Title: Runaway
Author: Amazon X
E-mail: yankeestarbuck@yahoo.com
Website: http://yankeestarbuck.tripod.com
Feedback: It's necessary for me to become a better writer. What did you like? What didn't you like? How can I make it better?
Category: Drama, Relationship, Episode Related
Spoilers: "SR 819", vague reference to the Gunmen scenes of "Existence" and "Anasazi" and of The Lone
Gunmen series "Bond, Jimmy Bond"
Rating: R, for language
Summary: Langly befriends a street kid who holds Skinner's life in her hands.
Archive: Tell me where my children live is all I ask, along with my 'nym.
Disclaimer: All characters from The X Files and The Lone Gunmen belong to Chris, 1013 and Fox. I'm not here for the money, just the love. Frankie's mine.

Notes: This takes place pre-season 9, which means it's got a Rat (Krycek). I figger, it's around the end of
Season 7, and since there's no time-frame of "The Lone Gunmen" since Mulder appeared in their
season/series finale, it's possible, that Alternate Universe, didn't include the abduction, so mine doesn't.

Author's Notes: Thank you with all my heart to my two betas, firstly, Everly Dawn, the bestest girl of eva was,
and to the new kid in town, Cynth, who is there for me since Eve has way too much on her plate right now. This plot bunny shit on my carpet, with just the image of Frohike holding the kid's arm, asking about her making it to the shelter before they ran out of beds. It flew out of my fingers pretty fast, but was hanging around for a while. 

Thankfully, it's out there and I hope it helps answer that damn question, just what did happen with those damn


"She'll be here any minute," Langly said, trying to calm Frohike. "Look, when I ask her to do stuff, she does it. 
Never mind about anything else, OK?"

Frohike shook his head. What did they know about this little girl beside the fact that she was in awe of the blond hacker? He'd gotten her out of a jam, erasing her JD warrants. When she went to court on a possession charge, she was let off easy, since it seemed no one was looking for her. Then she proceeded to disappear on Langly, which she was known to do on a regular basis. But she showed up periodically to swipe various things for him. He would usually buy her lunch or dinner for that. He wasn't interested in her in a romantic way, since he had a good decade on her in age. But he wanted to make sure she was fed, at least. He didn't want to tell Frohike and Byers that she was a street kid, but Langly had the feeling that Frohike knew. Byers, maybe he had an idea.

The doorbell buzzed. Langly looked at the monitor-it was her. He could tell, even from the fuzzy image on the
dusty screen. He opened the door and she looked up at him, no
expression in her eyes. Street kids show no emotion, it gives away their weaknesses.

"You got it?" he asked.

"You doubt me?" she spat back.

He stepped back to allow her in, giving her a wide berth, with a sweep of his arm. She wore a large black
fatigue jacket, baggy, dirty jeans and black combat boots. She never took her jacket off in the offices. Langly
figured she kept most of her possessions in there. And in the red backpack that never left her shoulders. She
looked at Frohike and Byers with the same stoic gaze, through her hair. 

Byers smiled and said, "How are you today, Frankie?"

She continued to stare at him. Always in a suit, always in a tie--not like the blond one, she thought, with a mental giggle.


Frankie almost never spoke to them, and if she did, one word sufficed her. She liked Langly, but the others, they were kinda freaky, all living together. The Fibbie was there, too…and a redhead. What the hell? she thought, a feeling of unease beginning to creep into her mind. Frankie turned to the table she knew Langly worked from and laid the little black unit on the top. Then, without another word, she abruptly walked away toward the door. She stood by it, hoping that they would open it and let her out.

"How did you get that?" the redhead asked Frankie, moving in her direction.

"I got it. Look, I gotta go, okay?" she said with her back to the room, praying to get out quickly. The guy Fibbie grabbed her arm and spun her around to face everyone. How did he creep up on me like that? she considered a moment.

"This thing holds my friend's life in its memory chips. I want to know exactly how you got your hands on it and
whom you took it from. Start talking."

Frankie pulled her arm away from him. "Fuck you, I don't hafta tell you anything."

She turned back toward the door and a man who she hadn't met yet blocked her way. She fumed, How do these people keep sneaking up on me?

He was a little taller than Langly, kind of muscular with short-cropped blond hair that was darker than Langly's.  And he had clearer blue eyes, deeper, but not like that bearded guy's eyes. These looked harsh.

"Mulder and Agent Scully both asked you questions. And you don't get out until you answer them," the big blond said.

She turned to Langly.

"Who the fuck…"

"That's Jimmy," Langly explained. "He's new on the staff. And he used to play football. So, you're not getting out of here. Just tell them. It's okay. No one's gonna hurt you."

Frankie took a deep breath. Her hair was hanging in her face, a mass of brown and black braids and stringy
strands. She didn't bother to tuck it away from her face, happy that they couldn't get a good look at her. Any law enforcement was always a problem and the less these Fibbies could make out of her description was good,
she considered.

Scully stepped forward and, taking Mulder's arm, said, "Enough, Mulder, back off. She's obviously on our side.  She brought the PDA here, didn't she?" Scully stepped forward toward Frankie, strategically in front of Mulder and asked, "Can I call you Frankie?"

Frankie shrugged. So, they screw and she's in charge, huh? she gathered of the couple standing before of her.

"Well then, may I speak with you alone? We can have something to eat upstairs." Scully indicated the stairs
toward the private living area. Frankie had never been that far into the building before.

The thought of food tempted Frankie greatly. She wanted to stuff herself since her next meal was anyone's
guess, but the last thing she wanted to do was show any kind of need to this woman, someone she didn't even
know. Reluctantly, she nodded, followed the shorter woman up a flight of stairs to a kitchen, and looked behind
her at the stunned group of onlookers.

"Have a seat," Scully offered. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully and I work for the FBI."

Frankie acted as if she hadn't even heard what Scully said.

Scully began to go through the cabinets as Frankie dropped into a chair. There wasn't much, but she did find
bread and peanut butter. The fridge wasn't as scary as Scully would have thought, but there was jelly. They had
the basics. Then again, Mr. Huevos Rancheros did love his Emeril and Alton Brown. She was surprised by the
lack of food. Frohike probably hadn't gotten Jimmy and Byers to go shopping yet.

"I wish I could offer you more, but this isn't my kitchen."

Frankie shrugged again, then all but inhaled the sandwich. Scully put a can of Mountain Dew, most likely
Langly's, in front of her and the girl guzzled it down.

"So, would you like to tell me how you managed to get the PDA?" Scully asked, sitting across the table from

"I ripped it off that guy. The one who wears the green jacket like mine. He's all freaky looking, beard and long
hair. Why?"

"How did you get it from him?" Scully asked leaning forward to show interest and attention.

