Tara Scully's Residence
"Police report another murder in Fairfax County believed to be connected to the 'Ripper' killings. The fourth victim, whose identity was not released, was found in an alley . . ."
"Hey, Buddy, let's turn this off while we finish your math problems," Mulder said affably as he clicked off the blaring television set in the family room. "What have you got here?"
Mathew Scully, third grader, looked up at his 'uncle' and sighed. "We're starting division," he said glumly. "Mom says she was a domestic science major and can only divide using a calculator."
Mulder winced while trying to hold back a grin. "Well, you're in luck. I was pretty good at division back in school. Let me look at the homework."
The young boy handed over the workbook and crossed his arms. "I can't believe I got the teacher who gives homework on Fridays," he bemoaned his fate.
"Oh, this isn't that bad! Look, Matty, you're dividing by twos. You can do this. It's just half. Remember how easy it was when you had to learn the two times tables? You were a whiz! C'mon, let's give this a go, I bet we're done before Auntie Dana has dinner on the table."
Mathew's eyes brightened at Mulder's encouraging words. "OK," he agreed with a grin. "First one is 12 divided by 2 . . ."
Tara stood at the top of the stairs leading down to the family room from the kitchen. "He's so good with Matty," she said, not for the first time.
"He's always been good with kids," Scully agreed, stirring the pot of macaroni boiling on the stove, making sure to avoid stepping on Claire, who was 'cooking' at her play kitchen nearby. "So, tell me about Ben," she prodded.
Tara blushed. "He's a neighbor," she said. "That's a blessing that could turn out to be a curse if tonight doesn't go well. But he's recently divorced -- I guess that's the best I can hope for at my age, huh?"
"Tara," Dana said firmly. "You have to stop putting yourself down! You are a beautiful person, you have done a tremendous job with these kids, alone -- it's time for you to have some fun in your life."
Tara dropped her gaze. "I guess -- I'm not really expecting much. I mean, Dana, you know I miss Billy. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him -- "
"Tara, he would want you to be happy," Dana interjected. "I really don't think he would expect you to be alone for the rest of your life."
The doorbell rang and Tara ran to get the door. In a minute she came back into the kitchen with a tall, well-toned sandy haired man with a ready smile. "Dana, this is Ben Nelson. Ben, this is my sister-in-law, Dana."
Ben held out his hand. "Dana, nice to meet you."
Hearing the commotion, Matty raced up the stairs, almost tackling Ben. "Hi, Ben!" he said, before grabbing Mulder's hand and bringing him closer. "This is Uncle Mulder!"
Ben shook hands with Mulder. "Matt has mentioned you a time or two," Ben said with a nod. "Certainly nice to meet you both."
"You live nearby?" Mulder asked. Scully could almost see him mentally reviewing the Top Ten Most Wanted list just to see if he could match the face.
"Yeah, our back yards touch," Ben said motioning out the kitchen window. "I just moved in last spring and Matt's ball found its way onto my patio. We met and we've been watering each other's crabgrass ever since."
Tara blushed and drew in a breath. "Well, we better get going. Dana, I have my cell phone, if you need to reach me. And we won't be out too late, right Ben?"
"Early tee time in the morning. I'll have you home by curfew," he vowed, holding up his right hand. "Mulder, do you play golf?"
Mulder shook his head slowly. "I'm not much of a golfer. More into basketball."
Ben looked slightly uncomfortable in the silence, but finally clapped his hands and turned to Tara. "Hey, the movie starts at 7:10, we should probably get a move on."
At that moment, Claire looked up and must have realized something was going on. She dropped the play pot and spoon she was holding and ran to her mother, clinging to her legs. "Mommy! Mommy, I go toooo," she wailed.
Mulder scooped her up in his arms and bounced her on her hip. "Claire-bear, you promised me a cake, remember? You don't want Uncle Mulder to miss out on his cake, do you? You promised I could pick and I want a chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles and chocolate roses . . . " With great stealth he turned and moved the child away from the doorway and her departing mother.
"Quick, make your move now -- he's running out of chocolate," Scully advised them with a wink.
Tara looked hesitant, but Scully gave her a gentle shove toward the door. "They're fine, Tara. Go, have a good time."
With one weak smile back, Tara hurried out the door with Ben trailing after her.
Tara Scully Residence
"Repeating the story from the top of the hour, Tyson Corner's police are requesting that anyone with information on the brutal attack and murder of a 34 year old businessman in this . . ."
"Mulder," Scully whispered, muting the sound of the television. "Mulder, wake up."
She almost hated to wake him, but knew he had to be developing a crick in his neck from the way he was sitting. Matty was sprawled on his lap, the thumb on his left hand sitting against his slack lower lip.
Mulder opened his eyes slowly. "I'm not really asleep," he said but a yawn contradicted him.
"Do you want me to take him up?" Scully asked, moving to take the child from his arms.
"Nah, I've got him. Besides, he's almost as tall as you now," he teased quietly. He shifted the gangly boy more firmly in his grip and started up the stairs. A left u turn at the kitchen and he was headed up the next flight to Matty's room.
"Unc'a Mulller?" the boy murmured.
"Movie's over, Matty. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones saved the planet. Time for bed."
"Okay," the child agreed, snuggling into his covers. "'Night Uncle Mulder. I love you."
Mulder's breath caught in his chest, and he could hear hi-s heart pounding in his ears. He leaned over the small boy. "Good night, Matty. I love you, too." Gently, he placed a kiss on the child's forehead.
Scully was waiting for him in the hallway. "Claire asleep?" he asked, guiding her down the steps.
"She went down about 10. I had to read A Very Hungry Caterpillar three times, but we got the job done," she grinned.
"At least it's not Dr. Seuss," he shot back.
"You just hold a grudge because he named a book after you," she teased.
"Yeah, well, want to hear what we can do with 'Dana'?" he returned.
They ended up in the family room. Mulder had snatched a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea on the way through the kitchen and settled in on the sofa, next to his partner. She immediately scooted over and drew his arm around her shoulder.
"You OK?" he asked, noticing her need for contact.
She nodded yes, but he could still feel the tension in her shoulders. "So what do you think about Ben?" she asked, seemingly interested in the rerun of Last Comic Standing he'd found on Comedy Central.
Mulder shrugged. "He's OK, I guess."
"He's divorced," Scully said with a sigh.
"People get divorced, Scully. Doesn't make him a bad person."
"I'm not saying that," she said defensively. "I just . . . "
"She's not betraying Bill, you know that, right?" Mulder asked, looking down at her upturned face.
"I know that. I told her that myself. I'm not even thinking that." She was quiet for a few minutes. "I guess it means she won't be needing us as much now."
"Scully, this is a first date," Mulder chuckled. "Let's not get the rice out yet."
"No, I just mean, well, Matty seems to like him. It just means . . ."
Mulder nodded slowly, taking another drink of his tea and setting it down on the coffee table in front of them. "I know. Probably won't need me to coach tee ball," he said casually.
"I know they're just my niece and nephew, but sometimes, when they're with us -- "
Mulder turned his head to look at her. He rubbed his thumb across her cheek and was surprised at the dampness he found there. "It makes you wish we could have our own," he whispered.
"Mulder, I know I shouldn't feel that way. I know what we have is special and I'm blessed, truly blessed. I could have lost you -- I thought I did lose you last summer. But sometimes, when I'm holding Claire or I see you playing with Mathew -- I just can't help but think -- "
"Scully, we could adopt. I've told you that before. Say the word -- "
"Mulder, it's impossible," she said, shaking her head. "One look at our lives . . . Good grief, the judge in California denied my petition to adopt my own child!"
"That was different, Scully," he crooned. "We're together now. You wouldn't be raising the child by yourself."
"You think any judge would look at the last 24 months, hell, the last 10 years of our lives and allow us to take care of a child?" she asked flatly. "You were kidnapped, I was left to believe you were dead -- how many times have we been in dangerous situations, Mulder? How many times has one or both of us almost died?" She threw her head back against the cushions and stared at the ceiling. "It's not possible."
"Do you want it to be possible? Scully, we could -- "
"Leave everything behind?" she snorted. "We tried that once and look where it got us."
"Look, I know it hurts. I see Mathew and Claire and I can't help but wonder if our kids would have red hair like you or brown hair like me. I can't help but picture us together, going to the zoo, putting together a two-wheeler at three in the morning on Christmas. I told you once that I never saw you as a mother. Well, Scully, I didn't think of myself as a father -- until I realized how much I love you. Every time we make love, I think . . . I hope . . . " He sighed and pulled her to him, kissing the crown of her head. "I would do anything to give you a child, to give us a family. You know that."
"I do know that, Mulder. And you have no idea how much that helps me deal with this heartache." She kissed him then, gently, tenderly, allowing her fingers to touch his cheek for several minutes while she breathed in unison to him. No more words were spoken and after a while, Mulder flipped the channels and found something neither of them cared about yet they didn't care enough to change it. Together they waited for Tara to return.
"So, you want to write up the report from Friday?" Mulder asked. He was juggling his briefcase, his travel mug of coffee, the morning newspaper and his keys. It was anyone's guess which would fall to the floor first. It was the keys.
Scully stooped to pick them up. "I could. But then I'd have to kill you," she said sweetly, unlocking the door.
"What? That was open and shut! Scully, that report practically writes itself!" he declared, accepting his keys from her.
"Good. Then you won't have any trouble with it," she answered, this time a little less sweet than before.
"You're still mad about the laundry," he said with a sigh.
"Mulder, I told you, I'm not mad. A little peeved, but not mad. Besides, you said on Friday that you were going to do this report because, and I quote 'it's pretty easy so I'll knock it out on Monday'. Well, I'm holding you to it."
"You're still mad about the laundry," he muttered.
"Am not," she said evenly. "But keep bringing it up and I might have to rethink my position."
Scully booted up her computer, over her partner's pathetic attempts at sympathy by sighing heavily at his desk. An email caught her attention. "Mulder, didn't you say there'd been another animal attack during the night?"
He looked over at her and frowned. "Yeah, it was in the morning paper. Homeless guy in Rock Creek -- it was pretty gruesome according to the account. And I told you, I don't think they're animal attacks."
Scully rolled her eyes. "Mulder, a werewolf -- in DC? I thought most self-respecting modern werewolves preferred London," she said dryly.
"Scully, have you been sneaking downstairs to watch Sci Fi after I've gone to sleep?" he teased back at her. "No, I'm serious here. The wounds are consistent with -- "
The ringing of the phone cut off the rest of his lecture. Mulder grabbed it and after a few 'yes sirs', returned the receiver to its cradle. "That was Skinner. Three guesses why he wants to see us."
She sighed. "Fine. But I refuse to listen to Warren Zevon at any time during the course of this investigation," she said firmly and followed him out the door.
Rock Creek Park
It was cold and clear, a full moon hanging over the tops of the trees. From the driver's seat of the car, Mulder cracked another seed between his teeth, bringing his hand to his mouth to take the hull and toss it out the partially open window.
"What time is it?" Scully asked, stretching as much as she could in the tight confines of the passenger seat next to him.
It had already been a long day. Skinner had given them the assignment. Three murders with similar M.O.s had happened in the last week. All three men had been torn to shreds. The DC Medical Examiner determined that the killer had animal-like claws and teeth, but DNA traces left on the second victim showed human markers. The case was shuffled over to the FBI and labeled an X file, but with a difference. This time, Mulder and Scully headed a team of agents staking out Rock Creek Park.
"Just after 9:30," he answered, after glancing at his watch. "When did the watch repair place say your watch will be fixed?"
She sighed and turned toward him. "Guess what I want for my birthday," she said dourly.
"Can't fix it, huh?"
"Apparently it's only water resistant if it's not put through the washer," she replied dryly.
"Scully, I said I was sorry about forty million times already," he retorted. "But I think this should teach you a lesson."
