"Come on, open up, homemade hare soup like this does not grow on trees, you know. Brrrrrrr!". Frannie was making Rita's bedrest a living hell. When Rita refused to eat, Fran attempted to feed her, Rita pinched her mouth shut, and Fran moved the spoon in circles, trying to sound like an airplane.
"Frannie, please, I'm not a ba..." The same moment, Fran emptied the spoon in Rita's mouth.
"See", she said. "Didn't taste so bad, did it?"
"No, "mom"", Rita groaned. "I'm sure it tastes quite all right, but I am not hungry, and the meat in that soup was a happy, free animal a few hours ago."
"I didn't know you were a vegetarian, Rita?"
"I'm not, I... I get it, you think it's the same, right, a chicken bought in the store and a hare shot on the mountain? Well, let me tell you one..."
"Rita, honey, that hare had a good life and a quick death. An average chicken is brought up with one purpose, to grow big as quickly as possible and end up on someone's dinner table. Now, please, one spoon for Junior? You have to eat!"
"May I have some milk first? Pretty please?"
Frannie sighed and put the bowl down on the little table next to the bed. Then she went back to the kitchen, where she spotted Chris sitting by the fire.
"How is she", he asked.
"Still not eating. She said she'd like a glass of milk, is there anything left in the cellar?"
"Are you kidding? Of course there is. That goat is too productive, what are we gonna do with it all? The children can't stand the stuff, they had one lousy sip each this morning."
"Yes, I know what you mean. I was stupid enough to have some in my coffee."
"I'll get Rita a glass", Chris said. "It's gotta be worth trying." He lit a lantern and opened the trapdoor of the cellar. Carefully he climbed down the stairs, not convinced that the old steps would hold his weight. A couple of milk pails stood on a shelf in the chilly, little room. He took the lid off the closest one and brought his nose to the rim. Still fresh. He used a ladle to fill Rita's glass.
"Oh Chris", Rita said when he entered her room, "thank God it's you. Would you do me a huge favor and finish this soup? You got the milk, oh thank you!" She reached for the glass and downed the content in record speed. Chris gaped.
"How about you bring me some more of that, Sam, a jug would be perfect", she smiled and burped. "And please take the soup away, it's making me nauseous"
Meanwhile, Allison was outside playing with Daniel. They had a couple of plastic cars and some farm animals, but no adults to play with. Daniel sat on the ground banging two rocks together, the angry expression on his face could convince anyone watching that he was trying to kill one rock using the other.
Allison gathered her animals and looked around to find the barn. She had had these animals for as long as she could remember, with a big, bright red and white barn where they could sleep at night. The cow and the horse had a stall each, while the pig shared with the sheep and the hen. Where was that barn now? It couldn't just disappear? She looked at Daniel. No, he was still killing stones, he couldn't have hidden the barn. Anyway, she hadn't seen the barn lately, it had been gone for days. Many days! She could vision it underneath her bed in the apartment. Daddy was reading her a story, the barn with all the animals was underneath the bed then. It must still be there! Oh no, the animals couldn't sleep without their barn, she had to go back and find it!
She stuffed the animals in her pockets and started walking. Daddy had told her to stay away from the river, so she went in the opposite direction, making sure not to disobey him. Daddy was great! If he'd been here, he would have carried her on his shoulders so she wouldn't have to walk. Walking downhills was easiest, so she decided that that was the right way. Parfait! She began humming "Baa baa black sheep". Sheep were her favorite animals, they were big and warm and soft and kind. Hens were nice too.
She noticed some bushes, green with sharp needles. They were painful to touch, she had learned that the other day. Better walk around them instead of right through, even though it meant that she had to go uphills again.
After a long while, walking wasn't funny anymore. Huge rocks were lying in her way, she had to climb to get past them. She took her mittens off, they were just in the way.
A big animal suddenly leaped in front of her. She screamed and dropped a mitten between two rocks. Oh no, mom would not be pleased! Could she reach it? No, it was too far down, lying like a red berry just out of reach. Allison sat down to think. She needed that mitten, the weather was cold even though the sun had been shining. Not fair. It was slowly getting darker. What was she going to do? A few tears slid slowly down her cheeks.
She was cold. Cold and scared. Her bare hand was red and painful. She tried one more time to reach her mitten, then gave up and started walking again. Downhills again, that was the easiest way to walk. There were more trees here, big trees with sharp, green needles. She slipped once, banged her knee, but kept walking.
Back at the house, Rita had drunk nearly a liter of goat milk and was resting, the baby for once calm inside her. She felt happy and sated, safe, which was a rare feeling for her. Maybe it was time for a little mother-daughter bonding? "ALLISON", she yelled. No answer. "ALLISON?"
