Title: Only Because He Needed Us
Catogory: Invasion; William; Mulder/Other; Scully/Other (but it's more about William than either parent's relationships)
My entry in the "2012 challenge"http://forums.prospero.com/foxxfiles/messages?msg=120953.1
Written: October 18th, 2003 to July 1st, 2004
Archive: Link only please.
Rating: probably R
Spoilers: Probably. It does take place 10 years after the series ended, so flashbacks are probable.
Summary: Mulder and Scully have not spoken for close to ten years, but as the invasion date approaches they learn that their son needs them.
Note: Not MSR but not quite MASHEO, though.
This fic in plain text here
"Fox, the baby is crying." The soft sleepy voice pulled Mulder out his gauzy dream, the details of which were already fading by the time he opened his eyes. He knew that it was his turn to get up, because that was the deal. Smothering a yawn with one hand, he got out of bed clumsily and stumbled out of the room and down the hall.
Moonlight softly lit the nursery’s interior, making the surfaces glow faintly. It would have been lovely scene if the occupant of the white sleigh crib weren’t squalling angrily. Mulder stood over the crib and looked in. The baby was red, and shaking tiny fists. Sighing, Mulder reached in and picked up the small wiggling body. "Ok, ok."
He carried the baby over to the changing table and deftly changed the diaper. They swore she was the last. The baby, however, was less concerned about birth order than the fact that her bottom was exposed to the cool night air. He was an expert at diapering, even in a half-awake state, because he’s done it many times before. Three minutes later the baby is dry and redressed, and he was left with a limp and placid baby in his arms. She was asleep again by the time he put her back in her crib.
He watched her sleep for a minute, much as he’d done many other nights over the past three months. He still found it hard to believe that he had a daughter. Finally he left her room, shutting the door behind him as softly as possible.
He got back to the master bedroom without waking anyone, but as he pulls back the covers, she stirs. "Is Delaney sleeping?"
"She is now." He replied with a tired smile.
Her soft lips brushed against his. "I love you, Fox."
"I love you too, Caitlin."
She was asleep within seconds, he could tell by her soft even breathing, but he wasn’t reclaimed by sleep so readily. His mind was on babies, and his thoughts reached out to his firstborn, William, no longer a baby. He wondered how his son was. Sighing again, he tried to force himself to go back to sleep for a few hours before the kids woke up.
A breeze through the open window ruffled the front page of the page-a-day calendar. The date was September 12, 2012.
The alarm clock went off suddenly, scaring Mulder out of sleep. He rolled over with a groan, immediately noticing that Cat was up already, presumably feeding the baby since she didn’t have to get up for work. Not even two minutes after he got out of bed he heard the sounds of small feet rushing towards the room, and the doorknob began to wiggle.
Mulder gave the door a wry look as it burst open – no amount of explaining about grown ups preferring to dress without an audience sank in; probably because only one of the lecturees was dressing himself on a regular basis yet.
The boys swarmed in, crowding their father as he tried to put on his pants. "Daddy, daddy!" They chorused, racing around the room.
He slowly dragged one hand across his face as he watched them. "Stop running around." He ordered.
Eventually they obeyed and tumbled onto the bed to watch him continue to get dressed. At least the older two did, and they hauled their little brother up with them. Three brown-haired little boys with identical brown eyes, their mother’s eyes, stared at him as he took clothes out of the closet.
Mulder couldn’t figure out what they found so enthralling about watching him put on his shirt and tie. "Shouldn’t you be with your mom so you can get dressed?"
"Uh uh," Kyle, the four-year-old, said. "Mommy said that ‘laney is fussy so you should dress us."
"I’m dressed." Owen helpfully pointed out. At six he enjoyed drawing attention to the differences between him and his brothers.
Mulder was tempted to ask Owen to help Kyle and Avery get dressed, but he knew it would never work. Instead he reached down and picked up the two-year-old. "Owen, why don’t you go look in your backpack to make sure your homework is in it."
"It is." He swore with an angelic expression on his face.
Mulder wasn’t fooled. Owen’s first grade teacher sent home several notes about missing worksheets. "Look anyway, please."
Owen looked dejected as he left the room. Mulder made a mental note to put a gold star for following directions on his chart as he took the younger boys to their room. Cat was big into positive reinforcement, and it did seem to make things go a little easier around the house. In the boys’ room he wrestled the toddler into shirt and pants, while supervising Kyle’s attempts to dress himself. He needed some help with buttons, but he did a fairly good job of it already.
By the time he’d herded the younger boys downstairs, Owen and Benji were already sitting at the breakfast table with bowls of cereal. At eight years old, Benjamin Mulder considered himself too cool to join his little brothers in their ritual of pestering Dad as he got dressed. Thinking about it gave Mulder a little twinge, just last year he’d been there with them. It wasn’t though he actually liked the intrusions, but he sort of missed having him there too if there was going to be anyone at all watching him. They grew up so fast… which was probably why Cat was always so crazy to have another after the current youngest left babyhood. But Delaney was the last, he reminded himself again. Five kids, no six, was enough for any man. Especially a man who, though he didn’t feel or look it, was 52 years old.
Cat joined them then, and fed Avery in his highchair while Delaney slept in a baby seat on her other side. Mulder gathered up the older boys – he’d drop Kyle off a preschool, then drive the two older boys to their school, which is where he worked – and kissed Cat good-bye before getting them out to the car. She worked at home, writing a newspaper column about parenting. Their mother’s helper, Lydia, would bring Kyle home from preschool then entertain him and the babies while she worked. It was an arrangement that kept Cat sane, so Mulder was glad it was in place.
All in all it was a typical morning in the Mulder household.
Professor Dana Scully walked around the room with a clipboard, taking notes. Her students had a greenish tinge to them, and it wasn’t solely because of the unflattering scrubs they were wearing. Their assignment, which they were warned in advance – to ward off sudden "illness"- missing would mean a failing grade, was to examine several bodies in the morgue to determine how they had died. It was a far from typical summer class, but this was Quantico, not a university.
One of the young men in the class eyed the professor in a speculative manner. She was still quite attractive for a woman who had to be in her late forties, or so he’d deduced from reading her bio in the library. Not yet 30 he also had a taste for older women, convinced that they were easier to make a move on because they were grateful for the attention of younger virile men. Building his nerve all semester, he decided to hang around after the bell, which was just ringing. The other students took off looking relieved, but he lingered. Scully looked over at him with a neutral expression.
The young man pointed at the hand of the corpse nearest. "Looks like he wore a wedding band, judging by the pale ring around his finger." He tried not to sound nervous, but talking about the dead was far from the romantic direction he was hoping to take the conversation to. "Um…are you married? Do you have kids?" He blurted out, realizing that he probably ought to know those things before trying to hit on her.
She shook her head. "No, I never married. And I had children…" She trailed off. The use of the word ‘had’ made the young man too sad to even work up a feeble attempt at seduction. "My daughter died as a very small girl, and my son doesn’t live with me." She didn’t offer any other explanation, and he found he didn’t want one.
"Oh. I’m sorry to hear that." He offered. When she didn’t say anything else, he left the room shaking his head. He hadn’t expected it to go like that at all.
Scully looked out the window after he left, bitter to have been reminded that she was alone. But there was no one to blame for that but herself.
"Hunter, if you keep acting out in class, I’m going to have to schedule a meeting with your parents."Mulder explained in a firm yet fairly gentle tone.
The small blond boy shook his head vigorously. One of Owen’s classmates, he was a too frequent visitor to Mulder’s office. "I’ll be good, I promise."
"You’ve promised that before." Mulder reminded him.
"This time I mean it."The boy swore.
Mulder let him go back to class, but he wasn’t sure what to think. It was possible that they boy could learn to control his impulsive behavior on his own, but Mulder was beginning to wonder if a course in behavioral therapy wasn’t in order. If the boy returned again within the next couple of weeks accompanied by yet another report of how he’d disrupted class, he would make good on his threat and call the boy’s parents. It might be a stage he was going through, but Mulder was beginning to wonder.
He idly found himself wondering what Scully would think about him being a school psychologist. Though he never shared it with Caitlin, ‘ what would Scully think?’ was one of his most frequent mental games. He supposed he couldn’t help it, given how long they’d known and worked with each other. As long as he and Cat had been married.
Sometimes he thought it was because of Scully that he and Cat had been drawn together. He hadn’t been looking for anyone, at least not actively, when they’d met.
While Mulder was more than content to let romances bloom with the pace of drying paint, Caitlin was the aggressor in that particular relationship. He’d been drawn to her, certainly, from the time they met, but his attraction had been colored with a blush of shame – he was so much older, he was her professor…neither of which bothered her in the slightest.
She'd been one of the few grad students in his class, so not as young or innocent as the undergrad girls and boys who made up the rest of his students. How far removed from innocent was something he learned quickly, despite his initial reluctance to become involved with a woman more than ten years his junior.
She was the type of woman who knew what she wanted, and what she wanted was him. She explained once that she’d known she wanted him from their very first class. When he asked her why, she only shrugged and said the fact that he looked so haunted yet was still a competent and fully functioning person was appealing to her – it meant that he was the type of person to take the worse life had to offer and deal with it. He privately disagreed about how well he was functioning just then, but he never said so to her. Once she'd gotten him into her sights she'd begun a less than subtle campaign of seduction.
At first she'd showed up at all his office hours, less for help with the class work than to make sure she was visible to him, despite the lecture hall setting. Next she'd smile at him whenever he looked her way, and she began volunteering to help him clean up after class. He knew right then that he ought to do nothing to encourage her, but he was intrigued as much by her personality as her honey blond hair and soft brown eyes. He let it go further, planning to sit down one day and explain the impropriety of them being involved if she did anything more overt than that.
Instead he found himself having dinner with her in the next town over, explaining that he liked her a lot too, but it was career suicide to get involved with a student. She pointed out that those rules were in place to protect naive eighteen-year-olds, not more worldly grad students in their mid-twenties, such as herself. He said that didn't matter to the tenure board. So she told him commit career suicide, he'd be able to find another job.
So at the end of that semester he did.
First he fell in love with her, then into bed. He was shocked that for all her worldly airs, he was the first man she'd been with. When he asked her why, scarcely being able to believe that someone that good and that beautiful would lack for willing men to bed her, she'd told him she'd been waiting for the person worth the hassle. And that was him.
They married less than a year after they met, and he didn't regret it for a second.
The note dropped to the floor next to the boy’s foot. Giving it a puzzled look, William reached down and unfolded it within the confines of his desk. Peering in at it he read "Do you like Savanna? Check yes or no." He pushed the note deeper into the confines of his desk and glanced over at the girls in the next row of desks. Savanna blushed and looked away, while Morgan, who’d passed the note, looked at him expectantly. He suddenly became very interested in the math problems they were supposed to be doing.
Thinking about the note, he didn’t get it. His mother told him that girls were beginning to give him starry-eyed looks because he was a nice boy, and a cute one besides. He didn’t feel cute. He knew from a picture that he looked a little like both of his parents, but exactly like neither. His birth parents, he always thought of them with that label, not real, since he knew from an early age that he’d been adopted. Some times he compared that picture to his reflection in the mirror, and decided that God had split the difference when he was made. His hair was thick, wavy and auburn, and his eyes were lawn green. His mother told him that he’d had blue eyes as a baby, back when he’d first come to them, but they’d changed to green when he was a toddler. His birth parents probably don’t even know that. Some times he wonders if they care, but mostly he doesn’t think anything about them at all.
Mulder’s forest green mini-van was headed home from the grocery store. He’d never thought of himself as a mini-van driver, but Cat insisted that it was the most practical thing for their family, so he swallowed his pride and drove the damn thing. The boys were a big help with the grocery shopping, but it had tired Owen out. He was asleep in the second row, surrounded by paper bags.
"Tell me about my brother again." Benji demanded.
Glancing over at the passenger seat, Mulder knew exactly which brother Benji was talking about. For a split second he wondered if his son had read his mind, but so far none of the kids seemed anything but normal. Except William. Not that he’d ever seen any of his baby powers. Scully had told him about them though.
"What about him?" The boys all knew that they had an older brother, but so far only Benji ever talked about him or asked any. It made Mulder wonder why.
"How old is he now?"
"He’s eleven. His birthday was in May."
"You haven’t known Mom eleven years yet." Benji stated. He sounded like he’d done the math in his head.
"Nope. Not even ten years until January." Mulder agreed.
"What does he look like?" This question was new.
"More like his mother than me. Unlike you boys." He said with a small smile. But his answer was based more on hope than known fact. At least none of them had inherited the Mulder nose.
Benji had heard the story about his father’s former partner needing help to get a baby. After satisfying himself that his father hadn’t married the woman, which to him meant he didn’t love her – at least not as much as he loved his mother, and that was the important thing – he lost interest and never asked about her. Mulder didn’t really mind.
"Why doesn’t he live with us?" Benji gave him an intent stare that he could feel.
A painful question, Benji had no idea how much. Mulder looked away from the road again, knowing that Benji must have found out somehow that his brother had been put up for adoption. Whether he’d overhead a post-bedtime conversation or asked his mother, Mulder didn’t know. "His mother thought that he’d be safer with another family."H e answered carefully, returning his attention to his driving.
Is he? Mulder’s heart echoed the question. "I hope so."
Benji lost his taste for interrogation and changed the subject to something that happened in class. Mulder barely heard him.
Making dinner alone in her empty house Scully thought about when Mulder left her. She’d only gotten him back, and then he was gone again. Seven months after that she heard from Skinner that Mulder was in love. With someone else.
He’d lied to her, in that cell of his, telling her that he understood her reasons for giving William away. But he hadn’t, not really, and that soon became evident. She should have known when he followed "I know you had no choice" with "I just missed both of you so much." That was the writing on the wall, she just didn’t know it then. God she wished she’d known, not that it would have changed anything that happened between them. It would have been the same.
One month after they fled for their lives they got a call saying that all was forgiven, please come back to the FBI at any time. She toyed with the idea of returning to teaching at Quantico, but she was suspicious of what it meant. Mulder, on the other hand, was overjoyed. He wanted to go right back, no matter what they’d done to him.
But it was William that came between them, not their feelings about returning to Washington. Mulder thought that because they were not being hunted any longer, they would be the best protection their son had. They’d protest the adoption because he’d never signed his son away, and they’d get their boy back. They’d live happily ever after.
She knew they wouldn’t. There was still a threat out there, one that had nothing to do with the FBI at all. So she said no. Leave William where he is, he’s happy. He’s safe. He’ll grow up normal. When she wouldn’t change her mind, she lost Mulder.
He muttered darkly about normal families, and wanting to have one. She didn’t dare suggest adoption, because it would be too insane. And she knew that she’d never have another baby. Slowly, inch by inch, day by day she lost more of him. First his love, then his touch, and last his thoughts.
One day in October she got home from the job she’d taken while she made up her mind about DC and found him gone. All his stuff, his very presence, gone. After two days it felt like he’d never been there. After five she called DC and said she’d love to teach at Quantico again, when could she start?
She only heard about Mulder in rumors. A rumor that he’d tried to get a court to dissolve the adoption. Another that a judge had decided that a stable two-parent family was better than his unsettled single father. Then one that he’d taken a job at a university.
And a year later that he’d married in January. At first she wondered if he’d married the woman just so he could make another go at trying to take custody away from William’s new parents. Maybe that was just her heart rebelling against the idea that he could have fallen in love with another woman. Someone who wasn’t her. So quickly.
After that there was a series of pictures that Reyes copied and sent to her. She didn’t think it was a friendly gesture on the other woman’s part, because she’d taken Mulder’s side. Reyes thought William belonged with them too. But Scully kept the pictures, each of a small dark-haired newborn; every two years there was another one. From what she’d heard the last born was a girl, finally. It made her miss Emily.
She tried not to remember the names of Mulder’s children, but some nights, when she was feeling guilty and haunted, they returned to her like a litany: Benjamin, Owen, Kyle, Avery, Delaney. The happiness she could never have given him, not even if he’d stayed.
If she could have made him stay. Instead she fucked him good-bye, knowing one night if he wasn’t gone the next day, it’d be one soon. She was only two days early, but she never touched him again after that.
Mulder and Benji had a blow-up at dinner. Perhaps just being a typical eight-year-old, Benji had been rude and surly, nearly making Kyle cry by pretending that he was going to give him the rolls like he’d asked, then yanking them away at the last second. Mulder barked at him to stop teasing his brother, and Benji had slammed the rolls down and bolted from the table. Feeling guilty, he’d wanted to go after him, but Cat told him to leave him to himself until after dinner. Mulder finished eating, even though he’d lost most of his appetite.
Even after eight years of active parenting, Mulder still found the fact that his kids weren’t always happy to be with him to be hard to bear. Cynical as he was, there was a persistent thought at the back of mind that all you needed to have a happy family was a tacit agreement between Mom and Dad that you’d never give your kids away to aliens or other families, but it didn’t work out that way. When things went less than smoothly, he liked to go to his office and brood about parenthood.
When Benji had first been born, Mulder had been scared to death. Beyond the normal new-parent fears of being too rough with the baby, or not being competent to take care of him, Mulder worried that his past might caught up to him and threaten to snatch his son away from him, just like it had Samantha and William. But that hadn’t happened. Keeping his distance from the x-files seemed to keep his family safe. At least the family that was near enough to touch.
One day Mulder was going to have to explain to his sons and daughter that he had tried as hard as humanly possible to get their oldest brother back, and the fact that William didn’t live with them didn’t make him any less important to Mulder than them. He’d tell them that once he left Scully he immediately set about trying to contest the adoption.
He’d been fully convinced that the law would be on his side. This time he’d go before a judge, not to present a theory that no normal person would believe, but as a father who wanted his little boy back; the sweet little baby that he’d been fighting to protect for the entire year of his life.
In the end the judge had decided that his son was better off with the people who’d been caring for him for four months than they would have been with his own father, who admitted that he'd last seen his son when he was four days old. His protests that he’d been gone to keep the child safe from something that was no longer a threat fell on deaf ears. Mulder’s only solstice was the fact that the Van Dekamps had agreed, through their attorney, to accept a photo of himself and Scully, so his son would have something to know them by.
Mulder was looking forward to William’s eighteenth birthday, when he’d legally be allowed to contact him, but seven years was a long time to wait.
A few days later…
Skinner yawned and stretched as he got out of his chair and shut down his computer. It was seven at night, and he should have been home hours ago. Even Doggett was giving him a hard time lately about how late he was leaving the office lately. But Diana understood.
No one could have predicted ten years ago that Skinner would former FBI agent Diana Fowley, and this was mostly because everyone thought she was dead. Scully had been in a vulnerable state when the ‘news’ about Fowley’s death had been imparted to her, so she’d believed the woman dead even without a body, which was exactly what Fowley had wanted everyone to be convinced of when she asked Skinner to help her arrange her own death so she could get off the syndicate’s radar.
Scully felt too guilty to doubt Skinner’s assertion that she’d been killed, and Mulder had been too ill from his amateur brain surgery to do anything but mourn tiredly, so the plan had gone off without a hitch. Diana took off and assumed a new identity. One of the first things Mulder told Skinner when he discussed the invitation they’d gotten to return to the FBI was how CSM was dead at last.
He’d waited a couple of months until it was clear that Mulder’s opinion was not merely wishful thinking, then called her and let her know that it was safe to come home. The hardest part was telling Mulder and Scully.
Scully’s reaction was the one that surprised Skinner. Not blind to the animosity between the two women, he’d expected her to be more than a little angry to have been deceived into believing the other woman dead. Instead she’d met the news with sanguinity.
At first he wondered if she was just putting on a very convincing act, but then the reality of the situation set in. All the bad blood between them revolved around Mulder, and now that neither of them had any interest in him… they’d never be good friends, but they were no longer enemies. It was something he was thankful for, because it meant that he didn’t have to pick between his friendship with Scully and his blooming romance with Fowley. When Scully could be jollied out her hermit-like existence, she even went out with the two of them. She might even have been in their wedding, if Diana hadn’t firmly told him that she loved living together but she wasn’t the marrying type.
Mulder, on the other hand, had acted the way Skinner expected: shocked, hurt that he hadn’t been confided in… it might have been a bigger deal if he lived anywhere near by and his disapproval was palpable, but as it was with them being half-way across the country, they were able to chalk up their infrequent and awkward visits to distance causing everyone to grow apart.
Skinner grabbed his coat and smiled. On the phone fifteen minutes before Diana had hinted at the possibility of a romantic dinner if he hurried home. He left the building as quickly as he could with a spring in his step.
William Van DeKamp was beginning to wonder if he was losing his mind. The worst part was knowing that he couldn’t take his fears to his parents. He supposed they loved him, even if they weren’t as warm as some of his friends’ parents. They were better than Payton’s parents – who hit Payton- and were better than his birth parents, who’d thrown him away as a baby. They just didn’t understand him a lot of the time, that was all. They kept him at arm’s length too, perhaps they loved him thoroughly, but not deeply. And he thought he knew why too.
His parents were saving their best love for their real child, as if there was only a finite amount of sincere feeling you could bestow before it ran out. He didn’t think it was fair, because it didn’t seem likely that he ever would have a younger sibling. They’d never given up trying to have a baby, and had been seeking medical assistance with it since he was in the first grade. When he was younger he used to feel badly about those appointments, and their explanations about a baby made him wonder what was wrong with him. Why wasn't he good enough for them? As he got older the hurt feelings gave way to a vague hope that if they did have a baby, some of their feelings for it would spill over onto him.
He almost wished they’d already had their prayed for baby, because as things were, he couldn’t tell them about the dreams he was having, and keeping the secret was hard on him. Over his life he’d told them about all sorts of dreams he’d had before then, but these dreams were different. He was becoming sure that these dreams were real. At least the first kind, but maybe even the second as well.
The first dreams were about being a baby, and he suspected that they were really buried memories from infancy, even though you weren’t supposed to ever remember things from babyhood. The thing that was beginning to convince him that they were real was that they weren’t the type of wistful thinking happy dreams about real mummy and dada. They were…scary. An upset woman who looked like the one from his photograph handing him off to three odd men… a car accident…another woman taking him from the men at gun point…a bunch of people scaring him with chanting…something like an explosion that left him scared and alone until the mother-looking woman found him.
The Van DeKamps told him that they didn’t know anything much about his birth family, but his mom was a single mother who didn’t think she could care for him any longer. William guessed that he didn’t blame her if his dream was about something that had actually happened. It was scary for his baby dream-self, he could only imagine how scary it would have been for someone old enough to know what was going on.
But as disturbing as it was to seemingly dream about something that may or may not have happened to him when he was only a few months old, they paled in comparison to the other reoccurring dreams he was also having.
In the other dreams people kept telling him that he was the one that was going to lead them. And they didn’t mean when he was a grown up, they meant soon. Very soon. He tried to tell them that he was just a kid, not the leader of anything, but they ignored him, redoubling their encouragement and repeating that he was the one.
Those dreams felt real too, but like they were going to happen instead of already had. They wouldn’t bother him half as much if he didn’t keep thinking that he saw people watching him. Of course his parents were oblivious to that too.
