Before They Came
They Came
I. II.
Title: Misbegotten Sons
Author: Neoxphile
Feedback: Please?
Spoilers: Seasons five, eight, and nine; IWTB
Category: invasion/post-col, challenge fic for the Green Goo Fetus challenge
chapter two posted 08/08/2011

Summary: "They contacted us not long after the colonization began. And when they did, I realized that though they were my flesh and blood, they were not my sons. They were no one's sons." - Scully

Author's note: So...the first incarnation of this story arose in 2005, and I didn't get very far before deciding that the story simply didn't work. I tried revising it in 2007, but still didn't like it and I got discouraged by how out-of-canon it'd be considering the new movie was coming out soon (in the earlier versions the "before" section took place in 2004). Hopefully the third time's the charm. I think this particular story is going to require a lot of cheerleading, so let me know if you think it's worth continuing.

December 15th, 2008

It was warm and dry inside, but outside the sky was a leaden gray that made Mulder glad that the stray cat Scully had been feeding had recently been adopted by a neighbor. Otherwise he could easily imagine spending part of the night outdoors, calling for the shy beast to come, please come kitty, before it froze to death.

Her devotion to the little beast - leaving food for it every night and painstakingly attempting to tame it - had him contemplating the presence of a fluffy kitten under the tree come Christmas day. In the end he decided again it. There were endless pleas from animal shelters asking people not to surprise people with pets for Christmas. And knowing her, she'd want to pick it out on her own. Besides, if he surprised her with a kitten, he'd miss an entertaining mock-argument with her when he suggested a purebred.

No, he wouldn't be putting a kitten under the tree. Instead he'd trick her into going out on Christmas Eve, and somehow end up at the shelter. He smiled to himself as he imagined her reaction. He realized that by going to the shelter that he was inviting the possibility that they might leave with a pet of another species, even another yappy dog, but it was a risk he was willing to take, if it meant seeing her smile.

The mere fact that they were now in the position to own a pet filled him with an understated happiness. Until the FBI had come to them at the beginning of the year with hats in hand, asking for their help, they'd both felt more than a little tenuous. Though they might have told themselves that there was nothing to fear in their unremarkable little home in Virginia, they both were worried that they'd end up back on the radar again, running for their lives again. To be absolved, even though they shouldn't have needed to be, allowed them to finally feel secure for the first time since Mulder's great escape.

Scully had called him just after lunch to let him know that she'd be staying late at the hospital, but it didn't interfere with his plans too much. Dinner would be a stew that was slowly cooking in the crock pot, and it would be patient if she was even later than she thought she'd be. Late nights spent at Our Lady of Sorrows were becoming more common for her; now that she'd had some success at treating a rare disease like Sandhoff's, the hospital board was more willing to let her bring controversial treatment plans to them, and she was taking advantage of that as she looked for a course of action to treat a seventeen-year-old girl with a condition similar but not identical to Christian Fearon's.

So, alone in the quiet, Mulder was taking advantage of the time alone to order a few last gifts online. The shipping prices to get his orders on time were steep, but the fee the FBI had coughed up for his help meant he had more wiggle room in his personal finances than he'd had in a while.

The answering machine, a relic Mulder had found in a thrift store back when he'd been trying to stretch out the money he'd made on selling his mother's home after her death, clicked on, making him look up. He fully expected it to be Scully's voice he'd hear, sounding a little annoyed because she'd been trying to get him to enter the 21st century and get voice mail, but it wasn't her.

"Pick up, pick up, oh god, please pick up-" a tinny voice cried from the answering machine's ancient speakers.

Startled, Mulder dove for the phone. "Hello? Who is this?"

"Is this mister Mulder?" a high, young male voice asked.

"Yes. Who are you?" His first thought was that it must be one of Scully's nephews, one of Charlie's two sons. He'd apologize for being abrupt later, right then he wanted to know what the kid was panicking about.

"My name's Andy Van de Kamp." The kid paused for breath. "Look, I found your number on an index card with my brother's adoption papers, but I wasn't sure if you'd moved-"

Oh, Mulder thought, giving the phone a dumbfounded look. "You're William's adopted brother?"

"Yes. And we need help. Can you please come?"

"What's going on?" Mulder asked. His thoughts were beginning to whirl, so he decided to try to focus. "Let me speak to your parents."

"You can't." Andy's voice cracked a bit. "I'm...I'm pretty sure they're dead."

"They're dead?" Mulder asked numbly.

"I think so. At least I haven't heard them. I hear Will crying, though, so I'm pretty sure he's okay..." The boy trailed off. "They thought I was dead too because I took a hard knock to the head and passed out. My leg's busted, and I can't get downstairs. I tried to, but I passed out twice. I keep calling Will but he yells 'no' and won't come."

Mulder's sense of urgency redoubled as he gripped the phone harder. "Who are 'they,' Andy? Who hurt you?"

"I don't know, two guys. I don't think they're still here, because I don't hear them either."

"Give me your address and I'll be there as soon as I can, okay?" Mulder tried to maintain his calm, but his thoughts were roaring in his head - someone had found William from the sounds of it. The exact sort of someone Scully had thought giving William up would hide him from.

"Okay." Pain was apparent in the boy's voice. "257 North Street, Deer Crossing, Wyoming."

Wyoming. It would take an eternity to get there. "I'm going to be there as soon as I can, but you're a couple thousand miles away, so it's going to take hours," Mulder explained. "Maybe you should call the police."

"No no, I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"My dad said not to. Had to be you, that you worked for the FBI. And you're Willie's bio-dad," Andy rambled.

It didn't seem to Mulder as if the boy was thinking entirely rationally, which made him worry that he was going into shock. "You said your leg is broken, is the bone coming through the skin?"

"What? No."

"Okay good. I still think you should call-"

"No!" Andy yelled. "If I call the police, they'll take me and Will away. You're the only one who can protect us from those people. How could you do that if you didn't even know where we were?"

Mulder's gut twisted. He knew that the kid was right, but leaving him there, hurt, for the length of time it would take to get to him was unconscionable. "Look, I can't leave you lying there with a broken leg for several hours. That's horribly irresponsible. How would I explain that to the police?"

"I'll tell them that I wouldn't let you call because...well, I have hours to think of something. Or, you could just tell them you were coming to see Will and didn't know I was hurt."

That probably would serve, but he still wanted to talk sense into the kid. "Andy, what if those men come back?"

Andy swallowed. "I can reach my dad's shotgun from here. I know how to use it, too. And if they come back, I will call the police."

"Do you promise?" Mulder asked, and sighed, hating that he was giving in. "Keep trying to get William to come to you. I'm leaving for the airport now."

Pausing only long enough to leave Scully a note, pack a change of clothes, and turn off the crock pot, Mulder grabbed his keys and ran out to his car.

In the short time since Mulder got home from shopping, the weather had transitioned into a sleety mess that made people wish that they didn't need to get their Christmas errands done within the next week. Most people's eyes were sleepy, and it didn't take a mind-reader to realize they were all thinking about the same thing: going home and curling up with a good book. Or maybe simply sleeping until spring.

Mulder, though, was not one of the sleepy people. Instead he was wired, anxious, and furious at drivers who seemed determined to hold him up. The drive to the airport had only taken a few minutes, but it felt like hours.

It was Mulder's plan, as much as he had one, to call Scully from the airport to let her know what was going on. This plan was immediately short-circuited when he pulled out his phone inside the airport and discovered that he hadn't remembered to charge it the night before.

Dumbfounded, he looked at the blank screen and hoped that Scully wouldn't kill him when she came home and discovered the brief, probably alarmist, note that he'd scribbled and left on the coffee table before running out the door.

He gave the bank of occupied payphones a longing look, but the first thing he had seen when he got into the airport was the flight time to the area where the boys lived. If he could buy a last-minute ticket, he'd be lucky to have three minutes to stow his overnight bag before the flight left.

Perhaps providence smiled upon him because he was able to purchase the second to last ticket for the flight he wanted. That meant he could stop worrying about Andy lying on the floor for untold hours more while he tried to get there. Maybe it would work out with Scully, too, and she would forgive him for the terror he was sure to have left in his wake.

Five Hours Later

Mulder's heart stuttered when he pulled his rental car into the Van de Kamp's yard and got a good look at the front door of the house. It was pulled off its hinges. It didn't take a lot of thought to conclude who had paid the family a visit earlier in the day. He made sure his gun was accessible, and then stepped through the doorway, skirting around a pile of ash just past the threshold.

