Title - The Next Case
Author - Donna
Email address - donnah@donnas-stories.com
URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Rating - R
Category - MSR, angst
Spoilers - IWTB
Keywords - MSR, angst
Summary - A possible next case...
Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know so I can visit

Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13, and Fox - Bless them for it!! No infringement intended

She opened the door to 'his' room and looked around. He was staring up at the ceiling, at the pencils still hanging there. She waited for her "What's up, Doc," but it didn't come.




He turned to look at her and after a moment. "Maybe, why?"

She looked at the mark on his forehead, not yet completely healed. So close, it had been so damn close and here he was ready to charge in again, even if he didn't admit it. It had been what he needed, much as she hated to admit that. She had a fulfilling career now; he needed more than to be here, home alone.

She perched against the desk, scanning the wall in front of her. Samantha's picture was on the back of the door and out of sight right now.

"You enjoyed it, didn't you?"

"What do you want me to say, Scully? You don't want me to - "

"Hold it. That's not what I said. I said I didn't want the darkness here in our home."

"With my work, what used to be my work, that was pretty inevitable."

"It doesn't have to be. You could investigate...other things."

"Like?" She hesitated so long he sat up, putting his feet on the floor from where they had rested on the desk. "Scully?"

She shook her head, looking at anything but him. He took her hand, pulling her back to him physically as well as emotionally. She pulled away and rose from the desk heading for the door.

He was on his feet instantly. His arm went around her waist pulling her to him, her back firmly against his chest. He leaned around her and seeing that her eyes were closed, said again "Scully?"

"William." Her voice was so low he thought he'd imagined it for an instant.

He turned her to face him now. "William? You, you want me to - "

"No, no I don't. Forget it."

"Not possible, Scully. I thought that was out of the question."

"It is, I'm sorry, I - "

"How is your patient?"

She looked down at her feet. "It seems to be working. He's improving."

"And you want to find our son."

"Mulder," she tried to pull away, but he wouldn't release her.

"He wouldn't be safe. Even after all this time, we can't be sure - " he started.

"I know! I know, I shouldn't have said any- "

"We couldn't have him, not with us, but maybe we could know he was safe, happy."


"Scully, where would I start?"

She shook her head and pulled away, heading for the kitchen.

He followed, invading her space. What had she been thinking to say that out loud?

"Talk to me, Scully."

She shook her head and bent down to pull out a skillet.

"Scully, stop. Tell me what you want. Tell me what you're thinking."

"I don't know!" She turned on him and he actually backed away for an instant.


"I, I'm sorry." Damn, she seemed...defeated. What the hell had he missed?

"You've been thinking about it. Don't shut me out, not about this."

"We can't. You're right, we can't have him. He'd never be safe. I just..."

"How would I go about finding out anything?"

Again she shook her head, but said softly, "Skinner."


"He handled everything. I couldn't..."

He pulled her against him then and held her silently. They needed words less and less after all this time.

Mulder opened the door and Kim looked up and blinked. "Agent, uh, Mr. Mulder."

He grinned. "Skinman have a minute?"

Before she could respond, Skinner stepped out of his office, glowering at Mulder. "What?"

"Just wanted to thank you."

Skinner rolled his eyes but motioned for Mulder to follow him inside his office.

"I really do appreciate what you - "

"It felt like old times, Mulder. Scully and me, saving your


Mulder chuckled then and slipped a piece of paper to him over the desk. Skinner looked down and his eyes widened.

Shaking his head, he continued the conversation. "I hope you're not here to ask for your old job back."

"No, I don't think the FBI wants me any more than I want it, but it was interesting working on an investigation again. Especially an X-File."

"And you'd be available for more X-Files in the future?"

"I don't know. I think working for myself might be the best for everyone."

Skinner just looked at him then. Mulder nodded slowly and Skinner's eyes narrowed. "Are you sure?"

"I might not be successful, but I need to try."

Skinner's shoulders slumped slightly, but he recognized that look on Mulder's face. "What about Scully?"

"It was her idea."

Skinner picked up a pen then, and after another moment's deliberation scribbled something on the paper. "Be careful."

"Who me? I always am." He grinned at Skinner and took the paper as he rose. "Don't want to take up too much of your time. Again, I want to thank you."

"I hope you still feel that way later."

He pulled the paper out of his pocket after he was in the car. It was the name of an agency, nothing more. Well, Skinner couldn't have given him much with both of them being so careful. Even Skinner hadn't tried to make him

believe there was no reason for such caution.

He'd wanted to argue, Mulder could tell, but knowing Scully had instigated the search, he'd given at least a clue. International World Adoptions. International? They hadn't sent him overseas? No, no people in America were adopting from all over the world, other countries didn't send people over to adopt American babies, did they? Shit.

He headed home, his mind racing. Now, did he say anything to Scully? Could he even hide anything from her now? At least he had a little time; she wasn't home from the hospital yet. He got online immediately and began his research.

Skinner hadn't gone far, the main office was in Virginia.

He'd waited until the end of the day. Now was the time. He pushed open the door to the agency. The receptionist looked up and her eyes widened. He turned on his most seductive smile and moved toward her. "Good afternoon."

She nodded, not yet speaking.

"My name is Byers. I was wondering if I could have a minute with Ms. Medford. I know it's late in the day, but I've driven quite a ways and I only need five minutes."

"I'll, I'll check. Just have a seat." She picked up the phone and turned slightly away from him. "Becky, there's someone here to see Ms. Medford," she dropped her voice. "Get up here and see this guy!"

Mulder looked down at the magazine in his hands. Well, at least he had her in his corner. Quickly a young woman entered the lobby from the hall to the right.

She looked at the receptionist who nodded toward Mulder. Becky turned toward him and smiled. "Good afternoon. Do you have an appointment?"

"No, I'm sorry. But I only need five minutes. I realize it's late in the day..."

"Let me check. Come on back to my office." She glanced over at the receptionist who hit the button to reopen the door to the hall.

He followed her. There were no cameras and most of the doors were open. They all had small removable plates to the right stating whose office was whose. There was also a conference room, and what he was looking for - the file room.

Becky indicated he should take a seat in the small waiting area of her office and ducked into Ms. Medford's office. She returned quickly followed by an older woman with steel gray hair cut in a masculine style. "I'm Ms. Medford, the director of the agency. May I help you?" She indicated that Mulder should follow her into the office.

"I'm Melvin Byers." She took a seat behind the desk and looked up at him. He took the seat in front of the clean surface. "I understand that my son was placed for adoption by this agency. I need to know what actions to take to find him."

Her face went impassive at his words. "I'm sorry, Mr. Byers, but that's impossible."


"Yes, sir. This agency has a well earned reputation for complete privacy."

"I was not consulted when my son was placed for adoption - "

"That's something you need to discuss with the child's mother, Mr. Byers."

"Funny, she said the same thing about you."

Ms. Medford gave him a tight smile. "Believe me, I do have sympathy for you, but it is quite impossible for me to give you or anyone any information."

"I have ID - "

"I'm sure you do, and I am not doubting your claim of paternity. That isn't the issue, Mr. Byers. I have a duty to protect the child and the child alone. We do extensive work prior to placing a child and do follow ups for years."

"If I got a court order..."

Again that tight smile. "You can certainly try. Before you spend the money, you might want to see how others attempting the same thing have done. Please take my assurance that your son is in good hands. I realize that isn't enough, but it is all of the information that I can give you. What I can offer you now, is to take your contact information and when your son turns eighteen the information can be made available to him. Then if he decides to contact you..."


She nodded quietly.

He hung his head, acting the part. No way was that going to be enough for him. Scully had asked him to try. She might not know he had taken up the challenge, but he would do more than that. "I'll have to get back to you."

"I understand. I wish I could do more, but remember we are acting for the benefit of your child."

Mulder didn't respond, nodding slightly. She rose and he belatedly stood as well. She escorted him to the door and out into the hall indicating the door at the far end. She turned then and moved down the hall in a different direction.

He started down the hall after nodding to Becky, then pretended to remember something and turned back. "I left my umbrella in her office."

"Oh, I can get - " He pushed the send button on the phone in his pocket and her desk phone rang.

He waved and stepped back into the office and picked up the small black umbrella he had purposely left under the chair. Then he was out again before Becky finished saying 'hello' to no one on the other end. He waved the umbrella at her and moved on down the hall. When he heard the receiver hit the phone, he pressed the send button again.

There was no one in the hall so he quickened his steps

and opened the door to the reception area. She turned to look at him and smiled. Again he pressed send, this time on three phones, causing her small switchboard to go crazy. She whirled away from him and began picking up phones. He ducked back into the hall and hurried to the file room. She'd seen him, and with luck she would think he had slipped out while she battled the phones.

He ducked into the file room, pushing the door nearly closed. He turned to look at the room. Files, lots and lots of files. Paper-less society, my eye. He flipped off the light and groped for the first cabinet in the pitched blackness. He followed it around and down the second corridor formed by the files. There he squatted down to wait.

It wasn't long. He heard the door open. "Well, who knew someone can actually save some electricity." She shut the door completely and he heard the lock turn. There was the sound of feet in the hall now, heading out. They didn't seem to be losing any time leaving.

Still he waited; someone could still be working. He waited a full fifteen minutes before approaching the door. He pulled on his latex gloves and turned on the pen light in his hand, checking the door. The hall light was out as well and he could hear nothing.

He carefully closed the door again, making sure it was locked, then turned on the light. Damn, he could use Scully on this, but since she was unaware...Now, what was the system?

He quickly found the files for 2002. He didn't know the exact date Scully had turned William over to them. One of the things they didn't talk about. It was just too painful for both of them. It had been spring; he did know that so he started in March.

There were no names on the files, only case numbers, which was going to slow him down. He let his intuition lead him and he closed the first drawer and opened the second. He began flipping through the files. He came to one that was so thin he almost missed it. He pulled it out and

opened it. There was a picture of a baby, six or so months old, but the name of the mother was also a code. He flipped through the pages clipped to the file. It was the word 'Skinner' that caught his eye. They hadn't bothered to code that.

They obviously had not done the same follow up for him as with other children. After his placement, there had been nothing more. So much for his best interest.

They wouldn't miss this file. It hadn't been touched since it had been added to the drawer. The other files were worn slightly; this one was as crisp as when it was taken from the box. He wanted to read it, and he wanted to take his time.

He turned to the birth certificate and scanned it. Father unknown. He closed his eyes in pain at that. Even knowing it was for the protection of all three of them didn't help. William was his son, despite realities, he wanted the world to know that...someday.

Wyoming. He couldn't move; his son had been sent to Wyoming. Okay, this information was six years old but he knew something now. He grasped the cabinet to steady himself.

He moved to the computer in the corner and booted it up. Of course there was a password. Mulder looked around the desk, finally flipping the mouse pad upside down. Yep, there it was. He fed it and then William's file number into the search block. Van de Camp. Oh God, a name. He felt lightheaded.

There was little more information there than in the file, so he pulled up the number referring to Scully. Her medical records were there but incomplete. There was no mention of her cancer at all. Yeah, they did a great job here. His first impulse was to erase both files, but that might only draw attention to them. Instead he fed in the last thirty numbers that had been pulled up, burying both of their numbers deep in the memory, then he deleted the memory and the cookies. He fed back in ten more numbers. Okay, that should at least make it difficult to recreate, if anyone realized someone had been on the computer.

He powered down and rose. Tucking William's file into the back on his slacks, secured by his belt, he adjusted his jacket and moved quickly to the door.

He carefully opened it and looked out. The only light was the exit sign over the door to the reception area. He took a deep breath and closed the door, checking to ensure that it was locked, then moved to the exit door in long strides. There was a light on there, behind the desk, but the room was empty.

He wasn't going to be able to lock the door behind him, but hopefully that wouldn't be noticed until tomorrow morning. He lucked out again that no one was in the hall, and he hurried to the stairs. At each floor he cracked the door to see if there was activity. He finally found some on the third floor and opened the door, slipping the gloves off and stuffing them into his pocket.

He moved to the elevator then and pressed the button to call it. A couple of women came out of one of the offices and joined him, waiting for the car. He felt their eyes, but they didn't speak so he kept quiet as well.

All three exited on the first floor and Mulder held the door open for them as they moved out to the sidewalk. He turned away from them and headed for his car a couple of blocks down.

With a little luck, no one would even know he had been in the building. He'd been careful to leave no trace.

He looked at the picture from the file again for at least the five hundredth time. The only pictures of William he'd ever seen were the two that Scully carried. One was of the three of them together, one of just William and him. The baby had only been a couple of days old. Scully had seen him older like this, he never had.

He looked up as the alarm chirped. Scully had opened the gate. He glanced at the clock. She was running late and would no doubt be exhausted. Dinner was ready, thanks to the crock pot. He headed for the bathroom and turned on the hot water in the tub, then moved to the front door. He opened it and stood on the porch watching her.

"What's up Doc?"

She looked up with a tired smile, climbing the stairs to stand at his side. She leaned against him, soaking up some Mulder strength before standing upright again and heading inside.

"Long day?"


"Wanna talk about it?"

