Weeks passed. Nobody discussed names anymore, nor ghosts or European immigrants. Storms and bad weather were the norm, days could pass when they didn't see the sun.
Rita went to bed early the last evening in November, having argued with Chris over some stupid detail. Chris lit the fireplace and blew out the lights in their room before he went downstairs to the others again. Not a single good-night-peck or at least a "sleep well, dear". She buried her head in the pillow. The wind was raving on outside, whistling around the corners and creating odd squeeks and noices in the old house.
Rita felt a little nervous. This would be a great day for Montoya to make his move. There was no way they would hear anything until it was too late. He could take the children, or her, and the others would never know. Or he could take the others, and she and the children would be left alone, helpless.
Darkness, that horrible darkness. She could just about reach the curtains, and pulled them away from the window. Flickering grey darkness outside. No moon tonight. Of course not, there was a storm blowing. A late November storm.
Was there any dangerous animals in these mountains? Puma, bears, a pack of wolfs? Could they get into the house when the windows were closed?
That ghost... she had to assume it was a ghost she had seen that night in the fog. Not that she believed in ghosts, there was no way they could exist. Right?
She pinched her eyes shut. Stop thinking! Sleep!
"Rita, you are safe", she thought she heard somebody whisper. Mom? No, mom had been dead for many years. She opened her eyes. A soft light filled the room. Her heart nearly stopped.
There she heard it again, "Rita, you are safe. No harm will come to you. You are safe. No enemy will find you here. "
"Who are you", she gasped.
"You are safe now, Rita, safe.
"Lie down, close your eyes, you are safe now."
Rita obeyed. The silent voice began to sing.
"Under my Rita's cradle, lies one little white sheep, the little sheep was running the cop shop..."
Rita couldn't help it. This was too weird. She started giggling.
"Worked for your daughter", she thought she heard. She opened her eyes again. The room was empty and dark. Had she been dreaming? She closed her eyes again. What a strange night. Why had she and Chris argued again? She couldn't remember. Couldn't have been very important. What on earth was going on with them these days? They'd never fought over peanuts before. She probably owed him an apology in the morning. Unless he came back before she fell asleep, but she had a feeling he wouldn't.
She woke early the next morning, but not early enough. Chris had already left. She cursed silently. Then she heard steps outside her room.
"Sam?", she called hopefully. Dana popped her head in.
"Can I help you, Rita?"
"Find Chris for me?"
"Sure. You feeling ok today?"
"Yeah, thanks. See ya."
Chris entered the room a while later, carrying a breakfast tray. Rita suddenly felt very sad and nervous, but forced herself to go through with what she had planned to say.
"I'm so sorry about everything, Sam. Not raising Allison properly. Not being slim and strong anymore. Getting pregnant when we'd decided not to have any more children. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
"Rita! Sam? Listen to me, Sunshine!"
"What, Sunshine huh? More like Thunderstorm! Without me you could've..."
"Shhh, calm down."
"Oh, sorry, I forgot about Allison."
"Don't worry, she's out playing with Daniel. Now, will you listen to me? If we hadn't been on the run all the time, we would have wanted a house full of children, right? Twins, triplets, a basketball team? A big, happy family?"
"Yeah, maybe, but we are on the run, never safe, and the more children, the bigger family we have, the more loved ones to lose... Can't you see? Montoya's brothers will be thrilled when they find us! "Look, Lorenzo's been breeding like rabbits! Let's kill one child first, just to torment him. Oh check this out, another child, let's chop it to pieces - no, wait, let's raise it to be one of us, that'll bug him much more. And his wife - rape her, all of you..."
Rita worked up all her frustration without looking at Chris's face, not realising he was not finding her tirade at all amusing.
Suddenly he'd heard enough and got up. "I need some air", he said harshly.
He didn't hear her final words, he slammed the door shut behind him and started walking. Down by the river he could hear happy children's voices. So if Allison had her own mind sometimes. Most times. A little stubborn. Like her mom. And dad. He smiled softly, remembering the first time he saw her. A pink, wet, wrinkled beauty on Ritas chest, resting her head while she looked at them. He and Rita had been so close back then, sharing the moment as one. But lately...
