Scully tapped on the door. “Come in.” She pushed it open and saw the smile of wonder grow again on Alex’s face at the sight of the little girl in her arms.
“You look a lot better this morning.” She said as she lowered Lexie to the bed and checked his pulse.
“I am better. Hi Sweetie.” His attention was already on the little girl.
Mulder joined them then, holding Walt’s hand. Scully lifted the boy up onto the bed as well, and Alex grinned. “Does my HMO cover this?”
“We prefer this alternative medicine.” Mulder spoke dryly, but smiled at Scully. He watched as Walt crawled over the man to touch his stump. Alex’s eyes widened again.
“Do you still have pain there Alex?” Scully asked quickly.
“What? Uh, no, not pain. The palm of my hand always itches, but it stopped when he . . . “
Scully nodded, such phantom ‘pain’ was normal. Mulder glanced over at her. If Scully thought it was okay, that’s all that mattered. After a short while, the little ones began to get restless, so Scully lifted them down, kissed them, and Walt took Lexie’s hand to go to the classroom.
Mulder opened the door and stepped out into the hall to watch them. Frohike looked out when they arrived and waved, then returned to the room. Mulder moved to Scully’s side, pulling the door closed behind him.
“Alex, are you up to talking for a little while?”
“Yeah.” Alex pulled his attention back from the door.
“I’d like Walter to be here.”
“Hey, the more the merrier.” Alex grinned, the little girl having put him in a good mood.
Mulder nodded. “I think he’s in the kitchen. I’ll be right back.”
“Mulder, bring Alex some juice please.” He nodded and took a step, then felt her hand on his. She squeezed his fingers and he winked at her. Alex seemed oblivious to the byplay.
Mulder returned quickly with Walter and a cup of cider. “Grandpa Skinner. See you haven’t lost any more hair.”
Walter rolled his eyes, then glanced over at Mulder who looked away grinning.
Walter pulled up a couple of chairs and they sat, facing Alex.
“Why don’t you tell us where you’ve been.”
“Not with who?”
“We know you’ve been with ‘them’. We’re more concerned with how close they are.”
Alex blinked at that.
“Start at the beginning, when you left Scully.”
Alex winced slightly at that.
“Yeah, after . . . then, I started tracking instead of avoiding. My mistake was in thinking the two were alone”
”We saw where they had been killed.”
Alex nodded, “Not bad, with one hand tied behind me, huh?” He grinned, “But the other one, the last one surprised me. He’s an old friend of yours. I think you know him as the bounty hunter.”
Mulder and Scully exchanged looks. “He was that close?”
“Yeah, but I think he was here to snatch me, because once he had me, he made no effort to get closer. I remember being thrown over his shoulder and hauled away. I lost consciousness. When I came to, I was in one of their places. I don’t know, but it felt like I’d been taken some place away from here, like I’d been out for days.”
“So you don’t know where you were.”
Alex shook his head, “Not for sure, but there was a dryness to the air, like a desert or something. I know it’s not much to go on and I didn’t have yard privileges.”
“That’s okay, keep going.” Mulder encouraged.
“They tested me for awhile, but then they seemed to get bored with me, because after a few weeks, at least that’s what it felt like, they seemed to forget about me. They quit asking me questions, poking me, all that.”
“Did they ask you about here?” Scully leaned forward.
“Almost exclusively, but I didn’t tell them anything of consequence. I never mentioned that there were any children here. I thought Kelly . . . “ His voice trailed off.
“Thank you, Alex.”
He looked up surprised, and met her eyes, then nodded.
“I didn’t realize I’d been gone a year. Maybe they had me out longer than I realized.” He shrugged, “then one day he was back and was asking me questions again. Sometimes others were with him, so I started pretending to be asleep so they’d leave me alone. Sometimes they’d actually speak aloud to each other, as though getting used to being around us, when they thought I wasn’t listening. It made no sense to me, something about a guy named Stan. But I didn’t know of anyone here . . . “ Alex picked up on the tension immediately and stopped.
“Stan, they talked about Stan?” Scully's voice was urgent.
