Title: My Name is William
Author: PamalaSt
Written: February 1999
Feedback: To PamalaSt@aol.com
Disclaimer: Characters from the television show The X-Files used herein are the property of 1013 Productions and Fox Broadcasting Corp.
Category: Future
Rating: PG13 ?? ( some harsh language)
Archive: By permission of PamalaSt@aol.com
Spoilers: all 5 season, FTF and then some

Summary: Events of the past thru Mulder and Scully's grown son.

Little note to start things... This story came out of my need to see something after season 7. Also a bit of Full Disclosure, at least the way I see it William is the grown son of Mulder and Scully and this story is a look at their lives, work and relationship through his eyes and how it impacts his life. Warning .. Mulder and Scully are not among the living at this point <g>

Note: Just one possible glimpse into the future of the X-Files


I.

Margaret Scully's
Southern California Home
In a possible future??

I begin this journal in an attempt to better understand the events of the past 24 hours.

My name is William Alan Mulder, but everyone calls me Will. I even made my parents call me Will. In appearance , I am the image of my father - tall, lean in build with dark unruly hair. However, as my maternal grandmother, whom I have lived with since my father's death, is so fond of pointing out, I have my mothers blue eyes and too much time spent in the California sun never fails to bring out the red in my hair.

My mother, Dana Katherine Scully, died from a rare form of cancer when I was just 10 years old. My father passed away some 4 years later in an automobile accident.

According to my grandmother, if not for me, Dad might have died right along with her from a broken heart. It was with the loss my parents that I came to be raised by my Grandma. This is a change I have long since become accustomed to.

Now my life has changed once again. After returning from a dinner out with my grandmother to celebrate both my birthday and acceptance into the FBI academy, things began to change.

It seems so natural for me to want to follow in the footsteps of the parents I've admired but lost so long ago. While my choice seems to make Grandma a bit uneasy, my Uncle Bill has become down right insistent that I forget about the FBI. Although I am not entirely sure of his motivation, I sense it has something to do with his strong dislike of my father. Contrary to what he may believe he has been quite unsuccessful at hiding this fact from me.

Anyway , back to the events following dinner. After returning home and settling in for the night, Grandma came to my room bearing a sealed Manilla envelope. She laid it gently on the desk, urging me to help her move four large file boxes into the room. Confused and curious, I simply did as she asked, as any good grandson would have done. As I sat the last box down, she took the envelope and placed it into my hands.

As she spoke, the sadness in her eyes and voice were unmistakable.

" Will, honey, these things are from your father. Its time that you read them" With a sad smile and a promise to be there if I needed her, she left me alone with my father for the first time in nearly 10 years.

With a rush of excitement and uncertainty, I sat down hard on the floor amongst the boxes, clasping the still-sealed envelope. As time passed , I found the strength to open it.

Now I sit silently with tears in my eyes, reading a letter from my dead father, Fox William Mulder.

Will,
I am filled with such pride at the mention of your name. First, I must say I am sorry that I am not there to tell you these things myself. I promised myself when you mother died that would do everything possible to be a good father to you and never let you down. I am so very sorry to have failed you.

The mere fact that your grandmother has chosen to give you this letter means that your life has taken a turn, making it necessary for you to know the truth. Along with this letter, there should be several boxes containing documents, files and journals - both mine and your mother's.

Long before you came along and before your mother and I were even married, you mother and I were partners at the Bureau, working on a project call the "X-Files". It is this time in my life which I hope you will come to know and understand through the information contained in these boxes so carefully set aside and preserved.

For her safety and yours , your grandmother knows little of the information contained in the boxes. However, you will find attached to this letter the names and last known addresses of four men you can trust. These men are Walter Skinner, and "Lone Gunmen" - Langly, Byers and Frohike. They have watched over you and protected you your whole life. With no real idea of when you might find yourself reading this, I can only assume that they are alive and well. Seek them out. Present them with this letter and they will tell you anything they can , as if you were their own son.

I cannot hold back the tears as I write this, knowing that these will be my last words to you. At this moment, you are a thirteen-year-old boy blissfully asleep in his room after an evening at the ballpark with his dad. Only moments agoI stood in your dark room watching you sleep, searching for the words to say good-bye.

I love you William. You and your mother made me happier then I ever imagined I could be. I'd spent so much of my life feeling so unworthy of the love that the two of you gave so willingly. More than I ever dared to dream possible. I want you to know that your mother and I loved each other very, very much. As much as we wanted children, we had been told it was not possible. When you came into our lives, you were the miracle that we never expected. Your mother loved you so very much. It broke her heart to have to leave you, just as it breaks mine now at thought of being without you. I will take comfort in your mom's belief in an afterlife. Perhaps, if there is a Heaven, we will be together again.

Be strong, brave and proud, William - as proud as I am to have been your father.

All my love, Fox William Mulder

I frantically search my desk to locate a photo album containing pictures of my parents. My dad had given me this album as a gift for my 14th birthday just a few short months before his death. I sit with the letter in one hand and a picture in the other, mourning their absence for the first time in my adult life.

As I open the first box, I find a notebook unmistakably marked " 1993" in my father's barely legible handwriting. I hear the soft knock of my grandmother at the door. Trying my best to appear composed , I invite her in.

In her words, there are sympathy and compassion. "Are you Okay, Will? "

As my eyes sweep over the boxes filled with the voices of my parents prepared to speak to me from beyond the grave I must struggle to reply without breaking down in front of her.

As casually as possible, I tell her, " I'm Okay, but it looks like I have a lot of reading to do."

With shaky hand I give her my father's letter and ask her to read it. I need to share it with someone. Her tears flow freely as she reads the letter. Her cheeks still salty and damp, she hands it back to me, somehow sensing how precious it had already become.

"Your father was a good man, Will. I loved him like he was my own son."

Unsure of what emotion to show, I opt for the safe choice. I tell her that I need to find the men named in the letter.

As if a cloud has somehow lifted, she smiles sweetly. She remarks that if I'm anything like my Mom and Dad, I WILL find them. Her words echoing softly in my mind, she rises up on her toes and places a gentle, but reassuring kiss on my forehead.

I'm left alone once again, with a promise of a glass of iced tea to follow. I sit boxes open, the journals and papers scattered all over the floor around me.

As I begin to read, I start a journey to find the truth about my parents, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and the "X-Files."


II.

It has taken the first couple of hours just to empty the boxes and sort out the contents. For the most part I've found journals, written both by my mother and father. I've carefully separated them, amused to find that while my mother's journals appear to have been done on a computer and possibly printed out at a later date, my father preferred to commit his thoughts to pen and paper whenever possible.

There are also a dozen file folders with candy striped edges. They are bound together with twine. A note attached to the top reads, "X -Files." I can't imagine why he would have taken these files. I'm uneasy, realizing that I should not have these documents. However, I'm certain that Dad must have had a reason to include them. I set them aside, hoping the meaning of these "X-Files" will be revealed through his journal entries.

With care, I organize the files in chronological order. I painfully note the point where my mother's journals end and my father is forced to go on alone. In the years following her death , journals in my father's hand increase two fold.

Despite my intention to read them in the order written, I pick up my mother's final journal.

This one is different from the others. Handwritten in shaky script, I can only imagine that they were composed from the confines of a hospital bed. I choose an entry half way through, somehow not ready to read my mother's last thoughts.

Mulder,
As I write this I am overwhelmed with pain. The pain I feel now has little to do with the cancer that will all too soon claim my life, but is instead the sorrow I feel leaving you and William behind. Once again, it is my faith that make my pain bearable.

So often people speak of God's plans. At times we both puzzled over the miracle that is our son. My science told me time and time again that William was simply not possible. It was you, always with your unwavering willingness to believe, that accepted the gift without question.

I know that even if I cannot see God's plan clearly enough to understand why he would take me from you, at least He saw fit to give us a child to be a comfort to you after I'm gone.

I am so very tired now ,and need to rest. Exhausted by the effort of persuading you to go home for the night, I'll give myself over to sleep soon. Please understand that while I am grateful to have you by my side, at the same time, I need you to be with Will. I will rest easy tonight knowing the two men I love are together and safe.

Please don't worry about me. I will be here waiting for you when you return in the morning. I would never leave this world without seeing your face just one more time .

Good Night Mulder, I love you.

Putting her journal back in its proper place amongst the volumes that now represent my mother to me, I once again reach for the photo album. My eyes search out each and every image of her, beautiful, happy, healthy, and very much alive.

Still feeling her pain and sorrow, I am uncertain if I can or even want to continue. But I know that I must. So I begin again, with the record of the moment my parents first laid eyes on one another.

Carefully, I read their notes in regard to their first cases together, unsure of what information will prove to be important in the end.

During the very first case in Oregon, my Dad's eyes can only see a beautiful little "spy" sent to be his un-doing. He pushes her away at every opportunity. Mom, challenging every outlandish theory Dad proposed, stood her ground, determined to do her job well despite all obstacles, including a very difficult partner.

In her journal she describes him as brilliant and talented one moment. With the next breath, she labels him arrogant and self-absorbed. Reading their early impressions of one another, I'm amazed I came to be at all.

I read through the night. I just can't get enough of reading their thoughts and feelings. Dad speaks often of the moment that Mom first started chipping away at his defenses. He fondly refers to this little scene as " mosquito bites by candle light."

As much as he seems tortured by visions of my Mom clad only in a bra and panties, it is the trust that she puts in him at that moment that starts to bring down his wall of defenses.

I guess most guys my age would go along way to avoid thinking of their parents as sexual in any way. It's different for me, maybe because they have been gone for so long. I love reading Dad's description of how beautiful she was, standing there in his room with only a single candle for illumination. He describes how it felt, both physically and emotionally, to hold her frightened, shaking body in his arms. The more I read, the more I realize that he turns to this memory often to help him justify his decision to begin to trust her, to trust anyone.

Page after page, one journal after another, there is so much I want and need to know. After reading and feeling confused and disturbed by the accounts and corresponding file regarding my mom's abduction on Sklyland mountain, I decide it's time to take a well-deserved break.

I note with a quick glance at my watch that it is well past 6 am. It's a perfectly reasonable hour to try phoning the east coast in hopes of reaching one of the names on the list. I don't hold out much hope of reaching any of the men due to the fact that the phone numbers are eleven years old, but I get lucky and reach a Mrs. John Byers.

She politely explains that her husband has already gone to the office, but she would be happy to take a message. I agree and start with my name, unsure of what I should say in message to a man I have never met. Before I can say another word, I note recognition in her voice as she repeats my name.

"Actually , William, maybe you had better call him at the office right away."


III.

It seems like it has taken me forever to dial Mr. Byers' office at the GAO. I can't imagine what I'm afraid of. How long had I wished that I had known family or friends of Dad's? Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the fact that all the years spent with my Grandma and Uncles made me feel more connected to my mom. Unfortunately, with no surviving family on his side, my Dad's death robbed me of everything "Mulder" other than my name and a strong family resemblance.

Shaking off the doubts, I dial up a long lost friend of my father's.

His secretary informs me that he is indeed in and after taking my name, asks me to hold. The response is almost instantaneous, but the Muzak playing on hold is enough to make me want to hang up until the butterflies in my stomach have a chance to settle. That moment of indecision passes quickly as I hear his voice.

"My God, could it really be little Will Mulder? How are you son?"

Even if my mind is screaming, "Pretty screwed up right now , and I'd really like some answers," I do my best to carry on a polite conversation.

" Actually, sir, I'm fine, but I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I take it we have met. I'm sorry I don't remember you."

From his manner, I surmise he is not surprised that I would not know him. "Oh, well of course you wouldn't remember me, Will. You were just a little boy the last time I saw you. Is everything okay son? Is your Grandma well?"

" Yes, she is fine, thank you."

With the long uncomfortable silence that follows, I start to wonder if this was a mistake. Just as I decide to make my apologies to this poor man for bothering at him the office, he breaks the silence. Something in his voice has changed now. The friendly banter of, " I knew you when," is gone. The urgency and tension in his voice are hard to miss.

" Will, you need to tell me what's happened."

Uncertain of what has happened myself, I stumble over my response. "I'm sorry sir, I'm not really sure. I..........."

Before I can finish, he cuts me off abruptly. " William, your Grandma would never have given you that letter unless something important had happened."

I'm stunned to silence. Even if it makes perfect sense, it had never occurred to me that this man would know of my father's letter. He must have sensed my shock at his mention of the letter. In his next words, he makes an effort to soften his tone a bit.

"Will, I know your father told you that you could trust me, and you can trust me, son. Now, please tell me what's happened to give your Grandma cause to give you that letter."

Suddenly exhausted, I do my best to give him a straight answer. "I suppose it has something to do with my recent acceptance into the Academy, but I'm not really sure."

"If you're telling me that you're joining the FBI, I'd say that would be a safe bet. When did all this happen, Will? Have you been through all the boxes yet?"

I'm stunned to find out not only is he aware of the letter, but of the boxes and their contents as well. I hesitate.

"No.. No, I'm sorry sir. I just got them last night. I suppose I should have waited to call until after I finished, but I was eager to try and reach any of you as soon as possible. I did try to reach all of the numbers, but was only able to reach you. If you don't mind my asking, do you know the whereabouts of the three other men?"

"Oh, sure Will, I can get you in touch with Langly and Frohike. No problem. I'm sorry to tell you, though, that Mr. Skinner died not more than a year after your Dad from a massive heart attack. Will, I think it's best that we meet and talk soon. I don't think we should go into much of this over the phone."

I'm grateful for the swift change in subject. What do you say in response to the death of a man you never knew? Even if I have no idea what to say, I'm immediately curious about the fact that three relatively young people connected with the "X-Files" all died in less than 5 years. Mentally, I set aside this question until I have an opportunity to talk to Mr. Byers in person.

"I'd like that sir. I'll be in arriving in Washington in 10 days. Perhaps we can arrange to meet then."

There is no response, but I can hear the turning of pages. I can only assume that he's checking his calendar.

"Actually, Will, I think it's important that we get the chance to talk before you report to the Academy. Do you think you can get through everything in two days?"

"Well, yes, I suppose that should be plenty of time. Am I to assume that you would rather I come to Washington on Tuesday?"

"No, not at all. If you don't mind, I'll make all the travel arrangements necessary for the four of us to meet at Frohike's home in northern Michigan."

"Michigan?"

He seems so distracted. I can't imagine what would be so important that these men would go to such lengths to meet with an old friend's son. Looking at the file sitting on the desk, I can't help but wonder what exactly it was that my parents were involved in. I wish I'd taken the time to read everything first. It's unsettling to think that these men know things I don't and are willing to drop everything to talk to me about it.

"Oh, Will, I'm sorry. I should have explained. Frohike's health is not good. He has some heart problems and does not travel much. Langly and I go to his home in Michigan to see him often."

"Okay, that's fine, Mr. Byers. Michigan in three days. I got it."

"Now you work on getting through all of that stuff and I'll get back to you tomorrow with all of the travel arrangements. And Will, it's best that you don't talk to anyone about all of this just yet. You should tell your Grandma where you're going. I know she won't question you on it, and I don't want her to worry, but don't tell anyone else. Do you understand?"

"Okay, I understand."

"You take care of yourself and I'll see you in couple days, Will."

"I will, Mr. Byers. Thank you."

I hardly have the chance to put down the phone before I hear a knock at the door. Without turning, still looking out the window, I eagerly begin to tell Grandma about the morning's events.

"Grandma, looks like it might be my lucky day . I was already able to reach Mr. Byers from the list this morning."

Unfortunately, the voice I hear in response is most definitely not that of my grandmother.

"Did I just hear you say you've been talking to a Mr. Byers, Will?"

I don't need to see him to know that my Uncle Bill is standing behind me. I'd know that hostile, tight ass tone of voice at 50 paces blindfolded. I could just kick myself for opening my big mouth. No sooner had I agreed to keep this to myself than I inadvertently spill my guts to the worst possible person. I tend to forget about his habit of dropping by for an early morning breakfast with Grandma from time to time. Retired or not, Uncle Bill clings tightly to the military notion of up, showered, shaved, and on the go by 0600. Damn it, why didn't I think before I spoke?

I still have not turned to face him. I wonder, does anger have an odor? Fear certainly does.

The tension in the room's electric. I glance down at the letter on my desk under the phone. The decision has been made. In nine days, I'll be gone and after all these years, I've finally had enough.

"William, look at me when I'm talking to you."

I turn to find him looking through the file regarding my Mom's abduction. With disgust, he closes it and begins shaking it in my face. His eyes wander over the boxes and back to me.

"This crap belongs to your father. Where the hell did you get it? And what the hell business do you have calling John Byers?"

Oh, yeah, he's angry all right, but so am I, and for a change, I'm ready to tell him about it. Hoping to make myself perfectly clear, I rip the file from his hands and meet his eye with intensity. I hope it matches his own.

"Frankly, Uncle Bill, it's none of your business who I call. I'm a grown man, and you're not my father."

"Jesus Christ, Will, don't you have any respect for your mother's memory? First all this nonsense about joining the FBI and now some sick attempt to follow in you father's footsteps."

It makes me sick the way he talks about my parents. At this moment, I can't imagine how I'd stood it for so long.

" You know Uncle Bill, as much as I'm sure you'd rather my birth was a matter of immaculate conception, I had two parents. Are you getting this? Is this getting though that thick head? I had both a mother and a father, and I've listened to you talk down my father long enough."

He takes a step towards me. Granted, he's never been physical in his disgust with my father and subsequently with me, but the protruding veins in his neck and clenched fist tells me that this is about to change. His jaws and lips tight with anger, I'm surprised to hear him speak at all.

"Oh , I know you had a father. Every time I look at you I see the sorry son of a bitch. He killed your Mom and Melissa, Will, just the same as if he'd done it himself. Your mom, hell this whole family, would be a lot better off if they'd never heard of Fox Mulder."

I'm surprised at how his hard words fall short at inflicting the desired pain in me. I guess it's a relief to hear him say what I've known he's felt all along. I speak with a calm that only serves to infuriate him all the more.

" Well, since you've made it pretty clear that you'd rather I was never born, we really have nothing left to talk about, and I think you should leave."

Before he can utter a word, I hear the small steady voice of my grandmother standing in the doorway behind him. My heart sinks, fearing I've hurt or disappointed her with my harsh words. I'm amazed to find her anger and disappointment leveled on my uncle, her son.

" I think that's a very good idea, Bill. I'd like you to leave now."

As he steps aside, turning to face his mother, I can't help being startled by the obvious anger in her otherwise sweet and reassuring eyes. There is no hesitation. Her voice speaks volumes.

"I've heard enough!" She raises her hand, effectively silencing him before he can come to his defense.

"Bill, I've listened to your hateful words for over twenty years, and I don't want to hear another. For God's sake, Bill, this is your sisters son! You're wrong about Fox. Dana loved her work and her family. HER FAMILY, Bill! Fox and William, her husband and her son. Can you understand this, Bill? Dana may have been my daughter and your sister, but she was also a wife and mother. By choice. She loved and believed in Fox and would be so very proud of the man William has become. The only disrespect here in the manner in which you've treated your nephew. I've stood by too long and I'm not going to tolerate it anymore. Now get out, and don't come back until you're ready to treat your nephew with the love and kindness you promised your sister you would."

Like a spoiled little boy scolded by his mommy, he storms out of the house, slamming the door behind him without saying a word.

Not a word . Grandma hasn't even moved an inch. I feel terrible for upsetting her, coming between her and her oldest son. I should have left it alone. Took it from him in silence, like I'd done so many times before.

"God, Grandma, I'm so sorry. He just finally got to me and..... "

Before I can even finish, she crosses the room and sits on the bed, patting a spot next to her, urging me to sit beside her. I think, "Okay, fair enough." This time I get to be the scolded little boy. As I sit, she gently takes my hand in both of hers.

"No, Will, I'm sorry. I should have set your uncle straight years ago. You never deserved his anger and I should have put an end to it a long time ago. I know your Mom would have. It would break her heart to know how cruelly he's treated you."

With a smile and a hug, she stands and gestures to the journals scattered around the room. "So, how goes it?"

