Title: Round The Wheel Again: The Rebirth
Author: Wintersong
Written: August 2001
E-Mail address:wintersong@animatrix.ns.ca
Website: http://www.animatrix.ns.ca/Wintersong.htm
Rating: R (violence by minors)
Category: S
Disclaimer: They belong to CC and 1013.

Summary: Are we the sum total, not just of our choices and experiences in this life, but the sum of all the choices we have ever made?

Author's Notes: This is not really babyfic. It's more of a pre-colonization set-up story. I really liked the concepts introduced in The Field Where I Died (I most emphatically believe however, that Melissa was simply Mulder's wife in that past life...not his soulmate).

This is the first part of a trilogy series called Round the Wheel Again, but can be read as a stand-alone.

Hope you like it! :o)


The aliens had left William behind. They had left him alive.

He seemed human.

All of the genetic tests on Billy Miles had come back perfectly normal. Perfectly healthy.

Perfectly human.

Perhaps the truth was not that William Scully was not what the aliens were looking for.

But that he was.

Who can fathom the motives of an alien race? An alien agenda? Did anyone even know how many competing factions fought in this convoluted cold war? How many sides existed in this battle for Planet Earth?

Deep down, the one thing that Mulder could never say to his partner was the fact that he feared that the aliens had not come to take the child...

...but to bear witness to his birth.

As he stared into the blue eyes of a child who might be the son of his body and was now and forever the chosen son of his heart, Mulder feared that the alien virus was only the first step in a larger mechanism. That somehow, with the birth of this child, the real battle had just begun.


There were those who watched the child from the shadows. Men who expected great things, the genesis of a new race perhaps, or the salvation the old. However, despite early signs of increasingly voracious intelligence and physical dexterity, the men in the shadows were disappointed. None of the skills evidenced showed anything beyond that which he could have inherited from his parents. Intelligence, memory, spatial abilities and muscular control were all well with the ranges expressed by the parents. Nor did the child seem to possess any of the psychic abilities one would have expected from such a mix.

In fact, the boy showed all the psychic ability of a rock.

Worse, far worse, was the litany of childhood illnesses the boy seemed to fall victim to. If there was a cold virus, he caught it. If the measles swept through the neighborhood, he got it. He coughed, sneezed and shivered his way through the first five years of life so thoroughly introduced to the panoply of human ailments, that his mother started buying tissue boxes in bulk and kept an open account at the all-night pharmacy down the street.

What they failed to see...perhaps because Mulder and Scully took great pains not to tell them, was that this apparently compromised immune system was nothing of the sort. Perhaps it was not alien, but they were not taking any chances that someone might think so. Home laboratory equipment ran the necessary blood tests and in the rare cases where medication was indicated, Scully wrote the prescriptions herself. No one thought it odd. No one thought it particularly noteworthy.

Than again, no one saw what William Scully's immune system did to the bugs unlucky enough to attempt an attack. Viral and bacterial suicide was putting it mildly. It was not the fact that he got sick that was the clue, it was the fact that he never stayed sick for long.

Still, there was no evidence that this was anything other than good genes.

In the end, they did the only thing they could do. They kept a close eye on their son and loved him. Ultimately, that would be the strongest weapon of all.

Ironically enough, everyone was so concerned about the child's physical make-up, they forgot about his soul. If essence was meant to rejoin the wheel of life, what was the greater purpose behind the selection of parent and child. Did the soul chose ? Was the selection of the new life predetermined even before the death of the old? Were Fate and Destiny intertwined across generations, butterflies flapping their wings in lives past so that the necessary souls would arrive in time to complete the next stage of their journey?

Did aliens have souls?

If they did, who decided which souls to send where? Who designed the cross-generational gameboard?

Which side were they on?

Was there one master planner, or merely a complex interweaving of choice and individual decision made before, during or after death? Does it matter? Do our failures or our successes in past lives drive us into the next? Are we the sum total, not just of our choices and experiences in this life, but the sum of all the choices we have ever made?

And how are we affected by the actions of those people and choices we left behind?


William hated to see his mother cry. Whether it was at a movie, after an argument with his father or simply because she was chopping onions, tears in Dana Scully's eyes inevitably led to a horrified look and an offer of a teddy bear. His favorite. If that did not work, chubby baby hands would pat her gently in such a perfect imitation of his grandmother, that inevitably tears would turn to stifled giggles and baby William would quickly find himself hugged, then thrust into his father's startled arms so his mother could flee to the bathroom before she could offend childish dignity.

Loud noises terrified him. Thunderstorms sent him into screams of hysteria that did not stop until he was wrapped tightly in his parents arms. After it was all over, he would not let his father near him. He would bat his hands away with angry fists and cling to his mother, tears streaming down his face. Scully would simply looked helplessly at the shattered look on Mulder's face and sit down in the rocking chair by the fireplace. Oddly enough, William would watch his father as Mulder paced the room, and if he left, would cry as if his heart were breaking.

