Title: Wish, William
Summary: Postcolonisation Christmas celebrations bring a visitor, request for the truth and the passing on of a wish.
'So let's make the Christmas wish together
"You've heard the story."
Looking out at the black sea that rolled and crashed against the rocks to her left, Dana Scully wrapped weak arms around her slim body but refused to turn as she sensed the stranger's approach across the dusty earth behind her.
The tall figure stopped a few yards away and considered the fact that what she'd said had been a statement, not a question - as if she knew, just by sense, who was standing behind her. But that was impossible...She didn't know him; she didn't know a single thing about him! In all regards of the term, he was a complete stranger - could even be here to kill her, for all she or anybody knew...
And yet she greeted him as if she'd spent the whole twenty-three years of his life watching over him.
Sand particles swept across the barren wasteland. It had been seven years since a blade of grass or tree branch had bent to the wind - the Battle stripping the planet of almost all plant, animal and human life. The way things had been in the Before lay so far back in the dwindling memories of the few that had survived, that it was as if that time had never really existed - nothing more than a fantasy world out of some book.
And to the children born after the aliens' departure, that's all wildlife, blue skies, skyscrapers, a six-billion world populous, safe rain, designer clothes and adults with unscarred skin were: pure fiction.
He remembers - despite everything - as he wipes the sand from his eyes, but knows why people do what they're doing to survive the post-apocalyptic existence... At least, he'd pretended to know and understand, but the stories he'd heard about this woman and her mate had always left him wondering if there was a part about the world's existence - his existence - that hadn't but needed to be told.
That was why he was here: to find those answers, discover the truth, and fill the void that had always resided in his heart. Her almost intimate salutation only confused him further.
"I've heard a lot of stories in the past," he countered, resting both hands against his hips. "I just wanna know what's fiction and what's not. I want the truth."
Scully gave a sarcastic snort of laughter and lowered her head. Truth? Now there was an irony - nine years of working on the X-Files, ten years on the run whilst preparing to rebel against the coming invasion, and then a further eight years fighting the violent battle against the numerous alien forces had only helped her gain a handful of irrefutable truths, so - no matter how important those were - she was still far from being the expert at knowing all the certainties out there.
'The truth is out there, but so are lies.'
Words decades - a lifetime - old echoed in the timeless breeze and the depths of her mind. She still stood by the fact that she didn't regret a single day that had gone by since she'd joined the FBI, but there were a couple of life-altering choices made that could have been done differently, and she didn't want to add another one to that list now by either turning too soon for him to see the piercing blue eyes that matched his own, or saying too little or even saying too much too soon...Of course, Mulder would say she was being silly, searching as always for the most rational explanation, but he wasn't here to deal with this scenario, and - deep in his heart - she knew he would have the same concerns.
"I don't know why," she started in a voice less even than it had been before, "but we didn't think it'd last as long as it did...we thought They'd come and we would either succeed in rebelling against Their onslaught - eradicate the virus completely - or They would kill us outright all within a matter of months...maybe a year or two...But eight?" Eyes snapped shut as her memory was flooded by images of blood, black oil, fire, green toxin, broken vaccine syringes, more blood...the sheer hell they'd gone through until they'd finally won, only to realize that what remained hadn't been worth the casualties or losses of life. "Eight years were stolen from us like the lives of those we loved most, but we won...W-we won, and...a-a-and no matter how much was lost, we need to be thankful t-that we h-have our freedom and that we're s-s-still here...That there are s-s-still--...H-how lucky we are that the most important people - th-those w-w-we cannot survive w-without - are s-still with us. So, every year, on the anniversary of Their departure, I come down here, thank God for what we have, and then make a wish...A wish for regained health - for a future..." Dana's wet eyes lifted to glance at the house to the right, just above where they stood, before she shook her head solemnly and sighed, "One wish per year isn't asking much, so hopefully we'll eventually be answered."
"My parents were killed in the first month. I don't see a reason to celebrate or be thankful about that."
Scully took that as her cue to finally turn around and face the man that she had only ever known as a baby. Somehow, she managed to fix her gaze on him and rein in her swelling emotions, and as she stared at the face that so resembled his father's apart from the blue eyes and rounded jaw, she noticed something pass over his expression--
He wasn't as prepared for this truth as he'd believed he was.
"William..." Choked and low, but she couldn't stop the name passing her quivering lips before a frail hand came up to cover it.
He'd overheard the stories twice when his parents had argued before their deaths, has heard them over a dozen times since - stories of a miracle child with special abilities born to two of the leading forces in the rebellion and given up for adoption - and the main purpose of his visit here today had been to find closure of some sort. But the emotion here was too palpable, and the desire to comfort this woman he'd never met before was so great...This was not how it was supposed to be! His mother - the woman that had loved him, brought him up, kissed his knee better when he'd fallen out of his treehouse, helped him with his homework - had been murdered twelve-years ago...He wanted the truth, but not to forget who his parents had been or replace them...
Just the Truth - nothing more.
...And yet tears were beginning to blur his vision and he wanted to whisper 'mommy' in reply...
"W-what--" Will Van De Kamp faltered and had to cough to clear his throat before continuing, shakily, "What about the story of the unlo--...unloved, u-unwanted 'miracle child'?"
"'Unloved'?" It should have been expected, but despite how overwhelmed she was there was no avoiding the anger working its way into Scully's senses and voice. "'Unwanted'? If--...If only--... Okay, you want a s-story? O-once upon a time there were two FBI agents that fought tooth and nail against conspirators and aliens and other hidden forces every day - being forced to stare Death in the face several times. The female agent was even abducted, experimented on, given Cancer and left unable to have any children...Yadda, yadda, yadda...Against all odds they survive, finally confess their deepest feelings for each other and - even after science failed them - miraculously conceive a child." She paused only momentarily to catch her breath and give the figure that towered over her a sharp raise of her brow. "You."
"The story went through even more twists and heartache and pain before you were even born. But when you did come...My God, you made the suffering worthwhile and the bad memories from the past melt away - a-all there w-w-was was you and all our--...their hopes for a future together forever...You could have lit the whole country with the love radiating from them..." Wounds never truly healed were beginning to open and weep, washing away the composure and fašade of strength she'd been struggling to cling on to for so long. "For forty-eight hours they actually had the chance to experience pure, unadulterated contentment before the outside world broke down my--...her apartment door and tore their world to pieces."
