. For the longest time the only thing we had of value was the vaccine, but people sent us gifts. They still do. We're in Rhode Island; we don't grow a lot of cotton up here for example. But most important you have your son with you, alive and well."
Bill looked down at the boy, hovering at his side now that Bill seemed like the best of the bunch. Then he met Todd's eyes and gave one short nod.
Everyone was quiet then. Bill and Matt moved off to the other end of the room.
Mulder was the first to stir. With his memory, he knew instantly what had happened. He reached for Scully and the feel of her strong and steady pulse steadied his own. He moved to sit up and Todd was there to help him.
"How ya doing?"
"Good question." Mulder looked around the room. "Everyone?"
"Everyone but Bill, Matt, Anne and I. Mulder, she's having contractions."
Mulder head swiveled in her direction. "Thought Katy told you to stay away." He chastised her slightly.
"I did. But I was in the room, and that was some energy you guys were putting off." She smiled slightly at him.
He started to rise, but needed Todd's hand to make it to his feet.
"You need to eat something." Todd prescribed. "I'll be back in a minute."
"I can help - " Anne started.
"Don't you move." Todd turned back to her. "Not an inch."
"I'll get the food." Bill said quietly. "What would be good?"
Mulder blinked, but kept quiet.
"Uh, there's a cheese in there, you could slice it and some of Frohike's bread. That should be filling." Todd suggested, Anne nodded.
"Come on." Bill motioned for Matt to join him and they headed for the kitchen. "You want to slice bread or cheese?" He looked over at the boy.
"Are you going to help them?"
"One of them is your grandmother, your aunt, my brother. Yeah, I'm going to help them." He turned away and found the knives. He felt Matt join him at the counter.
When they returned to the main room, Mulder was sitting on one side of Anne, his hand lightly on her belly. Todd was on her other side and seemed calmer.
"Everything okay?" Bill asked.
"Yeah, better." Todd nodded to him.
"Good." Bill brought a slice of bread and a hunk of cheese over to Mulder, who took them gratefully. He nodded his thanks.
After Mulder had eaten, Todd cleared his throat. "Do you know what happened?"
Mulder paused, "I don't . . . I don't know. There were things falling, chaos, it was bad. A lot of people died. And, and there was water . . . " He shook his head.
"People died?" Anne asked.
Mulder nodded. "I don't . . . we're gonna have to talk to Katy."
"Just rest, Mulder." Anne squeezed his shoulder.
"How about you?"
She blinked, "I . . . I haven't had a contraction since you woke up. Thank you."
"I didn't . . . Okay, you're welcome." He grinned, then looked over at Greg and Will as they started to stir. It wasn't long before most of the adults were starting to sit up. Bill distributed the bread and cheese quietly.
When Scully stirred, Mulder started to rise, but Kevin was already helping her up. Mulder winked at Anne and moved over to his wife. She leaned against him and his arm went around her. "You okay?" He asked quietly.
She nodded and took the food. The room was quiet, in deference to the sleeping children. All of the adults were awake now, looking at each other. When Scully was finished eating, Mulder took her hand. "Can you tell me what you saw?"
She looked up at him, her eyes bleak. "It was awful. Things were disintegrating, and the noise, the noise was unbearable. Thousands died, then the water."
"Water. I remember water too." He said, "I didn't remember the sound, but you're right, it was loud. What else?"
"I don't know." She shook her head. "It was too big. I couldn't . . . "
"Don't worry about it. Katy will explain it."
She snuggled into his side and didn't speak.
Chrissy was the first of the children to stir. Kevin brought her to Scully and she nursed right there, with one of the blankets over her shoulder. When Malcolm and Louise woke, Megan and Beth did the same, not wanting to leave the group. The children ate their bread and cheese solemnly and waited for Katy. She was in Mulder's lap now and her sadness was pervasive.
After several minutes, Mulder gave her a squeeze. "Baby, we need to - "
"Mulder, not yet." Scully interrupted.
"No, Dad's right. We have a lot to talk about." She met Walt's eyes and their parents saw him give her strength. She took a deep breath and looked up at Mulder. "They messed up. They made a mistake, a big one."
"The other ones. They're . . . " she looked at Mulder's eyes, "arrogant. They think they know everything, but they don't."
"What did they do?"
"It was at that place in California, where they were holding Uncle Bill. There was a . . . an explosion."
"A big one." Mulder nodded, remembering the chaos he had witnessed.
"That's not the problem. It made an earthquake."
Mulder looked up quickly at Scully, then back at Katy. "In Southern California?"
She nodded miserably. "It, it's gone."
"Gone? What's gone?"
After the Future - XLVIII (PG-13)
"Gone? What's gone?"
The collective gasp from around the room was followed by dead silence.
"Katy, Baby, are you saying that California fell into the ocean?"
She nodded and he closed his eyes.
"How, how many . . . "
"A lot of people died. We couldn't save them, we warned as many as we could. It was still dark out there, and there aren't many of us. It's too close to them. They have their places and we have ours."
Mulder absorbed that for a moment, "Can an earthquake kill them?"
She nodded, "Sure. It's hard to kill them, but if they have their heads cut off, or bleed to death, they die. It might take them longer to drown but eventually they will, especially trapped like that."
After a moment, Kevin rose and headed for the classroom. He returned quickly with the US map. He propped it up in front of Katy and looked at her.
She nodded and rose from Mulder's lap. With her finger she outlined the new coastline of California. Mulder closed his eyes as Scully hid her face in Chrissy's neck.
Walter had risen and stood behind them, watching Katy's finger. Then he looked over at MJ. "What does this mean for us?"
"Bad weather." The boy said quietly.
"Nuclear winter?" Walter questioned.
MJ looked at him for several minutes, then nodded.
"We need to get a warning out to everyone as soon as possible." Walter looked over at Mulder.
"All of us already know." Katy reminded him.
Mulder nodded. "So what can we do to get ready? We've already started harvest and we've had two good crops this year. What else?"
"Mulder, should we do this now?" Scully touched his arm.
He hesitated. "We're all here. And to get through this, we're going to have to work together. This is something we all have to do. We all have our strengths. We need to pool them now, and we need to think. I'm not expecting answers today, but we all have to be thinking about it." He took a deep breath and pulled Scully to him for a moment. "MJ, how long do we have?"
The boy looked at the map. "It's too close for these mountains to stop it much." He touched the Rockies. "Then there's nothing to stop the cloud until these mountains." Now he touched the Blue Ridge. "Four days."
"Oh god." Walter met Mulder's eyes.
"Okay." Mulder sat up and looked around the room. "I hate to do this, I know we're all tired and . . . and shaken, but we all need to get back to work. We have a deadline for getting the crops in. Everyone will be in the fields except Maggie and Anne - "
"Mulder - "
Scully touched Anne's arm. "No argument."
"Be thinking about what we can do. We need all suggestions."
Everyone was on their feet. Half a day was gone, there were things to do.
It was dark when dinner was served. Maggie had kept a pot of stew going with the gleanings of the kitchen gardens. She and Anne had snapped several bushels of beans. Walt had made a beeline to her when he'd entered the clinic and was holding her hands.
Matt was drooping, he'd never worked so hard in his life, but he still refused to allow any of the kids to touch him.
After eating, Mulder helped Scully get the kids home. "Go on to bed, Scully. It's going to be an early morning."
"Where are you going?" She stopped on her way to the bedroom.
"The office. I won't be late, but Kevin, Walter and I are meeting." He gave her a kiss. "Don't worry."
"You can't work night and day."
"I won't. It's too tempting to be in your bed." He brushed her hair back. "Go on to sleep."
"Make sure I know when you're home."
He nodded and winked at her, then let himself out. When he got to the office he wasn't really surprised to find several of the other men already there. Charlie, Alex, Jerry, Todd, Byers and Langly were waiting along with Kevin and Walter. Within minutes, George, Peter, Phil and Greg arrived with Frohike. Just as the door was closing, Bill slipped in.
He caught Mulder's eye with slight defiance, but Mulder nodded to him and he seemed to relax.
Mulder looked around the room. "First, thank you for coming out like this. I know you're tired. You know we got a full day's work in even though we were busy this morning. We can't keep that up for long, but we all know what's at stake. Let me know what ideas you've come up with." He leaned against the desk, looking around the room.