He enjoyed his mother's approval, a startled look of astonishment and brilliant grin would result every time he was praised. But if he loved his mother's approval, he lived for his father's. Everything Mulder did, William wanted to copy. He studied his father with wide, solemn eyes and while praise brought a cautious smile, failure would send him into an angry depression for hours and no amount of coaxing would get him to try again that day. As he got older, the toddler would angrily smash whatever it was that had frustrated him and run to his room and huddle in the closet until Mulder rousted him for dinner.

Any attempts to drag him out early sent him into screaming fits of self-directed rage.

Finally, after several exhausting weeks of reading every book on child psychology he could lay his hands on, Scully found Mulder huddled in the bedroom, tears streaming down his face. She had swallowed sharply at the self-loathing and guilt she had no idea how to combat. She had known it was going to be difficult. William terrified him. He was protective enough when the boy was a baby and all he had to worry about was kidnappers, cold weather and diaper rash. Now, as the child's personality started to emerge, he was convinced he would do something to scar him emotionally and permanently screw him up.

All she could do was laugh and say that William had inherited his intense personality.

A scuffling at the door caught her attention and she jerked, alarmed that William had crept out of his room without her hearing. The child reacted badly enough at her tears. How would he react to his father's? Mulder instantly wiped them away and tried to smile reassuringly, but it was too late. Three-year old William stood frozen in the half open door, blank eyes in a blank face. Scully started to go to him and was unprepared when William suddenly dropped his teddy bear and launched himself at his father. No gentle attempt to reassure with bribe or comfort, William slammed into Mulder's body so hard he knocked them both back against the wall and wrapped his arms around his neck in a stranglehold.

For one awful moment, Scully thought she saw Mulder's face turning blue. Then he wrapped his arms around the crying child and looked at her helplessly. Since she was a half step away from freaking out herself, she was not reassured, but did what every mother from the dawn of time has done. She pretended she knew what she was talking about.

"Looks like he just wants your attention, Mulder."

Mulder, predictably, took her at her word. Rationalizing that it was the personal failure that seemed to bother the child the most, he started taking William out every evening for walks in the park. Rain or shine, snow or slush, Mulder spent at least two hours with his son just talking to him. As they rambled, he told him stories. Elaborate fairy tales involving heroes and monsters. The kid was fascinated. He listened for hours. And despite Scully's original worries about nightmares, William never seemed to worry about monsters under the bed. She found out the reason why when her mother dropped in for a surprise visit.

It seems the monsters were all scared of Mommy.

Chasing Mulder off to shoot hoops, Scully and her mother had had a comfortable afternoon shopping and chatting while watching William chase imaginary dragons beneath the clothing racks. Back at home, Grandma was settling William down on the sofa for a nap when he had demanded a story. She started with Winnie-the-Pooh. Five minutes into the story, Scully had looked up to find her too silent son staring at his grandmother with a mixture of horrified disbelief and disgust. Then he had loudly demanded a *real* story. At a loss, Maggie had looked at Scully who had just shrugged and told her that Mulder normally did the story-telling. She was beginning to wonder if this had been a bit of a mistake when William, in an effort to point out his grandmother's misguided ways, launched into a detailed and obviously well memorized fairy tale.

Except it wasn't any fairy tale she had heard growing up.

It seems a certain ex-FBI profiler had appropriated certain X-File adventures as the basis for his version of bedtime story telling. Scully had to admit, he had sanitized the events...a lot. It was also rather quickly apparent that the hero of the story was a certain red- haired princess named Katherine. (William whispered in an aside to his Grandmother that that was his Mother's secret identity but that she couldn't tell anybody). Maggie had just nodded gravely, her lips twitching as her grandson blithely explained how his Mother had saved the world.

Again.

Scully wasn't sure if she wanted to scream or howl with laughter. Ultimately, she almost ended up in tears. It seems William himself got to be the occasional endangered party of the story. At one point, he found himself locked in a castle tower high above the clouds. William had commented almost off-handedly that they were angry clouds, full of thunder and lightening. Aware of her grandson's phobia, Maggie had asked gently if the boy had been afraid. William had just looked at her, astonished, and told her that he didn't have to be afraid, because he knew that his mother-er, Katherine- would come and save him.

Scully had watched her son through a mist of tears and thought about the gifts you could give to a child. Somehow, Mulder had managed to give his son hope. Not that monsters did not exist. But that ultimately, no matter what happened, his parents would challenge the gods themselves to save him. That they would always come for him.

No matter the cost.

In a universe where they faced the very real possibility of this horrifying reality, Mulder was trying to give William the tools to fight an unimaginable future. Courage and hope, trust and love.

It was not the way she would have thought to give him those things.

She just thanked God that Mulder had.

Despite his almost obsessive devotion to the members of his family - both blood and honorary - William tended to regard other children with a complex combination of watchful suspicion and wariness. Not that he wasn't affectionate, but he seemed to have an almost instinctive fear of betrayal. When one of the others hurt his feelings, he just retreated into a silent ball as if this was to be expected. As a result, he had no real close friends even by age five, although every once in a while he would tentatively reach out.