William frowned with confusion but remained silent - waiting with held breath for her to finish. So much of what was being said conflicted with what he'd led himself to believe that he didn't know if he trusted her, but he had to hear more...
"Severe threats were made against the male agent's life and that of his new family, so - for his safety - your mother made the excruciatingly painful decision to send him into hiding...He only agreed to go because he thought it would keep you and her safe...B-but you...you were a mi-miracle and had special powers and I was so scared and lonely, and then They tried to take you away and kill Mulder...All I kept hearing were nonsense prophecies about how you would serve Them if he was dead...a-and they took you and...I got you back, b-b-but then Spender returned deformed and everybody said it was Mulder but I knew it wasn't...and he said that the aliens would do tests and torture you no matter what and I c-couldn't--" Almost breathless, Dana dropped to her knees, sobbing as hard as she could. "I just wanted you to be safe, dammit!" Suddenly the story had shifted from being a distant, third-person account to a very up-close-and-personal recital of events - succeeding in driving the facts home hard with their cold, bone-jarring reality. "I'd t-tried to believe that I-I could protect y-y-you, but w-without Mulder there I felt so lost, and I just wanted the best for you - isn't that w-what any mother should want? For their child to have a future without fear? God, you were never unwanted or unloved - how could we not? I had to forget what I wanted, though, and put you f-first...and the only way to secure your wellbeing was to send you as far away from us a-as possible - where They could never find you."
Wiping at the tears that left dark trails in the sand thinly coating his face, Will took two long steps forward and then lowered to his knees also in front of her. "You're..." Nervous gulp - no way of turning back now. "Y-you're my mother? My...my real mom...?"
"I thought I'd never see you again, but we prayed so hard," came her strained reply as she gave a nod of her head.
There was no point running from the feelings inside anymore. Will would always love and remember the people he'd known as Mom and Dad, but there was a pull - a connection - to this place and her that felt right, so he reached out to wrap his arms around her and soothe his true mother.
...One thing that was bothering him, though, was the whereabouts of his real father or what had happened to him.
"But what about--... Where's dad?"
She instantly stiffened in his arms, and as fear began to work its way into his veins he wished he hadn't asked.
Yet again Scully looked up at the house above them, thinking back to that day five painful years ago.
The sound of distant explosions echoed in the warm night air, and a craft passed overhead - lighting the area for barely a second - but there were no other signs of life until two figures appeared from behind a dumpster and ran across to the large building.
"Mulder, slow down!" Scully whispered sharply, not catching up with him until he'd stopped at the entrance.
Easily unlocking the double doors, he glanced over his shoulder and gave an apologetic shrug of his shoulders, but then disappeared into the darkness before she'd even had chance to catch her breath.
Once inside, she turned on her flashlight and swept its beam back and forth across the wide corridor as she searched for her partner. She knew they had to be quick, quiet - keep moving to avoid detection - but the fact remained that she was far from the young, energetic FBI agent she'd been when they'd first met, and although she worked out everyday, there was no way she could exert herself as much or keep up with him...her body wanted nothing to do with it.
"You can stay behind, Scully...it's only a quick recon mission for the supplies you need," he'd insisted, pulling on his black sweater and jacket earlier as she'd stood in the makeshift shelter's doorway - a perplexed, worried frown creasing her features. "Zip, zap, and I'll be back before you even realize I'm gone!"
"I have no control over what happens when you disappear for security or other reasons, but when you're here I wanna be sure I can watch your back all the time...I can't and won't risk losing you forever."
That had made him actually pause in his preparations to look up, take the necessary strides forward to close the gap between them and then wrap his arms around her. "I keep telling you, nothing's gonna happen to me--"
"Need I really remind you about Landlow last November? If we hadn't located where They'd taken you in time--...There's only so much you can do before a line has to be drawn or you send somebody else - you're almost fifty-eight! Why not send a couple of the younger recruits?"
He'd moved away then, irritated and combing fingers through his gray hair. He held his responsibility to and place with her the most important things above all else, but at the same time there was a planet to save, and as one of the very few immune, strong survivors he could not take that priority lightly - time would not stop the aliens so it could not stop him either, no matter how old he got. "I have a responsibility to those people out there," he'd snapped, turning on her with a finger stabbing the air in the direction of the exit, "and to whoever's left on this damned planet an--"
"And to your wife." An unnecessary low blow in some regards as she knew how steadfast their commitment to each other had and always would be, but essential to bring his wandering mind back into focus.
It had seemed to have worked, until he choked out, "And what about to my son, wherever he is?"
Now, as she walks deeper into the pharmaceutical company's labyrinth of corridors, Mulder's words from earlier this evening come back to echo in her thoughts and rekindle the old, familiar ache in her heart. There'd been rumors of a rebel group somewhere in the mid-west led by a young man with special 'powers' that posed the greatest of threats to the aliens - a man that had been lucky to even be born. Despite the other possibilities, they knew it could only be their son, and they've had several ongoing debates since they'd heard as to if they should try make contact with him - both desperate to regain that most precious thing robbed from them so long ago but nervous and eager to retain his safety - only to decide, for the time being, to let him be.
Without realizing, Dana moved into the lab where the wealth of apparatus, chemicals and other vital paraphernalia they'd come here to ransack was stored - seemingly drawn there by some unseen force. A sweep of the room with the large flashlight revealed no Mulder or hidden threats, so she set to work on collecting some of the stuff they required and then anything extra that would fit in her duffel bag, knowing that Mulder would sooner or later track her down.
Leaving the memory of the argument as her only form of company.
"We have a responsibility to our son, but not to get ourselves killed - not to purposely put ourselves in danger when there are other options! Now, I've said I'll go with you, Mulder, just as I've gone every step of the way with you, but I've got a bad feeling about this and I really wish you'd either leave it for now or send someone else."
It had looked as if his anger might be beginning to wane, but still he insisted, "I spoke with Mark - he said everything'll be fine. I'd love you to come with me, but if you don't wanna, I'm not going to force you."