"Sorry. I'm just so angry at Father Ybarra. He's encroaching more and more outside of his area. He should not be making medical decisions for these children, for this child. I don't know why he's started this. When I began there, he listened to my diagnoses and theories. Now, now it's as though..."

"As though you're spooky and he doesn't want to look too closely at that?"

She looked up clearly startled. "Why do you say that?"

"I don't know. I was wondering why all the push-back myself. Does he know about our little jaunt with the FBI?"

"How could he?"

Mulder looked down at her then and she had the grace to blush. "It's been so long, Mulder. Is that always going to haunt us?"

He pulled her against him and her arms went around his waist. "I'm afraid so, Scully."

She sighed and tightened her hold on him. "Then it's a good thing I still have you."

He chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "Can I get that in writing?"

She swatted at his chest as she stepped back. "Dinner?"

"In the crock pot. Your bath is running now."

She looked up startled. "Bath?"

"Thought you might be tired; you are late."

She let her head fall back against his chest. "Remind me to thank you later."

"Will do. Go on."

He watched her walk toward the bathroom, her steps already lighter. When he'd given her a little time to get settled in the hot water he knocked, but entered the bath without waiting for an invitation. He handed her a glass of the red wine she liked so much and took a seat on the toilet.

"Okay, out with it. Is there another woman?" she asked, taking a sip.

He blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Well, dinner ready, a hot bath, wine? You've obviously done something you think needs forgiveness," she pinned him with a look and he smiled.

"Who me? Let me know when you're ready to get out and I'll dish - "

"Just sit here with me for a little while."

"Gladly." He moved to the tub then and began rubbing her shoulders, moving farther down with each stroke. He grinned at the moan she tried to stifle.

"I'll give you an hour to stop that," she murmured.

"Still think there's another woman?"

"Mmm, no. I'll repay you later."

"I'm gonna hold you to that." He continued his attentions and she lay her head back against him and let the tension of her day disappear.

When the water cooled, she allowed him to hand her out and drape the towel around her, continuing the massage until she was dry. Then he handed her the white terry cloth robe and opened the door. She trailed him to the kitchen, still more bemused than anything else, and took the seat he indicated as he took up the salsa chicken and rice.

"Eat. Maybe we can go to bed early," he winked at her and she chuckled.

Whatever had put him in this mood was worth it. He'd been quiet the past couple of days, so to see him like this was...stimulating.

They ate, enjoying the quiet, the company until suddenly Scully looked up, her fork dropping into her plate. "You found him."

"No," he laid his fork down, "I found a name - "


"I haven't gone any further. I wanted to know, for sure, what you wanted. I can pursue this, but I want us together on it. Together all the way. You have to tell me what you feel, not just what you think. All of it."

Her eyes looked huge in her face, the fear warring with the hope. What did she want?

Her eyes looked huge in her face, the fear warring with the hope. What did she want?

"I, I think that - "

"No, no Scully. I don't want to know what you think. Please, tell me what you feel."

She blinked then and he watched her start to automatically retreat from his request. He'd expected it, but was disappointed anyway. Pushing her on this kind of thing never worked, but just this once . . .

"I, I want my baby. I want to have back all the time I've lost with him. I want to see his first step, his first birthday, hear his first word. That's gone and I'll never get it back. He's not a baby any more and I missed it all. I know Cancerman couldn't have survived that explosion, but I want to go back and find his bones and break them over my knee, I want to crush his skull into powder and jump up and down on it. He took so much from us, things we can never get back."

"Scully, I - " he had no words prepared for this. She had never revealed this, while he had =E2=80=98known,' the fact that she said it stunned him.

She shook her head, and started to rise. He got to his feet first and drew her into his arms. "Thank you."


"Thank you, for saying that, for sharing that with me. Scully, I'm sorry. I wish, I wish I could get that back for you...for both of us. I want you to have that, but I can't do anything to bring it back. I can't get that back for you, but it reinforces what I am doing. We have to finish what I started. I need to see where the people that took William are. We have to be careful, deadly careful, but we have to do this. You need it, we need it."

She stared at him, unsure what to say.


"What if we lead them to him? What if this is a purely selfish act, and we put him in danger?"

"I won't let that happen. I won't. But you aren't whole without him. I can't make you whole alone. You have given me so much, hell you've given me everything, I have to do this for you."

"Mulder - " she shook her head but before she could say any more he had risen.

"Go lie down. I'll clean up in here and join you in a minute."

"You cooked, I'm supposed to - "

"The crock pot cooked, I didn't do that much. Go on.=E2=80 =9D

She rose then, and headed for the bedroom without another word. He watched her go, torn between being pleased that she had opened up and revealed those feelings, and depressed that she had to feel those things in the first place.

He made quick work of the kitchen, leaving the crock pot to soak rather than taking the time to scrub it then. He needed to be with her, for both of their sakes.

She was lying on their bed, not even under the covers, staring up at the ce iling. She didn't turn when he entered the room. He quickly strip ped down to his boxers and took his place at her side. "Scully?"

"Hold me."

That didn't take asking twice, and he took her into his arms. They lay that way so long he thought she had drifted off, but finally she spoke. "What do we do now?"

"It's not a sure thing, Scully. I have a name and state. They could have moved, a lot of things could have happened. That's what I'm going to do next. I'm taking my time, Scully. I want to be certain I leave no trail, no hint about what we're doing. I'm going to keep him safe."

"I know."

"You haven't asked the name."

"I can't. I'll find out eventually. I trust you.= "

He closed his eyes, taking in that statement. He would not let her down.

The information was frighteningly easy to come by, now that he had the name. The internet was spooky with all the information available to anyone. T he Van de Kamps were still in the same house they had listed when William had been given to them six years before. Well, stability was good in a child's life, right? Of course, he had lived in the same home until he was fourteen while Scully had moved around for years and which of them was more stable?

He had to get her out there, they had to see the boy, if not approach him. They had made a point of not discussing contact with him.

When she arrived home that night, he was waiting on the porch. Just the sight of him there paralyzed her. What had happened now? He loped down the stairs and opened the car door for her. "Coming in?"

"I'm trying to decide," she answered warily.

"I don't bite, okay, yes occasionally I do bite, but -"

Blushing at a memory that came to her, she shook her head and let him take her hand to exit the car. "What?"

"Can you get time off to attend a medical conference in Provo, Utah?"


"Next month."


"Wyoming. We need to get to Reliance, Wyoming. The conference is your best excuse to be in that part of the country."

"I haven't heard about it, but I think I can get the time. What happens when I don't attend?"

"You could teach it, it's not like you need a conference. If no one else from your hospital is going, who will know?"

She smiled at the compliment, then nodded and headed up the stairs to the house. He followed, slightly uneasy at her silence.

Once she had divested herself of her briefcase and coat, she turned back to him. "I'm going to be away for a few days, Mulder. There's a conference I'd like to attend in Provo. I've got the exact date here somewhere. It won't be long."

He grinned, Paranoia 101 was back. "There's some pathologist you've the hots for, isn't there?"

"That's it. All those coroners I used to know were such studs."

He chuckled and handed her the information he had printed off.

She looked it over. "Only four days. Wanna come?"

"And watch you make out with some pale, bald - "

"Stereotyping, Agent Mulder. Besides, it's not pathology. I really would like to attend."

"I know. Yeah, I might be able to come along for a few days." He winked and they moved on to other subjects.

Reservations were made for both of them, but by different means. Scully got online and made reservations in her name, using her credit card, all open and above board.

Mulder used a different name, one of the IDs that they had carefully preserved from the past, unused, awaiting an emergency.

She would fly through Phoenix, he through Denver. She should arrive roughly an hour before him; time to get the car and pick him up. All luggage went with her. She would wear a suit and carry a briefcase; he'd carry a gym bag and wear jeans. But as always they would end up together.

She opened the trunk and placed her suitcase inside, then settled in the driver's seat, pulling away from the house. After the process of unl ocking and re-locking the gate, she headed for the airport.

Mulder was lying in the back seat, where he had been since before dawn in order to avoid being seen leaving the house. The recorder had been set, if anyone was listening, the computer would turn it on and off at appropriate times, and occasionally his voice would be heard from the kitchen or the bedroom. He rarely left the house and they wanted it to continue to look that way.

Once parked at the airport, she opened the back door and leaned in, kissing him deeply. "See you there," she whispered. "Be careful."

He nodded. "I love you."

She smiled, picked up her briefcase from the floor and then moved to the trunk. She removed the suitcase, which held both of their clothes, and rolled it toward the terminal.

He waited a full fifteen minutes, then climbed into the front seat. He pulled out and headed toward Baltimore. Once there, Richard Byers boarded a p lane to Salt Lake City.

It was a long, lonely flight for him, made worse knowing that Scully was al ready on edge about what they were doing, before having to fly alone across country. His flight was delayed for a short time in Denver but he didn't attempt to contact her. She would wait for him; he had no doubt of that.

As it turned out they arrived at almost the same time. He headed to the baggage claim carrying his gym bag. He stepped outside and saw her drive up in her rental car. The look of relief when she spotted him made him fall in love with her even more.

"Dr. Hancock, Dr. Richman, I'm very pleased to meet you. Please have a seat."

Mulder and Scully took their seats in front of her desk.

"I have the criteria you requested here, and I believe we have some children for you to interview that will fit in with your research. I must say we are pleased to have you out here in the middle of nowhere," she smiled.

"Your absence of large urban areas is the reason we chose this as one of our areas for study, Ms. Harris. It's getting harder and har der to find children that aren't homogenized by living in those areas."

"I believe you." Ms. Harris smiled. "I hope we'll be an asset to your research. I've pulled the information you requested." She handed the folder to Mulder and sat back in her seat. "This school holds kindergarten through high school, and even so, we have less than 500 students. Are you planning on interviewing all ages, or do you have a range in mind?"

"We want to begin with kindergarten and first grade. I'm sure there will be more later."

She nodded and handed the list over to Mulder. He scanned it, doing his best not to show his reaction to the name at the bottom of the list - William Van de Kamp. "Is there anything we should know about Dennis Southers?"

Ms. Harris gave a short bio of the boy. She did the same for Beth Hensley. It was clear she knew all of the children in her school.

"William Van de Kamp?"

Scully's head came up at her hesitation. "Is there a problem?" Scully asked quickly.

"No, not a problem. William is adopted. They got him when he was about eight months old I believe."

"That shouldn't affect our study," Mulder said quietly.

"No, that's not...William has been tested, several times. He is gifted, and only in first grade because of his parents' insistence. I'm not sure he fits in with the others his age, frankly I'm not sure where he would fit in. He could skew your findings."

"Gifted?" Just one word, but he heard her voice quiver slightly.

"Oh yes. The boy has an eidetic memory. He's already reading at the eighth grade level, and he retains it all."

"You say the parents insist he attend first grade?" Mulder took over the questioning.

"Yes, but I don't mean that as a criticism. They are a bit overwhelmed, I'm sure. Neither Sarah nor Donald has a college education. They're wonderful people, salt of the earth, but dealing with William has placed them outside of their comfort zone. They love the boy; don't misunderstand me, but they...well, they aren't equipped to handle his abilities."

"What about his socialization?" Scully asked, sounding more in control, but he could see the strain on her.

"Oh, he's quite social. I doubt the other children in his class even know he's different. He doesn't flaunt the fact that he's so smart. I've seen him help some of the others with their reading and math. We don't have all the teachers we need, and the other children trust him. He never makes them feel small or talks down to them. He's also quite athletic. We've noted that his agility is better than usual for a six-year-old as well."

"I see. He might not fit into our study, but I believe we'd still like to meet him." Mulder smiled. "You never know where your next research dollars could come from."

Ms. Harris smiled then. "I understand. Well, shall we continue with the list?"

Mulder forced himself to continue with the useless information on the other students. He could feel the strain Scully was under, but they couldn't rush this, they couldn't make the woman suspicious.

Ms. Harris finally leaned back. "I think that's everyone. Do you know when you'll make your decision and want to begin the interviews?"

"Dr. Richman and I will discuss the selections this evening. In the meantime, since we won't be using, what's his name, the child that was adopted - "

"William Van de Kamp," she offered.

"Yes, since we don't be using him for the study, why don't we speak with him prior to the regular interviews?"

"Oh, yes, that would work. Would you like to see him today?"

Mulder saw Scully's hand fist at her side and hoped that Ms. Harris hadn't noticed. "I think that would work, don't you?" He looked over at Scully. She caught his eye and forced herself to relax. She nodded and managed a smile. Only he could see how strained it was.

"I have a small conference room. Would that be all right?"

"Yes, that would work fine."

He picked up the briefcase beside his chair and took hold of Scully's elbow to help her to her feet. He stepped in front of her to hide her trembling and walked with Ms. Harris to the door. She escorted them to the small room three doors down from her, opened the door, then left them as she went to find the boy.


"I'm sorry. I can't - "

"I know, but you've got to keep it together for a little while longer. We can't afford to let her become suspicious."

"I know." She took a deep breath and centered herself, then took a seat at the small table.

The door opened shortly, and Ms. Harris escorted a young boy into the room. "William, this is Dr. Hancock and Dr. Richman." The boy gave them a slight smile and nodded but didn't offer to shake hands.

