World’s Child 2. Father



I needed those brief weeks of calm and comfort – my world would explode again all too soon but for those weeks I had a chance to rest and recover, at least as much as I ever would, from that terrible night when I had seen my adoptive parents’ murders. I spent a lot of time studying a single blade of grass, or the leaves of a tree, or the shape of Uncle Walter’s big, blunt fingertips as he sat on the porch step behind me, his arms loosely wrapped around my chest. He was a constant, reassuring presence, and as the world’s familiar cadences soothed away the worst of the memories, he was always there to remind me that I hadn’t lost everything. I still had nightmares, still saw my parents’ dead bodies as clearly as if they were right in front of me, but the abject terror of the experience did begin to fade. 


John Doggett showed up one Friday night a few weekends later. He brought food, more blankets and – much to my delight – a bicycle.


“Well the kid has to have something to keep him occupied,” he muttered to Monica and Walter in a somewhat defensive tone. “Sheesh – locked up out here with only you two for company. And, with all due respect, you don’t have any experience of kids, either of you.”


Monica exchanged a wry smile with Walter and they didn’t say another word on the subject of the bike. I went to bed that evening with a big grin painted on my face, and soon fell sound asleep. I woke a few hours later – it was dark outside, but I could hear something in the small room. I could see Walter’s sleeping face a few yards away, just poking out of the blanket he was wrapped in, but there was no sign of John so it didn’t take me long to figure he was sleeping with Monica in the other room. I let my mind wander to the gentle, whispering sounds that emanated from that room. They were tuneful, soft and loving, like the fluttering of butterfly wings. I followed my mind’s path into the room, and found myself watching John and Monica as they performed what looked, to me, like a profoundly beautiful dance. They were both naked, and he was kissing her with incredible tenderness. She was sighing and running her fingers gently up and down his back. They danced like this for what seemed like ages, moving in perfect time to each other, and as they touched and kissed a light seemed to emanate from their bodies, surging, pulsing and glowing. At first there were two distinct lights – Monica’s a dark, vivid orange and John’s a deep, strong green, but as the dance became more intense, the colours seemed to merge into a multi-hued rainbow that fascinated me. I had watched my parents do this dance and had always found it profoundly moving but John and Monica’s dance was different, their colours deeper, and they had a choreography all of their own. I felt a surge of pure love for them and at that moment Monica stopped dancing, and gazed at the darkness above the door, where I was floating.


“What is it?” John asked.


“Nothing…I thought…oh…I see.” Monica gave me a smile that glowed with energy, and then continued with the dance as if nothing had happened. I wasn’t sure if she had seen me but I knew that if she had then she didn’t mind me being a silent witness to their loving.


I didn’t return to my body – I was too energised. Instead I floated back into the living room and gazed at Uncle Walter for awhile. He was dreaming of running and fighting and hiding, and always in his dream he had one arm around me, protecting me, while with the other he tried to hang on to the shadowy, elusive image of a man whose features I could not make out. I whispered something soothing to him that emerged from my ethereal body in a cloud of pure white light, then left him to his dreams and wafted out into the yard. I journeyed slowly down to the creak; it was a profoundly different experience to visit these places and see these people whilst not in my own body. I couldn’t feel the moonlight bathing my skin, or the wind in my hair, but all my senses were heightened and I could feel emotions more intensely, and see a depth of colour and vision that was far beyond the ability of my eyes to appreciate. I love these moments outside my body for that reason if nothing else – but in addition to that there’s a grace and freedom to the sensation that it’s impossible to experience whilst in a body.


I sensed John and Monica’s dance reaching a beautiful climax that left them both happy, sleepy and joined, felt Walter’s dream fade into something less tense, and a bird by the creek raised a sleepy head and looked straight through me with a puzzled expression, as if he had been expecting to see someone.


I wandered off to explore my surroundings further than Uncle Walter had allowed me to do in my body. It was like stretching after a long time being cramped in one place and I roamed, unfettered, for what seemed like an eternity. I soared and arced in the sky like a bird, and then swooped down low, so that I was just above the tips of the grass. I was having such a good time that I almost vanished straight back into my body from the shock of coming across the man.


He was striding along the dirt path that led to the cabin. In my heightened, bodiless state I could see that he radiated an aura of tense anger and sadness, gripped by the kind of grief that eats into a man’s soul and makes him bitter from the inside out. I remembered my adoptive father once referring to one of our neighbours as being “pursued by demons” and that phrase came back to me. If anyone was pursued by demons it was this man here. I could almost see them, dark shadows clinging to his back, taunting and tormenting him with their constant cacophony of sound, beating and driving him forward, so that each step he took had a desperation that bordered almost on madness.


Worried, I realised that this man, this dangerous man, was making his way to our cabin. At least I knew he was human – but I was fairly sure that humans could be just as dangerous as aliens. So, I slipped speedily and effortlessly back to my body, coming to with a jolt. I scrambled out from my sleeping bag, went over to Uncle Walter, and patted his face with my hands to wake him.


“Uncle Walter.” He came to and sat up, reaching for his spectacles.


“William – are you okay? Are you hurt?” He asked anxiously, hooking the glasses over his ears and grabbing my arms to examine me.


“I’m fine but I thought you should know there’s a strange man coming,” I whispered.


“A man?” Walter frowned, and I could feel that his mind was still foggy with sleep. “How did you…?” He shook himself awake, realising that in some way he already knew the answer to that question. “Okay, William. What direction is he coming from?” He asked, getting up and reaching for the gun beside his bed.


“He’s coming up the path from the lane,” I said, reaching out with my mind. “He’s got such darkness with him, Uncle Walter. He’s bringing darkness here. It’s sitting on his shoulder like a crow.”


“Okay.” Walter looked somewhat freaked out by this description but he grasped his gun firmly in his hand, and glanced towards the little room. “William, I want you to go very quietly into the other room and wake John and Monica. Tell them what you told me. I’m going to go to the door and…”


“It’s too late,” I whispered. “He’s nearly here.”


“Stay down – out of sight,” Uncle Walter hissed, and then he moved surprisingly quickly towards the front door, his bare feet making no sound as he slid into place behind it, his gun raised, ready.


I think we both almost jumped out of our skins when there was a knock on the door a split second later – perhaps we had been expecting the man to just kick it down. Walter unlocked the door, then put his hand on the door knob, wrenched it open, and pulled the stranger into the cabin in one swift motion. He threw the man down over the table, one arm pressed up his back, and placed his gun to the back of the man’s head just as John and Monica stumbled into the room, awakened by the commotion.


“Hey, Walter, it’s me,” a dry, almost toneless voice said from the direction of the table.


Uncle Walter released the stranger quickly, as if stung, and pulled him to his feet.


“Christ, what the hell are you doing sneaking around in the middle of the night?” he roared, the first time I had ever heard him raise his voice to anyone, the strain of the past few minutes sounding in his hoarse voice.


“Nice to see you too,” the stranger said in a pointed tone. He rearranged the collar of his coat and then gave Uncle Walter a tight smile. “Nice to see that you haven’t lost your endearing habit of restraining me over tables either,” he commented.


Walter threw down his gun onto the table, a look of profound irritation distorting his strong features, combined with something so complex that I couldn’t decipher it. Monica stepped forward, fastening an old robe around her slender body.


“I think we need some light,” she said.


John gave a grunt, and, without saying a word to the newcomer, disappeared back into the little room to pull some clothing on over his boxer shorts, which were all that he had been wearing when he burst into the living room.


A couple of flashlights relieved the gloom of the room and I was finally able to see the man I had only glimpsed in shadow thus far. The demons that drove him weren’t anywhere near as visible but I could still catch glimpses of them, and there was something about the raw, hungry light of his eyes that hinted at some great tragedy whose weight he still lived under – maybe more than one.  Even when he was still, this man exuded an unceasing restlessness that made me tired to watch him. Most of all, I could not help but feel an intense wave of sympathy for someone who lived in the shadow of a darkness that seemed to have ravaged his very soul. It was impossible not to feel his pain and to want, somehow, to be able to heal it. The danger I sensed was still real, but I saw it was not directed at me but towards himself. Yes he was dangerous, but in the same way a moth is dangerous as it flies into the flame – wild, uncontrolled, but hurting only itself, seemingly oblivious to its own pain as it repeatedly flings itself towards its own wanton destruction.


“I’m sorry,” I whispered, strangely, because it was what came to my mind to say. The man’s eyes alighted on me for the first time and I almost shrank from his gaze. His hazel eyes bored into me, searching for something and finding nothing.


“So, you’re William,” he said, in those same dull, almost ironic monotones.


“Yes. Who are you?” I asked.


“William, this is your father,” Monica said, which maybe wasn’t the wisest way of introducing the man, and it certainly made Walter hiss with disapproval, but Monica had an endearing tendency to speak first and think later. She flushed. “I mean…that is…” she glanced at the stranger, with an agonised expression on her face. I suddenly realised that this gaunt stranger in front of us was the same man I had glimpsed occasionally in Walter’s memories – especially when he was telling me stories about Agent Mulder and Agent Scully.


“It’s okay, Monica. I know who he is,” I said with a smile of recognition. “He’s Agent Mulder.”


The man smiled back at me and I caught a glimpse of the famous Mulder charm that I had learned about from Uncle Walter’s stories. At first I had wondered if this tall, gaunt, possessed and dispossessed man could be the witty, charismatic Agent Mulder of the stories – I even wondered if Uncle Walter had got it wrong, and misrepresented the man, but when he smiled I knew that the charm was still there, still capable of blinding and bewitching. This was a complex man, and while I enjoyed his charm, I did not entirely trust it.


