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Alien

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PREFACE

"Evil (ignorance) is like a shadow — it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it."

— Shakti Gawain

Van De Kamp Entry #101

Case No. 111093

Evidence No. 163.101

 

For the past 17 years, I have played the role of Jackson Van De Kamp. Odd, isn't it? That I would refer to playing myself as playing a role? But as I reflect on all that has happened in the past 17 years, that is the only way I know how to describe the journey that began on a farm in rural Wyoming in 2001 — a role.

Initially, everything was as it should have been. I was an only child being raised by two loving and doting parents. They attended to me and each of my milestones with the adoration and enthusiasm typical of new parents. Imagine their absolute elation at my ability to run when most babies were still creeping around on all fours and their pride in my ability to read at a first-grade level when I was only three years old. I was their miracle, an answer to their prayers for parenthood. As I continued to grow, however, it became clear that I was far more than exceptional.

My early childhood was unremarkable, until the day that it wasn't.

Tragically, the Van De Kamp's love and devotion would not be enough to silence what was inside of me. Despite their efforts, my earliest childhood memories were shrouded by a sense of unease. A deep-seated feeling that something was missing or not as it should be. In time, my parents confessed what I already sensed. I wasn't truly theirs. I came into their lives as an infant and what they knew of my biological family was limited. I have now come to understand why. The Van De Kamps were truly remarkable parents. The more I learn about who and what I really am, the deeper I mourn their loss. They deserved better. We all deserved better.

 


 

CH1: THE WATER'S EDGE

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."

― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

 

SCULLY

The rain has thoroughly soaked through her hair and clothes, but Scully feels nothing. She remains anchored in place staring down into the black abyss below as the divers divide the harbor into grids. When William and Spender disappeared into the depths of the harbor several hours ago, the air was cool and crisp with an overlay of mist, but the temperature has dropped ten to fifteen degrees since then and what was a soft drizzle has now transitioned into a light, steady rain.

She knows she should walk away, but she won't. She's done with that.

While C. G. B. Spender's admission to Skinner had come as a surprise, the truth had not. She and Mulder had long suspected the syndicate's involvement in her sudden ability to conceive a child. After discovering Emily and learning of her missing ova, Scully had run every test imaginable. Had there have been any ova remaining inside of her, she would have found them. This is how she knows with absolute certainty that the ova used to created William was either implanted or produced within her body by unnatural means.

Her greatest fear for William has always been that his existence was part of an agenda, and the testing she performed throughout her pregnancy and after his birth had done little to ease her fears. DNA doesn't lie. William is their son. Hers and Mulder's. Yet he wasn't — at least not entirely.

Traditionally, each parent passes half of their genetic material to their unborn child. William, however, only shared half of her and Mulder's DNA collectively. The remaining half was unidentifiable and by definition — alien. When she performed the original analysis, the technology to isolate this anomaly and examine it properly didn't exist, at least not in any laboratory she had access to. Her desire to find the truth, however, had been overwritten by fear. She knew that exploring the origins and implications of the remaining half would come at a cost, undoubtedly drawing attention to and endangering their son. The decision to destroy all of the samples and data she collected was not a decision she made lightly. But ultimately, she chose William's safety over conspiracy and little green men.

What Scully told no one, not even Mulder, was that she had kept the most critical sample of all. Hidden in a secure location amongst hundreds of thousands of other samples, she stored William's umbilical cord, preserving not only his DNA but his stem cells. She could not, in good conscience, given what she and Mulder had experienced with the alien virus, destroy the key to the greatest mystery of their lives. Preserving his cord wasn't just about science. It was also about security. She had buried Mulder once, and the thought of going through anything like that ever again was unbearable. Their enemies had waged war on them before, and there was little assurance that they wouldn't come for them again.

William's miraculous conception only served to further convince her that the truth was far more sinister than they had been previously led to believe. In that sense, what Spender had told Skinner was true. He was, at least on some level, responsible for the science that created William — but a father, he was not.

She's not sure where Mulder is at the moment, but there is little doubt in her mind that he is somewhere nearby taking the brunt of Kersh's wrath. The fact that she has been standing on the docks for over an hour and hasn't been approached or questioned by anybody is most certainly his doing. Were it not for Skinner, she and Mulder would both likely be in handcuffs and in the bowels of the justice building. The call she made earlier to Tad O'Malley had been reckless, bordering on insane, but it had to be done. The days of hiding in the shadows were over. Remaining silent all these years had bought them time but not freedom. Too much had been lost to let this fall beneath the surface yet again. This time, those responsible will not be able to contain the blowback.

The vibrating phone in her pocket pulls her away from her thoughts and back into the harsh reality of her present surroundings. She only attends to it because she thinks it might be Mulder, but it's not. It's her brother, and it's not the first time he's called. Tad O'Malley's broadcast in combination with tonight's body count has created quite the media storm with her and Mulder at its center.

Bill's hatred for Mulder still remains unmatched. If she can give her brother credit for anything, it's consistency. With the recent loss of their mother, she knows she can't continue to send him directly to voicemail. He never calls, so the fact that he has called seven times in the last forty-five minutes tells her that he is about to reach his limit. If she doesn't answer soon, he's likely to turn up unannounced.

Deciding that answering the phone was the lesser of the two evils, Scully takes a deep breath and hits accept, getting right to the point because she knows her brother well.

"Bill, it's not a good time. I'm going to have to call you back later."

Her brother is well-connected and not above pulling rank to get the information he wants. Odds are, he already knows that she is not one of the casualties in tonight's bloodbath, leaving him with only one other reason to call, and she is in no mood to argue with her brother about Mulder or the X Files.

"Jesus Christ, Dana, what the hell is going on? Are you okay? I swear to God if Mulder —"

She cuts him off quickly because she doesn't have the energy or the patience to listen to his long list of grievances against Mulder.

"Mulder wasn't the source, Bill. I was. This isn't about the FBI or the X Files. This is about William."

She says William's name to shut him up, and also because she doesn't want him to hear it from another source. Given his high-security clearance, it's certainly possible he will find out elsewhere if she doesn't tell him herself, assuming he doesn't know already. They haven't had a pleasant conversation in over a decade, but he's still her brother, and he still deserves to hear it from her.

"I've seen him, Bill. Spoken to him. Mulder and I both have. He's…," she hesitates because she can't be certain that her line is secure. Swallowing the lump in her throat and steadying her voice, she finally settles with, "gone."

It's not a lie, but it's not the truth either.

"William? Dana… what are you talking about? And what do you mean gone… Jesus, is he…? How can you —"

"I can't talk about this right now. Tell everyone that I am okay and that I will be in touch as soon as I have a more secure line."

"Dammit, Dana, I —"

Ending the call, she switches off her phone and slips it back in her pocket. Scully knows that at some point she will have to level with her family and tell them the truth about William, but not now — not today. Her frozen fingers sink deeper into her damp pockets in search of her mother's quarter medallion.

The mystery surrounding its origin doesn't bother her as much as it used to. If anything, it has been a great source of comfort. Scully's mother and sister were the only members of her family to ever support her decision to join the FBI, and their support and relation to her had cost them their lives — her sister directly, her mother more so indirectly. Scully's abduction, cancer diagnosis, and subsequent hospitalizations in combination with Melissa's murder and William's adoption had undoubtedly aged her sweet mother at least two decades. Her brothers continue to assert that she died of a broken heart. They were probably right.

The conversation she and Mulder had on the church pew earlier this week immediately comes to mind. Can she live with the results of the decisions she has made? Were they the right ones? As she runs her fingers over the outer ridges of her mother's quarter, she silently prays for the clarity and strength that will be required to face whatever comes next. While she cannot predict the future, she does know one thing with absolute certainty: their son is not dead.

The dive teams won't find either body. She can't explain how she knows. She just does. With her hands buried deep in her pockets, she takes one last look at the churning waters below before turning and heading back towards the chaos. There is nothing left for her here.

Making her way back towards the warehouse in search of Mulder, Scully spots Skinner almost immediately. He's sitting in the back of an ambulance wrapped in a blanket speaking to Kersh and two other agents that she doesn't recognize. Skinner's eyes look tired and defeated, but he still manages to give her a nod and a slight smile. She returns the gesture just before disappearing behind a second ambulance. Words with the deputy director will have to wait. She needs to get out of the rain and find Mulder. As she navigates her way through the maze of tape and haphazardly parked emergency vehicles, she stops abruptly when she hears her name, turning to find Mulder walking towards her.

His stride embodies purpose and confidence, but as he gets closer, she can see the fatigue in his step and the concern in his eyes.

"I've been looking everywhere for you."

His brow furrows as he reaches out with one hand to lightly touch her shoulder, the other quickly finding the tips of her hair and side of her face.

"Scully, you are soaking wet, have you been standing out in the rain all of this time?"

Before she can respond, he's slipping off his jacket and draping it over her shoulders, pulling the hood up over her head in an attempt to protect her from the rain.

