2005 Spooky Awards

Project:TruthSeekers Alt Season Nine: Home Fires, Part One

by ML and The Truthseekers

[Story Headers]

The New Truth, A Project: Truthseekers Alternate Season Nine

Chapter Four: Home Fires (Part One)
By: ML
Email: msnsc21@yahoo.com
Spoilers: Through S8
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Many characters contained herein are the property of 1013 Productions and 20th Century Fox. No profit is being made from the posting of this story.

Summary: "The New Truth" offers an alternative to S9 wherein Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, with the assistance of Agent John Doggett, Agent Monica Reyes and Assistant Director Walter Skinner, establish and lead a global resistance to the impending alien colonization.

Please visit the stories that comprise "The New Truth" at http://truthseekers.xphilia.net/

Chapter Four, Part One

Late again. Scully slung her satchel over her shoulder and hefted a couple of grocery bags.

She was only supposed to be working at Quantico part time but realistically, it took constant vigilance to keep it that way. Everyone paid lip service to it until they needed something, and then it was, "Oh, it's just this once, Agent Scully."

When she refused, and she often did, she could almost hear the muttered comments about being on the "mommy track." She ignored them, of course, as she'd ignored the "Mrs. Spooky" comments over the years. It didn't keep her from feeling guilty. It was a case of damned if she did or didn't; working extra took precious time away from William, and from her other work.

Today had been one of those times when she couldn't say no. The "request" had come from Kersh himself, by way of Skinner, who was obviously very unhappy with his role of messenger.

If Kersh was now trying to make her quit, he'd have to try harder. She wasn't quitting.

Mulder had the door open before she got there, holding a squalling William in his arms. He raised his eyebrows at her slightly.

"Sorry," Scully said. "You got my message, didn't you?" She set the groceries down on the kitchen table, pushing aside an array of toys and teething rings to do so. She could see what kind of day her men had.

"Yeah," Mulder said. "I was here, I just couldn't get Limpet Boy to let go so I could answer the phone."

"Here," she said, holding out her arms to them, "give William to me. There are still a couple of bags in the trunk." She turned away with William, cooing nonsense to him as Mulder went down to the car.

The air was chilly but Mulder welcomed it after a day in the overheated apartment, trying to soothe a baby who refused to be soothed. If he weren't a grown man, he'd sit down and cry with William for the sheer hell of it. He almost wished for a bit of his former mindreading ability back so he could figure out what to do for his son.

He took a deep breath and swung his arms over his head. Maybe he'd have time for a run before dinner, bath, and bed time. He opened the trunk and poked around in the remaining grocery bags. He smiled when he saw that Scully had gotten what he asked for, despite her protests.

"Scully, you know what I like," he murmured. He tore open the bag of pork rinds and stuck one in his mouth before he loaded up with the grocery bags.

Ah, domestic bliss. Who would have dreamed this a year ago? It wasn't exactly what one might call a normal life, but looking at it from the outside, Mulder was sure they seemed like any other new family, trying to balance home and work life.

They'd traveled a difficult, twisting path to get here, to be sure, and until he'd actually seen William in Scully's arms, he'd dismissed the idea of ever being part of a family as the most extreme of possibilities. He'd even convinced himself over the years that it was nothing he wanted.

And yet, against all the odds, here he was. Fox Mulder, house husband, father, and undercover resistance leader.

Well, maybe that was overstating the case a bit. So far, the resistance consisted of himself, Scully, and a few friends. They weren't even entirely sure who or what they were fighting against. The enemies they knew had either scattered or died; new ones seemed to be emerging, but except for the incident with the so-called instructor Donald Ranken at Quantico, there had been no direct threats or contact. So far, anyway.

It made him restless, on edge. He'd been fighting enemies in the shadows for a long time but it never got any easier. At the moment, they had no solid leads. He'd been working with the Gunmen and their newest recruit, J.D. Crawford, but the work was slow and frustrating.

Their friends at the FBI helped out where they could, but were limited by some of the same problems Mulder and Scully had always faced. Kersh was still overseeing the X-Files, even if Skinner was the division's direct report. John Doggett was now the senior Agent-in-Charge, but he was hampered by his own fundamental skepticism. Monica Reyes was considered as "out there" as Mulder had been by colleagues in the FBI, though to Mulder her brand of extreme possibilities seemed to belong more to the realm of Melissa Scully than to his. Still, there was a balance there, and maybe that's what it took to be successful on the X-Files. It had worked for him and Scully. Well, most of the time, anyway.

From what Mulder had been told, both Reyes and Doggett got a wake-up call in Montana, when the alien craft made an appearance and his body had been found. He wasn't sure Doggett was entirely convinced, but Monica insisted that she'd seen the craft and nothing would sway her. Skinner understood; he'd had a similar epiphany in Bellefleur when Mulder was taken.

Mulder only hoped that Doggett's continued skepticism wouldn't prevent him from seeing the signs when they presented themselves.

