Title: The End is Where We Start From
Author: Isabelle A
Keywords: post-col, MRF, implied MSR and DRR, character death (before the story begins)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Spoilers: William, The Truth, and I guess pretty much everything else, especially toward the end
Disclaimer: I feel like a solipsist today, so actually, I invented all these characters, Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen, The X-Files, the FBI, network television, and you, the reader (Actually, plenty of theorists used to think the author did invent the reader, but now it's much more popular to think that the reader invents the Author:so maybe you're the solipsist!) Seriously, the only developed character that is my own is Dana Doggett; I'm just borrowing the others.

Summary: The battle is over, but the fight continues.

"We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them."
- T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Chapter One

11:47 pm
August 14, 2020
Northwestern New Mexico

As Dana jogged through the desert shadows, the wind whipped her dark hair into her face, obscuring her vision. How stupid am I, she thought grudgingly, running away and forgetting my damned hair tie? Oh well, screw it all! She began to run faster. No doubt her mother, with her irritating knack for knowing what everyone was up to all the freakin' time, would soon figure out she was missing and send people out to find her. She had to out-distance them, especially Gibson, from whom she couldn't really hide. Damn Gibson, she thought. If it weren't for him, Mom would have allowed me to go on the training mission. He takes this big brother thing way too seriously- why does he think he has to protect me? I am perfectly capable of participating in a training exercise; I am practically an adult. Besides he was on the run and trying to save the whole goddamned world when he was sixteen.

She wasn't exactly sure where the training group had gone, but she was pretty sure they had headed northeast, and there wasn't much in that direction until the magnetite mine, so if she headed to the mine she was sure to meet up with them eventually. Captain Lucas didn't know that her mother had forbidden her to go along, so he couldn't send her back, could he? Soon she was in the canyon, and the stitch in her side encouraged her to rest for a few minutes. Gibson can't run that fast, she reassured herself, and no one else would be able to find me down here.

She threw herself down on a boulder and stared up at the stars for a few minutes. "That's where souls reside, kiddo," Uncle Mulder used to tell her, pulling her up into his lap when she was little. "If we look real hard, maybe we can see her." Her being Aunt Dana, Dana's godmother and namesake who died of cancer shortly after she was born. Uncle Mulder's, well, not wife, but pretty much the same thing. His Scully. Dana never saw Aunt Dana in the starlight, but she was pretty sure Uncle Mulder did. She didn't look for Aunt Dana anymore; for a long time she had cared much more about seeing her father than about seeing the aunt she didn't really remember. And although she never saw Daddy, she sometimes heard him, or thought she did, telling her to be brave, to take care of her mother. Sometimes she desperately wanted to see him. She shut her eyes. Could he see her now? Did he know she was running away, deliberately disobeying her mom? But if he had been here, he surely would have let her go; he wouldn't have been swayed by stupid Gibson, and probably if he were here Gibson would be far less insufferable anyway. Dana sighed.

Suddenly, she heard a snapping of a twig, a slight rustle behind her. Oh shit, she thought, sliding off the boulder as noiselessly as she could and pulling out her gun. Her magnetite ring wasn't vibrating, so at least she knew the presence wasn't an alien. Probably just an animal, she told herself. There was another rustle, and she saw a human figure dart from behind a scraggly yucca plant to behind a boulder. Or not an animal. She glanced up at the stars- Daddy, help me be brave-and then moved stealthily to the edge of the boulder that the person was hiding behind.

"Step out, hands on your head," she commanded, pointing her gun at the person. The figure -a young man- looked up startled.

"Hey, don't shoot," he said, stepping out from behind the rock. He was taller than she, and seemed fair, though it was hard to tell in the moonlight. She didn't recognize him as one of the trainees from the camp. If he had been, he would have recognized her, anyway. Dana quickly noticed a pistol at his hip.

"Drop the weapon." He obeyed. "What are you doing poking around in the desert?" She was starting to feel more brave.

"I don't know why I should tell you that. I'm not obliged to answer to any girl that comes waving a gun in my face." Dana couldn't avoid a little snort of disdain.

"I happen to have a right to be here, whereas you are a trespasser. Who are you, and what are you doing here?" She stepped closer, still holding the gun on him. Definitely no reaction from the magnetite. Of course, an alien would have just lobbed her head off by now, she realized.

The young man opened his mouth as if to say something, but didn't. He seemed to be concentrating on something just over Dana's shoulder. She realized he might be trying to distract her, trying to get her to look around. "What are you looking at?" she demanded.

"I want to believe," he blurted out. Dana just stared at him. How did he know the password?

"What did you say?" she asked, dubiously.

"That's the password, right? 'I want to believe'?" His face was barely different than it had been except for a tightening of the jaw and a slight forehead crinkle, but Dana could tell he was about to panic. He thinks I don't know what he's talking about, she realized.

"I'm looking for a camp that I think is around here," he began. "Do you know anything about that?" Dana decided to take a risk on this guy. He seemed fairly harmless.

"Yeah, and I know your password, though I'm not sure how you learned it. I can take you back to the camp and let the people in charge decide what to do." Oh shit! The person in charge, of course, is Mom, and then she'll know I tried to run away and I'll get it. And I still won't be able to go on the training exercise, which has long started by now, anyway. Without meaning to, she glared at the young man.

"Sorry," he mumbled. Dana felt a little bad for him, but not much.

"S'okay," she replied. "Back this way," she said, starting to walk back toward the camp. "So what's your name?" she asked, trying to atone for the glare.


"Will what?" He looked at her quizzically. "Do you have a last name?" she asked. Most of the war orphans remembered their parents, or at least their names, but maybe he didn't.

"I guess I did once. I don't remember it. What about you- what's your name?"

"Dana Doggett." Will let out a low whistle.

"As in, John Doggett, savior of all humanity, Doggett?" He seemed impressed. Dana was never sure how to handle questions like these. Sure, she was proud of her father, but all the notoriety was a bit embarrassing, too. And she had always felt that if he had been more ordinary that he'd still be alive.

"Uh, yeah. John Doggett was my dad." She glanced up at the stars for a moment.

"Wait a minute," he exclaimed, the wheels in his head evidently turning. "If you're Doggett's kid, and you live here, then this is that camp, isn't it? I mean, isn't your mom Monica Reyes? Isn't she the commander in chief and everything." She studied him for a moment: he was clearly excited and pleased at having figured this out, and there was something vaguely familiar in his manner.

"Essentially, yeah, she's in charge. The commander general is actually my Uncle Mulder, but he has to travel a lot, of course, and he's a little organizationally challenged anyway. So my mom's second-in-command, and she's the commander of the camp, yes. So, how do you know all of this, anyway? And how did you know the password?"

"I've been wandering around through resistance pockets for a while- most of my life, really, and especially since the invasion. Word about your folks gets around-they're international heroes, you know. You said your Uncle Mulder- you mean Fox Mulder? The Fox Mulder? He's elevated to mythic status in most of the world, you know. He and your dad."

Dana rolled her eyes. "He's just a regular guy, you know. Kind of a lonely regular guy."

"Yeah, because he lost his beloved, right? Dana Scully? Hey, are you. . ."

"Named for her? Yeah. You need to get over being star-struck, you know. It won't go over terribly well. And you never told me how you knew the password. I certainly hope that isn't floating around resistance pockets." He was quiet for a moment and stared down at the ground.

"No, it isn't," he admitted. "I, uh, do you believe that the dead can speak to us sometimes?"

Dana looked at him with surprise and thought about the starlight and her father. "I guess."

"I see my mother sometimes," whispered Will, after a pause. He looked at her earnestly, as if he was afraid she would laugh at him. "I don't really remember her, but when I see her, I know it's my mother, you know? Mostly she doesn't speak to me -I just see her- but just now she was there, right behind you, and she said those words. Somehow I knew that if I said them to you, it would be okay."

Dana raised her eyebrows. "Wow," she said. I wish I could see my dad sometimes, she thought.

They reached the edge of the ridge and looked down on the camp below. Dana decided to go in the gate instead of back in her secret escape passage. The guard looked at her quizzically, since he hadn't seen her go out, but he quickly turned his attention to Will. Dana explained as much as she knew, and the guard pulled out a detector to check him for implants. Shit, I didn't even think of that, Dana realized.

"He's clean, Ms. Doggett," announced the guard. "You'd better take him to Gibson; he's on duty tonight."

Dana rolled her eyes. "I think I'll take him to my mother, instead. She won't mind."

"It's after midnight, Dana," warned the guard.

"She won't mind," Dana repeated.

As they continued down the hill, a figure in a jeep started up toward them. Dana groaned as she recognized the driver.

"Who is it?" asked Will.

"My smartass brother, Gibson. He's about the most self-important person in the world, and he can read your thoughts, so don't think anything you wouldn't want him to know."


"Dana Hope Doggett! Where the hell have you been?" yelled Gibson as he slammed on the brakes, raising a cloud of dust around them.

"I was taking a walk, if it's any of your business. I found a new recruit, I think." She gestured at Will while glaring at Gibson.

"Who are you?" Gibson asked, not terribly politely.

"Uh, my name is Will." Gibson squinted at him, studying him carefully. Then he turned to Dana with a questioning look.

'I don't know who he is; I just found him in the desert,' she thought at him. Seemingly satisfied, he looked back at Will. At that moment, the radio in the Jeep crackled with a staticky call from the south guard post. Gibson answered it, assuring them he would be right there.

"Go straight home," he told Dana. "Monica's been worried about you, of course. And take him with you; she can decide what to do with him." With that, Gibson climbed back into his vehicle and was gone in another cloud of dust.

"Ugh!" she groaned. "Who died and made him God?" she exclaimed, before she realized that the implicit answer was her father.

"He's your brother?" Will asked dubiously. "He seems so much older, and you don't look anything alike."

"Well, he's not my brother by blood. My parents adopted him when he was about sixteen, and he's seventeen years older than I am. He's really not a bad guy, and I do love him, but he has a rather exalted ego and takes the whole big brother thing way too seriously. I had another brother-a real brother, Luke-who died. He would have been about the same age as Gibson, and I like to fantasize that Luke would have been a better brother. That's probably not very fair to Gibson, I guess, and I know it hurts his feelings when I think that." They rounded a corner past the dining hall and faced a row of houses. "It's just down here," Dana said.

Chapter Two

"You let her go?! Monica, you know that wasn't just a training exercise. She's only sixteen, for crying out loud!" Mulder's voice crackled over the phone.

"Hey!" cried Monica, "I didn't let her go anywhere, and she did not go with them. Don't talk to me like a child, Mulder. Of course I know damn well what's really going on there, and I am not about to send my daughter into the middle of it. Thank you for your concern, but do remember that I am perfectly capable of taking care of her." Mulder didn't respond right away, and Monica was just as glad. She was fuming with anger, which she realized was the result of fear for Dana, who hadn't been seen in over two hours. Still, who was Mulder to think he could just call her up and chew her out; and who was Gibson to tell Mulder Dana was missing in the first place. Monica paced, breathing into the phone, not sure what to say.

"I'm sorry, Monica," Mulder said after a pause. "I know it's not really my business. I just called to let you know I'd be in sometime tomorrow. Hopefully Dana will be back safe and sound by then, and we can concentrate on this other mounting problem."

"Yeah," conceded Monica. She was glad Mulder was such an affectionate godfather-she and John had been rather surprised at his eager participation in young Dana's life after the elder Dana's death- but she wasn't sure she was ready to forgive him for butting in where he didn't belong. He was right, though, there were other important matters that deserved their full concentration, so she hoped Dana would return soon.

As if on cue, Monica heard a key in the lock, and Dana's voice called out, "Mom?"

"Oh, thank God! Mulder, she's home; I'll talk to you when you get here tomorrow, 'kay?"

"Oh, good! Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow. And Monica, I really am sorry I yelled at you about Dana."

"I know. It's okay."


Monica hung up the phone and left her office to head into the hallway. Standing in the hallway was Dana and a young man she didn't recognize. Both were fairly covered in dust, and Dana's dark hair hung messy and windblown around her face. She looked up at her mother with her piercing blue eyes-John's eyes-defiant, as if daring her to be angry. Monica decided to play it casual instead.

"Hey hon, what have you been up to?" she asked, moving toward her daughter. Dana breathed an audible sigh of relief when she realized her mom wasn't going to give her trouble.

"Uh, I was just taking a walk. I found him wandering in the desert; he wants to be a new recruit." Dana gestured toward the young man with her, and Monica looked at him for the first time. She had assumed he was one of the trainees she didn't yet know, but as she looked closer she realized his ratty clothes and longish hair were indicative of a new, not an established, member of the camp. He was tall, thin, and fair, with reddish hair, blue eyes, and angular features. His nose seemed too big for his face. Suddenly, Monica gasped with recognition. Dana seemed not to notice and continued with her introductions: "Mom, this is Will; Will, my mother, Monica Reyes."

"William?" Monica breathed, and though she wanted to go to him and pull him into a hug, she felt rooted to her spot. He looked at her with something between awe and confusion and awkwardly stepped forward and extended his hand. Dana, by this time, had noticed her mother's odd behavior.

"Mom, are you okay?"

"William, how old are you?" Monica asked suddenly. "Do you know when you were born? Do you know who your parents are?" She was certain of his identity, but just in case she was wrong. . . but she couldn't be wrong, could she?

Will looked at the floor for a moment before answering. "I don't know exactly when I was born, no. Sometime in the spring of 2001, I'm pretty sure, so I'm about nineteen now. I don't remember my parents." Dana looked at him for a moment and then leaned in to whisper to him. He returned a look of alarm but began to speak again anyway. "I see my mother sometimes-in visions, I mean; I'm pretty sure she's dead."

Monica raised her eyebrows in excitement. "Can you tell me what she looks like, William?" He looked uncomfortable and hesitated.

"It's okay, Will," said Dana softly. "She's cool; she's not like Gibson." Monica shot Dana a cautionary look.

"She looks kind of like me," Will began suddenly. "She has red hair and blue eyes, but she's smaller than I am. When she sees me she smiles." He blushed madly and stared at the floor, scuffing a spot with his toe.

"Oh my god!" gasped Monica, feeling her knees go slightly weak. Dana looked at her like she was losing her mind. Suddenly Monica dashed into the living room and pulled the framed picture of Mulder and Scully off the table. It was just a snapshot, taken just after they had all gone into hiding and before Scully's cancer had returned. Monica had never seen Dana Scully at all carefree, but that evening they had all been laughing madly about something-John acting like an idiot, if she remembered correctly-and both Mulder and Scully had huge smiles on their faces. She held it out to Will. "Is this your mother?"

All the color drained from Will's face and his mouth dropped open. Tears started falling from Monica's eyes as she stepped toward him. "Where did you get this?" he asked. "How did you-" Dana looked back and forth between them like they were both insane.

"Oh my god, William!" Monica enveloped him in a hug, and because he was very confused and didn't know what else to do, he hugged her back.

"What the hell is going on?" demanded Dana. "What do you mean, is Aunt Dana his mother? He's just a guy I found in the desert! How do you know him, Mom?"

Monica realized quickly that both Dana and Will were confused, and her emotional reaction had likely scared poor Will to death. She released him and stepped back, looking first at her daughter, who looked frustrated, confused, and slightly angry, and then at William, who looked a bit like he had been punched in the gut.

"What the hell is going on?" Dana repeated.

"Watch your language, young lady," said Monica automatically, though not really meaning it. Gibson had said something once to Dana about how much John used to swear, and ever since Dana had been developing a more foul mouth herself. "I think you both deserve quite an explanation that won't wait until morning. Come in and sit down." She walked into the living room, and they followed her, Will still clutching the picture frame in his hands. Dana kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up under her on one side of the couch, and Will sat nervously on the edge of the other side. Monica seated herself in the chair across from them, and stared down at her hands for a moment before beginning.

"William, I don't know how much you know about your own history or what's been going on with the resistance. Obviously I can't answer all the questions you must have tonight, and I think that there is someone else who would be a better source anyway. Part of me wants to wait until he can tell you all of this himself, but you obviously deserve an explanation now. First of all, I should explain that I recognized you because I was your godmother and I delivered you when you were born. The two people in the photo there are your parents, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder." Will blanched a little bit. "Dana Scully, as you probably know, died almost sixteen years ago; Fox Mulder is still alive. I didn't meet them until your mother was already pregnant with you, so I can't really speak to their relationship beforehand, but they were partners in the FBI, in the X- Files division, in which my late husband John Doggett and I also worked." Will nodded; he had heard much of this before, legends told in makeshift resistance camps. Monica took a deep breath before beginning again.

"William, both of your parents were abducted at different times, and they both had terrible tests performed on them. When your mother was returned, she discovered that she was unable to have children. She also found an implant in her neck; when it was removed, she developed cancer; when it was replaced, she was cured. After we all had to go into hiding, she didn't want them to find her, so she removed the implant again; that time she died of the cancer." Monica bit her lip and looked down at her hands. "But back to you, William. You were a miracle baby. Your mother thought she couldn't have children, but somehow she became pregnant anyway. Your life was threatened by a number of people and interests, both before and during and after your birth. Your father's life was also threatened, and shortly after you were born he was forced to go into hiding, and it was too dangerous for your mother to know where he was or to contact him. About eight months later, after yet another attempt on your life, Dana felt that she couldn't keep you safe, and she was forced to make the hardest decision of her life: she gave you up for adoption. Nevertheless, William, don't imagine for a minute that she didn't love you or didn't think about you every day of her life. She gave you up because she felt it was the only way to keep you safe." Monica paused and looked at William; his face was hard to read-like both his parents, she thought. From his response to her earlier question about his parents, he didn't seem to remember his adoptive parents either. What had happened to them, she wondered. At some point she would ask him; now was not the time.

