"I'm sorry I let him take me, Fox," Samantha began her apology. "I never wanted to leave you behind. But he made me all these promises and the way he looked at me and the way he held me in his arms, I knew he'd make a better dad than ours was. I did want to come back for you though, but they told me it wasn't possible. All these years, I never knew it was possible. But when your friends came to me and told me about you, I went to Dad and begged, pleaded, threatened until he agreed to help me. It was possible all along, if you have enough money and power and you know the right people. Luckily, Dad fits that description. I'm just so sorry I took so long to figure that out."
Her eyes began to water, matching the emotions of her long, misplaced brother. He pulled her into strong arms, embracing her with a firm grip, as though daring anyone to even try to pull them apart. She nestled her head beneath his chin and allowed her tears to dampen his shirt. Scully watched the two reunited siblings with a lump in her throat. It was a sight she never thought she'd witness. She found herself sniffling and wiping streams of moisture from her own cheeks.
Brother and sister stood crying and hugging for several moments before they were finally able to fully contain themselves. Samantha was invited to sit down in Mulder's chair while he sat on the edge of the desk at an angle facing her.
"So... how've you been?" Mulder asked, not knowing how else to begin.
"Good. I'll give you the condensed version of my life. I'm married with two daughters, ages four and six. I work as a legal secretary in a small law firm and my husband is a computer game designer. The people who I have considered my family for the past twenty-three years now are all alive and well and make great baby-sitters. Dad is a senator, mom is a social organizer, and big brother is a psychologist with a very lucrative private practice. Basically, I've lead a pretty conventional life. So, what about you, Fox? Except for growing up minus one sister, how's life been treating you?"
Mulder shook his head pathetically, not wanting to delve into his troubled background. "Except for missing growing up with my little sister, my life has been pretty uneventful," he lied.
Samantha eyed Scully momentarily and received a 'Don't you believe it' look from her. Searching her brother's eyes, she could see them full of pain and regret. "How are Mom and Dad, Fox?"
He shrugged and sighed heavily. "He's dead, she's one step from it," was his simplified response.
"I'm sorry," Samantha sympathized and reached a hand out to pat his arm. After a moment she asked, "Married?"
"I'm a walking disaster. Who'd have me?"
"I'm sure you could find a taker if you looked beyond your own nose, or perhaps even over your shoulder."
Mulder glanced over his shoulder at Scully and saw her flustering from Samantha's comment. To her surprise, Mulder didn't give his standard, "We're just partners," reply. Instead, he smiled modestly, then turned his attention back to his sister.
"I've been with the FBI since I graduated from college. I'm a doctor of psychology and I started out profiling serial killers. Now I've moved on to investigating crimes considered unsolvable or just too plain weird, including abductions of little girls by men from unknown dimensions. I have very few friends but I balance it out by having way too many enemies, which is just as well, because I'm not the warm and fuzzy type, and I trust almost no one. How long will you be staying?" He had spoken quickly in a subdued monotone and the question at the end was nearly lost in the delivery.
"Uh... well, they only wanted to issue me clearance for eight hours, but I managed to wrangle another four out of them."
"It's a long story."
"Mulder," Scully spoke up, "why don't you just take the rest of the day off? I can handle things here."
Before they left, Samantha took a package out of her handbag, gave it to Scully and whispered a few words in her ear. Mulder was curious, but he respected their right to secrecy. He was sure Scully would confide in him eventually. When they left the building, Mulder took his sister to lunch where they continued to get better acquainted. Afterwards, they went to visit their father's grave, then on to the convalescence hospital to see their mother.
"Is she expected to get better?" Samantha asked as she sat holding her mother's hand.
"They don't know. They say that she could come out of it anytime but that she'd be partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Then again, she may never regain consciousness."
"Have you given up on her?"
"No.... Sometimes," he admitted, standing over the bed and gently petting his mother's hair. "I used to think that all she needed was to know that you were back. But now... I don't know."
"Poor Fox. I feel so guilty now, knowing what a miserable time you've had. I wish I had never gone away."
"Doesn't mean that things still wouldn't have turned out this way. Dad wasn't the easiest man to get along with. I think some things he may have been illegally involved in was what got him killed. I haven't been able to find out the truth, probably never will."