By the time he'd gotten back upstairs, Scully had somehow managed to clear the kitchen table of William's things and get some of the groceries put away, all while carrying William around. From the look of things, he'd just barely left off crying and was now gnawing his fist, looking wet-eyed and miserable.

"Has he been like this all day?" Scully asked.

"Pretty much," Mulder said. "He wouldn't even go down for a nap. He must really be hurting, poor guy."

William was just starting to teethe and was manifesting all the usual symptoms that babies had: irritability, constant drooling, low fevers, and parental discomfort.

"I just wonder if something else is bothering him," Scully said.

"Not nightmares, I hope. It's bad enough that his old man's got `em," Mulder said lightly.

"I almost hate to say it, but I was thinking of his reaction to Ranken. Have you noticed anyone hanging around here?"

"We didn't even go outside today," Mulder said. "And we've had no visitors. Did you call your mom?"

Scully said, "I called my mom, I called the advice nurse, I even went online today and did a little research. But what if --"

"And they call me paranoid," Mulder said with a grin. "Let's not borrow trouble, okay? The guys have been giving us around-the-clock surveillance. No strangers have approached you, me, or anyone else for that matter since then. Maybe sometimes teething is just teething, Scully."

"Isn't that my argument?" Scully asked.

"Well, someone has to make it," Mulder said reasonably. He leaned in to give Scully a smacking kiss. "Let's get the groceries put away before we have vanilla soup."

"I think you've already been putting away the pork rinds," Scully said, licking her lips.

"Appetizer," he replied. "I gotta gather my strength to fix dinner, right?"

"Oh, is it your turn?" Scully asked innocently. "What's it going to be tonight? Thai or Italian?"

"Let's just say it's a good thing William hasn't been gnawing on my dialing finger," Mulder replied.

Once the dishes were done, and William was finally down for the count, they were both too exhausted to do anything but go to bed themselves.

"You don't have to go in tomorrow, right?" Mulder asked as he stripped down to his boxers.

"No," Scully said as she turned down the bed. "But I can't sleep in, I've still got notes to write up and some research to follow up on."

"For which job?" Mulder asked. He knew he was asking a loaded question, but he had to ask it.

Scully stopped what she was doing and faced him. "Mulder, you agreed that it was important for me to continue working at the FBI for the foreseeable future. I'm doing my best to keep it confined to part time, but you know as well as I do how hard that is."

He didn't really have an answer to that, and he didn't want to argue about it right now. "Just asking," he said, and got into bed. He checked to make sure the baby monitor was on.

She started for the bathroom but stopped in the doorway. "What about you? Have you made any headway?"

"Nope," he said, "and I don't like it. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"Do you think Ranken showing up the way he did was a sign that things are escalating?" she asked, frowning.

"I dunno, Scully," he said. He rubbed his hand over his face. "I wish I knew. We haven't been able to uncover anything specific."

"Well," she said, "maybe we should all three take the day off tomorrow. Take William to the park and get a little fresh air."

"I thought you might come with me to the Gunmen tomorrow."

She walked over to the bed and sat on the edge, leaning in to give him a kiss. "You know," she said, "even super heroes need a day off once in a while. Maybe we all need a little break. They say that babies can be affected by their parents' stress levels, too."

Mulder looked skeptical and she kissed him a little harder. "If I can blow off my report," she whispered against his mouth, "you can take a couple of hours off from saving the world. We owe it to William as well as ourselves."

He kissed her back. "Did anyone tell you that you don't fight fair, Agent Scully?" he asked.

"It seems fair to me if I'm getting my way," she said with a smile

Though she was tired, sleep was a long time in coming for Scully. She felt guilty for leaving William when she went to work, and she felt guilty when she left work to come home. Added to that was the feeling that she wasn't contributing to the cause in any meaningful way, and that she was hindering Mulder from doing the same. She worried that they weren't doing right by William. Then there was the overarching concern for the future, and what it meant for all of them.

Her mother would tell her that her fears were no different than those of any new parent, but she knew better.

Her restlessness attracted Mulder's attention. "Wassa matter?" he asked, nuzzling her neck. "Stop thinking."

"When else am I going to do it?" she whispered back to him. "Anyway, you're a fine one to talk. I could hear you."

"Yeah, we're a pair, aren't we?" He gathered her close and rubbed her back. "I've got a little something that'll help you sleep, though."

"I just don't think I have the energy," she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Rain check?"

"Trust me, you won't have to do a thing," he said. "Just lie there and enjoy it."

It took her a few seconds to answer, and when she did, there was just the hint of an edge to her voice. "That seems a little caveman, Mulder."

He turned wide innocent eyes on her. "C'mon, Scully, I was talking about a back rub. What d'you take me for?" He kissed her forehead and rolled her so her back was to him.

"I'm sorry," she said contritely. "I promise I'll make it up to you."

"I know you're good for it," he said softly, and began to knead her shoulders.