"Not long after she lost you, Mulder came into some trouble, and at the end of a terrible trial, your parents, John and I, and our friend Walter Skinner were all forced into hiding. Mulder had learned the date of the invasion, and we set to work building a resistance, which, as you must know, was at least somewhat successful. As I said, Dana died early on, but not before pioneering crucial research into the vaccines that have enabled the human race to survive. Walter Skinner and John were both killed in the invasion battle itself, and Mulder and I are essentially heading up the continuing resistance movement in North America, aided by friends doing the same thing in South America, Africa, and Australia. The Eurasian continent, of course, is enemy territory. I suspect in the following days you will learn more than you ever wanted to know about the resistance."

Monica stopped talking and looked at the two young people facing her. Will's face was still pale, and he regularly looked back and forth between her and the photo in his hands. She could tell he had a plethora of questions but was still working out how to ask them. Dana, obviously less emotional, sat staring open-mouthed at her mother. Monica knew this was a bit of a shock to Dana: she loved Mulder dearly and had always entertained fantasies about her godmother and namesake, but she never knew they had had a child of their own. Monica was trying to decide what to say or do next when Will finally mustered up enough courage to say something.

"So Fox Mulder-uh, my father-he's alive? Can I, do you think I could, I mean, if he would want to, do you think he would want to meet me?" he blurted out.

"I'm sure he will very much want to meet you," Monica reassured. "He isn't here now, but he probably will be within the next couple of days." She tried to maintain an easy smile, which she hoped not even Dana could see through. Eventually, she felt sure, Mulder would want to be reunited with his son, but despite knowing him about as well as anyone still alive (except perhaps Gibson), Monica had no idea how he would initially react to the news. She decided to keep it to herself that he would be in the camp tomorrow; it was an unexpected and hopefully somewhat clandestine visit anyway, so she ought to have the opportunity to break the news before Will could possibly find out he was here.

Dana tried to stifle a yawn as the hall clock chimed three. Will looked utterly exhausted, and Monica realized that they would all drop to sleep here if they kept sitting up. "We probably all ought to try to sleep, if we can. Will, I'll get you some of John's old things to change into, and Dana will show you Gibson's old room, where you can sleep." Dana nodded and pulled herself off of the couch, Will following behind her. Monica went to the back of her closet and pulled out a t-shirt and sweat pants for Will to sleep in as well as a clean pair of pants and a shirt for the next day. After dropping them off in Will's room and wishing him a good sleep-he thanked her weakly, and she couldn't help giving him another hug-she stepped across the hall and knocked on Dana's door.

"Dana, sweetie, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Yeah, come in," came the voice from the other side of the door. Monica entered to find her daughter gathering up her bath things and her pajamas.

"You going to shower this late?"

"I feel really gross-all that dust and sand and stuff. Besides, I don't think I could sleep just now anyway." Monica nodded in agreement; she had a feeling she wouldn't sleep a wink tonight. Dana looked thoughtful for a moment and opened her mouth, but closed it again without saying anything.

"What?" asked her mother.

"Well, would you have ever told me that Uncle Mulder and Aunt Dana had a son?" She didn't seem resentful-a nice change, thought Monica regretfully-only curious.

"Maybe someday, if it had seemed appropriate. But I wasn't keeping it from you to try to be secretive or because I didn't think you were old enough or mature enough. It's just-that was such a painful time, especially for Dana and Mulder, but also for your dad and me, and for a lot of years it has just been easier to keep those memories pushed away. I don't know if that was healthy or not." Monica shrugged.

"Did they ever try to find Will? After everyone went into hiding?"

"I don't know for sure, but I would be very surprised if Mulder hasn't spent a considerable amount of time looking. But it sounds like Will doesn't remember much of his early childhood-he might have been hard to find. And it sounds as if Dana has been watching over him for some time." Dana smiled faintly. "Listen, sweetie," Monica continued, "I wanted to talk to you for a few minutes about the training exercise." Dana rolled her eyes.

"I still don't understand why you wouldn't let me go-Jenna Casely and Tom Deroe are only seventeen, and I'm a much better shot than either of them. Sixteen isn't so young-"

"It isn't what you think, Dana. I know you are a capable fighter, and believe me, you will get your chance soon enough, whether I like it or not. Dana, you shouldn't tell anyone this-it would only alarm people too soon-but I think I can trust you to let you know that there is a mounting threat from the enemy. Possibly another invasion. There will be a number of so-called training exercises coming up, but they won't be just training exercises. Chances are you'll be going along on one of them eventually, much as I wish I could keep you from it. But until then, I would appreciate it if you would stick close to home." Monica looked at her daughter knowingly; of course she knew Dana had tried to run away, but their relationship had been rather strained in recent months, and she wasn't willing to further jeopardize that with times becoming so uncertain. Dana bit her lip, clearly unsure how to react. Finally, she just nodded.

"Okay," she said.

"Well, get your bath and try to get some sleep, Dane. I'll see you tomorrow sometime." Monica got up from the bed and walked back toward the door.


"Yeah, sweetie?"

"I'm sorry." Dana's eyes glistened with both fatigue and remorse; Monica was struck, as she often was, by how much her daughter looked like John.

"I love you."

Chapter Three

Mulder sat in Monica's office in the central command building reading intelligence reports from the past few weeks. He sighed as report after report confirmed an imminent second invasion. The forces in Europe and Asia were rallying, and communication between the aliens here on earth and extra-terrestrial forces had increased. So far there was no evidence of any incoming ships, but he feared it was only a matter of time.

He put down the report and looked at his watch: a quarter to nine. Where was Monica? Granted, he had claimed he wouldn't be in until later this afternoon, but she ought to know him well enough by now to know that he had left Phoenix-or rather the settlement near what used to be Phoenix-as soon as he had gotten off the phone with her and drove straight through to central command. Besides, she was always in the office by eight. He couldn't help but chuckle that he was so familiar with the habits of Monica Reyes, of all people. Years ago, when he first met Monica, he was prepared to dismiss her outright, until Scully announced that she liked the quirky agent from New Orleans. In the years since, Scully's initial faith in both Monica and John had proved well-founded-but then again, he thought, how often was Scully ever wrong. Both had been indispensable in setting up the resistance, and John Doggett's self-sacrificial heroism in the invasion had ensured humanity's survival and control of more than half of the globe.

The door behind him opened, and he turned around to see Monica enter the room. She usually wore her hair back in a ponytail, but this morning it hung, still wet, down her back. It was much longer than he ever remembered seeing it, and the silver streaks were starting to outnumber the brown. She looked unusually tired, and the smile she flashed him seemed to conceal something-was she nervous?

"I should have known you would already be here. You haven't seen anyone yet, have you?" She walked over to the window, surveying the morning activities below.

"Only a few guards. What's up, Monica?" He stood up from the desk and took a couple of steps toward her, but she turned around and faced him with such intensity that he stopped in his tracks. "Something's wrong-something about the invasion? I thought these were all the most up to date reports," he said, indicating the reports on the desk.

"No, not the invasion. Mulder, I think you should sit down. There's something I have to tell you." Remembering their conversation the night before, a sense of panic coursed through him.

"Is it Dana? Has something happened to her?" His fondness for his goddaughter surprised him sometimes; more when he was around her than any other time did he wish he had not lost his chance to be a father.

"No, Dana's fine." Monica smiled nervously again, and Mulder found it disconcerting. "Please just have a seat and hear me out, okay?" He seated himself in one of the chairs facing her desk, thinking she would sit in the other. Instead, she paced around a few times before turning to face him. Her limp, the result the injury she'd incurred in the invasion battle, seemed unusually pronounced.

"When Dana came home last night, she wasn't alone," she began, her voice deliberately even in an attempt to disguise what were evidently nerves. "She found a boy in the desert-a young man who was looking for the camp so that he could join up. She brought him to the house, and I-I recognized him." She began to pace again, and Mulder narrowed her eyes at her. Where was she going with this?

"Monica?" he prompted.

"I think I would have recognized him anywhere; he looked exactly like he should have, but I had to be sure. He said he sees her sometimes, and when I showed him her photo-" She trailed off as Mulder sprang up from his seat.

"Who? Monica, who are you talking about?" he demanded, realizing that his own voice had become dangerously shaky. Monica always had a knack for boldness, and she suddenly stepped toward him and met his eyes.

"It's William."

Of course he had guessed, insofar as he could guess unconsciously without admitting it to himself, who she was talking about, but the name socked him in the gut nevertheless. It seemed to ring in the air. How long had it been since he had articulated his son's name? Or heard it aloud? He and Scully had scarcely talked about him-it was too painful-and Monica, John, and Skinner had all hesitated ever to speak of him. Mulder sank back into the chair he had been sitting in.

"You're sure?" he croaked. He felt hot tears springing from somewhere behind his eyes. No, no, no, don't cry; you can't cry here in front of her. Monica was a good friend and everything, but Mulder would only cry alone or in front of Scully; for the past sixteen years he had only cried alone. Monica seemed to sense that he wanted some space, so she moved back toward the window.

"I'm sure. Dana was going to show him around today, so you should probably lie low until you want to see him. I know it might not have been my place to do so, but he needed some answers-he doesn't remember anything-so I told him a bit about himself. He knows you're coming sometime soon, and I had to tell him you would want to meet him when you arrived. If he doesn't know you're here yet, that gives you some time to get used to the idea. I should have talked to you first, I know, but I had no choice at the time. He needed to know, and he needs to know you, when you're ready." She walked back to the desk and gathered the reports he had been reading, along with some other papers from a drawer. "I'll be in the control room if you need me. I've got a call scheduled with Yves in about an hour; if you feel like it, after lunch I'll brief you on her news from Nairobi, and we can talk about some of this mess." She indicated the papers in her hand.

Mulder nodded, grateful for her understanding, though he didn't trust himself to vocalize his thanks. Monica slipped out of the office, leaving him to his chaotic thoughts.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Mulder felt the tears begin to fall. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to focus and sort through his thoughts. William was here. His son, whom he hadn't seen in nineteen years, since he was a week-old infant, was here. Monica said she recognized him. Did he still look like Scully? During that beautiful week so long ago, and during his almost daily perusals of two crumpled snapshots over the past nineteen years, he had marveled at how much their son looked like his mother. "Scully," he said aloud, in a kind of prayer. He had never been a religious person, but he sometimes caught himself praying to her. 'He said he sees her sometimes,' Monica had said. So you've been watching over him, he thought with satisfaction. What am I going to do? I need to see him, I need to be with him, but I'm so scared. I never got to be his father, and now he's practically grown, and showing up right as all hell is about to break loose again. Scully, you've got to help me here. What do I say to him? How can I let him know how much we loved him?

For Mulder, William had become two images-two photos that he always carried with him. The first Monica had taken in the hospital the day after his birth. Scully held the baby, and Mulder sat on the edge of her bed, leaning over. If he remembered correctly, Monica had taken a second photo after they had all posed, but when he left them, he had taken the candid picture-Scully looking down, fussing with William's blanket, himself looking over at Scully with amusement and adoration. The second photo he carried he had found among Scully's things after her death, and it was, he believed, the last picture of William that she had taken. He was about eight or nine months old, sitting up and reaching animatedly for a teddy bear being held up just out of his reach in the corner of the picture. Mulder was pretty sure he recognized the hand holding the bear as Maggie Scully's. Sitting in Monica's office that morning, he pulled out his two pictures and stared at them. How could this tiny boy be grown into an adult? Somewhere in the camp, his goddaughter Dana was showing William around. If he ran into his son by accident, would he recognize him? Yes, Monica had recognized him, but, as he remembered with palpable pain, Monica had spent far more time with him.

"I wouldn't have brought him here if I didn't know you would be ready for him, Mulder." Mulder started up from his chair. She was there, across the room, and he ran to her as if to embrace her, remembering only at the last minute that she wasn't palpable. It had been a hard lesson to learn-time after time of reaching for her, only to have her disappear. She wasn't a ghost, and once or twice she had touched him, allowed him to touch her, but not always. Sometimes he couldn't even hear her; the behavior of the dead did not fit any of his paranormal patterns, and he knew she derived a certain pleasure from proving his expectations wrong, even in death.

"Scully, what if I screw something up? He's almost an adult; I don't even know him. What if he doesn't like me?" She smiled at him, and grief pierced him. In his more rational moments, he found it ironic and rather cruel that he missed her most when she was actually present. "I wish you were here," he whispered, fearing the return of his tears.

"You'll be wonderful, Mulder. He needs you, and you need him. I wish I could be there with you like you want me to be, but you know I'll be watching over both of you."

"Don't go, Scully! I need you to tell me what to do. Why now, after all these years? I can't do this alone-I need you here, too."

"No you don't-like I told you, you'll be fine. Why now will become evident soon enough. We always suspected, and probably tried to forget, that William was a special baby. He is also a special young man, but he needs someone-his father, preferably-to help him into the role he is meant to play. When Monica gets off the phone with Yves, ask her to go get him. And Mulder, he looks a lot like you, too." With that, she was gone.

Will had hardly slept at all that night, tossing and turning until the sun came up. He must have fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion at some point, though, because he was awakened to sounds of the shower and someone moving about at around eight o'clock. After he heard the front door click shut, he rolled out of bed and grabbed the clean clothes and towels that Monica had left for him. It had only been a few hours since Monica's startling revelation, but he already felt different. Yesterday he had been a loner and a wanderer, a strange kid who had never quite fit in in the resistance camps he had lived in because of his unusual visions and uncanny ability to move things with his mind. Of course, he soon learned not to tell anyone about the visions and worked very hard to keep the telekinesis under control-easier said than done, most of the time. The worst of it, though, was his strong reaction to magnetite. It didn't harm him like it did the aliens, but he could sense its presence even in the minutest amounts, and it seemed to make his unusual senses even more heightened. Only aliens-not humans-were supposed to react to magnetite; he had never told anyone about his fears that he might not be quite as human as he was supposed to be. What would they do to him?

Now, though, it all seemed like it might be okay. He was the son of heroes-Fox Mulder and Dana Scully-and if half of the stories he had heard about them were true, then they weren't exactly ordinary themselves. And Dana and Monica didn't seem to think his visions were strange; he suspected they had experienced visions themselves, though they hadn't said so. Dana mentioned that her brother could read people's thoughts, and she didn't act like that was such a strange accomplishment. And fortunately, although this place was teeming with magnetite that set his nerves all on edge, he hadn't sent anything flying around the room as of yet.

He got out of the shower and pulled on the first set of clean clothes he had worn in several weeks-and John Doggett's clothes, at that, he thought proudly, wondering if wearing his clothes would be good luck of some sort. Monica's door was open and the room empty, but Dana's door was still closed; presumably she was still asleep. Will returned to his room, wondering what to do next. Dana was supposed to show him around, but he didn't want to wake her up. Would it be a bad idea to go wandering around by himself?

He picked up the picture of his parents that he had hardly put down since Monica handed it to him the night before. He had almost memorized it by now. His mother looked pretty much like she did in his visions, though closer and more real somehow. Her red hair fell into her face a little bit, and she leaned into his father as she laughed. Of course, it was Fox Mulder at whom he couldn't stop staring. His father. He searched the face of the man in the photo for familiar features, and was surprised and pleased to find them. As long as he had been seeing his mother in visions, Will knew he looked a lot like her-red hair, blue eyes, fair skin. In Fox Mulder's face, however, he recognized his angular features as well as his too-big nose. For the third or fourth time, he felt panic rising as he realized that he would probably be meeting Fox Mulder sometime soon. What will he think of me? What if he doesn't really want to meet me? If he's really the most important person in the world, why hasn't he found me before?

"Morning," came a voice from the hallway. Will looked up startled to see Dana leaning against the doorjamb. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and had her dark hair tied back in a ponytail. Will hadn't gotten a terribly good look at her the night before-first it had been too dark, and then he had so many other things on his mind-and he was taken aback this morning to realize how beautiful she was. Her blue eyes were particularly startling, given her dark coloring.

"Uh, hi," he answered, hoping he hadn't stared too long.

"Have you had any breakfast? There's toast and cereal in the kitchen. I was just going to have some." Dana didn't wait for his response but instead started walking down the hallway. Will got up, leaving the picture lying on the bed, and followed her. Now that she mentioned it, he was really hungry.

Dana poured them each a glass of milk while the bread toasted. "Do you want jam on your toast? I can't stand it myself, but if you want it, it's in the fridge; help yourself." Will had never eaten jam on toast, as far as he could remember, and he wasn't entirely sure what jam was-something fruity, he thought-but he didn't want to display his ignorance, so he declined the offer. He felt like he ought to say something, but wasn't quite sure what. Fortunately, Dana seemed to sense his reticence and made an effort to keep conversation going. "I thought after breakfast, I could give you the grand tour. I mean, it's not all that exciting, and there are lots of places that are classified, so we can't go there without permission. Maybe sometime Mom or" she paused a moment "or Uncle Mulder can show you around the command center. It's pretty cool."