Frankie shrugged. "He hangs outside that big building in Arlington. I followed him, watched him a while, then just rushed him and I grabbed it. My buds helped me. We all were like running down the street, mobbed him and I took off with it. His hair is a wig, too. You can tell."

"And are you sure you got the right one?"

"I saw him use it. That's the only one he had."

"You've saved a man's life, you know." Scully smiled at the girl. "He's my boss…and my friend. The information
in that PDA will be very helpful. I think he's on his way here to see it, and if I heard Mulder on the phone correctly, to meet you."

Byers appeared in the doorway. "Mr. Skinner will be here shortly. He asked that our guest remain on premises
to be properly greeted."

Frankie didn't acknowledge the statement. She knew the goon wasn't going to let her leave so she was stuck
anyway. She looked at her watch--a cheap $2 watch, but it kept time well enough; half past eight, she needed
to go soon.

Scully followed Frankie down the stairs, amused as the girl climbed on a worktable. Frankie huddled herself into a ball, hugging her knees to her chest, and was convinced this wasn't going to be fun. Plus, she knew it was
going to be cold out that night.

Skinner arrived within the half-hour, looking very tired. 

"So? What's the story?" Skinner asked, quickly, a note of impatience in his voice.

He still wasn't completely healthy after being released from the hospital. But he had made his way back to his
office and was working again. Dressed in one of his old Marines sweatshirts, jeans, and loosely tied
Timberlands, he looked like a different person. Everyone in the room had seen him before, in his AD "tight-ass"
attire, but was taken by surprise by his difference in appearance. As soon as he was in the door, he went
straight to Langly, who had attached wires from the PDA into his laptop.

"Well," Langly began, "it's definitely not a Palm Pilot. It's got some hairy programming. I'm gonna work on it for
a while and see what I can come up with."

"Don't kill me in the process," he said, half sarcastically. They weren't sometimes known as the Three Stooges
for nothing, Skinner thought. Then again, they were also known as the Three Wise Men, in most of the circles
they traveled in.

"Mr. Skinner, I'm hurt," Langly teased. He put his hand on his chest and his face contorted in mock pain. "The
first thing I did was disable the send capability. You think I want a federal murder rap on my back? I got enough warrants out on me."

"Well, you won't have to worry about that anymore. You make sure that thing will harm neither myself nor anyone else and your record will be cleared. I guarantee it." 

Skinner took a deep breath. He turned to Frankie and looked right at her. "Now, are you the young lady who got her hands on that?" He didn't even look away from Langly, how did he know I was here? she demanded of
herself. She was beginning to think that she was out of her depth with these Fibbies. They moved and acted
faster than she could react to keep the upper hand for herself.

Skinner actually had to look up at Frankie where she sat. He could see she had gray eyes, cloudy and kind of
red. The smudges of dirt on her face and hands told him not only hadn't she done laundry in a while, but she
hadn't bathed either. And through all this scrutiny, Frankie didn't acknowledge him, only looked down at her

Through her bangs, Frankie checked out this new guy carefully. He was Jimmy's height, but if anyone could be
bigger, this guy was. She thought he looked like he snapped logs in half for fun. Bald head, with a little left in the
back that was going gray, and those little wire-rimmed glasses that everyone wears now, he was just like any
other old man, though Frankie. She wondered for a moment where and when she had lost her glasses, time in
the streets being a little hazy. She quickly dismissed the thought. She did notice his face was strong and hard.
Yet, he was looking at her like she was a real person or something close to it.

"Look, I gotta split. It's late and it's gonna be cold tonight."

She moved to jump from the table but Frohike grabbed her hand. She turned to him and he could see the wild
fear in her eyes. This kid had issues, he thought.

"Frankie, why are you so worried about the time?" Frohike asked, keeping his voice calm and quiet, but firm.

"I gotta go, okay?"

"So you can make sure you have a bed at the shelter?"

There, he said it. Only the incessant tapping of keys on Langly's laptop broke the silence in the room. He
continued to type, thankful he could hack and listen at the same time. Frankie pulled her hand from Frohike's
grip, but she didn't move from the table. 

Byers stepped toward her cautiously. "If that's the case, then you're staying here tonight," the bearded man said,
with a voice so soft and gentle, it was almost comforting. Frankie turned to him as he continued, "I can't let you
out of here and not know if you're going to be safe. You've done far too many favors for us not to offer you a
proper place to sleep."

For the first time since she'd visited them, Frankie swiped her hair from her face and tucked the long dirty
strands behind her ear. Byers wasn't surprised to find she was a lovely young lady, behind the hair and dirt.
Skinner took her hand, disregarding the dirt, and looked into her eyes, but she pulled it back quickly.

"I won't hurt you, Frankie…I won't let anyone hurt you. You saved my life getting that PDA. And do you realize you may have saved many others? You're a very brave girl."

Scully stepped forward, her doctor instincts taking over. She could see in Frankie's eyes all the terror caused
by all the attention. People she didn't know were reaching out to touch her, and she was trapped in the
warehouse with Jimmy standing guard at the door. Scully thought Frankie must be frightened worse than she
had ever been before.

"All right, everyone, back off," Scully commanded, taking over the situation. The men all stepped back from
her. Only Scully stood before her. "Do you have a place to sleep tonight, Frankie?"

Frankie shook her head no.

"Then maybe you should consider Byers' offer. I can tell you truthfully, you will be safer here than in any shelter or any other place you can think of. No one from the outside can get in. And no one inside would consider harming you in any way. I trust these men. I've had to trust them with my life before. And they haven't disappointed me yet. Will you stay?"

Considering the redhead's words carefully, Frankie nodded her assent. The lady was pretty decent so far.

"I need a shower, too," the girl admitted quietly. Scully smiled.

"I'm going to take your guest upstairs and show her around, gentlemen," Scully informed everyone. "Where is
she staying?" She directed her question at Frohike.

"I'll work on that," Jimmy said, taking his cue from Frohike's silent nod in his direction.

Skinner walked to the door and said, "I have some things to do. I'll be back in a while. Langly, keep working on that PDA."

"Yes, sir," Langly mockingly saluted the man, who didn't laugh at the insult before slipping out and disappearing.

Frankie followed Scully back up the stairs and further into the house. Scully showed her the bathroom first.
Frankie was impressed that it was rather clean, knowing that Langly was a slob. Bet that Byers guy probably
cleaned it, Frankie thought. Scully walked out and said, "How about a place to do your laundry, too?"

Scully revealed a closet that had a washer and dryer in it.

"What'll I wear?" Frankie asked, concernedly.

"I'll get you something."

Carefully, Scully coaxed the young girl to undress. Frankie hesitated a moment, not sure what the other
woman's intentions were.

"Frankie, I'm a doctor. My interest is purely medical. I want to make sure you're not ill."