She was asleep almost before he started. He gave her one last soft kiss and settled back with his arms behind his head, waiting for the dawn.

At some point he must have fallen asleep, for the ringing of the phone woke him up. He fumbled for the handset but grabbed the baby monitor and mumbled "H'lo?" into it.

"Mulder," Scully tapped him on the shoulder. "I've got it. It's for you."

He turned toward her and took the phone. "H'lo?" he said again.

There was no answer on the other end. "H'lo?" he tried a third time.

"Must have been a wrong number," he said, and handed the phone back to Scully.

"Except that whoever it was asked for you by name," she said.

When he heard the paper hitting the front door he decided it was time to get up. Scully was curled up next to him, her rear end nestled against his hip.

He lay still for a moment and listened to the early morning noises. Only quiet breathing from the monitor -- William actually took pity on his folks and slept through the night.

Not that it mattered; after the phone call he hadn't gotten back to sleep. He knew Scully hadn't for a long time, but though she fought against it, exhaustion finally claimed her.

He quietly slipped out of bed, checking William before he went to get the paper. The precautions he took were second nature now -- gun at his side, chain on the door, and a long look through the peephole to ensure no one lurked outside.

He saw the envelope as soon as he'd picked up the paper. He grabbed a tissue from the hall table and picked it up gingerly by one corner. By the size and weight, it seemed to contain some kind of tape, either cassette or DAT. His name was written lightly on the flap, not in a hand he recognized. Locking the door behind him, he carried the envelope into the kitchen to find a plastic bag to deposit it into.

He went back to the bedroom and pulled on his sweats, scrawling a note to Scully and leaving it on the bedside table.

Frohike answered Mulder's insistent knocking, looking even more disheveled than usual.

"Don't you ever sleep?" he asked rhetorically. "Or did Scully come to her senses and kick you out?"

"I need you guys to check on something for me," Mulder said without preamble.

"And it couldn't wait?" Langly wandered into view wearing nothing but hot pink and green boxers, and Mulder wished he hadn't. He didn't need to know what Langly slept in.

"I got a call last night," Mulder explained.

"Who from?" Frohike asked.

"I think the answer might be on this tape," Mulder said.

Scully was sitting on the sofa nursing William when Mulder returned. A cup of tea steamed gently on the table next to her.

There was coffee in the pot in the kitchen and he helped himself, bringing it into the living room along with a plate containing the bagels he'd picked up on the way back home.

He sat near Scully and William. Scully looked up briefly, welcoming him with a slight smile. She continued stroking William's hair softly as he suckled.

Reluctant to disturb the peaceful scene, Mulder sat quietly for a moment, sipping his coffee and watching his family. How rare these moments were. He knew that what he was about to say would upset Scully, but there was no help for it.

Putting his mug down, he said, "I've been contacted by someone."

"Anybody I know?" Scully asked.

"You've met her," Mulder said.

Scully tensed up at the pronoun. It was subtle, but Mulder knew her pretty well.

She was uncomfortably aware of Mulder's scrutiny. She couldn't help but be wary. People from Mulder's past had a way of popping up and it wasn't usually a happy reunion.

"Are you going to tell me who `she' is?" Scully prompted.

"Phoebe Green," Mulder said flatly.

"Ah," was all she said.

"Let me have it, Scully," Mulder replied. "I'm sure you have more to say than that."

"Did she say what she wanted?"

"A meeting. With me. She said she had some information."

"Was she the one who called last night?" Scully asked.

"I think so," Mulder said. He told her about the tape and his visit to the Gunmen. "I think I need to check it out, Scully."

"Well, I don't guess you'll be able to extend her a professional courtesy this time," Scully said, a touch of sarcasm lacing her voice. She noticed he hadn't said "we need to check it out."

He'd give her points for not making him state the obvious -- that Phoebe had deliberately left her out of the invitation.

"What dark parking garage does she expect you to meet her in?" Scully asked.

"Broad daylight, the park," he said.

"Well, I could say `don't go', but it's plain that you want to."

"I do, but not for the reasons you think," Mulder said.

"What reasons do you think I have?" she asked. "Never mind. I'll save you the trouble. I think it's dangerous, Mulder. I think she'll try to play you, just as she did before. Whatever her reasons are for wanting to see you, they aren't altruistic."

"Yeah, I get it," Mulder said. "I really did learn my lesson the last time. But do we want to take the chance that she might have information we can use? I wouldn't read too much into the fact that she only invited me, Scully."

"If she's the one who called last night, then she knows that we're still ... associated," Scully pointed out.

"I don't trust her any more than you do. And she knows you don't like her. But if you want to go, I'll insist that you need to be there."

"That's not the point. I trust you. I don't have to be there. I just don't want you to go alone."

Mulder was surprised and just a little disappointed that Scully didn't insist upon accompanying him. "Okay, I won't," he promised.

Scully hoped that Mulder couldn't tell how much it cost her to let him go without her.