"William? Andy?" Mulder called loudly, not allowing himself to think that the boys might not be the only people there who could hear him.


"William! Andy!"

A soft sobbing, almost too quiet to be heard, lead Mulder though another hallway. Opening the nearly closed door fully revealed a typical little boy's bedroom, with posters from Pixar movies on the walls, toys and books in a large Ikea bookcase, and plaid sheets on the bed.

Next to the bed a child sat on the floor. His knees were drawn up, and his arms wrapped around them. Mulder instinctively crouched down and touched the boy's shoulder, but he flinched so Mulder immediately removed his hand.

"William?" Mulder asked gently. "Can you hear me? I'm here to help you. Andy called and asked me to come."

The child was rocking slightly, and after flinching he continued to do so. Mulder reached up and flicked the light switch. When he did, he nearly gasped in surprise - the light showed that the boy had dark red hair that bordered on auburn. When William had been a newborn, he and Scully had playfully argued about whose coloring their son would someday have, and it looked like Scully's genes were winning.

"I'm going to check on your parents, okay?" Mulder asked, and the boy ignored him. He left the door open when he exited the room because he was fairly certain that William wasn't going to be going anywhere.

Before he even entered the master bedroom, Mulder knew what he would find. A pale hand dangled over the edge of the queen-sized bed, and no one could comfortably sleep like that. Stepping closer, he saw that the hand's owner lay in the bed, obviously dead from the bullet hole in her forehead. Across the room another body was slumped under a window, this one a man. Andy was right.

Mr. and Mrs. Van de Kamp were both unmistakably dead.

At first Mulder wondered if his son had seen the carnage, but as he turned on the light in this room too, he found evidence that he had: there was a small, red handprint on the woman's cheek, the kind of handprint that would only get there from someone touching the dead woman to see if she could be roused.

Straightening up, Mulder had the urge to cry himself as he imagined a seven-year-old trying desperately to find signs of life. It wasn't something he'd wish on any child, never mind his own son.

When Mulder returned to the other bedroom, William was where he left him. He couldn't leave him there, not when he hadn't found the older boy yet, so he reached down for him. William was heavier than he imagined he'd be, and he didn't want to get up.

"Nooooo!" the little boy protested when Mulder picked him up.

Mulder rubbed his back. "It's okay, you're okay. We need to check on Andy now."

"Andy?" William asked, pulling away to rub his eyes with a fist. "Andy's upstairs."

Relieved that William was showing signs of being with it after all, Mulder spoke to him gently. "Can you show me where he is? Where his room is?" He put his son on his feet and followed him, praying desperately that Andy was in better shape than the people they'd called their parents. And, from the look of the second pile of ash-like metal by the foot of the stairs, better than their attackers too.

"Andy?" William's childish voice called as they walked up the stairs. "Andy, come here!"

"I can't," a voice moaned from inside a room, making Mulder realize that he'd been fearfully holding his breath. The quiet in the house had been doing a decent job of convincing him that William was the only living person left. "I told you, I'm hurt."

"Andy, it's Fox Mulder. I'm here like I promised," Mulder called back, following William down the hall.


Eventually William stopped, and pointed at a door. Just inside a boy in his early teens was on the floor, and Mulder rushed in to check on him. Andy was gray-faced under his olive complexion, but he looked all right other than the unnatural angle of his leg.

"I knew you would come," Andy said, then grimaced and held his leg. "My parents were right about you, you are one of the good guys."

"That looks really painful," Mulder told him as he bent down for a closer look. "I bet you wish you hadn't insisted on waiting for me to come get you."

"Yeah, maybe a little," Andy agreed. "But I'm more glad that I waited for you to get here. My parents, are they...?"

"I'm so sorry, but there's nothing anyone could do for them, not even if they'd been right here when-"

"I knew they were," Andy said heavily. "I was already pretty sure they were when I tried to get Will and me up to the attic," he waved a hand at the door, making Mulder look out. There was another staircase he hadn't noticed before.

Mulder's forehead creased. "Did you drag yourself all the way back to your room?"

"Yeah, when I woke up, I did," Andy replied. "But like I said on the phone, I got knocked out when they pulled me down the stairs."

Andy hadn't told him how his leg had been broken, but Mulder didn't feel like it was the time to quibble over that. "I wish Dana was here. She's the doctor, she'd know how to make you comfortable until we get you to the hospital to have your leg set."

"That's okay. I'm just glad one of you is here."

"Where's the phone you used to call me?" Mulder asked, looking around.

"Near Will's feet."

Mulder looked where his fingers pointed and saw a small silver cell phone. "Thanks." He picked it up and began to dial, even as he watched his son give the older boy a hug and tell him something was wrong with their parents. "Hello? I need the police to come to 257 North Street. There's been a double homicide-" He paused and looked at the boys. "I think you should send someone from child services too."

As soon as Mulder hung up, Andy grabbed the hem of William's shirt. "When the police get here, I want you to let mister Mulder and me do all of the talking. Don't say anything unless it's 'yes' to agree with something I said. Promise."

William nodded, but he looked worried. "I promise, Andy, but why?"

"To keep us safe. That's why mister Mulder is here, and he can't do that if we tell the police anything that'd get him separated from us. Got it?"

"Got it," William agreed solemnly.

Within a matter of minutes, a police cruiser pulled into the driveway next to Mulder's rental car. They were prompt, which he approved of even as he steeled himself for their onslaught of questions.

"We got a call about a possible homicide?" one officer said gruffly in lieu of a greeting.

"I'm not a doctor, but I'm fairly certain we can upgrade possible to certain," Mulder said as he stepped back to let them into the house. "The bodies are in the master bedroom."

"You're the homeowner?" one officer asked, as the other went to look at the dead people.

"God no, I just got here-"

"He came to see my brother," Andy said from where Mulder had put him on the couch. "He's my brother's bio-dad. I don't know how long I would have been lying in my room if he hadn't shown up when he did."

Andy might have imagined that this painted Mulder in a positive light, but it didn't surprise Mulder at all when the remaining officer gave him a hard stare. "Is there a custody dispute?"

"No," Mulder said flatly, knowing that protests would only be seen with suspicion.

"Hey!" Andy complained. "This didn't have anything to do with Will's dad, he's cool. And he sure the hell wasn't with the thugs who killed my parents."

This got the cop's attention, and he walked over to Andy. "You saw the men who..." the officer trailed off, apparently grasping for an age appropriate description of what happened.

"They pushed me down the stairs and broke my leg." Andy pointed at the limb in question. "So yeah, I got a real good look at them."

The officer took out a notepad and sat across from Andy. "Do you mind telling me what happened while we wait for that ambulance?"

Andy nodded and began to give a detailed account that went on for several minutes. At a loss about what to do with themselves, Mulder and William just stood by without speaking.

"We're going to need the coroner," the other cop announced, coming back into the living room seconds after the other recapped his pen.

"Right." The cop who'd taken Andy's statement looked from Mulder and William to Andy. "You're the younger boy's father?"

"Yes," Mulder told him, not looking down to see what William made of that.

"Okay. I'm not going to be able to let you just take him, but we can wait to speak to a social worker at the hospital, if you'd rather not be here when the corner's van gets here. The docs should probably look the little one over, too."

"If you can arrange that, it'd probably be for the best. I don't want them to see-" Mulder cut his eyes in the direction of the master bedroom. "-again."

Another vehicle pulled into the yard, and the officer who'd gone to look at the murder scene announced, "Looks like your ride is here, kid."

"I want Will to come with me in the ambulance," Andy said, sounding nearly as scared as he had over Mulder's answering machine. "Can he?"

"Fine by me," Mulder murmured.

"Can I speak to you privately?" the officer who'd done most of the talking asked, and Mulder nodded before following him into the kitchen. He half expected to be told not to leave town, but that wasn't what was on the cop's mind. "I take it you're only the younger boy's parent?"

"Right. My girlfriend gave him up for adoption when he was a baby."

"How well do you know the family?"

"Almost not at all," Mulder admitted, wondering if ought to say that it was the first time he'd come to "visit" William's adoptive family.

The cop sighed. "Then I don't suppose you have any idea who'd they'd appoint as a guardian for the older boy. Clearly they're both adopted-" Mulder hadn't failed to notice that Andy was Hispanic and the dead couple wasn't. "-and it's a damn shame when something like this happens after kids have been placed with a good family."

"Do you have any idea what will happen to him?" Mulder asked. Until then he hadn't been able to think about what might happen to Andy after the hospital.

