TITLE: Almost Home (23/?)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Gossamer, Spookys site, Xemplary,
etc.
SPOILER WARNING: Seventh season episodes through Requiem.
RATING: NC-17 (Most of the story is rated R, NC-17 parts will be
clearly marked)
CONTENT STATEMENT: MSR
CLASSIFICATION: SRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance
SUMMARY: Post ep for Requiem. Mulder comes back... but he's
missing something.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Thanks to my great beta readers Amy, Keleka, Lisa and Sallie!

Almost Home (23/?)
By Shoshana

February 27th, 2001
Tuesday
Hoese Residence
Bellefleur, Oregon
9:35 a.m.

"Thanks for meeting with us this morning... both of you." Mulder
glanced from Ray to Teresa Hoese, then back to Scully beside him.

Tabloid rags and sleazy 'news' shows had deluged the couple with
requests for an exclusive interview since they'd emerged from the
tall pine forest near their hometown. The agents had taken a leap of
faith; they'd flown out to Bellefleur without scheduling an
appointment with their fellow abductees. When Mulder had contacted
the Hoeses that morning through the Sheriff's department, they'd
returned his call and readily agreed to see them.

The modest bungalow bore no trace of Teresa's violent abduction
months earlier. Yellow crime scene tape wasn't strewn around the
perimeter of the cozy home, nor were strange marks resembling an acid
spill etched into the kidproof carpeting. Everything was as it
should be; all the tidying up and repairs had been done by Ray's
mother, hoping against hope her son and daughter-in-law would be
returned.

Ray had been taken repeatedly over the last eight years and his
parents had participated in a townwide conspiracy of silence
concerning his mysterious disappearances. He couldn't have been in
law enforcement, couldn't have afforded to provide Teresa and their
child with a decent lifestyle, if everyone was privy to his secret.

His wife's family had been similarly discreet concerning Teresa's
fewer, but nonetheless disturbing abductions over the years. Both
Ray and Billy Miles had managed to land jobs with the local police
because of their parents' popularity in the community. No one who
knew the truth questioned the wisdom of their appointments to the
force, either because they liked the young men personally, or they
too had relatives who'd been torn away from their families by the
same nameless intruders from the sky.

"It's no problem at all, Agent Mulder. We remember very little of
the last five months or so... but we do know the price you paid for
trying to help us. Our friends and relatives filled us in on the
search for the missing FBI agent while we were all gone. I guess it
drew some unwelcome attention to our town, but that's nothing new
here, as you are both already know," Ray told them.

Teresa nodded her head in silent agreement and smiled wanly at her
guests. She appeared to have lost almost twenty pounds during her
ordeal, no longer the vibrant woman who'd recently given birth to a
child. Ray seemed a bit scrawny, maybe fifteen pounds underweight,
though no more so than Mulder had been on his return. It was a
mystery--how had they all maintained muscle tone during their
captivity--did their kidnappers have a secret formula for keeping
them fit, yet were unable to sustain their body weight?

"Are you both okay? We read the local police report at the station
this morning, and we know you were taken straight to the emergency
room after you flagged down some campers yesterday. We don't have
access to your medical records at the moment and we were concerned
about you," Scully remarked.

"We're okay," Teresa affirmed. "Not like other times at all, thank
God. Both of us are relatively healthy considering how much weight
we seem to have lost. We have no scars or needle marks. If they
didn't want to do physical tests on us--we can't imagine why we were
taken. Do you know why?"

"We have a few theories, but nothing set in stone. Mulder wasn't
harmed physically, as far as we can tell. There was some memory
loss, especially concerning whatever happened to him while he was
confined. He's regained a fraction of those memories; they're still
hazy and disconnected. Which leads me to my next question--have you
forgotten any events in your lives prior to your abduction last
September?" Scully asked.

Teresa glanced over at her husband, swallowing hard. They hadn't
discussed every aspect of their nightmarish adventure, preferring to
tell each other as little as necessary. They'd both been interviewed
by law enforcement yesterday, but revealed as little as possible to
Ray's former colleagues. Claiming exhaustion, they'd asked to be
excused until a later date when they'd thought things through more
clearly.

