He pulled up in front of the house and parked. This was the first time he’d been out of town since their honeymoon. He missed her, even though they both would have been at work even if he were in town. This was just a day trip anyway.
Skinner now knew about Scully’s illness. When he’d asked for clearance to investigate these women, Mulder had to tell him something. He thought he’d handled it pretty well until Skinner had motioned for him to take a seat.
“Cut the bullshit, Mulder. What’s going on?”
Once again he’d found himself sitting in front of the desk as though being reprimanded on his lack of protocol, but after a few minutes of stammering he sighed. “I have to interview these women.”
“Women with cancer. I don’t have any record of a case.”
Mulder closed his eyes. “Records or not, I have to . . . to . . . It’s Scully. She . . . “
Skinner’s eyes widened. “Mulder, I’m . . . I don’t know what to say. How long have you known?”
“Six, seven weeks.”
“You knew,” Skinner said in a soft voice
“Let me know what you find out in Allentown.” He handed the paperwork back to Mulder without another word.
Mulder took it just as silently, unsure he knew anything else to say.
The woman that answered his knock on the door looked quizzically at him. “Good afternoon. I’m looking for Betsy Agopian. Is that you?” He gave her his most charming smile.
“I’m sorry, she’s not in. Can I help you? I’m Penny Northern.”
“Ms. Northern.” He shook her hand. “I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI.” He had his shield out and watched her eyes widen slightly. “Could you tell me when you expect her back?”
“I don’t know what’s going on, Mr. Mulder, but I don’t believe Betsy will be coming back here.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Betsy’s in the hospital. She has advanced brain cancer. We’re just taking turns - Mr. Mulder? Are you all right?” Her hand closed around his arm and she guided him inside. He had lost all color in his face. She led him to an overstuffed chair and he sank into it. “I’m going to get you some water. Maybe you should put your head down.”
With a last worried look, she hurried to the kitchen and returned with a glass of ice water. “Here you go.” She took a seat beside him and watched him anxiously as he took a few sips. “Are you a friend of Betsy’s? Did you not know she was ill?”
“I’m sorry. You caught me off guard. I had heard there was an anomaly of nasopharyngeal cancer in this area and - “
“Yes. Because of the alien abductions,” she spoke matter of factly, looking him directly in the eye. He gaped at her for an instant.
She sat up a little straighter, leaning slightly away from him. “I know, you’re with the FBI and you don’t believe in such things.”
“You, you’d be surprised. Why do you think the two things are related?”
“Because we all have it, Mr. Mulder. Everyone in our group, every woman that is, has developed this cancer.”
“You have it?”
She nodded and he saw the distance now in her eyes. “I do. They’ve taken me fewer times than they took Betsy. She’s been taken since she was a child.”
His knuckles were white on the rolled arms of the chair. “Please, talk to me.”
He was still in the same chair, but now he was surrounded by women, the other members of the Mufon group. They had told him their stories and were now watching him.
“You don’t believe us, do you?” The youngest woman was staring at him, frankly annoyed.
“Actually I do,” he said quietly. “I have some personal experience with this. That’s why I’m here. My wife has developed . . . she was abducted a couple of years ago in Virginia.”
“Skyland Mountain,” one of the women breathed.
“Yes.” He turned toward her. The others were nodding. “As far as we know she . . . she was only taken once.”
“Does she have the mark?” Penny asked finally.
He saw their hands come up, all of them, to touch the back of their necks. He closed his eyes for a moment. He took a deep breath and faced Penny, nodding. “A small chip.”
Without a word the women reached into their pockets and purses and withdrew small bottles, vials, all kinds of containers. Each held an identical tiny spot like the one he had personally removed from Scully’s neck.
He leaned forward, actually rocking slightly to try to ease the pain which was physical now. “Are you under treatment?” He was looking at Penny but the question was for everyone.
“Yes. It hasn’t helped Betsy, but there’s nothing else available. Does your wife’s doctor have any recommendations?”
“My, my wife is a doctor.”
Mulder watched her get ready, applying a bit more color to her cheeks and checking for circles under her eyes. “We can do this another night,” he reminded her gently.
“We haven’t seen them since we got back; just a couple of phone calls. Mom wants us to come over and I want to see them.”
“I do too, Scully.”
“I know. I’m fine, Mulder. We don’t have to stay late.”
He nodded, making no further comment.
He opened the car door and took her hand to help her out. “I thought that would stop now that we’re an old married couple.” She smiled slightly at him, trying to get him to relax.
“Who you callin’ ‘old’, woman?” He took her hand and led her to the house. The door opened before they could reach it, and Maggie stepped outside to greet them.
After hugs they were pulled inside and she called for William. He joined them from the back of the house, hugging Scully and shaking hands with Mulder.
Maggie turned Scully toward the kitchen to help her get dinner on the table and shooed the men toward William’s den. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she tossed over her shoulder as she led her daughter away.
Mulder had barely gotten settled in ‘his’ seat when he heard Maggie’s voice from the kitchen. “Dana!”
William would have said his reflexes were pretty good from a life in the military, but Mulder was out of the room before William even processed the sound. Mulder burst into the kitchen to find Maggie supporting Scully, leading her toward a chair.
Maggie turned to Mulder. “I thought she was going to faint.”
Mulder settled her in a kitchen chair and gently pressed her head down. “Scully?” he whispered in her ear; the question plain.
