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by dossier

Notes & Warnings

There was no doubt about it; I was a mess

I'd been shot in the face by a man bent on revenge, richly deserved on my part, although when I had awakened from the coma, I remembered nothing of the events that had led up to that singular occasion.

Strughold had me stashed away in a private hospital for a couple of years. When I awoke, I didn't know that I was finally free; I didn't know about the shackles that had held me for so long. That freedom was only an illusion-I would never be free. But, I'm getting ahead of the story.

It was a difficult period for me. Though I didn't remember it at the time, the Oilien that I'd carried around for so long as a consequence of my confinement in the silo had kept me alive, but there was only so much it could do-I was effectively disabled by the 9mm lobotomy. I needed help. I was a blank man, with little past, and an uncertain future.

Out of a gratitude I couldn't comprehend, Strughold gave me a name and some money, then I was given into the care of the V.A. hospital where I lived for several years: learning language, to eat, to dress myself. It was very strange. I could remember vague, ancient pieces of my former life, but there were years missing, shut away or gone completely. I didn't know that Al Kent was an alias--a sham--for a very long time.

When I was a little kid, my parents had a colleague with a house on a lake, and we were invited once; as immigrants vacation was a new and exciting concept for them. In retrospect, their friend's cabin was probably a bit shabby and plain, but to my child-eyes it was like a palace. We were free to do what ever we wanted, and the party lasted a week. It was a fantasy. My parents were completely different people while we were there; they loosened up and had fun; I distinctly recall my father actually playing with me in the lake, teaching me to swim.

That was about the clearest memory I had, so that's where I went when I was declared compos mentis, or at least reasonably able to care for myself. I bought a bus ticket to Clinton, Missouri and hung out at a motel for a couple of weeks, until I got a good deal for a cheap place on the lake to pick up where I had left off, with the mistaken idea that I could relive those idyllic moments.

There I stayed. I've spent years putting myself together, but it's still an unfinished project. When I wasn't raging against the walls and bashing holes in them as I drank, I was patching the sheet rock and reading while I was stoned. It's a simple life, really. The dawn over the lake would give me a feeling of hope, renewal and peace that felt wrong somehow, but I couldn't put my finger on why it both consoled and chilled me.

My cabin was part of a small cluster of similar homes on the lake, and I was the only one who lived there year round. The neighbors had no reason to think I wasn't who I said I was-an amputee soldier on disability, prone to PTSD rage, but an otherwise quiet man. They accepted me, and took it upon themselves to aid and befriend me.

For a long time, that's all I was, before I had a little epiphany.

You see, the neighbors knew there was no library nearby and they would bring me a hodgepodge of books to read, and so, inevitably the day would come when I was given one of Mulder's books. There was a picture on the jacket, and it just blew me away! I knew I knew him, and I had to figure out why. It was in that research that I started to regain some sense of my former identity, and how it related to Mulder.

Now, I could write Mulder's biography, and it would be more accurate than the overleaf on that book cover. My part in that story is problematical.

I called in one last favor from Strughold and got a story and a name. Jeffrey Spender was the link that led me to most of my intelligence. Mulder's half brother was a sobbing wreck of a man who had no problem spilling his guts to anyone that would listen, even via email to a stranger. The trail of discovery was vastly treacherous and finding out that I wasn't Al Kent, Gulf War veteran, was hard to swallow. The Consortium was scattered to the winds, his father and my nemesis/mentor was reported truly dead and gone. I'd led a life in the shadows, well hidden and most of those who could provide testimony had disappeared or died.

The information that I teased from Jeff, and the details that I tracked down, left me more confused than I had been for ages. It sickened me to read the dossier I was building--finally coming to know what I had wrought, in the clear light of day.

I had a severe feeling of disassociation; it was another person who'd lived that life. Part of me can't see being that person; other times I'm more like him than I care to admit. But the big picture was getting clearer, despite the huge, gaping holes.

It wasn't until about a year ago that I finally found William. The 'secret' adoption to the Vandekamps was the easiest part of my reconstruction, actually. Turned out that while Jeff's little antidote might have stopped the physical manifestations, it didn't stop the mental ones. There had been some recent trouble, the boy had gone missing for a few days and after that, the behavior problems started; the official diagnosis began as bi-polarity with conduct disorder and ADD/ADHD complicating treatment, before it was finally elevated to schizophrenia.

But I didn't find him in Wyoming, he'd already bugged out. Took the money he'd saved up from chores on the farm and left, and no one had been able to locate him. It had only been two weeks since his disappearance when I tracked down the Vandekamps.

Well, I had run into a brick wall on that front, and I'd have to wait for John Law to find William or for him to return home of his own accord. I decided that a little road trip, a pilgrimage of sorts, was in order. I wanted to see the place where Scully had given birth to the one who should have never been born; the child I had nearly died for.

I took a couple of days to make the drive, it was May in the South and already hot, and the A/C in my old Taurus didn't work. I drove in the early hours of the day, and stopped at a motel to hang out in when it got too hot. It was interesting to me; this was the first time I had ventured out thus, alone and on the road. It felt very natural, not at all scary-it occurred to me that I had done this a lot in that other life.

When I was just outside the Georgia border, I passed a hitchhiker. I saw him as I drove past, a young man who was dusty and weary looking. I was a mile past him when I decided to give him a lift. Maybe it was my old love for living dangerously reasserting itself. I turned around and went back for him. When I asked where he was going, I found out that, incredibly, we were headed to the same destination.

What are the odds of two strangers meeting and finding out they were going to the same place at the same time? At the time, I shelved the idea under the category of weird coincidence; just another sign that I was still a sandwich short of a picnic.

We didn't talk much after the first brief introduction. He wasn't reticent, more like aloof. I could deal with that. I studied him a little as we drove, he had black hair, obviously a dye-job, but it was still a trend you found in certain groups of the younger generation. He wore a black leather jacket despite the heat, and army boots peeked out from under the tattered jeans.

Democrat Hot Springs was a dusty, broken-down ghost town, with an old fashioned well pump, and ramshackle wooden buildings facing the single street. I poked around alone for a couple of hours, looking for something, but whatever it was I didn't find it.

Apparently, neither did my hitchhiker. We met back up at the well.

"You about through here?"

"Yeah, think so."

"Did you find what you were looking for?"

"Nope."

"Me either. You want a ride out of here?"

"Sure."

There was a marked difference in him as we drove out. He was talkative, almost chatty, and even a little scared sounding and curious, too. He seemed like a different person, much younger in a way. Maybe it was his openness, or the way he asked his questions; they were more what you might expect from a twelve year old rather than an eighteen year old.

Because he appeared to be a young adult, I never questioned that he'd been hitching, or if he had somewhere to go, or if there was someone missing him. He went back to the cabin with me. I know it sounds crazy, but I discovered that I enjoyed the company, and he said he didn't have anywhere else he needed to be.

We got along pretty well, and he was smart, smarter than I was. We had a few great weeks together. He loved the boat the best, I think. I had the Boston Whaler rigged so I could easily dock it, which meant it was nothing for him. We'd putter around the lake and fish, though the fishes were always safe from our depredations.

But I saw also more of that dual personality I'd had a glimpse of. Sometimes he would become cruel and mocking, and by then he knew just what buttons to push that would send my emotional lability into rage, or weeping.

I do that a lot anyway, actually. Cry like a little girl over nothing, or get furious at something equally trivial. But since this is my story, and I don't want to seem anymore like a freak than I am already, I'm generally going to leave those parts out-they're just too embarrassing.

Back to my guest. I wasn't the sharpest tack in the box, and I didn't put 'Will' and 'William' together until after he'd left. One night after a huge screaming match, I had gone to bed with a bottle of whiskey, and woke up to find that he'd ransacked my research notes and files, and then stolen my car and handgun. I guess he was bored and had started to nose around, or maybe he'd been reading them steadily every night while I slept.

I can't even claim this was some great epiphany of my own. He'd left a large Ziploc baggie filled with medication, and the 'scripts said it all: William Vandekamp. The drugs they had in that boy scared me. I had been prescribed most of them at one time or another to deal with the side effects of a damaged brain: Tegretol, Haldol, Zyprexa-just to name the scariest ones.

Will was fucked up in some pretty deep ways, not the least of which were the sudden changes in personality. I think that's why we got along so well, I could relate to him like no one had since his disappearance. But, it was a house of cards built on shifting sands-doomed to eventually tumble down. The one thing I did think of on my own was the fact that he was probably headed out to find Scully, and I had given him everything he needed to know.

How does a kid find his way from bum-fuck mid America to Bellingham, Washington? I can tell you. He looks older than he is; he took my car, and my Glock. The car was of no consequence; it was the gun that worried me. Calling the police to report it stolen was the last thing on my mind.