"Yeah, okay," Will responded, not quite sure what else to say. "I've never been in a place like this before; most of the camps I've been in have been really makeshift-just a few reappropriated abandoned buildings and whatever supplies we could scavenge." Dana looked slightly amazed. Well, of course, she's lived her whole life here, he thought. She doesn't realize that not everyone is the privileged child of global heroes. Suddenly, he sheepishly remembered that as of last night, he, too, had become the child of global heroes.

They finished their breakfast in silence and were cleaning up when there was a knock on the door. Dana went to answer it, but Will remained in the kitchen, not wanting to cause any unnecessary questions from whoever had come to visit. He could overhear the conversation.

"Oh, hi, Captain Martin. My mom's not here; she already went to the office," Dana said.

"I know," answered a male voice. "She sent me here. She said that you and the young man who is staying with you are to come with me to the command center, that there is someone who wants to see him." The messenger couldn't keep the curiosity out of his voice, but Dana wasn't forthcoming with an explanation.

Will felt his stomach flip-flop. Who could want to see him? Could his father be here already? Somehow he knew it must be the case, and the building sense of panic that had plagued him all morning overcame him. Though he fought it, the dishes he was washing suddenly began to dance around in the sink. No, no, no! he cried to himself. Dana won't understand, much less this guy who is here. He struggled to take a couple of deep breaths as he heard Dana walking back to the kitchen.

"Hey Will, Mom wants to see us, so I guess the grand tour will have to wait. Just leave the dishes for later. I'm just going to grab my shoes." She left the kitchen without noticing anything unusual, and as Will stepped away from the sink the dishes calmed down somewhat. He was trembling all over but had no choice but to follow Dana and this Captain Martin to the command center.

Chapter Four

Monica sat at her desk, ostensibly going over her notes from her conversation with Yves, but in reality watching Mulder pace. A few hours ago she had been the one pacing; now it was his turn. Between the two of us, she thought wryly, I'm going to have to get the carpet replaced. 'You're taller than I thought,' she remembered. Her first words to him, years and years ago, one of many odd results of her inability to censor statements before they came blurting out of her mouth. Still, though, every time she saw him he was always taller than she had remembered, a misperception perhaps the result of her own height-most men weren't much taller than she. John had been only slightly taller; just tall enough that he could kiss the tip of her nose when they stood face to face.

A sigh from Mulder brought her thoughts back to the present. "What's taking so long?" he grumbled, turning around to look at her. How old he looks, she thought with surprise. His hair had long been almost completely white, and his present worry and nervousness drew attention to the wrinkles around his mouth and eyes.

"I don't know, but it hasn't really been that long," Monica answered, glancing at her watch. She had been rather shocked to find a message from him after her appointment announcing that he was ready to meet William. She really had expected him to take a while to come around to the idea, or at least to adjust to the shock. She suspected that Scully had appeared to him to talk him into it, and when she saw the haunted look in his eyes when she returned to the office, she was almost certain of it.

They all relied on the dead, of course, because they could see farther, could know more, but Monica keenly felt the danger of too much communication with them. After John's death, the idea of seeing him, of talking to him, and sometimes even of touching him became like a drug to her-she would spend hours trying to conjure him up, desperately wanting to talk to him, only to be disappointed when he wouldn't come or wouldn't stay as long as she wanted him to. He tried to explain that he loved her-would always love her and would always watch over her and Dana-but that she needed to concentrate on the living, not on the dead. It had been a lesson years in the learning, and sometimes she wasn't sure she had mastered it. Mulder, she knew, still struggled with the elementary stages of the lesson. 'All that keeps him going,' Gibson had once commented, 'is the thought of seeing her.' 'What a terrible way to live,' she had responded, speaking in part from personal experience. 'Yes,' Gibson had agreed, 'but you have Dana to keep you going. He has no one.' Hopefully William will change that, she thought.

"You were adopted, weren't you, Monica?" Mulder asked suddenly. Where had that come from, she wondered. She was pretty sure she had never told him that, but figured that someone-John, Gibson, even Scully herself?-must have at some point.

"Yeah, I was, but I never met my birth parents." She anticipated his next question, and noticed his visible disappointment.

"Oh," he said.

"Mulder, he's going to like you, and you'll do fine. You've always been a great godfather to Dana, and I'm sure you'll be a fabulous father as well." The phone rang at that moment, and Mulder stared at it as if it had suddenly turned into a snake. Monica answered it. "Okay, thank you. I'll be right there." She hung up the phone and looked at Mulder. "They're here. I'll go send him in."

"Okay," whispered Mulder.

As soon as she walked out of the room, Mulder felt like calling her back. Don't leave me alone with him. Stay, help make conversation, tell me what to say. But she was gone, and ultimately, he realized, he ought to be brave enough to face his own son without Monica's intervention. He was trying to work out what to say when the door opened and William walked in hesitantly.

Of course he would recognize him, Mulder realized immediately. Although the infant he remembered was now grown into a tall, athletic young man, he was still so familiar and so like Scully. "You look so much like your mother," ended up being the first words that burst from his mouth. William smiled nervously, and Mulder realized that Scully was probably the thing they had most in common anyway.

"Yeah, I know. Monica showed me a picture. And I see her sometimes, too." The boy looked down nervously, but then looked back up as if seeking Mulder's approval.

"Me too. She said she's been watching out for you." William looked pleased.

"You do? I mean, I'm not weird because I have visions?"

"Well, I'm afraid I've never been a model of normality," Mulder chuckled, "but I certainly don't think you're weird. Lots of us have visions of the dead. They teach us and take care of us, I think." Will nodded and smiled. He understood. "Uh, do you want to have a seat, William?" The name caught in his throat a little bit. It was the first time he had pronounced it. The two of them sat awkwardly in the armchairs facing Monica's desk. Will looked eager yet hesitant to speak, and Mulder wasn't quite sure what to do next. "I don't really know what all Monica has told you," he began. "I'm sure you must have a lot of questions."

This seemed to break the ice a bit, for William relaxed visibly. "I guess I'm a little overwhelmed," he confessed. "I mean, yesterday I was just a weird outcast kid following the vision of his dead mother. Today I have a history, and my parents turn out to be international superstars. It's a little much to take in."

"I'm not so sure about the international superstars part. I am hardly ever recognized when I go out." Mulder tried to make light of the comment, but the joke fell a little flat.

"Maybe not your face, but your name. Everybody knows your name, everyone in the camps."

"You've spent time in the camps? In organized camps or the resistance pockets?" Mulder was curious about his son's life up to this point but wasn't quite sure how to ask.

"Mostly just disorganized pockets. We'd launch some guerilla attacks from time to time but mostly just tried to stay alive, scavenging and stuff. I mostly moved around from camp to camp. I heard rumors of organized places like this, but they're kind of hard to find." Mulder nodded, but actually he didn't know. Dammit, he was supposed to be in charge of everything, and his own son had been living a guerilla lifestyle.

Mulder decided to launch into a more direct question. "When Scully- your mother-had to, uh, give you up, she was told you would be cared for by a good family. Do you remember your adoptive parents?" The question pained him severely. He knew nothing of this boy, his son. Did William blame him for giving him up? Mulder thought of all the anger he had harbored against his own parents. They had deserved much, though not all of it, but surely he had been a far worse parent, abandoning his son when he was less than a week old.

Will hesitated for a minute. "I remember an old man-I called him Uncle Tom-who took care of me when I was young. I think he knew my parents, or rescued me from them, or something. He never really said. He was killed in the invasion, and I've pretty much been on my own since then."

Mulder felt tears threatening as he looked at his son. "I'm sorry William," he said softly, hoping to start breaking an uncomfortable barrier that had arisen between them. "I'm so sorry. When you were born I promised to protect you, and I couldn't even keep that promise a week. Your mom tried too, and she thought she was acting in your best interest, but she failed you too." By now the tears were falling, and Will looked as if he was fighting them back as well. "But we also promised to love you, and as much as we couldn't protect you, we never stopped loving you. Not a day has gone by when I haven't wondered where you were and missed you and loved you." Will got up suddenly and wrapped his arms around his father, unable to hold back his emotions any longer. Mulder held his son, sobbing like he had not sobbed since Scully's death.

"My dad," Will kept repeating.

"I love you, my son."

Chapter Five

Dana sat in a chair in the waiting area to her mother's office, swinging her legs and trying to look unaffected and even bored. Will was sitting beside her wringing his hands and staring at the floor. Although neither of them had been told why Monica wished to see them- or Will, Dana reminded herself-Dana had guessed that Mulder must have arrived, and from Will's nervousness, she figured he had guessed as much, too. She tried to look at him out of the corner of her eye without him knowing that she was watching. Last night in the desert he had seemed young and scared-certainly not three years older than herself. This morning, however, she was better able to appreciate the difficult situation he had been in, and she attributed his awkwardness to that. He had been pretty good company at breakfast, and she was looking forward to getting to know him better once he became more acclimated to being here. After all, she mused, he is pretty cute.

About that time her mother came out of the office and beckoned Will over to her. She whispered something to him, and he nodded. Dana couldn't see his face, but she couldn't really imagine what must be going on in his mind. What would it be like to live for nineteen years without knowing your parents and then suddenly to be about to meet your father? Will went into the office, and Monica told the secretary that Mulder was not to be disturbed and then came over to where Dana was sitting.

"C'mon. Walk with me," said her mom, indicating the hallway with a jerk of her head. Dana pulled herself off the chair and followed her mother out of the building and into the late morning sunlight. Monica linked arms with her daughter and said, "I supposed you've guessed that Mulder has arrived; William is meeting him now."

"I thought so," replied Dana. "You know, he introduced himself to me as Will, not William. Maybe you should call him that." Monica smiled.

"Okay, I'll try to remember. When he was a baby, he was called William, so I guess I'm just bringing that association forward. Dane, you'll have to be intentional about making sure he feels welcome and learns his way around, meets people, all of that. It's hard enough to be new in any circumstance, but when the other recruits find out he's Mulder and Scully's long lost son, they may feel that he's a little, I don't know, different or something."

"What if he is different? I mean, he sees visions of Aunt Dana. She told him the password out in the desert last night. Most people don't see visions of dead people."

"I see visions sometimes. Mostly your father, but I've seen Aunt Dana once or twice, and a few other people. And Uncle Mulder sees Aunt Dana, too. I have a feeling many more people experience visions than talk about their experiences." Dana pondered this a moment and decided to ask her mother the question that often bothered her.

"Why don't I ever see them? Why don't I ever see Daddy?"

Monica hesitated for a moment before answering. "I don't know, sweetie, but if it makes you feel better, your father highly mistrusted visions, and the one or two times he experienced one, he spent a considerable degree of energy later trying to convince himself it was all his imagination." Monica laughed faintly, and Dana remembered all of the times she had heard her father referred to as the skeptic. "But Dana, I wouldn't encourage you to be too anxious to see visions of the dead. It can interfere with your desire to love life." Dana looked curiously at her mother. The two of them had a fairly open relationship when Dana was younger, but lately, between Monica being so busy and Dana's rebellious streak, they hadn't spent much time talking.

"After Daddy died, did you stop loving life?" Dana asked before she could stop herself. The question terrified her, frankly, and she hadn't really thought about it before, but now it was too late to take it back. She felt her mom grab her hand, lacing their fingers together.

"A little, yes. I loved your father for so long-I still love him-but it was hard for me to believe that he was gone. But I had you, didn't I?" Monica squeezed Dana's hand. "You kept me going, my love. You helped me hang onto life." Dana smiled at her mom, and Monica smiled back.

"And now Will can help Uncle Mulder hang onto life, even after all these years, right?" She knew that Uncle Mulder had a hard time letting go of people he had lost and moving on with life. Apparently he had searched for his lost sister-who turned out to be dead-for decades, and even after sixteen years, he dwelled obsessively on Aunt Dana.

"Oh, sweetie, I hope so," agreed her mother.

Dana looked up to see a Jeep heading toward them, raising a tremendous cloud of dust, and she soon recognized the driver as Gibson. Positive thoughts, positive thoughts, she reminded herself before he got into earshot-of course, with Gibson it was always hard to tell what exactly "earshot" would be. He braked as he pulled up to them.

"Monica, I was just heading to find you. You're needed immediately at the south gate. Something pretty big." He looked rather proud of himself, and Dana couldn't help but think it ironic that he was a deputy commander but still got a thrill out of delivering important messages. She regretted the thought immediately, though, for he shot her a withering look. Monica seemed not to notice, or more likely, to ignore, what she attributed to inevitable sibling rivalry.

"What is it?" Monica asked. Gibson looked pointedly at Dana, as if to indicate that he was unsure about whether he ought to reveal his privileged information in front of her. "What is it, Gibson?" Monica repeated. Dana smirked triumphantly at Gibson.

"Marita Covarrubias," he said softly, glancing around as if afraid he would be overheard. Dana was surprised, and she could tell that even her mother was taken aback. Marita, whom Dana had only met once or twice, was a crucial intelligence operative for the resistance, but Gibson had once told her that both Monica and Mulder had reservations about how much to trust her. The last time Dana had heard anything about her was a year and a half ago when, according to Gibson, she was going on a reconnaissance mission into enemy territory.

"Marita is here? Why is she still at the guard station? You should have brought her in." Monica's voice registered surprise, but Dana didn't detect any of the mistrust that Gibson had warned her about.

"She has brought with her some kind of technology, something she smuggled from Europe. She says it's too valuable to leave with the guards, but they weren't sure they should let whatever it is into the camp, since it's apparently alien and we don't know anything about it. Then she asked to see you, and Mulder if he's here." Dana tried not to let her jaw drop at the news-how cool was something alien smuggled from Europe!

"Mulder is here but won't be available for a while," Monica said, and apparently she thought at Gibson the situation with Will, for Gibson looked genuinely impressed and shocked.

"Really? It's really him?" he asked. "Was that the kid you were with last night, Dana?" Dana nodded. "Hmm, I thought there was something different special about him. Anyway, Monica, let me take you back to the guard station." Monica agreed and started to climb into the Jeep.

"Can I go too?" Dana asked suddenly. She was really curious-this could be the biggest thing to happen in years, well, besides Will showing up-and she wasn't quite sure what she'd do otherwise. At any rate, she certainly didn't want to face a newly reunited Will and Uncle Mulder without her mom there as well. Gibson opened his mouth as if to object but remembered in time that it wasn't really his decision to make. Monica looked thoughtful for a moment.

"I suppose it can't hurt anything, at least at this point." Dana smiled and climbed into the back of the vehicle. "But if I need you to leave, I want you to do so without objecting, okay? And anything you hear here is strictly confidential."

"No problem, Mom." Gibson swung the Jeep around and headed back to the guard station, and Dana felt like she was on cloud nine. She was starting to be more and more glad she hadn't been allowed to go on that training exercise, or whatever it really was.

Despite the reeling thoughts that would be going through her mind, Monica had trained herself long ago to censor her thoughts as best as possible when around Gibson. She loved Gibson dearly and was exceedingly grateful for his tireless efforts throughout the years on behalf not only of the camp but of the whole world; nevertheless, it always bothered her that he could know everything she thought. Of course, it isn't his fault, she always reminded herself, but even at the age of 32, he still tended to act a bit self-important, and, well, smartass-y, when he informed people what they were thinking.

As they pulled up to the guardhouse, she turned around to Dana. "Hang back and don't get in the way, please."

"I know, Mom," responded her daughter in a not entirely respectful tone. Gibson looked at Dana warningly, but Monica thought at him, 'I'll handle her, thank you,' and he backed off.

For a moment Monica regretted that either of her children were here. She needed to focus on Marita and whatever she had brought, and she knew that since Mulder was otherwise occupied, the decisions would weigh on her alone. She entered the guardhouse, followed by Gibson and Dana, and immediately saw Marita Covarrubias sitting on the opposite wall, holding a small parcel on her lap. Monica was always intimidated around Marita, who, even pushing sixty, reminded her of one of the beautiful, cool, and popular girls at school. Monica knew such feelings were silly and childish, but she had never felt terribly beautiful, cool, or popular, and even now as Marita stood and walked toward her, extending her hand in greeting, Monica had to fight the urge to be overawed.

"How are you?" she asked, as confidently as she could manage. Marita's smile was cold.

"Well, I had rather hoped to be invited into the camp"-Marita glared at Gibson-"but I understand the overcaution under the circumstances." Glancing around at the entourage, she added, "Is there somewhere we can go to talk?"

Monica nodded and led her into the inner office of the station, away from Gibson, Dana, and the three guards, all of whom wore crestfallen looks at being denied access to the conversation. Marita walked into the room and set her parcel down on the desk as Monica pulled the door to and closed the window blinds. She worked somewhat more slowly than necessary on the blinds, trying at the same time to decide what to do. Marita had always been Mulder's contact, and Monica had scarcely ever dealt with her alone. She suspected it was just the intimidation factor, but she had always had a bit of trouble trusting Marita, despite the woman's unquestionable loyalty for over fifteen years. When she could no longer stall, she turned around to look at her informant, who was still standing.

Marita cut to the chase. "I'm sure you are aware that the alien forces are building their forces, preparing to mount a second attack that they hope will be more completely successful than the first was." Monica nodded. Until the arrival of Will last night, her thoughts had been consumed by little else. "They have begun by launching minor attacks into North Africa and Australia; they haven't attacked the American continent not because they cannot but because they want you to think they cannot. It is worth the delay for them because they are expecting the imminent arrival of extra-terrestrial reinforcements."

