Before Mulder could respond, they heard her scream.
“NO! Daddy no!” All heads turned toward Katy’s bedroom. Mulder was already on his feet racing in that direction, Scully two steps behind him.
He had her in his arms immediately and carried her out into the light. She was clinging to him fiercely. The others were frozen into position. Katy had never had a nightmare before, what in the world . . .
“Baby, come on, calm down. You’re awake now and it’s all over. See we’re all here. We love you.” He sat on the couch and held her trembling body. Scully was rubbing her back.
Katy burst into tears on her Dad’s chest. “Katy, Baby talk to me. What was the - “
“You can’t go!”
“I’m not going anywhere, it was just a dream.”
“You can’t go to Texas to get him! You can’t!”
Scully’s head jerked up to look into his guilty eyes. The look of horror and betrayal that came over her face caused his heart to skip a beat.
“Scully - “
But she had risen and was out the back door.
“Katy, I’m not going to Texas. Calm down, I promise I’m not leaving you.” He looked up helplessly, torn between comforting his daughter and chasing Scully.
“Give her here.” Kevin sat beside him.
“Give me Katy. You go find Scully.”
Mulder looked down at his daughter. “Baby, will you go to Kevin for a minute?”
She nodded sleepily then, reassured, and made herself comfortable in Kevin’s lap.
Walter spoke for the others, “We’ll clear out Mulder. If you need us - “
Mulder nodded, already moving toward the door.
“Mulder, I’ll stay as long as you need.” Kevin looked at the worried man. Mulder nodded and let himself out.
He finally located her at the foot of the tree bearing his and Samantha’s initials. He sat beside her but she didn’t acknowledge him.
“Scully, please, it was a half-formed thought - “
“It was formed enough to wake Katy out of sound sleep, screaming.”
His face flushed and he looked down at his knees. “I . . . I promised her I wouldn’t go.”
“Gee thanks, Mulder.”
He reached for her and she jerked away - a first in his memory. “Scully - “
“You go caveman because I search for him with my mind, but you make plans to leave me, us, for a year or more, to confront them personally - for someone you despise!”
“I said it was half-formed.”
“It was half assed.” She rose to her feet then and he scrambled up beside her.
“Scully, I’m not going. I couldn’t be away from you or the kids that long. You believe me, don’t you?”
“Why didn’t you even discuss this with me?”
He hung his head, “Because I knew it was stupid from the beginning.”
“You just wanted to pretend you were single again, some sort of mid-life crisis?” Her eyes were snapping and he wanted to shrink into the underbrush.
“I’m not going Scully. I fight them in a different way now.”
“But it’s not enough?”
“Yes it’s enough! It was a . . . a fantasy. You fulfill all of my sexual ones, so I had to move on to Indiana Jones stuff.”
Her eyes seemed a tiny bit less icy at that statement.
“Scully, please, I wasn’t ever really going. You’ve got to believe that.”
She sighed and he felt a sliver of relief.
“You know it was stupid?”
“Absolutely.” He crossed his heart.
“You know how you felt when you saw my nosebleed?” He closed his eyes and nodded. “That’s how I feel when you ditch me, or plan to.”
He met her eyes then and after a moment, nodded once slowly.
“Scully, I never meant to scare you, or Katy, and I have no intention of ditching you ever again. May I, Scully, let me hold you.”
She didn’t refuse, so he stepped closer and took her into his arms. After a moment she began to relax against him.
“I swear Scully.”
The next morning Tricia burst into Scully’s office just minutes after she arrived. “Scully, he’s gone!”
“Gone? Who’s - “ for an instant she felt blind panic. No, she pulled herself together, he’d promised and she’d just left him.
“My Dad! He’s gone back to prove he didn’t bring that clone here.”
“Wait, calm down Tricia. Are you sure?”
“He left a note.” She thrust the paper at Scully.
