Title: Arizona Starlight
Author: Greengables82 (Dramafiend@aol.com)
Rating: PG
Classification: Romance/Angst
Spoilers: "Christmas Carol/Emily," "Closure," and Seasons 8
9. This story contains no spoilers for The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and is instead, an alternate version of events in Mulder's and Scully's lives between the end of season 9 and the present.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. They are the creations, and therefore the property, of Chris Carter, Fox, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, et al.

Summary: Six years after their escape and still on the run, Mulder and Scully find hope and a reason to believe.

Scully wakes in the middle of the night, shivering. It amazes her that she feels even the least bit cold here, in Arizona - in the middle of the desert - but then she remembers: another cheap motel, another noisy, chill-blasting air conditioning unit. She rolls onto her side, expecting his warmth, but she feels only the cool, coarse sheets; she smells, instead of him, the unpleasant odor of bleach, mingled with the stubborn remnants of cigarette smoke (so much for non-smoking rooms).

For a moment, she panics. They have come for him - she is certain of it - in the dead of night: the government, the military, the aliens, the super soldiers, the Cigarette Smoking Man and his consortium, the clones, the people wanting to infect him with the virus, the flukemen, the freaks, the vampires, the vengeful ghosts, the mutants, the demons. They have come, all of them, to take him away from her. She can feel her body begin to shake uncontrollably, and she fights to calm herself. She is always fighting.

She has seen so much, lost so much -they both have -that she's never sure, when she lies awake in the wee hours of the morning (as she all too frequently does), that she will ever be safe; that she will ever live another moment of her life not under the paralyzing spell of fear. Something between a sob and a gasp erupts from deep within her, and he is instantly at her side.

"Scully!" He bursts through the cracked motel room door and climbs back into bed, pulling her to him, stroking her hair.

"Scully, Scully, Scully," he croons, caressing her arms, her hands, her face - each utterance of her name a reassurance, a promise, a gift.

She turns to face him, and they lie silent and still, breathing each other's air. They stay like this for a long time, until he can feel her ragged breathing even out and the rhythm of her heart return to normal; until she can feel that his arms around her are solid, calm - no longer desperate, no longer scared. When she speaks, her voice is thin and seems to come from somewhere far away.

"Mulder, where have you been? Where were you? When I wake up, like this, at... at four-thirty a.m.," she says, glancing at the glaring red numbers of the clock radio, "You are always here. But you weren't here this time, Mulder, and I thought something terrible had happened... I thought you were gone. Don't ever do that to me again."

"Shhhh, Scully, shhhh," he murmurs, wrapping his arms more tightly around her. "I'm sorry, Scully, I'm so sorry. I couldn't sleep, and I didn't want to wake you, so I stepped outside, got some night air, breathed in the desert for a little while."

"Why, Mulder?" Her voice sounds hollow, afraid. Mulder kisses her forehead, her cheek, each corner of her mouth. He brushes her nose with his own, his eyes never leaving hers.

"It felt... it made me feel more connected to him, somehow, being out there in the night, in the desert, underneath all the stars."

Now she understands. Now she no longer feels betrayed.

"There are billions of stars, Scully," he continues, "And, tonight, they were all smiling down on those big, red rocks - those big, red rocks and us, Scully, out in the middle of the desert."

"What do you mean, Mulder?" She asks, in a voice so sweet that he feels like kissing her and kissing her, until they can both taste the salty truth of his tears. He speaks to his Scully, and his voice is painfully, infinitely gentle.

"Those stars...they know something we don't know: they know that nothing else will be taken from us; that no one and nothing can stop us or keep us apart; that there is something bigger than us that is, for once, on our side; that it will lead us to him."

Scully studies his face for a long time. Every time she looks at him -really looks at him -she discovers something new: something beautiful and profound that she never noticed before. He keeps unfolding, her Mulder. In the dim early morning glow, she detects in his hazel eyes not doubt, not defeat, but passion and sincere hope. It has been many months since she has seen this kind of fire in him.

For the past six years, they have been traveling in circles; renting different vehicles; trying on different names. They have been to Arizona at least a dozen times, and they've never stayed in the same motel twice. They change their hair color monthly; wear hats and scarves when the roots start to grow out. Mulder has tried all manner of facial hair: moustaches, beards, long sideburns, goatees. They are afraid to go to restaurants and grocery stores: afraid that the men-and-aliens-in-black will be waiting in the neighboring booths and lurking in the restrooms and vegetable aisles. They buy all their meals from drive-through windows, disguising their voices even for the bored McDonald's employees who lazily take their orders through staticy intercoms.

