She tried twice to cut off the alarm before she realized it was the phone. She managed to scoop up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Can I come over?" He sounded terrible. It wiped sleep from her mind completely.
"Of course. Mulder, whatís wrong? Where are you?"
"Iím almost there." The connection went dead.
She rose immediately from the bed. What time was it? She reached for her watch Ė only 11:30. No wonder sheíd had such a hard time waking. Sheíd only been asleep about twenty minutes. That meant Mulder probably hadnít been home an hour. Heíd dropped her off from the airport, the plane had been delayed and he hadnít wanted her to take a cab. She usually refused such gallantry but sheíd been exhausted from the trip and, though she was loath to admit it, occasionally enjoyed the coddling.
So what had happened? Heíd gotten home and what? His voice had been flat, dead sounding. She slipped on her robe, should she make coffee?
Before she could make the decision she heard his knock on the door. He hadnít been exaggerating when he said he was almost there.
She hurried to the door and after a quick peek through the peephole flung the door open. He looked as bad as he had sounded, and heíd obviously been crying.
"Mulder." Her hand automatically went out to him. Without a word he pulled her toward him and wrapped his arms around her. He was trying not to cry again, holding on to her for all he was worth.
She let him cling to her until he eased up himself. He still hadnít spoken at all. He didnít release her, but did pull back. "Mulder, sit down. Come on over here." He sank onto her sofa. She wasnít sure heíd ever rise again. "Can you talk to me Mulder? Whatís wrong?"
He took a deep breath, tightening his grip on her hand. "There was a message on my machine, a doctor, on the Vineyard. My mother had another stroke."
"Oh Mulder," she breathed, "Iíll get dressed, we can be there in a couple of hours."
"Thereís no hurry. Not this time."
She absorbed this in silence. She was gone, his mother had died. She recognized his devastation; sheíd felt it herself when her father died. Without any hesitation her arms went around him, her head against his chest. His tears were back and he didnít struggle against them this time. When she sat up he finally spoke.
"Theyíre all gone Scully. My whole familyís gone. I didnít think at my age Iíd feel like an orphan. Iím alone."
"Mulder, you are not alone. Iím glad you came here."
"I didnít. . . there was no where else I wanted to be." She smiled sadly. "I need to head on up to the Vineyard."
"Not tonight Mulder. Thereís nothing you can do tonight. We can go up first thing tomorrow."
"Of course Iím going with you Mulder."
"Thanks." It was barely a whisper.
She wasnít sure he got any sleep, but she got him to stretch out on the sofa and close his eyes for awhile. At least he seemed to be resting. She tiptoed out and started the coffee before jumping in the shower.
He was having a cup when she emerged. "I left you plenty of hot water, go on." He nodded and rose from the table. He was moving slowly, she knew his mind was elsewhere, but he still squeezed her hand as he passed her. Just making contact, assuring himself she was really there.
She drove to the funeral home, the same one that had handled the arrangements for his father just a few years ago. She wanted to spare him the formal identification but of course he wouldnít allow that, though he did seem to appreciate her presence.
Back at the house he allowed her to choose a dress for his mother to wear and the other things that the funeral director requested. While she gathered everything he wandered aimlessly around the house, occasionally stopping to handle a picture or a figurine.
"Iíll take this over, Mulder. Why donít you wait here?"
She was startled by the look of fright that flitted across his face, but it was gone so quickly she wasnít sure. "Do you want to go with me?"
"No, uh no. Iíll. . . I can start cleaning up here."
"Mulder, let me help you with that. Why donít you try to rest? I know you didnít sleep much last night." He gave her a sad smile and nodded.
She brushed her hand to his cheek and left, knowing she needed to get back to him as soon as possible.
Since there was no family to wait for it was agreed to hold a private graveside service the next day. He had insisted on private, fearing that Cancer Man would appear. The obituary hadnít even been printed and wouldnít be until after the service. Scully called a few of his motherís friends for him, but that was the extent of the guest list. He couldnít handle much more anyway.
