“Gone? What’s gone?”
The collective gasp from around the room was followed by dead silence.
“Katy, Baby, are you saying that California fell into the ocean?”
She nodded and he closed his eyes.
“How, how many . . . “
“A lot of people died. We couldn’t save them, we warned as many as we could. It was still dark out there, and there aren’t many of us. It’s too close to them. They have their places and we have ours.”
Mulder absorbed that for a moment, “Can an earthquake kill them?”
She nodded, “Sure. It’s hard to kill them, but if they have their heads cut off, or bleed to death, they die. It might take them longer to drown but eventually they will, especially trapped like that.”
After a moment, Kevin rose and headed for the classroom. He returned quickly with the US map. He propped it up in front of Katy and looked at her.
She nodded and rose from Mulder’s lap. With her finger she outlined the new coastline of California. Mulder closed his eyes as Scully hid her face in Chrissy’s neck.
Walter had risen and stood behind them, watching Katy’s finger. Then he looked over at MJ. “What does this mean for us?”
“Bad weather.” The boy said quietly.
“Nuclear winter?” Walter questioned.
MJ looked at him for several minutes, then nodded.
“We need to get a warning out to everyone as soon as possible.” Walter looked over at Mulder.
“All of us already know.” Katy reminded him.
Mulder nodded. “So what can we do to get ready? We’ve already started harvest and we’ve had two good crops this year. What else?”
“Mulder, should we do this now?” Scully touched his arm.
He hesitated. “We’re all here. And to get through this, we’re going to have to work together. This is something we all have to do. We all have our strengths. We need to pool them now, and we need to think. I’m not expecting answers today, but we all have to be thinking about it.” He took a deep breath and pulled Scully to him for a moment. “MJ, how long do we have?”
The boy looked at the map. “It’s too close for these mountains to stop it much.” He touched the Rockies. “Then there’s nothing to stop the cloud until these mountains.” Now he touched the Blue Ridge. “Four days.”
“Oh god.” Walter met Mulder’s eyes.
“Okay.” Mulder sat up and looked around the room. “I hate to do this, I know we’re all tired and . . . and shaken, but we all need to get back to work. We have a deadline for getting the crops in. Everyone will be in the fields except Maggie and Anne - “
“Mulder - “
Scully touched Anne’s arm. “No argument.”
“Be thinking about what we can do. We need all suggestions.”
Everyone was on their feet. Half a day was gone, there were things to do.
It was dark when dinner was served. Maggie had kept a pot of stew going with the gleanings of the kitchen gardens. She and Anne had snapped several bushels of beans. Walt had made a beeline to her when he’d entered the clinic and was holding her hands.
Matt was drooping, he’d never worked so hard in his life, but he still refused to allow any of the kids to touch him.
After eating, Mulder helped Scully get the kids home. “Go on to bed, Scully. It’s going to be an early morning.”
“Where are you going?” She stopped on her way to the bedroom.
“The office. I won’t be late, but Kevin, Walter and I are meeting.” He gave her a kiss. “Don’t worry.”
“You can’t work night and day.”
“I won’t. It’s too tempting to be in your bed.” He brushed her hair back. “Go on to sleep.”
“Make sure I know when you’re home.”
He nodded and winked at her, then let himself out. When he got to the office he wasn’t really surprised to find several of the other men already there. Charlie, Alex, Jerry, Todd, Byers and Langly were waiting along with Kevin and Walter. Within minutes, George, Peter, Phil and Greg arrived with Frohike. Just as the door was closing, Bill slipped in.
He caught Mulder’s eye with slight defiance, but Mulder nodded to him and he seemed to relax.
Mulder looked around the room. “First, thank you for coming out like this. I know you’re tired. You know we got a full day’s work in even though we were busy this morning. We can’t keep that up for long, but we all know what’s at stake. Let me know what ideas you’ve come up with.” He leaned against the desk, looking around the room.
Jerry looked around and cleared his throat. “I think we need a short hunting trip. We’ve been careful about the game around here, so there’s plenty. If things are going to get . . . bad, we’ll need to thin them out anyway.” He looked around, “I was thinking Greg.” He looked over at George.
“I’d like to go, if you . . .” George watched Jerry’s face.
Jerry nodded, “I could use you.”
He looked over at Mulder, but before he could speak, Bill raised his hand. “I, uh, I used to be pretty good at hunting.”
“I’ve heard that.” Mulder said. “We’d appreciate you joining the party.” Bill seemed to hesitate for an instant, then nodded.
“Good. Four should do it. Mulder, we’ll need the cart and at least one of the horses. We can do some rough butchering on site and only bring back what we can use, but I’d like to think we won’t be able to carry it all.”
“Okay, we’ll need to have the harvest mostly finished before you go anyway.”
“Make sure you bring as much of the hides back as possible.” Todd said.
Mulder took back over, “Brittany let me know she’s going to winterize all three of the greenhouses. She’s going to need some help for that.”
Peter looked up, “Greg’s the obvious choice for that, but I can’t replace him on a hunt, so I’m in.” Langly raised his hand and Charlie.