"Never put my watch in my pants pocket, even if I get called in to do an autopsy at 4 in the morning?"
"No." He shook his head solemnly. "Never trust me to do laundry again."
She snorted, shaking her head vehemently. "Oh, no, laundry boy! You are not getting out of that chore so easily."
The radio on the dashboard crackled to life. "Rocky. Report in, Rocky."
Mulder rolled his eyes and reached for the radio. He clicked it on with an air of exasperation. "Nothing to report, Bullwinkle," he said as Scully tried to stifle a laugh next to him.
"That's Balboa -- not 'Bullwinkle', Mulder," came a deeper voice over the radio. Even though there was no way for Skinner to see him, Mulder sat up straighter in the seat.
"Sorry, sir. My bad. But nothing is happening -- "
"Mulder," Scully said, grabbing his arm. She pointed out the windshield. "I just saw something -- over by those bushes."
"We have an UNSUB just spotted at position 6 in Rock Creek Park, requesting back up," Mulder said into the radio and tossed it in to the dash as soon as he heard Skinner's 'copy' reply.
Scully spared him a glance. "Back up? We don't know for sure -- "
"This thing has torn apart three grown men, Scully. I don't want to take any chances."
As they got out the car quietly, Mulder tilted his head and Scully took off to the right, gun muzzle pointed to the sky, moving slowly. Mulder headed left, his gun in his hand. He kept sight of Scully as they approached the trees and gave her a nod, then moved into the forested area.
The underbrush was thick and hard to walk through because vines tangled around his feet. He heard something moving ahead of him and he licked his lips, wondering where the hell the troops were. The sectors weren't that far apart, he should have heard other cars pulling up. As he pushed aside a particularly tall shrub, he caught sight of something. It was a creature, more wolf-like than anything he could have imagined. It's elongated snout lifted as it sniffed the air. It turned its head and moved quickly and near-silently forward. The moon cast a silvery glow on the fur-covered body, the toned muscles rippled as it moved. At full standing height, the creature was at least inches taller than Mulder. The agent followed the creature, looking around for Scully, their back up, or a good angle to shoot, whichever came first.
As he was lining up his gun site, he saw Scully suddenly appear through the trees. She stepped into an opening in the thicket and looked around. Mulder was a few yards away and tried to wave her back, conscious that the creature was close by. She didn't see him. But the creature saw her.
Letting out a blood-curdling howl, the beast bounded forward on strong back legs and was on Scully in a heartbeat. Mulder shouted and raised his gun again, but couldn't risk a shot for fear that he would hit his partner. He ran forward as the monster wrapped its massive arms around Scully's shoulders. Mulder turned the gun in his hand and tried using it to bludgeon the creature with it, but the thing swiped out with one arm, catching Mulder in the upper chest with rapier sharp claws. Mulder dropped the gun, but tried once more to pry his partner away from the monster.
The next swipe tore the flesh at his neck and shoulder and one foot thrust out, catching the hapless agent in the stomach and launching him several yards through the air. By the time Mulder had picked himself off the forest floor, the creature and Scully were gone.
Mulder stood, dazed, with blood dripping from a dozen slash wounds, when Skinner arrived just moments later.
"Mulder, oh, God -- call for an ambulance," Skinner shouted to one of the men following him into the clearing. "Mulder, here, let's get you sitting down."
"It took her," Mulder whispered. He looked at his superior with soul crushing sadness. "The thing -- it took her."
"Mulder, we have to get you to the hospital," Skinner said slowly, as if talking to a child. Over his shoulder, he directed the other men. "Scour this area. Cut off all access points. They have to be here." Looking back to Mulder, he took the man's arm. "We'll find her. I promise." He watched helplessly as Mulder's eyes rolled back in his head and the agent collapsed unconscious into Skinner's arms.
George Washington University Medical Center
Skinner was paging through a year old copy of the New England Journal of Medicine when Mulder appeared from behind a set of double doors.
"I thought the nurse said they wanted to keep you for observation," the Assistant Director said gruffly.
"They wanted to. I didn't. Any word from the park?"
Even wearing a borrowed scrub shirt didn't hide the bandages on Mulder's torso. His left arm was in a sling and his neck was covered in enough gauze to appear that he was wearing a white turtleneck. Skinner wondered how much painkiller his underling was carrying because his eyes were dilated, but his gaze was focused. The older man decided to be upfront with him.
"Richards is heading up the team. They've gone over the area with a fine-toothed comb. All exits are blocked. They couldn't have gotten out of the park. I'm going back out there after I drop you off home."
"I'm not going home," Mulder growled. He took a few steps and swayed but caught himself and glared back at Skinner. "I'm going with you to the park."
"Mulder, you aren't going to help her if you pass out again. Go home, let us handle this. We have all the Bureau's man power -- "
"Hell of a lot of good that's ever done us," Mulder spat out angrily. "I'm going to find her."
Skinner glared off at nothing, not wanting to risk a showdown with an injured man. Finally he turned back to gaze at his agent. "I don't want to make this an order."
"Don't push me, Walter. You don't like me when I'm angry," Mulder said in low even tones.
"Listen to reason!" Skinner exclaimed. "Look at you. You can barely stand. The nurse said they had to put in over two-dozen stitches. You lost a lot of blood, you need to rest -- "
"I. Can't. Go. Home." The younger man closed his eyes and shook his head. "Please. Don't make me go back to that empty house," he begged. "Not with Scully still out there with that thing. Not 'til we find her."
Skinner shook his head slowly. "OK, but I want you to stay in the car until we find something -- do you think you can do that much?"
Mulder nodded, trying to hide his weariness. "Let's go."
Scully awoke with a blinding headache. After a few seconds of just lying still, she realized she wasn't injured seriously anywhere that she could assess -- just sore everywhere. It felt as if she's been dragged through the woods and dumped down a flight of stairs. She groaned and rolled over, trying to get her eyes to open. With eyes opened and mind fully engaged, it was still black as pitch. She pulled herself to a sitting position and allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness.
There was light, if you could call it that, coming from a grimy set of glass blocks that replaced a window. From the cement floor beneath her to the rough wood stud at her back, she surmised that she was in a basement.
Standing was a bit more of a feat, with her head and her bones screaming at her to stop. She persevered and only swayed slightly when fully upright. At least the ceiling wasn't so low that she had to stoop over. She had to smile at that thought -- there weren't many basements where she had to watch her head. That was Mulder's department.
Mulder! The last she'd seen of him, he was bleeding from slashes all across his upper body. And then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. What had happened? She couldn't remember anything, even how she got hit on the head. Not surprising, head injuries were notorious for leaving a person dazed and confused. She sometimes thought all the head injuries had left her partner in a permanent state of daze and confusion.
But she did remember who, or what had caused her to be in this basement. The creature, and she now accepted that it was a creature, not just an animal running rampant through DC, had brought her here. But why didn't it kill her?
As she paced the small basement room, she soon found her answer, or at least another piece of the puzzle. On a double bed in the corner of the room lay a sleeping child, a little girl, no more than three or four years old. At first glance, Scully was afraid the child wasn't just sleeping, but then the little one rolled over and cuddled the thin pillow in her arms. Scully breathed a sigh of relief. Moving closer, she tried to see if the girl was injured in any way. The tiny face appeared unconcerned, innocent in slumber. The breathing was near silent, just the rise and fall of the small mound of covers to indicate respiration. Once more, Scully let out a relieved exhale. She moved to look around at the rest of the room.
It was just one room, a door in one wall leading into the rest of the basement, Scully assumed. A closet served as a half bath, with sink and toilet. There was a light switch near the bathroom door and Scully tried it, illuminating the alcove with a less than 60-watt bulb. She quickly turned the light out in difference to the child. A table and two chairs sat across from the bed and a child's desk and toy box were tucked in a corner opposite the table. Next to the bed was a white rocking chair with a blanket tossed across the back. Were it not for the mode of transport, and the fact that the door appeared to be padlocked from the outside, Scully could easily imagine the room to be decorated specifically for the little girl asleep on the bed.
With no way out and not wanting to disturb the child, Scully pulled the blanket from the back of the rocker and settled in. Despite her best effort to keep watch, she soon drifted off to sleep.
Rock Creek Park
The floodlights set up in the area gave the park a circus feel. Mulder let his head fall back against the seat, alternately trying to remember every detail of his encounter with the creature and yet pushing those images away in an effort to retain any shred of sanity he had left. One thought kept repeating itself in his mind -- that thing had Scully.
"I'm going to check in with Richards," Skinner said, pulling in between a DC squad car and a tactical van. "You'll stay here." It was probably intended to be a question, but there was no indication of that in his voice.
"If something comes up, all bets are off," Mulder said with an abbreviated shrug. He watched Skinner go off toward the floodlights, shaking his head.
It was stuffy in the car, even with the window rolled down. Mulder got out and leaned against the hood. He wanted to be out there, searching. They could easily miss some clue. If Scully had a chance, she would have indicated something -- anything. She would have left something for him to find. How would they know what to look for? He was ready to go over to the highly lit area and start looking when something tugged his sleeve. He turned around and came face to face with his worst nightmare.
Without thinking, Mulder pulled back his right fist and rifled it toward the other man's head. Only the fact that he was on heavy meds and was still weak from blood loss kept that fist from breaking bone. In a second Krycek responded, grabbing Mulder's arm, turning and slamming the agent face first against the door of the car.
"Listen, we don't have time for this. I need to tell you something," Krycek hissed in Mulder's ear.
"Did you have something to do with this?" Mulder demanded. "Do you know where she is?"
"I'm not who you think I am," Krycek replied, letting go of Mulder long enough to pull something out of his jacket. It was an identification wallet, similar to the one Mulder carried. Krycek flipped it open, holding it so that Mulder could read.
"Detective Alex Krycek, Washington PD?" Mulder read skeptically. "You have to be kidding. Where did you get that made up -- Kinkos?"
"Look, you held me at gunpoint once before but a certain mutual acquaintance saved my life. Does the name Glas-glo Industries ring a bell? How about Brad Kensworth?"
Mulder relaxed, sagging against the door. "You're trying to tell me -- you're from . . ."
"We can't talk here. C'mon, I'll explain everything."
Mulder glared at the man for a full minute. "If you're trying to pull something, so help me God -- "
"You'll kill me, yeah, I figured that out last time we met. Look, as much as I love the romantic atmosphere here, we have work to do and the sooner I explain everything, the quicker we can get started. I'd liked to get out of here before the Captain gets back." Krycek nodded to the group of men talking not more than fifty feet away.
"Captain?" Mulder looked where Krycek was glaring. "Skinner? He's not a Captain, he's -- "
"I don't care what his job description is here, just from the looks of him I can tell he's still a hard ass and we don't have time to deal with that. Are you interested in finding Bunnykins or not?"
Mulder's eyes grew to pinpoints, but this time he didn't telegraph his punch. His right fist caught Krycek's left cheek, splitting the lip. "I remember you now. If you want to live through this, don't ever call her that again."
All Night McDonald's
Wisconsin Avenue NW
Mulder stared at the man across the table. "So you're telling me you're from another dimension, an alternate version of this world. This thing has been killing in your world and somehow it found a vortex to travel between the two worlds. And I'm also supposed to believe that you followed it here through that same vortex. I'm waiting for the punch line."
Krycek dabbed his lip with a napkin, stirred his coffee and ignored Mulder's snide comment. "OK, I've been tracking this thing for a couple of months. It kills when the moon is full. We've found 6 bodies -- or at least what's left of them. It's been sighted a couple of times, but the witnesses say it disappears into thin air."
"Is it a werewolf?" Mulder interrupted.
"Are you on crack?" Krycek shot back sarcastically. "Nobody believes in were-wolves! We don't know what it is, just that it usually kills its victims, until this week."
"What happened this week?" Mulder asked, nursing his coffee.