"I've been on the docks. They haven't located Spender or… or William," she says, her voice unsteady.

He swallows and nods, averting his eyes off into the distance as if he is looking for someone.

"Let's get out of here," he says as he takes her hand.

Neither of them speaks as he guides them through mayhem. She's surprised to see his silver Mustang up ahead and wonders how in the hell he managed to move it without erupting World War III. Only Mulder could remove a car from an active crime scene and walk away unscathed. He unlocks the passenger door and places his hand protectively on the top of her head as she eases down into the seat. Moments later, she feels the car shift under his weight as he slides into the driver's seat, but she doesn't look at him. Her eyes are entranced by the rain splattering against the windshield — her mind on their son. He's out there somewhere. He's cold, wet, and has nowhere to go. And instead of looking for him, they are leaving. His words, spoken through Mulder, still reverberating in the recesses of her mind.

"We can't protect him. No one can … let him go … he knows you love him."

A sickening feeling hits her in the pit of her stomach as Mulder puts the car into reverse and starts to drive away. Tonight, she is abandoning her son for the second time. The tears she has been holding back for the past several hours now flow freely. Mulder notices them but says nothing. Instead, he turns on the seat warmers and angles all the vents in her direction before reaching for her hand and intertwining his fingers with hers. It's not until his hand joins hers that she realizes how cold she is, but it's not just the cold that causes her tremble. The raw emotion brewing inside of her is paralyzing. She tries to speak but opens her mouth only to close it.

The first few miles are silent because neither of them knows where to begin.

The minutes continue to tick by until she can't take it anymore.

As wonderful as the heat feels as it hits her damp hair, skin, and clothes, she turns it down two notches to quiet the obnoxiously loud fan, not wanting to raise her voice to be heard.

"He's not dead, Mulder. Neither of them are."

It's not the most profound thing she could have said following the bombs she dropped on him earlier today, but it's a starting point.

"Scully…"

"No, Mulder, listen to me. I can't explain it. I can't explain how I know. I just do."

He's quiet for a moment, briefly giving her his eyes before he responds.

"Do you want me to turn around?"

"No."

Her voice is soft and raspy from the cold, but the answer comes easily, for the answers they seek are not at the bottom of the harbor.

Unable to look out into the dark, miserable night any longer, she closes her eyes. There is so much more she wants to say… so much that he deserves to hear but not here… not like this.

The drive home takes a little over two hours.

They finish it with their hands joined in silence.

Chapter Text

“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” — John 17:12

Bourbon swirls in the bottom of his glass as he sits at his desk and waits for the call he knows is coming.

At 1903 eastern time Tad O’Malley released a statement on national television claiming to have proof that the U.S. government has been using standard vaccinations as a means to alter the genetic profiles of the general public for over 50 years. O’Malley’s source, a member of the federal government — Special Agent Fox Mulder.

Working within the borders of a country possessing free speech has always presented its challenges but none have been insurmountable. When the truth is absurd, it’s easily dismissed. That’s the beauty of working outside the bounds of known science. It’s so far removed from reality that it serves to protect itself.

O’Malley’s claims are alarmingly close to the mark, but it won’t matter.

With one phone call, the world will change, and there is nothing to be done about it.

When it’s finished, he will be remembered as the great betrayer —  a modern-day Judas.

The irony doesn’t escape him. In the case of Judas, historians often fail to acknowledge that salvation was only made possible through great betrayal.

Chapter Text

"Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall."

― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls

MULDER

She stirs when the car hits the rough gravel drive. He can sense her initial unease and subsequent relief as she shakes off the reminisce of sleep and orients herself. Normally, he would tease her about drooling on the upholstery or complain about his inability to hear the NPR due to her obnoxiously loud snoring, but tonight he says nothing as he eases the mustang up to their front porch. Shutting off the ignition, he reaches for her hand, bringing it to the center console and giving it a light squeeze — a silent request for her to stay put until he comes around to open her door. It's not something that he normally insists on doing, nor is it something that she would regularly allow, but tonight calls for chivalry. Tonight, he knows that she will not object.

Scully has always been fiercely independent. In the early stages of their relationship, she resisted being waited on, fussed over, or coddled, often doing so with a single, pointed glance that required little to no interpretation. All these years later, her eyes still hold the same fire and intensity they did when they first met, but tonight, as he opens her door and takes her hand, all he sees is resignation. She's exhausted. They both are.

No words are exchanged as they make their way into the house. They move in a silent rhythm that comes from years of intimacy: every look, touch, and gesture relaying meaning and underlying conversation. Words come secondary because, after all this time, they are often unnecessary.

They pause briefly in the entryway, unloading their pockets and ridding themselves of their phones, keys, credentials, and weapons. Slowing his movement, Mulder angles himself to watch Scully as he places his keys next to hers. Her tailored coat is still damp from the rain, making it difficult to remove, but her efforts cease and her body relaxes when his hands come to rest on her shoulders. Though he's not surprised by her silence, it does trouble him. The last time he can remember her being this quiet was when they were on the run… a time when she had given up everything to be with him, including their son.

As he turns to hang her coat on the wall, he stops to tinker with the thermostat, bumping the temperature up a few degrees.

He turns to find her standing in a daze in the middle of the living room with her arms crossed over her chest as if she doesn't know where to go or what to do. As he moves to stand directly behind her, he sees a shiver move through her body. Even after two hours in the car with heated seats and all the vents angled in her direction, her clothes still aren't completely dry. While he's not shocked that she stood out in the rain to observe the diving teams, he is surprised that she remained out there as long as she did in her current condition without an umbrella.

After 25 years, one would think that he would have a handle on all things involving and encompassing that which makes Scully, Scully — but he doesn't. She's always been a puzzle. While at times it's aggravating beyond measure, her ability to still surprise him is one of many things that draws him to her.

Looking at her now, Mulder is torn. He wants to talk to her and comfort her, but he's also not sure how. If there is anything that his relationship with her has taught him, it's patience. Scully is a lot like a turtle; she's cautious and moves at her own pace. Any attempt to draw her out before she's ready often results in her closing shop or snapping, which is why even with all of the questions burning in his mind, he has remained silent.

Placing his hands lightly on her shoulders, he angles his head to speak softly in her ear.

"You need to get out of these damp clothes, Scully," he whispers. "Go jump in the shower. I'll make you some soup."

She turns to face him, dropping her hands to her side.

"I'm not hungry Mulder; there's no need to —"

But he doesn't let her finish.

"It's not just for you."

The bomb she dropped on him earlier is far from forgotten. While he's respecting her silence and her need to process everything that has happened, he can't allow her to go to bed without eating. Not now.

He can tell by the look on her face that she wants to protest. Normally what she says goes, but not tonight. She searches his face for a moment, processing his gaze and expression before averting her eyes to stare down at their joined hands.

"Mulder, I…"

Squeezing her hands lightly, he silently interrupts her, directing her eyes back up to his. As soon as she raises her head, his lips catch hers, lingering only for a moment before raising them to the tip of her nose, and then her forehead. His fingers weave themselves into her hair and caress her lower back as he pulls her body tightly against his own.

"We don't have to talk about this now, Scully," he whispers into her hair. "Not if you aren't ready."

Surrendering into his embrace, she burrows her head into his chest and breathes deeply.

Despite the day they've had, he can still smell the remnants of the hair products she uses. Taking in her scent as he kisses the top of her head, Mulder is desperate to comfort her. He wants to promise her that it's going to be okay… that he will never again abandon her and that this time will be different. But Mulder says nothing. Instead, he remains silent. Not because he fears commitment but because he knows he's powerless to make such promises. History has taught him that much.

He can feel the current of emotion running through her as his hands roam the expanse of her back. After speaking briefly to Skinner and learning of her pregnancy, her words on the dock and behavior over the course of the past several weeks makes more sense. Her words and actions were provoked… guided by a madman, pregnancy hormones, and fear.

Giving her a gentle squeeze, he releases her and turns her towards the base of the stairs.

"Go shower. Your soup will be ready when you get out."

She's halfway up when she stops.

"Mulder?"

"Yes?"

"I want chicken noodle."

"Chicken noodle, it is then."

He waits until she disappears at the top of the stairs before retreating into the kitchen. As he gathers the ingredients for the soup, he can hear her moving around in their bedroom and the sound of the water running in the master bathroom. While he desperately yearns for answers that only she can provide, he is also grateful to have some time to himself. Odds are, she is too.

He and Scully have always known that there was more to William's conception, but knowing something and having it slap you in the face are two entirely different things. Having now seen what William is capable of, the gravity of what has been done to them and to their son hits him with full force.

