Mulder and Skinner were bent over the desk, going over inventory when Kevin tapped on the door. He stuck his head in, "Mulder, he's back."
Mulder quickly laid down the paper in his hand and headed for the door. He glanced out and then pulled Kevin close to him. "Warn Scully. Make sure whatever she's wearing hides her." Kevin nodded and left, pulling the door shut behind him.
"Who's back, Mulder?"
Mulder sighed, then looked at him. "Krycek."
"Krycek? What the hell is that weasel doing still alive? He only has one arm - why wasn't he killed by the virus?"
"The vaccine. He comes around, give us information. We check on what we can. He's usually accurate."
"I'd rather kill him than listen to him."
"Me too, but sometimes he's useful. Ready?" At Skinner's nod Mulder opened the door.
"Shouldn't keep a good client like me waiting Mulder." Krycek wandered in and stopped short when he spotted Skinner. "I thought this was a restricted community."
"Only where you're concerned, Krycek. I see some information isn't available to you. So, what brings you to town?"
"I have some news for Scully. She left you yet?"
Mulder ignored the taunt. "Whatever you have to tell Scully you can tell me."
"No. I think she'd appreciate this more than you would."
"Appreciate what, Alex?" They all turned to see Scully at the door. Mulder noted her large lab coat hiding her figure and relaxed slightly. Scully entered the room and came to stand slightly behind Mulder. Skinner moved a step closer to both of them.
"Well, aren't we a protective little threesome. He give you much time alone with her, Walt?" Skinner's face darkened, but he kept his silence.
"Come on, Krycek." Mulder spoke now that Scully was near him, "If you really have news, tell us."
"Well, it seems I've located one Maggie Scully."
"Mom?" Scully's hand clutched at Mulder's arm. "Where?"
"Ohio. She's living with your brother Charlie, his wife Mary and the two boys."
"They're all alive?"
"Last word I got they were. They're not living as nice as this. You run a good place here Mulder, but they've made it so far.
"Where in Ohio?" Scully's voice shook slightly, Mulder and Skinner exchanged glances.
"You got a map? I'll show you."
"Kevin!" Mulder called into the other room.
"Right here Boss." Kevin entered unfolding a map and laid it on the desk. Mulder gave him a tight smile. Someday he'd come up with a request Kevin couldn't fill. He hoped it was no time soon.
"Here, in eastern Ohio. A little place called Devola. They had a pretty bad winter, but your family did okay."
"Why should we believe you?" Mulder's face was like stone.
"Because it's for Dana." Krycek fairly purred her name, knowing the effect that would have on Mulder.
"I suppose you have other news for us as well." Don't let him get to you Mulder, it's his greatest pleasure.
"Sure, but I thought that bit would be the most impressive."
"If it's true it is. But Scully has work to do. Kevin, would you take Scully back to the clinic? Skinner and I will meet with Krycek." He held her arm and walked her out the door. She understood and waited until they were outside before pulling loose from his grasp.
"Mulder. . . "
"I know, Scully. Let Skinner and me talk to him. You can't listen objectively, I'm not sure I can, that's why I want Skinner there. Let me get the information and I swear I will tell you everything he says."
"You expect me to work?"
"No, but I don't want you here. I don't want him to see any more of you than we can help. He brings us information and I'm just as sure he takes it away. He didn't know Skinner was here. That's enough information for him to have to pass along. I don't want him to know about this." He put his hand on her stomach and she placed her own hand on top of his.
"You're right. Don't keep me waiting too long."
"Don't I always hurry home to you?" He pulled her to him, feeling the swell of her belly against his, and kissed her. "Go on now. And don't worry!"
"Right. Sure." She turned back toward the clinic. Kevin fell in beside her. "I really can get back there on my own."
"Mulder asked me to walk you back."
"You and I need to have a long talk sometime Kevin." She sighed and allowed the young man to accompany her to her office.