With a brief glance over her shoulder, she'd quickly taken several steps toward him. "I don't trust that man," she'd ground out, lowering her head slightly to muffle the sound from anybody else that might be trying to listen in on them.
Mark Lawson was a member of their group they'd met eight months ago who purportedly had psychic abilities. There was unverified evidence of his skills, and Mulder had taken that as enough proof - after a blood and physical examination - that the guy would be a dedicated asset to their side of the fight, but Scully was far from convinced. A higher percentage of missions had gone awry in the months he'd been with them than the four year period they'd been in Virginia thusfar, his 'abilities' had born very little fruition (the very rare correct predictions easily construable as the result of pure luck or coincidence by anyone...apart from her partner, it seemed), and she couldn't explain it but there was just something about him that made her feel uneasy.
"I know you don't, but why can't you trust my judgment of what he's saying?"
"Because you've got your heart so set on the idea that maybe he'll develop into the next Gibson Praise, you'll believe anything he says - 'the sky's yellow', 'there's a dense forest outside' and 'the aliens are our friends' will probably be your next nuggets of wisdom! Because you're failing to trust my judgment of the fact that he could be sending you or us into a death-trap!"
"Great scouting, Scout."
Something grabbed her shoulder, and she sharply turned, dropping everything to draw her weapon at lightning speed - confusion at the crossover between memories and reality lingering for just a hair's breath of a second - only to find herself aiming it at Mulder. The coil of tension in her slowly unwound and she lowered the gun to re-holster it. "Jesus!...You scared the living hell out of me! It's stupid, needless moves like that that I keep talking about - I could have shot you."
"It wouldn't exactly be the first time," Mulder teased, sliding the hand from her shoulder down to twine their fingers together. "I just checked - everything looks clear. Come on, can't we put this behind us? I don't want this to--"
She turned away to dismiss him and gathered up the bag and remaining items. "I just want to get out of here and back to camp ASAP."
"Scully..." His hand shot out and fingers firmly closed around her forearm, just below the large two-year-old burn scar, before she could leave the room. "Scully, I told you it's okay here! Please, talk to me."
She looked up, eyes and features softening. So much of their time together - especially since becoming fugitives - had relied upon his hunches and judgment that her complete dismissals of what he believed to be true and lack of trust in this case were knocking them miles off-centre, and she didn't like it. There could be no avoiding the uneasy gut feeling she had, but for now it seemed they were safe, and he couldn't be blamed for either wanting to scavenge out the provisions she'd been complaining about the dwindling number of not a day ago, or daring to trust somebody who was supposed to be on their side in this topsy-turvy world.
"We're okay," she finally whispered with a sigh, stepping into him and momentarily resting her head against his chest - their hands once again joining so that she could give his a tender, reassuring squeeze. "And if we're not, we will be. You know I don't doubt you or your instinct, but...but I just wish you would understand that you can't expect me to ignore what I feel either."
Mulder gave a slow nod of his head in acknowledgement. "I do, and I'm sorry. I--"
"Not now," Scully quickly cut in before he could say too much more, giving his hand another squeeze. "When we get back. We've got what we came here for, so let's go--"
It was her turn to be silenced, but not because of her partner.
There was movement in the doorway.
Puzzled by the truncated sentence and growing panic on her face, he turned...
...to see the Alien Bounty Hunter staring back at them.
"Mulder," It boomed - Its face totally emotionless but emitting wave upon wave of sadistic, zealous joy. "And your mate. We heard you were alive and assuming new identities, but we didn't dare to believe it. It seems the time has finally come, though - we've waited a long time for this."
Instinctively, Mulder withdrew the retractable stiletto from his coat pocket whilst Scully reached for her gun yet again, even though she knew it would be useless against the alien.
"Puny items wielded by puny beings. Why do you try to fight? There's no hope - there never was, and you know it," It continued, gesturing toward Scully. "You only tell him every day that there is to make you feel better for not believing it yourself. How pathetic. In what way does that make you worthy of life?" It paused and took several steps forward. "And you" - now waving a dismissive hand in Mulder's direction - "should have died years ago. In fact, you haven't been human since we took you, so why do you pretend to be?"
Neither of the ex-FBI agents responded, knowing full well the tactics being used to try despair and disarm them. An 'attack and escape' plan seemed impossible in this small, single-exit room against the strong, mind-reading alien, but they'd fought these things before (the scars marring their skin and minds a testament to that fact) and were not about to give up now. Nodding to his partner - the woman that had agreed to become his wife thirteen years ago - Mulder flipped the stiletto to her in a practiced move and then lunged at the hunter. Scully was about to run around behind the being and use the weapon on the back of its neck, but before she could there was the smashing of glass to her right, a sharp, unbearable pain ripping through her leg, and the next thing she knew she was lying on the cold floor staring up at the Gray that had burst in and was approaching--
"Mul-der!" She tried to move - to get up and protect him - except the second her leg moved the tiniest amount the pain increased to an excruciating level, leaving her virtually paralyzed. The only thing she could do was watch in horror as he turned at the sound of her pain-filled scream in time for the Gray's claw to slice open his chest in one swoop and the Hunter's unyielding, forceful fist to crash down against his skull.
Present Day - December 24th, 2024
Her voice filtering through the air came to a stop, and he wondered if he'd fallen asleep for an instant and missed something. It was a common, unavoidable occurrence, but on this special occasion that he could not bear witness to he'd hoped to learn what had happened next. Of course, she's told him a thousand times since, but his mind is very selective about the few pieces of information it chooses to retain - memories as jumbled as his frustratingly out-of-sequence speech - and that is one thing it lets slip into oblivion like grains of sand almost immediately. He has many injuries, but the blow to his head and resulting brain damage is the only thing he truly regrets.
That, and the bed sores.