In the years following William's adoption, all they could do was hope that the magnetite injection had been successful in silencing the alien sequences of William's DNA, rendering him useless to the evil forces who had invested interests in him. Now, Mulder wonders if the opposite were true. Had the magnetite somehow enhanced William's abilities, eliminating all the weaknesses observed in the alien-human hybrids that preceded him? Had Jeffrey Spender actually made William more powerful? And if so, had it been intentional or incidental?

Mulder's faith in anyone carrying the name Spender borders on nonexistent, but after what he witnessed on the docks tonight, he's inclined to believe that his half brother's attempt to save his nephew was genuine, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.

When Mulder appeared behind the Smoking Man, the confusion and shock that crossed his features were genuine, giving rise to something Mulder had not previously considered. Having spent his entire career being lied to, manipulated, and mislead, Mulder had always assumed that the devil holding the candle knew the end game, but perhaps that was the greatest misdirection of all. If tonight has made anything clear, it's that they don't know

The forces responsible for William's bioengineered DNA have no idea what they have created.

And suddenly, a great deal of what he and Scully have experienced over the course of the past two decades makes sense to him… even William's birth. The super soldiers who gathered to witness his birth left disinterested and disappointed. While he's not sure what they were told or what they were expecting, it's now more clear to him than ever that William has never been what was expected. How much Jeffery and the Smoking Man knew and from who is still unclear, but the more Mulder thinks about it, the more he suspects that even those behind the curtain are at a loss to explain William.

William is powerful. Far more powerful and gifted than his creators anticipated him to be.

He's a train off the tracks, and they don't possess the manpower or the technology to stop him.

With this in mind, Mulder has little doubt that Scully is right. William is alive. After what he witnessed in that hotel room, he doubts very seriously that a single bullet would be capable of stopping him, and that is assuming that the bullet even struck him to begin with. As for the Smoking Man, he should hope to be dead. If he's not, he will be soon enough.

Now that he's had some time to ponder William's actions and replay their conversation, Mulder is left with far more questions than answers. William clearly didn't need his protection and knew Mulder was being followed, so why didn't he just run or hide in plain sight as he had done before? Was he simply curious to meet his father? Or was there something more sinister at play?

In the short time they had together, William had only asked Mulder one question, and Mulder got the distinct impression that he already knew the answer. Mulder and Scully possess the same amount of alien DNA. The markers they each possess have slightly different variations, but the percentages are the same, leading Mulder to believe that William's ability to communicate with Scully and not him has more to do with the chip implanted into the base of Scully's skull than it does their shared alien DNA. The only way to be certain would be to remove the chip, and that's not an option. With this in mind, he's not sure why William asked him about the visions. Was he trying to tell him something? Take a stab at his paternity? Or was it some sort of test to determine how much or how little he knew? If this were any other case or any other person, Mulder would be inclined to dismiss it, but he can't suppress the nagging feeling that William had asked him that question for a reason.

Mulder's interaction with William had also awakened something inside of him that he hadn't anticipated.

Fear.

Rather than avoiding his pursuers, William had opted to kill them in a violent display of power that was not of this world. Mulder has seen and experienced a lot of weird and terrifying things over the years, but nothing, not even his abduction, death, and subsequent resurrection could compare to what he witnessed in that hotel room.

He was in awe, yet he was terrified.

How could something he and Scully created all those years ago grow to be something so viciously violent?

The conclusion he has come to is one of purpose.

Extinguishing the threat in the manner that he did was a message, not only to Mulder but to all the others who pursue him. It was a warning laced with a promise. William was not to be captured, controlled, or contained.

Monica Reyes had called to warn them.

"Whoever controls your son controls the future."

Twenty-four hours ago, that warning had sent him on a mission to find his son and to be his protector. What a joke that had been.

To those still pursuing William now, all Mulder can say is — good fucking luck.

Sounds associated with a stovetop disaster snap him back into action. He's been so deeply lost in thought that he's nearly let the soup boil over. When he turns off the burner and shifts the pot over to the other side of the stove, the room quiets, drawing attention to the fact that the water upstairs is no longer running. Cursing under his breath, he wonders how long Scully has been out of the shower. Not hearing her hair dryer or any movement coming from upstairs, he begins to wonder if she has already crawled into bed when a chair is pulled out from underneath the table behind him.

Her sudden appearance startles him enough that he lets go of the soup ladle, letting it drop into the depths of the soup as he turns to face her.

A look of apology crosses her face as she sits. The past twenty-four hours have left them both a little on edge.

"The plan was to bring this up to you so that you didn't have to come back down," he says, eyeing her curiously.

She nods her head from side to side, dismissing the sentiment as she begins to unload the tray he had been preparing to take upstairs.

"You need to eat too."

Mulder isn't hungry, but he knows he can't tell her that, so instead of arguing with her, he grabs another bowl, fills it, and places it on the table across from hers and joins her.

He can tell that she recognizes her mother's recipe by the small smile that plays on her lips as she picks up her spoon and stirs. She doesn't vocalize it, but he can tell that she is touched by his gesture.

Taking in her appearance, he's surprised to see that her hair is still damp. She normally dries it immediately after she gets out of the shower, but tonight it possesses the wildness of quick towel dry. Her silk pajama bottoms and fuzzy socks explain her stealthy entry. He's briefly curious as to where she found the socks because he's never seen them before. The long-sleeved Oxford tee she is wearing, however, is familiar — because it's his.

"I owe you an apology, Mulder," she says quietly, breaking their silence.

"For?"

"I shouldn't have said the things I said earlier. Not without explanation," she says, her eyes retreating into the depths of her soup. "William is our son… a DNA test confirmed that 18 years ago, but we both know it's more complicated than that."

"Is it?"

His question earns him a look, but she takes his point, quieting as she stares back down into her soup. He would say more if he didn't sense she was working up to something… something that he suspects has been weighing on her for some time now.

"He's…"

She doesn't finish her statement because she doesn't have to. William was never truly theirs, at least not in the way they wanted him to be.

"To think that I abandoned him all those years ago… dumping him off on an unsuspecting family who couldn't have possibly had any idea of what they were signing up for… I can imagine how they must have felt the first time they saw him move an object across the room with his mind because I certainly remember how I felt." She pauses again, this time making eye contact. "And that was with the added benefit of knowing where it came from."

The hand not stirring is now resting on her forehead, her fingers entangling themselves into her damp hair as she continues.

"The magnetite injection Jeffrey gave him worked, at least initially. He stopped moving his mobile, and Jeffrey assured me that the results were permanent. For years, I convinced myself that giving him up was my only option, but we both know that isn't true. I could have run. The gunmen created false identities for all of us, not just you, but instead of running, I signed our rights away. I abandoned our son."

At this point, Mulder interjects because she knows better, and they've had this discussion before.

"Scully, you did the only thing you could to protect him. Running wouldn't have been the right choice for him, and you know that… you, of all people, know what life on the run entails, and it's no life for a child. The knowledge that he was with you would have always given them a starting point. Putting him up for adoption gave him anonymity. You didn't abandon him, Scully. You saved him."

He can tell she is on the verge of interrupting him, so he raises his hand to silence her because he's not done. He's not even close to being done.

"No. We don't know what it was like for him or his adoptive family to go through that process blindly, but I think it's safe to say that choice you made bought him time that he otherwise wouldn't have had. When he was born, they didn't take him from us because he wasn't what they were expecting, but that doesn't mean that they weren't watching."

The cameras in their apartments had only been the tip of the iceberg. The syndicate and their associates had been tapping their phones and tracking their vehicles for years, using the intel they gathered to manipulate them further. Instead of shutting them down, the syndicate had used them to their advantage. Mulder knows that Scully knows this just as well as he does, but he continues to press in order to make his point.

"Once they learned of his abilities, they would have taken him from us, and we wouldn't have been able to stop them. But now… Scully… what he was able to do… adoption was the greatest gift you could have given him. It gave him the time in the dark he needed in order to be able to protect himself. The monsters who helped to create him can't touch him now. The power he possesses is beyond their reach."

"Mulder we helped to create him. You and me. We knew… we knew of his abilities… his alien DNA. Doesn't that make us just as culpable as they are?"

"Scully, what happened to you outside of your consent…"

"He didn't force me to get into the car Mulder! I packed a bag. Hell, I drove the car! We may never know exactly what he did or how he did it but —"

"You agreed to accepting the cure for cancer, not to being impregnated with science."

She looks surprised by his choice of words, so Mulder elaborates.

"Skinner told me what he said."

While this gives her pause, she still doesn't let it go.

"It doesn't change anything. The point is still the same, Mulder. We knew —"

"Did we really? You and I both have alien DNA, and neither of us can change what the mind perceives."

"Mulder…"

"No. Listen to me. We knew that he possessed alien DNA and that he could move his mobile, but we couldn't have possibly foreseen this. They certainly didn't."

"Mulder, what are you —"

"When the Smoking Man shot William, he had no idea he was shooting William. He thought he was shooting me. Don't you see? They don't know, Scully. They have no idea what he is and what he is capable of… so how in the world can you blame yourself for not seeing it? What happened to his adoptive family isn't your fault. There is no way you could have known."