“Agent Mulder,” he mused. “It’s been a long time since anyone called me that. I just go by the name Mulder these days, William.”


And still those eyes of his searched and searched me, and, even though he was not touching me, I caught a sudden flash of memory from him. He was looking for red hair, blue eyes, the shake of a head, or something in my stance that would remind him of Agent Scully – and, on a subtler, almost subconscious level, he was looking for a large nose, dark hair, hazel eyes – something about me that would remind him of himself. He found neither and his disappointment was almost tangible – and disappointment was an emotion he was all too familiar with – I could see it etched in his face.


“I don’t look the way people want me to look,” I told him softly. “I’m sorry about that, Agent Mulder.”


“Just Mulder, please,” he said, giving me an assessing look. He wasn’t surprised that I had guessed he was looking for some trace of my parentage in my features – in fact, I didn’t think very much about the world surprised Mulder at all. He seemed to have an understanding of its mysteries that most people didn’t grasp. I realised, with a shocked thrill of recognition, that he caught glimpses of the way I saw the world – and he was the first person I’d met who did that. It made my heart ache to see how that knowledge had set him apart from everyone else, and I caught the sharp angles of his mind, glimpsed something of the diamond sharp brilliance of it, that made me also understand how he had come to be this brittle, this damaged by his experiences. I knew, even then, that that would never happen to me. I could see the whole, while he was tormented always by what lurked in the half-light, just beyond his field of vision. I could see how frustrating it must have been for him to see glimpses but never the entire picture but that wasn’t all that had damaged this man – there was much else besides.


We looked at each other for a long time, and nobody else in the room said a word. It was as if there was a connection being formed, a bond being made, strange, fragile, and uncomfortable though it was, lacking the warmth or easiness of the bond I had with Uncle Walter or even with John and Monica. Finally Mulder tore his eyes away from me. They alighted instead on Uncle Walter and I gave a little gasp of shock as a thin, bright white light passed between them as the two men gazed at each other properly for the first time. Nobody else seemed to have seen the light, but it crackled with a heat and intensity that I could physically feel and then it was gone. I studied the two men more closely, wanting to understand what had just taken place between them but they were glowering at each other like mortal enemies and not the good friends that I had assumed them to be. Walter seemed to catch my unease because he suddenly looked my way.


“Hey, William, you look worn out. Come here,” he said, holding out his arms to me. I ran to him eagerly and he sat down at the table and pulled me onto his knee. I rested my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes. “You’re tired, huh?” He said, rocking me gently and I nodded and nestled against him. It had been a busy night – for a start I had spent the best part of it roaming around outside, and then there had been the shock of Mulder’s arrival, to say nothing of the continued strain of his brooding, unhappy presence, causing tension in the previously much more serene and relaxed atmosphere. I was glad to close my eyes and drift off into the comfort of Uncle Walter’s warm arms. I let my mind wander, and even though my eyes were closed, I could still see everything that went on in the room as if they were open. My body relaxed and my breathing deepened, and I guess the adults all thought I was asleep because that would explain what Mulder said next.


“So, I see from the news that you’ve been a busy boy, John.”


A frown of annoyance appeared on John’s forehead and he glanced at Walter with a grimace.


“Damnit, Mulder, I haven’t told them about that yet,” John snapped, in an undertone, angry but trying not to wake me.


“Told us about what?” Walter said grimly, hugging me closer. I mumbled something, to make it sound as if I was still asleep – I was becoming very adept at eavesdropping and I’m afraid it’s a vice that I still possess. Maybe it was born into me by the very nature of my special abilities. All the same, I’m somewhat ashamed to recount what a little actor I became in my attempts to overhear conversations that weren’t meant for my ears.


“They found the bodies of a boy and a man in the woods near the burnt out Granger house. Both had their faces shot away but the boy was wearing blood stained pyjamas with Nathaniel Granger’s blood on it,” Mulder said bluntly. “So they called off the manhunt for Walter and the missing boy.”


“So they were looking for me?” Walter asked, a grim look on his face.


“Yes – but they’re not now, thanks to John here I presume.” Mulder gave John a searching look and the other man’s hands balled into fists. I wished I understood Mulder’s abrasiveness – he seemed to carry tension around with him wherever he went and didn’t think anything of spreading it around either. Walter glanced at me, a worried frown on his face but I remained unmoving, seemingly asleep.


“The man clearly wasn’t you – they assumed he was a drifter who killed the Granger family and then turned the gun on himself for reasons they didn’t understand,” Mulder said, in a softer tone. “The case is closed. The police aren’t looking for either you or the boy any more, Walter, although obviously plenty of other people are still looking for William.”


“John?” Walter turned to gaze at John who had a grim, but oddly determined look in his eyes.


“Somethin’ had to be done, Walter. The last thing we needed was the police getting William – they wouldn’t be able to protect him from…” He trailed off and shrugged. “It wasn’t easy, but it had to be done. I didn’t like your name getting’ mixed up in this either, not after all you’d done to save William’s life but – who was going to believe stories about super soldiers and aliens, huh? I took William’s pyjamas, and…” John trailed off. “There are ways and means y’know,” he muttered. “Those folks I used were already dead. I didn’t like doing it but…”


Monica put a comforting hand on John’s arm.


 “Y’know, a few years ago I ripped into my old partner from the NYPD for planting evidence,” John said with a sigh. “He felt the ends justified the means, and I told him he was wrong. Now, I figure there’s more at stake than my principles. I mean, we’re talking about the fate of the whole goddamn planet here if I understand this correctly, huh?” He looked from Monica to Walter to Mulder and then, pointedly, to me.


“Yes, John,” Monica said softly. “We are talking about a whole planet and you did the right thing. You bought us some time.”


“Supposing they do an DNA test on the boy’s body…” Walter began.


“They won’t – they don’t have anything to test it against,” John replied. “There are no DNA samples for William and of course he was adopted so he won’t match the Grangers. They could go knocking on Mulder’s door asking for a DNA sample, but all he has to do is deny he’s William’s father and…” He stopped sharply in mid-sentence looking very much as if he could kick himself. A savage look passed over Mulder’s face and he gave a shrug.


“Oh shit. I’m sorry, Mulder,” John said with a sigh.


“That’s okay, John. I don’t know the truth about William’s parentage any more than you do. Scully wanted to believe he was mine but…” He shrugged. “Hell, Scully wanted to believe he was hers, let alone mine. She was scared of the truth.”


I listened to all this with interest, wondering what all the talk about my parentage meant. I had been thrilled by the glamour of being told I was Agent Scully and Agent Mulder’s son, but now that I had met Agent Mulder, I was quickly revising my ideas about glamour. He simply wasn’t a glamorous man. He wasn’t the smart, shiny suited, quick-witted man of so many of Uncle Walter’s stories. With my eyes tightly closed, I examined Agent Mulder at my leisure. I could see him in a different way to how I would view him optically – I could see more of the man underneath, more of the soul shining through the skin. Mulder had a gaunt face, with a couple of days’ growth of beard stubbling his chin. His eyes seemed to be set in shadow, haunted, and full of grief, pain, and something worse, something that ate him away inside – something I identified, without understanding it, as guilt. He had once been handsome – still was somewhere underneath – but he clearly didn’t care about his looks now, if he ever had. His hair was thick and dark, with the faintest flicker of silver at the temples. He was wearing a pair of old jeans and a torn, stained sweater and looked as if he hadn’t eaten a good meal in weeks. He was talking in those low, drawling tones, and I savoured the sound of his voice, so different to Walter’s rich, low tones and John’s husky, heavily accented voice. I loved the sounds they made as they all talked, with Monica’s lilting, higher voice, adding her own music to the mix.


Although Mulder said he was fine with John’s comment, his mood changed abruptly from that moment in the conversation. I could feel the tension emanating from him. He was like a finely tuned violin – one wrong note had upset his balance and was still echoing and reverberating around his psyche.


“This whole thing’s a mess,” he commented sourly. “Christ, Walter, why didn’t you get William out of there earlier? Isn’t it bad enough that we have the super soldiers chasing after us, let alone the police? How long can we be expected to hide him from the whole goddamn world?”


I felt Uncle Walter stiffen.


“And wouldn’t the police have been after him – after us both – if I’d removed him from the ranch while his adoptive parents were still alive?” he growled. “Besides which, I doubt I could – William loved that place, Mulder, and I wouldn’t have been able to persuade him to leave.”


“He’s 6 years old!” Mulder snapped.


“Are you saying I should have forcibly abducted him against his will?” There was a tone of deadly fury in Walter’s voice that Mulder completely missed – or else he saw the warning signs and chose to ignore them.


“He’s just a kid – he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t have a clue who we’re dealing with!”


“He knows a lot more than you think but you wouldn’t understand that because you haven’t spent more than a couple of days in his company in his entire life,” Walter said, and I could feel the heaviness in his chest. “What is he to you, Mulder? A commodity? Or a human being?”


“We have no evidence that he’s that,” Mulder said, in a tight, deadly whisper. “We don’t know what he is.”


“He’s your son!” Walter exploded.


There was a tight, deadly silence in the room.


“There’s no evidence that I’m human either if it comes to that,” Mulder said, his tone a fraction lighter but not light enough that anybody could tell whether he was joking or not. “Well, I’ve had unauthorised brain surgery, been able to read people’s thoughts, and I’ve returned from the dead. Not your average, everyday human experiences.”