Frannie came to see what was up. "Allison is outside playing with Daniel", she said. "Do you want me to go and get her?"
"No, that's all right", Rita smiled. "I just thought I should read her a story, but I can do that later."
"So, are you feeling better, doll?"
"Yes, thank you Fran, I feel wonderful right now. It's so good to be surrounded by people you love, you have no idea how happy I am. You know Fran, this house is so big, I can't wait to go on a voyage of discovery!"
Frannie smiled. "There are plenty of rooms to discover, doll. We're only using a few of them. Downstairs we have the kitchen, the livingroom, Heschy's and my bedroom, up here there's Dana and Fred's chamber, this room, and the nursery-to-be. Chris is in there now, preparing a giant surprise for Allison."
"Chris? But I thought the children were outside? Aren't all the others off to the hotel to get more supplies?"
"Don't worry honey, the children are playing just outside the kitchen window. They are not going anywhere, they promised to stay put."
"Oh, alright, I get too much time to think, being here in bed, all alone. Life can be so complicated. It's like, I'm pretty sure nobody can find us up here, but if they do, there's no way we can get any help, you know? It's pretty scary. In a way I felt better before, when Chris and I were partners, chasing the bad guys. We never gave them a chance to chase us. Now it's the other way around. The bad guys are chasing us. We're the prey. What if they took my little girl?"
"Do you want me to go and get her, Rita? I'm sure she and Daniel will be happy to hear a story."
"No Fran, don't worry about it. It's just thoughts. Let the children play. I can't burden Allison with my fears, she's so small and should have a happy childhood."
Chris had found some tools and was happily pretending to be a handyman creating a combined nursery and playroom for the children. He had seen a great bed in a catalogue once, looking like a small house with a mattress on the roof. He whistled a merry tune, smiling as he thought of the children's expressions when they would first see their new beds. A house-bed for Allison, and maybe a bus-bed for Daniel?
The room was enormous, more than big enough for two or three small children. Three windows offered a splendid view of the farmyard. He could see some colorful toys down there, but not the children. They were probably playing a little closer to the house, out of his sight.
The fireplace was on the opposite wall from the windows. Next to it was a door leading to the corridor and the other bedrooms on that floor. This house was amazing, full of nooks and corners, narrow passages and wide halls. He could hardly wait to investigate it all. The thoughts of being snowed in during a long winter did not scare him. His family was safe, he was safe, and they were all together.
Allison's new bed was beginning to look like the cozy little house he wanted her to have. A door, two small windows with frames, and a ladder so she could climb up to bed. All it needed now was curtains and some paint. Paint? Where on earth would he get paint? Damn, why hadn't he thought of that earlier?
Too frustrated to follow that line of thought, he started on Daniel's bus. Both beds looked pretty much the same, like a box with flat roof and safety railing, but the bus would have a big front window, and several small ones along one side as well as a door.
"Well done, Lorenzo", he mumbled to himself hours later, when he was finished. "The world lost a good carpenter when you became a cop! Time to find the kids and show them this masterpiece."
Rita suddenly woke from her nap. Small fingers were pulling at her blanket. "Al?", she whispered. Nobody answered, so she opened her eyes. Daniel was standing next to the bed, carrying a picture book, looking at her with sad, brown eyes.
"Hi, Daniel", she smiled. "Do you want me to read you a story?" He nodded. "Where's Allison?", Rita asked. "Maybe she'd like to hear a story as well?"
Daniel didn't answer. "Strong, silent type", Rita sighed and patted the spot next to her. "All right, come sit down. What kind of book have you found? Peter the puppy, huh?"
They had read several pages when Rita heard footsteps outside her room. Frannie popped her head in. "Rita", she said in a serious tone. "Rita, we can't find Allison anywhere. Chris has gone out to look for her, hoping to meet the others so that they too can help."
Chris grabbed a torch, map and compass before he ran out of the house. Why hadn't he spent the day outdoors with the children? Why had he been in such a hurry to finish the nursery? Why hadn't he popped his head out of the window occasionaly to check on them? Why, why...?
Which direction could she have gone? Such a little girl, could she be homesick? Could she have walked towards the river? He slowed his pace, not sure if he wanted to know. Then he started running. If she had fallen in the river, he had no time to loose.
He ran up and down the river bed, yelling her name, alternately cursing himself for not looking after her, and praying that she was alright.
He couldn't find any signs of her having been here, no small footprints, no scattered toys or clothes. Unless she had fallen from a rock and been taken far away by the stream... He didn't dare follow that line of thought.