They live -they have lived, for years, now - in perpetual fear. Sometimes, Mulder's passion for his work - once his entire life - seems obliterated, completely erased, by this fear: the day before, they had passed through New Mexico -through Roswell -and Mulder hadn't even suggested searching the skies for UFO's. But now, at five a.m. in a motel room in Arizona, safe in Scully's arms, Mulder is talking about starlight, again. About William.

Scully raises herself up on her left elbow and touches his arm gently with her right hand, running her fingers over his tense muscles. She takes his hand in hers and slowly, deliberately, sweetly pulls him up, out of bed.

"Scully?" he asks, his eyelids drooping and his voice muddled by encroaching sleep.

"Let's both get up, Mulder. Let's go outside. Let's look at the stars together."

They step from their freezer of a motel room into the warm tranquility of an Arizona night. There are no lights to be seen anywhere: their motel is the only sign of life within a twenty-mile-radius, and its humming, half-burned-out "vacancy" sign is the sole blemish on the placid, soulful face of the desert. Scully lifts her eyes to the sky. There are billions of stars -trillions, in fact - countless stars gazing down on them, infinite souls.

"Do you remember," Scully says slowly, "When you found Samantha -the last time -and we looked up at this same sky..."

"And I told you that the stars were souls, traveling through time, looking for homes?"

"Maybe you were right."

"Maybe I was full of shit."

"No, Mulder. No. You just said... you just told me that the stars spoke to you, again, tonight."

She will not let him close himself off, not after all they've been through together, not on this calm, beautiful night. Not after he has just accepted, again, the possibility of hope.

"You taught me to believe, Mulder. Not just in you, but in the beauty of the universe: a beauty that cannot be fully accounted for, either by science or by faith. The truth is out there, Mulder, and it is also inside of us, and we will find it when we find him. And we will, Mulder. We will find him."

They are both silent for a long moment, then Mulder speaks.

"I wonder which star it was."


"The star that led me to you... . when he was born. I don't know which one it was. I can't remember, Scully. I can't find it."

She feels his tears fall hot against her bare shoulders as he lowers himself to his knees. Reflexively, she cradles his head against her chest and strokes his hair, as if he were a little boy -her little boy. Their seven-year-old, not-so-little-anymore boy.

She wonders what color it is, his hair. She wonders if he lies awake at night and cries, like his father; if he likes to dissect frogs in science class; if he prefers ghost stories to biology textbooks; if he's as fond of baseball as his dad; if he's as tone-deaf as his mother; if he amazes his friends, his teachers, his adoptive parents with his energy, his determination, his independence, his conviction, his brilliance. She knows that he is brilliant; smiles a little smugly in the knowledge that he is certainly at the deep end of the gene pool in that respect.

"I don't know that we can find him in any particular star, Mulder. I believe that all the stars will lead us to him." She lifts him to his feet gently, her arm wrapped tight around his back.

"You see that one there?" She points to a particularly bright star in the west, and Mulder nods, his eyes fixed first on the endless sky, then on her eternally radiant face.

"That star is my sister. I'm certain of it. It's so bright that it couldn't be any soul but Melissa's."

It has been a long time since she's said that name -Melissa - and she's surprised and pleased by how naturally it still rolls off her tongue; by how little some things change with time, even when time has changed so much.

"And that," she says, cocking her head slightly so that her gaze is directed at a neighboring star, "is Samantha."

Their eyes meet, and Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are calm, grateful, amazed. They are more in love than they have ever been.

"That one," Mulder says, his voice catching in his throat, "is Emily."

Scully thanks him silently for acknowledging her, for remembering her: a girl who was not meant to be, a child who was not his, but a child who was, nevertheless, loved. All these years later, Scully can still hear the sweet voice of her first child, her little girl, echoing in her head: "Mommy said no more tests." She knows that Mulder can hear it, too.

"Emily would want us to find her little brother," Mulder whispers.

"She does. She wants that as much as her grandfather does," Scully says, smiling. "He's up there with her -he's got to be- and I bet he calls her Little Starbuck."

"I bet he calls her Queequeg," Mulder says, grinning, and they both, amazingly, laugh.

"We are, none of us, alone," he says, more seriously, and he lowers his face to hers until their lips meet.

When they come up for air, the sun is rising in the east, above Emily's still-bright star. The desert is vast and quiet, and they stand in its embrace (and their own) for a long, long time, until there is no longer any fear - only hope and stardust.

They walk slowly, holding each other, back to their motel room. Maybe they'll finally be able to get some sleep.



His eyes fall on the blinking red light on their bedside phone, and hers follow.

"It must be a sign."

Mulder picks up the receiver and they both listen to the message:

"Dana? Dana, it's mom."

