He took a quick step toward her as though to hug her as he had his mother.
“Careful.” Mulder spoke quickly.
Bill turned to glare at him. “What? You think I’m not worthy to touch her?”
Mulder looked at him calmly, “She gave birth four days ago. Just be careful.”
Bill turned back to his sister stunned. She was shaking her head indulgently at Mulder. “You, you had a baby?”
“I’ve had three, Bill. I’m okay.” She hugged him then, but he was very gentle.
“Three?” Bill thought back to the children that had run to Mulder when they had entered the house. His eyes closed for a moment. How could he have missed that, the kids were identical to the man. Damn. “I, I thought you couldn’t have kids.”
“So did we.” She said dryly. She turned; she didn’t see Walt but Katy was beside Kevin. “Katy, come meet your Uncle Bill.”
The dark haired little girl detached herself from the other children and walked reluctantly to her mother. Scully took her hand, “This is our oldest, Katy.” Katy nodded, but didn’t move toward the man.
Scully looked over at Mulder, but didn’t push her to greet Bill further. “The boy that looks just like her is our son, Walt. He’s here somewhere.”
“Walt.” Bill glanced over at Walter, but said nothing else.
Scully squared her shoulders and continued, “Lexie is in Alex’s arms.” She smiled at the little girl hugging Alex’s neck. “And this is Chrissy.” She touched the baby in Mulder’s arms.
All of the children went silent when Bill looked at Mulder. Scully looked around and questioned Katy with her eyes. Katy turned away and moved back to Kevin’s side.
Scully looked over to Maggie for support. Maggie squeezed Walter’s hand and came over to Bill. “I bet you’d like to freshen up. We have a room for you upstairs. Why don’t you take a shower, put on some clean clothes, then you can have lunch with us.”
Bill nodded mutely and Charlie stepped forward to lead him upstairs. Half way up Bill turned to look down at the people in the room. All of the children were staring up at him. For some reason that made him incredibly uncomfortable.
Charlie opened the door to a bedroom. “This will be your room for now. There’re towels in the bathroom. When you’re ready, just come downstairs. We’ll eat - “
“What’s the deal here, Charlie?”
“I haven’t seen this many kids in years. It can’t be that damn wonderful here.”
“Why don’t you get cleaned up and come on down.” Charlie ignored the question and let himself out of the room. Bill stood there for a long moment, then turned toward the bath.
Maggie met Bill at the bottom of the stairs. “Oh good, they fit.” She smoothed down the sleeve of the shirt he was wearing.
“Whose are they?” He put his arm around her.
“Walter’s. I thought he would be closest to your size.”
Bill stiffened, but before he could respond, Charlie joined them again. “Hungry, Bro?”
“Yeah, I am. Bread and water doesn’t quite do it for me.”
“Did you taste the bread?” Charlie asked.
“Then don’t knock it. It’s the best you’ve ever eaten.” Charlie motioned for Bill and their mother to precede him to the table.
Bill took a seat and looked around at the people milling about, laughing, talking. They grew quiet when they realized he was there.
Mulder and Scully joined them from another room. Bill noted the smiles that came over the faces of the others. His eyes narrowed, what, did they really think Mulder was some sort of glorious leader?
To Bill’s surprise Mulder took a seat half way down the table instead of at the head. A couple of kids, not the ones Dana had pointed out earlier, climbed into his lap. Bill turned away and saw a bowl placed in front of him. He looked up to thank the person and blinked. “Mary? Is that you?” He rose to greet his sister-in-law.
“Yes, it’s me.” She gave him a small smile.
“You, you look great. You look younger than the last time I saw you.”
“Thank you. I have a good life here.” She looked over at Charlie and her smile grew. He winked at her and took her hand, pulling her into his lap.
“You have got it pretty good, woman.”
Mary rolled her eyes and laughed. Her smile slipped away then and she turned back to Bill. “We were so sorry to hear about Tara.”