"Do you need us to bring anything?" Doggett asked, and waited for Scully to answer.
"No, just yourselves is fine."
"Are you sure?"
"You can bring something next time. Or better yet, we could have dinner at your place next time." She teased him.
"I dunno…do you really trust our cooking?" Doggett laughed into the phone.
While Skinner and Fowley tried to draw Scully out, Doggett and Reyes knew better; if they wanted her company, it was bet to go to her. She was a lot more comfortable playing hostess than guest.
Thinking about Reyes and Scully made him shake his head. He was never going to understand their friendship. Despite the fact they were at odds about William and Mulder, they were still friends. He would have guessed it was a difference of opinions that would destroy a friendship, but it didn’t. No one ever told him they were uncomplicated women, though, so he tried not to think too hard about it. That lead to headaches.
"Monica, are you ready?" He called as he let himself into her apartment with his key.
She appeared with a towel around her hair. "Um… five minutes. I swear."
As soon as she disappeared again, he rolled his eyes and plopped onto the couch. He knew that five minutes would really be ten, so he picked up the remote control to her TV and turned to ESPN. This had happened many times over the years, so he knew that she wouldn’t mind him watching TV while she waited.
By this point he knew a lot about her. He knew she had no desire to get married or have kids, for example. It didn’t bother him, because he thought that one dead child and one failed marriage was enough for any man. It was just lucky that he’d found someone who didn’t feel the need to pressure him into anything more than a long term, if not terribly intense, relationship.
"I’m ready." She told him brightly as she reappeared. "Are you sure she didn’t want us to bring anything?"
"I asked her, just like you wanted to. She threatened that we ought to have dinner at one of our apartments next, though."
"Would take out be cheating?"Reyes wondered aloud as they walked to his car.
"Not if we get it from one of those home-style places. She’d never know." Doggett replied with a grin.
Reyes slide onto the passenger seat. "She’d know. Trust me."
Doggett spent the rest of the drive wondering how anyone could tell. It finally occurred to him that Scully knew neither of them could cook.
"Can I pick any costume I want?" William asked in a wheedling tone. It was the last week of September, and it seemed to him that Halloween was right around the corner, and it was his favorite holiday of all.
Mr. Van DeKamp gave him an indulgent grin. "As long as it’s appropriate for school."
"Dad! Only babies wear costumes to school on Halloween. No one in the sixth grade does."
Though he could have pointed out that just the year before fifth graders proudly wore theirs, Mr. Van DeKamp said nothing as he watched the boy wander towards the costume isle. He smiled, then walked in the opposite direction, intent on tackling his wife’s list.
William’s eyes light up when he looked through the costumes. He was thrilled that he was finally able to pick one out without parental influence. His father wasn’t too bad, but his mother still thought that he’d look cute as the cowardly lion from Wizard of Oz. He would rather be the ghost faced killer from the classic horror movie Scream. Not that his parents knew that he’d seen it on late-night tv one night at a sleep over.
He picked up a costume to admire when a hand closed on his arm. Startled, he whipped his head around, and stared into an unfamiliar face. One lined with age, and with bushy white eyebrows like those Santa is usually depicted as having. "You."The man’s voice rasped.
Me what? William thought, but dared not ask. "Let go of my arm." He demanded instead.
The hand’s grip didn’t loosen. "You’re the one."
William’s eyes filled with horror. It was just another dream, it had to be. But how could he be dreaming if he was shopping? "You better leave me alone."William warned even as he wondered how he was going to get free.
He tried to twist away, but the old man gave him a hard yank, and was surprisingly strong for someone his age. "No, you’re coming with me, boy. You’re the one we’ve been looking for."
About to lose his footing from the yanking, William did the only sensible thing. "Dad! Dad!"He shouted.
Mr. Van DeKamp wasn’t the only one to hear his voice. When he got to his son he saw that an old man had the boy by the arm. "Leave my son alone!" He began to run.
By that point a security person realized something was amiss, and followed Mr. Van DeKamp. "Is there problem?"He asked William in a deep voice.
The old man had let go of his arm, but he was still there. William turned and pointed at him. " That guy tried to make me go with him!"
"I can’t believe a child molester is allowed to wander this store."Mr. Van DeKamp said angrily.
The security person looked flustered, and the old man looked shocked. "I’m no such thing! This boy is the one who will lead us! I need to bring him back to assist us!"
The security person called for more back up, and soon two large men came and took the still raving elderly man away. "I’m sorry about that." He told William and his father. "I suspect he might have wandered away from a home. You’re not hurt, are you?"
"No." William said, looking at his arm. There was no mark.
"If you want to press charges-"
"I don’t think that will be necessary." Mr. Van DeKamp interrupted.
"Good." The other man looked relieved.
When it came time to check out, Mr. Van Dekamp asked William for his costume, and he was shocked to find it still in his hand. He’d completely forgotten about Halloween. It wasn’t the ghost faced killer costume he handed over, but it no longer seemed important.
Small hands drummed on the tray of the high chair. "Mommy. Mommy. Where’s Mommy?" Avery chanted, giving Mulder curious looks as his sister screamed.
More concerned with trying not to drop Delaney as she squirmed in his arms, Mulder didn’t answer right away. He’d already answered that question three times, so it wasn’t as though answering it immediately was going to help any.
Did any of the other babies ever cry this much? He wondered as he tried to soothe his daughter. As soon as Delaney stopped wriggling and crying long enough for him to get her to notice her bottle, he finally answered his youngest son. Again. "Mommy went shopping, she’ll be back soon."
Cat had surprised him an hour before, telling him that she’d like to take the older kids shopping for a change. That had been his job most of the kids’ lives, so he hadn’t expected her to usurp his sworn duty. He didn’t mind, but it did mean being alone with the babies, which he had been too few times to count. It made him feel guilty when he realized that, so he readily agreed to swap roles.
"Mommy really back soon?" Avery demanded, turning his clear brown eyes on Mulder. The scrutiny tempted Mulder to laugh, but he remembered his parents laughing, and how mad it had made him as a small boy.
"Pretty soon. I think they’re going to get pumpkins." Cat hadn’t said so, but it was the right time for it, and she loved carving them.
Avery gave him a puzzled look. "Pun’kins orange?" He asked after a moment.
Mulder looked up from holding Delaney’s bottle, startled. He had no idea that Avery knew any colors yet; he wouldn’t even be old enough for preschool until the next fall. "Yes. Pumpkins are orange! Boy are you smart." Delaney batted his hand when the nipple slipped out of her mouth. He repositioned it before she began to wail again.
"I know." Avery said with no false modesty. "Can I have cheer'os?"
Holding the baby with one arm, Mulder used the other hand to pour cheerios into a bowl for his son. He was suddenly looking forward to time off at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when he’d be able to spend more time with the younger kids – he needed to get to know them better. He’d make more of an effort than his father ever had, even before his sister was kidnapped. Had his kids known their grandfather, they could have told Mulder he already did.
It was hard for William to sleep at night. After the incident at the store, he thought that his parents would finally begin to pay attention to how not all right he was, but they continued to be blind as ever.
Some parents might have made a fuss after something like that, trying to cuddle him even though he thought he was too big for that, but they hadn’t. They’d briefly discussed amongst themselves the idea of pressing charges, but dismissed the idea. Then they’d lectured him on the danger of going anywhere with strangers, as if it had been his plan to tag along with the crazy old man, instead of calling for help like he had.
Maybe they were trying not to make a big deal of it so he wouldn’t be scared, but their dismissal of what had happened made him feel alone.
He was trying to sleep when he heard the sound against the window glass. Startled fully awake, he sat up and looked at the window. What he longed to see was an errant branch scratching the pane; he planned to laugh at himself, then snuggle back under his Disney’s Animated Robinson Curosoe comforter and finally fall asleep.
Instead there was a face looking in at him. Doing what any normal kid would do, William screamed. Within seconds he could hear two things. The first was the sounds of one of his parents running to his room. The other was glass breaking in another room.
His eyes were wide with terror when the door was flung open, but he breathed a little easier when he saw that it was his mother. "It’s ok, William." She said, coming to his bedside. At first he thought she was going to hug him, but she pulled out the cordless phone instead. "Hello, police? I want to report a break in…"
William lay back down, listening to his father shouting at someone. The siren sounded almost immediately after that.
A half later, William stood in the doorway of his room, still wearing his planet PJs, watching as a police officer led a woman away in handcuffs. The worst was supposed to be over, but William felt even more scared then when he’d seen the other person outside his window.
The reason he was afraid was because the woman who’d actually gotten into the house kept explaining the same thing over and over. William was the one.
He felt like crying when he noticed his parents were talking in low voices and throwing him brief glances. Their unheard conversation scared him most of all.
Two weeks later…
Since it was still a lovely day out, Mulder took the boys out into the yard to play. Benji and Owen practiced shooting a basket ball into a hoop that Mulder had set six feet from the ground. He figured that once they were bigger he’d have to adjust the height, but for now it was perfect for them. Avery happily dug in the sandbox, mostly paying attention to Mulder’s admonishments not to put any sand in his mouth; the green binky sticking out of his mouth seemed to temper temptation, at least a little. The only unhappy one was Kyle, who was curled up on Mulder’s lap, upset that his older brothers teased him for not getting any baskets. Mulder might have tried to interest him in playing in the sandbox too, but Kyle seemed to anticipate that and had preemptively declared it was "for babies." Fortunately, Avery was too young to know he was being insulted. Even with four kids to keep an eye on, Mulder felt calm and happy.
Until a black car pulled into the driveway. At first he thought that the driver was just using their driveway to turn around, which he found irritating, but not worrisome. But then the driver’s side door opened. Mulder stood up cautiously, and deposited Kyle on the ground. He asked him to play with Avery, and for once he agreed without protest.
By the time Mulder got to the walk, the man was already at the gate. Benji and Owen stopped playing, and stared, at least until Mulder told them to go watch their brothers. Mulder didn’t know the strange man, but the dark look on his face made him more than a little uneasy. He found himself suddenly wishing that his FBI issued pistol was still at his waist.
"Can I do something for you?" He asked in a fairly friendly tone, hoping not to set the man off if he was dangerous.
"Are you Fox Mulder?" The stranger asked, his voice flat.
"I am." Mulder acknowledged, wondering how the stranger knew who he was.
"Good." He replied in that same flat tone. Then he made a come here motion with his hand, staring at his car.
Two more car doors opened, and Mulder felt the flutterings of unease in his chest. He thought to call out to Cat to come get the boys, but then he realized that the people emerging from the car weren’t really that threatening. At least in appearance, but he knew enough not to count on that.
One of the people was a tired looking woman in her forties. The other was a young boy. He barely noticed that Cat had come out after all, and had herded the kids inside. They peered out at the adults from the window.
"Will, come here." The strange man demanded, and Mulder stopped breathing. Cat took one of his arms as she joined him. Delaney was on her other.
"Big family, huh?" The stranger asked as the boy approached them, but it wasn’t a question. Not really. "Big house too. Guess you have room for one more." His hand went to the boy’s shoulder when he stopped short of Mulder and Cat. It wasn’t a rough gesture, but he forced the boy forward. "Take him."
"I don’t understand." Mulder exclaimed, staring at his oldest son. William just gave him a sullen stare before turning to his adopted mother who wouldn’t look at him.
"You still want him, don’t you?" The man asked gruffly. "Even though he’s not a cute little baby any more."
"Of course." Mulder blurted out, not daring to look at Cat. "But why did you bring him here?"
Mr. Van DeKamp didn’t say anything. William turned his head and gave his adopted father a hateful glare as the man gave him another, harder, shove towards Mulder and Cat. When Mr. Van DeKamp finally spoke, he sounded angry and tired. "Look, when we took William in we were told that his mother just couldn’t handle raising him on her own. No one said it was going to put our lives in danger."
"Danger?" Mulder asked, as a shiver crept up his spine.
"People have been breaking into our house. Three people tried to grab Will, each claiming he’s ‘the chosen one.’ Will’s a good boy, but we just can’t deal with this any more. We know you were with the FBI, you’re got to be better equipped at dealing with this than we are."
Mulder nodded, but William just stared at his adopted parents. They’d always told him that they didn’t know a thing about his birth father, so how did they know he’d been in the FBI? And now that he thought of it, how hid they know his address?
Mrs. Van DeKamp handed Mulder a thick envelope. "We went back to that judge yesterday-" While he was in school, William realized, staring at her with a betrayed look she didn’t acknowledge. "– and told him we’ve had a change of heart, and decided you were right to want him back. So we signed papers relinquishing our claim of custody in favor of yours."
Judging by the look on the boy’s face, Mulder was fairly sure that this was the first his son heard of his attempt to get him back. Mulder sighed. "Just like that? The judge believed your story about having a change of heart nine and a half years after he ruled to let you keep my son?" Instead of answering, the woman retreated to the car, leaving her husband to Mulder’s possible wrath.
"I don’t feel like arguing about this, mister Mulder." Mr. Van DeKamp said shortly. "Do you still want him or not?"
"Of course I do!"Mulder exclaimed, finally daring a look at his wife. To his immense relief she nodded her agreement that William was wanted.
"Good. I’ll get a moving van to bring by the rest of his stuff tomorrow."
William didn’t say anything, which worried Mulder since the book looked like he was on the verge of tears. If Mr. Van DeKamp noticed, he kept it to himself. "Take care of yourself, William." Was the man’s only gruffly said fair well as he got back into his car.
While they drove off, Mulder’s eyes were on his devastated son. Seeing him there with his shoulders hunched and his eyes full of unshed tears, Mulder was at a complete loss at how he could comfort him. When he’d imagined being reunited with this son, first he pictured caring for a toddler younger than Avery who might be distraught for a few weeks, but would soon adjust when he forgot about the Van DeKamps. Then, when the judge denied him custody, his imagination turned instead to meeting his grown son, who’d be delighted to be meeting his father at last; that sort of meeting would have dignity to it, two grown men taking steps to build a relationship, finally. He never in his life imagined his little boy would be unceremoniously dumped on his front lawn at eleven years of age.
Perhaps because it wasn’t her son, and there was less at stake for her, Caitlin was the one to first spring to action. "Here Fox, take the baby…" She handed over the sleeping infant to her bewildered husband. Then she dashed into the house, where Mulder could hear her banishing their sons to their rooms.
She reappeared a moment later with a warm smile for William. "If you’re ready to go inside, I’ll show you your room."
William still looked devastated, but he and Mulder followed Cat inside; Mulder was grateful that she’d thought to keep the boys from swarming, since he hadn’t even thought of it. She lead the way to one of the two empty bedrooms, the one they currently used as a place for guests to sleep – the other would be Avery’s when he was big enough to sleep in a room alone at night without being frightened.
Once they reached their destination, Cat took the baby back, and let Mulder play tour guide while she looked in on the other kids.
William looked around the room, and tried to imagine it being his. It was hard. "I didn’t think I’d have my own room." He said, finally breaking his dismayed silence. "Because of the other kids." He clarified.
"Today I’m extra glad we bought a really big house when we got married." Mulder gave him a small smile. "I bet you didn’t know yesterday that you have four little brothers and a baby sister."
"Un Uh." William agreed. "I figured I was an only child." He paused. "Does my birth mother have any other children?" He’d already realized that his father’s wife wasn’t his mother, but he wasn’t ready to ask questions about that yet.
A sad look passed over Mulder’s face, partly because the label of birth parent, and partly because of the question itself. "Your mother had a little girl, Emily. If she’d lived, she’d be seventeen now. She was born very sick, though, and died when she was three, I’m sorry to say."
"Oh…" William said, looking away. He hadn’t expected his question to make things so sad.
Mulder unfolded the blanket that had been left at the foot of the bed in anticipation of over night visitors. It would do for rest of their childhood visitors too. As he spread the blanket out, he cast his son a sidelong glance. "William…I’m not going to pretend I have any idea how this all makes you feel, but I’m sure it’s overwhelming. If you’d like, you can put off meeting your brothers until dinner."
"Thanks." William flashed him a brief smile. "But they’re my half brothers." He pointed out.
"True enough."Mulder agreed. "I have a half brother too, your Uncle Jeffrey. I didn’t even know about him until I was an adult, and I’ve always regretted that…" He trailed off wondering if things could have been different if he and Spender had grown up together. "Maybe you boys will be different, but I don’t expect you to like them right away. I love them to death, but I know they can be difficult for a new person to get used to."
William just nodded, he had no idea how he was going to get along with them.
"What about me?" Mulder asked. "I can stay if you’d like to talk, or go if you’d rather be alone for a while."
"I…I think that I’d like be alone for a little while if that’s ok. But-" He continued as Mulder made a move for the door. "Before you go can you tell me the other kids’ names? So I know them at dinner?"
"Of course. We call your brother Benjamin Benji, and he’s eight. Next is Owen, who’s six and Kyle who’s four. Last are the babies. Avery is two and Delaney is just four months." William nodded, and seemed to be trying to commit the names and ages to memory.
Mulder thought for a second before adding, "Don’t think you have to call my wife and I Mom and Dad, William. Most people call her Cat, and me Mulder, and you can call us that too, if it makes you more comfortable. If you decide to call us Mom and Dad someday, that’s great, but…"
Mulder’s hand was on the doorknob again when William asked, "Did you really try to get me back, like they said today?"
"I really did. My job required me to go away right after you were born, and your mom gave you to the Van DeKamps while I was gone. When I got back I tried to convince a judge that you should be with me, but the judge disagreed. I know it might not be totally great for you, but I’m so glad that you’re here."
William didn’t seem to hear anything Mulder said after his agreement. "They never told me that you wanted me back." He whispered. "See you at dinner."
Mulder had barely shut the door behind him when he was confronted by Benji and Owen in the hallway. "Who is that?" Owen demanded to know.
"It’s him, isn’t it?" Benji asked with a suspicious look.
Mulder herded them into Owen’s room, which was further from William’s new one than Benji’s. "That’s your older brother, William."
"We have another brother?" Owen yelped, looking shocked.
Benji gave him a scornful look. "Dad only told us that like a thousand times, Dork."
"I’m not a dork!" Owen protested.
Benji ignored him. "Is William going to live with us now?"
"I think so." Mulder admitted. "What do you think of that?"
"I don’t know." Benji said honestly. "Can we go see him?"
"Not right now. This is confusing and overwhelming for him, so he wants to relax in his room until dinner. He’s not going anywhere, so you’ll have lots of time to see him later."
Owen looked at Mulder with wide eyes. "Daddy… do you think he’s crying?"
Mulder patted his head, Owen had always been a sensitive soul. "He might be. Today was a pretty upsetting day for him. And even though he’s mad at his adopted parents for leaving him, he probably misses them too, since he’s been with them most of his life."
"I’m going to make him feel better." Owen vowed. "After dinner."
"Dad, why did they give him back to you?" Benji asked, prone more to seriousness than sentimentality.
"I’m not entirely sure yet." Mulder told him. "I’m jut glad they did." But that wasn’t entirely true. He was going to wait until Mulder was more settled, but he was going to find out what had happened before the Van DeKamps’ car pulled into the driveway.
The shrill ring of the phone nearly startled Scully into dropping her glass. She made a quick save, then picked up the phone before it rang again. "Hello?" She asked uncertainly. She wasn’t expecting any calls. At least not any that late.
"Scully, it’s me."
The greeting almost erased the years of separation. There was no one else on earth who said that to her. And there was no mistaking his voice.
"Mulder?" She asked in a neutral voice. They weren’t on friendly terms, so she doubted like hell that he’d called up for a little chat. "What’s wrong?"
"Nothing." Mulder said, confusing her. "Scully, I have him. William. He’s at my house right now."
Stunned, she forgot to breathe. "How? Did something happen to his parents?"
"We’re his parents." Mulder reminded her, sounding annoyed. "His adopted parents are just fine. They changed their minds about keeping him for reasons I’ve yet to get to the bottom of. All I know is that they showed up at my house a few hours ago with William and a court order showing they relinquished their claim of custody in favor of mine. It’s incredible."
"You’re going to keep him then?" She asked toying with the cord to the phone. "Your wife is ok with it?"
"Cat’s been great about it. She’s always known that I’d get him back if I could, so she’s happy for me."
Caitlin but called Cat. Scully never liked the woman’s name. Why a grown woman would go by such a childish nickname was beyond her. "Oh. How’s William taking it?"
Mulder paused. "I won’t lie to you, he’s overwhelmed. It’s got to be rough, having the people you considered your parents pack you up and ship you off to a father you never even met. They didn’t tell him that I tried to get him back, by the way. Until they mentioned it in front of him today, he had no idea that one of his parents had tried to get him back." A dig. She knew his barb had been carefully aimed. The resentment was still there, all these years later, then. "We’re trying to get the boys to give him his space until he adjusts, but you know how little kids get when there’s something exciting going on, it might not be easy."
She didn’t really know little kids, but she didn’t say anything. "If he’s anything like us, I’m sure he’ll adjust."
"Yeah…" Mulder agreed. "You know, I always pictured him looking like one of us, but he doesn’t, not really. My other boys all look like me, and Delaney is probably going to look like Cat when she has more hair, but William… His hair turned auburn and his eyes green, can you believe it?"
Scully thought she could. He sounded like he was in between them coloring-wise. "You’ll have to send me a picture." She said faintly.
"Of course." He agreed. "I thought I’d ask you first before bringing it up, but… if he wants to, could he call you?"
Call, she thought. Not visit, not see. "If he wants to."
"Great. Do you want me to keep you updated? About how he’s doing and what I find out about his adopted parents’ reasons for giving him back, that is."
"Sure. You have my e-mail, don’t you?" It would be easier on her if she didn’t have to hear his happy voice telling her about their not-so-little-anymore boy.
Mulder took the hint and said good-bye a couple of minutes later. When she hung up the phone she shook her head. She never expected that either of them would get their son back, at least not without a bigger fight than Mulder already had given. She supposed they gave him to Mulder because he was closer, and because he was the one that had filed the appeal against the adoption. She wondered if anyone had thought of giving him to her, even for a second.
Not that he wasn’t better off with brothers and a sister, and in a home with two parents. And she wasn’t equipped to care for a child, not now, not in a one-bedroom apartment. But still she wondered if anyone had thought of her. Her heart thought not.
Mulder knocked softly on the door to the room that now belonged to his oldest son. To his relief he was met by a neutral "come in" instead of a teary or resentful voice. He hadn’t known what to expect, because the boy had been quiet throughout dinner, and had retreated to this room as soon as he’d finished eating.
From the looks of things, William was in the process of emptying his bag. A few cherished possessions that he couldn’t bear to be without, even for a day or two, were scattered on his bed, and more spilled out of the top of the completely unzipped bag.
"Is it ok if I sit down?" Mulder asked, looking towards the empty desk.
"Sure." William said from his spot on the bed.
"How are you doing?"
Mulder nodded, but looked like he didn’t quite believe him. "It’s ok if you’re really not feeling ok, you know. If you think you’d like to talk to someone, besides me or Cat, I’d be happy to arrange for that."
