They were brought to an older woman, and left with her. Todd was sure there were plenty of people within easy calling distance, but it was a nice gesture.
"They say you're here about vaccinating the children." The woman spoke, watching the two of them closely.
"Yes ma'am." Todd stood back from her; not wanting to frightened her.
"Have a seat, son. You too Missy." She poured them both something from a pitcher beside her and handed them the glasses. Todd took a sip and smiled.
"Cottage industry around here. You come far?"
"Yes ma'am. We're trying to vaccinate as many people as we can." A bland reply, their cover was a polio vaccine. They never hurried out of town, watching to ensure that no one had an adverse reaction to the vaccine. So far there had been no problem. He hoped the other teams were doing as well.
The woman leaned forward and seemed to look into his mind, then she turned toward Anne and did the same. Anne was a little unnerved by the scrutiny and moved closer to Todd.
"Don't you worry Honey. I'm not going to hurt you." She relaxed back into the rocking chair. "You've come from Mulder, haven't you?"
Todd did his best to remain impassive but he was rocked by the question. No one at any of their stops had asked anything of this kind. And no one should know who Mulder was.
"You don't have to answer, son. You've got a vaccine against the aliens, don't you." She smiled widely at that. Several of her teeth were missing, but she wasn't frightening looking with that smile on her face. "I've been waiting for you. I knew Mulder wouldn't let us down."
"Ma'am, I - "
"Mama Ruth, just call me Mama Ruth."
Anne finally found her voice. "Why do you think . . . "
"I knew about Agent Mulder a long time ago. I was kind of involved in one of his cases. I was a psychic the police called in occasionally. Mulder had a better reputation than I did, and he was easier to explain. I got to see him once. He was giving a talk about his work and I was able to attend. His aura was so incredible." She smiled to herself then.
Anne and Todd looked at each other. They didn't have a clue what to say. This was outside anything they had rehearsed or even thought about.
"Is that pretty redhead he loves so much there with him?"
Again they just stared at her for a long moment before Anne finally nodded.
"Good, he deserves happiness. I was headed to him when I found this little community. For some reason it felt right to stay here, but Mulder has always pulled on me a little bit. 'Course now I'm too old for the trip and these people need me."
She clapped her hands and actually laughed out loud. Her delight at their presence obvious. "Tell me about this vaccine Mulder's developed. Is it something we can create here too? Is that part of why you're here?"
Well it was, but no one else had asked and they had been instructed not to volunteer too much information. And never to bring up Mulder or Scully's names.
"You don't have to worry. I would never do anything to bring harm to Mulder or his lady. I believe they're the ones that are going to save us. I'm just glad I lived long enough to see it." She held out her hand and Anne took it. "Why don't you tell me what you can."
Todd still hesitated. "It's why we're here, Todd." Anne turned to look at him and finally he nodded.
After half an hour or so, they moved to Mama Ruth's kitchen, where what scientific equipment existed in this small hamlet was stored. A man and an older woman joined them then, and the actual make up of the vaccine was explained.
"We can recreate this?" The man, Jake something, looked over his notes.
"Yes," Todd responded, "but it's best, strongest, from a newborn. The cord blood usually has the strongest concentration."
"Melly's due in a couple of months. You're sure giving her this shot won't hurt her or the baby?"
"We've had no problems so far. There's no guarantee, and this sure isn't FDA approved, but the women where we live, family, have had no problems."
Mama Ruth leaned back, slapping her hands on the table. "She'll be fine. Go get her and I'll give her the shot myself." Todd and Anne exchanged looks and Anne gave him a slight smile.
By the end of the day, all of the children and women of child-bearing age had been vaccinated. The rest would have to wait until they could produce their own supply.
They were tired, but pleased. They'd made the most progress here of any of their stops. Anne stretched and turned toward Mama Ruth who was coming out of her kitchen. They'd done all of the injections in her living room, showing the populace that it was sanctioned by their own holy woman. There had been no hesitation on the part of the parents, this woman had earned their trust.
"Supper's almost ready. You two should get washed up." Anne nodded and moved toward the bathroom. Mama Ruth watched Todd's face as his eyes followed her from the room.