His intense nature seemed to come out under these circumstances and his parents watched sadly as William threw all of his love into the ring, only to stand uncomprehending as normal childhood inconstancy inevitably drew the other child to new playmates and he was left behind. On those occasions, it broke Mulder's heart to see his son just scuffing his toe and eyeing the new group dynamics with confusion. But if his father's heart bled for his pain, his mother was caught up in recognition. In William's actions, she saw again the courage of the father as she recalled admiring how he had reached out time and time again, only to be burned. And then finding the strength to reach once more.

She had wondered once if courage was a quality that could be passed on. Now she was sure of it.

He was generous with any toy except those he specifically identified with his parents and he jealously guarded these prize possessions. In fact, he jealously guarded his parents. Adult strangers were subjected to polite curiosity as long as they kept a certain minimum distance that seemed to fluctuate based on William's whim. Large men came under the most scrutiny, although Skinner was treated more with cautious regard than suspicion. Acquaintances and associates received an icy examination that had Mulder biting his lip as the corners of his mouth twitched and his eyes flipped from mother to son.

William could stand his ground stubbornly enough if he thought he was right, but he rarely did. In general, confrontations bothered him, especially noisy ones and if his parents were in the room he would inevitably sidle up behind one of them - usually Mulder - and hide behind an adult leg. That was unless that argument was directed at either Mulder or Scully. If the person then made the critical mistake of being both angry and coming too close, Mulder usually ended up grabbing for a hissing and biting pint-sized dervish as it attacked without impunity.

Surprisingly, that rage was never directed at children. Instead, if his parents interacted with other children, he would watch silently from the sidelines as if he had been rejected. He would occasionally try to insinuate his body between the usurper and whichever parent was in question, but he never struck out physically. Which is why Mulder and Scully were so floored the day they were called by the elementary school at the demand of the angry parents of another child six-year-old William had just put in the hospital.


Social workers and police officers were all in evidence by the time they arrived, and between the hysterical screaming of the other child's mother and the tearful incoherence of the playground teacher, no one was making any sense at all. From what little Mulder could make out, three year old Jessica Travers escaped from the daycare yard at recess in order to visit her brother. She apparently found William's jacket and had taken a toy spaceship from his pocket when he wasn't looking.

Mulder had winced at this point, because the spaceship was one of the few toys that William guarded with his life. According to the teacher who had gotten the story from two friends of the boy currently in surgery, Jessica had protested giving the toy back and William had pushed her down. Hearing her screams, Kurt and the other two boys had run over to see what was going on. Kurt had accidentally stepped on the toy, breaking it, and that was when William had gone ballistic.

According to the police, the doctors were strapping three broken ribs, taping a busted nose and putting a cast on a wrist that may have broken when the boy fell on it. Maybe. The doctor had sounded doubtful and Scully's grim look had backed up his diagnosis. Of course, as a forensic pathologist, she had been in a position to see more defensive wounds and injuries than the ER doctor. The bruises came from fists, but the ribs had been broken by repeated blows from a sneakered toe. The playground teacher confirmed that William was found kicking the screaming boy while the other horrified children stood and watched.

Anyway you wanted to look at it, William had just delivered one of the most brutal beatings Mulder had ever seen one child give another.

He could easily have killed him.

And it looked exactly like that may have been what he was trying to do.

Mulder met Scully's disturbed look as she stood talking with the police officer in charge of the case. It was obvious that William had done exactly what they said he had done. However, neither of them felt that they were hearing the whole story. Whether it was parental disbelief or years of listening to witness testimony, something did not add up. The two boys who had been with Kurt were sitting about twenty feet down the hall on the left, a social worker carefully listening to their tearful stories and soothing the distraught parents.

The same parents who were sending venomous glares toward Mulder and Scully. He suspected it was only the presence of the police officers which kept them from being more vocal. The police had already forcefully threatened the parents of the injured boy with ejection from the hospital if they did not keep their voices down and under control. Attempts to verbally harangue Scully had been met with the same treatment. Relief came in the form of a doctor who took them off into a side room to discuss their son's injuries and prognosis.

Five minutes later, a sullen faced William Scully was brought out of one of the offices by his own police escort and led down the hall to the knot of adults waiting in the hall. The officer checked when she realized that the other two boys and their parents were still in the hall, then seemed to shrug to herself and the two made their way down the suddenly silent stretch of hallway. Mulder was angrily working himself up to lambaste the officer for submitting William to this kangaroo court - preferably before Scully started chewing strips and left nothing for him to sink his teeth into - when the officer looked up and met his eyes with real regret.

Mulder closed his eyes and worked on controlling his temper. She had made a mistake. A mistake his son was paying for, but that's all it had been.

Unfortunately his protective impulses needed some convincing.