“I’m okay. I was just a little dizzy.” She sat up, not quite meeting his eyes. Before she could reassure her parents, blood began pouring from her nose.
“Oh my god.” Maggie snatched up a towel and Mulder took it from her. He held it against her face, forcing her to look at him.
“Here’s some ice.” William put the plastic bag from the freezer in his hand as well. Mulder nodded his thanks, then lifted Scully into his arms and carried her to the den. He lay her gently on the couch, then sat beside her. He faced his in-laws holding her hand.
“What’s going on?” Maggie’s voice shook slightly, her eyes on her daughter.
“Mom, I’m - “
“Scully,” he interrupted her gently. She seemed to deflate slightly, but she nodded to him.
He turned to face her parents. “Scully, uh, Dana, is ill.”
“Ill how?” her father asked immediately.
“She has a tumor in her sinus cavity.”
“Cancer,” Maggie barely breathed the word. No one said anything for a long moment, then William took a seat beside the couch.
Reluctantly Scully met his eyes and nodded. The older man closed his eyes for an instant, then reached for her hand. Mulder released it to him and moved so that Maggie could take his seat at her side.
“How long have you known?” Maggie asked finally.
“Just a few weeks,” Scully demurred.
Maggie turned to Mulder. “You knew. You knew before the wedding.” It wasn’t quite an accusation, but close.
“Why didn’t you say anything, either of you? We have the right to - “
“Mom,” Scully interrupted gently. “I wouldn’t let him. I tried to turn down his proposal, but - “
“You weren’t even engaged?” William asked quietly, looking at Mulder.
William squeezed her hand. “Excuse me just a minute.” He left the room as Mulder studied his shoes.
“Dana, talk to me,” her mother insisted, pulling Scully’s attention back. “Tell me everything.”
“Maggie - “
“No, Fox. I need to hear this from Dana,” Maggie interrupted.
“Mom, I am taking care of myself. I’m seeing Dr. Adams; Karen recommended him and he seems very knowledgeable.”
“And you kept this from us? Dana - “
“Mom, please. When I found out, when I found out I was in shock.”
“And you called Mulder,” her father said quietly as he returned to the room. His nose was a little red, but he was steady again. “As you should have. I understand.”
Maggie opened her mouth to protest, but William took her hand.
“I’m sorry. I should have said something sooner, but I didn’t want to spoil the wedding, and with Missy . . . “ Dana’s voice broke then.
Maggie took her in her arms. “You’re not supposed to protect us. That’s our job; but that’s not important now. Tell me what this Dr. Adams is doing for you.”
“I’m not actually taking any treatment at this time. We’re still investigating options, Dr. Adams and I, and when we - “
“You can’t wait, Dana. It’s important to get started right away. What kind of thing is he talking about?” Maggie was struggling to sound reasonable.
Scully glanced over at Mulder. “Mom . . . “
“What? What aren’t you saying?”
“I’ll talk to Dr. Adams again on Tuesday - “
“I want to go with you,” Maggie insisted immediately.
“Mom, that’s not necessary,” Scully said gently.
“Of course it’s necessary. You’re my daughter. Fox, tell her that I need to go.”
“Maggie . . . Let, let’s have some dinner.” Mulder took her hand and helped her to her feet. She opened her mouth to protest, but William rose as well.
“Mulder’s right. Let’s put this aside for a little while. We have a lot to talk about and we can’t cover it all tonight. Come on, I’ll help you in the kitchen.” William nodded to Mulder and took Maggie’s arm.
When they were alone again, Mulder took Scully back into his arms. “I’m sorry,” he said gently.
She let her head rest against his chest. “They had to know.”
“Are you going to take her with you to see Dr. Adams?”
She sighed, wearily.
“Come on. Think you can eat anything?”
“I’ll try.” She managed a small smile, but it didn’t last. He helped her to feet and his arm went around her.
What little food was eaten was done in silence. Maggie and William would occasionally glance at Scully, but she remained focused on her plate. Mulder thought she hadn’t noticed until she spoke quietly. “My appointment’s at nine.”
Maggie glance over at William then back at her. “Thank you. Would you like me to pick you up?”
“Uh, I’ll, I’ll be a work. I’ll just meet you upstairs.”
“You’re still working?” her incredulous question caused Mulder to wince.
“Maggie - “ William shook his head.
“Fine. I’ll meet you there.”
Mulder saw both women give the same nod and looked down to hide the small smile at the movement.
When dinner ended, Mulder and Scully took over the dishes; Mulder washing and Scully drying. Maggie kept quiet and put away the leftovers. Even William stayed and took the dried dishes from his daughter and put them away with a minimum of searching. No one mentioned that it was a little crowded and things did lighten up a little with her father’s obvious cluelessness. Mulder was again struck with how a real family drew closer when they needed each other instead of falling apart.
If the hugs were a little longer and tighter when they left, if wasn’t mentioned. William did take Mulder aside for just an instant, putting his arm around his son-in-law’s shoulder. “If you need anything, to talk, whatever, call me.”
Mulder could only nod. William understood, holding Maggie as they watched the younger couple head for their car.
Once at their apartment, Mulder insisted she get ready for bed. He joined her there and pulled her into his arms. “You okay?”
“At least they know.”
“Yes.” He pulled her tighter against him and her eyes slipped close.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.