It took me a couple of days to get Mulder's email and convince him that I had critical information about a grave situation, and we had to have a serious conversation. He insisted that it be a face-to-face meeting, and for that I can't blame him. I know he thought the emails were from some fucker yanking the rug out from under him, not just metaphorically, but I had to emphasize that I was Al Kent. I hadn't been Alex Krycek for more than a decade and considering our history, that name would probably have completely shut down all lines of communication.

I packed a few necessities and took the skiff across the lake to the marina, bummed a ride into Clinton, then shelled out cash for another car. I felt very strange driving across the country chasing after that kid and going to meet the one person that my former life had revolved around. I had to finally admit that I was Alex Krycek.

I had the dry facts, incontrovertible evidence that I had lied, cheated, stolen; done everything in my power to alternately aid and abet then double cross and betray Mulder. What I couldn't be sure of was if I was doing the wrong thing by trekking down the path that led to him? Could I trust him to keep my identity safe? I knew that I had to take that risk, it was too important not to, and I couldn't avoid the karmic symmetry. Maybe I was hoping for some amnesty; actual forgiveness was a hopeless chimera.

I know you know this part, but the narrative demands that I include it. The Mulder-Scully's had spent the years trying to figure out what to do with the truths they'd finally uncovered, then had decided to get on with having a family and a life while living under the deadline of doom. Whatever threat Mulder had posed to the shadow government had been neutralized by disinformation. Mulder, former VICAP wonder-boy, had been turned into a kook by his beliefs and stint in the X-Files, and anything he had to say in public on the subject was met with ridicule. The same folks that had tried to crucify him on trumped up murder charges had likely decided that martyring him was counterproductive. Mulder's nonfiction books that managed to see the light of day were preaching to the choir-it was his fiction, especially the true-crime novels, that kept him in meat and potatoes. It had been years since he'd published anything except under a pseudonym, but I don't imagine that had any effect on the countdown going on in his head.

Scully had another career to fall back on, and Whatcom County was lucky to have her as a coroner. They simply melted into the background noise, but they still believed, waiting and watching.

 

**~**

I'd called him a couple hours earlier from a pay phone in Seattle. The agreed-upon place was a taco joint on Meridian Street in Bellingham, busy enough to provide cover, but not so big that we'd miss each other.

When I walked in and saw him lounging in the chairs by the window, everything went double vision. The man from the book jacket was super-imposed over broken memories.

"Mulder?'" I murmured as I stretched my hand out.

He stared at me for a moment, and then grabbed me in a rib-cracking hug. "Oh, my god. It's you. Son of a bitch."

I had nowhere to go, so I hugged back, and the two Mulders resolved into the solid man in my arms. The flood of surprise, relief, and anxiety that washed over me nearly made me weep. At least this emotional outburst was warranted.

Mulder broke the clinch, and leaned back, not taking his hands from my arms. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but I was sure you were…"

"Shot in the head, and left for dead?" Okay, so there was some resentment, and a hidden rage in that wave of emotion. Skinner had probably been well within his rights to shoot me, but I can't go so far as to… to forgive him. He shuddered and closed his eyes. I was suddenly contrite, and I shook his arm. "I actually don't remember it. I've found out a lot of it, but," I pointed to the scar my face, "it's gone, I'm not who I used to be. This isn't why I contacted you."

His hand still on my arm, he led me to a small table by the kitchen door. "Christ, this is bizarre. Twelve years dead and you appear out of the blue, telling me you've found William and he's armed and looking for us. Tell me."

I recounted the story I've just told you, and he listened without interrupting. When I finished, he sat thoughtfully for a few minutes while he absorbed it. "You think he's here in Bellingham?"

That took me back a step. "Where else would he go for answers except to you and Scully? I'm pretty sure he was looking for his mom when I picked him up."

"He's at least two days ahead of you, but he hasn't contacted us. What do you think he's waiting for?"

"I don't know, Mulder. I don't know."

The near hysterical phone call on his cell answered that for us. Will had made his move.

 

**~**

 

When we arrived at the house, the paramedics were already on the scene. Will had interrupted their July Fourth barbeque when he'd confronted Scully. According to a neighbor who was on hand, it hadn't gone well, and Dana had been shot in the gut, then Will had taken off with their daughter, Julie. Scully was unconscious before they hauled her off, and no one else could recall anything that might indicate where he might have taken her. The woman across the street had seen the car, and provided a description, so I stayed as far back as possible and tried to look inconspicuous. Much to my relief, Mulder had remembered that I was Al Kent, and had referred to me as such.

Mulder had his younger son on his lap trying to console him. I could see that he was being torn in different directions: Scully, Julie and Will. He couldn't be in two places at the same time; I didn't envy him at this moment.

"Mulder, do you want me to drive you to the hospital?" The police had nothing on me at the moment, and my natural inclination was to slink away. The problem was, the car and gun were both registered to me, and eventually they were going to pin things together. Probably the worst they could get on me was sheltering a runaway; I'd have to rely on Will's own deception to provide a reason that I hadn't contacted his legal guardians. Maybe I should do that now. Maybe I should do the humane thing and take Mulder to check up on Scully.

He had such an open look of anguish.

Maybe I should go look for Will.

 

The hospital was the same as every other: glaring fluorescent lights, speckled linoleum and hard plastic chairs in the waiting room. Night had fallen, and the dark windows reflected the scene back into the room. I sat a chair away from Mulder, son asleep on his lap, and our eyes met in the glass, but neither of us spoke of our concerns.

In the reflection I could see that too little sleep had placed dark circles under my eyes. Worry had eroded his boyish charm into a snarl. I was nervous about my comfortable little life being wrecked, but I had done that all by myself when I went to Georgia. I knew Will to some extent, but I didn't have a clue where he could've gone, or what he intended to do. Actually, I was pretty sure he didn't even know, and had just taken Julie as a knee-jerk, TV-land reaction. Then again, he'd had two days of driving to think about it.

Two days. He didn't drive all the way through; he was still twelve, after all. Maybe he'd taken three days-that would have put him here only the day before. He didn't know the city, so he could have stayed fairly close in the area of the Mulder's house. Four days drive, and he'd just arrived. At any rate, he's still just a kid, he'd think in terms of movie scenes for any plans he might make.

"Mulder, are there any warehouses or abandoned buildings near your house?"

"There's an old lumber mill, it's probably ten minutes from the house on Marine Drive, on the shore of the Lummi River."

"I think I'm going to take a drive around, see if I can't figure out where he might be hiding."

"Or are you planning on skipping town?" The glare he gave me, coupled with the anxiety, made him look faintly deranged. I snapped my answer at him.

"Yes, I'm planning on coming back, if only to pick you up and take you home. Unless you want to come with me and handcuff me to the car." I don't know why that got such a vivid reaction; Mulder went white and silent to my off-color remark.

He softened slightly, and said wryly, "no, I don't even own any." He dug into his jacket with his free hand and tossed me a cell phone. "Don't make any calls you can't explain to Dana-that's her phone. My number should be on the speed dial."

I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes. "Gotcha. I'll let you know." I walked away, down the hall. I got a feeling of déjà vu, but it could have just been remembering living at the VA for so long. It was hard to tell.

 

I picked up a map at a convenience store, and pored over it carefully before starting the car. Driving one handed definitely made you concentrate on what you were doing and plan ahead. Marine Drive stretched out for miles running east/west, so I picked it up a few blocks over and cruised down to the river.

The mill was there, but I missed it initially, I had to turn around and go back. Then, there wasn't an exit for it from this side of the road, so I turned around again, and crept towards the turn off. The anxious asshole behind me flashed his lights, and no doubt made deprecating remarks about out-of-state drivers as I made the right turn.

Someone had gone to great lengths to keep the sign painted, but the building was a ruin. I parked the car outside the still-locked gate and got out. Surely one locked gate wasn't enough to keep kids out of a dangerous building.

A ten-minute hike around the fence proved me wrong. Sure, scaling the fence wouldn't be much of an obstacle, but he'd have to figure out how to get his hostage over without losing her, and I saw no sign of the car. Great idea, no cigar.

When I got back to the car, there was one of BPD's finest parked next to me. Jesus, the fuckers are everywhere until you really need one. I sweet talked her out of whatever she was planning, ticket or arrest, and got off with a mild warning that sightseeing at nine p.m. wasn't the best idea.

I drove a few miles down the road back towards downtown, and pulled into an empty parking lot to use Scully's phone. There was a faint, feminine smell clinging to the phone-makeup or perfume, and it threw me for a loop. Scully. It rang as I sat there considering the phone. Fortunately the display indicated it was Mulder. "Mulder, what's up?"