"It took a child, a little girl. But we haven't found a body. I think it still has her. I believe she's still alive."
Something about the way Krycek's eyes changed caused Mulder's mind to kick into high gear. "This child -- who is she?"
Krycek closed his eyes and leaned back. "Her name is Sarah. She's three years old. She's . . . aw, hell." He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a different wallet. Fingering through the contents, he pulled out a small picture and handed it to Mulder.
He took it, looking first at the child. She had strawberry blond hair and a huge grin on her face. Her eyes twinkled at the cameraman and she held a worn bunny rabbit firmly in her tiny arms. It wasn't until he'd memorized her features that Mulder looked at the other two people in the photo. His head shot up and he pinned Krycek in his angry gaze.
"What is her name -- her full name," Mulder demanded.
"Sarah Katherine Mulder," Krycek said softly, taking the picture back and putting it carefully in his wallet. "She's, in our world she is . . . Fox and Dana Mulder's only daughter."
Mulder dropped the picture and jumped up from his chair. "You son of a bitch! How dare you try to pull this on me! I'll send you straight to hell -- "
Alex grabbed his arm and pulled him down to his seat. "Would you shut up!" he seethed. "Look, I'm sorry if this doesn't fit into your idea of reality, but it is the truth! Sarah is your, or rather your twin's daughter. And Dana's. She is . . ." Alex turned his head, biting his lip. When he faced Mulder again, the agent saw tears glisten on the man's lashed. "She means everything to them -- and to me. Look, I promised Dana, I promised both of them that I would find her . . . or die trying. And that is exactly what I intend to do!"
"What?" Alex asked, startled by the impertinent question.
"Why did it take her? If it's killed 6 people, plus three in our world, why take a child? Why take this child? What did they do, leave her unprotected?" Mulder sneered.
That got the man's hackles up. "Look, asshole, she WAS protected. As protected as she needed to be! Dana's been working half days since Sarah was born and the Professor worked it out to move his classroom hours so that one parent or the other is with her 24 hours a day. She has never been out of their sight!"
"Then how -- "
Krycek looked aside and swallowed hard. "I fucked up," he said simply.
"You? How did you -- "
"I was watching her, goddamn it! I was . . . I was watching her while Fox and Dana went out to a fucking charity dinner-auction at the university. I was sitting in the living room drinking a beer and watching the game when I heard something. By the time I got to her bedroom, the window was busted in and she was gone." He wiped angrily at his chin, catching the fallen tears on his sleeve. "It was a fucking rookie mistake and I made it and I lost her and I have to get her back!" he shouted. "Do you understand now, Mr. FBI??? Do you get it??? Huh???"
Silence descended on the two. Alex wiped his face a few times and Mulder sat back, looking at the picture. "How do you know it was the creature?" he asked quietly.
"Fur. In the window casing. We found similar fur on the victims' bodies."
"No other -- evidence?" Mulder prodded, keeping his voice even.
Alex glared at him. "There was no blood found at the scene. Footprints were right at the window, a first floor window, they led a few feet away and then vanished. No one saw anything, no one heard anything."
"How did you follow it?"
"I was staking out the previous crime scenes. It appeared again, in Rock Creek Park, very near where you saw it tonight. I think that's the vortex, the portal."
"Rock Creek Park? In the middle of one of the most 'secure' cities on the planet?" Mulder pointed out with disdain.
"I didn't put it there," Alex shot back. "I've seen the creature there twice but I can't get it, it disappears on me. I think there might be another portal or vortex that comes out nearby."
"Or in Arizona. Or Hong Kong," Mulder warned.
"No. I think it's nearby."
Mulder looked dubious. "Based on what?"
Alex dropped his eyes to the coffee cup in his hands. "A hunch. 16 years on the Force. How the hell should I know, maybe it's just wishful thinking." He raised his eyes to look at Mulder again. "Maybe it's the only hope I have." He stared at Mulder. "But you don't give a damn about her, do you?" he snarled.
"I . . . I have to find Scully. I'm sorry, I'm sorry about this little girl, but you have to understand -- here, Scully is my world. I have to get her back."
Alex licked his lips. "But see, I think the creature has them both. Together."
Mulder shook his head. "I can't -- I can't risk that you might be wrong."
Alex thought for a moment. "Look, we're both after the same thing. You need to find the creature to find your Dana; I need to find the creature to find Sarah. We _need_ each other."
Mulder sighed and looked away. After a moment's contemplation, he looked back at Alex. "Where do we start?"
Alex looked around the McDonald's and shrugged. "We need to go somewhere we can plan."
Mulder and Scully's duplex
"Gimme a minute, I want to change out of this thing," Mulder said with a wave toward the borrowed scrub top. "There's iced tea in the fridge, make yourself -- " He stopped in mid-sentence as he saw Alex pick up each of the three picture frames Scully had arranged with the flowers she kept on the bay window.
Mulder walked up and took the picture of Samantha and him leaning against a tree out of Alex's hands. "Well, not that much at home," he said dryly, putting the picture back where it had been.
"She's a neat lady, your sister. If she hadn't gone and hooked up with that architect, I might have stood a chance -- "
"The woman you're talking about is not my sister," Mulder said quietly. "That's -- his sister."
"Yeah, I know that. It's just -- "
"Let's get one thing straight, Krycek, before this goes any further. I'm really sorry they lost the little girl -- I think I can sympathize more than the next guy. But I want to be totally clear on this: that little girl is no one to me. She's an innocent victim, but beyond that I feel nothing for her. I know you care for her, and I understand that, but my priority is Scully. That's why I'm helping you. She is the only thing that matters to me. Understand?"
Alex nodded, his expression guarded. "Sure. Got it. Now, can we get started?"
Mulder sighed. "Yeah, right after I change." He moved toward the stairs again. When he started up the steps, he leaned over and glared at Alex. "And this time, just watch TV or something. Don't go nosing around."
Alex frowned, but plopped down on the sofa. "Sure thing, Ace. Wouldn't want to disturb the 'happy family' memories all over this place."
Mulder gritted his teeth and took the steps two at a time. In minutes he was back downstairs with maps of the DC metro area.
Scully awoke to find herself stretched out on the bed, cuddling the child. Sunlight battled to make it through the grime on the glass blocks, but enough light was now in the room that she could see around her.
The smell of coffee and cinnamon toast caused her to look over at the small table. Breakfast was laid out, complete with small glasses of orange juice and bowls of cereal. As Scully was mulling over who brought the food, the little girl in her arms woke up.
"Mommy, I'm hungry," the child said drowsily, stretching her tiny arms over her head and then giving Scully a big hug.
Scully's breath caught in her throat. The child's eyes were open; surely the little girl could see that Scully was not her mother.
"Sweetie, ah, I'm not -- "
"Gotta go bathroom," the girl said with a grin. "I know where it is. I can go by myself, Mommy -- watch!" With that the child scampered off the bed and headed straight for the bathroom that Scully had discovered the night before. Totally at ease, the girl went about her business, humming a tune Scully couldn't recognize. When she was finished, she stood on tiptoe at the sink to laboriously wash her hands, drying them haphazardly on the towel before running back to Scully, hands raised for inspection. "All clean! Let's eat!"
"Wait," Scully said abruptly. There was no telling what was in the food.
"Oh, right," the child said. She sat at the table, made the sign of the Cross, folded her hands and bowed her head. "Bless us oh Lord, and these your gifts -- "
"No, I meant, um, I wanted to see if the milk was sour," Scully said, coming up with the only thing she could think of that wouldn't scare the child. "Let me take a taste first, OK."
"OK," the girl said with a bright grin.
Scully first smelled then tasted the bowl of cereal. It appeared to be fine. Of course, there were any number of substances that could have been hidden because the lacked both taste and smell. But her own stomach was growling and the food did look normal. "OK, I think it's fine," she said.
The child dug into her breakfast with a ravishing appetite. Scully sipped her coffee, drank her juice and nibbled on her toast, all the time watching the child.
She was a pretty little thing with strawberry blond hair and the most amazing green eyes. She smiled readily, which told Scully that she hadn't been traumatized too much by her ordeal. Her little short-sleeved shirt and cropped jeans exposed plenty of creamy white skin without a hint of bruising. Scully let out a relieved breath.
"All done!" the child announced, showing Scully the empty bowl. "Mommy, can I help wash the dishes?"
"Um, I'm not sure where we would do that, sweetheart. How about if we just rinse them in the sink in the bathroom and leave them on the table to dry?"
"OK," the little one said and happily gathered her bowl, spoon, juice cup and milk cup to take it into the bathroom. Scully gathered her own dishes and followed, rinsing each item and then giving them back to the girl to take the to table. It kept them occupied for all of ten minutes.
"Mommy, I'm bored," the child announced with her hands on her hips.
Scully swallowed. It was really beginning to wear on her nerves the way the child kept calling her 'mommy', but the girl seemed comfortable enough with using the title whenever it suited her. "OK, let's play a game, how about that?"
"Yeah, a game!" the girl exclaimed excitedly. "Let's play Candyland!"
"Um, no, I don't think I see Candyland on the bookcase there. Let's play another game. I'll ask you a question and then you answer it. Then you ask me a question and I'll answer it."
"Mommy, that's not a game," the girl said, scrunching up her little forehead. "I want to play a real game."
"Let's play this one and then we'll see what we can find to play, OK? My turn first. What is your name?"
The girl broke into giggles. "Oh, Mommy, that's easy. My name is Sarah Katherine Mulder. I got that one right. Now, my turn. What's my bunny's name?"
Scully's heart stopped beating the second the child had said her last name. She looked at the girl closely -- she could see the resemblance. The eyes were the same eyes Mulder had, just more green than hazel. The chin was definitely Mulder's. But the nose and the mouth . . .
"Mommy, c'mon, that's an easy one."
"Um, Peter?" Scully suggested, for lack of anything else to say.
The girl giggled happily. "No, silly! Bunnikins! Unc'a Alex said he was named that when he gave him to me when I was a baby, 'member?"
"OK, Sarah, you won that one, too. It's two to nothing. The first person to five wins." Scully closed her eyes and thought hard about what she was going to do. It was a risk, but one she needed to take, she had to know. "OK, Sarah. What is MY name. Not Mommy, what is my real name?"
Sarah laughed and clapped her hands. "Oh, I'm gonna win! That is so easy, Mommy! Your grown up name is Dana Katherine Mulder! We have the same names -- Katherine and Mulder. Daddy told me he wanted to name me after you and you said no but he did anyway when you were sleeping. I'm right! I'm right! I'm right!" she cried, dancing around the room. "OK, my turn again. What is YOUR mommy's name?"
Scully bit her lip. "My mother's name is Margaret Scully. Most people call her Maggie."
Sarah clapped happily again. "Mommy, you win that one! Your turn again."
Scully decided she'd had enough of the game for one day. "OK, Sarah, umm, what color is the sun?"
After Sarah named the color of the sun, Scully had to name the color of grass. She guessed blue, much to Sarah's delight.
"I win, I win! Mommy, call Daddy and tell him I won!" Sarah said, skipping around the room.
Scully jerked and stared at Sarah in wonder. "That's a wonderful idea, sweet-heart." She reached into her pocket and was thrilled to find her phone. The signal wasn't very strong, but she pulled the rocking chair over to the glass block window and stood on it, hoping to boost the reception. After two rings, someone picked up.
"Scully? God, Scully is that you?"
She almost laughed with relief at hearing her partner's voice. "Mulder, yes, it's me."
"Scully, where are you? Are you hurt? Did you get away?"
"Mulder, I'm fine -- really. A little bruised. I'm in a basement. The door is padlocked, there isn't any way out."
"Is there a window? Can you give me something to go on? I'm running to the car right now, stay on the phone."
"I can't see anything out the window -- it's made of glass blocks. I think we're in the country, I can't hear any traffic noises and it was very dark last night."