J.D. Crawford watched his friend out of the corner of his eye. If you looked at his impassive face, you'd never know that Mulder was anything other than cool about this. Just another stakeout, no big deal. But his leg was jumping and his hands kept clenching and unclenching.

"So who is this chick again?" J.D. asked.

"Phoebe Green," Mulder said. "She used to work for Scotland Yard, but now she works for MI-5 now, supposedly."

"British Intelligence, huh? What's she want with you, anyways?"

"Long story," Mulder said.

The two men sat in the front seat of J.D.'s car, sipping coffee and watching the early morning activity in the park. There were a few joggers running the circuit, but it was still early for the kids to be on the playground.

"I get the vibe that there's some history there," J.D. said. "Am I right?"

After a moment, Mulder replied, "Yeah, you could say that. Ancient history."

"Give it up, Rad," J.D. urged. "Or do I have to ask Dana?"

"Scully doesn't know much about it," Mulder said.

"You expect me to believe that?" J.D. said. "I can tell when you're lying, you know."

Mulder sighed. "Phoebe and I knew each other at Oxford," he said.

"How does Dana know her?"

"Phoebe showed up in D.C. on a case the first year Scully and I were partnered," Mulder said. "They didn't exactly hit it off."

"Gotcha," said J.D., and didn't ask anything more.

"The thing about Phoebe," Mulder said after a pause, "is that she's really, really good at exploiting any weakness she can find. Don't let your guard down around her."

"Gotcha," J.D. said again. Loud and clear, he thought. He'd known a few women like that. But he'd bet Ms. Phoebe Green, Inspector, Agent, or whatever she was, hadn't met many men like him.

"Don't get cocky, kid," Mulder murmured out of the corner of his mouth. "I can feel your male posturing from here. She'll use that."

Spooky Mulder. J.D. grinned and shook his head. "You stay the hell outta my head, Rad," he said. "Anyways, she's only human. I wouldn't ascribe special powers to her."

"We'll see," said Mulder.

Finally, a car pulled into the opposite end of the parking lot. Both men tensed slightly. They watched as the lone occupant got out and walked toward the designated bench.

"Stay in the car," Mulder requested.

"That wasn't my brief, Rad," J.D. protested.

"Humor me," said Mulder, and opened the door.

J.D. shrugged but he kept his hand on the door and his weapon at the ready.

From a distance, Phoebe looked the same as always -- tall, patrician profile, dark brows, full lips. Mulder could see as he got closer that she'd changed somewhat. There had always been an air about her, but now it seemed harder. She stood by the bench, wearing a long woolen coat and a scarf wound around her neck.

"Hullo Fox," she said in her familiar throaty tone. "It's been a long time."

Mulder almost said, not long enough, but decided that antagonizing Phoebe at the outset wasn't a smart move. He nodded. "Hello, Phoebe," he said.

Her eyes raked him up and down. "What, no hello kiss?" she asked, putting her hand on his arm.

He ignored her come-on. "Care to tell me why I'm standing here freezing my ass off?"

"So much for the niceties," Phoebe said. "Your manners have declined over the years. But we could go someplace warmer," she added suggestively, giving his arm a gentle squeeze.

"Don't press your luck, Phoebe. Why don't you just tell me what you came for," Mulder said, barely able to keep from shrugging away from her touch.

"I thought you were coming alone," she said, inclining her head toward the car where J.D. waited.

"That's my partner," Mulder said.

"I thought you were out of the FBI," Phoebe said. "And what happened to that little redhead you were partnered with? What was her name? I remember she didn't care for me much."

"Scully is none of your damn business," Mulder said. "Knock off the games." <Keep cool. Don't let her play you,> he told himself.

"Ah yes, you have the peculiar habit of calling her by her last name -- do you do that in bed as well?"

Mulder's hands clenched and unclenched in his pockets. "Get to the point, Phoebe, or I'm walking away."

"Temper, temper, Fox," she lisped enticingly. "All in good time."

Mulder heard the car door open but he didn't turn his head. He heard J.D.'s footsteps approach. Mulder knew what an imposing presence J.D. made. He waited for Phoebe's reaction.

It was fairly predictable. She looked J.D. up and down and purred, "At least you brought someone...interesting. Are you going to introduce us?"

"J.D. Crawford, this is Phoebe Green, late of Scotland Yard, and now of MI-5. What's your detail, Phoebe? Anti-terrorism?"

"Among other things," she said. She wasn't looking at Mulder, but at J.D., assessing him. "I'm taking quite a risk, coming to you like this."

"Then let's not waste time," Mulder said.

"I can't show you what I need to show you here," Phoebe said. "As I said, I took a great risk even coming here today. I hope you appreciate that."

"What is it, Phoebe? Another pyromaniac? Someone threatening the House of Lords? As you pointed out, I'm not in the FBI any longer."

"Do the words, `purity control' mean anything to you?" Phoebe asked.