"Yeah, did you find it?"

"I did, but no love there. It looks pretty well locked up, and is patrolled regularly."

"How do you know that?"

"I was caught sneaking around."

"Already?"

"I escaped with a warning. Any place else that you can think of?"

"He might be just driving around, too freaked out to stop."

"That's not too unlikely. Going to make it hard to find him, he might think of that. How is Scully?"

"She's going to be fine. Just came out of the recovery room, and isn't very coherent yet."

"Good. Good that's she's out, I mean."

"They're going to kick me out of here in a while, after she gets settled in her room."

"Oh, sure. I'm on my way back."

"Alex? Thanks for trying."

"Sure, I'll be there in a few minutes." Feeling like I had lost my luck, my touch, along with my memory, I was only paying half-attention to the road as I drove back along Marine Drive. It was frustrating-I mean it's a miracle that I'm alive at all, but this was really the first time post-parking-garage I needed to be able to function at full capability, and I was dealing with the frustration that I had been completely conned by a barely pubescent kid.

I banged my head against the steering wheel at a stoplight; maybe I could knock some sense into my brain.

Didn't think it would work.

It was just after ten p.m. when I pulled into the hospital, and Mulder was standing out front with Scott wrapped around his neck. He poured the sleepy child into the back seat and then himself into the front seat. "So, you're staying at the house."

"I'm sure there's a motel around here somewhere…"

"Forget it Alex, you're staying."

The gesture of hospitality dizzied me more than anything that had happened in the last few weeks. "Okay Mulder, whatever." I was exhausted, it had been at least three days since I had slept, and I think it was messing up my meds. I wanted to cry because someone offered me a bunk? Though, I wasn't so messed up as to not recognize that it might be to keep me in his sight. Still, rest wasn't on our agenda that night, oh no-the fucked up Fates had a different plan. My old, blue, stolen Taurus was in the driveway at Mulder's house.

"This is unexpected." Mulder said it in that even, laconic voice that took irony up to a whole new level. His cell phone rang, it was his daughter, and he assured her that he would be right there, that he was in the driveway.

"To say the least." We sat in the car for a few minutes, just staring at the other car, until Scott woke up in the back seat. He asked in a sleepy voice if we were home yet, and his question set us in motion. Mulder picked him up out of the back seat, and I grabbed my bag from the trunk. We walked to the door, neither of us certain what we would find, and none to eager to find out.

Julie and Will were sitting across from each other, the gun on the table between them with the clip unloaded next to it. It was easy to see they were kin; they both took after Mulder. Julie had the coltish look of a tall eight-year old; Will was long and lanky beyond his years. The dye-job covered up the mute testament to his relationship to Scully, while the girl's naturally dark hair spoke of a different genetic history.

The four of us spent a moment looking at each other. Julie looked scared but calm, and Will was nervous and frightened. I got the feeling that there was solidarity between the two, some agreement they'd forged, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Maybe it was the fact that she didn't rush to Daddy when she saw him. A cool character, so like Scully.

"I guess some introductions are in order. Julie, this is Al Kent. Al, my daughter Julie."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Kent." Her words were steady and assured, but even a perfect stranger could hear the childish quiver underneath.

"Pleased to meet you as well, Miss Mulder. Call me Al, please." I smiled, hoping to offset the horror of my scar and prosthesis that had caught her attention.

She evinced a small grin at the 'Miss Mulder'. "Call me Julie."

I nodded and then turned to Will. "William, you've already met Julie, so this is Fox Mulder."

The boy looked at Mulder with sorrow, longing and fear written on his face, and he had a wild expression in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he choked out in a small voice.

I saw a similar look on Mulder's face. He was angry with this lost son who'd committed a vengeful act against his family, and yet he had sympathy for him, too. He nodded, almost to himself. "Let me go put this one in bed."

He turned and carried his youngest son up the stairs, and I sat in the empty chair next to Will. "Is everyone okay?"

"I'm fine, Mr. Al. Do you know how my mom is?"

"She'll be fine. Surgery went good, and she's sleeping." I felt so guilty, so culpable in Scully's injury. I know you can't go back and change things, but if I had only seen what had been right in front of me.

"Al, I left my meds in Missouri." Will spoke in a low, urgent voice, as if he didn't want to draw more anymore attention to himself.

"I noticed." I dragged my bag open and tossed him the baggie of pill bottles.

Will began to sort through them, and Julie went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. She handed it to Will, and then sat back down on the couch. "Thanks." He gave her a rueful smile, and swallowed the assortment.

Mulder trotted down the stairs, and sat next to Julie. She leaned against him and he gave her hug. "Mom's going to be fine."

"I know." A pause. "Mr. Kent told me." He smiled then looked away from her to Will, pinning him down with that flat look. "I guess we have some things to talk about." He paused. "William, I didn't ever expect to see you again. I had hoped, of course, but… I'm glad."

The meds were starting to kick in, Will was losing the wild look, and now he just looked scared and exhausted. "I don't know what to say, or think. I'm confused."

"Daddy, there's something wrong with Will." Julie spoke urgently. "He doesn't…feel the same."

Mulder looked back down at his daughter, not missing a beat or appearing to disbelieve. "He doesn't?"

"It's like there's an empty place I can't get into."

"You think it might be because you were scared, what you've been through?"

"No, I noticed it right away, before anything happened."

He gave her a squeeze. "We'll figure it out. Can you tell me what happened?"

She talked fast, the words tumbling out of her in a rush. "We were about to start the barbeque, when he came into the backyard. Mom asked if she could help him, and he asked if she was Dana Scully. She said, yes, I am, and then he pulled the gun out of his pocket and started to wave it around. Mom was talking to him real quiet, telling him to give her the gun, that it would be okay whatever it was. Mom tried to take the gun from him, but I think it went off accidentally-he felt like it was an accident. When she fell down, no one moved for a second, and then everyone went crazy. Mrs. Staley called 911, and Mr. Alston was going to try and take the gun from Will. I stopped him, it was dangerous-I stood in front of Will and told Mr. Alston no. Then Will grabbed my arm and dragged me to the car, I couldn't get loose. He's much stronger than a kid like me. Then we just drove around and after a while it was like he woke up. He didn't remember what happened, or why I was with him in the car. I had to tell him what happened, and that we had to come back here, because you would know what to do."

"Thanks, kiddo. You did great." Mulder grinned at his daughter, but the concern was still wrapped around him like a shroud. "Will, want to tell me what happened from your perspective?"

I was still vaguely open-mouthed from Julie's gushing breakdown, wouldn't be surprised if she had inherited that famous photographic memory, but I never knew Mulder to be psychic. It had only seemed that way because he saw everything, and made connections no one else could see. I had discovered in the weeks at the lake that there was a quiet reserve at Will's core. Maybe that's what Julie was referring to. Will looked like he was gathering his thoughts.

After a moment, he blurted out, "I don't know. One minute I'm in Missouri arguing with Al and then the next I'm driving around Washington State with a girl and a gun in his Taurus."

Mulder stood and went to kneel in front of the boy who looked so much like a man, and gently laid a hand on his knee. "Have you had other episodes of missing time?"

Will nodded miserably. "Yeah, they started about six months ago."

"Do you remember aliens?" He shook his head, stayed silent for a moment.

"Have you had other events?"

"A lot. The big one was when I found myself in Georgia."

"Have you noticed anything else?"

"There was a knife. Once it sort of flew by itself-into the door in my room."

"I bet that was strange."

Will agreed with a weak nod.

"Al, would you care to join me?" Mulder rose and walked out to the deck on the back of the house, closing the door firmly behind me. "I know that there is a lot you don't remember, but you need to try and tell me everything you know about Will's birth." He radiated seriousness; nearly trembling with some emotion I couldn't put my finger on.

God, my memories were as fractured as my brain; I was running on four-day-old fumes, hadn't had a meal since yesterday, and I was reluctant to spell out what I thought I knew. Much of what I had was circumstantial information provided to me by a not-so impartial source. "It's a mess, Mulder. What I know, I got from Spender. It's not mine. I nearly died the day he was born!"

Mulder had his hands in his pockets, and was rocking back and forth, heel to toe, as he stared out into the darkness beyond the pool of light we stood in. "The thing I know, it was told to me as well. Second hand information-I was still in a coma, recently returned from the dead." He went motionless as he turned his head to stare at me, specifically the scar on my forehead. It made me nervous, but I'd had worse in grocery stores. "Skinner told me that you had a vial, a cure for the alien virus that took over Billy Miles. You were trying to make a bargain with it, the vial for me, if he would make sure that Scully lost the baby. 'She can't have that baby,' you told him.