She was trying to think of some way to help Mulder locate them when the door to the room opened and a middle-aged man entered. He wore a pleasant expres-sion and smiled at Sarah as he gathered the breakfast dishes. When he looked over and saw Scully, though, he screamed and dropped the dishes, running from the room without closing the door and hurrying up the steps.
"Mulder, someone was just here. He left the door open! I'm going to try and go up." She motioned for Sarah to stay behind her as she made her way to the basements steps.
Suddenly, in the doorway at the top of the stairs appeared the creature. Sarah screamed and grabbed Scully's legs, almost tumbling them both to the ground.
The creature launched itself down the stairs, grabbing the cell phone out of Scully's nerveless fingers and crushing it against the far wall. It then advanced again on Scully and the girl, forcing them to run into the room and cower in the corner. Scully was certain the thing would go after them, but instead of entering the room it slammed the door. Scully heard the padlock engaging and footsteps on the stairs. Realizing that her only link to Mulder was now in pieces, she enfolded Sarah in her arms and let the tears fall.
Mulder and Scully's duplex
"Scully! Scully, can you hear me? Scully, keep the line open, I'll get the guys to track you! Scully, answer me!" Mulder could hear the dead air that signaled a broken connection. "FUCK!" he shouted and slammed the phone down on the hood of the car.
"What happened?" Alex demanded. "Did she say anything about Sarah?"
"No, she didn't mention the girl, but I think I heard a little girl scream," Mulder said, letting his head fall on his arms braced against the car. "Oh, god, I heard this awful howl and then the screams -- "
"It won't hurt them," Alex insisted.
Mulder spun on the man. "How the hell do you know that? They could be dying right now! We have to find them!"
"I know it because . . . because I have to believe that! It's kept them alive, kept Sarah alive all this time. It took her three days ago and you said you heard a little girl scream. She's still alive!"
Mulder stared at Alex for several minutes. "We still don't know where they are," he said with barely contained fury.
"You're FBI -- don't you have cell phones with GPS systems in this world?"
Mulder's eyes lit up. "Yeah. Yeah, we do. But we aren't going to the FBI. I know some guys who will move heaven and earth to find Scully."
Offices of the Lone Gunmen
After repeated hammering on the door, Mulder finally heard the telltale click of a dozen locks and deadbolts being thrown open. Finally, Frohike's gnome-like visage appeared in a crack of the door.
"This better be good," he growled, opening the door a little farther to allow entry to his guests. "Hey, what the hell -- "
"It's OK. This isn't who you think it is," Mulder didn't quite explain. "I need your help. Or rather, Scully needs your help."
"I'll get the others," Frohike said, casting an evil glare at Alex.
A pot of coffee and some of Byers whole grain banana muffins later, Mulder summed up the problem. "So we need to track her cell phone. She was close enough to a cell that we got iffy reception, but we got cut off."
"Well," Byers said, pulling up his computer screen, "if she left the phone on, it should be an easy matter of contacting the GPS system. The last time you and Scully upgraded your phones, you'll remember we played with them for a day."
"I remember. You also erased all my saved numbers," Mulder said dryly.
Byers looked flustered and contrite. "Um, sorry. It couldn't be helped. But anyway, one of the features we activated is currently being marketed to parents with teenaged children. If the program is activated and the phone is on, someone with similar software can track the cell phone to anywhere on the planet. If Suzy says she's going to the library, Mom and Dad can track her when she skips out and goes to the Mall."
"How close can you get us?" Mulder asked.
"This software is hooked up directly to the orbital tracking station used by trucking companies. We can get you to within 10 feet of Agent Scully, or rather her phone, assuming she has it with her."
Mulder nodded, satisfied. "Close enough. She was holding it when we got cut off. OK, let's fire this baby up. Daylight's burning."
Byers' fingers flew over the keys. He waited a few seconds and then hit more keys. He frowned and Mulder leaned over his shoulder, staring at the computer monitor.
"So . . . where is she?"
The tidy Gunmen sighed in exasperation. "Her cell phone must be off."
"She was talking to me, Byers. She wouldn't turn it off -- I told her to keep it on!"
The other man licked his lips and looked over at his companions. "Well, then, it may have run out of power -- or it could have been broken. There is no signal. There's nothing to track."
Mulder slammed his fist into the nearest metal table, making everyone flinch. His phone rang and he grabbed for it with his other hand, checking the number. With a frown, he pocketed it without answering.
"Who was that?" Alex asked.
"Skinner. He's tracking me down. Guys, you know the routine."
"If he calls, we claim complete ignorance," Frohike said brightly. "We got you covered. But Mulder, what are you going to do next?"
He looked over at Alex. "You said there were six other attacks. Do you remember where?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then we start with those places," Mulder said and headed for the door.
Sarah's cries finally came to a stop when the little girl fell asleep in Scully's arms. Gently, she settled the child on the bed, pulling the covers up to keep her warm in her slumber. When she was positive she hadn't woken Sarah, Scully got off the bed and began to explore the room.
The door was padlocked again and the hinges were on the outside, so that escape was negligible at best. She climbed the rocker to examine the glass blocks of the window, hoping to find the age of the house in her favor. Unfortunately, the blocks appeared to be a recent addition and were set in mortar with no cracks or weaknesses that she could find after a thorough search of the seams. There was one heating duct, set high in the ceiling of the wall with the door, but the dimensions of the grill would have given Eugene Victor Tooms food for thought. After several minutes, she sat down on the rocker and sighed in defeat.
It was then she noticed the lunch sat out on the table. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks and a quart of milk. She fought hard to tamp down the hysterical giggle that threaten to form. Surely the largesse wasn't from the creature! Who had brought the food in and when? She hadn't fallen asleep; at least she couldn't remember falling asleep. Her head still hurt from the struggles the night before and there was a lump that was tender to the touch above her left ear. Maybe she had fallen asleep.
Her thoughts went back to the strange little man who had come down with breakfast -- was he still in the house? She went to the door and listened closely. She heard no sounds, not even footsteps on the floor above her. Wasn't he a captive, too? Or maybe he was an accomplice and that was why he alerted the creature to her cell phone. She turned away from the door just as Sarah awoke from her nap.
"Mommy, I want to go home now," Sarah said plaintively as she sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"I know, sweetheart, but, um, just a little longer. It's not time yet," Scully said, grasping at any reason for the delay that might make sense to the child.
"I'm hungry," Sarah replied, eyeing the table. "Oh goodie! Peanut butter and jelly! My favorite!" She scrambled over to the table and sat down. "Mommy, you forgot," she said, frowning up at Scully.
"Forgot what, sweetie? There's your milk and look, carrot sticks," she pointed out.
"No, Mommy, the cruts is still on. I don't like cruts and you always cut it off. Remember?" the child mispronounced.
Cruts? "Oh, the _crust_," Scully corrected. She looked at the table and found only a plastic knife and fork set. "I'll have it fixed in a jiffy."
After lunch, Sarah was once again bored. If Scully had any doubt of the child's paternity, her boundless energy and impatience with being confined to a small place erased those doubts. The agent looked around for something to occupy the small child. Her eyes fell on the little desk in the corner.
"How about we draw some pictures?" Scully suggested, extracting paper and crayons from inside the desk and taking them to the table.
"Oh yes," Sarah exclaimed, clapping. "I like to color! I'll color you a picture, Mommy!" She set about her work happily, choosing one of the crayons, a bright yellow one.
"Mommy, where's Daddy?" the child asked without lifting her gaze from the paper.
"He's, uh, he's working," Scully answered. She was sure of that statement. She'd been so worried when she woke up, but at least she'd had a chance to hear his voice. When the creature had attacked him, she'd had no time to see how badly he was injured. She knew, however, that if Mulder were conscious, he was searching for her. Maybe the phone call had given him some clue. She realized they were needles in a haystack, but if any one could find them, it was Mulder.
"Sometimes Daddy takes me to work with him," the child rambled along happily.
"Do you like that?" Scully asked. It was difficult, she didn't want to frighten the child but at the same time she was still confused. Could this child really be their child -- just in another place another time?
"Oh yes. The grown up kids are nice to me. I get to draw on the chalkboard while Daddy grades papers. Mommy, what's a grades?"
Scully shook her head and held back a laugh. "It's called a grade and it tells you how you did on your work. An A is a very good grade."
"Like a star? Meemaw Mulder gave me a star one time for a picture I made her. It was gold and she stuck it on my paper and put it on the 'fridgerator."
Scully's heart clenched at the thought that Mulder's mother, in another place, would have been a loving grandmother. The child was watching her expectantly. "Yes, sweetheart. A star is like a grade. A very good grade, in fact."
"I'm going to make you a picture that you can put a star on!" Sarah declared and went back to work, her tiny pink tongue peeking out between her lips as she concentrated.
Scully nodded, fighting back tears.
Mulder and Scully's duplex
They were pouring over the maps of DC and the surrounding suburbs when the house phone rang. Mulder started to ignore it but Alex checked the caller ID. "It's your mother-in-law," he said.
Mulder sighed and reached over to retrieve the phone. "She's not my mother-in-law," he said tersely. "We aren't married."
"Then you really are a dumbass in this world," Alex said with a smirk.
"Hi, Mom," Mulder said, clearing his throat and shooting Alex a glare. After a few seconds he closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, I should have called you. We've been searching all night . . . Yes, I believe -- there's every reason to believe that she's all right. . . No, I'm fine. . . Well, Skinner has a big mouth, it was just some scratches -- I'm fine. Sleep? Well, um, I've been busy -- I know, I'll try. I will try to get some sleep, but right now, well, you know. I'll find her, Mom. I promise. What? Yes, there's someone else here -- " Wordlessly he handed the phone over to Alex.
"Mrs. Scully, hello, my name is Alex. . . No, ma'am, I'm a DC policeman. Yes, ma'am, I'm helping your, um, Fox. Yes. Well, about 36 hours by my watch. Yes, I can do that. Yes, I'll make sure. I will, ma'am. We will find her. I know how much Dana means to her family. Yes, ma'am. You, too. Good bye." He placed the phone in its cradle. "Three guesses what I'm supposed to do," he said, crossing his arms.
Mulder glared at him. "I know you would have no way of knowing this, but in _this_ dimension, I kick your ass on a regular basis," Mulder sneered.
"Yeah, well, we can test that little theory later, friend. But right now, I'm under orders from a woman I happen to think of as a very dear friend in my world and she wants your ass in bed. Or on that god-awful couch I helped move three times. Where is it?"
"It burned up in an apartment fire," Mulder said tiredly.
"Good riddance, I say. Now, go stretch out for a couple of hours. I swear, I'll wake you if I hear anything." He took the agent's arm and started to lead him toward the stairs.
"No!" Mulder objected. "Not up there. Not alone. I'll stretch out on the couch down here." Sighing in defeat, he lay down on the sofa and closed his eyes. In minutes he was dead to the world. Alex breathed a sigh of relief and went back to looking at the maps.
They'd colored pictures, played a few of the games on the shelves. At one point Sarah found a tea set in the toy box and they had a tea party on the table with make believe strawberry sandwiches (Sarah's own recipe, she confided) and make believe chocolate 'tea'. When Sarah grew restless, Scully found a jump rope and they moved the table to the wall to make room for a jumping lesson, something Sarah found very amusing. After a few hours of play, Sarah grew tired and fussy. Scully found the Winnie the Pooh series on the bookshelf and pulled Sarah on her lap. They settled in and Scully began to read. When her little head started to nod, Scully put the book aside and picked her up.
"Sing to me, Momma," Sarah said sleepily when Scully attempted to put the child down on the bed.
"Oh, Sarah -- "
"The Bullfrog song, Mommy. I like the Bullfrog song."