Later as Anne and older woman cleaned up, Mama Ruth glanced up at her. "Why do keep that nice young man waiting?"
"What?" Anne looked over at her startled.
"He's in love with you and you keep pushing him away. Why is that?"
"I . . . I don't push him away." Mama Ruth just watched her as the color rose in her face. "I don't!"
"Honey, he don't find you the least bit inadequate. You just wipe that out of your mind." Anne stood there unable to speak. "Why don't you and I have a little talk."
"There's nothing to talk about."
"Should I talk to Todd instead?"
"No!" She looked truly frightened at that.
"That man's in love with you Honey. Why don't you want to believe that?" Anne shook her head. "He wouldn't hurt you. He's not just after the sex."
"What . . . what do you know about it?"
"Honey, Mama Ruth knows lots of things. When you first met, he was just being polite, friendly. He never tried nothing, did he?" She waited for Anne's confirmation. "But now he knows you, he's in love with you."
"No, he's not."
"You think he can't, you think because of what happened to you before - "
"What do you know about that?" Anne drew back, stunned. "He doesn't know anything about that."
"He doesn't know for sure, but he's not dumb. He saw how you were when he met you and he's seen how you've grown. He picked you to come with him, right? He could have picked anybody but he came to you and asked you to come with him. Why would he do that if he thought you were inadequate?"
"I don't want to talk about this."
"Todd wants to marry you." Anne jerked back then shaking her head.
"No. No he doesn't. We're friends, that's all."
"That's 'all' because that's the way you want it. He respects your feelings. But he wants more."
"I can't give him more." Anne barely whispered that, not looking at the older woman.
"They hurt you real bad, didn't they?"
Anne glanced up and quickly away. "Who?"
"The men you were with before."
"Who are you? How do you know this stuff? Nobody - "
"I told you, I know lots of things Honey. He'd be real gentle. He'd never want to frighten you or hurt you. He just wants a chance to prove that." Anne shuddered, but didn't respond.
"Honey, a woman your age should enjoy sex. I sure did, 'course I didn't have things happen to me that happened to you. But you're missing out on a lot of life. You and Todd could have beautiful babies together. You should give the boy a chance."
"Have you ever talked to him, talked to him about what happened to you?" Anne looked at her then, her eyes wide with horror. "Oh Baby. Come here, come to Mama Ruth."
She took the young woman into her arms. She was stiff at first but as Mama Ruth held her, she began to relax and tears began to flow.
That's when Todd came looking for her. He stopped at the door for an instant then was beside the women, obviously wanting to touch her, but keeping his distance. "What did you do to her?"
"You see there, Honey? He don't want to see you hurt. He wants to look after you."
"What are you talking about? I'd never hurt her."
"Mama Ruth knows that. She does too, but she's afraid."
"Stop it! Don't talk about me as if I wasn't here!" He stepped back, that was probably the most assertive thing he'd ever heard from her.
"You two young people need to communicate with each other. You need to tell her you want to marry her," She gently turned Anne toward her, "and you need to tell him why you're afraid of that. If it'll help I can get some more of that cider - the stronger version."
It was two hours before she tapped on the door again and let herself in. There were tracks of tears on her face and his eyes were suspiciously wet, but she made no comment about that. "You two finally talk?"
Todd looked over at her embarrassed.
"Now I know you two want to get married, for real, back at home, with Mulder officiating. I don't blame you. But it's a long trip home. There's just no sense in addin' anticipation to fear."
"Wait a minute. I'm not going to rush her. That's the last thing she needs."
"Anne Honey, do you want to wait weeks until you can get back, now that the idea's there in your head?" Anne blushed deeply and Todd blinked at her.
"Okay," Mama Ruth took back over, "tomorrow we'll have us a little ceremony right here in my parlor. You can have yourselves a nice big wedding when you get home. But you can have the honeymoon gettin' back, when you have all that time alone on the road."
"You, uh, you like to take command." Todd offered.
"When I'm right." Mama Ruth grinned at him.
"You ever wrong?" Todd smiled back at her.
"Not yet." Then she laughed and took Anne's arm. "Come on, you need to get some sleep. You have a big day tomorrow."