My mouth went dry like the Sahara. "I, I…didn't know. I'm sorry, Mulder, I didn't know."

His eyes dropped a fraction to meet mine. "You weren't the only one who thought so. Believe it or not, Krycek, I've long since some to terms with it. 'The inextricable relationships in our lives that are neither accidental nor somehow in our control, either.'"

"What's that?"

"Just something I told Scully once. I had some strange experiences after you died, or after I thought you were dead anyway, and the things you did for me made me remember that you claimed to be working for the same goal."

I frowned. "I did what?" Maybe he was just crazy, not psychic.

"You came to me, three times, helping me, talking to me and providing information. I've never stopped thinking about that, and knowing now that you weren't dead puts a few pieces together for me. But, back to the matter of Will; you knew then that the child was dangerous, and that he couldn't be allowed to be born."

"Do you know why?" I was still reeling from the info dump; it was too soon for me to draw a conclusion. I hadn't heard this before; he had to connect the dots for me.

"After Scully delivered, she said the super soldiers came, under a shining star, as if they were the wise men, and the child was the Messiah."

"Sounds like a bad metaphor." I nearly growled it out.

"Cheesy, yeah. Did Jeff tell you that he injected my son with magnetite? It was supposed to neutralize the alien manifestations, things flying across the room-but in the end, Scully felt that he was still in too much danger for her to keep him. So she sent him away to live happily ever after." He said this last as if it had a bitter taste.

We still had our eyes locked on each other, Mulder looking expectant, like I was supposed to draw the lines myself-and I did, much to my surprise. "The missing time, they found him."

"And whatever dampening effect the magnetite had on Will was lifted, or removed."

"God, Mulder."

"It's 2012, Alex. The date of the invasion of the body snatchers is December 22. Incidentally, the end of the Mayan calendar, too. This was the information I located when you helped me escape from the Mount Weather complex." He turned to look out into the darkness, leaving me to watch his profile shadowed by the porch light.

The evening took on a Twilight Zone twist. "Mulder. I was comatose for years."

"And yet, there you were. You showed me the door, locked it behind me, and then you were gone."

I shrugged. "I don't know about that. We still have to decide what to do here, right now. The cops are going to want to know, and I don't think you can afford to harbor a fugitive. He's dangerous, unstable at the very least. We should call the Van…"

Mulder's smile stopped me. "Alex, I think you've gained a conscience!" He stared at me for a moment; his eyes didn't give away his thoughts. I held his stare until he nodded and looked over his shoulder at the boy in the living room. "But you're right, thinking pragmatically-as always."

I felt warmth flush my face as I turned away.

That was that. John Conklin, the BPD detective was tense and angry when he arrived but considering the hour, and the events of the day, decided that the morning would be soon enough for a formal statement from us. Will looked dreadful as Conklin hauled him away in cuffs, and Julie was in tears, when she ran up the stairs as they left. Mulder watched her with a speculative look in his eyes but turned away and led me into the den. Neither of us spoke as we pulled out the sleeper sofa, though I could tell he had something to say. But he only pointed me to the bathroom down the hall and said goodnight.

I dropped onto the turned-out bed, and despite being hungry and the million things on my mind, fell asleep immediately.

 

**~**

 

Morning came too soon. I was alert the instant I heard the television go on, cartoons. Kids. Mulder's house and bed. My neck hurt because I hadn't taken off the prosthetic. I put the sleeper bed away, took my medication and had a shower. When I was finished, Mulder was in the kitchen putting out cereal and milk. He offered me a cup of coffee then pointed me to the sugar bowl. I didn't remember until that very second that that I used to take it that way, coffee with sugar. I took a sip of the plain coffee; decided it was fine the way it was. Julie and Scott commandeered their breakfast and went to watch cartoons in the living room, but Mulder and I stayed in the kitchen. I grabbed a bowl and the cereal. "So, what now?"

He watched his coffee for a moment, and then looked up at me. "The kids want to go see Dana. The police are expecting a report from us. What are we going to tell them?"

I paused with the spoon in mid-air. "As much of the truth as possible, I guess."

"What's not possible?"

"I can't explain why I went to Democrat Hot Springs, or the sheer coincidence of me picking him up and taking him back to the lake. Why we didn't call his family."

"Yes, why was that?" I swallowed my cornflakes and cleared my throat. "I've been thinking about that. I honestly didn't know until he was gone."

Mulder nodded. "You didn't know he was only 12. He didn't know about the association between us."

"Yeah, all true, but aren't they going to want to know why I had a file on you, and why it caused him to scare off cross country?"

"I might be able to pull a string here and there. I have a theory. You want to hear it?"

"All right."

"William doesn't know. Whoever this alter-ego is, that's the one taking over, causing the blackouts, and doing these things," Mulder waved his hand in a wide sweep, "he is the one that knows."

"Multiple Personality Disorder is a psychological misinterpretation of psychosis and schizophrenia, Mulder." I had seen Will change before my very eyes, and yet I still didn't want to believe, even though I had some first-hand experience.

"In current medical theory, yes. But he said these events didn't start until the first missing time event. I'm willing to think that perhaps there really is another person inside him."

It was my turn to nod. "And with his existing mental condition, they may discount anything that might contradict whatever we say."

"Exactly."

With our story straight, I finally finished the measly bowl of cornflakes, Mulder took Julie and Scott next door, and we went to the station. Mulder wanted to get his fix in before Julie was subjected to questioning; her testimony would only strengthen his case. True to his word, he got Conklin to allow us to speak with Will for a few minutes before we gave our statements. He had an officer stay with us, ostensibly to ensure that we weren't corroborating our stories, but little did he know that was exactly what we were doing while we were talking. Trying to decide if the MPD Mulder suspected was real. On the surface it was an innocuous conversation, but it had intent.

Will seemed pathetically pleased to see us. "Hi."

"You remember Mr. Mulder?" I said it casually, but I wanted assuage any doubts I had about to whom we were speaking. "Are you all right? Are they treating you okay?"

"Yes, they've got me in the medical tank with the old guys 'cause I came in with medication."

"That's good. I'd hate to see you in with the punks."

The boy smiled slightly at that. "One of the guys in there with me taught me to play chess this morning."

Mulder smiled wistfully; perhaps it was regret that he'd never had the chance be a father to this boy, to teach him, to love him.

"The police let me call Mom and Dad. They're driving over from Wyoming. I'm really sorry, they're pretty old, it's hard for them as it is, and then all of this, too."

"I'm sure they were worried about you."

"Mom, she sounded like she was going to cry. Al, I can't believe I never called, to say I was okay."

I cleared my throat. "I should have called, made you call. If I'd known."

"I wasn't a prisoner, I could've done that, but." He paused and huffed a sigh. "It just seemed, well-like I shouldn't. I'm sorry."

The door opened and John Conklin spoke from the doorway. "That's your ten. Kent, I'd like a word with you."

We watched as the uniformed officer took Will away, and Mulder went with him. My statement included my car, and the fact that Will had stolen my gun as well. I think that was the first time in my memory that I'd had to do that, and I was sweating the validity of Al Kent's ID, and so much more. I had told Mulder that if he wanted me to involve the police, I would do my best, so now I had to make good on that promise.

The detective finished writing his notes on my statement and then asked me to wait outside, while he talked to Mulder. I sat in row of chairs and cooled my heels watching the day-to-day business of a squad room. I mulled over the conversation with Will; it was difficult to detect any signs that would confirm our suspicions. I should've let Mulder handle it. A half-hour later, I was called back into the interrogation room-god, what an ugly word.

Detective Conklin was polite, and straightforward. Even though they could see for themselves that it was possible for him to have hoodwinked me, I still had committed a gross misdemeanor for harboring a runaway minor, but because it had been committed in Missouri it was a matter of jurisdiction, and it would be a few days before that was cleared up. On Mulder's recommendation, they were going to contact the Missouri, Georgia and Wyoming State Attorneys to have my case remanded to Washington; but in the meantime, I was released, with Mulder's assurance that there wasn't a risk of flight. How they bought that when we'd presumably just met, I don't know. Mulder could always be very persuasive. He wasn't quite persuasive enough to keep his daughter from also being questioned, though. They upshot was that they wanted everyone involved there that evening. They would call when the Vandekamps arrived.

Mulder took off to take the kids to visit Scully, and I stayed at the house. I wasn't sure how to deal with her. Everything I knew about her past opinion of me could be summed up in three words, "Liar, Cheat, Murderer." I don't think any of that had changed for her. Maybe slinking off to hide was a better idea, after all. I had a car, or could get another clean, untraceable one easily, and all my assets were in cash, except for the lake house. I loved it, but somehow the idea of letting it go wasn't as painful as I had imagined.