He stood like a statue at the gravesite; his only movement the occasional pressure he applied to her hand as he gripped it. She wasnít sure he heard anything that the rabbi said but he managed to respond to the few mourners that came and spoke to him when the service was completed.
"Come on, Mulder. Letís go home." He nodded, still not releasing her hand and started toward the car. She felt him tense beside her and looked up at him.
Then he had let go of her and was running across the cemetery. "Mulder!" She wasnít dressed for running, what the hell had happened? Was he chasing someone? Had Cancer Man shown up after all? From this distance she couldnít be sure, but it looked like someone had gone into the fringe of trees near the fence.
When she finally caught up with him he had the person cornered against the fence, but was keeping back. His hand was out entreating the person to remain calm. Scully finally took her eyes off of him and looked at the person he had been pursuing.
A child, a little girl. What the hell?
"Mulder?" She put her hand on his arm and he jerked away then realized it was she.
"Scully, look at her!"
"What?" She glanced back at the frightened girl again. Okay, long dark hair, hazel eyes, no more than 8 or 9. . . Oh good grief, was he delusional?
"Mulder, you cannot think. . . "
"Look at her!" He had her arm now, his grip was actually painful. He took a step toward the child and she cringed back away from him.
"Mulder, youíre scaring her. Let me talk to her. Stay back." Scully pulled her arm free and took a couple of steps closer to the girl. "Hello. Iím Dana, he didnít mean to scare you. Whereís your family."
"I donít know." Scully had to strain to hear her. She took another step closer.
"Are you here alone?" She nodded. "Whatís your name?"
She looked up frightened. "Iím not supposed to speak to strangers."
"Thatís a good policy." Scully pulled her badge from her purse; habit had made her stuff it in this morning. Now she was especially glad she had. "I work for the FBI, so Iím kind of a policeman. Why donít we go sit on that bench over there in the shade and maybe I can help you."
The nod was barely perceptible and she waited for Scully to step back before heading in that direction. Mulder followed at a distance, heíd obviously frightened the child.
Scully and the girl sat on the bench, her eyes darting over to Mulder and away. Scully lay a soothing hand on her arm. "Weíd like to help you. We can find your family or take you home if youíd like. Please, whatís your name."
She took another quick glance at the man that had chased her then back at the woman who was trying to help. "Samantha Mulder."
Scully could feel the explosion of air that left Mulderís lungs and saw him take a step toward them out of the corner of her eye. She held up her hand to stop him, miraculously he obeyed.
"Did you say Samantha Mulder?"
The girl nodded. "My parents are William and Tina Mulder and I live in Chilmark. Can you take me home?"
Now she turned to Mulder for help and instructions. He kept his distance and somehow made his voice steady. "Samantha, how did you get here?"
"I donít know." She wouldnít look at him. "I woke up over there." She pointed to the wooded area they had run through when he had taken off after her.
"You woke up here?" Scully finally spoke again. The girl nodded and her fear seemed to grow.
"I donít know why Iím here in a graveyard. I want my mother, please."
Scully looked over at Mulder again. His eyes were now filled with tears and she could see his hands clenching and unclenching wanting to hold this child in his arms. "Listen, why donít we. . . uh. . . "
"Samantha, may I speak with Scully for just a minute?" At her nod, Scully rose and joined Mulder.
"Mulder, we have to call the authorities. This little girl Ė "
"This little girl is my sister, Scully, and weíre not calling anyone. Letís take her back to the house and talk in private." His voice was low, but sheíd never heard him assert himself more forcefully. If he had told her of this encounter, she would have checked him for head injuries again, but she was here.
Rather than argue with him here in front of the child she nodded. "Samantha, weíre going to take you to a house near here and use the phone. Donít worry, weíre not going to let anything happen to you."
Everyone was quiet on the trip back to Mrs. Mulderís house. Scully drove with Samantha beside her in the front seat, Mulder taking the back. Samantha made no comment about the house; she had never lived here. Mrs. Mulder had bought it after the divorce, however Scully realized that the photographs scattered around the house could not be gathered up and hidden, so she led the girl directly to the kitchen and sat her at the counter.