Frankie looked skeptically at Scully, but realized she had nothing to lose at this point. Dropping her large coat
on the bathroom floor, Frankie revealed the many layers of clothing she wore to insulate her. After kicking off
her boots and dragging two pairs of socks off, she dropped the oversized jeans on the floor, followed by a
hooded sweatshirt. Next went a pair of sweatpants and another sweatshirt. Lastly, Frankie, taking a deep
breath to steady her nerves, pulled down a pair of cotton leggings and slipped a long sleeve cotton Henley off. 
Looking Scully in the eye, wearing only a t-shirt and no underwear of any kind, she garnered her last reserve of
strength and slipped her t-shirt off. Immediately, her arms came up to shield her body from Scully's eyes.

Scully's heart broke when she saw how painfully thin Frankie was. Her ribs and hips poked out against skin that
should be almost white but too dirty to tell. There were random scars, some looked like stab wounds or slices
from various sharp instruments. But there was nothing to cause the agent to think Frankie needed immediate
medical attention. Scully turned to go to the door, but Frankie grabbed her arm. Scully turned back around to
see that Frankie had crossed her arms over her chest again, more for comfort than for modesty.

"Do you think they have a spare razor?" the girl asked, shyly.

"I'm sure they do. I'm going to go find you something to wear. Why don't you raid the vanity closet and see. I'll let them know you used one."

"Okay. Um…thanks. This is really cool of you, and them."

"Kindness is always returned in kind."

Scully left the bathroom. She heard the lock click into place as she walked down the hall. As Scully passed
Frohike's room, he walked out and intercepted her in the hall. He had his blue bunny pajamas in his hands.

"Give her these. They're women's pajamas, anyway."

Scully could see the admission was embarrassing for her friend. She took the clothes and looked at them.

"Why do you wear women's pajamas?" she asked, finally deciding to risk the question after years of

"It's hard to find comfy jammies in my size. Women's are just nicer to sleep in. And I'm old and weird enough to get away with it. But, she can have them." He turned to go, but ended up turning right around again to ask, "Is she all right?"

"She's not hurt, but she has been. And she's far too thin. I'll bet she hasn't had a normal period in months."

Frohike blushed and turned his face away. Scully realized her slip, forgetting she wasn't speaking to another
medical professional, or Mulder for that matter, with whom she knew she could always speak freely.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. It's just I'm worried about her. She's so young," Scully said, shaking her
head. "As soon as she gets a little settled, she should see a doctor for a full work up, blood and everything. I'm
sure it's been more than half her life since that's been done for her."

"Why don't we take it one day at a time, Dr. Scully?" he said, while looking over the rim of his glasses at her. 
She blushed and smiled at him.

"I just seem to be saying all the wrong things to you. I'm sorry, Frohike."

"Quite all right, my dear. I'm going back downstairs. Tell our lovely guest to join us when she's finished." 
Frohike patted Scully's shoulder in friendship.

Scully nodded, then went back to the bathroom door and rapped lightly. She could hear Frankie in the bathtub,
probably soaking. "Frankie, I'm going to leave a pair of pajamas for you to wear tonight outside the door.
They're Frohike's but he guarantees they'll fit. We're all going to wait downstairs. You have the whole floor to

"Thanks," Scully heard through the locked door. 

She went back to the first floor. Skinner had returned and in his hands he held a Queen-sized Aerobed and
Tommy Hilfiger fresh linens for it. Scully was impressed, knowing he must have spent quite a bit of money on
that. The bed was huge, with an inflatable platform to it, so she wouldn't sleep directly on the floor. He was
talking to Byers and Jimmy about where to set it up. Byers was thankful for the purchase since the only other
option for Frankie would have been an old Army cot. Mulder and Langly were still working on the PDA. Frohike was reading some websites about child welfare in Maryland. Scully looked up at her boss.

"This wasn't necessary, sir. I'm sure she wouldn't mind the cot they have."

"Scully, this is the least I can do for her," he said, distracting himself from his embarrassment by cleaning his
glasses. "She risked her life mugging Krycek like that. And I plan on making sure she's taken care of."

Scully hadn't seen that level of determination, or care, in her boss' eyes since he tried to find the killer of his
ill-fated one night stand years ago. Jimmy was going to haul the items up the stairs and into the storage room. It
was the only room on the second floor that had heat and a working door. He'd fit it with a lock for her. The kid
was big and quiet, thought Scully, but he wasn't as stupid as people thought he was. He hid the bags behind
some storage shelves to make sure Frankie wouldn't see them when she returned. And soon enough she did. If
they hadn't been expecting her, they wouldn't have recognized her.

She was wearing Frohike's blue bunny pajamas, but her hair was wet, clean and combed back from her face.
Her face was scrubbed clean, as were her hands, which was all they could see of her, and her bare feet. She
looked like a completely different person. Langly looked up and actually stopped typing.

"Well, Jesus fuck, you look great! About time you became human," he said with an approving smile.

"Fuck yourself, dickhead," she threw back playfully.

"Whoa, potty mouth. You better watch that. They don't talk like that around here," Langly admonished.

"Sure as shit we fucking don't," Mulder chimed in, catching the joke. Frankie cracked a smile. "She smiled! Holy shit, Frohike, get the camera! I'm opening a new X File!"

Frankie laughed at Mulder. She knew he was performing for her benefit, and she 
certainly felt like laughing. 

Langly looked back at the laptop and continued working, smirking through the strands of blond hair that fell in
his face. He continued trying to crack the nano-code, to be able to get the little machines to shut down in
Skinner's body. Frankie sat in a chair, pulling her feet up from the cold concrete floor, and looked at the big man whose life she'd saved. He must be a sight all dressed up, Frankie thought.

"So what's your real name, young lady?" he asked, crossing his arms. Scully looked at him and watched as he
went into a modified AD mode, to question her, but not to spook her. He leaned back against a worktable.

"Why?" Frankie's defiant chin came up to punctuate the challenge.

"So that I may address you properly. I'll start, then, I guess. My name is Walter Skinner. I'm an assistant director for the FBI. Those two," he indicated Mulder and Scully, "are my agents. You can call me Walter, if you like. And now you."

Frankie looked at the group, who had all gone back to work at various things. Jimmy had disappeared. Byers
was typing at a computer, as was Frohike, and Langly was still doing his thing with Mulder. It was just Scully,
Skinner and she talking. That Scully lady was pretty cool, she thought. She looked back up at Skinner.

"Well, Walter, are you sure you need my name?" she asked, warning lacing through her words.

"Yes, I'm afraid so. I'd like to know to whom I owe my life." He spoke softly, filtering the gravel quality out of his voice.

"Okay, whatever. Frances. My name is Frances." Giving in is easier than this back and forth shit, she thought.