To relieve some of the depression that had recently set in, Mulder took Samantha on a sightseeing tour of Washington. The hours flew by, and they ended the day with a late night pizza at Mulder's apartment. With only a small portion of the pizza consumed, they sat across from each other at the small dinette table in the kitchen.
"Will you be coming back?" he asked, realizing that her time was almost up.
"I don't know. There's a lot of red tape involved. Although sliding is relatively as simple as flying in a plane, it's highly regulated and policed. You know, we can't have every Tom, Dick and Harry going to any universe he pleases and doing whatever the hell he pleases."
"Like kidnapping little girls."
"I forgave him for that. He was so heartbroken when his own daughter died and so afraid that his wife would die of depression. They both spoiled me rotten."
"I suppose there's no way I could visit you, is there?"
"You could follow me through when I leave. But Dad would probably make sure you got sent right back. He'd have too much to explain. What he did when he brought me through, was highly illegal, but he had the connections and the money to pull it off."
"So this is it then? Twelve hours in twenty-three years."
"I think we made the most of it, didn't we?"
Mulder shrugged. "I guess."
"So when are you going to marry your partner and start raising a family?"
"What makes you think I'd want to marry Scully?"
"Because I can see the little spark between you two. You're soul mates. And my other foxy brother is already engaged to his Scully. She was my obstetrician. They met when I delivered my first kid. They've been off and on for years now, but he finally realized that he's not going to find anyone better for him. And neither will you."
"Would you come back for the wedding?"
"If I could. But even if I can't, you shouldn't let that stop you."
Samantha's watch began to beep. She looked at the digital readout on it, then silenced the beeping. "I'm afraid it's that time," she told him as she got to her feet.
Mulder simply nodded, then followed her silently into the living room. He embraced her one final time, holding on tightly and finding it almost impossible to let go. Samantha waited patiently for him to pull away first. He planted a kiss on her cheek, told her he loved her and received the same in return. He then took a couple of steps back and looked sadly on as she pressed a button on her watch. A current of warm air swirled about them and a beacon of bright light engulfed the room as a portal opened up in his living room. She presented him with a bittersweet smile before turning and leaping into the wormhole. Mulder started, then planted himself firmly where he stood. It took all the willpower he could muster not to follow.
When the vortex closed, the darkness and loneliness of his home instantly surrounded him. He told himself that he wasn't going to cry. He lied. He wrapped his arms tightly across his chest and bit on his bottom lip as he dropped to his knees and allowed the dam to burst while rocking back and forth on his haunches. The faucets that were his eyes, dripped continuously for several minutes, then he became startled by a knock on his door. Before he could decide on whether or not to answer it, Scully's voice called out, "Mulder, it's me."
Mulder went into the kitchen and pulled down a paper towel to dry his face. He ran his hands through his hair to smooth it down and drew in a couple of deep breaths to help further calm his emotions. Once he felt ready and before Scully could complete her third round of knocking, he opened the door put failed to let her inside.
"Hi. I just wanted to stop by and say good-bye to your sister before she left."
"You're too late. She's already gone."
"Oh. I'm sorry I missed her. Are you all right?" Scully asked, noticing the redness of Mulder's eyes.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little tired."
"Can I come in for a few minutes?"
He answered her by walking away from the door but leaving it opened wide. By the time Scully had entered and locked the door behind her, Mulder had toed his shoes off and stretched himself out on the couch with his arms folded beneath his head and his eyes closed. Scully perched herself on the edge of the sofa arm and looked at him.
"So how was your day?" she asked. "What did you guys do?"
"Nothing special. Went to see Mom and Dad. I showed her a few of the sights. Had our picture taken at one of those instant booths. Came back here for a quiet pizza dinner."
"You know, Mulder, I wasn't so sure I'd find you here when I came. I thought you might've gone back with her."
'I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought seriously about it."
"So why didn't you?"
"I guess I was afraid that I'd screw up her life. She loves the people she's with now and if I suddenly popped into the picture, I'd only end up making her and everyone else miserable. I don't know if you've noticed, but I can be pretty self-centered and pig-headed when it comes to having things my own way."
Scully suppressed a giggle. "No, I hadn't really noticed that about you."