The two young people looked at each other bemusedly. Then Todd stood and took her hand. He leaned over and kissed her and she responded. Mama Ruth just smiled.
Anne and Mama Ruth spent the next day getting ready, while Todd worked with Jake on the vaccine. They'd found her a very nice dress to borrow and the alterations took almost no time.
Mama Ruth led them through their vows just before supper and the whole village attended the pot luck afterwards. A lot of cider was passed around. It was full dark before people began dispersing back to their own homes. A nice room had been decorated for the two of them in a house near Mama Ruth.
When it was time for them to be alone, the older woman took Anne aside for a minute. "You doing okay?"
"But not scared."
"No." She looked at Mama Ruth for a moment.
"Good." She took Anne's hand and looked deep into her eyes. Anne felt herself relaxing even more. After what felt like a very long moment Anne found herself opening her eyes. She didn't remember closing them, but she felt . . . peaceful.
It was nearly lunchtime before Mama Ruth tapped on their door. "Lunch is ready. You need to eat a little something, sustain yourselves you know."
Todd opened the door, laughing. "You are one crazy old lady."
"That's why everybody loves me, son. Come on, I'm not bringing the food to you." Still laughing, Todd and Anne followed her to her kitchen. They ate a good meal and for once the older woman was discrete, though she kept a good eye on them. She waved off their offer of help and sent them off when the meal was finished.
They joined her again for dinner. The meal started off lighthearted, but after a little while both Anne and Todd noticed that Mama Ruth had grown quieter, almost withdrawn.
After glancing over at Todd, Anne took her hand. "Mama Ruth? Are you okay?"
"They're going to be murdered. Two of them, a man and a woman."
"What?" Todd moved his chair closer. "Who? Who's going to be murdered?"
"I can't see their faces. Their faces are gone."
"Where? Where is this going to happen?"
"Your home, Mulder's home." Anne gasped as Mama Ruth passed a shaking hand over her eyes.
"It's not Mulder or Scully, is it?" Anne had taken hold of Todd's hand. "Mama Ruth?"
"Why can't I see the faces? It's like they've melted, like someone threw acid . . . The killer. The killer has a wooden arm."
"Krycek!" Todd was staring at Anne now. "We have to get home." She swallowed and nodded.
"A man with a wooden arm. A man that Scully trusted enough to let live with us. Anne?"
"It's too late to set out tonight. Look, it's almost dark already."
"We have to - "
"Todd, Mama Ruth's right. We couldn't get more than a few miles tonight."
"Let me have some people over to pack for you. Jake can have the men took over your bicycles and Jeannie and I can get you some traveling food together. You can leave at first light."
looked out the window and his shoulders slumped. "We'll
make better time then Todd. A full day to
"What if he's going to try to murder Mulder and Scully?" His throat was tight just saying the words.
"Todd, Mulder would never let Krycek near Scully. It has to be someone else. We have to believe that."
"Unless he kills Mulder first."
"Todd, stop. Don't do this. We'll go. We'll get back there in time. There's too many people watching Krycek. Come on, let's go get our things together."
Mama Ruth was there to see them off at dawn the next morning. "You didn't have to do this. You should still be in bed."
"No, I needed to see you again. Remind you to be careful."
Anne put her arms around the older woman and held her. "If we ever do have a little girl, I'm going to call her Ruth." She whispered .
"She'll like that." Mama Ruth was staring past her now and smiling. "My hair used to be dark and curly, just like hers."
"You . . . you can see her?"
"Has Mama Ruth ever been wrong, girl?"
"I can . . . I can have children? Even after - "
"You're going to be great at it. I see five."
"Five?" Anne's eyes were wide, but a smile was growing on her face.
"Don't you worry about the vaccine. We'll take it on from here. No one here knows Mulder's name, if we do pass on the ability to recreate it, it won't be traced back to you. You better go."
Todd approached them then and put his arm around Anne. "You ready?"
"Yeah." They both hugged Mama Ruth and then mounted their bikes. Anne turned once to wave, then they were moving.
"Anne? What did she say to you?"
Anne looked down, not quite facing him. "Nothing. Just telling me goodbye." He watched her, but decided not to push. He had other things on his mind now - like what shortcuts he could take to get them home the fastest way possible.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.