“Yeah, I had the impression he was a patsy, that they were planning to use him, but I don’t know how. Listen, I’m sorry, I - “
“No, that makes sense.” Mulder turned to Walter. “They did use him. I think they would have come here, as old friends, once he was settled. They didn’t expect us to discover Bill so quickly, if at all.”
“Bill, yeah, they talked about him too. They said he had turned out better than any of the others. Does that mean anything?”
Mulder’s good arm went around Scully. “Yeah.”
Walter sat up straighter in the chair. “So how did you get back here?”
“I’m . . . I’m not real clear on that. Our old friend and another one came to my ‘room’ and it goes away then. When I woke up I was back here, well, west of here. They had me trussed up in a human dwelling. They said Stan was coming and I’d be useful once they had his information.’
“His information? Was he a spy for them?” Mulder asked quietly.
“No, I didn’t get that impression, more of a dupe.” Alex looked at each of them closely. “There was a Stan?”
Mulder finally nodded, “He came in with a group early in the spring.”
“Oh. Is he . . . is he still here?”
“Okay, that could be a problem. If he lived here, he knows about the kids. And if he really doesn’t know who they are, he could ruin everything.”
“He’s dead. He got too close to one of them when they were wounded.”
“Ahh.” That took no further explanation, Alex had seen what the green fumes could do. “But how do you know? I mean, are you sure?” He had a daughter to protect now as well.
“I was there.” Mulder looked over at Scully, “Alex, did you say you were with them?”
“Yeah. They had me tied up in some house. One or the other of them would leave to watch for this Stan guy. It was like that for a couple of days, then they both left and never came back.”
Mulder nodded, he, Todd and Greg had been able to kill them, dooming Stan in the process.
“I almost waited too long. I really thought, well, they’d never just left me before. They weren’t real good about leaving a bowl of water close by.”
“They left you tied up?” Scully spoke for the first time.
Alex nodded. “Of course I tried to get free whenever I was alone, but after twenty-four hours, I was really trying. I managed to reach my wrist and literally started chewing. I guess I was lucky they were using human materials and hadn’t tied me from behind.”
Mulder looked over at Scully, then back at Alex. “I nearly killed you.”
“No, Alex, we were there. That’s how my arm was injured about three weeks ago. We didn’t know. I wouldn’t have left you like that.”
There was silence for a moment. “You’d have had reason.”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know. Hey, I got free didn’t I? At least this time of year there was stuff to eat and water along the way.”
Scully touched Mulder’s hand, but spoke to Alex. “Do you not have a prosthetic arm anymore?”
“They’d take it off when they tied me up. When I got free I was so thirsty, I didn’t think to look for it.”
“How long did you take to get here?”
Alex shrugged, “I was tied up for at least three days. I was bad when I got free, weak. I didn't think about getting anywhere, I just wanted water and food. Then I spent a lot of time moving slow. When did you kill them?”
“It’s been three weeks and two days.”
Alex shook his head, “I couldn’t have told you it was that long. I lost track of the days.”
Walter looked over at Mulder. “It’s not your fault Mulder. You didn’t know, you couldn’t have known.”
“Uh, from my side, let me stay and we’ll call it even.” Alex suggested.
Mulder took a deep breath. There was a question he had to ask, a question with so many layers to it. “What about Lexie?”
Alex hedged automatically, “What about her?”
Mulder took Scully’s hand, “She needs to stay with us.”
Alex blinked, “She's a baby. I can’t . . . I can’t look after her. Yes, she should stay with you. But I want to be around her.”
They were all quiet for a moment, the implications were there for them all to contemplate. “Mulder?” Walter finally asked.
“Yeah. I guess that’s the way it’ll be. We’ll uh; we’ll send someone for your arm if you can give us directions.”
Scully rose then. “That’s enough for now. I know we need to talk about what he might know about Bill, but we can do that later. Alex, if you’re up to it, I think you should have lunch in the main room with everyone. You need to meet our new people and spend time getting to know everyone again.”
“Does that mean . . . am I home?”
Mulder looked him in the eye then, “Yeah, you’re home. Just remember Walter and I are - “
“In charge. That’s fine. I don’t want the job.”