The current Deputy Sheriff was mildly irritated, but understood the
need to be reunited as soon as possible with their child. He'd asked
them to write down whatever they could last night, but both Ray and
his wife found it impossible to adequately express themselves on
paper. They were in bed by eight o'clock, their child snuggled
between them.

"I can only speak for myself. I barely remember the events leading
up to our disappearance, because I was incapitated by whoever,
whatever, took me from my family. I remember seeing Agent Mulder
step into a circle of light... after that... I just don't know... I
have vague memories of being restrained in a hospital bed. That's
about it for the last five months, I'm sorry to say," Ray apologized.

Teresa agreed with a slight bob of her head. "It's pretty much the
same for me. I haven't forgotten my life before we were taken. I
remember standing in the forest, seeing so many familiar faces around
me, then seeing Agent Mulder. I guess we should be thankful we don't
recollect more," she sighed.

Mulder shook his head and sent them both a sad, sympathetic smile.
"Maybe so, but if you have any post-traumatic symptoms, you probably
should see a therapist. That's not my opinion as a professional, Mr.
and Mrs. Hoese. It's just my hope for you as a friend."

"Thanks, Agent Mulder. We appreciate everything you've done for us.
But the real question now is... do you think they'll be back for us?"
Ray asked.

Teresa squeezed Ray's hand firmly, his eyes meeting hers fondly.
They waited patiently for Mulder to respond, "I don't know. I have
to find out why we were taken first. That's why--"

Mulder was interrupted by a toddler's cry, bleating from the baby
monitor positioned prominently on the Hoese's coffee table. Teresa
gave her guests a nervous smile, then rose from the couch.

Before she ascended the stairway leading to the second floor, she
turned around and addressed Scully, "Come along?"

Scully glanced over at Mulder, seeking and finding silent approval.
Divide and conquer, he'd always told her. People were more easily
persuaded one on one, especially under these circumstances. Scully
realized this was more than an ordinary interrogation of witnesses--
these people were their friends, and what they had to ask of them was
above and beyond the call of duty. Even for law enforcement
personnel.

Scully followed Teresa to the nursery where the now eighteen-month
old child was broadcasting his displeasure. His mother picked him up
and placed him on the changing table immediately. The baby had been
fed moments before Mulder and Scully arrived at their doorstep, so
she knew what the problem had to be.

"Please sit down, Agent Scully," Teresa said, motioning toward the
white rocker nearby. She efficiently changed the baby while
continuing their conversation, "You know, he remembered me," she told
Scully, her voice cracking with emotion. "I was so afraid, almost
six months gone... I thought he might forget--"

"Was he with your parents?" Scully inquired.

"Yes. Ray's, actually. I guess I should be grateful he doesn't
wonder what happened to his mother all these months. That's why
we're so concerned--what happens when he's older, when he can figure
it out for himself. Or maybe the kids at school will tease him about
his missing Mom or Dad. I just don't know what to think anymore,"
Teresa said, a note of despair coloring her voice.

"We're going to solve this, Mrs. Hoese. But we need your help.
Desperately," Scully said, losing a fraction of her composure in
response to Teresa's malaise.

Teresa turned all the way around, pulled by Scully's plaintive tone.

"Are you at risk, too? Because of Agent Mulder--is the baby--"

It was an educated guess on her part, relying on her previous
impressions of Mulder and Scully--and how they'd related to the baby
last time they'd all been in the same room together. Teresa had
sensed the agents were involved with one another; she hadn't had the
nerve to hint of such a thing, not even when Scully showed up on her
doorstep, obviously well along in her pregnancy. The Hoeses had
acknowledged her condition with broad smiles, offering her the most
comfortable chair in their living room. Beyond that, they'd both
been too shy to ask for confirmation of parentage.