He caught a glimpse of Fran and Harry watching the children, looking like the grandparents they'd always wanted to be. Allison running with her long hair like a fan behind her. Little, serious Daniel, laughing so hard he could barely stand on his feet. This cold, desolate hell was also a warm paradise. If he could only find a way to open Rita's eyes.
Late that night, he sat down on the bed, stripping slowly, not looking at what he assumed was a sleeping Rita. Suddenly he felt her fingers touch his backside.
"Can you forgive me", she asked with a trembling voice. He froze as she continued. "I keep nagging you, I know I am a pain, and I hate myself, but I can't control it. I do love you, more than you'll ever know, you're the best thing that ever happened to me, safe or not safe, on the run or in a quiet home, with one child, two children, a dozen... Please forgive me?"
Unable to utter a word, Chris slipped under the covers and turned towards her, barely able to see her in the dark. He reached out to touch her face.
"You've been crying", he slowly pointed out, stroking her cheek. "Why have you been crying?"
There was a long silence before Rita moved her head away from him. He hid his arm down along his side, not touching her.
"We've been fighting so much lately, I feel so bad for taking it all out on you, and I'll probably be just as bad tomorrow, and I'm so worried that you'll just get enough and leave me, and I wouldn't blame you at all but it would rip my heart..."
She began to cry again, silently.
"Contagious", he said, and rubbed his eyes. "God Rita, I'd never leave you, you know that, the only way you can get rid of me is if you look me in the eyes and tell me you don't love me anymore."
"I know", she laughed and cried at the same time. "I just keep forgetting it."
"So", he whispered and gathered her into his arms, stroking her belly button. "Comfortable?"
"You keep that up and Junior will be born premature, Sam!"
"That good, huh?"
"Ah-hah. But I think we should wait though."
"Know what Dana told me today?"
"That a woman's orgasm can kickstart the birth. If the baby's ready, that is."
Chris didn't answer right away, just tightened his hold on her. "When do you think he'll be ready?", he murmured.
"Two more weeks. That's my due date."
"So if he's not born in two weeks, I get to kickstart the birth?"
"You got it, Lorenzo, if he's not born in two weeks, you get the honor."
"I can live with that. You sleepy yet?"
"Mmm. Fighting is hard work. Making up too."
"Sleep tight, Sunshine. I love you."
"And I love you."
Rita woke from a sudden movement inside her and a burning sensation in her throat. Groaning, she managed to sit up, feeling vaguely like a whale on the beach. Chris made soft sounds while laying perfectly still with his arms around his pillow. Sleeping like a baby. She smiled and stroked her belly. Couldn't be many more days now. Would be a nice change to have the little fellow in a cradle next to her instead of in her womb, kicking her insides sore and tender.
Milk. That might help. The heartburn was killing her. Slowly, she got out of bed, pulled on her robe and went downstairs.
"Hi there, sis!"
"Hi, Mulder. Don't you ever sleep?"
"I was just about to ask you the same question."
"Heartburn. Common problem for pregnant women."
"Insomnia. And no tv."
"Is there any milk left? Thought it might help."
"Sure. Want me to get it for you? Chris would never forgive me if I let you fall from the ladder, you know."
With a wink he raised and offered his chair to Rita. She patted his arm and sat down.
"So", she said when he came back from the cellar with the jug. "What brought you out here in the first place? Who did you piss off?"
"Cold or warm?"
"The milk. How do you want it?"
"Plain and cold. Warm goat milk is... Never mind. Thank you."
She accepted the glass and took a few sips. With a deep sigh, she put the glass down on the table.
"You all right", Mulder asked. "Want me to get Chris for you?"
"No, let him sleep. Poor thing, I put him through enough during the day to wake him up in the middle of the night. I'm so sick of living on the run, and being a city girl, I find adjusting to this place a little hard. But I feel safe though. And it's great for Allison to have a big family like this. She's behaving a lot better than she used to, I can tell she loves it here."