Shrugging, the cop said, "If there wasn't an arrangement made in a will, and no one volunteers to take him in, I assume he'll go into foster care."


The other cop poked his head back into the room. "We're ready to go."

"Okay kid, here we go."

"Wait, Will's gonna come with me," Andy told the EMT who was trying to get him ready to leave.

"Sorry, he can't."

Andy was quick to make his displeasure known. "I don't understand," he protested, trying to swat away the EMT who was strapping him onto a stretcher. "Why can't my brother come with me? Mister Mulder said he doesn't mind!"

The EMT tried to explain again. "We don't have room for both the boy and his father, and we can't have a kid that young alone back there. They're going to come by car, okay?"

It broke Mulder's heart to see the boy's eyes fill with tears. "Okay, yeah."

"We'll be right behind you," Mulder promised, patting the boy's uninjured leg. "William and I will be driving there right behind the ambulance."


It only took a few more minutes to load Andy Van de Kamp into the waiting ambulance and take Will's boaster seat out of the Van de Kamp's Silverado. William was very quiet, and let Mulder help buckle him in without protest.

"Andy's going to the hospital?"

"Yup. We're going to go with him. We just don't fit in there." Mulder pointed as the lights on the other vehicle turned on.

"But not Ma or Da," William told him with solemn eyes. "They died."

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry."

"Me too."

"Will, do you know what happen to the men who hurt your Ma and Da?" Even as he asked, Mulder found himself wondering why the Van de Kamps had adopted those forms of address - Van de Kamp sounded Dutch, and Da at least was an Irish term of affection. Maybe the late Mrs. Van de Kamp had been Irish.

"Yes," William said, voice barely above a whisper.

"What? Did they get away?"

To his surprise, this, not the mention of his dead adoptive parents, had William in tears. "They...after Andy made me go upstairs, they came after us. I guess Ma and Da already...When they pulled Andy down the stairs, and he hit his head, I ran after them. I was so mad that I hit one of them. And he, he melted, like a sand castle."

"Wow. That must have been scary."

"Yup." William leaned his head against the window. "Those weren't normal men, were they?"

"No, they weren't."

"I didn't think so...but I worried. Andy likes those X-Men movies, and I was worried that maybe I couldn't touch people any more." The strained look on the child's face made Mulder wish he knew him well enough to give him a hug. "I don't want to be like the girl in those movies."

"Will, I've seen other men like that before. They're not normal, that's why they melted. You won't hurt a normal person, I promise."

"How do you know?" William asked plaintively before pulling a tissue out of his pocket and blowing his nose.

"You've touched me and Andy both since then, haven't you? When I picked you up, and when you gave Andy a hug."

"That's right, I did." William sounded relieved.

"Good. That's one thing you don't have to worry about, okay?"

William nodded before turning to look out the window again. He might not need to worry about touching people, but there was so much else to be concerned about still.

When they got to the hospital they had to sit around for a while, waiting for Andy to be x-rayed before he could have a cast put on. When the nurses finally let William and Mulder into the room after the boy returned from radiology, he thought the boy looked faint with relief.

After seeking permission with a look, William climbed up onto the bed with Andy.

"Andy, do you know if your parents had a will?" Mulder asked as he took a seat next to the bed. "That's going to be one of the first things the social worker asks about when he gets here."

"Sure. It's in their desk in the den, the room next to mine. I saw it today when I got your phone number."

Trying to shake off the image of Andy dragging himself from room to room, Mulder leaned forward a little. "Did you read it?"

"Not now, but I know what it says."

"What?" Did the Van de Kamps have relatives they wanted the boys to go to? Mulder wondered. If they did, how hard would the relatives fight him for William?

"That Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are next of kin to William, and that they requested that custody be handed over to them in the events of their deaths."

Mulder's eyes widened. If what Andy said was true, it would be easier than he imagined to get William back. "You're kidding."

"No, I'm not." Andy struggled to sit up more comfortably. "I know that Will's adoption was supposed to be closed, but..." Andy's cheeks flushed guiltily. "My mom had a friend at the adoption agency, and she got her to tell her your names. I think at first she was just worried that you'd want William back, since she couldn't believe that anyone would give up such a good baby, but eventually I think my parents just liked knowing about you."

"They kept tabs on us?" Mulder asked, trying not to choke.

"Well, kind of. By using the internet. It's not like they hired a PI. They were really excited when you ended up getting mentioned in the paper this winter about the case you worked on. I think that's when they changed their will, because they decided that you had to be good people if you went back to help the FBI after being kicked out like that."

"Right..." Mulder's head spun, and he tried to guess how much of his farce of a trial had become public record. "What about you?"

"I think you're pretty cool too."

"Sorry, that's not what I meant. Who did they say in their will that you should go to?" Mulder asked.

Andy paled. "They...they didn't. I guess they didn't think they'd died before I grew up, because it's less than four years until then."

"Don't worry," Mulder reassured him. "The department of Children's Services works with kids whose parents didn't work out arrangements for them in their wills all the time."

"Sure," Andy said, but he still looked worried, and Mulder didn't blame him.

William was getting bored and yawning, but he was behaving, so Mulder decided to continue the conversation as long as Andy was up for it. "How did you come to be adopted by the Van de Kamps? Dana was told that the couple adopting William was childless."

"They were. I guess about three months after they got William, Dee decided that they should take in an older kid too, to make their family complete. She said they could have gone on the list again for another baby, but they thought that God wanted them to take in someone who needed a home more. I met them and three weeks later I was moving in."

"Were you...happy? The four of you."

"They were good people," Andy replied. "Took real good care of us."

"I'm glad to hear that," Mulder said. And he was. Every time a news story came on the air about a child dying at the hands of an adopted or foster parent, he'd worried. It was good to know the worry had been baseless. "Do you mind if I use the phone from your house? I didn't get a chance to charge mine before coming to get you."

"Go ahead," Andy said, handing it over. "It's not like my folks can object."

"Will, do you mind staying here? I'm not supposed to use a cell phone in the hospital."

"We'll watch TV, right Andy?" William asked.


On the way out, Mulder let one of the two officers who were still hanging around waiting for the social worker know that he'd be stepping outside. Mulder wasn't sure if they needed to stay for official purposes, or if they were just concerned about what would happen to the kids, but either way he was happy that someone would keep an eye on them while he was outside.

A raw wind raced between parked cars as Mulder stood shivering under the awning by the front doors. He dialed a number he knew by heart, and wasn't at all surprised that Scully picked up on the first ring. "Mulder, where are you?!" she asked, reminding him of times he'd left her behind while pursuing leads he hadn't thought she'd approve of.

"It's been a hell of a day, Scully," he told her, trying to hold the phone close to hear her better. "I'm in Wyoming, with William."

"What exactly happened? I didn't even know you were gone until I got home from work and found your note saying that William was in trouble."

"They killed the Van de Kamps and broke the older son's leg. They might have killed him too, if they hadn't knocked him out. I guess no one taught them how to check a pulse. William and I are with him at the hospital right now."

"But they didn't do anything to William," Scully said anxiously.

"Besides traumatize him? No. From what he said, he actually hurt them. He said they 'melted like a sandcastle' when he touched them."

"Jesus." She trailed off for a moment. "There's an older boy?"

"A fourteen-year-old named Andy. Apparently they adopted him a few months after adopting William."

"What happens now, with William?" Scully asked, and he could hear the anxiety that must be eating her up too.

"I think we'll get him back. Andy said they made up a new will this year, asking that custody revert to us if anything happened to them. I haven't spoken to the social worker yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we won't have any problems getting him back. If that's what we want."

"Of course it's what we want! How could you believe otherwise?"

"Scully, I had to ask. You know how much trouble I get into assuming things."

"I'm sorry, but yes, we want him back."


"William's brother, he's the one who called you to tell you they were in trouble?"

"Yes. I thought he would be younger from his voice, but I think he was just scared witless, and in a lot of pain from that broken leg of his."

"What's going to happen to him now?"

Mulder only thought about it for two seconds. "Have you ever considered having a second child?"

"Mulder..." He could picture her shaking her head. After a couple of minutes of silence, she asked, "Do you really think a judge would give him to us too?"

"The kid's a teenager, has no living relatives… If we tell the judge we want him, I think the odds are at least even that we could get him too. People practically fall over themselves when someone tells them that they want to take in a hard-to-place child."

"You like this kid," Scully said, sounding faintly amused.

"He brought William back to us, what's not to like?" Mulder asked lightly.

"You're serious about wanting him."

"They're brothers, Scully. You can't just split up siblings for no good reason."