“Okay then. You might want to thank Will and Sam, they hauled your ass in. Oh, the young girl with them, if you remember, was Trisha. She’s Stan’s daughter. Around here, Stan died a hero, saving my life. That’s what happened. He distracted one of them by stabbing him until Greg got the shot through the back of the neck.”
“Sounds like he was a hero.”
Mulder nodded and reached for the doorknob.
“Think you can walk?”
“Yeah. No marathon, but I can make it to the main room.”
Skinner handed him a robe as Mulder led Scully out, then walked him to the main room. Anne brought him a tray almost immediately.
“Hi Alex. You look a lot better than yesterday.”
“Anne? Is that you?”
She smiled and nodded.
“You, you look wonderful.”
Anne chuckled. “Thanks. I guess I am a lot different than when you first saw me.”
“You were pregnant when I . . . “
“I wasn’t sure you knew. Yes, Ruthie. Todd’s changing her, but I think we’ll all be here for lunch to welcome you back.”
“Welcome . . . “
She waited a moment, “You’re family here Alex. I . . . I miss Kelly. We got to be friends, pregnant together. She missed you, mourned you. She was so glad she was having your baby.” She straightened up then, “Well, you should go ahead and eat. There will be a crowd here soon, and you’ll be too busy.”
He nodded, “Later, uh, later could we talk . . . about . . . “
“Of course. I better go rescue Todd.” She moved away after touching his shoulder.
Anne passed Mulder on her way to the nursery and he nodded to her as she smiled up at him. He was still caught off guard occasionally at how this woman had matured.
He looked back at Alex, who was watching him. Mulder nodded, then headed to the kitchen to help.
Mulder and Walter looked up at the knock on the door. "Yeah?"
Alex stuck his head it, "Got a minute?"
"Hey, didn't know you could get this far?"
Alex gave him a wry grin, "This is about my outer limit." He sank into a chair. "I, uh, something's bothering me and . . ." he gave a pale imitation of the cocky Krycek grin Mulder knew so well, "I wanted to talk to you two."
Mulder looked over at Walter and perched on the edge of the older man's desk. "Bothering you?"
Alex hesitated a moment longer, then took a deep breath. “You said that Stan’s group was the last to show up here. No one else? I mean, the weather’s good, conditions for travel, at least around here, are good.”
Mulder and Walter waited. “Before them, who was the last to arrive?”
“Um, well Kelly’s group.”
“That’s what I thought. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“Times are hard. Travel . . . well, you know.”
“To get here? People all over the country, hell, the world know about you, want to be close to you. They have a damn symbol to show they know you. But they don’t come here. Then a tiny group of people make it here from West Texas?”
“So what are you saying?”
“I think they were let in. I think the others, they’re keeping people away. It’s the only explanation.”
“But why - “
“They think they’ve got you bottled up. You never leave here.”
“We send out scouts.”
“You send out tiny groups, looking for supplies, trade. You trade polio vaccine for what you want or need. That’s a good cover. They know you have Scully here and the geeks from hell - it’s plausible you could develop polio vaccine. You concentrate on vaccinating kids, pregnant women, because there’s a ‘short supply’. And you, you and Scully don’t go out.
“Mulder, they’re arrogant. It’s one of their flaws. They think you’re afraid of them. They think they have you corralled here. That’s the reason you’ve gotten away with this for so long. It hasn’t occurred to them that you’ve outsmarted them. You’re not famous for the low key approach.”
Mulder looked over at Walter, who was beginning to grin.
“Okay, I’m learning restraint. That’s what’s bothering you?”
Again Alex hesitated, “The Bill thing, he wasn’t Scully’s brother. I’ve figured that out from what’s not been said, but what did happen?”
Again Mulder glanced over at Walter, then took a seat. This could take awhile.
Alex swallowed. “So this clone, he knew everything about you? His knowledge of the history between you . . .” Mulder nodded, “and the vaccine . . . “
“Mummified him, in about an hour.”
Alex winced, “and that’s how you knew?”
“That’s how we confirmed. Alex, why are you so worried about this?”
The man looked away, unable to meet Mulder’s eyes. “I’m tired. I think I’ll head back to the clinic.”
Mulder looked at him, assessing. He did look tired. The man had nearly starved to death and used the last of his strength to get here. But there was something else. He decided to put it aside, for now. Katy said he just wanted to be home.