How far away could Harry and the others be? If only he could be sure that they would be back tonight. For all he knew, they might have decided to sleep in the shelter half way.
Why hadn't they stayed in the city? He knew how to deal with lost children there. They were either kidnapped or wandering around in a warm and bright shopping mall, never outdoors in cold, unfriendly territory with rivers and sheer drops and God only knew how many dangerous animals.
He stopped to think. It was late afternoon, it would be dark soon. Taking one last look at the river, he turned and began walking towards the path from the hotel, hoping he would meet the others. In this vast area, he could search for days without ever finding his little girl.
Allison moved slowly forward, cold, tired and hungry. It was pitch dark around her. She couldn't walk another step. Exhausted she sat down on a rock with tears running down her cheeks. The mountain was dreadfully quiet. No sound, no light, just empty, heavy darkness. She didn't dare make a sound herself, she just cried silently, hugging herself on the cold ground, feeling extremely lost and alone.
"Under my Allison's cradle, lies one small white lamb, the little lamb was running the cop shop, that will be your career, capture the black sheep, sleep little Allison sleep."
Somebody singing? Out here? Mommy?
The night wasn't so dark anymore. She spotted a light in front of her, slowly moving up and down.
"MOMMY", she yelled. Nothing happened. "DADDY!" Still quiet except for a faint humming of the familiar melody. She began to walk towards the light. It was moving uphills, and there was no path, she couldn't see where she went, and fell several times, but felt calm. She wasn't alone in the darkness, whoever was there in front of her was singing her lullaby, scaring everything bad away.
She slipped and fell one more time, and cried out. She clutched her left leg, screaming, terrified with the throbbing pain. Everything was dark, she was so hungry and cold, and thousand knifes were cutting her ancle to pieces, she would die out here and nobody cared! "MOOOMMY!!!"
"...that will be your career, capture the black sheep, sleep little Allison sleep..."
Allison stopped crying for a second, trying to figure out the words sung by the low, strange voice. "Who's there?", she whispered.
"Under my Allison's cradle, lies one little white sheep, the little sheep was running the cop shop, that will be your career, capture the black sheep, sleep little Allison sleep..."
Against her own will, she was getting sleepy. Just as she was about to close her eyes, she felt something bright and warm lift her, carry her, all the time softly singing her lullaby.
Chris stumbled into the bedroom. "Rita, where is she?", he yelled. "Is she all right?"
She nodded. "Frannie is bathing her. She was so cold, we didn't know what else to do."
"What on earth are we going to do with her? She never listens, we have to make her understand somehow. Her disobedience nearly cost her her life this time. I have to punish her."
"Not tonight, Chris."
"What do you mean, not tonight?" He raised his voice. "She has to learn, Rita! We can't let her grow up into some wild, spoiled brat."
"I said not tonight, Chris, and I meant it. This never would have happened it we'd given her freedom slowly, why weren't you out there with her today, looking after her? I have to stay in this bed, damn it, or I would have done it myself! We've never let her be outdoors by herself before. You can't punish her for us not doing our job, Chris, don't you get it? She's just a baby, it's our fault, it would've been our fault if she had died!"
"Rita, I told her to not go anywhere, and she promised to stay put. She is nearly five years old, she is old enough to face the consequences when she's disobedient. It's not like I'm going to beat her or anything!"
"Chris, don't you listen?" Rita was angry too now. "If you punish her now, you might as well tell her that she should have stayed out there, frozen to death, that we aren't happy to have her back, you'll have her crying herself to sleep without anything to eat, she hasn't eaten since lunch for heaven's sake, wont you find one of the bottles we brought for the baby and fill it with milk, she can drink it here in bed, I'm serious about this, Chris!"
Without a word, Chris left the room. He stopped halfway down the stairs, counting slowly to ten, surprised of the anger ripping through him. This was Rita, his wife and best friend, the mother of his children. They never argued. Right?
He sat down in the kitchen, head on the table, hands behind his neck. Damn child, walking off like that. What would have happened to him and Rita if Allison had died?
He began searching for some canned milk, knowing fully well that Allison couldn't stand the stuff the goat produced. Not having any luck, he decided that she could have goat milk or nothing, and filled a feeding bottle with luke warm milk. It didn't smell too bad, he decided. A little strange, but not bad.
Allison was lying next to Rita in their double bed, dressed in a soft, cotton pajamas, eyes red from crying. His heart softened.
"Hey, sweetheart", he whispered. "Would you like some milk?"
To his surprise, she started sucking as soon as he placed the nipple between her lips, and continued drinking until the bottle was empty.
"The lightman carried me home", she murmured, and closed her eyes, fast asleep. Chris took the bottle from her limp hands, and stroked a few stray hears out of her face.