“Last time we all met, you said the boy wasn’t in any danger yet. We decided, all of us, that it would be safer for one of us to go and watch over him. I volunteered for that.  I was happy to do it, especially after what happened to Dana. We expected to hear from you if there was any reason to be concerned over William’s safety,” Walter said tightly. “Christ, how did you even know we were here? How did you find us?”


“I called John – told him not to tell you. I had no idea whether I’d be able to get here or not and I didn’t want anyone to expect me,” Mulder snapped.


“And where have you been for the past year and a bit, Mulder? Would it have hurt to have made the occasional phone call?” The wounded tone in Walter’s voice told me that this was personal.


“I was trying to find out what we’re dealing with, trying to figure out a time scale for all this.”


“Were you? Or were you just running away?” Walter snapped back, the fury in both men becoming almost palpable. I could see John and Monica just standing by, watching as the heat in the room grew. John opened his mouth to say something but Monica, understanding the nature of the tension better than he, put a warning hand on his arm and shook her head.


“Running away? From what?”


“From Scully’s death, from William – from yourself,” Walter threw at the gaunt stranger sitting at the table. Mulder’s eyes flashed – his equivalent of Walter’s famous jaw clench.


“Don’t go there, Walter, or I swear I’ll…” Mulder’s fists clenched, and he got up angrily. Walter couldn’t move – he had me on his lap, but I felt sure that if I hadn’t been there he would have got up as well, and the tension would have escalated accordingly. I didn’t like seeing these two men who I was so intimately connected to at each other’s throats and stirred, shifting the mood with a yawn and a stretch.


“Uncle Walter – I’d like to go to bed now,” I said, in a small voice.


There was silence as Walter and Mulder glared at each other, their emotions running high. Then Walter’s jaw did a familiar sideways clench and, with some effort, he pushed his anger to one side in order to take care of me.


“Of course you do, buddy,” he said, standing up with me in his arms. ” It’s late and it’s been one hell of a night.”


John and Monica went into the small galley kitchen and began crashing around making sandwiches, while Walter helped me into my sleeping bag and settled me back down on my mattress. Mulder stood where he had risen, still glowering at the place at the table where Walter had been sitting.


“Why is Mulder so mad at you?” I whispered to Uncle Walter as he bent to kiss me good night. He sighed, and ran a weary hand over his face.


“He isn’t, William. Not really. He’s mad at himself mainly,” Walter replied, and I understood what he meant. I was about to tell him about Mulder’s demons and then remembered that Walter didn’t know about my nocturnal wanderings so instead I nodded and closed my eyes.


I slept for awhile, and woke several hours later to find someone staring down at me. I shifted, and, keeping my eyes closed, peeked a look – only to find Mulder’s gaunt, shadowed frame standing above me. He was gazing at me intently, but what surprised me was the look of tenderness on those strained features of his. He didn’t touch me, just stared at me. Looking around the room, I could see Uncle Walter huddled in his sleeping bag, and another bundle of bedding as far away from Walter as was possible in the small room. I was startled to hear a wrenching sob and looked back at Mulder. His entire body was shaking, his arms wrapped tightly around his torso, and tears were rolling down his cheeks. He tried hard to control his emotions and after that first sob made no sound. He cried for several long minutes and I wondered whether to get up and say something but there was something so private and savage about his grief that I dared not. Finally the tears stopped. He stared at me for a long time, and then, with a sigh, turned…but instead of going to his blankets, he went to where Uncle Walter was sleeping and looked at him instead. My breath caught in my throat as I watched him – the expression on his tear stained face had changed, totally, and he looked down on Uncle Walter with an expression of such affection that I would never have believed possible from the tense, angry man I had witnessed earlier. He crouched, silently, by Walter, and reached out with his hand – but stopped half way there. Walter remained asleep, and Mulder stroked the air softly above his head, as if in his mind he was stroking Uncle Walter’s scalp. It was a bizarrely tender and touching gesture and I felt tears of my own prickle in my eyes. After several minutes, Mulder got up and returned to his blankets. He gazed down on them with considerable distaste, and then gazed back at Uncle Walter. He did this several times, and then, with a sigh, he picked up the blankets, and walked with them over to where Walter lay. He settled down on the air mattress carefully beside Uncle Walter, not quite touching, and lay there stiffly. Walter muttered something in his sleep and rolled over a little way. His outstretched arm came to rest on Mulder’s thigh as if it belonged there. Mulder nestled in and closed his eyes, and, for the first time since he had made his dramatic entrance, he looked relaxed. His face was different in repose – younger, more at peace, and I caught a glimpse of the man he had once been.  I wondered what Uncle Walter would say when he woke to find that Mulder had crept so close during the night, and then saw, with my intuition rather than with my eyes, that Uncle Walter wasn’t asleep. He was pretending – I didn’t know why, but I think it had something to do with not frightening Mulder away or embarrassing him for needing the comfort and warmth of another human being right now.


The adults spent a lot of the following day talking about things I wasn’t particularly interested in and didn’t understand. I wandered outside and that was when I saw the boy. He was about 9 years old and was sitting on bottom step of the porch, carving into a piece of wood with his fingernails.


“Hi,” I said, recognising him immediately.


“Hi.” He looked at me with mischievous brown eyes.


“You’re Luke – John’s son,” I commented.


“Yeah.” He glanced over my shoulder into the house, straining to catch a glimpse of his father.


“He can’t see you,” I told him.


“I know that. You can though,” he said.


“Yes.” I shrugged.


“How come?” He squinted at me as I came to sit next to him on the step.


“I dunno.” I shrugged.


“Oh. You want to play?” He asked.


“Sure.” I grinned, and he grinned back. I liked Luke – he was simple, uncomplicated and friendly, much like his father. We chased each other and climbed a couple of trees, although he was three years older than me and much better at it than I was. John came out later in the day with the bike he’d brought, and Luke grinned up at his father, completely delighted that John was my friend and doing the same kind of stuff with me that he had once done with Luke.


“Time to see if we can teach you to ride without those training wheels!” John called. “A boy your age should be riding without ’em.”


“I know!” I said excitedly. “Dad was going to teach me but he never had the time and Mom was always too worried about me falling over and she wouldn’t let Dad take them off until he had time to teach me.”


John smiled down at me throughout this garbled speech, and I climbed onto the bike, which felt strange without the training wheels holding me up. John held onto the back to keep me steady as I sat down.


“Now, just ride along and get used to the feel of the bike. I’ll hold on behind so don’t worry,” John told me. I saw Monica and Walter sitting on the back porch, watching us, and waved to them excitedly, almost toppling over as a result. “Hold on, William! It’s too soon to be impressing Monica by takin’ your hands off the handlebars,” John chided and I laughed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mulder emerge from the shadows of the cabin. He leaned against the wall, a dark, intense, critical presence, watching me. I felt nervous in front of him, in a way that I hadn’t when it had just been my previous audience of Monica and Walter.


“That’s it, just keep on pedalling,” John was saying and I tore my thoughts away from Mulder and concentrated instead on the bike. Luke was standing a few feet away, clapping his hands and doing a little dance as I got the feel of the bike. “I’m going to be holding you the entire time,” John said, “so just pedal away.”


Encouraged by the fact he was keeping the bike steady from behind, I concentrated hard. The bike picked up speed and I felt a wave of exhilaration rise inside. I knew I could do this! Maybe, by the end of the day, I’d even be able to ride without John holding the bike upright from behind. I shouted this out to him over my shoulder but there was no reply save Luke’s high-pitched giggle.


“He let go ages back, doofus!” Luke called. “You’ve been doing it all by yourself.” I was so startled by his comment that I wobbled, and came to an ungainly halt – only to find that Luke was right – John was standing back by the house and I’d pedalled most of the way by myself. John was grinning broadly, and my audience on the porch clapped and cheered me. I felt an absurd wave of giddy pleasure and was delighted to see that even Mulder had broken into a smile, even if he didn’t clap.


“You cheated, John! You cheated!” I laughed, beginning to pedal again, overjoyed with the achievement.


“That’s what every dad does when he’s teachin’ his kid to ride a bike,” John replied. “It’s what I did with Luke,” and his grin faded a little, but not completely. Over on the porch, I sensed Mulder’s mercurial mood shifting again, and felt his emotions surge…jealousy – Mulder was jealous? Uncle Walter got up, and spoke to him in a low undertone, meant for Mulder alone – but my super efficient senses picked up the words.


“If you want to be his father, you have to spend some time with him,” he said.


“Looks like he’s doing well enough for fathers between you and John,” Mulder replied. “I’d just move in there and screw him up in the 101 unique ways Mulder dads have for making their kids really miserable. He’s better off without me. You’re a hundred times the father I’d ever be anyway. You understand him, and he adores you. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”


Walter began to say something and then gave up with a sigh of total exasperation. I turned back to my bike, and began pedalling furiously around the yard. I was so pleased with myself that I got over-confident, went too fast, and wobbled to an ungainly halt in the dirt.


“You okay, William?” Monica called but I waved her off. I was fine save for a skinned knee – and I was more interested in the girl who was laughing at me from under a nearby tree. I’d never seen her before but I knew exactly who she was.


“It’s not nice to laugh when someone hurts themself,” I told her, crossly.


“I know,” she giggled, “but it was funny.” She put a hand over her mouth but I could see she was still giggling. She was about 14 years old with long black braids and flashing dark eyes.


“Who’s she?” Luke asked suspiciously, running up to examine my bike for scuff marks.


