They pulled away and headed toward Salt Lake.
They had traveled several miles before William finally climbed up on the back seat and buckled in.
“Are you okay?” Scully asked quickly.
“I’m fine,” he replied and glanced over at Mulder as he choked back a laugh. Scully glared silently at Mulder.
“Well I know we have the right kid,” he grinned at her.
“What happened at home?” Scully turned to look at him in the back seat. She was struck again by how much he resembled Mulder, the Mulder before all the trauma and heartache. He looked so young and innocent.
He smiled back at her. “I think you’re looking at my age, not the real me.” She blinked, but didn’t respond. “It went about like you’d expect. They were very upset, but we talked about it. They had to face things they’ve never had to before.”
“Do they know you’re with us?” Mulder asked.
“No, and I didn’t come outside until I was sure they were gone. I have to be sure they don’t know about you. They wouldn’t be safe and, and they’re important to me.”
“They’ve been good to you.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, and they love me. Part of the reason I’m doing this is to keep them safe, like they did for me.”
Mulder looked over at Scully to see how that comment was going down, but she was nodding. “I’m glad, William. I’m glad you love them.”
They were silent then, eating up the miles.
“I don’t feel right about splitting up,” Scully said again.
“We wouldn’t be able to fly out together, Scully. You know that.”
She closed her eyes.
“This way you can finish out the conference, and fly out like you had planned. William and I can’t fly. I’ll rent us a car and that will give us a couple of days' head start. We’ll meet you at home in a few days.”
The fear in her eyes burned him.
“I’ll keep him safe,” they said it together, as though rehearsed.
Her eyebrow rose to new heights. Mulder looked down at William, glaring a little. William looked up innocently and grinned.
Scully shook her head.
“Don’t you trust me, Scully?”
She sighed. “We’re always better together.”
“I’ve never doubted that. We’re going to drive back. No one knows I’m here. You’re here under your real name. You’ll still beat us back. We won’t be rushing.”
“I’ll miss you.”
Her voice could barely be heard. He took her into his arms. “I’ll keep him safe, Scully,” he breathed into her ear.
“That’s not - Mulder, of course I trust you with him, that has nothing . . . I don’t want to be separated from either of you."
“And I don’t want to be separated from you, but I think we’ll all be safer if we do it this way.”
She closed her eyes. He was right, but that didn’t necessarily make her feel any better.
The two of them drove in silence for several miles before Mulder looked over at him. "I'm not sure how to talk to you."
"You're a better dad than you let yourself know."
Mulder's head swiveled toward him. "Excuse me?"
"No, really. You do okay."
"With twenty-four hours of experience?"
"Don't put yourself down. Look what you've already done for me." Mulder glanced over at him again, then focused on the road. "You got my mother to the hospital right after I was born, she wasn't doing that well and you saved her."
William watched the knuckles turn white on Mulder's hands but continued. "You know you saved her."
"I didn't get there in time. I wasn't there for her - "
"She knew you were trying to keep her safe."
"Like I did when I left her, and you, when you were a couple of days old?"
"It worked, didn't it?"
"What? Worked? She had to give you up to keep you safe. That's haunted her for years. If I'd been there - "
"If you'd been there it would have been even harder for her to send me to my other parents. I would have been at even more risk, and therefore so would she. And they really wanted you."
"Yeah, I've always been a real popular guy." Mulder's voice was sardonic, hard.
"You might not have a wide circle of friends, but the ones you have would do anything for you."
Mulder started to look over at him again, but caught himself. "You know all of this because . . . "
"Because I have a lot in common with you."
"In common with me?"
"I'm Spooky," he grinned up at his father.
Mulder couldn't help it, he did laugh then. "Heaven help us, another Mulder."
"Yeah, think the planet's ready?"
They settled in then, more relaxed with each other. Mulder had him talk about school, about his interactions with kids his own age as well as the others in the small school.
"You were top of the class too, Dad. Another way we're alike."
"You sound happy about that."
"I am, you need to understand that. We have to work together; we have to, to save Mom and my other parents."
"You think we, the three of us, can do that?"
"I think we have to."
Mulder looked over at him, but couldn't dispute it.
They had gotten up early to get going. Scully would be home that evening, but it would take them at least one more day. William yawned as Mulder pulled into a McDonald's for breakfast.
"You know neither of my mom's would be happy about all the fast food we've eaten."
Mulder glared over at him. "Tonight, okay, we'll both have all rabbit food."