‘Tricia, these are good people, better than I could have hoped and they’ll look after you. I have to prove to them - and to myself - that I didn’t purposely bring harm to this community. If I can find this ‘Bill’ and convince him to leave with me, I’ll try to bring him back. In the meantime, you do your part to help out and be like your mother. I love you, Dad’
Scully’s face was pale. “Come with me.” She was on her feet. “Anne,” she called to the younger woman, “Tricia and I have to head over to the office, can you - “
“Of course. Go. Mary will be here any minute. Go!” She shooed them out, but worry at the expression on Scully’s face grew within her.
They burst into the office. Mulder, Walter and Kevin were all in the outer office and jumped when the door flew open. “Scully?” Mulder reached for her automatically.
“Stan’s gone. He’s headed for Texas to find Bill and, and make reparations to us.” She could see Mulder’s mind working.
He turned to Kevin, “Is Sam here?”
“Send him for Greg, hurry.” He turned back to Tricia. “Come on in here.” He led both women into the office he shared with Walter.
“When did he leave?”
“I don’t know. During the night, I saw him when I went to bed.”
“Good, he doesn’t have much of a head start.”
“Can you find him? Bring him back?” She looked a lot younger than fifteen right now.
“We’re going to try.” He looked up at Scully, “Long before he gets near Texas.”
She gave him a tight smile but nodded.
Greg knocked on the door then. “Did you . . . what’s wrong?”
They brought him up to date and he sank into the empty chair in front of the desk. “He didn’t bring that . . . we didn’t! I swear he joined us just a few days before we got here. We didn’t recognize him, we had no - “
“Greg, Greg its okay. We believe you. I want you to go with me, you and, and Todd.” He looked up at Walter.
Walter nodded, “I’ll get the stuff together.”
“He doesn’t have that much of a head start and I don’t want it to get bigger.” Mulder spoke rapidly.
Greg nodded and went to change, and to let Megan know what was going on.
“Tricia, I want you to try not to worry. We’ll find your Dad and bring him back. And I want you to remember, we don’t blame him for what’s happened. I believe he didn’t know Bill.”
“But he knew the cult he was in.” Tricia spoke quietly.
“What?” Everyone’s eyes were fastened on her now.
“The ones that look like us, but aren’t - isn’t that what Katy calls them? I believe he knew them.”
“Talk to us, Tricia.” Scully took her hand.
“Before we moved to where Greg and Megan and Becky lived, we lived near this . . . this group of people that were . . . strange.”
“Strange how, Tricia?” Scully asked gently.
“I didn’t see them much, only a couple of times. Dad would see them at the bar; after Mom died he spent a lot of time there at first. They, I don’t know, from what he said they acted different from the people that used to live there. They came from somewhere else and settled in. I never saw this Bill guy, but then like I said, I didn’t see them often. Then Dad got . . . got scared of them and we moved.”
“Scared of them?”
“Well, they, they were all men and they didn’t seem to like women except in one way. There was talk about them attacking women, at least that was Dad’s story to me. That’s when we got out.”
Mulder looked over at Scully; was this where the girl’s fear of not being equal because she was female came from?
“Tricia, that may be what he’s thinking, but they’re out there, everywhere. This thing didn’t join you until you were here. Remember that. I need to change, Kevin, can you find the extra clips?” Mulder was on his feet now, ready to do something.
Kevin nodded as Scully watched him. He was going and she was frightened, frightened at a base level. She took a deep breath. “You’ll be careful.”
“Oh yeah. Too much to come back to. Scully,” he drew her to the side and held her, “I’m not ditching you.”
“I know.” He looked deep into her eyes, then nodded and gave her a quick kiss.
Scully nodded. She wanted to go with him. No one had his back like she did, but he wouldn’t hear of it and she knew it.