The officer stopped in front of a couch not ten feet from where Mulder was standing and silently gestured for William to sit. He did so without protest and then huddled into the corner, eyes glued to the floor. Taking in the defensive posture, Mulder winced again. Six years old and he looked like a juvenile delinquent with his sullen air and tense set to the shoulders.

Mulder suddenly twitched and when he turned his head he found Scully glaring at him. He widened his eyes in surprised inquiry. She jerked her chin toward William in exasperation and Mulder eyed his offspring dubiously, then looked back. Was she kidding? William had inherited his mother's tendency to snap and snarl when wounded. Did she honestly think this was the best time? More exasperation. He guessed that she did.

Mulder suddenly realized that the officer standing next to Scully had been watching the silent exchange with interest. Considering the charges, Mulder knew exactly what the officer was probably looking for. He sighed. Walking over to the couch he debated with himself for a moment, then sat down and stretched out his legs casually. Leaning back, he let his eyes roam the far wall, all the time keeping a sharp look out with his peripheral vision.

William lasted about ten minutes, then his eyes started darting toward his father. He appeared to take no notice of the others in the hallway. Just his father. Finally his eyes stayed a moment too long and Mulder was able to capture them briefly.

"Did you get hurt?"

Blue eyes darted away. "No."

Mulder nodded slowly, then glanced casually at the side of William's face. The boy had steadfastly refused to say anything about what had happened.

"You do realize that your mother will find out what really happened, don't you?"

He tried for light humor, but the smile faded instantly when William's shocked gaze shot instantly to where Scully was standing, then back to his father. There wasn't a shred of disbelief in that gaze and although there was a split second of hope in those blue depths the over- riding emotions seemed to be a mix of desperation, confusion and fear.

Every law enforcement instinct he had ever had went on the alert. Scully's expression hardened instantly as she read the changes on his face and he saw her turn her head to say something to the police officer beside her. He looked at her questioningly for a moment, then slowly toggled the mike on his radio and spoke into it.

Within minutes, a tired looking thirtysomething woman in jeans and sweatshirt came down the hall accompanied by a third police officer and a woman who was probably a social worker. A small towed- headed boy who looked to be no more than five or six trailed along behind them. A tiny doll of a girl with strawberry blond hair and pixie-like features rested in her mother's arms. Mulder had the sinking feeling that this was Jessica Travers.

The girl was clinging to her mother like a monkey and rested against her sleepily as the police officers explained that they were hoping Jessica might be able to tell her side of the story. The mother looked doubtful, but gently prodded her daughter awake. The girl blinked big cornflower blue eyes and stared at the female police officer as she gently tried to ask the girl about what had happened. Whether she was tired or just too young to track the conversation, the girl was unresponsive until the police officer got to the part about taking the toy spaceship.

The girl's mother suddenly sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

"What have I told you about taking things that don't belong to you Jessica?"

From the tone of her voice, this was a longstanding problem and it gave unexpected credibility to a tale Mulder knew was false, but had no clue how to disprove. Jessica's mother gave her daughter a hard look.

"What did I tell you would happen the next time you took something that did not belong to you?"

Jessica's lower lip quivered and suddenly her eyes were filled with tears. The cops looked embarrassed, the parents sympathetic. Suddenly a belligerent voice came from low down on Mulder's left.

"Leave her alone. She didn't do anything wrong."

Mulder turned his head to see his son scowling at Jessica's mother. Will's eyes darted towards Mulder, then back to the floor. He mumbled the next sentence almost inaudibly.

"I gave it to her. She didn't steal it. Leave her alone."

Mulder glanced up to find all three cops staring at William speculatively. Before anyone could say anything, Jessica's head snapped around, obviously orientating on William's voice. She squirmed so suddenly that her mother reflexively put her down before she could fall. The little girl ignored her and zeroed in on her target.

"William!" she shouted happily and raced toward him on sleepy legs.

She stumbled over Mulder's feet before he could get them out of the way and he grabbed for the back of her shirt. He needn't have bothered. William had lunged up out of the couch seconds before the disaster - from the look on his face, obviously familiar with this tendency- and Jessica crashed into his legs. Before he could move, the little girl had wrapped both arms around his right leg and was grinning up at him toothily.

Mulder sank back into his seat and regarded his son thoughtfully. This was not exactly the behavior of a boy who would knock down a three year old over a toy. Nor was it the behavior of a three year old who had just been brutally knocked down. So where did Kurt come into all of this - because something had set William violently at his throat.

Sudden movement beyond the adults caught his attention and he found himself looking at the two boys whose story was convicting his son of aggravated assault, and their parents. The officers were watching the parents for hysterical outbursts, so the next sequence of events caught everyone off guard. With a liquid grace momentarily at odds with his six year old frame, William twisted to place his body between Jessica and the two smirking boys and he snarled.