With a catch in her voice, Scully began to sing, stroking the little girl's back as she finally drifted off to sleep. "Jeremiah was a bullfrog . . . " To her relief, Sarah smiled, stuck her thumb in her mouth and was soon sound asleep.
It was only mid afternoon, but Scully found herself drawn to the double bed. She wondered briefly if there might be something in the food, a sedative or something that would cause her to sleep so much. Then, it was kind of tiring, keeping an active three year old from going stir-crazy. Not sure what she could do besides not eat any food left in the future, she joined Sarah in her slumber.
Mulder and Scully's duplex
Alex had raided the refrigerator and made himself a sandwich; all the while marking out the best possible places for them to stake out as soon as 'sleeping beauty' arose. He leaned against the table and watched the agent sawing logs on the sofa.
What a life they had here, he thought sadly. They weren't even married, no sign of kids. So many sore subjects -- Fox's sister, hell, the subject of his whole family was like one raw nerve. And from what he could gather, most of Dana's family was dead and gone, too. It was so different from the happy bunch of people who had unofficially adopted Alex in his own world. He shook his head and went back to the maps.
The ringing of the phone woke Mulder. He lunged off the sofa, grabbing for the phone. "Scully?" he all but shouted into the receiver. When the caller identified himself, Mulder's face fell. "No, sir. No, I haven't heard from her except for the one time. You're kidding! No, I'll be right over there. Oh, and sir, um, be prepared to accept another extreme possibility, OK?" He hung up the phone and went to the coat tree by the door to pull on his jacket. "C'mon, Skinner says there's been another attack and they think they have it cornered in a parking garage in Falls Church."
"Wait!" Alex objected. "Maybe I should stay here. Or go to one of the other sites. You know, just in case."
"Are you on crack?" Mulder responded, using the detective's own words. "They have it cornered. If we get there in time, we might be able to -- "
"To what? Get it to tell us where Sarah and Dana are? Now who's on crack?" he laughed bitterly. "And besides, I don't see why we have to drag the Captain -- "
Mulder looked at the man closely. "Hold on a minute. You went AWOL, didn't you?"
Alex dropped his head. "I had vacation time coming," he said defensively.
"You didn't tell your Captain where you were going, did you?" Mulder accused.
His head jerked up and Alex pinned Mulder with a defiant glare. "Do you know how much paperwork and crap the old man put me through over that fiasco at Glass-glo the last time our path's crossed? I was in shit for months! And the son of a bitch never did buy my explanation of an alternate world, even when Dana came back from San Francisco with a tan, showing us pictures of the New Bay Bridge! So yeah, I went AWOL -- because I knew it was the only way! And I would do it again, anytime, for that little girl!"
Mulder licked his lips and then nodded, before breaking out in a smile. "Alex, I think I'm beginning to . . . understand you."
"Geez, don't get all mushy on me," Alex sneered.
"C'mon, you can stay in the car until we know for certain they have the creature."
1013 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, Virginia
Mulder cringed as they pulled up to the address Skinner had given him. The place was a circus. There were at least a dozen squad cars from various jurisdictions, including a familiar Bureau HRT van parked along the road. Mulder pulled his car behind several of the other vehicles, rolling his eyes as Alex folded himself down in the seat to remain unnoticed. A Virginia State Trooper was directing traffic and required Mulder to show his identification before he could cross the barricade set up in the driveway to the parking garage. Mulder set off at a trot to the van.
"When the hell is the chopper getting here," Skinner was barking into a cell phone as Mulder stepped into the van. Agents manning the equipment turned to him and nodded in acknowledgement. One agent, a woman Mulder had seen Scully talking to in the cafeteria just the week before made a point to get him a cup of coffee and gave him a pat on the shoulder. One of their own was missing and regardless of what the bullpen thought of him, Scully was well liked.
"Where is it?" Mulder asked, looking at the tiny surveillance monitors that showed each of the twelve floors of the garage.
"We think it's hiding here -- an equipment locker on the roof," Skinner said, pointing to one of the monitors. "We have all elevators locked down and all stairs blocked. There is no way in hell this guy is getting away this time."
"It's not a guy, sir," Mulder corrected. "It's a creature. Possibly a werewolf."
"Whatever it is, I want it down," Skinner growled.
"But we still haven't found Scully," Mulder pointed out. "We need it alive."
"Why? So it can lead us to her? Mulder, if this thing took her -- I know how hard this is -- "
"She was alive!" Mulder shouted. When all heads turned toward him, he lowered his voice and pulled his superior out of the van so that only Skinner could hear him. "I talked to her this morning. She called me on her cell phone but some-thing happened and we were cut off. The creature took her somewhere, has her locked up in a basement. She thought they were in the country because there were no city noises and it was very dark at night."
"Mulder, you're saying this animal took your partner -- to hold her captive? For what possible purpose?"
Mulder licked his lips. "Remember when I told you to be ready for another extreme possibility?"
Skinner clamped his jaw shut so tight Mulder thought he heard a molar crack.
"Sir, this creature, werewolf, what ever you want to call it, it's not from -- our world."
"Mulder, if you're going to tell me this thing is alien -- "
"Not exactly 'alien', sir," Mulder interrupted. "I said, not of this world."
"You've lost me."
"Sir, remember when we investigated the deaths at Glass-glo Industries?"
Skinner's eyes went wide and he started shaking his head. "Mulder, that whole parallel universe bullshit -- "
"Sir, I have proof," he said, grabbing his superior's sleeve and leading him back to his car. "But I want you to keep in mind, this is NOT who you think it is." Mulder opened the passenger side door, revealing Alex Krycek, huddled in the front seat.
Skinner immediately reached for his weapon, but Mulder caught his hand.
"I seem to get that same reaction back home," Alex joked.
"What is he doing here?" Skinner demanded.
"See, that's just it. He's not the Alex Krycek from our world. In his world, he's a police detective -- "
Alex stepped out of the car, flipping out his badge. "DC homicide. I've been working this case for two months."
"How did you get here?" Skinner grilled.
"I followed the creature through a rip in space or vortex. He's killed six people where I'm from -- and taken a hostage."
"A hostage?" Skinner prodded.
Alex looked over at Mulder, hesitant to answer. Mulder stepped in for him. "The creature kidnapped a three-year old little girl," Mulder said, not bothering to reveal the child's background.
Skinner frowned. "So you're thinking it has both Scully and this child?"
"Her name is Sarah," Alex interjected. "Yes sir, Captain, um I mean -- "
Skinner shot him a confused look but turned back to Mulder. "Are you sure about this?"
"When I heard from Scully this morning, I distinctly heard a child's scream just before we were cut off. I believe they were together at that time."
"And what makes you think they aren't -- " Skinner couldn't bring himself to say the word.
"We haven't found their bodies," Alex said with a shrug. "The creature never bothered to conceal its kills before. Why start now?"
"Well, it certainly didn't conceal this one," Skinner mused. "Pulled the guy out of his car and ripped him to shreds right on the floor of the garage."
"We need this thing alive. We have to use tranqs to bring it down," Mulder said firmly.
"Mulder, I understand -- " Just then a helicopter arrived at the scene, landing in a vacant lot across from the parking garage. Skinner jogged to it, Mulder and Alex bringing up the rear.
When Scully woke up, she noticed more food on the table. Hot dogs and macaroni and cheese along with the ever-present milk. Whoever was feeding them seemed attuned to the tastes of a three-year old, but Scully would have killed for a nice Cobb salad. She sighed and decided to once again check her surroundings.
On a bad day, Mulder would have told her the definition of insanity was repea-tedly taking the same action and expecting a different result, but she perse-vered. The window was just as impassable as it had been. The door, however, was a different matter. Whoever had brought down the food -- probably the little man, had left the padlock off. The door was still closed, but a little jiggling on her part and she was able to get it open.
"Mommy! Don't let the monster in!" Sarah screamed from the bed. Scully turned to see the child, trembling in fear at the sight of the open door.
"Sarah, it's OK. I don't see the monster. I don't think it's here."
"No, Mommy, please, close the door! Don't let the monster in!" The child pulled her knees to her chin and started to cry.
Scully reluctantly closed the door and went over to the little girl, gathering her in her arms. "It's OK, baby. Mommy closed the door. It's OK." As soon as the words were out of her mouth she realized what she'd said. Her heart seemed to stop beating for a moment and tears threatened to choke her. She sat on the bed, stroking Sarah's hair until the child finally settled down.
"I don't like the monster. He's scary!" Sarah said, still a little shaky.
"Yes, he is. But he's not here, so we're OK. I'll protect you, Sarah. I promise." She forced herself to use the personal pronoun as opposed to the name Mommy. She had to watch herself. This wasn't her little girl, no matter how much she might want that to be.
"Let's do something. What would you like to do?"
"Can we play school? I'll be the teacher first," Sarah declared and scampered off the bed to get out paper and crayons again.
Scully gathered her tattered emotions and pasted on a smile, ready to go to 'school'.
1013 Leesburg Pike
It had taken some time to exchange the normal rounds for tranquilizers, but finally everything was in place. Mulder requested that he and Alex be allowed to go with the team making their way up the parking ramps to the top level, just in case the creature decided to run that direction. Skinner wasn't happy about it, but agreed.
The parking ramp echoed every footstep as they made their way up the twelve stories. On some levels there were still cars, but most of the levels were vacant, all the workers having left the structure for their homes hours ago. Alex glanced over at Mulder as they walked, a few steps back from the rest of the team.
"How do we communicate with it, once we have it?" he asked.
Mulder blew out a breath. "Well, it's been my experience that once incapacitated, the creature -- if it is a lycanthrope -- will return to its human form. Then it's just a matter of interrogation."
Alex raised one eyebrow. "You really are on crack, aren't you?"
"Look, Scully and I deal with this shit every day of the week. If you didn't want my answer, why did you ask me the question?"
"Sorry!" Alex said contritely, holding his hands up in surrender. "It's just -- I'm a little freaked out here, is all. I mean, most of the time, you're this stuffed shirt intellectual who's lecturing me on the psychological ramifications of police brutality on a civilized society, or some shit like that. I'm just not used to you totin' a gun and spoutin' off weird shit theories like they were straight out of the Journal of American Psychology."
Mulder looked over at the man. His first reaction was to deck the guy, but he held himself in check. "I guess . . . I guess it would be hard. I mean everything around you is the same yet it's all different."
"Yeah, something like that. I don't know how your Dana did it when she was there with us. She was incredible."
Mulder smiled at that. "She's _always_ incredible," he replied.
"She had you fooled, well, at least, your twin. And the Captain, although he thought she was acting kinda funny. And me -- whoa, I was totally fooled. But she was different. Harder around the edges. When she held that gun -- that was . . . it was the sexiest damn thing I've ever seen!"
"Watch it," Mulder glowered at him.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. I need to find the parallel universe where Dana Scully thinks you're a twit, or you're an axe murderer -- that's what I need to do," Alex said with a firm shake of his head. "I'm just stuck in the wrong dimension."
"You keep tellin' yourself that, chum," Mulder returned with a fake smile. "Now, maybe we should get back to the lesson?" He nodded to the rest of the team as they made the final turn to scramble to cover on the rooftop.
"Yeah, down to business," Alex agreed, following Mulder to crouch behind a cement support for a lamppost.
The HRT members were in position, the helicopter was circling overhead. The FBI had arranged for the garage superintendent to put a tear gas canister in the ventilation system, flooding the storage closet with the painful gas. In a matter of seconds, the creature burst through the door of the closet, howling in pain.
Mulder watched breathless as the sharpshooter took aim. He fired, hitting the mark on the right flank. The creature bellowed its anger and to everyone's astonishment, ran as hard as it could toward the chopper and the sharpshooter. In a haze of drugs and fury, the beast leaped over the short retaining wall in an attempt to catch the aircraft. It fell the twelve stories to the cement driveway below.
