by Amal Nahurriyeh
Summary: Gina Van de Kamp has a hard couple of weeks.
Genre: Gen; Kidfic.
Rating: PG-13 (no cursing, no sex, no romance--did I actually write this?--and a couple of guns)
Angst Level: Low to moderate (complicated feelings about parentage and the nature of family)
Timeline/Spoilers: Contained within the timeline of Machines of Freedom
Disclaimer: Intellectual property is a capitalist fiction designed to oppress the working fic-writer. That said, I don't own them either.Yeah, Gina's mine. You want her, CC, you have to have given her a first name.
Author's Notes: Written for wendelah1, for her extremely generous donation during the help_haiti auction. Not the story I intended to write, but I hope she likes it.
Helpfully betaed by maybe_amanda, who has unhelpfully encouraged me to work on the sequel. So much Caseyverse, so little time.
I could write an extremely long paragraph about my feelings about the complex relationship between biological and nonbiological parentage, but I think I'll abstain.
I briefly considered summarizing this "William has two mommies. And two daddies. And two sisters, though he hasn't figured that out yet." But that would have been tonally inappropriate. I was thinking it, though.
They got in the truck and drove, just drove. Gina dried her eyes and Paul put the handgun in between them on the seat and they headed away from town. "Was that them?" she asked, as they passed the reservoir.
"Yeah," Paul said. "It was."
There wasn't anywhere to go, anywhere to be, but they drove without stopping, eventually pulled into a diner in Wright and sat in the parking lot. "When do we go back?" Paul said, and she didn't have any answers for him. So they drove more, put gas in the truck when they needed to, turned back when the sky started getting dark and they were halfway to South Dakota.
The gate was fixed when they returned; dented, but whoever it was had reinstalled it on the hinges. The yard beside the house was full of beaten down grass and a particular smell of iron and damp that she remembered from lamb-slaughter days on her father's farm. The screen door to the house was broken.
She had no idea where her son was.
Paul thought it was his fault, she could see that; he should have shot more people, should have fought harder, should have done something. She wasn't sure that would have worked, though; she had seen with her own eyes that Will had wanted to go. She'd told him to stay in his room, but he'd appeared, right as the last bullets had quieted, at the top of the stairs with his backpack in his hands, and walked down it with a confidence she'd never seen, and guessed, in retrospect, he was faking. "I have to go with them, Mom," he'd said. "Don't worry." And he hadn't hesitated, even at the moment the helicopter took off.
She sat at the kitchen table, silent. It was dark now, and the lights were off in the house, except for the yellow glow of the lamp above her head. She could hear Paul moving around, from room to room, probably checking for damages and avoiding looking at the door to Will's room. She didn't think either of them would sleep tonight.
It took her a few minutes to realize the phone was ringing. She picked it up, unsure what call, if any, would make sense to her right now. Please, don't let it be Angela; she didn't have the energy to listen to her sister complain for more than a minute right now. "Hello?" she said, shakily.
"Mrs. Van de Kamp?" a man with a Southern accent said. "I'm sorry to be calling so late, but it's John Freeman, from Freeman's General Repair? I was calling to let you know that we picked up that piece of equipment from you this afternoon, while you were out."
"I'm sorry?" She didn't know any John Freeman, and she sure as hell hadn't called in a repair. "Are you sure you--" And then it clicked: the piece of equipment they'd picked up. Her heart started hammering in her chest.
"We wanted to thank you for trusting us with the repair job," the man said, clearly and a little slowly, as if trying to make sure she understood. "We know it's an important piece to you, and we want to make sure we take the best care of it we can, get it back to you in good working condition."
She couldn't sort out if this was assurance or a threat. She swallowed. "Yes. I see."
"So we've got it under control up here. You don't need to worry. But I do think we're going to need to get you up here to see the repairs in action. Won't be for a week or two, understand, because we've got to get the bugs worked out, but then we'll send a representative down, and they'll give you a lift to the shop, and you can come on up and see for yourself. How's that sound?"
"That's--that's very generous." A week or two. Someone would come and take them to Will. She didn't know the signal to say so, but she knew what he was telling her.
"Well then. Don't worry about a thing. We'll be in touch. You have a safe night now."
"Yes, thank you."
She waited for him to hang up, and then replaced the phone in the cradle very slowly. Paul was standing in the kitchen doorway, watching her. "Ginny," he said, "who was that?" She shook her head. "Paul, what in the hell is going on?"