Cold eyes glared in deadly threat as Jessica peered around his legs and then huddled closer. The sheer menace in those eyes was chilling. Worse, it was familiar. He'd seen that look in Scully's eyes the moment before she fired the shots that sent Donnie Pfaster back to Hell. The possible need for that reaction made him want to throw up. Looking around the hallway, he saw that every single law enforcement officer was running through a similar list of sickening possibilities.

The parents of the two boys saw only the threat. Mulder turned his head to locate the girl's brother. He had moved up to William's right. Not quite to his shoulder. Mulder doubted he had the courage. He was shaking so hard his knees were knocking. But something was keeping him firmly planted close to William's side. Mulder had the awful feeling it was his sister.

Suddenly the boy's darting gaze met Mulder's and the sheer terror in those eyes had Mulder down on his knees beside him before he realized that he planned to move. His arm was around those trembling shoulders and when Mulder looked up to see William gazing at him, it wasn't jealousy he saw, it was relief.

William may have chosen the wrong way to settle whatever problem arose. They wouldn't know until they sorted everything out. But Mulder knew one thing for sure. Whatever William had done, he had done it for the right reasons. They would work the rest out later. Meeting William's gaze squarely, he nodded once and smiled slightly. William's eyes widened in wonder, then suddenly blazed with hope. His head snapped to search out his mother in the crowd and when he found her staring back at him with pride, his shoulders began to shake. Suddenly he had his arms wrapped around Mulder's neck and his soft plea was loud in the deathly quiet hallway.

"Don't let them hurt her."

The parents of the boys gaped, the implications still not lining up in a clear picture yet. It did not matter. The police officers were suddenly wearing cold professional masks and the social worker looked like she'd been clobbered with a two-by-four. Horror was etched on her face as she stared at the two boys she had previously been considering victims. She rather looked like she was seeing her worst nightmare.

She probably was.


Slowly, the story emerged. Jessica's brother stared at William with a painful mix of shame and worship as he explained that Kurt and his two followers regularly beat up the younger kids for their lunch money, their clothing or personal possessions. At least one child had gone to the teachers, but all that happened was a trip to the principal's office and a phone call to the parents. The next morning, they were back out on the playground and the child who complained was left to suffer the consequences of trying to follow the rules.

William had refused to buckle under and prompted by his success, Jessica's brother Andrew had tried to follow his example. Jessica had come over to visit and had been playing in the sand box when the three boys headed for her brother. William had tried to get Jessica back to the daycare playground but she had gotten upset and in an effort to calm her down, he had given her the spaceship. He had been standing with her when Andrew got cornered.

Andrew stood his ground and Kurt had started roughing him up. At that, Jessica had thrown the spaceship at him and gotten in a good hit to the back of the head. In fury, Kurt had stomped on the toy and then seeing Andrew's reaction to Jessica's tears had started in on the little girl. According to Andrew, the three boys had started circling William and Jessica and started pushing and shoving and then darting in to touch her. Kurt had started the other boys flipping up her skirt and grabbing at her.

At this point, Andrew started to cry. It was obvious to everyone from his broken whispers that he had frozen. He hadn't known what to do. William, he said, had taken several blows from all three boys, but had managed to stay on his feet. The problem was that every time he stopped to hit one of the boys, the other two would close in on Jessica. Finally Andrew had given them his new jacket and just pleaded with them to leave her alone.

Kurt had laughed at him and backed off. Andrew was crying openly now and everyone was standing around in appalled silence as he whispered that Kurt had ordered them not to tell anyone what they had done....or something bad would happen to Jessica. Maybe she would fall down a lot. Maybe she would wander out onto the road.

Or maybe she would just disappear.

Andrew looked up, his voice suddenly harsh and clear,"I believed him."

Mulder, Scully and the cops looked sick as they considered the fact that they believed him too. But no one else would have. Not the teachers. Not the principal. And definitely not the parents of an eight year old boy.

Mulder would have. And so would Scully.

But how many parents had chased monsters for a living?

It was after that threat, apparently, that William had exploded. And done his best to eliminate the threat once and for all.

Mulder wasn't sure which was worse.

The fact that his son had consciously chosen such a violent solution to a problem...or the fact that he could feel that he had no other options.

Or maybe the biggest question of them all...why hadn't he come to his parents for help?

Because no matter how angry he had been, William had known exactly what he had been doing.

Six years old.

Jesus Christ.

Mulder honestly wanted to believe that his son had simply been striking out in rage and taken it too far. Lashing out like the child he was at that which was hurting him. He wanted to believe. He truly did.

But he could not.

Because he had seen the knowledge in his six year old son's eyes that he had believed Jessica's life had been in danger...and he had been enraged.

But he had also been in control.

Or he had consciously chosen to lose control.

At six years old.

Christ.

They were going to need serious therapy over this one.

He could just see the counselor trying to explain that aggravated assault and attempted murder were not appropriate responses to blackmail and death threats from another child.

Fuck.