J.D. knew Mulder pretty well, but he'd never seen him go so still as he did as soon as the words were out of Phoebe's mouth. "Where did you hear that?" he asked calmly, but J.D. could tell how the words affected Mulder.

"I have access to certain files," she said. "There have been some, shall we say, incidents in Britain regarding clandestine laboratories. I think you might be familiar with their purpose."


Scully met Mulder at the door with a finger to her lips. "William just went down," she said. She kept herself from asking where he'd been most of the day. He'd called her to say he'd be late, but hadn't elaborated his reasons.

She appreciated the fact that Mulder did his best not to run off on wild goose chases any more, but his absence that day had troubled her all the same. She'd called the Gunmen but they hadn't known anything about the meeting. Finally she'd called J.D., who'd told her that Mulder had seemed very upset by something Phoebe had said.

"What did she say?" Scully asked.

After an uncomfortably long silence, J.D. said, "He didn't want me to tell you. He wants to talk to you first."

"Then where is he?" She couldn't help but ask.

"He said he needed some time before he talked to you. He's got his cell though, if you need to call him."

Put like that, she decided to leave it alone until Mulder returned.

Now that he was here, she was reluctant to press him. She remembered how Phoebe had affected him in the past, and though she knew she had nothing to worry about on a personal level, she feared that Phoebe still knew how to get to Mulder.

Coupled with Mulder's earlier comment about waiting for the other shoe to drop, Scully dreaded hearing what he had to say.

Mulder found it hard to start the conversation, too. He'd spent much of the day thinking about the meeting, and how Scully would react. His instinct was to keep Phoebe's words from her, to find a way to shield her from this until he found out the truth behind it. Old habits died hard.

But in the end, he'd realized that he had no choice but to tell Scully. She wouldn't thank him for trying to sugar-coat anything, and it was too dangerous for either of them to withhold information from the other.

"Phoebe's involved in some way," he said finally. He held up a case containing a disc. "She didn't tell me much, just gave me this and said she'd be in touch."

Scully licked her lips. "Have you looked at it?"

"Not yet," Mulder said.

"Then how to you know she's involved?"

"Two words, Scully. `Purity Control'."

He couldn't say she went pale, but her features took on the appearance of marble. It was the same expression she got when she didn't want to believe but had no choice.

She sat down in the nearest chair. Mulder sat near her, turning the CD case over and over in his hands.

"So," she said after a long pause, "she could have discovered some files somewhere. She might be fishing for information. Until we see what she has, I don't want to jump to conclusions."

That was his Scully, asking for proof, as he knew she would. He nodded. "I've been over and over it in my mind. I almost turned it over to the Gunmen first, but I didn't want to take any chances about what's on here."

"I thought that's where you were," Scully said. "Discussing all this with them." She did her best to keep her tone level. They'd both shut each other out in the past. It wouldn't surprise her now if Mulder was doing it again, but it could still hurt her. "Mulder, I need to be a part of this. Whatever her motives are, she wants you, not me. And I can't watch you play into her hands."

"Not gonna happen, Scully. I promise you." Mulder looked at her. "I almost chucked the whole thing into the river. But I couldn't take the chance that she might actually know something."

"Well, let's find out then," Scully said decisively, though she felt far from comfortable.

Mulder booted up the computer and Scully brought another chair over to the desk. He inserted the disk and they waited as the information on the disc loaded.

The screen went black. "Hullo again, Fox," Phoebe's voice purred through the speakers, "and Agent Scully too. I have no doubt that Fox has included you in this little viewing party."

At least she didn't have to see Phoebe's face and that selfsatisfied smirk she wore perpetually.

Mulder's hand stole into hers. He gave her fingers a squeeze.

"That's appropriate," Phoebe went on. "Some of this concerns you as well." The blank screen dissolved into a still photo of a laboratory. It looked like any other lab: rows of glass beakers and other paraphernalia. The background was obscured.

"This laboratory is in England, but I think you'll see some similarities to places you've seen in your own country, Fox."

The picture changed to a close up of a row of test tubes with some sort of viscous looking green substance in them.

"Did you ever wonder, Agent Scully, where your child came from?"

The date stamp on the next picture was from the previous year, about the time Mulder had been returned. This picture was a wider angle and it showed a row of empty tanks, large enough to hold a full-grown human. Mulder felt a chill at this, remembering what he'd seen at the storage facility on Pandora Street.

The next picture was of a dimly-lit room. It contained a row of beds, each occupied. Though the bodies were draped in sheets, from the shape they could have been women in an advance state of pregnancy.

Mulder felt Scully stiffen beside him. Her fingers clutched at his.

"Have you ever wondered, Agent Scully, if you might have other children somewhere? Fox, too, of course. Or perhaps, his sister's."

The screen faded to black, but Phoebe's voice continued. "I thought you'd like to know, Fox. For your sake, as well as Agent Scully's. I'll be in touch."