He knows that the guilt Scully carries isn't just about William. She feels responsible for the Van De Kamps' death. Raising and protecting their son had cost them their lives.

Tears are forming in her eyes, but he presses on because he has a point to make, and she needs to let this go.

"What else could you have possibly done? Abort him?"

Her head jerks up. The fire in her eyes a warning that he's hit a nerve.

"No. I would have never —"

"Exactly. The only thing you are guilty of is wanting him and loving him. None of this is your fault. Not a damn bit of it."

A single tear threads down her cheek as she releases her grip on the spoon she's been holding, letting it settle down into the bottom of the bowl.

"Do you think he knows?"

She says it so quietly that he almost doesn't hear her.

"Do you think he has any idea how much we wanted him? Prayed for him?"

"I think… I think it's safe to say that he knows that the circumstances surrounding his adoption weren't typical."

Despite the seriousness of the conversation, she snorts.

"He's bright, Scully. How could he not be? He's an uber-Scully."

And that does it: she smiles.

Her smile calms him. Looking deeply into her eyes, he does everything in his power to portray the calmness and security that he knows she needs. There are a lot of difficult conversations that lie ahead, but they don't all have to come tonight.

Taking his cue, she retorts back.

"Oh, I don't know, Mulder. I think we can both agree that he's a little bit spooky."

"Just a little?"

Her soft laugh fills the kitchen.

There's a pause. It's not awkward, but it is pointed, a sign that she's about to shift the conversation.

"Speaking of spooky uber-Scullies…"

As relieved as Mulder is that she's bringing up the baby, he's not really sure where to start or what to say. Dozens of questions come to mind, but, ultimately, he decides to start with the basics.

"How long have you known?"

Her hesitation confirms what he already suspected. She's known ever since he found her sobbing in the shower last week.

"A little over a week," she says as she takes a weighted breath. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you sooner… that I've kept this from you. I wanted to tell you so badly, but —"

"Were you afraid that I wouldn't want it?" he asks, unable to hide the emotion creeping into his voice.

"No… no… I knew you would never… Mulder, I'm 54 years old. We've never… why now? After all that we've been through and everything that we've tried? Why now? I just… I had to be sure. I already took one child away from you. I couldn't do that to you again. I had to make absolutely sure."

"So you would have —"

"NO. I'm not saying that… I just… Crystal had a close friend of hers run some tests … off the books. And then I ran them again myself. I wanted answers. I wanted to understand. If this was something other than a miracle, I had to know. I couldn't give you hope only to take it away."

Reaching his hand across the table, he places it on top of hers, encouraging her to hold his gaze.

"No matter what you've found, I want it, and I want to know everything. No more secrets. Not anymore."

Scully's eyes start to water, and her voice cracks as she struggles to control her emotions.

"The last time we went through this, I never got to tell you. By the time I figured it out, you were gone, and when you came back, I was already so far along that I didn't have to tell you."

Her tears are falling freely now, and he can't stand it. Within seconds he has her in his arms, cradling her as she sobs.

"I'm scared, Mulder. I'm so scared."

She doesn't have to say what she is scared of because her fears match his own.

"What if —"

But he interrupts her because he doesn't want her to go there. He doesn't want her thinking about the long list of medical complications, chip activation, or alien DNA.

"Scully, you can't go there. You'll drive yourself crazy if you do. And unless there is something else you haven't told me, neither of us has taken any field trips with members of the underworld lately, which can only mean…"

She snorts, lightly smacking at his chest.

"I just don't understand it, Mulder. Why now? After all of this time… we never exactly —"

"I know."

They had never used any form of birth control. Not even after William. Each of them secretly hoping for a second miracle, never dreaming in a million years that it would come nearly two decades later.

Although Scully's tears have subsided, neither of them moves.

Mulder hates to break the moment, but he also doesn't want her to overthink anything. It's late, and she really needs to eat something. Neither of them has eaten in over 12 hours. Dissecting the mystery of miracle baby number two can wait until tomorrow. Right now, his primary concern is feeding her and putting her to bed.

"You're letting your soup get cold."

The feel of her mouth curling up into a smile against his shirt warms him more than a hot bowl of soup ever could.

"Oh, and yours is staying warm?" she asks, pulling away just enough to look up into his face.

"My soup — is special," he tells her.

To this, she smiles and shakes her head, her expression turning more serious as she stills.

Gazing up into his eyes, she whispers, "I love you."

The intensity of her gaze puts butterflies in his stomach and makes his hands shake. The fact that she can still do this to him twenty-five years later never fails to amaze him.

He knows that she loves him. He can see it in her eyes every time she looks at him, but hearing her say it has always stirred something deep inside of him. Something that he doesn't have the words to describe.

Unable to respond with words, he lowers his head to hers, capturing her lips and running his hands through her hair and along her side. Halting his hand to stop just under the swell of her breast, he kisses her with everything he has, and she kisses him back without hesitation, pulling his body more tightly against her own as she encourages him to deepen the kiss.

With all of the storms that lie between them, this aspect of their relationship has never been a source of contention.

As much as Mulder would love for this to continue and progress into something far more intimate, he knows that now is not the appropriate time. Breaking the kiss, he places smaller kisses along the sides of her face and forehead before gazing into her eyes.

"Let's eat," he tells her softly.

Nodding, she runs her hands down his chest and raises up onto the tips of her toes to place a soft kiss on his lips before returning to the table.

After they finish eating, he encourages her to head upstairs while he cleans up the kitchen and turns off the lights.

When he enters their bedroom, he finds her in the bathroom, drying her hair. Taking a moment to appreciate her, he stands and watches her until their eyes meet in the mirror. Moving to stand behind her, he rests his hands on her hips and kisses the top of her head before turning and stripping to get in the shower.

Of all of the things currently unknown, there is one truth that he does know with absolute certainty. She is his everything, and he's going to spend the rest of his life making sure that she never regrets coming home.

When he gets out of the shower, the lights in their bedroom are off. It's dark, but he can still make out the silhouette of her small frame curled up in the center of their queen-sized bed. As he pulls back the covers, Scully relaxes and shifts her weight to encourage him to pull her into his embrace.

Burrowing his nose in her hair, Mulder says the words that were caught in his throat earlier.

"I love you too, Scully. More than anything."

"I know," she replies, her voice thick with emotion.

Bringing his hand up to her lips, she kisses his fingers softly before lowering them to rest protectively across the life currently growing inside of her — a life they had created together.

Chapter Text

"And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don't have to be just a character, going whichever way the story says. It's knowing you could be the author instead."

― Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead

JACKSON

Returning to Wyoming was a decision made on a whim — an instinctual impulse. Because when battered and broken, animal instinct predominates, driving the incessant urge to return to a place of comfort and security.

When Jackson emerged from the harbor, he knew he needed to seek refuge somewhere far removed from Virginia. Returning to the place where it all began just seemed fitting somehow. Poetic almost. For the beginning was also the end.

Of all the places he has lived over the course of the last seventeen years, this is the only place Jackson has ever considered to be home. As he crouches down in the tall grass behind his former home, he becomes enthralled with how quickly and slowly time can pass in the same instance. Saying goodbye to his childhood home seems like something that happened a lifetime ago to someone else, yet it happened only yesterday and is strikingly familiar.

Having risen from the dead once before, he knows that not finding his body in the harbor will put his pursuers on edge. Only a fool would accept his death as fact without a body at this point, and those who pursue him are not fools. With that being said, coming here was a risk, but his lack of confidence in his ability to manipulate video feed and hide his identity in larger crowds kept him from attending his parents' funeral.

As a child, he always dreaded attending funerals, oftentimes begging to stay home or to sit outside because he found them to be too unbearably sad and uncomfortable. But now, having been kept from attending the funerals of those closest to him, he has a greater appreciation for their purpose. Funerals aren't for the dead. They are for the living. He understands that now.

The circumstances surrounding their deaths prevented him from seeing their bodies. He wasn't there to watch their caskets being lowered into the ground, nor was he ever able to return to their home in Virginia, where he would have certainly been faced with blood-spattered walls and silence. Any or all of those things would have helped to ground him into the reality that they were really gone, and that he would never see them again. Ultimately, that is what he hoped to gain by coming here — closure. But as he settles in the tall grass behind his childhood home, all he feels is sorrow.

The Van De Kamps' former home hasn't changed all that much in their absence. The new owners have painted, changed up the landscaping, and added on a garage, but overall, the rustic farmhouse where he spent the first twelve years of his life has remained relatively untouched by the passage of time.

Jackson wishes he could say the same.