The son had inherited his mother's killer instinct without her set of values or her control. The worst part, was that Scully's control and values had been learned before the instinct was honed and developed. Could this be done in reverse? Was this even abnormal? Perhaps this was nothing more than the pragmatic ruthlessness all children possess brought out by an unusual circumstance.

And maybe he was rationalizing something he did not want to face.

Because for all his protective violence and ability to pull the trigger, Mulder had never possessed a killer instinct. He had killed, but always in the heat of the moment. Scully had been pushed to that place and he had stood there and done nothing as Skinner had coldly pulled the trigger. But he had never made that decision himself...had prayed that he never would.

William was drawn into himself their entire trip back to the house. He allowed his mother's discrete touch, but flinched slightly from his father. Mulder tried to find some way past his own hurt and confusion to let his son know that he was there for him, but in the end, all he could do was tell him that he loved him and that they were there for him no matter what. Only Scully saw the anguished looks of misery that crossed her son's face as he covertly followed his father's tall form with his eyes.

Like a half sized shadow, he trailed after Mulder for the rest of the week. Despite Mulder's repeated attempts to reassure him that he was still loved, the child just stared at him in misery. It was on the third trip to the therapist, William having again spent the hour ignoring the female therapist and watching his father, when the six year old finally blurted out an anguished,

"I'm sorry."

Startled, Mulder had glanced first at a relieved Scully, then back to William. The therapist gestured discretely for him to go ahead and talk.

"Why are you sorry,William."

Huge tears welled up in the boy's eyes and he whispered, "I'm sorry I made you hate me."

Instantly Mulder was on his feet while an aghast Scully just wondered how in the hell William could ever think Mulder would hate him. God, William was possibly the spearhead for an alien invasion and Mulder had still chosen to love him with every fiber of his being.

They had always known the risks.

They had always known that someday they might have to be the ones to destroy their son to save a world.

They had chosen to love him anyway.

There had been no other acceptable option.

Now she wondered if somehow they had failed. Had their vigilance come across as expectation. Did they drive too hard? Expect too much? Terror and anguish swirled through her, but she forced herself to remain in her seat and ignored the concerned therapist sitting beside her.

Please Mulder, she thought silently, Please find the right words to say.

Mulder knelt slowly on the floor in front of William until he was able to meet anguished blue eyes. William searched intense hazel eyes and found only what he had always found. Love, acceptance, pain. No hatred.

Scully could see the moment he believed.

Which was why the sad desolation that crept into his eyes was so disturbing. For a split second, a veil seemed to lift, and Scully thought she could almost see the structure of her son's soul. Whatever answer he was searching for, he didn't find it. Pain twisted his face as he held his father's eyes captive with his own. The words were a direct cry from the heart.

"Why wasn't it right?"

Mulder just stared, floored by the complex emotions damned up behind those six-year old eyes. For a split second, fear lanced through his chest and he wondered who...

and what...

...lived inside the body of his son.

The child had leaned forward to grab hold of his father's jacket and tightened tiny fingers until Scully feared for the bones.

"Why wasn't it right?"

In that moment, Mulder let go of his conceptions of age, and let himself answer the question, not the boy.

"Because you cannot take a life just because it is convenient."

Scully heard the therapist gasp in horror. Without thought, her hand flashed out and made contact with the woman's shoulder. She realized only in afterthought that she had stopped her from interfering. The hard fingers digging into her shoulder kept the woman silent.

William's body stilled, gaze turned inward as if struggling to find understanding. Then his head tilted in mute enquiry. Again, Mulder answered, the beliefs of a lifetime dragged from his soul for a child's edification.

For his salvation?

Mulder met his son's gaze unflinching, and for the first time, his voice held judgement over his son's actions.

"Did you stop to ask if there was another option?"

Through her fingers,Scully could feel the therapist gearing up to protest that Mulder was treating a six-year old child like he was an adult. Scully wanted to agree, but then, the mind in that six-year old head constantly amazed her. And the child had made the decision...they needed to know why.

William was silent. Not in sullen resentment, but more because he did not seem to have an answer.

"Did you think we wouldn't believe you?"

William's head shot up and his denial was without hesitation. "No."

"Did you think we wouldn't do something to stop it?"

William mulled that one over for a moment," I...I don't know. I didn't..." he gestured helplessly as he tried to articulate his own confusion.

Mulder grabbed his son's eyes with his own, "Why did you do it, Will?"

William's voice was a whisper."I was afraid."

Mulder listened to the complexities of fear behind those simple words and then did the only thing he could. He gave his son the gift of honesty.

"Fear just makes us take the easy choice. It does not always make it right."

For a moment, Scully thought Mulder was being to obscure. How was a six-year old supposed to wrestle with the subtitles of a question that haunted fully-trained adult FBI agents? Then she realized that perhaps it didn't matter. For whatever reasons, William had actively taken on the burden of making that decision. He needed the rules that went with those actions.

All things happen for a reason.

It chilled her to the bone to think that this was a lesson he needed to learn.

