Disclaimer: I don't own The X-Files.

Title: Aftermath.

Word count: 1320 words.

Notes: Spoilers for Season 1, Episode 3: The Conduit. Set directly after this episode.

Read on, oh faithful ones.

...

Darlene had told Special Agent Mulder and Scully that she didn't want her daughter talking to anyone about what had happened to her after her abduction. Even now, three months later, Darlene still stands by that. She doesn't care if people in town think that Ruby's a runaway, a screwup; hell, she won't even care if they think of her as the world's biggest hussy, just so long as they don't think that she's crazy, as they'd thought of herself all of those years ago. Darlene had told the truth and she had regretted it every day since then. It had caused her far more than heartbreak, and she's told Ruby that. Ruby nods, as if she understands, but for a split second, there's something in her eyes that makes Darlene want to take the words back, damn the consequences. But she hadn't and Ruby hadn't said a word.

For weeks after Ruby has come home from the hospital, Darlene has woken up in the middle of the night and gone to her room to check on her. Either Ruby's too exhausted to revert to her bad girl behaviour, or she's turned over a new leaf, but every single night, she was still in her bed, the blankets wrapped around her tightly, and her back to the window. Her thick curtains are closed and the windows locked tightly. After hearing some noises coming from Ruby's room one day, Darlene goes upstairs to find her daughter drilling a thick piece of metal over the window. They both know that it won't stop the aliens from returning and taking her again if they wanted to, but both mother and daughter pretend that it could.

Kevin's still writing the binary code of ones and zeros; he stares at a static TV screen as the numbers flow from his favoured black texta onto sheet upon sheet of paper. He shows the papers to Ruby, and at first she tries to ignore him, ignore what he's showing her. On seeing the look of pure terror on her daughter's face, Darlene sharply tells Kevin not to disturb his sister. Gradually though, Ruby starts to accept the pages he hands to her, and a secret begins to form between them, one that not even Darlene could attempt to guess. Sometimes the secret involves a look that absolutely terrifies her, though Darlene would never admit it.

Then one day, the numbered pages simply stopped. Darlene's beyond relieved, thinking that Ruby and Kevin could just become normal kids again. If she'd known what they were doing, she would have begged for the paper to return instead. Kevin was smart before Ruby's abduction, and Ruby was simply ... misguided. Ruby thought that she was the only teenager to feel the way she did, so she did all of the usual rebellious things that teenagers did to make themselves feel unique and get attention. They had both been smart, really, but Darlene would be the first to admit that neither one would be getting a Nobel Prize or even get on the honour roll at school. Now, however, Kevin's spouting off words that Darlene couldn't even hope to spell, let alone know the meaning of, and somehow, Ruby - the same person who had been failing English, and didn't even study Science - is replying in the same sort of language, as if she knows exactly what he means.

A few weeks later, Ruby and Kevin take over the garage. Darlene was surprised to see them emptying the garage, but left them to it, thinking that they were finally doing the chore she'd asked them about almost a year ago. Deciding to follow their example, she set about tidying the house, a chore that she should have done a year ago too. So busy with her work, it takes Darlene a while to realise that she hasn't side hide nor hair of either of her children, and they've even missed out on lunch. For a terrifying moment, she fears that they've both been abducted, and Darlene calls out for them, a hint of hysteria in her voice. They both reply, and on realising that they're still in the garage, Darlene hurries down to see them, to reassure herself that they're really there. Kevin and Ruby are both out of the garage by the time she's made it downstairs, and the door is closed behind them. She doesn't think to question it, just hugs both of them tightly, fusses, and mentions something about lunch. Neither one look as though they believe her, but Kevin and Ruby just nod and follow her inside.

Darlene tells herself that they're bonding, that Ruby and Kevin both need this time together as brother and sister to get over what had happened. She hears the drilling noises, the hammering, and at one point, what she's sure is something large bubbling. Darlene tells herself over and over that they're not arguing, they're working together, and it's perfectly normal for them to not want her to see whatever it is that they're doing. They're acting like normal kids, and isn't that what she wanted? But there's a feeling in the pit of her stomach that tells her that this definitely isn't normal, and whatever they're doing in the garage definitely isn'tfor the greater good. She tries to question them over it, but they clam up tightly and refuse to answer her. When they're at school one day, Darlene even tries to get into the garage, but she discovers that they've nailed metal sheets over the windows and even changed the locks. Later that night, both Kevin and Ruby glare at her, as if they know what she's tried to do. The look on their faces terrifies her, even more than the thought of whatever it is they're building. Not by much, but enough that she has to force herself to take several long deep breaths to herself calm down again.

Six months after Ruby's return, Darlene gives in and asks her daughter to talk to her, to tell her the truth. She needs to know what happened to her, so that she can try to understand what's happening to her now. But Darlene must have done too good a job in telling Ruby her own horror tales of telling the truth, because Ruby keeps her mouth shut, shakes her head adamantly, and refuses to say a single word.

There's more of that English and Science talk at the dinner table that night. Darlene just tunes it all out now because she can't attempt to follow the conversation in the first place, and it's more than obvious that her son and daughter don't want her to know anything anyway. When she's tucking Kevin in later that night, Darlene tries one more time, her voice cracking as she begs him to tell her what's happening. Kevin just smiles, hugs her, and tells her not to worry, that everything will be fine, and no harm will come to her. Darlene wants to believe him.

Darlene knows that she can't call Special Agent Mulder and Scully. She threw their card away the moment Ruby came back from hospital, her own fear at revealing the truth is too deeply ingrained, not to mention the very idea of calling the FBI about her own children makes her feel physically sick. So she just sits in Kevin's room overlooking the garage and waits for the day that her son and daughter will reveal whatever it is they're building.

Exactly one year after Ruby's abduction, Darlene tries not to feel too surprised at Ruby and Kevin's announcement that they want to go back to Lake Okobogie. Darlene just gets in the camper van, waits until they've attached the covered trailer to the tow bar, and when Ruby and Kevin are seated, she drives towards the lake, hoping that they know what they're doing, and hoping that they'll all survive the aftermath.

...

The end.

Thank you for reading.