Maybe she was thinking about Samantha or Missy, or simply the tragedy of tearing families apart, but either way she was quick to say, "If you talk to a social worker before I get there, make sure that he or she knows that we want to take both kids, not just William."

"You're serious? You're willing to take him without even having met him for yourself?"

"I trust your judgment," she replied. "I'll be out there in a few hours. Call me back and leave me a message with your location if you leave the hospital."

"I will. Love you."

"I love you too."

"Mister Mulder?" a voice asked as Mulder snapped his phone shut. He looked up to see a man about his age who had a kind face. "Oh good, one of the officers told me that I could find you out here. I'm Dan Green, the social worker."

"Oh, nice to meet you."

He noticed then that Green held a document in his hand. "Andy told one of the police officers where his parents kept their will, and one of them was kind enough to send someone to fetch it for us."

"That's great." He thought it was handy that the Van de Kamps only lived a mile or so from the hospital, and someone had managed to gather up the document in the few minutes it'd taken him to make his phone call.

Green's expression was pleasant. "I take it that you know what the will says? That they'd hoped you'd take your son back?"

"Yes, Andy told me that."

"Do you intend to?" The social worker's voice was carefully neutral, gauged not to make any judgments.

"I do," Mulder said firmly. " partner and I were hoping to take Andy as well. She agreed with me that siblings shouldn't be split up if there's an alternative."

"You want Andy too?" Green asked, obviously surprised.

"Unless you don't think that's feasible-"

"No, no, I think the courts would be very happy that you'd like to keep the boys together."

"So you'll help us work that out?" Mulder asked. "Dana's flying in tonight."

"Of course. I'm authorized to allow you to have temporary custody of both children as of today, and it should only take a day or two to settle their custody with family court."

"That quickly?" Mulder asked, shocked that it could be rushed through.

"Given their will, William's custody should be reverted to you very easily, just as soon as the police declare that you're not a suspect in the murders, which is routine. A judge merely needs to sign off on those kinds of custody matters. It shouldn't take too much longer for Andy, either, especially if Andy says that he'd like to go with you - he's old enough that his opinion counts for a lot. I have a feeling that your stay in Wyoming might be quite short."

"That's great to hear."

Green smiled. "This is about as happy and ending as I could hope for, if you don't mind me saying. I wish all cases ended with someone eager to take children in."

"Hey," Mulder said as he entered Andy's room. Both boys looked up at him. "I just spoke to Will's bio-mom, and the social worker."

"Oh." Andy looked away.

"Andy don't need pins in his leg," William announced. "Just a cast."

"That's good news," Mulder said, but Andy didn't respond. "Andy." Mulder paused until the boy looked at him. "We think that family court would give us custody of you, too. If you want to live with us, that is. I know it's a lot to throw at you considering that you only met me a few hours ago, and haven't even met Dana yet, but-"

"Would you really want me?" Andy interrupted softly.

Something about the unvoiced anxiety in the fourteen-year-old's question reminded Mulder of himself at that age. "I don't want to break the two of you up. To be honest with you, I'm very surprised that they aren't making a big deal over custody of William. Pretty much all I have to do is fill out paperwork tomorrow. We could make a case for it being in both yours and William's best interest that you stay together."

William jumped up, making Andy wince when the bed moved. He ran to Mulder. "If I have to go with you, Andy needs to too."

"What do you say, Andy?" Mulder asked, trying not to wince at the words "have to."

"I want to stay with Will."

"Good, it's settled then."

"Hi." An intern walked into the room while the three of them were still staring at each other. "Sorry about the wait, Andy. I'll put that cast on for you now."

Andy and William both looked sleepy, but he knew from what Andy had told him before the police had arrived that neither of them had eaten since breakfast. A nurse had promised to bring Andy food soon, but not the others. They could hear a cart of trays being pushed down the hallway as the intern got ready to cast Andy's leg.

"William, how about we go and get something to eat?" Mulder asked. "That way we'll be out of the way. Andy will probably get brought something to eat real soon, too."

"Okay. But then we'll come right back?"

"Of course."

As the little boy sat across from him and toyed with a grilled cheese sandwich, Mulder found himself studying the child. He had Mulder's eyes, and to his dismay, it looked like his nose as well, though it was much smaller on the small face. Scully's hair, her mouth, probably her frame…

The boy carefully chewed and then spoke to him. "You're my dad now, right?"

This made Mulder blink. "Sure am. We'll see a judge to make that official in a day or two."

"Okay," William agreed. "And you'll be Andy's new dad too."

"Well, I'm not one hundred percent positive about that since we need to talk to a judge, but I sure ho-"

The look William gave him was too shrewd for a boy his age. "The judge is gonna say yes."

"He will?"

"Yup. Everyone knows that brothers gotta stay together."

"Well, we'll see. I hope so too, but we'll see."

Before William went back to eating, Mulder asked, "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay. Andy's the one who got hurt."

"I know that, but you've both lost your parents today. That's hard."

William hunched his shoulders. "Nothing is gonna bring them back. I understand that."

"I'm...I'm sorry this happened to you."

"Me too," William said quietly before he picked his sandwich up again.

Finishing his food, Mulder wondered what Scully was going to think of all that had happened over the course of the day.

Motel Later That Night

After getting paperwork from the social worker, discharge and care instructions from the hospital, and a "we hope everything works out for you" from the police, Mulder found himself loading the kids into his rental car and driving to a motel to wait for Scully's flight. He would have liked to have met her plane, but she understood why he couldn't.

She arrived just after the movie Mulder ordered for them on pay-per-view ended.

"So what happened, exactly?" Scully asked quietly, casting a look over her shoulder at William. Sprawled out on one of the two beds, the little boy was already fast asleep. As was Andy beside him.

"I went shopping for Christmas presents at lunch time. I was only home a few minutes before the answering machine picked up, and Andy was leaving a message."

"How did he get the number?"

"He said it was with the papers for William's adoption," Mulder told her. "Anyway, I picked up the phone and he begged me to come, saying that his parents were dead and that he was scared. So I got a flight and got out here. His parents were dead. I called the cops and an ambulance, and met with the social worker while at the hospital. That about sums up what happened before you got here."

"Except for the part about you wanting to bring William's adopted brother home with us."

"Yeah, except for that." He reached for her hand and squeezed it. "Convince me that we're really up for all of this."

She shook her head, but she smiled. "We'll be fine."

He smiled back. He knew she was right.

Chapter One:

Regan University
Washington DC
December 19th, 2012

Though the dorm was supposed to be as quiet as the grave during finals week, one wouldn't know it from the volume. Since the university was in its infancy, having only opened in September, there weren't any hall directors with enough experience to get the kids to adhere to the noise policy. On the bright side most students, Andy included, had already taken their finals and were now packing for winter break so few people were actually being disturbed.

My soldiers march tonight in the city of your dreams
This beautiful army's tearing at your seams
Down on your knees, cure this disease
I'll take it all, everything I see
Oh, can't your hear this symphony?

Behind these walls we'll watch it fall
As our union crumbles into hell

It's not the end of the world now, baby,
So, c'mon, dry those tears
It's not the end of the world now darling,
But I can see it from here

"-on Earth?" Jordan, Andy's roommate, shouted over the Lostprophets song he had blasting. The majority of Jordon's music collection was too obscure for anyone, including Andy, to have ever heard of but they did share an interest in this particular band so Andy didn't mind it being loud. Mostly.

However, he had no idea what his roommate was saying, so he reached for their stereo and turned it down. "What did you say?"

"I asked if you have any special plans for your last nights on Earth," Jordan repeated.

Andy grinned at him. "My last nights on Earth? I'm not the one who has to get an A on a geology final to pass, so why would I be the one whose parents killed him over break?"

"No, not that, man," Jordan said, shaking his head hard enough to make his hat fall over one eye. Andy liked the guy, but his wardrobe meant people could make him for a hipster at 20 yards. "Saturday is the end of the world for all of us. At least according to the Mayan calendar."

"Oh that," Andy said with a smirk. He bit his tongue to keep from blurting out his father's alien invasion theory. "You don't really believe that crap, do you?"

Jordan shrugged. "How do you explain all those fish died otherwise?" There had been a news report earlier in the week of thousands and thousands of fish washing up on beaches, all dead.

"Not to sea turning to blood," Andy said shortly. "It'll turn out to be a red algae bloom, just watch. There was a reasonable explanation for those birds dying last year, and it'll happen again here too."

Jordan began to laugh. "Andy, you've got to lighten up. It sounds like you've had run-ins with true believers."