The therapist was tightening like a bowstring ready to snap. Scully wondered how much more of this she would allow before she tried to interfere. She rather hoped the woman had the sense to stay in her seat...because Scully would not allow her to halt what was happening.

"How do you know it's the right decision?"

Mulder grimaced, "Sometimes you don't. Sometimes all you can do is weigh the options and try to make the best decision you can. Sometimes you don't know all the facts. Or sometimes, things are not what they appear to be. And you cannot make the decision to end another's life carelessly or because it's easier than finding another solution."

William scuffed a toe,refusing to meet Mulder's eyes for the next question "What if you make the wrong choice?"

Despite the negligent pose, Scully could see the muscles across narrow shoulders tighten as her son waited for Mulder's response. The ex-FBI agent who was still fighting some of his own demons sighed, " You apologize. You move on. You try to do better the next time."

William lifted his head, his voice soft. "What if it's so big, you cannot say you are sorry?"

The catholic in Scully wanted to say that there was no sin too great to be forgiven. But she kept silent. Because there were still things that she could not forgive. Because William did not want God's approval or forgiveness. He wanted Mulder's.

Mulder was silent for a long moment. How did you answer a question with no real answer? He supposed you did your best.

"It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. That's why you have to be so careful. Your actions can hurt people. There are some things you just can't take back. Violence usually has a way of getting out of control. That's why it is such a dangerous weapon, William because innocent people get hurt very easily. Even when you don't mean it to happen. Be very careful before you decide to use it. Or it will use you...and all the I'm sorrys in the world can't undo what you might have done."

William's face knotted up in sudden anger and frustration,and the words were almost shouted "But how do you know?"

Mulder just looked at him squarely," Do you think you made the right decision?"

Blue eyes dropped,"No."

Mulder's head tipped to the side,"Why not?"

A long moment, then a dejected whisper," Because you don't think it was right."

Mulder looked startled for a moment, then reached out a hand and cupped a tiny chin and turned it upward until he could meet William's eyes.

"Is my opinion good enough for you?"

Absolute trust and fierce loyalty suddenly blazed in William's eyes and his voice was sure, strong, unyielding in his belief in his father.

Just one word.

"Yes."

That said it all.

Scully caught her breath at the intensity. The very passion in that tiny body was terrifying. How could they ever keep him safe enough from himself?

Mulder smiled suddenly, a beautiful smile full of love, humor and acceptance. He ran his hand down the side of William's face and leaned in a bit closer as if sharing a secret.

"Then next time, come and ask me. We'll figure it out together."

Scully supposed that some women would be jealous of the astonished joy that broke over William's face, and the sudden desperate lunge to wrap arms around Mulder's neck. But it made perfect sense. William trusted his mother to save him from the universe at large.

He needed his father to show him how to save him from himself.

It seemed appropriate somehow.

The therapist appeared to be debating about whether or not to call her own therapist. She sat there in silence, stunned eyes on father and child. She turned a bewildered gaze in Scully's direction.

"Is he always like that?"

Scully smiled in affectionate contemplation and laughed.

"Which one?"


The next three years passed quickly and the family slowly regained it's footing. Mulder's fairy tales quickly grew more complex as William suddenly began questioning everything about them. Out of nowhere, William would corner one or the other of his parents on points of duty and honor, right and wrong.

Oddly enough, for all his desire for his father's approval, he tended to use Mulder as his source of information about people and motivation, but his mother was the final arbitrator of right and wrong.

Television shows suddenly ceased to be modes of entertainment and William would sit unblinking as he absorbed the issues raised in dramatic primetime. He had no patience with talk shows, instead, disturbingly enough, he preferred ones like the Outer Limits, with it's weighty obsession with hubris, self-sacrifice and the potential of the human race for self- annihilation.

The truth was, that his very passion and commitment terrified Scully until she finally abandoned the notion that they were raising a normal child and began treating him as what he was...his father's son. Mulder smiled ruefully and given her a list of the books he had been reading at William's age. Scully had choked, then with a determined light in her eyes made a few changes to the list and headed off to the bookstore with credit card in hand.

Despite his recognition of his son's abilities, Mulder still remembered what it had been like growing up as a childhood freak. He was determined not to make his son feel the same cruel mixture of pride and shame. He was determined to make it fun.

Scully took a more pragmatic approach. William was always going to be different. Those abilities were going to lead him places they might not be able to follow. Worse, there were those who would take delight in seeing his emerging abilities...and seek to use them.

Mulder's eclectic book list suddenly became a structured curriculum designed to expose William to as many possibilities as practical, while satisfying the current demands of his curiosity. Literature was chosen with an eye to satisfying William's interest in right and wrong. Military history emphasized the human element of motive as well as strategy. Basic science set the stage for future studies requiring logic and rational thinking. Math,history,language and creative expression all were added to the bunch.

William never did go back to school. Instead, his parents arranged for his education at home, while using sports as a way of satisfying primary socialization skills. Additionally, sports allowed him to mingle without being obviously different. On the field or court, no one asked what book you were reading.