The other information paled in comparison and Mulder wasn't sure he had paid close enough attention, but trusted Skinner to pick up the slack. Now that the tension was relieved between them regarding Scully, they worked well together. Mulder had been surprised that Skinner took the role of second in command so easily, but was more relieved than anything else to have someone like him at his side.
Scully wasn't in the main room when he arrived home, so he headed for the bedroom. He found her there packing. He had expected it, but still. . . "Going somewhere?"
"I have to find her."
"Gonna take the baby with you?"
"Planning to." She looked up at him, her chin out in that defiant attitude.
"Not going to happen, Scully."
"Mulder, I have to do this."
"No way. You're not going a third of the way across the continent now. You are in no shape to walk a thousand miles."
"Mulder, I want my mother here when the baby comes."
"I know that Honey. I do too. That's why I'm planning to go get her."
"What?" That caught him off guard. It had seemed the perfect solution to him.
"Not without me."
"You can't. You aren't." He stated it matter of factly, but this was not something he would back down from. She was not going anywhere if he had to lock her up for the remaining time until the baby was born.
"Mulder, I don't want to be separated from you. Not now. What if the baby comes early? Neither you nor my mother would be here. I'd rather have the baby on the road, with you."
He couldn't repress that shudder. "No." He took her into his arms. "What if. . . what if we get someone else to go for us?" He wiped the tear that had escaped from her cheek.
"Who would do that?"
"Skinner. Scully, he'd do this for you. Hell, there's not much he wouldn't do for you."
"You're not. . . "
"No, I'm not. I understand you and Skinner. Let me talk to him tomorrow. Right now I'm going to put this stuff away. " He sat her on the bed, and took an armful of the camping equipment up to the loft.
She had no appetite, but he made sure she ate a little. While he was cleaning up they heard the knock on the door. They exchanged glances, she wasn't wearing her lab coat now, and on her small frame there was no doubt what was occurring within her body.
"Who is it?" Mulder called as he headed toward the door.
"Walter and I'm alone." Scully smiled and Mulder relaxed, speeding up his steps to reach the door.
"Hi. Come on in. Want some coffee?"
"Thanks, no." He settled on the sofa. "I assume, since we're all fairly bright people, we've all reached the same conclusion."
"About?" Mulder took the chair as Scully settled beside Skinner.
"My heading to Ohio to get Mrs. Scully."
Scully looked at Mulder. He grinned back at her.
"What?" Skinner watched that familiar silent exchange between them.
"We had reached that conclusion. I was going to approach you tomorrow."
"Well consider me approached. I'm thinking three of us need to go. I'm estimating 700 miles, give or take. Depends on the roads. We can move fast heading out. It could take awhile coming back with two women and two children. I'll need people in good shape, able to travel."
"Yeah. I hadn't thought that far."
"I want one of the three to be Krycek."
"Krycek! Why?" That startled both of them.
"He's in good shape, he's used to traveling, he knows where she is unless he's lying, and best of all, it would keep him from reporting back to whomever about how things are here."
"I do like that. But will you be safe traveling with him?"
"I can handle myself Mulder. Don't worry about that. You know the people here better than I do, who should be the third?"
Mulder thought a moment. "Kevin immediately comes to mind."
"No, he won't go." Mulder looked over at her, but before he could speak, Skinner agreed.
"True, who else?"
"Wait a minute. What do you mean he won't go?"
"Mulder, he'd never leave your back. If you were going, we couldn't keep him here. He works for you and no one else. Surely you know this."
"No, I didn't."
"Hey, don't go getting uncomfortable around him. It's not like that. He has decided he owes his life to you. I don't know why. I don't know his story. Because I'm your wife, I fall within his sphere of protection. It's a small circle."
Mulder just looked at her, not quite sure she was serious.
"She's right, Mulder. I haven't been here that long and I know it. No one gets to you except through him. So, who else?"
Mulder decided to let it drop for now, and began mentally reviewing possible candidates.