"Thank you", Rita whispered. "For not yelling at her. We'll have a serious talk with her in the morning. I don't want her to be a spoiled brat either."
"Sometimes she's such a baby", Chris smiled, "and sometimes she's a big girl. It's confusing. I don't know what to demand from her anymore."
"At least we got a second chance this time, huh Sam?"
After breakfast the next morning, Chris brought Allison into the diningroom and sat down with her.
"Can you tell daddy why you ran away yesterday, princess?", he said, being calm, but serious.
Allison shook her head no.
"Don't you remember?"
"Lightman carried me home. Lightman nice."
"Who is the lightman, Allison?"
"Shining man. He scared the bad away and carried me home."
"Allison, you're a big girl now, do you understand how bad you were yesterday? You walked away even when you had promised to stay just outside the house. That is a very serious offence, little miss. We have to punish you so you understand that you have to obey. Is that clear, young lady?"
Allison nodded her head yes, bottom lip trembling. She wasn't used to being punished and not sure what to expect, but understanding that it would not be pleasant.
"Very well", Chris contiued. "You must sit on this chair and think about what you've done. Afterwards, you must help Grandma prepare lunch, and help with the washing up as well. You are not to leave the house today, is that clear?"
Allison nodded her head again.
"I didn't hear you", Chris said. "Is that clear?"
"Yes daddy." A few tears trickled down her cheek, but Chris pretended not to see them. He got out of the room, leaving her alone, trying to convince himself it was the right thing to do. Last night he had talked it over with the others, and they all agreed on this way of punishing the girl. He wasn't sure if it was what Rita had meant by "we'll have a serious talk with her in the morning", but he didn't bother asking her. It was for Allison's best.
It was late, and the children were sleeping. The living-room was quiet except for the loud howls from the storm outside, and the occasional cough from Harry trying to keep a fire going, but not succeeding very well as the wind constantly blew smoke down the chimney and out into the room.
"Good thing Allison didn't pick this night to run away", Chris murmured while he massaged Rita's feet. She lay on the couch covered by a soft, warm blanket.
"Don't say that", she said. "Gives me nightmares just thinking about..."
Over at the dinner table, Frannie was going through some old papers they had found in a drawer. Dana and Mulder were playing cards, for a change not arguing about who was cheating.
"Listen to this", Frannie said and held up some sheets of paper pinned together. "I think it's a diary: Dear Dagbog, I is struggle with learn english. Hard. Mamma not speak english. Pappa speak some. I speak some. Will write english from now. Need learn. See man, Mac. Very nice. Like Mac. He giv me red flower. I smile. Not speak english. Mac not understand. Mac speak english."
"How sweet", Rita smiled. "Are there any dates in that book? I wonder how old it can be?"
"1907", Frannie replied. "I can't work out the date. Something 23. something! Looks like onsdag, whatever that is. Look, here's a photograph as well!"
She passed the brown picture around. It represented a man and a woman, dressed in clothes from the beginning of the century, and a little girl with blond plaits. The woman had a huge hat on her head, and the girl carried a lovely doll.
"Those were the days", Harry said, taking a break from the smoking fireplace. "What else is there in that box"
"Two books", Frannie continued. "One called "Den Hellige Bibel", I am pretty sure that means the Holy Bible in whatever language these people spoke. "Kokebog" I'm not so sure of, can mean anything for all I know. It's full of recipes..."
"Hah!", Chris yelled. "It's a cookbook! Am I a genious or what?"
"Hmpf", Harry murmured and carried the book over to Chris. "Translate this then."
Chris read aloud pretending to have a clue: "Lav en dej af et pund smør, et pund mel og et halft dusin egg. Yeah, that's easy. It says that Chris is very hungry and in desperate need of food!"
"Yeah right, Christopher", Rita laughed. "Tell us something we don't know!"
"Here's another note", Frannie said. "Looks like an essay or paper. Ol' Mac - a ghost story by Alexander Swensson. Many years ago, when my family first came to America, there was a man called Mac. My parents had a beautiful daughter called Inga, and Mac fell in love with her. She loved him dearly, and they were to be married. It did not go that way. On the day of the marriage, on their way to church, Inga's horse bolted, and they never saw her again. Mac wandered around in the mountains, and after a week he found Inga's horse. He was badly scared and had big bruises. Nobody ever rode him again. Mac searched for Inga all his life. One foggy day he disappeared too. Maybe he died. Nobody knows. But from that day on, if you see a light when you are lost on the mountain, it is Ol' Mac with his lamp, trying to lead Inga home."
Fran stopped reading.