All too quickly the three men were assembled at the clinic. In addition to their regular weapons, Scully had given them each additional vaccine to carry, just in case. Katy was sad, but not hysterical and Walt hugged each of them, then stood holding his Dad’s hand. Lexie picked up on the vibrations and was crying quietly, not understanding. Scully held her close.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be back in three, four days, with Stan. You guys can handle anything, so don’t worry.” He glanced over at Byers, who nodded. There was no definite chain of command, though Walter had become the unofficial patriarch of the clan. But even he deferred to Mulder and everyone had a bad feeling about this.
“Come on guys, it’s almost noon. We can’t give him too much advantage.” They were on foot, as was Stan. The bikes were no longer useful for long trips. Each of the men kissed their wives goodbye and Mulder especially seemed reluctant to release Scully, but then they were off, following Katy’s directions.
The group left behind seemed to have trouble dispersing as well. It was Byers that took Scully’s arm. “Come on Dana.” She nodded and watched him pick up Walt to head back to the clinic.
They ate as they walked, not bothering to stop for any length of time. Mulder could finally admit to himself that he’d had some concerns about keeping up himself. Both of his companions were younger, and had had more recent experience with this kind of thing, but they actually had to move to keep up with him. He grinned, maybe being ‘Mulder’ wasn’t so bad after all, and no doubt Walt had given him a little boost.
They passed signs of Stan a couple of times, but as it was getting dark, Mulder called a halt. “We’ve made up some time, let’s rest now and move out as soon as it’s light.”
The two younger men agreed gratefully and Mulder hid his satisfaction. Greg drew first look out, so Mulder and Todd crashed in their sleeping rolls. There was no fire, just in case, and they didn’t need it for heat.
Mulder roused them just before dawn and they moved out. About three hours later they reached Stan’s campsite. The fire had been carefully extinguished, but they knew they’d catch up before lunch. All the better, to get back to their loved ones as soon as possible.
They heard voices before they saw him and moved into hiding, creeping closer to keep from being seen. Stan was talking to a man and he seemed to know him.
“Did you follow us! If you wanted to come east, you should have traveled with us, unless you just wanted to cause problems.” Stan was obviously distraught, his voice rose.
Mulder looked over at Greg who shook his head. He’d never seen this man before. They all froze when the second man stepped out from behind them. Mulder closed his eyes, he’d been out of the game too long.
The second man didn’t speak, just motioning them toward Stan and the other stranger. The silent man came to stand beside the first one.
The taller of the two men, the one talking to Stan, turned. His eyes focused on Mulder. The look raised the hackles on Todd’s neck and he reached into his pocket and uncapped the syringe there.
Mulder and his companions stopped, the man staring at Mulder morphed into a familiar adversary.
“Mulder. You do live. And now I can take them your lifeless body.”
“That’s it? I don’t even get a hello, how you been?”
The alien bounty hunter’s eyes narrowed and without warning, his hands closed on Mulder’s arms lifting him into the air.
That was all Todd needed, he lunged at the larger man, stabbing the needle into his forearm and plunged. Green fumes immediately escaped into the atmosphere and Todd blinked.
The alien tossed Mulder aside and grabbed his arm as Mulder hit the ground with a grunt.
“Go! Upwind! Go!” Mulder managed to shout at Todd and Greg. Greg’s military training took over. He was used to following orders and that had been an order. He grabbed Todd’s arm and they were racing out of the way.
Stan had no military training, when his eyes began to burn, he didn’t run. Instead he took the opportunity to stab his knife into the second alien. The fumes overwhelmed him then, and he dropped to his knees.
Mulder had rolled and pulled his gun out. The alien that had been stabbed hadn’t even slowed down. Mulder aimed and fired, seeing the bullet enter the second alien’s throat and emerge out the base of his neck. The being was already turning into green goo before it hit the ground.
The first alien seemed to be moving in slow motion, his attention still on his arm. Mulder made it to his feet and stumbled toward Stan. He’d gotten a full dose of the fumes and was now in a fetal position. He was a big man, but Mulder started dragging him away.
That caused the alien to look up and start to move toward Mulder. He was sluggish, but moving. He grabbed Mulder’s arm, twisting him up to his feet.