"What about Todd?" Scully asked.
"Who?" Skinner turned to her.
"Todd Cooke. He's young, only 24, 25. He's in good shape physically and he's very restless. A little place like this isn't enough for him now. He doesn't realize how good he's got it. Maybe seeing the world, seeing how it is in other communities, would show him that."
"Well, we can talk to him. He might be up for it." Mulder concurred.
"Have you thought about how long this might take?" She allowed the worry to creep into her voice.
"Don't worry, Dana. I know we're on a deadline." He put his hand on her arm, and she gave him a sad smile. "I'm gonna head home to make some lists. I don't think we can leave until day after tomorrow. Can we talk to Todd first thing?"
"Yeah, I'll grab him on the way in tomorrow."
"Okay, I'm out of here. Try to sleep Dana. We'll make this work." He squeezed her shoulder and rose.
Mulder let him out and turned back to her. "See?"
"I'm surrounded by the best people in the world." She held her hand out to him and he pulled her to her feet. Now it was a joke, soon it wouldn't be. Skinner needed to get moving.
She was lying down when he joined her later that evening. He stopped just inside the door to watch her. Her hand was caressing her belly and her attention was very far away.
"Hey Beautiful," he whispered, "Where'd you go?"
She smiled up at him, "He moved."
"The baby? Are you kidding?" He moved toward her now, wanting, needing to touch her.
"It's not scientific, but according to my grandmother, I'm half way there. It's silly I know, I am a doctor, but it's the first thing I thought."
"Some of those old wives knew what they were talking about." His hand had joined hers now.
"I want my mother."
"Don't worry, Scully. Skinner won't let us down. He'll get your mother here safely and on time." He sounded so confident, so sure, that she relaxed against him and before he realized it was asleep in his arms.
Todd listened carefully to the outline of their plan the next morning, nodding occasionally. Finally, when they were finished, "I'm in. Nothing against this place, but I've never lived in a small town. I need the excitement, the change. We need to hurry, right?"
"Very right. Scully wants her mother here when the baby comes. And Krycek doesn't know about the baby. We want to keep it that way."
"No problem, he doesn't talk to me anyway. Tomorrow morning?"
"At first light. Here's a list of what I thought we'd need. Look it over, see what you have and we'll find the rest. It'll be a lot of camping and biking. You sure you're up for it?"
"I better be. I want to do this, Mulder."
Mulder glanced over at Skinner, who nodded. "Then go get ready. We haven't mentioned to Krycek that he's also invited to this party, so keep it quiet. He's been volunteered and he may not be too happy.
The next morning showed exactly how unhappy the man was. Mulder and Scully were there to see them off; Scully carefully covered in the ever-present lab coat. She approached Todd and kissed his cheek. "I really am grateful for what you're doing for us." He nodded, blushing that she was so appreciative.
"Remember, Krycek doesn't know about. . . "
"I won't forget. We'll be back in plenty of time, I won't let these old guys slow me down." She grinned up at him and he felt himself falling in love with her. He'd make damn sure they were back in time.
Avoiding Alex and keeping Mulder between them, she went to Skinner. "You be very careful. I want you back here and soon, no matter what you find."
"Think I could stay away from you?" He grinned, then with a devilish look in his eye, pulled her against him. He felt the swell of her body against his and looked up at Mulder. Without missing a beat he pulled her closer and kissed her, like he hadn't kissed a woman in years. When the kiss ended he had to keep his arms around her to steady her. He looked over at Mulder who was watching, mouth open, not sure what to do and said simply, "Thanks."
Scully couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. Mulder's eyes narrowed but a small smile did begin to play around his lips. He reached over and pulled his wife into his own arms.
"I'm going to miss you a lot less than I thought I would." Was his only remark to Skinner, whose grin grew even broader.
He saw that Scully was moving to the back of the group here to see them off and away from Krycek, then he approached Skinner, who had already mounted his bike. He leaned in to whisper, "Not to put any more pressure on you, but she felt the baby move the other night. According to old wives' tales, she's half way since it's her first child."