In the background, Walter Skinner's voice, muffled, but as no-nonsense and certain as ever, announces: "Agents, this line is secure. I have tracked you down, but no one else has any way of knowing your whereabouts. You have my word on that."

Margaret Scully continues: "Dana, Fox, you have a very special visitor. He has found me; now, we need to find you. We know where you are. Walter and I will meet you there in nine hours. We will have. . . we will arrive with your son. Please stay where you are. I love you, Dana... I... I love you both. You are safe, and so are we. We will be there soon."

They listen, stunned, to the silence that follows the message.

"I want to believe," Mulder murmurs, finally. "I want to believe very much."

"So do I," Scully says, her eyes wet and sparkling.

Mulder returns the receiver to its cradle and carefully, reverently, erases the message. Then, he takes Scully by the hand, and they step outside again, into the early morning sunlight. Faint and beautiful against the brilliant, pink sky, the stars still glimmer.

Three hours after they receive the phone call, there is a knock on the motel room door, soft, but insistent. Scully panics.

"They said nine hours," she whispers.

Mulder walks slowly toward the door and peeps through the eyehole, refusing to submit to the feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Through the door, they hear a familiar, anxious voice.

"It's alright. I'm not one of them. I know you are frightened, but I am here to help you. They don't know where I am, and they won't find you."

Gibson. Gibson Praise.

Scully rushes to the door and slides the chain from its groove, her maternal instinct kicking in.

"Wait," Mulder says, placing a hand over the doorknob, protectively, a gesture he realizes is futile if they are, indeed, faced with a super soldier.

Mulder pauses, then speaks: "What am I thinking, Gibson? What am I thinking right now?"

"A lot of things. Do you want me to say all of them?"

"Go ahead, Gibson. It's okay."

"You were worried, a minute ago, that I was a super soldier, but you're not afraid anymore. Now, you're trying to think about something that will make me laugh: baseball. You're telling me you'll give me your New York Knicks t-shirt if you challenge me to a match of telepathic chess, and I win. But what you're really thinking about is your son, William. And that's why I'm here."

Mulder relaxes his grip on the door handle, and Scully clicks the dead bolt to the left, unlocking the door. Gibson walks in, and they do a double-take: he is as tall as Mulder, now.

"I am twenty-one, you know," he says.

"It's so nice to see you, Gibson," Scully says, embracing him, "Mulder and I have thought about you so often."

"I know. And I have thought about you: thought along with you, even when I haven't wanted to."

"We're so sorry, Gibson," Scully says, quietly.

Mulder cuts to the chase: "Our son, William, is he all right?"

"He is in danger." Scully's eyes fill with tears and her knees feel weak beneath her. Mulder wraps an arm around her shoulders to steady her.

"But they don't know where he is. Not right now. They killed the parents who raised him. They tried to kill him, because they are still not convinced that he isn't what they thought he was, but I stopped them. I took him away, before they could reach him."

Scully's tears overflow, "Oh, Gibson."

"Why don't you sit down," Mulder says, clearing a spot on the bed, "And tell us what you know."

"There's no time," Gibson says, "You have to come with me." Mulder and Scully exchange worried glances, then follow Gibson as he darts out the door. In the parking lot, directly in front of their motel room, is an unmarked van with darkened windows.

"Get in. Now." Gibson says, and they obey. The van speeds off before Mulder and Scully have time to take in the identity of the driver and two additional passengers.

"Byers? Langley? Frohike?" Mulder says, incredulous. "I want to believe, but... but you're dead and... and buried."

"We have been underground, it's true," Byers, the driver, remarks.

"But dead? Not by a long shot," Frohike says.

Scully remains speechless, stunned, but Mulder probes further: "But I saw you. I saw you in the desert, six years ago."

"Well, we couldn't have been dead if you saw us, could we," Byers queries.

"Yeah, except he sees dead people," Langley points out, and the three erupt in laughter.

"But you're really, truly not..." Mulder continues.

"Deceased? No way. Sorry to disappoint you," Langley answers. "We've been deep underground, like Byers told you. We had some... information... six years ago that we thought it was better they didn't know we knew. So, we faked our own deaths."

"We've been hiding out in the desert," Frohike adds, "Well, Langley and I have. Byers has been elsewhere."

"Up in Wyoming," Byers chimes in, "Keeping an eye on your son."

Scully speaks, finally: "I don't believe this."

"Believe," Langley commands, with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Where are we going? Where are you taking us?" Scully asks, then, panicked, she adds: "Are you taking us to William? To my mother? To Skinner? Are they safe?"

"That's the desired outcome of this mission: safety for everyone involved," Byers says.

"And yeah, we're taking you to them. We're meeting up with their helicopter in western Kansas. We've just sent word to Skinner through secret channels. Very secret channels," Frohike explains.