"I bet youíre hungry." At Samanthaís nod, Scully began putting together a sandwich for her. She realized the kitchen fascinated the child, staring at first one appliance then another. "Samantha? Is anything wrong?"
"Does someone really rich live here?"
"No Honey. Why do you ask?"
"Itís a space age kitchen. Iíve never seen ice come out of the refrigerator door before."
Scully glanced over at Mulder, seated at the table. He had his eyes closed, shaking his head. "I guess it is kind of new. Here, go ahead and eat."
Scully joined Mulder at the table, taking his hand. "Samantha, can we talk while you eat?" At her nod, "How old are you?"
"I was eight on November 21st." Mulder confirmed that with a slight nod.
"Do you know your phone number?" She rattled it off and again Mulder nodded. "Honey, do you have any idea how you came to be at the cemetery this morning?"
Samanthaís eyes filled with tears. "No. I was home last night."
"Were you alone?"
"No, my brother, Fox, was keeping me. Mom and Dad were next door. Oh!" She clapped her hand over her mouth. Scully rose and hurried to her. "Fox? Where is he? He would never leave me alone! Somethingís happened to him!" Her voice rose in fear and Scully took her into her arms. Mulder was on his feet but obviously didnít know what to do. He watched as Scully comforted the little girl.
"Weíll find your brother. Please donít worry." Scully smoothed her hair and held her. "Let me make some phone calls and Iíll be right back."
Samantha sniffled but nodded and reluctantly let go of the grip she had on Scully. Mulder took hold of Scullyís hand as she passed by him. "Donít call anyone, Scully." He whispered to her. "Promise me you wonít call anyone, not yet."
"I have to." She responded also in a whisper. "Sheís missing, her family is probably frantic. We have to inform the authorities."
"Scully I am her family, the only family she has left."
"We canít talk about this here." Scully glanced over at the child.
"Check her out Scully. Before we involve anyone else, please you check her out. Prove to me sheís not my sister, or that sheís not human or whatever. You, Scully. Donít bring anyone else in, promise me!"
She closed her eyes and let her shoulders droop. How could he possibly believe this little girl was the same child taken from him 25 years ago? Because he was Fox Mulder. How could he think anything else?
When she opened her eyes he was right there, his own eyes probing hers. She nodded. "I promise." He released her and she left the room. Samantha eyed him suspiciously, but when he didnít approach her allowed herself to relax a little and finish her sandwich.
Scully returned shortly, her gaze more intent as she looked at the child. "Samantha, there was no answer at that number, so we want you to stay with us for a while longer. Do you mind?" She did look like the photographs, but it wasnít possible.
"I guess not." Again she glanced over at Mulder.
"Please donít worry about, uh, him. He wouldnít hurt you, he only ran because he thought you were in trouble. Thatís his job, he helps people in trouble. You want another sandwich?"
"No. Could we maybe drive over to my house and see if theyíre outside and didnít hear the phone?" A pleading note had crept into her voice now.
Scullyís heart broke, she was just a little girl, she was scared and lost and. . . God, she couldnít be Samantha. Get a grip Dana; you have to be the one that holds this together. Heís wrong, he has to be.
"Maybe in a little while, there are a few things we need to check into right now. Why donít you watch some TV?" Samantha nodded, these were grownups, they knew best.
Scully led her to the den and picked up the remote. If this child had been missing for twenty-five years she wasnít going to know what to do with the thing. Scully turned on the TV and found the Nickelodeon station that her nephews watched. That should be safe enough.
After Scully was sure she was settled, she headed back to the kitchen. Mulder hadnít moved. She slipped into the chair facing him and took his hand.
"Mulder, youíve been through a lot. I need you to try to stay calm and think rationally." He didnít look up. "Samantha is only a year younger than me, Mulder. Sheís not a little girl anymore."
"She had the names right, the address, our old phone number."
"Someone could have taught her those things. She could be a very fine little actress."
"Do you think sheís acting Scully?" Rather than answer she took a deep breath. "Neither do I. Her blood is red Scully."
