Title: Later
Author: Toniann
Rating: G
Category: Vignette
Spoilers/Timeline: Set post-Existence; season 9 does not exist
Keywords: Mulder POV, post-colonization
Disclaimer: They're not mine. But don't let that stop you from reading.

Summary: He doesn't really know where he's going right now, but he feels like it's the wrong direction.

He drives onto Margaret Scully's pristine front lawn, pulling the car as close to the front door as possible and throwing it into park. He jumps out and pops the trunk, shoving his hastily packed suitcase towards the back.

Maggie meets him in the front foyer, her forehead creased with confusion. As he bolts past her and grabs as many of the bags piled by the foot of the stairs as he can carry, she tries to stop him. "Fox --"

"There's no time," he says, too harried to be kind or gentle. "None. Where's William?"

"Upstairs," she says. "He was asleep when you called, I had a lot to pack --"

But he's already gone, taking the stairs two at a time, feeling irrationally annoyed at how slow she's moving compared to the frantic energy he can't contain.

The baby is asleep, just as she said, lying on his back, head turned to one side. Mulder scoops him up without preamble and dashes back down the stairs, jostling his son awake. William's eyes stay closed but he begins to cry, a thin, piteous wail.

Maggie is where he left her, standing in the foyer. She hears William's cries and automatically holds her arms out for her grandson, her face registering surprise when Mulder brushes past her, heading for the car.

"Keep bringing bags out to the car," he tells her as he places William in his car seat, hastily fastening buckles. "I'll be there in a second."

The baby begins crying in earnest. Maggie looks pale and is still moving too slowly, still thinking, he can tell, and wanting to ask questions. He finishes with the bags and tells her to get in the car; she climbs in the back with William. As soon as her door shuts he backs down the driveway. Tires squeal as he swerves to avoid an oncoming car. The other driver gesticulates at him angrily, but Mulder is going, going, gone, speeding down the quiet residential street, focused on the road.

In fact, he forces himself to tune everything else out: William's cries and Maggie's attempts to calm him, the other drivers, the beating of his own heart. He stares at the road ahead, forward, away, anywhere but here, finally. On the way to Maggie's he'd been obsessed with details, what to do, whether he should get Maggie and William into the car first, then the supplies they'd need, *what* they'd need, how long he could go without stopping for gas, whether the maps he'd need were in his car or Scully's...

He takes a deep breath, finally. He has them. That's what matters. That's what he can do right now: get Maggie and William to safety. That's his job.

The baby isn't crying anymore, he notices. Maggie is keeping him occupied with a stuffed toy attached to his car seat, her voice low and soothing, indecipherable. For the next few miles he glances at her periodically in the rear view mirror, just quick glances, not liking to take his eyes away from the road for too long.

She sits back, leaving William to his toy, and meets his look with one of her own. "Fox --"

"I'm sorry, Maggie."

She sighs. "Just tell me."

"There isn't much more to say than what I told you on the phone. We've got to run, I've got to get us to safety. That's where we're headed."

She doesn't respond for a moment, staring out the window, watching Will. "I'm not fighting you on this, Fox. Dana has told me, more than once, that if something like this happened I should do what you said," she told him. "She told me to believe you, no matter what, no matter how crazy it all seemed."

He swallows hard. "Thank you."

"So tell me," Maggie demands. "I promise, I won't think you're crazy."

"I can't... it's too much, right now, to explain. Later... I promise, later, when we're somewhere safe, I'll explain everything."

"Okay. But tell me something now."

Mulder takes a deep breath, stares at the road. "It's beginning. Colonization. Now. Everything Scully and I have been fighting all these years. And we have to run."

He watches for her reaction but whatever Maggie thinks about his words, she �s keeping to herself. As promised, though, she does not challenge them.

"Where's Dana?" she asks him, finally, the question he's been dreading for miles.

"On a case with Agent Doggett."

He considers telling her the truth: that Scully isn't answering her cell phone, that she checked out of her hotel this morning, headed for the airport, that he has no clue where she is. That he's scared as hell and wants to fly himself, wants to get on the next plane to anywhere that she might be and start searching for her, somehow, some way. That he doesn't really know where he's going right now, but he feels like it's the wrong direction.

But he can't say that now, can't be distracted from the road. Later. Later, when they're safe, he thinks, and it sounds like a prayer to even his secular mind.

Their eyes meet in the mirror once more, and in her look he reads understanding. Later, they tell each other. Later they can be afraid.


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