Scully fought back tears, treading a fine line between
professionalism and personal interest. No one could be more
sympathetic to their plight than a fellow abductee like Teresa, with
a small child to protect from seemingly random, senseless harm.
Scully needed the Hoese's cooperation, but didn't want to burden them
with unfounded fears. There was no evidence the aliens were
interested in taking young children from abductee parents--at least
not yet.

"We're just concerned right now, Teresa. May I call you Teresa?"
Scully continued when the young mother bobbed her head, "We don't
know what lies ahead for our family. Whatever we discover could
benefit us all, but we need your help to do some research. We need
to ask a lot of you and Ray."

"What sort of research? Tests?" Teresa's voice quavered on her
last word, one with so many negative connotations.

Scully swallowed hard, hating herself for asking so much of someone
so fragile, so recently traumatized by losing months of her life, of
her child's life.

"Blood tests, and non-invasive tests like MRIs, CT scans. All the
abductees from Oregon had anomalous brain activity, including you and
Ray. We'd like to know if your child has a similar condition."
Scully shook her head, attempting to stave Teresa's fear, etched
clearly across her face. "No harm would be done. I promise you."

Teresa nodded her head, then turned back to her toddler, checking
his diaper one last time. She lifted him from the table, hesitating
slightly, then crossing the room to Scully. She gently transferred
the baby to the seated agent, smiling at the look of wonder in
Scully's eyes.

Scully cradled the child in her arms, speaking a few nonsense words
to make him giggle. "He's beautiful, Teresa."

"Yours will be, too. They all are, Agent Scully."

"Please call me Dana," Scully insisted.

"Dana, then," Teresa agreed. "Do you think we can wait a few days?
I think it will be easier to convince my husband when we've had a
little more time to rest."

"I don't see why not. Mulder and I don't have to be here. You can
have your doctor fax the test results to us. I can't promise you
anything, Teresa. But you can imagine how much your help means to
both of us. It may safeguard our child's future," Scully told her,
carefully passing the child back to his mother.

Scully stood up slowly, gaining leverage with her feet. Her own
baby chose that moment to use her womb for kickball practice, causing
her to wobble slightly on her feet. One hand flew to her stomach, the
other balanced against the baby's crib.

"Are you okay?" Teresa asked with concern.

"Oh, yeah. I'm fine," answered Scully automatically. She added,
"Just a little reminder to Mom, I guess. He's getting more active
lately."

"Am I interrupting anything?" Mulder asked from the nursery doorway.

Scully beamed at him. He looked handsome in the suit he'd
been loath to wear while on medical leave. She'd convinced him to
bring it along, just in case. Her clothes were less versatile--tunic
tops in black, brown or navy--leggings with a similar color palette.
Last month the saleslady at the maternity store had frowned when
she'd refused to consider brighter shades; it would have been
impossible to explain why she favored somber ones, at least until
Mulder came home. Maybe it's time for a change, Scully mused to
herself.

"No, not at all, Agent Mulder. The baby is changed, and Dana and I
had a good talk, didn't we?" Teresa said while bouncing her child
gently in her arms.

"Well, *Dana*," Mulder said with a smile. "I just got a call from
Billy. He'd like to see us. You up for that?"

"Are you done speaking with Ray?" Scully asked, amused by the use of
her first name under the circumstances.

"I think so. I hope so," he responded.

Mulder cast a worried glance toward Teresa. He was reassured
immediately by her tranquil demeanor as well as Scully's ease in her
presence. The womenfolk had been up to something, he knew that for
sure.

"Let's get moving then. We have a few more stops before we meet
with Billy," Mulder urged.

"Hold on," Scully said.

She crossed the room to Teresa and whispered something in her ear.
Teresa nodded once, then smiled brightly. Scully leaned over to kiss
the baby, then patted his mother's hand.

"Take care, Teresa. I'll call you within the week."

"You take care of yourself, Dana. Allow Ray to show you out. I
think I'll spend a few more minutes here."

Mulder stepped forward and attempted to shake Teresa's hand, ending
up with a bit of gurgling baby in his face. He tickled the child
gently, resulting in giggles from the baby and laughter from the
adults.

