Title: The Great Baseball Prodigy of Caribou Cove
Author: Susanna Starz
Feedback: Yes, please! susannastarz@hotmail.com
Distribution: OK
Rating: PG-13
Categories: SRA -- Story, Romance, Angst
Keywords: William, Mulder/Scully Romance
Spoilers: Through season 9
Disclaimer: The characters of The X Files belong to Chris Carter and 1013.

Summary: William moved through a nightmarish landscape of a world on the brink of madness, feeling like a stranger to his own history.

Notes: The town of Caribou Cove is my own invention, entirely fictional, and no similarity to any real place is intended.

I'm reposting this because I realized that it had gotten a bit chopped up when I posted it earlier all in one piece (too long!) I've also changed my email address. Thanks for reading!

The locker room was crowded and noisy, and Will Mulder moved away from his celebrating teammates, opening his locker and pulling out his clothes. A news reporter was moving her way calmly through the maze of half-naked men, camera man in tow as she stopped to speak with several of that night's heroes.

Will had never been much for publicity, so he ducked his head quickly, preferring to exit with as little fanfare as possible.

This had been his last game, and he was certain that the reporter was looking for him. Instead, he hurried up the stairs and out the back gate to the stadium, hurrying across the shadowy parking lot towards his car.

There was a woman leaning on it, blonde and beautiful, dressed in a demure gray skirt suit. She smiled innocently at him as he approached, sultry and full-lipped.

"Hello," she said.

"Who are you?" he scowled, glancing around. Why hadn't stadium security noticed her?

"Security figured they were doing you a favor by letting me linger here," she said, reading his mind. She stood up straight, looking him in the eye. She was tall, almost his height, and strikingly attractive, even up close, which was more than he could say for many women.

"Have a good night," he said, stepping around her and opening the door to his car.

"Don't you want to talk to me?"

He paused and stared at her for a moment, a half-smile toying on his lips. "If I had a dollar for every woman that threw herself at me after a big game, I wouldn't have needed a baseball career to make me rich."

"Lucky for you," she said coolly. "And lucky for me that I'm not here to throw myself at you, although it's quite charming that you thought so."

"Then I give up. What are you doing here?"

She smirked at him and pulled a small notepad out of her jacket pocket. "Erin Doggett. Washington Post."

"Now everything makes sense," he sighed. "Why didn't you attempt to ambush me in the locker room like all the others?"

"Amateurs," she said with a flip of her hair. "They didn't do their homework. I know you avoid reporters like the plague."

"Forgive me if I vaccinate myself against you too, then," he said and cringed as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Talk about a cheesy line...

She smiled, obviously amused. "Can I quote that?"

"I'd rather you didn't."

"Then give me an interview."

He blinked at her. "Are you blackmailing me?"

"You're an American hero. A pitcher and slugger of your caliber hasn't been seen since Babe Ruth. I'd hate to see your legacy tarnished by having you come off like an idiot in the press."

"It's been my observation that most athletes are idiots," he said. "What makes you so sure I'm any different?"

"Keep digging that hole for yourself," she said, waving her notebook at him.

He sighed and sagged against his car door. "What do you want to know?"

"Why are you retiring?"

"I've had enough. I want to do something different."

"Most baseball players of your caliber don't retire after four years to pursue law enforcement."

"You do your homework," he said, raising his eyebrows. "I don't recall ever publicly mentioning my future plans."

"The FBI, to be exact," she licked her lips. "Like your famous father."

He frowned and crossed his arms. "What, exactly do you want to know? It sounds like you've already dug up everything on me."

"People are calling you the next Babe Ruth."

"You know, he gave me some pointers on my batting stance the other day."

She blinked at him, her tone sardonic. "Really."

He smirked, glancing around the darkened parking lot. "As a kid, it was always a dream of mine to play professional baseball. One of many dreams. Now that that particular dream has been accomplished, it's time to move on to something else."

"We should all be so talented."

He shrugged. "I've always anticipated having a career with the FBI."

"Any particular interests?"

"I'd answer that question, but I'm sure you already know."

"The X Files."

Will couldn't stop himself from snorting in amusement. "Exactly how long have you been researching me?"

"Long enough."

"I've read some of your stuff," he said abruptly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "You're a pretty accomplished writer."

"And you let me go on all this time thinking you didn't know who I was?"

"I know you by name and reputation, not by face."

"I've heard rumors," she said, all earnestness now, her sly demeanor vanishing. "About your role in certain...crucial events."

"Rumors," a ghost of a smile touched his face. "Are not to be believed."

"Are you an alien, Mr. Mulder?"

Will blanched, stepping backwards. "You ask all of your subjects that question?"

"Just you."

He shook his head slowly, eyeing her with new wariness. "No. I'm a baseball player who's making a career change. Nothing more, nothing less."

"Then set the record straight about certain events."

"Not a chance."

"Off the record then," she said, flipping the cover on her notebook closed and tucking it back into her pocket. "For personal interest."

He shook his head, mesmerized by her stare. "No."

"I won't tell..."

He let out a bark of laughter and sat down in his car. "Have a good night, Miss Doggett."

"I've done extensive research," she said, her tone cold. "I know enough about you to know that things don't add up. You don't have a history before the age of thirteen. No school records, no little league trophies, no childhood friends. It's as though you didn't exist."

The car engine started with a roar. "What exactly are you implying?"

"I've researched your parents. They obviously didn't raise you. It's as though you dropped out of the sky." She licked her lips again. "Did you?"

"I was adopted."

"No adoption records."

"This is all private information."

"You look too much like him to be an adopted son."

Irritated, Will glanced back up at her. "You want to know the truth?"


"Get in."

Smiling, she walked over to the passenger side of his small sports car, sliding into the leather seat beside him.

"Off the record," he said, his voice low.

"Of course."

"You were looking under the wrong name. I was adopted as a baby under the name Van de Kamp. I was readopted by my real parents years later."

"Ah," she smiled at him, her face illuminated by passing headlights. "The plot thickens."

"Do you believe in ghosts?" he asked her as he pulled out of the parking lot, the engine rumbling.

"Should I?"

"Oh, yes..."

William Van de Kamp couldn't say when the ghosts had appeared in his life; their arrival predated his earliest memory. For a while, when he was three, he had a distinct memory of being followed by a dark haired man who had watched him with intense interest. Whether William was with his parents or playing alone in his bedroom, the man was always standing in the shadows, staring.

He had mentioned him once to his parents, who had laughed and brushed it off. His mother had swatted his father and told him to stop letting William watch so many monster movies on TV. When he'd insisted, his mother had bent down to his level and, in a soft voice, told him that maybe he had a guardian angel.

The man, in his leather jacket, did not look like any angel William had seen pictures of. For one thing, he lacked wings and a golden halo, and the scowl on his face always seemed vaguely menacing.

Finally, after weeks of enduring the man's intense stare, William had said hello.

The man looked shocked. "You can see me?"

"Sure. Are you a ghost, mister?"

He'd stood there for a moment, regarding the boy with something like awe.

"My name's William, even though they only really call me that when they're mad, like the time I knocked over the vase in the living room. What's your name?"

"Alex," the man said after a long pause. Then he'd vanished.

For a few weeks, William had pestered his parents with chatter about Alex his guardian angel, before new interests drove the memory from his mind. As far as he knew, his parents had never given it another thought, and Alex had never again returned.

What they had given another thought, however, were the abilities he began to manifest as he got older. His parents had always wondered-as an infant he'd displayed an uncommon ability to soothe himself, rarely needing parental comfort. If something upset him, he simply made it right.

How he made it right, they couldn't-or wouldn't- understand. But when it came time for William to start kindergarten, it was immediately clear that he was years ahead in intellectual ability. Rather than advance him to a higher grade, his parents had opted to home school him, hiring a teacher from a neighboring town.

It had worried his mother, who desperately wanted her adopted son to have a normal childhood. She led a personal crusade against the school system to allow William to participate in extracurricular activities with other children his age, allowing him to pick what he wanted to do from a colorful school brochure. He had decided on baseball, basketball, chess and football, although his mother put her foot down about football and told him that she hadn't gone through all the trouble of adopting him so he could break his neck in a field somewhere.

So every day after he was tutored, his mother would buckle him up in a car seat and drive him into town, where she'd turn him loose onto the tee-ball field with a herd of other small children his age.

It was a week into this very first baseball season that the five year old William developed what his father called a "natural sports aptitude." Upon discovering that his coach became happy when one of the clumsy little children in his care either hit a good shot off the tee, or caught a ball while it was still in the air, William began making it happen. When he got up to bat, he'd swing his bat-no less awkwardly than the other children-striking the ball lightly and popping it into the air. Then he'd touch the ball with his mind and push it, like a soft puff of wind, far into the outfield.

William liked to do that, because it made everyone cheer.

"Damned if that kid of yours isn't a future pro," his coach had yelled to his father once, slapping him heartily on the back.

It was the same with basketball. William, no more fleet of foot or graceful than the tangle of other children, was able to throw a frighteningly accurate shot. Sometimes, his opponents tripped and fell down before they were able to block him. To those who observed him, he seemed nothing short of an athletic prodigy blessed with an unusual streak of luck.

To William, these things seemed natural. He would have been surprised to learn that other children did not possess similar abilities.

And when more ghosts appeared on his sixth birthday, he was not frightened.

He'd awakened, full of excitement about birthday cake and presents, to find three men standing around his bed, peering down at him with interest.

"Look at the little guy," one of them said in a breathless whisper. "Looks just like him, doesn't it?"

"Minus the nose."

"Lucky bastard."

"I don't see much of her in him," the first man said. "Except for the nose," the second man said as William opened his eyes and stared upon them for the first time.

"Ah," the three of them said at once.

"Right there."

"Those eyes!"

"More angels?" William asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

The three men exchanged startled glances. The one nearest to him, a kind looking man wearing a dapper suit, leaned down towards him. "Can you see us?"

"You guys don't look like angels," William said, sitting up straighter. "But then, neither did my other angel, even though I can't really remember him. He looked kinda scary."

"Angels?" another man, this one short and squat, said with a laugh.

"We're not angels," said a tall man with scraggly yellow hair. "We're ghosts."

William eyed them suspiciously. "You're not wearing sheets."


"My daddy told me that ghosts walk around in white sheets."

"Only the ones with identity issues," the yellow-haired man said.

William stared at them blankly. Then he smiled. "It's my birthday."

"Great idea, we scare the kid to death on his birthday," the man in the suit said with a groan.

"Does he look scared to you?"

"How come he can see us?"

"Maybe he's like that kid from that Bruce Willis movie."

"He's not nearly as creepy."

"My name's William," he said.




"Funny names for angels."

"We're not angels."

"We're ghosts."

William frowned, scrunching up his face at them. "I liked having a guardian angel, because angels are nice. But ghosts are mean. I was watching this movie last night where these ghosts-"

"We're not mean ghosts," Byers told him reassuringly.

"We only came around because we were curious about you," Langly added.

"We've done just about everything ghosts can do, and we got bored," Frohike nodded.

"For a while, it was great!" Langly said, brightening. "All the government secrets we finally got to see." Then he frowned. "Of course, we can't write about them now. Or let anyone else know what we've discovered."

"Floating through walls in military bases," Byers nodded.

"Stopping by the ladies' locker room," Frohike sounded wistful.

Byers shot him a warning look. "Then we tried haunting Mulder and Scully, but that wasn't much fun."

"No sense haunting someone when they're not frightened of you," Frohike sighed.

"Besides, sometimes you'd float through the walls and get an eyeful." Langly shuddered. "And no one wanted to see that."

"Speak for yourself," Frohike snapped.

"Not in front of the kid!" Byers folded his arms and stared sternly at them.

"Who are they?" William was baffled.

"Who are they? Kid, they're your par-" Langly was cut off by a sharp elbow to the stomach from Byers. He narrowed his eyes. "That could have hurt me."

"Good thing you're dead, then."

"In any case," Langly scowled. "It's no fun haunting your friends after you've died. It's just depressing."

"Totally depressing," Frohike agreed.

"So you've seen other ghosts?" Byers asked him, leaning close again.

"Just one, I think." William struggled to remember. "He said his name was Alex."

"Rat bastard!" Frohike snapped.

"Language!" Byers corrected.

"How come I'm the only one that can see you?" William asked them.

"Good question," Byers said softly.

"If I wasn't a disembodied spirit, I'd run some tests on you," Langly offered.

William climbed out of bed. "My teacher's gonna be here in a little while. Then after I take my math test my mommy and daddy are gonna take me out for pizza and ice cream." He stared at them somewhat shyly. "You guys can come if you want."

"Pizza..." Langly sighed.

"Too depressing," Frohike shook his head.

The three strange ghosts, who had eventually told William to refer to them as his dead godfathers, hung around for the next six years of his life. Often, while taking a test, William could look up and see Frohike helpfully offering to purloin the answers for him while looking longingly down the tutor's blouse. Langly talked him through fixing the problems that periodically popped up on the family's computer.

Byers had assumed a strangely protective role, stepping up to offer William fatherly guidance when his own father was away at work. It was Byers that William talked to about the questions and fears he had about being adopted, a truth his parents had told him when they thought he was old enough to understand. Byers swore to him that his real parents had loved him very much, although he was always somewhat evasive on the subject.

His three ghosts also refused to speak with him about the nature of his strange abilities. When he had inquired, rather eagerly of Byers, whether his parents could see ghosts too, Byers had responded stonily, "Your parents were very intelligent people."

They discouraged William from asking too much about his heritage. They seemed insistent that he be content with his life the way it was, content in the knowledge that he had two adopted parents who cherished him.

And for six more years, William was content.

The beginning of his unraveling happened unexpectedly on a warm June day, when William was twelve years old. Fresh out of school for summer break, Will found his hazy afternoons filled with his favorite past time: baseball.

"Strike!" the umpire yelped. The batter, his chubby face shadowed by his helmet, scowled at the call.

William, standing on the mound, cracked a smile. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his dirt-streaked face. He had been pitching an exceptional game, only relying on his gift to pull him out of one tight spot when he'd had bases loaded and the other team's star slugger up at bat.

His team was winning six to zero.

He could see his mother sitting in the stands, munching happily on a hot dog and chatting with the other parents. She had always been social, and he'd always felt somewhat guilty that his home schooling had kept her from contact with a lot of other parents. She seemed like the type of mother who would have really enjoyed chaperoning a school trip or two. His father was working, although he had promised to take them out for pizza that night when he came home.

The three ghosts were lined up behind the backstop, cheering. William was always amused to see his teammates standing behind the ghosts, looking out, never realizing what stood inches away from their faces.

As he wound up and delivered another pitch, he realized that something was wrong. Both Frohike and Langly were cheering exuberantly, but Byers looked nervous. His eyes were fixed on a spot past William, out in left field.

Unnable to turn around mid-pitch, William did the only thing he could think to do in order to get a look at the outfield. He delivered a fastball dead center over the plate, exactly where he knew the chubby batter liked it. The boy swung, hard, and knocked the ball deep into left field.

William turned to watch, feigning dismay, and saw a figure in a dark suit walking slowly across the grass. He turned towards the umpire, certain he would throw the offender out, but the other man did not seem to notice.

The boy in left field, running for the baseball, ran through the intruding man.

William sighed. Another ghost. This explained why the others weren't responding to the intrusion. As he watched, the ghost reached into his pocket and drew out a packet of cigarettes, lighting one. He puffed ghostly vapors as he strolled across the field.

"Will-hey Will!" his coach's voice broke his concentration. He turned away from the ghost on the field. "Don't worry about that pitch, you'll get 'em on the next one-you okay?" He had seen the stricken look on Will's face.

"Fine," Will grunted, winding up and delivering another pitch. It scorched over the plate before the batter even had a chance to get a good look.

"Strike!" the umpire bellowed.

"There you go, Will!" His coach yelled, his voice tinged with relief.

William felt anger bubbling up. He'd been pitching just fine before the stupid ghost had showed up and made him sacrifice a hit into left field. Normal kids weren't bothered by such things, hell the kid in left field had run right *through*the ghost for god's sake!

He flung another pitch, which the batter swung wildly at and missed. William smiled savagely, beginning to enjoy making the others look foolish. Stupid ghosts, making him worry about things a twelve year old kid had no business worrying about...

As he threw the third strike to end the inning, Will glanced up at the backstop, and what he saw made his blood run cold.

His dead godfathers were gone.

The remainder of the baseball game passed by in a blur. Will no longer had much interest in his pitching, and his team won by a narrow margin. He kept turning around to see if someone was behind him.

The strange new ghost that had appeared in left field had taken up residence next to first base, standing only inches from the players. He blew a puff of ethereal smoke and stared at William with bright, fascinated eyes.

When the game was over, Will shoved through his enthusiastic teammates, ignored his the praise from his coach, and hurried over to his mother.

"I want to go home now."

She paused, mid-conversation with another mother, to smile vaguely at him. "You played a wonderful game, Will. This is Mrs. Sanderson. You know her son, Carl?"

Will nodded mutely. Carl Sanderson was the small, loudmouthed left fielder who had run through the ghost only moments earlier.

"I was mentioning it to her that you've found it difficult to...make friends...being as you're home schooled," his mother was still smiling at him, her hand on his shoulder.

"I'd love for you to come to Carl's birthday party this afternoon," the other woman said to him.

Will felt panic seize him. He had no desire to go anywhere- all he wanted to do was find his dead godfathers and find out what was going on, and who the strange new ghost was.

"Look at him," his mother said softly. "Overcome with emotion. The poor boy, this has really been hard for him."

Sometimes, Will wondered what planet his parents were from.

"I'll bring him by at two," she said, still smiling at the other woman.

