Dana smiled gently as the man’s eyes fluttered open. “You’re safe. Just relax. You’re with friends now.” The man’s breathing became less frenzied as he looked into her eyes. Her hand came to rest lightly on his shoulder.
After a moment she looked up. “How are her vitals?”
“Heading toward normal. Her heart rate is much better.” Tara kept her fingers on the woman’s wrist.
“Good. Do you see the guys?” Dana didn’t want to leave the man’s side until he was a little more relaxed.
Tara looked out the back door of the van. “They’re coming.” She caught Bill’s signal. “That’s the last. I need to get up front.”
“Okay, I’ve got these. As soon as the door closes, get moving. We can keep this last one safe until he’s strapped in.”
Tara smiled and moved to the front of the vehicle.
In the two years they’d been doing this, they had rescued eighteen returnees. Not an incredibly huge number, but satisfying. The first time out they had only gotten two, a man and a woman. Now those two, Jeremy and Angie, were part of the team, choosing to stay and help rather than be returned to their old lives.
It was understandable in Angie’s case. Her recovered memories were not much better than her experiences - abusive father, even more abusive husband. It had taken Dana a little while to understand Jeremy’s motives, but Mulder had finally pointed out that the man was in love with his fellow returnee. Since his only family was a much older half brother, it made sense.
Now the couple lived on the farm that Mulder had purchased. Jeremy was a great mechanic and under his loving care, Angie had blossomed. They were a big help when new returnees were brought in and maintained discreet contact with them all.
The returnees stayed until their memories returned, and for as long as they wanted afterward. With the help of the guys, their identities were waiting for them within days of their return and Mulder was using his psychology degree for the first time with positive results.
But Bill had been the best helper in all of their operations. He’d been there with them for all except one and had led his own rescue when there had been a second group too soon for Mulder and Dana to leave their newest group and go themselves. He had the most experience, and was the only person Mulder trusted to do this on his own. This was Tara’s second trip with them and her calm disposition was already a help with these frightened individuals.
Dana watched her husband move quickly toward them. Even his posture was different now. He had seemed confident, in control, when she had met him. Now she knew that the façade had been shallow. Their time together had shown her what true confidence gave the man. He was totally secure in her love for him and he had blossomed with it. He smiled easily now and was playful, especially when they were alone.
There had been little discussion about their former relationships. He no longer felt jealousy and her work with the other abductees had strengthened her and that along with his love, had made her feel whole again.
They had not been bothered by the government, but still used extreme caution in all of their dealings. Frohike accepted nothing less where his Dana was concerned, and Byers and Langly seemed to be in total agreement. They too had seen the changes in their friend and mentioned them to her on more than one occasion.
That brought a memory and a smile to her face.
They were still getting settled into their new home, adjusting to living with each other. He didn’t leave his shoes in the middle of the floor anymore and they were working on that toothpaste thing. Mulder had called her into the room they had set up as an office. “You have an email from Frohike marked personal.”
“I do?” Her smile widened.
His attempt to pretend to smile didn’t work. “Well, I’ll let you - “
Before he could finish the statement, she had settled herself in his lap and was reaching for the keyboard. A real smile began to grow then as he ignored the email and concentrated on her profile as she read. When he saw her eyes widen in surprise, he glanced at the screen, then back at her. Was she upset?
He saw that her smile had grown into a full fledged grin. “Frohike’s still looking after me.” She looked down into Mulder’s eyes, which darkened at her words.
“Who’s Kristi?” It was all he had taken the time to read in the email.
Dana laughed then, “I’ve not met her. Apparently she’s Daniel’s latest conquest. According to this, she’s filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Daniel, after receiving a list of former students he’s ‘mentored’. The women on the list have been very accommodating. He’s taken a leave of absence and Mildred has filed for a divorce which promises to be damn messy.”
“You won’t be called.” He stated it, but she heard the question.
“No, my name has mysteriously not made the list she received.”
“And I’m not supposed to be jealous of Frohike for doing this for you, right?” He looked adorable with that puppy dog expression on his face. She leaned in and kissed the tip of his nose.
“Correct, I left town with you. I even, as I recall, married you, didn’t I?”