“She’s Samantha,” I replied with a wave of my hand.


“Why’s she here?” Luke frowned. He had been used to having me all to himself and he wasn’t sure he trusted this newcomer.


“Probably because of Mulder,” I told him. “She’s his sister so I guess that kind of makes her my aunt.”


She stuck her tongue out at me in horror at this suggestion and Luke and I both laughed. I climbed back on the bike and pedalled straight at her and she ran off, laughing, with Luke chasing after her, yelling and waving his hands around. We played for a couple of hours – I liked both my companions enormously. Samantha had a wise, big sisterly air, and frequently told us we were being stupid, and behaving like kids, but when I cut my knee again, out of sight of the adults, she was the one who knelt down beside me, and wiped the grit out, and wrapped it in her handkerchief. I cried a little, because it hurt and I was only 6 years old, and it was then that I saw the little girl. She was sitting on a log, and she looked very scared.


“Hey, it’s okay,” I said softly, not wanting to frighten her away. She looked around, her big eyes afraid, as if she hadn’t expected me to be able to see her. “Why don’t you come over here?” I asked, holding out my hand to her. Samantha finished tying the bandage on my knee, and Luke was busy trailing a twig through the dirt, making smiley faces on the ground.


“She’s just a kid,” Luke said scornfully. “She can’t play with us.”


“She can if she wants,” I said, still holding out my hand. The little girl wasn’t more than 3 years old and she was very shy. “Hey, come on,” I said, with my friendliest smile, and finally she took a couple of timid steps towards me and then stood, right in front of me, twisting her hair between her fingers. I reached out, pulled her gently into my arms, and kissed her soft hair, loving the scent of her baby breath. She settled into my lap and snuggled up and it felt so good to hold her.


“What’s she called?” Samantha asked, crouching beside us and holding out a finger to the child as if greeting a strange cat.


“Do you want to tell them?” I asked the little girl, squeezing her slightly but she shook her head and looked around with big, shy eyes. “Do you want me to tell them then?” I asked and she nodded, vigorously. “Her name is Emily,” I told my friends. “And she’s my sister.”


“Why’s she here?” Luke asked, clearly a bit put out by this influx of girls into our previously boy’s only club. I frowned.


“I’m not sure. I think maybe she just wanted to say hello. I’ve seen her before but she always ran away before I got a chance to talk to her.” Emily was adorable. Shy, with the biggest eyes and the sweetest personality – it was impossible not to fall totally in love with her. She didn’t speak but she understood everything we said and although she would only let me pick her up at first, by the end of the day she did allow Samantha to kiss her plump cheeks, and tidy her mussed up hair.


Walter called me in for supper as the sun was going down. I went, wearily, and bade my friends goodbye as we approached the porch.


“Can’t we come in?” Samantha asked, with a little pout.


“You can but I can’t talk to you – it’ll freak them out. And if you make me laugh they’ll think I’m nuts,” I told her. Her face dropped, and I saw her looking over my shoulder into the other room, trying to catch a glimpse of Agent Mulder. “I could give him a message if you want?” I said, then wished I hadn’t as the idea of going up to the tense, volatile Agent Mulder and telling him I had a message from his sister was a truly scary one. She screwed up her face.


“It’s hard to think of anything,” she sighed. “I’ve wanted to say things to him for years and years but now I have the chance – nothing seems important enough. I mean last time I was able to talk to him we argued about what to watch on TV. ” She sighed again and looked very sad. Emily put her podgy little hand into Samantha’s and the teenager smiled down at the little girl. “Tell him…tell him that he shouldn’t feel guilty for what happened to me,” Samantha said, flushing furiously. “It wasn’t his fault. He was just a kid. I wish he’d let me go sooner – he’d have had a happier life.”


“Oookay,” I said uncertainly, not entirely sure whether I’d be able to work this piece of advice into the conversation. I was, however, pretty sure that Agent Mulder wouldn’t be able to follow his sister’s advice – guilt was ingrained into him, and he nursed it to him. Even as a 12 year old boy, he had taken all responsibility for his sister’s abduction and one message from her wasn’t going to change that – that was just the way he was.


I turned and ran up the stairs into the cabin, to be met by a delicious smell so I guessed that Walter was cooking tonight – he was far and away the best cook among the adults, which was one of those surprising facts about him.


As we ate, the adults talked. A lot of it went over my head but I liked listening to their conversation. I was preoccupied anyway because Luke had thought it would be a good idea to follow me into the cabin with the sole intention of making me laugh. At least, that was what he told the others but I knew that he couldn’t resist any opportunity to be with his father and I was soon proved right as he abandoned his lame attempt to pull silly faces at me, and went instead to sit by his father’s knee, gazing at John with adoring eyes. Samantha was more hesitant around Mulder, and I guessed how strange it must be for her to be so close to this gaunt, tense man, when she remembered the bright, lively 12 year old boy he had once been. She sat a little way away, cuddling Emily on her knee for support – Emily was much more relaxed now, and she seemed to guess that Samantha needed her for comfort, so she let her pick her up quite happily, and contented herself playing with Samantha’s long dark braids, and occasionally she shot me shy glances with those big eyes of hers, and I couldn’t help but smile in return.


“What else have you found out this past year, Mulder?” Walter asked. Mulder chewed hard, swallowed, took a deep gulp of water, and nodded.


“Nothing good,” he said. John and Monica exchanged glances. “People are disappearing, Walter – or maybe disappearing is the wrong word. They’re still there, they still exist, but they aren’t people any more.”


“I’ve seen that!” I piped up. All the adults in the room swung their heads around and looked at me in surprise. I flushed and buried my face in my dinner.


“William,” Walter said softly. “What have you noticed? You can tell us.”


“People aren’t the same.” I shrugged. “There was a lady in the town, Mrs. Rooney, and one day she got sick and when she was better she wasn’t Mrs. Rooney any more. She looked like her but it wasn’t her. She was the first one I noticed but there were others.”


“You can see whether someone is human or not?” Mulder asked, leaning forward. It was the first time he’d really spoken to me since his arrival.


“Yeah,” I shrugged. “That man who came to kill me – he wasn’t human but he was different than Mrs. Rooney. She was…” I hesitated. “She was one of them. Other. But he had metal inside him. He was made to be the way he was and he was kind of empty inside. Mrs. Rooney wasn’t like that – she was very complicated inside.” I had an image of a tentacle recoiling quickly, and a hissing sound as I remembered Mrs. Rooney and I shuddered.


“That ties in with what I’ve found,” Mulder said, nodding vigorously. “There are aliens and there are super soldiers. There aren’t many aliens but they’re very powerful. Super soldiers on the other hand are mutated humans – they’ve been exposed to a virus that turns them into what they are. They were created to be a slave race for the aliens, to do their bidding. In any one town you’re likely to find a single alien, controlling an entire pack of super soldiers.”


“Mulder, are you sure about this?” John said and I could see that he was finding it hard to believe it all.


“Yes,” Mulder said flatly. “In those areas where there aren’t enough aliens to control the super soldiers they tend to go renegade. Some just go renegade anyway – they aren’t human, but they remember being human enough not to want to be slaves.”


“Those people who came and watched Scully giving birth to William…” Monica said slowly.


“Super soldiers,” Mulder nodded. He glanced at me and a frown flickered across his forehead. “They view William as some kind of saviour – they think he’s going to save them from their slavery. The ones who came to witness his birth were those who weren’t under the immediate control of their alien masters, and there were probably even some who managed to break out from that control because they were influenced just by being near William. It would be a mistake to view them as friends or accept their offers of help though – they want their freedom, yes, but they aren’t human, and if they’re being controlled by one of the walk- ins then they’re highly dangerous killing machines.”


“Is this why the aliens want to kill William?” Walter asked, one big hand coming to rest protectively on my shoulder. “Because the super soldiers view him as some kind of saviour?”


“Yes,” Mulder replied bluntly. “It isn’t just the super soldiers either. There’s some kind of prophecy written on spaceships buried around the planet, and they foretell of a saviour who will deliver all the people of the world from a great danger from the skies.”


“Wait a minute,” Monica frowned. “Why would the alien spaceships foretell of a saviour that would deliver us from them.”


“The spaceships aren’t theirs,” Mulder said.


“What?” Monica gasped. Walter’s jaw had dropped while John was looking deeply sceptical of what Mulder was saying.


“The spaceships were built by our own ancestors during their last battle with these aliens,” Mulder said calmly. “When the aliens arrived, there was a massive battle which our people won. The aliens slunk away, but it was always their intention to return. Our ancestors knew that – they also knew that we’d forget about the danger over time, so they set up a warning system. 50 years ago, when an alien reconnaissance ship crash-landed at Roswell, that warning system was activated. Since then, the old space ships have been re-emerging all over the world, and fragments of them are everywhere.”


“What use are these fragments?” John asked, in a sceptical voice.


“They’re imprinted to respond to people with a certain kind of DNA – people who are genetically more likely to be psychics, or mystics, or prophets, or whatever you want to call them. That’s how the prophecy about William became known but there are others. In addition…” Mulder sighed and shook his head. “There have been other signs. One of the oldest prophecies tells of a time when our blood will become contaminated, and abominations will walk the earth. Strange, inexplicable things will happen that people won’t be able to understand. Those are the warning signs of the coming invasion, caused by the first, early ships of the aliens arriving in our solar system, carrying an old and deadly pathogen with them that causes mutations in our genes.”


