This is an alternate chapter to For Them. You don't have to read that one to understand what's going on. Also, seeing the episode this story refers to also helps to understand.
I don't own anything or anyone that is easily recognizable. I don't receive any monetary compensation or benefits from my writings.
All mistakes are mine and contains mild swearing.
The woman staring back at me is one that I don't recognize. She is thinner but her body holds more sharp lines and angles than it had before. She is older too. Her hair is no longer the rich brown that she took pride in. Instead, she found a dull brown that looked more like mud or coffee sludge with just the faintest hints of silver peeking through. Her face held more lines that seemingly continued to appear overnight. The only thing that she recognized of this woman was her eyes. Their color had retained the same chocolate hue but the life behind them had vanished.
The woman looking back had been weathered down by the cruelties of the world. She had witnessed first hand the deaths of those she cared for while ending countless others. She had fought, been beaten, threatened, and manipulated in one of the most dangerous games engineered by a man who had nothing and everything to lose.
Once upon a time, this woman had been happy. She had a job she loved, married the man of her dreams, gave him a family, and had more peace than she knew what to do with. She missed waking up to soft coos and gurgles or to small bodies using her larger one as a pillow. She missed rough hands caressing her face and strong arms holding her close. She missed stolen kisses between morning routines and passionate ones exchanged in the safety of moonlight. But most of all, she missed the way her children would light up her world. She missed the sounds of their voices and of their laughs. She missed their weight on her lap and the way their warmth seared her soul and made everything feel so...right.
Sighing, the woman in front of me disappeared as I turned the bathroom light off. Dressed and ready for the day ahead, I began the process of steeling myself for what was to come.
A few days ago, the cigarette smoking son of a bitch had called and left instructions on the place, the target, and what information was to be given. After fifteen years, I would finally be able to talk to the one woman who had been my greatest ally. Leaving them behind in the desert had been difficult because it was uncertain if I would ever be able to see them again. Obviously, the best thing for them, for everyone, was to get as far away as possible and to stay away for as long as possible. They went to wherever they went to while he and I got out of the country as fast as we could.
For a while, we called Spain home. It would have been easy for the two of us to blend in and play the part of a newlywed couple-which we were-looking for an adventure to start off a new life together. He got a job helping a local rancher raise horses while I split my time between helping them with the horses and tutoring kids in English as well as in Spanish. The two of us spent five and a half years building a home for ourselves and the children we had planned on bringing into the world. It was in 2008 that we had received the call from Walter Skinner that gave us our freedom back. By the start of the new year, we had packed up our life, said goodbye to the friends we had made, and started a new life back in the States.
We settled down and in the fall of the same year, my husband and I were able to bring home our sons. Though identical in appearance, they couldn't have been any more different. One brother loved to be cradled in the arms of his mother or his father and was just content to watch and listen to everything that went on around him. He was an easy-going baby; rarely crying and squealing out bright peals of laughter as he twirled around and around in his bouncy seat.
His brother however, had a temper and a fury that matched the most explosive of volcanoes. The moment he was born, his sharp cries echoed off the small hospital room and refused to quiet until he was comfortably nestled in the arms of his mother. The nurses exchanged knowing looks and wished the new parents good luck before leaving the new family be. It took a lot for the boy to get to the point where he couldn't be soothed, but put the boy into his mother's arms and everything was right in his little world. After the first few months, we were able to settle into a routine and continued on with our lives.
For awhile, the four of us lived contentedly in our little house on our few acre property. As 2011 came to a close and 2012 took its place, we packed up our small family and moved to a slightly bigger home farther away from its nearest city. We prepared as best we could for the ending of days, but when 2012 gave way to 2013 and we were all still in one piece, we relaxed and enjoyed the time we had together. A few months into the new year, I handed him an envelope along with drawings the boys had compiled for this very occasion. Bright blue and green cards with a multitude of colored balloons decorated the covers and exuberant exclamations of "Happy Birthday, Daddy!" rang through the air. He hugged the boys and thanked them for the drawings before opening the remaining card. He froze and his eyes watered as he pulled me into a crushing hug. Confused, the boys begged to be let in on the secret so he and I spent the next little while showing them the little details of the grainy black and white photo.