"Any last name?"

"Not yet. I suppose I'll grab one some day. Can I use yours?"

"I don't think so. You were born with one, weren't you?"

"I think so. But I gave it up years ago." Frankie was beginning to enjoy the volley of words with Skinner.

Skinner looked down at Scully, indicating for her to leave them alone. She joined Mulder with Langly. Frances
looked up to the harsh brown eyes that softened as he knelt on one knee before her, taking her hands in his.

"I want you to know that I'm not going to turn you in to the police, or child protective services or anything like

"I'm 19, for God's sake. I'm an adult." She pulled her hands away and shoved them under her arms.

"Really? You hide your age well," he said with a smile, trying to be charming. Frankie cracked another smile
and blushed. She's warming up, thought Skinner. He stood up and leaned back against the worktable, folding
his arms over his muscled chest. "So, I've got a first name and an age. How about you tell me what part of New
Jersey you're from, since your accent is still evident."

"I'm not from New Jersey. I think I'm from New York, or something, but I ended up down here a few years ago.  Things are kinda fuzzy. You know?" She was seriously enjoying playing the role of smart-ass.

"I know what you mean. Pot does that to you. I barely remember high school," Skinner admitted ruefully, shaking his head.

Frankie let out a deep "yeah right" kind of laugh. She looked at Skinner and thought, Great, he's trying to
*relate* to me.

"Oh, I did my fair share of drugs in my time. I was in 'Nam for most of it. I'm 50 years old, after all. Drugs were
abundant and I took what I could. And I pay with my high school football years being mighty hazy."

"That just may be age," she said, dryly. Jab, gotcha, Walter, she giggled inwardly.

"Oh? And you think I'm old?"

"You're not as old as the Stones, are you?"

"No, not quite as old," Skinner answered with a laugh, something he didn't do very often at all. He turned the
direction of the conversation back to Frankie. "So…how did you…"

"End up on the streets? Forget it. Everybody's got a story. Mine's the same as everybody else's." Frankie did
not want to get into the "After School Special" that was her life.

"How about you run it by me and let me judge for myself?"

"How 'bout you back off a little? I told you enough for now." Frankie bristled a bit and needed to change the
subject. "Hey, I'm hungry."

Scully looked at her, having kept track of the conversation discreetly. She guessed the sandwich she had made
Frankie wasn't enough.

"I could use food," Skinner decided. "Pizza? I'll buy."

"Yeah, baby!" Langly shouted. "Pepperoni and sausage, mushrooms and olives. And pineapple."

"Ringo, you're disgusting," Frankie said. She turned to Skinner and said, "Whatever you want, man, since
you're buying. And get some diet Pepsi. I hate Mountain Dew."

Langly blew a raspberry at her from across the room. Skinner pulled out his cell phone and ordered enough
pizza, garlic knots and soda to last throughout the night. He was happy to converse with Frankie, so long as he
didn't worry about the "blond wonder" holding his life in his hands. At least he's still typing, Skinner thought,
fleetingly. When Langly stopped, then there could be things to worry about.

Skinner tried talking to Frankie for a while, pulling a chair over to sit with her. But Frankie had given up all the
information she wanted for the night. She seemed relieved when everyone but Langly broke for food. He
continued to type, ignoring the pizza that she placed by him. Frankie looked at him as he intensely worked to
save the big guy. She grabbed the slice and held it by Langly's mouth. He ignored it a moment, then took a bite.
Frankie put it down, then went up to the kitchen to get him a Mountain Dew. She set it by him. He looked down at her and said, "I would eat, but this is important, Frankie."

"Yeah, I know," she agreed. She waited a beat, then asked a question that had been nagging at her mind all
evening. "Hey, could that Palm Pilot guy really have taken me out?"

"Yes," Langly said, all joking put aside. His eyes reflected the serious tone of his voice. "His name is Alex
Krycek and he's extremely dangerous. He killed Mulder's father and Scully's sister and countless other people.
And I think you should stay here a while. He could come looking for you. You're way safer here than anywhere
else, since he doesn't know where we live. We've moved since he found out about us."

Langly didn't stop typing as he spoke. He had the uncanny ability to think about 4 different things at a time. In
gaming, that always threw his opponents off. And it impressed Frankie as she spoke with him.

She went back to where Skinner sat. She looked him in the eyes. She looked away a moment, then back at
him, sighing resignedly.

"McKirk. That's my last name. You can look it up. But you can't tell my dad I'm here. My mom's dead. Good

He nodded. He knew she was safe if she stayed in the warehouse, as were they all. Krycek was probably
desperately trying to find the PDA and would kill anyone who got in his way.

"Why can't I speak to your father?"

"Look, enough, okay!" she stated firmly. "I'm not gonna bother you with the stupid details of my life. And I really
don't wanna talk about it anymore."

Skinner nodded. She was closed up and he didn't want her distrusting him any more than she already did. But
he would look into her past and see why she didn't want her father knowing where she was.

Jimmy loped down the stairs with a goofy smile on his face. He looked at Frankie and said, "Your room is
ready. You wanna see?"

She looked at him with wide frightened eyes. Scully stepped into Frankie's line of vision, trying to comfort the
girl with her presence. Frankie noticeably relaxed her shoulders.

"Relax, Frankie. C'mon, I know where it is. I'll show you." Scully offered her hand to the frightened girl for
comfort. Frankie accepted it and followed the petite redhead up the stairs. Frankie looked back at the group of
men who seemed to be ignoring her. Maybe she could relax a little here. Scully knows the place pretty well,
Frankie noted. And she's a decent kinda lady. She wouldn't lie, would she?

Scully stopped at a room that had a normal door, not like the glass sliding doors on the other bedrooms. This
door was made of heavy wood. There was the platform airbed with the pink frilly sheets and blanket that Skinner had purchased. The heat had been turned on in the room and it warmed their cheeks in contrast to the slightly chilly offices. Someone had turned on a lava lamp, which bathed the room in an ethereal green glow.

"I guess this is where you'll sleep," Scully said, finally. She checked the door and there was a huge slide bolt
that looked brand new on the door. 

Frankie closed the door, with her and Scully in the room to check if the bolt worked. She yanked on the door
with all her might once securing the lock, but it didn't budge. They wanted her to be seriously safe. She turned
to Scully and said, "They're pretty cool. This is really nice of them."

"Well, let's go downstairs and you can tell them that."

They went back down and Frankie looked at the group who were all staring at the laptop Langly was using. 

"Um, thanks. That's nice of you guys to do that for me."

"Don't mention it," Jimmy said. "Besides, Mr. Skinner bought the bed and sheets and stuff. I just set it up and
put the bolt on the door. Works good?"