"Wonderful!" Mrs. Sanderson enthused. "I'll have some tea ready for us grownups."

Grumbling internally but not daring to show his unhappiness on the outside, William followed his mother to the car. He noticed with growing unease that the strange man trailed behind him.

The birthday party was loud and boisterous. Will hung nervously in the doorframe of the patio, staring out at the crush of children leaping in and out of a large in-ground pool. He spotted Carl and several of his baseball teammates, and hesitantly walked towards them to say hello.

"Hey Will," Carl said, spying him. Some of the other boys followed suit.

They had always been friendly to William-it was hard for them not to like him as he'd continuously led their team to the championships for years. Yet he'd never really clicked with anyone on the team beyond a purely superficial level. He found it hard to discuss baseball cards and movies with the other kids when he was constantly being tailed by a trio of socially challenged ghosts. He could not help but feel that he was different from the other children, different in his intelligence, in his abilities, and also in some strange way that he was never quite able to define. He felt marked, somehow, as though he were destined for something great or terrible or both.

He wondered if every adopted kid had these thoughts.

For a while, with respect for his extraordinary abilities, he had entertained a hope that he was Harry Potter, and that his dead godfathers were no ghosts, but wizards. When his eleventh birthday passed without an invitation to Hogwarts, he could not help but feel disappointed.

And yet he still felt different. Special, somehow. A shrink would probably have a field day with him.

"Hey, look!" Will felt Carl Sanderson's damp hand on his arm, turning his attention to a girl who had just come through the back door. She was tall, too tall for her age, and quite thin. She had dark blond hair which was pulled back into a ponytail, and which had already started to frizz in the humid weather. Her clothes were ill fitting, loose on her and yet too short for her height. There was a smudge of dirt on the side of her face and scabs on her knees. She wore glasses.

"Who is that?" Will asked, blinking.

"The freak. Oh, man I can't believe my mom invited her!" Carl was giggling. "She's so awful."

"What's so bad about her?" Will was confused. "She looks a little nerdy, but-"

"A little nerdy?" Carl laughed. "Oh, man, what a laugh. I keep forgetting you're not in class with the rest of us. She's a freak! Her dad just got out of jail, he robbed a bank and said aliens made him do it. Aliens, man, can you believe it?"

"Weird," Will allowed himself a little laugh, still staring at the girl. She seemed lost, confused, searching for a smile in a sea of unfamiliar faces.

"Watch this," Carl whispered. He turned towards the girl and waved. "Hey, hey Pam! Come on over here!"

The girl turned at the sound of her name, eyes alighting on Carl. She smiled, deliriously happy to be noticed, and began to walk towards them.

"Hi Carl," she said, and her voice was soft and not unpleasant. "Happy birthday."

"Oops!" Carl said, smirking, as his foot went out.

Will saw it happen in slow motion, saw the girl stumble over Carl's extended leg and pitch headfirst, arms flailing, into the pool.

Carl doubled over laughing, several of his other baseball cronies joining in.

"Look at the freak!" Someone yelled.

It seemed like the whole party had ground to a halt. All around the yard, kids who had been engaged in various activities froze as one and looked towards the pool, where the girl had surfaced, her blond hair matted to her head and tangled in her eyes, her clothes sopping wet. Her glasses floated somewhere behind her as she flapped her arms, struggling desperately to climb out of the water.

As one, the group of kids began to laugh.

Will felt something tear inside him as he stared down at the girl, whose face was glowing red with shame even as she struggled out of the pool. Water ran in rivers down her arms, pooling at her feet.

"My glasses," she moaned, looking around.

"Here," he said quickly, bending down and fishing them out of the water. He handed them to her and she put them on without wiping them off, staring at him from behind droplets of water.

"Sorry," Carl said, not sounding sorry at all. "My foot must have slipped."

Something burst in Will's vision, and he lunged for the other boy, shoving him hard. Carl let out a yelp of surprise and fell backwards into the water.

"William!" His mother gasped, standing up from where she sat with the other mothers.

"Sorry," Will said savagely. "I slipped." He turned away from the others and stalked off, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the party as possible.

"William Van de Kamp!" his mother yelled behind him. "Get back here!"

He ignored her and kept walking, letting himself out of the back yard and into the relative quiet of the surrounding neighborhood. He heard footsteps behind him and turned, steeling himself for the inevitable confrontation.

The girl-Pam-stood behind him, looking pathetic and miserable in her wet clothes.

"What?" He asked irritably.

"Thank you," she said, her voice soft and shy. She did not meet his gaze.

"Yeah." He was suddenly awkward. "Sure." He turned away from her and kept walking. Her soft footsteps echoed behind him. Sighing, he turned around to face her once more. "Your name's Pam, right?"

"Pam Sullivan," she nodded.

"I'm Will Van de Kamp."

"I know who you are." A blush spread across her cheeks as she spoke.


"Everyone knows who you are," she smiled shyly and glanced down at the ground. "All the guys, because you're the best baseball player our town has seen in years. And all the girls, because...well... just because."

"I don't really know anyone," he admitted. "Just the guys on my teams."

"Like Carl," she said softly.

"Like Carl," he agreed, and then frowned at the expression on her face. "But Carl's a jerk."

"He's no different than most. He only did it to impress you"

He realized that she had taken the lead, walking purposefully down a side street that wound away from Carl's house and the rest of town. He fell into step beside her. "Where are we going?"

"You're walking me home."

"You don't want to stay at the party?" he joked halfheartedly.

She smiled at him, her eyes meeting his, and he saw that they were a mesmerizing green behind her thick glasses. "Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I'll have a good time, but I never do. I should have just stayed at home and read a book."

"It can't be that bad. You met me, didn't you?"

"You have an awfully high opinion of yourself, Will Van de Kamp."

"That's not what I meant," he squirmed. "I just meant...well... neither of us have many people to talk to. Now we're talking to each other. That's all."

She came to a stop in front of a ramshackle house on the edge of town. A rusted wrought iron fence separated the sidewalk from the weed choked yard.

"Thank you for walking me home," she said, her hand on the gate.

"You're not gonna invite me in?" He was incredulous. "I stick up for you, push Carl into the pool, and walk you home, and you don't even invite me in for a soda?"

"I..." She dropped her eyes. "I don't think we have any soda. I could run and get you a glass of water though."

Will shrugged, realizing that something was bothering her.

"My dad's asleep," she said quickly. "He naps sometimes in the afternoons. I don't want to wake him up-"

"Pam?" A voice bellowed from inside the house. "Pammy, that you?"

"Just go home," she said to Will.

A man appeared in the doorway, banging through the tattered screen. He was dressed in shorts and a stained white tee shirt that did little to conceal his expansive belly. He clutched a beer can in one meaty fist. "Pammy, what are you doing out here?"

"I told you I had a birthday party to go to," she said, near tears.

"I woke up and you were gone," the man gasped, lurching towards her. "I thought they had gotten you, Pammy. I thought they took you away and I'd never see you again." His voice was shaky and tear-choked.

"I'm all right, daddy."

"You-" He froze when his eyes fell on Will. "Mulder?" He gasped, reaching out a trembling hand. When he spoke again, his voice was more certain. "Mulder! Agent Mulder! I knew I'd see you again..." Then he frowned, contemplating William's age with bleary eyes. He appeared to do some unsteady mental calculations. "Not Mulder. Can't be Mulder. His son?" His voice dropped to reverent awe. "Are you his son?"

"I'm William Van de Kamp," he said, holding out his hand awkwardly.

"Not Mulder?"

"Not Mulder," William shook his head. "I've never heard of him, I'm sorry."

The man sighed, gripping Will's hand with a fierce grip. "He was kind to me. I have to go," he said abruptly, turning and disappearing into the house.

"I'm sorry you had to see that," Pam said.

"I'm sorry you have to live that," Will replied flatly.

She blinked at him, surprised by his frankness. "You're a strange one, Will Van de Kamp."

Will smiled at her, and then turned and made his way for home.

"My dad was abducted by aliens," Pam said as she sat cross legged on the floor in Will's living room three days later, munching on a peanut butter sandwich.

"Aliens?" William was astonished. "But that's movie stuff!"

"I can't say for sure whether it's true or he's just crazy. It happened before I was born. But he swears that they took him repeatedly when he was in his twenties."

"And what about the guy he thought I was, Mulder?"

"This much I know is true...my mom told me about it. Some twenty years ago or so an FBI agent came calling to investigate my dad's claims about alien abduction. Before the investigation was over, my dad, apparently claiming that aliens were controlling him through something in his nose-weird, right?-robbed a bank."

"That's wild."

"I guess...I was conceived when he got out of jail," she blushed. "My mom died a few years ago."

"So why does he care so much about an FBI agent he hasn't seen in more than twenty years?"

"He says that Agent Mulder did something that no one had ever done for him before."


"He believed him."

William frowned and stared at the television screen. "He must have been a crackpot to believe a story like that. No offense."

Pam shrugged. "Everyone has their opinions."

"Aliens though," William shook his head. "Wow. Totally nutso." Then a thought hit him and he scowled. *How much weirder was a ghostly trio of godfathers?*

"You're the only person I've ever talked to about this," she said, fixing her gaze on the flickering television screen. "Everyone else would rather call me a freak than listen to any of this."

"I don't think you're a freak. But you might think that I am after I tell you this." Will dropped his voice, knowing that his mom was in the other room. "I see ghosts, sometimes."

"What, like the kid in that movie?"

"Kind of. Not really though. I don't see a lot of ghosts, just some. And they never ask me to do things for them. For the past six years I've had a trio of guys following me around claiming to be my dead godfathers. They say...they say they knew my parents back when they were alive."

"Are they here now?" She was breathless, looking around the room wide-eyed.

"No. They disappeared during my baseball game the other day. Right after another ghost showed up." He glanced warily at the man who had taken up residence in the living room corner, blowing silvery puffs of smoke out of the shadows.

"So who's the other guy?"

"I don't know. He doesn't talk to me." Will shuddered. "He just watches. Like I'm about to do something fascinating. He's right over there."

"Where?" She asked eagerly-too eagerly-and before he could say another word she had walked towards the corner, hands outstretched. "Over here?"

"Yeah," he grimaced. "Your hand's in his stomach."

Pam winced and pulled her hands back. "What's he doing?"

"He's looking at you."


"It's weird. The ghosts that I see; they all seem to be waiting for me to do something. It's like they're my audience. Somehow I get the feeling that they knew me before..."

"Before you were adopted?"


"Have you tried asking your parents about it?"

"They don't want to talk about it. They tell me that they love me and I'm their little miracle." He rolled his eyes. "They don't like to acknowledge that I had parents before them, but they felt it was important that I know. Something about it saving me the pain of finding out later."

"Maybe your parents were psychic. Your real parents, I mean."

"Maybe," he shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised. Want to see something totally crazy?"

She grinned and nodded.

"I don't tell anyone I can do this. Not my parents, not my coaches, no one. Maybe this is what everyone is watching me for..." He glanced over at the man in the corner. "Hey-ghosty! You paying attention?"

Will stared hard at the television screen. The power flickered and went off.

Pam gasped. "You're hiding the remote somewhere, right?"

Will shook his head. He turned his attention to the couch, where the remote flew out from behind some cushions and landed neatly in his hand.

"Holy shit," she said, then blushed. "Sorry."

"That's why I'm so good at baseball. When I do bad, I can just correct it."

"Don't tell anyone about this," she said, staring at him intently. "The government will take you away and do tests on you. This is really serious."

"You're paranoid."

"I mean it! You'd be really valuable to them." Pam crossed her arms. "You have to know that. That's why you never told anyone."

"I never told anyone 'cause I didn't want them thinking I was even weirder than I already am. My mom already hates that she has to have me home schooled. She'd rather be going to PTA meetings and parent/teacher conferences."

"At least she's sane and sober," Pam said coolly.

"She'd think I wasn't, if she knew about the ghosts and the...flying things."

"Promise me you won't tell anyone else."

Will stared at her for a long moment, before sighing. "Fine."

"William?" His mother was standing in the doorway, wringing her hands together as she regarded Pam with an obvious air of unease. She appeared torn between happiness that her son finally had a friend he hung out with regularly and anxiety that the girl he'd choose to befriend did not belong to a family she'd like to associate with.


"I just wanted to know if Pam was staying for dinner, or if we were driving her home, or..." She let her voice trail off, her question clear.

"I can walk home," Pam said quickly. "My dad will want me home for dinner."

"Walk home?" His mother looked appalled, her unease about Pam's presence vanishing in light of new motherly concerns. "Oh, honey of course not. I'll drive you."

"You really don't have to-"

"Nonsense. Just let me grab my keys."

The three of them made their way out the front door and were heading towards the Van de Kamps' station wagon when a beat up brown pickup truck rattled to a stop in front of the house.

"Oh.." Pam breathed with dismay as her father staggered out from the cab.

William chanced a glance at his mother, who was staring at the other man with an expression of mingled pity and disgust.

"Pammy," he said, stumbling up the walkway. His skin stank of liquor and cigarette smoke. "Pammy, we have to go."

Pam wordlessly stepped towards him.

Mrs. Van de Kamp hesitated for a moment before stepping forward. "You're not going anywhere with that child while you're drunk."

Pam's father eyed her for a moment, before his gaze traveled to William. "They're coming, now," he said, and the tone of his voice chilled Will's blood. "They were scared of you, but now they're not."

"Daddy, stop it," Pam pleaded, tugging on his arm.

"They told me," he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "They told me everything. They're going to deal with you, William Mulder and then nothing can stop them."

"My name's Van de Kamp," he said, baffled. "You've got it all wrong."

"They know the truth now," the man laughed, a short, terrified bark. "Everyone's going to die."

He slid back behind the steering wheel and roared off, Pam's face ghostly pale in the window as she stared out at them.

"My god," Will's mother said, her lips pursed as she stared after the truck. "That poor, poor girl."

Dinner that night was fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but Will couldn't bring himself to eat. Looking across the table at his mother's pinched expression, he thought perhaps she understood.

The voices roused him from a fitful slumber; for a moment he was certain they were a part of his dream and then his heart leapt when he realized they were real.

His dead godfathers stood over his bed, shrouded in shadow.

"Get up kiddo," Byers said.

"Time to go," Langly added.

"Go?" William asked sleepily. "Go where?"

"Out of this town, for starters," Frohike said, his voice edged with panic.

William sat up, staring at them. "Where did you guys go? I was starting to get worried when you disappeared after my baseball game, and that other guy was following me around-"

"Just get up and pack," Byers said. "We'll explain everything, but you have to get moving."

William reluctantly stood up. "What am I packing?"

"Only what you can carry," Frohike told him. "Fill up a backpack with clothes. Jeans, shirts, a jacket...wear comfortable shoes."

"You need to convince your parents..." Byers frowned. "The Van de Kamps to wake up and pack. It's not safe here anymore. Tell them to load up the car and head south."

"Like they're gonna believe that!" William said incredulously as he finished stuffing several pairs of jeans and some t-shirts into his school backpack.

"Make them believe!" Byers insisted. "You have to move. Now."

William jumped as he heard a barely audible thud from down the hall.

"Goddammit it's too late," Frohike groaned. "Move, William! Out the window!"

"What about my parents?"

"They're dead," Langly said.

William froze. "They're what?"

"They're dead, and you will be too if you don't get out of here now!"

Moving as if underwater, in a dream, William grabbed his light windbreaker off a chair and slipped it over his shoulders. He slid his window open and stepped outside onto the angled roof, the warm July night air hitting his skin. He shimmied down the gutter pipe, breathing a sigh of relief as his feet touched the cool grass.

"Damn, kid," Frohike said with admiration. "Given more time, I think you could have made yourself into one hell of a Don Juan."

"Run," Byers told him.

William ran. He ducked into the foliage instinctively to avoid the unmarked black sedan sitting in his driveway. His bicycle waited by the garage and he flung himself onto it, pedaling hard across the weed choked side field, desperate to reach the road before he was seen.

*Let this be a dream*he begged silently.*Let me wake up in some field after a crazy night of sleepwalking and have my parents standing over me ready to punish me*

But some part of him, the part that had been anxiously awaiting the moment when his life would change forever, knew that this was no dream.

"Is it aliens?" He asked out loud as he pedaled, knowing that his dead godfathers were somewhere nearby.

"It's started," Langly said. "The invasion. They held off longer than they had planned because they were scared of you."

"Pam's dad was right," he murmured.

"They were in communication with him. They knew who you were the second he saw you," Byers said.

"Rotten luck, growing up in the same town he lived in, him recognizing your real father and all," Frohike sighed.

"My real father?" William almost stopped pedaling. "So he was right about that?"

"Christ, kid, you're a dead ringer for him," Langly snorted.

"Once they knew where you were," Byers cut in, staying determinedly on topic. "They figured they could deal with you quickly and effectively. They've begun the invasion, counting on their assassins to take you out."

"They killed my parents?" William wanted to stop pedaling his bike and find somewhere to curl up and cry.

"They would have died anyway in the coming invasion," Byers said softly, his words meant to reassure.

"It's my fault they're dead?" Will's voice had dropped to a whisper.

"You're going to save the world," Langly said. "Without you, millions will die."

*Here it is, then* William thought bitterly. *The Harry Potter moment I've been waiting for all my life. Only it's not nearly as fun as I'd thought it would be*

"We need to move faster. This town is going to be ground zero for an attack."

"Pam!" William said suddenly, jerking his bike to a halt. "I can't leave her here!"

"Will, there's no time!" Byers said.

"You weren't around her! She knows stuff! She needs to come!" Suddenly saving Pam was the only thing that Will could think about. The thought of her, with her thick glasses and untidy blond hair, perishing in some alien invasion was almost too much to bear. She was the only friend he had left in the world...the only *living* friend, anyway.