“Okay, the next thing is wood.” Mulder looked around. “I know that George would like to handle that himself,” he grinned, “but since he’ll be out of town . . . “
“I can volunteer Will and Sam for that.” Charlie said, “They want to be in on this.”
Phil, Frohike and Byers joined in.
“What about for the gimp?” Alex said quietly.
“We need you to inspect the buildings, especially the attic of the clinic. That roof has to be in top shape.”
Alex blinked, “I was up there a couple of days ago. It’s good.”
“Why were you up there?” Mulder asked him.
Alex shrugged, “You put me in charge of security, safety. I was thinking the same thing.” He turned to Phil, “I’m gonna need my arm.”
“I’m not sure I’ve got it perfect.”
“Whatever. Maybe you’ll have a chance to work on it more later.”
Mulder nodded, “Walter, I want you and Mom to move into the clinic. You can have Scully’s office. I don’t want her out in whatever’s coming.” Walter nodded. “Todd, you and Anne too. That way whenever the baby does come, you’ll have some help.”
“I want more than ‘help’.” Todd gave a half smile.
“Okay, that’s enough for tonight. We have our priorities. Food, shelter, warmth.” Mulder straightened up. “Get some rest. Try not to let . . . this keep you awake. It won’t help.”
Scully was asleep when he let himself in, but woke when he slipped in beside her. “Mulder? Are you okay?”
“Always, when I’m in bed with you.”
“What did you decide?”
“Common sense stuff. There’s going to be a hunting party, we’ll be checking structural integrity. Mom and Walter, and Anne, Todd and Ruthie will be moving to the clinic.”
“That’s a good idea. What about - “
“Scully, go back to sleep. You’re in my arms, where you belong.”
“Yes, I am.” She snuggled in and let her eyes drift shut. After a moment of watching her, he closed his as well.
They worked quickly and steadily. Mary, Megan and Lynne delivered lunches to the fields, so that everyone could keep working, and again it was after dark when they left the fields.
Walter discovered that the women had already moved his and Maggie’s things to the clinic. Matthew had been moved into Bill’s room and he hadn’t protested.
Mulder barely kissed the kids goodnight before falling asleep. The three older ones crawled in with him for a few minutes and Scully saw his body relax though he didn’t wake. Scully put the children to bed and stretched out beside him. His arms taking hold of her automatically.
The next day was more of the same. The fields had been stripped. Mulder moved to help with wood chopping as others spread out to other areas. The greenhouses were quickly winterized to the best of their abilities, and others helped Todd move his household to the clinic. Conversation was sparse; there would be time to discuss everything later.
Scully found Mulder when he delivered wood to Brittany’s house. “We need to move to the clinic too.” She spoke without preamble.
“Mom and Todd can’t handle a delivery, even with Ruthie’s help. Once this stress breaks . . . “
“I gave away your office and the exam room.” He reminded her.
She smiled up at him then, “Byers is going to stay in the barn with Kevin.”
“Kevin’s worried about the livestock, especially the chickens. He’s set up a place in the loft. Byers didn’t like the idea of him out there alone, even with Katy keeping an eye on him, and that freed up his room. This is short term, Mulder.”
“Is it?” He immediately regretted his question as he saw doubt cloud her eyes. He pulled her to him. “Sorry. I’m tired, like everyone else.”
She nodded against his chest. “I’ve sent the four that are going hunting tomorrow home to rest.”
“Good idea. I meant to check the wagon.”
“Alex took care of that. He’s checked structural integrity of all the inhabited houses. He had Will and Sam help him with shoring up a couple of possible weak places, but basically we’ve taken good care of everything.”
He squeezed her tighter in agreement. “I’ll help you get our stuff toget - “
“Already done. Just wanted you to know where to find us tonight.”
“Like you could hide from me when I’m ready for bed.” He gave her a tired leer. Her hand caressed his face and she pulled him down to her. Her lips revived him and he straightened up. “I’ll be at the clinic at dark.”
“You need to rest too, Mulder.”
“I will, soon.”
He found his family waiting for him when he trudged into the clinic that night. A sandwich and some tea appeared in his hand and he sank into the nearest chair. He was aware that Walt and Lexie were at his feet, their hands on his legs. It was helping, but he was exhausted.
Scully led him to the new bed they would be sharing and helped him undress.
The sun was high when he opened his eyes the next morning. Too high. He sat up immediately. He was alone in the room.
He grabbed the robe that was lying at the foot of the bed and threw it on. The downstairs was mostly deserted, but he heard voices in the kitchen. Several of the women, including Scully were in there already doing another cooking of green beans.
He tapped on the door and they all turned to look at him. More than one pair of eyes checked out his body. “Uh, Scully?”
“I’ll be right back.” She spoke to Maggie and moved in his direction.
“What time is it?” He asked once he had pulled her into the dining area.
“Probably around nine.”
“Nine? You let me sleep until nine?”
“You needed it. As your doctor and your wife, I prescribed it.”
He shook his head, “I needed to talk to Jerry before they left. They did get off?”