Mulder and Alex found themselves running all the way down the parking ramp. When they got to the ground floor, a crowd of law enforcement from various jurisdictions stopped them from getting to the creature.
"Holy shit!" Alex exclaimed, having reached the monster's body before Mulder. Mulder broke through the crowd and stared down at the body.
In the darkened alley, illuminated only by the searchlights of the helicopter, lay a naked man. The commander of the HRT members ordered an immediate search of the grounds for any trace of the creature. It was Alex who knelt down next to the body that was lying face down, and pulled the tranquilizer dart out of the man's shoulder.
"This is the . . . perpetrator," he said, not really believing his own eyes. He looked up at Mulder and shook his head. They exchanged a knowing look. With-out the creature, their hopes of finding Sarah and Scully were looking very dim.
As darkness fell, Sarah grew tired. Finally Scully was able to convince the girl it was time for bed. After several minutes of teeth brushing and face washing, Sarah climbed into the big bed. Just as Scully was pulling the covers up over her, Sarah ducked under her arm and knelt down next to the bed.
"Prayers, Mommy! You forgot!" Sarah accused with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Oh, of course, how silly of me," Scully replied, kneeling down next to the little girl. Together, they made the sign of the cross and bowed their heads. Sarah waited, not saying anything. Finally, she darted a glance over at Scully.
"Mommy. You start, 'member?"
Scully drew in a breath. She thought back to her own childhood prayers, so different from the desperate pleadings she whispered as an adult -- 'keep him safe', 'let him find us'. "Now I lay me down to sleep," she uttered in a cadence reminiscent of her youth.
"I pray the Lord my soul to keep," Sarah responded.
The next part was tricky. In her childhood, the prayer went 'if I should die before I wake', but Scully had learned from putting Matty and Claire to bed that there was a newer version less likely to cause nightmares. "Bless me Jesus, through the night," Scully said, hoping she was right.
"And wake me with the morning light," Sarah completed, much to Scully's relief. Scully started to cross herself, but Sarah wasn't finished. "God bless Mommy and Daddy and Grandpa Ahab and Grandma Maggie, Uncle Bill and Aunt Tara, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Missy. And Paw paw and Meemaw Mulder and Aunt Sam and that boy she likes Kevin and God bless Uncle Alex and find him a keeper. Amen."
Scully couldn't help the chuckle that came as she heard the last part of the prayer. Sarah looked concerned. "That's what Daddy says, isn't it, Mommy? Uncle Alex needs a keeper."
"What is a keeper, Sarah?" Scully asked, because it was just too good to resist.
Sarah scrunched up her little face and thought for a moment. "I think it's a dog," she said confidently. Scully had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud.
"OK, munchkin, enough," she said playfully. "In to bed you go." Dutifully, Sarah scurried under the covers and snuggled into the pillow.
"Mommy, I want Bunnikins," she said plaintively.
Scully frowned. She had no idea where, or for that matter _what_ Bunnikins was. "I'm sorry, sweetie. We'll find Bunnikins in the morning."
"But I left him at home, Mommy! We have to go home to find him!" Sarah in-sisted.
"We will, sweetheart. I promise. We will be home before you know it. Now go to sleep. I'm going to clean up a little bit and then I'll hold you all night so you won't miss Bunnikins -- will that work?"
Sarah thought about it for a minute and reluctantly nodded. "OK, Mommy. But tomorrow, I want to go home. I want to see Daddy."
Scully stroked the child's baby fine hair. "I know, sweetheart. I want to see him, too," she said, holding back her own tears. After a few minutes, Sarah had fallen asleep and Scully began her exploration of the rest of the basement.
1013 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA
The coroner had declared the body dead at the scene, cause of death a broken neck and severe head trauma. While the combined Virginia state troopers and Fairfax County Sheriff's deputies continued to search the area for the creature, most of the officers at the scene were struggling with the incredible truth that the dead naked man in the alley was the monster they'd been chasing for days.
As the coroner's people loaded the body into a bag and prepared to take it to the county morgue, Alex stood, staring into space.
"We'll find them. We should go back to all the previous scenes. There has to be a clue there somewhere. Maybe someone saw something -- someone who works nights -- " Mulder was rambling, laboring with his own sense of impending doom at this most recent failure.
Suddenly, Alex jerked his head over toward the coroner's wagon, where an attendant was slamming the door. "Wait! Wait a minute!" Alex shouted, running flat out to grab the guy's arm and swing him around. "I need to take another look at the body!"
"Sure, buddy," the attendant said, wide eyed. "No problem. Hey, Hank! Wait up a minute." The attendant then pulled the gurney forward and waved his hand. "Be my guest. Just be careful not to get any on ya," he said with a casual shrug.
Alex pulled the tab of the zipper down, revealing just the face. Impact had not been kind, it was hard at first but then . . . "Oh my god," Alex muttered. As the picture became clearer, he stepped back and threw his hands in the air. "Oh my GOD!"
"What? What'd you find?" Mulder demanded.
"I know this guy!" Alex shouted. "I know him! Dana knows him! YOU know him, for God's sakes," he said, poking Mulder in the chest.
"Alex, I don't -- " Mulder realized what the detective was saying so he took him by the elbow and steered him to an area without an audience. "You're saying it's someone you know from . . . back there?" Mulder asked again.
"Yes, of course! Oh, this is incredible! I had no idea! I thought they had clearances, but then, maybe since he's been around a while -- "
"Krycek! Focus! Tell me what the hell you're talking about!" Mulder insisted adamantly.
Alex beamed. "The dead guy, our 'werewolf' for lack of a better description, is the denier that works the night shift at the morgue. My God, he has access to everything about you and Dana -- your phone number, your address -- that's why there was no forced entry! He could have taken an impression of Dana's keys, then had one made. Then all he would have had to do was sneak in at any time when you were away, stayed hidden and waited for the right time to take Sarah out through the window!"
"Alex, you keep saying 'you'," Mulder reminded the detective with a tired sigh. "So, who is this guy? What's his name?"
Alex shook his head, lost in thought but coming back to the present. "Oh, his name is . . . uh, let me think a minute. Carter. No, Carver! That's it! Terry Carver! I think maybe it's Terrance Carver."
Mulder was writing the name down in his notebook. "So we look up this Terrance Carver."
"Wait," Alex said, taking hold of his companion's sleeve. "Just because he's a wolfman in my world doesn't mean he's a wolfman in your world," he reasoned.
"True. But what was the first thing you did when you arrived?" Mulder asked.
Alex bit his lip. "I went to my apartment, but someone else was living there. Then I headed for the last crime scene, but I got there too late -- you were being loaded into an ambulance."
"You went to your house. Let's see if we can find out if maybe Terrance Carver visited his twin. Chances are we might find another dead body."
There were fourteen Terrance Carvers in the greater DC metro area. Only two of them were matches for age. Of the two, one was in the Guard, serving in Iraq and the other had been killed in a multi-car pile-up on the I-95 just four days after New Years 2006.
"Well, that's a wash," Alex said, laying his head in his arms.
"No, wait," Mulder countered, turning the computer monitor so that Alex could view it. "Mr. Carver, the one who is in Iraq, had an apartment in Bethesda, but it also lists him as owner of a farm out near Sharpsburg. He pays property taxes on it." A few more clicks and Mulder smiled. "It was the family homestead. He still owns the house."
"Dana said she was out in the country," Alex remembered. "You think this could be where they're being held?"
Mulder checked his watch. "It's almost sunup. It's definitely worth a look, don't you think?"
"We could call the Sheriff up that way, have his men go check it out."
"We can do that. Our werewolf isn't going anywhere," Mulder said with a smile.
She found light switches, but only one very dull bulb hung in the far corner of the basement. It was barely enough light for her to see to the top of the stairs. The door at the top of the steps was barred; there would be no escape that way. Scully sat on the top step for a few minutes, willing away her depression.
She tried to remember how light it was outside when she'd smelled breakfast the day before. She knew it had been early, which meant she had little time to find an escape.
She crawled down the steps, feeling apprehensive. She was aware the hostages were sometimes kept for years, just as Carl Wade had kept Lucy Householder for eight long years. She didn't want to think what it would do to Mulder if they weren't found soon. For that matter, somewhere in another place her exact twin was living a mother's worst nightmare. She had to find a way out for both of them.
It was a long abandoned basement; she soon discovered mice nests and spider webs everywhere she turned. She examined every nook and cranny. At some point someone had replaced all the windows with the same glass blocks she'd found in the small bedroom. She did find a sledgehammer and was in the process of trying to devise a way to break the glass bricks when another possibility presented itself. There was an old coal door set in the side of the wall. Once used to send coal into a long dismantled coal bin, the hatch-like door was rusted completely shut. Scully eyed the sledgehammer, then eyed the coal door. Wrapping rags she'd found on the floor around her hands to prevent blisters, she picked up the sledgehammer and went to work.
It had been exhausting work, and at times she had almost given up, but finally she felt the latch move and she was able to pry the door open using a small pry bar. She wiped the sweat from her face and went to wake Sarah.
It was a testament to the sleeping abilities of the young that Sarah hadn't awoken during Scully's assault on the rusted latch. Scully went to the bathroom and washed the grime and rust from her hands and face before going to the bed to wake the child.
Sarah smiled up at her. "Mommy, I'm hungry," she said as she stretched. She looked over at the table. "Where's breakfast?"
"Sarah, it's time to go home now. We'll have breakfast later, OK?"
"We're going to see Daddy?" the girl squealed. Then she noticed the open door and jumped back into the bed, cowering under the covers. "The door, Mommy! The monster will get us!"
"No, sweetheart, the monster isn't here. Come with me. We can leave now." Finally, Scully was able to coax the child out of the tangle of blankets. She wrapped the girl up in a threadbare quilt from the bed and carried her to the coal door that she had propped open with the handle of the sledgehammer. "Sarah, you go through that little door and wait for me. I'll climb out right after you."
"NO!" the child screamed. "No Mommy! The monster, it'll eat me!"
"Sarah, listen to me. The monster isn't here. It's gone. But we have to leave, now."
"No, Mommy! Daddy will come find us!" Sarah insisted.
"Sweetheart, Daddy doesn't know where we are," Scully reasoned. "We have to go find him. Daddy is probably worried about us. It will be all right. Mommy will protect you," she promised. Once again, the ease of using that title was not lost on Scully. She tamped down her guilt by rationalizing the need to comfort the child. "This is a very scary thing, Sarah, but Mommy is right here with you. I would never let anything hurt you. You believe that, don't you?"
Sarah was far from totally convinced, but slowly she nodded her head.
"OK, you keep hold of my hand after I get you up there. You can pull me up, OK?"
"OK, Mommy. But hurry!" the child pleaded.
The coal door was only 4 feet off the floor, so getting Sarah through it proved a simple task. Scully was a bit more encumbered getting out because of Sarah's 'help', but finally the two were standing on the ground outside the old farm house. A cold wind blew through the bare trees nearby and Scully considered going back into the house to grab some more of the blankets from the bed.
"Mommy, go!" Sarah urged.
Scully nodded. Picking the child up and wrapping the quilt around both of them, she started off through the trees.
Miller's Sawmill Road
Mulder gripped the cell phone harder, wishing he could crush it with his bare hands. "Deputy, what do you mean there's no one there? Did you check everywhere?" he demanded. "Well, we're almost there. I'll look around for myself, thank you!" He snapped the phone shut with an audible crack from the casing.
"Could it be the wrong house?" Alex asked meekly from the driver's seat.
"No," Mulder defended. "It's the right house. It's abandoned and they found a room in the basement where someone has been recently. But there's no one there now."
"Where could they have gone?" Alex wondered aloud. "You don't think -- " His face went white as he considered the awful possibility.
"No, I don't think he killed them," Mulder said firmly.
"Just like you knew where he took them?" Alex jeered, staring out at the high-way.
"We'll find them. At least we know he's dead and they're safe."