"What do you mean by 'imminent arrival'? We have been unable to ascertain a timetable," Monica admitted.

"According to my informant, we have about two months," responded Marita. "The invasion is scheduled for October 13. That doesn't leave us much time." Monica exhaled in agreement. Two months! What could they possibly do in two months?! Don't panic yet, she reminded herself, glancing at the parcel on the desk.

"Your informant?" she asked, though she suspected she knew the answer.

"Shannon McMahon," answered Marita. Monica nodded. The issue of whether or not to trust Marita was inconsequential compared with whether or not to trust Shannon McMahon. Mulder had never met her and therefore didn't trust her as far as he could throw her, which, Monica thought amusedly, wouldn't be very far. It was more complicated for Monica. John, of all people, had trusted her, or at least he had given her the benefit of the doubt on a number of occasions. Monica always tried to tap into his faith where Shannon was concerned, but in her heart she had reservations about trusting any supersoldier, or alien, or whatever she was. But at the end of the day, she was really the only inside enemy contact they had, so she supposed that was better than nothing.

"So what does Shannon say we're supposed to do about this?" Monica asked, wondering if there was an answer to that question. "Goddammit, two months!" she added aloud.

"It may not come to anything, unfortunately, but she did get me this," said Marita, moving to the desk and unwrapping her parcel. "It's alien technology, and if we can figure out how to use it, well, we'd really have something." She pulled away the paper to expose a pentagonal metal object, about eight inches in diameter and inscribed with symbols that Monica thought she recognized. The object vibrated and hummed mildly. "I think it's reacting like that because of all the magnetite," Marita explained.

"I think I've seen something like this before," Monica said. "Is it part of a spacecraft?"

"Actually, no. It is a complete object, though the symbols are similar to those you've seen on the rubbings from crafts. It is supposed to work somehow with the magnetite. I think their idea behind it was to make the magnetite safe for the aliens, but it hasn't really worked the way they thought. Shannon said she thinks the right person can cause it to work as a catalyst to mobilize massive amounts of magnetite-sort of an interstellar magnetite atomic bomb, I think." Impressed, Monica examined it more closely. As she moved her hand near it, the magnetite in her ring began to vibrate and grow warm against her finger.

"You said the right person? Is that just anyone-whoever can figure this thing out-or is it supposed to be someone specific?" Marita sighed.

"Unfortunately, the latter. And I don't know if the person-or one possible person; I guess there could have been others-is alive or if he would still have the power to do anything about it. It turns out the whole human race is reaping the consequences of your friend's rash decision twenty years ago." Monica felt her stomach flip-flop about three or four times, and she thought for a moment that her legs wouldn't hold her. "What is it?" Marita asked, alarmed as Monica gripped the edge of the desk for support.

"Wh-who are you talking about?" she asked in earnest.

"Mulder and Scully's miracle baby."

Chapter Six

After the initial emotional breaking of the ice, Mulder found it easy to talk to his son, and within an hour or so the two were talking and laughing as comfortably as old friends. Mulder was pleased to find Will to be smart and witty as he related details of his heretofore nomadic life; in turn, Mulder told stories of the X-Files, Scully, and their time together. Will seemed eager to learn as much as possible about both his parents, and although it was somewhat painful for Mulder, he tried to comply as much as possible.

Although almost two hours had passed, Mulder was slightly irritated when there came a knock at the door. He was trying to get to know his son, and he didn't want to be interrupted, especially by someone who was most likely looking for Monica. Didn't Monica tell the secretary that they weren't to be disturbed? The knock came again, and this time Monica herself stuck her head in the door. He didn't know whether to be more or less upset when he saw it was she.

"Sorry," she apologized, slipping into the room and closing the door behind her. "I didn't want to interrupt you, but something very important has come up."

"More important than my son, whom I haven't seen in nineteen years?" demanded Mulder.

"No, and yes, I'm afraid," replied Monica. Suddenly Mulder really looked at her for the first time since she entered the room. She was very pale and looked more worried than he had seen her in a long time. As much as he didn't want to, he tried to push his away his selfish desire to run off with Will and start making up for nineteen lost years.

"What's wrong, Monica?"

She spoke instead to Will. "Will, Dana is waiting outside. Gibson is going to take the two of you back home, and I'd like you both to wait there for us." Will looked concerned and nodded, but still glanced over at his dad for approval.

"Yeah, go ahead with Dana. I'll see you there later, son." Mulder couldn't help beaming a bit with pride as he added the 'son' to the end of the sentence. Will flashed him a Scully-smile as he walked out the door.

"What's wrong?" Mulder asked again, as soon as they were alone. "You don't look so good," he admitted, expecting Monica to make some wry comment in response. Instead, she sank down in the chair behind her desk.

"I've just left Marita Covarrubias downstairs in the technology office."

"Marita? What's she doing here?" Mulder was genuinely surprised. He assumed this had something to do with the earlier conversation with Yves, but apparently not.

"She's just returned from, well, I'm not really sure from where, but she's had intelligence from Shannon McMahon, and-"

"You know I don't trust Shannon McMahon," interrupted Mulder. How many times did they have to go through this? Supersoldiers are not to be trusted.

"Yes, I know, but some information is better than no information, right? Don't interrupt me." Mulder sat down on the edge of the desk, resolving to hear Monica out. She was clearly in earnest and more serious than he had seen her in a long time. Even her nervousness this morning had been happy at its root. Now she just looked concerned and exhausted. "According to Shannon, the second invasion will go down in about two months. On your birthday, actually. Not really the present you were hoping for." Mulder's jaw dropped, and he stared at her.

"Shit! What are we supposed to do in two months?"

"Marita has brought with her a piece of alien technology, smuggled from Europe, she says. It is metal and has symbols that resemble those on the spacecraft Scully studied all those years ago, but it is an independent entity, not a piece of a ship. Marita says she thinks it could be used to trigger a major magnetite assault that could wipe the aliens out." She paused, gauging his reaction.

"She *thinks* it *could* be used? We have two fucking months and we're still at the stage of speculation with some unknown alien thing that is now sitting smack dab in the middle of our camp? My god!" He didn't fault Monica, or even Marita, but he wanted to lash out at someone. It was so goddamned unfair. He paced around the room, not wanting to look at Monica. "You mean I just got my son back, and the world's going to end-again-in two months?" he whispered. He didn't really expect Monica to answer, and she didn't. Nevertheless, he was surprised to see the expression on her face when he turned around. She looked up at him with an apologetic look and a degree of vulnerability he had never seen from her. He could also tell that there was something else she hadn't told him yet. "What is it?" he asked, moving back to the desk.

"Marita says there was a person who could use the, uh, alien thing, someone whose destiny it was to save the world."


"Well, I didn't tell her that he was here. She thinks he's still lost, or-or dead, I guess." Monica couldn't meet his eyes and instead looked down at her fingernails. Mulder stared at her, not knowing what to think. Was the room really spinning?

"You mean William," he finally stammered. She nodded. "No! Absolutely not. We don't know what this thing is-it could all be a trap. Plus, when Spender gave him that shot all those years ago, wasn't that supposed to make him normal? You told me that yourself! I just got him back, dammit! What am I supposed to do? 'I'm sorry, son, but now you get to be a guinea pig with this piece of alien technology shit, and quite frankly, we don't know what it will do to you, but you might get a chance to save the world!' No, Monica. I can't." She had gotten up and had limped to the window, seemingly unaffected by the afternoon sun that was now streaming in.

"Dear god, it's still day," she murmured, not attempting to respond to him yet. "It's still the same day. Is that possible?" She rubbed her left leg, and Mulder wondered if it was bothering her. Some people, he remembered, have their old injuries hurt when the weather changes. Monica always said hers acted up when she was under stress. That seemed reasonable, since it was incurred under great stress. He still remembered Skinner dragging her off the battlefield, her yelling that she should be with John, that she wasn't hurt so badly. Skinner had gone back in, and neither he nor Doggett came back. Chances were, that injured leg saved her life, and thinking of Dana, who was only eight at the time, he was awfully glad that it had.

"What are we going to do?" Mulder said helplessly. Monica turned around to face him, but she was so backlit that he couldn't really make out her expression.

"The techies are examining the device, so we should at least hear what they have to say. And feel free to disagree with me, but I think we should at least talk to Will, tell him what's going on. After all, he is an adult. He should at least have a say." Mulder didn't object right away. She had a point about Will being an adult. And if they were all going to die in two months anyway. . . Still, after spending more than forty years as the most paranoid person he knew, it frustrated him to no end to think of trusting his newly recovered son to the likes of Marita Covarrubias and Shannon McMahon.

"I guess I'll think about it," he admitted. "And I suppose we should go downstairs to see what they've figured out about this thing."

"Marita will want to talk to you, too, I'm sure," agreed Monica, moving away from the window and toward the door. "Though I would advise against telling her about William just yet." Mulder nodded in agreement and tried to steel himself up so that he could meet Marita without giving away the truth of William's arrival.

"Coming?" Monica asked weakly from the door. God, she looked exhausted. He mustered up a smile that he didn't really feel, and gave her hand a squeeze that he hoped would feel reassuring.

"Let's go check this thing out." The look she gave him told him she knew he was faking, but that she was grateful for the effort.

Chapter Seven

Will was on cloud nine after his afternoon with his father. He kept trying out the word 'Dad' in his mind; it had been years since he had considered the possibility of even having a father who was alive, and although he wasn't entirely comfortable with the concept yet, he was beginning to like it. Because he had always assumed his parents had died-or maybe that his dad was never in the picture to begin with-he hadn't suffered the usual adopted child rejection. He learned that his mother had given him up at the same time he learned why she did so; he didn't really understand it yet, and he suspected his father didn't completely understand it either. After all, Dana seemed to have grown up safely and happily even though her parents were in hiding-a lot more safe and happy than he had ever been. Mostly, though, Will didn't want to be upset with his parents. He was just thrilled to have found his father.

His general excitement couldn't mask the recognition that others of his new acquaintances were worried about something. Until she had come in the office that afternoon, Monica had been a mix of smiles and teary awe every time he had seen her; when she interrupted them she had seemed positively grave. Even Dana was quieter and more serious than she had been that morning, and Gibson fidgeted around with obvious consternation. Will wondered what had happened. At the same time, toward the end of his conversation with his father, he had begun to feel a little odd himself-not really ill, but definitely not himself. The overabundance of magnetite in and around the camp had set his nerves on edge all day, and he kept trying to ignore that incident with the plates this morning, but the feeling was heightened this afternoon, especially as they were leaving the command center. He had to grasp the handrail to keep his balance and wondered for a moment whether he would pass out. Dana asked him if he was okay, and Gibson looked at him questioningly.

"I'm fine," he reassured them, and indeed, by the time they returned to Dana's house, he was feeling, if not normal, at least under control.

Gibson left them there under strict orders not to go anywhere unless they heard from him or Monica or Mulder. Will and Dana sat down in the living room, staring rather awkwardly at one another, neither knowing exactly what to say.

"So, how did you like Uncle Mulder, uh, I mean your dad?" Dana asked him finally.

"I like him a lot," Will answered truthfully. "I mean, I'm still trying to get used to the idea of having a father, but he seems pretty cool. I had always heard he was kind of weird and haunted, but he doesn't really seem that way-but I guess I've only known him for a couple of hours."

"I don't think I'd characterize him as weird and haunted," replied Dana after a moment of consideration. "Yes, he's pretty lonely, I think, and even after all these years he's still desperately in love with Aunt Dana, but he's also got a great sense of humor, and he can be a lot of fun. He taught me how to play baseball. You know, after my dad died." Dana smiled, and Will couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy. He had picked up some baseball here and there-or what passed for it in the camps-but he wished his father had been around to teach it to him.

"I kind of picked up that he's still in love with my mother. She was practically all he talked about. Do you know why he called her Scully?"

"Not really. He always said it was a work thing, since they were partners, but my parents were partners, too, and they called each other by their first names, and Uncle Mulder calls them by their first names. I guess it was kind of a pet name," she mused. "But he's always just Mulder; he really hates his first name."

"Fox. Yeah, that's pretty bad. I'm glad they didn't name me Fox, Jr." Dana laughed, and Will couldn't help but notice how her eyes sparkled when she laughed. "So since he's still in love with my mother, that means my dad and your mom aren't, uh, together or anything, are they?" Will asked. He had been a little curious and wanted to make sure he got everything straight. Dana blanched and nearly choked on the water she was drinking.

"Oh my god, that really would be weird!" she cried. "No, they're not, or at least I don't think-no, no way! They're really good friends, the only people around who really understand each other, if that makes any sense, but I think they both gave their hearts away a long time ago." Dana ended seriously after her initial outburst, and Will thought it was fairly remarkable that she knew her mother so well. But then again, he realized, maybe people were supposed to know their parents that well; he didn't really know.

"I suppose that's kind of romantic. True love even after death, and all that," Will offered.

"Or depressing," Dana countered. "My mom's a little better overall than Uncle Mulder, but for the most part they're kind of mopey, always living in the past, having conversations with their dead spouses. My mom says she tries to hang on to life, but I can tell it's an effort. I'm not sure Uncle Mulder tries most of the time." She had been looking into her glass of water, but she paused and looked up at Will. "Maybe he'll start trying now." Will looked down, not sure what to say-he really needed to get over his reticence if he was going to get to know Dana better.

They sat in silence for a few more minutes, Will contemplating whether or not he should risk telling Dana about how strange he had been feeling. She knew about his visions and didn't seem to think less of him for them, but weird reactions to magnetite were an entirely different story. From his experience, people didn't much pay attention to the particulars: humans didn't react to magnetite; aliens did. Most of the moving from camp to camp that he had done resulted from being kicked out of a camp as soon as they found out his secret. Would Dana be the same? Looking at her sitting there in the late afternoon sunlight, he hoped not.

As it turned out, he didn't have to make the decision to tell her or not, for at that moment the front door opened and Monica and his father came in.

"Uncle Mulder!" squealed Dana, hopping up and giving him a hug. Will also stood up since standing seemed less awkward than sitting down, but he wasn't sure what to do. Should he hug his father, too? Should he hug Monica?

"Hey gorgeous!" said Mulder to Dana. "When did you get to be so tall, kiddo?"

"I was destined to be tall," Dana replied confidently. "And I'm not a kiddo anymore," she teased. Mulder pretended to be wounded by her remark but winked at Monica to show that he was in on the joke. Then he released Dana and walked over to Will, pulling him into a hug, albeit an awkward one. Will felt infinitely relieved.

"What have you two been up to?" his father asked. Will could tell he was making an effort to appear light-hearted and unworried, but both he and Monica wore expressions of deep concern that were fairly ineffectively disguised by their faint smiles.

"Not much," Will replied truthfully. He, Mulder, and Dana walked into the living room where Monica had preceded them and flung herself down on a chair.

"God, what I wouldn't give for take-out Chinese," she groaned, looking at Mulder for sympathy.

"Or pizza," he agreed. Will and Dana exchanged slightly puzzled glances. "Back in the old days," his father explained, "you could call up a restaurant and they would bring the food to your door. You'd never have to get off the couch. It was a beautiful thing. Now, of course, we don't even have restaurants."

"We didn't have much in the way of food for a while," reminded Monica. "I suppose we should be grateful for what we have." Mulder rolled his eyes at her.

"I was having fun complaining, thank you," he said.

"Dane, what do we have in the way of dinner that we could make in 20 minutes or less?" Monica asked, ignoring him. Dana claimed she didn't know but was entreated to go check. A minute later she replied that there was pasta and marinara sauce. In half an hour the four of them were sitting around the table eating spaghetti happily; none of them had eaten since breakfast. Monica and his father seemed to relax somewhat, though they were still preoccupied. Will, however, was overjoyed. This moment was quite possibly the happiest of his life. He was sitting down to a normal dinner with his father, his godmother, and her beautiful daughter. Even if he should wake up to find it had all been a dream, he was glad he dreamed it.

Chapter Eight

Dinner had perked Monica up a little bit; mostly she enjoyed watching Mulder interact with Will. Will seemed to be getting more comfortable, and Mulder was the most animated she had seen him in a very long time. Dana, too, seemed a completely different person from the sullen teenager she had been the day before, and Monica was positively shocked when Dana volunteered herself and Will to clean up the dishes. The two of them started stacking the dirty things and carrying them into the kitchen, and Mulder mentioned something about checking something in her study, beckoning her to follow. Monica nodded her agreement but paused for a moment when Dana called out to her.

"Hey Mom, what did you do with Marita?" So much for the fantasies of normal life, Monica thought.

"Uh, she was kind of jet-lagged, so she went back to the guest house." Dana didn't answer, but as Monica headed toward the study she heard Will's inevitable question to Dana.

"Who's Marita?" Oh, God, Monica thought, here we go. She wanted to linger to hear Dana's explanation, but Mulder called her from down the hallway, so she decided to trust Dana's discretion. Of course, Dana didn't know anything about what Marita had brought with her or how it might relate to William, so there was really nothing she could tell him that he ought not to know yet.