Jerry looked around and cleared his throat. "I think we need a short hunting trip. We've been careful about the game around here, so there's plenty. If things are going to get . . . bad, we'll need to thin them out anyway." He looked around, "I was thinking Greg." He looked over at George.
"I'd like to go, if you . . ." George watched Jerry's face.
Jerry nodded, "I could use you."
He looked over at Mulder, but before he could speak, Bill raised his hand. "I, uh, I used to be pretty good at hunting."
"I've heard that." Mulder said. "We'd appreciate you joining the party." Bill seemed to hesitate for an instant, then nodded.
"Good. Four should do it. Mulder, we'll need the cart and at least one of the horses. We can do some rough butchering on site and only bring back what we can use, but I'd like to think we won't be able to carry it all."
"Okay, we'll need to have the harvest mostly finished before you go anyway."
"Make sure you bring as much of the hides back as possible." Todd said.
Mulder took back over, "Brittany let me know she's going to winterize all three of the greenhouses. She's going to need some help for that."
Peter looked up, "Greg's the obvious choice for that, but I can't replace him on a hunt, so I'm in." Langly raised his hand and Charlie.
"Okay, the next thing is wood." Mulder looked around. "I know that George would like to handle that himself," he grinned, "but since he'll be out of town . . . "
"I can volunteer Will and Sam for that." Charlie said, "They want to be in on this." Phil, Frohike and Byers joined in.
"What about for the gimp?" Alex said quietly.
"We need you to inspect the buildings, especially the attic of the clinic. That roof has to be in top shape."
Alex blinked, "I was up there a couple of days ago. It's good."
"Why were you up there?" Mulder asked him.
Alex shrugged, "You put me in charge of security, safety. I was thinking the same thing." He turned to Phil, "I'm gonna need my arm."
"I'm not sure I've got it perfect."
"Whatever. Maybe you'll have a chance to work on it more later."
Mulder nodded, "Walter, I want you and Mom to move into the clinic. You can have Scully's office. I don't want her out in whatever's coming." Walter nodded. "Todd, you and Anne too. That way whenever the baby does come, you'll have some help."
"I want more than 'help'." Todd gave a half smile.
"Okay, that's enough for tonight. We have our priorities. Food, shelter, warmth." Mulder straightened up. "Get some rest. Try not to let . . . this keep you awake. It won't help."
Scully was asleep when he let himself in, but woke when he slipped in beside her. "Mulder? Are you okay?"
"Always, when I'm in bed with you."
"What did you decide?"
"Common sense stuff. There's going to be a hunting party, we'll be checking structural integrity. Mom and Walter, and Anne, Todd and Ruthie will be moving to the clinic."
"That's a good idea. What about - "
"Scully, go back to sleep. You're in my arms, where you belong."
"Yes, I am." She snuggled in and let her eyes drift shut. After a moment of watching her, he closed his as well.
They worked quickly and steadily. Mary, Megan and Lynne delivered lunches to the fields, so that everyone could keep working, and again it was after dark when they left the fields.
Walter discovered that the women had already moved his and Maggie's things to the clinic. Matthew had been moved into Bill's room and he hadn't protested.
Mulder barely kissed the kids goodnight before falling asleep. The three older ones crawled in with him for a few minutes and Scully saw his body relax though he didn't wake. Scully put the children to bed and stretched out beside him. His arms taking hold of her automatically.
The next day was more of the same. The fields had been stripped. Mulder moved to help with wood chopping as others spread out to other areas. The greenhouses were quickly winterized to the best of their abilities, and others helped Todd move his household to the clinic. Conversation was sparse; there would be time to discuss everything later.
Scully found Mulder when he delivered wood to Brittany's house. "We need to move to the clinic too." She spoke without preamble.
"Mom and Todd can't handle a delivery, even with Ruthie's help. Once this stress breaks . . . "
"I gave away your office and the exam room." He reminded her.
She smiled up at him then, "Byers is going to stay in the barn with Kevin."
"Kevin's worried about the livestock, especially the chickens. He's set up a place in the loft. Byers didn't like the idea of him out there alone, even with Katy keeping an eye on him, and that freed up his room. This is short term, Mulder."
"Is it?" He immediately regretted his question as he saw doubt cloud her eyes. He pulled her to him. "Sorry. I'm tired, like everyone else."
She nodded against his chest. "I've sent the four that are going hunting tomorrow home to rest."
"Good idea. I meant to check the wagon."
"Alex took care of that. He's checked structural integrity of all the inhabited houses. He had Will and Sam help him with shoring up a couple of possible weak places, but basically we've taken good care of everything."
He squeezed her tighter in agreement. "I'll help you get our stuff toget - "
"Already done. Just wanted you to know where to find us tonight."
"Like you could hide from me when I'm ready for bed." He gave her a tired leer. Her hand caressed his face and she pulled him down to her. Her lips revived him and he straightened up. "I'll be at the clinic at dark."
"You need to rest too, Mulder."
"I will, soon."
He found his family waiting for him when he trudged into the clinic that night. A sandwich and some tea appeared in his hand and he sank into the nearest chair. He was aware that Walt and Lexie were at his feet, their hands on his legs. It was helping, but he was exhausted.
Scully led him to the new bed they would be sharing and helped him undress.
The sun was high when he opened his eyes the next morning. Too high. He sat up immediately. He was alone in the room.
He grabbed the robe that was lying at the foot of the bed and threw it on. The downstairs was mostly deserted, but he heard voices in the kitchen. Several of the women, including Scully were in there already doing another cooking of green beans.
He tapped on the door and they all turned to look at him. More than one pair of eyes checked out his body. "Uh, Scully?"
"I'll be right back." She spoke to Maggie and moved in his direction.
"What time is it?" He asked once he had pulled her into the dining area.
"Probably around nine."
"Nine? You let me sleep until nine?"
"You needed it. As your doctor and your wife, I prescribed it."
He shook his head, "I needed to talk to Jerry before they left. They did get off?"
"They left at dawn, and they all knew what to do. Mulder, you needed the rest. There's still plenty to do. Why don't you go get dressed? Will and Sam are already making wood deliveries, and some of the guys are moving the frozen food over to the ice house. Take your pick."
"Scully, don't. I can rest later. I love you and I love what you're trying to do, but don't. Not now. The kids can help me." He gazed down into her eyes and after a moment she nodded, but didn't apologize. He leaned down and gave her a kiss, then returned to their room and hurried to dress.
Things did seem to be under control. Several days' worth of wood was added to the already adequate stack at each house and all inside wood boxes were overflowing. The front porch of the clinic was completely covered. The kids, with Alex's help had already strung fishing line between the houses and the clinic. Bright rags flew from them at intervals so that they could be readily seen.
The precious sheets of plastic had been carefully reinserted inside of each window.
The women had taken over transporting the already frozen food to the ice house and taken careful inventory.
Mulder turned his attention to the barn. They had found a Franklin stove in one of the unoccupied houses and Phil had okayed it for installation. Rooms had been set up in the loft for Kevin and Byers. Mulder was surprised to find a third sleeping area set up.
"Lynne." Kevin said before Mulder could ask. "She wants to stay out here as well."
"Doesn't trust you?" Mulder grinned.
"Something like that. And she wants the chickens moved up to the loft as well. The heat rising thing, so we need to build an area for them."
"She's from Florida. I wonder how she's going to cope with this." Mulder mused.
"We'll look after her and we're hoping this is extremely temporary." Kevin met Mulder's eyes and shrugged.
"Tell me where to start." Mulder headed for the tools.
The hunters didn't return that night, but the kids weren't concerned. The group had taken two horses and the mule, as well as the biggest cart. Mulder hoped their non-appearance was a good sign.
Everyone fell into bed tired, but knowing they had done a good job. If fear of how long this 'winter' would last plagued them, everyone was quiet about it for now.
The next morning at breakfast Alex and the older kids were missing. Since the younger ones weren't upset, everyone went ahead and ate. Shortly they heard a clatter at the door. Walter was closest, and rose to see what was going on.
The little red wagons that had been salvaged and repainted had been put to work. Every book, game and puzzle from every unoccupied house had been loaded and brought to the clinic.