"Assuming that really was the beast back there, and not some poor victim it tossed over to hide its escape," Alex replied glumly.
Mulder glared at the detective. "Just drive," he ordered.
The farmhouse was at the end of a long, overgrown gravel drive, now sporting two county squad cars. Mulder pulled in behind one of the cars and parked, getting out without waiting for Alex. He went up to one of the deputies.
"I'm Special Agent Mulder, are you Deputy Allen?" he asked, flipping out his badge.
"Yes sir, that'd be me," the young deputy said with a nod. "Let's go inside, I can show you what we found."
The first floor of the house was completely bare, not even a forgotten mattress. Mulder noticed the Alex had joined them and was looking around the kitchen.
"Electricity is on. The refrigerator has food in it," Allen noted.
Alex opened the fridge and pulled out a gallon jug of milk, reading the label. "Expires next week," he said, opening the lid and sniffing the contents. "This is fresh."
Mulder looked around the kitchen, finding plates and cups in the dishwasher.
"We found the room down here," Allen explained, holding open the basement door.
Mulder caught his breath as he looked at the room. The child's desk and table, the rocking chair. He leaned over the bed, picking up one of the pillows and bringing it to his nose. "Scully was here," he told Alex.
Alex went over to the child's desk and picked up a piece of paper. He brought it over to Mulder, showing him. It was a stick-figure drawing of a house with three people out front, a woman with red hair, a man with brown hair and glasses and a little girl with red hair. At the bottom of the page was scrawled the name 'Sarah'.
"Dana told me she learned to write her name last week. She was going to have her draw me a picture for my desk at the station," he said, carefully folding the picture and putting it in his back pocket. "So where are they now?"
"There's no blood anywhere. No signs of a struggle," Mulder recited as he paced the room. "The door was barred when you arrived, Deputy Allen?"
"Yes sir, and it sure didn't look like any body could have gotten out that way."
"There has to be another way out," Mulder said, striding purposefully from the room. He searched the basement, finally calling to Alex.
"Here," he said, pointing to the closed coal door.
"There was a sledgehammer leaning against the house out back," Allen offered. "Didn't think much about it, but they could have propped the door open, made their escape that way."
"They're on foot and it's getting colder," Mulder said, taking the stairs two at a time. "Deputy, put out an ABP on a woman and a child, I gave you the descriptions. They shouldn't be that far from here! Alex, you have shotgun," he added as he hurried off to the car.
Unknown State Highway
two hours later
Scully had never been so happy to see cement adorned with white and yellow lines in her life as she was when she and Sarah broke through the trees and saw the highway. Sarah had been a trooper, walking almost half the way. It was slow going, but Scully couldn't have made it if she'd had to carry the child. Two days of inactivity had done a number on her bruised muscles, leaving her sore and stiff. The wind hadn't been kind, either, kicking up a pile of dark clouds that seemed to be threatening either sleet or snow.
"Sarah, I think we should wait here a while, see if a car goes by," Scully suggested.
"But Mommy, I gotta go potty," Sarah announced with a grimace.
Scully sighed, trying to figure out where a good impromptu 'potty' might be among the trees and dense underbrush when she heard a rumble coming from down around a corner in the road. There, before her very eyes, was a Sheriff's Department squad car, pulling to a stop.
The deputy all but ran over to Scully and the child. "Ma'am, you wouldn't happen to be an FBI agent, would you?" the deputy asked, breathless.
"As a matter of face, I am," Scully said with a grin.
"Hot damn, uh, excuse the language, ma'am. Um, we been looking for you two for quite a while. Here let's get you in the patrol car and warm you up a bit. I have a car seat in the trunk for the little one."
"Thank you, Deputy . . . "
"Webb, ma'am. Andy Webb. Boy, I don't know how I rate. You two are the biggest thing to hit these parts in a while! And here it is, only my first day on the job! Whoooo Hoo!" the young man whistled.
They were quickly buckled in the very warm and comfortable back seat of the patrol car and on their way. As Scully listened to Deputy Webb calling in his 'discovery', she stroked Sarah's hair as the child fell asleep.
Washington County Maryland Sheriff's Department
Mulder was near frantic as he plowed his way into the small brick building. He scanned the half dozen people until his eyes fell on the one red head in all the room. He was at her side in a heartbeat, pulling her into a fierce embrace, his face buried in her hair.
"Mulder, I'm a mess. I'm dirty, I haven't showered in days," she protested, but he couldn't stop himself.
"You're alive. I don't care if you just crawled out of a New Jersey sewer, you're alive," he chanted, hugging her close again.
"Munchkin!" Alex shouted and scooped up the little girl who was trying her best to get in on the 'family hug' taken place right next to her. "Oh Sweet Sarah, Uncle Alex has been so worried about you!" he said, showering her with kisses. Suddenly, he held her at arms length. "You weren't hurt, were you? Did a doctor look you over? Are you OK?"
"I looked her over, Alex," Scully said quietly, when she finally broke Mulder's bear hug. "She's fine."
"Thank god," Alex sighed, holding the little girl tight.
"Daddy! Daddy, I want my Daddy!" Sarah cried out and lunged for Mulder. Alex tried to keep her in his arms, but the little girl launched herself in mid air and only Mulder's quick reaction time prevented her from falling to the floor.
"Daddy, I missed you so much!" the child exclaimed, kissing Mulder's face repeatedly. "Mommy said you'd find us and you did!"
Mulder held the girl stiffly and looked uncomfortably over at his partner. Scully frowned and nodded to the little girl. "Mulder, she doesn't understand," she hissed in a low voice.
Mulder licked his lips and looked down at Sarah. Scully's pert nose and mouth were on that face, but it was Samantha's eyes that stared back at him. His throat tightened and he struggled to hold back his tears. Like a floodgate opening, he crushed the child to him, burying his face in her baby fine hair. "Oh, Sarah, I'm so very glad we found you," he said softly.
As the emotion of the reunion finally slipped away, Alex caught Scully's eye. "Hi, long time no see," he said in a whisper.
"Hello again. I'm not sure how -- "
"Long story," he said tilting his head toward Sarah, who had climbed out of Mulder's arms and was busy rearranging the pencil holder and stapler on the desk sergeant's counter.
"You two have been working together?" she asked, looking at Mulder for confir-mation.
"It took a little getting used to," Mulder admitted.
"Say what, G-man?" Alex countered. "It took a LOT of getting used to. But in the end -- "
"Mulder, there was a man, I think he was another captive. We didn't find him after the creature left the door open. I think he might have been another victim."
"Scully, believe me, this report is going to kill a forest of trees before we get it documented. Right now, I think we have bigger items to consider," he told her, nodding toward Sarah who was now tugging on her arm.
"Mommy, I'm hungry!" the child declared. "Can we go to McBurgers?"
"Um, how about we try something different, Munchkin?" Alex suggested. "It's called McDonald's and it's almost exactly like McBurgers."
"OK, Unc'a Alex! Let's go!"
"Fast thinking, but how did you know?" Mulder asked quietly as they headed for the car.
"I saw the arches. The name is different, but I'm betting they still have the best fried zucchini you can find," Alex said with a wink.
"Um, about that -- " Mulder countered.
"Gotcha," Alex replied with an evil grin.
Homewood Inn and Suites
off the I-70
Scully closed the door to the bedroom quietly, so as not to wake the sleeping little girl. Lunch and 45 minutes in McDonald's playland had exhausted the tiny girl once again.
Mulder had suggested not going back to the city immediately. From what Alex had told him, Dana and Fox lived in Prince Georges County, Maryland, in a two-story colonial with a half-acre yard. Going to Scully and Mulder's duplex in Georgetown would only serve to confuse the child. Even so, the three adults needed time to talk and plan.
"So, basically, we go back to the vortex and hope it's still open," Alex said, sipping coffee that Scully had prepared in the hotel room's kitchen.
"What if it's not open?" Scully countered, sitting forward on the sofa next to Mulder. "Alex, you can't assume that it's going to be there now. If this vortex has always been around, why haven't more people gone though it?"
"Dana, I don't know what to tell you," Alex admitted. "I just know that's the only way we can get back home."
"Alex," Mulder broke in. "Do you think you could give us a few minutes to talk -- privately?"
The detective looked at Mulder and then at Scully, whose face was hidden because she was staring at the floor. He ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Sure. I'll just go out to the courtyard and um, talk to the ducks."
When he was gone, Scully stood up and went to the window. "Mulder, I know what you're going to say," she said, crossing her arms.
"Good. Maybe you can tell me," he quipped. He got up from the sofa and stood behind her, pulling him to him, her back to his front. "Scully, I don't know what to tell you. I went through hell the last couple of days, but I think what you went through was worse."
She shook her head vehemently. "No, Mulder. It wasn't. After destroying my cell phone we never saw the monster again. We were warm, we were well fed. Aside from being trapped, we were fine -- better than fine."
He kissed the top of her head lightly. "That's what I'm saying. Scully, you had 48 hours -- a taste of motherhood. Just like before, when you found Emily. And now, just as before, you're having to give that up -- to walk away. I can't think of anything worse than that." He turned her around and she buried her face in his chest.
"Mulder, she calls me Mommy. And she has your eyes and your chin and she draws pictures and she loves Tigger and thinks Rabbit is mean to Pooh and I want that -- I want all of that!" she said, breaking down into sobs.
He wanted to be strong for her, but his own eyes were cloudy with unshed tears. "And I want that for you. Scully, do you think I was unaffected when she hugged me and called me Daddy? When she told me she'd missed me?" He stopped, grasping for some control over his emotions. "But Scully, we aren't who she thinks we are. We aren't Mommy and Daddy -- not to that little girl."
She pushed away from him with a gentle shove and paced the sitting room. "Don't you think I know that, Mulder? Don't you think I kept thinking that every time I looked at her? But now, I'm afraid for her, too. Mulder, we're talking about a vortex! There is no scientific basis for this 'passageway' between two dimensions!"
"Brad Kensworth got the idea somewhere, Scully," Mulder said evenly. "Maybe his 'glass' invention was based on a vortex of some kind. And just because we haven't studied it doesn't mean it can't exist. You of all people should know that. Scully, look at all the things we've seen in the last dozen or more years that your science could not explain."
"But Mulder, we are talking about a little girl's life," she countered. "A little girl who is made up of our DNA!" She toyed with the small decorative arrangement on the table in the dining room area. "Who would know that she wasn't ours?" she asked hesitantly.
Mulder closed his eyes and then opened them slowly. He walked the few paces to take her in his arms again. "We would know, Scully. We would know." He stroked her hair, dropping kisses. "Not like this, sweetheart. You know I want to give you this one thing more than I could ever say, but not like this. Not when it means stealing something that isn't ours to take."
Against his chest he felt her nod and then they both held each other and cried.
Homewood Inn and Suites courtyard
Alex looked up when he saw Mulder at the door. Mulder motioned for him to stay seated and walked over to join him.
"How's Dana doing?" Alex asked, not mentioning the tearstains he could see Mulder's cheeks.
"She'll be fine. Sarah's awake. They're watching television. 'Toon Disney."
"That should make her happy. Dana and Fox only let her watch Omni Kids and Crazy Animals."
Mulder cleared his throat and leaned back, letting the fading sun warm his face. "Scully suggested we have a picnic supper, in Rock Creek Park tonight."
Alex nodded. "Sounds like a plan. I can tell Sarah I'm taking her for ice cream. I do that from time to time."
Mulder looked over at his companion. "You really do love her, don't you?"
Alex refused to look at him. He toyed with a twig he'd found on the ground. "I don't see myself as the marrying kind, if you know what I mean. That little girl -- she's all the family I've got. Her mother, even that tight assed dad of hers -- " He stopped and looked sheepishly at Mulder. "Sorry, but he is a tight-ass -- no offense," he confided guiltily.