He turned his bike down her street and was surprised to see her sitting on the street corner, a small backpack by her side.

"I'll be damned," Byers whispered.

She looked up at him and smiled, a small, confused smile. "I figured, with all this talk my dad's been doing about the end of the world, I should be prepared to run. You know, on the off chance he's right about something."

"Where's your dad?"

"Passed out," she shrugged. "Just because he's predicting the end doesn't mean he's going to do anything about it."

"It's true," Will said, gulping.

"I figured," she sighed. "Where are we going?"

He stared at her hopelessly for a moment before looking around frantically for his dead godfathers. "Byers? Langly?"

"South," Langly said.

"South," Will told Pam.

She raised her eyebrows but said nothing, merely hitched her backpack securely over her shoulders and grabbed the handlebars of her mountain bike.

Will glanced around. The small town was so peaceful, shrouded in darkness. Well-manicured houses dotted the land as far as his eye could see. It was hard to believe anything bad could ever happen here.

Then he thought of his parents, and a lump rose in his throat. Maybe he should have gone downstairs to check. Maybe his mom had just fallen-

"Will, we gotta move," Frohike said, and he felt the chill of a ghostly hand on his back, guiding him gently towards his bike.

As they pedaled off into the darkness, Pam turned towards him. "Man, I sure hope you're not crazy."

"Me? You're the one who believes in aliens and all that other movie stuff."

"And you're the one who ran away from home with the intention of fleeing those aliens," she muttered. "And you talk to ghosts. No sane people talk to ghosts."

"I wish you could see them."

"So do I!" she exclaimed. "It would make things easier. Then at least we'd both be insane." Her face grew serious as they reached the edge of town. "So everyone here... They're all going to die, aren't they?"

Will frowned. "Maybe not everyone."

"A lot of people here tease me. Carl Sanderson pushed me into the pool, but I don't think he deserves to die. I'd like to see him get a good smack from his mom, but I just don't think he deserves to die."

"There are a lot of people who don't deserve to die," Will said, thinking of his parents. With every turn of his bike's wheel, his mounting terror compounded his significant grief.

Four hours and many miles later, the first beginnings of morning light had begun to filter up from the horizon. Will glanced over at Pam and saw she was pedaling with her eyes closed, her jaw slightly slack.

"We need to stop for a little while," he said.

"Probably a good idea," Langly said from behind him. "You should only travel at night time."

"Less chance of being seen," Frohike added.

Will touched Pam on the shoulder and they both stopped their bikes. On either side of the road, long stretches of wheat fields rolled out as far as the eye could see. In the distance rolled beautiful, purple mountains that in the winters would be capped with snow, luring skiers from all over the world.

"Get off the road," Byers said. "The wheat will conceal you. Just try and get some sleep, and we'll wake you if anything goes wrong."

Will wheeled his bike onto the field, feeling the wheat stalks close over his head. The effect was startlingly claustrophobic, and he froze.

"If they can't see you, they can't hurt you," Frohike spoke behind him. "Go."

Will and Pam made their way further into the wheat, until they could no longer see the road. Then Will sat down with a grunt, realizing for the first time how tired he was.

Pam had pulled a sleeping bag out of her small backpack and was busily unrolling it. He gaped at her.

"What?" She raised her eyebrows as she climbed into the small bag, which was decorated with little cartoon UFOs. "I told you I was prepared."

Shaking his head, amused, Will rolled up his windbreaker and used it as a pillow as he lay down in the wheat. The plants tickled his skin, but within a few moments he had been lulled into sleep by the soothing whispers of nature.

When Will opened his eyes, it was five o'clock in the afternoon. He sat up, brushing wheat off of his clothes. Beside him, in her sleeping bag, Pam continued slumbering.

"No chance of this being a dream," he muttered to himself.

"Look who's awake," Langly said, brightening as William stood up and walked towards them.

"I want to know what's going on."

"Byers went back into town to check everything out," Frohike said. "He should be back soon."

"I don't mean in town," Will shook his head. "Well...I do, but not just that. I want to know who you are. I want to know who I am. And I want to know where we're going."

Frohike and Langly exchanged glances, before Frohike took a deep breath.

"Your real parents were FBI agents. They ran a division of the FBI called the X Files, which specified in unexplained phenomena."

"Your dad was obsessed with proving the existence of extraterrestrials."

"But you can find out their history when you meet them," Frohike said. "During the years that they worked on the X Files project, they uncovered a conspiracy between aliens and the government."

"There was a planned invasion. Colonization."

"When you were born..." Frohike shifted uncomfortably. "Well I don't want to get too deeply into the facts of life, but your mom wasn't supposed to be able to have children. You were considered a miracle."

"Right off the bat, you had interesting gifts."

"Then your dad had to leave-"

"He left? He left my mom and me?" William didn't know why he felt so offended by someone he couldn't remember.

"You don't understand," Frohike shook his head. "It was dangerous times. There were people looking for you, and for your dad. People who wanted to kill you."

"I *am* Harry Potter," he said with a groan.

"Your mom couldn't protect you. She finally made the decision to give you up for adoption, hoping you'd be safe somewhere else. None of your enemies ever found out where you had been placed, and the colonization that was supposed to have occurred sometime last year was held off because there was a fear that you'd emerge and..."

"They'd lose," Langly finished.

"Most teenagers think the world revolves around them," Frohike snorted. "In your case, the world really does revolve around you."

"When you were located, everything went back into motion," Langly said grimly. "Colonization began. They planned on eliminating you, a nave adoptee who had no idea of the true nature of his gifts."

"I know I have gifts," William said, frowning. "I never really showed them to anyone. I always kept it private...except with baseball."

"That's probably why you're still alive," Langly said. "If they'd had any idea, they would have snuffed you out years ago."

William grimaced. "Do me a favor and don't tell Pam that, okay? I'll never hear the end of it." He stared at them for a moment. "Where did you guys go that day? You were gone for almost two weeks."

"When we saw that bastard..." Frohike scowled. "Sorry. We knew something had to be up. People were always stopping by to look in on you...you were quite a curiosity amongst the ghost community in the know. But that man...he wasn't just curious to see how you were growing up."

"Who was he?"

"Your grandfather, so to speak," Langly shrugged. "But don't go expecting any paternal affection from him."

"He was one of the key players in the conspiracy."

"I figured if he was coming around to look in on you, something must have changed. So we went and sat in on several key secret government meetings. The aliens were getting restless. There was going to be an increased effort in the search for you. Not an easy task-all of your adoption records had been destroyed. They might never have succeeded, but then all hell broke loose."

Frohike shook his head. "They were notified that an abductee, Roger Sullivan, had seen and recognized the boy."

"He meant you no harm, William," Langly said sadly. "But they knew everything he knew."

"Because of the implant," Will said.

"Mulder and Scully are gonna love this kid," Langly smiled.

"You look a lot like your dad," Frohike said. "But you have your mom's eyes."

"A devastating combination," Langly added.

"Here's Byers," Frohike said suddenly, glancing up as Byers drifted grimly through the stalks of wheat.

"What's the news?" Langly asked.

"Bad," Byers said quietly. "It was bees. Those that didn't get stung and those that were immune to stings...They were torn apart in the aftermath."

"God," Frohike gasped.

"They are already spinning a cover story to sell to the media. Something about rabid wolves. It's doubtful this will even raise an alarm in Washington."

"No one will know it's happening," Langly whispered.

"Some suits showed up and destroyed everything. They burned the town and called it an out of control fire started by some guy who attempted to stave off the wolves from his family farm. Nothing escaped."

"The aliens?"

"Dead for now. This was just an exercise. This was for *you* Will."

William stared down at his feet. "So now what?"

"They're fairly certain you've been killed. No one can know you escaped the town. Now the colonization will progress as planned."

"They'll hit the big cities first," Langly said. "On a holiday. July Fourth."

"That's in two weeks," William said, horrified.

"There's nothing you can do to stop it. But you *will* be able to end it once it starts."

"I take it back," Will groaned. "I'm not Harry Potter, I'm John Connor from Terminator."

"You sure know your movies." "We have to get you to your parents."

"There has to be someone we can call! Someone we can warn!"

His dead godfathers exchanged glances.

"There is someone," Frohike said hesitantly. "I don't know if they'll believe you, if anyone will believe you are who you say you are, but it's worth a try."

"There's a town five miles south of here. There will be a pay phone you can use."

Byers glanced up into the sky, which was slowly purpling with the advent of dusk. "I think it's safe to start moving again."

"Are you done sitting there and talking to yourself?" A voice said from behind Will.

He jumped slightly, turning around to meet Pam's amused gaze. "I wasn't talking to myself. I was talking to-"

"Ghosts, I know. I still haven't seen any proof you aren't crazy."

"Everyone's dead," he said flatly, not in the mood to bicker. "Our town's gone."

She sobered immediately. "Everyone?"

"That's what they say."

"What about the world?"

"Two weeks."

Pam sat down in the wheat with a thud. Bits of hay were stuck in her hair, further emphasizing her rumpled appearance.

"There's a town about five miles from here. We can get something to eat and use a pay phone."

"Who you gonna call?" she joked weakly.

"Hopefully someone who can help us."

They arrived in the next town within a half hour, tossing their bikes on the curb and making their way into a dingy diner on the street corner.

The early dinner crowd was dispersing, and they found the small space relatively empty. Pam slid into a booth and began examining a menu while Will walked to the back towards the pay phone.

"I just have to call my parents," he told the waitress who was eyeing him suspiciously.

He dropped two quarters into the slot and dialed the long distance number that Byers dictated.

"It's the director's private line," Frohike piped up.

"Skinner," a deep baritone voice answered. He sounded surly.

Will felt his breath catch in his throat. He tried to speak but his voice came out in a tiny squeak.

"Who is this?" Skinner snapped.

"Don't hang up," Will finally managed to yelp. He cleared his throat and his voice returned to him. "I was told that you could help me."

"Who is this?" Skinner repeated.

"My name is William Van de Kamp," he said, dropping his voice so no one in the diner could overhear him. "But I think you'd know me as William Mulder."

There was a long pause on the other side. "I don't appreciate practical jokes. Don't call this number again."

"Byers, Langly and Frohike told me you could help me!"

"They're dead."

"I know."

There was another pause. "Son, are you telling me you talk to ghosts?"

"That's not the point. I just came from the town of Caribou Cove, Colorado. It's a little south of Aspen. You might have seen something on the news about rabid wolf attacks."

"I don't-"

"It wasn't wolves. It was bees." William spoke clearly, repeating the information that his dead godfathers had imparted to him. "Everyone's dead."

There was a long silence on Skinner's end. Will prayed he was getting through.

"They found me," he said. "They think I'm dead now and the colonization is going to start. Two weeks. July Fourth."

"Where are you now?" Skinner finally asked.

Byers shook his head frantically.

"I'm...on the road."

"I'm coming to get you."

"There's no time. I need to find my parents."

Skinner sighed. "I should have known you'd be pigheaded."

"Do you know where they are? You should go there," Will insisted. "I think it's safe there."

"Nowhere is safe now," Skinner said. "Just safer. You keep moving, William. Don't stop for anything."

Dial tone echoed in his ear as he slowly hung up the phone. Shaking his head, he made his way back to the booth where Pam sat, contemplating the menu.

"Who did you call?"

"I think I just got off the phone with the director of the FBI."

"Walter Skinner?"

Will caught his godfathers shooting impressed looks in the young girl's direction. "How do you know who he is?"

"God," she shook her head. "Don't you *ever* watch the news? Or are you just too busy being the baseball prodigy of Caribou Cove?"

He shrugged. "I can't help being wonderful."

"Walter Skinner was appointed director of the FBI about five years ago. There was a really interesting biography about him on TV last week. They talked about some cover up he helped expose, and then talked about a movie-" her face went white. "Oh, god, the movie!"

"I'm lost," Will said blankly.

"The Lazarus Bowl," Pam let out a bark of laughter. "My dad's favorite movie, next to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Walter Skinner was given credit for part of it...it was loosely based on a case some of his agents worked on. I was always interested in Skinner because my dad made me watch the movie so many damn times."

"Could you get to the point?"

"The agents in the movie...the ones it was based on...They were your parents!"

"They were what?"

"I mean, it wasn't them in the movie, it was Tea Leoni and Gary Shandling, but their names were Mulder and Scully-"

"You're telling me your dad flipped when he saw me because he thought I bore an uncanny resemblance to *Gary Shandling*?"

"Don't be an idiot."

"We have to get to a video store," Will stood up, almost knocking over the disgruntled waitress who had arrived with their sandwiches.

"Will, we can't!" Pam said urgently after the waitress had disappeared behind the counter. "We don't have time. These things that are trying to kill you, they're still only a town away. We have to keep moving."


"Even if you got the tape, where in the world would you watch it? You can't just go home and put it in your VCR."

Will frowned and slid back down into his seat, unhappily picking up his roast beef sandwich.

"Let's just keep moving south. Eventually we'll find your parents, and that'll be better than any movie."

"My parents are dead," Will said sadly as he chewed halfheartedly at his dinner.

"Lucky you've got a spare set floating around out there, then."

They finished eating in silence, ordering two extra sandwiches to keep with them for the road. Pam paid the check from a wad of bills she removed from her pocket, responding to Will's raised eyebrows with a small smile.

"Let's just say I saved all my pennies for this day."

"How could you possibly have known?"

"I didn't. But when a girl is raised under the impression that the sky could fall at any minute, she doesn't take any chances." She let out a sad chuckle. "That, and I was saving up for a new computer."

"I'm glad you're with me," Will said as they stepped out of the diner and into the rapidly darkening night.

"I'll return the sentiment when I'm certain you're not crazy."

The two of them pedaled their bikes rapidly through the night, never encountering more than one or two cars on the quiet streets. William's muscles had begun to ache, and as he stared at the expanse of stars in the sky above him he had started to wonder how long they could keep this up before they recognized the fact that they needed to find better transportation than a pair of mountain bikes. They weren't conditioned athletes; they were unprepared twelve year old kids who were bound to wear out eventually.

"Hey," Pam said, slowing slightly. A slight glow was emanating from somewhere ahead of them.

"What do you think it is?"

She looked wary. "Hopefully not a spaceship."

Will repressed a shudder. "It doesn't look like what I'd imagine the light from a spaceship would look like. It looks like..."

They crested a slight hill and paused to take stock of what lay before them.

"An RV park," Pam said softly.

"Let's just keep going."

"What if they see us?"

"Let them see us," he set his jaw and began pedaling again. He had not yet given thought to what he would do if they were stopped.

As they swept past the trailers, Will found himself pulled towards the glow, perhaps wanting desperately to connect with a humanity he had begun to fear he had forever left behind. He could see figures moving in the soft light, a large gathering of people.

"Oh, god," Pam whispered, and he followed her gaze and suddenly wished they had stayed safely at the top of the hill.

The figures in the light had come into focus. A group had gathered around an ashen faced man with reddish hair and a portly figure. Crumpled at his feet was the figure of a woman.

"Is she dead?" Pam hissed. "God, Will, is she dead?"

Will was not looking at the woman. His attention had been drawn to the figures surrounding her. Something was very wrong...it took him only seconds to realize what it was. Their eyes. Their eyes were glowing an eerie, unearthly green.

"Are they aliens?" He asked no one in particular, pedaling faster and wishing he could render himself invisible.

His heart leapt into his throat as one of the men broke away from the pack and moved into the street to intercept them.

"Pam, run!"

"Hey, kids!" the man in front of them called, stepping forward. "Hold on, there."

"Steady," Byers whispered from behind Will. "Wait until you have a clear route. Then make a break for it."

"What are you kids doing out here in the middle of the night?" the man called, stepping forward. His voice had a musical cadence to it, a twangy accent that seemed oddly out of place for the location.

"What are you doing with that woman?" Will yelled back.

The man blinked, his eyes suddenly looking so normal that Will was half certain it had been a trick of the light. "That woman over there? That's Ronnie's girlfriend. She's gone and had too much to drink again, that's all. Come on over here, kids. Where are your parents?"

"They're around," Will said cautiously. In the dim light cast from the RV park he could now see that the man approaching them was uniformed, with a little silver star pinned to his chest.

"I'm Sheriff Hartwell," the man said, in that pleasant but foreign twang.

"Sheriff of what?" Pam asked dubiously, looking around.

He looked mildly offended. "Not exactly a sheriff in the way that you think about it, I guess. I just keep the order around here. They all need someone to look up to, you know." He smiled.

Pam smiled back.

Will blinked in surprise. What the heck was she smiling at? The man in front of them was suspicious, moments ago had possessed glowing green eyes, and had buck teeth, for god's sake!

He got another shock when Sheriff Hartwell looked closely at him at let out a whistle. "I'll be damned."

"Do you know me?"

The sheriff blinked, looked closer. "You related to a guy named..." he snapped his fingers, tilting his head to the side. Finally, giving up, he shrugged. "Yeah, I know who you are. Name escapes me at the moment, but I never forget a face. Had a run in with him a long time ago, back in Texas."

"Never forget a face," Pam sighed, still smiling at him.

Sheriff Hartwell shifted uncomfortably and glanced back towards the group of people he had emerged from, all of whom were eyeing them rather...hungrily.

"You kids better get moving, then. I'd pedal...quickly." He patted Will on the back and gave him a wink. "Vampires, you know."

"Vampires," Pam echoed dreamily. "Cool."

Sheriff Hartwell turned and made his way back towards the group he had left behind, his reproachful voice carrying over the otherwise silent plains. "Ronnie, I don't know how many times I have to tell you that you can't just bite them when they don't want to go on a second date with you! This is the twelfth place we've had to move because of you, and now we've got to pull up stakes again..."