William laughed and took his sausage biscuit and orange juice. After he'd finished he turned back to Mulder. "Do you really like the house in Virginia?"
Mulder glanced over, then back to the road. "Really like?" He shrugged. "It's a house. The best thing about it is that Scully lives there with me."
William nodded. "Good."
"We need to leave. We have to really disappear for a little while."
"They just cleared my name."
"It'll still be clear when we finish," William reminded him.
"I was hoping Scully could spend some time with her mother."
"We have to do this first. We're running out of time."
"2012?" Mulder asked with a wince.
William just nodded.
"I suppose you know where we need to be."
"The house you have set up in upper Minnesota."
"How do you - never mind. We've never used that one."
"I know, but it's in the middle of nowhere, and it's cold there," William reminded him. "We'll need the cold and the privacy."
"Just what do you think we're going to be doing?"
"Working more on the blood chemistry that Mom has been researching."
The car swerved slightly as Mulder looked over at the boy. "Mom has been researching? Scully?"
"You didn't . . . I'm sorry." For a moment he looked like the six-year-old that he was. "I thought the two of you . . . "
"No, apparently we don't share everything."
"Don't be mad at her."
"I'm not. Your mother, your mother holds a lot in. Even after all these years, she can't always share everything with me. I guess I've let her down too many times - "
"You've never let her down."
Mulder huffed out a laugh, but there was no mirth in it.
"You haven't. I know that. In her mind, she's been the one to let you down."
"Let me - Just a minute here." Mulder pulled into the service station they had nearly passed, and parked over to the side. He turned to look at their son. "When the hell has she ever let me down?"
"You really want a list?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Well," William thought for a moment, "when you returned from Antarctica and she couldn't back you up. She didn't see what you saw. She didn't want to leave you hanging out there alone, but she didn't see it and she couldn't lie, she - "
"Of course she shouldn't lie. I didn't want her to lie, I, I just wanted her to have seen it."
William nodded. "She thinks she let you down, when you first starting hearing other people's thoughts. You turned to Diana - "
"I never turned to Diana! I know she was there, but I don't know - "
"I know, Dad. I know, but that's how she saw it. She knows better now, but she still feels guilty."
"She went to Africa to find a cure for me!"
"But the cure was here, and she was half a world away when you needed her. She still has nightmares that she didn't find you in time."
Mulder blinked at that. "She has nightmares?"
"Yes, I guess not on the par with yours, but yes."
He looked stricken.
"Dad, don't you ever look into her mind?"
"No. I, well once, when I was incapacitated by this artifact that . . . "
"Yeah, I remember the artifact. I scared Mom with it. I didn't know any better back then than to call it to me. She was not amused. You can still look into her mind, if you want."
"That, that's private."
"I don't mean to probe her mind, just like a breeze. You'd get more impressions, emotions."
"I still think that's a little too private."
"Between the two of you? Why don't you ask her?"
"Ask her? She'd skin me alive."
William shook his head. "It would help her communicate with you. She still has trouble with that sometimes, telling you how she feels."
"Even more reason to think she doesn't want me in her head."
"Really, ask her. I believe she'd welcome you into her mind like she does into her body."
Mulder gaped at him. "I, uh, I don't believe we've ever had that birds and bees talk."
William smiled. "Ask me anything you want to know."
Mulder cringed and decided to change the subject. "Is she home yet?"
William's eyes went unfocused for a moment. "Almost. They should be landing in fifteen minutes. She's not a good flyer, is she?"
"Is she okay?" Mulder asked immediately.
"Yes, but she misses us. She's worried, worried that I'm okay, that you know how to be with me. She misses you. She wants to be in your arms, where she can feel safe."
"She feels safe with me?"
"Since the beginning."
Mulder kept quiet then. She had been with him, since the beginning.
They were up early the next morning, both anxious to be home. They barely stopped all day, pulling through drive-throughs for breakfast and lunch. William didn't complain. Scully needed them and he wanted to be there. He had waited long enough to start this new part of his life.
A short call, not nearly long enough to say what he wanted to say to her, how he had missed her, how much he needed her, alerted her to pick them up.
He returned the car to the airport, there was no need to be seen. The car could be left with the paperwork inside. He'd filled the tank, wiped down the fingerprints and ensured nothing had been left in the car. They walked away into the airport and to the luggage claim where they could blend in with the crowd. His phone beeped once when she pulled up, and they moved to the exit.