Fox Mulder shifted as best he could to relieve the irritation of the rashes on his back caused by both his many injuries and constant location on the old mattress. Scully tried to help him down into the living room or even just to the chair in the corner not five feet away by the window, but the discomfort/pain caused by movement made him an even more awkward nuisance of a patient, and as the years passed it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to move his taller bulk - the staircase becoming a nightmarish hurdle even when she took it on alone... All the more reason for him to puzzle over why she still stuck with him - he couldn't walk, the house was still standing but barely, electricity hadn't been restored to their corner of the state yet, and the image of the black, tumultuous sea that had once been the same blue as her eyes (a fact his mind chose to remember only when he stared at her) surely couldn't help her relax or find peace? Doggett and Reyes had survived and lived in DC where electricity did exist...maybe she could go stay with them, leave her gun behind, and he could just shoot his brains out and end it all...
God, he'd thought he was a lucky son of a bitch before, but now he was really pressing his luck and for once it was probably time to stop questioning it.
What he wouldn't give to see his son again right now, though. His brain may not remember much - even, occasionally, Scully's first name - but he does remember a forty-eight hour period twenty-three years ago when he'd held the tiny, beautiful baby boy in his arms, sung to him, fed him, been a father to him and a family with Scully. Walking away from them had been the hardest thing ever, but he's been fortunate to regain Scully...if he could just see his son one more time--...
There was movement outside the bedroom door and he turned his head to look in that direction.
"J-just...give me a second, okay?" the muffled familiar voice of his partner stammered. More rustling around from the hallway followed, and then the door slowly opened. "Mulder, are you awake?"
"Mm." He watched as she entered, closed the door after her and then limped toward the side of the bed - a small, bony hand outstretching to tenderly stroke across his forehead. "You been again beach?"
"I won't stop wishing, and you know it. No matter what They say, there is Hope," Scully sighed, moving the hand down to cup his cheek. She's become accustomed to the muddle of words his brain refuses to re-order, but she hates seeing the contorting expression of aggravation, anger and concentration as he struggles to rephrase what doesn't sound right. It had been a miracle that the lacerations across his back, chest and thigh had healed themselves enough to cease the bleeding and almost eliminate the chance of infection by a matter of hours after the attack (a lingering after-effect from his abduction, she supposed), but the complete lack of medical supplies or hospitals anywhere, let alone in Freesol or the whole state of Washington, has meant he cannot have the care he really needs, and with the wound on her leg that frequently opens and becomes infected despite efforts to stitch, wrap and clean it-- ...They have their lives and freedom, but she wonders if they really did win the Battle or even how much more time they'll be gifted with before it catches them up. "Besides, there are so many things to worry about, it's nice to take a break and think things over for a few minutes."
"Wish you should for else something...Wi--...You should--"
"Like what? A bigger bed for you to lay on? Television? Seagulls? Hair dye?" She sat down on the edge of the bed and clasped one of his hands in her free one.
"Something..." A pause as his face scrunched up in consideration yet again, and then, "Something for you."
Scully frowned and shook her head in confusion before it finally dawned. Every December 24th for the past four years she'd looked up at the sky and used her Christmas wish to simply ask for his improvement in health - no matter how little - but he thought she was wasting it on him...believed that there was something much more important for her to request from whatever higher power.
"There's only one thing I want, though," she sighed, feeling the tears begin to well again; the emotion clogging her throat, "and I've got it, but now I want you to be better."
"You...just...want..." Deep breath. "...me to dirty in talk to you order--...in order." In case she hadn't understood the mixed innuendo, he smirked and waggled his eyebrows. But, of course, she'd known exactly what he'd said, and as she lightly, playfully swatted at his arm, there was no holding back her laugh - a very rare visitor since they'd returned here.
Only a day or so after the incident at the pharmaceutical building, she'd packed up some food into their car and, despite how dangerous it had been to either transport him or drive with a unbearably painful, useless leg. had driven them back across country to their home by the sea in Freesol. She didn't dare think it, but (if she'd been honest with herself) she'd brought them back to die.
Five years have passed and they're still clinging to life, but she doesn't regret the decision at all, and even Mulder is thankful for it.
"Maybe," she teased, a little wistfully.
There was a moment of companionable silence as they stared at each other and thought back to days of flirting, joking, making love, theorizing, running and fighting. It's moments like this that remind them some of those days are gone, but not necessarily forever, and that they still have a lot together - a lot to live for.
Which reminded her...
"Mulder, I don't know how or why, but we have a very special visito--"
"He came...back...to us. Will - m--...our...miracle."
Before Dana could reply, there was a quiet rap at the door and then it slowly opened to allow William entrance. Both parents looked up at him and snatched in a breath - Scully still finding it difficult to believe that the man standing in front of them was the boy she'd had to give away and live without for twenty-two years; Mulder proud of what his son had grown up to become as well as overjoyed (moved to tears, even) to finally be able to see him.
William approached the end of the bed, but suddenly paused mid-step and tilted his head to the side a fraction. "What's wrong with my nose?"
Scully's brow sharply raised and eyes widened as she stared at her son and then snapped her head round to glance at her partner, only to see the increasing panic on his face. "Mulder?" His hold on her hand tightened and she quickly moved to feel his forehead with the back of her other hand. "Mulder, what is it? Mulder, you have to tell me what's wrong!" When the only response given was the rapid, frantic shake of his head and tightening grip, Scully abruptly turned her attention back to their son. "What did you do? What's happening?"
"I..." Will took a step back, fear coursing through him. "I didn't do anything!" he insisted. "I just wanted to see you...Wh-what...?" He looked away and stared at his father, who was staring back at him and still shaking his head. "He...He can hear my thoughts? C-can hear your thoughts?" Turning back to Scully. "What does he mean 'it's happening again'?"
"You can read minds." It was more of an accusation than a question, and if she hadn't been so worried about her partner's health, William sensed she would have been puzzled and ashamed by it.
That wasn't important right now, though, and unsure of what else to do, he backed out of the room - running down the staircase and dropping, exhausted, onto the couch in the lounge - their distant voices filtering through the floorboards as he stared at the unlit fireplace. He didn't know exactly what he'd expected when he'd decided to come here, but her story, her thoughts, his father's thoughts and now fit had never been in any kind of consideration.
Mulder's body slumped back against the pillows the instant his son left the room. He shook his head and stared up at Scully - that was their son, but why had the dissonance and voices returned? The thoughts...
"Mul-der? My God, what happened?"