"He was nice," Pam said as they pedaled on.

"Nice?" Will gaped at her. "We just stumbled upon a migrating caravan of vampires, and you think he's nice?"

"He was just kidding about the vampires," she rolled her eyes. "Unlike some people, obviously Sheriff Hartwell has a sense of humor."

"A sense of humor. Right." Will shook his head as he kept pedaling. He couldn't shake the feeling that they had been spared a gruesome fate because of his familiar face.

"They say Dracula was very alluring," Pam said after several minutes of silence. The giddiness had gone out of her voice.

"Who's 'they?' The tabloids?"

"God, Will, for someone who's supposedly a prodigy, don't you read?"



They rode quietly for several more moments before Will finally spoke. "I can't get rid of the feeling that I'm traveling familiar territory. That every place I go, my parents have already been."

"You mean because of the vampires?"

"I mean everything. I feel like I'm haunting my father's trail like his ghost, and I'm sparking some kind of reaction in just about everyone I meet, but I can't understand it. I have no idea what they're reacting to, because I've never even met the man."

"You will."

"I just...I feel like I've lost something."

"You have lost something," Pam said quietly. "We both have. We've lost everything that we've ever known. Everything that was ever comfortable."

"It's not just that. I feel like I've lost something by not knowing my real parents. Like they were involved in something that has such a wide scope that I *should* know more about them. Hell, even you've heard of them. Now I'm left to draw my own conclusions."

"I hardly think repeated viewings of The Lazarus Bowl qualify me as an expert on your parents. The movie was mildly ridiculous."

"Ridiculous or not, it was based on something. Something I know nothing about, but which *aliens* are trying to kill me over. I can't help but feel like I got the short end of the stick here."

"Carl Sanderson got the short end of the stick," Pam said wryly. "He was either ripped apart by an alien or killed by a virus. Whatever confusion you have, it's your parentage that led you out of harm. You're only alive right now because you are who you are, if that makes any sense."

Will pedaled on in silence.

"You pretty much accepted that your world was never going to be the same when you got on your bike last night. You didn't like it, but you accepted it, and you made the choice to live."

"So what do I do now? Wave some magic wand and watch the aliens disappear? I think I'm a little out of my league."

She let out a little gasp. "You mean to tell me that the great baseball prodigy of Caribou Cove has found something he can't handle?"

"The truly great baseball players were all aliens," an unfamiliar voice echoed somewhere behind William.

He jumped. "Who was that?"

Langly chuckled. "Arthur Dales. He pops in to check on you from time to time, but never made his presence known."

"Funny, he should choose now to speak," Byers mused.

"Who was he?" Will asked.

"Friend of your father's."

Pam was staring at him. "Are you talking to...them?"

Will sighed with frustration. "I wish you could see them too."

"No kidding."

"Talk to me about my parents," Will murmured as he pedaled, his thighs aching.

For the remaining hours of nighttime, he listened to the gentle cadence of Byers' voice, detailing countless adventures. Pam kept silent, never interrupting, something he was immensely grateful for. And with each new piece of information, he felt as though some tiny hole in his soul was slowly being patched up.

They came upon the car just as morning's first light was breaking overhead. It was an old gray sedan, with the driver and passenger side doors suspiciously open.

"Think they went for gas?" Pam asked as she slowed her bike, stifling a yawn.

Will stared down the empty road that stretched before him. "Long hike for gas."

Pam peered inside the car. "Keys are in the ignition." Grinning, she turned the keys and the car sputtered to life. "That's weird."


"The tank's full."

"Completely full?"

"Like three quarters. They must have filled up at the last town we passed."

Frowning, Will touched a small rust colored smear on the side window. A horrible notion toyed with the far recesses of his mind.

"Oh GROSS!" Pam exclaimed suddenly, exploding out of the car so quickly she whacked her head on the door. "Look in the back seat!"

Wanting to do anything but that, Will looked.

There was an unholy mess in the back of the car. Blood soaked the upholstery, splattered the windows and the floor. Bits of flesh and hair seemed caught in the congealed crimson.

"What happened?" he groaned, trying hard not to vomit.

"Alien birth," Langly said grimly.

"An alien was born," Will repeated to Pam, who edged further from the car.

"Tore its way right out of some hapless guy's chest," Frohike was shaking his head. "I guess the passengers ran away."

"Probably didn't get far," Byers said.

"Do you think it's still...out there?" Will eyed the gently rolling wheat fields with sudden mistrust.

"Take the car," Byers advised. "You're both getting tired. There's no way you'll be able to keep up this pace, and you're not getting very far on the bikes."

"I don't know how to drive!" Will gaped.

Pam stared at him. "I am NOT getting into that car! With the...alien blood!"

"It's not alien blood, it's human blood," Will said patiently. "The alien tore its way out of the human, not the other way around."

"I'm gonna be sick."

"Do you know how to drive?"

"No!" She crossed her arms and scowled as Will popped the trunk open and stacked their bikes inside.

"If you'd rather be pedaling down the road when that thing comes sniffing around for more food, be my guest."

Making a face at him, Pam reluctantly sat down in the passenger seat, presenting a comical picture as she attempted to keep any piece of her bare skin from touching the upholstery.

Frowning with concentration, Will slid into the driver's seat and pulled the seat up as close to the wheel as possible. "Okay, guys, I need you to help me out here."

Byers was the one to speak. "The left pedal is the brake. The right is the gas. Always hold in the brake when you start the car and put it into drive."

"Just count your lucky stars that this car has an automatic transmission," Langly snickered.

Gritting his teeth, Will shifted the car into drive and slowly lifted his foot off of the brake pedal. The car rolled forward, the tires crunching over the wheat. He gasped and slammed on the brakes, throwing Pam forward onto the dashboard.

"You're not making me too confident," she groaned.

"Quiet," he rolled his eyes at her, taking his foot off the brake again and feeling the car lurch forward.

"Give it some gas," Byers advised.

Will stamped down on the right pedal, and the car shot forward onto the road.

"Easy there," Frohike laughed, and he eased off.

Within a few moments, Will was confident enough to relax slightly as he kept the car moving down the lonely expanse of highway at a steady fifty miles per hour. Behind him, floating somewhere over the alien mess on the seat, his dead godfathers offered him advice and praise. In spite of the circumstances, this all felt so heartbreaking normal that he was surprised to feel tears prickling in the corners of his eyes. Somewhere, miles behind him, his parents were dead. Yet here he was, being taught how to drive by his trio of eccentric relatives, almost as if everything was all right. He could almost imagine his father-the father he had known for twelve years-sitting beside him in the family's station wagon, gently advising him on what to do.

He smiled when he thought of what the kids on his baseball team would have thought if they'd been able to see him driving.

Next to him, Pam had relaxed somewhat as his driving ability leveled off. He was tired from the long night of pedaling, but the new experience had sent his adrenaline pumping and his eyes were wide open as they sped though the vast dreamscape of loneliness.

"Things are never going to be the same," she murmured as she stared out the window.

Will did not know how to respond to that.

"It will be fine," Byers said soothingly behind him. "Frohike, Langly and I are gonna go check out some other places, all right? There are some people and events we want to look in on. We'll be back before tomorrow night."

"Just keep heading south," Langly added. "Roswell, New Mexico."

"Everything will be fine, kid," Frohike said, and then they were gone.

Will tightened his grip on the steering wheel. They were saying everything was going to be fine, because of *him*. But what could he do? Being able to move things with his mind and talk to ghosts was all well and good, but it didn't really amount to much when it came to saving the world from aliens. What if he let everyone down? What if the entire world died because he did something wrong?

"I feel like a jigsaw puzzle with a hundred missing pieces," he said finally. "I've always known I was supposed to do *something* but I have absolutely no idea what it is. I don't think I'll ever know. I'm totally unprepared for all of this."

Pam smiled sadly at him. "So what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Will laughed. "Alive."

"Well, you enjoy yourself. I'm going to be a writer."

"What kind of writer?"

"Science fiction or fantasy, I think."

He shook his head. "God, you really are a dork."

"You just keep telling yourself that, ghost-boy."

The car ran out of gas and sputtered to a halt somewhere over the border of New Mexico, just as the sun was beginning its downward tilt. Pam immediately flung open the door and jumped out into the rosy hues of dusk.

"Thank god, thank god, thank god!"

Will shook his head, smiling as he followed her outside. "My driving wasn't that bad."

"Your driving was fine, but that car! Jesus! I never want to ride for eight hours in a tiny sedan with a dead guy in the back EVER AGAIN!"

"There wasn't a dead guy in the back."

"No, just about a gallon of his blood."

Will stifled a yawn. They had been on the road for two full days now, and his body was rebelling against his continued insistence that it keep moving.

"You need to rest," Pam said, concern outweighing her disgust over where she had spent the last day of her life.

"We need to keep going."

"Just lie down and take a nap. At least I got to sleep a little in the car."

Will scowled and surveyed their surroundings. A vast scope of desert had gradually replaced the gentle crop fields, and while devastatingly beautiful, it offered no cover. He wasn't about to camp out on the side of the road and wait for the first passing motorist to pick him up, or the first roving alien to eat him. "Pam, I'm tired but we gotta keep going. It's not safe here. I don't think I'll feel safe until we find my parents."

"Here there be monsters," she murmured, staring out at the desolate geography that surrounded them.

"And the monsters be bigger than us," he quipped, popping the trunk and tugging on the handlebars of his trusty mountain bike. Sighing, Pam followed suit.

The trip through the hot, arid climate was not as pleasant as their previous jaunts during the night. There was no cool breeze ruffling their hair, just a pressing heat that seemed to infuse into his very bones and make him want to drop dead on the spot. His eyes burned from staying awake. His neck had long ago begun to ache, as a new pain began to throb in his temples.

"Will, you need to stop," she whispered.

"Can't," he breathed. "Can't stop. I have to save the world, remember?"

He had long ago drained his last bottle of water, leaving the dented plastic somewhere along the dusty roadside. His tongue felt dry and alien in his mouth.

When headlights split the darkness behind him, he couldn't even fathom where they could hide. He froze, as did Pam, wondering briefly if this was how deer felt, suddenly faced with their own impending death and unable to move any which way to avoid it. The car was a pickup truck, fairly new, and it slowed as it passed them.

"How the hell did you kids get way out here?" The strong voice belonged to a bespectacled man in his sixties, with broad shoulders and a bald head that had begun to shine in the heat.

"Just out for a bike ride," Will grunted.

"You're at least fifty miles from the nearest town."

Will groaned inwardly at the thought. "That's okay."

"Where are you going?" the man insisted. "It's not safe out here at night."

"We're doing just fine, thanks," Will insisted, moving to shield Pam.

The man scowled at them, seeming to weigh several options in his head. "Look, I'm telling you, you shouldn't be out here so late. There are coyotes. Snakes."

"Pedophiles?" Pam piped up.

"Christ," the man shook his head. "Good luck." He hit the gas on the truck, leaving them behind.

"Maybe we should have accepted his help," Pam chewed on her lip worriedly. "You don't look so good, Will."

"I'm fine. Just a little thirsty."

"You're not going to be able to save the world if you drop dead on a dusty road in New Mexico."

In front of them, the headlights swung back into view as the pickup truck made a u-turn and headed back towards them.

Will ducked his head and avoided eye contact as the truck pulled up next to them.

"Listen, just get in the truck."

"Why don't you leave us the hell alone?" Pam snapped, bristling. Suddenly, her face went white and she jumped back so quickly she lost her footing, tumbling to the rocky ground underneath her bike.

"Pam!" Will leapt off his own bike to assist her.

"Get in the truck!" Pam said eagerly.


Pam staggered to her feet, wiping the dust and grime off of her legs. "That's Walter Skinner, the director of the FBI!"

"Him? The guy that I called?"

"That's him! I told you, I saw a documentary about him on television-"

"And you're sure that's him? Not just some creep who looks like him?"

"Trust me!"

"What would he be doing all the way out here?"

"He must have believed you!" she said excitedly, grabbing his arm. "He believed you about the aliens and now he's heading south in search of your parents!"

The man she knew as Skinner leaned his head out the window, the dim light glinting off of his glasses. "Are you okay?"

"Walter Skinner, it's an honor to meet you," Pam giggled, stepping forward and offering her hand. "Pam Sullivan, politics enthusiast." Will stared at her, amazed. Was she blushing?

Skinner looked surprised as he shook her offered hand.

"Hi," Will said shyly, stepping up behind her. "I'm Will Van de Kamp. I think we might have spoken on the phone."

Skinner took off his glasses and peered at him through the darkness. "Well I'll be damned."

"Sorry about...before. We didn't know who you were," Will found his own cheeks reddening under the scrutiny. He stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets.

"If I was in your position I'd be every bit as leery of strangers," Skinner said quietly.

"Are you...going to see my parents?" Will kicked at the ground.

Skinner smiled gently at him. "Yes. If you throw your bikes in the back, I'll take you there."

Will swallowed hard, imagining that he could feel fate and destiny tugging him forward. His journey now had a definite ending point. There would be no more bike rides down endless, empty roads with only a vague goal of "south". Now, within a few hours he would be in the presence of two people he had never met, but whose fates were inextricably intertwined with his own.

"Sure," he said finally, picking up his bike and wincing at the terrible sound it made when tossed into the bed of the pickup truck. Pam followed suit. As the two children climbed into the cab of the truck, Skinner switched on the light to get a better look at them.

"I'll be damned," he said again, studying Will's face. Will resisted the urge to look away, already knowing what was to be said.

"You look so much like your father."

"So I hear."

"It's a relief, in a way," Skinner smiled wryly. "There were always...questions. Now there's no doubt."

Will felt anger flare up. What did he mean, 'questions'? Had he been given up for a reason other than why his dead godfathers had told him?

Skinner pulled the truck back onto the highway and resumed the southerly drive. He studied Will with mild concern.

"You look like you're about to drop dead."

"We've been riding for a while."

"I've got some water in a cooler under your seat. Help yourselves."

Pam and Will eagerly dug into the cooler. The icy flow of water over his parched tongue brought him an instant wave of relief. With the incessant throb of thirst sated, Will found himself dropping into sleep, despite his efforts to remain awake and ask questions. Before he knew it, he had left his nightmarish reality for a different dreamscape.

The sun was painting the sky in a beautiful symphony of color as it slowly slipped down beyond the horizon, leaving behind splashes of red and orange that lingered as though the sky itself was on fire.

Will stared out the window at the gorgeous sight, beginning to feel as though his entire life could be measured in sunrises and sunsets. Then his stomach lurched at the thought that this could be one of the last sunsets he'd ever enjoy. Would he even survive the events of the next two weeks?

"So much for the savior of humanity," he muttered, leaning his head against the cool glass of the window.

Beside him, Pam had finally fallen asleep, her head lolling uncomfortably against his shoulder. Periodically she let out a loud, shuddering snore. He hoped she hadn't started drooling, but he supposed it would serve her right for staying awake for the past six hours peppering Skinner with questions about his job and the people he met.

"You okay, William?" Skinner asked him, his deep voice startling Will out of his reverie.

"Are we almost there?" Will skirted the question. He didn't want to get into how he felt, or he might lose his nerve completely.

"About another forty minutes," Skinner said. He had driven continuously from the time that he had picked them up, from sunrise to sunset, only stopping twice at dusty roadside service stations to fill the tank and to grab the kids something to eat. He had shown no inclination of needing a break from the monotony of the road.

"Sir-" Will felt the corners of his mouth turn up. He had no real reason to call this man 'sir' except for the fact that his frame and bearing seemed to demand it. He wondered if his parents had felt the same way.

Skinner peered at him through the darkening night.

"Could you...tell me a little bit about my parents? I don't know much about them. Only what my dead godfathers told me."

"I couldn't possibly begin to explain what they've been doing for the past eleven years," Skinner said softly. "I knew where they were staying. Other than that, I had no contact with them whatsoever."

"Were they...looking for me?"

"No," Skinner shook his head. "They knew you were safer where you were."

"But I wasn't safe. Everyone in my town is dead because of me!"

"You were safe there for eleven years."

"My other parents didn't deserve to die because they adopted me."

Skinner smiled sadly. "No one deserves to die this way."

"I don't really think I'm cut out for saving the world."

"I think you've done admirably. Not many twelve year olds would have gotten this far."

"Not many twelve year olds have ghosts hovering around and giving them advice."

"That is true."

"I don't think you know what it's like to be somewhere and have strangers recognize you and know all of this history that you don't even have a clue about." Will shuddered. "Even vampires."


"Know a guy named Sheriff Hartwell?"

Skinner stared at him for a long moment. "One of the weirdest cases your parents ever dealt with. You met him?"

"And a bunch of other vampires living in RVs a few hundred miles behind us."

"Maybe you can clear up a long debated issue," Skinner smirked. "Did he, or did he not have buck teeth?"

"Definitely did," Will said, not understanding what was so funny.

"Did not," Pam muttered sleepily.

"If your parents are to be believed-something the bureau did not always do-you're likely to run into any number of mutants and alien abductees who will recognize your face."


"Interesting work, the X Files. Someone should write a book about it sometime."

"I will," Pam mumbled, rubbing her eyes.

"Hey! The Skinman!" Langly said brightly from somewhere behind Will, obviously having returned from wherever it was that they had vanished to.

"Good work, Will," Frohike added.

Will smiled vaguely but didn't acknowledge their presence out loud, not wanting to alarm Skinner.

"We're here," Skinner said, pulling the truck to a halt in front of a small, nondescript mobile home. An expanse of dark desert stretched in all directions.

"We're not actually in Roswell, are we?" Will asked doubtfully.