“What have you done to me? What is this?”
Mulder was cradling his arm and didn’t speak, just trying to catch his breath.
“Fine, I shall kill you now and get the information from your friends.”
Mulder saw the bullet emerge from the man’s throat before he realized he’d heard the shot. He blinked at the large man collapsed at his feet and began to fall in on himself.
Todd immediately started moving toward Mulder. “No! Let it disperse.” Mulder tried to rise, but groaned and fell back.
“I’m okay. Stay there.” He made it to his feet on the second attempt. He grabbed hold of Stan and began dragging him away with one arm. Stan was in bad shape; Mulder wished again, for all new reasons, that Scully was with them.
He nodded and allowed Todd and Greg to take over moving Stan. Mulder leaned back and lost his balance, landing on his rear. He cried out as he jarred his arm.
Todd was on his knees beside him, examining his shoulder. “It’s dislocated.”
“I believe you.” Mulder said dryly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Greg got me out of the way. Hey, Mulder, why weren’t you . . . “
Mulder shrugged, then grimaced. “I guess I’ve been exposed enough times. How’s Stan?”
“Bad shape.” Greg answered. “Real bad. Is there anywhere around here we can take him?”
Mulder turned to Todd at that. “Well, there’s a small village a couple of miles north. They were just barely hanging on last time I was through here. We vaccinated everyone but they were talking about moving south. We can try it.”
“At least we can be inside.” Mulder held out his good arm to let Todd help him to his feet. “By the way, which one of you shot him?”
Todd looked over at Greg, Greg shrugged. “I held a ‘Marksman’.”
“Glad you did.”
They refused to let him help build the stretcher for Stan, but it didn’t take long. Once he was loaded Mulder trailed them toward this village Todd had mentioned. He was right, it wasn’t far, but it was deserted.
Stan was barely breathing when they arrived. They placed him on a bed in one of the houses, then Todd turned to Mulder. “There’s not a lot we can do for him, but we can reset your shoulder.”
Mulder closed his eyes, but he agreed and finally nodded. They placed him on the floor and, while Greg held him steady, Todd placed his knee against his arm and after a nod to Greg, jerked.
Sweat broke out on Mulder’s forehead, but he managed to keep quiet, barely. “We need to wrap it, keep it immobilized.” Todd rummaged through his pack and pulled out a t-shirt.
“Don’t tear it.” Mulder spoke low, but he was with them.
“Yeah, okay.” They bound him and finally let him sit up. “Mulder? You okay, not sick?”
“I’ve been better, but I’ll live.”
Greg looked over at the bedroom door. “Is there anything we can do for him? What worked for you?”
“Scully.” Mulder followed his look. “Sorry, but it’s the truth. I know she used hypothermia in her treatment, which we can’t do here and antiviral injections, which have probably been destroyed.” Mulder shook his head, “I’m sorry Greg.”
Greg nodded, “What do we do about Tricia?”
Mulder sighed, “I . . . we’ll raise her. She belongs to us now. She needs to know he was a hero. He had to know what stabbing one of them would expose him to, but he did it and that’s what gave me the time to get to my gun.”
Todd nodded at that.
“I’ll go sit with him.” Greg rose.
“Let me.” Mulder let them help him to his feet. He didn’t bother to look at them, just made his way slowly to the bedroom.
Scully massaged her shoulder once more and looked up from the information Byers had brought her.
“You okay Dana?” He asked gently.
“No.” But she managed to smile. “Never when he’s . . . “
“I know. I think we all feel that way, but he needed to go with them to find Stan. It makes a statement and I know Tricia needed to see it.”
Scully nodded and stretched, her hand again coming to her upper arm. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. I must have lifted something wrong. I don’t remember hurting it, but . . .” she shrugged. “I’ll be fine.”
“Come get some lunch, before the crowd arrives.”