"What about you, Rita?"
Rita sat quiet for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I grew up without a family", she said in the end. "My mother died when I was a baby, my father when I was seven, I grew up in several foster homes until I came to a couple that adopted me. Unfortunately they died too, but at that point I had grown up and could take care of myself."
"I lost my little sister when I was twelve. She just disappered. Vanished without a trace. I've spent the rest of my life searching for her, trying to find out what happened to her."
"That's the worst bit, isn't it? Not knowing."
Mulder nodded. "I didn't really have to go into hiding. I chose. Someone told me I could find the truth out here."
"Well, have you?"
"Not really. But I have found a kind of inner peace. I have to live my life, whether or not Sam is alive."
"Yeah. Imagine how I felt the first time I heard Chris call you that!"
"What was she like?"
"Witty. Sharp. Cute. Little, with long wavy brown hair. Much like Allison. Green eyes, though."
"Could have been me", Rita smiled.
"Yeah, I guess."
"I found my father. In the bathtub. He'd blown his brains out."
"Bastard! How can anyone do that to a little kid?"
"I can't really remember it. Only the nightmares about it. Being sent from foster home to foster home. Until I came to the Lances. They loved me and became my new parents. I even had a brother for a while. Michael. He's dead too now. Murdered while Chris and I still worked together. My loved ones have a habit of dying."
"How long have you known Chris? He still seems healthy", Mulder pointed out.
Rita blushed and smiled. "More than ten years now. Yeah, you're right. Some loved ones stay put. I'm glad."
"Scully was my closest friend, closer to me than my parents. My human credential, in a way."
Rita thought it over. "You gave her a compliment there, but pulled yourself down. Why?"
"Guilt", Mulder replied with a sheepish grin. "My parents blamed me for Sam's abduction. I was baby-sitting and supposed to look after her that night."
"I can't remember! I have one image of her floating away from me in a bright light, but I don't know if that's what really happened. I've been hypnotized to remember, how do I know I wasn't hypnotized to remember that instead of what really happened? Or do I actually remember the actual thing? I've seen a lot of weird things in my work, things that weren't supposed to be possible!"
"So you lost your sister, and in a way your parents too. Are they still alive?"
"Sorry to hear that."
"At least I knew them. How much do you remember of your father, sis?"
Rita smiled at the nickname. "Hang on", she said and got up. "I have my childhood album in the bookshelf in the living room."
"Sit", Mulder ordered. "I'll get it."
Moments later he offered Rita her album and sat down next to her. She was showing him the first photo, an enlargement of her and her father on her seventh birthday, when she heard him gasp.
"What's wrong", she asked. Without a word he got up and ran upstairs. Rita shook her head and turned the page. Her mother smiled at her, obviously pregnant and very happy. Rita looked at the old photo, trying to see her own features, but not succeeding. "Who were you, mom?", she whispered.
"Here", Mulder said and entered the kitchen with an envelope. He picked out a photo and gave Rita. "This was Sam and my father on her seventh birthday."
"Oh my God", she gasped. "It's identical to mine! Damn it! Give me the rest of those."
She pulled out a photo of two children laughing, the little girl looking just like herself, and the older boy... "I remember that boy", she said slowly. "He is in one of my nightmares. We are seperated by glass, couldn't reach each other. The light is weird. It's you, isn't it? What the hell is this, Mulder?"
"Yes, Mulder", Dana said and entered the kitchen yawning. "You should quit drinking coffee, maybe you'd sleep at night like the rest of us. Oh, hi Rita, you awake too? What's up with you two anyway, you look like you've seen ol' Mac or something!"
As she got no answer, she sat down across from Rita and poured herself a glass of milk.
"New X-file, Scully", Mulder said. "Or possibly a solution to an old one."
"Com'ere", he murmured and took her hand. "See this photo of Sam and dad on her seventh birthday?"
"Yes, so? She looks a little like Allison, nothing new about that."
"This is Rita and her father on her seventh birthday."
"If I am your lost sister", Rita said slowly. "Mulder... Fox, why the hell can't I remember a damn thing?"