"None taken" Mulder said with a smirk.
"Anyway, they let me . . . borrow her from time to time. Let me pretend that I'm normal, I have a normal job and a little girl who loves me -- "
"She does love you, Alex. I could see that when you held her," Mulder inter-rupted.
"Well, I like to think she does," the other man said with a sigh.
"Going through this vortex -- it didn't . . . hurt at all, did it?" Mulder asked with a worried expression.
"To be honest, I didn't know I'd gone through it until I saw a stop sign," Alex said with a shrug. "We have the green on the top," he informed Mulder. "So I figured I wasn't in Toledo anymore."
Mulder looked at him with confusion on his face.
"Sorry, bad joke," Alex said with a wink. "C'mon. I know a Mom and Dad who are worried sick and a Captain who is waiting to chew me a new asshole."
"Well, with a welcoming party like that, we don't want to keep you any longer," Mulder replied with a smile.
Rock Creek Park
It was a testament to Scully's acting abilities that she didn't break down into tears when they got to the park. She sat in the front seat with Mulder, Alex and Sarah sat in the back seat with a sack of Subway sandwiches and drinks between them.
Mulder found a little picnic area near the creek near a big tree that Alex pointed out to Sarah, the prearranged clue for Mulder to follow. The sun had dropped below the rooftops of the surrounding apartment buildings long before, but on the floor of the little gorge it was dusk with streetlights illuminating the scene. It looked tranquil, inviting.
They talked of little things, whatever Sarah wanted to discuss. They spoke of going to the zoo and the last time Uncle Alex came for dinner. She told them what she wanted to do when she grew up -- teaching doctors, like Mommy and Daddy. Finally, Alex glanced at his watch and Mulder nodded.
"Sarah, how about I take you for an ice cream. We'll meet your Mom and Dad back at the house? How does that sound?" Alex asked with forced excitement.
"Oh yes, Unc'a Alex, yes!" she replied, happily clapping her hands. "I want chocolate ice cream on a big cone!"
"I think I can handle that," he said lifting her up off the picnic table seat and hoisting her onto his hip.
"We'll see you two later," he said, his eyes twinkling in the dim light.
"Yeah, see you at home," Mulder said. Scully stood up and both men held their breath. She walked over and kissed Sarah on the forehead.
"Be good for Uncle Alex, Sweetie," she said evenly.
"I will, Mommy," Sarah said and hugged Alex's neck tightly.
"Good girl," Scully responded. "Take care of her, Alex."
"I will, Dana. I promise."
They turned and walked away, Sarah finally begging to get down and walk, the independent young lady of two very independent people. They'd only gone a few yards along the path when Alex leaned over and whispered something in Sarah's ear. She stood very still and nodded. Alex jogged back to Mulder, pulling his wallet out of his pocket. When he got to Mulder, he pressed something into his hand. Mulder looked down and saw the portrait of Sarah and her mother and father.
"Alex, this is yours," Mulder protested.
"You keep it. I can get another one in the next card she sends me," he assured Mulder.
"Thank you," Mulder said. "For everything."
"Back at you," Alex said, shaking Mulder's hand. "I, uh, gotta go."
"Yeah, you better."
He walked back to Sarah; they stepped beneath a big oak tree and vanished from sight.
Scully sat there for several minutes, not daring to look at Mulder. Finally, she picked up the wrappers from the sandwiches and tossed them in a nearby trash barrel. "It's time to go home," she said quietly and they walked back to Mulder's car.
Mulder and Scully's Residence
two days later
"When are these damned things coming out?" Mulder whined as he attempted to shave around the stitches at his neck. Showering was a distant memory and even Scully had commented that she thought they could take the stitches out themselves -- as soon as the area looked healed.
"One more day," came the reply from under the shower spray. "Did you finish the report?"
"It's on the computer. It was a lot harder than I thought since I can't substantiate anything Alex told me. But it does appear that the man we found in the alley worked with the Dana Scully Mulder from the other dimension and he took the child, perhaps as a way to get closer to Dana. When he saw you, he probably thought you'd be the next best thing. It's rough and dirty but it's all there. Take a look at it when you get out," Mulder replied, wiping wisps of shaving cream from his face.
They hadn't said a word upon returning to the duplex after watching Sarah and Alex depart. Scully had refused to go to the Emergency Room, and Mulder didn't have the courage to force her. Instead, she acted like it was a Sunday night, she gathered and laundered work clothes, tidied up the kitchen and didn't speak a word. When it was time for bed he was almost afraid she would relegate him to the sofa for some unknown and unintentional crime. Instead, she clung to him the minute their bodies hit the mattress. They made tender love and he resolved not to mention the tears creasing her cheeks and staining her pillow. In the morning, they went to work.
Her fortitude in the face of adversity was one of the things that most endeared her to him. It also drove him stark raving mad when he knew she was shutting off her feelings, from herself, from him. They were past that, long past that, or so he had thought.
He had decided, half out of cowardice, to give her some time. But it was Friday and they had a whole weekend stretching out before them. He was terrified she would go on another cleaning spree. He couldn't handle that. He would have to draw her out, one way or another.
He grabbed his car keys and followed her out to the car. He had all day to devise a plan.
Scully parked the car in the alley driveway and sat for a moment. Images of Sarah would flit through her mind, superimposed on images of Emily. Both girls were about the same age, but Sarah seemed more advanced. Sarah was definitely the happier of the two girls, always ready to play, to color, to be read to or rocked. Her heart ached when she thought of Emily, long gone. But the tears burned her eyes when she remembered the feel of Sarah in her arms, calling her Mommy in a way that Emily never did.
She shook herself and reached for the door handle. Mulder had left the office early, claiming to go see a 'real' doctor about his stitches. She didn't believe him for a minute, he was up to something -- but she was too tired and heartsick to figure it out. She trudged up the walkway to the back door.
"I'm home," she called as she stepped into the kitchen. She could smell something in the oven -- something Italian. Peeking in the door, she saw Mulder's famous lasagna -- as he had deemed the recipe he'd seen on the Food Network during his convalescence of a few months back. A bottle of wine was uncorked and 'breathing' on the kitchen counter. She sighed and shook her head. She really wasn't in the mood for romance or seduction and it looked like Mulder had pulled out all the stops.
"Hey," he said, leaning against the kitchen doorway in jeans and a grey tee shirt. The fact that he looked delectable seemed to make her more depressed.
"Did you get the stitches out?" she asked, peering at his neck.
"All gone," he said, pulling his collar aside for her inspection.
"I better not find little black threads in the sink upstairs," she warned him as she moved past.
"I left the receipt from the co-pay on the desk in the office. I knew you'd be suspicious."
"Not suspicious, Mulder. Skeptical," she countered. "Do I have time to take a quick shower?"
"Real quick. Dinner's on the table in 15 minutes," he answered.
"OK, no shower. But I am changing my clothes," she replied. With heavy footfalls she went up to their bedroom.
When she came back downstairs, now enfolded in a downy blue sweater and her oldest jeans, he had the table set with the 'good' dishes (ones her mother had given them) and candles were on the table. He'd even folded napkins. She had to smile ruefully at his endeavors. The man did nothing halfway.
He gallantly pulled out her chair. "Would the lady care to sample the wine?" he asked as he scooted her close to the table.
"I'll take my chances," she replied and he went about filling first her wine glass and then his. She picked up her napkin and discovered it had concealed two small packages, both wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with white silk ribbon. "Mulder, what are these?" she asked, holding them up.
"Gee, I guess I need to get the guys to check the security alarm, huh?" he said with a boyish grin, but she detected a subtle air of nervousness about him.
What had he gone and done this time?
"Dare I open them now, or should I wait so I don't spoil dinner?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He seemed a bit hurt at her words and tone, but resolutely shook it off. "Let's eat while the garlic bread is still hot," he suggested.
The dinner was perfect. She even managed to taste both the entree and the salad he'd prepared, with fresh mushrooms she had noted. Finally, the wine glass was near empty and her plate was mostly clean. She daintily wiped her mouth on the napkin and looked up at him with a smile. "My compliments to the chef," she said graciously.
"The chef accepts all compliments, it was his pleasure," he assured her.
"Now?" she asked, picking up the small packages.
"Let's go into the living room," he countered, refilling their glasses and taking her hand to help her up. He guided her from the room with his hand on the small of her back.
Once seated on the sofa with their glasses on the coffee table, Mulder nodded that she could open the smaller of the two presents. It was the picture of Sarah with her parents that was now encased in a tasteful silver and mother of pearl frame. She looked up at him with tears on her lashes. "It's beautiful," she said, and leaned over to give him a kiss.
"Open the other one," he encouraged.
She removed the tape and paper from the slightly thicker box and pried off the lid. A small metal vial was revealed along with a business card. A frown creased her brow as she held up the vial. There was a serial number on it. The card, she discovered was for a fertility specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center. She shot him a hard look. "Mulder, what is this?"
"First, I want you to know that everything I did, everything I do, I do with the absolute best of intentions," he prefaced.
She drew in a breath and nodded slowly.
"When we had first found out about your cancer, I broke into a medical clinic of a Dr. Scanlon," he said, licking his lips. "You know that part."
"Yes, and you found out that they had harvested my ova for their experiments," she said, swallowing thickly. "One of those ova was later used to . . . create Emily. You told the judge that at my adoption hearing."
He nodded at her timeline. "What I didn't tell you at the time was that I stole a couple of the vials from the storage unit," he said quietly.
"You . . . what?" she asked, her voice catching in her throat. "Mulder -- why didn't you tell me?" Her expression was a mixture of anger and deep betrayal.
"Scully, when I first found them, you were dying. Or so we thought. I took the vials and I had them placed in a fertility clinic here at Georgetown under an alias. I thought they would be safe. They've been there, well, for six years now."
"That still doesn't explain why you kept it a secret," she hissed.
"When was I supposed to tell you? After you lost Emily? 'Oh, don't worry, Scully -- you can make your own baby'. To be honest, there were times when I completely forgot they were there. And further, I was hoping that Scanlon was wrong and we'd find out the old fashioned way," he said sheepishly. He took her hand and was gratified that she didn't pull away. "What I'm telling you is that you have a choice. If you really want a child, we can have a child. We can start the procedures tomorrow or next week. But if we have a child, I want that child to be as safe as Sarah is with her parents."
"Sarah was kidnapped from her bed while a police detective sat in their living room," Scully pointed out bitterly.
He tilted his head and frowned at her.
"OK," she relented. "I see your point. So what are you saying -- that we just go on? That we never just stop the car . . . Mulder, we have so much to do! We have the laptop to decipher, we have Strughold and Charlie to defeat and that's not even considering Spender and Krycek and -- "
"I'm saying right here, right now, it's your decision, Scully. When you want a child, I'm there. It doesn't have to be this week. It can be in a few years. I, uh, I left a deposit last spring, when I arranged for you to have full access to the family finances. A little mixing, a little time in a warm place and 'voila' -- instant parents."
She shook her head and a sad smile formed on her lips. "God forbid we do anything the conventional way," she muttered. "So, what's this?" she asked, holding up the vial. "It's not in a cooler, so it's probably not viable."
"It doesn't have anything in it. It's just a container with the number your ova are stored under. Consider it a Swiss Bank Account."
"So, it's all up to me?" she asked.
"Isn't that what all that ruckus outside the Supreme Court is about?" he asked with a grin. "I want you to be happy, Scully. I will move heaven and earth to ensure that."
She wiped the tears from her chin and cheek and then looked at the vial in her hand. "Someday, Mulder. Not now, not when there is so much at stake. But someday . . . someday . . . voila."
He took her hand and led her up to their bedroom. As they readied for bed she looked at the small portrait in the silver and shell frame. She traced the tiny face with her fingertip. Carefully she placed it on the nightstand by her side of the bed.
14x03 Paradigm --Revised November 3, 2006