Skinner held out his hand to help the man to his feet. “Why don’t I walk you back?”
“I can - “
“I want to check on Maggie anyway. Make sure she’s up at the clinic and not home alone.” He glanced over at Mulder, who nodded.
Mulder watched the two of them leave, then sank back in his chair to think.
Maggie wasn’t at the clinic, so Walter left to find her after Alex assured him he could get himself to bed.
Instead, as soon as Walter left, Alex sank onto the couch and sat staring at the empty fireplace. That’s where Anne found him.
“Alex? You okay?” She came over to him.
“Wha . . . uh, yeah. Just thinking.”
“Why don’t you join me in the kitchen? I need to grab lunch now before the kids wake up.” He nodded and rose, following her.
He took the chair she indicated and seemed surprised when she placed a sandwich in front of him when she sat to eat her own lunch.
“We’ve got to fatten you up before it gets cold.”
He managed to smile and took a bite. To his surprise, that triggered his appetite and he took another. “This is good.”
“Frohike’s bread. It’s a secret recipe, though I have no doubt there’s some alcohol involved.” She grinned.
His smile was easier that time. “You, uh, you said you and Kelly got close after I . . . “
“We did. She missed you. I think, I think you were her only stable relationship.”
“Don’t laugh, she really felt like she belonged with you.”
“I wish I’d been here, when - “
“You were a hero in her eyes. She believed you died saving us.”
“Hardly.” He looked away.
“But you did. You killed two of them and your capture kept them from coming here, finding us.”
He only shook his head. “Maybe if I’d been there when the baby . . .”
“If it helps any, Todd didn’t make it to Ruthie’s birth either.”
Alex looked up surprised.
Anne smiled, “She was born in the middle of a blizzard. Fortunately I was at Mulder’s house. He got there, barely, but not Todd.” Her smile widened, “And Walt of course.”
She nodded. “We still don’t know how he got out of his crib, but he was there.”
She hesitated then, “Did you know that Kelly had been pregnant before?”
He looked up then and shook his head, but she thought she saw a bit of fear in his eyes.
“Yes, before . . . well before. The man she was with didn’t want it and . . . she didn’t have it. She told me she was afraid you’d have the same reaction, that the two of you had never discussed anything about children. But you didn’t. You may have been shocked, even reluctant, but you never mentioned the possibility of not having the baby. That meant so much to her.”
Alex looked at Anne for a long moment. He couldn’t remember telling Kelly he was happy about it either. After a few days of digesting the news, he had been. Had he made her understand that? She’d been happy just because he hadn’t forced her to abort the child? She'd been willing to accept so little. Is that what he’d given her? So little?
“Alex,” Anne put her hand on his arm. “She was happy with you. You made her happy and you made her feel secure - that she belonged to someone. She was so happy to have your baby, a part of you to keep. She hoped that he or she would have your eyes, and she does. Kelly would be very happy that you got to come home and meet Lexie.”
“Home.” He put down the rest of the sandwich. “I think I need to hit the sheets again.”
“Are you okay?”
“Sure. Just tired.” He left her then and trudged to his room, shutting the door behind him.
He didn’t emerge for the rest of the day. As they were leaving, Scully tapped on his door. “Alex?” She stuck her head in. “The kids are drooping, we’re going to take them home. Do you want to tell Lexie goodnight?”
“That’s okay, I don’t want to wake her. I’ll see her later.”
Scully’s brow furrowed and she stepped inside. “Alex, are you okay? Did you eat anything this evening?”
“I’m good. Maybe I just overdid it a little today.”
She watched him for a moment, “Okay, you take it easy tonight, but tomorrow I want to see you eat and get out a little.”
Her eyebrow rose, but she kept quiet and finally turned and left his room. Mulder watched her as she emerged and moved to her side. “Everything okay?”
“I guess so. He said he overdid it a little today.”
“Could be. He walked over to the office this morning to talk to Walter and me.”
“He should certainly be able to handle that.” She looked at the kids, one on each of his shoulders, passed out. “Never mind, let’s get the children home.” She took Lexie from him and the little girl cuddled into her shoulder and went back to sleep. Katy held her Dad’s hand on the way home, nearly asleep herself.