"Yeah, thanks. Maybe I'll get some sleep, tonight." 

Frohike walked over to her and said, "You sleep as long as you need. Then, in the morning, we'll talk about
plans for the future and what's going to happen. OK?"

"Sure, whatever." Frankie shuddered imperceptibly at the thought of "plans for the future."

Skinner was intently looking at Langly, who was typing, when suddenly the blond yelled, "B-I-N-G-O! I got it!"

"Got what?" Skinner asked, perking up.

"The code! I found the algorithm they're using. I can shut them down if you want, Mr. Skinner. They'll just leave
your body. But we'll never know anything more about them."

Skinner rubbed his strong jaw. No, he didn't want the nano-cytes inside his system any longer, tempting
someone to kill him again, but he also didn't want to waste the unique opportunity to assist the medical world to
understand the technology inside his body. He looked at Scully, then Mulder, whose blank countenances didn't
hold his answers. The Gunmen had the same expressions. Frankie finally broke their silence, in exasperation.

"Fuck that, get rid of them! You think whoever put them in there wanted you to live? Fuck 'em at their own game.  Get rid of them, Walter. You keep them inside you, someone's getting another iPac or something like that and you're fucked. I didn't go through all this trouble for you to go off and actually buy the farm."

Skinner nodded solemnly.

"She's right. Disable them, Langly. I don't want to ever worry about them again."

Langly nodded and entered the correct commands. Skinner was waiting for some flash of pain or a cramp or
something. But there was nothing. Langly looked up.

"They're off. They should, you know, pass through. You're clear."

Skinner put his hand on Langly's shoulder and looked into the younger man's eyes. There were no words and
the glare of light from both their glasses obscured their eyes. Skinner grabbed his jacket and headed for the
door. He turned back to Mulder and said, "I expect you and Scully in my office at 10 AM tomorrow. And make sure your files are straight. Goodnight."

Jimmy let the big man out and locked the door again. Frankie watched the monitor as Skinner walked up the
stairs, not looking back. Scully tried to discreetly wipe a tear from her cheek, but failed as she let out a soft sob.  Mulder put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her to his chest. Frankie turned to the stairs.

"I'm going to sleep."

She ignored the calls of goodnight and locked herself in the room. She got into the bed and looked at her
backpack in the lamplight. She pulled out her journal and pen to scribble down all the details of the night. She
wanted to remember the best night of her life. She would sleep soundly for a few hours, then take off. She set
her watch alarm to go off early in the morning. That Skinner guy was gonna haul her ass back to her dad, she
was positive. She could tell by the way he spoke to those Fibbies. And she knew the streets were better than
her father's clutches any day.


In the morning, Byers awoke and properly donned his robe and slippers. Frohike was already awake and
cooking. Jimmy woke up next and then Langly. They sat quietly at the table, eating Huevos Rancheros,
Frohike's breakfast specialty. 

Langly was getting his second cup of coffee when he asked, "Has anyone checked on Frankie yet?"

He got blank stares.

"Okay, she's my friend, I'll go get her up,' he whined, slamming his mug on the table and spilling his coffee.

Langly walked down the hall, past their bedrooms, past the bathroom, to the old storage room that was now
Frankie's room. He listened at the closed door and heard nothing. He knocked lightly and was greeted by more
silence. He knocked harder, but there was nothing. The door moved slightly. Langly pushed it open and the
room was empty. The bed was still there, unmade. He could still smell her sleepy scent in the air. But her
clothes and her bag were gone as well. Frohike's pajamas were on the bed. He hung his head as he walked
back to the kitchen.

"She's gone."

"What do you mean 'gone'?" Frohike asked. "Is she just out, or did she leave entirely?"

"Her stuff is gone, too. Shit!" Alarm started tingling in his head. Langly walked down the stairs to the offices to
see if she left a note. There wasn't one anywhere. He ran to the bathroom to shower and put fresh clothes on.
He walked out, not bothering to comb his wet hair and grabbed his jacket.

"I'm taking the van," he announced, slipping his arms in the sleeves. "I'm gonna look for her. If I find her, I'm
bringing her back. And she's staying." Langly was firm in his statement. He thought for a moment and continued,
"Man, you know what? I actually slept good for the first time after seeing her. She used to make me lose sleep. I
knew she was a street kid, but...the streets ain't kind. And I'm not dealing with it, anymore. She'll apprentice or
some such shit. But she's staying. No buts about it."

The other Gunmen just nodded and watched as he left. Frohike ordered Jimmy to wash the dishes as he and
Byers began combing hospitals and police files on the Internet for her name, and anything about her. They
wanted all the info they could get. During his search, Frohike noticed an IP address signature left in some of the
files' histories that was ever-so familiar, indicating someone had been there just before him. Skinner was up
early looking things over, as well.


Skinner sat in his office looking at the printed information he had found on Frances McKirk, Brooklyn, New York.  It bothered him to view her files, violating her privacy, but he needed to know her history, to satisfy the
investigator in him. She had been in and out of hospitals in the city, been arrested and released numerous
times for various reasons, including prostitution. She was also in the files of the Department of Child Protective
Services of New York City, with numerous complaints of physical abuse, and suspected sexual abuse as a
young child.

"That poor kid," he said to his empty office. Her father had beaten her badly throughout her life. Both arms had
been broken, as well as her right collarbone and her left cheek. She'd had multiple concussions and both
shoulders had been dislocated numerous times. After she ran away, she was stabbed, sliced in the abdomen,
raped repeatedly after which she was arrested for prostitution. No wonder she didn't want to dredge all that up
with him the night before. He was nauseous from simply thinking about it.

Scully and Mulder walked into his office, files in their hands. He didn't look at them as he resettled his glasses
on his face.

"Sir, are you alright?" Scully asked, concerned with the ashen pallor of his face.

"No, I'm not. I went through Frankie's files. That little girl is very lucky to still be alive, with what she's been

"Yes, sir, Mulder and I looked her up ourselves. It's amazing to see that she was so selfless to help you after
having been abused for so long. I would think she would be distrustful and even violent towards most people."

"That's a common misconception, Scully," Mulder explained. "Most adults who were abused as children grow
up to be loving and nurturing people. It's less often that the cycle continues. At least with sexual abuse. Physical
abuse tends to have a higher rate of cyclical reoccurrence. It makes complete sense for her to help us. She
wants to be normal, wants love and respect and admiration. And she's willing to risk her life to get it."

Skinner shook his head. What else was she willing to do? he wondered.


Langly drove past all the usual haunts, looking for Frankie. None of her friends had seen her since the day
before when she took off after the mugging. She disappeared, which she was prone to do. Where did she go
when she disappeared? he wondered.

Langly found himself in Fells Point, driving past the police station--one he knew only too well. He thought, maybe he should check to see if she was there, but he didn't want to go in. He pulled out his cell and dialed the offices.