She entered the study and closed the door, suspecting that Mulder had decided what he wanted to tell Will. Their meeting with Marita had gone relatively well, though the technology experts were rather at a loss about what to do with the device. It appeared to be a solid metal object-no moving parts, no computer chips that they could find- really more of a charm or statue than a piece of technology. Marita insisted it was what she said it was, and Monica and Mulder were both inclined to believe her. Fortunately, Marita did not bring up William again. As they walked back to Monica's house, Mulder deliberated about what, if anything, he should tell Will, but he hadn't reached any decision. Monica decided to stay out of it as much as possible, but she could tell that Mulder was also fishing for advice and even comfort, and that attitude, coming from him, seemed uncharacteristic.

"What do you think?" he asked as soon as she closed the study door. She looked at him quizzically. "What do you think we should tell Will? I mean, about that thing Marita brought." Why did he care what she thought?

"I don't know, Mulder. It's ultimately your decision, you know."

"I suppose so, but really Monica, I don't know him any better than you do. I don't know what to do. I want to believe what Marita says, but how can I expose him to this thing I don't understand? His whole life has been the product of our-mine and Scully's-bad decision- making. I'm afraid to make any more decisions for him." Ah, she realized, surprised she hadn't caught on sooner, this is why he wants my help. Classic Mulder-guilt, she thought, remembering the phrase Scully had used long ago.

"Well, if you really want to know what I think, it seems like we should take the risk, since it looks like we're all going to die in two months. At least we should tell Will what's going on and let him decide if he wants to see this thing. If he can't figure it out, we're no worse off than we are now, right? But if he can do something with it, well, maybe we'd have a chance." She acknowledged that Mulder's concerns were valid, but the believer in her made her want to trust in this possibility of hope. The fact that Marita, of all people, was putting her ass on the line for this made her more willing to trust it. She knew that at heart, Mulder probably felt the same way, though she couldn't help but wonder what Dana and especially John would have said to all of this if they were here.

"I think I agree," said Mulder, and Monica was a little surprised that he had come so quickly to a decision. "I was thinking about it all through dinner and was sort of coming to the same conclusion," he explained. "I think we should go tell him now."

"We?" Monica asked. "I can go somewhere with Dana if you want to be alone with him. Or you could go to your own apartment." Mulder walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. Monica tried not to show her surprise. Over the past year or so Mulder had become somewhat more, well, touchy. Monica didn't mind him touching her, and she suspected this was more what he would really be like with his friends, if he could manage to have friends under normal circumstances, but she was still taken aback for a moment every time he did. Earlier he had grabbed her hand in the office, and now he was gripping her shoulder. "I would really appreciate it if you could be there. You know, help me out a little so that I don't lose my nerve." He smiled nervously.

"Okay," she agreed, and decided to go out on a limb and reached out to give him a quick hug. To her surprise, he responded by wrapping his arms around her and holding her for several seconds with a strength she hadn't anticipated.

"Thanks, Monica," he said as he released her. She followed him out of the study back into the living room, wondering if her brain could handle any more surprises within a 24-hour period.

Mulder was tempted to hand the task of explaining off to Monica, but a glance in her direction told him that she wasn't going to let him off the hook. Will and Dana were sitting expectantly on the couch in front of him; Monica had tried to shoo Dana off, but Will had asked for her to stay, and Dana kept casting him grateful looks every ten or fifteen seconds. Mulder took a deep breath.

"First of all, nothing I am about to tell you leaves this room, okay?" They both nodded. "We had a visit today from a friend who has learned some disturbing and very classified information about something we've been fearing for a while-a second alien invasion. According to Marita, the second invasion is scheduled far sooner than we had anticipated, and it is expected to occur on October 13, less than two months from now." He paused, and Will and Dana both stared at him open-mouthed. Both had grown rather pale. "Obviously we are going to do all we can to try to stop it, but we don't have much time to prepare. Not nearly as much time as we wish we had. Marita has brought with her a piece of what she claims is alien technology that might hold some hope. Unfortunately, we don't know how to use it." He stopped and looked around for Monica, who had been standing by the wall behind him. Help me not rope him into doing this, he implored her silently. It has to be his choice. Whether or not she understood him, she did walk around and sat in a vacant chair within his line of sight. He thought for a moment how odd it was that her presence comforted him so much. Then he caught sight of Will and Dana's still horrified expressions and realized he needed to continue.

"Marita doesn't know that you're here, William. In fact, she doesn't even know that you're alive, but she thinks that if you were, you might be able to work this, uh, whatever it is." Poor Will looked both confused and slightly terrified. Mulder realized he wasn't explaining very well. Fortunately, Monica chose that moment to step in mercifully.

"Will, you remember when I told you that you were a special baby and that because of it your life was threatened several times?" Will nodded. "At that time, you demonstrated some unique, uh, abilities, and there was some question as to what you might be capable of doing, in terms of controlling things with your mind. Before your mother was forced to give you up, you were given an injection that was supposed to take away those abilities-if it did, there probably won't be any results with this piece of technology that Marita has brought, but if it didn't, then it is just possible that you might be able to make it work like she says it can work." Dana still looked completely dumbstruck, but Mulder could tell that Will was mulling over what had been said, clearly trying to process it all.

Mulder picked up where Monica had left off. "Will, I want you to know that we don't want to push you into anything. This is absolutely your decision, but if you want to, tomorrow we can take you to see this thing. If nothing happens, don't worry about it. We don't want to pressure you."

"But if it works, what you're saying is that I could stop this invasion? Save the world?" Will said, a bit more confidently than Mulder had been expecting. He exchanged a look with Monica.

"Maybe. We don't really know," he confessed.

"There's, um, something I should probably tell you," Will said. Mulder couldn't disguise his surprise but indicated for him to continue. "All my life I've had, I guess you'd say a heightened sensitivity to magnetite. It kind of sets my nerves on edge-I've been particularly affected since I've come here. It doesn't hurt or make me sick or anything, but I do feel like I have less control over what I do. Or rather, I don't have to try very hard to make things happen. Sometimes I make stuff move around with my mind. I mean, I've gotten pretty good at controlling it because it doesn't make you too popular, you know. I don't know if this means anything, and I don't know what my 'abilities' used to be, but I just thought you should know." He finished and looked at his three auditors, then down at his hands. Though Mulder had known about William's infant paranormal performances, he hadn't actually witnessed any of them, so this information surprised him considerably. Monica looked less surprised, and he wondered if she had even expected as much. Dana simply looked impressed.

"I don't know what it means either, Will," Monica answered, apparently recovering from the shock before the rest of them. "Maybe we'll know more tomorrow. I want you to try not to worry about it tonight." She smiled winningly, and Will smiled back at her. Mulder nodded in agreement. Once he started to process a bit of what Will had said, he began to feel a little more hopeful about the whole venture. After all, he reminded himself, he is an adult, or nearly so.

Will tried to disguise a yawn, and Mulder noticed that Dana was also looking rather tired. He thought of his apartment halfway across camp and realized he hadn't gone there all day, and if he remembered correctly, he had left it rather a mess when he was last there two months ago. Maybe we could just crash here tonight, he decided, thinking that Monica's couch did look more comfortable than his own. After all, he reasoned, Will's already settled here; no sense in moving him, especially after the day we've had. Mulder proposed the scheme to Monica, and after an eye-roll that he knew was almost entirely feigned, she agreed.

Half an hour later he was already stretched out on the couch in his pants and t-shirt, having tossed his shirt and shoes somewhere in the vicinity of the dining room table. He didn't really expect to sleep much, but even sufferers of insomnia need their rest. The room was lit faintly from the hall light, but the initial noise from the back part of the house had died down, and he was pretty sure both Will and Dana had retired to their respective rooms. He heard bare feet padding down the hall and looked up to see Monica bringing him a pillow and a couple of blankets. She was wearing an ancient, gray FBI Academy t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants, her hair hanging long around her shoulders like it had been this morning. God, she's beautiful, Mulder thought before he could help himself. Was he betraying Scully, he wondered, if he thought Monica was beautiful? At the end of this day, he could scarcely tell which way was up and which down; Monica seemed the only constant.

"You have a perfectly good apartment of your own, you know," she said, tossing him the pillow and beginning to unfold one blanket and spread it over him.

"I know, but it's a mess. And besides, I only have one bed, which I would feel quite obligated to give to Will, so I'd still be sleeping on a couch. And your couch is more comfortable than mine." She considered this for a moment.

"Whatever. Good night, Mulder. Try to get some sleep, okay?" She started to walk away, but he suddenly grabbed her hand, pulling her back. "What?" she asked, looking down at him. She sounded curious and surprised but fortunately not pissed. He couldn't really explain 'what?', but he needed her close for a few minutes more. Someone who knew him and perhaps understood how chaotic this day had been.

"What are we going to do, Monica?" he asked, still holding her hand. She sighed but perched on the arm of the couch by his head and tightened her own fingers around his.

"I don't know," she admitted. "All that we've been through, and all that we've lost-and gained-only to have everything threatened like this. It kind of saps your energy. I feel so helpless." He rubbed his thumb around in a circle on the back of her hand, unconsciously avoiding the wedding band she still wore.

"And on my birthday of all days. I know it sounds kind of silly, but I take that rather personally." Monica smiled at him. He tried to study her face. Did she mind him holding her hand? Did she like it, or was she just patronizing him?

"We'll have to see what tomorrow brings. Who knows what Will may be able to do. Don't give up hope yet."

"I never do." He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it, briefly but meaningfully. Monica raised her eyebrows but didn't draw away. "Good night," he said. To his complete surprise, she stood up, leaned over, and kissed him on the cheek.

"Good night," she whispered before heading back down the hallway.

Chapter Nine

Dana had gone straight to bed, but after a few minutes she got up to get a glass of water, thinking perhaps it would settle her enough so that she could go to sleep. Her mind was absolutely reeling. Between her mother's caution the night before about the training exercise and Marita's arrival today, she had figured things were not well with the world, but she couldn't believe that the aliens were going to invade again in two months. The first invasion was a fact from her earliest memories; she knew her parents worried about whether she would grow up at all and whether they had been horribly selfish to bring a child into a world that was destined to end before her tenth birthday. But the world hadn't ended: her father had triggered a magnetite shield that destroyed most of the spacecraft, and through a lot of technology she didn't understand, the invasion was contained. Was it just a temporary relief? Now, all of a sudden, the world was going to end again, and this time she was old enough to understand it, and to be furious.

She came to an abrupt halt as she came to the end of the hall and saw her mother sitting on the arm of the couch next to a reclining Uncle Mulder. They were holding hands and talking, and fortunately, they didn't seem to see her. She backed quickly out of sight, feeling slightly embarrassed. What were they doing? She thought of Will's question before dinner-she'd laughed at that point about the possibility of her mom and Uncle Mulder being anything but friends, but suddenly she wasn't so sure. Inexplicably, a feeling of great loneliness washed over her, and as she spotted the light on under Will's door, she ran to it before she considered how odd such an action might look.

Will answered the door and looked surprised but a little pleased to see her there. Calm down, she told herself, or he'll think you're completely insane.

"What's the matter, Dana?" he asked, inviting her in. "Are you okay?"

"Do you believe them? That the aliens are going to invade in two months?" Will hesitated for a moment.

"I don't know," he answered. "I mean, I don't want to, but I can't tell which way is up and which way is down, after the past day. But I don't have any reason to disbelieve them, I guess. Don't you believe them?"

Did she? Dana had always felt a little left out for being skeptical when her mother, Uncle Mulder, and Gibson all believed so strongly in what they were doing. They said she took after her father and Aunt Dana, who were both skeptics, but since she was also the only one who couldn't see visions of the dead, their skepticism was less of a consolation than it was supposed to be. She looked helplessly at Will. "I don't know. I suppose I do, but I don't want to. And that's the worst-I mean, the whole point of everything is to *want* to believe. It's the fucking password, for christ's sake. But what are we believing in? If believing means we're all going to die in a couple of months, I don't want to believe. We're too young to die, dammit!" Dana felt a little better having unloaded a bit, but she hoped she hadn't scared Will. She had been pacing around the room, but as she calmed down she came to sit next to him on the bed.

"Maybe we won't die," he offered. "Maybe it's not too late. Who knows, when I see that thing tomorrow, maybe I'll be able to do something." He was trying to sound hopeful, but Dana could tell he was afraid.

"Do you think so?"

His shoulders slumped. "I don't know. I mean, I hope so, but I wish this hadn't all happened right now. I'm just trying to get used to who I am, and as soon as I know, I suddenly have all this time taken away from me. And what if I have to die to save the world? I don't know if I could be as brave as your dad."

"You didn't know my dad," she said, almost absently. She didn't mean to sound accusatory, and was glad when he didn't seem to take it that way.

"Wasn't he brave?"

"Yes." She nodded forcefully, more to convince herself than for any other reason. In truth, she didn't really remember her father well enough to know from personal experience whether he was brave. But of course he was; there was no other alternative.

"Is my dad brave?" Will suddenly asked. "He looked really afraid tonight." Dana almost answered but then paused. Until that moment she would have replied unhesitatingly that Uncle Mulder was brave, but that evening he hadn't seemed it. Nor had her mother. Both of them seemed worried and defeated, clinging to each other emotionally as much as they had been physically when she saw them in the living room.

"I think we need to be brave for ourselves now," she said softly. "I think this one is going to be our fight, not theirs." She fixed her eyes on Will, and he didn't look away. She thought for the hundredth time that day how hot he was, but even more than that, he was alive and he understood.

The next moments were fuzzy, and she couldn't remember who had reached for whom, but suddenly she was wrapped in his arms, kissing him with all her energy. He kissed back with conviction, yet his lips were gentle. She had made out with a few boys before, mostly recruits and trainees who would steal off with her into the desert, but having mind-reading Gibson for an older brother quelled her love life fairly effectively. The passion she felt for Will, though, made those other boys pale beyond comparison. Her hands slid under his shirt and ran up his skin, and she felt a thrill of emotion as she felt him grow hard against her thigh. Suddenly he pulled back.

"Wait, Dana," he said breathlessly, "your mom's in the next room." Damn. He was right, of course, at least assuming she wasn't still in the living room with Uncle Mulder. They both sat up and straightened their clothing, feeling a little embarrassed.

"Sorry about that," she murmured.

"Don't be sorry," he answered. She looked at him and was relieved to see he wore a grin, though she hoped he was at least a bit disappointed that the proximity of their parents had interrupted them. She stood up to go, but he stopped her. "When I have to go tomorrow to look at this alien thing, will you come with me?" Dana smiled. He wanted her around!

"Yes," she answered immediately, though adding, 'assuming my mother will let me,' to herself. She walked to the door, and he followed her, giving her a short, sweet kiss goodnight.

"I'll see you in the morning," he whispered as she slipped back to her room.

Despite the anxiety of the next morning, Will's exhaustion from the past few days overwhelmed him, and he slept soundly, dreaming of kissing Dana. Unfortunately, he slept later than he had intended, and when he awoke at about 8:30, he found he was alone in the house. He wandered into the kitchen to find a note on the table. 'Will, we thought we should let you sleep for a while. Monica and I have gone to the command center, and Dana, despite protests that you had asked her to stay with you this morning, has been ordered to her training company for drills. When you get this, please come meet us at the command center. Just ask to be shown to Monica's office.' The note was unsigned, but he had no doubt that the scrawling handwriting was his father's. He felt slightly ashamed for sleeping so long, and slightly panicked as he realized he was going to have to face the morning without Dana's support. He ran to his room, foregoing a shower and dressing quickly. He got a little turned around as he tried to find his way back to the command center, having been driven there every other time, but he soon found it and was shown into Monica's office a little after 9:00.

His father was not there, but Monica was sitting at her desk, glancing at papers, clicking at her computer, and talking rather authoritatively on the phone. She smiled at him and gestured for him to have a seat. As he listened to Monica's half of the conversation about magnetite reserves and troop movement, he was struck with the realization that preparations for the invasion were underway. Dana must have had to go to prepare for fighting in potential battles. Will shuddered involuntarily. Monica hung up the phone and looked at him.

"Good morning, Will," she said, more cheerfully than he had expected, given the look of stress that seemed to have taken up permanent residence on her face. "How are you feeling about everything this morning?" The question took him by surprise. It sounded like a pleasantry, but he realized she was cutting directly to the issue before them.

"Uh, I guess I'm ready to do whatever I need to do," he answered after a pause. She nodded and studied him.

"Okay, well, your dad and Marita are downstairs in the tech department, so I'll let them know you're here, and we can go down. By the way, I'm sorry Dana couldn't be here, since she said you wanted her to be." He nodded. "But she is a soldier, you remember, as you will have to be, so she has to follow the orders of her supervisor, I'm afraid." As soon as she finished talking, she picked up the phone again. "Hi Johnson, it's Reyes. Can you please tell Mulder that we're on our way down? Thanks." She hung up the phone, and Will followed her to the door.

Will felt as though his whole body was intensely aware, alive, and even aroused, though not exactly sexually aroused. He breathed deeply and steadily, trying to relax and encourage himself. This was a different sensation than the uncontrollable, nervy feelings that he usually got around magnetite. He was unsure about what it might mean, but he felt strangely powerful, yet at the same time afraid of that very sense of power. As he followed Monica to the tech department, he felt less and less like himself. They approached the door, and Monica typed a password into a keypad. She turned around and looked at him and frowned briefly. The outlines of her figure were blurry, and she seemed to him to quiver there in the doorway. Breathe, breathe, he told himself, squeezing his eyes shut. Suddenly, his mother was there, standing between him and the door, smiling and nodding. He blinked. She was gone, but he felt his courage rebound. He took a deep breath and followed Monica through the door.

