fallen into a deep sleep so the sound of his son's voice seemed to be in a
dream. "Dad! Dad! They're coming!"
He tried to find the tent, tried to find the tree house, the beach, but all he could see was a deep and dark gray fog.
"Who, William?" he shouted.
"Mom and somebody she calls Walter," William replied. "But I don't know if they'll get here in time."
At that moment he felt bright, hot sunlight on his face. He squinted but could only make out the silhouettes. He remembered the voices, though, as they boomed over his head.
"Is he dead?"
"No, he's breathin'."
"Don't look like it."
"Probably broke a rib or two. That's OK, won't matter much in a few minutes."
He was roughly hauled to his feet and dragged out of the shed.
It was hard to see at first, the light was so bright, but his open eye adjusted after a few minutes. There were several people standing around, some in flowing robes of white and pale blue. The women were wearing scarves covering their heads but their faces were visible. He saw Eddie -- William -- wearing silk garments, some kind of robes.
The boy stood wide-eyed between a woman and a man wearing a totally ridiculous (under other circumstances) headdress and robes. The robes and the headdress were made of silk, embroidered with the designs on the boy's robe but the threads appeared to be spun gold and silver. The headdress looked vaguely Egyptian and was completely out of place amid the earthmovers and bulldozers scattered around the area.
The man in the headdress smiled as Mulder was dragged before him and tossed at his feet. Mulder landed on his side, but struggled to at least a sitting position.
"At long last, the son will fulfill his father's destiny!" he called in a loud voice to the assembled crowd. He leaned over a little and spoke directly to Mulder. "My father would have loved to see this day, Mr. Mulder."
Mulder swallowed against a tongue swollen from thirst. "Do I know you?" he rasped.
"Oh, I'm sorry! Please forgive my lack of manners. I'm Jacob, Jacob Josepho. Now do you now who I am?" the man sneered.
"'Fraid not," Mulder admitted. Josepho -- that name meant nothing to him. But suddenly he heard William's voice in his head.
'He's the son of the man who tried to kidnap me when I was a baby. Who wanted you dead,' the boy supplied. 'The man who made Mom believe she had to send me away.'
"Oh, wait," Mulder gasped. "Yeah, I remember you. You're nobody."
The robes did not deter Jacob's lightning fast reflexes as his foot shot out, catching Mulder directly in the chest, right at his broken rib. Pain exploded and he grayed out for a few moments.
Scully followed Skinner as they approached the fence. They were moving quickly, crouching trying to watch everything at once. All of the activity, all of the guards seemed to have been moved to the entrance. Once there, Skinner hoisted himself up on the chain link to give a quick look around. There was no one in sight and he nodded to Scully. She checked her weapon, then they both climbed up and over the fence, dropping to the ground on the other side. The disturbance, whatever it was had saved them.
It was dying down now as the guards strong armed everyone out of the complex. Skinner silently pointed to a large truck and they hurried to it, crouching down beside it to look around.
"I'll go west and meet you closer to those trailers. That has to be where the people that stay here live. Scully, be careful."
Mulder fought to draw a breath into his lungs. His ribs, previously just on fire, were now burning a hole through his side. After a few moments, he was pulled upright by two of the goons who'd used him for 'rushing' practice the day before before. His gaze fell on William. The boy looked terrified, sheet white and chewing so hard on his bottom lip there was a tiny spot of blood.
Forcing himself to calm down, Mulder closed his eyes and thought hard. 'It's going to be OK, kiddo,' he assured the boy silently. 'I've been in worse spots and she always gets there in time.' When he looked at William again, a little color had crept back into his cheeks and there was a faintest smile on his lips, just a turn of the corners of his mouth. Mulder nodded and winked his one good eye.
"The prisoner will prepare for his trial!" Jacob shouted loudly. He nodded to some people standing near the front of the crowd and they stepped forward. Forming two lines, the dozen men and women stood just to Jacob's left and looked at Mulder without expression. William was led to Jacob's right hand.
"Read the charges!" Jacob said loudly and smiled as a woman left the crowd and brought a rolled scroll up to read it.