"Well..." Andy squirmed inside, if only Jordon knew. As much as he was glad that he was going to be going home tomorrow, he wasn't looking forward to "waiting" for an alien invasion. He was pretty sure that his father wouldn't take being proven wrong very well.

"I only brought up the end of the world because there's a party with that theme tonight. Wanna come? It's about time we find you a nice girl."

Andy tried not to cringe - Jordan's idea of what made for a nice girl was miles apart from his own. "Sorry, I better finish packing. And then I have a paper I still haven't turned in. Maybe next time."

"Okay," Jordan said as he clapped him on the shoulder. "But you're going to regret it if the world really does end Saturday."

"If the world ends, I'll add missing the party to my list of regrets," Andy promised. "But if we all die, how will we have regrets still?"

Jordan shrugged. "The prophecy says that the world ends, not that no one lives through it. Maybe we'll be the lucky ones."

"How lucky."

"And on that cheery note, I'm out." Jordan smiled before grabbing his coat. "Later, Andy."


As soon as Jordan left, Andy pulled his sock drawer open. He'd never admitted to his roommate, but he was relieved to be going home. College both fun and a challenge, but he was more than ready to let his family fuss over him for a few weeks.


When William was a baby, Jim and Dee had hung a white buffalo mobile over his crib, perhaps with a vague hope that he could develop a shared interest in animal husbandry. By the time he was three, however, they had given up on that because it was abundantly clear that William's true passion was the stars. So they redid his room with deep blue walls and decorated the ceiling with glow-in-the-dark stars. And as soon as he was old enough, they bought him a child-sized telescope.

Now that he was eleven and already five feet tall, that telescope had been outgrown. One meant for an adult now stood in its former place of honor by his window. He used it several nights a week, and the night of December twenty-first was no exception.

William peered through the long barrel, checking out the familiar celestial bodies, once again wishing that average people could access all the power of the Hubble telescope. With the Hubble he might be able to clearly make out the suggestion of movement in the distance.

He was about to leave the telescope and look at the likelihood of a meteor shower when he saw something that made him shout in alarm. "Mom! Dad!" He watched transfixed as a film of red spread across the entire eye piece.

His first thought was that someone had poured ink into his prized telescope, not that who might have done it came to him beyond a vague suspicion against the weird kid down the street. William pulled away, ready to examine the telescope for signs of tampering when he saw it. There was nothing wrong with the telescope, so no inky prank was necessary to account for what he had seen.

The moon itself was the red of blood.

December 20th, 2012

Jordan had left three hours earlier, so Andy found himself bored as he waited for Mulder to come and get him. Mulder wasn't late, but the lonely quiet had Andy anxiously checking the window often, even though the odds were even that Mulder might not park within view. All there was to see was the snow that had already begun to coat most surfaces.

Eventually, one of his periodic checks just after dark rewarded him with the sight of his father climbing out of his SUV. Excited as a small boy, Andy hurried out into the dorm's lobby to greet him. "Dad!"

"Hey, Andy. I take it you're ready to go?" Mulder's lips twitched with good humor.

"You bet."

"Let's grab your bags then. This snow is suggesting that we don't dawdle."

After they stowed Andy's bags in the vehicle, Mulder held up the keys. "How about you drive? I could use a break from it."

"Sure," Andy replied in time to catch the keys when Mulder tossed them. Mulder and Scully had made sure that he could drive in the snow when he was learning, so Andy had no fear about the inclement weather. "How is everybody?" Andy asked, sliding behind the wheel and starting the SUV.

"Well... excited about how the moon turned red last night." Mulder pulled on his seatbelt, and Andy thought about teasing him about being worried about his driving, but didn't. Both Mulder and Scully made sure that both sons wore their seatbelts every time they got into a vehicle.

"Yeah? I bet William has several astronomy-related explanations about what caused it." The moon had already come up for the night, and was back to its normal color, at least as much as it could be seen through the snow.

Mulder nodded. "He sure does, and he's been telling everyone he can get to listen what they are in exhaustive detail."

"I'm sure I'm next," Andy groaned.

"Probably." Mulder's smiled faded. "Your grandmother, however, has a much more alarming theory."

"What's that?" Andy asked, wondering what Maggie Scully might have said.

"She called your mom up last night and asked her to seriously consider returning to the church. Apparently she's concerned that it's a sign of the biblical end of days."

"How mad is she that Mom flatly refused?"

"You guessed what she said, did you? Not mad, 'disappointed.'"

"Oh boy."

Mulder yawned. "Needless to say, it was a rough night. So please don't be insulted if I nod off."

"Don't worry about it," Andy said cheerfully. "I can handle your snoring without it distracting me from driving."

"Thanks," Mulder said sourly.

As he warned, Mulder fell asleep less than halfway there. Andy didn't really mind, though, he was just glad to be headed home.

All of a sudden, twenty miles before their house, something loomed up in front of the car. Even though it was quite a distance from them, it seemed to fill up the windshield.

It wasn't possible, and Andy's fingers tightened involuntarily on the steering wheel when his eyes rejected his brain's rationalization. "Dad!" he yelled, pushing on Mulder's shoulder before quickly returning his hand to the steering wheel - it suddenly felt like that if he didn't use both hands he'd lose control of everything.

Yawning, Mulder opened his eyes and saw what had startled his oldest son.

Low in the sky and iron gray, a massive ship drifted overhead as slowly and sedately as a swan on a pond. The falling snow obscured it some, but there was no mistaking the sickly golden glow it threw over the car for anything else.

"Holy shit," Andy whispered in horrified awe. "All this time I thought you were joking."

Andy continued to stare through the windshield. In the four years since he'd legally become Andrés Cristiano Mulder, his second set of adopted parents had tried to prepare him and his brother both for a day like this one. The end of his childhood, and the middle of William's, had been filled with art lessons and soccer practice, learning target shooting and survival techniques, visits to natural history museums and bunkers. Both boys had taken the odd mishmash of family activities in stride, but William had believed that they were getting ready for something real... and Andy hadn't. Now he wished that he had taken things more seriously.

Turning his head for a quick glance, he saw that his father's face was grim. "We saw a ship once before, your mother and I. Later, she wouldn't ever admit that it was what we saw."

"She will now."

"I think so. I think she just wouldn't admit it to me..." Mulder trailed off shaking his head. He pulled out his phone and aimed it at the thing in the sky until it suddenly zoomed off as if it realized someone had been watching it.

"You know, Will is going to mob you as soon as you walk through the door," Mulder said as they pulled into the driveway. "Don't tell him about what we saw tonight until I've talked to Mom, okay?"


As if responding to their father's prediction, the front door flew open and William ran out to greet them. He began talking less than a second after Andy opened the driver side door. "Andy, you're home! Come on, I want to show you the remote control helicopter I bought with my allowance," William said eagerly.

"Cool, what color is it?" Andy asked, allowing himself to be led into the house.

Scully brushed past them in the hallway, and headed towards Mulder. He didn't like the worried expression on her face. "Mulder, the news..." she trailed off, eyes dark with concern.

He pulled out his phone and thrust it at her. "Watch this video."

"You took this?" she asked, looking up halfway through.

"Driving home tonight." He sighed. "Obviously the date I saw at Mount Weather was right. We're being invaded."

"Now what?" she asked more calmly than he thought he might in her shoes.

"We gather together people who will fight-" he stopped when he noticed her hard stare. "What?"

"We're not doing that," she said coolly.

"Aren't we?" Mulder asked, hoping that his voice didn't betray his surprise. He had always assumed that they were both on the same page. But now...

Reality came crashing down when she asked, "What do you propose doing, sitting Andy down and saying 'Andy, we love you and we're been very happy since you joined our family. We know you'll look after Will when we get ourselves killed.'?"

He didn't say anything.

"You must've realized, you must've known we could be parents or lead the resistance, not both," she insisted.

The truth was that it had been something that was easier not to think about. When William was born, they hadn't known that there would be an invasion, or the date. And when William lived with the Van de Kamps it had seemed more than ever that they'd be the ones to find themselves on the frontline, fighting the good fight because they had someone to fight for even if he never knew it... Later, when they'd gotten William back, Scully had let him teach both boys how to defend themselves, so he'd allowed himself to believe that they were still casting themselves as people who would make a difference when it mattered.

Now was the time when it mattered.

"So when they come for us, you want us to just be helpless victims like everyone else?" he asked shortly.

"No." Scully's eyes flashed dangerously. "I'm not suggesting that we simply allow ourselves to be enslaved or killed, Mulder."