Bill looked down at the table for a moment, “Thanks.”
“Do you know what happened to Matthew?”
He looked up then, anger showing for a second before he responded. He shook his head, “His other grandparents took him when Tara died. By the time I got home there was no trail to follow.” He looked down again.
While Bill was looking away, Mary looked over at Mulder, who nodded. Then Mary squeezed Bill’s hand.
“Mom!” Missy and MJ came running up. “Can we eat in the classroom?”
“May we eat in the classroom.” Charlie grinned.
MJ answered his grin with one of his own and nodded. “Yeah, you can eat with us.”
Charlie pretended to swat the boy on the butt. “Yes, go ahead.” Mary nodded. The two ran off.
“They’re both yours?” Bill looked over at Charlie.
“They’re kind of twins.” Charlie chuckled. “Missy was born a couple of minutes after MJ, but MJ’s not ours biologically. Dana and Mulder had a workout that day.”
Bill looked up at him puzzled.
“Mulder was delivering Missy while Dana delivered MJ.” Charlie’s smile dimmed, “It was a hell of a day.”
Mary cupped Charlie’s face and kissed him. “I need to get back in the kitchen.”
Charlie squeezed her again and let her up.
Bill took up his spoon and tasted the stew. After eating over half of the bowl, he looked up at Charlie, sheepishly. “I was hungry.”
“I’m not surprised. Go ahead.” Charlie moved the bread closer and didn’t make any comment when Bill took a piece.
Bill looked around again, “I still can’t believe all these kids. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anything like this.”
“How many kids were with you?”
“None.” He took another spoonful.
“None?” Charlie gaped at him. “That’s hard to believe.”
“Those two in Mulder’s lap, they’re not his are they?”
Charlie looked in that direction. “Oh, no the smaller one is Ruthie, she’s Todd’s daughter. Todd is the man helping Will with the clone.” He saw Bill’s flash of anger but made no comment. “The other one is Esther. I don’t see any of her parents around, but Jerry, he’s the big man that walked back with us, is what we called her step-father in the old world. Esther and Mulder have a special connection.”
“I’ll just bet they do.” Bill murmured.
All of the children went silent and turned to look at him, though he knew they couldn’t have heard his comment. The air seemed charged somehow. Bill looked around uneasily, then turned back to his meal.
“Bill, are you saying the women where you were had no children? Was that their choice?”
Bill swallowed and took a drink of water. “Uh, I don’t know. There were only three women in my camp.”
“Three?” Charlie’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Were they expected to ‘service’ the entire camp?”
Bill’s mouth fell slightly open. “Look, it wasn’t like this place.”
“It certainly wasn’t. The women here don’t belong to anyone but themselves. No one ‘services’ anyone.”
“Do you have more women than men?” Bill looked around the room again.
“No. Some of the women are unattached; some of the men are too. It’s their choice.”
“So if you’re unattached . . . “
“I’d think someone who’s career Navy wouldn’t worry about it. Just ‘handle’ it.”
“Okay, you don’t have to be so intense about it.” Bill looked around, the kids were still watching him and it was making him damn uncomfortable.
Charlie nodded, “Sorry, we just had a little problem last year. It won’t be repeated.”
Bill looked his younger brother up and down again. Charlie was different, older in a way he couldn’t put his finger on. He’d never thought of Charlie like this. He was the cut-up, the kid brother always cracking a joke. He had no discipline> He’d let his students call him Charlie at that university where he’d taught. Even marriage hadn’t matured him at all, but now . . .
“Bill, what happened?” Charlie asked softly.
Bill understood, he sighed and laid his spoon on the table. “I was on maneuvers when the illness broke out. I got a wire that Tara . . . I wasn’t the only one. We headed in immediately, but when we got close, they wouldn’t let us dock. We were quarantined.” Bill looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “We couldn’t do anything. By the time things calmed down enough to release us, it was almost over.”