"He has infiltrated a craft and caused the deaths of thousands of our alien brethen," read the woman in a strained voice.
"Kill him!" shouted the crowd.
"He has thwarted all attempts to regain the planet, through means many and varied."
"He must die!" screamed a woman and the rest of the crowd cheered her on.
"He has attempted to stop the rightful owners of this planet from reclaiming what is theirs by denying his son's true destiny."
All eyes in the crowd turned to William and then as one they all cried out "Kill him NOW!"
Jacob turned to William and laid his hand on his head. "Do you understand why this man has to die? He's not really your father, you know. Your father is one of the rightful owners of this planet. Your true father will come and help you lead his return. You must not weep for this man, for he is dirt under your feet," Jacob recited as if from a script.
William wasn't listening, he was starting to cry. Mulder shook his head slowly and tried to reach the boy's thoughts.
'Don't worry, kiddo. Don't listen to him. You are my son and I'm so very glad I found you. No matter what happens, I want you to always remember -- none of this was your fault. These people are deluded, this man is evil and anything he does, he does alone. You have no part in this. I want you to close your eyes and know that I will always love you.'
"Daddy!" William cried out aloud and struggled to break from Jacob's firm hand on his head.
Jacob grabbed his arm and shook the boy. "Didn't you hear what I just said, Child?" Jacob growled. "He tossed you away like an old shoe! He and his bitch have thought nothing of you for years! You belong to us now!"
'William, don't struggle!' Mulder thought frantically. 'Don't give anything away. I don't want them to hurt you. Remember, you said Scully was coming.'
The boy stopped wriggling, but the tears still streamed down his cheeks. 'I love you, Daddy,' Mulder heard clearly in his mind.
He nodded once, just a drop of his chin but it sent the message. 'I love you too, kiddo. More than you'll ever know.'
"Take him -- now!" Jacob sneered to the two thugs holding Mulder up. By this time breathing was becoming more and more difficult and Mulder was dragged over to a small platform with two thick posts about seven feet apart. There, he was handcuffed to each post just above shoulder height so that he hung, literally, between them. With his arms outstretched and no strength to lift himself up, he could only manage very shallow breaths. The baking hot sun was brutal on his back and head.
Jacob smiled down at William. "We must go now to meet your new family."
But William was having none of it. He pulled his arm from Jacob's grasp and flung himself toward his father. "Noooooo!" he screamed and, as Jacob and the men tried to pull him back, he kicked, scream, and bit at them, flailing about with an almost inhuman strength. It was the mother of all meltdowns for the small child, and he had the ferociousness of a tiger.
At William's scream one of the woman shouted out to Jacob. "It's moving! The craft is preparing to open!"
Jacob just barely heard her over the child's screams. "Quickly, to the tent!" he shouted to the followers and they all converged on the awning protecting the excavation hole.
"What about the boy?" shouted one of the thugs who'd tied up Mulder.
"He'll come soon enough. There isn't much life left in Mulder anyway. When his cause is lost, the child will come to us. But now we have to hurry or we'll miss their appearance to us!"
Scully couldn't see Skinner or Drummy. She had to trust they were where they said they would be. There was no time for anything else. With the last of the workers gone, the guards had returned to the area near the tent and taken up a ceremonial-like stance around some structure she couldn't see clearly.
From her vantage point she spotted a young man decked out in some sort of robe emerge from the tent and, shit, William was with him, dressed in a miniature version of the same damn robe. Where was Mulder? She couldn't spot him in the crowd, but he had to be here. If only she could do what Mulder did and contact the boy somehow. Whatever she was doing was obviously unsuccessful.
The man in the robe suddenly lifted his arms and spoke. From this distance she couldn't hear him clearly and started to move a little closer. Before she could, the crowd parted into two lines and she gasped as she finally spotted Mulder, being dragged by two goons. He couldn't stand and seemed only semi-conscious. The crowd roared an answer to whatever the robed man had said, every eye now on Mulder or him. She could move closer but she couldn't reach Mulder unseen. She didn't know what kind of marksman Drummy was, but if they all three made a hit with every bullet they had, they couldn't take out all of these people. The illegality of that move not even brushing her conscience.