"Then what?"

"We'll fight back, if it comes to that, but there's no sense in going to look for trouble."

It was all he could do to keep from laughing in disbelief. How could she refer to mounting a defense of humanity as 'looking for trouble'?

"We can't do it to them, not again." Scully's voice dropped, making him have to strain to hear her. "We can't let them lose another set of parents to this terrible agenda."

He sighed, realizing that he should have known that her objections would circle back to the deaths of Dee and Jim Van de Kamp. In the years since the murders, they'd been able to piece together what had happened by connecting the dots that Andy and William occasionally exposed without knowing. As best as they could tell, the couple had become aware that someone was watching their home during the months leading up to their demise. It seemed highly likely that this awareness had come about not long before Mulder and Scully had agreed to help the FBI, and it was a cold comfort that it seemed to be merely coincidental timing.

After the news stories showed the former agents in a positive light, Dee and Jim began to talk to Andy about how they'd become worried that someone was targeting them for unknown malice, and that William's biological parents should be reached out to if a real move was made against the family - from what Andy had said, they'd believed that they'd be able to get in touch with Mulder before anything terrible happened.

Unfortunately, Jim and Dee had figured on being stalked by human predators, and hadn't realized that the former FBI agents wouldn't be able to save them by leaning on the local PD to provide surveillance or maybe help them get a restraining order more quickly, so the couple had gone to their graves without ever having learned the true nature of the "men" who had broken into their home to kill them, and perhaps kill or kidnap the boys as well. Thanks to their conversations with Andy, however, the boy had already been convinced that Mulder was the person to run to if there was trouble.

Mulder knew that there wasn't any sense in reiterating his belief that the couple hadn't hastened their deaths by snooping, since he'd said it before only to have her say that there was no way of knowing if they might have survived if they hadn't tried to learn something about both the two of them and the shadowy figures watching their home. He'd once asked her if the happy ending there would have been William just being kidnapped, but had regretted the question instantly.

Rather than regret another question, he bit his tongue to keep from asking her why the potential sadness of their two children was so much more important than the rest of the world's. It would only start a fight than neither of them could possibly win. "If we're not making a preemptive stand, what are we doing?" Frustration laced his voice. "Tonight. Running?"

Though he never imagined a future in which they didn't fight, he had given some thought to what they might do if, upon discovering that resistance was in fact futile, they needed to lay low. His original vision of this involved the two of them hiding out in a cabin adjoining a desolate windswept beach. When they got the boys, he mentally added rooms to that lonely abode.

Just as he was about to suggest that, she spoke up. "Where would we go?" she asked, laughing helplessly. "Unless you've got an ally of off-world, I don't think there's any place we could go that would make us any safer than staying right here. Less comfortable, certainly, but safer?"

Mulder only realized that he had begun to grind his teeth when his jaw ached. Unclenching, he said, "We'll have to go downstairs, then." They'd reinforced the house's storm cellar, concerned with making impregnable to force rather than nature.

Looking afraid to shoot down any more of his ideas, Scully nodded. "Okay."

"Before we do, I'll give Lewis a call to see if anyone has seen anything in the area," he said, referring to Lewis Black, the head of the local police department. He had made a point of getting to know the man over the past couple of years.

"Sure... but try not to use the words 'spaceship' or 'UFO,'" she said, smiling weakly. "Right now he finds you charmingly eccentric, but mentioning aliens could push his opinion into thinking you're-"

"A nut?" he finished for her.


"I'll just say that I promised Will that I'd ask about that thing he saw with his telescope. A stray hot air balloon or a blimp, maybe."

"Right." She squirmed. "I guess I'll call the boys to tell them what's up..."

It was on the tip of his tongue to object to being left out of that important conversation, but he realized that he have to give a little too. "Good idea."

When the kids came into the room, William was still talking about his new helicopter. She still could not figure out the appeal of the thing. They collapsed on the couch and gave her an expectant look which she reciprocated with an uncomfortable smile. "Um, we need to talk about what Dad and Andy saw on the drive home tonight."

"What?" William asked eagerly. "A bear? A moose? Oh, a mountain lion? Those are really rare, so that would be pretty neat."

"Not an animal, buddy," Andy told him.

"Then what, was it-"

"Do you want me to tell him?" Andy interrupted asked.

Scully sighed, wishing that Mulder was finished with his phone call. "Why not."

Andy turned to his brother. "We saw spaceship tonight."

"No way!" William cried. He jumped to his feet.

"Where are you going?"

"To get my gun."


"To shoot aliens, obviously."

"'To shoot aliens,'" Andy scoffed. "When our hunting safety class went on that deer hunt, you never even fired your gun."

"Neither did you," William retorted.

"Yeah, but I'm not the one who thinks he's going to be shooting aliens, now am I?"

"Besides," William said impatiently. "Deer are nice animals. They don't plan on attacking us."

"That we know of," Andy said ominously.

Sick of their bickering, Scully threw her hands up in the air. "Boys!" They both stopped talking and looked at her. Once she had their attention, she didn't know what to say.

"We're going down stairs," Mulder announced, making them all turn their heads to look at him. He was still holding his cell phone. "Go get whatever you want to bring with you, since we're not coming back up here tonight."

William slipped off the couch. "Good thing we've got a bathroom down there."

"Yeah, chamber pots are so passé," Andy said with a smirk. He followed his brother out of the room, knowing from the sound of plastic crinkling that the younger boy was gathering snacks.

When Scully looked up at Mulder, she noticed the frustrated look on his face. "What?"

"Do you suppose they'll insist on bringing some DVDs down with us? To go along with the chips and things they're loading up on?"


He shook his head. "I'm just concerned that they don't fully grasp the gravity of this situation."

"You should be glad that they don't," she retorted. "Would having them terrified, huddled down there clinging to their guns, be better?"

"No." Mulder sighed.

"Exactly. Let's save acting like it's the end of the world for the proper time." She offered him a weak smile. "What did Lewis have to say?"

"Nothing. No one has reported seeing the ship or anything else strange."

"You were half an hour from home still, weren't you? Maybe it never came this way," Scully suggested. It would be nice to think that they'd be spared that, but if there really was a ship out there...


The boys came back into the room, weighted down with bags full of snacks, their laptops, and as predicted a handful of DVDs. Mulder sighed as he watched them head down to the basement. "I'm going to grab my radio. They can watch movies, but someone has to listen to the news."

"Sure," she agreed, hoping that nothing was really going to go wrong, and that they'd sheepishly emerge from the basement in the morning, just like the people who had been so certain May the year before that the rapture was about to happen.

The end date had arrived, but world domination was still unthinkable. Wasn't it?

Chapter Two:

During the first two days it'd been hard to convince Mulder that it was safe to leave the dubious sanctuary of the basement. He had dragged William's telescope down with them, and ceaselessly scanned the horizon the best he could through the narrow cellar windows, ignoring William's protests that it was pointless during the daylight hours. He saw exactly nothing. Just like TV claimed he would.

After the first few attempts at engaging their father got them growled at, the boys left him be. Instead, they amused themselves by making nickel bets about what the news would report next. Mulder hadn't even reacted when they'd left the basement to get their change jars from their rooms.

Scully, on the other hand, had noticed when they'd returned to the basement with the mason jars they'd caged from their grandmother a couple of years earlier when she'd made a less than fully successful attempt to can fruit. It was hard not to notice considering the coins in the three-quarters filled jars still had enough room to shift and rattle as they clomped down the stairs with them.

She believed that it was better for them to have a sense of humor about their situation, if they could, though she wasn't sure that she should sanction betting - and by not saying anything she was as good as doing so - she kept her mouth shut and went back to reading her book, desperately hoping that it wouldn't be the last book she had the luxury of reading. The thought of how many books remained on her to-read list filled her with a quiet sense of despair that got in the way of reading the current one.

"I bet you a nickel that they're going to say that it was a weather balloon again," Andy announced, his hand was already on the remote control, ready to switch from Fast and Furious V back to a 24-hour news station.

This had been the first thing the new stations had come out with. Within an hour of Andy and Mulder's arrival home, the evening news had an overexcited man in a cheap suit from the learning annex on to explain that there had been several slighting of a rogue weather balloon, and that people should not be alarmed by it.

People took this to heart just as well as they had in 1947, and there were soon people using the internet to post videos much like the one Mulder had taken on the way home. The first night no one had bothered to try to refute the videos, but by the next morning several of them had gotten over a million hits on Youtube, so the powers that be had scrambled to find other ways to explain what people were seeing.