His early childhood was happy, carefree, and uncomplicated. Although they didn't live in a standard neighborhood, other families lived within a reasonable walking distance. The Brooks family, who owned the land adjacent to theirs, had two boys around his age — Ben and Zak. The three of them spent nearly every waking hour together in the summers. Collectively, their families owned a little over 6,000 acres of land, which, in turn, gave them quite a bit of terrain to roam and raise the kind of hell that only little boys are capable of concocting. Their more notable transgressions included but were not limited to: hitting a baseball onto a busy highway where it shattered the back window of a brand new four-door Chevy pickup, a magnifying glass mishap that escalated into the incidental burning of an entire wheat field, and poking a hibernating bear. Yes. You heard right. Poking an actual bear. Suffice it to say, the old saying 'don't poke the bear' holds an entirely different meaning to him now than it did before.

Poking of bears aside, the majority of his childhood, although interesting at times, was fairly unremarkable — until the day that it wasn't.

He was nine when it started.

Phase one came in the form of nightmares. Intense night terrors that propelled him out of his bed and sent him screaming into the night. Twice his parents found him in fields behind their home staring up into the sky with his heart racing, clothes soaked with sweat, and tears streaming down his face. When it occurred a second time, they installed latches at the top of all of the exterior doors, in fear that he would end up in the middle of the highway or in one of their irrigation wells before they could wake and calm him.

The doctors had assured his parents that it was only a phase, but when weeks turned into months and months turned into a year, it became apparent that what he was experiencing was more than just a phase. The drugs the doctors prescribed were successful in sedating him, but they did not curve the frequency, intensity, duration, or nature of his dreams.

Phase two began shortly after his tenth birthday. His hair and eyes had always been fair, but in January of 2011, he woke up to the reflection of a boy he didn't recognize. His blue eyes and sandy brown hair had disappeared overnight, transitioning into a deep charcoal brown. Nobody in the medical community had ever seen anything like it, nor could they explain how or why it had occurred. Test after test confirmed that he was healthy and otherwise unaffected, but a sense of unease filled their home nonetheless.

The night terrors and physical transformation each snapped something within him, unraveling him into a child no one recognized. Within a year, he transitioned from being the light-hearted, jokester with lots of friends into a fearful, shy, and awkward isolationist. It was as if he was a completely different person altogether — mentally and physically. The friendships he had developed within the first ten years of his life slowly dissolved. One by one, they all eased away until there was no one left. Then the bullying began.

First came the inquisitive stares and whispers, which were quickly followed by finely pointed questions that only rude children ask.

"What are you? Some kind of alien?"

It was fairly common knowledge that he was adopted, which only served to make matters worse.

"Jack wasn't born, he was hatched. That's why he can change his coloring like an iguana. What color will you make your hair and eyes tomorrow — Jack?"

"I hear that he hangs out in the fields a lot. He's probably waiting for the mothership."

The digs were endless, and he didn't cope with any of it well. At first, he cried a lot, but he learned very quickly that ten-year-old boys can't cry on playgrounds. Witnessed tears added a whole new layer to his misery. It was as if he had opened Pandora's Box to hell.

Jerry Marriott was the worst of the bunch. He coined the name Alien Jack — AJ for short, and it stuck. Soon, nobody other than the teachers called him by his given name.

Thankfully, summer arrived, providing him with a much-needed reprieve from hell.

His parents had hoped that the summer would bring Ben and Zak back, but it didn't. When he wasn't helping his father on the farm, Jackson would walk through the fields alone, which troubled his parents far more than it ever bothered him. The silence was far more favorable than the alternative. School had taught him that much.

Midsummer, his father returned home from an errand with a large box. Since it was the first time he had seen either of his parents genuinely smile in weeks, he knew immediately that whatever was in the mystery box was a much bigger deal than the new dirt bike they had given him for his birthday. They had been placating him for weeks. Making special meals, renting extra movies and video games …any and everything they could think of to try to lift the depressive fog that hung over him. But that day had been different, their smiles were confident and infectious, and when he opened the box, he understood why.

Inside the box was a small wiggling ball of energy. A chocolate lab puppy with large animated brown eyes and tan tipped paws. To this day, Jackson still refers to that moment as being the happiest moment of his life.

He named him Abe, after Abraham Lincoln, because he ended the period of misery and loneliness that had enslaved him by offering him true and unbridled friendship. For the first time in over a year, Jackson looked forward to getting up in the morning. His mood and overall outlook brightened considerably.

His mother's allergies had always prevented them from having pets, which was why Abe's sudden appearance had come as such a surprise. After his arrival, new kleenex boxes appeared in nearly every room. Her congestion and sneezing fits worsened as Abe aged, but she never once complained. Jackson never really thanked her enough for that. Kids are kind of assholes in that respect. They don't truly grasp the meaning of sacrifice.

Unfortunately, for his family, itchy, watery eyes, and nasal congestion would be on the low end of the totem pole in comparison to the sacrifices that would lie ahead.

Phase three was the most troubling for everyone except him. For him, phase three was the glorious redemption that typically only exists in a bullied preteen's dreams. It began with an excruciating headache and a low-grade fever that kept him in bed for nearly three days. When it waned, the world was different. He's since been asked by numerous medical and mental health professionals to describe it, and the best analogy he has been able to come up with is hibernation. When he woke up on that third day, he felt as if he had woken up for the very first time.

Initially, the difference was subtle — something he could sense but not entirely identify. As the days passed, however, the subtlety faded, and the awareness that he possessed unnatural abilities became more and more apparent. For example, he could gain access to people's innermost thoughts, secrets, and fears by merely making eye contact with them or by being in close proximity to them. He wouldn't call it mind-reading per se, because the information was far too pointed to be ramblings of the mind. No whispers, no visions… just infinite knowledge that would appear in his mind as if it had always been there. He would just know.

Ten-year-old boys aren't the coyest creatures on the planet, and Jackson had been no exception.

Returning to school following his summer reprieve had been difficult. The only thing that got him through each day was the knowledge that Abe would be sitting at the bus stop waiting for him, so the timing of his mysterious illness couldn't have been better… or worse, depending upon your perspective.

His ability to obtain sensitive information was a game-changer. As it turned out, Jerry Marriott had an irrational fear of clowns, slept with a night light and stuffed elephant named 'Snuffy,' and hated the father who abandoned him and his mother to go live with his boyfriend in Nevada.

It was at this juncture that Jackson's name transitioned from being Alien Jack to Alien Jackass.

While his tactics didn't win him any humanitarian of the year awards, it leveled the playing field and facilitated camaraderie. Jackson wasn't Jerry's only target. Lewis Weedin and Jessy Scott were also victims of Jerry's unrelenting treachery. Lewis ate every booger he could find, and Jessy rarely bathed properly, but they were both kind, troubled souls whose home lives were miserable. They made an awkward trio and didn't have a tremendous amount in common aside from their mutual hatred for Jerry. But the knowledge that Jessy's stepfather molested him and that Lewis's mother was a worthless drunk made Jackson all that much more determined to make their time at school more tolerable — and he did.

Exploitation worked for awhile. Instead of calling him names, tripping him in the halls, and smashing his lunch, his peers gave him a wide berth.

What Jackson hadn't anticipated was Jerry's resolve. Revealing Jerry's deepest secrets had taken the terror level down a few notches and given Jackson some breathing room, but beneath Jerry's seemingly calm and avoidant exterior, he was seething and biding his time. Alien Jack was child's play. Teasing him about being an alien, from Jerry's perspective, had always been just that — teasing. All in good fun.

Jerry kept his distance for months, leading Jackson to believe that it was over. It wasn't until Jerry ended up on his bus buddied up with Ben and Zak that he knew something was amiss, and he wasn't wrong.

It started as soon as the bus pulled away.

Abe had been waiting for him in his usual place with his body wiggling from head to toe in anticipation as the bus stopped.

"Nice dog, jackass."

Having already weaponized all the intel he had gathered from Jerry's psyche, there was little left for him to say that hadn't already been broadcasted. Ben and Zak remained silent at Jerry's side but looked rather pleased with themselves for acquiring a new and powerful friend. Abe, oblivious to their tone and intentions, had approached him with his typical after school enthusiasm — wiggling, jumping, and nudging along his side to be petted.

Jackson considered telling Jerry to bug off but thought better of it since he was still a good ten minutes away from home and outnumbered three to one. So instead of commenting, he regarded the three of them as if they were cockroaches and turned to walk away.

Neither he nor Abe saw the rock coming.

The jagged, medium-sized rock struck Abe in his hindquarters, causing him to stumble and yelp. The hurt, confused, and terrified look in Abe's sweet, gentle eyes filled Jackson with a sense of rage that he had never experienced before. And turning to find their snide, taunting smiles and hands filled with rocks only served to intensify that rage.

As he watched them chuckle and tauntingly toss the rocks up into the air, an eerie calm settled over him. In that moment, Jackson felt a lot of things but fear was not one of them.

"Time to see how fast you and your friend can run, jackass," Jerry said, giving Ben and Zak a slight nod before arching to hurl the second rock.