"Guess who," Langley challenges Mulder.

"I couldn't even begin to imagine," Scully answers.

"Marita. Marita Covurrubias," Mulder answers.

"Geez, he's as psychic as you are," Langley says, giving Gibson a friendly nudge.

"We're traveling in the daytime," Scully remarks, struggling not to allow her fear to betray her, "Is this safe?"

Frohike answers: "Well, I don't know about yours, but my mom always said the bad guys come out at night."

"I NEED SOMEONE TO BE SERIOUS, HERE!" Scully finally says, no longer fighting back the desperation and terror: "THIS IS MY SON'S LIFE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT; MY MOTHER'S LIFE; ALL OF OUR LIVES!"

This time, it is Gibson who answers: "They, the super soldiers, know that Mrs. Scully and Skinner are headed to Arizona with William. They do not know that they are stopping in Kansas, instead. And they have no idea where you are, Ms. Scully, Mr. Mulder: they think that you have given up."

Mulder grimaces at the suggestion that he has given up on the X-Files, on his son.

"His... parents," Scully asks, quietly, "When were they killed?"

"Two days ago," Gibson answers. "They were vacationing in Arizona: at the Grand Canyon." Scully gasps, realizing how closely their paths had come to crossing.

"What happened," she asks, although she doesn't want to know; doesn't want to feel William's pain along with her own.

"They were hiking," Byers answers, "fully enjoying the trip, the views. It was really a beautiful last family vacation, if that's what it had to be." Scully winces.

"They managed to track them down," Byers continues, "The super soldiers, the alien assassins. They were just too close... there was too much extraterrestrial activity in the area. They detected him... the part of him that is still like them."

"But there IS no part of him that is like them," Scully protests, her voice raising an entire octave, "Jeffrey Spender saw to that: he injected him with that metal; he made him fully human! He isn't special to them, anymore! I'm not sure he ever was: they left him; they went away right after he was born; right after they came to take him. He's just a little boy! He's just my little boy, dammit!"

"It's okay, Scully, it's okay," Mulder whispers, pulling her into a gentle embrace. "Byers, Langley, and Frohike have got our backs. And Gibson."

"He is just a little boy, Ms. Scully," Gibson says, sounding more like the ten-year-old version of himself that Scully and Mulder remember. "He is fully human; he is just like you, down to the chip in his neck."

Scully cannot speak: she feels her throat close up. Mulder is her voice: "He's an abductee?" He asks, quietly.

"They have tried to make him... what he was; what they wanted him to be," Gibson explains, "But they have failed, even after hundreds of tests."

In her mind, Scully hears it again, Emily's voice, innocent and pleading: "Mommy said no more tests."

She closes her eyes tight to shut out the noise, the pain.

"And now, because they have failed, they want him dead," Mulder says grimly, connecting the dots.

"Yes," Byers says, slowly, "But that is exactly what we are trying to prevent."

"Gibson has a special connection with the boy, because of the tests; because of the special powers that he and William once shared," Frohike says.

"And so you were able to find him and stop them?" Scully asks Gibson, her gratitude concentrated, overwhelming.

"They assassinated his parents. Killed them instantly. But I managed to divert them: to lead them, after me, to a part of the canyon rich in iron deposits, rich in the kind of metal that destroys them."

Scully doesn't want to ask, but she needs to know: "Did he see them, Gibson? Did he see his parents die, and the... the super soldiers?"

Gibson pauses before answering. "I'll let him tell you about all of that, Agent Scully."

"The important thing," Byers says, "Is that Gibson got him out of there, before any more of them could show up. They got out of Arizona, and Gibson found me, and we transferred William to the care of Walter Skinner and your mother. They have taken a big risk in contacting you, but Gibson does believe that you two are off the alien conspirators' radar, for now, at least, and perhaps the boy will be safer away from Washington."

"For now," Gibson echoes, "But we have to be careful: you are never, any of you, out of danger."

"I just want to see my son. I need to see him," Scully says, her voice an impassioned whisper.

They drive for hours, Scully even managing to fall asleep, briefly, her head on Mulder's shoulder. Then, just as night falls, they are in Kansas, in the middle of a vast field, underneath an endless, starry sky.

They stand, perfectly still, beside the Lone Gunmen's getaway van: Frohike, Langley, Byers, Gibson, Mulder, Scully. They wait until the bright lights of the helicopter approach them, until the breezes created by its descent nearly topple them. Then, they run.

Mulder and Scully run to the helicopter: they run like they have never before run in their lives, not even from a monster or a killer or a super soldier; not even to each other in times of great danger. They run to meet their son.