"I bet you ten cents that they say something else," William retorted, holding up a dime.

Andy shook his head. "Not good enough. You have to bet on something specific."

His younger brother heaved a sigh. "Fine. I'll go with 'the videos are fakes.'"

"You're really going to go with that?"

"I really am."

"Okay..." Andy did nothing to hide his skepticism. "Mom, you want in on this action?"

"You know I don't." Letting them have their fun was one thing, and joining in was quite another.

"I figured that you'd say no, but it's polite to ask."

"Put on the news already!" William demanded.

"Geez, impatient much? It's not like we're going to miss it. They say the same things over and over again."

William threw a couch pillow at him. "An-dy!"

"Fine." Andy pressed the last button and a newsroom filled the screen.

The reporter, a man in his forties, looked like he hadn't gotten a lot of sleep over the last couple of days. Scully didn't comment on it, but she was fairly sure that he'd drunk himself into a dreamless night when he finally did sleep. He cleared his throat nervously and looked at someone off stage before turning to face the camera. "We have a special guest tonight who is going to explain what lenticular clouds and their connection to the recent sightings-"

"Aww man!" William cried. "That's a draw, right?"

Andy agreed that it was a draw, which meant that they both held onto their collected pocket change. They didn't think anything more about the explanation that the scientist who had wandered onto stage was dishing out, but Scully remained focused on the TV screen. In contrast to the reporter, the scientist looked both calm and professional. In a soothing yet authoritative tone, he carefully explained that lenticular clouds often looked like UFOs because they were disk-shaped, and at sunset took on color just as other clouds do. People sitting at home could relax upon hearing this explanation, especially once it was backed up by several colorful photographs showing the "UFO clouds."

Unless, of course, they were like Scully and knew something about the clouds before the scientist came on to give his spiel. It was true that the cloud formations did quite often have the police taking panicky reports, but the scientist left out one important fact: most lenticular clouds formed near mountains, and the vast majority of sightings in this case had not been within hailing distance of a mount anything. It's possible for them to form away from mountains, but it's unusual, and the odds that many would form away from mountains hundreds of miles apart borders on astronomical.

She must have been frowning at the man on the TV, because she became aware that Andy was staring at her. "What?" she asked, not enjoying the scrutiny.

"I take it from the look on your face that you don't believe that guy."

"I don't. Those clouds usually form near mountains, and there have been sightings tens of miles away from the nearest mountain range."

"So it's a BS explanation again, like the one about it being Venus?" Andy surmised. Venus didn't race across the sky or appear so huge, so very few people were willing to believe that particular desperate bid to quell panic.


"How long do you think it will be before they have to admit that it's aliens?" Andy asked, glancing at William. William was constructing a tower out of the change he'd won so far and didn't seem to be paying any more attention to the conversation than Mulder, still huddled over the telescope by one of the windows, was.

Scully allowed herself an uncharacteristic shrug. "As long as the crafts just hover over us and don't attempt to make contact, the government doesn't have to admit anything much."

"Until they attack, right, Mom?" William asked, looking up at them from the rug and revealing that he'd been paying more attention to the conversation than either of them realized.

"Right," Scully reluctantly agreed. She didn't have it in herself to protest that there was no way of knowing if they'd actually attack. Doing so would ring false, because everyone was just waiting for the inevitable.

"Do you think they will, soon?" Though he was doing a good job trying to look calm, anxiety tinged the boy's voice.

It was the evening of December twenty-second, the day that had been marked in her mind's calendar with a thick red circle. The invasion was supposed to begin then, but there was no panic in the streets, just a bunch of frightened people glued to their TV screens and holding their collective breaths. She no longer knew what she believed, and she was having trouble focusing on what it was she'd believed before.

"I don't know," she finally admitted, wishing that parenthood had conferred all the right answers upon her. "I just don't know."

"Me neither," William replied quietly. "I don't think anyone can, really."

"Then why did you ask?" Andy wanted to know. The tone of his question wasn't so much chiding as curious.

"I figured if anyone knew what to expect, Mom would."

Scully found herself touched by his confidence in her, but felt like she'd failed them on some level too.

Andy started to flip through the TV channels again before looking over at his mother and brother. "Do either of you know what channel the public access station is?"

"Twelve, how come?" William wanted to know.

"I thought we should check it out today."

"But why? When they're not doing boring public meetings, it's just a bunch of crazies on there ranting about their pet 'issues' to a largely imaginary audience," Scully said, thinking that she was a little surprised that none of the people she and Mulder had met during their cases had ever ended up on public access. Though perhaps they had and they simply didn't see the shows, especially considering how many of their cases were outside the DC area.

"Exactly. Aren't you interested in what the 'crazies' have to say?" Andy asked, his eyes gleaming excitedly.

"Maybe a little, but you can't imagine that they actually understand what's going on." There were very few people who really did, and Scully couldn't imagine that any of them, not even the ones who weren't glad that the invasion was starting, would be willing to paint a target on their backs by drawing attention to themselves.

"Aww, it could be funny, Mom," William said coaxingly. It was clear that he, at least, was just interested in the potential entertainment value.

Scully gestured to Andy to go ahead, and the three of them sat back to see what might be on channel 12. Andy looked over his shoulder - Mulder was still huddled by the window. "Dad, you want to watch too?"

His response was a predictable "No!"

Shrugging, the others turned to the screen. At first they were disappointed because they'd tuned in at the end of a high school basketball game, but after a couple of minutes the scene changed to a show that was very obviously filmed in someone's home.

"Hey, he's got a finished basement too," William remarked, and it was only then that Scully noticed the tell-tale basement windows in the rear of the "set."

"I wonder if it's his mom's?" Andy remarked, apparently thinking of the common image of a middle-aged loser living in his mom's basement. The man on the screen certainly looked like he might fit the role.

"What is he holding?" Scully asked, squinting. It looked like-


A moment later the man confirmed what William crowed. "Tonight I'm going to show you how you can use tinfoil to keep THEM from reading your thoughts." He reached for something off screen. "If you already have a baseball cap it'll make things easier, but I'll show you how to make a hat out of tinfoil and duct tape later on too."

"Jordon says that duct tape can fix anything," Andy told them. "But I don't think he had mind-reading aliens in mind."

"Would it work against mind reading people too? Or just aliens?" William wanted to know.

Scully almost found herself suggesting that if they ever saw Gibson Praise they could test the idea out, but she stopped herself. Over the years she and Mulder had told their sons a lot about their work, but they hadn't named any of the countless people they'd helped or arrested back then. It had been Mulder's insistence that they keep things vague, mostly because he was concerned that one or both of the kids might get the idea to look up people from their cases, and he didn't think anything good could come of it. When she thought about things like Facebook, she found herself agreeing. And so far, the young mind-reader had never sought them out, so there had been no reason to make an exception for Gibson.

"How many people do you know who read minds?" Andy asked him.

"Could be dozens. How would we know if they kept it to themselves?"

"Like people could keep that to themselves."

"They tend to commit people who claim to read minds," a dry voice from the other end of the room interjected.

Scully turned and gave him an uncertain smile. If he wanted to tell them about his brief commitment after coming in contact with those ship drawings, she couldn't stop him, but it was a conversation she could live without. Fortunately, he lost interest in the conversation and turned back to the telescope.

"See?" William asked snottily. "People would so keep it to themselves."

Scully stood up abruptly and looked at the pile of sleeping bags and folded camp cots a few feet away from where Mulder hunched over the telescope. They'd stacked them there in the morning after spending second night more or less confined to the basement. "We're sleeping in our own beds tonight," she said firmly.

He turned slowly, and she waited for him to protest, but he just stared at her. "Enough is enough, Mulder. If the aliens are going to attack, I'd prefer we face them after a comfortable night's sleep."

"All right."

For a moment there was silence, and then William sprung up from the couch "Yay! No more basement!" Before anyone could stop him, he raced up the stairs.

Mulder pushed the telescope away and followed him up the stairs. By the time Scully or Andy joined him, he was already in the kitchen, beginning the process of cooking dinner. Mother and son looked at each other and shrugged - they would have liked to know why Mulder had given up on the idea of the basement as a bastion of safety, but neither dared ask. Scully wasn't sure why Andy held his tongue, but she knew why she didn't ask - she was afraid that his answer would be that he'd concluded that they weren't safe anywhere.

The Next Morning

The question Andy asked about the powers that be was answered during the wee hours of December 23rd. It might have been the government's intention to cover up the existence of the ships for as long as possible, but the decision was abruptly taken from them.