Scully spoke low, “What did he want to talk to you about?”
“He has an interesting theory about why we don’t have more visitors.”
“And . . . ?”
He waggled his eyebrows at her. “I’ll tell you if you get naked for me.”
She huffed at him, “You’re crazy. I’ve had two children and nursed three. Why would you want to see me naked?”
He stopped dead in his tracks, mouth opened. “You’re kidding right?”
She kept walking. He caught up in two steps, “We need to ditch these kids and I’ll show you exactly why I want to see you naked.”
She shook her head at him, but he saw the color in her cheeks and grinned.
“Mulder.” Todd stuck his head in the office. “Got a minute?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I heard you wanted someone to go get Alex’s arm.”
“I want to go. Mulder, I need to go.”
“Why?” He was pretty sure he knew what was coming.
“Damn it, Mulder, I was there. I looked around, but I still almost let him die.”
“You didn’t almost let him die.”
“I thought I’d looked everywhere.”
“You did. I don’t think he was there. The place he described wasn’t a place I saw. Yes, we were probably within a day of him, but we had no reason to look. I was injured, Stan was dead. You did search; you did find things we needed, like you always do. If anyone could have found him, it would have been you. You’re our most experienced scout. If he had been in that village, you would have found him.”
“You believe that?”
“I know that. But I would like you to lead the team back. Talk to Alex, find out what he remembers. Todd, you’re good in the field. Stabbing the bounty hunter with the vaccine . . . Let’s face it, it took all four of us to defeat the thing and each of us did what we do best. Pick a team and make sure you have plenty of vaccine.”
Todd looked at him a minute, then nodded. “Thanks.”
“Hey, just being honest.”
Todd smiled, “I’ll get the stuff together.”
Mulder had risen to leave the office. Walter had already gone home to Maggie and Kevin was on kitchen duty.
Once again he heard a tap on the door. “Yeah?”
“Hi Mulder. Can I talk to you?” Will stepped in.
“Sure, is there a problem?”
“No, I uh, I wanted to run something by you.”
“Yeah?” Mulder perched on the side of the desk. Will had never approached him like this.
“I hear that Todd is getting a trip together.”
“That’s right.” He waited, with growing suspicion.
“I want to go.”
Shit. “Uh, Will, that’s . . . your parents are the ones - “
“I know, but if you think its okay, they might listen to me.”
“Will - “
“It’s not a long trip. We’d be back in a week, ten days. I’m old enough Mulder.”
“Your age isn’t - “
Mulder sighed. “You’re putting me in a tough position Will.”
Will grinned then. “Yeah, but you can handle it. You’re Mulder.”
Mulder rolled his eyes.
“I knew I could count on you.”
“Now wait a
minute - “
Will shook his head, “If you could think of a good reason for me not to go, except that Mom will worry, you would have. Just talk to Dad.”
“You’re trying to get me killed.”
Will grinned again, even wider. Mulder rose from the desk, “Come on, I’m not going alone.”
They found Charlie at the greenhouse, and Mulder had Will take the lead. “Dad, I, we need to talk to you.”
“Now that sounds ominous.” Charlie offered, but put down his spade.
“I was talking to Mulder and, well, I want to go with Todd on this expedition.” Will got it all out in a rush.
Charlie just blinked for an instant, then looked over at Mulder, who was looking decidedly uncomfortable. “I take it this wasn’t your idea.” He spoke to his brother-in-law dryly.
“No, but I did say I’d talk to you.”
“Um hum. Okay, talk.”
Mulder felt as though he’d been called to the principal’s office. He cleared his throat. “Well, this is a short trip with a definite location. It’s familiar territory for Todd and they’re not on a vaccine run.”
Charlie turned to Will, “and?”
“Dad, you know all of us kids will be doing the vaccine runs eventually. I’m the oldest. I might as well get my feet wet on this little one.”
‘All of us kids will be doing the vaccine runs eventually’ - those words hit both men hard. The next generation, carrying on the fight? But they were just kids. Except that they weren’t.
“I suppose you could say no for awhile,” Will continued, “I could hang around here and what, get my driver’s license?” He grinned at the two men.