That was a good thing; Scully was white knuckled holding onto the seat of her chair.

"They'd like to ask you a few questions, William. Do you mind? Would you like me to stay?"

"No, we'll be fine," William said.

Scully couldn't look away from the boy. He had chestnut hair likehis father, and that lock of hair that flopped down over his brow, just like Mulder's did when it got long in the front. But there were red highlights in his hair when the light hit it just right. His eyes were hazel, and Scully wondered why Ms. Harris didn't remark on the resemblance. Could she not see that this was their child?

Ms. Harris nodded and squeezed the boy's shoulder then let herself out. When the door was closed William looked at both of them. "I've been waiting for you."

When the door closed, William looked at both of them. "I've been waiting for you."

Scully's gasp caused Mulder to turn from the boy and look at her. William rose from his chair, and moved toward the door. Before either Mulder or Scully could speak, he flipped the lock, then walked around the table toward Scully. Mulder tensed but kept silent.

William stopped as she turned in her chair to face him. "Mom, you did the right thing."

At the choked sob, Mulder was on his feet, but William was closer and his arms went around her neck. She clutched him to her in what had to be a painful grip, but he didn't protest, just holding her as she wept.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"Mom, Mom, listen to me. It was the right thing to do. Neither of us would have been safe, they would have found me before I could learn to protect myself. You made all the right decisions. The shot Uncle Jeff gave me, all of it."

"Shot? What shot? Uncle Jeff?" Mulder had moved closer, ready to take them both in his arms but faltered at those words.

William looked up at Mulder. "Hi, Dad. Long time."

Mulder gave a chuckle that was more sob than joy. He moved then and his arms encompassed them both.

After a few minutes, Mulder and Scully regained their composure and Mulder resumed his seat, moving his chair closer, his hand still on Scully's shoulder. He would ask his questions later.

"Are you happy?" Scully seemed surprised she'd even asked the question, but it was out there now.

"Yes. The Van de Kamps are very good to me. They don't understand me, but..." he shrugged. "They try. I'm a little more than they bargained for." He gave them an ironic grin that was so like Mulder's that Scully caught her breath again. Her hand caressed his cheek, taking in this new image of the son she had dreamed of for so long.

"We'll have time to talk. Right now we need to discuss our plans," William said looking back over at the locked door.

"P-plans?" Mulder stuttered.

William stared at them for a long moment. "You haven't come to get me." His voice was wondering.

"I, we need you to be safe."

"That's over now. We're running out of time. We have a lot to do."

"Out of time?" Scully stared at him.

"We only have four years. There's too much to do. Maybe you didn't plan to take me, then think of it as fate. We need to make plans."

"We, we can't take you. That's kidnapping. Your p-parents..."

"I've been thinking about this for a long time, I think this will work." He took a seat next to Scully, still holding her hand, looking between the two.

The boy sat back and watched them. "I need to unlock the door. Ms. Harris is coming to check on us." He rose and headed toward the door.

"William, you can't believe your, your parents will buy this."

"Mom already knows, even if she hasn't admitted it. We have no choice."

He reached for the knob while Mulder and Scully looked at each other.

"Gibson," Mulder mouthed to Scully.

William flipped the lock and hurried back to his chair. He looked up at Mulder and nodded. Mulder acknowledged it with a nod of his own as they heard the tap on the door. Ms. Harris didn't wait for an invitation, sticking her head in the door.

She noted the positions of everyone, the adults seated, William in the same seat as before, with his feet wrapped around the rungs of the chair, the width of the table between them. Good, there was something so intense about the woman she'd been a little nervous. William seemed relaxed, almost as though he were in charge of the interview.

"Everything going okay?" she asked.

"Yes, it's been a great interview so far," Mulder replied.

"Wonderful. I do need to ask you to watch the time. William's bus will be loading in about ten minutes."

Mulder nodded. "We'll finish up now. Thank you."

It was a clear dismissal, and Ms. Harris smiled and closed the door.

"William," Scully leaned forward immediately. "I don't think - "

"It will work. I know Mom, my other mom, already suspects this will happen. Make sure Ms. Harris knows you've left town. You can't be implicated in the future."

Mulder looked over at Scully and saw the yearning in her eyes. "We'll make it work. How can we reach you?"

"You can't. I'll reach you." He rose then and smiled at Scully. "It won't be long, Mom. I love you."

She closed her eyes and a tear escaped from the left one, but she nodded as well. William glanced at the door, then hurried back around the table to give her another quick hug.

William let himself in the screen door. He could hear the woman he had thought of as one of his mothers most of his life moving around in the kitchen. "Mom! I'm home."

"William," she looked down the hall and smiled at him. "Come on, I have a snack for you."

"Thanks." He dropped his backpack by the door and hurried down the hall.

"Do you have homework?" She didn't mean from first grade. He didn't attend the older classes, but quite often brought home work from the higher math and English classes.


"You can go ahead and do it in here until I have to set the table."

He nodded and took one of the cookies with him as he went to retrieve his book bag. He spread out on the kitchen table while she moved around getting dinner ready and cleaning up. She moved into the laundry alcove and did some ironing after that and he continued working.

He looked up after an hour and called to his mom. "Dad's on his way."

Sarah winced slightly, but made no comment. The fact that William knew these things would never cease to fluster her. "Okay, go ahead and clear off the table."

He did, and pulled out the dishes while she finished up with the ironing. Donald made his way onto the mud porch stomping, then removed his shoes.

"Hi, Honey. Good day?" Sarah called from the laundry room.

"Pretty good. I'll be finished with the large field tomorrow. Carl and I can start planting tomorrow afternoon."

"That's great. Go take a shower and I'll dish up dinner."

Donald gave her a quick kiss and headed for the bathroom.

When he returned, hair still wet and slicked back, they sat down together to eat. They were quiet at first as always, until Donald could relax a little. Once he had about half his plate emptied, he sat back and relaxed. He smiled up at Sarah, then winked at William.

"Thanks, guys." He said it every night, but they still grinned back at him. "What happened today?"

William let his mom go first, though she had little news, then they both turned to him. "Well, I do have something we need to talk about."

Donald looked over at Sarah, who was watching the boy with a worried expression on her face. "Is something wrong?"

"You might think so, Dad. I need to leave."

"Leave?" he gave a slight chuckle, looking at his six-year-old.


Donald blinked. "What are you talking about? Leave?

You're six years old."

"I'm sorry, Dad. I know this is not something you were thinking about, but I was sent here to keep me safe, to keep my biological parents safe. Now I have to go to keep you and Mom safe."

Donald looked over at Sarah, but she wouldn't meet his eyes. "Sarah? What the hell is going on here?"

She started at his use of profanity, but didn't speak.

"What are you talking about? Leaving will keep us safe?"

"Dad, you know I'm not the kid you thought you were getting. We all know that. I'm the freak, the - "

"You're not a freak," Sarah interrupted.

William smiled at her. "Maybe not, but I'm not the kid you imagined. I have things I have to do, and if I don't do them, I could lose you forever. I can't explain, not really, but I have to do this. I love you, just like my other parents loved me."

"Look, it's my job to keep you and your mom safe. Tell me what you think is going to happen and I'll take care of it. I'm not letting you...Just drop this; it's not funny."

William looked over at Sarah then, his eyes begging mutely for help.

Sarah swallowed, then took a deep breath. "Donald, I don't want him to go, you have to know that, but I think he knows things we don't. We need to at least listen to what he has to say."

Donald looked over at Sarah incredulously. "Sarah, you can't - "

"Please, for me."

Stunned, Donald sat back, his meal completely forgotten.

William cleared his throat. "We have to have a plan so that people will understand why I'm not here, and not be concerned. The story we need to spread is that I've gotten a scholarship to a special prep school on the east coast. You need to drive Mom and me to the bus station, then she and I will get tickets to Casper. People here know that Mom has family there, and it would make sense for us to visit with them. Then I would fly east with the people from the school and Mom would come back here."

"I don't have any family in Casper any more," Sarah said quietly.

"That's okay. Neither of us would really go there. After we buy the tickets, and go wait for the bus, Mom would slip out when no one was watching and come back here. She'd need to stay out of sight, not answer the phone for a couple of days."

"What about you?" Sarah asked.

"After you're gone, I'll do the same thing."

"I'd need to wait, see that you - "

"No. You can't see who I leave with. This is to protect you as well as me and everyone else involved. I can't let you see. Please, I have to protect everyone in this - "

"You're a child. It's not your responsibility to protect anyone. Your mother and I need to meet these people, talk to them, before we even consider any of this. We have to know that you're safe. We're your parents."

"Normally that would be true, and I hope someday you can meet these people. They're important to me, just like you are. Talk to Mom. I'm gonna go pack my gym bag." He rose from the table and left them alone.

He purposely shielded himself from their thoughts. They needed this time alone. If Mom couldn't convince Dad, well, he'd get involved then.

Mulder looked over at her and she nodded. He picked up the phone and dialed Ms. Harris' home number. After two rings she picked it up. "Hello?"

"Ms. Harris?"


"I'm sorry to bother you at home. This is Dr. Richman. I'm afraid Dr. Hancock and I will not be able to begin our research tomorrow. Dr. Hancock's father has had a heart attack and I've got to get her back."

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"I've gotten us seats on a flight out of Salt Lake tonight. I will be in touch, but - "

"Of course. I completely understand. She must have sensed something earlier, she seemed very tense when I saw you. Please tell her she and her father are in my prayers."

"Thank you. I'll tell her, and I'll let you know when we can get back to you." He hung up the phone deciding immediately not to mention her observations to Scully.


"She bought it and sends her sympathy. Now we'll see if

William can pull it off."

She didn't comment on that. Could any six-year-old convince his parents he needed to leave them and go off on his own?

William stayed in his room, reading after he finished with the packing. He only took a few changes of clothes. Mostly he had packed mementos, pictures. He didn't know when or if he would ever return here, but if he did, it wouldn't be to live here as he had most of his life.

His mom had always known this was coming, that he was different. His dad did too, but was in deeper denial. Whenever he had done something...spooky, William smiled at the term, his dad had ignored it.

Many times he had felt his mom's eyes on him, worried about what she didn't, what she couldn't understand. He had never tried to explain. In the beginning he hadn't had the words, later it was just too late. He had spent more time with her of course; he'd been just a baby, so she had had the opportunity to witness much more. It was fortunate that Uncle Jeff's injection hadn't worn off for several months. It was even more fortunate no one had expected it to ever wear off.

They had loved him though, and kept him safe. They hadn't known, would never have been able to guess what he was, what their care of and for him would mean for the future. He had to repay them, keep them safe now.

Donald pulled in and parked the car. He wasn't happy about this, but Sarah, after a long night had convinced him. She'd forced him to face a lot of things he had chosen to ignore over the years. He was very unsettled and knew that until Sarah at least was back in the car with him, he'd be jumping out of his skin. He'd said goodbye to William at the house and managed to get through that. Now as he watched the two people he loved most in the world walk away from him, he felt his eyes grow moist. He self-consciously wiped at his nose. When would he see his son again?

Sarah and William walked up to the counter and she purchased the two tickets to Casper using money that William had given her. She had asked where he got it, but it was another of those things that he couldn't talk about.

He was dressed in jeans with a denim jacket and a baseball cap. The jacket was buttoned, covering his t-shirt. His tennis shoes were scuffed and unremarkable. The ones with the lights that came on when he ran were buried in the back of his closet.

They took a seat on the bench ostensibly to wait, but in reality it was for William to check around the waiting room and ensure no one was paying attention. After a few minutes of him looking around, at least pretending to be an eager child looking forward to a trip, he turned to his mother.

She took a trembling breath and squeezed his hand. She too had said her goodbyes, but letting go of this child she had raised from infancy was momentarily impossible.

"William - "

"Mom, I'll be in touch with you," he whispered, "I promise. Please don't worry about me."

"I'm your mother. I'll always worry about you. I can't believe I'm considering letting my baby - "

"Mom," he looked deeply into her eyes for a long moment. Nothing was said, but she seemed to relax. "Go on to the ladies room, Mom. When you come out go directly to the car. Dad's probably frantic by now and he needs you."

She nodded, wiped the tears from her eyes and rose. Without looking back, she headed for the ladies room. As soon as she was out of sight, he picked up his gym bag and headed for the arcade section to fit in with the other kids waiting.

He kept an eye on the ladies room door, and watched as his mother came out and only hesitated a second at the bench when they had been sitting. Then she was out and he took a deep breath. He unbuttoned his jacket and removed it, exposing his red t-shirt and hid his ball cap in the folded jacket.

He picked up his gym bag and after counting to twenty, moved toward the opposite door from the one his mother had used.

The car was already moving, as though they had sensed him before he exited. He smiled slightly at that, then jumped into the back seat where he hid on the floor of the car. They pulled away and headed toward Salt Lake.

They pulled away and headed toward Salt Lake.

They had traveled several miles before William finally climbed up on the back seat and buckled in.

"Are you okay?" Scully asked quickly.

"I'm fine," he replied and glanced over at Mulder as he choked back a laugh. Scully glared silently at Mulder.

"Well I know we have the right kid," he grinned at her.