"Lone Gunmen." It was Byers.

"I'm in the Point. Did she get picked up?"

"No. And she's not admitted to any hospital either. I assume you can't find her."

"Not yet. But I will."

Langly flipped his phone closed and drove on. She was elusive, all right. He drove into DC, trying like hell to
make it through the traffic. He hated driving in DC, but he knew she could probably be found in one place:
asleep in the grass on the Mall. She had once mentioned that having lived in cities all her life, she loved grass.
She didn't care if she got covered in bugs, so long as she could catch some sleep on a fresh bed of soft grass.
It was a secret comfort of hers. With her freshly laundered clothes, Langly figured she wouldn't be rousted by the cops that day.

He stowed the van on a side street and set out on foot. He walked past the Lincoln Memorial and on towards
the Wall when he saw a black jacket with jeans sticking out from it, the signature red backpack and brown/black hair spread out on the lawn. Cautiously, he walked over and called out, "Frankie?"

She looked up in fear, grabbed her things and started to run, which was a mistake she realized too late.
Langly's long legs brought him right up beside her and he tackled her on the grass. He turned her over and
straddled her body, pinning her legs down and grabbed her arms, trying to tell her to stop fighting him. He knew
he was frightening her, but she was swinging hard and he didn't want to get hit. She fought him as best as she
could, but Langly was too strong for her. She slowed her struggling as the tears made their way to the surface.
Soon, she was wracked with deep sobs. Langly sat back on the grass, moving off of her and pulled her into his
arms, rocking her gently to soothe her. He held her around her shoulders, stroking her back. She wiped her
face quickly and tried to move away from him. Langly tipped her face toward him so he could look in her eyes.
She stared directly at him, tears running down her cheeks.

"Frankie, come on, you know I'm not gonna hurt you. Why did you leave?"

"I don't belong there and you know it," she choked out between sobs.

"Does it matter? I mean, c'mon, Byers and Frohike and me? You think we belong together? And Jimmy's
another story altogether. Look, you can't stay out here. Krycek *will* find you. He's got a network bigger than you can imagine, bigger than ours. Every minute you're exposed is another minute that he's closer to finding you."

Frankie collapsed into tears again. Langly stroked her arm a bit longer before urging her to get up and follow
him to the van. She walked with him, trying to keep up with his long strides. She had always wanted to ride in
the van he drove and it calmed her a bit to finally do so. But as soon as they had turned back in to Takoma
Park, she told him she had to make a stop.

"Where are we stopping?" he asked, cautiously.

"I have to get the rest of my stuff. It's on the other side of town from your warehouse. Sorry."

"Where is it?"

"In this other place, hidden. I mean, it's just clothes and books and stuff. I gotta wash everything. But it's all I
have. It's in a duffel bag. Cool?"

Langly followed her directions and pulled up in an alley near the seediest warehouses he'd ever seen. Frankie
ran in before he could turn to ask her which one it was. He waited a minute before getting out of the van to try
and look for her. She walked out, dragging a huge, filthy duffel bag behind her. It looked ancient and stuffed to
the seams. Langly opened the side door and helped her dump the bag in the back before shoving her back into
the passenger to seat to get in and drive off quickly. He didn't like being out and exposed.

Picking up speed back to the warehouse, he was excited to pull into the alleyway behind his home and help
Frankie carry the bag down the stairs to the office. Langly pounded on the door to be let in almost in a panic.
Jimmy opened it, quickly grabbed the bag and one-handed it over his shoulder.

"Show off," Langly said. He locked the door behind them as Byers and Frohike ran over to question Frankie.

"Why did you leave without telling us?" Frohike shouted.

"Why won't you stay here where you're safe?" Byers asked.

"Look, she had to get her bag and it was heavy, okay?" Langly said, covering for her. "I found her on the way
back to the office. She's staying this time."

Frankie looked up at him worriedly, then nodded in defeat. Jimmy carried the bag up to Frankie's room and
she went up with him, following at a safe distance. She would have to sort through her clothes and things and
would have to do a ton of laundry. But she had a bed to sleep in and a roof over her head and hot food to eat.
And company.

That night, as the five of them sat down to dinner, Byers looked at Frankie's face carefully. He could see the little scars from cuts and scratches. Her nose had a bump from having been broken. She was definitely a damaged flower, but a flower nonetheless. She ate considerably more calmly after having had Frohike's eggs when she arrived that morning and Jimmy's grilled cheese sandwiches when lunch rolled around. She'd also stolen one of Langly's elastics and pony-tailed her hair. Sitting there, she was finally just a young girl.

Langly stopped by her room to see how she was doing later that evening. Frankie was folding her freshly
laundered clothes and stacking them neatly on her duffel bag spread out on the floor.

"We'll have to get you something to keep those in. Nice to have clean clothes, huh?"

"Yeah. I forgot how much shit I have."

"Well, considering we've been here for a good many years, you should see what Jimmy hauled out of this room.
You comfy?"

"Yeah, the bed is great."

"Lock works?"


Her face fell. Langly sat beside her on the floor and put his hand on her shoulder to find out why she'd suddenly
clouded over. She looked up at him and quickly pressed her mouth on his in an awkward kiss. He kissed her a
moment but pulled away, trying not to seem rejectful, but he knew he shouldn't be kissing her.

"Frankie, what was that for?" He was genuinely perplexed.

She blushed. "Well, I figured, you're here to…you know…"

"What?" Langly asked, really not getting it.

"Well, like, to pay for my place here, you can like…use me."

He shook his head and let out a cynical, angry laugh.

"Frankie, no one here is gonna do that to you. Not me, or Frohike or nobody, over my dead body. You're here to be safe. That's why you have a dead bolt on your door. And to be honest, that's there for your peace of mind, not because any one of us would need to be kept out."

"Wow, I'm such an asshole," she admonished herself, looking down in shame.

He squeezed her shoulders and laughed.

"Frankie, we're not like that. And that's something you'll have to get used to. I mean, yeah, Frohike's a perv, but John's repressed, and I'm just…you know…whatever, anyway, and I mean, Jimmy's an overgrown boy scout, so you're absolutely safe here. I promise you that."

"On Manhammer's sword?"

"On Manhammer's sword, shield and helmet," he swore, with his right hand over his heart and his left in the air.
"And let me tell you something, I wouldn't ever besmirch his name with a lie. He's won me too much money!"

They shared a laugh at that and Frankie noticeably relaxed against Langly. He looked down at her and asked,
"How much do you know about computers?"

"Nada," she said, quickly.

"Well, move it down to the office. You're about to get lesson one. And everyday will be like school here. You'll
learn about computers, the Internet, research, writing, everything. You wanna pay your way, you start with the

"Man, I was never good in school," she warned him.