In the room, his father, a heavy-set black man, and a tall woman with gray-blonde hair leaned over a table. His father looked up and walked over to Will and Monica. "How are you doing?" he asked Will, putting an arm around him. Will's throat felt dry, and he didn't quite trust his voice, so he just nodded. Monica had walked over to talk to the others, and she moved to introduce them as Mulder brought Will over to them.

"Will, this is Dr. Marcus Johnson, the director of technology here at the camp," she said, indicating the man, "and this is Marita Covarrubias. And this is William Mulder," she finished. Will smiled weakly and shook hands with both of them.

"It's nice to meet you," said the woman introduced as Marita. Her voice was strong and measured, and Will suspected that she wasn't saying all she wanted to say. "I'm glad to find you alive and well," she added.

"Well, young man, I'm told that you might have some insight into this device we have here," began Dr. Johnson after Marita had finished. "Are you ready to take a look at it?" Will looked at his father and then at Monica to try to read their expressions and expectations. They both looked somewhat concerned, but he knew he had to do what he had come to do, so he answered in the affirmative. The others moved away from the table to reveal a smallish metal object sitting in the middle of it.

As Will approached the table, he watched the object begin to vibrate and hum. The room seemed fuzzy to him, but his senses were paradoxically clear. Suddenly, the object rose off the table and floated toward him. He reached out and grasped it in his hands. It was warm, almost as if it were alive and made of flesh instead of metal, and it sent energy coursing through his body. He felt extremely powerful and in control as he left his body and ascended higher and higher until he could see the whole earth spread before him. Later he tried to understand how it was possible, but the earth appeared both spherical and flat-he could see all parts of it, but he knew he was seeing it as it really was. Despite his great height, he could look down and see the individual occupants of each part. He focused in on the room he had just left and was surprised to see his body still standing there, holding the vibrating object, the four onlookers looking dumbfounded. His father looked slightly upset and moved as if to touch Will's body, but Monica held him back. Nearby, he saw Dana participating in target practice and smiled as she hit every bullseye. Across the camps in North and South America, Africa, and Australia he saw officials busily communicating with one another, spreading the news of the coming invasion, assembling and preparing troops.

As he became more acclimated, he cast his eye to Europe and Asia, both curious and slightly afraid to see the aliens. They, too, seemed to be in a state of preparation, but of a far more mechanical kind. They were not panicked. As he watched, however, he saw a wave course through the administrating aliens. They looked up, beginning to study the sky, searching for something. Will looked around him, away from the earth. Was the invasion coming early? What were they looking for? Suddenly he realized they were looking for him! They couldn't see him, but they could sense that he was there, that he could see them, and amazingly, they were afraid of him.

Will suddenly felt exposed and wondered if he should return to his body. Just before he descended, he heard a pleasant sound, an unearthly yet very human sort of humming. On all sides, he was surrounded by the souls of the dead, clasping hands, as it were, and banding together with him. His mother appeared at their head, not embodied as he was used to seeing her, but as a spirit.

"William, your hour is coming. I didn't understand when you were born, but now it is clear that you are here to save the world. This device is no more alien than you are; instead, you are the highest manifestations of humanity, brought to the world for such a time as this. Be strong, my son. We will be with you." Beside her, he knew, were scores of people who knew him and loved him, although he had either never known or didn't remember them: his grandparents and his aunt and uncles, John Doggett and his son Luke, Walter Skinner, and three men whom Will knew were his godfathers. Standing in front of his mother was his Aunt Samantha, both a young girl and somehow ageless, the inspiration for the fight for the truth. Will felt empowered and strong, and he knew that while there would still have to be a fight, it was a fight they could win.

He descended back to his body and became fully aware of his senses as he replaced the device on the table. He turned around to face the other people in the room, wondering if they had seen any part of what he had seen. Dr. Johnson stood staring, his mouth dropped slightly open. Marita stood with her arms folded, smiling slightly and approvingly. Monica was slightly pale and pursed her lips together nervously. Her hand was still on his father's elbow from when she had moved to restrain him. Mulder himself looked excited and began to ask Will repeatedly if he was all right.

"I'm good," Will answered, walking toward them. "I think everything might be okay. I think we might win."

Chapter Ten

The following days were a rush of activity for Monica, and indeed for almost the whole human population of the earth. She and Mulder sprung to action, communicating with their counterparts in the other human continents, organizing troops, and most of all, listening to Will as he increasingly began to take command of operations. Despite Mulder's fervent objections, it soon became clear that the most strategic location for Will to be when the battle commenced was North Africa. The proximity to Europe was of utmost importance, and the North African magnetite reserves were among the world's strongest. Monica was in almost daily communication with Yves Adele Harlow, the African general commander, and Daniel Njoroge, the commander in charge of the Nairobi camp. By early September, Will, along with a group of the camp's troops-led by Gibson and including Dana-would be sent to Nairobi for further training before heading north to the former Egypt.

Mulder argued that they could launch the attack just as easily from North America, but he soon conceded that he was being selfish and unreasonable. Next he began to assert that he, too, should go to Africa. Monica found it harder to talk him out of this position, for she wanted just as badly to accompany her children and try, if possible, to protect them. However, Africa was not the only place in which battle was a possibility, and she and Mulder were responsible for the well-being of the several million people living in North America. One late night when she was working in her study at home, he appeared looking haunted and defeated and announced that he had decided to stay in North America. They didn't discuss his decision, but Monica suspected that, like most of Mulder's big decisions, it had been precipitated by a visitation from Scully.

After Dana, Gibson, and Will left for Africa, Monica tried to ignore her loneliness by throwing herself into her work. After all, there was much to be done, and she often felt like it took her twice as long to deal with issues like military strategy than it would someone who had more training in that area. She remembered John and Walter taking control of most of the military action in the preparations for the first invasion. Their know-how had cost them their lives, however, and now Monica and Mulder were forced to rely on the advice of their generals instead of being able to plan attacks themselves.

Mulder, too, was preparing to leave the camp, not to go to Africa, of course, but to visit the other major North American camps and magnetite mines and to ensure that activities were going as planned. While Monica was not eager to have the people she cared about more spread out than they were already, she had to admit she wouldn't be unhappy to see Mulder go. For the past few months, they had seemed to be growing closer, culminating in that surreal evening right after they learned about the invasion when he had held and kissed her hand and she had kissed him back. Ever since, however, they seemed to be perpetually in conflict and getting on each other's nerves. Before Will left, both he and Mulder stayed most nights at Monica and Dana's house, Mulder always claiming he didn't want to clean up his own apartment. As soon as Will was gone, Mulder moved back to his place, and Monica couldn't discern whether she was glad or disappointed to have him out from under foot.

The night before Mulder was due to set out on his rounds, Monica was working late in her office when he appeared in her doorway. "Jesus, Mulder," she cried as he startled her, "don't you ever knock?" Of course he never knocked. He carried some rumpled papers, looked fairly disheveled-but didn't they all these days-and smelled suspiciously of camp bootleg whisky.

"What if it's all a trap? What if they're luring William to them in order to trap him, to trap all of us? How do we know we can trust Marita? And especially Shannon McMahon?" He waved the papers at her as if they were supposed to prove something, but when she took them and examined them, she found that they contained only budget figures for the camp-nothing that would indicate a trick or a conspiracy.

"We don't know it isn't," she conceded, "but I think we're doing all we can at this point. It's a desperate last-ditch attempt, all or nothing. We can't stop to think about whether we're being set up or not." As you yourself have admitted many times while sober, she added silently, wondering if how much he had drunk and whether she should nag him about it. "Besides, Will said he was repeatedly confirmed by Scully herself."

"Don't, Monica," he said loudly and fiercely. He had never wanted to talk about Scully's visitations, especially with Monica, but Monica had never been one to back down in an argument, and she was particularly annoyed with Mulder this evening.

"Don't what? Don't you believe her, Mulder?" Okay, so she was being mildly taunting, she admitted to herself.

His face was furious as he stormed over to her; an arm flinched, and for half a second she wondered if he would actually hit her. "Don't talk about her!" he yelled.

"Why not? She was my friend, you remember. I miss her, too. Besides, don't you go acting like you're the only one who ever lost someone you loved. The only one who is haunted by the one you lost."

"Shut up, Monica!"

"No. We have lost too much time enslaved to old ghosts. I love John and I miss him, but I have to accept that he is dead, and at least for the next little while, I am alive. I have to be alive and live like a human being, not a ghost. So do you. After all, what are we even fighting for, if we don't value life?" She felt immediately afterwards that her speech was rather moralistic, and she wasn't sure if she believed it herself, but she wasn't about to back down. Mulder still looked furious with her.

"Good for you, Monica," he seethed. "I'm glad you can move on so blissfully with your life. I'm sure John would be proud of you."

"And what about Scully? Would she be proud of you? Would she be happy about the way you hold on to her? The way you can't make a decision without consulting the Scully oracle? The way you've spent the past sixteen years grieving?"

Instead of making a response, Mulder brushed past her and stormed out the door, slamming it with such force that the noise echoed through the mostly empty building. Monica wasn't sure when he left the camp, though she hoped he hadn't driven away drunk, but by the next morning he was gone.

12:14 am
, October 9, 2020

Mulder drove into the camp for the first time in a month and a half. He had been all over North America visiting the major camps and settlements, helping the administrators organize people and provisions. It was tiring work, but he was glad to be moving around to keep busy, and he often pitied Monica and the others whose long days were probably spent poring over reports and strategies. The busy-ness combined with travel time had allowed him time to sort through some things in his mind, and he had returned to New Mexico in a much different spirit than he had left it. He regretted walking out angry with Monica almost as soon as he had done it, but somehow he could never muster enough nerve to call her up and tell her so. After a while, he decided it was something he ought to do in person, so as soon as he passed through the guard post, he headed toward her house.

He knocked quietly, but when he didn't hear a response he let himself in with his key. Perhaps she was asleep or working late. The house was still, but he could see a light coming from the doorway of her study. The room was somewhat changed, maps tacked up on every available space of wall and spread on the floor. Books and papers were stacked around the desk within easy reach. She sat at the desk asleep, her head resting on her curled up arms, pieces of hair falling out of her ponytail across her face. The desk lamp was on just above her head, and Mulder was struck by how young she looked-in sleep, the lines of worry that had come to dominate both their faces were considerably softened. He stepped toward her, wondering if he should wake her and reached to move a piece of hair out of her face. Apparently she was sleeping lightly because she awoke with a start at his touch.

"Mulder! Dammit, you scared me!" she cried, jumping up. "What are you doing? When did you get back?" She squinted at him, and he figured she was both adjusting to the light as well as trying to account for his sudden presence in her study after an extended absence.

"I just got back. I didn't mean to wake you," he apologized.

"S'okay. I shouldn't have been asleep." She re-did her ponytail and looked down at the notes scattered on her desk, trying to suppress a yawn. "There's still so much to do."

"I have something that might help you stay awake," Mulder said as tantalizingly as he could manage. How fortunate, he thought, that my peace offering should be so appropriate. "Think of it as my apology for how abominably I acted before I left." He pulled out a small plastic bag and held it up. Her eyes grew wide with desire. "It's not quite Starbucks, but it's real and oozing with caffeine."

"Oh my god! Coffee! I can't believe it; where did you find it?" She grabbed the bag, opened it and inhaled. They hadn't seen coffee in the camp in close to five years, and long before that it had been a carefully rationed delicacy.

"New York. Count on even post-apocalyptic New Yorkers to have their coffee stockpiled." He grinned.

"All past wrongs are forgiven," she declared. "Come, help me dig the coffeemaker out of the closet."

Twenty minutes later they were gleefully sipping steaming coffee as Monica filled Mulder in on both the camp's preparations and the reports from their children in Africa. She moved the pertinent information to the living room, and they sat on the couch with papers spread on the coffee table. He was glad to hear what was going on, but more than that he was happy to be sitting comfortably with his old friend. He had missed her while he had been away, and for the past month her words kept echoing through his mind. Yes, he was alive, and embracing life didn't mean betraying Scully, he had decided after much deliberation. At a pause in the discussion of business, Monica closed her eyes rapturously as she sipped her coffee, and Mulder decided to attempt his apology a bit more seriously than before.

"You know, Monica, I really am sorry about that conversation before I left. I was upset; I shouldn't have yelled at you like that."

"It's okay, Mulder, really." She reached over and squeezed his hand as if to confirm her forgiveness. Her touch was gentle but strangely electric, and he held her hand firmly, not willing to let it go. She didn't seem to mind and continued talking. "Thank you for apologizing, though. I admit I was upset, too, and I probably baited you more than I should have. I had no right to say those things."

"Actually, I'm glad you did." She looked surprised and waited for him to continue. "I've been thinking a lot about what you said, and I think you're right. I have spent too much time dwelling on my grief, and I think it has affected my ability to enjoy life. I guess I tend to be a little obsessive."

"No kidding," she answered with a dry smile. Looking at her now, he was struck both by how comfortable he felt around her but also by her beauty. For the first time, however, he realized with some delight, thinking about Monica's beauty didn't send a twinge of guilt through him. He looked at their intertwined fingers with a smile. He looked back at her to find her smiling back, and she leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder. He let go of her hand and reached his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. Could they stay like this and pretend that there wasn't going to be an invasion in four days?

"I've missed you," he said after a moment. "No one else argues with me and reminds me what an idiot I can be sometimes. No one else knows me that well." She chuckled softly.

"They're probably all fantastically in awe of you. The legendary Fox Mulder. I've missed you, too. It's been pretty lonely around here with you and Dana and Gibson and Will all gone."

"Well, I'll be here until it all goes down, at any rate." They sat like that in silence for a while. She had taken hold of his other hand and was tracing the veins on the back of his hand, and he found himself stroking her upper arm underneath the sleeve of her t- shirt. "You know," he mused, "the first time I met you I wondered what might have happened if we had a chance to get to know each other better. I think our minds are alike."

"I agree that our minds are alike, but I highly doubt that you thought anything of the kind the first time we met. I was a nuisance to you, and you were just as happy to get rid of me." He thought about it. True, he had been worried about Scully, who was in the hospital at the time, and he wasn't yet terribly fond of John Doggett, who was obviously wrapped up in Monica's life, but he distinctly remembered Monica and had even thought there was some chemistry there.

"No, you weren't a nuisance. I admit I was probably a little preoccupied at the time, but I liked you. And Scully liked you, and that was enough to raise you in my esteem even before I knew you at all." She didn't respond except with a low hum that seemed to indicate that she accepted his version of events for the most part but was still thinking about it.

"I guess we were both fairly tied up at the time," she said after a pause, "and for a long while afterwards. I suppose the question is, are we still?" She looked up at him, her face just inches from his. He tried to read what he saw in her face: desire mixed with uncertainty and fear. That pretty much summed up his feelings as well. He fought with himself about whether or not to kiss her when she looked down again. Her hands still held his, but her fingers had become still. He looked down at them.

"You took off your wedding ring," he blurted out in surprise. There was a slight white tan line around her left ring finger, but the finger itself was bare. He ran a thumb over it. She blushed slightly and bit her bottom lip.

"Yeah, after you left. I figured I ought to practice what I preached. I had quite a lot of letting go still to do myself," she said softly.

This time he was sure, and he lifted her chin and drew her closer, pausing a moment to gauge her reaction. She didn't pull away, so he kissed her softly. She returned the kiss, gently at first but then more insistently. Her hands were in his hair, and his tongue was in her mouth, exploring and tasting, mostly coffee but a touch of something unique that he knew must be the taste of Monica. Good God, he thought, we may be dead in four days, but right now we're alive, and he felt more alive than he had in longer than he cared to remember. We're sixty years old, making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers! He grinned into her lips, and she pulled back, breathing heavily and smiling. She giggled a little bit.

"You find me funny?" he asked, feigning offense.

"No," she whispered, kissing him again quickly. "I'm just happy." Suddenly she frowned. "We're not betraying them, are we?" It wasn't really a question; they both knew it was okay.

"We're not betraying them," he reassured. "I think they let us go long before we let them go."

She glanced at her watch, which read 2:30 am. "Okay, then," she murmured, sliding a hand up under his shirt and running her fingertips across his chest, "for the next three and a half hours, the end of the world be damned."

Chapter Eleven

8:37 am
October 10, 2020
Sahara desert

Dana followed her regiment back toward their makeshift camp following their morning drills. It was not yet nine, but the sun already beat down insistently. Her neck was sore, and as she reached back to rub it, she found it covered with sand and grit. Ugh, she thought, what I wouldn't give for a good shower. Water was strictly rationed, since it had to be brought out from about fifty miles away, and for the most part, drinking was deemed a far more important activity than bathing. She got a decent sponge bath most days, but she hadn't had a proper shower since leaving Nairobi three weeks ago.

"I feel so disgusting," she commented to her friend Katharine, who was walking beside her.

"Uh-huh," agreed Katharine. "But I guess it's only for three more days, right? I mean, after that either it's over and we get to take showers, or else we're dead and we don't care anymore." Dana looked at her with vague horror, but Katharine didn't seem to be joking. Kath's always been kind of a fatalist, Dana remembered. "So how come Will always gets exempt from all the nasty drills these days?" Katharine asked. It was no secret in the camp that Will and Dana were 'together', and Dana often found herself fielding questions about him. Not that she minded much-her relationship with Will was an obvious source of envy for the other female members of her regiment.