“Yes ma’am.” He was grinning by that time.
He had been noticeably less jealous after that. And when he had received his own private email from Byers, had called her in immediately.
“You need to see this.” He pointed to the screen, his face carefully blank.
“What’s wrong?” She knew him, knew his body language now, he was upset.
He just pointed to the screen and moved back a little. She took the seat and read the message quickly.
<<Hi, hope all is well. Thought you should know that the information regarding that person was sent and received. There was some reaction at first but it was swiftly swept away. Apparently she has some very powerful protection. We know the information did cause questions to be asked before the silence was imposed. Let us know if you want us to try again. Frohike says to tell Dana he’s still waiting for her if she comes to her senses.>>
“Mulder?” She looked up at him.
He hadn’t taken his eyes from her face. “Yeah?”
“Diana, right?” He nodded. “Powerful protection from what? What did you do Mulder?”
“I . . . I wanted to see how insulated she was. I made sure that her new superiors were aware of her . . . trustworthiness. It sounds like they were upset until they were shut up.”
She nodded slowly. “We need to remain cautious, but we’re doing the right thing Mulder.”
“Who would be that powerful? How did she get in that position?”
Dana’s eyebrow rose and he stopped. “You don’t really want me to answer that do you?”
“Uh, no, thanks.” He looked embarrassed at that.
She rose and moved to him, letting her arms twine around his waist. “Should I be jealous?”
“No!” He looked down at her, completely startled that she could even ask such a question until he saw the twinkle in her eyes. “Not funny, Red.”
She shrugged, “You do it. Let’s forget her, don’t bother to try to bring her down. If she does have that kind of protection, we’re better off keeping a low profile.” She was silent for a moment, “I can’t help but wonder who the man with the cigarettes is.” She said it softly and Mulder nodded. Then she straightened her spine. “Hopefully we’ll never have to know Mulder.”
“Right, we’ll just do our thing and to hell with the rest of the world.” He looked into her eyes.
“I love you.” He said it softly, wonderingly.
“I know.” She smiled, “and the best part is, I love you too.”
The disoriented man beside her saw the smile, and the depth of it seemed to relax him even further. Her hand came to rest lightly on his shoulder again.
Byers, Frohike and Langly had fine-tuned their study of the atmospheric signals that came before a drop, even to the point of duplicating them on occasion and broadcasting them. The military had taken the bait every time, and it had slowed their response when so many false alarms had occurred. That had come in handy, as had multiple locations on a single night.
Samantha had not been returned. With Angie’s help, they now had drawings of all four of the silent nurturers, as Dana referred to them in her mind. The fact that every single returnee recognized these four and no others, disturbed Dana on some level, but thus far it had not been discussed. Mulder was not ready, and might never be ready, to give up on the idea of Samantha returning to him, but Dana was no longer as optimistic. Maybe only one ship was used for all abductees, though it seemed unlikely in her mind.
It had been a little unnerving to know that the smoking man and Diana had also been ‘seen’ by several of the other abductees. Their sketches were also in the file. The guys had done an exhaustive search for the smoking man, but to date had been unsuccessful.
Dana moved aside as Bill and Mulder loaded the last two returnees into the van. They had never gotten four before and the van was more than a little crowded. Bill hurried to the front to take over driving. Tara already had the motor started, as Mulder finished buckling the third one down. The fourth he would hold. Red got the last belt and she calmly acknowledged that fact without argument. His total wonder when he discovered that not only was she carrying his child, she wanted to, still brought tears to her eyes, and had sealed away whatever doubts might have lingered in his mind regarding her commitment to him. Her hand came up to caress her slightly rounded belly and he took in the gesture, not able to hide the smile the movement caused him.
They were where they needed to be, and they were together. That was all that mattered.
Author’s notes: First, I want to thank everyone for sticking with me on yet another WIP. I’m sure the ending won’t please everyone, but I can’t commit myself to another 27 or so chapters. I don’t know if I’ll ever revisit this universe, but I know where to find it if I do.
Many many thanks to Marianne for the incredibly quick turn around and to Marybeth and Char for pointing the way more than once.
Now, on to other stories.