He steps to the ground slowly, behind Skinner, behind Scully's mother. The landing lights are blinding, and Margaret Scully shields her grandson's eyes from the glare with one hand, holding his small hand in the other.

"Dana," she breathes, her voice full of emotion for the daughter she has not seen in six years; for the child who is about to meet her own child for the first time since he was an infant.

It is Mulder he looks at first, once the helicopter lights fade into the darkness, and the moon and stars are the only source of illumination. It is Mulder he recognizes, because it is Mulder's dark hair; his strong jaw; his wide lower lip; his deep-set hazel eyes that he sees every morning in the mirror when he brushes his teeth before he goes to school.

Mulder kneels down in front of his son, trying his hardest not to cry, not to overwhelm this child who has just seen so much. He looks into William's eyes, asks him if he knows who he is.

William, in a tiny voice, answers, simply, "Yes."

Scully, standing behind Mulder, now moves to kneel on the ground beside him. She tries to restrain herself, to remain neutral, to be a calm, reassuring adult figure and not, right away, a mother, but she fails. She pulls the little boy into her arms, holding him, feeling the weight of his thin torso, the texture of his thick, brown hair.

He resists her embrace for a short moment, then relaxes into her arms, laying his little head on her shoulder. He knows her.

Mulder looks up at the sky, at the stars shining down on the two people he loves most in the world, and he sends his deepest thanks, his inestimable gratitude, telepathically, up to the souls in the starlight.

After the rescue; after the getaway van; after the phone call and the unexpected knock on the motel room door; after the resurrection of the Lone Gunmen; after the helicopter; after the deserts of Arizona and the fields of Kansas; after the return flight of the grandmother and the FBI friend to Washington; after the starlight, there were only the three of them: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and William.

They were riding, finally together, in a nondescript vehicle Skinner had secured for their permanent use. They were driving, with their Wyoming plates, back to his home: William's. Mulder played chauffer while Scully sat in the back with their son, the three of them riding in silence, waiting for him to speak.

Scully longed to reach out to him, to place a gentle hand across his skinny knees, to hold him, to tell him she loved him: she always had and always would. But she didn't dare. Not yet. Not so soon. All of that would come, she knew, and she had held him in her arms once already this evening in Kansas, under the stars. That had been enough for now, more than enough; that had been heaven on the heels of six long years of running, of hiding, of trying to forget the unforgettable, of hell. In the rearview mirror, her eyes caught Mulder's, and they were left breathless by the new light, the joy, they both saw.

William sat perfectly still, his seatbelt across his chest a tight barrier against the aliens; against the bad men; against, for now, these people who claimed to be his parents. He looked to his right, away from them, staring out at the miles and miles of fields and mountains. He wanted his mother: her short, dark hair with the few streaks of gray that she hated, but he loved; her soft, heavy arms; her smile that told him everything would be alright when he woke in the middle of the night after they'd taken him away for the tests. She'd always told him that they were bad dreams, only bad dreams. And he'd always believed her, then, but now he wasn't so sure.

He missed her, his real mother. And he missed his father, too: his sturdy chest, his cowboy boots, his funny voices when he read him bedtime stories. He also missed his dogs, and his horses. He guessed Aunt Jenny was still looking after them, still waiting for them to come back from Arizona, from the stupid Grand Canyon, where he hadn't wanted to go, anyway: where his parents had been killed by some terrible men who had wanted to hurt him, too.

They had told him, these people who said they were his new parents, that they were taking him back home, to Wyoming; to Aunt Sally; to his dogs, Buck and Sally; to his horses, Buttercup and Bay. He guessed they were telling him the truth because he was starting to recognize the landscape: the hills and valleys, the prairie grass, the ranches, the ranges, the streams, the fences, the big skies of home. But he didn't understand why they wanted to come home with him, why they wanted to stay and live there, too. They seemed a little bit familiar, sure: the tall man who was driving even looked like him, and the red-haired lady seemed nice enough, but they were still strangers. How was he supposed to be sure that they were any different from the strangers in Arizona who had done terrible things to his real mom and dad?

He was tired: he just wanted to sleep, and he didn't like that the man in the front seat kept looking at him through the mirrors, and that the lady sitting next to him kept staring at him and then pretending she was looking away. He knew they wanted him to say something, but he didn't know what to say. He didn't want to say anything to them.

He'd liked that lady who said she was his grandmother: the one who lived on the other side of the country in that place with the president's big, white house and the huge, creepy statue of Abraham Lincoln. She reminded him of his real mom, and he'd never even known his grandparents, so it might not have been so bad to have one grandmother, after all. And that man was pretty nice, too, the one who'd flown the helicopter to Kansas. He didn't know why they'd had to go back to where they came from and leave him here with these other people. All they'd said was that it was too dangerous for him to be with them in the east; that his "parents" could protect him better. He wasn't so sure about that. They didn't even look like they were too sure about it: they actually looked pretty scared.