"What happened at home?" Scully turned to look at him in the back seat. She was struck again by how much he resembled Mulder, the Mulder before all the trauma and heartache. He looked so young and innocent.

He smiled back at her. "I think you're looking at my age, not the real me." She blinked, but didn't respond. "It went about like you'd expect. They were very upset, but we talked about it. They had to face things they've never had to before."

"Do they know you're with us?" Mulder asked.

"No, and I didn't come outside until I was sure they were gone. I have to be sure they don't know about you. They wouldn't be safe and, and they're important to me."

"They've been good to you." It wasn't a question.

"Yes, and they love me. Part of the reason I'm doing this is to keep them safe, like they did for me."

Mulder looked over at Scully to see how that comment was going down, but she was nodding. "I'm glad, William. I'm glad you love them."

They were silent then, eating up the miles.

"I don't feel right about splitting up," Scully said again.

"We wouldn't be able to fly out together, Scully. You know that."

She closed her eyes.

"This way you can finish out the conference, and fly out like you had planned. William and I can't fly. I'll rent us a car and that will give us a couple of days' head start. We'll meet you at home in a few days."

The fear in her eyes burned him.

"I'll keep him safe," they said it together, as though rehearsed. Her eyebrow rose to new heights. Mulder looked down at William, glaring a little. William looked up innocently and grinned.

Scully shook her head.

"Don't you trust me, Scully?"

She sighed. "We're always better together."

"I've never doubted that. We're going to drive back. No one knows I'm here. You're here under your real name. You'll still beat us back. We won't be rushing."

"I'll miss you."

Her voice could barely be heard. He took her into his arms. "I'll keep him safe, Scully," he breathed into her ear.

"That's not - Mulder, of course I trust you with him, that has nothing...I don't want to be separated from either of you."

"And I don't want to be separated from you, but I think we'll all be safer if we do it this way."

She closed her eyes. He was right, but that didn't necessarily make her feel any better.

The two of them drove in silence for several miles before Mulder looked over at him. "I'm not sure how to talk to you."

"You're a better dad than you let yourself know."

Mulder's head swiveled toward him. "Excuse me?"

"No, really. You do okay."

"With twenty-four hours of experience?"

"Don't put yourself down. Look what you've already done for me." Mulder glanced over at him again, then focused on the road. "You got my mother to the hospital right after I was born, she wasn't doing that well and you saved her."

William watched the knuckles turn white on Mulder's hands but continued. "You know you saved her."

"I didn't get there in time. I wasn't there for her - "

"She knew you were trying to keep her safe."

"Like I did when I left her, and you, when you were a couple of days old?"

"It worked, didn't it?"

"What? Worked? She had to give you up to keep you safe. That's haunted her for years. If I'd been there - "

"If you'd been there it would have been even harder for her to send me to my other parents. I would have been at even more risk, and therefore so would she. And they really wanted you."

"Yeah, I've always been a real popular guy." Mulder's voice was sardonic, hard.

"You might not have a wide circle of friends, but the ones you have would do anything for you."

Mulder started to look over at him again, but caught himself. "You know all of this because..."

"Because I have a lot in common with you."

"In common with me?"

"I'm Spooky," he grinned up at his father.

Mulder couldn't help it, he did laugh then. "Heaven help us, another Mulder."

"Yeah, think the planet's ready?"

"No way."

They settled in then, more relaxed with each other. Mulder had him talk about school, about his interactions with kids his own age as well as the others in the small school.

"You were top of the class too, Dad. Another way we're alike."

"You sound happy about that."

"I am, you need to understand that. We have to work together; we have to, to save Mom and my other parents."

"You think we, the three of us, can do that?"

"I think we have to."

Mulder looked over at him, but couldn't dispute it.

They had gotten up early to get going. Scully would be

home that evening, but it would take them at least one more day. William yawned as Mulder pulled into a McDonald's for breakfast.

"You know neither of my mom's would be happy about all the fast food we've eaten."

Mulder glared over at him. "Tonight, okay, we'll both have all rabbit food."

William laughed and took his sausage biscuit and orange juice. After he'd finished he turned back to Mulder. "Do you really like the house in Virginia?"

Mulder glanced over, then back to the road. "Really like?" He shrugged. "It's a house. The best thing about it is that Scully lives there with me." William nodded. "Good."


"We need to leave. We have to really disappear for a little while."

"They just cleared my name."

"It'll still be clear when we finish," William reminded him.

"I was hoping Scully could spend some time with her mother."

"We have to do this first. We're running out of time."

"2012?" Mulder asked with a wince.

William just nodded.

"I suppose you know where we need to be."

"The house you have set up in upper Minnesota."

"How do you - never mind. We've never used that one."

"I know, but it's in the middle of nowhere, and it's cold there," William reminded him. "We'll need the cold and the privacy."

"Just what do you think we're going to be doing?"

"Working more on the blood chemistry that Mom has been researching."

The car swerved slightly as Mulder looked over at the boy. "Mom has been researching? Scully?"

"You didn't...I'm sorry." For a moment he looked like the six-year-old that he was. "I thought the two of you..."

"No, apparently we don't share everything."

"Don't be mad at her."

"I'm not. Your mother, your mother holds a lot in. Even after all these years, she can't always share everything with me. I guess I've let her down too many times - "

"You've never let her down."

Mulder huffed out a laugh, but there was no mirth in it.

"You haven't. I know that. In her mind, she's been the one to let you down."

"Let me - Just a minute here." Mulder pulled into the service station they had nearly passed, and parked over to the side. He turned to look at their son. "When the hell has she ever let me down?"

"You really want a list?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Well," William thought for a moment, "when you returned from Antarctica and she couldn't back you up. She didn't see what you saw. She didn't want to leave you hanging out there alone, but she didn't see it and she couldn't lie, she - "

"Of course she shouldn't lie. I didn't want her to lie, I, I just wanted her to have seen it."

William nodded. "She thinks she let you down, when you first starting hearing other people's thoughts. You turned to Diana - "

"I never turned to Diana! I know she was there, but I don't know - "

"I know, Dad. I know, but that's how she saw it. She knows better now, but she still feels guilty."

"She went to Africa to find a cure for me!"

"But the cure was here, and she was half a world away when you needed her. She still has nightmares that she didn't find you in time."

Mulder blinked at that. "She has nightmares?"

"Yes, I guess not on the par with yours, but yes."

He looked stricken.

"Dad, don't you ever look into her mind?"

"No. I, well once, when I was incapacitated by this artifact that..."

"Yeah, I remember the artifact. I scared Mom with it. I didn't know any better back then than to call it to me. She was not amused. You can still look into her mind, if you want."

"That, that's private."

"I don't mean to probe her mind, just like a breeze. You'd get more impressions, emotions."

"I still think that's a little too private."

"Between the two of you? Why don't you ask her?"

"Ask her? She'd skin me alive."

William shook his head. "It would help her communicate with you. She still has trouble with that sometimes, telling you how she feels."

"Even more reason to think she doesn't want me in her head."

"Really, ask her. I believe she'd welcome you into her mind like she does into her body."

Mulder gaped at him. "I, uh, I don't believe we've ever had that birds and bees talk."

William smiled. "Ask me anything you want to know."

Mulder cringed and decided to change the subject. "Is she home yet?"

William's eyes went unfocused for a moment. "Almost. They should be landing in fifteen minutes. She's not a good flyer, is she?"

"Is she okay?" Mulder asked immediately.

"Yes, but she misses us. She's worried, worried that I'm okay, that you know how to be with me. She misses you. She wants to be in your arms, where she can feel safe."

"She feels safe with me?"

"Since the beginning."

Mulder kept quiet then. She had been with him, since the beginning.

They were up early the next morning, both anxious to be home. They barely stopped all day, pulling through drive- throughs for breakfast and lunch. William didn't complain. Scully needed them and he wanted to be there. He had waited long enough to start this new part of his life.

A short call, not nearly long enough to say what he wanted to say to her, how he had missed her, how much he needed her, alerted her to pick them up.

He returned the car to the airport, there was no need to be seen. The car could be left with the paperwork inside. He'd filled the tank, wiped down the fingerprints and ensured nothing had been left in the car. They walked away into the airport and to the luggage claim where they could blend in with the crowd. His phone beeped once when she pulled up, and they moved to the exit.

William was wearing a new blue jacket and baseball cap that hid his face from the surveillance cameras. Mulder didn't attempt to hide, that always drew more attention anyway.

He forced himself not to round the car and pull her from it to take her in his arms. Instead, he moved to the trunk and when she opened it, slipped the luggage inside. William let himself into the backseat with his small gym bag and hid down on the floor, out of sight. Mulder took the front seat and kept quiet, but took her hand for a moment, squeezing it tightly.

After they were out on the highway, Mulder flipped on the radio to an annoying all talk station and turned to William. "I think you can get up now."

"Yeah." He climbed up onto the seat, and buckled the seatbelt around him.

"You okay?" Mulder asked Scully softly.

"I am now."

He could hear the relief in her voice, the slight tremor.

"Was anything moved at the house?"

"No, no one was there. No one knew you were gone, and I went to work as usual."

"How was that?"

She shrugged, not wanting to get into it. "Did you have any problems?"

"No, he snores," Mulder deadpanned.

William snorted and Scully looked at him in the rear view window. Mulder almost had to look away from the naked emotion on her face. This had definitely been the right thing to do.

"Have you thought about a new car?"

"I haven't gotten the check yet for the old one."

He nodded. "Let's go ahead and get one, an SUV."

"With these gas prices?" She looked over at him.

"Yeah, we need to have something four-wheel drive that can carry what we need in an emergency."

She didn't argue, giving him a worried look.

She pulled over for just a moment before getting to the house, to allow Mulder to slip into the backseat. Since he hadn't left, he couldn't 'return.' As she slipped out of the car, he took her hand for an instant, then reached up and turned off the dome light. She shut the door and headed inside.

When it was full dark, Mulder and William slipped out of the car and into the dark living room. She was in his room waiting. Classical music played over the speakers.

"Oh God," and she was in his arms. In a moment, she reached for William and the three of them stood there, holding each other. "That was unbearable."

"We won't be separated again," Mulder reassured her. "In fact, we may get more than a little tired of each other."

"What?" She looked between the two of them.

"Well, William here thinks we need to disappear."

"Disappear?" She looked stunned, and inwardly Mulder winced.

"Yeah, I know."

"Your name is clear now."

"Yes, and I'm taking advantage of that. I've got our money on the move so that we can get to it regardless; I started that as soon as I got the formal notice."

She looked confused then. "Money?"

"Money, my inheritance. I couldn't touch it while we were on the run, hence the five-star accommodations. Now we can be a little more comfortable, but we need to leave here. Your job..."

"It's not a job anymore. Father Ybarra has made sure of that."

"You can't give notice."

"I understand. There's some work I need to clear up."

He nodded. "That'll give Will and me some time to pack."

Her arm went back around their son and held him tight. "Where?"

"I have a house we haven't used yet."

She grimaced. "Great, where?"

"Upper Minnesota."

She just stared, not even making a quip.

"It's cold there," William offered.

She looked down at him. "Understatement."

"It's safer there."

She nodded. "And probably slightly more comfortable there than the Antarctic, maybe."

"I'm sure it's at least ten degrees warmer."

"Whoopie," she said dryly. "'They' don't like the cold."


"Four-wheel drive. Now it makes sense. What's this house like?"

"Older, two stories and a full basement. We'll have lots of room. And now we can upgrade just about anything, put in a whole house generator, a...a lab."

"A lab?"

"We don't have to discuss everything right now. Don't I smell something wonderful coming from the kitchen?"

She smiled then. "I forgot. Come on, I have a pot roast in the crock pot. You're right, Mulder, that does work pretty well."

They ate together, getting to know one another on this new level.

Once in bed that night, after giving each other a true hello, she held him as he shuddered back to life. "I missed you," she whispered into his hair.

"I can't be away from you that long again," he agreed.

She smiled. "That works for me."

"This place, it will be okay."

"If you're there, you and William, it will be better than okay. You know, you didn't explain needing a lab."

"No, I guess I didn't. William has some ideas, things he wants to work on before..."

"Before 2012."


"Okay. I'll have everything finished up at the hospital by Friday. I can have a letter delivered to Father Ybarra on Monday. How big an SUV?"

"We don't need the biggest, but that would probably be the cheapest right now. Hell, they might give it to you. I'll get online tomorrow and check that out."

"I'll need to buy William some clothes."

"We can wait until we get there. We don't want to make purchases like that here. Go to sleep, Scully. We're here and we're safe."

She nodded and cuddled in.

They all got down to work the next morning. Scully was up and at the hospital early to bring all of her records up to date. Mulder and Will were at the house, packing clothes and

downloading files. Mulder talked to the car dealership; he'd never bought a car over the phone, but it worked. He felt good about the deal he'd made and he'd been right, the big SVUs were more like a dime a dozen now.

With cash he was able to grab a Highlander hybrid and hoped that Scully liked green. It was fully loaded, much more car than he'd ever had before, but they could pick it up Friday morning, washed and full of gas.

He would pick it up; their supplies would be transferred from the rental car, which would be loaded under cover of dark. William would remain hidden the whole time. That wouldn't be hard, as full as the car was.