"Like a doctor?" William asked, wrinkling his nose.
"Sure. A doctor like me. I’m a psychologist at your brothers’ school. There’s nothing wrong with needing to talk to someone who isn’t involved with your problem. I spent a lot of time talking to someone like that when I was twelve."
"Why?" William asked, curious. He didn’t know his birth father well at all yet, but he seemed pretty normal, so it surprised him that he’d had a shrink himself.
Mulder’s look clouded. "I lost my eight-year-old sister that year. We’ll talk about it more at some point, but that’s not really something I want to talk about tonight, if you don’t mind."
"Ok." William agreed, but he was dying to know what happened to his aunt. He wondered if Benji knew, and if the younger boy would tell him if he did.
Smiling a little, Mulder spoke again. "Besides seeing how you were doing, I wanted to let you know I talked to your mother just a little while ago."
At first William thought he meant Mrs. Van DeKamp, but a hesitant smile made him realize that Mulder meant his birth mother. "Oh."
"If you want to talk to her some time, it’s ok with her. I’ve got her number, if you want it."
William gave him a searching look. "Did… did she try to get me back too?"
Mulder shook his head. "No. She thought you were better off where you were."
"I don’t want her number."
Mulder thought about saying he could have it any time he wanted it, but his son’s tone made him decide it wasn’t a good idea. "Ok. It’s getting late, so the younger kids will be going to bed in a little while. If you’d like to come down stairs and watch TV with Cat, Benji and I, you’re more than welcome to."
"Sure."William said, getting off the bed. "What are you going to be watching?"
"Two Guys Named Bob." Mulder told him. "Have you ever seen it?"
"Yeah! It’s one of my favorite shows! Did you like the episode when Bob bought Bob one of those Segway things, and it accidentally got left on and drove through the store’s glass doors? That was so funny!"
Mulder grinned a little, thinking that maybe this no-longer-estranged son of his might have something in common with Benji, even if he didn’t look like him.
Later that night, Mulder checked on all the kids to see if they were sleeping. Once he saw that they were he went back downstairs. He needed to talk to Cat, and didn’t want any little ears listening.
Joining her on the couch, he wrapped one arm around her shoulders, and she snuggled against his side. For a moment he thought of a time when Scully had done the same thing, but quickly banished the thought, sure that he’d only thought of her because of the day’s events. "Are you really ok with this?" He asked softly.
She turned her beautiful brown eyes on him with a gentle smile. "He’s your baby, Fox." She said simply, as if that was all there was to the issue.
"I know." He said, still speaking softly so they wouldn’t wake anyone upstairs. "But he’s not your baby. You must feel something about this."
Cat shook her head slightly. "Relief. I’m relieved that you finally found the missing piece of your soul. I know the kids and I help, but there’s always been a hole there. Now it’s filled. Or it will be." She touched his face. "I’ve always known you needed him back. I’m just glad you’ve got him now, and wished it had been sooner."
For a moment he lost himself in that thought, imagining William at their wedding, perhaps the ring bearer, the toddler’s delighted or surprised or comical reaction to the birth of his younger brother Benji, he and Cat sending him off to kindergarten… "I’m glad you feel that way." Mulder told her, planting a gentle kiss on her cheek.
"Besides." She said, lightly tickling his ribs. "I was sort of hoping to talk you into another kid, and this means I won’t even have to get pregnant." She told him with a silly grin. "He’s going to make a great addition to our family."
A thrill of joy shot through him. He should have known if someone would welcome a little lost boy with open arms, it’d be his Cat. He basked in that happiness for a few moments longer, before his brain decided to bring up something that had been nagging at the back of his mind since Mr. Van DeKamp’s car had sped away from the driveway.
"What about what they said? About people breaking in and trying to grab William?"
Many wives would have said that the couple had been crazy, but she knew it would do no good to try to placate him. "If anything like that comes up, we’ll deal with it. They’re right, you know, you are better equipped to deal with a situation like that than ordinary people."
She didn’t want to talk any more about problems that might never come up, so she kissed him into submission. By the time she lead him to their room, it was obvious that child snatchers were the last thing on his mind.
Later that night, though, Cat had trouble sleeping. Mulder was curled up next to her, breathing softly on her neck, but her mind just wasn’t ready to turn off for the night. All she could think about is when he told her about his old life, and not just about his missing baby.
The first time she heard about the X-Files was a few days after she playfully suggested that he commit career suicide, and take up with her. When she’d made the suggestion he’d told her that he’d think about it, but the look on his face suggested there was a lot more he wanted to tell her.
And tell her he did, after inviting her over to his cramped little apartment for a pizza and a movie. He’d seemed really nervous to her, and she didn’t exactly know why, since they hadn’t been dating long enough for him to propose or anything, but it soon became evident that he was worried that she’d think he was crazy.
He’d begun with the statement every new girlfriend hates. "There are things about my past you ought to know about." But it had not been a laundry list of ex-wives, jail time, or other petty indiscretions.
Instead he told her about the X-Files, the aliens, and the syndicate.
She almost wished he’d told her that he was a drug addict with six ex wives, a half a million in gambling debt and a taste for women’s panties.
He wasn’t crazy, though, and that’s what worried her. Crazy can be medicated, the truth has to be dealt with head on. That, she instantly realized, is why he said he would have to think over her suggestion. He needed to know that she wouldn’t leave him after she learned THE TRUTH- that’s how it came out in his voice, all capital letters and significance.
Maybe if she’d been smarter, or at least not so smitten, she might have backed away from him quickly. It was the rational thing to do when your boyfriend told you he’d just spent the last decade of his life fighting a world wide conspiracy, that, oh yeah, wasn’t though with us mere mortals yet. But she didn’t have the heart to. She already loved him too much.
It surprised her sometimes how little THE TRUTH interfered with their life, and she could almost pretend that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on in the world. Except he’d told her about the cult that had kidnapped William, and he’d told her about December 22nd, 2012 too.
That date was fast approaching, and even though she didn’t consider herself sensitive the way Reyes did, she could feel something on the wind. She tried to tell herself that believing implicitly in Fox made her antsy about the date, but it took another hour before her brain would believe her and let her sleep.
Mulder was already out of bed by the time Cat woke up. She felt a little guilty, since she’d wanted to be up before the boys so they’d be easy on William.
To her surprise, all of them were in the kitchen, neatly dressed and eating breakfast. William seemed slightly tense, but his little brothers were on gold-star behavior, so it looked like things were going more smoothly than she would have thought possible without the adult supervision of two parents. She knew that Benji was big enough to sense when someone needed space, but Owen and Kyle seemed a lot more perceptive than she’d have given them credit for. Avery, on the other hand, was so engrossed in feeding himself cheerios that a bomb going off might not have drawn his attention away from the task at hand.
The only grumpy face in the kitchen was Mulder’s. And he was grumpy looking indeed. He put down the phone with a disgusted look and finally noticed that Cat was there. "Cat, can I talk to you and William in the living room please?"
It didn’t escape her notice that three pairs of eyes followed them as they left the room. As long as the watched from afar, she wasn’t going to complain.
Mulder, however, was going to. "I was on the phone with my boss just now." He said, still looking annoyed. "I had wanted to take today off, but he claims there’s no way they can get a sub to cover me. I’m sorry."
William realized that his father was apologizing to him, and it surprised him. He’d never been apologized to by an adult before, and this wasn’t even his father’s fault. "It’s ok." He answered quickly.
"It’s not really." Mulder said firmly. "You’ll be ok here with Cat today?"
"We’ll have a great day, Fox." Cat said, kissing his cheek.
"Yeah, and I’ll see you as soon as you get home." William added stoically.
"Ok…" Mulder gave William a careful look, which made the boy tense up slightly. "While I’m at work, I’ll get the paperwork we need to enroll you in school, ok? You’ll start some time after Monday."
William hadn’t thought about school yet, but he nodded. At least he had a few days before starting something new.
Once Mulder and the older boys were gone, William was a little lost. He liked Mulder’s wife, she seemed nice so far, but he didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, Cat noticed. "William, I’m going to wake up Delaney to feed her. Do you want me to bring Avery upstairs with me, or would you like to keep an eye on him?"
William looked at the toddler for a moment, trying to decide. "Will he like me?"
"I think so. Why don’t you ask him? He talks." She added with a smile. Avery never said a word during meals, so that fact may have escaped William’s notice.
William walked to the high chair and addressed the youngest of his half brothers. "Do you want to go upstairs with your mom, or play with me?"
Avery solemnly regarded him. "We watch TV?"
Cat noticed he didn’t know what to say, so mouthed "sure" to him.
"If you want to." William agreed.
"With you! I like TV." Avery told him.
It only took him a few seconds to extract the toddler from the chair, and bring him into the living room. A couple of minutes later, Avery instructed him what channel to put it on, and crawled up onto the couch next to him. He was slightly amazed by the little boy’s chatter, since the child was still in diapers. His adopted parents could have told him that he was a little chatter box at that age, but they never had.
Despite Owen’s worries the night before, William didn’t cry until that afternoon. He’d has a good morning, and had enjoyed watch TV with Avery. He even asked Cat if he could hold Delaney, and it had been nice, but he’d bored quickly of that and had handed her back to her mother. It was nothing that any of them had done that set him off later.
What had done the trick was the moving van showing up just after lunch as promised. Two large men had lumbered out of the truck and knocked on the door, which Cat opened for them. The one who seemed to be in charge apologized for not getting there sooner, but it had been quite a drive from Wyoming. William had just stared at them with hollow eyes.
When they came in with the first load of neatly packed boxes, William fled the couch where he’d been sitting, and nearly caused Avery, who’d been leaning against him to fall over. He ended up in the bathroom, breathing hard. Until he saw the boxes of his things, it hadn’t felt quite real. He was really never going to go back to his old house or school, and he’d have to make new friends and learn how to be a big brother.
After putting the toilet seat down, he perched on it, and let the tears course down his face. Giving the door watery glances, he kept expecting Cat to knock and demand to know if he was ok. But she didn’t. He was grateful for that.
A few minutes later, his tears dried up completely, and he scrubbed his face with a wash cloth and cold water. Even after he dried his face, you could tell he’d been crying, but he didn’t really care.
Cat didn’t hover when he came out. She gave him the briefest of sympathetic looks, then suggested that Mulder might be able to help him unpack when he got home from work. William nodded. The moving men were already gone, and the boxes were stacked neatly in his room.
Avery came up behind him and commented in wonder that William had a lot of stuff, which made him laugh in spite of himself. Then he let Avery show him the empty room that was going to be his to sleep in when he was "a big boy." William got the oddest flash of insight, and came away with the impression that the toddler thought having his own room was connected to being potty trained. He shrugged; that sort of flash was nothing unusual.
William sat on his bed, staring at the boxes. Even with the door closed, he could hear people come in down stairs, and a new woman’s voice. He figured it must be the mother’s helper who came in the afternoon to take care of the babies while Cat worked. Cat had told him the young woman’s name, but he’d already forgotten it.
A couple of minutes later, he heard his door open. Surprised by the lack of a knock, he whipped his head around to see who the interloper was. His gaze was met by a pair of brown eyes, and they weren’t friendly.
"Why are you still here?" A petulant voice demanded to know. "Go away."
Looking at the child’s cartoon charactered shirt, William nearly laughed at the absurdity of being ordered about by the wearer. "I’m not going away. I live here now."
"No! There are-" The boy held up one small hand and studied the fingers. "One two three four five kids. Not-" He held up the other hand, and closed all the fingers leaving just the thumb sticking up. "Six."
"Well, there are six now." William said patiently.
"Because I’m your big brother."
"Uh uh. Benji and Owen are my big brothers."
"I am too, ask your dad even." Kyle was beginning to exasperate him. He seemed ok before, why was he being bratty now?
"I’m gonna." Kyle declared, then added, "I don’t like you."
William blinked. The kid barely knew him, how could he dislike him already? "Why?"
"Because it’s not fair you’re bigger. Benji and Owen are bigger, and they’re mean to me. You’re gonna be mean to me too." Kyle pouted.
"Will too. And you’ll like them more ‘cause they’re older than me. You should go home."
William looked around the room. "I am home."
"Leave me alone."
He felt like pointing out that Kyle had come to his room to talk to him, but he shook his head instead. The boy might be well spoken, but he was still a typical unreasonable four-year-old.
When Kyle stormed off a minute later, he shrugged. Apparently not everyone was glad he was there after all. He could live with that, because he wasn’t sure if he was glad or not either.
Pulling open another box, Mulder glanced at William, who was carefully unpacking a second box. Cat had confided in him that the boy had seemed really down when the movers came, and they were both able to understand why. He wondered what he’d been like, really, as an eleven-year-old boy, but it was some times hard to think about the time before his sister was gone, and memories got dusty from lack of revisiting them.
"I was thinking… There are some shelves in the basement that aren’t being used. Nothing wrong with them, we just ended up with a few more than we needed. Do you think your collection here would look better on shelves than on the bookcase?"
"They might." William agreed, looking up with an action figure still in his hand.
"How about you help me get the shelves, and I’ll put them up? No time like the present."
William trailed after him, and to his relief seemed to have no fears about the basement. Kyle and Benji both avoided it whenever possible and he practically had to use a cattle prod to get them to enter. Kyle thought there were monsters under the stairs, and Benji refused to tell them what his objection to the basement was, although both his parents suspected it had to do with the boy thinking that there were noxious, but real, creatures down there like rats or spiders.
It wasn’t until they were putting up the last of the shelves that Mulder asked the question that had been on his mind since the afternoon before. "What did Mr. Van DeKamp mean when he said that three people had tried to grab you?"
William frown slightly. "First a man tried to take me out of a store, then a woman tried to make me go with her when I walked home from school, and one of the people who broke into our house wanted to take me away too."
"One of? More than one person broke into your house?"
"How long ago did this all start?" Mulder asked, expecting that this was the recount of a lifetime’s worth of trouble.
"Last month." William told him.
"Last month?" Mulder choked.
William tilted his head to one side. "Did something bad happen to me when I was a baby? I mean, did someone really take me once?"
William expected that Mulder would tell him no, or say he didn’t know, so when Mulder said "Yes, when you were a few months old," he felt like throwing up.
"Your mom got you back as quickly as possible, though." Mulder said to reassure him, then looked puzzled. "How did you know, though?" He was sure it wasn’t something that Scully had told the adoption agency.
"I have dreams sometimes." William replied faintly. "I thought they might be real."
Excitement griped Mulder. "Maybe if we call your birth mother you could tell her about the dreams, and she could tell you if they’re mem-"
"I don’t want to call her."
"Ok." Mulder agreed quickly, noting the panicky quality to his son’s voice. "You don’t have to call her."
"I have other dreams some times…" William confessed. "About people thinking that I’m going to lead them. And then all these people keep saying I’m ‘the one’ so I think… maybe they’re not just dreams either."
"I don’t think they are."
Fuming about how long it was taking, Scully rushed from store to store in the mall, weighed down by bags. Visiting the mall on a Friday might was a mistake. The entire place was thronged with gaggles of teenagers celebrating the end of the school week. They were getting on her last nerve.
The trip had seemed like such a good idea earlier in the day – getting a jump on holiday shopping before November, for once. But all the cheery shoppers served only to make her gloomy, and she didn’t know why.
"Oh!" She gave a startled little hop when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She’d been brooding over a display of scarves that Tara would love.
"Dana! I knew it was you. Still in DC, huh?"
She looked up at the smiling man, thinking about when she knew him. "Ethan. I’m surprised you recognized me after all these years." In truth he looked much had he twenty years earlier, just a bit gray and lined. She suspected that from a distance he’d still look like the blond-haired, gray-eyed man she thought she cared about once.
"You’re hardly changed, Dana." He smiled at her again. "But you looked so sad just then. That’s different. Is there something wrong?"
"I don’t want to burden you with my problems." She demurred.
"Please tell me." He insisted. It made her remember his old persistence. She’d always attracted persistent men.
"It’s just… my ex called me to talk about our son. He has custody…" She floundered, not knowing how to explain without really explaining.
Ethan looked away for a second, obviously uncomfortable, but he recovered quickly. "How old is your son?"
It made her feel shame that it took her two seconds to figure it out. "He’s eleven."
He nodded. "I’ve always pictured you as a mom. Not having kids is something I’ve always regretted."
"Your wife didn’t want any?" Scully asked innocently.
"I never had one of those, either."
For a second she was afraid that he was going to say she ruined him forever, and it was her fault that he’d never found someone to love him.
Instead, raising his voice over the announcement that the mall was closing in 15 minutes, he merely said it was a nice surprise running into her that way.
For a moment she imagined him walking away and out of her life again. So she impulsively touched his arm. "If you’re going to be in DC for a while, maybe we could go out to dinner some night and catch up properly."
"Oh, I’ve just moved to DC, actually. We’ll definitely have to do that."
It surprised her that his answer didn’t scare her off. Instead she exchanged phone numbers and bid him good-bye for now.
All that night, his father’s assertion that the dreams might not be dreams kept him awake as effectively as if they were corporal beings with pointed sticks. When it had been the Van DeKamps he’d been thinking of telling, he’d been in despair because he knew they wouldn’t believe him for a moment. Now he was terrified because his father believed him.
They hadn’t said anything else on the subject, but Mulder had promised that they’d talk about it soon, he just had to talk to his wife about it first. And whatever "it"was, William suspected that it was a lot more than his dreams.
He didn’t know if he wanted to get the discussion over with, or to go on not knowing. Neither of the prospects seemed like a good option.
Mulder took a deep breath when he prepared to talk to Cat about William’s dreams. "Cat, I think I need to tell him about the X-Files. Not knowing might be easier on him, but it could put him in danger. He’s not a helpless baby anymore, so he’s got a right to know." He told her after he explained what William’s dreams might mean. She’d know than the boy’s mother had seen him do things with his mind as a baby, so it didn’t surprise her too much to learn that he might still be different. Her lack of surprise made Mulder very thankful that he’d married a woman with an open mind.
"Maybe you should tell him, if you think there’s a chance that there’s any validity to this thing people keep going on about."
"I think that he shouldn’t be the only one I tell, though, Cat. I think that it’s time to tell Benji and Owen too."
"Fox, I don’t know-"
"It could affect them too, if they’re with William and someone tries anything. Unlike the little ones, they’re old enough to begin to understand, and can get help if they’re not in the dark about what’s going on. It’s safer if they all know."
"But they’re so young…" Cat sighed. "If you really think it’s important, I guess it is."
Mulder hugged her impulsively. "It’s very very important."
Kyle and Avery whined a little when they realized they weren’t being included in their father’s plans, but Cat pacified them by suggesting the three of them make cookies. Kyle shot his brothers’ a triumphant look when he realized that he and Avery were going to do something they couldn’t.
Meanwhile, Mulder had the older boys put on their hoodies and follow him out to the car. They asked a lot of questions about where they were going, but he kept telling them it was a surprise.
When they got to their destination, they all piled out of the car. Mulder got a blanket out of the trunk, and led them down a sandy footpath.
"Dad, it’s too cold for the beach, isn’t it?" Owen said, looking at the deserted water. They’d definitely never gone swimming in late October before.
Mulder spread out the blanket. "We’re not going to go swimming. I thought this would be a nice place to talk."
"Talk about what?" Benji asked as he took a seat on the blanket next to William. Owen climbed on Mulder’s lap, for once not claiming to be too big for that.
"There are some things we need to talk about, about William, and about me. I know that some of the things I’m going to tell you are really hard to understand, and if you don’t believe them right away, I don’t blame you. I know a lot of grownups who have seen these things with their own eyes, and they still don’t believe the truth."
"This sounds kind of scary." William remarked, shivering slightly as the sea breeze pulled at his sweatshirt.
"It’s ok to be scared. Some of this scares me too." Mulder confessed, making none of them feel better. "I guess I should start at the very beginning first. When I was twelve years old, my little sister was taken away from me."
"Aunt Samantha." Benji said promptly.
"Right. She was taken away by aliens."
"There are no such things as aliens." William said with a grimace, reminding Mulder of his mother.
"I wish that were true, but there are aliens. "
"Dad…" Benji protested. Part of him wanted to believe his father, but he didn’t want for his half-brother to think that he was a baby or stupid.
"I believe you, Daddy." Owen said eagerly. Benji rolled his eyes.
"When I grew up and became a man, I worked for the FBI, with William’s mother, and then with agent Doggett."
"What about Monica?" Benji asked.
"She didn’t really work with them until after I was gone."
"So you and my mother went looking for aliens?" William asked, giving Mulder another skeptical look.
"Aliens and other sorts of things that no one could explain. They called it the X-Files."
"Like X-rays?" Owen asked.
"No, like planet X!" Benji corrected.
"Something like that." Mulder told them to end the speculation.
"So you saw aliens like the ones that took your sister?" William asked with a puzzled frown.
"I saw all sorts of strange creatures, but yes, I did see some aliens."
"Do they really take people away, like in the movies?" Benji asked.
"Yes they do. And they took me."
"No way!" William exclaimed, looking like he was about to run off.
Mulder ignored that. "They took me away right before your mother found out that she was going to have you, William."
"And they kept me for months. They hurt me… and when they brought me back, everyone thought I was dead."
"They didn’t bury you, did they?" Benji asked, looking horrified by the thought.
"They did. But when one of the other people they thought was dead turned out not to be, William’s mother realized I might not be dead either, so they dug me back up again." Mulder said, glossing over how long they thought he was dead.
"Eww!" Owen exclaimed.
"But you were ok." Benji said over his brother’s disgusted noises.
"I was in the hospital for a long time, but I was ok after that." Mulder agreed. "I was all better by the time William was born."
"Then why did you leave?" William asked, nearly shouting.
"To keep you and your mom safe." Mulder said quietly. "There were men who worked with the aliens that hated me, so I thought maybe if I left for a while they’d leave you and your mom alone-"
"Stop calling her my mom. She’s not my mom." William looked furious, and Mulder couldn’t imagine why he always reacted so badly when they talked about her.
"Ok, her name is Scully, so I’ll call her that instead. Anyway, I thought if I wasn’t with William and Scully, they’d be safe. I was going to go back to them as soon as the people who’d hurt them were gone."
William’s face clouded as he remembered his dreams. "But we weren’t safe. Not at all."
"No. Other people that I didn’t even know about found out about you, and they thought that they could use you to help them. So they kidnapped you, and tried to get you to open up a space ship that they’d found."
"But he couldn’t, could he?" Owen gave the older boy a fascinated look.
"I don’t know. Something did, anyway, and when it did, all the people died. Except William."
"I was cold and alone." William whispered.
"Luckily Scully and Reyes found you right away. They were so scared for you. You were just a little baby, and people wanted things from you, maybe to do things to you…"
"Daddy, that’s not fair!" Owen protested. "If he was just a little baby like ‘laney, how could they be so mean to him?"
"Not everyone is good." Benji declared. "They were bad people."
William expected Mulder to correct Benji, but he merely nodded. "Yes, they were. These people believed that humans weren’t doing so good a job taking care of things here on Earth, so we’d all be better off having the aliens come and dominate us."