"How do you know that?" She looked startled.
"She scraped her leg running from me. Just a scratch, but you should probably clean it. No green, no toxic fumes. Plain old red blood, Scully. Can you do the DNA testing?"
"Not here, back in DC. . . "
"So we take her there."
"Mulder, we canít take her anywhere without reporting that we have her. Someone will be looking for her." She held up her hand at his look. "Sheís an eight year old girl Mulder. Someone is responsible for her, someone left her in that cemetery."
"Scully, do the tests."
They both knew she wasnít going to refuse him this. Never this. She sighed, "What are we supposed to tell her? We canít take her to your old house. Someone else lives there. We canít tell her who you are. Sheís going to end up thinking we kidnapped her."
He gave her a weak smile. "How soon can we know?"
"If we leave early tomorrow I can get the samples to the lab and probably know something by evening if I stay on it."
"What about at the guys? Then youíd have help." After a slight hesitation she nodded. Byers could be a help and they had access to some extraordinary programs. She just wouldnít think about how they had been obtained.
Samantha was fascinated by the TV and later by the microwave and VCR. Mulder managed to have her distracted when dates were mentioned. She did eventually quit cringing from him, and he was very careful in his dealings with her. For dinner he ordered her favorite pizza without asking, which earned him his first smile from her.
Since she had no other clothes, Mulder offered one of his t-shirts for her to sleep in. After a shower she came out wearing it and giggling Ė it came to her knees. Mulder wanted to hug her, just hold her as heíd always disdained as an older brother when she was available. He knew Scully was completely skeptical, but he knew, it was her.
Scully put her to bed, then sat watching TV with Mulder. They didnít talk, both knew what the other believed and there had already been too much emotion for one day. They just sat comfortably beside each other.
He was the first to react when Samantha came back in the room crying. "Samantha, what?" He picked her up in his arms and carried her to the sofa.
"I want my mom or Fox. Why canít you find them?"
"Honey, weíre not sure whatís going on but tomorrow weíll go to Washington and maybe we can find some answers." Scully smoothed down her hair.
"Washington, DC? My dad works there, did you find him?"
"Not yet. But we should know something very soon. Please try not to worry. Would you like me to sleep with you?" Scully asked.
Samantha glanced over at Mulder and quickly away. "Would he mind?"
"Who?" Scully looked over at Mulder, understanding the question suddenly. "No, Honey, thatís no problem."
"Arenít you married?" Scully looked up at Mulder, who had closed his eyes.
"Sweetheart, we work together, weíre not married."
"Oh." She said in a small voice. "This isnít your house?"
"No, weíre just staying here while weíre in town. Come on; letís go back to bed. Iím sure youíre tired." Scully stood and took the girlís hand. "Night Mu. . . Good night."
"Night Scully, Samantha. If you need anything. . ." He let his voice trail off. She nodded and headed upstairs.
Everyone was quiet on the way to Washington. Scully tried to start a conversation a couple of times, but there was so much that couldnít be said, not yet. She finally gave up and flipped on the radio. Fortunately she randomly chose an oldies station, so Samantha knew several of the songs and seemed to enjoy it.
They drove directly to the Gunmenís apartment. Scully had Mulder go in first to explain the situation. She wanted, hell she needed to be there for that, but she couldnít leave Samantha alone and the girl still wasnít that comfortable with Mulder.
Mulder returned for them and introduced Samantha to the three men that would be helping them. For the first time Mulder looked safer than the alternatives and she clung to his hand. In spite of her fear, he relished the feeling of her depending on him, looking to him for protection once again. This time he would provide it or die trying.
Scully watched the silent exchange between the two. Already he was hooked; he had his Samantha back, just the way she had been when he lost her. How was she supposed to destroy that? And she would be destroying it, Samantha was not an eight year old little girl, damn it!
Scully and Mulder took Samantha aside and explained to the best of their abilities what they wanted to do. The child was more frightened of the drawing of her blood than anything else, at least that she understood, but she accepted it with more courage that Scully felt she would have at the same age. Taking her fingerprints fascinated her and as she warmed to the trio, did begin responding to their questions and remarks.