"A few miles outside it. Your parents wanted solitude."

Will frowned. His parents believed in some sort of crazy alien colonization plan...and lived in a trailer in the middle of the desert. He was suddenly at loathe to get out of the car, even though his legs were cramping.

"I don't know if this is a good idea," he said finally, feeling his heart thud beneath his rib cage. "Maybe we were never meant to meet."

"Don't be such a baby!" Pam hissed, grabbing his arm and dragging him out of the truck's warm interior.

Frowning, Will slipped his arms through the straps of his backpack, comforted by its familiar weight against his back. If anything went wrong, he could slip out into the night...

Skinner knocked on the front door of the trailer, which for all intents and purposes looked deserted. Pam had stepped behind him and was staring up at him with a mixture of awe and adoration. Will did not move to join them but instead wandered along the side of the trailer, inspecting it, looking for some clue about the people who lived inside.

He felt cold steel press into the back of his neck, followed by the unmistakable click of a gun's safety. He'd heard that sound way too many times in movies not to recognize it.

"Turn around," a voice, hard as nails, said. "Slowly. Hands up."

Will put his hands up immediately, trembling, and turned around slowly to look his assailant face to face. Her features were shrouded in shadow, and he stepped into the faint light from the trailer window to get a better look at her.

Will had never seen a person's face run such a gamut of emotion in such a short time. The woman standing in front of him pulled her face into such an expression of the purest joy, of relief and happiness and love that William thought his heart would break just looking at it. Then just as quickly her face sagged, perhaps as she realized he was not the person she had mistaken him for-and then confusion, rapid bewilderment as her lips moved, perhaps calculating, and then that happiness came back into her face, perhaps slightly dulled from the initial exuberant joy, but still beautiful and heartrending to behold. It was too much for him to comprehend.

William recognized her eyes. He saw them in the mirror every day of his life.

"William," she said, dropping her gun into the dirt and moving towards him, arms open. He allowed himself to be hugged, surprised at how right it felt, how natural. He was almost her height. In a few years, he'd be towering over her, he realized.

"You have no idea," she was whispering into his hair. "No idea at all how badly I've wanted this."

"How do you know me?" he asked, his voice muffled against her shoulder. "How could you possibly know me?"

"Dana!" a voice from behind him, intruding. Skinner was walking around the side of the trailer, Pam at his side. Will's mother released him from her hug, still clasping his hand in hers, and turned to face her visitors.

Her face was pale in the moonlight. Shocked and happy and sad all at once.

She had taken them inside, rushed them through the tiny door into the cramped living space. She was shaking, barely controlled as she moved instinctively to the stove to put water on for tea. Will watched as Skinner went to her, spoke to her in a familiar way, and finally managed to get her to sit down.

"I guess," Will said finally, staring into those frighteningly familiar blue eyes. "That you're my mom."

She smiled at him, something that seemed an amazing feat given the tears that glimmered in her eyes. "I'm Dana Scully. I haven't seen you since you were a baby."

Will wanted to bombard her with a million questions. He wanted to know everything about her, about her life, about his dad- his dad!

"Where's my dad? I want to meet him too," he said quickly, looking around the room hopefully. The furniture was sparse but cozy looking, covered with Navajo blankets. A single poster of a UFO with the words 'I Want to Believe' hung unframed on the wall over the couch.

When he looked back at his mom-his real mom-he saw that her expression had fallen. She suddenly looked so small, so helpless and pained that he had a hard time imagining that she was the same woman that had struck terror into him moments ago outside in the dark.

"He's...um..." She attempted to smile at him, brushing a stray tear out of the side of her eye. "He's dead, William."

Will felt as though someone had dropped a bowling ball on his stomach. He leaned forward in his chair with a grunt.

"Bullshit," Frohike said behind him.

"How?" Skinner asked quietly, his face horrified.

"I don't really know," she said, staring down at her hands. "It's been almost a year. He had gone outside, probably for an early morning jog..." She let out a strangled sob, looking somewhat sheepish. "Sorry, I haven't really been able to talk about this. I was inside-just a few feet away-when I heard the sound... "

"What sound?"

"I couldn't identify it at first. It was muffled. It could have been anything. But we live out here in the middle of nowhere, and we don't usually get sounds like that..." She sighed. "I guess I knew something was wrong."

Will noted with some pride that his dead godfathers had all convened around his mother and were staring down at her with an expression of utmost sympathy. If they could have hugged her, they would have.

"I went outside, and he was just lying there in the sand, he'd been shot. He was dead before I even got to him. I never even... got to say goodbye."

"Did you ever see who shot him?" Skinner asked quietly.

"No." Scully laughed bitterly. "I ran inside to get my medical bag and some towels, and when I came back outside he was gone. There was a bloodstain in the sand, but his body had just vanished. He's been gone for a little over a year now." Her eyes flitted back towards Will, who was still leaning forward in his chair, feeling rather faint. "William, I'm so sorry. Maybe I shouldn't-"

"No," he said quickly. "I needed to know."

He felt someone touch his arm gently and looked over to show Pam a brave face. She smiled sadly back at him.

"Who..." Scully said, peering at her for the first time.

"I'm Pam Sullivan," she said, sticking out her hand. "A friend of Will's."

"We were the only two from our town who survived."

"Survived?" Scully stared at them before something seemed to click. "My god. Caribou Cove?"

Suddenly everything seemed to pour out of William at once. "It's starting, colonization is starting, and they came to Caribou Cove because they knew I was there and now they think I'm dead, only I'm not dead-I got away, but they don't know that so they think it's safe to start and now we only have a day to stop it-"

His mother reached across the table and clasped his hands. He was surprised at the strength he felt in them. His other mother had always seemed so dainty.

"How do you know all of this?" she asked him, her voice full of wonder.

"They told me."

Scully glanced at Skinner and Pam with a raised eyebrow. "They told you?"

"Not them," William sighed. He had taken his dead godfathers for granted and was unaccustomed to explaining them to everyone he met. "THEM." He pointed vaguely at the space behind Scully's head.

She stared at him for a moment, before turning and looking behind her. Will noted with a small smile that Frohike was straining to peer down her shirt; it was the same way the rather short- statured ghost had behaved when particularly attractive soccer moms had walked by.

Several emotions flitted across Scully's face as she turned back to face her son. Confusion, concern, fear... "William, is... is there someone there? Behind me?"

"Three people, actually. My dead godfathers."

"It would be kinda helpful if the rest of us could see them," Pam muttered.

"Shut up," Will scowled at her, before returning his attention to his mother. "One of them is looking down your shirt right now."

"He's what?" Scully looked horrified and seemed torn between whether she should check her son for a fever or put on a turtleneck.

William laughed at the guilty expression on Frohike's face. "Okay, he says he's sorry. Frohike, Langly and Byers have been with me since I was little."

"Frohike!" Scully hissed, swatting her hand at the air behind her. Her hand went right through Langly's head, and he winced.

"See," Will stuck his tongue out at Pam, who rolled her eyes.

Scully was still staring at the empty air behind her, her expression reverent. "Mulder told me once, that he saw them...by the road..."

"My dad could see them too?"

"The three of them were very good friends of ours when they were alive," Scully said softly. "They helped your father and I out so many times, saved our lives. I don't know if I ever got the opportunity to properly thank them."

"You just did," Will said quickly, noticing the misty-eyed expressions on the faces of his odd guardians. "They've been looking out for me since I was little. They're the reason I got out of Caribou Cove in time."

"Thank you," Scully whispered.

"According to...Byers..." Pam glanced around. "Colonization is going to begin on July Fourth. That means we've got less than two weeks."

Scully shook her head slowly. "You know, in all the ways I envisioned this scenario playing out, I never once imagined I'd have to do it without Mulder."

Skinner reached out and touched her arm gently.

"So," Pam piped up, obviously anxious to break the dark mood that had fallen over the table. "What exactly are the plans? Because I gotta tell you, I was just orphaned, and I'm starting to look forward to kicking some alien ass."

"You were orphaned?" Scully redirected her gaze towards the younger girl.

"So was I," William snapped, feeling his cheeks redden as all heads at the table swiveled to face him.

"Forgive him," Pam rolled her eyes. "He's a baseball prodigy and he's let it go to his head. Thinks he's the most important person in the room."

"Hips before hands," Scully murmured with a private little smile.

"Look," Skinner said finally. "I don't really feel too great about riding out an alien invasion in a small trailer in Roswell. Have you made any provisions?"

Scully raised her eyebrows. "Small trailer in Roswell? Sir, I think you would have learned by now that looks can be deceiving." She stood from the table, beckoning them down the hall into a tiny, impeccably neat bedroom. Will kept his eyes firmly directed away from several framed photographs that adorned the dresser. "Lovely," Pam said. "But I don't really understand your point." Scully shoved the bed out of the way, revealing a small trap door underneath. She swung the trap door open to reveal a dark tunnel, a ladder leading into the depths. "Ah," Skinner said, smiling.

"What kind of weapons are these?" William asked curiously as he fingered what appeared to be a small silver tube. He pressed a button on the side, and a wickedly sharp, needle-like blade shot out of one side.

"Hit a hybrid in the base of the neck with one of those and he won't bother you anymore," Scully told him.

"Hybrid?" Pam asked weakly.

"I have a lot to explain, and not a lot of time to do it," Scully took the silver instrument from William's hand and replaced it on the shelf with the others.

William could not help but be impressed with the way she had reined in her emotions over the past hour. She had been obviously affected by both his presence and his questions about his father, and yet now she was all business. The underground tunnels were well stocked and fortified, and he couldn't help but wonder if his parents hadn't been looking forward to fighting aliens, at least just a little bit.

While Skinner patrolled the upstairs trailer, Will and Pam listened attentively as Scully spun a tale of the last twenty-two years of her life, starting with being assigned to the X Files division as a young FBI agent and being partnered with Fox Mulder, whose reputation preceded him. She told them some of the fascinating cases they had pursued, and Will noticed that while he eagerly absorbed every bit of information about his parents that he heard, Pam seemed equally fascinated by their occupation. She told them about the aliens, about the plots and conspiracies, about her desire to have children and the miracle that was William. At some point during the narrative, William realized that his dad must have had more lives than a cat, although his stint decaying in a coffin for three months must have finally put an end to his regenerative abilities. His most recent death had been final, an assassination to tie up loose ends.

What the men in charge hadn't counted on was Scully's willingness to continue the fight. They'd seen her almost crumble the first time she thought she'd lost Mulder for good, they thought a second death would kill her too.

They'd been wrong. Instead, she'd gotten angry.

"This is so cool," Pam said at one point, before ducking her head and blushing. "I mean, it's not cool, it's sad, but-wow. To think I went from daughter of a drunk to alien rebel overnight..."

"Alien rebel," William snorted. "You're just a dork."

"And you're just crazy, but I don't hold it against you."

"I may be crazy, but I saved your life."

"At least I don't talk to ghosts."

"Kids," Scully said, smiling although her voice sounded tired. "It's four in the morning. I think we should all try and get a good night's rest."

"Who knows when we'll be able to sleep again," Pam added morbidly.

Will followed his mother and Pam back up the ladder and into the cramped but more ordinary surroundings of the trailer. After a bit of squabbling he finally allowed himself to be convinced to take the bedroom, while everyone else found a place to bunk down in the small living room.

"I have so much I want to say to you," his mother whispered quietly, stroking the dark hair back from his forehead.

Will nodded sleepily, the prospect of a warm bed instead of a hard cornfield seeming overwhelmingly appealing.

"Tomorrow," she promised him. Will allowed himself to be put to bed and tried not to feel like too much of a baby as his mother tucked him in with more tenderness than his adopted parents had ever mustered, which was saying a lot.

His thoughts were confused as he drifted off into sleep.

"I can't believe she owns a copy of this."

"I can't believe they even *made* this."

"She always got annoyed when someone mentioned it..."

Will's eyes slowly fluttered open to the familiar sounds of his dead godfathers. They were clustered in a ghostly, semi- transparent huddle around the television in the corner of the room.

"What are you looking at?"

Only Byers looked mildly abashed. "It's a movie."

"A highly entertaining movie," Langly raised his eyebrows.

"Pure fiction, of course."

"I can't believe she owns a copy of this," Byers shook his head again.

"Worse, I can't believe she had it sitting in her DVD player, like she'd watched it recently."

"She probably-" Frohike fell silent, frowning.

Will slipped out from underneath the covers, crossing the room quickly to stand behind them. Outside, the sun was just beginning to peek up over the horizon, casting a pale pink glow over the entire room. His godfathers were standing in a semicircle, pondering a DVD case that read: "The Lazarus Bowl."

"Pam told me about this!" Will said excitedly, reaching through Langly's stomach to pick it up off the dresser.

The three exchanged glances.

"I guess you were bound to be exposed to it eventually."

"Just watch it."

"I warn you, it's bad."

Frohike shrugged. "I kind of liked it."

"You just thought the whole coffin thing was kinky."

Two hours later, Will was sitting cross legged on the bed, staring wide-eyed at the screen as the credits rolled. Thoughts raced madly through his brain. His parents had been the subject of a movie. Aliens and conspiracies aside, they'd been to Hollywood! And had his dad really looked like Gary Shandling?

Shaking his head, he slowly stood up, feeling the joints in his knees pop. The past few days had been a hell of a lot rougher on his system than the average game of baseball. There were low voices coming from the rooms beyond his closed door, and he slowly edged out of the bedroom and followed the murmurs.

He found Pam and his mother sitting on the couch, deep in conversation. Pam was staring at the older woman with a mixture of fascination and reverence. She was holding several photos in her hands.

"He looks so much like his dad," Pam whispered, glancing down at the photos. "Now I see why my dad could have mistaken him..."

"I do not!" William said indignantly, taking a seat on the floor and crossing his arms.

Pam and Scully both swiveled their heads to stare at him.

"Is he always like this?" Scully asked.

Pam shrugged. "I think this whole savior of mankind thing has gone to his head. Before, he was content to be the baseball prodigy of Caribou Cove. Not like it was really *fair* of course..."

"I was a good baseball player," Will grumbled. "And Gary Shandling's funny looking."

"Gary Shandling?" Scully looked baffled. "What does that have to do with-" Her face suddenly reddened. "Oh. You found the movie."

"Friends of yours brought it to my attention."

"Thanks, guys. Listen, William, that movie is about as far from fact as you're ever going to find. Rest assured that we never took on a...cigarette smoking pontiff and his army of zombies. Or kissed in coffins."

"Or romanced your assistant director?" Pam raised her eyebrows.

"How do you know?" Scully stared at her, looking startled.

"Do you really think that my dad wouldn't have owned a copy, worshipping Mulder as he did?" Pam sighed. "We watched it once a week. Consider it family bonding."

"Dear god," Scully closed her eyes. "How mortifying." She turned to William, her gaze softening. "Rest assured, you don't look like Gary Shandling."

"Are those pictures of my dad?" Will asked softly.

Scully began to stand, but Pam put a hand on her arm. "Will, just take them."

Will hesitated.

"Show her."

Sighing, Will concentrated on the pictures his mother held in her hand. He heard her surprised gasp as they tugged loose of her fingers and gently drifted across the room into his waiting hands.

"And the great baseball prodigy of Caribou Cove reveals his secret," he said quietly, staring down at the photos. The man in them was unfamiliar, and yet achingly recognizable. He saw echoes of that face in the mirror every morning; young, unlined and untouched by the stress that had marred the man in the photo, but the resemblance was unmistakable.

The thought that the man in the photos would forever remain a stranger to him, forever to be glimpsed only in the ghost of a reflection in the mirror, tore at William's heart. He wondered what it must be like for his mother, to have lost so much and yet to see it reflected in a boy who was not and never could be his father.

Will wondered briefly if he would have been better off never knowing the truth about his parentage, better off living in blissful oblivion with his adopted parents, enjoying his twelve years of life before being quietly snuffed out in the middle of the night...

"Was it all bad?" Will asked her quietly, hanging his head. "All of this stuff, living on the run, fighting aliens?"

"No," she smiled. "There was a lot of good."

Will glanced up suddenly. "He can't be dead."

His mother's face fell. He could hear the tremor in the voice that she fought so valiantly to keep strong as she spoke. "He is. I'm so sorry...He...he would have loved to meet you."

"No," Will shook his head. "That's just it. He would have wanted to meet me."

"He's right," Pam spoke up from where she sat. "If you believe he's not crazy, he has to be right."

"What do you mean?"

Will's heart had begun to pound. "My dad can't be dead, because if he'd died he would have come to see me like all of the others. Like my dead godfathers. Like the man Alex when I was a baby. Like the man with the cigarette that walked across my baseball field the day before my town died. If they all came to see me, why didn't my dad?"

Scully glanced over her shoulder, as if searching the shadows for some sign.

"He's not here. I would have seen him." A fevered flush had come into William's cheeks. "He's not dead. He's alive somewhere and we have to help him."

"I saw his body-"

"Well that's never stopped him before, has it?" Pam asked wryly. "If everything else is to be believed. I might be going out on a limb here, but I think the fact that Will hasn't seen a ghost speaks for a lot."

Scully shook her head. "Forgive me if this is all a little overwhelming."

"From everything I've heard-you have to forgive me for being presumptuous here- Mulder sounds like he'd enjoy a good haunting," Pam continued. "It just wouldn't be in character for him to just disappear. Especially without ever seeing his son."

"It almost seems like too much to hope for," Scully whispered, looking back and forth from Pam to Will.

"We have to find him before everything starts," Will said eagerly, standing up. "Otherwise we might never find him. Maybe he can help us stop this."

"Where do we start?" Pam asked, jumping up to stand next to him. "You should have your ghost friends hunt for him."