"I don't remember either", Mulder said. "And I was older."
"But you remember that you had a sister! I can't even remember having a mother and a brother, how is that possible! Can't someone have tricked with the photos? Or your dad have had a secret twin brother or something? How the hell can I ever be sure on what's the truth?"
"Welcome to Mulderworld", Dana sighed.
"Rita", Mulder said. "You said you remembered the boy on the photo from a nightmare. That boy is me, I can assure you that. The girl is my little sister. I took the birthday photo myself."
Rita sat quiet for a few minutes before she continued. "When I left my first foster home, my foster mother gave me a little book. She had written a diary for me, something to help me remember the time I'd spent with her. She wanted to keep me for good, but got really ill. I think she died. They never told me. In the diary, she wrote about the fox I must have had, and lost before I came to her, since I kept waking up crying for it. She assumed it was a stuffed animal. So did I, though I could never remember."
"What about the Sam-thing between you and Chris", Mulder asked. "I know it has something to do with Sammy the golfer, but...?"
"First time he called me that, it felt right. So right. I guess it was this soulmate thing, two best friends calling eachother by the same name. Actually, he used Sam more than my real name. Don't know why. Liked it, though. I can't relate to Samantha, I've always been Rita! Sam is just a dear nickname, like "sis"."
"You like that?"
"Then", Mulder paused. "How about we leave this for tonight? Give us both some time to think about it, get used to the possibility."
"Sounds good. I'm exhausted!"
"You'll feel better after the baby pops out, sis", Mulder said with a wide grin.
"Yeah, right", Rita smiled. Suddenly the smile disappeared as a sharp pain ripped through her lower back. "Oooh!"
"What's wrong, Rita?"
Rita relaxed in her seat, and smiled. "Just Junior who wants to get out now, I think."
Dana suddenly woke up. "How long between the pains?"
"Relax, Dana, this was the first one."
"What's to relax about? I haven't delivered a baby since med. school!"
"You had to tell me that now", Rita groaned. "Couldn't you have waited till after the birth?"
"Sorry. I do know what to do, Rita, I really do, I just haven't worked with live patients for some years..."
"Dana", Mulder said. "Go and wake up the soon-to-be father and Frannie, huh? Rita and I can handle things at this end."
Rita sent him a thankful glance.
"Breath, Rita, properly", Fran hissed.
"I (pant, pant) am (pant, pant) the one (pant) in labor (pant) here! The only one (pant) present who has (pant) given birth (pant) before, so (pant) leave me alone!"
"No way", Dana said. "You'll thank us afterwards."
"Come on, Sam, shut up and squeeze my hand instead", Chris whispered in Rita's ear. "Save your strength. I believe these women know what they're doing. You're in good hands. Relax now."
"Rita, the head and shoulders are out", Dana said. "Give me one long, hard push now, we're nearly there!"
With a long, low grunt Rita obeyed. She could feel the baby slide out of her as she fell back against Chris' chest, worn out. In a blur she accepted the bundle with a big, healthy boy, too tired to open her eyes, she just stroked him and smiled and dozed off.
"Chris", Dana said when they had bathed and dressed the baby. "You and Rita better be damn careful from now on. I don't want another birth under these contitions. Twenty-two hours! How long did it take with Allison?"
"Fourteen hours... Forget all you ever learned about the first birth being the hardest."
"I swear I'll sterilize her", she joked. "Or you, that's easier!"
"Don't even think about it", Chris grinned and picked up his son. "He looks even bigger and healthier with clothes on, don't you think?"
Dana didn't answer, she just stroked the baby's forehead. "He is a little charmer, my friend. Let's see if his mommy has some milk for him."
Rita was awake when Chris and Dana entered the room. "Hey", she smiled.
"Glad to see you are feeling better", Chris smiled. "I have a big boy here, eager to see you."
"Moments like this makes it all seem worth it", she whispered when she had the baby in her arms.
"It does", Dana said and stroked the baby's head again. "Have you thought of a name yet?"