The man turned on the radio. It was some oldies song. William recognized it: he'd heard his mom and dad listen to it before.

"You like the Beatles?" the man, Mulder, asked him.

"They're okay," William replied.

Then, to William's horror, the man started singing, really, really badly. And the woman joined in, too, and she couldn't carry a tune, either, and then they were just going on and on in their awful singing voices about the sun and ice melting and "little darlin,'" whoever that was. He just felt embarrassed, and when he looked over, he saw that the lady with the red hair who had hugged him for a long time back in Kansas was still crying and acting all mushy.

"I'm sorry we're being so silly," Scully said, picking up on the little boy's bewilderment, "We're just so happy to see you, William."

"Nobody calls me William," he said, "My name is Will." Scully swallowed hard.

"Okay, Will. That's cool. That's a cool guy name; nothin' sissy about that," Mulder said, realizing, after the fact, how lame Will probably thought he was.

"Will?" She asked, and he turned his head, instinctively, although he didn't really want to.

"I used to sing to you when you were a little baby," Scully said quietly, tentatively. "When your... when Mulder was away doing a very important job, and it was just you and me together, I sang to you a lot. You liked one song very much: 'Jeremiah was a Bullfrog.' Do you know that song?"

William did know that song: his real parents used to sing it to him when he was little, too. He closed his eyes tight and started humming it: maybe if he concentrated hard enough, they would come back.

He didn't realize he was singing it out loud until the lady and the man started doing the 'joy to the world, joy to the fishes in the deep, blue sea' part along with him. He stopped immediately, then crossed his arms over his chest and looked out the window again. He hoped they'd be home soon, so he could see Aunt Jenny; see somebody he knew.

"William... Will," Scully said, very quietly, "Did you know... did your parents tell you that you were adopted?" She already knew the answer to this question; already knew that her mother had had to explain everything to a traumatized and very confused little boy, but she needed to talk to him, herself; to make sure he understood.

"They told me one time, when I was little, that they wanted a baby, but they couldn't have one, themselves, so they went and got me. They said my real parents couldn't take care of me, but I figured they just didn't want me. But that was okay, because I love my parents. They are my real parents, anyway, and they wanted me."

At this, Scully and Mulder both winced.

"It's not true," Scully said slowly, "That we didn't want you."

"What your parents told you was right, Will," Mulder tried to explain, "We couldn't take care of you. We were involved in a very dangerous fight against the bad men who visited you at night, against the people who hurt your parents. We gave you away because we thought you would be safer with your other parents."

"And I know that they tried to keep you very safe, and that they loved you very much," Scully added, quickly. "And that is what we are going to try to do, now: keep you safe. But one thing we don't have to try hard at all to do is to love you, because we already love you. We have always loved you, and we always will." There, she'd said it.

Mulder jumped in: "We don't expect you to understand everything right now, Will. Hell..."

Scully shot him a glance, and he started over:

"Heck, we don't even understand everything right now. But we would really like you to trust us: to trust us when we say that we will be good parents to you; that we will keep you safe."

"We know we can never replace your other parents," Scully said softly, "And we will never try to do that, but we will love you just as much as they did, in a different way."

Scully was quiet for a moment, then continued: "I gave birth to you, Will, in a little town in Georgia, far away from here. And then we moved to Washington, D.C., where you just were with Mr. Skinner and your grandmother, and we lived together: Mulder, me, and you, in an apartment in a neighborhood called Georgetown."

William was silent. "Your dad... Mulder...and I used to work for the government, and we knew a lot of secrets. One really big secret we knew was that there were bad people who were trying to harm a lot of people, not just us. And we tried to stop them. Mulder went off to try to fight them, and I stayed with you in Washington, where I thought I could keep you safe. But then we found out that it was too dangerous for you, there, so I had to make the decision to give you away. I didn't want to do that, William, but I had to. And I'm so, so sorry that the wonderful people I gave you to have been taken away from you. That is something that I never, ever wanted to happen."

"You don't have to talk to us about any of this right now, Will," Mulder said, turning the radio, which he'd already turned way down, off.

"But we just want you to know that you can talk to us about anything, when you feel ready," Scully said.

"Okay," William answered.

They all rode in silence for another two hours, until, finally, they crossed the Wyoming border and pulled into Aunt Jenny's driveway.