He looked around the room that had been his sanctuary for the past couple of years. He and William had worked hard consolidating, weeding out, and packing up the files that might be of use on this project.

Scully came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I didn't expect to miss this place. It...it's the first place you and I could finally call home."

She pressed her cheek against his back. "This next one will be even more of a home."

He looked around at her and winked. She straightened up then and stepped away, around him. "You forgot something."

"What?" There wasn't room for another paperclip in the car.

She headed to the bulletin board and began taking down the "I Want to Believe" poster.

"Scully - "

"It wouldn't be right without it. We'll make room."

He chuckled and watched her, loving her.

The transfer was made without a hitch. By midnight Friday, they were in western Pennsylvania. Scully allowed fast food under the circumstances. She took over after William fell asleep, and they kept driving. It was a twenty-two hour drive straight through, but Scully called a halt outside of Chicago. It was still Saturday, no one was looking for them and she and Mulder both needed to stretch out and rest a little. He didn't fight her.

The motel room looked familiar, so like the many they had stayed in over the years. At least this time they were sharing it. William, their son, slept in the double bed beside them.

They took the second leg more leisurely, stopping for meals and stretching their legs more often. Mulder had described the house, but now Scully and William tried to pull more details out of him. He'd only seen it the one time but began pulling details out of his memory. Scully was pretty sure she'd want to repaint several rooms from his description, and that a lot of airing out would be needed but she had a 'staff' now and she'd use it.

She caught William's grin when she had that thought and raised an eyebrow at him. He burst out laughing and her heart turned over.

They reached the house a little after lunch on Monday. She had agreed to picking up lunch to eat there at their cajoling.

She had to admit she was impressed. It was a beautiful older house, two stories with white pillars out front, flanking the front porch. It was on ten acres and woods surrounded it, but none close to the house. There was a nice large yard; Mulder would probably want a riding mower. No doubt his take on it was that no one could get close to the house without being seen.

Mulder pulled the SUV into the attached garage and grinned at them.

Shaking her head, Scully stepped out of the vehicle and headed toward the door to the kitchen. It was a two-car garage, so there would be plenty of room for storage out here.

She opened the door and smiled. Yes, it was dusty, but large and airy for a kitchen. There was a small round table and four chairs in an alcove with a bay window and a work island in the center. The laundry room was off the kitchen, and it held the washer, dryer, an upright freezer and work sink.

"Well, Mulder, I haven't seen the rest, but I like this kitchen."

He grinned. "I was thinking of you when I looked at it."

"What's this door?"

"Basement. It's not finished, but it has a concrete floor, the utility room is enclosed and vented, so we could put the generator in there. Want the rest of the tour, or want to eat?"

Scully looked over at William. "We want to explore."

"Come on." The kitchen opened into the dining room on one side and a hall on the other. The hall led to the foyer, which opened onto a formal living room and a good-size bedroom on the first floor. The stairs came down into the foyer. The

second floor had four bedrooms, a master suite and a small bedroom on one side of the hall, two medium-size bedrooms on the other side with a bath between them. The dark pink that Mulder had described in the dining room had turned out to be maroon and very stately, to Scully's relief.

"This place is huge," Scully looked around the master suite.

"Yeah. It's an estate. The family doesn't live around here anymore. That's why there's so much furniture here. I bought it from a granddaughter who lives in California. She was delighted that I offered the asking price, and she threw in the furniture. I believe she came out and took a few family antiques, but not many obviously."

"Good, this furniture fits here. We won't need much to finish it up. That bedroom downstairs," she looked over at William, "the lab?"

He nodded. "Close to the kitchen, and in the back of the house."

"We'll start on that in just a few days. We need to get settled first. Come on, let's eat and then unpack."

They discussed what would go where as they ate. "Do I get an office?" Mulder asked around a bite of cheeseburger.

"The little bedroom off the master suite?"

He grinned. "Yeah, that way I won't wake you if I'm working late."

They all carried in their suitcases and supplies. Scully opened all the windows to air the rooms out, and began dusting as Mulder worked in the kitchen, wiping down the cabinets and loading them up with their cookware and dishes.

Scully came to check on him after a short while.

"Our stuff doesn't come close to filling these cabinets," he commented

"We don't need more. This kitchen was built for a family of seven, we're three," she reminded him.

"Good point, it just looks kind of...bare."

"Wait until you start outfitting the kind of lab we're going to need. We'll probably fill up these cabinets, as well as every space in the bedroom."

She headed upstairs then to vacuum, dust and make the bed. She was struggling with the fitted sheet when he joined her. She smiled as she felt his arms go around her.

"You know we have to christen the room tonight. Make sure the sheets are on there extra tight."


"Horny. Hey, when you find the girl of your dreams..."

She shook her head as she turned in his arms. "You know this slows things down."

He stepped back and crossed his arms. "Get to work, woman."

Her eyebrow rose as he winked, and quickly vacated the room. She could hear the muffled laugh from William's room.

They began making trips into town and checked in with the local elementary school. It wasn't much larger than the one he had attended before, and they agreed that this close to the end of the school year, it would make sense for him to be home schooled and began full time in the fall. Scully took all of the assignments they gave her, to ensure he would fulfill the obligations of the first grade and just kept quiet about his abilities.

He would have to continue his advanced studies at home and pretend to be a 'normal' second grader when that time came.

Scully was undercover as a nutrition professor on sabbatical, working on her research, and Mulder as a writer who telecommuted. The people they met were friendly and not too inquisitive. In order to blend in, they joined a small Protestant church and William began to meet the children his age. Mel and Suzanne Byers and their son, Will, were welcomed with only a little curiosity. Most of this curiosity centered around the house. When they discovered that the small family was leasing it from someone on the east coast, just for her sabbatical, they seemed satisfied.

Under Scully's supervision, it didn't take long to get the place organized. She had a list of things she needed for the lab that seemed to grow hourly. Mulder groused that it was good thing he'd finally gotten hold of their money again, but they only smiled at him.

Mulder and William built a counter and cabinets to fit the longer wall in the converted bedroom, and another work surface out in the room. The equipment they needed weren't the kind of things you could run down to the hardware store to purchase, so these items were purchased online and delivered to a pick-up site a couple of towns over. After accepting a key to his 'box,' Mulder made sure he arrived for

his pick-ups after working hours.

Installing them was a challenge. Mulder wasn't the handiest with this kind of thing, and found himself listening more and more to William's instructions. When he realized it he sat up from his position on the floor under the counter, and just looked at the boy.

"How do you know this stuff? Was your f-father the handy man from - "

"No. Dad knew how to do all sorts of mechanical things, but nothing like this. I'm kinda asking the people that made them."

"Oh, you...you're able to do that long distance?"

"How do you think I kept up with you and Mom all these years?"

"Yeah, right. Uh, you might not want to broadcast that to Scully."

"She does believe, she just doesn't want to talk about it," Will agreed.

Mulder nodded and crawled back into the cabinet.

In a relatively short amount of time, the lab was complete and Mulder began to dread what felt like a daily donation of blood to the cause. Still it was better than taking it from Scully or their son, so he managed to hold the griping to a minimum.

He didn't understand what they were talking about, so he did as he had done in Virginia, keeping the house going, expanding his expertise in cooking.

"We need to have some blood samples to compare it to. I'm sure this is it, but we have to prove it."

"Why, why do you think this is it?" Scully was still talking to Will as they entered the kitchen.

"It's a feeling," the boy responded. Mulder grinned and brought dinner over to the table. Scully huffed but kept quiet.

"Want to share? In words of one syllable?" Mulder took his seat at the table.

"We've found an anomaly in your blood and mine, and we

need to find out if it's in anyone else's blood."

"It's not in any of the ones we've been able to check online," Will added.

"So what do you want to do?" Mulder asked as he passed the chicken to the boy.

"We need more blood samples, not something from the web."

"If I'm going to have to go vampire on this town - "

"Mulder," Scully cut him off. "I agree we need more samples. We just have to be really discreet."

"That's why the blood drive is the best way."

"Blood drive?" Mulder stopped with the fork half way to his mouth.

"There's a blood drive at the church this coming weekend."

"So, we give this immunity to everyone by giving our blood?"

"You and I can't give, obviously; anyone could track us if they saw our blood."

"Dad, you need to get the hazardous waste for us and we'll check it."

"I could do that." He looked over at Scully. "Couldn't I?"

"It's well protected, Mulder. And we wouldn't have any excuse if someone saw - "

"Scully, you think I can't be sneaky? Besides, I've got Will here as wing man. What happens at these blood drives, I mean other than people giving blood?"

"In small towns like this, it's a fun day. Women bring baked goods to feed the donors, everyone sits around and visits, the kids play in the churchyard. You just hang out."

"Really?" Mulder looked between the two of them.

"You have to be social, Mulder. You can handle it for an afternoon, right?" Scully chuckled.

He glared at her but nodded. "Okay, what is this anomaly?"

The conversation got more technical then, but from what Mulder understood there was a five-sided substance within their red cells. This hadn't appeared anywhere that they could find online. The sample from this small town wouldn't be conclusive, but it would give them a start.

Later that night in bed, Mulder turned to her. "I'm not asking any more questions about the blood, but how did you find it with the equipment we have? I bought good stuff, but..."

"I know. Will has 'improved' everything. I don't...he's listening to people in other labs, seeing how they get their data."

"So if we want to go into industrial sabotage..."

She just stared at him.

"What is it? What's really bothering you?" He pulled her into his arms and she relaxed within their comfort.

"It's been...too easy. Does that make sense?"

"In what way?"

"Finding something like this in our blood. Why haven't we known about it before?"

"Have you looked for it before? Remember, 'they' may know. It's the reason we're in hiding, the reason they were watching for Will from the beginning."

"Oh thanks," she started to pull away but his arms tightened around her.

"You know what we're up against. If you feel, I don't know, guilty about using Will's abilities, don't. Stop it now. We're outgunned in this fight. Whatever advantage he can give us, we need."

She looked up at him. "This is really going to happen."

He nodded.

She swallowed and cuddled closer to him. "Can we do this?"

"We don't have a choice. Besides, what can't we do together? And now that we're all together..." He saw her smile then. "Sleep."

She got comfortable.

They entered the church fellowship hall, Scully carrying a Bundt cake, Will carrying a container of brownies. They were greeted warmly, and Mulder immediately moved over to help with setting up tables.

Everyone had been much warmer to them once they had discovered they were only leasing the house. People talked, everyone knew everyone else in town and now that the Cobles had all moved away, and the older couple that had built the house had died, there had been some resentment that an 'outsider' had purchased the largest house in town. Knowing that it was owned by some rich dude in the east, had relieved some pressure on them.

Will ran off to play with the kids he'd met, keeping closest to Isaac. Isaac was smaller than the others, and occasionally

picked on by them. Will had let them know that he had asthma and couldn't run around as much as the others. With Will around Isaac seemed more at ease, had more fun.

Scully smiled as the other women greeted her warmly.

"Will you be giving blood today, Suzanne?" one of the women made room for the cake and brownies.

"No, we can't, that's why I brought the food. I did some research in Africa for the World Hunger Association, Mel went with me, so we can't give for a couple more years."

"That must have been fascinating."

Conversation ebbed and flowed around them, including them, filling in information on the ties within the community. Scully looked up at one point to see Mulder grinning at her. Had he ever thought to live like this? Her own smile warmed him.

It was actually a fun day, relaxing and different for them. Slipping the waste into the back of the car was easy with Will watching out. Everyone was very pleased to have collected over a hundred pints of blood, and were already talking about the next one.

Laughing and talking, they headed home after Mulder helped the men take down the tables and rearrange the furniture back to normal.

"Well, 'Mel,' I think you were a hit," Scully smiled at him as he was backing out.

He gave her a shit-eating grin. "I'm charming."

Will's snort from the backseat caused Mulder to cut his eyes at him.

"I'll have you know that I know how to fit in here. We've had several cases that brought us into this environment - Home, Pennsylvania, Dudley, Arkansas, Delta Glen, Wisconsin - " Scully's laugh had him looking at her now. "What, you don't believe me?"

"If you think this place is like those, why did you really bring us here?"

"Hey, I like being the most 'normal' guy in town for a change."

They all three laughed most of the way home.

Mulder wasn't surprised when the two of them disappeared into the lab as soon as they got home. He left them to it after depositing the waste on their workbench.

He was in bed reading when she finally joined him. "Well?"

"No one else that we've tested has the pentagon."

"That's good, isn't it?"

"Yes," she sighed and cuddled up against him as his arm went around her.

"So why do you sound like it's a problem?"

"It's such a small sample."

"Is Will sure?"

"He's so much like you, Mulder."

"Is that a good thing?"

She chuckled. "Most of the time. I have to spend a lot of time convincing him that we have to prove it. He's impulsive, he goes with his intuition."

"You poor thing, stuck with two of us."

She swatted his chest, but her hand came to rest on it, caressing it slightly. "He's seven, Mulder."

"His age is seven. You know he's more advanced than that. He's been 'hearing' things that no kid should his whole life.

He was moving objects with his mind before he could sit up alone. If he thinks this is it, I'd tend to believe him."