I'm so grateful for her love and encouragement. I give her my best Mulder smile in return. "Pretty good , I guess, but there's still an awful lot to get through. I was able to reach Mr. Byers this morning and he is making arrangements for me to meet him and the other Gunmen in a couple of days."

"Good! Will, that's great. They should be a big help to you. I'm going to go make you something to eat, after which I suggest you get some sleep before getting back to work on this stuff."

As she turns to leave, I reach out, catching her by the arm. I need her to know how much her love and support means to me.

" Thanks Grandma. Thanks for everything."


IV.

After a ridiculously enormous breakfast which I merely pick at it, distracted by my thoughts and the recent confrontation with my Uncle Bill, I manage to get a few hours of sleep. I suppose its a "Grandma Thing." She has lovingly taken up the role of caretaker, carefully monitoring if I get enough sleep and urging me to eat. Bless her heart , she really knows how I get when I'm so intently focused on something. From reading his words, I find I am much like my father on this point. I suppose he might have died from exhaustion and starvation at times without my mother there to put his feet back on the ground when he'd lost his way.

I wake in the afternoon feeling refreshed and ready to begin anew. After a quick shower and shave, I grab my glasses in preparation for countless hours of reading. Before reaching for the next volume from a never ending pile of journals, I stop to puzzle over my image in the mirror. I can see so much of Dad in my own face. I wish now, even more than in all the years gone by, that I could see him, both of them, just one more time. As a wet lock of hair falls before my eyes, I slip on my glasses, catching my image, mingled with his, just for one last time before I walk away.

My mind wanders back to my mother's thoughts and words. She comments often in her early impressions of my dad that while he is without question an attractive man, with his glasses on, she found him to be quite irresistible. I ruefully make a mental note: the next time I face a beautiful woman, I should try wearing the glasses. It can't hurt, Mulder.

As I begin reading again, I grab a legal pad hoping to help make sense of the details of the many bizarre cases through some notes and questions. It's a relief when darkness rolls around again. There is something about the dark and quiet of the night that belongs to the " X-Files". I pour through one case after another. I'm amazed that I never knew about any of this. How or why could they have walked away from something they had both put so much of themselves into? I fear that I may have been the reason.

Ever-vigilant of my well-being. Grandma only has interrupted once, bearing a pizza, cold drinks and a few well-placed words of encouragement.

I can't help but feel a little guilty. As much as I strive to take in all the information regarding the work, it is the development of their partnership, friendship, and love that drives me to read through the night. It's incredible to get a first hand account of their courtship. Granted, it is a long and complicated courtship by anyone's standards, but it is the path that leads them to each other's hearts, to a love so complete and true that I almost envy it. I can only hope someday to be as lucky as my father and find that which eludes so many.

Both my mother and my father speak freely in their journals of the growth from an uncertain and unwanted, at least on my father's part, pairing to a partnership and friendship built on trust and loyalty. Things began to change when my dad begins to question the depth of his feelings during the time of my mom's abduction and subsequent return to him. He writes that while he is certain that the pain and guilt he feels in her absence crosses the lines of even the strongest partnership, he is unwilling to label them anything more.

My dad may have been a man to take chances professionally, rushing headlong into danger without a second thought. However, when it came to matters of the heart, he was a cautious man, and rightly so.

I remember one of those hideously awkward father-son talks about the birds and bees. Thankfully he approached the subject from the angle of feelings and consequences rather than focusing on the act itself. I was afraid he might feel the need to draw a diagram for me. Of course, there was no need for that. I already knew where he kept the visual aids. Instead he drew from his own experience, hoping I might learn from his mistakes.

First was the mistake of a failed marriage. No one ever speaks of it, but my dad was married very briefly as a young man away at college. He explained to me that this is the danger of passion and desire ruling your heart and head. Giving your heart to a woman based on a physical relationship is an engraved invitation for her to rip your heart out and hand it back to you on a silver platter. Okay, I admit the analogy is a bit bitter. The lesson worked, though. To date, I've never made that particular mistake myself.

The second big lesson I didn't seem to take to heart quite as much. I hurt Meg, and for that I am sorry. Like my dad, I found out the hard way that you can't base a lasting relationship on only the comfort and security of knowing someone is there for you.

So it's my parents relationship, that I only now am coming to know, that I hold as a measure in my own search for Love. I am fortunate to have been raised by parents with a strong and loving relationship. It's a relationship that I can see now took time, lots and lots of time, to grow. Time was an important dimension with both of my parents. It's evident in their apprehension in revealing their feelings to one another, or even admitting these feelings to themselves.

Mom was the first to willingly admit a shift in her feelings about my dad after their experience with Robert Modell, or as "Pusher," as they referred to him. For weeks after the incident, she notes in her journal of being plagued by dreams and visions of my father putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger again and again. Still in her own thoughts at that time, she was unwilling to explore the meaning of her mental images.

She writes of having this particular dream one night. This time, the chamber of the gun isn't empty, and she wakes with a start at the image of holding Dad's lifeless body in her arms. Without even noticing the late hour, she calls him, needing to hear his voice. She hangs up without a word, relieved in knowing he is safe. Safe, and on his way to her.

She does not write of what happened later that night, but my dad does.

The phone rang well after two a.m. last night. No one was there, but I knew it was her. She's been different since Modell.I wish she'd talk to me. Before I knew what I was doing, I'm at her door. I can see she's been crying. God, I'm like a poison to this woman. She let me hold her again tonight. Why does she feel the need to hide this part of herself from me? I can see the tears on her cheeks as she closes her eyes and rests her head against my chest. If I am the cause of such pain and misery to someone I hold so dear , at least tonight I can be a comfort to her.

She fell asleep , there in my arms on the sofa. I should have left right away , but I didn't. I needed her as much as she needed me. So I sat there watching her sleep, taking in the feel of her soft warmth against my body, her beautiful face and the smell of her hair. After a while I knew I should leave. I brushed back her hair and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, savoring that little bit of Scully that I hope someday she might give to me freely. I ease my way from under her, covering her with a blanket and leaving her sleeping peacefully on her sofa.

I know we'll never talk about this. We never do. I'm not a fool. I know now, how much she means to me. But I can also see that she'd be better off without me in her life. I have nothing to offer her, or to anyone.

And so it goes, on and on. Both of my parents, denying their changing feelings for one another out of fear, guilt, or for the sake of a well tuned partnership. It's my mother's cancer that drives a wedge between them that I cannot begin to imagine how they overcame.

Here, in the references to her cancer, I find the answer to a question. These men they speak of are indeed behind the death of at least one of my parents. Mom's cancer serves both of them well as a means of keeping each other at arm's length. His guilt and her need to shelter him and everyone else around her from her illness become excuses to walk away from the feelings that neither one was ready to admit they had. It's emotionally draining to read about this time in their lives. There's so much hurt and fear. They misunderstand each other at every turn. They turn away from one another when all they really want is to lean on each other. Another important lesson my dad left out while explaining matters of the heart, is that sometimes you have to put your pride aside and reach out to those who love you.

I'm tired. It's after 3:30 now. I've spent the last hour going through several case files as described by my father through notes in the margins of his journal. I must admit, it is a relief to be knee-deep in case facts after the emotional roller coaster ride of reading the time surrounding the discovery of my mom's cancer. I'm beginning to get a clearer idea of exactly what is at the heart of the conspiracy, and the "X-Files," for that matter. It's all so hard to understand and even harder to believe. If not for my conversation and upcoming meeting with Mr. Byers, I might think my parents were a bit "nuts."

Unwilling to start with the journals again, I opt for getting a few hours sleep.

I dreamt about my parents while I slept. We were all together again. A family. My mom and I are sitting at the dining room table, covered in newspaper, finger painting. I was maybe three or four years old. We both have paint on our hands and faces. Dad is doing his best to identify my pictures as if they are ink blots. We laugh and smile a lot. I don't dream of them very often anymore. I hope I will again soon.

An Express Mail letter arrives from Mr. Byers this morning. In addition to the airline tickets there is a note:

Will,
Enclosed you will find the airline tickets. I've moved our meeting up a bit. After talking to Langly and Frohike, we think it's best we see you as soon as possible. I hope that this letter reaches you before you have had a chance to read through everything. If you have not, PLEASE STOP. We are all in agreement. There are some things about your past and about your mom and dad that even your Grandma knows nothing of. Your parents would not want you to be alone when you learn of them.

Please, Will, for the sake of your mom and dad, go no further than your birth in their journals. We will tell you everything you need or want to know when we see you tomorrow.

Langly and I will be arriving in Detroit first . We will arrange for a rental car and meet you at the gate when you get in.

Take care Will,
John Byers


V.

I've got an early flight this morning. I guess it doesn't really matter that I hardly slept at all last night. I cut myself shaving this morning. As I look at the blood on the tip of my finger, I can't help but wonder, "what am I?" Am I just a newer improved version of my sister Emily? Or does my overwhelming resemblance to my dad suggest something more bizarre. I understand him more every day. Like him, I long for my sister. Perhaps with her, I would not feel so alone.

The note form Mr. Byers yesterday morning left me with a knot in my stomach the size of a grapefruit. If he hadn't mentioned my parents, I would have ignored his plea, but I chose not to. If I can't trust him, who can I trust now? I didn't read much last night. After the accounts of their ordeal in the Antarctic, I felt sick to my stomach again. At least now I can understand why my Uncle hated my dad so much. He had no way of knowing why she stood by his side. In her journal it is clear that her need to find the truth had become nearly as strong as my father's.

It's nearly time to leave for the airport now. I've just finished reading of the time of my birth. It took until this moment to find the strength to face it. It's a relief to find that I appear to have entered this world naked and screaming, like everyone else. My dad writes with an ease and lightness of heart that I've never seen before. He never left Mom's side for a moment. He stayed there with both of us until we could all go home. He refers to me as "the most incredible thing he has ever done in his life." It makes me smile to think of him so happy. He says that Mom is concerned for my health despite the conclusion reached by both herself and the other doctors that I am a completely normal, healthy baby boy. Dad didn't share this sense of uneasiness. Somehow, he knew I was all right.

He writes of visitors, gifts and lots of flowers. There is one visitor who he did not welcome. The "Cigarette Smoking Man" came there late that first night, while my mom and I slept. He claimed to have a right to see his "only grandson." Could this man really be my grandfather? My father made him leave That night, calling him a liar and warning him to stay away from his family. I wonder, does my dad believe this man could be his father, or does he know it as a fact to be true? He speaks often of the possibility, and of his mother's unwillingness to deny it. He writes that night at the hospital, easily shaking off the accusations and chalking it up to what the deluded old man believes, rather than the truth. Still, I can sense Dad's doubt.

The knock at the door pulls me from my thoughts.

"Will, honey, it's time you get going. I hope you packed warm things, and don't forget a jacket. It gets pretty cold in Michigan this time of year."

I close my eyes tightly and imagine for a moment that it is my mom speaking through the closed door, tending to my well-being.

"I'll be there in a minute, Grandma."

I toss in the letter and zip up the black leather suitcase that once belonged to my father. I head out to face my Grandma, my parents, the past and the future. As always, Grandma is there waiting for me.

"Are you sure you won't let me drive you to the airport, Will?"

"No, really Grandma, I'll only be gone for a couple of days, and I'd rather have my car there when I get back.."

She smiles and nods, knowing that it's for the best. In her hand, she holds out a small black box.

"Take this, Will."

I open it to find my mother's cross. In all the pictures and in my memories, she has it around her neck. I have not seen it since my Dad died I assumed that he was buried with it, taking that part of her with him forever. It still has the much longer chain from when my father wore it around his own neck following her death. Unlike my mom, I doubt many people knew he wore it. No one ever saw it, but it was there, keeping her close to his heart.

I can't hold back my tears. "Oh my God, Grandma, where did you get that? I thought that... "

"Will, when they asked me what I wanted to do with it after your father's death, I thought of letting it go with him. For some reason, I just couldn't. I knew how much it meant to both of them. It wasn't just a symbol of religious faith, but also a symbol of their faith in each other and in the truth. Both your mother and father drew strength from this cross, and now you should have it to give you strength. With it, you'll have your Mom and Dad beside you."

Grandma sighed and looked uncharacteristically pensive. "I suppose I should have given it to you a long time ago. You were just a boy then, and I knew a day would come when you would need them most."

I slip the tiny gold cross over my head, pausing for a moment to feel it's metallic shape between my fingers before tucking it under my shirt. I grab my bag and give Grandma a hug as I head for the door.

"I love you, Grandma. Don't worry about you me. I'll be just fine."

She just smiles and waves as I drive away.


I'm not sure if I would have recognized them from my dad's descriptions if it were not for the fact that Langly appears to have not rethought his choice in eyewear for the last twenty years. Of course, the blonde hair and signature T-shirts are gone. Instead, he is the image of a half dozen of my college professors all rolled into one. Still, with the faded jeans, sweatshirt and what's left of his now white and gray hair pulled into a short ponytail at the nape of his neck, he is the same Langly my dad spoke of. Mr. Byers, on the other hand, seems to have left his trademark three piece suit, beard and mustache behind at some point in favor of a clean-shaven, fresh from the golf course look. Either way, they are my father's closest friends, and they're a welcome sight.

I'm not sure of how to approach them. While I stand there feeling like an idiot trying to think of what to say, I hear Mr. Byers call my name. Of course they would recognize me. So few people in my life knew my father, so I tend to forget just how much I look like him. I feel like someone, or maybe everyone, is watching me as I cross to meet them. It's just a hint of paranoia, but considering my gene pool and circumstances, I'd say it's well within normal guidelines.

Mr. Byers meets me with a smile and a firm handshake. "God, look at you, Will! Who'd have thought you'd grow into such a good-looking kid?"

Langly flashes me a crooked smile while pushing his severely outdated glasses back up his nose. "Yeah, you must have just enough Scully genes in you, kid, to offset the homelier Mulder ones. Hey, don't you have a daughter just about his age, Byers?"

As we begin to walk to the baggage claim area, Mr. Byers tosses back playfully, "As if I'd let a Mulder anywhere near my daughter!"

We get my bag and are in the rental car on our way to Cadillac in no time. The guys explain that it will take three to four hours to reach Mr. Frohike's home there. They have also started to call me "Mulder," insisting that I drop the "misters" and call them Langly and Byers. I agree, even though I'm not all that comfortable with my new nickname. After all, I have a perfectly reasonable first name, unlike my father. Other than my Grandma, I can't say I remember anyone ever calling him "Fox," including my mom. However, it's easy to see how much they still miss him, so I go along with it.

I'm eager for answers, but my questions go unanswered until we reach Mr., oh sorry, Frohike's house. They politely explain that we should stick to mostly small talk until we arrive. After rambling on for over an hour about everything from how my Grandma is doing, to what I studied in college, Mr. Byers finally turns his attention to my parents and the X-Files.

"Will, I know I said we should wait to talk about this, but just how much of your parents' journals did you get through before you left?"

At last, something other than the weather. I suppose my answer was a bit too eager and a little too defensive.

"Well, after your letter arrived with the ticket, I'm afraid I didn't feel comfortable going much further than I already had. I'd gotten through both of my parents' experiences in Antarctica. I stopped at that point."

Byers took a deep breath, taking his eyes off the road to look at me. "I'm sorry, Will, I only did what your father would have wanted me to do."

I feel bad. It never occurred to me that being my father's friend and a father himself would make it difficult for him to tell me the things that he needed to tell me. I searched for a way to lighten up the mood.

"I did sit down this morning and read about the day I was born. They seemed really happy then, although I can't imagine how they got to that point after everything that I've read that happened between them."

The look on Byers face was more pained than before. Instead of lightening things up, I only reminded him that he had been the one who made me stop reading. Thank heavens that Langly, who I had become convinced from his closed eyes and lack of movement had fallen asleep, piped up from the back seat.

"Oh, don't let them fool you. We knew the first time your Dad brought your Mom around that he was a goner. Your mom took a bit longer to figure out, only because she tried to be around us as little as possible. But she he had it for him just as bad."

He leaned forward over the seat to talk to me. He seemed to come alive, talking about it. I couldn't help noticing the smile on Byers' face as well. I knew from what my father had written that these guys loved to be "In the Know." So of course, they would take great pride in knowing my parents were in love before they could figure it out for themselves.

Langly went on, enjoying every minute of it. "After all the crap that happened in the Antarctic, your dad started coming by a lot more. He claimed to just want to hang out, but we all knew what was on his mind, not to mention that he was obviously avoiding your mom. We plied him with a few shots one night, and he spilled his guts about how he felt about her. Poor sucker, he thought he had made himself pretty clear when your mom tried to quit the Bureau. He completely missed the fact that we were talking about your mom here. She was not exactly a lady to deal with in gray areas. If he'd laid it on the line, in black and white right then, it would have all been done, and you'd be another year older, son."

"Instead, he walked around feeling hurt and rejected for nearly a year. Certain that she didn't feel the same about him, and resigning himself to remain her partner and friend."

Byers and Langly laughed a bit at my dad's expense.

"Yeah, he was a real pain in the ass for a while."

"So guys, what happened? They must have worked it out somehow? Or was I hatched?"

Langly put his hand on my shoulder, and for a moment I thought I'd said the wrong thing. All the doubts about my beginning came rushing back.

"No, Will, they worked it out quite well, and you, my boy, came about in the same way as the rest of us." He gives a smile, not a leer this time, and he slaps me on the back.

"Okay, maybe they practiced a bit more than most, but you, my friend, are the end result."

So maybe I am one of those guys that would rather not know too much about my parent's sex life after all. Mr. Byers must have picked up on my discomfort, or perhaps the thought of someone joking about his sex life in front of his daughter spurred him to action. " Will, do you know your mom and dad got married twice?"

"No! Why would they do that?"

"Actually, Will, we didn't know a thing about the first time for a long while."

"After your mom and dad were taken off the "X-Files," they kept working on gathering information on colonization and the virus. They'd slip away whenever possible. Weekends, vacation time - any excuse they could come up with. I'm sure Skinner must have known what they were up to, and Kersch must have had his suspicions. For the most part, they got away with it. One of these little weekend excursions brought them to the shores of Lake Michigan to look into reports of UFO's sighted over Lake Michigan. Your dad was convinced that they matched the description of what he had seen in Antarctica."

I looked out my window. Was some of what my parents searching for right here in Michigan? I notice Mr. Byers has stopped talking and is watching me.

"Well, so what did they find?"

Langly jumps in, leaning up once more to join in the conversation. He has that smile again. Is he in the know ?

"No, as matter of fact, it only took a couple of hours to figure out the whole thing was an elaborate hoax put together by some graduate students. Anyway, your dad had rented a cottage right on the Lake shore in hopes of seeing the 'ships' for himself. As much as I'd like to think he chose the location on purpose, I think it was just a matter of dumb luck. Since they couldn't get a flight back until Sunday, your dad persuaded your mom to stay there and enjoy the scenery instead of driving back and staying at a motel by the airport. Somehow, there at that little cottage, they found the courage to tell each other how much they meant to one another. It all just came rushing out in the open."

Mr. Byers picks up without missing a beat. "Yeah, like a dam breaking, or a tidal wave. Sometime during that weekend, your dad persuaded your mom to marry him. Nothing that would stand up in a court of law or anything, but your dad found a little stone chapel on the water's edge, and whisked her there before she could change her mind. It was just the two of them, no witnesses, but they spoke vows more binding than those taken in the grandest cathedral."

"And you guys didn't know a thing about all of this?"

"Nope, they kept it from everyone. We had begun to notice that they seemed to be getting closer. We had no idea of just how close until your dad showed up one night nearly a year later and asked us to be there when they got married. It was then that he finally told us about Michigan."

Langly jumps in again. I don't think he would have missed letting this cat out of the bag for the world. "Yeah, right before he told us that your mom was pregnant."

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

"You mean my mom was pregnant when they got married? I don't understand. I've seen all the pictures. I've heard the date for years! How?"

Mr. Byers does his best to clear things up. "Will, they got married for legal purposes exactly one year after the first time. To them, that first time was what really mattered. So that's all they ever told you about."

