Scully leaned in from her position in his lap and kissed his cheek. “Mulder? We should probably get back out there.”
He nodded, but made no move to rise, or release his grip on her.
She ran a hand through his hair. “You do know this is a good thing, don’t you? You’ve gotten her back. And with all of our help, she’ll be okay.”
“Will she?” he asked softly, his head was buried in her neck. “Can she be? Years and years of torture and - “
“Mulder, don’t. We’ll love her back to health. She’s alive and right in the next room. It’s what you’ve wanted for decades. Please, don’t dwell on what you can’t change. We need to celebrate.”
He managed to look up then and saw the love in her eyes. She was right, this old guilt was fresh now, but his little sister was alive. Samantha was back with him. Her face softened as she watched these thoughts flit across his face. “Come on, we need to get out there.” She rose then and held out her hand.
Grasping it tightly, he stood and closed his eyes for a moment, then let her lead him back to the great room.
Samantha had fallen asleep in Bill’s arms, but still jerked occasionally even then.
“How is she doing?” Scully whispered.
“I don’t know. It’s like she can’t really get comfortable or relax. I tried putting her on the couch a few minutes ago and she fought it, so . . . “
“Just hold her, Bill. If that makes her feel secure, that’s what we need to do. Do you think you could carry her upstairs? I’ll find a bed.”
“She can have mine. Matt likes to sleep in the classroom with the others now and I don’t need all that room.”
“Thanks. I’ll find some place for you, honest.”
Bill smiled a little. “Don’t worry about it.” He stood carefully, holding the slight woman to him.
“Do you need any help?”
Bill shook his head. “She doesn’t weigh anything.”
Scully motioned for Walt to accompany them and they headed up the stairs. Mulder lagged behind, but when Walt held out his hand, he took it and joined the group. Bill missed the movement, concentrating on the stairs.
Once in his room, Scully pulled down the covers and Bill gently lay the sleeping woman in the bed. She tensed slightly, but didn’t wake.
“Bill, could you change and eat and get back, so that when she wakes up you’ll be here?”
“Uh, sure. Listen, do you think the kids can find out who she is, where she came from?”
“She’s my sister,” Mulder’s voice was hoarse and low from over near the door.
Bill’s head jerked in that direction. “Sa-Samantha?”
Mulder looked over at Scully. He hadn’t realized that Bill had ever bothered to listen long enough to learn her name. Scully only nodded.
“Yeah,” Mulder said quietly.
Bill looked back at the woman, asleep in his bed. “Jesu - Mulder, I’m . . . “
“I know. Go on and get cleaned up. She, she needs you.” Those words seemed to stick in Mulder’s throat but Bill didn’t comment.
Bill glanced at Scully, but she only nodded. He grabbed some clean clothes and headed for the shower. Once Mulder, Scully and Walt were alone with her, Mulder tentatively approached the bed. He took a seat on the bed beside her and gently caressed the hand that lay against the pillow. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Scully looked over at Walt, but he was watching his father. After a moment she moved over to Mulder. “I’m going to go downstairs and see what we have that would be easiest for her to eat. Will you be okay?”
Mulder nodded mutely. Walt met his mother’s eyes and nodded as well. Scully took a deep breath and quietly left the room, pulling the door not quite closed behind her.
Scully sat at her desk staring at nothing. Mulder was still upstairs, unable to leave Samantha’s side even as she slept. Anne had helped her with a light menu for Samantha, but now, sitting here she felt helpless in the face of Mulder’s emotions.
Scully looked up when she heard the tap on the door. Before she could speak, Langly stuck his head in. “You ready for us?”
“Oh, yes. Sorry, I wasn’t - “
“If this isn’t a good time, we can come back later,” Becky said.
“Of course it’s a good time. No way are you going to make the trip over here twice,” Scully smiled. “I was just thinking. How are you feeling? Any morning sickness?”
“Yes, until Will fixed it.”
“Will?” Scully asked startled.
“Yeah, he said it was good practice for when he and Jennifer have kids,” Langly offered.