She smiled up at him, he was the consummate gentleman. To this day it jarred her a little to see him not dressed in coat and tie. Even in jeans and t-shirts though, he had the air of sophistication that no one else had.
She rose from her desk and decided to change the subject. “What’s the deal with Langly and Becky?”
Byers grinned, “Don’t know, but he didn’t come home last night.”
Her eyebrows rose, “Langly?”
“Maybe he was just waiting for the right woman.”
“When are we going to find her for you?”
“I already found her, Dana.” He looked wistful and she wished she’d kept her mouth shut.
“It’s okay. If Suzanne’s still alive, I’m sure she’s working hard at the same thing I am, so that’s a nice connection.”
Scully squeezed his arm and preceded him toward the kitchen, she was unaware that she was still rubbing her arm. They both stopped when Katy approached them, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Katy, what is it?” Scully took her hand as Byers knelt in front of her.
“Daddy’s arm hurts.”
Scully’s eyes flew open wide as Byers looked up at her. “But he’s okay other than that?”
“Did they, did they find Stan?”
“He’s mostly dead.” Byers looked up at Scully.
“Let’s go to my office, Honey.” She patted Katy’s head and they retreated back to her office. Byers shut the door. Scully took a deep breath. “Is Stan dead, Katy?”
“Not quite, but soon.”
“What happened to him?” She asked the little girl gently.
“They had a fight with the other ones.”
Scully gasp and met Byers’ look. “I have to go.”
“Dana, wait. You can’t - “
“John, he needs me. He’s injured.”
“We let you go off and he’ll injure us. I’ll go, and . . . and someone.”
“I’m going.” He’d seen that look before.
He turned to Katy. “Honey, what do you think of your Mom going to bring your Dad home? Think everything will be okay?”
Katy nodded reluctantly, “Daddy really wants her there.”
Byers smiled, “I know that, but is it safe?”
Again Katy nodded. “You and Kevin will look after everything.”
Byers looked up at Scully, “You better go change.”
Scully nodded and hugged Katy tightly. “You can stay with Grandma and Granddaddy tonight.”
Katy smiled at that and hurried off to find Maggie.
“Scully? How’s your arm?” Byers smiled at her, but didn’t wait for an answer.
Greg opened the door and looked inside, then quietly joined Mulder. “I’m going to relieve you. You need some rest yourself.”
“There’s no need, he’s gone.”
“Gone?” Greg looked back quickly at Stan, then put his hand out to check his pulse. Mulder was right.
“I’m sorry, Greg.”
“Yeah, me too. Mulder, he didn’t - “
“I know. Greg, wipe it from your mind. We don’t blame Stan. We never have.”
Greg nodded. Mulder started to rise and Greg’s hand was there to help him. They moved out into the main room, to see Todd returning with his arms full.
“Is Stan . . .?”
Mulder shook his head. Todd turned to Greg, “I’m sorry.”
Greg nodded; there was nothing else to say.
After a moment, Mulder motioned to the stuff Todd had carried in. “What’s all this?”
“Oh, the women keep a list going of things we can use. I’m just in the habit of looking around now.”
Mulder nodded, “Good.” He looked around, “How, how are we going to get the, get Stan back?”
Both younger men looked at him surprised. “Mulder, we can’t . . . it will take several days to get home. You’re injured and - “
Greg broke in, “Tricia shouldn’t see him like that. We need to bury him here.”
Mulder looked over at the door, and finally nodded.
“We’ll get started, you should probably lie down for a little while.”
“I’m not that old.” Mulder muttered.
“No, but we have to answer to Scully. Since you’re injured, that prospect is more than a little scary. Just take it easy while we dig the, the grave.”
Mulder sighed, but they were right. He couldn’t help them and if he were honest, his arm hurt like hell. He nodded and the two younger men headed outside. Mulder kicked his bedroll open on the floor and stretched out. He couldn’t really get comfortable, but he rested his eyes and had drifted off before they returned.