"Thank you, Teresa," Mulder said, putting his arm around Scully's
waist, escorting her down the stairs and out of the house.

A few photographers waited miserably in the cold on the periphery of
the Hoese property. They'd been warned to stay behind an invisible
line by Ray's fellow officers that morning. The newsmongers ignored
Mulder and Scully, unaware the duo were newsworthy in their own way.
Apparently flyers had stopped circulating with Mulder's mug the
previous week when Skinner had relayed the news of his return to
local law enforcement.

The partners were halfway down the sidewalk which led to the Hoese
front door when Mulder could no longer contain himself.

"What did you whisper to Teresa back there, Scully?" he asked.

"Ah, wouldn't you like to know," she said with an air of mystery.

"Everything's all right, isn't it? I mean, I just assumed it was
from the way you were--"

"Oh, Mulder. Everything's just fine. She's agreed to the tests.
Not right away, though."

"So, what did you tell her?" he insisted.

Scully grinned at his persistence, then snickered softly. "I told
her, 'Doesn't he look great in that suit?'"

"Scully! You are so full of it." Mulder stopped her in front of
the driver side door. "What did you really say?"

"It had absolutely nothing to do with you, Mulder. You're just
paranoid enough to believe anything." She pushed him gently toward
the sedan door. "So there!" she said, strolling toward the passenger
side.

"I'm not totally paranoid," he mumbled under his breath.

"What's that you say, Mulder?" she turned and asked, close to
laughter.

"Get in the car, Scully," he ordered goodnaturedly.

"Tyrant."

"Tease."

"Not me. I'm a respectable pregnant lady. By the way, Mulder,
where's our tail? Did you tell Skinner where we were going last
night?"

"I left a message on his answering machine. If they followed us
here, I haven't seen them. They must be damn good if Mr. Paranoid
hasn't detected them, don't you agree?" Mulder grumbled.

Scully reached over the seat and took his hand in her own,
caressing his knuckles with her thumb. "They must be very good, I
imagine."

He pulled her hand to his face, locking their fingers together
beside his cheek. "Not as good as you are, Sherlock."

They smiled at one another, then he gave her hand a mannerly kiss,
releasing it to buckle his seatbelt.

"Where to?" she asked.

"Back to the station. They've compiled a full list of returned
abductees, with possible alternative hideouts from the press. I
guess the 'Weekly World News' has been busy harassing these people,
and most of them have fled their own homes. I don't know if we can
get to everyone on the list in just a few days. I'm not even sure we
need to. What do you think?"

"I think we need to do what we can. And I think I'd rather be doing
this than sitting around at home worrying about what the Consortium
has in store for us," she responded.

"I don't want you overexerting yourself, Scully. I'm beginning to
wonder if I shouldn't have made you stay home--"

"No way, G-Man. I'm not leaving you to your own devices and losing
you again. It's only a couple days, right? And you promised to stay
out of the woods, didn't you?" she purred, straightening the collar
of his dress shirt.

Mulder intercepted her hand, twining their fingers together. "I
have a pretty good incentive to stay in my motel room tonight," he
answered, voice low and silky.

"The same one you had last night?" she smiled, continuing the
flirtation.

"I sure hope so," he whispered back.

He smiled back at her, resisting the temptation of even the chastest
kiss considering their ready-made audience of paparazzi.

"Let's get going," he said before turning the key in the ignition.

"Let's," she responded, her attention already drawn to Billy Miles's
medical file on the seat between them.

After a few short stops, they arrived at Billy's temporary quarters
at a friend's home. There were a few stray reporters here, too,
wincing as a light rain began to sprinkle around them.

Billy had lost body mass also, much more than Mulder or Ray had. A
slim man before the abduction, he was a ghost of the man they both
remembered. He welcomed the agents and offered them coffee, smiling
at Scully when he told her decaf was available. She smiled back and
took him up on it, sitting down on the couch next to Mulder.

"My aunt sent over some sandwiches, if you're hungry, Agents," he
offered his guests as he made the instant coffee.