“I’m glad he could help.” Scully reach for the blood pressure cuff.
Becky looked at it, then up at Scully. “Uh, I wasn’t here when Lexie was born, but didn’t her mother . . . “
“Kelly developed blood pressure problems late in her pregnancy. Please don’t worry about that. The children will keep an eye on you. Walt stopped a full blown heart attack for Walter. When Kelly became ill the children were very young. Walt was only a few weeks old.”
Becky relaxed and Langly nodded. “See?”
“I can’t help but worry,” Becky reached for his hand. Blushing he took it and Scully turned away to get her stethoscope and give them a moment. Langly obviously was still shy about open affection even under the circumstances.
After a moment Scully changed the subject. “How is it going with Alex at Brittany’s house with you?”
Langly shrugged. “Okay I guess. He’s pretty frustrated, but - “
“What is he frustrated about?” Scully stopped and looked up at the blonde man.
“He can’t wear the prosthesis at all anymore, so he’s only got the one arm. But the one he’s growing is lookin’ good. I think the elbow is starting to form. It’s too high, but since it’s growing in length as well as the joint, that will probably even out. Walt seems to know what he’s doing.”
Scully nodded. “Yes, he does. I should have a look at it anyway.
After a few more tests, Scully helped Becky sit up and smiled at her. “You’re looking great. Just let me know if anything changes or you have any questions. Looks like you’re going to have a healthy little girl in just a few months.”
Langly looked over at Scully and frowned. “What is it?”
“What?” Scully met his eyes, confused.
“Something’s wrong. What aren’t you saying?”
Inwardly Scully sighed. Everyone here was too damned perceptive. “Nothing is wrong with Becky or the baby, I swear. I’m preoccupied because we have a new resident.”
“New . . . Someone came in, in this weather?” Langly gaped at her.
“She, she was ‘dropped off’ apparently.”
Again Langly blinked. “By them? Who was it? How did they - “
That shut him up quickly and he sank into the chair beside Becky. “For real?”
“For real,” she responded with a hint of a smile.
“Is she okay?”
Her smile evaporated then. “No. She doesn’t know who she is, doesn’t remember anything, she can’t speak or walk.”
“Where is she?”
“In Bill’s room, asleep. Mulder and Walt are with her.”
She just shook her head.
“Yeah. Listen, has this been announced? I mean, no one was here, I mean the regulars but . . . “
“She’s terrified. If everyone showed up to welcome her, it would send her over the edge. She won’t let anyone touch her but Bill and - “
She sighed and nodded. “He was the first person she saw when she . . . arrived. He was chopping wood and turned around. She was just there and not dressed for it. He grabbed her up and raced inside with her. He saved her life, but she’s not able to communicate.”
Langly was quiet then, thinking, exploring memories, until Becky spoke. “Uh, who is Samantha?”
Langly looked up at her, then took a deep breath. “Come on. Let’s get home. I’ll explain everything there. Scully . . . “
“I know. Go on and wrap up tight. I think there’s some rabbit in the oven.”
“We’ll check. Send word if you need me.” Langly led Becky from the room and Scully sank back in her chair. Who is Samantha? The question had caught her off guard. She’d lived with the idea of Samantha for years, but it was a good question. Who was she now?
Upstairs Bill returned to the room after showering to see that Mulder and Walt hadn’t moved. As though sensing him, Samantha began to stir. Before Mulder had time to move, she opened her eyes and spotted him so close to her. She jerked back, her terror obvious. She didn’t scream, and Mulder wondered if she were still capable of it. It wasn’t important now. “Bill, please.”
Mulder moved slowly back from her, his hands in plain sight as Bill hurried to her side. At the sight of Bill, she lunged at him, burying herself in his chest. Mulder had to look away.
“Mulder - “
“It’s okay. I’ll see about some food.” He hurried out of the room.
Bill looked over at Walt. “He needs some time, Uncle Bill.”
Bill opened his mouth, then just closed it. What could he say?
Shortly Maggie opened the door and stepped inside with a tray. “Do you want me to feed her?” she asked quietly.