The knock on the door came while she was putting away the lunch fixings. Paul was muttering half-heartedly at the weather report, and she'd been frying bacon and slicing hard tomatoes into even slices, trying to figure out what she could make for dinner out of the things in the fridge. Without Will in the house eating like a horse, she had found she lacked the willpower to do much grocery shopping. She startled when she heard the rap-rap-rap. No one just knocked, not all the way out here; they called first, made sure you'd be home before they drove twenty minutes out of town.
Paul put the paper down. "Get the gun," he said. She nodded, and pulled the handgun out of the kitchen drawer where they'd been keeping it. She'd practiced shooting it a few times, out in back of the barn with empty cans like a character in a story. It was so different from a rifle; she could pick off a coyote at fifty yards, but the kick and jump of this little gun in her hand had taken a while to get used to. But she was, now and she was pretty sure she could take someone down with it if it was required.
She followed Paul to the door. The woman standing outside was wearing a long black coat and carrying a badge. "Mr. and Mrs. Van de Kamp? My name is Aruna Rani, and I'm a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation out of the Denver office. I'm here to pick you up."
Paul eyed the woman skeptically. "How do we know you're for real? We've had other FBI come by."
"I understand," she said, and pulled out a phone from her pocket. "I was given instructions to show you this." She pressed a few buttons and held up the phone.
Gina's hand clenched on the handle of the gun when she saw the photo. Will was smiling at the camera, giving it the thumbs up. It looked like the exact opposite of the photo of a kidnapped child being held for ransom: this was "Hi Mom, having a great time at camp," more than anything else. He was wearing clothes she didn't recognize, ones he hadn't crammed into his backpack from the clean laundry pile before running into a helicopter across a field of bodies. Someone else was buying him clothes.
The agent cleared her throat. "Do you have suitcases ready? You'll want to bring several days worth of clothes, and any personal effects you'd like to have. We're limited to one suitcase apiece, I'm afraid."
Paul glanced back at her. She nodded. "We'll go pack."
The drive to the helicopter was long and involved two changes of car. Agent Rani told them that she'd been given specific instructions not to land a helicopter in their yard, though that would have been the easiest option. After the helicopter, they took a prop plane, but not for long. No one else on the plane seemed to know where they were going or what was going on, and Agent Rani and the young man in an Air Force uniform were reassuring but nonspecific. Half a dozen families from Denver, and a fistful from Colorado Springs, and the rest scattered around; she wanted to look for a pattern, but she didn't see the use in it, not really. When they landed, the bus drove for an hour, past Missoula and into the mountains. Paul held her hand.
When the bus stopped in what looked like an empty clearing, the young Air Force man glanced down at his phone and called "Van de Kamp? Can we get you up here first, please?" Paul hesitated, but she stood. If they were going to shoot them, they'd gone to enough trouble that she wasn't going to bother being reluctant. Either they'd give her her baby back, or they'd kill her, and she was beyond trying to guess. Paul followed her, and the Air Force man led them to a hole in the mountain.
A tall man with a craggy face saw them coming, and smiled. "You must be the Van de Kamps. John Doggett. I was the one who called you back with Will first got here. Glad you made it."
She blinked for a moment before she recovered her composure. "Thank you for having us," she said, and realized belatedly that it was a rather strange thing to have come up with.
He gestured through the door, and led them through some strange series of metal detectors, and to an elevator. "I'll have one of the security staff get your luggage for ya. I know you're anxious to see Will, and I think he's anxious to see you as well." He smiled pleasantly as the elevator sank into the earth. "You know, you did a hell of a job with that kid. He's a good one, that's for sure."
She realized she had just arrived at a secret underground lair where everyone knew who she was. "Did you know him? Before he--when he was a baby?"
John looked down, avoiding making eye contact. "Yeah. I knew him. Here we are."
John led them down a hallway, towards an echoing blur of human voices. They turned a corner, and there, in front of the open doors, were Will and the woman from the shootout. He was looking down the hallway expectantly, and she was watching him, her face an impenetrable mask. Will's face lit up. "Mom! Dad!" he said, and broke out running to them.
She nearly collapsed with the weight of him colliding into her and her own sudden weakness. She stumbled back into Paul, and he staggered for a moment too, until they found their collective equilibrium. She pressed her tear-streaked face into Will's hair. He smelled wrong, like processed air and a stranger's shampoo, but here was her boy again, safe and sound. He grinned up at her when he pulled away, and took her hand. "Come on," he said, and dragged her over to the woman standing ten feet away with her arms crossed over her chest. "Mom, Dad," he said, every inch the polite little gentleman she'd tried to raise. "This is Doctor Dana Scully, my birthmother."
The woman--Dana--smiled at Will, and held her hand out. "Mr. and Mrs. Van de Kamp. It's nice to meet you under better circumstances."