"A-art---...artifact," he eventually managed to choke out, never breaking eye-contact and silently pleading her to find the offending object they'd believed would never have the sane hold over him again after he'd been returned from his abduction. "Hurt head...like before.."
"Holy shit!" Scully let him go - shuddering at the cold air that stabbed at her palms as soon as his skin left her grasp - and then quickly went to the first floor. She may not be a redhead anymore, but her protective streak and temper were definitely flaring.
Except, when William looked up at her with puppy-dog eyes that matched his father's, despite the coloring, she felt the anger quickly seep away from every part of her body. Suddenly she felt like she was holding that baby in her arms again and staring down at him as he sucked on his fist, completely unaware of how much he was loved or how big a part he had in his parents' universe.
"You know about my 'abilities'," he whispered. "You know I wouldn't hurt him..."
Eyes slipping shut, Dana gave an acknowledging nod of her head and brief smile. "You weren't supposed to have them anymore, but that's something to think about another time. I need to ask--"
"Yes - it's a piece of an alien craft I found in Africa many years ago...A rubbing from its surface had the same effect on your dad as what you just witnessed."
"But I don't--" He faltered and frowned as an image of the item in question came into focus in her mind. "That's not a piece of an alien spaceship! It's just a scrap of metal with Native American script on it!"
"Believe me, it's so much more than that. For the full story, feel free to dive around in my mind, but beware of the cobwebs if you do." She chuckled, but fell deafly silent as she saw him reach into his coat pocket and pull out a familiar clump of gray metal. "You have it with you? But why? How did you get it?"
"Mama found it at the bottom of the bag they gave her with me. She wanted to throw it away, but Dad - my adoptive dad, that is - believed maybe it was there for a reason, to protect me or something, so he put it on my dresser and I was allowed to keep it."
The day she gave him up for adoption has always haunted her - memories (used to help her remember as well as punish her for making the life-shattering choice) of dressing him in the UFO outfit Mulder had bought and packing the small rucksack with a selection of his clothes and favorite toys...and the artifact that she had miraculously, inexplicably come across not long after it had been taken away from Comer at St Mary's Hospital. She hadn't known completely why she'd packed it for him, but it had felt right, as if it was the best thing to keep them connected in lieu of a photograph.
"I've always carried it around with me - as much of a ritual as your trip down to the beach every Christmas," Will finished, placing the item down on the table in front of him. "If I'd known it would do that--"
"It's--...It's okay, don't worry. As long as he's not in the same room as it, he should be okay."
William nodded and stood, glancing back at her before making his way back up to the bedroom again.
Scully watched after him, snatched up a worn cushion from the couch to place on top of the artifact, and then followed.
"Kiddo!" Mulder smiled, reaching out a hand to grab and shake Will's. "Sorry old man's your up screwed."
"The impact to his head fractured his skull and caused a brain bleed, as well as some neural damage - his head just didn't like being hit that hard," Scully cut in to explain, moving around to the opposite side of the bed and sitting down on the mattress so that her back rested against the wall and legs spread out alongside the covered ones of her husband. "He still has about ninety-percent use of his motor reflexes, but his brain has difficulty processing certain information, and when he tries to say something the signal between his brain and mouth becomes jumbled--" She was cut short by William's sudden outburst of laughter. This wasn't a joking matter, and she was about to chide him when he quickly assured,
"It's okay - I'm not laughing because of that. But Dad just said 'in less boring, straight-to-the-point terms: I'm screwed up'."
There had been an intention to swat at her partners arm, but when she turned and saw the tears beginning to brim in his eyes, Scully changed her mind.
'Dad'? He was a dad! He'd always been a father, even in absentia, but his son had been too young to say 'da' - let alone 'daddy' - when he'd gone into hiding...and now there was this twenty-three year old man standing beside him calling him 'Dad'. He'd thought they'd left the X-Files behind years ago, but this was definitely a case-worthy situation, if not just for the warm and wonderful feelings it awakened within him.
Will smiled in acknowledgement of that thought, hoping they would mistake it as a result of the chuckle. He really felt as if he'd come home - felt, beyond reason, like their son as if he'd never known anything different. It brought a pang to his heart to think that his adoptive parents may fade to nothing more than a distant memory, but he just couldn't deny this or them.
"Snitch," Mulder pouted once he'd regained his composure.
"What I don't understand, though," Dana started, confused, "is if you can read minds, why didn't you know that I'm really your mother? Why couldn't you hear how much it was never about us not wanting or loving you? Why not hear the story in my mind instead of making me verbally recount it?" The pain retelling what they'd been through had unearthed was too much to cope with, so she felt fully justified asking these questions and letting her aggravation rise.
"I can only hear thoughts at the front of your brain," William explained, gently. "I can't hear everything that goes on in your mind - just bits here and there - I know you're worried and wish you could get him to a hospital for some proper treatment," he directed at her before nod his head in Mulder's direction, "and I know you--...You have a dirty mind!"
"It's...been said," came his father's leer. "Your mother's...fault."
"I know you both wish for the same things for each other and that there is stuff you both still feel scared to say. But I can't hear the things that you try to hide deep down inside. I can't understand or read what you're exactly feeling."
"But you can understand what Mulder is thinking and trying to say? Even long sentences?" Scully, her brow furrowing slightly, queried.
"As you said, 'when he tries to say something the signal between his brain and mouth becomes jumbled'. He knows what he wants to say, but something becomes lost and mixed before he can vocalize it." He paused and looked at his dad for a moment. "He says I should tell you that he doesn't want to go to a hospital - that he's happy here with you - and he wants you to stop worrying. He wishes you had more of a life. He can't live without you, but he thinks maybe you should go back to DC and start over...'It was my fault in the first place that I got injured - I don't ever want her to suffer, especially because of my bull-headed ignorance.' He wants me to tell you that you were right, and he's sorry he never apologized properly for that." Another pause to check he'd said it all right, and Mulder nodded - his eyes closing. "And--" William's eyebrows nearly reached his hairline as he shook his head frantically. "No, don't say that!"
Not privy to what her son was hearing, Scully could only listen to his side of the conversation and immediately became worried at his last exclamation. "What? What did he say?" Her hands quickly moved to clasp Mulder's arm. Please not goodbye. Oh, God, not now!