A side effect of Scully's self-designed program of study was the fact that it did not specialize. Because of the sheer number of subjects he was taking,in any one core subject, William was no more than two or three years ahead of his age level. He was often able to relate to children close to, if not exactly his own age. His intelligence, while appearing aggressive, did not immediately stick out like a neon sign.

People see what they expect to see. And people judge abilities by the limits of their own knowledge. An English professor would expect to hear quotes from certain books, a history professor would expect knowledge about specific battles. When they don't hear these things, the general reaction is to gauge the speaker's knowledge by their own educational track.

What most people failed to realize was the sheer breadth of that education ... and the forays into fields of interest that did not come up in common conversation.

His entire education was designed for misdirection.

So William was happily unaware that he was especially unusual. And so were the watchers. They already knew that IQ tests were misleading regarding someone with a photographic memory. And IQ tests quantify a person's grasp and common knowledge against others of his same age range. The fact that William's math and science skills were not tipping the mark at university levels was a horrible disappointment to the men in the shadows.

Of course, everyone was going to get a bit of a surprise when all of that seemingly unconnected education eventually came together.

Take his ability to use a computer for example. The Lone Gunmen and Scully had specifically sat down and torn apart the science of computers, broken it down into it's component pieces, before deliberately assembling a course of skill sets rather than a progressive track with specific languages. William could count in binary and hexadecimal as easily as base 10, his problem- solving skills emphasized the ability to convert word problems into mathematical solutions but the relatively slow pace of his mathematical education limited the types of problems he had the tools to solve. He understood concepts, not practical languages,he could take a computer apart in minutes to find a voltage fluctuation, but he barely knew how the operating system worked.

In all cases, he specifically lacked the few key pieces which would eventually allow him to put it all together.

So people could be forgiven for not realizing that he was a third of the way into the equivalent of a four year computer engineering degree, a diploma in networking and graduate work in Hacking 401.

William had all the tools, the logic, the router maps, the understanding of digital circuits...but the bits were learned in such a manner, than he was missing the final pieces that would allow him to apply those skills in any effective manner. To outsiders, William appeared to know enough about computers to use the word processor and surf the web. His practical abilities were really no more than those of any other child his age.

Luckily.

Scully had no doubt that once he knew what he was doing, he had the potential skills and intelligence to be very...effective. But she wanted him to have a solid grasp of ethics before he acquired those skills. She also wanted him old enough to understand potential consequences before he brought himself to the attention of the world at large.

So he played hacker-designed video games never realizing that he was being taught how to locate information, hide his tracks, crack networks and evade security. As far as he knew, it was just a game. And that was just computer science.

They were six months into the new curriculum before Mulder finally acknowledged what Scully had known all along. They were not just training their son, they were forging a potential weapon. He had just sat staring at the stars until nearly dawn. Remembering no doubt, the costs of a war he had never had any choice but to fight. That decision had been made for him the day his sister was taken. Perhaps even before that.

It was a decision he had sworn he would never make for his own son.

Unfortunately, time and the shadow men would take that control out of his hands. Scully watched a bit sadly as shooting hoops was gradually replaced by martial arts classes, introductory mountain climbing and flying lessons. William did not care. He gloried in the time spent with his father. But Scully knew that Mulder mourned time spent for no practical purpose other than the fact that it was a skill he had been proud of. A love he wanted to share with his son.

Another casualty of war.

And so it went. Day by day, moment by moment, the small things which make up a lifetime slipped by in the stream of time. But Fate is an interesting concept. If who you were is directly responsible for who you become, if the choices you made were the pivotal events which ultimately led to your new place on the wheel of the universe, then must your new choices be made in ignorance?

What then, is the meaning of life?

Is it a test? A chance for the soul to make decisions unmarred by the knowledge and regrets of the past? Or does the universe actually care about the ultimate outcome? And if the knowledge of past choices would directly affect the choices of the future...

...would the universe do something about it?

On a sunny August morning, William Scully eyed his cousin Mathew from a pitcher's mound. It was a friendly game, a yearly tradition of a family long week-end tradition. The line drive that shattered his protective helmet and connected with his forehead was a simple accident.

Such a small thing upon which to rest the turning of the fate of mankind.

A coincidence.

Fate, in the aspect of the universe, reached out a metaphysical hand...and made a choice.

As the pain exploded across his forehead, William Scully screamed as sympathetic echoes reverberated across time, collided...and meshed. The weight of the past thundered into the future with all the inexorable weight of entropy. His ten year old mind unprepared and uncomprehending, William retreated, pushed aside by the drives of his soul as it reached eagerly to reclaim past identity.

William has a brief second to note the panic in his parents'faces, to reach out to capture one of the tears slipping down his mother's cheek, and then William Scully was torn from his place in the universe and sent careening into the darkness.

William Scully passed out. And somewhere between a heartbeat and his next breath...

...Alex Krycek awoke.

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