Mulder and Scully walked behind William up the long, gravel pathway to the house. Scully carried, in her purse, the adoption papers that Skinner had tracked down, along with the FBI ID's that she and Mulder had long ago left behind. Mulder held, in his hand, death certificates for Hal and Carol Lee Halbrenner, William's parents. Their faces were grim, and Scully, who was trying to fight back tears, impulsively reached for Mulder's hand. He held onto it as they stood in Jenny Halbrenner's doorway, waiting.

She never answered the door. William started to panic, began to cry for the first time since his parents had died.

"Did they take her, too? Did they hurt Aunt Jenny?" He sobbed. Scully knelt down to try to comfort him.

"I don't know, sweetie, I don't know," she murmured, "But everything is going to be okay, I promise."

At that moment, a stately-looking woman with a checkered shirt and short, dirty-blonde hair approached them from behind the house.

"Aunt Jenny!" William yelled, and he had just started to run toward her, when, all of a sudden, a golden retriever and a German shepherd ran out of the woods and raced to William's side, barking angrily at the approaching woman.

"Sally! Buck!" William cried, crouching down to greet his dogs, but they weren't in the mood for petting. They moved into position in front of William, where they stood, rigid, their teeth bared, in between the little boy and the woman.

William looked up and, in a small voice, said, "That's not her; that looks like my Aunt Jenny, but it's not her."

His words were lost in the squeal of the car's tires against the gravel: Mulder, always two steps ahead, had realized that they were faced with a super soldier and had taken action.

The larger dog, Buck, his sixth sense similarly well-developed, also hadn't waited around. Scully watched in disbelief as he wrestled the imposing figure to the ground, and, in one fluid movement (which Scully would conclude, later, to have been, indisputably, the work of divine intervention), bit "Jenny," hard, right in the back of the neck. As the green fluid oozed from her body, Buck stumbled back in the dry grass, whimpering.

Scully backed William away from the figure on the ground, trying to shield his eyes from the sight of his beloved dog convulsing next to the decomposing aunt-who-wasn't- really-his-aunt, and Mulder pushed open the passenger door of the car and yelled for Scully and William to get in. Scully guided William toward the car, but he struggled against her, screaming for his dogs.

"Come, Sally," Scully said, firmly and gently, gesturing to the smaller dog, "Come."

Sally, afraid of the green substance that had hurt her friend, whimpered and hesitated, but finally turned and followed William to the car. With the four of them safely inside, Mulder sped away.

When darkness had fallen, they were in Oregon. Mulder pulled into the parking lot of the Portland International Airport, and Scully eyed him anxiously.

"What are you doing?" She whispered, glancing at an unconscious William on the back seat, sleeping fitfully with Sally sprawled out on his lap.

"Byers gave me some information," he said, "Right before they left us."

"What information?"

"He said they thought we'd be safe, for now..."

"Well, that's obviously not the case: we got to Wyoming, and they'd already turned his aunt into a super soldier," Scully said, shaking, "What's next? They were waiting for us, Mulder. They're always waiting for us. Gibson's right: we are never safe. We will never be safe."

"Scully, no..."

"How are we supposed to protect him, Mulder? How can we even protect ourselves?"

"Listen, Scully. Listen to what I'm saying: Byers told me that if it turned out they were wrong; if it turned out we were not safe here, then our best bet would be to leave the continental United States. The Lone Gunmen have secret information, Scully: they think that neither the government nor the aliens can track William, or you, even through the computer chips, if we are not within range of a U.S. military base or an established UFO landing site."

"Mulder, why didn't we know about this a long time ago? It can't be true: it would be much too simple."

"But what if it is, Scully? What if it is true? What if we can end this? What if..."

"What if what, Mulder?"

"What if we can singlehandedly prevent the apocalypse?"

"You've got to be joking. After all we've seen? After all we've learned? They're unbeatable, Mulder, you know that. That was the Truth you found."

"Maybe not. If we can get William off their radar, out in the middle of the Pacific, who's to say that they won't give up? He was their last best chance at an alien-human hybrid, Scully. They've already given up on Gibson Praise because he can too easily betray their plans. They are weakened, Scully, the aliens and what's left of the consortium. They may not have the resources, or the will, to create new hybrids or to follow through with their plan of colonization."

"But the labs, Mulder...the labs with the experimental babies; the super soldiers; Teresa Hausey; Billy Miles... they haven't given up, Mulder, they never will. You said it yourself: 2012, Mulder. We can fight the future, but we can't just expect it to go away on its own."

"But what if it could, Scully? What if it can? The Lone Gunmen think. . .Gibson Praise thinks... that if we take William somewhere where they can't pick up his signal, they might give up. They might think he's dead; that's it's over. And then it will be over, Scully. Without him available for experiments, experiments to try to restore him to what he was, they may lose all power to control the rest of the human race, all hope. He's the key, Scully. Our son might be the key to saving the world."