“Oh shit,” Monica said. “The X Files…”


“Yes.” Mulder nodded. “It isn’t a coincidence that the number of X Files has increased exponentially during the past 15 years – it’s all part of the of build up to colonisation…”


“…which will take place in 2012,” Walter finished.


Mulder nodded. “According to the ancient Mayan calendar and the prophecies, yes.”


“Forgive me for saying so, but this all sounds like so much ‘the end of the world is nigh’ crap,” John cut in forcefully. Luke gave a delighted little giggle and clapped his hands and I had to smile at him.


“You’ve seen enough to make you believe, surely, John,” Monica said, placing her hand on his arm.


“I believe some of it – I believe, god help me, that this planet is under threat although I’m not entirely sure what from, but now you’re askin’ me to believe in prophecies and ancestors who had spaceships and a whole load else besides.” He shook his head.


“Where did you think these prophecies came from if not from our ancestors?” Mulder asked him. “They were a race of prophets, John – but it’s a talent that has survived in only a very few of our race. They could see the future, and they left warnings for us about what would happen – but it’s up to us to listen to those warnings. If we don’t, then we’ll all end up either dead, or serving alien masters. Nothing is foretold beyond the possibilities – we could still end up losing everything.”


“So what the hell happened to all that technology?” John demanded. “If we could build spaceships back then, why ain’t I livin’ on the moon today? What happened?”


Mulder frowned. “I think that the last battle our ancestors had with the aliens was apocalyptic – it may even have resulted in their almost complete annihilation. It’s possible that it changed the map of the world, caused tectonic plate subsidence, climatic change – almost destroyed the planet. Every culture on this planet has a race memory of a great flood – maybe that was the aftermath of that battle with the aliens. I think we survived by the skin of our teeth; we were shunted right back into the stone ages, and it’s taken us a long time to re-emerge.”


“And William – is he really the saviour the prophecies speak about?” Monica asked, gazing at me with her warm brown eyes. Mulder chewed on his lip for a moment, and then shrugged.


“Plenty of people seem to think so,” he said at last.


“Well, assuming of course that all this is true,” Walter gestured with his head in John’s direction. “Our priority has to be to keep William safe.”


“I’d agree with that much,” John said.


“Me too,” Monica smiled at me.


“At least until 2012, when whatever happens will happen.” Mulder shrugged again. “We have only one really valuable weapon, besides William himself, and that’s magnetite.”


“Hold on a minute,” Walter said, raising his hand. “You’re viewing William as a weapon? He’s just a child.”


“An unusual child, as you’d be the first to admit,” Mulder said.


“He has certain gifts, sure, but…”


“We don’t know who he is, or where he came from,” Mulder said cautiously. I gazed at him steadily and those hazel eyes of his gazed back at me.


“He’s 6 years old for god’s sake! You’ll scare him talking like that in front of him!” Walter protested.


“Six going on six thousand,” Mulder commented. “Have you told Walter all the things you can do, William, or have you been hiding some of them?”


I gave a start of recognition – he could see the things I never spoke about, the way I could often see those things in other people.


“I didn’t want to scare anybody,” I replied in answer to his question. The truth was that ever since my parents had died it was as if something had been unlocked in my brain and I had been finding that I could do new things every day. “I didn’t think of it as hiding exactly,” I said with a frown.


“What kind of things, William?” Walter urged softly. “What new things are you learning?”


“It’s not that I’m learning new things,” I said slowly, hesitantly, my – admittedly advanced – six year old’s vocabulary struggling to keep up with my understanding, which far exceeded anything I could put into words. “It’s more like finding things I always knew I could do and then doing them.”


“So there’s a good deal more you can do than Walter knows about? You’ve been keeping that secret from him, huh?” Mulder pressed.


“Christ, Mulder, he’s just a kid, don’t bully him,” Walter snapped.


“I’m not. I just want to find the truth,” Mulder flared back in response. I could see Monica wince and she reached for John’s hand and held it tightly, clearly resigned to another huge row sparking between these two men.


“It’s always the goddamn truth with you, isn’t it? Just how many things are you intending to sacrifice on the altar of that truth, Mulder?” Walter growled. “Is William just one more thing?”


“No. Fuck you, Skinner!” Mulder shouted, getting up, his volatile temper out of control.


“Then treat him like a son, and not a suspect to be interrogated!” Walter said in a low, dark tone. “Scully’s dead, Mulder, and all the guilt in the world won’t bring her back, but her son is still here, and he still needs you.”


“This is not about my fucking guilt!” Mulder yelled.


“Yes it is. You think you failed Scully, the same way you think that you failed your mom and dad and your sister, but you didn’t. There are some people you couldn’t save, Mulder, but they’re gone, and William is still here. You can still save him if you stop treating him as if he’s just a part of the jigsaw and start treating him like a son.”


Mulder’s hazel eyes were flashing furiously and I could see Samantha standing just behind him, stroking his arm, trying desperately to soothe some of the tension out of him, but he was, of course, oblivious to her. Something Walter had said about Mulder’s guilt finally sank into my bemused brain and I found myself opening my mouth to speak.


“You shouldn’t feel guilty about Samantha, Mulder,” I told him. “She hates that.”


The room went silent and then all the adults in the room turned to gaze at me again. I bit on my lip. “She told me to tell you,” I whispered. “She said you were just a kid and she wished you’d let go of her sooner because you’d have had a happier life. She said to say it wasn’t your fault and she really means it.” Behind him, Samantha’s dark brown eyes were luminous.


“Thank you,” she said softly, still stroking Mulder’s arm.


“You can talk to her?” Mulder said, his breathing coming in harsh gasps.


“Yes – she’s here right now,” I whispered, hating this. I remembered the reactions of my parents to this kind of event all too well and that was why I had fallen into the habit of hiding my experiences and abilities from adults.


“She’s here?” Mulder swallowed hard. “Where?” He asked.


“Just behind you – to the side. She keeps stroking your arm,” I replied. “She’s upset because you’re so upset.”


Mulder went very still, as if he was trying to concentrate, and then, suddenly, an incredulous look appeared on his face.


“I can feel something,” he whispered. The other adults all glanced at each other, unsure what was happening.


“William,” Monica said suddenly. “Who else is in the room with us – who else that we can’t see?”


“Lots of people, Monica,” I told her. “There’s Luke. He’s playing around on the floor next to where John’s sitting. Sometimes he laughs when John says something he likes. He liked it when John showed me how to ride the bike earlier.”


John’s eyes were dark as he struggled with this, and he looked around the floor as if he hoped to see Luke. Luke just stood there, a bit bewildered by what was happening.


“And Emily’s over there with Samantha,” I continued. “She doesn’t say anything. I don’t think she can. Something was done to her before she was born and she was never like other little girls. She’s pretty though, and really sweet.”


“Is Samantha saying anything else?” Mulder asked, and I could see from the expression in his eyes that he desperately wanted to believe.


“No, she’s just standing beside you,” I whispered. “She’s about 14 years old and has long dark hair in braids and very dark eyes. She laughed at me when I fell off my bike but later she tied my knee with her handkerchief when I cut it.”


“Show me,” Mulder said, in a strangled tone, and, looking down, I wondered if he would be able to see the makeshift bandage or not. He shouldn’t have been able to, but sometimes objects could cross over. I undid the handkerchief and held it out to him, and he took it, an utterly incredulous look on his face. It was then that I realised that everyone in the room could see the handkerchief.


“It has an ‘S’ embroidered in all the corners,” Mulder whispered. “Mom gave Samantha these the Christmas before she disappeared. I remember them because Mom made a real fuss about Samantha being a proper lady and carrying a delicate handkerchief around in her purse.”


“What the hell is going on here?” John asked, in that defensive tone he adopted whenever he felt his personal boundaries being pushed too far. “Since when did William turn into the kid from that Sixth Sense movie? Seeing dead people…” John made a disapproving noise in the back of his throat, and shook his head.


“John, just leave it for now,” Monica said, placating him with one of those warm, open smiles of hers that always seemed to stop him dead in his tracks. “Maybe now isn’t the best time to get into this. William looks beat to me – why don’t we put him to bed and we can talk about this some more in the morning – when it’s daylight outside and not so spooky in here.” She treated all of us to that charismatic smile of hers and the mood in the room began to calm down, although Mulder and Uncle Walter were still looking at each other antagonistically. I could feel myself shaking as I witnessed that white light flashing between them again. What was it? It scared me because I didn’t understand it. I needed these two men to be friends, but they had spent most of the time they had been together arguing furiously and it was starting to upset me. It was wrong – the emotions in the room were out of sync, and there were so many different complex undercurrents that I was getting a headache. I’m not surprised Monica noticed how pale I had become.


I wrapped my arms around Uncle Walter’s waist and he kissed me good night, but I didn’t dare approach Mulder who was clutching that handkerchief and looking as if his body wasn’t strong enough to contain all the emotions inside it. I longed to go up to him and kiss him goodnight too, the way I could so easily with Walter, Monica and John, but he turned to stare at me as I walked past him and there was so much turmoil in those hazel eyes, so much volatility emanating from him, that it overwhelmed me, and I scurried past him towards my sleeping bag instead.


“The boy just wants you to like him,” I heard Uncle Walter say, wearily, as I scuttled away with Monica.


“Why wouldn’t I like him?” Mulder snapped back.


“Mulder, you don’t even know him. Please don’t keep him at arm’s length. He’s a difficult kid not to love when you get to know him – or maybe you can’t face the thought of loving anyone again,” Walter commented in a mild tone.