"What about people changing things on their own like they teach us in social studies?" William asked. "That’s why they want peace in the middle east instead of wars."
"That’s a good point. These people wanted to take away humans ability to work things out on their own. In most people’s minds, that sort of thing makes someone evil, no matter how good their intentions are by wanting something like that." Mulder said, keeping his thoughts about the smoking man to himself.
"But they all died, though, right Dad?" Benji asked. "So they’re not a problem any more."
Mulder looked grim. "That’s what agent Scully and everyone else thought, yes. But then my brother Jeffery convinced her that you still weren’t safe, Will, because and the aliens would know about you and want you back again. So she gave you to the Van DeKamps, thinking you’d be safer in an anonymous family."
"But you didn’t, or you wouldn’t have tried to get me back when I was little."
"I thought you were better off with Scully and I than with anyone else. We could protect you better than anyone, since we knew the dangers. So I tried to get you back, but couldn’t. I wanted to try again, but my lawyer told me it wouldn’t be fair to you, since you thought of those people as your mom and dad. And you did seem to be fine, so I decided that Scully was wrong, you were fine. But I don’t think that any more."
"Why not?" Owen piped up. He barely understood what they were talking about, but he realized they were talking about being safe, and he knew all about feeling safe.
"Because people have been approaching Will, and saying things like he’s ‘the one’ and how he’s going to lead them. So we were wrong. Not all the people died."
Benji’s face looked horror stricken. "Does that mean someone is going to try to hurt Will?"
"I hope not. But that’s why I’m talking to you boys right now. I don’t think they know yet that William is here, but they might find out. So we need to talk about what happens then."
"What does happen, then?" Owen asked, wide-eyed. "We’re just kids."
"The things that need to be done don’t need grown ups to do them. If someone you don’t know comes near Will and talks to him, I want you to scream and draw attention to yourselves."
"Scream what?" Benji asked.
"Scream ‘ Help! Someone’s trying to take my brother!’ until other grown ups pay attention to you. And I’m going to get all three of you cell phones too- "
He gave them a stern look. "That are going to be programmed to only call Cat or I…and a few other grown-ups I trust. Even if they run away, or a grown up helps you, I want one of you boys to call me immediately."
"Ok." They all agreed, looking slightly frightened.
"I’m not trying to scare you, but people need to know what to do in an emergency, like why we have a plan in case there’s ever a fire. This is just one more in-case. Telling you about this doesn’t mean I expect something bad will happen, but it could, so we need to talk about it."
"Always be prepared?" Owen asked, thinking of something his Cub Scout friends say.
"Exactly." Mulder agreed. "Are you guys ok?"
"We’re fine." Benji said, and William and Owen nodded their agreement. "We understand this is just an if thingie."
"Good. I didn’t want to upset you, but I thought you’d want to know what to do if something happened, so I decided to treat you like big boys instead of helpless little kids who can’t do anything." Mulder looked at them, and it was hard to keep from crying. They were really still so little… "Does anyone want to help me build a sand castle before we go?"
Owen happily helped Mulder construct a fortress in the sand, but William and Benji opted to take a walk instead. Or William did, and didn’t seem to mind it when Benji tagged along.
The two of them walked in silence for a while, letting the wind ruffle their hair. Eventually Benji found a tide pool and squat down to see if anything was in it. William joined him, also gently poking under rocks, trying to coax out hermit crabs.
Benji paused, the short muddy stick hanging in mid-air. "Will…can I ask you a question?"
"What?" William asked, his voice guarded.
"How come you don’t like your mom? Your real mom, I mean. You get mad whenever Dad talks about her."
"It’s all her fault." William’s voice was bitter.
Benji flashed him a confused look. "All what?"
"Everything! She’s the one who decided to give me way. If she didn’t want me, why couldn’t she give me to your dad? Our dad." He corrected himself. "Even if she didn’t want to stay with us, she could have helped him get me back before going off to do whatever it is that’s so important. At least he likes kids."
"The people who adopted you didn’t like kids?"
William shook his head. "They wanted to have a baby, but when they couldn’t they adopted me, I guess thinking that they’d love me as much as their real baby. They didn’t."
"I’m sorry." Benji said in a small voice.
"At least you never have to live with them again."
"Yeah, at least." William agreed, but still, as hard as living with the Van Dekamps had been, his heart ached a little when he thought about never seeing them again. Just a little.
"You know," Benji said as they walked back towards the now elaborate sandcastle. "I didn’t know if I’d like having a big brother. If I’ve gotta have one, I’m glad it’s you."
"Thanks." William replied with a crocked smile. Benji didn’t know it, but he’d just made his day.
"You’re going to have dinner with him?" Fowley asked with a mischievous look.
Years earlier, Scully wasn’t able to imagine a civil conversation with the other woman, never mind discuss her personal life. But things had changed.
"It’s not set in stone, but I think so." Scully admitted.
Fowley grinned at her.
"It’s just nice to see you excited about spending time with a man." Fowley told her. They both knew that ‘besides Mulder’ was the unspoken clause in that statement.
"I wouldn’t say that I’m excited-"
"You are! So what is he like? And why did you break up with him in the first place?"
"What he’s like isn’t something I’m really in a position to answer. I haven’t seen him except this once since nineteen ninty-three. People change a lot in that kind of time, as I’m sure you know-" Scully gave Fowley a pointed look, which made her turn pink. "So I’ll have to get back to you on that.
"As to why we broke up…we just sort of drifted. I was new at the FBI, and he was a cub reporter. When he got a job offer in Chicago we talked it over and realized that our relationship wasn’t a good enough reason for him to stay. There wasn’t any bitterness or anything." Scully shrugged. "There wasn’t really… anything."
"Maybe this time will be different." Fowley encouraged.
"Maybe." Scully repeated with a wistful smile.
William’s brothers were very excited when he went with them to school that first morning, but he himself was feeling confused and a little overwhelmed. Mulder had filled out all the necessary paperwork over the weekend, and he was supposed to be put into a sixth grade class without any placement tests, but he was still so nervous. What if none of the kids liked him?
The younger boys tumbled out as soon as Mulder stopped the car, and they all remembered to wish him luck before racing off to join their classmates. William got out of the car slowly, and hung back shyly, not sure what to do. Mulder ruffled his hair and told him to stick close.
He followed Mulder into office, and sat in his chair while Mulder hung up his coat. Someone poked their head into the office. "Who you talking to, Fox?"
Feeling shy, William was glad that his father’s body hid him from view. "My oldest son. Why don’t you come say hi?" Mulder invited, stepping aside.
"Oh, Benji and I are old fr-" The man stopped in mid sentence when he saw William. "You got him back?"
"Last week." Mulder told him, sounding pleased.
The stunned looking man offered William his hand to shake. "My God, Kid, your dad has been talking about wanting to bring you home for a long as I’ve known him."
William didn’t say anything in reply, but he suddenly felt pretty good. Mulder must have really wanted him if he’d told his coworkers about him.
The picture arrived two weeks after Scully’s request, not preceded by a phone call. She hadn’t expected William to call her, but in her heart of hearts, she’d hoped for him to. It did little good to tell herself not to be disappointed, because she was.
The picture was of two smiling boys. One was immediately recognizable by his size as Mulder and Cat’s oldest son- even though she’d only seen his baby picture- because he looked just like she’d always pictured Mulder looking as a small boy. The older boy was William. She couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. The happy expression on his face told her that the things Mulder had told her in e-mails were true – he really was settling in, liked his new school, usually got along well with Mulder’s other kids and seemed happy enough. For reasons she couldn’t quite name, she was glad that Mulder hadn’t put himself in the picture as well.
He was happy, he didn’t need her, and that’s what she always wanted for him since the day she gave him up. So why did seeing the evidence of it make her feel like weeping?
To Scully’s surprise, sitting in the slightly noisy Italian restaurant with Ethan felt…comfortable. Thought she had eaten with Mulder in many places of questionable taste over their years as partners, they’d rarely really "gone to dinner." No matter what the stage of their relationship, eating was just something they did while on a case, and as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, she and Ethan had gone to dinner a lot before they’d out-grown each other. It had been that sort of relationship: dinner, movies, roses, romance. Until recently she’d forgotten how much she’d liked that sort of thing. It was nice to be reminded.
Throughout the dinner they talked about the paths their careers had taken. She told him about how she’d gotten to teach at Quantico like she’d always intended, back when she joined the FBI. And she told him that it wasn’t nearly as exciting as fieldwork, but she didn’t miss the danger and injury that had accompanied it. He told her about his struggle to gain a recognizable byline, and his utter joy at finally becoming a sports columnist ten years earlier. She personally found sports dull, but she didn’t mention that, since it brought a sparkle to his eye when he talked about it. It made her think of coming home from her own classes at Quantico and finding him sleeping in front of the ball games, his notebook and pen still on his lap.
When at last the topic of work trivialities was exhausted, right in the middle of the main course, the conversation took a turn that Scully hadn’t anticipated or wanted.
"You said that your ex has custody of your son. Why’s that?" Ethan asked.
She didn’t know what to say. "He’s got a big house, a wife, five other kids…it just seemed like the best arrangement."
"To you, or to him?"
Scully shrugged helplessly.
"If he bulled you into agreeing to that-"
"Oh no. Mulder would never do anything like that." Scully surprised herself by leaping to his defense.
Ethan nodded, but still looked skeptical. "I’m just saying. If you ever decide that you’d like to try to get custody of him, I know some really good lawyers."
"I think he’s happy where he is." Scully demurred. What she didn’t say was that she highly doubted that any judge would give William to her, not after learning that she’d given him up in the first place.
After that Ethan seemed content to leave the subject alone, but all through the rest of the dinner she imagined what it would be like to at least see William. She wouldn’t dream of taking him from Mulder, but seeing him was something she liked to play with the idea of.
It was distracting to try to do math homework while a toddler danced.
"Candy, candy, candy, candy. Will get candy too?" Avery stopped dancing around the room long enough to give William a questioning look.
"Of course." William told him, reaching out to tickle him. "All kids go trick or treating."
"Me too! I’s a big boy, get to go with Daddy."
"I dunno, you look pretty little to me…"
"No! Big! Big, big, big!" Avery insisted.
"Oh, you’re right. You are a big boy, silly me." William thought being a big brother was sort of fun.
"What you be?"
"Me and Benji are going to be pirates. You know what pirates say?"
"Arrrrr!" Avery growled.
William clapped. "Arrr is right."
"I bes a puppy."
"A cute one, I’ll bet."
"No mean. Grrrr…"
Avery made him laugh, but thinking about costumes made him remember that the costume mister Van Dekamp had bought was in a box, at the bottom of his closet. Mulder had taken them costume shopping the weekend before, which is when he and Benji decided they’d like to be pirates. He’d almost forgotten about the other costume, and now that he remembered it, he was glad he wasn’t going to wear it. Who wanted to be a little green Martian anyway?
Mulder poked his head into the room. "Mom’s looking for a puppy, has anyone seen a puppy around here?"
"You don’t look much like a puppy." Mulder sounded doubtful.
"Well, you sound like a puppy, anyway. Why don’t you go see Mom so she can get you looking like a puppy too?" The words were barely out of his mouth before Avery ran past him. "We’ll be leaving in about an hour. If you need help with makeup, let me know."
Mulder had already left the room before William realized that he’d called him Dad. It felt sort of good.
"William, come here." Mulder called from his seat in front of the computer. Shrugging, William took the seat next to him.
"I want to send some pictures to your grandmother Scully. Some more actually, I’ve sent some before."
Mulder’s voice was soft. "When you were a baby, there were four other people besides your mother, me, and the agents we worked with who cared a whole lot about you. Three of them were friends of mine, and they died while you were still very little. The other person was your grandmother. Maggie loved you to death. I think it’s only right that she get to see what a big, healthy grandson she has."
"Good. It broke her heart when your mother gave you up. She came to the court hearing when I tried to get you back, and told the judge that she thought you should be with me."
"I didn’t know that." William’s voice sounded awed.
"It surprised me a little when she volunteered to, since it’d be going against her own daughter’s wishes, but she’s a good person and didn’t hate me for leaving Scully. I hope you decide you want to meet Maggie some day, and she does too."
"I… I could maybe meet her, if you like her that much."
"I do. Maybe we’ll have her come visit some time next year."
"Maybe during one of our school breaks." William agreed.
William sort of liked the idea of having a grandparent of his own. Cat’s parents had been over for dinner, and he’d liked them, but they were the other kid’s grandparents, not his. They’d been nice enough to him, but they weren’t his family. He supposed that this grandmother he’d never known about was. All of the sudden, he found himself looking forward to February vacation.
Scully wandered away from Charlie and Bill, wondering where her mother was. A voice declaring "You’ve got mail!" led her to Maggie.
Maggie quickly shut down the mail program.
Scully gave her a wry look. "God, Mom, were you downloading porn?"
She’d meant it as a joke, but Maggie’s guilty look made her wonder, in horrified fascination, if her mother really had been downloading something illicit. Looking reluctant, Maggie confessed. "I just got some pictures in my e-mail."
"No… he thought I should get the chance to see what William looked like. He’s lovely, Dana, such a handsome little boy…"
"Can I see the pictures?" Scully asked, thinking about how she’d only been sent the one.
Maggie opened some pictures, dated earlier that day, and Scully saw her son. Playing a video game with one of Mulder’s older sons. Talking to Mulder. Holding a wide-eyed baby on his lap. Sitting at the table smiling as he passed a plate to someone they couldn’t see.
Encouraged, Maggie offered more. "I have some from Halloween too. The kids are simply adorable."
The kids? Scully wondered. "Mom, how long have you been in touch with Mulder?"
Her mother looked guilty again. "I’ve never not been in touch with him, Dana."
Maggie still had the power to shock her, Scully realized. So many years had passed since she and Mulder had had a civil conversation, yet her mother had been in touch with him all that time. It confused her, but then, Maggie always had liked Mulder. Maggie must know so much more about Mulder’s new life than she did.
"That’s good, Mom."
"Do you want to see the Halloween pictures?" Maggie’s voice was hesitant.
"Maybe later." Scully left then, knowing that her mother would worry about her. But she couldn’t help it, she had to leave the room. She just had to, so she could think.
December 12th, 2012
The first reports about alien spacecraft came in around noon. Mulder and Cat had just loaded the minivan with kids and bags of non-immediate family Christmas presents when Mulder turned the radio to the new station.
"…officials are saying that it’s a rather macabre joke, but George Steinbrenner’s family doesn’t think that the fact that someone broke into the cemetery last night and switched his headstone for another is much of a laughing matter. While the original stone’s epithet praised the deceased, the new stone’s inscription says ‘ George Steinbrenner: The Man Who Ruined Baseball.’ Authorities are looking for the perpetrator, but as one officer remarked ‘ the list of possible suspects is quite long.’"
"That poor man…" Cat murmured. Wisely, Mulder kept his thoughts on the matter to himself.
The very next story was given by a terse sounding man who was explaining that several crafts had been spotted over major cities. It reminded Mulder a lot of the plots science fiction movies he’d watched all his life.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, Mulder felt vaguely grateful that they were still parked. The boys were chattering in the back, so they hadn’t heard a word the newscaster had said, but Cat had.
"Fox, it’s a joke isn’t it? Like the War of the Worlds broadcast."
"It has to be! Someone heard about that date, and they decided to play a joke by putting on a false news cast like Orsen Wells did…" He could tell that she was making a desperate attempt to convince herself that what she was saying had to be true, but the fear in her eyes said it wasn’t working.
The boys eyed her warily when her voice rose, but they soon went back to whatever it was that they’d been talking about.
"This is what I spent ten years worrying about. My father was right." Mulder said in a low, bitter, voice.
"Your father?" Cat gave him a puzzled look. He’d told her everything that the cigarette smoking man had said to him and Scully that terrible day, but he’d left out his relationship to the evil old man. Deciding it wasn’t a good time to get into that, she gave her head a little shake, as if to clear it. "But what do we do now?"
"Go home, watch the news. Make plans. Wait."
He knew that she wanted to tell him that wasn’t good enough, but she didn’t. She probably realized that he already knew.
Mulder couldn’t decide. Was the news more like scenes in Independence Day or Signs? Either way, the rest of the day had a surreal movie-like quality to it. They tried to remain as calm as possible for the kids, but the older ones sensed that there was something going on, thought they wisely didn’t ask questions and tried to keep the little ones entertained so that the adults could continue their TV side vigil.
So many pictures. Mulder half wished they were grainy, like the bulk of the ones that people had shown him during his time on the X-Files, but they weren’t. In the day of digital, the photos splashed upon the screen were rich with vivid color, full of clarity. One day he would have been thrilled with such photos, but that was before. Now he just longed for the murder, disaster, war of normal news days.
Reporters talked to people on the street, and they seem polarized. Half the people were thrilled by the idea of aliens, many of them insistent that the contact would be a good one. The rest of the people scoffed and said that pictures didn’t mean anything. You could fake photos of anything now, and it was all just computer special effects anyway.
After sitting for two hours in front of the TV, Cat broke the spell. "What do we do?"
His eyes were hollow when he looked at her. "I don’t know."
"Should we contact the people you used to work with?"
"What could they do?" Mulder asked, unable to think of anything that Doggett or Reyes could think of that he couldn’t. Surely their brains must be covered in so much ice as well.
Cat frown. It wasn’t like him to be so bleak and defeatist, at least in her experience. "If not the people on the project still, then your ex-partner."
"Scully?" He gave a short bark of laughter. "What makes you think that she’d even talk to me?"
"Because of William."
"Oh yes, she’s shown a great deal of concern about him."
"This is different."
"I don’t want you to call her!" William’s shout startled them both, and they turned to see him standing in the doorway. "You promised that you wouldn’t call her." He accused Mulder before fleeing back to where the other boys were playing.
Mulder turned to Cat. "You see? I promised."
"You can’t let a promise like that decide something this important." Cat hissed.
"I promised." Mulder repeated.
When Scully picked up the phone, she didn’t recognize the voice. "Dana Scully?"
"This is Cat Mulder."
For a second she almost dropped the phone. She’d never heard Cat’s voice before, not once in all the years that she’d been married to Mulder. But to be fair she’d only spoken to Mulder once in all that time too.
She couldn’t imagine why the woman was calling now, though, and fear made her rude. "Why are you calling me?"
"I’m sure you’ve seen the news. About the aliens."
"I think that William is in danger. Fox won’t talk to me about it, but I’m afraid that the people who tried to kidnap him are going to redouble their efforts now that ‘they are among us.’"
Scully was confused. "The people to tried to kill him died when William was a baby."
"There have been other attempts." Cat explained, shocked that this was news to Will’s mother. "That’s why he’s with us. I thought Fox told you that."
Fox. "No, he didn’t mention it."
"I know that he thinks we can take care of the problem ourselves, but I’m not so sure. Two people, a house full of kids, and only one person who even knows how to use a gun? It’s wishful thinking."
"If you want me to take William, I might be able to on a short-term basis, but-"
"Actually, I was thinking that maybe you could come here." Cat said in a rush. "At least until the crisis is passed. It’s only ten days –" Scully realized that Cat knew about The Date. "And we have a room that you could stay in…"
She surprised herself. "Okay. I’ll get the earliest flight that I can."
"Thank you. There’s just one thing that you should know… William isn’t going to be happy that you’re coming. Hopefully he’ll warm up to you." Cat added, as a balm.
"I appreciate you being candid. I’ll be there as soon as I can."
As she hung up, Scully wondered if she always knew it would be that way. Why was it that the person you made scarifies for was the least likely to understand or appreciate it?
"He can be angry at me instead of you." Cat told Mulder as she returned the phone to its cradle. He’d come into the room halfway through her conversation, and hadn’t made any move to stop her from asking Scully to come.
"Most wives wouldn’t have wanted her to come here." He said quietly.
"I’m not most wives."
"That you’re not." He agreed, resting his chin on her head.
She looked up at him. "Which do you think would be worse, telling William now, or springing it on him when she gets here?"
"Let’s not tell him." Mulder decided. "The anticipation of something unpleasant is often worse than the surprise of it."
"Is that what it is to you, too, an unpleasantness? I know you didn’t part on good terms…"
"That, my love, is an understatement. I’m not looking forward to her being here any more than William would, but I'll tell you, even at our worse, she and I got the job done. Even when we were barely speaking." His brain scrolled through the various arguments he and Scully had had over the years, from planetary misalignment to impromptu tattoos. "We’ll be able to manage things, bad blood or no."
He sounded confident when he said it, but he wasn’t so sure. They’d had ten years to forget how to work together.
Scully made four phone calls. The first was to the airline to book a flight to New Mexico as soon as possible, and to have the airline arrange for there to be a rental car waiting for her when she got there. The second was to request leave for a family emergency across the country. It was readily granted.
The third was to her mother.
"Mom, it’d Dana. I’m going to be out of town for a few days…"
"Where are you going? Does it have to do with these stupid news reports?"
"Sort of." Scully admitted. "Cat Mulder asked me to come spend a few days. They’re worried about William’s safety."
"You’re going to get to see William!" Maggie sounded thrilled.
"I don’t think it’s going to be an easy visit, Mom. From what Cat said, he doesn’t want to meet me."
"It’ll be fine, you’ll see." Maggie assured her.
"God, to have your optimism, Mom… I’ll let you know how things go." She promised, and quickly said good-bye.
The last call was the most difficult.
Much as Fowley had gleefully predicted, things between her and Ethan were different this time around. They’d been seeing a lot of each other over the past couple of months, and they were nearly back to the exciting yet comfortable relationship they’d had before boredom and indifference had set in. She didn’t think it was going to be a problem this time, because they were now mature enough to realize that comfort was as important as excitement. Which is why she really didn’t want to tell him that she was going to be going away for an indefinite amount of time.
"…But I’m sure that I’ll be home before Christmas." Her voice, however, didn’t sound very sure.
"I understand." Ethan told her.
"You do?" That surprised her, since she’d been minimalist in offering details about her need to be there.
"Sure. If I had a kid who needed me, I’d make that a priority too." His voice softened a little. "I hope that the reunion goes well."
"Thank you, Ethan. My mother doesn’t understand that it might not go perfectly. It’s nice to have someone not brush my worries aside."
The line was quiet for a moment. "Just come back to me, ok?"
After they said good-bye, her mind dwelled on that. Why would he think there was a chance that she wouldn’t? At first she thought he might be jealously worried about Mulder, but then it hit her. Though she’d offered scant detail, somehow he knew that there was more danger than she’d said. Thinking back, she realized that he always had, and that it was the only thing he had in common with Mulder at all. It made her uncomfortable to think about how they both knew that about her, so she started packing to take her mind off of it.
The next morning…
It was by merest chance that William was the one to open the door. He thought he saw something on Cat’s face, a half-formed objection, but when she didn’t say anything he turned the knob and swung the door open.
He stared at the woman standing there, a suitcase clutched in one small hand. She wasn’t a whole lot taller than him, his brain absently noted, but it was her red hair and blue eyes that really captured his attention. "No." He said, running off, leaving the door hanging open, and her standing there.