It's all so incredible to hear. I've enjoyed every little story, until I begin to understand what I had already suspected to be true. I am the reason my parents gave up being partners, gave up getting back control of the "X-Files" once and for all. Suddenly, I don't feel so good. I spend the remainder of the trip looking out the window, casting an occasional smile to Byers and Langly while they trade Mulder stories.

At last we pull off the highway onto a narrow dirt road marked, "Private Drive." I should be excited at reaching Mr. Frohike's home at last, but I'm not. Maybe I don't need all of the answers. Maybe the truth is not all that it's cracked up to be.


VI.

God, it's such a relief to get out of that car. I suspect that traveling with Byers and Langly under different circumstances might have been amusing. Today, with the information they provided about my parents, the journey took on a surreal quality. It's like waking up and remembering a dream after a high fever. I'm completely disoriented. The facts about my parents marriage jarred me. The emotional touchstones that I relied on all my life to give me my sense of identity have been jolted out of place. I'm in an unfamiliar place, now, both literally and figuratively.

The Frohike's meet us at the door. I feel as if I've already met Mr. Frohike from my father's accounts and from what Langly and Byers had said during our ride. He certainly looked healthy enough for a man with a heart condition. Of course, after meeting Mary Ann Frohike, whom the guys had already explained was a former stripper 15 years Frohike's junior, I could see why the guy's heart was threatening to give out on him. I suppose Langly and Byers put it best when they said, "She's a hell of a lot of woman for a toad like Frohike."

I like them both right away. Their offbeat personalities lighten my mood tremendously. I can see why my parents liked these people so much.

Mr. Frohike offered me a firm handshake that quickly turned into a fierce hug. "Look at you, William! You poor bastard. A beautiful woman like your mom and you end up looking just like your dad!"

Mrs. Frohike grabs me as if I were an old friend or dear aunt, leaving her bright red lipstick on my cheek. "Don't you listen to him, Will. He's just jealous. Your dad always had all the looks in this bunch."

She gingerly takes our coats and ushers us into the house. "Why don't you fellas go grab a seat and I'll get you all something to drink."

We walk together through the house to the family room in the rear, where almost the entire wall is composed of windows looking out over the woods and a small lake nearby. I'm so caught up in the view that I hardly notice the small talk between the Gunmen. I inattentively hear them discussing the trip up, how Byers family is and so on. Finally, Mr. Frohike speaks to me, drawing me back into the conversation. Part of me starts to wonder what on earth I'm doing here. I've already learned more than I want to know.

"Will, we have a lot to talk to you about . You've waited long enough for the answers you deserve."

I turn to face the three of them.

"Deserve?" I ask, hesitatingly. "Maybe, but do I want to hear them? Isn't it enough that my parents gave up their search for 'the truth' because of me?"

Byers places his hand gently on my shoulder, nudging me to sit .

"No, Will, you have it all wrong! You were the truth they had been searching for!"

I sit and look at him stone-faced, hoping to make him understand that I'm not a child anymore and I'm not buying a fairy tale story about how I was worth the sacrifices my parents made. "Mr. Byers, if you're trying to tell me that my birth made them complete, and that giving up the X-Files for domestic bliss was easy, I'm going to find that very hard to believe. I've read enough in their journals to know that there was a lot more than their personal happiness at stake. "

I turn hastily to look out the window. My mind is racing out of control, and I need to gain some perspective. As I begin to speak, the gravity of the situation hits me like a physical blow. "Jesus Christ, the mere fact that I'm alive at all could be the downfall of the human race!"

Byers sits next to me. He is such a kind man. My father was right. I wish he was here to tell me this himself. For a moment, I'm so angry with him that I have the urge to just run out of the room. How could he just give up on his work? Why the hell didn't he tell me about any of this when he still had the chance? Why did he entrust the task of explaining a story that was so very important, so jarringly life-changing, to people that were veritable strangers to him, his only son?

Byers' smile confuses me. What humor or joy could he find in this situation?

"No, Will, you were not the downfall of humanity at all! You saved us, saved us all! You were and are 'The Truth.'"

Now they're all smiling at me. For an instant, I entertain the possibility that my parents and all these people were completely insane. Somehow, some instinct deep inside me tells me that it's not true. Even insanity is easier to fathom than the truth. I can hardly speak at all. I manage to choke out a single word before Mrs. Frohike arrives with our drinks.

"What?"

Mrs. Frohike just smiles knowingly and excuses herself to make something to eat. Smart lady. Does she know everything they are about to tell me, or does she sense my unease? I wish I could leave the room with her. Anything, even kitchen duty with a stranger, seems preferable to what is happening here.

Byers kicks off what promises to be a long afternoon of startling revelations. "Will, you must understand that your parents did not give up the X-Files because of you. Well, I suppose that it's not entirely true. Your impending birth and their open marriage set a timetable. The fact is, they never really walked away from the work at all. They had already found enough of the information they needed to begin working on a solution. Your mom needed to use all of her medical background to understand the virus and to discover a vaccine."

"Uncovering the identities of the men that were behind the colonization plan was no longer the focus of their efforts. They had to find a way to stop them."

I jump into the conversation, unwilling to remain silent while my whole world is laid out in front of me and turned upside down by three men I'd never met until today. "So my mom went back to working in forensic medicine to have ready access to the scientific facilities she needed in order to continue her research on the virus? I suppose that makes sense, but why would my dad go back to Violent Crimes?"

Frohike sets down his glass, already almost empty, and moves to the window as he speaks. "I asked him that same question once. You see, we really never knew everything that was going on below the surface. We were more than a little worried about him when he gave up his quest to regain control of the X-Files. What your mom did made sense. After all, they could no longer remain partners now that they were married. Her pregnancy made field work out of the question. Your dad's motivations were a lot harder to figure out. He only told me that the man who had given him the vaccine that saved your mom's life in Antarctica had told him that he was doing it for the sake of his own children, and for the future. Your dad had to do the same."

I hang my head down and rub my eyes before I can even look at them again. "You know, if you're trying to make me feel better about ruining my parent's lives, you're doing a pretty lousy job of it."

Langly laughs at me. Great. At least this is entertaining for someone. He picks up on my annoyance immediately.

"Will, I'm sorry. I don't mean to show any disrespect . It's just that you have no way of knowing how much you meant to your father, how you really saved his life. Until he met your mom, and then most of all you, he spent most of his time living in the past. He never even considered the future."

I stand there motionless, still unable to face my father's friends. I feel trapped and suffocated, unable to control the situation. I don't like feeling this helpless. I need the answers, I want the answers, but I want to be the person asking the questions.

Resolutely, trying to show more courage than I actually feel, I face the men squarely. "I know I need answers, I'll grant you that,but I need to ask the questions."

I can hear a deep sigh from Byers. Somehow, I feel he understands me better than the others.

"That's fine, Will. That's why we're here. Anyway you want to do this is fine. We all owe it to your dad to do everything we can for you."

Langly asks softly, "Where would you like to start, Will?"

I'm caught off guard. Where do I want them to start? What questions should I ask? Feeling more composed, I sit again. "The virus. Colonization. If all that I have read is true, what happened?"

They exchange nervous glances before Byers speaks. "That's a very big question, and there're no easy or quick answers. I'll do my best to explain everything if you give me the chance."

I nod slightly, encouraging him to continue.

"Both of your parents were exposed to the virus. They were given two different versions of the same vaccine. Your dad received it first in Tunguska, and then your mom in the Antarctic. Once your mom started to research the virus, she discovered that both she and your dad had built up antibodies against the virus. Unfortunately, her work on an effective vaccine based on this information kept coming up short. At the same time, she had many concerns about your health in light of what she and your dad had been subjected to. After you were born, she began running various tests to confirm what the other doctors had told her."

Impatiently, I interrupt him. I need to hear these facts loud and clear, once and for all. "That I was a normal child?"

Byers nods. "Yes, Will, you were a normal, healthy baby boy. However, in subsequent tests, your mother found one thing that was very different about you."

I hold my breath. Oh God, here it comes. I just knew it. I can't sit still anymore. I move to the door, opening it a bit and finally inhaling the crisp, autumn air, steadying myself for what I'm about to hear.

Byers continues. "Like both of your parents, you had antibodies against the virus. Your mother quickly found out, however, that your resistance to the virus was not the same. You were the first human being born completely immune to the effects of the virus. Your mom and dad kept this discovery to themselves for more than a year. Test after test proved time and time again that your body retained its resistance to the virus. Your blood was like poison to it."

Mr. Frohike takes over. He doesn't look at me now. None of them do. "Your mother was convinced that the means to obtain a reliable vaccine was in you. She knew she couldn't find it alone. Now both of your parents understood what was at stake. It was easy to see that while the methods used by the men they'd sought to bring to justice for so long were wrong, the work still had to remain secret. It took a long time, but your mom finally persuaded your dad that they had no choice but to take their discovery to those very men who they had come to despise."

"It was at this point that we first learned of the incredible secret that your parents held silently since your birth nearly 18 months earlier. Your dad told us everything from that point on. He hated cooperating with the men who had used and deceived him. These same men were responsible for your mother's cancer. Still, he knew he had no other choice. Without his cooperation and involvement, he feared that these men would take you away. No one ever knew that he had told us about it. We never even saw your parents for several years. It was safer that way. We made a vow to do everything possible to protect you if anything should happen to them. Then we broke all ties with them."

I try to absorb this monumental revelation. Somehow, it's easier if I try to remove myself from the equation and concentrate on my parents. "What happened to them- to us?"

Langly takes up the story now.

"These men had been making people 'disappear' for a long time. They were very good at it. They arranged a cover story about your father taking an assignment overseas which made it easy for your family to virtually vanish. Your parents were allowed to maintain written and phone contact with their families to keep up appearances. For over two years, they were here hiding, working underground with the man who believed he was your grandfather, trying to discover a vaccine to save us all."

"What happened to you guys? What about this Mr. Skinner? What was his role in all this?'"

"For the safety of our own families, The Gunmen disbanded soon after your parents left. We had hoped that by resuming normal lives we would appear less threatening and as a result be more capable of watching over you. As for Mr. Skinner, he went with your father. Your dad refused to go without him. I suppose it was a good idea not to walk into a den of vipers without some back-up."

It's all getting to be so exhausting. The thought of my parents cooperating and working alongside the men responsible for so many lies and the cancer that would take my mother from me urges me to find closure to this story. " So they succeeded?"

I can only surmise by the lack of EBE's gestating inside the people around us that they successfully developed a vaccine. Of course, I still can't imagine how they planned to inoculate the entire population on earth without anyone's knowledge, but somehow, they must have found a way.

Mr. Byers' words are soft and carefully chosen. "Yes, they did. Thanks to you and your parents, a vaccine against the threat was developed and administered to the whole population, piggy-backed with a newly approved AIDS vaccine."

I sit dumbstruck, matching the gazes of the three men. I feel as though I haven't even started to absorb the complexity of the story. Byers notices my exhaustion.

"Will, I know this is a lot to take in. Maybe we should take a break for while. We can talk more later."

He is right. More than anything, I desperately want to be alone right now. I fight the urge, knowing there are still questions that need answers now. "No, Byers. I need to know. Without answers, I don't even know who I am anymore."

He only nods in response.

I speak more animatedly now. "These men you speak of. Are they all dead? Is there still a threat from them or from the colonists?"

"Most are dead, but there are two men in Washington who are not. These two individuals have labored for 20 years under the theory that colonization has merely been postponed, and that the virus will mutate, making the vaccine and the immunity it's delivered completely ineffective. Both of these men knew your father well, and they are determined to find you when you get to Washington. You cannot listen to them, Will. Don't believe a word they tell you."

"Who are they? What would they want with me?"

Byers heaves a big sigh and glances at Frohike and Langly . I can tell by his hesitancy that he does not want to tell me this. At this point, I can't imagine how it could possibly hold a candle to all the other secrets he has doled out in the last 24 hours.

"The men you must steer clear of at all costs are FBI Assistant Director Jeffery Spender, and a man named Alex Krycek."

I'm not surprised. I know these names well. Still, I can sense there is something more, something that he is not telling me. "I've heard of both of them, but I feel that there's something you're not telling me. Am I right?"

For my effort, I get the "what a bright boy" look from the three men. "Yes, yes there is more. Both of these men believe that they are your father's brothers - your dad's only living family. They both believe that they're your uncles."

"Are they?"

"Both Spender and Krycek are the bastard sons of the smoking man. Your father never knew of his own relationship to the man with any certainty, and he absolutely refused to ever find out. Even if this wasn't true, if it was all some kind of twisted, maniacal fantasy of the smoking man, Spender and Krycek themselves are convinced, and they feel strongly that you are part of their family. They will not simply go away because you deny them."

I've finally had enough. First, I have no family, and now I have the promise of the family from Hell eagerly awaiting my arrival in Washington. I need to step away for a moment, and let the bizarre puzzle pieces I've been handed today sort themselves out into some semblance of reality.

"If you don't mind, I really need to be alone for a while." I gesture to the door, casting my eyes to Frohike. "Mind if I walk around your place for a bit?"

I receive a weak smile and nod in return. "Go ahead, Will. We'll be here when you're ready talk more."

I welcome the silence as I pass through the door, walking aimlessly into the crisp fall afternoon. I notice that the sky is still blue, and this gives me comfort. At least one thing in my life hasn't been turned upside down.


VII.

Who knows how far I walked? I should have taken my jacket but I wasn't thinking of anything but getting away. Before I knew it, I came upon the lake. I looked around and found a stump near the shore surrounded by enormous trees that offer some shelter from the biting wind. It seems like as good a place as any to sit and think for a while.

Just like my parents before me, I'm faced with a dilemma. What do you do with the answers to all your questions once you have them? Am I somehow different than I was one short week ago? It boggles the mind. If I had made a different career choice would I have lived out my entire life not knowing any of this? A normal life? Or is that just not in the Mulder cards?

I'm not sure how long I had been sitting there, staring at the calm water, lost in my thoughts. But it was long enough to give the gunmen cause to come looking for me.

Some special agent I'll make. I never even heard Mr. Frohike's approach until he put his hand on my shoulder.

"Here Will, I brought you your jacket. You're gonna freeze out here, son. Why don't you come back inside and have something to eat? We don't have to talk about any of this again if you don't want to."

I keep my eyes focused on the water as I slip on my jacket.

"Mr. Frohike, my father, Mr. Skinner- "

I take a moment to gather my thoughts and decide whether I really want the answer to this question.

"Were they murdered?"

He tightens his grip on my shoulder, giving an answer before he can even open his mouth to speak.

"I'm not really sure, Will. I don't think we will ever know for sure."

"What DO you know... for sure?"

I'm grateful he is not taken aback by my abrupt tone.

"We do know that the collision that killed your father took place while he was on his way to meet a man claiming to have information regarding the conspirators' continued cooperation with the colonists."

"How do you know that? He told you?"

I can almost see the puzzled look on my own face. I was 14 years old. Why don't I remember anything about the night my father was killed? I should, shouldn't I?

"Where was I that night, Mr. Frohike? Why can't I remember any of this?"

The pained expression on his face is something I'd rather not see right now. I walked out of that house to get away from all this but now here it is facing me again.

"Will, we knew where your dad was going because you were with us the night he was killed. After we heard about your father, we tried to reach your grandma. But before she could come for you, the smoking man showed up at our home insisting you be taken to the hospital for observation. He claimed the loss of your dad so soon after your mom was more that you could take and he had your best interest at heart."

Again, I can't sit still. I stand, searching the ground with my eyes for god knows what, anything to avoid meeting this man's eye.

"And you don't believe that's true?"

"No Will, I don't. I never did. When they released you to your grandmother, they claimed that you had had a breakdown in the hospital. The trauma of losing your father had left you with a great deal of memory loss. Very conveniently, the prognosis was that you might never regain parts of your memory."

I stand silent, trying to force myself to remember anything about that night. I can't. I don't remember anything except standing next to my grandma and my Uncle Bill at my father's funeral.

"Oh my god! You think they did this to me? You think they took away my memory?"

Now he meets my eye, but I don't want him to. I don't want to hear another word.

"Yes. I think without your mother or father there to guide you, it was too risky for them to let you ever recall what your parents had done or what you had meant to the project.

"That man, Will, the smoking man - I know he was an awful person in so many ways, but he believed that your dad was his son. He thought what they did to you would give you a shot at a normal life, something he regretted robbing your father of."

I don't want to think about what they did to me. How someone could so easily wipe away so much of my childhood. It's easier to focus on what happened to my father that night.

"Mr. Frohike, about my father and his accident ... I need to know what happened. I want to find out who or what was behind his death. And what about Skinner?"

He throws his arm around my shoulder urging me to walk with him.

"Come on, Will, we can walk and talk at the same time. You wouldn't want to freeze an old man out here would you?"

I'm hesitant but he is right - it is very cold. As we walk, he continues to tell me of the past.

"Will, we have a file containing all the information we were able to gather regarding the collision that took your father's life. It's yours, but for your dad's sake, try not to become so obsessed in finding the truth that you let it take over your life. He would never want that. And as for Mr. Skinner, as far as we know his death was just what it appeared to be. But we could never be sure. After your father's death, he devoted a great deal of his time to investigating what happened the night your dad was killed."

He stops a moment as if to choose his words carefully.

"He did believe that your father was murdered, Will. He may been on the verge of having the proof. We'll never know since he died before he could tell us what he had found."

We walked in silence until we reached the house. Before he can reach the door, I grab his arm and his attention.

"Mr Frohike, I'm sorry for all this. Sorry for all that has happened to all of you. I can't imagine how you can find it in yourself to be so kind to me after all the trouble this has caused everyone involved."

He meets my eye with the fatherly compassion I long for right now.

"No Will, you have nothing to be sorry for. For the sake of argument, let's overlook the fact that the vaccine you helped to create saved our lives... and our families' lives. The truth is, even if you don't remember, there was a time after the vaccine had been achieved, that your family came back. Everyone was happy. Life was as it should be. Your parents bought a big brick house in Virginia. Byers and I started our own families. Hell, if it could work for Mulder, what was stopping the rest of us? We were the best of friends, spending time together, watching our children grow up together. It was like a damn Norman Rockwell painting until your mom-"

He stops himself, trying his best to keep yet more pain from the happy picture he had hoped to paint for me. But it doesn't hurt me anymore than it does any other day of my life. My mother's illness and the pain of losing her is one memory too strong to be wiped away by any man. I finish his sentence. It's easier for me to say.

"Until my mom got sick and died? It's okay Mr. Frohike. I remember very well what happened to my mother, Sir. Maybe with all of your help I can start to remember the happier times."

His expression is still so pained. I slap him on the back in jest to lighten the mood as I've seen him do to Byers and Langly so many times this afternoon.

"You know, that damn Norman Rockwell thing?"

As we walk back into the house, the smile on his face tells me I've succeeded.

"As a matter of fact, Will, when I knew you were coming, I put together a box of photographs from the Rockwell era with just that in mind. Let's grab a bite to eat and then you can look through them for old times' sake. Maybe even stir a few memories."

He keeps talking while we walk toward the dining room.

"Really great stuff, Will. Lots of pictures of your parents, your house, all of you kids together at the holidays."

He stops in the doorway to the dining room motioning with his index finger for me to come closer. He whispers in my ear while casting an eye to Byers.

"Now Will, don't you dare tell Byers I told you, but when you get to Washington, you look up that pretty little daughter of his. She's a real catch. Nearly as smart and beautiful as your mom was. Of course, she never gave either of my boys the time of day, but you're a Mulder. And what woman can resist a Mulder?"

I can't help but wonder if I would be getting similar advice from my father if he were around today. A knowing nod and wink in Frohike's direction as we take our place at the table with the others. *Duly noted, sir *.

We all enjoyed a pleasant evening together with little or no talk of the Mulder legacy. I didn't eat much. I never do when something is on my mind. I also endured several jokes I didn't really understand about why Mrs. Frohike would have been better off serving me a plate of sunflower seeds.

During dinner, Marv, one of the Frohikes' twin sons arrived. From what I gathered, he was at college but still close enough to stop in for a home cooked meal now and again. After dinner, we all spent a couple of hours and a beer or two exchanging Mulder stories. For the most part, I just listen, intrigued by the stories they tell of my parents and the X-Files.