Charlie slapped his head, "I knew I was forgetting something. You guys are the best." He and Mulder exchanged looks. The kids understood what was happening. The grown ups came over to help with the storing of these new treasures.
Around lunchtime the hunters were spotted and most of the men hurried out to help. Jerry had been right, the cart overflowed and the mule carried another couple of hastily butchered carcasses.
Mulder looked over the bounty and then at Jerry. "This is great, but where do we put it all?"
Jerry grinned, "We start at the clinic. I know Todd wants the hides. We know how to butcher them, but we're going to be up late tonight with our deadline tomorrow. I can salt down and stack the hides. They may not be the prettiest, but we'll be able to use them."
Mulder nodded and fell in behind the cart to help.
By midnight everyone who lived in Quonochontaug could have played a feature role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Every pot was in use, both at the clinic and Brittany's house. Large pieces were trimmed down to fit in the available space in freezers. Mulder had thought they were only going after big game, but more than a few rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and geese had been in the cart as well. He wondered if he would begin to miss fish. He looked up to find Scully watching him, her lips twitching as she caught that thought.
A whoosh of wind around the porch caught everyone's attention. Scully looked up. "Everyone needs to get home and cleaned up. The temperature's dropping like a rock."
"What about the hides?" Jerry asked quickly.
"You've got them salted and stacked."
"But they need to be fleshed and worked."
"George can lead us through that. You'll probably be able to get here anyway." Mulder reminded him. "Go on, it's late and I know you need the rest. Make sure everyone checks in through the kids tonight and tomorrow morning." Jerry looked around at the work that remained to be done and still hesitated. "It's okay; we'll take care of this. You need to get home." Another gust punctuated his words and the others began moving.
There were quick hugs, but Scully had them moving now. She sent Kevin and Byers for showers, while Lynne cleaned up in the kitchen. Once they were on their way, the others took turns cleaning up. Mulder and Todd were last, making sure that the house was secured tightly for the night.
The clouds were thick, blocking out the moon already and what had been rain had already turned to a wintery mix. They made no comment about that.
"Get some rest, Todd. We've earned it."
"That's for sure. See you in the morning." Todd headed for the room he and Anne were using. The kids were already asleep.
Mulder took a last look out the window, then took a deep breath. He was scared. He could admit it now; here alone in the kitchen. He had to keep it together for everyone else, but here . . .
They had done so well until now; food to eat, even if it had been dull at times, safe places to live, and companionship. They'd taken things like sunlight for granted. Would they get the chance to do that again?
He shivered slightly even though he wasn't cold and headed upstairs. He needed Scully.
Curled around her a little while later he forced himself to relax.
After the Future - XLIX (PG-13)
It was a little after two when Todd woke. He realized Anne wasn't in the bed and sat up. He spotted her in the chair. "Anne? You okay?"
She nodded, but didn't speak.
He got up and came to her side. "Anne?" He knelt beside her, "Are you having the baby?"
She smiled then and took a deep breath. "Yeah."
"Why didn't you wake me?"
"You needed some rest." She caressed his cheek.
"You're having my baby. I'm not planning to miss that again."
She chuckled then, "Don't worry. I wasn't going to wait that long."
"Do you want me to get Scully?"
"No. We have plenty of time. She needs some rest too."
His frown showed his opinion of that statement, but he kept quiet for now. "What do I do?"
"You keep me company; maybe walk with me." She held out her hand to be helped to her feet. "We need to be quiet."
He hesitated, then helped her to stand, his arm going around her back. They walked to the main room and on to the kitchen. His grip tightened when her breathing changed and she leaned against the counter. "Anne?"
She didn't respond, so he waited. When she relaxed, he pulled her against him. "I really am okay, you know."
He nodded and when she started walking again, fell in step beside her. "Are you sure you don't want Scully? Even Mulder? Or maybe Walt would be - "
Her finger pressing gently against his lips quietened him. He gave her a sideways smile. "Sorry. I guess I'm more nervous than I thought."
She leaned against him. "You're doing fine."
"I want to do more."
"Just be here with me."
"I'm not going anywhere this time." He automatically massaged her back as she liked, faltering only when he felt her breathing change. He held her as she labored to give him their son.
When the contraction ended, they continued walking. At her request he quietly told her stories of his childhood.
She was hanging from his neck, swaying. She was no longer able to get through the contractions without vocalizing and his pseudo-calm was wearing thin. He felt her knees buckle at the next contraction and took on her weight.
"That's it. I'm getting Scully."
She nodded tiredly against his chest. When she was able they returned to the room and he helped her onto the bed. He gave her a quick kiss. "I'll be right back."
She grabbed his hand, stopping him and he held her until the contraction ended. He brushed her hair back and tried to smile. It didn't come off and she chuckled quietly. "Go on."
"I'll hurry." He took off up the stairs and knocked quickly on Mulder and Scully's door. "Mulder!"
Mulder jerked in the bed, what the . . . "Todd? Anne!" He glanced over at Scully, but she had already vaulted out of the bed and was reaching for her clothes. "We'll be right there."
"Todd, go back to her. We're on our way," Scully called through the door and they heard his running footsteps retreating. She looked over at Mulder and blinked back quick tears at his expression. "She'll be okay."
"I know." It was all he could get out, but he took her hand and they hurried to the stairs. He held her elbow as she rushed down to the first floor. Todd was holding Anne as she moaned softly, swaying with her.
His expression of relief when Mulder and Scully entered the room would have been comical if Mulder were capable of such an emotion right now.
Scully was at Anne's side and helped her recline when the contraction ended. "How are you doing?"
"Pretty good." Anne relaxed back, her breath returning to normal.
Scully took the precious rubber glove from Mulder's hand and began her exam gently. "How long have you been having contractions?"
"They got regular around nine."
Todd's head swiveled in her direction. "Nine? It was two when you . . . " he looked over at Mulder, who shrugged at him.
"We were all busy and I knew we had plenty of time. My water hasn't even broken yet."
"I'm surprised the kids didn't . . . " Mulder stopped when he looked over at his wife.
Scully smiled, "They knew, didn't they? I saw every one of them touch you as they were leaving. I thought it was because they might not see you for a couple of days."
Anne smiled, "No, they knew." Her smile was cut short by the next contraction.
"That's right, breathe through it." Her hand rested on Anne's stomach. "You're already at seven. Did you say your water hasn't broken? I'm wondering if that's the kid's influence. It does make it easier on you." She glanced over at Mulder to see his reaction to her theory and caught his expression.
He was holding it together, but barely. This was hard on him, and he was tired on top of everything else. He couldn't be her focus right now, but she let her hand caress his arm and his eyes lightened slightly.
Todd was holding Anne's hand and Scully saw both he and Mulder pale at the next contraction. "Would you like Walt?" she asked Anne quietly when she relaxed.
Anne took a cleansing breath. "Do you mind?"
"Of course not." She looked over at Mulder and he nodded, moving toward the door.
Walt was already up and waiting at the door of the classroom when Mulder looked in. Walt took his hand and a feeling of reassurance came over Mulder. He nodded at Walt who smiled at him.
"You want to help Anne?"
"Sure." They walked back to the examining room. Mulder hesitated when he heard Anne. "It's okay, Dad." The boy squeezed his hand, then moved to Anne's side.
Walt's hand rested lightly on her stomach. "Are you ready, Anne?" He looked up at her.
She looked up at Todd, then over at Scully. "Yes."
Walt smiled, "Okay. He's ready too."
Her water broke then and Scully jerked forward. "You could warn me," She said to Walt, her eyebrow high. He grinned at her, then all attention was on Anne.
"I have to push," she said calmly.
Mulder saw Todd's Adam's apple bob, and moved closer to him. "Support her back. She has to do the work." He let his hand rest lightly on Todd's shoulder.
Todd nodded and leaned down, whispering something in her ear. She nodded and took his hand. Scully began to count then Todd took over the count for her.
"You're doing great, Anne. Again." In no time the head was crowning. "He is ready, Anne. Come on, push again."
Mulder looked over at Todd when the head was out. His eyes were huge and Mulder couldn't see any sign that he was breathing. He smiled slightly, that he could understand.
"One more, Anne."