I stayed. There was something heady-attractive-about the way that Mulder appeared to trust me, which I couldn't resist. I watched TV and read a book while I waited. I'd have to look for Mulder's cues on how to deal with his wife, later.

When they returned, we had a late lunch of leftover barbeque stuff. I watched Mulder interact with his kids, answering their questions with honesty and humor, and I was reminded of how much I had enjoyed the few weeks with Will at the lake.

The Vandekamps arrived, and met with the attorney assigned to the case before we showed up for the powwow. Everyone was there, including the judge and a staff psychiatrist. It made for quite a crowd. Julie told her story, and it corroborated everything that had been said before; the shrink said his conversation with Will had matched all the information that was in the file that had been faxed over from the county case worker in Wyoming. With that consideration, his age, and a plea for lenience by Mulder on his wife's behalf, a deal was struck. Will was remanded to a secure psychiatric facility in West Seattle; they had no place like that locally, for a period of ninety days for observation and treatment; trial contingent on his evaluation.

Will's folks looked old, tired and beat down. This had been an ordeal for them, and perhaps they felt a little guilty for not being able to handle it, but they had seemed genuinely glad to see their son. They were going to follow Will to Seattle, and then head back to the farm, after he was settled in.

Two days later, Washington State had the matter of the jurisdiction settled. As expected I was charged with the gross misdemeanor of harboring a runaway minor, and after I pled no contest, was given the minimum sentence of thirty days with a thousand-dollar fine. My identity and story had held up under the minor scrutiny of gun registration, and furthermore, the sentence was delayed because of overcrowding in the county lockup. I wasn't going to push my luck, I'd take the time and fine and consider myself lucky that Alex Krycek was dead.

Scully was going to be released the next day, and I'd decided to go back to Missouri in the morning. Cowardly I know, but I wanted to avoid seeing her as long as possible.

That evening, when the kids were asleep, Mulder and I sat in the back yard, watching the stars. They were foreboding and cold: no comfort in knowing that we were not alone.

"Did you hear about Cancer Man?"

"Jeff just said he was pretty sure his father was dead," I replied.

"He said that at my trial, too. He was wrong, but it wasn't too long after that I had my last run in with Smokey. He'd been hiding out in some old Anasazi caves in New Mexico. There was a high concentration of magnetite there, he thought he was safe." Mulder stopped for a moment, took a deep drink of his beer. "Scully and I went up there to see him. He was the one who sent me the information and the key, sent me to Mount Weather. We traded the usual snarky barbs back and forth, he accused me of hiding the truth from Scully, of being afraid."

"Were you?"

"I thought that I could find a way to fight the truth, now that the final piece of the puzzle was in my hands."

"But you haven't."

He shook his head slightly. "No, I haven't, not until now. But Spender-he was sitting up there in that cave when the pair of Black Hawks sent to gun me down blew that cliff to hell and back. I waited for years for his filthy face to darken my doorway again. I think they got him."

I felt a glimmer of relief. Jeff had thought he was dead, but Mulder had seen it happen. "So, this truth. Tell me about it."

"The shadow government we'd been fighting, they'll be hiding out in Mount Weather when the mobilization of the alien colonization happens on December twenty-second. The plague that's been threatening us for thirty five thousand years will finally pass over the land, and it seems there's almost not a damn thing we can do to root them out, or stop the invasion."

"Almost?" It was the way he said it.

"It's William, he's the key. To what door, I don't know. I'm afraid for him, and for the rest of us, if we can't uncover his purpose in all of this." Neither of us spoke for a long while, there was no need to voice what that answer might be.

Mulder broke the silence first. "What do you remember about the night…that Skinner shot you?"

"Nothing, really. The memories I still had when I finally became conscious again were old ones-childhood, really." I felt the tearing pain in my head, and I rubbed the scar with my thumb. "What happened?"

"You'd come to us to warn us about Scully's baby, that the aliens were already among us-Billy Miles, Knowles Rohrer. We'd hidden Scully; Monica had taken her away to protect her-and then you showed up again, except this time you were talking to Agent Crane. At the time, Doggett and I decided you were the conduit to inside the FBI. So I stayed in the parking garage to watch you, but you decided to yank me out of my car."

I sat there trying to regain some of my old detached calm while I listened to this story. I knew bits and pieces, hearsay and rumor, but this was a personal narrative. It was that other guy he was talking about, not me.

"How much of what you said was the truth was impossible to know. You believed it; that was certain. 'That's why I have to do this. 'Cause you know how deep it goes. Right into the FBI.'"

"I was going to shoot you?"

"Apparently, then Skinner winged you. You shoved the gun towards me and said "Shoot Mulder." I thought those were your last words-Skinner shot you in the head."

There were no words I could utter. I had no memory of my motives, and they certainly hadn't been recorded for posterity.

"But, I guess we'll never know what you meant, why you wanted Walter to shoot me, me to shoot you, or both."

"No, not likely. I don't remember those things."

Mulder finished his beer. The full moon had set, and a thin curtain of clouds had been pulled across the sky, mercifully obscuring the stars. I could almost count on this tale to feature heavily in the fractured dreams I would have tonight; the thought didn't comfort me. I shivered slightly in the cool night air and changed the subject.

"Tell me about Julie and Scott." He smiled involuntarily at the thought of his children. "The best thing that ever happened. I got the chance to become a different man than my father-to prove that my children weren't hostages to the future." He fell silent, because one child was just that. "We knew William was conceived, but how it had happened was a mystery. There were some ideas, but we stopped talking about that a long time ago. When it was clear that it simply wasn't going to happen again, that Scully was truly incapable, we decided on a surrogate. The only person we could trust was Monica Reyes-she's their biological mother."

"Which explains Julie."

"Yes. Have you ever heard of the Indigo, or Violet Children?"

"No."

"There's a theory about the children born between 1988 and 2012; the time between the ages, an interregnum; a large percentage of them are presumed to effectively be the next evolutionary step in the metaphysical human: a new root race, one that's tapped into a fifth-dimensional morphogenetic grid; a supramental consciousness."

"That's pretty…far out."

"It does appear to describe Julie's tendencies, though. The theory makes me wonder about the effect that alien abductions are having on the whole genetic makeup of the human race. About my part in that."

The scope and breadth of that idea, alien interference or arrangement of the evolution of human beings was breathtaking. Who was to say that they hadn't been involved for the last three millennia, not just the last thirty years? I caught my breath. "That's frightening."

"Yes, it is. Who's to say that we haven't been bred all along as slave stock? But I think they didn't realize we would rebel, fight that against that conspiracy." He stilled for a moment, and then turned to me in the dark. "Alex, I have to admit to an ulterior motive for getting your case remanded to Washington. I think you need to be here, this is too important and there's too few of us."

I hadn't considered that. I thought Mulder was leaning on the D.A. only to get me as light a sentence as possible. "What about Scully?"

"We've talked about it, and she agrees with me-we're about to see the fruition of plans made before we were born, possibly the end of the world as we know it. She'd rather know where you were, and what you were doing. Sorry."

"Uh, no apology to me necessary-though any I would make to her now would be ashes. It wouldn't mean anything."

"Be that as it may, it still wouldn't hurt."

"What can we do, Mulder? A pair of former F.B.I. agents and a semi-incapacitated amputee-what difference could we make?"

He didn't reply immediately, but he laid his hand on my arm for a moment. "We can't just sit on the sidelines and watch-we'll do whatever's possible. Sometimes you have to fight destiny, rather than accept it."

Hopeless cause, odds too great to count, an army of three. Oh yeah, I was on board.

We watched the stars for a while longer, and measured the span of this small interlude, both comfortable and painful; a few short months 'til the cold wind blew down on us from the unwatched skies, the whirlwind reaping thirty five thousand years of seed sown.

 

**~**

 

I kept the better of the two cars, left the other to be sold, and drove back to Missouri to close up the lake house. I had until September fifteenth to get my affairs in order and report to the corrections facility.

When I returned to Washington, it was time to face another shattered remnant of my sordid past. I had plenty of time left before I had to report in for my sentence, time I needed to spend effectively building a bridge from a place I didn't remember, to a place in an uncertain future. It was very strange, harboring guilt and apologizing for actions I had no personal memory of committing, even though I might've done them all the same.

I called from the motel I'd checked into when I rolled into town last night.

"Hello?"

"Uh, Scully-Dana-it's Al Kent." The pseudonym had served me well so far, no point in abandoning it now. It was whom I felt like, anyway.

She was pleasant, but cool. "Hello, Al."

"I'd like to come over, and talk with you. If that's all right."

"Sure, Al, that'd be fine. Mulder's taken the kids to Playland in Vancouver, they'll be gone until late."