"He's back with the big-wigs working on strategy and stuff. He's probably not going to be out with us when it all goes down. He has more important things he has to do." Before they left New Mexico, her mother and Uncle Mulder decided it would be easier if as few people as possible knew exactly what Will would be doing, so most of the soldiers in the regiment were pretty much in the dark. One of Dana's tasks was to quell curiosity without giving too much information away.

"Carter and Doggett!" shouted the voice of their drill sergeant, "get moving!" Dana realized that she and Katharine had fallen behind, and they jogged quickly to catch up with the others.

Dana managed to shake off Katharine by the time she got to the mess hall, and she found a table by herself and sat down to eat her breakfast. A moment later she felt a kiss on her cheek and Will was beside her, sporting his own bowl of oatmeal.

"Hey!" she said, moving to kiss him back. He stopped her subtly and with a nod of his head indicated Gibson standing by a wall watching them. "Oh, screw Gibson," she said, kissing him anyway.

"You can say screw Gibson, but the fact is, it's me he's going to murder, not you. Apparently Mulder men don't fare well with older brothers. My dad said that my mom's older brother practically threatened to castrate him a number of times." Dana made a face.

"We wouldn't want that, now, would we," she whispered, leaning close to him and placing a hand on his upper thigh underneath the table. "I'm serious, Dana!" he said, sliding her hand down into a less dangerous position closer to his knee, "not in the mess hall in front of your brother." She could see his point, of course, and she really didn't want Will and Gibson to get in a fight or anything, though she suspected the Will would win if it came down to hand-to-hand combat. Instead, she decided she ought to change the subject.

"You look really tired. Did you get any sleep last night?"

"Not much," he admitted. "Commander Njoroge and General Khatour had me doing drills until really late, and then after that I couldn't really get to sleep. Actually, I only have a bit of time now before they want me back. I have to keep practicing with the device to make sure I know how to control everything I need to control when the time comes." He sighed, and Dana could tell that he was worried. It all seemed like such an enormous amount of stress to lay on one person. Dana squeezed his knee in support, and he smiled at her, albeit weakly.

"We're moving out in the morning," she announced. They had expected it for the past week or so, but it had been announced that morning in the drill session. Dana was very disappointed. They had come to Africa as a kind of protective force for Will, and she had assumed they would stay with him. Once here, however, it seemed more profitable to treat their regiment as one among the local regiments, and they were being moved north, closer to the border.

"Tomorrow?" Will said. He was obviously disappointed himself. "Can you get away for a while tonight? Meet me outside the camp?" She smiled and nodded. She definitely wanted to see him for a while before having to leave him, even if it was only for a few days. She tried not to think about the alternative.

Dana spent the rest of the day in preparation for the morning's departure, and she didn't see Will again until around ten that evening when they met outside the camp in what had become their spot. It was a little hollow about half a mile from the borders of the camp, a secluded spot closed off by several boulders and scruffy desert plants on one side and a bit of a cliff on the other. Dana reached it first and spread out the blanket she had brought with her. A new moon was rising, and though it did not give a great deal of light, the darkness made the thousands of stars fabulously brilliant. She named the constellations she recognized and thought of her father and of the night she found Will in the desert at home. She knew her mother and especially Uncle Mulder missed the green, tree-filled places where they had lived before going into exile, but Dana felt very much at home in the desert. True, it was all she'd ever known, and she took great comfort in the great open sky.

She was starting to feel sleepy when Will arrived, apologizing for his tardiness. He had scarcely been able to get away at all, as it turned out. He dropped down beside her on the blanket, pulling her into his arms and kissing her soundly. Back in New Mexico Dana had stolen some condoms from one of the cadets, but they had used the last one a week ago, and since they were pretty sure that whether or not they saved the world, their parents would murder them if Dana got pregnant, they agreed to try to keep their hormones in check. They were both so exhausted that evening that Dana almost didn't mind, and she suspected Will didn't either.

"I wish you didn't have to go," he said softly. They had kissed for a while but were now holding each other and looking up at the stars.

"Mmm, me too," she agreed. "But hopefully it won't be for long. And then we can go home and not have to fight anymore." Will didn't say anything, and Dana felt bad for being too hopeful. She knew he felt like the fate of the world was riding on his shoulders-it was, more or less-and although he was handling it admirably for the most part, he let his guard down with her.

"What if I screw something up?" he asked finally. "What if I can't beat them, or if it's all a trap like my dad feared?" She leaned over and kissed his bare shoulder.

"I don't know. You can only do your best, and whatever happens, that'll be okay. Besides, if you don't even try, then they win."

"If I quit, they win. My mom said that once to my dad." Dana wondered how he knew-if Uncle Mulder had told him, or if he just knew somehow. "They never quit, and neither did your parents, so neither will we." They lay in silence for a while, thinking about what the following days would likely hold.

"Do you think they're proud of us?" Dana said after a while. "I mean my dad and your mom, mostly. I know my mom and your dad are proud of us because they've said so."

"Yeah, they're very proud. They're there, you know, when I'm training with the device, and they'll be there when it all goes down in a couple of days. We won't be alone. Your dad is really cool. And your brother Luke is a lot less intimidating than Gibson." Dana felt a flash of jealousy course through her.

"It isn't fair. I wish I could see them. I wish I could see my dad."

"You will, if you need him."

They kissed and talked for a while longer, but both of them realized that they should go back to camp and sleep if they could. It was the last opportunity they would have for a while, and Dana's regiment was supposed to be up and heading out by five so that they could be well underway before the day got hot. As they walked back to camp hand in hand, Dana felt strangely old and felt as though Will, too, was old. They had a great mission before them-mostly Will, she acknowledged, but she had a feeling she would have a part to play as well. Somehow they had gone from being uncertain teenagers to being adults in the course of a couple of months. My mother would be so pleased, she thought half jokingly, remembering their various difficulties and power struggles they had had over the past year. The thought made her sad, though, for she realized that she didn't know when or if she would ever see her mother again. She and Will parted ways a little outside camp.

"I love you," he whispered as he kissed her goodnight. Dana was surprised; they hadn't said that before.

"I love you, too," she answered, not really having to hesitate about it. Of course she loved him, and it only seemed appropriate that they should declare their love on this, what seemed the first night of their adult lives. She watched him walk toward his own bunkhouse and cast her eyes up to the stars before entering her own. Daddy and Aunt Dana, please watch over him, she prayed.

Chapter Twelve

6:18 am
October 12, 2020
Sahara desert

Will had gotten up early in order to practice a little more with the device before he was officially 'on duty' at noon. The weeks of training had gone well for the most part, and he felt fairly confident in his powers of control while soaring up above the world. The commanders were understandably nervous about his inability to explain exactly what he planned to do when the alien ships began to descend, but he knew that somehow he could command a great deal of magnetite and stop them. Commander Njoroge, who held the same position in Africa that Monica did in North America, was a little more receptive to the idea than General Khatour, the head of the African military forces. Nevertheless, both of them, Will realized, were going out on a big limb in trusting him.

Will had felt confident until late yesterday afternoon when the weight of what he was about to do suddenly came crushing down on him, somewhat impairing his ability to concentrate. He was frustrated and terrified, and General Khatour's nervous pacing didn't help things much. Thus, he decided to get up this morning to clear his head and regain his confidence.

He entered the guarded room where the device was and sat down in the chair that had become his. He reached for the device and instantly felt the now-familiar soaring sensation as he left his body far below. However, just like the night before, he found himself unable to focus. Dammit, Will, pull yourself together, he told himself, trying a little harder. It wasn't really working, and he felt himself begin to panic.

"Calm down and breathe," he heard the voice of his mother say. She was there beside him, and he felt immediately comforted by her presence.

"I can't focus; I can't concentrate-what am I going to do?" he pleaded.

"Calm down and take it easy. Focus on something easy and comforting; find someone you love." He immediately thought of Dana, and taking a deep breath he looked down to the north of Africa where he knew their camp was set up. He had found her easily the morning before. It took him a few minutes, but soon she came into focus. Roll call evidently had sounded not long before, and she was hurrying to her place, rubbing her eyes sleepily. Will smiled when he saw her and was already feeling calmer. "She's grown into quite an amazing young woman," his mother said. "I approve, though remember that you are both still young."

"Did you know her well before you, uh, died?" he asked. He couldn't remember how old Dana had been when her godmother died.

"She wasn't even a year old," his mother answered. "But she is my goddaughter, and I delivered her, so I've always felt a special bond with her. Just like her mother delivered you and has loved you all these years without knowing you." Will nodded and thought fondly of Monica. "Okay, that was an easy one. Try focusing on something further away."

Will let Dana fade from view and turned westward to New Mexico. It was night there, and although there were some people milling around, especially around the command center, the camp was fairly quiet. He looked for his father, first at the command center and then at his apartment, and he started to be alarmed when he couldn't find him either place. He settled on Monica's house and was shocked to find not only Monica but his father as well-curled up together in her bed. Dana had said they weren't romantically involved! His mother laughed lightly.

"Don't be so surprised," she said. "They need and deserve each other, and it sure has taken them long enough to figure it out."

"Wait a minute!" cried Will. "Aren't you supposed to be jealous or something? I mean, Dana said they weren't involved because he was still in love with you and Monica was still in love with John."

"If I were alive, of course I would be jealous, though it is difficult to think like that, things being so different now. But once you're dead, you don't really feel emotions like you did when you were alive. Jealousy isn't really an issue. Of course I still love your father, and I love Monica as well-she was my dearest friend, after all, after Mulder-but not in the possessive emotional way that would cause jealousy. I want them to be happy." She paused for a moment. "And I think through this conversation you have succeeded in getting your mind sufficiently distracted and calmed down so that you will be ready to work soon, am I right?"

"Yes, actually," Will answered, slightly surprised. He did feel ready and powerful, though he had no idea how this seemingly meaningless conversation had gotten him to that state.

"Never underestimate the power of the people you love and who love you," his mother said, as if answering the question he hadn't asked. "Now go rest a bit before it's time. I'll be here when you need me."

Dana lay facedown in the sand behind a makeshift trench wall. She tried occasionally to peek over to see what was going on, but for the most part, everything was blurry with smoke and sand, both of which were severely irritating her eyes. The magnetite in her ring and in the ammunition slung over her shoulder vibrated menacingly, and she felt like her heart was beating in time to the vibration. They had already had one skirmish with the aliens, who were crossing the Mediterranean en masse in order to thwart the resistance. They knew, it seemed, that Will was there, and Dana's regiment, along with most of the African troops, were all that stood in their way.

So far, as best as Dana could calculate, the humans were winning, at least on her end of things. She had shot two aliens so far, and the sensation of watching them explode, their bodies simply becoming unmade, struck her as something between pride and nausea. The heavy artillery was being used sparingly, since it took a great deal of magnetite for a really effective bomb, but when one was released into a crowd of advancing aliens, Dana was always overawed by the emptiness once the smoke had cleared.

Of course, the humans were experiencing casualties as well, and their bodies did not simply self-destruct. Dana tried to steel herself up as she passed mangled bodies, trying not to look to see if she recognized them. She had thrown up twice within an hour of the battle beginning. She killed her second alien only after he had attacked her friend Katharine; Katharine seemed to be still alive and was taken away by the medics.

Despite everything, Dana couldn't help but be impressed by Gibson's leadership. He seemed omnipresent, giving orders and encouragement, running back and forth behind the lines with speed; his persistent limp was almost indistinguishable. That's my brother, she thought proudly more than once. It had been years since she had felt really proud of him, though she was beginning to think the fault had been as much or more with her than with him.

"Up and over, troops! Advance!" yelled one of the African commanders. Dana sprang up, her gun ready, squinting in order to see what was going on. About forty aliens were running toward them, remnants of a much larger group that had just been decimated by a magnetite bomb. These, however, were too near for another bomb and would have to be dealt with in a more hand-to-hand manner. Dana took aim and fired repeatedly, but soon the smoke and sand was so heavy that she couldn't see more than about a foot or two in front of her. Shit, she thought, listening carefully for voices telling her what to do. She slowed her advance somewhat, straining her eyes as she looked around her.

Suddenly she was aware of a form moving quickly toward her from the left. She swung and fired but missed; the alien kept coming. She fired again, but the alien was upon her, drawing back its arm in a gesture that Dana knew was designed to end with her head severed from her body. "Fuck you!!" Dana screamed, firing toward the alien and wondering why she wasn't hitting it. All at once, the alien exploded, hit by a bullet somewhere in front of Dana.

"Dana! You okay?" It was Gibson's voice, but it sounded strangely weak. Dana stumbled toward his voice but even as she drew nearer she didn't see him at first because he was lying on the ground. He was very pale, and there was a great deal of blood everywhere. He held his smoking gun awkwardly in his left hand, and Dana wondered how he managed to get off such an accurate shot like that. Then she gasped and almost threw up again. His right arm was missing, severed above the elbow, and he was bleeding fast.

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, Gibson!" she shrieked, kneeling on the ground next to him and yanking off her jacket to try to stop the blood. She guessed he had put up his arm to stop an alien from lobbing off his head. "I need a medic!" she yelled back toward the trench. "Goddammit, I need a medic!" She was definitely panicking, taking absolutely no heed to what was going on around her.

"Dana, get out of here-not safe," he managed to say.

"No, no way, Gibson. Hang on, okay? Hang on, please, Gibson, I need you to hang on." Her jacket was already soaked with blood. "Can you get up?" He tried but couldn't even sit up. "Dammit, Gibson, do not die on me, okay? You can't die-I need you!" Tears flowed freely down her face as she tried to think of what to do or say.

"You don't need me, sis," he whispered. "You're almost grown up now. I'm proud of you." His eyes closed, and for a moment Dana thought he was gone, but they fluttered once more. "I love you, Dana. Tell Monica I love her, too. You've been the best family. I never thought-"

"Nononononono," Dana pleaded. His breathing became more shallow, and the blood stopped pumping as fast. "Gibson, don't die, please, please don't die. I'm sorry I was a rotten sister." She sat there holding him and sobbing, oblivious to the retreat of her company in order to regroup for a second onslaught of alien troops. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Come on, Dane, you need to get out of here if you don't want your mom to lose two children at once. There's nothing more you can do now." Her head snapped up at the vaguely familiar voice.


"Yeah, baby," he said, kneeling down. He reached over and closed Gibson's eyes. "I'm proud of you, son," he whispered. "I'll see you soon." Then he grabbed Dana's hand and pulled her up. "Let's get out of here!" Dana ran with him, looking back to Gibson's body and seeing behind it advancing aliens. Just before they reached the trench, her father stopped and pulled her into a hug. "I love you, darlin', and I'm so very proud of you. Be brave. I've got to go help out this young man of yours." He was gone, and as Dana leaped back into the trench, a bomb shook the battlefield where she had just been, obliterating the aliens running along it.

Chapter Thirteen

Just before noon on October 12, Will was assembled with the top African resistance officials, and he wondered if he or they were the more nervous. Commander Njoroge sat quietly in a corner, staring blankly in front of himself. General Khatour paced around, leaving the room periodically to inform himself of the status of the battle going on in the north. Yves had come up the day before from Nairobi with her husband Jimmy, who was the technology coordinator for not only Africa but for the whole world. The two of them were hunched over a computer in an effort to re-establish communication with North America.

"Got it!" Jimmy cried suddenly, and Will jumped out of the chair he had been sitting in.

"What happened?" crackled a voice out of the computer speakers. Will was fairly certain he recognized it as that of Marcus Johnson at the New Mexico camp.

"Don't worry," Jimmy reassured him, "I've got it fixed. Is Mulder there? Will wants to say hello before everything goes down over here."

"Right here," answered Mulder's voice. "Are you there, son?" Jimmy beckoned to Will, who was actually standing right behind him.

"Yeah, I'm here. Hi Dad."

"How are you feeling? Are you ready?"

"I think so," answered Will as confidently as possible. He really was feeling much better after his conversation with his mother that morning. "It all starts in about half an hour. I'm just trying to stay relaxed."

"That's good. I wish I could be there with you, Will, but we've really got our hands full here. There have been a number of raids, mostly on the camp here. I'm not sure what they're looking for, unless they think that you might be here. I guess that's a good thing, though. I should probably let you go get ready. I just want you to know how much I love you, son." Will swallowed hard as he heard his father's voice break. Mulder paused for a moment before ending on a more lighthearted note. "Now you'd better kick some alien ass so that you can get your own ass back over here." Will laughed slightly.

"It's a deal. Seriously, Dad, no matter what happens, I love you, too, and I'm glad I've found you. I couldn't do this alone. I'll talk to you after this is all over, okay?"

"Okay, William."

Will moved away from the computer, and Marcus Johnson came back on to talk to Jimmy. General Khatour had left, and Yves and Commander Njoroge walked with Will back over to his chair next to the table on which lay the device. Will drew in a deep breath; he knew it was time, and that this wasn't a trial run.

"Are you ready?" asked Njoroge. His dark eyes were serious but kind. Will had come to respect this man very much.

"Yes," answered Will, surprising even himself with the confidence in his voice. Njoroge nodded approvingly and Yves smiled. Both, however, looked very nervous. Once Will had left his body, they had no way of knowing what was going on and whether they were winning or losing. Suddenly General Khatour came back in the door.