"Likewise," Paul said, keeping his hands on Will's shoulder.
Gina took a deep breath and took the woman's hand. She wasn't sure what the etiquette was in a situation like this, but Paul didn't seem interested in making nice, so she should at least make an effort. "Very nice to meet you, Dana. And it's Gina and Paul, please."
Dana considered her for a moment, and then nodded slightly. "Come on, let's get you inside. It's going to be a madhouse soon."
The room was like the world's largest high school gymnasium turned into a massive tornado shelter. Will started telling her how he'd helped the security staff with painting the walls, that he'd folded hundreds of blankets and laid them on army cots for the coming visitors. Dana watched him silently as he spoke, guiding them towards an area where they could claim beds, and Gina found it fascinating to watch her. Will looked like her, subtlety but unmistakably, and that hurt for the first time in years. It had gotten so she could hear someone say Will had her eyes without flinching, but he didn't, he had this Dana's, and that was a betrayal she couldn't quite name.
At the sound of an announcement from Dana's phone, she said she had to go meet her family, who were arriving now. "Have fun with Bill," Will said, and Gina knew there was a joke she wasn't getting.
Dana shook her head. "I'm going to have to have a talk with Mulder about what he's been telling you." Her hand hesitated for a moment, but then she reached forward, and kissed him on the head quickly, and ran her hand down his face like she was memorizing him. "I'll see you later, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," he said, and leaned back against Gina.
Dana smiled tersely at both of them, and turned towards the new crowd of arrivals. Gina stroked Will's hair. "Well," she said. "You certainly have been busy."
"Yeah," Will said. "There was a lot to do."
A very nice soldier--or security guard, she supposed, but he seemed like a solider--brought them their suitcases, and she and Paul laid them down on two of the cots. There was a rising commotion, and then it seemed like the attention in the room was shifting somewhere else. Gina looked up, and saw a man standing on a table up at the front of the room. He looked familiar, and she realized that he was Will's birthfather. In his arms was a small girl, curled up against his shoulder in a pink winter jacket. He whispered to her, pushed her hair out of her eyes.
"Hey, Mom," Will said to her.
"What, honey?" she asked, sinking down onto the cot.
He kept staring towards the man, and then turned back to smile at her. "That's my sister."
She really thought she'd about reached her limits for what she could handle today.
She spent too long picking out an outfit, longer still staring at her reflection in the mirror of the communal bathroom. It was just breakfast. Paul had been twitchy from the moment Will had disappeared until the moment the very polite security guard had come over and explained he was "sleeping in Mr. Mulder and Dr. Scully's quarters" and that they were invited to come up in the morning. He'd only gotten twitchier after that, had tossed and turned all night while Will's cot laid empty. Two rows away, the woman who Will had pointed out and whispered "that's my grandmother" watched them warily, but Gina had decided to store up her goodwill for this morning's social event. At quarter of eight, the same security guard came over to them. "Sir? Ma'am? I'll escort you up to the personnel levels."
In the elevator, he told them Will was "a great kid. And he's got a heck of an arm on him. He said you coached his Little League team, sir?"
"That's right," Paul said warily. It seemed like he'd pretty much decided he didn't like any of this, and she was finding it a little tiresome.
"I used to coach my nephew's team. He's about Will's age. He's getting in this afternoon, with my sister. Anyway. This is their floor." He led them down the hallway, and knocked, quite formally, at a blank door, which emitted a low buzz of noise, as if a hive of bees were contained behind it.
"Yeah, come in," came the voice of the man who had stood on the tables.
"It's locked, sir," the guard called back, helpfully.
There was a quiet something that sounded like Will talking, and then the door opened. She couldn't believe she was relieved to see him, even though she'd known where he was and that he was safe the whole night. His shirt wasn't tucked in, but his face looked washed, which she supposed was something. "Good morning," he said, and gave his dad a hug first, and then her.
The man, who Will had said was named Fox but went by his last name, Mulder, was sitting on the couch, clearly still dressed in the clothes he'd slept in. The little girl was leaning on his chest, wearing a bright pink nightgown with a monkey on it, sucking her thumb and staring at an enormous TV mounted on the wall, which was playing some cartoon that she didn't recognize. Will had never watched much TV; she wasn't up to date on kids' shows anymore, anyway. "I'd get up," he said casually, stroking his daughter's back, "but we're having a little bit of post-separation anxiety here. Make yourselves at home. Watch out for pink shrapnel on the floor, I don't think I found all the Polly Pocket shoes last night."