"Vancouver?"

"It's the closest place with a roller coaster."

"Ah."

"Where are you now?"

"I'm at the Shangri-La downtown-I can be there in a half hour."

"Have you eaten?"

I shook my head in disbelief. "Uh, no?"

"Okay, see you in a half hour, then."

She hung up the phone, and I was left holding the receiver that finally beeped to warn me the phone was off the hook. Her slightly sarcastic tone, and the question about my eating habits warred inside my head. I picked up the car keys and went to see Scully.

 

I rang the doorbell, and she answered immediately as if she had been standing by the door. She hadn't changed much in the last twelve years, she looked very much like the last F.B.I. ID photo that I had found in my research; maybe a little gray in the red hair, and a set of small crows feet around the eyes.

"Hello, Al. Come in."

"Thanks." She closed the door behind me and walked to the kitchen, talking as she went. "I was just about to make a BLT when you called, so I threw in some more bacon, in case you wanted one, too. That all right with you?"

"Yeah, that's fine." I followed her into the kitchen, and she pointed me to a chair.

"Have a seat. You want a coke, or a cup of coffee?"

"Yes, coffee, thank you."

She poured me a cup, and set it down in front of me, and began to transfer the sandwich stuff to the table.

"I thought you'd like to make your own, didn't know what you wanted on it. Help yourself." She sat down across from me and assembled her sandwich, so I did the same. "I got called out early this morning, had a floater in the river. A jogger found the body washed ashore, so I missed breakfast."

I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry. "Had it been there long?"

"Yeah, turned out to be a fisherman that went missing about a week ago. They'd been looking for him."

With a weak grin, I began to eat. If this was a test, I was determined to pass.

"So, how was your drive?" She took a bite, and munched contentedly while she watched me openly.

"It was okay. I took an extra day and did a little sightseeing in Wyoming."

"Nice?"

"Yeah, very pretty."

"So, tell me, what do you remember from before?" She waved her sandwich towards my head.

"Nothing solid after about 1979, a few vague bits and pieces from college."

"Mmmm. But you can still learn and you're obviously functional."

I thought about the difficult years it took to get to this point. "It was a lot of hard work, I'm somewhat of a miracle case around the V.A. I wasn't expected to come out of the coma, much less regain the skills level I test at."

"I'd be interested in seeing some of your medical files." She fixed me with a bright blue stare. I returned her steady look.

"Sure. I probably need to have my case transferred to the V.A. hospital here, anyway. It's about time for my annual." She nodded and smiled.

"Alex Krycek, getting an annual physical from the government. That's pretty rich."

Shrugging, I returned to my sandwich, and then stopped. "It was Strughold; he got me the ID and the treatment. He'd kept me safe while I was in a coma. He never told me why, but he obviously thought it was important."

"So where is that Mengele wannabe these days?"

"Last time I called he was in Morocco, then he disappeared again. He was pretty old-maybe he died."

"I'll believe it when I see his corpse on my autopsy table."

"Scully, listen-"

"Dana. I don't use Scully anymore."

"Dana, then. I know I should apologize, I know there were terrible things done, maybe by me, maybe not. There are only the accusations and no proof. Any light I might have been able shed on them is well and truly gone. I'm not the same man, I can't imagine doing those things, and so it'd be an empty gesture. But, I am sorry that you had to endure those tragedies."

"It may be that I can come to understand that, accept that apology. It's going to take some time-but Mulder thinks this is important, so I'm going to learn to work though it."

"What can I do?"

She finished off her diet coke and started to clean off the table. "Let's go to the office and get those records."

The rest of the day was spent getting Kansas City to send my records to the VA in Bellingham and assuaging her curiosity. During the following weeks, the three of us built an accord of sorts. Mulder had copies of most of his X-Files and other documents, mission reports that had been filed, and some that were his private reports-ones that would have never been accepted by Skinner or Kersch. I began to get a better picture of the eight years that had us colliding in various ways. Missing pieces were replaced, and the research material I had brought back with me from the lake house gave us all better perspective of our crusade.

 

**~**

 

There were regular visits to visit Will in Seattle. His diagnosis had been upgraded to schizophrenia, with the appropriate change in medication, but so far it hadn't alleviated his episodic blackouts. In fact they were increasing in regularity, and on our third visit, we had the pleasure of meeting with the other Will. Mulder's theory of Will's having multiple personalities had been borne out. He was everything Will wasn't, so we privately dubbed him The Other. That one was sullen, rude, uncooperative, and had a mean streak. He had no compunction against saying cruel things, and his taunts put an end to Dana visiting again for some time. She'd done what she thought was right at the time; sending him away-out of the eye of the raging storm. The Other didn't have any information, merely a sense of malevolent purpose, so if he was in control when we visited, Mulder and I would leave. We often left immediately.

I served my time, and I knew that there had been other occasions I had been incarcerated under worse conditions. At least this time it was climate controlled, had regular food, and the chance to visit the library and read. I had lived in the prison of my own damaged mind for nearly a decade, and this short stint in the county lockup didn't hold a candle to being held hostage by trauma-induced amnesia. It was a piece of cake.

Mulder visited and kept me up to date on Will, who'd undergone electro convulsive treatment. There was a measure of success; the ECT had allowed the two personalities to begin to merge, enough so that the ninety days was deemed sufficient. The judge put Will on probation, but ordered him confined to a long-term care facility for children with psychiatric disorders, the Martin Center in Bellingham.

In order to maintain contact with Will, the crucial element, Mulder and Dana went to court to regain custody of their son. The Vandekamps were completely unable to deal with the level of care Will would require, emotionally or financially, so they agreed with sorrow that it would be best if Will went back to the Mulders. In that legal process, it was discovered that the sealed copy of the adoption papers on files in Wheatland, WY were missing. Will said The Other had broken in and stolen them-which was the reason why he'd hijacked Will and gone to Democrat Hot Springs. Will was philosophical about the Vandekamps giving him back to the Mulders, saying only that he was sorry they'd had to go through raising him to discover who he really was. It was the first time he'd expressed that idea, and when Mulder told me what the boy had said, I glanced at him to see if he understood the significance of that statement. He did, and I knew he would remember.

I was a free man in mid-October; again I took up residence at the Shangri-La. Dana hadn't come to visit me while I was in jail, but Mulder said that I had made an impression on her, so when we met to go visit Will together, I wasn't quite as apprehensive as I had been before. It was a clear, crisp, autumn day, without a trace of clouds-a rarity for the climate. I drove to the Mulders', enjoying my freedom and the weather as I drove. I had the window down, and the radio tuned to an oldies station with the volume high. I could forget for a little while why I was there, what we faced, if for just a few minutes.

Mulder and Dana seemed to be similarly affected by the weather. Mulder flirted, and Dana blushed at his remarks, laughing with him at his wry, ribald humor. It was evident that they were still very much in love, their partnership firm; they had a bond of common purpose that went beyond the ken of marriage.

Her laughter surprised me. I hadn't heard her laugh in our recent acquaintance. It was infectious, and along with the weather gave me hope-she could laugh knowing what was to come, and been able to put behind her Will's nasty treatment of her. Dana's capacity for forgiveness, or at least second chances, still amazes me.

The Martin Center was a small facility in a rural section of the county. The Catholic Community Services operated the Center; a charitable organization incorporated separately from the Archdiocese, so the staff was mainly secular volunteers and doctors, with a few exceptions. The administrator personally vetted all first time visitors. We got visitor badges at the front door and were escorted to her office.

The office was small and crowded with the four of us in there, Dana and I taking the two chairs in front of the desk, and Mulder standing behind us. The woman behind the desk was a petite, well-groomed woman of sixty, I guessed. She adjusted her glasses with the fingertips of both hands on the temples, and introduced herself to me.

"I'm Joyce Matthews, the director for the Martin Center. Mr. and Mrs. Mulder, good to see you."

I reached across the desk to shake her hand. "Al Kent, pleased to meet you." She gave my hand a gentle squeeze.

"Mrs. Matthews, how is Will doing?" Dana asked. The elderly woman glanced at her and then Mulder, who both nodded. "It's all right, Al is an old colleague."

Joyce nodded her head, almost a small bow. "Very well. I think we've seen the depths of his disturbance. He's polite to the staff; but he can be very mean to the other patients, and so they maintain their distance from him. He appears to be cooperating with his therapist, but progress is slow. This is not unusual; sometimes it takes a while for the children to learn to trust, that they are safe here, and to allow themselves to heal."

Mulder spoke up from behind Dana. I could see him in my peripheral vision standing at the back of Dana's chair. "What's your personal opinion, Mrs. Matthews?"

She leaned back in her chair, her body language effectively answering Mulder's question.