"Thanks, Billy. Maybe we'll hold off for now. We have a few other
stops to make," apologized Scully.

Mulder repressed a scowl; he didn't like to see her skip meals
anymore. She'd always ignored lunchtime on the road, preferring to
catch up in their motel rooms at night. Of course, this notion was
based on his limited memories of their last year together. He'd
tried to reach farther back than October of 1999, hoping to recall
more about their life together. His mind always failed him, only
able to reminisce from some point after his non-elective brain
surgery. It didn't really matter if she declined a sandwich here, he
told himself, making a mental note to drag his beloved to a local
diner shortly after their visit with Billy.

"If you change your mind, Agent Scully, don't hesitate to tell me,"
Billy added. "My aunt is just trying to fatten me up. Problem is,
I've lost most of my appetite."

Mulder nodded with understanding. Images of his own confinement had
begun drifting into his consciousness every waking hour since
Saturday's episode at the summer house. He wasn't about to reveal
any of those memories to Scully just yet, even if Billy related
identical experiences to them.

They all sipped their coffee for a minute until Billy initiated the
conversation, "You saw Ray and Teresa, then?"

"Yes, we did. I'm glad to see them doing so well," Scully responded.

Billy looked around the living room sadly, then met her eyes.
"They'll have nightmares later. We're all so used to this by now,
it's pathetic. I want to help you, agents. I want to stop this from
happening again. I've had enough--all these good people who are
taken repeatedly have had enough. Can't you help us?"

His last plea was so heartfelt; Scully wished she could embrace
Billy and tell him they'd do whatever they could to stop the
cycle of abductions. She balanced her coffee cup in her hands,
slightly swollen from pregnancy. Maintaining a completely objective
demeanor didn't mix with their mission here; these people were not
only victims, they were their friends.

Fate had brought them together again and Scully felt cornered by
forces beyond her control. She sensed Mulder felt as helpless as she
did--he sat in stony silence beside her, lost in his own thoughts.
He rarely zoned out when they were on investigations, but this was
different--she knew he wasn't telling her the whole story of his
captivity. She wouldn't push him to do so, nor would she sit idly by
when they returned to DC. Mulder needed to start seeing a therapist
as much as the Hoeses--the sooner the better.

Mulder surprised her by speaking up, "We could use a little help,
Billy. Do you know some of the abductees with children?"

"A few. Why?" Billy asked.

"They might be more easily persuaded if a familiar face asked them
to help our investigation," Mulder responded.

"I'll help you any way I can, but you must realize we're all scared.
We want to help, but we don't want to be taken again," Billy
fretted.

"We'd like to see if certain traits of the parents are passed on to
their children. It might help us determine why you were taken. We
hesitate to ask this... we'll understand if people don't want to
help... all we can do is ask and hope for the best," Scully told him.

Billy smiled shyly, and nodded his head affirmatively. "I'll go
along with you, introduce you to the ones most likely to agree. I'm
sure it will be more helpful if I'm with you."

"Thank you, Billy. You have no idea how much this means to us,"
Scully said, placing her cup on the table before her.

"We can go now, if you like. I'll call ahead."

"Thanks, Billy," Mulder added, gulping down the rest of his coffee
before rising from the couch.

Billy took their cups and went into the kitchen to call the other
abductees. Mulder took hold of Scully's hands, making her giggle
softly as he pulled her to a standing position in front of the couch.
He put his arm around her shoulder and sprinkled the crown of her
head with a few gentle kisses.

"Mulder," she scolded, "This is work."

"Oh, is that what this is?" he laughed, lowering his hand to her
waist.

The jingle of Billy's car keys warned them of his approach and they
sprang apart seconds before he re-entered the room. Scully fussed
with her hair nervously while Mulder studied his shoes with interest.
Although Billy had probably figured out their relationship months
ago--when they'd arrived to help him prevent more abductions--acting
unprofessional was never in their best interest.

"Ready?" Billy inquired with a grin.

"You bet," Scully answered, confidently striding toward the door with
Mulder right behind her.

fin

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