"Even if it is, what do we do with the knowledge?"

"We, uh you, you and he have to figure out a way to get this to everyone. A way that won't drain us dry. In the meantime, you need to get some sleep."

"Right now?"

His smile answered that.

Will was in the lab before her the next morning. He was looking in the microscope, but looked up when the door opened. "Want some breakfast before we get started?" she asked.

"Thanks." He headed for the kitchen. "I had an idea last night."

"Why does that not surprise me?" Mulder said as he joined them in the kitchen.

Will grinned and took a seat. "I've been exploring drug delivery systems. The one that gets into the bloodstream the quickest is under the tongue, that's not feasible for us, so I'm looking into nasal delivery."

"Air borne?" Scully asked.


She looked up at Mulder; there was fear in her face.

"I want to try this on Isaac," Will said calmly, watching her.

"Isaac?" Scully looked up startled. "No. He has asthma, we can't chance it."

"If it works on him we'll know it can pass through the lungs - "

"That's totally irresponsible! It takes years to go through clinical trials for - "

"We don't have years," Will interrupted. "And the years we do have has to be used to spread this. I like Isaac; I would never hurt him. I, I think this could help him."

"Help him how?" Mulder finally joined the conversation, watching them both.

"Since you two got your injections, have you been sick?"


"A cold, flu, anything?"

"I had tobacco bugs - "

"Don't!" Scully voice stopped him and he heard the fear that memory brought up in her. He took her hand.

"No, I haven't been sick since I returned from Russia. Scully?"

She took a moment, remembering. Finally she shook her head.

"This thing may be helping us, keeping us healthy. If that's true, Isaac could benefit from this," Will pushed.

"And he could die from it!" Scully didn't back down.

Will looked over at Mulder, but his father shook his head. "It's dangerous, Will. Isaac is already at risk."

Will stopped then, seeing the resolution in their minds. He took a deep breath. "Okay, who? We have to test it on someone."

Will felt Scully's conflict. Apparently Mulder did too, because his arm went around her.

"I need to think about it. I'm sorry, I need..." She turned and left the kitchen. Mulder and Will exchanged looks, but let her go.

She was quiet the rest of the day, obviously torn. When they went to bed that evening, Mulder pulled her close. He needed to get her mind on something else.

He kissed her ear and let his arm encircle her waist, pulling her closer into his chest. "Have you ever thought about what would have happened if that bee hadn't stung you that day in my hall?"

She glanced behind her. "Of course I have, thousands of times."

"And?" he cuddled around her.

"Well, I hope you'd have taken me in your arms and back to your apartment and we'd have made love for hours."

He drew back startled. "You'd have come?"

"Many times, I'm sure."

He glared at her. "That's not - yeah, you have come until your head blew off, I mean, would you have returned to the apartment with me?"

"Yes." She turned to kiss the tip of his nose, "but it's a good thing that didn't happen."

"What? Why?"

"Look what happened after that bee sting."

"Yeah, you nearly died, we nearly died - "

"We didn't. Somehow I knew you'd be looking for me. No, I mean your rescue of me."

"Indiana Jones, that's me."

She chuckled. "My own personal action figure. I'm talking about the injection, Mulder. Without it we wouldn't have Will, we wouldn't have this chance to save at least some of humanity."

"We would have made love all night instead of battling frostbite..." His mournful tone only caused her smile to widen.

"Worth the wait, Mulder?"

"You held me off for two more years."

"I'll continue to try to make it up to you, Sweetheart."

"You'd better," he growled as her hands traveled south.

She lay boneless, covering him as they both tried to bring their heartbeats under some sort of control. He managed to snag the sheet to pull up over them, not wanting her to leave him.

He was going under and knew it. "Mmm, love you."

"Love you too," she murmured into his chest and he thought she was already sleep when she whispered, "Will's right. We need to give Isaac this chance."

His eyes widened for a moment, but she burrowed in and was out. He wasn't sure she realized what she had said. He'd check tomorrow.

Isaac's mother came on it the kitchen, following her son and

Will. She was carrying Isaac's backpack and smiled at Scully.

"Molly, thank you for letting Isaac stay with us tonight."

"He's talked of nothing else since you invited him. Are you sure he won't be too much trouble?"

"Not at all. Will has been the same. They'll have a good time. Is he allergic to anything?"

"Cats, but I already know you don't have one." She dug through the backpack for a moment. "This is a spare inhaler. He always carries one. If he has an attack, call me, I can be here in minutes. If it seems severe, I have an eppie pen you can use and - "

"Molly, I'll keep an eye on him."

"I know. Can you tell he isn't away from me very much?" Her cheeks were pink from embarrassment.

"I don't blame you, Molly. I'd feel the same way if Will had asthma. I can't tell you not to worry, but Mel and I will keep a close eye on him."

"I know you will, and don't let him get in your way while you're working."

"Don't worry about that either. Mel is looking forward to an excuse to get away from his desk."

After giving Isaac another embarrassing hug, Molly left and the boys headed upstairs to Will's room. They played for awhile, then both boys burst into the lab where she was working.

"Mom! Can we look through your microscope?"

She looked up and managed a smile. "What do you want to look at?"

"How about a drop of blood? That's so cool."

"Yeah, could we?" Isaac chorused.

"I suppose so. Let me set it up." She moved the large microscope into the center of the workspace and got out some slides. "Who's finger?"

"Mine!" Will said immediately.

"No, mine! I've never done it."

"I'll do you both. Hold on." She took two sterile pricks out of the drawer as well as a few pipettes, and tore them open. "This will sting for a second." She looked at Isaac, but in front of his friend he couldn't show any fear.

She took his left hand and wiped his ring finger with a sterile pad, then snapped the prick against his finger. He barely flinched and she smiled. She held the pipette to the spot of blood and squeezed his finger gently. The pipette filled quickly.

"Okay, that's plenty. Here, let me wipe it down again." She repeated the process with Will, then returned to Isaac's blood, preparing a slide. She focused the lens and looked in herself, then stepped back to allow Isaac to look. "See those little things that look like pillows? Those are red blood cells."

"Let me see," Will said, playing his part perfectly. He looked into the eyepiece, scanning it in a way that Isaac hadn't.

"Okay, me again!"

Will relinquished his spot and looked over at Scully. He shook his head slightly. There were none of the pentagon shapes in his blood. Scully nodded.

They looked at Will's blood then, and few other things, then the boys began to get bored.

"We have to clean up," Will explained to Isaac. He reached into the cabinet and pulled out a spray bottle. He caught his mother's eyes and nodded, then sprayed a small amount on the countertop. "I like the way it smells." He said it off handedly, and watched as Isaac took a deep sniff of it.

Will took a paper towel and wiped down the counter. He looked up when Isaac sneezed twice.

"Isaac?" Scully stepped closer to the boy.

"I'm okay. Is there anything else we need to clean?"

"Uh, no, that's good. You boys run along. You have your inhaler?"

Isaac pulled it from his pocket to show her.

"Okay. I'll fix you lunch in a little while. Why don't you go upstairs and show him your games?"

"Sure, come on!" The boys raced out of the lab and up the stairs.

Scully leaned against the counter and closed her eyes. She started when Mulder's arms went around her. She hadn't heard him enter the room.

"Sounded like everything went well."

"I hope so. Mulder, what if - "

He shook his head. "Don't. We'll keep an eye on him and you have all that experience being a pediatrician now. Want me to go check on them?"

"Would you?" She looked up and he could see her unease.

"Yep, I'll do something with them. You try to relax." He held her for a minute, then headed upstairs.

The next thing she knew, all three of them were thundering down the stairs and headed outside. Well, at least she was close by. After a few minutes, she headed for the kitchen and spotted them at the basketball goal. Mulder was giving Isaac tips on free throws.

She stood there for a little while, watching. Mulder was such a good father. He should never have worried about it. Maybe it was his own experience that pushed him, but he went over and above spending time with Will, being the kind of father he must have always wanted.

She looked back at Isaac. His cheeks were pink from exertion, but he was grinning and not any more out of breath than Will.

When they trooped inside, she had lunch ready. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, with lemonade. The boys made short work of the food, and were off again. Mulder lingered at the table. "He's doing well."

"I know, I was watching."

"If there is going to be a reaction, how long..."

"He should have already had it. He pulled the spray down into his lungs." She looked hopefully at Mulder.

He pulled her into his lap and held her.

There was no reaction. The boys played all afternoon and watched a movie that evening after dinner. Scully hadn't seen Isaac even take the inhaler from his pocket.

When it was bedtime, she tucked both boys in and asked Isaac where his inhaler was. He seemed surprised at the question. "I left it in my jeans. I haven't used it."

"Not at all?"

He shook his head.

"Well, good. You boys need to get some sleep, don't talk all night."

Will grinned and Isaac laughed as Scully let herself out of the bedroom. She hurried back downstairs and found Mulder waiting for her with a glass of wine in his hand. He presented it to her and led her to the sofa.

"Everyone okay?"

She took a sip, then nodded. "He hasn't used his inhaler since he got here."

"Really? We had a pretty good session of basketball."

She cuddled into his side and his arm went around her. "Will may have come up with a good theory. I haven't had so much as the sniffles from 'normal' means. I hadn't thought about it."

"We can't count on it. I still can't believe I approved putting that little boy at risk." "I know. I don't want anyone to get hurt, but we have to move on this."

"I know." She took another sip of her wine and they sat silently for several minutes.

"Do you want to watch anything?"

She shook her head. "I think I want to go on to bed."

"Good idea. Come on."

The next morning, Mulder fixed pancakes and they all headed for church. Molly met them in the parking lot. Embarrassed, Isaac allowed a quick hug before running off with Will to catch up with the other kids. Chuckling, Mulder loaded the boy's small bag into his mother's car.

Scully handed her a small plastic bag with the extra inhaler and the eppie pen. "He didn't need either; in fact he didn't even use the inhaler he was carrying."

"Really? Did they just play video games or something?"

"Oh no, they played basketball with Mu-Mel and he helped them with free throws. They were all over the place."

"And he didn't need it? That's incredible. Will must be good luck for him."

"I hope so," Scully said softly.

Will was invited to Isaac's house for the next weekend. That was fine with Will, but they needed to check his blood again. To do that they needed to get him back out to their house.

"I'll take the car," Mulder offered. "Tell Molly the service light came on and I had to take it in to be checked. She'll offer to come get Will. While they're here..."

"Thanks, I get that part of the 'plan.'"

Mulder grinned. "Anything you want me to pick up, since I have to leave anyway?"

She gave him the list from the refrigerator and he took off. She called Molly.

Molly was there in about thirty minutes. Isaac was out of the car and running to the back door before she could get her seatbelt unbuckled. Laughing she followed him inside.

"But he's not excited," she shook her head at Scully.

"Will too. Thank you so much for coming out here. I - "

"It was no problem. Please, forget it. I did want to tell you, Isaac hasn't needed his inhaler since last weekend with Will. I'd drive a lot farther than this. I think Will is lucky for him."

"He hasn't needed it at all?"

Molly shook her head, her smile widening.

"Is he in a growth spurt? He seems taller."

"I think he is. His jeans are getting a little short."

"You know, that might be it. I've heard of asthma lessening as they grow."

"Whatever it is, we're delighted."

"Me too. Isaac is a great kid."

"Thanks," Molly smiled at the sound of the boys thundering down the stairs.

"I have my stuff," Will held up his bag.

Scully shook her head indulgently. "May Molly and I have just a couple of minutes?"

"Sure, we'll put the stuff in the car."

They were out the door. "Molly, I..."


"You're going to think I'm crazy, but I need a favor."

"Sure, what?"

"I need about four drops of your blood."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm so used to working on a campus with lots of students around to help with experiments. If I go near poor Mel again, he'll scream and I already know what his blood is going to show me. It's part of my research."

"Well sure. Four drops? What can you possibly learn from four drops?"

"You'd be surprised. Come on back to my lab."

Molly followed her to the converted bedroom. "Goodness, I had no idea you had so much equipment. This must be expensive."

"It is. I keep this room locked when I'm not in here. Will understands how delicate this equipment is, but he is a kid. I have to return all of this to the university, in perfect condition, when I return."

"Oh, I didn't realize universities let their equipment out."

"You have to sign several thousand guarantees I think, but I am getting closer."

"Can you talk about your research?"

Scully shook her head. "Not really, but it's an international project."

"Wow." She held out her finger and Scully quickly filled a pipette with blood. As she was wiping Molly's finger down, the boys joined them.

"Hey, can we do it again?" Will looked up at Scully, playing his role perfectly.

"Yeah, can we? Mom, you can look at my blood."

"I took a small sample so they could use the microscope; less than I took from you. I'm thinking both of them will turn into wonderful research scientists."

Molly smiled. "Okay, I'd love to see your blood."

That was quickly accomplished, and Will took the last turn looking at Isaac's blood. He looked up at Scully and gave the tiniest nod. She took hold of the counter, her knees weak.

"Are you ready to go?"

"Oh, yeah. Mom?"

"Yes, we can go. Suzanne, he'll be fine."

"I'm not worried. Will, you behave."

"Yes ma'am." He hugged her tight and she felt some of her strength return.

"We'll pick you up at church tomorrow."