“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mulder growled, immediately antagonistic again.


I sighed as Monica settled me down into my sleeping bag.


“Why are they always arguing?” I asked her. “I wish it would stop.”


“I know. It’s getting on my nerves too,” she confided. “They’ve always been like this – although it got a lot worse after Dana died. There isn’t a thing in the world they wouldn’t do for each other, but when they’re not fighting side by side they’re fighting each other like this.”


“Don’t they like each other?” I asked.


“No, that isn’t it,” she murmured, glancing back over her shoulder. “That isn’t it at all. The problem is that they like each other too much.”


“Oh,” I said, a glimmering of understanding dawning. These were complicated, adult emotions, but my senses were becoming more finely tuned to pick up all the nuances of human behaviour as each day passed.


I settled down in my sleeping bag but I couldn’t sleep. I could hear the low murmur of voices as Mulder and Uncle Walter continued arguing about whatever it was they were arguing about this time. There was a cadence to their argument, their voices full of a hurt that had nothing to do with whatever they were arguing about and which told of a much deeper conflict – one they never spoke about out loud. The discord went on for some time, Mulder’s drawling monotone at odds with Walter’s deep, mellifluous, tones. The atmosphere around me began to prickle with their energy and I suddenly realised they were dancing – it was a similar dance to that which I had witnessed Monica and John performing the previous night; it certainly came from the same root, but this dance was jagged and ugly, and it set my nerves on edge. I couldn’t help but tune into their voices and listen to what was going on.


“I’d just like to know that you’re not going to take off again without saying a word to anyone. You can’t operate alone any more, Mulder. You’re part of a team now. I know that isn’t your strong suit but…”


“I worked with Scully for years. I know how to work as part of a team,” Mulder interrupted.


“You ditched her and kept her out of the loop whenever you wanted to follow something on your own or if you wanted to do something she knew she’d disapprove of. I read the reports, Mulder. I signed the damn things!”


“Oh listen to yourself, Skinner, still going on about the rules as if we were working at the goddamn Bureau. Well wake up, Assistant Director, because there are no fucking rules out here. We’re on our own and we make the rules up as we go along.”


“Well, perhaps one of those rules could be that information is shared in the group and that we keep in regular contact with each other.”


“Or what? You assign me to tape surveillance? I need the space to work on my own – I work better that way. Other people just slow me down.”


“Did Scully know you thought that?”


There was a tense silence, and then a raw, jagged intake of breath, followed by a deadly, hissed: “Fuck you, Walter.”


“No! Fuck you both!” Monica’s voice broke into the argument, utterly exasperated. “Or better still, why don’t you fuck each other because that’s what all this is about. The sooner you two go to bed together, the sooner all this stupid bickering can come to an end.”


There was a shocked silence, broken finally by John’s chuckle.


“Well, I guess she told you. It ain’t anythin’ that we haven’t been thinking, although your timing is probably off as usual, Monica.”


“I need some air,” Walter said. There was a sound of a scraping chair and then I heard him walk out into the night. Mulder was silent, and I had no idea what was going on in his head.


“Oh shit,” Monica sighed. “I’m sorry, Mulder. That didn’t come out the way it should have.”


“It’s an interesting world view you have there, Monica,” Mulder said in a tight-lipped kind of voice. “I’ll be out on the porch.” Another chair scraped and then he was gone.


“You gotta stop me next time I open my mouth and put my big foot in it,” Monica said to John and he laughed and I could hear him pull her into his arms and deliver a big kiss to her lips.


“Well at least you stopped all their goddamn arguing,” John told her when he released her. “I’m sure as hell grateful for that. I just hope William didn’t hear what you said.”


“William would probably understand it better than any of us,” Monica muttered darkly. “He may be a little kid, but he’s got a good handle on human emotions – and his own understanding of the physical expression of them. He watched us when we were making love last night, John.”


“What? You’re kidding,” John gave a long, low whistle. “Are you tellin’ me he was standin’ in the doorway?”


“No. He was hovering over the doorway,” Monica replied. “But don’t worry, John. I don’t expect you to believe me!”


“Thank you for that, Monica.” They kissed each other again, and their voices became lower, vibrating with affection and punctuated by little kisses. After a little while, Monica tore herself away.


“Well, I guess I ought to check that William is okay after all that,” she whispered.


A few seconds later she appeared by my side and I sat up, eagerly.


“I should have known you’d still be awake,” she chided, sitting down beside me, and giving me a cuddle. “How much of that did you hear?”


“All of it,” I admitted.


“Hmm, this eavesdropping is starting to become a habit with you. How much of what you heard did you understand?” She asked, those warm dark eyes of hers alight with mischief.


“Most of it,” I admitted. “I’m sorry I spied on you last night, Monica. It’s just your dance was so beautiful.”


“Dance?” She frowned and then smiled. “Oh, that’s how it looked to you?”


“Yes.” I frowned back at her. “Isn’t that how it was to you?” I thought of all those merging colours and auras and the gentle love of their dance.


“It’s a lovely word for it.” She kissed my hair affectionately.


“Everything dances,” I told her in an undertone. “Even the spiders have their own dance, and the rats – and the trees and the birds and the flowers. It’s part of the pattern that makes up the world. I like it. I…” I hesitated, unsure how to tell her this. “I won’t ever be part of that kind of dance,” I confided, and she pushed me away to get a better look at me.


“Sure you will, William. One day you’ll meet a nice girl – or boy – and…” she began.


“No.” I silenced her with a whisper. “It’s not something I can be part of.”


“Are you telling me you won’t live to be an adult, William?” She asked, horrified.


“No, I’m not saying that. I don’t know the answer to that. I just know that if I do…I’ll never want to do that dance. That’s just part of being me.”


My understanding of myself was increasing as each second went by. I felt as if my parents’ violent deaths had kick-started something inside me, like unlocking a door to a room full of treasure, and now I found things in that room on an almost hourly basis.


“You can’t know something like that at your age,” Monica said, trying, I think, to offer comfort, but I didn’t need comfort. I loved that the world was connected by this beautiful dance, but I didn’t need to be part of it – I was part of the world in so many other beautiful ways that most humans never experienced, that I didn’t feel I was lacking anything by missing out on this. And, in a way, being an outsider to it just made me appreciate the beauty of it even more. I felt so much a part of the leaves on the trees, the soil, the sky, the sun, the moon, and every living being on this planet that knowing I would never dance that dance seemed a small price to pay.


“Uncle Walter and Mulder want to dance don’t they?” I whispered. “I understand that now. Why don’t they, Monica?”


She sighed. “It’s a long and complicated story, William. Mulder and Walter have been in love for a very long time.”


“Do they know that?” I asked.


“On some level – yes – but they keep fighting it and that comes out as all this bickering they do. They can’t leave each other alone, and although they won’t admit what’s really underneath all that fighting, they know, deep down, I think.”


“Why can’t they admit it?” I asked, confused.


“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” she said, with a smile. “For now, I think you need some sleep.” And she kissed me on the forehead and tucked my blanket around me, over my sleeping bag.


I must have slept because when I woke up the moon was high in the sky and several hours had clearly passed. The place was in darkness, and if I concentrated I could hear Monica and John’s breathing in the next door room. Walter and Mulder’s bedding was empty though, much to my alarm. I sat up, glancing towards the porch – and was pleased to see Mulder’s angular frame through the screen door. He was bent almost double, his chin just about touching his knees as he sat, his eyes wide open, and bleak. A few seconds later I heard a noise outside – the sound of footsteps, and my initial fear turned to relief as I recognised them as Uncle Walter’s.


“Hey,” Mulder sat up and I realised he had been waiting for Walter to return.


“Hey.” Walter’s voice sounded weary. “Look, Mulder, I’m too tired to fight any more.”


“Me too,” Mulder sighed. “So, d’you think we should take Monica’s advice on the fucking option instead?” There was a silence for a moment, and then Walter gave a bark of laughter. He sat down beside Mulder on the porch steps. “I’m sorry,” Mulder said at last.


“For what?”


“For all of it. You were right. I’ve been running from my guilt for a long time, but wherever I go I always take it with me. I loved Scully, Walter. I really loved her, but I could never be what she wanted me to be.”


“She loved you too,” Walter murmured.


“I ruined her life,” Mulder said, gazing at his hands. “Ruined my life, ruined hers, ruined yours…”


“I can take responsibility for my own life,” Walter told him firmly. “And if Scully was here she’d say exactly the same thing. And judging by what William said earlier this evening, Samantha isn’t blaming you for anything either.”


“Maybe she isn’t, but I am,” Mulder said in wry tones. “I spent years chasing after Samantha because I felt so guilty that I lost her, and because I wanted to see her again so much. But…as time went by, I also used that search to avoid facing up to so many issues in my life. It ended up so that I not only felt guilty about losing her, but I also felt guilty because I knew I was using the search, using her, as a crutch, a hiding place, so that I didn’t have to face up to a lot of things that were too difficult for me to deal with.”


I didn’t know what Mulder was talking about, but a lot of their conversation went over my head in any case. I just caught the underlying sadness – and the sense of a deep and abiding affection.


“Mulder…” Walter began, his voice deep and comforting.


“No, Walter. I can’t…I know what you want and I know what you’re going to say but I can’t…I just can’t.” Mulder shook his head. “I loved Scully, but I always needed more. You understand that…your marriage to Sharon…”


“Fell apart because I wasn’t honest with her or myself. I needed…something more too. Something she could never give me, no matter how much we loved each other,” Walter replied, gazing at his hands intently, his sense of guilt as palpable as Mulder’s.