She wasn't quite sure what to say to that, but was saved by Dana emerging from one of the other rooms in the small apartment talking on her phone. "Well, if it's not running up to standards, then we can't use it. Incinerate the batch and make sure that the next one's good. If not, then we probably have a problem in our manufacturing process." She nodded at them in acknowledgement, and ran her hand across her daughter's head as she walked around the couch, past the table, and to the wall that seemed to serve as kitchenette. She made herself a cup of coffee with cream while holding the phone to her head with her ear. "No, I don't think it's worth taking the machine apart before we run it again. There's always some batch variability, and it strikes me as plausible that there was human error somewhere along the line. Are you still having problems with the servers?" She pulled the phone away from her ear. "Mulder?"
"Yeah, okay," the man said, and kissed his daughter. "Sadie, can you sit on the couch by yourself while I get breakfast for our guests?"
She pulled her thumb out of her mouth, said "No" quite clearly, and reinserted it. He sighed. "That wasn't really a question." She didn't bother to respond to this.
"Here," Will said, and sat down on the couch next to his birthfather and sister. "Sadie, why don't you sit with me so Dad can go do stuff?"
Her throat went a little dry at the word Dad, but she was fascinated to watch the little girl regard Will so calmly, and then scoot off her father's lap to sit next to Will. Mulder kissed her temple again as he stood, and gestured towards the couch. "Sit. It'll be a couple minutes."
Paul had his arms folded across his chest, and remained standing. Gina sighed and sat down next to Will. The little girl regarded her evenly. "I'm Sadie," she said, around her thumb.
"Hello, Sadie," she said. "My name is Gina."
Sadie watched her. Her eyes were the same as Will's, though she didn't look terribly like him; her hair was curlier and darker, and the shape of her face was different. She glanced back and forth between her son and his sister. Sadie extracted her thumb and wiped it off on her nightgown. "Are you Will's mama?" she asked.
"Yes," she said, hoping that was the right answer.
Sadie thought about this for a long moment. "Will's my brother. He was a baby but now he's big."
She nodded rather than trust her voice.
"I have a shark," Sadie said. "He's got big teeth."
"It's a stuffed animal," Will said hurriedly. "She doesn't have a real shark." Gina smiled. As if this girl would have a real shark.
"I want a real shark," Sadie said. "I want a shark who swims and a ray who swims with him. I went to the fish museum."
"You can't have a shark," Will said. "They have to stay at the aquarium."
"Daddy, I want a shark," Sadie yelled over the back of the couch.
"You can't have a shark," Mulder said, putting down a plastic storage container of muffins on the table, next to the coffee pot. "We couldn't dig a big enough hole for it in the backyard. Plus it would eat birds."
"I'd bring it hot dogs," Sadie said triumphantly.
"That would end poorly," Mulder said. "OK. Breakfast is served. Scully, stop saving the world."
Dana rolled her eyes at him. "Iz, I've got to go. Can I check in after breakfast? Twenty minutes, maximum."
"Thirty," Mulder said, and came to pick Sadie up off the couch. "TV off."
"I'm watching Kai-Lan," Sadie pouted.
"You can watch more Kai-Lan after breakfast. Come on." He carried her to the table. Will jumped up and started to follow them, but then turned back towards her and Paul, as if checking to make sure. She smiled as reassuringly as she could and stood to follow him.
"He's not here," Paul insisted to Joel.
"Well, he's gotta be," Joel said. "We're sealed in down here. He can't have just run off. Don't worry, we'll find him."
"I'm telling you, he's not anywhere," Paul said.
Aruna came over and stood next to Joel. "Mo? Did there used to be a scorch mark on the door?"
"What?" Joel and Paul said simultaneously.
"I'm just saying. It looks sealed, but there's a big scorch mark around the locking mechanism. I don't know, it doesn't look like it's damaged--"
"Something's wrong," Gina said, and tried not to sound hysterical.
There was a small pull on her hand, and she looked down. Sadie was holding her foam sword with one hand, and pulling on hers with the other. "Aunt Gina," she said firmly, and Gina blinked at the title. "Don't worry. Will's okay."
She stared at her for a moment. "Sadie, do you know where Will is?"
"He's playing Space Invaders," Sadie said confidently.
Joel reached up and pressed his earpiece suddenly. "Yessir, John, I'm here. What's up?" He nodded. "I've got them, they'll be right up. You're sure it's safe to break the seal?" At whatever John must have said to him, he broke out in a wide smile. "Yessir. Good to hear that. Yes, I'll bring them up." He turned his attention back to them. "Dr. Scully's asked you to come up to the infirmary. And Sadie too, she said." He turned to Aruna. "Ar, get Jesse and Vicky, too. We're heading up."