Well, he had a point there. Charlie looked over at Mulder. “Do you really think it’ll be safe?”
Mulder sagged, “I don’t know. They’ll have vaccine with them, and weapons. Charlie, I can’t . . . “
Charlie sighed, “I know you can’t.” He looked over at his oldest son again. “I’m not saying yes, but I’ll, we’ll talk to your mother. Right Mulder?”
Mulder paled at the thought. “You want me to talk to Mary?”
“I ain’t going alone, Fearless Leader.”
Mulder groaned, “What idiot put me in charge?”
Charlie grinned, “Sorry, that was before I got here.”
“So you’ll really consider it?” Will asked anxiously.
“Yes. But if your mother says no, you’ll wait.”
“Yes sir.” Will turned to Mulder, “Be persuasive, okay?” Mulder rolled his eyes and Will relaxed a notch. “I’ve got to get back. See you after dinner.” He took off toward the clinic.
Mulder leaned against the plant table and Charlie joined him. “Damn.”
“Yeah,” Mulder agreed. “But how do we treat him like a kid now, when he kept us alive last winter?”
“Don’t remind me. How the hell do I take this to Mary?”
Mulder let himself in the house, worn out.
“Where did you get to?” Scully came out of the kitchen area drying her hands.
He was seized by immediate guilt. Scully should have been part of this conversation, but Will had caught him so off guard.
She stopped and looked at him, then her hands were on her hips. “What’s her name?”
“To look that guilty, there’s got to be another woman involved.”
“Mary? My sister-in-law Mary? Charlie’s Mary?”
He nodded, “But Charlie was there.”
“Oh, a threesome.” Her brow was cocked, but he saw the twinkle in her eyes.
Mulder growled at her and pulled her against him. “Get your mind out of the gutter woman. Charlie’s not my type.”
“But you like redheads.”
“I like redhead, singular.” He kissed her and seemed to relax a little.
“Okay G-man, what is going on?”
“Will wants to go with Todd on this trip.”
But she didn’t seem especially shocked by the news. “Scully? Do you see anything?”
“Um, no, but we can ask Katy. I’m just . . . we were talking about this just a couple of days ago. Will’s growing up fast. He’s really a man now. Kevin has him on the work rolls. Trisha and Sam will be soon. How was Mary?”
“Nervous, anxious. I should’ve thought to ask Katy.”
“Ask me what?” Katy had opened the door to her room as he spoke.
“About Todd’s trip. Who should go?”
“Todd, Will and Greg.” She said matter of factly.
“Think they can find Alex’s arm?”
“I’ll look for it, and tell them where. Is that all?”
“That’s it Kiddo.”
“Okay.” She turned to the bathroom. When the door was shut, Mulder turned back to Scully.
“I need to remember what kind of kids we have more often.”
Scully grinned, “Come eat, I’ve already fed them.”
The three young men sat around the low fire. They’d finished eating and were relaxing a little before turning in.
Greg turned to Todd, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Are you and Anne really planning to have five kids?”
Todd grinned, “Yeah, that’s what we’ve been told.”
“That was kind of my reaction when I first heard it, but now with Ruthie . . . As long as Anne’s willing to go through it . . . “
“What about you and Megan? Are you thinking about starting a family?”
“Well, we uh . . . “ He looked over at Will.
“Hey, don’t mind me. This is all just vicarious.”
“Just vicarious?” Todd grinned.
“Well there’s Trisha, but she’s more of a sister and the next oldest female is Katy. And she is my first cousin.”
Both of the older men laughed then. “Good point, Will.” Todd spoke. “Maybe instead of Alex’s arm we should be bride hunting.”
“Hey, let’s not go too fast.” Will held up his hands. “Shouldn’t I date awhile, play the field?”
“Not when the ‘field’ includes Ruthie.” Todd grinned.
“Wow, talk about robbing the cradle.” Will laughed then. “’Course there’s my sister Missy.”
“Okay, that’s too weird even for me.” Greg chimed in.
“So, you and Megan want kids?” Will asked.
“Oh. Well,” he sighed, “that’s the thing. Since we got here, got settled, you know? We haven’t done anything to prevent . . . But she, we haven’t . . . “
“Oh.” Todd said and Will kept quiet. “Maybe, maybe you guys should talk to Scully. I mean, I know it’s not her specialty but she might be able to check things out.”