“Scully knew,” Mulder whispered. “I hate that she knew and I hate that I couldn’t be the kind of man she wanted – the man she deserved. I hate that about myself, Walter.”


“You are what you are, Mulder. There’s no point hating it,” Walter sighed.


“Don’t you?” Mulder glanced at the big man and the expression in Walter’s eyes was so sad that I felt a lump rise in my throat.


“No, Mulder. No, of course not, because if I did I’d have to hate you too and I can’t do that.” Walter’s eyes were gentle and full of love, and that seemed to take Mulder by surprise. His face crumpled, and he fought the tears but was unable to contain them and they started to run down his face.


“I miss her so much, Walter,” he whispered.


“I know.”


The tears ran, unchecked, down Mulder’s face, and after a long while, he rubbed them away with his sleeve, cleared his throat, and pulled himself together.


“You’re right, Walter – I have been running away. From a lot of things.” Mulder glanced over his shoulder in my general direction but I guess it was too dark for him to see me, because he didn’t move.


“You’re the bravest man I ever met,” Walter told him firmly. “Running away was the wrong choice of words. I’m sorry about that.”


“I want to love him, Walter, but I’m scared. I loved Samantha and Scully and my father and mother and I lost them all. I can’t lose him when he’s all I have left of Scully. How can I live with myself if William dies? How can I live with myself if I fail him?”


“Mulder – there aren’t any guarantees,” Walter whispered gently. “But the only way you can fail him is by not being involved in his life. Even if you’re not his father, you knew his mother better than any of us, and even if she wasn’t his biological mother, she was the closest thing to it – she carried him for 9 months, and she loved him. He was her son, and he’s your son too.”


“And yours?” Mulder said softly. “Yours, and John’s and Monica’s – he’s the world’s child, Walter, and he belongs to the world.”


“Yes,” Walter nodded, “but we’re the ones taking care of him on behalf of the world, Mulder. Get to know him. Hang around. We might none of us have very long together – let’s make the most of it.”


“Four years. We have four years,” Mulder sighed. “I wish I knew the truth about him, Walter.”


“I think, the challenge for you, will be not knowing, Mulder,” Walter replied. “Just loving him without knowing. Loving him for him, and not for what he stands for, or because he was Scully’s son. William deserves that. He’s a very special little boy.”


“I’ll try.”


They were silent again for awhile, and then Walter started to get up.


“Walter.” Mulder placed his hand on Walter’s arm, stopping him, and the big man looked at him, and then, slowly, sat back down. “William isn’t the only one I’m afraid of loving, Walter,” Mulder murmured.


“I know,” Walter replied, with the faintest hint of a smile.


“I can’t make any promises,” Mulder said.


“I wouldn’t ask for any,” Walter replied. “I’ve waited this long – I’ll keep waiting. One day maybe you’ll forgive yourself enough to allow yourself some happiness.”


“Maybe. One day,” Mulder said softly and then something magical happened.


Walter smiled down at Mulder and I watched, by the light of the moon, as Walter gently caressed Mulder’s face and then tipped up his chin, dipped his head, and caught Mulder’s lips with his own. It was the most beautiful moment – little sparks of white light spun and twirled around them, like some kind of cosmic firework display, a joyous celebration of their first kiss. It was brief and gentle, a kiss of a deep, abiding love that has waited in the dark for a very long time, uncertain that it could ever flower in the light.


The kiss ended, and they sat there for a long moment, side by side, not touching, and then Mulder leaned in and rested his head on Walter’s shoulder. Walter moved his arm and wrapped it around Mulder’s thin body and the hard lines of their bodies gradually relaxed. I was struck by how right they seemed when close together like this. It was the same as last night, when Mulder had crept close to Walter and Walter had put his arm over him. Together, they had a synergy that was rich, breathtakingly beautiful and very complex. I couldn’t help but think that Mulder and Walter’s dance would be a wonderful thing when it finally happened, with a layered richness and depth of sadness, happiness and belonging that would reverberate for a long time. They weren’t ready to dance yet though, although I hoped that one day they would.


They sat out there for a long time, just resting against each other like the old friends they were. Finally, Walter disengaged himself and got to his feet.


“Time for bed, Mulder,” he said, holding out his hands. Mulder took the offered hands and Walter heaved him to his feet. They returned to the cabin and Mulder went over to his bedding, then paused, and glanced at Walter.


“Why don’t you bring them over here?” Walter said. “For warmth. You know you will later in the night if you don’t do it now, so you might as well save yourself the trip later.” Mulder gave a self-deprecating chuckle, and then gathered up his blankets and pillow and walked over to Walter’s side. They curled up together, Walter’s arm over Mulder’s thigh, Mulder’s back pressed into Walter’s chest, their bodies melted into one another as if they were one being, and it was only once they were settled that I was finally able to get some sleep myself.


I’d like to say that the tension between my father and my Uncle Walter lessened after their conversation on the porch that night but the truth is that it didn’t. My father was such a prickly personality, and Walter a man who would speak his mind and be heard – and that meant that there were plenty of explosive rows. One thing I never doubted though, was that they only fought because they cared so much about each other. I wished my father could let down his defences and allow Walter in as that was the source of so much of their tension, but Mulder was the sum of his experiences, slow to trust, and hurt too much by the past to even consider searching for happiness now, even when that happiness was right under his nose. Walter was his usual patient self, but the repressed attraction between them frequently spilled over. It was only at night that they seemed to declare a truce. No matter how many arguments they had had during the day, at night Mulder would creep into the warm circle of Walter’s arms and they’d lie wrapped together; it was the only time that either of them really relaxed.




It was a different, more subdued Fox Mulder who greeted me the following morning. The other adults, by unspoken agreement, left us alone together, although I could see that Monica was itching to ask more about the dead children I had spoken of the previous day – if only to find out more about Luke on John’s behalf than for any other reason. John was, in typical John fashion, studiously ignoring the whole topic of dead people. It was somewhere he had no intention of going, which maybe was a good defence mechanism for him. It saved him from a certain amount of heartache after all – it was bad enough that he’d lost the son who meant everything to him, and I knew John wasn’t the kind of man who’d find comfort in the notion that Luke was here, but just out of sight. He wanted tangibles and I respected him for not settling for anything less. It didn’t matter to Luke – he just liked hanging out with us and he had the combined simplicity not only of his age, but also of his state. It’s my experience that dead people are generally less emotionally involved in the world they had left behind than their living relatives could really understand. Occasionally someone, like Samantha, still ached because of the way they had died or because they had a message they wanted to give to someone still alive, but mostly the dead had the detached, peaceful air of those for whom there is no longer any pain; their connection with the world had taken on an entirely new dimension. Some people ask me why I wasn’t afraid when Luke, Samantha and Emily showed up, but I honestly wasn’t. Why would I have been? They were all people I knew instinctively, people with a connection to me or to those I loved most in the world, and I was aware from the very beginning that they were benign. They wished me no harm – they simply wanted to play. I had no idea then that they also presaged something else, something that would one day prove to be very important to the fate of the world, but a conversation I had with my father that day created the first glimmer of an understanding of how my new young friends fitted into the tapestry of my life.


My father…it felt so strange to think of Fox Mulder as that, and yet, that was the title that had been given to him by Monica, Walter and John, and those were the responsibilities that Walter in particular laid on Mulder’s thin shoulders. In truth, I never lacked for parental figures in my life. I was always lucky to be surrounded by people who loved me, whether it was my first mother, my second, or Monica. I count myself fortunate to have known an equal plethora of fathers – Nathaniel, Walter, John and now Mulder. Of them all, Mulder was the least like a conventional father – that role was filled more by Walter – but his place in my life was just as crucial to my overall development. Maybe, because I had so many abilities and facets to my soul that most children do not have, I needed a larger than usual number of people to nurture and encourage all the disparate parts of me in order that they might flourish.  If Walter was the kind, comforting but authoritative father of my heart, and John the honest, blunt role model of what a good man should be, it was Mulder who guided my mind and my soul to a greater understanding of myself and my abilities.


My adoptive parents had been scared of those abilities – it marked me out as someone other, someone perhaps ungodly – they were simple, religious folk, and my obvious strangeness unsettled them. They had been wonderful parents for a small child – they had kept me warm, and safe, and fed, and they had loved me with all their hearts. Now the time had come for me to be with people who stretched and developed and nurtured my talents. With the Grangers I had learned to hide what I was, with Walter I had learned acceptance and how to value what made me different…and with Mulder I learned how to fly.


After breakfast that Sunday morning, Mulder followed me out onto the porch and walked with me down to the creek.


“Are the kids here today, William?” He asked. “Is Samantha here?”


“No. They were scared off by the way you all reacted last night. They’ll be back though.” I recalled their startled faces and how they had scattered in fright at the huge emotional response that had greeted news of their presence, together with the tension that ebbed and flowed constantly between Uncle Walter and Mulder.


“William, I have something to tell you.” Mulder sat down on a rock by the creek, and gazed at me thoughtfully. “You’re not alone in being able to see the dead,” Mulder told me quietly. “There was a time in my life, a few years ago, when I needed help – and it was dead people I knew from my past who provided it. They saved my life – well, with a little help from Walter and John.” He grinned.


“And Deputy Director Kersh?” I asked innocently, pushing a twig into the water and trying to make a dam with it between two large stones.


“Kersh?” Mulder looked surprised.