Anne's hand tightened on Todd's and she pushed. Scully held the infant boy up for them to see. His eyes were open and though he didn't cry, his mouth was open and he was pinking up beautifully. Scully lay the boy on Anne's stomach.
Todd's trembling hand settled on his son's back. He opened his mouth to say something, but then just closed it, shaking his head in wonder.
He leaned over and kissed Anne.
"You need to cut the cord," Scully said quietly and he looked up. He nodded and took the scissors Mulder handed him.
Anne was watching him as he cut the baby's umbilical cord, transfixed by his expression. "Well," he cleared his throat, "I'd like you to meet Fox Lee Cooke."
Mulder rolled his eyes and Scully leaned against him, hugging him tightly. "Let's take the cord blood over to the lab and give them a little time. Anne, I'll come clean him up in a few minutes. Just rest." She tugged on Mulder's hand.
Once out in the hall he stopped, "She's okay?"
Scully nodded at that, "She's good, Mulder. Come on, let's get some tea." She took Walt's hand and they left the younger couple.
Walt looked up at them, "I'll get Ruthie."
Scully nodded, "Okay, try to keep quiet. Everyone else is asleep."
He smiled and turned toward the classroom. They watched him for a moment, then she tugged on Mulder's arm. They placed the placenta and cord blood in the lab then she took Mulder's hand and led him toward the kitchen.
"How you doing, Mulder?"
He cut his eyes at her, but didn't bother to respond. Scully came into his arms and they closed around her. "I . . . I thought it wouldn't be as hard when it wasn't you. No, that's not right, but it would have been 1,000 times harder if you . . . " he shook his head.
"You were wonderful with Todd."
He huffed and released her when the water began to boil. They both looked up as wind whipped around the corner in a sudden gust.
"Anne and blizzards." He took a sip of the hot tea. "I'm gonna talk to Todd about looking at a December conception for the next three." He tried to speak lightly, but she could feel his stress. He put the cup of tea on the counter and she saw his hand shake slightly.
"Why don't you go back to bed, Mulder? It won't be dawn for an hour or so."
If there is a dawn, he thought, but just shook his head. "I'll wait for you. I know you want to check Lee out again."
"Okay. I'll do that now, but we both know he's okay. And Mulder, so is Anne."
He nodded and pulled her back against him.
Bill came downstairs stretching, and spotted Todd. He did a double take when he realized Todd was holding a newborn. "Anne had the baby?"
Todd nodded. "She's asleep now."
"Wow." Bill said as he moved closer, staring down at the baby. "I would never have thought I could sleep through a woman having a baby. She must have been quiet."
"She was." Todd looked back down at his son.
"It was . . . it was unbelievable."
"Weren't you there when Ruthie was born?"
Todd shook his head, "I didn't get there in time, so this was a first for me."
"You'll never forget it." Both men turned as Matt stumbled down the stairs, rubbing his eyes. "Hey, Matt, come see."
Matt scowled, but moved in their direction. "It's still dark," he grumbled.
He looked over as his grandmother and Walter joined them.
"Oh my god! Lee? Anne had the baby?" Walter turned at his wife's words. Maggie sounded more than a little irritated. She looked up at Todd, her eyebrow high.
"Uh, it was late, everyone was asleep."
"I still expected to assist," but she looked less formidable now.
"I, uh, I got Mulder and Scully, then I didn't leave her side."
Maggie smiled then, "Well, I'm glad you were there and I know Anne was too. Okay for this time, but in the future . . . "
"Yes, ma'am," he smiled.
Walter looked over Maggie's shoulder at the baby. "Personally I'm glad you called Mulder and Scully, and left me in bed." Maggie swatted at him. "I guess you've never seen a baby that's only about four hours old, have you?" Todd tilted his arm to let Matt see the baby. When the boy approached, something made Todd look over toward the kitchen. He saw Katy watching them.
Lee's arm came free from the blanket as Matt let his hand come close to the infant. Without hesitation, Lee's tiny hand curled around the boy's finger.
Instantly Matt froze and his eyes rolled back in his head. "Matt!" Bill grabbed his shoulders, but he didn't fall.
Katy rushed in from the kitchen. "He's okay, Uncle Bill. He just wouldn't let us touch him. He didn't think anyone as young as Lee could do anything. We can help him now."
Bill's eyes narrowed, but before he could speak, Mulder was racing down the stairs. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Dad. Lee touched Matt, now we can help him." She took Matt's hand. "Could you move him to the couch?"
Bill scooped him up and carried him to the couch. "What are you going to do to him?"
"Make him feel better." Katy sat on the edge of the seat and held her cousin's hand. Bill looked over at Mulder, and for a moment it almost looked like he wanted reassurance.
Before either spoke, Katy looked over at Bill. "He has good memories of you."
"What?" Bill turned back to her.
"You took him to the zoo. He rode on your shoulders and you laughed at the monkeys." Katy watched him as he stood there, dumbstruck. "And one time you were lying on the couch and he tried to sneak up on you. When he jumped out to scare you, you grabbed him up and put him on your chest and tickled him."
"He remembers that?"
"He will now. And he'll remember Tara better, more real instead of what his grandparents told him."
"He . . . he is okay?" Bill looked back down at Matt.
Mulder put his hand on Bill's shoulder. "He is, Bill."
After a moment Bill nodded.
"Come on. Matt's in safe hands. Let's get some breakfast."
"He's right, Bill." Scully put her hand on his arm.
"I didn't hear you come down," Mulder pulled her against him, giving her a quick hug.
She smiled, "You were busy." She took Bill's arm and led him toward the kitchen.
Lexie, Ruthie and Walt joined Katy as they moved away. Mulder stood near them for a moment. "Do you need anything?"
"We're okay, Dad. Go eat." Katy smiled up at him. "We're good."
Mulder looked around. Todd had disappeared with Lee; probably back to Anne. Maybe Matt could be okay now.
George and Alex came downstairs then and both men stopped when they spotted Matt unconscious on the couch, surrounded by the kids. "What, uh, what's going on?" Alex asked. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he will be. The kids are helping him." Mulder looked back at them for a moment, then the three men moved to the kitchen.
Alex moved to the back door and peered through the glass, "I was hoping this was an illusion from my window."
"Nope, sunrise should have been over an hour ago."
Alex opened his mouth, then looked over at Maggie and Scully and closed it.
George lowered his voice, "How long can we go without sun?"
Mulder shrugged, "We've got supplies stored for months. I just don't know, without adding to it . . . "
"Surely by spring, I mean . . . " George looked back and forth between Mulder and Alex.
Walter joined them at the door. "Maggie wants you all to come eat. There's nothing we can do right now."
They nodded and joined Bill and Scully over warm oatmeal. At Walter's encouragement, George went over instructions for tanning the hides that awaited them on the utility porch.
In a few minutes the kids joined them. Bill rose immediately. "Is he - "
"Matt's asleep now. Please don't worry; we won't hurt him." Katy took a seat next to him and Lexie took his other side. That was a first.
"I, I know that." He forced himself back into the seat.
Scully looked at the kids, "Has everyone checked in?"
Katy nodded, her mouth full.
"Wait a minute," Mulder looked around the room, thinking. "What about at Brittany's?"
"He can send; can he receive?"
"Sure can. We've been training. He's good at it now." She took a sip of the milk that wouldn't last long.
"Good, and the barn?"
As though surprised at the question, Katy just looked at her father for a moment. "Kevin's there."
He chuckled, "Of course. How stupid of me."
Once breakfast was over, Scully returned upstairs to nurse and dress Chrissy. Maggie handled wash-up and the men retreated to the utility porch to work on the hides.
Though they were all in the same house, they gave each other space during the days. Scully held some classes for the kids, reading to them from Moby Dick. Maggie, Anne and Lee joined them while the men worked nearly continuously on the hides.
Scully noted that Alex removed his arm as soon as possible when work was over each evening. He didn't say anything, so she waited until he was alone in the kitchen and approached him.
"I want to see your arm."
"Getting a little personal, aren't we, Scully? Do I need a blue light?"
She narrowed her eyes. "What are you trying to hide?"
"It's nothing. Lexie is looking after me."
"So why are you still having a problem?"
He looked away then. He took a deep breath and pulled off his sweater. "Hurry with your exam, it's chilly."