"No. I-it's not something he wants to say to you," the younger man assured, shooting a glance at her before turning back, "but..." This wasn't right...He'd come here maybe looking for an apology from two people that had just thrown him away like a piece of trash when he'd been only a baby, doubtful that it would actually help him find any kind of closure. But now he'd come to realize that what he'd believed had been a million miles from the truth, and his incapacitated father was lying there in front of him apologizing for failing him...
Had Fox Mulder really failed his family by putting what he wanted aside and going into hiding at his partner's behest to keep them safe? Had he failed his son by fighting for a future for him to live in?
And did Dana Scully have to apologize for putting her baby son's safety and happiness above everything she wanted by sending him away?
This wasn't right.
"You both did what had to be done at the time choices were demanded from you," he continued, staring at them both. "And neither of you have failed me - in fact, you gave me the chance to have a safe, full childhood. I should be thanking you." That caused a slight grimace due its corniness, but it had been the only thing to come to mind. "Well, I hope you know what I mean."
Scully looked from her son to Mulder, then slid off the bed and moved around it to rest a hand on Will's shoulder. "William, sweetie, can I just have a quick word with your father in private?"
"Sure thing. All this excitement on top of a long journey is a little draining," he shrugged, moving to the exit. "I could probably do with a little time-out to take this all in myself." With that, he left the room.
Both agents listened to the fading footfalls on the stairs, neither saying anything or daring to think too much until they heard the living room door click shut.
"He's...got...f-family," Mulder croaked as she turned back to face him. "Wife...son...way the baby on..."
"I would have said the same, but not specifics. How do you know?"
"You read his mind when he had the artifact?"
"That...too." He flashed her one of his goofy grins, but it faded as he considered what needed to be asked. "Scully, what ne--...happened...next?"
Now she was completely baffled. "Huh?"
"After...Gray appeared...We did how escape?"
"I've told you a million times, Mulder, but your mind lets it slip. Is it really important now?"
There was nothing she could do but lay and watch as her partner was beat and mauled. She screamed, tried throwing objects at his attackers...anything to take Their attention away from him long enough so that he could try escape. But it was all in vain.
"Your time will come soon," the Bounty Hunter informed, staring at her for several seconds that seemed to stretch into hours as They continued to mutilate Mulder. "We'll make sure he's conscious enough to see your demise."
Regarding the limp, bloody torso at Their feet, she'd be lucky if he was even alive now.
The loudest scream exploded from her lungs, though, when she saw the recognizable black, viscous oil dripping onto the floor to form a shifting puddle at the Gray's feet, not ten inches from Mulder's cataleptic, slack face.
Suddenly several shaking flashlight beams bounced around the room, a number of calling voices echoed down the corridor, and then - without warning - the Hunter dropped to the floor, dissolving into a pool of green goo.
"Paula? Paula, can you hear me?"
She continued to stare at Mulder, too busy praying for him to move to answer the concerned voice calling her fake name, which was quickly washed out by an ear-piercing, shrill cry from the Gray.
"Somebody help me get him out of here!"
"Jesus H. Christ! He had them fucking trapped!"
"Paula's got a slice of glass deep in her leg - we're gonna need something to lay her on and a splint or whatever to keep it steady until we get her back to camp!"
"I'm on it!"
"Somebody deal with that oil."
"Is it possible for someone to lose that much blood?"
The voices mixed together to form a deafening cacophony that didn't fade until she finally, mercifully passed out.
"They'd overheard Lawson promising that the trap for us had been set over his radio, and immediately came to our aid. Mark was...'dealt with' - I don't know how and I've never cared to as long as the threat was disposed of," Scully surmised. "I didn't regain consciousness until the next morning. You were still in and out of it when I decided it was time to come home. But that's pretty much all there is to tell...Have you forgotten it yet?" Uneasy pause. "Sorry...It was supposed to be a joke..."
"Have I ide--...Have idea," he started, giving an understanding smile. "A gift...for Will - with bear me... We've our had wishes all answered: we're...alive, together, and know safe we our is son and hap--...Will's happy. There's no...need...for keep us to wishing, but...maybe there's...a stuff lot of Will wants...for hope to and wish - maybe as he'll lucky be...as we've been...if...not moreso."
.Dana felt her heart swell at the idea of what he was suggesting, even though it also made her feel apprehensive about the resulting loss. "You think I should give up my Christmas wish and give it to Will?" she verified, subconsciously stroking her fingers back and forth across the back of his hand. "We've been through a lot...I just thought--...Is it even possible to give something like that? I know it sounds stupid, but it's become a kind of ritual, and I'd hoped that..."
She gave a slow nod and then lowered her head so that he couldn't see the tears or embarrassment. For the woman who had once put so much faith in science, medicine, rational explanations and order to be fighting aliens, regarding psychic and telekinetic (among other things) phenomena as everyday occurrences, and now happily putting her hopes and dreams into such a fanciful thing like a Christmas wish was the most bizarre but true concept to both of them.
"But I...am - alive everything I'm despite--...I'm alive. As long as...I...have...you...that's...all that...matters..."
"It's not the best gift--"
"TVs...and hi-fis not...selling...well lately. Low...production..." he kidded, fractionally lifting his shoulders in a shrug.
"You know what I mean."
"If going not you're to for use it yourself, wasting stop it give and it someone to deserves who it. S-something...he can...pass on..."
"You've really thought this through, haven't you?"
"I'm...verbally ch-challenged...not...stupid." Mulder smiled and turned his hand over so that he could return the touch.
The decision was silently agreed between them as they stared into the depths of each's eyes and leaned into each other's touch. Scully slowly, uneasily made her way to exit the room, but was stopped by her partner's shaky voice as she reached out to grasp the door handle.
"Wait...Let try--...me try...something," he coughed. "Save you...stairs."
She glanced back over her shoulder at him and watched as his eyes closed and brow furrowed. He didn't open them again for a minute, a few seconds after which there was a knock at the door.