“They left at dawn, and they all knew what to do. Mulder, you needed the rest. There’s still plenty to do. Why don’t you go get dressed? Will and Sam are already making wood deliveries, and some of the guys are moving the frozen food over to the ice house. Take your pick.”
“Scully, don’t. I can rest later. I love you and I love what you’re trying to do, but don’t. Not now. The kids can help me.” He gazed down into her eyes and after a moment she nodded, but didn’t apologize. He leaned down and gave her a kiss, then returned to their room and hurried to dress.
Things did seem to be under control. Several days’ worth of wood was added to the already adequate stack at each house and all inside wood boxes were overflowing. The front porch of the clinic was completely covered. The kids, with Alex’s help had already strung fishing line between the houses and the clinic. Bright rags flew from them at intervals so that they could be readily seen.
The precious sheets of plastic had been careful reinserted inside of each window.
The women had taken over transporting the already frozen food to the ice house and taken careful inventory.
Mulder turned his attention to the barn. They had found a Franklin stove in one of the unoccupied houses and Phil had okayed it for installation. Rooms had been set up in the loft for Kevin and Byers. Mulder was surprised to find a third sleeping area set up.
“Lynne.” Kevin said before Mulder could ask. “She wants to stay out here as well.”
“Doesn’t trust you?” Mulder grinned.
“Something like that. And she wants the chickens moved up to the loft as well. The heat rising thing, so we need to build an area for them.”
“She’s from Florida. I wonder how she’s going to cope with this.” Mulder mused.
“We’ll look after her and we’re hoping this is extremely temporary.” Kevin met Mulder’s eyes and shrugged.
“Tell me where to start.” Mulder headed for the tools.
The hunters didn’t return that night, but the kids weren’t concerned. The group had taken two horses and the mule, as well as the biggest cart. Mulder hoped their non-appearance was a good sign.
Everyone fell into bed tired, but knowing they had done a good job. If fear of how long this ‘winter’ would last plagued them, everyone was quiet about it for now.
The next morning at breakfast Alex and the older kids were missing. Since the younger ones weren’t upset, everyone went ahead and ate. Shortly they heard a clatter at the door. Walter was closest, and rose to see what was going on.
The little red wagons that had been salvaged and repainted had been put to work. Every book, game and puzzle from every unoccupied house had been loaded and brought to the clinic.
Charlie slapped his head, “I knew I was forgetting something. You guys are the best.” He and Mulder exchanged looks. The kids understood what was happening. The grown ups came over to help with the storing of these new treasures.
Around lunchtime the hunters were spotted and most of the men hurried out to help. Jerry had been right, the cart overflowed and the mule carried another couple of hastily butchered carcasses.
Mulder looked over the bounty and then at Jerry. “This is great, but where do we put it all?”
Jerry grinned, “We start at the clinic. I know Todd wants the hides. We know how to butcher them, but we’re going to be up late tonight with our deadline tomorrow. I can salt down and stack the hides. They may not be the prettiest, but we’ll be able to use them.”
Mulder nodded and fell in behind the cart to help.
By midnight everyone who lived in Quonochontaug could have played a feature role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Every pot was in use, both at the clinic and Brittany’s house. Large pieces were trimmed down to fit in the available space in freezers. Mulder had thought they were only going after big game, but more than a few rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and geese had been in the cart as well. He wondered if he would begin to miss fish. He looked up to find Scully watching him, her lips twitching as she caught that thought.
A whoosh of wind around the porch caught everyone’s attention. Scully looked up. “Everyone needs to get home and cleaned up. The temperature’s dropping like a rock.”
“What about the hides?” Jerry asked quickly.
“You’ve got them salted and stacked.”
“But they need to be fleshed and worked.”
“George can lead us through that. You’ll probably be able to get here anyway.” Mulder reminded him. “Go on, it’s late and I know you need the rest. Make sure everyone checks in through the kids tonight and tomorrow morning.” Jerry looked around at the work that remained to be done and still hesitated. “It’s okay; we’ll take care of this. You need to get home.” Another gust punctuated his words and the others began moving.
There were quick hugs, but Scully had them moving now. She sent Kevin and Byers for showers, while Lynne cleaned up in the kitchen. Once they were on their way, the others took turns cleaning up. Mulder and Todd were last, making sure that the house was secured tightly for the night.
The clouds were thick, blocking out the moon already and what had been rain had already turned to a wintery mix. They made no comment about that.
“Get some rest, Todd. We’ve earned it.”
“That’s for sure. See you in the morning.” Todd headed for the room he and Anne were using. The kids were already asleep.
Mulder took a last look out the window, then took a deep breath. He was scared. He could admit it now; here alone in the kitchen. He had to keep it together for everyone else, but here . . .
They had done so well until now; food to eat, even if it had been dull at times, safe places to live, and companionship. They’d taken things like sunlight for granted. Would they get the chance to do that again?
He shivered slightly even though he wasn’t cold and headed upstairs. He needed Scully.
Curled around her a little while later he forced himself to relax.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.