Scully ignored that and took his arm in her hand. She was surprised when he winced at her touch. "Has Walt seen this?" He didn't answer. "Alex, talk to me, this is . . . "
"What?" He looked up then, "What's wrong?"
She was the one that didn't respond then, "Walt, could you come in here please?" she called into the next room.
Alex's face paled, but he didn't speak. Walt and Mulder hurried into the kitchen. "You okay?" Mulder's eyes scanned her quickly.
"I'm fine, Mulder. I want Walt to check out Alex's arm."
At that Mulder looked over at Alex. Even he could see that the stump was red, angry looking. He glanced down at Walt. The look on the boy's face, the color in his cheeks, caused Mulder to squat down to his level. "Walt?"
"Uh, we, we're not trying to hurt him."
"Walt, are you doing this?" Scully sank down beside them as well.
Walt looked up at Alex. "Lexie asked us to try. We don't know if it will work, but . . . "
"If what will work?" Mulder asked when the boy's voice trailed off.
Walt sighed, "She wants us to try to grow Alex a new arm."
All three adults were stunned into silence. Mulder recovered first. He looked over at Scully, then back to Walt. "Can you do it?"
Walt hesitated, "The bone is already longer. That's why it's red and the fake arm doesn't fit right."
"Why were you keeping it secret?" Scully asked quietly.
"We, uh, we hadn't asked if Alex wanted it."
Mulder rose then and helped Scully to her feet. He looked over at Alex. "Do you want it?"
Alex looked at Walt. "Yeah, yeah if you can do it, do it."
The boy nodded. "It might help if you worked with us."
"Tell me what to do." Walt moved to him then and took his hand. Alex jerked slightly and looked down at his stump.
"Let's go get Lexie." Walt led him toward the main room.
Scully looked up at Mulder, speechless. He pulled her against him and closed his eyes. "Maybe we should join them." She nodded and let her arm encircle his waist.
Matt had awoken and was interacting, but was as groggy as Bill had been and had little to say. He ate and stayed with the other children, listening when Scully read to them. Ruthie and Lexie sat with him a lot of the time.
Anne and Todd joined the others for lunch. Todd carried their son and Walter held a chair for Anne and looked over at the baby again, smiling. "Are you feeling okay?" he asked the young woman.
"I'm very okay. It's so wonderful to have him here and safe."
"So many babies around here." Maggie smiled, "I love to see big families again."
"He won't be the baby for long." Katy took another bite of her stew.
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances as Mulder let his spoon settle in his bowl. "Katy, is someone pregnant?"
All of the kids looked up and smiled, Walt chuckled. Katy looked at her mother then back at Mulder. "Yes. Megan's having another boy, so is Julie, and Becky is having a girl."
"Becky?" Mulder sputtered, "Langly's reproduced?" He sounded strangled at that. Walter started to laugh, shaking his head and Maggie grinned. Scully just met Mulder's eyes, her mouth open.
"Well, it is cold," Katy said with a shrug. Everyone laughed at that.
Mulder realized that the children's laughter had trailed off. All of the kids were looking at Katy. Her eyes were wide and, and frightened. He felt Scully's hand grip his arm.
"Katy? Baby, what's wrong?" Mulder leaned toward her.
She looked up at him. "They, they're trying to contact us. They need help."
After the Future - L (PG-13)
"Our help?" Alex sputtered, his fury growing as he thought about those words. "Our help! They caused this, they kill us off and now they come to us. Mulder, you're not - "
"No. We're not going to help them. They can die, like we did." Mulder focused on the children and felt Scully's hand on his arm, calming him. Mulder shook his head, but wouldn't look at her.
"Mulder, we need to think about this." Walter's strong and steady voice drew everyone's attention.
"Think about what?" Mulder turned, as though looking for a fight.
Walter didn't look in the least intimidated, though George and Todd exchanged uneasy looks. Bill just sat there stunned.
"We need to find out what they need help for. If it's to bring the sun back . . . "
Mulder turned away from him, but Scully looked at Katy. "Is that it?"
Katy looked at her father, then back to Scully, and shrugged. "They don't like cold. That's why they live in the southwest and near the equator." Scully nodded; she hadn't thought about it, but it made sense. The hypothermia slowed the virus. The humans had been in a base in Antarctica. She and Mulder had found the bees in Texas, not North Dakota.
"Are they dying?"
Katy glanced again at Mulder, then Alex. "They're . . . slowing down."
"Katy, I thought they couldn't reach you here; that you were 'blacked out' in this area." Walter drew her attention.
"I am, I mean, we are. Wendy called me."
"She's one of our sisters we were able to warn. Her family lived near the Arizona border. Not many of us live in that area, it's their territory."
"The planet is our territory," Alex growled. Walter sent him a quelling look and he subsided. After a glance from Walter, Lexie climbed into Alex's lap. Alex shot him a look, but cuddled his daughter to him.
Walter turned back to Katy. "How old is Wendy?"
"Almost Walt's age."
Looking a little puzzled, Walter turned to Todd. "Could we have gotten vaccine that far by then?"
Todd shook his head, but it was Walt who answered. "She wasn't born there. They were in Tennessee and left to try to find family. They didn't take any vaccine with them; Wendy has been alone except for us. The people she's with don't really know she's different. The ones who are alone keep a . . ." he looked over at his father, "a low profile, because of Esther."
"But 'they' knew?" Walter asked.
Katy nodded. "Alone, she can't really black out."
"So as a baby, you were exposed?"
Katy blinked. "No, Mom and Dad already had this area protected."
Mulder turned back then, startled. "We did? Your Mom and I can't do what you do."
"Of course you can. You just don't think you can."
Scully realized then what Walter was doing; defusing the conversation. Sometimes she forgot what a good leader he had always been.
"If Wendy's alone, can she look after her people?" George let his hand rest on his injured leg.
"Yes. Remember, all of us can do all of it. If she needs help, she draws it from us."
"I can't see MJ helping us delivery a baby," Mulder said dryly.
"Don't worry," Katy smiled slightly, "he doesn't want to. We can choose what we enjoy doing - like Missy with the plants and MJ with weather. Esther likes to work with Walt, and Lexie coached Will and Sam and Suzie and all." "How many are alone, like Wendy?"
"Not that many." Katy shrugged. "Mitsui is the only one in Japan, but not for long. There's no one in China, or the Middle East because it's so hot there. Usually if the vaccine has been there, or someone moves to a new place, they know about it and use it, like in Australia. And people who've had the vaccine make more babies."
That drew a chuckle from Walter, though he nodded. Others smiled slightly and the atmosphere seemed less tense.
Katy's head went up and she looked over at the door. It opened suddenly and a man stepped inside. Mulder and Walter were on their feet, but Katy was quicker. "Kevin!"
Everyone took a deep breath as they recognized him under the bundle of clothing. He moved quickly to Katy, but looked up at Mulder. "What's wrong?" He was removing his hat and unwinding his scarf. "I heard Katy."
"Get warm first," Maggie interrupted, already dishing him up a bowl of stew to hold as well as to eat. Todd moved an easy chair closer to the fireplace.
Katy perched on the arm of his chair while he ate. Once he was finished, Scully took his bowl and he pulled Katy down into his lap. "Gotta say, I miss you guys."
"Not enjoying the animals?" Todd grinned.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "I'm a little surprised you let me in. I know I'm not as 'fresh' as I'd like to be in polite company."
"That's you?" Todd chuckled. Kevin glared at him as Katy snuggled in.
"Are Lynne and Byers okay?" Scully asked.
"Yeah. We're getting used to each other. Byers tells some pretty good stories." He glanced over at Mulder.
Mulder shook his head. "Do I need to sue for slander?"
"Hey, if it's true, it ain't slander," Kevin retorted laughing at Mulder's expression. He looked over at Todd, "I think my hands are warm now. Do I get to meet Lee?"
"How did you - " Todd glanced at Katy. "Nevermind. Yeah, he should be awake. I'll go check." He rose and headed toward the back. Kevin looked down at Katy and winked.
Kevin looked over at Alex. "How's your arm?"
Alex squeezed Lexie. "Growing." He grinned a little, "wanna see?" At Kevin's nod, he slipped off his sweater and then his t-shirt.
Kevin's eyes widened. "Damn, I can, I can see it's longer." He rose with Katy and moved over to get a closer look.