Mrs. Frohike must have picked up on the faraway look on my face. It's a mom thing. I'm sure my mom would have done the same. She sweetly grabbed my hand and made excuses to the rest, urging them to get some sleep themselves if they were gonna try to do some deer hunting first thing in the morning.

"Well guys, I'm gonna go show Will his room. The rest of you know where you're sleeping. I suggest you all get there soon or the only thing you'll be hunting in the morning is a little extra shut-eye."

The Frohike's house was a big rambling farm house with lots of rooms. I was relieved to have Melvin Jr.'s room all to myself. She gave me a hug, wished me a good night sleep, and left me alone.

The box of pictures Mr. Frohike had given me earlier in the evening was sitting on the floor. I sit down beside it, much like I had with the boxes of journals my grandmother had given me less than a week ago.

Pictures, so many pictures. On their backs is writing, surely that of Mary Ann Frohike. So many things I can't remember. Pictures of my parents, of the gunmen and their families. Many of me with other children I don't remember but now know as Marv and Melvin Frohike and Anna Byers. I note that what Langly lacks in children he makes up for in wives. From what I can gather from the names on the pictures, Catherine, who he is planning to marry this Christmas, will be number four. There are Holidays, picnics, one season after another. It's all there. I look for hours before deciding to turn out the light and try to get some rest.

I fall asleep with an image in my mind of a picture of me and my mom and dad in front of our house, planting rows and rows of tiny white flowers on a bright sunny day.


Two Months Later

In time, a person can become accustomed to even the most bizarre truths. I know now who I am. Even if I cannot remember the events of my past, at least now I have come to know and understand them. I look at the people and things around me differently. They have no way of ever knowing the sacrifices my parents made to make their day-to-day lives what they are. There will be no recognition or monument to them. Only the memories of a few scattered individuals that, in time, will also fade away.

I haven't touched this journal for a very long time. Why? I'm not sure. But I am certain I will keep one for the rest of my life. Returning to California and my Grandma for a few days before leaving for Washington was a comfort. The remainder of my visit with the Gunmen was pleasant and uneventful. It took some time, but once I was able to believe that they had completed the task of revealing the Mulder family secrets to me, I really enjoyed their company. The three of them even convinced me to go deer hunting with them. I was not altogether comfortable with the idea but resigned myself to be along for the ride and nothing more. Of course I quickly found out that hunting for these men was little more than an excuse to escape into the woods for hours on end to swap stories about the one that got away while posing little or no threat to the white-tailed deer population of Northern Michigan. They are good men. A part of my father I cherish as much as any blood relative. I see the Byers often now that I am in DC. Rosie Byers mothers me at every turn and I adore her for it.

The Byers are very different from one another. Much like my own parents, they are a testament to opposites attracting. Rosie Byers is a woman of instinct and intuition. She sees things so completely and clearly. I've often tried to convince myself that her need to mother me comes from missing her own child, Anna, still away at college finishing her nursing degree. But I know that is just not true. It's as if she has a sixth sense. She looks right into my heart to the place where a scared little boy still hides longing for a mother's love and comfort. Always knowing just the right things to say and do, she has become very special to me. And once you get past her annoying habit of trying to play matchmaker for me, she is a nearly perfect friend.

Which brings me to the first holiday season spent in the world of Mulder in over ten years. I'd settled into my new life in Washington well enough. Once the initial shock of a Mulder at the academy wore off, things have gone quite well. While few there knew my parents personally, my name certainly carries a reputation. But I have adjusted; eight weeks down, eight more to go with a nice little well-deserved holiday break right in the middle.

Despite the objections of my Uncle Bill, I decided due to time and travel constraints to spend the holidays in Washington with the Gunmen and their families. Always supportive, Grandma has arranged to come in and spent a couple days with all of us over the holidays as well. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help taking some pleasure in just how steamed my Uncle Bill must be to think his mother would choose to spend time in Washington with all of us over the holiday season.

The holiday festivities kicked off the Saturday before Christmas with Langly's wedding to his fourth wife, Catherine. No small affair for a fourth trip to the altar. It seems that Catherine, the picture of the career woman with her briefcase in hand at all times and a cellphone permanently attached to one ear, had never found the time in her 47 years for a marriage. So this being her first go at it, Langly insisted they do it up right. Even Frohike had permission from his collection of doctors to make the trip to Washington for the week.

And so there we stood on that cold December afternoon. Byers, Frohike, and I in my father's place at Langly's side as he took vows to love, honor, and cherish Catherine. Of course, the guys were terribly sentimental about my being there to stand in for my dad. Frohike went so far as proclaiming my presence an omen that Langly had a keeper this time around. The service was simple and elegant, done entirely by candlelight, most certainly Catherine's touches at work. On the other hand, the reception was all Gunmen. While the surroundings were very traditional, the mood for the evening reflected the happiness and spirit of three men so close and in tune with one another that they infected everyone around them with their enthusiasm. It was a really great party, in so many ways.

Of course, there is one thing about that night that sets it apart from any other in my recent memory. It was the night I first met Anna. I'd spent nearly two months avoiding Rosie's attempts to play matchmaker for her daughter, Anna, and myself. I'd gone so far as making excuses to get out of my weekly dinner with the Byers if I knew that Anna was going to be home from school for the weekend. I really had nothing against her personally. It's just with all that I have learned about myself in the last few months, I didn't see how I could be any good for any woman right now. But there we were, in the same place at the same time. Fate???

I wonder - is this how my father felt the first time my mom walked into that basement office and smiled at him? I know there was something in her smile as I watched her cross the room with her mother that grabbed my attention right away. Rosie, ever subtle, wasted no time in the introductions and quickly made her apologies, disappearing and leaving the two of us sitting there alone at the table. Hey, I was prepared for this, all necessary defenses against a pretty face in place and ready to go. But then she spoke with all the warmth and zest for life I love in her mother. Her eyes, her smile, and her voice so open and friendly, as if we had always known one another.

How many other men before me had been utterly convinced of their ability to handle the opposite sex until that one right sweet face with soft lashes crossed their path, proving once and for all that they never had a clue in the first place? Who knows? But I do know that is exactly what happened to me the first time Anna Byers said my name.

I spent that entire evening with Anna. We sipped champagne while she talked of our childhood together. I listened to every word; it gave me the perfect excuse to look at her. I watched her beautiful green eyes as she told one story after another. I felt like a teenager again, savoring the sweet smell of her perfume. I had to muster every bit of control in me not to reach out and brush back from her face a stray lock of soft blonde hair that had managed to work its way free from the pearl comb holding her hair back. It pained me to tell her that I had no memory of our childhood together. But instead of feeling sorry for me, she took my hand in hers, sending a chill through me head to toe, smiled at me and said "You will."

Who knows if it was her words or her touch but, at that moment, I did. Something came back to me, a vision, a memory, of Anna as a child with long blonde braids relentlessly making fun of my first name. I was so lost in my thoughts I didn't even notice the arrival of her father until she let go of my hand. He made a vague joke about rescuing his only daughter from the clutches of a Mulder and whisked her away to the dance floor. I watched her as she walked away with her father. The simple green velvet dress she wore was perfect for her. She was without a doubt the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. I could not take my eyes off her. OK, that's not entirely true. Once her dad caught me staring at his little girl and gave me that "I know what you're thinking look." I turned away just long enough to see Rosie watching me from across the room, grinning like the cat that ate the canary. Perhaps she really does have a sixth sense.

Despite my intention to steer clear of any romantic entanglements at this point in my life, I found myself spending every moment possible that week leading up to Christmas with Anna. Movies, Christmas shopping, one meal after another. Any excuse to be with her.

Naturally, Rosie was very pleased with her role in our little romance and more than willing to help when I asked her to help me pick out a gift for Anna. Rosie is a truly romantic soul. When I told her I wanted get Anna a bottle of her favorite perfume, she told me that would never do; I should go out and find a scent that, when I close my eyes and breathe it in, it makes me think of Anna, and whenever she wears it she will think only of you, and to you that scent will forever be Anna. I took her advice. Who am I to argue with a woman who had been in love and happily married for over 23 years?

It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday. Christmas Eve was a casual gathering with the Byers home full to the rafters with happy smiling faces. Everyone was there with the exceptions of Langly and Catherine, still honeymooning, and my Grandma, both due to arrive bright and early Christmas morning. Rosie and Mary Ann Frohike busied themselves in the kitchen taking inventory and making preparation for a Christmas day dinner to feed an army. The rest of us took up residence in the enormous family room after a quick meal of take out pizza. Lots of talk of Christmases spent together all those years ago.

Listening to Frohike and Byers reminisce, I couldn't help missing my parents and feeling that it's wrong that they are not here. As I sat there watching the sparkling lights on the tree doing my best to appear involved in the conversation between the Gunmen and Frohike's sons, Anna sat down next to me and took my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Will, are you OK?" she whispered so the other men would not hear.

I just nodded. I really did not know what to say. And I was very aware that people were already talking about all the time we had spent together during the week. No sense adding fuel to the fire, the mistletoe in every doorway in the house was already proving an obstacle difficult to avoid. It wasn't that I didn't want to kiss Anna. As a matter of fact the thought was very appealing and I had every intention of making good on it soon. But not here with everyone watching our every move. She took my hand, dragging me off the sofa before I knew what had happened.

"It's snowing outside, Will. Let's go for a walk."

We really had a system going. It never failed. While I sat there thinking of what to do or say, Anna always seemed to be one step ahead of me, springing into action. Before I knew it we had our shoes, coats, and gloves and were on our way out the door into a veil of big, thick, fluffy snowflakes.

We walked for a while making small talk about the weather and the holiday decorations on the homes lining the street. And then she stopped, taking my hand in hers as she spoke.

"Sorry to drag you out of there like that, Will, but you had the dazed look in your eye like you had enough of the good old days talk to last you for a while."

Less than a week and she already knew my looks. How amazing this woman is! I turned to look at her, her eyes so sweet and understanding.

"You really miss your Mom and Dad right now, don't you, Will??"

I bite my lip to fight back tears and look away down the deserted snow- covered street.

"Yeah , I do."

Not a word, no attempt to find a way to make it all right. Instead she steps closer, wrapping her arms around my waist with a sigh, closing her eyes and bringing her head to rest against my chest. For once, no hesitation on my part. I wrapped my arms around her, drawing her body even closer to my own, before closing my eyes and resting my chin on top of her head. Taking in her warmth and comfort, I can't help but think of my father and the first time he held my mother in his arms all those years ago in Oregon. Granted Anna has on significantly more clothing than my mom did but the feeling is much the same. Like my father before me, I'm sure I'll never forget this moment and how it made me feel.

I don't know how long we stood there like that but it was long enough that we were both covered with a dusting of snow when she finally spoke.

She looked up at me with a bright smile, still pressed against my chest with snow in her hair and tiny flakes on her lashes.

"Feel better?"

I didn't say anything. How can I really tell her just how much better she makes me feel? Instead, I kissed her. After all, my father had hoped I would learn from his mistakes and, as I see it, six days is a huge improvement over the six years it took him to find the courage to kiss my mother.

For a small gentle kiss it was the most incredible feeling I had ever had with a woman. Even what I had thought of as the most intense and passionate moments in my life paled by comparison to the spark of excitement that rushed through my entire body when our lips met.

I didn't know what say. Hell, who knows if I could have spoken at all? Luckily for me, Anna was willing to do the talking for both of us.

She broke the embrace and took my hand in hers, giving me a smile that was just a little wicked, one that reminded me of her father's.

"That was nice Will, really nice. Certainly took you long enough. You Mulder men might be an unbearably good-looking line but you're a little slow to action, wouldn't you say??"

I couldn't help but laugh, thinking of my dad as we walked hand in hand through the snow back to the house.

"You have no idea."

So much for keeping our budding relationship under wraps. I like to think that she felt the same way about me that I felt about her. Both of us used any excuse we could think of to be close to one another the rest of the evening. I'm sure everyone noticed but I just didn't care anymore.

The rest of the evening was like being with family. While a few of us slipped off occasionally to wrap a last minute gift and slide it under the tree, Rosie and Mary Ann finished up in the kitchen and joined the rest of us in the family room bearing steaming mugs of spiced apple cider for all. We all settled in together and watched "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. For my part I was thrilled with the holiday viewing choice. Not that I'm a big Bing Crosby fan or anything but it was a superior choice to "It's a Wonderful Life". Something about watching a film about a man coping with what the world would have been like if he had never been born was just a little to close to home for me right now.

Little by little, people headed off to their rooms for the night but I stayed up. I kept telling myself I couldn't sleep but the truth is I was hoping to be alone with Anna one more time.

Of course things didn't work out quite the way I planned. I woke with a start from the lack of noise when the TV was finally switched off. I had fallen asleep there on the couch, as had Anna. I was asleep sitting up, for the most part, and Anna had also drifted off at some point, leaning against me with her head resting against my chest. I was so busy admiiring her sleeping face that failed to notice why the constant noise of the television had stopped.

When I looked up, there she was standing in the doorway watching us, smiling from ear to ear.

My first thought was to jump up feigning that nothing was really going on here. But instead I give her my best sleepy smile.

"Fine you win, Rosie."


IX.

Lying there on the couch with Anna in my arms, I was right in the middle of some incredible dream that faded rapidly as I heard his voice.

"Hey! Wake up, you two. Have you been down here all night?"

I sat up so quickly I nearly pushed Anna off the couch.

I gallantly jump to our defense. " Oh. Yeah, I guess we must have fallen asleep watching TV."

I follow Mr. Byers' eyes from the dark television screen and back to the two of us. I lean forward resting my head in my hands feeling like a teenager again and having no idea what to say to him.

Anna is already on her feet standing next to her father. "Good morning, Daddy. What time is it anyway?"

She grabs his arm, pushing up his sleeve to get a look at his watch.

"Oh God! It's only 7:30!! I'm going back to bed. Merry Christmas, Daddy."

A big smile in my general direction that most certainly does not go unnoticed by her father.

"I'll see you later, Will."

With a quick kiss on her father's cheek, she's out the door and on her way up the stairs to her room. I look up to find him still standing there, watching me.

"C'mon, Will, let's have a cup of coffee together. We better get moving if we are going to leave for the airport in less than an hour."

I follow him down the hall toward the kitchen. Coffee and a little chat, I'll bet. Even if Anna and I are not kids anymore, what father could resist raking a guy over the coals after finding him tangled up like a pretzel with his only daughter on the living room sofa?

Byers is busy with the coffee so I take a seat at the table and wait for the Interrogation.

"How do you take your coffee, Will?"

"Black, thank you." Right now, a good strong cup of black coffee sounds pretty good. Of course a nice big rock to crawl under wouldn't hurt either.

He sits across from me sipping his coffee silently. Perhaps choosing his words or maybe just making me squirm a bit.

"William." I set down the cup at the mention of my full name. Never a good sign. You learn this quickly right from childhood. Maybe I really don't miss those father-son / man-to-man discussions as much as I thought I did?

"Anna seems to like you quite a bit, Will. And I couldn't help noticing the two of you have been spending an awful lot of time together in the last week."

He picks up the cup again keeping his eyes locked on mine. Waiting for a response?

"Yes, Mr. Byers, I'm very fond of Anna myself."

I watch his serious face. This man knows everything about me. Why should I be surprised that he would not want his daughter to have anything to do with someone as screwed up as I am?

"Of course I'll understand, given my past and my line of work, if you would rather I not pursue a relationship with your daughter."

OK, he did wince a bit at the mention of the word 'relationship.' But he is smiling now?

"Will, you trusted me with your past. The least I can do is give you a chance as well and trust you with my ONLY daughter."

He gets up and moves to the counter, searching through a huge container of Christmas cookies for just the right one to go with his morning coffee. He does not even turn around as he speaks.

"Well, now that I've done my fatherly duty, you better get ready so we get to the airport by 9:15."

Feeling that I had come out of our little conversation relatively unscathed, I pour the remainder of my coffee down the sink and head upstairs to get ready to leave for the airport. When I reach the top of the stairs, trying to be as quiet as possible in this house full of sleeping people, I see Anna standing in the doorway to her room motioning for me to come over to her.

"I hope he didn't give you too much grief? He can be a little overprotective. I think he likes to think I'm still 16 years old."

Of course, right now she looks about 16 years old standing there in an oversized night shirt with thick white socks on her tiny feet.

"No, not at all. He was very nice about it. We had a cup of coffee together and he said that he "trusted me with his only daughter."

She bites her thumbnail in thought while glancing down the stairs to where her father is. "Geez, that's a new one on me, better watch your back! Will, as much as I enjoyed spending the night on the couch with you, it was not what I would call comfortable so I'm gonna go back to sleep now. You have fun on your trip to the airport with daddy. I'll see you later."

As I begin to walk away, I hear her whisper my name. I turn to see her still in the doorway gesturing with her finger over her head. Ah yes, as if her mom would have missed placing a sprig of mistletoe in that doorway. I gave her a tiny kiss and watched her disappear into her room before heading to my own room a happy man.

Of course, Grandma's flight was late and we had to wait a ridiculous amount of time to get her luggage. And it was a huge amount of luggage for one woman coming in for a two-day visit. When I asked, she simply said that she had not seen any of these people in 10 years and "if you think I'd come empty handed on Christmas day, you're crazy."

As I watched Grandma and Mr. Byers exchange a tear-filled hug there at the baggage claim area, I realized that, as special as these men had become to me, to my grandma they were a part of her family. A cherished link to a daughter and son-in-law she lost so long ago. My heart ached and soared simultaneously watching them share their sorrow at the loss of my parents.

On the drive back, I got the impression that, while my grandmother never knew of the Gunmen in the years prior to my parents' marriage, after meeting and getting to know them at the wedding they became very dear to her in the years that followed. It was nice to see grandma able to enjoy reminiscing about my father as well as my mom. Something I'm sure she was reluctant to do around my Uncle Bill.

As I sat there listening to them, she turned and handed me a small gift neatly wrapped with a ribbon and bow.

"Here, Will, you should open this now. This one is from your Uncle Bill."

As if I could really resist such a great opportunity for sarcasm. I hold the box up to my ear for just a moment.

"Uncle Bill, huh? Should we alert the bomb squad?"

Mr. Byers chuckles a bit behind the wheel. I think * Ah, I see you have met the man? * Grandma looks first at Byers, silencing him, and then at me.

"Give him a chance, William. Open it?"

I open the box to find a pen. A very expensive, nice pen and a rather long card from my Uncle Bill.

Merry Christmas William,
You've known me long enough to know I tend to get right to the point. And so I will. I'm an old, stubborn man, William. But on occasion I can admit when I'm wrong. And I have been wrong for a long time.

I made my decision to blame and hate your father a long time ago. And when he was gone instead of letting go, I let it poison my relationship with the only connection I had left to a sister I loved. You. Your grandma was right, if your mother had witnessed the way I have treated you she would have shot me on the spot. I'm not really sure why she tolerated my behavior toward your father but I fear he had something to do with it. I doubt he ever told her any of the truly hateful things I said to him. Instead, over the years, he suffered numerous verbal attacks by me in silence to keep from causing a rift between a brother and sister. A connection I know he mourned deeply and would endure anything to avoid destroying for your mother.

I can' t ever tell him that I was wrong. It's much too late for that. But for you, Will, it's not too late. I'm so very sorry for the way I have behaved. I promised Dana I would be there for you and I would love you. And I've done a miserable job of keeping my promise. But not anymore. I do love you, William. And I am very proud you. I know both your Mom and Dad would be as well. I hope you can forgive me in time for being such a foolish old man.

Here is a little gift from Tara and myself in hopes that you will take a moment here and there to sit down and write a note to let us know you are well and happy.

Wishing you the best,
Bill

I hold the pen in one hand and the note in the other and close my eyes in discomfort. Even if I should, I'm not ready to forgive him for myself or my father. Not yet. I open my eyes to find my grandmother watching me.

"You don't owe him anything, William. I don't know what he wrote, but I know he has many regrets that he is going to have to live with. He wanted me to tell you that he WILL be here when you graduate from the academy. And when he does come, I hope you remember that your dad knew and understood as well as anyone that people can and do make mistakes in life, and admitting them and doing your best to make amends is a mark of real courage."