"I'll be damned", Mulder said and gave Rita a wink. "What was it little Allison claimed she saw last night?"
"Are you serious", Dana said to Mulder and rolled her eyes. "You are not claiming we have a live ghost in these mountains? Oh come on!"
"I saw a light that day in the fog", Rita said weakly, not trying to be funny. "By following it we found the hut."
"Such a sad story", Frannie sighed. "What a terrible tragedy for the family. Do you think Inga is the little girl on the photograph? If they moved here from Europe maybe they wanted to send photos to relatives back home? Alexander Swensson, I am sure he was Inga's younger brother."
"There were two Swensson brothers", Mulder said. "They both died in the Second World war."
"I wonder if they were happy ", Frannie smiled. "It can be awfully quiet here."
"Except during a late autumn storm, of course", Harry added. "How long do you reckon we'll have to live here, people?"
"If we're safe I'd be happy to spend my life here", Chris murmured. "I get restless and frustrated in this wasteland, but if my kids can grow up without threats from Montoya, it is worth it."
Rita didn't say anything. Her mind was occupied with what to expect for the next two months. Easy birth, or complicated? Would Dana be able to do a Caesarean if necessary? How painful could giving birth possibly be? She had received epidural last time. That would be impossible now.
"We all need new identification papers", Dana interupted her line of thought. "We get to choose our own names this time, and it might be a good idea if we formed fake families as well. You know, two of us being Harry and Frannies children. Is that ok?" She addressed the last question to the elderly couple.
"So Frannie and I will have two children?", Harry asked.
"That's right", Dana smiled. "Chris or Rita, and either Mulder or myself. I suggest Mulder and Rita as they assemble eachother enough to pass for brother and sister. Daniel could be Mulder's child with another woman. Same nose", she teased and leaned away when Mulder tried to tickle her. "He is a little darker than the rest of us, so maybe we can say that his mother was Puerto Rican and died several years ago? What do you think, guys?"
"That you must have thought about this a lot", Chris stated.
"Yeah", Mulder said and gave Rita a wink. "I can live with that. What do you say, sis, will you be the aunt of my children?"
"Sounds good to me", Rita said. "Having parents again, that would be nice too."
"And we would have the children we never had", Frannie said while looking at Harry. "I think this is a very good idea. Well done, Dana dear, I will be happy to have you as my daughter-in-law."
Sounds like it's settled then", Dana said. "We also should find ourselves some new names, at least last names. Mulder and I better choose the same name as Harry and Frannie, and maybe Rita, while Chris must have another one."
"Would it be unwise to choose Swensson, do you think Heschy?", Fran asked her husband. "I feel so sorry for that poor family, they crossed the Atlantic sea one hundred years ago hoping to find new land for their descendants. You don't see that kind of pioneering spirit nowadays. Using their name would prevent them from being entirely forgotten."
"What about us, Chris", Rita said. "Do you have any good ideas?"
"I like Mac. Macintosh, Mackenzie, MacLear..."
"Mac-Inga", Mulder joked. "Or Mac-Bride!"
"Mac-Bride", Rita gasped. "That's it, it's great!"
"I think he was joking", Chris said.
"Doesn't matter. Listen to it: MacBride. That sounds like a name I could live with, Chris!"
"MacBride? Hmmm. Let's think about it, Sam, huh? If we're lucky, we're stuck with the same name for the rest of our lives, so it better be something we like. Ryker isn't so bad either, you know? At least I kind of like it."
"Rhiannon MacBride... I can get used to that pretty fast", Rita said. "Ree for short, maybe. You'll be Samuel MacBride, that way I could still call you Sam. Or Ryker MacBride, since you like that name so much. What do you think?"
"I'll think about it, Rita, I promise."
---*to be continued*---
Ok, I'm getting closer to the end. Part 4 will probably be the last. Maybe I'll give some answers there ;-)
I didn't steal (borrow...) the lyrics to Allison's lullaby, but I am strongly inspired by Louis' lullaby in the tv series "War and rememberance", based on Herman Wouk's novel. I have no idea of what the song is called or who composed it, but it's beautiful. I think the Jewish text means something like "Under my Louis' cradle, lies one little white goat, the goat became a trader, that will be your career, raisins and almonds, sleep little Louis, sleep".
Disclaimer: Chris, Rita, Frannie, Harry and Montoya (!) are property of Stu Segall, Stephen Cannel and USA cable network. Mulder & Scully belong to Chris Carter, 1013 productions and Fox network.
Thanks to everyone who've sent me feedback, good to hear from you all. Also big thank you to Lisa for proofing & posting :-)
Comments? Wild guesses of what's to come? Keep the postman happy.
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