Bill nodded, getting comfortable on the bed with Samantha in his lap now. Maggie put the tray down on the bedside table and gave Samantha a small smile. “Are you hungry?”
Samantha didn’t seem to understand the question, or even glance over at the food. Maggie looked up at Bill, who shrugged. She pulled a chair up beside the bed and took the bowl of thin honey-sweetened oatmeal in her hand. She took a tiny amount in the spoon and moved it toward Samantha’s mouth.
Her eyes widened in fear and she pulled back. Maggie stopped, retreating herself. “I’m not sure how to do this.” She looked over at Walt.
“Let Bill try,” the boy offered.
Maggie met Bill’s eyes and turned the spoon so that he could grasp it. He too looked over at Walt, who nodded to him. “Samantha, try this, okay?”
She didn’t react to the name at all, but looked at the spoon now that it was in his hand. He gently brushed it against her lips once, then twice. She didn’t take it into her mouth, but she licked her lips and her eyes widened at the taste.
“Is it good?” he asked with a slight smile.
She looked up at him and he brought the spoon to her lips again. After a moment her lips parted slightly; not really enough to take the spoon into her mouth but enough to get another taste.
She didn’t exactly smile, but her eyes lightened. Only Maggie noticed that Walt’s hand was lightly touching her hip.
When Maggie opened the door, she found Mulder standing just outside. She squeezed his arm.
“Did she eat?”
“Not exactly, but she did taste it and she seemed to enjoy it. Why don’t you go on in?” The longing in his eyes brought tears to her eyes. She patted his arm and moved around him, giving him space.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside. Bill looked up, but Samantha glanced at Mulder and quickly away, cringing into Bill’s chest. Mulder closed his eyes against the pain and turned back toward the hall.
“Mulder - “
He shook his head, not looking back at Bill and left the room. He was surprised to find Lexie waiting for him. She lifted her arms to him and he picked her up. He held her tightly for a moment, then kissed her forehead and settled her on his hip. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Baby. I don’t deserve you; I don’t deserve any of you.”
“But you do, Daddy.”
“You do deserve us. We’re your reward.”
“Your reward. You’ve worked a long time trying to tell people what was going to happen. You saved a lot of people.”
“No, Baby. I didn’t do enough.”
“You did more than anyone else; a lot more.” He just looked at her. Her arms went around his neck and she kissed his cheek. “You did really good, Daddy.”
“Can you help her?”
“Yes, but we can’t treat her like we did Uncle Bill and Matt.”
“She’s too . . . “ She looked up at her Daddy, as though searching his mind for the word, “fragile. She’s not strong enough, so we have to find another way.”
“You guys are working on that?”
She nodded solemnly. “We all are, all 217 of us.”
He blinked then. “There are 217 of you?”
She grinned. “See, I told you, you did good.”
“I still don’t think I deserve you, but I’m very, very glad I have you.”
She rested her head on his shoulder and he carried her down the stairs. Scully was waiting at the foot of the steps. She’d spoken with her mother and knew that Mulder couldn’t stay away.
“Hi guys,” she brushed Lexie’s hair back. “Why don’t you get some dinner, Honey. We’ll be there in a minute.”
Lexie nodded and Mulder put her down on her feet after one more kiss to the top of her head. They watched her run off as Scully’s arm went around Mulder’s waist. “She’s right you know.”
“You heard that?”
Scully nodded. “If there are 217 children like our children, you did something incredibly right. You’re not twelve any more. You grew and you learned and you struggled and suffered, and you won. Let the children, and Samantha, be your reward.”
“I thought that was you.”
She rose on tiptoe and kissed him. “No, that’s you. You need to eat too, you skipped lunch.” She stepped around him and started up the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“To get Bill, he needs to eat too.”
“She can’t be alone.”
“I agree. She could come back down here and be around us. We can’t crowd her, but if we just act normally around her . . . “
“She’s afraid of me,” he said quietly.
“She’s afraid of everything right now. When she can think straight, she’ll realize how much you love her. We just can’t rush her.”