Alex nodded, "Yep. They're doing a great job."
"Does it hurt?"
Alex shook his head. "It itches sometimes and the prosthesis doesn't fit anymore but it's gonna be worth it."
"Damn." Kevin looked back over at Katy. "Okay, how's it going with Matthew?"
Bill looked over at his son.
"We can touch him now," Katy said, glancing at her uncle. "We kind of tricked him. He didn't think Lee was a 'danger' because he was just born, so Lee took hold of his finger."
"Lee was the contact?" Kevin looked up at Bill, who didn't meet his eyes. "Well," he didn't seem to know what to say to that.
"Matt's doing much better already, but he's still sleepy. He can remember Uncle Bill now and his Mom. He's relaxing and that's what we wanted. We can teach him now, like we did with Esther's family and Will and Sam. Since he's a blood Scully, it should be a little easier for him, like it was with the boys."
Mulder and Scully both looked up at that. It was the first they'd heard of it; another conversation to have with the children sometime soon.
Todd returned with Lee then and placed him carefully in Kevin's arms. Kevin smiled down at the baby as Lee yawned and got comfortable against his chest. After a couple of minutes Lee began to root around on Kevin's chest. He glanced over at Anne, who came to his rescue.
Kevin grew serious then, "As much as I'm enjoying this, I'm going to have to get back to my stable. What scared Katy?" He asked the question of Mulder, but pulled her closer.
"We've been contacted," Mulder said, his tone expressionless.
"Contacted by who?" Kevin looked around the room. His eyes widened, "by them? How did they get through?"
Mulder sighed, but it was Walter that answered. "They contacted one of the other children who's alone."
Kevin looked down into Katy's eyes. She nodded at him. "What," he swallowed, "what do they want?"
"They want to work with us they said, well, they need to. They probably want to talk about what we can do together to bring the sun back," Katy said simply.
"What about the blackout area?" Walter asked.
"We can get through it, they can't," Lexie explained from Alex's lap.
Walter leaned back, "I think we need to meet with them. I know - " he held up his hand as both Mulder and Alex opened their mouths to protest. "I don't like them either, guys, but if we're going to continue to survive, we're going to need the sun. If that's it and we can use them to get it, we've got to do that."
This time it was Scully's hand that stopped Mulder. "He's right, Mulder. The last thing I want is to help these . . . but we have to."
Mulder looked around the room. Todd was nodding, as were Anne and Kevin. Walter was just watching him, his arm around Maggie. Bill was quiet, but Mulder had no doubt to his opinion.
"When, when are we talking about doing this?" Anne asked quietly.
"Not tonight," Walter said quietly. "This is something we all need to talk about. Tomorrow, or the next day, when we can all get here. Can you guys set that up?" He looked over at Katy.
All of the kids nodded. "Day after tomorrow," Katy said. "I think everyone would like to get out, even in this cold."
"We'll fix something special; make it a celebration." Maggie looked over at Scully who nodded.
"Good idea, Mom. I know it's only been a couple of days, but I miss seeing everyone."
"Can we put a shower on the schedule for all three of us stable hands?" Kevin asked with a wry grin.
"Count on it," Mulder said dryly.
Kevin cut his eyes at him and Katy laughed out loud at whatever she was picking up between the two. "Okay, much as I'm enjoying being here, I need to get back. Let me know what time to be here for the meeting." He rose then and reached for his coat. Katy handed it to him and watched quietly as he bundled up, then walked to the door with him.
Before reaching for the knob, he squatted down to face her, "Don't let them get close to you. Stay in the black out, no matter what happens. Do you hear me?"
"They can't - "
"Do you hear me?"
She nodded then. He gave her a quick hug then motioned for her to move back, away from the door. He hurried outside.
Scully rushed to join Mulder in the bed after putting Chrissy down. Now the baby was sprawled in her bassinette in her favorite position, her head tilted back and her arms flung out.
Mulder pulled her to him, warming her with his body until she quit shivering. She pulled back slightly from his warmth and looked him in the eye. "How are you?"
"Scully - "
"No. How are you? I know this contact with them threw you for a loop. Believe me, if it meant all of them dying off and we'd be okay, I'd be for it. Unfortunately -"
"I know. We need each other, because of their arrogance and stupidity."
She didn't disagree, her hand caressing his chest. "We need to do this for us, for all of us. We've got three new babies on the way, remember?"
He sighed and pulled her close again. She cuddled into his warmth. After a moment she whispered, "You need to talk to Langly."
He grunted and felt her chuckle against him. "Why me?"
"Because you're Mulder."
He snorted then. "What good is that?"
She looked up at his tone. "Mulder, what's wrong? Are you . . . "
He hesitated for an instant, but she caressed his cheek, encouraging him. "Why did you agree with Walter?"
She drew back, blinking at him. "It wasn't Walter I was agreeing with, it was Katy. Mulder, we have to have the sun. I don't want to work with them; I do want them off the planet, or dead. But we have to grow a crop next year and the year after that."
"I know that, Scully. I'm not an idiot," he hissed, suddenly angry.
She paled at that, stunned at his vehemence. "You know I don't think that. I never - You have a longer history with what we're dealing with than anyone. You were twelve years old when you got involved."
"Involved, nice term."
"Mulder, please. We have to do this."
He closed his eyes. After a moment he nodded. "I can still hate it, right?"
"As long as you don't hate me."
He jerked then, pulling her against him. "Not funny."
"I haven't heard you sound that angry in a long time."
"They fuck up and they want our children to fix it." He seemed slightly calmer.
"Maybe we should be grateful the children can."
He blinked at that. "I'm sorry."
"I understand. You're right, they did this and we have to try to clean it up. I'm on your side, always."
She felt the tension ease out of him. "I know. Forgive me?"
She kissed her way up his chest, to his chin, lips and finally his nose. "Let me show you."
The women spent a lot of time cooking the next day. Maggie used some of their special supplies to create desserts for the occasion. George joined them, kneading the bread as Frohike had shown him. The children set the tables and made decorations.
Mulder, Todd and Bill made a trip out to the ice house for additional supplies and to check out the conditions.
In the kitchen, Anne looked over at George and took a deep breath. "George, are you okay with Julie being pregnant?"
Scully looked up stunned. Damn, she hadn't even thought about that. Everything had fallen apart so quickly after they got the news about the new children. She looked over at George as well.
He was looking down at the dough he was working, but he took a deep breath. He answered slowly, obviously searching for the correct words. "Yeah, yeah I think I am. I mean she's not my wife anymore, even though we'll always be connected. I'm not losing John or Esther, I realize that. I think Julie really cares about Jerry and I know he cares about her. I don't know that I would have felt this way before, but I'm, I'm clearer now." He gave the women a sideways grin, "when I was injured, maybe they fixed more than my leg."
Anne returned his smile softly, "Maybe so. They certainly did with me."
He chuckled, "I doubt you needed as much work, but . . . I do feel 'smarter' now. Peter was giving me grief about it the other day. You know, he's not so bad a brother. Too bad it took me so long to notice." He dusted his hands off, "well, this is ready whenever the stove's free. I promised Alex I'd help him move some things around for this meeting. Call me if you need me." He ducked out of the kitchen, leaving the two women alone.
When she was sure he was gone, Scully turned to Anne, "Thank you. I wasn't thinking. How could I have let that slip?"
"Don't worry about it. Ruthie told me I ought to bring it up."
"I wonder why none of mine said anything."
"You were kind of busy with Mulder I think. He wasn't too happy last night."
"No, he wasn't. Even though he knows this is necessary, he's fought against them too long to see them as anything but hated evil."
Anne nodded, "It was a little unnerving to see him and Walter disagree like that. I've never seen it before. Todd was concerned. "
Scully nodded. "They used to go at it tooth and nail back at the Bureau. Mulder physically attacked him once in the hall in front of everyone. It wasn't Mulder's fault, he was being drugged, but it is unsettling."
Scully smiled then, "Walter. He's a big man and those ex-marines stay in shape. And don't let Mulder tell you he 'slipped'. Walter had him under control in just a couple of moves, though he did have quite a bruise on his face for a while."
"Glad I wasn't there," Anne said as she opened the oven to slip the casserole inside.