"He has thwarted all attempts . . . " She didn't hear the rest but a woman screamed out "He must die!"
We'll see which one of you does, Scully thought savagely moving even closer. Her gun was in her hand now, though she didn't remember drawing it.
The robed one continued to shout and the crowd roared back at him. She took advantage and moved closer still. Ed-William was crying now. He had to be scared out of his mind with all of this and he'd bonded with Mulder. She had no idea if he'd ever made a connection with any of the people he had stayed with after the death of his adoptive mother, but she knew without a doubt that he had connected with Mulder. How much more trauma could the boy stand?
The goons dragged Mulder, apparently at the robed one's instructions, up onto the structure that she hadn't really paid any attention. There they handcuffed him to the beams. Good lord, he was pilloried! He couldn't even stand and his breathing seemed shallow.
The man took William's arm and started to lead him toward the tent, but William shrieked "No!" and began fighting, kicking, biting, and screaming in a total meltdown. Scully watched as this young boy completely overcame the men trying to corral him with his temper tantrum.
"It's moving! The craft is preparing to open!" A woman screamed and the robed man's head came up. Scully couldn't hear his voice over the other yelling, and the sound of the craft starting up as she had heard one other time, but he turned his back on William and hurried toward the tent. Obviously someone asked him about the boy, because he looked back disdainfully and said something. The men dropped the boy then, allowing him to scamper toward the pillory and Mulder.
As Scully watching in shock, everyone streamed into the tent, leaving Mulder and William alone in the hot sun. It was past time for caution, she ran then, moving toward Mulder begging him to hold on for just a little longer.
The noise from the tent was deafening now, so she didn't worry about any sound she would make racing to Mulder's side. He was handcuffed; she had to get him free and quickly.
She spotted Drummy to her left; he'd been watching the same scene and knew Mulder was in trouble. He was also racing toward Mulder and the boy, his gun in evidence.
Scully jumped up onto the platform and realized that William was trying to hold Mulder up, so that his full weight was not on his arms. She wanted to throw her arms around the boy and thank him, and she would, but first things first. "Mulder, I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm here. Skinner and Drummy are with me. We'll get you out of here." She had no handcuffs or key, she was already checking where the chains were attached to the poles. Damn it!
"I've got him." Drummy was beside her now and had Mulder's dead weight on his shoulders.
"Do you have a key?"
"Yeah, I think, check my right pocket. Damn, he doesn't look this heavy," he grunted.
Skinner had joined them now and took the key that Scully had located and released Mulder's right hand. Drummy grunted again, but held his weight.
"We have to hurry!" William yelled then.
Scully turned to look at him and realized that the sound from the tent had increased in pitch and volume. "Oh God, Walter, hurry!"
He fumbled with the lock on the left hand for an instant, then it was free and Skinner wrapped one of Mulder's arms around his shoulder and he and Drummy headed toward the main entrance, holding Mulder between them.
"Come on!" Scully had William's hand clutched in her own and they were racing after them.
"Wait!" William dug in his heels, dragging her to a top.
"No, we have to get out of here. That thing's going to take off and we could be burned."
"No, I can't let this one get away. We have to destroy it!"
Scully's eyes widened. What kind of destruction would that bring down on them?
"We have to get away from it. We're too close." She saw that Skinner had turned to see if they were following him, slowing down. Drummy was forced to halt as well.
"It'll be okay. Let me do this!"
"William, no, come on!"
"If you're scared, go on!"
Scully looked down at him. "No, I could never leave you. I've finally gotten you back. I'm never leaving you again."
William's eyes widened at those words. "You want me?"
"Oh God - " her next words were lost in the roar of noise and she grabbed William, shielding him with her body. The wind blowing not outward, but back toward where the tent had hidden the excavation, nearly threw them to the ground and she saw Skinner turn, forcing Drummy and Mulder back towards them.
William screamed over the wind.