He nodded, and allowed her to hug him again. When she leaned down, he whispered into her ear. "Bring the 'cleanser' with you."

He spoke so low that she could barely make it out, but her arms tightened slightly in acknowledgement.

They were just out of sight when Mulder pulled back into the driveway and hurried inside. She had been headed for the lab, but stopped at the sound of the car.

"Well?" he asked as soon as he spotted her in the kitchen.

"I'm going to check now. Isaac does have the pentagons in his blood. Will saw them, but they left so I wanted a closer look. Coming?"

"You bet." He was only a step behind her. She reconfirmed

what Will had seen and let Mulder see it as well. "What's all this?"

"Oh, Molly's blood. I needed an excuse to check Isaac again, and this was the ruse Will and I came up with."

"Have you checked her blood yet?"

"No. It was just - "

"Check it, Scully. She's been breathing around the boy for a week."

"Do you think..." She was already preparing another slide. She slipped it on the viewer and leaned over. "Oh my God."


"Look," was all she said.

They were there. The little shapes were floating around in her blood as well; and nearly to the same level as Isaac.

"Will wants me to bring the 'cleanser' to church tomorrow, and use it during the coffee hour."

"That's a good idea. That way anyone who inhales it will be there for at least an hour, probably two, which would give you time to observe them. If they can pass it on at home... "

"Mulder, can we do this?"

"Yeah. I think we can. When's the next community blood drive?"

"Several weeks, it was in the bulletin last Sunday."

"Okay, let's test it out at the church this week and by then we should know some results. I think you two may have saved us all again."

"Again?" She looked up at him, puzzled.

"Well maybe it's just me you've been saving over and over all these years, but yes, again."

Scully was nearly speechless as she investigated the contents of the hazardous waste container from the next blood drive. Will leaned against the counter watching her and his dad as they hugged each other. When they finally separated, he beamed at them.

"We need to get this stuff out to everyone."

"We should still test - "

"It's working. Now we need to see how it works on 'them.'"

"How do you propose we do that?" Mulder asked, stunned.

"We go where they are, and give them a whiff."

"You know where they like to hang out? Alien bars?"

Will grinned. "Not exactly, but they're in every big city. They've been scoping us out for awhile now.

Mulder's arm tightened around Scully as she looked up at him. He could feel her fear, her desire to go back to ignorance, at least for a little while.



Mulder looked puzzled for a moment, then grinned. "Mall of the Americas."

Will nodded. "People come from all over and 'they' would want to observe them. Then, we should go to airports, bus stations, places where people gather, maybe emergency rooms. I, I know it's not safe to see my other parents, but I need them to get this too, as soon as possible."

"Of course," Scully said immediately. "They should be top priority."

"Bloomington first, then..." Will shrugged.

They had their act down. Scully was dressed in a suit, pretending to be the representative for a new fragrance. She wandered around the mall approaching groups of people and asking them if they had an opinion of a name for the product. They had printed up cards that she handed out, to which she added a quick spritz of scent and waved around when they accepted.

What amused Mulder the most out this exercise, was the fact that no scent had been added to the compound. They were sniffing basically water, but they seemed to have no trouble filling in the blanks about a perfume-y aroma.

Mulder didn't let her out of his sight, though he stayed in the background. Will was with him, but was searching for one of


Mulder felt him stiffen suddenly. "Will?"

The boy nodded.

"Is he looking for us?"

"No. He's just here to observe."

"Do you know where he is?"

Will turned east and concentrated. "Over there, but he's coming this way. You and Mom need to get out of sight, just in case. I know what to do. Please, trust me."

The look on Mulder's face caused Will to take his hand and squeeze it. "It'll be okay. Come on." They headed for Scully. She spotted them and cut her spiel short, thanking the people around her. Her eyes were on them now, and Mulder could see her fear.

His hand came up to her lower back, and unexpectedly she felt herself relax slightly. It felt so real when he touched her there, almost as though they had normalcy. She found him smiling down at her and knew he had picked up her thought. He was doing that more and more since they had begun living with their son and even that felt...right.

"Will spotted one of them. We need to follow the plan."

"I know," she said softly.

"It is working so far, Mom. You've gotten the compound into a lot of people so far, and they'll get it to even more. We're not through here today. I just need you and Dad to get out of sight for a little while. Please."

"He's right, Scully. Come on."

She looked up at him. She trusted this man above all others, but this was their son. "He won't know - "

"No, he's not looking for any of us. He's just here to observe. Give me the perfume bottle, I need to hurry."

Closing her eyes, she allowed him to take the crystal bottle. "Be careful."

"I promise," he smiled up at her, then was gone.


His arm went around her, and he led her into the closest department store.

Will headed into the anchor store that the alien had entered. He took up a position near the makeup counter, and waited. It didn't take long, the 'man' was in no hurry, just observing. Will clamped down on his shield, allowing only childish thoughts to the top of his brain.

The man turned to look at the display of men's cologne, and Will approached him from behind. "Hey, Dad, what about this for Mom? Doesn't it smell good?" He pressed the bulb and the 'man' turned to look at him, automatically taking a sniff. Will made his eyes big and round. "Oh, Jeez, I'm sor- I thought you were my Dad."

"It's okay."

"There he is, I'm really sorry." Will was already backing away and headed to the other side of the counter.

His prey was smiling slightly, reading the fear and embarrassment in Will's mind. He forgot the incident, scanning other minds and wandering out into one of the common areas of the mall.

Will stayed back in the store, following him with his mind while making sure that he didn't pick up on his parents. When the 'man' had moved into another store, Will hurried to the department store where Mulder and Scully waited.

He joined them in the boys' department. Scully shoved the shirt she wasn't really looking at back onto the rack and hugged him.

"It went perfectly. He's in Macy's right now. We should just stay here, so I can keep an eye on him."

"Can he hear us?" Mulder asked quickly.

"No, you both have a pretty good shield already and I'm keeping an eye out..." he turned away from them.

"What?" Scully asked before Mulder could.

"He's having a little trouble breathing, and his chest feels tight."


"Their metabolism is different from ours. That's why they like warmer climates, like reptiles. But he's not worried, he's more curious because he's never been sick, and he hasn't recognized what he's feeling as symptoms."

Mulder and Scully looked at each other and she sighed. "So what do we do now?"

"Go eat. He's headed away from the food court, and we need to lay low and let me concentrate on him for now. After he's gone, we can do more with the perfume game."

"I guess I'm paying for lunch, huh?" Mulder said, leading them toward the nearest food court.

They both noticed that Will was quiet, distant while they ate, but they kept quiet, not wanting to distract him. Finally he looked up. "He's not doing too well."

"In what way?"

"Mostly his breathing, but his vision is being affected for some reason. That's kind of weird. Have you noticed anyone at church not needing their glasses since they got a dose of the compound?"

"I haven't noticed," Scully said slowly.

"Wasn't that one of the problems with nasal Viagra? Regular Viagra caused people to see blue and taking it up the nose..." Mulder looked over at Scully who shrugged.

"It's another thing we haven't tested. This could be so irresponsible." She looked strained, tired.

"It's not. Mom, listen to me. Look how well Isaac is doing.

He's running and playing just like everyone else now. This made him better, and made him immune to the virus that they used on you. Now we know it affects them badly. Please, we have to continue."

Scully was silent, but Mulder nodded. "We know. We're just worried. This hasn't been done before."

"Someday everyone will know what heroes my parents are," Will said quietly. Scully's breath hitched but she remained silent.

Will's attention was drawn away again. Both adults were quiet, watching him. Scully cuddled into Mulder's side.

"He's leaving. He knows something's really wrong now." Will looked up at Mulder. "Do we want him to catch up with his friends, and have them see him like this or..."

"No, he can't go to his friends now. We can't alert them. I'm going to follow him, see where he goes."

"He shouldn't drive. He really can't see now."

"Okay, I'll use that. I'll follow him to his car; see if he needs any help."

"No. Mulder, no. You can't - "

"He can't see that well. He won't recognize me."

"You can't be sure!" she hissed.

"You have my back, you and Will. We need to see what he does. I'll be careful. You know I'm not about to be separated from you. Trust me, Scully." He turned to Will. "Where can I find him?"

Mulder fell in behind him, following him toward his car. When he staggered, Mulder stepped forward and took his arm. "Hey, guy, you okay?"

"Yeah, yes, I'm fine."

"You don't look it. Where you headed?"

"My, my car. It's just over there."

"Okay." Mulder stayed slightly behind him and helped him to his car. The alien fumbled with his key fob, but got the doors unlocked. "Listen, you can't drive. Why don't you let me take you somewhere, home?"

The alien wheezed, trying to shake his head.

"Then how about the emergency room?"

"No, no I just want to go home."

"Where's home?" He gave an address between gasps of breath. "I'll drive you. Get in." He had little choice and allowed Mulder to help him take a seat on the passenger's side. "Buckle up."

Mulder pulled on a pair of thin rubber gloves and shut the door. This guy wasn't going to notice. Mulder pulled out of the parking lot and headed out of town. The alien leaned back and closed his eyes, a little too confident that regardless of his physical situation, he was in charge.

"Why are you helping me?"

"Think of it as my good deed for humanity today."

The alien didn't realize that Mulder had seen the slightly ironic smile on his face.

Mulder saw the sign he'd been looking for, 'land fill' and turned where the sign indicated. There was no one at the gate, so Mulder drove through and around to the right, so the car would be out of sight.

Mulder let himself out of the car and hurried around to the passenger door. "Okay? Come on, let me help you."

The thing opened his eyes but his vision seemed to be mostly gone now. He squinted into the light. "Is this my apartment?"

"Not exactly." Mulder pulled him from the car and closer to the pile of garbage.

"What are you - "

Mulder pulled the plinth from his pocket. "Sorry about this, a little bit, but I can't let you be seen or report back."

"What are - " Before he could finish the question, Mulder stabbed the pointed instrument into the back of the thing's neck. He stepped back quickly when the green goo began to foam out of the alien's neck. There was no wind, but he could smell the acrid scent, not iron like human blood. If he was getting fumes, there was no effect. How many times had he been exposed to their new compound?

"I can't stand this. Will, where is he?"

"He's okay. The alien isn't paying any attention to him. He's really sick now." Suddenly Will seemed confused.


"Dad's taking him to the land fill. He's not that close to dying," the boy mused out loud. His eyes widened then.

"Will? What?" Scully had hold of his arm.

"He has a plinth with him. He's - "

"The fumes! Where is he, we need to go. We have to get him to a hospital."

Will shook his head. "It's not affecting him, Dad, I mean. The fumes aren't bothering him." He looked up at his mother. "Could that be another plus about what we've created?"

Scully sank onto a bench and closed her eyes.

"He's okay, Mom. He's okay. He's just waiting for the guy to dissolve, so there'll be no evidence."

"Wonderful," Scully said faintly.

Mulder approached what was left of the alien, and with a stick, forced the wallet out of his pocket. The leather was barely singed so far, and he used a rag to flip it open. The inside wasn't harmed and he pulled the ID and cash from the wallet. He had $460 in cash, which Mulder shoved into his pocket. It was the ID he was more interested in. When he got to a computer, he'd be check this information out.

Now he needed to get back to his family. He kicked some dirt over the remaining green foam and obliterated his shoe

prints as he returned to the car.

Shit, he hadn't been paying attention. He was very nearly out of gas. He sighed, Will would know he was okay, and could reassure Scully. He just hated to take more time.

He pulled into a convenience store, and put in about a quarter of a tank of gas. No need to waste the money since the car wasn't going anywhere soon. He noticed a woman pull up on the other side of the pump. The car she was driving needed work, and she frankly looked exhausted. A young boy called out to her as she got out to pump gas.

"Can I have a Coke?"

"I'm sorry. I don't even have enough to fill the tank, Jerry. Maybe this weekend I can get some drinks and stuff, after I get paid."

"Okay, Momma." He settled back and looked out at traffic.

Mulder felt of the roll of cash in his pocket. That was the way he and Scully had lived when they first hit the road together. All they'd had was each other. They hadn't had Will with them. How would they have handled that?

He smiled and pulled the nozzle from the gas tank. He leaned over and pretended to pick something up from the ground.


"Uh, yes?" She looked up at him.

"I think you dropped this." He handed her the cash he had taken from the alien.

She looked down at her hand. "No, I didn't - "

"I saw you drop it. Have a good day."

"I - "

He winked at her, then got in the car and drove away, leaving her speechless behind him.

Wow, two good things for humanity today, he was on a roll.

He parked as close as possible to the original parking space, and got out, locking the doors. He tossed the keys in the nearest trash bin, then pulled off the rubber gloves and stuffed them in his jacket pocket.

He stopped just inside the entrance, and let his senses feel

for them. He turned east without resistance and headed out into the mall. He spotted Scully sitting at a small table near the entrance to an arcade. She was staring into space, and he could feel her stress from across the court.

Before he could reach her, Will had emerged from the arcade and they reached her at the same time.


She looked up and he saw the strain on her face, the evidence of tears on her cheeks.

"Scully, it's okay. We're okay."

She just looked at him.