Abe, at this point, was no longer oblivious to their intentions and had begun to growl, but it didn't matter. Before the rock could leave Jerry's hand, he hit the ground — hard.

Ben and Zak immediately dropped their rocks and ran away in terror, leaving Jerry to gasp, sputter, and writhe around in the gravel along the side of the road alone.

Without batting an eye or taking a step in his direction, Jackson had sent Jerry hurling backward with such force that it knocked the wind out of him and broke three of his ribs.

"No," Jackson told him as he moved to stand over him, "you are the one who is going to run."

And Jerry did.

The jagged rock left a gash on Abe's hindquarters right along his hip that required several stitches. But true to his nature, Abe remained standing, wagging his tail and licking Jackson in the face as he knelt down, removed a layer of clothing, and cleaned up the wound as best he could before walking them both home.

The events that followed the bus stop brawl changed all of their lives forever. Within a year, Abe was gone, and his parents were forced to sell their farm, farmhouse, and a good portion of their possessions to avoid bankruptcy.

As he watches the sunset over the top of the trees, Jackson knows he has to get moving. He's already stayed longer than he intended, but it's taken more time than he anticipated to gather the courage to visit the very spot he traveled all this way to see. Rising from his obscured position in the tall grass along the tree line, he makes his way deeper into the woods that line the south side of the property.

Swallowing the lump in his throat, he approaches the clearing where he and his father had laid his one and only true friend to rest. Getting down on his hands and knees, Jackson brushes aside layers of leaves until he finds the flat stone that marks Abe's resting place.

Abe was a true light. The year he spent with Abe was the happiest time of his life. Abe's eyes had always been gentle, loving, and hungry for adventure. Even after all of this time, Jackson can still feel the coldness of his nose, the sloppiness of his kisses, and the sharpness of his toenails. It's been nearly six years, but the emptiness, sorrow, and furry that filled him following Abe's death has never truly waned.

He doesn't stop the tears that stream down his face as he traces the outline of Abe's name chiseled into the stone. His tears aren't for just Abe. He can feel his parents here too. Abe's death took something out of all of them. It was like being struck by lightning: nothing was the same afterward.

In the years that followed their move, he allowed vengeance to drive and shape him, destroying everyone and everything around him. Being powerful is cool, until the day that it isn't. Now, as he kneels in half-frozen leaves overlooking a grave, he realizes that the one ability he longs for the most is one that he doesn't possess. He can't turn back time. If he could, he would rewind to the day he lost Abe with the knowledge that he has today. If he could do that, he wouldn't be kneeling over Abe's grave in the forest. He would be sitting at the kitchen table inside their farmhouse ordering graduation invitations with Abe snoring at his feet.

At the time of their deaths, he wasn't who they deserved.

Now, all that is left of them in this world are their graves and the imprints they've left on him.

His parents had been sweet, gentle, and loving people, who despite everything, never once resented him. They gave him everything they had, and in return, all he had given them was trouble and heartache. And Abe… Abe was just Abe. Always loving. Always happy. Always looking to him to lead, because where Jackson was — was exactly where Abe wanted to be.

Wiping at his tears, he makes a promise to each of them, one he should have made years ago. From this day forward, he's going to be the one they deserved. They may be gone, but they will not be lost for their imprints will now fall on him.

Moving the leaves back to cover Abe's resting place, Jackson blankets his one and only true friend with as much warmth as the environment will allow, comforted by the fact that he will no longer be buried there alone.

 


 

Moonlight guides him alongside the highway. The night is silent except for the distinct jingle of tags and clicking of nails against the asphalt. Should somebody happen upon him tonight, they will find a quick friend in a lively chocolate lab with tan tipped paws, a green collar, soulful eyes, and a smile that begs for adventure. What they won't see is a troubled teenage boy or a monster.

Cloaked in a true spirit of light, William heads due south in search of the man who is referred to in his visions only as Praise.

Chapter Text

"Water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

SKINNER

"You wanted to see me, Sir?" Skinner asks, not bothering to knock as he awkwardly wheels his way across the threshold.

"I'd tell you to have a seat, but it looks like you have that covered — you look like hell by the way," the director tells him by way of greeting.

"I'd say that it's not as bad as it looks, but that would be a lie."

Two broken ribs, a shattered knee cap, and numerous fractures in his right hand and wrist have certainly left their mark on Walter Skinner, but the message Kersh sent to him late last night had offered no sympathy in that regard.

My office. 06:00.

It's five minutes past the hour, but wheeling himself up from the parking garage to the 6th floor with only one functioning hand had not been an easy task to achieve unassisted. Perhaps that had been the point of meeting at this ungodly hour. Skinner certainly would not put it past his superior to make such a passively aggressive play.

His disregard for a Kersh's direct order to shut Mulder and Scully down had unleashed a series of events that Kersh has undoubtedly taken a great deal of heat for over the course of the last 48 hours.

The involvement of the national media had complicated matters profoundly, placing a highly public spotlight on the local law enforcement offices initially tasked with handling the Van De Kamp homicides. The shooting at the hospital had erupted a turf war between local and federal law enforcement, resulting in a very highly publicized hand-over and numerous leaks.

The tale of a resurrected teenager and the assassination of numerous high-ranking Department of Defense officers had been the leading story on every news outlet since it first aired two days ago. Leaked Van De Kamp crime scene photos and hospital surveillance footage were being placed side by side on the cover of every newspaper in the country, leading to numerous lines of inquiry and a multitude of internal investigations. Why was the Department of Defense searching for a teenage boy declared dead a week prior to his alleged involvement in the death of multiple officers?

The leaked photographs and statements from local detectives and morgue employees had only served to intensify the conspiracy arc laid out by Tad O'Malley, with tens of thousands of people seeking to run their DNA through privately funded labs in search of anomalies. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

"Have you spoken to Mulder or Scully?"

"The terms of their suspension and mine were quite clear," Skinner replies dryly, tightening the brace wrapped around his trunk in an attempt to make breathing more bearable.

"I know that the three of you are close."

To this, Skinner makes no comment. His loyalties are no state secret. He's protected Mulder, Scully, and the X-Files for the majority of his career, and he has no intention of stopping today.

Shaking his head, Kersh stands with a sigh, shifting his attention away from Skinner and onto the DC skyline.

"You're a good man, Walter," Kersh says with a pause, standing and shifting his eyes to the horizon as the sun begins to rise. "You probably don't remember, but we first met when I was a cadet at Quantico. You came to discuss the growing need for specialization and expertise in counterterrorism, which was very forward-thinking at the time. I can still remember how nervous I was as I waited in line to shake your hand. It was no secret that you were on the fast track to becoming the youngest FBI director in history," he says, laughing softly to himself as his eyes shift and raise to meet Skinner's. "Yet, here we are all these years later with me on this side of the desk and you on the other."

"We've all made our beds," Skinner replies evenly, unfazed by Kersh's dialogue.

Even with the intense pain registering in what feels like every bone in his body, Skinner keeps his face passive in hopes that his indifference will push the dialogue forward to get to whatever point Kersh has dredged him up here to make.

"So it seems," the director replies cautiously, watching Skinner with renewed interest.

Not one to be baited easily, Skinner remains silent and waits.

"As you are well aware, Scully's conversation with Tad O'Malley has created quite the stir," Kersh begins cautiously, settling into the plush chair behind his desk.

His assessing intensity is difficult to place, as are his motives, but if there is any one thing that Skinner has learned in his years of service under Kersh, it's that Kersh is nobody's bitch. He's malleable in the sense that he's fluid, and fluid is dangerous — it fills the space it occupies and is impossible to grasp.

"All three of you should be out of a job if not in jail… yet here we sit because I'll be dammed if there isn't a sliver of truth laced in with the lunacy," Kersh says, sliding a large envelope across his desk.

It's marked confidential, but the seal is broken. Though curious, Skinner doesn't bite. He would love to credit nam, two nasty divorces, and thirty years of service to feds for his impeccable impulse control, but truth be told, it's pain that keeps him in place. If Kersh wants him to read something, he can get off his ass and hand it to him.

For a moment, they each sit, sizing up the other in a silent chess match where neither is aware of the power or movement the other possesses.

"Oh for fuck's sake," Kersh says, standing and tossing the file into Skinner's lap.

Ignoring the profanity and theatrics, Skinner opens the envelope and removes the report inside. It's the crime scene photographs and coroner's report from the Van De Kamp crime scene. The vast majority of it he has seen before.

The pictures clearly depict a dead teenage boy. The very same teenage boy that disappeared from the morgue and resurfaced two days later on hospital surveillance footage outside of his girlfriend's hospital room, but it's not the pictures or grainy stills from the surveillance footage that catches his eye. It's the lab reports.

The finest labs in the country have been busy. Using the DNA Mulder rushed through the labs to confirm William's identity, the FBI has run a deeper, more in-depth analysis of Jackson Van De Kamp.