Gina was suddenly nauseous. She followed Joel without thinking (and, yes, there was a big scorch mark on the door, and no, she didn't remember it being there) into the hallway, holding onto Sadie with one hand and keeping as close to Paul as possible. He brushed his hand against her back just above the waistband of her skirt as they rode in the elevator. Joel led them down the hallway, past what seemed like empty offices, towards a large noisy room, which had two armed soldiers standing outside of it, silently.
The room appeared to be an infirmary or hospital ward of some kind, and for a moment she was too stunned by the noise and the people to process anything. There, in the center of it, was Dana, working over an unconscious figure in the bed, which she realized belatedly was Mulder. Her field of vision widened, and then she saw Will, laying in the hospital bed next to them, worriedly watching his birth parents.
She gasped and broke into a run, dropping Sadie's hand and not bothering to wait for Paul. Will looked up as she came over. "Hi, Mom," he said tiredly.
"Oh, honey," she said. "Are you okay?" She wasn't sure if she could touch him; there were wires taped to his head and leading into his shirt, and she didn't know what was necessary and what she might do if she interfered. His shoes were still on; it looked like he had just been dropped on the bed and left there, wired up to all the machines. She reached down and unlaced them, pulled them off, and set them at the foot of the bed.
"William, what the hell did you do?" Paul said, coming around next to her.
"I'm okay," he said, and closed his eyes. "Um. I just have a headache."
"Ma'am?" She looked at the foot of the bed. One of the soldiers was standing there, still in her combat gear, but unarmed and unhelmeted. "I'm the medic who got him set up when we came in. The machines are just for monitoring. Doctor Scully wanted us to hook him up so that we could keep track of his vital signs and make sure he hasn't sustained any injuries. But things are starting to look normal again, and he should be just fine in a couple of hours."
She nodded, and reached out to take Will's hand. "Can he take anything for the headache?"
The medic glanced over at Dana, behind her, who was barking orders to another one of the soldiers. "I think it's probably best we don't put anything in his system right now, so we can make sure he's recovering normally, and we don't inhibit anything. But I could get him an ice pack. That should help some. And he can sleep for a while, that'll definitely help him reset."
"Thank you," she said, and squeezed Will's hand. "Can you sleep, honey?" she asked as the medic left to go find him some ice.
"Yeah, maybe," he said, eyes fluttering closed. She remembered holding him in the hospital after his appendectomy, and climbed into the bed. Paul sat at the foot, and she slid around behind Will, leaning against the wall, taking the ice pack from the medic and pressing it to his forehead, rubbing gently behind his ears.
Dana was looking at the long printout of one of Mulder's machines, writing a note in a notebook and slipping another syringe into the tube in Mulder's arm. On the other side of him, there was a young woman in another hospital bed, hooked up like Will, watching Dana at work. It took Gina a moment to realize that the handcuffs holding her to the bed weren't a piece of medical equipment. She decided it was probably better not to know. Will started relaxing back against her, and she glanced down to see his eyes were closed and his face was beginning to go slack in sleep. Paul touched her ankle gently; she knew he was apologizing, that he didn't mean to be an asshole about everything, but it just sort of came with the territory.
John staggered through the door, carrying a brunette slumped against his shoulder. "I didn't realize I was going to spend my whole day hauling around unconscious women," he muttered, as he lay her down on one of the free beds.
"I wasn't unconscious," said the girl in the bed on the other side of Mulder.
"I should have knocked you out, then," John said, stepping out of the way of the medic, who leaned over the woman he'd just brought in.
"I'm not so sure I would have minded," she said, grimacing and throwing her uncuffed arm over her face. "I don't suppose anyone has a cigarette?"
"Don't even think about it," John said, and pulled a chair over to sit next to the bed.
There was a moment of quiet in the room, with only the beeping of the monitors in the room. Dana paused in her flurry of activity over Mulder, and leaned heavily on the side of the bed, bowing her head in exhaustion. Gina kissed Will's head and pressed her toes against Paul.
"Mama?" said a quiet voice.
Dana's head snapped around. "Sadie, honey," she said, and her voice broke. Sadie had crept across the room amid the bustle, and was standing at the foot of Mulder's bed, very still, the point of her sword dragging on the ground. Dana collapsed into the chair next to Mulder's bed, and held out her arms. Sadie came over to her and climbed up into her lap, dropping the sword on the floor as she went. Dana held her cradled as if she were a much smaller child, and folded her body around her. She let go a shuddering breath that, Gina guessed, was the closest thing to a sob she was going to indulge. She pressed her face into her daughter's hair and rocked her, slowly, shoulders shaking as the monitors beeped slowly.
Gina closed her eyes, held Will close, and prayed for them all.