A handful of weeks before Christmas, our little girl entered the world and had her father wrapped around her finger. He absolutely adored his sons but there was something about having a little girl that had melted the former Marine's heart and reduced him to a puddle of mush. The five of us lived in peace and happiness until the fateful day a handful of weeks later when I was called to the hospital to talk to a dead man. He granted me a few weeks more of peace before I was to leave my life behind and become his right hand.
Picking up the worn photo from the bedside table, I studied the smiling faces printed within. It seemed like an eternity since I had felt that kind of happiness. I wanted nothing more than to be able to return home to them, but their safety was paramount. Everything I have done and all that I will do is so that they will be able to survive whatever comes next. Without them, there is nothing.
A knock on the door signaled the beginning of whatever came next.
I don't think I have ever been this nervous in my entire life. Sitting here, on the cold park bench in the dreary rain, a swirling in my gut began raising seeds of doubt.
After the call had been placed and a meeting point had been determined, the car that had been hired for my use had dropped me off a few blocks away and remained parked there. Now, as I waited for her to show up, I wanted nothing more than to go back in time and make sure that the smoking bastard had really died.
Approaching footsteps drew my attention away from the little splash pad where parents and their children had gathered. A familiar shock of bright red hair transported me back fifteen years and I couldn't help the small smile that found its way onto my face.
"Dana." I stood and brought her into a short one armed hug, cheeks touching in a half kiss.
"Monica. I looked you up a few years ago and tried calling but they said that you had left the bureau long before." I motioned to the bench and sat turning my body to face her. For so long I had wondered how she was doing and if I was ever going to see her again, but now I wish I hadn't. As I fed her the information that CSM had fed to me, I took the chance to take in the unfamiliar changes in a very familiar face.
Her hair was still the same shade of red but had dulled in vibrancy. It was far longer than what it had been back before everything went to hell and I could see some strands of blonde and grey. Dana's eyes were still the same clear sky blue but looked so tired. Similarly, her features had sharpened with age and the baby weight had clearly long been lost.
When the anger marred her features and the disbelief clouded her voice, I reached a hand out and settled it on her knee. This would be my only chance to set things right.
"Dana, you have to understand why I'm doing this. I had no choice. The smoking man used everything I had against me. All that I'm doing now is for them. They are the reason why I'm doing his bidding and they are the reason why I'm telling you all of this now." pausing, I took out the photo from the pocket of my coat. Turning it over, I handed it to her.
"Everything was fine up until a few years ago. We were safe and content and so happy, Dana. So happy. Then one morning I get a call to come to the hospital. I get there and the son of a bitch is alive and blackmailing me and using their lives as a bartering chip. I don't care what happens to me and as long as they're safe, I don't care what I have to do. I hope you can understand that." I watched as she took in the family on the photo, her thumb tracing over the faces as I had done countless times before. The rain began coming down harder and I knew that our time here was coming to a close. I did a quick surveillance around the area and watched the families at the pad for a moment more.
"I don't know what to say besides that I'm so sorry, Monica. I had thought that the Smoking Man only had his sights set on Mulder all these years. I get why you're doing it though, and I can't fault you for that. However, I just wish that it isn't the way it is." Giving her a sympathetic smile, I moved my umbrella to my other hand.
"So do I." I stood and she followed suit, holding out the photograph. I shook my head and stuffed my free hand into my pocket.
"You keep it. Maybe it'll remind you that you're not fighting this alone. Besides, I don't need it anymore." Dana gave me a sad look before her phone chirped in her pocket. Giving me one last glance, she turned and began walking away.
I took in a deep breath and walked toward a future of uncertainty.
She had just gotten to her car when a loud squealing drew her attention back to where she had just come from. Monica had already abandoned the bench but a sight a few feet away made her smile.
Dana watched as a small bundle in purple launched itself into her friends arms, squealing and giggling. The woman hefted the child onto her hip and wrapped her arm around two much bigger bundles of blue and green. The trio hugged her tight before making way for a man as familiar to her as the brunette woman had been. John cupped his wife's face in his hands before kissing her. It was tender and even from so far away, Dana could see the longing and the love poured into the simple action.
They pulled apart and he placed one quick kiss to her head before taking their daughter into his arms. Monica wrapped her own around the shoulders of her son's before they walked off and out of sight.
Studying the photo still in her hands, she surmised it was an old one. The people immortalized in this glossy finish were younger than the ones who had just been reunited. Out of habit and curiosity, she flipped the photo over and found neat handwriting on the back.
John, Monica, Samuel, Benjamin, and Katherine Doggett.