Cat rushed to the door, and gave her a sympathetic look. "Sorry about that." She spoke up over the sounds of William’s shoes hitting every stair hard. "I’m Cat."
Even though Cat had been described to her before, Scully found herself evaluating Mulder’s wife. Her replacement. Cat was a few inches taller, probably five seven to her own almost five three, and had a slim figure that belied the fact that she’d had five children. Long honey blond hair and brown eyes that reminded her of Reyes’, Scully could see what appealed to Mulder about this woman, she grudgingly admitted to herself.
"Do come in." Cat told her warmly. "I’ll show you the guest room."
It intrigued Scully that Cat was so friendly. Either she was undyingly polite all the time, or she thought of Scully as no threat whatsoever. Even if it was the latter… She walked in, looking around for Mulder.
She followed Cat into the fairly bare room, and was just putting down her suitcase when a little voice spoke up. "Mommy, this gonna be my room." It declared indignantly.
Looking down, Scully had to try hard to keep her lips from twitching into a smile. It was as if she was looking at a Mulder shrunk down to two feet tall.
Cat swooped the little fellow up into her arms. "Yes, Avery, it is going to be your room. But not yet, right?"
"So right now, Dana is going to sleep in here, and you’ll sleep in your bed in the room where you and Kyle always sleep."
"Only be here a little while?" He asked Scully.
"Yes, just a few days." She agreed.
"Ok." He nodded, then gave her a suspicious look, a look she knew very well, just on an older face. "Who are you?"
Scully was at a loss, but Cat answered his question. "This is William’s real mommy."
Avery’s eyes widened. "He don’t like you."
All Cat could do was give her an apologetic smile. From the mouths of babes, indeed.
Mulder felt stupid as he stood in front of the closed door, mostly because he knew that everyone downstairs was listening.
"Yes. Open this door this minute, William. You do NOT want me to have to open it myself."
That got William moving. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if his father simply removed the pins from the hinges, kind of like in that old pirate movie Cat liked so much. Still, it was with great reluctance that he unlocked the door.
Mulder didn’t really look angry. "We let you have a lock on the door for privacy, but it’s not going to stay on the door if you abuse it."
"I don’t want her here."
"I don’t really want her here either, but we need her help."
"You don’t want her here either?" William’s voice is surprised.
"Not really. She and I used to be good friends, but that was a long long time ago. Since then I feel in love with Cat, got married, and had a family. That makes things pretty damn awkward between Scully and I, and I’m just lucky that Cat isn’t the jealous type."
"I’m not sure I understand what you mean about jealous."
"A lot of women would figure that a man might still have feelings for their ex, and that he might go back to her."
"But you wouldn’t."
"Of course not."
Feeling more confident that he and his father share like feelings, William decided to play his hand. "Then you understand why I don’t want to have anything to do with her."
"More or less. But you are going to have to talk to her anyway."
"Because you have to."
William kicked his backpack across the room. "Why do I always HAVE to do things? I had to live with the Van DeKamps, I had to come here, I have to worry about people trying to make me do things! Now I have to talk to the last person I want to?! It’s not fair! No one else has to do these things, so why me?!"
"Because life is not fair."Mulder said evenly. "Why did I have to lose my sister when I was twelve? Why did I have to spend my whole career worrying that someone was really going to kill me, like they kept trying to? Why did I have to be taken away before you were born? Why did I have to leave you, and the woman I was then in love with, to keep you safe? Why did doing the right thing lead to missing out on the first eleven years of your life?
"Life is not, nor has it ever been, fair. The younger you learn that, the better off you’ll be."
William wasn’t sure how to respond to that. On one hand, it galled him that life wasn’t fair, but on the other, he was surprised to hear his father talk about what he’d himself had had to do just because. If even adults were slaves to necessity…
"You can make me talk to her, but you can’t make me like her, or be nice."
"I know. I just hope you’ll be mature enough to put your feelings aside enough to be polite."
With that, Mulder got up and left the room, leaving his confused son behind. After grappling with his feelings for a moment, William sighed, and slowly left the room himself.
A knock on the guest room door made Scully whip her head around. She’d heard the noisy confrontation between Mulder and William, and though she could not make out the words, the tone was perfectly clear. Which was why she was surprised to see William standing on the other side of the door.
"Dad said I have to talk to you." His voice was grumpy, and his eyes angry, but it was the word "dad" that made her flinch away mentally, as if from a blow. How had he and Mulder grown that close so quickly?
"What did you want to talk about?"
William’s hostile stare suggested that there wasn’t a thing in the world he wanted to talk to her about. Realizing that the topic of conversation would be entirely up to her, she racked her brain, trying to think of something he might not hate to talk about.
"Do you like living here, with Mulder?"
"Sure I do."
"It must be a change, all these little brothers and a little sister too. Your adopted parents didn’t have any other kids, did they?"
"Nope. They’re still trying to have a baby, though. I guess I hope they do, since they wanted one more than anything on Earth." His response set off alarm bells in Scully, but she didn’t dare to ask, for fear of setting him off. "I like having little brothers, and a baby sister too. Dad says we’re lucky to have each other, and I guess he means luckier than him ‘cause of what happened with his sister, and not knowing he had a brother ‘til they were grown ups."
She nodded. "I have a sister and two brothers, and I think I was pretty lucky too. It must be lonely for only children. Or hard to have all your parents’ attention focused on you."
William shrugged. "I wouldn’t know. The Van DeKamps didn’t really pay me much attention. They just felt a duty to look after me ‘cause they said they would."
"I’m sorry, William."
"Not half as sorry as I am." He said stiffly. She wanted to say something to make things better, but nothing occurred to her, so he wandered off. At least, she reflected in the empty room, she knew why he disliked her so much; the loving family she gave him to wasn’t.
Later that night Mulder and Scully finally got to talk about things more important than "please pass the rolls."Cat gave them some space, but her complete lack of wariness convinced Scully that she’d been right earlier; Cat didn’t think of her as a threat in the least. She wasn’t sure why, but this depressed her a little bit. It was probably a good thing that she hadn’t asked good or bad when Cat had said "Fox told me so much about you."
The first, reluctant, grudging words out of Mulder’s mouth as they sat in the living room were "Thank you."
She thought she understood. She too resented the need to drop everything to be there as well. Why couldn’t their destiny go bother someone else? She’d been content enough in DC and knowing that William was under Mulder’s watchful eye had eased her mind as of late.
"I know you don’t want me here-" He opened his mouth to offer a feeble protest, but she was quicker. "-and I wish I didn’t have to be here either. When I pictured seeing my son, it was because he wanted me around, not because his life was in danger. I owe it to him to help protect him since he never asked for any of this. We deliberately decided to have a child, even knowing that it could be put in danger because of our past. So I’m ready to take responsibility for the consequences…but that’s all. I’m here only because he needed us both, or so Cat told me."
"She was right." Mulder sighed. "I wish I could handle it alone, but I probably can’t. I’m sorry."
"Don’t apologize for being human." She chastised him, falling into old discussion patterns.
He shrugged miserably. "I can’t help but think that you’d be better off if you’d never met me. I’m happy now, God knows I’m thankful every day for Cat and the kids. I can’t believe I get to be happy even after everything that happened back then, but you…"
"I’m fine." She insisted.
He gave her a measuring look. "When I’ve talked to people over the years who know us both…they’ve made you sound so lonely."
She gave him a small smile. "For a long time I was, but now I’m not. By chance I met Ethan again, and we’re…we’re doing pretty good."
Mulder surprised her by remembering the other man. "He’s the man you were dating when you first joined the FBI, right?" She nodded. "I’m glad."
"You are? Why?"
"Just because it didn’t work out with us, doesn’t mean that I would begrudge you happiness with someone else." His hazel eyes looked sincere.
She gave him a half-surprised look, but then reconsidered before speaking; what did he have to be jealous about? Even less than she did. "Tell me about our son." She said instead.
Mulder’s face lit up. "He’s bright, and kind, and a good big brother, even though he hasn’t had much practice. He’s more grounded than I am, but less cynical, I mean skeptical, than you are. And he’s usually less moody than you’ve witnessed, although he was very out of sorts after the Van Dekamps abandoned him on the front lawn."
"They didn’t." She insisted, but he didn’t smile to tell her it was a joke.
"I wish they hadn’t. But they showed up in September and said ‘Here, you take him. We can’t deal with this any more’ then they were gone. God, they drove off so fast…" Mulder shook his head at the memory. "He was devastated. I had no idea what to do. Cat, the angel that she is, took the situation in hand and helped us both feel better about the whole thing. I don’t know what I’d do with out her."
The look of adoration on his face made her have to hide her smile. "Your wife seems like a hell of a woman, Mulder."
"Oh, she is. Not too bright, though, since she seems to think that I’m a decent guy."
"Don’t let her hear you say that." Scully warned.
"Why? She doesn’t hit nearly as hard as you do."
"I never hit you! Ok, well, not too often."
"She never shot me either." He pointed out.
"Ok, you got me there…"
December 18th, 2012
When the fallout came, it was unexpected. Things grew less tense in the Mulder household, mostly because William acted nicer towards his mother. Realizing that she hadn’t knowingly sent him off to a stark childhood, he became less cold. Luke warm perhaps. He still didn’t act thrilled that she was there, but he was no more distant to her than to any other grown stranger.
As for the problem that had called Scully there, the reports of aliens had slowed to a trickle, and the adults let themselves be lulled into thinking that perhaps things had just been blown out of proportion. Cat ribbed Mulder about his paranoia, and Scully gave small, knowing smiles, whenever she did. They’d begun to plan that Scully would leave on the twenty-third, staying only that long "just in case."Who knew that just in case was just around the corner?
Cat noticed that Mulder was looking around the living room with a speculative expression on his face. "What?"
"No Christmas tree."
"Oh gosh, you’re right. We really ought to get one." Cat suggested. "Or, maybe you should. I’m afraid Delaney and Avery are coming down with colds, so I want to keep them in today. I bet the other kids would go with you."
"You’re right." Mulder told her. Then he cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed "Who wants to come with me to get a tree?"
A flurry of footsteps gave him his reply. He frowned a little, noting that Kyle wasn’t amongst the crowd gathering coats and boots. "Where’s Kyle?"
"I think he’s in his room."
When Mulder when to look for him, heard the boy singing a Christmas carol to himself. Poking his head into the bedroom, he saw Kyle surrounded by a city made of building block. "Hey, didn’t hear me ask who wanted to go get a tree?"
"I heard, Daddy. But is it ok if I don’t go? I wanna keep playing."
"Of course you don’t have to go."
"Good." Kyle told him, then immediately began to pick up his song, which Mulder finally identified as "Away in a manger."Sort of.
Mulder was getting his own coat on when he noticed Scully hovering in the kitchen, looking out of sorts. "Scully, do you want to come too?" He asked impulsively. "Women pick better trees. Or so Cat claims."
"Oh, would you, Dana? I’d hate to see what sort of tree a pack of males on their own would pick out." Cat begged.
The Christmas tree lot smelled very strongly of pine, in the way that living trees never do. Mulder reflected for a moment that it was sad that you have to murder the trees before you can appreciate the smell, but trying to keep an eye on the three boys as they dashed back and forth amongst the trees cut the musing short.
"How about this one?" Mulder asked, pointing at the nearest tree.
"I don’t think so. How high are your ceilings? That tree has to be almost nine feet high."
"Oops. Maybe not this one."
They never bought a tree before, he and Scully. Had he not been kidnapped by aliens in August, they might have, but their relationship as more than friends had been so brief that they’d never shared an official Christmas together. He supposed that this is what it might have been like, and it wasn’t too bad. But he really missed Cat’s presence at his side as the all important tree was selected.
"I think maybe that one over-"
Mulder’s heart stopped. Owen and Benji both sounded terrified. What’s worse was that he didn’t hear William.
"I think they’re over there." Scully shouted to him, pointing at the far end of the lot.
Unmindful of the mess, Mulder crashed through the trees, knocking several over. Fortunately they merely fell to the ground, instead of onto people. Scully was one step behind him, groping at her waist for her gun. Seeing that, he wished more than anything that his own gun, a non-FBI issued handgun- wasn’t stored safely, apart from bullets, in the closet of his bedroom.
When they at last reached the source of the screaming, they had to wait a few seconds for a cloud of needles to clear before they could make heads or tails of the sight before them. Two men were holding onto William’s arms, and two other men were holding Benji and Owen. All three boys were firmly in hand, despite their frantic, if ineffectual, blows at their captors.
"Freeze! FBI! Let the boys go!" Scully shouted at them, training her gun on one of the men holding William. When none of them made a move to let them go, William began to cry silent tears.
Scully glanced at Mulder, asking if she should use force, but he could only shrug helplessly.
The man holding Owen looked at Mulder and nodded his head. "Fox Mulder. I assumed that you and the children’s mother would be here soon, thank you for not making us wait." He looked down at the struggling boy. "Except for young William, it seems as though the children favor you instead of dear Dana. A pity."
Mulder tried not to let his puzzlement show. The man obviously thought that all three of the boys were Scully’s sons, and he wasn’t sure if that was an advantage or a disadvantage. "Let my sons go." He demanded, not expecting results.
Which he didn’t get. "I don’t think I will. Actually, I’m going to take you and Dana as well, the whole happy family." This response redoubled his certainty that the men had no idea that he and Scully were not a couple. He shot her a brief look, begging her to play along, and her poker face said she would. Fortunately, the boys were too distraught to understand the nuance of the adults’ conversation.
"Ok, you’ve got us." Mulder agreed calmly. "Now what?"
"Now you’re going to take your sons and get back into your oh-so-stylish minivan and drive to your house. No tricks now, we know your address. When you get there, you’re going to pack clothes for yourselves and for the children, and you’re going to meet us in front of the house. Then you’ll come with us, quietly."
"And if we don’t?" Scully asked.
The man looked at Owen and Benji. "William is the only vital person. The rest of you are expendable if you cause problems."
Fear stabbed Mulder’s heart, and he prayed that neither of the younger boys understood the connotations of the word "expendable." "We’ll go with you."
"Very good." The man said, relaxing his grip on Owen. "But before you do, we’re going to need your cell phones." Mulder and Scully handed them over without a word. "William has one too, I believe." He added, staring at William until his captors pulled it out of his back pocket.
The men followed Mulder and Scully closely, not letting the boys go until the minivan’s door was open. They pushed the boys in once the adults had closed their doors.
"Do we do what they say?" Scully asked as Mulder started the engine.
"I don’t think we have any choice."
Without looking back, he spoke to Benji. "Lean back so your face can’t be seen, Benji, and use your cell phone to dial mom."
"What do I tell her?" He sounded frightened.
Mulder quickly explained.
"Mommy? It’s Benji. Daddy said to tell you that whatever you do, don’t come outside when we get home, and don’t let Kyle or Avery come out either. Shut off all the lights so it looks like no one’s home. He’ll explain when we get there, but we’re in big trouble."
"Was that good?" Benji asked nervously after he’d hung up on a worried Cat.
"Very good." Mulder assured him.
The other car pulled up behind them, and the grim faced men got out and stood by the vehicle.
"You have twenty minutes to pack." The apparent leader told them.
"All right." Mulder quickly agreed, herding Scully and the children into the house.
Cat was waiting for Mulder in their bedroom. He hastily explained what was going on.
Cat didn’t take the news calmly. "What do you mean they’re making you go with them? You should tell them to go to hell and call the police."
"The police would never get here in time. These men are ruthless and act quickly when they think they’re not going to get their way. Don’t think for a second I want to go. They’re threatening to kill everyone but William if we don’t…Including Benji and Owen."
Cat dragged a hand over her face, still trying to make sense of the situation. "You really have to take Benji and Owen, too? They’re just little boys, they should be with me."
Mulder shook his head. "I can’t leave them behind, they were very clear that they expect all five of us out front in-" He glanced at his watch. "-fourteen minutes. I’m just glad that they don’t know about you and the little ones. We have to be thankful that they don’t know you even exist."
"Thankful." Cat muttered bitterly. He captured her chin with one of his big hands, forcing her to look at him. "I swear to you, I’ll keep the boys safe. All five of us will be back as soon as we can."
She threw her arms around him. "I’m going to hold you to that." Her voice was fierce. "Don’t let them do anything to hurt any of you."
"I’ll do my damnest."Mulder promised. "And I know that Scully will do her best to protect the boys too. But I’m worried about the rest of you as well. I’m not sure you’ll be safe here while we’re…gone."
"So what do you expect me to do?"Frustration crept back into Cat’s voice. "Hire a body guard?"
A glint of good humor momentarily lit up in Mulder’s hazel eyes. "No, but that does give me an idea. I’ll send you to Doggett and Reyes for safe-keeping. If there’s anyone else on Earth that I think is capable of looking out for danger, it’s them."
"They’ll love that." Cat smirked. "Do you suppose either of them have room for a woman and three children to stay with them for an indefinite amount of time?"
"Probably not. But Maggie Scully would probably actually be thrilled to meet you. Maybe you can bunk down there, Doggett and Reyes too, since it’s a big house."
"Stay with my husband’s ex’s mother, with a pair of FBI bodyguards. Why is my life stranger than fiction?" Cat grumbled.
However, with a little more coaxing, Mulder was able to convince her that it was the best course of action. As soon as she agreed, he got on the phone and called his friends. All three readily agreed to help protect Cat and the little ones. When he hung up the phone he felt more than a little relief.
But just then, Kyle wandered in. "Daddy, Will, Benji and Owen are packing things. Are we going somewhere?"
They both looked at Kyle, wondering how they were going to explain.
"I’ll let Daddy tell you." Cat said, squeezing by Kyle to leave the room.
"Something bad happened today, Kyle." Mulder told him.
"What?" Kyle was instantly wide-eyed with fear.
"Do you have any idea what the word ‘hostage’ means?"
"It’s something bad?"
"Yeah. Some times people decide that the only way they can get what they want is to make people go with them. People who don’t want to go. So they keep the people for a while, until they get what they want."
"It’s no fun, but I’ve been a hostage before. I’m ok though, right?"
"Right." Kyle looked very confused. Mulder sighed and got to the point.
"Some people want me, and William, Benji and Owen, and Dana, to go with them for a little while. Hopefully only a few days."
"But what about me?"
"You, Mommy and the babies are going to go stay with friends of mine, where it’s safe."
"What about you? Are you going to be safe?"
Mulder couldn’t lie to him, not about something like that. "I hope so. I’m going to do my best to keep anything bad from happening to your brothers. That’s why we’ve got to go, so nothing bad does happen."
"I want to stay with you, Daddy." Kyle began to cry. "I don’t want you to go away!"
Mulder crouched down and looked Kyle in the eyes. "I need your help, kiddo."
"I need you to look after Avery and Delaney for me. The three of you will be with Mommy, but they need a big brother to be with them too, so they’re less scared."
Tears continued to well in Kyle’s eyes. "Why can’t Owen or Benji stay with them?" His voice was choked up.
"It’s not safe." Mulder reminded him gently. "They know about your brothers. You want your mom and the babies to be safe, right?"
"Yes." He looked indignant that Mulder thought there was a chance he didn’t.
"And I want you to be safe too. I know it’s a big responsibility, but you’re going to be the oldest while we’re gone."
"Daddy… You are coming back, aren’t you?"
"Of course we are." Mulder answered with false cheer. He was glad that Kyle was too young to see through him. "But until we do, I’m glad Mommy has you to help her."
Mulder couldn’t stand how grim and tense the four of them looked, though had he looked in a mirror, he did too. The three boys had their backpacks on, and he could almost pretend that they were filled with schoolbooks. They bags bulged with the weight of cloth, not sharp edges, so the illusion was imperfect. Scully stood a little apart from them, obviously uncomfortable with the idea of being thought of as their mother.
Uncomfortable or not, it was the role she was going to have to play. Mulder gave the boys a stern look. "Remember always to call Dana ‘Mom’. Your safety depends on it."
They nodded, but Benji and Owen looked angry. William still looked stunned and confused.
"They’re waiting for us." Scully told Mulder.
"Let’s go out then."
"Dad, can’t we say good-"
Mulder cut Owen off. "No. We’ll see everyone again soon, anyway."
Owen looked like he believed, but Mulder wasn’t so sure he believed himself. All at once he was stuck by how young and vulnerable the boys seemed, and it gave him an idea. "Owen, take off your backpack and give it to Mom, please."
His son looked around for Cat for a second, before seeming to catch on to Mulder’s idea. As soon as the bag was passed on to Scully, Mulder swung the boy up into his arms. If carrying the smallest of the children didn’t nail home their innocence, he didn’t know what would. Owen didn’t even question why he was suddenly being held, and Benji instinctively took Mulder’s free hand.
That left William to Scully. Of the three kids, William understood the best why Mulder had done it. It was self-preservation, not instinct, that made him reluctantly take Scully’s hand as the five of them walked out the door, leaving the rest of the people they loved behind.
It only took an hour or so to get to their destination, though they knew only by their watches; the van they’d been un-gently thrust into had no windows. It was a certainty that this was to prevent the adults from knowing where they were.
It worked. Even Mulder, who’d lived in the state for years, had any idea where they were. This didn’t stop him from sourly remarking, "So near my house. How convenient for you." He half expected their captures to pull out blindfolds to keep them from seeing where they went next, but it seemed that their location was considered remote enough.
"We have locations throughout the country, Mister Mulder. This just happens to be the closest." The ring leader remarked. The thought made Mulder’s skin crawl. How many of these fanatics where there, he wondered. "By the way, my name is Andrew. I am perhaps remiss for not having introduced myself earlier." Once he’d concluded his speech he looked off into the distance, as if looking for a sign to tell him what he ought to do with his prisoners.
Mulder nodded slightly, though Andrew didn’t notice; he hadn’t expected a show of manners from a ruthless fanatic. On the other hand, he also expected the men to have typical religious cultists’ names, like Ezekiel and Jebediah.
Once they were allowed to get out of the van, the boys huddled miserably in front of Mulder and Scully. They cast the adults looks for instructions, but they had none to offer, since they themselves were as clueless about how they ought to act.
After a time Andrew stopped staring into space. Either he’d gotten his sign and they’d missed it, or he’d given up on it. When he remembered they were there, they wished he hadn’t.
"Follow me. I’ll show you where you will be staying." His cold blue eyes focused on the adults. "I’m sure I do not have to explain what will happen if you make an attempt to flee."
Mulder and Scully shook their heads.
Owen held his arms out to Mulder until he picked him up. Mulder could tell that the mute request was not an extension of the play acting they’d done earlier, because the boy’s small body trembled all over. The older boys took Scully’s hands unbidden and holding on tightly. They were terrified. So were Mulder and Scully.
Trees at the arrival point obscured their view of the buildings, but as Andrew lead them down the gravel path, it came into view. Perhaps the trees were as much as to hide the compound out of shame as for privacy. The sprawling compound, made of cinder block structures, was a puissant sulfurous yellow, which gave it a decided air of menace.
That seemed appropriate.