He shook his head, “I couldn’t get any information on my son, on you, Mom. It was a nightmare.”
Charlie nodded, “I’m sorry.”
Bill nodded but didn’t speak, just returned to his meal.
Charlie took a deep breath. “Take it easy this afternoon. You won’t be on the work rolls until tomorrow. The rest of us need to get back to work.”
“What kind of work?”
“It’s planting season. We’ll be glad to have you helping. I imagine you got a lot of farming experience in Southern California.”
“No.” Bill looked confused. “You farm?”
“Where did you get your food?” Charlie saw Mulder and Walter sit up slightly, paying closer attention now.
“The PX. I mean, supplies came in like they always did. I went to the mess hall. I’d moved back on base after I couldn’t find . . . You grow your own food?”
“Yes and we have rabbits, chicken, pigs and goats. We trade with other communities around here.”
“That’s . . . you’re kidding right?” Bill looked around again.
“No, I’m not. Go ahead and rest some. You’ll start in the morning.” Charlie rose then, trying to hide his annoyance at the man.
Walter rose as well, but Maggie caught his hand. Walter squeezed her fingers and gave her a quick kiss. “I’m fine, Maggie.” The worry lines didn’t leave her forehead. She didn’t see the stiffness in Bill’s posture at the gesture. Mulder did.
He leaned in closer to Scully, “Will you be all right?”
“Yes. They won’t let me help with much of anything yet. I can see your influence.”
Mulder winked at her. “I have my spies. Don’t let him . . . Scully, take Chrissy home and rest today. Nap, just . . . just don’t be here. Please.”
She started to speak, but the look in his eyes held her. He was really concerned about this. “Okay. She and I will hang out at home.”
Mulder relaxed slightly. “I’ll come get you for dinner. You take a nap.”
Scully rolled her eyes, but Maggie joined them then. “I’ll check on her, Fox. Don’t worry.”
“Thanks, Mom.” He kissed her cheek, then gave Scully a deeper kiss and followed Charlie out.
Once Mulder was gone, Bill rose from his seat to approach the two women. From all over the room, the children hurried to their side, as though blocking him from them. It had to be a coincidence, but it troubled him.
Scully took Chrissy with her as she let the children lead her to the classroom, then left through the kitchen, not returning through the main room.
When Maggie went into the kitchen to help with clean up, Bill looked around the room. It was large, with long mismatched tables and chairs on the side of the room closest to the kitchen. The main part held chairs and sofas around the fireplace. There were afghans on the backs of most of the furniture and a basket of toys and books to the right of the fireplace. There was also a large stack of wood to the left of the fireplace. Bill had noticed another large supply of wood on the front porch.
For a large dwelling, and to have so many kids around, it was very clean. He could hear the buzz of the kids in another room, so he headed that way. He spotted Walter in the room with them. Bill’s eyes narrowed, then he realized that all conversation had stopped and the children were looking at him. He turned and moved back toward the main room.
A man with a cane came in from the kitchen. He held a bowl in his free hand. The little girl that had been in Mulder’s lap was behind him, carrying a cup in both hands. He sat at the table and Esther handed him the cup after he put the bowl down. Esther turned and looked at Bill as he stood watching.
Bill looked away and Esther hugged the man, then skipped to the room where the other children were assembled.
The man looked up at Bill and extended his hand. “I’m George.”
Bill shook his hand and took a seat beside him. “Bill.”
George nodded, “You’re Scully’s brother, right?”
“Dana. Yeah, I’m her older brother.”
“I bet you’re happy to be with your family again.”
Bill nodded, but didn’t smile. George watched him. “You’ve had it rough.”
Bill looked at him for a long moment. “I lost my family.”
George sighed, “Yeah. They don’t have a lot of compassion for humans.”
Bill’s anger erupted suddenly. “You believe in little green men too? What is it about that SOB? There are no, no aliens.”