"They're preparing to launch something big," he announced. "I think it's time." Will nodded, sat down in the chair, and reached for the device.

The sensation of rising had become familiar to him, but he realized immediately that this time was different. The atmosphere had definitely become more hostile. He rose and took his place beside the souls of the dead, and together they faced a fleet of glittering spacecraft, still far away but approaching quickly. Below, all of Europe and Asia was buzzing with aliens moving into attack positions, convoys of troops being moved to borders and transport planes being made ready. Will tried not to feel sick at his stomach.

He had learned quickly that from his position above he could see and manipulate the magnetite below, and he and General Khatour had decided that the wisest thing would be to begin with a magnetite bombardment on some of the major alien strongholds. He had been doing a bit of this over the past days, but this was the major attack. Just by willing it, he drew up a deposit of pure magnetite from the Ural Mountains-a sparsely populated area, of course-and dropped it on Paris. It was far more effective than a bomb and didn't cause nearly the destruction of buildings and landscape. Thousands of aliens milling around a military outpost were simply obliterated, and the survivors looked up in horror as they fled the scene. Will quickly dropped other deposits on Rome, Moscow, Tokyo, and Beijing.

"Good work, William, but I think we need to concentrate now on the problem in front of us." Will looked and became aware of John Doggett standing beside him. The alien ships were drawing closer, and Will knew that this fight would be more difficult than dropping a few magnetite deposits on the ant-like creatures below.

"Okay," he said aloud-or would have said aloud if his body had been there to say it-"We need to raise a shield of resistance." The souls spread out, forming a protective covering of the whole globe. Will was surprised even now at how many there were. His own family and friends stayed near him. Taking a deep breath, he drew up a massive amount of magnetite. It was an all or nothing move-more than three- quarters of all the magnetite on the earth. He raised it and then spread it around, pulsing and vibrating. In substance it appeared to be boiling and just turning into gas, but it seemed only slightly warm to Will; nevertheless, he had a feeling that his body would not tolerate it for a moment if it were here. He looked down and saw the people and aliens on earth looking up in respective awe and terror. Earth was far darker than it had been since the magnetite was blotting out much of the sunlight, and he worried momentarily that the effort to save the world might destroy it as surely as would the aliens.

"You can't worry about that, son," said his mother, who was directly beside him. "Just keep going."

Keeping going was going to be difficult, he realized, and the battle had hardly started. Manipulating this much magnetite caused a significant strain on his energy, and even though he could feel the collective will of the souls around him sharing the burden, it was still a great effort.

Then the assault began. The spacecraft had nearly reached them, and they had begun to fire into the magnetite shield. They weren't firing actual ammunition but rather blasts of energy, and the effect was powerful. Shouts of "Hold fast" reverberated throughout the resisting souls, and for a moment or two, the shield wavered in a few places where it had been hardest hit. Will felt himself calling on an extra reserve of energy he hadn't realized was there. The extra energy seemed to make quite a difference, for the shield rebounded and swallowed up some of the ships that had darted closer, seeing a potential weakness. He could hear the aliens' shouts just before the ships exploded. The remaining ships retreated to regroup, providing Will a moment to catch his breath before the assault began again. More and more ships kept arriving, seeming to replace ships as quickly as they were destroyed.

"This is going to be a long fight," he heard a voice say off to his left. It was his godfather Frohike. Will couldn't help but agree.

"But we're not going to give up," countered Frohike's friend Byers. "We've worked too long and hard to fail now. Besides, we owe it to the kid." Will knew that he was 'the kid', and he wondered briefly why they owed him. He didn't have long to consider it, though, because a new barrage hit the shield. The resistance steeled their resolve and held fast.

At least a dozen people were milling around the command center at the New Mexico camp, resulting in a vague sense of confusion but also in an energy that Monica felt stimulating. At this point, adrenaline was the only thing keeping her going anyway. She had been in charge of warding off the attacks to North America that had begun the day before. About six hours ago the sun was virtually blotted out by a dark, metallic cloud that stretched as far as she could see. Mulder, who was in regular communication with Jimmy in Africa, reassured them that it was the magnetite shield that was going to save them, but Monica couldn't help being nervous. Fortunately, the shield did seem to slow down the aliens, and there had been far fewer attacks worldwide since its appearance.

She moved from her own computer over to stand behind Mulder, who was managing communication with all of the other resistance leaders. She heard the clipped Australian accent of Anna Stephen, the Australian General Commander coming over the microphone. Australia had been particularly hard-hit, but the magnetite shield had helped them as well. Monica tried to wrap her mind around the realization that this shield covered the entire globe. She began to rub Mulder's shoulders absently, as much to soothe herself as to soothe him. His muscles were tight and full of tension knots, but he glanced around at her and smiled gratefully. She was aware that they had been getting curious glances from their coworkers for the past couple of days, even though a back rub or a hand squeeze was the extent of their public intimacy. Monica didn't care what anyone thought. They were too old to be worried about other people's opinions.

"Things are better in Australia," he said after signing off with Anna.

"Good," she replied, moving around to perch on the edge of his desk. "How much longer do you think it will be?"

"Until what?"

"Until someone wins. I mean, how long can he keep this up?" She gestured out the window to the metallic dimness. Not being able to know what was going on was terribly frustrating. They had telescopes poised, but as soon as the shield appeared the telescopes were useless. Jimmy could report that Will's body was sitting there in the room and that it was showing elevated vital signs, but other than that, he didn't really know what was going on.

"I don't know. I guess we just have to keep waiting. I hate waiting," he grumbled as an afterthought. Monica smiled faintly.

"We don't have much choice, I guess." Suddenly she was summoned back over to her own station. She squeezed his shoulder as she walked away.

Chapter Fourteen

Will had very little sense of time when he was outside his body, so he was not sure if the resistance had been going on for ten minutes or ten days. He did know that he was growing tired and wasn't sure how much longer he could keep the shield going. The attacking ships, which for a while seemed to be multiplying as quickly as they were destroyed, were finally seeming to dwindle, but there remained more than twenty of them, chief of which was a large central ship that seemed to be ordering the movements of the others. It was always careful not to dart too close to the shield.

This ship was a growing menace in Will's mind, and he grew aware that his real task was its destruction. The others were mere pawns, as were all of the aliens who had been dwelling on earth. This ship held a primary and originary force, and if it remained, though all else was destroyed, earth would still have lost the battle. As he focused on the ship, the souls around him seemed farther away. Nearby, John Doggett was shouting words of encouragement to keep the shield from faltering, but Will seemed to be far away in a tunnel.

"You're fighting on the wrong side, you know," came a Voice out of the ship. Will wasn't sure if everyone else could hear it or not, but he was certain it was speaking to him. "You only think you're one of them. I thought to reclaim you several times in your infancy, but when the time came, I changed my mind. It is better this way. Sweeter somehow for you to betray them in the middle of the fight."

"I'm not betraying anyone! I'm human, fighting for humanity," Will retorted, but he feared his voice gave away some of his misgivings. He had always been different, he understood. After all, he was the only human on earth, it seemed, who had such a sensitivity to magnetite. Remembered jeers from his childhood returned unbidden: what if I am alien? he wondered before he could help himself. The shield wavered dangerously. He could tell his mother was calling to him, but he could no longer hear her.

"That's right," continued the Voice. "Not so comfortable on that side, is it? It would be much better for you on this side, you know. This world, perhaps, is worth fighting for, but in the end it is ours, not theirs. You doubt me? Your father is growing to be an old man, and he has spent most of his life looking for what he calls the Truth. But he's afraid to recognize it, and even in the moments when he does, it terrifies him so that he tries to stop it. Thus all these unpleasantries. But you, William, you see further. You see that I am the Truth, and the Truth must not be opposed."

A great part of Will wanted to give in to the Voice. It was gentle and soothing, and he wanted to believe it. Somewhere inside, though, part of him rebelled against the Voice, and he bristled when it suggested that his father's quest had been in vain. The inner debate was proving more and more taxing, though, and he was having trouble keeping the shield in tact. The remaining ships inched forward. He was aware of more voices besides his mother's, all calling to him, all aware of the imminent danger, but he was powerless to answer them. He remained fixated on the ship.

Suddenly, out of the tunnel that he found himself in, a voice came shouting through. "Lies! It's all lies, William. Don't listen to it." Startled, Will saw not his mother, or even John Doggett, but his Aunt Samantha. She seemed to have assumed her body-the form of an adolescent girl-but she was also larger and more powerful than any young girl could be. Her face shone with a knowledge and wisdom that is grown out of pain and experience. Will tore his gaze away from the ship and looked at her instead. Instantly he felt some of his strength return; the shield rebounded drastically and swallowed up all of the remaining pawn ships. "The power of a lie is to seem like truth," she continued. "But you must not believe it. These lies have caused nothing but pain. Lies and truths are so intermingled that we can hardly discern them, so we must move beyond them. Even if the Truth eludes us, we have hope and love, and those powers are so strong that these liars cannot comprehend them." Will stared at his aunt with awe. His father had tried to explain the search for Samantha that had driven him for so many years, and for the first time he began to understand. He glanced at the ship, now hovering alone, and it seemed somehow less menacing.

"This," he began, gesturing to the valiant resistance, "this all began with you. With his search for you."

"And now it's time for it to finish," she answered. "But that task is yours. The rest of us are just here to stand beside you." She stepped back beside him, and he realized he could hear again. His mother stood on the other side telling him she loved him, the Gunmen beside her shouting words of encouragement. John Doggett was on the other side of Samantha, beaming proudly, and beside him, much to Will's surprise, stood Gibson. Gibson seemed to have lost the animosity he bore towards Will in life and was cheering him on. Far beyond the people he could sense around him, all of the resisting souls were cheering for him, and in his mind's eye he imagined Dana, Monica, and especially his father doing the same thing.

Rather than engage in more verbal exchange with the Voice, Will used all of his energy to summon the magnetite shield. The enemy was now only one, so there was no need of a shield around the earth. He pulled it instead into one mass and sent in hurtling at the ship. The ship was paralyzed by the magnetite's force, and was pulled into it. It didn't merely vanish like most aliens in magnetite but instead exploded fantastically, every trace of it obliterated.

A huge cheer rose up around him, and although his energy was completely spent, Will felt exhilaration course through him. He gave a great whooping shout, and his heart felt free. For a few moments, many of the souls around him seemed to assume bodies, much like Samantha had done, and he realized that he had a body as well. They hugged him and slapped him on the back, congratulating him on the victory. He thanked them all in turn, acknowledging that this was a collective victory, and he could never had done it alone.

"So," came John Doggett's voice behind him. Will turned around to see the older man looking serious and somewhat formidable. "I understand you want to date my daughter." Will swallowed and was nervous for a moment, but he recognized a twinkle in John's eyes.

"Uh, yes sir," Will answered, not sure what else to say. John broke into a smile.

"Well, son, you have my blessing. Just both of you remember that you're still very young, okay, even if you are two of the bravest and most mature kids I've ever seen." Will smiled and thanked him, wishing as John faded away that he had gotten the chance to know Dana's father in life. Soon most of the souls had faded away, and Will was left alone with his mother. She looked even more beautiful than he had ever remembered her, and she almost glowed with pride as she looked at him.

"My son," she whispered as she drew him into an embrace. "I am so very proud of you." As she held him he recognized an almost- forgotten scent from his childhood and realized that it was her scent, and that he remembered it from his infancy with her. She drew back, placing her hands on his shoulders to study him. "I don't think you're going to need me so much from now on, William. I'll still look in on you from time to time, but you need not know about it. But I want you always, always to remember that I love you."

"I love you, too, Mama."

"Now it's back to the living for you." She gestured down to earth, and he looked at it spread below, thinking that he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. Europe and Asia were completely unpopulated, the residual magnetite from the shield having been directed there to wipe out the remaining aliens. On the human continents, however, people were beginning to look up at the sky, now clear again after the magnetite had fallen away. He looked down to the camp in Africa and saw Dana's unit marching back into the borders. Dana herself had broken rank and was making a beeline for the command building where Will's body was still sitting in the chair, Commander Njoroge, Yves, and Jimmy still watching anxiously.

His mother had slipped away, and Will returned to his body, turning around to face his three observers with a huge smile. "We did it! We won! We saved the world!" he exclaimed. They gave elated cheers and began hugging him as the door flung open. Will heard several official-sounding voices severely scolding whoever had opened the door, and as Yves let go of him, he saw Dana running toward him, covered with sand and blood and looking absolutely beautiful. He grabbed her into his arms and swung her around. "We saved the world!" he said again, just before she kissed him.

It seemed to Mulder that the end of all the waiting was a sensory overload of confusion. Someone shouted that the shield was being lifted, and everyone dashed to the balcony of the control room. The night sky appeared for a moment, and then there was a massive flash, like a star being born high in the sky. Mulder didn't have much time to watch it before his communication computer began to chatter. He raced back to it, yelling to Jimmy to ask what had happened. Anna Stephen in Australia and Raul Ochoa in South America were both there, filled with the same questions, but Jimmy wasn't answering his computer. Mulder felt his heart drop to his knees. He doubled over as if in pain, though he tried to tell himself that Jimmy's absence didn't necessarily mean anything. Maybe just a technical glitch.

The control room itself was quiet for the first time in countless hours; everyone was staring at the light show in the sky. As Mulder raised his head, however, he saw Monica kneeling beside him.

"What's wrong?" she whispered. There was a trace of fear in her voice, but the look on her face was hopeful.

"Maybe nothing," he answered, though he scarcely believed what he said. "Jimmy's not answering." She swallowed once and bit her lip, thinking for a moment. Mulder grabbed her hand to stead himself, though he was sitting in a chair and she was only kneeling.

"I can't explain it, but I think things are okay," she said softly. He looked at her doubtfully. Suddenly a new voice came crackling over the speaker.

"Dad? Dad, are you there? Are you okay?" Mulder seized the microphone.

"William? Son, is that you? What happened? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Dad, I'm fine. I'm more than fine. Everything's going to be okay. We saved the world!" Monica had turned up the volume on the speakers so that everyone could hear, and they had all crowded back in. The noise of the cheers was deafening on both sides of the speakers. There was no champagne, but people were pouring out shots of bootleg whisky and of orange juice-the most closely rationed beverage-to celebrate. Mulder tried to get more information out of Will, but it was Jimmy's voice that came back over the speaker.

"I'm afraid our hero is getting swept along into the party; there's about a thousand people who want to see him here before we ship him back to you. Dana's here too, by the way, and she sends her love. Enjoy your party, Mulder: your kid just saved the world!"

A slow smile spread over Mulder's face, and the tension that had been bottled up inside him, certainly for the past two months, but probably for more years than he could really remember, began to fall away. He stood up from his chair laughing and saw Monica standing there draining a little paper cup of orange juice, a huge smile on her face. Before she was much aware of him, he grabbed her and kissed her full on the mouth. Their onlookers whooped in response.

The control room party quickly left the control room, and soon the whole camp was in a state of great festivity. Mulder and Monica had remained to tie up the loose ends of the battle-the unglorified duty of those who are really in charge, he decided. When he finished his tasks he saw her standing out on the balcony, not looking down on the party below but up at the stars. He went over and wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned backwards into his embrace. After a few minutes she spoke.

"What do you think, has it been worth it? All of the sacrifices and everything that we've lost. We've finally gained something in the end." Her voice was soothing and quiet, free of the stress that had weighed it down lately.

"This has been the work of my whole life," he answered after a pause. "The sacrifices have been tremendous, but the fact that I've lived to see this day amazes me. As much as we might want them back, I know they would think it's worth it, so how can I disagree?" Monica hummed in agreement.

"We've really done it," she said. "And Will most of all, of course. We've saved the world." He was thoughtful for a few minutes. The stars seemed to shine extraordinarily brightly as he thought back over his life, of all the years and the sacrifices that had brought him to this point, his life's goal realized, insofar as it ever could be. It was his birthday, he remembered with a bit of surprise. Not really the way I thought it would end, he mused, as he breathed in the scent of the woman leaning against him-not the woman he had planned to love and to share this day with, but she was here, and he was glad of it. Somewhere on the other side of the world, the son he didn't yet know very well was the great hero of humanity. Yes, he decided finally, I think it has been worth it. He smiled.

"Hey Monica," he said softly.


"Do you really think there are no more aliens to hunt?"

"I hope not!" she answered vehemently. "We're old, and I'm damned tired of hunting aliens."

"What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?" he pondered, not really expecting an answer but merely thinking aloud.

"Anything we want to do, Mulder," she answered assuredly, "anything we want."

The End

Author's Notes: Wow, I finished!!! You really have no idea how much of an accomplishment that is for me - before this I had never written a piece of fiction longer than about six pages. I'm not really sure where some of the plot ideas came from. I hadn't really intended to kill off John, but by the time I was a few paragraphs in he was dead. Sorry! I love him, too! The MRR was another surprise, and I'm still not sure I think it works, but I'm not revising now. At one time I had toyed around with the idea of a prequel telling the story of Dana's birth, Scully's death, the first invasion, etc., but if it happens it won't happen any time soon. My writing skills are all wiped out! In case anyone's curious, the Title is an allusion to T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding" (from which the epigraph is also taken). If you haven't read it, do! I do love feedback, especially if it's constructive (you don't have to love and praise the fic, but please don't bash it without at least offering helpful comments!). I'm at thaliamuse2000@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading; I'm amazed and grateful if you've made it this far.

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