People started arriving shortly before lunch the following day. It was the lightest part of the day, but still a deep dusk. Even with the lines running between the homes and the clinic, Mulder stood on the porch with a lantern, giving the people a focal point.
After a while, Todd forced him inside and stood out there himself until the final member of the community arrived.
All of the kids headed directly for the classroom, Malcolm, Chrissy and, to Scully's surprise, Lee included.
"Anne, was that Lee?"
"Jennifer has him and Ruthie insisted," Anne said, looking in that direction. "Do you think it's okay?"
"Yes. Katy and Walt won't let anything happen to him."
"Why do they need to meet? I mean, they're in contact all the time, right?"
"Yes, but so few of them were here when Lee was born, I imagine they want to greet him, touch him."
Anne relaxed at that. "Of course. They did the same thing when Ruthie was born." She looked toward the hall and smiled, then followed Scully back toward the kitchen.
That reminded Scully that she needed to meet with Megan, Julie and, of course, Becky. She wasn't the least worried about Megan, even though Malcolm and his brother would be close in age. It was Julie's third, so she at least knew what to expect. Becky was the one that had her attention, and she couldn't help but smile - Mulder's outburst still in her head. Yes, Langly had most certainly reproduced.
Scully caught up with Beth and motioned for her to meet her in the office. When Beth could escape, she hurried that way. "Dana? Is everything okay?"
Scully smiled, reassuring her. "Yes, but I wanted to alert you to a future 'event'. We've got three babies on the way."
Beth's eyes widened. "I'm not - "
"No. Not you this time. And not me," she smirked. "Mulder would have a meltdown. No, this time it's Megan, Julie . . . and Becky." She grinned as she patted Beth on the back as the younger woman choked on her tea.
"That's why I wanted to warn you. Mulder's reaction was the same. In fact, he's going to have the same conversation he had with Frohike and he's even more nervous about it."
Beth chuckled, "I don't blame him. What about George?"
"Anne talked to him. He seems okay with it, even commented that he wasn't losing John and Esther. I'll have them keep an eye on him."
"They're all due the same day, right?"
"Oh yes. I figure if everyone goes into labor at the same time, you'll handle one, I'll handle one and Mulder will handle one. Let's not give him Becky."
"Agreed. I think you should have her, with Langly as coach."
Scully laughed out loud as they moved back toward the main room.
Mulder wandered among the arrivals, greeting everyone, but looking for Langly. He finally spotted him at the far end of the dining room. He moved in that direction, trying to look casual. When he was close, he clapped Langly on the shoulder. "Could you help me with something?"
"Sure." Langly put down the decoration he was admiring and followed his friend.
This wasn't the man that had staggered into the community so many years ago. At that time he'd done no physical labor in his life. Things had changed, he could chop wood, garden and still work in the lab. The thing that hadn't changed was his paranoia and inherent geeky-ness. Mulder wasn't looking forward to this.
They entered the lab and Mulder shut the door. Langly immediately tensed at the look on his face. "What?"
"Something we need to talk about."
Langly's eyes narrowed, but reluctantly he sank onto a stool. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Mulder sat beside him. "I, uh, listen you need to know - "
Mulder met his eyes. He saw fear was creeping in along with the anger. "I'm handling this all wrong. This is a good thing. Becky's pregnant."
There was a dead silence then. Mulder realized he was looking into the face of man in total panic.
"How . . . "
"You don't really need me to explain that do you?" Mulder asked, trying to lighten the mood.
The pale man flushed a bright red, "I don't know how to . . . Damn, Mulder. What if she doesn't . . . "
"Do you want this baby?"
"I . . . I never thought . . . Shit."
Finally Mulder smiled, "Yeah, that's kind of how I felt when I found out about Katy. Remember, Scully can't have kids."
Langly huffed at that. "I don't know if Becky wants - "
"Scully's talking to her. She is sleeping with you, so she had to at least think about it. Did you never discuss it?"
"Not, not really."
"Living here? Well you're gonna have to now."
"What do I say? Jesus, Mulder, how do I . . . " He slumped on the stool.
"The same way the rest of us did, Big Guy. Do you honestly think Frohike was born knowing how to be a dad? And me? Think about it. You're not going to be alone in this. I'd put money on Becky being thrilled about this."
"You would? Having a baby with me?"
"You're not my type, Langly, but you're obviously Becky's. Talk to her."
Langly stared at his hands for a long moment, then looked up at Mulder. "That can't be why you called us all here."
The smile vanished from Mulder's face. "It's not. Let's eat first, visit for awhile. What I've got can keep that long. Go find Becky. She probably needs to see you right about now."
Langly opened his mouth, then just shut it and nodded. He got to his feet and followed Mulder from the room.
After the Future - LI (PG-13)
Everyone ate well, laughing and visiting with each other; congratulating the stunned parents to be of the newest additions. Langly, of course, took the most ribbing, but he knew these people and took it well. Only Byers was quiet about the coming child. Anyone watching would have thought they hadn't seen each other in years. The children circulated, but ended up sitting together at one of the tables.
Matt sat with them, Walt and Esther flanking him. He was more awake and actually smiled some. He was quiet as though listening to things the adults couldn't hear.
With full stomachs, they eventually moved over closer to the fireplace and got comfortable. Charlie took Missy onto his lap and looked over at Mulder. "Much as I enjoyed the meal, Mulder, I'm pretty sure there's another reason we're here."
Mulder looked around the room. He was holding Chrissy and Katy had taken up her spot beside Kevin. Esther was in George's lap, Lexie in Alex's. Charlie frowned at Mulder, waiting for him to say something. He was startled when Walter cleared his throat and rose.
"Charlie's right, we asked you all here for a very important discussion. There's been a development and we need everyone's input."
"Development?" Charlie asked. He was still looking at Mulder, but the man didn't meet his eyes. That made Charlie very uncomfortable, but he waited.
Walter hesitated for an instant then took a deep breath. "We've been contacted by the aliens."
The hubbub that broke out was expected and Walter let it go for a couple of minutes before raising his hands, bringing things back under some sort of control. "I know that's not what anyone expected or wanted, but it's happened and we need to make some decisions."
"What about the blackout area?" Frohike spoke over him.
"It's still intact. They contacted one of the children in Arizona who lives alone. She doesn't have a blackout area."
"What, what do they want?" Beth groped for Frohike's hand.
"We don't know exactly. We're speculating that it's about the nuclear winter. They don't do well in cold weather. All we do know for sure is that they're asking for our help."
That caused another outburst and Walter let it ride for a little while. Finally it began to die out and Charlie looked between the two men. "We don't know that's what they want. They could be using this to try to get to us again, like when Bill arrived."
A couple of people couldn't help but glance at the larger man. He continued studying his hands, making no move to meet their eyes.
Mulder had remained silent, listening to the outrage and the discussion that was slowly emerging. He was aware others were glancing at him, waiting for him to speak. Hell, some of them probably thought he knew what was happening. He understood that Scully had given him Chrissy to hold much the way Walter had sent Lexie to calm down Alex that first night. He was calm, mostly, but how could he just accept what they were planning. His children would have to lead this. The others would be there and would help, but Katy, Walt, Lexie and Chrissy were acknowledged as the strongest. They would bear the brunt of whatever happened.
He made his decision.
"No." Walter looked over at Mulder, startled. Mulder continued, "Not the kids. If we have to be in touch, I'll do it."
"Mulder - " Scully started, but he took her hand, still facing Walter.
"I can't risk the kids." He looked over at Katy. "You keep telling us that your mother and I can do everything you guys can do. It's time I tested that theory."
Scully's face looked stricken but she kept silent. Charlie sat forward, "Mulder, you're good at what you can do, but they've used you before. Don't you think - "
"Tell Wendy she'll be working through me. Protect her but stay out of the way." Mulder looked directly at Katy, ignoring Charlie.
"Dad - "
"No argument, Precious."
Kevin's arm tightened around her and after a moment she nodded. "That goes for all of you." Mulder looked around at the kids.
The children looked at each other for a long moment.
"This is not negotiable, kids. I won't put you in danger."
"We could shield you," Katy said.
"I can't be shielded when I'm doing this. Come on, you guys keep telling me I can do anything you can do. It's time I proved it."
Katy opened her mouth once more, but her father's look stopped her.