“If Scully can’t, there’s always Katy.” Will offered.
Both men turned to look at Will. He shrugged, “She can see things.”
“He’s got a point. Katy, well Katy’s Katy.”
Greg nodded. “I’ll talk to Megan about it. I just hate seeing her so disappointed every month, you know?”
“Well, we need to get on to bed. I’ve got a good reason to go home. I’ll take first watch.” Greg rose.
Will stretched, “Yeah, I need to hurry home too. Check out Ruthie. Oww.” Todd punched him and Will laughed. “Okay, I’ll keep my eyes open.”
Alex’s ‘retreat’ had gone on for three days now, so Mulder stood in front of his room. He sighed and tapped on the door. There was no immediate answer. He tried again, a little more forcefully.
“Come in.” Alex’s voice was subdued.
Mulder opened the door. Alex was seated at the small table in the room, staring at nothing. “You doing okay?”
“What? Uh, yeah.”
“Well you don’t look it. I’ve been approached by Scully, Beth and Anne to check on you. I think you’re what Lexie was talking about this morning as well. She misses you.”
Mulder couldn’t put a name to the emotion he saw flash in Alex’s eyes, it was gone too quickly. Longing was part of it. He took a seat across from Alex and waited.
“You wanted to check on me, you did. Tell everyone I’m fine.”
“Is it true?”
“What is this? Am I under suspicion? Am I not pulling my weight? Fine, where should I report today?”
Mulder drew back at the outburst, then his eyes narrowed. Something more was wrong with the man than malnutrition, but Walt had declared him healed. He just needed to gain some weight and some stamina, or that’s what Mulder had thought until that little display. Now he reassessed that, something else was wrong. The man was shaken, scared even, and that raised the hackles on Mulder’s neck. Alex had been fine when he’d come to the office earlier in the week to discuss his theory about the community being under watch.
His demeanor had changed when they had discussed Bill, and . . . and cloning. He’d claimed to have no knowledge, but was that the truth? He’d been gone over a year, admittedly living with them. His claim that he was a prisoner could be just that - a claim. Why else would he be so antsy?
“We’ve taken you in Alex, treated you as family. So what the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, I’m just . . . “
“You were okay, earlier. Do you know something we should know? Lexie’s growing up here too, Alex. I don’t want anything to happen to my family. When that clone - “ He stopped, Alex’s face had become shuttered at the reference. He’d be right, Alex knew something about the clones, or the other’s plans for them.
“Alex, what do you know about the clones?” Mulder’s voice hardened.
“Nothing, I - “
“Cut the crap Alex. You know something. I’ve sent Todd, hell I’ve sent Will out on an expedition for you. If you know something, if I’ve placed them in danger . . . Are the others out there waiting? Have you set us up? I swear to you - “
Mulder rose, his anger and fear growing. He jerked Alex to his feet, hands fisted in the man’s shirt. “Tell me what you know about the clones, about any of it.” He voice was rough with emotion.
Alex met his eyes then, “What if I am one?”
Mulder stood there, holding him, unable to speak.
“I’ve been gone over a year. What if I’m not me?” His fear caught Mulder off guard. He’d never explored what Bill’s thoughts had been. Had the creature even known he wasn’t . . . real?
“That’s what’s bothering you?” Alex nodded. Mulder’s relief nearly staggered him. He released his hold on the man and stepped back. “Alex, you can relax. You’re human.”
“But how do you know?”
“You were vaccinated before we ever took you to the clinic.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“I did it myself, in case your blood was green.”
“Oh god.” Alex sagged back into the chair. “I don’t remember it. When I heard . . . “ He buried his face in his hands.
“Alex, I’m sorry. You wouldn’t have been able to remember. You were pretty out of it. Just so you know, the vaccine wasn’t our only clue. Katy knew. Katy said 'Bill' was all black, dead. We didn’t know what that meant at the time, but she checked you out before we let Walt heal you.”
Alex was looking at him, mouth slightly open. “You risked your life . . .”
“Not as much as you think. I appear to be immune to the green blood now.”