The CD-ROM whined to a stop.

Neither spoke for a long while.

"She obviously doesn't know the truth about William's conception," Mulder said finally.

"The fact that she doesn't know the truth is to our advantage, I'd say. We know where William came from, and that's what counts."

"Indeed we do," Mulder smiled at her. "But she just as obviously intended you to see this, and to upset you."

Scully took a deep breath and released it slowly. "It does upset me. My ova were stolen. And even though by some miracle, we were able to conceive William, I can't help thinking that there might be others out there." She added softly, "Like Emily." She couldn't look at Mulder, though she kept hold of his hand. Finally she said, "Do you believe her at all?"

Mulder rubbed his hand over his face. "She hinted at a lot of stuff, but she didn't really say anything. That alone could make her a relation of CGB Spender."

"I can't joke about this, Mulder," Scully said. "We need to think. It's plain that she knows something, but where did the information come from? And why is she coming to you with it?" Scully's voice rose as she spoke. Shock gave way to anger as she considered what they'd just seen. "And, damn it, how dare she bring William into it?"

"Or Samantha," Mulder added. "I think she's playing us. The Phoebe I knew before could be cruel and manipulative, even vengeful, so it's possible that's what this is all about. If she has another reason, I can't think what it is. What could it possibly gain her, other than the fun of seeing us squirm? Or, if she's changed somehow, why?"

"Exactly. We need to know more, Mulder. I need to see her myself. There are still questions she needs to answer."

The phone rang and Mulder picked it up, knowing who would be on the other end. "What do you want?"

"Did you enjoy the show?"

"Kind of a rehashed plot, isn't it?" Mulder said. "You haven't proven anything, Phoebe."

"You need to come find out for yourself, then," she said.

"Why should I believe a damn thing?" Mulder yelled. "You need to answer a few more questions. I'm not inclined to follow your lead anymore."

"What a shame," she said. "It was always such fun when you did as I asked -- for both of us."

Mulder slammed the phone down.

After a few moments, it rang again. "It's so much fun teasing you, Fox, but if you don't want to play, all right."

"We need to meet with you," Mulder said. "Time and place of my choice."

The silence on the other end was so long he thought she'd hung up. "Fine," she said. "Where?"

"Wow, she's a looker," Frohike said. "Mulder, you sure know how to pick `em."

"I didn't pick her," Mulder said testily. "She contacted me."

Scully had suggested that Mulder go to the Lone Gunmen without her. William woke up after all the commotion was done, but was being fussy again, and she thought it was better to stay at home with him. Mulder didn't argue with her, though he suspected she hadn't been entirely truthful about her reasons for staying home.

"Some guys have all the damn luck," Frohike said. "Isn't the luscious Agent Scully enough for you?"

"Shut up, Frohike," Mulder said. For some reason, Frohike was really getting on his nerves today and he couldn't come up with a suitable comeback.

"I bet Scully could kick her ass anyway," Langly chimed in.

"And then she'd kick Mulder's," Frohike added.

J.D. listened to all this with bemusement. He was still getting used to the guys.

"Have you found out anything?" Mulder asked.

"Not a lot so far. She really does work for British Intelligence. As far as her background, her mother was from a good family but she was cut off when she married some foreign guy. Must've still had some ties to the family, though, since Phoebe was able to go to Oxford."

"Keep digging. Look for any connection. Who was this `foreign' guy? American?"

"Italian, I think. Or maybe Spanish. I think Phoebe had an uncle in the Foreign Service, too. Maybe that's how she could get where she is now."

"Don't give up," Mulder said. "J.D., have you got any ideas?"

"I didn't have much to do with stuff outside the States, but maybe I could call my old boss and pick his brains," J.D. suggested.

"Just be careful what you tell him," Mulder said.

"No problem, Rad."

The next day was bright, though snow threatened and the sky was the color of polished pewter. Few people were out and about due to the sharp wind. The cherry trees were still bare, though a couple of warm days would soon change that.

Mulder and Scully huddled on a bench overlooking the Tidal Basin. It had seemed like a public enough place, but not one where casual visitors were lingering on such a cold day. They both turned and stood at the brisk footsteps approaching.

"Hullo," Phoebe said, smiling brilliantly at Mulder and letting it fade as she turned to Scully. "Never thought we'd meet again."

"The feeling's mutual," Scully muttered, neither smiling nor offering a hand. "What's your business with us, Ms. Green?"

"Yes, let's dispense with the social niceties, shall we?" Phoebe murmured. "Very well. I'm sure you're both aware of a group of men who have had, shall we say, certain `global interests'?"

"They're all dead now," Scully interrupted. "As I'm sure you know, since you know everything else, most of them died at El Rico Air Base."

"But not all of them. My uncle was not one of those who died there; he died the year before. I believe you know him," Phoebe said, looking at Scully. "He's saved your life a time or two."

"The Englishman?" Scully asked in disbelief.