After stopping for a traffic light, Byers turns to look at me getting in his two cents and letting the cat out of the bag all at once.

"We all make mistakes in life, Will. Of course, any mistake you make where my daughter is concerned will get pretty costly."

And so I spent the remainder of the trip back to the Byers home telling my Grandmother all about the most incredible woman I have ever met as gingerly as possible with her father sitting there hanging on my every word.

Thankfully, we arrived quickly and found Christmas day in full swing. Langly and Catherine had arrived already. The Gunmen and Frohike's sons had settled in the family room in front of the television and were busy channel surfing for a suitable sporting event. Rosie, Anna, and the other ladies were in the kitchen preparing a feast.

I stood there for a moment watching Grandma exchange a tear-filled hug first with Frohike and then Langly. It was then that I realized that both my mother and father would be here to share this very special holiday with us. Not just in me, but in so many people who loved and missed them.

And so I sit here on the floor of the guest room, writing in my journal once again. Anna is asleep on the very bed I lean against. Perhaps it's a trend. Do I think most clearly close to the ground? Anna had slipped into my room after everyone had gone to bed. As much as I may have wanted to, I did not touch her. Well, that's not all together true, I touched her at every opportunity even taking the chance to kiss her one more time. But for the most part we talked. Talked of every facet of our lives for nearly 3 hours before she drifted off to sleep. Leaving me sitting here with my thoughts.

What an amazing day. Christmas with the Scullys was always nice but often over shadowed with a sad silence at the absence of long lost family members. But not here, not today. I suppose it comes from the fact that the Gunmen know the whole story of what my parents did and meant. Today we talked of Mom and Dad and laughed at the same time. I can't help but smile thinking about it. I know they would both be very happy.

A day of glorious excesses. We all ate far too much, reminisced from dusk to dawn and exchanged a stack of gifts resembling a mountain the likes of which I'd never seen. The Gunmen delighted in giving each other electronics and books on every conspiracy theory sent down the pike for the last 50 years, spurring heated discussion between the three of them that stretched well into the evening.

My gifts seemed to be tongue-in-cheek hints as to my inadequacy where professional attire was concerned. Suits - one each from my grandma, and each of the Gunmen and their wives - accompanied by an assortment of shirts and ties. Far too expensive and extravagant for my comfort, but since it seemed to make them all so happy I went along with a smile.

Anna loved the perfume I had chosen for her. She dabbed just a bit on her wrists and behind her ear and then settled in next to me waving her delicate wrist under my nose. When she asked, "Do you like?" It was all I could not to give her an itemized list of every little thing I liked about her right then and there in front of her parents and everyone. Instead I took her hand in mine, drinking in the intoxicating fragrance as well as every little detail of her beautiful face.

As I sat there watching the faces of the people around me, I wondered just how "in the know" the Gunmen really were. Had they lost their touch all those years ago or could they see, as they did with my father and mother, that I was a goner where Anna was concerned.

For just a second, the thought crossed my mind that just maybe Anna was not as interested in me as I was in her. I watched her as she went to the tree coming back with a big box covered with red ribbons. My stomach tightened a bit. Is this what kept my father from my mother for so many years? Was it better for him to simply be near her than to chance her walking out of his life?

Still filled with doubt, I opened the gift from Anna. Inside was a black leather calendar organizer with more ties slipped between the pages of the calendar and address book portions. When I opened to the ties my doubts faded away. Each one had a note, her address and phone number at school, a carefully drawn map to find my way to her, and reminders for me to call her on the pages of nearly every week. I sat there flipping through the pages reading each and every "Call Anna" and "Anna would love to hear from you" note until Mr. Byers brought over one last box. A gift from all three of the Gunmen to me.

I opened the box to find in a silver frame with a picture of my parents standing together clad in dark suits and overcoats with FBI identification cards prominent on the coat lapels. On one side of the frame lay a book, Jose Chung's "From Outer Space". The lead characters in this book were thinly disguised versions of my parents. The author, one my mother's favorites, had written the novel about one of the many X files they had investigated together.

On the other side of the frame was a box containing a tie. Unlike the other ties I had been given, this one had been sealed in a box to preserve it much like one would a wedding gown. It was my father's favorite. My mom had given it to him not long after they began working together. Dark gray with a light pattern all over it that, to most people meant nothing, but to all of us was clearly a series of meaningful X's.

I don't know how I reacted or what exactly I said at that moment. But I can remember very clearly how it made me feel. I fought back the tears at the sight of the gifts because, for the first time in fourteen years, I felt as if I had my mother and father back. No illness, or the pain of having to go on without one another. But young, healthy, and hot on the trail of the truth. It gave me hope and promise for my own future.

It seemed a good place to end such a special day so I closed my journal and placed it on the nightstand before taking a seat on the bed next to Anna. Everything felt so good, so right. Although it was nearly 3 am I wasn't ready to let go of one of the best Christmas days I'd ever had so I just sat there quietly, watching her sleep.

"Anna," I whispered, gently nudging her, "time to wake up and head back to your room."

She opened her eyes slowly giving me a warm, sleepy smile that made me want to lay down next her, take her in my arms, and drift off to sleep as well, to hell with the consequences. But as wonderful as it sounded, I gave her a second gentle nudge.

"Umm. Is it morning already, Will?"

"No, it's only three in the morning but I wouldn't want your dad to catch us in here like this."

Slowly, she leaned up on her elbow and brushed away the hair from her face. Reaching out, she took my hand in hers and gently ran her thumb across the back of my hand.

"Mmm," she playfully murmured, "it would be worth it."

I could feel my resolve melting away every second. And as much as I wanted her to stay, I knew that this wasn't the time or the place for anything more. Not here, not now, not with her parents sleeping in the next room.

I watched her, lying there, and thought to myself how beautiful she looked in the soft light. In an instant, I knew that I could spend a lifetime looking at her face and never want to see anyone but her.

"Yes, it would be worth it," I answered, fighting back the thoughts and emotions that were flooding through my mind, " but you really should go."

"I know," she sighed resignedly, as she got up from the bed and moved toward the door.

She stopped at the doorway and turned around.

"Will?"

"Yes?" I answered, as I moved next to her.

She reached down and took both my hands in hers.

"I just want to tell you that I'm so happy you were here for Christmas. Being here, being with you, has made this one of the best holidays I can remember. I wish I didn't have to leave tomorrow for Ohio with Mom and Dad to visit relatives or go back to school at the end of the week. I would love to spend each and every moment of those days with you."

I could feel my heart beating faster with every word she said.

"I know, I feel the same way. I've..." I stammered, "...I've never met anyone like you."

"Will, I would really like to see more of you, if you didn't figure that out from your Christmas present already," she said smiling. "Nothing personal, but sometimes men aren't the best at picking up the hints lobbed in their direction." She gently place her right hand on the side of my face, her thumb caressing my cheek, her fingers curling through the back of my hair. "You're a very special man, Will...."

I could feel the gentle pull of her hand bringing me closer to her. My heart was racing, my body trembling, as our faces drew nearer. I could smell the scent of her perfume all around me, filling me with a warmth and fire I could barely control, as our lips met gently, sweetly.

I wrapped both my arms around her waist, drawing her body tightly against mine as she stroked the back of my neck. As our kiss deepened, I could feel the passion that I felt, that she felt, surrounding us like a swirling cloud of desire, threatening to overwhelm us, her lips, her tongue, meeting mine.

As incredible as that moment was, I could feel the lingering of self doubt almost as if a lump in the back of my throat was there to remind me of my past. Of who I was, what I might become. The sorted pieces of my life still unexplained and waiting to shift the tides of fate yet again. As much as I wanted to be with her, was I deserving? Was it fair to invite someone so wonderful into a life so mixed up in a past of secrets and lies and a future that was unsure at best? I fought back the doubt. I wouldn't let anything ruin this moment.

When I looked at her face I felt as if she was reading my mind. "Don't think to much Will, it will only get you into trouble." A peck on my cheek and she turned to leave.

She looked back over her shoulder with a sly, slightly devilish grin as she walked down the hallway to her room and playfully said, "You are going to call me, aren't you?"

Speechless, I let my wide smile answer for me and as she headed into her room, she tenderly touched her two fingers to her lips and blew me a goodnight kiss, the playful look replaced by one of affection and longing and wondering when we would meet again.

I stretched out on the bed in my room and leaned over to grab the black day planner Anna had given me. As I drifted off to sleep, I kept repeating her number in my mind, committing it to memory.


X.

First thing in the morning everyone began to scatter. Langly and Catherine had gone home late the night before. With winter storm watches issued for the great lakes area, both the Frohikes and Byers got an early start to stay ahead of the weather. It was hard watching them all leave. The last two days had made me feel closer to my parents than I had in a long time. I had to remind myself often that my life was here now and that all these people were a part of it. This was reality, not some sort of dream that was going to suddenly disappear. The part of my parents that I had discovered through the Gunmen was here to stay.

Anna fussed a bit about having to go with her parents to visit Rosie's sister in Ohio. I was aware that we had precious few days to spend together before she had to get back to school. But it didn't bother me. Somehow I just knew that I'd be seeing a lot more of her in the future. A couple of days apart would make the time we spent together that much sweeter. As I said good-bye before she slipped into the car, I asked her to spend New Year's Eve with me. I nearly died of embarrassment when she answered yes by kissing me right there in front of everyone. But it was worth it. I stood there with a stupid grin on my face next to my grandma and watched them all drive away.

I had agreed to stay at the Byers' home while they were away. Mr. Byers claimed he would feel better not leaving an empty house. I didn't buy it for a minute. I knew he was already fond of me. I could tell that it pleased him to think he could do things that my father would have done for me if he was still alive. Of all the Gunmen I think Mr. Byers still mourns the loss of my father the most. Being a surrogate father to me seems to ease his pain. If I'm really honest with myself, I know he means an awful lot to me as well. And just how do I reward the man for being there, for helping me through the tough times and making me part of his family? I set a plan in motion to take his only daughter, of course.

As it turned out, staying at the Byers' home worked well. Grandma's flight back to California was not until late that night and she would be more comfortable at the Byers in the mean time. But we had the whole day together before she had to go. Just the two of us like it had been for so many years. Since arriving in Washington I'd been so busy coming to terms with my past and getting on with my life that I had not realized how much I missed her.

For much of my life, she was the only family or connection to the past I had. I could not imagine life without her and yet here it was. I was halfway across the country, a grown man building my future and living my life, without her. As I walked back in the house with Grandma in front of me laying out the plans for the day, I noticed for the first time just how old and frail she had become. She was not always going to be there. Someday life would really have to go on without her.

Once inside I made sure to tell her how much I really did love her and I thanked her for everything she had done for me. I'm sure it sounded out of left field. But unlike most people, I had the wisdom of past experience. Having lost both my parents I know that if you fail to take the opportunity to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, you might never get the chance. As if she read my thoughts, she gave me a hug and told me how proud she was of me. It felt like good-bye and I suppose it could be but it also felt like the right time to say the things we had neglected to say in the past. Before my mood became too gray from thoughts of losing her, she cheerfully went back to scheduling our day together.

What a day together it was. Rosie had left me her car so we were free to go and do whatever we pleased. Unfortunately, much to my displeasure, we started the day with more shopping, adding to my rapidly growing wardrobe. I really didn't want to go. Spending the day after Christmas doing even more shopping was not my idea of a good time. But this was Grandma's day and I had made up my mind to do whatever she liked. Just knowing she was happy and seeing the smile on her face was worth it. In the spirit of keeping her happy I acquired yet another suit, two pairs of shoes, three mores shirts and ties and count them not one, but two very expensive overcoats.

Every time I tried something on at Grandma's less-than-gentle urging, I found it more and more disturbing to catch my image in the mirror. I hoped I wouldn't meet too many people at the FBI who actually knew my father personally. I'd always had a strong resemblance to him but dressed like this, it was positively spooky. People were going to think not only was I trying to follow in my father footsteps but that I was him. A thought worthy of an X file. I suppose I could handle a little gossip; my father did in his time with ease. And things could be worse. I could be dressed like my mother instead.

Casting off all doubts we paid for the purchases and headed off to lunch. I'd promised myself to keep things light. No disagreement to March the day. But that didn't last very long. During dessert I mentioned that she had spent far too much money on me. To which her reply was "It wasn't my money, Will. It was yours".

Despite my best efforts we launched into the one argument that we had ever had. One that had raged on and off since my 18th birthday. Before I could get a word in, she laid it on the line, insisting that I take control of my trust fund once and for all.

I'm not sure why I had refused all these years. Maybe it was my Uncle Bill's constant sarcastic comments about the Mulder fortune. Sometimes I wondered if it was the thought that using his money was the final step in letting go of my father. But now after reading his journals, I can't help but wonder. Even if I don't remember, perhaps I was influenced by my dad's disgust at the money his father made at the expense of innocent people. Either way I had not touched it in all these years except to pay off Grandma's house and for college. Things I felt confident my parents would have approved of. But nothing more.

I threw out the usual arguments in vain. It was a losing battle. This time she had more ammo than she needed. Hell, just a few hours earlier I'd validated all her arguments in my own mind. She was right: I was 24 now and on my own. Not even in the same state or time zone for that matter. She was not always going to there for me and this was an important step in letting go, standing on my own two feet. Once I was working and all settled, I could give it to charity, cancer research maybe, if that's what I wanted.

I was ready to surrender when she brought out the big gun telling me that maybe I should find an apartment and get a nice car so II could impress my girlfriend *My girlfiend* I couldn't help smiling. She had a point there. It was easy to see that she was working hard on letting me go as well. Maybe she needed to know that I had the means to take care of myself, people that cared about me, and *a girlfriend* before she could go back to California. And so I gave in like any good grandson would.

Before I knew it I was standing at the gate in the airport watching her plane pull away. I had really enjoyed our day together. Even the time at the cemetery was special. I can still recall the feeling of dread as we crossed to their markers. I'd been there a couple times in the last eight weeks. It had been hard, bringing out a sadness in me that made me doubt the existence of a higher power. But somehow it was easier to bear alone; I had feared it would be too painful to be there with Grandma.

To my surprise something happened as we stood there. We talked about them in a way we had never talked before. Instead of her daughter, her son-in-law or even my parents, she talked of the people they were in life. Of their souls, their spirits, their hopes and dreams. Of a love so deep and true that she was certain that not even death would ever really take them from one another I stood there smiling with salty tears staining my face. Not out of sadness or loss. But from the understanding of who they really were. Of all the things that made them special as individuals before the thought of me had ever crossed their minds.

For the first time in my life I had an answer to something that has always puzzled me. My mother's family had all gone back to California and my father's family had their roots up and down the eastern seaboard, yet my parents had chosen to be laid to rest in Washington, far away from their families. All at once, it was finally clear to me. This was who they were, where they built their lives and a future together. It made sense. They were exactly where they should have been the whole time.

I know I'll never forget the last couple days. I've been sitting here since the moment I returned from the airport trying hard to jot down every moment and every corresponding feeling from this day. There are so many that I'm afraid I'll lose one along the way. But I won't; I'll never forget.

At last I give in to exhaustion, setting aside my journal and collapsing into bed. As I lay back, I'm struck with the faint scent of Anna's perfume on the pillow where she had drifted off to sleep the night before. I take a deep breath and let my mind wander from the past into the future.

I was up early the next morning thanks to a less than gentlemanly dream about Anna. The smell of her perfume, coupled with the image of her lying here the night before willing to stay there with me, was more than any mortal man could take. Well, at least more than his subconscious can take. I had a lot to do but opted for a little target practice. Seemed like as good a plan as any to dispel a bit of unresolved sexual tension. I can only imagine how many rounds my parents must have gone through in all those years.

The range, as I'd expected and hoped, was nearly deserted just two short days after Christmas. I was looking forward to the time to myself. But as I stood there, not having gotten a single shot off, still loading my weapon, it all went to hell. I felt a firm hand on my shoulder and turned to find a man I'd never seen before. But somehow I knew who he was. That a meeting I had dreaded since that day with the Gunmen in Michigan was here.

"William Mulder? My name is Spender. If you don't mind, I'd like a moment of your time."

I do my best to keep things formal. I really don't think there is any hope that this man has any intention of staying out of my life but I have to give it a shot.

"You need to speak to me in an official capacity then, Assistant Director Spender?"

He looks me over, choosing his words. As I watch his face, he seems old and tired beyond his years. Softly, so as not to draw attention to us from the few others there, he speaks to me with a sadness that is unmistakable.

"It's clear you know who I am, Will. Whatever you have been told or whatever you might think, if you will give me some time and listen to what I have to say, I'll not bother you again."

Something about him tells me that, whatever else he may be, he is a man of his word. And just maybe listening to him, the lies I know he believes, is the price I have to pay to have him out of my life. Upon my agreement, we left for his office to talk in private.

Neither one of us spoke a word on the trip over. We only exchanged glances. For my part, I was curious to put a face to all the things my father had written about this man. And he was undoubtedly drawing the obvious comparisons between me and my father. This was confirmed by the first words out of his mouth once we were seated in his office.

"You look so much like your father, Will, seeing you makes me miss him all the more."

I was prepared for the first part but the fact that he claimed to miss my father took me completely by surprise. I had to make a quick decision on just how I was going to handle this. I chose not to pull any punches, to tell this man the truth, and expect no less from him in return.

"I'm sorry, sir, I don't mean any disrespect. But from what I've have read and all I've been told, I was under the impression that you hated my father."

He leans back in his seat beginning to fidget with the pen in his hand.

"First of all, Will, there is no need to call me sir. This has nothing to do with your position at the FBI. Anything you and I say to one another has no bearing on you professionally. Second of all, I'm aware that you have been spending a great deal of time with certain individuals. I have nothing against them. I know they were your dad's closest friends."

He knows where I have been spending my free time? I try to keep my reaction from showing on my face. I guess I'm successful since he continues on without pausing.

"But they don't know the whole story, Will. There are things your father kept from them either because he didn't think they needed to know or because he refused to believe the truth himself."

I interrupt him. I know where he is going with this. I don't believe it for a minute so I lay it on the line, hoping that getting to the point will get me out of here that much quicker.

"Actually sir, I do know that you are under the impression that my father was your half brother. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude but I've read in m father's own words that this is not the truth. And I can't imagine what you might say to make me think otherwise."

"You're free to do what you like with what I have to say, Will, but please hear me out before you make any judgments."

I give him a nod. I may as well listen to what he has to say and be done with it.

"Your father, Samantha, Alex Krycek, and I are all failed attempts at what you eventually became. You were not the first child born immune to the virus, William. We were."

I can feel a knot coil in my stomach. I want to get up and walk away. But I don't. Something inside tells me I need to hear this. I let him go on.

"You see, Will, other vaccines were tested long before the one you helped to create. Or even the ones your parents received. A very early attempt was given to some of the members of the project a long time ago. Unfortunately, like many later attempts, it was not successful. Only a few people became resistant to the virus. There was, however, a man working on the project named Alvin Kurtzweil, an OB/GYN, who believed that the answer might be found in the offspring of two immune parents. Three women and one man retained resistance to the virus for a time. This man - my father and your biological grandfather - fathered four children with these women. His wife, an unmarried Russian scientist, and your paternal grandmother. What they did in hopes of saving many lives tore their own lives apart."

He turns away and walks over to gaze out the window as he speaks. I can see that he believes he is speaking the truth. It pains him to tell me as much as it did the Gunmen when they unraveled my past for me just two short months ago.

"I never really hated your dad. I suppose more than anything, I was jealous of him. First, long before I knew the truth, because he was the kind of agent I wanted to be. He was always true to himself, always seeking truth and justice, putting what was right above personal ambition. And then the father I never knew, who had walked away from his wife and child so many years ago, came back into my life, telling me everything he had done out of some sick need to relieve his own guilt."

As he turns to face me again I can see the pain on his face. Be it rooted in truth or lies, the impact on this man's life is clear.