“He helped you too – when you were escaping from that place where you were chained up and hurt. You were all really surprised about Mr. Kersh – you thought he was one of the bad men.”


“How do you know all this? Did Walter tell you?”


I shook my head, and bit on my lip, wondering if I’d said the wrong thing.


“William – you aren’t in any trouble,” Mulder told me, “but you’ve got to be honest with me or I won’t be able to help you and keep you safe.”


“Walter didn’t tell me about that. He tells me some great stories but he didn’t tell me about that,” I told Mulder shyly. It felt strange to be talking to this man who I had been told was my real father, this man who was driven by those demons who were always hovering, just out of sight. I wondered if he knew they were there, like dark clouds, sitting on his shoulders, weighing him down. He had such a beautiful mind, so many talents and such a compassionate heart that it made me sad to see him so ravaged by the tragedies of his life. If only he could see himself as I saw him. “Walter told me all about you and Agent Scully,” I confided. Mulder’s mood changed abruptly at mention of my mother, and I felt the tension in the air snap taut, like a door being slammed. “I caught the memory of Kersh from your mind,” I told Mulder with a sigh, wondering if I would ever be able to talk to him about my mother. I was longing to know more about her. She was so close to him that I caught glimpse after tantalising glimpse of her memory emanating from him. She hung around him like a scent – the faintest hint of jasmine and apples, the white of her porcelain skin in striking contrast to the red of her hair. “I used to have to be touching a person to see their memories, but I don’t need to so much any more – and not at all with you. Things spill out of you,” I told him.


He considered that for a moment.


“So it isn’t just that you’re discovering new skills – your existing skills are getting better too?” He asked.


“I guess.” I shrugged. “Do you still see those dead people, Mulder?”


“No.” Mulder shook his head. “I think they needed to tell me something important at the time – and now I guess they think I can figure out the important stuff for myself! I wish I had as much faith in me as they do.”


“You should.” I got up, and stared at him with a puzzled frown. “I wish I could fight them with you, Mulder,” I said.


“Fight who?” He had a quizzical look in those hazel eyes of his.


“The demons. They sit on your shoulders like big dark birds…like crows, pecking away at you. I want to…chase them away!” I ran at him, waving my hands and yelling loudly, perhaps thinking, in my naïve, childlike way, that I could chase his demons away as easily as I had chased after the chickens on the ranch. The poor man must have thought that I was possessed. I could only just make out the shadows of those demons using my eyes, which didn’t show them in anything like the clarity I’d seen them with during my out of body ramblings – and my childish action didn’t change a thing. They were still there, hunched and glowering, when I came to a halt, breathless, at Mulder’s knee.


“Demons?” He asked, still staring at me quizzically.


“Not real demons, just…dark clouds upsetting you and whispering nasty things in your ear. You’ve always had them since you were little like me – maybe a bit older – but there are more of them now, and if you listen to them then you won’t be able to do all the things you need to do.”


Mulder has since asked me if I understood some of the things I said back then – if I really knew the import of what they meant, and the truth is that on some level I did but mostly I said things by pure instinct. I didn’t really understand in my mind about aliens and super soldiers and the coming of the dark times ahead but I had an instinctual grasp of the situation that made sense to me even though I didn’t have a clue about the broader picture.


Now he sat there gazing at me with a kind of wonder in his eyes. I reached out a hand to touch him; Mulder hadn’t been tactile with me, although I could see by his relationship with Walter, veering as it did from angry struggles to the need for warmth and comfort, that he was a very tactile kind of person. Walter had always been the dispenser of big bear hugs, Monica liked to kiss me and tousle my hair and John often rested a hand on my shoulder, or slapped me heartily on the back but Mulder – Mulder had kept his distance from me, as if scared that touching me would make me real, or force a connection that he wasn’t ready for. He had an invisible shield around him, designed to keep most people out – in fact the only person I had seen him let in was Walter, and I remembered the way he had rested his head on Walter’s shoulder the previous night.


“Mulder?” I said softly, holding up my hand just a fingertip away from his own. He stared at it for a moment as if considering it, and then, slowly, cautiously, he raised his own hand and our fingers touched. I felt a surge of electricity and a dozen or more images spilled out of him – what I had been able to see when we weren’t touching was only the tip of the iceberg; now I was inundated with his memories and feelings. They crowded in on me, surging like a tide, threatening to overwhelm me. I saw him as he had been when my mother was alive, striding out, full of a confidence that bordered almost on arrogance. He had been so sure of himself, so driven by what he believed was right, but the losses and terrible experiences he had been through along the way had clouded his judgement and dented his self belief. Now I could see the man that Uncle Walter had told me about in his stories, the handsome, charismatic, witty agent, so different to the gaunt, lost soul whose fingers I was touching, and my heart ached to see how changed he was. It was as if he had become separated from some part of himself, a part that was vital and outgoing, that laughed at the world and all it threw at him. Instead he had withdrawn into a bitter, brittle shell, and it neither suited him nor protected him very well.  


“You can be him again,” I whispered, and as we locked eyes I knew we could both see the same vision – that he was sharing the memories with me as much as I was taking them.


“No. I can’t. He’s dead,” he told me bleakly. “He died with her…”


An image of my mother rose up between us. She was running, and Mulder was shouting something at her, and then she was falling, endlessly falling, the stain of blood on her white blouse the same colour as her hair. He picked her up and held her, his eyes disbelieving.


“You can’t leave me, Scully!” He screamed at her, his voice hoarse with pain. Her eyelids fluttered over her blue eyes.


“William,” she told him, urgently, and he nodded and kissed her pale face, and she died in his arms.


I pushed aside the memory, and came back to the present to find his eyes glassy with unshed tears. I breached those invisible defences of his, ignoring them as if they did not exist, climbed onto his lap, put my arms around his neck, and rested my head against his. We sat like that for a long time, and then, finally, his hands came up and rested on my back, and then he moved his head and kissed my cheek. I felt my heart swell for my father loved me. Even despite himself he loved me. My father – this stranger, this complex, tortured man – my father loved me – and with that knowledge came a curious kind of peace. We sat there for a long time, and then, finally, I knew it was time to ask the question that had burning inside me from the moment I first met him.


“Tell me about my mother,” I said.


Mulder gave a long sigh and I knew this was a question he had been dreading. To his credit, he didn’t refuse me, and a few seconds later dozens of images came into my mind. I saw my mother, impossibly young, glowing with youth and energy and a vibrant belief in herself, in her science, in her world view – sure that nobody could shake or alter it. I saw my mother’s first meeting with my father, and what struck me above everything else was the mental spark that existed between them. This was, in many ways, a meeting of opposites; she small, he tall; she a scientist, distrustful of intuition, he someone who liked to work on his gut instincts; she a determined sceptic, and he a true believer. Where they had common ground was in the meeting of their minds and that was where their true attraction lay. They were both phenomenally smart – each an expert in their own field of knowledge, and they sparred off each other, enjoying a mental and verbal battle of wits. I loved seeing them in those early days, talking and fighting and laughing together, teasing each other, attracted by the mental dance they were performing.


Time passed, and a different story emerged. She felt sidelined by his work – he was the one with the quest, and she was constantly challenged in her scepticism by the suspicion that he was probably right – and therefore she was wrong. Feeling her worldview beginning to crumble she dug her heels in, trying to find the answers in science that were proving ever more elusive. A series of personal tragedies took their toll on them both, crushing them and creating silences where once there had been confidences. He lost a father, she a sister. He began to realise the extent of his personal involvement in a conspiracy that he hated, while she was abducted, and later struggled with an invasive cancer that threatened her life. Slowly the spark began to fade – although the love never did. Now they loved each other like old friends, people who had gone through too much together not to love one another, but who had each been bowed under the weight of their own personal tragedy. Their wants and needs changed; he was driven even more intensely by his personal quest – while she wanted to slow down, to have a family, to become the person she had once wanted to be before his quest consumed her.


Trembling, I held Mulder tight, feeling, through him, the warmth, the smell, and the touch of the woman who had been part of my life for such a short time. Agent Scully, my mother, looked at me across the years through Mulder’s memories, her blue eyes flashing, and her smile wide and bright. She had a little rosebud mouth, a beautiful pale face, and fiery red hair. She was dynamic, strong, and clever – and I missed her so much that I ached. I saw her longing for a child, her need becoming so strong that when I was finally placed in her arms she wept tears of joy. I could feel her love through Mulder, knew that she had wanted me, loved me, cared for me with every atom of her being, and ultimately sacrificed her own life to save me. Those memories were bittersweet. I had been fascinated by Agent Dana Scully from the moment Uncle Walter had first told me stories about her, back in the hired man’s room on the ranch. Now, I could finally get to know my mother and it hurt – suddenly it came home to me how much I had lost. Until now she had just been an abstract concept, but through Mulder’s memories she had become real to me. My face crumpled, and I was a six year old boy again, not the strange child, old beyond his years, with an array of bizarre gifts, but a little boy who had lost his mother.  Before I had not known how beautiful she was, in mind, body, soul and spirit but now I knew it made my loss even harder to bear. I cried my heart out into Mulder’s shirt, clinging to him for comfort, and he wrapped his arms around me, and rocked me back and forth, not saying a word, his own loss as hard to bear as my own.


My father and I came to an understanding of each other on that day. He saw me as a child in need of a father as much as the missing piece at the centre of the jigsaw that was his quest – and I came to see why he was so always so angry, restless and full of hurt. More than anything else, we both learned, through my mother, how to love each other.



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