Skinner is no scientist, but the diagrams and language surrounding the findings don't require a degree in genetics to interpret. There is something highly unusual and very inhuman about Jackson Van De Kamp, but given what Skinner already knows, that fact alone is not surprising, nor is it what causes his stomach to drop.

The labs hadn't stopped with Van De Kamp. A secondary in-depth analysis had been run on the sample submitted as the comparative marker. One he knows belongs to Dana Scully.

The rest of the report blurs as his mind pieces together the implications.

They know.

When his eyes raise to meet Kersh's, they are met with acknowledgment and a nod that prods Skinner to continue to flip through the report. On the last page, he finds a hand-written note. One, he assumes the director wrote himself.

We can't protect them. We can only warn them.

"If you know where Van De Kamp is or have any knowledge or inclination that they do, now is the time to stop protecting them, Walter. It's a matter of national security. I don't think I need to spell out what that means."

"No. You don't."

"You're here because, despite our differences, I've always respected you. And that," he says, nodding his towards the file still in Skinner's hand, "is coming down hard, and I no longer possess the reigns to control the fallout. It was handed over to the Department of Homeland Security at 05:26 despite my adamant objection."

Kersh is no fool, and neither is Skinner. The actions that will follow will be coming directly from the executive branch. What was a federal investigation is in the hands of the military.

They want the same thing they have always wanted.

They want William.

And this time, there will be no-holds-barred.

It's time to move, and to win, they must be fluid.

Chapter Text

Van De Kamp Entry #95

Case No. 111093

Evidence No. 163.95

 

When the visions started coming to me as a child, there was never any doubt in my mind where they were coming from. Who she was and the level of importance she would play in the future wasn't necessarily spelled out to me in any traditional sense. I just knew.

Every psychiatrist and counselor I have seen over in the last 8 years has described my visions as delusions of grandeur — a fancy way of saying that my visions were projections of fantasy created as means to fulfill my need to belong, feel less abandoned, and to give a higher purpose to both myself and the woman who had chosen a life without me. And were it not for the supernatural power I had found within myself, I might have just believed them.

Either way, the hurt and confusion associated with being different, feeling abandoned, and seeing the things I've seen resulted in a wall being built. This woman wasn't my mother. She wasn't even Dana. She was red. And after Game of Thrones aired, she became The Red Woman. It was just easier that way.

My early impressions of her were mixed. There was an air about her that signified control, authority, and caution, but there was also fire. A fire that embodied compassion and raw emotion buried just beneath the surface. Even at a young age, I saw the complexity and contradictions within her. What 8 years of visions lacked was an explanation, but after today I can't help but wonder if that was by design.

Over time, I've become accustomed to the déjà vu-like effects that my abilities produce. I no longer get goosebumps or dismiss the knowledge that comes to me so readily. Experience has taught me that it's not delusions of grandeur. It's real. When meeting a person, I see all of them. Their thoughts. Their fears. Their secrets. Their desires.

I had anticipated meeting The Red Woman to be the same, but it was not. In her, I gathered nothing I expected. As soon as our eyes locked, all of my preconceived notions were turned upside down and one thing above all became clear.

She was not the projector. She, like me, was being led. We were both sheep.

 


"Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet's ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that's found his dad's gun … your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

— Dr. Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

Latitude: 37° 14' 3.60" N

Longitude: -115° 48' 23.99" W

 

SUBJECT 9

 

Cold.

It's all she's known for the past 8 years, 92 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes, and 6 seconds.

It's not the kind of cold that sends shivers down the spine or tightens the ties of coats.

No.

It's the kind of cold that creeps down and takes residency deep within the bone. It's all-consuming and dominates the cortex, driving away all conscious thought aside from the primitive need for warmth.

Her creators had given her a name at birth, but the girl she once was no longer exists.

For all intents and purposes, her existence has been erased — banished into a frigid, dream-like world void of sound and light.

The fear she evoked within her captors as they attempted to exert control over her would be comical if it weren't so devastatingly tragic. Grown men and super-soldiers struggling to contain an 8-year-old girl. Monsters creating monsters that they neither possessed the power nor the intelligence to control or understand — the ultimate definition of irony.

But her time in limbo has been well spent. She cannot be destroyed. Destroying her would destroy them all.

And today, day 92 of year 8, for the first time in over a decade, her brow rises, and she smirks. Those who created her had restrained her but were powerless to contain her.

It's time.

The domino has been tipped, and soon she will rise to a new name. One given to her by those she is destined to protect.

Chapter Text

“The past is never where you think you left it.”

 Katherine Anne Porter

SCULLY

 

Department of Defense Headquarters

Pentagon Basement Level 2

3/20/2018 08:32 

Suite 54

Skinner's warning had given them very little time to prepare for the brute force of the caravan that had arrived just before dawn. Not that more time would have ultimately mattered. This wasn't 2001. She and Mulder weren't in their thirties anymore. And unlike last time, they did have a life outside of their own to protect. Running was no longer a viable option. Not with everything that was at stake.

The math was simple.

If the syndicate wished them dead, they would be dead already.

Without them, the military didn't stand a chance in hell in locating or capturing William. So when the caravan arrived just as the sun rose, she and Mulder offered no resistance. Instead, they walked out of their Fars Corner home hand in hand, surrendering themselves to be placed in the back of two separate SUVs.

The ride to the Pentagon had been a quiet one. If the officers transporting her were surprised by her silence, they didn't elude to it, nor did they attempt to engage her in conversation. She suspected this was by design.

The commanding officer in charge was a familiar one. She and Mulder met Colonel Richard Nease at the hospital the week prior following William's disappearing act from the hospital. Her read on him at the time had been mixed. While he did seem genuinely surprised by what was revealed by the security footage, she found it hard to believe that those behind the strands of their son's alien DNA would task someone of his stature with the mission of capturing such a high-risk asset without providing any context for what that would entail. Unless, of course, they themselves had had no idea. Perhaps Mulder was right; even those behind the curtain were at a loss to explain William.

Now, as she sits alone in a small, desolate room, she is left with only her thoughts. But it's not regret or fear that fills her.

No. For the first time in nearly a decade, Scully feels as if she is on solid footing. Not because she is in control or possesses the power to stop the forces mounting against them, but because, for once, she is not running. And for someone who has been running from one thing or another for the past quarter of a century, there is a level of peace to be found in sitting still. As for the fear, she no longer has the energy to delve where she has lived for far too long.

No. The questions she finds herself asking now are questions of purpose.

Scully has always been a woman of action with roadmaps and contingency plans, but now, as she sits alone in a small, uncomfortable metal chair, it strikes her that she has no plan of action. She's not sure what the Department of Defense is playing at or what they hope to achieve by detaining and questioning her and Mulder. That's always been the comical element of this monumental game of cat and mouse. Of all the risks and insane adventures they have embarked on over the course of the last quarter of the century, they have come across very little tangible proof of an alien conspiracy.

The DNA databank she has built contains about 10 years of data and is located on a flash drive hidden in the safe beneath the floorboards of their Fars Corner home. The flash drive, the chip currently embedded at the base of her skull, and William's umbilical cord are the only pieces of physical evidence she possesses after 25 years of searching. And while her findings would certainly perplex a geneticist, it certainly doesn't explain the overlying arc or intent of Project Crossroads. In fact, none of what she and Mulder have experienced can be substantiated. It wouldn't survive the court of public opinion, much less be upheld in the court of law. That's been the syndicate's greatest defense from the beginning. What she and Mulder are caught up in is so far removed from the known bounds of science that it's easily dismissed as lunacy. The very nature of it and what it entails has always ensured their silence.

Until now.

As frustrating as that has been from a historical standpoint, today may be the day that lunacy serves them well. Detaining them or imprisoning them for any length of time will only serve to increase the legitimacy of the conspiracy arc being painted by Tad O'Malley.

The call to Tad O'Malley had been a bold move, but the right one. Eliminating them now would only serve to amplify the frenzy surrounding the leaked crossroads documents and the manhunt for Jackson Van De Kamp.

The government would be far better off to paint them as loons than to prosecute them for releasing top-secret files. And while they could plant evidence to indict them on any number of bogus charges, she doubts that they will. Not because they are above it, but because having them locked up and tucked away would be unlikely to serve their purpose. They want William, and they don't stand a chance in hell of locating him, let alone capturing him without them.

The interrogation room they've placed her in has no clock, two-way mirror, or visible camera. The walls are dark, muting the light being put off by the caged fixture above, making the room appear smaller than it actually is. The entire design is hinged on isolation. Being made to feel alone in a desolate place for an unquantifiable amount of time certainly isn't a new tactic, but if they are counting on it breaking either of them, they will be grossly disappointed.

She and Mulder have lived in the dark and surrendered to hidden chains for well over two decades.

For them, the truth has always carried a heavy sentence of silence and isolation.