“You really think she can . . .”
“With 217 kids like ours working on her? There’s nothing she can’t do.”
“I think you’ve been hanging out with some of those kids.”
She smiled. “I have been. I needed some perspective. Oh and I checked out Becky. She’s doing very well.”
“Good. Did Langly come with her?”
“Yes, and I told him about Samantha.”
“Blow his mind?”
“You better believe it. Go fix your plate, I’ll be right back.” He watched her continue up the stairs. His smile slipped as she moved out of his reach, but he followed her instructions and made his way to the kitchen.
Anne turned as he came in the room and hurried to his side. “Mulder, I’m so happy for you.” She gave him a quick hug. “She’ll be okay. You know that, don’t you?”
“Well, everyone else does, so I guess I should, too.”
She stepped back and watched him for a moment. “You’ll see. We’re all here with you and for you. Come on and let me fix you a plate.”
He took the plate she handed him and returned to the dining area in time to see Bill carrying Samantha back down the stairs. She was clinging to him, still terrified, and only peeking out from his chest. Walt was right behind them.
Bill brought her over to the large table and picked a chair with arms, then settled her in it. She whimpered when he started to move away, but he took the chair next to her and put his arm around her. She leaned against him, her eyes darting around the room. Walt took the chair on the other side of her and smiled at his father.
“Uh, here.” Mulder placed his plate in front of Bill. “I’ll get another one.”
“Yeah, thanks. I kinda can’t - “
“Yeah.” Mulder backed away from the table as Samantha cringed away from him.
When he returned he took a seat at the far end of the table, to observe without scaring her further. Others joined them, but no one approached too close. After a few minutes she seemed to dismiss the others when they kept their distance. She turned to watch Bill. She seemed fascinated as food went into his mouth.
After a moment he realized and started exaggerating eating, mugging for her a little. At first she seemed a little frightened of him too, but since nothing else happened she just watched. After a few bites, he touched the spoon to her lips again. The rabbit stew was too rich for him to feed her, but she licked a drop of the gravy from her lips and her eyes widened again.
Everyone kept their voices low, but conversation swirled around her. When Ruthie laughed, Samantha turned and looked at her but didn’t panic
After eating everyone drifted over to the fireplace area and sat around. The children were grouped on the floor playing, while the adults visited, talking in slightly softer tones. Bill had carried Samantha to one of the couches and sat beside her. Anne took the chair at an angle beside Bill and smiled up at Todd when he handed her Lee for nursing. Anne draped a shawl over her shoulder, then noticed that Samantha was staring at the baby, fascinated.
When Lee was finished, Anne rose from the chair and moved to Samantha. “Would you like to hold him?”
Samantha cringed at being spoken to directly, but after a nod from Katy, Anne carefully placed the boy in Samantha’s arms. The woman’s eyes widened at the sensation and Bill sat forward ready to take the baby into his own arms if necessary. Anne stepped back and resumed her seat. Todd perched on the arm of the chair, ready, like Bill to rescue his son.
The children played on nonchalantly, though Scully realized they were totally focused on Samantha and Lee. Scully looked over at Mulder who had taken a seat slightly apart from the group, and saw the look of long held guilt and pain on his face. Without a word she handed Chrissy to Walter and made her way through the children to his side. She slipped into his lap and he clutched her to him, not speaking, just holding her.
Samantha held the baby gingerly at first, but it was as though she was stronger just holding him. She was watching the others out of the corner of her eye. She had learned long ago not to look directly at the things that held her prisoner. She was surprised to see the woman with the other . . . baby, the word came to her, go to the dark man. He was the scariest of these . . . people. She’d handed her baby to the man with the funny head. The word ‘bald’ came to her out of nowhere. But they weren’t hurting her; their touch didn’t cause pain. She didn’t know where she was or how she got here, but there were smells and sounds that seemed somehow familiar.
The little baby’s eyes were closing and hers began to droop as well. Todd rose and gently took Lee from her arms as she slipped into sleep, leaning against Bill.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.