The inside of the building Andrew lead them through was less repugnant, but only just. The walls were a sterile white, which was something of a relief considering the possible color alternatives that might have occurred to the mad decorators. They were walked through a pin-neat dining room and sparsely furnished common areas. Finally they reached a wing of the building that was merely a corridor of lined with plain wooden doors.
Andrew pushed one open, and Mulder noticed that there was no lock on it. He was half surprised that there was an actual door, given the common cultist fear that privacy lead to rebellion. Inside the room there was a full size bed and two sets of bunk beds. A doorless closet was flanked by tall bureaus. A small desk and chair completed the inventory of the room.
Mulder gave the beds a dismayed look; it was obvious that the big bed was meant for him and Scully. The look in her eyes said that she wasn’t any more pleased by the idea than he was, but they held their tongues.
Andrew was oblivious to their discomfort. "While we have barracks for single men and women, we decided that families would be more comfortable rooming together."
"How thoughtful of you." Mulder muttered. Then he spoke clearly. "Do you have other…guests?"
Andrew shook his head. "We don’t make a practice of holding people against their will."
"Except for us." William said, breaking his long silence.
"Except you." Andrew agreed, his voice completely devoid of irony.
If Cat had spent any time that morning imagining how she would be spending the afternoon and Evening, it wouldn’t have come close to being accurate. The flight had been tiring, since flying with an infant and two small boys was hard enough for two parents, and they were one short. She’d done her best to keep them quiet, but they’d still earned the unhappiness of several other passengers on the long flight.
Doggett and Reyes were there to meet them at the airport, which was a comfort. Cat didn’t know either of the FBI agents well, but she had met them, if ever so briefly, on several occasions throughout the years, so they weren’t complete strangers. Unlike Maggie Scully.
She’d long considered her husband’s association with his ex’s mother to be one of his harmless idiosyncrasies. She couldn’t picture herself keeping in touch with an ex-boyfriend’s mother, but neither of them had ever meant as much to her as Maggie did to Mulder. She knew that Mulder’s feelings for Maggie had twin roots. The older, more weathered came from their shared worry about Scully’s safely and health. The newer sprung from shared concern and grief over William.
"You’ll like Maggie." Reyes assured her as they buckled the kids into the rented car seats. "She’s very sweet."
Cat shrugged and fished through her purse for the babies’ binkies. They were trying to wean Avery from his but it was such a stressful day that she didn’t have the heart to withhold it. She’d even have let Kyle have one, if she thought it would make him feel better. Unfortunately, a simple pacifier would offer him no more peace of mind than her.
"Dana and Fox will keep the boys safe." Reyes voice was quiet, reassuring. "They’d defend them to the death."
"That’s what I’m afraid of." Cat’s voice sounded wooden, even to herself.
"I’m sure everything will be fine." Doggett said firmly as they got into the car. He’d seen Reyes’ face, and known she’d been at a complete loss.
Maggie greeted them warmly when they arrived a short while later. Being a mother and grandmother, Maggie’s first priority was getting everyone something to eat. Which was good, since they all discovered that they were starving. As a bonus, eating spared them all from having to make awkward small talk until quite a while later.
After the plates were cleared – Cat and Reyes insisted that they do it, over Maggie’s protests – Doggett took Avery to play in the living room, because the toddler was full of energy. Doggett also wanted to get away from the somber atmosphere that had settled in the kitchen.
Delaney was quite content to be cuddled by Maggie and Reyes, but Kyle was both standoffish to the other women, but clingy to Cat. She didn’t blame him in the slightest, since of her three youngest children, he was the only one old enough to have the wherewithal to sense that the adults were worried. When he seemed near tears again, Cat gathered him up in her arms, and kept him on her lap while she talked to Maggie.
"This is the hardest on him," Maggie said with a knowing nod over the baby’s head. "It was always that way with Bill jr. when his father went away, back when my kids were small."
"He’s the only one who has any idea where Fox and the older kids are." Cat agreed.
Kyle had seemed listless, yet they knew he’d been listening when he croaked. "I’m scared. I want daddy. I want my brothers."
Maggie smiled at Kyle. "Your daddy and brothers are going to be just fine. They’ll be home in just a few days, and so will you."
"Do you promise?" His voice was small, but his eyes were big.
Cat expected the older woman to equivocate, buy she didn’t. "Yes I do. I’ve known your Daddy for a long time, Kyle, and I know he’d never miss a Christmas with his family. And you know that Will’s mom, Dana, is my little girl, and she’d never miss Christmas with me or her brothers either. Since Christmas is a week a way, they won’t be gone longer than that. I’ll help you mark the days on the calendar."
He nodded tiredly, but he looked less anxious. Cat wished she could believe comforting, logical lies too.
Meanwhile in New Mexico…
Andrew left them alone in their room for a short while, suggesting that they unpack, which they did. When he returned, he was accompanied by a younger man he introduced as Steven. A calm, detached, corner of Mulder’s mind thought the lack of nicknames was interesting, but his fear was so great of the thought barely had time to register before was gone. It was gone even before Andrew wandered off.
Steven, who was as taciturn as Andrew, said nothing for length of time, making them all uncomfortable. This however, allowed Mulder the chance to study the man. He was dressed, as Andrew was, in what he privately thought of as "preppy casual." His face was round and boyish, making Mulder wonder why he was there, instead of on a sunny college campus. Eventually Steven announced that they would need to go with him. They followed silently.
There were already people in the room and they didn’t know where to sit. Steven seemed to sense their confusion and pointed out a very pew-like bench for them to sit at. They started to do so reluctantly. "Not him." Steven said, putting an arm to stop William from sitting with the rest of his family. His father shot in a ‘it safer to cooperate’ look, but seemed ready to spring to his feet if William was led out of sight. So, although pale with fear, Will followed Steven without protest.
Steven did lead him very far, just to the front row of the assembled. This made will feel a tiny bit better, but not so much that he didn’t crane his neck to see if his family was still there. A rustling from the stage caught his attention.
A man stood at a podium and opened the book glitted pages. He began to speak in a booming voice "today we shall read from chapter 12 of the book of Ephram-"
Scully hissed a protest in Mulder’s ear. "There is no book of Ephram in the Bible!"
Mulder shrugged. "He didn’t say in the Bible. They probably have their own books. Written by their own crazy prophets."
The loud man continued "… sayeth a child shall be born the at the end of one millennium and birth of another. And we shall know him by his parents, who sideth with our enemies-" Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. "-and we shall find him when the days of our salvation approach."
"Salvation?" Mulder mouthed in disbelief.
"They will soon return to relieve us of our heavy burden, that of our own custodialship. Blessed art those who would ease our lives-"
Mulder didn’t suspect that the boys understood the sermon until Benji jumped off the pew and shouted, "It’s wrong to keep people for making their own decisions! That’s what our moms and dads teach us to do since we’re little. You are bad people to want us to be their slaves!"
Mulder grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back onto the pew, but he was too late. A grim-faced man soon loomed over them. He made no introductions. "Interruptions are not allowed. That child-" he pointed a thick finger at Benji, "-will need to be removed."
Fear gripped Mulder. "Remove to where?"
"Your quarters. The rest of you may stay, or you may go with him. But young William must stay for the rest of our meeting."
He almost felt relieved, but Benji still looked frightened. Mulder was torn; he didn’t want to leave Benji or William alone in a strange place. "Would be all right if I took Benji back and Dana stayed?"
The man nodded, and Mulder expected Owen to follow them but he didn’t. Instead, he slid down the pew closer to Scully. Scully didn’t seem to mind when Mulder shrugged an apology and left with the nameless man and Benji. As they left she waved to William because he looked back to see what was going on. He gave a small smile when he noticed her.
She couldn’t ever remember exactly how what happened next happened, but she chalked it up to the insidious manner of small children and cats. All she knew is that she suddenly realized that Owen was curled up against her, and had wormed his way under one of her arms. It felt odd to be cuddling a child wasn’t a blood relative, but it wasn’t too bad.
William had been nervous during Benji’s outburst, since he didn’t know what the consequences might be. He still didn’t when Mulder calmly got up and followed the grim-faced man spoken to them, but when Scully waved to him, he decided there couldn’t be anything bad going on. His parents might not be good friends, but she genuinely seemed to like his little brothers, so he knew she’d really do her best to protect them the same way she would him.
Relaxing a little, he turned his attention back to the strange sermon. He didn’t like what he heard any more than Scully did.
"…to this child, blessith of their gifts, shall serve as our envoy. He shall be our beacon of welcome. He is the key, the light, the harbinger of humanity’s destiny…"
The man continued on for at least another half-hour. By the time William was allowed to re-joined Scully Owen was fast asleep. She stood and was about to pick him up but William beat her to it. Though his brother was half his age, he was more than half of his height, so even held against William’s shoulder the sleeping child’s legs dangled past William’s knees. Carrying Owen out, he looked so much the part of a doting big brother that she felt a deep pang of regret; he should’ve grown up a big brother. She saw that now.
After they ate they were allowed to spend the rest of the night in the quarters without being bothered by any of the cult members. This didn’t, mean that they relaxed. The kids seemed as stressed as Mulder and Scully felt, and Owen seemed near tears when he realized that he’d forgotten his teddy bear. Nothing Mulder said consoled him.
Scully pulled Mulder aside and whispered to him. "We can’t share a bed, so why don’t you take the large bed and have Owen sleep with you? It’ll probably make him feel better."
"If you don’t mind bunk beds…"
"It’ll be fine."
One crisis was averted, but another seemed to spring up immediately. She threw her stuff on the bottom of one bunk but to her dismay William ended up with the other bottom bunk, and Benji claimed the top. She wouldn’t have let an eight-year-old sleep on the top bunk if it was up to her, but he was Mulder’s son, so she had no say. She did however, offer to give up the other bottom bunk, but Benji had been aghast at the idea. Soon, everyone was sleeping. Except her.
Being awake made her feel lonely as she listened to the soft even breathing of the males in the room. Mulder still didn’t snore she noted. "Dana?" a voice out of the darkness made her realize that she’d been wrong; there was someone else still awake.
"You’re suppose to call me Mom." she chided. It made her little sad that he didn’t naturally call her mom the way he called Mulder dad. She never should’ve said was okay to call her Dana.
"Mom…" his voice sounded upset, and not about the correction. "When I was a baby and all those people died… did I really do it? Did they die because of something I did?"
"You were just a tiny baby."
"So?" he asked, making her think of cases they’d had on the X-Files involving child perpetrators.
"I honestly don’t know, William. You could move things with your mind, but something like that? I don’t know. I wouldn’t have thought so, but you were so scared… they say fear can allow people do things they normally couldn’t. Who knows if that extends to things done only with their minds."
"But maybe I did."His voice was heavy. "If you don’t know I didn’t, then maybe I did."
That made her feel helpless, almost as helpless as the night in question when she and Reyes had frantically searched for signs of life. For him. "Yes. But it equally likely that the aliens, as your father calls them, killed those people."
She could see him nod in the dark. "I hope they are afraid of me. That they think I did it. I hope they’re afraid of what I could do."
The fierceness of his voice sort of scared her- but it was assuring too; he wasn’t completely cowed by the captors.
"Even if you’d been able to do things once, your uncle gave you a shot that took away… your powers and made you normal."
Nodding in the dark, William didn’t feel all that normal, but he supposed he was.
The next morning they came for William and they wouldn’t allow either parent to go with him. Andrew told them that he would be with William entire time, but that was nothing to lift their spirits. William’s expression was more dour than that of a man walking to meet the firing squad.
He was led into a very nice office and invited to take a seat in a deep leather chair. He did so, and disliked how he sank into it. He noticed a plaque that said Emanuel Smith and assumed the man behind the desk was Emanuel. It was the man that had made the "sermon" the night before. Emanuel seemed even larger and more imposing up close, and there was something about his dark slicked-back hair that rubbed William the wrong way.
"William, you must wonder why you are here." The man stated in way of a greeting.
"Yes." William’s reply was clipped as he fought the urge to guess.
"You were sent to help us-"
"Sent?" his indignation boiled over much more quickly than he hoped. "You mean kidnapped."
Emanuel ignored that comment. "-And we have been waiting since your birth for this time to come."
"How do you know I’m the one you want?" William demanded to know. "You could be looking for someone else. A whole different boy entirely."
"You are the one." Emanuel said firmly. "The son of a barren woman and the one who rose against us… there is no doubt."
William wondered about the "barren" part, since he remembered Mulder telling him about his older sister. If she was barren, something must have happened to his mother after his sister was born; he didn’t know if he wanted to know what. "So what if I am the right kid, then? It’s not like it can speak alien, or like I am special in any way."
The look Emanuel gave him caused the finger of discomfort to run down his spine. "That’s where you are wrong, William. You are special, as your mother very well knows. You have a powerful mind."
William shrugged. "That stuff was when I was a baby. I haven’t been able to do any of that since I was a baby. My mom even says."
"Your mother, until very recently, had not seen you since you were a baby. How would she know what you did or didn’t do when you lived with those people?"
"The Van Dekamps were all about normal. They wouldn’t have kept me as long as they did if I could do any weird stuff."
"Maybe you were repressed by their lack of empathy."
"They didn’t understand me." William agreed, his voice bitter-tinged. "But I don’t think that has anything to do with my lack of special powers."
"William," Andrew urged. "Move this pencil on my desk."
Shooting Emanuel confused look, William stood and reached for it.
"No!" Andrew barked. "With your mind."
"Do it! Make the pencil move."
William felt Emanuel’s eyes bore into him. After an angry few moments staring at the pencil, he darted out his hand, grabbed the pencil and threw it at Emanuel. "There, you happy?"
To William’s disappointment, it did not provoke a reaction. Emanuel merely replaced the pencil on the desk and signaled to Andrew to lead William back to his waiting family.
Later that night
Emanuel gave Andrew a sour frown. "This is not going as well as I hoped."
Andrew looked frustrated. "I thought we were convinced that his spending most his life away from his parents would make him more prone to bend to our will."
"The plan was to take an away from his adopted family." Emanuel reminded him. "Who could have foreseen that those fools would have given him back?"
"You wouldn’t think that three months could have such an impact." Andrew grumbled.
"Maybe it didn’t. Maybe stubbornness is inherited. God knows he’s the son of one of the most stubborn men alive."
"In morning I want William brought to me." Emanuel said. "We'll see if keeping him separated from his family makes him any more malleable."
"And if it doesn't?"
"He seems quite attached to those little brothers of his... we might be able to use that toward our advantage."
Andrew frowned slightly. "They're just little children."
"They're tools. Tools are meant to be used." Emanuel declared.
Cat was surprised to find that one bedroom in Maggie's house was equipped for children. There was even a crib. She was lowering Delaney into crib when Maggie spoke up. "William has cousins. Though my son Charlie and his brood are rarely around, I often see my son Bill and his. I get Gramma babysitting duties often enough that I thought setting up the room for the kids was in my best interest." She trailed off with the soft chuckle. "At least it keeps them out of my bed at night." Kyle and Avery were already fast asleep in the twin bed.
"Fox said you used to look after William a lot when he was tiny." Cat said as they walked out of the room.
"I did. Dana worked too much even after William was born. And Fox-"
"-wasn't around." Cat finished. "I have trouble imagining that. I know things were different..." She shook her head to clear the cobwebs. "Right now is one of the only times he hasn't been here to put all of the kids to bed."
"Are you worried?" Maggie asked.
"Of course. He’s got three of our kids with him and God only knows what’s being done to them."
At the word ‘three’ Maggie gave her a sharp look. "Do you consider William one of your children?"
"Well, I…" Cat didn’t know what to say. He was Fox’s son, living in her home. Didn’t that make him hers in a way as well by extension?
"William is a child destined to have many mothers." Maggie said cryptically. "When I asked if you were worried, I didn’t mean about the kids, Cat. I meant about Fox and Dana."
"I’m sure they can protect themselves." Cat said more stoically than she felt. "They’ve trained law enforcement agents after all."
"No… I meant do you worry about them, being together in a high stress situation."
Cat blinked. "Do you mean am I worried that something might happen between them?" Maggie nodded slightly. "No. I have more faith in Fox than that."
"Good girl. I knew from the moment he first told me about you that you were a clear thinker, as young as you are."
"I’m not that young, I’m almost thirty-seven." Cat protested mildly. "But thank you."
"I wanted it to work out between Dana and him once. But it became apparent that it wasn’t going to, since the wedge they drove between them was just too big. So then I began to hope that they’d find other people to love. And he found you. It made me happy for him, but I never told Dana that I talked to him, because she hadn’t found that happiness for herself." Maggie confided. "Until Ethan came back into her life a few months ago. Now they’re both in love." The corners of Maggie’s lips twitched up into a smile.
"From the things Mulder told me about you, I never pegged you for a romantic." Cat teased.
"Oh, you’d be surprised. I always wondered if it bothered you that Fox and I kept in touch."
"No, not really. I thought it was a little odd, but it seemed to bring him comfort, so it didn’t bother me."
"Once upon a time I thought he was going to be my son-in-law, so I treated him as I would my own two boys. There was just something wistful about him that needed parenting. I’m sure you know about his sister… Even though he was a grown man when his parents died, I don’t think he got much love or affection from them after she was taken. He never demanded love, but you could hear his soul crying out for it… I think that’s why I stayed in touch with him. He needed someone to fill in for the role his parents abandoned so many years ago, and I didn’t mind it, since I liked him very much…" She drifted off. "Sorry. The mind goes strange places on you when you get as old as I am."
Cat didn’t know what to say.
"Are you still awake?" Doggett’s voice came to them from the doorway. "Monica and I were thinking of playing cards. You ladies game?"
Anything to keep their minds off of what might be happening to Mulder, Scully and the kids.
Steven was sent to wake them the next morning; apparently Andrew was too important for such a mundane task. They were all curled up, sleeping, when he entered the room. Waking quickly, Mulder felt the need to offer excuse because Steven was staring at Scully’s sleeping form. On one of the bunk beds.
"Our family's complete... at home we don't share a bed because that's only necessary for procreation." Mulder mumbled trying not to wake Scully or the kids. The younger two, anyway, since William was already awake and yawning.
Steven just nodded. Maybe the cultists had similar beliefs.
"William, come with me." Steven said abruptly, grasping the boy's arm. "And take your belongings with you."
"What's going on?" Mulder demanded to know. His louder-than-intended remark woke Scully, who instantly let go of sleep entirely. She gave Mulder a glance, and he saw that she already grasp the situation.
Steven shifted his cardigan meaningfully, briefly revealing a glock stuffed into the waist of his slacks. "Emanuel wishes to spend more time instructing William about what will happen when our... friends... arrive. He will not be returning to this room today. Or tonight."
"No..." Scully protested softly. William got to his feet when Steven gave his arm another, less gentle, tug.
"I assure you, William will be unharmed. It would completely undermine our intentions if anything happened to him."
"How reassuring." Mulder said with a grimace.
They expected William to protest, but he seemed resigned. Still, his feet dragged as he prepared to go with Steven. Mulder made a tentative move to keep them from leaving, but Scully grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Don't make things worse on him." She hissed in his ear. He grated his teeth in frustration but let Steven lead their son away.
It was an unseasonably warm day, even by New Mexico standards. Since he was wearing shorts, the cool leather felt clammy against the bare skin of William’s lower legs. His lower lip jutted out into pout as he stared at Emanuel. When it began to seem as if the man had no intention of being the one to start the conversation, William spoke up. "I've been here almost a whole day now... when are you going to tell me why you had my family kidnapped and brought here? I mean, really tell me."
Emanuel's lip curled at the word' kidnapped.' "You are the one who will bridge the gap between us and our allies. You’ll be our emissary."
"You said that, what does that mean? Like, what do you expect me to do?"
"You will be the beacon to summon them to Earth on December 22nd."
"But some aliens were already here." William pointed out. "And they left, so can't they do this summoning thing?"
Emanuel shook his head. "The ships that came were only scouts, sent to make sure their kind can survive our atmosphere."
"My dad said they'd already been here before, so wouldn't they know that already?"
"Better safe than sorry?" Emanuel shrugged. "As technology develops and environmental safeguards are put into place, the atmosphere changes. Things change quickly so they don't like to rely on data more than a year old."
"That's still doesn't explain why they can't do this summoning though."
"They don't have the power to light the beacon. It was designed with human anatomy in mind."
"Ok, so get some other human do it. I'm not interested."
"You're the only one who can do it. Do you think we wouldn’t have had someone else already here do it if it was possible?"
"So what if I don't do it? I bet they can't come then." William sort of liked the idea of being able to make this unpleasant adult squirm.
"That is true; if the beacon is not lit, they will not come. But if you don't, we'll kill your family."
William's smirk faded. "How come only I can do it?"
"You're the only person ever born with the power to do this task."
"Yeah, born with. I told you, I don't have those powers anymore. My uncle gave me a shot to make them go away when I just a baby."
"I know. We were in despair when we first learned about your uncle's actions, but we've discovered a way to remedy that situation."
Emanuel pressed a button on his desk and a minute later the doors swung open, allowing a woman with a black leather bag to enter the room.
"What's in the bag?" William asked nervously as a woman opened the bag and took out a large syringe. "Aren't you supposed to get parental consent before administering medical treatment?"
"This isn't medical." Emanuel told him. "Roll up your sleeve."
As overwhelming as the desire to flee from the needle was, William worried more that is family would suffer for it if he didn't do what was asked of him. It seemed to take forever as he rolled the sleeve of his T-shirt up to his collarbone. Or maybe he just wanted to take forever.
Before he quite knew it, the woman, a nurse maybe, was looming over him. William caught his lower lip in his teeth to keep from crying out as the sharp needle jabbed into his upper arm. He didn't want to look, but something made him. Instead of a clear liquid, like he thought most of his inoculations had been, the contents of the syringe were cloudy, rust colored. It took a lot to keep from shuddering.
Whatever it was, it seemed to burn as it coursed through his veins. Or maybe that was only his imagination. After an eternity, the woman withdrew the needle from his flesh, and began to pack the syringe away.
Once the woman left, Emanuel fixed his gaze on William. "Let's try the pencil again, shall we?"
It was on the tip of William's tongue refuse out-right, but the recent threat against his family still rang in his ears, so he reluctantly nodded.
He pasted a look that he hoped conveyed concentration onto his face and stared at the pencil. It was red, not yellow liked the ones he used in school, both schools actually. He didn't really miss his old school much, but he keenly wished he was in his new school right then. There were supposed to be a holiday party at the end of the day to kick off the beginning of winter break, and the rumor was that sixth grade was the last grade that allowed parties. He was also starting to make friends. Did the people at school wonder where he and his brothers and father were?
All of a sudden he felt the pencil.
It didn't feel exactly like when he touched the pencil with his hand, but there was a similarity there. Startled, his mind released it before he could make it move. Resisting the urge to look at Emanuel, he decided not to try to move it.
After a couple of minutes Emanuel sighed. "Perhaps it takes time. We'll try this again in a few hours."
"Can I go back to my family now?" William asked quickly.