"Maybe I did try to hate your father for a time, Will. It was the easiest thing to do in my situation. As I came to know my own father it was clear that, in spite of what he said, he had turned away from his own wife and child because he longed for another man's. My father loved your grandmother and always considered your dad to be his son. He was proud of Fox in a way that he never could have been of me. No matter how I tried to please him. He saw your dad as above the very conspiracy he worked to bring both Alex and me into. It was hard not to hate him. But in time, unlike Alex, I came to understand that we were all just victims and tried to reach out to your father-"

Growing weary of his twisted tale of bizarre sibling rivalry I cut him Off mid-sentence. "I'm sorry, sir. But I can't imagine what you might say to convince me. Not when I've heard in my father's own words that his father was Bill Mulder. Now if you don't mind, I really should be going now."

In one last attempt to reach me, he crossed the room, taking a seat on the desktop meeting my eye with a combination of frustration and sorrow.

"William, both your father and your mother knew the truth. When you were born they had to face it. They faced it because of you. What you don't see is that they never wanted you to know the entire truth. While all four of us were born resistant to the virus, it faded in time and we became normal children Normal kids conceived under less than normal circumstances who were forced to live with the repercussions of what our parents had done."

Somewhere along the line I stopped listening. I can feel my throat tightening. I can recall both my parents' concerns in their journals entries over my first two years as they tested me again and again to determine if I was retaining my resistance to the virus. I can see their words in my mind. They made very little sense at the time but now I wonder - did they know?

I know that my father often questioned his connection to the smoking man. But now I wonder if he really did know but chose to turn away from this one truth. I'm so busy sorting out my father's words and thoughts that I have shut out the other man in the room altogether. His voice shakes me back to reality.

"William? Listen, Will, I know this is overwhelming. But I needed to tell you this. Not for myself but for your sake. My father died a long time ago, Will. I've made a life and career for myself. And I can't ever change the past. But I want you to know even if you don't believe a word of what I've said, I'm still here to help you in any way I can. I'm here if you need me. At the very least, I owe that to your dad for making me a better person, by being true to himself and expecting nothing less from the people around him."

I'm not sure what to say. Will I ever see this man again? Is he really My father's brother? And if so, how can I help but feel for him knowing that he has suffered from the same conspiracy that haunted my own parents?

I stand and offer him my hand.

"AD Spender. Thank you for your time. I can't say that I'm altogether clear on what your connection was to my father. But I do see that you both suffered at the hands of a man who may or may not have been my biological grandfather. I'm grateful for your offer to help me, but hope that you understand that I need to find my way on my own."

He beams a huge smile as he walks me to the door. Suddenly no matter who this man really is to me, I find I can no longer hate him as I did when I walked through the same door a short time ago. As I turn to walk away he stops me, grabbing my forearm while thoughtfully rubbing his whiskered chin with his other hand.

"William, you're a good kid, the best of both of your parents. I know you're going to make the right choices. I don't know when or if we'll see one another again and I need to warn you...Alex Krycek is here in Washington, Will. He is going to come looking for you soon. He's not a good man, Will. His hatred and distrust have made him vengeful and bitter over the years. He is the most powerful of many men who believe that you were only a postponement to the completion of their plans."

I can hear the urgency in his voice and can see that this was not the meeting to be dreaded. As I walk away I hear him whisper under his voice.

"Trust no one, William."


XI.

In the last few days, I've wasted far too time trying to make a decision that never needed to be made in the first place. Mr. Spender never once asked me to trust him. He just asked me to listen to what he had to say. I've done that. What he says may be true, but does it really matter who my biological grandfather is? It's possible that my father knew and chose not to acknowledge it. To me, it makes no difference. I know my father was a good man no matter who his parents may have been or what they may have done.

More and more it's not about trust, or even my questionable family tree, But about concern for what lies ahead. How many more secrets or lies are still out there waiting for me? Around which corner does Alex Krycek lurk? And will I someday happen across my father's only real family? Is my Aunt Samantha still out there somewhere, never knowing that the brother who spent so much of his life searching for her has himself been gone for more than ten years now? Has she lived her entire life never knowing who she really was or of the people she left behind? I can't help feeling that, if that is the case, perhaps it's best that she never knows.

Yes, very clearly Spender's appearance has caused me to spend far too much time living in the past. So much so that I've neglected the present and the future. But not anymore. If there is one thing the last few months have taught me, it's that I cannot change the past. And dwelling on it could easily cost me my future. Right now the one person I'd hoped would be a part of that future has been back home for two days, wondering why I have not returned her calls.

No matter how much I want to be close to Anna, I keep trying to distance myself from her because of my past. If there are still other people and secrets out there like Spender and his tale, how fair is it to involve her in my life? I've been thinking a lot about my father and mother. How he kept her at arms llengt all those years fearing that letting her love him would cost her life. And the most horrifying thought of all: ultimately, it was the indirect cause of her death. I don't know how he ever lived with the knowledge of what they did to her simply because of him. I can't bear the thought that someone out there might be willing to hurt the people I care about for no other reason than to hurt me or keep me in check.

As much as I want to be with her, I've made up my mind to slowly pull away from Anna. I care about her too much to walk away with no explanation. But I hope, in time, if I hide my feelings and we spend less and less time together, she'll walk away from me. I want her to be safe. I know I can't hide from her any longer so I pick up the phone and call.

OK, nobody said this was gonna be easy. When I called to confirm our date for New Year's Eve, she was so sweet. Not a word about my failure to return her messages. Instead she talked of how boring her trip to Ohio had been and how much she'd rather have spent that time with me.

It made me sick to think how wonderfully open and honest she was with me while I was planning to lie to her. Even if I kept telling myself that it was for her own good, I still felt like a creep. I thought I was getting a break when she said her mother wanted to talk to me but, as I should have known, I was wrong.

Rosie joyfully explained that, since their wedding anniversary was New Year's Eve, she and Mr. Byers were going out for a night on the town leaving the house free for Anna and me to have a romantic evening alone. I should have seen this one coming. How quickly I had forgotten Rosie's aptitude for matchmaking. She explained that she felt bad that the two of us had not a moment alone during Christmas since a half dozen people were always looking over our shoulders. I swear I could feel my heart rise up in my throat as she spoke. A week ago an evening alone with Anna complete with a candlelight dinner and bottle of champagne would have sounded like heaven but right now it sounded more like torture. But lacking other plans and being the kind of guy who would never cancel a date with a beautiful woman the day before New Year's Eve, I agreed.


New Year's Eve

I arrived just in time to meet Mr. Byers and Rosie on their way out the door. They looked so happy together even after all these years of marriage. Rosie gave me a hug and kiss, telling me to have a good time. With raised eyebrows and a scowl, Mr. Byers added "not too good a time. Keep in mind, Will, I might have installed surveillance equipment around the house, so behave yourself with MY daughter." As they walked away I could almost see an image in my mind of Byers and Langly actually installing hidden cameras around the house Ah, but it didn't matter, I had nothing to fear. I was going to be the perfect gentleman tonight.

As I walked in the door I was breathless at the sight of how beautiful she was. I had not seen her except in my mind since that morning after Christmas But somehow tonight, as if some unseen force was determined to chip away at my resolve, she looked even more stunning than I remembered. When we talked on the phone and she mentioned that she would prefer to go with casual attire for our evening together, it had been a big relief. I was certain I would be lost if I had to see her looking as incredible as she had at Langly's wedding.

But somehow this was worse. I don't know if it was the plain black jeans that hugged her curves in all the right places or the green sweater with the neck line that dipped down just far enough to tempt any man and brought out just the right shade of green in her beautiful eyes. There was just something about her sweet face that told me that I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of not losing my heart to this woman whether I allowed her to give me hers or not.

As she reaches up to pull my jacket from my shoulders, I start to understand why my father never could let my mom go. By the time he realized how completely she held his heart, he had no hope of living without her. Already I can feel Anna reaching into my soul and pulling at my heart. But I'm not lost, not just yet, perhaps there is still hope that I might continue to breathe, get out of bed every morning, and find a way to live without her love in my life.

As she walks through the hall toward the kitchen I can hear the smile in her voice as she speaks. It's so easy to see how happy she is right now, happy to be with me. I wonder if she can see the confusion I feel written on my face.

"Listen, Will, I'm not much of a cook so be kind. I hope that pasta is okay with you since I'm not any good at cooking anything else. I think the water should be boiling by now, would you mind giving me a hand in the kitchen?"

It's one of those moments in life where you know just what to say and how you should act but yet something inside overrides common sense and you follow your heart instead of your head.

"Anna?" I reach out and take her hand, causing her to turn and face me. "You look beautiful tonight, I've missed you."

She takes a step toward me closing the distance between us.

"Well, you look great yourself, Will. Black looks good on you, dark, mysterious...."

She wraps her arms around my waist pressing her body against mine. I tell myself I should run but instead I take her in my arms pulling her tightly against me. I can feel the unmistakable response of our closeness hum through my body as she rises up on her toes and finishes her sentence in little more than a whisper against my ear. ". . .sexy, very sexy."

I'm not made of stone. There's just so much a guy can take. A beautiful and intelligent woman tells me I'm sexy the least I can do is kiss her. Still standing there, her soft cheek against the side of my face, I turn and bring my lips to hers. I shouldn't kiss her but I do anyway, to hell with the consequences. I might never get the chance again. I can't help but wonder how anything can feel so incredibly good yet hurt so much at the same time.

Just as I begin to think that staying here with her tonight is more than I can handle, that I should make some excuse and get away while I still can, we heard the loud hiss of boiling water flowing out of the pot onto the red hot stove top. Before I can have another thought of what to do or how to handle the situation, she runs off to the kitchen to tend to dinner. With a smile over her shoulder gesturing for me to follow, she rounds the corner.

"See, I told you I can't cook! Come on, I need your help in here."

And so I go in to help. I'll stay; I really do want to be with her. If I keep the physical contact between the two of us to a minimum, I might even survive the evening with just a mere hint of mental and physical discomfort and still have a wonderful time.

As I walk into the kitchen she smiles as she starts giving orders for my part of the preparations.

"Oh good, can you stir the sauce while I put the pasta to boil so I can start making the salad?"

I simply nod and begin to absentmindedly stir as I watch her graceful movements. I don't know how it will taste but she looks great making it. On the way to the fridge for yet another load of veggies, she leans her body against my back as she reaches past me to open a cupboard full of glasses to one side of my head. Her other hand grabs a bottle of wine from the countertop while our bodies maintain close contact.

As she sets the wine and glasses on the table and returns to the salad, I can see by the playful grin on her face that she is enjoying teasing me. I guess it's not my making physical contact with her that I'm going to need to worry about.

"Will, why don't you pour us both a glass of wine? I think you'll like this kind, it's one of mine and mom's favorites."

I pull out the cork, setting the bottle aside to breathe a bit while we finish up with the dinner preparations.

*Wine? Champagne? Is she crazy?* I can barely resist her now, stone cold sober, let alone with a couple drinks under my belt. As I watch her, I run my excuses through my head. How silly it would all sound if I actually tried to explain.

*I'm sorry, Anna, I really shouldn't drink tonight. If I did I might want to tell you how incredibly beautiful you are, how much I'd like to take you in my arms and kiss your lips, how I can imagine what it would feel like to have your warm, soft body beneath mine as I make love to you....... But, you see, I can't because there's so much you don't know about me, things I still don't understand myself, things that I have no control over but still threaten me or anyone one I might love.*

Oh yeah, that would work. This is one of those times in life when honesty is not the best policy. I'm so busy considering what, if anything, I should say that I don't hear a word she is saying.

"Will. Hey, you still in there?"

I turn to face her, unsure of just how long I had let my mind wander or what she may have said in the meantime.

"Yeah, yeah, sure Anna, I was just thinking about something. I'm sorry, what did you say?"

It's a huge relief when she does not question me on what thoughts had pulled me so far away from reality.

"That's OK. But I need you to do me a favor. The strainer is already in the sink, if you don't mind draining the pasta for me. I'm up to my elbows here in overripe tomato and don't want to overcook the pasta."

Be it careless or just distracted, as I move the pot of boiling water and pasta to the sink, I clumsily catch the bottom of the pan on the edge of the countertop. The boiling hot water splashes all over the sink, floor, and a bit of it on myself. More annoyed than injured, I set the pot in the sink and turnaround tugging the hot, wet material of my shirt away from my skin. She is standing right beside me.

"Oh, my god! Will, are you hurt?"

Before I can open my mouth to speak, she pulls my shirt free from my pants and over my head in one swift motion. All at once I forget any thought of possible injury and realize even if I was hurt, the real danger right now is the loss of my shirt. The more clothing the two of us wear when we are together, the better to avoid temptation.

"It's OK, Anna, I'm fine, really. It's nothing to worry about." I reach for my shirt but she beats me to it, taking it from the floor and tossing it on the chair just out of reach. As she stands there washing her hands and watching me, I can see there is no way I'm gonna get out of this without her making sure that I'm all right. I know its just the nurse in her but as she puts her hands on my chest my medical well being is the last thing on my mind.

"Hold still a minute, Will, let me take a look at you, if you're not burned we can go upstairs and borrow a shirt of my dad's while I throw yours is in the dryer."

As I feel her hands gently explore my chest checking for burns, I'm thinking that there is no way I'm going upstairs with her when I'm half undressed. Not to mention the fact that I don't want to think about her father, not with her standing there touching my bare skin. As she runs her hands across my stomach, pulling the waist of my jeans down a bit with her thumbs, I can feel an intimate response in my body somewhere south of the border. It's a tremendous relief and aid to my self-control when she moves her hands back up against my chest giving special attention to a spot just below my collarbone which is pink and tender from the boiling water.

"Does this hurt?" I shake my head as I feel her gently run the delicate tips of her fingers over the sensitive skin. Her voice soothes any pain I might be feel. "This spot might be a little tender for a while, but it's no more severe than a mild sunburn and you should be just fine in no time."

Thank God, I made it through the examination and damage assessment relatively unscathed. Just when I'm convinced that I have maintained control over my desire during what had to be the most challenging moments of the evening, she brought her lips to the tiny burn on my chest.

First, kissing away any pain I might have felt. Then slowly working her way up, bathing the side of my neck with kisses, sweet and tender at first, but then increasing in passion and intensity until I can feel my resolve melting away as she teasingly runs the tip of her tongue up the length of my throat.

So much for keeping my distance. I can't take it anymore. I need to hold her and feel the taste of her lips on mine. If somehow I find the strength to turn away from her I want to remember what it felt like to hold her in my arms. I need to know she wanted me as much as I wanted her.

My body trembling, I take her face in my hand, curling my fingers around the side of her neck, my thumb softly stroking her cheek. Gazing into those eyes, I can see the trust and warmth emanating from them. More than that, however. I can feel the heat and desire behind those eyes, the passion, flowing into me, threatening to make me lose all sense of control and send me hurtling down an uncharted road. Unable to hold back another second, I pull those warm, sensual lips of hers to mine, as she grabs the back of my head and wraps her fingers around my hair.

I can feel myself falling down a bottomless hole as my tongue desperately meets hers, exploring every inch of her mouth. She presses herself hard against me, forcing me back against the countertop and tighter against her as my hands roam across her face and through her hair. I feel a sudden rush move through me as we keep kissing, deeply, passionately. I have never felt like this before. I have never wanted someone or wanted to give myself to someone so utterly and completely in my entire life.

For an instant I think we can do this. Maybe I can keep her safe. But as we stand there in each other arms her head tucked under my chin a memory comes flooding back. The image is so clear as I close my eyes. I'm 10 years old again. It's no more than a couple days following my mother's funeral. I'm supposed to be asleep, but I'm not. I'm standing in the dark in the hallway just outside the living room listening.

I can hear my dad talking to a man. I can only imagine the man must be the Mr. Skinner that I don't recall from my childhood and never had the chance to know as an adult. I hear his voice in my mind, so deep, strong, and kind at the same time. His efforts to comfort my father make it clear he is a close friend. I can hear my father's words, heavy with sorrow and guilt. At times his voice is choked off altogether with the tears I know he must have shed but never let me see. No matter how much the other man tries to convince him otherwise he just keeps saying over and over "I killed her,..... it's all my fault. If she had never met me she would be alive right now."

My eyes fly open to see Anna there pressed against me. I pull myself from her embrace and turn away from her. I don't know what I can say to make her understand that I can't risk someone hurting her because of me. I don't want to hurt her myself either but the less said the better. What else can I say but what I feel the most right now?

"I am so sorry."

She walks around to face me again. Why can't she be angry and tell me to get out and never come back? Instead, she tries to understand me. Her fingers grasp the tiny cross that I now wear under my clothing, close to my heart.

"It's them, isn't it? This has something to do with your parents, doesn't it, Will?"

I don't say a word. I just stand there looking at the tiny piece of gold between her fingers.

"It has something to do with those X-Files my dad keeps talking about. Look, Will, I know my dad, he lived for conspiracy theories when he knew your father. There is more to all this X-Files stuff than simply chasing UFO's, isn't there?"

She walks to the stovetop switching off the burners. "What do you say we just order pizza?" Heading into the hall, she stops to lean against the doorway. "Why don't you have a seat while I go get you a dry shirt? I'll be back in a minute and we can talk, okay?"

I give her a weak smile and nod in agreement before crossing to sit at the table. I feel cornered and relieved at the same time. I know I need to tell her as little as possible, just enough to help her understand. At least I won't have to lie to her or hurt her. She will know that my reluctance to be with her is my problem and has nothing to do with a lack of interest in her.

As she walks back into the room she tosses me a gray T shirt, and grabs a couple of soft drinks from the fridge before taking a seat across from me to talk. She sits there silently looking at the table top before her eyes rise up to me mine.

"OK, Will, listen. As much as I would like there to be more between us, I want you to know most of all I want to be your friend. You need someone to talk to other than my dad, someone your own age. Whatever it is that's bothering you, you don't have to go it alone."

She reaches out taking my hand in hers making my heart ache. "I'm not going to lie to you, Will. I like you a lot and I felt like there was something between the two of us. I still do. I thought you felt it too?"

I close my eyes for a moment feeling her hand on mine. Here it is, my golden opportunity. All I have to do is tell her I don't feel the same and be done with it. Even if I shut this door, we will still have a friendship that can grow. My heart rushes in before my head has a chance to stop it.

"I did... I do-" I stop for a minute or is it just a second? It's hard to tell; my mind is racing in so many directions. Why did I do that? I should have just let it end. I keep telling myself that's what needs to happen. But I just couldn't. Then as I realize she is still sitting there waiting. What am I going to tell her???

I opt for a line of partial truths. "It's my job, Anna, I want to work in violent crimes like my father. It can be dangerous. Not to mention I'll be dealing with a lot of disturbing cases. I just worry about what might happen or how it might change me. I don't think I should get involved until I know I have my head together and have something to give in return."

She laughs. I blink in surprise. I certainly didn't see that one coming!

"Dangerous? Disturbing? I'm trying to find a job working in a DC emergency room. I'd say it's a toss up as to whose job will be more dangerous and disturbing. I'm not buying it, Will. There has to be more to it."

So I give her the truth or at least a small taste of it. With luck, enough to satisfy her. Maybe someday I'll be able to tell her everything. "You're right, there is more to it. And it does involve my parents and the X-Files. The X-Files brought my parents in contact with some very dangerous people. Recently I met a man who ... "

I pause for a second, gnawing on my lower lip. I take a deep breath and force myself to continue. "He warned me that these people are still out there. They are unpredictable and very aware of who I am. I just don't want to see anyone hurt because of me, Anna."

She doesn't ask anymore. Her understanding is written on her face. She is quiet for moment as she closes her eyes. I expect to see fear when she opens them. But it isn't fear that I see in her eyes.

"If you turn away from me, Will, you'll be hurting me just the same. Even if we've only known each other a short time, I know I want to be with you. Will you let me?"

I walk over to her and pull her into my arms holding as tight as I dare whispering against her head. "I just don't want anyone to hurt you."

She buries her head in my chest pulling her arms tight around my waist "They won't, Will."

I released my hold on her so I could see her face. Be it one day or ten days together, it didn't matter, I already knew it. I was in love with her and I couldn't help myself.

I gave her a soft kiss on her sweet lips and then another on her forehead and held her close again.

"I hope you're right."


XII.