The sound of the front door swinging open interrupted them, and Skinner appeared in the hallway, his arms loaded with bags.

"I drove into town and picked up some supplies."

"You don't look like Richard Gere," Will blurted out.

Pam let out a loud snort, covering her face with her hands.

Skinner looked slightly abashed. "I guess you've seen the movie."

"Bound to happen eventually."

"Mulder might not be dead," Pam added.

Skinner blinked, glancing at the faces that peered expectantly back at him. "This is a hell of a lot to hit a man with before breakfast."

"Byers? Langly? Frohike?" Will stood up and glanced around. "Where did you guys go?"

"Right here," Byers said, appearing beside him. "What's up?"

"He worries me when he does this. Really." Pam raised her eyebrows at Scully.

"Where did you guys go yesterday?"

"Checked on some government people," Langly said. "Why?"

"You haven't...heard anything about my dad, have you?"

His dead godfathers exchanged glances.

"Your dad?" Byers asked. "No, we haven't."

"Not a peep," Langly added.

"It's as if he's not an issue in their plans at all," Frohike nodded.

"Well, of course he wouldn't be," Byers said softly. "He's dead."

"You guys haven't seen him though, have you?" Will prodded. "Floating around or something?"

Frohike shook his head. "No, but we don't usually bump into many of our own kind. Most people don't choose to stick around as ghosts."

"Seemed like fun to us though," Langly smiled.

"Don't you think he'd want to see me though? Before he... went away?"

The three exchanged glances again.

"That is odd," Byers admitted.

"Maybe he's not an issue to the people coordinating this invasion-not because he's dead but because they have him somewhere?"

"But that wouldn't make any sense," Langly said. "They would have just eliminated him."

"Unless they need something from him," Frohike said in a voice that oozed with growing paranoia.

"Then it would make sense," Will said eagerly. "He was supposedly killed a year ago, when the invasion was supposed to happen. They got angry because they couldn't find me and therefore couldn't go forward with their plans. So they get everyone to believe that he's dead, and then they keep him in hiding somewhere, taking what they need from him."

"We're on it," Langly said immediately.

"Boy, it's good to feel useful again," Byers smiled.

"Like old times," Frohike nodded.

"Don't do anything until we return," Byers cautioned, and then they were gone.

Will turned to the expectant faces staring at him.

"Have you returned from your conference with the spirit world?" Pam quipped.

"They're gonna go check it out," Will said. "They told me not to do anything until they come back." He turned and smiled gently at his mother. "They said they haven't seen Mulder...my dad... floating around in the afterlife anywhere."

"Well after all this, I hope we find him," Pam said. "I'd be disappointed if I never got to meet my dad's hero."

"At least you got to meet your dad," Will said darkly.

"William," his mother stood up from the couch and stepped towards him. He noticed with some guilt that she looked mildly nervous. "Can I talk to you in private?"

Will shrugged and followed her into the bedroom, where she shut the door and sat down on the rumpled bedspread with a shuddering sigh.

"Is everything...okay?" he finally asked.

She was silent for a long moment, emotions wrestling for control of her expression. Finally, she glanced up, fixing him with an intense blue stare. "I need to know exactly what you can do."


"Like what you did with the pictures."

Will shifted uncomfortably. "Well...I don't really know. I can sort of...touch things with my mind and make them move. I used to do it sometimes for sports." He shot her an embarrassed grin. "And when I didn't feel like finishing my chores at home."

"Can you touch people that way?"

"I've never actively tried," he frowned. "Sometimes, when I played basketball, kids on the other team would trip and fall down for no reason, but it was never something I tried to focus on."

"How long have you been able to do this?"

"As long as I can remember."

"You never told anyone?"

"Just Pam."

"Not your par-the Van de Kamps?"

Will grinned again, feeling a flush creep into his cheeks. "No, I never told them. It kind of seemed like my secret, you know?"

His mother was silent for a long time again. When she spoke again, her voice was strangled and unrecognizable. "Were you... happy?"

Will did not know how to answer her question. The past eleven years of his life had been about as close to blissful as possible, even with the strangeness and the knowledge that the parents that gave him a home were not the parents that had given him life. How could he possibly tell her about all the times his dad rushed home early from work to catch a little league game, even though it meant he was up half the night on his computer finishing up on what he'd missed at the office? Or the peanut butter sandwiches his mother would make? The first time he'd gone skiing and had fallen on his face in a snow drift, feeling the ice chill his nose and cheeks only to be pulled back to his feet by his mom, her cheeks red in the cold and her eyes dancing with laughter. The love he'd felt from both of them, even though he wasn't really theirs. His father had been so proud of his intelligence and accomplishments, his mother had been so concerned about giving him a "normal" life. He had always gotten the sense that when she'd imagined her life with a child; that she'd wanted to do the whole nine yards; the birthday parties, the PTA meetings, the play dates on the weekends. He'd always thought that she'd felt a little bad because he had somehow denied her the privilege of being the best mother she could be. And she'd tried so hard to keep things normal, to keep them sane, arranging play dates with kids like Carl Sanderson, kids with "normal" families and normal interests who didn't spend their afternoons with their noses stuck in books several years too advanced for them...and then when he'd befriended Pam she had accepted her, even though the girl's family situation horrified her. He'd had good parents. He'd had a good life. But how could he possibly tell this woman sitting in front of him all of that, how could he possibly give her a sense of the past eleven years?

He did not need to look into her haunted blue eyes to realize that she was looking for justification of the decision she had made to give him up for adoption. It was written in the tone of her voice, in her body language, in the way she wrung her hands tightly in her lap.

Her decision had spared him growing up in the New Mexico desert, miles outside of Roswell, with his only consolation being constant vigilance for the coming invasion. Perhaps he would have been better prepared, surely he would have, but she had given him a childhood with her decision. A childhood untainted by fear and pain. She had given him freedom, and perhaps she had saved him from the fate that had befallen his real father.

"Yes," he said finally, smiling sadly at her. "I was happy." Then, to his utter mortification, he began to cry. His parents were dead. His town was gone. Everything he had loved for his entire life had disintegrated in front of him and it was all his fault. If the Van de Kamps had been given another child, any other child, his mother would be at a PTA meeting right now, proudly socializing with the other mothers and talking enthusiastically about her child's accomplishments. They would have had someone else to give all of their love and affection to, someone else to worry about, someone who didn't talk to ghosts and make things fly around the room and who didn't bring aliens and government thugs into their home with murderous intent.

He was sorry for any time he'd ever been angry with them, any time he'd felt ungrateful for all that they'd done for him. Whether they knew it or not, they had died for him, and he was still uncertain that he was worth dying for.

"I'm glad," the woman in front of him said, reaching out to touch his face gently. He wondered what she had been like before things had all gone to hell, before he'd been born and when she and his father had been younger. What she'd been like over the past eleven years, before recent heartbreak had shattered her.

She was angry, resilient and resourceful, but she was less than whole. And Will realized with some shame that his own face was a constant reminder of what she'd lost.

"Will you tell me about your parents?" her voice was soft, almost shy. She seemed uncertain about how to act with him.

William stared at his feet for a moment, moisture blurring his vision. Then he moved towards the bed and sat down next to his other mother.

He told her.

They emerged from the room almost two hours later, Will feeling completely drained from crying and finally letting loose the torrent of emotions he had been struggling with since they left Caribou Cove.

He found Pam sitting on the couch, gazing with rapt attention at Walter Skinner. He was recounting some story about nanotechnology, and Will noted with some amusement that she hardly seemed to be listening, instead she appeared to have gone starry eyed.

"So..." she said when he had finished talking. "How did you wind up being the director of the FBI?"

Skinner cocked his head at her curiously. "You saw the documentary."

"They didn't talk about any of this stuff in the documentary. From all you've told me, I think you'd have been out of a job, not promoted. Helping Mulder escape-"

"You're a smart girl, Pam-"

Pam blushed.

"But you have a lot to learn about office politics." He smiled at her and stood up, his knees popping. He cut a formidable figure in the small space, broad shouldered and towering over everyone in the room.

"My family," Scully said suddenly. "What about-"

"I spoke with your mother before I left. She took the first flight out to California and is staying with your brother Bill at the military base," Skinner said calmly. "She has warned him of what's coming."

Scully shook her head. "He's not going to believe-"

"He believes it. Not happily, but he believes it."


"Your long absence has persuaded your mother of the seriousness of the situation. She was able to impart the same sense of urgency in your brother."

Scully shook her head slowly. "I'm amazed."

"Things have changed back in civilization," he smiled wryly at her. "The majority of Americans aren't buying the rabid wolf theory for what happened in Caribou Cove. People are asking all the right questions."

"They're asking them too late," her voice was sad.

"I'd like to think it's never too late."

"Two weeks isn't enough time to undo more than fifty years of planning."

"You've got a hell of an arsenal under your house for someone who believes that there's no hope."

Scully gave him a slight smile. "I didn't say there wasn't hope." She touched William gently on the shoulder. "Hope is right here."

Will felt that awful responsibility close in on him again. Everyone seemed so confident that his very presence would fix everything.

"We got him," Langly said, appearing next to Will suddenly.

Will whirled to face him, eyes wide. "Where?"

"Right under our noses the whole time," Frohike shook his head. "The bastards are keeping him at Quantico."

"Quantico?" Will slowly pronounced the unfamiliar word.

"Is he talking to...them?" Skinner asked, glancing from Pam to Scully with a baffled and mildly horrified expression. Pam nodded wordlessly.

"The FBI Academy. Of course, we've never had a reason to look there," Langly shook his head. "They've got him completely doped up; he didn't even recognize us."

"Called me Toto," Frohike groaned.

Byers materialized next to them. "The people there have given up all pretense of conspiracy. What they're doing, they're doing in the open."

"What are they doing?" Will asked.

"Trying to reactivate the so-called junk DNA in his brain," Byers said. "They're turning him into a weapon."

"A weapon?"

"Against you."

Will gaped at them.

"When they couldn't find you in time for the original invasion date, they adopted a contingency plan."

"They're going to use Mulder to wipe you out," Langly said. "Telepathy against telepathy."

"They're doing this in the open?" Will asked incredulously.

"It's thinly disguised," Byers said. "They're calling it a study on unexplained phenomena in the brain. They even have medical students sitting in on the operations."

"Your dad's become a real life, breathing X File," Frohike said.

"But he may not be breathing for much longer," Langly said grimly.

"We have to save him!" Will said anxiously.

"Will," Byers said delicately. "That may not be a very good idea."

"What the hell do you mean?"

"What he means is that Mulder's spent the last year of his life with his head cut open, being brainwashed into believing that you're the enemy and that he has to kill you," Langly cut in.

"We tried to reason with him," Frohike said.

"He had no idea who we were," Byers said. "No idea who he is. And when we mentioned your name, he grew violent."

"How violent?"

The three exchanged glances.

Will crossed his arms and glared at them. "You can't try and protect me anymore. I got in over my head when I ran away from Caribou Cove."

"He killed someone," Langly said reluctantly.

"With his mind."

"An orderly," Byers said. "Happened to be walking by at the wrong time. They immediately doped him again after that incident. He's in an induced coma."

Will felt tears stinging his eyes. "He can't have."

"Will," Byers said gently. "I'm so sorry. I know this isn't what you wanted to hear. But you cannot go looking for him. He *will* kill you if he gets the chance."

"The Mulder we knew is gone," Frohike said, staring at the ground. "It's better if Scully continues to think that he died a year ago."

"Better to let them keep cutting his head open?" Will demanded furiously. "I've already been orphaned once. Besides, they're going to send him after me anyway, aren't they?"

"It's likely," Byers nodded. "And he obviously knows where you are. You need to leave. All of you. Find a new place."

"There's a chance he might not survive long enough to be used as a weapon," Langly added. "His mind keeps strengthening, but his body is growing weaker every day."

His heart pounding, Will turned away from his dead godfathers to face his mother, who was staring at him with a stricken expression, having heard his half of the conversation.

"What did they say?" she whispered.

"They're holding him at...Quantico?"

She nodded absently, reaching out to grasp his hand.

"They're doing surgery on him, trying to reactivate Junk DNA in his brain. They're going to use him as a weapon against me."

A tear slipped from the corner of her eye.

"They say he's dangerous. That he killed someone with his mind. And that he might be dying."

"I have to find him," there was steel in that voice.

"Dana," Skinner had stood up. "I don't think that's a good idea-"

"HE WAS RIGHT THERE ALL ALONG!" she exploded, the blood draining from her face as she whirled around to face the taller man. "YOU NEVER NOTICED! THIS WAS GOING ON RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE!"

Will shrank back slightly, praying that he never had the brunt of that anger directed at him.

Skinner stared helplessly at her for a moment before reaching and pulling her into an awkward hug. "Dana...I'm so sorry."

She allowed the contact for a moment before pulling back. "I'm going to get him."

"He's dangerous," Skinner cautioned. "You heard what Will said."

"He's not dangerous to me," Scully said. "He can't be."

Will trembled as he said the next words. "He didn't recognize them. Langly, Frohike and Byers. They said they talked to him, and he had no idea who they were."

"He'll know me," Scully said calmly, reaching into a cabinet and pulling out a handgun, which she calmly holstered around her waist.

"I'm coming too," Will said, stepping forward.

"No," her face blanched. "I can't put you in danger."

"I'm not letting you go alone! Besides, you can't see my dead godfathers, and they can lead me right to him."

"Will, they're training him to kill you."

"Do you know how to shoot a gun?" Pam piped up.

"Jesus," Scully said. "He's twelve years old. He's just a baby."

Will grimaced. "Not a baby. I don't know how to shoot a gun, but I don't need to know how. I can use my head."

"William, this isn't baseball."

"Sure it is. It's just a playoff game, that's all." He smiled at Pam, who rolled her eyes for his benefit.

Scully trembled for a moment, before nodding slightly. "Fine. But you stay with me and listen to everything I say." She whirled to face Pam. "And you are not coming."

Pam held her hands up. "I wasn't even gonna ask."

"Sorry to make you hit the road again so soon," Scully said gently to Will, "but you need to pack your bags. We're catching the first flight to Washington."

The bustling city was so far removed from anything that Will had experienced in his twelve years of relative solitude. The closest thing to the crowds that he had ever experienced was the ski slopes in Aspen during peak season.

He hung close behind his mother, who navigated the streets like an old pro. She wore a baseball cap pushed low on her head, hiding her vivid red hair.

"Where are we going?" he asked her as they came up for air on one street corner and she hailed a cab.

"We're going to check into a motel not far from Quantico," she said, sliding into the taxi and giving instructions to the driver. Moments later they were moving, and Will watched the city slide by as the taxi headed into Virginia.

Less than an hour later he was watching, wide-eyed as his mother procured a false name and identification to the motel clerk, who handed her a key with no complaint. The two of them made their way down the line of rooms and stopped in front of number 13.

Will tried not to think of that as a bad omen.

Inside, his mother wasted no time in opening her bags and pulling out the supplies she had packed. She had provided airport security with more fake papers that had identified her as a federal agent with the right to bear arms. Her handgun was nestled neatly in her suitcase amongst her clothing.

Will had not asked her where she had accumulated these endless resources of disinformation. A part of him did not want to know.

She had purchased him some new clothes before they had left New Mexico. Will now stepped into the bathroom, pulling on the black jeans and t-shirt with some trepidation. In the mirror, his own reflection looked alien and dangerous.

When he emerged from the bathroom, his mother had already changed into a similar black outfit. A black windbreaker lay across the chair to her right, and she had tucked her hair under a black cap.

"Now what?" he asked, glancing out the window at the darkening sky.

"We wait."

He could see his dead godfathers pacing nervously in the corner. Occasionally, they shot Will mutinous looks, obviously not pleased with his decision. Still, he took comfort in the fact that they were there.

If his mother felt nervous, she did not show it. Instead, her lips were set in a hard line and she stared out the window, lost in her own thoughts. She looked capable of anything, and Will was reminded rather suddenly of the character Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, which he had watched on television years ago without his parents' consent. Sarah Connor had looked capable of anything too, and she had gone out with the intention to commit murder.

Will wondered if his mother was going to kill anyone tonight.

Not for the first time, he wondered if he was doing the right thing.

"Will," she said finally, turning to look at him. Her expression had softened and he was awed to see that there was still love in her eyes.

He nodded mutely, wiping his damp palms on his jeans.

"You don't need to do this."

"Yes I do."

She shook her head. "I owe it to Mulder to save him. I owe it to myself. But I can't knowingly allow you to risk your life."

"I need to do this," Will said, although there was a little part of his brain, some tiny rational part that was screaming at him to turn tail and run.

"Then I need you to understand something," she reached out and grabbed his hand, and her grip was iron. "This is war, Will. I am going to do everything in my power to bring him back. Everything."

He read the meaning in her eyes.

"There is no way we're getting out of there tonight without some people dying."

"I know," he said, and he prayed that it wouldn't be him.

"And if I find the people responsible..." her voice hardened.

Will didn't need to be psychic to know that she would take revenge. The kind of revenge people took in the movies he had never been allowed to watch but had snuck in late at night anyway.

She turned and stared back out the window, as the last vestiges of light disappeared from the sky. "Let's go."

Will tried not to watch when his mother crept up behind a security guard and pistol whipped him. He kept his eyes closed as she tied the man up and removed his gun and keys.

"That was the easy part," she murmured to him, touching his head gently before sprinting off into the darkness.

Will followed her, wondering if the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach was because of what he was doing or because he was getting closer and closer to his inevitable destiny.

They had left Pam and Skinner back in New Mexico with instructions for them to begin gathering supplies for the coming apocalypse. Skinner had wanted to come-Will had watched him and his mother fight for almost an hour before he accepted her refusal. He was too recognizable anyway.