"That's insane, Mulder... it's so much bigger than him, than us. And he's only a little boy!"

"Scully," Mulder said quietly, "After all you've seen, why can't you believe?"

Twelve hours later, Sally having been transferred from her crate in the jumbo jet's baggage compartment to a more comfortable seat in a private jet secured for them by Skinner (though courtesy, really, of Gibson Praise), the Scully-Mulder family prepared to land.

Scully held William's hand as they stepped onto the white sand of their new home: a small island in the South Pacific, near Fiji, but not close enough that they'd have too much contact with tourists; with anyone who might have a remote connection to the American government.

A beautiful, dark-skinned little girl wearing a multi-colored, cotton wrap-around dress eyed them suspiciously as they stepped off the small plane, then ran to alert her mother and father. The family approached Mulder, Scully, William and Sally suspiciously, but not without gifts: coconut, fish, and fresh water. They were made to feel at home and they would, eventually, make a home here.

Mulder, who hadn't, for years, allowed himself the luxury of hope, began to hope for many things: that they would learn the native language of the island; that William would make friends; that Scully could go be a doctor, finally, on this beautiful, magical island; that they could be a family; that the future would be something to fight only when he was old and sick and lying in his hammock of a death bed, surrounded by clear blue water, palm trees, and the only two people left in the world who he loved.

Mulder watched William kick off his shoes and let Sally chase him through the sand, her tail wagging wildly, and, all at once, he believed.

That night, their first on the island, Mulder and Scully slept soundly. It didn't matter that they didn't have their own home, yet (their kind, future neighbors had put them up, temporarily: Mulder and Scully in a room with a low bed of light, flat cushions; William in a makeshift hammock-bed in another room, where a little boy about his age also slept). It didn't matter that they were exhausted; that they'd all (including poor Sally) seen things that they wished to God they could erase. It didn't even matter that the difficult process of becoming a real family would take a tremendous amount of time and trust and would not, Mulder and Scully were sure, be without its exceedingly painful moments. All that really mattered, right now, was that they were here together; that they were, finally, whole.

After Scully had wrapped a light, cotton blanket around William's bony shoulders, sung to him (just a verse or two of "Joy to the World": not enough to annoy him), and rocked him to sleep in his hammock, just like she had rocked him in his cradle when he was still a baby, so many years ago, she and Mulder had slipped out of the house.

They gave Sally a pat on the head as they left their son and their shoes inside, then quietly opened the light, wooden door of the humble island house and stepped onto the wide, endless beach beyond it.

They walked for a long time on the sand, saying nothing. Speaking had always seemed superfluous to them, unnecessary. They were able to intuit, with great precision, each other's thoughts, as effortlessly as Gibson Praise could ever read anyone's: they had always been like that. With all the sound and fury that had always trailed them, they relished the silence.

Scully did finally speak that night, but only after they had made love in the sand, their bodies moving in perfect rhythm with the gently lapping waves; only after they had been lying still for hours, safe in each other's arms, gazing at the stars above a place much lovelier than Arizona or anywhere else they had ever been.

"I want you to know, Mulder," she said quietly, reverently, "That I love you and William more than I have ever loved anyone; that I trust you like I have trusted no one else in my life." She knew that she didn't need to say this; that he knew, but she wanted to say the words, anyway.

"Ditto," Mulder said, smiling as he traced lazy circles on her skin. He rolled onto his side to face her, then.

"Do you remember, Scully, that night in my apartment... that first night, when we made... when William was..."

Scully blushed, amazed that Mulder, whom she had known so thoroughly for so long, could still produce such a reaction in her.

"Of course I remember, Mulder."

"And do you remember," he continued, running his fingers gently over her lips, the curve of her jaw, "What you told me that night, sitting on my couch, falling asleep on my shoulder?"

"As I recall, we were talking about fate: about the choices that we make in life, about how they all lead..."

"To this very moment," Mulder finished.

"And remember how you told me, once, that you would do it all over again," he continued, "Well, I would do it all over again a hundred thousand times: the loss of my sister, the innumerable brushes with death, the being-buried-alive thing, the alien probing..."

"And that says a lot," Scully whispered, beaming, "That says a lot, lot, lot..."

"I mean, it's probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour..." Mulder finished, grinning.

"Yes," Scully concluded, with a contented half-sigh, "Let's go to bed."

They had just started back toward the house when Mulder paused, suddenly, and looked again at the sky, at the billions and billions of twinkling stars.

"Scully?" he asked.


"Marry me."

The joyful soul-stars above them, reflected in the stars in their eyes, were the only answer that either of them could ever want or need.


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