"My mother's brother," she said. "I'm rather surprised you hadn't already figured that out, Fox."

Mulder felt like the ground had fallen away from his feet. Before he died, Krycek had said, "You have no idea how deep it goes," but Mulder had no idea that Krycek might have meant something like this.

He felt Scully move a little closer to him. Her hand brushed against his and he reached for her, gripping her fingers tightly.

Phoebe's eyes flicked down to their hands and then back again. "So it shouldn't surprise you that I know something of the Consortium's involvement in your lives."

"So...even at Oxford...you knew?" Mulder asked painfully.

Phoebe pursed her lips, considering her reply. "No, not then. My uncle merely asked me to look in on an old friend's son. But once I'd met you, how could I possibly resist you?"

Mulder heard Scully's breath hiss out. "You bitch," she said, so softly that Mulder wasn't sure he'd heard her, or if he'd thought it himself.

If Phoebe heard it, she ignored it. "I was `recruited' a bit later, but it was years before I knew the whole of it. And then my uncle died, among other things, and no one called on me for some time."

"What changed?" Scully asked in a hard voice. "Why get involved now?"

"I've been contacted," Phoebe said. "I think someone is setting up the Consortium again. My uncle had grown disillusioned with it, and that's why he helped you, Fox. I think he was right to do so."

"And why are you interested in helping us now?" Scully asked.

"Because I've come to believe, as my uncle did, that any cooperation with the aliens will end in our own demise. He believed, in the end, that we must fight against them by any means necessary."

Scully still looked unconvinced.

"I'm glad you came today, Dana," Phoebe said earnestly. "I know we've had our differences, but I need you to help me persuade Fox to come with me, to help destroy these labs. All our futures may depend upon it." She put her hand briefly on Scully's arm. "Your child's future depends on it."

Scully stiffened at Phoebe's touch. "Leave my child out of this," she said.

"Your children," Phoebe corrected. "And Samantha's."

"I know what happened to Samantha," Mulder gritted out. He'd been letting Scully take the lead, too stunned by Phoebe's revelations to say more.

"You think so?" Phoebe asked. "Perhaps you don't know the whole of it."

"Thank you," Scully said frostily. "We'll be in touch. Let's go, Mulder."

"Don't wait too long to decide, Fox," Phoebe called after them. "I'm flying home day after tomorrow."

"So, Scully, did you kick her ass?" Frohike asked as he answered the door.

"What have you found out?" Mulder interrupted. Neither had spoken after Phoebe left them. By unspoken agreement they went to see the Gunmen.

"Nothing conclusive yet, I'm afraid," Byers said. "We're trying to hack into the Home Office data base to find out more about her uncle."

Mulder asked, "J. D., have any luck yourself?"

"I haven't gotten hold of my boss yet," J.D. said. "He's been out of the office."

"We might know who Phoebe's uncle is," Mulder said. He related Phoebe's tale to the three friends and J.D.

"Holy shit," Langly said, verbalizing what they all were thinking.

"Keep trying, guys," Mulder said. "We'll be in touch."

As soon as they were back home, Scully said, "I can't believe that she's been involved in this for so long."

Mulder shook his head. "I'm finding it hard to believe myself, Scully. I don't know what to believe, frankly. She knows too much. Her story makes sense, in a way. Why would she lie about a thing like that?"

"Oh, I can think of a few reasons," Scully said. "Not the least of which, is she still knows how to play you."

Mulder nodded. He couldn't deny that Phoebe's words had an effect on him.

"I know how upset you are about what she said, Mulder," Scully said. "I am, too. But I need to know: do you believe that she means to help?"

"That's the question, isn't it?" Mulder said. "It always boils down to that. Whom do we trust? And if we can't trust them, do they still have information that we need?"

"And can we afford to take the chance?" Scully added. "It could very easily be a trap, Mulder."

"I'm aware of that," Mulder snapped. "I'm tired of being played, but sometimes that's the price we pay."

Scully was quiet for a moment, then chose her words carefully. "You're really considering going, aren't you?"

"Do I have a choice?" Mulder asked.

"Of course you do. You always have a choice. What about John or Monica?"

"It's way beyond the FBI's jurisdiction, even the X-Files' jurisdiction. And even if it wasn't, you know Kersh would block it any way he could. I'm the one who knows her. I know you'd go, but I can't let you, Scully. I think I'm the best one for the job."

"Is that the reason you're considering this?" Scully asked gently. "Do you feel like you're the only one who can do this, or is it something else? Is it that you need to be out in the field again?"

"No. Yes. Maybe that's part of it." He ran his hands through his hair. "It's not like I'm doing any good here. I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything! We do what we can -- we do our little computer searches, checking out leads, tracking down news stories -- I spend hours in the news archives -- and what have we got to show for it? Nothing. We're no farther along than before, and we're still in the position of waiting for someone to drop a big clue in our laps."