Will wondered what would have happened if the director of the FBI appeared in the building and demanded Mulder's release. Would he be obeyed? Or would he be disposed of?

The sick twist in the pit of his stomach told him that he knew the answer to that too. The entire world was going to hell. His insides felt like a demented carnival ride. *Step right up kiddies, the world is going crazy but it's a hell of a ride*

They entered the building with little fanfare, his mother knocking out another startled security guard that tried to stop her.

*Two down and nobody dead yet* Will could not stop himself from thinking as his mother led him expertly into the building's corridors.

"Where is he?" Scully asked, and it took him a moment to realize she was asking him. He glanced around to find Byers reluctantly pointing down a hallway, and he took off in his dead godfathers' footsteps.

He listened when they told him to hide, in order to avoid a gaggle of FBI trainees coming down one hallway, listening avidly to their instructor.

"He's in there," Byers said finally, pointing down one hallway. "There are people there with him right now."

"Thank you," Will said, turning to his mother. "He's down there, but he's got people with him."

"Will," Frohike spoke up, his voice sounding choked. "Don't go in there."

"Thanks for your help," Will said again, turning away from them. He ducked his head around the corner and whirled back around to his mother, feeling panic begin to pound in his chest. "The room at the end of the hall."

He and his mother made their way down the hall towards a room that was highlighted by a giant glass viewing window. Inside, a figure was strapped to a table and surrounded by several young people with clipboards.

Will watched as his mother stepped right up to the window and put her hand on the glass. He hung back slightly, not wanting to look inside and see the horror within.

"Who's that?" one of the students asked, turning towards the glass to look at them.

"Oh shit," Will said, too caught off guard to censor his language. The others in the room were looking up-moving towards the door-and his mother had pulled her gun and was fixing it on them with murderous intent.

"AGAINST THE WALL!" her voice was pure rage.

The medical students complied without protest, exchanging nervous glances with one another. The man who had been leading the lecture reached into his jacket-

His mother shot him.

Will heard screams from the students, his own scream joining in as the man crumpled to the ground, his fingers relaxing from the butt of a revolver.

The people standing in front of him, six of them in all, were all in their mid twenties, wearing crisp white lab coats and looking like they were about to faint any second.

"What do we do?" Will asked his mother, keeping his gaze firmly fixed away from the spreading pool of red on the floor.

"Into that classroom," his mother snapped, shoving the first of the students, who went forward looking for all the world like he expected to be shot. The others filed inside nervously, and Scully slammed the door, turning the guard's key in the lock and trapping them inside.

Then she turned her attention to the man lying on the table in the center of the room, the fury on her face melting away and being replaced by something entirely different. She stepped forward slowly, hands outstretched.

Will followed reluctantly. The man lying on the cold table was not the same man he had seen in the photographs in Roswell. The features were the same-but he was emaciated, his skin having lost its healthy glow. His eyes were closed and his face was somehow contorted, as though he were in a great deal of pain. An ugly, vivid scar ran across his forehead, just under his hairline, and from his arms ran several wires that were hooked up to a menagerie of beeping machines. Whatever operating had been done on him...it appeared to be done with for now.

"Mulder," she whispered, touching his cheek with one trembling hand.

The man lying in front of them was a ghost of the man he had once been. Will stared at him, terror and pain pouring through him. He had spent the past few days feeling like the ghost of his father, feeling as though he was drifting through familiar territory without the prior experiences necessary to navigate it. But now he couldn't help but wonder if it would be he lying on the operating table had his real mother chosen to keep him. The appearance of his father in such a way seemed to Will to be the ghost of a decision not made.

"Mulder," her voice was so soft, so full of emotion, that Will couldn't help but worry that she was heading for a breakdown. Surely the human mind couldn't bear to run such a gamut of emotions in one night. "Mulder, you need to wake up."

His eyes opened, wide and startled and unfocused.

"It's me," she said soothingly. "You're okay now. But we have to move."

He sat up, his hands flailing awkwardly at the wires. His face was blank and uncomprehending, his jaw slack.

Will backed away slowly, not liking that face one little bit. The man in front of him was unrecognizable.

His mother was still standing by the table, gently stroking the man's arm and giving him gentle encouragement. She seemed trying to will him back into awareness.

Will had backed almost all the way to the door. He glanced down the deserted hallway, wondering how long it would be before someone realized what was going on and came running down here to correct the problem.

"William," Mulder said, his voice gravelly from disuse.

Will turned to face him, blinking in surprise.

"That's Will, Mulder, that's our son," Scully whispered. "He found us." She was smiling, tears pouring down her face, obviously taking Mulder's word to mean that he'd recognized them.

Will wasn't so sure. His father's face was so horribly slack, so devoid of all emotion. His eyes were glassy and fixed on Will's face. He did not look, even once, at Scully, who stood by his side, gently whispering to him.

"William," Mulder said again.

Will suddenly felt his world explode into pain. His legs collapsed beneath his weight, sending him crashing to the cold tile floor. His lungs screamed for air that he could not draw, and his heart struggled to beat as though it were caught in a vice. Red spots danced in his vision as blackness threatened to overcome. He felt something wet trickling down from his nose and realized, with a sort of absent horror, that it was blood.

He tried to do something-anything-but his head was filled with a terrible buzzing. His vision focused on the table behind his father and he reached out with his thoughts, pushing it in much the same way he could push a baseball that he had hit.

The table shot forward, catching his father in the back of the legs and he toppled to the ground, hitting his head on the floor with a terrible crack. Immediately, Will felt the pressure release and he staggered to his feet, groaning.

His mother stood, staring from her son to the man that now lay motionless on the floor. Her face was pale and horror-struck.

"You're bleeding," she said finally, searching her pockets frantically.

Will reached up and touched the skin under his nose gently, pulling his fingers away to see them stained with bright red blood. He absently reached for the tissue she handed to him, keeping his eyes on the man on the ground. His head had made such a horrible sound when it had hit the floor...and he'd had that scar on his head... Will was suddenly certain that he'd killed him, certain that his journey ended here, with the death of his father.

"Is he okay?" he asked finally, falling to his knees next to the prone figure.

His mother dropped to her knees beside him, touching the man gently, turning his head. "He's alive. We have to get him out of here."


"Will, I need your help! I can't carry him."

Will stared at her for a moment. "But he wants to kill me!"

"He doesn't want to kill you. They want him to kill you. And if we don't get him out of here now, he doesn't stand a chance."

William took a shuddery breath. It had all seemed relatively simple and overblown until he'd felt that crushing pain on his body. Now the threat posed by the unconscious man on the floor seemed all too real.

Still, he *was* unconscious. And he was his father.

Will stared hard at the man, reached out with his mind, and pushed.

His mother watched in amazement as Mulder lifted slightly off the floor and cruised slowly towards the door, like a human freight train. Will's entire body trembled from the concentration; lifting a baseball or basketball was a lot less punishing than lifting an entire person. Still, he pushed.

And he was amazed when they left the building and arrived, unmolested, at the car.

Mulder lay unmoving on the hotel bed, his breath whistling through his nose. Periodically, his eyes flickered under their closed lids.

Will wondered what he was dreaming about, and hoped it didn't concern his own death.

His mother sat by Mulder's side vigilantly, tears streaming in a quiet river down her face. She kept one of his big hands clasped firmly in her own.

Will felt uncomfortable interrupting what was obviously a private moment, so he retreated to the opposite side of the room and entertained himself by flipping through a newspaper.

What would happen when his dad woke up and tried to kill him again? Would he succeed? Would Will be forced to resort to something more forceful to stop him? Would his mother be forced into deadly action in order to protect her son? Could she possibly shoot him, if necessary?

He couldn't help but wonder what his other parents would have said about the situation he'd managed to get himself into. They would have been sick with worry. They would have...Will realized he had no idea what they would have done. His recent experiences were so far outside of his frame of reference that he had nothing to compare them to.

"Should we tie him up?" his mother asked finally, her voice hoarse. She didn't seem to be able to stop touching the man on the bed, running her fingers through his hair, stroking his cheeks.

"Won't matter," Will said glumly. "He doesn't need his body."

"Maybe...now that he's away from there..." the hope in her voice was pitiful.

Will stared at them, feeling his cheeks burn with shame. He had led her here. He had ignored his dead godfathers' advice and brought her here because he'd been stupid and headstrong and thought he could handle it. But now what? They had Mulder, but he wasn't himself anymore. He was dangerous. Maybe it would have been better for everyone involved to go on thinking that he was dead.

Then they could be spared the pain of watching him die all over again.

The man on the bed groaned loudly.

"Will," his mother's voice was sharp; authoritative. "It's not safe. Get out of the room."


"Just go!"

He obeyed immediately. Her tone of voice did not invite questions. Yet as he hurried out the door and into the corridor, he couldn't help but wonder if by leaving he was removing any sense of protection his mother would have.

What if Mulder killed her?

Then he'd be an orphan twice over. Twice responsible for killing his parents.

Shaking his head, Will ducked down below the window into their room, keeping his ear pressed to the wall. He was surprised at how well he could hear.

"Mulder." His mother's voice, so different from any tone he had heard her use before. Was she crying? There seemed to be a tremble in the way she said his name.

"Mulder *please*. Open your eyes. I refuse to believe that you're gone. Whatever they've done to you...you're safe now. Come back to me."

Her words were met with unintelligible mumbling.

Crouched under the window, Will felt a bead of sweat trickle down the back of his neck. He shut his eyes and waited for the worst to come.

"Hey," her voice was so tender, so full of warmth and welcoming. Will could only assume the man had opened his eyes. He silently thanked god that he didn't have to see that terrible blank expression again.

"How are you feeling?" she asked him.

The man in the bed began to scream.

Will leapt to his feet at the sound, bolting for the door to the room. Mulder's voice was pierced with agony, screams of terrible pain. As Will charged into the bedroom, he saw the man curled in a fetal position on the bed, holding his head and screaming-screaming and screaming and not coming up for air. His face was red and twisted, his eyes wide with horror.

His mother was standing back from the bed, her hand over her mouth, her face deadly pale. For a moment, Will thought she was going to be sick, but she recovered and flew to Mulder's side, pulling him close, smoothing his hair back from his sweaty brow.

Will's heart sped up and he took a step closer to the bed, the room door slamming shut behind him. Mulder's head snapped up at the noise, and his eyes met Will's.

He immediately stopped screaming. The hands that had been clutching at his head fell to his side. The tortured expression on his face loosened and disappeared.

"Will-" his mother said, but Will didn't hear the rest of her sentence. His ears began to ring and he braced himself for the crushing pain to come.

When it came, he was ready. His head throbbed, his heart contracted and his lungs struggled for air. He dropped to his knees, focusing all of his attention on the man causing the agony.

This time, instead of knocking Mulder over, he tried to touch his mind.

His head exploded with a cacophony of sound. His mother was screaming at Mulder, begging him to stop, there was someone pounding in alarm on the door to their room, his own heart throbbed in his ears. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his mother draw her gun from her holster and point it, with trembling hands, at his father.

"MULDER STOP!" she screamed.

He hesitated for a moment, awareness flitting into his eyes and then it was gone again, wiped clean by that awful blank stare.

Will's eyes locked on his father's, and suddenly he was somewhere else.

The pain had disappeared. Will found himself standing on a sandy beach, the wind ruffling his hair as waves lapped gently at the shore.

*Am I dead?* he thought to himself, before he saw the dark haired man standing by the edge of the water.

His father turned to face him at his approaching footsteps, looking startled. This was the man William recognized from the photographs; not the wasted figure lying somewhere behind him in a motel room.

"What are you doing here?" Mulder asked, cocking his head at him.

"Where are we?"

"On the beach."

"No shit," Will said, wincing as the words slipped past his lips. His other parents would have had his head for that.

His father looked baffled as he regarded Will with a studious gaze. "I feel like I should know you."

"You do know me," Will kicked at the sand. "You tried to kill me."

"I'm getting tired of this self-analyzing and psychobabble," Mulder sighed and sat down in the sand. "I get it. You're angry at me for the life path I chose-or I'm angry at myself for it."

Will sat down next to him. "What are you talking about?"

"You're twelve, right?"

"Yeah," Will said, wondering where this was going.

"Before Samantha or after?"


"Are you trying to tell me that I destroyed your innocence by going down the path I did or that I lost my dedication somewhere along the way?" Mulder grimaced and looked away. "Anger at what is, or regret at what might have been? Which one of me are you?"

"I'm your son."

Mulder blinked for a moment, scrutinizing him again. Their eyes met and Will heard his father suck in a breath.

"This is a new one."

"We're in your head, aren't we?" Will glanced around. "What the hell are you doing hiding out in here?"

Mulder smiled sadly. "It's nice here."

"Yeah, well while you're sitting on the beach, the rest of you is in some serious trouble."

"Another get-up-and-fight speech, huh?" Mulder shook his head. "I was hoping after all this time my subconscious would have gotten more creative."

"This is ridiculous."

"You know something? I'm *tired*." Mulder stretched his legs out and dug his toes in the sand. "I'm tired of gaining happiness and losing it. I'm tired of being shot at. I'm tired of the knowledge that the world is doomed. I'm tired of being kidnapped and experimented on. Let someone else pick up the torch for a while."

"I'm not your damn subconscious," Will said. "I'm really here. You tried to kill me, and I wound up in your head somewhere."

"I'm locked in a room somewhere with my head cut open," Mulder said patiently. "Not walking around. I can't be walking around if my mind is here."

"You're walking around without your mind," Will snapped. "They cut you open and hardwired you to kill me. That's what the rest of you is doing while you're lying on some beach."

Mulder gave him a wistful smile. "I wish I could have met you."

"You're not getting it. I'm here. I'm real."

"I think about you a lot. More than I'd even let Scully know. I think it would hurt her if she knew how much I missed you." Mulder smiled again, his eyes tinged with sadness. "I didn't want to make her question her decision, but I always try to imagine what you're doing, where you're living, if you're any good at sports..."

"I am," Will smiled, Pam's nickname for him popping into his mind.

Mulder frowned. "I try not to think about what it will be like for you when they come. When everything ends, and you're alone without ever having known your real family."

"I know more than you think," Will said softly. "Frohike, Langly and Byers have been watching over me since I was little."

Mulder fixed him with an intense stare. "I wish I could believe I was really talking to you. That you're not just another figment of my imagination."

"Who else do you talk to?"

"Myself, mostly," Mulder smiled humorlessly. "In different forms. They're always angry at me."

"Do you ever talk to my mom?"

His face pinched slightly and he looked away. "No."

"Why not?"

Instead of answering, Mulder stood up and walked towards the water, the waves pooling around his ankles.

"You feel guilty, don't you?" Will stood up and followed him. "You should. She spent a year thinking you were dead."

"I am dead."

"No, you're not. You're standing in a motel room, locked in some sort of telepathic battle of wills with me, and she's only a few feet away."

"What are you talking about?"

"You heard her, didn't you?" Will said suddenly. "She called you, and you heard her. It made you stop for a second, and then you were gone."

Mulder stared at him for a long moment. "Sometimes I think I hear her voice, yeah."

"Just now," Will pressed. "She called your name. It brought you back."

"Go away," Mulder's voice was tired. He put his head in his hands.


"If you're going to masquerade as my son, you might as well listen to me."

"Yeah well if you don't listen to me, either you're going to kill me or she's going to kill you."

Mulder blinked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, she's got a gun on you. If you don't wake up, she's going to have to deal with the fact that she had to kill you. Or that she let me die. Tell me, do you really think that's for the best?"

His father stared searchingly at him. "I don't know how to get back."

Will glanced up at the infinite expanse of blue sky. "I don't either, to be honest. But I'm going to try." He held out his hand.

Mulder sat still for a moment before reaching out and grasping it. Will held tightly to his father's while at the same time fighting to release his mind's grip.

When he opened his eyes, he was back in the motel room.

"Will," his mother gasped, her gun still trained on Mulder, her hands shaking and her voice wobbling.

He opened his eyes and looked around, feeling the now familiar wetness on his face and the coppery taste in his mouth. He hoped that the mental attacks weren't doing too much damage-

He stood up abruptly, too abruptly, and his head spun. His eyes searched the room and found his father's familiar face.

Mulder still stood near the bed, eyes wide. As Will watched, he blinked; once, twice, and then he shook his head slowly, as though trying to clear it.

There was still someone pounding at the door. Will realized with a start that while it had felt like hours inside his father's mind, it really only had been a matter of seconds.

"What the hell is going on in there?" an angry voice called from the other side of the door. "I'm calling the police!"

"Mulder?" Scully asked hesitantly, still holding her weapon on him.

"Scully," Mulder gasped, taking a step forward, his knees giving out. She caught him as he went down, his head resting on her shoulder, her own body shaking with sobs.

"You almost...I almost..."

"I know," he said, his voice muffled in her neck. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Then he raised his eyes and met Will's uncomfortable gaze.

"Hey again," Will said, not knowing what else to say.

His father smiled, a sad, gentle smile. "Hi."

His parents drew apart, and immediately Will found himself at the center of a swirl of attention. His mother grabbed a towel and was tenderly wiping at his face, brushing his hair back out of his eyes, hugging him...

The motel door caved inward, the frazzled looking night clerk bursting in with a baseball bat held at the ready.

"What the hell is going on in here?" he asked, surveying the damage, the bloody towel Scully still held, the gun on the floor.

"Just a little domestic dispute," Mulder said with a wry smile. "Nothing to worry about."

"Thanks for your concern," Scully added.

The man regarded them for a moment, chest heaving, looking torn between his desire to leave and what appeared to be a moral obligation to clock Mulder over the head with the baseball bat.