Two Months Later

Well, at last I'm done. Two days ago I finished my training at the academy. The last couple days have been just crazy. Everyone came to town to attend the party that Mr. Byers and Rosie insisted on throwing for me. Even Grandma, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Tara made the trip. We all had a great time together. Everyone has been so wonderful. Other than being called Agent Mulder all evening long, which got old pretty fast, the party was a big success.

At one point, the Gunmen pulled me aside for a shot of top grade whiskey, hugs, and to tell me how proud they were of me. They went to great lengths to make sure I understood how proud my parents would have been. Of course I know that, but it's so kind of them to want to reassure me. I may have lost my father a long time ago but it feels as if I have three fathers in these men. I'm sure my dad would be very pleased that they have become such a big part of my life.

Hell, it's still too early to say for sure, but I've had more than the occasional passing thought of Byers as a father. Well, actually, a father-in-law. Yeah that's right, no matter what I told myself was right or what I knew I should have done, I just could not walk away from Anna.

Since New Year's Eve, I've spent every moment possible with her. After we talked that night, she has never once questioned me again about my parents, the X-Files, and the danger they could bring into my and, by extension, her life. She is confident that nothing or no one will harm either of us. And with time, I have been able to convince myself the only threat to myself or anyone I love was in Mr. Spender's head.

I guess it's time I admit it to myself. I am in love with Anna. I haven't told her how I feel yet. But I think she knows, she reads me so well already. We have both been so busy these last eight weeks that there has been little time to be alone. I want to be with her desperately. Since I vent my sexual frustration through target practice, I've become one hell of a shot. But so far the opportunity has not presented itself. Last weekend when she came home to help me move into my apartment, we had the time together and the privacy, but it just didn't seem right. The furniture had not arrived and the place was a mess. It was just not what I had in mind. I love her and I want everything to be perfect for her.

But now, thanks to my Grandma, Aunt Tara, and the Gunmen's wives, this place looks perfect. Yesterday afternoon they came over, insisting on helping me get settled in before the party that night. They sent Uncle Bill and me off to have lunch while they worked their magic. They must have shopped for hours. When they arrived, they already had everything, from pots and pans to linens, in hand. I could tell it meant a lot to them so I left with Uncle Bill, leaving my first real apartment in their more than capable hands.

The afternoon was shocking. My time with my uncle was good, very good. We had a nice lunch and really talked for the first time. As he spoke, I could tell he really longed to talk to my father. After lunch he asked if I would go to the cemetery with him. He claimed it was just a way to pass the time; that he had been told to keep me away while the ladies had their way with my new surroundings. But when we got there I could tell he really needed to be there.

I had always seen him as one of the toughest, most emotionally detached men I'd ever known. Of course I know now that just wasn't true. As we stood there before their markers, I could hear the sorrow in his voice as he talked of how he missed her and wished he had done things differently. How he should have supported her in her choices for her life. As he laid the bouquet of flowers on her grave, his large weathered and wrinkled eyes moist with tears, all he said was "I'm sorry". As he stood to walk away, he stopped for a moment and placed his hand on my father's marker and simply said "you too". Sure it's not much for some, but for my hard-headed and stubborn Uncle Bill, it spoke volumes.

As we walked away he threw his arm around my shoulder and with a hearty laugh said, "Once you get used to having the new, improved Uncle Bill around sticking his nose in your business, you might be wishing for the old model back." But I doubt it. I knew things had changed and I was looking forward to getting to know my mom's big brother for the first time in my life.

We all saw the Scully clan off at the airport first thing this morning. While it was sad to see them go home, I couldn't help feeling that something had changed. Even if they were far away, my bond to my mother's family was stronger than ever.

I had lunch at the Byers' house this afternoon before Frohike and his wife left on their trip back to Michigan. Everyone but Anna was there. She had gone back to school for the day to meet with a recruiter about a job. While she claimed to have no intention of taking a job away from her parents, or me for that matter, she reasoned the interview was good experience.

Standing in the kitchen right in front of me, she had told her mom that she would be back tonight but not to expect her because she was going to stay at my place. I nearly died of embarrassment. I knew that she and her mom were close and had no secrets but it still took me by surprise. Perhaps they did not notice the scarlet blush of embarrassment on my cheeks or my frantic check of the room to locate her dad. More likely, they were just kind enough not to draw attention to it. Any way you look at it, I knew Anna was coming over tonight and not planning on going home. The prospect was exciting and frightening all at once.

So I've spent the remainder of the afternoon here in my apartment waiting for her to arrive and taking inventory of all the stuff Grandma, Rosie and the others brought by yesterday. The place does look great. Maybe a little too good for a bachelor? I was amazed to find that they had not only stocked the fridge and cupboards but that the dishes, glasses, and towels in the kitchen all matched and complimented one another.

As I wandered around, I found the rest of the place had been given the same treatment right down to the rugs covering the hardwood floors. Each room fully stocked and color coordinated. OK, it really did look fantastic. They even did a great job of avoiding frills and feminine color schemes. The most impressive choice of all being the deep wine and dark green decor they chose for the bedroom. Really nice and a huge improvement over the University of Southern California print blanket I'd been using up to this point. At first, I was pretty embarrassed by all they had done, but they really enjoyed doing it and who can argue with one, let alone a room full of women, intent on mothering you?

At least now I have a place nice enough entertain a certain young lady. A glance at my watch reminds me she will not arrive for at least 2 more hours. As I grab the remote and begin running through the TV channels looking for something decent to watch, I hear the knock at the door.

Everyone has gone home and, regardless of her tendency to drive far too fast, it's too early for Anna. I click off the set, tossing the remote on the coffee table and head for the door. As I reach for the knob I can't shake the feeling I should turn around and leave this knock unanswered. But I shake it off as one of my infrequent bouts of unjustified paranoia.

I open the door to find a well dressed man with salt and pepper hair and piercing dark eyes. I don't know him but if I had to guess, I'd put him in his late fifties, just a few years younger than my father would have been if he was still alive. In an instant, it hits me. As he starts to speak, I know this is the meeting I've dreaded since the moment I walked out of AD Spender's office. This man must be......

"William, my name is Alex Krycek. I knew your father many years ago."

I step out into the hallway with him pulling the door closed behind me. I don't mean to seem hostile but I can't help myself. There is something about him, as if I can sense an aura of lies and deceit all around him, enough to make me want to keep him out of my apartment.

"Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Krycek?"

To some, his smile must be charming, but as he grins at me all I can think of is how to get this man out of my life as quickly as possible. When I met with AD Spender, I knew somehow that he was not a threat. Just as I can tell now, looking at this man, that he is nothing but trouble and danger. As he speaks, his voice is even and reassuring. But in his eyes I can see all that remains unsaid.

"I see you know who I am, William." He leans in a bit, making me uneasy. "Now Will, I don't think you really want all your new neighbors hearing what you and I have to say to one another. Why don't we step inside so we can talk privately?" He pauses for an instant leveling his gaze on me, upping my level of discomfort at his presence. "I'm not leaving till you hear what I have to say."

I step aside silently shoving the door open and allowing him to enter. He crosses the room, looking around as he moves to the couch to take a seat. Showing more annoyance than I was hoping to, I close the door and sit in the chair across from him. I don't see any other alternative but listening to what he has to say. But I intend to share little in return.

"Fine, then. Have your say."

He pushes off his heavy overcoat placing it over the sofa next to him. His attitude is so warm and friendly that, if not for my gut instinct telling me otherwise, I'd think him a dear, old, family friend.

"First off, William, let me offer my congratulations on completing your training. From what I hear, you're a very bright and talented young man. You can be proud, very proud. And I know your parents would be thrilled to see what a fine young man you've become. I know I'm quite proud of you myself."

He starts absentmindedly jangling some change in his pocket while he speaks. While he seems totally confident on the outside, this gesture tells me a bit of nervous energy and tension is hidden somewhere inside. Maybe he does not have the upper hand in this meeting after all.

"I do know that you've had a little chat with Jeff. Not to mention all the time you've been spending with your dad's misguided friends. So I won't beat around the bush here and insult your intelligence. Like I said before, William, I'm very proud of what a sharp young man you are. Truly the pride and joy and hope for the future for our family."

Even if I knew he was going to say it, my stomach knots at his mention of our alleged genetic connection. Before I can say a word to correct him, he continues on.

"I know you don't believe it. Think your father knew differently? But it's true, William. Unlike anyone else who has uttered these words to you, I have the proof." He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a long tan envelope.

"In this envelope, William, is the proof that your father, Samantha, Jeff, and I are all children of the same man. Products of an experiment done with the noblest intentions - saving the human race. All raised by different parents, but siblings and family just the same, Will. Your family."

He slides the envelope across the coffee table toward me. I can't touch it. Something in me tells me, even if he is a man who deals in lies as a way of life, that on this, he does speak the truth. As I look at him watching my face, as I run over the possibilities in my head, I can almost see that maybe, at one time, there was a good man in him.

I see a twinge of sadness in his eyes as if it pains him to be here now handing out my fate. Or at least what he believes is my fate. Showing me the road he thinks I have no choice but to choose. The path others chose for him so long ago. But I do have a choice. I push the envelope back to him.

"I don't care what proof you think you have, Mr. Krycek, I don't accept it."

He looks at the envelope but leaves it. He runs his hand over his chin while gazing out the window for a moment before he turns to me again.

"I gave that same information to your dad a long time ago, Will. He opened it, looked at it, saw the truth, but chose to turn his back on it." He pauses, leveling his eyes on mine. "Until you were born, Will. But with you to protect, he had no choice. He faced up to who he really was, William. For you, for what you could do to save us all. He cooperated, did what was expected of him, took his place in the family till the day he died......... all for you."

Oh my god! I can feel my stomach in my throat. I'm sure I'm going to be sick right here. I keep telling myself this man knows what buttons to push to get to me. That somehow he knows that the one burden I can't bear is my father giving up everything to save me. That he's playing on half truths to get what he wants from me.

But I don't know what to believe. I've read in my father's own words that he and my mother worked with these men, the very men they had spent years trying to uncover. Somehow, it was easier to believe that, even though my parents worked with them to develop a vaccine, they somehow remained above it all. But what if they weren't above it? What if, for the sake of my safety and achieving a vaccine, my parents had sold their souls to the devil himself? I can't hear it. I won't listen to another word.

"My father never did anything wrong!"

I can't stop him. The truth, or his version of it, continues to flow even as I turn my back, willing him to simply be silent or go away.

"I always admired your dad for his integrity. Even when he found himself forced to work side by side with our father, he found a way to justify it. He held onto his pride, to his faith that what he did he did for the future. Your parents, all of us, only did what we had to do. And so will you. This isn't a life any one of us chooses for ourselves. It was just the hand we were dealt by forces not even of this planet. No matter what you do, William, you cannot deny it. This is who you are. Your future is not your own; it never really was. In time, you will come to understand that and accept it."

A thought crosses my mind. Before I have the time to consider if I really want the answer, I ask.

"My dad? Mr. Skinner? Did you kill them?"

He takes a deep breath and turns away. "I suppose, in a way, I did kill Walter Skinner. A long, long time ago, many years before his death. But I would not harm your father. He was my brother, my only family. Granted, it was not your run-of-the-mill relationship, but I looked up to him like any kid brother would."

He gnaws on his lower lip and I can see he is sickened by his own twisted tale. "What I did to Skinner kept him in check. Insured his cooperation. The same way they used you to control your father after your mother died. It's just how it works, William. They find your weaknesses and exploit them to keep you in check. Until you out live your usefulness or make thing difficult enough for them to warrant a well placed accident."

"You're telling me my father and Mr. Skinner made things difficult and were killed because of it?"

"What your father had to do after your mother died was simple. His role was to care for you. Take up a normal everyday existence. Play the grieving widower and adoring father and he would have lived a long, happy life in peace. God knows he tried. But, in time, he began sticking his nose in where it did not belong. Chasing down leads on his own, he began to discover plans for a renewed attempt at colonization. It cost him his life. In turn, Walter Skinner outlived his usefulness in his relentless search to find your father's killers. I didn't kill them, Will, but they were murdered."

As I sit there struggling to absorb and sort out all he has said, he rises and begins to slip on his coat to leave.

"That's it? You walk in here, unravel my past, tell me my future is sealed, toss out a few thinly disguised threats, and then walk out??"

He reaches down, picks up the envelope, and places it in my hands as I stand to face him.

"Yes, Will, I've said what I came to say. All the choices are yours from here on out. Do what you like with what I've told you and the proof I've given you. But don't ever forget for one second that they know your weaknesses. Family, all those friends you've made, some old, some with failing health, and another young, beautiful, and full of promise. How sure are you that you can protect them?"

Even if I'd always felt that I was a threat to Anna, hearing the words is like a blow to the chest, leaving me unable to speak. I recover quickly, grabbing his arm, spinning him around on his heel to face me.

"THEY know my weaknesses? Or you mean YOU do?"

He pulls his arm out of my grasp with strength surprising for a man his age. "No! THEY do, William. I'm just one of many men. You're like the son I never had or will ever have. I'll do my best to protect you. But no matter what power you think I might have, I'm still just one man and there is just so much I can do. The rest is up to you."

I follow him to the door, unsure of what I should say or do. As he reaches for the knob, I stop him one last time. "Why me? Why now? Why not Spender or his children?"

He stops and looks over on the table near the door. "Because of everything you know now." He picks up my badge lying on the table, running his thumbs over the black leather cover.

"Ironically, William, you could have continued your education, perhaps spent your days teaching Physiology to pretty coeds at some quiet university, unaware of all of this." He holds up the leather case, letting it fall open, exposing my badge and identification to me. "But you made this choice, Agent Mulder."

He tosses the badge back to the table as he walks through the door. "Now you have a lot more choices to make. I suggest you think them over carefully, William, for everyone's sake."

The click of the door echoes in my head as I lean against it, holding the envelope in my hand. How could my life have gone so wrong so fast? How did my father ever live with all of this? What choices do I really have?

I can hear his threats as if he is still standing right in front of me..... my family, the old, the poor in health, and the cruelest blow of all, the one young, beautiful and full of promise. It's too late now. There is nothing I can do to protect them, my family, the Gunmen, their families. The reality of it all washes over me. I crumble to the floor against the hard door feeling warm tears stinging my cheeks, Anna.....

They are all in danger now, simply for knowing me. What can I do? Is there a way to insure their safety?? I reach up, pulling my weapon from the table, taking it in my hand, feeling the cold hard steel against my skin.

* I have to save them! *


It's starting to get dark already The setting sun is flooding the room with a comforting warm light I should get up and close the window but the chilly air feels cleansing to me somehow I welcome anything that helps wash away the stench that Alex Krycek brought into my life.

I've been sitting on this couch for over half an hour, searching for a way out. I don't really remember how I got here Somewhere along the line, I recall anger hitting me like a blow, resulting in the premature demise of several glasses against the kitchen wall After the destructive rage ran its course, I went through the apartment opening all the windows as wide as possible. For a while, the cool air felt good but now, it's cold in here I really don't know what I'm doing I do know that I still have my gun in my hands.

In my 24 years, I've never once thought of taking my own life But, at this minute, it seems like a reasonable choice It's just simple logic If I am a threat to the people I love, then removing myself from their lives is the only way to insure their safety As painful as it might be, at least I've had the chance to be with all of them in the last couple days To mend broken relationships and tell them all how much I love them All except for one I have never told Anna how I feel about her.

I put the gun down I can't do it I won't be the one to hurt them Anna will be here soon Even if my death might save her, I can't bear the thought of her finding me like that Knowing she would feel that she should have been here That there was something she could have done to stop me I love her and I won't do that to her.

*Choices?* What choices do I really have? I pick up the envelope, flipping it over in my hand before slipping my finger in the seal to tear it open First, I have to choose to face the truth While no genetic connection alone seals my fate, I need to know for sure At that moment I hear her soft knock on the door As quietly as possible, I lay the envelope back onto the table unopened No noise, not a sound I can't see her right now.

She continues to knock, making it difficult for me to fight the urge to open the door, sweep her into my arms, and let her chase away my demons.

"Open up agent Mulder, I know you're in there."

The warmth in her voice turns my stomach I've already allowed her to be hurt By letting her care about me, by my needing her, I have put her in danger I am the one who is hurting her I close my eyes, willing her to simply walk away Not just from the door but from my life Instead, I can hear her turn the doorknob and the heavy wood door begin to slide open Damn I left it unlocked.

I can see her soft smiling face in the dimly lit room as she slides through the half open door.

"Will Hey, it's me Did you fall asleep or something? You've got to remember to lock the door In your line of work, you never know what sort of sicko might come through an open door."

She looks around the darkened room until her eyes meet mine Her smile is so beautiful. For an instant, I imagine how it might have felt to see her walk through that door tonight to be with me, if Alex Krycek had not gotten to me first.

Her smile fades with concern as she crosses to me, lighting the room with a single lamp along the way.

"Geez, Will, what are you doing in here? It's freezing Did you cook or something? Maybe you thought airing out the place would hide the evidence so I wouldn't notice the smoke?"

She starts closing the windows, first in the living room, then the bedroom I can hear her voice in the next room like a dream.

"Wow, this place looks really great I love this comforter My mom and the others did all this, huh?" She carries on as if I'm actually holding up my end of the conversation "God, I only hope I get the same treatment when I find a place of my own." She rounds the corner taking a seat on the arms of the couch next to me, oblivious to the fact that I have not moved a muscle or uttered a single word since she walked through the door.

"If you want to know the truth, I think my mom likes you better than me."

With a big grin and a chuckle, she allows herself to slide off the arm onto the couch next to me, really looking at me for the first time The sudden look of shock on her face makes me think that she can read my thoughts after all But as she reaches down taking my hand in hers, I can see the reason for her alarm.

"Oh, my god, Will, you're bleeding What happened to your hand?"

Quickly, she is up and on her way to my aid I can hear the water running in the kitchen, the sound of the drawers sliding open and shut one after another as she searches for what she needs to tend to my injured hand.

"Really, it's no big deal I just cut my hand a little when I broke a glass." Of course, I know she is not going to buy that explanation Not when she is standing on the kitchen floor amongst the remains of my newly acquired glassware But since it's at least a half truth; it's worth a shot.

"Yeah, I can see that Let me guess One glass broke and the rest just kind of followed along like a flock of lemmings?" She walks back in with a warm, damp cloth and starts to clean the drying blood off my hand Even if she can still muster a joke, I can see that she knows that something is wrong.

As she takes my hand softly in hers, tending to the cut, I have to shut my eyes against the assault of being next to her My heart aches All I want to reach out to her and let her comfort me But I can't do it

Krycek already knew where I lived, even though I'd been here less than a week He knew who I had been spending my time with He had probably been watching me all along There might be someone outside right now Someone who watched Anna come into the building, who will wait to see when and if she leaves, and report back to him.

I look around the room as the thought hits me They might have had this place bugged before I even set foot in it As my eyes wander back to Anna, I see that her eyes have found my gun lying on the table before us.

She tosses the damp bloody towel on the coffee table and picks up the gun I'm amazed at how much she has learned about handling a weapon just by watching me these last few weeks She takes the clip out, noting that it's fully loaded, and shoves it into her jeans pocket She slowly lays the unarmed weapon back on the table.

"What the hell is going on here, Will? What happened?" She pulls her shoes off, tucking her tiny feet beneath her on the sofa, clearly digging in "I'm not going anywhere until you tell me everything."

I examine my hand I can't look into her trusting eyes while I lie to her.

"It's nothing, Anna I just got a little pissed off about something stupid and lost my temper." She takes my hand in hers, pulling it into the light of the nearby lamp.

"No, Will I don't believe that for second There has to be a lot more to this You won't answer the door when you knew I was coming I walk in here to find you sitting in the dark, every window in the place open wide to the cold March air, bleeding with broken glass all over the kitchen, with your gun! Will, that's not nothing! There has to be a reason you 're sitting alone in the dark holding a loaded gun!"

Taking her attention back to my hand, she doesn't give me a chance to speak.

"This is a pretty deep cut, Will We need to stop the bleeding and get it bandaged right away Keep the pressure on it while I go see if my mom had the foresight to stock your medicine cabinet as well."