"I know you're frustrated," Scully said. "So am I. I feel haven't been able to help in any real way. But I can't go out in the field. I have obligations here. And so do you."

"Obligation is not why I'm here. You of all people should know that," he said, hurt by the implications of her words.

"Mulder, that's not what I mean. I know you're committed to William, and to me, just as I am to you. Nothing's going to change that." She held him close and kissed him until he kissed her back. She held his face in her hands and looked at him with loving eyes. She took a breath and licked her lips before continuing.

"I hear a big but coming," Mulder said, trying to smile.

"You have other obligations here, too. I don't think you realize how many people look to you. Believe it or not, you are the leader of the resistance, tiny as it is right now. And if something should happen, if we should somehow lose you --" she had to pause and take a shuddering breath, "the loss is more than personal, as great a loss as that would be. It would be a loss of the world's hope."

Mulder shook his head. "But you'd still be here. You could carry on without me, if you had to."

"Not like you. I can't put the pieces together the way you can. When you were gone before, I did my best. I tried to do what you do, and I couldn't then. I know I couldn't now. I don't think I'd even want to try."

"Scully --"

"I just want you to think about it, Mulder. I don't expect you to make a decision this moment, and I'm not telling you that you have to choose between me and William and doing this. It's so much more than that now. And," she added, trying to smile herself, "I don't want you in the field without me there to watch your back."

Scully left to pick up William from her mom's, leaving Mulder to think things through.

Scully brought up the obligations of leadership, but his obligation to her and to William had become just as important as his quest.

It had been many, many years since he felt responsible for any life other than his own. He was still getting used to the idea that people depended on him, even looked up to him. He wanted to deserve it, both for the world's future and his family's future.

Hindsight told him now that he'd denied his desire for a family for a long time. Why wish for something so far beyond your reach? His experience of home life growing up hadn't prepared him to look forward to it. His family was an extreme example, but plenty of his friends had similar circumstances at home.

He'd buried that dream deep, until CGB Spender showed him a version of it. That cockeyed vision was not what he wanted either. And it took Scully to show him the way out. She'd shown him the truth.

She was his touchstone then, just as she was his touchstone now. He didn't need to be tempted away to realize what he had, and what it was worth to him.

When Scully returned with William, he came to the door and took them both in his arms. Scully didn't say a word, just held him close. He loosened his hold just enough to look her in the eyes.

"I've made up my mind," he told Scully. "It's going to take some planning, but I think it'll work out."

The flight had already been called as he hurried for the gate. They'd planned the timing so he'd arrive to board at the last minute. The Gunmen were keeping an eye on things electronically. They'd confirmed that Phoebe was on the flight; they'd also been able to check the flight manifest. Everything was arranged as Mulder wanted.

He was the last to check in. As he entered the cabin, he could see Phoebe staring out the window, fingers tapping impatiently on the armrest. He slid his tall frame into the seat beside her. As she turned toward him, he grinned and said, "Hi Phoebe. Remember me? J.D. Crawford." He stuck his hand out to grip hers in a firm shake. "Mulder couldn't make it after all."

"Do you think she'll go along with it?" Scully asked as Mulder hung up the phone.

"She doesn't have a choice," Mulder said. "If she's serious about helping, then she will. If she isn't, J.D. can nose around on his own and find out what he can."

"It's sort of a trial by fire, isn't it?" Scully asked.

"Maybe a little," Mulder said. "I briefed him as best I could, and for the moment he's got the advantage. He knows more about Phoebe than she does about him."

"He really doesn't have any idea what he's getting into, does he?"

"You didn't know what you were getting into all those years ago, either," Mulder pointed out. "But you stuck around."

"Yes, I did. And I already told you, I wouldn't change a day." She sat next to him on the sofa, wrapping her arm around his waist and kissing him on the cheek.

"I know how hard it was for you to do this, but I think you did the right thing, Mulder. For all of us."

He made a noncommittal noise. "That remains to be seen," he said.

"At least you know you're not alone in this any more," she said softly. "For the first time, you aren't the only one who believes."

Mulder took Scully's face in his hands and kissed from her forehead down to her lips. "Except for you," he said.

"Except for me," she agreed, brushing her lips against his.

"Good thing I've got you around to remind me," he said.

"A very good thing," Scully agreed.

To Be Continued in Part Two

If you enjoyed this story, please feed the author.

Title: Project:TruthSeekers Alt Season Nine: Home Fires, Part One
Author: ML and The Truthseekers
Details: 44k  ·  R  ·  Series  ·  01/01/06  ·   Email/Website    pending
Gossamer Category(Keywords): X-File   [Romance, Angst]  
Characters: Mulder/Scully  
Pairings: Mulder/Scully romance
SPOILERS: Through Season Eight
SUMMARY: alternative to S9 wherein Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, with the assistance of Agent John Doggett, Agent Monica Reyes and Assistant Director Walter Skinner, establish and lead a global resistance to the impending alien colonization.

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