George looked at him calmly. Bill’s color rose at his silence. Then George smiled, “You’re wrong. I’ve seen them. Mulder wasn’t anywhere around. The guys that killed it were Todd, Will and Greg. I was probably as frightened as I’ve ever been, once I realized what had happened.”
“Yes. He was very brave. He and Todd plunged hypodermic needles into its neck. Green goo and fumes came out of his wounds and he just dissolved. Will saved my son and sister-in-law. He knew the fumes were toxic and got them out of range.”
Bill looked at him in silence. Finally George turned to his meal and Bill rose to go to his room.
Mulder carried Chrissy back to the house. Walt held Scully’s hand as Katy and Lexie ran ahead.
“Should I put her down?” Mulder asked as they entered.
“Let me nurse her first.” Scully settled on the couch and took the baby from him. The other kids settled around them, knowing they had questions. Scully looked over at Mulder. He just shrugged.
“I notice you didn’t touch Bill.” She finally said, looking at all three of the children. “None of you did.”
Katy met her eyes, but didn’t say anything.
“Katy.” Mulder voice was warning.
The girl took a deep breath, “we didn’t want to touch him.”
“He probably has aches, he’s tired. You could have helped him.” Scully looked at each of them in turn, ending with Walt.
“We could have.” Walt agreed.
“He hates Dad.” Katy said, her voice angry.
“He and your father have differences, but - “
Katy shook her head, “He hates him. He blames Dad for everything, Aunt Melissa, the virus, the fact that you quit being a doctor, everything.”
Scully looked over at Mulder. He gave her a smile that looked more like a grimace. He wasn’t surprised.
Scully reached over and took Mulder’s hand. “He’s wrong.” She said softly. “Just look around this room and you’ll see how wrong he is.”
“I love you.” He leaned in and kissed her. They both noticed it was the most relaxed they had seen the children all day.
Charlie met Bill for breakfast the next morning and, after eating, led him to the large field past the ice house. It didn’t take long for Bill’s back to start aching from the bending, but everyone worked, so he continued, his mood plunging. He looked up when Mulder approached the field.
“So, his majesty decided to join us.” He said.
The hand that wrapped around his upper arm was strong and hard. He was surprised to realize it belonged to his little brother. Charlie pulled him to the edge of the field, away from the others.
“There are people all over the planet who want to live here. You are here by default. If you don’t want to stay, you can leave right now. I can pack up some food for traveling, no problem.”
Bill’s mouth fell open, but before he could respond Charlie continued, “and just for the record, Mulder’s been up since dawn. He personally surveys the perimeter of our community every morning, weather permitting. Then he goes back to his house and gets the kids up, feeds them if they don’t want to eat at the clinic. That’s so Dana can get a few more minutes of sleep. She didn’t sleep well at the end of her pregnancy and now Chrissy is far from being able to sleep through the night. Then he goes to the office, I pointed that out to you, where he, Kevin and Walter go over the work rolls. They decided if any changes are needed, any emergencies or new priorities have come up. Then Mulder heads for where he’s needed most. Mulder’s not our king and he’s no saint, but he and Dana are the reason we’re making inroads to taking back this planet from the aliens you don’t believe in. Any questions or should I go get that food for you?”
Bill swallowed his first comment. The look on Charlie’s face was unfamiliar. This man was new to him. After a long moment he spoke, “I don’t want to leave.”
“Then behave.” Charlie turned then and went back to planting the tiny crops from the greenhouse.
Bill was reeling. He was aware the others had been watching from the corners of their eyes, but no one acknowledged him as he returned to work.
When they returned to the clinic that evening, as always the kids ran to meet them, easing their aches and pains. And as always, Bill was ignored. Even George, who was walking without the assistance of the cane now, had helped in the greenhouse today and gotten his hug from Esther. Brittany had even complimented his handling of the baby plants. That had made him absurdly proud for some reason. Maybe, someday, he’d be able to repay this community for what they had given him.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.