When her part was over, Mulder took her to the Ďliving quartersí if they could be called that, of the apartment. Langly followed and offered up video games to keep her amused. Having never played one, they chose one of the older, less high tech games and she began to get the feel of it. At one point Frohike came in the room and Mulder was delighted that she moved closer to him on the couch.
Lunch had been eaten in front of the TV and dinner ordered before Scully wandered back into the room and sank onto the couch beside them.
"Tired. Samantha, why donít you go get washed up, whatever these guys ordered for dinner should be here soon." Samantha nodded and headed for the bathroom.
Scully leaned her head back against the back of the couch, closing her eyes. He didnít dare press, though he wanted to shake her. She was this tired because of him, doing all of this for him.
She took a deep breath and sat up, "Well, Byers and I are convinced she is totally human. You already know the prints match perfectly. According to the DNA," she looked up into his anxious eyes, "yes. I canít explain it, I know it canít be, but. . . "
"She is Samantha." He whispered, glancing over at the door keeping her from view.
"Mulder. . . "
"Scully, look at this." Byers had entered the room without their realizing it. He handed Scully a printout. Mulder leaned over her to read it as she did. It meant nothing to him.
Scully looked up at Byers frowning. "Why?" Byers shrugged.
"What?" Mulderís whole body was on alert, was Samantha going to vanish again? Go up in smoke? Dematerialize in front of him?
"Her cells Mulder." She looked into his eyes. Well that meant nothing to him, how did she explain this data to him, she didnít understand it herself.
"Yeah?" He glanced again over at the door. Samantha would be returning at any minute.
"Her cells are older than eight years old. Do you remember the news story that came out a few weeks ago about the Dolly clone, the sheep? The clones were older than their biological age. Well, Samanthaís are too."
"Sheís a clone?"
"No, I didnít say that. Itís different, though Iíd need to show this to an expert in the field. Mulder, her cells are about half the age they should be if this really is Samantha, and her appearance is even less than that. I canít explain it." She rubbed her forehead where a headache had settled.
"They kept her in some kind of stasis, she didnít age physically, not that you could see, but they couldnít completely stop the cell growth."
"Mulder. . . "
"Can you prove to me, scientifically, that that little girl is not my sister." His look was probing her now, demanding answers.
She glanced over at Byers and back. "No. I canít."
"We need to tell her."
"Tell her what Mulder? That sheís really 33 years old, that youíre the Fox she kept calling for in her sleep last night?" He looked up startled, she hadnít told him that and from the look on her face she wanted desperately to bite it back now. "Mulder, please."
"I canít Scully. Iíll think of some way to explain it, at her level. But you said it yourself, soon sheís going to think we kidnapped her. Iím all she has now Scully and I need her as much as she needs me." He watched Scullyís shoulders slump and reached for her. She pulled slightly away and he let his hand drop.
"Do you guys have any aspirin?" She turned to Byers again and he nodded. She rose from the couch and followed him out of the room. Langly and Frohike quickly followed, leaving Mulder alone to wait for Samantha.
When they returned with the food, Samantha was back at the game and Mulder was watching her. He turned to look at Scully and shook his head slightly. He hadnít talked to her. He couldnít figure out how.
Dinner was easier, Samantha had relaxed enough to laugh at Frohikeís dumb jokes and she didnít seem to pick up on the underlying tension.
It was getting late by the time they finished dinner, so the guys refused any help in the clean up and sent them on. The problem was they werenít sure where to go.
Mulder looked over at Scully, with Samantha walking closely beside her. "I guess weíll drop you off, Scully and. . . "
Scully looked up at him startled. He couldnít think she was going to let him take this little girl to his apartment. Sheíd be scared out of her mind.
"Drop both of us off, Mu Ė partner."
"You donít have to. . . " But he saw her point immediately, in fact if he admitted it to himself heíd known it all along. Samantha saw him as a better alternative than Langly, but alone with him, in his apartment? Talk about thinking sheíd been kidnapped.Arrangements 2
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