"How, what?" Scully demanded.
"Close your eyes and HATE IT!" William ordered.
Scully shook her head -- it sounded ridiculous. But then she was bombarded by all the pain of the last eight years and more, all caused by these same people, this race intent to take over the planet. Her own abduction, Melissa's death, her cancer, Emily all flashed before her eyes. When she saw herself standing beside Mulder's grave, then kissing him goodbye with a tiny William pressed between her, she felt she could stand no more. The final insult was when she stood searching a deserted site just like the one they were in, desperately seeking her baby. With all that rushing through her mind and her soul, it was easy to turn it all into a rage that she had never allowed herself the freedom to feel.
"We need him!" William shouted. Scully understood and staggered over to take hold of Mulder's hand. It was limp and it frightened her. She wanted to check him over, but William was shouting again. "NOW!" Drummy and Skinner lay him on the ground at Scully's feet and stood watching.
Mulder had been in darkness, but for just a brief moment he surfaced. The sun was no longer beating down on him -- the sky was dark as pitch. He could feel the wind blowing over him. But more than anything else, he could feel Scully's and then William's hand where they held him. A thought brushed his mind -- we have to stop them . . . we can stop them . . . Focusing on that thought, he concentrated as much of his remaining energy as he could. They had taken Samantha, they had destroyed his family -- he was not going to let them destroy the family he had now. With all his might, he wanted them gone.
Skinner and Drummy had staggered back fighting the wind and were hanging on to the pillory posts in an effort to keep from being blown toward the tent. It seemed the hole was sucking in everything within a mile radius around it. Skinner had seen Scully grab for Mulder's hand. William had Mulder's other hand and the three formed a triangle with hands held and eyes closed. Skinner was about to try to ask what they were doing when the wind stopped as suddenly as it had started. The air around them took on an electric charge. Drummy and Skinner both looked at each other as they felt the hairs on their necks and arms rise. It was difficult to breathe for a second.
There was a bright light, followed by an enormously loud crack that reverberated around the desert. In the light, the tent shimmered then seemed to disappear into the hole. Everyone that had run into the tent disappeared down the hole as well. Skinner winced as his ears popped and he saw Drummy rubbing his own ears. Mulder, Scully and William looked at each other for a moment and then Scully and William collapsed on Mulder's chest, their hands still clasped.
Drummy was the first one on his feet. He looked toward the hole, took a few tentative steps toward it and then thought better of his actions. The hole was emitting a greenish smoke and it didn't look at all healthy. "What the hell," he shouted because he couldn't hear a thing.
Skinner shook his head. "We need to get them out of here," he said loudly, pantomiming his words to be understood. All three appeared to be unconscious.
"I'll call for a chopper," Drummy said, starting to pull out his cell phone, then realizing the futility of that action. "Or maybe I'll just text the regional," he decided, quickly typing into the tiny keypad.
William was the first to come around. He looked up at Skinner and smiled. "It's gone," he said simply.
"What's gone?" Skinner asked, his hearing beginning to return, but still not understanding everything that had taken place.
"Their ship. It imploded. It's gone. And now they know we can destroy them. They won't bother us anymore."
It was the most Skinner had ever heard the boy utter. Hadn't Mulder said he was uncommunicative? "Oh," he said, nodding his head even though he was just more confused. "That's good."
William's smiled grew even brighter. "Yeah. It's very good, but now we need to get Mom and Dad taken care of. I think it wore them out."
Plains Medical Center
Clovis, New Mexico
Eddie -- William, Skinner reminded himself, was fast asleep in the reclining chair between the two beds. Mulder hadn't awakened, but had been treated for his injuries and dehydration, and admitted. Scully was still unconscious, so the decision had been made to admit her for observation.
Drummy had been calling at regular intervals with reports from the site. The hole in the ground resembled a large crater. There was no sign of any craft, nor had any of the more than three dozen people who had entered the tent reappeared. More than that, a local geologist had reported residual radiation near the hole and the Department of Homeland Security had taken over the investigation. In truth, Skinner was more relieved at that news than anything else.