Dana leaned forward, her voice soft as she caught the eye of the Director. "Mrs. Matthews?"

She sighed, and sat up straight in her chair. "My personal opinion has no place in this discussion. If you'd like to speak with his team, the doctor, therapist, and so forth, I'm sure they'll be willing to have that conversation. Now, Mr. Kent, why are you here to visit?"

"I got to know Will last summer, and I'm concerned about him."

"You're the one he stayed with when he ran away?"

"Uh, yes."

"I see. You understand that he's a very disturbed child, and that he's here for a reason?"

"I do, it's very important."

"You may visit, but please don't be offended, your visits will be supervised at all times."

"I understand, and no, I won't be offended."

"Very well. I'll allow Mr. and Mrs. Mulder to be your escort on this visit." She stood and motioned to the door. "My assistant will take you to him. He should be finished with his morning session."

Mulder stepped towards the desk to shake her hand. "Thank you, Mrs. Matthews. We appreciate everything you're doing for him."

"You're welcome, Mr. Mulder. I just hope we can make a difference."

The walk to Will's room was short, and his door was open. Our escort left us after ascertaining that he was in the room but avoided any contact with Will directly.

We entered the room, and William was on the bed, his arm crooked over his eyes. "Hey, Will." I spoke softly.

He stood in a single fluid motion and flung himself at me. "Al!" I hugged him with my right arm around his shoulders; he was very nearly tall as me. I caught Mulder's eye, and realized that they hadn't ever received a greeting like this.

"It's good to see you, I missed you. How are you doing?"

"Pretty good considering that I'm a nutcase locked up in Junior Jail." He shifted his glance to my companions and acknowledged them. "Mulder, Dana. Thanks for coming, I appreciate it." He looked uncomfortable, and diffidently gave each of them a hug. They looked faintly surprised.

"You want to go the lounge? There really isn't anywhere to sit around here." The room was small, with the bed and desk taking up most of it.

Mulder put his hand on Will's shoulder, and then ruffled his hair affectionately. "Sure, that sounds good. Lay on, Mac Duff."

Mrs. Matthews hadn't been kidding about Will's effect on entering a room. The handful of other people in the room, small clusters of families, pairs of patients relaxing, all suddenly remembered they had somewhere else to be. Within five minutes of our arrival, we were alone in the room.

Will had a faint smirk on his face. "I think my feelings should be hurt." He sounded vaguely fatuous, and pleased with himself. "But, I'm not. So, the three Musketeers visit. How goes the research?"

I was surprised at the suddenness of the bewildering transition, but Mulder smoothly interjected before I could say anything. "Research, William?"

"Oh please, don't patronize me. You all think I'm some kind of dangerous, alien messiah, and you just don't quite know what to do with me. All three of you are or were professional investigators-what else would you do?"

Scully, the cool voice of reason. "All right, William, so we're investigating."

"There, was that so difficult? I'll give you a helping hand, and tell you something. Right now, I don't know what's going to happen any more than you do. I might later, I get these ideas, and I seem to have a parlor trick." The flower arrangement on the table rose a foot in the air, and executed a little jig, then dropped back down to the table. Will's expression changed, and he appeared to revert back to the over grown twelve year old that we'd met in the bedroom, the boy that was familiar to me. "Honestly-I don't know, and it scares me."

I cleared my throat, and opened my mouth, but the words refused me on the first try. "Uhm, what do think we should do?"

"I wish I could tell you, Al. I really do." He dropped his face into his hands.

Mulder leaned forward and touched Will on the knee, and waited until Will looked up, the boy's face was flushed and his eyes were slightly wild.

"Are you blacking out completely?"

"No, we're both in here now, together. I know what's happening, but I don't have any control over it. It's not as bad as it was, I'm getting used to it more, but I don't like it. I don't like him."

"I know this is incredibly difficult for you, and I'm sorry. I wish we could tell you how to make it stop. You have to be strong, because I think it's going to get worse." Mulder then laid out his current theory, a scenario involving Will, December twenty-second, and some of the history of his fight for the truth that had consumed so much of his career as an FBI agent, and after.

His flat, sincere voice recounting some of the events of the last forty years brought it home to me in full force, how much Mulder had suffered, and how he still had the strength to continue. It was more real to me than anything I knew about my own life.

Dana was giving Mulder an "I can't believe you're telling him this" look, but kept her counsel to herself. Perhaps Mulder was right; in giving Will the big picture, and enlisting his aid, we might just have a chance. He may not have any more control over his other half, but the things he was telling himself would make more sense, be in context.

I just hoped it wasn't a mistake.

I went to visit Will every week, and my visits alone were more personal, and tension free. We played endless games of chess and checkers, and talked of inconsequential things like movies and music. He'd mentioned an old movie he wanted to see, and I found the DVD for him, so we spent a couple of visits watching it together. His fascination for the alien abduction theory (perhaps not so theoretical in his case) had only grown since Mulder had laid it all out for him.

Dana and Mulder went to see him as well, sometimes separately, sometimes together, and once I was left in the unusual position of being their babysitter. It never failed to astound and impress me that these two people, who had every right to want to see me pushing up daisies, could put the past behind them and see the man I am now. Who that man is, I still have a difficult time even explaining to myself. Was I still a man of action, who could ignore conventional wisdom in my own vendetta for the truth, as I perceived it? I was beginning to recognize parts of that old me in my critical thinking; I could see every point of view in an argument, while not subscribing to any. I had been such a simple man for so long, nothing more important than figuring out if I should read that book, or go out on the boat. Now, I was inextricably caught up in a plot that involved the alien invasion of the planet, a twelve-year-old boy who was either the Second Coming or an alien collaborator, and the efforts of his parents to stave off the arrival of the would-be conquerors.

By Thanksgiving, Will seemed to have assimilated well enough that Mrs. Matthews got permission from the court to allow him out on a 24 hour pass. I suspect that Mulder pulled some more strings-what good is it being a former Federal agent if you can't? I think Mrs. Matthews gratefully attributes Will's evening temperament to our visits, I think it was Mulder laying everything out on the line for him.

Only a month left to go.

 

Wednesday night, I went with Mulder to pick Will up from the Center, and bring him back to the house. He was on his best behavior, polite and even a little charming.

He most definitely made up with Julie. I know she was scared to have him visit, considering her last experience with him. She was looking to us for her cues, and she took them well, but she was still wary of him. They ended up watching MTV in the living room, while they played board games, eating popcorn and drinking sodas. There was a giant truce being hammered out there, just like the settlers and Indians-they even played Candy Land and Mousetrap with Scotty.

I spent the evening divided between watching Mulder and Dana in the kitchen making pies for dinner the next day, and watching the kids and MTV, having little snatches of conversation in both places. Eventually the baking was done, and the quiet pleasant evening was over.

Thanksgiving Day was mostly more of the same, the kids added the backyard to their schedule as Mulder had to say no to bike riding in the neighborhood. Dinner was good, and the conversation interesting, not touching on any sensitive topics. Dana showered Will with good-natured affection, as much as she gave Julie and Scott. Will soaked it up, and for a while, it was a family finally completed. Mulder reigned over it all with his usual sense of humor and kept the kids laughing.

Nor was I ignored in these affections. I had by now spent quite a few evenings at their home, having dinner, drinks on the patio or playing with the kids. I had become an expected part of their daily routine, and I treated that trust with grave responsibility. I believe they understood that I was not who I had been, and I tried to live up to those expectations with some success. It's an overused phrase, and it grates on my nerves to hear it casually bandied about, but I think 'blessed' is the only word for it. Only those who had been condemned to damnation could truly appreciate the meaning of that word.

After dinner and clean-up, we had some time before Will was due back at the center, he was expected back at 6:00pm. Will uncharacteristically sat at the kitchen table with the adults while Julie went with Scott to play next door.

He opened the conversation with, "have you ever heard of a place called Lethbridge?"

Dana was the only one who recognized the significance of the name. "It's the place you were taken by the kidnappers-that was the final reason I decided to…"

Will just nodded; he wasn't upset or distraught by what she'd said. "Why there?"

She took a sip of coffee as she considered her reply. "There was a downed alien ship buried there. It was uncovered by a cult, and they took you because they believed you were going be the leader of the Aliens when they came. I don't think they were expecting what happened. The ship…responded to you, and it ended up killing the entire cult before it took off. You weren't harmed, even though there had been two attempts to kill you."

"Okay, now that makes sense. I've been having dreams like that, and I think that's where I'm supposed to go, when. You know." He trailed off, looking at each of us.

Mulder had that nearly rabid look of excitement on his face. "What will happen if you don't go?"

"I have a feeling that I'm going, regardless of what I have to say in the matter. The Other seems to have his mind made up. We're going."