Whether they have them both on ice or have opted to start in on Mulder first remains to be seen, but the setting she currently finds herself in has made one thing abundantly clear to Scully. Nothing that follows will be by the book.

Just when she is beginning to contemplate laying her head down on the table and taking a nap, the door opens.

"Agent Scully."

Nease's nod of acknowledgment is void of emotion as he crosses the room and drops several files on the opposite corner of the table. The air around him is cool yet electric. Not that she would have expected anything less from a man carrying his rank. She knows the type. She was raised by one.

"I would introduce myself, but you already know who I am."

While some might find the Colonel's entrance and demeanor to be cold and unnerving, Scully finds his way of bypassing the pleasantries to be oddly comforting. Doing away with the preliminaries and getting right down to business suits her just fine, but her appreciation stops there.

He has dredged her down here, so this will be his dance to lead.

Unfazed by her silence and even stare, Nease takes the seat directly in front of her, opening the top file and flipping it to reveal a large 8x10 photograph.

"I need you to walk me through your last interaction with Jackson Van De Kamp and Carl Gerhard Busch. The latter you most likely knew under his more commonly known alias, CGB Spender," Nease says, sliding the file across the table.

It's a picture of Spender in his earlier years. One he clearly hadn't realized was being taken.

"I have nothing more to offer you than what I've already provided in my official statement to the FBI."

"Humor me."

"I am."

It's a goading response, but it's not inaccurate. Since being placed in the back of the SUV early this morning, Scully has not put forth a single ounce of resistance, asked a single question, demanded a phone call, or asked for representation.

Nease remains silent as he waits. When she follows suit, he shifts his attention to a different folder, opening it and quickly scanning through its contents.

"Your official statement states that you last made contact with Van De Kamp in the abandoned factory and that your last point of contact with CGB Spender occurred just before the explosion at the Anasazi ruins in Mesa Verde National Park in 2002… and that, until recently, you believed him to be deceased."

"That's correct."

"It also states that Van De Kamp and Spender were both shot at close range prior to their disappearance into the harbor, which suggests that you witnessed both shootings."

"I did not. Agent Mulder did. I heard the shots as they were being fired, but by the time I arrived on the scene, they were both gone."

"They being Van De Kamp and Spender?"

"Yes."

Nease pauses, studying her body language and facial expressions carefully, but Scully doesn't blink, holding his gaze and returning it with one of her own.

"For a woman who just lost her son, you don't appear to be shaken."

"To be shaken would require shock. I'm well beyond that."

Nodding slightly, Nease eases back in his chair. The change in his demeanor softens the room, but Scully remains unmoved. Though she suspects Nease is merely a pawn, she can't discount his purpose or who is pulling his strings. She's been at this game for far too long to underestimate her adversaries.

"Aside from the DNA analysis you ran to confirm who you believed Van De Kamp to be, there is no documentation, medical or otherwise, to confirm that you gave birth to a child. That's pretty crafty, even for a fed," he says, softening the edge to his voice. "Somebody with the means and resources to pull something like that off had to have had a good reason behind it."

Whether his intent is flattery or inquisition is unclear, but it doesn't matter because it was a statement, not a question. Nease may be here to chat, but she is not.

If he finds her silence surprising or annoying, he doesn't show it. Instead, he presses on.

"We found these in your Bethesda home," he says casually, opening yet another file and orienting it to where she can see the top photograph. It's a crime scene photograph with the picture of William standing inside his crib along with several others. All of which were taken months, if not years, following his adoption.

Though she is by no means surprised to find that they have searched both homes, she can feel the heat of their intrusion. The pictures she took from the Van De Kamp crime scene are among the few keepsakes she has of her son. The very thought of them being in the hands of the military makes her physically sick to her stomach, but she keeps her emotions in check and her face impassive, shifting her gaze to level with his as she waits for what she suspects is coming next.

"So, either you have had more contact with the Van De Kamps than your field report reflects, or you removed them from the Van De Kamp crime scene prior to the hand-off of the investigation."

A heavy silence fills the room.

This time, Nease waits longer, but as the minutes continue to tick by, he relents, shifting in his seat and assessing her with renewed interest before speaking again.

"Agent Scully?" he asks, raising his brow.

"You haven't asked me a question," Scully replies.

She keeps her voice low in an attempt to mask the fury boiling beneath the surface, but the shift in his expression and stature indicates that he is well aware of the fact that the pictures have hit a nerve.

"How did you come to acquire photographs taken of your son following his adoption, Agent Scully?"

Scully considers his question for a moment before responding.

"They were on his desk," she answers calmly, her voice quiet. "In a random, yet methodical assortment… various ages and events… his whole life in a small stack of photographs…"

The fact that Nease doesn't flinch at her statement or ask for clarification regarding the desk she is referring to confirms what she already suspected. It's why she didn't bother to side-step or refuse to answer his question. Nease knows exactly where she got the photographs and likely has video evidence of her looking through them and placing them in the lining of her coat prior to leaving the crime scene.

The only element of surprise she can offer at this juncture is candidness. Should Nease be the pawn she suspects him to be, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain by not fitting the profile he was fed.

"His room was clean and orderly. Everything with its designated place… the computer with the encrypted Crossroads files was hidden, yet the photographs were left out in plain view, stacked neatly on the corner of his desk as if he had organized them and left them out for a specific purpose."

As she speaks, she finds herself slipping into a trance-like state with her mind replaying the search of her son's room. Even with the knowledge she has now, the emotions are still raw. Getting a glimpse of the life he had as she listened to his body being zipped into a bag and prepared for the morgue had been brutal.

"Are you suggesting he left them there for you or someone else to find?" Nease asks.

"Didn't he?"

To this, the Colonel says nothing, closing the file and removing the pictures from view.

"Despite what you may have been led to believe, Agent Scully, we are on the same team."

"Somehow, I highly doubt that, Colonel."

The room is silent for several minutes as he assesses her. Shifting back in his seat and resting his hands on the stack of files in front of him, the Colonel speaks again.

"Your son's safety is a matter of national security, Agent Scully. Harming him would not be in the best interest of any acting party."

"If you believe that, then you are a fool I didn't peg you to be."

An uncomfortable silence follows, each of them weighing the other.

When it becomes clear that Scully will not be the first to blink, Nease returns to the files in front of him having reached a decision.

The preliminaries are over. Whatever he has dredged her and Mulder down here to discuss is about to come roaring to the surface.

"Do you recognize this woman?" Nease asks, pulling a small stack of 8x10 photos out of a folder and sliding them across the table.

The photos are grainy and all in black and white, leading her to believe that they were pulled from some sort of surveillance footage. The bench in the backdrop suggests a park or public outdoor space, but even with the poor quality, there is no denying the identity of Jackson Van De Kamp. The woman, however, is more difficult to characterize. With half of her face obscured, she could easily be anyone, but her well-tailored business suit and medium-length blond hair set her apart from Jackson, who is dressed far more casually with his hands in his pockets and head covered by a hooded sweatshirt. The fact that Jackson isn't towering over her suggests that she's tall, anywhere from 5'6" to 5'9", but with the camera angle being above them and the woman wearing heels, it's difficult to tell.

One of the first things to strike Scully as she thumbs through the first few photographs is Jackson's body language. He appears to be at ease. Whoever this woman is, he doesn't fear her or perceive her to be a threat. But given what she has learned of his abilities, his apparent state of ease may not be of any significance. Jackson's ability to mask his identity would have allowed him to present himself to this woman in any number of ways, placing him in a position of power, not vulnerability. Either way, her assumption would be that he either knows her or knows of her.

As Scully flips to the final two photographs in the stack, the camera's angle changes to reveal more of the woman's face as she hands Jackson what appears to be a flash drive or some kind of digital device. One she assumes is a copy of the Crossroads documents that Mulder discovered on Jackson's hard drive.

A twinge of recognition tingles up her spine as she studies the woman's features. Initially, the eerie feeling that drifts over her is difficult to place, but as she studies the bone structure and lines along the mouth, recognition hits her with startling clarity.

Years of working for the federal government and practicing medicine have given her years of practice in maintaining a calm, cool exterior in the presence of chaos, death, and destruction, but in this instance, Scully is unable to control the spike in her pulse or change of her skin tone as the color drains from her face. It would be easy to blame the wave of nauseousness that courses through her body on her pregnancy, but it's not the child growing inside of her that evokes such a response. It's the pull of history and all that comes with it.

"So you do recognize her?" Nease asks evenly.

Raising her eyes to meet his, Scully is met with eyes that are gauging, not inquisitive.

That's when it hits her.

Nease knows.

The purpose of this entire charade was not to incriminate her, force her hand in assisting with the ongoing manhunt for her son, or to identify a mystery woman.

No.

The purpose was to gauge her response and deduce if she knew what Nease and the syndicate already know.

Diana Fowley isn't dead.

Diana Fowley is responsible for tipping off Jackson Van De Kamp.