William was wearing a new blue jacket and baseball cap that hid his face from the surveillance cameras. Mulder didn't attempt to hide, that always drew more attention anyway.
He forced himself not to round the car and pull her from it to take her in his arms. Instead, he moved to the trunk and when she opened it, slipped the luggage inside. William let himself into the backseat with his small gym bag and hid down on the floor, out of sight. Mulder took the front seat and kept quiet, but took her hand for a moment, squeezing it tightly.
After they were out on the highway, Mulder flipped on the radio to an annoying all talk station and turned to William. "I think you can get up now."
"Yeah." He climbed up onto the seat, and buckled the seatbelt around him.
"You okay?" Mulder asked Scully softly.
"I am now."
He could hear the relief in her voice, the slight tremor.
"Was anything moved at the house?"
"No, no one was there. No one knew you were gone, and I went to work as usual."
"How was that?"
She shrugged, not wanting to get into it. "Did you have any problems?"
"No, he snores," Mulder deadpanned.
William snorted and Scully looked at him in the rear view window. Mulder almost had to look away from the naked emotion on her face. This had definitely been the right thing to do.
"Have you thought about a new car?"
"I haven't gotten the check yet for the old one."
He nodded. "Let's go ahead and get one, an SUV."
"With these gas prices?" She looked over at him.
"Yeah, we need to have something four-wheel drive that can carry what we need in an emergency."
She didn't argue, giving him a worried look.
She pulled over for just a moment before getting to the house, to allow Mulder to slip into the backseat. Since he hadn't left, he couldn't 'return.' As she slipped out of the car, he took her hand for an instant, then reached up and turned off the dome light. She shut the door and headed inside.
When it was full dark, Mulder and William slipped out of the car and into the dark living room. She was in his room waiting. Classical music played over the speakers.
"Oh God," and she was in his arms. In a moment, she reached for William and the three of them stood there, holding each other. "That was unbearable."
"We won't be separated again," Mulder reassured her. "In fact, we may get more than a little tired of each other."
"What?" She looked between the two of them.
"Well, William here thinks we need to disappear."
"Disappear?" She looked stunned, and inwardly Mulder winced.
"Yeah, I know."
"Your name is clear now."
"Yes, and I'm taking advantage of that. I've got our money on the move so that we can get to it regardless; I started that as soon as I got the formal notice."
She looked confused then. "Money?"
"Money, my inheritance. I couldn't touch it while we were on the run, hence the five-star accommodations. Now we can be a little more comfortable, but we need to leave here. Your job . . . "
"It's not a job anymore. Father Ybarra has made sure of that."
"You can't give notice."
"I understand. There's some work I need to clear up."
He nodded. "That'll give Will and me some time to pack."
Her arm went back around their son and held him tight. "Where?"
"I have a house we haven't used yet."
She grimaced. "Great, where?"
She just stared, not even making a quip.
"It's cold there," William offered.
She looked down at him. "Understatement."
"It's safer there."
She nodded. "And probably slightly more comfortable there than the Antarctic, maybe."
"I'm sure it's at least ten degrees warmer."
"Whoopie," she said dryly. "'They' don't like the cold."
"Four-wheel drive. Now it makes sense. What's this house like?"
"Older, two stories and a full basement. We'll have lots of room. And now we can upgrade just about anything, put in a whole house generator, a . . . a lab."
"We don't have to discuss everything right now. Don't I smell something wonderful coming from the kitchen?"
She smiled then. "I forgot. Come on, I have a pot roast in the crock pot. You're right, Mulder, that does work pretty well."
They ate together, getting to know one another on this new level.
Once in bed that night, after giving each other a true hello, she held him as he shuddered back to life. "I missed you," she whispered into his hair.
"I can't be away from you that long again," he agreed.
She smiled. "That works for me."
"This place, it will be okay."
"If you're there, you and William, it will be better than okay. You know, you didn't explain needing a lab."
"No, I guess I didn't. William has some ideas, things he wants to work on before . . . "
"Okay. I'll have everything finished up at the hospital by Friday. I can have a letter delivered to Father Ybarra on Monday. How big an SUV?"
"We don't need the biggest, but that would probably be the cheapest right now. Hell, they might give it to you. I'll get online tomorrow and check that out."
"I'll need to buy William some clothes."
"We can wait until we get there. We don't want to make purchases like that here. Go to sleep, Scully. We're here and we're safe."
She nodded and cuddled in.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.
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