"I think we have to respect that, maybe we can find a way to keep some control over the situation." Even as I said it, I knew it was crazy-how can you expect to control a situation where you had no idea what was going to happen? But Mulder seemed to agree with me.

"We might, and at the very least we'd get to see the end of the world."

"Mulder, that's so-how can you think that?" And there it is, the essence of the unseen dichotomy between these two: Dana, pillar of faith, and Mulder, the pessimistic believer. He shrugged, and gave her a boyish grin.

"Just a little humor."

We all accepted his comment at face value, but knew that he'd spoken the truth. Milder changed the subject and announced it was time to take Will back to the Center.

I stayed with Scully in the kitchen with brandy and coffee to wait for Mulder to return, and avoided discussing Will's little bomb until we were all together. Our relationship was now a complete polar opposite of our past, and I could even get her to giggle at a bad joke. I regaled her with stories from my stay at the VA hospital, and she told me about the latest antics at the county morgue. Someone had inexplicably stashed some burned body parts in the lunchroom fridge, and that day had been one long 'extra crispy' gag after another. Pathologists have a grave sense of humor, I told her with a straight face.

Mulder came home, and we thoroughly debated the wisdom of following through with Will's mandate, and eventually persuaded each other that we had little choice in the matter, and the best we could hope for was damage control.

We grew more cautious as the days passed and the destined date crept ever more closer. We were the final co-conspirators, the last line of defense against the possible cataclysmic disaster to come; but we weren't completely alone. There were some others that held the flame against the wind of an apathetic world, and the Internet was their meeting place. It wasn't an army, no-but it was a small comfort to know that not all had been forgotten by the paranoid and deluded.

Actually, in retrospect, it was kind of pathetic.

On prior approval of the director, we showed up at the Center promptly at eight on the morning of the twenty-first, and signed Will out ostensibly for another twenty-four hour pass. Julie and Scott had been sent to Mrs. Scully for the holidays as soon as the school semester was over, with the promise that Mom and Dad would join them in San Diego for Christmas. The sky grew more leaden as we traveled down the highway. Seven hundred miles was a long drive, but none of us thought it would be a good time to be in airplane-Max Fenig came to Mulder's mind. Will was calm but I imagine the sight of guns being loaded and checked, "just as a precaution" was as sobering for him as it was for me.

The day of December Twenty-two, 2012 dawned cold and blustery. I joined them in their hotel room in the early hours of the morning, and was given a cup of coffee, a Danish and a well-cared-for Glock with extra clips. Mulder was talking back to the television, mocking the news. It was full coverage of erratic rioting across the globe, with talking heads discussing the prevailing theories about the end of the Mayan Calendar; a serious, altogether-too-close encounter with a Near Earth Object; the cosmic alignment of our solar system with the plane of the Milky Way; the end of a 25,920 year cycle -- a cycle based on the Precession of the Equinoxes; dimensional shifts as in Hyperdimensional Physics, Hyperspatial Breakthrough, Planetesimal Impact and Alien Contact; the alleged Resurrection of Osiris at the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt; the phenomenon of the so-called Indigo Children, and the concept of a complex fractal Time, from the ancient Chinese I Ching. Reporters that barely disguised their contempt were interviewing the pathetic kooks that maintained websites about all of these subjects.

Even I could tell the newscasters were talking out of their asses, they didn't have a clue. The four of us were among the few that had an idea of what was going to happen, but there was a small measure of comfort we could take in knowing that some one else had taken the date into consideration.

Midmorning, we bundled up and headed out. The town of Lethbridge was a few hours from the old site of the downed alien craft. After we got there, small crowds flowed and ebbed during the day. The unusual was apparently status quo for this strange little burg.

It was not so cold staying in the car, and at least it was easily defensible; although against what I didn't know. It started to snow when the wind dropped in the late afternoon, thinning the crowd even more. We waited, the news on the radio the only sound in the car. The world wide frenzy was worsening as the day wore on, and cities started burning as dusk fell. Jesus, if the alien overlords didn't come, we would have destroyed civilization as we know it all by ourselves. I suppose there was some historical precedence for it-the fires lit at the winter Solstice to usher in the return of the sun god. Ra was getting one hell of a welcome party this year.

We didn't know the exact time the thing was supposed to happen, no one had bothered to call and have us synchronize our watches, and we were there the whole day as a precaution. It was quiet, only the radio droning on, and none of us spoke, each holding their counsel to themselves. Will seemed remarkably calm.

Scully had packed a thermos of coffee, sandwiches, and the leftover sweet rolls, which she broke out as night fell. Will napped in the back seat with me, unconcerned with the impending events. The rest of us were wired with tension and caffeine.

The snow let up around nine-thirty p.m. A thick, heavy mantle lay over the earth, and the nearly full moon was in the sky, lighting the landscape with a ghastly glow. The crowd was gathering again with the bonfires warming the scene.

We heard it before we saw it. I shuddered with the dull, throbbing vibration pulsing through me; it was a body memory, I'd felt this before. The look on Mulder and Scully's faces said they felt the same way. The radio sputtered off, and the car engine dieseled to a halt at the same time.

Will looked thrilled by the sensation; he was very nearly quivering at the same frequency. The sound trebled in volume as the ship came closer to the Earth. The sight of the mother-fucking-huge ship was so intense it overwhelmed me, and I felt frozen with the emotion. I had time to turn my head, and Will was out of the car, running through the snow, laughing and looking up to the sky.

That shook me from my fugue. I shot out of the car after him, dodging the revelers who'd all apparently gone insane and were dancing in the snow and moonlight under the approaching ship.

I'd almost caught up to him when a brilliant light blasted down from the craft, and caught him in its baleful glare.

In retrospect, I can't tell you in words exactly what it was that caused me to do what I did. Maybe he flickered as if he was about to take off, maybe it was the malevolent look that had overtaken his grin: Will was gone, and The Other was in full control. He raised his hand, and waved it in a sweeping motion from left to right across the crowd of people gathering around the light that shone on him alone. They fell to the ground in a wide swath, like dominos in motion, bleeding from their eyes, noses, mouths and ears. Their cries of anguish merely underscored the powerful noise coming from the ship. Will turned back to face me, and he began to lift his arm again, the sound increasing in volume, and the beam of light that bathed him intensified, so that he took on an over-exposed, alien appearance. I had no doubt that I was his next target.

The dormant Oilien entity in my blood erupted, causing me to go blind and deaf. It felt like my blood was boiling in my veins, scalding me from the inside out as I started to bleed from every opening in my body, even the pores on my skin.

I raised the Glock, holding on the now slick handle, and aiming by instinct to empty the entire clip into him, his bloody, lifeless body twisting slowly down to the snow. As Will fell, I regained my senses and I heard Dana screaming through the sharp reports of twin gun blasts. Not just mine, Mulder had his gun aimed at his son, a strong two-fisted stance that meant business, squeezing off shot after steady shot.

His clip was empty only a couple of shots after mine.

The sound stopped, the light snapped off as sharply as it had started, the injured either dead or silenced.

Dana ran to Will and fell beside him onto the gory snow. The ship silently took off, climbing high and fading away into the night sky until it looked like just another star in the heavens. Those left standing held their collective breaths, and the only sound we heard then was a grief-stricken mother crying for a dead, lost child that should never have been born.

Epilogue:

We buried him there under the cold Moon of December; no one questioned what we'd done. Mulder called Mrs. Matthews at the Center to report that Will had had an episode and had run away, leaving her with the impression that he thought Will was trying to get back to Wyoming.

Mulder and Scully went to San Diego to have Christmas with their remaining children, and to mourn what had been lost to them. It was only a matter of time before the authorities took up the matter of Will's disappearance, and their part in it, but I have full faith in Mulder's powers of obfuscation.

I'm back at the lake house to mourn in my own way: hiding and drinking and smoking pot and boating until the next time I'm needed, for surely though this battle had gone to us, it was only the first salvo. Except now we have no harbinger, no weather stone, or impossible ancient calendars to act as the herald of our doom.

We were alone in a war that would never end.

 

~fini~

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Notes

Fandom: X-Files

Category/Rated: Gen, T

Year/Length: 2004/ ~15,500 words

Spoilers: Sure, why not. Assume everything. Rife with canon, and the Dread Season Nine.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Summary: I really hate to give it away. Alex struggles with right and wrong in the far future.

Author's Notes: This story is vastly different than my original idea, and a thousand times more interesting, with deep thanks to Sue for her excellent advice & ideas, and allowing me to hound her for her knowledge. This is her story as much as it is mine--thanks again for pulling my bacon out of the fire! my original cover

Beta: My darling Sue, of course!

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