It'll save a lot of time if I explain things to you this way, Mulder telepathically told William once the younger man re-entered the bedroom. I heard you and your mom talking on the beach...I know you know about why she goes out there every year to pray and make a wish - just as Thanksgiving Day was a celebration of the pilgrims' plight. I don't think she's been using it well by only using it to ask for my return of health, and I guess to others - maybe even you - it sounds stupid, but I totally believe what she is doing is right and worthy...and that's why we want to pass that ritual on to you, so that any answered wishes will bring all you hope for your way. I'm not saying you have to come back to the beach every year, although we'd love you to come back regularly, even with your family, but wherever you are...I don't know, I can't really explain it...it's just something that we want you to have.
Scully watched as Mulder stared unwaveringly at their grown son and William's expression constantly changed in reaction to what he was being told. She felt a pang of jealousy at not being able to hear what her partner was 'saying', but Mulder needed this. She'd been able to have a full conversation with Will, but Mulder's speech impediment made it exhausting and frustrating for him to get a whole sentence out within ten minutes; at least this way he could express himself properly.
"But you need it," William countered, glancing at her with a frown.
What we need - all we've ever needed - is for you to be happy and safe. I'll never be able to express how much I missed you or the torturous hell walking out on you and your mom was for me, but here I am with the chance to maybe stop you from ever having to experience that yourself... If we could give you the world, we would - you were the reason we kept fighting - but for now, please take this.
"Wish, William," Dana sniffed, somehow sensing it was the perfect time to cut in. "Dreams are all there are left for us to cling to now, and things can only get better from here on, so embrace them."
William looked over at the window and out at the tumultuous sea - the black clouds on the horizon marking the approach of the long, dark, blistering cold winter. He had some worry, of course, for the survival of his pregnant wife and three-year-old son, but they were all healthy and used to getting through the five-month period of non-stop snowstorms and endless night. It didn't need a mind-reader, however, to see that both Mulder and Scully were weakening and that it may take a miracle to help them get through the season this time. "Maybe there's hope..." he sighed under his breath.
Both Scully and Mulder sharply looked up and felt a shudder run through them at the memory of the words spoken so many years ago as they lay together in a dingy motel room and clear rain beat against the windows... Words that had closed the door on their old lives and begun a new, more dangerous but cherished one.
"I need to start making my way home before it gets too dark to see the way," Will suddenly remarked, turning and outstretching his arms to hug Scully - catching her completely off-guard. "Can...Can I come back in a couple days?"
Okay, now she was completely off-guard.
"Of course!" she cried with delight, pressing her face into the warmth of his chest. "Our home is your home. You can come back tomorrow with your family if you want."
"No, I...uh...It's not wise for Joy to make the trip, and...and I need some time to process all this properly - everything's so surreal and all my beliefs I've held true for so long have been blown to pieces...I--"
"It's...okay," Mulder assured, using all the energy he could muster to sit upright on the mattress. "We...understand."
The younger man quickly moved to embrace and support his father. "I promise I'll be back, so please don't give up yet."
Mulder clamped his eyes shut to hold back the tears. Saying goodbye to his son yet again was bad enough, but to keep hearing words from so long ago was beginning to tear him apart.
"I promise I'll be back, so please don't give up yet, and definitely refrain from growing too quickly." Wet hazel eyes stared down at the sparkling sapphires that regarded him intently. He gladly accepted when a small fist reached up toward him, and encased it in one of his much larger hands. "Soon, buddy. Soon we'll be a family again and then nobody will be able to keep us apart - the world will be ours. I love you and Mommy so much, I'll do whatever it takes to protect the two of you, and that's the only reason I'm going, so don't ever think it's because I never wanted you or loved either of you." Unable to resist the need to hold the tiny bundle one last time, Mulder reached over the crib further and carefully scooped his newborn son up into the cradle of his arms. William immediately reached to swat at his father's nose, whilst the other hand continued to tightly hold on to Mulder's index finger. "You're gonna play for the Yankees one day, kiddo, you wait. You'll be MVP every year of your career, and the ladies will swoon as they chant your name. And even if you don't take up baseball or anything like that, no matter what you do you'll always make your parents so proud...and we'll always be there, t-t-together, to watch o-out for you..."
"No one can live on dreams," Scully's voice suddenly croaked from the bedroom doorway. "They only delude and leave you bereft, alone."
He knew what she was getting at, and in this situation all hopes and dreams for a future together had been stolen from them yet again. But he wasn't ready to stop believing that there really could be a time when they'd be a normal, happy family.
Nor would he disallow his son the chance to dream the impossible dreams.
"They cost nothing, and in the end, do they really hurt?" he remarked, holding William against his chest and gently swaying to and fro.
"It hurts like hell right now."
"Never give up on a miracle and you'll be blessed, seek and ye shall find, believe and almost anything can happen. We need to fight this, Scully, but I can't do it if you're saying all my dreams for us are a waste of time."
"I wish it were that simp--"
"Then please say the words and we can--"
Scully quickly shook and lowered her head as she took a few steps towards him. She'd tried to keep this goodbye as uncomplicated as possible for the sake of his sanity as well as her own, yet it looked doubtful the tears or frustration would remain dormant until he'd gone. "You know if I could I would."
"Then let me have this memory" - he kissed the top of Will's head and then bent to cover her lips with his own for seconds that just didn't last long enough - "and build upon it with the wish...the hope...that I'll be able to do that again very, very soon and forever after."
'Soon'... The word held so much tantalizing promise, how could she ignore it?
"Soon," she uttered, smiling, and making her own silent wish for that same thing.
Scully was standing by the window when he snapped awake. Not knowing he'd only dozed off for no more than ten minutes, he began to panic - scared of what he may have missed or (God forbid) imagined.
"He's standing out there on the beach," she whispered, as if saying the words too loudly would shatter the vision she was beholding. "Do you think...Do you think he will come back?"
Mulder rolled to her side of the bed, and she turned away from the window to help him up.
"Least we at know alive were he's and him able see to again," he sighed, resting an arm around her shoulders but trying not to weigh her down too much as she struggled to get him in a standing position. "Than better seeing much not all him at ." He growled with undying frustration at his nonsensical sentences, but it turned into a grimace as his partner begun leading him the few painful steps forward to the glass portal.