"No. You'll see them at meals, but you'll be in your own room tonight."
"I don't want my own room."
"That is irrelevant." Emanuel told him. "I have something to show you now."
Emanuel lead him down a long corridor, which had fewer doors then the hallway in the living quarters. Eventually came to a door with a stained-glass insert. It might have been the world's only stained-glass depiction of UFO. It seemed like the sort of thing that would have given him an interesting Father's Day gift idea if he'd seen it anywhere else.
Emanuel didn't even give the glass panel a glance as he pulled the door open. Instead, the man's eyes were focused on something inside the room. Once Emanuel was out of the way, William could see what was.
Close to William's height, it dominated the center of the room. The first comparison his mind grabbed onto was that it reminded him of a lighthouse, but he decided he didn't really though it didn't bear the superficial resemblance. It was a pillar, wide enough around that he thought his hands might not meet if he hugged it. Not that he had any desire to. There was something at the top, like a glass shade, but not glass, at least not glass from this planet. It was smooth and red, but it pulsed weakly, like ripples in a puddle of oil during a rain shower. There was something terribly repellent about it.
"The beacon." He acknowledged.
"How does it work?" William asked.
"I'm not sure." Emanuel admitted.
"You don't know?! How you expect me to turn it on, if you don't even know how it works?"
"You'll know." Emanuel's voice was confident.
In the middle of a tv show that was on more for the kids’ entertainment than the adults’, Reyes turned to Cat and said, "Tell me about William."
"Tell you what about him?"
"Anything." Reyes said simply. "When he was a baby, I thought I’d see him grow up. But I haven’t. I begged Dana not to give him up like Spender wanted her to, and later when it came time for the custody hearing, I argued that she ought to support Fox. Obviously I failed on both accounts. I want to know what sort of person he’s grown into."
"You cared about him as a baby. I’ve heard stories." Cat stated.
"John and I both did. William was the sweetest baby…"
"He’s not sweet any more." Cat smiled at Reyes’ surprise. "Which isn’t to say he doesn’t have his moments of sweetness. Stubbornness and determination pour out of him, and now that I’ve met his mother too, the fact that he’s headstrong comes as no surprise. He got a genetic double helping of will.
"However, he can be kind and gentle. It’s just not his predominant nature. Not like my son Owen’s, but his life and Owen’s have been very different so far…I think in the long run William’s personality will protect him more than being sweet would. People won’t be as likely to hurt him.
"I wonder, though, if he if defenses would have been built up less had he always been with Fox. I can’t imagine why they fought so hard to keep him when it’s fairly clear that they didn’t love him half as much as his father does."
"They thought of him as a possession." Reyes said grimly. "He was their toy, and they didn’t want anyone else to have him. I’m luckier than William, my adopted parents really loved me."
Cat nodded, figuring out why this woman felt so strongly about her step-son’s adoption. "I’d like to think that most people who are adopted are luckier than him."
Reyes sighed. "What about you? If Fox had gotten custody of William, would you still have wanted to marry him?"
"Why wouldn’t I have?" Cat asked blankly.
That made Reyes smile. "Some women wouldn’t want to get involved with someone with a child."
"Monica, I enjoy being a mother so much that I have had five children. Do you really think that a baby step-son would have been off-putting?"
They giggled until Kyle looked up from the tv and demanded to know what was so funny.
William felt part of his mind reaching out towards the beacon, almost as if against his own volition. This time he didn't try to stop it. Feeling it carefully, he thought he felt the trigger. He let his thoughts brush it very lightly, not applying enough pressure to move anything. It was probably a lot like a trigger of a gun, he thought, you had to push hard.
Emanuel was right. He would know what to do.
"When that Andrew guy brought us here he told my dad that you people have compounds like this all over the country." William told Emanuel.
"Then does every one of them have one of these beacon things? ‘cause we could have moved to another state, you know."
"No. This is the one and only beacon. If you had been some place else we would have kept you at the closest compound until we could have had you transported here."
"So, is like the Area 51 mojo of this area what made you all decide this was the place to keep the beacon?" Emanuel gave him a blank look, and William sighed. "Nevermind."
As he spoke to Emanuel about the inconsequential, he continued to gently explore the beacon, and learn about its structure.
Probing the beacon tired him and his fatigue must have been apparent, because Emanuel looked at him and said, "You don't look as though you slept very well. I'll have Andrew bringing to your new room you can rest before lunch-time."
"I'll be able to see with my family though, right?" William asked anxiously. "When we eat?"
"Of course." Emanuel said with a nod. Andrew appeared suddenly, startling William, who had not even realized the man was in the room.
"Come long, William." Andrew told him, taking his things from him. William handed them over in a daze, surprised he was even holding anything.
The room that Andrew led him to was smaller, of course, it had nicer furniture. Andrew didn't even say goodbye before abruptly leaving William to his own devices.
It wasn’t hard to move things. The first thing he started with was a pencil, much like the one that Emanuel had tried to get him to move. With just a little effort, he knocked it off the desk, onto the floor. It didn’t take much more effort to get the thing to jump up onto his desk. Grinning, he looked around for something else to play with, something bigger.
The handle of the mag light his father had given him was poking out of his backpack, so he decided that it was a good choice. The heavy blue flashlight joined the pencil on the desk. Suddenly inspired, he used his hand to lay it down on its side, and took a couple of steps back. While moving the objects had been fairly easy, he found that it required a lot more concentration to get just part of an object to move. He gasped in astonishment when the light flared to life. Turning it off was easier.
He was getting really tired, so he decided that he would only play with one more object before taking a nap. His thoughts turned to the old-fashioned windup clock that sat on the dresser.
Lunch had been a fairly subdued affair since William was sent away again as soon as the plates were cleared, and, to Mulder’s surprise, both Benji and Owen fell asleep on the bunk bed mattresses in the afternoon. He thought perhaps that the stress and boredom tired them out. Left to his own devices, he sat on the other bed and brooded. At first Scully had left him to his thoughts, but eventually she came and sat in the desk chair near him.
"William’s a strong kid, Mulder. You don’t have to worry this much about him." Her quiet voice broke through his misery, and he sighed.
"At the moment, I wasn’t worrying about him or us, actually." Mulder gave her a wan smile. "I was thinking about my wife."
"She’s strong too."
Mulder shifted on the bed, turning towards her more. "I know that. I just…miss her. I know that sounds ridiculous, to be thinking about something as stupid as missing a spouse when we’re in so much danger, but I can’t help it."
"I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all. We don’t stop feeling emotion just because we’re put in dangerous situations." Scully told him. Her thoughts briefly wandered back in time, to the times she’d missed him even when she’d been in danger herself. "If you didn’t miss her, there’d probably be something wrong with you."
"I thought there was something wrong with me." He joked mildly.
"Something like shock, Mulder. Not personality-wise."
"I’m glad things didn’t work out between you and I." He blurted out, then blushed when she raised her eyebrow. "That sounds terrible, I’m sorry. I just mean…"
"That you’re happy how your life has turned out instead." She guessed.
"Exactly." Mulder agreed. "In a way I have you to thank for my family. If things hadn’t gone the way they had, I’d never have my children. They mean so much to Cat and I…" He trailed off and gave her a searching look. "What about you, Scully, are you really happy now?" All he could think of was her coming home to an empty apartment, and the thought depressed him.
"You’re not just saying that, are you? So I don’t feel guilty."
"No, I’m not just saying that. I like my life, more lately than before. Do you remember me telling you about Ethan? Like I told you, he’s come back into my life again. That makes me happy."
"Good." Mulder said. He might have said more, but just then Owen woke up and crawled up onto the bed, effectively ending the conversation. As Mulder tried to distract his son with the offer of telling him a story about their monster slaying days, he decided that Scully knew what he’d meant, so he didn’t have to say more. She knew he was happy that they were both content with their new lives.
December 20th, 2012
"I want to talk to my mother." William demanded.
"You'll talk to her dinner."
"No. Now. I want to talk to her alone."
Andrew looked bewildered by the demand, but Emanuel nodded. "Five minutes." Andrew said reluctantly, sending someone to get Scully. He allowed William and Scully to step outside, though a man with a gun watched from the window.
Trying not to let her surprise show that William had picked her to talk to, Scully asked what was wrong. She knew there had to be something wrong.
"He, um… threatened to kill you all if I don’t go along with it. Starting with Owen and Benji." William confessed breathlessly.
Scully gave him a sad look. "You can’t do it, William."
"But I think he’s serious! He’ll really kill my brothers, I’m pretty sure of it."
"Even so, you can’t do it."
"You’re just saying that because you’re not their mother!" He accused her.
"No, I’m not. Just as soon as he killed them, he would turn on Mulder and I next. I’d die too, don’t think I don’t realize that."
"Are you saying you want to die or something?"
"Of course not."
"Then how could you say to refuse, even if doing so would make you die too?"
"Because the four of our lives, and probably yours as well, are insignificant compared to the lives of six billion people under their control. Many will be killed immediately, more will wish they had been. If you give in, you doom us all."
"Why me?" He moaned.
"Life is not fair." Scully said gently, echoing Mulder’s words from nine days earlier. Had it only been a little over a week since he’d met his mother again? William wondered. It didn’t seem to be that recently. "And life throws all sorts of challenges our way."
"Not challenges like this. No one else has to make decisions like this, except maybe people who have to decide to use nukes or not." William protested.
"That’s true. But you’re a special boy."
"I wish people would stop saying that!"
" People not saying it wouldn't make it untrue." Scully pointed out.
"I know, but at least I wouldn't have to think about it as often." William sighed.
An hour later
"Why did you let the boy speak to his mother alone?" Andrew wanted to know. Most of the cultists wouldn’t dare question Emanuel’s actions, but Andrew was well loved by their leader, so it afforded him a sense of entitlement.
"Because I knew what he was going to tell her."
"Which was what?"
"That I’d threatened the lives of his family if he didn’t cooperate." Emanuel told him.
"I’m not sure how that’s a good thing…"
"If he’d wanted to speak to Mulder, I wouldn’t have allowed it. Mulder is a reckless man, and probably doesn’t think anything of putting others in danger. Scully on the other hand is a mother."
"And mothers are more concerned for their children’s welfare." Andrew deduced.
"Exactly." Emanuel agreed. "Even without having heard their conversation, there’s not a doubt in my mind that she told him to do what I want, to spare her children’s lives. It would be unnatural for a mother to think any differently."
"And will you spare their lives? Assuming that William acts as we wish."
"That is not for me to decide. If things go as desired, our allies will be making those decisions. All decisions."
"Yes, of course." Andrew replied, his mind drawn to the tantalizing idea of a world where humans were freed from making choices. "They’ll decide what is best."
December 21st, 2012
Not long after they’d talked, Scully had shared with Mulder what William had been told, and he’d been simmering since the words left her mouth the night before. After a night of consideration, he boiled over.
"This has gone on quite long enough." He declared, as he and Scully stood to one side of the room so Benji and Owen could dress without being embarrassed; though Owen was a card-carrying member of the "let’s watch dad dress" brigade, he was shy about dressing in front of other people, and Benji was modest as well. "We’re going to do something about this, tonight. Late, maybe in the wee hours when everyone is sleeping."
"Do what?" Scully asked, her voice low.
"I’m not sure. We’ll have to think about it. The one thing I’m sure of is that we can’t be here tomorrow. If William can do what they want, the entire Earth is doomed. If he can’t or he can but refuses, they’ll kill us all. What you told him was brave, but I really don’t want to die- again- and I sure as hell don’t want you or my kids to. Dying sucks, Scully. Let’s not."
"But Mulder, even if we do get away, won’t they just drag William back here?"
Mulder shook his head. "When I was at Mount Weather I did get a chance to read some of the files before Rohrer inconveniently ‘died’. Tomorrow is a special date, and it’s the only date they’ll come here. Something to do with planetary alignment, but I got the feeling it was more to do with fleet navigation than new age-y astrology stuff. If aren’t summoned tomorrow, they won’t come again this century and maybe not the next. And by the time they made another attempt, well, the kids will probably have died of old age. It might suck for our great-great grandkids, but at least we would have great-great grandkids."
"Why would they wait?" Scully looked confused.
"They’re patient. The project to bring them here has gone on for over 70 years, Scully. I don’t think their sense of time is like ours. Maybe they live longer. Maybe they’ve got more pressing concerns, who knows?
"All I know is that if we can get the kids out of here tonight and stay out of sight until the twenty-third, we’ll be able to put this all behind us."
"Don’t you think the cultists would be vengeful?"
He gave her a grim look. "I’d rather risk that then have a visit from the grays."
They were aroused from their uneasy sleep when the door burst open. Several men came into the room and roughly grabbed Mulder and Scully from their beds. Benji and Owen woke up because the commotion.
"Daddy?" Owen whimpered. The man took a step toward him.
"Don't you dare touch him!" Mulder shouted while squirming to be free of the two men who held his arms.
The men acted as though he'd never spoken, but no one went any closer to the two boys. Scully, always the more cautious of the pair, was passive in the hands of her captors but Mulder struggled. His efforts were rewarded when a man pulled out of taser and shocked him with it. Suddenly limp, Mulder was dragged out of the room, and Scully frog-marched right behind them. The men slammed the door behind them.
Pushed beyond endurance, Owen began to cry noisily alone on the bed he had been sleeping in with Mulder. Benji cautiously got out of his own bed, and he climbed up to the big bed. Wrapping his arms around his brother, he began to cry as well. Neither of them said a word; especially not everything is going to be ok.
December 22nd, 2012
Totally ignorant of the events of the night before, William was surprised to see only his brothers sitting at the table at breakfast. Neither of them looked as though they had slept at all and their eyes were haunted.
Sliding onto the bench, William asked, "Where are Mom and Dad?" For a very fleeting moment he was glad that he remembered to call Scully mom, but the worried looks on his brothers’ faces soon made him forget his gladness.
"They took them away." Owen said listlessly.
"What do you mean?" William demanded.
Benji elaborated a little bit. "We were sleeping, and people came in and they dragged them away. Dad tried to get away so they shot him with this thing."
"They shot him?!"
"Not with a gun, but I don't know electricity or something. There was flash of light and he stopped moving. But he was breathing and stuff." Benji added quickly.
"A taser, like the police have?"
"Yeah, probably." Benji said burying his spoon in the bowl of oatmeal that sat in front of him. He made no move to bring the spoon to his mouth.
"Where they now?" William wanted to know.
Neither of his brothers said a word. But Emanuel did. "I had them removed from the premises. You don't seem to be taking this matter very seriously. I decided that they were a distraction."
"Are they all right?!"
"For now. I'll have them brought back here... after you've lit the beacon."
Before William could say anything, two large men approached the table and pulled Benji and Owen out of their seats.
"Hey, what are you doing?" William protested. He was already worried about his parents, and he didn’t want his brothers taken away too. "Don’t take them away!"
"I wasn’t planning on that, William. Your brothers will be accompanying us." That said, the men began prodding the younger boys towards the room while William rushed to keep up with Emanuel’s long strides towards the room with the beacon.
Once they got there, William was lead to stand in front of the beacon. He gave it a hateful stare. Whines of protest made him turn his head, and he saw that Benji and Owen were being restrained, much in the way that they had been the day they’d tried to help him break free from their captors at the tree lot. This made William turn his hateful look on Emanuel instead; all of this was his doing, and William wished he was dead.
Brightened by the idea, he decided to see if he could move living objects, like organs, like a heart, but was disappointed that he couldn’t feel inside of people the way he could feel inside of machines. It was too bad, because he gladly would have stopped the man’s heart if he could, the consequences be damned.
The man seemed to have no idea that he’d just be sized up for murder. "Light the beacon, William." Emanuel demanded.
"I won’t." William said, imagining them all being slaves to creatures with large dark eyes. That was worse than death, his mother was right.
"Then you leave me no choice."
Emanuel gave a meaningful nod to the burley man who had imprisoned Owen within his grasp. He moved both hands very quickly to one of the boy’s thin arms, and applied pressure.
Owen's face turned white and he howled in pain. There was a sickening snap that turned William stomach. Benji screamed and tried to break free from the other man’s hold, but Owen just whimpered and moaned, cradling his arm.
Noticing Will's frozen fury, Emanuel gave the boy a grimace that was almost a smile. "Children's bones are so fragile. I don't mind continuing this demonstration about just how fragile, but I think your brothers might."
"Don't." William's voice was very soft and controled.
A look of triumph slowly spread across Emanuel's face. "Does that mean you plan to cooperate?"
"I'll try. I'm still not sure I can do what you want me to." He was glad that his parents weren’t there to hear him say it. They wouldn’t understand.
"You can do it, about that I'm certain." He said it was such an air of finality that William wondered if there were hidden cameras in his quarters. Reconsidering, he decided that the man was just that arrogant.
William let his mind reach towards the beacon. The pulsing under the not-glass grew more steady, and he had the odd feeling that it was welcoming his efforts towards feeling it out. He thought of the alarm clock. From without it looked perfect, but it hadn’t woken him that morning, Andrew had. The insides of the clock were a twisted ruin, and it would never tell time again.
Focusing not on the trigger, but on whatever it was protected by the not-glass, William pushed his will towards it. Something inside seemed to protest, and that gave him a second’s pause, since nothing like that had happened when he destroyed the clock. He dared a look at Emanuel, and saw that the man’s face still bore a joyous expression; he had no idea what William was doing.
He pushed harder, and the substance under the not-glass continued to protest. It made he wonder if it was alive, but he decided it was not, given his failure to affect Emanuel’s flesh. Eventually, the protest faded away, but he continued to exert his will on it. The not-glass began to crack, but he pulled the substance away from the surface, restraining it so it wouldn’t leak while he continued to pull the insides of the beacon apart.
The trigger was the next part to be destroyed under his ministrations, and he thoroughly ripped apart the rest of the apparatus that the beacon contained. Once he was sure that it was totally inoperable, he let his grasp on the substance go, and it hit the inside of the not-glass with great force.
William had expected the not-glass to let go with cracks, but that’s not what happened. Whatever the substance was, it was so forcefully propelled from his mind’s grasp that the not-glass exploded outwards with great velocity, virtually obliterating the covering. For a moment Emanuel’s eyes merely widened, stunned, then a shriek erupted from him, the likes of which William had never heard before. His howl continued as the substance sprayed up out of the beacon and began to fall back down to earth.
The men holding Benji and Owen let then go abruptly, diving out of the substance’s path. Thinking quickly, Benji took Owen’s uninjured arm and pulled him behind a table that had been over turned in the cowardly men’s haste. Everything the substance touched began to smolder, threatening to soon ignite.
William himself was little aware of what was going on, since he had not released the beacon from his tinkering. The pillar itself began to dissolve in a satisfying manner. He nearly smiled as it crumbled, spilling out inner workings that may have been metal, but probably weren’t.
"I think that the aliens are not going to be able to make it." He said calmly, turning to look at Emanuel. "You’ll have to reschedule."
"You fool!" Emanuel spat. "Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?"
William sobered. "Condemned my family to death, probably. But I know that the aliens won’t come and enslave the rest of the world now, so it’s worth it." He said stoically.
"Yes, kill him!" Andrew cried out, giving William a burning look. "He’s taken away the promise of Eden, he should die for it."
"Yes!" Other voices cried out. Steven’s was one, but others belonged to people whose names William never knew. Sighing, he went to his brothers and had them get to their feet. The fear in their eyes told him that they wanted him to protect himself and them, but he didn’t know if he could. There were just too many voices against them. "Kill all the boys, and their parents too!" The crowd clamored for their blood, but not advanced towards them. Surprised, William realized that they were utterly dependent on Emanuel for direction.
It was a greater shock when Emanuel spoke. "No. Forget about the boys. We haven’t the time to deal with them. The scouts will return, and we don’t want to still be here when that happens. We have to act quickly, before they take their revenge on us for what will seem to be our treachery."
William wondered what he meant by ‘still be here.’ There didn’t seem to be any place for them to run to in order to hide from aliens, vengeful or not. It was Andrew’s ascent to Emanuel’s command that clarified the situation. "To the armory, then."He said grimly.
Nodding, Emanuel opened the door at the back of the room and most of the men solemnly followed, though many gave the three boys hate filled looks as they passed. A few men hung back, looking like they wanted to run. When the others noticed that, they were grabbed and pulled, protesting fearfully, towards Emanuel’s destination, somewhere deeper in the compound.
Shrugging, William motioned for his brothers to get out of the room. The substance had continued to smolder while the bizarre act had played out, and it was beginning to send lazy flames out, beginning to eat through the wooden floor.
"Come on, there’s going to be a big fire soon." William muttered, pushing them towards the exit.
"Will, what’s an armory?" Owen whimpered, clutching his arm as they raced down the corridor.
"It’s where you keep arms. Guns."
The hallway quickly filled with smoke, telling them that the substance had grown hungrier since they’d left it. When they burst through the exit, and made it outside their chests heaved as they eagerly breathed in clean air.
The sounds of running feet made William push the boys behind him, but the men ran past him, seemingly determined to reach a particular spot on the grounds. Most of then men ran there of their own free will, but a few were being punched and kicked as they were dragged there.
To their surprise, they found that they were utterly ignored in the chaos. In fact, they were the only ones that noticed when Owen swayed on his feet and passed out. Luckily, William caught him before hit the ground.
" What's wrong with him?" Benji asked in a panic as William struggled to pick Owen up.
"His arm is broken, I think the pain made him faint." William watched the men for a moment, and looked away the second that the first gunshot rang out. It was too late, though, and his eyes managed to catch a gout of blood as it sprayed in the air. Benji jumped at the sound, but fortunately managed to miss the man shooting himself.
Not wanting to Benji to see, or to see any more himself, he pointed towards the parking lot. "Let's head towards that car." He picked a small car he hoped had automatic transmission. "Ha. Guess bad guys don't think about people doing things to them in return." Looking inside the car revealed that the keys were in the ignition.
"Yeah. I guess not." Benji agreed. "What are we going to do with a car?"
"Open the back door would you? Owen is kind of heavy, you know."
As soon as Benji open the back door, William laid the unconscious boy on the back seat. He tried to buckle him in but wasn't terribly successful. "Get in the front seat, Benji. "When Benji started to walk around to the passenger side door, William stopped him. "No. The driver seat."
Benji made no move to comply and just gave him a frightened look. "I don't understand."
"I need you to take Owen away from here and look for somebody to help him. He’s going to need to see a doctor, and pretty much any grown-up that isn't here is bound to help you."
"But I can't drive. Why don't you do it, you're older." Benji's voice was dangerously close to a whine.
"Dad. And my mom. I know where there being held, and need to let them out before the fire gets any worst."
"How do you know?"
"I just know."
Benji seemed to accept that. "But I really don't know how to drive."
"Sure you do. Don't you remember when dad took us to go-cart last month? You were great at it. Driving a car is the same sort of thing. One pedal is the gas, and the other one, nearer the driver door, is to brake. Just go real slow. If you're lucky, a cop will see you."
"How would that be lucky?!"
"It'd be lucky because a cop would definitely help you and Owen."