"Let's get out of here," he spoke to Will, and took her arm. She came without resistance but that didn't exactly make him feel any better. She was silent all the way to the motel. Will talked a little at first, telling Mulder about taking the compound into the arcade and making sure all the kids were exposed.

Mulder parked the Highlander outside of their room, and hurried around to help Scully out. Will was silent now as well, just following them into the room. He was the one that shut the door.

Before Mulder could speak, the palm of Scully's hand had connected with his cheek, full force. He said nothing, watching her as she proceeded to pummel his chest with her fists. Not understanding, and not wanting to hurt her, he just gathered her into his chest and held her tightly against him.

He didn't even turn to Will, who was watching with his mouth fallen open.

"Scully? Come on, talk to me."

She struggled for an instant, then was crying against his chest, her hands fisted in the fabric of his shirt.

"It's okay, I've got you," he crooned as she sobbed in his arms.

Will was struck dumb and didn't move even as they swayed in each others' arms.

He didn't know how long they all stood there before Scully took a deep, shuddering breath and looked up at Mulder. "I'm sorry I hit you."

"I'm sorry I upset you. It was the only way, Scully, I couldn't let him report back and I couldn't let you near him."

"What if you had been affected by the fumes?"

He shook his head. "I had to take the chance; I have to keep the two of you safe."

"That's my job too," she reminded him.

He gave a tiny shrug. "It's the caveman in me."

"Damn you." She buried her face in his chest again. "You planned it; you took the plinth with you."

He nodded though she couldn't see. "I had to be prepared."

Her arms slid around him then and she clutched him to her as tightly as he was holding her. He kissed the top of her head and she stepped back.

"We need to go back tomorrow. I think Saturday would be the busiest day, but - " He glanced over at Will who was still standing by the door, looking back and forth between them. Scully looked over to see what had drawn Mulder's attention. "Will? William? What's wrong?"

"You were fighting, you were furious and, and you hit him."

Scully blushed but she stepped closer to their son. "I'm sorry you had to witness that. I was - "

"You were upset, because he put himself in danger."

She nodded.

"But, but you were so angry."

"Will," Mulder moved toward him as well. "We fight sometimes, but that doesn't mean we don't love each other."

"That's not it. You, you love each other even more after the fight." He was clearly stunned. "You're not mad, you, you want to have sex."

Scully's blush grew deeper and Mulder looked over at her trying to keep a straight face. "Uh, Will, I always feel that way."

"Mulder!" she hissed.

"Well it's true and he can read minds."

Abruptly Will laughed. "You guys are so different from my other parents."

"Is that a good thing?" Mulder asked quickly.

"Well, I'm not going to get you confused."

Scully huffed and turned away. Mulder tried to bite down on his own laugh. "Uh, anyone hungry?"

Scully shot him a glare.

"Okay, in order to stay out of sight, I'll order in a pizza, and we can talk strategy."

They did hit the mall again the next day. The traffic was slightly less, but not significantly. No other aliens arrived, and the car Mulder had driven the day before was still in the

same parking space.

Since there was no need to rush home, they added O'Hare in Chicago as another stop, hanging out in the baggage pickup and just occasionally renewing the atmosphere with a new spritz of the compound. They had added no scent, and without Scully having people talk about it, no one seemed to notice. There was a question of whether not drawing it deep within the lungs would slow the process, but they didn't change tactics.

At the end of the day, they were tired and more than ready to head back to the hotel. On the way out they ran into a couple of flight crews and Mulder made sure they were dosed before he moved on.

At the hotel, Scully removed her shoes and sank onto her bed. "We're running low. We probably need to head home and make another expedition in a few weeks."

Mulder nodded, not bothering the remove his shoes as he sank down beside her. "But we've got enough for the Van de Kamps. I want to go ahead and get this stuff to them. Will, I'm sorry, you can't go. We can't risk them seeing you."

The boy sighed. "I know."

"You miss them," Scully said quietly, trying to shove down the jealousy that immediately rose with her.

"I do. They love me and I love them. It's different than with you guys, but they are very important to me."

"As they should be," Mulder assured him. "And you will see them someday. In the meantime, I want to keep them safe for you. I'm going to take us home, then I'll head out to see them."

They discussed the merits of driving or flying until Mulder realized Scully had dozed off. He looked down at her with a soft smile on his face.

When he looked up, it was to see Will watching him. "My other parents love each other, but you two are..."


"Yeah," Will grinned at him. "That fits."

Mulder had replenished his supply of the compound and put it in different three-ounce bottles he could carry through the airport. Scully wasn't happy about him going alone, but he refused to put them in further danger. Even Will couldn't be sure someone that knew him wouldn't spot him.

"Make the compound, Scully. I can handle spreading it around."

"I don't want us to be separated."

"Neither do I, but it's necessary for just a little while. I'll check in and I'll be in touch with Skinner." Finally she nodded, and got out of the car to give him a hug. He took the small roll-around from the back of the Highlander as well as his briefcase.

He waited until they pulled away, making sure no one followed before entering the airport.

Once in Salt Lake, he hung around the baggage pick up, making sure that several flights' worth of people breathed in the compound, then rented a car and headed for the FedEx store he'd located. He took one of the bottles of compound, and poured it into a small spray bottle and secured it. He purchased a small box and sent it on its way to Skinner with no note or real return address.

On the road to Reliance, he called Skinner's private number. "Skinner."

"It's me, good line?"

"Yes, is everything okay?"

"Yes, but I need to make this quick. I've sent you a package. Breathe it in deep, then spread it around work. If anyone develops tightness of chest, trouble breathing or seeing, don't offer them a ride home. You should remember the fumes."

"Are you - "

"Can't talk now. It's safe and should boost your immunity to whatever the future holds. I'll be in touch." He broke the connection then. Skinner was probably right, but no need to give anyone too much of a shot at him, at them.

When he was close to his goal, he pulled off the road and changed quickly into jeans and t-shirt, folding the suit into the small suitcase. He had timed things well, and the farmer's market should be shutting down for the afternoon about now.

Will had given him precise directions to the stall his mother usually used, and he headed there immediately. As Will had predicted, Donald was there helping Sarah pack up. Mulder approached and smiled down at the woman.

"Am I too late for any peach butter?"

She looked up at the tall stranger in front of her, and responded to his smile. Donald took a step closer after giving this stranger the once over. Sarah didn't usually smile like that at other men.

"I've got two jars left."

Mulder sighed theatrically and placed his hand over his heart. "The missus would've had my hide if I'd missed out. I'll take 'em both."

Donald seemed to relax slightly at the mention of this man's wife, but Sarah hadn't seemed to notice. She finally dragged her eyes from him, but the two jars were no longer on the makeshift counter.

She looked over at Donald. "Did you pack them already?"

"Oh, yeah." They both turned to the box behind them and Mulder quickly drew the spray bottle from his pocket and gave it a good squirt in their direction.

"Hey, do you have dried lavender? I think I smell it."

They both took a sniff. "I don't smell anything," Donald said.

"No, I think I got a whiff of it," Sarah said, taking another sniff. Donald did the same and Mulder simply smiled. It worked every time. "I don't have any lavender; it must have been one of the booths over there. Sorry, they left a little while ago."

"It's okay. This is really what I want. I'm just glad I got here in time." He turned to leave but she stopped him.

"Do I know you?"

"Me? Uh, I don't think so."

"You remind me of someone, around the eyes. I can't..." Donald took her arm. "Oh, well, I'm glad we had some of the peach butter left. You drive safe."

"I will, and thanks." He headed away from their booth. There were even less people around now. What had she seen? Will's eyes? Scully said the boy was a little clone of him. He hadn't thought about that, but he was away from them now and they had had a good dose.

He returned to the Salt Lake Airport, feeling the need to put distance from the Van de Kamps, and get going on his trip around the country. He'd fly from Salt Lake to Dallas, then on to Atlanta. From there he'd head to St. Louis and finally home. There had been some discussion of when to release the mist on the plane itself. Since Mulder couldn't be sure if an alien was on board, it was decided to wait until the plane was on the ground at its destination. That would give any alien time to get away before he became too incapacitated.

Also, going to the luggage pick up, they wouldn't be headed toward a plane. There was no telling what would happen on a four or five-hour flight.

He wouldn't be back home for a couple of days, which depressed him, but this was necessary and keeping his family out of it as much as possible was essential.

He boarded the plane to Dallas, and opened the paperback he had purchased in the airport. He wasn't in the mood for conversation.

It was a smooth flight, and if the man beside him was jealous of the attention the flight attendant paid him, it certainly wasn't at his instigation.

He carefully sprayed the plane while waiting to exit, then he headed for luggage claim, carefully continuing to leave the compound in his wake. He took a shuttle to the hotel, and was able to dose the twenty people on it as well as those in the lobby. It was just a drop in the bucket so far, but...

He talked briefly, too briefly, to Scully that night. Being apart was no longer acceptable, but he would be home in a day or two.

He was at the airport early the next morning with freshly refilled bottles. He wandered around waiting for his plane, spreading the cure. The flight to Atlanta was relatively short and as soon as he had sprayed down his terminal there, he found a payphone.


"Did you try it?"

"Yes," he said dryly. "If you were trying to kill me you failed."

"What? No one else - "

"No one else had a lot of nanites dormant in their system."

"Shit. Are you okay?"

"Funny you put it that way. I may have lost a couple of pounds and I'm not thinking about the city sewer system, but I seem to be okay now."

"I didn't think. I am sorry."

"Actually you probably did me a bigger favor than you know. So what is this stuff I was breathing?"

"Something my family concocted."

"I assume you want me to spread it around."

"Yes, especially the office and keep an eye on who doesn't show up the next day, or ever."


"Yeah. I'd start with the gentleman that Gibson outted at my trial, if you can find him. Do not be overt about this. We don't want them to know what's happening to them. After that, try tourist spots, crowded ones."

"What about Congress?"

Mulder's smile grew. "You are one smart dude, Walter. Go for it."

"Check in when you can. I'll keep a record."

It felt like a long time before he was home again, but he had hit four major airports, and had Skinner working his area. Nothing felt as good as seeing his family waiting just outside the airport.

Scully couldn't stop herself. She vaulted from the driver's seat and was in his arms, even as his bag was falling to the sidewalk.

"Why, Scully, I'm beginning to think you like me."

"Don't go away again."

"I'm not going anywhere without you. We've gotten things started; now we see what happens."

The news had become fascinating. There were two representatives, one from New Mexico and one from Missouri missing, and a Senator from Ohio had disappeared without a trace, as well as various aides for congressmen from other states. Two high-ranking agents of the FBI were gone as well. There was a mayor or two gone from Kansas and Texas that had made the news. There was no way to know how many other people, those not in positions of power, hadn't made the national news.

Mulder spent a lot of time logging the disappearances and when safe, contacting Skinner. Skinner could tell him of other disappearances, including a Presidential cabinet member, that were not being released to the public. Skinner had made himself very busy around DC, and had been re- supplied twice so far.

Slowly but surely the same kind of reports were beginning to appear in the international news. In the Middle East an entire cell of terrorists had left their hiding place without taking anything, without word to any contacts, just...gone.

There also seemed to be a decrease in the flu this year. Scully was surprised at that, but Will seemed unfazed.

They were curled up in bed, Mulder was snuggling her neck. "You know, we could go back to DC if you want."

"Would Will be safe?"

"I think so. I think he'd be safe, safer than us, no matter where we go. That may not be entirely true anymore. I do think we're safer now than before we got him back, before the two of you saved us all."

"We didn't - "

"Yeah, I think maybe you did. And you've definitely put a dent in the alien population in DC." He felt her shiver and wrapped himself around her a little tighter. "Scully?"

"You believe that?"

"They're gone, Scully. No trace, the FBI can't find them and regardless of your impression of the abilities of the FBI without us, these are high level individuals. They're well known and there aren't any clues."

"I know. It's just, they were in such high power positions. They had made such inroads, they - "

His lips took possession and she relaxed as his body covered hers.

A couple of weeks later at breakfast Will looked up from his eggs. "I think we should move back to Washington, consult for the FBI, maybe buy a house."

Both of his parents looked up in surprise. "A house?" Mulder finally said.

"Yeah, and you two could get married."

"Married," Mulder just looked at him. "I hope you have better luck getting her to say yes than I do."

Scully shot him a look. "We're fine."

"See?" Mulder looked over at Will.

"Yeah, you are, but you might want to do it for us kids."

Mulder caught it a fraction of a second before she did. "Kids?"

"Yeah." Will grinned at him. They both turned to look at Scully.

She sputtered for an instant. "I'm not pregnant."

"Uh, yeah, you are," Will responded.

Mulder had turned back to her, his eyes scanning her body. "Scully."

"No, I'm, I'm too old."

"Obviously not."

"I mean, Mulder, something could be wrong with the...the baby."

He immediately turned back to Will, who concentrated on her for a moment. "No, she's fine."

"S-she?" Scully stammered.

Mulder's smile took up his whole face. "She'll be safe now, right? I mean, we've changed the dynamic."

"We have, and we're still working on it. We may just be more trouble than we're worth." Will grinned watching his parents as they came into each other's arms. 2012 was inevitable, but they had made a dent, a big dent and they still had some time...working together, yeah together.

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