Skinner smiled as he looked over at the boy. He was wearing a white t-shirt that Drummy had given him and a pair of running shorts that were way too big and held on with a safety pin. He'd wanted out of the elaborate robes the minute they had arrived in town, but refused to leave his parents to go find new clothes, even though he'd been reassured they would both recover. Mulder's recovery might take a little longer, three broken ribs and a concussion took a while to heal. Scully was just finally getting her beauty sleep after two days of constant worry and travel, not to mention taking down an alien craft with her thoughts.
At least that was the story William had told him. That the three of them combined had 'destroyed' the alien ship with their thoughts. Skinner would calmly tell the child he was confabulating -- if he had a better explanation. As it stood, Skinner just hoped it was the end of the threat he'd lived under for several years.
"I'm hungry," came a voice from between the beds.
"You should be. You didn't eat lunch," Skinner admonished. He watched the boy look over at first Scully and then Mulder. "The doctor thinks they'll be asleep for a while longer. We could go down to the cafeteria . . . " his voice trailed off when he realized from the look on William's face that he was not going to win that battle. "How about if I run down and see if there's anything I can bring back?"
William gave an enthusiastic nod.
"Any requests? Peanut butter and jelly? Baloney? Hot dog?" At the last item, the boy's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "I better get there and back before Scully wakes up or she'll skin me alive for feeding you junk food," he sighed.
"Uncle Walter?" William called after him. Skinner turned and waited. "If you bring me an apple and a carton of milk, that should make her happy."
Skinner smiled. "Good idea, William. I'll do that. If one of them wakes up -- "
"Call Sherry out at the desk, I know," he assured him.
When the elevator doors opened to take him to the second floor cafeteria, he encountered Agent Drummy. "I'm making a run down for some food," Skinner explained.
"He still won't leave their sides?" Drummy asked.
"Mind if I tag along? I seem to have missed lunch," Drummy said casually.
"Sure. I'll even buy," Skinner offered.
As they stood in line in the almost deserted cafeteria, Drummy got up the nerve to ask the questions that had been burning inside him all day.
"Sir, what happened out there? I mean, yes, it was a kidnapping and yes, we got the victims back but -- "
Skinner shook his head and sighed. "It would take all night to give you the long version and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't believe half of it."
"Look, I know I wasn't always the most supportive when Dakota started nosing around in those files, but what I saw today . . . Try me," Drummy challenged.
"Let's find a seat and I'll give you the short version," Skinner suggested.
They found a deserted corner and Skinner waited for Drummy to settle in. "OK, why don't you just ask me your questions and I'll try to give you the answers. But I have to warn you -- the two people up in that room are the only ones who know everything and I really don't want to bother them when they wake up."
"Understood," Drummy agreed. "OK, let's start with this one. Who the hell was that dude in the funny robes and why were all those people following him? Who is this Hopeson thing?"
Skinner nodded. "That question is actually one of the easy ones. When William was a baby, a cult -- a cult that believed that an alien race was coming to take over the planet -- kidnapped him . The leader of that cult was a man named Josepho. The 'dude in the funny robes' as you put it, is his surviving son."
"Josepho, the father, is dead?"
"Yes. He died about the same time Agent Scully and Agent Reyes arrived at an excavation site very like the one out in the desert, except it was in Canada."
"That's what Scully was talking about," Drummy mused aloud.
"So, this cult -- they believed these aliens would come and take over and what -- make the world a better place?"
Skinner smiled ruefully. "To be honest, I don't know what they expected to get out of the deal, except maybe survival. I think you can understand that their mental state was somewhat questionable."
Drummy nodded and snorted in agreement. "But that explosion -- inplosion -- whatever the hell we saw out there. That wasn't anything I've ever seen and I did a stint in the Marines."
Skinner looked away for a moment, then turned his gaze back to Drummy. "That -- I believe that was the alien craft. I believe it was destroyed."
"How? Self-destruct button?" Drummy asked.
Skinner shook his head again. "Honestly, Agent, I haven't a clue. But I suspect those three people, Mulder, Scully and their son, had something to do with it."