I sit there wordlessly pressing a clean towel against my hand, feeling weak for allowing her to tend to my wound when she really needs protection from me She walks back in the room, singing her mother's praises, carrying a small white first aid kit As she deftly goes about cleaning and dressing my hand, I take the chance to look at her I know I have to break things off with her Now! Tonight!

But right this minute, I don't want to forget what it's like having her close too me, knowing she cares for me I'm so engrossed in memorizing her face that I have to force myself to listen to her voice as she gives me directions on caring for my hand. Somewhere between watching her amazing green eyes and nodding my agreement to change the bandage daily, she brings my hand to her lips.

"Well, if you take care of it and do what I told you, we should be able to avoid amputation. To be sure let me kiss it to make it better."

As her lips brush against my hand, my heart sinks I wish I could go back Back to the way this evening might have gone if I'd never laid eyes on Alex Krycek To hold her in my arms, feeling her body pressed against mine To finally tell her that I love her To spend the next 24 hours locked away in this apartment showing her just how much

Instead I'll hand out as many half truths as I dare to reveal to convince her that we can never see one another again And I'll say goodbye.

As gentle as it is, her touch against my face startles me from my thoughts "Will, you still with me? What's with you? I'm still waiting for an explanation on what brought on the sudden urge to purge the place of glassware, not to mention this." Her face is filled with discomfort and concern as she reaches into her pocket taking the loaded clip out and setting it gently on the coffee table.

I hate myself for hurting her I can already hear pain in her voice as she slides closer to me pressing me for the answers she may not want to hear.

"What happened, Will? Please talk to me I know something is very wrong. I can feel it You mean too much to me to see you like this."

I summon all the strength I can, taking one deep breath that must have sounded like I was gasping for air. "I can't see you anymore, Anna I just can't get involved with anyone right now It's not fair to you." I have to look away I can't watch her face "It's been fun but its over. I'm going to be really busy with work and just don't want to be tied down right now."

I feel like shit Not only am I lying to the only woman I've ever really loved but I'm doing a pretty lousy job of it Even as I speak, I cringe at my words Every sad excuse for ending a relationship comes pouring out of my mouth against my will I'm pretty sure the only cliche I missed was the "we can still be friends" line But we can't be friends; it's not safe for her to be near me in any way.

I turn to look into her face, expecting tears or maybe anger Instead she meets my eye with determination "You're lying to me, Will I don't know why but I'm not leaving here until you tell me the truth."

I don't believe it will do any good, but I shake my head in disagreement and try to look her in the eye with a last plea for her to accept what I say and walk out.

"Really, Anna, there's nothing more to it The simple truth is, I'm not interested in seeing you anymore."

I'm shocked by the strength in her tiny arm as she grabs my shoulder forcing me to turn and face her.

"The least you can do, William, is look at me while you lie to me." She pulls my injured hand into hers holding it as tightly as she dares careful not to hurt me I only wish that I could find a way to not hurt her I can see the unshed tears in her eyes as she looks in mine and to make her own final plea.

"Please, Will, don't do this I know you don't really mean what you're saying You are trying to keep something from me, trying to distance me from whatever it is that is really bothering you Talk to me!! You've got to trust someone, Will."

I sit there in the deafening silence as a single tear rolls down her cheek And then I hear the words I've longer to hear for so long "I love you, Will." They feel like a knife plunging into my heart.

I'm grateful for the guilty lump in my throat that cuts off the words I feel but cannot say I have to stop and close my eyes tight against the tears I feel building there I know I cannot show even a hint of how I really feel if I am to make her believe me.

She moves I can't breath, waiting for her to stand and walk away and out of my life But she isn't leaving She is moving closer to me, reaching out to touch my face. Her hand against my face is so kind and gentle, I can see she is thinking only of what pain I might be feeling and not her own Her soft smile is so uncertain as she speaks "I do love you, Will, and that's not going to change no matter what you say."

Before I say a word, she brings her lips to mine in a kiss that is little more that a peck but still more exciting than the deepest most passionate kiss I've ever experienced I do what I can to resist but it is more than I can manage As she begins to pull away, I lose my battle I can't let her go without her knowing that I do love her That she is all I really wanted

All my feelings are there but the words just don't seem to flow As I grab her hand, the only word my mind can think to utter is "Stop" The look of confusion on her face makes me love her all the more.

For a second, I toy with the idea of trying to explain that I only meant I wanted her to stop saying good by, not that I wanted her to stop kissing me Instead I bring both my hands to her, one against her soft cheek, still warm and damp from her tears, the other through her soft beautiful hair until it finds the base of her neck and aids me in bringing her back to me

I don't say a word, letting my kiss tell her all the love passion and desire I simply cannot hide As our lips part, I move to whisper in her ear. " I love you, Anna But we can't be together."

I wonder if anything in my life will ever be this painful At last, I have nothing left to hide as my own tears begin to fall "I can't let you be with me I won't."

I'm shocked when, without thinking, she harshly grabs my injured hand in frustration and anger, demanding my full attention

"Why?"

I wince from the pain in my hand Seeing my physical pain only makes things worse Her tears fall freely as she collapses against my shoulder mumbling over and over how sorry she is, that she never meant to hurt me

Feeling all the more guilty that she would worry about hurting me when I'm the one handing out the pain, I wrap my arms around her, holding her tightly against me, searching for a way to make it better She returns my embrace so strongly I start to wish that time would just stop and we could stay here together like this But it doesn't

Still shaking from her tears, she asks me to let her in one last time "Talk to me, Will, please?"

As we move apart, I touch her face with my finger tips wiping away her tears I look into her eyes for what seems like eternity before I can make my decision All the battling with myself comes down to one small whisper.

"ok"

Maybe my paranoia the last few months has been somewhat justified Still concerned my new apartment might have come equipped with a bug or two, I walk over and turn on the television, pushing the volume up to a ridiculous level before taking a seat very close to her While it is a good excuse to be close to her, the truth is she, and only she, needs to hear what I have to say.

I put my arm around her, pulling her very close sure that only she will hear my voice. Knowing she might think I'm crazy as much as anything, I begin my explanations in a soft whisper, nodding to the blaring television.

"Listen, this is all going to sound crazy but just hear what I have to say before you pass any judgment I'm sorry for the noise but I think it possible this apartment could have been bugged before I moved in I don't want anyone listening in on our conversation."

Her eyes do the grand tour of the room and turn to me, filled with concern and disbelief.

"What!?"

I shake my head in disgust at the situation I'm not really sure where to start or just how much I need to tell her so she will understand that she has to walk away I decide to go with what she already knows, adding as little as possible until I get my point across.

"Anna, do you remember New Year's Eve, when I told you I feared some dangerous people from my parents' work with the X-Files might come looking for me?"

With a soft nod she starts making all the connections, looking at me, my hand, around the room until her eyes come to rest on the gun lying on the table.

"I gather they have found you? You talked to someone this afternoon? What could they have on you, or your parents, Will, that would you bring you to all this? Have they made some sort of threats you could take to the police get some help?"

I take her hand in mine, rubbing my thumb over the soft skin on the back of her hand more to comfort myself than her "No, they made no threats against me, but make no mistake, they have me just as they had my mom and dad."

Before I can consider my words, I've said more than I should. "They always have and I don't know how to fight it All I can do now is protect the people I care about the best I can."

Abruptly, she pulls her hand away from me A look of horror spreads across her face. "They never threatened YOU, did they? It's me, or anyone else you care about, that's in danger."

Her voice begins to get louder I bring my finger to my lips, worried that someone will hear her "Shhhh!"

She continues, her voice quiet again, but with the same intensity and emotion. "You clearly believe that they mean it."

As the realization hits her, she picks up the gun "You were going to kill someone to stop it, even if that someone had to be you."

Tears begin to cloud her eyes again "I don't understand why you would believe one man's threats so completely that you would consider suicide necessary."

I take the gun from her, setting it down on the table "Anna, you have to trust me I can't tell you why I'm sure these people mean what they say I have to do what they want or find a way to fight them alone If I don't, I'll be forced to watch them take the ones I love."

"Proof, Will What proof do you have? How can you be so sure these are not empty threats?"

I can't hold back anymore; something has to convince her "Because they killed my parents, Anna! They killed my mom just to prove to my father they ultimately had control of his life and had since the day he was born Just like me Anna, I'm no different than my father They have me just the same."

I can feel the tears of pain and anger running down my face Even though I know I should lower my voice, I can't "I'll fight them just as he did and in the end, it may cost me my life as well But I'll do this alone, Anna I'm not going to watch you die because of me... I just can't."

I'm not sure when, but at some point we had both gotten to our feet I look at her face and I can't stand the painful image of someone hurting her to get to me "I just can't, Anna I need you to know how much you mean to me but you have to leave I may be forced to relive my father's worst nightmares but not what happened to my mom... not ever."

She wraps her arms around my waist her voice soft against my chest "Do you blame your father for what happened to your mom, Will? Do you think you mom blamed him?"

Shocked by her questions, I pull back, still held in her embrace, while I look down at her face.

"No. NO, of course not."

"You've talked about them often, Will How true, complete, and perfect their love for one another was My parents and the others talk about them as if they were two parts of a whole, utterly incomplete and lost without one another. If their souls belonged together, Will, wouldn't the real tragedy have been if they'd never found each other?"

She reaches up to touch my face gently and I wonder if she is the piece that could make me whole "I'm sure your mom didn't want to die, Will But I'm also sure she would not have wanted any other life if it meant being without you and your dad."

She hesitates for a moment, both us standing there wrapped in each other's arms, the silence broken only by the droning of the television "I'll leave if it's really what you want But I understand the risks of being together and I still don't want to be without you, Will."

I watch her eyes, amazed to see that she understands She is still unwilling to leave my side even if it could cost her life "I can live without you, Anna, if that's what it takes to keep you safe." Even though she tries to hide it, I can feel her shaking in my arms, trying to stifle her sobs I rest my chin on the top of her head, absorbing the feeling of holding her, aware this might be the last time we will be together like this "I'm sorry, but you have to go."

She looks up nodding her agreement but instead of stepping away, she begins to pull my T-shirt free from the waistband of my jeans With her eyes intently focused on mine, she runs her hands across my stomach and up my body across my chest. "I won't go yet, Will, not until I feel your body against mine." Her hand swiftly moves down, pulling on the buttons of my jeans "I love you and there's no guarantee I'll ever love anyone else I won't miss the chance to make love to the only man I might ever love."

It's a blessing for my self control when the last button on my jeans gives way She turns her attention back to my shirt, using both hands to push it up, her lips spreading tiny kisses across my skin along the way Even though we shut the windows over an hour ago, the room still feels chilly against my bare skin. The warmth of her lips on my chest creates the most incredible heat and desire spreading through my body.

Feeling my control slipping away, I grab her firmly by the shoulders. "NO, Anna Stop We can't do this."

She stands her ground, her hands on me, pulling her lips from my skin only for an instant "You said Will, that all you could do now was to protect the people you loved. That you could live without me as long as you knew I would be safe You can protect me and know that I'll be safe by making love to me I can't leave until I know that you really did love me I need to feel in my heart, my soul, and body what we meant to one another."

As she tugs my T-shirt over my head and brings her lips back to my skin, I no longer resist More kisses, strong and demanding, rain over my shoulder and along my neck to my ear "Show me, Will." She brings her hips hard against mine, pinning the ever growing evidence of my desire between us

As she pulls back just a bit, I'm embarrassed for a second It quickly turns to something I know I can no longer fight Slowly, painfully slowly, she slides one hand down my body through the barrier of my jeans and boxers until she takes me firmly in hand.

"You do want me?"

I'm lost My head is swimming with thoughts of how desperately I want her Of how she looks and feels in my arms, the smell of her skin Of how she could still want me in spite of everything Even if my father could have found the strength to let my mother go, she would not have left his side, no matter the risk She loved him.

I look down at Anna, her eyes closed, her head resting against my bare chest, clinging to me, to what we could have together *And know she loves me*

I reach down pulling her face up to mine Threading my fingers through her hair, bringing her lips back to mine. One kiss after another, so gentle and tentative at first but quickly becoming urgent and filled with need My senses are overloaded with her, with the taste, the feel of her.

I tear my lips from hers to catch my breath, unwilling to leave altogether, teasing her soft neck with the tip of my tongue While one of her hands tangles in my hair, the other moves between our tightly pressed bodies, our clothing the only obstacle between us I can feel her hand on me again through the denim, holding me, stroking me I can't stand another second

I reach down, lifting her to me in one swift move, astonished that my lips never leave hers for an instant I am grateful, and incurably aroused, as she wraps her legs around my waist to aid me relocating her to the bedroom As I lay her gently on the bed, I think how pleased I am to have spent the last couple nights on the couch, saving this bed for the best possible debut.

The light filtering in through the open door is perfect Darkness would never do I need to see, to touch, to taste every perfect inch of her She lies there watching patiently as I walk over and turn on the stereo, setting the volume to match that of the TV This in one moment I have no intention of sharing with Alex Krycek

She smiles, pushing herself up to a sitting position "Hmmm, do really think that it's loud enough?" She laughs a bit as I raise my eyebrows and turn the volume just a tad higher.

"Oh yeah, that's better I plan on getting pretty loud."

Standing there, not quite sure why I'm still all the way across the room, I watch breathlessly as she reaches down and pulls her sweater over her head She tosses it to the floor, motioning with her index finger for me to join her.

I am sure that I'll never find anything more incredible than this woman and this moment I walk back to her, stopping only to shove my jeans to my feet and kick them away before sitting down on the bed next to her I look at her face while my hand, which feels like its shaking but isn't, starts to work on the button and zipper on her jeans.

"I do love you."

Her face is so sweet it melts my heart and all my fears She reaches up to the cross hanging around my neck and takes it in her fingers. " And I love you."

Our arms wrap around each other we stretch out together on the bed


XIV

I don't know when we fell asleep But it was after midnight when I woke up I've been lying here watching her for at least 20 minutes

I'm not a guy to kiss and tell but there is no sex that can hold a candle to making love to a woman you love for the first time Real ecstasy is out there for those fortunate enough to have the chance to bring their bodies, hearts, and souls together all at the same time with that one special person who can hold your heart like no other

I reach over, brushing her blonde hair away from her face, careful not to wake her. * Like her*

Just as I decide to pull her into my arms and go back to sleep, I hear the phone ring As quickly as possible, I jump up to grab it, hoping not to wake her Jesus, its nearly 12:30 I can't imagine who might be calling here at this hour.

I press the receiver to my ear and am surprised to hear a totally unfamiliar voice on the other end At the same time, I hear a noise behind me and turn to see Anna sitting up, pulling the sheet up over her breasts, just enough to be a temptation I can't help but smile at her while still trying to give my attention to the midnight caller

From the look on her face, I'm guessing that I must appear surprised at the caller's question Or she could be reacting to the fact that I'm standing here naked as the day I was born with my body giving away the secret that I was thinking of doing more than just looking at her.

"Yes, this is Agent Mulder." I smile back entertained at my first real exchange as "Agent Mulder." I listen intently to the voice on the phone for no more than minute or two before he hangs up unexpectedly.

She reaches over grabbing the clock on the night stand to get a better look "Well that's some job you've got, Will Who the hell is calling "Agent Mulder" at 12:30 on a Sunday morning?"

Puzzled, I put the phone down "I don't know He didn't say He just said he needed to speak to me right away and I should meet him at the Tidal Basin at 1:00 sharp."

Quickly, I grab my clothes and start to dress I go into the other room to get my gun, ID, and jacket As I come back to grab my holster off the dresser, I see Anna sitting there watching me She has concern written all over her face "You're going, Will?"

I haphazardly stuff my badge and ID into the inner pocket of my jacket before sitting on the bed next to her "Well, yeah, of course I am." I've been thinking she is worried about my safety but when she speaks I see her sadness comes from another source.

She sits up completely, suddenly a great deal more modest, pulling the sheet around her naked body carefully "Listen Will, I said I would go If it's easier for you, I'll be gone before you get back."

I can't help smiling at her, which I imagine seems cruel at the moment "I don't want you to leave." I take her hand in mine "I don't want to be without you for even a hour But it's still just as dangerous to be with me as it was 2 hours ago." My eyes wander to the phone wondering if things were about to get worse "But I can't make you go And I can't ask you to sstay I will understand if you leave."

I watch the clock, knowing I have to get moving but fearing she might be gone when I get back, unwilling to rush our good-bye She takes my other hand in hers, weaving her fingers in mine "I'm not leaving, Will Whatever happens we'll face it together."

I don't know what to say I close my eyes briefly and squeeze her hand I get up and slip my coat on with a grin "So how do I look?"

She gives me a devilish smile, letting the deep green sheet fall away "You look great, of course Not as good as you looked 15 minutes ago, but appropriate for the occasion Please be careful."

I lean over, giving her a deep kiss "I will, I promise." She looks so incredible sitting there naked in my bed, playfully blowing me a kiss good bye. I turn around to snatch a last look on my way out the door "Don't move a muscle, hold that pose I'll be back as soon as possible and will pick up where we left off." I smile hearing her soft laugh in the bedroom as I pull the apartment door closed behind me.


I sit, looking around the Tidal Basin, waiting for this mystery man to show It's 10 after one now As pretty as the Jefferson Memorial looks at night, there is somewhere else I would rather be I'm starting to feel a little ridiculous lurking in the shadows underneath the cherry trees I've made up my mind to give him until 1:15 and then I'm out of here Hell, I'm not even officially on the job, yet let alone been assigned to any cases I can't imagine what the hell this is about.

Maybe I shouldn't even be here But things are different now; I have to do what I can to be sure Anna is safe I've read enough about my father's life to know that trouble or aid can be around any corner and sometimes it hard to tell which is which It's best if I hear this guy out and decide for myself. Just as I'm ready to leave, a man approaches me On the surface, he appears to ignore me But as he starts to walk past, he nonchalantly takes a seat on the bench next to me Without looking at me, he starts to speak.

"Agent Mulder."

I look at it him, expecting to recognize him Even in this poor light, I can tell I've never seen this man before

"Yes, I'm Agent Mulder Do I know you, sir?"

He looks at me with a smug smile "No, Agent Mulder, we have never met But I know who you are, we all do." My stomach tightens, certain this man is connected with Alex Krycek, that he is here to offer more threats And then my stomach drops He has possibly lured me here to get at Anna My heart begins racing as distrust rears its head.

"What do you want? A little, late night rendezvous to make a few more threats to keep Fox Mulder's son in check?"

He grabs my arm, meeting my eye for the first time "We are not the threat to you, William. We can help you with the X-Files, help you find the Truth."

"I'm afraid you've made a mistake, sir I'm not my father I have no connection to the X-Files project."

His wide smile makes me very uncomfortable "Agent Mulder, there are people who believe in you, who believe in the cause, and who can help you with your work on the X-Files."

I can't help myself I find myself laughing at this man, wondering if there is anyway possible to set him straight "Really, try to understand. I work in violent crimes, not the X-Files Perhaps it's someone else you have in mind or maybe you have me confused with my parents."

Laughing, he stands up and reaches under his coat Almost by reflex, I reach for my gun He pulls out a large manila envelope, making me feel just a tad silly.

"No, Agent Mulder, you are the one who is mistaken. You are the X Files." He lays the envelope on the bench next to me and turns to walk away I reach out and stop him, taking the envelope in my hand.

"Who are you? And what is this?"

He doesn't even turn around.

"I'm a friend. Agent Mulder And that's information pertaining to a case An X file that I suggest you get to work on right away."

The End??? ( no really that's it I'm done <g>)


Thanks to a practical joke and my very dear friend Rosie there is an alternate ending to this story If you want to read the Rosie Chapter drop me a line :0)

Author's Notes : Hope you take the time to read this I want to thank a few people for all there help and support in writing this Hard to believe what started out as one little letter from a dead Mulder blossomed into all this :0) My personal brand of full disclosure <g> First I want to thank My husband Mark or all his support and understanding Next I need to thank the members of O3P for their support and encouragement, especially Meg and Mary Ann for the editing ( no Small task lol ).

Pamala Proud founding member of O3P ( Over 30 Philes ) http://members.aol.com/XayanFay/O3Phome.index.html Visit us for more fan fic and other fun stuff

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