Alex took that in, and the two sat in silence for a few minutes. After the silence drew out, Alex looked up at Mulder, “Do you think that thing, Bill, knew he wasn’t . . . “
Mulder sighed, “I never thought about it. No one here spent much time with him. He was under house arrest and . . . “
“Yeah, I guess trying to kill you wouldn’t make him very popular.”
Mulder huffed, “That did set him back some.”
They sat in silence again for a little while, then Mulder asked, “What made you worry about this?”
Alex blinked, he hadn’t expected that question. He shrugged, “Anne told me some things about Kelly, things that I should have known. I . . . I wondered if, if I had known but as a clone, didn’t.”
“Well, if I am human,” Mulder rolled his eyes, “Okay, I’m working on it. But now I think . . . it’s stuff she didn’t tell me. She didn’t confide in me. Maybe I didn’t give her the opportunity.”
“Alex, she had problems. None of us know what she went through before she got here, not the details anyway. She cared about you.”
“I cared about her. I can’t say I was madly in love with her, but I did care. I was happy about the baby, after the initial shock. I don’t know if she knew that.”
Mulder kept quiet then. He’d never had a conversation like this with ‘Krycek’. He’d never expected to. In the before, they’d been unwilling allies at best, more often enemies. He’d been part of the plot to take Scully, he’d killed his father, and at least been involved in Melissa’s murder, but now they sat here, having a conversation like this. And he was the father to this man’s child.
Mulder took a deep breath, “Come on, you’ve got people worried about you.”
“That feels weird too.”
At that Mulder grinned, “You get used to it.”
They found Alex’s arm where Katy had said and Greg was ready to turn around right then. Todd stopped him. "We're here, we check everything."
They separated after Todd assured himself they were all armed with the vaccine. It was obvious no one was living here, but . . .
As they searched, Todd grew more and more amazed at the take. Everywhere else he had gone, when the people left, they had taken things, if nothing more than food for the trip and coats. Not here. It hurt, but he finally came to the conclusion that the original inhabitants hadn't left, at least of their own free will. The ‘others’ had used this place, as a camp, an area near Mulder to watch. Thank God they hadn't come any closer.
The upside was, there was a treasure trove of supplies. Todd called the other two to join him. "We've hit the mother lode here. The lady of the house here was obviously a seamstress. I've found bolts of cloth, yarn, needles, pins. Guys, prepare to be heroes, because we're taking it back. All of it."
The other two gaped at him. Finally Will spoke, "How?"
"We're gonna find a vehicle and see if we can get it to run."
"A truck?" Greg asked.
"Yeah. And between the three of us, we better have the mechanical skills to get it moving. Come on."
"We're not leaving here today, huh." Greg glanced over at Will.
"Nope. I don't think I've ever seen him this excited, especially over yarn." Will grinned.
Todd tried to frown at him, but he was too excited about the find and the other two might not admit it, but the thought of riding home was an attractive incentive.
It seemed less so after they had cannibalized several vehicles and Greg had siphoned gas from the others. "Todd, what if we don't have the fuel to make it? I'm thinking I've swallowed at least half of what we've found." He spit again, the taste pervasive in his mouth.
"Think about it, however close we get is closer than here. We can hide the truck and make shorter trips to empty it, but we need this stuff. It may not be like last winter," he glanced at Will, "but I've eaten enough fish to suit me for decades."
Will nodded and left to get another load for the truck. They'd found a panel truck and emptied it, filling it instead with the supplies that Todd was crowing over - food and spices, clothes, shoes, tools. He forced himself not to think about the people that had left these things. It wouldn't do any good and if it kept Anne and Ruthie and the other people he loved alive, that was what was important.
He just wanted them to get out as soon as possible. If this was a base, there were just the three of them. One was barely a man, the other mostly unknown, but both essential to their survival.
By the time he finally called a halt to the loading, it was a moot point. They couldn’t squeeze another thing into the back and the rest was strapped to the roof. They weren’t going to be comfortable on the ride back, the three of them in what remained of the front seat. That didn’t bother Todd much, it wasn’t like they could come back here for a second try. And he wanted to warn Mulder about this place. Yeah, it was time to head home.
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