"So, when the boy -- Eddie, William, whatever his name is -- when he said it was over . . . "
"I pray he's
right," Skinner said simply and gathered up the food to take up the room.
Mulder came awake slowly, to the sounds of whispers. He looked over to his left and what he saw made his heart nearly burst with joy. William was cuddled up on Scully's bed. Her arm was around him and they were talking quietly. Every once in a while, one of them would giggle or just smile. Scully hugged the boy close and ran her hands down his arms as if to warm him -- or just hold him close. It was the most beautiful picture Mulder had ever seen and he memorized it and placed it delicately next to the other picture in his heart -- the one of the three of them when William was first born.
He hated to interrupt them, but he was feeling just a little left out of the fun they were having. "Hey," he rasped and winced when he figured out talking hurt his ribs. He swallowed and tried again. "Can anyone get in on this par-tay?"
Scully's smile doubled and with William's help, she eased off the bed and came over.
"No, Scully, I didn't mean -- "
"Shush, Mulder. I'm only here for observation," she scolded. "How're the ribs?"
"On a scale of 10, about a 6," he admitted.
She glanced over at the clock on the wall. "You're due for some meds in about 15 minutes. Think you can hold out that long?"
"Sure," he confirmed. "So, what were you guys talkin' about over there?" By this time, William had found a way around the bed rail and was settling in next to Mulder. Scully tried to hold him off, but Mulder shot her a look and she relented.
"We were comparing other hospitals you've been in," Scully said dryly.
"I think I'm offended by that topic," Mulder deadpanned back.
"You get hurt alot, Da--Mulder." William looked up at him and for a second an odd expression passed over his face. He still wasn't looking Mulder in the eyes, but was staring at the lightboard above them.
"Not any more. Well, recently maybe, but not for a long time," Mulder hurried to correct any false impressions. He tilted William's head toward him and tried to meet the boy's eyes. "What happened to calling me Dad?"
William held his eyes unnaturally wide and looked at Mulder's eyes for an instant before focusing on his chin. "Can I?"
"I think I'd
like that." Mulder looked over at Scully and she shrugged but he didn't like
the look in her eyes. "Where's Skinner?" he asked Scully.
"He's in the lounge, watching highlights from the baseball game last night. He didn't want to disturb us."
"Why don't you go out and keep him company for a minute, Will," Mulder suggested. "Just for a minute or two, OK? I need to talk with your mother."
The boy looked unsure, but scrambled down the bed and out the door. Scully stood beside the bed, looking unsure herself.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
She was biting both of her lips between her teeth and looked on the verge of crying.
"I . . . I want to keep him," she choked out. "But I don't know . . . "
"Scully, he isn't a puppy. He's our son. I didn't think there would be a question," Mulder sputtered and then realized how hard this was for her. She was crying openly now, tears falling from her cheeks.
"I had no idea. When I gave him away, I thought -- I thought he'd be safe and I wanted to believe that. I had to believe that to go on. But Mulder, he wasn't safe."
"I know," he said, taking her hand and pulling her closer. "But we can keep him safe."
"But will they let us keep him?" she sobbed. "I gave him up for adoption. I severed all parental rights. I have no standing in the eyes of the law." She swiped angrily at the tears on her chin. "I'm nothing to him anymore."
"Scully, is this you talking or your fear? You had reasons for giving him up, yes. And I've never doubted that choice or your reasons. But many of those reasons have changed. We're not apart now. We're together. And as for William -- I would think we could build a better life for him than what he's had for the last three or four years."
She shuddered and then nodded her head.
"Right now, he's in foster care. Do you think anyone is going to adopt him away from us?"
At her worried expression, he knew the truth. She still didn't think herself worthy of being a mother. He sighed. But, how long had it taken him to accept the fact that he was worthy of her love?
He reached up and wiped the tears from her face. "Look, you let me worry about the details. Right now, there is a little boy who is part of us, created by us, with our DNA, and he needs a family. But more than that, I think we need him in our lives. The rest, well, the rest really doesn't matter."