"Besides, when I stop to think about it, I have a pretty fulfilling life here in my own world. When I'm not suffering from depression or bad dreams or paranoia or on the job injuries, I really do enjoy myself. I have a job that I like, a couch that I love, my Elvis magnet collection and you. What more could I want?"
Scully reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a video tape cartridge. "This?"
Mulder finally opened his eyes out of curiosity. "What is it?"
"Something your sister wanted me to give to you after she'd gone."
Mulder sat up when Scully offered him the video. He turned it over in his hands several times as if he could discern what was on the tape by the mere handling of it. Finally, he got up and stuck it into the player and turned on the TV.
"Are you cold?" Mulder asked Scully rather than inviting her to take off her coat and make herself at home. She took the hint and after putting her coat away, sat down on the couch a few inches away from her partner.
He pressed the play button on the remote control and scrunched up his face, fearful of what images the tape might hold. He began to relax bit by bit as the video played on. His sister sat before the camera giving a monologue.
"Hi, Fox. This is your little sister Samantha. Of course, I'm not so little anymore. Since you weren't around to watch me grow up, I thought I'd put together this montage that captures all the important highlights. Feel free to fast forward or turn it off whenever you feel like it. This was hastily put together, and some things I wasn't so sure about, but I hope you like it. So, without further ado...."
Mulder watched captivated as he saw his little sister go from unwrapping presents at Christmas and blowing out candles on birthday cakes to dancing in Swan Lake and cheering her team to victory. A pang of jealousy shot through him as he watched her cavort and possessively cling to the brother that should have been him. But he couldn't linger on that. Soon he saw his sister wearing a cap and gown, a wedding dress, then maternity clothes. Her children were adorable and it was apparent that her husband was madly in love with her. She was unquestionably happy.
At some point during the viewing, Mulder had grabbed Scully's hand for support. When he became aware of the connection, he looked at her sheepishly as if to apologize for taking her dainty digits hostage. Her lips bowed into a warming smile and she sandwiched his hand within both of hers. He looked back at the TV screen when several familiar voices sang out his name. Quinn, Wade, Rembrant and Arturo mugged into the camera and waved comically at him.
"It took fifty-seven slides, Mulder, but we finally found her for you, buddy," beamed Quinn.
"And even if she's not the right one," Rembrant jumped in, "she's the best one we've come across."
"And you're the best Mulder we've come across," said Wade. "I hope everything works out for you guys. Good-bye, Mulder."
"Farewell," said Arturo. "And give my best to Agent Scully."
They all chimed in a farewell to Scully, then Quinn informed them that it was time to go. The video reached an abrupt end, then automatically began to rewind itself.
"It seems since that world was so far advanced with the technology of sliding, they should have been able to get someone to help them find their way back to their own universe," said Scully.
"My sister said that they were short on time. They only had three hours to spare by the time they had located her. She said she couldn't guarantee them that she could get them to the people they would need to see or that they would help them. She said that the whole business of sliding is carefully regulated and full of red tape. Certain people with money and power can cut through the red tape. Her father is one of them. The Sliders didn't want to take a chance on bureaucracy, so they just continued on their journey."
"Maybe it was meant to be," Scully mused.
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe they've been chosen. By whom or what, I don't know, but perhaps they've been selected to travel through time and universes to help others. Maybe they're angels in a sense."
Mulder looked at her curiously. "Angels? You believe in angels?"
"Well, I'm not saying I believe in little fat cherubs with wings, but I believe in the idea that sometimes, someone is out there watching over us, helping us when we need it most."
"Well, I guess that makes you my angel then." He gifted her with a smile, then asked, "Would you mind if we watched this again?"
She shook her head. "Not at all."
As he started the tape again, Scully shifted her position slightly so that her head rested upon Mulder's shoulder. He leaned in more towards her so that his cheek nestled against her auburn hair. Sometime during the night, Scully awoke to find herself being stretched out on the sofa and covered with a blanket. Her head was then given a pillow-covered lap to rest in, and soon she felt the back of Mulder's fingers caressing her cheek.
"You are warm and fuzzy," she murmured.
"Go back to sleep," he whispered, then pressed his lips gently against her forehead.
Scully let her heavy eyelids close again and as she drifted back off to sleep, she heard a far away, feminine voice say, "Hi, Fox, this is your little sister Samantha."