No one spoke for what felt like a long time.
"Well, I - " he began, but this time Scully interrupted him.
"Mulder, we both know I'm your weak point."
He blinked at that. "What are you talking about?"
"You know that every time they want to hurt you, go after you, they use me. I am your greatest weakness."
"But you're also my greatest strength, Scully."
She gave him a tremulous smile at that. "Before you do this, I need you to think about something."
He nodded, waiting.
"Do you have any doubt, even the tiniest reason to doubt how much I love you?"
A smile grew on his face then. "No, no I don't doubt that at all."
"Do you have doubts about the family you and I have given each other?" She looked over at their children.
"No." He met her eyes without hesitation.
"What about this larger family we've grown, this community. Do you doubt that they support you and want to help you in any way they can?"
His eyes seemed to go to Bill involuntarily. Bill met Mulder's eyes and he gave him a short nod. Mulder seemed to relax. "No, I have no doubt about anyone that lives here."
"Then I need you to remember that. If you're going to do this, face them, you need us, all of us, to back you up, Mulder."
He saw Walter nod at him, then Charlie and Todd. He realized that they were all watching him, giving him their support. He swallowed hard. "Th-thanks, guys."
"How do you want to handle this?" Walter asked quietly.
"Uh, wait, are we talking about doing this right now?" Charlie's head came up.
"Yeah. We're all here. They've come to us, asked for us. I say we do it," Mulder said, looking around the room.
Charlie looked over at Todd, then Walter. "What, what do we do?"
Instead of answering, Walter looked over at Katy.
"We can get you through the blackout," she said quietly.
"Can you stay back after that?" Mulder pressed.
"Daddy, we - "
"Can you stay back?"
"Okay. Make sure you do, I want your promise. Just get me past whatever keeps them out of here."
All of the children nodded solemnly.
"Mulder - " Scully started, but he placed Chrissy in her arms, as his lips cut her off. He took a seat in the overstuffed chair that Anne vacated for him and got comfortable.
Almost instantly he found himself standing in a . . . a portal, a door, whatever you wanted to call it. It was rounded and looked somehow both metallic and organic.
He knew, in some part of his mind, that his body was still sitting in the clinic, surrounded by his family, but he was also here - wherever here was.
A being, a 'gray' stepped into his line of sight and he felt himself propelled backward, not physically, but in time.
It was that night, the night that changes his life.
Was this how they were going to play it? Was this an attack of some kind?
He is on his knees hovering over his father's gun. Samantha is screaming his name and he hears his younger voice cry out her name as well. It hurts, this memory always will, but he is a different person now. It is almost . . . nostalgic. He has children of his own now, he can forgive his twelve year old self for being unable to stand up to them.
The scene dissolves and he is older.
His parents are screaming at each other, not knowing, or not caring that he can hear every word. The hatred and bitterness that flows from his mother seems to bounce off of his father and find him, hiding in the hallway. She doesn't say the words, but he knows she wishes that he was the one that had disappeared, not Samantha. He has never told her that he agrees. At least he has learned what constitutes a bad parent, he can screw up his own kids in his way rather than theirs. He pushes the memory aside.
He watches Phoebe turn to look at him from her bed. The blond man there with her doesn't stop caressing her nude body as she just looks at him. It is as though she is appraising his reaction.
Damn that had hurt at the time, now he wants to laugh at his adolescent 'crush' on this wrong woman. What a mistake she had been. There is no pain associated with this memory any more.
Diana is in front of him, yelling at him for flushing his career down the drain without regard for her or her feelings. She turns and stalks out of the office he has created from the small storage room in the basement. He's upset that she's walked out, not because she was leaving him as much as what he will do about having an officially sanctioned partner.
He can admit to himself now that part of him is glad to see her go. He should never have trusted her even as much as he had. She had wanted more of him than he had wanted to give and he would always wonder a little what she had taken away.
It shifts again but he is still in that office. He hears himself ". . . most unwanted." He turns and she is there. Even now his heart rate increases at the sight of that lovely, young, nave woman who is trying so hard to look poised and selfassured. His first sight of her has given him no clue as to what is ahead. He would never in a million years have been able to foresee what this woman would become to him.
"Damn it, answer!" He tosses his cell phone aside and presses harder on the accelerator. Tooms had taken her necklace, she is in danger.
Oh God, where was this going? He felt his heart rate increase again, this time in fear and anticipation. What were they going to show him now?
He blinks and she is pointing a gun on him as he holds one on her. "You might not be who you are!"
Blink again and he is standing in front of a group of agents and he knows she is missing, that somehow Jack has her. ". . . this one's important to me." What an understatement that is, even this early in their relationship.
She is flying backward through the air - shot in the chest. He has allowed her to be a target of Barnett? What is he think-
He is standing over her as she lies in a hospital bed. She is unconscious and pale and it is his fault. He is also a patient, wheeling a canister of oxygen beside him, " . . . a nice trip to the forest."
"Mulder! I need your help!" His heart stops as he listens to her voice on his machine. She'd helped him, against orders, and Duane Barry has found her -
Now he is identifying her picture. She is in the trunk of the car, bound and gagged. He is helpless.
The fear was growing in him, even knowing this is the past.
Tombstone? Maggie has bought a tombstone? God!
She is dying, they have removed life support and he is losing her.
His breath was shallow. He was obviously in distress but what should they do? Maggie put her arm around her daughter and held her.
Now he is in a dark cellar, some idiot explaining his Satanic religion as the cell phone rings. "I'm in trouble - "
He is walking carefully through a dark field, she is being held down as a man raises an axe over her neck -
Things were coming at him faster and faster.
He is holding a gun on her, struggling not to pull the trigger as he watches a single tear run down her face.
"State highway patrolman found the body off a rural highway at 2:00 P.M. Nude, shot in the forehead." With a less than steady hand he reaches for the blinds.
His heart seems to stop as he looks at the horrifying photograph in his hand, then he is racing down the street after the van. "Scully!"
How long could this go on?
Again at a distance when she needs him. He can hear her fighting and hear her words. "Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life."
He is moving down the hall, gaining speed as he goes. Oncology. He is frozen with fear. "I, I don't accept that."
His foot connects with the door of her apartment and the barrier flies open to see her, sitting here, ready to accept a kiss - from him?
He is ignoring Skinner as he rushes to her room, "I'm only half dead." The other half nearly follows as he grasps his knees to try to remain upright at the sight of her in that bed.
He moves away from her at her request, leaving her alone with her dying daughter; his heart breaking for the pain she is in.
He was unable to get his breath now.
She has shot herself in the head - dead, she is dead and he couldn't -
There wasn't even time to blink now; he was struggling to stay on his feet as the gray watches impassively.
She isn't breathing. She is suspended in that, that fluid and the tube down her throat is incubating the -
She is unconscious, suspended in the icy water, dying of the virus that has killed off most of the human race.
He freezes as he hears her scream his name. She is in agony, giving birth alone. Oh God!
He bursts into the room to see Ian, his body holding her down as she struggles to escape him.
He stumbled, reaching out to find some support. How many times could he allow this woman to be . . .
She is dead. The child's birth has killed her, his child has -
He fell to his knees, broken.
Pain etched his face and he doubled over. Walt moved toward him automatically and even though his eyes were closed, Mulder's hand came up to stop him. "No." His voice was harsh and breathless, but Walt did stop. The others looked on horrified as Mulder crumpled and fell out of the chair.
Scully thrust Chrissy into Maggie's arms and knelt beside him. She let her hands caress his arms and she quietly murmured her love to him.
He feels a hand on his arm and strength seems to flow into him. He opens his eyes and sees her beside him. He draws a deep breath, staring into her eyes and rises to his feet again. He draws Scully up beside him and realizes she is nude. He glances down and realizes he is nude as well.
The gray moves closer to them. Its face showing no emotion, it is incapable of showing emotion, but waves of fury seem to be coming off of it. Mulder's fingers lace with Scully's and they face it together.
If you enjoyed this story, please feed the author.
Title: After the Future - 44-51
Details: 139k · PG-13 · Series · 12/12/05 · Email/Website
Gossamer Category(Keywords): Story [Romance, Angst] (Alternate universe)
SUMMARY: Continuing series of after the colonization
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