By breakfast the entire country knew something horrible had happened when every station cut away in with a breaking news preamble and a somber president Obama took to the airwaves to speak to the citizens of the United States.

Andy and William took their bowls of cereal to the TV, and even Mulder was able to be pried from the telescope to hear the presidential address. The four of them crowded around the set, a scene played out in hundreds of thousands of homes.

Obama's characteristic smile was gone, and his eyes never once glanced at a teleprompter. "Statesmen, my fellow Americans, I stand before you to deliver news that no president has ever expected to give..." He looked away for a moment, as if it was all too much, and it probably was. "Just after midnight, the international space station was attacked. The assault did not originate from the ground, not from Earth itself and no man is responsible for it-" For a moment a swell of disbelieving voices roared up and the president waited them out before looking very resolved. "This attack originated from one of the unearthly crafts that have been reported around the world over the last few days. That is to say that the international space station has been destroyed by, by, by unearthly beings."

All semblance of order dissolved as a cacophony of outraged voices obliterated anything that the president might have intended to convey next. For several seconds the screen was filled with a swarm of men wearing dark suits trying to restrain reporters and elected officials.

William turned his shocked eyes to his parents. "Did the president just say we were attacked by aliens? I mean, obviously we were, but did he just admit it?"

"Sure sounded like it," Andy said before either Mulder or Scully could. "People are really losing their shit over this."

Mulder gave them a tense smile. "This is actually a milder reaction than I would have expected. I bet that the secret service men had no idea last night that they'd be doing this today."

"No one could have known," Scully asserted.

He turned and gave her a long look. "Couldn't they?"

"Somehow I doubt that being open-minded is considered a plus for a potential secret service agent."

A ghost of a smile flitted across his lips. "I never would have been hired for the job."

At last the quell of panic was reigned in, and president Obama began to speak again. "There were three men manning the space station, and I want to stress that the astronauts were able to escape in a safety pod. They have already been recovered from an ocean landing. Before they jettisoned from the space station, they transmitted images of the damage..."

Several reporters began to shout questions, and in a surprising move, the president pointed at one of them, indicating that the woman could speak. "Mister President, are you honestly trying to tell us that aliens have attacked earth?"

"Since the space station is not on Earth, I wouldn't go that far-"

"So it's confirmed that this attack is related to the UFO sightings this week?" another reporter shouted, reminding Scully strongly of Langly for some reason, even though the man's dark hair was neatly clipped.

For a moment the president looked like he was at a loss for words, but then he slowly nodded. This led to a lot of shouting and renewed pandemonium.

The beleaguered president held up a hand and a hush fell over the crowd. They might have been desperate to get their questions answered, but it was clear that they understood that there was value to listening to the information that was freely offered too. All stood in a fairly respectable silence as Obama began to address them again.

"Man has often wondered if we were alone in this vast universe, and this pondering has led to thousands of creative works devoted to the theme. We now know the answer to this question, and that answer is yes. Yes, there are other beings out there. And as of yet it does not seem as though they are particularly friendly.

"I know that everyone's question is 'now what?' and it's a reasonable one, perhaps the only reasonable one. One must ask themselves where do we as a country go from here when these visitors have already committed an act of aggression? While it has been official policy to deny the existence of, of aliens, I assure you that we have devoted decades to the possibilities that we are not alone and that the others might be hostile. Over the years plans have been made and refined to keep up with the growth of technology. Some of those plans are at the ready to be implemented."

When president Obama paused to collect his thoughts, a reporter, a young blonde woman in a pinstripe suit, took the opportunity to shout out a question. "President Obama, are we going to attack the, uh, aliens?"

He shook his head and gave the crowd a stern look when they began to rumble again. "Right now there are none of these ships in our air space. They passed by a couple of nights ago, but North America clearly was not their destination. Given this, we have to remember that we can not throw away international diplomacy, no matter how good our intentions might be. If the countries where the ships are now present ask for our help, we will of course provide all aid that we can. But we cannot invade another country to deal with a potential threat."

This definitive statement was met with howls of protest, and secret service was called upon to calm the crowd again.

"People, alien beings might be a new experience for us all, but this does not give us the right to violate the sovereignty of other nations. Right now it is our place to remain in a state of watchful readiness, and come to the aide of whoever requests it. We will not, cannot, take a position of offense on the soil of other nations without their consent."

After a few seconds the cameras faded away, giving viewers the impression that the reporters and government officials had gotten too panicky to keep filming.

"It's a good thing he's not running for reelection," Andy said to no one in particular. "It sounds like he's even softer on aliens than illegal aliens."

Mulder shot his older son a look, and Andy shrugged. Andy's biological parents, who had been killed in a car accident when he was in first grade, had been proud of the fact that their South American grandparents had entered the US legally and sought citizenship, and they'd lived long enough to instill this pride in their son as well. As a result Andy was not very tolerant of people who came to the country illegally, an attitude shared by many decedents of people who had jumped through all the governmental hoops on their path to legal citizenship.

"President Obama isn't wrong," Scully said quietly. "The last thing the country needs is to set off another war while trying to do the right thing."

"What if the political cost is lower than the cost of doing nothing?" Andy challenged. "What if we do everything by the books diplomacy-wise, and then have a worse chance of defeating the invaders?"

Mulder studied her face carefully, and felt like he could almost read her thoughts. She was thinking about what it was like to be young and idealistic, ready to forge ahead without thinking through all the unintended consequences. She had the grace not to say any of this out loud, which he thought was a good move. Time and experience would stamp out the idealism in their children soon enough, but until it did, there was a place in the world for such confidence and boundless enthusiasm.

Instead of saying what she was thinking, she put her hand on Andy's. "There's a time and a place for fighting the good fight. It just isn't here and now."

This didn't make Andy happy, so he scowled. "So we just wait and do nothing?"

"Watchfully," William chirped, imitating the president's inflection.

This got a grudging smile out of his brother. "I guess there's one good thing to come out of the speech."

"What's that?" Mulder asked, curious about what he might have found favorable.

"They're admitting that the aliens exist, which is good because they're not going to be able to pretend that they're not here if they do come. People will call them on it instantly, and it's not like they can fall back to claiming there's no such thing as aliens now."

"I guess that is the silver lining," Mulder agreed. Andy had a point. With the world watching, no one could keep the crafts entering US airspace a secret for long.

"Dad, and you didn't think youtube was good for anything," William said with a smirk.

"That may be because he's not a fan of cats," Scully told him. "And virtually all the videos you've shown us have cats in them."

"You don't like cats either," Mulder pointed out, thinking of the strange case they'd once suffered through, one like a bad horror movie filled with felines.

"Not all the videos have cats," William protested.

"No, only like eighty percent."

"You're not helping, Andy!"

Christmas day dawned in the US with strange feelings of confusion and guilt. The guilt stemmed from feeling badly that aliens were not just an abstract concept in some parts of the world but a sinister hovering presence above many places. And confusion because they didn't know if it was okay to celebrate the day as they typically did. Many parents were tired from reassuring their small children that aliens wouldn't hurt Santa, or keep him from his appointed rounds.

In the end most tried to celebrate the day as normal, but in most homes, the Mulders' included, there was a pall over the day, much like the first holiday after a death in the family. Scully in particular was strongly reminded of the first Christmases after the deaths of her father and sister.

"I was afraid we wouldn't see this day, Dana," Maggie told her quietly after taking her aside before they ate, leaving Mulder and the boys to watch a Christmas Story. "I saw that red sky a few nights ago, and..."

"Began to look for Jesus descending from the clouds?" Scully couldn't help but quip.

Maggie looked annoyed, but nodded reluctantly. "I wouldn't put it that way, but...I guess we should be thankful that we have this time together after all."

This comment rubbed Scully the wrong way, but it wasn't her mother's fault. The idea that they only had the day due to the largess of the aliens galled her. Even more she worried about the Christmases to come. Would they be gathered in this house 365 days hence, or would the world be ripped asunder by then?

She had to say something, so she forced herself to smile. "I'm glad we're all here together. I just wish that Charlie and Bill could have come too."

"Maybe next year," Maggie said lightly before she seemed to realize what she'd just said. Her expression darkened briefly before she too put on a brave face. "Is there anything I can help you with in the kitchen?"

"Are you up to making a pie crust? I'm still no good at it."

"I'd be happy to."

They wandered into the kitchen, both pretending that everything was normal, and that it might not be the last Christmas before the end of everything.

To Be Continued
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