When they did return, they moved quietly to the bedroom and wrapped Stan in a cloth as a shroud and carried him out, then Todd returned for Mulder.
He knelt beside Mulder and shook his good shoulder slightly. “Mulder, sorry man, but do you want to say a few words?”
“What? Where, oh Stan. Yeah.” He took hold of Todd’s arm and made it to his feet. They returned to the gravesite and Greg. They stood silent for a few minutes, then Mulder looked at the other two. “I’m not sure what to say. He gave his life to protect ours and our community. Nothing could be more important. I thank him.”
Todd nodded and then Greg. They looked at Mulder, then together began shoveling dirt back into the grave. Mulder stood there until they were through, then all three returned to the house.
“I guess we should get going.”
“Mulder, we can’t get anywhere today, and I haven’t finished looking around. Let’s stay here tonight.” Todd spoke up.
After a moment Mulder nodded, it made sense, much as he wanted to get back to Scully. This had shown him in ways he hasn’t realized how firmly entwined they were now.
He insisted on helping out with exploring the place. Todd had his eye out for cloth in any form, and particular clothing that could be repaired. The people had obviously left with only what they could carry.
Mulder was still on his feet, putting one foot in front of the other. He couldn’t think about much besides his arm and Scully. Man, he had actually given thought to traveling across country - without her. Showed what an idiot he was. He couldn’t wait to get home to her.
“Hey, Mulder.” Todd got his attention, and he sounded amused.
“Yeah?” He looked up and saw where Todd was pointing.
His redhead, she’d come for him. He broke out in a grin of happiness and relief.
Then she was in front of him, his good arm was around her, anchoring her to him. Her arms were around him as well, her face buried in his chest. He realized she was crying.
“Hey, I’m okay, really. Wonderful now that you’re here.” His fingers under her chin tilted her face up to him and he kissed her lips, then her tears.
“Let me examine you.”
“What, in front of everyone?” He grinned at her.
She swatted lightly at his good shoulder and tugged him into a sitting position on a stump. She unbuttoned his shirt then and untied the t-shirt Todd had bandaged him with carefully removing it. He grimaced, but kept quiet. It didn’t help, she saw the pain he was in.
She sighed when she saw the bruising. His entire shoulder was a mass of blue and black. Her fingers probed him gently. “How does it feel?”
“A lot better now.” His eyes devoured her. His lips twitched when she blushed.
“You’re an old married man, cut it out.”
He looked around then, and realized everyone else had moved off, leaving them alone. “Old, maybe Scully, but definitely married. I don’t want to go off without you again.”
“I always suspected you could be taught.” Her words were light, but he saw the tears that hadn’t fallen from her eyes. He quietly moved closer and kissed her again.
“Let’s go home.”
“Not tonight, big guy. They’re setting up camp.”
“You’ve walked long enough today. We’ll do half a day tomorrow, and get home the next day. I know you’d like to get to Walt,” she smiled, “but you’ll have to wait.”
“With you here, it’s okay.”
She nodded and placed a cool cloth on his shoulder. “No ice, this will have to do.”
Their bedrolls were apart from the others and she held him, his head resting on her breast. He was already asleep, but she was still awake. Kevin was on guard tonight, so she knew she and Mulder would be safe, but she wanted to watch him sleep.
The bruising had been worse than she had imagined. The bounty hunter had tried to twist his arm off. Todd had done a good job of fixing him up, but . . . but it was no wonder her own arm had hurt. He was sleeping like a baby now that she was here. She needed to get some rest as well; they’d pushed to get here and it would be a couple of days getting home.
He was here, here in her arms. She should be able to relax. Knowing ‘they’ had been within days of their home was jarring. She felt safe there, but it was an illusion. No, she’d get no sleep if she went in that direction. They knew that the vaccine even affected the aliens now. That was valuable.
Mulder murmured something, nuzzling her breast. She caressed his hair and felt her eyes finally grow heavy. They were safe tonight. That was good enough for now.