Will stared hard at him, giving him a little push. The man stumbled backwards through the doorway.

"Right," he said, his hands dropping to his sides. "I'll be going. Keep your voices down."

The door swung shut behind him.

Scully turned to Mulder, stepping towards him and touching his arm. "Do you have any idea what's going on?"

"Only what he told me."

"What he..." Scully glanced over at Will, her eyes widening. "Were you in his head? Is that where you went?" She shook her head slowly. "For a minute I was afraid you were dead."

Will saw his dead godfathers appear in the corner of the room, gathering around Mulder in a semicircle of admiration.

"More lives than a cat," Frohike grunted, shaking his head.

"Figures, we die once and stay dead," Langly grumbled.

"We have to get out of here," Scully said. "Fast."

"Why?" Will blinked.

"The night clerk was only one problem. Any other person staying here could have called the police." She turned to Mulder, who was still standing, albeit leaning heavily on the wall. "Can you walk?"

He shrugged his shoulders and gave a lopsided smile. Will watched his mother's expression melt once more.

"I packed clothes for you," she said to him quietly, almost shyly, rummaging in her overnight bag. "And false papers. We need to get the first flight back to New Mexico."

He raised his eyebrows.

She took a step towards the door and then wavered slightly, turning back to face him. "Mulder?"


"What...happened to you?"

Mulder glanced towards Will, their eyes meeting. "I don't remember much. I was shot...that much I remember, and I woke up in a helicopter heading back for D.C. I thought they were going to throw me back in prison."

Scully grimaced.

"From then, it gets hazy. I remember bits and pieces, certain faces. They were in my head. Eventually, I wasn't there anymore."

"They were making you into a weapon," Scully said. "To use against your son."

Mulder touched the jagged scar on his forehead, wincing. "Scully, listen. You need to shoot me."

"What?" she stared at him for a moment as if he had sprouted another head.

"If that's what they were doing, then I'm dangerous."

"You're not," she said softly, stepping towards him. "You're back now."

"For how long?" his voice rose slightly. "Until I fall asleep? Until they hypnotize me? As long as I'm alive, I'm a danger to you. A liability."

"Mulder, don't be ridiculous."

"You can't let anything happen to him," Mulder said, his voice tinged with desperation. "You can't let anyone hurt him, can't let me hurt him. The

world needs him."

"And I need you," Scully said flatly. "I won't mourn you again. It's been too many times."

"Can I say something?" Will asked finally, glancing from one parent to the other. "I'd prefer to think we didn't go through all of this for you to turn around and die."

Mulder sighed and glanced at him.

"My dead godfathers told me that the people experimenting on you reactivated your junk DNA...and I have kind of an idea what that means, even though I'm not too clear. But you can do things with your mind. I felt it. I can do it too, although I probably need more practice since the only things I'm used to pushing around are baseballs. But two of us is better than one, am I correct? If they're so scared of me that they needed to do this to you to wipe me out, then they should be doubly scared now that you're back on the right side, right?"

"I agree with him," Scully said, crossing her arms.

"And if I'm wrong..." Will took a deep breath, not believing what he was about to say. "If you are dangerous, I'll kill you myself."

"William!" Scully said sharply.

Mulder ignored her, stepping forward on trembling legs and placing one hand on William's shoulder. He was silent for a long moment before he spoke. "All right."

Throughout the course of the plane ride, Will kept his attention on his father, praying that the man would speak to him. He wanted so desperately to understand what was going on, wanted desperately to be a part of the things he had glimpsed so fleetingly in his strange journey.

But Mulder was silent, staring out the window with an unreadable expression on his face. He wore a Yankees baseball cap that covered up the livid scar on his forehead, and yet Will saw how he still ducked his head slightly when someone spoke to him, as though trying to hide the evidence.

His mother sat next to Mulder, her head down, dozing. She was angry, Will could tell by the grimly set line of her jaw which did not relax even in sleep. Her head did not drift over onto Mulder's shoulder but instead drooped onto her own chest.

And Will, sitting on the isle, wished desperately that someone would talk to him. The promise he had made to his father weighed heavily on his mind. He wondered if he'd be able to do it, if the time came. He wondered if his mother would ever forgive him for even uttering the words.

Not for the first time, he wondered if they had made a mistake by going to Washington. Perhaps it would have been easier for his mother to just go on believing that his father was really dead... *Until I turned up on the doorstep looking to kill you*

Will jumped at the sound, looking around. His father was still staring moodily out the window, his mother still dozing. With a start, he realized that he had heard the voice in his head. *Mulder?* He said the name in his mind.

His father shifted slightly in his seat. *I don't blame you for doubting.*

Will frowned. *I don't mean to doubt. I'm glad I got to meet you.*

*I guess communicating like this will make it easier to conspire about Christmas presents* Mulder's voice held traces of humor.

Will felt a smile tug at his lips in spite of himself. How silly it felt, having this conversation in his head while his mother dozed between them, completely unaware. Then his smile faltered, and he glanced over at his father. *Do you feel the other part of you in your mind? The part that's...them?*



There was a long pause before Mulder answered. *I don't know if it's good or not, Will, to be honest. If I felt it, I'd know where it was and possibly how to control it. This way, I don't know what, if anything, will trigger it.*

*Maybe you being aware of it is enough to control it.*


Will glanced over at his father. *Can you read anyone's mind, or just mine?*

*Anyone I want to.*

*Do you have to think about it, or does it just happen?*

His father let out a soft laugh. *I've gotten better at keeping it in check. I can only hear what you're thinking if I tune into you. You can probably do the same, if you think about it hard enough.*

Will nodded. *What's she thinking?* Mulder's voice came over slightly strained.*She's worried.*

*About you, or me?*

*Both. Worried about our safety, worried about the future. She's so glad to have you back, Will, and she's worried that something will happen to take you away again.*

*I'm worried that I'm not the savior you all are hoping for.*

*You're my son.* Mulder's voice sounded strange, choked up somehow, even coming through his mind.*That's enough.*

Will nodded slowly and shut his eyes, leaning his head back against the uncomfortable seat.

*Tell me about how you found her.*

*Can't you read my mind and find out?*

Will shrugged.

*I could,* Mulder agreed.*But I'd rather hear it in your words. I want to know you.*

Will smiled.

His mother's eyes snapped open when the plane touched down, and Will watched as she looked first left, then right, seeming startled to see who she'd woken up next to. Then she'd smiled, a real smile that seemed to melt away the tension and anger that had lined her face in Washinton.

"Welcome home," she said.

They took a taxi to Roswell, and then another taxi from the town to the trailer. As Mulder made his way up the steps, he was almost knocked over by an explosion of frizzed blond hair and rumpled clothes that erupted out the front door.

"YOU'RE ALIVE!" Pam shrieked, pouncing on Will.

As Mulder fought to regain his balance, Skinner appeared in the door, looking frazzled. To his credit, he managed not to look too shocked too see his former agent standing, alive and well, before him.

"Jeez, Pam," Will blushed, stepping back. "Knock it off. People are gonna think you're glad to see me or something."

Pam, her composure recovered, shrugged and had the good sense to look abashed. "Well, I'm not. I just would rather you didn't die until you saved the world."

"Who...?" Mulder glanced from Pam to Scully, eyebrows raised.

"She grilled me on FBI protocol for two days straight," Skinner said. "I don't think she even slept."

"Who can sleep when the world is ending? This is information I may need to know!" Pam yelped.

"Curiosity killed the cat," Skinner growled.

"And promoted the Assistant Director," she smirked back.

Skinner turned to Scully, scowling. "Now that my babysitting duties are officially over, would you mind telling me what the hell is going on?"

"Babysitting?" Pam gaped at him. "BABYSITTING? I trekked halfway across the country on my own, thank you very much, you were just keeping me COMPANY!"

"Did you give her caffeine?" Scully blinked.

"She drank a whole pot of coffee last night. Said she wanted to stay awake all night so she could hear about the fascinating life of an FBI director."

"And figure out how to fight the aliens," she added.

"But mostly to hear about the FBI."

"And the aliens."

"I'm sorry," Mulder piped up. "Could somebody tell...who are you?"

"Oh! Oh my god!" Pam turned her attention from Skinner and looked Mulder up and down, her eyes gleaming. "You don't understand what this is like! I've heard stories about you from the time that I was born!" She bolted forward and threw herself into Mulder's arms as he patted her on the back awkwardly.

"And you are...?" he tried again.

"Pam Sullivan," she stepped back from him and offered her hand for a brisk handshake. "You were my father's hero. He made me watch 'The Lazarus Bowl' somewhere in the vicinity of a ninety times."

Mulder winced. "I thought you said this man liked me."

"Liked you? Are you kidding? He LOVED you! All he ever talked about was how you were the first person who ever took him seriously about aliens and stuff. He was so thrilled to meet Will... recognized him right away." She frowned. "Of course, that may have inadvertently brought about the end of the world, but..."

"Forgive and forget, right?" Will smiled hopefully.

Mulder had squinted his eyes at Pam, "You said your name is Sullivan?"

Pam nodded.

"I think I remember. It was a long time ago, before I even started working on the X Files."

"He had implants," Pam offered.

"Oh, that helps," Scully rolled her eyes with a smile.

"In any case...Pam..." Mulder still looked baffled, but he managed a smile. "It's nice to meet you."

"Tell me everything," Pam grabbed Will's arm and tugged him to the side. "What was it like? Was there a shootout? Did he try to kill you?"

"Pam, get some sleep," Will couldn't help but laugh.

"Who can sleep when aliens are coming to take over the world?"

"We need to talk seriously about a plan," Mulder said quietly, stepping inside the trailer and looking around with a slightly dumbfounded expression.

"Mulder?" Scully asked, stepping up to him and putting her hand on his arm. "You okay?"

"Yeah," there was an odd smile on his face. "Feels good to be home."

"You look way too thin," Pam said critically, crossing her arms and looking him up and down. "The man needs cookies."

"You need a sleeping pill."

"And pie. He needs pie."

Mulder glanced around. "Is there pie?"

"He needs pie. I need pie. We all need pie."

"I don't need pie," Scully shook her head with a laugh.

"I tend to agree with Pam," Mulder said. "Pie."

Skinner narrowed his eyes at Pam. "You're a rat, you know that?"

Her eyes widened innocently as he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a white bakery carton. "Me?"

Scully peered over his shoulder with sudden interest. "Is that a pie? In my fridge?"

"Skinner bought it yesterday," Pam said smugly.

"For me," he scowled back at her.

"It's coconut custard."

"On second thought, pie sounds great," Scully opened a drawer and rummaged around for some silverware.

"I feel like I'm stuck in a bad sitcom," Will moaned.

"Want some pie?"

He sighed. "Sure."

Will resigned the bedroom to his parents and moved instead to a couch in the living room, recognizing that they needed their privacy. Pam, her stomach sated with pie, was already asleep in a tangle of blankets, snoring lightly.

He lay, staring at the ceiling for a few moments, before he heard the bedroom door open and footsteps disappear out the front door and into the night. He stood, kicking off his blanket, and followed his father into darkness.

Mulder was standing a few yards away from the trailer, looking pale and lost in the moonlight.

"You all right?" Will asked hesitantly, stopping a few paces away.

Mulder blinked at him, his face surprised. "I...can't sleep."

"I'm having some trouble falling asleep too."

"It's not that I can't fall asleep..." Mulder smiled wistfully. "I can't let myself fall asleep. I don't know what will happen."

"You can't stay awake forever," Will was aghast.

"Scully...your mom...she's been through so much. She doesn't want to admit that I could still be dangerous to you. To all of you. I don't want to believe it either, but it's a very real possibility."

"Why don't you have her stand guard while you sleep for a little while? That way she can wake you up if something happens."

Mulder looked tormented. "What if she can't wake me up? What if I hurt her? What if I hurt you?"

"I think there's a difference now," Will said slowly. "You know now. You're not sitting in blissful oblivion on some beach."

"You're a lot wiser than most twelve-year-olds," Mulder smiled.

"You should try to sleep," Will smiled and looked shyly down at the dirt. "You need to build up your strength."

Mulder nodded, stepping forward and placing a hand on his son's shoulder. "You're everything I could have hoped for in a son, do you know that? I'm grateful I have the chance to know you."

He was gone, ducked back in the trailer before Will even had a chance to let that comment sink in. Will stood outside for several more long moments, his cheeks burning with embarrassment and pleasure.

For once, he didn't feel like people liked him for something he was supposed to do in the future.

And for the first time, he didn't feel terror or anxiety pressing insistently on his shoulders. Instead, he felt hope.

Hope for his family. Hope for the future.

"That's all?" Erin Doggett leaned back in the leather seat of his sports car, her expression curious and mingled with slight dismay.

"What do you mean, 'that's all?' You don't think that was a hell of a story?" Will was astonished as he pulled the car into the parking lot of a crowded restaurant.

"It was a hell of a set up," she frowned. "You didn't tell me anything I wanted to know."

"On the contrary, I told you everything you wanted to know. Who I really am, where I came from..."

"But the rumors-"

"Rumors are by nature unreliable."

"So what really happened, then?"

"You've heard the rumors." There was laughter in his voice.

"I'm supposed to believe you saved the world from an alien invasion, and then went off to become a professional baseball player?"

"Is that so unbelievable?"

"It falls somewhere within the implausible range, yes."

"That's why they're rumors."

"So what happened to your little friend? Pam?"

Will smiled wistfully as he shifted his car into park. Memories came flooding back, of sunsets and smiles and watching his mother comb Pam's hair into a sleek ponytail and help her do her makeup...of the sweetness of a first and last kiss under the moonlight, the sadness of goodbye...

"People come in and out of your life," he said thoughtfully. "Happens all the time. After-"

Erin raised her eyebrows, looking eager, and he laughed.

"After-everything-I stayed with my parents. We moved out of Roswell and out to California to be near my mother's family. For obvious reasons, we could not take Pam with us. She deserved..." Will closed his eyes for a moment. "She deserved a chance at normalcy."

"What happened to her?"

Will laughed. "Skinner took her. Said he knew some old friends of my parents who might be more than willing to take her in and raise her as their own. He promised to look out for her like an uncle."

"She must have been thrilled," Erin said softly.

"She was. We didn't keep in touch. My parents were pretty insistent that she be allowed to live out the rest of her childhood untouched by aliens and ghosts and other...weirdness. They told me that when she turned eighteen, if she chose to, she could look me up."

"She never did?"

Will shook his head. "Never. But honestly, how many guys can claim to still be friends with their first kiss?"

"William Mulder, the twenty-six year old brokenhearted baseball star," Erin murmured softly. "The public would just eat you up if they knew this."

"I wouldn't call myself broken hearted," Will snorted. "It's not like I never dated. I did...quite a bit in college." He laughed at the memory.

Erin stared thoughtfully out the window for a moment. "Earlier, when you mentioned about Babe Ruth giving you batting advice..."

"He's really a swell guy."


"But, even if you chose to believe the rumors-"

She laughed.

"That the alien threat is over, there's still a lot of important work to be done on the X Files. A lot of cases that need solving. A lot of people that need help."

"From a paranormal baseball cheat?"

"I have a natural sports aptitude."

"Glad we've cleared that up."

Will smiled down at the steering wheel before glancing up and meeting her eyes. "I really had no intention of this, but would you like to join me for dinner?"

She glanced up at the restaurant, amusement dancing on her lips.

"I'd love to, but first there are some things I want to go over with you."

"You're not going to find out anything more."

"Do you ever read The Lone Gunman?"

"The magazine? My dead godfathers founded it. They were honored to see that people were still writing for it in the wake of their demise."

"I write for it."

He blinked, waiting for the punchline. "You write for the Washington Post."

"And the Lone Gunman."

"I've never seen your name in print."

"Pseudonym, dumbass." Erin laughed at the expression on his face. "I get a story and write the official version for the Washington Post, and then write the truth for the Lone Gunman. I've been doing it for years. No one has ever caught on."

Will heaved a sigh. "Am I going to wind up as a story?"

"You'll sell a lot of copies. And of course, no one will ever believe a word of it." She smiled at him. "It's foolproof. Dispel those alien rumors by telling the truth about them. The easiest way to get people to believe something never happened is to tell them it did."

"I guess we both have our secrets," he said quietly, unbuckling his seatbelt.

"One more thing, before we eat," Erin said.

He turned to face her wordlessly. The flashing neon from the restaurant lit up her entire face, making her look ethereal and alien.

"My parents were FBI agents too. They adopted me when I was orphaned at twelve years old. I changed my name."

Will stared at her for a moment, studying that face. She couldn't be...

"John Doggett and Monica Reyes were close friends of your parents, Will."

"Pam?" his voice was strangled.

"Amazing what a few years and some good hair advice will do for a person, isn't it?" Her voice was light, teasing. "I told you I'd grow up to be a writer."

He was completely speechless.

"I'm pleased you remember me so fondly," she laughed again, reaching over to touch his arm gently. "And just because I never contacted you didn't mean that I didn't follow your career quite closely. The great baseball prodigy of Caribou Cove, all grown up."

"I don't know what to say," he said, shaking his head. "You've managed to shock all rational thought out of my head."

"I have a proposition for you," she smirked, leaning in closer. "A unique partnership, so to speak. A blending of media and law enforcement."

"You want to tag along on my X Files cases."

"The Washington Post will get the official version. You'll always be painted in a good light. And the Lone Gunman will get the truth. That way, for those who are really paying attention, the truth will always be right there in front of them."

"You're an odd bird, Pam."

"Always have been," she agreed. "What do ya say?"

"Come on, partner, I'm starving." Will grinned and stepped out of the car.


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