Skinner nodded but made no comment. He already knew his deadlines and what would have to be done to meet them.
"And for the record, you pull a stunt like that again and my child's 'Uncle Walt' will be bouncing him on his knee from a wheelchair." Mulder gave him a full toothed grin, very feral, and patted him on the back. Skinner grinned, nodded again and pushed off. Daylight was wasting, and they had a lot of miles to cover.
Krycek was even less happy as the day wore on. Skinner kept them at a brisk pace, pausing briefly for breaks and lunch. With both Skinner and Todd armed and on their toes, he knew that, for today anyway, he was stuck.
When they finally stopped for the evening, Skinner estimated that they had traveled over 70 miles. He knew he couldn't expect that every day, but even at that pace it would take ten days to get there. Twice that to return baring all accidents.
They made camp and relaxed over a hot meal. "Be sure and stretch before you turn in Todd. Believe me, you'll appreciate it in the morning. And take these." He handed Todd two white pills.
"What?" Todd looked up at him; he still didn't know this man that well.
"Aspirin. I brought plenty, I hope."
Todd grinned and tossed them back. Krycek took his with no comment. He'd need a little rest before he left them too. Krycek was less than prepared when Skinner slapped the handcuff over his ankle.
"What the hell!" He started to rise and realized that Todd was holding a gun on him.
"We don't want to be deprived of your company in the morning, Krycek. Relax." Skinner secured the other end of the cuffs to an extra tent spike, which had been secured earlier. "Remember, you get the same food and equipment we have, except for the weapons. You'll pull your share of KP too. We can get along fine and make this trip enjoyable. After we have the Scully's and are close to home, we'll part ways. Understand?"
"You really think I'm going all the way to Ohio with you, just to bring Dana's family back?"
"Yep." Skinner made himself comfortable on his sleeping bag.
"You want her don't you? You're just waiting for something to happen to Mulder, aren't you?"
"Dana's special to me, but she's Mulder's wife and has been for years, with or without the ceremony. You know that as well as I do. My understanding is you didn't make a move yourself because you knew you wouldn't make it out the door if you tried."
"That's because she's never had the chance to compare."
Skinner laughed out loud at that, causing a dark stain to permeate Krycek's face. "You go on telling yourself that, Alex."
Todd had been watching this interplay with no comment. He hadn't realized how far back the relationship between these two went and he was anxious to learn more, but right now he was tired. He already knew those aspirin were going to be a god- send tomorrow. "You guys argue about this in the morning. I need some sleep."
"Good idea. You need anything Krycek?" Skinner looked over at him.
Krycek turned his back to them and settled into his own sleeping bag, his shackled leg out.
The next morning came quickly and they all groaned upon rising from their bags. Aspirin was distributed with morning coffee and as soon as camp was broken, they headed west. The roads they had encountered so far were in good shape and not well traveled. Consumer goods were no longer hauled by truck, though Skinner hadn't been able to ascertain how goods were delivered now. When traveling with the Gunmen, he'd heard plenty of theories and though he was loath to admit it, had enjoyed some of them immensely.
Personal cars weren't a problem either, with the gas rationing, so the occasional biker they passed near towns were it for other commuters. Information was exchanged at these times and travel conditions explored, though Skinner was careful about revealing from where they had come.
Ten days had been too optimistic an estimate. The mountains slowed them down more than Skinner had guessed. No one was maintaining these roads and going off road, carrying the bikes, was wearing. Todd knew when he returned home that he'd never be so anxious to leave again.
Krycek continued to simmer and obstructed them when possible out of spite, making sure his one good arm did a lot less than his part of the work. On more than one occasion Todd brought up the idea of cutting him loose. Skinner was beginning to agree with him, but wanted to wait until they were across the mountains. Might as well make it as hard on him as possible and Todd did agree with that.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.