"Well, this isn't school, this is life. You're learning about why we put this paper out. You think that living out on the streets is the worst that can happen to you? You know what those nano-cytes did to Skinner?"

"What?" she asked, excited to finally find out why she risked her life.

"They blocked his veins and arteries with carbon crystals. He had no blood flow. His heart actually stopped
beating. Krycek must've changed his mind, I guess, or figured Skinner was more useful alive and brought him
back. Because of us, Krycek just lost the biggest contact he had to the FBI since he was an agent. He has no
one to blackmail into doing what he wants, anymore. So, welcome to the world of black ops and secret
government. This is our world."

Frankie nodded, not sure she believed him. She stood with Langly and followed him to the offices. Frohike and
Byers were so engrossed in what they were doing they didn't even look up when the two entered. Langly sat
Frankie in front of a desktop computer and said, "OK, I'm going to start you with the basics about how they
work, what they're supposed to do and all that. Trust me, you'll have fun."

She looked up at Langly, as his pale blue eyes flitted about the screen. She knew more than she let on, but to sit there with him, as he fawned over her, like a peacock showing his tail feathers, was an indulgence she felt she deserved. Byers and Frohike exchanged bemused smiles. He was trying to impress their little guest and they thought it was adorable.

By the wee hours of the morning, Langly went back to Frankie and found her with her head resting on her folded arms, fast asleep. He smiled, touched at how sweet and innocent she looked when she slept. He lifted her small frame carefully into his arms and carried her to her room. She was a lot lighter than he thought she should be, but it must be the baggy clothes she wore that fooled him into thinking she was bigger. He laid her on her bed, removed her boots and pulled the covers up over her. She rolled onto her side and curled up, sticking her thumb in her mouth. She looked like an angel to him. He turned off the lava lamp and closed to door to hit his own sheets.

In the morning, Frankie awoke with a start. She didn't know where she was for a minute, since she had slept
very deeply. Looking around the room, she remembered the last two days and sighed in relief. Then she heard
the loud sounds of breakfast from the kitchen. She looked at her door and it was wide open. Panic set in
quickly as she began checking her clothes to see if they had been removed. She thought carefully for a moment,
moving her hips and legs about. She didn't feel like she had been used.

Slowly, she stood. She didn't feel unusually sore. Maybe she should take a good look. After refastening her
jeans in the bathroom, she concluded that everything was fine. Shrugging, she made her way to the kitchen
where her hosts were eating Jimmy's pancakes for breakfast. There was a place set for her. She sat and
nodded at the good mornings she got.

She began to eat quietly, covertly looking at everyone as they ate. No one said a word, as Langly, Byers and
Frohike combed the newspapers, like they did every day. She still watched them carefully, though. Langly put
his paper down and got up for his third cup of coffee. He looked at Frankie, as she was looking warily at the
other three. He realized she was looking for an opening to see what happened the night before.

"Hey, Frankie, you sleep good after I dropped you off?" he asked, opening the discussion.

"Huh?" she asked, cautiously.

"Well, you fell asleep reading at the desk last night. So I carried you up to your room. Sorry I couldn't lock the

"Nah, its cool."

So he put her in bed. She looked at him.

"Well, like I said, it's not like you'll need it anyway."

"You should leave that door open, though, Frankie," Byers said. "It can get awfully hot in there when we turn the heat way up. I opened it this morning to let some fresh air in. I hope you don't mind that I did so. I think we need to open a vent in there for air circulation, Frohike."

"Yeah, right, like I wanna put in more ductwork. I gave up tin knocking," Frohike stated firmly.

"C'mon, Fro, she's gonna need A/C when it gets hot, too," Langly whined. "I mean, shit, have a damn heart."

He nodded in sullen agreement. He looked at Frankie and said, "Well, you tell me when you want the work

"Yeah, whatever. So…I slept with the door open? All night?"

Langly shook his head, his golden curls bobbing on his shoulders. "Not all night, no, but Byers is usually awake
first, so he opened it. We tried to be quiet." 

Byers stood and tightened his robe belt. "Excuse me, please, I need to prepare for the day."

Byers walked to his room to gather clothes and go to the bathroom for his shower. She heard him lock the door from the kitchen. At this point, Frankie didn't know what to make of everything. But no one had touched
her…except Langly to put her to bed. And all he did was remove her boots. She woke up wearing the same
clothes. She was, for all intents and purposes, untouched. A small smile grew on her face.

She showered after Byers and changed her clothes to get down to the office to learn more about computers
from Langly. He handed her coding books and told her he'd test her on her skills. Byers was smiling as he
watched the two together, like siblings. He called Langly into a storage alcove behind a shelving unit to ask him
about her.

"What do you really know about her, Langly? Besides all of the horrendous things we found in her records. I
mean, is she as bright as she seems? Is she willing to be an apprentice? I understand that you're adamant
about her staying here, but is she in the same frame of mind?"

"Well, I think that the fact that she fell asleep at the computer last night says a lot. I mean, Byers, you don't know street kids. They'll stay up for like 3 days cuz they can't find a safe place to sleep. She fell out in front of me. So she trusts me. And she was looking us over while she was eating. She didn't wake up raped, so I think she's relaxing a little. We just can't let the guard down. Man, we gotta keep making sure she knows that being here is safer than anywhere else."

Byers nodded in firm agreement. He followed Langly back to the workspace. Frankie was using the typing
program, learning the correct fingers for the keys. She was picking it up quickly. Langly smiled. A Gunkid.


Standing outside the door, looking at the camera, Skinner couldn't believe an entire year had passed since they
found their young friend. She had lived in that warehouse with those four nuts the whole time, learning about
computers, hacking and everything else they did, he thought, with an inner chuckle. Frohike had mentioned to
Skinner that she was quite adept at long distance photography. She was fair on the computers, but liked
cameras better. Frohike was pleased to have a protege. Surveillance was easier with the extra hands. Langly
had wished her kung fu was better, but he was happy she could run the basic programs that everyone used.
And the photo manipulator software Langly was tweaking for her.

Jimmy admitted the big man into the warehouse. Most of the equipment had been moved away from the main
space to allow for the gathering. Everyone who was there that first night was in attendance and drinking Byers'
killer Rum Punch. There was music playing in the background. It almost seemed normal. Skinner was happy to
abandon his usual suit to dress casually for the get together. Some of Frankie's friends from school were there.
And although she wasn't ashamed of where she had been a year ago, she didn't want the street kids at the
warehouse casing it for a snatch later, so she kept it to recent acquaintances.