"Ok, what do I tell the grown-up who asks what's going on?" Benji wanted to know. "You know grownups ask all sort of questions."
William shrugged. "You tell them the truth. Crazy people who believe in aliens kidnapped you and your family. Your older brother is trying to help your parents, and they will meet you at the hospital."
"It really will be okay, you know."
Benji gave him a doubtful look, but climbed into the car and started it.
"If you stay straight on this road you are bound to run into another one eventually. Drive slow!"
Benji slid the seat as far forward as it would go, but cars are not designed to be driven by eight-year-olds, so he had to perch at the very edge of the seat to both reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel. Whoever owned the car had conveniently left a box of books on the passenger seat, so he shoved it behind him to help him keep his balance; at least it was something to lean back against.
He almost panicked when the car lurched forward as he tentatively touched the gas pedal, but then he remembered that it was supposed to do that. "Just like go-carts." He muttered to himself as he slowly piloted the car down the dirt road.
The dirt road seemed endless. At least until it ended rather abruptly, in Benji's opinion, at a paved U.S. Route. The problem was then twofold: there were too many cars whizzing by for him to be comfortable with attempting to turn onto the route, and even if he could get on safely, he didn't know which way to go.
An idea bloomed as he watched the steady stream of traffic. As carefully as he could, he pulled the car off to the side of the road; the small bumps as he did so made him cringe. Then, after checking to see if Owen was ok, or at least no worse, he got out of the car and ran to the front of it.
It didn't take much arm-waving and shouting before someone stopped. A head poked out of the car is window and Benji was relieved to see if that the woman was dressed in a T-shirt and denim shorts - she looked nothing like the cultists. "What's wrong?" She was out of her car and beside him in seconds. It took Benji a few seconds to realize that she was glancing around, looking for an adult.
"My little brother needs to go to the hospital, but I don't know where it is." Benji said, watching anxiously as the woman's struggled to pull Owen out of the car. She was small, and didn't seem any stronger than William.
"What's wrong with him? How did you get here? Where your parents?" Her questions came at rapid fire as she tried to wake Owen and failed.
"Owen's arm is broken, that made him faint. I drove us here, but not too good. I'm not sure where they are. A weird cult kidnapped half my family this week, and last night they took my dad and Dana away. I'm kind of afraid they'll look for us." He glanced around nervously.
The woman got them in her car before asking any more questions. "Why would a cult kidnap your family?"
Benji shrugged. "My dad says they’re a doomsday cult, whatever that means. They think my big brother, William, can make aliens come and take over the earth. When he couldn't do what they wanted, they broke Owen's arm on purpose."
She turned her face from the road only long enough to give him horrified look. "As soon as we get to the hospital we’ll call the police to help them, okay?"
"Ok." Benji said. Signs for the hospital came into view, telling him with relief. He and Owen were going to be ok, and he had fate that his brother would make everything else okay too.
William could feel their fear, and anger, and it called to him like a radar. At first he couldn't figure it out, since there were bound to be stronger emotions all around him, but he could only feel his parents. In the end he decided that must be blood, or relationship, that called to him; he had no connections to any of the others. He honestly didn't care if they lived or died.
Walking away from the circus the compound had become, he didn't fear that anyone would try to stop him. They no longer scared him. The only thing he feared was that the fire would reach him, for his parents before he was able to free them.
After walking about a mile he saw it. It was a small wooden shack, and there was just a padlock on it. Foot-tracks in the dusty path suggested there had been a guard, recently and probably armed, but no one was there now. William looked around cautiously, really didn't think anyone was there but his parents.
The wooden door was heavier than he thought it would be, so it took quite a lot of effort to heave it open. As soon as he did Mulder sprang up. "Dad!" He’d expected a warmer reception, but they didn’t smile inside that empty shed. William couldn’t imagine why.
The bright sunshine dazzled their eyes, but they seemed unhurt besides a dried line of blood along the side of Mulder's face. " What are you doing here?" Mulder asked dully. "Did you do what they wanted? They said we'd never see you again unless you did it."
"I pretended I was going to after they hurt Owen, but I didn't. I destroyed their damn beacon, and they all went crazy."
"What did they do to Owen? Where are your brothers?" There was a hysterical edge to Mulder's voice; Scully touched his arm to calm him.
"Owen's arm is broken, and I sent him with Benji to get help. A lady stopped and is bringing them to the hospital."
Scully gave him a puzzled look. "Did you see the woman's stop to help them?"
"Not with my eyes. I sensed it the same I found you." William tried to explain. "Emanuel gave me a shot, and I'm different. I think he reversed what my uncle did me. I don't like it, even if it did help me."
"We'll get your uncle to fix it." Scully promised.
"What did you mean by' went crazy'?" Mulder demanded to know.
"When I first destroyed the beacon, some of the people wanted to kill me, but Emanuel forbid to, saying that they didn't have time to. If they didn't act immediately those scout ships were going to come and punish them for being traitors, and it was going to the worse than dying."
"They plan to fight?" Scully asked.
Mulder and William exchanged a look. "No, to die."
William nodded, not mentioning the suicide he witnessed. "When I was getting Benji and Owen away I heard a lot of gunfire. There weren't a lot of people still around when I looked for guns for you." He pulled a lot of his backpack and handed them over. Mulder quickly wiped off the fingerprints with his shirt and threw them to the ground. "Why did you do that?"
"We don't want our prints on those guns. Not if there are people dead."
"Oh. I don't think you'll need them anyway... now."
All Mulder could think of was the video for "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam; It'd barely been on his radar when it had been popular, but it was in his mind now. All the clean clothes were splattered with blood, which made stark contrast to the light earth tones of the fabrics. The difference, however, was that unlike in the video, it was their own blood.
They were dead. Andrew, Steven, Emanuel... all of them. A fragment of prayer ran through Scully's mind "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." her hand on William shoulder tightened as she steered him past the carnage; at least there were no children.
"This is like the Temple of the Seven Stars." Mulder said softly, but Scully shook her head. Poison was far less messy, them from the defensive postures of some of the corpses, it was clear they hadn't died by their own hands.
A siren broke the silence. Two minutes later a police cruiser pulled into view, and another and another. As soon as the first came to a stop, a voice over a speaker demanded they drop their weapons and put up their arms. Mulder and Scully raised their hands knowing the drill, but William was frightened. It wasn't supposed to end like this.
Scully noticed his expression, and whispered to him. "Whoever sent them here probably got a description of you from one of your brothers. They have to make sure father and I am not two of the kidnappers." He breathed easier once an officer took their IDs and determined that they were victims, not captors.
That officer spoke to them. "Okay folks, this is was going to happen now. You look ok, but one of the officers going to bring you to the hospital where the other boys are and have you checked out. Then, once a little one has his cast, the five of your are going to give your statements about what happened here."
They could hear Benji complaining that he wanted to see them while residents in the ER gave them the once over. As soon as Mulder's cut was cleaned, they were allowed to see Benji. Wriggling impatiently, he grabbed his father by the hand and dragged him to him to Owen's room.
Owen was lying on the hospital bed, scowling; an old-fashioned cast, chalk white, was on his left arm. "Daddy, they said I got to lie here another half-hour ’fore the cast dries. Do I really gotta?"
"I'm afraid you do, kiddo. Doctors are sticklers the things like that." He noticed Scully’s smirk. "You don’t want them coming in here and yelling at you, right? But how about we call Mommy? That'll pass the time."
Even though she was eager to speak her husband, Cat let Kyle and Avery talk to him a moment - after she spoke to him long enough to know they were safe. When she got the phone back Mulder explained everything that happened in great detail, and Owen and Benji made slightly less coherent reports. Last of all, she spoke to William.
What she hadn't been prepared for, now that everyone was safe, were the tears and anguish in his voice. "I'm sorry, Cat. I'm sorry."
"Everything! It's because of me we got taken away, and you had to leave too, and its my fault that they hurt Owen since I couldn't do what they wanted. If you hate me now, and want me to go away, I understand." He concluded with sniffles.
"Hold up! I don't know what those people said to you, but you are just eleven years old. You could make grown people do anything they didn't want to, no matter if they said that's why they were doing it."
"Your dad said they wanted aliens to come so they didn't have to be responsible for themselves. Do you think that's true?"
"Doesn't blaming a kid for causing them to do bad thing sounds like a way to avoid responsibility?"
"Yeah." William admitted.
"Good. Don't you ever forget that the bad things they did to your family isn't your fault, and what they did to themselves isn't your fault either." Cat said firmly.
"Really?" His tone was half-desperate.
"Really. And from what I hear, you're quite the hero, getting your brothers to safety, finding your parents..."
Five hours later, after they had given their statements to the police, Cat's opinion was seconded by the media. The five of them were greeted by the news that Cat's flight was delayed by two hours, and had just settled in chairs to wait when the media swooped in en mass. "Could we speak to you for a few minutes?"
Mulder and Scully shrugged. It wasn't the first time that something they had been involved in attracted media attention. The boys seemed excited by the prospect, which was good, because the reporters really wanted to speak to them.
A few minutes later, cameras began to roll.
"On December 18th, five people were kidnapped while Christmas tree shopping. A father, three of his young sons, and the oldest child's mother, who is visiting the family for the holidays." The reporters solemnly intoned while he just-shot picture of the victims flashed across the screen.
"The young man selling trees called the police, but since he didn't have plate numbers or description of the vehicles, the police assumed it was a prank call and didn't investigate."
Off-camera, Mulder mouthed "it figures." Scully nodded.
"The reality was there had indeed been a kidnapping. The question now in everybody's minds is 'why?' What did cultists want with the family that was Christmas shopping? The answer to that lies in madness, connected to the carnage discovered in the desert earlier tonight."
"Earlier today, the bodies of 42 cult members were discovered in the place for the family had been held against their will. Most of the dead men committed suicide, but some appear to been murdered by other cult members."
"This cult believed that one of the three kidnapped children was going to summon aliens to Earth. Several volumes of so-called prophecy outlined a chilling plan for a young boy to be their envoy to beings from beyond the stars, and apparently they believed that boy to be eleven-year-old William Van DeKamp nee Mulder."
A picture of William, then one of Benji, flashed on the screen. "Today, William and his eight-year-old brother Benjamin acted heroically to save the their family from the same fate as the murdered cult members."
The camera panned to where the three boys were sitting together and their names scrolled across the screen.
The reporter adopted a friendly tone as the question them. "Owen, can you tell us what happened to your arm?"
Owen wrinkled his nose. "One of the bad men broke it ‘cause Will wouldn't make aliens come. Than I fainted ‘cause it hurt a lot."
The reporter nodded. "After that your brother Benji did something really brave. Benji, do you want to tell us what you did?"
Benji gave him a shy look. "Will found a car with the keys in it and put Owen the back seat, then went to look for dad and Dana. So I drove to get away and find a doctor for Owen."
"You drove! Not too many eight-year-olds can say they did that. Wasn't that scary?"
"Oh yeah, really scary. But I drove real slow and Will was right, it was like go-carts. Just more dangerous."
"You did find help, didn't you?"
"Un huh, a nice lady named Michelle stopped when I was too scared to go on to the highway. She got us to a hospital and called the police."
"And while that was happening, William found your parents."
"Dana is William's Mommy." Owen whispered loud enough to be heard on camera. "My Mommy's name is Cat."
The reporter seemed unflustered despite having his error pointed out on live TV by six-year-old. "Can you tell us about what happened after you are separated from your brothers, William? I think people would like to hear about how you save your parents."
"Sure. I don't think I save them, I just figured out where they had been taken and let them out." William demurred. "I didn't even drive or anything."
The reporter gave him an indulgent look. "You might not seem like a big deal to you, but as a huge deal to viewers."
"That's what Cat-my stepmom-said on the phone." William gave the reporter puzzled look.
"I know you boys are waiting for her and your younger siblings to arrive. I bet you're really looking forward to seeing them after so many days apart."
The three boys all eagerly agreed that this was true.
"William, Benji, Owen, like to thank you for talking to us tonight. This has been Jack's Slater, bring you an exclusive interview with these brave boys."
The cameras let them be after that, except the tape Owen and Benji rushing to greet Cat and their siblings a few minutes later. When William received a hug from Cat, the scene faded to black on television sets across the nation.
December 23rd, 2012
"Dana, you know you're welcome to stay for Christmas if you want to." Cat said.
Scully looked up from dangling a shiny ribbon for Delaney's amusement. "I appreciate the offer, but I promised my mom and Ethan that I would get a flight back to DC tonight."
"Are things serious between you and Ethan?" Cat asked, then looked embarrassed. "I know your mom is hoping so."
"I'm not sure it. But I hope so too."
"Me three." Cat smiled. "You deserve happiness too."
"Do I?" Scully asked archly.
"Of course. After everything that you and Fox have been through over the years, you’ve earned your peace. And…I think that it would give William peace of mind to know that you’re doing ok too after all of this. He feels a lot more guilt about this than he should."
"Just like his father…" Scully murmured. "If you don’t have any other plans for the day, I’d like to ask William if he’ll go shopping with me before I leave."
Cat seemed surprised by the deferential tone of the other woman’s statement. "I don’t have any plans. Even if I did want to do something with William today, he’s your son, and I wouldn’t presume to keep him from you."
"You’re more of a mother to him than I am." Scully told her.
"Don’t try to make excuses for me. I know he’s happier here with you and Mulder than he’s ever been in his whole life. I’m glad my son is finally happy."
"Surely he was happy with you as a little baby." Cat said placatingly.
Scully thought about that. Fragments of song, images of a man holding a pillow, his picture after he’d been taken at gunpoint from Byers, her relief at finding him that long ago night when she’d more than half feared he’d died too, looking into his bassinet to see him sleeping peacefully… "We had our moments."She smiled. "I’m glad that I came and was able to begin to mend the rift between us. That he doesn’t seem to hate me anymore is enough for me."
"I want you to know that even though I care about him very much, I’ll never try to replace you in his life." Cat said quietly.
"I know that. Thank you for saying so anyway, though." Scully touched the other woman’s arm. "I can’t think of anyone who would be better for him. Mulder always did have good judgment when it came to picking people to care about." She added, making both of them laughed.
An hour later Scully and William got out of her rental car, and took note of which row in the parking garage they’d pulled into. "I’m glad you decided to come with me, William."
"Yeah…the mall’s not half as exciting as the rest of the week." William teased. "But you never know, there could be danger from the Christmas shoppers."
"Some people will do anything for a bargain, huh?" Scully grinned. "Before you were born, there were these dolls called Cabbage Patch Kids, and people beat each other up in order to get them the Christmas that they’d become the big fad. Little old women hitting people with their purses, people being beaten with the boxes...it was all over the news."
"Ha! I guess shopping can be dangerous, even without kidnappers…" He gave her a mischievous look. "Dana, does it make me a bad person to hope to see that news footage some day?"
"No, it makes you your father’s son. Speaking of your father’s sons… I was hoping that you would help me pick out presents for your brothers and sister while we’re here. You know what they like."
"Yeah, I do." A look of self-satisfaction crossed his face. "Sure, it will be fun."
After being reassured that price wasn’t an issue, William’s enthusiasm for picking out presents amused Scully greatly. Before long they were both weighted down by bags of toys. An intricate set of building blocks for Kyle, the world’s softest stuffed puppy for Avery – who kept stealing Owen’s beloved bear,- A baby gym with things to push and pull for Delaney, A space ship with lurid alien figures for Owen who seemed even more enthused for them since they got home, and a race car video game for Benji.
"You’ve been a big help, William. What about you, what would you like?"
"Me? I don’t know…" He suddenly looked bashful.
"Yes you do." She retorted.
"I kind of want a journal." He finally confessed. "So I can write down what happened to me. People might not believe that it’s real, but maybe someday I’ll grow up to be a writer, and it’d make a good fantasy book."
"That sounds like a great idea."
In Pen and Quill they found what William decided was the "coolest journal ever" so they left the store with it, a set of fancy pens and an electronic dictionary Scully insisted would be useful.
Right as they neared the exit, Scully pulled out her keys and asked if he thought he could bring things to the car for her. "If the bags are not too heavy, I mean."
"I can handle it." He said manfully accepting the burden, which did seem a bit too heavy from the look on his face.
"Great. I’ll be out in just a few minutes. There’s something I just remembered that I wanted to buy."
Staggering through the parking garage, William managed to get to the car without dropping anything, and he hummed to himself as he put the bags in the trunk. He’d only just turned on the radio to look for Christmas carols when Scully returned. "Thanks, William."
"No problem." He replied, wondering if she was going to tell him what it was she forgot. She didn’t.
December 25th, 2012
Presents for six children and two adults involved quite a lot of wrapping paper. Delaney, recently mobile on all fours, was keeping Cat busy as she crawled from one snow drift-like pile of paper to another and tired to put the colorful stuff in her mouth.
Taking pity on her, William grabbed his sister on one of her crawls by him, and restrained her on his lap. It was a brief reprieve, though. Delaney had the short attention span of most seven-month-olds and was soon nearly tearful in her wordless demands to be released. Shooting Cat an apologetic look, he let her go, and she was instantly on the course towards another mound of wrapping paper.
"Santa bought me a sled! A red one!" Kyle exclaimed happily as he ripped the paper off of the long package. It made William smile, since it had been completely obvious to him what it was, even wrapped.
The mention of Santa made him think of the conversation he and Mulder had had at the end of November.
It had been to William’s dismay that his father’s insurance company had insisted he’d get a physical, but it did mean he got to spend time alone with Mulder, so he supposed that the shots weren’t too high a price to pay for that.
On the way home they’d stopped at the grocery store, and William had dropped a quarter into the kettle of a bell-ringer who’d dressed as Santa Claus. "William, what do you think of Santa?" Mulder had asked as they walked to the car.
"Santa in general."
"Santa Claus is not real but he represents the spirit of giving." William promptly replied. It had been the explanation Mrs. Van Dekamp had given him when he’d asked two Christmases before, and it made sense to him.
"Okay. I figured you probably realized he wasn’t real. But your brothers don’t."
"Well, they’re younger."
"Exactly. I want the same promise from you that my parents asked of me when my sister was young." Mulder’s eyes had a far away look just then, reminding William that talk about his aunt still pained his father. "I want you to promise that you’ll let them work it out on their own, okay? There are few things kids can do to each other that are crueler than destroying their dreams on them."
"I wouldn’t dream of telling them Santa isn’t real." William protested.
"I wouldn’t have told Samantha either, but some times things slip out if you don’t promise not to say them. A promise makes you more mindful of what you say."
"Santa brought me the scooter I wanted." Benji said, running his hand over the shiny red finish.
"And I got two movies. The Land Before Time twenty-three and Disney’s Silas Marner." Owen said, waving the cases to the cartoons with the hand of his good arm. The cast on his other arm had been artfully decorated by Cat, painted with mistletoe leaves and berries.
"What’d Santa bring you, William?" Kyle asked suddenly.
He smiled at Kyle. "A family that loves me."
Before any of his brothers could insist that that wasn’t a Santa present, two things happened. The first was that one of the local papers arrived, begging for a picture of them by the tree so they could do a "Despite everything they still had a happy holiday" type of story. After the pictures were snapped, Mulder handed William a box.
"Your mom asked me to give it to you." Mulder told him, with a twinkle in his eyes that suggested he knew exactly what was in the box.
It must have been what she’d gone back into the mall for he thought. Holding the small, flat box in his hands, William wished it was as obvious as the sled. He peeled off the dark blue and sliver paper, and found a note taped to the lid of the box. All the note said was "William, no pressure. This has no expiration date, so you can use it whenever you want to. Merry Christmas, love Mom."
Inside was a round trip plane ticket from New Mexico to Washington DC.
"Dad, can I use the phone? I want to thank her for the present."
July 3th, 2013
William gave Mulder a good-bye hug, then approached his gate. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Mulder swipe at his eyes, then wave when William caught his eye. William grinned and went on. Half the way there Mulder had talked to him about how glad the was that they’d been able to find a town the night before that had been doing their fireworks display early. It had been fun, even if getting to their desired spot on the grass had taken forever since Delaney had insisted she be allowed to attempt her newest skill- walking.
The airport was crowded, so much so that when he looked back again, he couldn’t see his father anymore. Luckily, he saw a flight attendant holding a small sign that said "William Mulder," and that gave him a bit of a start. It’d only been a couple of months since his last name had been legally changed back to Mulder, so seeing it in writing was still something of a shock.
The woman smiled when he approached. "You must be William. Or do you go by Billy or Will?"
"Will’s fine." He told her. He hated when people called him Billy or Bill.
"Well, Will, I’m going to be sitting with you during the flight. Did you parents explain that kids younger than fourteen fly with a steward or stewardess?" He nodded. Mulder and Cat explained that a flight attendant would stay with him until he was picked up at the other airport. "How old are you, Will?"
"I turned twelve in May."
"You’re going to be tall." She remarked.
"So’s my Dad." William told her with a small smile.
"Where are you flying to? If you don’t mind me asking."
He didn’t. "I’m going to spend the summer with my mom." William told her. He thought about the present in his luggage; with help from Cat with the construction, and pictures from Maggie and the Van Dekamps, who had been surprisingly willing to assist, he’d made a scrapbook for Scully. Pictures of him growing up, with the words ‘For my Mom’ written on the cover in his own inelegant scrawl. "I don’t get to see her as much as she’d like me to. We’re going to the fireworks tomorrow." He added on a whim.
"So you live with your dad, then?" He nodded again. "I bet you’ll miss him."
"Yeah. I want to spend time with my mom and grandma, but I’m gonna miss my Dad and step-mom and my little brothers and little sister."
"You’re the oldest, huh? How many kids are there in your family?"
"Six of us. All boys but the youngest."
"Wow, it must be something growing up in a big family like that."
It really is, he thought.
Author’s end notes: Perhaps you’ve wondering why I wrote this fic. I know I spent a lot of time thinking about that myself. I started to write the Beyond The Truth series less than a month after "The Truth"aired. At that point, there weren’t too many Scully-and-Mulder-get-William back stories, but boy are there now, huh? I don’t mind that, but…I like different. (Those of you who’ll read We Who Remain Carry On will see further evidence of this ::wink:: )
So late last fall, I got to thinking, what’s the other side of that coin? The other side is this. Mulder and Scully do not ride off into the sunset, retrieve their child, and settle into domestic (dis)harmony. No, they finally find the one thing that drives them apart, and keeps them apart. Why is William that wedge? The line from "The Truth"that I quoted earlier in the fic "I missed you both so much."Both. Sounded like a good foil to me J
If you're one of the people who can't see Mulder having more children after "The Truth" (which isn't an uncommon theme, you can get links to others on the Nursery Files page, just look for the notation W+S for those fics) given what he knows about the invasion, I guess you see that episode differently from me. I tended to think of his scared, broken attitude in it as a temporary condition, not how he'll spend the next ten years of his life while waiting for the invasion. He never struck me as the type to give up living because of a date, especially given his rarely flagging confidence that the truth with somehow carry the day. Your milage may vary. But then, if we all saw things in the same way, there'd be no point to fan fiction, so it's all good.
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