"Kind of", Chris said. "It has to work with MacBride as a last name. And sound alright with Lorenzo. Carl or Thomas, maybe Scott?"
"I'm sure the two of will figure it out", Dana whispered. "Are you up to some visitors, Rita?"
"I'll tell the others then", Dana replied and left the room. Chris got closer to the bed and sat down next to Rita.
"Carl Thomas Lorenzo. Carl Thomas MacBride. I like the sound of that", she said and looked into his eyes.
"Looks like you just got yourself a name, Carl", Rita whispered. "In a minute or two, you'll meet your big sister."
Allison entered the room, shyly holding Harry's hand. She looked at the tiny bundle in Rita's arms, looked at Rita, then Chris, and the bundle again. Finally Chris opened his arms to her, lifted her up and placed her on his lap. For a long time, she kept watching Rita without muttering a sound.
"Did you die, mommy?"
"Why would you think that", Chris asked, surprised by the question. Allison did not answer.
"Al", Rita said. "We need a little woman to woman talk. Maybe daddy will take baby Carl for a moment so you and I can talk properly, huh?"
Without understanding, Chris gathered the baby in his arms, and everyone left the room.
"Come sit on the bed with me", Rita smiled and patted the spot next to her. Allison climbed onto the bed, slowly. "You are growing up so fast", Rita continued. "It feels like only last week, you were as little as your brother. Are you afraid sometimes, Al?"
"So am I", Rita said. "Everyone is. Some are afraid of ghosts, others of loosing people they love. Some are afraid of dentists, and some of snakes or spiders. Being afraid is easier if you know what you are afraid of. You understand bits of pieces of what we've been trying to hide from you, don't you? I did that when I was your age. Wondering and not knowing was always worse than the truth. You are a big girl now, and I think it is time to tell you the truth. You see, Al, many years ago, before you were born, mommy and daddy were cops. One day, when you were inside my belly, a bad man forced me to come with him. Daddy managed to free me, but the bad man wanted to kill us. We had to run away and hide. Kinda like when you and Daniel play hide-and-seek, just that we have to hide forever."
"Is he gonna find us", Allison asked with a weak voice.
"No", Rita said and put her arm around her. "He is never going to find us. You and me and daddy and baby Carl will be together forever. You are going to grow up and be a strong and happy woman one day, little Carl will be a big, strong man, and mommy and daddy will always be there for you. I promise you that, princess."
"Kyle. Baby Kyle."
"Carl, honey. Can you say Carl?"
"Well done, sweetie. Can you hear that? Baby Carl is hungry. Babies can't talk, so they cry instead. If you go and tell daddy that girl talk is over, you can come back here and watch your baby brother eat. Would you like that?"
Allison leaped off the bed and took off in search for her father. Rita leaned back against the cushions, relaxing for the first time in five years. She felt safe here, surrounded by the people she loved and cared for. Whatever future lay ahead, she was strong enough to handle it now.
The light grew stronger. She closed her eyes for a moment, smiling.
"Under my Carl's cradle, lies one little white sheep, the little sheep was running the cop shop, that will be your career, catching the black sheep, sleep little Carl sleep"
Rita opened her eyes, and thought she saw a soft light fade and disappear just as Chris entered the room with Allison and the baby.
That's it. The end. I'm pretty sure they'll live happily ever after now. If not, well, that's another story ;-)
Thank's to Lisa for proofing & posting, and congrats to Lisa & Linda for their new, joined Silk page :-D
For those interested: the original lullaby is called "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" (Raisins and almonds) and is some places listed as a Jewish folk song, and one place as written by Abraham Goldfaden. I hummed the melody when I wrote the ghost's lyrics :-o
Chris, Rita, Frannie, Harry, the Lances and Michael are property of Stu Segall, Stephen Cannel and USA cable network. Mulder & Scully belong to Chris Carter, 1013 productions and Fox network. Not mine, never will be, I borrowed them without asking first, but since I'm done playing, you can have them back now ;-)
Comments, jokes, riddles and/or artistic poetry may be sent to email@example.com :-)
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