Eventually, they were side-by-side, staring down at the lone finger on the beach - their son, who they'd believed would be lost to them forever. They were rare and difficult to notice, but it was small, miraculous blessings like this that begged the question: is there somebody looking out for us?
Keeping her arm securely around Mulder's waist, Scully lifted her free hand and rested the palm against the cold pane - obscuring Will from view as if she could keep him in her grasp forever.. After a beat, Mulder slowly lifted one of his own hands and laid it over hers.
William stood alone and looked down at the metallic object in his hand for long moments before turning his attention to the horizon as words and thoughts and feelings swam around in his brain. He knew what he wanted to wish for - above replenishment of the planet, or even how things had been in the Before time - but even something like this had to be rationalized so that it wasn't wasted.
How could two words haunt him so much? A tiny part of him wished he'd never come here and complicated things, and yet the rest of him, just by listening to them, sensing what they shared together, hearing the story of what they'd really been through, made him feel...different, changed - more mature, wiser, aware and understanding of what was going on around him, and grateful for the life that he had. He'd never be able to pinpoint the exact moment the shift in his being had occurred, or if it had been there inside him the whole time waiting for this reconnection with the two people that would give - had, in fact, given - their lives for him.
What he did know was what needed to be done now.
Just as his mother came here to thank God for giving them the strength to see the good fight through to its end, he needed to give his own thanks for the completely unselfish choices and sacrifices that had been made to ensure the preservation of his existence.
He glanced up at the house, just able to see the palm pressed firmly against the window of the bedroom upstairs, before staring back out at the waves. "I wish," he whispered, tightening his hold on the artifact, "more than anything, that the pain can end for them - that they can finally find some kind of peace. They've suffered enough...Give them what they want, what they deserve."
Nothing left to say or do, he slowly walked away for what he believed may be the last - if not second-to-last - time.
She stood alone, the first few snowflakes of the impending winter blowing around her and cold teardrops slipping down her pale cheeks. These moments of loneliness were far from rare, but today was different...
Today she'd woken up, but Mulder hadn't despite her prods and incessant calls of his name. She'd tried to feel for his pulse, but her heart had been thumping so fast in the confines of her chest as heightening terror refused to release her from its grip that two fingers against his neck and wrists had only returned her own frantic beat. The tiny wisp of breath against her skin had been fractionally reassuring, yet still there'd been no response from his unmoving form.
The outside of his wounds had healed over, but how much internal damage had been done? Had his brain finally given up?
Had yesterday's exertions been enough to push and rush his body to the end of its journey?
Dana sharply shook her head in dismissal of the thoughts that had been running through her head for the past forty-two minutes. There were a thousand different explanations for her partner's non-response apart from the one she feared the most, and today had to be a good day (it really had to be) for Christmas and because they now knew their 'lost' miracle was as safe as they'd always wished for him to be...She just prayed she knew which of those diagnosis's needed to be rectified.
Reaching up for the tiny cross that still hung around her neck, she begun to recite the Lord's Prayer.
She jumped as an arm encircled her waist and the voice rasped against her ear - the warm breath in complete contrast to the wind's dropping temperature. That low tone had sounded so familiar...but it couldn't be - this morning's catatonic state aside, there was no way he could have made it all the way down to the beach with her supporting his frame, let alone by himself! What she wouldn't give for it to be him, but it couldn't be...it just couldn't--
Quickly, she pulled away and turned to see Mulder - against all odds - slightly hunched but standing there nevertheless.
"How d--...Mulder!" Arms sharply wrapped around him and pulled him close to both hug and support, before she lowered them both to sit on the sand. The 'hows' were not important, but the fact that he was alive was. "Are you...okay?" She couldn't stop touching him - whilst one hand stroked up and down his forearm the other smoothed over the lines wrinkling his brow and then combed through his hair. "I got so scared earlier when you didn't wake up."
"Feelin'...different..." He was still hesitating to consider his words, and his breaths were coming so fast that it sounded as if he had just run a marathon, but there was a lot more surety, order and comprehensible pronunciation to his sentences. "Ache, but not...incapacitating... Can't...explain." Mulder paused and, with the tiniest grimace, reached up to cup her cheek in his palm. "Your wish...came...true... Why do you...put...up with...me?"
Scully shook her head and only broke their eye-contact for a second to glance out at the sea. "I didn't make my wish yesterday - William arrived when I was still thanking God for watching over us and giving me you...Maybe He fell behind with all the wishes from others sent His way." It didn't make sense, but then little in their lives ever had, so there was no point asking questions now - especially out in the cold as the falling snow begun to thicken. "Come on, let's get you back inside..."
"Maybe...it...was...somebody else," Mulder cut in before she could stand again. "Maybe William--"
"No." It was hazy, but she could still remember the mobile over Will's crib spinning, the artifact hovering above his head... Anything was possible, and it was likely that what she knew Mulder had been about to suggest would turn out to be true, but she refused to hear or consider it for the simple reason that if that conclusion was reached a floodgate of possibilities and dangerous ideas would be opened. "It was just...just our time to get a lucky break..."
"A Christmas...miracle?" He smiled, reassuring her that he knew what she was doing and why because whatever she feared he feared too. As she returned the smile and helped him back to his feet, he sighed, "'bout time. Scully?"
"Merry Christmas to you too." Her arm tightened around him as they made their way back up the trail to their home. "A very merry one."
"What happened...a-again? Tell me...all...the story..."
"Okay...I guess it was all my fault in a way - I'd been moaning about the lack of supplies..."
The front door clicked shut as the dusty earth was completely blanketed by white. They had the scars, the memories, the nightmares, the pain to show what they'd been through, as well as Freedom, Hope and Survival as their medals, but as they sat down in front of the lit fireplace, wrapped tightly in each other's embrace, and talked of Tooms, El Chupacabra, fat suckers, a shape-shifting loner, genies, OPC hearings...even hospital vigils...it could easily have been nineteen-ninety-something again - they, young, truthseeking FBI agents.
It was exactly how they'd wanted to see out their days together, and they looked forward to meeting their son again as well as his wife and children before that end came.
It was their own wish come true on the holiest of days on an unholy, forgotten planet.
To put it simply: it was perfect.
'Good luck! I wish you well,