Skinner looked around the room, greeting the Mulders as they sipped the punch. But then, at the top of the
stairs, he caught sight of a young lady, with blonde hair pulled back into a pretty French braid, wearing a pink
sweater, khaki Capri-cut pants and pink sparkly sneakers. He liked that she had washed all the black and
brown dye from her hair. She looked over at the tall man who had slowly become her benefactor over the last
year and ran to him, screeching his name. He put his cup down to hold out his arms to receive her. She jumped
up into his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. He enveloped her with
his muscled limbs, rocking her from side to side.

"Oh, Walter, it's so good to see you!"

She laid little kisses on his cheeks and he laughed heartily.

"Hello, little girl, how are you?"

He put her down on her feet, but still hugged her tightly. She melted against him, her smiling face shining like
the brightest stars as she gazed up at him.

"How's school?" he asked, moving to walk with her toward the couch where they could sit and talk. With recent FBI events, he didn't have the chance to have a proper lunch with her like he had tried to do regularly in the last year. She sat on the dreaded red velvet couch and looked at him, talking animatedly about her current classes.

Skinner pulled every string he could think of and was determined to get Frankie into Georgetown. She drove his old Blazer, the one that was partially wrecked in the JEH parking garage, but rebuilt for her. He kept a bank
account open for her with spending money and paid for her tuition, books and clothes. He even dropped a
check to Frohike monthly for her room and board. He'd completely taken over her care, feeling it necessary
since he drove the case forward to put her father behind bars.

Skinner had found the man dealing in child pornography and used the case to help put forth stronger child
protection laws. McKirk would spend the rest of his life in Leavenworth, never to see his daughter again, and
most importantly, never to hurt her again.

Frohike sat with Langly and Byers, watching Frankie gush to Skinner. Langly shook his head, while Byers
smiled widely.

"You know, Langly, the past year has been amazing to watch her blossom," Byers mused. "She's like a normal
young college student. You did the right thing making her come back from the Mall that day."

Langly looked at Byers questioningly.

"How did you know I had to drag her back?"

"She told me. She said it was the best thing you've ever done for her. She knew there was no way she would
have stayed here on her own. She's glad you forced her to. Besides Mr. Skinner, we're the only people she
trusts, at all."

"He asked her to move to Crystal City," Frohike threw in.

"What?!" the chorus of Byers, Langly, and now Jimmy, sounded.

"She told me two weeks ago," Frohike elaborated. "He wanted her to start the new semester at his place. He
redid his spare bedroom for her. New furniture, new computer, stereo, TV, DVD player, satellite service, all that.  He was going to adopt her officially. She said no."

"Why?" Byers asked, surprise widening his eyes. "That would have been perfect for her. Mr. Skinner is probably a more stable influence on her than we are."

Langly nodded sadly, knowing that sitting up until sunrise to beat a medieval war game was probably not as
proper a thing to do as sitting down to watch the evening news, which he did, while eating his breakfast. But
Frohike surprised them.

"She told him that although she cared for him a lot, she'd think it was freaky living with him. And she couldn't
leave us. She said we'd become a family and she didn't want to uproot again. She likes it here."

The four men beamed as she looked over at them, smiling. Skinner saw the looks between them. He
understood that she was part of their motley crew and she in some strange way belonged with them.

Skinner stood and called the small gathering together to make his toast. He wasn't one for public speaking,
other than meetings, but he knew that it was just family and had no problems telling them his news.

"I would like to thank Frohike et al for hosting this party. As we all know, it was a year ago this night that we were all brought together, to solve some issues and become a sort of family. Well, I am pleased to announce
something else. I have a few contacts at Georgetown and I managed to get my hands on a set of grades that
were surreptitiously omitted from my perusal."

He pulled a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and began to unfold it.

"It seems that Frankie didn't get the Bs she said she had, actually. She didn't get those kinds of grades at all.
And Langly, I'm ashamed that you didn't hack the school to confirm it."

"What kind of friend do you think I am?" Langly answered, offended. "I trusted her."

'Well, as it turns out...Frankie's GPA isn't quite the 3.1 she told us it was."

Frankie began to blush and turned away from the group. How could he do this to her? She didn't want all the
fuss. All she wanted was to get her degree and go on with a normal life and all. Why did he have to make such
a fuss? she pondered.

"As it turns out, Frances Margaret McKirk is the proud owner of a perfect GPA, a 4.0."

Applause broke out amongst the group. Frankie turned to Skinner and threw daggers at him with her eyes. How could he tell everyone her middle name? And her GPA, it was private. What the hell is wrong with him! she wanted to know. Sure, they were happy, but what if she couldn't keep it up? What if she did miserably this

"That's not everything," Skinner interrupted, quieting the group. "I have one more surprise."

He pulled a black velvet box from his pocket and handed it to Frankie. She looked at it a moment, then at him,
then back at the box. With shaking hands, she opened it. She feared it would be an engagement ring.
Somewhere in the back of her head, that nagging fear of him just wanting to use her body nipped at her comfort. But it was crushed by the vision of the gold heart-shaped locket and chain in the box. She took it from the box and let the delicate item lay in her palm. It was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes that quickly spilled down her cheeks.

"Oh, Frankie, it's just a locket," he said. She threw herself into his embrace and laughed with him. Turning her
around, Skinner fastened the locket around her neck and she reached up to touch it immediately.

"Well, what do you think?" she asked him.

"It's beautiful. And so are you." He kissed her forehead gently.

She walked away to show her school friends her gift. Mrs. Mulder nee Scully, walked over, holding a sleeping
baby William, handing him to her former boss. She looked up into his beaming face that followed Frankie
around the room.

"She's a special young lady, sir," she said, quietly.

"Yes, she is," he agreed.

"You can't hold her too tightly, sir. She's not your child."

"She's as close to a child as I'll ever have. And I won't squander the experience by screwing it up with selfish
vicarious wishes."

"You're doing everything right, so far. And that will come in handy for your Godson."

Skinner looked down at the baby and brushed a gentle palm over his head. He gazed at Frankie, hoping he
was doing things as correctly as he thought he was.

Langly walked over and stood before her, looking at the trinket, jealously wishing he had something equal or
better to give her. She was *his* friend, after all. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't even be there. And here it was, Skinner was getting all the hoorays. Frankie didn't like the sadness in Langly's blue depths.

"What's wrong, Ringo?" she asked.

"Nothing, I guess. I just wish I could give you neat stuff like that."

"Why? I mean, this is nice, and God, Walter is like the nicest person in the world and all, but you're like, my best friend. The things he gives me are cool, but who am I gonna whip on Quake? And who's gonna teach me cool tricks like rescheduling the green lights on Dupont Circle? Nah, I like Walter, he's great, but I love you. You're my friend, dude, my best friend."

She hugged him tight. He smiled and beamed. She loved him. He was her best friend. The night couldn't get
any better than that. And he didn't even wanna try.